Friday, 23 March 2018

Beholder

Beauty and I have a very strange relationship. Which makes me no different to millions of women on the planet. I was thinking about Beauty when I was messaging my buddy who was booking in our appointments to get our nails done. I have never had my nails done in a shop before. I’ve experimented with the French manicure and stencils and fake tips .Even on my wedding day, I just chucked on some polish (which promptly glooped up and looked like a trainwreck and I had to call my sister in law to bring the dregs of remover to the flat at ridiculous o’ clock the night before) and just winged it.
So we fast forward through the annals of time to current day events. 

I used to have dreadlocks and when I got them, my world changed. To talk about black hair, is to fall down a rabbit hole. It’s an act of patience, as you wait for these locks to appear. You’re tested, you experiment, you have to learn a whole other set of skills and you also have to deal with other peoples’ opinions. I was still in contact with my mother during this time and she would often take the piss out of me, waiting to see my ‘natty head’. In her mind, getting dreadlocks was akin to being unkempt and dirty. The ironic thing was that I had uncles and aunts who were Rastafarian. I spent a summer when I was young with my Aunt Napthali and Sansha and was tutored to improve my maths and English and immersed in black history. The Natty Dread was wise and intelligent and living in Brixton, everyday I saw a Natty Dread who would greet me with, “Blessings Sistren” and ask me how my day was going and wish me ‘Jah bless’ as I ran to the corner shop. In the eyes of my father, this was no big deal but in the eyes of my grandmother and mother, this was something to be frowned upon. In part, it showed the difference between the islands. My father is Jamaican and my mother was from St Kitts. As much as we are one people, we are also a divided people. The island you inhabit brings its own preconceived ideas and notions from Barbados, to St Maarten, St Croix, Antigua and Jamaica. My mother and grandmother were snobbish, feeling like a lot of people do, that Jamaicans were too crass, bawdy and beneath everyone else…yes my parents were married so you can kind of see how divorce wasn’t twist in this plot.

This frames my thoughts about beauty and the constant donnybrook (I love that word!) that exists in me. It’s the rabbit hole, starting with locks and ending up exposing these preconceived notions and thoughts about beauty and blackness and growing up in the UK, the mainstream held no place for; you were a ghost. In my community, there’s a stream of mixed messages. There were songs which loudly decried the message that black people were ghosts or animals. A walk around Brixton on a hot day would hear the sounds of Kofi singing ‘Black Pride

"Black is the colour of my skin
Black is the life that I live
And I'm so proud to be
The colour that God made me
I just got to say

Black is my colour, yeah
(Black pride for all to see)"

or Crucial Robbie singing ‘Proud to be Black’. On one level you were taught to love yourself as a black child. As I got older though, I realised other things. I realised that because I was darker than some children, I would receive more negative perception and nowhere was this more apparent than the issue of hair. I remember the ritual of getting my hair combed on a Sunday night (preferably in front of The Professionals as I had a crush on Lewis Collins). Mother would choose her weapons, thin tooth comb, big teet comb, grease, spray and then the torture. Combing through my mane until my scalp was raw and then plaiting my hair, cane rowing it tight for the week ahead of school. I swear that woman was a cenobite in her past life. I remember the cussing under breath about not having good hair and that ‘coolie’ hair would not be so much trouble. Looking back on those times, reminds me of the Ceti Eel  in Star Trek 2: The Wrath of Khan (If you don’t know what I’m talking about, have a look here but I’m warning you, it is grim!). It’s this little thing, from something else larger and vile and plucked and placed in your ear, where it slithers in and wraps itself and grows and mutates and consumes your mind. My Ceti Eel was how my hair and beauty was perceived.

To explain a little bit, ‘Coolie’ was a term that was used to describe someone of mixed Caribbean descent, in particular Asian and Caribbean. It meant by default that people with this genealogy had a completely different texture of hair, in some cases hair very similar to Caucasian hair, though not always. My hair is very kinky so I was told often that because mixed hair was ‘good hair’ my hair was therefore bad hair. That slug was wrapped around in there, devouring. 
I had natural hair until I reached 11, then for ‘ease’ my mother said, I joined the curly perm crew. At 16, after tiring of being ridiculed I straightened my hair and cut it, dyed it and weaved it at one point (it lasted 3 days). Then at around 24, I decided to stop straightening my hair and grow dreadlocks. I kept them until Nov 2016. I shaved half of them off a year earlier and then as illness ravaged me, right before another invasive surgery I took the scissors to the last of my locks. 

This was a solo journey. Every step I had taken previously involved someone else’s opinion either as a guide or something to rebel against. Straightening was rebellion because I was responsible, not my mother who had been up until that point. I had friends to guide and at some points, really fuck up my tresses. Dreadlocks was inspired by the friends I had at the time and there was more of an emphasis on embracing natural hair. However I was still carrying my Ceti Eel.

It oozed out of my ear last year. I was trying to style my hair into an afro and all of a sudden, I felt a pressure of voices telling my how ugly I looked, how nappy my hair was and it was crushing. It was a wave of voices of aunts and my mother and grandmother shouting inside of me that this was not right, that I couldn’t go out looking like this. It was the feeling of everything that I had learned and was continuing to learn, hitting the bedrock of how I had been raised. I know that my relationship with my hair as a black woman is steeped in the legacy of slavery. I know that African hairstyles were ridiculed and literally torn from our heads during slavery and that our hair was seen as further evidence of our savagery. I learned that the rapes of slaves, meant that there were lighter slaves and because they were lighter, they were seen as closer to whiteness and purity. When slaves were ultimately freed, we took this legacy with us and it still remains, although not just in Afro Caribbean culture. I am saying all of that to say that in the clash of my education versus what I had read and researched, I struggled to see the beauty in me and that was the crushing weight I was feeling. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. I am so quick to point out the beauty in others and raise them up but struggle with my own reflection. 

I know why this is but this is the first time I could see the anatomy of it laid before me. I struggled because we all struggle. I struggle because of legacy and at 40, I didn’t want to anymore. For all the negative things you hear about living in 2018, one of the benefits has been social media. I have in my hand a community of people who understand this struggle and have wrestled this beast into submission. I was on the way to work when I saw an advert at Bank Station for a firm but this advert had a young dark skinned woman with natural hair at its centre. They say people don’t double take in real life, well I did and I felt..warm. I felt those words about good hair start to melt and every experience since then has been a tonic, whether it is the strong YouTubers and Instagrammers who answer every question and show you the hows and whys and products for natural hair. It’s my cousin who did my hair in December and took time and patience and love to do it, I have never been treated so tenderly by someone doing my hair, “It shouldn’t hurt” she told me. One warm drop after another on these frozen words. And then there was the flood.


Black Panther…..you knew this was coming. I cried tears and looked and almost got the clippers to shave off my hair like Danai Gurira (but then my head looks like a kick in old football so I decided against it). It was like walking a perilous and dusty road. The ache is deep in your hip joints, parts of you are numb and it burns, muscles have been replaced with taught, white hot strips of metal that pulsate and all you can think to do is put one foot in front of the other because the end comes somewhere. Then you get there and you fall, weeping, exhausted and grateful with bloodied dried lips. There have been so many articles discussing and dissecting Black Panther, hell I might even do one myself in the future. The thing that was like an arrow in my heart, spreading a warm tonic throughtout my soul was the images of hair, coiled, tight, rough, braided, shaved and all of it beautiful. I felt such completion on my journey and I when I left the cinema and replayed the scenes in my head later, I was able to feel a whisper of my own beauty.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

It Can't Happen Here - More reasons to Wake up

Nothing makes me more nervous than people who say, ‘It can’t happen here.’ Anything can happen anywhere, given the right circumstances.” — Margaret Atwood from a 2015 lecture to West Point cadets

From my trusty corner and a little bit knackered, I find the inspiration to commit these random thoughts to a page. I recently started watching 'The Handmaid's Tale'. When the series was announced, I picked up the book reveling in my new found recovery 
and got stuck in. I wasn't disappointed, there is such a beauty in Margaret Atwood's words, I feel like a person who has been confronted with rich blood splatter on a stark white canvas, noticing the beauty of the patterns in the carnage.

Eventually bathing in the glow of having read the book before watching the series, I watched Gilead, Offred and Ofglen materialise before my eyes and was not disappointed. I find myself having to prepare to watch it because event though I have a rough idea of the destination,the journey is marvellous, terrifying and completely new to me. I watch it knowing that Margaret Atwood said that the ideas that she wrote about were not a complete fiction because these things have already happened at some point to women throughout the world, either historically or currently.

So when faced with an article entitled, "Don't overinterpret 'The Handmaid's Tale" I of course chose to dive in. Essentially the article is saying that while the series so far is good, the premise presented is implausible. The Christian fundamentalism of Gilead hasn't happened anywhere, even in places we think of in terms of extensive breeches of human rights and the mistreatment of women, these places are not totalitarian regimes, a construct like Gilead has never existed so I guess that's alright then. No need to panic dear, it'as just a tale, a story so you know pass the popcorn and lets hope Season 2.What's the harm?

"No, Texas is not Gilead; it’s a state where people are peacefully and democratically expressing social conservatism.And as for the nation, Americans did just elect the most secular president perhaps in the country’s history." So why am I writing this?

Because I think the author may have missed the target and hit the tree. I have watched countless episodes of Star Trek, sometimes willingly and I marvelled at the things that were firmly cast as Science Fiction. I am watching as they become Science Fact. One bleeds into another with the simplest word, "What if?" I concede that the kind of religious fervour that is ascribed to Christianity in the novel almost aligns conservatism with totalitarianism and that in these times, it doesn't fit but by the same token, there was no previous model of the Holocaust.

Humanity is innovative, especially in our own destruction so why think that a shift like this would follow some kind of 'Totalitarianism for Dummies' handbook. Look around right now. Fear is the order of the day and that cunning Jedi was really onto something with his little note about Fear being the path to the darkside. I'm not comforted by the assertion of the article, I'm alarmed by it. 

Offred herself in both the book and the series, speaks of how we sleepwalked into this. Gilead was in progress while other folks comforted themselves that things could not get worse. I visited the Holocaust Museum in Berlin a few years back and there were points when I had to sit and weep at the pieces of history that surrounded me. There were so many things that struck to the heart of me but I remember a letter that was never sent. 

The sender was trying to reassure the relative that there was no need to run away, that although rumours had begun to trickle, that things were not right that this would not last, that normality would return and they would not leave Germany because surely it couldn't get worse. I lost count of the amount of times I read that letter. The wind was knocked out of me as I realised that the author was wrong and that so much worse was yet to come.

Journalists are body slammed for asking political questions and deemed enemies of the state, in Turkey and Russia they are arrested and killed.Discrimination in terms of wages for women are upheld under a new administration, reproductive rights are in question in the US. Officers murder black brown and poor alike and walk free. Police cover ups, Presidents who order the deaths of 9,000 people suspected of involvement in drugs and a Prime Minister seeking a full mandate only to wind up losing a majority and courting a right wing Coalition of Chaos herself....I would say that you couldn't make this up but..that would be bollocks wouldn't it.

Everyday I see something or read something that makes me think of V for Vendetta or Handmaid or Stepford. Because the moral is that is why we cannot wrap ourselves in cotton wool saying the mantra that it won't happen here. If anything, looking back we can see how it could happen anywhere. It actually already has, just under different titles, clauses, laws..

So while you may tell me not to over-interpret this story, I will keep manning the watchtower. I will keep looking at the signs and portents because the road to this nightmare is paved with such good intentions. We know this story, we have the guides, we have to keep watch and keep going...nolite te bastardes carborundorum.



Saturday, 3 December 2016

Bullets from the Bulletproof

I love Luke Cage. I came to it blind, having never read any of the comics in the past, and that was a feeling to revel in. I did the exact same thing for Jessica Jones and was not disappointed, so it felt right to do the same for Luke.

It's an odd feeling; the excitement of something new in a space that I have grown up in. All of a sudden I have this opportunity to have the rug pulled from me and look at something completely fresh. I was not disappointed.

This however is not a review of Luke Cage, nor Jessica Jones or anything to do with MCU or DC. This is about me. This is a call.

This year has been a shit show, in fact I'm going to leave it to a much funnier Brit than me to sum up this year:

That's about right Mr Oliver. In fact I could literally create an entire blog on every definition of 2016. 

I could use alot of sociological background to talk about it, but that in the words of Zoe Washburne would be "too much foofarah"

I got words, and I got them because of my husband. To explain, we were having a tense conversation and he said to me, tearfully, "Baby, we all thought you were bulletproof." Thus the seed was sewn. 

I have been in near constant pain in one way or another since Dec 2015. It was bad enough to put me in hospital in January 2016 and I still have no diagnosis. I've had surgery and along the way been treated with disdain, contempt, disinterest, vagueness which has become straight up rudeness in most of my interaction with the NHS. I can count on one hand those medical personnel who have actually treated me with kindness and sympathy. 

When your own GP is banging his head on the desk at the way you've been treated, you know that something is truly rotten in the state of Denmark. The main issue is that not only are they not sure what is wrong but I have committed the sin of being overweight, eating a balanced diet and up until this all kicked off was steadily losing weight through a regime of Shaun T and Chalean Johnson. My sin is that I don't have high blood pressure, am not diabetic, anaemic or have high cholesterol. I know this because I've been tested for this all over 15 times this year. At one point I was told that my bloods were "surprisingly good".

I've had surgery, which added new symptoms and was unsuccessful. I couldn't work for 3 months and that ol pain is still there. Icepick sharp, stomach first, then down. It bites, crawls insidiously and pulls at everything from my waist down. Sometimes, it burns...almost like a xenomorph dripping its' toxic blood on nerves and muscles. Then the fatigue, a wave that wants to envelop you and shut you down. The world slips away and sparkles with bright painful light. You know that if you give in, its lights out so you fight it, with the little you have. I'll spare you the description of my menstruation.

None of this takes into consideration the emotional toil, the side effects of drugs, the weight of isolation and the pressure on family.

I wish I was Luke Cage. I wish I was bulletproof. 

I know that there are people out there suffering more than me. But we do that now, we diminish our pain, we judge it against a societal expectation that it's not enough, so it doesn't count. BUT it does count and it doesn't abide.

As I thought about this blog and a bulletproof black man in 2016 and the desire as a black woman to also be bulletproof and impervious to pain, I realised that actually Luke Cage isn't bulletproof. A combination of events changes the elasticity in his skin so he receives the impact differently. In a rudimentary sense, it bends. Just like Wolverine, it still hurts.

That's why I'm moved to write. When you are strong, people depend on it, they build structures around that interpretation of the truth, like Luke Cage is bulletproof. The reality is that I feel that strong people are pliable because they have battled; they are callused in places, bending and pushing back further. But it still hurts.

I have experienced what it is like when people think you are strong and then you have to be weak. You have to rebuild, the new callused flesh must take hold and some folks become afraid because you have to challenge that idea. Emotionally that's as much as the physical pain and that was depressing enough.

So...here I stand. I am facing another invasive surgery in 4 days. My lips tremble, I'm frightened and I'm writing about a superhero. I am fighting the enclosing dark using my treasured weapons of words, sarcasm and nerdiness. I want to be bulletproof but even in this state there are others I wish were more bulletproof able to withstand all that is being thrown at them right now. My lesbian friends in the US, my people here, the people in Aleppo, Syria, everyone scared by the rise of the right.

What I am trying to say is that people are more than a phrase. More than ever, we must remember that and we must fight. We must challenge our own ideas and thoughts, now more than ever before. It's not about being bulletproof. It's about combining and being there more than ever so the bullets won't be fired. Maybe the strong person needs to be held. Maybe we need to just stop the bullshit and be there more than ever for those struggling. It's also self preservation...we cannot just depend on ideas, we need to put boot to ass.

So I'm sorry I haven't blogged loads this year, but I haven't been asleep at the wheel. I've been dealing and now I'm confessing that I'm not strong. I'm callused but hopefully, I'm getting back up to fight whatever is coming. These words are a way for me to remind myself that I've got me and a reminder that we should have each other.

Thanks for your time, much love xx
Fuck 2016

"Never backwards, Always Forward"




Friday, 4 March 2016

The Tricksy Eye of Nostalgia - Who you gonna call?

I've been a bit under the weather of late but finally, I have been ruffled from my daze and have a bit of insight to share. For me, I’m never too sure what will be the thing that will push the sacred muse to dump her leavings on my head and then conjure up something that I am happy enough to commit to these pages. The act of writing a thought and translating it into something that I want to share, and ultimately that engages you, can at times be a breeze and at the same time, an excruciating experience whose symptoms resemble some kind of hitherto undiscovered disease.

But as the Nun said to the Bishop, let’s put our mouths in the right places to start things off. The rebooted Ghostbusters movie trailer was released yesterday to the inevitable sound of outrage and alarm (this is the internet after all folks!) I gave it a cursory glance yesterday amid the requests on social media for pitch forks, axes, and crowds of people to join forces to decry this awful misery. All in all though, at about 6am this morning, I had a wee look…and it was….alright.

I watched it again and let the thoughts marinade. The image that floated into my head like Slimer at a buffet was a memory of me watching the original trailer in front of my Dad. His words which came after a kiss of the teeth was, “Looks like tupidness” (This only makes sense if said in a disdainful weary Jamaican patois) The point is my Dad wasn’t the target audience, I was along with my little brother and I wanted the special edition toys that would feature in Shreddies and as for the image that showed spectral globes floating across a New York skyline, followed by exploding apartment windows, I didn’t know what it was about but Goddamn! I wanted it! I lost my shit in the playground and when I saw it, I could barely take it in. 


Now fast forward. I'm older, much older. Ghostbusters has become a traditional watch and my brother, The Instant Classic and I were having one of our usual film rants when he made an very interesting point, “Why is it that in a lot of 80’s movies, the people who do the right thing are punished?” Light bulb moment.

So I rewatched it properly with my adult eyes on and I find myself getting wound up. As a kid, I adored Peter Venkman, I thought he was funny and great but as an adult, an adult who has a great affection for Bill Murray, Peter Venkman is a douche. He is only out douched by Schmidt in New Girl but at least he knows he’s a douche. Peter Venkman basically engages in unethical ‘experiments’ to get dates, manipulates his friend into bankruptcy on a rouse. Don’t believe me, watch it again. Egon and Ray believe as scientists from their evidence, Winston comes around to belief through experience, “I have seen shit that will turn you white!” But for Venkman, it’s just another hook because we are all marks in the con and some of us will pay through the nose for it. The reason the Ghostbusters end up arrested is failure to comply with the Environmental Protection Act, think about it. Firstly let’s agree that Walter Peck is an idiot but the he actually had a point. He believed that Venkman was a con and that the containment facilities to hold the ghosts were dangerous and could be emitting dangerous chemicals and hazards into the environment. While closing the containment unit is the stupidest way to prove the theory, his claim could stand and he’s definitely right about Venkman even though he has no dick.
Here’s the thing, there are some 80’s movies which are a battle cry to stick it to the man. The ‘pencil pusher’ is the enemy to the man living the American Dream. So because of that you get Top Gun, a film where essentially Tom Cruise is told that he may not have the emotional aptitude to fly jets but does it anyway because….he’s a Maverick (yep the clue is in the name). You get Ghostbusters and others that at some point will talk about a loose cannon, not playing by the rules…but this is going into another rant so let’s get back to busting ghosts.
My point is that with a different, non-nostalgic gaze I started to see Ghostbusters differently because it’s NEVER GOING TO BE THE SAME! That’s the kicker. Our childhoods are not sacred spaces, free from violation or closer inspection. When I was a kid I loved Ghostbusters, but I am not a kid anymore. I’m a grown ass woman, my world view is very different now. I genuinely have a bigger love for Egon Spengler and this is not because of the death of Harold Ramis. I appreciate his candor and that in fact some of the best lines from Ghostbusters are spoken by Egon, “Sorry, Venkman, I'm terrified beyond the capacity for rational thought.” 


Ray Stantz is enthused with a passion of someone who has discovered the awesome in the thing they love and makes no apologies. The fact that Dan Ackroyd has a huge interest in the paranormal is evident and if anything shows the passion that can come when you stick to the thing you love regardless of whether it’s cool or not. The Winston Zeddemore character feels like what would happen if I found myself in this situation, wanting not to believe but along the way having to question what you have been told. It’s strange to realise that your childhood favourite has to be relegated to last place because…life happens. And that’s the point. 

There comes a time when we need to put down the rose tinted spectacles of the past. The more I see on social media leads me to believe that because we don’t want to put these down so easily, we are caught in this cycle of outrage and disdain. “Not my Ghostbusters!” No it’s not yours anymore; in fact truthfully it was never yours. The original concept was a very different beast, not funny, very serious and the property of one Dan Ackroyd. Along the way, life and death changed the outcome to what we have today.
Here’s the thing. I guess that a part of me loves Egon Spengler, because I have become an old unapologetic geek. I might see the new movie, I may not. But either way it’s not going to remove Ghostbusters from the Essential Festive Viewing List in my house (along with Die Hard, The Last Boy Scout, The first 3 Indiana Jones movies, National Lampoons Vacation – yes vacation not Christmas keep up! And Scrooged) or the love I had for it when I was 7 years old.
Watch some of those precious movies again but do me a favour and take off the rosy specs. I guarantee you will find some different things happening, than what you thought as a child. Believe me I did. The Fox and the Hound became even more depressing, Say Anything has such a sweeter deeper significance, 16 Candles….oh god it’s rapey, Dirty Dancing.....did not see such feminist context until now but damn! That’s the thing about films that I love, the ability to see so much more with each viewing, to bond, to laugh and get angry.
My Dad did watch Ghostbusters by the way….at the time he loved it. It’s amazing what happens when you open up and give something a chance, even when it looks tupid.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Execute Resolution 66 - How I learned to not slap the righteous

Greetings and Salutations on a new year. Now for those tuning in maybe hoping to find the latest diet or so such or maybe something about losing 60lbs and discovering the secret of the kale and quinoa enema, switch off now….seriously this is not that.

This is just some shit that happened that put the gears into thought mode….the steam of industry is pouring out of my ears. So I was in Tooting a few days ago, picking up bits for my dreads when I spotted this woman across the road with the usual pamphlet. I marked her and tried to take the best route to avoid her but ended up in the rush almost running slap bang into her, “Would you like to talk about Jesus?” I was silent, I really was not in the mood to issue my favourite killing words that day and my religious rants are infamous, long and harsh (Full disclosure: I'm a pagan, raised a Methodist and through a lot of introspection and education chose paganism from about age 20).

Unfortunately, this lady was not going to accept my silence, “Do you want to hear more about or Lord and Saviour Jesus” Now here I wanted to for laughs, respond with the sacred words a very good friend told me, “No but would you like to hear about my Lord and Saviour, Cthulhu?” But it was wet, I was cold and I really wanted to play Halo and drink Cherry Brandy, so I just said, “Nope!” in a sarccy and abrupt way. I should mention that all of this happened while I was still walking. At that she belts out, “Well he saved my life and maybe if you knew him you would be happier!” Now there were several scenarios that ran in my head at that point. Instinctually I was almost moved to cuss her into non-existence, coupled with a righteous right hand upper cut asking her is Jesus saw that coming, shouting rage and annoyance, but I kept on walking and by the time I was scanning my oyster, I saw it for the ruse that it was; a play to get me to stop and justify myself to this random woman.

I put the thought away got on with my life and today while commuting, seeing the numerous diet ads and better life and supplement ads, I recognised the same attitude that I had encountered from the God botherer in Tooting. This woman wanted to engage me and chose the tactic of telling me that by her assessment of what happy SHOULD be, I didn’t measure up. My terse response was not because of cold, wet, a desire to game, a craving for some patty, cocoa bread and Peardrella and period pain but in fact because I lacked Jesus. Because Jesus is a fix all don’t cha know? Now for some people it is and more power to you if that is your thing. But that same tactic of telling us that the fix all is just an insert diet/superfood/supplement is the hymn of the New Year. 

And you are made to feel weird if you don’t join in, “What’s your resolution? How is it going? Have you broken it yet? Are you doing Dry January?” It’s continuous against the sharpened blade of those lovely numbers 01-01. I’ve taken to responding with such things as, “Nah, but are you doing Minge March?” which I must say has garnered a merriment of confused eyebrows. But the truth is that from what I can see, it all amounts to the premise that you cannot be happy in the skin and mind you are in and changes must be made because…the numbers say 01-01 goddamnit! 

Now I am all for the folks who want to make positive changes in their life, to their health and to their mind etc, what I don’t like is the idea that you need to externally justify your happiness using someone else’s tickbox. Also who said we had to be happy all the time? Humans are complicated and our brains ever more so, there are peaks and troughs in all. I remember when my daughter was smaller people used to say to me to love everyday, especially because some people aren’t as lucky as me to have kids. Talk about pressure! Because some people can’t or don’t want to have kids I have to face every nappy with a grin, every but of manipulation, late night crying, tantrums, fevers, general rudeness, trips to A&E, dyslexia, school applications and dodgy friend choices like Doris Day. Err no blud, bun that! I don’t have to. And the same applies in this case. I’m not entitled to be happy all the time, none of us are. It sucks. However I find that being on a level is cool. 
Not miserable, not happy just cool. 

We’re not children. There came a point when I told my daughter that I cannot make her happy all the time, that was not how the game went. That she would have to make herself content, just chilled out not deliriously happy all the time. For me it grants perspective, it gives me appreciation to just dwell in the mists of alright. It doesn’t mean that my aspirations are any lower or my drive stops. I exercise because I want to keep my heart healthy and my limbs as active as possible and I happen to like a bit of Chalean and Cize. I eat well and enjoy the sensation and after a life of battling fucked up lessons about food, I enjoy each morsel and cook with love. I read voraciously because I always have and don’t find it a chore, I've committed to completing more projects but not out of some resolution, out of a want to improve myself and chill in my alright times. So when the gloom comes and sometimes it does rain down hard and heavy, I can pick up and find the pieces and get back to alright which tends to lead to happy.

“Self-love is a good thing but self-awareness is more important. You need to once in a while go ‘Uh, I'm kind of an asshole.” – Louis C.K.

So what am I saying? I'm saying do you. Or don’t it’s really down to you but hey thanks for taking the time to read these words on a cold day. I won’t wish you the best in your resolutions but I will wish you the best in your life endeavours, each day, Every damn day.




Monday, 1 June 2015

The Mystery of Hamboning - Cartoons nowadays

As someone born in the ‘olden tymes’ (my daughter’s words) there is especially as I hurtle towards the big 40 a lot of talk about the good old days. I’ve seen a lot of this recently on my social media about remembering when you could go down the road and you wouldn't get kidnapped, you could play all day and no-one was worried, cola cubes cost 5p, dogshit on the pavement turned white with age and how wunnerful it was back then. Cue Hovis music…
Which is all well and good I suppose but very flawed. Firstly, I have a background in Criminology and one of the many intriguing things you learn is that there is always the ‘Golden Era’ this hallowed time where things were beautiful and wonderful and not like the terrors of the modern day. Evidence will show for example that the murder rate in the UK was higher in the 1970’s than it is now. Don’t believe me? Look it up. But I digress. My reason for this week’s rant is not a treatise on the rates of criminal activity between 1970 and 2015 but to talk about cartoons…

I watched a lot of cartoons as a kid, I also had the fortune to travel quite a bit so I watched a lot of TV on very different continents. So intertwined amidst Jamie and the Magic Torch was Jayce and the Wheeled Warriors, Fat Albert, Galaxy High, Battle of the Planets to name a few which did eventually end up being broadcast in the UK. It’s easy with the mutation of Nickelodeon 2.0 which is less on the slime and more on the OMG-YOLO-HASTAG-over privileged idiots who clearly are in need of a Taser and a reality check to bemoan the loss of good cartoons. Before I get lost in the nostalgia of it all, I can fully admit the flaws in some of my viewing.


Jamie and the Magic torch…..erm clearly this child was sniffing glue. Dogtanian and the Muskehounds…not exactly the best animation in the world. Dungeons and Dragons..I loved it but that fucking unicorn should have ended his days over the barbecue on many occasion and as for that bell end Dungeon Master, don’t get me started. Jem….wait back the hell off Jem if you know what’s good for you! I may not have been the most pink laden girly girl but Jem is my one concession. I suspect it’s the amalgamation of all of my girliness in one place with a thumping soundtrack about how you play the game. If you value your life, let’s not discuss the remake. So I am very aware that not all of the cartoons of my youth were awesome, sometimes it’s that very thing that means they hold a place in my heart. I was recently shocked though by the amazing talent of 3 recent shows that counter all of the awful Wizards of Douchebag Hole or whatever it’s called.

One is a series that follows a Cat married to a rabbit with 2 kids and the household goldfish that grows legs, starts talking and becomes a member of the family. The other follows a boy and his dog best friend who has magical powers and live in a post-apocalyptic land with their friends and get up to  any and everything. The last is about a blue jay and a raccoon that live and work at a park.
The Amazing World of Gumball, Adventure Time and The Regular Show are that saviours of modern kids cartoons.


While I could sit here for hours and probably deliver a mammoth treatise on the awesomeness of The Amazing world of Gumball (see episodes ‘The Game’ ‘The Words’ and ‘The Boss’) the sheer madcap surreal nature of Adventure Time, (See episodes ‘Tree Trunks’ ‘It came from the Nightosphere’ and ‘What was Missing’) which in my opinion is up there with Monty Python and The Mighty Boosh, I must expand upon The Regular Show.

I cannot remember which episode I watched first, what strikes me is that I watched a kids show on the Cartoon Network which happily referenced and ripped films like House, Kickboxer, Over The Top, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and a myriad of other films and shows from my childhood (The episode ‘Ello Guv’nor as a British person is a particular delight!). Any show which features Mark Hamil voice acting, gets an instant five points as standard but the more I watched the show, the more I realised what it was that defined it as great. Mordecai and Rigby, at first glance are just as their boss Benson tells them, slackers. They are 23 and find inventive ways to do as little as possible in their jobs as groundskeepers. They are assisted by Muscle Man, High Five Ghost, Pops and Skips. Hilarity ensures but the thing that I love is that there is more beneath the surface. Over the course of 6 seasons and counting we learn about friendship, sometimes we have to do go above and beyond for our friends as they would for us, that life can be tough, you don’t always get what you want. You have to grow up but that doesn’t mean that you have to give up and not have fun. About moving on from heartache to something potentially better. That some rules are stupid and some important. That just because someone is on TV doesn’t make them cool or nice. To be accountable for your actions, even if you didn’t have the wit to see how bad things could get. Most importantly we also learn that hamboning will save our lives. Someday.


This is one of the things about Regular Show that means it is very close to my heart. The death of Optimus Prime in Transformers: The Movie in 1986 was a valuable lesson. It taught me that life was not always neatly wrapped up in 21 minutes, heroes could die and unforeseen circumstances bring out the best in us all. Sometimes we have to work with the people we wouldn’t normally piss on if they were on fire to achieve the best outcome.
While watching shows with my daughter when she was slightly younger and which ultimately culminated in a ban of Nickelodeon, I realised quite quickly that I couldn’t figure out the messages from some of these programmes. The children were whiny and often to my mind, spoiled and rude. They were condescending and truculent to anyone above the age of 14 and the parents or adult figures in them were objects of ridicule, often trying to be down with the kids as the canned laughter highlights their stupidity. I am in no way saying that some of this was not present in some of the shows and cartoons of my era, Scooby Doo is the perfect example of the pesky kids putting the adults to shame but say in The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, there was a limit, there was a place that Will could not go with Uncle Phil and Aunt Viv and if he did so, they were quick to shove that toe back across the line. In fact the last show I remember to get the semblance of this right was My Wife and Kids starring Damon Wayans. 

Benson in The Regular Show is the authority figure, stressed and frustrated by the efforts of Mordecai and Rigby to do fuck all, but there is a reason behind it, there is something he is trying to teach them and there are times when he gets it wrong. I love that one of the oldest characters in the show Pops is just so sweet. He quite literally spends his time sniffing the roses and having fun but don’t let that fool you, Pops can be a bad ass when he want to be. It teaches kids not to dismiss someone because they are or seem old, that age is no barrier to fun.

The more I watched this show and bonded with my daughter over it, the more I appreciated it. I have shown episodes to friends who despite their initial trepidation have been in hysterics by the end, sometimes even unnerved (Terror Tales of the Park l ll and lll spring to mind). I applaud it and the other shows I have mentioned. It’s not beating you over the head with the moral message like He-Man but casually feeding a nugget of something useful to you while defeating a giant head for the universal record in Broken Bonez.

It gives me a warm feeling not to decry that all hope is lost and cartoons were so much better in muy day, but to give a tip of the cap to the folks whose surreal and crazy imaginations meant I could enjoy some fantastic television with my daughter. So thanks J.G Quintel, Pendleton Ward, Ben Bocquelet and all the amazing folks bringing such great TV to life. WWHHHOOOOAAAAAA!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Proceed With Caution - Post Mother's Day

So Mother’s Day has ended in the US. In Blighty this had come and gone in March but my mind rolls over motherhood again and in particular mother’s day. You can’t really escape it in social media, in the run up there are loads of inspirational quotes about the bond between mother and daughter, mother and sons, lists of things to do to say thank you and how much you appreciate mother. It was when I read an article about mother’s day for those who have lost children that the seed was planted for what I am writing here. Another theme that does tend to come up during this time is forgiveness. That while things may have happened in some nether where things were said, now is the time in honour of mother’s day to forgive and move on. Please see appropriate card via moonpig.

This is always a strange time for me and I am sure that I am not alone. You see I do not speak to my mother. It is always a strange thing, when you meet someone new and there comes the point when you have to explain that your mother is not a factor in your life.

It’s been brought home to me more since I have my own daughter. The thing is that usually people presume she is dead, but then the inevitable happens so you have to prepare a statement to handle it. It’s a bit like Jenny Garp in ‘The World According to Garp’ by John Irving. You find a way to put across an awkward situation that happened ages ago using succinct sentences.

One of the trends that I have realised is that when faced with a scenario like this, a lot of people want to ‘fix’ it. They ask about the time that has passed, they remark about how long it’s been and about letting go and forgiveness. They insert the relevant Dr Phil-Oprah-Deepak-Iyanla platitude. I used to get really angry about it, I used to feel shame because I felt like there was something that was wrong again that I needed to fix. Because, clearly I wasn't going through enough just dealing with the aftermath of it all. A few years ago, something happened which changed my perspective.

Actually they were two separate incidents. One incident was talking to my brother and a friend about an old memory. My brother and I were laughing about it but our friend wasn't. She was a bit horrified and challenged us to realise that our humour was a guard; it was how we dealt with the awful things that happened when we were kids. It made us both look at our past with very different eyes.

The second incident was when the lead from Lost Prophets was arrested. I wondered about those poor children who will grow in time and find out what was done to them and that the person who was charged with loving them and caring for them, exploited them. I wondered how the world would treat them and then I thought about them on mother’s day, hearing some of the platitudes that I have heard. Believe me; I did not suffer in anyway near as much as those children. I was not sexually exploited. Around the same time, I was asked the usual question about making contact, and it began with, “She’s probably getting old now, do you really want not contacting her to be on your conscience?” My counter questions were, “Would anyone, who knew the identities of those children ask them the same question when they got older? Would it be right? Does anyone ask Tina Turner, the last time she saw Ike and that maybe things had gone on long enough and she should bury the hatchet?” No because those are extreme examples of abuse. In their extremity, we allow the victims to make their decisions. We weigh up the crime and say, “Actually, I can understand why they want to move on without those people in their lives.” But for people who have experienced what some may deem lower level abuse, the question is asked of the victim in many different ways, “How are YOU going to solve this?”

We have become so used to the public spectacle. A lot of this started with the talk shows, the Sally Jessie Raphael, Jerry Springer, hell Oprah played her part too. We watch families fall apart and demand they resolve it in an hour for our entertainment. Our morbid delight that thank fuck it isn't us up there. This has morphed into Big Brother, Ex on the Beach and countless other ‘reality’ shows. I am sure that Stephen King’s Running Man is not far behind. The legacy of that for me are a lot of people who want to diagnose and fix you because what you are going through defies a norm that they have in mind. I am by my nature and the choices I have made, a confrontational person in the eyes of many. The default from some is to assume that this is some family feud because I didn't keep quiet. The truth is so much more complicated. This is challenged every damn day, especially when raising my daughter.

It is a balancing act and then it’s an internal war and then it mutates into something else. This barrage of parenting advice from everywhere, applying the things I have learned in counselling, the things I see and hear and we haven’t even got to Secondary school yet.

One of the things I am grateful for is the people I surround myself with and in an unusual twist, I am grateful for Facebook. I don’t just friend anyone on Facebook, I choose carefully and the things I see on my timeline reflect this. These are folks with great humour and intelligence, mothers who are sometimes just as bewildered as me at the prospect of motherhood. It’s nice and refreshing, especially in the face of those who would only present things as perfect screenshots and I appreciate it, I appreciate it more on days like today when my daughter challenges me. The people that I choose to have  in my life remind me of Roald Dahl’s Matilda, they remind me that I am not alone and that I do not have ‘let bygones be bygones’ to fulfil a strange idea of closure courtesy of Hallmark.

So what am I saying? What is my helpful Geraldo Riviera summary. Fuck knows! Just kidding. I am not going to tell anyone to do a damn thing they don’t want to. Do what is right for you, find resolution and peace in the way that you need to. While some folks have spent their time telling me how to find peace about the situation, very few of the same have asked, “How are you about the situation?” Not everything has to be perfectly resolved to the specifications of others. I think that today was just a day to remind myself what I have been through, what I am going through and the legacy that I deal with everyday. To pluck the fruit from the seed planted months ago.


Now take care of yourselves and….oh bollocks!!