Monthly Archives: January 2013

My second facial. Or the day I got punched in the leg.

Today I had my second facial. This is significant because I am a lazy groomer. I’ve coasted by on occasional make-up and sporadic efforts at hair management until the ripe old age of 30, when it appears my complexion decided to completely change on me. Black don’ t crack but I’m not willing to push the envelope any more.

On grooming though – let me swiftly add that there are two important exemptions to my lackadaisical approach: my tresses and my skin as a whole, in line with two basic rules:

1. Black women take hair seriously. Whether it’s natural, straightened, somewhere in between, braided, twisted, dreadlocked – for the most part it’s not a laughing matter. (this being me, however, I also adhere to a cycle of growing long, strong hair and then, roughly about every two years, ruining it with a bad haircut, strange colour, mullet in various combinations or all at once)

2. Once you’ve had extreme eczema from your neck to your toes, every day that you wake up and your skin is working with you and not against you is a win. 

But back to the facial. My first facial was in Australia last year with a friend and bride-to-be, whose wedding I’d flown out to attend. I admit, I was sceptical …until I felt the softness and wonder (and relaxation) that is a deep Oxygen facial and massage. I’ve been dreaming of it ever since.

Which brings me to getting punched in the leg somewhere in Regent’s Park. Armed only with a childish sense of enthusiasm and a discount voucher for a facial and back massage I went along to the spa.

The massage was firm and soothing…right up until the end, when she started punching my leg like it had looked at her funny.  Repeatedly. When I felt that I couldn’t stand it any more, she hopped back and grunted with satisfaction. Then she left me alone for five minutes to “relax” (read: fully absorb the weirdness of the situation and figure out what colour my bruises would be) before starting on the facial, which I managed to survive without getting boxed on the ears.

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On Faith

It’s easy to describe religion, but it’s harder to tell someone about the felt experience of faith. The known experience. Church. (not the building)

Last night at my home group I looked around the room at the diversity, the wealth of years and experience, different races and backgrounds, personalities….. and thought, this is my church. Church is human, messy, imperfect and amazing.

I’ve been a Christian since I was 14, and it’s been a journey (sometimes in the opposite direction)…but I’ve also grown. For ages I’ve been trying to think about how I’d describe that to someone without sounding like a complete hippie. There are different seasons but the one I’m in right now feels like…

It feels like……a large stone. A solid, sizeable stone, falling down a well. And as it falls, I feel joy, and fear and wonder. As it hits the water, waves upon waves of ripples reverberate out and I feel peace and fullness of hope… and wonder.

It resonates.

I feel an earnest longing and the exhilarating knowledge that what I know is just a little bit of what there is to know.

It’s kinda awesome.

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Amnesty. Or Learning to Share.

I have to admit, my first thought when I read: Amol Rajan: An amnesty for illegal immigrants is good economics – Comment – Comment – London Evening Standard was not a good one.

Why should illegal immigrants get a free pass when I and so many other law-abiding and hard working people that I know play by the rules?

Logical, but wrong.

As Rajan stresses, these are people, not numbers. People with individual stories, more often than not heartbreaking; separated families, a life lived outside the system – which is harder than it sounds. And, admittedly, some bad eggs. But the people who for whatever reason have fallen outside the system, by choice or sad accident, and who have roots here and lives – it would be kinder and more sensible, economically speaking, to bring them into the (taxation, citizenship) fold.

It’s not a case of either/or – their gain is not the loss of people like me who are here legally. That’s divide and rule talking; that’s a limited-resources-your-cake-makes-mine-smaller argument. It feels right for an instant, but ultimately it’s selfish and wrong.

However….it goes both ways. The actions of a few, even if some are criminal, should not be held against the overwhelming majority of people playing by the rules, trying to keep up with what sometimes feels like the whimsy of the Home Office with regards to regulations, fees and waiting times for visas (and rule changes are many; fees are close to £1,000 and if you’re not paying for premium one-day service, you’re looking at anything up to six months without your passport).

The fact is, the immigration rules are forever changing because immigration is seen as a problem first and foremost; never mind globalisation and being “open for international business, education and skills”. Until that is resolved and a truly honest debate held, with actual facts and figures not anecdotes from the Daily Mail, both legal and illegal migrants will find themselves on the same side: the unpopular one.

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Social Media promotes aid to Africa, from Africa

Read me! —> Social Media promotes aid to Africa, from Africa <—read me!

It’s from Independent Voices. I have just posted the link here because this great piece speaks for itself: the innovative use of social media and new technology to enable aid to Africa, from Africa. I think I’m going to have to start a category for good news stories from Africa. We like.

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Surprise!

Today’s headlines were all about surprises:

1. Oprah was apparently surprised by Lance Armstrong’s doping admission; and I haven’t figured out if the man is a wizard or not because it appears he bewitched everyone with his lies  …erm…account, or whether this is the weirdest pre-show hype I’ve ever seen:

“It was surprising to me. I would say for myself, my team … we were mesmerised and riveted by some of his answers.”
“I feel he answered the questions in a way that (suggested) he was ready. I can only say I was satisfied with the answers.” – Oprah

2. The Times reported (I would include the link but for the paywall) that the French army was surprised by the organisation, arming and training of the rebel militants in Mali. This smells like another case of follow the money (I might have to start a category for that): where are they getting the money for these arms, hmmm? Where are they being trained? Who is bankrolling them?

3. Another case of follow the money for my next post, except it’s not a hidden trail: allAfrica.com: Kenya: Kibaki Approves His Sh25m Retirement Bonus. So… Kibaki has magnanimously accepted that Bill that Kenya’s MPs have voted for, awarding themselves massive payrises and golden handshakes. *sighs, grits teeth, mutters something about exit strategies for African politicians*

4. I’ll end on something light hearted: When a Swedish cleaning lady went joyriding in a train, perhaps no one was more surprised than her when she crashed into an apartment block.

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A Winning Team

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I was pleased to read today that Adrian Lester and his wife, Lolita Chakrabarti, won Critic’s Circle  Awards for their play Red Velvet, which was performed for the first time last year at my favourite off-West End theatre in London, The Tricycle. She wrote it, he starred

The play is about Ira Aldridge, a forgotten stage star from the 1830s who was an accomplished Shakespearan actor, especially popular in Prussia and Russia. Oh, and he was black. Lester captured Aldridge’s theatricality, vanity and vulnerability, alternating between an increasingly frail but fractious old man and a proud performer at the height of his popularity.

One of the things that struck me was that it appeared that to play the Shakespearan Kings, Aldridge whited up: at the end he prepares to go “on stage”, slowly donning his wig, white makeup and white gloves. I was instantly reminded of a similar scene from Wole Soyinka’s Death and the King’s Horseman at the National Theatre in 2009. There, the whiting up was subversive, mocking; here it was a majestic mask; but the imagery was striking in both plays.

From time to time, London life being what it is, I just can’t seem to organise an outing to the theatre with friends; no matter, I am perfectly happy to go by myself. The only drawback is, there’s no one to talk about it with afterwards! I went to see Red Velvet one chilly evening in November, unwilling to let the £10 early bird ticket offer pass me by. It was worth every penny.

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Sam Cooke: Live at the Harlem Square Club

I stumbled across a (fabulous as usual) NPR piece on the background to Sam Cooke’s live album: Live at the Harlem Square Club. I must admit, I’m a huge fan, but I’d never heard it. But since listening to the documentary, I’m hooked. This is all the good honey-voiced soul I’m used to, but more raw – singing live, he’s electric. It makes all the other recordings seem sanitised.

I defy you to listen to “Twisting the Night Away” and sit still. If the vibe from 2:24 – with its the wailing trumpet – doesn’t get you on your feet, we can’t be friends. (sorry)

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A Tale of Two Parliaments

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only. – Dickens

We are living in difficult times. A global financial crisis, rising inflation and food prices, disasters natural (tsunamis, hurricanes) and man-made (Sandy Hook shooting, Delhi gang rape), to name a few. Economically at least though, everyone is feeling the pinch. However a couple days ago, two news stories caught my eye  – the Kenyan MPs who awarded themselves a staggering pay rise: BBC News – Kenyan MPs vote themselves $100,000 retirement bonus…and the British MPs who wish they could.

I find both groups of MPs a bit problematic. British MPs may “only” earn £65,000 but they also get expenses for everything from their rent to travel. If I could take those two things out of my outgoings every month, I’d have almost half my salary back. And that’s the thing: everyone is feeling the squeeze. I don’t doubt that they do a lot of hours, but when I hear comparisons with what these MPs could earn in the private sector, I get impatient. If you want that pay packet, work there. Public service is a different kettle of fish. To those that say that we don’t pay enough to attract the brightest and best: I’d say that we don’t have nearly enough diversity in parliament in terms of women, ethnic minorities, the working class – before we start to talk about wooing more corporate types from the City. I wish those same MPs would be more focused on pushing for a living wage for the thousands of low income earners in  the country. Government contracts for cleaning companies etc would be a great place to start.

And to Kenya. I think the numbers speak for themselves, but there is a wider issue there: the cliff edge that faces so many African politicians when they leave. Too many enter politics for a payday (through your pay packet.. or otherwise) and there is no semblance of a life after politics. It’s not just Kenya; many African nations have his problem. We need to encourage people to think of politics differently, and perhaps more importantly, to conceive of a life after politics. A like our Presidents; we need to offer them something to do afterwards, or there’s a risk they’ll never leave.

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In Another Life

Every week in Stylist magazine they interview a female professional and ask, among other things, what she would be doing if she had a chance to change career.

I would have been an archaeologist. If money were no object and if I didn’t already love what I do, perhaps I’d be working on something like this: BBC News – Ancient tombs unearthed in Egyptian city of Luxor.