Tag Archives: love

Here My Dear

2017 is many things so far, but for me personally, it’s the year (ok, I started this towards the end of last year) that I take care of myself.

Not in a New-Years-Resolution-Fitness-Craze sort of way; more of a commitment.

Committing to my health spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally.

Committing to living the life I have, not looking backwards and being trapped in nostalgia or straining forwards waiting for it to “begin”.

Committing to the people in my life by showing up and allowing myself to be seen; and taking the time to see, listen and love my family, friends and colleagues.

Commit to doing all the things that I’ve been putting off out of fear or waiting to have someone to do them with.

Aside from all of that, I’ve been watching, listening to and reading some new stuff – new to me, so don’t stone me for being late to many proverbial parties.

Baggage Reclaim: A site that’s about all things relationships. Not just romantic relationships, I hasten to add. Natalie Lue writes with wit, kindness, humour and directness about self-esteem, love and life. It’s therapeutic.

Very Smart Brothas: Sharp commentary that makes me laugh darkly at least once a day because: truth. eg Dear White People Who Write Things: People Who Voted for a Blatant Racist are Fine With Racism (It’s Not That Hard).

Tiny Letters: Yes, I know everyone has been all about this for maybe two years but it’s a great email newsletter from all your faves. Bim Adewumni, whose own one (entitled …fuck is this? ) is fantastic and here she’s compiled a handy list of some other good ones. 2017 may be the year I start my own.

This Is Us: Listen. I am not a sappy person. (start of this post notwithstanding). I like to think of myself as a soft boiled egg: yes, a little gooey on the inside but there’s a robust buffer and a resilient shell to crack through first. I like my TV sharp and either funny and dark (Crazyhead), action-packed and dark (Banshee) or somewhat creepy and dark (Penny Dreadful). Throw in the odd trashy drama (Nashville – but I blame my love of country music for this) and I’m set. What I do not do is sweet. This is Us is sweet and funny and has me all up in my feelings every damn episode. It’s about a family and all the frustrating/beautiful/slightly bonkers things that families do. It’s also a wider commentary on society, race… there’s a lot, okay. And it undoes me every time.

Podcasts: I’ve added Melanin Millenials to my listening mix. Right now, my favourites are the Baggage Reclaim podcast (linked to the aforementioned blog), NPR’s Code Switch podcast (filling that chasm left when Melissa Harris Perry departed our screens) and Death, Sex and Money (Presenter Anna Sale has a gloriously intimate interviewing style that draws the best out of her subjects and one of the loveliest presenting voices to boot).

Music: Lee Moses is on repeat for me right now. His track Bad Girl is raw soul.

 

 

 

 

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A city of contrasts

In the space of two days, I was reminded of how London is a city of contrasts.

At the weekend, I went to a house party to celebrate the christening of a little girl with mixed Trinidadian and Indian heritage. Her dad’s best friends (Filipino, Jamaican and Indian) were there, as were extended family from Guyana, Ireland, Chester and India. It was a Catholic christening although her mother’s faith is Hindu.

It was a beautiful melting pot that showed London, and Britain at their best. I stood there and thought, politicians don’t know anything. All up and down the country, people are just getting on with life and loving. Of course, there are challenges, but the lived experience of the 21st century is much more complex, surprising and lovely than the newspapers would suggest.

On Tuesday, a friend of mine was subject to a verbal xenophobic attack. A tall, blonde, blue-eyed Finn, she was mistaken for a Pole after someone overhead her speaking in Finnish and was subsequently attacked. It’s not the first story I’ve heard from a friend. It seems that now especially, simply being perceived as foreign is enough. White, black, English speaking or not – to be noticeably different is intolerable for some.

So, this is where we are, London.

And now we wait to see if the Tories racially-charged campaign did the trick.

 

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Not Leftovers

I was incredibly moved to see this advert about China’s “Leftover Women”, the phrase for women over 30 (maybe even slightly younger than this!) who are not married.

It’s meant to be an empowering ad for a cosmetic company, so yes, consumerism and all that, but in a few minutes it goes to the heart of an issue that’s close to so many hearts – including mine.

I don’t feel like a “Leftover Woman” but being over 30 and unmarried has its frustrations and anxieties, particularly if you harbour hopes of having children one day.

It’s usually more about others than you, though. A single woman is sometimes perceived as a threat by attached women – no one quite knows what to do with you when it’s mostly couples socialising together.

And there are the assumptions – that you must be very picky or impossible or that you have a lot of free time and money as a result.

A while ago I would have probably written quite bitterly about the assumptions that some people make that your life is somehow less meaningful, particularly if you’re not a mother. Or about how you can be perceived as a failure.

But I’ve been on a journey. I discovered that I was becoming a bit bitter because felt like a failure. Looking at other people’s joy (sigh, social media) began to grate. The endless Facebook posts and photos of engagements, weddings and children chafed, irritated me.

At the time I was reading Gilead by Marilynne Robinson, now one of my favourite books of all time. In it, she writes (about covetise or envy):

“I don’t know exactly what covetise is, but in my experience it is not so much desiring someone else’s virtue or happiness as rejecting it, taking offence at the beauty of it”

That really resonated with me. I prayed. I reflected. I sat for a time with my (frustrated) hopes and expectations and tried to practise more gratitude for the place I was, rather than hankering after the place I wanted to be. (Perspective: it’s not like I am singularly obsessed or anything; let’s just say that every so often -more so if I went on Facebook – this feeling of ‘failure’ rankled.)

Now, I watch that video and it resonates with me, though I am lucky not to feel pressured by my family to settle down. And I am able to share my friends’ joy.

But most of all, things feel unbelievably sweet. Perhaps because I’m happy with where I’m at* instead of focusing on the alternative.

*Incidentally, where I’m at is a busy place because I’ve barely had time to blog for myself. But I’m back!

 

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Lovin It

So, it was the weekend of love. I had a weekend full of friendship and culture – including the movie Freeheld and Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom at the National Theatre. Here are three things that gave me the warm and fuzzies:

One The reaction to Justice Scalia’s passing, in particular this response to the GOP’s rush to declare that the current, democratically elected POTUS is somehow ineligible to nominate his replacement:

Two Saturday Night Live, “The Day Beyonce Turned Black”.

Three 

“Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.” Maya Angelou.

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In Praise of Brothers with no game

The internet has been great for flattening (up to a point) the inequalities in media access for marginalised groups – perhaps a better way of putting it is, platforms like Twitter allow a space to reply but also to champion different agendas. But it’s not all reactive.

The internet is also a site for creativity and audience building. I first got into Black web series with Issa Rae’s funny and witty series Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, charting the (mis) adventures of J, an awkward Black girl. It has a great cast of quirky characters and some sketches that are (too) true to life.

Then I discovered the British comedy Brothers With No Game. Better than Entourage and with a specific British flavour, it’s a comedy series about four guy friends who have no game. Everyone has *those* dates, and BWNG unpacks it all in snappy 12 minute episodes. It can also be unexpectedly touching, dealing with issues such as unemployment and heartbreak – all from a guy’s perspective. And unlike Entourage, it manages to do it without being sexist and the female characters are allowed to develop personalities, with the women on BWNG an essential part of the story.

One of the female characters who appeared in a couple of episodes, Venus, went on to star in an eponymous show on dating and London life, Venus vs Mars, picked up on Sky Living. I really enjoyed it; it has a similar humour to BWNG; warm and engaging, with plenty of in-jokes that you just don’t get on mainstream TV. There are other shows in the BWNG stable, it’s great to see the outfit championing strong content, particularly from women.

So, I suppose this post is in praise of BWNG in particular and Black-produced web series in general. My favourites:

One. Brothers With No Game:

Two. Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl:

Three. Venus vs Mars:

Would you recommend any more?

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Hidden Migrants

CaptureI’ve just finished the chapter in Angier’s excellent book, “Woman: an intimate geography” where she unpacks the mystery and the wonder of the ovaries and human egg. I don’t have kids (yet?) but I now rest in the knowledge that I am not only carrying around potential lives within me, but migrants. Because no matter who I marry, as I am a migrant, the Daily Express assures me today, my (potential) children are part of a hidden horde of migrants, poised to invade Britain from within.

Marvellous.

The stain of migration will apparently never wash clean.* I’m sure my children will emerge from the womb with a benefits form in one hand and the keys to a council house in another. They will go on to steal a “real” British child’s nursery place, which is really just a warm up for snatching their job later. And their benefits. At the same time.

For two weeks in that heady 2012 Olympic summer, Britain was proud of her diverse history. The Mail’s “plastic Brits” splash featuring Mo Farah and others (Brits by passport only, not really one of us apparently) was derided as ridiculous and nasty.

It was a good summer. And now we’re in a long, cold winter of discontent in the run-up to the elections. The race to exclude has gone from non-EEA migrants, to EU migrants, to anyone who marries a migrant,  to the next generation – who are, for all intents and purposes, British. Where to next? It’s a shameless race to the bottom. Perhaps as more and more of the “right” Brits get ensnared in the net of suspicion there will be a collective pushback. Are you loving the right person? Are you having kids with the right person? Now….where in history have we seen this sort of insidious messaging before?

* and this is why I wear the label of migrant with pride.

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We need new names

“As it is, I can’t settle, I want someone who is fierce and will love me until death and know that love is as strong as death, and be on my side for ever and ever. I want someone who will destroy and be destroyed by me. There are many forms of love and affection, some people can spend their whole lives together without knowing each other’s names. Naming is a difficult and time-consuming process; it concerns essences, and it means power. But on the wild nights who can call you home? Only the one who knows your name.”

—  Jeanette Winterson, Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

 

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Rolling in the Deep

Since I finished my dissertation, I’ve been MEH. Sure, I’ve had thoughts, I’ve even started some posts, only to run out of steam after the first sentence. Maybe I was a bit burnt out….?

Then today, I heard Aretha Franklin ripping up Adele’s Rolling in the Deep and I couldn’t help but write a little something. Now, my critques: it’s a bit overproduced, in the way that producers seem to do when they have a legendary talent in the studio. It’s as if they panic about keeping a person relevant and current and forget that this person can actually sing. So… the production values are a little too slick. And others have raised the spectre of autotune. Perhaps a touch? But you can’t deny the best part of it….

Her voice. Aretha takes Rolling in the Deep, which I love anyway, and gives it edge and soul. I do love Adele’s pared-back (by comparison) version which is moving and defiant, but when Aretha sings:

Go ahead and sell me out and I’ll lay your shit bare/See how I’ll leave with every part of you/Don’t underestimate the things that I will do….

…you believe it. She brings out a deliciously threatening quality to the song (in the same way that Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings’ song Retreat gives me exquisite chills) until Aretha stalks through it and lets her voice into every nook and cranny of it.

I’m also not sure about the foray into Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, but her treatment of the song just has me in ecstasies. I’ll forgive that.

 

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Courage

Last night, on my way home I saw this tweet from Vicky Beeching:

Her coming out as a gay Christian will no doubt comfort and inspire others (and probably horrify a fair few too). She is so very, very brave.

Here is the interview with her by the Independent.

I was struck by her comment on integrity.

“What Jesus taught was a radical message of welcome and inclusion and love. I feel certain God loves me just the way I am, and I have a huge sense of calling to communicate that to young people. When I think of myself at 13, sobbing into that carpet, I just want to help anyone in that situation to not have to go through what I did, to show that instead, you can be yourself – a person of integrity.”

It’s important to be honest about who you are and bring all of you to bear, living authentically from your heart. Too often we (wider society, in the Church and beyond) have forced people who might be gay, or queer, or in any way different to the norms we expect of men or women to hide their lights or dim them – mostly for our own comfort and convenience. In doing so, I believe we make it hard for them to live with integrity – dignity even. This can wound; it can even kill. And it deprives us collectively as a society of so many bright and beautiful lights, each unique in their own way, as we all are, and who make the sky more lovely to look at.

Shine bright, Vicky. It’s good to see you.

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Elegy

I can think of no finer tribute to Maya Angelou than her own words, written for other heroes that have gone before.

“Elegy

For Harriet Tubman and Frederick Douglass

 

I lay down in my grave

And watch my children

Grow

Proud blooms

Above the weeds of death.

 

Their petals wave

And still nobody

Knows the soft black

Dirt that is my winding

Sheet. The worms, my friends,

Yet tunnel holes in

Bones and through those

Apertures I see the rain,

The sunfelt warmth

Now jabs

Within my space and

Brings me roots of my

Children born.

 

Their seeds must fall

And press beneath

This earth,

And find me where I

Wait. My only need to

Fertilize their birth.

 

I lay down in my grave

And watch my children grow.”

– Maya Angelou (1928-2014)

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