Thursday, 24 December 2009
Thursday, 19 November 2009
streak above the river
Irwell - starlights of the soil
canal paths are busy
with end-of-day bustle,
while the daily 9-to-5 grind
washes the faces of desperate
drivers, grinding to a halt
in another traffic
in heavy showers;
wriggle down wound-shut
as I bite into an unripe
Tuesday, 27 October 2009
Bus 37 - Shudehill to Eccles
“Not due for her biopsy
scan ‘til next week”
“Able to go out for an hour
at a time each day...”
A dark lady with a meerkat expression
casts a dark glance at the bloated belly
of the loud-talking man on the phone
turning to concentrate on a photo;
the image of a baby, a wrinkled raisin
peers back -
The bus hisses and throttles
through Industrial action bottle-
of traffic jam
like the fatigue fogging
“The doctor thinks the problem with the kidneys
is nothing to do with the eyes”
“... the kidneys are down by 70%
but he reckons it’s not actually kidney failure...”
head jerks forward,
as the bus swerves round
through just-turning-red light at the roundabout
charging towards Eccles
Saturday, 17 October 2009
Life in the last few weeks have been pretty manic - moving from part-time to full-time hours at my work place (a private college at the heart of Manchester’s city centre, where I’m teaching Business and English courses, in addition to coordinating the ESOL dept). I am also in the throes of house hunting as Joel (hubby) and I have decided to stay in the UK for the next couple of years before thinking again about moving to Australia (where Joel is from). Anyway, I just wanted to explain why I’ve been quiet blog-wise for a while… but please bear with me and I will post stuff whenever I can (although it may not be as frequent as I used to). I do hope to get a chance to catch up with some of your blogs soon. In the meantime, I leave you with a poem I penned last week…
tucked in the back streets
sprawled between Shudehill
and Victoria Station
tangible white noise
a pulse injected into bubble-
as if daring
a pin-prick to syringe
its skin, to release apocalyptic
beneath blurred footfall
and those lost
this quarter of Northern time
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
ps HAPPY BIRTHDAY to all the September born bloggers out there!
Green spun bars stare
hard at me
in lateral stretch on aerobic mat –
blue padding a slight elevation
as I thrust my pelvis towards
their impenetrable gaze,
up, two, three, four,
down, two, three...
in a bid to dissolve
thirty-eight years of jelly
morphed on waistline, upper arms
and hips; steamroll out
worry lines and worms of cellulite...
Unfortunately, the thrusts and gusts,
the punches and jumping jacks,
can do nothing for the wiry grey hairs
that have over the past decade mushroomed
out between my pits and the patch
in the front right of my head – foliage of age;
the wild place, the wilderness
pushing up like weeds through Manchester
city tarmac, unlocking the moat
hidden in the hedgerows of life.
Tuesday, 1 September 2009
Extract from Tortoise Eggs
In spite of all this enlightenment from Mr Henson and The Inspired Book, my father agrees for me to go with my grandfather on this excursion. The reason for this trip, from what I can gather, it seems that the gods have forewarned some imminent disaster on the village. To avert it, Papa Ukwu must bring a list of things to his witchdoctor’s pot, which he will use to appease the gods. Yesterday he showed me the list but told me not to ask any questions. He said, ‘A good apprentice learns by observation not by clucking like a housewife.’ The list: ostrich feathers, saffron oil, a live chicken, a fistful of red dirt, a rope, a pot of periwinkle soup, a casket of palm wine, a mixed bag of bones and seashells, and seven tortoise eggs. I dared to ask Papa Ukwu a question, ‘Why do the gods want these specific items?’ My grandfather twitched again and continued brushing his teeth with snuff. After many minutes, removing his smudged index finger from his mouth, he replied, ‘The gods don’t like being interrogated. After all, they are the gods and we are the lesser beings.’ I asked another question, ‘Isn’t it strange that gods of the greater spiritual worlds should request such earthly articles?’ My grandfather looked as if he wasn’t going to respond, but coughed out a globule of spittle and said, ‘By asking for earthbound things, they communicate with us in a way that we can understand. This shows their commitment and concern for us. Now, that’s enough with your questions.’
The journey to Calabar is full of obstacles and hazards. If you survive the pedlar’s den at the bus port situated at the far side of the daily market, behind Madam Ibe’s restaurant, and make it onto a bus, then you have to survive the bus journey itself, a tomb of sorts. It can easily send you to an early grave – what with half its nuts and bolts loosening with every bump on the pockmarked and eroded roads. Travelling in these parts, particularly in a car or by bus, as we will be doing, is always quite a momentous undertaking. In spite of all these real dangers and the fact that I am frightened of many things, I tell myself I am not afraid because I am travelling with one who is protected by a pantheon of gods. It is as if I have my own personal full-proof good-luck charm. Even though, to look at – apart from his smiling face – he is aged and as sluggish as the vehicle we are about to enter. He holds on to my arm until we have negotiated our passage and climb into the bus. Papa Ukwu’s profession quickly secures us a suitable seat. There is a round woman with a bleached face taking up an entire seat. At first, she refuses to get up. Then spotting the amulet round my grandfather’s neck, it is as if she decides that it is better not offend the witchdoctor man. The way she jumps out of the seat when my grandfather wags his walking stick at her you’d think she was about to be turned into a snake. Though, as I see it, it would require a tremendous magic to transform her barrel-bulk into a slithering creature. She moves off, places her large bottom on a crate at the back of the bus. As we settle in our seats, I notice the aisle heaving with people while others hang off the sides of the bus. The clamour and pong filling the bursting bus reminds me of our village clinic.
It is a six hour journey from my village to Calabar; six hours in which the driver has to negotiate the notorious two P’s: the potholes and the police. On board, those who have something valuable on them also have a third P to contend with, the pickpockets. At some point, I fall asleep, allowing my head to rest on my grandfather’s skeletal arm. Numerous times, the movement of my head bopping up and down like a coconut refusing to fall off its hinges causes me to wake up. In the murky shadows of restless sleep, I see my Mama Ukwu. My grandmother died many years ago from a disease that chewed her from inside. It ate her intestines until there was nothing left of her. In this dream address, she is on one side of the river. I am on the other side. She calls my name, ‘Emeka Simeon Nwankwo, bia’ – only my grandmother calls me in this way. ‘Bia, come,’ I hear her say but I do not move. I do not want to go across to meet her. Even in dream, I know it is dangerous to cross the river at a dead person’s beckoning. It is a bad omen when the dead visit the living in sleep. I want to wave to her, but again I am afraid. Instead, I turn away from her – and wake up to p-bang, b-pang, p-bang! Shattering glass? A burst tire? No –
My grandfather throws his weight over my body as we instinctively fall forward enveloped by shouts and screams. Within seconds, a strangling silence descends inside the bus. Outside, there is a lot of movement and more shouts. I want to raise my head, to peer out of the window, to see what is happening. Under the strength of my grandfather’s chest pinning me down, all I hear are the footsteps of men clamouring up into the bus, followed by more yells at the driver. Their language is foreign to me but it is soon clear what their demands are; they want valuables. A man shouts in broken English, ‘Una – up up! Up!’ We straighten ourselves in our seats and I tighten my grip on Papa Ukwu's hand. The man addressing us from the front is dressed in a khaki outfit with a black bandana on his head. He wipes the sweat pouring down his face with the back of his hand, before gesturing, ‘Una – out out!’ One by one, we stumble off the bus, and form a queue along the road. I see the bleached barrel woman waddle to a position behind us, clutching her handbag into her breasts. Surrounding us are a dozen or so men. They look at us like hounds in heat; agitated, feverish. These are the type of men, my father has often warned me about: ‘They will kill their grandmother or have sex with a child if only to make a kobo’. I press into Papa Ukwu, who seems to be leaning on me for additional support. His haggard expression worries me, and even though Papa Ukwu, my good-luck charm, is standing right there beside me, I am afraid. I am afraid in the same way that I am afraid of the dark, of high places, and of my father’s Hamattan temperament. Under the searing sun, I am afraid of these men; their taunts and their guns. As they begin to search us – snarling, spitting, and slapping – I wonder which god, if any, will save us now. My grandfather’s gods or the god of Mr Henson’s Inspired Book. I glance again at my grandfather, his face reveals nothing though his lips are moving, slow and silent, and I wonder if he might be evoking the protection of his gods. I close my eyes and at this moment, I wish I could call on the white man’s imp-spirit so that I won’t be afraid.
Sunday, 9 August 2009
Apologies I’ve been offline for a couple of weeks now. Well, I’ve just returned from a one week Arvon Writing Retreat Moniack Mhor Writer’s Centre. Moniack Mhor is 12 miles from Inverness (Scotland) and 1000 feet above sea level. Although the 7+ hour train journey from Manchester to Inverness was pretty exhausting (both ways), having the time and space to catch up with my writing, without the distractions of T.V. and internet, was absolutely exhilarating. And, to do so in the midst of such inspiring and stunning views was such a privilege and treat. I got heaps done ... hurrah :) Anyway, this is a quick post to let you all know that I will be touching base with all your blogs in the next few days once I catch my breath (around work and coursework commitments). In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the photos I took of my retreat location. Btw, my room was just through the blue door in the bottom photo.
ps OoooH... and many thanks to all those who have read and commented on my last post!
Saturday, 25 July 2009
caught between velvet foam of Frappuccino...
underneath soles of chapped feet...
riding pores of shimmering summer heat...
hidden inside shabby trunk where plasticine
and paint vie for space among Grandpa
Edward’s model trains...
wriggling among shedding autumn leaves...
a stream of telepathic light where, through stimulation
they stimulate imagination...
I found this answer in a Chinese fortune cookie once:
‘Aliens live in a small village on the edge of the Arctic Circle’.
Friday, 10 July 2009
It must have broken when she slipped from the iron railings. While he struggled to hold on, her manicured nails caught his wrist, leaving a pronged scarlet streak above his watch strap. Hanging on to her right elbow with his left hand was difficult. Hang in there, he repeated again and again, as much to himself as to the stranger. Seconds earlier, from a short distance, he spotted the woman in the yellow dress perched on the railings. Swaying from side to side, it was as if she was hypnotised by the sun’s molten basin. Distracted by the sudden shrill squawk of a Welsh seagull, he looked skyward, tripped over a rock and landed on all fours. Wiping off the grit from his denim, a soundless fart hatched, escaped. When he turned again towards the iron barrier, the woman had clear disappeared. All he saw was the glint of yellow cloth tangled in the railings. Picking up his feet – he raced towards the yolk shimmer. When he got to her, the greenest expression of desperation looked up at him as he grabbed hold of her arm. He shouldn’t have done it, she said, punctuating each word with thin gasps.
Ignoring the stones chewing his knees, it wasn’t long before the twinge in his back arrived (an old injury from a motorbike accident). At this point he knew it would soon be over. He couldn’t hold on for much longer. He began to sing a Jeff Buckley tune. Her features softened with his soothing off-key growl. She was a striking woman. In her early twenties, he imagined. His grubby hand started slipping until it clasped her thin tapered fingers. Sweat dripped, large globules falling on her dark dank mane in baptismal splatter. The twinge in his back gained in sharpness. He should never have raced that day. Through dry lips he let out a heavy gauche wheeze.
-He shouldn’t have done it, she repeated.
He stopped singing.
-There’s no one to look after the goldfish, she said next.
-What’s your name?
-Louise Palmer. But everyone calls me Lou.
Again silence. He stiffened, heard the creak in his clavicle. It was as if the weight of the inevitable made her heavier with the passing of time. A tumultuous energy ebbed between the two. A generation apart, nothing connected these two unlikely companions and yet both were linked by circumstance, an invisible membrane of fate.
-I should thank you, she interrupted his mute thoughts.
-The name’s Ruben Jessop, he smiled, hoping it might give her some comfort.
-Thank you, Mr Ruben Jessop, she said, while he curled his thick fingers tight – tighter.
The decision made. Unable to look at the horror blanching her expression he counted – one, two, three, and let go. She let out a shriek which he didn’t hear – couldn’t hear because of the multiple screams exploding within him as he sank to the ground staring at his splayed fingers, overcome with a strange grief. In his furled agony he wondered if she hadn’t been a stranger, if she had been his sister or even a friend, would he have mustered up the strength to hold on for that bit longer. Perhaps it was because he had nothing to lose, his will to preserve a life he had never known had let her down in the end. While these thoughts accused him in the ironic emptiness that now surrounded him, he glimpsed the ruby chapped nail peering back at him.
Sunday, 5 July 2009
“Music is the outburst of the soul”
~ Fredrick Delius ~
Do you see music...
in the glitter of star-spangled
gum portrait against tar?
in the limp mottled banana skin
tousled without care nor will?
on silver barrels settled by glass panels
of Royal Northern College of Music
I wonder at the tales of
thick folded fingers
gripping steely steering wheels...
“Music has to breathe and sweat,
you have to play to live” – this James Brown
inscription sprawled around
swims along the tide
of my mental Club Phoenix.
Saturday, 6 June 2009
Just to let you know that I’ll be off the radar (blogwise) this June due to a manic work schedule (weekday+weekends) – teaching, tutoring and exam marking (on top of study/workshop commitments)... ArrrgggHhh! I take this opportunity to apologise for my absence this month as I will not be commenting on blogs as regularly as I normally do – although, I will be reading your posts whenever I can :) Do bear with me and stay connected as I’ll be back in earnest by the start of July... posting fresh stuff here (hopefully!) and responding to your blogs. Until then... I wish you all a fruitful bloggy month :)
And, in the meantime I leave you a picture of a fountain in Albert Square, Manchester where I can be found passing through most days to'ing and fro'ing from one commitment to the other (lol)! [Incidentally, if you click on the image and view it large... you might spot a Starbucks in the corner of the frame... yep, I am often buying a grande cafe latte from that very Starbucks... I'm needing lots of caffeine at the moment to get me through my gruelling daily schedule (rueful smile!)]
Saturday, 23 May 2009
flautist with brick-brown
curls twisted in snail
shapes; up close, she whisks
a scent of spicy ginger
from Wales – Cardiff or Llandudno,
I don’t know which. With a tiny
waist and squirrel eyes that dart,
surprised. Her chatter
rolls in ripples – excitable,
kooky. She pecks an apricot
while peering at me through
pale glassy greys...
in the lens of my camera
I glimpse the shadow of nipples
pressing cotton vest, as she leans
against the wall nibbling, munching
after some minutes, with a silky laugh
she offers a fork and says: ‘Yolanda,
come have some sushi.’ I uncurl
from my stoop, release the shutter
of the digital, and accept the invite.
Friday, 15 May 2009
A child with a fist plunged in his mouth,
a bundle of clothed rivulets nestled in his mother’s lap.
Beside them, an elderly man taps an umbrella
on the floor; it’s been spitting all day – the gathering gnashing
azure threatens a downpour later…
‘This is the Eccles service. The next stop is Ladywell.’
Ahead, a girl preens in front of a mirror, retrieved
from her stained clutch-bag, getting ready for her weekend.
To her right, a middle-aged man avoids the bulge of her breasts,
averts his eyes behind the spread of the Evening News. He sports
a broad wedding band and I imagine him
to be married to a Joanna or Julie,
living in a semi-detached house at the end
of a non-descript cul-de-sac.
As the tram jaunts onward, my mind veers to a time
when my life’s sextant calculated more than
the narratives of strangers –
a time when my life had character and plot.
Friday, 8 May 2009
he stands on the hillcrest – glaring
while my mind simmers – a pressure cooker
of black thoughts in black pot...
Then, serenity is my playmate
for a time, that too brief interlude
when the chirrup of blackbirds no longer
sounds like the drone of a four-wheel drive,
nor the yellow sprawl of azaleas
emerge as a grey net of frozen moths…
But the black thoughts shifting in my cerebral cortex
soon return. It is almost as if the blackness has been
watching and waiting to encircle me in its sap
of sinking sand, where we plunge and fuse with the dune.
Friday, 1 May 2009
in a bullpen; penned by society,
defined by religiousness,
enforced by decorum.
Tantalizing, unspoken, illicit,
veiled; like the liaison between
a monk and a whore, or the sons
of God and the daughters of men,
freedom knocks, yet mocks
at the apex of the boundary
where insanity and sanity
become one – a Ferris wheel
promising to take the curious
somewhere but circles nowhere,
the ecstasy and agony
of knowing that I will never
be master of my own destiny.
ps. I took the photo of this Manchester Ferris Wheel a few weeks back :)
Wednesday, 22 April 2009
I take this opportunity to thank all those who stay connected with me... and to share some blogs that I regularly visit and enjoy on my bloggy journeys through the presentation of these awards. Please click on the highlighted names or blog titles to peruse their sites (and do excuse the inconsistency in colour coding).
- Calli at Within Shades of Grey Exist A Place
Blogging Brings Us Closer Award… From Maithri
“This award recognizes connections and friendships that come about through blogging.” I pass on to…
- John at Smoke Rings and Matterings
- Annie at Creatively Written
- Dina at Jerusalem Hills Daily Photos
- Andrew at Rogues Retreat
The Zombie Chicken Award… From John
“This award acknowledges bloggers who regularly produce content so remarkable that their readers would brave a raving pack of zombie chickens just to be able to read their inspiring words.” I pass on to…
- Rebecca at Just a Thought
- Khaled at Khaled KEM
- Chuck at My Quirks & My Compass
- Cynthia at Epiphany: End Note
- Lilly at Lilly’s Life
~~~~~~~~~~[Awarded blogs... please feel free to do what you will with the said awards. As usual, I set no rules... but I wanted to share my appreciation of you and your blogs through this post :) Please copy award images from my side bar :) Thank you! ps apologies if I don’t manage to visit your blog and ask you to come collect your award before you spot it on this site.]
pss please do inform me if I've made an error with links, etc... this post has taken me forever to create (lol). I made a start when I got home at 10 pm this evening and it's almost 1 am (in the UK)... so, I'm sure I've made some mistakes somewhere... lol... anyway, do let me know... thanks!
Thursday, 16 April 2009
The kernel of inspiration for this short narrative is a photograph by Christoph at BW Photography (which he has given me permission to use and post… thank you, Christoph!) I do love his B&W photographs and although he hasn’t posted for a while his work is really worth having a look at! Many of you will have sussed that I do enjoy the visual arts very much… paintings, photographs, sculpture & architecture… so, it was a real treat writing this story from a genre that gives me so much pleasure. I take this opportunity to acknowledge all the visually artistic blogs out there (especially those I visit regularly)... thank you so much for sharing your 'light and creativity' with the blogging community! [Well, as with all my work on this blog this remains a WIP]. Hope you enjoy the read!
There is a certain cruelty in the cycle of the rising and setting sun which forges on irrespective of circumstance or tragedy. Perhaps if Mother Earth would weep with me I might find comfort in her tears. But she persists in her rolling rhythms. Even on the day of my loss, the sun shone with autumnal song. There was not a speck of black or grey in the skies, no rumour of thunderstorm or gale. Nothing to warn me: of the arrival of the emptiness that was to become my nesting companion.
On the morning of the day, which will forever be laced with heartache, we went through the motions of our Saturday routine. After breakfast, I slipped on a pair of yellow plastic gloves and made a start on the cleaning; scrubbing every inch of the bathroom and kitchen. I remember he commented on how the house ‘stank to high heaven of Dettol and bleach’ before he disappeared to potter in the garden. I remember being cross at the fact that he’d ruined a load of washing the night before; all our whites stained, a sepia hue. Once the cleaning was done, I hung the disasters out in the yard, muttered several obnoxious comments in the direction of his auburn curls, and returned indoors to make a start on the ironing. I remember I spent a good hour doing the ironing (mainly his work shirts) because we’d agreed to go to Cannon Hill Park in the afternoon. That morning, I’d been interrupted by two phone calls. The first was from our neighbour, Alice, who asked about borrowing the lawnmower. The other was my mother checking to see if we’d still be coming over to lunch the next day. It’s funny what I remember of the day which changed the course of all my tomorrows.
We cycled to the park. I trailed behind him keeping an eye on the guitar strapped to his broad back. He always took the lead in this way, like the time we hiked up Snowdon and he’d led the group from the front. And whenever we planned trips abroad, he’d take charge and make all the necessary arrangements – organising the passports, and the hotels we’d stay in. He hated the all-inclusive package holidays and preferred the pick-n-mix approach – ‘we need to be in control of our destiny’ he’d often say. After turning left at the roundabout, he pulled to the side of the pavement and waited for me to reach him before continuing. At the park (bikes in tow), we strolled over the bridge spanning over a small lake, paused momentarily to enjoy the sight of squawking ducks, and wandered the short distance to our usual spot. There, we settled under the large oak tree – engulfed by a collage of yellow, red and brown; the tide of changing season. I threw the rug he’d bought on a trip to Brazil on a patch of grass. He emptied the picnic basket: ham slices, pickle, a baguette, yoghurts, orange juice, strawberries and cream (we’d picked up from Tesco during a late night shop the previous evening). After lunch, we fed each other strawberries and cream. I giggled as he missed my lips and splattered cream on my cheek. He kissed it off. ‘Tasha, I must get a picture of you like this,’ he whispered, reaching across to collect our camera from the rucksack. As I lay flat on my back – spread like a windmill – he took a snap. Then a succession of poses: on my belly, chin supported on my knuckles; peering round from behind a tree; looking away from the camera into the distance allowing my gaze to take in Birmingham’s sky rises. They towered and surrounded the park like silent guards. He came over and tickled me – shattering the stillness of my pose. I tried to wrestle him off but he didn’t stop until I gave up in a heap of exhausted giggles. It was then he decided to strum his guitar while I withdrew into my Alice Munro book, the short story collection I’d been reading at the time. That’s how we were – Morten sat with his back leaning against the tree while I lay with my head cushioned on his lap – until the afternoon glow flickered and began to wane.
This is the last memory we shared. Even now I wish I could remember the songs he played on his guitar that day. Beatles or Bruce Springsteen? I can’t be sure. When we got home just after six or so, he left me to unpack our load, gave me a quick peck and said, ‘Sweetheart, I’m just popping across to the Newsagents to get the paper.’ That would have been our evening. I’d spend time fixing dinner while he’d catch up with the day’s news. I’d planned on preparing some lasagne or maybe it was cannelloni? It didn’t matter in the end… because he never came back.
Like a comet streaking the skies in an unexpected flash – he was there one minute and gone the next. Twenty-four hours later, I notified the police. Then a blur of conversation: ‘Did he leave a note?’ ‘No, no – he didn’t leave a note’ ‘Did you have a row?’ ‘Nothing major - I was upset about the laundry this morning but we didn't row about it...’ ‘Was he depressed?’ ‘No, he wasn’t depressed – stressed with his job but who isn’t?’ ‘Is this out of character?’ ‘Yes, very much so…’ ‘Has he ever run off before?’ ‘Run off? No – no, he’s never run off before…’ ‘Is it possible that he is just timing out?’ ‘Without telling me? No – no, this is just not like him…’. In the events that followed: the police report, the search, the investigation, it was as if some deity had pressed the pause button on my world. My family, his family, and our friends all said that he’d be back but intuitively I knew he was lost to me forever.
In the first few weeks after his disappearance I carried on with the business of living. A part of me willed him to find his way home, but he never did. The sadness and unanswered prayers became lingering ghosts in his absence. As the days and weeks ticked on, with the cyclic tempo of dusk to dawn, I had to accept he was gone – for good.
Six months passed before I began to sort his things. I couldn’t bring myself to donate any of his belongings to charity so I boxed them up and hauled them into the cellar with the help of my sister and a friend. I don’t think I could have got through it without their support. With each item I packed away, I buried any future I might have had with Morten. I shed silent tears for all the dreams we’d had. The wedding we’d planned for the summer; the child we’d never adopt; the trip to Singapore we’d chatted about… The only item I kept was his guitar. It stood – a sombre shadow in the corner of the room we'd shared for six years. It was the only thing knitting the memories we’d created. I remember how we first met when he was playing at a concert in a Custard Factory venue. From the moment I spotted him on stage, he captivated me. There was something about him; his reddish hair caught in a ponytail; and the intensity in his pale eyes that would occasionally close as he vanished into another world fashioned by acoustic melody. It was during the interval that I’d finally plucked up the courage to say ‘hi’. He’d looked up and smiled, that lazy smile I fell in love with. That is how we’d started. Now, with his laughter gone, all I had to comfort me was the anthem of his soundless guitar.
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Happy Easter Sunday!
Friday, 10 April 2009
1. The Bible: As a Christian (albeit one that struggles terribly with her faith) I cannot deny the fact that the Christian faith (God, Jesus and the Bible) – indeed Christianity and all its precepts (strands espoused by the Anglican, Evangelical, Pentecostal, Methodist and even the Baptist) have influenced my life (both positively and negatively) in the sense of the person that I am today. I think I do try to adhere to the moral code of the bible e.g. its ideas on love and forgiveness... so in that sense it influences my life and worldview significantly.
2. Corrie ten Boom: Her childlike faith – inspires me to seek that deeper ‘trust’ relationship with God in my faith journey.
3. Anne Frank: Her courageous spirit – reminds me that even when life boxes us in, it is still worth fighting for. And she always reminds me of that haunting Martin Niemoller poem ‘First they came for me...’ and it encourages me to always be observant of what’s going on in the world around me --- and to act on the behalf of others when appropriate.
4. Simone de Beauvoir: Her courage in her faith journey – where she moved away from a religious (Catholic) background to a place where she could say: ‘God has ceased to exist for me’ – gives me the impetus to ‘find my way’ through my faith journey (as a Christian). There’s something very courageous about finding one’s spiritual self – coming to that point of realisation and revelation and be able to say, this ‘spirituality or non-spirituality' (however one chooses to define it) is what works for me.
5. Nelson Mandela: His sacrificial courage – reminds me each day that ‘sacrifice’ for the sake of change is a choice available to me. I can choose to be the difference in someone else’s life!
6. Edwin Cameron: His courage and exceptional work (as a judge) in the work of hiv/aids – fuels my ambition to engage with, and contribute to the work of hiv/aids nationally and globally.
7. Robert Frost’s ‘Road less travelled’: This poem daily encourages me not to opt the ‘easy option’ i.e. the route of less hassle, or less pain...
8. Kate Winslet: A fab actress... she inspires me to be the best that I can be in my writing craft. Funny that!
9. Yvonne A: A very good friend of mine from Ghana, we grew up in Israel together and remained close when we were both studying in the US. She was in Maryland and I in Virginia – but we’d meet up regularly and hit the nightclubs together. She died almost two years ago during childbirth (aged 34). She was such a vivacious person and her life and death inspires me to ‘live life to the full’.
10. Abba: They gave me music. Whenever I hear Abba playing my whole spirit begins to dance (lol).
11. Damien Rice: His music makes love to my soul every time I listen to him. And, in turn he inspires me to create/make love around me.
12. Enid Blyton: She gave me the possibility to imagine and dream up fictional worlds.
13. Jerusalem: It gave me a ‘point of reference’. Everything that I am today emerges out of my upbringing in Israel. It opened up my world and gave me an interest in interfaith dialogue.
14. Katherine Mansfield, Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath, Anthon Chekhov, James Joyce (among countless other authors and poets, published and unpublished): They all inspire my short story and poetry writing.
15. The Blogging Community: Gives me purpose and inspires daily to engage with the conversation and dance that is LIFE.
I hate rules and tend to break them (tsk!)... so in passing this TAG on... anyone who reads or follows this blog is welcome to participate in this TAG. To those that I TAG specifically (and others who choose to join in)... I have no rules... even though it’s meant to be '25 Influences’ it doesn’t have to be (as per me)... feel free to play or not... and feel free to pass the TAG on or not. So the people I’ll tag are:-
John at Smoke Rings & Matterings
Lillian J at A Voice on Fleming Road
Andrew (Rogue) at Rogues Retreat
Annie (Strawberry Girl) at Creatively Written
Rebecca at Just a Thought
Matthew at Wasteland of Words
Judith at The Being Brand
Thanks all for reading, commenting and playing along (if you do)! It's a lovely way of getting to know a bit more about me and hopefully others too :)
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Friday, 3 April 2009
the sun’s rays kiss my skin as spring beckons
the bluebells and honeysuckles in
to droop and arch in bell and lantern shapes
while under my feet the crackle
of twigs against earth disturb
a blackbird with an orange
beak; it warbles and tweets a sanguine
tune as it skips off its perch on a bark
up high. I close my eyes and recall
with a sigh the kite I flew when I was eight
running through a narrow graveyard gate...
To think that one day I will not raise
my hands in midair and twirl in a circle
without a care, breathing in the smell
of freshly-cut grass, or admire the dimpled face
of a child peppered with freckles
while he suckles on a popsicle, or of the twins
lolling on swings in the village green; their glee
merging with the natter of mothers and passersby...
To think that one day I will not share a laugh
nor a tear with a friend or more:
over love and loss, or a disgruntled boss,
the missed flight last summer, the lasagne gone sour,
the parking fine, the baby I always dreamt of having –
as the years drift like blossoms fluttering off a tree
these images and sounds will one day cease, become a fibre
of fiction woven in the flesh of an eternal silence.
I came across a great quote today and thought I’d share it with you (I’m dipping into a wonderful collection of short stories by Anton Chekhov, 'About Love & Other Stories' (translated by Rosamund Bartlett)): “...Everything is beautiful in this earth, everything that is, except what we think and do when we forget about the higher purpose of existence and about our human dignity.” (Checkhov, The Lady with the Little Dog).
Wednesday, 25 March 2009
sex and dying.
Although both offer a peculiar beauty,
I’m afraid of the process of dying, and the state of not existing,
in the same way that it unnerves me the control and power sex wields
and its ability to blemish and erode
Sometimes, as I stand on this bridge overlooking the motorway,
leaning against its railings with my eyes shut, battered by the surge of a biting
wind whistling in my ears and clawing my skin like a fearless feline,
I wonder what would happen if I jumped –
leapt over the iron barriers and became a ‘jumper’?
I imagine I’m on a trampoline, bouncing high, higher
ready to spring off into the swirling abyss,
but I can’t grasp it, what it might be like to no longer be
this flesh wrapped around sinew and bones,
arranged to form the DNA that is me,
this shell which over time
is destined to perish
then I think of the ladybird and how it scuttled
up the length of my arm; the plasticine I moulded
into a heart or a shape resembling a ginger bread man;
my first kiss with a boy called Ellis at an end-of-year school disco
when I thought no one would propose – but he did ask me for a dance,
I said ‘yes’ and at the end he kissed me. I remember he tasted of liquorice...
to choose the abyss would be to erase all these memories
and that scares the hell out of me, because doesn’t the sum of our memories define us?
Who am I without these details – the gorgeous, the grubby, the gaudy?
Each experience: a stitch that is part of the grand design that is my life...
I will stop being me, and yet there are things that make me ponder about dying.
Is there an art to death? Will the angels break my fall as I imagine they would have done if Jesus had taken up Lucifer’s challenge and flung his weight off a precipice? Would they catch me or let me land in a s-p-l-a-t on the ground, watch as my blood is given over to the soil.
Dog to dust...
Ass to ashes...
Life begins the cycle of dying,
all the cups of peppermint and fennel tea
I’ve consumed; all the rows with my father whose hurts
squeezed the joy out of my innards; the prank I played when I covered
Dan’s entire room with old newspapers; the time I sprained
my ankle and was out of action for six weeks; the sexual encounters I’ve indulged in (I once read that sex is a metaphor for death) – all to come to a nought on this bridge...
The people I wished I’d known: the burly man with the beard
and eyes that smiled at me as our gazes met across Kings Cross escalators;
the larger-than-life waitress who served me a mocha at the Starbucks
in Ladbroke Grove; the youth who picked up a fiver that had escaped my handbag
and fluttered to the floor of the corner shop in Wood Green;
the pensioner who held my hand in hers at St James Church boasting a wafer-thin smile...
so many missed opportunities to give more meaning to a life gone sour
the confusion of the Tower of Babel,
the babble in my tower is confusing me
as I contemplate if there is life after death?
Thursday, 19 March 2009
I: Identity. India. Interests.
Identity... the discordance in my sense of ‘identity’ and indeed ‘belonging’ has been a root cause of the feelings of worthlessness that has blighted my life. I am not unique in this struggle as many third-culture or trans-culture kids, who in turn become third-culture or trans-culture adults, often struggle with issues around identity and belonging for most of their lives. This desire to have an identity and to belong to something or someone led me to indulge in a self-destructive lifestyle in my teens and twenties. I pursued excessive and reckless life choices and behaviour patterns to fill a ‘gnawing void’ in my life, and each proved to be less than fulfilling or satisfying. Not surprisingly, many of these choices had disastrous results (both in the short and long term) and significantly eroded my self-esteem in the process until I became numb and invisible. I searched for a semblance of identity and belonging in all sorts of strange and unhealthy places... such as, the deadness of the clubbing/drinking scene; in the arms of questionable choices of boyfriends; I even joined a sorority (Zeta Phi Beta) when I was studying at VCU wanting to be a part of the popularity scene of the campus at the time; and then in my twenties, I turned to church and God. As I reflect on this now, it’s interesting that these ‘bed-mates’ – the booze, the boys, the nightclubs, the sorority, and the church... all failed to bring any enlightened ‘sense’ to the brokenness arising from my quest for ‘identity and belonging’. In fact, rather than help me, each in turn has hurt me... well, to be honest – I have hurt myself by loving myself so little in my irresponsible pursuits. I have now stopped trying to find/fix something that was lost/broken a long time ago. The truth is that I will never have a singular identity... I am a sum consisting of many parts... I am many broken pieces... I am all my experiences (good, bad, ugly & unforgiveable) and journeys... I am 2+2=nothing & everything... I am a nomad (spiritually, emotionally and physically). Yes – I have stopped trying to qualify or define ‘who I am and what I am’. I just am. I guess the biggest regret is that it’s taken a lifetime of mistakes and wrong turns to come this point of realisation! India... I have always been fascinated by this country – its textures, its sounds, its colours. It never ceases to amaze me the diversity of peoples and culture contained in that vast and densely populated landscape. When I was very young I was enraptured by Indian movies such as ‘Mother India’ and ‘Sholay’. Going on a working holiday for 3-6 months in India remains on my ‘top 10 things I would like to do before I die’ list (lol).... Interests... in a previous A-Z fact file I mentioned some of my creative crafting interests... other interests of mine include the study of the Arabic language which I’ve pursued through short courses over a period of two years... at one time, I had mastered the alphabet and its script... and I knew a good bank of basic vocabulary, however in the last few years I’ve not been able to continue with my learning of this language and so a lot of it has gone but I do hope to pick it up again later at some point in the future... I have always been fascinated with the Arab language and culture...
J: Jerusalem. Journeys. Jogging.
Jerusalem... my happiest memories can be found in my Jerusalem childhood. We lived on the Arab side in Beit Hanina (about half an hour away from Ramallah). My sister, brother and I went to the Anglican school in the city – a schooling experience I thoroughly enjoyed and will always remember fondly. Even at that age, I fell in love with the mesmerizingly beautiful stony landscape. I loved our weekly expeditions to the Old City which always culminated in my parents buying us a bag of almond sweets from Saladdin Street to share. Lots of memories... of giving milk to stray cats, climbing trees, picking ladybirds from their perch on a stem and allowing them to crawl up my arm, playing in fields of anemones with friends, etc. After many years away from Jerusalem, it’s been great to stumble upon Dina’s wonderful blog and reconnect with the wonderful images of my childhood home - do check out her blog space and have a look! Journeys... I love travelling to places for short visits. I especially enjoy train journeys and I sometimes book weekends to spend some ‘me time’ at a B&B. At those times, I eagerly look forward to the train journey involved travelling to and from the B&B. On those journeys, I tend to watch the undulating green landscape float by. Or I’ll read a book, or I'll simply spend time jotting down ideas for a short story or a poem. Places I’ve journeyed to that stand out for me are: Wales, The Malverns, The Lake District, The Cotswolds (e.g. Cheltenham, Cirencester, Tewkesbury) and also Devon – each region beautiful in its own way. Places I’d like to travel to: Edinburgh, Cornwall, Bath and York. Jogging... after an extensive phase of illness and slowly becoming ‘right’ health-wise towards the end of 2007... I am finally resolved (this year) to get my fitness level back on track with a jogging routine – 3 or 4 times weekly (20-25 minutes). In the past, I have always been addicted to fitness and the gym but for the last 3+ years it’s been so frustrating not being able to do much because of poor health. It’s so nice to be getting things back on track – exercise wise... and especially, with the arrival of Spring... it’s lovely to hit the streets early in the morning and breathe in the life-giving freshness of each new day...
Monday, 9 March 2009
... I'll start with the good news first. Some of you will know that this year I am committed to two main writing projects. The first: to complete the first draft of a fantasy novel that I started working on last year. The second: is a short story collection in which a number of the short stories will form a portfolio for my MA project. Well, one of the short stories, Blessing, which I hope to develop for this said portfolio has successfully been published HERE in the March/April issue of Munyori Literary Journal. There are lots of strong contributions on the online journal so I encourage you to have a good nosey around (lol)... Anyway, I’m keen to share this story with you because it gives a different example of the kind of short stories that I do write. To give you some background... here is an extract from my working synopsis of the short story collection (which we've had to prepare this term): “Walls Have Ears gives voice to the voiceless in its delicate portrayal of characters hemmed inside silent walls across two continents. In the dense landscape of Nigeria a journey to Calabar in search of tortoise eggs decides the fate of Emeka; Nnamdi finds his destiny determined by a basin of bulging yam heads; and Celeste finds her answers to womanhood in The Outhouse. Meanwhile, as the world turns providence falls on the children of Britain, Emma finds clues to the loss of her sister among a collection of butterflies; and Indigo witnesses the brutality of man strewn between bales in a barn.” As always, it'd be great to have your thoughts and comments on this short story... :)
... now unto the bad news. This weekend, late on Sunday, I was unfortunate in that I had my personal yahoo/hotmail accounts compromised. Some unscrupulous person(s) managed to hack into my accounts (which incidentally are linked) and sent out a spam email to my entire contacts list (that included a whole host of people that I hardly know since my yahoo, particularly, automatically saves addresses in my contact list). Not only that, they deleted my entire yahoo address book in the process. I've been using these accounts for nearly 12-15 years and I've never encountered this problem in all that time. Anyway, I spent a good four hours into the wee hours of the morning trying to regain control of my accounts. Through the process, I found that I was not alone – there is an increasing rise of spam scam which seems to affect many of the web based email systems. And of course there was the very recent incident where Jack Straw’s (a UK politician) email account was breached in very much the same manner and his entire constituency contacts list received a dubious email. For that news story check it out HERE. To re-establish the security of my account I was assisted by this excellent SITE and I basically had to spend time re-securing passwords on all my yahoo and hotmail accounts, and ensuring that my firewall and anti-virus were loaded and working – which they were – but I thought to double-check because I do get a lot of spam traffic injected in my yahoo and hotmail accounts daily. It’s never been much of a problem, as more often than not, the spam emails arrive in the spam folder but recently (a problem with my favoured yahoo account) the spam nonsense has been arriving in my inbox proper. It has concerned me quite a bit in the last 2 or 3 months... but I have been on the move a lot and I have been using (both secure and unsecure internet wireless networks) whenever I’m on the road... so that may be part of the problem. I shared my angst with a few friends last night as the troubles were unfolding and said that sometimes I think technology poses more problems than it solves and I wondered how on earth we survived without all this internet technology in the past. But as I was cursing, ranting and raving (oh - I wasn't a pretty sight to behold last night... chuckle)... I decided that as with many things you have to take the good with the bad. To be honest, I wouldn’t give up the worlds that the internet has opened up for me, such as blogging where I've met, and continue to meet, so many great and interesting folk... so I guess I do have to take the grime with the glory (lol). Well, I thought I’d share this stress with you guys and get it out of my system (hee hee). They do say that a problem shared is a problem halved. Feel free to comment and let me know that I am not alone in my spam scam misery.
For recent A-Z Fact File: G & H... please scroll down to preceding post...
Books I'm reading... I'm just finishing off a fantastic book: The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver and I'm also dipping into an Anton Chekhov collection of short stories: About Love and other stories... another gem of a read! It'd be great to know what others are reading at the moment... as I'm always looking for inspiration as to what my next 'amazing' read will be!
Thought I'd end on a positive note (smile)!
Friday, 6 March 2009
G: Glasses. God. Glass half empty.
Glasses... for those of you who haven’t met me in the flesh... well – yes, I do wear glasses. I am short-sighted and therefore need glasses to ‘see’ things clearly at a distance. Despite the fact that I own a relatively trendy pair of spectacles because I can be quite vain I tend to use my ‘trendy’ glasses only to watch television or movies on the big screen – which in a way defeats the ‘trendy’ aspect of the glasses... if you follow my drift (chuckle)! This (refusal to wear my glasses all the time) renders me ‘blind’ most of the time and can be quite problematic. I’ll explain. When people I know catch sight of me on the street and greet me from a distance often I don’t respond because I haven’t recognised their blurred outlines with my weak eyes. Unfortunately, if the person is not directly in front of me all I perceive is a hazy image. This has got me in many a pickle with folk. I have thought about doing the whole contact lens thing and I had an optician slot in a pair for me once to test if I could get on with them. This was about 3 years ago. However, I didn’t enjoy the experience albeit very short lived (I think the contacts lasted about twenty minutes before I insisted that they be removed). Perhaps I didn’t give them enough of a chance but I just can’t imagine subjecting myself to that fiddle every day, even though many of my friends say it gets easier with practice and it soon becomes a real doddle. Another friend of mine has had laser surgery to correct her eyes and she swears by it. Apart from the huge upfront cost involved (although that same friend reminds me... that the upfront cost should be seen as an investment because spectacle wearers, like myself, actually offset that cost in about 4 or 5 years – that is, if you routinely check your eyes and change your eyewear every 2 or 3 years). I’m pretty squeamish about the whole laser treatment thingy – although, apparently, you don’t feel a thing and it’s over before you even know it. Would you believe it that some people have known me for months and years (especially colleagues at work) and would swear that I don’t wear glasses (lol)? God... under my earlier ‘C’ posting – I mentioned that I am a Christian. Having said that - I am realising that the older I get the more uncomfortable I am with the label of being a ‘Christian’ primarily because of all the negative baggage that comes with it (in terms of what others perceive a Christian to be or not). To be honest, I now simply consider myself as someone who believes in God and has a relationship with God. In 2003/4 (before I entered the teaching profession) I went to Redcliffe Bible College and completed a one year course. The reason I mention my time at Bible College at this juncture is because my relationship with God was sorely tested that year. As we were confronted with ‘theology’ - I grappled with my 'personal faith’... trying to make sense of the God of the Old and the New Testament and his relevance in my life, and indeed in today’s world. It’s very strange that I went to Bible College with an extremely narrow perspective on God, that is to say, my view of God was ‘too small’ and ‘quite limiting’. My thought processes were challenged and, if I’m honest, I had a major crisis of faith – to the point of wanting out of the whole Christian lifestyle. Suffice to say, in as much as, my time at Redcliffe was a painful process as I had to sort out the religious clutter - it was a defining year in my life. Though I learnt a great deal about myself and God that year... I confess that I still have very little answers about life... and I continue to struggle in my relationship with God... I always find it hard admitting to my struggles in my faith journey because it seems like a huge failing on my part - but there you have it... Glass half empty... I hate to say this, but it’s true... I am a pessimist by nature. I wish I knew what dictates our temperament in this way... is it genes or environment? I don’t tend to see the positives in situations and can be very melancholic in this regard. But as with many of my character flaws... I am working on it (smile)... I do admire people who are naturally optimistic – I think it makes them relaxed and easygoing... rather than being uptight, moody and intense as I often can be...
H: Hope. Horror Movies. Hmmmmmm.
Hope... is the name of one of my brothers. He is five years younger than I am and is currently completing an MA in International Development from a university in Boston. His interests lies in micro-enterprise in the developing world. There is a reason behind his unusual name (which I hope he won’t mind me sharing). Well, the reason my parents called him 'Hope' is because he was born three months premature in 1976 Israel and there was a high chance that he wouldn’t survive. In fact he lived in an incubator for those first three months of his life. Funny, one of the earliest memories I have as a child is the day he came home from the hospital... and my parents asked if I wanted to hold him. I remember being panic-stricken and absolutely petrified at the idea of holding this strange miniature bundle... I mean to look at him was mind-blogging enough... so I shook my head frantically and hid behind my mother and just stared at the new arrival. Horror Movies... I do not tend to watch horror movies. I think any chance of engaging in this genre was crushed when I watched The Exorcist at a very young age (around 7 or 8 years) and I had nightmares for weeks after that. Hmmmmmm – reflecting on this now as I write this, perhaps this is the source of my fear of the dark (which I talk about in my ‘F’ post under ‘Fear’)... anyway, I’ve watched a handful of horror movies over the years and I don’t enjoy them as they just scare me silly. Hmmmmmm... You may have noticed that I do tend to use this expression a lot in my conversational writing speak and also when I respond to some of your blogs and leave a comment. In my normal speech, I equally use an emphatic ‘hmmmmmm’ quite a lot... to express a plethora of things... (lol)...