The odd desperate smile

the odd desperate smileJust came back from a nice walk around the river. I have to say that this weather suits me. I’m afraid I like the rain and if it’s not too cold all the better. There were a number of people about and nod’s and the odd desperate smile was exchanged. I think it’s pretty obvious that people have had their fill of the Lockdown and wish normal service could be resumed as soon as possible. I wouldn’t call myself a particularly arms-out-wide kind of person, (in fact I’m a curmudgeon and life-long grumpy bastard) but even I have have had to fight back the urge to ask ‘how you doing?’

Something I quite miss is talking to strangers. Although, to be honest such a thing was never a regular occurrence in my life, (my appearance seems to put people off. The eye patch, three cornered hat (tricorn?) and a peg leg don’t exactly draw people to me), and although I have learned to live with it, when people do take the trouble to communicate, I love it. When people (usually fellow pirates admittedly) put their fears aside and make the effort to talk to me it’s always appreciated. As my dear old mum was fond of repeating, ‘you can’t judge a book by its cover’. The truth is I’m more Enid Blyton than Stephen King and am always open to conversation, especially unexpected conversation.

When I think back it has always been conversations with complete strangers that have stuck in my mind.

I remember when I was a Dry-Cleaner, a wizened old woman came to the counter of my shop and demanded to read my palm and look at my er…. nails. She declared in no uncertain terms that one day I would be extremely famous. What for, I never could work out because at that time I was particularly unambitious and was just ‘bobbing along’. Anyway, although her predictions were complete rubbish, her memory has stayed with me for a very long time.

I do wish we would engage a bit more. It would be really good to find out more about people and their lives. I know from the time I was a counsellor with MIND that other people’s lives are usually unbelievable and useful tools for living out our own existence. In other words, there is such a lot to learn. Communication is the key and cure for so many of our ills and maladies.

Social media just doesn’t cut it. It’s like distance learning. Sure, its useful and in some ways it fills a need but we are sociable creatures that without face to face contact and touch, we wither.

Something about the snow

Don’t you just love the snow? I know I do. There’s something about the snow that suddenly endears me to my fellow man and woman. When the Weather Forecast predicts snow,  I want to take them under my wing and cosy up in front of a log fire (without getting arrested). And when that’s done I want to rush around living life to the full and leaving my mark. Also, for some weird reason the snow fills me full of mischievousness. 

The snow for me is like a rainbow is for other people. The snow apart from all the weird things I describe above, is for me a sign of hope. A sign of freshness. Like a good old cleanout. Like disinfectant from the heavens. When the snow comes I always find myself wishing my kids hadn’t grown up and I could take in once again, the wonder of their faces when they wake up and look out of the window.

I also wish I had a pet again. I once had a three-legged cat called Max who refused to accept that he had a leg missing and suffered the most hilarious mishaps because of his disregard of his disability. He loved the snow too. Touching it with his good (and only) front leg as though he had never seen it before.

There’s something about the snow that makes the memories come in fast and furious.

something about the snow
Not me

One of which is me in a pram, in a snowstorm, well wrapped up and parked in the back garden. Mums in those days thought nothing of putting baby outside in all sorts of weather. Tightly swaddled. Warm and quite safe in the Rolls-Royces of perambulators that were common in those days (what was that make – anybody?).

No matter that she sometimes had to dig me out after a few hours we were as safe as houses. I’m sure (could be a false memory) I also remember at the nursery I attended, having our usual afternoon nap on camp beds parked outside in a snow flurry.

I’m inclined to say that those were the days, that it was a golden age when we were hardy, germ free and resistant to most everything. Of course, that wouldn’t be true. Polio ran through us at speed, crippling us as it went. Committing hundreds of kids and adults to ‘iron lungs’, callipers and life-long limps. Sometimes death.

In truth, I sometimes wonder how we survived. Our diets were crap, we lived in a coal driven world and began work in our early teens sometimes in the most appalling conditions.

Yet here we are. Ravaged, yes but full of thanks (I hope) to our parents for the amazing efforts they put in for their and our, survival.

For me there’s something about the snow that serves as a reminder that life goes on.  And always there’s something about the snow that leaves me with a sense of wonderment.

I watch it fall, (the thicker the better) and still, even after all those lessons at school about weather systems etc, I marvel because I still don’t get how it happens.

Persons of Colour

For Christmas last year all my kids (Kids!? The youngest is only 37-bless him) got a DNA kit. Soon the results will come in and they should to a man and women be able to claim the mantle, POC or Persons of Colour.

Probably more important to me than them, when they open that envelope they will see a positive connection to the West of Africa. For me, (I don’t really want to speak for them, but I know I’m safe in the assumption) it was a tremendous moment that few will understand and indeed some will even wonder what all the fuss is about. But to finally have proof (my blood) and as it were, an identity, put simply a place to originate from with a history, (dark as it may be) was a very important moment in my life. It filled up an empty chasm that existed since the day I realised that even my school couldn’t be bothered to tell me who I was.

However, all wasn’t lost. Thanks to a life-long curiosity brought on by a lack of answers and  things I’d prefer to push into that dingy little room at the back of my mind, I had done my research some time ago, so was not wandering around uselessly in the dark. Thanks to the wonders of the modern age and the best birthday gift I have ever had from Rosie here it was, my ‘history’ in (wait for it), black and white. The icing on the cake.

For me definitely, and I hope for my offspring the DNA was a positive move but there are what I like to call, consequences.

First of all, there will be some Black people who will say that me and my kids aren’t Black enough. And to call ourselves People of Colour is a stretch of the imagination. To them I would offer a hearty F O and say that (in my case) and whether they like it or not, I am just a Brother who was taken a little further away than they were and the sooner they accept that the sooner we can join together and fight the scourge of racism.

And secondly, there will (always) be the dyed in the wool racists who won’t change for nobody. Unfortunately, we can’t ship them out on a reverse Windrush, (where would you send them?) And it wouldn’t be right to shoot them, so I guess it’s best that they are continually fought off and confronted with reality…ergo…

We are here and we ain’t going away anytime soon. Get used to it.

Those were the days

those were the days

I was thinking the other day about the times before we became European. Those were the days.

Or, as I like to call them, the bad old days (yes, I’m a Remainer) before we became Europeans. Sadly, I think we have conveniently forgotten the trials of tribulations of the dark society that we were then and the grim days we lived in.

The streets of Stratford upon Avon (not London) were very different before we became European. Before European sophistication set in,

I seem to remember that our pavements were knee-deep in (white) dog poop.  In those days if you saw someone picking up dog shit and putting it into a black bag,  you were more likely to call Social Services than thank them for being good citizens.

Then there was the strong unpleasant scent of the unwashed Englishman.

Remember, before Europe and the invention of the shower, there was the stoic ‘one bath a week’ Englishman. I knew him well.

Friday night bath. Out on the piss and the rest of the weekend to lie in his own sweat and stale beer/cigarette smoke until work on Monday. Eeee…them were the days.

There was litter everywhere.

You couldn’t walk down High Street without becoming entangled in the discarded week-old copy of the Stratford upon Avon Herald, flying through the air enveloping everything in its path.

In those dark days the Herald was huge (easily 6ft x6ft). An airborne copy was without doubt a danger to life and limb. I know people who were near suffocated to near death by the local paper just going to the shops. We don’t talk about it much but there were those who were simply swept away, never to be seen again, God rest their souls.


If you were labelled sophisticated before we became European, it meant that you had dined in the local ‘foreign’ restaurant at least once (Wimpey’s didn’t count).

Always hidden away down a side street you could tell it was ‘foreign’ because it had what was once a brightly coloured canopy. Years of the British weather had put paid to any gaiety it might have represented years ago. There was always a rain-stained menu and plastic flowers In the window alongside faded nets. Strangely, the flowers were always in a water-filled vase?

The restaurant kept odd opening hours. But no matter. It was where you went for family celebrations like anniversaries, birthday parties. With entertainment that included shouting insults at the swarthy waiters (because no-way would they understand you), followed by the traditional and intentional mispronouncing of the menu which the elders of the family (uncles, fathers) usually undertook in an effort to prove their seniority and knowledge of other cultures. The truth was they really had no idea what it was they were ordering. Especially the wine. If it wasn’t Blue Nun, they were lost.

As for the pubs.

If you got home at 11.00 you called it a lock-in. The beer really was warm and the lager (if they had any) was too cold.  Whatever you drank, it gave you a headache.

So, here we are,  Brexit is according to our lunatic Prime Minister, done and dusted.

And I have no choice but accept the decision made by a British people who appear to yearn for a return to pockets full of dirty copper coins, handkerchiefs, vests, Y-Fronts and toilet paper abrasive enough to take a layer of skin off your good old British arse.

Last one to leave, turn out the lights.

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