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FINDING YOUR WAY FROM THOUGHT TO PAGE

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‘Work in Progress’ – this is the sign I need to post on the back of a t-shirt and as a screen saver as this will stop people asking about when will your book be published.  The word ‘writer’ gets banded about, anyone who puts lines on a page/blogs/journals is a ‘writer’, the snob in me recoils.

My younger self believed that writers lived in cold, dark rooms, tortured souls with an encyclopedic knowledge of words and events. This image changed to glossy, white women who wrote about sex, fast living and women in charge. By the time I hit my early 20’s I discovered the intense writing of African-American  female writers and I felt that I could not craft words like them. I dabbled with writing – novels started and abandoned just as quickly, followed by short, quirky pieces and more reading. Moving to Antigua opened up my writing self – poems and more short pieces, a chance meeting led to an introduction. Nothing moved beyond the occasional publication in local magazines and newspaper. Finally, after listening to the work of others, I decided to leave and study writing. Oh yes, I got the MA with a cliched driven piece of writing that had nuggets of gems. An extract appeared in two anthologies, one in the UK and one in the USA. I even won a writing prize and the novel, it received a truckload of rejections. Two writers’ weeks in the USA where I met fierce, funny, generous writers made me put down my pen, again. Life intervened, single mother, working, looking for love without my son having ‘uncles’ or a ‘new father’ – nope, our boundary began at our front door.

Returning to Antigua, older, and a little more aware of my desire to do more than write, i wanted to encourage young writers and took part in a theatre workshop, three hours on a Saturday morning – I found passionate and uber intelligent youngsters and I loved them – still do. Workshops and work in fits and starts. Connected with other writers, went to Jamaica, worked with persons incarcerated in our prison and their work made my chest puff out like a proud mother hen, cause they trusted me and I trusted their work.

Finally, my work was mined from the stories of my father’s youth, on being in Antigua and listening to conversations and seeing documents/pictures in our museum. Truth turned to lies, muse turned master and I have now written three novels – all bits of my search for what was lost in the crossing between Antigua and the motherland. Not accepted here and always explaining myself there.

I am also aware that I am amongst a dying breed of ‘hybrids’ – children of the first generation who moved en mass to the UK and lived as ‘West Indians’ in our homes and ‘Black British Youths’ on the streets and in school. House parties, weekend gatherings, domino games on Good Friday, liquor and music – gram and records – maxi dresses and tight curls. We are also the generation often told the stories that many chose to forget. Perhaps, it is my age, this middle passage that is making it urgent for me untangle the stories and leave behind a document of our stories cause we matter too.

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Posted by on July 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

GOOD TO BE BACK

 

 

 

I started this blog as a way to write more, you know, become disciplined about my craft. I started well enough and travelling to India to work allowed me to share my journey with many. Then in the last two years, I found that taking pictures allowed me to say more than I wanted to write. I use my phone’s camera and take pictures of things mainly buildings, old, forgotten that appear full of stories. I also photograph food – when travelling I become a total foodie – totally immersed in the taste, smell and colour of the food.

Of course, story ideas  pop up and I  scribble them down.. I even finished the first draft of a new novel and then nada, zilch, nothing… I read, I found inspiring articles and quotes… I was writing in shadows and started the hunt for the perfect writing desk … Yep, I blamed my lack of tools – a table, me, who used to write on train journeys, on planes, while sitting in bed, on an armchair, in an office – I would just write as the feeling hit me..no discipline, no set time,  no word limit per day….Now, I became focused on not having the right writing table. Pens, note books and reference books I have plenty.  Time to write, plenty of it as I am a freelancer…cue, music, any sad track will do, as I have the freelancers curse of finding anything to do that does not include writing …. Instagram – yep, daily postings and viewing…Facebook – tick; TV junk program watching – tick ; cake baking – tick; driving – tick; art lessons – tick and moments of inertia – double tick.

And then I fell in love with a maltreated, little table, perfect for the window space where I wanted to sit and write, a clear view across my island, trees, houses and hills…and peaceful, despite being so close to town and the airport. This table took ten days to restore – sanded down, oiled, draws fixed and polished. On close inspection, there are cracks and pin holes. It has lived a long life and like the buildings I like to photograph is full of stories.

It was  during this waiting period that  I taught  a writing workshop to 41 girls age 3 – 14 at a summer camp – group work based on a title ‘The Magic Mango’ . They were divided into five groups with group leaders – each group discussing their story and the type of pictures they needed based on the ingredients for a good story.  Just like baking a cake, a good story needs key ingredients, they mixed setting, characters, theme and actions to create a story that reflected their own favourite genres – princesses and princes; beaches; trees that fed villages; dragons and happy endings. Buoyed by their passion and enthusiasm, I knew that I love the world of writing and the endless possibilities this world can offer once the writer believes in the story they are writing.

So, here I am back where I belong stringing words together and painting a picture of what I see and wish to question. Will I write the great novel at this little table? I’m happy that I can just write……..

 

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WHEN YOU ARE HOME YOU EAT MORE

In 2011 when I arrived in Mumbai for my first ever trip to India my mind went into over drive. Too many people, heat, noise, smells, unfamiliar language, all skin shades and traffic. My camera, never stopped clicking – I captured everything buildings, people, food, anything that looked slightly different. Jump forward eight visits, nine cities and countless car and plane journeys, I am back in a city I love – Pune, it is here that I forged my longest friendships and grew into my event role.

What I love about Pune, is it is less vibrant than Mumbai and yet, feels more like a place to live. On this trip, I did not ease into the local cuisine – Wada Pav, cuttin’ chai, Misal Pav, locally cooked lunches costing less than a cup of Coffee in London, vegetarian specialties including peas and beans, rice, flat breads, sweat dishes made with sweet milk,  paneer, potatoes and the flavours are familiar and new. I become a foodie in this country where the Cow is sacred and veg is cooked in a hundred ways. I also realised that Indians are all foodies, theyc an wax lyrcial about South Indian cuisine – coconut milk, spices and rice and North Indian cuisine – rich creamy, butter and less spicy and all the variations in between.

Snacks wrapped in newspapers and lunches brought in a tiffin…The few times we had western food, stomach did not thank me.

Food here is more than something you throw down in between work and home or save for special occasions, nope food is necessary and a communal event and they love it when you say “yep, I’ll try this” or ask “what is this?”.

At our hotel – the breakfast is pretty awesome – the waffles and pancakes are a total joy and the on site baked pastries are so delicate and served warm that the thought of not eating breakfast is not even a consideration.  This is the only time that I studiously ignore the Indian choices.

I am consciously eating – savouring the flavours – spices, heat intensity – cooking spices and then adding the main – veg/fish/meat…

On this trip, I am less cautious, if, my team eats there, I eat there too – diving in and enjoying – finally, I am eating with joy

 

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CHILDHOOD MEMORIES LIKE DEW

2017 has begun with the loss of women who stood in my childhood shadow, feeding, teaching, laughing, sharing, encouraging and just being there. One lived up the road from me and the other’s h…

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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

CHILDHOOD MEMORIES LIKE DEW

2017 has begun with the loss of women who stood in my childhood shadow, feeding, teaching, laughing, sharing, encouraging and just being there. One lived up the road from me and the other’s home was a sanctuary during the turbulent years between leaving your teens and your early 20’s, when it feels like you’ve borrowed someone else’s jacket.

Both shared the kind of laughter that made their eyes twinkle. They filled your mind with stories about family and their early days in England. Both worked hard, married men who like many men of their generation looked outside for validation.

Both women stood tall and strong, striding through life, working, raising their children to believe that they can and will be more. Going home, visiting their families, sending packages, money and letters in blue envelopes filled with news of their children and the weather.

Both women believed that family business remained behind closed doors and gave counsel to those who asked. One went to church until her knees and eyes did not allow her to sit on the hard pew chairs. The other, spoke of God’s will.

Their passing within ten days of each other was a reminder that my youth has melted away like the early morning dew. I now tell stories to my son that begin “when I was little” and draw images of small, black and white televisions and ice cream vans and hours spent in the park or at Saturday morning matinees eating tom thumbs and cola cubes.

 

I am now big people.

RIP my dear ladies – our tears mean that we love you

 

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photo by Brenda Lee Browne

 

 

 
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Posted by on February 8, 2017 in age, death, family, home, life, Uncategorized

 

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

  I love this picture taken in a quiet spot – if, you look closely you will see me in the mirror. Small, hidden behind my camera-phone trying to capture a moment without being seen. Yet,…

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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

HIDDEN IN PLAIN SIGHT

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I love this picture taken in a quiet spot – if, you look closely you will see me in the mirror. Small, hidden behind my camera-phone trying to capture a moment without being seen. Yet, in the last seven days I have had to read headlines, essays, comments, news stories about #blacklivesmatter – the deaths of young black men at the hands of those whoa re paid to protect and serve. Not the fist time and sadly, not the last time that the black community will have to ask for justice! Yet, as people dissect the meaning of #blacklivesmatter  and the ‘innocence’ of the young men killed is brought into question and peaceful demonstrations are seen as a ‘tense’ response to violence until a lone gun man took a rifle that he bought legally, cause we all have the right to carry arms – right! And shot five policemen – the shock and horror and the questioning of #blacklivesmatter and the indirect and direct accusations that the peaceful demonstrations lead to this, that a phrase that simply states that whenever we are killed by the police, unarmed, yet, perceived to a ‘threat’ – the response, is’ a justifiable killing’ – I use that phrase as no one as yet, has been found guilty of killing anyone – ‘reasonable force’ – to shoot a man when he is on the ground, to shoot a man who is obeying your orders, to shoot/choke/beat a man/woman because, because…….. and I realise that I am tired of always having to explain my existence , our existence.

My skin colour gives people licence to presume me “guilty”, to tell me that “you are not like the others”, that I “sound like I lived away”, that “I am not racist cause my best friend/partner is black” and yet, you question me and even here in the land of my parents, I am still being asked to explain who I am – “why she don’t speak like us, she here long enough”, “do you need a work permit?”, that “she must have money cause she lived away and came home” …..

It is the explaining that is so dam tiring, feeling like you are always ‘defending/defining’ who you are, cause, dam it yes, it matters, we all want to feel as though we belong, that we matter – we want to be valued as we are. I am Black, British, Caribbean, Woman, Mother, Writer, Traveller, Teacher, Student, Passionate, Dancer, Limer, Creative and yet, when you see me, you  see ‘Black’. And no, I can’t sing, I am serious, I don’t laugh every five seconds, I love glossy magazines and good books written by writers of any colour, I don’t smoke, anything or lie on the beach everyday or move slowly, I am not a ‘hustler’, never lived in no dam ghetto (parents worked hard to move us to a white neighbourhood – ah the ‘moving on up’ 60’s and 70’s – they did what they thought was best), I have no chip on my shoulder and no, I will not forget.

I am who I am because of all the experiences – because I read, because I participated, because I learnt and am learning , because I teach, because I watch, because I am free – that last one is a lesson I had to take along, long road to understand with a little help from brother Bob (Marley), Iyanla Vanzant, Oprah Winfrey, Elizabeth Gilbert, my son and conversations. I am free to be me – I have no business trying to prove anything to them that will never want me to be more than they see.

#blacklivesmatter – too!!!!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2016 in Uncategorized