Bloom

BST. British Standard Time.

There is something about the word British that makes me feel proud, and at the same time irritated. If you were to look at me, you would not think I was British. Namely because I am not white of skin and fair of hair – or just fair, for that matter.

You would probably change your mind once I opened my mouth.

I used to tell my colleagues that I grew up in Dubai. They took that to mean that I was FROM there, and would say things like, ‘oh you learned English pretty quickly‘, and ‘your accent is quite good‘ and ‘you sound distinctly Southern – who was your teacher?‘.

Well my teacher was my mother. She was born in Tooting, London. I was born there too. We are British, albeit very multicultural, so not English, just British. My accent is British because my parents are British, so even though we lived in another country, they maintained their British culture and passed it on to us. They didn’t design to do this intentionally – it just came about.

Do I get offended when people say these things to me? I used to. I was a bit green. I used to get indignant. Hey, I’m British, this is my country too.

I don’t always feel like it’s my country, especially when people tell me to ‘go back home’. How can I? This is home. This is my mother’s home too. My mother’s parents came from two different countries and so did my father’s parents.

So if I were to go ‘home’ you’d have to dissect my body into a million pieces and divide my cells according to which country they originated.. that would be messy.

I bloomed though, with the knowledge that I came from everywhere and nowhere. It made me stronger. It made me prouder of my heritage.

Some days I feel fiercely British, and proud of my country and its people and it’s polite manners. Other days I feel ashamed of its history and the way it colonised the world. Some days I love its people for their exceptional Britishness, and other days I despise them for their entitlement.

But as I grow I realise something – and that is not everyone is perfect. Every nation, culture, race has its flaws and it’s positive attributes. There is good in everyone and everything, and there is also bad.

It’s important to value who you are and where you came from – to BLOOM into what makes you, YOU. Most of the time you are who you are because of your family, heritage and culture. This is why I choose to embrace the good parts of being British, and how they define me, so I can feel proud to be so. I can also feel proud to be all the other cultures that I am, and how these have impacted my ‘Britishness’, enhancing it and helping me to bloom in the process.

Which aspects of your culture do you like? What do you dislike?

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Mundane

I don’t have very many friends. People I used to consider my closest friends have all moved on to greener pastures, making me feel as though my own is rather faded and yellow.

It is, though. It is true. I have a few very close friends but I rarely see them as I live far away from them and am now inundated with life.

I see other people have friends in their own vicinities and wonder at the fact that mine are spread all over the country.

I do know that it’s because of my life situation. Growing up I had friends a plenty because I went to school with the same people for 3 years, then three years, and then three years again. But when I was sixteen I moved back to the UK and that is where my friendships sort of withered away.

I guess I was very different from the people around me because I’d been brought up in a different country, so that sort of made me feel uncomfortable around them, and teenagers can sense this sort of stuff. I ended up being a loner in the library just munching on books. Figuratively speaking.

Looking back, I now realise that I was sad and did nothing about it. I was reserved and held back even though people invited me to places and offered to be my friend. I thought they were just being ‘nice’ not realising they genuinely meant it. That was pretty stupid of me.

I also got married at 19. I was pretty young I think and I don’t think it was a rash decision at all, but sometimes I do think perhaps I ought to have found myself first. I don’t regret it one bit – marriage is hard but we work on it and more often than not come out on top.

So I guess in my life I just was never in the right place or right head space to have a solid group of ‘friends’ like other people have – in the same town, meeting up whenever we like to.

I have to schedule meet-ups with friends months in advance and spend the rest of the relationship either on the phone or via text. It works, but it’s a bit sad.

So mostly, even though I worked a full time job and completed a degree in these past five years, I live a pretty mundane life. Which leads me to believe that my mind is pretty mundane and repetitive. I suppose that is not true, but one can’t help feeling like that sometimes.

You see, when you have friends who you see often and interact with, you sort of develop a repertoire of speech and nuances in your humour that you wouldn’t otherwise discover by yourself. I know this because every time I hang out with my friends I emerge a more energetic, witty and bubbly version of myself.

My mother in law told my mum once, ‘Oh, it’s like a ray of sunshine when Len comes into the house’. That was back in the day when me and my husband were ‘courting’. Now I am a sour puss. I am not saying this to blow my own trumpet – it’s just evidence to me that if I have friends and am surrounded by people, I am far nicer and more droll than when I spend hours and days alone. Words tumble from my mouth in such a smooth way it shocks me, whereas if I’ve been a lone, talking is a bit like chewing on lead.

Yes even at work I was alone – an editor sits at a computer most of the day and interacts minimally as editorial work is lonely work.

Anyway. That is what I have to say about the word ‘mundane’. That and also boy am I glad I am not at university anymore – some of those lectures were MUNDANE.

What does the word ‘mundane’ make you think of?

Myself

Hello. Yes it is me. Peering into the internet. I am sitting in bed with a baby snoozing in my arms as I type this. It has been some kind of day. He won’t seem to settle tonight unless he is being held but I don’t mind I don’t I don’t I never will mind because he will never be this little again and he is my big big blessing.

We did nothing today but are exhausted. But that is the reality of parenthood.

It’s been three months to the day since our lives changed completely, and as I was getting into the shower at 10:47pm I thought to myself – you know, self, your life is never going to go back to being like it was before. So stop thinking of that. Embrace this change and make the most of it.

So that is what I have decided to do. Babies are not a pause in life – rather an enrichment of it. See it’s taking me a while to get there but I am working on it.

See what I have to do is throw myself all the way in. Go all out. Dedicate my brain and time to learning and teaching and loving and nurturing. Not wishing for a holiday.

I love this boy more and more every single day it’s insane.

Like at the beginning I don’t think I bonded very well with him because of how traumatic the birth was – and because I was under general anaesthetic when they pulled him out of me via emergency c section – I didn’t witness his entrance into this world. They literally put him on me while I was woozy and drowsy from the operation and I tried to connect but all I wanted to do was sleep. So weird right?

But now I am in my right mind again – I think… i don’t know yet because back then I thought I was in my right mind but I very obviously was not…

anyway. Myself. That was the prompt for today. I must work on myself and not hang about the fringes of things if I want to give my boy a valuable childhood.

I want to give him the best in terms of mind enrichment and education. So that means I have to make sure I am educated and informed.

If you have had kids, how did you navigate being ‘yourself’ in order to nourish the brain of your child? Any tips would be so very welcome!

black and white

15th post – playing catch up.

Black and white is actually a very exciting concept for me, full of opportunities. Something about staying within the constrains of such a vivid contrast of colour.

A black and white floor, a black and white house. Black and white. A chess board. Piano keys. A crossword puzzle, dice, some newspapers, footballs (soccer balls to you Americans out there!).

Penguins, zebras, pandas, orcas, skunks, Dalmatians, cows and ermines.

The possibilities are endless because when you mix different volumes of black and white paint together you get a multitude of greys. Dark white and light black.

Malory Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses series is an interesting observation of the tumult within society when it comes to race, only in her universe the whites are the prosecuted ones and the blacks are living it up.

What about the colours in between? For example I am yellow – a mix of different races, not white nor black. Where do I fall in? To be honest I still feel ostracised in mostly-white towns. That’s England for you.

Again, not everything is black and white. Nothing is, in fact. Unless you’re thinking of penguins, but even penguins can be grey, have orangey beaks and feet and of course their insides would be red.

What comes to your mind when you think of black and white?

 

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Umbrella

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my ninth post.

When my brother and I were very small, our parents moved us away from rainy England to Dubai, where it barely ever rained and the sun shone down upon the barren desert with a beaming ferocity that unrivalled anything we had ever known.

You see, if I were to describe England to you using only the colour spectrum, I would say it was ramaadi (grey) and a thousand shades of green, with a few splotches of brick red thrown in for good measure. Clouds here are stunning, and seemingly perpetual. When it rains it does not rain as it does in Malaysia (there it POURS). It is a slow sort of rain, seemingly innocent and gentle, but viciously incessant, soaking you through in a matter of minutes all while apologising meekly and drizzling away.

The green is of all hues. Dark sultry evergreens, pale shoots, regular green of birches, the humdrum green of privet, cheery green of oak, green hills rolling away into the distance and grass that just grows and grows and grows. Green ivy creeping over beautiful homes and driveways fringed with neatly clipped grass. An abundance of green and all looking like it came out of a picture book – which I suppose it did, for Beatrix Potter did base her paintings on the Lake District!

When you fly above England it’s all neat little squares of varying shades of green. It’s similar in France I suppose but there is a foreign vibe to it there and lots of browns creep in.

When you fly above the United Arab Emirates the land is brown, a hundred shades of it, and you can see the winding marks on the earth where rivers and mountain ranges signify a land that barely changes. It’s always changing in England, for we have seasons. In Dubai there is summer and winter and a week or two of rain and that’s it.

So whenever we came back home to England for the summer holidays, my brother and I relished the rain and the greenery like a pair of mad children. We ate buttercups and yanked all the dandelion seeds off their stems, blowing until we were blue in the face. I naughtily picked the neighbour’s flowers because they were pretty and sobbed inconsolably when my mother gave me a good telling off about it.

My mum bought us two children’s umbrellas one summer, darling little things, coloured like a rainbow, and we would rush into the garden when it rained and stand out there like a pair of wallies under our umbrellas. The neighbours thought we were bonkers and their dog barked at us.

Those odd children standing out in the wet under umbrellas!

It was such a novelty, you see. The pattering of soft rain on the umbrellas, splish splash of water by our wellies, tap tap of heavy drops on wide tree leaves.

It’s funny what makes children happy.

Weight

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my sixth post.

 

Well well well, I see you have found the scales.

Go on then. Stand on it, do. Won’t do you no harm. Sure, a number will pop up, but that should only show you how much mass you have accumulated on your years here on earth.

Would be very different on the moon. You’d weigh less there – but perhaps if humans inhibited the moon there would still be a stigma, just on a different range of weights.

When you were a baby your mother anticipated each weighing you had. They stripped you and sometimes you cried, your little naked chubby body going blotchy because there was a draft. They laid you gently on the hard plastic of the scale and your mother – well she squealed in excitement when she disovered you’d almost doubled in weight since the day you were born. She sure does remember your exact weight and treasures it in her heart for some odd reason.

Yes he weighed 3.45kg when he was born and now he weighs 5.9kg, isn’t he growing fabulously!?

Such pride and happiness in her voice. She longs for you to grow and yet laments your tiny self from a month ago.

So weight is important. If you weren’t increasing in weight they would worry. If you increased too much they would also worry.

It’s just when you reach a certain age. An age where weight seems to become evil and high numbers on a scale are devastating. People begin to become fixated on these numbers, and eat green things in favour of beige things in the hopes that the scales will read them a lower value.

Some barely eat at all.

But no.

Those scales you are standing on are just an inanimate object. Revel in your mass. Revel in your form. It takes up just the right amount of space here on earth, and presses down on our planet along with billions of other masses – the comforting humdrum thump thump of earthlings weighed down by gravity.

All it is is gravity. Your weight. Here on earth.

Eggs

I am challenging myself to write a post every single day in May, to kickstart my writing again. I will be following some prompt words that I ‘stole’ from somebody on instagram. Here is my fifth post.

Eggs. Where would we be without eggs, huh? There is something fine about eggs, for all their unsavoury texture when raw.

Eggs are the epitome of health, according to sumo wrestlers. The rumour went, when we were kids, that sumo wrestlers had raw eggs in a glass of milk for breakfast. Makes them strong, the children would nod wisely at each other, and mime disgusted faces, but I could NEVER do that!

Some people do, though. Like what is it about carbonara and eggs? I feel like the eggs are raw still, even though they supposedly ‘cook’ in the heat of the pasta. If the egg is still runny then to me it is raw. So for that reason I can’t bring myself to enjoy carbonara.

Same thing with eggnog. Gross.

Also, eggs Benedict. The hollandaise sauce contains raw eggs.

Personally I don’t like the yolk to be runny when I have fried eggs. Sometimes I like a soft boiled egg but oftentimes the smell just puts me off. There is something divine about fresh organic eggs from happy hens. They cost a lot of money but they taste wonderful.

What do you think about this whole raw eggs business?

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On Type

Today I felt like just picking up my pen and writing something. By pen I mean, of course, my figurative pen. Does anybody write their writings with real pens nowadays?

Since I took up typing as the default means to save my thoughts down, my handwriting has become atrocious. I do keep a journal and sometimes, reading back, I can barely read what I’ve written! Do you reckon proper handwriting is a dying art?

Back when I was a mite or a tot or a youngling, I used to write with pens a plenty. I hated the keyboard because it took so long to find all the letters and by the time I had, the words had vamoosed from my mind.

Sometimes you just gotta get those words down before they go, and keyboards back then just didn’t cut it – mostly because I was inexperienced and we got our first family PC (a large bottomed affair) when I was 10. Now I can type quicker than I can write, and writing gives me wrist-ache!

Not to mention, of course, the tediousness of having to type up everything you have written, meaning you’re spending double the amount of time writing the same thing.

Apparently they now have these new technological pens that literally scan handwriting into text. So you just run it over what you’ve written, like a highlighter, and it scans the sentences into text format on a screen for you. How marvellous is that?! It’s relatively new and you can only get it in the US for about 80$ but look how the world is changing.

Do you prefer to type your writings, or pen them down as the great writers of yore would have done?

Elucidate

Are we exhausted? We don’t know. Do we elucidate like everybody else does? Do we turn against each other, or fall into each other’s arms?

We don’t know, you see.

We sit at our desks, and days merge into other days.

Did we visit the pie shop on Monday, or Tuesday?

No, that was two Mondays ago. Henriette had a cheese and tomato pie, with lashings of melted brie. She smiled in Hans’ face, and told him he was doing a capital job.

The man who stole the moon sailed into the harbour on a ship made of Glimmer. Nobody knew what Glimmer was, but they all cheered as the tug boats hauled the gleaming ship into harbour. Men threw their hats into the air, and women waved crisp white handkerchiefs with their initials embroidered on the edges.

Their maids did that for them.

The woman who’s eyes were replaced with emeralds appeared on an emerald throne, among a throng of public supporters. They screamed that they loved her, trying to grab her, hands of all colours reaching out towards her glittering throne, but nobody could touch her, for she was protected by a wall of fire. Others lurked in corners muttering darkly about how she contributed nothing to the earth, and why is everybody celebrating her blindness?

And, do we elucidate? Do we make clear our intentions?

Do the offices of the world yield some world order?

We will never know.

We are mere cogs in a gargantuan machine.

 

 

Love Letters #38

Have you ever sunk down into the belly of London?

There are vertical escalators, and sometimes they squeak and squeal, groaning under the weight of a thousand feet every second of every day. Never stopping. Hundreds of stories and minds. Millions of thoughts, whispered in thousands of accents, drowned by the voices of people getting things done.

There are pictures on the metal walls, pictures that move and shift and change shapes, kaleidoscopic in their constant swirling motion, and for a moment you want to go to the theatre and see Les Miserable, and the next moment the thought vanishes from your brain as you frantically feel your way through pale yellow tunnels, following the crowd and wondering if you are going the right way, can’t turn back or else people will shove you back the way you came, the rush of hot air pulling you further and further into the belly of London.

Old walls, crumbling civilisations giving way to new ones.

I was born in London.

Tooting.

Same hospital as my mother was born in. So strange, that thought. Twenty four years apart.

My father fell down the stairs and broke his coccyx bone the day I was born. He was rushing to the hospital to see his first child. For twenty three years he hasn’t been able to sit properly.

When I was six years old, my stomach curled and unfurled itself as I clutched a small pink straw bag, descending on those vertical escalators down, down down below the crowded surface of the busy city.

Do we have to go on the tube? Can’t we go on the overground train?

Don’t be so silly, Lenora. Look sharp now, quickly!

My mother, seasoned, marching through the tunnels with myself and my little brother in tow. Stepping onto the train, grabbing the back of her skirt, sick with fear.

Then the hurtle, the loud screaming of the train on those metal tracks, the blackness outside the windows. Why were there even windows, if there was nothing to look at? Terrified. Barely able to breathe. Is this the stop? Can we get out?

No!? Ohhhh. 

A soft groan, deep in my belly.

Any minute now the lights would turn off and the train would stop and we would be stuck down here in the dark and heat forever and ever and

forever.

Loud, screaming, hurtling, whistling, wailing. I would close my eyes, begging for this nightmare to be over.

When I was eleven I read a story about the people who cleaned the underground tunnels.

You wouldn’t believe what they found there. Giant rats, and fleas the size of cockroaches, flittering in the darkness. An old woman spoke of the horrors of those tunnels. Yet, they were a refuge to many during the war. Safe havens, in giant brick pools under the ancient city of London. Curving under the Thames and even crossing by the long forgotten rivers that people seldom remember, yet traverse past daily.

And still, I was terrified.

The tube?! Really?! We can get to Victoria on the overground. What about a bus?! A bus is so much better.

Oh, grow up, you silly girl.

Stuck to my seat, sometimes shoved under someone’s armpit, holding tight, my stomach swaying as the train hustled and swerved and screamed its way through those hot, windy tunnels. Fear seeped through my skin, soaking my clothes and beading on my upper lip.

The roaring becoming louder, and louder, and louder, rising in volume and ferocity,

 – why is it so angry -?!

I open my eyes.

I am twenty three years old. I am sitting on the tube for the first time in three years, and before that, for the first time nine.

London has not been my home for twelve years.

Yet, every time I step off the train and into Euston or King’s Cross, a rush of overwhelming familiarity hits me.

The smells and the noise pollution, rising high in the sky, thousands of lives picking their way through thousands of machines, breathing in exhaust fumes and coffee grounds, heels on newspapers, sweat pooling in the creases of skin, accents and countries and worlds colliding as people get on with their business.

And I love the tube. I love the tube with all my heart.

I love the feeling of standing on the furthest end, watching everybody and their engrossed detachment from the world around them. The ginger man sitting next to a nun, sneaking peeks at her reading material. The woman who is watching a Netflix show and the audience of standing commuters, eyes glued to her screen behind the grimy glass that separates her seat from the doors.

I love the hurtling, screaming ferocity. I love the traffic of humans, all hurrying, running, racing, sweating, on the same journey but so trained in avoiding any real contact with each other. Physically pressed up against each other but mentally floating high above the tunnels through which they are carried at top speeds.

I don’t love London at all. I might love the memories I have, which lurk around unexpected corners and in strange places. That place that I vomited outside the Natural History museum. That spot in the British library where I tried to hide those chewits. That fountain in Hyde Park where I sprained my ankle and subsequently cried all the way home on the 319. That tree where the dog barked at my brother and I, scaring our five and four year old selves half to death. That rookery where we rolled down the hills and I got grass stains on my blue Alice in Wonderland dress.

But I love the Tube.

I love the old terror that rises in my throat like bile, because my twenty three year old self recognises it for what it really is;

Adrenaline.

Excitement.

Adventure.

Thrill.

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