My friend TED

I’ve been watching TED talks recently. A lot of them in fact and you know I’m in the business of education and so some have been directly linked to my field. Others have just been helping me find my way. It’s been an amazing journey. I’ve learned much about myself and grieved over my many deaths. I’ve mourned the young woman I lost. I’ve tried to find the teenager I was. I’ve seen the shadow I became and I’ve cried over how feint I appeared. I’ve searched for a beginning. I’m realising that in the face of not being able to exactly remember the best version of me I will instead have to make new connections and start to form my future self. I must not try to recreate my past for that is where the dust settled and I stopped growing or moving forward. I’m 36 and present. I will never again be 9 or 16 or 20. The universe decided I would survive this long and will decide when I die. I am a miracle according to one TED speaker. What were the chances of my parent’s meeting, of my particular DNA combination, of my birth on that particular day. Of me being born in London. Of me being kind and graceful and determined. Pretty slim. I am indeed a miracle. And so my two babies are equally miraculous gifts. Their idiot father a mere chance donor of DNA.  We three are a wonder to behold. 

I’ll take the essence of who I was into the future with me but essentially I’m packing light. I’ve got enough baggage to sort through. Anyway back to TED. I’m going to try and revisit those talks that were most helpful. I’m going to write a little mini essay on each one so that I begin to apply those learned life lessons to my life. 


The abattoir

Her head swung, sank down to her knees.
She fell on her side like a felled oak and all the grounds of the earth thundered.
The dry grass under her weight died another dainty death.
The red stopped seeping eventually
But by that time the inch thick layer of liquid
had reached us all.
Hind legs and feet looked on, safe
While front hooves grew sticky and red
I could not abandon her,
Watched paralysed until they nudged me away.
I heard the axe chop cut kill her over and over.
Later they skinned her.
Tore hide from flesh and hung it
in the back of the abattoir.
I could smell my turn somewhere near the future.
I looked down and saw mother’s life coating my left foot
And a cry left me.


Starting over: a post marriage pick me up

What do you do with a life? When corners are filled with wrong turns and regrets and the room of it, for you feel boxed in some days, seems like a badly decorated, tight cacophony of mistakes.

What do you do with a life? When you survey the scene and don’t recognise how you got here with such an assortment of pieces, some broken others aged, worn.

What do you do? When the collection of people and places before you seem alien and you want to exchange a thing or three or refund the whole lot. When you want to take back even the young fragile coffee tables that you didn’t really know what to do with and can’t remember now why you purchased them on a sensible whim in the first place. What. Do. You. Do?

Most things won’t go back. The low coffee tables with their short legs are non-refundable. But they amuse. And come in handy when you just need a place to rest a weary brew.

What will I do with a life, my life? Perhaps first I’ll find the concealed door and let myself out of this one room. I’ll pack the bits and bobs that I have to take with me and head on out. I’ll open up life and be more outdoorsy. I’ll set up camp somewhere where the sky is above and the sea is below and I’ll tread water. I don’t want to keep my feet on the ground I want to keep moving so that walls, ceilings and floors don’t hem me in and lock the light out.

The suffocating migraine of years gone by promises to make my brain implode and seep from my ears. Running like a gazelle into this life is all I can do to stop the hot hot molten aftermath from claiming me.

I’ll take this life and fling it wide open. My life won’t be a box it will be without form. Infinity must have a centre, a starting point so I will be my own beginning and there will be no end. Possibility will stretch in every direction.

I know what to do with a life, my life.
I must live.


Step on me. Part II

In the 90s my eclectic taste in music continued but soul, hip hop and R&B became my staple. Mary J Blige’s What’s the 411? Snoop Dog’s Doggystyle. Joe’s Everything. I remember walking around the school playground with the crew, in-ear headphones shared between two. Tevin Campbell singing teenage love songs and long sighs over unrequited affections.

In college, after the braces came off, I embraced the club scene and partied as hard as I studied to The Fugees, BlackStreet, Faith Evans, Mariah ‘bad girl’ Carey, Missy Elliot, Aaliyah, The Notorious B.I.G. and others.

And then there was Jungle. Drum and base spoke through vibrations. Moved the body in a trance. The noise was an exorcism and I danced all night long.

Then neo soul arrived. Love Jones played fresh. I fell in love with Cassandra Williams and her Tupelo Honey became my lullaby.

Then, A levels over with I got on a plane across the Atlantic where an unexpected love, the one who I choose to get the deed over with, taught me about Jazz over a long fiery summer in New York. At last I was to have my Paula Danziger Remember Me to Harold Square romance years after first reading that novel.

I was schooled in the works of his favourite pianist South African Abdullah Ibrahim and, amongst others, Monk, Coltrane and Davis. And also a lesser know singer Sathima Bea Benjamin whose rendition of standards like A Nightingale Sang in Berkley Square made the world disappear as we kissed and found each other in the darkness.

The following summer I made the same journey across the ocean and found other distractions. I see myself kissing a boy in the rain after a movie. Taking the subway to meet a guy in Colney Island. Waiting to meet Maxwell so he could sign my CD and I could take his picture at a record store in Times Square. The queue to him snaked and looped up down and around the building. New friends were made in the line. Afterwards over a late night pizza we came together and departed never to meet again. Life was full of possibility. I was fearless. And youth was delicious: I can still taste its sweet tangy zest on my tongue now.

Then I returned to London town where the intense sex and intoxicating bond between Deluded Dick and I began to hypnotise me. In the weeks before we parted to start our degrees love secretly seeped into my veins and tainted the blood that coursed throughout my body.

For the next 15 years music receded as life with a porn addicted drug taking drunk came into the fore. By the time we spilt my Spotify playlist seemed to be looking back at tracks rather than listening to the tunes of the present.

When I found myself stuck to the pavement struck down with grief, I summoned the same resolve that had helped me endure the marriage. Between tears that rocked and shook me. Made me as empty and as hollow and as light as the shell of a ground nut. Between the waves of sadness I danced. And danced. And sang and screamed lyrics to myself and to my children so that life became a karaoke disco. My playlist included: Janelle Monae (basically everything but mostly stuff from her current album), Katy Perry (Roar), K. Michelle (Can’t Raise a Man), Ciara (I’m Out), Rita Ora (album ORA Delux), Lorde (album Pure Heroine), AlunaGeorge (Attracting Flies and album Body Music). Lots of afrobeats. Lots of house and especially stuff released by Rinse FM. Some of my favourite tracks: Music Box (Royal T), Zinc (Goin In), P Money (Shutting Down), Brackles (Chasing Crazy, Go Ahead, Too Much, DPMO), Mapei (Don’t Wait).

Out of all of these it was Roar by Katy Perry that I would sing at bath time to my sons, though more so to myself. It spoke of me and was a call to overcome bullshit. To continue to be the woman I had always been and to not let some fool fool guy crush me. I sang about a lioness to my cubs and we roared together laughing and powerful. I was renewed.

Music has been a solace and an inspiration. It has and continues to heal me. I will not be stepped on any more. The creators will never know me but daily I thank them for their lessons and their gifts.


Dating after analogue

Dealing with dating after a long term relationship is no straightforward affair. As well as mourning the death of what you hoped was forever you also have the added bonus (yay, what joy…) of continued contact with the ex because you were in love (or in lust) and made a baby… or two… or three. If your ex was the reason it ended, (perhaps like mine he was a whole heap of messed up crazy) their poo poo stink can become an inconvenience that just keeps wafting over uninvited to mess up your parade. I say can because it is up to you to arm yourself with Febreeze, candles and if necessary a gas mask to protect yourself from their bad bad odours.

But that’s enough metaphor use for now.

So, valiantly, you begin to take steps to getting your groove on and showing the world that yes, damn it… I’ve got game but you are scared and all around you can see nothing but an intimidating set of obstacles.

Some of which may be:

The ex, on purpose, or just by virtue of their uselessness, is fucking up your me time
You’re feeling really insecure, perhaps after years of put downs and emotional abuse
You are scared of the place that exists out there called… single life
You feel like an OAP compared to that young thing you once were.

And then there’s the minefield that is the dating scene where…Things. Have. Changed.

Your love life now depends less on Cupid’s bow and more on the speed of your broadband, Wifi, 3G, 4G or ET phone home connection.
You may be filled with angst over whether or not to send the first message thus perhaps announcing an absolute desperation that attracts no response back or interest only from the type of psychotic manipulator you’ve only just managed to get rid of.

Well it’s all an adventure. We’ve just got to make sure the seatbelt is fastened, the brakes are working and should there be a hick up or two on the way, the airbags can be relied upon. Do your checks people. It’s gonna be one hell of a journey…


How to: get on with life when your ex is a dick

You’ve managed to emerge out of the watery abyss, dab some concealer under each shadowy carrier bag and wave the magical mascara wand somewhere near each eye. You’ve set up an emergency ‘I ain’t going out like that’ social life to fill every other weekend and now it’s time to step it up. From the moment the kids are picked up to the second before they are due to return you make sure you are out, busy, occupied. It’s tight but… necessary. And it’s all going well except for the whiney texts, the ‘I’ve got to bring them back early’, the late pick ups and cancellations. But you don’t get involved. There will be no shouting or name calling. No loss of dignity after navigating your bad ass around the break up from hell.

You see, they just want to control you. Your body. Your mind. Where you go. They want to control your ability to go on living. Well fuck them. Stick to the routine. They want to bring your babies home early? You are not at home. They arrive late to collect them? Just open the door and kiss the kids goodbye. The children are complaining because they don’t like going to their papa? Hear them out and send them on their way. Daddio gives them a bag each of chuppa chupes just before bedtme? You confiscate with a smile. They come home looking like extras out of Oliver Twist? Strip the child, bin the clothes and bathe them good and proper.

Surrender to being a solid granite parent. A parent of love and consistency. But do not sacrifice your sanity and precious time because the other parent is still trying to use you to pick up their pieces. Your child’s safety and welfare are the only things that should spur you into becoming the human embodiment of Krakatoa because of course nothing can stop you protecting the life that you carried and created. But don’t sweat the small stuff. Sure it’s going to be hard on your little ones but they’ll grow stronger. We’re all going to get a few scrapes and bruises along the way but most superficial scars WILL fade. A new life has to be forged in the flames so don’t let your ex extinguish your fire. Be organised. Be firm. Be brave. You are hot right now.