summer

Dear friends

I started to write about a week ago, from my phone, then my phone broke.. well not exactly,  I can’t get it to charge! To be honest it’s sort of a relief, no children asking to use it to watch something online, no pressure to remember it in case someone calls (which only my husband or mother ever do so this has been a little frustrating for them, but nothing tragic has happened to the family so it proves my point that we can survive), and no way for work colleagues to contact me when I’m on leave  (which I’m sure certain ones would try).  So….

So the last couple weeks have been full of those activities that remind you it’s the end of school term.  We’ve had :

Long summer days: grass all around is looking like hay, unless it’s manually watered; yellow rather than green; the yellow and black caterpillars have appeared in the garden again and neighbourhood cats are found lounging everywhere!

School reports: “very honest boy” “distraction” “needs to focus more” “pleasure to teach”

School productions: does anyone else find Tallulah in Bugsy Malone a little disturbing, particularly for pre-pubescent children – “lonely,  you don’t have to be lonely” is what Tallulah sings!

School call backs: Sound of Music – “I only auditioned with a friend for a joke and got 4 call backs!” Maybe they want a black Maria?

Summer graduation: marquees, signs in town, lots of cars, lots of families in best clothes, generally lots of busy-ness

School prom: why do the girls dress so OTT!? Girls, you do realise that there are more exciting things ahead in life – this is not your wedding day!!

Sports Days: (I couldn’t make it this year) but two firsts for the family; and an upset head teacher over the inappropriate language of some parents as they ‘supported’ their off spring…

Work: none,  2 weeks! yeah! 🙂 so happy to put on that out of office message. And the euro tunnel awaits, a long drive 🙂 it’s the summer holidays!!

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

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the pizza cutter lesson

Dear friends

I’m a fairly frugal person so I often feel I must justify a purchase, particularly for kitchen utensils. Why buy a specific tool when another tool will do the same thing, well, more or less?

But then, last week, in the supermarket I caught sight of the stainless steel shining in the light, the precision engineering of the blade and handle. It called to me, buy me, you know how the pizza edge crumbles under a knife and how hard it is to cut through the toppings…

So, we’re enjoying beautifully sliced pizzas and I regret not buying one a long time ago.  My own foolishness – thinking I was being smart but really living well below life’s great offering!  I’ve learnt my lesson 😉  This applies to everything – not just kitchen utensils!  Don’t do the same!!

ps – other recent utensil additions include stainless steel measuring cups & (separate buy) stainless steel measuring spoons 🙂 yes, I like stainless steel!! The ultimate kitchen utensil in my mind – which I might have to buy one day if I want to become more adventurous with food – a kitchen scale!!

food talk

Dear friends

I confess food and cooking is my biggest weakness.   I’ve tried to work on them,  and I have improved – though this evening my husband and children may feel differently.

A couple of things I learnt this week: 1. baking powder is not a substitute for flour in bechemel sauce if you’re avoiding wheat and 2. sugar, oil and syrup heated too long becomes toffee when cooled (that was Daur1 but I didn’t know the consequences when she asked,  do you think the sugar has melted now?  So we had rather dark fish tonight – Son1 confirmed there must have been a chemical reaction with the fish! – and yesterday, very crunchy flapjacks in the packed lunches!! 😉 Daur2 lost a bit of tooth was the claim!

Dont misunderstand me, I’m not a terrible cook; I can do jollof rice, rice and peas, chicken & rice – you see the connection?  🙂 And I generally cook from scratch – none of us like the taste of preservatives (does anyone?).  And our children are healthy.  (It’s only recently that Daur1 is trying a wheat free diet).  But it takes effort, and I know my limitations – sweet/ dessert stuff,  I must follow a recipe – I cannot throw things into a bowl and produce a palatable cake!! I have a small repertoire of meals and recipes which has kept our family going for 17 years – it’s when something changes (e.g. wheat free meals) that I have to start again!

The bottom line is that I’m not really into food and never have been – I could probably live off granola, fruit juice and mackerel fillets in sunflower oil!!  I do not have a refined palette.  My dear husband feels I’ve definitely lost touch with my African roots when it comes to food!!

thoughts on racism et al

Dear friends

The first time I became aware of a potentially racist action towards me – at least that’s the way I perceived it and still recall it – it was my first day at full time school. I was nearly 5 years and with a summer birthday it meant I started in the summer term – the older children would have started at the beginning of the school year,  the previous September.   I went to the toilets; someone else let off gas (to put it politely) and I heard all the other children blame it on me. I sat in that cubicle and cried.

At secondary school I faced it again – the older children (boys & girls) called me Kissi – Alex Haley’s Roots was on TV and I wore my hair in plaits.  This time I faced up to them –

My name is not Kissi

They stopped the name calling and, even as they hung around the school gates smoking, they greeted me by name, Vanessa.

The events of the last several weeks – Sousse, Charleston et al – have led me to think, maybe there are more people who are racist out there than we think?  Why do they feel that way?  Maybe I work with someone who would not ever speak with a black person given a choice?  Maybe, seeing me, in my role as a woman, a black woman, really winds them up? Should I trust anyone?

I personally feel that ignorance lies behind any type of discrimination – I’m sure many people feel the same.  When I dwell on questions like those above,  I don’t feel right.  1. I’m not going to live my life in fear – that doesn’t mean I’m going out looking for trouble.  And 2. I want to love my fellow beings  – we are all part of the human race and that’s enough for me.

I really don’t know how people feel the way they do. I’ve heard and read things like: “the only good white man is a dead one.” And I’ve no doubt there are equally hurtful phrases about negroes.

“Show me your tail” is what my mother heard when she came here in the 1960’s – and that was from work colleagues genuinely asking her and her friends. How ridiculous!  How awful!  How stupid and ignorant!!

Where’s the love?  It’s largely gone.  It’s the 21st century,  we have incredible communication technology. So is there really an excuse for ignorance?  

There is no doubt in my mind that these are the last days spoken of long ago by prophets of old, even Jesus (see Matthew 24 verse 12):

the love of many shall wax cold

And so we do live in a time where guns and ammunition exist, where they can be obtained, and where innocent people can be killed while worshipping or while lying on a beach,  simply because of the colour of their skin.

I do have a hope – it will come to an end one day. Not through military strikes, but through a Man who will return to Earth.  Meanwhile,  I will continue to treat every as my fellow brothers and sisters and not be bothered if they can’t see past my beautiful brown skin and black curly hair 😉

time for yourself – a poem

Dear friends,

I mentioned how a few weeks ago we cleared out the garage.  Well, I came across one of my old sketchbooks from university days, 1990-1991 and in the back was a poem I wrote for a project.  I think every RIBA School of Architecture does a ‘design a retreat’ project – no-one can claim that RIBA validated architecture courses are anything other than creative – I sketched the section of an onion, wrote poems and drew an androgynous figure!  Anyhow, I thought you might enjoy reading the poem – I’m not a poet, I’m an architect, so I’m sure the more literary among you will see room for improvement 🙂

time for myself

Time for myself and not for the world

of strife & malice …

and competition

to succeed, to win.

Why never to be yourself?

But here’s the chance

with a time of its own,

and still enough time for me.

So that I can grow,

in the world

but not of it.

A chance to dream, or rather ponder

without worry of waking,

work, food, work.

Here, at one with nature –

for are we not nature ourselves? –

we can be honest,

with nature,

with ourselves.

Having honesty enough not to hide

– we can hide but a short time in our dreams

from the world –

but if we are true to ourselves,

we need no dreams to hide in,

for we have nothing to fear.

The world can not harm us,

it can not touch us if we are honest,

showing integrity

being ourselves.

and then we can go back,

knowing that we’ve lived,

to our fullest potential,

And,

knowing that we had time for ourselves & not for the world,

living for that one dream, above all,

To return.