returnee…

Dear friends 

I’ve returned to my blog – it’s been a while, I know.  After the surgery I was signed off work until Christmas Eve and then I already had annual leave booked for the last week in 2016.  Then a wait for the biopsy results – all OK for which I am grateful to Father 🙂  So, unexpectedly, I was not at work for the whole of December 2016.

I returned to work on 3 January 2017, as many people.  And due to the transfer of the property business, I returned to my former and first ever employer, the city council.

I returned to my desk, with various trade literature and unopened post – after two days it’s still in my in box, unopened.

I returned to my projects – a little model completed for the feasibility study and several outstanding technical queries on the construction project (with a contractor stating the delay is due to ‘us’).

I returned to discover that such was the concern for me that they had approached a local company for costs to deliver the feasibility study!  I’ve had several colleagues welcome me back.  Since they are all predominantly male colleagues my stock answer is I’m fine – no point getting into a conversation about recovery after laparascopic surgery of a gynaecological nature! – and I swiftly move the conversation on to QS resources, retaining walls or the return to local government.

Back in the home, we’ve also been looking into returnees to Africa.  There’s lots on YouTube.  As the house in Africa is becomes bigger and our mortgage here becomes smaller (can something grow smaller?…) the prospect of going to Africa long term becomes more real.  It will be an adventure for me; it will be returning home for my dear husband. Some would say for me too, clearly, as my ancestry will include slaves taken from Africa to the plantations of the Caribbean islands.  I have many deeper thoughts on this.  I am grateful to Father to know that somewhere in my family, ancestors survived the ridiculous barbaric cruelty of slavery to have offspring and become free.  Free to grow and return. 

where is the love?…

Dear friends

The state of the world feels so loveless. 

Worshippers, a church in Rouen, France; worshippers, a church in Charleston, USA; worshippers, a mosque Medina, Saudi Arabia. Personally I don’t see much difference.

All lives matter. 

Yesterday evening, I noticed an elderly man in a mobility scooter struggling as he had crossed the road. Having missed or misjudged the kerb, his scooter was lopsided; with wheels in the road and on the pavement, he was unable to manoeuvre it.  Visualising that he and scooter would topple over, I walked towards him.  As I held the scooter while he tried to raise himself, another man appeared who helped the elderly man stand; finally my husband arrived and together we lifted the scooter (very heavy with its battery pack) onto the pavement.  With the elderly man settled and on his way we all separated.  This incident took maybe 2 minutes; I was between 2 bus stops, waiting for my dear husband who was picking me up after work. There were people at both bus stops – nobody moved.  My husband explained that the other man had come out of the civic buildings facing the road.

And the race of those involved: elderly man = Caucasian; man from office = Asian/ Middle Eastern; dear husband and I = African; bus stop passengers = Caucasian/ African/ Asian.  So, what does this tell me? Nothing, absolutely nothing, because all lives matter. We must remember what scripture teaches us.

Jesus said: (Doctrine & Covenants 18 v10)

“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God”. 

And Peter declared: (Acts 10 v34)

Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:

out of touch… today’s music

Dear friends

While preparing lunch yesterday, I heard Daur2 humming/ singing:

La, la, da, da,…
Father, Father, Father help us
La, la,… guidance from above
La, la, la, la…
Where is the love…

Me: Is that a church song?  There are lots of LDS youth music tracks produced each year.
Daur2: (laughing) No! It’s Black Eyed Peas, Where is the love – but I don’t know all the words.  I’ll find the lyrics for you.
Later… in the evening…
Me: What was that song by Red Hot Chili Peppers?
Daur2: (laughing even harder) Black Eyed Peas!!

Having read the full lyrics,  I’m looking forward to hearing the song!!  🙂

blogging… et al

Dear friends

I’ve been having a bit of a blog designing session – and it’s all left me feeling exhausted.  It began yesterday with Daur1 designing a blog logo/ banner and has ended with me trying on and off various themes to find one that I feel portrays me!  For a designer of buildings, I’ve found it difficult to get my head round why certain themes don’t do certain things and although there’s probably some add-on/ plug-in that can be done, I’m not into the technological aspects that badly.  I simply want it to be attractive, easy to read and navigate, and reflect a part of me. What do you think?

I return to work tomorrow after two weeks on leave so that is probably adding to the exhausted and stressed feelings.  Although, it is all change in a few weeks; the assistants will go back to university and we will have at least one new one.  And a couple of the projects were at feasibility and concept design stage so it will be good to work a little more conceptually while others are still on holiday.  Despite my moans about work, I do enjoy being an architect!

I’ve had quite a few thoughts about what I want to write about – there’s clearly the whole death of a lion issue versus death of a negro; I’ve been doing family history and have been thinking on how I bear the signs of yesteryear; a new shopping centre has received planning permission and it looks like another ship (I need to do a blog on how many buildings in our town look like ships).

I think I’ve shared this scripture before but it does seem very appropriate for all the eclectic thoughts going round my mind, from Mosiah chapter 4, verse 27, King Benjamin’s words:

And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

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 😉

saying farewell

Dear friends
Thursday was the funeral of a cousin, my father’s cousin to be exact – their mothers are sisters. 

I can’t say I really knew Ada, but my father spoke of her often so I really went to support Dad.

I’m not good at funerals; who is? But I have a hard time not breaking down in tears. So, arriving early, I sat a couple rows behind my aunt and my cousin – there was no space on their row – and I saw on the programme that they were both participating – a poem (Do not grieve) and the eulogy. My Dad arrived with the family and casket.

One thing about Caribbean/ West Indian church services is the singing 🙂 so loud and passionate. Even though I couldn’t quite manage to sing the last couple verses of ‘All things bright and beautiful’, the singing uplifted me and the old man next to me sang wonderful harmony to Bill Withers ‘Lean on me’ the music on leaving.

Another thing about attending West Indian church services in my home town is that I am guaranteed to be recognised by someone that I don’t recognise. My dear husband has decided that I don’t recognise them because, in his words, “you’re not a people person.” !!!
So as everyone filtered out into the foyer after Bill Withers, two women (I DID recognise one, but I couldn’t remember her name) said hello and asked for my Mum, sister and brother. You see, growing up, our Mum sent us to the New Testament Church of God for Sunday school and we dutifully attended. My Mum was not a member and stayed home enjoying a peaceful Sunday morning with her Jim Reeves albums, I always suspected 🙂 I stopped attending Sunday school after my 16th birthday, not because I didn’t believe but because I did believe. That church did not have everything which I could see, from the Bible, that Jesus’ church should have. My sister continued to visit when she came home from university and so everyone knows her. Therefore, amongst this group of people, I am always seen in the context of my big sister, rather than as an individual, at least that’s how I feel.
Even one older woman who approached me – who I know I’ve not seen in about 30 years and I gave her a big hug – and asked if my sister has any children. I said no, waiting for her to ask for my own family, but no, this dear lady asked for my brother. He’s well, living in L, my sister’s in B and I’m here. Pause. I’ve got children, four of them. And that was the end of the conversation until I asked for her children, who I recalled were older than me, and who now live all over!
I began to wonder if it was the presence of my bright red coat, but I was carrying it and wore a dark work suit with white blouse. Sometimes families ask for people to wear bright colours, so I’d come prepared!
But I’ve decided it’s more likely that I am seen as rebellious, fallen or wayward. I was always a nonconformist in the small Sunday school. I was asked once to offer a prayer – I offered it with only Amen said out loud. Another time, I challenged the teacher by declaring that discos (this was the 1980s) weren’t inherently bad places – you could choose not to get drunk or do bad stuff. And let’s face it, a year after leaving the Sunday school I was baptised, with my mother, as a Latter Day Saint. I’ve never really expressed to them what a big positive impact Sunday School had on me! 🙂
So as I said farewell to our cousin, I felt I was saying farewell (again) to people from my past. I felt sad that although we all pleasantly speak, we go back to our own worlds, ne’er to meet again, except around the next casket!

‘V’ days

Dear friends,

Do you remember that TV show back in the 1980s ‘V’?  Aliens taking on a human form to take over planet Earth?  Scary stuff… I digress…

Tomorrow (8 May) is VE day – when we remember victory in Europe, the end of world war 2 in Europe.  I gave up history in school before studying the 20th century so forgive me if I’ve missed something. There’s been lots on the local radio – tears sprang to my eyes listening this morning.  War is not good for anyone – I would certainly be a pacifist if I didn’t believe in the right to defend ourselves.  Maybe most people would be?

Today (7 May) is voting day in the UK national and local elections. Polling stations close at 10pm – our local scout hut is the station rather than the local school so the children didn’t miss school for once.  It’s been political campaigning for about 3 months and on Sunday our afternoon was even disturbed by a councillor canvassing for votes!! I was once described as a conservative socialist – have I said that before? – let’s just say, I’m hoping for a new Prime Minister come next week!  And, since so much of our work is local government, it will be good to get some decision making on schemes waiting approval!!

Both of these V days help me appreciate and be thankful to our Father in Heaven that I live in a place and time where, as a black woman, I have freedom to vote, freedom to live, freedom to believe.  Many women, men, children, of whatever colour skin, still do not enjoy this freedom.  We must remember and help them in whatever ways we can, including by prayers. As I was reminded last Sunday, look how peacefully and swiftly the Berlin Wall fell.  It does and can happen!!

We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may. (Article of Faith 11)

the ‘fro is back

Dear friends
I forgot to mention that during my break I removed the braids and so, to the delight of some work colleagues, my afro is back 🙂 And it’s bigger!!
Comments in the past week have been as follows:
I love it when your hair is like that – it’s more you!  🙂
Have you had your hair cut?  😦
Make sure you leave it, don’t cut it so you can do an afro like Will I Am! 😉

And the classic (oops, stylish, as she would describe it!) comment from my eldest daughter who just had her hair done in braids:
You don’t really suit long hair!  🙄

It was great to reduce my helmet by 4 cm to fit on my reduced hair for site visits today 🙂