Pieces of Me

Anniversaries. I’ve never really paid attention to anniversaries. Ask me when I got engaged and the only reason I’ll be able to tell you is because it was on Valentine’s Day (yes, I know it’s clich├ęd but that’s his doing). Ask me when our first date was and I’ll draw a blank. I’ve never organised a birthday party (for myself or anyone else) and don’t even bother asking me when any of my siblings or friends got married.

There is one anniversary, however, that I can’t forget – the first anniversary of my father’s death. My father passed away in the early hours of Sunday 29th April 2007 and as the 29th draws closer this year, I find myself affected by it more than I expected. 

You see, I never got to really say goodbye. In some ways, I never even got to say hello; I had seen my father only once in the six months preceding his death. I remember my family prompting me to visit him in the week leading up to it and I put it off and put it off. I had seen him in a hospital bed many a time before and didn’t want to do it again. On Saturday 28th April at exactly 7pm, my sister called me and told me I really should visit him as he was in a bad way. She told me that visiting hours ended at 8pm so I could see him the next day after 3pm, which I decided to do.

Having agreed to visit him the next day, I still called up one of my friends and asked if he could get me to the Royal London in an hour. I remember that conversation and I remember both of us deciding that we’d miss visiting hours and that we would go the next day. 

At 1.30am on Sunday morning, I got the call telling me “he’s gone”. I rushed to the Royal London, not really knowing why I was rushing. My five sisters were in various stages of breakdown but the most unnerving of all was my mother. You see, my mother has always been the steely, dispassionate and formidable matriarch of the family, but in that hospital room, she broke down exposing a vulnerability I had wanted to see all my life but never want to see again.

As I look back, a part of me thinks I handled it ok – I went back to work after one day off and yes, I did break down in tears on one occasion when a colleague asked if I was ok but in general, I managed to hide my state of disarray. 

Another part of me knows that I’ll never get over it. This part tears up every time I think about what my father did for us, how hard he worked and how little he got from us in return.
This 29th April will be hard but hopefully it’ll be a little easier than the last one. And hopefully the next one will be a little easier than this one. And hopefully it’ll keep getting easier until, eventually, I can get to May without falling apart.


What doesn’t kill us is making us stronger

There are people among us who had fantastic childhoods; belong to loving families; and who have a well-adjusted outlook on life. These people have fathers that support them, mothers that comfort them and bosses that respect them. 

I used to envy these people, thinking that they were a lucky minority. I used to think that they led charmed lives, full of opportunities seldom afforded to people like me. I thought it would be great to have things so easy.

As I have grown older, however, I have completely changed my view. You see, those of us who have experienced serious problems – whether it be physical abuse, poverty, the loss of a parent or the loss of a child – know what the lows of life are like, and consequently are able to appreciate the highs that much more.

As I’ve grown older, I’ve realised that the hardships we go through shape who we are and if we survive the trials we face, we come out the other end as a stronger, tougher and perhaps more interesting person. 

I’ve met people who think they’re subversive because they turned down the offer of private schooling to mix with the masses – who wants to be that person? Who wants to be a part of the Waltons when the Simpsons are far more fun? 

Yes, it screws you up and yes, you have to try harder in almost everything you do but like I’ve said before, pain just lets us know we’re alive and I’d rather that than live life on a happy but uneventful plateau.


# I’m Gonna Live Forever #

So I was sitting on a Jubilee Line train on Thursday, travelling from Stratford to North Greenwich, when I noticed that the guy next to me was reading my column in The Docklands. I surreptitiously watched him and was pleased to see a smile spread on his lips. I was so tempted to take out my headphones, point to my picture and say, “That’s meeee,” but chances are, he would have looked at me and said, “Uh, oh-kay. So?” at which point I would have gone red with embarrassment and hung my head in shame.

The thing is, it gives me a strange sort of thrill when I see people reading my work or when I’m recognised. Is that sad? It is kind of pathetic in a fame hungry sort of way, right? This doesn’t sit very well with me – you see, I’m many things but I’m pretty sure I’m not fame hungry and yet I get this silly thrill when I’m recognised. Next thing you know, I’ll be listening to Bros and auditioning for Big Brother 37 or whatever series they’re on now...

Attention seeking aside, in a strange reversal of roles, I am 95% sure I sat opposite The Guardian’s Charlie Brooker yesterday on a train from Lewisham to Charing Cross. I was so tempted to ask but was far too embarrassed to. As soon as I got off the train, I dug out the G2 in my bag but unfortunately it was Alexander Chancellor who wrote Friday’s column. It is now my life’s mission to find out if Charlie Brooker owns a yellow and black striped scarf (since that was the only distinctive thing he was wearing). If it turns out that he doesn’t, then I most likely gave some random guy an ego boost since I spent the entire journey staring at him intently. [Update: Charlie was kind enough to repsond to my query... it wasn't him.]

Anyway, that’s all for now. I’m off to find a Z-lister to go partying at Mo*vida with…


// No Comment

Since starting this blog almost two years ago, I’ve been asked many a time to enable comments. I have chosen not to for a number of reasons: 

1. My entries are generally random musings and not really intended to draw feedback or comment (i.e. criticism!).
2. I don’t really have time to reply to comments (i.e. criticism) but generally have to have the last word so I don’t think I could resist doing so (hence allowing precious time to be eaten up).
3. I’m a little scared that no-one will comment, exposing the fact that no-one reads the blog (even though I know it is read judging by the numbers recorded by statcounter).

Those reasons still stand but I think it’s finally time to bite the bullet. I hate enforcing the moderation facility – I know it can be frustrating when a comment you make isn’t posted immediately – but I’m afraid it’s a necessary evil. You see, I get hate mail from time to time and I don’t want to give these people a forum to propagate their vitriol. 

In fact, I looked through some of my hate mail (call me a masochist but, yes, I keep it) and some of the choice words used to describe me are as follows: deceitful, artificial, bitch, stupid bitch, sick bitch, dirty bitch, dumb little spoilt bitch, lifeless bitch, little white wannabe, desperate, slag, whore, mentally ill, self-obsessed, dirty little maggieeeeeeeeeee (anyone want to educate me as to the definition of ‘maggieeeeeeeeeee’?). Yes, I can be a bit of a bitch but y’know, the rest is just unnecessary.

So, yes, comments have been enabled and will be moderated before being posted. Feel free to comment and/or criticise – as long as you refrain from using expletives and text speak, there will be no problem posting your comment. Plus commenting will make me feel better about point three mentioned above (and may prevent me from resorting to posting comments myself under ‘Anonymous’… though of course I wouldn’t stoop that low… *cough*).


A Brick in the Wall?

This week I was given the formidable task of convincing kids in Tower Hamlets that reading actually is quite important. Those of you have read my Great Expectations entry will know that I genuinely hold reading in quite high regard. Now I’m not saying that I’m some sort of great authority on the path to success but I’m convinced that the advice I have to give (stay in school, don’t do drugs and read godamnit!) really can make a difference.

Having run ten sessions across five schools in three days, I met a wide spectrum of kids. The pupils I worked with ranged from 12 to 18 in age. Some were a little cheeky, some were very vocal, others were quite shy but they were all responsive, which is what I was really hoping for. Even the group of 170 Year 9 boys I was worried about proved to be a fantastic audience (and not because they’re starved of female attention like a friend suggested).

It kinda made me realise just how much potential kids in Tower Hamlets have and how it is possible for them to succeed, if only they could find a way through all the barriers in their way. Perhaps I am another brick in the wall but that’s okay, it’s kinda the point I wanted to make; there is a wall – make sure you’re on the right side. 

I will admit when I first stood in front of a class, a supposed paragon of all that is possible, I did feel a little fraudulent (they’re meant to look up to me?) but as I went on, I really felt appreciated because these kids related to me and were genuinely proud of me. 

Yes, I am scaring myself a little since I usually find comfort in relentless cynicism, but I reckon these kids ended up inspiring me more than I hoped to inspire them.

Spoonful of sugar, anyone?