Saturday, 30 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

I am having sleepless nights. Nothing to do with insomnia and all to do with an article I read a few days ago in the newspaper. Apparently in the next 200 years or so we, humans, will be able to move on to the next, ultimate step of evolution. A step so far-fetched that I keep thinking it might be connected somehow to the recent release of the Mad Max film. This piece of news could only be thought up by a marketing team. Yet, I suspect that once more I am being naïve and disingenuous. This is, I am afraid, the shape of things to come.

According to a book called Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind, we will eventually progress (I am using that word cautiously) to an amortal, divine state, either through biological/genetic manipulation or by the creation of part-human, part-non-human beings. Phew! So, after all both Ridley Scott and James Cameron were right. But in the case of the latter, this won’t happen in 2029. It is 200 years, not fourteen more. That means no “I’ll be back” from Arnold the “Guvernator”.

Why the sleepless nights? I should be jumping up and down at this piece of news. Amortality for all! Forever! Just take this chip, dear, and put it… let’s see.. shall we go for the ear? I know, I am being facetious but the article filled me with horror rather than joy.

First off, this supposed injection of eternal life will not be only for yours truly. Participants will include: the colleague who always borrows your stapler and never hands it back (you’re on your tenth stapler now), the politician who lies and then acts surprised that people want him out of office for his lying. Another amortal being will be the bully who tormented you on the school playground all those years ago and who never moved out of the barrio and neither could you because your low wage as a shelf-stacker in the local supermarket doesn’t give you the opportunity to up sticks and leave for good. That is why you keep bumping into the same bully twenty years down the line at work. Your work. Imagine that scene being repeated ad infinitum. Amortality? No, Dante’s Inferno.

Secondly, can you imagine out-living those you love the most? I am thinking that once these intravenously-injected nanobots are created they will not be a free-for-all product. You will have to cough up a lot of dosh for them and not many people, even in the same family, will have the means to acquire them. What if you out-live your children, your grandchildren, your great-grandchildren? From the class division we have at present we will move on to a different division between those who will become amortals and those who will remain mere mortals. I think someone used the word “evolution” in the article I read. I think they were wrong to use it. I cannot think of a different term to describe this amortality malarkey but it is definitely not moving forwards, but backwards.

One hundred and fifty-two years down, three hundred more to go

Thirdly, happiness and satisfaction as we know them will probably be lost to amortality. As I mentioned before on this blog, to me happiness is the moment, the instant that makes us smile and love life just that little bit more. Satisfaction stays with you longer because it is a process on which we invest time, energy and financial resources.  Remove the need to seek out that self-fulfilling moment and we will become a planet of automatons. Well, I have mentioned robots in this post.

Part of the magic of life and being human is our constant endeavour. As hunter-gatherers that we were and still are, we set ourselves goals in life and we endeavour to achieve them. Sometimes we fail and we learn from our failures, or we do not and we fail again. It does not matter, it is still magic. Sadly, death occasionally robs us of the opportunity to taste our success. But it is the deal we make when we are born. Amortality would probably sound the death knell of human strife.

However, I am willing to bet my bottom dollar that if/when amortaility becomes a reality there will be people taking the opposite route, bumping themselves off just to show that there is more to life than eternal life. You could call it death perhaps (by the way, amortality is not immortality. The former does not exclude physical demise through violent means). As in a beginning, a middle and an end. The irony of it? All they would be demonstrating would be the magic of life, human life.


Next Post: “Of Literature and Other Abstract Thoughts” to be published on Wednesday 3rd June at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Urban Diary

As soon as I get off at Victoria station I notice the buzz. The blue and white scarves, the Samsung logo emblazoned across the shirts. The District/Circle Line platform is alive with the sounds of victory chants. ¡Campeones, campeones, olé, olé, olé!. It might feel strange to hear Spanish words amongst the mainly Anglophone crowd but this is the Premier League we are talking about here, the multi-million pound business that makes globalisation feel real and palpable. Chelsea Football Club has a powerful Brazil-born Spanish striker up front, a no-nonsense Serbian midfielder sitting in front of the defence, a promising, up-and-coming Dutch left-back and a world-class Belgian goalkeeper. Only two of Chelsea’s all-conquering regular team were born in this country. Who cares, though? Today it is all about celebrating.

What was a trickle at Victoria station becomes a flood thronging out at the gates of Fulham Broadway tube station. The Royal blue flags are out and for a couple of square miles become the only sight to behold. Correction: the only beautiful sight to behold. As I take up my position behind one of the barriers to see the three open-top victory parade buses I scan the crowd. Standing next to the cockney-rhyming-slang Londoners are turbaned Sikhs, pram-pushing Eastern-European-looking men and hijab-wearing Muslim women. Families mill out and about, the atmosphere is more suitable to Alton Towers than Fulham Road. But this is modern football, served with a tall skinny latte.

The temperature cannot seem to make its mind up. My hoodie is pulled down and pulled back up in quick succession. I regret my decision not to wear anything Chelsea today. I console myself with the thought that since where I live is not an SW6 postcode I am being sensible by not standing out. But I feel jealous of my fellow supporters. I, too, have got the shirts, the jumpers and the hoodies. Back home.

Suddenly there is a roar. The first of the three buses appears at the top of the road. The blue flags are hoisted higher. The chants grow louder. Parents hug their children closer. Selfie sticks spring up. Smartphones are held aloft. The players wave from the bus. The crowd waves back. London shrinks.

© 2015

Photo by the blog author

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 30th May at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 23 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

For those of us who live in the UK, and especially for those who work in education, the word “Ofsted” probably rings many bells. Ofsted stands for the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. However, ask most head-teachers and they will tell you that a shorter way to describe this independent body is as a career-breaker. To say that Ofsted is feared as much as Islamic State is currently feared in the Middle East, is putting it mildly. The fate of many schools rests on the final verdict of an Ofsted inspection.

This post is not about Ofsted, though. I shall leave that for another time. This post is about what happens once the inspectors go. You see, we had our very own Ofsted inspection a few days ago. I must admit that there was nothing extraordinary about it; it actually felt like another day at work. Maybe because were ready for it, or maybe because we are just too bloody good and sometimes we need someone else to validate our quality as educator. As a member of staff whose main role is to work with parents and carers I felt remarkably relaxed. I was interviewed by one of the inspectors and at no point did I feel under pressure. In fact the inspector was able to see one of our parenting courses in action.

On the Friday that week, with the inspectors gone the day before and the school returned to “normal” (whatever that “normal” means), I had one of the most enjoyable experiences on my way home.

Riding my bicycle at the end of the day and with the weekend to look forward to I slid into a TGIF mood. As my two-wheeler devoured yard after yard on the high road, I slowly became conscious of my own body acting like a set of gears. It was almost as if my legs, knees, calves and other muscles were part of the bike frame. Both machine and I were working in unison and to a syncopated rhythm.  I could even hear an internal sound acting as a bass hook. The warm sun was on my right. It was beautiful. It was also truly human. I felt a sense of freedom. Not just because the inspection had gone well but also because through my physical exercise I had become aware of this other dimension to life. It is a dimension of which I have been aware before. When I listen to a piece of music, or when I watch a new film I am really keen on. Or perhaps an oldie I never tire of seeing. This dimension is a sign from nature – even if I am surrounded by concrete – that I am at one with it.

Last week my daughter phoned me up from the shop where she has just started volunteering. She wanted ten pounds. As a rule for many years now, I very rarely carry cash with me. Small change? Yes, I still do. But pound notes are rarely found in my wallet. My daughter was surprised about this and yet how many times I have explained to my children that my weekend money for the last ten years has amounted to five pounds, the price of my two weekend papers combined. That means that I do not spend money unnecessarily. However, recently both publications put their prices up which meant the fiver I used to take out has become a tenner as the combined price now is £5.60. On top of this you cannot get five pound notes at cashpoints anymore. It is from ten upwards, which means I usually end up at the supermarket buying a very cheap item (for instance, sugar) in order to get my five pounds. But now that strategy is no more. It is ten pounds at the till as cash back with the remaining change from the purchase of my two newspapers being put away for the next weekend.

In times of need, thrift is still king and queen.

© 2015

Next Post: “Urban Diary”, to be published on Wednesday27th May at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Living in a Multilingual World (The One About the Dying Languages)

I have just become acquainted with the music of Tanya Tagac, a Canadian singer with firm roots in Inuit culture. Her melodies – if they can be called that by western standards – are a blend of feral intensity and heavenly lyricism. But on the whole her songs lack words. They are made of sounds, very often of  a guttural nature. Yet, I can’t stop watching this performance of hers here and this clip from her latest album here.

Tanya reminded me of an article I read recently on the last known speakers of some of the world’s oldest languages. I am afraid to say that I did not recognise the names Wukchumni, Kusunda and Amurdag. It probably says more about me than about the languages themselves. Nevertheless, I did wonder what those last speakers must have felt like. Seeing their lexicon disappearing in a multilingual horizon, being swallowed up by the likes of English, Mandarin and… why not? Spanish.

There is a certain romanticism of mythical proportions in being the last bastion of a cultural phenomenon, like language in this case. Especially ancient ones in which words are much more than carriers of meaning. As explained in the article, some languages echo the voice of the plants, animals and objects around us, from trees to stars. That is philological magic.

Yet, linguists reckon that by the end of the 21st century fifty percent of the world’s languages will either disappear or remain only on hard drives and online archives. We are talking vanishing here, not assimilation, not development, not evolution. A language, one day, will come across a cul-de-sac. And will die. End of the story.

It is not a surprise that many of these endangered “linguistic species” are to be found in places like Papua New Guinea and Nepal. Remote places where there is still a strong connection to the elements, to the natural world and to the spirit. Personally, I believe that by losing these languages we are also losing a vital link to a part of humankind whose cultural worth is on a different level completely. Neither higher nor lower, just different.

I know that there will be some who will say that this is all part of human evolution. Languages appear as a need to communicate with one another and with the passing of time, some become predominant and others are obliterated. My only response would be that a language covers more than a body of words and systems for them to be used. A language means more than a distinct manner of conveying ideas. Sometimes, a language is the only way through which  inanimate objects come to life or a singer, like Tanya, expresses her emotions.

© 2015

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 23rd May at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay in, Sit Up and Switch On

Like most humans I am full of contradictions. Sometimes I am partial to the one-size-fits-all tyranny and some other times I prefer the freedom to display my own idiosyncrasies. Sometimes it seems to me that to toe the collective’s line saves time and effort whereas on other occasions I have been known to speak my mind clear. And loud. Sometimes, too loud.

That is why I look at a country like France, where I vacationed last summer, and I wonder if I could ever fit into their social and cultural set-up. In theory, I should. I still speak French almost fluently and I know I would become completely fluent quickly; I like French food, especially the type one finds in the campagne. However, there are traits I do not quite get yet and I doubt the week I spent there in August was enough time for me to throw some light on the matter.

Ever since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Jewish supermarket, France has been on a soul-searching journey. I read reports every now and then on how politicians, journalists, social commentators and ordinary people in general are still wondering why what happened, happened.

At the centre of it all, lies education. And with education, those three century-old words that encapsulate the French raison d’être: freedom, equality, fraternity. But what do they mean now when globalisation has become a byword for continent-hopping, low-waged economies and loss of national identities? These three ideals had a role to play when the emerging industrial, capitalist elite of a still imperial Europe wanted to wrestle control over politics and the economy from the church. Fast-forward to our present-day and it has taken an Argentinian Pope countless hours channelling his inner Che Guevara, to get the faithful to flock to catholic churches again.

All right, then, where's my equality?

Is it strange then that some of the communities that have settled in France for the last five or six decades still find it hard to adapt when the message from up above is: stick to our three words and you will be fine, even if the “equality” bit does not apply totally?

This is the part where I contradict myself. In theory I am all for the French system. As I mentioned before, sometimes a template that acts as a social default mechanism towards which all citizens, both born in and outside the country, gravitate is preferable to catering to each individual culture. The problem is when the image a country exports, like France, for instance, is at odds with the ethnic mix of its population. In the same way that a computer that does not update its software will malfunction after a while, a society that fails to recognise social and cultural changes risks ostracising its own citizens. This is not pandering to a particular group, but ensuring that the “freedom, equality, fraternity” of centuries gone by is applicable to today’s France.

Despite the fact that during the Bush administration the French were known as “surrender monkeys” due to their (right, in my opinion) refusal to join the disastrous invasion of Iraq, I find similarities between the Gallic nation and the United States of America. Especially when it comes to patriotism and national pride. The minute I began to learn French all those years ago, I was made aware by my teacher and other staff at the Alliance Française in Havana that I was accessing one of the richest cultures on the planet. This was validated when I travelled to France last summer. I noticed straight away that there was a certain “French way”. It was present in the way they talked, the way they walked, the way they looked at me, without hostility but with “un certain regard”.  I imagine it is the same in the US (never been there but I’m planning to visit at some point in the near future). Fellow Cubans who have lived there for years have told me that there is a template to which most immigrants are encouraged to default. The American way, if you like.

The problem arises when this template remains impervious to external influences. Of course, the Charlie Hebdo massacre was the work of deranged human beings for whom the sanctity of life that you, dear reader, and I hold dear, does not exist. The question is always the same after: why? If values such as “freedom, equality, fraternity” are not taught and understood as universal human values, but rather promoted chiefly through a western-focused prism, they lose meaning to many people. Not just immigrants, but also people born and raised in these societies and who feel left out. It is the same with the much-vaunted British “values” ex-Education Minister Michael Gove wanted schools to drum into their students: fairness, civic duty and other pleasantries. To me these are human traits and certainly not attached to a particular nation or continent.

Maybe France needs to have a conversation with itself. I know Europe needs to lie down on the shrink’s couch and have a clear-the-air session. After all, having a template to which we can all default is a good idea. But a better idea would be to do what Microsoft does to its Windows system: update it every now and then.

© 2015

Next Post: “Living in a Multilingual World”, to be published on Wednesday 20th May at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Killer Opening Songs (Oyá by Ibeyi)

Wrapped in aromatic minimalist sounds, suffused with palate-enhancing jazzy beats and carried on a platter of ground-breaking electronic melodies, Ibeyi, Cuban twin sisters Lisa Kaindé Díaz and Naomi Díaz’s debut album, is a musical feast.

It is only fair to talk about Ibeyi in culinary terms since it is such a succulent offering. At the centre of it, as usual, is the Killer Opening Song, Oyá. This track is a perfect introduction to the risk-taking approach to music the twins show throughout the entire record.

First of all, they dare to pare down a song dedicated to the most impetuous and violent of the orishas to the basics. For those of you who are not in the know, K.O.S is happy to inform you that Oya’s chants and dances are characterised by a non-stopping, high tempo and frantic rhythm. Oyá is the orisha who challenges the ever-philandering Changó (only to fall for his charms after). She is said to “own” the wind, storms, hurricanes and shooting stars. In this Killer Opening Song all that energy is kept to a minimum. Using this baseline as a starting point the twins then proceed to add layers and layers of vocal power. That such a short piece is so full of magical moments is a testament to the good production and musical arrangement, not only on Oyá, but also in the rest of the album.

K.O.S mentioned magic and two examples jump out: the batá drums break, more than a couple of minutes into the song, and the video. Starting with the latter and going back to Lisa and Naomi’s daring approach, it was a brave move to shoot the video in black and white. If something characterises Oyá is colour. Google up any performance to this orisha and you will see women in multi-coloured dresses. But by resorting to monochromatic tones the twins (Ibeyi translates as "twins" from Yoruba) highlight the other trait Oyá posseses: she “owns” the cemetery and is said to live at its gate. Hence the ghost-like, spectral feel of song and clip and the translucent images of both sisters (their lips do not even move, thus, rendering their appearance poltergeist-like). The break from vocals to batá drums is a masterstroke. It is not just the change in rhythm but also in language. Up until then the lyrics were in English, now it is the time for Yoruba, that ancient lexicon brought to Cuba by hundreds of thousands of slaves.

As a Killer Opening Song, Oyá is the key that unlocks a trove of musical treasures, each unique in their own way. Oshún-themed River has a gospel feel, Mama Saysearly lyricism contrasts beautifully with the Elegguá-inspired ending and Ghosts is full of the same eerie, other-worldly energy that permeates the album, this time with an exquisite tribute to the Giant of Ocha, Agayú.

For those who like their music the same way they like their food, made with love, Ibeyi is the perfect record. Especially for those long summer nights ahead. And once again, it is all down to the magic of the Killer Opening Son.

© 2015

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 16th May at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

On a recent spring morning during the Easter break, I was doing the washing up at home when I saw a girl, a female adolescent, crossing the road opposite our house. She did not look either way before venturing forth. Two seconds after she reached the other end a car sped around the same corner she had just left behind.

My first thought on being witness to such distressing scene was one of anger. Anger at the driver and his (it was a man) carelessness. After all, our road has a 20mph limit. I also felt anger at the girl and her lack of alertness. How many times do we tell our children to stop, look and listen before they cross the road? My second – and much calmer – reaction was one of reflection.

We would normally think of fortune, good luck, when being confronted with a situation like the one I described before. But this near-miss also made me ponder over the nature of humans. Most of us live pretty well-organised lives, dictated by a certain rhythm and pattern like an orchestra rehearsing for a big concert in which we are both musicians and conductor.

Yet, when we forget to look either side before crossing the road, are we not defying the perfection we are (un) consciously trying to create? Are we not entering the realm of “If…”?

I do not wish to romanticise the almost-death of a teenager. I am attempting to explain what I sometimes think of as a small “subversion of our daily routine”. In choosing not to look – for that was a decision on her part, even if unconscious – either side of the street as she was crossing it, the girl broke the mould into which she had positioned herself or into which she had been placed by her family. If we see the quotidian as the natural order of life, how do we describe and define our “If…” moments? I dare to improvise an answer: the length of one’s routine life acts as the long-term goal we set ourselves at some point in our young adulthood. The “If…” situations are the shortcuts we take to achieve the same goal.

Where is this post going? Nowhere and everywhere. Nowhere, because it has stayed in that London street a few weeks back, during Easter. Everywhere, because through this post I am fashioning answers that take me away from my comfort zone. In thinking up this “If…” scenario for the girl, I have to face up to the brutality of the shortest route to the goal I mentioned before. If the car had turned the corner two seconds before it did, the girl would have been run over. End of the story? No, there would have been tears, accusations, recriminations and guilt. However, there would not have been any analysis on the “tyranny of the quotidian”. Funny title, that. I know of at least one author who would probably use a title like in one of his books.

We do not need to die or put our lives in danger in order to confront the routine of life, the regimented style some of us follow. Sometimes it is enough to cycle to work taking a different route, get stuck in the doors of a train in motion or find yourself on the yellow line, in the middle of a busy road with rain pouring down and 60mph wind gusts pushing you around from all sides. A clear example of the theory of “If…”. As in, “If I had put my waterproof on…”

© 2015

Next Post: “Killer Opening Songs”, to be published on Wednesday 13th May at 6pm (GMT)

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Urban Dictionary

Election (n):         1. the selection of a person or persons for office by vote.
                             2. a public vote upon a proposition submitted.
                             3. the act of electing.

“Election” also rhymes with “erection” as Tom Waits reminds us in Step Right Up (“it gives you an erection, it wins the election”) and if you think Urban Dictionary is going too far it will bring you back to earth with imagery that might spoil your dinner, should you be reading this post whilst having your nosh. This election began as an earnest affair but lately it has descended into a ba(w)d(y) political version of a Carry On movie.  What with the "hung" parliament they keep threatening us with. How "well hung" it will be, it's better not to ponder about. Just think of incumbent Number 10 tenant David Cameron getting hot under the collar a few days ago and dropping a few “bloody this” and “bloody that”. Geezer’s getting excited; maybe he will bring some special “magazines” with him on polling day to keep his energy levels “up” when he goes behind the curtain. Opposition leader, Ed Milliband, has taken to flirting with the audience as demonstrated recently in a verbal exchange with a young woman at a public debate.  He even put on his trademark “puppy face”. Oh, the little slag! Suave Nick Clegg keeps working on his eyebrows. I would not be surprised if he and his wife Miriam were secret members of the Saucyful Order of the Eyebrow Fetish, or something like that.

Hands working overtime there on the right

As for the rest, Farage is looking more and more like the bloke who is told the morning after the night before by his female companion: “it’s all right, luv, there’s always a first time, don’t worry”. Or, bearing in mind that his wife is German, that could be: Es gibt immer ein erstes Mal, mach dir keine Sorgen. Nicola Sturgeon has already been cast as the dominatrix, chiefly by the typical, emotionally constipated and sexually self-repressed men who see a woman’s self-assertiveness as a threat to their masculinity… or as a sexual thrill. Just saying. As for Natalie Bennett, Urban Dictionary can picture her having a “brain fade” half-way through an intimate moment with her man and forgetting his name or getting it mixed up.

Maybe you’re wondering about the “urban” bit in this post. After all, tonight’s entry, “election”, affects the whole country, both rural and urban areas. The blog owner’s answer is simple: the “urban” bit is as meaningless as David Cameron’s pledges. After all, Mr “Bloody” Cameron’s government is planning to introduce proposals to cut benefits for the sick, the young, the poor and the disabled if they are given another five-year term. Sorry but no amount of salacious spicing-up will make that bitter pill taste sweet. To swallow or not to swallow, that is the question on the 7th May.

© 2015

Next Post: “Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On”, to be published on Saturday 9th May at 6pm (GMT)

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Saturday Evenings: Stay In, Sit Up and Switch On

Over Easter I applied for a new British passport. As I left the post office I suddenly realised that it had been almost ten years to the day when I had become a British national. As rites of passage go this passport renovation felt like one of the more important ones of my adult life.

My very own rite of passage

However my path into British citizenship started five years before 2005. In May 2000 I cast my vote in the London mayoral race and a year later I did the same in the country’s general election. I won’t tell you which party made me mark my ballot paper with an X (a cursory glance through my blog will give you the answer) but what I can assure you is that this simple act of electoral democracy had deep, philosophical repercussions on me.

I have written before about my experience as an immigrant in the UK but the recent combination of passport renewal and a looming general election on 7th May have made me nostalgic somewhat. I have been reflecting on the hard-to-fathom euphoria I saw in April 1997 when I first visited Britain. Strangers talking to each other on the tube, on buses, in parks and other public spaces about Blair's New Labour vs John Major's Tories. A country, which according to my lectures at uni still had the “stiff upper lip” label attached to it, revealed a side of itself so surprising that, when I spoke about this phenomenon with my Cuban friends back in Havana, it left puzzled looks on their faces.

An immigrant’s life is a life of post-it notes. Both for those who stayed behind and for the friendships you form in your host nation. In my case these post-it notes have carried incomplete snippets of information. People here know that my mother and father still live in Cuba. They might know their professions. They might even know that I have a cousin who is more like a sister to me, the sister I never had. But they do not know about my best friend and his late mother, his late mother who was a great woman and who always had a kind word for me, for my children and my wife. My friends here might not know that one of the reasons why I became an English teacher was to avoid the draft at seventeen and thus the real danger of being shipped to Angola where the war was still raging on during my college years and where many of my young peers were getting killed. Likewise, the people I left behind in Havana might not know that I am about to take part in a life-changing event in a few days. They might think that all elections are the same and indeed they are in my country of birth. After all, I always knew who was going to be in power when I lived there. Forever and ever and ever and ever. But, right now, even allowing for apathy and for dodgy politicians and for posturing and mud-throwing and all the other inconveniences, I have hope. That, too, is part of my citizenship rite of passage. It was fifteen years ago in 2000 and it continues today.

There is gain and there is loss in an immigrant’s decision to up sticks and relocate.  I have discussed here before the challenge of moving to a country in which one has no past, only a future but still working on the present. The past, the reference-filled past, is a chimera for the immigrant. It is unattainable even with post-it notes. Yes, I can talk about Fawlty Towers and Only Fools and Horses because I have seen these two sit-coms. But I was not here when they were first broadcast. An immigrant lives a second-hand-experience life whilst forging a first-one.

Immigrants are all different, which is the same as saying there are no bad or good immigrants, just immigrants. When politicians, like Nigel Farage, lay into us, they lay into what they see as a homogeneous, too-hard-to-parse group whose nuances escape the narrow confines of race, origin and language, to mention but three elements that define us. The back-of-the-lorry immigrant has post-it notes that might be almost unintelligible. They would be, wouldn't they, if they escaped war and poverty, if they saw their children perish in the Mediterranean, if they themselves were trafficked or if they were labelled "cockroaches" by some half-brained, faux-columnist in a tabloid newspaper? The visa-carrying immigrant coming out of the airport pushing their trolley with their luggage on, legitimate status validated by a stamp on arrival, might have pockets stuffed with post-in notes neatly typed up. But in both cases the post-it notes, like mine, will be incomplete. Most of us also share another common feature: after a while the word "home" denotes both the country we left behind and the one in which we live now. Try to figure that one out, reader!

I fell in love with a British woman and here I am. On 7th May I will cast my vote and at some point in the next few days or weeks my new passport will be pushed through the letterbox. Any sense of loss that I have felt so far (and there has been some) has been offset by a life in which I have been able to scribble, sometimes regularly and some other times less so, my own, incomplete, bullet-pointed, post-in notes. It is part of my rite of passage. It is part of being an immigrant.

© 2015

Next Post: “Urban Dictionary”, to be published on Wednesday 6th May at 11:59pm (GMT)


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