Friday 24 July 2020


Sometimes it looks like this - 
Crisp white sheets tucked obediently down,

A bird on the cover of a book of poems,
A splash of colour in orange and green -

But outside these curtained walls, a man is shouting
As though the sails of his lungs have sprung 

Free their cells, and every woe, his angst and grievance,
From childhood years to this present moment 

Are billowing and bellowing in merry disobedience 
To the Golden Rule of Silence, in quarantine. 

I gather only this: a man has lost his shoes,
And life will never be restored to him.

It looks like I’m able to read and write but I can’t ... although I did just write this poem! I have been very sick with sepsis most likely caused by haemophilus ... high fever, migraine, vomiting, coughing and more coughing... antibiotics, the wonder of our twentieth century, are doing their work and I hope to climb out of these crisp sheets when the fever decides to stay cool...
For the DVerse Poets Gathering (www.dversepoetscom)

Sunday 19 July 2020


Like La Vie En Rose and Coco, Before Chanel, the two recent biopics of Gabrielle Coco Chanel, Colette is sumptuous. Every screenshot of every scene could serve as a painting in a gallery of nineteenth century artists. Attention to details make such films a cinematic joy for someone like me, who cannot withstand much of today's Marvel visual and graphic acrobatics. My eyes and soul are soothed by period pieces. A slower pace unfolds on screen, and no expectation of a car chase or a villain plotting to end the world.


While very aware of my current immediate access to antibiotics, monoclonal antibody therapy and immunoglobulins only made possible by modern progress, the rhythm of my days (pre-pandemic too) mimics an earlier century. I still hand write my poems. I live with my parents. I potter. I go for walks in the same village I was once a teenager in. What would Sidonie-Gabrielle Colette make of my current wardrobe? She would be horrified, I think. Sweatshirts. The very term would make her recoil. Anyway, she was French, and even when she was at her most gauche in 1893, she was svelte. Sweatshirts. Joggers. Jumpers. How do these even translate across time and culture?

I have had my moments. If anyone were to describe my style (someone polite), I am sure they would mention my penchant for feminine swirls, but I also like the masculine escape into non-figure consciousness - a term I have just coined. Which itself points to how very far removed I am from Colette. I want to be blanketed. At my most ill, I simply want to wear a bed. And in place of wearing a bed, I wear my father's cosy oversized wool sweaters from M&S. The ones his sister Saida bought him in the 70's and 80's. 

They have large colourful or sober stripes or diamonds on them. Some have shrunk over the years and the arms are an odd length. One has a giant gash in the sleeve. These are the ones I pinch. I feel safe in them. Like and unlike myself. Who am I in someone else's clothes? Still, and always, myself I suppose. The dark and the light. Scruffy or neat.

Coco Chanel would disapprove of this arbitrary giving away of my form to chronic illness. TB never stopped her from becoming the doyenne of fashion in her time, and still now, in ours. BUT Coco was almost single-handedly responsible for introducing the world to silk pyjamas - the European world, that is. The word 'pyjama' is Persian in origin (pai: leg; jamah: clothing), and the loose, flowing trousers were then adopted by the conquering Arabs. So, really, the perfect attire for a descendant of Persian-Arab-British colonial empires. Coco and Colette can't really disapprove, after all... 

Now all I need is a pair of cream pyjamas with black piping, a slender cigarette in my hand and voila!

Monday 13 July 2020



A few years ago, Leonard Cohen released a song on his 82nd birthday. 'You Want It Darker' is in English but for the repetition of the Hebrew lyric 'Hineni' meaning 'Here I am' or 'I am ready, my Lord'. Behold me, ready, waiting. Some sacrifice may be due. Usually is due. Its nature will be revealed. 

I didn't hear the song at the time. A few weeks ago, when I began 'Black Earth Rising', a fictional episodic drama situated in London and Rwanda, 25 years after the genocide, the introduction of the tone and nature of what was to follow, is utterly imbued with Cohen's song-cloak of darkness, rising. Whose is this voice promising acceptance of terror, I wondered? The singer seemed almost too courageous. Hubris in its making. And in a way, any time we, mere mortals, attempt to unravel mystery and meaning with our bodies and minds as instruments, a foreboding thuds around our ears. We are truly the strangest beings on this black and green and blue earth. Rising and falling with each hidden breath. A million candles burning, for the help that never came.

Michaela Cole, the writer-creator of 'Chewing Gum', star of 'Black Earth Rising' and now writer-creator of 'I May Destroy You' seems to hold this word 'Hineni', spoken or unspoken, as she steps into her work.  Throughout time, words have been our tool for change, for promise, for betrayal. Today, speaking out, speaking up, echoes from one corner of the globe to another, so that 'mere' is no longer appropriate for 'mortals'. A tiny flame fanned fast enough catches fire. Who burns? What burns? What survives? What must survive? The freedom to fight is the greatest we possess. Who are we fighting? It isn't always clear. 

Hugo Blick, an Englishman, wrote 'The Honourable Woman', centring a Jewish woman (played by an American actress) in Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He also wrote 'Black Earth Rising', centring a Rwandan orphan who is told she is a Tutsi to protect her from the truth; she is, in fact, Hutu. The role is played by Cole, a British-Ghanaian actress. I don’t know how this fiction sits with Rwandan intellectuals and critics, because so much of Western-centric drama about ‘Others’ is reviewed within the Western canon through the Western telescope. I say Western, I mean something else. I mean the construct of white, colonial, the historical half story. Almost every Palestinian in ‘The Honourable Woman’ is dishevelled and portrayed as being more capable of dishonour. It’s always tricky to attempt balance - personal politics are difficult to wrangle out of fiction. 

Should we narrow our focus, pick a subject and delve deep like historians do; Samira Ahmed on 'The Art of Persia', Sona Dutta on 'The Treasures of the Indus', Mary Beard on the Romans? Or do we dabble, knowing we will never read the whole library of who we are - but finding a few treasures along the way to guide us, keep believing in the best of each other, while knowing the worst of each other? Hineni, hineni. We are ready. Well, some of us are. Some of us run, hide, disguise, hate, fear, delegate. Some of us write, paint, create, medicate, heal, study, mate. Perhaps it was meant to be this way. Darkness and light. Except that sometimes they are almost indistinguishable from each other. Like when you sleep in the day and wake in the night. Or when there is a pandemic forcing us to slow down even as we race to the finish line. Which is what? Which is where? Sands in time, disappearing fast. Hold on, for a little while longer. The spark can lead to fire.