I sit here, watching the wind bluster through the silvery leaves of the birch tree in my next door neighbour’s garden and consider what imaginative, contemplative piece I can wow you with in my attempts to show my skills as a writer. From this long, evocative opening sentence, I’ve probably lost most of you and the ones remaining hopefully know that I like to wander through my words as I search for something substantial to design into a narrative.
Well, the sweet peas are swaying, calling my attention to their gorgeous colours. Purples, pinks and variegated whites mix in sweet harmony from one bush – similar to my make-up! I sit here, in my English garden, contemplating my colonial up-bringing under a different sun that shed its light hundreds of miles south many years ago. A place where tea and scones were as ever present as orange juice and marmalade at every event I attended with my mother. She had a penchant for supporting the RSPCA and anything resembling a fair, mixing into the crowds of people gathered to spend their money on nik-naks at the White Elephant stall. I, on the other hand, stood with my father, watching the dogs and cats trapped in their protected cages waiting for some kind soul to free them. My dad’s eyes always reminded me of those trapped animals. I don’t think he ever escaped the cage of his past.
We delved into the books stacked in mis-matched piles under the canopy of the bric-a-brac stall, hoping to add to our collection of Wilbur Smith or J.T. Edson. He would point out the larger encyclopedias and we would share a smug grin (our editions at home were far more recent and well preserved) whilst pouring through the yellowed pages examining the data that felt out of date just by the paper it was printed on. My brown skin matched his perfectly, as it did my mother’s. My older brother, on the other hand, had darker skin and features, a noble nose and high cheekbones like my mother making him an alien to my looks and fairer complexion. I still remember her making fun of my nose, calling it an upside down bug on my face. Clothes pegs helped fix that.
As we grew older and hated each other less, more of our friends realised that we siblings – a mistake easily made when you look nothing like your brother. We shared a hate for our parents and their old fashioned parenting skills (something my son now shares as he enters his adult years) and their racist attitudes. Isn’t it funny how we all declare we will never turn into our parents but, over the years, carry the traits – the strain of the virus -that infect us as we age. Hatred is an easy place to rest in your youth and old age.
I digress. My past. My heritage. It’s easy to say I am of British origin but not so easy to explain when my blood carries over four other cultures (I’m estimating. My genealogy is still to be tested). In a world where heritage is now so mixed, the water is brown and cloudy. There is a stronger hold on the originals, the unsoiled pure ones. But, is there such a thing? After dabbling in a bit of history over the past year, my eyes have been opened to the diversity of races – a delusion of purity left for the few. We are all a part of the past travellers who have crossed our land, our people and our culture. Few remain untainted to their original ancestors and their claims are like mine: we choose which culture we want to be associated with and hold onto it as a cloak of identity. My identity changes on a whim. I can be the potpourri of races. My cupboard is filled with cloaks.
I am brown skinned, brought up in a colonial world of racism and definitive feelings of identity. Yet, my world has changed as I’ve grown, allowing me to mix freely – more freely than my parents – with races from varying social strata. I miss that. Here, in England, the old colonial dimension of life is back. You call a spade a spade when seeing someone of the lower classes acting out. The rich can misbehave and neglect their families. It is called impactful parenting or a life lesson for the young. If the poor do the same, it is called neglect. I understand this world but I don’t like it.
Well, my contemplation is pretty much complete. I don’t know what you will take away from it. Probably nothing. But, if you kept reading to the end, I thank you.