Tag Archives: social history

Trauma in the Spotlight

Disclosure:  As a teen, I dreamed of being an investigative journalist.

It’s been a full 24 hours since my most recent trip to the cinema and I’m still kinda traumatised.  After the film finished, I discussed it for a solid 90 minutes.  After a night of poor sleep, I woke up and did a quick internet search before work: I needed to know how true this story was.  I got that the main thrust is true, but how many liberties did the filmmakers take for dramatic effect?  How much artistic licence did they employ? Continue reading

ROFL!! : When Teaching History Meets Colonialism in Martinique

I love Martinique.  Love it!  Why?  Because I catch the most jokes here.  I write this with a silly grin, teary eyes and chuckling.  This place is nuts.  It’s like Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted.  Beautiful but incomprehensibly crazy.  Though it might be a crap analogy because I remember feeling like I didn’t ‘get it’.  Although it’s possible that it is therefore the perfect analogy.

But I digress.

What had me laughing so hard I felt compelled to blog about it?  Slavery – history versus the discourse here? The state of education in contemporary Martinique?  Or perhaps both?  I’ll let you decide.

First off, I was not alone.  The group of crying splutterers included me, two Martinican dudes, and two girls, one Martinican and one Guadeloupean.  We had convened at 8am and were reviewing the contribution of our comrade in educational struggle, who was also a Martinican, at around midday.  His task was to translate the fruits typically found in a jaden kréyol Matinitje (literal translation: traditional Martinican creole garden) into kréyol – as in the language so that creole-speaking students learning to read and write their language could have a written reference point aka a dictionary while they learned a bit of Martinican cultural history.  There’s a real and problematic lack of learning materials in creole – the first language of many if decreasing numbers of Martinicans (and St Lucians, Dominicans, Guadeloupeans, Trinidadians and Haitians…Mauritians, and Seychellois…but that’s another story).  Bref, this was an important task. Continue reading

Ayiti cheri…merci

Another Citadel view

View from Citadelle Henri, Cap Haitien, Haiti

I don’t want to write about Haiti right now.  Not least cos I still haven’t worked out how to put ‘it all’ in one concise post.  However I also have not been able to stop writing about Haiti.

Since I first got proper confirmation that I was going (i.e. after I’d looked at my bank balance after buying the plane ticket) all I’ve been able to talk about is going to Haiti.  When I was in Haiti, I jumped up and down in my seat on numerous buses, as excited as a little girl about the place I’d been to, and in anticipation of the next town.  High on the experience of travelling through Haiti.  Since I’ve been back, I’ve been in part low that I’m not still there, catching jokes and exploring, part femme comblé because I made it.  I went to Haiti.

And it was f*cking amazing.

Continue reading

Ooh la la! One crazy month in Martinique!

It’s not a huge secret that I love Martinique.  I try and play it cool like it’s a place like any other, with its good and bad, people and places.  Just another Caribbean island but with a French twist, but that’s a lie.  The truth is that I love this complicated place despite myself.  And several seemingly unconnected innocuous events will help me explain why.

First, there was the night I debated and discussed until I fell asleep.  Exhausted, we all crashed out on our sofa.  Me, and the husband and wife creative team I’ve been calling housemates this past summer.  The subject?  The private view had of Hélène Raffestin‘s art exhibition ‘Sois belle et plais toi’ which I’ll translate as ‘be beautiful and make yourself happy’ (‘please yourself’ has distinctly sexual connotations in English).  The title had intrigued my housie who noticed the play on the play of words on the charming French expression ‘Sois belle et tais toi’ aka ‘be beautiful and shut up’.  Who says the French aren’t romantic?  We were both looking forward to seeing how her desire to look at ‘the role of women in our contemporary society’ would manifest itself in her art.

She did a good job.  Art is supposed to provoke debate and emotions and she certainly did that.  According to the flyer, Raffestin lives and works in Martinique, did her first art school here, and we infer was born here.  The picture of her is shadowy, so although she looks ‘kinda white’ she could also be mixed.  Why is that important?  Because this is Martinique.  The personal, the impersonal, the private, the public, it’s all political!  Martinique, an ‘overseas region of France’ exists as a complete anachronism.  A colony in the classic Age of Empire sense of the world in the age of 21st century necolonialism.  And it retains many of the features of a colony, such as skin colour as an arbiter of social class.

Raffestin’s critique of women in ‘our contemporary society’ threw up immediately the question of ‘which society?’  Continue reading

Holidaying vs. Travelling : Busting the Myths (SPOILER: You Are A Traveller. Probably.)

I tend to document my travel adventures here, rather than the human drama which is the detail of daily life; paying bills, washing clothes, mentally preparing for and winding down from work, answering and sending ‘serious’ emails.  It’s not a value judgement, just evidence of me having my head in the clouds.  However people somehow seem to forget that my travel adventures are not actually my daily life.  My 9-5 wholly funds my fun (how I budget for travel is for another post).

As free-spirited as I may be, I do not live on the road nor out of my backpack.  I simply like being on the road for short periods, and I therefore maximise the potential of every bit of holiday I get.  You, dear reader, can do the same should you choose to.  There’s a big lie going around which makes people feel like adventures are out of their reach:  Going on holiday is not the same as ‘going travelling’.  This is simply not true. Continue reading

Girls Gone Wild!!! : The DC to DC Roadtrip

I was watching TV one Saturday night when I was 14 and had just changed schools as a result of my parents separating less than 18 months earlier.  My amazing Dad had just moved from our house in London to St Lucia i.e. 4000 miles away, and I had just fallen in love for the first time.  I was basically at the peak of my teenaged angst when I came across a programme featuring a random group of smartarses  friends my age exactly Continue reading

Cold weather or Cold people? When Granny Moved to England II

English: Little Malvern snowman Near the begin...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the name of truly interspersing our tales of traversing the Atlantic in the opposite direction as British Caribbean black women in 1958 and 2012 respectively, I thought I’d share some of my adventures before revisiting her experiences.  But I think it’s about time for Granny P (aka my maternal grandmother) part 2.  If you missed part one, head to it here.

So how did she even end up in England is one of my favourite questions. When she emigrated from Barbados to start afresh on the other side of the Atlantic she was the first person in the family to emigrate by choice for a while as far as we know.  Both her mother and grandmother (my great- and great-great grandmothers respectively) had been born and died in the same parish that we believe the family had lived in since we arrived in bondage from Africa.

Granny’s mum (my great-granny, known simply as ‘Mama’) had a corner shop and her mum, Elvira Clarke, had been a cane cutter (back when job descriptions were self-explanatory).  Granny told me once that all she remembers of her own grandmother was a red headscarf she always wore, and the cutlass slung over her shoulder as she walked to and from the cane field daily.  One of those times I harrassed her for info which she didn’t mind sharing, taking her back to her memories of her own childhood. Continue reading

Starting as I mean to go on: Telling my grandmother’s (50 year old) story

Suburbs of Bridgetown with Harbour in the back...

Suburbs of Bridgetown with Harbour in the background (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

My sister doesn’t get my blog.  She reckons there’s a big difference between ‘my new life in the sun’ as she calls it and our granny’s graduation to the cold 55 years ago.  I beg to differ.  In the spirit of the new year, I thought I’d better get onto explaining the similarities, so this post is all about my granny’s experiences of moving when black.

After having conducted an impromptu interview with my grandmother about her experiences of moving to England in the late 1950s I confess to being wracked with doubt about the wisdom of it. I thought interspersing my thoughts and feelings with hers would be a bit more interesting than just another here’s-me-doing-cool-stuff type travel blog (though you can see a bit of that here).  And I kinda wanted it to be an homage to those who’ve done much tougher stuff before me as I take comfort in knowing that if my granny could move continents 55 years earlier without a laptop, smartphone, emails and skype, then I can definitely emigrate with so many 21st century communication modcons to keep me in touch with my loved ones.

Now, however, I’m not so sure about that idea. I’ve badgered my grandmother for years about ‘telling her story’. She has never shown the slightest bit of interest in sharing it, but every time I see her (which is not that often because I’m usually located in London and she’s lived in Barbados since I was 5), I find a way to bring it up. Continue reading

Christmas Carol Singing – Caribbean stylee!

As a recent emigré, this time of year has the potential to be the hardest.  Despite subjection to some notoriously painful Christmas do’s with colleagues, I love the Christmas season.  Christmas spirit for me is all about quality time, ideally spent at Christmas dinners, drinks and parties; with friends, family, food, laughter and good vibes, all in huge quantities.  A good few thousand miles away from home however, forgive me if I was more than a little slower than usual in getting into the Christmas spirit this year.  Thankfully, round here the Christmas vibes are no different even if the unchanged climate seems unsettling at first.  I definitely enjoy the party; it’s called chanté nwèl, literally ‘singing Christmas’, which conveys the idea of a vibrant, musical personified Christmas perfectly.

Chanté nwèl, is basically carol singing. But that doesn’t do it justice.  Continue reading

In Praise of Sunsets

Sunset Koh Chang, Thailand

Sunset Koh Chang, Thailand (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you’re a romantic who grew up in a Euro-centric culture, you’ve probably heard the expression ‘into the sunset’ on more than one occasion.  To walk, run, ride or drive into the sunset denotes a closing, a happy ending, and hope for the future.  More than one film has closed on a sunset, and many more fairy stories.  But personally, I never really ‘got’ them.  Apart from that iconic moment in Grease 2 when he finally gets the girl and they ride off into the sunset of course…that was classic.  I changed somewhat, when at the end of a week spent slaving away at a national park’s snake exhibit in Phuket, Thailand back in the day, a kindly lady offered to take me to Sunset Point.  She thought it would be a travesty for me to leave Phuket without seeing it.  I was more tempted by the possibility of finally getting out of the park.

What I saw however, blew my mind.  There’s a reason why they call it Sunset Point.  It’s no doubt the place Jay-Z refers to in ‘Can I get a…’  A decade later I can still see in my mind’s eye the panoramic view of the horizon, the endless sky and the most colourful sunset I’ve ever seen. Continue reading