Sunday, 1 July 2018

My BBC Radio Berkshire Interview...

Tune in to #BBC #Radio #Berkshire tonight as I chat with the beautiful presenter, Bridgitte Tetteh from 8 pm to 9pm. 

We discuss everything from African culture to politics and immigration. I also read a poem I wrote. You really don't want to miss it. 

Click the link to listen online and for the podcast BBC Radio 

Saturday, 26 May 2018

My definition of love

is when he scours the marketplace for that juicy mango he knows I crave.
The secret glance we share across the table.
The inside joke that explodes our lungs, but one that no one ever needs take part.
Love is the thoughtful emoji flashing on my phone when I least expect it.
That twinkle in his eye when he gazes at me,
And the flush in his cheeks when he watches me twirl in a new dress.

Image courtesy of the internet
Love walks into my room with its eyes closed and plants a kiss on my forehead to stop me from panicking about my hair.
It never scoffs at my dreams and picks me up when I fall.
Love is that word he scribbles on a dinner napkin knowing my mouth will crack the moment I read it.
Love never tires of holding my hand and listening to all my complaints
And always seeks to be worthy of me.

Love is when he asks what he can do to make things better.
Love drives for hours just to spend those precious minutes together.
I’ve never known my morning breath to transform his face into folds of repulsion.
Love is when he will fight, stand toe to toe with me until an issue is resolved.
Love embraces all my flaws. Enough said.

Love is many things to different people, but one thing it is not is uncertain.

Nothing, I mean nothing, nurtures a woman more than the love of a good man.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Dear Dad,

I am writing to tell you why the month of April haunts me.

It is the month we bade you a final farewell, all those years ago. At your funeral, people wailed, I wailed, and songs depicting your character tore the atmosphere. Finally, you were at peace. Since then, the memories you left behind have become taxing on the heart and soul. 

We were close; as close as father and daughter can get. You were not one for gushing, but your love was noticeable in the little things–your smile, your lousy jokes, your far-fetched tales, your warm gaze when you thought no one was watching, and in the way you hammered into me that the only inheritance worth having was a sound education. 

I get it now, I really do.

You entertained my curious mind, all that endless talk about my dreams, and you believed I could become whoever I wanted to be. You said all I needed was to be grounded, to have the faith and courage to hold on to my authenticity and uniqueness. To cement your words, you reined in on my immaturity and over-inflated confidence by recounting poignant moments where you had experienced failure, missed an opportunity and took unnecessary risks. However, you were quick to heighten my spirits by stating that life had not denied you some glory. From your overflowing bag of wisdom, you drew upon your success stories. How you scaled your trips around the world; and navigated the challenges of diversity as you interacted with people from all walks of life, among other things.

Of all the things I remember about you, it is your belief in your ancestors that I found staggering. I was a Christian; you regarded yourself as more spiritual than anything else. As I write this, my mind recalls one of our conversations where you spoke in riddles:

‘Can you see it?’  
‘See what?’
‘The future.’
‘What? In your palm?’
‘Yes, and yours my dear child, is as bright as the morning star. Look, right there.’

I creased my brow, laughed, shook my head in disbelief at your unearthly utterings. It was utter nonsense, and yet I hung onto every word. You became my muse. Now, having experienced life as I have, I know why you did it.

The last day we talked, you ditched your usual eccentricity and crammed your speech to give me the abbreviated version of your sentiments. You did not mince your words for you knew we had limited time. I treasure those final words. Sacred words of the dying every loved-one seeks to find closure.

I wish I could say that the adage time heals all wounds rings true for me. It does not. 

After your untimely departure, I rode the dragon of grief just like everyone else. I heeded the advice you gave me over the years. I am grateful for your preparation which gifted me with the resilience to withstand tough times. The foundation you laid, cultivated in me, a rooted sense of self, and the propensity to accept that, in life, we do not always get what we want, when we want. You taught me that sometimes down is up and lost is found.

And yet, the ache of longing for your presence never fades.

During my rueful moments, my mind threatens to explode with pent-up emotions. I have things to say. Things to show you. If only you could feast your eyes on what I have achieved. It is not much, but you would have rejoiced and reminded me, with a smug look on your face, of the day I dubbed you a crazy old man because of your weird prophesying. I regret you are not here to listen to your grandchildren’s crazy stories, perhaps teach them a thing or two. I want to whine about my problems, share my joys with you, and seek your advice, draw from your well of wisdom, but I can’t.

Your face has become elusive in my dreams. I see your lips moving, but your voice is distorted, and I do not understand the words you speak. There is a misty fog billowing around you, and my eyes cannot penetrate through it. Everything has become a blur.

You were not the most perfect dad in the world, but in my eyes, you were kind and prudent. 

Despite your flaws, you insisted on my schooling. 

You were by no means the perfect parent, but you were the one who stayed. 

There have been many seasons since your passing, but I am still consumed with rage. My heart still jolts from the harsh reality–you are gone forever, and all I have are the relics of my heartache, the constant reminder being the tombstone under which you lay interred in the cold grave.

Monday, 2 April 2018

Friends Like These

Image courtesy of the internet

If you are like me, then you have friends or have had friends with whom you parted or who have become mere acquaintances. Perhaps, you wish you had the foresight not to have lingered for as long you did when they manifested themselves in your life. Take heart, I am here to open your eyes as to which kind of friend deserves you. 

There are what I call good weather friends. Those who overlook you and seek the pleasure of your company at their convenience. This kind of friends cannot handle your strife and tolerate you when the sea is calm. Should you find yourself in the throes of trials and tribulations, their phones become unreachable, and your messages are never returned. They are forever rebuffing your invitations and cries for help and apologising for their busy schedules which deprive them of your friendship. 

Some friends invite you for coffee to assure you of their perpetual sympathy. They console you but never splurge on congratulations on your victory, achievements and success. Their habitual pitying words give them the upper hand and feed their superiority complexes. Like ticks, they suck every detail about your sorry little life only to jeer and spread it like the gospel when your back is turned.

You are so strong, I admire you. I will lend you a tenner, pay me when you can. Ah, poor you, I don’t know if I could have survived your ordeal. Why don’t you do this to avoid a, b, c, happening in the future? 

Their tongues are like daggers piercing your chest. Your blood boils as you watch the condescension in their carefully modelled faces. Their snide remarks are swathed in tenderness, compassion and concern, but really, they are aimed at reducing you to size and making you feel worthless. 

Deep down, you know that were it not for the circumstances that compel you to endure such degrading insinuations, you would have the gumption to rid yourself of such poison and set your sights at cultivating better friendships for yourself.

Then they are vile friends. Those who sit back and watch you heading towards disaster. They foresee danger and your demise but choose to withhold counsel. Like the chameleon that changes to suit its environment, they sing your praises in your presence, to inflate your ego and give you a false sense of security, but participate in your slander and whisperings about your shortcomings. Some of these friends genuinely do not want to ruffle anyone’s feathers and do not know what they stand for. But among these, are those secretly itching for your downfall. Beware.

Only when you find yourself in the pit of hell, do you become privy to such friends’ real thoughts. Their real character. You should have, why didn’t you, had you, I wish. What’s the bloody use?

If I have dampened your spirits, do not despair. There are great friends out there. Friends who see the tears behind your smile. Loving friends gifted with the discernment to know what I am doing just fine really means.

Everyone deserves to have that one friend to whom they can empty their heart and soul. The one who will jealously guard their deepest and darkest secrets and take them to the grave. That friend who brings out the best in them, cries with them, celebrates with them and stands firmly by their side even when the universe condemns them. The kind of friend who is not too proud to say I am sorry, I need your help, I love you.

If no one has ever said wake me up anytime, I will be there it is time to change your circles. If none among your friends has ever chided you behind closed doors and spoke the harsh truths no one dares to utter to your face, and later hugged you, then it is time to do some soul-searching.

This kind of friend does exist. When you find them, treasure them for they are rare.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

How Time Has Changed Me

I can’t say I remember my suckling or cooing days. Neither can I claim to know for sure if I was a terrible toddler or not. What I can vouch for are the marks tattooed on my legs and forehead. Mama tells me they are monuments of the numerous falls sustained during my tender years. She has recounted to my horror, my audacious attempts at clambering the tall mango tree in our backyard at three! And how I slapped other children across their cheeks and watched them wail, unfazed, devoid of emotion. I am also told I once chortled and tried to reach for the slithery viper that crept into our living room. Thank God, Mama was always there to save me from myself.

There is a phase my memory has not deceived me. The time the upbeat, patriotic songs blared on the street corners and lyrics of Michael Jackson and Grace Jones thumped through open windows and muffled gramophones. I remember reciting every verse of Nothing is Gonna Stop Us Now and painting my diary pages with every word. My interests were innocuous at first. But as the music took on a new meaning, I was no longer just chanting, scribbling and dancing to the rhythm. To the boy who sent my pulses racing, I professed I Will Always Love You. When he shattered my heart into a thousand pieces, I begged him to Come Back to Me. I was just another Broken-Hearted Girl. Each melody, each beat, every phrase, became poignant, sacred and meaningful. An allegory for my life. 

Those in the know say I was just a teenager with raging hormones. 

But I swear the world was conspiring against me. How else could I explain other girls having superior coiffures? Or that my bulging thighs were an eyesore even in steeply priced habiliments father bought with his hard-earned cash? By now I had sassed what calls for flattery and roused the opposite sex, and it was nothing I possessed. Nothing I could pin down. Is it any wonder jealousy, self-doubt and paranoia consumed me? 

Then I took a stab at engineering my transformation. Skin lightening creams, hot combs and Palazzos came to the rescue. I am thankful there was no Snapchat and Instagram to increase the torture. Looking back now, I cringe at the things I did. What was I thinking? It was inevitable, I suppose, that gradually I would embrace who I was. It turns out, being me is okay. My looks do not define me. There is more to me than my hoarse voice and knobbly knees. My intelligence matters. I could shift my focus towards greater heights. Reach for the stars. Become the so-called woman of substance. 

There are things I wish I had, want to have like yesterday, but I try not to dwell on what I cannot change or control. I am learning to trust the process. Friends and the need to belong are essential to me. But I am also at peace in my own company. When I experience defeat, my mantra is to try, try, try again. I pride myself on my resilience. My ability to bounce back. For how can I grow if I do not fall?

Somewhere within me, lies a passion for igniting. I have something to offer, not only to my family or my immediate surroundings but the world. It’s funny how an appetite develops into insatiable hunger. The realisation that there is an entire world to explore. Something else. I derive satisfaction from motherhood, wifehood, occupation, and all that which makes me a grounded being, I suppose, but should I suffer for wanting more? Striving for more? Geography and responsibilities do not a hindrance make. Personal expansion is mine for the taking. But first, I must know - what is my purpose? 

With each season, I become my own philosopher, pondering, searching and demanding answers to life's tough questions. I know little, but I have heard and read the success stories. The great men and women inventors. The DaVincis of our time. Writers and performers, and those whose names are not visible among the stars but have changed the world all the same. Who am I to stand in my way? I could write the world's most celebrated novel or find the cure for cancer. This fire is past kindling. Perhaps one day, like the cleansing furnace, it will rid me of the disquieting voice. That constant whisper that nudges me towards greatness and prompts me to find a reason to live. My purpose. Meaning.

Inevitably, I will enter my twilight years. Without a shred of doubt, I know that when the time comes, it will be the cacophony of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren's whines and feet that will afford me the most pleasure. I will treasure the feel of their tiny hands exploring the contours of my wrinkled face. I will attend to their questions with as much zeal as the desire I have to make sense of it all now. I shall drown in their stunned, twinkly eyes when they listen to my tales. I will chuckle when they gasp at my ancient words. For it matters not if they get it or not. Because in the years to come, they will. 

When the time comes for me to slow down, cross over to the other side, I want to reflect, inhale and exhale, knowing I did all I could. That I swum with the sharks and survived. That I swung for the fence, reached my full potential and fulfilled my destiny. Or at least gave it a whirl. 

Hey, come back soon!

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Things That Keep Me Awake At Night.

Image courtesy of the internet

Sometimes it's the cold or the heat. Easily remedied by peeling off a layer or two of my covering, the hot water bottle or... 

On other days all it takes is a nagging word. That careless whisper among friends. A derogatory phrase or statement that unintentionally spills into my ears. I am not in the habit of eavesdropping, but I cannot 'unhear' the words spoken about me or to me. I spend minutes, hours, mulling as I try to decipher their meaning. The intention. When answers fail me, I remind myself of that all-important doctrine which says, I am the master of my thoughts. I have the power over my reactions. I choose what I entertain. So, I let sleeping dogs lie and drift off to sleep.

Sometimes it is the near-misses. Words I could have said to change an outcome. The missed opportunity. That wrong turn I made. If only I could undo it all. What is done is done, I finally let the harsh truth sink. It is only then that I begin to feel the weight of my eyelids.

Image courtesy of the internet.

Occasionally it is the hefty bills. Those red letters the postman keeps tossing through the letterbox. That pile I have not dared to open. The endless phone calls from the lender. As if one reminder is not enough. Don't they know that threats and final warnings will not change my circumstances overnight? That if wishes were horses, I would be buying their electricity and gas company? That I will be the CEO of the most magnificent bank in the world? Yeah, tell that to my sleep.  

Excitement. Joy. Superimposed upon worry. It could be the pains of motherhood. On the one hand, my heart bursts with pride to see my children grow. As time shifts them from one stage to the next, I hold my breath and hope they are learning what they need to learn. At night I break into a cold sweat when I imagine the world in a few years’ time. The time when they will have to fend for themselves. When I am no longer around? I pray I am a good role model. That I have done enough, doing enough. For now, I am glad they are sheltered in my bosom. But I worry the world will soon swallow them up. Things are constantly changing. Wherever they go, messages and indoctrinations are continuously being injected into their brains, subliminally or otherwise, through the internet and other channels. I hope and pray that our preparation will prevent them being tossed out to the sea. Or that when that happens, the can find the strength and courage to swim back to shore.

There are times when I lie awake at night planning and plotting. It’s not what you think. It usually starts with the panic that comes with the realisation that I have wasted the entire day, my whole life. As the guilt of hours spent watching the marathons of Scandal and Autopsy on Netflix rips through me, I go into full-blown panic mode. How could I let the precious hours go to waste without filling a page or two with inspired words, perhaps a bit of editing? My dreams will not materialise out of thin air. At which point I spring from my pillow and compile a comprehensive list of all my deserving accomplishments. Don’t get me wrong. I am grateful for the little things. After all, ‘gratitude shifts your energy and brings you more of what you want.’ I toss these platitudes around to quell despair. I give myself a pep talk - Bertha, you deserve to rest. You deserve some ‘me’ time. After all, you completed a chapter yesterday. You saved a life at work. Now, that is a good compromise, don't you think? 

Sometimes during the small hours of the night, I wrestle with my raging mind. How it shows no mercy by dragging me to back to yesteryear. Back to my roots. Those earlier times when my parents still roamed this earth. Before death snatched them away. As I lay my head on the pillow and squeeze my eyes shut, I swear I can see my father smiling at me. I can hear his laughter and smell his snuff which, even now, still tickles my nostrils and almost makes me break into a violent sneeze. 

The yearning for my mother's gentle touch also disturbs the night's tranquillity. I long to hear her sweet voice egging me on. Slowly, the fond memories turn to horror. As reality sets in, sweat and tears drench my nightgown and my pillow. I stare at the ceiling. There is nothing to see except darkness. Nothingness. The void left behind makes my heart jolt with grief. My chest tightens. Sometimes I can feel it being pulled sideways as if by the surgeon's retractor. God, why? Why torment me with such memories if there is nothing I can do to turn back the clock?

There are some moments during the night, which quite frankly, I could do with a pick and a shovel to bury ghosts. Relics from the past. Those friends and lovers with whom I have parted. Why open that Pandora's box if it only curtails my sleep with things that no longer concern me?  Thanks to social media, all it takes is a tap and a click to glimpse into someone's life. Poring over pictures and comparing. How the heart rests when one sees the bulge around their nemesis's waistline. One can't help but notice the banger sitting in their driveway. Hurray! My life is better than theirs. I have a cuter husband. The lies we tell ourselves when we succumb to such whims. I suppose it is human nature to wonder. But I would like to think that such nights are sparse and far in between.

I wish you all pleasant dreams. Come back soon. 

Take care!

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Get Over Your Broken Heart....

(courtesy of internet)

When your heart is aching, the world looks grey. The flowers lose their fragrance. The birds’ chirping irritates you, all you want is to toss pebbles for them to scatter as further away from you as possible. Seeing what’s right in the world has become nothing but a futile attempt. You curl into a ball in your bed as you cover your head with a blanket and nurse that ache inside of you. Right now, darkness and pain are all you know. 

For reasons you cannot fathom, you seek out that jolt inside your heart. You do it daily, seamlessly, for it has become your constant companion. Because without that ache gnawing away at you, there is nothing else. Without it, you cannot make sense of what has happened to you. You can’t explain how it is that the world has lost its meaning. Why you can’t laugh. Why you can’t be happy for others. Why you can’t celebrate their victories. Only your pain helps you to make sense of it all.

There is a reason why you, the broken-hearted will not let go of your pain. To let go of that ache means forgetting that which caused it in the first place. Did you lose your only child? To no longer grieve is to let the child go. To undermine the memories of the one whose birth you heralded with ululation, song and dance. To turn your back on the pride you felt as it lay nestling in your arms. To cease being its mother.

Did you lose your lover? The one you had come to care for deeply? The one who meant the world to you? You know letting go of your broken heart is to kiss them farewell. You know it would be the final nail in the coffin for you will have to move on with your life. Moving on means letting your once treasured memories fade. It means acknowledging that the person you once held dear to your heart no longer matters to you. It means admitting their lack of significance in your life. It means, soon, you won’t remember that special bond you once shared. You won’t recall the way they once made you laugh. The way they once made your heart surge with joy. That is the part that scares you the most, isn’t it? 

So, you hold on to that pain for as long as possible. Because keeping it buried deep in your heart justifies your anger. Your sadness. Your lack of motivation. Your persistent loss of appetite. Your insomnia. Your depression. It explains why the object of your torment is still in your life. Why you keep their photos pinned to your wall. Why you cannot open your heart to other possibilities. Why you cannot love again. Somehow, the pain you feel has become your twisted source of comfort. I am right, aren't I? 

Often, you, the broken-hearted are the master at defending the status quo. You hide away from those who tell you everything is going to be alright. You shun their words of encouragement. When they insist you will smile again. Love again. Go out again. Laugh again. Their platitudes enrage you. Patronise you. Let them try walking in your shoes. Let them experience the kind of pain that suffocates you and makes you sink daily. Let them handle the confusion and desperation that comes with holding on to the very devil that threatens your existence. I imagine you telling them. Right now, the last thing you want to hear is that your misery can be conquered. That you have the power to move on and be happy again.  

Sometimes you say things that hurt others, especially the ones you love. Those you need the most. It is not because you don't care. You do. Of course, you do. You say these things because it is the only way you know how to deal with that gripping pain inside of you. It has manifested into the dragon that spits fire. A venom that quickly spreads and destroys anything and everything in its path. As you watch the demon encroach further into your territory, you sink deeper into the black hole. You are fighting a losing battle.

Listen to me, I understand. Your soul has blackened, and you do not know how to cleanse it. You have dug yourself a deep hole from which you cannot get out. Some may suggest therapy. Some will swear by the pill. But it takes a real friend. A real friend to make you understand that only you have the power to save yourself. It takes a person who genuinely cares to utter some harsh truths to you. It takes a genuine heart to drag you out of your bed. To slap you in the face and tell you to get a grip. The kind of friend who will stand with you in your hopelessness and demand that you toughen up and face this monster. 

Because right now, tough love is what you need. Get out of bed. Wash your hair. Go outside and sniff the hope that’s out there. Because there is hope. And to borrow words from a movie - 'You shall be well. You shall be yourself again. You shall be perfectly content.'