…And then after I wrote the first half of ‘Nothing New Under The Sun’, I decided to develop a second character, who would (without realising) write a blog in response to the diary entry. We’re now in the present day. The girl who wrote the diary has married, had children, retired, been widowed and has moved back to Jamaica. In the time she’s been away, her son has become a father to a daughter he has part time custody over. This granddaughter (now a teenager) has developed an identity crisis, and as an attempt to help her resolve some internal conflicts, her parents have decided to send her to Jamaica for the summer. This girl, like her Gran, has a love for writing, and becomes overwhelmed with a desire to find an internet cafe, sit in front of a computer and type the following. Imbued with passion, irony and untapped issues, here’s your second chapter.
Whatsup fellow readers, bloggers and all round rockers!
I’m typing from a little internet cafe I came across when on the way to exchanging my travellers cheques. It’s been a hot and stuffy three weeks. They wouldn’t have been so bad if I were staying in Sandals, but Mum insisted on sticking me with Gran (Dad’s mother). Even that wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d known her, but she left England when I was four and we’ve hardly spoken since.
I really didn’t see the point coming here, but Mum was adamant I spend time in JA; get to know a little about my history, etc. This spontaneous decision was sparked by ‘the christmas incident’. Every year me and mum go to Nan’s (her mum’s) pub and are joined by Uncle Billy, Aunt Brenda and countless cousins. Just a few weeks before the day, Mum tells me we’ll be doing Christmas slightly differently. Her partner Steve and his daughter Lacy invited us round to their posh flat for crimbo dinner. As you can imagine, I was pretty vex. I didn’t get a chance to have my say. What began as a conversation soon escalated into a huge row and in the midst of it all, Mum let it slip. Steve wants us to move in with him! EEEEEK!
I’m not up for playing happy families with sweaty Steve and lazy Lacy! I gave a million reasons as to why this was a bad idea and Mum decided to ride on the least meaningful one. All I said was that them all being white and me being mixed race in this ‘forced family’ who want me to live in the most racist area in Essex would be depressing. I didn’t even really have a chance to process what I said, but obviously Mum did. After what seemed like forever, Mum slumped into her chair and said two words I’ve NEVER heard spill from her mouth; “You’re right.”
As our blazing row wilted into a heart to heart, Mum explained that my cultural heritage had always played on her mind. If ever I wanted to know about my Irish history, she’d be able to reel off story after story, but as a kid, whenever I’d ask questions about ‘where my skin came from’, or ‘why black history month is in October’ or ‘what JA was like’ she’d be stuck.
Mum did try to to teach me some stuff. She’d take me to libraries or make me watch the odd show on the history channel, but it was always at a time when I was least interested. Besides, the library wasn’t exactly inundated with black history articles. It seems our borough is only aware of Martin Luther King. In year eight Mum even suggested my school introduce the subject of Black British history. They did grace my class with one lesson. We saw pictures of slaves and how they were made to fit on the ships and after ten minutes, we were back on Pimp Henry and his Biarches! Not surprising as I went to a C of E school.
I do applaud Mum for her efforts to teach me about the other half of my heritage. I’ve got some black friends whose parents don’t even make the effort. There just seems to be this assumption that if your skin is black you’re genetically inclined to know everything on the subject.
Anywho, Mum revealed that although she hardly speaks to Dad, she always had a special bond with Gran. When Gran left for JA, apparently she said we were welcome to visit anytime. That never quite materialised and when Dad moved to Canada, I guess Mum thought it’d be too awkward to even consider that and so like many ideas, it fizzled out.
Mum went on to explain that growing up, she never felt more closer to her roots than when she was in Ireland and maybe that’s just what I needed. And that was that. She went and made us both a cup of tea and the conversation was over, just in time for X Factor!
A few days later she sat me down and said she’d spoken to Gran who said she’ll teach me about my roots. I just assumed Gran was coming over to England. I was kind of excited. I thought about how I’d rearrange my room for her, where I’d take her, etc. And then I realised Mum wasn’t talking about Gran coming to England. The news flew across the front room like that bullet in The Matrix, but unlike Neo this was something I couldn’t dodge. Then when Mum said ‘Steve has very kindly paid for your ticket’ I felt my stomach back flip and my ears burn. I jumped up and screamed like a baby. ‘‘I knew that bastard hated me! Couldn’t wait to get rid of me! And I bet it’s a crap ticket as well like with Easy Jet or something!’’ I snapped out of my rage a little when Mum shook me and said Easy Jet don’t do long hall flights, but I still hated Steve and was beginning to hate Mum.
Cut to a few days into the summer hols. I couldn’t believe I was at the airport. I’d hoped Mum and Steve would split up and he’d take his ticket back. But unfortunately, they got engaged and their love is stronger than ever (someone hand me a sick bucket). A few months leading up to the trip, Mum would try and pull me towards the computer and show me images of Dunns River and the Bob Marley Museum (which was stupid as I’m staying in Spanish Town). I couldn’t even pretend to be as excited as she was. Other than finding some decent weed and sunbathing, what was good about JA? I wasn’t even a fan of reggae music!
I boarded the plane but not before giving Mum her kiss goodbye and Steve his daily dirty look.
I landed in JA and after the turbulence of being greeted by people who’d help you with a smile and then try and charge you for doing their ‘deed for the day’ I saw Gran. I haven’t seen her in 11 years, I couldn’t even remember what she looked like, but like a magnet I was drawn to her. The sunset bounced off her skin and made her look like Tess Daily (the lady from ‘Touched By An Angel’). She was short, round and presumably cuddly. She wore a scarf on her head, a floral dress and white shoes. She fit the stereotype alright. A few steps closer and I could see her eyes. They glistened like the sun and that just melted me. Then she smiled and that was it. My heart bounced from my chest to my stomach and then back again and the tears fell. We said hello and hugged each other tight. She kissed my cheeks and my forehead then inspected me. Told me she couldn’t believe how much I’d grown and how pretty I was (add blush here). She also told me I was too skinny but that’s just a very ‘Gran’ thing to say so whatever.
She introduced me to Christian, the aptly named young deacon in her church. Christian nervously shook my hand. He looked at me like he was hungry. Gran tapped his arm and said ‘“keep your eyes on the Lord.’’ Christian took my suitcase and escorted me and Gran to his Truck.
The drive to Gran’s was the scariest event of my life! How we made it back in one piece I do not know! Swerving round the dips in the road only to plunge into the pot holes we didn’t see and nearly missing another bad driver or ditzy pedestrian continued throughout the whole journey. Christian and Gran seemed pretty mellow about the whole thing, but I was crying inside. I’ve never been a believer of God, but I prayed like a nun that day. That evening I hired a scooter and I’ve not got in a car or on a bus since. Gran called it ‘foolishness’, I call it ‘NOT WANTING TO DIE!!!’
Gran’s bungalow is pretty nifty. She takes a lot of pride in that house (a little too much in my opinion by hey ho). It’s pretty minimal; White walls, wooden floors, a few plants here, a few wooden fixtures there. Nothing to write home about, but she thinks it’s better than buckingham Palace. I stayed in the ‘guest room.’ Single bed; couple of hangers; a little dresser; not much but enough I guess.
Gran knows how to cook too! I’d never had plantain before but will make a habit of it when I get back…if they sell it. It’s a shame she doesn’t do chips tho. I was beginning to miss them. I also had the shock of my life when I discovered there’s no macky d’s! But I soon got over it when I tried her chicken, rice and peas.
Since my time here, I’ve not been to the touristy areas. I have however, taken long walks through old plantations, I’ve weaved my way through ghettos and I’ve sat in the churches. I’ve walked past the schools and seen the children so enthused by what they’re learning. Back home, you couldn’t pay me and my mates to smile during maths! But here, they talk about it like it’s a Hello Magazine exclusive!
I’ve visited the local library and read through archives and archives of names, dates, famous dudes, etc.
I listened to songs by Miss Lou, read up on the richness in Port Royal, cringed at the history of British Rule. I was embarrassed by my miseducation, enlightened by my re-education and totally welcoming of this new appreciation for my…‘otherness.’
I’m not sure what I’m going to do with this new found knowledge. I assume it’s something personal to me. I might fill Mum in on my new discoveries, but that’s about it. Besides, who in the UK would be interested?
Last night Gran put a little dinner together for me, some cousins and members of her church. You know, the usual reunion stuff; Plenty of food, continuos music- reggae was growing on me; general chit chat and an abundance of questions like ‘What’s England like? What d you think of JA? Do you think you’ll be coming back? How come you look so white?’
As the evening wound down, Gran and I sat on the porch and watched the sunset be replaced by the stars. We had the deepest conversation since my arrival and probably one of the deepest conversations I’ve had full stop.
It was pretty long but, to summarise she asked me what my plans are when I go back to England, to which I shrugged. She asked me what I’d plan to do when I leave school to which I shrugged. She looked a little disappointed. I obviously didn’t mean to hurt her, but I really didn’t have an answer. And now I really think about it, that’s pretty scary. I know I want to write…something. Perhaps fan fiction as I love reading the stuff and my english teacher ‘the Hutch’ says I’ve got real potential. When I told Gran writing may be a possibility her face lit up like a child at Christmas. “I wanted to be a writer when I was a little younger than you!” she said. She told me she used to write short stories about this ‘Susie doll’ she had. She said she planned to write stories that would make people think and have a deeper understanding of her culture. I’m not quite sure why she didn’t pursue it, but she seemed pretty keen on living this old dream through me. She went on and on about how I could use my writing to change people’s thoughts and write about the wonders of black culture. It all sounded very interesting, but not something I could do. I’m a fan fiction writer not Andrea Levy!
Anyways, Gran wouldn’t let me get a word in and in the middle of blurting out one of her many ideas, she jumped up, ran in her room and came back with an old tatty book. She said it was her diary and made me promise not to open it until I got to England. I assumed it was because she’d be embarrassed to watch me read it; kind of like when you hear yourself recorded.
The diary is in my bag at the mo and I’m having to resist opening it, even if it’s just for a little peak. But if there’s one thing I’m known for and would like to stay being known for, is my ability to be true to my word.
I must admit I was up half the night trying to take in everything Gran said. Obviously some things did take effect as this is my first blog and perhaps after reading ther diary, it may not be the last.
I leave JA in three days. Does that leave me enough time to ‘find myself’ or ‘discover more otherness?’ If it does, I’ll be sure to let you know in my next blog…that’s if I write another blog…