Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Love Is...

Love is always impatient, and usually unkind. It always envies, often boasts, and is endlessly proud. It can be rude, and is inherently self-seeking (either in a philosophical sense or otherwise), and cannot avoid keeping a record of wrongs, either yours or theirs. True, love does not delight in evil (yet can sometimes be complicit with it), but rarely does it delight in the truth, if the truth does not live up to its hopes. It tries to protect, tries to trust, can't help but hope, and is defined by its perseverence.

Yeah, I know the Bible. It just needs to be corrected for the modern romance. Love is cruel, it is bleak, but now and then, rare as it may seem, it is beautiful.
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Monday, 11 October 2010

The Valley

This will show up on Facebook. If it does, you'll notice that it's recycled. Just wanted to reshare.

Tell me all about your silent questions,
The images of life you fail to lose.
Talk about the long and rambling lessons,
The heartless anguish placed in front of you.
I've been down to beggar's end within a
Minute of exertion; I've been
Stripped apart by vagabonds with
Gloves made out of gold. I have
Walked across the valley with a
Donkey on my back, and I can
Tell a thousand stories that should
Never have been told.

Images and photographs of madness,
Lines of black and white, depicting grey.
What your eyes have seen, no-one could fathom,
What you can recall, no-one could say. I have
Seen a row of palisades de-
Fending empty spaces; I have
Witnessed refugees campaign for
Rights they've always had. I have
Seen the towns of concrete turn in-
To a sea of snow, and I have
Seen into the blackened souls of
All the nation's glad.

Resonate with life's emphatic madness,
The tinkering of bells and measured weights.
The litany of lives you have encountered,
Obituary passages await.
I'll recite the speeches made from mounts of
Manufactured diamonds, I'll re-
Late the frenzied feeding of a
Thousand hungry birds. I can
Tell a story resolute and
Free from tailors hands, but they run
Few and far between, and they have
Apathetic words.

What about the men who walked beside you,
The ones you passed on roads of blackened glass.
The faces you have coloured in your libraries,
The memories of people that don't last? I have
Met a thousand socialites with
Blood upon their dresses, I have
Knelt with sullen faces in the
Shadow of the flag. I have
Studied with a poet, but I
Never saw his face, and I have
Met a thousand children living
Out of plastic bags.

Tell me where your path leads from this moment;
The journey that awaits beyond my door.
Imagine all the roads you may encounter,
The choices you can make, or else ignore. I will
See the face of tyranny with
Holes within its pockets, I will
Cast my piece of gravel with the
Millions I can't see. I will
Watch as boundaries fall, and new ones
Spring up in their wake, and I will
Reminisce on times I never
Witnessed, when we're free.

I will
Stand without a hesitation,
Free from selfish doubts, and I will
Point my finger proudly at the
Ones we've singled out. I will
Ride the waves of emerald wastes, be-
Reft of shallow waters, and I
Challenge all who hear me to ex-
Plain what it's about.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

How I Feel About Being Black...

Allow me to waffle away for a little while. I'm currently in my new flat, shared with three of the nicest guys you could ever hope to meet, wasting the days away contentedly until Uni starts up again. Life is slow, idle, and just the way I like it.

But no, I'm here to talk about race. Namely mine, straight-up Black-African. Ethnic minorities are no small thing in the UK, yet 92% of everyone in the country is white. Unsurprising, certainly to be expected. This includes all the white minorities, be they European, American, what have you. I am part of a far less sizable 2% of the population who are black; and as I'm not from the Caribbean or West Africa (read: Nigeria), I am of an even smaller subsection of the population. To the point where I think my parents know all the Zimbabweans in the country by now.

The UK, when broad strokes are applied liberally, is socially structured via the infamous class-system, which divides the country's citizens into various social strata for easier classification (see how the word "classification" has "class" within it? This is social science at work). Essentially there's the working, middle and upper classes; working class being the folks behind the counter, middle class being the folks buying Happy Meals for their kids, and the upper class pulling into the drive-thru in their Bentleys and asking for medium-rare steaks. Generalisation, sure, but we all know where to place ourselves.

Myself, I fit neatly into the middle-class. I have attended both state and private schools, I have been educated abroad as well as in the UK, I abhor rap music and have a penchant for the oldies. My favourite film is Blade Runner. My favourite musician is Bob Dylan. If I had a white man's hair, it'd be long and scraggly. I took a pseudo-gap year in which I did nothing. I am studying the humanities. And yet I'm black.

Before y'all start kicking off about how it is who I am that defines me, let me be perfectly clear that I too think this should be the case, and in a perfect world I wouldn't feel like writing this because it'd just be a whole lot of fuss about nothing. But it does matter, as I am an anomaly because of something I can do nothing about. I find myself partially defined by something I go against most of my waking hours, and have no barometer upon which to measure my social activity. I am anxious, frustrated, with nary a sense of why or against whom. It's a matter of perception, not how I perceive myself, but how society has trained people to perceive me. I am unable to exude an accurate image of who I am through what I look like alone. Sure, once you get to know me perhaps it is hard to think of me in any other way, but to the uninitiated, I'm just another black guy walking down the street. Even I get uncomfortable around black people, but luckily that's OK, because I'm one of them.

Allow me to stereotype for a moment.

British society's present image of the average black youth currently revolves around mugshots and headlines. There are twice as many black people in prison than there are in university. The people we have to look up to, who have succeeded in life despite the colour of their skin are those in the music business (constantly glorifying the perks of violence, substances and the nonstop party climate that, in reality, merely results in further dismay) and the sporting world (where the only thing you need to do in life to succeed is to kick a ball rather well, or run faster than everyone else). I read something recently somewhere that sums up what I'm trying to say: "Young black people don't want to be middle class: they want to be rich." Now.

Obama has stepped in as the de-facto role model of the day, despite his dipping approval ratings and rather lacklustre spectacle once he actually became president (at least for us in the UK; then again, I have no idea who any black British politicians are). And yet it was naive to think that by having a black person somewhere attain the highest office in his country, that we would see a new era dawning for black people everywhere. Wishful thinking, perhaps.

As my rampant stereotyping and generalisation have hinted, black people are increasingly defined by what we see and hear about ourselves in the media. Young black Brits are rude boys and gangstas, whether they truly aspire to that image or not. Peer pressure discourages those who wish to become their own person, insisting on a status quo of posturing. There are not enough of us to decide what we want to do, so we merely distort the American image of the pushers and the pimps to our own ends, substitute the guns for knives, and let it all kick off. For just about 2% of the population, we certainly find ourselves in a hefty amount of mugshots. If Raoul Moat had been a nineteen year old black boy from North London, no-one would have batted an eye. You walk the streets in the outskirts of the City and count the shrines to murdered relatives, friends, gang members. A lot of trouble for not-a-lot of people.

And so here I stand. No black people make the music I like to listen to. No black actors portray people like myself. No black people speak like I do. I have no black friends apart from relatives and those I knew in Zimbabwe. I can't run, I can't rap, I can't dance. Yet I get stop-searched more than probably necessary, people look uncomfortable if I am walking near them at night, my sense of humour is increasingly defined by my ethnicity, and I find myself venting in words. I don't like how I sweat more than my friends, how I can't grow a proper beard, how my hair is so monotonous, how I could never reasonably portray any president except Obama in a hit Hollywood movie.

I am physically black, sociologically white, and unable to reconcile these hemispheres. I am involuntarily black middle-class.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Those Were Days Of Roses...

To begin, I'd like to assure those who came out that I had a really great time tonight (5/7/10) and the tone of my blog post does not reflect my opinion of said night out :).

I've never been one to think of myself as being one of the young guns, but I have become one of the last of my high-school class to reach the suspiciously inauspicious age of 20. The numbers themselves, seem unnerving, there hasn't been a number "2" in my age since I was twelve, and it's here to stay for a whole decade. I can't do anything that I couldn't do previously within the eyes of the law, but I am no longer a teenager, no longer a recently departed high-schooler, and now a plain-and-simple university student, pretending that the whole world is at my feet when my every academic decision pigeonholes me further into a niche which I am yet to decipher.

Also, tonight I celebrated this supposedly momentous occasion (a week late, I must add) by hitting up the now-infamous Lloyd's Bar/Oceana double whammy. I saw infamous as the combo has been used countless times in the past, largely during the reckless Year 13 which saw us all comfortably getting along with one another, forming cliques and groups, making Facebook events and relaying mass text messages. After that year ended, and summer began with the departure of several of us to foreign lands, still short-sighted to the fact that there was no constant to which to return to any more. School's out for summer; school's out forever.

Uni brings new friends, new experiences, new mindsets. The shift from dinner cooked by mum every evening, being picked up from the tennis courts or the rather small car park and going to Llandaff for chips and sweet-n'-sour sauce, to university halls, student nights and the Blackboard learning system means that what we once thought of as paramount becomes a mere afterthought, and the structures once so solid and secure become dust in the wake of this new world. We take everything we had in school and we compact, we distinguish, we discard. The friends we remain with are the ones who we keep forever (in theory, knowing full well that theory never pans out exactly as we'd hypothesised), and the ones we begin to ignore are mere acquaintances along the way; perhaps useful one day for business contacts, scrounging upon celebrity, or even just filling up seats and the wedding.

What do we do with our old friends? The ones we love, but hardly ever see; with whom we instantly fall back into comfortable rhythms and rapport, but who we no longer have on our lists of recently texted contacts. We catch up. Forever, and ever catching up; no longer a proper part of one another's lives we resign ourselves to making a dogged but ultimately futile attempt to stay absolutely up to date with the goings on of each other's lives, but are not allowed to become a part of their tapestry of life ever again. Always observing the craftsmanship and the details, but never volunteering an idea for the next chapter.

On a similar subject, here's a bit of Tom Waits, with Martha from the Closing Time album of '73; a song about catching up. It's beautiful, and when I think of what I've told y'all about tonight, it's a little heartbreaking.

Operator, number, please: it's been so many years
Will she remember my old voice while I fight the tears?
Hello, hello there, is this Martha? This is old Tom Frost,
And I am calling long distance, don't worry 'bout the cost.
'Cause it's been forty years or more, now Martha please recall,
Meet me out for coffee, where we'll talk about it all.

And those were the days of roses, poetry and proses
And Martha all I had was you and all you had was me.
There was no tomorrows, we'd packed away our sorrows
And we saved them for a rainy day.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

That's What Friends Are For...

I don't know how good a friend I am; obviously my level of friendship varies from person to person, and I don't profess to be equally wonderful/obnoxious to everyone I meet. Nonetheless, it's still reasonable to say that everyone approaches the art of making friends in different ways. Mine is a more passive, blend-in-with-the-crowd method, others adopt a firm and coloured personality that endears them to some, and shuns others. My method has, as its main bonus, the ability to make friends with almost anyone I meet. My circles of friends have varied vastly, and I imagine I'll meet ever more diverse people as the years roll on.

The flaw in my method comes with the second, far more important part; keeping friends. Between the beginning of my education and now, I've been to eight different schools (KCL included), which I feel has altered my perception of what a friend is. A childhood friend for most is someone you've known for a while, grown up together, experienced all the changes of life together, and you can share that; it's natural, it's what you do. When outsider Nash comes in, you bring him into your circle and go about your lives; but the void in background means that, ultimately, you'll always be better friends with those you've known for years. You're apt to share your secrets, your worries, all the minutiae of strong casual relationships, and save Nash for the immediate and the now, the parties and the homework worries.

Coming to King's, on the other hand, has put a different spin on things. I can't rely on my previous framework, since no-one knows each other here (save for some occasional pairs or threes from the same high school). A chance to start afresh, with the shared experience of university at your doorstep. Still, slowly but surely, it's happening again. You hear conversations about events you've missed, in-jokes you don't understand, plans you weren't privy to. You hear whispered secrets and hushed voices, things you aren't supposed to hear; are people talking about themselves? About you? How did this happen? Are you predisposed to make fast friends, but shallow friends? A flaw that can only be attributed to yourself, as everyone else seems to be getting along just fine.

After all, what's a friend? For the average guy or gal in uni, what does a friend mean to you? Is it a sounding board to bounce back the thoughts churning in your mildly insecure head? Is it a willing sidekick to your nights of debauchery and drunken mayhem, as you paint the town red in an effort to have a story to tell in the morning, complete with photos for the Book and lipstick on the sheets? Is it a repository for your deepest feelings, darkest secrets?

Somehow, I've presented my image of a friend as a guy who comes along, jokes a bit, drinks a bit, and fades into the background like a comforting mass in the ether. It'd be easy to say it takes two to make a friendship work (indeed, this is probably the most comforting thing I could imagine for my situation), but I'm just afraid that I'm the one who isn't putting the effort in.

Now playing: The Rolling Stones - Beast Of Burden
via FoxyTunes

Friday, 8 January 2010

True Grit

Realised the blog was getting rather dreary, verging on the depressing. And if there's one thing Nash isn't, it's depressed (then again, maybe that's exactly the kind of denial that signals the onset of huge psychological traumas...but probably not. I'm thinking a bit much of this, says I). So I wanted to talk about grit.

You know grit, everyone does, especially in these hard times of freak snow storms and torrential flurries. Grit is the backbone of winter society, it allows us the mobility and freedom to move about in the world, to carry on business as usual, to maintain the stiff upper lip of British endeavour and enterprise. Grit is often under-appreciated and overused, to the point where the only social discourse about grit seems to occur when it's absent from our roads, and we realise just how much we need it. Grit is probably our only true weapon against the elements, possibly against climate change itself. It is crucial that we make our appreciation for grit paramount in the days ahead, in order for our nation to prosper as it should.

I want to invent self-gritting shoes, but I lack the technical expertise, financial requirements or the can-do attitude necessary. Anyone who steals this idea will have to answer to a sternly worded Facebook wall-post.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Stuck In A Moment...

'Tis my blog, right? Means I can talk at myself, about myself at will without recourse, correct? Class. OK, so, if some people cope with whatever troubles them through artistic endeavours or violent episodes, I'll cope with a post on this dusty old thing.

Hope all reading had a happy Christmas, and an agreeable New Year's do (somehow managed to blind myself in my left eye on NYW morning, meaning my own celebrations were sober, monoscopic and alone). The holiday has been an eye-opening one, for saddening reasons. I'm (hell, we all are) drifting away from a state that I was completely at ease with, into a set of circumstances that I don't fully know or understand. I don't know what to do about it, it's entirely out of my hands, and the groundwork necessary to maintain a status quo was necessary years ago.

I miss school an awful lot, and though uni is wonderful (and the cast of characters that I've met are an uncommonly excellent bunch of people), there was something about school that meant that I didn't have to worry about whether my relationships with my friends were being maintained. I'm not a massively social person, but I selfishly require a constant knowledge that people are there when I care to look. A poor state of mind, and I need to change it, but I've run out of time. There's friendships that are carrying on, thriving in the online cloud despite the foundation of constant contact we used to be afforded. But I can't do that, try as I might. And it doesn't stop me from missing people; it'd be a lot easier if it did.

Tried texting some people today, but occasionally the number I have is no longer valid. Nails in the coffin, I guess.