Thursday, 31 December 2020

We are the World Blogfest # 44 Happy New Year 2021 …


All the very best everyone … there’s so much to be grateful for … many of us are blessed – equally I know, too many have suffered and continue to do so …


 

Happy New Year 2021
It has been an extraordinary year … and one which we will remember in many different ways … I’m overloaded with Brexit and Covid …

 



see link below
For now I can only think of how Altruistic much of humanity is being … while we all look forward to a better tomorrow …

 




 

Healthy selection of fresh foods
Here’s to an easier 2021 … eat local, eat well, stay healthy, stay strong, help others and keep your spirits up – there is much to be positive about … little steps towards that better tomorrow …


 



A song for 2021 … with words to take into your hearts:

 



Welcome 2021 … ‘Bring Me Sunshine’ …

Morecombe & Wise’s song c/o YouTube …see lyrics …

 

 

Scilly Isles narcissi



We are the World Blogfest

In Darkness, Be Light

 

 Altruism Health Benefits - Mental Health Foundation

 

Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

London visits, Small Axe reminders of life before South Africa, Stories from a South African childhood …

 

Having taken myself back down memory lane through my London visits earlier this year, then watching Steve McQueen’s Small Axe films about the lives of West Indian immigrants in the London I’d spent time in: the 1970s …


 

… then Trevor Noah’s book ‘Born a Crime’, which Donna of Retirement Reflections had read during her recent time out to catch up with some books, and writing a review reminded me to read …

 


This again took me back … I was a na├»ve white 30 year old setting out to travel and see life in other parts of the world … I got no further than South Africa … I’m not a real wanderer – but I am so pleased I’ve had that experience of living abroad and seeing other parts of southern Africa – Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia …

 

I had no idea what exactly apartheid was … I hadn’t been aware of divisions in life – but note at a late age, I was about to learn …

 

Trevor Noah’s book ‘Born A Crime’ really took me back to living in South Africa, Johannesburg, and being able to share his experiences through my remembrances from that other side of life.

 



The book hits me with its frontispiece detail: ‘Immorality Act, 1927’ … with a sub-heading ‘To prohibit illicit carnal intercourse between Europeans and natives and other acts in relation thereto’, before a very brief explanation that this Act is enacted by the King’s Most Excellent, Majesty, the Senate and the House of Assembly of the Union of South Africa, as follows: -

 

Section 1 for the European male …

Section 2 for the native female …


I won’t go into the descriptions – enough said I was shocked and horrified to read.



For me … he really takes me back to my side of life, shown by him as he had to experience it … through his story telling as he grows up … with each tale giving some background detail about different aspects …

 

Map showing dominant languages
by area - see Wiki language section
… for example: he explains ‘apartheid’ … ‘apart hate’ … the overwhelming majority of peoples were encouraged to turn on each other – because they were from different tribes with different languages: Zulu, Xhosa, Tswana, Sotho, Venda, Ndebele, Tsonga, Pedi, and more …

 

(Note black South Africans outnumbered white South Africans nearly five to one).

 

Sign that was in Durban


Noah divides the two groups of whites who oppressed the non-white population … the British and the Afrikaners … the British gave a glimmer of hope … learn to speak correct English and dress properly, then there was hope for acceptance.  Afrikaner racism was much worse …

 




The stories are vignettes preceded by a note of morality … mostly about his mother – her love of church and her insistence they attend each Sunday, her knowledge of right and wrong, her ability to find ways round the system to achieve her aims … but without jeopardising their lives (though you might disagree with that with some of the things she did) – she found the cracks, crept in and lived …

 

Performing on his 'Loud and
Clear'
tour in 2019.
He is a comedian, tv host,
author and more in the USA

… or a preceding information page on the history, background about the peoples of Southern Africa …

 



… reminding me of when I first lived in Hillbrow – an inner city residential area on the ridge on which Johannesburg is sited … at that stage it was Apartheid-designated “whites only” … but soon became a “grey area” … where it was quite cosmopolitan. 

 

Landing by Bartholomew Diaz
in 1488
Once again memories are stirred by the internet of today, and by booklets and information I have tucked away here … that I’ve wanted to write about … perhaps all these posts will lead me to those thoughts …

 


I’d better stop – otherwise Christmas will be here – but Trevor Noah’s book does tie much together … he’s now in the States, having been born in 1984 six years after I arrived in South Africa.  I’ve never lived in the States, but had the privilege of that year (2017) in Canada … so learnt and am still learning about those countries.

 


Constitutional Court

All I can say now – is thank you to Donna for reading ‘Born A Crime’ … which is an easy read – though tells its story, which may not be easy to read, and for which there is much to go back to and read again if one so wishes …

 



Trevor Noah Wiki article ... 


Here's Donna's post in Retirement Reflections:

Reading Break ... 


Joanne of Word Splash - Joanne Faries - her review of Trevor's book ... 


Have a blessed and peaceful Christmas everyone ... take care and stay safe - with thoughts to one and all ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Saturday, 19 December 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series # 5 “Education” …

 

“Education” is last of these amazing films … which are receiving acclaim from all quarters over here …

 

From a YouTube link on
'How to Draw a Rocket Ship'

We see a very bright boy interested in the stars and planets, while wanting to be an astronaut, who was good at maths, able to communicate, excellent at art with an imagination that was broad – only to be undone as a child by an education system that was populated with racist teachers with exceedingly narrow and unhelpful minds.

 

The child, Kingsley, portrayed by an outstanding young actor ‘Kenyah Sandy’, is followed through this nightmare … his problem is he cannot read … he’s dyslexic and terrified of disclosing this problem – suffering at school, concealing it at home. 


Star Cluster Pismis 24
with nebula

The school shuns him – offering no choices or help – he is to go to a ‘special school’ … where all the kids who cannot help themselves go … those who are definitely backward, those who will struggle, and those whom the ‘system’ is not prepared to recognise.

 




The teachers … if they can be called that … just take the mickey out of the system … for example one of their teachers incessantly plays ‘House of the Rising Sun’ badly on his guitar … to a class that cannot do anything about it – authority disinterestedly suppresses.

 

Debuts 25 July 1964



It is painful to watch … but McQueen brings each scene to life by taking it back to the 1970s … all details exactly as they would have been.

 



It is, as it happens, autobiographical … and we see that early part of McQueen's/Kingsley's life unfold – he’s a kid, he doesn’t know what to do … his elder sister is supportive, their mother is working three jobs, their father a carpenter/tradesman … their own aspirations – suppressed by the British system.

 

Steve McQueen c/o Washington Post - 
see article below
Fortunately the women in the West Indian community realise something needs to be done … one goes undercover to the appalling sub-normal school – and sees the disaster being wreaked …


 

… another colleague goes to see Kingsley’s mother … who cannot understand what’s been happening … and whose husband is typically locked into the way of life … downtrodden, and certainly has no aspirations for his family or himself.

 

The women persuade the family to let Kingsley attend Saturday school, put on by understanding West Indian parents to help children who struggle. 

 

Amazon book on 'The Glory of
African Kings and Queens' - by
Pusch Commey



Kingsley very quickly thrives … his talents are recognised, his curiosity is acknowledged by being encouraged … he learns to read … and is seen round the family dinner table getting to grips with his reading through a children’s history of African kings and queens.

 



Steve McQueen – as we now know did get out of the sub-normal school system and has achieved so much with his life – which I will write about in 2021.

 

Kenyah Sandy as 'Kingsley' in the BBC film

There’s an interesting snippet in the film … when the West Indian Women’s Association … whose aim is to allow children to blossom, and not be kept back by ‘the system’ …

 

… as the parents can, if they’re in the period of appeal, apply to get their children out from the sub-normal schools into regular schooling … by writing to the Secretary of State for Education – who at that time was Margaret Thatcher – our future British Prime Minister!

 

These have all been extraordinary films … with Education being the last of the five … appropriate … as it lets us know about the British school system fifty years ago (1970s) …

 

An appropriate Chinese proverb
… but I would also suggest opens our eyes to other ways of life … back then and now … here in this country, and in other countries in this muddled world we seem to find ourselves in …

 

 

The book written by
Bernard Coard on the
system published 1971


It is well worth seeing … as poor schooling, lack of appreciation of others’ societies, where our historical roots might be … has been the ruin of many a poor person




 


I will struggle to enjoy that song ever again … the visuals will remain …

 

Thank you for reading, commenting and being interested – there will be more … along slightly different lines in 2021, as well as report backs on outings I haven’t written up about …

 

One more post before Christmas and the New Year … which ties many of my recent posts together … it’ll be short …

 

Washington Post article with Steve McQueen on this his 5th film in the Small Axe series ...  

Article on the 'How the West Indian Child is made institutionally sub-normal in the British School System' ... by Bernard Coard

Article from The Guardian - by Bernard Coard on why he wrote the English Sub-Normal Schools book - see in post


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories

Sunday, 13 December 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series #4 “Alex Wheatle”…

 The penultimate film in Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series is about how the Jamaican, Alex Wheatle (born 1963), changed his life after being encouraged in prison to understand his history.

 

Sheyi Cole as Alex Wheatle

Wheatle had been writing lyrics about everyday life in Brixton, south London and was working as a DJ … but when the Brixton riot of 1981 was going on he saw the police beating up a friend … he retaliates ending up in prison.


 

Bob Marley statue in 
Kingston, Jamaica by
Alvin Marriott

His cellmate an educated Rastafarian, encourages him to see the future through reading more, expanding and caring about his education, as well as his own future and others’ lives: over which he will have influence (whether he goes back to his old ways, or changes while he has the chance)





Chester Himes in 1946

 … he is able to read authors such as Chester Himes, Richard Wright, CLR James (1901 - 1989) {living for a while in Brixton} and John Steinbeck … but it is Himes (1909 – 1984) who truly influences Wheatle …

 




… there are similarities … British prison life v American penitentiary … Wheatle for a short time, but long enough to learn so much … and Himes for much longer, though his term was paroled …

 

C L R James


… they were both able to write and took time in prison to improve their talent, submit stories to magazines, while earning respect for this ability.

 


Brixton Riots 1981 - showing police
cordon with shields



Wheatle is in London, Himes was in London, Ohio … but Himes’ stories were violent … about police treatment, race relations, Jim Crow laws …

 



Himes’ Harlem Detective novels (Harlem Renaissance time frame) further inspired Wheatle in his approach to crime novels, and encouraged him to stretch his literary abilities …


Three Women in Harlem c 1925

 

Wheatle’s life story features as this fourth film in the Small Axe series … the settings are real-life, but sparse … it is eye-opening … as my curiosity has expanded … I’ve been absorbed exploring …

 


The last film tonight will be ‘Education’ … which I’m sure will open my eyes even further …

 


Steve McQueen’s filmography is exceptional … the scenes are well staged and touching … which will remind us about the challenge some peoples encounter in their lives … and, I hope, wonder if we can help change this narrative by educating ourselves.

 


Wheatle's 'The
Guardian's' Children's
Ficton Prize

Alex Wheatle is now an author, crime novelist, children’s author, playwright, with a recognised voice who is empowering those who will listen to think about life and how it works …

 



This film in the Small Axe series … dramatically shows us how Wheatle fell in love with reading the works by black writers and other authors new to him … and then learnt to adapt his writing style …

 




I’m going to watch this evening’s film … and as I’ve come to appreciate a great deal more from McQueen’s approach to story-telling, as well as things I’ve found out about crime-writing … I’ll be back with more posts …

 

Alex Wheatle's first thriller


A couple of links to explore or refer back to … there are others … but as most of our minds are rather fractured at the moment, despite the season, I’ll leave you with these …

 AlexWheatle, and

 Alex Wheatlethe film

 Article byVincent Dowd, Arts correspondent, BBC News on an interview with Alex Wheatle on why the 'amazing Chester Himes' should be better known ... 


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Monday, 7 December 2020

Steve McQueen – Small Axe anthology film series #2: “Lovers Rock”; and #3 “Red, White and Blue” …

 

Two more of the Oscar-winning director Steve McQueen’s deeply personal accounts of the black British experience in the 1980s continue …

 

“Lovers Rock” – I hate to say it … but I couldn’t get my head into this one –there was no narrative, music I didn’t understand … I fell asleep at the beginning, woke up to see and hear a 5 minute segment of, as far as I was concerned, repetitive song where a house-full young dancers were living life in the early 1980s (when I was no longer living in England) … and of course didn’t finish watching.

 

However having read the outstanding reviews etc – I needed to understand at least – “Lovers Rock” will never be my cup of tea … but I can learn about the challenges faced by the Caribbean or African peoples …


 

Lovers Rock music is a reggae style noted for its romantic sound and content,  exemplified by the British 1979 hit ‘Silly Games’ by Janet Kay;  its roots lie in the rock steady era … when Ken Boothe, Johnny Nash and John Holt enjoyed international hits with versions of well-known love songs.

 

The Lovers ... via a newspaper image taken by me
The setting is a ‘blues party’ in a West Indian household near Ladbroke Grove – where guests are charged for entrance, booze and food … a DJ blasts out Jamaican reggae infused with American soul … causing the residents and dancers to move rhythmically slowly into near spiritual ecstasy.

 

The lovers are part of this heady world … and we follow their nascent relationship unfolding against this background … over one long night.

 

The Jamaican - Ken Boothe
The Guardian’s review waxes lyrical about McQueen’s film making … the way he brings the period and location to life, along with the very personal representation of how life was lived … party, to racism from the locals, to prejudice from the police, to church … all coming about through these party-houses because black people felt unwelcome in mostly white nightclubs.

 


Red, White and Blue” … I did enjoy … especially as I’d done my homework and knew where the lead character, Leroy Logan, was heading in his life. 

 

John Boyega as Leroy Logan.
again from a photo of a newspaper image
I might otherwise have been disappointed in the paucity of the story … as we’re only given the first few working years of a former Metropolitan Policeman’s life – a black police officer in an essentially white force.

 

But, as you might expect, the story telling was excellent … Leroy Logan, the son of Jamaican parents, achieved a scientific degree,  held a job as a research assistant … before giving it all up and joining the police – we witness his family’s exasperation as he apparently gives up his all - a successful forensics job.

 

He had witnessed his father being viciously attacked, and understood the loathing of law enforcement sensed by his community, but felt he wanted to change people’s outlooks from within the Metropolitan Police. 


He ends up being rejected for promotion – albeit being the top, if not the top, achieving officer … wanting to step over the line, but refusing to do so … so started his career – the endless grind of getting up each morning, priming his uniform … ready for each very challenging day: both from within and without.

 

John Boyega filming c/o We Live
Entertainment
He faces racist insults from his colleagues, and open rejection from his community.  We see the story slowly unfold … John Boyega playing Leroy Logan, making every scene painfully real … in this fact based drama.

 

The film is not long – but hits home, while we understand he rose, with tenacity, through the ranks to become a former superintendent in the London Metropolitan Police and was both a founding member of the Black Police Association and its chair for 30 years.

 

He has been described as “one of the Black officers who helped change the Met” … I would hope that his and McQueen’s influence continues to change our perceptions and understanding of human life.

 

Traditional Blue Lamp
outside most police stations

Leroy Logan has, in conjunction with McQueen, recently published his autobiography “Closing Ranks: My Life as a Cop”

 


… there’s admiration here from McQueen who himself  has done so much for black film, cinema and black issues within black diaspora.

 

Last night was the 4th film of the series of 5 … which will be another interesting aspect of black British life … which is so informative for us in this day and age.

 

McQueen in 2013 with
Michael Fassbender
I will do a more informed write up on Steve McQueen’s career – so I can learn, but then if you wish you too can appreciate his amazing abilities in the creative world. 

 

I’m finding the experience of  Steve McQueen’s work extraordinary as I explore more about his experimentation and slow development into becoming a filmmaker – though, despite that success, the artistic talent has not dimmed.  He is constantly exploring and breaking new creative ground.


Small Axe Mini-series summary and links ... 

We Live Entertainment ... 'Small Axe' Review of Red, White and Blue ...


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories


Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Write … Edit … Publish … Bloghop / ISWG hop: Unmasked …

 

Ah ha … at last an invitation to a ‘Masked Ball’ … whew – how lovely … a family and friends gathering …

 


The War had been awful – food had been so scarce … the weather hadn’t helped any of us … at least the Autumn had been kind … plenty of berries around …

 


The gathering was fabulous … everyone had raided their dressing up boxes: no necessity to use since 1914 when the Great War was declared.  Lots of different sparkly, glittery masks … some full face, some half …


 Flouncy dresses, part-hidden corsets, colours of rich red, soft velvety green, purple lined cloaks … cloth-of-gold waistcoats, silver and black tuxedos … stoles, boas and wraps … all beautifully coloured – the War was over … time for some celebrations … even amongst the grief … 


… though rationing was still around – it was and had been so difficult to get any decent food – this family had been fortunate … things from the estate … 



What was on offer … the invitation was a Masked Ball Tea in the late afternoon to early evening … 




Friends and family gathered – the host and hostess happily welcomed everyone … feasting began … simple fare – sandwiches – savoury and sweet, some mishappen vegetables, seasonal fruits that had lasted … 



… plenty of sherry, port or brandy – from the cellars no doubt, pots of tea too – one could get water – even in War time … 




The glittering crowd … a diadem here, a glistening trinket there, dripping jewels from neck and wrists, gold watches secure in pockets … eyes twinkling hidden behind the masks …

 


The cacophony of laughs, whispered nudges, loud stories being told by men with stentorious voices …

 

At the end of the room on a dais – stood the table loaded with green boughs and ivy fronds from the garden, topped with the most wonderful looking cake – how they all longed for a slice of moist fruit cake … 





… full of dried fruit … softened in sherry or port … candied fruit, nuts, spices … all mixed together … mouths were watering – such treats unknown since the conflict had begun …

 


The host and hostess ascended the dais – held up the sword – which glistened sharply across the room – the noise of the throng slowly silenced …

 


The announcement to welcome everyone present … just noting that they’d decided to hold this gathering before Christmas to have a chance to see everyone – so there was nothing specific to celebrate – but the hostess had thought a moist fruit cake would be something wonderful to have …




… shot glasses were handed around, bottles of sherry, port, brandy, champagne, wines were offered up, more tea, and soft drinks were at the ready …

 



… ready for a slice of cake everyone … oh at last – the sword was released to his wife – she held it aloft … he bent down and with a flourish … unmasked the cake …

 


… what ….?!?!?!  the icing, decoration were just a sham cover … there wasn’t any marzipan either … oh dear, oh dear … 



Plaster casting
Quiet reigned over their friends … the host apologised … there really wasn’t any sugar for the icing … as he was a surgeon – they’d persuaded the orthopaedics department to make a food covering for the cake …

 


Sorry everyone – but sometimes life gets us unmasked … now come on enjoy the moist cake with a shot or two of the fermented intoxicant of your choice …


An unmasked story … in a pandemic year …


PS story based on Robert Graves' - whose wedding cake at the end of WW1 had a plaster cast instead of icing over marzipan!


Hilary Melton-Butcher

Positive Letters Inspirational Stories