Letters to my sons.

Trying to explain the world to two very small children.

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A very strange day.

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At the start of February I started planning my 50th birthday party. 6 months was long enough to get everything ready and everyone invited and confirmed. As the month went on it was obvious that the UK would enter lock down and that my party plans would stay just that.

In the run up to the big day my sense dread increased as I thought about all the things I thought I would have achieved by the time I was 50. The dent I have created in the universe is largely insignificant although some of the things I campaigned for: the end of Apartheid in South Africa, a ban on fox hunting in the UK have happened. Both of these events didn’t play out the way I expected them to. South Africa could, and if you believed the ANC hype during the Apartheid years – should, have become a beacon for the world, a model society that would make Scandinavian countries look 2nd best.

At the student demonstrations I went to in the late 80’s against student loans there would always be someone from the ANC and he – always a man – would start with a raised fist and shout over the microphone “Amandla” and we would shout the word back. They would tell us what a perfect society South Africa would have in the future and that our help was appreciated and working.

The speakers where telling the truth about the end of apartheid – it was teetering on the edge and I’m glad that I played my small part in pushing it over. I’m also complicit in what came afterwards because the very same speakers had been lying about the future society that intended to create. They never mentioned the big houses and servants that they would be claiming for themselves, how the black majority would actually have a lower standard of living with their “champions” in charge than they did when ruled by a nasty racist cabal that didn’t even accept that they were fully human.

Fox hunting has sort-of-not-really been banned. It still happens and the people doing it either circumvent or simply ignore the law. When hunts are caught breaking the law the simply receive a slap on the wrist and then carry on regardless.

And then the all the things I cared about that have actually got worse: the gap between rich and poor, inequalities in health, poverty. The environment is now in a much worse state then when I was laughed at 1988 for asking for lights to be turned off at the Poly of Wales in places where they weren’t needed because the ice caps are melting.

Nothing for me to be proud of and things are actually worse not better.

Not a good way to start the day.

On a global scale I’ve achieved nowt but in my own little way I’m sure I’ve helped people and I know I have inspired one persons journey as a musician. Maybe that is my limit. And as I was thinking about this, that my life has had a positive impact in so much that it has at least created two other lives, the sad news came in that my father in law had – your Uncle Ken – had passed away.

I have many memories of the man – all of them good as he was essentially, a good man. He liked a drink and sometimes an argument, never held a grudge and went out of his way to accommodate. I remember just he and I driving to somewhere in Trinidad and he asked me to pull over. He got out and took some leaves from a small tree and then pulled some more leaves from a plant in the ground. He explained that the leaves on the small tree were for a health drink and that the plant on the ground was Shado Beni – used in cooking. It was a good few years later, while watching Masterchef, that I saw a new and completely new way of preparing food – foraging!! The fact that millions, maybe billions of people everyday do the same thing out of necessity or habit, didn’t seem to trouble the program makers or presenter. Nobody gave Uncle Ken three Michelin Stars.

And here I am, the day after, wondering what I have learnt from all this, how I should respond and how it might shape my future. And I honestly don’t know.

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August 25th, 2020 at 11:34 am

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