Babylondon calling

I know sun is shining
Somewhere across the sea
I know sun is shining
That’s good enough for me
No need to worry anymore
No need to worry cause I know
The sun’s gonna break through the winter haze

The Camel, Fat Freddy’s Drop

The instinct to hibernate appeals to me. In a way I suppose it shouldn’t for someone who was born in the sun and loves the feel of it on her shoulders.
The instinct to hibernate brings me to Babylon-don. To bleak skies and days so cold that I am rarely tempted to venture out. So I camp out in the kitchen warmed by jazz and bursts of cooking and listening to radio documentaries and dramas. My television is the kitchen door that gives me a view to the back garden, which is teeming with London wildlife: fat pigeons and kamikaze squirrels and the occasional fox. Funny that I have to come to a big noisy city to find some peace. To unplug from the haste of island life, the noisiness and the bright colours.
Even the rain whispers, like a conscientious nurse careful not to wake a sleeping patient.
Friends can’t quite understand why I’ve turned up now. In the midst of a bad winter, in the midst of a certain financial crisis. Friends who curse me for not bringing the sun in my pockets to lighten their days.
When the spirit moves me I leave the house to engage with the cold on my face, fighting its way through my layers of wool and cotton and the Tribe Called Quest I blast into my ears to steel my courage against it all. I am relieved to discover it isn’t as cold as I think it’s going to be.
It is the winter of discontent, the winter of few getaways. The winter of sales before Boxing Day. The winter of no new stylish winter gear, no ski weekend in the Swiss Alps. It is the winter of more men asking you for spare change on the streets.
I end up in Camden to check out a band called Spasm, a real callaloo of musicians from all over the place. They play a Kuti-esque percussiony funk with a good measure of Midnight Robber whistling from the lead vocalist, a Trini poet called Anthony Joseph. He bobs and weaves like a soca-soaked preacher man and sings a lament for his grandfather’s cutlass that was so sharp it could leave a mark in water.
Later a New Zealand reggae band with full brass and the most beautiful Maori man rock the Roundhouse. The sun is going to shine again, he sings in a surprisingly soulful voice that makes me so full of love for London. He sings into the middle distance for a place I know. He sings for all the exiles/ ex-isles in the crowd, white, black, indigenous.
He sings for me and my Londoner sistren, home and away, different and the same. Searching for meaning and feeling and purpose in a world driven to the brink by greed.
He sings for all the runners. All of us who have used our escape hatch. All the shape shifters, moving in and between forms like music moving from blues to dub to funk and everything in between.
He sings for all who can afford to run. Who can’t bear the stagnation that is familiarity. For the thrill seekers and the big thinkers who can’t be held in the box of their little islands.
I wonder on the bus back to Brixton, what would be my sanity level if I couldn’t afford to run.
If I couldn’t skate out when I got fed up enough and bored enough of state of things in Trinidad what would I do with myself?
Who would I be if I had to stay confined to an island for all the days of my life? Imprisoned in a way of living and thinking.
I feel no guilt anymore for running away. For riding out temporarily in the interest of my own sanity. For disconnecting from the BS in which I am so emotionally invested.
The thing you run from comes to meet you, greet you, shake your hand and squeeze your shoulders. On a bus in Babylondon blissed out on New Zealand dub and sweet Trini funk I can’t deny my own responsibility for the mess that Trinidad finds itself in.
My own mountain of questions for which I have no answers. My own insularity and lack of vision and my own inflated sense of rightness that stops me from really working with others.
It’s a relief in a way to have a chance to be critical of myself and my motives. It is not a luxury we allow ourselves on the island. We have too much invested in the mutual friendly society and then cut you down behind your back.
I return to warmth of the kitchen, staring into that midnight darkness of the back garden. Glad to return to my self-imposed exile, my self-appointed hibernation. There is no guarantee of sun, rain, snow or sleet here tomorrow and I find that unpredictability quite endearing.

One thought on “Babylondon calling

  1. “The thing you run from comes to meet you, greet you, shake your hand and squeeze your shoulders.”

    True. But i’ve still got to keep on running.

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