It was last week Half Term holiday, and we were visiting my husband’s parents in the picturesque Lake District for a few days. The four of us had driven for five hours two days before, and it had rained constantly since we had arrived. Waking up to the knowledge we had a five to six hour car journey back to London suburbia in the rain filled me with dread, causing my mood to be as heavy as the clouds. To top it off I had to go on an hour round trip to a ‘Steam Train Museum’. Could my day get worse?
I admit, my attitude was poor. I huffed and puffed as Peter drove up into the mountains towards the museum – in torrential rain. The children oblivious to my mood, wriggled and giggled in their back seats, excited to be able to see real trains like Thomas the Tank Engine. With tension filling in the front seats I put some music on.
“Why should we bother in this rain? Why can’t we just turn around and go home? What is the point? We’ll only get stuck in rush hour traffic later, on our way back home.” I muttered to myself.
I was never sure Peter heard my whiny comments, but to deepen my self-righteous mood, Peter, not listening to the sat nav directions took a wrong turn, which then added another twenty minutes to the journey.
Finally we pulled in to the old railway station and met up with my in-laws who had come separately in their car. First impressions were bad; an empty puddle filled car park with an old carriage and single large shed, which we presumed were filled with train engines. Rain pelting down, we headed for shelter in the cold damp-smelling shed.
Seeing the children’s excitement as they saw the old steam trains, I thought. ‘How can I turn my mood round? What can I get from being here?’
As the children ran around with glee, I took out my iPhone to take photos of the them with the train carriages. It was then I began to see how interesting the train carriages looked on camera. The colours and patterns of the trains looked great. My mood instantly changed. Suddenly everything seemed more vibrant interesting and positive, and before long I was as inspired by steam trains as the children were.
After seeing the old steam trains we noticed crowds of people starting to fill the platform. There was great excitement as the old steam train pulled in full of tourists. As the whistle blew the train slowly departed with more people on board. With the noise of the engine, the glowing coal fire, and the smoke and steam, the atmosphere was electric.
I asked myself; ‘How could you ‘not’ fall in love with steam trains?’.
Lesson # 2 Finding a fresh perspective and inspiration when I’m in a funk!
We all know part of being a parent is being selfless and putting the children’s needs above our own. Often we turn off our childlike curiosity and see things in black and white, and as something to just get through, to grin and bear.
iphoneography on this day was my saviour, creating a distraction and a project to see everything in a more positive and creative light. So now, when my old eyes get tired and worn down with day-to-day grind, the iPhone can give them a fresh colourful new perspective.
The power of a song has to tell your story to others:
The first time I heard this song I thought, ‘Finally! Someone out there understands me!’. Someone’s been through this: I am not alone. I went and bought the album that I would play week after week on repeat, singing the lyrics “I am not my skin!’, out loud and proud, driving in my car, my heart open and free.
I lived in the Essex countryside until I was ten. The rest of my life I’ve mainly resided in London suburbia. My parents originally immigrated from the West Indies in the 60’s. After I was born they wanted me to have a ‘better life’ and good education, so we moved out of London. We moved to a place where we were the only black family in the community.
Growing up as an only child I had limited access to my parents’ Caribbean roots. Both of them immigrated in their late teens, adopting with vigour the English culture, and they immersed themselves fully into the British way of life. This meant the only exposure I got to black people was on visits to family members, trips to visit my Grandparents in the West Indies (where I never felt I belonged), and the few television programs with black people where no-one represented me.
I have to say that living in suburbia most my life I have hardly ever experienced blatant racism. The prejudice I have felt has been more subtle, perhaps you could say ingrained in ignorance, society’s stereotyping, negative assumptions and perceptions. I learned to embrace my difference and see it as unique, and I coped by shutting myself off from acknowledging negativity.
My friends and people I associated with never really mentioned my colour, but my hair was forever a topic of fascination and conversation — the good, the bad and the ugly.
I remember being eleven: fringes were in fashion and because I had thick afro hair I couldn’t get a real fringe so I had a puff ball of hair sticking out. This got much attention and my friends repeatedly touched it as if I was an exotic animal. It was these comments that made me feel I would never be ‘normal’ and whatever I did I couldn’t be one of them.
The story of my hair explains my search for identity: I wanted to be accepted and to belong. I hope that, for my readers, by listening to the words of the song it will help to tell my journey of finding and embracing ‘the soul that lives within’.