Tuesday, July 07, 2020

The London Bombings

I wrote two trilogies in the wake of the July 7 2005 London bombings - the 7/7 bombings as they became known. I took it personal even before reading that the first declared casualty was a Ghanaian woman. Moreover I later learned that this was someone that I knew whose life story to that point had been a touchpoint for my family. No, all the casualties mattered. The failed follow-on attempts on July 21 2005 only deepened the wound when reports came in that a suspect was said to be Ghanaian. Unraveling that case of identity theft amidst the horror and grief caused a reckoning over the years.

The first trilogy went under the banner of London's Got Soul, and explored the place and the people, celebrating the London brew and the vibe of what is one of my favourite places on earth. As befits a celebration, the tone was warm and lighhearted. The second trilogy, part of my Things Fall Apart series, was also personal, but understandably sober, as I delved into the Ghanaian connections to the events. Thus I came up with a broad spectrum of responses that ranged from whimsy and irreverence to heartache and stark reflection, even as I occasionally aimed for the lyrical. I certainly had to get it out of my system as a kind of exorcism by prose, music and poetry. Perhaps it was as Joan Didion has suggested: "We tell ourselves stories in order to live". I hope some of this collected toli might be up your alley.

catford sidewalk painting

London's Got Soul
I too lived under the depredations of the IRA in the 80s and 90s so instead of wallowing in the undoubted horror of the moment, I'm going to be celebrating the flavour of the place.
Catford Bridge
Some action-packed travel journalism and a photo essay.
Bullet from a Gun
A hip-hop photo essay in the vein of South London's vibe, the Toli Remix of Derek B's Bullet From a Gun. Now with a music video adaptation if you want to skip the easy words.
Kente, Lace and Champagne
Pondering a photo and a poem amidst unfinished sympathy

The London's Got Soul pieces continue to be very popular - I wonder if it's because I leavened things with photos.


Identity Theft

The first piece in my Things Fall Apart series dealt with collateral damage on the periphery, an immigrant's stolen identity. It was written under the influence of Four Women by Nina Simone.

Wake up one day
They say you're a bomber

Of No Fixed Abode

Written a couple of years later, the second note was concerned with the "fourth man": the fifth bomber. A man "Thought to be Bukhari", "of no fixed abode".

Enemy combatants
Collateral damage

Bomb factories
Moral blinders

Ode to Betty Brown

The last note dealt with the eponymous casualty. It took me 14 years to find a way to write Betty's tale. For the longest time I couldn't move beyond the title and the first sentence I had scribbled down when I learned of her passing. Once I did, however, everything poured out in just a couple of hours, I somehow tapped a well of inspiration and, for what it's worth, it is among my proudest bits of writing.

Complaining was not her style. She put up with more setbacks than anyone this side of Job and that Count of Monte Christo fellow, and yet she gave new meaning to the term resilience.

This is an elegy rather than a lament, for such thoughts never crossed her mind. This is an ode for a woman in full, a spirit heaven-sent.

catford black beauty

When this covidious interlude is over, London will be one of my first ports of call. It means that much to me.

Soundtrack for these notes

A playlist as is my norm, music soothes my soul when I write.
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