Monthly Archives: July 2014

Explaining things to children (continued from an earlier post). A light-hearted example.

I am sure that all families will have examples of when they tried to explain things to children and their best efforts have backfired.

Since I am thinking of dual heritage families in this blog, I would like to tell you about a very good friend I met in Malaysia in the 1970s. I shall call her J.

J. was brought up in Australia. When some young Malaysian men came to her home town, her mother was worried that she would become too interested in them. In fact, she did meet one of the men. She fell in love and married A. He was a handsome young man, a Muslim and J. went to Malaysia with him, to see if she could marry him and live in such a different country. Her mother was not happy about this, but her father was much more supportive. They did get married.

They subsequently had five children. They were a great family. J. had a gift for re-telling events in a hilarious way. I always thought that she should have written a Memoir. She had plenty of good stories to tell.

In Malaysia in those days the only milk available to drink was dried milk in tins. J. wanted her five children to know that in Australia people drank milk and that it did not come from tins. It came from cows and was delivered to the house in glass milk bottles. She explained all this carefully on a visit back home to Australia. Her children would have to continue drinking dried milk when they returned to Malaysia, but this was all part of their general education.

cow - Supertrooper, freedigitalphotosImage courtesy of Supertrooper / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 The day came for J. to visit a farm in Australia with all her children. The youngest ones were too small to take much notice, but the eldest was fascinated.

Eventually after the whole milking session was over, the eldest child still lingered. J. urged him to come along. There were other things to see on the farm, but he stood his ground.

“I’m waiting for it to ‘do’ the bottle” he explained!

Memoir ? “A Rock for Jah”/Blog/Children’s stories/Poetry/Sundry reflections.

MEMOIR

Recently a friend asked me whether I would write up our family experience in a Memoir. He has seen the blog and said some nice things about it.

I replied that I had spent a few years writing and then re-writing a Memoir entitled “A Rock for Jah – a personal account of inter-racial adoption”, but that I have never received an offer of publication.

Why did I call the Memoir “A Rock for Jah”? It is because on the first occasion we met little Jah, he came and peered slightly anxiously at a photo we had brought along of our three children. They were sitting on a rock in Scotland. He noted with quiet satisfaction that the boy in the picture was ‘brown’ like himself. Then he pointed to a small rock beside the big one. I had not noticed that before, but he must have had a deep need to belong somewhere and he pointed to that little rock and said simply “There’s a rock for Jah”.A rock for JahHis deep need to belong somewhere touched the hearts of everyone present who heard his little voice.

 Since there seemed to be very little likelihood of getting the Memoir published, I had to decide whether to

  1. keep re-writing it,
  2. to try and self-publish it,
  3. or to forget the whole thing.

I decided that I could not envisage spending more years re-writing the Memoir. I have other things that I want to write.

I am not keen on self-publishing, because one has to market the book from scratch.

I did not want to ‘forget the whole thing’.

A BLOG

One day about a year and a half ago, a friend suggested that a blog might reach a wider audience than a published book. At the time I was not ready to abandon the Memoir, but listened in the end.

Now I am enjoying writing the blog and it is good to know that people appear to be reading it in over 50 countries – that is if Counterize statistics are to be believed. I think they are. It is also very good to get feedback.

OTHER PEOPLE’S MEMOIRS

Maybe our family story does not have enough Drama/Conflict/Trauma etc? We had our own problems of course, but nothing like a Misery Memoir – fortunately! Or maybe I was not conveying adequately the emotions we went through. Or maybe I just did not contact the right would-be-publisher on the right day?

I do know however, that it is not only ‘Misery Memoirs’ that sell. There are wonderful writers who can write about nearly anything and get their work published and enjoyed by many. For example, Margaret Forster has written many books about her family, including one about the death of her father at the age of 90 and her sister in law at about half that age – see “Precious Lives”, published by Vintage 1999.

Precious livesAndrew Collins has written an entertaining and affectionate memoir Where Did It All Go Right?: Growing Up Normal in the 70s by Andrew Collins (4 Mar 2004)

That is about his happy childhood in the 1970s. It is very entertaining and the title so cleverly shows how his memoir is going to buck the trend and be different.

where did it all go right?POETRY

It has suddenly occurred to me that ‘A Rock for Jah’ could be a good subject for a touching poem, but since I have not written poetry for simply ages, I don’t think that would work.

Why did I stop writing poetry? A long time ago, when I was a teenager I submitted a poem to a children’s newspaper. I had toiled long over this poem, but the reply came back that they thought some phrases had been copied from elsewhere. This was unfortunate because I knew that I had definitely not done that. I hope that today people would be more careful in responding to young people, not accusing them of plagiarism and trampling on their dreams.

 CHILDREN’S STORIES

As things have turned out, as I said above, I am now enjoying writing this blog and also have more children’s stories that I want to write.

Maybe this is enough for today and I must turn to my current story – the work in progress. It is about a little girl and her two grandmothers. Watch this space.

 My next blog post will be more on “Explaining things to children”.

 

“Families visible by Colour”. Multicultural Britain Today and Looking Back to the 1970s.

 

MULTICULTURAL BRITAIN TODAY

A few days before I published a blog post “Ethnic Minorities in the countryside”, I received a beautifully produced and well-thought-out handbook. It is entitled ‘Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall”. It is a joint publication by a Cornish voluntary-run community group called ‘Kowetha’ and Barnardo’s.

front of Kowetha bookletThe subtitle of this booklet is “Suggestions for parents and carers raising BME (black and minority ethnic and dual heritage children) who are ‘visible by colour’.

I know from experience how beneficial it can be for parents and children of mixed parentage to meet. In the 1980s we belonged to a similar group called Harmony. Harmony badgeParents often have concerns, a need to discuss issues and children have a need to play. In an area where children don’t meet many other black or mixed race children where they live, it can be reassuring and relaxing to meet children who look like themselves.

The handbook is full of practical observations, actual quotations from those who took part in the research, led by Ginnie Odetayo,  and practical advice, e.g. on “Supporting our children at school” and “Supporting our families in the community”.

It is hoped that the handbook will have positive lessons for similar families in other predominantly white areas throughout the UK.

small rainbow pictureLOOKING BACK

I digress slightly now as I try to think back to when Sam was very young in Tyneside. Where we lived was a predominantly white area. The only two black families we knew left the area, as they could not find promotion in their jobs. However, Sam knew nothing of the problems of adults. He simply had the outlook of a very positive child.

One day we made a tape for the grandparents. (Skype had not been invented – needless to say, as this was in the 1970s). On that tape he said proudly in a beautiful Geordie accent. “I like playing with Elizabeth. She lets me be the Indian Chief because I’m the proper colour”!

ID-100223525Image courtesy of vetorolie/ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

In some respects times have moved on since the 1970s, but some things are unfortunately the same. We would have seized on a handbook like “Children Visible by Colour in Cornwall” and drunk in every word as it deals with many difficult issues and is full of well thought-out strategies and advice. I recommend it.

back of Kowetha booklet