The POTUS Inaguration will be remembered amongst other things for the memes that followed, most memorably Bernie Sanders sat on a chair in the bitter cold wearing a pair of hand-knitted mittens.
Most following the story will know Jen Ellis made them and how inundated with requests Jen was following that very memorable day.
Three days after that, having followed the story, I bought them online from Jen Ellis’ shop. All proceeds go to charity in Vermont and the mittens are made in partnership with the Vermont Teddy Bear Company.
In London, I received the mittens this week, over three months later and despite being 15C outside, I am super happy to have them to the point of being tempted to strut them out in the street.
The Thames Skills Academy support two Level 3 apprenticeships (Boatmaster and Maritime Engineering). There’s an impressive range of career opportunitiesin the Maritime sector, adding more to the economy than rail and aviation combined.
Spread the word & hopefully some teens will be perkier as a result on top of having the opportunity to experience a slice of cockney history.
It’s hard to imagine Gorman not growing up with Walcott being recited at home.
The opening lines referencing time, the internalisation of the challenge ahead, the humility of looking introvertily at one’s weaknesses and embracing the imperfections of oneself echoe Walcott’s Love after Love.
I could almost go as far as to say Walcott’s self healing treatment laid bare a platform on which Gorman was able to accelerate this message out of oneself and into the wider healing sense sought in community.
I’ll say no more.
Both poems are copied for your enjoyment.
Derek Walcott’s Love after Love (1940’s)
The time will come when, with elation you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,
the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.
Amanda Gorman’s Biden inauguration poem The Hill We Climb (2021)
When day comes, we ask ourselves where can we find light in this never-ending shade?
The loss we carry, a sea we must wade.
We’ve braved the belly of the beast.
We’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace, and the norms and notions of what “just” is isn’t always justice.
And yet, the dawn is ours before we knew it.
Somehow we do it.
Somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken, but simply unfinished.
We, the successors of a country and a time where a skinny Black girl descended from slaves and raised by a single mother can dream of becoming president, only to find herself reciting for one.
And yes, we are far from polished, far from pristine, but that doesn’t mean we are striving to form a union that is perfect.
We are striving to forge our union with purpose.
To compose a country committed to all cultures, colors, characters, and conditions of man.
And so we lift our gazes not to what stands between us, but what stands before us.
We close the divide because we know, to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside.
We lay down our arms so we can reach out our arms to one another.
We seek harm to none and harmony for all.
Let the globe, if nothing else, say this is true:
That even as we grieved, we grew.
That even as we hurt, we hoped.
That even as we tired, we tried.
That we’ll forever be tied together, victorious.
Not because we will never again know defeat, but because we will never again sow division.
Scripture tells us to envision that everyone shall sit under their own vine and fig tree and no one shall make them afraid.
If we’re to live up to our own time, then victory won’t lie in the blade, but in all the bridges we’ve made.
That is the promise to glade, the hill we climb, if only we dare.
It’s because being American is more than a pride we inherit.
It’s the past we step into and how we repair it.
We’ve seen a force that would shatter our nation rather than share it.
Would destroy our country if it meant delaying democracy.
This effort very nearly succeeded.
But while democracy can be periodically delayed, it can never be permanently defeated.
In this truth, in this faith, we trust, for while we have our eyes on the future, history has its eyes on us.
This is the era of just redemption.
We feared it at its inception.
We did not feel prepared to be the heirs of such a terrifying hour, but within it, we found the power to author a new chapter, to offer hope and laughter to ourselves.
So while once we asked, ‘How could we possibly prevail over catastrophe?’ now we assert, ‘How could catastrophe possibly prevail over us?’
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be:
A country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.
We will not be turned around or interrupted by intimidation because we know our inaction and inertia will be the inheritance of the next generation.
Our blunders become their burdens.
But one thing is certain:
If we merge mercy with might, and might with right, then love becomes our legacy and change, our children’s birthright.
So let us leave behind a country better than the one we were left.
With every breath from my bronze-pounded chest, we will raise this wounded world into a wondrous one.
We will rise from the golden hills of the west.
We will rise from the wind-swept north-east where our forefathers first realised revolution.
We will rise from the lake-rimmed cities of the midwestern states.
We will rise from the sun-baked south.
We will rebuild, reconcile, and recover.
In every known nook of our nation, in every corner called our country, our people, diverse and beautiful, will emerge, battered and beautiful.
When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid.
The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we’re brave enough to see it.
Ibiza – a beautiful island, full of hidden gems. Sunsets by the lapping water, jumping off the rocks. I would have gone to raves and danced til the morning.
Oman, Malaysia and Myanmar – I should have jumped on a plane in November 2019/January 2020 to see a couple of familiar faces and smell the sweetness in the air.
Friends and parks and parties – could have gathered together more, drunk more together and danced, dropping the pressure of prioritising what we now know are very unimportant things in life.
Philosophy – read more ancient Greeks and a lot more Edward Said, a whole lot more of Said. They are good for the soul and got it all worked out. If everyone spent one hour a week doing this, the world would be much more prepared for this than it is now.
Notting Hill Carnival 2019 – I would have gotten out of bed at 7, arrive by 9 and put that big costume on offer to me to dance the day away. Still got to dance, but not in the band bc couldn’t get there due to overcrowding which also led to soundsystems being switched off early. Hot days in London…my carnival family which I miss so much.
It’s a tough time for everyone looking ahead from 2020.
May all your moments and wishes evolve into your reality.
Love to you all for a peaceful quiet Christmas and a kinder year ahead.
OK guys. You must have had your November pay by now. We are only a few weeks away from the big X and the new year. It’s come around quickly hasn’t it?
We all know this will be a different one. And most importantly it needs to be a meaningful one. So pack away ideas to spend on more tat and cheap stocking fillers made by child labourers god knows where and emerge yourself fully into local vibes, as covid-19 prescribes, with wisdom…
Shop gifts from online charity shops. There are loads out there, my favourite ones is RNLI for obvious reasons, but there are loads more. Been watching something that inspired you? Does your local air ambulance have a site? How about your local hospice? Go digging out some local gems or important self-funded services and do your bit. If you can’t get inspired locally, sponsor a small business entrepreneur or plant some tress here or abroad. Make your gift mean something tomorrow and for the next year and the one after too.
OK everyone aims to eat senselessly this time of the year, and perhaps drink as much. With lockdown having saved you a few pennies, add a fiver or a tenner to your food shopping budget and buy some extra essentials like dry food, tins, cans, oats, pulses. Go searching again for your local food bank. Come on, it’s not hard to find one within 3-4km of where you are nowdays. They are popping up like never before. And we know why. So do your bit, take a bagful of goodies in person and drop them off. They will thank you and you will feel less selfish for sharing some of your food with someone who you may never meet. Isn’t that kind of super cool?
You haven’t been out since March and you may have picked a few goodies online or during the time where shops opened for a time. Now you look back at your hoarding ability confused as to how you got to become that person. Slowing down does that to us, gives us time to reflect. You know that jumper you didn’t wear when it was minus 2, or that you wear on every other day. THAT jumper needs to get washed and go. If it has holes, it needs to go to the bin. If it doesn’t put it in the charity donation bank. That and all the other jeans, trainers, boots, unpacked and unwanted gift socks. Go go go. Someone needs them and it will make them think and adopt. Now I bet you there is a charity bank within a couple of kms from where you are too. Go there now, don’t leave it until after Christmas. After all everyone deserves something new or different to what they have and you can help with that as you start unpacking Christmas decor to go up, then pack your never or too much work stuff to go too. And your Christmas decorations if you don’t see a point in putting much up this year or don’t feel you need blink to lift your spirits up. Think that you can buy all new next year or treat yourself to something super local like decorative stuff from your local florist or hand made knik knaks from your local crafts stall, if you really need to shop – shop local. No Amazon for god’s sake!
Well here we go again, only this time things are a bit different.
In London, there are noticeably less people out after dark, but shopping malls and cafes are still serving take outs and grocery essentials.
This means the earlier photos from the lockdown in spring bear a significant difference to the way urban landscapes look now.
For example, there are a fair amount of labourers and cleaning staff going out and about their business as usual. Spaces look less derelict and more like Sundays before London got crowded millennium onwards.
In urban green spaces, people don’t consider being in fairly crowded conditions, a threat from covid anymore. Benches are open and cyclists have equal access to parks.
The level of interaction with larger crowds is a personal preference.
On a recent cycle with Simon around trendy Hackney Wick and guardian reader pretentious Hackney on Victoria Park, the crowds were heavily dense in many public play areas and entrances.
Away from the long queues outside to pick up coffees and take outs in places where some think it’s important to be at, our was certaintly picking a fish and chips from a good old reliable affordable local chippy just east of Victoria Park to the Wick.
No queues, no wait, no hassle. After a five minute walk, we were enjoying dinner on a bench in the park.
In my next blog I will write about meaningful ways to spend preparing for Christmas holidays and Christmas day itself.
Many get carried away with meaningless cultural traditions, missing the point. Culture can be as oppressive as American culture’s cultural non existence, when it adds no experiental reflection or mindful rest.
In a time of self reflection I couldn’t be luckier having met four days after landing back from a two month trip away early August 2019. And here we are still are today.
Back in the park, we sat watching the lowering sun introducing the mist, the temperature drop, the sensation of colours struggling to define themselves in this new reality.
I suppose this time, it is also the first time of the year’s season under covid for our urban neighbourhoods too. Well I say, we can only pay homage to this another new reality for the family albums to come.
Really, what’s there to complain about? And why not to?