My family values

Growing up with several step parents, seven siblings and an indomitable great aunt.

I was born in 1982 via an emergency cesarean. I was due two weeks earlier in September,  but seemed to have no inclination to budge. Then as now, I like my resting spots and it takes a great deal to move me. My mother was taken to hospital and induced, however during the delivery I became distressed and the umbilical cord wrapped round my neck. My mother was pumped full of drugs, ‘knocked out’ in her own words and an emergency cesarean was performed. I was therefore placed first in my father’s arms and had been fed a bottle of formula before my mother groggily awakened.

My parents separated whilst I was very small and I was brought up by my great-aunt simply known as ‘Ma’. Ma had come to England in the 50s, after an failed engagement in Trinidad and had offered to bring her sister’s children with her to great Britannia. My grandmother and several uncles and aunts come to London with her to start new lives. Starting a tradition that my mother continued, my grandmother gave birth to a baby girl, Rosemary in 1964, and Ma offered to look after the baby so my grand mother could continue her life. Eighteen years later, Ma would offer Rosemary the same opportunity for her baby Michelle- me.

I was taught from an early age to do as I was told and that children and adults were not equal. I recollect that I called one of my friends mum’s by her given name in Ma’s presence- later she would ask me ‘Why yuh call Fiona’s mum’s ….(i have forgotten it now) and when I explained that said mum had said I could call her by her given name, i was told ‘You and she aint friends, call her Mrs Noone’! Ma was of a completely different generation and culture, remarkably she was in her 70s when bringing me up and I have some of her values regarding respect, order and eating well! I would regularly see my mum and dad, my mum had married an Irish man called Drew and they would pick me from school and take me to the park, feeding me ice cream. When I think back to my childhood, it is always summer in that park. My Dad would take me out at the weekends, I enjoyed our trips to Macdonald’s (i still have the same order) and less so our trips to his mother’s who scared me.

Over the years I would become big sister to seven younger siblings. Cillian came first when I was 8, then Tiar’nan when I was 10, both Drew’s sons. Simone would be next when I was 11, my Dad’s first child from his new marriage to Sharon. Several years later I would be sitting with my mum at her ultrasound when the nurse confirmed my mum was pregnant- but with twins. I was 15 when they were born. My dad would get his long awaited son, Jerome when I was 17 and finally when I was graduating from university, my mum was heavily pregnant with Elijah, who was born in that September when I was 23. I love all my siblings, but am closest to one of the twins, Harmonie and my sister Simone, seeing them on a more regular basis. I take being a big sister quite seriously, wanting to be a good role model for them, counseling and coaching them when necessary, sorting them out with money/ food/ a place to stay when needed and acting as arbitrator between them and the parents! I wish I saw more of them all and that we could be a democratic, functional family.

My childhood was a place of stark contrasts. Living with Ma I was well fed, a little spoilt and very sheltered. Ma had a typical 70s abode, antimacassars on the sofa, a glass fronted sideboard to hold pictures, records and to show off the nice plates, nick naks scattered around- yet everything had its place. Life was ordered, calm and boring. Ma was reliant on my parents to take me out, so I sometimes felt frustrated being inside. Luckily my salvation was reading. I read a huge amount as a child and lived in my head, experiencing vicariously through books others exploits, lives and adventures. Reading meant I could escape and I was indulged by family and adults who bought me mounds of books for my birthday.  I credit reading for largely making me who I am today and Ma as the illiterate woman who ordered my education. Despite being Ma being a Hindu originally, i believe she converted to Christianity and all of her nieces and nephews were brought up as a catholic, I in particular have reaped the benefit of an excellent catholic education.

In contrast, life at my Mum’s was all 90s Alternativeness. I was encouraged to paint the kitchen cupboards; we had an old coke refrigerator as a larder; the hallway was adorned with a wall sized poster of Nirvana’s Nevermind album cover; there was a red light in the toilet, saris hanging from the ceiling. My mum was rebelling against the strait laced, traditional West Indian upbringing that Ma had given her. She was a vegetarian, took me to Camden when her and Drew had a stall, was studying Psychology and later became a yoga teacher. My mum was planting the seeds for the future Guardian reading, liberal, Michelle though little did either of us realise it at the time.

The relationship between my Dad and I is better than it has been for years.
As child and teenager I was not very close to him, my mum blamed him for their break up and was bitter about him. Also my Dad’ conventional values about money and work was in contrast to the non-materialism that I was being brought up with. For a long time I didn’t understand him. However after my Masters, skint and heart broken I ended up living with him in Leyton. He had started to slowly recover from a near deadly bout of pneumonia and was less full of the macho piss and vinegar approach that had characterised him. As he has recovered over the years, our relationship deepened and I am thankful that we are now close.

Family continues to be important to me, I never forget birthdays and can be guaranteed to call either parent to make sure the siblings are on track and proffer my wanted or unwanted advice. I hope Ma is proud of me and maybe one day a niece or nephew will write about me too. 

What are your family values? How have they moulded you?
Do  you strive to create order like Ma or create a whole new world like my mother? 
Or are you like me, an organised older sister?
Send me your thoughts!

 Harmonie and I, 2011

Simone and I, 2012

Time, money and thanks

I’ll be honest with you- as much as I like sharing, I don’t want to share the bad stuff. That’s natural right? Yes and No. 
Leaving my job has been great in some ways and awful in others. I hope that sharing my ups and downs hopefully provides you with succor and inspiration at some point in your lives. 
A recent blog post I read entitled Could your darkest Moment be a huge gift?, encouraged me to reframe my current position and recognise that recently I have gained a new perspective of my views on money and time.  
Let’s start with Time.
From my last post, you know myself and time sometimes have an uneasy relationship. Given that I now work part time, I find myself with rather more time than I am comfortable with.  However my good friend Livia shared with me that we have to break free of believing work has to be Monday to Friday, from 9am to 5pm. She showed me how she creates routine in the days she is not working by working on her personal projects. This was eye opening for me and I started to think about volunteering on a few of the days that I am off. I am also thinking about doing a season abroad. 
Time works in two ways- I have so much free time that I find myself watching TV on my laptop for hours but also have the time to spend the night at friends houses because I don’t have to go to work the next day. I have seen more of my Dad and siblings because I can pop over there during the day. I have hung out at the Wellcome Collection with one of my old students and nipped into Somerset House whilst joining temp agencies. I joined Magda in visiting the Zabludowicz Gallery and had my first ice cream from Marine Ices. But sometimes its hard and I just stay indoors, glued to my laptop searching  for jobs or just wasting time. Because time, unlike money, I have plenty of!
‘Money, money, money. Must be funny. In the rich man’s world’. 

I do not consider myself a materialistic person, nor do I consider myself a person that values money highly apart from a means to an end. However having to live off off a small amount of money has forced me to use the money I have got in quite a different way. Walking to work is not only quick but free! Having a weekly travelcard seems like an expensive luxury, I think twice before spending £2 on one tube journey when I used to take the tube every day, sometimes several times in one day. Socialising has taken on a new hue, eating out is not an option so I have to cook. I have now learnt how to make a passable dahl and made a very nice vegetarian curry for a group of friends. I have learnt to ignore bills and am tempted to cancel my monthly contact lenses. I miss my old pay cheque (which now seems quite large!). 

Transitional periods like this are difficult and I am hoping that i’ll get a part time job or volunteer placement soon. I have been reading Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning which has the existential premise of finding meaning in your life even in the most depressing and shocking of circumstances ( he has survived being in a concentration camp). I think that having more of a routine and something to do will help give me that meaning.

I am still trying to stay thankful- I am thankful to……
Livia for her support, advice and encouragement; 
Brenda for listening and empathising with me and also cooking me an excellent dinner; Devina for asking me to cook Sunday dinner which I really enjoyed and for providing me with a style consultation; 
Sam for listening to me and giving me some great pointers on work; 
Matt for treating me to a lovely weekend in Leeds; 
Hannah and Charlotte for my leaving present.
Paul for giving me a new work contact
and finally Mike for loaning me his SLR.

How to be happy…

It has been an interesting week this- I discovered the cathartic nature of karaoke; started at my new school on Thursday; and had my official goodbye at work. Its been an amazing and scary time full of change, change, and more change.
I received so many lovely messages about my new job and even more on my leaving PP,  I feel very loved and respected and I am glad that I have brought feminism, interesting debates and support to so many of my colleagues. Having cried my eyes out yesterday when giving my good bye speech, I suspect there might be a few tears on my last day next week….
On another note, I seem to be thinking more and more about happiness- what makes me happy; how happy do I feel; what can I do to feel more happy and so on. I have set myself a little project, obviously entitled the ‘Happiness Project’, where I have to do three of my happy things a week. 
My happy things include
– Going to an art gallery/ museum
– Going to an interesting talk
– Spending time with my VIPs (Very Inspirational People)
– Cooking on a Sunday
– Getting out of London
– Reading interesting books, especially fantasy novels
– Baking cakes
– Spending time with my family
– Taking photos in and around London
– Going to the cinema
I started off fantastically going to the Hajj exhibition with one of my VIPs, this was followed by going to see the Hunger Games with friends and I spent Sunday going for a lovely walk around Hackney Marshes with my Dad (photo’s here I had a fantastic time at karaoke (my rendition of let’s talk about sex is hilarious apparently lol), saw my sister and Dad this week and am going to do something cultural soon. And yet, I still question… 

What makes you happy? Send me your inspiration!

Making time to write a note each day…

As some of you may know, this blog started as a means for me to appreciate more in my life. To do this, I am to write a blog post about what I am thankful for each day; and/ or three things things that have gone well during the day. I have been pretty good at this, however recently I have been on an emotional roller coaster and have not been as diligent with my online posts. However, I have recognised that good things happen everyday and have been noting them on my bedroom calendar. I want to share with you the good things that have been happening in my life here:

Taking the time each day, even for a few minutes to record what has been positive is a good move forward for me. I am a hoarder and really like the idea of keeping this calendar as a physical record of my 364 days of love! 
One of the new things that has made me thankful is my wonderful new camera. I have been out and about taking pictures such as the below (taken in Nottingham &work kitchen) and love being able to capture small moments. I have the C4 New Year Revolution to thank, as one of my daily challenges was to document my life for a day. I did this and really enjoyed it and also realised that photos were the best way to show my Gambian friends what my life is like in the UK. You can check out my photos here:

Feeling the fear and doing it anyway

I started a job application this evening which I found quite difficult to do. As I am in a reflective mood, I had a think about what was really bothering me about the application. I realised that it was not the tedium of doing the form, but the potential change I was welcoming into my life that was making me feel very uncomfortable. I detest change, hence I am stuck in a rut in several areas of my life. I googled ‘fear of change’ and read several articles which illustrated that fear of change is actually fear of being criticised, of success and so on. I continued reading until I came across a New Year’s resolution worksheet, where you plan to start your resolution in February. I recognised some of the methods in the worksheet and decided to apply it to my goal of going to Brazil:

GOAL: I want to go to Brazil in September 2012.

WHY: I want to go to see this country which really interests me and to challenge one of my biggest fears.

HOW TO STAY STRONG: I will remind myself of this by putting up lots of fun and interesting pictures of Brazil in places where I can see them; and by doing lots of research.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN IF I DON’T ACHIEVE THIS GOAL: If I don’t go, I will be stuck in the UK, not having any new, life changing experiences; listening and reading about others adventures. I also will not have given myself the best gift ever for my 30thbirthday!


  • Save at least £1250 to pay for my airfare and spending money
  • Register with Workaway in February and start applying for placements
  • Start learning Portuguese.

MY NEXT STEP: To collect language resources from Mike.

WHO DO I HAVE TO BE TO DO THIS GOAL: Strong in my purpose, willing to take a risk and more importantly willing to embrace change.

HOW WILL I CREATE ACCOUNTABILITY: I will tell even more people about wanting to go to Brazil; and when I feel more confident, by May I will tell my work. I am creating further accountability by posting this here where I know Hattie and Keith will read it. Please use this position of authority!
I hope that I manage to achieve this goal and recommend that anyone that wants to achieve something use the worksheet as I did; it prompted me to remember why I want to go to Brazil.
Thankfulness today: I am incredibly thankful for Danielle’s generosity. As a Christmas present she bought me a morning in a beauty salon in Chingford, my nails are done a fabulous orange, my toes a sultry carmine and my tense shoulders eased and rubbed

Day 123

Blogging each day becomes harder and harder, but I will quickly surmise my thankfulness from last week:
I am thankful for Devina and her friendship when we met for a chat and some Wagamama’s. I had precious sleep during the week so it was really great to finally sleep well on Saturday night. I had a really nice Sunday, I met with friends for breakfast, followed by book shop browsing on Blackstock road. I finally did some overdue washing and then sat in bed reading for the afternoon and evening, burying myself in yet another fantasy novel.
I had a lovely surprise in the shape of Keith Riglin being at work today; I also had a nice little chat in Lidl with the check out guy Rahaun- who loves all types of films and told me that he wants to see the film ‘The Artist’ and that horror films are very predictable. This ticks one of my Try Something New revolution– more about that later. 

I received a few texts from Gambia today and the clear sky and stars in the sky on the way home were a portent for my phone call to Gambia- the line was crystal clear. This was followed by a nice evening in with Magda. So blue monday ends better than it started. 

A week of thankfulness

It is a week since I last blogged, I kept meaning to write but felt knackered; and of course the more I put it off, the harder it was to find the time to write.

I have been recording my thanks at home, on a lovely Erte calendar my younger sister got me for Christmas. So here is my update:

Friday: Thankful for the great conversation with friends old & new after seeing my first viewing of feminist porn. I was grateful also for the artists that seek to push boundaries and show that there is more than one view of sexuality.

Saturday: I arose unexpectedly early that morning and decided to enjoy the peace and warmth of my bed with a cup of tea and a book I had ordered as Christmas reading called ‘The Belly of the Atlantic’. Translated from French it tells the story of a young Senegalese woman torn between her life in France and in Africa, through the life and dreams of her younger brother Madicke. I devoured it in several hours and recommend it.

Sunday: This was the 15th birthday of my twin sisters. I had long imagined this birthday as I am exactly 15 years older than them and used to think incredulously of this day as it would mean that I would be 30! And 30 seemo old then; it seems rather grown up to me now. I had a lovely afternoon and evening hanging out with one twin and my mum and learnt of the sweetness of unasked for kiss from the other twin sister. I do not take affection from any of my siblings for granted, they are all growing up so fast and like a parent, I fear the day that they will be all grown up and flee the nest.

Monday: A taxing afternoon in school, ameliorated by excellent fish and chips on the way home! I spoke to my Dad that evening, the first time for this year, it was nice to hear from him and reconfirmed to me that I am lucky to have him in my life. Later on at home, I rediscovered the pleasure of making something from scratch as I made a fresh carbonara for the first time.

Tuesday: I finally made the decision thanks to Livia’s advice and ordered a new camera! My old one had been stolen and I had dithered for weeks until Livia’ august advice forced me to make a purchase. I received a rather lovely text later that day from Keith, my favourite Vicar at work; attached was a lovely picture of myself and my boss Ed, at the work Christmas party. Finally, I started the fantasy novel ‘A Game of Thrones’ at New Year but was unable to immerse myself in its pages- until now.

Today: Well my camera arrived in excellent time this morning, it is absolutely tiny but I am sure it will give me another 6 years of joy and stunning photos. Watch this space! I continue to bury myself in ‘A Game of Throne’s, I can see myself seeking out the other two in the series rather soon given the rate I am reading!