The Cost of Achieving

There is nothing in life worth achieving that doesn’t have a cost. Parenting, employment, business even marriage all come at a price. Life often requires an answer to the question ‘is the reward of what we spend our energies on worth the price?’ Nevertheless we’ve all got to pay it. Have a good week paying the price, particularly for something worthwhile.

20130827-085933.jpg

2 of 31 Colleges at The University of Cambridge

After an afternoon at Fitzwilliam museum, my children and I stumbled on Pembroke College, the third oldest of the Cambridge colleges.

20130820-183123.jpg

The gem of Pembroke college is its beautiful Wren Chapel built in 1665. This stunning chapel was birthed as a result of a vow made by Matthew Wren, Bishop of Ely. Whilst he was imprisoned during the Civil War he vowed to build a new chapel for his College.

20130820-183352.jpg

I wish I knew more about architecture to tell you more about the buildings. All I know is I love old buildings. Find out more about the architecture and history at Pembroke Past & Present.

20130820-183238.jpgA statue of Prime Minister William Pitt sits in the Library Lawn.

20130820-183252.jpg

This plaque was next to a memorial wall with names of 450 Pembroke men who lost their lives defending the country in the wars of 1914-18 and 1939-45. Quite serendipitously, I overheard a grandmother telling her grand-daughters about a suitor (her words, not mine) whose name was on the wall.

20130820-183133.jpg

To find out more about Pembroke College, visit www.pem.cam.ac.uk

The heavens proclaim the glory of God

The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world. God has made a home in the heavens for the sun. It bursts forth like a radiant bridegroom after his wedding. It rejoices like a great athlete eager to run the race. The sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end. Nothing can hide from its heat. (Psalms 19:1-6 NLT)

Blackberry Crush

I’m a city girl with a little bit of country in my heart (not the music, the surroundings). I’ve always lived in big cities all my life and until recently, I lived in Central London in a flat with no garden. As such, one of the best things about moving to Cambridge is my garden.

20130819-013236.jpg

Unfortunately the garden is a bit wasted on me as I know very little about gardening. I don’t know the first thing about how and when to plant, weed or even the best time to water plants. My experience has been with potted plants and so I’m quite clueless about how to nurture a whole garden. Ironically, I love flowers and the concept of growing my own fruit, vegetables and herbs is appealing to me. Nevertheless, my lack of a green thumb is not the subject of this post.

Gardens can be many things to different people. A haven, a playground, a retreat or even a workspace. This weekend, our usually overgrown garden held within its grasp a forage of delight. Whilst playing in the garden, my children discovered loads of blackberries scattered all over the garden. Below is a picture of our first harvest.

20130819-013208.jpg

We literally have them growing everywhere – in a tree and in different shrubs framing the garden. I’m not quite sure what a blackberry tree or plant is meant to look like yet. I might need to do some Wikipedia research as all the shrubs look different to me but each holds several blackberry clusters.

20130819-013229.jpg
The kids had so much fun picking them with Wonder Woman in tow to conquer the world of creepy crawlers, cobwebs, bees and dragon flies and rescue ripened fruit they were afraid to grab. Truly the best things in life are free!

20130819-013302.jpg

I’m looking forward to transforming these into a yummy dessert.

20130819-013310.jpg

I have a friend who has an amazing garden with strawberries, rhubarb, herbs and more. I might call on her to give me a Gardening 101 session so I can do our garden some justice. I’ll keep you posted.

Mum I Wish I Was White

Or peach as my children say. These are not the words every African parent longs to hear from their children. This was said to me in the middle of a church service whilst they were colouring an activity sheet. My children coloured all the people on the sheet peach.

20130731-001813.jpg
I initially wondered if someone had said anything to them about their skin tone so later on, I asked them why they wanted to be peach. It turns out that it’s because they are the only ones with brown faces wherever they go. Until they said that I had never thought about the impact of being part of an ethnic minority on my children. However when they mentioned it dawned on me that they were the only brown ones in their respective classes, in their group at church, amongst the children at their dad’s college and pretty much most places we go in Cambridge.

Whilst I have accepted the fact that I am part of an ethnic minority in the United Kingdom, for my children, who have been born and raised here, it presented them with a pseudo identity crisis. I know at 4 and 6 right?

This wasn’t the case when we lived in London, my 6 year old had a couple of black children in his class and my daughter nursery had lots of black kids. Of course London is 10 times as big as Cambridge. According to the Office of National Statistics, African, Caribbean and other blacks represent 3.3% of a population of 48.2m people. (www.ons.gov.uk) 13.3% of that minority live in London alone. Skip over to much smaller Cambridge and try to imagine the percentage of black people. There are 2% (of the 3.3%) in the East of England! Not a lot but better than 0.5% in the North East.

So part of me thinks this is normal. They are reacting quite rationally to the situation at hand and I must say with great articulation. The mother side of me wants to know that they know and they KNOW that being black or brown is equally as special as being peach.

Later that night before bedtime we spoke about how God created all mankind to be special and all over the world there are different coloured people who live in different places. I told them about Nigeria, where I was born, and how most people are brown in Africa. They found it fascinating that there is a country where white people are the minority. They want to see this for themselves. No problem I said. Can we go tomorrow they asked. Errr it’s not that easy to get on a plane and travel 6000+ miles for just a day 🙂 but we will go soon. They are at the age where they’ll remember and it’ll make an impact.

I learnt a valuable lesson that identity is important to all, children inclusive. Everyone likes to belong to something or somewhere. Am I going to start rounding up all black families I see in Cambridge and ask them out to tea or play dates? I doubt it. I’m reminded of something I heard Chimamanda Adichie say recently at Cambridge’s literary festival Wordfest, “I didn’t know I was black until I moved to the United Sates”. And I totally identify with that. I don’t see myself as a black woman, that is not my identity. I am a woman of African origin. Nor is it important to me that my children go around as black children but it IS important to me that they know they are of Nigerian descent. I want them to understand the language, appreciate the country, her history, delicious food and vibrant culture. I want them to be children proud of their rich heritage and walk tall in that knowledge.

20130813-103058.jpg
Print by Nigerian artist Jude Ugboh (1996)

The importance of listening to children has been so strongly reiterated with this experience. It is very important to talk to them no matter how uncomfortable the conversation may be. After a seemingly simple conversation, the next week at church my 4 year old coloured her picture brown. Result! I was soooooooo proud. My son caught up and did the same the following week. Happy face :). Being different is now the new normal.

20130813-001141.jpg
That looks pretty fabulous to me.

I pray that they don’t come home one day and say someone told them a doctor or an astronaut in a picture they have coloured can’t be black otherwise black ninja mummy is going to pop up.

20130813-003543.jpg
Our very “brown” family