No Expectations

Yes, that’s right-you heard me – I’ve got absolutely none.  No expectations of myself, da fam, my peoples…. Check the rolling Stones song with the same name.

Does that mean I’ve given up? Has the cynicism that plagues our age, finally done me in?

Well, I actually feel more liberated than I ever have in a ridiculously  long time. Free from. Free from pretence. Free from political correctness that is often a smoke screen for ignorance and prejudice.

I kid myself that I’ve reached that pivotal moment when I don’t care about how I seem.  But you and I know that secretly inside there’s always gonna b that little girl desperate to impress.

As an educational consultant, I’ve witnessed many many senior school leadership meetings where    the rhetoric is more graceful than a renowned Russian ballet dancer doing the dying Swan.  Chewing on my chocolate digestive to stifle a sob as I resonate with the Head Teachers perfectly, passionately constructed modern day parable about their struggle. Their struggle for ‘high expectations’ within the board room and without, inside the classroom and on those all defining school corridors that indicate the true metal of the school.  ‘High expectations’onthe streets, the all important chicken shop and the sitting rooms of those families where the gap -be it attainment, behavior, class, must  ‘by any means necessary’ be closed.

I hope I don’t sound cynical as I reminisce on how the senior leaders drop into the bubble and boil of their strategic meeting- the ever pressing need to give more opportunity to all – to raise that bar with yes  ‘high expectations’.

But when I get onto the front line it’s just not there.

‘No expectation’ is oozing out of the adults, the children, the middle managers =the school.  Teachers -and I include myself in this- often walk into a new learning opportunity with old bagagge- the despicable goings on of last week, last month, last lesson.  One little reminder or jibe and the children refrain from disappointing these negative expectations and so they dutifully fulfil their role and play up.  The dance goes on.

Then there’s the labelling of which child is worth investing in.

Yes-money is tight – not every student can have mentoring, one to one tuition, small group support but let’s get back into the classroom and look at the rapor between teacher and the 30.

Are there high expectations  exuding from the adult ‘in the driving seat’, are children filled with hopeful anticipation that they WILL learn and improve their life chances, are children who have previously struggled academically, given the chance to shine on a brand new topic and a brand new lesson, do we give lower ability children, higher ability work now and then to check we haven’t missed out on a hidden talent, are children who have ditched bad behavioral habits rewarded?

Don’t wanna O D on idealism but these are some of the telling signs of ‘high expectations’ in the classroom.

I have had to cover my  ears to protect my fragile and fledgling paradigm as  professionals rant and rave about the children I’m trying to believe in.  It’s the same attitudes about the steady decline in standards but different faces, voices, roles with in school….  A quick coffee in the staff room has left me filled with despair at the negativity bouncing off the walls about how we view our future.

This disconnect between classroom and board room has led me to have  N E…

As my colleague put it, it’s about winning hearts and minds and that’s just one other rant!


Demand supply

You a dreamer? Do u live with your feet firmly planted in pragtism or is fantasy your reality?

As you might have worked out I come alive when I’m as detached from reality as possible .

This summer was the best yet- partly- for the intellectual abandon I was able to immerse in.  I was able to blog, make funky music, hang with my dearest in pretty places …

But those heady, hazy days have  faded far into distant memory like chimney smoke blending into the distant rain clouds.

The Enid Blyton -esque adventures of summer are packed firmly and far away with the picnic blanket, bucket, spade and sun cream.

Post holiday blues? PLEASE- Let’s not even go there! I refuse to be part of such middle class pseudo neurosis.  (still can’t come to terms with the chambering up the social ladder I’ve endured (honest guv it was nothing to do with me) )

And I am in mourning because the boring 💤 demands of survival have returned with avengance.  Survival of the financial kind is rearing it’s head like a jack in the box that I keep pushing down and it just jumps out at me again.

On Friday 7.15 am, I dutifully dialled my supply agency and in my nicest, politest, at your  service- like- voice (not easy for people like me) I BEGGED for a metaphorical gig.

My supply agency – are so cool.   Within minutes I was matched to a school, dBs in fist✊ ,  dressed to impress, following the pink line on the Sat Nav leading me to that pot of gold of £80

Dejection that I’m not yet a famous singer song writer/ social anthropologist columnist was doggedly stamped out as true terror set in at the prospect of facing ten shiny glittery gelled mascarad – year 10s – who I was now supposed to figure out the next 8 beats of a highly complex dance routine.

Note- my last experience of dance was ballet when I was 8 and some awful depiction of yout on c bbc which has amazing dance routines mingled with dodgy messages about relationships.

Once I plucked the perfectly petite alpha blonde-female student from the crew and perched her on her rightful  branch -everything fell into place.  Twas as easy as falling off a log!

Even I was disarmed by her super confidence, focused strut, technically astute dance moves mingled with calm serenity, no – smile policy and the traces of an eastern European twang.

But like all good opportunists, I put my ethical concerns to the side and let her do my job better than I ever could.

She  warmed them up, grouped them, bossed  them, tossed her perfectly placed blonde hair.

It was a dream!

What betta reason to get out of your snuggly bed for?

I joined the warm up which they all found highly amusing as I huffed and puffed to touch my knees and grimaced at the pudgy mirror images attacking my eyes at every angle.

What a blast to dance to some revitalized 80s classics and breath in the aroma of our future leaders – and get paid.

Maybe the pragmatic need for cash is my reality!

Slumming it at the Proms

As London Underground ‘even out the gaps in the service’, I step back and take a mental selfie- an overwhelming guilty pleasure spreads over my skin like an embarrassing unwanted rash.

Unwanted because I’m squirming with the privilege I enjoy whilst others are fighting for their life-right now- they’re coming up for air-as I puff and pant at my inefficient predictive function on my phone .

I feel even more conscience stricken because my very existence is the outcome of refugees of yore who escaped  eastern Europe and South Africa.

My attitude to life, my confidence,   education, exposure is the result of kindness  towards those immigrants who are my fore father’s.

That kindness meant I got out of the ghetto FOR FREE and one perk of this brave new world I now luxuriate in is: music.

 Tonight I was reminded of that pure, delicate,tinkling and tickling to the ears that only Rimsky-Korsakovs, scherazade can evoke.  Music is a luxury that I love deeply.  It’s a non verbal communication that communicates volumes to my inner most being.

You could be excused for enquiring how can I possibly imagine that this hedonistic lifestyle could described as ‘slumming it’.   Well- I went for the £5 tickets and elected to queue for hours in the great outdoors that we call Kensington, to then sit on the floor in the Gods of the Albert Hall and languish in mesmerising musical luxury !

Hoping against hope that I'll get some floor space at the Proms last Monday.
Hoping against hope that I’ll get some floor space at the Proms last Monday.
I love the Proms because as a superbly awkward mixed race child  growing up in Haggerston estate:  a non English speaking refugee, single parent (need I go on)- I could ditch the labels;  pay less than a fiver and hear the likes of Anne Sophie Mutter, Victoria Mullova, Simon Rattle, the Berlin Philharmonic and last Monday:  the St Petersburg Philarmonic.
All in that hall, had one thing in common: passion for The Sound…going to whatever lengths were needed to be part of that magnificent, alluring, written in the stars – like- SOUND.  Like the Berlin wall tumbling down, the barricades of class, race, demography, economic privilege, education were momentarily flattened as we soaked in the rays of brilliant sounds that don’t have words that can be misunderstood, hurtful or degrading.
That’s what paying £5 to lie on the floor of the Gallery of the Albert Hall means to me.  In all that gratitude for the simple pleasures – it’s mingled with bitter sweet or in  modern parlance (salted caramel)  for 2 reasons:
there’s  the fact that even though it’s a fiver.  None of the adults I grew up with or the kids I now teach in impoverished areas are breaking down these stereotypes by joining me in the gallery.
As the solo violin rose elegantly, delicately, like a snake charmer, charming me toward an ideal of Platonic beauty, up through the higher echelons of the octaves, I plummeted down with the realisation that culture is not about economic deprivation as so many in schools insist- it’s a    ‘mind forg’d manacle’ of what is socially acceptable for you and yours.
You know how much dollars people don’t have to spend on their Nike but £5 for imperialist Russian decadence- PASS!  For me-it’s a Charlie finding the golden ticket moment- the absolute pleasure and intrigue of straddling the worlds of cow foot  and philosophical notions!
 I only hope that we can all take a mental selfie and remember where we come from – so many of us are descendants of invaders/freedom fighters or immigrants  be it last year, last century or last millennia.
Let’s work together to provide what is needed to help those without hope as our families were once provided for.

Beginning of a brand new Dawn!!!

Niran Obassa  Genuis pianist, organist, name it!! Read this Southbank Centre – review -
Niran Obassa
Genuis pianist, organist, producer….you name it!!
Read this
Southbank Centre – review –

This is it guys!  The beginning of a brand new Dawn!  I am so so so soso so excited and I absolutely  refuse to hide it!  My moment of ….making the music I have been dreaming of since I was an infant.

I feel so blessed to share this journey with all of y’all …whoever you may be.   …You can listen to it soon…coming at ya!!!!

Andrea- my agony aunt! My confidant! Amazing teacher and arts expert. We’re waiting as Niran gets those wild songs under control!!

What’s your holiday culture?

Murcia town centre.  Now we're really doing the tourist thang!
Murcia town centre. Now we’re really doing the tourist thang!

What’s in a Name? What’s in a holiday? It means many differing things to many .
Is it numbing the brain or reawakening the senses? Is it re affirming your national identity or escaping to a masquerade?

Well I am proud to shout out:

my relaxation involves vast sums of frenzied brain activity

I’ve felt obligated to apologise for my active mind for far toooooo long.  I’ve honestly been tempted to buy a disabled badge so new friends are pre warned via the small print of what is often perceived as a handicap- before even hanging with me.
This mind machination thing is a turn off to many.  Now all say ‘ahhhh’ and join me in my Moment!

Enough of the apologies, I’m taking ownership of me, accepting me and doing what my mind and body tell me to, rather than judging myself according to other peoples expectations

So, yes I read work emails and respond if I feel like it.  Yes, I call mates, I write – cause it’s cathartic.

Yes, I help people out on holiday who are going thru something cause we are FRIENDS ALL of the time

Yes I start blogs on holiday!

I totally respect those who switch off (I won’t mention how lazy I really think you guys are)- hats off to u!

Yes I am horizontal alot and cook with fresh, local ingredients and float in the ocean and spend an hour perfecting my wig to saunter to the supermarket (yes, I embrace my wig with confidence!)

Another thing I realised about myself on this holiday is: I’m the ultimate imperalist holiday maker.

My mantra is ‘what do the natives eat/wear/do…’ which is super patronising don’t u think?  I can be spotted in khaki and a note book studying the local habits and jumping to out landish conclusions avoiding my fellow brits to the max and desperately trying to blend into some Spanish senorita type persona but of course, too lazy to learn the lingo.

What’s that about?  The eternal search for the authentic, the rustic, the true spirit, the everlasting zeitgeist of a nation.  It’s tough to convincingly wear mantle of anthropologist- when you’re the only black fam in town.  Not that I’m blaming my predicament of my race.  I wouldn’t dare do that!  But, the only people who looked like us are those selling stuff on the beach or plaiting hair.

Can you imagine the gawps and stares as we saunter thru our sourjourn unaware of the waves we’re causing in the Murciathian lagoon?


Train em young- showing my little babe how to be a true holiday imperialist!  Checking out the all important edibles in a Spanish supermarket!

This class based tourist colonialism, is turning my understanding of noveau imperalism on its head.  It’s all about cultural exposure not race.  As people of African descent- refugee and immigrant- we can now use Wurope as osme over sized museum – playground and be bemused at the populous in that stereotypically imperialist way.

Last night, however, I dashed all my metaphoricla mohitos to the side and allowed myself to be turned upside down by a figuative spanish bull….

Ale hop

(American drawl please) Girl friend- you’ve gotta check this one out.  A cross between the British shop Tiger and Primark…it thumped my drum as if the owners had ransacked my wardrobe and designed the shop just for me…only me…and I used to think before entering this den of retail therapy – that I was an original fashioneesta?

Honestly, the Alastair Campbell’s of cheap trend….have got alot to answer for…  My fam were seriously concerned for my well being.  My eyes took on the vacant disarming stare of a weeping angel (Google Dr Who) all surround sound shrunk into silence as my mind vacated the premises.  All the energy drained from my 5 senses, re channelled and focused in on one target as I methodically interrogated this inviting victim.

My favourites from the shop that ate me up and spat me out!
My favs from the shop that ate me up and spat me out!

A demon possessed consumer, I honestly couldn’t stop and when I finally reached the home strait of the till and my children breathed an almost sigh of relief cause it was nearing 10pm and we hadn’t eaten… I saw some fantabulous necklaces oozing magnificent summer effervescent sparkly dangly beady…

Please respond- short or long here and share your views/ experiences of holidays

To stoop or not to stoop?

I used to think I was ‘dere wid d yout’- as someone put it -‘the cool aunty’.

I prided myself on being relatable and non judgemental and an open book. I did their fashion in my own unique way and looked way younger than my years-or so I thought!

This down with the homies -delusion was dashed to pieces when my son innocently enquired the other night ‘do you know a family where the children do more house work than us?’

My answer was an ashamed whimper ‘no’. He smiled knowingly.

At this point, the true Afro centric me was made known to me. It was a difficult admission to make after spending 20 plus adult years carefully deceiving myself .

Mental souvenirs of my first visit to family in soweto as a 19 yr old who had never cleaned or cooked flooded to the fore front of my mind. The Zulu mixed with xhosa mixed with sutu mumblings of family and neighbors in disapproval of my non existent home making skills burned my ears as if it were happening right now.

I did not understand a word but knew exactly what they thought.

Being the arrogant Cambridge undergraduate I was – I took no notice of this deficiency that created pity and disbelief from my new found elders.

Infact once my inferiority was confirmed through the accentuated disgust at my white knees that had not been blackened by polishing the stoop at 6am every morning without fail,   my meagre and pathetic attempts to wash dry and polish the stoops… well it became evident to my now ignorant oxbridge persona -that any iota of respect in my new south African family was based on successful stoop care.

Well I wasn’t having it!  I wasn’t going to be filed and labelled according to some alien criteria of success.

I didn’t attend a comprehensive in murder mile for nothing living off second hand clothes from ‘spastics society ‘, befriending the dominant culture of cockroaches jumping from my books and enjoying heating from a brick in my bed to stay warm at night as we had no form of heating -for nothing.

I didn’t  end up with grade 8 violin and a much sweated for place at a globally renowned institution of learning to be slighted because I was below par on my stoop care!

(Stoop in the OED

“a raised platform or verandah running along the front and sometimes round thesides of a house of Dutch architecture”.)

I got on the defensive… Tbc