The other night I spent 2 hours with my neighbour.
I knew she had a lot going on. So I did what good friends do, I shoved my feet into a pair of slippers, walked the six steps to her front door armed with my spare key and an already full bag of my issues that I would now voluntarily add hers to.
A husband each, 9 kids between us, often knocking for onions, sugar or potatoes we have each other’s back. Fate made us postcode sisters but it went deeper. .
As delightful as our dance of words always was, I enjoyed my front row seat to her life. Her speaking Arabic as she praised God for her children as we discussed them, her replying to her brood who called her upstairs in her mother tongue and then back to me a fellow west Londoner, communicating in the so called queens English but for us it went deeper. .
I watched fascinated as she changed the shape of her head covering over and over again as it fell she twisted it, as it slipped she tucked. It slipped often as we laughed. We laughed at the anecdotes we shared, we laughed at the pain we didn’t feel like crying over.
A queen from Africa’s horn she spoke of the division and recurring problems regarding her primary school beside our home, the one that I never chose for my children.
In 2012 when it was my time to choose the poor stats led me further down the street. I also unlike my neighbour had the heads up from a husband who had grown up in the community and actually attended the school.
6 teachers leaving one citing a need for a more ‘diverse’ institution- she knew what it meant her community had somewhat outnumbered the ‘locals’ and it had put the future of the school in jeopardy. As they left term after term the form entry went from two to one.
School closure certainly seemed on the horizon, she raised her hands in defeat at the notion but as she interjected with another praise to God I knew she’d be just fine.
I gathered that though we shared the same walls, communal areas and took in each other’s amazon prime parcels, birthed some of our kids in the same maternity unit and voted for the same counsellors our life in the same coloured skin was different and that wasn’t right. .
.to be continued .....