Well it’s been a while to put it mildly. I’ve been trying to write, or at least to pass by my sites, but it has been an issue of time.
There isn’t even a land line near here, and in any case over the last couple of weeks, there hasn’t been time. Almost every morning since the 29th of November, I’ve had to get up at 6AM to get to work. The first week, I made it on time three times. The other days, it was impossible.
When I was in Marble Arch, incidentally it was much easier to get to work. It took less than 45 minutes to get to work once I got the train timing down, that’s why I was early the three times. However, the trip from Marble Arch to Charlton was fraught with disappointment.
First, the last time I was in London, I went out on a date with this Nigerian guy I had met online. He’s a social activist, and he was very interesting in terms of what he was interested in, working on.
We’ve been communicating, and well the date was ‘interesting’. We talked, he played Sunny Ade in his car (I love Sunny Ade now. The music was so beautiful.) I We went to dinner. I don’t know how things are done in England, but he made me get the Tube to the college where he works, and the drove me to North London for Chinese food.
On the way in the car, he suggested that I get the Tube and go back to Marble Arch, because he didn’t know how to get there in the car and didn’t want to drive back through areas he didn’t know. I gently protested and cajoled him, telling him it would be unfair for me to have to go all the way back on the Tube at that time of night.
I guess that should have been my first indication.
The conversation with dinner was alright, I felt it went well. Although, I feel this is a good moment to comment that Chinese food in England is like most food in England, bland. Then on the way back from the restaurant, Brother Man decided to get ‘real friendly’.
It wasn’t like he was ‘pawing’ or anything like that. However, in my experience, he is like most of the other Nigerian men I’ve met. Kind of ‘touchy feely’. After only a few hours of actually physically meeting, he was holding my hand, and hugging me and tried to kiss me. I dunno mate, it struck me because it seems all Nigerian men are like this, and I have to chalk it up as a cultural thing. However, it’s very off putting.
I liked him anyway, he was warm and friendly and his company wasn’t unpleasant.
We continued to keep in contact even after I left London. The weekend I came up to London to go work in Bromley, he was in Germany giving a lecture, but by Thursday I knew he was back, and called him and asked him if he could come and pick me up and take me to Charlton.
I was exhausted from work and I didn’t want to endure the Tube; so I was a little disappointed when he said he was on his way to go do something or the other. He said he’d call a friend and see if he could come and give me the drop. Two hours later, going on 9pm, I still hadn’t got an estimated arrival time and was getting antsy, because if I had to get the Tube, at that stage I wasn’t getting to Charlton before 11pm.
So I called him back and this is when he suggested to me that he’d organise something else.
“What time do you have to get to work tomorrow?” he asked.
“Well what if you stayed somewhere else tonight, and go on the Tube to Charlton tomorrow?”
“I am not keen to stay with people I don’t know. Where am I going to stay?” worried now I was.”I certainly can’t stay with you.”
“What are you saying, that I am a stranger?”
“No, not exactly,” I said. “But we only met once and I’m not going to stay with you at yo4r house.”
“I’ll organise something,” he said softly.
“Uhhh… listen, my plan is to go to Charlton. I needed some help to get there, but I don’t know you well enough to spend a night alone with you anywhere. I prefer to just go on the Tube.
“It’s not that I don’t like you, or don’t want to see you again,…
“Oh,” he says.
“…But I just don’t feel comfortable with that kind of arrangement. So you know, I’ll text you or you text me, or give me a call and we’ll get together during the time I’m here.”
“Okay,” he says.
I don’t know, but I must really seem innocent and naive. Maybe I am. I just can’t imagine why he would think I was going to just go off and spend a night with him somewhere in London in a place where I don’t know anyone but him, in uncertain circumstances. As I hung up the phone, I had the very realy and palpable sense that I had just narrowly escaped a really bad situation.
I ended up leaving a bag at Mahie’s and taking just enough stuff for a day or two, and headed to Charlton on the Tube. By the time I got there, I was numb with exhaustion.
Monilove was ‘friendly’, it was nothing to her. Her expression of ideas and thoughts on my life and personality, obviously did not effect her in any way, so she had no reason to feel uncomfortable. I played the game and didn’t reveal my distress. I just kept it and all my feelings to myself.
The next day though, I was ridiculously late for work; almost an hour late.
Saturday morning, Monilove left for New York and suddenly, for the first time since being in England, I found myself alone.
I want to tell you how lonely I was, and there was that. However, I was really grateful for the space even it was only for ten days.
Last week, I got the travelling to and from work down to science. Here’s the kicker though. It takes two buses and about a two hour commute to get there from Charlton. Bromley is actually in Kent, but is a part of London. It’s only about ten or fifteen miles away, but the 161, the bus I need to get from Charlton is dodgier than you can imagine.
I have to be at the bus stop and get the 7am bus, or it takes up to two hours to get to Bromley. If I get any bus after 7am, then the traffic slows travel down to crawl and it can take as long as forty minutes to travel four miles, and I miss the second bus I need to get in order to get to Bromley. If I’m on the 7am 161, I can make it to Bromley in an hour and get to work for 8.30am or 8.45am.
As for the job. The job was working in a mortgaging and remortgaging handling company. It was an office to be sure, but in reality it was a factory of paperwork. It was monotonous, dull, and mind numbing in the extreme. All I did was enter data into a database, create a paper trail regarding properties and search the UK Land Registry database and check it back against the claims of the people seeking to mortgage or remortgage their houses. It was a factory of paperwork. Nothing more, nothing less.
What’s more, after a few days of working a couple of things started to become very clear. 1) The agency I was working for (because as a temporary worker I worked for the agency, not the company itself) was elling me short. There were kids there; in fact it was mostly kids. The company itself used several agencies and relied heavily on temporary workers. These mostly kids (eighteen and nineteen years old most of them, were on their first jobs, and worst, worst of all, many of them were making as much as a pound more than I was. 2) The agency that I was working for, was very small in terms of the ‘game’ here in England. One of the girls that sat next to me, was signed on with them, but they didn’t get her the job where we were working. What’s more, she — at eighteen — was working for a pound more than I was. What’s a pound you say? Well, it’s certainly an indication of what this agency thought I was worth at the time, or the best they could do for me or both. 3) I went into a couple of agencies off the Bromley High Street, and they all said very little when I reported I was with this agency, and were suspiciously circumspect regarding my queries on this agencies ability to get me work.
Now here’s the doozie of this thing: I went to cash my cheque on Monday, and the cheque cashing place had to call the agency to verify that they had given me the cheque and that I was working for them temporarily.
After work, on Monday, the agency called me up and told me that they weren’t sending me back out to work the next day, because they wanted me to go to the Home Office and get a letter from them verifying who I was.
I think it was a bullshit excuse, because they simply didn’t want to deal with the hassle of dealing with me on that level. Obviously, I don’t need to go to the Home Office; I have a Trinidad passport and Barbados ID card, I don’t need to verify I am who I say I am, and well, funny how life extricates you from situations that ain’t good for ya.
That said, when I came home this Monday night gone, I was seriously depressed about all this. It just seems as though the system here is set up to keep you out. However, that is true about most systems. In order to cash the cheque, or open a bank account, I have to show proof of address in the form of a utility bill. In order to set up any utilities in my name I need a bank account. My only option otherwise, is to apply for my provisional driver’s license, but it’s forty pounds, and I need signatures and other forms of verification. It’s like being turned down for jobs I want because I don’t have enough UK experience. It’s like ‘catch 22’ on all sides.
By Tuesday morning, I was struggling not to let myself get depressed, even as I was relishing the pleasure of sleeping past 6am, and not having to thrust my unwilling flesh into the icy cold of the morning so I could be sure to be at the bus stop at 7am to catch the dodgy ass 161.
I sat here in Monilove’s flat, watching Pirates of the Caribbean for possibly the twentieth time (the television here has shitty reception, but there’s the infamous DVD player bought during the three weeks I was here in August, and a slim selection of movies, of which Pirates is among the most fun), when my phone rang.
It was the folks in Barbados who want me to edit this magazine for them. The woman I spoke to, said she was going to send me the info I needed, a job description and a written offer of employment.
The night before in distresst, I turned to my Tarot Lukumi (thank you always Afrika) and all my cards came up as an end to dramas and an improvement in finances, and when I delved deeper, more of the same came up.
Among the things I need to work on is not letting negativity consume me. not let all these delays and disappointments cause me to lose sight of what I really want, and what I am here to do.
It’s been the easy road to let my frustrations overwhelm me. However, I’ve been fortunate to have a few good people who are cehcking on me, and who are working hard not to let me give in.
I have had a couple of moments where the enormity of what I’ve been going through has been like a suck hole grasping at me and trying to pull down in to the viscosity of despair. I have found myself completely unsure about my coming to England, and leaving all I was comfortable with behind. I have questioned myself and regretted many mistakes I made and the lust I have for a better life for myself and questioned choices I made to come here. However, there is much to be said for tenacity and determination, and for whatever reason, I am here.
I’m here and still fighting. I am fighting through my fears, the setbacks and obstacles in my way, my sense of loneliness and oft times helplessness in the face of what seems insurmountable, but I know I will succeed.