Archive for the ‘The human condition’ Category

Back in London   Leave a comment

reverse culture shock






Reverse culture shock and adjustment.

Had a great experience but feel a bit dazed and confused about what I want to do now.

And the WordPress dashboard has completely changed – more confusion!

Poor me. Need to give myself a kick in the ass and stop navel gazing I guess….


Posted March 4, 2014 by mshambainlondon in The human condition, Uncategorized

Unknown unknows   Leave a comment

unknown unknownsDid you ever have a time in your life where you felt that nothing was happening, you were disheartened and miserable, felt life was passing you by,  and decided, ‘Well, this is it I guess. I just have to suck it up!’?

And then just when it was all really sh1te, and you’d more or less given up hope, tried to resign yourself to the small things and the security, it all explodes. And you don’t know where you are going or what you are doing, because for so long its just been holding tight and sitting it out, and hanging in there, and now, suddenly it is all happening. And you’ve almost forgotten how to do, rather than just bear it.

And that is where I am just now. Shocked that something I hoped but did not expect would happen. Teetering on the edge. Looking over the edge of the cliff before I jump into the unknown. Fear that it might not be true. Butterflies that it is true and it won’t work out. Hope that this is it.

And it is so effing inopportune it is not believable.  What if I screw up? Or it does not work out? Do I jump or do I turn away from the cliff edge and walk away to where it is safe and secure? And forget about all that hopey, changey stuff?

Why does it have to happen now? But maybe this is a good time and I am just putting barriers in the way? What if I just jump off the cliff and just see what happens?

Oh eff it Rummy! You really did know what you were talking about with your unknown unknowns didn’t you?


Shaken not stirred   Leave a comment

Went to see the new James Bond movie last night. It was the start of half-term break for the schools, and Eid al-Adha, and payday for many. The cinema was thronged. I was annoyed. I am normally a daytime lurker in empty cinemas, sitting where I want, spreading out over three seats and losing myself in the movie.

I readjusted my mindset to ‘Oh well, just enjoy the experience’ and went inside.  I fought my way into a seat I would never chose, squashed between two gangly youths and played the elbow game to gain control of the armrests. (This is where you forget any instinctual body space issues and press up against your neighbour’s elbow until they yield and you win the arm rest  – good for the tube also).

The place was chaotic. Mobile phones were everywhere. Kids ran in and out and climbed over seat-backs. Raucous laughter burst sporadically from different sections. A few oldies (Bond stalwarts like myself) were visible in strategic seats. I kicked myself. They had arrived early knowing it would be like this.

The trailers started. An old guy laughed. A group of young guys sitting behind him began to laugh at how he laughed. Around them, others joined in, laughing at their audacity.

The movie started. Very dark. Lots of psychobabble. Not sure I approve.  When was Bond every meaningful? (except when his wife died in ‘Her Majesty’s Secret Service’) However this one does have a wicked villain in Javier Bardem (who has an amazing face). And there are flashes of beautiful Bond humour throughout.

In the middle of the movie, a fight broke out across the aisle from me. It culminated in an older man standing up, leaning over the back of his seat, grabbing a teenager by the front of his jacket and threatening to throw him from the top of the steps to the bottom. It was great! Drama on and off-screen – what great value for money!

At the end of the movie there was a moment of silence. And then everyone spontaneously cheered and clapped! It was the first time in ages I’d experienced something like this in a cinema. Yes, sometimes when I go to meaningful movies. But this outburst was sheer joy from a gang of hyperactive teenagers and appreciative oldguy Bond addicts. It made my night.

I strolled out of the cinema full of joy and into the cold and dark London night. Because it was Eid, this part of London was buzzing. People were dressed in their best, hugging each other, taking photos, talking loudly and laughing. It felt really wonderful.

Truancy   Leave a comment

Today I ran away from work.

I am a middle-aged professional in a responsible job. I have my own office. I have people who work for me. I am extremely conscientious, arriving early and finishing late. I sometimes work weekends. I just don’t do slacking.

Then today, I was walking down Oxford Street on the way to a meeting in West London and I just got on the wrong tube and went to my favourite park. I skived off, committed truancy, mitched.

I switched off my mobile and listened to the daft conversations around me. People talking about how good the sausages were (they are!), drinking flasks of tea to keep themselves warm, talking about their dogs, gossiping about their absent friends.

It was a completely unconscious thing to do.

I experienced a brief moment of delight before the self-analysis about why I did it and guilt for the work not done kicked in. Damn my background/culture/heritage! I am still analysing myself about it now!

New fangled music   Leave a comment

Felicity is 87. She looks like a cross between the actress Margaret Rutherford and Agatha Christie. She has had a number of strokes and heart attacks but through bad temper and iron will, is fully functional. She is a fierce atheist and one of the world’s truly good people. She is a psychologist. She still sees a caseload of clients for a charity. She ends her working day at 8pm and strides off into the London night with her backpack and stick. She has recently started attending art college to fulfil a childhood dream to be an artist.

Recently she went to the Barbican to see Nigel Kennedy. “It was fascinating” she says. “He played Bach and then played some new fangled chap called Fats Waller.”

Nice to hear that Fats Waller (who died in 1943)  is  ‘new fangled’.

Bless them all   Leave a comment

I heard this poem by Richard Newman on a podcast of The Writer’s Almanac (read by Garrison Keillor).  I was walking down the street and it brought me to a standstill.   I am guilty.


Bless Their Hearts

by Richard Newman

At Steak ‘n Shake I learned that if you add
“Bless their hearts” after their names, you can say
whatever you want about them and it’s OK.
My son, bless his heart, is an idiot,
she said. He rents storage space for his kids’
toys—they’re only one and three years old!
I said, my father, bless his heart, has turned
into a sentimental old fool. He gets
weepy when he hears my daughter’s greeting
on our voice mail. Before our Steakburgers came
someone else blessed her office mate’s heart,
then, as an afterthought, the jealous hearts
of the entire anthropology department.
We bestowed blessings on many a heart
that day. I even blessed my ex-wife’s heart.
Our waiter, bless his heart, would not be getting
much tip, for which, no doubt, he’d bless our hearts.
In a week it would be Thanksgiving,
and we would each sit with our respective
families, counting our blessings and blessing
the hearts of family members as only family
does best. Oh, bless us all, yes, bless us, please
bless us and bless our crummy little hearts.

(“Bless Their Hearts” by Richard Newman, from Domestic Fugues. © Steel Toe Books, 2009.)

What a beautiful humourous capturing of who we really are!

I had never heard of him before so checked him out and found  his website. I really like his style. Deceptively simple and humourous but deep and shocking in the way it captures the truth of existence.  I’m struggling through the Dalai Llama on ‘Becoming Enlightened’ at the moment (and really, struggling is the word).  Newman’s poem ‘Mowing’ made me feel better about ‘the four noble truths’.