A Useless Woman

A few years ago, in Kurdistan, one of my dear, friends advised me that there was an Arabic word to describe me. (Yes, he was male, and no, he wasn’t being rude, it’s a cultural thing). I can’t remember the word now, but he explained that it meant I was a useless woman. Oh, how I laughed! Apparently once a woman is past child bearing days she is known by this word and is basically a useless woman. This means that since I had my hysterectomy for severe endometriosis at the age of 32 I have since been useless.

Today is a big birthday, so I got up, ground some coffee beans and made a delicious cup of organic coffee. I sat on a chair looking out from my balcony over the valley and I contemplated how useless I have been since I couldn’t bear any more children.

At age 39 I went to university and got my BA (hons) English Literature, at age 43 I gained my Masters in Creative Writing. I was so useless after this, I worked on projects in the community before being accepted to do my PhD in Creative Writing. Whilst still being useless, I completed my PhD and got a job in Kurdistan as Dr Amaye. I published short stories in various anthologies, was long listed for a literature prize for my first attempt at a novel. Eventually, I published my PhD novel and have continued publishing short stories in anthologies and journals.

Did I mention that during my early useless years, I also got divorced, reared children single handedly, had a business that saw me working 16 hours a day, supported family members whilst having a paralysed face and a barely working left side of my body. Oh, and worked several jobs whilst all this was going on because bills had to be paid and benefits were never an option for me.

Whilst continuing to be a useless woman, I moved to Trinidad to continue teaching and guiding students in my first love of creative writing. And this morning I woke up to the following message from someone who has taught me so much over the past couple of years, which shows my uselessness in all its glory.

So, as today unfolds I am embracing all my uselessness in any form it takes and I hope it can continue for many more birthdays.

I feel grateful, I feel blessed.


It isn’t sudden

that burst of rain

that stills the sounds

of the mountains’ birds

No, if you observe

carefully, it creeps

into the valley in 


A roll of a cloud over the

hill, slowly nudging out 

the blue and its bright 

sunshine yellow, greying

It’s in the leaf waves on

certain trees, the ones

that dance to no discernible

breeze, (silent wind tunes)

Then the first splodges fall,

not on you, but in the

distance, so you don’t notice

until it has become a deluge

and you think it is sudden.

Look up. You will always see it

coming. Look up.

And as it leaves, you

feel the lightening of the

sky, grey turns off

but coconut palms still

drip, drip, drip

so it’s a while before you

notice it has passed

Writing Resistance

The following is a brief paper I gave at a roundtable discussion on Resistance and Resilience in our writing

As a writer I have always written against. Against what? Against the narratives of ‘other’ that I have been privy to in much of my reading life. Against the stereotypes of us, and by us I mean not them, and the views of what we can and cannot write about, what is and is not acceptable. This is the philosophy I use in my teaching. 

As writers from the Caribbean or Africa or Asia including those in the diaspora, or of any place that is not considered western, we have the chance to remove ourselves from the margins and take centre stage. The hybridization and creolization of our writing whether from here or the diaspora is a natural growth of colonization but is also an act of resistance against the same. 

I’m going to briefly summarise how I use both resistance and resilience in my writing, using my novel, A House With No Angels (AHWNA) as an example but also referring to other short stories I have written.

Scheingold (2010: 2) suggests the term ‘novels of political estrangement’ as a way of labelling a new genre of novel that looks past the big events of the century and concentrates on people, individuals whose lives have been shaped by what was happening, but who were largely unaware of any political influence. He states that ‘the literary imagination has long been recognised as capturing the spirit and the soul of the times’. Writing resistance concentrates on ‘the everyday lives of victims, victimizers, temporizers, opportunists, true believers, and those who have simply averted their eyes…’ (2). 

There are many ways that we use when writing resistance, and most times we don’t necessarily think about it, we are just telling the story that was wrapped up inside of us and needed to get out. However, the moment we realise a character on the page in all their ordinariness, in their fully rounded capacity, we are resisting a narrative that for hundreds of years was placed on us. Sometimes we approach it purposefully, other times it is a by-product of the story we are telling, but always it is necessary.

I approached my novel purposefully. I had the intention to disrupt and resist. Although it is set primarily in Manchester, in the UK, it is centred around the 5th Pan African Congress which was the catalyst for independence for many nations in the Caribbean and around the world. One of the first acts of resistance in AHWNA was Ade not narrating the world politics that were taking place during her first years in Manchester. She arrived in 1945, at the end of World War II, she attended political meetings, she was at the 5th Pan African Congress, and therefore, she should have been aware of what was happening on a grander scale. However, none of the big political happenings meant anything to her personally and it is a personal story that is being told. This sentiment refers back to Boyers (2005) and the premise that by the telling of individual stories the whole story can be narrated from a different and personal perspective. This gives way to resilience and resistance in their simplest forms. 

My novel is narrated by three women and the man at the centre of the novel does not have a voice. This was a conscious decision and part of my political stance at that time. I wrote about World War II from Ade’s point of view when she was living in Nigeria and listening in at her father’s meetings. At one point she tells her cousin that the whole world is at war, to which Funmi’s response is laughter. This was not an attempt for me to ignore the atrocities that took place in the war, but to highlight that not all the world was aware of what was happening and what was taking place. Resistance against the grand narrative is what makes our work stand out.

Ade’s character is based on the women who took part in the Aba women’s riots of 1929, which gives a female, African view of colonisation. I attempted to incorporate the spirit of these women in the way that Ade takes over the house at the age of eighteen; in the way that she manages her affairs without relying on a man; the way in which she provides a home for the students who are the future. I wanted to show resilience, without using the trope of the strong black woman who does not need consideration. My resistance to that trope was to make Ade complete and complicated and flawed.

In placing Elizabeth into a period that reflects postcolonialism I had to derive a way in which to represent this on the page. For me, personally, in the early days there were difficulties with postcolonialism as a theory that, in its base form, attempted to categorise people from different nations and experiences of colonialism under one banner. I began with the struggles that I had encountered around the subject. Namely, the language used and its inaccessibility by the very people postcolonial theory represents. I considered the ways in which people were oppressed, marginalised and excluded and how this made me feel uncomfortable, both in reading about it and through personal experience growing up in the 70s as a second generation migrant. 

            With these emotions in place, Elizabeth began to emerge as a character who did not sit comfortably on the page. I used her language and repetitiveness to represent the difficulties presented by the language of postcolonial theory. I added layers to her character that were unpleasant, i.e., her self-obsessive thought patterns and self-pity, this was an attempt to look at postcolonialism from the perspective of the pre-colonised people on the margins, rather than theoretical postcolonialism. Her role within the wider story was to explore a moment in history that was in a state of flux. In particular, I was thinking about independence of a nation and the shape of that independence being a theoretical construct rather than an actuality. Therefore I placed her white father in Nigeria to highlight that actually, independence or not, Britain had still not released its hold over its empire.

What I am attempting to portray is how I chose to give voices to marginalised characters in the postcolonial sense, voices that could not and should not be silenced. It was with writerly awareness, born out of postcolonial studies, that I explored how my characters would develop on the page.

During my research, I attended Black British Feminist Conference was based around the Olive Morris Archives and the book Heart of the Race, (Bryan et al, 1974). Olive Morris was a Jamaican born, UK based activist. The conference went into details of what women of colour in London had accomplished in the 1970s through resistance to the brutality of institutionalised racism. My research also took in the film Pressure (Ové, 1976), produced around this time, which offers a version of the experience of second generation Caribbean people in London during the 1970s. It was a well-crafted film, co-written by Sam Selvon. However, the female protagonist within the film was portrayed as highly sexualised in relation to the male characters. After she had given a rousing political performance at a meeting she was beaten by the police and when released was imagined by and shown naked in bed with a fifteen-year-old schoolboy. This showed how the women who were making such a bid for freedom and equality were not taken seriously, including by the black men who were in a position to promote the fight at that time. I wanted Elizabeth to reflect some of the inequality that was evident for women over this period. Elizabeth is an act of resistance against theoretical postcolonialism and patriarchy.

Kutes, is a third generation migrant and appears not to be restricted by the politics of womanhood or colonisation. She is born into a political era that has seen the 1982 race riots, right wing politics and strong immigration laws. She has no yearning for ‘home’ because she is Black British. She is home. However, as her story progresses she becomes aware of political inconsistencies within her world and turns to her mother and grandmother for guidance, acknowledging that they were ‘into politics innit’.

For Kutes I have used immigration as a baseline political stance. This is a theme that has run full circle within the novel from Ade and Peter and the 1940s to the present day. What I wanted to present with Kutes is the way in which young black people in cosmopolitan cities within the UK can often forget that they are ‘black’, partly because of the equality legislation that has attempted to absorb issues of difference into the political system, and thereby reduce the fight of the people. Third and fourth generation black British youngsters for a short time felt equal with their peers despite continued media evidence of race hate crimes. Of course, this is now a moot point with the necessary resurgence of movements that have taken place over the past few years that have become a global call for both resistance and resilience. 

With this character of Kutes, outside of the political realm, I used language as a form of resistance. This is something that every writer has at their disposal. Language and the way in which it can lift itself from the page whether in pidgin, creole or the hybrid of teenage skaz. Claiming our own vernacular on the page without apology is a weapon that we can use that centralises, claims, locates and identifies. 

I have never approached a story or poem that I have needed to write without a strong sense of ‘writing a wrong’. My first published short story, The Dance, pushes against the forced deportation of young people who were child asylum seekers, but when reaching the age of 18 were fighting not to be expelled from the UK. My latest short story looks at ageism, colourism and the act of dying. A chapter in my current novel deals with the Windrush scandal that is taking place in the UK, and gives a voice to the people that are overlooked by governments, institutions, schools and families. 

There is always a space to write resistance, to write ourselves into the narrative. In literature it is this writing of ourselves and exploring the strength that is in our past and our histories that enables us to write our future. It is in our words that we will find the strength, resilience and sustainability to survive this world we live in, both locally and globally.


BOYERS, R. (2005). The dictator’s dictation: the politics of novels and novelists. New York, Columbia University Press. 

BRYAN, B., DADZIE, S., & SCAFE, S. (1985). The heart of the race: Black women’s lives in Britain. London, Virago.

OVÉ, H., BUCKLER, R., SELVON, S., NORVILLE, H., JAMES, O., SINGUINEAU, F., & LIJERTWOOD, L. (2004). Pressure. London, British Film Institute.

SCHEINGOLD, S. A. (2010). The political novel: re-imagining the twentieth century. New York, Continuum.

Thy Kingdom Come

The following myth was written quickly and isn’t finished, but was in response to the murder of a young woman last week. From Britain, to Kurdistan to Trinidad and Tobago, all countries I have lived in, I am so tired of hearing of these atrocities against women. I am so sick of hearing authorities tell women to take care and be aware. How about they start saying to men STOP. ABUSING. RAPING. AND. MURDERING. WOMEN

All who entered the kingdom could not deny its beauty. The mountains that shielded the interior were dense with trees of every green hue. Bursts of color, yellows, oranges, pinks would adorn the greenery like jewels at the neck of a woman. The sea lapped at sand as soft as chana flour and reflected the brightness of the sky as though it was made to reflect back the glory of the gods. The land was rich with resources that were coveted throughout the world and the foreigners travelled by boat and plane to bask in the beauty of this heavenly kingdom.

Only one problem blighted this paradise and at first, they thought it was easy to fix. Those men in high places who decided the fate of all who lived in the kingdom decreed that women would wear clothes to cover their body from neck to toe. They would cover their hair in the presence of all men except their husband. Not even a finger nail could be shown out in public. It made total sense, the kingdom crier announced. If there was nothing to see there could be no issue. 

            And yet still, the maidens of the kingdom were turning up in rivers and shallow graves. Stripped, defiled, mutilated and dead. The people of the kingdom raised their voices in discontent that there were those among them who could take the daughters of the land and violate them just so. The people took to the streets with chants and songs. The kingdom criers sat in town squares and told the story of each maiden who had been lost, naming them again and again until they were on the lips of every citizen.

So, those men in high places devised a new plan. It was written into law and each citizen was bound to a contract. It was decided that there were some who were pre-disposed to this kind of behaviour if not before birth, the surely straight after. It was decided that these boy children would have their penis removed as soon as they were born. When the citizens raised their voices in horror, those men in high places decreed that what the boy child had never had they could never miss, and this procedure meant that real men could be preserved in their rightful places within society. And those men in high places made this decision to show the rest of humanity that they understood. That they could deal with their own.

            And for a while the idea worked. A boy child was detected by scan at 26 weeks. The mother was given a detailed questionnaire to complete, with help, of course, because not all of them could understand what they were being asked. Some were too young, some didn’t finish schooling, some had no inclination to comply. Court appointed officials were based in each antenatal clinic ready to assist. The questions were very intimate, very personal. Designed to make sure she knew the responsibility that lay on her shoulders by having a boy child. Poking into every aspect of her mind to make sure she was capable of raising a good boy, to teach him right from wrong. Making her responsible for his fate. Fathers were not exempt. No, no. They were easier to deal with though. A blood test and a brain scan could determine what they were passing on to their offspring. It wasn’t of much importance, but science insisted genetics were taken into account, so science had to be appeased.

            At first some women tried to hide their boy child. They would give birth at home or deep in the bush. But a few postpartum grisly deaths made it not worth the effort. And the women who had lost maidens shouted out their anger at the selfish mothers and aided the kingdom officials to find them and to force adherence. The horror stories of gaping wounds and maggot infested infections that ate away at the testes and rendered the boy children sterile did not deter the men in high places. And once the removal operation was perfected it wasn’t an issue and so much easier to keep those boy children clean. 

            Many years passed and the men in high places thought they had done it. They felt very proud of their innovative solution to an age old problem. Except the numbers were not changing. Every week four or five maidens were being pulled out of a river, or a cesspit or from the side of the road. Broken and violated. And the voices soared in pain for these children of the land who were being taken. The voices demanded something be done and the men in high places listened. It was decreed that the problem was the hands that could carry out these heinous crimes and therefore hands were surgically removed from pre-disposed boy children at birth. Hands and penises were the perpetrators and with them removed the maidens would be safe.

            At the beginning, mothers complained bitterly about the extra work they would need to do, but the men in high places encouraged them to breed girl children to help. It was being done for those same girl children. They had to be part of the solution. And for a little while it helped. The number of maidens being dragged from bushes reduced to only four or five each month and young women started to peel out of their houses and walk alone around the streets and not peer around every corner looking for the bogey man. The pre-disposed boys played football and video games with voice activation and finally, peace appeared to be in sight. The kingdom collectively began to breathe easier. The sun shone brighter, the mountains stood taller and the sea became calmer.

            One day, a new phenomenon appeared and nobody could trace the source. But it began to disrupt life from the classroom to the supermarket to the office. On public transport and on the streets of the kingdom. Nowhere was exempt. Vile words began to spew from the mouths of men and boys. Words directed at women like chainsaws at a tree. Constant and without restraint these words began to chop at the legs of young maidens, and mothers, at aunties and grandmothers. Lewd words made to shock and disturb, and it passed through the kingdom like a virus. Even those who had not been identified at birth, who had kept their penis and their hands, began to spew the filth.

            It began as a whistle, then a strange sucking of the lips, like that used to call a dog from the field. Then words formed that sounded sweet to begin with, offering delights to the mind and succulent body of the female targets. And for a while, some unsuspecting maidens smiled or laughed, not knowing that their ancestors had also taken this route long before and that there was nothing innocent in that path taken. 

            Letters were written to the men in high places and they knew something had to be done. Maidens had once more begun turning up in rivers and fields, naked and covered in suck marks, bite marks and saliva. There was only one way forward and the men in high places decreed that the tongues of pre-disposed boy children should be removed at birth, along with hands and penises. The men in high places said this would guarantee the survival of their gender and show that they would not let the kingdom down.

            For the next hundred years pre disposed boy children had their tongues removed and lips partially sewn together at birth. And though mothers complained about the extra work of guessing what their boy child may need, they were told to be grateful for the extra girl children who could help.

            And once more maidens were free to roam in peace and live their lives in harmony with each other and the disfigured men they came upon. There was no threat to their being and only one or two maidens each month were succumbing to a brutal end and the men in high places felt that this was acceptable.

            Until one of their own was taken. The men in high places turned the kingdom upside down and their anguished screams could be heard ringing through the land day and night. Until their own was found naked at the edge of the lake, trampled into the mud, bitten, sucked, choked, raped and battered. The men in high places howled and ripped their clothing and did not know how this thing had happened when they had tried everything in their power to stop it.

            The wives of the men on high had always respected their husbands’ insights. Had bowed to their greater intelligence and understanding of the male species. This, though, was too much to bear and while the men lamented the loss of their daughter, the women took seats at the high table and made a decree.

            From that day forward no longer would boy children be mutilated at birth. Instead they would be brought up exactly the same as girl children. They would be trained to think of others, they would be of service to all, they would show respect for themselves and as an extension for all others. Mothers and maidens, aunts and grandmothers would show the boys how they were expected to act.  Boys would not be allowed to congregate in groups without at least two maidens present to make sure their mouths and minds stayed pure.

            And for many years peace reigned in the kingdom, until the men in high places began decrying these maiden men and began holding secret meetings, inviting men to join them and learn to be real men. Encouraging them to understand the ways of their ancestors and to take their rightful place as true men, in a society that needed them. And the men felt that a new world was opening up to them and books were written that told of man’s place in the universe and the rights that he should be afforded. 

            And soon maidens were turning up naked in storm drains and secluded beaches, battered and broken. And the women howled and collected their girl children to their bosom and left the kingdom. They travelled far and wide until they found an island newly emerged from the sea and claimed it as their own.

            Back in the kingdom, time passed and one by one, the real men perished and nature claimed the earth where they had once stood. The mountains and the bush grew thick and lush and the rivers and the sea flowed with ease. And it was as though the kingdom had never been.

The maidens flourished in their new homes and danced naked under the moonlight.

Free to be. 

Free to breathe. 

Free to live.

Ali Ashiq (Ali the Lover)

Ali Ashiq is a legend in Kurdistan. His story is retold both as a celebration and a warning about true love. I heard the tale of his life many times in many different ways and each telling moved me.

As Ali got older the Kurdish Government built him a house outside of Soran close to a waterfall, high above the twists and turns of the roadway below. He was often seen walking the hills going about his business, bothering nobody and in turn not being bothered. He died recently and this is my interpretation of his story.

Photo Rudaw.net

Ali sat in the shade of the only tree on the lower mountainside. Glancing up at the unbroken blueness of the sky, he marveled at his life. His sheep grazed peacefully on the rich grasses, deep green and lush after the spring rains. This was Ali’s favourite time of year. The mountains were waking up, peeling away the old dried grasses, like dry skin from the bottom of his foot. Winter’s rains and the thin layer of snow that had come and gone had softened them. The new grass pushed the old away and spring rain washed it down to the river to be carried away.

Ali laid down his wax cloth and slowly began the ritual of folding back each corner to reveal his lunch. Since a small boy of ten until now, nine years later, Ali enjoyed this ritual. His sister would prepare his lunch and not tell him what it was. So that he could have a surprise, she said. So that he would know she loved him and thought about him, out there, all alone. Of course, Ai was not alone. He had his sheep and his two dogs. He had grass and rocks, mountains and rivers. The sun was his friend and the rain was his close cousin.

The tin pot was still slightly warm and Ali’s mouth watered. He took his time, savouring the moment. Dolma or Kofta? Maybe Biriani. He unfolded his mother’s bread, thin and delicate, slightly scorched in patches where it had stayed too long on the sér. Just as he liked it. The slight sharpness, the change in texture from pale to dark excited his mouth.

Closing his eyes, Ali lifted the lid and sniffed deeply. The tang of sumac, pepper, tomato. The distinctive and subtle smell of garlic that his sister put in just for him. To keep him warm inside, to protect him. So lost in the poetry of the moment, Ali missed the ripple of breeze that passed through the meadow. Opening his eyes slowly, he relished the dolma before tasting it. Tearing a piece of bread, he plunged it into the pot, his fingers deftly scooping and rolling a perfect formation.

Since childhood, Ali had appreciated the small things in life. Sitting with aunties and sisters, he had enjoyed the sounds of their voices as they chitter-chattered stories he didn’t understand. He was fascinated by the busy-ness of their arms and hands as they scrubbed, kneaded, picked and plucked. All the time their voices rising and falling. He liked the way his sister’s hair caught the sunlight and shimmered so that it looked like far away mirage of grass on a hot summer’s day. His favourite times were sitting with mother while she stirred large pots over open fires. Songs would whisper their way from her lips and drop into whatever she was cooking. Although too young to understand what she sang, he would know instinctively whether they were sad, when she lifted the spoon and blew on it before pressing it to his lips to taste. Sometimes it was bitter and he would screw up his face, other times the sweetness would make him choke.

As he grew older, Ali spent less time with the women in his house and more time with his father. Roaming the mountains, finding the best place for the sheep and goats to graze. Listening to his father’s wistful voice telling him of conquests old and new. Teaching him the ways of the Kurdish man who was fearless in battle. The protector of the land, the gladiator. The man. Ali listened dutifully, but his heart remained with the gentle cadence of his mother’s songs. With the fierce gentleness of his aunts and sisters. Ali knew there was poetry in life. Words that fit together in such a way that only beauty could come from them. So he listened to his father like a good son and dreamed of beauty.

The year Ali turned eighteen was when the two sides of him met. The feminine and the masculine combined and brought about the biggest change in him. She was beautiful. She was more than beautiful. She was Zozg mountain on a clear day, standing out against an azure sky. She was the waterfall pulsing in March. She was almond blossom, dazzling against the craggy mountain. When she smiled at him, her head turned slightly to one side, a small wrinkle in her brow as though trying to remember him, Ali knew that she would be his. For one year he had dreamed of the day they would be married. He planned each detail so carefully that sometimes he thought it was real and would be surprised to look around and see not the walls of their small home but mountains and sheep.

Ali was mopping up the last of the rice, his fingers smooth with red oil, a slight smile of satisfaction on his face. The sheep were still. Like monuments of the past. Waiting. Aware. At first, Ali did not notice anything his mind still focused on the life he would spend with his beloved. As he began to tidy away, he wiped his fingers on the grass and noticed the line of ants next to him for the first time. They scurried with determination, carrying crumbs of bread, grains of stray rice and twigs.

Something caught in Ali’s mind. He wasn’t sure what, but somehow there was a marching through his mind. A carrying of crumbs and fragments that were indecipherable. This time, he felt the breeze that blew through the field. It reached inside him and scattered his peace. The sheep began to bleat and Ali heard whispers. As though somehow the sheep were telling him a secret. In the distance he could hear drums. Faint. Beats missing as the sound bounced off the mountains. There was a whistling and shrilling moving in and out of the air around him.

The sounds of a wedding in the village. Ali knew these sounds. He heard them almost every Friday. Soon, he thought, they will be for me. But he didn’t feel the extra beat in his heart that usually accompanied that thought. Looking down he noticed the ants had begun to walk over his outstretched leg. As though he wasn’t there. As though he was part of the landscape.

The sheep were silent now. All turned towards him. Their sweet faces blank as usual but their eyes dripping tears. Above him the leaves began to rub together, straining on their branches as a fierce wind shook them. She’s gone, she’s gone, she’s gone.

Anniversary of the 5th Pan African Congress

75 years ago, the 5th Pan African Congress started in Manchester at Chorlton Town Hall. Lasting 5 days it called loud and hard for freedom of colonised nations. It is said it was the most important congress because it was the precursor for independence for colonised countries. In A House With No Angels, Ade was there. She danced with Nkrumah, she served food to Kenyatta, she listened to Amy Garvey. But inside she knew that 1929 was the real agent of change. It was the year she was born and the year of the Aba Women’s Riots in Nigeria. https://www.blackpast.org/global-african-history/aba-womens-riots-november-december-1929/ When the women stood against the colonial regime and said NO to being taxed on their market sales. That’s when change was crystallised.

More Than A Book Launch

Yesterday, I changed my profile picture on Facebook to one of me at my book launch. I look happy and proud. And on one level I am. This book is an achievement. The launch was a dream come true. And yet I’ve been unable to write about it until now.

Each time I’ve been asked about my launch and how it went, I immediately start talking about something else that happened that week. Something that was so traumatizing and painful it completely overshadowed my launch and made it feel insignificant. Conversations went like this:

  • How was your book launch?
  • Yeah, it was ok, but that same week we buried my son’s best friend, Faye and that overshadowed everything. She was only 29. She was killed in Nigeria by a random shooting. It shouldn’t have happened. She shouldn’t have been in that place at that time, but she was and now she’s gone and we buried her that week of my launch.
  • Ok, sorry to hear that. Bye.

Faye was an enormous part of our lives, had been since she was a teenager. She was my son’s twin. They did nothing without consulting each other. No matter where each of them was in the world they were together. No matter what they had to do they discussed it and planned it together. When they were younger, at any given time I could arrive home from work and find Faye sitting on the sofa or traipsing up or down stairs. Faye was part of our lives because she was part of Simon’s life.

But I also have my own memories of her. My favourite mug. I bought it when I was with her in London. We were walking through the rain to go and meet Simon and I saw this mug in the window. ‘Hippyshit’. I had to get it and we went in and laughed at all the tasteless tat in the shop. My favourite necklace that I rarely take off, Faye bought for me in Kurdistan for my birthday. Discussing my novel with her in the kitchen in Manchester while I was doing my PhD and her giving sound advice and strong opinions of what women represent and how they should be represented. Faye in the camp for internally displaced people in Soran where she taught English and we played with the younger children.

Faye in a terrible leopard print fur coat, channeling Bet Lynch from Coronation Street at a Thanksgiving dinner in D2, our accommodation in Kurdistan. Faye covered in mud when I went to pick them up from a Global Gathering Festival. Faye sitting on the doorstep smoking a roll up at 6:00 am chatting at a million miles an hour because she was too wired to sleep. Faye telling me a family secret and me getting all excited because it would make a great story, and Faye laughing while Simon was disgusted that I could even consider it because that was Faye’s real life. Faye kneeling down on the floor in our office in Kurdistan marking exam papers. Standing up when I introduced her to a colleague and giving the most disgusted look and ‘ugh’ sound when he refused to shake her hand because of his religion.

Faye Skyping me from Kosovo when she was being made Head of the English department and us laughing at the kitsch little house she was living in that was reminiscent of old ladies and even older cats. Faye in a Kurdish dress made from bright pink material we found in the bazaar. We’re out on a picnic for Newroz, with Sarwa’s family, eating dolma, and dancing. She sits on a rock, regal, while Simon sits lower down and we call them the Kurdish Posh & Becks. The last message on Facebook when Faye said she’d pre-ordered my novel and I answered ‘Love you, Moonfayce.’

Faye was killed on Good Friday, 19 April 2019 and life can never be the same again. Grief is relentless. But what I do know is that in her last five years Faye lived her best life. There is no doubt that there should have been more living, more bests, more memories, more of Faye. We should have had time for her to dissect my book and give me her bluntly honest feedback, for her to come and sit on my patio in Trinidad and drink rum, for her to come and experience carnival and play pretty mas, because she definitely would have done that.

My book launch was amazing and that was the week we buried Faye Mooney.


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