creative partner Julia Pascal
reader Shala Nyx
Image ‘Sophie‘ by Glynnis Abraham
He said his name was François and that he was from Paris. But he was Fayez from Morocco. She was only sixteen when she met him. Mother was a pretty young woman, a model. She had never been anywhere or met anyone until she met François. They were in Tangier, and of course by the time they got there, she knew he was Fayez but she didn’t care.
She fell pregnant with me and they got married. It was my uncle, he was an MP or was he? Anyway, he got mum and me out of Morocco. And dad too. We all lived together for sixteen years in Kilburn. There were three daughters but one died. I was brought up Muslim but not proper Muslim. Nuts- Muslim. My dad was in the Maghreb during the nineties. Mujahadeen.
Took a lot of drugs. Lots of weed. I can’t stand the smell of weed now. In the block where I live, it is so thick from the young Arab men who smoke it in the flat below mine that it makes me feel ill.
It was when I was thirteen that dad told me I was to be married to an uncle in Morocco. I said I can’t do that. That’s when we made a runner to a hostel in Torquay. Mum and me. That was when my free life started. I was allowed to be English. I could eat English food. I could have English friends over to ours. I could watch TV. I was brought up Muslim but not proper Muslim, nuts-Muslim. My dad he can’t even read or write. My sister can’t tell the time. It’s no wonder that I get nervous if someone asks me to write something. I get scared. But I love history and also geography. I know where countries are. But numbers and anything to do with arranging blocks in geometric patterns, oh no. When my six-year-old daughter asks me to help her with her homework, I think what the hell is this, I can’t do it. I love reading but too many long words intimidate me. History. Yes, that’s it. My best mark at school was history. I got a D.
You want me to think of an object that’s important to me. My grandfather’s grandfather clock. I’m going to get that now, now he’s dead, I want it to remember him. And a mirror I bought for him when I was five. And his old purse. He was in the Salvation Army. Welsh. And my nan. Her father was a high priest. And you know what’s funny, my grandfather was in North Africa during the war. In the forties. Guarding prisoners of war. He had a Sally Army funeral. Lots of instruments. He played the trombone. Oh I’m not just getting his ugly grandfather clock, I’m also getting his last bottle of lemonade