British working-class banter. Cultural or just plain disrespectful?

Over the past few months, my dear new wife has overheard the banter between me and my daughter and was left almost traumatized to the point where I questioned whether I had been as good of a father as I had thought.

blogpicture1Perplexed, I immediately called a friend I had grown up with, now living in Ireland to seek his opinion. In stitches, he said that my idea of banter was lame compared to that of him his daughter. His wife too, at first, was distraught with the apparent cruelty of words that were brushed off so easily and countered with equal venom. Today, he is happy to say, his wife is now a master in this form of communication and could hold courses in its subtitles.

So how did I master this art and unwittingly pass it down a generation? It certainly wasn’t from my Jamaican parents, who too would be mortified if they heard me speaking in such tones. Not here in this area of North American where it would certainly result in fisticuffs or worse………. It was learned as an engineering apprentice in the heart of a rough, working-class environment of a small town called Willenhall nestled in the ‘black country’ of the Midlands, so-called for its role in the industrial revolution. In my mind ‘Black Country” would have been better referenced to the style of humor.

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My teachers were Mick, Gary, Ernie, Harold, and Willie. Every one of them a unique character. I remember it well, during a coughing fit on my  first day as a fresh-faced apprenticeship one of them shouted, “Hurry up and die yuh bastard!”  That was my initiation and joyful to say, it only got worse from that point on.

Banter was the means of communication throughout building sites and it worked to pass an otherwise repetitive and boring day, provided everyone involved was in on the joke. The gentler form of banter involved sport but once that was established it could progress to sexual orientation and performance, colour and even mild disability. The ground rules were that remarks were delivered with underlying, if heavily disguised, humour with the understanding that all would be received without offence and returned with a withering riposte. The ‘slag’ had to be received as well as given.

Puppy dogs and roses weren’t our environment. We used what we had to, to bond and create friendships- memories that I still hold dear to this day.

This won’t make sense to many readers but those from a similar background will understand only too well.  My daughter flipping me the bird is not a form of disrespect or anger, but actually a term of endearment.

 

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IMG_7637When the tropical sun hits your skin, it’s different. And on the heels of an ice storm, its down-right decadent!! I had the true pleasure of visiting Costa Rica this past April to witness the wedding of my beautiful daughter Kimberley. The joy of a destination wedding was multi-layered: We got to explore new surroundings, experiences and a grand event not only as a couple but with family and close friends. With a warm breeze while the sun was about to set at 5:00pm on April 26th, Kimberley and her wonderful fiancée Alysha exchanged vows near the beach. It was a very special event that we will not soon forget, complete with a sandy aisle, tropical flowers, a few tears and a lot of love. I am very proud of this loving couple and very much look forward to watching their life together unfold.blog1
 
I have been to other tropical destinations but none have delivered the magnificent wildlife that Costa Rica did. Huge poolside Iguanas, tropical “raccoons” (that resembled something like a cross between a monkey and an opossum) and wild monkey’s that we hand fed a short walk down the beach – simply amazing! The little guy to the left seemed to actually pose! It was remarkable how human-like these creatures were. We chose to focus on beachside rest and relaxation on this trip but heard the zip-lining and other local animal sanctuaries were well worth experiencing.blog2
 
If you are planning a visit to Costa Rica anytime soon I have a little helpful advice for your afternoon at the beach: be prepared for intense heat and humidity and remember – the black sand MUST be navigated with foot ware!! 

There’s nothing like a movie and a dinner with my wife and two of our best friends to end a great Saturday evening.

MLD-01496_R.JPGGrowing up as an avid Marvel comics fan, Black Panther was never my favorite superhero. Much to the dismay of many, Spidey held that special bro-mance position for me. There was more to his character that I could relate to- a young boy, fighting to find his place in the world, while constantly being beaten down.  My opinion hasn’t changed after all these years.  The older I get, the more difficult I find it to be impressed by movies, but I have to say that Black Panther has restored my faith.  There is too much to rave about in just one blog entry but the script, the characters, and the special effects all meshed together to create some of the best entertainment for the two-plus hours I was in the theatre. It’s definitely up there in my top 5 Marvel movies.

This movie did what many can’t. It portrayed the African culture in a positive, powerful and beautiful light. The strength of communities coming together to preserve a way of life, while extending help to less prosperous areas of the world was breathtaking.  It was amazing to see the amount of power and responsibility that was betrothed to the female characters in the movie.  Not only were they considered to be equal to men but were also given positions of authority and dominance. I have three daughters who grew up in a world that often portrayed black women as being over the top, loud and obnoxious. The stereotypes were often comical and led them to become hyper-aware of their actions and the way they were preserved by the rest of the world.  Now, if a movie like Black Panther had been present during their childhood they may have grown up with the confidence of a warrior. They may not have felt shame because their hair was too thick, they may not have fought with their personal self-image, their self-worth and they may not have struggled to find other women who looked like them to look up to.  What this movie has done for black girls and women, black culture, in general, is both inspiring and auspicious.blackpanther4

With that being said, what didn’t impress me was a few bull-shit comments that I saw popping up on social media. Some of these left me shaking my head- I’m sure people just post crap just to get a reaction, no matter how head-up-their-own-ass these comments are.  I’m not sure why it is so difficult for the world to see progress and welcome it, especially amidst the negative and heart breaking events that are occurring world- wide.  I personally think that it’s because people refuse to put themselves into the shoes of others that these hateful comments are put out into social media.  Whether it’s regarding race, gender, sexual orientation- whatever the situation may be, more people NEED to put themselves in the position of those around them and try to understand what it’s like to be them.  Until we all find a way to understand and try to find a common connection between each other we shall continue to be divided.blackpanther3

Okay – less of my rant and more about my movie experience. The combination of various African tradition, artwork, and culture were great, after doing further research I discovered that those involved in the movie used elements from actual tribes to bring authenticity to the film. I even saw some elements of the Aztecs in there! Whether it’s strong black females, culture, adventure, action or understanding you’re looking for- then this is the film for you! Positive roll models – check. Insane villains – check. Moral compass – check. Fantastic special effects – check. You know what? Just go watch the movie.

Ps – I wonder if I can get my wife to shave her head!

prideinstreetsThis year I had the pleasure of attending the Toronto Pride Parade and couldn’t believe the love, excitement and different groups of people that were there! It was definitely a party I’m glad I attended. Growing up in the 60s, 70s, and 80s the way that the LGBTQ community was perceived was very different than today and I for one am extremely proud of the fight that so many have put up to get the basic human rights that we all deserve. From TV shows, to movies, music and books they are finally getting the representation that is deserved and hopefully, with time, the safety that is needed. Within my immediate family my daughter identifies as a Lesbian and has a beautiful partner, while my fiancee also has a daughter who falls within the LBGTQ spectrum. I want the best for those I love, and attending the Pride parade was my way of not only educating myself, but also showing the amount of pride that I have for my daughters. No matter who you are, how you identify or what you’re into I just can’t understand why people can’t see that love is love. I recently saw a poster that read ‘Don’t like gay marriage? Don’t get gay married!’ and I couldn’t agree more. Hating gay people for having the right to get married is like hating someone who is running a marathon, just because you don’t like running. Does the end of that sentence sound stupid? Good because that’s how it sounds to me when I hear people argue against gay marriage.

How ever I must say, the man in this picture strikes a shocking resemblance to a friend I have in Ireland. Dave wouldn’t you agree?