Sunday is spring..

Yesterday the sun returned and in the afternoon we scored an astounding 10o Celsius.

Living in such northern climes and thus having to endure such extreme winters, it 's easy to idealise spring. In December, January and February, one feels spring is a lifetime away. In March one anticipates long blue-skied days, the mercury rising with each passing day and the snow melting to reveal flowers and carpets of green grass.

This, my third Finnish spring, has been endlessly grey and cold. Only this weekend have we had a decent interlude of sunniness that I celebrated by sitting on a park bench for 10 minutes. The weather forecast promises more rain and cloud.

Yet, still we hope, already the bold and optimistic have bared their arms and legs - madness in my opinion - but nonetheless they are making the best of spring.


Guns according to John Irving

Gun control will not happen in his lifetime said John Irving to the mass that had gathered on the floor in front of him and cameras snapped ceaselessly. This was his opinion of Obama’s attempts at guncontrol legislation.

He also said, in his opinion, it would take more than the death of small children to change a gun culture that is far older than he.

The brutal truth, and it’s rare to hear it framed so bluntly.

Though disappointed at the failure of the bill said Irving rather pessimistically, it was nevertheless the duty of politicians to pursue this change.

Having squeezed my way into the audience at Akateeminen Kirjakauppa yesterday to watch the author of “the Hotel New Hampshire” – a book I purloined from my father's bookshelf when I was far to young to be reading it and which has thus coloured my enjoyment of his work - I was pleased to find more than book-plugging but some insight into a man who has embedded politics and social observation into his work.

Irving was in Helsinki to promote "Mina Olen Monta" the Finnish translation of “In One Person.” His new book talks of sexuality and sexual identity and the impact of AIDS in the US. He talked about his own experiences of living in New York in the 80s at the height of the epidemic, “I discovered at the time that I had other gay friends who I never knew were gay,” he said. In short, he learned of their sexuality as they were dying.

(Isn’t it a point for Zambians to consider?)

Especially when discussing sexual rights and especially homophobia, I have to confess to many times losing faith. How often do I say “Well, what’s the point?” at another act of injustice, at listening to friends be homophobic or sexist, watching politicians bully and swindle the electorate for financial gain?

I suppose we do have to accept that not only may change not occur in our lifetime, but that we are embroiled in a battle against anti-human rights cultures that have existed for as long as mankind - however, that must never stop us.


2nd April: the nonsense is over

I detest the antics of April Fools’ Day, really I do.

Every year on this day I’m forced to tiptoe about my life, wondering to what madness I’ll be subjected. This year thankfully the worst was a Star Wars Facebook post, though this was most likely because I stayed away from the news and radio, and because Easter celebrations dominated the little I did see.

April Fools’ day is meant to be a little silliness but has now grown into a form of global competition – how many people can I fool and how ridiculous a prank can I pull?

A leading British newspaper yesterday published a list of the best April Fools’ jokes of 2013 – it may not matter in terms of numbers but I’ve boycotted the page out of principle (note I haven’t used the paper’s name).

I haven’t always antagonistic towards April Fools’, however a few years ago I found myself stuck in traffic due to a radio DJ’s prank announcement. Looking back at the inconvenience he caused and the potential for even greater trouble, I think he should have been sanctioned, not fired, but certainly punished in some way.

In any case, it’s the second day of April, I can once again safely read my news and once again trust my cats, quotes and Takei - until next year.


Barefooting on CNN

 Having received enthusiastic Facebook reminders that Barefeet - a Zambian NGO  - were to feature on CNN’s Inside Africa, I tuned to CNN’s webpage and found not only the item on Barefeet, but several reports on Zambia.

Zambia the forgotten, I sometimes believe, not having a dictator the ilk of Mugabe, crime as in Johannesburg or war as in the Congo - international media coverage of my little groundnut is almost non-existent. 

I was chuffed to find that these reports weren’t focused on poverty, mining or Chinese investment, but were about creativity, intelligence and innovation. Inside Africa features the segments of society and activities that though most identifiable to the rest of the world are probably the most ignored.

Not only were friends of mine, Barefeet, featured, but also shown were Christopher Chiangu (Chris Dreadlocks) - a loctician, Elijah Zgambo and his group of skateboarders, Kenny Tonga - the CEO of Power FM and a tattoo artist Mutakela Lisimba.

The presenter Errol Barnett uses words such as “innovative,” “exciting,” “creative pioneers that are breaking with tradition and culture” and he’s right.  For instance Lisimba’s parents are lawyers who undoubtedly had similar expectations for their son and Zgambo who uses skateboarding as a means of self-expression.

Each of them in some way is challenging society.

Elijah Zgambo reports being slapped by a paramilitary soldier – a criminal act, but the sort we have been raised to believe is permissible. Therefore, by continuing in his sport he’s contesting the much-exceeded authority of the police and paramilitary to wield violence against citizens.

Groups such as Barefeet challenge our culture through encouraging individuality by identifying abuse, and encouraging the youth to seek redress and psychological help for the crimes committed against them.

While Chris Dreadlocks’ business grows, our national registration office holds on to an archaic belief that dreadlocks must be cut off in order to receive a national ID. Simultaneously, Zambian artists and musicians bemoan a perceived lack of government support while Lisimba, the tattoo artist, nurtures his own business.

Identity, individuality, self-expression - these are unfamiliar concepts in a land as conservative as Zambia and I’m glad to see them celebrated.