Everyone needs a dream

“Where I come from

I cannot return

But where I am headed I will,

Live, grow and learn”

stock picture

After a year of semi lockdown life can become somewhat introspective and ‘samey’. Fortunately, I volunteer with a number of charities and get the opportunity to hear about other people’s lives.

Take Lien a  Vietnamese refugee who came to the UK age 13. Like many refugees who flee their place of birth in search of a safe haven, there were many obstacles to overcome but Lien always had a dream and it was this dream that propelled her forward.

It is difficult to dream when you are in turmoil and trauma but dreams are necessary because they give life a purpose, a shape and most important – hope.

I can’t imagine what it must feel like to be 13 and suddenly catapulted into an entirely alien culture where you don’t speak the language and the food, the clothes, everything you have known previously is now strange and frightening.

“The first time I saw a westerner was in our brief time in Hong Kong and to then become a person distinctly different to everyone else, a minority in a country full of westerners was very disconcerting,”  explained Lien

Her dream was to work hard in school and become something.  No mean feat when you have only spent three months in a resettlement centre learning  English before moving to Milton Keynes a predominately white city.

She explained that at school she was an oddity, older than her peers both in age and maturity. What did her peers know about war and trauma? “They talked about boyfriends, clothes and pop music about which I knew nothing. In Vietnam teenagers at this age were not interested in these things.” Lien was desperately homesick and lonely but she had a dream.

And it was the realisation that she could excel at Maths that helped her to achieve this dream. Here her poor English was not a handicap.  When moved to the top maths tier life changed. Her peers no longer teased her and viewed her as ‘just a poor boat person’ but someone who was clearly clever. 

 “It gave me self-confidence and changed the game. When you have nothing, education can set you free.  It is all we had and so I had to make it work for me. When we arrived, we had no possessions no money, just each other but I was determined to make a difference,” said Lien.

And she did and she has. Lien is the mother of five, married to a fellow Vietnamese who also fled the country and she is now an academic, author and a university lecturer.

So, this got me thinking about the children that I volunteer with at the Separated Child Foundation.  What are their dreams. And indeed, do they have an opportunity of achieving any of them.  It was tough back in the 1980s and it is a lot tougher now, but that doesn’t stop the dreams.

Take Stephen who arrived in the UK as a separated child from Cameroon. Now aged 19 he is hoping to start a law degree. When he arrived, like Lien, he spoke no English. But he too had a dream. He wants to defend those who are dying in silence around the world and are not listened to. “I would like my voice to be the voice of those without a voice.”

“As long as I’m in control of my brain and my mouth, I will continue to entertain the dream and the hope that one day there will emerge leaders in my own country and region, on my continent of Africa, in Britain and all over the world who will not allow that any should be denied the right and freedom, that any should be turned into refugees like I am, that any should be condemned to go hungry, sick and homeless as many refugees are, that any should be stripped of their human dignity.”

A thought echoed by Egerton Gbonda, a teacher who fled to the UK from Sierra Leone. Here he worked as a supply teacher in a number of London schools and completed a Master’s degree in Refugee Studies at the University of East London. He has run Club Class for  separated refugee youths since its inception in 2010.

Last week he asked them about their dreams and what they wanted to do with their lives.  They all had goals.

To be a politician, business man, engineer, teacher, solicitor, social worker, soldier, nurse, doctor, bus driver and of course like so many young men a footballer.

I remember speaking to one young man who had fled Syria and was passionate about making something of himself here in the UK.  “Now that I feel safe, I can dream. When you are just surviving this is not possible,” he said.

“My father was killed by a bomb and my mother used all her money to pay for me and my brother to leave Syria.  When I get a job, I will send money back so that she and my sister can join us.  That’s my dream.”

It’s All About The Pollock

So, it was all down to a Pollock.  And then it was over. Amazing really that a few fishermen could hold the country to ransom.  One does wonder looking at those poor lorries stuck in Dover   what the future might have held for us with no deal.  I guess Boris realised he would have been hung drawn and quartered if he didn’t succeed with a deal.  What amazes me is the sheer arrogance  that we British   —   scrub that we  —   that some Brits  haven’t quite grasped yet that we are no longer an Empire. And indeed ‘going it alone’ isn’t an option. 

But then there are the Marcus Rashford’s.  I have  just watched a BBC news documentary on Marcus Rashford’s child poverty campaign and it reinforced my belief  that we parents have a  huge responsibility on ensuring that our children have decent values.  Certainly, Marcus’s mother did a good job. There he is, successful, rich and yet compassionate and remembering from where he came.  I am in awe.

Marcus Rashford says 'time is now' to end child food poverty

It  made me reflect on my own parenting and while I have many faults I  think I have  succeeded in rearing 3 thoughtful caring boys.  My  parents worked tirelessly  for their community. My mother was forever visiting and caring for those less fortunate and my father never refused a request for help sometimes to his detriment. We  bought up our  children in the same vein.

Admittedly things went a bit awry in the teenage years. I remember being  in   disbelief when other parents remarked on how well behaved the boys were. Excuse me? Are you talking about my children? The ones that squabble, fight and compete incessantly with each other. That’s not fair, why don’t I get some of that ‘niceness’.  It would seem as if they couldn’t wait to get home so they could explode and scream at  mom!. Of course, it wasn’t a conscious process at all and wasn’t intended to hurt  me. Children act out at home because they know that they can get away with it. Home is their safe place. A place where they  feel secure and can show their ugliest behaviour…because they know we will  still love them and that they will still get their needs met even if they act out.

 I guess it is the same for us adults. We have arguments with our partners and say things which we wouldn’t dare to say outside – yes we save our worst behaviour for the ones we love most.

It got me thinking about whether  babies are born with a natural empathy for others, whether some have a more inert  tendency towards empathy than others.  Did in fact Hitler or Stalin or Pol Pot have empathy at birth? Recent research reports that  even very young babies have the capacity for empathy and  experiments have shown that   hearing other babies cry  can trigger of this empathy. That said  while children’s empathy seems inborn,  this gift that is ours as parents and as  a society  can be lost  depending on how we react to these earliest overtures.

And apropos of absolutely nothing I think I am becoming more bonkers – becoming I hear you say. The lady who talks to spoons! Well if you had been in bed with me last night you might be thinking that I am definitely sinking. I am a dreamer, and not just any dreamer but a  dreamer par excellence. My nights are full of adventure and intrigue  – what I get up to in my dreams is quite beyond comprehension. And when I wake  in the morning I am  astonished at what I must have been going through while asleep. No wonder I am exhausted. But last night was a first.  I started dreaming before I got to sleep. Yes really.   I pinched myself to see if I was awake and yes I was and yes I had been dreaming. I guess the dreams just  got impatient and couldn’t wait until I was asleep to start their fun. I guess I have mum to thank for this. Yes I inherited her great skin but I also inherited her nuttiness.

Abigail's Dream Adventures Episode 1 - YouTube

Just as well that I have fun at night because there is certainly no fun happening anywhere else in my life.  It is all getting a bit weary  here in London.

“Let’s be careful out there”

It’s getting a bit crazy out there

Did you ever play that game “if I was rich I would…..”? Sure, you did unless of course you are already rich.  Well I have just added  dream interpreter to my list of housekeeper and  cook. I would like   a dream interpreter sitting by my bed every morning and explaining my extremely lucid dreams. Last night’s, or probably early this morning as apparently we remember most dreams just before we wake, was truly bizarre.

I was on Oxford Street in London’s West End, in morning rush house in my blue striped cotton pyjamas with a bagel running across the street looking for somewhere to toast it for breakfast.   When I realised where I was  –  horrified I ducked into a grocery shop –  of course there are none on Oxford Street, asked to borrow the phone to call my son to fetch me but didn’t know his mobile number – there’s a lesson learn your children’s mobile numbers –  obviously nobody picks up the house phone anymore.  Back outside my location changed to  the local shops behind my  family home in Leicester and I  thought – great I can just walk home now! So what  was that about.  Home, pyjamas  bagel – maybe it is do with comfort and security. Something we all need right now.

Methods of Dream Interpretation: What Do Dreams Mean?

We are truly living in some very strange times. I mean really a 16-year-old from Connecticut has become the first person to have 100 million followers on Tik Tok.  Why? Because she has invented a scientific phenomena, made a huge impact on the world, found the secret to happiness, has raised substantial funds to help the poor and needy, has triumphed over adversity, written a master piece –  no none of these   Charli D’Amelio  has made her name posting videos of herself dancing in her room.  And because of this notoriety she has now moved with her family to LA, acquired an agent, appeared in a Super Bowl half time advert and has a drink named after her at Dunkin’ Donuts.


 We are living in a world where children believe they are stars and post endless videos of themselves doing mundane things like putting on makeup and picking out clothes to wear. Adults think that pictures of their food are interesting and important, and people die taking moronic selfies in dangerous situations.

And on the other end of the spectrum  you have a government asking the elderly to sign “do not resuscitate” orders.  I was horrified to read that in Switzerland, where the daily death toll from Covid is around twice the spring peak, doctors called for those who are vulnerable, including the over 60’s  (that’s me) and those with heart disease or diabetes to sign end-of-life forms  to ease intense pressure on the hospitals.  Shades of the  1973 movie with Edward G Robinson and Charlton Heston Soylent Green. Don’t want to ruin it for those who might not have watched – but it tells the story of New York in the year 2022, when the population has swollen to an unbelievable 80 million, and people live in the streets and line up for their rations of water and Soylent Green. That’s a high-protein foodstuff allegedly made from plankton cultivated in the seas. But  all is not what it seems!!

I think I just might have digressed somewhat  but  when an Ocado delivery driver  includes  three carrier bags of urine with a customer’s grocery order methinks maybe it’s all getting a bit crazy.

“Let’s be careful out there.”

A girl can look

I woke up this morning – yes, I know what’s so amazing about that we all wake up – at least I hope we do. But I dreamt of somebody I haven’t seen, heard from of even thought of for 30 years.  What is that about?

In the dream I was a co judge on the BBC Strictly Show with Amanda Holden. The man in question looked exactly how I remembered him but better looking. And yes, we did get it together – in the dream. And very nice it was. Oops maybe too much information.

It reminded me of another man I once knew. I was 15 and desperately in love with this art student called Martin Oliver. He always wore a donkey jacket and had a girlfriend called Jane. I know I am in danger of repeating myself but it is very odd that I remember all these names from so long ago and yet my short memory is gone. Anyway, I am digressing again – he was not the remotely bit interested in me and probably didn’t know I even existed. But I would spend hours sitting in the corner of The Rutland and Derby (an art school hang out and nobody ever checked ID in those days) staring at him hoping that he would  just maybe glance my way) Fast forward 30 years and I am working at the BBC as a producer and I get an email from – Martin Oliver. He had heard my name in the credits and wondered if I was the same Roma Felstein as back in the day and would I like to meet. So, he did know who I was then! I was all of a flutter as I had this vision of this lovely young man in a donkey jacket. But what I hadn’t taken into account was aging. We met for coffee and what a let-down – he was not 18 – he was not wearing a donkey jacket and he was not cute. I on the other hand was still 15 – in my head.

sexy man

And being 15 – well a girl can look

And now for something very different – entirely too much info about my private life. As cranes go, I think yesterday was every little boy or maybe girls dream come true. My neighbours resumed their loft construction and the biggest crane arrived on the street. I so wished that the boys were little and still living here as they would have been enthralled. Instead I was enthralled for them. I sat glued to my window watching in anticipation of them dropping the huge load of wood they were lifting high above the trees. I did wonder for a moment if we should move  the car!

So, there’s another bonus of lockdown – “I can stare as long as sheep or cows” (William Henry Davies Poem Leisure). My time is my own and I can do what I like with it. It is rather liberating in a confined sort of way.

What is not liberating is housework and I had been putting off the inevitable for a long time. The inevitable being the oven. It was only when yesterday after I roasted a chicken and the house smelt of burning that I realised the time was nigh. I am not alone here apparently oven cleaning is the most important yet overlooked aspect of kitchen cleaning. It was the carbon fumes from left over bits of old food at the bottom of the oven that was smelling the house. I know yuck what kind of woman am I – a dirty slut methinks.

It would seem that these fumes can change the taste of food especially cakes. So that’s why my cakes are not turning out well. That said I have just made a sticky ginger and treacle cake for Toby and Linda’s 2nd anniversary.  Forgetting what bicarb does and possibly  putting in a bit too much in the melted mixture on the stove, I had  what can only be described as an exploding  volcano moment!

Note to self:  Measure accurately when making cakes

The Oven – armed with rubber gloves and kitchen spray I  began my oven onslaught,  only to realise within a few minutes that kitchen spray was not going to remove 2 months of dirt. My cleaner stopped coming 2 months ago. So, I have a reprieve until Amazon send me some oven cleaner.

Such riveting information I can imagine you are all glued to your seats with anticipation of what is coming next. Sadly, not a lot. I will finish with a little anecdote about my school days which you might have gathered by now were not particularly happy.  But I was reminded of them when I  received an invoice this morning addressed to Aroma.

At Primary School when the children were in a particularly vindictive mood they would say “there’s a nasty aroma around here.” And then they would form a snake and walk around the playground chanting “join on the end if you want to play except Aroma.” I think this helped to shape who I am today. Lord of the flies had nothing on my school days.

“Lets be careful out there”