Archive for July, 2022

This is an amazing and heart-warming story.

For all those times we doubt if humanity could ever raise its head out of the mud of its selfishness, here is one stepping stone to dry land.

Story? It is reportage, of a small city in Belgium, Geel, that has opened its doors to the mentally ill… for centuries. Since the fifteenth century.
And the custom continues. 

Based on the legend of Irish king’s daughter, Saint Dymphna, the patron saint of mental illness, the then town took to her. It was here that she died/martyred by the madness of her father, and it’s here, to her shrine, that pilgrims come to pay homage.

The city has become a resource centre for psychiatric and psychology research; a hub of knowledge; an example of what can be achieved.

The writer is Derek Blythe, British journalist, and frequent contributor to The High Road to Culture…pages. For more on Derek Blythe, see:

Here is the link to, once again, the excellent High Road to Culture in Flanders and the Netherlands site.

Follow the links.

And the street art in Geel is phenomenal. In the Netherlands also public art and street art is high standard, and plentiful.

The article also tells us:
One of the oldest reggae festivals in Europe, Reggae Geel was launched by a group of friends in 1978. After a modest beginning, it has evolved into a major summer festival that brings some of the best Jamaican music to Geel.

Yep, this article is a great read.
Highly recommended.

from Welsh poet Henry Vaughan’s poem, THE WORLD. Henry Vaughan (17 April 1621 – 23 April 1695)

The World


I saw Eternity the other night, 
Like a great ring of pure and endless light, 
All calm, as it was bright; 
And round beneath it, Time in hours, days, years, 
Driv’n by the spheres 
Like a vast shadow mov’d; in which the world 
And all her train were hurl’d. 
The doting lover in his quaintest strain 
Did there complain; 
Near him, his lute, his fancy, and his flights, 
Wit’s sour delights, 
With gloves, and knots, the silly snares of pleasure, 
Yet his dear treasure 
All scatter’d lay, while he his eyes did pour 
Upon a flow’r. 

Le monde

Par Henry Vaughan
J’ai vu Eternity l’autre soir ,
Comme un grand anneau de lumière pure et sans fin ,
Tout calme, comme c’était clair ;
Et rond en dessous , le temps en heures, jours, années ,
Poussé par les sphères
Comme une vaste ombre en mouvement ; dans lequel le monde
Et tout son train a été lancé .
L’amant passionné dans sa souche la plus pittoresque
S’est-il plaint ?
Près de lui, son luth, sa fantaisie et ses envolées ,
Avec ses délices acides ,
Avec des gants et des nœuds , les pièges stupides du plaisir ,
Pourtant son cher trésor
Tout s’était éparpillé , tandis que ses yeux se déversaient
Sur une fleur .

estratto de Il Mondo
di Henry Vaughan

Ho visto l’eternità l’altra notte,
Come un grande anello di luce pura e senza fine,
Tutto calmo, com’era luminoso;
E intorno ad esso, il tempo in ore, giorni, anni,
Spinto dalle sfere
Come una vasta ombra si mosse; in cui il mondo
E tutto il suo treno fu scagliato.
L’amante premuroso nella sua versione più pittoresca
Ci si lamentava;
Vicino a lui, il suo liuto, la sua fantasia e i suoi voli,
Le delizie aspre dello spirito,
Con guanti e nodi, le sciocche insidie del piacere,
Eppure il suo caro tesoro
Tutto sparpagliato, mentre lui i suoi occhi si riversavano
Su un fiore.

Be still,” I answered, “do not wake the child!”
 — For so, my two-months’ baby sleeping lay
In milky dreams upon the bed and smiled,
   And I thought “He shall sleep on, while he may,
Through the world’s baseness: not being yet defiled,
   Why should he be disturbed by what is done?”
Then, gazing, beheld the long-drawn street
   Live out, from end to end, full in the sun,
With Austria’s thousand; sword and bayonet,
   Horse, foot, artillery, — cannons rolling on
Like blind slow storm-clouds gestant with the heat
   Of undeveloped lightnings, each bestrode
By a single man, dust-white from head to heel,
   Indifferent as the dreadful thing he rode,
Like a sculpted Fate serene and terrible.
   As some smooth river which has overflowed
Will slow and silent down its current wheel
   A loosened forest, all the pines erect,
So swept, in mute significance of storm,
   The marshalled thousands; not an eye deflect
To left or right, to catch a novel form
   Of Florence city adorned by architect
And carver, or of Beauties live and warm
   Scared at the casements, — all, straightforward eyes
And faces, held as steadfast as their swords
   And cognizant of acts, not imageries.

From CASA GUIDI WINDOWS, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning, 1851

The excerpt describes the entry of the Austrian army into Florence at request of the Duke of Florence, an Austrian, on the collapse of attempts to re-unify Italy: the Risorgimento. The three leaders most identified with this were Guiseppi Mazzini, Carlo Cattaneo, and Guiseppi Garibaldi.

The imagery here is startling: the pregnant storm-clouds, and connected with those the flooded river carrying away fallen river banks still cohering around trees. 
The image of destruction is compounded by the silent, contained, aspect of relentlessness: the soldiers as images of Fates. 

The measured language and form of the poem contain and constrain huge energies. Within that containment is a huge emotional sweep.

Wiki tells us:
… exiles were deeply immersed in European ideas, and often hammered away at what Europeans saw as Italian vices, especially effeminacy and indolence. These negative stereotypes emerged from Enlightenment notions of national character that stressed the influence of the environment and history on a people’s moral predisposition. Italian exiles both challenged and embraced the stereotypes and typically presented gendered interpretations of Italy’s political “degeneration”. They called for a masculine response to feminine weaknesses as the basis of national regeneration and fashioned their image of the future Italian nation firmly in the standards of European nationalism.

Notions like these also constrained English gender relations.
And yet, as evidenced here, Elizabeth Barrett Browning in her writing, was far from the standard image of the fragile, weak, female.

I am coming at this topic from twenty plus years’ of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS, but also see M.E.).
CFS is an extremely frustrating illness – for others. 
That sounds like a joke.

Those who have it just do not have the energy to feel frustrated. 

There are so many aspects to it, and it changes form continually. You’d just be accommodating one state, and it’d all change. Frustrating`?


I was reading a Long Covid site recently, because it is supposed to be very similar to CFS.
There were complaints of feeling like you’ve got rocks in your stomach all the time.
A bit extreme, but the continual gut-discomfort does take its toll. 
It also manifests in a burgeoning growth of eating intolerances. 
It’s mostly cereal – and, yep, that’s bread and cakes, pizza. But also citrus fruits, and… well, it’d be a pain to go on

It’s not just gluten, but all kinds of additives, seeds. 
The continual search for bread alternatives is time-consuming, and it is expensive to buy, and of short-term relief. 
Intolerances build up with those, too, over time.

Brain fog.  
Another site I was reading, and people talked of missing appointments, or forgetting where meet-ups where. 
Easy stuff.

One student… and this is my experience… just couldn’t read anymore.
Imagine getting to the end of a sentence and not remembering the first part. Or moving from a room and suddenly not remembering where you are, or recognising the place you’ve known for years.

It’s the sheer physical operation of, say, reading, but mostly it’s the required high levels of concentration and retention, remembering, cognition. 
You soon learn that these are hugely energy-demanding activities.

And sense of distance, size, proportion – all completely skewed. 
I’m glad I don’t drive, I’d not be able judge distances between or from other vehicles or objects, or the size of things, or speed I was going. 

What’s to be done?

I’ve come across so many people saying This works! Try that! And it ranges from cognitive behaviour work, to self-massage.
But non have worked for me.

So, now, here’s my suggestion. 
It’s not a cure, but it has alleviated conditions. 
So far.

In combination with YourGut+

All advice says to build up to the required dose of on of each, twice a day. Don’t launch straight in. 

The first few times I took a single capsule of YourGut+ the gut discomfort eased. 
That’s no small thing, that gnawing was always at the back of everything, and at the end of the day when what energy there was was lowest… well, you are not the best of company.

YourGut+is basically a probiotic. If you can why not try Probiotic yogurt? It may have a similar effect. And be a lot cheaper.

But to get your appetite back; to know what hunger is like again, after twenty years!

Its’ ingredients don’t seem to promise much: powdered extract of sweet oranges, chamomile, pomegranate, turmeric, resveratrol.
It’s in the combinations. 
Or is it a placebo effect?
Something made a difference: it began with a mild head-swim, but when that cleared, so did my head. 
Well, the awareness of clarity was there. 
I have yet to try-out concentration levels. Remember, mental concentration is hugely energy-debilitating.

The main problem with Photo-V is supply. It sells out quickly, and takes ages for a new batch to be ready.
The site offers an alternative, Pomi-T, but I do not find it as effective: what the body gets used to and accepts is more important.

It has been noticed that I have more energy, am brighter in mood.

The energy doesn’t last, of course – evenings are still out, a long drag to bed, but smoother. What you gain in some quarters, to be more alert, a clearer head, has to be paid for elsewhere. Tiredness hits more and earlier in the day.
It’s worth it, though.

That’s too active a description. No, with CFS it’s a general level of low. No ups or downs.

That’s another thing I noticed with Long Covid sites, commentators constantly say how angry they are.

They are excitable. 
I never had the energy for that. No relish of life, but no depths, just a general low. No spark, no hope, no aspirations. But too fuzzy to realise what was missing.

But then there’s other little gem, P G Tips tea makers now produce tea bags with added Vitamin B12. It’s not my best tea, but….
I couldn’t take B12 in oral form, like so many others – Flax did horrible things to my gut – but in this form Yes!

And the energy it gives!

After twenty years of nothing helping, I have found something that eases things.
It may not work for others. 
But do keep looking.

The food intolerances are classified in CFS literature as Sensitivity.
Sensitivity affects not just eating, but hearing, and sight as well. And probably other areas we don’t normally recognise or know are in use.
And it fluctuates. It is not a static condition.

Full-on sensitivity to light makes sunlight very uncomfortable. It gives twilight blindness. Other times twilight is ok, sunlight appreciated.

Hearing: I tried hearing aids, but still miss so much said.

The point is it is not the eyes or ears, but cognition, that is affected.
Sensitivity hits you where you process the input, not where you receive.

It’s ok when you’re in it, not knowing what you’re like.
But when it eases off for a while, it’s, like,

Syndrome de Fatigue Chronique et Long Covid

Le syndrome de fatigue chronique (SFC, mais aussi M.E.) est une maladie extrêmement frustrante – pour les autres.

Cela ressemble à une blague.

Ceux qui en souffrent n’ont tout simplement pas l’énergie de se sentir frustrés.

Il y a tellement d’aspects à cela, et il change continuellement de forme. Vous ne feriez qu’accommoder un état, et tout changerait.


Je lisais un site Long Covid, car il est censé être très similaire à CFS. Il y avait des plaintes de se sentir comme si vous aviez tout le temps des pierres dans l’estomac.

Un peu extrême, mais l’inconfort intestinal continu fait des ravages.

Il se manifeste également par une croissance florissante des intolérances alimentaires.

C’est surtout des céréales – et, oui, c’est du pain et des gâteaux, de la pizza, des agrumes.

Il ne s’agit pas seulement de gluten, mais de toutes sortes d’additifs, de graines.

La recherche continue d’alternatives au pain prend du temps, coûte cher à l’achat et soulage à court terme.

Les intolérances s’accumulent avec ceux-là aussi, au fil du temps.

Brouillard cérébral.

Un autre site que je lisais, et les gens parlaient de rendez-vous manqués, ou oubliaient où se rencontraient.

Des trucs faciles.

Un étudiant… et c’est mon expérience… ne savait tout simplement plus lire.

Imaginez arriver à la fin d’une phrase et ne pas vous souvenir de la première partie.

C’est l’opération physique pure de la lecture, mais c’est surtout les niveaux élevés requis de concentration et de rétention, de mémorisation, de cognition.

Vous apprenez vite que ce sont des activités extrêmement énergivores.

Et le sens de la distance, de la taille, de la proportion, le tout complètement faussé.

Je suis content de ne pas conduire, je ne serais pas en mesure de juger des distances entre ou d’autres véhicules ou objets, ou de la taille des choses, ou de la vitesse à laquelle j’allais.

La dépression?

C’est une description trop active. Non, avec CFS, c’est un niveau général de faible. Pas de hauts ni de bas.

C’est une autre chose que j’ai remarquée avec les sites Long Covid, les commentateurs disent constamment à quel point ils sont en colère.

Ils sont excitables.

Je n’ai jamais eu l’énergie pour ça. Pas de goût de la vie, mais pas de profondeurs, juste une dépression générale. Aucune étincelle, aucun espoir, aucune aspiration. Mais trop flou pour s’en rendre compte.

Que faire ?

J’ai rencontré beaucoup de gens qui disaient que ça marche ! Cela va du travail cognitif comportemental à l’auto-massage.

Rien de tout cela n’a fonctionné pour moi.

Alors, maintenant, voici ma suggestion.

Ce n’est pas un remède, mais il a atténué les conditions.

Jusqu’à présent.


En combinaison avec YourGut+

Tous les conseils disent d’augmenter jusqu’à la dose requise, ne vous lancez pas directement.

Les premières fois où j’ai pris une seule capsule de YourGut+, l’inconfort intestinal s’est atténué.

Ce n’est pas une mince affaire, que le rongement était toujours à l’arrière de tout, et à la fin de la journée, quand l’énergie était au plus bas… eh bien, vous n’êtes pas la meilleure compagnie.

YourGut+ est essentiellement un probiotique. Si vous le pouvez, pourquoi ne pas essayer le yogourt probiotique ? Cela peut avoir un effet similaire. Et être beaucoup moins cher.

Mais pour retrouver votre appétit; savoir à nouveau ce qu’est la faim, après vingt ans !


Ses ingrédients ne semblent pas promettre grand-chose : extrait en poudre d’oranges douces, camomille, grenade, curcuma, resvératrol.

C’est dans les combinaisons.

Ou est-ce un effet placebo ?

Quelque chose a fait une différence : ça a commencé par un léger bain de tête, mais quand ça s’est dissipé, ma tête a fait de même.

Eh bien, la conscience de la clarté était là.

Je n’ai pas encore testé les niveaux de concentration. N’oubliez pas que la concentration mentale est extrêmement énergivore.

Il a été remarqué que j’ai plus d’énergie, je suis d’humeur plus vive.

L’énergie ne dure pas, bien sûr – les soirées sont toujours dehors, une longue traînée au lit, mais plus douce.

Mais il y a un autre petit bijou, les fabricants de thé P G Tips produisent maintenant des sachets de thé avec de la vitamine B12 ajoutée. Ce n’est pas mon meilleur thé, mais…

Je ne pouvais pas prendre de B12 sous forme orale, comme tant d’autres – le lin a fait des choses horribles à mon intestin – mais sous cette forme oui.

Et l’énergie que ça donne !

Après vingt ans à ne rien faire, j’ai trouvé quelque chose qui facilite les choses.

Cela peut ne pas fonctionner pour les autres.

Mais continuez à chercher.

Sindrome da stanchezza cronica e lungo Covid

La sindrome da stanchezza cronica (CFS, ma vedi anche ME) è una malattia estremamente frustrante – per gli altri.

Sembra uno scherzo.

Coloro che ce l’hanno semplicemente non hanno l’energia per sentirsi frustrati.

Ci sono così tanti aspetti in esso e cambia continuamente forma. Saresti solo accomodante in uno stato e tutto cambierebbe.


Stavo leggendo un sito di Long Covid, perché dovrebbe essere molto simile a CFS. Ci sono state lamentele di sentirti come se avessi sempre delle rocce nello stomaco.

Un po’ estremo, ma il continuo disagio intestinale ha il suo pedaggio.

Si manifesta anche in una fiorente crescita di intolleranze alimentari.

Sono principalmente cereali e, sì, sono pane e dolci, pizza, agrumi.

Non è solo glutine, ma tutti i tipi di additivi, semi.

La continua ricerca di alternative al pane richiede tempo, è costoso da acquistare e offre sollievo a breve termine.

Le intolleranze si accumulano anche con quelle, nel tempo.

Cervello annebbiato.

Un altro sito che stavo leggendo, e la gente parlava di appuntamenti mancanti, o dimenticando dove dove incontrarsi.

Roba facile.

Uno studente… e questa è la mia esperienza… non potevo più leggere.

Immagina di arrivare alla fine di una frase e di non ricordare la prima parte.

È la pura operazione fisica della lettura, ma soprattutto sono gli alti livelli richiesti di concentrazione e ritenzione, ricordo, cognizione.

Imparerai presto che queste sono attività che richiedono molto energia.

E senso di distanza, dimensione, proporzione, tutto completamente distorto.

Sono contento di non guidare, non sarei in grado di giudicare le distanze tra o da altri veicoli o oggetti, o le dimensioni delle cose, o la velocità con cui stavo andando.


È una descrizione troppo attiva. No, con CFS è un livello generale basso. Nessun alto o basso.

Questa è un’altra cosa che ho notato con i siti di Long Covid, i commentatori dicono costantemente quanto siano arrabbiati.

Sono eccitabili.

Non ho mai avuto l’energia per quello. Nessun gusto per la vita, ma nessuna profondità, solo un minimo generale. Nessuna scintilla, nessuna speranza, nessuna aspirazione. Ma troppo confuso per rendersene conto.

Cosa c’è da fare?

Mi sono imbattuto in molte persone che dicono che funziona! Si va dal lavoro sul comportamento cognitivo all’automassaggio.

Niente di tutto questo ha funzionato per me.

Quindi, ora, ecco il mio suggerimento.

Non è una cura, ma ha alleviato le condizioni.



In combinazione con YourGut+

Tutti i consigli dicono di accumulare la dose richiesta, non lanciarti direttamente.

Le prime volte che ho preso una singola capsula di YourGut+ il disagio intestinale si è attenuato.

Non è una cosa da poco, quel rosicchiare era sempre alla base di tutto, e alla fine della giornata quando l’energia che c’era era più bassa… beh, non sei la migliore compagnia.

YourGut+ è fondamentalmente un probiotico. Se puoi perché non provare lo yogurt probiotico? Potrebbe avere un effetto simile. Ed essere molto più economico.

Ma per riprendere l’appetito; per sapere di nuovo com’è la fame, dopo vent’anni!


I suoi ingredienti non sembrano promettere molto: estratto in polvere di arance dolci, camomilla, melograno, curcuma, resveratrolo.

È nelle combinazioni.

O è un effetto placebo?

Qualcosa ha fatto la differenza: è iniziato con una lieve nuotata della testa, ma quando si è schiarito, anche la mia testa si è schiarita.

Ebbene, la consapevolezza della chiarezza c’era.

Devo ancora provare i livelli di concentrazione. Ricorda, la concentrazione mentale è estremamente debilitante dal punto di vista energetico.

È stato notato che ho più energia, sono più luminoso nell’umore.

L’energia non dura, ovviamente: le serate sono ancora fuori, una lunga trascorsa a letto, ma più tranquilla.

Ma poi c’è un altro piccolo gioiello, i produttori di tè P G Tips ora producono bustine di tè con aggiunta di vitamina B12. Non è il mio miglior tè, ma…

Non potevo assumere B12 in forma orale, come tanti altri – il lino ha fatto cose orribili al mio intestino – ma in questa forma sì.

E l’energia che dà!

Dopo vent’anni senza alcun aiuto, ho trovato qualcosa che facilita le cose.

Potrebbe non funzionare per gli altri.

Ma continua a cercare.

Síndrome de Fatiga Crónica y Larga Covid

El Síndrome de Fatiga Crónica (CFS, pero también vea M.E.) es una enfermedad extremadamente frustrante, para otros.

Eso suena como una broma.

Aquellos que lo tienen simplemente no tienen la energía para sentirse frustrados.

Tiene tantos aspectos y cambia de forma continuamente. Solo estaría acomodando un estado, y todo cambiaría.


Estaba leyendo un sitio de Long Covid, porque se supone que es muy similar a CFS. Hubo quejas de sentir que tenías piedras en el estómago todo el tiempo.

Un poco extremo, pero el continuo malestar estomacal pasa factura.

También se manifiesta en un crecimiento floreciente de intolerancias alimentarias.

Es principalmente cereal, y sí, eso es pan y pasteles, pizza, frutas cítricas.

No es solo gluten, sino todo tipo de aditivos, semillas.

La búsqueda continua de alternativas de pan requiere mucho tiempo, es cara de comprar y de alivio a corto plazo.

Las intolerancias también se acumulan con ellos, con el tiempo.

Niebla del cerebro.

Otro sitio que estaba leyendo, y la gente hablaba de faltar a citas u olvidar dónde se encontraban las reuniones.

Cosas fáciles.

Un estudiante… y esta es mi experiencia… simplemente no podía leer más.

Imagina llegar al final de una oración y no recordar la primera parte.

Es la pura operación física de la lectura, pero sobre todo son los altos niveles requeridos de concentración y retención, recuerdo, cognición.

Pronto aprenderá que estas son actividades que demandan mucha energía.

Y sentido de distancia, tamaño, proporción, todo completamente sesgado.

Me alegro de no conducir, no sería capaz de juzgar las distancias entre o desde otros vehículos u objetos, o el tamaño de las cosas, o la velocidad a la que iba.


Esa es una descripción demasiado activa. No, con CFS es un nivel general bajo. Sin altibajos.

Esa es otra cosa que noté con los sitios de Long Covid, los comentaristas constantemente dicen lo enojados que están.

Son excitables.

Nunca tuve la energía para eso. Sin gusto por la vida, pero sin profundidades, solo una depresión general. Sin chispa, sin esperanza, sin aspiraciones. Pero demasiado borroso para darse cuenta de nada de eso.

¿Qué hay que hacer?

Me he encontrado con muchas personas que dicen ¡Esto funciona! Abarca desde el trabajo cognitivo conductual, hasta el automasaje.

Nada de eso me ha funcionado.

Entonces, ahora, aquí está mi sugerencia.

No es una cura, pero ha aliviado las condiciones.

Hasta aquí.


En combinación con YourGut+

Todos los consejos dicen que para acumular la dosis requerida, no se lance directamente.

Las primeras veces que tomé una sola cápsula de YourGut+, el malestar intestinal disminuyó.

Eso no es poca cosa, ese roer siempre estuvo detrás de todo, y al final del día cuando la energía que había era la más baja… bueno, no eres la mejor de las compañías.

YourGut+ es básicamente un probiótico. Si puedes, ¿por qué no probar el yogur probiótico? Puede tener un efecto similar. Y ser mucho más barato.

Pero para recuperar el apetito; saber cómo es el hambre otra vez, ¡después de veinte años!


Sus ingredientes no parecen prometer mucho: extracto en polvo de naranjas dulces, manzanilla, granada, cúrcuma, resveratrol.

Está en las combinaciones.

¿O es un efecto placebo?

Algo marcó la diferencia: comenzó con un leve nado en la cabeza, pero cuando se aclaró, también lo hizo mi cabeza.

Bueno, la conciencia de la claridad estaba allí.

Todavía tengo que probar los niveles de concentración. Recuerde, la concentración mental debilita enormemente la energía.

Se ha notado que tengo más energía, tengo un estado de ánimo más brillante.

La energía no dura, por supuesto: las noches todavía están fuera, una larga caminata hasta la cama, pero más suave.

Pero luego hay otra pequeña joya, las teteras P G Tips ahora producen bolsitas de té con vitamina B12 añadida. No es mi mejor té, pero…

No podía tomar B12 en forma oral, como tantos otros, Flax me hizo cosas horribles en el intestino, pero de esta forma sí.

¡Y la energía que da!

Después de veinte años sin que nada me ayudara, he encontrado algo que facilita las cosas.

Puede que no funcione para otros.

Pero sigue buscando.

The Upper World, by Femi Fadugba. Published by Penguin, 2021. ISBN 978 0 241 50561 8

Warning: Contains Spoilers.

The Upper World is a young adult novel.

It is an extraordinary book; it is also a difficult book, for many reasons. 

The intellectual range of the book has depth. So are its cultural affiliations.

It is prefaced with a snapshot description of Plato’s Cave. Later we encounter Einstein’s Relativity, higher maths and physics. There is also an appendix giving the mathematical formulas, and workings the characters encounter and produce throughout the book.

Is time-travel possible? It is now considered a physical impossibility according to logic, and to physics as it now stands. 
But if we bring in, say, Borges’ aleph concept, and align it with Plato’s cave… the Upper World as Plato’s real world outside the cave, and the aleph into the cosmologists-physicist’s point space-time as truly one, all space-time, then….

Our main narrator is Esso Adenam.   –  And what a great name. How to choose your character’s names, a fine art, and here, bang-on.

But no, the chapters are interspersed between the two main characters as their lives entangle: Esso, and Rhia.
Fifteen years stand between them, but their lives were always joined. The same cramped corner of South London, although for Rhia technology has moved on and we encounter gadgets and gizmos, expertise, in her life, that were not available in Esso’s world at her age.

The mix of cultures is really quite exciting – Esso is in raptures at one point over the smell of the Benin food cooking in the flat below; a school friend gives a yell of pleasure that carries in it many African timbres. 

Among the mix of the book’s concerns, is that of inevitability, of free-will. Esso is introduced to us, saying, 
It takes an impressive mix of stupidity and bad luck not to be in a gang, but find yourself in the middle of a gang war.

This is an instance of lack of choice that inner city black teens face. This is inevitability in practice. To be a ‘roadman’: the macho-brag, knife-carrying fixed male role. Their influence spreads throughout the communities, unacknowledged, unrecognized, yet dominant.
This intro comment also shows Femi’s ability to handle registers of text and meaning. What seems a straight-forward comment, is laced with irony, self-blame, fraught responsibility.

Later, with Rhia, we have,
‘We talked about the concept of ‘choice’ last week. Have you had any interesting reflections since?’
‘Yeah, actually,’ I replied to Anahera. ‘I don’t think free will exists. We don’t choose shit.’ 

‘Look, I don’t think it’s a crazy exaggeration to say that 98% of the kids who are born into shit situations grow up and die in the same shit.’

She looked over her glasses at me. ‘And what about the other 2%?’

‘Are you serious?’

‘All anyone wants to talk about is the 2%. I literally just told you that 98% of people in this world don’t get a chance. 98%! Why the fuck are we talking about the lucky 2%?’

The chances of climbing out of one’s social and economic predicament, with all the judiciary and dominant cultural forces arrayed against you, are minimal.

And yet Esso clicks in the maths class, it opens his mind; Nadia, Rhia’s to-be ma, is very bright. But where can this go?

We see Esso, later, blind, and living back on the estate, but a physics genius. He reflects on the crux event, caught centre of a gang war between Spark’s gang and D’s TAS gang. Knives and guns. The police move into the mix. Esso is stabbed; Nadia loses her mind.

But he cannot hate or blame D, he always was a friend, it was ‘the situation’ they were caught up in to blame.
TAS? Talk After Shanking: the old American macho hard-boiled gangster TV talk. The cheap, tacky bluster update of the cheap, tacky, Shoot First Ask Questions Later.

To be a minority in a different, seemingly uncaring culture; uprooted from background, extended family, how do you make an identity that not’s to be ignored? Self-worth?
When you are sixteen.  
And these feel to me like real sixteen year olds. We recognise them; we can trust their depiction. 

Among the shocking incidents we encounter here – daily life on literally a knife-edge (an image that permeates the book) – is an incident where Rhia and Olivia, two adoptees, are confronted with the terrible news that their adoptive parents are selling up and moving out of London. Way out. 
And that the new council can only support one adoptive child.
They have lived together as a ‘family’ for two years +, and now one has to leave. Just before Christmas.

And yet the crux event of the book has an anomalous element – what causes Esso’s blindness, and Nadia’s mental problems? 
Is it possible to step out of one’s moment, and enter the Upper World?
But everyone who has ever gone there suffers for it.

The book gives a genuine sense of how lives are lived, of being sixteen in an inner-city school. The writer skillfully negotiates a wealth of events and ideas, of emotional highs and lows, and we go with him, because he earns our trust.

And yet the book is pointedly not about theory, but about application. Whether intended or not. It is an equation, and by only focussing on one side of the equation we become blind to the other.

Take, for instance the gang-posturing: there is most importantly the actual physical violence. As we too painfully know, people die. Too often. For fatuous reasons. By giving ultimate value to status, then there has to be an equal value to the means of its achievement.
To shift that initial focus to a more positive position. But the dead-weight of moribund societal structures make this near-impossible.
‘Near-impossible,’ – there it is again, that 2%.

Femi himself bears out this awareness of the need for application of theory; after his science-related studies, he studied to achieve Master of Public Administration.

The one problem I find with the book is the lack of a glossary. We encounter terminology here I am unfamiliar with: mandam, fam, many others.
Although I applaud him for not doing; it would be like selling-off your cultural markers.

Femi Fadugba has a MA in Material Science and quantum computing, from Oxford.
He tells us in interview that it was a school caretaker giving him Physics for Dummies turned his world around. Later he contacted the caretaker, to find that he had himself a Phd in Physics, but ‘ was unable to pursue it.’ 
This is the real world. And that hurts.

The Upper World is currently being filmed by Netflix.

Where would you find poems in English and other languages, on public buildings?

Whose poems?

Lisa Henry, whose blog site this is, shows us photos of poems-on-walls by :


e e commings

Langston Hughes

W B Yeats

Chris Abani

Charles Parker


Well, where?

Leiden, of course.

Lisa Henry writes

Wall Poems project started in 1992 filling Leiden walls with poetry in languages ranging from French to Frisian and from Japanese to Sanskrit. These include the works of Rimbaud, Shakespeare, W. B. Yeats, Marina Tsvetaeva, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott as well as local writers.