MAY 2017

Clapham Common, South London was once my daily destination. From 1970 to 1975 the 37 bus carried me from Battersea to The Pavement. And a few hundred yards away was Henry Thornton Comprehensive School. I believe it’s where I am supposed to have spent the best years of my life. As I come up from the underground station I know things have changed. Clapham and Balham and Brixton are young, white trendy enclaves. I can’t find a black hairdresser to get my hair cream. There is a “Little Waitrose”. Byron burgers. A Strada Cafe. A wave of trendy places to eat. A WH Smith. In addition, reassuringly a KFC and the essential McDonald’s. It is at once strange and fun to be here. A place I frequented as a teenager. I recognise the streets but not the people or the atmosphere.

I returned to Clapham Common for a Polish Writers event. It was part of the Lambeth Readers and Writers Festival 2017 at Mary Seacole Centre, Clapham Library. The event was organised by “Poles Connect”. They are funded by Lambeth Council and the Polish Embassy. This is a grassroots project where over 20 Polish speaking local residents come together to run community events. I read that the event will highlight Polish hand crafted folk art and workshops. A tour of Modern Polish literature. And a panel discussion. This is a great way to highlight the diversity, culture and contribution of the Polish community.

The U.K. has a very long history and life with Poland. Much, much more. Moreover, much longer than migration from the E.U. Since the Second World War and before. Hammersmith and Lambeth have well established Polish communities. There is more to Polish people than working in the NHS, Hotels or the building trade. There is much more to be being Polish than the war and the Holocaust. The Polish spirit has endured and flourished through many hardships of war and occupation. I love events like this. They give a chance to taste and view people from so many angles.


Solzhenitsyn or Chekov are Russian authors I have heard about many times. Now I know much more about and am reading Polish authors. I am not an expert just more informed. We were treated to readings from a range of authors. Writers for children and adults. The “short tour of Modern Polish Literature in Translation by Antonia Lloyd-Jones” was exquisite. I was taken from the beach where I played in the sand of not knowing. Through the surf by readings from Jack Dehnel. Lifted by the waves of Wiesław Myśliwski, who writes the first line of the book and then follows where it leads. No set plot, characters etc. His books sound like a labour of love, confidence and intuition. No return, just keep swimming. Olga Tokarczuk’s moving story of returning Chopin’s sister returning his heart to Warsaw. Diving deeper with the detective trilogy by Zygmunt Miłoszewski – Rage. An exert from the children’s writer Krystyna Boglar – Clementine Loves Red. When I surfaced I had to buy a book. Well two. Actually three. Having someone choose exerts and read them with such poise, ease and intonation is a splendid way to get the flavours of different writing.

I immediately started my book Kolyma Diaries. Hugo-Bader is my kind of writer. Reportage is a Polish school of writing. – where he travels to areas and speaks to and spends time with people to hear their stories. From an interesting position we are told about their experiences and lives. A citizen of the “second world” – Eastern Europe. He travelled extensively to “the Third world” to write about his experiences.

The panel discussion just added more fuel to the fire of my Polish literature knowledge.

Now safely ensconced on my coffee table are my fresh, new books:-

1- Stone upon stone – Wiesław Myśliwski. (isbn 9780982624623)

2- Kolyma Diaries – Jacek Hugo-Bader – (isbn 978184627502-9)

3- Chernobyl –The zone–Natacha Bustos and Francisco Sanchez. A graphic novel – (978-0-9933951-1-6)

Have to worry about excusing my dancing

Have to worry about being crushed when I am seated on the bus or train. People always find other seats.

Look cool in suits.

Work twice as hard as my white equivalent to stand still in my career.

Know that trump is undoing anything to do with Obama just because Obama is a strong, black man.

Know that you are v racist-it’s an instinctual thing.

“Know who I am and where I am going.l
A bomb explodes and you are outraged etc. and blame those Muslims. Your outflowing of racism is loud-for a few days. It is not the bombing that made you racist. You always were. The bombing gave you an excuse and opportunity to say your stuff. The bombs are the excuse for your explosion.
A guy sat next to me on the train. I didn’t squeeze up just to let him take over my space. Then I noticed the paper he was reading. The telegraph! The business section! I won’t let him be comfortable next to me with his tory graph attitude. Anyway I kept reading my article about the closure of the immigrant camp at Calais.  It’s a terrible life they have. The prejudice.  Just because of one thing people pick on. Disliking someone they don’t even know for a small petty reason.


Keith Stewart – from Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England. A qualified TEFL teacher, Murder She Wrote and Colombo aficionado. A Spanish music and Motown fan.
MAY 2017 – BLOG #45
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