I just want to start this blog by pointing out that it was probably the hardest thing I have ever had to write as it required me to really take count of my feelings and emotions and make sense of how I am really feeling. I have been writting it for the last 2 weeks, have deleated and re-written parts. I even thought about not posting it, because eveytime I started typing I started crying. But as you can see, I put my big girl panties on, let the tears fall and typed away….
Friday 15 February was my last day at work, I was a few weeks short of working there for 12 years and had made many friends there during my time. I had the chance to say good bye to my amazing team, write them a card each (for posting after I had left so they knew I had not forgotten them) and to have lunch as a final good bye to an amazing group of people really making a difference to the lives of vulnerable people. I also got the chance to say good bye to some other special people at work, those that had been there during hard times in my personal life and always had some time for me, those that helped me on the steep learning curve of my most recent role and taught me through kindness how to manage regulated activities, those that explained things to me when I sat baffled in FAS meetings by some of the terms being used (lol, you know who you are). I also made sure to say good bye to some really special people that had left St John Ambulance, but had helped me become the woman I am today.
Handing in my ‘kit’, saying the last good byes and walking to the underground station felt great! It was the start of something new and I reflected back on my time at St John Ambulance with such fondness and now was the perfect time to be leaving.
Monday 25 February 2019 was a day I will never forget for so many reasons. It was the start of a new chapter and a ‘thank you’ and a ‘see you later’ to an old chapter.
Monday 25 February 2019
As we stood on the pavement outside our flat, I said to my husband; babe! You do realise that for the first time in our lives, we are unemployed and homeless (I had just handed our keys back that morning)? It felt liberating. In a selfish way I felt ‘free’…. Having had our beautiful daughter at 18 years old, we went from being kids, to having kids and having the responsibility that goes along with being a parent. This was the first time we had been in this type of situation and I had every intention of enjoying it and being proud that we had achieved one of our life long dreams.
As we made our way downstairs to the taxi, it still didn’t feel real; As I write this now on plane number 2, it still does not feel real. It will probably take a few weeks for things to settle in my brain and for me to realise that we have achieved one of our dreams of immigrating to Australia in search of a better life for us and for our children (We need another big dream now!).
But first let me tell you about Monday 25 February and why it stands out so much for me.
Lady with one leg and police situation
As we sat in our daughter’s room hearing about some of her concerns and helping her pack her last bits and bobs, we heard screaming and swearing from outside. As we looked out her bedroom window, we saw two police officers, one black male and one white female. It was clear that the lady in the wheelchair was trying to get away from them and that they wanted to search her bag; she clearly was not happy. As the situation escalated, the lady in the wheelchair stood up and we noticed that she only had one leg, but that was not the surprise, the actual surprise was the fact that she had no clothes on from the waste down. As the officers tried to reason with her, she clearly wanted no part of it and was trying to get away. She tried to wheel herself away using her good working leg to pull the wheelchair. Though this was a serious situation, there was something quite comical about the male officer reaching out and pulling back the wheel chair to its original position. She hauled herself up, hopped over to the parking barrier and used it to steady herself. She then used the barrier as a lever to hoist herself and kick the male officer, who seemed to be trying his best to stay patient. She began to hop away before the they both held an arm each gesturing towards the chair. After trying to free her arm from the male officer unsuccessfully, she tried the arm held by the female officer, which she was using to hold up a blanket covering her lower half, and broke free! She lunged at the female officer and put her in what can only be described as a forward headlock, which clearly took the officer by surprise. Panic sets upon the female officer when she wriggled but couldn’t get free. She yelped, “Arrrgh, she’s got me, get her off!” WOW – for someone missing a leg, She. Was. Strong!
With support from her male colleague, she managed to get free. During the ruckus, the would be suspect’s blanket had slipped off to reveal her completely naked lower half. The female officer was doing her best to protect the this lady’s modesty, even while in a headlock; the female officer was trying to pick up the blanket to cover her lady parts. As we looked on in concern, a few people caught our eye in the block opposite ours and in their cars, people were there filming the incident. This was probably the most shocking part of the situation (sadly) as growing up in South London, these types of situations were really common, so common in fact, we would see it at least 1 – 2 times per week. This was unique because it was a woman with one leg fighting with the police! One question I still don’t have the answer to is what are they going to do with these videos? – Yes, we searched YouTube when we got to Oz to see if it has already gone viral – no such luck!
- Suspected gang members and drug dealers in our block – drama
Well, technically, this incident was on Sunday 24 February but it was close to midnight, so I am going to include in this blog. We heard screaming and shouting! This time outside our bedroom window. So we went to take a look and saw 4-5 “grown women” brawling in the middle of the road; a number of undercover police and suspected gang members from our block (Ahmed had to school me on some of the signs); blue lights were flashing and people were screaming… it was chaos. This was quickly followed by 6 – 7 police cars and people running. We still don’t know what happened, but again, it just felt like a clear sign, if we had any doubt, that we were doing the right thing. We had never doubted if this was the right call or not, but just in case we did – this was the universe reinforcing that the life changing move is the right change in move and whilst it will take a minute or 3 months for everyone to adjust, we believed deeply we were making the right decision for our children, for us and for future Jallohs.
- Taxi driver asking me to put my son on my lap
As 4pm came around, so did the emotions for my daughter and her boyfriend. Tears had started before we had even left the flat – this told me that the airport good byes were not going to be easy. We headed downstairs as our taxi had arrived only to find a white Ford galaxy, 7 seater before us, half on the road and half on the pavement… bearing in mind that there were 5 people and 6, large, suitcases, so clearly, we were not going to fit.
“Err, my husband ordered a 9 seater because we have big suitcases and 5 people going to the airport!”
I nearly hit the deck when this clown of a taxi driver suggested I put my 10 year old son on my lap… considering my son wears a size 4 trainer and is up to my neck, that’s not a workable idea! Plus, I didn’t want him to DIE! There was no way on god’s green Earth we were going to take this taxi. The driver almost looked shocked when I sent him on his way, probably because I said quite bluntly, “I am not going to let you kill my son, if you crash’… followed by, ‘I am sure this is illegal too”. He, the taxi driver, stood there dumfounded staring vacantly with his mouth half open as if to say – I do this all the time, it will be ok!
We then called Addison Lee, who on reflection we should have used from the beginning, but we decided to go with this company when the driver we used the day before told us Addison Lee does not do 9 seaters but his company does.
Addison Lee are very cost effective and reliable so we called and they delivered as usual.
- Seeing the love my daughter and her boyfriend have for one another
This truly was amazing, seeing how much they care for one another and how they have, since our impending departure, made sure to have scheduled calls and have a plan for how they are going to make their relationship work. People often say that when you get with someone young that its puppy love and wont last… well, they confirmed for me on this day and since we left the UK that they are different and they will make this work. Ahmed and I got together when we were 14 years old, so we know it can work and hope to act as role models for them on what a healthy relationship can look like. We will also do all we can to support them to make the distance more tolerable.
- We have an amazing family and friend network in the UK
I had the opportunity to see or say goodbye to everyone I wanted to aside from 2 people. You know who you are lol. Person one: Virgin Media engineer spoiled our plans and person 2: You lost your phone.
The day before we left the UK was our son’s 10th birthday, so we got the opportunity to have lunch with my dad and then dinner with my cousins, Ahmed’s brother, my sister in law and our amazing and beautiful nephews and niece. Whilst we did not see each other as often as we should have, we all draw great strength from knowing that we were around the corner and have each other’s back if and when needed. It’s important that everyone realises that we’re just in a different location, but nothing else has changed in this respect – we still have your backs Jallohs. Family is family and as Ahmed says, ‘No Jalloh gets left behind’.
Packing up for this move and condensing our Lives in 16 Boxes (there’s a book title in here somewhere, also can I point out that only one of these boxes belonged to me…) we have come to appreciate that what matters in life is family, not stuff or things; it is about the connections you make with people and the difference you make in the world and in people’s lives.
From our last good byes, there are a few statements/questions that stood out for us;
- What is here for you? What is keeping you here? in London?
- Two people said to our daughter, just go with an open mind as you can always come back. She is having the hardest time of us all with the move and does not want to leave her boyfriend behind. I will go into how they are coping in future blogs; but I can feel it in my bones that they are going to be OK
- It is so lovely to see a family working in 2019; there are so many broken homes and you guys are still going against the odds
- You guys are an inspiration; you met and started dating at 14, were pregnant at 17, parents at 18 and are still going strong and clearly very much in love 24 years later
- You two have motivated me, I will be moving out of London in the next 2 years (this was said by two different people)
On reflection, whilst it was one of the easiest things to do, when I was actually doing it, it was really difficult. The hardest thing for me was to try and make people understand that we didn’t have a terminal illness, no one was dying; we were ‘just moving house’. Without blowing my own trumpet, I am really good at keeping in touch with people. (Toot, toot) This is probably why it does not feel like a goodbye and more like a see you later!
One thing that is still bothering me is Ahmed’s brother (and for the last 24 years my brother) Abdul. I don’t ever want him to think that his brother (and I) are not there for him or his part of the family because we always are, anytime day or night!!! Family is family and although not my blood family; he and I have a better relationship than I do with some of my blood brothers.
Oh … Abdul tried not to cry at the air port but we all saw the tears; they were magnified by the glasses!
Peace, Love and Happiness
The Jalloh Family