Not so secret racism

Sometimes certain political parties dare to darken my door with election leaflets. This is what I would say to them if I wasn’t afraid they’d come back later with more friends/big dogs/guns.


I am still different


My form may conform
to the local norm
as I open the door to your leaflets
that spew forth your bile
against others and strangers,
that warn of the dangers
of letting us in.
I know that within
I’m what you think is so vile
so I smile.

You see,

With malicious glee
I do all those things you’d expect from me.

I take your jobs
and I live in your houses
I sit in your queue for your A&E
I use your library,
Take up space on your bus
I even vote for my local MP

I say “We”.

I watch your news

I stand in your queues
My car appears in your Google Street Views.

I’m using your water
I’m breathing your air
Flush my wee through your sewers
Your pipes are clogged with my hair

best of all:

I made children
bilingual half breeds
growing like weeds
spreading my seeds
my foreign ideas
shooting roots over years
until decades from now
you will look around
and find Britain has changed
is no longer the same
because I changed my name
and staked a claim
on your country, your land.

I’m sure you’ll understand
I’m sure you’ll forgive
You’ll live and let live
Because you don’t need to fight
someone like me, you’d say –
I am okay, I can stay:

I am white.

(c) Judith Kingston, 2014


You can hear me read this at Stephanie Arsoska’s Virtual Open Mic Night.


Clinging on to Bilingualism: “I’m wijzing at the blue auto”

IMG_3858[1]I’ve had to face facts. The kids are barely scraping by with their Dutch. As their only source of input, and an inconsistent one at that, I provide pitiful motivation for speaking Dutch, as I respond just as well to demands for juice in English. And so the idea for our Intensive Language Holiday to my parents was born. Surely 2 1/2 weeks in a purely Dutch-speaking environment should help.

One week in, the Boy is still speaking mainly English with, granted, an increasing number of Dutch words thrown in.

“I’m dol op spaghetti!” he exclaims. (I love spaghetti)
“Look Mama, I’m wijzing at it!” (wijzen = point)
“When he is worden vier then I will be vier as well!”
“We can put it in my mondje and it will be very lekker. I love that dropje!”

It’s not surprising really. Here in the Netherlands where we are all pretty well educated in Modern European Languages, requests for juice work just as well in English. Again, there is no pressing need to speak Dutch to get your needs met.

We discussed just refusing to respond to anything but Dutch, but I could picture the despairing wailing and frustrated crying that might ensue if I had to stop every excitable story the Boy started to insist he laboriously translate every single word of it into Dutch before I would listen or join in his game. I don’t want to make Dutch a chore.

Clearly, though, what we were doing was not working as well as we’d hoped.

This morning I had a little epiphany as we met Opa while we descended their Himalayan staircase. He told the Girl: “Je moet wel het hekje even open doen“, which is to say: “Don’t forget you need to open the stair gate.”

And I repeated for the Girl: “Hekje open“, “open the gate”.

She echoed: “Hekje open“.

It was then that I remembered a friend of mine with a little girl who had a speech delay. The speech therapist taught her how to talk to her daughter to help her catch up. Basically, the message was to do more “child directed speech”, as it’s called. Talk about what your child is doing at the moment in short clear sentences, modelling language they can easily mimic and pick up. Like, for example: “Open the gate”, as they open the gate.

We started to implement the new technique over breakfast. We spoke to the Girl in short sentences, stressing and repeating key words: “Juice or milk?” “Not nice?” “Yummy apple!” It worked wonders on her, and she dutifully parrotted what we said, even volunteering some Dutch words herself without prompting.

It did not seem too effective on the Boy, however, until we accidentally landed on a rhyme. This helped trigger his memory for the Dutch word he needed and he seemed delighted to have discovered that there are rhymes in his other language as well. Perhaps, I thought, he needs games, things with repeated phrases that he could start to pick up.

After breakfast we played a game with pulling and pushing Opa, sleeping and waking up, standing up and sitting down – but the commands only worked on Opa if you said them in the right language. With a lot of enthusiasm we just managed to keep it fun and light-hearted, skirting the edges of frustration with frequent successes, a lot of help and a lot of cheering when they managed to get Opa to wake up or push him back down again.

IMG_3976[1]Then while trying to distract the Girl from running around the living room like a lunatic I discovered another good game, using a Kermit the Frog puppet. I improvised a tiny interactive puppet show.

First Kermit was shy and had to be called gently. Then I changed shy to afraid as that is much easier to say in Dutch. The Boy wanted to join in and spontaneously produced an almost correct Dutch sentence saying “Maar ik ben niet bang” [“But I’m not scared”]. He said ‘scared’ instead of ‘scary’, but the idea was there. We repeated the key words a lot more times, Kermit decided The Boy was not scary and got a ‘kusje‘ (kiss).

Then Kermit was hungry and wanted something to eat. As the Lego was out, the kids started offering him Lego food items (eg. a little tile with an apple on it). Kermit started chewing and then spat it out. “Dat is geen eten, dat is Lego!” he exclaimed: That’s not food, that’s Lego. And so a game was born. In fits of giggles, the kids kept fetching Kermit more funny Lego titbits (a little broom, a small bicycle, a tiny watering can) and Kermit chewed them with enthusiasm before spitting them out in disgust and repeating: “That’s not food, that’s Lego.”

I left them to it after a while. They went off by themselves and continued finding food for Kermit and using the Dutch phrase. Slowly he started substituting other acceptable words into the grammatical construction, like “Dat is geen Lego, dat is een aap“, that’s not Lego, that’s a monkey.


It is now almost a week since I started writing this and there is definite improvement. The Girl now shouts “Klaar!” instead of “Finished!” when she pushes her plate away at the dinner table, and the Boy was overheard in the sandpit today, talking to two random Dutch boys and telling them in Dutch to dig deeper. Their vocabulary is expanding and occasionally they will say an entire sentence in Dutch.

I think, after a doubtful start, I am ready to call this language holiday a success!

Memories of the best holiday job ever

Today Secrets of the Sandpit is pleased to provide you with a unique glimpse of summers on the beach in Wales in the 1960s. This post was written by my amazing mother in law.

July 2014 208

Whilst recently having a family picnic on a sandy beach in South Wales I was reminded of my favourite summer job when I was a student in the sixties.

I lived in a small seaside town in South Wales and the council employed a number of young college students to work at the seaside. My brother had the job of hiring out deckchairs during the wettest summer for years and after two weeks relentless rain where he had not sold a single deckchair ticket he was laid off and was only employed for the occasional few sunny days during the rest of the season.

I had better luck the year I was employed to care for any lost children on the beach. It was a glorious summer. We were stationed to the rear of the first aid post with an assortment of toys and books and a nice shady area where the children could play until they were claimed by mostly grateful parents. We had a loudspeaker system which broadcast the name and description of each ‘lost’ child along the promenade.

There were a number of other students acting as lifeguards, deckchair hirers, first aiders and a couple of lads who were supposed to empty litter bins and keep the beach clear of rubbish. They spent most of their days riding up and down the promenade in an old land rover trying to look busy.

When I had no lost children to look after I would help out on the first aid post as I had a first aid certificate; we were busy applying sticking plaster to cut knees and grazed elbows one day when a lad came into the room looking rather pale as he had a fish hook stuck in his hand. This was a hospital emergency so the lads in the land rover sprang into action and rushed me and the afflicted lad and his parents to the nearby cottage hospital for the doctors to remove the fish hook.

The lady in charge of the fist aid post had a great fondness for a nice cup of tea and also had an endless supply of home made cake so we all needed reviving by her on our return from the hospital.

July 2014 188Our busiest days at the seaside were the days when coaches of day trippers came down from the valleys for their breath of sea air and a taste of fish and chips. Their children were more likely to get lost as they were not used to being disorientated by the sea and the tide as it crept up and down the sand.

Fortunately the coach drivers always pointed out the place to find lost children or receive first aid so we occasionally had an anxious mother arrive before her offspring had found its way to me in the lost children’s garden.

However we did have a few regular customers who mysteriously got lost just as the pub opened and would remain lost for about an hour while their parents had surreptitiously gone for a drink! I found the best way to flush them out was to announce to the beach at large ‘for the last hour little Johnny Jones and his tiny sister who is crying inconsolably have been waiting at the Lost Children’s Garden.’ Their red faced parents would soon appear to find said Johnny and his little sister enjoying a piece of the first aider’s cake and some orange squash!

It was a happy summer when the sun always seemed to shine, when I did the most enjoyable holiday job of my student days.