Shoes I can never fill

Hi, it’s nice to check in as always. I don’t do enough writing these days and being honest I’d like to see that change. It’s a natural bias of mine. A gift from my father and one of his sisters my auntie Blossom. Earlier this evening I had to republish a blog post I wrote way back in August 2022 following the sudden and tragic death of my dear friend and fellow cop watcher Ahmed Fofanah. You can read what I said at the time about that brother Ahmed here.

Ahmed was one of the Bristol Copwatch core team and writing about him as I have written about my dad in the past tense is something I’m still navigating. He sat on the Co-PoWER project community engagement panel not just as a Bristol Copwatch representative but most importantly as himself. When it came to his own journey and fight for justice I can still hear his strong voice as if it were yesterday.

When I think about our lived experience of the police at their very worst it’s fair to say that we had a lot in common. I guess it’s one of the reasons we made friends. We connected and we got on well even though that friendship developed primarily through supporting Ahmed and his family it was heartwarming to see it grow after that point and to hear his voice when he said how he wanted to help others navigate journeys that they never wanted to make.

I guess that’s why when Co-POWeR asked us if we could recommend anyone for the community engagement panel we just had to suggest Ahmed as the most suitable person we knew. I mean who else could it of been? I feel honoured to be heading to Leeds tomorrow for the Co-POWeR final conference. This is something Ahmed would have done. These are shoes I can never fill. I miss my fam just like I miss my dad.

Ahmed at his home in July 2022 with Co-POWeR photo courtesy of Co-POWeR

It’s going to be an important couple of days at the conference in Leeds and I just would like to say thank you to Co-POWeR not only for their vital work examining the impact of COVID-19 and racial discrimination on Black, Asian, and minority ethnic communities in the UK during the lockdown and the pandemic but for hearing our dear friends voice when it needed to be heard the most.

To me, this event is about celebrating the resilience of our communities and exploring how we can overcome such conditions in the future of course to myself, his family, and to Co-POWeR it is also about remembering our dear friend Ahmed Fofanah taken so suddenly from us when he had so much to give. If anything I take a great deal of solace in knowing that he told me to keep doing what I’m doing and to keep fighting for justice just like my dad always did, and because of this I rejoice and raise my fist. Thank you my brother for your contributions and vital work. These are shoes I can never ever fill.

That Brother Ahmed

Due to a publishing error on my blog, I have had to re-release this piece of writing. It was written at the time during a heavy period of grief and of course with a lot of love for Ahmed and his family. This piece was originally written in late August 2022.

Sitting down and writing this blog on the tail end of a fantastic August bank holiday somehow doesn’t feel right. Actually being at a point where I feel ready to write has taken weeks but here we are you and me and it feels like the right time.

Bristol Copwatch is due to release a statement about Ahmed Fofanah’s passing and how it has impacted all of us but I wanted to take the opportunity to do the same. I can still remember when we first began supporting Ahmed Fofanah and his family well over a year ago now due to his ongoing fight for justice. Even at his lowest Ahmed had a strength that is rarely seen and a fierce determination to fight for his rights.

We connected due to our shared heritage. Ahmed came from Sierra Leone in Africa and was immediately interested in my family history, in particular, my beautiful father Owen Pegram who sadly left me and my mum in December of 2021 due to a long battle with cancer. Dad was a black South African and Ahmed loved me telling him about our family history.

He told me a lot about Sierra Leone and was deeply interested in the history of South Africa. To say he was Afrocentric was an understatement. His children like myself are mixed-race black people, and his incredibly strong wife Martina is white just like my mum, if you’re a mixed-race kid yourself you’ll know how important our identity is.

My dear friend taught me to embrace the African side of me further just as my dad always has done. I remember Ahmed as a kind and gentle man who was devoted to doing the right thing and helping others, in fact when my dad passed away he was the first person to call me to check-in. He never stopped saying thanks for the help and support we gave him and when we lost him at the beginning of August my heart broke into a thousand pieces.

Ahmed was also a sportsman and I remember watching videos of him and his son boxing sparring at their home in Weston Super mare. He told me he had many fights and I could see from watching the way he moved he was a fighter. To see a strong man like him suddenly up and leave is heartbreaking.

It’s hard to navigate even now but I’ve learned in this life we have to be strong. We have to keep fighting and most importantly we have to be there for one another. When he spoke in public he lit up the room and captivated hearts and minds. I can still hear his strong voice.

Everything we do now as a monitoring group honors his memory and he will always have a place in my heart. I’m sure he and my dad have shaken hands wherever they are. Two of Africa’s children have come home. Rejoice and raise your fist.

Ahmed and his beloved dog Shadow, photo courtesy of Co-POWeR

Mine to keep

Hi. It´s good to catch up with you a couple of days before 2023 lands. I hope you have had a good Christmas and like me your gearing up for new years eve! 2022 has most certainly been eventful but it´s also been a very strong year for me as a community activist, martial artist and of course public speaker.

As the current year draws to a close it´s as always a time for reflection however I´m not sitting in the new year new me camp. I don´t do that as a rule of thumb but I do set my intention and think about my goals. Just before I headed out to Spain to spend quality time in the sun with my mum (today is my last day before travelling home to Bristol tomorrow) for the holidays I was on the sharp end of a serious violence incident on my estate in St Anne´s Bristol.

The youth I ran into on my usual cycle route back to my flat were armed with machetes. They stole my mountain bike (now replaced with the same model, thanks to my lovely mum) and mobile phone (also replaced with the same one thanks 02) having been in my fair share of altercations over the course of my life it was the first time anyone has ever been cowardly enough to pull a blade or blades on me. It caught me off guard. My on switch was off. Your world changes when a machete is against your throat. When a handle is rammed into your eye.

My world became unreal. The punch that came before the handle just like in the ring was a thud with no pain. If it had not been for my friend walking her dog who saw what was happening and ran over when I yelled for help I´m reasonably sure it would of been the end of me. I thought my life was going to be cut short over a four hundred pound mountain bike behind a Coop less than fifteen minutes from my home.

When faced with my own mortality for the second time in my life just like before I have said thanks to whatever watches my back. I have been round a few corners. They were journeys I never wanted to make. I will be fine. Trauma is something I soak up like a sponge and these days I know how to navigate it. Besides, I have my people. Friends old and new have been amazing.

I have never been alone to assume I am is a falsehood. It´s something cowards and bullies tell each other to feel safer about guys like me. Kindness is not a weakness. It is a sign of emotional intelligence. Gentle as a lamb fierce as a lion is the order of the day. That´s the Muay Thai way.

Right now I´m happy that my eye is healing so well. I´m still that handsome boy from modelling school. I´m happy to have received so many lovely messages and wishes of fast healing and good health from friends and family. I´m happy I´m here. I´m happy I´m alive. Although I have very little trust in the police it is good to see how seriously the incident was taken. The community was and is amazing. Bristol is like that. My gym of course showed the same amount of solidarity and kindness. Thank you Dave for reminding me to stay sharp.

I mentioned at the beginning of this post about a fair share of altercations over the years. This is a truth but so is the fact I was bullied before I took up martial arts. I was beaten up before I learned how to really give it back and at points did. I was that kid people thought they could shove around. When I started training the bullies crossed the road when they saw me coming.

It is about the aura we project and the confidence and awareness is self evident when you train but the fear I encountered recently and have always run into is very real. Over time I have learned to make it my friend. It took me a long time to learn how to fight in the ring. I still have a lot to learn but I´m a tough kid. If that frightens you or make you angry I´ll let you navigate that shit on your own. Fear is a mind killer and when those blades appeared I froze. Then I tried to run. “Lads just take the bike” is mine to keep forever.

I´d like to say I´m not vulnerable but I am. I´d like to say a much younger John is not present but he is. He needs me right now so I´ll take him down the gym next week and show him something. I´ll show him something good and that is beautiful and is my art. Always there when I need it the most. It saved me once and it never leaves. It´s mine to keep forever. Have a great new year and train hard and just like the last time… I´ll see you on that road.

2022

Hi. It’s nice to catch up once again. I’m currently one of the many people who has caught the truly horrible cold that’s doing the rounds which successfully managed to sabotage training this weekend. I’m flying to Spain to spend Christmas with my mum tomorrow so I can only hope the worst has passed by the morning.

Moan over I thought I’d take the opportunity to round up 2022 for me in a nutshell. When it comes to community activism and public speaking it’s been one hell of a year. I finished the year off speaking at the truly awesome Children of Tomorrow event for the family of Chris Kaba at Trinity Bristol on Friday for Bristol Copwatch.

The past few weeks have been a very intense push with events seeing us in Oxford and London delivering know your rights workshops and of course doing a good bit of networking too. As a grassroots police monitoring organisation that only started in 2020, we’ve developed in leaps and bounds and have helped a lot of people.

There’s still a lot of work to be done but there’s more than enough time to continue to build. To be honest it’s going to be nice to have some time off from tomorrow. My own legal battles against the police are ongoing but it’s getting put right and ever since I first started volunteering with Copwatch I’ve always loved helping others do the same.

Art on display at Children of Tomorrow on the 16th. The artist is Oshii. The pieces were auctioned off and profits were donated to the family of Chris Kaba.

Of course, just like with Muay Thai and competing independent grassroots police monitoring is about teamwork and moving towards common goals and objectives. It was nice to be called an inspiration on Friday evening and it was great to hear such positive feedback about my speech and contribution to the speaker panel I participated in. The conversations as a whole were important and I thought some valid points were made around community, education, and supporting youth that get drawn into cycles. Having been there myself I know when the police are in your life it can be very difficult to get them out of your life again.

“We want to see an end to disproportionate and racist policing and believe in community solutions that solve problems and prevent cycles of police harassment and those journeys none of us ever want to make through the criminal justice system”

I’ve always said and always will say that martial arts and Muay Thai helped me turn my life around because it did, but even then it took time for me to heal (being honest I think I still am) and move onto a new and brighter future.

“Once a criminal always a criminal is a label we’re given for life.”

But it is a label I’ve shown myself and others that holds no relevance to me anymore. There’s nothing more satisfying than proving the cops wrong. In 2023 I intend to show them what time it is. Navigating bereavement throughout this year has also been assisted by martial arts, although I think about my dad every day and he’s with me all the time training is something that has often helped me go back to my inner maintain my focus, and get stronger. Grief has forged resilience and strength in me that just like the light that is my father will never go out.

Although I have good days and bad days the memories of dad have become increasingly beautiful and everything that I do is in celebration of his life. He was a sportsman and athlete like me. He was a writer like me. A political and community activist like me and he only led by example. On my best day, I wish I could be more like him.

As well as supporting myself I’ve also of course been at points supporting my awesome mum. Seriously, she’s brilliant and I can’t wait to see her tomorrow afternoon. I guess I’m fortunate to have parents who both have always had their moral compasses pointed in the right direction. I may not be perfect but I have good role models in my life. Putting others before myself has been something I’ve inherited from both of my parents.

There were a few things I wanted to achieve training-wise this year that hasn’t taken shape. Next year I’d like to see if I can commit to training enough again to fight toward the summer but I’m open-minded about it. I’ve still got it, it’s never left but it’s also a big commitment and with other positive outlets to focus on I can at the very least ensure I train just as hard as I always have. I’ll be training when I’m 60. I’d love to go to Thailand again next year too.

Although it’s a shame I’ve missed the gym this weekend due to illness I’ll be back on the horse 5 times a week again like it or not as of January, and whilst I’m away for Christmas running, shadow boxing and maybe hitting the bag at the local gym will fill the gap until I’m back in the mix for 2023. Next year should see several positive things happening. I don’t want to go into too much right now but as the saying goes when facing the right direction all you have to do is keep walking. It’s been great catching up with you again. Thanks as always for reading my blog. Have a good Christmas, train hard, and win all your fights in the ring or otherwise. I’ll see you on that road.

My favourite thing

Hi. It´s nice to catch up with you all once again, I´m currently nearing the end of a well deserved holiday in the sun spending quality time with family. It´s been a great break and I am already looking forward to a nice Christmas with my mum. Its her 81st Birthday today and she has had a nice day which of course, means I have too. We went out for lunch with family friends and whilst I´m writing she´s reading her book.

Both of us miss my dad more than words can say but he´s always here and with us both of us forever. He had an amazing life and was a giant of a human being- I have been thinking recently of gifts he left me other than my fighting spirit, strength and dedication to always doing the right thing. I´m just like that Spike Lee joint. It´s why I believe firmly in helping others fight for their rights especially when they feel that they can´t go it alone.

My auntie Blossom was a public speaker and a teacher like dad as well as a writer too. Both fled apartheid and South Africa´s children became political exiles due to fighting back against white supremacy.

Our roots are from the tribes of South Africa and our surname is a slave name. In fact, just recently my cousin Melanie who is African American and my auntie´s daughter said she met a long lost relative of our family. We are black people and mixed race black people on dad´s side. I´m very proud of my roots, which has some outstanding black activists and some would say freedom fighters who stood up to hate way back when.

Of course, mum has told me a lot about dad´s fight for his rights when he came to the UK as he did himself. She campaigned actively with my auntie Blossom to get the Metropolitan Police to leave him alone- When he came to the UK- He was stateless and without a passport and the cops put him in a hotel with a guard on the door. They called him a bad citizen for fighting back via stage plays in South Africa against the apartheid regime. He always was a superb stage actor.

He was also a teacher and after he got his passport issues resolved and made his new home here he ended up teaching white kids English, and of course he started dating mum and the rest is history. It´s nice to see that like my father I have ended up becoming a sportsman and athlete. Dad used to play cricket for Cambridge.

I think my journey into Muay Thai caught both him and mum off guard when I first started competing. His quiet little boy who made some mistakes but in the end came right went from learning to fight to actually fighting. Mum has always encouraged me as did my father even when I lost and lost.

Mum asked me just recently how long I have been training for now “Over 15 years” I said casually. “that´s good” she replied. Both her and dad would agree I have always had a big heart. Winning two titles has shown me I can do anything I put my mind too. I guess that´s how Bristol Copwatch came about. I guess that´s why I have been running my own business for a while now. I see something I feel I should do and put my time, creativity and energy into and I just go for it. I absolutely get that from my father.

Today is mum´s day. She comes from a working class family and her dad was a soldier. He fought in both world wars he also did a tour of Northern Ireland. When he left the army he wanted to be a cop. The whole family objected. “We have always had a low opinion of the police.” She told me recently. She worked as a teacher for many years running both R.S and sociology departments. She has always been passionately anti-racist and a feminist and at 81 will never change. She where my never give up comes from.

I thought I´d write about my parents because today is special. It would of been dad´s 92nd birthday on the 21st of this month. Everyone tells me I look just like him. I act like him always inspired to do the right thing and holding the police to account is one of my favourite things. Just like public speaking and writing it´s a natural bias of mine. Muay Thai is of course my hobby and passion. I´m getting better at that too. Training for years does that I guess. I can still give you a dead leg.

I´m back home in Bristol on Monday, and later in the week what feels like my speaker and workshop tour begins with Bristol Copwatch. Like that brother Afu Ra I whirlwind through cities. I´m a firm believer in sharing knowledge of our rights and helping communities build resilience. My own fight for justice is ongoing, in the end as dad would say to me it´ll come right. Have a great weekend, train hard and just like the last time…I´ll see you on that road.

My place on Earth.

Hi. It’s nice to catch up with you once again. I’ve actually been meaning to sit down and get some writing done for well over a week now and although procrastination and I are still really good mates, it’s nice as always to check-in.

Training this week has been pretty good and it’s nice that I’m finding the time more so than the week before to get down to the gym. Despite my bike needing some repair work next week I’ve already got the week ahead planned out and it’s not only going to be busy martial arts wise it’s no doubt going to be awesome.

Staying in it for as long as I have it’s still plain as day that I’m going to be training when I’m 60. Muay Thai has not only shown me that I can do anything I put my mind body and soul into but that it is over 15 years on just as much fun as it was on day one. It not only gets you in good shape fast but it teaches you about yourself.

It’s a journey that’s why I’m always on the road. I discovered this week that even on my just-about-getting-by days I’m still pretty good when I put my mind to it. Just recently I’ve come away from sparring sessions and training smiling and really that’s what it’s about. I don’t mind having a tough time as long as I’m learning something and most of the time I am.

I’ve looked at fighting as an “if it happens again great” situation and I’ll just go with the flow. I’m confident I’d do a lot better than the last time around. I remember what winning feels like and I love the combat so as they say never say never. At 43 years old my heart is just as big as it always was.

At present, I feel a lot better about myself and am focused on volunteering work, my day job, and living a good life and a happy one. My fight for justice is moving forward and the police monitoring group I founded is moving from strength to strength. Later this month I’m out to Spain to see my mum for her birthday and to celebrate and remember my amazing dad. It’s good to work from a place of strength inside.

Training has really helped me navigate loss and my gym has been very kind over the course of this year, but being honest they always have been. It’s one of the reasons I’ve trained there for many years. Of course, my previous gym Bristol Thai was just as welcoming and I achieved a lot there, but it’s good to have found my place on earth.

I intend to have another strong week of training from Tuesday onwards and it’s great to invest myself as much as I do. I know dad was always proud to see the man I’ve become. Have a good week, train hard, and just like the last time… I’ll see you on that road.

First minute first round.

Hi. It’s good to catch up as always. I hope you’ve had a good weekend so far and have been training hard. It’s not been too shabby this week this end which is of course always a good thing. Especially when you feel wronged and victimized.

Wronged and victimized. I don’t like either one of those words. Way back when a friend of mine gave me a postcard with that photo of Muhammad Ali standing over Sonny Liston. “First minute first round.” You know the one right? on the back he wrote one thing for me.”I am a survivor.”

It was important at the time because I was a shadow of myself. I learned that I didn’t have to walk with my head bowed and my trauma there for all to see instead, I learned how to stand up. Just recently I’ve looked in the mirror and I can see the young man, still there but these days he’s learning to work from a place of strength.

Training in particular is helping me navigate a lot of damage that has been done over the past few years from police harassment and contact and is reminding me that my life is no longer the same as it was back then. These days I help people and I use my own experiences as guidance when it comes to helping people put things right. I am a survivor and because I am I pass on my knowledge and guidance and I’m comfortable in my own skin. I feel at home.

Walking into my gym after still processing that the police have run firearms checks on me for believe it or not carrying a kubotan keyring in its completely legal use as a keyring helped me manage a lot of the anger that rose to the surface. If you’ve seen my Twitter rants you’ve met younger John. I’m very sorry but he’s done nothing wrong. I have a lovely friend who I see every couple of weeks who is helping me get to know him again. When all the different parts of me are aligned just like now I go back to my centre and speak from my heart. It’s where I live.

Just recently I said to myself “they’ve racially profiled me again. The fucking bastards ran an immigration check on me. They ran a firearms check on me.” And from out of the depths of my subconscious, a voice said “they used to stop and search me for riding on the pavement.” So today I took the hurt to the gym with me and it left because all there was the gym and the second family I train with. This is how I process the damage. And how I leave it behind.

I’m currently preparing to begin legal action against Avon and Somerset Police once again for a DPA 2018 breach that has had far-reaching implications and has done a considerable amount of damage to my life. I have never been alone and I know I am in the right. I’d like to take the opportunity to thank everyone so far who has seen it and understand what has happened to me has most certainly not occurred in a vacuum.

The police have finally crossed a line I never thought they would and as my solicitors would say, there is a legal remedy to most of the issues I have faced. This has amounted to data protection breaches, police harassment, and targeting for fighting to get a malicious prosecution overturned a few years back. You can find out more about my story and what I am currently looking to achieve by visiting my CrowdJustice here.

Staying focused and strong at present is essential especially when the truth has become increasingly traumatic but being human and giving that guy who hopes you can see him room to get his voice heard is just as essential. These days I take him to train with me and show him what he can do. I step into volunteering and use my past experiences to help others. I walk tall and I face everything like it’s never mattered at all. But that’s me. Fighting for my rights. First minute first round. Have a great weekend, and just like the last time… I’ll see you on that road.

Anger

Hi, it’s nice to check in with you all once again, and thanks for the visits to my blog despite there being a fairly lengthy radio silence. I’ll do my best to write more frequently from here on in. After all, it’s good for the soul. I want to take the opportunity to focus on the subject of anger, next week I’ll aim to follow up with a piece on balance and presence.

Anger is a very powerful emotion that I’ve run into a lot of late due to moving through cycles of grief. When it arrives it manifests itself in different ways but one of the most common times is when I’ve been drinking and of course, when it happens my anger is righteous. Just recently I can see it even if I’m out on the town and I shut it down quickly.

Grief and alcohol seem to shake hands disturbingly well, and my anger is indiscriminate. Whoever has seemingly wronged me gets told very loudly how wrong they are because some days everything is wrong but it’s really no one’s fault. There’s a young man I’m currently in the process of reconnecting with via the help of my lovely friend I see every couple of weeks. Like me, she’s been through a lot and is an outstanding therapist. She can see me as they say. Not everyone can.

Over the past month or so despite training a reasonable amount every week and actually getting better for it (I forgot that you learn stuff doing this martial arts thing so I’ve been pleasantly surprised to see improvements I probably hadn’t noticed were happening. ) I’ve been having fun and partying. I have a very busy life and need to unwind from time to time so other than Muay Thai a good dance is also always welcome.

Of course, with that comes hangovers and of late wondering if I’ve upset anyone. There’s nothing worse than wondering if you’ve upset anyone. I think it was this realization that has made me decide to have a booze break for a little while from next week onwards. I can still go out and do whatever I want but alcohol isn’t the be-all and end-all of a good night out. In fact, I rolled in at around 6.45am this morning and still had a decent training session this afternoon.

I’m pleased to say the traumatized young man who misses his daddy immensely, who used to get stopped and searched for riding on the pavement, and who sometimes dwells on women who have hurt him but also needs to have women in his life, the kid who got bullied didn’t make an appearance. Well, he tried to but I could see him so asked what was wrong and promised we could talk about it later. He needs a voice because I’ve always just bottled it up.

You see, I created barriers to protect me that I’ve learned to take down and that I’m still learning that it’s ok to keep down. I may seem stoic but maybe sometimes I’m just a little bit shy. I know my younger John was. Being reflective it’s been a very intense, emotional, and interesting discovery and journey over the past few months, I realized today how young I look. I think I have Muay Thai to thank for that, but hey I am young still. I’m not middle-aged till I’m 45. You can Google that one.

Training has helped me navigate a lot of what at points has felt like being trapped in a glass case of emotion and being completely honest here, August was possibly the lowest I have ever been in my life, but I still just kept pressing forward. Carry on as normal, ok today I can’t do anything. Today I don’t want to get out of bed. I miss my dad I miss my friend Ahmed. My mum went through the same. Grief comes in waves, but training gives me my focus and helps me go back to my centre.

I’m a naturally strong person just like my dad. He fought back against white supremacy, racist cops and you know what? he won and built an amazing life here with mum. He will always be my hero, on my best day I wish I could be more like him, in fact, it’s his strong voice I remember “keep your cool” which is what he would say to me about anger especially when I went through a cycle and effectively hit the self destruct button. And you know what dad? These days I do. And these days I remember how tall I walk. I see it and detach from it. Respond never react. That’s something fighting teaches you too, and it can serve you well outside of the ring.

I’m pleased I have a good circle of friends in Bristol and some of my closest friends although we live in different places in the country these days are always there for me like I am for them. Connecting with myself and taking every day as it comes can be overwhelming at points but I’m getting stronger and stronger. There are days when I don’t want to do anything at all and on those days I listen to my heart. Community work and volunteering give me a lot of focus but I’m pushing that more into my working life too. I’m in the driving seat again and it’s good to be back. It feels like it’s been a long time since we spoke. I shouldn’t have left you. Have a good week and train hard, and just like the last time.. I’ll see you on that road.

Resilience

Hi. It’s good to catch up with you again. I’m writing after a good sparring session at the gym and then a brief stop at my local on the way home. After training it’s always a soft drink and never booze. The pub is surprisingly busy for a Wednesday night but the crowd in there was nice and closer to how I remember it way back when.

I’ve only lived in Bristol for just over 10 years now but I guess that’s a long time to live anywhere. Other than Portsmouth it’s my base, it’s safe and it’s my home from home. I can see myself staying here for many years to come.

The past few weeks have been very tough emotionally due to a dear friend of mine passing suddenly and of course, navigating the bereavement of losing my dad last December. Ahmed left us earlier this month and my heart broke into a thousand pieces. My mum has just come out of an intense period of grief and I have been supporting her and so went to Spain to spend some quality time with her. The weather was fantastic.

Speaking to my friend on a Wednesday on the phone only to receive the tragic news the following day that he had suddenly died was quite the opposite. The grief I’ve learned arrives and leaves in waves of sorrow. I’d thought I’d overcome the worst of losing my father forgetting my father died less than a year ago. Ahmed said such beautiful things to me about dad on the day he left us, in fact, Ahmed was the first of my friends to call to see how I was doing.

We connected due to our heritage, he was black and from Sierra Leone, and his wife Martina is white, his children like me are mixed-race black. Dad and he would have hit it off straight away. Maybe they’ve met wherever they are. Ahmed reminded me that not only do I look like my father I am him in everything I do. In fact, it’s fair to say when it comes to helping others and my work in the community everything I do celebrates his life.

The wave of grief and depression that arrived just after I left Spain, to be honest, caught me off guard. I remember finishing a run out in the Sun, it was over 30 degrees and absolutely fantastic weather when I boldly made the statement “I’ll carry it for mum. I’ve got big enough shoulders.” to myself.

I’ve learned to my intense sadness my shoulders are only those of a man who rarely puts down his own and other people’s trauma. I’ve had days of late when I’ve not been able to do a thing other than sit and cry at random intervals. I’ve had days where I’ve wondered if I’ll ever feel like myself again and ranted on my Facebook expecting strangers to understand because someone anyone must be to blame for my suffering and my dad and friend not being here.

My mum is now vastly improved can see it and I can see the concern in her eyes. Training and volunteering are helping me as well as parties and dancing. July was fun August has been a challenge but just the same. Amongst the depression, there’s an acknowledgment that the summer has been a good one. Life’s like that and this weekend is Notting Hill carnival so there’s nothing like finishing things off on a good note.

I’d like to say training has helped me navigate the emotional minefield I’ve become but being honest the young guy no one understands has been in the driving seat a few times and he finds a problem very quickly. You’ll be pleased to know I do have a therapist as well as a lot of emotional intelligence to steer me right even when the waters have been the murkiest.

However, as the saying goes it’s always darkest before dawn and everything changes. Even me. Underneath all of this has been a brave light that’s getting stronger and stronger all the time. A new me is coming and that’s something to celebrate. Some lights never go out and Mr never gives up still will never ever give up. In fact, you’ll have to hit harder than that grief because you won’t stop me. Right now I may be the lowest I’ve ever been in my life but still. I rise and just like the last time… I’ll see you on that road.

Here comes the sun

Hi. It’s good to catch up once again. I hope you’re enjoying the weather and that you’re having a great summer. Mine has been good so far, and it’s been nice remembering how to put things down and enjoy myself again.

I’ve just come back from a well-deserved break in Spain to see my mum. The weather was Thailand-level hot with temperatures soaring into the early forties some days so as usual I focused on my road work and enjoyed swimming every day during my stay.

Tragically a friend of mine and valued member of Bristol Copwatch’s core team passed away this week. Ahmed Fofanah was a strong black man, dedicated to holding the police to account, He was also an amazing dad and loving husband and my thoughts are with his equally amazing wife Martina and children during this difficult time.

Navigating the loss of a friend and the loss of my own father whilst supporting my mum may seem like quite a crux to bear but as always I’m taking it in my stride. I’ve become stronger over time and know when I need to put down what I can’t carry and give myself time to breathe.

My own legal battle against Avon and Somerset Police is ongoing and I’m currently in the process of building a strong claim to justify them paying me the compensation I am owed for a serious DPA breach. I shouldn’t have to justify it but the police are notoriously racist as well as corrupt here, and the treatment of POC in comparison with our white counterparts is quite frankly not only disgusting but outright scandalous. Ahmed could see them and I can too. In relation to what the brother went through you can learn more here. In both instances, the police must be held to account for what they have done.

It’s fair to say I’m carrying a lot right now but as I’ve already mentioned I know how to put it down. I know what I want and I know what I need and really that’s the most important thing. After what seems like a long period of hiatus work is also springing back to life, and I had a very positive conversation whilst away about a new PM contract that will run ideally alongside my business with no clash between the two.

Although life can be tough life is also getting better and better. I was training 6 times a week before I headed out to Spain and I intend to continue in that vein from next week onwards. Training is of course truly awesome but there’s also a lot more to me than that. It’s a part of my life however that will always be there and is a good stress buster and area of focus to put my energy into. Muay Thai gives a lot back to me and always will do.

I feel at the moment that I’m slightly older and wiser than a couple of months ago but I look and feel very young inside. This is because believe it or not I’m happy being me and I keep myself in good shape. A recent guestimate was an early 30-something and as your early forties might as well be your thirties at least by my logic anyway, I guess it’s all gravy.

Speaking of keeping in shape and training I’ve got more of that lined up for this afternoon. There’s a self-defense class that’s on just after open mat so I’m helping out with that too, other than that I’m looking forward to some much-needed John time this evening. I miss my friend just like I miss my dad but everything I do in my life and volunteer work honours both of them. Here’s to a great August. Have fun, train hard and enjoy the sun. I’ll see you on that road.