Life in London. Why I Love and Left T&T

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Do I miss Trinidad? Hell yes! If I got a pound for every time an English person asked, “what are you doing here, it must be nice and sunny in Trinidad?”, I’d be a rich woman now.

When the snow forces me to stay indoors, I cuss with all my might at the thought of my friends letting their hair down, drinking rum and palancing in the heat of Carnival. But who would ever have thought that a big Carnival lover like me would opt to live in England?

The first year I missed the winery, I called my mother about six times on Carnival Tuesday asking, “Madge girl, what band passing on stage now?”. Well as my mother says, ‘after one time, is two’. Even though I haven’t experienced Carnival since 2003, it doesn’t bother me as much because the wonder of technology ensures that I’m up to date with the latest soca and bacchanal. This year, I looked at the cost of a trip home for Carnival and thought, ‘hmm, I can go to Thailand and come back with change!’

Anyway, when I left Trinidad in September 1999, the plan was to get my Masters, visit a couple of European cities, and head back to Trinidad full of hope and expectation for the new millennium.

But when I got an offer to work on Brighton Argus newspaper’s website, I grabbed the opportunity with both hands. It wasn’t the best paying job, but I figured it would be a stepping stone to bigger things. I’m still not making loads of money, but when I look back at the last ten years, I can point to enriching experiences I probably may not have had if I’d returned to Trinidad.

I decided that if I was living in England and working in the media, I might as well try to get into the world’s best media organisation, the BBC.People always ask, “how did you get a job in the BBC?” They are usually disappointed to learn that there was no rocket science involved, and that I just applied for the job, which best suited my qualifications, and impressed the panel at the interview.

So in 2003, I said a tearful goodbye to Brighton and moved up to London.It’s been seven years at ‘the Beeb’, and I’m really proud to be working at the BBC World Service, which is renowned all over the world for top class journalism. In addition to raising my journalistic game, I’ve made friends from all over the world. On any Friday evening at our Club, I can trade tales with Romanians, Maltese, Ghanaians and Iranians. The cultural exchange is priceless.While there is no lime quite like a Trini lime, the folks I work with aren’t backward. We’ve had some epic evenings – including a pub quiz, which not many of us remember too well.

I look back nostalgically at the liming I used to do in Trinidad – Martin’s on a Friday evening, Bobby’s Bar in Petit Valley, the now defunct Upper Level, Cricket in the Trini Posse stand, and Maracas on any day the weather was good.

My closest friends here are Trinis, and they are curious and adventurous like me, so we hit the museums, plays, or just get on a train to see what other places look like. You definitely won’t find me running down every Trini party, because while it’s good to be among my own people in a big city, I didn’t come to England to experience Trininess!

London is a fascinating, culturally diverse city that never fails to amaze me. I’m most excited by the culinary diversity on offer, and this has really fuelled my passion for food.I was, however, quite disappointed at the paucity of top notch Caribbean food on offer. It also started to grate on my nerves that the only dish people associated with the Caribbean was jerk chicken!

So it was really in anger that I started writing a food blog with the aim of showing off our culinary delights. For two years, I put my musings on food out there for the world on Can Cook, Must Cook, but when the demands of my job became too much, I had to give it up.

Through the blog, I’ve met a wide range of top-notch foodies who I now call my friends. Actually, it was because of the blog that I met the food editor of the famous, entertainment listing magazine Time Out who hired me to write reviews and articles for the esteemed publication. But I haven’t given up writing about food totally, you can read my bi-monthly column – Caribbean CookUp – in Caribbean Beat magazine.

With all of this going on, will I return to Trinidad? I certainly hope so. But now, I feel that London is the place where I can accomplish more, and make a few more dreams come true. Now if they could only arrange to move Trinidad Carnival here.

Photo credit: E01.

 

29 Comments

  1. candis de verteuil

    April 12, 2010 at 1:06 pm

    That’s a great article! Well written.. I smiled all the way through it.. I feel the same way in that I miss Trinidad to a certian degree but I didn’t come to the United States to experience Trininess! Kudos to you! Well done!

  2. Kenrick Bobb

    April 12, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    Love this story, being a Trini now living in New York I do agree with Franka. Trinidad always have your heart it is just circumstances that make you live out of your country but “home is where the heart is”

  3. Sean How Chung

    April 12, 2010 at 3:39 pm

    Such a great article Franka. Any 3NE in foreign, knows the see-saw of emotions of the lure of home versus the new life and possibilities a new homeland. But as you said, one didn’t come from the need to experience Trininess.

    Look forward to more articles

  4. Deighton

    April 13, 2010 at 1:49 am

    Franka, you muttered every sentiment I feel. I do go home for mas most years, have a blast, then I leave wondering when I will go home for good. Hard to imagine my life without the scope I experience living ‘foreign’, but the truth is experiencing life is in my blood now and as much as I love de Trini scene, I want more.

  5. Tony

    April 13, 2010 at 4:40 am

    Oh dear, oh dear, here we go again with yet another “I-love-Trinidad-so-much-that-I-was-only-too-willing-to-give-up-my-Trini citizenship-for-a-British-passport diatribe. Give us a break!

    The writer talks about the BBC being the best media organisation, then writes “But now, I feel that London is the place where I can accomplish more, and make a few more dreams come through.” I’m sure every standard five student knows that the word is “true” and not “through.” Maybe they don’t teach that at the BBC.

    The writer also calls Time Out an “esteemed publication”. Clearly, she does not know the meaning of the word esteemed.

  6. Franka Philip

    April 13, 2010 at 6:17 am

    Thanks for the comments all. I am chuffed at the response and I’m glad to be a part of Outlish.
    I just wanted to tell Tony that I definitely haven’t given up my Trinidad passport. It’s sitting right there in my drawer along with my birth certificate that states my place of birth is Port of Spain.
    Lots of the work I do both at the BBC and outside contributes to uplifting Trinidad and the Caribbean. In many ways – including economically – I still contribute to my country.
    In the last para, I said I certainly hope to return to Trinidad, so why the gripe about me taking an opportunity to make a life abroad? Come on man, if you’re going to pong, do it fairly and constructively.

  7. Tony

    April 13, 2010 at 8:05 am

    @Franka

    I didn’t say you don’t have a Trinidad passport. I meant that you have given up Trinidadian citizenship for British citizenship, which entitles you to a British passport that I’m sure you cherish as much as your Trini one.

    The truth is many people who go on about how much they miss Trinidad didn’t think twice about giving up their citizenship for that of another country. You all may hold on to your Trini passports and birth certificates as souvenirs, but the fact is you have given up your citizenship. If you so love Trinidad, why did you give up your citizenship? I know many people living abroad who have not and will not give up their citizenship because it’s such a point of pride to them.

    I don’t have a problem with people seeking a better life abroad. I just hate that after you all have given up your citizenship you all keep going on about how much you miss sweet TnT. Give me a break!

  8. Franka Philip

    April 13, 2010 at 10:07 am

    Tony, you are a true Trini, you commenting real boldface as if you know my business when in fact, you simply don’t have a clue about my status in the UK.
    Clearly you didn’t know that Commonwealth citizens are not obliged to give up their citizenship when applying for a UK passport. So it’s possible to have dual citizenship.
    Just so you’d know I am still very much a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago. I have NOT given up my citizenship and I NEVER will.
    So if it’s anyone to be given a break, it’ll be me.

  9. Tony

    April 14, 2010 at 3:28 am

    Franka, whatever yes. The fact that you may have dual citizenship says nothing. The fact is you would have accepted British citizenship regardless of whether or not you would be allowed to hold dual citizenship. Ah lie?

    I notice you have sidestepped my comment about your sub BBC vocabulary and outrageous claim that Time Out is an esteemed publication. Some of us Trinis travel and know something about the magazine world you know? We know that Time Out is no where near an esteemed publication, except maybe in your delusional world.

    When I started reading your article I thought it was written by a university student fresh out of secondary school. I was surprised to learn that you work for the BBC. Fail.

  10. Cyril

    April 14, 2010 at 6:08 am

    That description might apply to you. I’m glad you found your way here and are doing what you do. You’ve brought a bit of Trini to London and that’s a good thing. More power to you.

  11. DTaye

    April 14, 2010 at 6:24 am

    ah real lovin this para:
    My closest friends here are Trinis, and they are curious and adventurous like me, so we hit the museums, plays, or just get on a train to see what other places look like. You definitely won’t find me running down every Trini party, because while it’s good to be among my own people in a big city, I didn’t come to England to experience Trininess!
    dahs wah we sayin!
    hey @tony: my spellin is fukkin atroshus!!! i use rong words alll the time!
    and yuh know what? BOTH of us sittinhere reading FRANKA! who failz? her or you?
    *DED*

  12. James Solomon

    April 14, 2010 at 6:34 am

    Goodness Tony,

    Ready to pong but not embrace and be happy for a sister who has gone beyond the boyndries of our little rock and sought to expand into other areas. Could you imagine if our ancestors did not pick themselves up and left the continents (those who willingly did so) and arrived on our shores, what our country would have been like?

    The world is filled with people seeking new opportunities for themselves. We have Venezuelans, Philipinos and Chinese coming here en masse and establishing themselves. You forget we have Mr. & Mrs. Hart who hold citizenship in our country, you don’t hear Canadians and malaysians crying them down. What is wrong with a West Indian heading out to into the world?

    This is a global village with people coming and going every single day.

  13. Jason

    April 14, 2010 at 6:48 am

    I can’t speak to the esteemed nature of Time Out magazine or not, but the expression ‘dreams come true’ is the established idiom meaning dreams becoming reality.

    What I don’t understand is why you seem so angry, Tony, and why someone having dual citizenship disrupts your equilibrium to that extent? In addition you appear to be clairvoyant and a touch psychic, knowing that the author “would have accepted British citizenship regardless…” That is a kind of arrogance that is typical of some of my Trini people.

    The only thing persons with dual citizenship have given up is the ability to run for public office in Trinidad and Tobago, nothing more, nothing less. To each his own, or is that too democratic for you? Drink a Carib and relax yourself, nah.

    Great article Franka P. Tell your truth and doh mind Tony.

  14. BMW

    April 14, 2010 at 7:09 am

    That article was worth reading. Keep up the good work Franka. I’m so proud of you.

  15. Tony

    April 14, 2010 at 10:18 am

    All of all you quick to criticise me should read my posts again and see that I not against anyone migrating. My main problem was with this paragraph in Franka’s story,

    ‘Anyway, when I left Trinidad in September 1999, the plan was to get my Masters, visit a couple of European cities, and head back to Trinidad full of hope and expectation for the new millennium.’

    Maybe I’m being cynical or clairvoyant as someone said, but I don’t buy this one bit. Almost everyone I know who went to the UK did so with the intention of staying. They saw it as a way out of a shitty situation in Trinidad. So this Franka woman is just being cute when she says she left intending to come back home. That’s a lie, plain and simple and why I can’t take anything else she says in this article seriously. She is just a pretender like so many others who claim to be so deeply divided between Trinidad and their new home. They pop up every so often in the local papers talking about how much they miss home but they will never pack up and come back.

    Look… whatever yes. You keep writing your sub BBC articles for your fan club here on this site.

  16. Marielle

    April 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Auntie Franka, well said. Well written. Strangely enough, it’s for the exact reasons you state that I actually consider coming back, you believe? Most of us know exactly what you talkin about. And everybody is entitled to his/her opinion 😉 But like yuh mash somebody corn real hard!!!

    Much love always.

  17. Cookie

    April 14, 2010 at 2:20 pm

    Tony, you know Franka so well!!!! as Jason said, you are clairvoyant AND psychic!! You actually KNEW that she really had no intention of returning to Trinidad to help build up the country, even though every one of us who has ever left Trinidad to go study abroad, has done so with the same intent – get a career and come home and build a life. However plans change and opportunities arise where we find that our talents can be put to better use, helping our country from without. I guess your plans never change, Tony?? Such a sorry life you must lead then, if you are so small minded and jealous of a sister’s experiences and successes that you can nitpick stupidness. Really. You never heard if you have nothing good to say then say nothing? Steups. Get a life and a dream Tony.
    Franka, beautifully article, Trini to de bone and nothing will EVER change that!!

  18. Haydn

    April 14, 2010 at 2:22 pm

    …for speaking so honestly about your journey. I really enjoyed reading your article.
    Tension of opposites…..

    I wish Tony could find that level of honesty….

    I’m all for constructive criticism, however your bitterness is so apparent, Tony….DEStructive
    Any standard five student could see that.

    Put some peace in your heart, man….

    Life is too short

    Best wishes
    nam myoho renge kyo

  19. Warren Flax

    April 14, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Franka girl, never mind the haters. I lived in London for two and a half years but came back home and felt the same way you feel especially the liming with Trinis all the time.

    What did your haters expect? Chaucer? It is a contribution to a magazine not a literary work and you expressed how you felt.

    I end the same way.

    Tony is an arse!

  20. Frances-Anne Solomon

    April 15, 2010 at 2:44 am

    I do not see what the problem is. Cuz is just like most Caribbean people these days, living globally.Tony’s ideas are so OLD, they went out with the 90’s. Most of us now have multiple nationalities, Diaspora is a part of who we are, with huge populations in every major urban city. What’s more alot of kids of Caribbean people born in America or Europe are coming home and claiming citizenship, in order to live and work in the region, and take advanttage of the great opportunities they have there that they might not have ibecause of racism etc abroad. All of this gives us a global presence, and from an economic point of view that’s a GOOD thing, as it’s extends our reach, creates foreign earing potential for the region, etc etc.

  21. Rhonz

    April 19, 2010 at 12:27 pm

    great article…so happy to see trinis who go abroad and actually experience the place they are in. the world has so much to offer why insulate yourself with similarity rather than expand with differences?

    hope you continue to excel there….but we eh moving trini carnival to that colourless place! brown, grey and black does not a carnival make! :)

    i will keep yuh connected to the pulse here…at least during that time!

  22. osunbaby

    April 20, 2010 at 3:22 am

    I was hearing about this debate, but just got around to reading it. Tony seems rather bitter about something… I can’t imagine that this is an argument he seriously thinks holds water… the arrogance and judgmental nature of his words seem to indicate personal issues rather than a VALID argument.

  23. marisa

    January 5, 2011 at 3:09 am

    well written article!;)

  24. Marita

    January 5, 2011 at 3:19 am

    This debate is rather silly as this ‘Tony’ person has issue with Franka’s comment that she left with the intent to get an education and go back home. He has no idea who she is or what her intents are / were and he is clearly imposing his narrow minded view onto her. It is simply outside of his realm or understanding that many of us with the opportunity to leave TT do opt to return. I am also the holder of dual nationality and I was fortunate enough to have lived, went to school and worked in both countries I hold passports for, as well as several Caribbean countries. I chose the Caribbean to live in over the great ‘North America” of which I am a citizen. I think this guy is suffering from ‘crab in barrel’ syndrome.

  25. Rashidah Vitalis

    January 5, 2011 at 4:40 am

    I cannot imagine living anywhere else but in sweet T&T. Although I love traveling and I will make plans in the future to stdy overseas, there’s no place like home
    #PILAR

  26. blessedchic

    January 5, 2011 at 5:04 am

    I just loved reading your article and while I did, remembered my mom telling us the story of when she migrated to the UK in the 60s to study vowing to return to her beloved country lol. She in fact did return with a family in tow in the early 80s. My parents always wanted us to “grow” up among our own and I’m thankful for that!!!

    Although it may take some time for you Franka, I believe ONE day you will return. Continue making your mark on the world Franka.

  27. Kim

    April 13, 2011 at 8:58 am

    great article Franka, your writing style is extraordinary.

    I lived in London for seven years and recently moved back to trini after completing my studies and travelling. I have no regrets because the economy took a down turn IN 2009 and i was made redudant, although London is a very fascinating I was always lonely even though I had both international as well as trini friends. Would never trade my UK experience for anything. However for me there is no place like home, moreso when you are aware of how much potential trini has. The energy in the Caribbean is better suited for me and perhaps for a lot of other people, I rather be based in trini and travel anywhere in the world for holiday. I guess to each his own.

  28. Kim

    April 13, 2011 at 9:00 am

    best wishes with your career Franka, make us proud!!

  29. Earl

    May 6, 2012 at 6:58 pm

    Enjoyed reading this article Franka, and really happy that you are in a good place doing well. All the best . Oh! by the way, Tony when you can’t celebrate, just be quiet!!

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