It’s 10:09am. A third MP has been reported dead. Murdered. I shift my eyes from the screen and catch her facing the chaotic streets.

  ‘What do you want to do?’ I stammer.

Remaining still, she whispers,

  ‘What everyone else is doing - something’

  My eyes return to the screen. I feel a sense of both fear and contentment - this day was always going to come, wasn’t it? There’s only so much trauma and blood you can inflict upon a nation of individuals before they bite back. Only so many mothers and fathers and siblings and daughters and sons you can reject from entering a country and separate before a blood war starts. Only so many square-metres you can keep human beings locked up in before they say — enough.

  The silence was deafening. I wanted desperately for her to speak her mind. To voice her thoughts. Her fears. What was she thinking? Why wasn’t she crying like the people on the screen were? She had worshipped them up until now. Believed every word they had spouted up until —

  ‘Are you staying here?’

  I look up to find her franticly swinging her keys at the porch sporting three layers of jumpers, her blue birded scarf and black army-styled boots tied on. Before I can utter a word, she yanks her backpack on her shoulder,

  ‘Come on! Trafalgar is rammed and I wanna get a good spot!’ and disappears.

  Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it? You hold onto something — or in my case, someone — that was once there, but has now slowly disintegrated into a faint blip, yet you still long for the ghost of them. Mother wasn't always cold. She was warm. She was kind. She really listened to you. She was so wonderfully approachable that she attracted all kinds of strangers we encountered and left a mark on souls she touched. She introduced me to the world of literature and the art of writing. Authentic writing. My bed time stories were a jumble of Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and J.R.R Tolkien. We would take trips to the V&A every Sunday afternoon and have early supper at Pierino Pizza down on Thurloe Street. Leon Bridges was our muse and Steven Pinker was our saviour. We were the picture perfect family from the picture perfect gentrified neighbourhood of Hackney. After my father took his life, her warmth never touched a soul again. She inherited permanent pursed lips and channelled her grief into hostility. “Why should immigrants get to be here and he doesn’t!” she’d often wail. The silence that filled our home was a poison, for in that void of sound the emptiness of our conversation was laid bare. What used to be of intellectual debates on current affairs and poetry was now utterly colourless. It was now recycled, re-hashed, right-wing garbage worthy of The Sun. That’s the problem with memories: you can visit them, but you can’t live in them.  


‘DOLLY! There you are!’ Mother screams into my earlobe with hundreds of voices roaring through the air.

  I look around me. I look at the placards - “murderers”, “demons”, “illegal” and my overly enthusiastic mother waving a Union Jack flag and suddenly get a bad taste in my mouth, bitter, like coffee grounds in the last sip.

  They say it was three young men from Colnbrook down by Heathrow Airport that committed the murders. Colnbrook is the largest detention centre to date with a capacity to hold up to 400 odd people for the purposes of “immigration administration” and “enforcement”. There are no windows, no wind, no air. It’s a prison yet worse in that there is often no timeframe. In prison, you get given a sentence and so spend it counting down the days, but in detention these people have zero clue as to when they’re able to return to humanity again. I tried to write something up back in February but got swiftly rejected by my editor shortly after an inspection report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons revealed “considerable failings” in respect and safety for detainees. It wasn’t safe nor intelligent for me to attend alone. These people were treated like animals for decades. I wanted to shout at every ignorant pig at this stupid protest — including mother — what exactly are you protesting?

  Each person in the crowd moves as if unseeing hands drag them this way and that, pulling their eyes and arms to one thing and then another. When they moved I had to also and if my feet failed to keep up, I risked being trampled underfoot. We are fenced by enraged faces followed by uproar as we headed toward the voices echoing around Parliament Square.

  ‘If Phillip were alive to see this’ Mother gasped.

  A line of around thirty men in balaclavas stand adjacent to the main entrance, each sporting camouflage uniform with weapons tied to their waist. The air was thick with anticipation.


  The angst and anxiety I’d felt back home this morning was nothing compared to how I felt now. Now I was being held underwater, gasping for air but not being able to do a damn thing about it. I lock eye-contact with a teenage looking boy aiming his firearm in my direction for a second too long and start staggering backwards, unable to keep my balance.


  I can feel the sweat drench my skin. The wobbliness of my knees. Hesitantly, my eyes look to mother but she isn’t there. Panicking, I shove my way to near the front, back to the middle and then break free of the commotion back where we entered.

  I spurt down the street, not paying attention to my limbs screaming at me to slow down and come out onto Old Queen Street nearly keeling over, begging for oxygen. When I look up, my jaw drops to the floor. A never-ending perfectly executed line of mothers, fathers, elderly and young are all frantically wailing but not moving an inch out of line. Men in all black are targeting their firearms precisely at their skulls and one by one, they are being escorted into the back of a gigantic dark grey metallic van. My eyes rapidly scan their faces until I spot a young boy, no older than ten, in the arms of a woman fast asleep. I wonder for a split second what it must be like to simply turn the world off for a while when you don’t like the look of it. How carefree it wou — then I see her. I see the blue birded scarf. I go to sprint but before I move an inch she’s in the back of the van and been sped off. I collapse to my knees and lose all feeling. A new van pulls up and the young boy has awakened and been carried inside — his throat screeching a sound I think I’ll take to the grave. I stay on the floor, motionless, unable to comprehend what has happened in the last 60 seconds. I spot the red phone box but all of a sudden come to the realisation: no one here is going to save us. We are facing the consequences of decades of inhumanity.


  I never saw mother again after that day. Or any of my loved ones for that matter. I was taken to Yarl’s Wood and kept in solitary confinement for eighty-two days and spent the next year in an environment of loneliness and torment. Those I loved were taken elsewhere and my journal — the one item of mine that kept me sane — was found and burned. Yarl’s describes itself on the internet as a “fully contained residential centre housing adult women and adult family groups” but notably doesn’t mention the bloodshed going on between those fourteen feet high prison gates.

  After not feeling human touch or seeing blue skies for over fourteen months, I’d developed insomnia, PTSD and hypersensitivity to noise. We were only fed one loaf of bread and butter twice a day and the drugs were as common as a bottle of coke so I was able to feel something.

  I held the hands of women who were raped repeatedly by the all-male staff. I watched children being transported in caged vans and opposite-sex staff linger as they dress. I squeezed the wrists of ten-year-old girls desperate to end their misery. I laid side-by-side with my closest companion as her malnutrition stole her last breath. And yet — I still accepted our fate. I understood that we, the country that showed its cruel face towards those of misfortune, had to feel what they had felt to truly grasp the definition of compassion. To understand the power of unity.

  If there’s one lesson our country has learned, it’s that people don’t leave their home country to claim benefits. You migrate because you dream, because you want to make your life better, because you want to contribute to society and start over. Together we are vigorous, our voices are louder, and the harmony of our resistance is more powerful.