"She picks up the phone and screams “Good morning my friend” before she knows who’s calling."
For performer and writer Jessica Hayles there is one person who she knows inspired all of her own achievements. In a glorious piece for our Bank Holiday 100 voices for 100 years and 90th voice, Jessica pays Nanny B a tribute.
Jessica Hayles is an actress working in stage, screen and radio, including various credits for the BBC such as Doctor Who. She trained at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and was awarded the Carleton Hobbs 2012 Best Solo and Best Group Piece. Jessica is a founding member and Associate Artist for the award winning theatre company NOT TOO TAME.
Enough Just To Be
When I think of women and I think of achievements and I think of me; I have many. Achievements. But they’re small. Are they not enough? Do they not compare? I haven’t achieved great things. I haven’t overcome anything huge. I haven’t changed the world in a way I‘d like to, but I’m still proud. I still feel like I have. That everyday or every week or every year I have. And I will. I have no doubt about that.
When I think of women and I think of achievements and I think of me. I just can’t award me mine. I feel it’s not where its due. Yes I work hard. Yes I’m friendly. Yes I jog. I have a degree from a prestigious drama school. I have GCSE’s. I followed my dream job. I travelled the world. I gave up smoking. I learnt to not need my father. But all this achievement feels like it belongs to other women. Other women in my life that gave me that opportunity. My Mother. My Sister. My Grandma. My Nan.
My Nan. Now she has achievements. I know she sees an achievement in me. Sometimes at a distance. A generational distance. A cultural distance. A linguistic distance. But me.
My nan came all the way from Jamaica. She left her family. In a tired house in rural Jamaica and travelled the 7360 kilometres from Kingston to Bristol for me. For our family. She tells of a banana boat, a tough journey yet exciting. That’s an achievement. She tells of receiving quite the opposite of the grateful & welcoming response she was expecting, that had been sold to her. By ‘keeping me ead down, and paying no one no mind’, for me. She tells LITTLE of the hardship she experienced in Jamaica so poor, so desperate, so needy after 250 years of slavery, for me. She doesn’t want to dim me. She tells of the jobs she’s done for years and years here. The cleaning, the hospitals, the sewing, the cooking, the motherhood, the struggle, the adversity, for me.
And what I see. Is a woman with a great spirit. A vivacity for life. A charm and cheek that makes everybody bright. She picks up the phone and screams “Good morning my friend” before she knows who’s calling. She banters the butcher. The toddler. The homeless man. The preacher. She has a love that’s grown with her achievements. It escaped. A woman that has achieved so much when having so little. In the face of daily difficulty…
When she looks at me I see her see what she’s achieved. She’s modest, don’t get me wrong. But she cannot see it in herself, she sees it in me. And that’s ok. She can’t write of her achievements. Literally. She can’t write of mine. But I can. Together we have many. Because she let me be.