From the life of Crispin Janolo
By Naomi Duffree
I had the honour of meeting Crispin, a Filipino East London resident who is recovering from a stroke that has brought on aphasia – a communication disorder that limits a person’s ability to express themselves when speaking, understand speech, and causes difficulty with both reading and writing. It is not a disease but a symptom of brain damage. Crispin has the most amazing smile, accent, and mannerisms that made him a joy to speak and listen to. His stroke did not take away his sense of humour or his courage.
I have crafted our conversation into a poem to try to convey Crispin’s everyday struggles, but also his everyday joys. I will never forget his warm smile and his ability to affirm the best things in life.
I’ve been here before
When things were clearer
Can I tell you?
I can tell you
It won’t be easy
Trapped in a tube
train, training for 2 months
Going through the gears and motions.
1,2,3,4… (clenched left fist, imaginary gear stick)
Boring. Underground. Blackness. Loneliness.
We had the best economy in the 1980s
It was the best. The best
(a skyward kiss )
Now it is rubbish, rubbish.
I worked at Harrods,
HGV, driving the lorry
Delivering to Diana.
The best, the best
(a skyward kiss
Prince Charles – those ears! a laugh)
The little princes
at Kensington Palace.
Floral scent at Buckingham Palace
So many. So sad.
Diana — Mohamed’s son
Driving the lorry
Smart suit, no earrings
1983. £800/week. The money was the best!
1989. £50,000 mortgage
— it was cheap!
Not like today.
It is hard.
In the Philippines, cheap food:
Prawns, fresh, grilled, rice and salad £1.50
Restaurants are dear.
Work work work
Philippines once a year.
Philippines holidays are the best
Britain is the best place to work.
America? Police, shooting
English police – are the best
The buses, the police, MPs.
American government is corrupt.
I was driving the bus in London
For 25 years.
“Hello, how are you today?”
Loving the people.
Work work work
Learning the knowledge
2 years – 10,800 streets.
In London. On my bike, memorising the streets.
I use a Tom Tom now
Visiting Edinburgh and The Isle of Wight.
It was the best money.
8am til 8pm. Worked
to pay mortgage
My wife’s solicitor
I work, work, work.
My wife left with her boyfriend.
A newsagents at
Elephant and Castle
Working, working for two mortgages.
I am for the people.
Then, no money.
Language can be difficult
American – attorney
Filipino – attorney
English – solicitor
America – vacation
English – holiday
The best is English.
My children work hard
Studying in the Philippines
my son Briton, soon to be a dentist
my daughter Brittany is training to be a doctor.
They are British
The people here are the best!
My daughter and son are British
They went to private school.
I made £400/day… per day on the taxi, which cost me £1800
I would have runs to Heathrow and Gatwick.
I speak English and
England has a history
America is at war
Scotland – it is the best and cleanest! (a skyward kiss )
London can be grubby.
Briton’s girlfriend is a dentist.
They want a private practice
Kensington, Notting Hill. There are 10,800 streets.
Golders Green is a Jewish area. (He takes a pen and draws a star)
The bread there…
The best! (a skyward kiss)
The Jews are rich;
Marks and Spencer? Jewish. Barclays? Jewish
Work, work, work hard
Then restaurant for a week! (laughing; memories surface)
I like to eat broccoli
It is the best.
One head, boiled for 3 minutes.
In the morning a yoghurt with strawberries
(a little Complan sprinkled)
Coffee. Only one a day.
For lunch, a sandwich; smoked salmon from Marks and Spencer
Broccoli, apple, grapes and bananas…
All mixed up
No drinking. No beer — too much sugar
But walking for half an hour
Pull ups every day
My daughter tells me, broccoli is best.
My girlfriend Rida
And I got to Scotland
6 hours by train
It is the best! (a skyward kiss)
Shopping is cheaper in the Philippines.
The economy suffers
Japan has risen infinitely (a financial graph emerges on the paper)
We go up 2 points
We go down
Japan has gone high, my daughter tells me
I speak on Skype every day
It used to be monthly on mobile, (miming a massive phone, laughing)
It was so expensive.
This afternoon I will walk my dog, Lulu.
Snuffling, barking from under the Christmas tree she emerged
A gift from my sister,
Eyes wide with surprise and kisses all round. (miming kissing from Lulu — a friend for life.)
2008. Holiday. Philippines.
I’m dancing. (as if there is no tomorrow)
Will there be a tomorrow?
My Rida is crying.
Six months lying in the hospital
Static mouthed while tears ran.
Moved to the hospital in London three months later.
Slowly gaining speech
A cardboard rectangle
Explains my restrictions (holding up the card in the wallet)
I can laugh at that now.
I was lonely.
Every week I visit the stroke club
Hard at first, unable to communicate.
Can’t hear clearly…
…then… an appointment!
Waited 4 months since the letter in April.
This Thursday I have two hearing aids fitted. (the smile reaches across the sky — they can possibly see it in the Philippines)
Soon I will hear; I long to hear clearly
People, the birds, the Philippino eagles
And I have new friends (the smile broader…
The stroke club
Brings me friends and coffee. …the laughter stronger…
I am flying high
They are the best! …and kisses)