The Spirit of ‘Friar Tuck’

He has outsoared the shadow of our night
Envy and calumny and hate and pain
And that unrest which men miscall delight
Can touch him not and torture not again…

P.B. Shelly, Adonais

Jay Mukuro and I were part of a group of very close friends in our late twenties who came together in south London in the mid-90s. As part of our bonding ritual, we adopted the names of various characters in western literature and were notorious for our bohemian approach to black identity. We five became ‘the tribe’; myself, John Sisay, Ekow Esuman, Gary Williams and Jay Mukuro.

In our tribe, Jay was every bit as merry and as kindly as the gentle Friar Tuck. Our hang-outs were Goldsmiths college in New Cross Gate – where two of us graduated – and in Brockley and Forest Hill where three of us lived. We lived for music. Of the five of us, Jay was the least extroverted, but not when he was doing one of his slick impressions of James Brown. We were avid collectors of rare vinyl and Jay was known for his fondness for funk and Afro-beat.

Curiously, the same global forces that had brought us together in the UK repatriated us to our respective origins in Britain’s former colonies: Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Jamaica, Ghana, and Ethiopia. I am writing this from Ethiopia, where I recently discovered on-line that John Sisay is CEO of a large mining concern in Freetown.

Apart from finding John on Google and the distressing news of Jay’s departure, I haven’t the faintest idea of what became of the others, but what I do know is that Jay was very close to his late mother and bore her passing away in great grief. I can still hear his mother’s incessant calling in her thick Nigerian accent: J-A-Y! It would seem her persistence paid off – for now he holds her hand in heaven – bound to her in blessed eternity.

Kofi Ababio
August 2014
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia