Lessons I learned about life from my mother’s early death

Gary Younge, aged 17, with his mother.

Gary Younge, aged 17, with his mother.
Photograph: Gary Younge

As gifts go, I would have done anything to return it. To turn the clock back and not have received it. To have lived my life without it. But fate would have it otherwise. So on a balmy day in Edinburgh in late May 1988, as I shuttled between the university library and anti-apartheid meetings, came the news that my mother, who had raised me on her own, had died. At 44, her death was both sudden and unexpected. She was supposed to be coming up to see me the next day. At 19 I was both bereft and bereaved. Naturally, the “gift” in this loss was not immediately apparent. I spent the next few years going through the motions, turning days into weeks and weeks into terms. Time may be a great healer, but those palliative qualities are rarely evident in real time. However, as I emerged from the numbing sense of isolation I realised that my mother’s life had taught me three valuable lessons I would probably never have learned without her untimely death.

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Persecuted at home, mistrusted in the UK: the refugee doctors battling for acceptance

From left, Soraya Azimi from Afghanistan, Hala Sirelkhatim from Sudan, and Faryal Aldaesaa from Bahrain work towards their British medical certification.

From left, Soraya Azimi from Afghanistan, Hala Sirelkhatim from Sudan, and Faryal Aldaesaa from Bahrain work towards their British medical certification.
Photograph: David Levene for the Guardian

In a classroom overlooking the East End of London, a group of refugee doctors retraining for British certification are watching a role-playing session on type 2 diabetes. But first there is cake.

Faryal Aldaesaa, a neonatal doctor from Bahrain, has made a gloriously sticky number with walnuts on the outside and green filling which, it turns out, is made of parsley. “Most of your five-a-day are in here,” she tells her classmates. Berbang Abdulhannan, a gynaecologist from Aleppo in Syria, goes straight for the arteries with some Ferrero Rocher.

Both have just passed the Plab2 (the Professional Linguistic Assessments Board second paper), set by the General Medical Council, which is the gateway for international medical graduates to practise medicine in Britain. One more obstacle gone. One step closer to the professional integration some have been seeking for several years. And one more sweet treat before they ponder how to instruct the great British public on the health benefits of weight loss.

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It’s abundantly clear that the left can gain ground – but it cannot yet hold it

March against Iraq war, 2003

‘In the runup to the Iraq war London saw the biggest demonstration in its history, in which my guess is that the overwhelming majority who attended that march voted for the government they were demonstrating against.’
Photograph: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The least interesting thing about Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour party is Corbyn himself. Not because he is a dull person. But because, as the candidate who stood to make a point and only made the ballot because his opponents thought he had no chance, he is clearly the accidental lead character in a drama he never seriously auditioned for and nobody ever thought would be produced.

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