Eat, Remember, Hope


Memory accelerates as I look at the wet London street through the window of Sticky Fingers restaurant.  For six years Sticky Fingers was our family gathering place and adopted kitchen. We lived nearby, and I would often claim a booth by the window where I ate lunch, spread out my papers and wrote through the afternoon.  At the end of the school day and sports practices and skateboarding excursions, my sons would appear and plop down on the other side of the booth and order burgers or fries or pecan pie, and we’d share our day then walk home together, often with a bit of takeout for dinner.

We lived in London during a time of shifting tectonic plates under the power structures of Europe. When the Soviet Army finally yielded to the people in Parliament square with Boris Yeltsin standing on a tank, I shared the news at Sticky Fingers.

Now these sons are grown with their own families starting. As I sit in a corner by the window today, I recognize no one in the restaurant, but I still write to the rhythm of rock and roll and watch the next generation of students pour in after school.  Because this is an afternoon committed to finishing this month’s blog post, I allow my mind to wander and gather the disparate thoughts of the month.

It has been a month of travel and meetings and optimism in unexpected places. I’ve been in Colombia where the new President Juan Manuel Santos has announced major land reforms and human rights policy. Human rights organizations that have tracked Colombia for years, now hope that after decades of murder, kidnappings and drug trafficking, a significant change may be at hand for the country. The effort to return land to the millions of peasants who have been displaced by violence is still in early stages and fragile; proponents of redistribution have been killed this year. Yet with one million of the five million hectares allegedly returned and with an elected government determined not to let fear rule, there is reason to hope.


In Brussels I return to a restaurant of rough wooden tables and stools with a large fireplace in the middle, situated in a corner of the Grand Place. I’m here for other meetings, but use the afternoon to write and thread strands of thought through the needle of this blog post.

In  these meetings, which examine conflicts around the world, Myanmar/Burma is pointed to as a country, hardly democratic and long closed and ruled by autocratic military leaders, where the new civilian government is taking  steps towards reform. The release of some political prisoners and the overtures to Aung San Sui Kyi are positive steps. The government is being urged to continue opening up reform at the same time human rights groups are monitoring carefully the military, which operates outside the authority of the civilian government under the new Constitution and continues to threaten ethnic minorities.

Hope spins a fragile thread between these two countries halfway around the world from each other, one a democracy, the other a faux democracy.  But one may hope that each is bending the bow of history towards greater freedom.


The pleasure of this relatively new form—the blog post—is that it can be informal; it can be self-conscious; it can be whatever the writer wants it to be…. so I suggest this month’s be interactive and urge friends and readers to link memory and world events and pockets of optimism together and leave comments.


  1. Shelley Armstrong on October 27, 2011 at 8:24 pm

    What fun to enjoy the memories of the time your family spent in England when the boys were small. Blake is spending this semester in England studying law at the University of London. I’ll tell him to go check out your home away from home.

  2. Maryann Macdonald on October 27, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I remember sharing lunches with you at Sticky Fingers, Joanne. Glad to know you are still writing, reflecting and people-watching there. It’s nice to know that as the world changes, some things stay the same.

  3. Krishen Mehta on October 29, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    Joanne, it is good to read your blog about the family time in the UK. We need to keep bringing hope to light, and acts of courage that go beyond the countries’ borders.

    Mandela did it in South Africa, Aung San Sui Kyi in Myanmar, Gandhi in India, Gorbachev and Yeltsin in Russia, and now Santos in Colombia. But it is the silent resisters who risk their all and may never be known. I am glad that one of the things that emerged from your families travels was the idea of ICNC. It gave shape to courage like never before.

    Hooray to Sticky Fingers if it lead to that!

  4. Mary on November 2, 2011 at 10:57 am

    Those London days were filled too with the news of the first Gulf War, the robust reaction of the West to Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. We prevailed in the fight but in a concession to our allies did not pursue his army in its retreat to Baghdad. With all that has passed since, it makes one ponder how big a collective blunder that may have been. Peaceful change is always our hope of course. Your reports of optimism in unexpected places are a bright light in a global landscape that can seem convulsively violent. The Arab Spring is one to watch too, with every hope that new leadership can consolidate and strengthen the three nations that have overthrown repressive regimes.

Leave a Comment