Àgbàráràgò Òjò Turnbull, Scion of Ṣàngó

Àgbàráràgò Òjò Turnbull
AKA “Aggro” Turnbull

“Yet still my soul feels heavenly bound,
Comin' for to carry me home
Swing low, sweet chariot
Comin' for to carry me home”

Wallis Willis, Swing low, sweet chariot


It’s been one hell of a rollercoaster ride, that much I can tell you.

Life.

It doesn’t hold back on the surprises.

Back in the day, there was the usual crap to contend with. Single mum – immigrant from Trinidad in the mid-sixties – smack bang into the mess that was the London’s way of dealing with all the black faces. It goes without saying that my blood comes from slave stock. Or at least it would if it hadn’t been brushed under the carpet like so much else of Britain and Africa’s combined history. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t feel the need to dwell on the issue. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then, and no one alive today was alive then. We each and every one of us have a lot of shit to contend with. It’s a measure of who we are how we do this. But it’s not the current British government’s fault for what went down so long go. Hell, it’s not even most of their faults for the way the immigration was handled in the 50s and 60s. Shit, now I’m dwelling on exactly what I said I wouldn’t. Ok, Moving on.

So, the important things about what went on back in the mists of time are that my mum, her sister, and her sister’s husband – and their two kids – came over from Trinidad in the mid-60s and settled down in the east end of London. My mum was only 17 – obviously the younger of the two – and still looked after to a certain degree by her sister – part of the family as it were. I came on the scene in ’72. My mother never registered a dad on my birth certificate – and did everything she could to avoid the topic of conversation as I grew up. Fair enough – what 5 year old needs to know the truth about an absent father? That said, she didn’t just keep it from me, she kept it from her sister, and her family, as well. That caused friction. Although that friction was somewhat abated when the lot of us benefited from a council directive to integrate immigrants into the community more – ostensibly by throwing money at us and hoping we might use it to become more British. That’s how I thought of it at the time anyway. And whilst I realise that it was in everyone’s interests for the poorer black families to move up the social ladder with financial support that would encourage their kids to get better educations and thus improve their chances of staying out of the poverty trap – and out of crime – I also know that it was all orchestrated by my absent father. That people other than my immediate family benefited was great – but would it have been done if he wasn’t trying to ensure that I was raised the best that I could be in a local community that would rather I wasn’t there at all. I don’t know. Motives are rarely all they seem these days, that’s for sure.

So back to the real world. I was moved to a better school when I was 7. One of the few black kids in the school – and whilst not the only one there on what amounts to a scholarship – I was the only black kid on a scholarship. The situation would have been more bleak had I not inherited a fair amount of my father’s talents – both on and off the pitch. I know that’s the point of all this – but at the time I was more concerned with fitting in. Never a genius – which is why I’m where I am now – I was a damn sight better at sport. Any sport at that. You name it, and I was good at it. As a kid, it was all running and jumping with a bit of football thrown in for good measure. But as I grew up, I moved on to cricket and rugby. The financial benefits of being the son of a god continued at secondary school, and I got into one of the better private schools. I did Ok academically, but excelled at rugby, cricket and athletics. During the summer months, there was a major conflict between the cricket and the athletics. My rugby coach encouraged me to stick with the athletics. Remember, the cricket players of the day weren’t quite as fit as they have to be these days. I’m talking to you, Beefy…

My other, somewhat dichotomous hobby was drumming. There was this thing in the world of sport where unless your outside interests were women and cars, there was something wrong with you. Of course, as a kid, if your outside interests involved girls, then there was also something wrong with you. Sometime’s you just can’t win. So music, was something a little bit different for me – but you’ll understand if I say that even at an early age, I could feel the rhythm in my blood.

Back to the sport. So I dropped the cricket, but picked up golf as a means of keeping my eye in over the summer months. The advantage of golf is that you don’t need a team to practice with. I was never going to be a professional golfer, but I did like the swing – and I never suffered from an inability to get the ball to the end of the fairway.

All things being as they were, I ended up trying out for Harlequins, and my professional career started there. My nickname at school had been “OJ” – and I’m eternally grateful that it was changed to “Aggro” when I joined Harlequins. As an aside, which should become more relevant later, a name that also fitted well when I managed to get some friends together to form our band – The Dark Platonic Thrills.

I got called up for the England squad in ’94, and got my first start in early ’95 – glorious days. Man, there was drink – there were women. We were riding high. Oh, and we were winning the occasional game of rugby as well. My mum was all proud – which was everything that I let her think I wanted. I mean, there were still questions about my dad that I wanted answered – but they could wait. There was just one more thing waiting in the wings which I knew was going to kick up a storm when it came out. Yeah, I know, but I went to The Sun before they outed me. Some of the guys at Harlequins knew, obviously. And some of the guys at England knew as well. Rugby’s a different sport to football, thank god. And rugby supporters are different to football supporters – which is more the saving grace of the whole situation. “Aggro Turnbull turns both ways”. Oh how I laughed. Not. But there wasn’t anything else for it. It was a shitty time for my family, but my mum was more upset that she read it in the paper rather than have me tell her. The one thing in my life that I bottled. The scars in our relationship are still there. She says that she’s forgiven me, but I know that she’ll never trust me the way that she used to. Damn, just thinking about it gets me pissed off.

I’ll cut that story short, if you don’t mind. The bottom line was that there was a bit of a ruckus, and I got dropped from England for a few matches. But some enlightened newspaper reporting later and the fans were calling for my return. I doubt that would have happened in football. That would have been my career over. As it was, I didn’t have much time left playing for England – but that was lack of fitness coming from age creeping up on me – nothing else.

So there was little bit of commentating work after my playing career was over – but I was more interested in golf and the band. The golf was great for the simple reason that I was able to get away from the rest of the turmoil that being in the band created. Lets just say that my relationships with some of the other band members were more than platonic.

So jump to 2006. I’m in the rough on the 5th hole at the Old Course – that’s St Andrews for those of you not in the golfing know. It’s been a bit of a typical day weatherwise for St Andrews in October – when out of nowhere my 3-wood get’s hammered by lightning – and there’s a gale blowing like no other I’ve seen in my life. Enter dad…

An entry like no other as well. My golf partners get a sudden predisposition to stare vacantly at the storm clouds as a man appears at the other end of the fairway next to my shot. The next second he’s standing beside me. I think that it was perfectly reasonable that I was somewhat taken aback by all this – even as he explained he was my long lost father – to the point that I really didn’t believe him at first. Even when he disappeared from in front of me and reappeared behind my back. Even when he took my 3-wood and lightning coursed down it’s length. Even as he told me that he was Orisha – and that I was the son of a god. I mean, get the scene – black dude with electric blue eyes, long thick hair barely contained by a band to keep it out of his eyes, dressed in red and white checked plus fours – talking about voodoo and west African and west African Yoruba religions. It turns out that he’s tied his lot in with the Loa – the Voodoo bunch who I only know about because I’d seen Live and Let Die. Which is not to say that’s where he started out. He talked a lot about the Yoruba – which is where my incredibly strange name comes from. Except the “Turnbull” bit – apparently I have Scottish blood in me from back in the days when one of my relatives got it on with a former slaver. Thank god I found that out after my England career finished. He also talked about a war. A war that I’m to play a part in – a war that I’m destined to play a part in. The whole destiny thing has an appeal – as did his revelation that as the son of a god I’d get superpowers. To start with he gave me a small clay pot – a govi apparently – which it turns out makes me immune to fire. How cool is that. Of course, there’s a moment of thinking how cool it would be to go charging into a burning building to rescue people. But that moment passes as the realisation that war means just that. From what I know about my dad, I doubt he’d be too pissed if I occasionally take a bit of limelight – but I didn’t know that as I was standing talking to a man who had certainly provided some evidence as to his supernatural ability. It also turns out that the govi fuels my ability to manipulate the earth. I’m using the term “earth” in the metaphorical sense. In turns out hat dad has a plan for me in the form of an elemental force of nature. And “earth” in this context also means metal – which has proved to be really quite handy at times.

So my dad is a god. How weird is that! And according to him I have a brother in San Francisco, and a sister who keeps moving around. He told me to keep a hold of my 3-wood, and somewhat cryptically, that he’d see me again “after London”. The 3-wood I understood fairly quickly – I didn’t let go of that until my dad turned up the second time. Let’s just say it helps me fly, and letting go of it mid-flight never seemed like a good idea. The “London” comment wouldn’t become clear until later.

That whole experience obviously changed me completely. I finished the round – my partners totally unaware of what had happened. On returning to London, I spent a good month just looking around for titanspawn or other god-children. And not finding any, I spent the next month looking over my shoulder.

It turns out that the Loa are big on community, and my dad is not only a thunder god, but a judge as well. So I did my bit and kept and eye on the community for him. Rooting out the corrupt and all that. Worked well for a while. Until late last year when everything that I was working for came crashing down around my ears. Hundreds of feet of snow wrecked London. And I’m smart enough to know that it wasn’t natural. All gone in a matter of days. Two things I learned from that. First, no matter how hard you work on something, it can always be torn down. Second, I couldn’t work alone in this war. And it is a war. With all due respect to those that put me here to do the job they want me to do, I can’t do it the way I was doing it. I can’t put all my eggs in one basket and hope that no one tips the basket over. And I can’t carry the basket alone – to keep with the same analogy.

So whilst I was lucky that I was touring with the band when London fell to ruin, it was a sobering thought (and I don’t like those) to realise that everything you’ve been building up has been torn down almost as a by-product of something else.
My mum and her sister and family got out in time. A lot of the people that I cared about in London didn’t. I needed to see what London was really like though, and I needed to be there because I was sure that my dad would turn up again. And he needed to answer for what happened there. He did turn up. And he explained that he knew that London would happen, but he also knew that London was destined to happen. He added that there was nothing I could have done – and he assured me that if there had been, he’d have told me. He certainly has a way with words – something I’ve grown to emulate – because waiting for him to turn up, I was well pissed off - but by the time he’d explained everything, dreadful as what had happened to London was, he’d absolved himself of any involvement. But the point of all this was to get me prepared. And I was prepared. He told me that the titans were stepping up their efforts, and he needed me to step up to the plate to meet them. There was nothing else I could do but accept the challenge. He told me that the roads between the worlds were about to be cut off, and that I needed all the power he could give me to survive long enough to find those who could help to rebuild them. He directed me to San Francisco, and told me to look out for my brother – HR. He told me that there would be people there who would need me – even if they didn’t know it yet. Then he handed over ASBO’s skull, telling me that I needed special help. He wasn’t wrong about that. He also gave me my drumsticks – and told me that they’d help in San Francisco. Finally, he took the 3-wood and gave it another “zap”. There have been occasions since when letting go has been exceptionally rewarding.

I told my mum that I was heading for the US. I couldn’t stay in London for all my mum’s pleading. I needed to find a front that I could fight on.

So I went to San Francisco.

I met a bunch of guys. And since then – and I’m talking 8 hours ago – it’s been intense.

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