I start with an admission. I have no idea how comedy and humour work.

It is a portrait of an English Rose. The pretty blonde girl in the photograph is looking slightly upwards and beyond the camera lens.

We can’t choose where and when we are born and grow up, or how we spend those teenage years where we are told everything should be possible, but rarely turns out to be so.

In Ahmed Saadawi’s award-winning novel Frankenstein in Baghdad, Hadi the rag-and-bone man picks through the debris and carnage after the daily explosions and suicide attacks terrorising his city.

A bank of seventeen small video screens mounted on pegs grow out of the gallery wall like mushroom spores. Each screen projects a talking head: man, woman, young, old, black, brown, white, all musing on the future. Their future, their family’s future, their nation’s future, the future of the planet, my future, your future, our future.

Every city moves to its own beat. It was only when my friend Mahmudul Hasan took me one evening through the narrow streets of the Old City, down to the Buriganga River boat terminal at Sadarghat, that I felt the Dhakan bassline in my belly for the first time. 

The December sunlight faded away and the Scottish gloom rapidly began to take hold. Shadows thrown by the tall trees lining the stretch of the River Findhorn known locally as Randolph’s Leap lengthened, and the dark spaces at their roots grew.

On the day in February 2003 when a million tramped through London against the impending war on Iraq, I happened to be one of the first protestors to arrive at Hyde Park. I was taken aback at the sight of the black shahada emblazoned flags of Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) planted on either side of the stage.

There is one book that for some reason I am compelled, every so often, to return to. I don’t fully understand why – I just know that it must somehow connect with something buried somewhere in my subconscious. I’m not talking about a familiar book that gives me pleasure, I mean a book that creates a disturbance in me.