My dear, have you taken leave of your senses?

Today, my loves, I had a panic attack.

I always thought I was ‘above’ such things, in some way. However I am not. I am simply a human being.

I suppose it all started this morning. I woke up very early, you see. My alarm went off at 5am. I struggled out of bed at 5:30. By 7:10am, I was pedalling madly towards the coach station because a member of my family had forgotten their phone.

It was hectic. I saw them off. Waved at the tinted coach windows. I didn’t know if they were waving back at me, all I could see were shadows. As I cycled back up the main road, a tall fellow with spindly knees clattered towards me.

He looks like him. I thought. Gosh. Imagine if it was.

As I got closer, my heart thudded painfully against my ribs. Is it? Oh God. It is! His mouth was puckered, his face long. IS IT? It looked like him, but as I neared him I couldn’t look. I was terrified he would recognise me. I hunched my shoulders on my bike, thankfully I was wearing my ugly PJs and looked a right mess. I jutted my lower chin out, and made a sour, frowny face. He wouldn’t look twice if I was ugly. I whizzed by. I don’t know. I felt something. What if he recognised me?

That small incident haunted my thoughts all day, but I got on with it. I tidied up my mum’s garden. I hoovered the house. I hung out the washing and did another load. I made the beds ready and clean for when they got back. I put perishables in the freezer. Then I got ready. I showered and put some makeup on. I brushed my hair. I put on some clean clothes, sprayed some perfume behind my ears and on my wrists.

I went to visit my friend. Her mum made us a delicious luncheon. Her siblings were very sociable, and told me their life stories. It was a very large and bustling family. Things were always happening.

I started feeling weak. I had a strong, black, unsweetened coffee. Then I decided it was time to make a move, and so I got up and walked home. I stopped on the way to pick up some treats for my other family. Why not, I thought, those guys are really nice to me.

When I got home I was feeling a little shaky. I had some tea, and waited to be picked up by Damian and his brother. When they dropped me off at my in-laws, things began to spiral downhill, my dears.

You see, I was shaking some in the car.

It’s alright, I told myself, you just need to relax. Damian was being awfully cold with me since yesterday, when I lost my temper with him. I can be horrendously shocking when I lose my temper. I lose my wits, in a way. I rant a bit, I repeat things. My delivery is ‘bad’, as Damian put it.

I was very upset. I can’t bear him to be upset with me. It hurts me because he is very cold and aloof. It is his way of dealing with it, I suppose.

I tried to cheer myself up, joking with the girls, dancing with the baby.

It didn’t help that I was already feeling a little weak from my period. It’s the first day, you see, those are always the worst. I was also very worried and thinking about my family on that despicable and unsafe plane soaring over the Mediterranean sea. I was nervous.

My heart was racing. I had a spoonful of honey. I lay down a little. Things seemed a little dizzy. I wanted to cry, so I went to the bathroom. Nothing happened.

Dinner was ready. I had no appetite but I thought that I must eat something. I probably had low blood sugar, losing all that blood.

But it got too much. The voices faded to background buzz. The lights seemed bright and dim all at once.

“Are you okay?” somebody asked me. I couldn’t. It exploded out of me. Tears were streaming down my face and I choked on a sob.

“I need fresh air, sorry”, I gulped and crashed my way outside, clumsy, pushing past hands reached out in concern.

It was an interesting phenomenon. I was sad and terrified and I felt so faint and dizzy. I felt a pair of arms huddle around me and hug me close and it was Damian and he hugged me so tightly while I shook and tried to gulp some air in.

It took a while. The heaving breaths turned to quiet sobs, which turned to slow breathing and sniffles. I wasn’t sad. I shook a little but I was alright. I am alright. There is nothing wrong with me, except that I had a panic attack.

I will never belittle those who experience those frequently. Of course you can get over it. But while it is happening, it is the most daunting, frightening feeling. You feel as though you will faint or explode, perhaps both all at once.

Strange phenomenon indeed. What causes one to behave in such an unsociable manner? I have always been of an anxious disposition. However I have always managed to keep it under the surface. Never has it taken control of my senses in such an unprecedented fashion.

It ends happily. My family landed safely in the land of heat and Arabs and tall buildings and gleaming riches. I am comfortable. The baby was a charming bundle of rosy cheeked chubbiness and glorious little baby kisses. She brightened my disposition immensely.

Thank you for listening. Adieu.

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Dear People of the Earth

Do you think that you a responsible for a certain niche in the world?

Do you think that you, as a single person amongst seven billion of us, has the capability to make a difference on this earth?

Think about your day. Think about when you wake up, and see the sun shining. You get up and brush your teeth, the tap splashing down. Sometimes you might, if you lived in the UK, have both taps on full blast because one is too hot and the other is too cold and you have to dip your hand in each one to get the desired temperature with which to wash your face and body. You might not think that was causing any problems, but really, you are.

‘You’ is a collective word. It is plural. The you reading this, is one of many ‘you’s. It’s true. If all of you do that then effectively you are wasting gallons and gallons of water.

Do you ever throw a small piece of rubbish out of you car window? I know this is an issue that people already know about, but folks, my own husband did it yesterday. He rolled down his window and threw out a receipt!

Oh, I know it was only a small scrap of paper, but there are lots of ‘hims’ rolling down car windows and throwing out small receipts. Small receipts can make a mountain of small receipts, you know.

I was very angry. I made him stop the car and pick it up. Thankfully we were on a small road at a very late hour.

I was riding the train to Birmingham (the UK Birmingham, not the USA one) the other day. We slowed down significantly as the train snaked through the city.

“How ugly,”, I thought, “this city is.” Lots of corrugated iron roofs, lorries and giant skips filled with rubbish. Roads looking dirty and in need of a good scrub, walls in need of many licks of paint. We came through an area where the ground rose high above the tracks on either side. At the top was a brick wall running the length of the tracks, to protect civilians from falling down the steep incline onto oncoming trains. The city bustled above, the heavy purple clouds amassed over us and as the rain started to spit angrily down upon us, slashing the train windows with long lines of tiny water droplets, all I could see was the rubbish on the inclines.

The grass was dead, long and matted. Grey in some areas, it was covered. Rubbish bags, food cartons, and lots of unidentifiable white plastic scattered among the foliage. Trapped inside.

“How,” I thought, “is anybody going to be able to clean that?”

The truthful answer, of course, is that they can’t. It is dangerous. One could easily slip and roll onto the tracks in the path of oncoming trains, which, I can imagine, are running constantly in and out of the city and all through it.

The same could be said of the motorway. We were travelling along, last Saturday. The day was bright and beautiful. I had my water and when we turned out of the main driveway and onto the country road I was feeling happy. The grass was green, the blossoms had started to fluff up the trees…

I started to feel sick when we got onto the main motorways, though. So much rubbish lined the grass verges. I was looking carefully. What could POSSIBLY be there?

Well, the usual things, of course. Takeaway boxes, empty drinks cans, drinks bottles and cups, tissues, plastic bags, the odd nappy, a shoe here and there, a piece of clothing strung over a dead branch.. a bit of graffiti on an otherwise clean road sign. It’s a sad and disheartening matter, folks, when we consider ourselves to be a civilised and forward folk, and yet our verges are lined with rubbish that people allow to sail forth from their cars.

Please don’t do that. The things will sit there forever, uglifying our landscape. Britain is a beautiful country. The views are sometimes incredible. When the weather is good, the world sparkles with green and gold and blue and light, why ruin it by throwing a small receipt out of your car window?

Get a bin bag for your car. Put some rubbish in it. Step back a little bit. You are living on land that doesn’t belong to you. You will die someday, sooner than you think, and the world will have to carry on, shouldering your dirt. Make a good impact, and not a dirty one, please.

Thank you for listening. Much love.

Lenora.

The Eighteenth of March

SPRING is here, folks! And with it, I hope, some motivation.

I took the bins out this afternoon and then I was just captivated by the beauty of the greenery rolling away from me. So instead of walking back indoors to the sanctity of my small little room and my warm bed, I embraced the day. I was wearing a very thin dress, but it flowed so freely around my bare legs and allowed the breeze to surge up along my skin, spreading itself over my back and along my arms and it was such a refreshing feeling. Gone, I hope, are the days of wrapping up against the elements. I felt as though I wanted to embrace them today. I walked along the path towards the lake, and there was full sunshine beaming down, accompanied by the smallest breath of clean air that carried the gentle scent of cut grass and some sweet springtime blossom.

The main lawns have been freshly mown, and the birds chirp constantly. I mean constantly, folks, when I say it. This morning a cold fog hung dankly over the world, and I thought, surely this must deaden things a little, no?

No, of course not. If anything, the birds chimed louder together, and oh how melodious they sounded. There is something so lively and heartening about the chirp of a bird. All those songs, I think, sailing through the skies, all those small feathery beings, dancing from tree to tree. They cock their heads so cheerful and inquisitive. One doesn’t have the heart to feel down. They are a joy upon this earth. I would hate to imagine how bleak it would be if there were no birds chirping. Just imagine! The world would seem ever so dead.

Also I have noticed that more often than not, a heavy morning fog gives way to a day of wondrous sunshine. I want to plant things and emerge from this hibernation of depression brought on, I like to make myself believe, by the winter.

It’s the eighteenth of March, dear readers. I will try not to allow this happiness to be hampered by the fear of him. I will try to let myself embrace it. I remember how my last bout of happiness dropped with a sickening thud when he contacted me again. It was so recent, and I berated myself bitterly for letting myself enjoy something.

But I shan’t today. Today is too beautiful to let it slide behind another door of disheartenment. It’s SPRING, folks! Do you hear me? Spring!

Life, Discontinued.

How do people measure that something can ‘increase a lifespan’?

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What makes it so people expect that they will live to be a certain age? Why do people say ‘she died too young’? or ‘it wasn’t his time’ if somebody dies while they are young? Lots of people die while they are young.

Their life ended. It was over. It finished.

Did this death cut their life short, somehow?

I don’t think so. I think their death came at the exact time it meant to. Their life did end. It wasn’t interrupted.

So why do they say, “such and such will increase your lifespan” or, “if you do this, you will live longer.”

Well, you won’t. You will die exactly when you were expected to. You might be hit by a ship one day as you kayak the sea on a spontaneous whim. Or you might have your leg chewed off by a crocodile, and die from the infection. You might even die when you are ninety six and three days old, peacefully in your sleep.

You might die after two weeks of heart failure, your organs slowly deteriorating as each hour passes. Your daughter next to you, nodding off to the gentle labour of your slowing breaths.

You might die one day, far away from all those you love, because you didn’t spend enough time with them.

You might die when you are a child, shattering the hearts of your protectors.

How will something ‘increase your lifespan’, then?

It won’t.

You might try to live a stress-free life, to be happier, healthier, live longer, but ultimately you will die exactly when you are destined to.

And that is why they should say ‘decreases risk of disease’, rather than ‘increases lifespan’. Because that is what it does, isn’t it? It lowers the risk of you dying of a disease. That is what they really mean. Nobody wants to die from a disease, so if you eliminate disease, what do you get?

You get death from another cause.

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To The Boy

I met a boy once who was the kindest creature. He was quiet and still, and yet the world would effervescence around him in the most darndest way. His eyes were dark and they popped in his face, the details of which I can’t remember, and I only ever felt camaraderie when I looked at him.

I was standing all alone on a full bus during my first week at university, and I saw him sitting next to a girl who was wearing a multicoloured scarf. She seemed anxious and she kept chattering and I don’t recall what they were talking about because I was engrossed my my own deep thoughts.

Will he text me? Will this day never end? How will I get home? Will I make any friends?

As the bus lurched from side to side on its jerky journey over the hills of my University town, and people steeled themselves to avoid bumping into each other, the girl in the multi-coloured scarf leaned forward on her seat and touched my arm.

“Excuse me,” she said quickly, “what’s the time?”

I don’t know why I didn’t think this was an odd question. She was holding her phone in her hand. I looked down at my own phone and opened my mouth to tell her but she interrupted me and said, breathless, “Hi, hi what’s your name? My name is L____”

I was surprised. Also secretly pleased. Also rather relieved. What an interesting way to make a friend, I thought. The boy next to her observed us quietly as our chat became a crescendo, rising above the bus and into a world of shared experiences, discovery, and yes, friendship.

He smiled at me once or twice and then got off the bus soon after. As the bus emptied my new friend gave me her mobile number and when I got off at my stop I was beaming. Exhilarated, happy. My first day at university had proved to me I wasn’t going to have to brave this journey alone.

When we met for lunch the next week at university she told me it the boy next to her had urged her to talk to me. She was nervous, she said, she was telling him she was afraid she wouldn’t make any friends at Uni. He’d told her if she didn’t talk to anybody, she never would. He told her to talk to me.

“She looks rather lost,” he had said, “talk to her. Her style suggests you two might have some things in common”

To this day I am close friends with her.

And him? I saw him sometimes. He would hold a door open for me, or smile at me on passing.

One afternoon I sat alone in the University library, browsing the internet as I did some research. A shadow fell over my papers. A gentle voice murmured, “Hello”

I looked up. I am usually one to be startled but the gentleness of his voice calmed me. “Why, hello” I said, and I smiled at him.

We had a chat. It wasn’t a necessarily deep chat. We spoke about the things we liked, people we met. We nodded at each other and listened to one other. It wasn’t a matter of being particularly interested in what the other had to say, it was a matter of openness, respect human to human. He told me I should come talk to him if I saw him. I said I absolutely would. He said it was nice to meet me. I genuinely believed he thought that. I said, “it was a pleasure to meet you too.”

Then he ambled off, putting his earphones back into his ears.

I watched him go. Never have I felt so accepted by a stranger. Never have I felt that another person would open their arms to me in a friendship so free. So loose. So easy. It was so simple to speak with him! It was lighthearted, enlightening. There was no burden of fakery, no forced physical contact, no forced pleasantries. If we felt like smiling, we did. If we didn’t, it was accepted and not taken personally. There were no emotional shackles.

I have since left University. I have since dropped all contact with previous friends I met there. I want nothing to do with them anymore, because the person I was when I met them was broken and hurt. I needed to start afresh. Different city. Far away from anything that would remind me of the one who destroyed me. I had been living a lie. I didn’t want them to know who I really was. I changed my number, I changed my address, I moved on. That is not to say I don’t miss them.

I wrote this post to hail that boy. To say a quiet, online thank you for opening my mind and heart. For making me feel welcome in a world in which I felt hostility. For broadening the horizon of my confidence. Here is to you. You know who you are.

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Cooking Italian

I am a sucker for food. All kinds of food. I was brought up eating a variety of foods from a variety of cultures. My mother cooked Pakistani, Mediterranean, English, European, Indian and Arab. She called us mongrel children because our heritage is so mixed, but I can honestly say that this experience taught me one important thing about food; there is nothing you can’t try. Food is an experience. It is to dabble in the senses, the sense of smell and sight and taste. They are all intertwined, and each culture in the world has its own unique taste, based, of course, on the climate and crops which dominate the area in which the culture presides.

I got myself a few things from Italy, sundried tomatoes, a sprig of fresh oregano, and a packet of pasta seasoning which contained dried herbs, salt crystals and dried garlic chips.

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I decided to cook something Italian, loosely based on the simple recipe on the back of the pasta seasoning packet. The recipe called for some olive oil, two tablespoons of seasoning, and some cooked pasta.

I added the tomatoes and fresh garlic, and topped with a few sprigs of oregano.

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I heated up the oil with the herbs and fresh garlic, and gave it a little fry. I then added my chopped tomatoes and tossed them around a little until their skins started to wrinkle and they began to get hot and slightly soft.

I also seasoned some pieces of chicken breast with salt, pepper and some thyme and a squeeze of lemon, and stir-fried in a little olive oil.

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The entire process took about ten minutes, during which I boiled some spaghetti until it was just past al dente.

I then tossed the tomatoes together with the chicken into the spaghetti, coating the pasta with the sauce and herbs, and dished it out!

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Voila! A very delicious, simple meal.

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