Disheartened

I waited all day in the hospital on Friday because of an ailment I had. I had a needle pushed jerkily into my hand by a fourth year Medical student. She seemed shy and withdrawn, but I spoke to her and asked her about her studies, and she seemed to open up a little and we had a small laugh together.

The nurses were hustled and bustled, hair askew and irate. They had too much on. The doctors were seeing to and speaking to several patients at a time.

While sitting on the bed in the triage unit, I asked the doctor, while he was tapping away at another patient’s report: “Sorry to bother you, this is a completely unrelated question, but is all this (meaning the 11 hour wait, the lack of enough doctors to deal with patients, the lack of nurses) because of the cuts to the NHS?”

He was hesitant to reply but when he did, it was apparent that he was stressed out with the workload and said they hadn’t enough “facilities to deal with demand.”

Fellow humans, my disease does not seem serious enough to be admitted to the ward but I waited there all day only to be told I was referred to my GP. I understood why I had to wait so long. The NHS is becoming inefficient and slow, many people are leaving or buckling under the pressure. There is too much, and too little.

D said to me yesterday, “I don’t know why you’re complaining. It’s a classic British thing, to expect everything for free. It’s a free healthcare system, why are you complaining!?”

Well, I wouldn’t be complaining if a massive chunk of my income went on taxes. I expect the best service there is, if my taxes are only getting higher. I make so much money yet barely have any for myself. And the money we DO pay are being used for ridiculous ventures by the Tories, like bombing other countries.

We all contribute money from our income to make this country BETTER. NOT to throw bombs at other countries and put our country at a higher risk. Better health, better living standards, better quality food, better government, better education, better society.

Speaking of better education, have you SEEN the new rules in schools now? Students run the game, not teachers. Teachers have no respect, and are the lowest paid professionals.

It is known that the massive corporations in Britain do not pay Tax. The government will attack a common man who forgot to send his tax returns report in on time, but will ignore MILLIONS of pounds worth of tax from a large corporation.

Also it is a known fact that the Conservative party, run by the 1% of billionaires in this country AND outside this country, all have premium healthcare and are therefore not in need of free healthcare. They are running their own agenda.

They want the NHS to fail, they want to privatise the NHS, and they are making cuts to perhaps one of the MOST IMPORTANT institutions in this country.

Do you know how many people will suffer?

The NHS is the best thing to happen to this country after WW2. It is one of the things Britain is renowned for, it joined this country together and made life easier for us. It helped to create a society in which less people suffered; the rich paid taxes to help the poor. It made sense. Of course it wasn’t always for the benefit of the people, but it certainly was more so than it is today.

Honestly, what I saw on Friday made me realise that this country is truly going to the dogs. It’s losing respect.

Sorry about this post, my feelings are strong on this one. It makes me want to rise up in the world and take control.

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Dear Nan

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Today I want to commemorate my maternal grandmother. She passed away four years ago on June 22nd, 2011. She was a beautiful soul.

Today is her birthday! This was originally scheduled to go up on June the 22nd but i was talking to my mother this evening and we got to talking about my Nan, and I thought, since it’s her birthday today, I might aswell speak about her on the day she was born.

She would have been 81 years old today.

My earliest memories of her were warm hugs, soft wrinkled cheek against mine, loving stories and piles of knitting. I used to stay at her house from the age of one, sleeping next to her on her bed. I remember tottering towers of books and magazines stacked around her room. Her mind was a vast cavern that was so filled with knowledge that it refused to echo. Knowledge and painful memories.

She had silky black hair that, over the course of my memories, grew silver as she aged. She used to wear a blue coat when she went out, and I used to accompany her to the vegetable markets, where all the sellers knew who she was. She talked to everybody, about anything. She was brimming with love.

Her house was filled with plants. Nurtured tenderly with each passing year. When she was at home, her garden bloomed with colour. She had roses and lavender and her window boxes were vibrant with pansies, petunias, geraniums, fuschias and busy lizzies. Nodding in the breeze, reflecting the glorious summer sunshine of England in July. Her back garden had some grapevines that were as old as my mother, because my grandmother planted them when she was pregnant with my mother. A large apricot tree grew proudly in the centre of her back garden, defying all weather odds. The apricots that she did get, every three years or so, were all gobbled up by the squirrels as soon as they formed.

“Naughty squirrels” she would say, “they’re taking all my apricots!”

When she left, the garden languished, and one by one the roses dropped and the plant pots vanished, leaving behind a sore greyness.

My grandmother was born in India, but migrated to Pakistan when the partition occurred in 1947. She was very young at the time, and told me some horrific stories. Her father was wealthy lawyer, so she always lived in a lavish house with many servants. She would always say the time she spent at home were the happiest of her life. Her father held a special place in her heart. She would always tell stories of his generosity and kindness. When he passed away she was already living in England, and her heart was broken.

My Nan didn’t lead the happiest of adult lives. She worked hard, and was not very well off, and her husband broke her heart so many times. So much so that thirty years after their divorce she would still break down in tears after talking about him. But she was a strong woman and made a beautiful home for her children, and brought them up single handedly. My mother says her mother was both a mother and a father to her children.

She was divorced during a time when divorce was looked down on in society, so a lot of people in her social circle shunned her. Despite her sadness, though, my grandmother spread joy wherever she went. Her door was always open to people, her cooking readily available to anybody who popped by.

 

When she passed away, she was very ill and in a lot of pain, but she was surrounded by all of her children and she said she was so happy. Her son stayed at the hospital with her night and day, and the nurses said how peaceful it felt in her room.

Despite her suffering she still had my mother and her two siblings at the forefront of her thoughts.

“Oh, don’t cook for me,” she would say to my mum, who’d been running up and down the stairs all day, “let me buy a takeaway.”

Everybody who knew her, loved her. She went around sprinkling a bit of happy into people’s lives. Once I told her about my English teacher who had the same name as one of my grandma’s dearest friends who was deceased. So my grandmother bought her a book and wrote her a small note. My English teacher was very touched. That’s just a small example of how Nan reached out to people. She always had a gift to give someone, a thought to tell them, a smile to put on their faces.

 

I don’t want to think about the sad things though, the pain she was in, the loneliness she often felt when her kids got married and moved away. I want to think about how happy she made everybody, how all my baby memories are peppered with Nan hugs and games and comfy blankets, how she had her favourite chair, her masses of books and magazines full of interesting subjects, her fascination with the Arabic language (which she did an MA in despite not being Arab!), the way she always had misri in her handbag to give out to the children, her flowers, and her never-ending kindness, generosity and love.

She told me a week before she passed that I was her “first baby”, being the oldest grandchild.

“What about me!” my mum exclaimed, her real ‘first baby’. My Nan just smiled and patted my hand.

We miss you, Nan. Terribly. The world is lacking without you.

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On Bits and Bobs

The cold has settled in folks and the guy who replaced my windscreen today said he was “getting too old for this job’ whilst gripping a hot cup of tea and stomping his feet.

Teeth were chattering, mist was rising, people were just mounds of clothing and puffs of snowy white breath and grey clouds hung low in the sky, spitting out rain every few hours or so.

I didn’t do much of anything today but thought I would post a little sum’n sum’n.

I am still scrutinising Aphra Behn most intricately and she is proving to be a very tasteful writer.

P’raps I might write a less academic review after I have submitted this assignment! I could do with some lighthearted literary writing, as opposed to all these literary devices and analysis of themes. Themes can be so mundane sometimes, fellow humans.

Merry Winter, and Happy Munching!

“That Won’t Happen to me”

Why do we think we are so untouchable?

Why do we think we won’t be like the man who lost all his limbs in a freak, unexpected accident?

Why do we think we won’t lose our parents just yet? ‘Oh, they aren’t old. They’re not sick. We’ll all be fine. Oh dear, Penny’s dad just died. But he had diabetes. My dad doesn’t. It’ll be fine’

Why do we think bombs won’t start dropping on us, and not just the exploding kind?

Why do we think we won’t suddenly be hit with poverty like that poor girl that runs that quirky little blog?

Why do we think that just because we had one miscarriage, we won’t have many many more, like that charming young lady with a big smile to hide her heartache?

Maybe because each of our problems are our own to deal with, and looking at others with way worse ones is a coping mechanism.

Or is it just fear stopping us from accepting that pain is inevitable?

‘It’s not that bad’ we console ourselves, ‘at least we aren’t homeless. At least our situation isn’t like HERS. Or HIS.’

All of us have our own little pains. Or big pains. Our hearts will ache. If there is one thing life has taught me, it is that no matter your age, your heart will ache. I have seen my mother’s heart hurt over the passing of my Nan, and at the same time I saw my little brother’s heart break because the boy down the street turned his back on their friendship.

I read somewhere once that just because one person’s pain is not as great in magnitude as another’s, it does not mean it is less relevant. This especially applies to little children. For them, it is the first time experiencing such pain, so to them, it must be tremendous.

To an adult like you and I, it is something that happens in life, but not to a child.

I am a firm believer in the fact that no human being will ever be given more than they can bear. Religious or not, that is true. There will always be that little shred of strength inside you to drag up, to shield you against the harshness of those dark times.

I believe wholeheartedly that no matter how hard it gets, it will be a yesterday when tomorrow comes. Life is full of yesterdays. Some more bittersweet than others, but still they are yesterdays. Life is also full of tomorrows. It just matters how we handle today.

Here are some quotes in the form of pictures:

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And So On

Last month I posted fifteen posts.

This month I intend to post much more. And next month even more. And the month after.. well you get the gist. And so on and so on and so on.

To quote somebody famous: “I’m better today than I was yesterday, and I will be better tomorrow than I am today.”

Always striving, always striding, always carrying on.

And now, a bit of Tolkien, to warm the cockles of your heart and mine, for who can resist a bit of Tolkien.

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A Dally of Musings

Hello yes, I am procrastinating.

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What I am supposed to be doing is analysing how a section of John Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi uses literary devices to present different themes, and how these distinctive features of language could be translated into performance.

It’s curious, it sounds so complicated. How do actors analyse literary devices and use them to act out how they think a character would have done.

I know it must be simpler than I imagine, and I could be simplifying it further by reading course material and analysing the play, rather than writing about my ignorant opinions.

I could be thinking about how an actor stands, and how it would affect the delivery of a line. Or whether a scene would become more dramatic if an actor were to sit on a chair during a dialogue, or stand as an equal to his Lady.

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But I am not. I am musing in a most cretinous manner. I am spattering my uncultured, obtuse thoughts on a topic so well-loved and so well-researched, that frankly I am a little ashamed of myself.

However I cannot help sometimes wondering at our tendency to analyse plays written hundreds of years ago, in a language very few of us understand, with references to a culture and a society not a living soul on earth remembers.

What are we gaining from this?

In my copy of The Duchess of Malfi, almost every line has an explanation on the adjacent page, because the majority of people of my ilk will know nothing about the meanings or the cultural references behind the speech. I know it is good to learn new things, but really, we are just learning old ones.

It’s like studying a lesson in physics from a book written five hundred years ago. The concepts are outdated, new ones with more plausible evidence have replaced them.

But language is not a science, and in order to understand language, we must revert back to the origins of language and literature and entertainment. It is a burden to be borne, I suppose.

Webster’s Malfi is quite entertaining and odd, though. It’s garish and discomfiting, but it is proving to be surprisingly enjoyable. The language is immensely satisfying, and there are plenty of little linguistic gems to please. There is no denying that Webster made a true art of words.

How about you, dear reader? Have you read many seventeenth century plays? Did you enjoy them?

On Cold Water and Salt

I have no hot water!!!!

When I told the agent about this she seemed to think it was an urgent matter and has ordered the electrician to come round immediately. She thanked me for ‘kindly’ ringing in to let her know about the issue, and told me the electrician is a very reliable chap named Billy Steeple (obviously that isn’t his real life name, I have changed it for privacy purposes).

It reminded me of the time we were in Marrakech and a waiter advertising an outdoor restaurant waved a menu in our faces shouting, “no diarrhea! No diarrhea!”

It makes you suspicious, somehow. IS this chap reliable? Why was she so quick to assure me that he was indeed reliable?

Well, it’s been mighty cold in this neck of the woods, folks. My nose gets frozen peeping out of the covers at night, and my toes are forever cold. Hot water isn’t something I am used to, however, as we have an erratic heating system at best, but I certainly don’t think I can stomach a cold shower in these icy temperatures. In the summer I can do it just fine, but I shudder to think of cold taps and freezing water on my skin, of soap that refuses to lather because the water is too cold.

I’m pleased the lady was so quick about it. She is a very reliable agent and well worth her salt.

Adieu for now!

My Life According to the Friends’ Theme Song

So no one told you life was gonna be this way: To be honest, you’re right. Nobody did. I had no idea I would end up married at 19, doing an online degree with the Open University, and battling myself to get work done. I thought I would have published an international best-seller by the age of 15 like Christopher Paolini.

Your job’s a joke, you’re broke, your love life’s D.O.A.: My job IS a joke, but I still enjoy it sometimes, plus it got me my first car so that’s a happy pebble. I am broke, but only because I am saving, so really I am not broke I am just unable to spend frivolously. Which is a good thing. My love life has its ups, it has its downs, but when all’s said and done, I’m glad for it and its sustainability and the warmth it gives me when my feet are like ice cubes and I can’t feel my fingers anymore.

It’s like you’re always stuck in second gear. When it hasn’t been your day, your week, your month, or even your year: I feel that way. I’m 21. I still have plenty to do and plenty to prove and HEAPS to improve!

But…. I’ll be there for you
(When the rain starts to pour)
I’ll be there for you
(Like I’ve been there before)
I’ll be there for you
(‘Cause you’re there for me too): Mmhmm. Uh-huh. Mmmm yeaah “nods along to the music”

 

You’re still in bed at ten and work began at eight
You’ve burned your breakfast, so far things are going great
Your mother warned you there’d be days like these
But she didn’t tell you when the world has brought you down to your knees: Oh God this is all true, it’s all true.

What about you?

Aphra Behn and Books Galore

Aphra Behn is proving to be very difficult to get into. I am running around tidying up and dusting this little attic room that is our home until the end of the month because there is a viewing here today, and listening to Mindy Kaling’s ‘Why Not Me?’ which I am thoroughly enjoying, by the way.

It is hilarious and interesting and I feel like Mindy is like an older sister giving me sensible advice for the current times, which is something Aphra Behn cannot do.

Can Aphra Behn tell me that confidence is the result of hard work? Can Aphra Behn tell me that it is ok to hate my fat? Can Aphra Behn give me some glamorous Hollywood ‘look-great’ secrets, and give me little snippets of her love life while she is at it?

Well I don’t know, since I have not read Aphra Behn yet.

The introduction tells me she has a very high opinion of her own writing, and it seems rather less dramatic and detailed than Shakespeare, which is a good thing, considering that although old Shakey (as Will from Goodnight Mister Tom whispered happily to himself –he certainly enjoyed Shakespeare) is still critically acclaimed more than four hundred years after his death, I find his sonnets and plays ‘tragically’ boring and cannot get into them at all.

Does this make me a literary fraud?

If it makes you feel any better, I love Coolidge and Montgomery (that’s Lucy Maud) and Alcott and all the Bronte’s and Austen and Dickens and Mitchell (that’s Margaret) and Stevenson and Shelley (Mary, not Percy) and even Hawthorne and Wilde and Elliot and my goodness Thackeray! And loads more, of course. I have a penchant for old novels, especially old romance novels, and their language does not faze me in the slightest. In fact it is the reason that I love them so! I detest the frank crudeness of modern day romance, the illicit sex scenes, the ridiculous Hollywood ‘glitches’ etc etc but I understand why people relish them.

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To me Austen’s romance novels are perfect because they combine beautiful language, eloquent speeches and respectful romance. I want to be courted, I want to go for long walks with Mr Darcy, I don’t want some guy to come along and woo me with a ridiculous pick-up line reeking of sexual innuendo.

On one of our first dates, my husband put my hand through his arm on an icy wintry evening and we walked down the road towards my house. We lingered outside for the longest time, talking about everything, and then he looked at me and said, “I don’t want to stop talking to you just yet, let’s go around the block one more time”

We ended up walking for another hour, and I don’t remember what we talked about but I remember feeling gloriously full of giddy delight because of how gentlemanly he was.

He didn’t kiss me either. He smiled at me with his heart-dropping dimples and that was it. Then he sent me a text before I went to bed telling me he thought my smile was the most beautiful thing about my face.

It’s cheesy I know but this is what I love about romance. Mr Darcy professing his love for Elizabeth, and writing her a beautiful letter full of respect and gallantry. Mr Bhaer (YES, I WANTED LAURIE FOR JO TOO, BUT MR BHAER WON ME OVER BY HIS SHEER CHIVALRY AND GENTLEMANLINESS) wooing Jo, the way Ned Worthington could not focus on his work, aaand my personal favourite; Anne and Gilbert’s beautiful, blossoming, almost soap-opera like romance filled with wondrous magic, flowery language and Anne’s own fantastic mind. Aaaagh! I cannot say how many times I have read Anne and its sequels. Emily and her sequels. Pat and hers. Countless more! Lucy Maud Montgomery was the echoing voice of my childhood years. I based my dream home on Green Gables (still do), am constantly looking for a Violet Vale, and see every birch tree as a beautiful, slender lady to be hugged and loved. I felt like a little Anne, chattering non stop, getting excited about the little weed I found outside our rented flat in the dusty desert that is Dubai. Every summer when we returned to England and went to forests and walked through the countryside and went berry picking I imagined I was on Prince Edward Island and my goodness, was that a dryad peeking mischievously around a tree? Secretly, I dreamed of a bookish Gilbert Blythe who would whisk me away to Lover’s Lane and and and… I LOVE Lucy Maud Montgomery. She made me see the joy in the bleak desert, the light in the dark sky, the kindness in the world. Whenever I felt sad my mind would create happiness in the form of stories, I would create characters based on Anne and Katy and they would do lovely things and bake delicious cakes and live in the countryside.

They always lived in the countryside.

And now I do, and it really finally feels like all my dreams have come true except I am moving to the city again soon and trying to spend all my time outside in the fields and relishing the cold wind and lashing rain because out in the countryside, somehow, it is magical and glorious.

But Shakespeare… don’t get angry, but  when people tell me they love Shakespeare I am judgy because they sound a little pretentious to me.

Juuuust a little.

I KNOW. I am an awful human being.

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I can see why people would enjoy it. Hell, when I am working on it, deeply analysing each line, I love it! The words, the flow, the excellent combination of wit and skill in language, what’s not to love? And how it all translated onto the stage, how every detail matters, sitting, standing, facing this way or that… it’s incredible!

That being said, however, I just do not see myself sitting down after a long day of hard work and opening a Shakespeare play. Anne of Green Gables, yes, but not Shakespeare.

Well, I guess it is time to stop procrastinating about Behn and actually get into Behn. Who knows, I might just love her the same way I love Lucy Maud Montgomery and her flowery Anne.

A Block of Words

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Hello Internet. It’s that time of year again. Cold windy days, barren trees, grey afternoons and a night that descends so quickly. I embrace the lights, though. They make me happy, like shiny beacons of glitter and hope in the ever-growing blackness that is winter.

It is also the time of year that writers love. NaNoWrimo is in full swing, you can hear the tapping of keyboards and the scribbling of pens echoing across the plains of this virtual world and it is so heartening but again, two years in a row now, I am suffering from writer’s block.

I am stressed out with all the work I have to do. It involves a hearty amount of reading, analysing, creative writing, the application of literary devices and deep concentration, all of which I love immensely but when tripled with strict deadlines and weeks of mountainous literary terrain to navigate, I find myself quite lost. Confused. At a complete standstill.

Here is a small inconsequential fact:

IT DOES NOT DO TO HAVE WRITER’S BLOCK WHEN I NEED TO WRITE A COMPELLING SCREENPLAY BY THE END OF NOVEMBER AND I HAVE NOTHING, EXCEPT A DISGUSTINGLY POORLY WRITTEN SHORT STORY ABOUT A MURDER WITH NO INCENTIVE TO GO BY. AARRGH.

I have spots on my face and I never get spots. I ate all of Damian’s M&Ms today and I know he will be cross because:

  1. I am not supposed to be eating anything processed or artificially sweet because of my digestive system.
  2. He doesn’t like sharing his M&Ms.

So I am making him a small dish of apple crumble with oats and honey because:

  1. He loves apple crumble and if he sees the apple crumble he will totally forget about his precious M&Ms.
  2. It is a great way to use up all my cupboard ingredients before we move out in two weeks (or even less!).
  3. Once again, I am procrastinating!

So. I have writer’s block. How devastating. Will I ever write a book? Who knows. The literary future of one Lenora Sparrow is looking pretty bleak.