Amsterdam: Top 10 highlights

Cobbled streets, narrow canals and an abundance of pancakes. We spent 4 days in Amsterdam and explored the entirety of the city by day and night. Here are my top ten highlights.

10. Van Gogh Museum. The dutch painter has his artwork displayed across the globe but in Amsterdam you can experience all the different versions of the ‘Sunflowers’, the works of Van Gogh’s friends and a deeper understanding of his life. Tickets are absolutely free for under 18s and €19 for adults, but make sure to reserve your places online beforehand as the museum is extremely popular.

9. Albert Cuyp Market. The largest market in Amsterdam that stretches across an entire alleyway. Just a 10 minute walk from the museum quarters, Albert Cuyp consists of hundreds of market stalls selling everything from electronics and jewellery to fresh fish and traditional dutch desserts. We tried everything from raw herring with pickles and onions to freshly made stroopwaffles run by a father and son. The market sells everything you could imagine from as little as 50 cents.

8. Bike rentals. The most obvious thing to in Amsterdam is rent a bicycle and join the locals on the roads, but we were torn between which rental company to use and whether to hire a tandem or not. As we were walking through a market, we saw a sign for bike rentals and discovered that the shop had an option for a four person bicycle. The bike consisted of 4 sets of pedals and one steering wheel. At just a cost of €20 for the hour (€5 per person), we rented it out and rode around the famous Vondelpark. It was the most spontaneous thing we did on the trip and by far the most fun we had. Just a word of warning though; don’t take a sizeable four person bicycle down the middle of a busy market on a Saturday afternoon. We did not please anyone..

7. Anne Frank house. This is a must-do when visiting Amsterdam. Anne Frank house remains as one of the most important buildings in the city, containing a mixture of historical and cultural values. The museum is €10 for adults but hurry, its incredibly popular with tourists so tickets must be bought at least 2 months in advance.

6. Electric ladyland Located just a 10 minute walk from the Anne Frank House, Electric ladyland is essentially a fluroescent museum in the basement of rock collectors. At €5 per person, you can spend an hour in a magnificent display of fluorescent lights as well as a tour of the couples jaw dropping collection of paintings including works from Leon Hendrix.

5. The pancake bakery. It may look small on the outside but the pancake bakery stretches far back into the shop, but not once failing to keep the smell of freshly cooked pancakes out of reach. The menu consists of everything from American pancakes to sweet and savoury Dutch crepes. It’s a little pricey but one of the best ways to discover the Dutch culture.

4. Hortus Botanicus. Spend a nice afternoon away from the busy tourist hot spots and visit the botanical gardens of Amsterdam. Tickets cost just under €10 and with that you can explore 3 different greenhouses, home to 1000s of species of tropical and temperate plants. You can also enjoy the butterfly garden as well as the pond which hosts giant water lilies. We also spent a significant amount of time in the gift shop, admiring the intricate hand crafted wooden sculptures.

3. Boat Tours. Make the most of the open canals with a boat tour around the city. Don’t be fooled to take a cramped, commercial boat tour where you essentially have no space to breathe. We were recommended the friendship boat tour which was about €16 for just over an hour. We were given blankets and there was even a bar, but most importantly it was an open roof.

2. NDSM. Just a 15 minute free ferry ride away from Amsterdam Centraal Station lies an undiscovered hipster territory. We spent an evening exploring the small town and its astonishing graffiti. There was also a large vintage market and a beach but we walked about 10 minutes further from the busy areas into the realms of container homes, where we enjoyed pizzas at a local cafe.

1.The windmills. Take a day trip outside of Amsterdam and visit the countries iconic windmills at Zaanse Schans. The train ticket cost just €7 and we spent an entire morning walking around a picturesque cocoa scented town. The town is home to more than 600 windmills and there are options to tour most of them. There are also many cafes which pride in making the best hot chocolates in the Netherlands.

If you liked this, you will enjoy reading 48 hours in Prague

Mary Poppins returns (2018)

Disney’s new venture to modernise and reintroduce famous characters to younger audiences and bring nostalgia to everyone else is certainly a great money making scheme. With the likes of Beauty and the beast and Maleficent; Mary Poppins (directed by Rob Marshall) is also one to undergo a transformation as this iconic magical nanny comes floating back onto our screens. 

Julie Andrews’ career defining character was now replaced by Emily Blunt, who was accompanied by Lin Manuel Miranda as Jack, a lamplighter who was said to have apprenticed Bert in his younger years. Screenwriter David Magee had big shoes to fill, but only really half did the job. The storyline was fairly weak and unoriginal, with the Banks’ children grown up and not even shining a glimpse of their exhilarating childhood left inside of them. Michael Banks (Ben Whishaw), a widow and father to three independent children now face being evicted from their homes unless they find lost documents. Along the way, Mary Poppins appears, Jane Banks (Emily Mortimer) falls in love whilst the bank’s corrupt chairman, William Wilkins (Colin Firth), sabotages the plot. 

Despite the feeble script, Blunt did an exceptional task at putting herself aside from Julie Andrews. Her accent was now more received and much sterner. All in all, the magic of Mary Poppins remained the same with the numerous times she looked into the mirror, the magic of tidying up as well as pulling ridiculously large items out of her doctors bag. That’s not to say that Blunt didn’t add her own touches. With her ever pointed out toes, conversations becoming more sarcastic and cheekier, Blunt really showed how versatile of an actress she can really be. Miranda’s performance as Jack was also delivered very well. His experience in theatre and complicated choreography paid off well as he used the stage to the fullest of his abilities, using Dick Van Dyke’s original as inspiration. The film, as always, broke away from traditional separations between class as the fate of the working class lamplighter was to fall in love with Jane Banks. Although Miranda’s take on a cockney accent was interesting, it can be argued that his performance was certainly a touch more friendly than Van Dyke’s original. 

The music in the original 1964 film was certainly memorable, with ‘step in time’, ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’, ‘a spoon full of sugar’ and ‘chimchim cher-ee’, written and composed by the Sherman brothers and all being nominated or winning academy awards. Unfortunately, there weren’t any of those in the remake and its fair to say that although the songs were catchy, they were certainly forgettable. The 2018 soundtrack consisted of ‘A Conversation’, ‘Can you imagine that’, ‘ The royal Doulton music hall’, ‘A cover is not a book’, ‘Turning Turtle’ and  ‘Trip a little light fantastic’. With some of them containing euphemisms and dramatic choreography, they could have been just as unique and wonderful as the original. Although the performance of each song was visually entertaining, composers Marc Shaiman and Scott Whittman failed to take a risk and capture the weirdness and originality of the Sherman brothers. From Michael Banks’ melancholy solo in ‘A Conversation’ to the theatre scene in ‘A cover is not a book’, the detail in the set and costumes was practically perfect in every way. Like the original, there were collaborative scenes between animation and real life such as the ceramic pot where costumes designed by Sandy Powell were made to look hand painted with extreme precision.

The use of CGI was done very effectively as there was more magic in the bathtub scene than in the entirety of the film itself. It consists of Blunt performing her own stunts by falling backwards into a bathtub which leads to a sea of creatures. Another song with brilliant stunts and choreography was ‘Trip a little light fantastic’, equivalent to ‘Step in time’. With the same simulatenous choreography, with all the lamplighters standing on a ledge, dancing under the moonlight. 

There were many cameos from actors from the 1964 edition. With Karen Dotrice (old Jane Banks), making a short appearance where she plays an elderly lady asking for directions. Another cameo we see is Dick Van Dyke himself who plays Mr Dawes senior, the uncle of the corrupt bank chairman. Both acts were not necessary to the story and did not add any depth, however, seeing old familiar faces gave a definite sense of nostalgia. There was also an appearance from Meryl Streep, who played Mary Poppins’ eccentric cousin. Streep is not a novice for playing unusual characters and her role as cousin Topsy did not disappoint. 

Although many people were sceptical of the remake of Mary Poppins, it’s fair to say that Marshall made a good attempt in providing magic for the younger generation. It did not live up to the 1964 version and certainly did not require villains. However, the emotional depth that lacked in the first film was added here, with subjects such as struggles with money and grieving that were touched upon. As always, Mary Poppins provided hope and made sure to teach the lesson to put family before anything. Now its time to wait half a century for Poppins’ next venture. 

– …. . / .- .-. – / — ..-. / — — .-. … . / -.-. — -.. .

Try to uncode the title

When Samuel Morse was commissioned to travel to Washington to paint a portrait of a military officer, he received a letter by a messenger informing him that his wife’s health illness had worsened. When Morse rushed back to his home town in Connecticut, it became a great shock to find out that the message had taken so long to be sent that his wife had not only died in that period but had already been buried. This motivated Morse to invent an ingenious system which started the evolution for effective communication systems.

Morse code is essentially a series of dits and dahs (dots and dashes) assigned to each letter of the alphabet. For example; the letter ‘E’ is a single dit (.) whereas the letter ‘L’ is dit, dah, dit, dit (. — ..), the same stands for numbers and punctation. Where there may be no obvious pattern of dots and dashes for the alphabet, the numbers are fairly simple to learn. Zero consists of five dahs (—————), one consists of one dit and four dahs (. — — — —), two is two dits and 3 dahs (. . — — —) and so forth.

Morse code is mostly used in the navy by transmitting radio signals or using flashlights to communicate with other ships or to send distress signals. In some instances, it has been extremely useful when passing on subtle messages. When an American Colonel was captured during the Vietnam war, he was forced to participate in a Vietnamese propaganda video, telling the audience of how well he was being treated by his captors. This in fact was completely untrue as he was seen to blink out the word ‘Torture’ in morse code (—  — — —  .—.  —  ..—  .—.  .).  Another instance happened during the second world war, when a British Soldier was captured by the Nazis and sent to a concentration camp. During his time in captivity, he was allowed to sew. One particular needlework he did impressed the Nazis so much that it was allowed to be hung in every other concentration camp. What the Nazis didn’t see, however, was a slight detail in the work which read ‘God save the King’ and ‘F*** Hitler’, all written in Morse code. 

Image result for god save the queen needlework concentration camp

Learning Morse code is very simple. Most people use mnemonics which helps determine the length of the letter and the number of dits and dahs it contains. ‘BOOT to the head’ is a common phrase used to learn the letter ‘B’ ; It consists of one dah followed by three dits (— . . .). However, the most effective way is learning morse codes through sounds, which makes the entire concept much easier to understand

Morse code is an extremely useful skill and essentially its another way of learning a new language. Although modern communication methods may be faster than Morse code, it is certainly a language that is understood in every country. Some people important phrases in morse code, the most obvious being dit dit dit dah dah dah dit dit dit, commonly known as ‘SOS’ (. . . – – – . . .).

TITLE: The art of morse code

Radio show

Supposedly, this could’ve been my first ‘Mum, I’ve made it’ moment, or not quite since I never actually told her. Last December, I was chosen to be on episode one of ‘First’. A podcast dedicated to your first time experiencing something as a teenager. This is how I recall my experience:

As I walked into the recording studio on Great Portland street, I felt as nervous as ever. I had never opened up to people about my relationships before, and now it was to be broadcast for the entire nation to listen and relate to.

The producer introduced me to the host and the other two people I’d be sharing the show with. This made me relieved on one hand but I soon realised that more people would be watching me talk as we were recording. This unnerved me a little; the only way to calm myself down was by taking deep breathes and eating many of the mince pies that were on offer at the table.

Stomachs filled, we were taken downstairs to a series of corridors which lead to different recording rooms. The studio was exactly how I imagined; through a triple sound-proofed door lead a small room with a large round table. On top of which were a series of microphones connected to gigantic noise cancelling headphones. Behind me was a tinted window which took up the entire width of the wall. This would be where the producer and technician would sit behind, talking to us through our headphones and saying things such us ‘Can you repeat that?’ or ‘Slow down’. (The intimacy was real).

I was still quite nervous when the recording started, but I slowly began to find my place in the conversation as the recording started. The topic was about my first heartbreak, a story I knew off the back of my hand. Even though I was way out of my comfort zone, in the end I realised that it’s easier to talk about something you already know as there is always so much to say. Now time to record the next episode.

You can listen to ‘First’ on: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p07d0tv7

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

**SPOILERS**

Retelling novels on a cinema screen proves doable but difficult, with some being more successful than others. Kenneth Branagh’s reboot of ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ took perhaps one too many liberties when narrating Agatha Christie’s original novel. The story begins with our famous protagonist, Hercule Poirot, (Branagh) who is immediately called to leave his holiday and take the first train back to Calais to investigate another case.

The cast had many big names playing the likes of Hercule Poirot (Kenneth Branagh), Ratchett (Johnny Depp), Princess Dragimirrof (Judi Dench), Hildegarde Schmitde (Olivia Coleman), Mary Debenham (Daisy Ridly), Mrs Hubbard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Bouc (Tom Bateman), Hardman (Willem Dafoe), Countess Andrenyi (Lucy Boynton). With such an impressive list, it seemed that the movie would not disappoint, yet none of the actors were given the chance to live or breathe. Not only was the train journey confined, Branagh failed to characterise or create drama between the actors. Instead, with minimal lines between them, random characters were merely sitting emotionless around the dining car, waiting for their turn to be picked for interrogation.

The decision to use an overhead shot of Ratchett’s murder had no effect on the revelation of the murder. The entire scene was rushed. The shot showed no indication to the audience about the clues left in the victims berth (an embroidered silk handkerchief, pipe cleaner and pocket watch). Instead we get the top of Poirot’s head and a bloody corpse. The interviewing scenes also consisted of numerous Dutch angles and uncontrollable panning in and out of the carriage window. The main portion of Christie’s novel involved the interviewing suspects but Branagh managed to squeeze it into about 3 minutes. By reducing the length of the murder scene, Branagh left plenty of time for Poirot to tackle the complicated case.

What was an old, Belgian, charming detective was now a short tempered man with a good punch and moustache that travelled the width of his face. Poirot’s new salt and pepper look suggested perhaps to ‘use your little black and grey cells’ instead of the just the ‘grey cells’. What was left of the original Poirot, the walking stick (which was now a weapon of defence) and his sweet tooth. Branagh created an entirely new portfolio for the old detective in attempts to modernise the character and step away from the ‘typical’ Poirot. 

Despite Branagh weak attempts to rejuvenate the original 1974 version, the actors did a brilliant job with their individual performances when it had been discovered that they had all committed the murder. Many of the characters had different personalities to which the novel envisioned. Mrs Hubbard, once a loud mouthed American was now a seducing man-hunter. Accompanied by some hauntingly eerie music, Pfeiffer gave a heart wrenching performance in the interrogation scene where she was willing to point the gun to her direction to reward peace to her daughter. Meanwhile, Dench had managed to get into the depths of her character, sharing most of her scenes with Coleman who had the challenge of undertaking a new accent. Johnny Depp was certainly not a stranger to taking up unusual roles. His scenes may have been short but he did not underperform. 

It would be unfair to say that Branagh had got it completely wrong. The period costumes, attention to detail on the wooden train carriages, dining carts with specially arranged flowers. 

‘I liked the sense that I could let the audience escape into that world,’ said Branagh, ‘where the details of what the characters are touching, seeing, eating, drinking, wearing are a significant part of the pleasure. Branagh allowed his audience to experience post war life amongst aristocrats as well as involve conversations of Stalinism and Prohibition. 

The film was created to merge the modest past to modern day. Branagh’s unnecessary gag on prostitutes and gun violence relates to the problems faced in todays world. The directors decision to step away from David Suchet’s television Poirot was an unsuccessful one. Perhaps Branagh can learn his lessons for his next venture, Death on the Nile.

The art of quitting social media

Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter; the apps I had given a profuse amount of my time. Almost 3 hours of my day would be taken up by me scrolling through these apps, absorbing in content which were completely unrelated to my life. I found myself filling my brain with memes – yes, I agree that memes can be funny but I was taking in too much- but my addiction was growing worse. I was living, breathing and speaking in meme. My thoughts, ideas and opinions were being backed up by memes and soon I became fed up. I deleted all time wasting apps hoping to return to the time where I had increased focus on everything and everyone around me. I managed to live without it for a good few hours until I had an itching sensation to take a quick look at what everyone was up to. I could always login to my accounts using my laptop which wouldn’t really count as the format of these social media sites are completely different to how it was displayed on my phone. And so be it, I spent the next few hours stuck between the tabs of Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, endlessly scrolling through photos of my ex-boyfriends aunt and old school friends of whom I had no interest in reuniting with. It was only after I put down my laptop and realised how unproductive my day had been that I realised my addiction was serious.

Social Media has 4 core purposes; sharing, learning, interacting and marketing. Sharing information can either be private or public and can come in many forms such as pictures, writing, video and voice recordings. The beauty of this is that you have the ability to share anything; reviews, advertising and leisure. This way, you can learn more about a certain topic, find out what your friends and family are up to as well as interacting and responding to a certain post. I don’t doubt that the concept is overall positive as it brings together communities from all over the world. What if the interaction gets too much, toxic to you and your surroundings? After all, too much of anything does make you sick right? For example, if I didn’t like the colour of the tables at a particular restaurant, I am 99% sure that I will be unlikely to find another person who disliked the same tables through conversions during my day. On the internet, however, I could publicise my thoughts on Twitter, add a few hashtags, tag the restaurant and suddenly I’ve created a cult of cream coloured table haters. Social media’s purpose was to bring people together, though in practice this is just another way of absorbing useless information. 

Internet platforms have been designed to monopolise human attention by any means necessary (New York times). There have been many instances where I sit down to work but ended up scrolling through Instagram. I would then put down my phone and proceed to my actual tasks only to reward myself with some more social media after every new paragraph I had written. This cycle would continue until my tasks are completed in more than double the time I had intended to spend on it. Social media companies essentially use us as products. They thrive off our attention and our constant scrolling for PROFIT. The reason for Instagram’s algorithm to be in a non linear is so that we never reach the end, the scrolling never stop and the profits keep rolling in. Aside from this, the environments of every day life has changed. When was the last time you went walked into a waiting room where no one was on a phone? Or try and think about the last time you rode an entire bus journey without once reaching for your phone and actually enjoying the view outside. In my opinion, social media has caused more damage than good; the irony is that we now live in a world where everything we say has to be filtered and politically correct, a place where hate is spread faster and in a more destructive manner, a world where there are too many opinions from either side leaving you in a state of confusion and unrest.

After realising that I spent the vast majority of my day doing god-knows-what on these apps, I decided it was time for a change. I have now successfully been off Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for 40 days and counting, this is how I did it.

1.   Unfollow everyone and everything. 

 The main aim of this was to reduce the amount of content that was on my feed everyday, hence being able to go through it all in one sitting without having to constantly check my phone. It may sound tough, it’s actually pretty easy. I unfollowed every person that I had neither seen nor spoken to in the past year. This turned out to be quite a lot to my surprise, mostly people I had met once and just people at school. I also unfollowed the meme pages who had the worst quality memes or just spammed my feed with brand deals.

You will probably find that the number of followers you have will also decrease, and I too had an ache in my heart every time I saw the figures drop. However, I learnt not care much about this since I was finally seeing only the interesting content. 

2.   Delete the apps off your phone 

Since my feed had reduced so much, I grew bored of picking up my phone every now and then and watching over the same posts. The need to constantly scroll still hadn’t gone away and I became the first person to watch someones most recent story or the first to like a post. The frustration grew and the boredom grew further. As a result, I deleted the apps from my phone with no intention of getting them back.

If this seems like an extreme move for you try deleting the apps with the knowledge that you could always check your feed on a desktop – but keeping this at a minimum of course. After deleting the apps, I found myself only checking my feed on my laptop once a day, soon this reduced down to zero. 

What I learnt was that social media is not something I aspire to go back to. It did not improve the quality of my life – it was merely a distraction which diverged my tasks and plans. I can now read a book without an itching need to check my phone for notifications every few minutes, I can hold a conversation without keeping my head down and best of all, I can focus on and do my required tasks for the day in a reasonable amount of time, leaving me to do more.


Back to my homeland.

Part 1

We were delayed in the queue for the visas as it snaked around the arrivals lounge. Why did they work so slowly? Before us stood 4 counters each with a glum looking officer sat behind it, glancing cautiously at the passports of keen tourists, then at them and back at the passport again before handing them back with an even more suspicious look. The queue grew faster but the pace of the officers did not. I looked over my shoulders to three tired children for this was the longest plane journey they had embarked and the furthest they had been from the comfort of their home.

Finally we were let free. 

We caught the eyes of dozens of men asking if we were in need of a taxi. We were warned about them. Ten of them in shirts and ties surrounded us and came up so close as if we were animals at a petting zoo. There were about ten of them and they came up so close as if we were animals at a petting zoo. Our only instinct being to bow our heads and to walk straight ahead without taking notice of them. As I lugged my suitcase out through the air-conditioned airport, I was soon greeted by the sticky, humid air of the capital; its pressure compressing at my throat leaving me gasping for fresh air. It was 4am. ‘Great’, I thought, it could only get worse during the day. 

We waited for what seemed like hours for our ride to arrive. We stood under a perspex shelter; a single sheet of plastic protecting us from the hundreds of mosquitos which were dotted across the early morning sky. It was hard to think through the constant interruptions of screeching tyres and the beeping of horns by frustrated taxi drivers. I couldn’t believe I was finally here after all these years. There were police officers, or traffic wardens – I couldn’t quite tell. They were wearing mud brown uniforms, exactly like you saw in the movies. They blew their whistles at regular intervals, one by one, as if it was the tune to a song. An awful song it was. 

The sun was beginning to rise and the airport grew busier. There was a sudden flurry of locals and tourists wandering in and out of the airport in unison – a sight that was once just merely a dream. We stood still in the middle of it all, mesmerised for this was the place I left all those years ago and had never expected to come back.

We were picked up just before 5 and settled down for our long ride back to my old village. We were driven through the city which was once a place for the rich, now a way of living for everyone. Skyscrapers loomed over us, absorbing in the rays of the rising sun, preparing to start the new day. Just across the road were the waves of the Laccadive sea, crashing against the boulders of the seashore. Stall vendors were situated right along the sea front, preparing their goods for the busy day to come. 

Every road we turned into we were met with an abundance of tuktuks*, motorcycles and school buses, each honking at one another at different tones, competing for their place on the road. The van swayed in and between the lanes, beeping its way passed a motorcycle on which they had managed to fit 4 people. You would think things would have changed since the war, clearly they had not.

There were still no big roads connecting the city to the villages meaning we had to drive almost three hours through towns and villages to reach our destination. It was an extensive and laborious journey. The children were now fast asleep beside me, wrapped in the arms of each other for protection in this unfamiliar environment.

My eyes strained from the sunshine which had now fully emerged and was beaming at full strength across the country. The air conditioning was blasting throughout the car but this still wasn’t enough to replace the humid air. Outside, the villagers were going about their day; elderly men in their lungis** huddled around the tea shops listening intently to the designated reader who was dictating aloud the morning paper. Women hurried around the stalls negotiating the best prices for vegetables and freshly caught fish whilst the stray dogs rummaged around searching for any piece of scrap food they could find, before being shooed off by market owners. I caught myself smiling with an overwhelming sadness. I was now a foreigner in a land where once my future was destined, nothing will change that now.

It was almost midday when we drove passed a familiar pillar. I immediately perked up from my seat, we were almost here. The same old dried Palmyra leaves were being used as fences to separate one house from the next. I opened my window and took a deep breath as the same ocean wind blew across my face, we were by the coast. Cows on the side of the road sat alongside with the stray dogs, taking shade under the looming palm trees. The driver began to pull up by a large blue gate. I was back. I was back after all these years. Back to my homeland. 

*Tuktuk – A three wheeled auto rickshaw that is a motorised development of the traditional pulled rickshaw or cycle rickshaw.

**Lungi -The lungi is a type of sarong, that originated in the Indian subcontinent, worn around the waist as an alternative to trousers.

Volcano

How still he lay. 

No noise, no noise.

A surprise to us all for there was 

no grumble, only poise. 

We still made sure to creep around on our tiptoes, 

for noise of any kind could wake him in an instant. 

He woke up one day.

There were no stirs, however. 

No noise, no noise. 

Only the awakening of a looming figure

watching over us. Examining us.

Waiting to catch us off guard. 

He stayed awake. 

We went by our day silently and on edge,

He sat in our view growing impatient from 

day to night and night to day.

But still there was no noise, no – 

The grumbles began. An impending doom; a surprise we saw coming. 

He roared, rumbled, screeched.

Molten substances of red, orange, yellow spat at us. 

His grumble thundering in our ears.

But he could not catch us each time, no matter how hard he tried.

He couldn’t get us, he didn’t want to. 

Instead he destroyed our surroundings,

The furnishings of our home, the the flowers of our bed.

Gone. 

He sat in silence, voiceless. 

His anger turned to sadness 

whilst his sadness turned to pain

We waited for silence to return upon us. 

We did not claim ourselves to be victims of his destruction.

We were just the trigger.

And with that, he lay dormant again. 

The aftermath was peaceful.

He helped us plant our flowers.

We hoped the blossoms would appear this time, 

before he came to destroy them once more. 


The trouble with birthdays.

The trouble with birthdays: Only one thought had invaded my mind last month as I came to the daunting realisation that my birthday was fast approaching. Ageing had come easily to me during my more youthful years, yet now I was extremely bothered by the thought of having to ‘grow up’ – I was clearly not ready. I was afraid of the responsibility that was to make a sudden entrance. My parents were even suggesting that I move out into a place of my own as if I was: 1. financially stable and 2. had actually done any of my own laundry before. “You’ll thrive with the freedom”, they said. Which is true, especially when you’ve been living with the same people who absolutely don’t know about the meaning of personal space. I digress. As my birthday was approaching, I started questioning my successes the previous year. I had thrived in many ways but I still felt underwhelmed – as if there was more to be done. At times throughout the year, I was teased with glimpses of what my life would be like, but I knew there was still some distances to go. The problem was that I didn’t know how to get there. I plummeted with this depressive thought for a while, even tried to cancel my own birthday. To my delight, however, my mother had already planned out the colour of my birthday invitations to match perfectly with the recycling bin. I even thought about spending the day on my own, to find new self and find peace with the old me. Instead, when my special day did come, I spent it meditating beneath the walls draped with floral wallpaper between one of many sausage rolls I had that day. I may not have found the solutions to my problems but the day passed with ease – my mother did a great job with the party. Let’s just say that I won’t be moving out any time soon.

Helen of Troy

Let me tell you about Helen. I caught my eye upon her shadow as I strolled alongside the looming castle walls. A figure bathing within the holy waters, reserved for only a deity herself although I could not see that far along the plane. Curiosity had struck too late, as I found myself already heading towards the untouched river. 

“Unto what may you seek from these holy waters” – I exclaimed, keeping a distance from the figure for it may have been armed. I still could not clearly see the figure for the uprising steam from the hot thermal springs scattered for miles. Silence. I looked down at my riding boots which had now sunk an inch deep into the the mud. The mud always remained this way. The King claims it keeps the ungodly off the waters. It was, of course, from the humidity of the steam but one can never argue with the King. 

I exclaimed again “To what may you seek from these holy waters, show yourself”. My words remained empty, a simple echo. But then I saw a shadow approach me. I stood en garde. I may be in danger. What I saw next, though, was far from it. 

She emerged through the waters up onto the bank which was home to a multitude of lotus flowers, both open and closed. This was no time to admire the landscape for this mysterious shadow had now revealed itself. She possessed thundering beauty. Her face, sculpted so much to perfection that only the finest sculptors with much delicacy could have done the deed. Cardinal red ringlets tumbled over her shoulders and passed her bare back. She stood before, bare breasted. Even her voice was angelic as she pronounced, 

“Helen of Troy, Daughter of Zeus and wife of..” She paused, “Wife of Menelaus” 

Paralysis ran through my body. The Gods have come. The Gods have come unto our holy springs. Above all this, a celestial woman giving me a feeling that I have never before encountered. 

I abstained from telling the King about her. About the Goddess from above and her profound beauty. Instead, when he had his daily nap, I would tell the nurse not to wake him and then head down along the murky path where she would be waiting. Each time I saw her, I would be more mesmerised than the last, encapsulated by her world, fascinated by her flawless allure. I sat on the bank and her in the waters. Sometimes we would sit in silence and admire the river and its creatures. Other times, I would braid her hair whilst she sat transversal to me, speaking of her adventures of the past and the ones she’d wish would come. She never spoke of her marriage. I never spoke of mine. With her, I was in a state of infatuation. 

One day she asked me to join her in the waters.

“Come with me”, she said “Let us forget the life we lead and begin again once more”

This surprised me. I spoke, 

“A Goddess and a sovereign belong in opposite realms. We were anointed to take your messages and pass them to common folk. Such interaction with one so high up within the caste will for sure lead to my abdication.”

She lay for a few moments and collected her thoughts. Then, sat up, cupped her delicate hands around my face and spoke with such enunciation. 

“Even if his love has to be silenced, the freedom we possess will be is limitless. Embrace this lust my dear. Without such thing, what job will there be for my sister Aphrodite. How can we have escapades when we are locked up by patriotism. Embrace this love, my dear. One queen may go missing from this kingdom, but another will be dominated by two. So as a holy figure, I beseech you, to come with me. Let us begin once more.” 

And with that, I undressed and and joined my beloved. Only to never look back.