April – little victories

A merry May to one and all! Except, hang on, shouldn’t this be the April post? Yes, it should, but for the minor issue that we are in fact a week into May and there has been no sight nor sound of an April blog post. Allow me to backtrack a moment to a couple of weeks ago, when I sat at my laptop ready and raring to write all about April. I was in position, fingers poised over the keyboard, set to download another month in the life of The Fairytale Traveller. With a few pointers in mind, I wrote a sentence. Then I deleted it, wrote another, and deleted that. Several deleted lines later I stopped, frustrated. I just couldn’t seem to translate the thoughts in my mind into eloquent or even coherent text on the page. After persevering a while longer I gave up, realising that, like so many other writers, I had been thwarted by writer’s block.

Now it’s May and here I am still struggling, so instead of labouring any longer over elaborate storytelling techniques, I have come to the conclusion that sometimes in life, all one needs is a list. I would never say life is too short for a good story, but on days where the sun is scorching the earth, forcing you to venture outdoors, paddle in streams, and take shelter under hazy green canopies of woodland; or when the late spring blossom is falling like balmy summer snow from the trees, i.e. a day like today, just sometimes, a short and sweet list is all you need.

So without further a-do, here is April in a nutshell:

  • The first two weeks comprised little other than practising Wing Chun Kung Fu in order for me to pass my first grading (I did – yay!).
  • The following week was spent (perhaps unsurprisingly) resting/recovering from all the practice of the previous weeks. However, a tasty distraction came along in the form of a berry cake I baked for a springtime/family birthday treat.
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N.B. This is a brilliant cake to make at short notice/if you don’t have much time – the sponge is just standard and the fruit looks great whether you take time to create a pattern or simply chuck it all on and pile it up!

  • The final week in April encompassed a few miniature work-related accomplishments which I had been working towards for a while, though I won’t elaborate much as it would make little sense without context.
  • At some point during the month spring finally decided to arrive, bringing with it a tirade of daffodils all around my garden. If you’ve read my post February – and breathe…, you may recall the 40 daffodil bulbs I planted last winter, which had just begun to sprout. Well, they are well and truly here now, although not quite in the uniform, all-facing-the-right-direction way I had hoped for. Instead, well, let’s just say they have character…

 

So there you have it – April! Nothing too revolutionary, but who knows what May will entail, right? It was all about the little victories this month I think, which ultimately is what keeps you (or at least me) going in the long run.

Time to get back to the unseasonal warmth of May now, so have a great month everyone!

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March – opposites attract

At the beginning of the month I spent an evening at a sort of farewell gathering with my friend and her family, before bidding her goodbye as she travelled halfway across the world to a place called Azad Kashmir. She is of Pakistani origin and her family is large, with more cousins and aunts and uncles than one can easily fathom, but their family unit is something special. Sitting around the dinner table laden with colourful dishes, each emitting aromas which simultaneously made my stomach grumble and my eyes water, the feeling of hungry anticipation was unanimous. As her honorary guest I was offered the first portion, which would have been fine had I known what to choose. Being very much of Celtic origin, all I could request was ‘the least spicy, please,’ as I was handed a dish of something unknown. Of course it was delicious, though the side-gallon of water was definitely necessary. My friend took great care that I was only given food my taste buds could handle, for which I was eternally grateful.

As I walked home later that evening, I felt a cosy warmth inside that had nothing to do with the vast amount of spicy food I had consumed. The whole evening had been so positive and friendly, but most of all, in a bizarre parallel-universe sort of way, familiar. A feeling of happy realisation came over me as I suddenly understood that her family was the same as mine, right down to the package of leftovers I carried home for later. I thought about everything, from the amount of people wandering in and out of her house during the evening, to the myriad cousins, uncles, aunts and family friends, to the meal itself with more food than anyone could really eat, to the cultural bond which tied everyone together. Despite the supposed opposite exteriors, the parallels between our families were uncanny.

Living in England, I only really see my immediate family, which isn’t quite the same as being among what seems like hundreds of people milling about and turning up at your house just for the craic. A short hop over the Irish Sea however, and you’ll find a totally different story. The majority of my family are Irish, which, for any Irish readers out there, probably means there’s no need to continue. For everyone else though, I’ll explain. Being the daughter of a parent with nine siblings whose ages span over a couple of decades, I have over fifty cousins, including various recent offspring from the older ones. The latter may not strictly be classed as cousins, but to avoid complex family trees we tend to just label them as such. Needless to say, family gatherings are large. And fun – really fun – but mostly large. There’s always tons of food, heaps of leftovers, and that buzz which only comes from being part of a big family unit. If nothing else, the Irish culture never fails to promote inclusion, friendship, and full stomachs.

Minus the spices, and it becomes extremely difficult to differentiate between my family and that of my friend.

I’ve travelled to Ireland almost every year of my life so far, and every time I’m greeted by that same good humour and acceptance. Living in the next door country the majority of the time, I sometimes forget that familial buzz, but spending just one evening with my friend and her family revived that feeling tenfold.

This month has been very much one of restlessness and yearning to get out and explore more, but that evening brought with it another dimension to my perspective of the world. No matter how different the exterior – cultural, physical, environmental, etc. – more often than not, our roots remain the same.

Lemon cake, tea and samosas – a perfect multicultural mix!

 

If you read this Asra, thanks for reminding me of that all too important family spirit, and even more so for the samosas!

What’s in a Name?

During my time at university, I took a creative writing module which explored a variety of writing styles and techniques, and encouraged us to think more abstractly about our own style. To put this into practice we were set a task, which required us to pair our names with the five main senses and create a ‘description’ of our name.

Although the task was only to describe our own name, I couldn’t resist doing the same for another. Alexis. It was a name given to a character in a novel I began, a name I have always loved, and also the name with which I was almost christened. Sometimes I think I would have preferred to be called Alex, or Alexandra, or Alexis, as the name feels significantly stronger than Sarah. Is that weird to think? Can names be strong, or are they simply what we make them? I feel Sarah is soft, not weak, but not powerful either. Sarah is safe, comfortable, secure, but Alex shouts adventure, courage, strength! I have always loved the etymology of names, and spend hours choosing names for my characters in stories. But this was something new, unexpected, and fresh to muse over, so here are my descriptions, which make my feelings of these two names abundantly clear.

Sarah

My name is the colour of ripe peaches. It smells like fresh country air and feels soft but solid, like a well-plumped cushion. My name tastes sweet, like melting toffee and sounds like water flowing gently down a stream.

Alexis

If my name was Alexis, it would be deep purple with streaks of yellow; strong like the indigo night flashing with light just before the storm breaks. It would smell like deep forests, where the light rarely penetrates. It would feel solid, with no hint of weakness, despite its rounded corners. It tastes like red grapes, solid but sweet once bitten, with a slight tang at the end. It sounds like a firework, first a whispering hiss followed by a great explosion of uniqueness.

So there you have it – fairly obvious which is the ‘stronger’ name. The fact is though, I like both of them, even though I far more fit the description of my actual name. I envy Alexis, I really do, but I also think some softness is required, particularly with the harsh traumas being inflicted on the world at the moment. So I will be content with Sarah, whilst taking my adventuring one step at a time as always. Sarah is good, Sarah is solid, but there’s another thing to remember too.

The middle name, so often secret, hidden away like a constant embarrassment. I’m not embarrassed of my middle name, rather, I think of it as a secret strength to use when times are tough. Una. That’s my name, Sarah Una, which brings yet another element to the softness of Sarah. Una brings strength, but a more magical, fantastical power, I think. Una brings majesty and brightness; a different type of adventure than Alexis, but adventure none the less. Una lifts Sarah, and Sarah keeps Una grounded, together creating a fusion of fantastic soundness.

So what does make up the fabric of a name? I guess only us as individuals will know, as they do become so closely intertwined with our personality. Regardless of that, it’s interesting to think about. Maybe in a few years Sarah won’t mean sanctuary any more, maybe Una will take the helm and steer her across new realms of strength and weakness and open up a whole world of experience. Maybe, or maybe not. Either way, Sarah Una is solid; Sarah Una is an entity in herself, and Sarah Una is determined to explore, achieve and drive herself to write her own outstanding, sparkling story.

When I have writer’s block

I have only realised recently that, when I have writer’s block, it’s not because I am not focused on my story, but because I am too focused. If there is pressure to write, I simply can’t do it. The words jam in my mind like a blocked drain, with water building up and straining to bursting point. The best words come to me at the most inconvenient times; usually as I am just dropping off to sleep, out and about with friends, at work, or in the middle of doing a hundred different jobs. They come to me in a furious flurry, driving into my head until I can’t ignore them anymore, and have to write them down. Then they shimmer on the page, and my mind rages as inspiration begins to flow. Writer’s block is like a river dam, broken down only by a sudden gush of uncontrollable revelation.

When I’m away with the fairies – making up random characters in my head, giving them personalities and emotions, relationships and secrets – that’s when the cogs in my mind begin to turn. When I’m in a world of my own, daydreaming, night dreaming, half-listening whilst scribbling doodles absentmindedly, the cogs are turning, cooking up new adventures for my naïve characters. Creating enemies and lovers, trustworthy friends and unruly scallywags. When my mind begins to slip . . . ever so slightly . . . down the rabbit hole . . . that’s when everything becomes shiny and exotic. The slumbering adjectives and verbs begin to rouse, the thisckles and scillywocks awaken, and the mythical creatures and angry tyrants stretch and yawn. Myths and legends solidify to truth, the adventurers line up at the starting mark, and the story begins.

Absurdist Plays and Claims to Fame

I actually wrote this piece several years ago during my first year of university. For some reason I side-lined it for a rainy day, even though it always brought a smile to my face the few times I stumbled across it afterwards. Now I’ve finished uni, a new sense of nostalgia has joined the happiness I feel when reading this piece, together with the need to preserve the memory. Aside from a little necessary doctoring (it’s amazing how much one’s writing can develop in a few short years) this story remains the same as the day it was created.

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A short while ago, as part of one my modules at university, I was asked to read the play ‘Waiting for Godot’, written by Irish playwright and poet Samuel Beckett. After flicking through the bible-thin pages of my literature anthology, I found the play in question and began to read with that all too familiar excited sensation of beginning a new book. Within minutes however, that feeling – a feeling I would soon accept as the norm – was crushed.

The play was insane. Insane, ridiculous nonsense which would crush anybody’s spirits with its convoluted, pointless dialogue and dismal setting. Having said that though, it fitted perfectly into its namesake genre: ‘Absurdist’. It was a play that meant nothing, where the characters talked with speech which amounted to nothing. After slogging my way through Act 1, my brain couldn’t take any more of the gobbledegook, and I had to go cook some ‘brain food’ (fish fingers). Afterwards, lo and behold, I had a brainwave! Instead of reading the play, I could watch it, by the aid of the wonderful invention of YouTube. Once again I settled down and, strangely, just ten minutes later I found myself laughing at the performance on the screen. It’s amazing how words on paper come alive through performance. I’ve never been much of a dramatic, but sometimes for the magic to happen you really do have to see it with your own eyes.

Anyway, the next day my friends appeared to have discovered the same thing as me, and we returned to our Poetry and Drama class with renewed hope for ‘Waiting for Godot’. We soon began to understand in more depth why exactly this was classed as an ‘Absurdist’ play. Of course, then came the questioning of the author. Why would Samuel Beckett choose to write a play like this; a play that supposedly makes no sense no matter how deeply you look into the so-called plot? What were his influences? Was he insane, or just the subject of an era of hard times? The usual answers of course – religion, politics, and feminism. I won’t enter into a debate of exploring the intricate mind of Mr. Beckett now, but rather I will skip ahead a few days to when I visited home, and told my family about this ‘Absurd’ experience.

I happened to mention the play when I was home one weekend, and at once my mum’s ears seemed to prick up. Like Samuel Beckett she is Irish through and through and, given the pint-sized population of Ireland, that means that one way or another everybody in the Republic of Ireland knows each other. Saying that, there are now approximately four million people living there, but still, I should have guessed what was coming… “Samuel Beckett was related to my mother.”

Surprise didn’t quite cover my reaction. Although, simultaneous to my surprise swept into my mind the widely-used phrase among my Irish relatives, ‘Ireland is a village’ which rapidly turned the situation into something entirely possible. I am technically (and by technically I mean my great aunt’s something’s something, so I have approximately one percent Beckett blood) related to Samuel Beckett, the renowned novelist, playwright, theatre director and poet. Not a bad claim to fame I reckon. Plus, as I mentioned to my friend in the next poetry lecture, it probably explains why my imagination is slightly questionable at times!

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Hope you enjoyed reading this blast from the past as much as I did!

Thanks for stopping by 🙂

Snippets

Here’s the thing, as much as I love to write, write, and write some more, I don’t have as much time as I’d like to bash out all my thoughts and wonders. There are SO MANY things I want to write about, mostly places I’ve travelled to, and of course those little bits of magic in everyday life. But at the moment I’m feeling the pressure, as I really want to keep up with my blog and The Fairytale Traveller persona but, thanks to my new full-time job, simply do not have the mental capacity to open my laptop and write when I return home from work. So I’ve had an idea which will relieve some pressure, and that idea comes in the form of ‘Snippets’.

‘Snippets’ will be exactly that. Snippets of writing, instead of longer stories, poems, and general warblings. Instead of pushing myself to write long pieces every time, ‘Snippets’ will enable me to throw a few thoughts onto (virtual) paper every so often, to maintain my blogging regularity without feeling the necessity to write something more substantial or ‘deep’. Also, in truth, not all of the magical moments I witness are set in epic surroundings – often they are tiny and momentary, but still deserve to be captured.

So I will write to you in snippets, and will title each one ‘Snippet: [title]’, so you know it can be read at a glance. At the moment I’m celebrating a four day weekend thanks to Easter, so I have the luxury of stocking up on longer pieces, ready to release as and when, but I will give you a taster of a snippet; a snippet of a snippet, if you will.

Snippet: When Dogs Fly

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The hurdle jumper that never was.

The day was sunny, my camera was primed. I had taken a number of snaps already, but this one absolutely caught the excitement of the day. The sheer joy and exhilaration on Jet’s face as he flew for a millisecond will always be with me. Even if he does spend the rest of his time curled up on the rug, I’ll remember this perfect moment, and i’m pretty sure he does too as he snuffles away, paws twitching frantically in his sleep.

The universe was hers to hold, little did she know…

The universe was hers to hold, little did she know

Hers to mould and shape

The world would reform at her command

Reform, or crack and break

But she lost it to another, whose hand was mightier still

And he threw the earth to ruin

And spat on the lands until

 

She returned with a force

So powerful and bright

And called it the sun

And the moon at night

To guard the world from all peril

Demons and shadows borne from the devil

 

And the mighty one hid between the cracks

In the lava and smoke above land

But there he was spied, too late to hide

And was banished by her towering hand

 

To a place of hate and sorrow

A place of trickery and blight

Until the day of reckoning

The day he saw the light

When she flew to him from the ashes

Of a war he had wreaked one night

 

She grasped his steely hand

And flew low under skies of red

Soaring over trees and mountaintops

Littered with bodies of the dead

 

This is your doing, this is your world

To the heavens she roared

To the seas she hurled

Words of anger, words to scare

Words to force thought, words to make him care

 

But care he could not, for his heart was stone

And so she saw, he could not be alone

So placing him down on the edge of the land

Staring into the abyss, she took his hand

 

A life like no other, a life like this…

She gestured her arm away

To a land touched by the devil’s kiss

This was your vision, this was your dream

To rule from the skies, to command unseen

But you failed to deliver

Failed to commit

And thus your world is destroyed, and you with it

 

Here now we stand, together but apart

In the hopes of recovery, and a new start

Of building a legacy from an era of pain

But it can be done, as before when I came

And created the sun, the moon and the stars

To watch over earth, and heal its scars

 

Together we can rule, together we can fly

Together we can create and love, you and I

Harmony is all I ask

So, will you accept this task?

 

Know that I am patient, know that I am strong

Know that I will never give up, and that I am never wrong

For I am the goddess of wonder and starlight, of light and majesty and peace

I am the one who guides this world, and all the universe apiece

 

My eye sees beyond this world to the next, and everything within

It sees the war and destruction, and everything akin

It sees you amongst people, walking and building homes

It sees you loving and pleasing, smiling and writing tomes

For you will lead again, my friend

You will shine and dance

Because I can transform you to brilliance

If you would only give me a chance

 

Say yes to me now and the world is saved

Say no and it is doomed

Give me your word and your heart my friend, and the way forward is paved

For I am the goddess of twilight, the goddess of dawn and dew

And I pledge to help, my friend, to remove the darkness from you

 

Slowly he faced her, red eyes gleaming in the dark

A single tear rolled down a blackened cheek

The whispering groan of a breaking heart

The choice has been made, he growled, offering his lethal claw

Do with me what you will, I have a care no more

 

She held his hand gently, like a damaged and fragile thing

And bowing her head low, softly began to sing

The darkness vanished, replaced with dazzling light

The hand was clear, unmarked of any plight

Stand tall my friend, for you are anew

You have changed your ways, you will live as true

 

Tall and proud, there stood he

Made for goodness, made to be free

For the evil was banished, gone, destroyed

Leaving only a shell, a puppet to be toyed

And she took his hand and whispered a word

Then guided him away, to a place unheard

To live once more, in a land of love

In a land of starlight and wonder

Cast down from the universe above