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!

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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.

Snippet #2: Blank page

I’m staring at this blank page, thinking, hoping, willing something to appear. What do I write? Where do I begin? I have so many thoughts, so many ideas, and yet they refuse to materialise on the page. I could do so much. I could write a masterpiece! This is how every single author started out, so how did they begin?

After several minutes of scrutinising the resolute blank canvas in front of me, I come to this conclusion; in the battle of paper versus mind, paper wins every time.

After several more minutes I realise this; it is not about a battle. Writing is about closing your eyes and letting the words flow through your fingers onto the paper. If they are ready to be released, they will be. Simple as.

So, a paragraph into nothing, where do I start…?

My words are not quite ready, it seems.

 

 

Here’s a link to the idea behind my ‘snippets’: Snippets

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.

Snippet #1: Magic lies in the eye of the beholder

Today I wanted to blog, but for some reason the words just didn’t materialise. I hummed and hawed and trialed and trawled, and then gave up and went outside to enjoy the sun and mess about with my camera. As a result of spending a couple of hours clambering around my rockery and scruffing with the dog, I bring to you my first official ‘Snippet’. If you haven’t read my previous post introducing ‘Snippets’, take a quick peek at this post: Snippets.

Not just beauty, but magic too lies in the eye of the beholder. Or so I discovered today through these photographs taken quite literally in my own backyard.

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His eye glimmers with the sky, the breeze, the trees. He sits to watch the world go by, carefree but watchful. 

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Anybody else scrunch up their nose while they drink?

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These paws were made for walking, although the pinky fur was a surprise. Maybe he should be a rose-golden retriever?

Today I got lost in the wilderness in a whole new way, and I’ll be damned if I don’t wish it would happen again soon. Detail is everything in this world, without it everything would become grey. I saw the world in the eyes of my dog today, and a whole other world of peace, harmony, and natural beauty rose to welcome me.

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“The flower that blooms in adversity is the most rare and beautiful of all.” – Mulan

 

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.

Can I get a ‘HELL YEAH!’?

Ever had that moment when you’re browsing online, perhaps trolling through social media on your phone, when suddenly something so wonderful appears that it simply cannot be ignored? It leaves your thumb hovering in mid-air like some ungainly fleshy insect that has forgotten how land. It seems to hum, or maybe that’s just your thumb beginning to shake from hanging in mid-air so long. I’m talking about a simple thumbnail image of a place unknown, glowing artificially through the screen, reflecting in your widened eyes like a beacon of starry-eyed possibility. Because the place is beautiful, exciting, entrancing, intriguing, mysterious, unknown…

 

Your senses begin to awaken. The want. The yearning. The wanderlust. You must find this place, this unknown place that has caught your eye, locked your mind, electrified your heart, and hurled your senses into overdrive. You take a hasty screenshot of the place, and flick to your contacts list. You scroll, scroll further. Who will you choose? Who will you take on this adventure? Scrolling, more scrolling. Always broke, always ill, always working.

 I don’t know… How much would it cost? How far away is it? How would we get there? When will we go? 

I don’t know. I literally have no idea. But I don’t care. We’ll make it work. We’ll take the train, the bus, a car, save up money – plan properly. But right now, I don’t care. We’ll make it work. Where there’s a will there’s a way, and all that. Let’s have a picnic in a forest! Let’s sing to the stars! Let’s get lost in a foreign city! Let’s fall in love with people, places, things, moments! Let’s run through the night and breathe, really breathe for once. Let’s just go. This is the time for excitement, anticipation, exploration!

But no. Questions, questions, questions, contaminating the excitement until it crumples into a subdued possibility. One day, we say, when we’re less busy. The image drops into the infinite backlog of photographs. Wishes and memories all bound together to peruse while sitting at home; on the bus; to sneak glances of at work; to sigh over, whilst getting ready for bed.

Memories become wisps, wishes become pangs of regret.

Just one day, I wish that someone would be spontaneous with me. It used to happen, during watery dawns and shivering twilights, star-spangled nights and sunshiney days. Then life caught up, and reality claimed us once more. We were enveloped into the rat-race and set on an ever-circling track. Round and round with no exit, other than throwing ourselves into the abyss.

Except our minds remain our own. Our hearts and hopes beat in a unique drumbeat of curiosity. We know it’s not enough, this endless cycle of grey travel to grey offices with grey people. We know. Deep down, we all know. Yet still nobody will be spontaneous with me. First come work, house, money, time. Then adventure, if we’re lucky.

That’s just not good enough for me. I feel restless, so restless. I need spontaneity sometimes. Not constantly, but sometimes it’s good to rock the boat a little. I don’t want all those exciting images to go to waste, I want to live and breathe them, and inspire others to do the same. Problem is, I don’t want to do it alone. I could go by myself, as so many others do. But I don’t want to, as I thrive so much more in company. Just one person would do; a security, a buffer, a friendly face to share the experience. But no, once more I am forced to add the enticing picture to the hundreds of other backlog images, gathering dust until they themselves turn grey.

What can I do? What can I say? Let’s just go! Let’s just stay…

All I want is one person who, instead of dragging up anxieties, will say ‘Hell yeah! Let’s go!’ It might take days to plan, it might take months, but all I want – all I yearn for – is someone to really feel that adrenaline rush of wanderlust, same as me.

I live in England, let’s face it, in a couple of years travel abroad will be a whole lot more difficult… So why wait, why settle now? Why not take the chance while it’s there? I’m sure I’m not alone in this, so if anyone does crave an adventure like me, please get in touch. Everyone needs an adventure sometimes, whether or not they realise!

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