Ashes to Ashes

Life and death. There is no greater contrast, no two things that are as polar opposite as life is to death, as all the emotions associated with life are to all the emotions associated with death.

On Friday, a friend told me that she had just found out the night before that a relative of hers had died in the Bataclan theatre last week. I hugged her as she cried, trying to comfort her but feeling totally inadequate. What could I say? What could I tell her to make her feel better? It made me think a lot about why people do things like this – how human beings can shoot innocent people. I don’t understand it. It’s confusing and scary and crazy – the world has become a confusing and scary and crazy place.

And then I found out that a teacher who I really like is pregnant and I felt so happy for her. Life and death. Devastating tragedy and then overwhelming happiness. Friday was a roller coaster of a day.

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TTFN

It’s been a year. Well, technically, it’s been a year and a week and two days. A year and a week and two days since I posted my first post and began my career as I blogger. It’s been a long year, a year full of things that I never expected would happen and a year that has crawled by too quickly.

I’ve learnt a lot from this year. I have learnt that I can have a voice, that I can talk to a wider audience of strangers – who won’t agree with me or listen to me because they have to – and share my opinions. I have learnt that there is a place where I can write and where people will read. I have learnt that I can’t be too terrible because, although it is only a modest amount, I do have some followers. I have learnt that I can write.

And now I have that confidence, I’m taking a break. A break from blogging, not from writing. So I just wanted to say thank you to everyone and anyone who has ever stumbled across my blog and who has taken the time out of their lives to read my words and share my thoughts. Thank you for giving me a platform, an audience, a reason to write.

I don’t know how long this break will be. But I do hope that I will be able to come back and start blogging again  some time soon. I’m not saying goodbye. In the words of Tiger, I am simply saying TTFN (Tut-tut for now).

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Impressions

There is an exhibit on at the National Gallery: Inventing the Impressionists. It tells the story of Paul Durand – Ruel, the French art dealer who brought and displayed, marketed and sold early Impressionist pieces of art, whilst they were still being ridiculed, and supported the artists, both financially and in other ways, whilst the rest of the world laughed at them.

Now, however, it is they who are laughing as the rest of the world stand in awe at the beauty and creativity of each picture. The Impressionists emerged with photography; whereas art had previously been about capturing a life like image of a place or person, people now had cameras and art became much less about the details and much more about the use of colour and light and the artists own… Well, impression.

These artists include Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Pissarro. Masters, artists, talented, inspiration. People who are now revered and admired and heralded as the greats. But these people fought against the most tremendous odds to become the greats; people would laugh at their modern approach and critics would insult their work. And yet they fought. And succeeded. Because it might be a struggle, but we can fight to become anything we want to be.

One feature of Impressionist art is the small but visible brushstrokes that make up the painting. If you were to look at just a small section of the canvas, you would only see blobs of paint and small lines from the paintbrush. But when you step back and look at the entire painting, it becomes something beautiful; a landscape or a garden or a person or some flowers.

It is was to get bogged down by life and the small, mundane problems and details that weave the fabric of our very existence. And when we do something, like smile at someone or say thank you, it might seem like a small or insignificant dabble of paint on the canvas. But when we step back or look back, we might realise that our ‘insignificant’ deed was the final stroke of the brush, the one that completed the painting. We have no idea of the power our actions have. So we have to ensure that we are always adding something to the overall painting, not detracting from its breathtaking beauty.

There is an exhibit on at the National Gallery: Inventing the Impressionists. It tells the story of Paul Durand – Ruel, the French art dealer who brought and displayed, marketed and sold early Impressionist pieces of art, whilst they were still being ridiculed, and supported the artists, both financially and in other ways, whilst the rest of the world laughed at them.

Now, however, it is they who are laughing as the rest of the world stand in awe at the beauty and creativity of each picture. The Impressionists emerged with photography; whereas art had previously been about capturing a life like image of a place or person, people now had cameras and art became much less about the details and much more about the use of colour and light and the artists own… Well, impression.

These artists include Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Pissarro. Masters, artists, talented, inspiration. People who are now revered and admired and heralded as the greats. But these people fought against the most tremendous odds to become the greats; people would laugh at their modern approach and critics would insult their work. And yet they fought. And succeeded. Because it might be a struggle, but we can fight to become anything we want to be.

One feature of Impressionist art is the small but visible brushstrokes that make up the painting. If you were to look at just a small section of the canvas, you would only see blobs of paint and small lines from the paintbrush. But when you step back and look at the entire painting, it becomes something beautiful; a landscape or a garden or a person or some flowers.

It is was to get bogged down by life and the small, mundane problems and details that weave the fabric of our very existence. And when we do something, like smile at someone or say thank you, it might seem like a small or insignificant dabble of paint on the canvas. But when we step back or look back, we might realise that our ‘insignificant’ deed was the final stroke of the brush, the one that completed the painting. We have no idea of the power our actions have. So we have to ensure that we are always adding something to the overall painting, not detracting from its breathtaking beauty.

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Lose Control

Yes. It is the tagline, the words gracing the top of the film poster, the words which, apparently, should sum up the whole film. Not that I’ve read it, or seen it or plan on doing either in the future. And so it’s not Fifty Shades of Grey I want to talk about. Not really.

Premiering last week (I think), there are film posters for it everywhere, announcing it’s existence and shouting to the world. There is one at the bus stop I wait at every day. And on the other side of the board, on the outside part of the bus stop, there is another advert. A picture of soldiers, clad proudly in their khaki uniforms, shouldering guns, staring out and advertising the British Army. And, on one of the soldier’s eyes, someone has stuck a piece of bright pink chewing gum.

Talk about priorities. Gum stuck on an advert for the British Army, the people who risk their lives for queen and country but an advert for Fifty Shades of Grey left clean.

There is a difference between a book, an inappropriate book which teaches people that abuse is ok and that manipulating, stalking, threatening and hurting girls is acceptable and soldiers who risk getting killed. If we can’t respect the soldiers but can withhold from disrespecting an advert for an inappropriate book, what does that say about society? That we truly have lost control.

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Are you Listening Again?

Shhh…. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

Are you scared of what you’ll find,

If you listen with closed mouth and open mind?

Shhh… Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

Why don’t you want to know what I have to say?

Or will you ignore me anyway?

Shhh… Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

To hear my words, the words I speak,

Do you think they’ll make you weak?

Shhh…. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

What do you think I’m going to tell,

That makes you ignore me as well.

Shhh…. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

Why do you join everyone else and shun me

Why is the truth so hard to see?

Shhh…. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

Do you think I’m going to embarrass you,

What is it you think I’m going to do?

Shhh…. Are you listening? Can you hear?

Or is that your biggest fear?

Shhh… Are you listening? Can you hear?

Well I’m speaking anyway, despite your fear.

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Are you Listening?

“Hi”, she says, with a smile, a grin,

But she hopes someone will see the pain, look within,

The happiness in her voice, it’s just a farce

But the pain behind it? She knows that will last.

The chatter goes on, she makes a joke,

Ignoring the feelings their delight evokes.

Will someone realise, will anyone hear?

Will she have to live with constant fear?

Their conversation echoes through her head,

As careless laughter conceals her dread.

The hurt she can’t forget branded inside,

Even if tears have long ago dried.

But when someone asks her “are you okay?”

She quickly replies “I’m fine today!”

Hoping and praying there’ll be someone who sees

That she’s really deeply unhappy.

But no one does, no one hears,

And she lives silently with her fears,

No one listens, no one cares:

Why would it matter to them how she fares?

The clouds of memory are sliced by the pain,

But it’s almost over: never again!

The blood on her wrists, in the light it glistens,

And simply because nobody listens.

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Completely Beside Ourselves

‘We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves’ by Karen J. Fowler is a novel that will make you view relations, not just between sisters but also between siblings, in a completely different light. I can promise that, when the twist hits you on page 77, you will a) be so flabbergasted you will have to pause and then read the sentence again and b) never see your siblings, especially sisters, in the same way again.

It is a novel about love and hate and sibling rivalry, in a way which these themes have never been presented in before. It focusses on the relationship between Rosemary and Fern, sisters who are part of a scientific experiment. Because although Rosemary is a normal child, a regular little girl, Fern is a chimpanzee. A real chimpanzee. The novel is told from Rosemary’s perspective and discusses her childhood, the childhood she shared with a chimp. Towards the end of the book, Rosemary reveals that she felt Fern was the favourite child and that, in jealousy, she told her mum she was scared of Fern and of what Fern would do to her. Fern was sent away the next day. Just like a child who causes problems is institutionalised, Fern is sent away from her family, from all that she knows. But this is different, because Fern, as an animal, doesn’t have the basic rights that an ill or mentally unstable child would have, that even the worst criminals are afforded.

It’s interesting that Rosemary comments in the book “Language is such an imprecise vehicle I sometimes wonder why we bother with it.” Language is what separates us from animals. It is language that lets us communicate, gives us free choice and distinguishes us as humans. Rosemary used her speech to hurt Fern, even though she didn’t fully appreciate the impact her words would have.

Sometimes language is frustrating and imprecise. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it properly. When we abuse our privilege of speech, we can hurt others and sometimes our words have consequences that we would never imagine they could. So we need to be careful with what we say. Otherwise, what makes us any better than an animal?

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