Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Hell Amongst the Clouds.

I needed a holiday. As I sat frowning, wallowing in self-pity and sinking in the bomb-site scattering of revision notes around me; it’s all I could think about. Sick of being teased by the music channel videos with their idyllic beach parties and the Thomas Cook ‘azure blue sky meets crystal clear waters’ adverts, the girls and I snapped and booked ourselves a snippet of joy to hang on to. Majorca? 1 week? Own villa? By the beach? Yes please.

So through the monotonous, dark and turbulent exam season I persevered (or rather poor mum did with my hormonal outbursts and panic attacks), all the while fixated on the girls get-away guiding light at the end of the tunnel. Surprisingly, before we knew it, we were on our way.
Giddy and giggling with excitement, we waded through the security searches (anyone else actually start to question whether they’re a criminal here?!), drenched ourselves in fancy perfumes at Duty Free and in true student style, got to boarding late. Our punishment? We had to take any random dispersed seats we could find. Oh well, we were going on holiday! Besides, we’d all been separately trained to endure bouts of isolated boredom over the previous months and at least this time there’d be no test at the end. Nothing could diminish our optimism, or so I thought.

Description: http://www.talktostrangersblog.com/wp-content/gallery/strangers/airplane-window.jpgSeatbelts on. Plane takes off. Hell commences.

I was trapped, next to a child. Now don’t get me wrong, I adore children-the smiling, fascinated, wide eyed little munchkins- but not this child. This one was something else. As we soared above the clouds, the icy realisation trickled in; I’d be wedged in this window seat next to this fidgeting little whinger, who made it his unrelenting aim to invade my personal space, for quite some time. As the minutes crawled by, the torture intensified.

First came the question siege, progressing from the harmless ‘How old are you?’ ‘Where do you live?’ to the more testing ‘What’s your favourite Nintendo game?’ ‘How long does it take you to read a book?’ It was exhausting and each answer seemed to fuel more of the perpetual probing. No amount of the quick ‘smile and turn to the window’ seemed to deter him either. With his detached mother seemingly engrossed in her Hello! mag, he was hungry for attention; my attention.

Next commenced his operation ‘dissolve all barriers’. After feeble attempts to hold my ground with a subtle armrest battle (which failed miserably when he took to poking my arm with his sticky little digits) he decided to solidify his authority.  Before I knew it, he’d lifted up the armrest entirely and begun seating his action figures upright on the seat, my side of the seat. As Spiderman’s foot dug into my thigh, I wanted to pick him up, bite his plastic head off and hurl him out of the window. But of course I did all I pathetically could; squirmed and smiled. The boy, who declared himself as Damien -of course triggering the Omen theme tune to commence in my head- shot me a daring look with his dark and menacing eyes.  I felt strangely intimidated; I daren’t defy this little air demon.

As he began placing his crayons on my table one by one, I grabbed for my IPod. Perhaps I could escape through some soft soul music, close my eyes and sink into a slumber? No such luck. My headphones were broken so instead of hearing the soft effortless tone of Sam Cooke, I received a sharp electrical fizzling which spat viciously at my eardrums. Wonderful.

Then came the smell. With the slight turbulence wobbling my gut as it was, along with the kicking little madam behind me delivering some charming little jolts to my lower back; I was feeling rather queasy. The air-demon must have sensed this. Soon, after a loud, aggressive rustling, a thick and pungent stench wafted into my window seat cell. Aside the distinctively meaty roast beef crisps, there was definitely some other smell meandering up my nostrils and causing me to heave. I opened my eyes to find the source and there I found my answer; the air demon had removed his shoes.

He turned deviously to me again, fixating on my discomfort. A satanic relish flickered across his eyes. As I watched the corners of his mouth (smothered in a crispy saliva residue) curl cunningly and felt my cheeks throb hotly, the realisation hit me; I was sitting next to the devil incarnate.

Eventually, after more of his probing and rude demands for treats off the food cart -to which his submissive mother meekly obeyed-the flight of eternal damnation ended. Never have I got off a plane so rapidly. But as I stepped out into that heat, all my fluster and distress melted away. As the gentle sunlight settled on my skin, I peered around at the quiet sizzling scene and caught the eyes of my waiting friends. We’d made it and that’s all that mattered. And as for the air demon? Well, as they say ‘You’ve got to go through hell before you get to heaven’. And oh boy did we get to heaven.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Shaking the world

A month ago today, on the 22nd February 2012,  a heroine fell
An intrepid martyr to truth, a fearless inspiration and a truly remarkable human being- war correspondent Marie Colvin’s death was more than a tragedy.

I’m always told it’s important for teenagers to have role-models. Be it Becks, BeyoncĂ© or Rowling; we are all consistently advised to swallow some inspiration. It’s a valid point. But what happens when you lose yours to the barbaric shelling of al-Assad’s vicious, uncontrolled Syrian forces?  I’m sitting here struggling to do Colvin justice with words, because in all honesty, the courage of my role-model was beyond words.
Living a career immersed in the stirring atrocities of the warzone, submerged in the suffering of the oppressed and sunken deep into the world’s most perilous pits- Colvin embodied the extremities of human courage. 

Colvin lived life, not on the edge, but at the intensely dangerous, flaming core. And this is where she thrived. She once spent a period on the Sunday Times foreign desk managing other reporters and editing; the boredom nearly killed her. Colvin was born for the front line. Being strafed by Russian war planes, hunted by Tamil tigers In Sri-Lanka, escaping blood-lusting crowds in Cairo; this was Colvin.  The reporter of turbulent truths, the asker of searing questions, the passionate risk taker who opened our eyes and shook the international community into taking notice; this was Colvin.

I really struggled with her death. Yes I was an avid follower, have keen interest in her field of work and had the privilege of sitting at her foreign desk seat during work experience last year; but there was something more potent that troubled me. Every day we’ll turn on our tellies, watch the news, frown at the suffering and feel that uniform pang of sympathy. But then what? It’s just one quick flick of the button to extinguish that flicker of emotional distress with some light-hearted reality TV. We’re laughing within minutes. But Marie’s work is the reality- the cold, sickening and inconvenient truth of our war-torn world- and she was in the thick of it. As we pop the kettle on and sit there comfortably, she was being the  “someone [who] has to go out and see what is happening”.

But you know all this. Yes she was a role model for journalists, an inspiration for women-taking the almost exclusively male world of war reporting in her stylish , feminine stride; but you’ve read all this before. So here’s the truth; Marie Colvin isn’t really dead. The ripples of her unfaltering courage will resonate on and the echo of her impassioned plight will forever linger across the warzones and settle in the throbbing hearts of others out there now, doing what she did. She’s so far yet so near.

Marie Colvin has taught me a profound lesson; the importance of impact. Through a life and death spent in the pursuit of truth, she has shown me how far and deep you can go into something you care about and the importance of leaving your mark in this world. Marie died doing something that she loved, something that made her feel most alive and something that transformed the notion of journalism from being just a job to a mission. This is why Colvin’s death- on her tragic mission- was almost a noble, horrid inevitability. 

Though you don’t have to go to a warzone to find something worth fighting for, Marie still teaches us about what’s really important; finding that something, getting hands on and shaking the world.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Furiarse Reflexes...

First off, I'd just like to apologise for the lack of posting... Have picked up a few magazine jobs (as well as other jobs!) so although I'm getting gradually closer to my beautiful motorbike, time has been scarce. But hey, just settling down with a hot water bottle,cup of creamy coffee and cosy duvet; ready to bore you to death with a ramble. So sit back and indulge in my mundane moaning...

So, it's been snowing in London.
 Exciting? Thick? Sledding? I hear you chirp; Not quite.
 More like one evening of the pretty pitter patter and now just the icy, sludgy consequences to trudge in.
No time off work, just extra effort getting to work. Wonderful. 

However, while pegging it to through icy streets to work (brilliant fun that; run as fast as possible for minimal foot-to-ground contact and intensified thrill with more probable danger of falling. Hell yeah-keep your sky diving- I already live life on the edge)  I was met with an puzzling discovery. It was a rather painful one too.

So there I was; headphones in pumping the 'feel good' through my system, skating across the ice in heeled boots. I felt like a superhero
Distracted by my (evident) awesomeness, suddenly my footing wavered. My insides gasped, feet lost confidence and I felt that sudden gush of butterflies flutter through my tummy. Down, down down I tumbled. Oh, and this was no admirably smooth superhero fall.

THWUMP, went the uncomfortable acquaintance between my arse and concrete pavement. Now, here's my query:
Why is it that here, bum bashed and grounded,  that I felt such bitter,unfocused rage? Within seconds, my eyebrows furrowed dramatically and I was engulfed with a curious anguish, with of course no one to actually focus it at. Where does this reflex fury come from?! Is this just me?! Am I the only one who feels this sharp pinch of anger when I fall on my bum?!  And do you know what? I genuinely feel pissed off with the pavement, so I sit there scowling at it.

Soon of course, the embarrassment floods in.
 I'm on my bum,slithering about, looking aggressively at the floor.
Of course people are giggling. Red-faced and filled with displaced emotions, I begin my numerous stumbling attempts to regain balance and swap back from bum-to-feet contact. On achieving this, I am filled with relief and thus I make a vow: 
 'never,NEVER,shall I fall down again.never shall I hit that rock concrete bottom again, never shall I put myself through the trauma. Walking will be carried out with the utmost caution from now on, for as long as I shall live'

70m later...