Posted in bloggers, family, relationships

A Letter To The One I Love on Valentine’s Day

Dear Papa, on a day when women everywhere are writing letters and sending cards to their boyfriends, I thought I’d write one to you instead. And not just because I’m single, but because I genuinely want to say a few things which I should have said a long time ago.

Last night, instead of dreaming of Prince Charming, I dreamt about you. It wasn’t a great dream, and I woke up in tears from anxiety and fear because of it. Suffice it to say that you weren’t well in my dream. And the thought of you getting old, and someday having to live in a world without you, these are some of the things that keep me up at night.

We haven’t had a conventional relationship. I get jealous sometimes over random things, like when I see a girl going shopping with her dad, or when I see a father picking up his daughter from school. I don’t have many memories of us doing those every day things, because out of necessity we had to be apart for the better part of every year while I was growing up.

But that’s fine. I knew the reasons why you couldn’t be there for every graduation ceremony or every birthday party. I wouldn’t even have those things if it wasn’t for your hard work and sacrifice. In case I forgot to tell you then, I am very grateful for all the things you did for me.

I suppose this is why I work so hard for us to make up for lost time now. I want to make all your dreams come true, I want you to have every opportunity you ever missed and to see the world you’ve always wanted to explore but never had the chance to because we didn’t have the means before.

It’s been a pleasure seeing the world through your eyes, and sharing those moments of discovery with you. I love that you now have stories to tell of other places apart from the small corner of the world we live in. And I love that we’ve built memories that I will cherish forever, through the passing of the days, whatever those days may bring us.

It’s funny. For the first time in a long while I genuinely am not bothered that its Valentine’s Day and I’ll probably be sitting at home tonight nursing a glass of wine with my equally single sister. I’m happy and content enough to hold out for something that’s worth this extremely long wait (the El Nino drought has nothing on my love life), because I refuse to settle for anything less.

Despite my doubts, I genuinely believe that I’ll find someone someday. And I’m not in any rush because I’m enjoying life far too much to make such a big change for someone or something that’s going to be fleeting. I’m not going to marry some random guy just because society tells me its “worrying” to still be single at thirty-one.

But Papa, today I said a prayer to meet that random guy who I will eventually share my life with sooner rather than later. Not for me, but for you. I know my lifestyle and my persistent lack of a committed relationship is what keeps YOU up at night. I desperately want to ease your worries, but that’s the one thing that I can’t achieve through hard work and overtime. It’s out of my hands.

However, I prayed today in a way I haven’t in a long long time, for me to find that someone. Not for me, but for you. I want to bring someone home for you to meet, I want you to be able to walk me down the aisle someday, and I really really want to have that father-daughter dance with you. If those are bad reasons for wanting a marriage, well, so be it. Other people have married for less, and for worse reasons.

I don’t know pops, maybe some things are just not meant to be. We’ll see. But for now, you are the only man in my life and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. But if it does, you’ll be the first to know. In the meantime, take care of mumsy, take care of yourself and I hope to see you real soon. Happy Valentine’s Day, I love you.

Posted in bloggers, Nursing, Self-Discovery, Stress Relief

All In A Day’s Work

The best way to deal with challenging situations is to reflect on them, learn from them, and – in my case – to write about them. So I’m sharing some of the things I’ve learned these past few weeks when work has been difficult, in the hopes that other people out there who – like me – are new to management will know they’re not alone in their experiences.

You cannot please everyone. For every praise you receive, there’s a person waiting in the wings who’s just dying to tell you the many many ways in which you’re screwing things up. I guess the key thing is to learn to compromise, to find the solution that is best for everyone, and to make a decision that you will be able to live with. You are not in the position to care about being liked, the best you can hope for is to be respected.

Friendships at work are a thing of the past. This is something I find incredibly sad, but its the harsh reality that most managers face. They say its lonely at the top, and though I’m not at that level I can only imagine how true that is. Not everyone will be able to accept the fact that you are now their line manager as well as their friend.

Most friendships whose bonds are weak and superficial will not be able to survive professional disagreements, or differences in opinion when it comes to work-related matters.The upshot is that the friendships you do keep, the people who will love and support you even when you give them a notice of improvement for consistently coming to work late, those are the friendships that are worth keeping. Everyone else is not worth losing sleep over.

There will always be people who will try to undermine your position. Whether its colleagues who have mentored you in the past, or people who think you’re too junior or too inexperienced for your role, or simply people who think they can do your job better than you. Standing up to these professional gaslighters is something you’ll have to deal with on a day-to-day basis, and it doesn’t get easier with time.

You will need to dig deep and to really have faith in yourself and your abilities. I’m constantly surrounded by people who back me up when I need it, and seeing the amount of trust they place in me is something that still humbles me every day. But none of that matters if I can’t find the strength to put my foot down, to say ‘no’ when its needed, and to have courage in my convictions. I won’t be able to convince other people that I know what I’m doing until I believe I know what I’m doing.

Human beings are amazingly resilient. We are capable of so much more than we give ourselves credit for. I never anticipated being able to talk to people who intimidate the shit out of me, or to be able to have these difficult conversations with people at a very senior level. I didn’t even believe I’d be able to control my emotions long enough to survive the shifts from hell, as I’ve started to call them in my mind.

But I did. And I have so much more respect for managers everywhere, and for myself. I think for me, its enough to know that I did the best I could, even if I very nearly had a mental breakdown at the end of it. That’s normal; managers who tell you they don’t experience these occasional bouts of hopelessness are lying. We all go through it.

Its okay to break down in pieces when you’ve had a bad day, but what defines you is how you take those pieces and glue them back together so that you come back to work the next day feeling motivated to do better, to be stronger, and to hopefully do some good in the world in the process. So it doesn’t matter if you drowned a whole bottle of prosecco, or stuffed your face with greasy Chinese food because stress eating is the solution to everything.

Do whatever it takes to make you feel human again, and remember, its just one stressful day at work out of many. Just like every bad thing we’ve ever experienced in our lives, it too shall pass.

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Reviews

Book Review: Fire and Blood – George RR Martin

I sit here and write this whilst re-watching episodes from past seasons of Game of Thrones in preparation for the final season premiering in April. I can’t believe its been 10 years since this show aired its pilot, and even longer since GRRM published the first book of A Song of Ice and Fire.

Since then, its become this massive phenomenon beloved by people all over the world, discussed in coffee rooms and workplaces across several countries; when a Game of Thrones season is in progress (airing on Sundays), you can bet your bottom dollar that come Monday people will be dissecting and analysing each episode for clues, easter eggs and foreshadowings of things to come.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: fantasy must be the most difficult thing in the world to write. It takes a whole lot of imagination. The concept of world-building alone staggers me; even as I nurture my small but growing ambition to become a writer I know I’ll probably never be able to write fantasy. I have imagination but its limited to the things that I know, to the world that I know.

George RR Martin is a man whose imagination has no limits. He’s not only written five books about the current events in Westeros, he’s made Westeros into something so rich, concrete and solid that it now comes with its own history, folklore and legends. This country feels so real you can almost taste the weirwood or feel the melting of the ice on The Wall.

Everyone knows about Jon Snow who knows nothing, about the misfortunes that befell the Starks, the cruelty of the Lannisters, the sandsnakes of Dorne and, of course, the journey of Daenerys Targaryen towards reclaiming the Iron Throne. Westeros as it stands is in turmoil, and everyone waits with bated breath to see how it will all end.

Which is probably why fans made such a hue and cry when, instead of moving forward, GRRM chose to look backwards. With his new publication he’s written a sort of prequel, and fans were not happy because they think he should have been working on the next book in the Game of Thrones series instead.

As someone who’s always loved history, I think that fans are really missing the whole point here. Any GoT fans worth their salt would appreciate Fire and Blood for what it is: a chance to have a glimpse into the history of Westeros’ most notorious, enigmatic and legendary rulers.

With Fire and Blood, GRRM explores a dynasty whose bloody history rivals that of the Romanovs, whose wars are as devastating as the War of the Roses, whose relationships are more complex than anything we’ve ever read about in medieval history, which is thought to be the inspiration behind Game of Thrones.

The history of the Targaryen kings have all the makings of something truly epic: battles, romance, rivalry, betrayals, family secrets, politics, incest, and most of all, DRAGONS. The Targaryen dragons are every bit as important as the riders they bore on their backs, and they play just as pivotal a role in the shaping of Westeros as we know it.

At times when reading this massive tome, I did feel as if I were back in a classroom studying for a history exam. Having always been a geek to the core I did start to stress out over the dates and notable names mentioned in the book. I was almost tempted to get a pen and paper out so I can start making notes. But then I told myself to get a grip and to simply enjoy what was truly an incredible story. Let me tell you, if they taught stuff like this in school more people would be getting A’s on the subject.

William the Conqueror would have been so much more interesting if he also rode a dragon when he set out to conquer England, I’m just saying. 

There was always a risk that this book would turn out to be dry and boring, but GRRM has written this with flair and an almost self-deprecating humour. He made reading about wars and bloodshed fun, and it was clever of him to write as a fictional maester of the citadel who had been tasked to compile the history of the Targaryen kings, so that he can explore both historical facts and historical gossip,

And there were a lot of salacious gossip; those Targaryens were as lusty as they come.

I still can’t believe that one man has held all these complex plots in his head. How in the world does he keep all of them straight? I’ve yet to find plot holes or instances where he’s contradicted himself. I do think that his pacing has suffered somewhat in the later books, and I sometimes wish his characters could just get on with it rather than linger overlong in some godforsaken free city like Pentos or one of those stupid places in Slaver’s Bay.

But I think I’ve become such a fan of the show and the book series that I really just want to linger in this world he’s created, and seeing it again through the eyes of some of my favourite characters feel like catching up with an old friend. I, for one, will gladly purchase anything that is written about Westeros and in me, the genius that is George RR Martin has a fan for life.

Rating: 5 stars.

Posted in friendship, relationships

I Remember The Boy

Dear Someone I Used To Know,

Last night someone sent me a photo of you. You’ve reached another milestone in your life, and it made me feel incredibly proud. It also made me a bit sad, remembering a time when I used to be the first, instead of the 100th, to hear about the latest happenings in your life, a time when I would have been there to cheer you on as you reach for your dreams, instead of just seeing the fulfilment of it on a Facebook status.

I know enough now to not idealise what we went through. I know I made mistakes and held on longer than I should have. Still, I can’t find it in me to look back on that time with anger or regret. For better or worse, that experience made me who I am, and its a reminder of a time when I allowed myself to really feel, to give everything I have in the name of that stupid thing called love. And its an incredibly entertaining story to tell at dinner parties and reunions. 

I remember many things about you. Your face is indelibly stamped in the part of my brain that stores long-term memory; I remember your smile and the way you used to tease me relentlessly (especially about my weight). I remember your love of the ocean, and 90s RnB. You hated polka dots, and it used to be a fruitless exercise trying to engage you in any interaction before 9am.

You used to have a real love for food, and the bonds of our friendship were cemented over gyoza and a bowl of Katsudon. You hated studying, but you’ve obviously gotten better at it since, if that MD next to your name is anything to go by. You used to love driving, and I used to love having you drive my car when you couldn’t use your own. I guess I used to live for the moments when I could pretend we were something more than we actually were. 

Who do you share your secrets with now? It used to be like pulling teeth, trying to get you to open up about what was happening in your life. I think its because I was such a blabbermouth back then; as close as we were I think a part of you never trusted me to shut up about them. I’ll have you know, yours were some of the few secrets I really kept. Maybe that was because for a long long time, my feelings for you were my biggest secret.

Are you happy? I hope you are. Despite everything that happened, I have many fond memories of us. You were always there for me when I needed you, especially when I needed someone to sort me out as I go through crisis after crisis. And despite the fact that you didn’t really know that my biggest crisis was YOU, you knew enough to be careful with my feelings when we found ourselves in a situation that changed the landscape of our friendship.

Last night I dreamt we were playing ‘Tong-Its” ,of all things, and laughing like we used to. That’s why I find myself writing about you on a rainy Saturday morning, when I once promised myself I would never write about you again. Isn’t it funny, though? I’m never as good at writing as I am when I’m writing about you. You’ve become my muse, and I won’t be surprised if someday I end up writing a book about you – certainly there’s no shortage of material in that regard.

My memories of you stay with me, even as I give away pieces of my heart to other people. I don’t look at those memories in quite the same way anymore, but I suppose part of growing up and moving on is the ability to see things from a different perspective, to see the truth in the lies we used to tell ourselves.

Time passes, things change and feelings inevitably fade.

I don’t remember what it was that I used to feel for you, but I do remember feeling them; and while I don’t think of you that often anymore, I know I will always remember you.

 

 

 

Posted in bloggers, Books, murder mystery, Reviews, Young Adult

Book Review: Two Can Keep A Secret – Karen McManus

I suck at keeping secrets.

I can count in one hand the number of times that I’ve truly kept a secret, including my own. Its my personal opinion that by its very nature secrets just demand to be told. The act of unburdening yourself to someone else, the knowledge that you are not the only person in the world to hold a particularly juicy or dangerous bit of information…I think it gives you relief like no other.

A secret is not a secret unless its been told after all.

Echo Ridge, the setting of Karen McManus’ new book is a town full of secrets. In 1995, a high school senior disappeared while walking home from the library, and no one has seen a trace of her since.

Then five years ago, a homecoming queen was found murdered underneath the ferris wheel (rollercoaster? I forgot which) of the town’s Halloween park, a place aptly called Murderland (like, who would name their business that?! Isn’t that just asking for trouble?).

And then the murderer claims to be back, and he or she is hoping to once again satisfy what is truly a creepy fetish for homecoming queens (Freud would have a field day with this one). And when a local girl disappears it sends everyone into a frenzy of nerves, anxiety and suspicion. Who can you trust? Is there a connection that ties all three victims together? What the bloody hell is going on?

The latter is something I asked myself throughout the five hours that it took me to finish this book. I love whodunits, especially since I consider myself pretty good at solving who actually done it. I go into my Sherlock Holmes mind palace and I can almost always identify the killer at about three-quarters of the way through any crime book, and I’m almost always right.

But this one stumped me. Just like this year’s Academy Awards, there was no clear-cut suspect. And I suspect that Karen McManus made me like her characters so much that I didn’t want the murderer to be any of them, just like I didn’t want to suspect any of the Bayview Four from  her first book , One of Us Is Lying.

So apart from the fact that I was so invested that I was no longer an unbiased observer, this book was so tightly plotted that the best thing you can do is to stop figuring out what in the world was happening and just go along for the ride. I told myself that, for once, I will allow myself to be surprised when the killer is finally unveiled. And until then I will just enjoy what truly is incredible writing and characterisation.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, I love how Karen doesn’t resort to the usual cliches of band nerds and popular girls in this book. I like how she allows her characters to cross the divide of high school society. Sure, you still get the usual chumps who want to maintain the status quo, but its a world where the popular girl has feelings and problems just like anyone else, and she’s able to come down from her pedestal enough to be nice to her geeky stepbrother.

I like how the so-called losers find strength in their loserdom, and that there’s none of the usual aspiring to be in higher social circles trope that is prevalent in most YA novels. I mean, in my opinion,  as long as you have your circle of friends, and you’re having fun, and you love who you are, why in the world would you want to be anything or anyone else? Being a jock or a cheerleader is seriously overrated, and also, its so 90s.

I love how Karen was able to deftly manage all the subplots, and the subplots within the subplots. Even though it felt like she had too many balls in the air at one point, she was able to juggle them all very well. Every element of this story felt important, and made absolute sense especially as the story headed to its inevitable conclusion.

In fact, the only thing that didn’t make as much sense was the actual perpetrator himself or herself (wouldn’t want to give away spoilers!). I feel like that character could have been fleshed out more maybe, so that the big reveal would have been more like an ‘Ah, I see what you did there’ moment rather than “What the fuck? Huh?”.

Of course, this could just be me, and my total ignorance might have been because I wasn’t paying the required amount of attention to enable me to separate the real clues from the red herrings that have been planted throughout the book. But that’s okay, because that gives me a reason to re-read this.

This book is a true embodiment of the word “page-turner”. You will be hooked. You will be invested. You will end up reading it into the wee hours of the morning even though you know you have work the next day. Fans of Riverdale and Pretty Little Liars will be delighted by the similarities, although this actually felt to me more like a throwback to Carolina Moon by the great Nora Roberts, another fantastic novel that you should check out after reading this one.

Well done, Karen McManus. I salute your sophomore outing and I really hope you hurry up and write another book soon so that I can allow you once again to just take my money. I just want my book!

4 out of 5 stars!

Posted in Books, LGBT, Reviews, Women's literature

Book Review: The Silence of the Girls – Pat Barker

It’s always the women and children who pay such a high price when “great men” decide to play the game of thrones. Or so the great GRRM once wrote.

I’ve been immersed in all things Greek mythology lately, and I feel like its all been leading up to where it would always inevitably culminate: the epic Trojan War. Poems, novels, music and movies have been written about the ten-year siege of Troy, and of the notorious Helen, also known as the face that launched a thousand ships.

This book is unique in that it tells the story from the perspective of the women who were sold into slavery at the Greek camps when their cities fell to the mighty Achilles and his legendary army of Myrmidons. It focuses on one woman in particular: Briseis, former queen and now slave to Achilles, the man who burned her city and killed her husband and brothers in the process.

So, these reviews always seem to go on longer than I intend them to. I’ve yet to develop the skill of editing my own work, and I probably never will. But I will try to focus on two main themes for this review, for the sake of being “brief”.

The Spoils of War

I’ve always had a weird fascination for reading about war times, not because I’m particularly interested in weaponry and warfare, but because I’m fascinated by its effect on the people who are left behind. I don’t care much about how the war was won, because for me there’s no such thing. When a country goes to war with another country because diplomacy has failed them in every way, everyone loses.

It always breaks my heart to read about the very human stories behind every major war. And its always the same thing, over and over again, throughout the pages of history: the lost promise of youth, children growing up way before their time, young men who never lived long enough to fulfil the dreams their parents had for them.

Its the story of women who have lost fathers, brothers, husbands and sons; women who were never given the opportunity to fight the battles when they were every bit as invested in the outcome. I think if any government leader should ever take it into their head to go to war over something, they should take a good hard look at the women in their family, and to think about all that they would suffer, and decide whether its worth it.

This is the great thing about this book, because it really highlights all of that, and also how the women of the Trojan War were stripped away from their sense of self, from their identities and individualities, from everything that makes them a person, and were instead relegated into the role of objects.

It brings into stark relief all the humiliations and degradations that these women suffered in the hands of so-called heroes: Achilles, Ajax, Agamemnon (although I’ve always thought of him as sort of a prick), Nestor, and even Odysseus. This is an important book to read, and an important point to make, during these times of change when women everywhere are fighting for equality in every arena. Its a call to arms, a message that we will no longer allow this to happen. And for all of that, I salute you, Pat Barker. 

Love is Love is Love

To end this review on a more positive note, I’d like to revisit the story of Achilles and Patroclus. Despite numerous research into the matter, historians are still unable to agree on whether these two were lovers or just really really really close friends. After reading about them in Madeline Miller’s fabulous book, The Song of Achilles, and again here, I am of the opinion that at the end of the day, it makes no bloody difference.

Whether it was the love between brothers, friends or lovers, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that it is the kind of love that is strong enough to transcend labels, powerful enough to turn the tide of the Trojan War and so powerful that, in my heart, I am sure that it even defied death.

The Greeks, for all their brutal ways, had no hang-ups whatsoever when it comes to sexuality. Hercules had both male and female lovers, it did not make him any less of a legend in their eyes. I love reading about these stories, and I particularly love revisiting the story of Achilles and Patroclus, because it gives me hope.

It gives me hope that if a love like that can exist, there is a future for all of us to look forward to, one in which wars cease to be a possibility, and a world where you can just be free to love who you love, regardless of class, race, age or gender. And that is the kind of ideology that IS worth fighting for.

 

Briseis came to a conclusion towards the end of the book that, for all that she tried to defy and escape him, she was ultimately just another spoke in the wheel, just another supporting character to Achilles’ story. But that doesn’t mean that she does not get to try to write her own story and her own future.

Ultimately, this is what this book is about. We are all free to make our own choices, chart our own destinies and write our own stories. You don’t need to be a hero. You just need to be a person with hopes, dreams and, more importantly, the capacity to love…because long after all the songs have been written about battles and triumphs, its the human tale of love that will endure.

Fabulous book! 4 out of 5 stars. 

Posted in Books, Fantasy, Reviews, Uncategorized

Book Review: Heroes – Stephen Fry

I’ve found myself living in Ancient Greece this past week, which is perhaps the best compliment that I can give to Stephen Fry’s works on Greek mythology.

For me, he has brought these stories and characters to life in a way that has had me transfixed and immersed in these pages almost to the exclusion of anything else in my life right now.

Heroes is a volume that can be read separately from it predecessor Mythos but one gets a much better experience with the former if you’ve read the latter. It shifts the focus away from the Gods and Goddesses of Mount Olympus and on to the mortals (or fools) that dare to dream, that are in the possession of an incredible amount of self-belief (or hubris), and have the boldness, brawn and brute strength to accompany it.

Stephen Fry makes it very clear that the history and interrelatedness of the characters in Greek mythology are so tangled that one will simply go mad if one tries to memorise all the kings, queens, sons, daughters and, of course, incestuous unions and offsprings. He makes a valiant effort, though, to highlight and cross-reference important ones in what is undoubtedly my favourite part of this book and the last one: the footnotes. 

But I think that readers shouldn’t approach this book as they would an academic exercise. There is no requirement for you to recall who Heracles‘ father was, or to remember that he had a twin, for you to enjoy the tale of how he tricked Hades into lending him Cerberus, the literal hound of hell. The only fundamental requirement to reading this book is that you, as a reader, have every information you need to understand and enjoy these stories (and very helpfully, the book comes with a glossary to  help you with that).

Because believe me, this is a book with an extensive cast of characters, each of whom play a role one way or another in the events that unfold. There are a few standouts, apart from the heroes themselves. I found myself intrigued by the role that women played, or how they were portrayed and perceived in greek mythology. There is a hint of misogyny that is typical of that time period I suppose, but I’d like to think that Jason would never have gotten the golden fleece without Medea’s help, and that Theseus would still be stuck in the labyrinth were it not for Ariadne’s love and life-saving advice.

Some of the stories here will be familiar to readers. Like, who hasn’t heard of Icarus and his failure to follow his father’s advice to not fly too close to the sun? It’s like the mother of all cautionary tales. I think they teach it in school so that young impressionable minds will know from the get-go that there are consequences WHEN YOU DON’T LISTEN TO YOUR PARENTS.

The tale of Icarus, as well as that of the heroes in this volume, is also a testament to the saying that pride cometh before the fall. The gods seem to take a particular delight in punishing heroes when they overreach and overstep, perhaps out of jealousy but perhaps to remind them that whatever else they achieve, they are still in fact human.

And I guess that’s an important thing to remember when we talk about heroes. They are human just like us, and there’s two important things I’d like to point out in addition to that.

One, anyone can be a hero. Think about it, a hero is someone who finds himself under difficult circumstances and chooses to do something about it. We do that in our every day lives. For me, a nurse who stays beyond her shift in order to see to a trauma patient is just as much a hero as Perseus, and believe me, its easier to deal with Medusa and her hair of snakes than it is to placate a patient who’s been waiting in the busy A and E for four hours. 

The second thing is, perhaps, just something I’ve come to realise about us and our entire belief system. I’ve said this so many times before, that the saddest thing in the world is to see someone who’s lost the ability to dream and have hope. I think that’s why Hollywood (and Disney) have chosen to gloss over the more unsavoury parts of greek mythology’s so-called heroes. We don’t want to know about the tragic end to their stories, or that they weren’t the men we always thought they were when we placed them so high upon their pedestals.

I certainly don’t want my child to know that Mr. Zero to Hero Hercules (or Heracles, which is his proper name) killed Megara AND his two kids. Or that  Perseus and Jason were in fact considered murderers by many who knew them. That did not make it into the final cut of well-known movies, did it?

I think that the reason for that is because Hollywood and Disney recognise (and cater to) man’s innate need to believe in the extraordinary. We need to believe that somewhere out there are people who can rise to the occasion and rise above human flaws to fight the battles that we cannot fight. We will always need to believe in that, and for as long as we do, we will always need to believe in Heroes.

Great book and just as hilarious and entertaining as Mythos. Four out of five stars!