You’re my unfinished novel
Guaranteed no sequel.
You’re my unfinished novel
You’re my unfinished novel
Guaranteed no sequel.
I owe myself
the love I lost,
the time I lost,
the tears I lost.
I owe myself
the self I lost.
The self I lost
because I gave it
Following the release of a statement by Qatari emir Sheikh Hamad bin al-Thani, supposedly insinuating a support for terror and “Iranian-backed terrorists groups” (1) across the Middle East, Saudi Arabia and 5 other gulf states have severed ties with Qatar. Officials have been given 48 hours to leave, with Qatari nationals given 14 days to leave the UAE and Saudi Arabia. Following this, Emirates and Etihad airlines, in addition to others, have suspended flights to and from Doha. The reasons behind this ex-communications of sorts is the accusation that Qatar run the risk of “destabilising” (2) the region.
Approximately 40% of food imports for Qatar are from Saudi Arabia, leaving Qatar incredibly vulnerable and essentially, stranded. It seems almost too coincidental that this break comes about following Donald Trump’s trip to Riyadh last month, with many calling this move a bold risk and political statement, resulting from the US strengthening its alliance with Saudi Arabia.
Ultimately, one cannot ignore the ongoing conflict between the Shi’ite and Sunni muslims, predominately between Saudi Arabia and Iran. It was only in 2015 that, of the 769 pilgrims, over 400 (3) Iranians were killed in a stampede in Mina, during the pilgrimage of Hajj – matters were exacerbated following Saudi’s intentional, initial belittling of the accurate number of casualties. A crisis of this scale only fuelled the fire of conflict of power between Iran and Saudi Arabia, fundamentally as a result of both following two different branches of Islam.
Severing ties with Qatar following a supposedly “hacked” (4) statement by the Qatari emir is a dramatic move, resulting in isolating the gulf country. On twitter, reports are already emerging of stores in Doha suffering from empty shelves and a progressively worsening rise in food/water shortages across stores. All of this extensive action being based on an alleged conspiring with Iran and supporting extremism.
Muslim countries are essentially expected to stand united against extremism: conflicts such as this create vacuums for terrorist organisations to infiltrate, going against President Trump’s very reason for visiting Saudi Arabia. Innocent civilians will be stranded in the Middle East, utterly helpless in the face of this ex-communication. It appears there is much more behind Saudi Arabia’s decision to break off alliances with Qatar than the media are aware of. The collateral damage will be extensive following this, but, to world leaders it’s more of a matter of political alliances than humanity and the well-being of mankind.
4 years later and I finally have the answers I’ve been waiting for.
After seeing a pain consultant at UCLH, I was told I had damage to my abdominal wall, most probably as a result of my operation in 2013. This would explain the consistency in daily pain and the multiple admissions to hospital. The methods of dealing with this are somewhat complicated – there is no “cure” as such, as surgery runs far too many fatal risks, not to mention the risk of furthermore pain. I’m on medication for chronic pain, and hopefully by steadily increasing the dose if I experience severe pain again, it should make a considerable difference to my quality of life. The only downside to the medication is their sedative effect, so I spent 90% of my day resembling that of a zombie. I’ve now been referred to the complex pain team at UCLH, where I’ll undergo physiotherapy to help live with the pain, potential local anaesthetic shots to numb the pain of my damaged abdominal wall and ultimately methods which will ensure I don’t have to visit the a&e department as frequently, and hopefully in time, at all.
Over the past 4 years, I’ve gone through just about every single test possible for abdominal pain and the lack of answers completely destroyed me. I was living in a constant state of not knowing what I was suffering from, with doctors, or “specialists” in the private healthcare field not willing to act on anything. 2015 was by far the worst year of my life – 11 admissions to a&e over 12 months, where they could only manage the pain with opiates left me feeling at my lowest. Many people, healthcare professionals included, underestimate the debilitating impact of chronic pain. I’m always asked to rate my pain – how do I measure it, when I’ve experienced the worst kind this world has to offer? To this day, I’ve never measured my pain at a 10/10 because I’ve become so desensitised to the excruciating nature of a relapse.
I’ve always had people commending me for my bravery and strength, but ultimately this is 90% of the time a facade to help me survive. I’m so far from brave, compared to those who suffer from terminal illnesses and what not. There are days where I’m overcome with anxiety over how I’ll live with the pain when it gets bad, and how isolating the pain can be. There are days when I criticise myself for pitying myself when I’m so lucky compared to the plight of others. I’m filled with guilt at the sacrifices my family have made for me, and the pain they’ve had to helplessly witness, all the while encouraging me and supporting me. But I’ve slowly come to realise that it’s perfectly okay to feel sorry for myself here and there. It’s okay to feel like absolute shit. It’s okay to cry my heart out. Because pain is soul-destroying.
Ultimately, I survived these 4 years solely because I have an incredible support system. My immediate family and close friends have saved my life.
So, thank you. Thank you to the specialists at UCLH for giving me the answers I’ve waited so long for. Thank you to my close friends who’ve shown me so much support recently. Thank you to the friends who’ve become family. Thank you to each and every one of you who have contacted me on here and offered advice, encouragement and so much more. And thank you, a thousand times over, to my family. God bless you all.
It gets worse before it gets better, but it does get better.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere,
they’re in each other all along.
“She stains the time past: lights the time to come.”
– Duchess of Malfi, 1.1.213-4
When I remember your love,
I weep, and when I hear people
talking of you,
something in my chest,
where nothing much happens now
moves as in sleep.
In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do,
and that sight becomes this art.
I am so small, I can barely be seen.
How can this great love be inside me.
Look at your eyes. They are small
but they see enormous things.
From the alleyways to the Atlas mountains, my trip to Marrakech was one of astounding beauty and culture. I was inexplicably lucky to have my parents take me to Morocco to celebrate my 21st birthday, and although it took off on a rocky start, it’s safe to say I had an amazing time absorbed in the culture and traditions of the city. My parents really outdid themselves with the choice of Riad and its location, as well as a perfect birthday dinner. I couldn’t have been happier.
On our first day in the city, we visited the captivating Secret Garden: it was beautifully tranquil, surrounding us with trees and plants of every kind. As you’re all probably well aware, I am no stranger to intense heat, and I absolutely loved the climate. It reached roughly 30 degrees by the time we arrived at the garden, so whilst my parents climbed up the tower, I sat in on the terrace overlooking the gardens and it was absolutely perfect. The gardens were kept in perfect, pristine condition with seats scattered across the grounds and quaint water features here and there. Did I mention the heat?
Unfortunately, as a result of relatively unmanaged asthma and weak lungs, I landed myself in hospital that same evening with an asthma attack, and spent the better part of that evening and the following day attached to oxygen tubes and a nebuliser. My dad was adamant we ought to leave back home for England so I could receive proper treatment, since my breathing was incredibly laboured but I refused to leave only 24 hours into our trip. With some IV steroids and 18 hours of oxygen tubes and nebuliser treatments, I recovered and discharged myself with albeit fragile lungs, over the moon to finally be able to breathe again. That night we ate in a picturesque Riad courtyard (a traditional, Moroccan house) relieved after the events of the previous night.
On our third day in Morocco, we visited The Majorelle Botanical Garden. Walking around in 30 degree heat is no small feat, but the gardens were beautifully landscaped. It didn’t take us long to explore the whole place, plus there were no places to really sit down once we’d finished but other than that, it was a fantastic experience and made one forget where we were.
The fourth day brought us to the Atlas mountains, one of the adventures which really heightened our cultural exploration of the country. The air was fresh and cooler, with a perfect breeze and the views were like nothing I’ve ever seen before. It was a picture-perfect landscape of rolling snow-capped mountains amidst green hills, with small Berber villages dotted all over. Visiting the Berber villages really took my breath away; a 9000 year old heritage preserved within the mountains, where they live a life of complete simplicity. No one had phones, computers, or any electronic device and the children were blissfully happy playing with each other amongst the animals on the hillsides. The feeling of content was contagious despite their minimalistic style of living, and it saddens me that they rely solely on tourism to preserve this historic, authentic heritage. We visited a Berber household, and I cannot describe just how accommodating and hospitable they were. We were greeted with warm smiles, fresh bread and mint tea without any hesitation. What struck me the most was seeing young, perhaps six-year olds, begging for money for to buy essentials since they only relied on tourism to get by, and the look of sheer pleasure and happiness on the ladies’ faces when we gave them money made my heart hurt. I urge as many of you as possible to visit the Berber villages if you travel to Morocco – it puts things into perspective and makes one realise the luxuries and privileges we, in the West, take for granted.
(A quick note – buying gifts from the Berber community itself is much more beneficial for their livelihood than in stalls and markets in the alleyways in Marrakech. Of course there is plenty of choice in the alleyways and it’s an enriching experience but the Berber communities make all their gifts by hand, from carpets to plates to jewellery. Buying from the communities will help preserve their heritage and support the families.)
We explored the city on our fifth day, wandering through the markets and alleyways and venturing into the square. There’s quite an exciting buzz in the square, whether it be during the day or at night, with countless events taking place across the area. I personally, however, do not approve of the treatment of animals in the square, where monkeys were kept on chains for entertainment for the tourists. Other than that, it was rich in culture and a fantastic visit. We travelled by horse-drawn carriage across the city, passing the old and new town. I highly recommend it as it’s a brilliant way to see the sights of Marrakech without trekking in the humid climate. The only downside is to be weary of the pollution, especially if you have asthma or a lung condition: the majority of Moroccans travel on motorbikes and travelling on a carriage will result in the inhalation of these fumes.
The final day took us through the alleyways one last time and we immersed ourselves in the art of Marrakech, from hand-painted plates to canvas paintings. I was beyond excited that my dad bought me a canvas – the artists capture the essence of Moroccan culture and landscape perfectly in their choice of colours.
It was with a heavy heart that we left Marrakech and it’s intertwining of Eastern values with Western influence. The people were so accommodating and polite, always looking to help us in any way they could and offering us the best bargains as well as little gifts and presents along the alleyways. The only hiccup was the pollution, as it does hang heavy in the air, but I’d love to explore more of the new and old towns if (or when!) I return. A special thank you to Patrick and Caroline at Les Trois Palmiers El Bacha Riad for taking such great care of us, and to their staff for their overwhelming hospitality and kindness, always ensuring we were happy and well looked after. I’ve never come across such lovely people.