5

Size Matters

Every once in a while I think to myself, ”That is it. Starting tomorrow, I am going to eat healthily”. Everything starts off well; decent breakfast consisting of a healthy cereal and a leafy-salad sandwich for lunch. Then home time comes along and that means being trapped in a house with a breadbin full of goodies. Two hours later I am surrounded by empty biscuit packets and muffin wrappers telling myself, “I’ll start again tomorrow”. It never happens. Today, two things happened that made me think to write this article. The first was my desire to eat healthily for study leave. Eating a gazillion calories whilst sitting around all day desperately trying to revise pronouns was surely only going to end in a rotund Khadija. The second was the fact that in the space of two days, two people have posted about how being a size 8 does not mean you are too skinny, it depends entirely on your height and size. It got me thinking. What is the right the size? The curvaceous Marilyn Monroe Size 14 that everyone has recently been embracing as the ‘sexy’ size? Or is it the size 10 bikini-clad bodies that are on every single magazine spread, described as ‘hot’?

How about ‘there is no right size to be’. I ate muesli for breakfast – it tasted like cardboard – and a small chicken salad wrap at lunchtime. By five o clock this evening I was nearly chomping through my revision cards like there was no tomorrow. Mum came home and I was blessed with the option of having a takeaway. Takeaways are a rarity in our house so I jumped at the chance and my god were those noodles good. Today’s health regime went straight out of the window along with any hope of me passing my Philosophy exam tomorrow. Truth is, I could not care less. I would much rather eat a pleasant meal and not be hungry for a while than pick at some chewy beige stuff and be craving anything edible half an hour later. “Khadija, Khadija, you are just trying to make yourself feel better for your lack of willpower!” the good fairy screams in my head. I have never liked my good fairy, in fact I’m sure she’d be far more useful as a doormat. We shouldn’t have to constantly feel guilty for ‘eating that chocolate bar we really shouldn’t have’. But people also shouldn’t feel guilty for being naturally slim. I sometimes wonder whether we have gone so far the other way in saying that being a Marilyn size 14 is more sexy than being a size 8, that anyone who is a size 8 feels like they need to visit McDonalds regularly to keep up.

I’ve seen beautiful and sexy done in pretty much every size going. I’ve walked past girls of many different dress sizes and thought “I wish I had that figure”. So next time you walk past the pastry shop and be good, walk back again and pick out the fattest jam doughnut you can find. You are a person. You do not fit into a box ‘one-size-fits-all’. Leave that to the cats. Cats love to sit in boxes.

Peace out, Dija x

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4

The Eviction

The eye of an asian elephant at Elephant Natur...

In the near distance, destruction still sounded. I couldn’t unravel my arms from around my knees, frozen by the horror of what I had just witnessed, so I stayed there crouched in an abandoned doorway.  It all played over in my mind in jagged flashes with every crash from the neighbouring street. I had been outside the cafe that morning with some of the other boys from the town. We were kicking a football about despite Mr Raja coming outside several times waving a dish-cloth at us, telling us how our ‘loitering’ looked bad to his customers. I had just been about to complain about Paresh deliberately tripping me just as I was about to score a brilliant goal when suddenly, everyone seemed to have lost interest in the football game. All the boys were looking towards the road that led out of town where all the men went trading. Surely we hadn’t played so many games that they were back already? No. We never took notice of the working men coming back into town. Then I heard it. The commotion of screams and shouting, and something else that I couldn’t quite fathom. A sort of deep rumbling. People started emerging on the road out of town, arms flailing above them and their mouths wide open in  ‘O’s. The non-working men had emerged from the cafe, staring in confusion. ‘What the bloody hell is going…ohmigod’ Mr Raja muttered, almost to himself. Because just as he had started to ask the question we had all been thinking, the source of the deep rumbling emerged behind the running men.

Towering at eleven-foot, the charging elephant made the men look like little toy soldiers, tiny and incredibly vulnerable. It also made them look terribly slow. Somebody grabbed my shoulder and told me to ‘stop gawping and run for dear life’. My feet automatically started to run away from the advancing bedlam as my mind still reeled over what was happening. I had no sense of direction, no clue how to save myself from the path of an enraged elephant. I had only ever seen images on the news of wild animals running riot in towns that had spilled onto wildlife habitats due to the bustling population. It never occured to me that living in one of the largest towns meant that we had been in this great danger. Daring to look behind me, my fears were confirmed as I watched people still running for their lives as they were taken underneath the elephant’s feet. I would never outrun it. Whipping my head in all directions, frantically looking for some place to hide away from the current path of destruction, I found an open door to a block of apartments.

Hurtling into the doorway, I crouched and clung to myself. The elephant had been running with such speed, I was surprised by how much time seemed to pass before it appeared. A figure appeared from the block of flats across the street. I recognised it as Abu Bakul, the body guard of one of the big hotels in the town centre. He seemed pretty calm for someone whose home was about to be bulldozed. It wasn’t until his eyes suddenly bulged and his jaw dropped that I realised this was the first he had heard of the elephant. Almost as soon as he had become paralysed with fear, he was thrust on the floor by a four and a half ton weight. I also became paralysed with fear as my mind refused to watch what was going on in the street outside, yet my head would not, could not turn. What must have been half a minute seemed to last for half an hour as I watched someone I used to walk past several nights a week be trampled to nothing. Each thud of a tree-trunk leg on the ground sounded in my ears like the blasts of war bombs. I feared our town would look like a war-zone after today.

Several minutes later, I was still here. Just waiting. Listening to my town being pounded by an animal of the wild, confused and angry at the humans that had driven it out of its home and forced it into a smaller space to make room for the growing population. Just like the elephant, today was a day that I, along with the rest of my town would never forget.

0

The Dog Days really are over as Florence wows Manchester

Artist: Florence+The Machine       Date: 15th March 2012        Venue: Manchester Evening News Arena

 

A silhouette is lit behind a screen centre-stage. Hysteria breaks out and all eyes are on Florence as she walks out to meet her audience more than three hours after doors opened and support acts Spector and The Horrors have warmed us up. Dressed in a black full-body catsuit and netted cloak crested with golden-jewelled shoulder pads, she looks like a warrior queen of some ancient legend with her fiery auburn hair tied back into a Grecian plait around her head.

‘Only If For A Night’ starts the programme and the queen’s voice is echoed by every single member of her audience. When ‘Between Two Lungs’ begins, she starts to dance like a graceful nymph, twisting her wrists and pirouetting across the stage. She is mesmerising, more so than any piece of flashy choreography performed by a troupe of uniform backing dancers could ever be. Florence tells everyone to jump on the count of three over the booming drum beat of ‘Dog Days Are Over’ and it is like sharing a trampoline with 20,000 other ecstatic fans. It is the power performance of the night and as the adrenaline bubbles over across the audience, three piano chords sound. We are taken into a heart-wrenching rendition of ‘Cosmic Love’ and all hands are in the air, emotion pouring out of every fibre. She continues the show in equal beauty and honesty throughout, leaving the stage to screams for an encore. She doesn’t disappoint. ‘You’ve Got The Love’ starts slow and acoustic and it is then that one can appreciate the volume of the M.E.N Arena as her voice sounds over the soft music and 20,000 voices sing back. It makes me think to earlier in the programme as she introduced ‘Heartlines’ and told us how the last time she had played the venue she had been the first support act for Pete Doherty and had to cut her set short due to drunk hecklers. It is indeed, incredible for an artist who has written all of her own material and manufactured her own style completely to be able to say that she has sold out an arena tour after just her second album. After ‘You’ve Got The Love’ explodes back into its upbeat original sound, she goes on to finish the show with beautiful new single ‘Never Let Me Go’. Again our heartstrings are pulled and she is gone all too soon.

The train home is packed with sweaty Florence fans all babbling about their favourite song from the show. I am left with only one thought as we travel back to reality like tightly packed sausages; Florence Welch is the most exciting and spellbinding thing in music right now, and after the huge success of her first and second album, she looks like a queen who isn’t planning to give up her throne anytime soon.

2

Outsider.

Again, he stumbled into the person in front as people drove into him from behind. Corridors between classes at college were always solid with the traffic of students making their way to next lesson and he looked apologetically at the back of the person in front’s head. The head never turned round. Nobody ever turned round, they never noticed he was there. He’d grown used to being invisible since he first started school, soon learning that making friends was a hopeless task; somebody more interesting always came along for the other person to talk to. And that was why nobody would notice him slip into the sports store room away from the bustle of the corridor that morning.

He had planned it all out in the last week, impressed with himself. Now in the darkness of the sports cupboard, he started to feel shaky excitement. Never before had he done something that would make people stop and take notice. If being friendly and polite wasn’t enough, there was no doubt in his mind that what he was about to carry out would be. He had considered taking his life in here last week as he sat alone and ate his lunch as always. The thought of people crying at his tragic and unexpected death gave him a sense of elation. Maybe people would care about him once it was too late, perhaps that was the way to make people notice him. But then he had realised that he would never know whether people were crying for him or at the shock of a suicide in college. That was when it hit him. The realisation of what he had to do instead. Yes. He had seen ‘Bowling for Columbine’ and read the news articles and decided it was to be done that Wednesday morning when he had a free period.

Getting hold of a gun had been easier than he’d imagined. He’d visited the fire arms shop at the bottom of town and no questions were raised as to whether he had a license or proof of age. The shop owner looked as though he was always only just on the right side of the law. The gun was kept under his pillow when he was at home and in his coat pocket whilst he was out. He felt safe as long as he knew where it was. He took it from inside his coat now and felt a buzz. He couldn’t remember feeling this high in his entire life. He felt…powerful, something he had never experienced. It rippled through him, electric.

And then he left the sports cupboard, back into the daylight, gun in hand. He was going to make headlines. The world would notice him. He saw it now ‘Quiet Student Turns Killing Machine’. The busy receptionist missed the CCTV image of the teenage boy walking past lockers with the black gun in his hand looking directly into the camera and laughing to himself.

2

Aftershock

Fake car accident. The vehicle on the picture ... Image via Wikipedia

I can’t sleep. Again. It’s 3 am and I’ll be going to work in the morning over tired as always because I can never sleep anymore. The worst thing about being awake in the unearthly hours of the morning is the restlessness. I become fidgety and often end up waking my wife Jenny next to me, creating two irritable adults at the breakfast table. Holding my breath, I roll over away from her to face the rest of the room. He’s there.

He’s always there and yet I’m never ready for it. I have to cover my mouth with my hand as I gasp and all the air is taken out of me. I enter a state of paralysis, unable to look away. There he is, curled up and pale on the rug in front of the door. For someone who didn’t know he could be sleeping comfortably. But I know. I know because I see him everywhere; in the mirror on the bathroom cabinet while I’m brushing my teeth, at the kitchen table when I’m eating my porridge and Jenny’s still doing her make-up in the bedroom. He dips in and out of all my day to day scenarios and there’s one place I can always be certain he’ll be waiting without fail. The very same place he was the first time. At the end of the drive at 8 am on a Monday morning when the shutters are still pulled down over my eyes and the coffee’s only just starting to kick in. I roll down the drive slowly and start to turn. There he is. Running into the road just as I pull out, we see each other too late. He looks directly into my eyes the moment he collides with the bonnet and he opens his mouth to scream. It only rings in my ears after he’s been knocked down, a piercing, haunting scream. Every Monday morning he runs into the road and I have to stop the car, get out and check even though I know he won’t be there. That was only the first time. Now it’s just my brain playing tricks and taunting me, a prisoner of my own guilt. So I get back behind the wheel and cry into my hands, shoulders shaking with the sobs and wondering whether it will ever end. All my life consists of is him unexpectedly appearing, reminding me of what I did whether he’s at the coffee machine in the office or on the opposite escalator at the mall and I don’t know how much more of it I can take. Then I think of Jenny and I know I have to pull myself together and drive, act like nothing is wrong or I’ll be late for work. I have to clear my head of the little boy I killed with my car bonnet three months ago on his way to school as always, carefree and not looking where he was going.

4

I’m not a pigeon. Don’t pigeon hole me.

After reading an article today called ‘I hate indie people’ and since starting college, I can’t help but notice how easy it is to label everybody. We all do it, I’m guilty of it myself. If you listen to obscure bands that aren’t on the radio everyday you’re indie, if you love Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter you’re a geek. That’s not true, of course it’s not. Yet all we seem to do is put labels on people just because of what they’re wearing or the music they listen to and I have to admit, it’s all left me rather confused.

My iTunes library is filled with music that’s never in the Top 40 so I’m indie.

I watch QI, University Challenge and Only Connect so I’m a geek.

I’m an atheist so I’m a pessimist.

I’m young so I must go around rioting and have a low IQ.

I eat what I want and don’t cake up in make-up so I dont look like a model everyday.

That’s what society says.

My iTunes library is filled with music that makes me want to dance, cry and sing from the rooftops. I don’t listen to any of it because I want to rebel against popular music, I listen to it because I like it.

I watch QI, University Challenge and Only Connect because my family watch them and I like spend time with them. I don’t watch these programmes because I’m a ‘mega-brain’, I watch them because they’re witty and intellectual.

I’m an atheist, optimist and open to all beliefs. I don’t think all religious people are crazy delusionals.

I’m young, the only breaking and entering I’ve ever done is into a pack of biscuits.

I eat what I want because I love food and it tastes good. I don’t wear lots of make-up, not because I’m confident in my looks. I’m still insecure but I’m not completely driven by my appearance.

That’s the truth. People aren’t pigeons, so let’s stop trying to put them in a pigeon hole.