Dreams Really Do Come True

love you celine

Tuesday night a dream came true.  I fought back fear and was seated in the O2 arena, listening to what some have deemed the eighth wonder of the world: Celine Dion.  I say fought back my fear due to the recent terror attacks in London. I was debating with myself whether it was selfish of me to go. What if something did happen?  Having children has definitely made me more fearful. More fearful of everything.

I was very uneasy of leaving my children anyway, my youngest is not even 4 months and my eldest is old enough to know that I won’t be home for bedtime cuddles and kisses. Getting to the O2, the security was much more stringent than I remember and despite my earlier protestations my husband and I enjoyed a wonderful meal together prior to entering the actual arena. To be honest, I felt uneasy throughout the night and when we found our seats I couldn’t help but look for the nearest fire exit and wonder how many people could make it out of the arena safely.

It was not long until Celine’s supporting act entered the stage. I had not heard of Veronic DiCaire before but I hope this night was not the last time. She was beyond amazing and although I knew Celine was coming on stage as soon as Veronic completed her set, I was left wanting more. She reminded me a lot of Celine in her looks, the way she spoke (as a French/Canadian she had the exact same accent) and she definitely warmed the arena with her voice and her charm. Commenting on the recent terror attacks, she remarked on the British resilience with such feeling, I was left in tears. She remarked on the need to celebrate music and that was exactly what we did. Terrorism is more than how many people are killed (as heart-breaking as each death is) but how much fear they bring to our lives. They want us to stop living as we do and I am so glad that I refused to let them win.

Excitement was building when the time came for Celine to come on stage.  What seemed to be from out of nowhere she was there.  Although the concert tickets were sold out Celine Dion is able to make you feel she is performing to you only.  She converses with the crowd throughout the show with humour and compassion and you feel she is talking directly to you. It all seemed so natural and unrehearsed. There was no grand display on stage, or grand costume changes. It felt more about being there for one another rather than putting on a show with grand lighting effects.  My husband fortunately brought good seats, however towards the end of the show, Celine broke with protocol and walked off stage, through the crowd and sang the last song from a podium less than 15 feet away from where our seats were. Having an aisle seat meant that Celine walked straight past me. Most people had their phones up to their faces and taking pictures but I wanted to remember that moment.  The moment she looked at me and smiled. The moment I felt that she and I were the only two people in that arena.

She may be thirteen years older than me but I feel I can relate to her on so many levels, as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister. We have both suffered the loss of a loved one through Cancer and know that grief is like the disease itself. You will forever be recovering rather than free from it. As she dedicated the song to the victims of the Manchester and London terror attacks, you could feel and hear the compassion she felt for everyone. 

celine-o2-2017

Celine Dion, despite her ‘diva’ status has no pretence in front of others, there was a moment when she was overcome with emotion during the concert. She is not shy at showing her feelings or at laughing and joking, even at herself. I feel I have walked away from the concert with a new friend. For me she is so relatable on so many levels as a person rather than a product that just happens to sing beautiful music. It was the memories of her singing at the O2 that helped me through soothing a feverish 4 month old to sleep in 33 degree heat while her older sister was crying for me to cuddle her. 

So many people say it is risky meeting your idols and that often our expectations do not meet the reality. Watching Celine at the O2 was reminiscent of seeing my daughter walking behind Elsa in the parade at Disneyland. Elsa spotted her and several times blew her kisses, made a heart and even sent her some magic. The look on my daughter’s face was unforgettable. Now I know how she felt. Reality did not meet expectations, it exceeded them. Not only that but I am determined to keep those feelings safely tucked away for times when I need to draw on them. Like last night.

It just goes to show that you never know the effect you have on people. In a similar fashion, you never know what is going on behind closed doors, behind the smiles that people portray.  That is why we must always be gentler with people, kinder and less inclined to judge them. I had always known that and have tried to put that in practice in my relations with other people, however it was watching Celine that bought it home for me. There is a reason that Celine Dion is as successful as she is, having a good voice is not enough. You need to be likeable. Relatable. Human. That is exactly what she is.

Celine

Opening image: my own

Second image: www.metro.co.uk

Closing image: blastingnews.com
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It Could Have Been Them

AylanKurdismileAylan Kurdi. A little boy not much older than my daughter. Aylan Kurdi. A little boy who puts everything into perspective. To many though Aylan Kurdi is a bad word.

He was a refugee.

Was.

Three year-old Aylan Kurdi was fleeing ISIS struck Syria with his mother, Rihan; father, Abdollah; and five-year old brother, Galib in the hope of reaching Canada to live with his aunt. The Kurdi family had reportedly attempted to apply for Canadian asylum but were denied due to incomplete documentation. In a desperate attempt to provide safety and solitude to his young family, Abdollah Kurdi entrusted their lives and hope for the future in the hands of human traffickers. In the end, Abdollah lost his wife and his two sons who drowned off Turkish waters.

We have all read those tabloid articles blaming refugees for all our society’s problems. For our unemployment, for the faults in our benefit systems, for our lack of school places. I can hear the echoes of all the misconceptions and misjudgements around refugees. There is so much talk and debate on how to curb the immigrant numbers but not much talk and debate on how to solve the issue. On how to bring peace to the regions.

Several times my mother mentioned Aylan Kurdi and the image of him on that Turkish beach. I didn’t want to know and even said as such. I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want to leave my sheltered ignorance. The news of the Syrian refugees were always a comfortable distance away and although I was sympathetic, did I really care? Probably not – I was too busy worrying about the dinner or my daughter’s schedule and playdates.

Was 

As I write this my daughter is curled up in her bed with her favourite star blanket and her growing collection of stuffed animals. She will wake to a peaceful world. In fact peace is all she knows. Unlike Aylan Kurdi.

It could have been her. 

We are all appalled at the events of WWII and the Holocaust and so often ask why no one did anything. Why so many people were bystanders. Until now, is that not what we have done? Just yesterday, David Cameron has pledged that Britain will accept ‘thousands’ more Syrian refugees in response to the humanitarian crisis. We are so desensitised that it took the image of a little three-year old boy washed up on shore for our government to take action and our nation to care? As long as it doesn’t affect us, we turn a blind eye, we turn the page or we change the channel, instead of trying to help.

My parents were refugees fleeing the Iranian Revolution and I have so often heard stories of bullets whizzing past them. My mother remembers what it was like to have young children during a volatile time and the fear she felt for her family’s safety.

It could have been them.

Aylan and Galip never got to start a new school term, they never got to put on shiny new shoes. Their parents never got the chance of dropping them off and waiting for their return at the bus stop. Maybe if we stayed on the page and we didn’t turn the channel, maybe, just maybe it could have been them.

epa04910104 Washed up body of a refugee child who drowned during a failed attempt to sail to the Greek island of Kos, at the shore in the coastal town of Bodrum, Mugla city, Turkey, 02 September 2015. At least 11 Syrian migrants died in boat sank after leaving Turkey for the Greek island of Kos. EPA/DOGAN NEWS AGENCY ATTENTION EDITORSgraphic content ATTENTION EDITORS: PICTURE CONTAINS GRAPHIC CONTENT ; TURKEY OUT

Allah Yarhamak, Little One. Rest in Peace.

The Guardian lists many ways we can help, some of which does not include donating money.  I am ashamed that I didn’t want to know. These words I have written seem so feeble and insignificant yet as a writer, words are my weapon. I no longer want to be a bystander and I no longer want to stop caring. We can do something. We can give money, we can donate, we can at least listen to their story. Then just maybe Aylan’s little life would not have been in vain.

Opening image: The Week
Closing image: cloudmind.info

The Fragility of Life

Fragility-of-lifeOver a week has now passed since the devastating death of Mrs. Ann Maguire in Corpus Christi College in Leeds. Stabbed to death by her 15-year-old pupil in front of students as she assisted in preparing the students for their upcoming GCSE exams later this month. She was so dedicated she had come into work on her day off. Having taught at the school for 40 years, she has inspired three generations of pupils. The outpouring of grief following her death is palpable. As a 33-year-old I can not understand it so I can not even comprehend how her 15-year-old students are coming to terms with her death. Although I have had the unfortunate stain of grief forever etched onto my soul, I am grateful that it is not through the hatred and violence of someone else. To say that my thoughts and heart go out to her family and friends goes without saying. How they are coping with this with such composure and dignity is beyond me. There is also the other family to consider here. The family of the killer who now have to live with the knowledge that their loved one was capable of such actions.

Despite this, the death of Ann Maguire is not in vain. At the very least it has proven that teachers do matter and not all teenagers are the uncaring, apathetic species they are made out to be. To think that a teenager organised a fundraiser in her memory to which more than 200 students and their families attended proves that point.

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It is only natural to look for answers as to why but there is only one person who can answer and that is the 15-year-old who wielded the knife. It is no good to blame the rock music he listened to, I listen to rock music and have done so throughout my teenage years but that did not possess me to such actions. I was not exactly the most popular student in my school either and violent video games are not the answer. We are all in disbelief at how anyone can commit such an act of hated and violence, let alone a child and it is only natural to point the finger and find blame somewhere.

As I held my daughter in my arms tonight I had a much deeper respect for life. I remember holding my new-born daughter in my arms 17 months ago and swearing that I would protect her from all harm. I knew deep down that would be impossible but the mixed emotions of becoming a mother for the first time convinced me that it was indeed possible. Rocking her to sleep tonight and watching her eyes grow heavy as her little fingers played with the loose strands of my hair made me fear so much for the future. I fear that I will not be able to protect her from hurt and pain. I feel what the mothers of Mrs. Maguire’s students must feel right now.

Life is so desperately fragile and can be taken in an instant. Ann Maguire is an inspiration to all teachers out there. She is a reminder that you all make a difference to lives. She is a reminder that exam results are not always the most important thing. It is how you make people feel. Mrs. Maguire has inspired me to grab life with both hands. To hold my loved ones that little bit tighter and to whisper those three words that little bit louder.

Rest in peace Mrs. Ann Maguire.

Maguire shirts

Opening image: Wendy Alexander
Second image: BBC
Closing image: BBC

With A Little Help From My Friends

I finally find myself in the long-sought after position of reading and writing all day long and I have enjoyed testing myself by accepting new writing challenges, one of which I now need your help with.

I have decided to write an informative, pictorial essay on life in Iran that will be downloadable from my blog for free. It may not be a subject close to many people’s hearts and minds but as every writer is told, you need to ‘write what you know’ so that is exactly what I’m doing.

There seems to be a lot of rhetoric about Iran, most of which is negative and most of which from my perspective is largely based on misunderstandings. I plan to conduct thorough research, expand upon my findings with my own first-hand experiences and observations and hopefully provide a different perspective for my readers than they previously have been used to.

This is where you come in. I am inviting you to contact me with your perceptions of Iran via my proofreading e-mail address: lighteronwords@gmail.com or alternatively by commenting on this post. You are more than welcome to contact me anonymously and please feel free to express your true opinions and/or perceptions of Iran. I will not identify anyone in the write-up but would like to grasp a cross-section of understanding from people.

I genuinely really look forward to hearing from you and hope you will share your thoughts on Iran with me. You do not need to be Iranian, know an Iranian or even understand Iran. Just write what is in your mind.

Title image from: Role of Friends in Life 

Celebrating National Libraries Day

One of my most exciting memories was the time I progressed from Junior to Teenager in my local library. I remember looking forward to my weekly trip to the library with my father, losing myself in the rows and rows of books. I would come home and lay the books across the living room floor and show my parents one-by-one each book that I chose. I would rest my head on my father’s shoulder and read my library books one by one in the evenings. I would carry all of them around with me, not just the one that I was reading at the time.

I would sometimes be left in the library while my parents went shopping, safe in the knowledge that surrounded by books, they would find me exactly in the same place where they left me. (Apart from the time the library closed during lunchtime and I was told by the librarian to wait in the street for my parents to return. My mother was flabbergasted and didn’t leave me in the trusting care of books again…)

Visiting a library was not always a comfortable experience for me. In toilet training me, my mother would give me a book to read in order to keep me still. All well and good until I began visiting the library and in similarly to Pavlov’s dog, needed to visit the little girl’s room more or less as soon as I set foot in the building! Fortunately for me (and the library staff) this has now passed, more through self-determination and willpower than anything else!

I can’t quite describe the feeling I have when I now walk into a library. I’m reminded of the trips I used to have with my father. I’m reminded of my innocent care free childhood. National Libraries Day is on 4th February (incidentally my father’s 70th birthday) and our libraries need us more than ever. With the threat of Internet sites such as Amazon (a regular haunt of mine), libraries are becoming increasingly threatened. They need to be saved. Researching for my children’s book at the local library reminded me that I’m not the only child who was (and still is) book obsessed. I have visited the children’s section of my library on several occasions and have smiled at the younger children sprawled on the floor reading with their parents, the older children laid back on bean bags. They were even there longer than me, last weekend one child didn’t even want to leave when it was time to go to Grandma’s. Times have not changed and I don’t think they ever will. I even want them to. Libraries are needed just as much now as eighteen years ago when I first set foot into the teenager’s lair.

Books aside, libraries are needed to maintain and in some cases rebuild communities. It is a chance for people to come together through reading time, parent and toddler group even tai chi. It is a chance for writers to engage with their readers and readers to engage with writers. Not long ago my husband took me to the largest bookshop in Europe, I was beside myself with excitement. It had five floors and I examined each floor thoroughly, yet I walked out empty-handed. I was in absolute heaven as I picked many books up, scanned the backs, skimmed the pages, smelt the pages even but I returned them to their shelves again and again. Set me loose in a library however and I will come away with my arms full. Maybe the fact that the books are free to learn from and to experience, I am more open to choosing them. Following this excursion my husband brought me £20.00 worth of Amazon credit to buy books with. This was at least two months ago and I’m still choosing which books to buy.

My ask of you is to visit your library tomorrow on National Libraries Day. Join a library. Take a book out, a DVD or even a CD. Check out the communities bulletin board. Take your children. Learn something new. A language or a musical instrument. Learn to love your library!

The End of the Beautiful Game

It is not often that I agree with politicians these days but I am proudly standing side by side with David Cameron today about the ridiculous ‘poppy ban’ that FIFA have placed on the England football team. To consider the wearing of a poppy as a political statement is absolutely absurd. FIFA might as well ban the singing of the national anthems before each game if they are so concerned with political neutrality. The wearing of a poppy is an act of respect for those who have given up their lives for freedom. Our freedom.

A statement released from FIFA state that allowing the players to wear poppies on their football shirts will open the way for similar initiatives across the world, thereby endangering the apparent neutrality of football. If that is the case and the ban continues, will that not open the way for further initiatives? What other ban will there be? Are we going to ban Christmas because it is a religious holiday and may offend non-Christians? What about Halloween with its pagan origins? What if Christians claimed to be offended, would the holiday be banned too?

If they are to have a one minute silence before the game, thereby ‘forcing’ Spain to do the same – how different is it to wearing a poppy?  Does FIFA not care that the British population will be offended by the ban? That the servicemen and women will not be offended? What about the families who have lost their loved ones in our country’s fight for freedom?

I have German members of my family who are not offended in the slightest by me wearing a poppy. My husband is Iranian and he wears his poppy with pride, as did my father. My husband even travelled to Iran wearing his poppy. His Iranian and German family were not offended by this but interested, impressed, respectful.

The wearing of a poppy and the observance of Remembrance Day is ingrained in the British psyche. Following the atrocious summer riots in London (which were broadcast across the world), how can FIFA take away a reason to be proud of our country? I would not be offended if the Germans publicly remembered their war dead. Why should they not be given a human right to do so? Why are our rights continually taken away from us?

In banning the poppy, FIFA has made it a political symbol. Football used to be called The Beautiful Game, it’s such a shame that FIFA has now destroyed that. In World War One when the guns stopped, the ‘beautiful game’ bought England and Germany together side by side. FIFA has now weakened the bridge that was built that day. The only way to strengthen it is to release the ban. To give us our freedom back… Lest we forget.

 

Judging a Country by its Cover

When I see news and programmes on Iran, I experience different emotions. Not long ago I was of the exiled generation who dreamt of a far away land and saw it only through rose-tinted glasses. Having lived there, I found it difficult sometimes to comply with the strict regulations in the country – having never experienced such restrictions in Britain. However, I never came across any trouble while I was out there. Although my time living in Iran was before the recent elections and unrest, ultimately beneath the shouts and slogans, Iran is the same. It is a beautiful country with an even more beautiful history.

I became annoyed last night to hear a fellow Iranian describe how ‘humiliating’ it is to be examined before attending university, be told to clean their make-up clad faces, pull their scarfs forward, dress according to the custom/uniform. The same thing happened while I was at secondary school in the UK. Some (albeit not all) teachers would line us up outside the classroom, as we trooped in students would be set aside and asked to lengthen their skirts (which were rolled at the waist), take off their jewellery, clean their make-up – all in accordance with the school uniform.

Filming outside a mosque or within a religious city in Iran, you will be surrounded by women in head to toe black chador. However, walking along the streets of Tehran you will see a mixture of women wearing the ‘veil’ to different degrees.  I work for an international organisation that should on paper know more about the Middle East than most. Last week my boss asked me whether my father-in-law was ‘comfortable’ with me working. I resent the depiction of Iranian women as invisible members of society. We are allowed to vote, to work, to drive a car, even to hold posts in government – quite different to some of Iran’s neighbours. Yet for some reason, people I speak to are unaware of this.

Please believe me when I say, Iran is a beautiful country and I regard myself as lucky to know Iran enough to see beyond the veil. I may be naïve and although I do not know what it was like to be in the streets of Tehran during demonstrations, I regard myself as lucky enough not to have lost sight of the ‘real’ Iran. In this case I would rather be called naïve than to lose this beauty.

The next time you hear news of Iran, I hope you remember some reasons why Iran for me is special:

1- beautiful mountains

2- beautiful parks

3- the Caspian

4- Isfahan

5- Shiraz

6- kebab

7- backgammon (takhte nard)

8- romantic poetry (Shahnameh)


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