Where childhood ends…

Today, I have suffered injustice. I now know what it means to be left out, scorned and treated like a second class citizen because of something I have no control over. I feel hurt, hurt by the unfairness of it all.

Since when were teenagers not allowed into the playground without an accompanying younger child? What is this nonsense?

I queued for twenty minutes outside the Princess Diana memorial playground in Hyde Park only to be turned away. Twenty minutes of my life wasted and my childhood ripped away. Not that many years ago, I would climb to the top of the pirate ship, hide in the red-indian tepees and hunt for the closed treasure chest in that playground but today, I was too old.

When it comes to voting, I am a child but all this changes at the playground gates. Why is that?

The ducks didn’t think I was too old for a chat. They understand the insignificance of age better than any human authority.

The irony of it is that I was turned away from a Peter Pan themed playground for being too grown-up.

Peter Pan

“If growing up means it would be beneath my dignity to climb a tree, I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up! Not me!”

I should have grabbed a few kids from the queue and gone in with them, or claimed to be younger than I am. I should have complained and made a big fuss. I should have never grown up.

Are you ever too old to play? Have you ever been turned away?


Dreams of Travel

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

The world is huge, wonderful and amazing. Those are only the first three adjectives that came to mind. It is so vast but when you point to your location on the map, your finger covers it. Only a small speck on the globe.

I wonder about the other specks. Their different languages, buildings and ways of doing things. I am not content with images, not matter how vivid and detailed. I want to be there. I want to explore.

Where do you want to go? Anywhere. Somewhere different. Somewhere new. Somewhere that will make me feel foreign and lost but allow me to enjoy every moment of it. I haven’t done that in a while. I always visit the same few countries and whilst I’m sure they hold their own magic, it is not to be found in the same places I am obliged to stay at. Duty calls and when you live far from any extended family, it ties you down, every school holiday.

I’m not even sure if I love travel. It could just be the idea of it. A right of passage for the young: a desire to explore, to find where you truly belong. A common cliché of life. Maybe it’s just a passing phase, or maybe it’s just the boredom of being home for the summer, but right now I want to travel, somewhere, anywhere.

Big cities full of lights and shopping centres, or small rural villages where locals make traditional handmade crockery- I have no preference. Hot or cold, snow or dessert- as long as it is not British climate. Or if it is to be in British climate, not London. You can travel in your country; there are many places within a few hours drive that you have yet to see and wonder in awe at. Ever since studying a poem about Romney Marsh, I’ve been wanting to visit the lyrically described scenery in Kent. I am also attracted to Italy; the language, the Mediterranean atmosphere, the small villages by the sea, the history and the architecture left for us to see.

I’m tired of my little speck of the world. I want to travel.

Anyone else want to travel? Where to? Or are you lucky enough to already be abroad?


Why do we always think the worst?

This afternoon, I was out shopping on Oxford Street with my sister and as is the norm the place was packed with shoppers, many of them tourists. I bought a periwinkle cardigan and black harem trousers and tried on a few maxi dresses but because I am incredibly short, those were left behind. I was happy with my purchases but they were not the only things I brought back with me.

Somewhere in between one shop and another, amongst a throng of people walking past each other, one stopped and handed me an object. It was unexpected and my automatic response was to take it. I hardly had time to look at the curly-haired woman who gave it to me and did not look at the object itself until she was gone, leaving my sister and I in a state of confusion.

Here is what she gave me:

After we had gotten over the initial surprise our thoughts naturally turned to the worst conclusions. My sister thought that it might be a computer virus and I thought that it might be the stolen data of a major corporation or bank that had been hidden with an unsuspecting stranger who know one would suspect (me), to be collected at a later date. Neither of us thought, maybe it could be a….I can’t even think of anything positive that it could be.

Is it a city thing to be suspicious of everybody’s motives? A result of reading too many crime novels or watching too much CSI? Or even watching too much news? Why did we automatically think the worst?

I’m wondering what other people would think in the same situation. What do you think is on the SD card? I’m not going to dare to find out but I’d like to read your thoughts.

I do it with flair

As the end of the school year draws closer, particularly for my class of seniors, it comes naturally to start the reminiscence and remember the old days of braces, big nerdy rucksacks and best friend squabbles. Oh what larks we had! (Peak times, innit?)

It started off just recalling teachers’ catchphrases and habits that although we made fun of at that moment, we were sure we would all miss. When would you ever meet another person who promised to shove Tipp-Ex down your throat if you didn’t put it away?

After every teacher was done with and all their words quoted and exhausted, it was our turn to pick out each other’s catchphrases. These were words that we were known for, often repeated and were predictably ours. I’m cool like that. Yeah bro. FML.

Many people had more than one catchphrase, some were digged up from old times and as for me; I had none. Seventeen girls sat in a circle, knocking their heads together, and they came out blank. What does Yasmine say? Understandably offended, they assured me that is was not for lack of personality, I just say so many things and do not repeat myself often. As a form of appeasement, their compliments were void. Surely, I must say something more than once. I can not be the only girl without a catchphrase.

Then, finally, not because I was whining, someone came with a suggestion. A phrase that I do not say often, but I do recall saying once or twice, and had not even remembered until that moment: I do it with flair. What a curious catchphrase. It sounds pompous, obnoxious and all types of swottish but I have said it.

My friend (or so she calls herself), once commented on my manner of walking, resulting in my self-conscious tiptoeing and retarded, robotic movements. She told me I walked funny and once someone tells you that, it’s hard to walk the way usually do. So, in need of reassurance, I asked around and learned that I do not drift, I walk with purpose. “What do you mean?” I asked, eyebrows furrowed with a puzzled look on my face. You walk as if you are going somewhere. Tired of cryptic answers, I went to my teacher and she briefly summarised that I have good posture. Really? I went back to my friend and I told her: I don’t walk funny. I do it with flair.

So, what is everybody’s catchphrase?

My Life In a Box

Everyone’s got one and if you haven’t, now is a good a time as any. It’s a box, that is bigger on the inside but not in a science-fiction (Doctor Who!), kind of way, as it holds random objects that string together to tell your entire life story. They may be things that do not make sense to anybody else, like an inconsequential pencil, or they may be pretty self-explanatory, like a photograph, but every single item is a part of what makes you the person you are.

For a long time I’ve had a few objects lying around, waiting to be boxed, like sentimental treasure in a chest and today, whilst shopping in the jovial mood of the holiday season, I found what I was looking for. Ready-made and with no need to cut, paste or paint, it is the perfect vessel for my relatively short history and as I grow older and things start to speed up, I would like to be able to take a moment to sit down and escape into years past, compressed into long minutes.

To date, and in no particular order, my box includes:

  • A Barbie photo album that was given to me by a classmate when I was seven years old, as a going away gift after a year-long experience, living in Algeria. I can’t remember the girl but I have a whole class photograph in the first pocket and I know that she is in it. Forty children with the their arms neatly crossed, wearing school aprons, accompanied by a strict looking teacher who would shout at them daily, striking with her menacing cane.
  • A battered copy of “Adventures of the Wishing-Chair By Enid Blyton“. It was probably bought at a car-boot sale, it smells old and the pages are browning but that is only a sign that it has been used and loved.
  • An old retainer that is surprisingly odour-free in a small, neon orange box and a mold of my top jaw. Until last year, ever since the loss of my beautiful milk teeth, I had been cursed with the most crooked and crowded set of teeth unimaginable. Fortunately, thanks to years of NHS dental care, I can now smile with confidence although I still have to sleep with a set of see-through retainers.
  • A leopard print mask that my mum made me for our school sleepover by sticking a piece of felt on a plain mask. It looks a bit like a sleeping mask but all the girls loved it and thought that my mum was a crafty genius.
  • A folder full of certificates: academic awards, leadership course, BBC school report, contributions and three medals for collecting house-points. The one I most proud of and which I received three days ago is a Thank You certificate from Save the Children for fundraising. It was a class project; there are only seventeen of us and yet we managed to raise over £10,000, through a lot of hard work and pestering.
  • My very first passport. I must be a new-born in the picture as I was about two weeks old when I first travelled in an aeroplane.
  • A poem, entitled: Rhyming isn’t so bad. I don’t recall ever writing it and the handwriting is a bit different from my own, but it does seem familiar. I can imagine a 9-year old Yasmine proudly reciting it to anyone who would care to hear.
  • A small note from a Mexican woman called Diana, who stayed with us a few weeks. My mum met her through the internet and despite my fears that she would be an axe-murderer who would butcher me in my sleep, she was lovely and we had a great time showing her around London.
  • Two birthday cards from the same school friend, for the same birthday. One is homemade and the other is shop bought with the image of a monkey. They’re addressed Aphrodite, which is a name she sometimes calls me after a book character.
  • A Thank You card signed by every one I met during my work experience at a solicitors’ firm and the I.D card I wore.
  • Year 6 school report
  • 2005 class photo
  • Card paper, with the typed text, “my name is Yasmine- this is a picture of me”. Underneath, in a messy lopsided scrawl, is my younger self’s attempt and an unflattering drawing with no nose, jazz hands and a triangular-shaped body. According to my laid back mother, she was a pushy parent when I was little and I was sent off to nursery already being able to read off flashcards much to the teachers’ dismay.

My blog, as you can see by the links, is like my box. Many items, lead to a blog post and if I look back at it, I start to remember past events. However, in case of the unlikely demise of the internet, it is best to stick to something tangible.

I can see myself, 60 years into the future, revealing the contents of Grandma’s special box to an attentive audience, each item triggering a briefly forgotten memory and leading to a story, starting, “when I was younger…”

Do you have a memory box? No? Make one.

What are you afraid of?

PhobiasWhat are we all scared of? Is it snakes, heights or even homework? Every single one of us, whether we admit it or not, is scared of something, but does that mean we all suffer from a phobia? To answer this question we must first look at the definition of a phobia.

It is a type of anxiety disorder, usually defined as a persistent fear of an object or situation in which the sufferer goes to great lengths to avoid, typically disproportional to the actual danger posed and often being recognized as irrational by the sufferer themselves.

They are more than just simple fears and the impact they can have on a life can be significant. Imagine not being able to walk out of your front door because you fear the people on the outside. You try to overcome it. You push yourself to just take one more tiny step but as you move your leg forward, your body starts to tremble, you start sweating, you find it hard to breath, as if something were choking you; headaches, dizziness, a ringing in your ears. You may even faint. It sounds unpleasant but these are only some of the symptoms of a phobia. In this case; agoraphobia, the fear of people and open spaces.

There are many other types of phobias, some more common than others. For example; claustrophobia; fear of enclosed spaces, arachnophobia; spiders, acrophobia; heights, glossophobia; public speaking and hemophobia; fear of blood. There is a phobia for just about anything and if you were to be crafty and use them as excuses you could also get away with just about anything. Alourophobia; the fear of reading aloud, arithmophobia; numbers, bibliophobia; fear of books, epistemophobia; knowledge and scolionophobia; fear of school, could all be used as excuses if you can produce a valid medical certificate.

Although there are many different phobias you will find that sometimes the word phobia, Greek for fear, is just used as a suffix to create many imaginary phobias that do not medically exist. For example Hippopotomonstrosesquippedaliophobia – fear of long words which is quite obviously a joke and not an actual phobia.

Phobias vary in severity among individuals. Some people can simply avoid the subject of their fear and suffer relatively mild anxiety over that fear whilst other may go into full-blown panic attacks at a mere picture. They can also develop at different times. Simple phobias usually develop in early childhood, often between the ages of four and eight, usually because of an early childhood experience e.g. if as a young child you were trapped in a confined space, you may develop a fear of enclosed spaces (claustrophobia) and if you share the same phobia with another family member, such as a fear of spiders (arachnophobia), you may have learned to fear spiders as a child, rather than the phobia being passed on genetically.

The exact causes of more complex phobias, such as agoraphobia and social phobia, are unknown. However, it is thought that genetics, brain chemistry and life experiences may all play a part in the development of these phobias.

Nevertheless, they are all treatable through various ways including; counselling, psychotherapy, group therapy, hypnotherapy, and in severe cases antidepressant medications. For anyone with a phobia there is always hope. You were not born this way so there is no reason to accept it.

Phobias can affect everyone and anyone. Male, female, old and young; everyone. Not even the rich and famous are exempt from their effects. Many notable celebrities have admitted to phobias such as Johnny Depp who has clourophobia; fear or clowns, Madonna with brontophobia; fear of thunder, Orlando Bloom; swinophobia, pigs, and Nicole Kidman; lepidopterophobia; fear of butterflies. It is reported that even Julius Caesar, a great Roman emperor who ruled over thousands, had a phobia and it wasn’t defeat or invasion. It was cats. He suffered from ailurophobia, a fact which is not very well-known and which I am sure he would have liked to remain secret.

In fact, some phobias could remain secret forever. An estimated 10 million people in the UK have phobias but the number could be far greater. Either one of us could form a part of this statistic. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, states that if a phobic stimulus, whether it be an object or a social situation, is absent entirely in an environment – a diagnosis cannot be made. An example of this situation would be an person who has a fear of sharks(Selachophobia) but lives in an area devoid of sharks. Even though the concept of sharks causes them distress and impairment, because they do not encounter sharks in the environment no actual distress or impairment is ever experienced.

Therefore, many of us may have phobias that in our present environment we are not aware of or may never be aware of. You may have, novercaphobia – fear of your stepmother but until you get one, you will never know. We may all have dormant phobias. If they ever awaken just remember to seek help…

Celebrating 50 years of endurance

Fifty years is an incredibly long time. It’s five times a decade and half a century. It’s the number of years my grandparents have been living as a married couple, arguing constantly and lovingly and the number of years I would love to do the same. Fifty years is an amazing accomplishment.

Last weekend I escaped the Halloween trick-or-treaters and flew off to Spain to attend my grandparents’ bodas de oro (Golden Anniversary). It was a much awaited event that we’d been planning and joking about for years, teasing my grandmother with suggestions that she dress in white and re-walk the aisle whilst my grandfather assured us that he probably wouldn’t make it. He did. Even in their old age and deteriorating health they made it to fifty years and I am proud of them both perhaps even a little jealous.

Just watching them re-exchange their wedding rings and peck each other on the lips made me imagine myself in many years time doing the same. I wonder if they remember their grandparents anniversaries’ and when I am in the same position, will I remember theirs? What about my grandchildren, will they remember mine? All it takes is a few generations worth of family together in celebration, to shrink the timeline of my existence and those intertwined, into the relatively tiny space that is my head as I try to grasp the complicated concept of time. All those different times, beginning and ending, co-existing and separating, and generally making my head ache in confusion.

I hope that after all that internal questioning I actually manage to make it to fifty years of marriage. It would be a terrible disappointment if I were to annoy my husband to an early grave unless I were to consider celebrating in solitude which would be incredibly disrespectful to the deceased. Then, there is the possibility that he annoys me to divorce however it seems unlikely as I will endure just about anything to get my Golden Anniversary. Divorce is not an option.

I want to be able to share the joy of a fruitful fifty years, surrounded by a family built on love. Gather them all around for group photos even as they begin to bore and their cheeks begin to ache. Cry with tears of laughter as a surprise cake is brought in, accompanied by a merry jingle and topped of with a pair of bobbing dolls, magnetically joined at the lips. Toast to fifty long years I will never regret and then when all is silent, cry “long live the couple!”