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August 15, 2017

Lazy Portugal  

It’s amazing the lengths we’ll go to try and switch off. I’ve travelled to the US, Dubai, Cuba and even hidden away in a writing retreat for a week. This summer, looking for respite once more, I wanted something simple and (reasonably) close to home, so I headed to Portugal.

Slightly edgier than Spain and less pretentious than France, I was looking for somewhere with good weather, beaches and a handful of things to do, so that I could spent more time concentrating on doing, well, nothing (apart from writing of course). Our modern AirBnB apartment was stunning and, most importantly, had a giant pool to wallow in and a balcony that allowed me to sit and dream on as I wrote stories and ate natas every day, the distant sound of cow bells from the opposite farm the only thing to break the silence.

(Never forget the giant swan, or flamingo in our case, because lying on one of these while letting your fingers dip into the water is actually bliss. Also, for those of you interested, he’s called Bryan) 

Making the most of a space like that, I lived the hermit dream and actually enjoyed cooking in the apartment a few times, which is saying a lot as I don’t even enjoy cooking back home. I’d love to tell you I haggled for fresh fish with the locals and whizzed up exotic dishes, but in reality, it was mostly bread and cheese at 5pm, followed by big bowls of pasta. Surely there’s nothing more quintessentially European than that anyway?

Apart from copious cheese boards and floating on giant swans in the pool, we did actually make it outside the walls of our heavenly apartment. The beach was just down the road and we couldn’t resist moonlit walks most nights for those #nofilter moments. We found an amazing restaurant BJs (yes, this is the British owner’s hilarious attempt at a joke) where we ended up an embarrassing amount of times. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, right? As a place to wile away summer holiday evenings, they definitely nailed it. The drinks were cheap, they played the songs you *really* wanted to hear (but wouldn’t admit) and everyone would sing along after the cocktails had warmed up the old vocal chords. Singing Sweet Caroline at the top of your lungs with strangers is truly a heartwarming experience and one that I’ll always advise. The live music was reliable and the singer was surprisingly good, the food was beautiful and at sunset you couldn’t find anywhere with a better atmosphere. After a few late night sessions they treated us like family, their welcoming smiles and hugs feeling so much like home, but better because you were on a beach with a multicolored sky.

(On the way to BJs, just before sunset)

(Lazy beach days)

(Perhaps the one and only time I dressed up, and that was to go to BJs)

Beyond BJs, we dragged ourselves out to soak up some culture once we had grown tired of sunbathing, although it admittedly took a lot to get to that point. The crowds in Vilamoura made us want to scurry back to our sun loungers, but Faro, the Algarve’s capital, was more of what we were looking for. The adorable little fishing town had an Instagram worthy marina, beautiful rundown buildings – including an amazing cathedral – and heaps of character. The streets were quiet and cobble filled, and as the bells tolled in the sunset, a peaceful quietness descends that leaves you feeling strangely tranquil.

(Beautiful streets in Faro)

I’m not sure what the formula is for total relaxation, but sometimes, I think it’s best not to over complicate things. A quick flight to a friendly European beach town, a sweet balcony, some great cheese and rainbow-like sunsets will leave your bones soft and your heart happy.

May 30, 2017

Muslims, take a seat

For the love of God, please do us all a favour and get off the streets, put down your placards and sit the hell down. While I can appreciate that we’re in the year of marches and movements, and believe me, it turns me on just as much as the next socialist, but the flurry of ‘Muslim marches’ that happen every time a bomb goes off around the world is irritating at best and downright insulting at worst.

Over the last few years a pattern has begun to emerge. A bomb explodes somewhere in the Western world, someone with some kind of agenda slaps the label ISIS onto it, the media, as per usual, orchestrates an anti-Muslim hysteria and Muslims living in England and America begin to organise ‘Muslims against ISIS’ marches. Or Muslims against terrorism. Or Muslims against violence. Or whatever slogan best fists with the headlines latest accusations. And while I appreciate the need for humans to show solidarity with one another, what I don’t appreciate is an entire group of people buying into an islamaphobic narrative that does more harm than good in the long run.

Look, I get it. You’re angry and hurt and you want to express those feelings. The latest Manchester attack has left the entire country feeling enraged and upset, an overwhelming human desire to do something to fight back. But my latest Facebook notification inviting me to ‘Muslims March for Manchester’ does not express my hurt or anger, it just pisses me off. The more marches Muslims orgnaise like this, the more we are telling the world that we are not like those other Muslims. It tells the world that we do not condone violence. It tells the world that we preach peace and we stand apart from terrorist orgnaisations such as ISIS. And while they are all great and true things to tell the world, it also gives credibility to extremist groups. Most importantly, Muslims are apologising and explaining themselves and in doing so they place themselves as second class citizens, into a sub category if you will.

When the bomb exploded in Oklahoma and the dust finally settled, you didn’t find thousands of Christians marching along your roads with placards that declared they did not stand with people like that. Nor did you find hundreds of Christians explaining that their religion is fundamentally one of peace. They didn’t have to because they accept their place in this world and never question that they have a right to be here.

So why are hundreds of Muslims across the country falling over themselves to let everyone know that they’re marching against ISIS. Fuck ISIS. We spend far too much time giving credibility to a group of clearly insane and deranged individuals. Of course they need to be taken seriously and the right security measures need to be implemented, and that’s up to our government to do so, (even though the rise of British and American interference in the Middle East is one of the main reasons we now have more terrorist attacks on our own soil than ever before, but let’s breeze over that because that’s another argument altogether and no one is quite ready to admit that the two things directly correlate to one another), but consistently marching, protesting and explaining ourselves to the very country that we belong to is consistently placing us beneath non-Muslim Westerns. We are dehumanizing ourselves. And in doing so it opens the floor to questions like ‘what do ISIS want?’, which incidentally I have been asked many a time by highly intelligent people. I don’t know what they want, huge shocker there, but since we’re constantly explaining ourselves, other people believe we can explain them too. We can’t, and nor do we have to.

These marches do not show sympathy for victims, instead they’re constantly defending our position and it’s fucking annoying. You don’t have to have a ‘Muslims march for…’, just march.


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