Arabella’s Daughter

So – this is a story I wrote aaaaages ago, and completely forgot about until I just found it by accident. It’s one of the weirder stories I’ve written, and if I remember rightly, my friend Joe’s sole feedback at the time was: ‘I think you and the male gaze need to sit down for a good long chat to see if you can resolve your issues’. But anyway. Here it is.

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Visiting Phnom Penh? I Dare You To Watch This Without Weeping

Anyone who lives in or has been to Cambodia knows how fresh the wounds inflicted by the Khmer Rouge still feel today. Unresolved trauma from the civil war and genocide permeates the work of most artists who were old enough to have experienced it first hand (as well as many who weren’t).

In her newest work, the incredible choreographer Sophiline Cheam Shapiro has taken a completely fresh and unique approach to navigating this trauma and grief, blending traditional dance, theatre and a classic folk tale to explore ideas about revenge and cycles of violence. I was lucky enough to interview her yesterday and to catch the performance at Chaktomuk Theatre… my boyfriend and I were both in tears. It’s just beautiful.

If you’re interested in learning more about the show, Sophiline, and the amazing work she does training the next generation of Khmer classical dancers, have a read of the interview and review here – and if you’re in Phnom Penh over the next few days, make sure you buy a ticket fast, because they WILL sell out!

Me & Mum’s Epic South Island Adventure, Days 4-6

DAY 4

Distressingly, we wake to find that we are still in a car, in a field, in the cold, surrounded by mist, using towels as blankets, and with only some 3-day-old bread and a slightly sad looking carrot for breakfast. On the plus side, we’re already in the car. And there’s a text from my Aunt Josie so say the Lindauer is already chilling in the fridge. To Nelson!

Oh, wait, Mum can’t find her keys. She rummages around on the floor under her seat looking for them. “Oh, I’ve found your passport,” she says. “OHMYGODREALLY?” I squeal. “No, not really.” Mum finds her little joke inordinately funny.

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Me & Mum’s Epic South Island Adventure: Days 2-3

DAY 2

10:30am: Head out to pick up our hire car. We are met by a very sweet, very camp boy who describes everything as adorable. After giving us a list of adorable towns and adorable places we should visit, he takes us to the “adorable” car. Mum immediately crushes his enthusiasm by suggesting that the car, which is tiny, mustard-coloured and looks a bit like her old KA, is not adorable. “That’s no way to talk about the Golden Chariot,” I venture. Car boy brightens up. He finds the new nickname adorable.

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Me & Mum’s Epic South Island Adventure: Day One

After the best part of a year apart, I’m finally reuniting with my Mum (who is Kiwi) in New Zealand. After scooting around the North Island visiting family and old friends I haven’t seen for over a decade, we’ve now embarked on a three week road trip around the South Island, which neither of us have properly explored before.

Three weeks in a tiny car with your mother might sound like a recipe for disaster, but luckily my Mum is nuts in all the best ways…. 

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The day that it all went wrong

On my second night in Hua Hin, I make an elaborate show of pondering the wares of every food stall in the night market, despite knowing full well that I would end up back at the same stall as the previous night, working my way down the menu rather than working my down the street. Not that it’s a very long menu: I’d tried the noodles with tofu and prawn, and now I’m dying to try out the crispy mussel pancake with beansprouts. As far as I can work out, that is the menu.

One of my favourite things about night markets is pulling up a chair at a shared plastic table in the street, giving you a legitimate excuse to people-watch and chat to fellow diners without looking like a nutter. Yesterday this had not worked out well – a grumpy German group that seemed unused to the system had grudgingly let me take a chair at the end of their table and then pointedly ignored me in silence – but this evening, a jovial middle-aged Thai man and his Mexican friend wave at me to join them and I gratefully accept.

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A very clean start

“This way looks pretty safe,” I say, marching ahead around the corner and straight into the trap: six, maybe seven Thai teenagers, eyes full of malice, fingers already on the triggers of their pistols.

I freeze. Behind me, my companions are backing away, about to take their chances ducking through heavy Bangkok traffic, but there’s no way I can outrun our assailants. There’s too many of them, they’ve got me cornered, and I’m wearing badly thought-out footwear. Few farang* are out in this part of the city tonight, and a pale-skinned blonde that’s fresh off the plane is a prime target.

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It’s our gypsy blood

“Tell me again where you’re going,” says my Nan, pouring me a Bacardi and coke with significantly more Bacardi than coke. “Your dad said something about North Korea?”

We’re in her kitchen, a few miles from Heathrow Airport, where every few minutes planes roar over so low that it feels like they might take the roof with them; the kitchen we’d sat in when I was 11 and taping my first interview for a school project on family histories, when we talked for hours about growing up in wartime London because her mother couldn’t bear to let her be evacuated and I realised that real life is seeped in better stories than anything I could invent. The moment, I suppose, than sowed the seeds for a career as a journalist.

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