stressed out

I went for an interview today. As I was sitting there, making small talk and mentally reciting my presentation, I realised that out of my 23 years on this wonderful planet I have spent 16 years in some form of education. Why? I hear you ask. Who knows, is my answer.


We each grow up indoctrinated with the idea of education; your SATs determine your GCSE’s, you have to get good GCSE’s to get you into A – Levels, you have to get good A – Levels to get into a good university, you have to get a 2.1 in university to get a graduate job which will lead to a house, family, and a good pension for when you eventually retire.

Kids, take it from a broken down postgraduate student who’s shovelling popcorn down her throat at midnight trying to finish an assessed presentation (yes, they exist), it’s a fucking lie.

I thought I was laughing when I enrolled on this MA course; I thought I was fast tracking the whole graduate queue for jobs and giving my CV an edge. The only thing I am done is fast tracked myself to an emotional breakdown and an ever-expanding waistline.


I’ve lost track on the amount of times my boyfriend has found me on the bathroom floor crying, or the amount of times I’ve shouted at my dad for bad advice, or the amount of prawn cocktail crisps I have eaten. I’ve basically lost track of time, and space, and anything that matters.  Instead, I’ve revised the MA marking scheme like the Bible in a hope that it will make me feel better.


The lyrics from the song ‘Stressed Out’ literally sums it up “We used to dream of outer space but now they are laughing in our face saying wake up you need to make money”.

We are taught as children that we can be anything we put our minds to but as soon as we hit 18 we are told we need to conform and carve out place in society. It as if when we turn 18 we lose our hearts and in it’s place we are given a clock to show how little time we have to get a good job, to start a pension, to get married, to have babies, to be good citizens.


What happens if I say no? What if I walk away from this academic life I worked so hard to get and throw everything in the ‘Fuck It Bucket’? It feels like I have woken up and realised that this clock is telling me we only have 24 hours to make this life count.

Some of us are lucky in life to meet people with wild souls and horizons for eyes, and I was blessed to have one walk into my life at the point when I least expected it. He, like other wild souls, paints the most beautiful picture of taking chances. He talks about adventures and memories so well that it dances in front my eyes when I try to sleep at night and it whispers to me while I write my essays.


My feet are getting itchy and I am desperate to go. I looked up flights to Bali a few weeks ago and I was so close to booking it. I figured a one-way ticket would do me some good. Maybe I’ll be spiritually reborn; I’ll wear tie dye and have a Ying and Yang tattoo on my shoulder and change my name to BTH because the E is so conformist.


Or just maybe I’ll figure out my path in life.


If this interview didn’t go well and my plans for September have changed, I’ll take it as a sign and book my flight.

Until then if you need me, I’ll be on the bathroom floor crying.


The ‘F’ Word

It is the dreaded ‘F’ word; the title people scared their sons, and daughters, and wives, and husbands and friends into staying away from. It seems to be more socially acceptable in this world to tell someone to ‘Fuck Off’ rather then someone ‘I am a Feminist.’

During my first year of university I attended a seminar in which the lecturer asked the classroom full of (apparently) open-minded and enthusiastic students how many of us would refer to ourselves as a Feminist. Instantly I put my hand up and looking around the room I realised I was the only one. Out of twenty – two students (both male and female) I was the only one willing to title myself as a Feminist.

After this incident I became more emotionally and physically aware of the concept of ‘Feminism’ and ‘Women’s Rights’ and it is safe to say that I have had my fair share of heated debates, put downs, and plenty of support.

I wrote this blog having been inspired by the pictures of the women’s march in America and feeling disappointed that I was unable to be there. Instead of marching, I will use the platform I do have.

Feminism, for those of you who are terrified of the term, is the promotion of women’s rights for the equality of the sexes. As Feminists, we are not sitting in conference room, plotting the downfall of the male species, but rather the deconstruction of patriarchy.  In this world, I believe we should all be Feminists no matter what gender you are. There are simple reasons why I believe in Feminism and a belief I intend to promote to my daughters and to my sons.

I am a Feminist because I believe that we all deserve equality, no matter gender, race, or religion.

I am a Feminist because I believe I deserve to wear a skirt as short as I want with no worry of being slut – shamed or risking myself to the uncontrollable needs of some men.

I am a Feminist because I believe I deserve to be equal in my relationship with my boyfriend. I am not higher than him and he is not higher than me, we are a team.

I am a Feminist because I know that I am not weak and any flaws I do have are not defined by my sex.

In 1867 The London Society for Women’s Suffrage was created in support of women’s right to vote. Thirty – six years later women were still treated as second class citizens in society, leading to the founding of the Women’s Social and Political Union by Emmeline Pankhurst in 1903. It took another twenty – five years for all women to be granted the vote. In 2018, our second female prime minister of Britain was elected and despite her political aspirations for the country several newspapers wrote articles on what shoes she wore.

In 1962, Marilyn Monroe was found dead in her home following years of depression and oppression by the Patriarchy of Hollywood. In 2018, actress’ of Hollywood are still fighting for their rights against sexual harassment, abuse, and assault in the workplace.

Despite the leaps and bounds of women’s rights since 1867 in 2018 we, as women, must march to campaign for our rights which should, by now, be automatically given to us. Yet, one year ago women’s rights as equal, non-sexualised beings took a step backwards when an undeniable abhorrent being was voted to be President of the United States.  A President who stated via social media that “26,000 unreported sexual assults in the military-only 238 convictions. What did these geniuses expect when they put men & women together?”


That is an actual quote, spelling mistakes and all.

I know. There are no words.


Even if you consider yourself a Feminist or not, men and women should stand together as equals and show the next generation of children that we have learnt from the mistakes of our past. If we can do this then perhaps women’s rights will be as fast paced as the iPhone.

“Women have one of the great acts of all time. The smart ones act very feminine and needy, but inside they are real killers. The person who came up with the expression ‘the weaker sex’ was either very naive or had to be kidding. I have seen women manipulate men with just a twitch of their eye—or perhaps another body part.”


Donald Trump, you are correct. Those who believe women are ‘the weaker sex’ are naïve. We have survived hundreds of years of oppression and we have not lost any energy in our fight for equality.

You are also correct about our manipulative body part; the brain is the most complex organ and we are smarter than we have ever been given credit for. For starters, we know how to spell assault.

The Witching Hour

We have all heard about the witching hour: rumour has it that when the clock strikes midnight all things supernatural come to life, taunting those in the earthly realm out of their tranquil slumber.  To an extent this is true; at some point in all our lives we wake up at the chime of midnight with our hearts racing, drenched in sweat, and with the awful sensation that we are being haunted. I have a sneaky suspicion that these ghosts that haunt me at midnight are not the ones I have afraid of as a child, instead I think these are the ghosts I am now afraid of as an adult; the witching hour is the hour where all the ghosts from ex’s past appear, all the bad mistakes, all the money problems, all future decisions waiting to be made, and all the stupid comments you wish you never said. They all come in full force to wake you up from your slumber and haunt you for the rest of the night.


This damned hour has come back to haunt me ever since I returned to university; I can’t sleep, staying up late into the night to work on essay plans, watching entire tv series on Netflix, and on the weekends forcing my poor boyfriend to stay awake with me. Much to his annoyance. Even when I finally fall asleep I’m woken up by either my extremely noisy neighbour above (who apparently holds salsa lessons during this hour) or by the useless worries of career decisions and the extortionate price of cheese in Tesco.  Why do we panic about the things we cannot change and all the things we cannot foresee?


An estimated 6 million citizens of the U.K suffer from some form of anxiety or depression; all, no doubt, also lying awake in the witching hour, exploring the deep, dark corners of their mind of things that can or have gone wrong.  Anxiety is the silent villain; it erases all logical thinking, and some days it can even imprison you in your own bedroom or living room or even the bathroom floor. We all suffer from anxiety on some level, and even though it seems impossible to beat, we cannot let it win.  We must beat this witching hour at its own game, replacing the usual ghostly ritual of reruns and mind games by creating our own: the goddess hour, which comes in three specific parts.


Breathe: This is the first thing you must do, you must remember to breathe. I know, it’s sound ridiculous because we all know how to breathe but I’m not talking about rapid, short breaths but the deep, long breaths. Start by just stopping whatever you are doing and halting whatever it is you are panicking about. Take a few breaths, each one inhaling deeper and deeper until it fills your entire lungs right to the bottom, and every time you exhale let those heart palpitations melt away with the air.


Relax: Now you have calmed your body, you must calm the mind. Shut your eyes and picture a moment in your life where you felt calm, and happy, and at peace. It doesn’t have to big a huge moment, it might even be a morning lie in with a loved one, it might be night under the stars, it even might be a laughing session with your friends in KFC. Whatever it is you choose, let that moment soak in like sunshine on the brain and replace all the fears of the unknown.


Live: Now this is the hardest one to try and conquer, even though we supposedly do it every single day. Find adventures in the little things, do something you have always wanted to do, take a walk somewhere new, just be brave!  Don’t say no because you are scared, but yes because you are scared. Embrace the unexpected and find blessings in new beginnings; a rare ability we must all learn to empower.


One day soon you’re going to see that world on fire, so don’t let the anxiety diminish the drive and passion and excitement of the future by imprisoning you in the now. Send the ghosts of the witching hour back into the darkness and let yourself have a good nights sleep.

Battle of the Bitches


Katharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, two women lost to history as tragic victims of the oversized ego of an overweight King, indulged too long in pleasure and power; an easy fault to lay at the feet of a patriarchal society. But if we look a little closer it is clear to see that this is no war of religion, no fight between husband and wife, this is a battle of the bitches.  One was Queen of England from birth, raised to believe in her divine right of royal blood, while the other, a genteel woman who figured early on the power of sexuality and seduction; both powerful, both stubborn, both proud.  It was not Henry who signed their death sentences but in fact, their egos, that would not break or bend – even with the threat of the axe – in their quest for the crown.

As a feminist – a title given to me during my university years – I have always believed in the power of the female and capability we possess to rule the world (think Elizabeth I).  However, once upon a time I was swarmed by a group of girls I barely knew at a party, who proceeded to inform me that I was “alright” in person but did not photograph well. From that day onwards, I realised that contradictory to popular belief we, as women, are in many ways our own downfall.  Strong words, I know.


Ladies, our egos are our ruin.


Don’t get me wrong, I wish all the best to the girls who feel like a real- life Beyoncé, but the problem begins when we target our egos at one another.

“Girls compete with each other, women empower each other.” Isn’t that the quote that we all aspire to? I don’t know why we do it. I don’t know why I compete with other girls, or why I compare myself, or why I stalk the most ridiculously good-looking girls on Instagram. (There shall be no judgment, I know you do it to.)  Like enemies at war, we look each other up and down; from the perfectly pedicured toes to the head of highlights, we scope our challenger out, identifying any flaws or any signs of weakness to numb our own insecurity. It doesn’t even matter who it is; the ex-girlfriend, the one-night stand, the best friend, or the girl on the street. We study them with questions burning in our brains; is she better looking than me, funnier, smarter?  Is she going to take my man, take me down, or take my handbag?

I have often questioned if Miss Trunchbull was actually a misrepresented character, a villain forged from the competitive fire of female societies, burnt with criticism whispered in corners of parties and comments on Facebook. Perhaps, she began as Miss Honey, with all the positivity in the world, but the years of failed relationships, fad diets, zenless yoga sessions, and natural size 4’s turned her into this monster everyone runs from. Maybe we will all turn into Miss Trunchbull if we allow the negativity to dilute us.

It isn’t men keeping us down, or social media, or societal expectations, it is our vanity and belief that we are better than the person standing next to us. We compete with other girls because we are jealous of the things we believe we don’t have, whether that be long blonde hair, or washboard abs, or an abundance of natural confidence.  I could sit here and preach female empowerment, but I won’t.  Instead, tomorrow I won’t see a pretty girl as a rival, and I won’t see an ex-girlfriend as a threat, I will stop seeing girls as competition and more as allies.


As women we have enough on our agenda to fight for, why add each other to the list? Think about it, if Katharine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn had discarded their pride and joined forces, who knows how history would have been written?



Dear Bethany

Dear Bethany,

I know you are nervous right now and I know you are sad, sat on that little bathroom in your brand-new university halls, crying silently so your new dazzling flatmates can’t hear.  It’s okay to cry; I know for a fact that everyone else is in their room crying and missing home. One day you will be sat in the living room in the house you share with them all laughing about this moment. It will pass, sweetheart, I promise.

The world is so bright right now and I want more than anything for you to cling to it, to remember this moment always.  This moment is the start of the rest of your life.  You don’t have to be just Bethany from Solva, in this moment you can be whoever you want to be and do whatever you want to do.  You will wear inappropriate shoes to seminars, and you will always overdress for the occasion, and you own a dirty, little pair of daps (no matter how many pairs mum will throw out).  Never let anyone tell you what you can or can’t wear and if someone ever tells you it looks like shit, wear it anyway.

Always listen to Mama, she is never wrong and will be one of the only people in life who will tell you the truth whether you want to hear it or not. You’ll fight with your brother, a lot, but forgive quickly and truly; siblings are a blessing in life, they are made up of everything that makes you and one day they might be the only family you have by your side.  Lenny will remain Lenny no matter how much you both age, but you’ll soon realise that no man in life will compare to him and no one will love you as unconditionally as he does.

You will love deeply and truly and romantically and they will be as wonderful as you are dreaming about right now; they will come in all shapes and sizes, and each one will leave you with a lesson learnt.  Some of them will leave you soaring and some of them will leave you with a broken heart, and one day you will be heartbroken. No amount of advice I can give you can prevent it because when you love, you give everything, and often you will give everything to the wrong people. There will be days you won’t want to get out of bed and face the world because everything hurts, but it will pass. Do not let their inability to love tarnish your evergreen heart because that is what makes you beautiful; your unbreakable belief in true love. Heed my warning beautiful girl; not everything that glitters is gold, not every gentleman wears a uniform, and always trust that gut instinct of yours, it still hasn’t proven you wrong.

You will find someone to kiss you slowly, dance with you wildly, and set off sparks with a sea salt smile…


Don’t ever settle… in life, love, or dreams.


Set the world on fire, Bethany; do everything in your power to achieve that life you can see right in front of you.  It might seem impossible right now but you will get your 2.1 and you will get to Exeter, and you will do study your Masters. Even now you are surrounded by the cynics and the haters, but remember that they don’t know jack shit about you. Let the dumb blonde jokes roll, because one day soon they will be taking your messages while you get your hair done.

You are going to dye your hair several times and make some terrible mistakes with eyebrows, and with boys, and with friends, and you will never get braces, you will always be poor, and you will never not be a mess; but life is a mess and sometimes you have to roll with the punches. Never run from an adventure, embrace the unknown and remember it is never too late to change and you will change so much from this scared, sad, innocent girl sat on the bathroom floor.  It is going to be just wonderful.


Good luck, you beautiful mess

Thank God I Got Fired

They say good things happen to good people. They also say bad things happen to bad people. They never say though that bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people; it’s an injustice we all accept.  Someone once told me that injustice is everywhere in the world, on large scales such as famine and war but also in the small mundane events of everyday life.  Now he was a religious man, preaching that a higher being – God if you will – will serve karma always, whether it be in this life or the afterlife. “But there’s a secret” he said, “you might not be able to control injustice, but emotionally and spiritually you can just let the injustice go, when the time is right of course.”

Easy. Absolutely easy. Take a deep breath, let the Frozen soundtrack fill the room, exhale, and then just let it go…

Hint: it really isn’t that easy. When bad things happen to us we cling to the pain, to the embarrassment, to the injustice, until the wound becomes infected and bitterness seeps into our blood stream and we become just another negative person in the universe.   I watched a video today of the actress Lisa Kudrow speaking at a graduation ceremony of all the things she was grateful for, and they weren’t blessings or lucky times, she was grateful for all the times when things didn’t work out and luck was not on her side. She was grateful for the time she got fired from SNL because if she hadn’t she would never have been cast for Friends, or the time she was alone and single and flirted with someone she dubbed ‘out of her league’ because she had nothing left to lose; that man became her husband and they have been married for over 22 years.  After I watched this video I thought about where I am in my life now and I thought about all the bad things that had gotten me here, and how truly grateful I am for all those bittersweet blessings.

Thank god for the time I ran out of money and was forced to take a job as a barista in Costa, it led me to making some good friends and taught me that in life hard work is everything. This bittersweet blessing led me to push myself beyond what I thought I was capable of and I was promoted from Barista to Store Manager in exactly one year and one week.

Thank god that my Masters was postponed and thank god for the tears of disappointment and the days of boredom. That time delay that I thought was imprisoning me, gave me room to breathe, to take a step back and thoroughly think about what I wanted from life.

Thank god for all the sleepless nights because my mind was riddled with anxiety over stupid fights and declined phone calls. This unknown blessing taught me to pick my battles and to think carefully about who/what is worth fighting for.

And praise the lord for the girl in Brighton who messaged me over Instagram; for the countless screen shots she sent, the sins she confessed to, the mist in front of my eyes she finally helped clear. This is the heart-breaking blessing I am most grateful for; I am so blessed for all those in my past who lied, and cheated, and generally just did bad things, so when a good one came along in my future he would glow in the darkness.


Good things happen to good people. Bad things happen to bad people. Things happen all the time; blessings, heartbreak, happiness, and injustice; it takes time to let these things go and to be grateful for the pain. It’s like that shit people put on their living room walls about dancing in rain storms or something, we can all get through the bad stuff.

The First Week


This is it. After two years of working and five years of dreaming I am finally a Masters student, but this time round it is so different.

When I first went to university it was like a circus; a constant routine of waking up, lectures, eating, drinking, dancing, sleeping, then doing it all over again; day after day throughout freshers for all three years of my university experience. When I first went I was thrown into the hype of it and I loved it; within my first week I met the people I would spend the rest of my three years with and together we would create some of the best memories.  

Exeter is ten times bigger than Cheltenham as a university; every time you step onto campus you are swallowed up in the crowd, blended into the rest of the nervous faces trying to find their way around, societies are everywhere trying to convince you that their society is the best on campus, and all conversation is small talk of where you have come from, what course you are doing, and what you are going to wear that night.

It feels surreal to be here, I feel like I have lost my mind. I have quit my job, moved away from everyone I love to a place I don’t know, surrounded by people I don’t know, to go back into academic education which I have been away from for two years now. This is probably an absolutely crazy move on my behalf, and every morning I have to keep reminding myself that this is an adventure.  Homesickness can affect anyone at any age and no matter how much you crave independency it can sometimes be a lonely feeling when you get it. What do you do with yourself when you are used to working 40 hours a week? What do you make yourself to eat when you are used to cooking for 4? And who do you talk to when the person you spend all your time with is no longer just up the road?

I’m not sure how you get over it, I’m still figuring it out. Until then I’ll keep telling myself that this is a brand-new adventure, a chapter in my life that I only get to read once. I need to remember how hard I worked for this opportunity; all those sleepless nights as an undergrad and all that overtime behind a hot coffee machine for the money to get here is what fuels me when I feel sad. When I feel lonely I plan the adventures for all the people I miss when they come to visit me and my new little home.

I promised that this would be the year of yes and so far I have embraced it; I said yes to a work promotion, I said yes to a goodbye, I said yes to a first date, I said yes to putting myself first and so far yes has gotten me to the best place in life I have ever been.  So here we go to saying yes once more to the actual chance of accomplishing an aspiration.

Life is full of changes; it’s how we embrace it which makes them either positive or negative. I’m fed up with the negatives, so from now on I’m going to embrace all the positives that have finally blessed my life and drink from the glass half full.


Down it Fresher.

To My Beating Friend,

To My Beating Friend,

Let’s break the taboo, just like they broke you, with careless words and clumsy hands.  In a world that is obsessed with magnifying differences, you are a fragile organ that unites us all; heartbreak is gender-less, it is not affected by skin colour, or age, or religion.  It is an unstoppable force of nature, like a hurricane that we cannot prevent.    There is no shame in hurting; if it was easy everyone would be lucky enough to experience it, because to hurt is to know you lived.   Even the strongest of souls have been enticed by angelic eyes and heavenly touches, it takes the brave to fall in love and it takes the wisest to walk away when they realise hell has become home.

At one point in our lives we must all burn; letting our innocence and naivety perish in the flames of passion, and lust, and the wanting of a happy ending. The sad truth is that many of us cannot differentiate the burning of passion for that of pain.  There are times we must mourn a relationship, there is no escaping that fact, but you can only mourn something that was actually worth saving; sometimes you have to walk away from a burning house with your head held high and let the past burn to ash.  Those who suffer the tragedy of a broken heart should be praised, labelled as heroes, for falling in love is one of the most risky moves made in a lifetime. Love can transport us to a paradise on earth or it can send us down the rabbit hole to wonderland, there is a 50/50 chance; a chance we all roll the dice for even when the odds are against us and you rolled the dice, my friend.

Now for a promise; I promise you, my truest companion, that you will be just fine.  Remember, a good uniform does not define a gentleman and where we have been does not define where we are going. These broken pieces of you does not mean you are unfixable, it just means there is more of you to love, and you are more than worthy of love.

Life is a beautiful mess, a chaotic whirlwind that we all take for granted. You must embrace it. Dance on tables till your feet hurt more than the memories, laugh until you forget what it is to be sad, and kiss until you remember that you are beautiful no matter what you have been told.  Do what it takes to get past the pain until one day you discover a smile that will transform caution to rebellion. You will find a smile that will turn you reckless again, a smile that you will willing fall into the madness for. It might take hours, days, months, or years, it might be a stranger on a train or a childhood crush, but they are waiting for you, and when you find them your beat will finally echo ‘I found you’.

Until that day, I will keep you safe and strong.


My love for eternity,

Your Spine of Steel

The Year of YES

So it’s here, a brand new year!  I’m very excited.

All forms of social media are filled with everyone’s New Year resolutions with a hopeful ‘new year, new me’; everyone has shredded their failed 2016 aspirations and created brand new ones.  Yes I am one of them. Go figure.  It took around a month for my 2016 resolutions to shrivel up and die, so this year my resolution is to not make any resolutions; I plan on not making any plans. Not one. Besides a summer holiday somewhere hot.

For me 2016 seemed to be the year of questions, I was asked about 1000 each month.


“So, do you miss university?”

Of course I miss university. It’s not work when you sleep all day, drink all night and get messages from your local Indian takeaway about discount deals.


“Do you plan on being a barista forever?”

I’m still waiting for my money tree to shoot up at the moment, Susan, so until that day I’ll keep making frothy coffee.


“What are you going to do with your life now then, Bethany?”

Who knows, Susan? I still haven’t found the perfect hair colour for myself yet let alone a career so it’s probably best I don’t go into my future with bad highlights. I studied philosophy for three years we don’t have any answers.


The serious truth is I do not have an absolute clue with what I am going to do with my life at the moment, I am literally trying to get through the working week without having to think about where I will be in the next thirty years.

So this year I am not going to think about it. I am not going to plan my future and I am not going to force things that should happen naturally on their own. Instead, I am going to make this the year of YES.

When I look back on the shit bits of 2016, my happiest moments are when I didn’t think about the conclusions and I just said yes. I had one of the greatest nights because I said yes to something that seemed like such a bad idea at the time.

Everyone seems to be tell me not to wish my life away and count down the minutes until I figure out what I want to do and who I want to be and where I fit in the world.  I am trying to create a more of a ‘Zen Beth’ because the 2016 Beth can’t take anymore frown lines on her foreword. (Botox is too expensive on a Barista wage).  I write this all the time on the blog about letting things go etc. but this time I really mean it; Zen Beth is saying farewell to those annoying ghosts of the past who won’t leave her alone and she is saying “Welcome!” to the freedom of 2017.

I’ll probably end up throwing myself out of a plane or eating something rancid but who knows? It’s the not knowing that is exciting.


2017, the year of yes.*








*I need to make this clear that I am only saying yes to legal and safe things. I will not be saying yes to joining a drug gang or taking part in some sort of stupid jackass prank. I’m hoping someone will ask me to a museum or something.


The Blackberries


I swore I wouldn’t cry.

‘Real men don’t cry’ my father would say, each and every time in my childhood a tear would appear because of a banged up knee or a cruel jibe in the playground.

‘Girls cry. Are you a girl Aled?’

I wonder what he would think if he were next to me now. Would he cry? I look around me, at the faces of the men. Some are crying. Not loudly, but I can see silent tears in their vacant eyes, eventually escaping to roll down their drained faces. Are they real men?

The boat jerks violently over a wave, causing us all to bash into each other, waking up those lost in time and reminding us all what we are doing aboard this floating fragment of Hell.

I can remember exactly where I was when the war was announced.

Dr Jones’ daughter had organised a birthday gathering for him on the village green. Taking advantage of the last of the summer heat, everyone was basking in the sunlight, enjoying the uninterrupted harmony of life. Delyth and I had escaped behind the blackberry bushes; they had just begun to ripen.  If I shut my eyes, I can still see her standing there. Her red hair loose, falling in curls around her shoulders, blackberries, dark violet, prickled on the bushes behind her. Her kisses, as sweet as those berries.

As a child, I can remember running off with my brother Tomas to collect those valuable berries, our tins washed and ready, like pirates hunting for gold. It was a challenge, a competition, to see who could find the biggest one, black in colour, bursting with sweet juice.

I never won; I was too small to reach the tops of the bushes where the ripest would grow. Tomas would walk off grinning; clutching that blackberry tin, eager to show Father the finest blackberries in all of Queen’s country, ready and perfect for a pudding. Each time, I was left alone in that field, the sensation of failure taking over my body. And each time I would crush the fruit in the tin with all the strength I could muster, feeling those berries burst under the pressure till eventually all that was left was blood stained hands and a cluster of second best blackberries, punished for being worthless.

Blood doesn’t look like blackberry juice in reality.

It certainly doesn’t smell like it either. But once you have seen it morning, noon and night, you can come to convince yourself that it is. Those men, comrades, and friends, aren’t lying on the ground, shot out of existence, but rather, are lying there in a sweet summer daze, blackberry juice fresh on their lips.


The roaring sound of orders wakes me up from the innocence of nostalgia and brings me back to the present. The men around me are scared, I can smell it. It is as if fear has become the new cologne, everyone is wearing it. It fills up the boat like gas fills up a tunnel. It is so strong, my stomach lurches and I have to swallow back the urge to throw up.

I want to laugh at the absurdity of where I am. I want to throw back by head, and howl with laughter at this so called joke that God is playing on me and the rest of the men in this desperate war. He has a strange sense of humour. If I look up, I can almost see him winking down at me from the clouds, a smug look on his face. Like Tomas and the blackberries.

The boy beside me is shaking, murmuring the Lord’s Prayer, as if the words could somehow save him. In his hands I can see a picture, crumpled but clean, with a girl gazing out naively, captured in a forgotten world of innocence. She is handsome. I look at the boy’s face; he is young, too young. Not ripe enough to be with the rest of us blackberries.

Another round of instructions is given, I can’t hear the words but I can tell these are the final orders. All the men shift their body weight forward, holding their weapons of war, ready to run, to face our enemies.


I don’t want to laugh anymore.


A whistle blows and the front of the boat collapses onto the sand. The smell of fear is gone now, all is left is the stench of death. Two by two, like the animals on the ark, we lurch out of the tin box and begin to run. As I step onto the foreign land, I quickly pray; I beg for mercy, for survival, for the chance to have one last blackberry.

Bullets sound and the running begins.

Ignoring the men falling around me and my feet sinking into the wet sand, I simply run, as if it was all I had been trained to do. Perhaps, if I run fast enough I can turn back time. I can run right back to those blackberry bushes, back to Delyth, back to home.

The heat from the explosions paralyses my senses, but my ears still ring with the resounding screams of my fellow men in agony. I must be damned, this must be Hell.


Then, out of the chaos, I hear one single bullet slice through the air and suddenly my legs refuse to run anymore.


I can see Delyth before me; she is smiling. I try to get to her, but I can’t, I feel too tired to run. The ground is getting closer and the world suddenly gets quieter, as if all sound has been silenced.  Tears form in my eyes and I let them fall, I don’t want to be a real man anymore, it’s not worth it. If only my Father could see me now.


I fall, landing on the sweet, fresh grass of home.


I can taste the blackberry juice.