Thursday 29 February 2024


I took myself for a walk today. My body aches, lately. Ha! Lately? For the past thirty years kind of lately... but yes, this sludge like treacle we move through while attached to our phones receiving news of a genocide adds a new layer of ache. When the doctors found a murmur on my ten year old heart, they kept an eye on it even as I moved countries. Lately... oh that word again... my heart is heavier, the beats a little unsteadier. "I think I'd like to send you to Papworth if you don't mind," said my cardiologist a few weeks ago. For an MRI at the big fancy heart hospital. "Anything I should know? Any questions for me?" she asked. She's lovely, and Northern Irish, so I think she would have been fine with me responding with the truth. "The children," I would have said. "The children of Gaza." I don't know what the figures are for bombed, amputated, under the rubble, but as we know, they are not numbers. Each one has a name. Although the ones who knew their names, who could write their names on the tiny white shrouds, are also gone. Motaz Azaiza, our traumatised young heroic journalist, puts it this way: "They passed," he says. I find his way of commenting on unjust death very moving. Sparse and factual, laden with helplessness, and yet, dignified. Even as he witnesses a physical reality beyond the language any one of us possesses. In war time, photographers from foreign western lands, are often given the wealthiest noblest prizes for capturing children on fire or dying. Motaz is Palestinian, and the people he photographs are family, friends, neighbours. The blood of his blood. No award or prize will ever ease his psychological torment.

On Valentine's Day, I took myself for a walk, because my body was aching, and I know there are snowdrops ‘out there’ and aconites and the beginnings of daffodils. There are bridges with river water, and even birdsong. There was unexpectedly more. I walked past the village hall and was invited in for the monthly Wednesday tea and cake. My first thought is often no, instinctive to avoid gatherings. Not just a pandemic protection, but a social defence. Years of "so what are you up to these days?" Now I find I can talk more easily having been accepted as The Daughter Who Lives With Beloved Parents. I have somehow moved into a more accepted phase. Not quite old, not too young. Just... a person. The Elders were glad to have me. I ate a slice of apple pie, and then washed up as many cups and saucers as I could before linking arms with a friend and walking on. "Rage helps keep my tears at bay," she said. It's nice having friends who know.

What now? The clock ticks on. The calendar advances. "We are living through a very dark time," my mother acknowledges. And that comforts me too. Dad asked me to start reading the autobiography of Sister Chân Không a day or two before we heard the news of the young US soldier, Aaron Bushnell, setting himself on fire in protest against American military aid to Israel and solidarity with the suffering of Gazans. Sister Chân Không witnessed the burning of the monk Thích Quảng Đửc on June 11, 1963. Speaking of photographs that won prizes… I could post it here. But you have already seen it. Maybe even at the time it flew around the world. My heavy heart, my heavy heart. It was never designed for this live witnessing of the worst of who we are to each other. So instead, some blossom and a poem, and later, perhaps a walk. It has been a good year for snowdrops.

every time I ever said I want to die
By Andrea Gibson

A difficult life is not less
worth living than a gentle one.
Joy is simply easier to carry
than sorrow. And your heart 
could lift a city from how long
you’ve spent holding what’s been
nearly impossible to hold.

This world needs those
who know how to do that.
Those who could find a tunnel
that has no light at the end of it,
and hold it up like a telescope
to know the darkness
also contains truths that could
bring the light to its knees.

Grief astronomer, adjust the lens,
look close, tell us what you see.


  1. Shaista, your words always resonate in my heart, because you say so beautifully what I am feeling and am too disheartened to put into words. It is harder to find that shine these days and yet, as you say, the snowdrops come up like brave little truth warriors anyway. I instantly ordered the autobiograhy you mention because every book you have ever mentioned I have loved. Where to even start about the state of the world and our heavy hearts? Our friend Rajani in India is writing with a pen on fire these days about the genocide in Gaza.

    Take a look:

    These are hard days for gentle souls who want a world of social justice, watching it all go mad. Remember: your way of being adds light to the world. Your words reach peoples' hearts. They matter. You matter. You are beloved. Go find those snowdrops and give Sammy a hug. In this world, doggy hearts give me the most comfort.