The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Wow. Just wow. In all honesty, I did not think I would like this book, but I am absolutely smitten.

«Set in the deep American South between the wars, it is the tale of Celie, a young black girl born into poverty and segregation. Raped repeatedly by the man she calls „father“, she has two children taken away from her, is separated from her beloved sister Nettie, and is trapped into an ugly marriage. But then she meets the glamorous Shug Avery, singer and magic-maker – a woman who has taken charge of her own destiny. Gradually Celie discovers the power and joy of her own spirit, freeing her from her past and reuniting her with those she loves.»

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I read this book as part of Emma Watson‘s feminist book club Our Shared Shelf, and I have currently twelve tabs open, all of them full of discussion topics. It‘s way too much to discuss in a singe blog post, so I decided to instead focus on quotations. I promise I‘ll try not to spoil anything, in case The Colour Purple is still on your T-Read list. The language of the book is incredibly beautiful, and the author has the talent of bringing difficult topics to the point.

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With this simple line Alice Walker sums up the message that Celie has received her entire life. How can a woman, who keeps being told that she is nothing, keep her dignity and a sense of worth?

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This is the first time Celie sees another woman defending herself against a man. Up until that point, this has never been so much as an option to her. And Sofia, this woman, puts her own well-being before her husband, while Celie sees no other way than stay obedient and suffer through her abuse head down.

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Throughout the story Celie stays very suspicious of men. In her opinion they are all prone to violence and oppression, which is the only treatment she has ever received. Falling in love with a man, to Celie, is unconsiderable. But Alice Walker also makes it very clear that relationships based on mutual love and trust do exist, and that they have nothing to do with abuse. Also, she emphasises on the fact that a woman can indeed be in love with a man and still be empowered. Love is not a weakness, no matter who it is you love.

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One big topic The Color Purple discusses is religion. Can somebody who has been raped, had her children taken away from her and been pushed into an abusive marriage still trust in a God that‘s good and just and loving? Alice Walker presents the concept of a God that does not believe in sin but wants you to be happy and free. This is a thought that eventually pushes Celie towards emancipation and sets her free.

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Just for context, this girl has only just been raped by a stranger. And yet, she refuses to be defeated by rejecting the belittling nickname, Squeak, that her boyfriend has given her. By renaming herself, Mary Agney resists the patriarchal words he has imposed on her. By doing so, she refuses to let the man in her life gain interpretive control over her.

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People can change and, more importantly, people can be forgiven. When Celie finds the strength and the courage to leave her husband and finally be her own woman, the man who has been nothing but a possessive and lazy bastard finally gains control over his life and finds some sort of inner centre. It is made very clear throughout the story that violence creates more violence, and that no person is violent or oppressive by chance. Celie‘s husband had a father who decided over his head what his fate was to be, so he saw no other way than to control the life of his wive. It‘s only when she takes this piece of control away from him that he sees a way to change.

To me The Color Purple is about love and discovering your worth, and this is made to count for men and women alike. It‘s a complicated setting because women are twice the victim – once in their role as women, but also by being black.

While reading the book, all I could think of was how privileged I am! I could have been anybody, but instead I‘ve been born into a white upper middle class family in freakin‘ Switzerland. If I were even so much as involuntarily touched by anyone people would consider this a violation and support me. No one has ever told me that I‘m worth less because of my race or gender. And that makes me feel so, so lucky!

Definitely read The Color Purple, you‘ll cry and laugh and you‘ll want to spread love. Really, you‘ll just want to wave this book around because it feels as if everyone should read it and that would make the world a much brighter place. Yes, it‘s that good!

Meet: Aleks and Sophie

 

Bild 31Aleks and Sophie in three words: Honest, Lighthearted, Fun
Aleks and Sophie read: Hannah Maggs
Find Aleks and Sophie online: http://www.sisterhoodofthetravelingwags.com

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When Aleks and Sophie moved to Geneva because of their husbands’ jobs they had no idea that they would soon find a best friend in each other. Since then, two years have passed and they have launched their wonderful blog The Travelling Wags where they tell talk about their experiences, adventures and mishaps in Switzerland. I met them on a sunny autumn afternoon for a chocolate brioche in a lovely café called Mafalda Tivoli in Geneva and had them answer all my silly little questions.

Aleks and Sophie literally write each and every blog post together. They are such giggly ladies, it’s very easy to imagine how a post about hoo-has or drunk people in clubs came to be! They really do write about everything. «It’s a blog about day to day life,» they say. «We talk about marriage, friends, food – basically we wanted to create a blog people can turn to, especially those that find themselves in a similar situation as us. After all, living in strange city where they don’t speak your language can be really quite frustrating.» Having lived in New Zealand and Honduras myself, I know exactly what they are talking about. But every place has its plus side. Like the Wags’ favourite ice cream place, Manu Gelato, where they even sell Specculoos Gelato. «It’s life changing,» Sophie promises (Needless to say, I am extremely excited for my next visit to Geneva now!)

Sophie’s and Aleks’ most loyal readers are both of their mums who not only spot every little grammatical error but also gladly let their girls know when they look gorgeous in pictures! Family is very important to both of them. Even though – or rather, especially because! – they don’t live in close proximity with their families and loved ones, the Wags are really quite proud to have kept a good and loving relationship with the people closest to their hearts. Their husbands play a big part in their lives as well, and Aleks even goes so far as to calling meeting hers to be the best thing she has ever done! Sophie agrees, but then cheekily adds that if she could make any fictional character come to life, it would be Superman – then she’d date him!

There is a quote, that every two best friends can probably apply to themselves, that says: «You can always tell when two people are best friends because they are having more fun than it makes sense for them to be having.»
Sophie and Aleks can tell stories and giggle for hours on end. «One night out we put a really drunk friend into a taxi; as it was leaving we tried to get a picture of its number plate, but because our hands were shaky we ended up with a lousy picture – just the flash of the taxi taking the corner!» The memory actually brings laughing tears to their eyes. Then they remember that their special name for each other is Bertie. «That’s how we greet each other – by saying, Why, hello Bertie!»

An afternoon with these two is simply heart warming. Towards the end of our afternoon together, having finished up all the cake and extra pastry the chef had brought to our table, I ask them where they see themselves in twenty years’ time. «I just hope to be in a happy, balanced place,» Sophie says. Aleks nods and adds that maybe one day she’ll write a book. «Who knows. We hope we can keep inspiring people.» Is there anything they would like their readers to take with them? «Absolutely – Stop killing each other and be more tolerant – GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!» And on goes the giggling.

 

(Since writing the post, Aleks has sent me the following message: «Sophie has now also moved back to Singapore for her husband’s work! We will of course carry on the blog long distance and will now be including information about Singapore as well.» – Sounds like a fun reading experience, right?! :))

Sexy Books: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse by David Mitchell

Just read: Thinking About It Only Makes It Worse. And Other Lessons from Modern Life by David Mitchell.

Ever since I started watching Would I lie to you David Mitchell has become one of my favourite comedians. He is relatably awkward (relatable to me, that is) and his jokes are just so profound and smart that I almost pee myself when he brings them on!

IMG_20160302_200237So you can imagine how excited I was when I found his new book lying underneath the christmas tree last year! The blur:

«Why is every film and TV programme a sequel or a remake?
Why are people so f***ing hung up about swearing?
Why do the asterisks in that sentence make it ok?
Why do so many people want to stop other people doing things, and how can they be stopped from stopping them?

These and many other questions trouble David Mitchell. Join him on a tour of the absurdities of modern life – from Ryanair to Richard III, Downton Abbey to phone etiquette, UKIP to hotdogs made of cats. Funny, provocative and shot through with refreshing amounts of common sense, Thinking About It Inly Makes It Worse celebrates and commiserates on the state of things in our not entirely glorious modern world.»

What I loved about the book was that David Mitchell really comments on a big number of topics that I either find myself thinking about in everyday life or that have been bothering me for quite some time on a more serious level. Like Harry Potter (which is something I‘m never not thinking of!); David Mitchell is not a huge fan himself, and although that is a hard thing to forgive, what he writes about the Harry Potter fans is so, so true:

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Something (very unrelated to Harry Potter) that I have been hellbent on defending ever since I saw a documentary about it on New Zealand television, is pole dancing. I can‘t even remember what the documentary said that was so enlightning, but I would have taken up pole dancing right there and then – had it not been for the fact that I was only fifteen and no one would let me. Quite to my delight David Mitchell has an opinion about pole dancing as well, but it‘s not the one I originally held. He describes a course offer at Cambridge University that wants to teach young women the art of pole dancing. I thought that sounded pretty cool, until I read the following paragraph:

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Yaaayy, feminism! Whoohooo! I like this example because it underlines what he‘s trying to show the reader throughout the entire book – that everything has multiple sides to it and we shouldn‘t agree with something all too easily. At least, that‘s what I figured upon finishing it.

I must say I thought the book would be way funnier, and was then surprised to see that David Mitchell is just too smart. He comments a lot on politics and historical events which are a bit hard to understand or relate to if you‘re not from the UK. Because the books consists almost entirely of columns he‘s written for The Observer many of the topics and jokes would have to be put in context.

But having said that, the writing is incredible, and I did laugh a lot; it‘s nowhere near boring! You also don‘t have to read the whole thing in one go, the chapters are so short you can read one while having a dump! (way to praise a book, I know!) I loved it and before I let you go, here‘s one last quote:

(this is the picture he‘s commenting on, and showing you this saves me a whole paragraph of typing)

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Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Last But Not Least: Day Eight

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I saw where Shakespeare was born today and I also saw his grave.
The sign in the Christmas Shop told me that it is only 137 more sleeps until Christmas. That makes 126 more sleeps until my birthday. I had a waffle the size of my head. I found Harry Potter in a secondhand bookstore. It was all wonderful.

So many things happen between morning and night, and we could never capture all the sensations and feelings and words and different tastes of chocolate. But there is a lifetime in a day; maybe Shakespeare, too, saw light in a stranger’s eyes and maybe he, too, counted the sleeps to Christmas Day.

My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem

BIG NEWS! Except not really big. And not really new. As I announced on Instagram about a month ago I have decided to join Emma Watson‘s feminist book club called «Our Shared Shelf» on Goodreads. My reason number one for joining is that it‘s Emma friggin‘ Watson, and basically if Hermione Granger opened a book club I‘d join without hesitation. But I also figured that I don‘t really know anything about feminism. I can see why women would need it in, say, Saudi-Arabia, but I have never really thought about why feminism might also be important to me personally. So reading a book about it every month might really be an eye opener.

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Last month‘s book was called My Life on the Road by Gloria Steinem. It was a bit hard to get by which is why I finished reading it a little later than originally planned. There is a huge discussion board on Goodreads, but I‘m usually so busy that I can‘t really take the time to actively participate in the discussions; however, I decided to read through some of the arguments and put them on my blog. If anyone still wants to discuss certain aspects or opinions, please feel free to do so in the comment section. 🙂

First of all, the blurb:

«Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would drive across the country, in search of their next adventure. The seeds were planted: Steinem would spend much of her life on the road, as a journalist, organizer, activist, and speaker. In vivid stories that span an entire career, Steinem writes about her time on the campaign trail, from Bobby Kennedy to Hillary Clinton; her early exposure to social activism in India; organizing ground-up movements in America; the taxi drivers who were “vectors   of modern myths” and the airline stewardesses who embraced feminism; and the infinite contrasts, the “surrealism in everyday life” that Steinem encountered as she travelled back and forth across the country. With the unique perspective of one of the greatest feminist icons of the 20th and 21st centuries, here is an inspiring, profound, enlightening memoir of one woman’s life-long journey.»

To me, one of the first and most important aspects of feminism that Gloria Steinem mentions is that of a functional community that listens to the needs of others. Or as she puts it:

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This doesn‘t just count for women but really for people in general. Women are just one group that is or was being oppressed, depending on region and culture. So feminism is about injustice being heard. And not just that – she states right in the beginning that helping somebody, be it women, men or children, you have to go about understanding them and their situation, every aspect of it:

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This can not be stressed enough. Steinem later tells the story of how she once tried to save a turtle by putting it back in the sea. Her teacher then explained to her that this turtle had just spent weeks crawling up the beach to lay its eggs – now it would have to start over. Her conclusion:

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To me that means that we can‘t, for example, just tell women in the Middle East to stop obeying their husbands. I, at least, am in no way entitled to do that. I know very little of their culture and I can not possibly fathom the outcome of such protest. Wouldn‘t everyone agree that Malala is a feminist? Yet, she wears a headscarf, just like millions of women do, and our western society tries to tell them that this is sexist and limits them in their freedom. How many women have we asked? Sure, they should be able to decide for themselves, and many aren‘t allowed to make such decisions – but unless someone from their own culture takes her headscarf off as an act of female liberation, many women will not even want that «freedom.» And I certainly have no say in it. Scrolling through Goodreads I found a few interesting comments on the topic and I take the liberty to quote them here (since Goodreads is a public sphere already):

«As a domestic violence survivor a friend of a friend used to try to help me by being mean to my abuser after we broke up. Nothing could have bothered me more than that because I felt that I had sacrificed years of my life to make him happy and someone making him miserable now was not a comfort to me, but even when I told her that she kept doing it. I loved this story because it reminded me of that and it gave me a way to remember that I have to make sure I’m doing the right thing for others.»

«I’m Mexican, which means my darker skin gives me away whenever I go on vacations to the US, and something that gets to me every time is the condescending looks people give me. People constantly talk to me slowly, as if I was stupid, when they don’t know that I’ve studied English ever since I was two years old. And when I reply with good English they look surprised, it’s insulting. As Latins we are constantly misrepresented as illiterate, lazy or even stupid. And even when I know I am privileged, it bothers me that people think they can put an entire nation down just because of the stereotypes they are bombarded with.»

That actually leads to another thread that I never even considered a part of the feminist movement: race. This certainly has a lot to do with the fact that I live in Switzerland where racism, although prominently existant, is not to be compared with racism in the United States. I never realised the obvious fact that black women in a white world would struggle twice as hard as their male counterparts – once because of the colour of their skin and the discrimination they had or have to face because of that, and twice because of their feminity that would discriminate them in both black and white cultures. I always think that stating somebody‘s skin colour is in itself a racist act – why should I care whether that girl next door has brown or white or purple skin?! But Steinem made me realise that in certain contexts it‘s an essential piece of information. Not because it necessarily says something about the person, but it says a lot about the society around them.

The author naturally also takes into account Native American societies. What I didn‘t know either was that gender roles aren‘t simply a given. They have changed throughout history and gender equality was a given in certain cultures. Steinem quotes Paula Gunn Allen:

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There is an incredible amount of topics Golria Steinem touches and discusses in her work and it‘s simply not possible to spread them out in a single blog post. I believe that the most essential thing I have learned so far is that feminism equals the fight for human rights. This doesn‘t come as a surprise, but feminism as a word has become more of an insult than the definition of an activist movement. It does not consider simple aspects of human rights such as a woman‘s control over her own body or the male rape victims or domestic violence. One very interesting opinion of Gloria Steinem‘s is the following:

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It‘s such an interesting thought that human rights would start with the fair treatment of women. I‘m not sure I entirely agree, and this quote will definitely have to be put in context. But it is certainly a thought I‘ll keep taking into account and that I might come back to on this blog as well.

My Life on the Road is a very moving and interesting read; I think I agree on almost everything Gloria Steinem has to say. She is definitely not a man hating, non-shaving women‘s libber that so many of my gender fear to be or seen as (and if you are, then good on you! There‘s nothing wrong with that either. Except, don‘t hate men. Don‘t hate, ‘k?)

I definitely recommend this book, even, and especially, if you don‘t consider yourself a feminist!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Last But Not Least: Day 7

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A letter to J.R.R. Tolkien as found on his grave in Oxford

Dear Pro. Tolkien & Mrs. Tolkien:

Thanks a lot for the Middle Earth.
Thank you for everything in the magical world.
Thank you for Legolas, thank you for Bilbo Baggins, thank you for Frodo, thank you for the Silmarillion.

Wish God bless both of you.
Happiness and peaceful forever.

E.G.

(Quote: Lewis Carrol)

Last But Not Least: Day Six

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We went to Stonehenge today, and I loved it. It‘s a funny feeling, getting excited about stones. But just think, those lifeless junks of rock surpassed the ages of history. All the wars, the storms, the crises, all the malice in the world could not push them from where they are stood.

And just think, all the people that come to visit, so desperate for a little bit of mystery, for the proof of magic. And those unmoving stones just keep standing in a circle, casting shadows and marking the sinking of the sun, they are all the proof some of us need.

Just think, maybe the stones are not special at all, maybe people just made them so. Maybe fairy tales exist for those who believe in them and who are willing to look at things as if they really are magical.
Just think, maybe that is the real power of the stones.

(Quote: J.K. Rowling)

Gold Star for Hannover

Hello dear reader!

[I was going to name this post Hungover in Hannover but I never was hungover in Hannover, so I decided not to lie to you.]

I am writing this while sitting on the train home from Hannover, and there is no time like a long train journey to write or read or sleep (or, in my case, eat!). I spent five glorious days with Inga up in the north. It was so lovely seeing her again after almost six months, and especially after having travelled the UK with her last summer. She is my number one travel buddy and I’m very lucky that she keeps going off to live in exciting places where I can stay with her!

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Hannover is a seriously underrated city. I mean, have you ever heard of it? Have you ever made any plans to visit at all? Admittedly, seeing Inga was my sole purpose of visiting, so no judging! Buuut for starters, Hannover has a mean coffee house culture. We spent so much time in cafés drinking tea and eating cakes. My favourite café was called Glücksmoment which translates to «Happy Moments» and is a very adequate description of what’s expecting you inside. They have a massive variety of cakes and beverages and the mugs and plates and inside décor are super cute and pretty in blue and pink shaded colours. They also have a little shop within the café that sells baking essentials. I couldn’t resist and bought Bavarian themed cupcake molds; I know that’s all the way down in the south, but, hey! They say I mog di! at the bottom, and I like being told «I love you!» in Bavarian!

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Another fun thing we did was visit the zoo. I am very very fond of monkeys, and I was so excited to see the cuddling gorillas and the tantrum throwing orang-utan, and OMFG the chimpanzees! Aren’t they the cutest?! I SO want to adopt one! I also got slightly carried away when I saw the flamingos. But, honestly, they are pink birds standing on one leg, looking elegant as fuck and matching my socks – it was an intense moment, okay?

One night we went to a concert in some dodgy bar called Glocksee. Well, I say dodgy, really I felt quite at home. It’s just your alternative, 21+, smoking-is-allowed-inside kinda bar that allows live music and encourages the dealing of drugs. In short, it was brilliant! The music was fun to dance to and even allowed for my microwave dance to bloom. Hannover supposedly has quite a number of secret locations to go out, but you have to discover them for yourself. And that’s what, to me, makes this city so utterly charming, the fact that the really great places are not as advertised as they are elsewhere.

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We got all of the touristy stuff done as well, as you can see on the badly taken photos above (yeah, sorry for the lack of quality). For me, some of the nicest moments we had were on the couch with a cup of tea and chocolate cookies, watching Doctor Who and talking about all the places we’ve been. Especially with the weather as rainy and windy as it was it was good to be sitting in the warmth. Carrie Hope Fletcher and Dodie Clark recently did a song together called Gold Star For Me – to which Inga introduced me one late night. I think I should probably some day write us our own song, but I still think the lyrics relate to us pretty well, too!Bild 98Today I insisted on visiting the History Museum and I was very excited, too, when we walked there after breakfast in yet another beautiful café, but I ended up feeling more and more tired the further we explored Hannoverian history. There was a lot of talk about kings and horses and houses, but my mind just kept spinning around images of kings’ beds (of which they sadly had none on display). So thus conclude my adventures in Hannover, and I’m going to try and get some sleep. I still have five hours to go, and tonight I have two parties to attend. It’s going to be a late night. Tomorrow is not going to be fun (except that I’m going to the bookshop and then catching the train to go on a skiing holiday with my family, so I believe the hangover will be just a minor distraction.); I told Inga I’m not going to drink tonight, but open bar? Who’m I kidding!

Okay, better stop here before anyone thinks I’m a hopeless alcoholic (if anything, I’m a promisingly hopeful one!). I hope your week has been as great as mine!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Sexy Books: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

Just read: Fools Rush In by Bill Carter

I have been so excited to finally talk about this book! It has become one of my absolute favourites and I think everyone should read it, because there is so much to gain from it!

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Fools Rush In tells the story of Bill Carter who visits Bosnia in the 1990ies during the Siege of Sarajevo. He helps distribute food and other goods, he goes to rock concerts and parties and he finds friends.

Basically, the blurb already says it all:

«Some trips are chosen, some choose you. When tragedy strikes Bill Carter‘s life he finds himself drawn to a war zone. In the modern heart of darkness, the besieged city of Sarajevo, we meet a man rebuilding the ruins of his former self in the most unlikely of places. Carter joins a maverick aid organization, „The Serious Road Trip“, and dodges snipers to deliver food and supplies to those the UN can‘t reach. He makes friends with the artistic community of Sarajevo and fights alongside them for survival in a place where food and water are scarce, where you meet death every day, but crucially where life, love and laughter ring out all the same.
Carter takes his journey one surreal step further and enlists the help of major rock band U2. The ensuing events go no small way to influencing the course of the war and Western awareness of it.»

There is no way I can do this book justice by writing this review, so I‘m not even going to try. But let me tell you this: it wrenched my heart, it reduced me to tears, it made me giggle hysterically, it sent shivers down my spine – but most importantly, it gave me back some faith that even the smallest person can change the course of events. It had me believe that there are people who care and who stand above themselves. Not just Bill Carter, who just seemed to be acting without much further thinking, but also U2. Bono offered the band‘s help and meant it. During their 1993 world tour they did satellite link-ups where Sarajevans were broadcast onto stage and told their stories to so many people. Please, just look at this video!

Fools Rush In is such a genuine story, and it‘s really a work of philosophy. Bill Carter writes in large parts about loss and love and family and home – things that essentially have nothing to do with war, but have everything to do with life. And life just appears to be going on during any war.

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I know the Bosnian War has long passed, but there are so many other tragedies taking place in the world, and the least we can do is not turn our backs. Let‘s talk about it. Let‘s not pretend there aren‘t any people suffering. No one is required to go into a war zone and risk their life, of course not. But who has ever stood up to a bully or paired up with the unpopular kid at school? If anything, this book makes us care about each other.
It‘s a life changing read, I promise!

Lots of love from the roots of my heart!
xxx

Last But Not Least: Day Five

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Two things. One, I had the best of days today. Two, Brighton is heavily overrated and I do not wish to go back. The pier was too loud and the pier was too bright, the beach was too crowded and the noise of the traffic was everywhere. The fish ‘n‘ chips made my stomach ache.
But.
Around noon the sun came out.
And we wandered along the promenade and we left behind the people and the noise and we told each other stories that we already knew but liked to hear anyway.
I remember waking up from my own snoring on the train back.

It was such a complete day.

(Qote: A.A. Milne)