Gratefulness is Happiness

He chops the spring onion into a million tiny pieces, his lips turned upwards as he wipes the sweat from his forehead. She smiles; smiles as she sprinkles the chopped pork into the pancakes, passing them to the hungry people rushing to work. She asks him to pass her the salt, and as he does, he reaches out and tickles her under the chin. She peels off the green smidgeon of spring onion and flicks it back at him, laughing affectionately. And back and forth their morning goes.

I see them everyday and they always look happy.

It’s simple. They are grateful. Grateful to be alive, grateful to have a popular food stand in a bustling area, grateful to have each other (I can see it in their eyes), grateful to be making money in an honest way, grateful to be able to feed other people and to feed themselves after a hard day’s work. They really don’t ask for much. Just happiness.

Gratefulness = Happiness

Easy peasy. Even when things get really tough- when you have to scrape by to pay the rent or live off of rice for weeks on end- rather than sitting and complaining about how awful your life is (really, it isn’t, it could be much, much worse!), why not try being grateful for the things you do have. I’ve stopped thinking about all the things I think I need or things I want, and instead I am just focusing on the smaller things and being grateful for them every single day. Practicing daily gratitude is a sure fire way to inject you with happiness, I promise. And it can be really tiny things, things that are free, things that you might not notice because you always have your face glued to your phone or your head in the clouds…

Some of the little things I am grateful for are:

* Being able to spend Christmas with my amazing family this year at home in Scotland. The last time I did this was in 2008!

* That despite winter being very much a reality in the northern hemisphere right now, here in Shenzhen the sun is still shining its warm rays and the flowers continue to blossom.

* Blue sky days in China.

* My old and new friends dotted all around this beautiful world.

* The way the security guards at my apartment building smile and greet me every morning and night, no matter what.

* Smiles from strangers

* Books.

* Being able to experience and immerse myself in the fascinating culture and language of China.

* Cups of matcha tea.

* Having a creative job.

* The opportunity to travel to lands I have always dreamed of visiting, even if it has resulted in me being completely poor (poor, but happy, very happy!).

* The thought of new adventures to be had, new friends to be made.

Life, with all its highs and lows. I love it and I am so grateful to be experiencing it right now.

What do you feel grateful for?

Love,

Luna

Frolicking in Kaiping

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Shenzhen is positively overflowing with things to see and do, but sometimes you just need to step back in time, step down in pace and spend a weekend somewhere with the scent of history lurking around every corner. If you’re looking for somewhere new to explore, not too far from Shenzhen but far enough away to feel like you’ve had a break and a taste of something more like the China you had always imagined, perhaps Kaiping 开平 is exactly what you need.

Kaiping is situated in Guangdong and is the ancestral home to many overseas Chinese. It’s most famous for its watchtower, castle-like buildings that are dotted around the surrounding countryside. Cycling along the roads outside this small city, it’s easy to feel like you’ve been transported smack-bang into some fairytale land. The towers are absolutely beautiful, especially the ones that haven’t been touched for years and are crumbling at the seams. They look so majestic poking out from between the long grass.

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These towers are called Diaolou and what I like most about them is their mixture of Western and Eastern elements. Seeing as they were built by overseas Chinese, they have a touch of both worlds, making Kaiping a very special place. The Diaolou were originally built to serve as both housing as well as protection against attacks from bandits. I’m not sure if people still live in some of them, but quite a few make up part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site. I could have cycled around the villages and in and out of these towers for days.

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Here’s my little Kaiping travel guide for anyone who fancies checking this beautiful part of Guangdong out:

HOW TO GET THERE

If you’re travelling to Kaiping from Shenzhen, the easiest way to get there is to take the bus from Zhu Zi Lin bus station in Futian. This bus station is directly above the Zhu Zi Lin mrt station and the buses to Kaiping run every hour. Depending on traffic, the bus should take around 2.5 hours on a good day. We travelled there on a public holiday, so it was closer to 3.5 hours. Once you reach Kaiping bus station, change to a small local bus going to Chikan village. If I remember correctly, you can take bus number 6, otherwise just ask someone in the bus station which bus you can take. There are quite a few tourists who visit Kaiping so I’m sure the locals can point you in the right direction.

Once you reach Chikan, there are a few different stops. Either get off when you first enter the small streets of the village selling food etc, or wait until the stop next to the small river running through the village.

Once there, you can rent bicycles from various shops and stalls that run alongside the river, for about 20-50rmb per day depending on whether you choose an old, rusty number or a more decent mountain bike. Personally, I prefer the rusty ones as they usually have a basket and bell. There are even some fixies floating around these days. Kaiping hipsters!

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WHERE TO STAY

We wanted to stay at this hostel – Tribe of Diaomin but unfortunately it was fully booked owing to us travelling there on a public holiday. It’s located right on the river and has a great bar which is quite fun to go to after a full day of cycling and sightseeing. You can also rent bicycles from them. We ended up staying in a very small, local hotel that cost us 100rmb each, per night, for a twin room. This hotel was just called Hotel, so it’s a little hard to find. If you discover that Tribe of Diaomin is fully booked, just ask them to help you get to the other hotel in the village and you should have no problem getting a room there.

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WHAT TO SEE

Seeing as Kaiping’s Diaolou are recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you might want to visit ALL the sights. You can actually purchase a special ticket for 180rmb that grants you entry to the 4 main sights, but we just opted to visit 2 of the main sites as we found it more fun cycling and discovering our own unique towers with no other tourists around.

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The 4 main sights are:

* Ruishi Diaolou- This is the highest Diaolou in Kaiping and I recommend going here. It’s really nice to walk around in, but try to go either early in the morning or late in the afternoon as this place is very popular.

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* Li Garden- I didn’t go here, but it looks beautiful. It was built by Mr Xie Weili in 1936 and the gardens are filled with blooming flowers and plants.

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*Fangshi Denglou- This is referred to as the ‘Light Tower’ because it had a really bright searchlight just like the beam of a lighthouse.

* Bianchouzhu Lou- This is located in Nanxing village which is really cool, and because it took a few years to build this tower, it’s actually leaning. It’s ‘The Leaning Tower of Kaiping’.

But, actually what I really recommend you do is rent a bicycle and cycle around wherever you want. The main sites are very well signposted in both Chinese and English and so even if you get off the beaten path, you’ll have no problem finding your way again.

Just explore to your heart’s delight. Kaiping is such an architectural feast!

WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK

Chikan village has a lot of delicious food stalls that set up early in the morning and sell food all along the river bank. Try everything! And be sure to buy a freshly-squeezed orange juice from the old man perched at the end of the bridge. It’s so sweet and delicious. Also, you HAVE to go eat dumplings at this little restaurant with a yellow sign, located right next to the river. The couple who run this place are really lovely and the dumplings are yummy. We had them for breakfast, lunch and, um…dinner too. Haha.

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Drinks at the Tribe of Diaomin hostel are cheap and refreshing, otherwise just buy some beer at one of the little stores and chill down by the river with a few friends and enjoy the night view of Chikan.

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ANY OTHER TIPS?

Cycle, cycle, cycle! Spend time wandering around the Diaolou. If you’re on your bicycle and see something cool, don’t be afraid to hop off and take a closer look. The local people are really friendly and very accommodating towards tourists. Also, explore the village of Chikan. It’s so old, it really feels like something out of an ancient kung fu movie.

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Have fun! And if you have any more questions or comments to make, please feel free to email me or post below!

Love,

Luna

The Art of Missing a Flight

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear about someone missing their flight, I’m always a bit shocked. How did they manage it? Growing up with a Mum who made me arrive about 7 hours before my flight was due to depart, I knew airports like the back of my hand. Thus, when I woke up on September 27th at 6am with a flight leaving for Japan at 10am I figured my friend and I had plenty of time.

We didn’t.

We missed our flight.

Yup.

Here is a recipe in case you also feel like experiencing the thrill of missing a flight:

N.B. Follow it precisely to ensure the most dramatic day.

Ingredients:

  • A sneaky, impatient, incompetent taxi driver
  • Suspicious border control officers
  • A pro-democracy protest happening across the border
  • China
  • Hong Kong Express airlines small print
  • 1 drama queen
  • Tears
  • Money (for new flight, and for bribery)
  • A traffic jam

Method:

1. Wake up on the wrong side of bed. Proceed to curse the universe.

2. Wait on an empty street for a taxi for 10 mins. Sprinkle a dash of panic for extra dramatic effect.

3. After 5 mins of driving, arrive at the China-Hong Kong border. Take note of all the taxis and swear loudly.

4. Widen your eyes as the taxi driver decides to leave the line you’ve been waiting in for over 20 mins, only to immediately try and cut back in.

5. Shake your head in disbelief as 2 border control officers pull your taxi aside for inspection in a dusty office.

6. Throw in some dramatic hand movements, a quivering lip and be sure to tell the driver how you HAVE ALREADY MISSED THE FLIGHT while waving your ticket in front of his face.

7. Text everyone you know to tell them you’ve missed your flight, your life is over, your dream of Japan will never happen. Universe, WHY ME?!

8. Cry and sulk the entire traffic-jammed journey to the airport, which is a totally pointless journey because you HAVE ALREADY MISSED THE FLIGHT. Give the driver one last evil glance before running like a maniac to the Hong Kong Express check-in desk.

9. Panting like someone who’s just run a marathon, skip the line and throw your bag onto the weighing conveyer belt thingy and declare loudly to everyone “I’M HERE!”

10. Gasp as the check in lady sweetly announces that you won’t be getting on the flight that you spent all your money on to go to Japan which you seriously spent a whole month planning because “Sweetie, check-in closed 20 mins ago, and you won’t be getting on the next flight free of charge because we are Hong Kong Express and you clearly didn’t read our small print and we offer no refunds. Oh, and one more thing…you can’t use your return flight either. It’s all cancelled. All of it. Both tickets. Now please kindly remove your bag. Thank you and have a niceeeee day la.”

11. Throw in ALL the tears and mix in some anger and swear words for good measure.

12. Be careful what you say in this moment. This is a crucial part of the recipe. You don’t want the airline to turn agai…TOO LATE. Scream about how shitty Hong Kong Express airlines are, about how you will tell ALL your friends never to fly with them again, and how you didn’t want to fly with them anyway, and who on this earth ever reads the small print?! Seriously?! What kind of shitty rule is that? Cancel my whole flight…I’ll cancel you!!

13. Run to closest coffee shop to sit and weep.

14. Realise you don’t have enough money for a new ticket seeing as you chose one of the most expensive places in the world to travel to and need every penny for sushi and bullet trains. Contemplate other destinations. “Excuse me Sir, how much would it cost to go to South Africa? Oh, I see. You’re telling me it’s cheaper to fly halfway across the world than it is to go to Japan from Hong Kong? I see…”

15. Books new ticket to Japan anyway. You will not give up on your dream of stalking Geishas, sumo wrestlers and Haruki Murakami. While booking, try and bribe the airport staff so that you don’t have to buy a WHOLE NEW FLIGHT. Try and slip them dollars over the desk. Try ANYTHING. Blackmail them. Eventually, give up and hand over the moola.

16. Realise your new ONE WAY ticket (you can’t afford to come back, might as well stay in Japan forever) is actually flying into Nagoya.

17. Check map. Realise Nagoya is not in Osaka and you will then need to take an expensive bullet train to the hostel you’ve booked for that night. Say goodbye to your money and savings and your life for the months post-Japan. You will be in debt FOREVER.

18. Run around the airport frantically trying to change money, buy water and find a plug point to charge your dead phone (due to texting everyone you know to ask them if you should book a whole new ticket to Japan, or should you go to Australia, or Brazil or Iceland?!).

19. Realise your new flight departs in 20 mins.

20. Almost miss your second flight of the day.

Voila!

And that just about sums up the art of missing a flight.

I’d ask you to comment below and let me know how your recipe turns out, but actually this recipe doesn’t taste so good. I don’t recommend it. Infact, I’m still surviving on lentils, rice and mint leaves that I steal from the plant in my office, because missing a flight is NOT CHEAP. And nor is Japan. (BUT JAPAN IS BEAUTIFUL, and worth every penny!)

p.s Don’t fly Hong Kong Express!

p.p.s Nobody was hurt in this recipe, and yes, I did go back and apologise to everyone at Hong Kong Express that I shouted at, but I still firmly believe that your no-refund rule is absolute crap!

Thanks for reading!

Love,

Luna

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Image by Alessandro Gottardo

8 quirky places to go in Shenzhen

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When I tell people I live in Shenzhen, most people raise their eyebrows slightly and give an awkward nod. “Oh, isn’t that a bit of a dangerous city…?” Usually that remark is uttered by my Hong Kong friends who associate Shenzhen with cheap shopping and massages right across the border in Luohu.

I’ve been to that area twice and I can see why they’re so skeptical, but if you actually dive a little deeper into the city you’ll see that it has its hidden gems and quirks just like every other city. Sometimes you really do just have to tread in a little further to discover what a city really has to offer. And believe me, Shenzhen is not just cheap handbags and factories. It’s one of the greenest (if not THE greenest) cities in China and there are people from everywhere! Seeing as Shenzhen is the baby city of China, there aren’t many people who are actually from the city. Most people are here because it’s positively flourishing with opportunities and I think that’s one of my favourite things about the city- you meet all sorts of people here and we are the people who get to nurture and mould the city into the kind of place that we feel proud to call our home. Also, creatively, the city is thriving. There is a huge architecture and design scene and the city is really taking shape thanks to all these young, inspiring minds. And of course there are still plenty of old neighbourhoods that continue to preserve the beauty and charm of urban villages.

This is my second stint in Shenzhen, my first being from 2011-2012, and the city is seriously developing and expanding at a crazy rate. I don’t want people to feel scared by Shenzhen, or only come here for their monthly massage fix. There is way more to explore than that and I’d like to share a few of my favourite places with you below:

1. OCT Loft Creative Culture Park

I LOVE this place. The first time I came to Shenzhen for my job interview in 2011, I happened upon this neighbourhood and I knew immediately that even if the rest of the city sucked, at least I’d have OCT Loft. I even managed to find the perfect apartment right across the road from this little slice of artistic heaven. It’s like a smaller version of Beijing’s 798 Art District, tucked away behind a tree-lined road of sweet jasmine. It’s composed of a bunch of old street-art covered warehouses that have been converted into cute cafes, restaurants and bars, as well as office spaces for design and architectural firms. There is always something going on here, whether it be the monthly market, live music (there is live music here everynight!!), a spontaneous ukulele jam sesh or a new gallery opening. It’s the perfect place to wander on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, or to curl up in one of its many quirky cafes with a book and a cup of freshly-brewed coffee. This is also the location of my favourite cafe in the whole wide world.

*To get here, take the metro to Qiao Cheng Dong 侨城东 and walk out of exit A. Walk straight and then turn right after the petrol (gas) station and follow the road along the tree-lined street. When you see a Starbucks on your left you have reached the entrance to OCT Loft. Explore to your heart’s desire…

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2. Fairy Lake Botanical Garden

As if I only went here for the first time during my current second stint in Shenzhen. This place is BEAUTIFUL. It’s all the way in the eastern part of the city but it’s worth the trek, believe me. If city life is starting to get to you, this place is the perfect escape. I could wander through those gardens for days. There are stunning temples, a pagoda that gives you an amazing view of the surrounding forests and lake. You can ride a swan boat across the lake, or sit at one of the teahouses perched on the lakeside and sip some tea. It’s lush and green and the air is some of the freshest you will breathe in the city. And the plant life!

*To get here, I recommend taking the metro to Huang Bei Ling 黄贝岭. Walk out of exit C and transfer to bus no.382 which will take you right to the entrance of the Bot Gardens. It’s the last stop so you can’t miss it. It’ll cost you 20RMB per person to enter the park and you can purchase your ticket at the entrance gate.

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3. Bionic Brew

Bionic Brew is my new favourite hangout in Shenzhen. It’s an independent craft brewery that recently opened in the bustling, back alleys of Baishizhou, right next to Window of the World. They are currently only open on weekends but guaranteed you’ll find it packed with all kinds of people who are so excited to finally have a more unique drinking spot in Shenzhen. It’s worlds away from the dark dancefloors of Coco Park, or The Terrace in Seaworld. It’s quite hard to find but when you do you will be so stoked. From the outside you’d never know there is a rainbow-graffiti-splattered bar tucked inside. I’m not a beer drinker myself but their Demon Cider is one of the most delicious I’ve ever tried. Inside there’s a very chilled atmosphere and they always play great music, and occasionally they have a DJ spinning some beats in the corner. It’s not pretentious in any way. It’s not trying to be all hipster. It’s laid-back and from the moment you enter you’ll want to make it your local bar. In fact, without even discussing it, my friends and I have gone there every Friday since it opened. It’s the perfect place to relax after a long week in the city and the owner and bar staff are always really friendly.

*To get here, take the metro to Window of the World and then when you walk out of exit C, turn right and walk up the hill on your left. Keep walking up the street filled with vendors selling fruit etc. You’ll pass some BBQ joints on your left and then you’ll see Rose Cafe on your left. Opposite Rose Cafe is a set of stone steps. Turn down the alleyway with the steps and you’ll see Bionic Brew on the right. There will most definitely be a crowd of foreigners and Chinese drinking beer outside. Head on in and grab yourself a cold beer and be prepared to come back every single week.

UPDATE: This place is currently closed, but it will be back soon!

4. Nanshan Mountain 大南山

Located in Shekou, this mountain is perfect for an early morning hike. I’ve only ever done it on weekends and I recommend making an early start to avoid sharing the stairs with the other groups of people. Once you’ve climbed a hundred gazillion steps, you get the most incredible view of Shenzhen and on a clear day you can see all the way across to the mountains of Hong Kong. It’s really peaceful at the top and if you start at the Shekou Walmart you can walk all along the top and climb down near Seaworld. It takes around 2-3 hours and you can take a picnic and chill on the top too.

*You can either start this hike near the Walmart or behind Seaworld. I usually start at Walmart as it’s next to my house and end up in Seaworld just in time for lunch, but the reverse also works.

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5. F518 Idea Land

This place is the OCT Loft of Bao An District and if it weren’t so far from my apartment, I’d probably go there every weekend. Once you enter, you’ll walk along some very narrow alleys splattered with beautiful artwork and above your head there will be ladders crisscrossing between the buildings. It feels like somewhere you’d find in a hidden district in New York, it’s really cool! The doors of the studios are normally open so you can take a peek at what the artists are getting up to, and you can also stock up on art supplies in one of their little art shops. You will see a lot of red figurines climbing the walls and they really add a dynamic twist to the district. There are some nice cafes and a big live music venue which often has both local and internationals acts performing there. It’s not as well known as OCT Loft so you’e guaranteed a more chilled atmosphere.

* To get here take the metro to Pingzhou 坪洲 on the Luobao line and go out of exit C. Walk along Haicheng Road for about 700 metres and then turn right to Baoyuan road and you should reach F518 Idea Land.

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6. Dafen Oil Painting Village

OK, so now it’ll seem like all my favourite places in Shenzhen are art-related, and that might be slightly true. It’s not so much that art is my main passion, rather that these small art districts are a great way to gain a deeper insight into how local creative people live their lives. I’ll admit I’m not a fan of the replicas that Dafen is famous for, but at the same time ast least it means artists are earning money, even if they don’t get to utilise their creativity as much as they probably wish they could. Clearly though, there is a huge demand for replicas of the famous works and thus, Dafen’s artists are helping to fulfil this. The artists will also do commissioned pieces for a very low price. I really like wandering around and watching the artists paint, and stopping to have a freshly-squeezed juice at one of the cafes. It’s definitely worth visiting, especially if you’re looking to brighten up your home with some beautiful art.

* To get here take the metro to Dafen Village 大芬村 on the Longgang line. Take A1 exit when you arrive at the metro station and walk straight for 5 minutes until you see the Walmart. From here turn left and you will see lots of people wandering around and voila, you will have found the entrance to Dafen Village.

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7. Nanhai E-Cool

Haha, yet another art area in the city, but seriously I couldn’t not mention this place as it is lovely. It’s in Shekou, right near Seaworld and it’s comprised of more than 50 small design stores, cafes, restaurants and bars. It’s the perfect place for a quiet morning strolling around and stopping at one of the many cafes for a cup of tea and a slice of cake. I personally love Bean Here Cafe as they have big bean bags for lounging around on, as well as a great selection of both Chinese and English books to browse, and extremely cool wall art with bicycles hanging around the cafe. Like OCT Loft, there are a lot of design companies dotted around Nanhai E-Cool. It’s an exciting place to be!

* To get here take the Shekou line metro to Seaworld 海上世界 and then when you exit, Seaworld should be in front of you. Turn left and walk towards Starbucks and you should see the big warehouse buildings with plants growing up the walls. You have reached Nanhai E-Cool.

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8. Dapeng Ancient Fort

This isn’t right in the city of Shenzhen, more like a 1 and a half hour ride on the bus from Zhu Zi Lin bus station in Futian, but it is oh so worth it! If you’re craving old China, then I recommend going here. Dapeng Fort is a very well preserved Ming Dynasty Fort and it feels like you’ve gone back in time when you walk into the fort and explore the alleys. People still actually live here so be careful you don’t accidentally wander into someone’s garden or home. You can go up the stairs at the entrance to the top of the fort and get a really great view of all the traditional homes with the sloping, tiled roofs. Sometimes it’s nice to just get away from the skyscrapers of the city and walk around a more traditional place. There are lots of delicious snacks on the main alleyway running through the village so be sure to bring some cash to treat yourself.

*To get here it’s a bit of a mission, haha, but you can take bus M362 from Zhu Zi Lin 竹子林 bus station and get off at the very last stop. From here you can either take a 10 min taxi to Dapeng Fort 大鹏所城 or take another bus- 928 from Dapeng bus station which is a very small bus station. To get back to Shenzhen take bus E11 from Dapeng bus station and hop off at one of the bus stops throughout the city that is most convenient for you.

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I hope you enjoy these 8 locations in Shenzhen as much as I do! If you have any questions about Shenzhen or anything to add to what I’ve written, please feel free to leave any comments below or email me. Thank you for reading!

Love,

Luna

The Absurdity of Rituals

I was reminded last night of the absurdity of life. Life is so absurd. No, really, it is. Day after day, year after year, we continue to do the same things over and over and over again. These rituals are funny little things. From brushing our teeth to putting on a whole face of make up, only to wash it all off again a few hours later, to setting our alarm clock for the same time every morning and then without fail, hitting the snooze button. Why do we do the same things day in and day out? We wake up, wash, eat, go to work, go home, eat, go to sleep and repeat. Sometimes we mix it up a bit and do something totally out of the ordinary, but mostly we stick to these familiar rituals as if that was what life was all about, when in fact surely there should be more to it than eating, sleeping and defecating.

In acting class we have been touching upon Theatre of the Absurd which basically aims to highlight and comment upon the meaninglessness of everyday contemporary life. We were asked to read Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party”. For the people who have read this play, you’ll know what I’m talking about when I say it is just full-on bizarre. Meg and her husband Petey go through the same ritual every single morning:

In this scene, Petey is reading his morning newspaper-

Meg: Is it good?

Petey: Not bad.

Meg: What does it say?

Petey: Nothing much.

Meg: You read me out some nice bits yesterday.

Petey: Yes, well, I haven’t finished this one yet.

Meg: Will you tell me you come to something good?

Petey: Yes.

And, well, that’s it. Over and over again. Repetitive language, revolving patterned conversations, absurdity flowing out of every uttered word. Perhaps Pinter could have had his characters using a gobbledygook language and the effect would have been exactly the same; ritualistic and frightening on so many levels. Please, if I ever reach a point in my life where my relationship with my future husband looks like this, SHOOT ME IN THE HEAD. I’m all for niceties and small talk, but if my relationship stems around ensuring my husband’s cornflakes taste the same every day, then we might have a problem. I think rereading Pinter’s play woke something up in me. I was confronted with this almost hypnotic dialogue between the characters in The Birthday Party and it made me wonder if this is the way our relationships with people are too. Does our language sound as absurd as Meg’s and Petey’s? Are we wasting our words? As I said in an earlier blog post- every word is precious, so why do we use them without thinking? Meg and Petey are caught up in a cycle and I believe Pinter wrote their conversations that way to deliberately awaken us all to the daily rituals we carry out and to make us question why we do them. Or maybe he just wants to reveal the patterns we all go through each day. Maybe my conversations over breakfast do sound as mundane as Meg and Peteys. Pinter’s plays might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but they certainly strike a chord deep within us that shakes us to our very core and leaves us wondering what on earth we’re doing with our lives. In a way, it’s extremely frustrating. We watch a play or read a book or listen to music, not only to be entertained but also to undergo some form of catharsis, but with Pinter we come out feeling as crazy as the characters in the play. Nothing is neatly concluded, relationships are left hanging on the edge of the highest cliff and our brains are frazzled by what we just encountered.

In life we don’t want things to be left undone. We seek closure. We like to wrap things up before we can go home and relax. Clutter and dirt give us anxiety. We border on the cusp of obsessive compulsive disorder when we see dust floating at our feet. We’re problem solvers, analysers, counsellors. We want conclusions tied up with a big, beautiful bow. No creases, no cracks.

Yeah, but life isn’t like that. Life is absurd. Our rituals are ridiculous but essential, the quintessential contradiction that makes up the majority of our lives. Initially, Pinter made me mad at the gruelling nature of listening to a couple having such a boring conversation. Where is the sensuality? The humour? The ‘real’ insight into a relationship based on love and honesty, the depth of romance? Now though, I just have to laugh. Pinter hit the nail on the head here. By unleashing the emptiness of their so-called relationship, he makes them seem so tragic that it becomes comical. The content of their conversation is probably not where Pinter wants us to focus, it’s more likely that he wanted to emphasise the stark realities that lurk beneath every ritual- that it’s the same every time, a tradition, and maybe that makes them happy, maybe that’s what their relationship is built upon.

And these traditions, these little daily rituals soothe us in some way, don’t they? They make our lives cyclical, and us humans seem to like that, no matter the repetitive nature of it all. We complain about going to work Monday to Friday 9-5, and yet we do it anyway. We have to. To survive. But maybe also, to give our lives stability, a sameness that reminds us daily who we are and what our purpose is.

I’m not entirely sure I’ve got that last bit figured out, in fact this is getting a bit too philosophical for me, too much Pinter on the brain. I like my rituals, there, I admitted it. I feel calm when I swirl coconut oil around my mouth for 20 minutes every morning when I wake up, and I like sprinkling chia seeds over my breakfast bowl in the office while listening to music. However, there’s a difference with enjoying your routine and being too stuck in your ways, too stubborn to bask in a bit of change. There must be a balance in there somewhere. Maybe it’s OK to ask your husband how his cornflakes are every single morning, but only if you immediately discuss something a little deeper afterwards, or at least kiss him good morning. The key might be to take pleasure in these rituals, simultaneously erasing the robotic quality of them. They might seem absurd to other people but if you enjoy them, in the end, that’s all that matters.

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Photo by Rodney Smith