The Last Unicorn

“It’s a rare man who is taken for what he truly is,” he said. “There is much misjudgement in the world… We are not always what we seem, and hardly ever what we dream.”

-Peter S. Beagle, The Last Unicorn

I want to be that rare woman who is taken for what she truly is, free of judgements and assumptions and stereotypes that seem to circle the air like insistent, buzzing flies. We are far too quick to judge these days. That colleague who just gave you a bar of chocolate for no reason, did so because she felt like being kind, and knows you like chocolate. She didn’t do it so that you’d buy her something in return, or sleep with her, or because she wants to climb the career ladder. Some people are just genuinely thoughtful, and I feel like they are a dying breed, just like The Last Unicorn. What if there are only a handful left in the world? It sure feels like it right now, what with all the shit happening around about us. When did humans become so evil? It’s upsetting and downright embarrassing to be from the same species as these disgusting, sick psychopaths that seem to populate our society. When did things go so wrong? Why isn’t everyone being sweet to one another?!

It’s times like this that I’d rather be a unicorn. And I guess I kind of am because the unicorn is our national animal in Scotland, and I think I am nice almost all of the time, even when people push me off the bus because they’re selfish and have forgotten how to be gentle. I’ve talked about this dog-eat-dog world before, but seriously, it’s not improving. What is a girl to do? Run away to the forest and befriend the deers? Take all the happy people (friends and family and lovely strangers I’m talking to you!) and create an island where we go back to the roots of what life is supposed to be about- loving and nurturing the people around us and the planet we are so blessed to be able to call home, and continue developing and creating it so that it flourishes in the best way possible? Yeah, I don’t know any more. It seems people would rather be greedy pigs and destroy everything our ancestors worked so hard to provide us with. I think maybe we even misjudge ourselves. We think we need all of these ‘things’ to be happy, but we don’t. And I don’t know why we continue to build these crazy sky-scraper cities?! We’re meant to live in nature, with nature, at one with nature. Oh, I’m completely guilty of it too. Here I am living in a gigantic, ginormous city pretending that it’s normal to share a bus with 100 other people as I commute back and forth between work and home, eating food that I haven’t grown myself…etc etc. I am a selfish human too. But I don’t want to be. I’m trying. Even if I miss my stop because the crowds on the bus won’t move to let me off, that’s OK. It’s better than me elbowing them in the ribs like they do to me.

We must always be the bigger person. Just because people don’t stand in line in China, doesn’t mean I’m not going to. Just because they spit their food on the table and drop litter, doesn’t mean I ever will. I’d rather wait in line for 30 minutes than push in front of someone. If we could all just start looking out for one another again, that’d be great, thank you. Now, if only it were that easy. And it should be easy. If we weren’t so cowardly, so scared to adjust our thinking and our ways, it would be the easiest thing in the world. I’m dreaming again, but let me tell you, it’s much nicer dreaming than it is being one of those self-centred, narrow-minded so and so’s.

So, back to unicorns. In amongst all these cruel people, it can be hard to spot them, but they are out there, somewhere. They are the ones smiling at you, even if they don’t know you. The ones who won’t let a door slam in your face, the ones who say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ like their mothers and fathers taught them. They are gentlemen, ladies, people who other people don’t say bad things about because there is nothing bad to say about them. They are honestly almost mythical creatures in this day and age, just like unicorns. They listen, keep their word, are respectful towards all people, animals, plants, trees and stars and they are definitely not trolling the internet being rude for no reason whatsoever. Who has time for that kind of ridiculous behaviour anyway when there are conversations to be had with people you care about, books to be read that will actually feed your mind, food to be cooked and enjoyed that will nourish your body, parks to walk in, oceans to swim in, forests to frolic in…?

Let’s please just start loving each other and doing things to help one another because we want to, not because we have to in order to get something back in return. Let’s be selfless and look out for the people around us. Let’s be one of those ‘mythical creatures’, those diamonds in the rough, instead of just another narcissistic, negative nancy.

It’s true what they say: “Being a human is getting too complicated. Time to be a unicorn.”



creases and crinkles, the wrinkles of love

Words dance in front of my eyes, floating up from the page and forming a scene right there on the bus, or under a tree, or wherever I happen to be whilst inhaling this treasure trove of creation. A journey without a side helping of literature is a strange one indeed. From as far back as I can remember I have always had my ski-slope of a nose stuck in a book. Life without reading, I don’t even know what that is, nor do I want to imagine. In fact, if I go more than a few days without reading a book, I actually feel completely out of sync with myself and the world around me. It’s not that I use reading to escape from my life, on the contrary it’s the opposite. I read books to compliment the journey I’m on. Believe me when I say, that life in China is no short of one gigantic adventure, and I could happily while away my days thriving on the hilarity that ensues around every corner in this mad country, but I like being able to supplement the adventure with characters from other lands. Reading Murakami’s books in Japan, would of course be ideal, but in 2009 and 2010 I hungrily read almost all of his novels to date while commuting back and forth to my job in Guangzhou, and truly, his words were the perfect companion for my daily ride. I will forever associate his stories with the Guangzhou metro, and the way I would greedily try to grab a few extra pages while maneuvering through the daily crowds of white collars.

Growing up with Roald Dahl’s wacky imagination and reading his books on road trips with my family, or while curled up on my Granny’s sofa after school, I wouldn’t change that for the world. My Mum always said “Siobhan, this summer you should play outside more”, but I would worry…when would I have time to read all my books then? And so of course I just took my books with me and flopped down at the side of the park and read while the other kids played football. OK, that makes me sound extremely anti-social, but me and football…no (haha)! Then, later as a teenager, those long summer days spent contemplating Sylvia Plath and Bret Easton Ellis’s dark minds. Books hidden under my chair at work, stolen moments of a chapter or two while the boss wasn’t looking. Teenage love affairs where books sharpened and heightened all of those emotions, ten-fold. Just the way music does. Words are also like music, making each experience a new one depending on where you are and what you’re reading at the time, those memories lingering forever after. The time I went to work at a summer camp in West Virginia. Those feelings of being trapped inside a wooden cabin in the forest, with only Barbara Kingsolver there to save me from the overwhelming desire I had to run back to Africa. And moments now, where I read stories of faraway rural places of the country I find myself in, trying to figure out what makes this place tick, who are the people that make up this land and what is it they dream of, long for. Are they also just dreaming of a simple, happy life?

Every time a book is read, it’s a completely unique experience. I’m not sure if it would have been the same if I’d just read all those books while lying in bed. There’s something about taking literature out into the world and carrying it with you wherever you go that just makes it more real, giving it a life and an odyssey of its own. Books explore so many different themes and different kinds of people, it’s only fair that they too, get to embark alongside these different readers who are living all across this incredible planet.

Books don’t want to sit on your shelf gathering dust, or be left on your bed-side table, tea-stained and burnt by the lamp. They want to come with you to the beach and feel the sand between their pages. They want to climb to the top of the mountain with you and see the view of the scenes where their secret stories take place. Sometimes they might just want to cuddle up next to that big oak tree, while you picnic on your blanket nearby. They want little notes of gratitude or recommendation left inside, and they don’t mind creases or crinkles, because those are just wrinkles of love. They are even partial to a bit of dancing, so it’s OK if you forget to empty your bag and bring them along to go clubbing. Books want to be shared, and passed on for generations to come. That musky second-hand book scent is one of appreciation, a scent that arrives from knowing they have provided someone with a sense of joy, even if only for a single fleeting moment in time.

Now that the digital age is well and truly dominating, these poor books are getting dustier, overcome with neglect as they get left behind by all these people who prefer the ease of e-readers and lack of guilt at killing trees that they apparently feel from reading these digital books. The thing is, as long as people keep chopping down trees and making paper, books will continue to be printed. And if a tree had to die to make that novel, the least you can do is buy it and read it. Also, second-hand book shops are EVERYWHERE and I am going to continue giving them business because for me, finding that precious book at the back of a bookshop is something I get really excited about. I know it’d be so much easier to just log on to Amazon and click and buy, but seriously where is the fun in that? I enjoy a book so much more if it took a bit of time and effort to find. And then I can cherish it forever, or pass it on to people who I know will love it as much as I did, as opposed to letting it get lost on my hard drive, stuck inside my computer with no crinkles of love, no fingerprints of chocolate. No, I’m not OK with that. Even if they do stop making new books in actual book form, I will just read all the old books lurking around the world. And really, holding a real book in your hands is just so much better, coffee stains, strange smells and all. Don’t you think?

Here’s to books. Thank you for nourishing our minds and our souls, for making everyday more colourful and for sacrificing your original form to fulfil our imagination’s desires. We are forever grateful and promise to keep giving you the love and time you deserve.



p.s Are you reading anything lovely right now? I’d love to have some new recommendations. Happy reading!