Amongst the Dead Things

When it all began

You were so vibrant and colourful

Bright greens and blinding yellows

You stood so majestic

Facing the shinning sun

Within months you began to whither

All your flowers faded away

The old leaves slowly died

Before long new life began

No longer did you bloom

But green leaves grew firm

They stood as if they always were

After long I forgot

The flowers that once were

All I knew were the striving leaves

Then summer came

The months of harvest

But all you did was die

You were burnt out

All the green changed to brown

No amount of water could bring you back

I soon gave up

Watered you only in passing

Paid no attention to your development

The greens slowly returned

And with them came the flowers

Flowers I had not seen since 2019

Flowers that are brighter than I remembered

Flowers that defy the cold dark winter

Flowers amongst the dead things.

Thank you for reading.

Book Review: Anna Karenina

Anna Karenina is by far one of my favourite books of all time. My general rule when it comes to books turned into film adaptations is to never watch the film before reading the book. However, for Anna Karenina I had no choice; when I watched the film, I had no idea that it was adapted from a book. A few years later in my final year of my undergraduate degree, I was assigned the book as part a French and Russian Literature module. At first glance, with over 800 pages and the smallest font size imaginable, reading this monstrous novel seemed like a challenge. However, upon reading the first few pages, I was hooked.

Anna Karenina tells the story of Anna, a beautiful woman who falls in love with Count Vronsky whilst she is married and to a prominent man. The tale follows their love affair through Russia and its implications and impact on society and all those around the couple.

The novel is beautifully written to a point where it was almost impossible for me to put it down. Tolstoy is by far my favourite Russian writer as he evokes difficult questions on the audience through his characters. The novel opens with the statement ‘all happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.’ This then propels you to consider the different ways that the families are unhappy and whether or not any of the families in the novel are ‘happy families’.

It is of no surprise that the novel far exceeds the film, as is so often the case. Although Keira Knightley did not encapsulate the fullness of Anna, she did manage to capture and portray her essence on screen. The film lacked depth and perspectives of the other brilliant characters in book, characters such as Levin and Kitty.

Anna Karenina is a love story unlike any I have ever read, it makes Romeo and Juliet seem like mere children playing at love, which they were. Anna and Count Vronsky’s love is passionate, addictive, toxic and self-destructive. The novel questions what it means to love and how we choose love. It is the kind of love story that novels were created to produce.

I absolutely love this book and could read it again and again and again and still gain the same feelings of intensity and obsession that I felt the first time reading it. It is the kind of novel that is perfect for a second lockdown. Thus, I give this book 5 out of 5 stars, merely for the fact that Tolstoy had me read 800+ pages and then wishing that there was more.

Thank you for reading.

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The Story of the Monkey and the Spider

In response to the African folktales that I’ve become familiar with this week, I decided to write my own folktale inspired by the African tradition.

In a distant village deep in the Amazon, lived the Monkey and the Spider. They lived peacefully in the Forest amongst all the other animals. One day the Tree decided that only one animal could inhabit it and call it home. The Monkey, whose arms were made for swinging from branch to branch knew that the Tree was his rightful home. However, the Spider with its many tangled webs, knew that only the Tree provided enough hollows for it to create its beautiful silk. For months and months the two animals were determined to show the Tree which of them was more suited to call it their home. After all the parading of skills and talent, the Tree devised one test that will once and for all determine the true tenant of the Tree.

Both the Monkey and the Spider woke up at the break of dawn, ready to win their rightful home. For the task was a simple one, both the Spider and the Monkey should race to the top of the Tree, and whoever reached through the branches first, will be kissed by the Sun and can inhabit the Tree for eternity.

As the race started both animals hurried to reach the top of the tall Tree. They climbed and swung over branches and leaves, each determined to overcome the other. The Spider was a cunning fellow and he knew that what he lacked in size, he could gain in weaving. As they both neared the top, the Spider weaved white silk across the thumbs of the Monkey breaking them off and leaving behind in each hand only four fingers. The Monkey, with its four fingers curved in pain, grabbed hold of the Spider and pulled him in two. The Spider’s abdomen fell to the ground whilst he chased after it in shame. The Monkey reached the top of the Tree and was kissed by the Sun and christened with a new name, the Spider Monkey, as he had gained victory over the Spider.

This is why even today the Spider Monkey rarely touches the ground and in the night gather in large groups and sleep in the very top of the Tree, where they are safe from the vengeance of the Spider, who slowly crawls up each night in hope of reaching the top.

Thank you for reading.

African Poetry

This week I have been immersed in African Literature and I have been reading Poems of Black Africa, edited by Wole Soyinka. The anthology, although lengthy, is filled with beautiful African verse and I thought I’d share one of my favourites. The poem is titled African Poetry by Agostinho Neto.

Out of the horizon

there are fires

and the dark silhouette of the beaters

with arms outstretched,

in the air, the green smell of burning palms.

African poetry

In the street

a line of Bailundu bearers

tremble under the weight of their load

in the room

a mulatto girl with meek eyes

colours her face with rice powder and rouge

a woman wriggles her hips under a garish cloth

on the bed

a man, sleepless, dreams

of buying knives and forks so he can eat at table

in the sky the glow

of fires

and the silhouette of black men dancing

with arms outstretched,

in the air, the hot music of marimbas

African poetry

and in the streets the bearers

in the room the mulatto girl

on the bed the man, sleepless

The burnings consume


the hot earth with horizons afire.

Agostinho Neto was born in Angola to a pastor and a professor. Neto studied medicine at the University of Lisbon and was a practicing physician. He was imprisoned on a number of occasions for his political activity with the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola. After Angola became independent in 1975, Agostinho Neto became the newly independent nation’s first president.

Thank you for reading.

PhD – Week 1

So last week was the first week of my PhD and I have been filled with so many different emotions. From joy and nostalgia at being back in academia at my previous university to stress and imposter syndrome at the amount of work I already have to do, to absolute excitement at actually doing the work and doing something that I love and enjoy.

The most important thing I’ve taken away from this week is being organised. There are so many emails, so many ‘optional’ training for PhD students and then there’s all the fanfare of freshers week for incoming students and all that is being offered to them. It can be overwhelming at times but being organised has allowed me to take a step back and take it all in one at a time.

The highlights of week one has been signing up for my advance French course which starts next week. I am so excited to start speaking French again and improving in my long-neglected skills. I also found out as a PhD student I get half price off my course, which made me even more excited. Another highlight was meeting my supervisor for our first official meeting of the term and discussing my project and the next steps. It still feels so surreal that this time last month I was still working and had no idea that I had been accepted into my PhD programme and here I am executing a project that I had only dreamed about.

The thing I’m looking forward to most in week 2 is having the official Doctoral College welcome event (online) with all the new PhD students at the university. I am so ready to make new friends and be fully immersed in university life.

Thank you for reading.