A Strange Trip on the Newcastle Train Line

Her face was not a gentle one.  It was marked with remnants of resilience borne through struggle, a defiance forged from necessity.  She was travelling to the NRL (National Rugby League) grand final alone.

I wondered.

Her right hand looked deliberate, holding the window sill while her other hand grasped the rubber clad iPhone with authority. The woman's short nailed thumb flicked through Facebook and Words-With-Friends with determination, the seepage of an attitude she probably approached everything in life pervading even her interaction with social media. 

My eyelids drooped, a headache throbbing.  Dehydration; I should have known better.  My mouth was dry as I contemplated dry swallowing Panadol to banish the thought-deadening pound.  My mouth twitched.  Sort yourself out girl, my inner voice chided.
What accent is your inner voice?  Today, mine was British.  Perhaps I internalise the effects of post colonialism more than I thought...
My lip curled in slight annoyance when the newcomers walked into my - the - carriage.  It was the quiet carriage, but not for long.   The older man and younger counterpart in a Jack Daniel’s cap started talking loudly and with a familiarity that belied a close relationship.  Father and son, perhaps.
On any other day, I’d jump at the opportunity to talk to people, new folk, humans obviously going to enjoy themselves and open to worlds of possibility.
But as my eyelids grew heavy and my head tightened, my headphone cans acted as a physical barrier disallowing any possible interaction and it was all just a bit too hard today...
The younger man’s eyes danced as I looked up from my laptop screen, assessing how irritating their chatter was.  His seat faced mine and our eyes locked briefly as I glared in his direction.  I looked pointedly at the quiet carriage sign but the connection was lost, the communication lines in different languages.
The two men in the seat across the walkway from mine me stood up to go relieve themselves. As they walked past,  the rabbitoh-jersey clad woman turned to look at me, red lips bright on her tanned complexion. Our eyes locked, and after a split second I smiled.  The universal sign…
She smiled back warmly, unexpectedly transforming her face.
I wondered how my face transformed when I smiled.
The man whose eyes danced had an interesting face; crinkles around his eyes and an expressive mouth.  Today, that was a gift, the easy smile belying a life which on surface, had been good to him. I wondered if his toothy grin and open face was always that way, or when faced with people like me those lips became tight, the face mean.  I’d seen it happen before, a frightening and trust shattering change.
I wondered what made people whose lives were (on surface) so blessed, so very closed minded.  Perhaps it was an underlying recognition that their life was fortunate and a fear that if they thought about it too hard they might be obliged to share.
I guess noone ever told them that sharing does not necessarily lessen one’s wealth in the way that one might think.
The woman behind me wailed.  “I need to go to the toilet!” she cried, her voice high and childlike.
Her hair was white flecked with grey, her girth demanding.
An older man sat across from her.  A husband, brother, carer?  Either way, a man who was invested in this lady’s wellbeing.
“I need to go and I can’t hold it in!”
The man looked at his phone.
The jersey clad men sitting next to me turned around.
“Hey mate, there is a toilet over there”, he said, motioning at the door. “I can help you man if you need it…”
“She can’t fit”, the elderly gentleman replied with resignation.  He stared down at his brown slacks.
“I’m sorry mate.”
The young man turned around and his smaller mo-hawked friend averted his eyes.
The woman continued to wail and we all sat in the carriage, not acknowledging the difficulty this man was facing.
Politeness or a lack of empathy?
I turned around.
“Excuse me— sir, Excuse me”, I asked, attempting to make a contribution, not matter how ultimately futile. Maybe I needed to feel like I had done something, done the right thing.
“Excuse me sir— “
No acknowledgement.  Mo-hawk turned to look at me.
I turned back around and started to type.
The lady started to sob behind me, her sobs turning into wails.
We all averted our eyes.
It is fascinating how anything slightly different can make us feel so uncomfortable.  Whether or not this lady was suffering from a mental illness I can not honestly say, but it is a possibility.  It only took a few loud lines to make the carriage awkward and unable to deal with the breaking of an unwritten social contract on what is civilised.
What was fascinating is the conversation that took place between the man and the woman as the train journey continued.
“You don’t understand how I feel”, the lady commented.
“Yes I do. The whole train does. We all know how it feels to need to want to go to the toilet”.
She whimpered.
“Yeh but you don’t know what it’s like not to be able to fit."
Brown slacks fell quite for a moment.
“Well that’s not my fault is it? It’s yours. It wasn’t my idea to bring all the chocolate or eat so much at breakfast.  It’s a choice you made…"
The temperature in the carriage changed.  No longer was the situation clear cut, an obvious hero or victim.
Cognitive dissonance abound.
“Mate. I’ll help you carry the bags out."
Brown-slacks looks constantly grateful. Its an expression of time and place and legitimacy we’ve done our bit.
That is my transformation exciting.  When help is freely given without string attached

TBS: Well-behaved children – Use the stick or (discounted) carrot approach?

Check out my 'Smoke and Mirrors' piece at The Big Smoke! A little bit snarky and cynical, but hey... ;) Screenshot 2014-06-30 16.28.05


Have we lost the ability as a society to do good without being incentivised for it?

Or is that me being a little too cynical?

Hearing of a “well-behaved kids’” discount at a cafe (GET A DISCOUNT OFF YOUR FOOD BILL FOR GOOD BEHAVIOR? IN CALGARY AND NICE, YOU CAN! originally published on Lost @ EMinormade me cringe and roll my eyes simultaneously (a strange sight on a train, let me tell you).


Well apparently there are now cafes in Calgary where you get a $5.00 discount for having “well-behaved kids.”


At first glance, I can see why this is a catchy idea. It can be argued this will encourage people to keep their kids in check. After all, what motivates people more than a discount? The recipients of the discount expressed their joy at being rewarded for their well-behaved daughter, which is delightful.

Yet, it seems slightly judgemental, slightly misplaced.


To answer that question, another must be asked. What does a financial incentive for good behaviour say about us as a society – particularly when it comes to the behaviour of children?

Granted, we live in a capitalist society where behavioural change is swift if it affects the hip pocket. Still, is this the best way to deal with a perceived “problem,” particularly in the case of well-behaved children? What is the problem that we are trying to solve with this type of incentive? Is targeting the parents the best way?

These café owners clearly think so.

Perhaps it is a little old fashioned to want society to encourage and espouse good values and behaviour for the sake of it, rather than for financial gain. To be fair, this seems like a well-intentioned move by the café – a “thank you” to parents for controlling their children.

However, not everyone will be fortunate enough to have well-behaved children, and it may be more effective to have “family friendly” hours.

I could be completely off the mark. It might be argued that I am hating for the sake of hating.

I do know, by all reports, that was a discount my parents never would have had the pleasure of receiving…


Check out the original piece here, and spend some time on the site, it has some awesome reading!

Everyone is getting married!


I felt like it crept up on me, but I was warned on my 16th birthday.

“Oh you’ll get excited about 16th’s!” she said.

“But then it’s 18ths, then 21sts, then graduations, then engagements, weddings, baby showers, first birthdays…”

I remember being all like “whaaaaaaaaaaat? That shiz is so far out, yolo!” (but yolo wasn’t a thing yet. Trendsetter).

…but it is here!

All of a sudden, I’m being invited to weddings, engagements and baby showers, my facebook feed is full of pictures of children (?) and various issues relating to child rearing (!!).  There are epic debates about the virtues or sins of being married, worries about settling down, friends talking about mortgages and shares and buying houses…

I am super excited for all my friends that are going through these exciting and obviously life changing experiences.

On the other hand, I think I missed the memo.  When did this all start to happen?

What exactly is going on?

Growing up, I guess…


There’s an article that’s making the rounds at the moment: 23 things to do instead of getting engaged before you're 23.

All in all, the tone of the article is a little self-interested and condescending, but hey.  The reply, 24 things to do… is a little more aligned with my personal values, however both articles, and the respective responses (vehement, opinionated, passionate in approval or disapproval) illustrate something larger is at play. Something, I feel, particularly as a young Muslim woman from a traditionally conservative background who has grown up in a thoroughly Western society feels quite keenly.

What social norms are we meant to adhere to?

The world of my parents was simpler in a way: the roles that were to be played were understood.  As my cousin said to me: “We know what we are meant to do to live a ‘good’ life by society’s standards, and how to be a ‘good’ woman. Being good in that way, and making my family happy and proud of me, that is what will make me happy’.

It’s simple. 

Get an education but get married young,

have children,

be a good mother,

hold down a good house.

If you have a career alongside that, great, but your family is more important.

In Western society though, things aren't nearly so prescribed. In fact, the freedom of choice is lauded as revolutionary and liberating.

Yet…there is such anxiety in the twenty-somethings I know.  There seems to be so much confusion around what is what; in relationships, in life, what we are meant to be doing and if we are meant to be settling down (am I behind? Should I find someone to settle with? Am I settling too fast?).

Seeing everyone else’s life, described daily for you in painstaking detail everywhere you look (phone, laptop, tablet…) only exacerbates the FOMO (fear of missing out).

It isn’t even just fear of missing out on an awesome party, it’s the fear of missing out on *life*. It’s the fear that, at its root is the most primal of fears – the fear of ending up alone.

I don’t know if this is something that *all* twenty-somethings go through and have gone through for decades and I am just discovering. This isn’t something I’ve been through before, personally.  I’d also wager society is in a drastically different place to where it was even 20 years ago, so the experiences of previous generations are incomparable.

For me, it will be interesting to see how this year plays out. 

Turning 23 for an Arab/African girl is definitely a point where family and community members start making noises about ‘settling down’ (you should have heard the conversation with my father as soon as I graduated from University…at 20!).

I am not against the idea of marriage as an institution in itself, far from it.  It’s a huge part of Islam (half our ‘deen’, or belief in fact, so marriage is seen as a fundamental part of the way of life), and if I am being perfectly honest, as a Muslim, there are things I can only do as a married woman that the rest of society tells me are really quite fun, so I’d like to get to it!


At the same time though, there seems to be a perception that marriage brings about the end of all the fun. The responsibility, the kids, the family, the mortgage… and for women, the point where you start to think about juggling career and family.

So I don’t even know if I should be anxious about missing out, or living it up because I’ve only got a little while as a young free bird left!

All I know is this.  I believe in fate, so I believe that what happens will happen, and what is meant to be shall be.  I have control over my choices and how I respond to what does happen.

Some things are outside my control.

Being anxious about those things isn’t going to change anything.

So, I’ve decided I will do what I’ve been doing. Living life, being grateful Alhamdulilah, learning as much as I can, appreciating those around me and taking it as it comes.  The fact that other people are at other stages in their life is exciting, but it should not affect how I live my life.

At the end of the day, we are the only ones who have to put up with ourselves forever.  So we better make sure that we’re happy with the choices we make, regardless of what society says (or doesn’t say) we should be doing.


Be like this guy. With more clothes.