A Good Covid

I got Covid for the second time, and all I could feel was grateful.

Grateful for my health. Both genetic and curated
Grateful that so distant from a vaccine, my symptoms were still mild
Grateful for how it came and erased anxieties of the last few weeks, in a strange strange way

It came and told me to stop. I am matter over mind in that Mediterranean way. What the body wants, the body gets. So I stopped. And I sat down. I lay down. I switched the engine off. I asked little of myself or others, or of myself for others.

Grateful for the glorious May weather. It could have been a dark, cold winter, but it was not
Grateful for the sun to hang my wash after wash after wash on the line
Grateful for my No Mow May English jungle of a lawn, with its brambles and buttercups, bees and butterflies

Grateful for England’s green, its green green, the best of greens, this summer green
Grateful for the yellow and white irises that popped up like meercats
Grateful for the rosebuds, appearing in their clusters
Grateful for the teenage woodpecker with its scruffy plume, swooping in to visit every morning
Grateful for the mega chard that had grown to above my height, bolting and eager to flower
Grateful it was a tight month anyway, so saving cash was just-as-well
Grateful for the fruit in the bowl, vegetables in the fridge, rice in the larder and 24 fish fingers in the freezer. And lots and lots of peas
Grateful it wasn’t in two weeks or the week after that when I had plans. I would have been sad, sad, sad, so sad
Grateful it wasn’t the week before or the week before that when I’d been high on spring, meeting, travelling around town, laughing, dancing, spinning round a ballroom, dancing, feasting, chatting, singing, dancing, running, walking, feasting, chatting, dancing, dancing, shagging, dancing, dancing, dancing

Grateful for mother fox and her two cubs bounding around in the neighbour’s garden
Chat GPT told me I shouldn’t feed a wild fox.
But Chat GPT, she’s a mum. With babies. She jumps the neighbours’ new border-of-a-fence with ease, ha. Nature always finds a way. I’m so pleased. Dog biscuits for you my darling. You can come sunbathe anytime you like.

It’s been two weeks since the two red lines appeared on the lateral flow. So retro, my friends said, no one tests anymore. Many assumed I was poorly, I stayed home for 10 days, save that little walk in the morning, setting in like a ritual. I wasn’t ill, just bodily slow. And in need of bread, butter and biscuits. And lots and lots of Netflix.

What body wants, body gets. Matter over mind, every time.

It’s been two weeks, but I can’t run, cycle or sing. My lungs won’t have it. I stopped smoking years ago, but it’s like I’ve been 90s clubbing if I pick up the pace. This is what happened last time, the post-covid lung thing.

Vicks and time.
Olbas Oil and time
Chest-opener yoga and time
Ten weeks I give it.

I did the Wendover circular with a Meet Up group anyway. Testing myself? That’s the English side, there. Right there. I survived the hike, “the country air did me good”. The English side again, see? That weird protestant thing. Then the Richmond Loop, then dancing tango for hours and hours. See? I’m all contradictions, as are you. I wouldn’t take me as seriously as you sometimes do.

Everything happens at the right time.

There are no mistakes, only lessons.

I had a good Covid. If it finds you, I hope it’s kind to you too.

Ramadan, but how?

A couple of weeks ago:

Mum on the phone from Egypt: Shofty? Did you see?
Eh, what ya mum?
The Ramadan lights. They’ve put up Ramadan things instead of the Christmas things
Ah begad? Really? Where?
In Regent Street or one of those streets.
Oh. I see.
Can you believe it.
Ha. Yes I can.
Mish momkin. It cannot be true.

I hate religion. Particularly the deeply sexist ones, where women are servants, vehicles to seed and produce, rather than complete beings with intellectual facets, hopes and dreams of their own.

As a woman in the world I hold a hard-line on the bearers of misogyny. If not me than who? You’ve got to fight your corner. Comrades or not, the men won’t and don’t do it for, or with us. No matter what feminist talk they talk.

So I have no time for Islam, especially the brand of Wahhabism rife in the UK today. I have even less time for the contemporary British Left’s hypocrisy on the subject: Religion is dated, conservative and is critiqued in discourse, as long at it is establishment religion. Christianity, you can deride and ridicule in writing and in culture. But minority religion, no. Here cultural relativism comes into its worst: as long as oppressed people are practicing it, we don’t reach into that space with our values, no matter how conservative and sexist those practices and social trends are, and how they show up in the world and who they oppress.

There are few things worse than a left built on opposition rather than values.

Deep sigh

So I ignore Ramadan.

I ignore it hard.

Secular Arabs, shout loud and proud.

But as always, that’s only part of the story. Ramadan is also where I come from. It’s in my roots, this stuff. Egypt was Islamised in 646AD and like it or not I’m from the world that created the lanterns, the rites, the call for prayer. It is woven through me. I miss waiting at the table for the Iftar cannon to go off at sunset, and eating together at my grandmother’s table. I miss the Ramadan specials on the telly. I miss eating shakshuka, 2atayef and drinking 2amar el deen. I miss that stuff and it pangs me sometimes. But often I don’t think of it at all. And in that duality, I inhabit.

I dust off my little ‘made in china’ Ramadan lantern. I put it on my tableya coffee table. We look at each other for a while.

The thing about Diaspora Feelz, is that it is complicated.

I try not to write pieces about feelings, so as not to contribute to the avalanche of narcissistic writing so pervading Anglo-America today, in fear of adding a pebble to the mountain of empty we’ve built the twenty first century on. No your feelings don’t matter most, the truth matters more. Get a grip.

So then I should get a grip too, right? But the thing is, culture is not harmless. It’s not just other people’s cute rituals in a vacuum. It spreads, like sun-rays or pollen, mold or wild-fire. It is about economics and it is about freedom. It is political and pervasive. It makes and breaks a society. We see things, we brush them to one side, and often as women we press ignore, over and over. Then one day you wake up and think how did it get to this?

And if you’re me: Why didn’t I do something?

Ramadan, as a concentrated display of ritual, is just a fact. Like the weather and Christmas, when it is there, it is everywhere. I may be in the UK, but Islamism seeks me out, creeping round the corner when I least expect it, wearing me down. When more and more people exhibit conservative behaviour, dress conservatively, parading signals of their conservatism, it chokes me and my colours, my short-shorts, my joy for life, my strut and my sex. It chokes me, it chokes me. And this is how it starts.

I lost Cairo, will also lose my corner of London?

The whole thing is – I’m going to use a word I despise (but it’s just so fitting) –


Even the Duolingo girl is veiled. Celebrating Conservatism. Great.

I pick up the lantern and press the plastic button on the bottom. It sings ‘wahawi ya wahawi’, lights flashing. I switch it off and put it down.

Mum knew an Egypt where people wore mini skirts and rode bikes. Where you could go for a bikini-laden swim at the lido and grab a pool-side beer. When I started secondary school in the 90s we had one veiled girl across all forms and age groups. By the time I left university less than a decade later, 80% of women on the street had covered their hair. Friends fell to the teachings of this sheikh or that, covered up and retreated. Men stopped shaking my hand. Roads were closed for public prayer. Mosques got bigger loudspeakers. Sexual harassment and groping went through the roof.

Fundamentalism can have a slow creep, but I smell it a mile away. I was drafting this piece in a London library when she passed behind me, shrouded in black nylon. She stood a couple of metres away, facing the computing bookshelf. She pulled a pop-up prayer mat from her pocket, took off her shoes and began. Allahu Akbar. La Illaha illa allah. I took a deep breath. I could hear her mutter the Fatha. This is how it starts. My throat tightened, like a world closing in. At that moment I felt at one with women in Iran and Afghanistan, of women everywhere who got choked, over time and space. Claustrophobic, angry, powerless.

I told mum.

What? In a library? You can’t just pray like that in a public place in England, I just can’t believe it ya Nadia.
Believe it, mum.
Didn’t the library staff do something?
Mum, think about it, what can they do? This is a multi-ethnic borough. They probably don’t know how to react, and anyway they’d be terrified of being racist or worse “un-inclusive”. Perhaps they’d know what to do if someone was holding a rosary and doing 100 Hail Marys in the corner, but what can they do? I don’t know what anyone can do.

The only thing more depressing than a girl or woman with her hair covered, is the celebration of her subjugation, and a society that doesn’t provide her with a way out.

I fantasized about set up a catholic confession box in library corner as an exercise.

I don’t like feeling helpless.

I don’t like feeling muffled.

And I still don’t know what to do with Ramadan.

I got down on the carpet, crossing my legs and faced the lantern. I looked at its crescent and minaret, and its glitter filled window. I thought about the moon. The cool, calm moon.

More and more women draped in long black sheets shuffle down my high street. Some may applaud what they see as multiculturalism. I just see conservatism

Closing in on me
Draped in black
Pores wrapped in dark cling film
The sexism of it
Up and down the street

A few days later, I looked up at the full moon gone midnight, after a big night out. It was enormous and round and beautiful. I stood in the street and beamed at it – a full grin, arms pinned back. I love the moon, we have a natural affinity with it. Our 50% of humanity, whose bodies cycle and undulate as tides, out and in, out and in, all the seasons in a month.

Then it came to me. The realisation about my Ramadan lantern. It was in its rightful place I thought as I unlocked my door, intoxicated on steak and Malbec. Next to the ACFM turntable mat, and various coasters: Polish communist artwork, Taheya Kariokka belly dancing, me and my mate Matt in Belgium drinking Kwak, and Nigella looking sultrily at the camera grating something. All those things are a little bit of me in some way, things I identify with. They look good together, it is a good collection. The lantern is fine just where it is. And that’s my Ramadan.

The other day:

Shofty Shofty? Did you see?
What now mum?
The SNP guy doing salaat el gom3a
Oh my god really, haha. Of course.
Also guess what, my friend came back from Dubai and says there is no sign of Ramadan there, nothing. No decorations or anything. Weird ha? You guys have swapped places with the Gulf.
Don’t say that mum. That’s depressing. They already own half of London.
Yes, I know.

Mutual sigh.

I’ll just go eat some dates.

For you Simone, I write

It’s been a long time since I published anything here. The last piece that I wrote which wasn’t a book review or a repost of an article from elsewhere was this one, from this day a whole two years ago.

Why did I stop blogging?

It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this, to accept that I had ceased, ground to a halt. Subliminally, at the lymphatic level, I told myself in some visceral language that I was busy, writing elsewhere, working, focusing on other things. I denied myself the itch my humanity needs to scratch.

And it’s not that I don’t have anything to say. Oh no. I am not short of ideas or opinions, reflections or musings. Yet I have published nothing in writing over the past year.

A lovely UAL colleague said to me last week, and Nadia how is your practice? I was stunned. I searched inside myself, my chin to my chest. I shrugged. I didn’t know what to say. What is my practice again? This is my practice. My art, and I’ve neglected it. And it is this, my art, that blows life in to me.

I finished my first novel over a year ago and in the quest to get it published, I have deserted the craft that feeds me.

I thought about this on Monday. And it dawned on me in that eye widening way, as I sat in the library: I’ve been here before. There was another era, a time, where I would write secretly, squirreling thoughts away from myself, on envelopes, receipts, denying I ever wrote. When I needed to write, but couldn’t face the fact that I did, as if the very writing would make some truth visible, the giant elephant on my shoulder would appear. There was a time where I stopped myself writing.

 It is often when we have so much to say, that we say nothing at all.

And I. Am so angry.

Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that what has happened to feminism in Britain over the last few years would have happened. That clever, clever patriarchy. I’ll write about THAT in 30 years, ha. I’m no fool.

But the anger has disciplined me, stifled me. I realise that now.

At the Million Women Rise rally last weekend a female voice boomed When a woman stands up for herself she stands up For All Women. For All Women.

It stayed with me. I realised that when I write, I write for all women. For women in light and dark times, for women who can think thoughts but cannot utter them. For those who write on the page but cannot publish, for all the woman who shall be liberated by their words.

I recently read bits of Simone de Beauvoir’s Second Sex for our ACFM podcast episode on Myths. I was moved again by her words. My radical allotment friends call me Simone of the Suburbs, I recalled. I smiled to myself, a warmth filled my cheeks. I took a minute. We really do stand on the shoulders of giants.

So I’ll write for you Simone. And for Huda Shaarawi, Ada Lovelace, Marie Curie, and the giants of our past. For my contemporaries, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Ece Temelkuran. For our living greats Angela Davis and Gloria Steinem, both who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting. For women and girls everywhere, this is my pledge to you, that I will write again and often.

And this time I will not stop.

Marvel at the Light

If capitalism is a project of consciousness deflation, than what would a project of consciousness inflation look like?

That is the offering of Acid Communism, the plentiful, the generous, the Everything for Everyone. The: It doesn’t matter who you are, or where you come from, we will care for you anyway. You don’t need a label to get in here, you don’t need to wear a costume, be this or that, act up. Come here my friend, let us peel away those layers. You are human, and that is enough. That is enough for me to extend my hand, to you. This is Red Plenty.

In times of crisis, people form tribes.

But if there is us, then there is them.

An inside, creates an outside.

Soon, value and judgement follow.

It is a trap. There is a logic of how we got here. But it is a trap.

What if celebrating difference is a trap, what if my own personal, internal, individual, identity, is a trap?

Climb up now, there is still time. Before you drown, and take me with you, please no, I do not want to drown in this.

What if we celebrated sameness? What if I could see you? Where it matters, we are all the same. We all feel love, hate, fear, pain, the warmth of a hug, the discomfort of indigestion, the power of laughter.

When we recognise ourselves in one another, we bear fruit of solidarity.

When we look for difference, we are soon bound.

When society is ill, its wounds gaping, how quickly, we, women become objects. How quickly we are interrupted by that angry, frustrated, male gaze looking for something to eat, punch, fuck his pain away.

End Male Violence Against Women! End Phallocentric Activism Now!


In our future, I meet you at the canteen. It is not far away, this place. It is bright, sunshine bursts through the glass, there are plants hanging everywhere, there is a stream of water.

The food is plentiful, yet cheap, sustainable but luxurious. We chat and make plans, build worlds and talk nonsense. The atmosphere and aesthetic makes us happy to be alive. We can sit for as long as we like, we are not being watched by video or clock. Conversation comes easily, we do not need to be anywhere else.

We enjoy this moment, this now.

In our future, we talk to strangers, who do not seem strange or estranged. Everyone is curious and has time to marvel others’ stories or the shape of that leaf. We stop and stare at that little shoot peeking through the concrete, soon a flower signalling spring.

In our future there are places where we stretch our muscles and welcome the day, where we sit around tables, learn and make things. We paint shapes on huge canvasses in vast spaces.

In our future we have so many places to stop, lean, sit, without needing to buy anything. The fruit is enticing, the smell from the bakers is phenomenal. The broadband is fast and free. The tailors are plentiful, so we can all enjoy the sensation of different fabrics and well-fitted garments on our skin.

In our future the cocktails are exquisite to drink, my friend. In our future, sleep is honoured and we all get enough of it.

But not too much, as each next day is too exciting to miss.

In our future, our cities are designed for joy and play, children and women. In this future, I walk at night and look at the light, shapes and sounds the dark hours bring, in a way I cannot today. I will leave my home at 3am and walk, think, process, let the world provide answers. Imagine that!

Just walking out my door at dark, and going anywhere, alone, on foot: What freedom!


An edited version of this piece first appeared in Missy Mag

Book review – Together by Ece Temelkuran

Tl;dr: This book will give you perspective and principles to live by. It will give you a framework to understand the madness. You can read it in a weekend. Buy it.

It was a struggle at first to find the words to tell you why I love this book. And now, I have so many words for you.

I’ve been a fan of Ece’s since I stood in front of How to Lose a Country: The 7 Steps from Democracy to Dictatorship’s pale blue cover in early 2019. As I picked it up examining the inside sleeve, I noticed the lady at the bookshop till looking at me. I looked back. It’s really good, she said. If you buy one non-fiction book this year buy this one. Something told me I should trust her so I bought it.

I was so enthralled by that book, that I took it to my political reading group and told everyone I met about it. I never normally do this. There is something profoundly different about the way Ece presents her ideas and arranges thought on paper. Whenever I read Ece, I’m reminded of just how narrow the parameters of the conversation are in the UK. It’s like everyone is squabbling inside a constrictive lead box, with the walls closing in even tighter since Brexit and the pandemic.

Her writing, storytelling and analysis remind me of home. Home isn’t a place. It’s a constant straddle, a predicament, a joy. A macabre entanglement of all the things I relate to. It’s dark curly hair, it’s secular, it’s an east-west mash up. It’s sexy and outspoken but often fragile. It’s centuries old, it’s Spinoza woven into Om Kalthoum. It’s logic and reason shouting at religion and extremists, it’s that last bit of meaty sauce in the corner of a serving dish being mopped up with bread under a cloud of laughter and a dim auburn light.

Not since Mark Fisher have I come across such an astute turn of phrase. Mark gave me words to understand, develop, digest. Ece gives me words too.

Together: 10 Choices for a Better Now is a book about the choices we need to make, an offering of how we form the now into a place we want to inhabit.

It is a practical guide of sorts, but it’s also deeply philosophical. It invites you to ask some big and often tough questions on how you will approach and conduct yourself as you walk through this tumultuous era. This is a rich and soulful work, packed into a little buttercup volume told through hilarious and often poignant vignettes. Like her last book, we are transported from one side of the globe to another from one paragraph to the next. It’s deadly serious, but void of posturing and tired critique. It isn’t afraid to sway from the abstract to our experience of the everyday. This book is very #ACFM. If you like the podcast I host along with Jeremy Gilbert and Keir Milburn on Novara Media, you’ll love this book.

You’re handed ten chapters and ten choices. The first is an appeal to choose faith over hope. My interest was piqued, I settled down with a cup of tea. In the same way that the left’s tired calls for “unity” or “democracy” make me want to die, I’m no fan of appeals for hope. I’ve struggled to articulate why. It just feels weak, passive. I don’t want to be hopeful, I want something much better.

Hope has been worn out. It’s starting to sound like an emotional crutch, Ece says, a cop-out of sorts. She draws a correlation between the rise in citations of hope with a population coming to terms with tragedy and absurdity’s comfortable marriage within national and global politics. This is something non-westerners have long become accustomed to, but the West arrogantly has thought itself immune from. And yet here we are.

In this first chapter, she makes the case for faith as a container for self-esteem, confidence and trust. Her conception of faith is not concerned with gods and theology but rather with human attributes. Faith she argues, is a tonic against the immobilising effects of cynicism. Having faith in humans forces you to believe in yourself and what you’re capable of.

Deep. It took me a good while to think around that one.

Also in this chapter, we are transported to 1991, to a market on the Turkish-Russian border selling communist tat. Ece is briefly mistaken for a “Natasha”, a woman from the fallen Eastern Bloc selling sex, then gets called “sister” by the man when he apologises after realising his mistake. It’s hard to describe to a Western audience all the detail of that encounter, but I know it so well and feel I’ve been there a thousand times. After that incident, everything looks different to Ece, the items laid out on the table become inseparable from the women, the price tags are all visible.

That moment, when an interaction forces a change of perspective, what is it called? When you suddenly become aware of a latent power dynamic, the social relations in the room, and suddenly everything looks different to you, it dawns on you, is everything changed. Or are you? Yes that thing. I’ve not seen this phenomenon described in writing before, why not?

I get pulled in closer. Ece’s Natasha story reminds me of the time a group of guys half my age tried to lure me into their car with the promise of various drugs as I was waiting outside the door of a political meeting. After that, the streets, colours, angles, lighting, Bethnal Green, the London I knew well, were different.  That sensation swam around my humours as I mulled upon that evening’s discussion of strategy, ideas and politics. It left a taste. This book is full of such recipes, rarely articulated, the mixing of intellectual exercise with the experience of the everyday floating in oneself simultaneously.

Together is not a book about sexism. But it’s refreshing for an author primarily writing about philosophy and politics not to leave the experience of everyday misogyny out of the page. Women are under pressure to write ‘seriously’ to be taken seriously, ie to masculinise their presentation of  life experience. To leave out all the times a man mistook you for a prostitute, whispered something slimy in your ear, or followed you down the street. Ece doesn’t self-edit as so many women do when talking about the state of the world. It’s such a relief to read.

In subsequent chapters, Ece invites us to chose ‘the whole reality’, to befriend fear, to choose dignity over pride, strength over power, attention over anger and more.

I like lists. I’m itching for a list at this stage. So instead of deconstructing every other chapter, here are some of my favourite ideas, concepts and phrases you’ll be treated to from within this book’s pages:

  • Chickens clucking into the apocalypse
  • What would a flea market of collapsed capitalism look like?
  • The self that is revealed in reality is stronger
  • Turbulence is my natural habitat
  • That lump in my throat is dignity
  • Infantilisation of politics
  • I miss being angry
  • This era is a carnival of emotions
  • The global war against the female
  • Capitalism and the fear of satisfaction
  • Molasses and tahini
  • The return to the 20th century as a holiday
  • Friendship as a cover word for networking
  • Friendship as commitment, a moral stance
  • Ignorance has been mobilised to become a political identity
  • Spinoza wore the same jacket everyday
  • I don’t want to die feeling like the world owes me

Told you it’s very #ACFM. I yearn to record an episode on each one of those things.

Writing an article is as much standing up from your desk, walking to the window, opening the garden door, opening the fridge door, scratching your head, sitting on the toilet and of course pacing, as it is typing actual words. An awareness of this truism means you beat yourself up less, for failing to stare at a screen for a solid eight hours like a good productive worker when you’re trying to write something. In the same vein, Ece’s writing draws us to all the things that matter, which we’re not necessarily looking at or appreciating when searching for a way out of this mess.

We may not like to admit it, but we all have to some extent been captured by the hegemonic framework for addressing and analysing the global mood and realpolitik. In Britain, we are very, very stuck. As I mentioned above, the terms of discourse are getting narrower and narrower, even on the left. We should open our ears to voices outside this Anglo American mind prison.


I found myself slowing down as I acknowledged from the sensation in my right hand, that there were only a couple of pages left. I didn’t want it to end. When it finally did and I turned the cover in my hand, a tear landed on my cheek. I found myself striding towards the kitchen and lunging at that bit of sweet pastry from yesterday’s picnic that I didn’t even like. I returned to the sofa and sat with the book in my lap. I squinted up at the spring sun, crumbs on my lips, with the whole of humanity swilling around my breast.

Ece Temelkuran’s Together: 10 Choices For a Better Now by 4th Estate Books is out this Thursday 13th May 2021


You are a person.

You have a womb. It’s amazing. You don’t have to use it.

Estrogen makes you energetic, flirty and tolerant of male bullshit. It puts rose-tinted glasses over patriarchy so you think ah, it’s not that bad, and go out and get laid. I suffer not so much from PMS, but from the estrogen crash post ovulation when one day I wake up and everything looks as it is.

Whenever you’re told to put others first on exactly the terrain where you’re most vulnerable, that’s patriarchy.

Unless you believe women should be submissive, don’t subordinate your rights to anyone else’s. Always fight your corner, you’ve got to.

I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. A pro-women left or the left can fuck off.

And, if you tolerate this. Then your daughters will be next.


This time last week I stood in my Alice in Wonderland skirt and red cardigan, one hand on hip and the other pointing a finger up in the air and then in his face. Words tumbled out of my mouth, head fizzing, rage, euphoria, in response to the inevitable catcall-cum-oi-you! as I attempted to cross the checkpoint, beyond which is my childhood home, and our newish neighbour, the embassy of a certain country. I turned my back on the armed men and walked into the road past a cream coloured dog lazing in the sun. I exited the theatre – a woman answering back is always theatre –  to the sound of his voice no one passes here without my permission! diminishing into the distance. Once inside, I placed my hands on the table and shut my eyes, adrenaline still pumping boom boom boom under my collar bone. I swallowed. I smiled. Within an hour, I felt bigger. Surprised, I laughed. I’ve walked a little taller, everywhere, since.


I don’t want to watch anything featuring women being subordinated, hit, abused or raped. I only want to watch women doing people things. Not enduring patriarchy over and over, over and over. The fact that so many men, and so many women, get off on female subjugation is so screwed up. We don’t talk about this enough.

Twenty years ago I thought porn was fine. I’ve gone 180 on this. Ban it all.

An early memory: I opened the box and inside was a plastic thing with arms and frozen features, eyes. I turned it round, on its back, a slot for a tape which made it go mama. My shoulders sank in my corduroy dungarees as I sat legs tucked under on the living room floor. Later I used the box as a step to reach the sofa. Much better.

I played with cars and trains. I’d assemble a track on the landing and wizz them round and round. I played F-Zero and Mortal Kombat II on SNES. I did and still would, whip your ass with Kitana. Finish; Him.

Why are there so many more You Tube vids of male characters doing finishing move combos on female characters, than the other way round, hmmm?

If I ever was given a Barbie, I’d hold my tongue, fake smiling a thank you, eyes sparkling with thoughts of later. When they’d all left, I’d take it upstairs, cut off its hair, fill the sink with toothpaste and shampoo, dunk, then string them up by the legs. I still don’t like sharing a room with dolls.

I often wonder, if every woman had a choice, how many would have a child? Forty years here and I’m still puzzled by why anyone would want to do that to themselves. Maybe one day, I’ll get it. Or maybe I never will.


Once upon a time in a land…. There was a tribe. Women were told to shut up, to keep the group together, to not be Other, the bad guys, just say the right words, our words or shut up.  Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Misogyny is the wing-man of fascism, said Ece Temelkuran

Emperor! Your cloak is just…I mean, wow. Nice try, fucker.

You come in guises patriarchy, oh yes. But I see you.

Witch, Bitch, Slut, ?

Suck my dick said no woman ever.

Nobody is coming to save you. You’re going to have to fight.

The whole victim thing? We’re better than that.

First they come for you on carpets. Then as footsteps on tiles. Then they come for your holes.

When you find yourself staring beyond your reflection, frozen, hand gripping the basin, heart thumping in chest, telling yourself this is OK, this discomfort, I’ll work through this, I’ll learn, it’s on me, it’s supposed to be like this, that’s fuckity fucked fucked.

You know when the voice says this is really uncomfortable, but I shouldn’t say anything then you really should say something.









Slam the door!

In their faces, 




There is no glory in submission.

Slam. That. Door.


A cool breeze. Sun on your face. Let your hair go in the wind. That scalp, breathe.

Hey, you. Woman, I.

You’re the driver, it’s your life. You can do whatever you want, go wherever you want. I love you, I believe in you, I really do. Let’s go.

You are not alone.

Psychogeography at Home

This article first appeared in the autumn 2020 edition of Dazed Magazine. If you like what you read, help fund my creative work and Buy me a Coffee.

Guy Debord and his mates did not think about coronavirus. A global epidemic was not on top of the Situationists’ list of enemies to destroy. In fact, those 20th-century types took it for granted that you could go outside (and smoke inside). The assumption was that the terrain of struggle, fighting the baddies, was all outdoors. Cobblestones not only make handy
weapons, they also free the earth below the more you pick them up. Beneath the Streets, The Beach and all that, shaping the streets one riot at a time.

Psychogeography as a practice means different things to different people, but exploration, freedom and the urban always feature. La dérive, French
for drift, was Debord’s term for playfully moving through space and seeing the city scape through fresh eyes. About jolting the pedestrian experience into a new, heightened awareness. I’ve long been a fan of this approach to life and the built environment. I love walking through a city and ending up in random places looking at structures and minutiae from new angles. But these days I think: it was all right for them, free thinkers of late, but how the fuck do I go on a dérive under lockdown in my mum’s house in the suburbs? I was up for this challenge, but it wasn’t going to be easy.

I decided that the overgrown garden would be the wrong territory – its impending bramble scratches would detract from the drifting state I needed to conjure. But it would also be cheating. A dérive had to be urban, full of lines, hard surfaces and shadows. There had to be textures of the man-made variety. Dérives are supposed to be just that, drifty, but for a proper lockdown experience, I had to set the parameters of travel within four walls. Surely I could relieve my pandemic anxiety, my fear of what everyday life would look like in the aftermath, by injecting a little wonder into my everyday locked- down, hemmed-in experience? Who needs a rave when you can trip out on the low-pile living room carpet? It’s fractal, right?
If I stare hard enough, I can make it experimental. I was going to make this lonely claustrophobia magical – just you wait, world. I’m a fucking survivor.

At first, the fear of failure and self-ridicule stopped me from diving in. Besides, I’m pretty observant; I notice everything. I’m living in a house I know well and, since I’ve spent so much time inside recently, how would I make it fresh without taking any drugs? By this point I realised I was procrastinating and just needed to do it. I decided I would give myself a good few hours of dériving, so my phone had to be switched off and hidden under the bed. Sunday – after breakfast – I was going to drift.

The moment came, and I was ready for my granola-filled self to let go. I started where I was: the tea towel my breakfast bowl was on. I studied it carefully, ran my finger over its creases. I noticed the coffee stain that won’t come out in the wash, and the lettering in an Elizabethan font: radicalteatowel.com. I traced the edges with my nail and then, suddenly, I flipped over the corner with one quick flick: 100% Cotton. Wash Max 40. Made in the UK. Satisfied by my first excavation, I dropped to the floor next to the dining room table. Here, crouching by a varnished leg, I inspected the carpet beneath me. It’s of a nondescript colour – fuck, what do you call this? It’s kind of reddy, kind of orangey, kind of browny, but too pale to call brick. I put my nose to the floor. I pulled back up. Some threads were lighter than others, which gave it the overall effect from a distance. I extracted a bit of rock salt and flicked it from my path. I was going under the table.

I shoved the 1970s chair on wheels out of the way and got on my back, pulling myself under. The atmosphere was dark and cool. I could hear the neighbours watering their voluptuous hanging baskets through the open garden door, but I felt a world away from them. I reached both hands up and felt the underside. The wood was rough, no – I traced my fingers in circles to check – smooth, just unfinished. Distinctly underside. Functional, but not presentable. I pressed my palms up against the long metal beam that formed the extension mechanism. It was nice and cool. Very satisfying. I stroked it some more, until I spotted some writing from the corner of my eye. I scooted back. WTF was this? Printed in that weird cargo stencil font was 954-306-3 ACCOLADE 12 BY DREXEL 260 – curious! I moved my head to the left a bit and saw blue crayon scribbles over the writing. I felt a pang.
A hand flew to my heart. I must have done that when I was four years old.

Enough sentimentality – it was time to move on. I edged myself back out and crawled over to the radiator, Gollum-style. I pressed my cheek against its cool metal ridges. I rolled my forehead over it, pressing my hands against it and pulling my face back slowly, taking in that rusty, dusty smell and slowly opening my eyes. I was horrified. It’s a disgusting lemon yellow. How had I never noticed? I shifted focus to the adjacent wallpaper, inoffensively white. I reached over and felt the bumps of its random lattice, like a million stone henges piled on top of each other. My fingers travelled upwards, my arms followed, then my whole body was pressed against the wall. My eyes popped open. Could anyone see me? No, the net curtains were drawn – phew. I took a quarter-turn to my right to face the glass-paned door to the hallway. It was frosted and peppered with little petit-pois sized balls. I started counting them from the top, letting my finger bounce from ball to ball. One, two, three, four…

One thousand and sixty-four! I collapsed on to the floor, in some experimental dance move. On my back, exhausted, I checked my watch. Forty-five minutes! And I’d not travelled more than a couple of metres. I decided to call it quits, at least for the day. A smell of barbecued sausages had wafted in and I was hungry again. I sat up feeling satisfied. What I just did is art. I just made pottering avant-garde. Between this and online
yoga, I may never need to leave the house again. My work here is done. Until the next time.

All My Friends in One Place

I’m turning 40 in less than three months. I wanted a big party. Then covid happened.

The idea took shape in January. I told myself that if I was serious, I had to start planning in spring at the latest if I was to get what I wanted. It can’t happen now, not in the right month or right year. But I’m keen to get this down so that maybe at 42 ¾ or more likely 45, it might. 

I need the people I want there to know, I want them to see what’s in my head, to be ready.

The decor, rooms, songs and embraces populated this vision at an accelerating rate since myself and the #ACFM crew recorded the Friendship episode mid lock-down. Things were said, feelings ignited, thoughts jolted into a thousand vignettes giving shape to my party.

When you’re with your friends it feels like a holiday. 

When you’re with an old friend, you’re suddenly a version of yourself you’ve missed, animated, there in real time. 

What would it be like to have all my friends in one place? I think I’ve spent most of my life keeping them away from each other, dosed in the insecurity that they would just not understand. But understand what? I had a fear perhaps that a part of me one lot know, would be exposed to those from another life, and then people I love would think who is she? That they’d feel alienated and wouldn’t love me anymore and it was all my fault.

I’ve grown out of that, like a poppy bursting its bud. I want all my friends in one place. I started wanting it nine months ago and I want it more now.

The more I think about this, the more I realise what I want is a wedding. Not the man or the marriage bit, but the once in a lifetime party where everyone would make a gargantuan effort to be there because they know it’s not going to happen again. Something between that and a fake farewell tour. A festival of sorts. 

My friends mean more to me than they will ever know. I’m partly writing this to tell them this, as we are separated by lives, miles and restrictions. I often say that I only exist in discourse. I am me because of the space between you and I, the soup, the potion only we can create. And I want to drown in all those flavours, I want the intoxication of it all at one gathering. I want it, I want it.

I have to organise this event. No one else can do it. This is for several reasons. One. I’m a control freak. Two. I am an experienced event organiser, discerning and particular about the crafting of atmosphere. 

Three. Deep sigh, look down at keyboard. There is no way of putting this that doesn’t appear self-absorbed and pompous on the page, but no one really knows me. Some, know a lot about me. Some know parts of me much better than I know myself. But I have had many lives.  In both literal and psychological terms. But most significantly, you can’t fully know me because two dominant languages and their cultures embody me. Most people have met me with only one of those buttons switched to On. 

I’m a different person in Arabic, I just am. In English, I’m articulate, intellectual, pensive – a reflection of my twenty years as an adult here wedded to The Struggle. In Arabic, I’m mostly apolitical and stuck in the 90s. I trip over formal language, but I’m fucking hilarious. Of course there is crossover and many aspects of my being are consistent, but there is a different vibe to me in each set of interactions. Wherever I am, there is always a part of me missing, a lurch so strongly felt by the many of us who occupy the plethora of diasporas we inhabit.

Like many others crossing class and cultures I subconsciously adapt so that I can communicate, find friendship and commonality. So I’m hardly ever, fully there at the table. But who is, I hear you cry! True, I respond. But when it comes to a party, without knowing both bits of me, you can’t know some of the fundamentals that tickle me. I am a particular undocumented mash up and I want that mash up enacted at my party.

Here is an illustration: I know very few people, in fact I can think of only one, whose body would be moved into uncontrollable and spontaneous movement and on-beat clapping if Ah we Noss or El 3einab burst through the speakers, AND who also finds Peter Kay’s biscuit sketch so tear-streamingly funny.  If you’re a friend and are reading this, you will get one and not the other. Who cries over both Om Kalthoum’s bitter-sweet laments AND any mention of Hillsborough /Orgreave/the film Pride on the radio? No one I know. Who reaches the palm of their hand out after making a joke AND feels the poetic melancholy of the industrial North in their veins? Not you.

There are, those people. But I do not know them. So they are not invited.

Point is, when it comes to my epic party, there needs to be some melange of stuff going on to satisfy me.  Nobody can design this thing but me.

So let’s get stuck in. I’ve tried composing this into a neat form with some kind of logic but it’s not working so here is a random unorganised list of what it will look like:

  • Think cabaret and English variety show for the dominant feel. Indulgent but rough round the edges. Colour and glamour, but also dark dusty corners. Bits of it will feel very Rumpus, but other bits won’t
  • The Pub.  This room will be fashioned like The Army and Navy on Newington Green – a proper old boozer- complete with a mini stage with drooping tinsel and shit karaoke. Instead of the war memorabilia, it will be smothered with communist tat and random macabre creations. There will be an overbearing seedy-looking sign complete with a couple of fizzing red light bulbs, exclaiming Embrace Your Shame*. Every hour on the hour, the Internationale will play in a different language
  • The bar will be well stocked but you can smuggle in your cheap Tesco voddy if you bribe the door-people creatively
  • A Cocktail Corner serving unpretentious classic cocktails in the correct glasses
  • A uncomplicated hang out area where people can just have an a3da – like a comfy living room
  • A campfire, instruments
  • A more stylised chill out area with lower lighting, a bit psychedelic but conducive to conversation. You can sleep, take time out here.
  • A BBQ and spit roast. This will be run by the London Arabs and Greeks
  • A giant effigy will be burnt at some point. This will be run by The Avebury Camp Crew
  • A buffet or kitchen area with food available 24 hours – The idea of having a party without everyone having food available at all times is just so anxiety inducing I can’t abide it
  • I’d love it if you do a speech, but I’ll be doing the biggest speech
  •  A proper tournament of Flip Flop Boules
  • I will have at least six costume changes. Everyone else can wear what they want. But there will be a big dress-up box with wigs for your convenience
  • I don’t know how any venue will be suitable because there will be at least one fight
  • I hate people leaving suddenly all at once, it’s so soul lurching. After all that, you’re going now? Some people will come for a few hours, some will stay till the glorious end and that’s fine. But you’re not allowed to leave all at once. This party will be at least 60 hours long. I’m thinking Friday late afternoon to Sunday early evening. You should definitely take Monday off though.
  • You will be able to have a decent sleep and a shower, should you so chose
  • Massive communal fry up on Saturday when people get up
  • The joke is definitely on you, not me. There will be a slow dance with ALL of my exes in chronological order. Maybe to the Titanic theme tune, not sure yet.

Few things will be banned at my party. Here are three of them:

Things I haven’t decided on yet:

  • Where the dancefloor will go in all this
  • How the DJ/playlist will segue between Spandau Ballet, jungle tracks and 3adaweya
  • Whether there will be samba. The rule of partying with samba people was always NO FUCKING SAMBA
  • Five friends will have special status. I’m not sure what special privileges they will be afforded or how their status will be marked yet.

Things I’d really want but even the most plentiful resources couldn’t make happen:

  • The indoor bit melding into a fairy-light covered actual forest.  But on Saturday morning it’s not what it was, it’s transformed into the Red Sea. South Sinai, east coast please
  • Having all my friends from Egypt there. Wrong passports for the political age, they won’t all get visas, they just won’t. We’ll have to have a sister party in Cairo on linked up on a big screen for at least part of the gathering

As I get older, a need for synthesis develops. The people I’ve shared my life with, are all the chunks that make me who I am. This party is the external expression of all those bits that nestle in me. If a memoir was an event, it would be this, so I want it: All my friends in one place.

*If I remember correctly this became Barking Bateria’s motto after our catastrophic yet hilarious gig in Hastings fire festival circa 2013/14

Things I learned in 2018


  1. I can be a total romantic.
  2. I’ve learned to love my legs. I have walked and run miles in them. They are strong. With them I bound, I skip and jump.
  3. Dry hair-cut for curly hair. Mind. Blown.
  4. I find it easy to make friends. Sometimes I just tell people, ‘hey, I like you, we’re going to be friends’. It works. That and paying them time and attention.
  5. Laughter came easy in Argentina.
  6. The Patriarchy is really clever. A lot cleverer than the Left it seems.
  7. People will more readily accept you’re teetotal than your refusal to communicate through a particular medium.
  8. I love male company.
  9. Also: I hate men.
  10. Freedom, Beauty, Truth and Love. What else is there to live for?
  11. Jesse and Celine had the only conversations worth having.
  12. Radio Fip. You have been my faithful companion around the house for over five years. Thank you for liberating me from the tyranny of choice and for curating my playlists. For respecting my humanity with your ad-free sound space. For accompanying me as I stare out the garden door, watching birds for hours. I dread the day when they will take you away from me, and that day will come.

Letter from the home front


April, May 2020

Dear past selves, futures –

It’s all quiet on the home front.

You never thought it could get more still. And yet now, it is. Slow, peaceful, grasses swaying in spring sunshine. Time passes in a new, unpredictable way. You are surprised but unperturbed – unlike before – when you are reminded due to conversation, or a flip back through your diary, that it’s been sixty three days since anyone sat on your sofa. Sixty nine since you’ve been on a bus. Seventy seven since you touched another person.

You barely walk as far as the high street, once every three weeks at most, to buy all your food. It’s four minutes at most and you can see it from the corner of your road, but you don’t like turning right anymore. You turn left and down to the park where you run or walk, often talking to your mum on the phone  – in a way that certain kind of person would call ‘animated’ or ‘boisterous’- you laugh a lot, or at least enough. You’re never bored.

Boredom. You thought you would have to endure so much of it. What to expect, you were never certain, but you thought this would be harder than it has been. Sure, you had a few wobbles. Everyone has. But your imbalances seem to be triggered by other events, a job rejection or a spat with a friend perhaps, but it was always temporary. Not by the lock-down itself. You have very little money left but you don’t seem to mind. You’re philosophical about it. You long accepted that despite your best efforts you may be unemployed for a long long time.

In the beginning you made a week by week plan on the whiteboard, but you’ve rubbed it all off with kitchen paper. You didn’t need it in the end, you’re coping fine. You’re not anxious about what to do with your day, you’re doing plenty of things. Group activities all happen online as if they always have. It no longer feels like a crazy time you’re living through, it just feels normal. You haven’t put up the ten pound greenhouse but you don’t care.

You watch the birds even more than before, you know their intricacies now. You’ve named the pigeons, and they know you, eyeing you tentatively from higher ground whenever you put the washing out. The magpies are testing your patience though, and your appreciation for their swagger, shiny brilliance and intelligence has started to wane. They’ve put the wood pigeon, Fancy Pants, through quite an ordeal, so much so he flew into the glass with a bang. You were worried he had concussion, but he came back fighting. You find so much joy in this open zoo, but the food – nature separation has returned. You’ve got mince and chicken drumsticks in the freezer. You ache for a rare steak.


The hairs on your legs are long and black. Your mediterranean genes put any white man’s follicles to shame. Between your thighs, some grow to two inches. You know, you’ve measured them. You lament the day when you’ll tear it all out with hot wax, and that day will come. You’re too far socialised to bare your limbs to others in their natural state. As a woman you have so many battles. And this isn’t one you’re going to fight.

You wonder if lock down has liberated you from contact with random men who bring you down. You wonder if life is better because your contact with them is limited to the cream of the crop, those who see you as you are, a full human.

If this is depression, it doesn’t feel like it, you tell yourself. It struck you recently that it doesn’t take much to make you happy, but it also takes little to make you sad, frustrated, anxious. Piles of rubbish. Lonely chicken bones on a pavement. Boarded up shop fronts. Downtrodden men looking at you like they could eat you, their number growing in tandem with austerity’s entrenchment. You don’t need to think about any of that now, it rarely comes to mind. You’re happy here with your socially distant meet ups with neighbours and the sound of their kids playing on the street bathed in sunshine and time.

When will you have to face the other side again? Your country, town, neighbourhood as it really is? In its decay and indifference. You wonder this, but not as often as you thought you would . How different things have turned out. You barely have any Zoom chats.  You don’t need them as much, nothing seems urgent. Your best days are those where you disengage from the news, don’t check, don’t ask. It’s no longer feels important and part of you doesn’t care.

*You regret that the word austerity was used in this piece. You wish you could dislodge it but you can’t.


Lock down has released you from the disappointments of what your life isn’t. You pine less for the cocktail bars you’ve never been to and can’t afford, because they’re all closed.

You want glamour, elegance and good tailoring, a pisco sour in a well lit bar free from the smell of insecurity and posturing.  But you’re not bothered about any of that now, the coupe glasses gather dust in London’s basements, and that buys you time.

And yet today, construction (destruction?) has restarted. You can hear it, you are disturbed.  A driving instructor sets off with his student, no masks. You don’t want to go back to normal, to how it was before. Here, now decisions are made for you. Your life is simple, and full of beauty.

June 2020

All has changed.

The hold is breaking. You’re not sure what this is or why you’re feeling it but you can sense the disintegration, the threat, the creep, the return to the old bile-inducing normal.

The clapping has stopped, the thunder started, the streets quiet, a retreat to a different indoors. The children’s rainbows and dinosaurs, chalked in April, embellished in May, washed away in a day. You jogged under grey clouds yesterday, intermittent rain falling. You stretched your quads, hamstrings in the same order wearing the same clothes, standing under the same tree, pressing the same playlist into your ear. But everything seemed different, dark, lonely.  The route, park, the same as it ever was. Same as it ever was.

And you may ask yourself, how did I get here?


The birds seem crueler. The pair of magpies have taken to chasing the blackbirds out of the garden. A male, turned its orange beak towards its aggressor saying really? You’re going to do this? And was met only with attack. Their corvid hobby turned professional, black and white clothed egos shiny from weeks of success basking in their reign of terror. You saw three wood pigeons congregate on your fence for the first time, an hour before the first lightning bolt hit. Safety in numbers? At least the sparrows and finches are safe. For now.

On your first lap yesterday, you saw two crows terrorising a pigeon at the park gates, hey! You said, stopping and clapping at them. They hopped away like vultures eyeing you with not much concern. By the second lap, the pigeon was frazzled, feathers unaligned, stumbling away when you again interfered. By the third, it was dead on its back, half off the pavement, splayed, pecked to death. The killers were only half interested in their prey, having enjoyed the process more than its result. It felt like a cruel world to you at that moment. The empty park, the grey clouds, the drizzle, that kill. You clicked the volume up and picked up the pace.

Nothing has materially changed for you, so what does this even mean. You wonder if it’s all in your head (but isn’t everything? The other voice says). You know to trust your instincts. You don’t want  to face drinkers on your street again, piles or rubbish, the ghost of neoliberal past thrusting forward in it’s slow mouldy way. You don’t want to commute, absorbing others’ misery and life’s disappointment. It’s so nice here.

*You regret that the word neoliberal was used in this piece. You wish you could dislodge it but you can’t.

20200603_090032You haven’t done all the things you wanted to, that upstairs wardrobe hasn’t been emptied, bags of clothes made ready for the charity shop yet, you Need. More. Time. The garden isn’t this oasis you dreamt it would be, in fact you’ve barely done anything.   The greenhouse you bought in a panic in mid March when everyone seemed scuttling like uprooted ants and all the shops seemed to be closing down? Today you plucked the spinach from its base and chucked the whole lot on the compost heap. You had planted some from roots you had left over, and put twelve containers on your inside window sill.  You needed green veg, what if the shops ran out, you thought in early April. You watered them and watched them grow. Then the heat came and they bolted, flowered and resigned from their role as a potential food source. That was you told.

You’re back in the vortex.


Later, June 2020

Fuck this. You just want to get wasted in a field.

End of June 2020

Today the sun is baking. It feels like the end of May again when you were all cookie baking and socially-distant street parties . You are not sure who you are at this point.

You did yoga in a park. One of six. Under two magnificent oak trees. It’s the first non-online activity you’ve done. As you worked through your vinyasa and lifted your chest through cobra, your gaze met blue and white shapes, geometry amongst a fractal of green above. How could I ever be unhappy again, you thought, now that I’ve had this.

That day, everything seemed whole.


July 2020

The pigeons circle, in clumsy flap, when you go out into in the garden most mornings. Your appearance signals food. The magpies have a brood of three, The robin diligently feeds its three chicks from the bird feeder. It looks like it would rather be engaged in some solitary pursuit, like parenting doesn’t suit it at all, but its genetic instruction compels it. Don’t hold me accountable it says to you, in your anthropomorphic fantasy which unfolds as you drink your morning tea, I’d rather be reading a book or fighting Dunnocks.

You took public transport for the first day today. Took the underground, which is overground, one stop to that same yoga class. In your head it was fine, normal. But something else was going on. Everyone seemed to be looking at you, and you felt your breath quicken under the mask. The men, all the men are looking. You felt exposed. Is this in your head? You wanted to be home, not around people you didn’t know, just casually looking at you. You realised when you boarded the train that you forgot your Oystercard on the bench. You’ve never lost an Oystercard. You’ve had the same one since 2004. You must have been stressed. Will I ever be able to go out again, you wonder as you walked home from the station. This isn’t good. Have you done this to yourself? You need a car. You have no money for a car. In the future, you will.

Next day

One pigeon has clocked you, sitting inside, and has taken to knocking on the garden door glass with its beak.



The starlings have arrived.

You return from the kitchen to find a pigeon in the living room. It very literally crossed the line. It seems unfazed by your mediterranean self materialising like a hulk, your sharp utterances imshy! Inta etganint, itla3 barra! unfazing. Or even launching a flip flop at it. Back on the patio, it still faces you, as if shrugging, yeah but, sunflower seed? A dangerous precedent has been set.

The poppies have popped. Red, white and yellow.

You wonder when you’ll see your family, you miss flying.

You’re on a 93 day streak on Duolingo. ¿En serio? ¡Mira vos!

Your chinese money plant is HUGE.

London feels so so incredibly, far away.