Neuschwanstein castle, May 2017

Fireborn, I imagine you in these rooms
Chandeliers like caves, like crowns
Marble floors made for waltzing
Dancing through the endless night.

You painted stories on the walls
With your clairvoyant fingers
Tales of chivalry and romance, an
Echo of something better, a past
Preserved in pastel colour dreams.

This was your escape, wasn’t it?
This castle with its spiral towers
Gleaming white, a diamond in the
Forest of your heart.

I wonder where it went wrong.
You are a mystery that time has
Swallowed, a secret kept safe
Beneath the lake’s calm surface.

I imagine you walking along that shore
A century before me
And plunging into those
Murky depths.

 

A few weeks ago I travelled to Munich alone with the goal of finally visiting the fairytale castle on the mountain that inspired Disney’s ‘Sleeping beauty’ castle. It was just as beautiful as I’d imagined. I brought my notebook along and wrote this poem about King Ludwig II – the owner of the castle – and the strange mystery surrounding his untimely death.

It’s said that one day Ludwig and his psychiatrist were taking a walk around the nearby lake. A few hours later they were both found drowned. Though there are many theories about how he died, none have been confirmed. 

Seeing this castle in person was a sublime experience for me. It was the realisation of a dream I’d harboured for a very long time, but lost sight of last year when I was in a dark place. Being able to make this trip to see it has reminded me of the person I used to be and has given me hope that one day I’ll be that person again. I found that poetry was the best medium to try and capture that feeling and channel the beauty of the place into language, and I hope you agree.

Have you visited Neuschwanstein castle? I would love to hear your thoughts!

 

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May the odds be ever in your favour

Last weekend I took a trip down to Cardiff to visit my friend Rhi and her boyfriend Connor, who recently started up their own film production company called Cinemerse. They’ve been making some super cool, creative shorts lately for a company called ‘Escape Reality’ that runs escape rooms all over the UK. Their latest trailer was for a Hunger Games themed escape room.

I was lucky enough to be the photographer on set, which was an illuminating experience.  I’ve always wanted to work in film, but never realised how much time and energy goes in to it. Our two shoots, which lasted a total of about 12 hours, translated into 2 minutes of screen time. The first took place in a grassy field, with the four tributes jumping off their metal podiums and running for the Cornucopia in the middle. The second took place in a martial arts studio, with the tributes training with their weapons. Cato with his spear, Peter with the daggers, Rue on the ropes and Katniss on her bow and arrow of course!

Props to Rhi and Connor for getting some fantastic shots and remaining incredibly professional throughout. If anyone in the South Wales area of the UK is looking for film services, I can highly recommend Cinemerse. You can find their Facebook page here and see more of their Escape Reality trailers – would recommend the Games of Thrones one in particular! To see more of my photography, head on over to my portfolio.

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Book Review: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

I’ve recently finished reading ‘The Hate U Give’ by Angie Thomas, amid all of the hype over this book. And let me just say this: that hype is well deserved. I’m just going to make it clear right now that I adored this novel and am rating it 5/5 stars. It’s funny, heart-breaking, relatable and so, so relevant right now with everything that’s going on in the world. It’s a story that needs to be told and a truly fantastic debut in the YA genre for 2017.

The story follows Starr, a seventeen year old girl ‘from the hood’ A.K.A Garden Heights. Her life is divided into two parts: the Starr she acts like at her preppy, white private school, and her true self. However her two lives are blown apart when she witnesses the fatal shooting of her friend Khalil by a white police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. With pressures facing her on all sides, Starr must decide between what is right and what is easy. She must use her voice to fight for justice, for Khalil and herself.

I found Starr to be a relatable, down-to-earth protagonist who I could easily feel for and imagine myself in the shoes of. The confusing storm of emotions she feels in the wake of her friend’s murder is very believable and deeply painful to read, especially knowing that although this book is fiction, it’s based on true events. Her close relationship with her family members is also at times hilarious and heart-warming to read. I loved her interactions with her dad in particular, who clearly cares a lot for his family and neighbourhood, despite being an ex-con and an ex-gangster.

Thomas has done an excellent job of developing a large and diverse cast of characters, delving into their backstories and humanising them in ways that allow you to understand their choices, even if they’re bad ones. A lot of the book is centred on examining the stereotypes and assumptions people make about ‘thug life’ and the black community – an idea which is very neatly explained by Tupac’s lyrics ‘The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everybody’. Too often the media’s portrayal of these communities is one-dimensional, focusing only on the bad without understanding the complex web of reasons behind it. Thomas’ book rightly examines how many of these people, like Khalil, are in fact victims of a system that is already stacked against them and how perpetuating these stereotypes will only continue to worsen the situation.

I also really enjoyed the subtle critique of ‘casual racism’ in this book – how racist terminology has become so ingrained in our culture that we might not even be aware of it. Chris, Starr’s white boyfriend, provides a model example of how not to take white priviledge for granted. His tolerance and sensitivity are a great contrast to Hailey – Starr’s white best friend who keeps making racist jokes and then tries to deny that they’re racist. I thought this was really important, as it shows that racism isn’t just about big flashy news headlines, it’s about the little things too. And as someone who’s been on the receiving end of those kinds of jokes, I felt a sense of validation to know that I did have the right to get upset over it.

Overall, I thought this book was incredibly well-written and authentic. A lot of it is clearly based on personal experience and the author did a fantastic job of bringing Garden Heights and its inhabitants to life. It’s not often I find a YA book that deals with serious issues such as this so well, and I think it really has the potential to make a difference.

Have you read ‘The Hate U Give’? What did you think of it? Leave your comments below!