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How deep are the roots of slavery in Kindred and Sing, Unburied, Sing? Part 3

The literary blurred lines of an interracial relationship

Interracial relationships have frequently been depicted in forms of literature and film such as the ground-breaking Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner by Stanley Kramer and, more recently, Jordan Peele’s Get Out. These relationships have always varied in their presentation, but, due to the societal basis of slavery, Butler and Ward’s fictional relationships depict the fine line of slavery within an interracial relationship.

Whilst Dana and Kevin’s relationship is a loving one, a certain power struggle exists. When Kevin proposes he says, ‘I’d let you type all my manuscripts’ and shows clear annoyance and anger when Dana is reluctant. This is an interesting detail for Butler to choose to include, as, due to lack of relevance to the plot, it is clearly significant for another reason. She is depicting an imbalance in the relationship and presents the assumption from the white male that the black female will do what he says and be happy to do so. Butler takes this further as she draws comparisons to Rufus as he asks Dana to write letters for him as well, blurring the lines between slave master and husband.

One of Dana’s initial time travelling escapades ends with her in a violent situation when a white guard nearly rapes her. Butler distorts Dana’s transition from 18th century to 19th century as she opens her eyes and sees ‘a blurred face above [her] – the face of a man – and [she] panicked’. It takes her a few seconds to realise the man above her is no longer the attacker, but her husband. This highlights the similarities between the two white faces and the possibility of Kevin as the threat, reminding us that this was the expected relationship between a white man and black woman.

Damien Duffy and John Jennings take this idea further in their graphic adaptation of Kindred with the comparison of the two men in their illustrations.

The two images are screenshots taken from Damien Duffy and John Jennings 2017 graphic novel adaptation of Kindred.

Looking at these images we can see distinct similarities. Both men are white with similar hairstyles and rolled up sleeves. The positions of their bodies on top of Dana’s with the angle looking in from the right side along with their comparable features allows us to see the men as the same. It questions our interpretation of their relationship and the grounds in which it is based. Equally it draws attention to their respective ancestors and the class divide in the 18th century society, blurring the lines of their interracial relationship.

The secondary interracial relationship in Kindred is between Alice and Rufus, which is based on slavery and force. Guy Mark Foster writes that ‘My point is that critical analyses of the novel that center the historical narrative of interracial rape, represented by Rufus and Alice’s forced relations, do so at the expense of marginalizing the narrative of consensual interracial desire, represented by Dana and Kevin’s marriage’. Yet, due to the constant similarities and parallels, I believe Butler’s intention was to marginalise interracial desire and draw attention to the fundamental societal issues.

Not only is Kevin compared to the white patriarchal figures, but Dana and Alice are constantly described as sisters with their similar appearance and personality. Equally, they are both favoured by Rufus and given leeway in their behaviour. Rufus even concludes their interchangeability when Alice dies and he attempts to bed Dana instead. The distorted lines between characters work together to blur the interracial relationships and shape the aesthetic in a more traditional way. It depicts slavery as deeply rooted within the societal norms and an inescapable thing that manifests itself in all aspects of modern American life.

In less explicit terms, Jesmyn Ward highlights a level of oppression and slavery in Leonie and Michael’s relationship. On one level, the African American Leonie is emotionally enslaved to her white partner, to an extent that is reminiscent of master – slave. When it’s her son’s birthday, the phone rings. Even though she is holding her son’s cake and he’s about to blow out the candles, she exclaims that it, ‘Might be Michael’ and runs off with the cake in hand. Ward has painted Leonie as a character who would drop anything for her partner, he is constantly on her mind, above anything else, including her duty as a mother. After her mother’s death, when her father is left caring for her two children, she leaves with Michael, with no regard for how her family are coping without her mother. She follows Michael round like he is her master as Ward depicts the hold a white man can still have over a black woman.

Equally, I found the incident with the policeman on their way back from Parchman to hold a similar level of significance with regard to white/black relationships. Nicole Dib writes that, ‘she, as the black woman, had to literally consume the risk that she, her white friend, and her white male partner all took’. In a situation in which a group of three were responsible, Leonie must physically consume the evidence as an act of duty towards her white counterparts. She ends up violently sick and severely affected by her actions whilst Michael and Misty remain unscathed. Not only does this incident represent a blurring of the boundaries in interracial relationships, but also illustrates the cultural lag. African Americans are behind white people in terms of societal rights and police treatment due to the inheritance they have gained from the time of slavery.

Jesmyn Ward and Octavia Butler have both seemingly worked with the established aesthetic tradition of slavery within literature to employ its relevance in society today. The use of modern-day slavery in both exaggerated and realistic terms has formed a stable sense of the injustice faced by African Americans in contemporary America. The references to the Middle Passage and works by Frederick Douglas both serve to highlight the lack of progress and the necessity to inform through the use of literature.

How deep are the roots of slavery in Kindred and Sing, Unburied, Sing? Part 2

The hand me down life

It is written in Michael Hanchard’s essay on Afro-modernity that ‘Legalized segregation, the maintenance of separate and largely unequal institutions, meant that blacks, as a consequence of prejudicial treatment, received health care, education, police protection, transportation, and a host of other services only after those same services were provided for whites’. This was a prominent issue that followed the emancipation of slavery as, the prejudices against African Americans were still extremely prevalent. In turn, the delayed access to education, health care etc, created a cultural lag which largely affected the black community and their progress in society.

Frederick Douglas wrote in his work on ‘The Color Line’ that, ‘He has ceased to be the slave of an individual, but has in some sense become the slave of society’. Despite this being written in 1881, this idea of being enslaved to society has persisted well into the words of Hanchard over a century later. The African American community was forced into the cultural lag through societal structure, with no choice to remain there, resulting in their lives continuing on an eerily similar path to their ancestors who were explicitly enslaved.

I can easily transfer this idea of the cultural lag to Sing, Unburied, Sing due to the lack of justice that Ward has depicted throughout her use of young, black male characters. The ghostly figure of Given is narrated to life to by his sister Leonie and the reader learns about his tragic fate. As a young aspiring athlete, he was deemed to have a bright future due to his talented football playing. Yet, due to the cultural lag and unequal opportunities of society, he was unable to excel and reach his full potential. His father said to him, ‘they look at you and see difference son. Don’t matter what you see. It’s about what they do’. There is a clear outline of a black and white dichotomy with an explicit reference to the imbalance of power and the effect that Given’s white counterparts could have on his livelihood. Given ends up being murdered by a white boy when they are out hunting together simply because of Given’s superior hunting technique. The murderer exclaims to his family that, ‘He was supposed to lose, Pa’. His uncle scolds him and says, ‘This aint the old days’ yet, his white skin and links to the Sheriff’s office results in a quick three-year sentence, barely enough time to affect his future. Despite his uncle’s claim that, ‘This aint the old days’, there is a clear cultural lag in the treatment that African American’s receive in the criminal justice system. Maybe society hasn’t moved on since the old days after all.

In 1881, Douglas wrote that ‘They are negroes – and that is enough, in the eye of this unreasoning prejudice, to justify indignity and violence. In nearly every department of American life they are confronted by this insidious influence’. This is clearly a tradition established early on when writing the African American experience and Ward has made no effort to work against this or argue that there has been any significant change. Ward’s character Given excelled, yet the cultural lag in society didn’t allow him to move forward with his talents and overtake his white counterparts. In the eyes of the law and his white friends, he was just a ‘[negro]’ which was enough to ‘justify indignity and violence’.

It can be argued that the events I have just outlined were based on the second-generation characters and therefore less relevant to the modern day yet, Jojo’s experiences with the police highlight the relentless significance of the cultural lag. When stopped by the police on their Middle Passage, the ghostly figure of Richie warns Jojo that ‘They going to chain you’. This character is two generations older and due to the perceived societal progression in the black/white dichotomy, it wouldn’t be far fetched to assume he is out of touch with the police force. However, Jojo goes on to being treated by the police in the way that was predicted. Nicole Dib wrote that ‘Richie’s disquieting statement and the distressing action his body takes in the car signals the carceral anxiety that haunts him, even as a ghost’. Yet, I believe that the distress is less about his past experiences, and more about the fact that this is still a concern for African Americans. Richie is the voice of the past that is shocked and uncomfortable that modern day children are forced to endure his previous experiences, which ultimately exacerbates Ward’s intentions.

The cultural lag is highlighted not only by these similarities, but by Jojo being singled out by the police officer. The young boy is surrounded by adults, including a much older white man, yet the black child is the person whom the police officer sees as a threat worthy of arming himself. This pays homage to the endless number of black drivers who have been shot and killed on the road such as Sandra Bland. It’s important to note that Octavia Butler expressed a similar cultural lag in her comparisons of 19th century and 20th century North America. Whilst the Antebellum South depicts unimaginable extremities, Butler makes sure she presents her modern-day world as unjust. A co-worker refers to the couple as ‘chocolate and vanilla porn’, whilst Kevin’s sister said she ‘wouldn’t have [Dana] in her house – or [Kevin] either if [he] married [her]’. These examples span across different levels of extreme whilst one expresses a lower-level prejudice, one depicts a more violent level of racism and cultural lag. The colour of Dana’s skin prevents her from marrying freely and being accepted by her partner’s family. This is not dissimilar to the way the couple are treated in the 1800s as she is assumed his slave. As stated by Douglas, ‘They are negroes – and that is enough’.

How deep are the roots of slavery in Kindred and Sing, Unburied, Sing? Part 1

The African American inheritance

Kindred, a novel ‘which strikingly reimagined the neo-slave narrative genre’ managed to accurately depict the modern-day entanglement with slavery that African American’s are forced to endure daily. Gabrielle Bellot wrote that, ‘Time heals, but also hurts; the past is indeed a different country, but less so than we may think’ and I believe that this not only accurately summarises Butler’s intentions throughout her 1979 novel Kindred, but Jesmyn Ward’s 2017 novel Sing, Unburied, Sing. The roots of slavery are deeply anchored within these modern-day depictions of Northern America providing apt argument for the past as less of a different country than we may think.

The narrative of Kindred follows the modern African American character, Dana, on her journey as she is forced back in time to the Antebellum South to protect her bloodline. In the initial stages of the novel, we witness her experiencing the enslaved and oppressed life of a black woman during the 1800s. When attacked, Butler channels the thought process of Dana writing that, ‘Now I would be sold into slavery because I didn’t have the stomach to defend myself in the most effective way. Slavery! And there was a more immediate threat’. Despite being a free, working, married woman from the 1970s, she is suddenly facing the serious reality of enslavement. Dana puts the threat of slavery to the background, naming it as the least immediate threat. I believe this nonchalance is extremely telling of the established aesthetic of slavery in the modern-day society. James Baldwin wrote that, ‘the country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon’ and Butler has materialised this through her novel, as she makes it clear that not only is slavery a reality that Dana must accept, it’s also a reality that she is less fazed by. Butler’s impression of insouciance from Dana illustrates the strong hold that slavery has on her character and its ability to casually resurface.

The prologue and epilogue depict the incident in which Dana, returning from her last trip, finds her arm caught in the wall. Despite assuming she would be safe from the tribulations of 19th century Maryland, she finds herself ‘caught somehow’ as she is stuck, between 19th century and 20th century. For many African Americans, it is confusing how, over a century later, they are still affected and ‘caught’ in the time of slavery despite the progress that has been preached in society. The loss of Dana’s arm depicts the physical and mental scarring that is left and has remained. Butler chooses to insert a scene where Kevin and Dana are at home and the radio station begins to report on rioting and battles between white supremacist police and black residents in South Africa. Both these examples emphasis the lack of progress and illustrate the scarring left behind. We are starkly exposed to the explicit realisation of the parallels of 19th century and the 1970s as we understand Butler’s intentions to depict the modern day’s entanglement with the past.

Jesmyn Ward’s Sing, Unburied, Sing depicts the substantial roots of slavery in a less explicit and more metaphorical way. The narrative is littered with inequality and injustice, yet the entire middle section of the novel, narrated by the characters as the journey to and from Parchman Farm, is representative of the infamous Middle Passage. Nicole Dib writes that, ‘Ward’s road trip is decidedly haunted, hunted, and policed for black subjects who inhabit the road’. The policed aspect of the road is signified on their way back from Parchman when they encounter a ‘young […] skinny’ police officer who smells of ‘sweat and spice’. Despite their freedom to travel, they are not only stopped but forced to exit the vehicle and explain themselves to a stoned white man at gunpoint. The hypocrisy and policed aspect that is experienced by both the black narrators of Sing, Unburied, Sing begins to paint comparisons to the black travellers along the policed Middle Passage.

In Black Imagination and the Middle Passage, the introductory remarks state that, ‘The injustice and brutality of tight – packing is unquestionable, the suffering and horror experienced by the slaves unimaginable. Add to that image the lack of proper diet, the unhygienic conditions […]’. Whilst reading this depiction of life travelling along the Middle Passage in a slave ship, I can’t help but think of Ward’s portrayal of Jojo’s journey. Like North America, they are on their way to the land of imprisonment. Already extremely squashed into the car, Ward’s introduction of Richie and his choice to ‘fold [himself] and sit on the floor of the car.’ is reminiscent of the ‘tight – packing’ experienced by the slaves. Jojo also experiences the ‘lack of proper diet’ as he quenches his thirst with rainwater when denied a drink from the unforgiving and forceful figures around him. He experiences the life of a convict as he ‘[slides] a pack of saltiness and two bottles of juice [he] stole out of that house into [his] own plastic bag’.

The entire central passage as written by Jesmyn Ward, resonates the time of slavery and implicitly gives the same message as Octavia Butler. They work together to explore the modern-day ties to slavery in African American culture, depicting the similarities and its deep roots. Neither Dana or Jojo has been able to escape the clutches of the past and it has left permanent marks on their lives, either physical or mental. Guy Mark Foster writes that ‘slavery itself is overdetermined within the tradition, since Kindred is not so much about slavery as it is about how black Americans learn to renegotiate the history of slavery within their present-day circumstances’. Although I agree that both novels centre on learning to renegotiate, I believe the most important aspect is the idea of black Americans are being forced to renegotiate due to the prevalence of oppression in modern day society. Dana was literally pulled back in time to the Antebellum South without her being able to express any opposition. Comparatively, Jojo is forced along the journey of the Middle Passage whilst being made to endure hardship despite his young, schoolboy innocence. The lesson of renegotiation is not of choice, it is a lesson that should not have been necessary in the first place.

The Year of the Flood; Dystopia or reality?

Photo by Edwin Hooper on Unsplash

Due to both University reading and personal interest, I’ve found myself delving into the world of dystopian literature more than ever. Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood has become anew favourite of mine as I found myself flying through its 500 odd pages. Set during a period of biological catastrophe, The Year of the Flood is the second novel in a trilogy based on different angles of this make belief world. However, having not previously read Oryx and Crake, I could only interpret the novel as a standalone piece of fiction.

Reminiscent of Atwood’s own The Handmaid’s Tale and other dystopian novels such as A Clockwork Orange, the plot is packed with sexual violence and oppressive figures. With a page count of over 500 pages long, the two central characters have ample room to breathe, grow and let their personalities seep onto the pages. The reader watches Ren grow from child to adult as the plot forms a feeling of Bildungsroman. Her life is tumultuous and unforgiving as she experiences upper class life, an existence in the Pleeblands, and of course, the agricultural cult, ‘The gardeners’. She is emotional and it’s difficult to remove yourself from her pain as she is abandoned by her parents, loses her friends and suffers through a painstakingly long heartbreak.

Toby is arguably a character residing on the opposite end of the emotional spectrum. Feared by the children of ‘The Gardeners’, she is an extremely head strong and resourceful character. Orphaned as a teenager, she picks her way through low life jobs whilst forcing herself to make money in less than desirable ways. Her entire narrative is a sad and lonely one, filled with isolation and a lack of love. The moment she finds Ren in the Year 25 (which we were all anticipating) was the first time I felt like she was no longer on her own. Ren and Toby, however oppositional, are the perfect companions. Their mix of experience and their complimentary balance of emotions creates a partnership and level of camaraderie that I believe will continue long into their fictional future. Atwood’s mastery of these characters was sensational. I laughed, I cried, and I felt my heart break along with them. This is one of the few novels that I was mightily disappointed to see the back of.

When it comes to the dystopia genre, one of the most important things to consider is that it is not so much science fiction, but a potential reality. Atwood has always famously said that she does not want her writing to be referred to as science fiction due to her contextual influence’s roots in real life. The Handmaid’s tale famously echoes the Salem Witch trials, Biblical stories, ancient monachal practices and it’s not hard to see similar influences in her other novels. When reading The Year of the Flood I could sense the contextual influences of both feminist and eco critical movements from the worlds past and present. Equally, the corrupt patriarchal forces strongly echoed those we have seen around the world and we are no strangers to religious cults and barbarians.

Reading this novel in today’s climate whilst residing alongside the infamous COVID19 global pandemic, the idea of the ‘waterless flood’ can easily cause a few grimaces and raised eyebrows. Written over a decade ago, the parallels of nose masks and keeping distances from each other in order to protect yourself from germs and unsanitary living, sits uncomfortably on the chest. How many pandemics will we go through before we face an event comparable to the ‘waterless flood’? When will be unable to prevent the population dropping like flies? Atwood’s decision to leave out the key details and explanation into the nature of the disease until halfway through the narrative adds immensely to the unnerving build up of tension and feeling of unknown. The story behind the pandemic begins to slowly unravel as we are drip fed an insight into the nature of the waterless flood, and this does little to put us at ease as we sympathise with the character’s hardships and feel their pain.

One of the more ‘dystopian’ features of The Year of the Flood is the unique blend of original vocabulary that Atwood has created. The literary technique creates a barrier between the reader and the fictional world, removing any feeling of reality. I was quite interested in the inspiration behind the made-up words such as garboil, bimplants, but when breaking the syllables down, its not too difficult to work it out. I still can’t believe it took me nearly half the novel to work out that violet biolets meant toilets! The single changed letter clearly makes all the difference…

Despite Atwood’s rejection of the sci-fi label, the freaky words and animal hybrids (rakunk and bobkitten) does little to veer away from this label. It paints the society as apart from the one we are so familiar with today and slightly removes the possibility of our society facing a similar future. There is a lot we can take away from the novel and its warnings against unnatural experimentation and corrupt government. Atwood almost implements the features of a fable into the narrative with the moral possibly being based on leaving nature and wry science experiments alone. Well, it’s convinced me, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the other two novels in the trilogy.

Time to throw your own 70s dinner party

Photo by Jacob Thomas on Unsplash

The 1970’s, described as a pivot of change in world history, saw post war economic booms, fights for equality and strong movements towards environmental activism. The food was garish and often consisted of layers and show stopping looks. Dinner parties were all the rage, and it was all about who could throw the best get together. Want to have your own 70’s dinner party? Here’s how…

What you’re wearing

If you’re not wearing a pair of bell-bottomed pants, you might find yourself feeling out of place. Combine them with a turtleneck or flower print shirt and you have a completed 70’s look. Alternatively, you might feel more comfortable in a slick Travolta-esque three piece. Picture Saturday night fever, the famous white three piece, an oversized black collar and black boots and you’ve got the look. If you want to accessorise a bit further, you could add some sideburns or a platform shoe.

What you’re listening to

Depending on the crowd, you may be relishing the new rise of punk rock, enjoying bands such as The Sex Pistols, The Clash or The Ramones. ABBA’s success in the Eurovision song contest in 1974 sparked their long-lasting popularity so maybe this will act as the background of your evening? Or perhaps you’re more of a country fan? Dolly Parton, Glen Campbell and Willie Nelson for you!

What you’re drinking

If you are going all out with cocktails, you might decide to present your guests with a Tom Collins or a White Russian. A Tom Collins is a simple classic filled with gin, lemon juice, sugar syrup and chilled soda, perfect for a classier drink. A White Russian is a lot more exciting and interesting with its popular mixture of vodka, Kahlua and heavy cream. As for the wine, I think many would agree that Mateus Rose, imported from Portugal, was a popular choice. The bulbous, irregular, squat shaped bottle made a perfect centre piece and subsequent vase. A white zinfandel was an equally popular choice for the adults of the 70’s. Packing a similarly sweet and sickly punch to the Mateus Rose, there’s clearly a running theme here.

To snack

Everyone knows that the appetisers and pre-dinner snacks are the most important part of a dinner party as they set the tone of the party and let all of the guests know what they’re in for. The classic bought nibble like foods were undoubtedly twiglets, cheese footballs and salted peanuts. You might try some fancier canapes such as devilled eggs, mushroom vol-au-vents, devils on horseback or some mini baked potato skins. If the nibbles are the name of the game at your dinner party, you might step it up a level with a cheese fondue set. Cheese fondue was all the rage and if you owned a fondue set, you would have been popular. Dipping cubes of food into a pot of melted cheese… what could be better?

To start

It wouldn’t be a 70’s party if you didn’t start with a prawn cocktail. Hopefully you can get your hands on a set of martini glasses to serve them in, if not, wine glasses could be a suitable replacement. Divide the lettuce amongst the glasses and sprinkle over a few pink juicy prawns and season with black pepper. Mix (or buy) a pink sauce and spoon sparingly over the prawns. Dust with a little paprika, sprinkle with a few chives, top with a few extra prawns and serve. Don’t even consider trying to present your guests with a different starter… this is the only way forward.

For the main

There are a few options for the main dish, depending on what you fancy. Casserole type dishes were quite popular at the time, and to spice it up a bit, coq-au-vin or boef bourguignon frequently featured as the centre piece for a 70’s dinner party. Equally, something a little fancier like a salmon en croute or a Duck a l’orange is a suitable choice. You may notice a common theme of foreign names running through all of these dishes and it’s clear that French cooking was the name of the game. The 70’s hosts wanted to impress their guests with their exotic cooking skills, and, if you are throwing your own party, you have to do the same. It was also quite trendy to create a true show stopping centre piece to put in the middle of your dinner table using jelly moulds and elaborate and cohesive lay outs. You can always google 70’s dinner parry showstoppers if you want some garish inspiration.

To finish

There are a few options here but the most notable is the classic, German born, Black Forest gateau. Three layers of rich spongey chocolate cake separated by layers of whipped cream and morello cherries and topped with a chocolate cream and fresh cherries… this is a real crowd pleaser. Equally, you could try a few different examples of traditional 70’s fare such as a Baked Alaska or layered trifle. The main thing is that it has to look impressive to gain you the crown of top party thrower!

An Immersive History Lesson: Touring the Globe

Photo by Federico Scarionati on Unsplash

Travelling should not just be about a tan or memories, it should also be integral to your educational journey as you learn about the world’s history and culture. Everyone loves a beach holiday, lazing about in the sun, grabbing a beer or cocktail from the bar, but it’s important to register where you’re holidaying and recognise its rich, diverse heritage and lifestyle, whilst you reap its benefits. It’s easy to fall into the bias of educational travel as something you did on a school trip as you reminisce back on that wet and soggy trip to Ypres or the Berlin war memorial. Although, the vital thing to remember is that educational travel isn’t just about those traditional locations, but also about the culturally diverse corners of South America, Asia, Africa and Europe. There is more to learn from the societal developments across the world than anyone could comprehend or realise, whether it’s learning about an ancient tribe or a large array of incomprehensible animals. These lessons are vital to allow ourselves to grow and widen our knowledge of the world. However, it is of course still very important to take a trip to more educational sites such as Auschwitz or Chernobyl as they have the power to stir up an emotional response and realisation that is impossible when learning about the events in a classroom or detached environment.

The Menin Gate in Ypres Photo by Zieben VH on Unsplash

Visiting Ypres was one of my most memorable high school trips that we undertook when learning about the First World War. Referred to as “Wipers” by British troops, it was home to several battles between British, Canadian, French and German soldiers, including the well-known Battle of Passchendaele. Walking amongst the trenches and bomb craters provided a much more rich and full education of the First World War as it allowed me and my fellow classmates to truly appreciate the gravity of the situation as we came to terms with its reality. The Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery and Memorial to the Missing offered an insight into the numerical value of lives lost. I believe that the sea of uniform white graves provided the best and most pertinent history lesson of the magnitude of the World War.

Pripyat, a city associated with the worst nuclear disaster in history, is rapidly becoming a top tourist destination. Located in northern Ukraine, it was home to the Chernobyl disaster, caused by a nuclear accident in 1986 and resulting in an exclusion zone of around 2,600 km2. There are many reasons why you should visit Chernobyl and its educational benefits range from learning about the risks of nuclear power to experiencing a culture that no longer exists. You can walk through a town frozen in time from the Soviet era, witnessing the architecture and getting a sense of the lifestyle that was led in these forgotten times. It is deemed safe to visit despite the historical radiation and you can pay $100 – $500 for guided tours which give you a historical and informative insight. If you’re into dark and educational tourism, this is definitely one for you.

Machu Picchu Photo by Federico Scarionati on Unsplash

On a more cultural context, the Inca trail to Machu Picchu can teach a traveller a lot about the 15th century Inca civilisation. The citadel is located in Southern Peru and remained unknown to modern society until 1911 when discovered by Hiram Bingham. The Inca trail normally takes about four or five days to complete and a tour guide will be able to educate you on the history of the Incas and their lifestyle and architecture. It’s important to visit sites such as these in order to preserve the history and learn about the grounds in which the modern day is based. Similar to the Ancient Egyptians and their Great Pyramids, Machu Picchu depicts the excellence of those that came before us and all that was achieved in their respective civilisations.

Booby Birds on the Galapagos Islands Photo by Andy Brunner on Unsplash

Conversely, places such as the Galapagos Islands allow an education on flora and fauna that is completely unique. Distributed on either side of the equator in the Pacific Ocean, the islands are known for their tortoises, iguanas, lizards, penguins and their 56 species of bird. The wildlife here was made famous by Darwin and his theories of evolution. When visiting you can learn about his theories whilst experiencing the environment in which they were born. Not only is the Galapagos incredible for learning about nature and evolution, the islands are filled with geological features, such as volcanoes, which offers a whole new educational aspect. The limited population of the islands means that the vast majority of the natural elements remain untouched, resulting in the Galapagos being the perfect place to educate yourself on nature and Darwinism.

Whilst all these locations and holiday destinations offer educational benefits in a multitude of areas, you can also weave a lot of fun into your trips. Of course, both the Galapagos and Peru’s Machu Picchu can offer sea and sun, whilst Belgium and Eastern Europe are filled with vibrant cities and nightlife. You can drink and party to your hearts content just about anywhere on the planet, but it’s important to brush up on their unique and individual cultural backgrounds to get a well-rounded and full experience!

Cheers! The 1980’s cocktail trend

Photo by Proriat Hospitality on Unsplash

The 80’s cocktail culture was characterised by sexual innuendo, neon colours, sour mix, Southern Comfort, Baileys, Peach schnapps and glasses that was either huge or tiny. The cocktails were sickly and lurid, adorned with rainbow coloured swizzle sticks and sparklers. Drinking was largely popularised by the American sitcom Cheers, as the 80’s youth followed the lives of the characters as they drank and relaxed in the iconic Boston based bar. The release of Tom Cruise’s Cocktail saw a new insight into the romantic world of cocktail mixing and the art of bartending, fuelling the 80’s love for a fun and sexy drink. My mum fondly remembers her regular haunt, the Covent Garden bar, Rumours, which she believes perfectly characterises the cocktail scene. With its neon purple logos, dark corners, vinyl bonkettes and C-list celebrities, the crowd would be swarming with their pitchers of mai tai and Long Island Iced tea. Many of the iconic cocktails drank in the 80’s were created in the 70’s but they were branded by the 80s consumption and lifestyle. Want to experience the perfect 80s evening? These cocktails will help you get there!

Mai Tai

One of the most famous tiki drinks in the world, this cocktail was famously served in pitchers during the 80’s. The name is said to come from the first person to try this cocktail as they called out “Mai Tai” which means “the best – out of this world” in Tahitian.

  • 1 ½ oz white rum
  • 3/3 oz orange curacao
  • ¾ oz lime juice
  • ½ oz orgeat
  • ½ oz dark rum

Add the white rum, curacao, lime juice and orgeat into a shaker with crushed ice and shake. Pour into a double rocks glass and drizzle the dark rum onto the back of a spoon so it floats on top. Garnish with a wheel of lime and sprig of mint.

Long Island Iced Tea

Born out of Prohibition when thirsty scofflaws wanted to disguise their booze, this Long Island cocktail was an 80’s favourite. As one of the most alcoholic cocktails ever, there is no surprise that the popularity of this drink has lived on.

  • ¾ oz Vodka
  • ¾ oz white rum
  • ¾ oz tequila
  • ¾ oz gin
  • ¾ oz triple sec
  • ¾ oz sugar syrup
  • ¾ oz lemon juice
  • Coke to top

Add all alcoholic components, sugar syrup and lemon juice to a glass filled with ice and stir. Top up with a splash of coke, garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve with a straw.

Harvey Wallbanger

This luridly coloured cocktail defines the tackiness of the 80’s. Easy to make, it is essentially a fancier version of a classic screwdriver. Drink this cocktail to channel the days of a classic disco.

  • 1 ¼ oz vodka
  • ½ oz Galliano
  • 3 oz orange juice

Fill a tall glass with ice and add the vodka and orange juice followed by a good stir. Float the Galliano on top by pouring on to the back of a spoon and garnish with a skewered orange slice and maraschino cherry.

Slow Comfortable Screw Against The Wall

This is a good summertime cocktail of the 80s. The sexy name can be broken down into parts to represent each ingredient. Slow – sloe gin, Comfortable – Southern Comfort, Screw – Orange juice, The wall – Galliano.

  • 2oz vodka
  • 1oz Sloe gin
  • 1oz Southern Comfort
  • 1oz Galliano
  • 2oz Orange juice

Add the Vodka, Southern Comfort and orange juice to a highball glass filled with ice and stir. Drizzle the Sloe gin around the surface and pour the Galliano onto a spoon so it floats on top. Do not stir.

Between the Sheets

The name of this sexually provocative cocktail accurately depicts the 80’s cocktail culture. This twist on a classic sidecar is a delicious cocktail to try!

  • 1oz Cognac
  • 1oz Triple sec
  • 10z Light rum
  • ¼ oz Fresh lemon juice

Add all ingredients to cocktail shaker with a scoop of ice and shake, strain into a martini glass and top with an orange peel.

Alabama Slammer

The Alabama Slammer was supposedly born at the University of Alabama and is intended to be slammed back to make a point. Initially created in the 70’s, it was popularised in the 80’s scene with its use of Southern Comfort and Sloe gin. You can shot it, or allow it to mix and blend in a long glass and enjoy all of its flavours.

  • 1oz Southern Comfort
  • 1oz sloe gin
  • 1oz amaretto liquor
  • 2oz orange juice

Add all ingredients to a cocktail shaker and a scoop of crushed ice. Give it a good shake and strain into a highball glass filled with ice and garnish with a wedge of orange.

The Fuzzy Navel

With the release of Peach Schnapps into the American market in 1984, bartenders were eager to incorporate it into their drinks. With equal parts schnapps to equal parts orange juice, this simple cocktail is a great one for beginners. Propelling peach schnapps into popularity, this questionably named, and luridly coloured cocktail is what the 80’s were all about.

  • 3oz Peach Schnapps
  • 3oz Orange Juice

Pour the Orange Juice and Peach Schnapps into a highball glass filled with ice and top with ice and an orange wheel. Serve and enjoy! Simple and delicious.

Remembering 9/11

Photo by Anthony Fomin on Unsplash

They always say that you remember where you were when you heard about a life changing event, and I think 9/11 is one of those occasions. I was just a one-year-old baby when it happened, cradled in my mother’s arms, as a breaking story suddenly bombarded all news channels. Having just heard something on the radio, she rushed to turn on the TV, just in time to watch the second plane slice into the south tower of the World Trade centre.

In just three hours, 19 individuals hijacked four US airlines, killed 2977 people, sent two of the US’s biggest cities into chaos, and brought the world to a standstill. Citizens of 78 countries were affected and it’s regarded as the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the deadliest incident for fire fighters and law enforcement in the history of the United States. The scale of the attack stretched far beyond the US and the world is still reeling in its repercussions today.

For the new generations who were not old enough to experience its shockwaves, it’s easy to disassociate from the horrors that occurred. But the most important thing to realise is how many people are still affected today. Whilst a lot of schools teach their students about 9/11 in detail, there are a large number of informative books and films that have been released. Many of them are extremely heart wrenching and difficult to get through, but they challenge todays generations to understand the sense of loss felt by our parents, grandparents, and neighbours all over the world.

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (2011), although often criticised for using a tragedy for a heart string tugging effect, was nominated for two academy awards. The film focuses on a young boy dealing with the loss of his father after he fell victim to the attack on the World Trade Centre. It allows an insight into how many ordinary lives were affected and the extent that they had to live with their pain. It’s important to remember that the 3000 people that died would have created hundreds of thousands of grieving friends and family who would have all experienced differing levels of trauma and mental health issues.

Understanding the specific and long-term effects of the attacks on families not only increases our insight into the implications of terrorism, but it also sheds light onto those who have used their new influences to create public awareness and change. Thomas Burnett Jr is well known for his heroic actions on flight 93 as he and a few others managed to prevent the plane and its hijackers from creating further acts of terror in the US. He told his wife over the phone that “We’re waiting until we’re over a rural area. We’re going to take back the plane” and not to worry because they’re “going to do something…” He and three other passengers; Mark Bingham, Todd Beamer and Jeremy Glick went down in history as they successfully overpowered the hijackers and crashed the plane into a field in Pennsylvania. Thomas Burnett’s wife, Deena Burnett, went on to releasing two novels including ‘Fighting Back’ about her experiences of losing her husband and livelihood to such an awful event.

It’s people like Thomas Burnett and his wife who represent the innocent lives lost and the effect that terrorism had on the everyday citizen of the United Sates.

The Submission is a novel that takes a different angle on the aftermath of 9/11 and offers a completely different perspective. Based in 2003, a group of judges must agree on an anonymously submitted design that will become the September 11 memorial, built on the site of the World Trade Centre. Once agreed, they open the envelope and revealed the name of the architect. Mohammad Khan. The name created seismic shockwaves across the judging panel as they question whether they can still award his design. When I first read this novel a few years ago I was taken by the insightful perspective offered by the author, Amy Waldman, and it encouraged me to consider those who were affected by 9/11 due to the colour of their skin.

Since the attacks were made by the Islamic group Al-Qaeda, the whole of the United States turned against the Islamic community, labelling them all as terrorists. In 2001, after the attacks, President Bush announced the ‘War on Terror’ and declared that you were ‘either with us or against us’. These allegations have continued until today and innocent citizens of Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan have been subject to bombing and war raging in their countries. A paper on the Cost of War estimates that around 480 000 – 507 000 citizens of those three countries have died as direct consequence of the post 9/11 wars. This is incomparable to the US losses of September the 11th and, whilst no death can be justified or disregarded, it’s clear that an incomprehensible number of innocent people have died. If there is anything the new generations should reflect on from the 9/11, it’s that, it didn’t start and end on that day with the 3000 lives in the US. It’s that the war has been stretched thin across our timeline and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of our neighbours in the Middle East, and their lives should be remembered too.

However, the war on terror is much more than the wars raging between opposing forces. It extends to every prejudice a brown person has faced as a consequence. Every single casual racist remark or inequality within the workplace is part of the problem and the reason why these wars are still going on.

Hubbox review

Before October I had never heard of Hubbox before, and now I’ll never forget it. The décor was warm, cosy and inviting with its dim and low lighting. The furnishings were wooden and there were red neon signs dotted on the walls. The restaurant gave off classic burger joint vibes with a modern twist giving it an originality that intrigued me.

The staff were engaging and showed a clear interest in their customers, which, in a COVID cautious world, was a welcome change. They stayed attentive throughout the evening, consistently offering their services and successfully providing us with a continuous flow of drinks. The music was enjoyable and, although a little loud, added a nice background noise to the conversation. I felt right at home!

After so many wins for Hubbox, the food and drinks did not let the side down. I ordered the kali chick chicken burger and swapped out the grilled chicken breast patty for a buttermilk fried chicken breast. The taste combinations were amazing with a chorizo jam that offered an intense and rich flavour alongside the chicken. The chipotle mayo created a light level of spice, whilst the guacamole and rocket cut through the richer, oilier flavours and produced a subtle palette cleanser. I love fried chicken more than anything, and I felt the crunch worked perfectly amongst the flavour combinations. I also manged to sample some of the big kahuna beef burger which was an absolute meat feast with two 4oz patties and a mountain of pulled pork. Topped with an onion ring, it was a real treat and great value for money. For me, the chicken burger took the cake, but if you are a mega meat lover, the big kahuna is the one for you!

The sides were just as good, and, although arguably expensive for sides, were definitely worth it. I got to try the mother clucker fries which were skin on fries topped with buttermilk fried chicken, cheese sauce, sour cream and Korean BBQ sauce. They were amazing and did not hold back on the toppings. The chicken was delicious, and the sour cream and BBQ sauce complimented each other perfectly with their respective cooling and rich tones. We also ordered nachos which were a classic crunchy portion of loaded tortilla chips. I really enjoyed them but I have to admit they were not as generous with the quac as they could have been and, next to the fries, were marginally disappointing. But then again, with such big stars on the menu, there will inevitably be something sitting in the shadows.

 My favourite drink of the evening was the Long beach iced tea which had a delicious orangey, alcoholic twang and went down with a dangerous ease. The espresso martini was equally enjoyable and acted as the perfect digestif to such a filling meal. The bar definitely lived up to the food! I can’t wait to make Hubbox a regular haunt of mine, it’s original menu definitely makes it my new favourite burger joint. Its vegan and veggie menu makes me excited to take some of my veggie friends so they can try out its versatility. Its location is already calling out to me for a day out in the bay with a Hubbox burger and beer!

The Do’s and don’ts of kitchen sustainability

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Originally written for Quench magazine

With hard hitting programs such as David Attenborough’s recently released ‘A life on our planet’, climate change and its impending doom has been successfully brought to the forefront of our minds. It is understandably hard to live a completely eco-friendly life when it is so easy to remain uneducated and unaware, but, as the new generation, it’s so important to lead the way and live a sustainable lifestyle. Of course, not all of us have the means or ability to make a big and noticeable change, but it’s the little things and mass awareness that can have the best long-lasting effect. We need to pave the road for a sustainable way of living with the hopes of a bright, stable and permanent future so that the new generations can live the lives they deserve. I know that it seems difficult and expensive to get started on your sustainable living, so I’ve comprised a budget friendly and easy do and don’t list of how to act in and around your kitchen in order to stay sustainable. Every little helps!

Do…

· Recycle! – It seems like an obvious one, but it never fails to amaze me how little green recycling bags have been put out on bin day. If you are still feeling confused about what you’re supposed to recycle, have a look on your local council website and you will be provided with a full list of what is meant to go in those green bags. It might be worth putting a list on your fridge to remind those who you live with. You could also benefit from popping a recycling bin in your bathroom to avoid all those cardboard toilet rolls going in general waste. It’s important to remind your housemates to recycle but remember to ask nicely!

· Share essentials – I am constantly buying a bag of potatoes that is way to big for my consumption and there is always one or two left that go rotten or mouldy. It’s the same for things such as bread and carrots. I’m not a big eater and I have found that sharing these food items is much more economical and sustainable.

· Meal plan – Far too often do people buy ingredients with no real plan of when they’re going to use them and the sell by date comes and goes. One way to resolve this food waste is to plan your meals at the beginning of the week and buy your ingredients accordingly. Equally, I often find that I buy an ingredient for a meal and then what I don’t use ends up going off and being thrown away. By meal planning, you can work out what to do with the rest of the ingredients without them going off!

· Swap meat for veggies – meat production is a massive strain on the environment for many reasons and the best thing we can do is reduce our consumption. You don’t need to go full vegan or even full veggie, just try and have meat free days 3-4 times a week. If everyone did this it would lower popular demand and reduce the need to farm and deforest massive chunks of land.

Don’t…

· Forget your bags! – Anyone else guilty of that huge pile of plastic supermarket bags in your kitchen? You get to the supermarket after forgetting to bring a bag, you reluctantly buy a new one and bring it home, promising to remember next time. But do you remember next time…? It’s super important as the amount of plastic waste that is building up across the world and in the ocean is something that needs to be urgently stopped.

· Buy ready meals – The steps that the ready meal takes from production to your kitchen table are horrific. Due to the fact that it’s precooked, there’s no way of inspecting the quality of any of the meat and veg. The meat is most likely mass produced in an unethical environment and the veg is very unlikely to being organic. Equally it comes packaged in mountains of unnecessary plastic which just ends up being thrown into the ocean. If you make your own meals, you can monitor how much plastic it’s packaged in and make sure the ingredients are ethically sourced.

· Use cling film – Keeping along the theme of plastic waste, cling film is among the worst of the single use plastics to come out of the kitchen. With so many different options to replace cling film such as silicone stretch lids, beeswax wraps and reusable sandwich bags, there really is no excuse to stick with the single use option. Have a shop around and thoroughly research all your options before you succumb to societal norms and purchase your next roll of clingfilm.

· Think you can’t make a difference – Too many people fall for the trap that their kitchen habits won’t make a positive change. The important thing to remember is that if we all manage to stay sustainable, we can change the norm and encourage a new generation of sustainability. Unity in the masses is the only option!