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The world’s 10 coolest neighborhoods, according to Time Out



London (CNN) — This year we’ve all been spending more time than expected in our own neighborhoods.

While lockdown and safety measures have hit our city centers hard, in many places local communities have been thriving.

The staff of Time Out, which has publications in cities all over the world, put together an annual list of the world’s 40 coolest neighborhoods, based on local intel from more than 38,000 city-dwellers.

Proclaiming that “It’s cool to be kind,” the magazine’s focus this year is on places where neighborliness is king, and communities and businesses have pulled together and prospered during this toughest of years.

Here are the top 10.

10. Marrickville, Sydney

The sheer diversity of offerings is the key to Marrickville’s success, says Time Out.

“A true melting pot,” it boasts what might just be Sydney’s most eclectic food scene, where you can pick up world-class Vietnamese food along Illawarra Rd, tuck into plant-based pizza at Pizza Madre, then wash it all down with a brew from one of the district’s many, many craft beer companies.

Marrickville doesn’t hold the monopoly on Australian cool, though: There’s another Aussie entry later in the top 10.

9. Haut-Marais, Paris

Not to be confused with Marais proper — delightful, of course, but rather touristy, darling — Haut-Marais is the northern, bleeding edge of this historic district.

“To Parisians, it feels like this neighborhood practically invented the cocktail bar,” says Time Out, so visitors are recommended to sally down its winding streets and investigate joints like the Little Red Door speakeasy and Bisou (French for “kiss.”)

8. Dennistoun, Glasgow

The highest point of Alexandra Park offers views north to Ben Lomond mountain.

The highest point of Alexandra Park offers views north to Ben Lomond mountain.


In the East End of city, bordering the Necropolis — Glasgow’s Victorian-built “City of the Dead” — the historically working-class neighborhood of Dennistoun has seen its young student population grow in recent years.

“Yet the tide of redevelopment is coming in slow,” says Time Out, “and its charming blonde and red sandstone tenements remain affordable to most.”

Editors single out the Zero Waste Market, “a refill grocery shop that prepped handy boxes of food essentials during lockdown,” and Alexandra Park’s Food Forest: “where locals of all backgrounds meet to plant and grow.”

7. Shaanxi Bei Lu/Kangding Lu, Shanghai

Once part of the Shanghai International Settlement — a Western enclave until 1941 — this formerly sleepy neighborhood is “quickly morphing into a buzzing destination of new cafés, bars and restaurants,” says Time Out.

You’ll still find traditional lane houses and old-school noodle shops, but now you can scoot along to an all-day roller skate bar, Riink, or quaff natural wines at the laid-back SOiF.

6. Wedding, Berlin

No, don’t have bridal gowns on the brain. Wedding is a neighborhood in the northwest section of Germany’s capital.

Though the city is known as a place for 24-hour partying, Wedding’s side streets are quiet enough to guarantee you’ll get a good night’s sleep once you’re done hitting the beer halls.

By day, you can enjoy the great outdoors at Plötzensee lake and woodsy Volkspark Rehberge.

5. Yarraville, Melbourne


Yarraville: “The cross-section of food, drink and things to do here is pretty remarkable,” says Time Out.


Two lockdowns may have put Melbourne’s culture scene into hibernation, but, says Time Out, “Melbourne’s community spirit has never been stronger, and the neighborhood that best embodies that is the westside suburb of Yarraville.”

Skater Belle Hadiwidjaja has been roller-skating through the neighborhood in an array of costumes to keep families entertained on their daily strolls, while local Lee Smith-Moir cheered up residents by adding “happy signs” on the area’s walking tracks.

4. Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York

This Brooklyn neighborhood of Victorian brownstones this year became, according to Time Out, “New York’s greatest incubator of the future.”

During the Black Lives Matter protests, it served as a main hub, and as the city was gripped by the Covid-19 pandemic, “it gave birth to mutual aid networks like Bed-Stuy Strong to protect its most vulnerable members.”

3. Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

Sham Shui Po is one of Hong Kong’s oldest working-class neighborhoods. Its rustic vibe is attracting creative souls, from street artists to coffee artisans.

CNN Travel called it back in 2018, when it described this working-class neighborhood, whose rustic vibe had been attracting creative souls from street artists to coffee artisans, as “Hong Kong’s new cultural capital.”

Alongside this, however, the city is home to some of Hong Kong’s most deprived communities and has been a key battleground in the 2019-2020 protests.

2. Downtown, Los Angeles

“This became the most painful year in L.A.’s recent history,” says Time Out, “and in a city with no single, central gathering place, Downtown became its supportive soul.”

It was in this resurgent city center that shocked residents gathered to mourn after the death of basketball legend Kobe Bryant.

And it was here that Angelenos came to make their voices heard after the death of George Floyd. “It wasn’t without strife,” says Time Out, “but there was a palpable pivot toward unity the day that thousands streamed through Downtown’s streets.”

1. Esquerra de l’Eixample, Barcelona

Catlan enginer Ildefons Cerdà was a pioneer of urban planning.

Catlan enginer Ildefons Cerdà was a pioneer of urban planning.


Eixample is Catalan for “expansion” and this sprawling neighborhood, on a strict grid pattern, falls into two distinct sections: The luxurious and touristy Dreta de l’Eixample, and the more down-to-earth, residential area, Esquerra de l’Eixample.

“During Barcelona’s strict lockdown,” says Time Out, the courtyards of Esquerra’s apartment blocks “became focal points for the city’s energy — as in the pop-up Hidrogel Sessions, in which residents dressed up in costumes and organised mass dance parties from their balconies.”

Time Out’s full list of 40 coolest neighborhoods

1. Esquerra de l’Eixample, Barcelona

2. Downtown, Los Angeles

3. Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong

4. Bedford-Stuyvesant, New York

5. Yarraville, Melbourne

6. Wedding, Berlin

7. Shaanxi Bei Lu/Kangding Lu, Shanghai

8. Dennistoun, Glasgow

9. Haut-Marais, Paris

10. Marrickville, Sydney

11. Verdun, Montreal

12. Kalamaja, Tallinn

13. Hannam-dong, Seoul

14. Bonfim, Porto

15. Ghosttown, Oakland

16. Chula-Samyan, Bangkok

17. Alvalade, Lisbon

18. Noord, Amsterdam

19. Centro, São Paulo

20. Holešovice, Prague

21. Lavapiés, Madrid

22. Opebi, Lagos

23. Narvarte, Mexico City

24. Uptown, Chicago

25. Little Five Points, Atlanta

26. Wynwood, Miami

27. Phibsboro, Dublin

28. Nørrebro, Copenhagen

29. Bugis, Singapore

30. Gongguan, Taipei

31. Soho, London

32. Binh Tanh, Ho Chi Minh City

33. Melville, Johannesburg

34. Kabutocho, Tokyo

35. Porta Venezia, Milan

36. Taman Paramount, Kuala Lumpur

37. Allston, Boston

38. Bandra West, Mumbai

39. Arnavutköy, Istanbul

40. Banjar Nagi, Ubud


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The odd friends: The young liberal and the elderly conservative



The waitress at Cracker Barrel looked confused when she stopped at our table. Among the snow globes, animatronic weasels, and ceramic pineapples, Richard and I were yet another random curiosity. A 30-something year-old woman in jeggings and a pixie cut next to her 92-year-old friend with the rodeo belt buckle and scraggly beard.

Richard flashed a gap-toothed grin at the waitress. “Hon, can you bring us one of them baskets? With extra biscuits?” he asked. He knows I like biscuits better than cornbread. At 92 with his sweet smile and wispy white hair, Richard’s “Hons” and “Sweeties” lack the demeaning quality they might have with a younger man in a position of power. Still, I studied the waitress’s face. I started to tell Richard not all women like being called “Hon,” but the waitress’s expression softened into bemusement. “Of course, Hon,” she said, then headed towards the kitchen.

In an era when the political is personal, people make assumptions about others’ beliefs based on their appearance. Many of the assumptions one might make about Richard are correct. He is a lifelong Texan and a white evangelical Christian who dropped out of school in the sixth grade. Like 55 percent of men with no college degree, Richard is staunchly anti-abortion rights. He has voted Republican since before I was born, including a vote for Donald Trump in 2016.

If Richard fulfils a stereotype, so do I. Like 51 percent of Americans aged 30 to 49, I supported Hillary Clinton. I identify as a feminist and an atheist. I earned my master’s degree from a music school on the East Coast. I organised watch parties for President Barack Obama’s election, donated to the Bail Project, and vote Democrat.

Once a week, a Facebook friend brags about ending a relationship with a friend or family member who voted for an opposing political party. I have blocked Republican friends myself, usually for posting memes or rants that incited violence or discriminated against marginalised groups. But Richard and I have been friends for eight years, despite openly discussing our ideological differences.

When the basket of biscuits arrived, Richard reached for one. Then his eyebrows shot up. His hand flew to his mouth. “I forgot my teeth,” he said, meaning his dentures. We laughed.

Leaving school at 12 and college degrees

I first met Richard in 2012 when he called me about violin lessons. To liberals, America in 2012 was a warm cocoon. Social safety nets like the Affordable Care Act told poor or sick Americans for the first time they mattered. Neo-nazis hid rather than marching down streets brandishing torches.

It was in this year that Richard, at 84 years old, decided to take up the violin. His wife had died in 2011, and he had recently found his grandmother’s violin in the attic. The local music shop had given him a list of teachers’ names and contact numbers. Mine was at the top.

At his first lesson, I handed Richard a copy of my policy and expectations for students. Nodding solemnly, Richard pulled a pencil out of his bag and took notes in neat cursive penmanship. He has practised nearly every day in the eight years and counting he has been my student.

More American millennials than any previous generation have college degrees. Like many people my age, I took for granted that my education would continue after high school. Higher education whisked me from my homogenous suburb onto a campus with peers who had different religions, abilities, ethnicities, cultural backgrounds, and sexual identities. My professors taught me to critically engage with the news, which influences my voting decisions today.

Richard, however, did not attend school past the sixth grade. One of the defining moments in his life occurred when at age 12, he asked his father for a nickel. “I haven’t got a nickel,” his father told him. “You want money, you go to work.” Shortly after, Richard left school and got a job “pearl diving” – washing dishes in a restaurant. He performed manual labour before enlisting in the army. Thirty years later, he retired from the light company where he had worked his way up to foreman.

Richard poses with his violin during a lesson [Photo courtesy of Meghan Beaudry]

The Bible and speaking your mind

During that first year of weekly violin lessons, our conversations began to extend beyond the violin. I responded to Richard’s stories of his late wife, Beverly, with anecdotes from my own recent marriage. Richard reminisced about his military tour of Japan and Korea at the tail end of World War II. I learned to appreciate his sharp wit. Once, Richard mentioned a car he had seen that had crashed into the gates of a cemetery. “People are just dying to get in there,” he said dryly. With his mischievous smile, he looked like a schoolboy who had just slipped a toad into a classmate’s desk.

I first glimpsed how much Richard’s ideology conflicted with mine several months into our lessons. Richard had offered to take my husband and me out for dinner. We met him at Spring Creek BBQ. He wore cowboy boots and a giant silver belt buckle. Richard’s devout Christianity had never been a secret, but I hadn’t realised until then how much his religion influenced his politics. Perhaps I should have. Eight out of 10 evangelical Christians say they plan to vote for Donald Trump in 2020. Once seated, he questioned my husband and me about our nonexistent religious beliefs. “You need to think about what happens after you die,” Richard urged. Then he passed out anti-abortion rights pamphlets to random diners, who accepted them with polite but confused nods. The title: God Has a Plan for Your Child.

Richard would persist in his efforts to convert us for months. Years later, I would learn to see his determination for what it was: a strong desire to save a young couple he had grown deeply fond of, in the only way he knew how. But once during a lesson, I couldn’t contain my annoyance. “Are you here to learn the violin or not?” I snapped.

Richard paused. “I am,” he said. Then he looked at me with genuine curiosity and asked what exactly I had against the Bible. I thought of the priest at the church I had attended each week as a child – of the blistering sermons condemning gay people and women, but rarely men, who had sex before marriage. I remembered the time I had endeavoured to read the entire Bible as a teenager. I got as far as Sodom and Gomorrah before closing the book forever. What lodged in my developing brain was not the allusions to homosexuality, but a father who offered up his own virgin daughters to be raped by a mob.

“I don’t think the Bible treats women well. Almost all the stories in there are about men,” I told him. “I just don’t see myself in that book.”

Richard sat in silence for a moment. I hadn’t yet visited his house and seen the dozens of Bible verses embroidered, carved into wood, or painted in frames on his walls. I hadn’t seen the dog-eared King James version on his table, bright tabs and sticky notes poking out from the worn pages. When Richard spoke, he didn’t lash out. He didn’t defend the belief system that defined his life. He complimented me. “One thing I respect about you is you always speak your mind,” he said quietly.

Hurt and friendship

For several years, Richard’s and my opposing beliefs lay between us like a faded stain on the carpet. Present, but rarely discussed. The 2016 election dragged these differences from the periphery of our relationship to where they couldn’t be avoided.

Shortly after Trump’s victory, Richard and I went out for lunch. Like many liberals, the 2016 election had sent shock waves through my life. Our new president spewed hate and threats atop the most public platform in the world. To me, a woman with serious chronic health issues, many of these threats were not existential. They were life-threatening. I worried about the gay couples I knew. I worried about my friends of colour. Which is why I stopped eating when Richard stumbled upon the topic of gender roles with all the grace of a drunken soldier careening through a field of landmines.

“It’s in their DNA,” he said. “God created men and women different. That’s just how it is.”

“So you think women are put on earth to clean up after you?” I asked.

Richard speared a tomato with his fork. “I think everyone should do their job and not complain.”

Living in a “free country” does not protect American women from being talked over, underestimated, and disregarded. Four out of 10 American women have been discriminated against at work because of their gender. One in three American women will be stalked, raped, or assaulted. Sexism had dug its claws into my life well before I had the vocabulary to name it. I began picking up after my brothers in elementary school. By high school, I was folding their underwear, scrubbing their toilet, and carrying their dishes to the sink to wash after meals. I will never understand why my time and energy was viewed as disposable, but my brothers’ wasn’t.

After that lunch with Richard, I reacted differently than he had towards me the day I told him I would never believe in the Bible. Deeply hurt, I was unable to see past the rhetoric he had espoused. At his next lesson, I told him that I would still teach him the violin, but we would no longer spend time together as friends. He hung his head, then shuffled slowly to his car.

People’s words and their character

“All lives matter. Her body, her choice. Choose life.” Taken at face value, these words are immutable truths. What begins as a reaction to injustice becomes a slogan. These slogans and chants, so necessary to mobilising people and elevating marginalised voices, pull us into their orbit. They grow to encompass a movement, attracting other slogans like paperclips to a magnet. The movement adheres itself to a political party. The party becomes an identity for supporters, even though the average American has neither the time nor resources to become an expert on the nuances of public policy. Instead, we scream slogans across the street or share video clips to our own self-constructed echo chambers. If you believe Black Lives Matter, you must want to abolish the police. If you didn’t vote for Hillary, you hate women. Even when our intentions are noble, we stop listening to any voice that doesn’t mirror our own. Like spilled red and blue ink, the opposing parties grow larger, separated only by the election on which the future of America teeters.

It took months for my hurt feelings to fade enough for me to see through Richard’s rhetoric to the person underneath: a man who took over the housework while his wife studied for her nursing degree. A man who married young and worked to support his wife while she finished high school, despite his own lack of education. A man who had been married for 50 years, yet responded with compassion and acceptance when I told him my four-year marriage had ended. Richard had once relayed to me a conversation in which a man in his forties had lamented his lack of a wife.

“I just can’t find a woman willing to submit to me,” the man had told Richard.

“Submit? Well, that’s not how any marriage I know works,” Richard had snorted.

I learned to pay attention to Richard’s behaviour rather than the slogans he repeated. I had heard racist jokes and comments from liberal friends, only to watch them flood their social media with Black Lives Matter slogans once the movement rose to prominence. Growing up, the most judgemental people I knew always seemed to be devout church-goers. Richard’s actions paint a consistent picture of who he is as a person: kind, accepting, and empathetic.

Richard and Meghan’s dog, Wilbur, who loves to snuggle with Richard [Photo courtesy of Meghan Beaudry]

Richard never said another derogatory word about women. He became the first man I had ever met who, when confronted with his own misogyny, cared enough about me to change.

It is not easy to see past someone’s words to their true character. On the campaign trail, Donald Trump spouted promises. Walls to keep America safe. Lower taxes. The return of jobs to our country. Words have the power to wound, but also to uplift and spark hope. Some words, especially when they are words we want to hear, even have the power to veil the speaker’s true character. I began to see why so many Americans were hoodwinked by him.

Curiosity, respect and empathy

My conversation with Richard about gender roles set a precedent. We began to talk frequently and openly about our political beliefs. After some experimentation, we developed a tacit set of rules: Approach conversations with genuine curiosity about the other person’s perspective. Treat each other with respect and empathy. This empathy stems from an understanding that vastly different life experiences, many of them painful, have shaped our beliefs.

One of Richard’s most deeply held beliefs is that abortion is wrong. According to Gallup’s Values and Beliefs Poll, 46 percent of Americans are anti-abortion rights and 48 percent are pro-abortion rights, with 6 percent undecided. The difficulty in discussing abortion stems from who each camp views as the victim. When anti-abortion rights advocates talk about abortion, they talk about the babies. When pro-abortion rights people talk about abortion, they talk about the women. As a feminist, I can’t imagine being forced to carry a child I didn’t choose.

Richard and his wife raised just one child – a son who never had his own children, who lives 10 hours away and has his own life and health issues. Richard spends Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter with me at my parents’ house. Richard’s wife, Beverly, suffered miscarriage after miscarriage before giving birth to their only son. One of their children that didn’t survive is buried in a cemetery without a headstone because Richard and Beverly had been too poor to afford one. To come home to a house full of light, laughter, and grandchildren is Richard’s greatest desire. As I dropped him off after a family dinner one night, I watched Richard slowly shuffle up his driveway. Then I pulled away from the dark empty house. It suddenly clicked why Richard talks about “the babies”. It was never out of hatred for women.

The shape of our wounds

I have accepted that Richard and I will never be on the same page ideologically. Our friendship and ability to discuss divisive topics hinges not on our differences, but on our similar approach to life. We both believe in treating others with respect. We both harbour a magnetic curiosity towards those who are different than us. I will always be a liberal. But I have learned it is not just liberals who dream of a better America. From my friendship with Richard, I have learned that Americans’ ideas on how to improve our country often take the shape of their wounds.

Telling stories from the past is either the privilege or burden of the old. Richard revels in this role, peppering his stories with advice like “don’t buy no strawberries but Driscoll’s.” “Never tie two cats’ tails together and hang them over a clothesline,” he warned me once quite sincerely. But I always enjoy his stories and advice the most when Richard talks about the Great Depression and World War II.

“The government found out they were spying on us and rounded them up,” he said once about America’s Japanese internment camps.

Richard’s voice hit me like a shovel to the chest. His matter-of-fact tone implied that this was something everyone knew, like the events of Pearl Harbor or the reason for the American Revolution. We like to believe we are free in America. That we are different from countries like North Korea or Russia, who brainwash their citizens with a steady diet of pro-government propaganda. Richard’s statement summed up American propaganda in one phrase.

“That’s not true, Richard. They were Americans, too,” I said.

Two years later, I would learn about the Tulsa race massacre for the first time. In school, racism had been portrayed as an evil that Americans had long since vanquished. Video footage of police murdering Black people has long since eviscerated this lie. Since Richard’s statement, I’ve often wondered who I would be if I had no access to reputable news. What would I believe if I grew up under different circumstances?

My focus on Richard’s actions rather than his rhetoric was most tested the few times he used racially insensitive language.

Racism isn’t a personality quirk. It isn’t a vestige from a quaint antebellum past, like one-room schoolhouses or horse-drawn carriages. Racism is trauma that lasts for generations. Racism is lost lives and ruined futures.

I’m a liberal. A feminist. A believer that science is real, Black Lives Matter, and love is love. But perhaps the piece of my identity most deeply rooted in my heart is teacher. For me, that has always been the identity that makes allyship possible.

I speak up. “Richard, we don’t say that any more. It’s ‘people of colour’ now.”

Richard never argues. “OK,” he always agrees.

Access to the news

“Where do you get your news?” I asked recently. No TV hangs in Richard’s living room. His home is a museum dedicated to his late wife; Beverly’s floral curtains and silk floral arrangements remain untouched by Wi-Fi or cable. No copy of the New York Times lands on his doorstep each Sunday. An old radio sits on his kitchen table.

“Mostly from what people say,” he shrugged. “And sometimes the radio.”

My heart sank. From the day we met, Richard spoke openly about his lack of education and his humble background. As a teacher, I recognised his fierce commitment to learn shining through the unvarnished front he presented. As an adult, Richard had taken flying lessons and painting lessons. He approaches the Bible the way a scholar of history would. He pores over gardening manuals and maintains an encyclopedic knowledge of the flowers and trees in his garden.

I had convinced him to trade in his flip phone with T9 texting – “it’s not a phone, Richard, it’s an ancient artefact,” – for a touchscreen Android. He has since become a connoisseur of selfies and of video clips of the American flag in his garden waving in the wind. Richard strikes me as an independent thinker – someone who isn’t fooled by con men or false political promises. But from our conversation, a clearer picture emerged: an intelligent man, but without the resources to access the news or discern its accuracy.

I scribbled a note to myself to print and bring some news articles to our next meeting. The New York Times. The Atlantic. Maybe a Christian news source with solid reporting. No op-eds – just straight news so Richard could form his own opinions.

Richard told me he had listened to the first debate between Joe Biden and Donald Trump on the radio.

“I couldn’t sleep it bothered me so much,” he said. “(Trump) denied what Joe told him he’d said. But everyone very well knows what Trump said. People have ears.”

“Thou shalt not bear false witness. It says that clearly in the Bible,” Richard added with a frown.

Richard and Meghan take a selfie after playing a concert at a nursing home [Photo courtesy of Meghan Beaudry]

Past the slogans and rhetoric

As Richard has aged, the lines in our relationship have blurred from teacher to friend to caregiver. I want him to know he always has a place at my Thanksgiving table. That I’ll be there in the hospital when he wakes up from his heart procedures. That my family will keep filling his fridge so he can quarantine safely.

“You don’t have to tell me,” I said. “And if you do, we’ll still be friends no matter what. Who do you think you’ll vote for this election?”

“I believe in what our forefathers said in the Declaration of Independence. But as culture has changed, my thoughts have changed. Being Christian doesn’t mean you have to be Democrat or Republican. It means voting what you believe in,” Richard said.

Our friendship has taught me to see past slogans and rhetoric to the person underneath. That actions convey character in a way that words can’t. But in this respect, perhaps Richard is miles ahead of me.

“I think Trump has accomplished some things,” he said with his characteristic respect for our country’s leaders. “But those things might have been accomplished anyway through other people. He seems to really support all his friends and companies. Not the little man.”

“You know, I think I might vote for Joe,” he added after a pause. Outside Richard’s window, his American flag waved in the wind.


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How should we talk about suicide?



It has been three years since I got the call about my brother; my 49-year-old, funny, sentimental, handsome, troubled younger brother.

It is a call no one can prepare for and one that is accompanied by a tsunami of confusion, anger, disbelief and unimaginable despair.

My brother’s suicide was a tragedy on many levels and, like most people who have endured this kind of loss, I was overwhelmed by contradictory emotions when I was told he was gone. How could he do this to our parents, to his kids, to our family, to me? Then, mixed up with my fury, came the guilt. Why didn’t I answer the phone when he rang that day? Why didn’t I tell him I loved him?

The writer’s brother as a child [Photo courtesy of Leanne Pooley]

My brother grew up in a loving middle-class family with summers at the lake and friends all around. He was a talented athlete and a professional ice hockey player. He had lived in Canada and Europe, run a successful golf business, had a beautiful wife and two wonderful children.

Despite all this, he struggled with demons none of us who loved him could understand. He slipped into drug and alcohol abuse, lost his family and landed in a toxic relationship he knew was destructive.

Ultimately, ending the life he found unbearable became a more powerful option than learning how to fight for the life he deserved.

When my brother died I was thrown into a cycle familiar to many people who have lost someone in this way. I was tortured by ruminative thoughts; conversations with myself that went around and around in my head. If only I could go back, change that one thing, unsay those words, make it different. If only I could reverse time. But I can’t. Time only goes forward and no matter how many circular scenarios plague my imagination, I can’t change what happened; I can’t reverse time and that is hard to accept.

‘We can’t ask people to see the world through our eyes’

One of the strangest ironies of the situation I found myself in three years ago was the fact that when my brother died I was making a documentary about suicide. As a filmmaker I had often worked on projects that were close to my heart but never before had my life and my art so tangibly collided. Oddly, despite a brief moment when I considered walking away from the project, this bizarre twist of fate came to be a blessing. While working on the film I was exposed to people who knew what I was going through and could help me survive the emotional rollercoaster I was riding.

From them, I learned that while my initial reaction to my brother’s death was to judge him as selfish, it is likely that in his mind the opposite was true. It is possible that for a brief, misguided moment, he believed his fatal decision would release our family from the strain of supporting him – that he was a burden and that, by exiting from our lives, he would be doing us a favour.

[Photo courtesy of Leanne Pooley] (Restricted Use)

He was wrong of course, but when people are as distressed as my brother was they do not see the world the way we do, and this too is a lesson. We cannot apply the logic of our lives to the chaos in theirs. My brother was in pain; his suffering was impossible for me to understand because I haven’t experienced suffering like it. His pain was his own and asking him to think or feel the way I did was a mistake because my life experience had little in common with his. So, when I tried to reassure him that everything would be fine if he “just” did X or “just” said Y, I wasn’t acknowledging his reality – things weren’t fine and my saying they would be didn’t change that for him. We can’t ask people to see the world through our eyes, we can only try to help them see past the darkness blocking their view.

‘I couldn’t fix my brother’

I don’t want to imply that my brother bore no responsibility for the circumstances he found himself in. He made numerous bad choices, wasted many opportunities and often didn’t take advantage of the help that was offered to him. Both my parents exhausted themselves emotionally and financially trying to “sort him out”. There were endless discussions about tough love, enabling, interventions and what he “really” needed. None of us had an answer and I now feel that too many of these conversations were had without him in the room.

Added to this is the compassion fatigue I and others faced when dealing with my brother and his “issues”. He tended to reach out when he was in crisis and there were many late-night, early morning or simply ill-timed phone calls that went on for hours. Drunken, stoned, sometimes desperate calls I had to steel myself for; calls that exasperated and exhausted me – calls I came to avoid, including the one I didn’t answer the day he died.

Would answering my phone have helped? I will never know for sure and there-in lies one of the internal circular dialogues I still navigate. But what I now understand is I couldn’t have saved him, because we can’t save people – we can only be there to help them save themselves. This might sound trite, but it is a truism that is difficult for someone like me. I like to fix things and I couldn’t fix my brother.

Unlike many people who take their own lives, my brother had never attempted suicide before. He left no note to help us understand his state of mind nor did he leave me a message that day. He had been struggling with addiction issues and depression for a significant period of time and while he had been in and out of rehab in the months leading up to his death, I thought he was doing ok. I did know, however, that his connection to hope was tenuous and, in a pattern I had become accustomed to, his slide into despair was rapid; in this case too rapid for me to respond.

The writer’s brother [Photo courtesy of Leanne Pooley]

The debate about what should and shouldn’t be said about suicide goes on. There is reticence when talking about it as we fear triggering the vulnerable. Although I accept there is risk in everything we do, I would argue the silence that shrouds this topic makes it more difficult for those of us left behind. And there are so very many of us left behind. It seems that any time I mention my brother’s death, the person I am talking to has a story of their own. The parent they lost, the sibling, the child, the friend, the lover. It is ubiquitous and the often-whispered tones that relate melancholy stories illustrate to me the shame that taints the subject of suicide and those of us touched by it. We are admitting failure; my love wasn’t enough to keep my brother alive.

I felt this failing most keenly when I finished my documentary. I had buried my grief beneath its making, convincing myself that there was a reason I was doing this thing at this time, and there was. But when it was done and my brother’s name appeared in honorarium as the final credits rolled – I fell apart. I had made a film that addressed the issues that had, in part, led to my brother’s death, it was meant to mean something – but he was still dead.

‘I will always wonder’

For my parents, the weight of losing my brother was to prove overwhelming. My 78-year-old father’s health collapsed almost immediately and he died six weeks later, I believe, from a broken heart. My mother, who had been a young 75, not long retired and physically formidable, aged exponentially and has subsequently struggled to recover. The only glimmer of light in what was a dark time was the way this long-divorced couple came together in their grief.

I wish I could say that in the three years since my brother’s passing I have had an epiphany of some kind or that I have deep effectual insights to share with others who inhabit a similar space; but I haven’t and I don’t. There are still days when I’m consumed by sadness and I find it difficult to explain the hollowness I feel inside to those close to me. I am fundamentally an optimistic person, but at times it is hard to maintain that outlook and we do the truth a disservice by pretending it is not. Helping people deal with mental illness is crucial if we want to stem the rising numbers of those choosing to take their own lives. We also need to ensure when the outcome is not what we would have wanted that the grief-stricken find the understanding and support they need, too. Once suicide has permeated our psyche it is with us forever. I have found a way to live with the hole in my heart but the hole will always be there. I will never stop loving my brother and I will always wonder what he rang to say that terrible day.

The one thing I feel certain about is that we are failing to find a way to discuss suicide in a manner that protects those at risk while freeing those impacted. I am not sure what the answer to this problem is but we need to keep looking for it or we condemn millions of families, lovers and friends to lonely bewilderment and endless anguish. For now, all I can do is remind myself that my brother’s life wasn’t just about his ending and there are wonderful memories to be cherished alongside the ones I need to let go.


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Turkey extends exploration in disputed East Med again



Ankara announces extension of survey work in the region until November 4, in a move likely to create uproar in Greece.

Turkey says it is extending seismic exploration by its vessels in a disputed area of the Eastern Mediterranean until November 4, a step that is set to fuel tensions in the region.

NATO members Turkey and Greece have been locked in a dispute over the extent of their continental shelves and conflicting claims to hydrocarbon resources in the East Med.

The dispute erupted in August when Turkey first sent the ship Oruc Reis into waters also claimed by Greece and Cyprus.

Along with two other ships, the Ataman and Cengiz Han, Oruc Reis will continue work in an area south of the Greek island of Rhodes until November 4, a Turkish naval maritime notice said late on Saturday.

A previous notice scheduled survey work in the area until October 27.

EU states slam Turkey

Ankara withdrew Oruc Reis last month to allow for diplomacy before an October 2 European Union summit where Cyprus sought sanctions against Turkey.

After the summit, the bloc said it would punish Turkey if it continued its operations in the region, a move Ankara said further strained Turkey-EU ties.

Turkey sent the vessel out again on October 12, prompting an angry response from Greece, France and Germany. Turkey has extended the duration of the vessels’ exploration multiple times since then.

Athens says Ankara is breaking international law by prospecting in Greek waters and has been urging the EU to reconsider its customs union with Turkey in response to Ankara’s exploration in the Mediterranean, deploring what it termed Turkey’s “imperial fantasies”.

Concerns remain high around a potential military conflict between Greece and Turkey. Both have been carrying out manoeuvres in the region with frigates and fighter jets.

Turkey insists it is within its rights in the energy-rich Mediterranean region, saying not all Greeks islands are large enough to count when it comes to delineating the extent of Greek sovereignty.


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