Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Three months in: Opening Lines is opening lines!

Three months in...

Opening Lines

... is opening lines!

Opening Lines is written from Geneva's Old Town, Switzerland. 2014.

Three months on from November 13th 2013's first Welcome post, Opening Lines has been read by thousands of people across the world. Here you are folks, from Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States, France, Canada, Germany, Australia, the Netherlands, Afghanistan, Japan, Bangladesh, Taiwan, Iceland, Indonesia, Bulgaria, India, Greece, Spain, Israel, China, Azerbaijan!

If you're reading now, thanks as ever for taking the time to visit. I hope this blog is giving you something to think about, and if so, you're sharing your thoughts with others. Readers who know me know that squeezing writing into the margins of a 45-hour working week takes some energy, but I'd love to take a moment now to review a few things Opening Lines has brought to me these past few months, and share some exciting news.

Opening Lines goes to Milan, Italy! 

This weekend I'm taking a train to Milan, Italy, to visit the Syrian family I met in Damascus back in 2008 and wrote about in my Learning Arabic (al arabeyah العربية ) post. I will go from Milan to their new home in Lecco, where as of 2014 they are all safe and - quote - waiting to cook me Syrian food! I cannot even begin to express how amazing it is to know they are out of Syria and I am able to visit this year.

Opening Lines has been asked to review 
a dance festival!

Tomorrow I am invited to attend a press conference for upcoming Geneva festival, Portrait Jens Van Daele at the Theatre Galpon. I met with percussionist, Alexandra Bellon, yesterday so she could fill me in on what to expect this Thursday. She said the performances are an exchange, a mélange of Swiss and French musicians, dancers from the Rotterdam Dance Academy, with letters from South Africa inspiring the framework of Dutch choreographer, Jens Van Daele. Alexandra described the whole ensemble as artists coming together to work with universal messages of love and hate, with choreography very much in the style of Pina Bausch. 

The Dutch-Swiss-French music/dance collaboration started out in Durban, South Africa, in 2012 with the Flat Foot Dance Company dancing to Igor Stravinsky's Le sacre du printemps, and made it's way to Arnhem, Holland in 2013 as 'Spring Tide', touring 27 venues to great critical acclaim. Now the dancing comes to Geneva, Switzerland, as Portrait Jens Van Daele. I will be reviewing their performance, Battre de fer, on Thursday 27th February. More to come on this soon.

I'm really happy to have created a space where people would like to have their work shared. Opening Lines has already given me a space to share some great stories, especially advocacy on the great work of Nepali NGO, Pourakhi in Human Trafficking: Learning to Listen, and the Pledge Peace Union, UK, for their Objecting to War project. There's more to come on both.

Starting the blog made me finally get on Twitter and connect with friends and thinkers online. This gave me the chance to reconnect with Bloomsbury's Writers & Artists, who kindly shared my writing story so far, Writing: Two Years in Geneva, with their followers.

Opening Lines gave me the platform and the courage to share my short story, The Marriage Inspector, with hundreds of readers. It has given me the opportunity to connect to other bloggers, you can read about a few of them on my Writing page and here's introducing Shoshana's pioneering My Motherfull Family

I've had a place to get my photography together on the Photography page and share my Moon Photography, what I miss when I'm not looking, and the beauty of Iceland in Iceland and Imagination.

Last month I wrote two posts about the global rise of homophobia: Setting things straight: 2014's homophobic hangover and A Legal Update: Let's talk about sexual health?, both of which my Bath-based singer-songwriter sister, Elisabeth Patuck, tells me inspired her to write and record her stunning song, Fractured House, for people in India affected by the December 2013 criminalization of homosexuality. 

Do you have a moment to listen? The song has been published at, here

You go, girl.

To write the song she read public letters written by people in India protesting the law. In return, they wrote to her to thank her for a song that from so far away had brought them comfort. Her song reminded me of something I saw in Berlin last year, the words written on a section of the Berlin Wall that once divided East and West Germany under oppressive communist rule. Here it is, in German and in English:

Big respect to the small people! Singing, writing, thinking, painting, working in their offices.

Opening Lines is also collaborating with Swiss entrepreneur, Gabrielle Lods, who designs and markets environmental clothing at Gabrielle is looking to market sustainable sanitary items to UNHCR WASH (UN Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) and Mooncup in light of research carried out by future Opening Lines interviewee, Robyn Boosey, on the silence on menstruation and the effect this is having on the education of girls in the developing world. We are respectfully waiting for Robyn to have her thesis published (because this thesis really needs to be published!) before we can write a bit more about it here.

Here's a bit of what is coming up over the next few months:

  • A look at conscientious objection in the 21st century 
  • Advocacy on endometriosis
  • Interviews: Syrian diaspora
  • Short stories: Lost Luggage, Bait
  • Notes from Togo: ECOSAN, sanitation and financial independence for women in West Africa
  • Notes from Ethiopia's Lower Omo Valley: Rites of Passage
  • What will no doubt be a glowing review of Geneva's The Vagina Monologues (starring friends and a colleague!) this March in support of the V-Day call to bring an end to violence against women.

So until the next, I'm wishing you a wonderful February and thanks again for stopping by.

Sending you light and love from Geneva! 

Like this photo? Try balancing your camera somewhere stable, leaving your shutter speed open for 10 seconds and zooming in on a brightly lit area.


  1. So inspiring to read your blog Helen! That's how the words can change the world! I can never understand how do you manage to find the time for everything!

  2. I always recognized the magnetism of your aura! it's no wonder you and your blog are so popular! looking forward to upcoming posts, particular your interview with the syrian family. it's wonderful how you're still in touch!