The Jerusalem Series

The songbird and I

Once upon a time, on a day that nobody remembers, a songbird was released from its cage. I’m sure that would have been quite a day! I wish that I could have watched her finally break free into the night sky. For that night she had been gifted with a new song.

This is a tribute to my songbird and my sunshine in the wintertime. To Rita.

The first time that I saw her, she was sitting near a table in the garden, humming softly and sweetly to herself. Autumn was coming to an end, so she perched at the side of the tree in order to feel the covering warmth of the sun. I remember marveling at her beauty, her feathers were many shades of blue, yellow and green.

I began to sit down and she looked towards me;  I could have sworn that she was smirking and that her eyes were gleaming with a sparkle. She seemed mischevious, curious and witty.

After a few moments, she began to sing her song.

No creature could outsing her and no sound could intimidate her, her song was one of strength and beauty.

As the day passed and as the weeks slowly turned into months I continued to watch her.

I remember the way in which she danced around a busy courtyard filled with people, with no care in the world, she hummed her tune loud and clear.

I remember watching her fly over and above the many landmarks of the Old City – singing her harmony loud and clear. Passersby were taken aback by her vivaciousness, no note was out of tune as she twirled with joy.

She did not sing to be noticed, she only sang to share her love. She only hoped to share a gift with others. A gift that had been freely given to her.

The songbird found her joy in encouraging others. She sang her song of encouragement to both strangers and friends.

I remember one time watching her in the evening. She was tired and hummed her song quietly to all who would listen. The wind still carried the words through the courtyard and although she was hurting, she never lost her song. She continued to sing.

“Why so downcast, lady songbird?” I asked as she looked up towards the sky.

It was true, she had been freed in the past, but she longed for a greater freedom, one to be found only in the heights.

And as time went on, she kept on singing.

I once asked her how she learned to sing. My question amused her.

She explained that singing was a process and that each day she learns new lyrics to a tune that she still finds a little unfamiliar at times.

Some people laughed at the songbird and sneered at her efforts to love and to share.

“She is ignorant and foolish! She does not understand the realities of a world like ours.”

Even so, love just seemed natural to her, as I watched her mingle, and dance through the crowds; she maintained oblivious to negative discouragement.

Later in the year, I returned to the courtyard and sat underneath the tall palm tree. The blue sky was fading into a dusty sunset. I waited for the songbird. I waited until morning.

It was early when I heard the news. The songbird had gone, she had left us.

There was not a single person who did not miss her presence. The world seemed a little emptier. The courtyard, still full of people, seemed all the more empty.

Later that week, I heard a noise and as I looked to my right I saw a woman folding laundry and humming the tune of the songbird.

“Excuse me,” I said, feeling all the more embarrassed,

“Excuse me, what song are you singing?”

She looked at me and laughed a little.

” I’m singing grace, sweet amazing beautiful grace.”

I smiled.

The humble bird who had sung a simple song had touched the lives of so many.


Jerusalem series

The Riyadh series

Living in a Compound

During my time living in Saudi Arabia, I spent three months living in Al Hamra compound in Northern Riyadh. Since then I have been asked a lot of questions about compound life and about the experience of living on a compound so I wanted to write briefly about my experience.

I moved to Al Hamra Compound in August 2019 and I was really impressed by its cleanliness and maintanence. The compound is clean, well looked after and it is a lovely place to be able to walk around in the evening.

If you are considering moving to a compound as a family there are plenty of activities that your children could participate in from swimming to playing outdoors with friends. I spoke to a lot of parents who lived on the compound and they mentioned that it was the ideal location for their children to play together and make friends.

Depending on the compound there are often also a lot of social activities that take place. While I lived at Al Hamra compound there were a lot of social events for residents. I am sure that the kind of events will vary from compound to compound.

Within every compound there is usually a groceries shop and often a maintanence service. You may also find your compound to be equipt with a children’s play area, indoor gym, launderette, tailors and hairdressers – I should note that this will vary from compound to compound.

If you are ordering a taxi, it is worth mentioning that taxis cannot often enter compounds, you usually need to wait outside of your compound for a taxi. In my case, Al Hamra compound was poorly signposted which made it difficult to find; this resulted in uber drivers cancelling their rides which proved very frustrating. If you can drive and have a car you will not experience this difficulty.