Wind Against Current

By Johna Till Johnson 

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You probably knew this, but January 28th is the 140th birthday of the French writer Colette.

Okay, you probably didn’t know that. You might not even remember who Colette is, though chances are, you’re familiar with at least one of her works.

And you’re probably wondering why you should care about her birthday, or her.

Let me take a step back. This year,  Vlad and I have adopted a new tradition: We’ve selected a pantheon of personal heroes, and heroines—people whose spirits and lives matter to us—and are making a conscious effort to celebrate their birthdays.

Colette’s is the first, but there will be plenty of others.

So why did we select her?

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open the curtains

With the road atlas spread out in front of us, I put the finishing touches to the set of complex instructions that my friend and I would have to follow the next morning as we headed south, attempting to avoid a) getting ourselves lost, b) driving into another quarry, and c) Manchester. Despite having looked forward to Yorkshire so much it had not turned out quite as we’d expected. We’d been on the road about two weeks already, and the day’s events had had a somewhat dispiriting effect on us.

‘I hope the Peak District’s good. Derbyshire’d better be better than Yorkshire anyway or I think we might have to just drive straight home.’

With the mention of Derbyshire, there were many ideas connected. It was impossible for her to see the word without thinking of Pemberley and its owner.

‘Of course it’ll be good,’ I replied confidently, ‘Mr Darcy…

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In early September of last year, a beautiful, accomplished, bubbly and cheerful woman calmly jumped to her death from a roof top restaurant in London.

The tragic ending of the life of Rema Begum, who was 29 years old, raises, as suicides do, a number of complex questions and convoluted issues, both personal and societal.

Rema came from a traditional Muslim family, but the fact that she went to university, had a professional position and lived on her own, attests that Rema’s family supported her accomplishments and independence.

Most of the headlines focused on the fact that Rema had been the target of a malicious Facebook campaign, where an anonymous stalker had sent her and her family hate mail, and threatened to expose Rema’ s relationship with non- Muslim men.

This was true, and indeed the police had been informed and this campaign of terror had necessitated Rema changing her…

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