Revolutionary knitted dolls by Sue Piper


Unlike Captain Lawrence Oates on the Antarctic expedition circa 1912, the word “outside” may not hold much significance for you.  “Where’s the cat?”  “She’s outside.” “Leave your shoes outside – they’re covered in mud”.  Outside denotes a general space.  Not far from the front door or the back door  or Oates’ tent flap. It’s just a space close to another space with a barrier between each space.  It’s not a big word.

Suddenly, something clicks  into place. It’s that word barrier.  I’m thinking of a beautiful piece of writing from Nour, one of the students on the Online Intercultural Communication course. Something struck me about her writing.  “Forget about travelling to other countries outside.  We can make books and export them to the outside.  We can focus on the sick people who want to travel to get medical help outside”

Now outside becomes a vast unknowable space.  There’s no door to open  and suddenly the word is filled with longing.  It’s also filled with possibility.  I have to reassess the meaning. My outside is close by.  It’s easy to open the door.  I can step into it anytime I like.  Nour’s outside is different – it’s further away and less tangible.  Mine is commonplace and filled with cats and muddy shoes.  Nour’s is full of rights denied and dreams and necessities. 

I might not  have known about Nour’s outside if it weren’t for my work with the Hands Up Project.  I might not have known how far that outside sometimes seems to her and the other young people we work with.  I might not have realized how much we all want to share our outside with each other. Whether it’s Sue’s knitted revolutionary dolls, or Becca’s cows mooing peaceably in the background,  Elena & Wendy’s crowded bookshelves or David’s constantly spinning globe – we’re bringing the outside much much closer. And it’s a far bigger word than I thought.

With thanks to Nour El Saqqa whose words inspired this blog.

If you’d like to read them for yourself go to;


2 thoughts on “OUTSIDE

  1. What beautiful words from Nour. For me, experiencing prolonged lockdown has enabled me to re-evaluate what the ‘outside’ means. Walking in nature and hiking in the hills not far from me have become such wonderful experiences-they always were but somehow now I have a heightened sense of what ‘freedom’ means. Being a part of the Hands Up project has opened up ‘windows’ to so many people’s lives for me and as you say we all want to share that ‘window’ with others. Removing barriers enables creativity, connections, understanding and empathy.


  2. This is so beautifully expressed Sara. Until I read your post I’d never really given much thought to the word ‘outside’. I love the way our interactions with English users around the world make us rethink the meanings of English words.


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