Last Day In Halls Today!

You can really only live like this for a short amount of time… (1)

So it’s finally arrived. My last ever day in university halls. It’s been an experience and a half. However I think it’s about time that we moved onwards and upwards, into a real live house. A house with a dishwasher, no less. It’s one of those things that don’t appear to be terribly important, however living without one for a year really increases your appreciation of such a magical, practical object.

It’s a little bit strange though, to think I’m moving out of my flat. I mean, I can’t wait. I’m just so excited. The last couple of days have been just, well, perfect, despite the looming presence of my last exam. However, the sun’s been shining, and the weather has been warm, and so the desire to go to the beach simply outweighed any desire to stay at home, reading books. Helpfully, my last exam is my favourite module, and so I think it’s all going to be just lovely.

It’s been strange because its only in the last two or three days that I’ve finally fallen in love with where I am. The climate is lovely (except during the winter), and it’s just beautifully quaint, and fantastic. I haven’t fallen in love with it, all year. In fact, I’ve been wondering if I went to the right place for university; did I make the right decision? Ironically, I only decided that I have, about three days ago. But now first year is over, with the exception of one two-hour exam, and then I’m up, and out, back home, and before I know it, It’ll be moving into a brand new, wonderful, and lovely house. I cannot believe how lucky I feel today.

I’ve finished packing now, up to and including doing all my washing, and cardboard wrapping my external laptop monitor. It’s a very odd feeling to know I’m not ever coming back to this flat again, after tomorrow morning. It’s a feeling of almost being displaced. Because that’s what this whole year has felt like; the moving back and forth has been something of a struggle to me, in places. I think it’s been a learning curve too. The most important element however, has been to never, ever, try to pack more than you can lift onto a train. That is perhaps the most important lesson I’ve learnt this year. Packing light is really the only way to travel, if you’re a cheap skate student, and get the cheapest train tickets, and subsequently have to get four different trains. No one wants to be shifting heavy suitcases up and down train staircases. Nobody.

Anyway, I have to go to the beach again now. It’s just too beautiful to stay indoors, as much as I do love the blogosphere.





On Dreams

Sunshine is currently streaming through the window, and the temperature is an ambient twenty degrees centigrade, inside my bedroom. But I’ve been sat staring at my computer screen for half an hour, wondering what on earth to do with the afternoon. Should I go to the beach, or should I research for my essay? I’m torn between the two, really. The beach seems far more appealing than an adventure to the library, but then again, essays don’t write themselves. This is something of a conundrum.

Anyway, I think logic is going to prevail; research on postmodernism is going to be far more useful to my future, in comparison to an afternoon jaunt to the beach. This is perhaps one of the strangest things about modern life. We spend all of our present planning for a future, something we aren’t even sure exists. We have no idea of the course our lives will take, and whether all of our planning will come to fruition, or whether something will change the course of our lives without us realising it. This is perhaps one of the most alarming things about being human; we have no idea what might happen to us.

At this juncture, we can consider the lion; lions (especially males) have an almost intrinsic idea of the course their lives will take; they all have a goal. To rise to the top of the pack, and to be the dominant male, a chief hunter. This ambition puts their entire lives into focus, and they have an innate idea of what their existence will be about. Humans, on the other hand, are fickle; we have big dreams, and big ambitions. We all dream of being something different, whether it’s to be a mother, or to be a CEO, or be a novelist, or a protester. We just have no idea, and we have such an abundance of opportunity that it’s confusing, but so completely breathtaking, all at the same time. I often wish there was a clue, of where I might end up, so I could work out how to get there. I think we all wish that sometimes.

Courage to Dream

Walt E. Disney (1)

I hope to end up in publishing, as both a publishing mogul and novelist at the same time. I also want to be able to travel. I might have to make career changes, and cut back on things to do it, but as I said on my bucket list, I would like to travel to every continent on the planet. I love the idea of being able to escape, and run around the world, going on safari, building houses and schools, and so on. I just like the idea of being free. However, I also really like my mum’s cooking, and watching television with her. There’s so much choice, and technology makes it so very possible, that a person couldn’t ever decide on just one dream, I think.

So, I’ve got a plan: I’m going to do things that will make me happy. Sometimes these things, for example, going to the gym at seven-thirty in the morning, will not make me happy at that present moment. However, as I get thinner, and fitter, and closer to being ready to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, I will be happy. It’s simply a system of cause and effect; temporary pain for an abundance of long-term gain. Nobody gets everything for nothing. Dreams do not simply happen. You have to work for them, and work hard for them. And it feels amazing when you actually get somewhere, and it all pays off.




On Climbing Mountains

Of late, things have been evolving somewhat; from the inane and obvious, such as diet, to the more complex and frankly more interesting, attitudes. Experience, or the power and beauty of youth, becomes more obvious when you realise that you take it for granted; a failure to maximise one’s time, or energy as a person who is young and exposed to a plethora of opportunity is an intolerable waste, and once this dawned on me, I suffered something comparable to an epiphany, albeit in a more practical sense as opposed to a spiritual one.

Who wouldn't want to climb up there? (1)

So, in the last six weeks, I’ve been doing lots of things very differently than I had been before, for example, I’ve given up eating supernoodles for breakfast (or for any other meal), and instead, eat porridge made with skimmed milk. I’ve also taken to early morning trips to the gym; at seven-thirty am, instead of switching off my alarm and going back to sleep for four more hours, I’m on the cross trainer, or cycling, or something. I’ve found that the adrenaline kick that immediately succeeds the exhaustion is worth getting up early for. Without sleeping all day, there is far more opportunity to do things, and exposure to daylight naturally raises serotonin levels, making for a much happier person.

I think however, there’s more to this change than the somewhat superficial, in that I’ve been offered the chance to take part in a month-long trip to Africa next year; a climb up Kilimanjaro, all the way to the very, very top, volunteering with children and refurbishing schools (or something of this nature), and going on a walking or cycling safari through Hell’s Gate. The trip would give me the opportunity to see Kenya and Tanzania, and work with children, build some things for charity, and climb the world’s highest free-standing mountain. Research suggests that Kilimanjaro isn’t for the particularly weak-willed, and since I want to be able to say “I’ve stood on the summit of Kilimanjaro”, the opportunity seems too good to miss. The organisation of the trip itself will be something to add to a CV also; fundraising that kind of money, and seeking sponsorship is a practical skill. Overall then, it’d be incredible.

The trip has provided a little inspiration for getting up early and wandering around, thinking about acclimatising to a more normal “work-day” and eating much healthier food. It transpires that stereotypical student life doesn’t quite agree with me; but this element of student life, opportunities to travel, and so on, are very much my cup of tea. I’m glad there’s a goal that’s more substantial than ‘to look nice in a bikini’; there’s something much bigger, as well as the long-term health benefits of an attitude change.

There’s an awful lot to be said about mind over matter.




On Exploring Budapest

Eastern Europe holds a certain allure, because it is essentially on the same continent as France, or Germany. However Hungary, Poland, and Czechoslovakia are rather alien in terms of culture and social convention, although less so in terms of religion. We, who call ourselves European, are in fact rather sheltered from the essence of Europe, and so this summer I’m hoping to rectify the situation by visiting Budapest with a friend. I’ve always been curious about the history of Hungary, and the history of the Hungarian Jews, ever since looking at the impact of World War Two on the country.

I rarely go on holiday to cities; as a family tradition, we tend to sit by swimming pools or on the beach; anything to avoid the appearance of money belts and explorer shorts, and the taboo socks and sandals combination. We sit by the pool and complain that we are hot; we are typical British people on holiday when it comes to discussions on the weather. We don’t often visit cities; we’ve seen New York and Boston, and had a day in Pisa; but on average, city breaks are not a family venture, especially when you have younger children; pulling them through blistering heat with a plethora of other tourists is an organisational mission, as well as requiring the patience of  a saint.

File:Saint Stephen's Basilica Budapest.jpg

St. Stephen's Basilica (1)

However, cities have a vast number of opportunities for cultural exploration; museums and access to authentic cuisine is one of the highlights for me in exploring cities. I have found that eating at the same restaurants as the locals improve’s one’s understanding of the local food and local traditions, especially further afield. However, if you’ve been touched by the cruel hand of food poisoning, there’s really nothing wrong with a McDonald’s. Our Western digestive system isn’t always trained for layered cabbage dishes, or in more extreme cases, stuffed lamb heads, or stewed insects. You do become accustomed to things assuming you are prepared to try them however.

I’m thoroughly looking forwards to having a look round the Hungarian National Museum, and visiting the shopping centres and markets. The Saint Basilica has a certain appeal too, venturing into the Roman Catholicism world and the history thereof. The architecture of the building also has roots in Greek architecture and Roman history and therefore we’ll be exposed to neo-classical elements of Budapest too. I’m hoping to look around the city and night, eat some Hungarian food and go to the Hungarian opera.

The only challenge is to make the trip as cost-effective as possible; stay in a hotel in the centre of the city so that we save money on transport costs, and hopefully, somewhere where breakfast is included. As Michael McIntyre says, on holiday, we convince ourselves that we won’t need lunch, because we never want to eat when we’re hot. I’m rather hoping that we’ll be sufficiently busy that we won’t need to be thinking about food all the time; four days isn’t very long to look around such a beautiful city, but I think if we fill all moments of consciousness with interesting activities, we should be able to maximise the time we’re there for.




On New Year’s Optimism

It’s about this time of year when I get extremely hopeful and optimistic, imagining thousands of possibilities; certainly, buying new handbags in the sales makes me feel all-powerful and as though because I have purchased a new bag, I will become a more interesting and exciting person for it. This fundamentally cannot be the case, but at the same time, it doesn’t hurt. It makes a person feel excited, and renewed, and subsequently more able to tackle things. This is why the sales are so intoxicating, and I know very few who can resist buying a shiny new gadget, or a big bright handbag. We are only human, after all.

I’ve therefore started forming a number of lists of ways to improve; how to improve academically, how to improve physically, how to improve financially. The latter has been dominating my thoughts, somewhat paradoxically, because the sales have also been occupying rather a large amount of my brain’s RAM. I essentially want to be financially solvent enough to be able to start travelling frequently. Ideally, I’d like to be able to travel for four months of every year, for the next ten or so years.

The Golden Temple (1)

In that amount of time then, I should be able to see very many places, do many things, and make it to every continent. I’d like to go sky diving (even though I hate heights) and I’d like to say that I’ve helped people across the world. There’s even an argument for obtaining some kind of medical qualification, so I could work with the Red Cross, or with Doctors Without Borders, whilst travelling. A problem does however exist here, because I am something of a big baby with blood. And needles. I was the only person to faint during my secondary school boosters, in front of sixty other, rather cruel, class mates. But I think perhaps it could be overcome, if the end goal was essentially making a difference, and travelling to fantastic areas of the world at the same time. I almost can’t understand how people can live their whole lives, and never want to leave their country, and see something else. I suppose you’d never really know the things you’ve missed, if you haven’t ever seen them. One never knows what one has until it is gone.

The new year is always a good place to start: to start again, to start something new, take up hobbies, lose weight, change your job, and so on. There’s a finality which comes with the end of a year that allows you the mindset to say that you will be able to change because the year has changed. It’s a reflective time of year, because all new years begin with resolutions, and many of us will revert to our old habits, because we’re human. It takes real commitment to stick with the plans you’ve made. I suppose it depends on how focussed and sure you are of what you’d like to be, do or see. There’s a rather fine line between idealism and realism.

I hope everyone has a good goal for the year, and has fun trying to do it!




On Crossing the Orient

One of the biggest dreams I’ve had, ever  since I was a little girl, is to travel across Russia and China on the Orient Express. The decadence of the train itself, as well as the history behind it, completely fascinates me. I think I’d feel as though I’d entered a Poirot story, and would get horribly caught up in things like dressing for dinner, and using the appropriate cutlery for each course. I regularly find myself flicking through the website, dreaming of being able to afford to go on such a beautiful and extravagant journey.

Train travel is rather a reassuring method of travelling, compared to via car, or aeroplane. Trains are reliable, safe; they cross land at a steady pace, smoothly. It lacks the stopping and starting of a car, or the prospect of waiting in endless traffic queues; bathrooms are always available, and the British service station can be completely avoided. Whilst British trains are hardly comparable to the Orient Express, they are functional and serve their purpose. They transport you from A to B. However, the use of the overpass in a railway station is something that continually irks me; when you use the train to travel a significant distance, you have luggage. In my case, I had an entire suitcase, because I was travelling with enough luggage to last me a month. The stress involved in dragging the monstrosity over the overpass was completely disproportionate; the underground ramps seem to serve a much more practical purpose. The elderly find these easier than ninety-seven stairs; I find them easier with a gigantic suitcase. After this journey, I made an executive decision: to travel lighter, and with a backpack instead. It was possibly the best decision I’ve ever made.

Carriages on the Orient Express (1)

This is the reality of my travel aspirations however; I’m not especially concerned with luxury, or seeing the opulence of a location. I’d much rather use the money to travel to the rural areas, live with the locals and experience the cuisine of the area. There is nothing so wasteful as going to an English pub whilst abroad. There’s always one within a mile or two within reach at home. The food of other cultures has always fascinated me somewhat; Japanese food especially, Chinese, and middle Eastern cuisine. I love to try out the new things. Travelling on the Orient Express would offer a plethora of fantastical dining options; I’d know, since I’ve explored the sample menu section of the website frequently. Obviously there would be an appropriate outfit for the consumption of beef fillet. I realise this might be fantasy running away with me, but this isn’t the only fantasy of travel I have.

I do however have a much more realistic aspiration; a trip around all the countries of South America in the summer of 2014, with a couple of friends, a backpack, and an acceptance of limited hair washing opportunities. All my money will go towards this rather ambitious plan, but helpfully, train travel is cheap; flying won’t be necessary very often, which bodes well for me, since I don’t like to fly. (A pressurised metal tube, in the sky? Just, why?) Food is cheap, voluntary opportunities are plentiful, and I think you’d meet some amazing people. It’s going to be fantastic. I just need some money and an itinerary.