Saturday, 31 December 2011

ugly good food

Bavaria. My homeland. Spectacular mountains, idyllic pastures, fairy-tale castles, romantic cities, quaint traditions, pretzels, Lederhosen, beer, you get the jist.
Yet nowhere else in the world – in the world, my friends – does food look SO bad… and taste so good. Maybe it evolved that way to frighten off predators? Is Darwin’s law at work here? We may never know. All I know is this is food I miss on a daily basis. So in a bout of homesickness, hunger and gluttony, let me present to you the five greatest perpetrators of this heinous crime, of repelling people from their deliciousness with their ugly appearance.
5. Leberkäs

Coming in at number five, it’s Leberkäs, whose name encouragingly means ‘Liver Cheese’. Be not afraid, liver and cheese are not components. It’s a kind of massive sausage – TWSS – and I’m just going to go right ahead and quote Wikipedia here and tell you that it “consists of corned beef, pork, bacon and onions and is made by grinding the ingredients very finely and then baking it as a loaf in a bread pan until it has a crunchy brown crust.”. Om nom nom nom nom. Often served, as you can see above, with potato salad and a fried egg. Considering its relatively bland appearance, this is the least punishable offender.
4. Schnitzel, Kellogs Style
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You all know Schnitzel, right? Yes, it’s a real thing. You beat some meat, you cover it in breadcrumbs, you fry it, hey presto you’ve got yourself a heart attack on a plate. Is it possible to improve on this tried and tested recipe? YES! Replace breadcrumbs with cornflakes and it suddenly becomes silly and odd in a good way all at once. They only thing is, it looks like your meal has some skin condition. Not appetizing, unless you know what’s coming.
3. Kaiserschmarrn
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I hope you’re ready for more fried food! Bavaria is. Well, many people say Austria is to blame for the utterly heavenly Kaiserschmarrn, but to be honest Austria and Bavaria are like two peas in a pod. Two, deep-fried, butter-coated peas in a beautiful sugary pod. This dessert, which looks like soggy chips after snowfall, is what happens when you make pancakes, tear them into tiny shreds, and – you guessed it – FRY THEM. Dust with icing sugar and gorge yourself.

2. Currywurst
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Another three step recipe – don’t you just love the simplicity of German cooking? No bain-maries here. No tender simmer, no artfully cut vegetables. Currywurst is happily exactly what it sounds like. Step one, get a sausage (that’s a Wurst to me), something like a frankfurter would work. Step two, cut it up. Step three, slather it in ketchup and curry powder. Yes, curry powder. Yes, I really mean it. Do it. Do it now.
P.S. Step four, more curry powder. Usually it’s a three step recipe but you’re a novice and you didn’t put enough on the first time.

I. Germknödel
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Words cannot describe the infinite glory of the seemingly soggy pile of dough and custard. I dream of Germknödel. Every year I go to Germany, I pretend it’s to visit my 91 year old grandmotehr but really – it’s to eat Germknödel. I can’t get enough. When I die, I want to come back as a Germknödel.

What are they? Well, Wikipedia once again comes to the rescue because I do not have. The words. Here goes: “The dessert's main ingredient is a yeast dough with sugar and fat, usually butter, added to the dough. The dumpling is filled with Powidl, a sweet and spicy plum jam. The dumpling is steamed and then served still hot with either melted butter or vanilla dessert sauce, and topped with crushed poppy seeds and sugar.”

IT IS LIKE NOTHING YOU HAVE EVER TASTED.

Hope you enjoyed that. I know I did.

Images shamelessly stolen from Google.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

simple really

You know what inspires me? No, I’m not talking about wishy-washy stuff like the scent of rain on dirt (though that does) or sitting down with some personal one-on-one time with Kerewin, my guitar (though that too produces a lovely uplifting effect).
The object of my inspiration is this woman.
This woman.
This woman.
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If you’re too cool (or busy, or tired – I don’t know) to click on those links, let me give you think quick 101 on what Shanley does and why it’s got my odd, crooked toes twitching for 2012.
This is how it goes. Shanley goes to Uganda, more specifically, to the village of Kakooge. She meets a young orphan girl named Cossy Nakate and through getting to know her, finds out the situation women in the village are in – working harder than any person should, some even having to prostitute themselves in order to earn enough money to feed, clothe and home themselves and their children. Often these women also suffer from AIDS and need to buy medicine for themselves and their families on top of everything else.
But instead of blindly, shallowly throwing money at a problem she couldn’t think how to solve, Shanley did think. She saw the necklaces some women were making – necklaces with beads made of paper wrapped around needles – and realised there was something she could do. These handcrafted, beautifully simple beaded necklaces had a market back in the US, and indeed all over the world, a market which would hopefully begin to be able to support the women of Kakooge, Uganda. So she brought the necklaces to the market and she called it The Nakate Project. She worked hard, pushed herself to the brink of exhaustion and desperation to make it work and she bloody well did make it work. She built up a business. She built up relationships with the women. And she has started to build up a future for them and their children. 
She documents this journey, a mix of life which is sometimes perplexing, sometimes amusing, oftentimes frustrating, endlessly uplifting, and driven by her innate determination and passion, on her blog, Voye’m. A good first post is this relatively recent one which starts off well and just gets better in process.
Well, I guess that’s just Shanley feckin’ Knox.
Yeah. She’s pretty awesome.
*****
So how has she inspired me? She’s shown me a way to help people that is not only donating money – though that is not to be belittled as it is the cornerstone of every great philanthropic organisation from Amnesty International to Cancer Research UK – but it also means thinking small to think big. The women of Kakooge live in one village in one country in one continent in one world – this is not the scope of Greenpeace or Oxfam or Fair Trade. This is personal, and that is one of Nakate’s and Shanley’s great strengths.
Another thing which inspires me about Shanley is that she’s involved – she’s just come back from Uganda and is planning her next trip already. The people there are friends and business partners, not some distant, abstract ‘poverty-stricken community’. Again, I’m not disregarding the immense effect which Water Aid, Save the Children, and The Red Cross have, but here I can see a close-up of how one person with one idea and a hell of a lot of energy can change the lives of many.
So what’s the end result of all this inspiration?
Amnesty International. Cancer Research UK. Greenpeace, Oxfam, Fair Trade. Water Aid, Save the Children, The Red Cross.
Nakate.
I’ve namedropped an awful lot of charities and organisations here. Shanley and her blog have made me more certain than I was before that I want to work in the 3rd sector – that is, aid, environmentalist, fundraising, charity. But what, where, how? What inspires me? Where do I start? How do I get going? I don’t have the experience, or the specific cause to focus on in order to follow Shanley’s steps exactly. Instead, I’ve got to figure out what exactly tickles my toetips and that’s the task of 2012. Seeing as travel is my life, it’ll be international, ideally based abroad (this whole Unversity malarky is the only thing stopping from leaving Britain for good). I want to be able to use my language skills. I don’t ant to fundraise – I’m bad at it and find it boring. I’m good at organising… But this is all far too advanced. I’m only a freshman, an ickle firstie, and I too have to start small.
So, in 2012 I will be finding new ways to volunteer abroad --- and at home. If you want to find out more, you can click the nifty little ‘Charities and Causes’ link at the top of this page.
Till then, tara!
Oh one more thing.
My first two Nakate necklaces are in the mail. I can’t wait.

Monday, 14 November 2011

hallowthanksmas

The Great Grey has arrived in Oxford. If you live in the UK you’ll know what I mean by that; and if you don’t, just imagine that the sky has been overrun by cloudlets determined to interrupt photosynthesis. I’m really pleased that my spell-checker allowed the word cloudlet. It might have just made my day.
Conclusion: the sky is grey, and with it, Oxford and its businesses have heralded the arrival of Oxmas with glee. Yes, nowadays Christmas begins ridiculously early almost everywhere - and the UK doesn’t even have Thanksgiving to interrupt the transition from Halloween to Christmas, meaning that I saw a Christmas tree being raised up on the night of the 31st of October in my local TESCO - but I don’t really mind. Firstly, I love the lead-up to Christmas, which far outweighs the celebration itself, and secondly, OXMAS!
It takes place at the end of November, when the Oxford term ends. Well, actually we finish on the 3rd of December so it’s technically in the Christmas month!!! This is how it works: Jesus being born not quite as good as modern day Christmas which is not quite as good as Advent which is not quite as good as Oxmas. It’s going to be spectacular. Or mediocre. Or satisfying… there will be cake and biscuits and presents and sing-song and it’ll be splendiferoustastic! I just hope it snows.
Lately I have: attended an IKEA birthday party; found a house for next year with seven beautiful people; walked through the University parks with some of them; dressed as a goth for a bop (Oxford term for massive party); and best of all, been rained warm beer on in a pub in Bristol during a cheese society meeting where I was tied to a man’s hand and forced to draw kangaroos* .
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*this may be a liberal retelling of the truth.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

place to call home

I’ve just recovered from a pesky bout of late-starter freshers flu which is why it’s been a while... Nothing serious, just a drippy tap of a nose and a tickly cough. I did lose my voice for a couple of days, but found it swimming in a Lemsip lake so it’s all good now.
The week itself was as per usual.
Two essays, a handful of other translations, commentaries, grammar exercises, Spanish lessons son muy bien.
On Friday, a friend from London (well, friend from school who studies in London) came to visit which was a really nice break, and on the night previous I visited my aunt in Abingdon for some relaxing cannelloni.
Friday, celebrated a friend’s birthday with a midnight walk around Oxford (that wasn’t the plan; we didn’t reach our intended club destination), went on a little three-pub pub-crawl, started to figure out housing for next year - easier than I’d feared, but more complicated than I’d hoped is a good way to sum it up.
Two movie nights. Last Thursday was a mini Monty Python marathon, and yesterday I watched The Shining for the first time. It wasn’t as scary as I’d feared, but I still spent half the movie clasping other people’s hands, shoulders and knees. It sounds like a kids’ game. It was pure terror.
Ate and drank a couple of meters away from Emma Watson on more than one occasion, but I’m so oblivious about celebrities that I only found out afterwards both times. Some of my friends met Lord Faulkner. Apparently he’s really important. :D His name’s familiar to me so he must be…
As every year since my 8th, which was spent in Florida, Hallowe’en was a total non-starter. I wore a Viking hat for some of it.
So yeah… that’s me all done.
Till next time.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

work hard play hard

Yes, life seems to have gotten on top of me. I’m not behind on my work – I can’t imagine that I ever would be, or at least, let’s hope not – but I’m uncomfortably close to a deadline (16 hours), and I need to spend five of those at language lessons, and at least six sleeping, which really only leaves four! It’s a little bit annoying but this essay will really be ridiculously easy.
However, allow me to pass this time on the updating you thing. Suffice to say, I had my first Georgian lesson (not sure I’ll continue as it’s about as useful as origami), met a long-distance hitch hiker, watched two Monty Python movies in quick succession, got a cold and held a sparkler. Not necessarily in that order.
And yourself?

Saturday, 22 October 2011

song and laughter

Do you know why the title is so cheesy? It’s because it’s twenty to 3 in the morning and I’m exhausted. Suffice to say today has been a long day – good, but long. I have no narrative impulse at all so all you’re getting is a list:
1) Wake up to fire alarm.
2) Apply for a job answering telephones to raise money for Exeter College.
3) Go to language centre library induction.
4) OMG THE LANGUAGE LIBRARY it is so cool.
5) Do homework for Spanish class (I learn Spanish now, don’t know if I mentioned that ever)
6) Eat an over-priced croissant.
7) Go to a lecture where every word said by lecturer is gold, but it is impossible to write down every word so I just wrote down as many as I could.
8) Show a girl where the Post Office is. Lots of arm-waving.
9) Find out you can’t cycle through Christ Church. Sad face.
10) Go back to college.
11) Have lunch and talk about course with fellow German-studier, Chicca (half Italian hence the unusual moniker)
12) Sort of kind of do some work but really watch Fry and Laurie for several hours.
13) Sign up for Georgian classes. Yes, that’s a thing that’s happening. Gamarjoba, megobrebo.
14) Therapy. Eh. Uneventful.
15) Call mother and father. Get called by brother and find out he is visiting me tomorrow. Yay!
16) Go have dinner with two girls – I ate buffalo burger. It was good, like beef but zingier.
17) This list is far longer than I thought it was going to be.
18) Go to a coffee shop where they have a panini named after Exeter. I have coffee and cake, not the panini.
19) See a slightly pretentious (in an enjoyable way) but very entertaining play based on Dorian Gray. Felt like I was high for half of it because people were talking through teapots and stuff.
20) Go to a sort-of party where everyone is relatively off their face. Not my scene but whatever, I stay for about half an hour or so before…
21) The Porter comes, breaks up the party, and gets us all to write our names down on an ominous list very reminiscent of Year 9. I, being tea-total and halfway through the door to leave, am not happy about this turn of events. I sign my name and go.
22) On the way back to my room, coincidentally meet a group of people who I know and follow them to their room. It’s ok, these are good people.
23) Find out my husband* can play the banjo, and that some people dance like moths.
23) Pure awesome for several hours.
24) Now, the end of the list, bedtime.
Goodnugget.

*I won’t even try to explain this but if you know the university/college marriage system you won’t be as confused as people who don’t. I’ll explain it sometime if I don’t forget in which case I won’t. Suffice to say I’m not really married.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

cold, cold water

You should listen to this song as you read this post:
I want to kayak down Greenland.
On the second to last night of my first time in Iceland, I got chatting to two Danish men who were ‘just stopping by’ in Iceland, on their way to Greenland where they were planning on kayaking down the East Coast. Though I’ve been interested in Greenland for years (I can even say illumi nerivunga which means I eat in the house), I’d never seriously thought about going there; I’d stuck rather more effort into the linguistic side of things. At the time, therefore, it didn’t inspire me to follow in the footsteps of these foolhardy Danes… but over the last year it’s been rising in me. I want to kayak down, ski across, climb over Greenland like a squirrel on a pile of acorns. It would be the ultimate physical and emotional achievement for me; and I think I’d really love to just be in nature so much I’m practically part of it. And which clubs have I joined here?
Kayaking and Canoeing.
Mountaineering and Rock Climbing.
Expeditions and Exploration.
Scandinavian Society.

Yeah, you know what? I’m on my way to Greenland in the long run. YEEHAW!

Saturday, 15 October 2011

rock climbing and matriculation

Sorry, this blog won’t have much energy. That’s because I don’t have much energy. There are pictures below if you don’t feel like reading about what I’ve done in the last four days. :)
I’m tired because I’ve not been getting a lot of sleep and yet I have an essay to write which has to be in in two and a half days, and was set four days ago. I hate that because normally I try to do my work within 20 per cent of the time set, at the very most 50 per cent. The reason I’m taking a little longer with this is because I’m not very confident at essay writing, especially about literature. All of my other work I did very quickly though!
Since Tuesday, I went to a German creative writing group, I went indoor rock climbing, I went on a pub crawl with the Scandinavian Society, and I was matriculated.
The German creative writing group was quite uneventful, but stimulating enough that I’ll probably go again next time. I had to write a story using the prompts “someone breaks into a house”, “a contestant on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire”, “while cooking dinner”, “a box of sleeping pills” and “at Granddads house”… so it was a strange illogical story to say the least!
Rock Climbing was quite enjoyable, but very hard. It’s not the best thing I’ve done so far, but I think that’s because I can’t yet appreciate working my body to its limit since I’m a bit of a soft egg. I’ve bought year-long membership though, so I’ll go along for at least two terms (which is how long I have to go for it to not be a waste of money). Don’t get the wrong idea, I did enjoy the challenge, and the two guys I was with were very friendly and helpful, but when I struggled they pushed me which I’m frankly not used to on a physical level so I honestly just flopped off the wall, giving up! That was only once or twice though when my arms literally couldn’t hold on any more. I have to be a bit more careful the next time that I go because I don't want to get tendonitis, and it still hurts two days later! I have to go again on Monday because next Saturday I’m going on a group trip to the Peak District where we’ll be rock climbing on real rocks!
The pub crawl with the Scandinavian Society was just what I needed on Friday night after an intense, though not stressful, first week. The society is young and not as organised as the German society (who’s surprised?), so it’s all very relaxed and easy-going, and nobody was drinking very much anyway so I got to talk to a lot of people. At the end of the night I was very happy to be able to speak Norwegian for the first time ever to a PhD student from the University of Oslo, who was so patient and corrected me when I needed correcting and praised me when I did something well. I think I talked mainly rubbish but it's really given my confidence a boost!
Finally, matriculation this morning was at 7.45, which is another reason on top of the late nights and aching body that I’m exhausted. Matriculation is when you are officially accepted into the University of Oxford. You have to wear a costume/uniform, have your photo taken and then sit in a hall and listen to a guy speak Latin. It’s that easy, guys! :D It was really fun actually because we all sort of laughed about it and then had breakfast, and that was it. That is, however, where I parted ways with the other 95 people in my year. They did something called ‘Matriculash’, which is basically where you try to get hammered as fast as possible before midday, and they performed admirably. I know because I heard them all day! I on the other hand ice cream with a girl from secondary school and then hung out in my room, chatting to friends from secondary school on the phone, and pootling around sort of doing some background reading for that essay I mentioned.
I can’t believe it’s not even nine yet, but I also can’t believe it’s already Saturday! Today felt like one of those surreal days where time doesn’t pass like normal. In the coming week I’ll be kayaking in the river, rock climbing and going to the Peak District with the rock climbing society, attending the first meeting of the exploration society (who basically send people to crazy far off places like China or the Arctic so they can camp and walk around and do stuff), writing this essay and doing other Uni work, going to two Stammtisch meets (which is all the Germans going to a pub and speaking German), and going to some Anthropology and Old Norse lectures for ‘fun’, in addition to about eleven hours of German lectures, seminars, grammar classes, tutorials, film showings and language classes. I’ll also hopefully be finding out if I got into the Spanish or Portuguese courses I signed up for.
Really though, I want to spend every day in the pub talking to people, strangers, old friends and family. People are amazing. There are some in the picture below. I’m on the second row from the top, six people from the left. I’m leaving forward or something.
293564_10150354844576683_731816682_8188682_792453548_nI hope you can tell who I am in the second one. The other girl is a friendly chemist and germophile (lover of Germany, not germs, duh) called Laura. I know a little stoned but I honestly think that look kind of suits me. Can you tell how tired I am? My sarcasm muscle is just not working today. Goodnight xxx318598_10150330701544107_621764106_8067374_1470380924_n

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

indiana fiones

I’ve had a little e-mail in my inbox glaring at me for a day or so, which is from a reminder service I set up to remind me to blog. So here I am, blogging.
Something I realise I missed out last week is talking about freshers fair. It was, as all the rumours say, crazy and full. There were sports, language societies, political societies, employment societies, publishing and journalism societies, music societies, what I can only describe as geeky societies, religious societies and some free pizza. The worst group though was the charities and aid societies. This is going to sound callous but I wasn’t really interested in joining any of them because (yes this does sound awful) I find campaigning and fundraising really boring. I prefer that not-really-volunteering type of charity work which involves flying to exotic places and building schools or teaching English or selling wares. Regardless of my personal inclinations, walking through a hall where people scream at you “DO YOU WANT TO SAVE MILLIONS OF DYING SPECIES?”  or “DO YOU WANT TO GIVE UNDERPRIVILEGED CHILDREN OPPORTUNITIES IN LIFE?” is… awkward.
After quickly making my way past that, I entered sport and activities where i honestly went a bit crazy. I signed up for walking, horse riding, kayaking, expeditions, mountaineering and two martial arts. In the end, I’m only going to be sticking with kayaking, expeditions and mountaineering (which is really just rock climbing) because being outside is fun and I want to be Indiana Jones. hence the title. I’m so witty.
I’ve actually gone to the first kayaking meet, which was probably the most fun I’ve had since Iceland! Apart from the flower child feeling of being part of the water, maaaan, it was just hilarious. I, as most of the others, was a complete beginner so my first few strokes sent me spinning around in circles. After we all vaguely grasped the idea of going in a straight line, we played children's’ games like Stuck in the Mud or Bulldog, during which I twice made close acquaintance with the muddy Isis. That’s right; I fell in. Twice. It was awesome.
The other societies I signed up to wont’ really surprise you: Scandinavian Society, whose first meeting was very chilled out and happy, and German Society, whose first meeting was so packed that there was actually a queue to get in! I’m really looking forward to the events organised by both of those societies, though I have to say that the Scandinavian Society is winning with its Scandinavian themed pub crawl on Friday. I’ve got a Viking helmet. It has horns. Sorry, purists!
Finally, I applied for several language courses: beginners Spanish, beginners Portuguese and Intermediate French. I actually got placed in Advanced French which I was gleefully surprised at… but that clashes with something so I’m a bit bummed about that! Still, I won’t even know until Friday which one I’ve been accepted for, if anything, so I’ll let you know.
So that’s it. My timetable is almost complete. Ten or eleven hours of lectures, seminars, tutorials, and grammar classes a week, plus one or two hours of rock climbing, one or two hours of kayaking and one or two hours of language classes. Oh, and one or two hours of German or Scandinavian society stuff a week. I’m a busy bee!
bzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Saturday, 8 October 2011

first week at oxford

Today began with a fire drill. It went off at eight, just at the same moment that my own alarm clock turned on, and for a few bleary moments I thought that the blaring sound was being emitted by my crappy little thing. Soon as I cottoned on, I grabbed keys, flip flops and a dressing gown and was out of the door, joining the mass of people who were crowding the corridor stairs. It wasn’t too early, really, but many people had been caught unawares, not having been warned as I had the night before. But more than woozy expressions, one lad caught my eye – no, not in that way. He had just been in the bath, and had only had time to pull on a towel around his waist. Poor bloke looked so cold that I gave him my dressing gown!
After that, the day got off to a slow and lethargic start. I obtained earmuffs from Primark which are now constantly around my neck, and went to the rather disappointing poster fair, where I was accosted by people giving away free Chinese food. In the afternoon I tried to work out some noes which I have to make for my first seminar next Tuesday, but didn’t get much done. The translation I’ve been set was something I really enjoyed and knocked out in a good half hour, but I’ve always felt very insecure in analysing literature. I really am a linguist, but this course is an honest-to-gods English degree which is conducted in German so I need to learn how to approach literary analytical work as well as the fun stuff, which is finding matching idioms and checking tense endings! Yes, I consider that the fun stuff.
In the evening, as every night this week, we had an organised event, and tonight it was dinner at our college parents’ houses. In Oxford, Cambridge, Edinburgh and various other universities there is a system of incoming freshers being allocated a second year who have ‘married’, one or two of which are usually related to your degree. My mother is really motherly which I love because I really feel like I can talk to her about anything. Oddly enough, she’s actually two months younger than me! We played hidden word games (which I recommend you look up online as they‘re very entertaining) and at the end of the evening, I had a long conversation with a bio-medical scientist and a physicist, discussing the merits of intelligence and science versus art. I don’t have a very linear or restricted way of looking at things; scientists seem to see that as fluffy! It may well be, I’m not really bothered. It was an interesting discussion. I’m more selfish than I realised (as in, I care more about myself and my family than I do about the thousands which might benefit from scientific advancements some time down the line) and it bothers me less than you’d think. I’m also apparently quite socialist, or egalitarian…? I don’t know, I just don’t believe in some people being better than others.
End of the boring philosophy! I too found it a little dull. I think there are far better ways of spending time than debating abstract concepts… Like camping. I don’t know – now for the good stuff! Photos!
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Tuesday, 4 October 2011

three days in

What do you mean, this is only the third day? I’m sure I’ve been here for weeks! In the last two and a bit days, I have met more people than I’ve ever met in as short a period of time in my life. I’ve met people who are foreign, people who are gorgeous, people who are self-conscious, people who are martial artists, but the nicest discovery of the last few days is that even though Oxford is largely full of white middle-class people, they are all people with interesting things to say, with awkward moments or with cool hair, and I don’t have to feel the odd one out – at least not in a bad way.
Even though it feels like a lot of time has passed, very little has actually happened since I arrived on Sunday. We’ve been to a  lot of talks about everything from fire safety to the history of Exeter College – the the IT talk and the doctors talk were surprisingly the best – and learnt that six people or more in a room constitutes a party (which seems a little bit pedantic, but whatever). I proudly put up my hand when we were all asked who picked the college because of Tolkien, because I honestly did at first; I amused an Irishman with stories of Iceland; and I have been set my first pieces of work.
I’m not really excited, my life hasn’t changed, but it’s been nice and easy-going so far. The new independence means that for a lot of people this is the first time they can go out without parents watching over the shoulder, and do so without abandon; other people seem to be less of the partying type, preferring to have chilled out chats in their rooms. I reckon I fall somewhere in the middle, and my favourite hours have been spent at the pub chatting to finalists about their years abroad, or to the visiting American students on the lawn of the garden. I’m starting to recognise faces, and am even able to put names to some.
There isn’t much more to report at the time being, but I hope that you’re doing well wherever you are.

Friday, 30 September 2011

life in boxes

Packing. The bane of many people’s existences – but not mine. Not me, no sir, I love packing. You probably think I’m kidding, but I’m serious. Deciding what is important enough to go in a box is a joy.
Yeah, I was kidding. At first it was fun but now, as I realise that I really am a shameless symptom of consumerism (AKA I have too much stuff), I just want it to be over. Luckily, despite the mess seen below, I’m actually remarkably near the end. Another two or three hours and I’ll be free!
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It’s actually quite surreal that in two days (pretty much exactly to the minute, as I’m writing this at 1:15pm) I’ll actually have moved in to my Uni room – or at least, I’ll be struggling across the quad with a box of printer in my arms. It would be untrue to say I’ve been waiting for over a year for this day; it would be untrue to say I can’t believe it’s real; and it would be untrue to say I’m more excited than I’ve ever been in my life. I’m not actually that excited, but that’s not to say I’m not looking forward to it. I’m just going to try to take it as it comes, really, and try to enjoy the last two days before one of the most stressful parts of my short life begins!
Funnily enough, I actually won’t spend my last day before University in the house – why? You’ve probably guessed it. Yes, guys, I have another job interview – I’m giving this whole “let’s earn money instead of relying on the parents” thing another shot. This time I’ll travelling to a hotel in London (a two-hour journey each way) for a five-hour long interview with a company which organises skiing trips in the Alps for schools in the UK. The job I’m interviewing for is a languages liaison – my job would basically entail getting paid to speak French and/or German for a week or two in the Easter holidays. Travel, accommodation and a ski pass are included, and on top of that I get a salary! It sounds like a brilliant job but I’ve learnt not to get my hopes up. Instead, I’ll do my best in the interview and hope for a job offer.
Still, though, what an exciting weekend, right? May I draw your attention to the horoscope I mentioned a while back saying that my love life, my social life and my career would take off in October?! Well, the 1st of October will be spent interviewing for a perfect student job; the 2nd of October will be spent moving to University and meeting loads of people; and who knows, perhaps on Monday I’ll meet the love of my life?
Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

band crush: mama rosin

“Do you like to go to festivals?”
“Yeah, but I tend to just go to the ones nearby or the ones I can volunteer at.”
“But then what’s the point? Why go if you don’t know if a band you like is going to play there?”
“I prefer going to a festival having no idea who’s going to play.”
“Well that’s just stupid, not to mentioned a waste of time and potentially money.”
“What? I’m sorry I couldn’t hear you over the sound of… Mama Rosin.”
I’ve had this conversation several times in the last year, though I have to admit, without the suave ending. And I’m still not sure if the last line should be filed as ‘suave’ or ‘douchey’. Still, it’s a good summary of why I do festivals the way I do. Having no idea who’s going to play, and also going to smaller festivals, means you’re guaranteed an awesome experience meeting loads of new people – this is where the volunteering comes in! – and discovering some bands you might never otherwise have discovered.
Mama Rosin is this archetypical kind of “I went to this festival and discovered an amazing band” band. When I stewarded at WOOD Festival – an eco-friendly, small, folk and world festival held in a commune-owned field in the middle of Oxfordshire – I had several hours a day free, most of which I spent lying on the grass in front of the ‘main’ stage (a tiny construction of wood beams, smaller than an average truck). When Mama Rosin came on in the early evening I was blown away. I’m not very good at reviews, but I’ll try because I think they’re such an amazing band that they deserve a little effort.
This band is unfettered by needing to fit in to some mould. They do fit into a mould, but that’s not what defines them. Their carefree yet chilled out sound comes primarily from the lead singer’s raspy, slightly slurred, Louisiana-inspired voice combined in a delicious honey-mead with the the largely unrefined, slightly tipsy, gratifyingly simple arrangement of traditional American folk instruments upon which it rests. The banjo, the accordion, the guitar, the accordion, the washboard and the uncomplicated and imperfect harmonies pull together for a distinctly laid-back, smoky, weekend sound.
Mama Rosin prove that if you find something you love, something you can do well, you should just run with it. There is no straightforward reason why a Lebanese accordion player and a French-Swiss University drop-out decided to live in a duck farm in the Alps and spend their days making music which is plucked straight out of the Louisiana Bayeux, but I thank the powers that be that they did.
Anyway, that’s enough talking, so here’s a song for you!

It also bears mentioning that when I saw these three alpine neo-Cajuns hippity-hopping about on a stage made of sticks, I developed a minor crush on this guy:

Ok, I know that he’s not hot. Even I am not that blind -- but he is my type.
On second thought, he does resemble a skinny Wolverine with a tambourine.
Well, it’s like I said.
My type.

Friday, 23 September 2011

should they stay or should they go?

I’ve never really been one for trinkets or pointless possessions. Kitsch has no place in my space – sure, I had a ceramic angel phase when I was about eleven, but I quickly realised that the combination of two things (the size of British houses and my dislike of all things impractical) meant that nothing in my room could be superfluous.
Of course, there is the occasional purposeless Lebkuchen heart, or the collection of touristy fans which I really can’t justify keeping in the same pot as my silk daffodils (come to think of it, the silk daffodils aren’t really earning their keep either) – but other than that, all the stuff which stands around and takes up space at least has to be able to pretend to be vaguely useful.
Enter the list of vaguely useful items I cannot bear to part with:
  • a tin of novelty knives (justification: what if I need to cut up an apple and I can’t find any other knives in the house?)
  • the aforementioned souvenir fans (justification: it gets hot in summer)
  • dozens of toiletries (justification: what do you mean, I don’t need age-defying night cream?)
  • felt tip pens in all colours (justification: you never know when you might need a brown or a green felt tip pen. What if I need to draw a tree? Am I right?)
  • a small mountain of touristy leather bookmarks (justification: I read books)
  • candles (justification: it gets cold in the winter)
P1020805 P1020804
As you can see, my clutter isn’t really clutter. Or I guess that depends on your definition of clutter, but it isn’t really to me. And yet, preparing for University, I find myself having to make some decisions. Decisions like should I take the red felt tip as well as the pink, like does the turtle-shaped cushion need to make an appearance in my Uni room, and like how many souvenir fans is too many? The answer to that last one, I’ve come to the sad decision, is one. That’s right, people. No souvenir fans are making the move to Cowcrossing*.
It’s interesting how the decisions I make about what should stay and what should go make such a clear statement about me, and how I have a control over that statement. Do I want to take my Aragorn knife? If I take it with me, it’s a kitschy souvenir I won’t use, which ties me on to my far too intense LOTR obsession; on the other hand, if it stays here, does that mean I’m callously rejecting that part of my nerdy past and – let’s not lie, and why should I – present? It also means I have to make the hard decisions to leave some of my mugs, some of my books, and all of my candles behind.
Decisions, decisions. But to be honest, ione of my favourite things about travelling and moving is getting that chance to to live without the luxury you’d built up. It’s unburdened.
So here we go. Silk daffodils stay home, felt tip pens come with; Aragorn knife stays, touristy leather bookmarks come ; age-defying face cream stays, souvenir fans…
They stay too. Come on, dude. I won’t need a fan at University.
It’s a good thing I’m not going to IKEA tomorrow with the hope of buying even more stuff. Hmmm…
*new nickname for Oxford, Y/Y?

Folder-design related sidenote: One of the things which are coming with me to University are obviously my ring binders. But I don’t want them to be boring – oh no! So to spice up the folders, I cut out some designs in craft paper and stuck them on, one folder per module. The modules are: Plays and Film in the first term; Prose and Mediaeval in the second term; and Poetry and Philosophy in the third term. Don’t they look pretty? You might also be able to spy that the side of the philosophy folder has a back-sticker on it. These are things which I’ve only seen in Germany, and I think they’re amazing. You get seven stickers, and when you put them on thee back of your ring binders, they make a picture! In this case, a map of the world. I think you can spy Australia and eastern Russia on philosophy!
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Tattoo-related sidenote: Not so hot on the idea right now as I was last week. Still pretty sure I’ll get one in my life, just not anytime soon. They’re just so… permanent. I am liking the idea of white tattoos though. Firstly, because they do tend to fade a lot (which is good), and secondly because they’re not so easy to see unless you know they’re there. They just look like scars unless you point them out. And since this really is a tattoo primarily for me, that seems appropriate. Just thought you might be interested!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Got Ink?

I’ve not stopped thinking about getting a tattoo since I made a post in which I listed some of my favourites. . I’m not planning on getting one right now, but it's fun top play around with ideas. And anyway, who knows?

1) Heritage flowers. The first idea and one I’ve had longest is this one, to get the two flowers of my heritage tattooed on my body - that is, of Scotland and Germany, more specifically, Bavaria. I don’t think I need to go into much detail, since flowers and heritage tattoos are both realtively common and self-explanatory, but as I’ve always been rootless between these two roots, I am strongly drawn to them.

What are the flowers? An edelweiss for Bavaria (the alpine bit of Germany where I’m from), and a thistle for Scotland.

I’ve done a few little sketches to show the designs: I’d want the tattoos in brown, and in more of an outline than a true-to-life style. It’s important that the tattoo is hideable, yet something I can see and show without too much difficulty – that means no wrists, but also no inner thigh.

tattoo flower tattoo flower2

 

2) Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis. This tattoo idea came to me more recently so it’s something I’ll definitely let grow for a while longer. Obviously Scandinavia and Iceland are extremely important to me and have been for quite a while, so I think this is a very good and beautiful way of showing my love to the world. I also think that, as with the heritage flower tattoos, this would be comforting for me.

northlight tattooo

northlight tattooooooonorthlight tattoooo

northlight tattooooonorthlight tattoooooo

 

Please let me know what you think of the designs, the placements, even the very idea of getting a tattoo! Would you get one? Have you got one? If so, what would you get? I’m really curious!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Viva Barcelona!

Adios, amigos! I’m going on holiday tomorrow, and I won’t be back until the 14th of September. Where am I going? You guessed it – Spain! First I’m visiting Sony, a friend I met in Iceland who is a German ex-pat living in Barcelona, after which I’ll spend ten days in a holiday cottage on the Costa Brava with two old school friends. It’s going to be muy bien, I hope! (Maybe I'll even learn to speak Spanish, though if that were my aim I'm going to the wrong part of Spain - the part where they hate Spanish!)

This is me when I was there nine years ago. I liked climbing on rocks. I still do!

2002-04-Begur 007

Until my return, please don’t pine – I’ll be back! xxx

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Bjork’s Shoes

I want these shoes! More than I’ve wanted a lot of things. I’d pick these shoes over a banjo. That is how much these shoes. I mean, look at them!

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I’ve wanted chunky neon multi-coloured trainers since I saw some woman in Iceland wearing similar once last December. The woman turned out to be Bjork, which I didn’t found out until after she had left, but that’s not the point. THE SHOES. Nike allows you to design them yourself, which I thought would massively bring up the price, but no! £90!Relatively reasonable, considering I’m a person who never buy shoes. WHY couldn’t they be something ridiculous like £250?

Monday, 29 August 2011

A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Last Saturday (the day after my mini-meltdown), a friend of mine sent me a message which read, ‘I wondered if you were free tomorrow to see 'A Midsummer Night's Dream' with me in Covent Garden at 7.30pm? One of my Uni friends is in it and I’m really keen to go.’

I’m a little bit ashamed to admit I dithered. ‘Do I really want to spend all that time in buses and trains, and get home really late?’ I asked myself. ‘Can I afford to buy overpriced London food and watch an amateur student production of a Shakespeare play I’ve seen before?  It’s all so last minute, last minute things are categorically bad.’

It was this last thought which pushed me over the edge. Last minute things are categorically bad?! Really, Fiona? Stuff that, I’m a 19-year-old student and I’m going to London to see a play!

And so, I did. On the train I read some more of my current time-passer, ‘Daughter of Fortune’ by Isabel Allende, and after that my friend and I enjoyed an acceptably-priced, remarkably tasty Italian meal in the centre of the Covent Garden Market.

After looking at our map for five minutes, we then realised we were siting in the shadow of the very church where the performance would take place and, giggling at out bad geography skills, we took our seats in the pews.

It was, without a doubt, one of the best productions of a Shakespeare play I have ever seen. The acting, though somewhat overblown in one or two of the performers, was overall of a high standard considering none were professionals, and to be honest you could have easily fooled me. Two of the fairies moved gracefully and ferally all at once, embodying not only with their voice but also with their bodies the other-worldly nature of Shakespeare’s creatures. Though half of the costumes were a disappointing classic 1940s get-up – a go-to for the producers of current theatre, it seems; I think I’ve seen more wartime Shakespeare than Elizabethan – the other half (the fairies) were magnificent. Bright, flouncy, elaborate, very circusesque, accented by striking face paint. Oberon was thin and tall as a stick, and his consort, Titania was majestic and fearsome and beautiful. They were without doubt my favourites of the two, and it seemed to me they had been drawn straight from the pen of Shakespeare. Bottom the Weaver’s performance was equally gratifying though for a very different reason – but simply, he was hilarious. The young actor moved about the stage with a confidence and surety of a far more experienced man, and oftentimes had both my friend and myself in literal tears of laughter. It all ran so smoothly and captivatingly that it only occurred to me at the end that there hadn’t been a single Act divide, and I hadn’t been bored once, which can tend to happen in older plays for me as the pace slows or the language thickens. There’s another thing; never before have I so clearly understood Shakespeare’s language because of the way in which all of the lines were delivered. I hardly realised that the expressions were foreign and had no difficulty following what was going on, despite the fact that the play was performed in a large, echoing stone church.

So all in all, a very good show, and I’m glad I went.

Oh, and did I mention? The student company was a company from Oxford, the friend a friend from school who is studying German and History at Oxford in the college where I’d initially wanted to apply (Worcester) before Exeter threw itself in my path, and we spent the whole time chatting about her experiences and my expectations of studying German and living life at Oxford. Yes, the whole thing was dripping in Oxford and not one melt-down in sight.

Insert. Sigh of relief. Here.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

The Approach of University

Do you know why I haven’t written here for a while? It’s because I know what I’m like:

complainy

Apologies aside, let me tell you about my plans! I love planning. It’s like playing The Sims in my head. Except I can do it all the time, and nobody burns the kitchen down making cheese on toast.

Well, as you might know if you know me, University is approaching. I’ve probably complained about it enough that you're aware of what I’ll be studying (German, reluctantly) and where (Exeter College, Oxford). Additionally, if you’re a creepy stalker or a family member you’ll know that term begins on the 9th of October. Before that, I’m going on a two-week holiday to Catalonia in Spain, where I’ll visit a friend in Barcelona for a long weekend and then stay at my godparents’ house in a coastal village with some other friends. They like books a lot.

But, as the French horoscope which I read last Christmas in a run-down house in central Reykjavik with a French nursery teacher, a Belgian school teacher and a German saxophonist (see? I have a point about Iceland!) said, your life will begin in October. No, really. It was that specific.

So, what do I expect University will be like?

Firstly, I expect that it’ll be a lot of work. As in, I can’t imagine how much it will be because I can’t conceptualise writing two essays a week in addition to studying a hell of a lot of dense German garbage/literary gold. I hope that the fact that I am fluent in German will help me a bit, but I know that that’s not going to be enough. Even though I’m not much looking forward to the course, there are a couple of things which I reckon I’ll be able to enjoy – expressionism, the films, the medieval text, Rilke – and I’ve had a peek at the second year modules. I am convinced that an Old Norse module will make up for any amount of pretentious blathering by Nietzsche and Thomas Mann.

My third year is a year abroad, one which is intended to perfect your German, improve your experience of the German culture and – a gift from heaven – not really count towards your degree academically. I hope that I can persuade/bully/beg enough that I may spend at least part of my year either studying or working in a Scandinavian country (Iceland, here I come), and the other half either studying Scandinavian Studies in a German University or working on a cow farm in the Alps. Not quite decided yet. Swaying toward the cow farm at the moment, though.

I’m not going to University for the course, so I’m not going to push myself to extinction. Still, I know it’ll be very much thinking and writing and twisting and pushing and crying and hopefully some really gratifying discussions and illuminating trips. I’m going to go at this like an angry bull, and I’m going to win!

Oh, and then there’s the social life.

I’ve heard a lot of horror stories about people taking on too much and having a mental breakdown, or blowing hundreds of pounds on joining all the societies they’re interested in and never attending. I’ve also heard of friends who didn’t join anything and spent the year watching their toenails grow.

The result? After a vague poke through the university website, I’ve decided I will fill my spare time like this:

1) An LASR course in Spanish. Two hours a week for a year, I will learn Spanish. This is something I’ve wanted to master for a long time, and though I only started to teach myself about a week and a half ago, I think the time has come. Or should I say, llega la hora! 

2) Kayaking and Canoeing.  What sounds like more fun than splashing about the cold Thames in a wet suit? No, you don’t agree? I DO!!! When I lived in Florida, my Mum and neighbour took me kayaking a couple of times and I remember loving how close you are to the water, how smooth and small and integrated you feel, gliding through the Mangroves like a water bug. I’d love to kayak around Greenland, or down the Mississippi, or into Scotland. Also, I don’t mind falling in.

3) Shorinji Kempo. Not heard of it? I hadn’t either until I found it listed under the ‘Martial Arts’ section. A quick read-through gave me a good feeling – it’s based on what the Shaolin Monks did, but it’s non-violent and (compared to other martial arts) relatively non-competitive. It’s supposed to be almost like a dance, but it works your muscles just as any other martial art would. I used to quite like doing judo and I’ve still got my gi (the white suit). Here’s hoping it fits!

4) Music! Oxford’s music scene is very comprehensive, experimental and right up my street. I don’t want to spend the whole time there only with students from the university, so this is an awesome way of meeting other people who live in Oxford, and maybe join a group of musicians who like to have a good time playing instruments and writing songs. Even if this utopian mecca of musicians doesn’t appear, there are plenty of open-mic nights and other gigging opportunities so I’m going to sharpen up my singing and guitar playing and hopefully find a handful of others who I can play and write with.

5) Scandinavian Society. They organise Scandinavian movie nights. They love Scandinavia. There is NO reason for me not to make this club my life.

I’ve heard from so many people that the motto of the university isn’t actually Dominus Illuminatio Mea, but Work Hard, Play Hard. Sounds good to me!

Well, I guess I’ll see you on the flip-side…

xxx Fiona

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Pretty Handmade Bunting

One thing happened and then another thing happened.

The first thing was Fringe. The second was a bunting.

To see the bunting, scroll down.

Fringe is a television show which deals with the FBI and science and alternate Universes, yes… but really, it’s about three people and their relationship with one another. A crazy, worn, torn, lovable, genius, father, his tough, suspicious, hilarious, intelligent, sexy son and a strong, scarred, wry, practical, open-minded woman. I have such a crush on this show (and on Joshua Jackson) that I have to limit myself when describing it.

Three things that will sell it to you: complex plots, witty dialogue, fantastic acting.

FRINGE: The Fringe team returns in the FRINGE Season Three premiere airing Thursday, Sept. 23 (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX. ©2010 Fox Broadcasting Co. Pictured L-R: Blair Brown, Jasika Nicole, Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv, John Noble and Lance Reddick. CR: Andrew Macpherson/FOX

But as all good things must sadly come to an end, I reached the end of season 3, and when that post-season low hit, I had to fill it somehow.

So, seeing as yesterday was one of my friends’ birthday, it was about time I made her present (and a bag for it to go in), so here it is. I’ve made so many paper buntings recently that I’m totally pro now. Yup. That’s how to describe it.

Totally.

Pro.

The illustration of the girl is by me with ink and watercolours, and so is the ‘bag’. I made it from old file dividers.

The pictures on the bunting itself were nicked from etsy, for which I’m sorry.

The book which gave the pages was a 50p charity shop steamy romance about a woman called Sandie and a guy –a guy – called Sky. Beat that.

 

I kind of wish I could keep it. I love the animals – the walrus with a crown, the multi-coloured stag, the giraffe and the bug-crest are the best in my opinion.

What do you think? Opinions welcome on Fringe or the bunting, on TV shows you love and recommend, or DIY craft projects you’d like to see.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Homemade Art in Progress: Part 1

I’ve been thinking recently about how I’d like to decorate my room in University. University accommodation always has that distinct combined feel of a cheap hotel room -- and the broad who’s been using it to, er,  ‘entertain’. A lot of stories and history can be whispered from the tired, cracked plaster, from the green or red nylon carpet which never was in style or the creaking mattress, from the grooved table and the dust behind the dresser. After all, dust is mainly human skin. They’re stories you don’t necessarily want to dwell on for too long – especially when it comes to the bed – but definitely ones you want to augment and add to.

The sad thing is, Universities aren’t too keen on you leaving a permanent mark, so you must resort to temporary ways of making that space your own, of marking it out as separate to all those who had previous claim. You don't want to feel like you’re visiting someone else’s room while they’re on holiday. This has to be your home, your sanctuary; your love nest and your library.

One of the things which I thought would be a great addition to make the space personal is something to put on the wall – and I’m not thinking the traditional ones (Keep Calm and Carry On, a band poster etc.), though I’ll be sure to have some of those as well. No, my thought was handmade art. I’ve got a couple of pieces from friends, but even though I’m  not a very gifted artist i really wanted to make something for myself.

After a little thought, I decided on an Ainu clothing pattern. I love old, or folk patterns – the geometric shapes are beautiful, and whenever I go to a museum I am drawn to the Native American and First Nation ceramics and textiles first. The Ainu are the people indigenous to the northernmost island of Japan, Hokkaido, and have vaguely interested me for a long time. So when I came across this attus, I thought I’d give it a go.

My first step was to adapt it to a design I’d like. I cropped it, flipped it, and upped the contrast to make copying easier.

The next step was to overlay it on a grid, and then I began the painstaking process of copying out every line, which took several hours, and which I didn’t photograph.

After that was done, I copied it out again onto bigger grid paper. I also coloured it in, though that was more for fun than anything else, and they’re not the colours I’ll be using in the end.  If you look at the initial designs, you can see the swirly lines on the design, which I haven’t yet added. Those will be in red, the main body of the design in burnished orange, and the background in a warm teal. I hope I can paint it onto a little canvas, but I’ve not painted with acrylics since I was 14, so I may have to ask some friends for help.

As you might be able to tell, I’ve tinkered with the initial design a little (added two swirls on the bottom, and a few cutouts), but it’s still largely the same. If and when the project ever completes, I’ll be happy to share it with you!

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

What I want to do with my life

YouGov is an organisation which performs polls and surveys on public thought and opinions about a variety of things: everything form how you use Facebook, to how much you trust the Pope, to what kind of fridge you buy.

Today I was filling out the latest of these surveys, and this question came up:

image

I was surprised at my reaction. Sometimes questions from YouGov really make me think*, and this is certainly one of them. I was chatting to some friends about how I have no real idea of what I want to do with my life so I guess I’ll just go into teaching at  University. I’m good at teaching and I like the holidays, but it’s not (as yet, anyway) my passion. That would be  Education.

I have also considered working in Hospitality (running a Youth Hostel or working as an events manager), Travel and Tourism (working as a Tour and Adventure guide),  or even Social Work… but looking at this list, and given the option to work in any of these sectors I would choose without a breath of doubt Conservation/Environmental (or possibly Charity/Voluntary).

You can go right ahead and skip the ”since I was a child I was afraid for the whales and the trees” speech here – it’s true, but we’ve all heard or made a similar speech ourselves – and instead focus on why it’s never occurred  to me before. It’s because I somehow got it into my head that the only way to help the environment is to be one of two things: a scientist; or an intimidating, high-powered, independent business women with networking skills and a sharp business acumen who can smoothly navigate the male-dominated world to beg, bully and seduce large corporations into giving money to her cause.

imageimage

 

I am neither of those things. I mean, look at me:

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Ok, I look a little like a goofy scientist but since there is no way that’s happening, I was stuck with the business powerhouse option and I’m really not that. I’m as smooth as a Russian backroad.

So I mentally discarded that option as soon as it occurred to me and decided (with the help of friends who nicknamed me Professor Potter) that I would become an eccentric academic who can speak Old Norse but whose total of helping the environment consisted of recycling and not owning a car.

 

To cut a very very long story very very short, I’ve decided I wail try to not let this stop me. I want to travel and save the planet, though I’m not sure how my skills (languages and organisation) can do that. I could organise fundraisers, but that’s just a bit too WASPY for me. Maybe I could take a more roundabout way of saving the planet and try to stop overpopulation by increasing women’s rights in male-libido-run countries.

 

But I’m taking it too far. The point is I now have a goal. It feels good.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

My Childhood Fairytale (or: Copyright Infringement Intended)

The place where I spent the first six years of my life, where most of my family lives, and where I have visited several times a year since we had to leave is called Bavaria. It’s the largest state in Germany, and it borders the Alps. It’s magical, and yet many people don’t really know what it is.

But don’t let me tell you: Have a read of this article from the Lonely Planet. The amazing thing is that this is not exaggeration. Bavaria is ACTUALLY LIKE THIS!

 

“Bavaria unfolds across Germany’s southeast like a fairytale. Jump in the car and head out on the road to encounter some of the magic and fantasy. This fairytale is in technicolour - everything seems just a little bit brighter than usual, a little bit quainter, surprisingly cool and slightly surreal.

This is where you’ll find men in lederhosen serving up black forest gateau; women dressed in dirndl pulling mammoth-sized pints of beer; and even a tram that serves as public transport by day and turns into a disco at night, with a resident DJ spinning tunes at the back while passengers take to the aisles to dance.

This is also the land of the deep, dark woods that Little Red Riding Hood skipped through, the land of towers tall enough for Rapunzel, and charming chocolate-box houses to tempt Hansel and Gretel. Roads skirt walled villages with castles fit for Sleeping Beauty, and picture-perfect towns tumble down to lakesides where sailboats bob in the sunset in search of the Frog Prince.

PIC_0151

Throw the map out of the window and let your curiosity lead the way. As you roll into small towns in the evening you’ll be greeted by family-run bed and breakfasts and larger-than-life hospitality. You’ll be pointed in the direction of the local gaststatte where, in summer, you’ll be fed platters of fresh asparagus and new potatoes from the garden, fish caught in the local stream, and homemade sausage.

Follow the ribbon-like Romantic Road as it twists and turns its way across the region, taking you to gorgeous castles you’ve never heard of in towns with colourful architecture straight out of a film set. Get lost on the roads that wind their way up and down the hills of the Black Forest, where the summer sun filters through the canopy of trees to dapple the road in front of you.

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Hit the city. Munich is an artist’s haven with galleries, live music and markets, not to mention over-sized beer halls. This is the city that accommodates backpackers in circus tents in summer and has sidewalk champagne cafes, vibrant clubs and whimsical puppet shows.

Take a dip in the spa waters of elegant Baden-Baden, where Queen Victoria and friends soaked away their worries. Hike through the breathtaking scenery of the Bavarian Alps or hop on the cable car to reach the top of Germany’s highest peak. Paddle across Lake Constance from Lindau, an impossibly pretty town that’s watched over by blue mountains. Scoff apple strudel and pretzels and taste test your way through the 14000 schnapps distilleries.

Bavaria comes as a surprise to most visitors who soon wonder how they thought they’d manage to see it all in two weeks. You’ll leave wondering what was just around that next bend - and planning your return trip.”

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All photographs by me.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Skills I never knew I had

Today I did something I thought I could never do. Then I did, and it was awesome.

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PS… about last post’s drama, I’m just going to leave it at that. I’ve made my bed and I’m not only going to lie in it, I’m going to get comfy. Kant, come at me, brah! I can take you!

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Digging up old drama

Two things are colliding in my life. Ok, so the word ‘colliding’ is perhaps too strong. Maybe ‘coinciding and making me think’ is more appropriate.

The two things are this: I am e-mailing with an Italian friend who is studying Norwegian and is getting ready for her year abroad in Bergen; I am reading a book by Nietzsche.

Actually, I can’t be bothered to write this post right now. Consider it a taster for what is to come, and enjoy these photographs collected from various blogs I follow:

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