Sunday, 28 April 2013

/17/ Black Swan

The first week of term was incredibly hectic, as per usual in Oxford. It started with a bad hangover – the second in my life, my liver is pretty tough – from overindulging in the College Ball, which didn’t exactly prove very helpful to my trying to write two essays in about three days.

Nevertheless I wrote a pretty good one about Rilke. So good, in fact, that I had one of my best ever tutorial experiences where the tutor made me Rooibos tea and we had a genuine discussion – not a mere repetition of the critics or dissection of my essay – and it ended with him asking me if I wanted to do an Extended Essay on Rilke, which I’m still thinking about. He had four large trees in his beautiful office and I left feeling incredibly inspired.

Ellie visited me this week … such a treat!

The other highlight of the week was an immersive cinema event which two of my friends – Edd and Owen – had arranged. Immersive cinema, if the concept is somewhat unfamiliar to you, involves recreating the mood and feel of the movie to whatever extent and then watching the movie communally. Owen and Edd, working under the name of their company Hacked Off Films, have hosted Short Film Festivals before in addition to two successful immersive cinema events and I was really excited to be involved this time.

Here’s my brother. Isn’t he funny-looking?

The film was Black Swan. Guests (including my brother Niall and Ellie) arrived dressed to the nines and were offered a glass of bubbly on arrival in an elegant room, complete with modern furniture, monochrome decoration and hors d’ouevres. After a short while, two characters from the film, played by actors, held a speech from the film and the audience was then led through a maze of back rooms, stairs, corridors and rehearsal spaces, all filled and pulsing with angry dancers and stage managers, and drenched in red light. The audience then arrived on the stage, amidst practicing ballerinas, and went to find their seats before the film began.

Here is a video which was shot by The Preview Show. You can see me at 00:23!

Hacked Off Films presents Black Swan from The Preview Show on Vimeo.

You can find HOFF here:


Sunday, 21 April 2013

/16/ Cowley Road

Since August, I’ve been living in a student house near the Cowley Road, which is the artery of East Oxford. I’ve found it to be full of colour and energy (and by that I mean far more than “Oh, look, a Moroccan greengrocer!” though that is of course a valid part of it) and above all, community.

The graffiti, for example, isn’t vandalism, but rather the product of communal beautification. “Fáilte” – “welcome” – proclaims one wall, while another is decorated with a mural of Angkor Wat. Churches and community centres hold flea markets on the street corner, vintage boutiques nestle up to their scruffy charity shop siblings, and there are more cafes and restaurants from all over the world – Russia, Spain, Greece, Turkey, America, China, Thailand, Italy, Morocco - than you can count.

So here is a brief introduction to three of my favourite places on the Cowley Road:


An ice-cream parlour with three branches in Oxford, each with distinct names and atmospheres, G&Ds is a haven for students, families and tourists alike. Though they nominally serve ice cream – generous portions of handmade flavours like green tea and Bellini as well as all the traditional favourites – they also serve hot drinks, snacks, breakfast, bagels and mini-pizzas. And the best part – they’re open until midnight. Half past eleven, in your pjs, middle of an essay crisis…… ice cream sundae, anyone?


The Truck Store is an independent record-store-cum-coffee-house of undefeated hipster standing. Windows papered with flyers for gigs, bearded men and long-skirted women enjoying an americano as they listen to the latest indie-folk… it’s a pastiche of itself, and I love it even though I don't go there as often as other places (partly because my hair is very brown and center-parted, and my clothes very High Street, but mainly because it’s usually packed!).

It’s also very much a love of association, as the Truck Store is linked to and run by the same team in charge of Truck festival and WOOD festival, both of which are local folk/world/electro/indie festivals that I usually steward at and enjoy very much.


The epitome of a community shop, the People’s Supermarket is owned by the people who run it (606 at the time this was taken), and sells exclusively local or otherwise “good foods” – fair trade, wholegrain, organic, the lot. And the best bit – it’s cheap! I know that community cooperatives aren’t exclusive to Oxford, but by it’s very nature the People’s Supermarket is exemplary of the community spirit which presides in Cowley Road.

I like Cowley a lot, and I hope that I get the chance to live here again some day… or at least to be able to visit a lot once I’m gone.


Saturday, 20 April 2013

What's the point of blogging? Why I blog

On my last post, someone left an anonymous comment.

“I'm curious, who is this for, if anyone? I do something similar, but it's very private, I show it to very few people. I could never publish it like this for anyone to see, it would limit what I would feel comfortable writing too much.[...] But yeah what is your objective in writing it, what do you get out of it?”

So, Anonymous, here is your lengthy and discursive answer.

[The short answer is: “This is largely for me but it’s public so my friends can see”]

Why blog on a weekly basis in the way that I do?

  • To remember. Simply put, my weekly “/numbered/” posts are supposed to be a documentation of my life in 2013. I’m doing it so that I can look back one day and remember this year, both for posterity and because I have a bad memory which I want to train up. It’s all about documentation.
  • To live in the now, accept my changeability and not be neurotic about it. Writing weekly posts takes away the pressure of making statements of universal truth, when they will most likely actually become void after a few months. And this way you can see what things stick over time - Scandinavia, for instance!
  • To improve my photography skills and expand my photographic vocabulary. Photography is something I value highly and consciously focus my entries here around. But the fact that I struggle once I have no photos to write something engaging and interesting is something I really do have to work on and am looking forward to doing.

Why blog in public?

  • To get better at expressing myself more clearly and thereby force myself to start thinking objectively and thoroughly. This is a crucial element , and one of the primary reasons for this blog being public: it compels me to make sense of my life.
  • To resist the urge to go off on tangents. Though it isn’t a very focussed blog as it is, it is at least somewhat centred around me and my development.
  • To keep in touch. This is plainly a very pragmatic reason, but with friends scattered across the globe from Canada to Japan, it’s an important consideration.

Why blog at all?

  • To be able to have a space where I can speak freely. The things I say here are not necessarily what would you would hear if you had a conversation with me. Conversations can be skewed by social convention or the desire to assimilate with the person you’re talking to. It's a blank slate where I can figure out what it is I actually think and what is actually important.
  • To reflect on what my thoughts and decisions say about me. I hope that by charting my life on a weekly basis, I’ll be able to recognise patterns in order to decide whether my actions match my aspirations and values.
  • To appreciate my wealth: of experiences; of love; and, let’s be pragmatic, of means. That is something which I - like most people - seriously struggle with. Thankfulness, then, in short.

Who is this for?

I have always said this blog was just for me. That was partly for all the reasons I listed above, which still hold, but also because (apart from Ellie) literally nobody read my blog for a very long time, so it had to be for me. If it had been for somebody else, this would have died a long time ago.

Recently, though, more and more friends have been contacting me to say that they read what I write here. It’s really heart-warming somehow, and while I’m not really sure why that's happened, it’s made me realise something.

Though at its core, the act of documenting my life is still just for my sake, the reason that I put so much effort in (into the design, to the photography, to the words) is for those who read.

So there you go, hope that's answered the question. It's good to figure these things out!


Sunday, 14 April 2013

/15/ The Lungs of London

On Tuesday I went to London.


The rest of the week was, on the whole, grey, windy, snowy, rainy and bitterly cold. I spent most of it with my parents and brother since I went home for the last week of the Easter vacation, and life in Reading is slo-o-o-w. Pretty much all I did was read, catch up on TV (New Girl, How I Met Your Mother, Doctor Who, Hart of Dixie, Fringe and Community are my go-to’s at the moment) and occasionally shuffle outside to get some milk from the shops. But the day I spent in London shone like a beacon of light in that dark and dismal seven days, for a number of reasons.

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Firstly, I was excited because I got to see a part of the planet that I’d never seen before. Admittedly, it was only Hampstead Heath, but it was a place I’d seen countless times on television and in movies, and it seemed ludicrous that I had never visited such an iconic part of London despite living so close for over a decade. Seriously, coming to London as a teenager, I would head to Camden Market with my friends, trudge around feeling alternative for a few hours, and then head home.

Had I just stayed on the tube from King’s Cross another 20 minutes, I would have ended up near this gorgeous park, known by some as the “Lungs of London” (though that is applied to almost every park in London so probably doesn’t mean much!). And for good reason – it. is. HUGE.

I like Nature. A lot. The lack of it in a metropolis such as London is what put me off applying to UCL in the first place, despite the fact that I may well have got in to study my favourite thing – you all know it by now so chime on in – Scandinavia.

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Secondly, I got to meet up with some people from College. And after last week’s melty-squishy-I-love-my-friends entry, I’m sure it’s no surprise that I was pretty excited about that. This lovely lady’s name is Tristan, a bona fide American who is a first-year studying English at my College. She’s a girl who has got her head set solidly on her shoulders, which is one of my favourite things about her, but she’s also got such a finely tuned sense of sarcasm and bone-dry humour that she’ll often have me in splits before I realise it.

Meeting up with her along with Sarah, another first-year English student whom I dubbed “Favourite Fresher” right off the bat and never looked back, and Sam, who is simply one of my best friends, was such a treat. We got a coffee and lunch at a pretty manor house; walked around genteel North London neighbourhoods discussing this, that and the other; and played ourselves silly on a playground, where Sarah, Tris and I read poetry to one another on the swing while Sam tried to break his neck by clambering up everything. In fact, it was so enjoyable that these two touristy shots of Tris and I in front of the London skyline are the only photographs I took all day.

And knowing me, you must know that means something.


Thursday, 11 April 2013

Remembering Florida II

Half a year ago, I started to write about my life in Florida back in the nineties, and neglected to finish up… Let's pick up where we left off!

So, what do two foreign children do when they arrive in a new country?

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Well, of course, like any conscientious immigrant, we were making a concerted effort to integrate by going to a big, strange school in big, strange yellow buses.

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And after school, what better way to spend your time than hanging out with your new friends? I expect this was my 7th birthday party which, unlike the following year’s debacle (another story for a another time) looks to be a fine success.

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One of our favourite spots was an incredible playground downtown. My mum would bring us here to wreak havoc and release energy.

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Having fun in Florida!

And here’s the whole family: my dad, my mum, me, and my brother. Uprooted in 1998 from idyllic Alpine Germany and dropped into a world of fast food, fast cars, and beautiful beaches – which bizarrely closed to the public at sundown.

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Not that that stopped us from enjoying it in the daytime!

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And with views like this, who’s really complaining?

When I was a teenager in cloud-muddled Reading, I often wished I were a High School student back in Florida, a life with summer camps and malls and beaches and – from what I could glean from television – buckets of glamour.

That feeling passed, of course, but I do want to go back to see the Everglades, eat Key Lime Pie in an art deco cafe, and spend the day reading a book on the beach. My one big regret is that we failed on a magnificent scale to stay in touch with anyone from that time. A lesson I have now learned!


Sunday, 7 April 2013

/14/ Little Miss Vulnerability

I was having a little think about what to write this week (no doubt that will be up in a few days if you are interested in an in-depth exploration of why I blog) but after stumbling across this dormant blog where a girl literally just documented her life as a student in Trondheim, I thought what the hell, I’ll just document. Also, my girl Ellie is an icon for me of balancing honesty with story-telling so that’s what I’m aiming for here. I’ve been chatting to a friend lately about the vulnerability of my blog, and I’m trying to decide whether that’s something I want to reign back or embrace. Let’s see how this goes…


I had a really good week.

  • I went to Pizza Hut with a friend from College who is in the year above and works in the College bar and who has lately become one of my closest friends. We went to have a quick lunch and gorge ourselves on unlimited salad and pizza, but somehow ended up staying for at least two hours, talking about nothing in particular and trying to fend off an overly enthusiastic waiter.
  • When seeing telethon friends in London after just a week apart, we got stupidly excited, to the point that we largely giggled for at least the first hour after which we lapsed into a back-and forth of conversation interspersed with regular bouts of bone-rattling laughter.
  • Catching a train north to Rugby and chatting the time away with my travel companion about Norway and Oxford and other things and sometimes no things at all made the journey pass in the blink of an eye.
  • And finally, I finished the week by celebrating a friend’s birthday with a silly, post-adolescent, uninhibited talk/dance/drink/sleep party which made everything right with the world. I twisted and shouted to an odd and wonderful collection of songs, looked at baby pictures of the birthday boy, dozed off on a human pillow, and had ice cream for breakfast. Yum!


The best part of all this is that I felt like I belonged with those people and like the person filling up the space between my skin and my bone marrow was really me. It was such a pronounced sensation of affection and comfort, buoyed by limitless laughter and soothed by easy silence, that I thought it was worth writing down.

I’ve not felt that happy and at home since I went to Iceland at the beginning of what would end up being an unplanned Gap Year, where I met two groups of extraordinary people who felt like family, and where I had experiences which made me want to dance and sing and laugh and write for ever until I became art and joy.

(That wonderful feeling lasted two weeks by the way, and when the comedown came - and how it did, like a sledgehammer in the belly of the night - it left me feeling bitterly alone, and I thought it would never end. The feeling carried on, much to my displeasure, during my first year of University, and though surrounded by people, I felt so separate that it seemed more realistic I would forge a meaningful relationship with the solitary inhabitant of a remote star than with my next-door neighbour in College.)


Bearing this in mind, the fact that I have spent the last week (the last few weeks, in fact!) buzzing around from friend to friend, is quite brilliant! Having good friends is more awesome than growing space rockets on your feet and being able to fly around to exotic destinations, pissing rainbows and trilling like a prepubescent chorister.*

See, I was wrong; about everything from a fortnight in Iceland being the high point of my life,  to the remoteness of my next door neighbour, who has actually turned out to be an excellent person that I value more than I'd find easy to say.


Fiona is happy and things are good. This was quite tiring to write though, back to normal next week. I miss my camera; these photos were all taken back in October.


*this actually sounds quite stressful to be fair.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Ten Reasons: Why I want to travel

AKA 10 Reasons Why I Plan On Travelling After University Instead Of Staying Or Settling In England, Especially In Oxford Or London (At Least Not Straight Away)

This is long and winding. Feel warned.

My plan after university is vague. First, it’s far off (I have two years to go) but yes, it is not clear-cut. The plan, if it can be called that, is to TRAVEL. To do as much volunteering and studying as I can afford, in as many and varied places as I can, and to work when I need more money by teaching English or taking on barwork or being an au pair. That’s the dream. To travel the globe, Madagascar to Colombia to Mongolia to Iceland to Peru and not to stop until something bigger compels me. Something like love or tiredness or satiation.

BUT WHY? I’ve never been able to give a satisfactory answer to the question of why not just one year, why not with more focus, why not go to London and use it as a base, why not stay in Oxford? Don’t get me wrong, I know nobody’s judging, I know my dreams are tame compared to those of many others, I know that I might be worn out after 6 months, but I think a lot of people are just interested in my motivations of having a life which will be hard and unpredictable and scary and lonely.

So here you go. For me and for you. Mainly me though, it’s a word-storm.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER: These are very personal reasons. These are not rules I impose on others; I am not, nor have I ever been, judgmental. My desire to travel is a personal one which probably has to do with insecurity about belonging and not having a fixed national identity; a long-held shyness, lack of independence, and self-doubt I want to overcome; and a battering ram of childhood and adolescent messiness. Just to repeat, I DO NOT THINK that it is cowardly and lazy not to foolishly, blindly fling yourself across international borders. I think it shows more strength to find fulfilment and joy within than to rush about the planet and clumsily hope for enlightenment. And I really do mean that, these words are not platitudes or excuses.

All photos by me.

Alpine Austria

1. It would be cowardly and lazy to stay where I am when there’s a world to see. It’s frightening and hard and failure-ridden to abandon yourself to the planet without a concrete backup (no parental couch to crash on, since they will live in a tiny flat in Munich, no MA lined up, no job lined up, no PLAN...) but I want to be brave. Being cowardly and lazy by staying will lead me to stagnation and ennui. I will have no respect for myself, and will feel like I turned away from something great to have something bland and miserable. a bleak, inferior existence void of purpose or fulfilment.

Dordrecht, The Netherlands

2. To stay in England, especially London, would have something of the Stepford Wives about it. Further to the cowardliness and laziness point, which is an internal factor based on myself and my character traits, I think there is this external factor of eeriness and the pre-ordained about leaving Oxford and going to London. We all have to find a way to full inhabit our world, and my world is EVERYWHERE and it is OUT THERE. I don’t mean this to sound as pretentious as it does, this compulsion is hard to verbalise. To stay here, before tasting the world would feel like I was not only born brainwashed, but accepting that brainwashing, by consciously assenting to submit to England.

Prague, Czech Republic

3. I want to be more than a tourist. Being a tourist suggests I have a base to return to. I want to live in these places for longer than a few weeks and have them be my base for a while. I want my base to change every six to 12 months for five years. I have to fully divorce myself from any one place - be that Oxford, Munich, London, or wherever my parents end up - in order to be in a position to really be free. Only then can I freely settle, not as a result of some umbilical connection, but as an fully grown and independent woman. And then I may well come back to the UK. This idea no longer makes my stomach churn, as it once did, back when I was a silly and petulant teenager (like I’m so mature now...)

Nordland, Norway

4. I want to learn lots of languages. This is partly career-based and partly an uncontrollable impulsive urge, the driving force of my life’s decisions.

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Berlin, Germany

5. I want to brutally push through INTO myself and that will not happen if I wrap myself in the cotton wool of England or Europe or even the USA. I need to teach in South American slums or work in an health centre in Africa or hike across Greenland to fully know and “find” myself. I have to do things which evoke feelings, even if those feelings are fear or loneliness. This is very “Gap Yah” but “finding yourself” is a worthy cause.

Barcelona, Spain

6. I want to have fun and see nice things and do interesting stuff like paraglide with Eagles or go ice-fishing or learn to dance.

Paris, France

7. I want to utilise every moment that I am not depressed, because who knows how long it will last before I am ill, tired, sad again... and then who knows if I will get better again like I thankfully did six months ago.

Ithaca, Greece

8. Travel is how I measure self-worth. Basically, I see myself as lesser to those who have travelled lots. others mark their achievements by children or money or academic success or fame; I mark it by experience of the planet and by travel. It’s a matter of pride, even arrogance, and is unrealistic as many people have either got more money (through parents or through employment, the source is irrelevant) or had different opportunities growing up (a parent whose work required them to travel often, parents who had the means and the desire to show third children the world, or schools which encouraged and subsidised international trips). This is childish. I want to let this go but it’s quite ingrained so that will take time.

Geysir, Iceland

9. I have to tick the strange places off my bucket list, things people marvel at, things people don’t usually do, or places people don’t usually travel to. Vanity and curiosity combined push me to see Georgia, Greenland, Mongolia, Colombia, Socotra, Algeria, Svalbard, the Falklands, and Reunion. Not (at least not only) Turkey, India, Costa Rica, USA, Australia, Morocco, China, Madagascar. It has to be strange. That is frightening; I am BRICKING it. But I want to be special, and being in special places makes me feel like a unique snowflake. A trembling, hyper-alive snowflake.

Joshua Tree, USA

10. I want to have the power to decide I belong in the place that I settle. As I mentioned above, I would not mind settling in London; but I NEED, I NEEEEEED to see the world first, all of it, and then CHOOSE London, rather than accepting that it has been chosen for me by custom or precedent. It would be so much easier to go to London in two years, to slip into a city job or teacher training, but I want to fight for the place I choose rather than always feel like I have not been accepted. WOAH HELLO CHILDHOOD ISSUES.

London, UK

And finally, I’ve just not really considered doing anything else. It feels right. I will do it for a while at least, until I change my mind of course! I will come home when I’m done,  and “home” might then be London.

And it might not.