Tuesday, January 26, 2010

On Resolution

(1) Rediscover silence. There is no opportunity for quiet here, really. Everywhere you go there is background noise, usually music. This is a nation obsessed with music - in the metro stations (where they play classical music in the evenings to keep drunken youths out!), in supermarkets, in shopping centres. Add to this a house in which at least three of the following can always be heard: a loud and violent game on X-box, CSI or similar on the tv, The Big Bang Theory on a laptop in the SAME ROOM as a tv, a very loud boiler, a poppity-ping, and someone running up or down stairs. This is not a recipe for tranquillity and contemplation. I think I am distracting myself too much with the delights of youtube and my DVD collection, so I think a little more reflection and quietness would not go amiss.

(2) Stop sitting still. This may sound like it contradicts (1) but it's part of the whole trying-to-avoid-meaningless-distraction. And also getting more exercise, which boosts my mood and my energy levels. Ideally, this becomes a postitive cycle. Anyway, the idea is that when I've got an hour to kill, I go for a walk or cook a more elaborate meal rather than watching youtube and eating speculoos biscuits.

(3) Don't wait. This really is the key resolution for this year. If there's something I want to do, I'm going to try and make it happen. I have a tendency to wait - I'm not really sure what for. For it to happen on its own, or for someone else to guess and make it happen for me - I have no idea. But it really would be a waste for me to spend my time waiting for something which I could have achieved or experienced in the same amount of time.

Notably absent from this list are the things which people (read: my parents) would probably like to see. Key to these being punctuality, being more accountable, and getting a decent job. My current attitude is that, if I can incorporate the three ideas above into my life more effectively over this next year, then things like punctuality and accountability will naturally follow. I'll keep telling myself this, thank you very much.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Expat Excitement

This is the second time I've lived abroad, and the longest, and I am firmly convinced that something strange happens to the wiring in your brain.

I've been to two expat shops in the last week, courtesy of an English friend of mine here. There's an Irish shop a few metro stops away, and an English shop just out of town. She was amused by my reactions in both - I went around squealing and gasping my appreciation at finding items I would never buy normally in the UK. Oh, the excitement at seeing clotted cream, Hovis flour and Cadbury's chocolate! I swear, I nearly fainted when I found the Battenberg and Cherry Bakewells. (He does make exceedingly good cakes, doesn't he?) They had Dip-Dabs, sherbert lemons and sour Skittles. It was like going back in time - I can't remember the last time I had a Dip-Dab, I used to eat them with my sister when we were wee things. (No liquorice toffees, though!)

I did of course spend far more than I should have done, which will result on some fairly strict budgeting for the next couple of weeks. I did get tahini, so I can have a go at making my own hummus soon. And Wensleydale cheese and some pickle, for sandwiches. (This country makes 80 different types of cheese, why am I buying Wensleydale??)

This is the thing. I only came back from England a couple of weeks ago, but it was like a starving man at a feast. Heinz spaghetti hoops in a tin - I ask you! What was I thinking?? It does strange things to your brain, does living abroad. Or perhaps it's just me?

Friday, January 15, 2010

On feet, and the worship thereof

So half an hour ago, the world was a terrible place. Oh woe, cried I, woe and thrice woe! I was exhausted, having spent three times as long as normal coming home from school because I had to skate up an iced-over footpath for several klicks. This meant my afternoon was effectively non-existent, and I only had time to go to a cash point, discover that my account has been blocked (AGAIN), and then get to the bank 3 minutes after closing. And let's not even mention the housemates (male) who apparently think that the dishwasher is loaded and unloaded by a pixie who lives in the still-not-replaced-lightbulb in the kitchen. (Whoops - too late!)

But then - ah, then! - I washed my feet. It's such a small thing, but somehow washing your feet in soap and hot water, massaging in some scavenged remnants of body lotion and following this with a newly clean pair of socks makes the world brighter. Suddenly, I'm drinking a cup of tea and remembering all the good things that happened today: the brilliant lesson with the 4th before lunch, signing on to a distance-learning course on the history of the English Country House, and (weirdly) waking up BEFORE my alarm clock went off this morning. (Does anyone else love doing that? I just hate the jolting-awake-panic-what-is-being-killed reaction I get when the alarm goes off. I feel it is the legacy of early morning fire drills/alarms at boarding school.)

The contents of my shopping basket today: bread, milk, two tomatoes and a cabbage. I won't tell you how excited I was at how much cabbage you can get for €1,49.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Facing the fear

I feel like the beneficiary of what is, as those who know me would readily testify, a small miracle. It is a very simple thing: I have had two solid days of focus, productivity and, I think largely as a result of that, satisfaction. I feel happier and lighter (in a worries-weighing-on-me way, not a post-Christmas-diet way) than I have in a depressingly long time. So three cheers for early mornings and crossing things off the to-do list.

One example of this list is my bicycle. As part of my efforts to live a greener lifestyle, I brought my bicycle over a couple of months ago. However, very soon some bright spark of a student at the school I work at lowered the seat and let some air out of my tyres while I was teaching. I didn't realise this until I was halfway home, me not being the most technically-minded of human beings. (Hang on, something isn't quite right with this bike. What is it? It's not the handlebars, it's not the pedals...)

I came equipped with pump and bike spanner, but I hit a snag. I had never done any kind of maintenance work on my bike myself - I usually turn it over to my dad or to a professional paid for by my dad. (Ditto my old car). I was - deepbreathconfessiontime - afraid. I didn't think I would be able to figure it out, let alone do it right. So the bicycle has sat in the corner, looking at me reproachfully, and has figured in ever more strident terms (Bicycle! BICYCLE!! BIKE!!!!!) on my to-do list. This evening, I took a deep breath, hauled the bike into the living room (biggest floor space) and had a look at the pump. And lo and behold, it was easy! The bike is now ready to be ridden to all my appointments for the next week (snow depending), thus saving me (a) the walk or (b) the tram fare.

Talk about a lesson in having a go. It's so silly to worry about such a simple little task, and yet this procrastination is something I do over and over again. Hopefully this good streak will last the week. That is my goal. Is it achievable? Well, I've only eaten three biscuits today, which is brilliant for me, so this may be a good sign.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Little things

Long time, no blog.

I have been thinking recently about how much difference the little things make. As Sherlock Holmes says in the new film (which was *ahem* rather creative with the original characters), the little details can be the most important.

In this case, the things that have cheered me up in the last few days have included: polishing my boots with half an onion (woohoo! No need to buy polish), drinking multiple cups of tea after The Day There Was No Milk Anywhere, and beginning to crochet a blanket with the wool in my bag. Why is that, whatever is on my mind, I feel an immense sense of peace as soon as I pick up a hook? The world somehow makes sense when I'm crocheting. I don't care about the large pile of marking, the current state of my finances and the fact that all the people I care most about in the world feel terribly far away from me (yes, I know, it's no distance at all really, but it feels far).

Partly the black cloud is due to the natural response to a fantastic Christmas/New Year period, full of family and old friends and dangerous things like elderberry gin. The fun times were paced out by volunteer work for Crisis at Christmas, which was immensely rewarding and thought-provoking. It really makes me appreciate what I have, and it's definitely something I'll be doing again.

Anyway, I'm off to rearrange things and otherwise pretend to myself that I'm busy. I wish you all a productive January!


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