Wednesday HodgePodge makes a brief comeback

It’s been a while since I did a HodgePodge as most Tuesdays for the last 6 months I’ve been travelling through to Glasgow at 8 a.m., going straight to our Soul Surfer community evenings and getting to bed around Midnight…and going to work the next morning. However, today I’m at home writing an essay sooo I thought I’d spring back into the HodgePodge this week… (others might call it procrastination).

1. Thursday marks the first day of spring…to celebrate would you rather plant a garden or go for a walk in the woods? Would either of those activities be possible on Thursday where you live?

I’d rather walk in the woods. I’m most definitely not a gardener. My friends Nicola and Vicky have over the last few years inspired me with a desire to try out growing my own fruit and veg, but I do not enjoy gardening at all so I think this is more of a fantasy notion than something that will become reality! Technically it is possible, there are some woods on a hill that go around Edinburgh Zoo, but I’ll likely be at work or at home/cafe/library studying.

2. When did someone last spring something on you? (or when did you last spring something on someone?)

My uni lecturer sprung on me that I wouldn’t be conducting my ‘Freirian Learning Experience’ on 25th Feb as I previously thought on my last days in Germany. Which I found out through another classmate rather than from him. Instead, I had to do it last week, and so I’m only getting to do my assignment now the same week as a lot of things are going on at work. I wasn’t too chuffed!

3. We often think of spring as a time for new beginnings. What’s something you’d like to start doing this spring?

Spring isn’t usually that time for me – Autumn is.  However, I have decided to try and go ‘indie’ - by shopping more locally. It’s something I’d like to continue doing, and it’s quite challenging and really making me think about organising myself, where I’m spending and what I consume out of convenience.

4. Where do you like to sit in a movie theatre? When did you last sit there, and what were you watching?

I like to be near the back. I went to the cinema on Saturday with my Mamma Bear and we saw The Grand Budapest Hotel but we ended up being more in the middle of the room where it was being screened. I missed a number of films being busy with uni, work and being away at university in Germany for two weeks last month. I was in the back row in January when my friend and I saw The Railway Man which meant I got to view the entire theatre just sitting in silence as the credits rolled. It was a powerful, poignant moment.

5. When you meet someone for the very first time, what do you want them to think about you?

I hope that they find me friendly, kind and care about things.

6. March is frozen food month (yes, really!). Besides ice cream (gotta make you think a little) what’s your most often purchased frozen food item?

I rarely buy anything from the frozen food section. I buy ice lollies (popsicles to you Americans I think?) and ice cream in summertime. I may buy some frozen berries to put in my porridge (oatmeal) in winter time. But that’s it.

7. What’s something you avoid?

Anything that might make me be sick or mean that I’ll see or hear someone be sick. I’m severely emetophobic. My classmates were awesome about it when we were flying to Germany which I really appreciated.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I was super pleased that the Today Show shared the PSA from Dublin Airport about how you should NEVER call Ireland’s patron saint ‘Patty’ yesterday (Monday):

dublin airport notice

Just in case you’re still confused, Irish name for Patrick is Pádraig  and people called Patrick in both Ireland or Scotland are known as ‘Paddy‘ which is a diminutive form of Patrick.  Patty is short for Patricia.

There’s even a twitter account now @PaddyNotPatty pointing out tweets like these:

“It is st patty’s day for st Patrick. Paddy is an old slang for an Irish person” 

“When did the internetz change it to Paddy?”

So if you were one of the people that has been getting muddled, they will forgive you. But please correct your greetings next year. And the paddynotpatty team correct you in good jest (and because it’s a major pet peeve of the Irish). Spread the word to fellow celebrators of the blarney in the continent of North America. :)

Things you wouldn’t think needed to be said…

You know how you get ridiculous signs or warnings on things that make you think ‘well, DUH!’ and then immediately wonder which person in a state of idiocy attempted doing something you obviously shouldn’t do?

Well, a friend of mine noticed this on the list of items you are prohibited to take on the carriage of a Eurostar train. Just in case you were thinking the answer to packing less clothes was to take a washing machine be warned Eurostar travellers the following items are prohibited from the train carriage:

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Numerous images popped into my head…

Firstly of someone arguing with Eurostar staff that they want to take their own armchair on the train for  a comfier journey. Or perhaps a berka lounger.

Secondly who has a suitcase big enough to carry a large plasma tv screen in?

And the obvious (to me) question of: WHO THE HECK WOULD ASSUME THAT YOU COULD TAKE A DISHWASHER ON A TRAIN AND PUT IT IN THE CARRIAGE LUGGAGE RACK?!!

You can read the full list here and please note that they were assuming you knew you couldn’t smoke in the train toilet or clamber over a seat (which begs the question – is standing on the seat to get your luggage in the overhead shelves ok? I do that on trains regularly because I’m too short to reach otherwise).

The mind boggles really.

Or is that just my mind?

J’adore

It’s hard to believe but it was almost exactly five years ago I headed down to Watford for a training day in preparation for going to South Africa. For me, that trip is so connected with this blog, because I had so much love, encouragement and support from my awesome online community that got me there, and sustained me while I was there.

In all the trips I’ve done where I had no control over who I’d share a room with, I’ve had the best roommates. My friend Gill when we were doing an Erasmus IP in Spain. The fabulous Daniela and Kapook when we were in Germany. And when I was in South Africa it was the awesome Ruky.

July 2009

July 2009

We met up last summer after four years of distance, and I’m so excited to have booked tickets last night to travel to Paris in May to have another roomie reunion. I only got one day in Paris during my interrail trip in 2002, and I’ve always wanted to go back so this is the best excuse to go ever to spend a few days catching up with a great friend. And this time I’ll be a lot less naive about where the Moulin Rouge is.

I know that I’m almost done with my first year of uni and will have a few months off – during which time some of my uni friends will graduate and perhaps leave the country (noooo).  Next summer I might be pulling my hair out trying to do a Masters dissertation and won’t get to take time off for holidays and festival fun. So with that in mind I’m trying to make the most of having a summer to enjoy things. For five years I didn’t leave the UK. Now I’m going out the country TWICE in one year, and my Mum is talking of the two of us going away somewhere for a few days to celebrate me entering my 30s. One of my best friends is having another baby (a new honourary niece and nephew arrives this summer)! Not to mention the tickets I have to see the gymnastics at the Commonwealth Games. And hoping that there’ll be lots of shows that coincide with non-work days in August during Edinburgh Festivals season…

All this to say I’m really looking forward to this summer.

I’m so aware that everything could be taken away or change in an instant, so I want to take every opportunity to have fun.

I’m taking bookings for fun appointments friends!

Going Indie for Lent

It’s coming up for six months since I started my postgraduate studies. One of the things that I’ve been challenged to think about more by having lots of conversations with my classmates is my politics, my eating and spending habits.

So I decided to try an experiment during Lent.

For Lent I’m ‘going indie’. I’m not a huge fan of rules, so I’m going to call these guidelines. But this is what I’m doing to challenge myself in where I spend my money…

1. I’m only allowed to visit a supermarket once a week, and only to buy ‘normal’ groceries. This means food, cleaning products and so on. 

This rule may have to be bent slightly if I can’t find Leonardo the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle in a toy shop and it turns out to be available to buy in a supermarket. (He’s Elastaboy’s favourite turtle and I’m trying to get him one for his birthday).

2. During the week I can only buy food and snacks in Independent places.

This means no popping into the ‘Tesco Express’ or ‘Sainsburys Local’. No Subway either. And definitely no Costa or Starbucks. This could make the mornings I don’t manage to get up in time to make breakfast slightly more interesting…

3. No shopping online when there is an in-person option.

Books will be bought in bookshops. Because I don’t want bookshops to close down. CDs and DVDs will be bought in shops too for much the same reason. Clothes will be bought in shops. Birthday presents will be bought in shops.

4. If there’s a fairtrade option, only that can be bought.

Even when Lindt chocolate is on offer in Sainsbury’s.

5. Trying to avoid the corporate brands and go for the indie ones.

I will confess that I spent some money in TopShop at the weekend because I needed new pants (Gok Wan would totally throw out the contents of my underwear drawer. Especially as our washing machine seems to enjoy putting holes in my clothes at the moment). However they are noted as a FairTrade clothing company by the Fairtrade Foundation. So I guess better them than H&M?

But I will be endeavouring to go to more locally owned places. Like my favourite Indie clothing shop, Cookie.

6. Hello indie cinemas.

Sorry Cineworld, Odeon and Vue. I will not be visiting you with your overpriced popcorn and masses of really crappy films. Hello cinemas that are supporting and showing more independent films and documentaries!

So they are my aims for the moment. My hope is to encourage places trying to keep it local/ethical/fairly traded! Have you got any advice for how I can keep going indie? 

(Just some of) the Women who inspire me

It’s International Women’s Day. In no way is this going to be an exhaustive list, but I just wanted to write about some of the women who have really inspired me. Some I only know from media, others I’ve met and there are many that I am privileged to call friends.

Nicola. One of the inspirational women I get to call my friend, and have done since she came to Aberdeen in 2005 and we began ‘Tea, Prayer and One Tree Hill’. I’ve already embarrassed her on facebook today, but I’m hoping she’s given it up for Lent or something. My fellow alien on Planet Christian, who has challenged me to be more faithful in God to provide, to tithe, to spend my money in more ethical places, to read more widely, to not give up shouting about injustice, and not to be afraid of who I am. Currently training to be an Anglican vicar and having to come up against people who believe that as a woman she shouldn’t even be one. She’s going to make one kick ass vicar, and like I said on facebook, I would not be shocked (and I’ve told her on several occasions) that I reckon one day she’ll be a Bishop. And if that happens she’s going to lead ethically, justly and humbly. Because that’s in her character.

Me and Nicola

Miss Flinderella. I met this girl online, and four years ago, I got to meet her in person. I love her passion for feminism and standing up for not slagging off women because of how they look. I love how she has stood up for teenage mothers and the stigma that is often put on them. I love that she has had the courage to go back to university and is now doing a PhD. Yes. A PhD. When this postgraduate student (ie me) was until very recently trying to avoid writing a simple Masters dissertation at all costs so she is putting me to shame! She was the first person to wish me a Happy International Women’s Day and she daily encourages me to be a better person than I am, because she sets high standards for me!

Lupita Nyong’o. I said to my friend the other day that I want to ask this woman to marry me. Her grace. Her poise. Her eagerness to learn. Her passion. Her joy. This speech. She is beauty personified, and I don’t mean just outwardly. She is beautiful inside and out, and  I  was so impressed by her fearless portrayal of Patsey in 12 years a slave.

Chimamanda Adichie. I’ve spoken of this lady often. After many conversations late into the night (well not that late, we were up so early every day!) with my friend I shared a room with in Durban, finding her TED talk on the Danger of the Single Story was a revelation and I wanted to be in the room cheering her on. Let there be more Lupitas and Chimamandas to encourage us not to just share single stories.

Rebecca. Another blog turned in real life friend. This girl is one of the most loyal and thoughtful friends you could have. She sends you random post in the mail. She throws awesome parties. And she worked darned hard to become a nurse. She cares deeply not only about her patients, but their loved ones too. She is honestly one of the first friends I made after I became a Christian that I didn’t feel awkward around or judged by. She is creative, compassionate, caring, courageous. She has blogged openly and honestly about her personal battle with depression and anxiety helping everyone to have a better understanding of the illness and how we can better support loved ones suffering from depression.

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Ruth. Ruth was an online friend when we went to the same church in the same city. And then we found each other. And we did Inter:act at the same time. And once that was all over she left the city but we’ve kept in good contact. We’ve even been on holiday together. She is an introvert and I’m an extrovert. It sounds really daft, but I’ve always been inspired by how Ruth will get up and go do stuff. Me? I’m always sitting in the house with the time to do something and not doing it because I don’t have someone to do it with. I’m trying to learn to be more like Ruth! She is also great with kids and passionate about helping them to learn. Not teaching them, but creatively helping them learn (I believe there’s a difference).

Beth Tweddle. Britain’s most successful gymnast ever. She is only a year younger than me. What impresses me about Beth is her diligence, her work ethic, and the fact that she blazed a trail for both male and female gymnasts in the UK that simply wasn’t there before. Not only that but I’ve heard her cheering fellow gymnasts from the stands when she was out with injury. She never gave up. I love her passion for inspiring young people, and love that her response to internet trolls has been to support charities that are dealing with internet safety and cyber bullying.

Meredith Vieira. I think I found this lady because she interviewed American gymnasts, and then I started noticing other interviews. I loved that she was unashamedly a woman working in a male dominated business. I loved that she had a husband and kids but also worked. I loved that she was always looking great without showing a ton of skin. I love that she was a woman older than my mother not trying to look younger and hadn’t been written off the television. I loved her personality and how she didn’t take herself too seriously, but took respecting others very seriously. I also love her new YouTube channel: Lives with Meredith Vieira.

A friend of Meredith is Ann Curry, and I know that is a woman who inspires Holly. Holly inspires me because she is not afraid to be herself. She bravely shared a series on atheism on her blog and sadly lost some blog readers due to the fact they were so ‘offended’ by her beliefs and those of her guest bloggers, that were different from their own. She has watched her home city be devastated by earthquakes. She has gone through scary treatments for kidney disease, and like Rebecca, she has been willing to share the ups and downs of her journey and battles with it. She has moved to a country on the other side of the world from home. She has embraced her curls much better than I’ve (not) embraced mine.

Kathy. When I first met Kathy & her husband I thought they didn’t like me or just thought I was weird. It was only when they laughed a lot about my incident with a trolley in a supermarket car park that I realised that even if they did think I was a complete fruit loop, they liked me anyway. A more generous pair I dare you to find. Kathy has this amazing discipline and work ethic. I don’t know how she did it travelling the world, working crazy hours and still finding time to bake gluten free brownies for someone as a treat or making a vat of soup to be taken to feed the homeless. She is super intelligent (folks, she can do MATHS!), she makes the best brownies in the world, she knits, she walks, she travels and she wears jeans. She uses her knowledge of business and mixes it with her creative talents to proactively find solutions to inequality. And I can always rely on her to challenge me when I’m in need of an attitude adjustment. And she’s a fab mother to her son.

Vicky. Where do I begin? She was my first new friend when I moved back to Edinburgh. She is like my community education buddy because she loves it too. She is an eco warrior. She is an awesome mum, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard her yell or shout. Her discipline is always so gentle, and if I ever get the chance to be a parent, I know that I’ll be a better parent because of what I’ve learned from observing her parenting in action. She is a fantastic artist and uses art to get people thinking. She is generous with her time and so open with her resources. Not least of which is her home.

Olympic torch relay

Carrie. My friend of more than 10 years now. The woman who had met me once, but was willing to come and retrieve me in the middle of the night when I had dehydrated myself so badly for fear of having to use a portaloo covered in puke I’d collapsed at a music festival.  She has always given care, advocacy and consistency to vulnerable people, whether it be children in care or adults with disabilities. In every community she has lived in she has  actively sought to provide opportunities for disadvantaged and/or vulnerable people. She makes awesome cakes. She lets her sons make a mess, try new things and let’s them fall so they can learn to pick themselves back up again. She has two confident young boys as a result! She also did me the honour of asking me to be both her bridesmaid and her firstborn’s godmother.

There are also many, many other friends and ladies from over the years. I’d say every single member of my Senior Section Unit. The Girlguiding Leaders that I work with currently. My Ranger Leader, Penny and her daughters. Many of my high school friends. Many of my university friends. So many gymnasts (not just Beth!). Clare Balding. Sarah Millican. Joanna Rowsell. Friends from church. Friends from workplaces past and present. Malala Yousafzai.

Oh so many women. And this is just a handful.

We have the ability to make the world a better place just as much as dudes do. :)

So let’s do it!

A (belated) post on World Book Day

On Thursday it was World Book Day. I’ve been a long time book worm – totally my mother’s fault for teaching me to read when I was 3. I consumed books like they might go extinct. University has probably had a negative effect on my love of reading and how much I read, but there are few things I enjoy more than perusing books in a book shop.

One thing that hasn’t disappeared is my love of children’s literature, and it is a dream of mine to do the CBeebies bedtime hour and to write books for children. I’m going to be very sad when my friends’ kids grow up because I love finding new fun books for them to enjoy!

I was lucky enough to be brought up by my Nana while my Mum worked full-time (how on earth she found the time and energy to teach me to read too is beyond me). If ever we went up town I would be allowed to choose a Puddle Lane book which you could get in the small supermarket that was in the St James’ Centre for less than £1. It says a lot that when my friend and I went to the Edinburgh Vintage Fair earlier in the year, in a room full of funky clothes, trinkets and jewellery I got most excited on discovering a pile of the Ladybird books from the 70s and 80s. Apparently my excitement was so amusing Jenny had to take a picture of the moment…

vintage books

 

My friend Andy tagged me in one of those facebook memes. My brother bemoans that I post too much on facebook, but as Andy so rarely participates in things like that I couldn’t not. And in celebration of World Book Day I thought I would share what I wrote here. The idea was to list 10 of your favourite books.
10. The No 1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Smith. Yes, it is no secret that I’m a huge AMS fan. I wish I was more like Mma Ramotswe, but probably Mma Potokwani (the bossiness)/Mma Makutsi (those glasses and shoes!) is more accurate. And I love reading books set in Southern Africa – we need more diversity in the arts of film, drama and literature to combat the danger of the single story…

9. Harry Potter (the whole series) by J.K. Rowling. Thanks uni friends for dragging me to see the film which give me the encouragement to give the books another go. I started reading them on trains around Europe and ended uni by graduating with their author.

8. Behind the Scenes at the Museum by Kate Atkinson. Used this book for my Higher English Specialist Study. And I still like to read it. Miraculous

7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. The only book I was MADE to read in high school and actually liked. Well done old sport.

6. Maisie the Cat books by Aileen Patterson. I still love finding these in the children’s section of bookstores around Edinburgh. Blackwells even has a Maisie the Cat puzzle to mark the anniversary of James Thins this year.

5. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. Pretty much the only book on the weirdness of trying to explain faith and belief in God I identify with.

4. Dinosaurs Love Underpants by someone called Claire I think (I can’t remember). I came across this book helping a friend who was trying to find a present for his nephew one year, and so glad I did. My honourary nephews love this book and their sequels!

3. The Bible. To be fair, more of a series than one book. And some of the books are not my favourites. But the Book of Proverbs is good for some wisdom and Song of Songs is the ancient version of Mills and Boon making for some amusing reading…

2. My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. I love the way Jodi writes from different character’s perspectives showing how life’s decisions are not necessarily black and white ‘right or wrong’ but often far more complex.

1. Tully by Paullina Simons. My favourite book since my friend lent me a copy when we were about 15 – I soon got my own copy and it is without a doubt one of the tattiest looking books on my shelf now it has been re-read so many times.

Of course, as soon as I posted it I realised that I’d missed an important one off the list: The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. I’m not sure how to fix that, so I’ll just make it a bonus 11.

One thing I’m hoping for is that we get another summer like 2013. As I walked passed Princes Street Gardens seeing flowers in bloom already, it made me think of putting a book and a jumper to use as a blanket in my bag to sit in the sunshine after work reading Fitzgerald or a bit of Alexander McCall Smith…and to the Edinburgh book festival in August…

I’ve already got a pile of books waiting for me to finish my final uni assignment of this school year… :)

What are your favourite books?

Some thoughts on gossip mags…

One of the things I despise about our culture, and I’m actively trying to stop being a part of is our love of gossip.

It permeates our culture in so many ways. I’ve found out way more than I ever needed to know about people through people praying in a group with me or asking me to pray for people. And it makes me really sad to see women – women sometimes that I really admire – with a copy of Heat magazine (or similar).

Last year, for International Women’s Day, the girls in our Senior Section made collages about women they admire. I was home sick with flu at the time, and they also made me a Get Well Card collage too. You wouldn’t believe how tough it was to find magazines with pictures and real substantial interviews. Most of the magazines on the shelves of stores were filled with papparazzi photos to slag off what they were wearing, eating or critiquing their bodies. The articles inside not sharing about what they are doing, how they do it and why they do it.

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Why is it that some of our British newspapers are still including glamour models as part of the daily news spreads?

Why is it that photographers are hanging outside the schools or doctor surgeries of children who just happen to have a parent who is an actor?

Why is it that journalists thought it was ok to hack phones or pay off hospital staff to get information on whether a celebrity is pregnant or just given birth before their families even know?

Because we’ll gladly pay for it. Click on the internet link and share it on twitter or facebook. We’ll purchase that magazine with a made up scandal or badly taken photograph on the cover to read its contents. And we’ll watch trashy TV like Fashion Police.

We have a long way to go when it comes to equality. And it really has to start with us. We want to see women be the lead actor in films? We need to go support the films that are doing that. We want to see and read journalism that isn’t degrading? We need to stop buying the stuff that is degrading, and support the content that has substance and can inspire. Are we complaining that young people seem over sexualised or obsessed with trying to change the way they look at a young age? Then we need to take a good look at the life we are living and example we are setting. Because they are observing us…whether we notice it or not.

I fully support JK Rowling, Jennifer Garner, Halle Berry, Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s  (and many others I’m sure – these are just prominent ‘celebrities’ I know of) that are making efforts to protect their children and others like them from the paparazzi. Hearing stories like that told by Amy Adams watching actor roundtables makes me feel quite sick.

It’s International Women’s Day once again, and there are many issues we need to do our part to stand up again. This is just one thing, but I think it’s something we could easily do our little bit to combat.

This whole Lent thing…

At Christmas time, I joined our Senior Section on a ferris wheel once again to make a promise. Part of that promise was to develop my beliefs.

They are constantly evolving.

I think it’s easy to assume that as a Christian, that I signed up to a set of beliefs and religious rules and rituals and committed to keeping them. But truth is, as I see the world, learn more, study the bible, converse with friends, strangers and God – I’m always questioning, always considering, always trying to work things out.

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There are parts of the Christian festivals that I struggle with. Pancake Day though is a ritual I love and try to stick to. I’ll be honest, my incentive often has more to do with fun traditions of making pancakes and tossing them than God. But at the same time the tradition marks a moment to start Lent – preparing for Easter and the fear, mourning, confusion and celebrating that came with in the space of three days many, many years ago.

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Last night I gathered with some Jesus freak friends (I say that with love…!) and we had a time of prayer as we always do on the first Tuesday of each month. We then ripped apart round loaf of olive bread, shared glasses of wine (grape juice for me) to do what is known as communion before making pancakes. For those of you who don’t know, Jesus shared a meal in a home just before he was arrested – and asked his disciples to routinely break bread and share wine together in remembrance of Him and His sacrifice. These days, many churches mark it in a service with a shot glass and a teeny bits of bread. I won’t lie – it makes me a wee bit angry that they do it like that because I think it’s a bit of an insult to Jesus really. There is something far more real about a good chunk of bread and a generous glass of wine to symbolise it all!

There is much chat that has gone on this week amongst Christians bemoaning people giving up things for Lent and what they are giving up for Lent. Personally I think you should do or not do what you feel is right. If you want to use this season to abstain from something – go ahead. I don’t mind you using this season to do that. Perhaps it isn’t what God really cares about – but I don’t honestly know.

Over the years I’ve done different things. My uni friends still recall the year I gave up straightening my hair for Lent. It was much tougher than I care to admit. It says a lot about my vanity, and I never considered myself as one of those girls who are obsessed with their looks. Other years I’ve given up things that weren’t that tough to give up. One year I took up doing random acts of kindness each day when we did The Art of Joy. Last year I didn’t do or give up anything.

These last few months, I feel challenged – whether by God or otherwise – to consider how I spend my money and where I spend my money. I’ve been wrestling with whether I should go to the cheap places like Primark or Aldi so I can save money, and maybe make it seem better by giving the money saved to charity? Or do I spend more by supporting local businesses, that are perhaps running more ethical practices, and maybe benefitting the vibrancy of the economy? Do I go to the big corporate cinema showing the trashy blockbusters, or do I go to the independent one that is showing films “where stuff actually happens” (to quote from Lupita Nyong’o) and telling important stories that matter? Do I focus my time more carefully so I’m not running into the many local ‘metro’ supermarkets that are undercutting small businesses on my way to and form work by bringing a reusable flask of water from home, or maybe going into the little corner shop or health food shop instead?

And is it ok to have a greater focus on doing this during Lent? Is it even something God cares about?

I don’t know that I have the answer,  but I’m going to try it anyway – and not necessarily stop after Lent but perhaps as a friend of a friend put it on facebook

 “I am thinking that giving up chocolate for 40 days, but being a complete a55hole about everything else is not exactly what God has(d) in mind. So in honour of Lent, and regardless of your religious or non-religious leanings, let’s all just try to suck a little less. We can all use it.”

That sounds good to me. A start at the very least. :)

How I didn’t become a politician in Germany…

I feel I should explain something. There’s a woman in Germany called Prof Dr. Christina Völkl-Wolf and she is not me.

On our first day travelling to the university in Würzburg, we immediately began to notice posters with people’s faces on them. They reminded me of American car salesman ads – I don’t know why. During our guided tour of the city centre we saw even more and certain faces began to become familiar. Eventually I asked the professor from the host university what they were all about.

It turned out they were posters for politicians campaigning to be voted in the local elections which are this month.

One of the girls I travelled with has a tradition with her sister of taking pictures imitating statues. She had got me to take photos of her to send to her sister, and me being me, I joined in the banter.

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A couple of days later, I think cabin fever got to us (there were 42 of us sharing one kitchen, 52 of us in one room at the university for most of each day…) and we decided to get some fresh air by walking from the campus to the train station rather than taking a bus. Chariots of Fire was reenacted in a park. And we started posing next to the election posters.

We worried that maybe the folks in Germany would be offended, but it turned out they thought it was funny too (phew) so we did it a few times, as well as doing the statue imitations. At the weekend, we were free to go explore the region as much as we wanted. While I went with most of the Italian university group to explore Nuremberg and Bamberg, two of the Scottish group went with one of the Hungarians to explore Würzburg. When I returned they told me I had to see the poster they had found.

You have to get your picture taken next to one of these posters they said.

The next day, I went into Würzburg with one of my roommates and while walking up to the Fortress we saw a poster. And I obliged.

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And then I made it my facebook profile pic, which got plenty of comments, the best of which came from my sister who said “HIMYM doppelgänger moment x” (How I Met Your Mother fans will understand). Yes. We had found ‘German Professor Laura Anne’, and she was a nominee for the city council.

One of my classmates was disappointed my hair hadn’t been straightened that day, so on the last night we took a photo of another poster we found walking back to the main station.

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I did check with the Würzburg students she wasn’t some crazy conservative,  because I was concerned I might be inadvertently promoting someone from the German equivalent of UKIP or something. They told me she isn’t though they didn’t know much about her.

So there you have it. Some say we don’t look alike at all, others think it’s a bit freaky! Good luck Christina, and serve your city well.

German memories

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I can’t believe that February is over already. It has been a crazy month, with the death of a family friend to celebrating the last friend to turn 29 to heading to Germany to coming home to a very challenging time at work.

Today I had the chance to catch up with a friend. I had finally had a full night sleep, a restful morning and time to shower, put my make up and jewellery on and even have something to eat before leaving the house. So I was in better state than I have been the last few days.

She asked me about Germany, and it was hard to describe or think of the good points in a way I can actually articulate them. All I can say is that I miss coming into a kitchen full of different languages, hearing the first glockenspiel notes of “clouds” playing at 6.30 am next to my head and how several times a day my room mates would say “I have that song in my head again!” I loved the lost in translation moments, how even on what we nicknamed awful Thursday we didn’t turn against each other, we bonded over the struggle and went off for ice cream. Or wine. How we would all be searching the aisles of German supermarkets trying to find ingredients of home and trying to deduce what jars, cartons, boxes and packets contained. The smiles that came on our faces to see toddlers in the Mensa and how students giggled at my roommate and I taking pictures of the play area to show people at home.

I had to fill in an evaluation form for the European folks who gave the funding for winter school, to explain what I had learned. For sure I learned a lot about strategies different countries have for lifelong learning and adult education in particular. But what was worth more was discovering Disney songs in different languages, hearing people’s life stories, what it is like to be born in a communist country or a country that has only had democracy for a few decades. To hear about your country from the perspective of outsiders based on what they have observed or remembered.

They didn’t lie when they said the programme was intensive. Three days after we were all mutually wiped out with exhaustion still. But I have no regrets on going. And I hope that I really have made some friends for life.

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