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!

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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Totally off my trolley…

 

 

 

20131030-170538.jpgLast week didn’t quite go as planned. You know that week I took off work to catch up on university work? To be fair, I think some sleep was needed as I’ve felt soooo much better this week. It was also nice to have a day where I commuted to Glasgow where the trains weren’t cancelled last minute making for a much more pleasant and chilled out journey where I got some work done! Woo hoo!

What has been tough this week is fitting everything in. I missed smallgroup again, due to staying back to do work on my essay in the postgraduate study centre. An orange place that made me wish I lived near to the university to be able to utilise it more. I didn’t get home from work til well after 10 p.m. last night due to them interviewing a potential new employee and then having a team social at one of our trustee’s homes.

Juggling full-time study, part-time work, volunteering and soul surfers is a challenge that I’m not always succeeding at.

So just in case you didn’t already think I was totally off my trolley already, why don’t we add doing a 2-week intensive programme at another university in February?

In 2003, myself and my friend Gill decided to ditch our tutorial and head to the office of one of the Professors offices to investigate a potential trip to Andalucía, Spain we’d heard about. Gill was getting married that summer so we thought trying to get a tan at the same time as having something to add to our CVs after graduation sounded like a great idea. We were lucky to get picked with two other Geography students from our university to do an Intensive Programme funded by ERASMUS with students picked from universities in Lisbon, Seville, Innsbruck, Ljubljana and Vilnius. The tanning didn’t happen as it wasn’t quite so sunny – in fact we went to a desert part of Andalucia where it rained on us the whole day (lucky us for being there during two of the twelve days of the year where they’ll get rain!). But we made some great friendships and it’s where I got my label of ‘City Blossom’ because of my apparently obvious inner city upbringing!

A couple of weeks ago, I discovered that the University of Glasgow is taking part in a similar scheme to do a ‘Winter School’ at the University of Würzburg, Germany. The idea behind it to gather students and academics from 6 different countries to compare international and various strategies to lifelong learning in Europe.

I thought perhaps it was annual thing like the Geography one I did as an undergraduate, but on the discovery that it was the first ever one, and that it may not ever happen again, I thought I should throw my hat into the ring as it were. It sounded like too exciting an opportunity to miss.

And so at 10 p.m. on Tuesday night I was on the phone to a Professor in Glasgow and being told ‘Book your flights now’!

**insert a freak out here** (I don’t usually do ‘spontaneous’ decisions).

And so that is how I came yesterday to be booking flights (have I mentioned that I’ve not had the courage to go on a plane since that awful flight back from London in 2010 when I thought that everyone was going to puke as we fell out of the sky and onto the A90 rather than landing at Edinburgh Airport?), working out dates for the Girlguiding meetings for mimimal absence on my part and so on.

Oh yeah. And I’m not even close to finishing my assignment that is due in on Monday.

**insert another freak out here**

I’ll confess, I know nothing of Würzburg. I may have passed by on some of my many train rides across Germany back in the summer of 2002 when I was doing an InterRail trip around Western Europe with some university friends, but I’ve certainly never been there before. I know very few words of German as I learned French and Spanish in high school (and I use the term ‘learned’ very loosely). I literally know the following words from that trip:

one, two, three, scoop, ice cream, chocolate, please, thank you, train, apple juice, apple strudel, butterfly.

I think I may to extend that vocabulary slightly.

I am however, quite chuffed to discover that the University of  Würzburg gave an honourary degree to Alexander Graham Bell who is a native of Edinburgh. That would suggest they like Edinburgers. And the flights to the nearest airport fly from Edinburgh rather than Glasgow (woo hoo!)

And so that is why I’ll be spending this December trying to learn as much about lifelong learning in the UK as I can so I can write a 5 page paper that I have to submit in January as part of the programme.

It will be my first time outside of the UK since I went to South Africa in 2009. I know 5 others from my postgraduate class also going and they are all a lovely bunch so I’m looking forward to experiencing this with them – though I’m nervous too.

 

Festivals, Travel albums, Guitars and Worship…

So I realise this blog has been neglected somewhat over the last wee while. I had grand plans for my week off but quickly realised that spending time with friends and taking advantage of all that Edinburgh has to offer in August was going to take precedence. If you want to find out what I’ve been up to, I have been blogging about the festival season on my ‘Lassie fae Leith’ blog.

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There’s also been a lot going on and at the moment I can’t really share too much which is annoying because I want to be able to. Hopefully I’ll be able to share some big news with you soon – we’ll see! :)

On the not very exciting front, this afternoon I’ve been having a restful Sunday after coming back from church at Central with my friends. One of the tasks I didn’t really get started on until last night was my scrapbooking. I’ve now started the biggest challenge which was to sort through all stuff and (terrible) photos I’d collected from my InterRail trip around Western Europe. Crazy to think it was ELEVEN years ago. I had a tape walkman and disposable cameras and some photos never came out and others are just plain awful. I almost want to retrace the entire trip again so I can take more and better photos of EVERYTHING. However, I realised the other week how much I’d already forgotten so I want to do it now before I forget anything else. I know I’ll regret not having these when I’m older if I don’t do it now. Once I’ve done the European one, Australia trip and South Africa trip are next on my list! :)
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And the other thing is that my guitar has come out its case again. I had it out to put some more stickers on the case, and my friends spotted it on Tuesday. Yesterday when they were back over to the house again, they pulled it out and restrung it for me. I bought this guitar with Christmas money, Boxing Day 2003. 6 months later I damaged my wrist with a repitive strain injury while learning to drive and working in a respite care centre, helping a client out of a bath. Over the years I took my guitar out, but usually after about 10 mins of playing the wrist injury would flare up again. In the last couple of years, I really lost my passion for musical worship for a number of reasons. It was tough because it has always been something I loved and a huge part of my faith life. I stuck my guitar in a cupboard where I couldn’t see it because I wanted to forget the joy of songwriting and leading worship from when I lived in Aberdeen because it was too painful. I’ve cautiously taken it out the case again – and realise I’ve forgotten most of the chords and how to play because it really has been years seen I even touched a guitar. However, I think our trip to Cornwall earlier in the summer just rekindled something in me and has given me confidence to pick it up again.20130811-224336.jpg

Anyways, today I go back to work – I’m really not ready, I feel like I could do with another week off! In two days time the school holidays end in Edinburgh. The summer has flown by far too fast again. 6 weeks is just not long enough (though I think a lot of parents may disagree!)

Travel games…

I may not have left the UK in a few years, but I have managed to do a fair bit of travelling in my life. And I know that you all have your iPods, Nintendo DS and fancy phones, but sometimes the batteries run out. Sometimes, it’s illegal to use them because you’re the one driving. Sometimes it just seems boring AND anti-social. What happens when you get delayed in an airport, stuck in a traffic jam or the kids get bored?

Well, I got crowned the Queen of car games last weekend, and I’m hear to share my faves with you!

1. Squares

All you need for this is one writing implement and a bit of paper. You  do rows of dots. Each person draws a line between two dots horizontally or vertically on each turn. If you make a square, you get your initials, and another turn. You want to make sure your opponents can’t make a square (or chains of squares) on their turn. We played it lots on the trains to and from London back in April, and it’s one we did a lot in airports and on planes when I was a kiddle!

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taken by friend Vicky!

2. Noughts and Crosses

easy to do in small patches of the blank paper around your ‘squares’!

3. The Radio Game

This is one we played as it got later and we got tireder on our road trip back from Cornwall. The idea is that you ask the radio a question, hit ‘search’ for stations on the radio, and whatever music or waffle comes out the first station it lands on is your answer.

My friend Althea asked the Radio what they’d discussed at the G8 summit while we’d been away, and the answer from the radio?  Timbaland singing “You tell me that you need me / Then you go and cut me down, but wait / You tell me that you’re sorry / Didn’t think I’d turn around and say / That it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late / I said it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late“. And no, I’m not making that up. The radio said I’d meet an Australian husband while being deported from Spain and Portugal. We also asked the radio how we should greet our friend’s mother when she answered the door to us on arrival at her home. The radio started playing a Jazz band. We obliged with our imaginary piano, double bass, saxophone and drumkit. :)

This also works well if you put your iPod songs on shuffle!

4. Etch-a-Sketch pictionary

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Waiting for a flight to Johannesburg…

One of my friends got me pocket etch-a-sketch before I went to South Africa so we had something to do on the 12 hour plane ride.

God bless them. I confess that because my friends slept on the plane (it was an overnight flight) we didn’t use it, but we DID try it out while delayed due to thunderstorms at London Heathrow.

This etch-a-sketch also went with my friends to India, and also kept us entertained on our Cornish road trip adventure. The game we played was that one person in the backseat told the other person in the backseat what to draw, and the people in the front had to guess what it was meant to be and vice versa.

We had a cow pat, a canoe, a puddle of pee, a castle, a chocolate bar, a dragon…the possibilities are endless!

5. Silly pictures

Sometimes when your friends can’t be there in person you bring a laminated version of them on sticks and they can get up to all sorts of mischief on the road…

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6. The Alphabet Game

What do you do when you don’t have paper, a pen and that train ride seems to be taking forever or you get stuck in a traffic jam? Well, you do the alphabet game!

It goes something like this ‘A’ my name is ………. and my husband/wife’s name is…………….., we live in ………. and we like to eat ……………. (next person could say B my name is Bertha and my husband’s name is Bob. We live in Blackpool and we like to eat burgers).

If you do that a few times and you’re still in a traffic jam, you can change it up by doing something like ‘A’ my name is Althea, my husband’s name is Bert. We live in Cairo and we like to eat Dates. And if you’re still not moving you can change it up by saying your name, where you live, what you do for a job and what you like to sell. (C my name is Caroline, I live in Cumbernauld, I’m a carpenter and I like to sell coffins).

And if all else fails….

7. I spy.

I’ve discovered it’s fun to pick something really obvious you can see everywhere. Like ‘branches’ when the road is lined with trees. It took them FOREVER to get that one. Tee hee. ;)

And so friends, there you are. My main travel games. Of course, really when all else fails, I bring out the campfire songs. Mini Kahuna has gotten really good at some of them thanks to me travelling with them to church on Sundays over the last few months.

Plus my friends are now cottoned on to the fact that most Eddie Stobart trucks have been christened with names printed on their driver doors. 3 more people trying not to crash the car as they check out that truck’s name as they overtake on the motorway…

Travelling Tuesday Throwback – My worktown!

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The summer of 2006 is one of the best summers I can remember. It was the summer I graduated university, I went on holiday 3 times, I got my first post-graduate job and the weather was AMAZING (except the first few days of the Imagine Festival). There was a 10 page spread the local paper that year when Aberdeen reached a record breaking temperature of 29.5°C (85°F). The only day we weren’t too thrilled was that Aberdonian graduation robes and the Mitchell Hall was not designed for such heat. ;)

Even though my first job was tough – in terms of getting used to work politics, rubbish pay and having the shock of being a city blossom used to inner-city youth work flung into community education in a rural area  - Kincardineshire was a beautiful place to work.

Last Friday, I had the chance to do something I never really had time to do when I worked there – take some pictures of the beautiful town I was based in. Every morning I would come off the A90 southbound and this would be my view as I drove down the slip road to Stonehaven. And of course, when I first began, the weather was like it is above because that summer had been so great – the weather was mild until about October that year and we had a fairly mild winter too.

One day, I’d like to go back and get pictures of all the little villages and towns that were in my ‘catchment area’. My favourite place was Johnshaven – a teeny fishing village with the most friendly community council and school. :) (Sorry to the other towns, but if you’d given me cake at your meetings and a free shopping bag and made me an official ‘friend’ of the local school, you might have been in better competition for being my fave village in Kincardineshire & Mearns!)

Here are some more Stonehaven pictures…

Church & graveyard near Cowie Stonehaven Stonehaven Harbour

The road I took…

Leaving Australia

3rd May 2007 – getting ready to return home to Scotland

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

-Robert Frost

It’s tough to believe it’s been 6 years. 4th May 2007 was the day I landed in Edinburgh, jet lagged, still a bit nervy from a girl who had got travelsick on a long haul flight from Singapore. I had no idea what would happen next. And it was not the easy path I had chosen. It was the unknown one.

The previous summer I had graduated from university. A graduation five long years in the making. But for the first time in a very long time, I was contented. I had finally settled in my Aberdeen life. I had a great family of friends. Things with my blood related family were better than they ever had been. I’d begun a relationship with a Christian guy who I first thought was on the same page as me. I split my time between Edinburgh and Aberdeen working some weeks as a care worker, others as a receptionist or clerical worker in NHS hospitals while I looked for a job. I’d been rejected from my applications to study medicine and midwifery. I was about to start re-applying and looking to study some of the qualifications I needed to do medicine. My boyfriend convinced me not to. Instead, I started applying for jobs, and got a temporary contract as a Community Education Worker. I was thrilled. A proper wage (I now realise the pay was AWFUL) and the hope of a permanent contract at the end with the promise of them paying for me to do my Community Education diploma while I worked.

In those seven months, I worked myself into the ground. I was out of my depth. I was asked to lie to people. Or at least to me it was lying. My boyfriend brought the worst out of me. He discouraged me from doing things I was scared to do. I don’t know if it’s possible to forget the first time I led worship at my church. Afterwards he told me he thought I should never do it again. Every time I’ve led worship since (and those times have been few) I’ve heard his words and seen his face in my memory. In March 2007 I was invited to reapply for my job to get a permanent contract. I prayed about it, and felt like maybe I was to go back to Edinburgh. I told him so. He broke up with me.

Relief.

It was however an upsetting day. He stayed in my flat for an hour and wouldn’t go away until I went to work. I went through my day, and when everyone else went home, I locked myself in the Senior Community Worker’s office. I called my friend and started bawling. That day I made the decision – I was returning home.

The plan was sensible. Finish my contract til March 31st. Get the flat ready for selling, and live there until I sold it or found a job in Edinburgh. My Dad and stepmother offered to financially support me until I was able to do this.

Only it didn’t happen like that. That night, I went home after that evening’s youth work meeting. I cried on my friend’s shoulder. And then overnight I developed a fever and by the next morning I had the flu. I lay on a mattress on my living room floor for days. Friends came in and out. I prayed to God, and the answer I received was clear audible one: It’s time to go home. And I’m not going to tell you what you’re going to do when you get there. You’re going to have to trust me.And then I call came from Los Angeles.

It was decided I’d go out to Australia to meet my friends.

And then I’d come back and look for a job and sell the flat.

Only it didn’t happen like that either. The day my friend walked with me to STA Travel to make sure I  booked that flight, we bumped into my (now ex) boyfriend’s best friend and his girlfriend. They desperately needed a flat to rent that they could afford. And so I said ‘why don’t you rent mine?

And suddenly I realised that I had 3 weeks to move out of my flat. And when I came back from Australia I had nowhere to live, and no job to go to.

I did let my friends at the respite home I’d worked at know I was coming back to Edinburgh, and I was grateful that they had said ‘yes’ to putting me back on their pool staff team. That put me at ease a bit as it made it all sound better when I was explaining to people what I was doing, why I was leaving so suddenly.

God did a lot of work in me during those 4 weeks in Australia. It’s why Australia means so much to me. I feel like Australia gave me my life back. It made me myself again. All the rubbish that had been spoken over me and into me began to fade away. Courage and confidence I thought I’d lost forever, I found once again. I returned home, still unsure, but very much at peace.

I realise I could have followed the sensible path. I could have stayed, sold the flat, never gone to Australia and waited to get a job. Or I could have applied for a permanent contract and perhaps I’d have that all important piece of paper that says PGDip in Community Education that I need to get a full-time job in this city.

But would I have learned so much, been as brave or met the friends I know now?

Most likely…no.

Photo on 2013-04-28 at 17.28 #4

Dear Polzeath…

Polzeath

Dear Polzeath,

We’re coming for you once again this June. Just for one weekend. That’s a lot of travel to spend two days in your Cornish hospitality.

Please let the Tubestation have yummy smoothies and crepes.

Let the sea be warm.

Let the surf be awesome.

And let the good times roll!

:)
Polzeath