All 39 entries tagged Diary

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November 26, 2006

Sunday late November

It’s that time of year and I’m determined not to get ill despite the best efforts of my fellow commuters to infect me with their lurgies. All the pretty autumnal leaves are turning to mulch on the commons and in the parks and everything is going earthy and heavy and saturated with squelchiness. I haven’t been for my weekend run yet and it’s going to get dark soon, plus I’m meeting a friend for coffee in 40 minutes so unless I want to power run at double my normal speed…

BunnyTired, so tired, feel like I’m on a conveyer belt and I have to keep running. Trying to be more positive (no more black clothes, I’m only 25) and do some voluntary work and make an effort to do things that scare me (like meeting new people).

Dreamed I was back in Taiwan the other night; I felt free.

I’m going back to Yorkshire next weekend. I want to breathe clean air and run in open spaces (not looping round and round the same circuits on Clapham Common stopping for traffic whenever I hit a road), and sleep in a quiet dark room where I don’t wake up the moment the neighbours upstairs slam a door.

I’ll just have to run with the gym bunnies this evening. Hop, hop, hop along bunnies. I’ll run into work on Wednesday morning too. 5 and a half miles. I hope I get a place in the London marathon this year…


mertonI went to Oxford last weekend, the first time I’ve gone back since I graduated (over 3 years since I finished finals and left, 2 years since graduation now). I was almost dreading it, apart from meeting up with Leonie, Thomas and Helen of course, as arriving in Oxford always used to provoke very strong feelings in me – mostly positive – but I thought that I would feel an overwhelming sense of nostalgia when I returned.

So I got off at the train station along with a couple of Eton boys who were scoping out the potential of the place as a future abode. Walked towards the town centre. Past the puffa fish restaurant. Down George Street. Felt nothing (George Street still a bit of a dump). Saw the modern language faculty library from a distance. Down Broad Street (still feeling somewhat detached). Went into Blackwells to use the loo. Wandered round the modern language section. Same medieval French texts on the shelf (good old Chanson de Roland). Weirdly familiar but didn’t make me feel anything. Walked towards college. Came down Merton Street. Heard the Merton chapel bells ringing. Into college and round the gardens. All very pretty and lovely, but I didn’t particularly feel anything – it didn’t feel like a place where I used to live.

And Oxford is small. I think someone might have shrunk it, because I’m sure that when I was 18 it wasn’t that tiny. The buildings are all little (most of them no more than 3 stories high) and it only takes 10 minutes to walk across town. I blame Martin and his weirdy chemist ways.

Anyway, I had a lovely day in the end, but mostly because I met up with friends, went for lunch in Gino’s, found the (newly opened) Primark (largest one I’ve ever been in!) and went for coffee in Blackwells. Lovely. But I didn’t feel nostalgic and the magic I remember has gone as the people I cared for who lived there have moved on. Although it was nice to go there for the day, it is now just an ordinary place for me.

August 29, 2006

France to Spain to London to Zagreb

Sunday 20 August 2006

Been in France since Wednesday evening, staying in Ceret which is the town where my mum and Stephen have their studio apartment. This meant we had three full days before flying back to London Luton early (too, too, painfully early) this morning.

Besides wandering around Ceret itself and eating lots of stuff, we also visited Collioure, which is a small town on the coast, went to a tortoise sanctuary as well as a bird/wildlife reserve. Collioure is lovely, but very busy in August – still, at least it was warm unlike when I last visited in January 2003 (snow!). The tortoises were brilliant, especially the shagging ones with the "characteristic grunt". Disappointed with the bird reserve as didn't see any flamingos, but we did watch people kite surfing in the sea and along the beach.

Boats in CollioureMe and Adam in CollioureHumping tortoisesCatalan flags in the streets of CeretView from my mum and StephenKite surfingSaturday market in CeretHappy

Lots more photos online here

We also spent time in the Ceret art gallery, the musée d'art moderne, as well as looking around other private galleries in the town centre. Not to mention wandering around the Saturday market, eating out in the main square "Place des Neufs Jets" a couple of times, and eating chez ma mere et Stephen. It was a lovely few days and I'm feeling very close to Adam.

Today feels a bit like a bewildering yet lucid dream, from pulling open the shutters to discover it was still dark in the streets outside, the sun only beginning to rise above the foothills of the Pyrenees as we left our hotel room, the fuzzy blur of the drive to Girona airport (quite literally, as I was sans contact lenses), the two plane journeys, the brief time spent in Luton airport reminding us of the utter shiteness of Britain, meeting Mark and checking in for flight no. 2, the turbulence as we began our descent to Zagreb…

And then the pricey airport bus to the city centre, realising that we needed kuna (not euro) if we were to get anywhere, particularly if we were to get anywhere without getting ripped off, trying to figure out which direction to get the tram, where to get tram tickets, how to validate said tickets, whether we had got on the right tram anyway, where to get off, and why hadn't I printed out the map to our hostel in the first place?

Luckily we found the hostel without too much trouble, and the owner of the hostel was really helpful and even helped us order takeaway pizza and pivo. All of which slipped down a treat after a hot, cold, tiring, busy, confusing day which ended with me feeling somewhat helpless and disempowered by my inability to speak the language.

Bosnia tomorrow.

July 08, 2006


View of Grasmere and ConistonI'm putting off the gym this morning by doing laundry / eating stuff / booking train tickets / lying about in bed blogging when really, deep down, I know I'll love it (well maybe that's a bit strong!) if I actually do go…

Leonie and I had a week's holiday in the Lake District at the end of June. We went for lots of long walks during the day and a short run every morning before breakfast (admittedly this was a full english every day, so it's a good thing we were exercising), and we hired mountain bikes one day – which made me realise that I'm actually not very fit at all, esp not when trying to cycle up 25% gradiant hills.

Tim and Claire, the B&B owners, gave us puzzles to do over breakfast each day which Leonie solved diligently and I consistently failed to complete, except on the odd occasion when six year old children who also happened to be staying at the B&B showed me how.

And we also did a thing called Go Ape in Grizedale Forest, which involved swinging from tree to tree on high ropes and zip slides 40ft up in the air. All very terrifying, but fun!

More pics to follow when I find the time to upload them…

I'm moving jobs at the end of July to the Office for Disability Issues. This is still within DWP, but it will involve working closely with other departments (health, education+skills, local gov) as well as lobby group experts on a 12 month project reviewing the barriers to independent living for disabled people.

The team is brand new and very small, and although the work is still high–profile, it won't attract the same media coverage or involve the same degree of ministerial contact as my current job. Anyway, I'm feeling enthusiastic about the prospect of doing something completely different, and looking forward to starting work on what promises to be an interesting project come August.

I'm also doing a week–long attachment in the Jobcentre plus chief exec's office next week covering for the office manager, which I'm a bit concerned about as I think it involves working long hours and being stupidly organised!

Anyway, enough talk of work. I must make a decision now either to go to the gym and run for an hour or so, or go and find something interesting to do. Either way I need to stop lolling around in bed and get up properly.

April 02, 2006

London Eye pics

Photos taken on 21st March on the London Eye, to celebrate my colleague Jan’s retirement:

Hungerford Bridge / the AdelphiJan on the London EyeLooking towards the CityWestminsterPod at highest pointWestminster 2Pod at highest pointWestminster bridge

Aldeburgh book group

Besides eating fish and chips on the beach, threatening people with pineapple fritters, burying Jamie alive, chatting up the local "bookmonger", laughing at the literary lesbian cookbook, running by the sea, playing tennis, cooking curry and drinking wine, we did actually discuss The Blind Assassin for all of 30 minutes. Get us.

Click on a picture to make it bigger:

Beach at AldeburghWalking on the beach at AldeburghLeonie and Phil on beachSculpture on beachAnna and PhilJamie and LeonieLeonie and sculptureLeonie and sculpture 2I hear those voices...Boats on beachLeonie, me, Phil, Anna and Andrew with fish and chipsJamie buried on beachJamie buried on beach 2Me, Phil, Ellie, Emily, and buried JamieLeonie threatening Jamie with pineapple fritterFish 4 SaleChucking rocks at LeonieStoning Leonie some moreMe, Phil, Ellie, Emily and buried JamieJamie jugglingI hear those voice that will not be drowned

February 28, 2006


Writing about web page

SaussesMmm… what a perfect holiday. 4 days of fresh air, clean water that didn't make my hair manky (since obviously that is the most important thing – priorities, priorities), stunning mountain scenery, excellent food, and being outdoors in the sunshine and cool (read freezing, at least in the shade) mountain air.

Anna, Leonie, Laurence and I stayed in the pink house pictured in the bottom left corner of the photo on the right, cunningly named "la maison blanche" in a bizarre attempt to confuse hapless tourists who make it that far up the Vars valley (Alpes Maritimes / Alpes de Haute-Provence).

I am fast developing les fesses de fer, not to mention les cuisses "de la mort"tm, as a result of morning runs up and down various big montagnes around Sausses, not to mention our hike to Castellet-les-Sausses where we were almost benighted thanks to an evil boil-ridden local farmer who had put up an "Accès Interdit" sign across the one track leading back to Sausses.

On our first day we explored the medieval village of Entrevaux, where we were mistaken for French language students at Nice University by the restaurant owner (flattering both because we can still pass for students, and because our French must have sounded reasonably plausible). I tried the local speciality "secca de boeuf", which consisted of wafer-thin slices of delicious dried beef served with lemon juice, olive oil and puy lentils. Given I don't normally eat red meat, I was surprised at how bluddy amazing it tasted.

On Sunday we got swept up in a local lemon festival in Menton (a.k.a. Chin), involving various citrus sculptures and other lemon-related activity. Unfortunately we never actually experienced any of this since lemon-lovers far and wide had pilgramaged to the Côte d'Azur to converge upon Menton in a frenzy of pressées, pulp and peel. There was literally nowhere to park within a 6 mile radius of the town, so we popped across into Italy for a pizza.

VentimigliaAs we explored the old town of Ventimiglia, we encountered a Divine Sign from the skies, seven freaky felines, and a chain of 21 furry caterpillars wending their way along the pathway. And we were told by a car parking attendant not to leave our dog in the car in the midday heat (would have made sense… except we didn't have a dog, we weren't parked in his carpark anyway, and there was actually quite a chilly nip in the air). All in all Ventimiglia was a bit surreal, not to mention difficult to escape from. Pizza was excellent though.

Besides these day trips, most of our time was spent preparing and eating some very delicious food (e.g. Leonie and Laurence's goats cheese and mushroom risotto), walking /running /scrambling up mountains in an attempt to burn off the vast quantity of pains au chocolat consumed (it was a losing battle, the pastries were always going to win…) and simply breathing BREATHABLE AIR.

Much as I like the pace of life in London, indeed need the buzz of city life to prevent myself dissolving into tears and lethargy and boredom, at the same time I love open spaces and running/hiking and just being in a place that nature has so obviously shaped, a place where you can't help but respect its power. If nothing else a place free from the jaded office workers and the filthy air and – most importantly – the twatting northern line.

Right now I am very happy to be living in London, but at the same time I need to make sure that I take time to eat properly, to exercise, to read, relax and just spend time being, whatever that means.

Not to mention escaping to small french villages and remote mountain locations given every available opportunity.

February 21, 2006

les vacances!

Two more days of work and then it’s time pour partir en VACANCES!... I am currently suffering with a cold, generally feeling run down and knackered, have been struggling to get into work at a decent time, struggling to stay awake once there, and then leaving work dead on five o’clock for the past couple of days. I even missed French class last night because head was so stuffed up with cold, and all I feel like doing is lolling around in bed with a hot water bottle.

Anna sent us some info about the house where we’ll be staying this weekend. Being left in peace in the middle of some beautiful french mountains sounds bluddy lovely, and just what I need right now:

The village of Sausses is situated 75 km North West from Nice on the Alps Maritimes/Hautes Provence border in the upper Var valley. There are 80 inhabitants during most of the year and about 200 during July/August. The population is entirely French except one British couple that we virtually never see. There are no shops, (except a visiting shopping van) no bars or restaurants. The people are friendly but leave you in peace. The house is situated on the edge of the village and has South West views. The area is very beautiful. There are exhilarating walks straight from the house. Skiing is 40 minutes drive.

Very excited now. Just want to do lots of walking, drinking of nice wine and eating of delicious food. And not think about pensions or read the business pages or the FT for a few days.

January 29, 2006

Stories from the City

A to ZMy day of culture (best intentions) turned into a day of mooching, shopping, eating and drinking. Met Rhi and her friend Julia for lunch in Notting Hill, wandered around Portobello road, then met Thomas, Phil and Helen for a drink late afternoon. Got myself very lost through my premature confidence, dodgy sense of direction and belief that the time had come to cut the umbilical cord to my trusty A-Z. Have now realised the error of my ways, and understand that there is a long way to go until I can go out in the big bad city and trust to pure instinct alone.

Love being in the city at weekends – there's so much potential and possibility. It reminds me of those lazy, slightly hungover Sundays in Taipei having brunch in Grandma Nittis with the other EFL teachers, followed by a wander in the park or a spot of shopping in Shi-da or in the flower/jade market. I only have to listen to PJ Harvey's Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea and I feel myself transported back there – the curious soundtrack to my last few months living in Taiwan.

Now I have that Sunday night feeling, even though I'm quite looking forward to tomorrow's task (writing a 3000 word speech for a conference). It's funny the way that I got myself into a complete state over my essays at Warwick and fretted about them for weeks before they were due, but the thought of throwing together a ministerial speech in a day doesn't really daunt me. Well not till 9am tomorrow anyway. Rise and shine

January 20, 2006

Quarter of a century

My birthday tomorrow – I will have been alive for quarter of a century and so, according to Andrew S, am about to enter my LATE twenties. This doesn’t please me but it doesn’t do to dwell on it – in my mind I am a perpetual teenager, certainly no older than 20. Haven’t blogged for ages, partly because I’ve been really busy but mostly because it took ages to sort out my WGA login post-Warwick.

Good news is that I got a distinction in my MA! Bad news is I didn’t particularly care (not being snotty about it, just had enough of academia for one lifetime)...

The novelty of being in London is definitely starting to wear off. I had a wonderful three months before xmas – it was exciting and busy and bustling – such a contrast to the monotony of my MA year! But now reality is seeping back in and I’ve been feeling strangely vulnerable, lonely, sad… Having said that, I took myself off to the Tate Modern this evening after work and enjoyed wandering round by myself for a couple of hours. It was nice to be alone but not lonely, and to not NEED other people in the desperate, anxious way I sometimes do.

I spent quite a lot of time roaming in and around the fantastic new sculpture in the main hall – “Embankment” by Rachel Whiteread. It consists of hundreds of plaster casts of boxes heaped up into a sprawling landscape that is both urban and organic, ordered and disordered, impersonal and intimate, not to mention strangely mystical and pure – the “ghosts of interior space” piled up into an immense monumental structure in the Turbine Hall. The scale of it is quite deceptive. From the bridge above, the sculpture appears solid and reassuring, self-contained, almost neat (if that’s not too trite a description), but once immersed within the labyrinthine passages and spaces of the structure itself the boxes start to loom precariously, threatening to smash down and engulf you at any moment.

I also went into a couple of the other galleries and spent a while revisiting some of my favourite pictures – most memorably Matisse’s Snail, Dali’s Persistance of Memory and a whole roomful of Rothko – and watched Un Chien Andalou as well as a couple of other Surrealist films. I then started feeling dizzy (possibly at the prospect of someone getting their eyeball sliced open with a razor), so my visit to the Tate Modern had an abrupt finish and I rushed home immediately to cook lemon prawns and mange tout.

Tomorrow I’m going bowling in Lewisham (ooh the glamour!) followed by dinner at Zizzis on the Strand – part two of my three-week-long series of birthday celebrations! I’m really looking forward to it, especially seeing my out-of-London friends. Martin is coming from Oxford, Naomi from Rugby, Rebecca and David from Birmingham. And then of course there’s all my friends who live in London – friends from school, Oxford and Warwick. Then it’s off to Warwick in the evening to see Adam. I feel so very lucky to know them all. I love weekends, especially birthday weekends!

Oh god. Quarter of a century. Happy birthday to me.

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