And then…


I’m happy. I’ve been happy for almost a year with barely any depressive dips and I can’t really explain why. Maybe it’s not just happiness, perhaps it’s also contentment, self acceptance and generally better mental health.

With this happiness has come a willingness to leave the house more often, which has also led to reconnecting with friends that I’d drifted away from over the past decade, apologising to some for having lost touch when I was at my lowest and getting to know others who were probably acquaintances before.

One of the best things about my world and the people I chose to surround myself with is that they are intelligent, creative, artistic and kind. I see what they are doing with their lives and I’m so proud that I even know them a little bit. I know people who can write beautiful poetry and prose, who can sing, play and dance, who take stunning photos, who make people laugh and cry with their stories, who create works of art in physical forms and send them out into the world. The world at the moment can be very frightening, depressing and unsettling, but I’m grateful for those bringing joy into it.

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So no-one told you life was gonna be this way


When you start school, you are placed in a class with other children born at roughly the same time as you, in the same area.  You may be in the same class as those children for the next 6 years, maybe even longer.  They become your friends and you may lose touch with some of them over the years, or you may still be talking about when Ryan and James jumped into the lake and got soaked 25 years later.

 

If you go to stay in halls at university, you get placed with people from all over the country and live with them for at least a year.  You become friends through your living situation, the experience of moving away from home for the first time and dealing with all the things that come with having to become an adult for the first time.

 

You start jobs, you have hobbies, you make friends in a number of different ways, but it sometimes seems harder to do when you are older and move to a new place. I’ve been in Sheffield for 4 years now and I have some lovely friends, but it’s always good to make more.

 

Last week, I went along to the second Girl Gang Sheffield ‘Speed Mate-ing’ event at Union Street.  I had planned to go to the first one but it was sold out, so I bought my ticket early for number two.  For those reading in the future and may not know, the UK was rocked by ‘The Beast from the East’ over the start of March this year and Sheffield did not escape the Siberian winds and the snow storms that covered the country, but that didn’t stop the ladies (and one gent) of the city and surrounding area from heading into town to make some new friends.

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Song of the week: Chasing the Sun – 6th March 2015


Yes, it’s back, not particularly through popular demand, but because I’ve been listening to music again and like to share. So here you go.

Over the past week here in Sheffield I have been battered by wind, rain, sleet, hail, snow and today the clouds parted long enough for me to get warmed by the strengthening Spring light, so much so that for the first time that I can remember I felt almost uncomfortably warm in my winter coat and cardigan.

I’ve been pulling myself out of my depressive slump with the help of a great doctor, medication, good friends and who knows what else.  This week I’ve been accepted for volunteering roles, I’ve explored the city a bit more and found some awesome places that I’ll be visiting and spending more time in.  I’ve caught up with a chum that I’ve not seen for years, is marvelous and very kindly bought me wine and dinner (Hey Masoom!) and had a job interview.  So even if I don’t get it, at least I’m back in the swing of things a bit.

I’ve picked this song because it’s been in my head and hasn’t shifted.  When I first heard it, I wasn’t that keen on it, I’m not sure why, perhaps it’s because the lyrics don’t quite scan in the way I’m used to but it has been a real grower and I love this stripped down version below.

‘Remember that life is not meant to be wasted, we can always be chasing the sun.’

What do you think?

Read on…


Thought I may as well take an opportunity to let you know about some other blogs written by people I know, all about different things, so hopefully something for everyone.   And this is almost exactly a year after the last blog promotion post…
http://talesfromaotearoa.blogspot.co.nz/ – A new blog, just beginning about moving to New Zealand.
http://thecyclingmummy.wordpress.com/  – Stories of parenthood and life from Emma.
http://emmainmwanza.wordpress.com/  
http://suzieinmwanza.wordpress.com/
http://dartfordtomwanza.blogspot.com/   – life in Tanzania
http://thesecretworldofmrsmac.wordpress.com/ – A friend who found she had a bad smear, but it’s all worked out alright now…
http://sunshinysarah.wordpress.com/ – Sarah’s got some news!!
http://tophatandlace.wordpress.com – A blog about planning a wedding.
Let me know what you think!

Step back in time…


Ok, so I should admit that I’ve just googled myself. It’s not big, it’s not clever, it’s not something I’m proud of but I’d just seen a facebook post from my cousin Iona who had cut her own fringe and it reminded me of something I’d once written about cutting my own hair with kitchen scissors.

I can remember doing it, sat in my bedroom, 39 Curtis Road, Newcastle, with its rag rolled golden walls with one brown striped wallpapered room before one wall of wallpaper was cool. I’d propped the mirror up on my desk and started cutting in some layers and hoping for the best. I did a similar thing about 2 weeks ago – my graduated bob grew out about 3 months ago and the African sun combined with bleach and repeated coverings of red hair dye had left the ends frazzled. I had wanted a professional hairdresser to fix it but couldn’t get hold of her so one Saturday afternoon, whilst avoiding doing some actual work I switched on the bathroom light, took the kitchen scissors in my hand and started to hack away. The result wasn’t that bad.

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Red, red wine


Actually, that’s misleading from the start, sorry. Today’s moderate level of suffering was solely the responsibility of white wine, but I don’t know a song about that, or a film and I’ve got to stick to my theme.  Even if rather loosely.  I’ll cook prawns in a red wine sauce for dinner in a bit if that makes you feel better.  Actually, that’s not true either because it’s nine o’clock and I should be going back to bed soon.  I will be eating a blueberry swirl ice cream as I type.  Just to keep you updated.

Shall I start again?

Probably best.

Today I think I’ve had my first hangover in about 9 years.  I got in from the bar at about 3, woke up at 6 needing the loo (like you need to know) had some water and – probably a mistake – a chocolate orange brownie.  I tried to have the sensible bacon sandwiches but that didn’t happen for a good six hours.  I’ve been tired, a little bit shaky from too much of a sugar rush and have spent the day very productively in bed watching Elementary and Southland.  For those of you who don’t know, Elementary is a modern-day Sherlock Holmes tv series set in New York with Johnny Lee Miller as Holmes and Lucy Liu as Joan Watson his sober companion.  It’s not as good as Sherlock but I like it.  Southland is a tv series about police in South Central LA.  It has Ben McKenzie (AKA Ryan ‘Fists of Fury’ Attwood from the OC) in it and is a better show, but harder to watch when feeling delicate.  Another show that has graced my computer screen today is Hart of Dixie, with Rachel Bilson (also OC) but by far the best is Grey’s Anatomy.  I love it, it’s trashy, it’s melodramatic, they keep killing off my favourite characters, but I can watch it over and over again whenever I am feeling like crap and it cheers me up.  When I run out of new episodes I go back to series 1 and start again…

Sorry, tangent, that happens when I’m eating ice cream.

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You can take the girl out of the W.I. but she’ll not stop making cakes.


Ok, so technically I was never in the W.I., although I did intend on joining.

When I lived in Newcastle and broke up with my boyfriend I was sharing a one bedroom flat in a former convent with him and he was an alcoholic.   He was sleeping in the sitting room, I had the bedroom.  I didn’t feel like I could have friends round, as there was nowhere for them to sit and I didn’t want them to see him in that state.  Neither did I want to deal with the hours of talking that would inevitably follow over many, many days if someone came in and had upset his personal space.  We lived like this for 6 months before he moved out.

I had to find things to do to occupy my time.  working shifts as a careers adviser I couldn’t really commit to regular classes or activities in the evenings, unless you count the night shift activities of ‘Sing the lyrics of one song to the tune of another’ or ‘Read out song lyrics in a sort of Radio 4 voice for other people to guess’ or, my personal favourite, ‘How long can I try to talk like Reeves and Mortimer being Geordie Otis Reading and Marvin Gaye sitting on the dock of the bay before I begin to sound like Sarah Milllican?’.  They don’t really count as activities.  Fun, yes, getting me out of the house for something other than work, not so much.

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An aside to promote various friends…


A blog.  To be honest, I never thought I’d write one.

But then one afternoon, bored at work and obviously being highly productive, I spotted an advert for a teaching job in St Vincent and the Grenadines.  A tiny island with 2000 inhabitants was looking for a vaguely musical teacher for its primary school with 15 children.  I decided to apply as the worst that could happen would be that they didn’t reply at all to my covering letter and CV.  Scanning down the other international jobs (I’d had no luck finding teaching work in Newcastle after all) I thought to myself that I could take the shotgun approach. Fire off one generic covering letter (lightly tailored to fit the region/school I was applying to) to as many interesting looking places in one go and see what happened.  So I did.  I applied for 22 jobs around the world including Santiago, Prague, Hong Kong, Valencia, Madrid, Milan, Budapest, Rome, Moscow and Mwanza.

And then I waited.  And waited.

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13 Going on 30


Today is the 22nd, so it’s one month until my birthday and 13 months until my 30th.  Which I am looking forward to.  And which people think is very odd.  Apparently you shouldn’t look forward to turning 30, but I don’t see the point in dreading it.  It’s an inevitability and it’s not as if I can stop it.   I’ve never felt my age.  When I was 16 I wasn’t hanging out in the park drinking booze from a bottle hidden in the bag whilst sitting on the tyre swing over the bark flooring. (How was that bark meant to be good to fall on?  It got mouldy, it gave you splinters, it got stuck in your tights, it was rubbish, although granted better than falling on concrete.  Ok, I’ll just carry on now…) At 16 I was in at least 6 choirs including Brackley Jubilee Choir and Bicester Choral and Operatic Society and I brought the average age of singers down to about 40ish.  I went on holidays with my Mum’s Morris team, Owlswick Morris.  They were great fun and yes, I am that cool, I’m a Morris baby and proud of it.

When I was about 18 I did do something a teenager is meant to do, I went to Gatecrasher Summer Sound System – it was an all night club with various tents pitched on Turweston Aerodrome.  My Dad’s friend was running the security for the event and popped by to see if any of his kids would like to go, so my sister and I each said “Yes please!” and found ourselves being walking through the security office with 4 free passes.  I took my friends Ben, Chris and Liam and we had a great time.  The main things I remember are wearing combat trousers, a black vest top with a dragon on, my hair in two messy buns (yes, I was heavily influenced by the style of All Saints, I’m not going to apologise for that, it could have been worse) drinking Smirnoff Ice from plastic bottles, blue, pink and purple lights in the Happy Hardcore tent, water dripping on us from the ceiling from the condensation, a pretty rugby boy snogging me and walking home at 6 in the morning with the boys (probably mostly Ben and Liam) nicking the signs from the car park and throwing them in the hedge.  If you were one of those people in 2002 who couldn’t find their car that quiet Sunday morning then I apologise, but it was really funny at the time.

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Edges are blurring all around


I’m back at school, I’m tired, I’ve got a cold coming on but otherwise things are good.

After my Christmas trip to Kenya I was quite drained, sunburnt and altogether dreading going back to work. Having a break of a month is not necessarily a good thing for me. (Yes, I know, boo hoo, poor me, I’m sure you would love a month off for Christmas – I’m not bemoaning that, I just recognise that I need more structure than all that time to my own devices.)

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Begin the Begin


“Fresh starts: thanks to the calendar they happen every year —just set your watch to January, our reward for surviving the holiday season is a new year. Bringing on the great tradition of new years resolutions, put your past behind you and start over. It’s hard to resist the chance of a new beginning, a chance to put the problems of last year to bed.”

Meredith Grey, Grey’s Anatomy [2.13]

It’s nearly the end of the year, very soon I will be by a beach overlooking the Indian Ocean and so many things have changed.  The Mayans thought the world would end today.  They were wrong but for me, this year, a good many things have ended.

The first, in January, was a three year relationship, I thought that we would get married (mainly because he said we would), I thought that we would have children and that I would live in a cottage somewhere in the North East (he said all that too…).  Last December I sat at my sister’s and then at my brother’s playing with their children and decided that enough was enough.  Enough making do with someone who couldn’t look after himself, enough hoping that if I was supportive and patient that things would pay off and we would be happy.  Enough of being afraid that I couldn’t cope on my own without him, despite him dragging me down gradually with him. So I told him that this was it and he agreed.

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I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and sky


Yesterday was spent by the beach, eating steak, then at a house overlooking the lake eating Christmas dinner.  It was the first time I’ve been out of Mwanza that hasn’t involved getting on a plane to head back to England.  A 60th birthday, most of which I spent playing with a one year old – she likes playing with my necklaces particularly.

I watched the rain clouds build and eventually burst over the far away Serengeti, drove through villages with elegant looking women working in fields in full length dresses with children in their arms or on their backs, children driving cattle, a piki piki rider with 3 passengers, a sea eagle perching on a stone in the middle of the lake, brightly coloured kingfishers darting into the water, an otter playing in the waves.

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Christmas comes but twice a year…


And in Mwanza tonight it’s nearly over after two days of parties, decorations and food.  Muppet Christmas Carol has just finished and we are now moving onto an episode of Sex and the City as the rain and thunder starts to roll towards us and the night draws on.

Usually I don’t really approve of Christmas starting before December.  Each year it does seem to creep forward, earlier and earlier in the year and I get sick of listening to Christmas tunes every time I enter a shop, or listen to the radio or watch TV.  But living somewhere that isn’t going to get colder, where Mariah isn’t blaring from every doorway (I love it, but have recently discovered the Lady Antebellum version) means I really don’t mind having a full Christmas weekend over the 24th and 25th of November.  Chloe, the PE teacher, suggested having a Christmas meal at our flats as many of us will be heading back to the UK (I might be going to Kenya, I can’t afford to head back again, but that’s for another time) so why not have an early celebration together?  It would also serve to spur us on for the last two weeks at school.  So we set about planning.

The flats Christmas committee (Chloe and Kerstin) gave out jobs and responsibility – I would host the Christmas Eve party as I have the roof access and biggest sitting room area, make spiced chocolate orange brownies and the sausages wrapped in bacon for Christmas dinner.  We would have dinner at mine (space reasons again) and I would play the Queen for an alternative Christmas speech.

So we planned, we plotted, we arranged a secret santa, we made decorations (blue snowflakes, laminated and hung onto the Wilkos fairy lights.  Some of the kids in my class made Christmas posters and cards to stick on the wall.

Christmas eve came quicker than anticipated.  I strung fairy lights on the stairs up to roof, paper chains were brought in, a party playlist was created and furniture was re-arranged. Balloons with santas and snowmen were strategically placed and straws with paper fruit on were put out waiting for the fresh fruit punch being made in the ground floor flat.  Fresh guacamole and houmous was made to be paired with the carrot and cucumber sticks, crisps and tortillas.

The guests began to trickle in and drinking, laughing and childish pranking began.  Highlights included ‘pegging’ unsuspecting victims, singing along with some questionable guitar playing, trying to drink a drink from the floor without using hands or sitting down and the invention of swim drinking.  A selection of early 90’s pop, recent classics and Christmas tunes filled the soundtrack for the evening, and as the guests drifted away from midnight, the inevitable drunk dancing in the kitchen began.  I finally managed to close the door on the last of the party core at 3am and settled into bed, fighting off mosquitos single-handed.

Christmas day began with the cooking of the brownies and clearing away the washing up from the night before.  We doubted that some fo the boys would come up with the good for the meal, as they were heading out to a local club, but 3 chickens were cooked, roasties, mash, veg, christmas cake, mango crumble and a spectacular, if slightly sunken, giant yorkshire pudding.  The three o’clock deadline came… and went… so we didn’t start eating until about half three, but the logistics of moving various hot plates of food from different flats to feed 14, allows for a bit of flexibility.  And if Christmas dinner can’t drag on a little bit then what’s happened to the world?

We ate well, with the ceiling fan off to try to cool down the room whilst a roaring fire was burning on the TV with my stocking (home-made) hanging next to it. In hindsight, three chickens was a bit much, even with Phil in attendance, so the spare chicken and most of the leftovers were donated to our Askaris, whilst Ed, the dog, got the bones.  All were happy, full and contented.

A short break to rest our stomachs and open the presents followed, before cracking on with the puddings and a premier screening of the recording of ‘The Locomotion’ dance that had been performed for the Maths teacher’s 63rd birthday.  Everyone drifted away taking with them their plates, bowls, tables and chairs, so that when I came back in from messing with my playlist in the kitchen, my flat was almost back to normal.

By rights, tomorrow should be Boxing Day and so we shouldn’t need to go into school, but we must, so we will.  In a few days it will be all but forgotten, the only reminders being the Christmas decorations that I’d brought over from England and we will be on a countdown for the real thing.  My Christmas plans are not fully established yet, the only firm one is that I’ll not be with my family, which will no doubt be difficult given recent events.  But I’m lucky to have people here to share things with and to be entertained by.  And I now can’t complain about Christmas starting in November again.

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For alternative recounts (eventually) of our Christmas weekend, or other stories of Tanzania, please have a look over the following blogs from my Mwanza chums:

www.emmainmwanza.wordpress.com

www.suzieinmwanza.wordpress.com

www.emmadintanzania.blogspot.com

www.dartfordtomwanza.com