Posts Tagged ‘buying’

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travelling.

August 14, 2012

I’m currently just over halfway through a well-earned two-week break from work, and I’m back in Bristol at the moment with my family. But over the past week I have bounced up and down the country, from London to Peterborough to Hastings then back to London via Heathrow!  During the car journey with Toby and his parents from Hastings to London, I played “the adjective game” with his mother in the back seat, which involves taking turns in saying the following rhyme:

I love my love with an A because he’s _____ (positive adjective beginning with A, e.g. “amazing”)
I hate my love with an A because he’s _____ (negative adjective beginning with A, e.g. “arrogant”)
His name is _____ (boy’s name beginning with A, e.g. “Aaron”) _____  and he comes from _____ (UK town beginning with A, e.g. Aberystwyth)

The next person does the letter B, then the letter C, and so on. It soon became apparent that while I could think of adjectives and boys’ names fairly quickly, my knowledge of British geography is woefully lacking. Apart from when my dad’s mother was alive and we would visit her for a couple of days in Filey, Yorkshire each summer, and travelling to the outskirts of London to see various members of my father’s family when I was young each Christmas, I didn’t really get to know much of England. School trips stuck mainly to the south west – occasionally Birmingham or Wales, but never any further.  In my late teens, when I was doing my university applications, I visited cities such as Oxford and Cardiff for the first time. I hadn’t even gone to central London and used the underground until I was 19 years old. I only like two cities in England – Bristol (more about that later), and London. I’m certainly not attached to anywhere else. Nevertheless, I feel that it’s important to visit cities in my home country (as well as countries throughout the world – Toby and I spent an hour last week making an exhaustive list of desired holiday destinations that will probably take us through to our seventies) to experience new places and broaden my horizons.

During my time in Peterborough, Toby’s mother suggested to us that we might like to go for a picnic at Rutland Water, which is a giant man-made lake / reservoir in the middle of the countryside.  Within that sentence, there are two words which unnerve me deeply: “picnic” and “countryside”. I don’t like picnics because they conjure up images of sitting on grass and mud, eating miserable sandwiches and constantly warding off bugs and insects. My preferred way of experiencing the countryside is through Google Earth or iPhoto – that way, you don’t have to smell it or get hot and sweaty walking through it, and you can turn it off once you get bored. I realise this sounds bratty, and I’m poking fun at myself a little bit – but I’m truly not one for gazing out over endless fields. I see it, my mind takes a picture, let’s move on – the fields do not do anything entertaining to hold my attention, and there’s no focal point. However, I tried to be up for something new, and I didn’t want to outwardly reject Toby’s offer of an outing, so we went along. The first hour of walking along a cycle path through clouds of midges, lumps of poo and flocks of sheep with the sun beating down on me and cyclists weaving all around us did not do much to endear me to Rutland Water, and I felt really bad. While my worst fears had indeed been confirmed, Toby had tried to do something nice for me and I wasn’t being very appreciative – he got a bit upset, I apologised and made more of an effort at conversation, we ate our nice sandwiches on a bench (at first he did come close to breaking his promise that we wouldn’t sit on the grass, but I firmly put the kibosh on that one), and soon it was a much more pleasant experience. We then drove round to the other side of the lake, which was far prettier and felt a lot more like a park.  For the record, I really like parks – we visited Battersea Park on Tuesday and it was lovely, plus we fell in love with nearly every dog that we saw (one of which, a bichon frisé, fell in love with me and followed me for about 5 minutes much to the chagrin of his owner). My mood had lifted a lot and I was actually enjoying myself, and Toby was too – as guilty as I felt for my initial ungratefulness, I am proud that I was mature enough to get over myself, enjoy myself and thank Toby for his thoughtfulness in the process. We skimmed stones (I discovered that I am really bad at this), looked at a very strange metal sculpture (apparently created purely to be aesthetically capitivating):

and walked along a dam made of piles of stones, which was very romantic. I ended up having a lovely time and after my initial disquiet, I appreciated the fresh air and open space.  Would I go again? I probably wouldn’t be the one to suggest it as a destination, but neither would I feel anxious about going. I still majorly dislike the countryside – that’s just me, I’m afraid – but I think I can learn to get along with it.

A couple of days later, we went a long drive from Peterborough down to Hastings for Toby’s brother’s engagement party (his brother’s fiancée is from there). I would personally never choose to live in Hastings, as it’s extremely tiny (I do not cope with tiny towns) and feels underdeveloped and a bit tacky, but – walking along the waterfront at night, and then picking my way down to the shore the following lunchtime, I could see that living by the seaside does have its charms:

Walking along the waterfront with Toby’s dad and Katie’s father as the sun set was truly lovely – people were playing crazy golf, a live band was playing, and there were stalls selling confectionery and ice cream. On Sunday we had lunch at a restaurant on the shore, and we went down to the water’s edge after finishing our meal and being that close to the water did feel a little bit magical. It did help that the weather was wonderful, but the venue just possessed a holiday atmosphere which I was able to appreciate. We drove back up to London and Toby’s parents dropped us off at Heathrow airport, which did feel exciting – we joked about just getting on a plane and leaving the country (and there were certainly plenty of appealing destinations on the departures board), but Toby had to be well-behaved as he is back at work this week. We each had a lemon San Pellegrino at the Caffé Nero there, and then got the tube back to Earls Court – and I ticked another underground station off my list:

And now I am back in Bristol. I am having a lovely time seeing my family and friends, and it is good to be home… but at the same time, I really feel that London is also my home now. I’ve lived there for a year (which has flown by!), and every time I return to Bristol, I notice how small the city feels, how tiny the buildings are, and how a considerable amount of the people look a bit… idiosyncratic. Obviously, you get dodgy-looking people everywhere, but I guess that until I started to see more of the world, I didn’t notice it in my own city as much. I always knew that the public transport in Bristol was a joke, but today I paid £2.90 for half an hour’s bus journey. The bus driver was on his mobile phone at the bus stop and I had to wait for him to finish his conversation before I could buy a ticket; I then asked how much it cost (as he didn’t tell me the price of the ticket – he just assumed I would know), and upon paying the driver, he practically threw my change at me, slamming it into the little money tray. I know that Bristol is a very friendly city, and that London is notorious for its rudeness and impatience, but the London public transport is far superior not only price-wise (a bus journey is less than half the price, and even the tube is considerably cheaper), but attitude-wise too – I’ve never been sassed by a London bus driver to date. So sort it out, Bristol! It’s sad that unless something major happens, we’d never be able to afford to buy somewhere in central London, because that would be a dream – but I’m looking forward to Toby and I moving into our own place (we are renting our own flat together in the next couple of months – I’m so excited!) in the next couple of months.  My sense of exploration is blossoming.

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what christmas means to me.

December 20, 2009

I remember when I was little I would count down the days to Christmas Day so eagerly.  About the 22nd December, I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  And then on the day itself, I’d be up ridiculously early, eager to open my presents and be spoiled for the day before we would go to my nan’s for a big Christmas lunch, relax in front of the television watching one film or another while my mum and my nan chatted, my grandfather slept and my dad made a nuisance of himself in one way or another.  Eventually we would go home to wait for the inevitable boredom that was Boxing Day. But overall, it’d be a lovely day and hold the type of memories I’ll always cherish.

I guess it’s called growing up, but I don’t feel at all the same now.  Part of it is that those memories are irreplaceable – my grandfather is now dead, my grandmother is in Australia this year, and the year before last spent the day in hospital with my granddad, and my father is the one who cooks now (nowhere near as well, though it’s ok) and we eat here at home.  There’s no eagerness to open my presents, and since my parents don’t seem bothered by what I get them, they wait until 11am or something ridiculous like that just so that I can see their faces and suss out whether they really like their gifts.  In other words, the childhood traditions of Christmas are completely broken and gone; we do things differently now, and sometimes I wonder if I was the only one who ever enjoyed Christmas.

Nowadays, I dread the day itself.  There’s nothing to watch on TV, there’s nowhere to go that isn’t parent-sponsored (my friends are all busy with their families, obviously; there aren’t any buses and as I don’t yet have a car – something which I’m looking to change in the very near future – I am essentially home-bound), the sanity of my nan’s conversation and the scrumptiousness of her cooking is poorly imitated by my father.  And I feel bad for saying that, because it’s not that his cooking is bad; it’s not. It’s perfectly edible, but it’s not the same.  I have a lot of my own issues with food, eating food and generally feeling guilty for it. (Another down side to Christmas – every cigarette I have is under surveillance, so I am currently eating more and smoking less.  Not good for my figure, nor my state of mind!) But nevertheless I am always eager to taste my nan’s cooking – it is that good (I like to call it the Italian influence) that even though I exercise restraint in size of portions, I eat more than I otherwise would.  Her food has a certain feeling of safety to it that is comforting and yet vibrant and actively tangible; my father’s food just feels fake and bland in comparison.  That’s just Christmas Day – this year I plan to be talking to Mike (who is a real Scrooge!  I’m certainly not as bad as he is – he actively hates it) and complaining in unison, and quite possibly working on my essay.  Hell, there’s nothing else to do.

Nowadays, my favourite part of Christmas is buying everyone’s presents.  I couldn’t really care less what people get me, as I appreciate anyone thinking about me enough to get me a present, and I don’t tell people what to get me as everything I actively want is invariably too expensive, and I wouldn’t be happy with people (not even my parents) spending that much money on me.  I prefer to buy jewellery and expensive items with my own money, because then it’s my own decision and I’m not bound to being grateful to anyone.  The thing I enjoy about buying people’s presents is the rush and buzz in the shops, the feeling that Christmas is here (maybe it’s left over from my days working in retail – which I am still so glad are over) and most of all, choosing the right gift for somebody so that it will genuinely make them happy and let them know I have not only put thought into what I’ve chosen for them, but that I value them as a friend.  This year I have spent a bit more money than usual and than I intended, but since I have my bursary from university, I can afford it 😉 Hell, if I can afford my Gucci earrings and bracelet (which FINALLY came on Wednesday after a 3-month wait!), I can afford splashing out an extra few £ for my friends.  I take pleasure and pride in that, and I believe that as much as I deserve to be treated, so do they.  We all should allow ourselves to feel good, and allow our friends to shine a little sunshine our way every now and then.

But the meaning of Christmas has changed.  This year at university has been something I’ve enjoyed so much, I plan to go into the library over the holiday just to see Mike and do some work – it fills the time! I can barely stand to be at home anymore unless I have the house to myself, because I feel like I’m in a cage that isn’t allowed to co-exist comfortably in the same room as my parents.  I go to Starbucks most days when I have free time just to work on my essay – it has the double bonus of allowing me to escape the house & have some cigarettes, and I actually seem to get a fair amount of work done there.  (The unfortunate drawback is that I consume a beverage that contains calories – though I always go for skinny, so I guess it’s not too bad.) I like being around people, I like being close to my friends, and the fact that I have this essay to work on means that I have something to focus my energy on.  I don’t know if it’s that my attention span is getting shorter as I grow older, but I cannot stand to simply sit in front of the television and vacate my brain.  I need my laptop near me at the same time as I am watching anything just so that I can talk to friends and surf the internet – my nan jokes that I am constantly multitasking, but it is true!  I don’t know if it’s that I don’t know how to relax, but most of the time I don’t really feel the need to relax, because I’d rather be on the go.  And I guess that that’s at the heart of the problem – at Christmas, there’s just not enough to do that keeps me entertained!  I don’t dislike Christmas, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that the soft-focus memories of my childhood aren’t enough to hold my attention anymore, even if they were still able to be replicated (which they’re beyond not).  I don’t need gifts anymore, and I don’t need to watch a silly film on the TV while eating x, y and z.  That’s not me. Fundamentally, what I want from Christmas more than anything is to spend time with my friends, get out of the house and go somewhere and talk, be silly and have fun.