A Night in an Airport

The more I think about it, the more ridiculous it seems that I am 21 years old but have never been on holiday without my family. But within 24 hours, this will have changed. It is time to cast away my cares and dismiss long sleeves! Now that my exams have finished and my year abroad in Strasbourg is technically over, what better way of filling my last few weeks ‘on the continent’ than gallivanting around the south eastern coast of Spain with the gang.
I have packed up my bag, thrown away the shrivelled carrots in the back of my fridge, decanted my shampoo into 100ml and told my boyfriend that he can watch the next 2 episodes of Game of Thrones without me while I’m away which I’m already regretting. Almost as much as I’m regretting my grand plan to spend a night in Basel airport alone. Sometimes I am surprised by my own brilliance at concocting such horrible plans.

My flight out to meet my chums in Alicante is at 6:10 in the morning and so in order to save time and money, I have set up camp in a comfy chair to make the most of the free wifi and warm surroundings.

  
There’s a man nearby snoring as though his life depends on it and a lady with shoes off, feet on the seats and not a care in the world. The building as a whole is quiet and dark, not too bad a place to get a couple hours of kip before my flight tomorrow morning. I’m going to set a few dozen alarms to make sure that I wake up in time and don’t render this whole exercise a waste. I know some people sleep in airports fairly frequently, but this is new territory to me, as is mainland Spain – I have never experienced either and I’m excited to get this first objective done and move onto the next one!

Now playing: nothing, it’s nap time!

Learning To Be French

As the dust of the admin storm fades, I now find myself on the road to becoming settled and actually working out how to live in a foreign country. Culture shock is definitely a thing. Geographically, England is so close to France, but culturally it’s a million miles away.

I sat on the tram yesterday evening, baguette under my arm, pondering how I was one string of onions away from becoming a walking stereotype. Genuinely, I carried a baguette around with me for about half an hour. Then, due to the new-found bravery and ‘don’t give a shit’ attitude that I have developed from living here, I started to eat my baguette. Yes, I sat on the tram eating a fresh baguette not caring about the h8rs. That in itself is very French: they don’t give a damn and do what they want. It’s admirable, but was alien and scary at the start for a timid anglaise.

I got to thinking about other aspects of French life that are surprising for a non-francophone and these are my best offerings, friends. If any of my fellow intrepid explorers of French life have any other suggestions then feel free to get involved!

  1. Trying to cross the road and being almost hit by a car, tram, bike or another person every time because you haven’t yet worked out which way to look. Add to that the fact that French drivers do not seem to play by the universal ‘green man means it’s my turn’ rule makes for some interesting crossing situations.
  2. There is graffiti everywhere. It ranges from single French words scratched into the tram window, to random English nouns (I’ve seen the word ‘tumour’ painted under a bridge), to proclamations of love tippexed on the desks in lecture theatres. Yesterday I saw this absolute belter and thought it was too good to not share.

    Definitely worth a snapchat

    Definitely worth a snapchat!

  3. French teenagers LOVE their Nikes. I’ve never seen so many pairs of Jordans in my life! Everyone has really snazzy trainers and the majority of these are Nikes…we can deduce from this that French kids get too much pocket money. Cool it, maman et papa!
  4. Walking past a boulangerie or patisserie it’s impossible to not stop and steam up the window with a hungry gaze. Man, it all looks so good, I do my strange pastry glance dance – walk past the window, glance at the calorific delights laid out for all to see, stop walking past, go back, eat it all with my eyes, carry on my merry way. I want to eat it all.
  5. Wine is cheap. Other booze is not (as we’ve previously discussed with the diabolical too expensive jagerbomb situation).
  6. The police officers are armed. There are soldiers with gurt off assault rifles who take a turn about the town centre every now and again and armed guards positioned outside the synagogue I pass every day. They are conspicuous and no one bats an eyelid.
  7. Being in France, means that it’s much more difficult to eavesdrop and hear about the mundane aspects of people’s lives which on boring days can be a wonderful distraction. Hearing a snapshot of a stranger’s life is surprisingly therapeutic, but the rapid-fire casual slang of colloquial French is proving difficult to understand. It may sound strange, but this makes me long for England, where I can listen to people planning evenings out and discussions with their parents. My French is improving though, soon I’ll be able to tell you all about Mathilde’s date with Jean-Claude.
  8. They’re mad about recycling. People have knocked on my door twice to tell me about recycling and given me a little bag for separating my waste. On all bins, you’re encouraged to think of ‘le tri’ (sorting). I haven’t yet found out if there are any consequences of not sorting your bins but I hope not because as much as I love recycling, my French isn’t up to asking for directions to the nearest food waste disposal unit or if I can put my paper waste in with the tins, which it seems like they want me to do…I’ll get the hang of it, just not right now, okay?
  9. Finally, number 9 – if they’re rude to you, it’s not because they hate you or because you’re being targeted, that’s just what they’re like as a populace. Don’t get offended, that’s just what they can be like.

As of tomorrow, I will have been living in Strasbourg for 7 weeks, if my maths is right. A scary and exciting 7 weeks. I’m sure the French culture will reveal to me more of its secrets, but for now I have mid-terms and then half term next week which will be a blessing – time to go home, unwind, forget all about the ordering of personal pronouns and how to use the subjunctive tense in real life and eat some proper cheddar.

Now Playing: James Bay – Scars

A Séjour in Strasbourg

I’m folded into the passenger seat of our family’s car. My dad is in the driver’s seat and the sun is shining down on us and making me wish I didn’t choose to wear my blackest jeans and winteriest boots today. We are sitting in a companionable quiet, lost in thoughts or in my case, a blog post.

20kg of my life is packed into a suitcase and sitting in the boot, daring me to take a look inside and realise I’ve forgotten something crucial.

Passport? Check. Health insurance card? Check. Raincoat? Check. Gym kit? Check. Slightly too big to fit stuffed animal of Toothless the dragon from that Dreamworks film ‘How To Train Your Dragon’? Check.

These are the more mobile of my possessions, the ones that would fit in a suitcase. Bigger things have been left behind.

Today, I move to Strasbourg, in the north east corner of France. Apparently it’s called the capital of Europe; the European Court of Human Rights is there, along with the European Parliament. And there’s an enormous cathedral too. One could want for nothing more!

I’m going to the university there. For a year. In France. On my own. For a year, did I mention?

I’m terrified, I’m frightened, I’m a ball of anxiety and worry ready to ping and explode at any point like a watermelon with too many elastic bands wrapped around it. All these weeks of burying my head in the sand and ignoring that I had to go away have been for nothing. My plan was foiled again! You know in the Harry Potter series when Dumboedore and everyone else it seems all KNEW that Voldemort was going to come back but did hardly anything to prevent it other than ignore it and have a cracking feast every now and again and play a spot of Quiddich? That’s what I’ve done all summer. And now I have to go and meet Voldemort anyway…ugh! All burying my head did was leave me with a lot of paperwork to sort out last minute! Silly Lizzie, eh?

Underneath the all consuming terror of moving abroad, there’s a glimmer of something golden. If I get out my internal microscope and inspect it further it sparkles and shows me visions of friends yet to be made, smiling faces, improving my language skills and the many people over the last few days who have given me pep talks saying ‘hey Lizzie, you know what? You’re going to do great! This is an adventure, embrace it.’ I am grateful for this small glimmer of hope, it’s the only reason I didn’t leap out of the car this morning and curl up and hide under my duvet for a couple more weeks.

Yes, it’s terrifying and I’ll stumble over all my French verb conjugations and basic vocabulary for several weeks but isn’t that what I’m going over for? To improve and be around those who speak the language much better than I do?

So people, today, on the day I leave for France, I am dreading it slightly less than I have been…which is something at least! I’m being brave and starting my next adventure. Now in the next half an hour I just need to get over my absolute dislike of flying! That’s nothing, I’m about to live in France with all the French people and their berets and baguettes, I can do anything!

Now playing: Don Broco – Tough On You

One Saturday Afternoon…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Moved to Tears.”

I’m an incredibly emotional person and I’ll cry at a great deal of things, both sad and happy, some of which are quite stupid. I shed a tear when seven years ago, I met my new-born baby brother for the first time and I got ridiculous happy wet eyes when my rugby team won a competition last year.

I cry when I tell people about the scary thoughts in my head, and even harder as they hug me and tell me it’ll be ok. I cried as my heart was stomped into a thousand little pieces over and over and over and I could only helplessly watch.

I had tears streaming down my face as I watched Rhod Gilbert’s stand up comedy piece about Henry Hoovers for the first time and was absolutely hysterical when a mate of mine tripped and knocked over a girl in a night club and then proceeded to try it on with her while they were both in a heap on the floor. Now THAT was funny!

I was so upset reading the ending of ‘The Fault in Our Stars’ (so shoot me if you think it’s a terrible book, I disagree and think it’s beautifully written) and the most recent time I sobbed my heart out was last night watching the season five finale to Game of Thrones. 7/10 would not recommend watching it. My parents were moderately concerned until I sobbed out what was happening…they rolled their eyes and continued watching the news.

But when I saw the prompt yesterday asking me to describe the last time I cried at something beautiful, I was puzzled for a few minutes until I was transported to the exact moment that I was told such beautiful words that I couldn’t help but give myself over to the emotions that followed.

Allow me to take you back a few weeks; it was late afternoon one Saturday, deep in exam season and I was spending a few precious hours with a precious friend. We were talking, laughing, discussing life. We were incredibly, hilariously, sublimely happy.

The conversation took a more serious turn and we each aired our fears for the future and my uncertainty at my ability to cope with the rocky road of terrors laid before me. He took my hands in his, clasped them tightly and murmured the words: “I’m so proud of you”.

The simplicity of these words and the conviction with which they were delivered was the most beautiful thing I’d heard for a long time. It left me stunned and I took in the tide of calm that washed over me. The tears built up as I looked intently into his eyes and whispered “thank you”, words that never quite seemed adequate for the importance of the moment. Then I was vanquished by the hand of emotion and left damp spots on his tshirt as he gave me a comforting hug.

This may not seem quite as beautiful as a breathtaking landscape or carry as much emotion as your child grabbing your finger for the first time, but for me, the overly-emotional twenty year old, this was magnificent and gave me the strength required to go forth and take on the world. I was a happy Lizzie that day.

Now playing: Avenged Sevenfold – Seize the Day

*WHISTLE WHISTLE WHISTLE* LIFEGUARD GOING IN!

For the last almost 4 years of my life, I have been a lifeguard at my local swimming pool, a job which I both love and find slightly dull. My mum always says it’s better to be bored rather than having to leap into action every 10 minutes, a sentiment with which I heartily agree.

I love this job mainly because of the people I work with every single day. They are hilarious, friendly, occasionally moany and full of some great stories. They welcome me back after a tough term at uni with the same enthusiasm and questions as they would if I‘d just had a week off. Going to work is comfortable and on more than one occasion I’ve fleetingly considered sacking in university life for the comfort and ease of this environment. But then I remember y’know, I quite like education.

I have spent nearly 4 years with these people and at times you forget why you’re there. It’s not exactly a thrilling job most of the time and often the swimmers are the worst thing about it. There are numerous signs around the pool baring the standard ‘no diving’ and ‘no running’ commandments but the amount of people who have deemed themselves too clever and important to follow these common sense rules is BAFFLING! If you are such a person, let me enlighten you. The side of the pool is very wet and slippery; if you run, you will probably slip and could either end up with a nasty bruise, a chipped tooth or a broken limb. So if you fancy dicing with a poolside injury, go forth and run, but expect to be yelled at to stop. If you dive in, the chances that you will end up with a head injury of some kind or even a spinal injury is relatively high. Are you going to risk it? I wouldn’t, so be sensible, yeah? If not for yourself, then for the sake of us poor lifeguards who will have to deal with the consequences of your stupid mistake because you couldn’t be bothered to follow the rules.

That said, my friends make fun of me regularly when I say that I’m going to work. I get jokes like “Oh cool, so you’re going to go and have a sit for a couple hours, yeah?”, or “don’t exert yourself too much will you, getting out of that high chair is quite tricky sometimes!” You get the gist, they think all we lifeguards do is sit around and blow a whistle every now and again, but I am here to tell you that this is not the case. Yesterday I actually had to do some work. I had to get in and perform a rescue.

In all of my 20 years on this planet, I haven’t experienced adrenaline like it. I honestly had no idea that I could move so fast and react to something so quickly! A little boy of about 5 was in a swimming lesson, got out of his depth and lost his float. I remember noticing him struggling to keep his head above the water. I remember my heart stopping and a distinct ‘oh shit’ train of thought running through my mind. But, err, I don’t quite remember how I got out of the chair and into the water, but I remember the tunnel vision as my instincts kicked in and all that mattered at the moment was getting to the boy. Unfortunately this meant that some of my training went out of the window and I may have forgotten to blow my whistle, but hopefully this is excusable. I remember people staring and the code blue alarm blaring, which indicates to everyone in the centre that there is an emergency in the pool. That sound is enough to make everyone’s heart skip a beat and would’ve done the same for mine except for the fact that I think mine had already stopped. I carried the lad to the side and I remember emerging from the water completely drenched and shaking like a leaf and remained in this state for a good 15 minutes after. But it was done and I am now a proper real-life lifeguard. I have fulfilled the purpose I was trained for and that feels pretty good.

One thing I will learn from this experience is the need to take spare underwear to work with me from now on, because in the words of our amazing receptionist Mandy, I had to sit for the rest of my shift with wet boobs. Banter!

Now playing: Escape the Fate – Situations

HOOVERGATE

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Mad as a Hatter.”

‘Mad as a Hatter’ was the writing prompt for today and this incident immediately sprung to my mind. It’s something of a legend in our friendship group. Allow me to share it with you. But be warned, Lizzie + rage = swearing, if you’re overly sensitive to that kind of stuff maybe this post isn’t for you!

Now, if you know me even a little, you will know that I’m not an angry person – you can find me in the easy-going, ditheringly cheerful category. The sort that needs supervision in the kitchen when handling knives; on my second ever day at university I sliced my thumb on a tin of beans. Blood everywhere. No beans for Lizzie that day :(

There’s some background to why rage is particularly out of character for me, now to the event.

Last year, I was living in university halls with my brand new and awesome friends aka, my Canterbury family (LOVE YOU GUYS!). Any of you jolly splendid people reading this who have ever lived in halls know that they’re not the most soundproof of places to stay. You have to be pretty tolerant when your neighbours make noise as chances are, a skype session with your family of what seems like a decent volume to you, could be torturously loud for the poor soul living next door. As a student, you are wary of your volume, so you turn down your music slightly, but not too much because your mate next door likes to play guitar at half 11 at night and you CAN HEAR ALL OF IT.

On the night of the incident in question, I was already tired, I had a couple of assignments due soon and so had been working on them all evening, so when it was a reasonable time to call it a night (so after the thought process of ‘is 9:30 too early to go to bed? …maybe. I’lll leave it a bit longer’) sleep came on stealthy wings and transported me to dreamland where I was perfectly happy and comfortable.

And then it happened.

3am rolled around. My flatmates got back from an evening ‘working’ in the library…they keep strange hours, I know. They made noise and a helluva lot of it. They ruthlessly dragged me back to reality with their jeering and it disrupted my snuggles. I was not a happy bunny. Not at all. Bitches don’t interrupt my sleep!

But this was fine, I’d certainly made my fair share of noise late at night after a couple of drinks and they hadn’t flown into a frenzy then.

A couple minutes passed and I thought the drama had subsided and was drifting back to the land of unicorns and Channing Tatums but oh no, this was premature.

A certain house mate of mine by the name of ‘Louis’ had been locked out of his room by our dear friends ‘Joe’ (from a couple of posts back, remember?) and ‘Carl’ and decided that the only thing he could do to remove them from his room was to TURN THE HOOVER ON.

fuck-meme_00370790

I know!! I don’t understand! Did he think he could use the suction of the machine to suck them out?! I have no idea! Clearly it was the stupidest idea that anyone has ever had, so needless to say I flew into a rage and exploded from my room like an arrow loosed from a bow and poor Louis was about to feel my wrath.

“What the FUCK are you doing?!?!” I screeched mercilessly in his poor unsuspecting face. “It’s 3 in the morning and you’ve TURNED THE HOOVER ON TO GET THEM OUT OF YOUR ROOM?? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!?!”

Needless to say, Louis shat himself and Joe and Carl emerged from his room looking pretty sheepish. They all mumbled apologies and left me to stalk back into my room in a fit of rage with a cartoon storm cloud above my head.

In the morning, Joe and Carl thought the whole fracas was hilarious and Louis appeared terrified of me for about a week afterwards. But it all turned out for the better and the four of us are thick as thieves now and they do the washing up whenever I ask them to, for fear of a repeat of Hoovergate.

So concludes my tale of anger and hoovers and lack of sleep. It may seem like an irrational thing to rage about, but anyone gets in the way of me and a good night’s sleep without good reason runs the risk of my own personal Hulk coming out and scaring you witless. You have been warned.

Now playing: Shinedown – Devour

Spring has sprung!

Picture an animal emerging from its hibernation place. It might take a couple of attempts but after waking up fully and assessing the temperature, it might emerge from its resting place, sniff the air and shake off the dust of the winter months.

It is with the same caution that I am going to make an announcement: I THINK SPRING IS FINALLY HERE!

It flirted with us for a few weeks but then the heavenly weatherman decided he wanted us to have biting winds, overcast skies and rain for just a bit longer. It was the kind of weather when you think you might be able to get away with not wearing your waterproof coat but then halfway through the day, the skies open leaving you dreading the walk home with nought but a laptop to cover your head.

But now, the cloud that gave us such a great view of the eclipse last week (please note my sarcasm…I inherited it from my dad) has lifted and we have been treated to blue skies and sun that warms the backs of your legs. It’s not too hot, still hoody weather which I’m totally ok with but I finally feel safe leaving my coat at home, opting instead for my Glamour Kills jacket.

I love the spring time. The winter gloom has been cast off and the evenings are getting lighter – it’s quarter to seven now and it’s still light outside. The sun wants us to stay out longer and make the most of these new-found hours of daylight. The bare brown branches of the trees are dotted with green buds that promise new life. The bulbs of daffodils and other springtime flowers are breaking free of the oppressive ground and starting to display their colours. I love daffodils. Apparently it’s not normal that they’re my favourite flowers, but I don’t care – there’s nothing like seeing a sea of yellow and sometimes orange flowers bobbing their heads in the breeze. You know what else I like? Seeing clumps of primroses on the sides of roads. From a distance, I always think they look like big ol’ blobs of scrambled eggs…too weird? Got it.

Look how happy and in-your-face they are!

Look how happy and in-your-face they are!

But what I really like about spring is that my mood seems to improve and I start to feel a bit happier. Winter can be really miserable – it’s horrible outside a lot of the time, it’s dark for more hours than it is light and it’s so cold. Too many shadows can fester in the depths of winter. It can be all too easy to fall into these shadows and become stuck in the winter that doesn’t seem like it will end. The winter seems to stretch on for eternity with no chance for escape or the rejuvenation of spring, with you being swept up in it’s all-encompassing wake.

But it will always arrive. As sure as the sun comes up in the morning, spring will come, and you too can be reborn and escape the clutches of winter. Today might be a really bad day, but your own personal spring will always come and you will learn and grow with it. Look around at it. Isn’t it beautiful? That’s what I love the most about the spring I think; the opportunity for new growth.

That, and the fact that I’ve managed to sneakily turn off the central heating in our house without my flatmates knowing or moaning about it being cold! Score!

Now playing: Myopia – Enter Shikari