Category Archives: Personal

Lost In Japan: Day 16 – Tokyo to London

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

At midnight I received an email from British Airways informing me that our flight was going to be delayed by two hours. It was 5am when I saw this message, in two hours the pre-booked bus would I be arriving at the hotel giving us four hours at the airport.

No matter, I just reasoned that it would mean more time in Japan. Plus, I had seen what the Japanese have done with turning buildings into ridiculously cool malls, I was sure that Narita Airport would follow the same pattern. Thankfully I was right.

I was pretty sleep deprived at this point (weird dreams about being best friends with a history teacher followed by one where I was Lisa Simpson tend to do that) so I was pretty much wafting around the pre-security area checking out the many shops and restaurants. Hubby said he wanted to try a more traditional Japanese one (unlike McDonalds, which was offering a surprisingly large number of breakfast items). Since the first place we came used natto in their breakfast (blech) we just went next door.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksFood items: Turnip greens and Tamari shoyru

Whilst he went for the ‘Japanese Breakfast’ I went for the cheaper option of tempura and hot soba noodles. I had written today off as being one where there would be no food items, and here were two at once. I am pretty sure that I have done the tamari shoyru previously in the holiday, but this was he first time that I heard the waitress specify it as such. It also gave me my first taste of turnip greens, which went well with the broth that the noodles came in.

Progress: 775/933

In order to speed along the time we had a proper explore of the airport, including the observation area and the airports Pokemon Centre store. We managed to whittle away our extra yen through extra souvenirs (including an adorable plushie of Narita airport’s mascot) and some extra sweets to bring home.

The flight itself (twelve and a half hours long) reminded me of how good the food was in a Japan and just how long 12 and a half hours can be. I know that in-flight meals are not typically gourmet (although Qantas was particularly nice), but this was a real comedown.

Still, it afforded me time to do quite a bit of drafting for Tripadvisor reviews, de-weed by Animal Crossing town, remind myself of how much I loce Juno and stare out at some spectacular scenery (pictured: a Siberian plain). It also allowed me to get incredibly annoyed at a Japanese woman in front of me who not only tilted her seat all the way back, but also managed to twitch so much that I got repeatedly winded by the fold-out tray.

A hour and half car trip later (curse you M25!) and we were home.

List item: Stay up for 24 hours
Status: Completed

Yes, this was not how I had wished to complete this list item, but seeing how I woke up at 5am it just ended up working out this way.

Still, when there is half price Domino’s Pizza knocking at the front door I guess staying up for that long isn’t too bad. Plus, thanks to this we were both able to minimize the post-Japan jetlag. We woke up the next day at 4:30 in the morning… but as long as we are able to stay up until 9:30 tonight we should be fine.

We spent the morning sticking on the laundry and unpacking all of the souvenirs we bought… it was a lot more than I think either of us expected. The last minute addition of a Narita Airport mascot plushie (the plane-bird thing on the far left) really rounded it off for me.


List item: Have and maintain a collection
Status: Ongoing/Completed

During our trip to Sicily I decided that I really wanted to resurrect my childhood keychain collection. I also got a really nice one in Luxembourg. I feel that now that I have bought a whole lot of these from different amazing areas in Japan I can now definitively say that this collection is back up and running. Now I just need to find a place to display my favourite ones in a way that makes me not look like a Boy Scout.

And… that’s it. That’s the end of my Japan trip and honeymoon. Truly, it has been the best time I have ever spent on holiday (second is a three-city trip to Australia back in 2010, a trip I never thought could be topped). A time so amazing that I have started working out the itinerary for our next visit in a few years (Sendai, Osaka and the tropical island of Yakushima are candidates).

That Time I Got Married

I just want to start out by saying how strange it is to do a blog post about my wedding. I mean, as I am writing this it is two evenings after the event and I still do not have a lot of photos from the day (those will be retrofitted in). Anyway, let’s begin:

List Item: Make a will
Progress: Completed

Okay, I know this is a bit of a bait and switch. The thing is, the cold hard logic reason to get married is because of depressing reasons like wills. However, let’s not dwell on that and get to the real thing!

List Item: Be involved in a wedding (in any way)
Progress: Completed

List Item: Throw a party
Progress: Completed

This has been an almost 3-year-long engagement. My husband proposed to me on Christmas Day in 2012. During this time, I had a mental breakdown, we bought a flat…

List Item: Move house
Progress: Completed

…and we had to save up for both a wedding and a honeymoon. We actually started to look at booking a wedding about a year and a half in advance. Seeing how we are both fairly low maintenance in that respect and very well organised, I must say that all the work prior to the wedding has not exactly been too stressful for either of us. I guess that when no dress, make-up or flowers are involved, weddings can be rather simple.

List Item: Make a budget
Progress: Completed

The most stressful bit actually happened the day before the wedding when the cake delivery driver trying to deliver the cakes to the venue before it had opened. It all worked out fine though. The cheesecakes were delicious and beautifully presented.

Now, there is a big part of me that wants to write a blog post where I describe my wedding in the minutest of details. The thing is, I feel pictures explain things a whole lot better than words do. So I’ll let them do the talking and interject with some key things.

Song that we walked down the aisle: ‘Reprise’ from Spirited Away
Song that we concluded the ceremony with: ‘Everything Is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie

Food served at wedding ‘breakfast’: Burgers topped with gruyere, piri piri chicken, halloumi kebabs, celeriac coleslaw, salads and lemon tart
Wedding cake: 5 types of cheesecake

Song for the first dance: ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ by Father John Misty
Song I had the most fun dancing to: ‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens with my mum
Amount of leftover food: Three meals worth
Day had: Perfect

To conclude, as I sit here writing this blog post (where I am so freaking excited about heading off to Japan in the morning for my dream holiday/honeymoon) I am still feeling so incredibly lucky. Lucky to have a husband who loves me as much as he does and who gets me totally. Lucky to have been able to fill a room with so many generous and amazing friends. And lucky to have an amazing mum who will dance merrily with me to Sufjan Steven’s ‘Chicago’. It was just one of those perfect days.

It’s Good To Share & It’s Good To Win

Full disclosure, I was going to do another album write-up (it has been a month after all), but here I am in mid-August and the 2015 of the albums list is yet to materialise. Instead I’m still cleaning out the back catalogue of bucket list cross-offs with something more positive than my recent teaching post.


List item: Share something you love with someone else
Status: Completed

Okay, so this is a bit of a easy one. Still, it’s one of those things that I probably should do more often and I acutally got proof of it this time!

I think I have mentioned before that I love Sufjan Stevens. This also means that when it is Christmas time I tend to play his Songs for Christmas albums ad nauseum. If you are in the mood for a strange Christmas metaphor that ends in a festive cover of Joy Division, then ‘Christmas Unicorn’ really is the song for you.

As a Sufjanatic I guess I feel it is my duty to share his music…

 

List item: Win an award
Status: Completed

Okay, so this happened a while ago now but I am still super proud of this. I know some people think work awards are a bit lame, and I would normally agree if I had not won one, but this felt like all the extra work I had been putting in had been noticed.

I didn’t accept this gracefully either. Where everyone else sheepishly got up on stage, accepted the award and then walked back down… I went a bit further. Like, holding it above my head and nodding my head as if I was some faded rockstar receiving a lifetime achievement award. It got some cheers from the back, though.

Professional behaviour kinda flies out of the window when I am super-psyched.

The thing is, I had an all day meeting that day. My line manager (thanks to advance warning) got me to come over thinking it was something properly mandatory and business-like and there it was, divisional awards.

Okay, I’m lame. But as someone who doesn’t win things this was a major deal :).

Back When I Was A Teacher

January 8th. This is not a day that means something to a lot of people unless you’re Jenny Lewis, in which case happy birthday and I love your music.

To me January 8th is one of those dates that has really started to stick out for me – it marks the last time I ever taught a class. On this day I had a nervous breakdown after my GP basically refused to help me with, what I now know was, my rapidly deteriorating mental health.

I ended up in hospital that night. It was an evening that was equal parts relieving, humiliating, upsetting and necessary. To be unequivocally told by a mental health professional that I should quit my job because I was becoming a threat to myself? Well, there’s nowhere else to go from there is there.

Let’s back up a bit here and start back at the beginning of what lead to that evening.

It starts in May 2011, when out of sheer desperation of five months of no job-hunting success I applied to do a PGCE and snagged a place on the Biology course at King’s College London. The fact that the local sandwich bar refused me a job due to lack of experience and suddenly I was deemed good enough to enter the road to teaching still strikes me as rather strange.

Still, I was moderately happy to get onto this because I still remembered being a student at an independent school… which in retrospect meant I was completely unprepared. We started in September.

The first few weeks we really good. We did a bunch of teaching theory, learned some interesting practicals to teach different areas of science and we started to gel as a group of wannabe teachers. This lasted for nearly a month before being placed into our first school. Here we began to observe proper science lessons until it came the time where we would be up there teaching our first lesson.

List item: Teach someone
Progress: Completed

It was the first week after the October half term. The class was a top set Year 9 and I was teaching a 50 minute physics lesson about the difference between mass and weight. It took me about a week, off and on, to plan this lesson and it was over so quickly. I must have thrown up 3 times that morning before doing the lesson and, to be honest, it went off a lot better than I thought it would. I did a few more rather quickly, including a Year 7 lesson on classification involving Beanie Babies, with a cover teacher remarking that I seemed like I had been teaching for a while. The thing is, after the first lesson and after the nervous energy wore off I came to the realisation that something wasn’t right with me doing this.

List item: Go pond-dipping
Progress: Completed

I persevered and after a lot of hard work at two different schools I passed my PGCE. Part of it included doing some field work and learning how to organise outdoor activities such as sampling pond-dipping. I remember us catching and naming some small fish and crustaceans, it was a lot of fun.

The week after that trip I received a letter from the school I had my first placement at saying that they were offering me a job as a member of the science department. I was so happy and relieved to finally have a job, after all that’s why I went into teaching rather than some calling to the profession.

(My own classroom!)

 List item: Babysit/Look after kids
Progress: Completed

And so I entered my NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. A year I was almost immediately told was going to end up being harder than the PGCE year. Still in the first few months I still had enough energy and optimism inside of me to try to make the best of things.

With the reduced timetable that came with being an NQT I found that, whilst it was hard and I had to basically build up my bank of lessons, I was able to just about cope with a lot of what was being thrown at me. I was able to take delight in making colourful display boards and drawing bad cartoons as start activities.

List item: Entertain people with a puppet
Progress: Completed

The first term went really well. The children loved me, I was passing my NQT observations and with one of my Year 7 classes I was able to let out a bit of my silly side by including an emu puppet in my lesson as a plenary activity. Sounds bizarre, but having 11 and 12 year olds explain the difference between solids, liquids and gases to an oversized purple bird worked for a lot of them.

After Christmas things changed. I had become such a part of the furniture that a lot of the classes began to change on me. My Year 8s got to the point where I would be having panic attacks in the science prep room every now and then with the technicians finding me almost foetal behind the cabinets as I could not deal with the behaviour in those two classes.

List item: Allow someone to make their own mistakes
Progress: Completed

As with all things there was a silver lining (other than the summer holiday which never seemed to arrive quite quickly enough). My Year 9 class. No matter how bad a day was I knew that everything would be fine during those 50 minutes. They were well-behaved, engaged and just so eager to learn. They allowed me to teach in the style that best suited my personality; tangential, slightly leftfield but with the aim of both entertaining and informing. I never really had to worry about behaviour (maybe once or twice, but no class is perfect) so I could just be me and it was such a tonic.

List item: Attend a court case
Progress: Completed

Luckily for me I managed to snag two weeks off in my NQT year because of jury service. I actually pleaded with the courts to put me on a case that would last for weeks… they smiled and went back to their day-to-day work. It was worth a shot? At least I got to be a foreman, that was interesting.

 List item: Inspire someone
Progress: Completed

We got to the end of the year and I got this amazing card (with a present) from one of my Year 9s. I was not looking forward to being a teacher with a full timetable after passing my NQT and I was so close to quitting. But, me and my partner had bought an apartment, so I was trapped.  Also, I found out that I would be teaching top set Year 10 which meant that a large section of the class that kept me sane would be still there when I came back after the summer.

The problem was, I was never able to truly relax in the summer. For the final two weeks I could not sleep properly and I was having nightmares about going back to teaching. From that September to January it was just a downward spiral punctuated by bright moments with my Year 10s and Year 11s. We got to Christmas where I had to mark over 40 pieces of controlled assessment which meant I had no time to relax, so I came back to the school completely frazzled.

Three days of teaching later and that was it. I mentally and physically collapsed to the point that my GP told me that considering the number teaching had done on my mental health that they would be able to sign me off for months. Not wanting to bleed the school dry I took a few weeks to clear my head and make up my mind about whether I could survive on savings for a while as I job searched or if I had to go back to teaching.

I handed in my notice as soon as that decision was made, threw the anti-depressants in the bin and I’ve been mentally stable since.

In the end, things have become so much better in these two years since. I have a job that I am happy with, I have time to be a friend again, I can be the partner (and now husband) to an amazing person, I can feel free to be me again. I got my life back.

This is the what January 8th means to me. The day where I finally was able to take the advice from a fortune cookie I consumed the Saturday before and take back control of what my life was going to be:

List item: Take advice from a fortune cookie
Progress: Completed

I have one regret from leaving teaching. I was never able to say a proper goodbye or a thank you to the students who kept me sane for that year and a half. If any of you come across this (you know who you are) I just want to say:

“I am sorry. I tried so so hard and by leaving the way I did I feel like I failed  you after all the trust and love that you showed for your eccentric red-headed science teacher. It was a true pleasure getting to know you guys and I wish you all the best in the future.”

My Lego Centrepieces

Hello! It’s been a long month and a lot has happened! Well, I am writing this in the summer and can only now properly post these pictures since my (now) husband wanted me to keep these under wraps for the day of the wedding.

Well, I can post these pictures now.

List item: Build something truly awesome out of Lego
Status: Completed

Okay, so awesome is a pretty subjective. However, in my eyes these are pretty damned awesome so I consider this all ticked off. Especially since I designed all of them.

Totoro was the first that I designed. We figured that each table should have a Lego design that reflecting our interests. Since My Neighbour Totoro is one of my favourite films, and since I have a large plushie version sat opposite me a lot of the time I am on my laptop, it made sense to make one featuring him.

This penguin (based on Gunter from Adventure Time) was probably the easiest one to build of the designs. It used to be a bit more complex, but issues regarding the available shades of Lego bricks made me simplify this one a bit. Others were far more effected though. Despite being the easiest it still took the better part of an hour to build.

In order to make all of these we had to order 1300+ pieces of Lego. 400+ of these were just the black 1×1 pieces since they made up the outside of most of the outsides. The story is the same with this Lego Lego Batman. A lot of black being used here, but also the only use of the pale yellow.

Whilst all of the others had an original image that I pretty much copied from, this cat (and the below dragon) were ones that I designed using an amalgamation of different ones. Mainly because my original attempt at a cat design was pretty damned pitiful.

The issue with this cat is the tail; it snaps off rather easily when you carry the design around. We managed to avoid this when we put it on a resting board, but (like all of these) they were an absolute devil to get to the venue.

This dragon is, if you ask me, the best of the centrepieces. It was the last one that I designed and was the first one that was actually built. The dragon is an exception since it was not done after a shared interest in the way that the others were. This dragon was made in honour of our newborn niece – previously known as ‘draakje’ or ‘little dragon’ before the gender was known.

It was one of the more difficult to design and build, but it was definitely worth it. Well, all of them were worth it – but this is definitely my favourite.

Notice of Absense

wedding

So, I’m getting married very soon and then going on an amazing Japanese honeymoon. Therefore I will not be posting any posts on here for a month. There will be some posts about the wedding and the honeymoon (since they will inevitably cross a few things off my lists), but those won’t be going up for a few months. The benefits of getting ahead eh?

Anyway, the posts will be starting up again on November 9th with some pictures of my awesome centrepiece since I am ludicrously proud of them.

Until then!

 

My Thumb Is Slightly Green

This is a bit of a silly one, but I am one of those people who would not trust themselves because a goldfish. I know in myself that there is a 80% chance of them dying because I forgot to feed them or clean their tank.

List Item: Keep a plant alive for a year
Progress: Completed (but looking slight wilted at the moment)

I guess I figured that if I could remember to do the needed things in order to keep a plant alive then maybe one day, in the distant future, get something more alive – like a venus fly trap.

So over a year ago I received an aloe vera plant as a host gift from my friend Seen Wai. I then proceeded to send a picture to her of me torturing the plant…

IMG_0781[1](I… I don’t know)

The plant grew really quickly. Within a few months I had to go to the local B&Q to procure a larger pot and then steal some soil from my mum’s backyard (sorry about that mum… and now you know) in order to stop it from toppling over at the slightest rumble from outside.

To be honest there are times where I forget to water it. I have never read up on how to take care of this plant. In many ways I am surprised this thing is still around considering that I have, at times, given the plant pot hugs. It’s a survivor I guess!

The plant is still in a good condition despite my having NO idea how to transfer a plant between plants. What can I say, aloe vera plants are hardy sods.

A year and a bit later it is still growing, albeit slower than when I first got it. I probably should get him some plant food as a congratulations for surviving for so long and for having a few little clone babies.

Being Traditional

List item: Start a tradition… and keep it alive for over a decade
Status: Completed

Picture the scene. It is the December of 1998 and we are putting the Christmas decorations up. By we… I mean my mum as I had recently turned nine and this was an exhausting task since it took us literally all day. This would leave her incredibly tired and a bit sick of the Disney version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’ which I insisted on playing on repeat as Clarabelle Cow would have been in stitches.

Since this was something that began to resonate with me I decided that I would cook dinner that evening for my mum as a way to be nice. Being me I was a more ambitious and rather than something like beans on toast I wanted to cook something special (since we were putting the deccies up) and there was a Delia Smith recipe for Soufleed Macaroni Cheese… and a tradition was born.

Now, this is something that we never took pictured of until I realised something after serving up spoonfuls of steaming fluffy macaroni cheese… 16 years of making this dish without fail without putting up the Christmas decorations counts as a tradition. Just a tradition that is slightly unusual.

I realise now that making this actually taught me a lot about cooking that I never thought about before. It taught me how to fold egg whites in order to keep as much air in your food as possible. It taught me how to whisk egg whites into peak like a mad boss so you can tip a mixing bowl upside down and it will not fall out. It taught me that when making a complex dish that preparation is key to reducing stress. Finally, it taught me that sometimes things go wrong when cooking, but you just have to let it go and learn from the mistake.

This is so delicious, and if you want the recipe you can find it on my old cooking blog.

I Was Feeling Very Sleepy

This was one of the first non-travel things to enter my bucket list when I started making it a few years ago and whilst I don’t have a video showing it I do have the ticket… to the show where I was hypnotised.

List Item: Be hypnotised
Progress: Completed Scan 24 Mar 2014 20_58-page21

So as you can tell from the ticket I scanned above this show was about a year ago. My partner and his best friend are both fans of Derren Brown and so the three of us went (with another friend, hi Rob!) to see his Infamous show.

The show was great was per usual (this is my second of his shows and my mini-crush was present) and he gets to a bit that required audience participation. In the last show I saw this required people to write down a “secret confession” but this time he tried out a mass hypnosis/trance state thing which everyone gets up and has a go at.

Now, from here my memory of it gets a bit sketchy. Considering I was still fresh from finishing my NQT year as a teacher I was probably incredibly susceptible to entering a “trance state” and ended up being one of the last twenty or so in the theatre that was under (this included a woman who struggled to wake up). At one point during this he was apparently standing right behind me talking… not that I noticed.

The whole idea was to create a feeling of relaxation and I remember during this that when the instruction was given to wake up I REALLY did not want to wake up. I saw things very vividly in my head (I am describing this in detail since the people behind me in the theatre asked what it was like).

The main instructions were to visualise things we loved and to basically walk through doors and down stairs into different places. The main things I can remember seeing were the mountains in Slovenia, a field and the lecture theatre at university we used to show films in. After I woke up I felt so contented and it dawned on me that I needed to change my job as soon as possible… about a year later and I’m feeling what I felt back when I was under. Maybe Derren Brown’s thing led me to this.

Dear Diary… I Should Never Re-Read You

This isn’t something I have have just finished, in fact it is something I did for two and a half years and they mark the years 2005 to the first half of 2007. They are also cringing to read now that I am older.

mydiaries List Item: Keep a diary
Progress: Completed

In order to write this post I picked up the 2005 diary and turned to a random page, which lead me to April 14th. Here is an excerpt (it was the first day of school after the Easter holidays):

From the moment I walked in everything was back to normal. The isolation and sheer lonleyness (sic) that can be attributed to being unpopular

I then spend the rest of that day mooning over my crush and planning to become friends with him (never happened), being glad someone I disliked stayed away from me and something about a rumour of guy in the year below who gave another guy a handjob for a tenner. A few more flicks in that year is still fairly emotional and weird to read.

Let’s see how 2006 reads. First page I open is November 21st.

Apart from the visit from the fire brigade to put out a bin that some chavs set alight it has been a relatively normal day.

Getting better. How about November 22nd.

A bunch of Vikings got on the bus. All dressed up with horned hats, armour and axes. Found it hard not to laugh, especially when they started singing “The Wheels On The Bus”, “Hail To The Bus Driver” and of course “If You’re Happy And You Know It”. Pity they got off early.

So I guess that I cheered up between April 2005 and November 2006.

It’s really odd to read these and I am glad I actually kept them since it allows me to look back on my final two years of school. Even if I am a whiny cry-baby a lot of the time.