Of gibbons and unexpected things

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I woke up this morning at 6, looked out the window, saw a white sheet of cloud across the sky and contemplated going back to bed. I forced myself not too. For a long time I’ve been wanting to get up early and go walking in the city. I had a romantic idea of what it would be like: the morning sun pooling on the old canal houses and in the trees that line the water, steam rising from vents down winding alleyways, shopkeepers lifting shutters and setting out tables, the smell of bread baking in the air, people on balconies with hot mugs of coffee, and a profound sense of peace and calm before the rush of the day begins. Continue readingOf gibbons and unexpected things

Elections and directions (or lack thereof)

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Image by bulbocode909. Used under a CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license.

Last weekend I went back to Manchester for a few days. Spending time back home is always a slightly disorientating experience. Both going to Manchester and coming back to Amsterdam, I’m confronted by just how different the two cities are. There are the obvious things like the language, the way people dress, and the architecture. And then there are the differences like never seeing homeless people in Amsterdam, but always seeing several on the streets of Manchester. It was also disorientating to wake up on Friday morning to see a map of the UK swathed in blue, when I had been hoping for a very different outcome. All weekend and for days afterwards I felt a sense of sadness and disbelief whenever I remembered that the Conservatives are still in power. Continue readingElections and directions (or lack thereof)

On writing and prestige

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A few years back I came across an article by Paul Graham called ‘How To Do What You Love‘. I’ve read it periodically since then and every time I seem to take something new from it. On the most recent reading, the bits about prestige seemed to stand out to me. Graham writes:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn’t worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don’t even know? Continue readingOn writing and prestige

Where’d you get a name like that?

'Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab' by William Blake, 1795. Image via Wikimedia Commons.
‘Naomi entreating Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab’ by William Blake, 1795. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

The other day I went to my local library to sign up for a Dutch speaking programme. I filled out the forms and handed them over to the lady at the desk. She checked over my answers and when she saw my surname she asked, is that a Czech name? No, I replied, it’s Hungarian. I didn’t think anything of it because I’m so used to people asking me about my name. Usually I’m asked if it’s Polish. No one, except Hungarians, guesses that it’s Hungarian, so the answer has become rote for me. No, it’s Hungarian. My grandfather was HungarianContinue readingWhere’d you get a name like that?

On fighting the origami beast

Image by Gerwin Sturm, used under a CC2.0 license
Image by Gerwin Sturm, used under a CC2.0 license

I have a problem. I am constantly coming up with good ideas for writing projects, but they never come to much. It’s been a constant problem in my writing life, ever since I was 14 and jotting down idea after idea for novels that would never get written. Some would get a few chapters along, but they invariably died a death at some point. Continue readingOn fighting the origami beast

All the wild horses

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I’ve written another blog post for the excellent City Creatures blog, run by the people at the Center for Humans & Nature. The post is about visiting the Oostvaardersplassen, a nature reserve in the Netherlands, and seeing the wild konik horses. It’s also about what it means for an animal to be wild and how visiting the Oostvaardersplassen shifted my notion of how a wild animal should behave.

Here’s a wee extract: Continue readingAll the wild horses

To be amongst friends

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This week I was in Paris for a work meeting and whilst there I went along with some colleagues to see Notre Dame. It was evening, so we didn’t have the chance to go inside, and once we had taken a few pictures we decided to go for a wander and find somewhere to eat. As we were walking along we spotted a bookshop with shelves outside. I assumed the books would all be in French and besides I tend to avoid bookshops these days since I usually end up buying something. But the books on the shelves outside turned out to be English books and when one of my colleagues went inside the shop, we all followed. Continue readingTo be amongst friends

The art of wasting time

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National Tulip Day in Dam Square, Amsterdam

This weekend, as with every weekend, I had a mental list (sometimes it’s even a written list) of things I wanted to get done. For instance, this weekend I wanted to clean the bathroom, hoover, do laundry, revise for a Dutch test, work on an essay I’ve been writing, write a blog post and make a start on reading a report for work. There’s also the food shopping that needs doing, that dreaded chore that we usually end up leaving until late on a Sunday. That’s a lot of stuff to get done in one weekend, especially considering writing can easily swallow up an entire day.

So, its Sunday evening and how did I do?
Continue readingThe art of wasting time

Home, in three parts

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Image by Richard Heyes, used under a CC 2.0 license

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Over Christmas I spent two weeks in Manchester. It’s the longest I’ve been back since I left over two years ago. I mean really left, and not the temporary severing of university. As usual when I go back to Manchester, I kept asking myself the same question: why don’t I love this place? The answer should be straightforward, there are plenty of places I don’t love, that’s just the way it is. I’m not sure why I keep returning to this question, but a part of me feels that I should love it, should feel some sense of attachment. Continue readingHome, in three parts

My imaginary pet bird

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This Christmas I got an early present from my boyfriend, a little bird to go on our tree. He bought it for me because I’d previously mentioned a similar tree decoration that I’d had as a kid. It was a similar sized little bird with wire on its feet to attach it to the tree, but the decoration I remember from my childhood was a robin (as far as I can tell this new bird is an as yet undiscovered species – my bird book doesn’t have any promising leads either). Continue readingMy imaginary pet bird