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

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

Image by Richard Heyes, used under a CC 2.0 license


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

so you want to be a writer?

Image by Drew Coffman, used under a CC 2.0 license
Image by Drew Coffman, used under a CC 2.0 license

For my 17th birthday I got a collection of Charles Bukowski’s poems. I remember reading it and one poem in particular standing out to me. In fact, ‘so you want to be a writer?‘ hit me in the guts the way Charles Bukowski says writing should explode out of them.

if it doesn’t come busting out of you 
in spite of everything 
don’t do it. 

unless it comes out of
your soul like a rocket,
unless being still would 
drive you to madness or
suicide or murder, 
don’t do it.  Continue readingso you want to be a writer?

Crossing borders: Amsterdam to Duisburg


This weekend I caught the train to Duisburg to visit my stepmum and younger brothers. Duisburg is just across the border from the Netherlands, so I wasn’t sure that I would be able to tell when the train had crossed over. I expected the landscape would be similar to the one I’m familiar with (mainly the western portion of the Netherlands) and that the border would be indecipherable. After the train pulled out of Arnhem, which I knew was very close to the border, I watched attentively from the train window. And there it was, a subtle shift in the lay of the land, a change in the palette, and the thought popped into my head – we’ve crossed the border. A little further along I saw a German flag, which confirmed my suspicion (though I later saw plenty of Dutch flags (and even Union Jacks) in Duisburg, which made me question whether the flag was really a reliable guide). Continue readingCrossing borders: Amsterdam to Duisburg

Where are you from?

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Where are you from?

I get asked that question a lot these days and I usually have to pause for a moment. Am I from the UK? Manchester? Amsterdam? What about all those other places I have lived in and that have shaped me – St Andrews, Cornwall, Nottingham? It feels wrong to leave them out. I realise that when people ask me, they don’t want my whole life story. When you ask someone where they’re from, you’re asking because you’re trying to get a read on them, because even if you have been separated by thousands of miles your whole lives you will still try to find some connection, however tenuous. Ah yes, my sister’s husband once worked in a town not too far from there. Or, I’ve never been there, but I read an article about it in The Guardian a few years back, sounds like a lovely place! And sometimes, every once in a while, you meet someone from a place you have absolutely nothing on. Continue readingWhere are you from?