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?

An island day: exploring Texel

Image by Jan-Willem van Aalst via Wikimedia Commons.
Image by Jan-Willem van Aalst via Wikimedia Commons.

Last Friday, we decided that we would get up early the next day, catch a train to Den Helder, hire bikes, hop on a ferry and spend the day cycling round Texel (pronounced Tessel). Why? Because Texel is an island and isn’t that reason enough?

Texel is part of the Frisian Islands – a chain of islands that stretches from the Netherlands up along the coasts of Germany and Denmark. Before I moved to Amsterdam, I loaned of a guide book to the Netherlands from the library. I remember flicking through it and coming across a section on the Frisian Islands. I’m not even sure what it said about the islands – perhaps just that they existed – but whatever it was, the idea of visiting them was lodged in my head. Continue readingAn island day: exploring Texel

On writing nostalgically and being in place

Manchester Oxford Rd train station (because apparently this is the only picture of Manchester I've taken)
Manchester Oxford Rd train station (because apparently this is the only picture of Manchester I’ve taken)

Two weeks ago I spent a few days back in the UK. I thought I’d probably end up writing a blog post about it, because I expected it to be a noteworthy experience. In a lot of ways it was, but not in the ways I expected it to be. I had expected to feel as though I was back in the UK, to feel a sense of having returned. I expected reverse culture shock.

I did notice a few differences. Oddly, one thing that really stood out to me is that people in the UK look, well, kind of miserable. Though perhaps that’s not so odd considering that Dutch children are the happiest in the world (UK children rank 16th), whilst the Netherlands was ranked 4th in the 2013 UN World Happiness Report. But on the whole, I didn’t really feel a sense of being back in the UK. Continue readingOn writing nostalgically and being in place

A Sense of Place: trains and train stations

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I recently started a new job in Tilburg (yay!), which means I’ll be spending a lot more time on trains. So, it’s a good job I like train travel. In fact, I like most forms of public transport, even buses and especially trams. I know I’m not supposed to. I know I’m supposed to complain endlessly about how cramped, smelly, dirty, expensive, slow etc. they are. I agree, public transport can be expensive. In fact, in my second year of sixth form, I stopped using Stagecoach buses in protest against the constant price hikes, and walked the hour and fifteen minutes there instead (I like long walks too). Public transport can also be very filthy at times – I’m looking at you, East Midlands train service between Manchester and Nottingham. And slow. I’ll admit even I got bored after eight hours on the train going from Cornwall to Manchester. Continue readingA Sense of Place: trains and train stations

The social mediation of nature

 

Me, taking a picture on my phone
Me, taking a picture on my phone

Mobile devices do not just extend the number of places that you can use social media; they bring social media to those places and, through the LBS [location based service], contribute to the construction of new cartographies of space. In other words, they provide us with new ways of mapping meaning to space and creating new places.
– Understanding Social Media, Sam Hinton and Larissa Hjorth.

I spent the last year working in social media and in my spare time I write about nature. These two aspects of my life always seemed very disparate – I even have separate blogs for my writing about nature and social media. But perhaps I’ve been wrong to think of them in this way, perhaps the two interact and mediate one another in ways I hadn’t considered before. Continue readingThe social mediation of nature

I went for a wander and found… a crocodile!

This morning’s sunshine tricked me into pulling on my shoes and coat and heading out for a walk. I was beginning to regret the hat and scarf as I walked through the quiet Sunday streets in bright, warm sunshine.

On my way to the park I came across a heron on a lamppost. In fact, it’s quite a common sight around here. I’ve also seen them on gate posts, railings and rooftops. They always look to me as though they’re guarding something… Continue readingI went for a wander and found… a crocodile!

Spring is here and so am I

2014-03-02 15.05.08It’s felt like a busy few weeks. We had two weekends in a row of visitors – first, my stepmother and brothers and then, some old friends from university. Aside from the fact that it was lovely to spend time with family and friends, I also enjoyed showing off my new city. Acting as a tour guide for our visitors helped to divorce me from the day-to-day realities of being an expat in a foreign country and instead see Amsterdam as a tourist would. It’s hard not to fall in love with the place as you wander along sunlit canals and down narrow alleyways, lined with shops and cafés. Amsterdam certainly has some unique and oddly specific shops – so far we’ve come across a shop that just sells coffee and one kind of cookie (probably the most expensive cookie I’ve ever eaten at €1.95 a pop), a canvas shop that sells nothing but canvas fabric, and – I kid you not – a toothbrush shop. You have to love a city that can support that kind of economy. Continue readingSpring is here and so am I