Shropshire in the Sun

It was a bank holiday and we went out exploring a nearby Medieval castle and a village little changed since the industrial revolution. With the wedding nearly two months behind us, we’re still taking advantage of the free things to do around the Midlands for an unusual day out, to enjoy the tranquil lull after four months of non-stop running. As we explored the castle, and wandered along the river with our ice-creams, I remembered my childhood visiting French castles and tiny northern villages, and realised I’ve always been a daydreamer, walking carefully and inventing stories in my head :

This room might have been a drawing room, or an armoury, there were no battles fought here but imagine the nobleman wishing he could prove his might over this area. The King came here, maybe he made some important decisions here, right here leaning against this wall in all its glory with tapestries and candles, with a burning fire and gazing pensively out this window at the valley surrounding the manor, the same valley that surrounds us seven hundred years later when all that’s left is a tangle of stones and stories and imagination…

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Acton Burnell and Ironbridge

These old track ways, leading up to the door of what is now the tourist information office – once used for transporting goods from the bank of the river to the warehouse. Now that I work in logistics I think of the money that changed hands, the deals that were made, shouting and running – businessmen with their warm coats overseeing the commerce. A tender of rolled cloth is unloaded from a barge, it reaches the shore and positions itself within the ruts carved in the stone floor. Setting off a loose cutting falls and gets caught in the wheel, the whole tender spills out back into the river, ruining its load. The worker pushing the cart is fired on the spot, a valuable consignment from China is ruined, he walks the two miles home to his family of six children not knowing how he’ll feed them tonight…

Written for Ailsa’s Travel Theme : Tangle

Acton Burnell Castle is cared for by English Heritage and is free to enter

Ironbridge Gorge is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, looked after by English Heritage and free to explore

Where do I belong?

Interesting on the subject I’ve written about a few times. What makes you what you are? The difference between your passport and the countries that own a small slice of your heart.

LANGUAGE TALKS

It’s 5.30am and I’ve had one hour sleep in the last 20 hours so needless to say I’m feeling a bit emotional. In an hour I will be flying via Ethiopian Airlines from Vienna to Stockholm for five days, but I can’t work out whether I’m coming or leaving home.

Although my passport says I am British and I would say that I am first and foremost English that doesn’t mean I class England or Colchester as my home anymore. Vienna for me is my home. It’s where I live, where I eat and where I work (supposedly), yet I’ll be leaving for good in two months.

I have a house in Sweden and all my Swedish family live there. I’ve gone to Sweden at least 3-4 times a year my whole life and I consider my Swedish culture an inherent part of what makes me, me. So am I…

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I want to stay in the EU

I want to stay in the EU. There I said it. I put my political point of view out there for everyone to see. As an honorary member of the large expat community in Birmingham, I do feel strongly about this.

So, could Eastern European immigrants take British jobs? What the hell does it matter? Surely a good company will hire the person that’s best for the job regardless of where they are from, or how long they have been in the country. You’re not going to hire a Romanian that can barely speak English to a mobile phone call centre job. I don’t have the exact numbers but I believe that the actual immigration figures since the UK welcomed Romania are significantly less than all that hype before the borders opened.

People get so lazy, and snobby, people used to work. “Why should we work if the government gives us a nice £45 a week to do nothing? I wouldn’t want a stupid cleaner job anyway.” With that attitude you really can’t complain that immigrants come in and take “your” jobs. We’re now enriched with a new workforce with a new ethic of hard work and commitment because they feel lucky to be in a situation that can give them a better life. The Romanians are the new Poles are the new Indians are the new Irish. And nobody’s even noticed the sudden influx of Spanish, would it be because they are better educated? Or because they are from a country whose democratic and social values match our own more closely?

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I’m in!

There’s a member of UKIP that I sometimes find in my social circle, whose wife is from Eastern Europe. I find that so conflicting. Think about the law, power of attorney gives you the right to make someone’s decisions for them – one of the only decisions that is not covered is who to vote for in elections. The law of the land deems this to be so personal and so integral to that person that nobody else can make that decision at all. So how can you feel so strongly about Nigel Farage and his piss-poor pointless rhetoric and still live your life to the contrary?

You encounter so much casual racism in the world, at work my colleagues have just had a conversation about hospital wards “Yeah there weren’t none of them in there, they bring their own food and it stinks / Thankfully everyone was white when I went in”. P*ki and Ch*nky are banded around the office like they are people’s names. It makes me cringe. I hide in my work, not saying anything.

Freedom of movement is a powerful thing. Without Europe the UK would be left to flounder in the saturated world of global politics. As it is we stand dipping our toes in the water, we kept the pound, we have very different internal policies and we don’t make waves in Brussels, Frankfurt and Strasbourg. We cannot compete with Germany or even France at this stage, surely the best solution is to keep the borders open and embrace the cultural and economic advantages that brings.

Not to mention, my job would be a lot easier if the UK stays in. Imagine the extra paperwork!

French Fancies in the City

Hidden away with so much promise at the back of The Cube on Commercial Street, we’d walked past so many times over the last few months, dreaming about little French pastries, hoping for it to open. We were supposed to go running, but I had a phone call from Daniel at about six o’clock on Wednesday evening to ask if I wanted to go for a coffee because Madeleine Fine Coffee House was finally open for coffee and cakes.

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Madeleine Fine Coffee House

My first impression was that it was very quiet, it’s a bit hidden so what if nobody knew about it?! But we asked the waitress who said they’d had a big rush at lunchtime so we felt quite good that we’d caught them at a quieter time to enjoy the atmosphere. I was expecting something quite opulent like La Durée, and in comparison it very stark and modern, but the wooden tables and seventies print upholstery still gave it a very rustic and traditional feel. I love the exotic flowers on the table at the door, and the cakes on the counter looked divine, from little muffins to enormous chocolate chip cookies and a bowl full of madeleines. There’s also a range of flavoured lemonades, tangerine, rose, grenadine, everything looks delicious!

Yummy Plum Tart

Yummy Plum Tart

They will start doing a full menu from Monday, I assume to include baguettes and yummy salads. And they open for breakfast from7am! It’s actually the same owners as the Brazilian Rodizio Rico which we’ve been drooling over for months too, and reading this interview with Mr Nayla in the Birmingham Post, it looks like they are here to stay! There’s another restaurant next door that’s not quite open yet, Bun and Bowl – a burger place – that’s owned by the same family, so we’ll be trying that out as soon as we can too.

We had a hot chocolate and a coffee, each came with a little madeleine cake and the hot chocolate was so rich and full of flavour. Our bill was a bit more than the size of the portions, but that rich chocolate was worth it. Coupled with a plum tart it was a lovely little surprise visit and I can’t wait to go back there for a proper look!

Eight Years Later

Do you remember when the internet first came out properly, about ten years ago? Before facebook and Twitter and even before MySpace, at 20 to 22 years-old we were obsessed with Bejewelled, and Celebdaq, and Quizilla quizzes. Which Evil My Little Pony are you?, Which Care Bear are you? Which City should you live in? etc… All seriously, defining issues.

There was a massive thing going round about surveys, you answered the kind of questions that are now freely shared without even realising it in all the social media. So I was going over some old blog-posts earlier today and found one that I did in 2006 – eight years is such a long time ago. I’ve taken the Name and Birthday and where you were born questions out, because they haven’t changed, but I thought it would interesting to see how my answers differ now from back then (new answers in green) ::

TELL ME ABOUT YOURSELF – The Survey
Your Heritage: Real life: Brummie … Spiritual: Spanish / Birmingham, UK, Europe, the World
The Shoes You Wore Today: Walking boots / Knee-high boots
Your Weakness: Not being assertive enough / Not being assertive enough, strangely still rings true now
Your Fears: Dogs, failure / Losing loved ones, losing my job, running someone over
Your Perfect Pizza: The Works with sweetcorn instead of black olives / Goats cheese and caramelised onions
Goal You Would Like To Achieve This Year: Lose weight / Keep running, decorate the house
Your Most Overused Phrase On an instant messenger: Hmm.. / I never use instant messenger anymore, not even on facebook
Thoughts First Waking Up: Why does my mom have to talk so loudly to my dad??! / Nooooooooo!!
Your Best Physical Feature: Eyes / Eyes, hair
Your Bedtime: Anywhere between 11pm and 1am / Between 22h00 and 23h00
Your Most Missed Memory: ERASMUS / My Dad
Pepsi or Coke: Fanta Naranja…? / Whatever it is it needs to be diet
MacDonalds or Burger King: MacDos! / McDonalds, although I rarely eat them anymore
Single or Group Dates: Single / Single, although I am now happily living with my Mexican now, but still enjoy dinner parties and pub nights with friends
Lipton Ice Tea or Nestea: Nestea..? / Lipton Ice Tea, peach flavour
Chocolate or Vanilla: Vanilla / Vanilla
Cappuccino or Coffee: Yuck neither!! Espresso at a push / Still neither!
Do you Smoke: Only when too drunk to stand.. / Nope, not even when drunk
Do you Swear: Yeah! F*ckin’ yeah! / Try to avoid it, only at very strong emotions, pain, fear, instinct.
Do you Sing: Haha! Only when very drunk! / In the car, in the house, at Guides, cooking, all the time!
Do you Shower Daily: Sometimes even twice! / Always
Have you Been in Love: Yes / Yes
Do you want to go to College: I went. I’d love to go back / I went, the only thing I would want to do again is Erasmus, and study harder for my final exams.
Do you want to get Married: Yes, to the right person.. / Yes, the right person is here and we’re getting married in a year!
Do you believe in yourself: Sometimes… / More than I used to but still suffer from severe lack of confidence at work sometimes
Do you get Motion Sickness: No, thankfully! / If I’ve been on a plane too long, or too many times in a short space of time
Do you think you are Attractive: Not so much at the moment.. / In the face yes, could stand to lose the belly. Keep running!
Are you a Health Freak: I’m hoping to diet and exercise now! / Not really, it’s always a phase, I lost a lot of weight and am managing to keep it off, but it’s hard. Keep running!
Do you get along with your Parents: Everyone gets annoyed by their parents! / There was a very difficult period but we’re all seeing the light now and I’m sure it will be lovely again
Do you like Thunderstorms: Yesssssss! / Yes! Looking forward to seeing them  from the new flat, the view over the city must be wonderful!
Do you play an Instrument: The triangle..? / No, not even the triangle, the easiest of all instruments!
In the past month have you Drank Alcohol: Yes, not much though.. / Yes, lots and lots of beer!
In the past month have you Smoked: Passively at the pub / No!
In the past month have you been on Drugs: Neurofen count? / Wouldn’t dare
In the past month have you gone on a Date: Haha! / With Daniel we went to Oxford, it was lovely!
In the past month have you gone to a Mall: The Bullring rocks! / The Bullring is still brilliant
In the past month have you eaten a box of Oreos: No.. Milk Chocolate Digestives maybe… / No, Oreos, no. Chocolate eclaires, yes.
In the past month have you eaten Sushi: No, fish doesn’t do it for me.. / No, still not a big fan of fish
In the past month have you been on Stage: Pff, not since the Guide’s 40th anniversary do and I had to lead campfire songs! / Err, I don’t think so…
In the past month have you been Dumped: Dumped, no. Shitted on, yes. / No!
In the past month have you gone Skinny Dipping: Me..??! / No!
In the past month have you Stolen Anything: Err.. Not that I can remember.. I think my record was the Loch Ness ashtrays..! / I don’t think so
Ever been Drunk: Y e s . . . / Yes, come on
Ever been called a Tease: In what context? / Still, what is the context? I tease the Guides and the Brownies all the time
Ever been Beaten up: All the time by my sister! / Again, even now in our late 20s early 30s, I still point you in the direction of my sister
Ever Shoplifted: Not to my recollection.. / By accident, once I put a KitKat in my pocket while juggling other bags and didn’t realise until I was halfway down the road!
How do you want to Die: Peacefully as an old lady.. / Peacefully as an old lady
What do you want to be when you Grow Up: The Me that I want to be.. / I’m now grown up, sometimes I’m the Me I wanted to be, other times I’m just an idiot
What country would you most like to Visit: Russia / Russia still, and now Guatemala
Best Clothing Style in a man/woman: Any really apart from townie and kev-like / Grown-up, and nothing beats a sharp suit to make any man look so dapper!
Number of Drugs I have taken: Number of types? 2 / Are we including alcohol and coffee and cigarettes? Then 5
Number of CDs I own: Millions! / Two, the advent of digital music means I got rid of them all when I came home from uni
Number of Piercings: 4 / 4 still
Number of Tattoos: 0 / Still 0
Number of things in my Past I Regret: A great many..! / If we dwelt on all our regrets, life would be very miserable

It’s strange actually to see how most of these questions are now answered on the pages of this blog, or on facebook, or on Twitter. First thought waking up is usually expressed on Twitter. Been on a stage, drank alcohol, sometimes down to the shoes worn today, are found in photos on facebook or Instagram. Goals to achieve, fears and weaknesses are discussed in blogs. Health freak, and believing in yourself comes in what motivational pictures you post on your facebook walls, or find on Pinterest. And again, you only post the pictures that put you at your most attractive, if it’s the eyes or the hair or your figure.

Things move on, and life changes in so many ways, I can see my innocence has been worn away over the last eight years, good for bad for good, it’s all learning how to be yourself!

Daffodil Gardens

I snapped these little lovelies in my Mom’s garden this morning. It’s beautiful weather at the moment, and the daffodils are beaming! It’s my Mom’s first proper Spring in the house, so the beds were full of daffodils, light and bright and welcoming. Days like this make me wish I had a garden, I love her house – it’s got that real vintage character, beautiful gardens and it comes alive when we are all there together. Hollywood, Worcestershire is worlds apart from the noisy and throbbing US namesake, being in the countryside is wonderful (I couldn’t do it permanently), walking next to fields, with horses, and village shops!

But then I get home to the heat of the city and I see the sun on the balcony and the little Indian family having a little picnic in the park and I love my flat and I put the daffodils that I picked in my Mom’s garden in the vase and I sit back and enjoy the heat after the horrible rainy Winter and I hope that this Sunday afternoon lasts forever.

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Multi-Daffodil!

 

Random Moments of Delight

A Very Vague Bucket List

31st January

January is an interesting month, it makes you think about what you’ve done in the past year, and what you want to do in the next. I’m going to be 31 this year, and I’ll be getting married when I’m 32. My Mom was something like 20 when she got married, and I know that times change – more university years, more careers, general attitudes to sexual freedom have changed so much – but I feel old doing this at this age.

Big stress, drowning in detail, or kick up the back-side

Big stress, drowning in detail, or kick up the back-side

I bought a wedding magazine today, by accident. Haven’t opened it yet. The Mexican one was a mistake as well, waiting in the queue at the supermarket just flicking through, and before you know it it’s in the trolley! We’ve got potentially five weddings this year as a guest, all over the world (well, UK and USA). Everyone is more or less our age so it’s kind of the right time to do it. But I’m very, very aware of age creeping up. And if I didn’t want children I’d probably be OK with it. So right, this morning I was thinking about a Bucket List, or a Life Plan but I don’t even know what I’d put on it. I’ve bought a house and met the man I want to spend the rest of my life with, so then we get into the details. So here are some short, medium and long-term goals.

Short-term

  • Get settled in the house we have bought
  • Concentrate on getting recognised at work
  • Enjoy New York
  • Start getting my weight back on track
  • Training for this 10K run in March 2014

Medium-term

  • Getting healthy and slim for my wedding
  • Plan a beautiful Anglo-Mexican wedding
  • Decorate the house we have bought, in that truly international style that shows our travels and our roots
  • Re-vamp my work wardrobe
  • Visit my friend in Australia

Long-term

  • Visit Moscow (my travel dream since I was very young)
  • Save for a future, not just a holiday
  • Stay healthy for a long life together with my Danielote
  • Stay happy