‘No, thank you, I don’t want to call my mother’

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This weekend we were back in the UK for our final wedding of the year for what has been quite a hectic couple of months, nuptials wise. We have been absolutely delighted to be a part of so many wonderful celebrations and have some fabulous memories of all the weddings we’ve attended this year. This last marriage of our wedding season was a family affair and involved our basing ourselves at the fiancé’s parents and then travelling to the venue from there the night before and returning the day after.

We set off from the fiancé’s familial homestead (and in case I’m not being clear by ‘fiancé’ I am either referring to my fiancé or the imminent groom to be, I did say it was a family shindig) and our journey took us past our old neighbourhood, the lovely London borough of Greenwich, where our two-bed flat, now rented to strangers, lies. As those in the car pointed out various local markres I decided to avert my eyes and stare fixedly at the foot-well of the back passenger seat. As my fellow travellers tried to engage my attention as we passed the turning leading to our road I quietly mumbled ‘I don’t want to look’ and fervently hoped I could avoid having to explain why. Fortunately there was enough excited pre-wedding chatter to save me from having to admit the truth.

On the post-wedding return journey on Sunday morning as we again neared the approach to our old flat, the question was innocently put ‘would you like to drive past your flat?’ At this point, as nonchalantly as possible, whilst trying to be clear and audible, I again politely declined the offer. I then decided that, to be on the safe side, I would stare fixedly at my phone, in case the driver hadn’t heard and decided a drive-by was something we should do.

The desire to avoid seeing the flat I no longer live in reminded me of when I took part in a French exchange visit arranged through school when I was 13 or 14 and on my arrival the mother of my host family asked me if I wanted to call my mum.

In my best schoolgirl French I politely declined, however my best schoolgirl French was far from fluent and I could see the host mother trying to work out if I just hadn’t understood the question. In fairness my answer was probably something like ‘no thank you, I no mother call’, which I understand could be open to interpretation. Perhaps she thought I was worried they’d charge me or that I was trying to explain I’d like to call my mother but not understanding they were offering for me to do so. She eventually ascertained that I didn’t want to but now accepting that my French was enough to understand the question, she clearly couldn’t understand why I didn’t want to call my own mother and kept asking me, every day, if I wanted to call.

After a week in to the two-week exchange I thought I’d better accept the offer so as not to raise suspicions of being some sort of wayward, sociopathic, anti-familial devil creature residing in her house and corrupting her daughter. So, unwillingly, I caved and called home. My mum was pretty surprised to hear from me and instantly wondered if everything was alright, after all why else would I be calling unless something was wrong? I reassured mum, exchanged a few words, finished the call pretty quickly and then decided to bide my time, in the room they’d suggested I use for privacy during my call. I waited until what I thought host mum would think an appropriate length of time for natural daughter-mother exchanging instincts to be satiated and returned to my French family.

The reason for not wanting to call my mother, was very much the same reason for not wanting to see my flat. It isn’t that I’m an unsentimental hard-hearted wench, who couldn’t give a rat’s behind for my family or the first home I’d bought with my fiancé. It was rather the opposite, I knew that in going to France for two weeks there would be certain things about parental home life I would miss, and I knew that leaving the country there would be certain aspects of London I’d miss. For me out of sight out of mind, is something of a survival technique, I know who I am in that respect. I also know that these partings were not forever and that my best course of action is to live in the moment, get on with the current situation and perhaps occasionally indulge in the odd pondering of possible familial or architectural reunions in the not too far distant future.

Homesickness would be a possibility only if I let it and I would prefer to choose not to especially when I knew that in a mere 14 days of French exchange I’d be back in the heart of my family, and I know (or at least tell myself I know) that when (quietening that inner voice that replaces ‘when’ with ‘if’) we return to London, our lovely flat will still be standing and ready and waiting for us. In the meantime the rent is being paid, the place is being lived in and taken care of by our tenants and any concerns on that score are relieved by six monthly reports on the property condition from the managing agents.

So thank you but no, I didn’t want to call my mum right then and no, I don’t want to drive past my house right now and just in case I’m not being clear in English ‘merci, mais non’.

 

 

 

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Are we nearly there yet?

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‘Are we nearly there yet?’ is that annoying question all children like to throw at their parents on any journey. Best timed 30 minutes into a several hour journey and then repeated at 5 minute intervals until ceasing abruptly when actually close to the final destination and so denying long-suffering parents even the smallest satisfaction of finally being able to answer ‘yes’.

The same question isn’t asked quite as frequently as an adult but I’m pretty sure people are now starting to wonder this about me. Is she nearly there yet or does her journey have no foreseeable end in sight?

I haven’t lived in the same place for more than two years since I was at school. In the last 12 years I have had 13 different addresses in three different countries and four different UK counties. Not only have I absolutely ruined my aunt’s address book but I’ve begun to wonder whether this constantly moving around isn’t purely related to circumstances, as I’ve always tried to convince myself, but is in fact due to some defect in myself where I just can’t stick in one place for long.

Definitely some of the moves have been circumstantial. I well and truly didn’t want to be evicted from our lovely/dingy little basement flat in Blackheath. The eviction wasn’t because we were horrendous tenants but because our landlord had outstanding debts and legal action had been initiated against him before we even moved in.

The first we realised there was a problem was when the fiancé thought he’d open a letter with the Eversheds logo addressed to ‘The Occupier’. (I had assumed these were from some sort of DIY company and was just another junk-mail flyer offering discounts on a great range of garden sheds but in my defence we did used to get a lot of junk-mail). The notice that we opened advised that we would be evicted in a week.

I called  who were very helpful and advised us how to get a stay of execution on the eviction order. The bearded one filed the paperwork at the local magistrates court and a few days later we presented ourselves before the judge to plead our case. The judge was pretty relaxed and allowed us a bit longer to clear out but this nonetheless resulted in a hurried move from Blackheath, a beautiful area of London, to Chislehurst in Kent, primarily chosen as somewhere we could afford and were allowed the cats.

The move from Chislehurst to Greenwich was sort of circumstantial too in that I hated Chislehurst so spent hours trawling property websites dreaming about the day we wouldn’t be subject to the whimsical world of renting. When I spotted a flat in a London borough I loved, that we could actually afford to buy (with a lot of help from various relatives), moving again made sense.

The moves around Warwickshire as a student were also mostly dictated by circumstance, staying in University accommodation for three years wasn’t an option so the move to a house big enough for eight of us, which we did at least stay in for two academic years, wasn’t really a conscious plan.

After Uni a brief stop-over at my parents in Oxfordshire couldn’t be a permanent solution (they wanted me to pay rent!) so London, where I was working at the time, made sense. But I should probably accept responsibility for the constant relocating around London with different friends and then forcing my way into the bearded-man’s flat and then forcing him to move somewhere I liked more.

Capture d’écran 2015-06-05 à 14.33.39It occurred to me I might have a problem with settling anywhere when I remained eager to keep going even after we moved into our very own flat in Greenwich. I love Greenwich, it is a great little enclave in it’s own right with good markets, beautiful parks, easy access to the river and a vibrant atmosphere, not to mention the convenient access to central London and work. However, I was there for a year before I applied for the Cambodian internship and it was just a few months after returning from Phnom Penh that I thought applying for a job in Geneva was a good idea.

In a 30th birthday card a friend joked that I kept moving further away and my next stop would be somewhere in Africa where post could only be delivered by parrot. It’s that kind of humour  which is tossed around jokingly but may not actually be that funny because it isn’t completely beyond the scope of what’s possible. Not that I’m planning to move to somewhere with parrot postal deliveries (pretty sure my beloved would draw the line at somewhere with lack of internet) but I do find myself thinking what and where is next?

Geneva hasn’t always been the easiest place to live in but now it has started to become normal with a work life balance and weekly routines. This should be, and on some levels is, a good thing, it’s just ‘normal’ sounds decidedly unappealing. 

The same friend who sent the card asked me recently where I thought I’d eventually end up and I couldn’t give a straight answer. I don’t know if my future lies in the UK, Switzerland or some distant realm I haven’t even thought of yet, but there is something about that concept of staying still that terrifies me.

Perhaps it is just the thought of a long determined future without surprises that seems alarming, that idea of reaching a single point and thinking ‘this is it’, although I know that life won’t stand still even if I manage to do this for a while.

I’m sure my aunt is hoping that I’ll stay still long enough at some point to lay down some roots that become so enmeshed with a geographical location that I won’t be obliged to invest in a constant succession of guiltily offered address books. Or perhaps I can just get her some sort of electronic planner that will allow her to keep track of me without making such a mess of things?

One thing I am certain of is that I wont be able to tell you if I’m nearly there yet until I’ve already been there for some time without realising.

Flying into a rage

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I am not a good flyer. By that, I don’t mean that I have a fear of flying, the thought of whizzing through the air in small metal container with the potential to crash, explode or just disappear has never bothered me. Not because these aren’t genuinely serious things to worry about, but more because I’ve always assumed I’m more likely to get hit by a car than go down with a plane.

What makes me a bad traveller is that airports tend to make me really angry. I am not a patient person so the interminable hanging around that takes place both before and after the actual flying tends to set me on edge.

On Wednesday evening we arrived at the airport about an hour before the flight, plenty of time when you’ve no luggage to check in and the security process is usually pretty good. It was a bit annoying to discover that our flight had been delayed for 15/20 minutes but I had a good book to read, we hadn’t got to the airport super early so a little longer waiting to board wasn’t the worst scenario even though I was pretty tired after a hectic day.

A chap came round and asked to check our boarding passes with our passports whilst we sat in the waiting area, so that when we were finally able to board we wouldn’t have to show passports again and I thought that’s a smart move, I appreciated their trying to minimise further delays when the plane was finally ready.

Finally it was time to board and we accidentally pick the slowest of the two queues, soon I spotted why, but it was almost impossible to switch into the other queue at this point. The easyjet employee on the left was employing a scrupulous bag checking standard that the easyjet employee on the right wasn’t (or maybe there were less attention-worthy bags on that side).

Easyjet has a ridiculous policy where they insist that you can only have one bag regardless of any common sense application. Fair enough you can’t have a cabin bag and a massive tote filled to the brim with the kind of belongings you should have just checked in as hold luggage. I understand their taking issue with that. What gets my goat is that they won’t let you pass the boarding checkpoint, unless a small handbag is unceremoniously crammed into your larger cabin bag.

Normally I don’t say anything but I was tired, we’d already been waiting an additional 20 minutes because boarding was late, we got stuck in the slow moving queue of a thousand deaths and now I was being delayed further by this ridiculous policy.

I started off by asking why I had to do this, as I was only going to take my small bag out of my big bag as soon as I boarded the plane, which would delay passengers trying to board the plane? We were already late, why did they want to slow the process up even more?

Then I pointed out that the policy was discriminatory. I got the expected response of ‘we apply this to women and men equally’. I pointed out that it was discriminatory regardless of whether it was theoretically applied equally because it disproportionately affects women more than men. Women’s coats tend not to be like men’s coats, with secure zipped or inside pockets where you can safely stow your passport and other valuables you don’t want to trust to the overhead locker of some passenger fourteen rows ahead of you. I didn’t have to ask how many men she’d told to put their bags away, the five other women trying to stuff handbags into their carry-on immediately in front of me proved my point.

The easyjet employee responded well by agreeing that she didn’t understand the policy. Anyone who works in customer service or has ever had to deal with an angry person in the role of their job, knows that nothing is more effective at deflating a person’s righteous (or not as the case may be) rage by agreeing with them. However it does highlight the absurdity of the policy when even the staff don’t agree with it.

But when she asked what I expected her to do about it, I realised I was railing at the wrong person so I grumbled and moved past. I made an elaborate show (imagine theatrical arm gestures and extra loud huffing and puffing) of putting it in my bigger case.

I boarded the plane and, as anticipated, held a few people up as I had to stop in the aisle to set my cabin bag down to release my handbag before taking my seat. The rage within me continued to seethe.

I know that the woman checking us in was in no way responsible for the policy and she was just doing her job but I still don’t regret acting the way I did, although granted had I been less angry I might have looked a tad less ridiculous and embarrassed my fiancé a little less, at least I got to register my protest. And I know that I was not wrong in pointing out the unfairness of the policy.

Maybe what I said will stick with that employee or get some other passengers thinking. Maybe it won’t. But sometimes just asking the questions, calling into consideration something which you consider to be unjust can be enough to get the ball rolling. Or maybe I’m just a really angry traveller and should start taking the train instead.

Would you go to Mars?

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I’m not sure how this related to Philip Roth’s American Pastoral, but at the latest Geneva Book Club meet somehow the mission to mars came up and was quickly dismissed as nothing more than crazy fantasy for unstable persons.

If you are unfamiliar with the mars mission in summary the idea is that a self-sustaining human colony will be established on Mars. From 2024, missions of four people at a time would head out to the planet every couple of year for a one-way trip. Thousands volunteered for the mission.

Internet connectivity should be available so colonists can keep up with friends and family and so that some big brother-esque entertainment show could be broadcast to those at home (‘this week vote for your least favourite missioneer to get sucked into the universal abyss…’).

At the post-book-club drinks we returned to the subject and the general consensus was that firstly, it was never going to happen  and secondly, even if it were actually possible, you’d have to be insane to volunteer. Clearly I fell into the insane category.  

My fellow book-clubbers already suspect I am a little odd. When asked as an ice-breaker question ‘what we’d most like to be remembered for after we die?’ some replied loyalty, sense of humour, writing a great piece of fiction, etc.. My answer? ‘I want to be remembered for saving the universe.’ Not even just the earth but the entire universe. I added that this was what I’d wish for the future, not something I actually thought I’d already achieved in case their nervous laughter was a distraction technique whilst someone snuck out to call the men in white coats to come and take me away.

You could say I have delusions of grandeur, I prefer to think of myself as just being very ambitious.

I’m not saying I would volunteer for the Mars mission but I wouldn’t absolutely rule it out either. I don’t deny that leaving friends and family behind never to be seen again would be a massively difficult undertaking even if you knew that you could still stay in virtual contact. The hardest part of being in Switzerland is not being able to regularly see loved ones in the flesh and that’s just an hour’s plane ride from the UK. Even with super rocket technology I’m pretty sure it’d be more than an hour’s ride away from Mars and in any case there wouldn’t be the possibility of going back. Ever.

But throughout human history examples can be found of people leaving everyone behind for a new journey from which they never expect to return. I doubt those on the Mayflower setting sail from the UK to the newly discovered America at the start of the seventeenth century ever expected to return to those left behind. The thousands of individuals every year who give up everything and leave everyone behind to undertake the dangerous journey to try and enter the US or Europe illegally might harbour some slim hope that their families can one day join them but probably know the chances of that happening are pretty unlikely.

So there is a human precedent for leaving people behind but the challenges wouldn’t end with those final farewells. The danger of getting there and trying to survive would probably be an hourly toil. So much could and probably would go wrong it’d be like a never-ending sequel to Gravity with nail-biting tension, just waiting for one disaster from the next to strike. As much as they are trying to prepare for all eventualities the planet is such a mystery that they can’t even know what the eventualities could be? Oxygen and food supplied running out are at the obvious end of the spectrum, monster mars sea storms chewing you up and spitting you out into a black hole like an expert pool hustler could be at the other.

martian poolBut, even so, the idea of going to Mars is absolutely amazing and maybe amazing enough to outweigh the negatives. To be the first colonists on another planet is just the tip of the Doctor Who imagined future I’d kind of like to be a part of.

That sense of discovery that must have sent shivers up the spines of those watching the first moon landing in 1969 multiplied into a scale as incomprehensible as the very idea of living on a different plant is really kind of awesome. It appeals to that sense of childish adventure I never really grew out of and whilst I no longer race to climb as high as possible up the nearest tree, that fear of falling has got in the way there, I am still drawn to that hidden entranceway or obscured cave or clearing or whatever presents the opportunity for secret discoveries.

Undoubtedly I’m also influenced by my love of Doctor Who and classic Sci-Fi my dad subjected me to including Blake 7 and old school Star Trek, which makes it probably a bit easier for me to imagine life on another planet than someone more grounded in reality.

On a good day I tend to think I’m both the centre of the universe and an insignificant speck in the history of time so perhaps the idea of literally being swallowed up into the unknowable fathoms of the universe but whilst leaving Earth as a hero etched, at the very least, into the genealogical tale-telling of future distant relatives (if not remembered by all humanity) does pander to my sense of (in)significance.

If I were to go I would fully expect my fiancé to come with me. I mean he came to Switzerland so it’s only right I should expect him to come with me to Mars as well, right?

What do you think? Am I a complete nutter who needs to be locked away for the sake of humanity and/or my long-suffering partner, or would you too be tempted to go to Mars if the opportunity presented itself?

A year in Geneva

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22 February 2015 was my one year anniversary of moving to Geneva. I celebrated this by trudging through the slushy snow to go to work (yup that was on a Saturday but don’t worry I don’t make a habit of it) and later I met up with a friend for a drink. I forgot to spend any time reflecting on the momentousness of the occasion as I experienced a pretty normal day without spectacle. So I’m using this week’s blog post to consider what failed to register at that time and offer a retrospective on my year in Geneva.

When I first moved here this city seemed so strange and alien to me, so far from ‘normal’ life that for my first few days, well probably first six months actually, I was constantly noting the passage of time and questioning whether coming here was the right move or not. (Parlez-vous franglais per favore, mein leiber dich?)

My first few months, when it was just me, whilst my fiancé tied up loose ends in the UK and prepared to join me, was quite an intense experience. I lost quite a lot of weight through a combination of discovering meat was too expensive to eat and going running most evenings, not because I’m an exercise freak but because I had nothing better to do. In my first flat I didn’t have television or radio so most evenings were spent watching a DVD on the laptop, reading, running and an early night. (“Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”)

I strove to make friends and discovered this was a pretty exhausting process when driven by compulsion. If I stopped to think about it I have to admit I was pretty lonely and I needed some friends in the flesh, although was grateful to remain in contact with those friends I’d left behind. (Absence makes the heart grow fonder)

But it started to pay off and relationships that maybe had to be forced a bit in the early stages developed into something more genuine and I’ve met some very cool people. Although some of these I’ve also had to say goodbye to as their expat adventures have taken them elsewhere. And that hasn’t been easy but the great experiences we’ve shared more than make up for my sadness at their departure. (An expat among expats)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI found a lovely flat in an area I really like that suits me well. It is close enough to walk to the centre of Geneva but enough out of town to be pretty quiet and it borders on some truly beautiful woodlands along the river Rhone. We navigated arrangements, which were surprisingly straightforward, for the cats to fly out to join me, travelling as cabin baggage from the UK to Switzerland. I had no idea that animals could even travel in the cabin on flights, probably because you can’t do this coming into the UK, but it was a pretty easy process. And with the cats and then our UK life shipped out to me in boxes, my new abode started to feel more familiar. Normality was creeping up on me, gradually seeping into the day-to-day.

I had a period of illness when I felt completely sorry for myself, nothing serious but a flaring up of multiple minor ailments that I was left to fend to myself. Nothing is worse than feeling a bit grotty and not having anyone to complain to about it (that can’t escape from the whinging by just hanging up the phone). I also didn’t understand how the health system worked, but fearing the financial cost of seeing a Doctor I potentially couldn’t communicate with decided to stick with home remedies and sweat it out. Literally. (Why I’m not great with doctors)

I now had the cats for company but Jasper chose this moment to develop an infected abscess and force me to figure out how vets work. However, having someone else’s needs to focus on stopped me from indulging in so much self-sympathy. And not needing a loan to pay for his vet’s fees was a pleasant surprise! (The forlornest looking lampshade)

Jasper lampshadeEventually the fiancé came out too and my world started to right itself a little bit more, although his being there after several months of living apart did take a bit of adjusting to. (The arrival of the fiancé!)

We settled into a bit of a routine, disrupted by a few trips back to the UK including for my best friend’s amazing wedding. (The art of public speaking) And also a trip to Portugal for another great wedding. (Strangers are friends you haven’t yet met) I’d work, he’d job hunt, keep the flat in good working order and cook for me when I got home. I definitely got the better end of the deal.

His job hunting has been a bit frustrating with nothing resulting in paid employment to date but we’ve scraped by on my salary, and spent a lot of time speculating on how great it’ll be when he’s working and we can buy this, go there and enjoy that. A bit like playing the game of ‘when I win the lottery’ just with better odds. Even on a budget though, we still managed to try some fun new things. (The fears we all share)

Christmas and New Years were spent in Geneva. We had a nice time with great friends on those days and enjoyed a leisurely period of blissful nothingness for the days in between. I’d thought it would be weird to have such a friends and family-lite Christmas but actually it was really relaxing not rushing around like lunatics trying to see everyone, and after quite a disruptive year it was easy to appreciate a bit of quiet time. (Going somewhere nice for Christmas? Well, bully for you!)

This year, has felt a bit strange with personal challenges and exciting work opportunities but these have been absorbed into the new normalcy of life in Geneva. (Resolving on a great 2015, The tedium/tremendousness of travelling for work) I’m not quite settled here yet and don’t think I will be until the man finds a job and can start to find his own way to a regular life here. But the fact that my year’s anniversary here was so unremarkable is a good sign. It doesn’t feel quite like ‘home’ yet but it doesn’t feel like another planet anymore either.

The Tedium/Tremendousness of Travelling for Work

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I spent years at my previous job planning amazing work trips abroad for colleagues. I was queen of the logistics, booking flight, hotels and co-ordinating some truly impressive looking programmes. I worked with people from across the globe in putting together these expeditions but until last week the furthest I ever travelled through my job was to Yorkshire. Granted this was nice and getting to travel first class on the train was a treat never before enjoyed but it wasn’t really on the same scale as some of the more exotic adventures I planned for others to places such as India, Myanmar, Finland and so on.

However, last week I was given the opportunity to travel to Bangkok to participate in an international staff conference with regional colleagues from around the world. For me this was an exciting travelling adventure, although I accept that for those who frequently jet off here, there and everywhere this might not be as appealing.

Initial excitement about the prospect of the excitingly destined work trip did fade somewhat as we neared departure and the work load prior to the event started to mount up. Add to this the realization that a week away isn’t a week’s holiday, with accompanying elements of rejuvenation, but will nonetheless have the same toll as a week’s vacation whereby you have lots to do before you go and then again when you come back to compensate for that week physically away from the office.

Still, as the day of departure loomed I took great pleasure in packing sandals, t-shirts and other summery clothing in the middle of what was starting to develop into a cold winter in Geneva (and would be so much worse by the time I returned).

The flight was long, sleep-depriving and lacking in space but there was free food (always exciting to someone who most frequently travels with easyjet). There was also the opportunity to catch up on a number of films I’d missed/would-never-have-paid-to-see at the cinema.*

Arriving in the balmy heat of a Bangkok evening was simply wonderful. My not-so-long-ago experience in Cambodia had prepared me for that blast of warm muggy weather that hits you as soon as you leave the artificially temperate airport so this didn’t come as a shock so much as a welcome relief, especially when pitted against the backdrop of Geneva’s increasingly chilly January weather I had left behind a day before.

Checking into the comfortable hotel I delighted in the discovery of the complimentary bathrobe and slippers and snazzy look toiletries in my room. I even checked out the gym before allowing myself to settle down into a deep and dreamless sleep.

The next day the work began, in case you thought I‘d forgotten about that aspect of the trip! Any illusions of a work-light week of sightseeing were quickly dissipated when the initial conference session started.

I was invited to attend in my minionesque status, my role being to minute each meeting. This meant intense concentration required and a vigorous penmanship workout (I prefer to hand-write than type notes) for each 4/5 hour official meeting, with a twenty minute coffee break. There were also a number of informal meetings, which took place outside of the main plenary, so if I’d hoped for hours of free time spent chilling out by the hotel’s pool I was sadly mistaken.

Work was intense and demanding and a few sleepless nights as the body clock struggled to adapt to the new time zone added to the challenge but there was a bit of time at the end of each working day to leave the deceptive coolness of the air-conditioned hotel and enjoy the sultry heat of a Thai evening. And conveniently located in the vicinity of the hotel were a large number of Thai massage parlours (I did spot at least one illegitimate “massage” parlour but I’m fairly confident those I frequented were all above board).

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 12.55.26I was tempted to try and claim the cost as a legitimate work expense – seriously after four hours of writing my right hand and supporting body parts definitely needed a little attention. However, I recalled the drama of the parliamentary expenses scandal and thought that claiming for a massage was probably the kind of things that might be as misinterpreted as was expecting the public to foot the bill for upkeep of a duck house.

After the conference I allowed myself the luxury of staying on in Bangkok one extra day so did get to enjoy a day of trawling through the markets, finally having a swim in the pool and enjoying a final massage and Thai meal before my 2am flight home.

The effect of the massage and very late/early flight did help me to sleep for the first part of the journey (there was a stopover in Abu Dhabi) so I was slightly more rested on arrival at Geneva than at Bangkok. However any remaining sleepiness was quickly eradicated as I disembarked the plane in my light summer wear and discovered myself woefully unprepared for the snow falling around me in Switzerland.

Capture d’écran 2015-02-04 à 14.27.59So travelling for work was harder than I had anticipated and really pretty exhausting (I’m still struggling today) but if asked to go again I think I could probably rise to the challenge!


* Would definitely recommend Hector’s Search for Happiness and St Vincent. Quite enjoyed the Fury and I thought Boyhood an interesting concept even if I wouldn’t be in a hurry to watch again. I didn’t think much of Lucy and was pretty unnerved by Before I Go To Sleep.

The exhausting adventures of an over-organiser

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The last week or so has been something of a whirlwind as the fiancé and I came back for a wedding and decided we would stop in the UK for the following week and visit as many people as humanly possible.
In 11 days we clocked up around 1500 miles between us, which is about 4 times the length of England, as we traversed the South East, Midlands and North. We managed to visit both sets of parents, my grandma, Tom’s grandparents, my aunt and nine separate meetings with friends.
This logistical feat of pulling off the who, how, where and when of maximising UK friend and family absorbing time has caused me to finally accept that I am good at this sort of thing. So in acknowledgement of my true self I’d like to say ‘my name is Briony and I’m an organiser!’
Despite the fact I have been in a number of jobs where organisational skills are an absolute must I never really think of myself as being an organised person, because I have always felt I could be better at this. But this doesn’t really make sense. It’s like me saying I’m not a runner because even though I regularly run 5k a couple of times a week (brag brag) I could be better at this. So yes, I could be a better runner and I could be better organised but this doesn’t stop me from already being both of these things.
An essential requirement of being disorganisedly-challenged (desperately trying not to keep repeating ‘organised’) is the ability to plan ahead. The amount of people we managed to fit in on a relatively brief visit was a result of my spreading out the charts and forming a touring battle-plan, if you will, carefully scheduled to within an inch of the agenda’s life.
Had I left the UK trip to the fiancé we’d have gone to the wedding and then just pootled about in London for the rest of the week and seen a couple of people. Granted, this might have been a relaxing alternative but, having been an expat abroad for almost 6 months now, would have seemed a wasted opportunity.
My methodical and systematic approach to work, holidays and so on definitely has its place but I know that I’m capable of this sort of thing because it comes naturally to me, which means I can’t really turn it off. And always going about my life in an orderly and controlled manner isn’t necessarily a good thing. For one thing, it sounds pretty dull. Nobody wants to be described as ‘organised’, even if it does get you jobs and has practical purposes. For another, I’m also pretty rubbish at spontaneity and just doing things on the spur of the moment.
However, the most debilitating aspect of being Queen of the Planning is that I find it almost impossible to live in the moment and actually just take stock of where I’m at without constantly question where I’m going.
On a day to day scale I can do this to some extent, I can enjoy a nice leisurely walk and stop to take in the view and think how great it is to be in the here and now. But I can probably only manage this for an hour or two at best before the brain starts going into overdrive with thoughts of ‘what’s next?’
I’ll eat lunch and even as I’m eating it I’m already thinking about what’s for dinner. If I’m having an evening out with friends I’m perfectly capable of enjoying myself, and it’s not that I’m wishing the night were over its just that I’ll probably also be thinking about what time I’ll be home and what I have to do the next day.
On a small scale the over-planning’s not so bad, on a bigger scale it’s exhausting. Moving to Geneva happened fairly quickly and there was a lot to sort both before I went and then after I arrived. This preoccupation worked pretty well at distracting me but now I’m more settled here I can’t stop contemplating the future.
Should I start studying again? Where do I see myself going within the new job? Will we come back to the UK in a couple of years and if not, do we stay here or go somewhere else? Should I have a career figured out by now or at least have all required training out the way before thinking about children? And on and on it goes. I don’t know how to just sit back and think well Geneva is nice and leave it at that.
When I was working full time in the UK and also studying part-time and trying to see friends and family and sometimes taking on voluntary work it was pretty manic. I often look back and think how the hell did I manage that? So now I’m kind of enjoying a more relaxed pace of life, and think my hair is greying at a slower rate, but I’m also kind of hankering after those activities that serve so well as distractions. Always working towards things in the future means you don’t really need to think about what your place in the world is now and what the point of it all is.
I clearly need a new project.
We had a great time back in the UK and loved every minute catching up with those we got to see, although still missed a fair few off the list, but the whole thing was a little hectic. To ensure we get round everyone at a slighlty more leisurely pace I’ll have to plan a number of trips over the course of next year. I hope it will be enough of a diversion for now.