Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Store Cupboard Curry

Over the past few days I have spent my daylight hours glued to my chair, staring into a computer screen (without my glasses - oops) and analysing child-directed speech until I hear 'it's a teddy beeearr!' echoing around my brain the whole night long. This situation has caused me to be a little lax where fresh food is involved, and when my tummy started calling out earlier this evening, I was horrified at the prospects that a bag of lettuce and an old carrot suggest.

I was craving spice! I did not want salad for my tea on a cold rainy evening, and especially not when the evening meal would certainly be the only real enjoyment in my day! So I raided my fridge and my cupboards, and managed to put together probably the most delicious curry I have ever made!

I absolutely LOVE curry, it is probably my favourite favourite dish. I recently stopped bothering with curry powder or jars of sauces, as it's cheaper and much much tastier to buy the individual spices in the long run anyway! Since then I've been experimenting like mad with coconut milk, tomatoes and different shades of spice; and this is based on my basic tomato-based curry, using the spices that I always use, with some extra excitement coming from the mango chutney! Any veg will go with it; the fact is that, so long as you have a tin of beans, some tomato puree and the basic curry flavours, you never have to go without! As for measurements...well, I don't do measurements - I just add things according to how I feel, which sometimes turns out to be a complete disaster!

Store Cupboard Curry

Small tin of chickpeas
Cherry tomatoes (or tinned!)
Tomato puree
Fresh ginger
Mango chutney

1 Bay leaf
Chilli flakes

Fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and ginger and spices and stir. Add the rest of the ingredients and a little water (if not using tinned tomatoes), cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

I had rice last night, and didn't have time for brown rice, so I made a simple flatbread to go with this. Here's how:

4 Oz buckwheat flour
2 tbsp oil
12- 14 tbsp water

Mix all ingredients together until they form a batter-like consistency. Leave to stand for 10 minutes, then spoon out dollops onto a hot oiled frying pan. When browned on one side, flip over and brown the other side - easy peasy!


Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Our Bodies Are Awesome (yet I still go and treat mine with disrespect)

Today I am nursing my first hangover in a long long time - possibly the first since Christmas. Hangovers are funny things; they seem to make me think that I deserve induglence, when it is only too much indulgence that has caused me to feel like this in the first place! However, I do enjoy the odd sensations that they bring: my body feels crooked and sore, my head is splitting, my eyes are heavy, my stomach is groaning yet I crave odd and potent foods, the world is louder and brighter and more obscene. It's a sort of ritual, and getting through the day with a constant awareness of a wonderful night before is a pleasant if painful experience.

Since I started training for my race, my alcohol consumption has dwindled to a bare bare minimum; sometimes only one pint a week. When I compare this with my previous weekly intake, I find it surprising how I have hardly noticed the change. What I have become aware of is how often I used to drink 'just because': because it was a Friday or a Saturday, because I was in the pub, because it's in my cupboard and I was having a night in. I never considered whether I actually wanted it or not! I've always hated being drunk; the feeling of drunkeness, the loss of capacity, the horrific way so many decent people act when drunk (maybe I'm that horrific too!?), all of it. And so before I started training, I drank regularly, but never (or very rarely) to excess. So needless to say, when I go near alcohol now, it leaves some sure traces in my head and I feel wretched for a long while afterwards. Pah.

It makes me wonder when I think back a couple of years, starting when I lived in Germany and was slurping up numerous cocktails several times a week. How on earth did my body cope with that? Back then I was quite a lot more petite than I am now, and it hit me HARD. It's sort of shameful, thinking of the utter disrespect that people so often subject their bodies to; it's surprising they put up with us without inflicting more than just a queasy headachey day-after-the-night-before.

And so, inspired by this post from Suburban Yogini, I will make a small tribute to this body of mine, as it is the least I can do to recognize the awesome way it works so hard every day to let me live the way I choose to!

5 Awesome Things About My Body:

1. Apart from an unproblematic milk intolerance, I have no allergies, which means I can eat anything I fancy without worrying about feeling ill afterwards (my worst nightmare would be coeliacs disease!)

2. I have really nice skin, and always have had. Even as a teenager I never had more than a couple of spots at any one time.

3. I am a pear, not an apple. If I gain weight it all goes to my bum and thighs, which is always easier to handle than excess fat around the waist. It also means I have a lower risk of heart disease, apparently.

4. It needs exercise, and complains when it doesn't get any. So I enjoy exercising, and I don't need to think about it too much as I can feel my still body moaning at me!

5. It shows its progress - through continuing to run and do yoga over the past few years, I have noticed some real changes in my stamina and my strength. Once I couldn't run 100 metres without needing a lie down, now I can (usually!) run 10 miles without feeling like I've died. The same goes for yoga, but in smaller measure; my core is still pretty weak, but my legs are much stronger, and my balance is great. I sit contently in the knowledge that once I face the tough core yoga positions enough, I'll be able to do them more comfortably too!

And as a little added looks amazing in the new outfit I've bought for a wedding at the weekend! I can't wait! Photos to follow! :-)

What's awesome about your body? I'd love to hear what other people have to say!

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Shades of Blue

Over the past three days I have been descending deeper into a mood of blue. It comes now and then, out of the non-blue, usually following a period of bliss where the colours are more vibrant, the air is sweeter and there are no days, only continuous joy and adventure punctuated with periods of restless sleep.

I try not to be too hard on myself when these downward snippets occur. And I try, and usually fail, to not be too hard on the people around me, as well. But the days when I don't want to get out of bed always come around on days when I need to get out of bed, which actually is lucky and very helpful, though completely undesirable at the time.

Life is heavy with assignments, and will be for the next few weeks. I am unable to leave them at home when I go out, and I feel a little shorter from carrying their weight around with me. But at the same time, I wouldn't have it any other way; I delight in their presence, in the opportunities they are giving me to learn, to explore the subject I love, and their weight is a constant reminder that I care; that right now I am doing the right thing, and rather masochistically, I am enjoying the slight destruction it brings.

But, as with every challenge anyone ever faces, it is making me unnervingly aware of my limits. It is not coming naturally; the thoughts are not in my head, and thus I am stilted and frustrated by my lack of knowledge.

To add to this frustration, I cannot run far without intense pain. Two weeks ago I ran ten miles, and now I can't run ten kilometres without experiencing pain that literally makes me nauseous and watery-eyed. I don't run to keep fit or to stay in shape, they are just added-extras to something much bigger, something I can't explain. Murakami explained it well in What I Talk About When I Talk About Running; only runners understand why runners run. But more than just feeling frustrated and locked in, this injury is making me greatly aware of my body's power over me. I realize now that my body is in many ways independant of me; it does what it likes, sometimes it takes control and says 'no', and I have to listen and give it what it demands, or put up with the consequences. And I know that this continuing injury is the consequence of not listening in the past. I've finally made an appointment with my physio, and a cheeky part of me is hoping that this will be enough to satisfy my knee, and maybe it will let me run tomorrow...

Together, all three of the above have contributed to a bout of loss-of-self. Usually I am charged with energy and enthusiasm and self confidence, but not today; today I am doubting every inch of my being. There are some remedies which, when applied in vast quantity, work without fail, and I am now waiting for some results after applying some of my favourites: mashed potato, baked beans, yoga, a chat with my Mum, writing about it all. Fingers crossed for a speedy return-to-self.

Saturday, 27 March 2010

Day Tripping

I've just spent the past hour falling madly in love with Professor Brian Cox. Is there anything sexier than brains?

Brains and swishy black hair, perhaps.

Finally today I got out into some green space, far enough away from busy city life for there to be no hum of traffic in the background or crumpled Starbucks carton in the gutter.

My friend Nick phoned this morning to let me know that he and some friends were taking a 2-car convoy to Aysgarth for the day; a village towards the west of the Yorkshire Dales with what is probably quite a lovely waterfall. Once I overcame a need to stay indoors and work on my assignments, I packed marmalade sandwiches (perfect picnic grub), waterproofs and sunglasses and headed out of the door into some perfect spring sunshine.

Due to the current speight of intense roadworks going on in York, we were still fringing the city after listening to the whole of Chuck Ragan's new album, and so we consulted maps over a phone conference between cars to decide on a closer destination. My suggestion was lunch in Masham followed by a visit to Jervaulx Abbey, a beautiful, privately-owned monument I've visited twice before, which is certainly overlooked by many visitors to the Dales all too often.

We had a really lovely day in all, fuelled by some proper pub grub and some great music. I finally got a (very small) dose of some fresh air, and feel ready to head on with some intense study tomorrow. Catching up with old friends always leaves me with that warm, mushy feeling; a recognition of belonging to something bigger than myself. I hope this was only a taster of more country adventures to come: maybe we will make it to Aysgarth one day after all! (I've now attempted to see the waterfalls twice, and failed both times...)

Wednesday, 24 March 2010


Last night, Daniel said I should write more blog posts about feminism. Feminism is a topic I've been interested in for a long time now, and was one of my main outlets for teenage angst in sixth form. Though I never refer to myself as a feminst, Daniel has, on a couple of occasions, described me in that way, and to be honest I never know whether to be flattered or to work on changing that characteristic pronto!

The reason I steer away from topics such as feminism and politics in my blog is because there is a danger that attempting one politically-minded post would leave me typing a rambling, inarticulate stream of ideas for the rest of eternity. I love debating these subjects, and I love reading about them and reflecting on them, but writing on here is such a one-sided affair; I simply wouldn't know where to stop!

So - back to the topic at hand! I know that feminist issues are important to me; if I were to dedicate myself to one cause, it would be trying to improve self-image of both girls and women, as this is something that actually does leave me lying awake at night, out of my mind with frustration at the state of affairs we are in. However, the closest I've ever come to burning my bras was an unfortunate incident involving an overheated radiator and plastic clothes rack. Far from turning to ashes, they are now covered in a rather alarming amount of dry melted plastic, which is not so much revolutionary but uncomfortable. I don't hate men, I shave my armpits, and sometimes even my legs!

But am I simply being stereotypical? Would the above characteristics really make a feminist, if she (or he) didn't actually care for women's issues?

No, it wouldn't. In a recent sociolinguistics class on gender and language, a female coursemate expressed her distaste for all things feminism. I hope that she meant the man-hating, bra-burning feminism, and I can't help thinking that this stereotype is what gives feminists such a tarnished reputation. Because feminism as it was is just about over; women can climb the ladder for as long as they like, or they can stay at home and bring up their children, or they can try their best to balance both. Given an opportunity I would love an exciting and rewarding career, but what I want most of all is to bring up my children, bake with them and teach them about the world. Not too long ago I probably wouldn't have admitted to that, but women are liberated full-circle; we don't just have rights, we also have absolute freedom of choice.

The current battle that women face is actually much deeper, and will be a lot harder to win, I think. It's not about society anymore, it's about self-worth and expectation, and these things are sadly embedded deep into the minds of women, and worse still, young girls. It's easy to blame skinny models and 'perfect' popstars, but it's coming at us from all angles. Almost all of my female friends wear make-up if they are leaving the house. It saddens me that I actually don't know what some of my best friends really look like, as I've never seen them without a layer of make-up to hide behind. Why do women feel the need to hide? I never wear make-up, and I hesitate to judge something I don't understand; I just want to actually understand, because maybe if we understand the issues they will be easier to deal with. Make-up is just one example; no one needs me to go on about the need to be skinny, to fight cellulite, etc.

Just like everyone else, I want to feel good about myself, and actually, more often than not I do really like myself. But that doesn't come from having a perfect figure, or expensive foundation or a new hair style; it comes from looking after myself and developing a good relationship with my whole body: nourishing it, treating it, exercising it, stretching it, resting it.

Overall, it's not whether a woman shaves her legs or not, or whether she wears make-up or not, it's why she chooses to do these things. Is it to match up to expectations, or is it because it makes her feel good about herself? If it is the latter, isn't covering up even the most spotty face a way to hide away and to apologise for the way you are? There are plenty of men with terrible skin who don't use make-up, after all (maybe because they are happy to be accepted how they are, maybe because they'd feel unmasculine to wear make-up, but that's another issue). I don't have the answers, but surely all of the amazing changes that have taken place over the past 150 years started out when people started to ask questions?

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Photo-Filled Weekend

The weekend is drawing to a close once again, and I can honestly say that it was a perfect one - a weekend as weekends should be. There is nothing better than a rest when it's well-earned, and by the end of Friday afternoon I felt so exhausted after the week lying behind me that I physically couldn't have done more studying, were it required of me.

I felt a real need to 'let go', something I haven't actually allowed myself to do in a while. Maybe spurred on by the start of the Easter break, maybe something to do with my knee allowing me to run again, or maybe just because I've been so disciplined for such a long time, who knows. Anyway, I wanted to mark the start of my weekend in some way on Friday evening, and I did, with Beethoven, my special veggie spag bol and a large glug of a favourite liquid combination - G and T!

We then headed out through the rain to a perfect rickety York pub, retreated to a crooked table in the corner by the fire, and merried our way through the evening, far away from the busy week and the rain outside with talk of up-coming weddings, holidays and surrounding life.

Saturday brought more rain, and with it an unusual urge to be out in town! Neither Daniel nor myself enjoy shopping, and rarely venture into the city centre on a Saturday, but for some reason we were both inclined to try it out, with some success!

We lunched on some hearty food in a chic venue, observing the crowds while ginger beer (my absolute favourite fizzy treat!) fizzed up our noses. The world felt so steady, I counted time as my own for the first time in a week of busy tasks and rushing.

In York there are so many tourists taking photos of buildings; buildings that I have grown so used to that I sometimes fail to notice them, fail to look where the cameras are pointing, directions in which my camera used to point when I first moved here and was inspired by the history and the beauty for the first time. I still appreciate the excitment of this place, but it has become much more holistic - I love the city and its architecture as a whole, and individual buildings are only contributing to something that moves me now on a much larger scale. However, every now and then there are little changes which open my eyes a little wider again and make me notice the beauty of a single monument in its own right. Clifford's Tower in spring is the perfect example, as I see the splashes of yellow slowly covering the motte, morseso each day, and even under the grey sky it is something to stop and admire.

That afternoon we baked! I am improving! I requested a vegan brownie recipe on Suburban Yogini's blog, and we had much chocolatey fun creating this wonderous treat!

Mashing the banana - so much tastier than egg!

Caught in the act!

Mixing the batter!

Me caught in the act this time...

And the results were even tastier than the batter mix - we were bloated chocolatey slugs in no time!

That evening I was treated to some of Daniel's cooking. While he was busying in the kitchen, I helped out with some DIY in my pyjamas (as you do), which he kindly photographed...goggles for optimum health and safety, of course!

This was followed by an evening curled up on the couch with cocoa and Black Books, and an indulgently early night. A simple weekend of the photographical kind - I couldn't have asked for more!

Friday, 19 March 2010


When you write a blog, it's easy to pick and choose parts of life; to make readers believe that the sun is always shining, that the days are always packed with creativity and adventure, and that life really is perfect on this side of Blogland. It goes without saying that the photos taken at the wrong angle, involving double chins, spots and bloatedness aren't published, and so I allow myself to appear at my best all of the time.

Well of course, this image that I am so easily able to present of myself and my life is very much one-sided. As honest as it is, it is not the whole story, and implying that it is would seem dishonest, a sort of air-brushing of myself, a denial of my world in its entirety, warts and all. (Actually I don't have any warts, but I do have slight bunions on both feet...urgh)

I don't think that many people read blogs out of curiosity for the banal, ugly, or unhappy parts of life, everyone has enough of that in their own lives to not want to bother with it too deeply elsewhere. But that being said, I admire people who are honest in their writing, feeling honesty in what I read is paramount to my reading it, and I feel that by denying the glum, dark and difficult part of myself would be dishonest and thus hypocritical.

When I was young, I felt that I was required to be happy, healthy and interested in life all of the time. I don't know where this came from; when I confessed to my Mum that I used to be unable to admit feeling ill to my childminder as a child, she actually cried - it certainly wasn't an expectation stemming from her. Even now, I struggle to admit to those who aren't closest to me that I'm any less than 'great, thanks!', making for large releases of unhappiness when I finally am able to tell someone that actually, everything is simply a mess.

So, I intend to write a bit more about the other side of myself every now and then. Partly because I think I'd find it helpful to write, partly because I don't want to paint myself as an unexhaustively joyful person all of the time, and mostly because this blog is about me and my life, and whether people read it or not, it is my little account of myself, and I enjoy looking back over old posts and seeing how I interpreted certain things at certain times; what might be one thing to be one day can be something else a few weeks later, and these interpretations are helpful when it comes to dealing with some aspects of life.

A bit of my less-sunshiney self; themes which could be important to many people, involve body-image and lack thereof, some chronic stomach problems, relationships gone mad and general teenager agony. All of these things come up regularly in my general life, and so they feel relevant to write about on here. Maybe I'll even include some unflattering photos to keep up the theme of realism ;-)

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

House Arrest

One thing is missing from these glorious spring days. I step outside, to a day surrounded by people rushing on to the next task, a day surrounded by concrete, takeaway coffees, canteen odours, cigarette smoke. I step out and close my eyes and breathe in and can all of a sudden be right where I need to be. I wish this wasn't so easy to do, I wish my senses would remain in the city with me and stop taunting me with mountain air and green space.

I am craving space, scenery, green.

Days of unkempt wildness, picnics on damp grass, exploring, getting lost.

Worn out maps, untimely gusts of wind, peaks and dips and survaces to scramble.

Life in a backpack, stripped down to the bare essentials.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Mother's Weekend and a Rainstorm

I have returned to my tiny quiet flat after four wonderful days with my family; a trip home with hill-running, Mother's Day, Dad's birthday and a huge pile of laundry as its objectives.

Some of these objectives were more successful than others; slow training on Friday left me hobbling around the house, and so the hill-running was off the cards. It turns out that this worked in my favour, and left me with a lot of spare time to relax at home with my Mum. It also meant that I had chance to try out some futher baking, this time with absolute success! A stack of black bananas means a bakefest in my eyes, and so banana muffins and banana flapjacks were soon tempting us all everytime we crossed the kitchen. My oh my, the flapjacks were phenomenal! It seems I have some flapjack skills after all, which could be a dangerous thing! On Friday night I found myself alone with an open fire, a large glass of wine, a flapjack (of course) and my book; the perfect combination for an evening in.

Saturday was lazy, the way Sundays should be, but since I work on Sundays I allowed myself this small indulgence. I spent the whole day reading the paper, doing the crossword, chatting to my Mum and drinking too much tea and coffee. It was superb! I never usually dare spend the weekend like this, since the free time is so precious, but I reckon I could get used to slow, sloth-like days every once in a while. That evening we crashed in front of the fire, and flicking through the TV channels found a film called In Her Shoes. I am completely not a romantic comedy fan, and would never have chosen this film to watch, but it was wonderful! We both ended up laughing and sobbing at all the right bits - certainly a good sign!

And today is Mother's Day! I had to leave for York at 8:00, so got up super early to prepare a special Mother's Day breakfast of pink grapefruits (divine when peeled and eaten greedily and juicily), yogurt, crumpets, toast and jam. I also found these beautiful flowers at the nearby farm.

I am in love with the colours and the delicate leaves, the way they look wild and so precious at the same time. Maybe these (anenomes?) are my new favourite flower.

I also found this photo of me with my Mum as a tiny baby. Despite the dress (which I have borrowed a couple of times on Halloween!), I think it's a beautiful photo - my Mum's hair is so long!

After work today I decided to have a wander into town to buy a new yoga mat. As I was leaving the shop, fat raindrops were starting to fall slowly, and umbrellas started springing up around me. When needing to be nowhere and having no need to be especially elegant, being caught in the rain is one of my favourite things. The rain came so fast and heavy that I was soon soaked through, and that fresh rain smell started to rise from the ground. Too often the rain gets in the way of getting anywhere while remaining smart and warm, or it simply falls without much intent, drizzling its way unnoticed through the day. This rain was perfect, stormy rain, and it keeps coming and going as the sky changes from light blue to dark grey. Every now and then I hear it thundering down on my roof, making me feel warm and at home in the comfort of this little box.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


Long Skype chats with good friends

Comfy PJ bottoms

Postcards from good friends on big adventures

Too much tea

Making muesli

Eating museli

Blue skies through the window

Morrisey on the radio

The prospect of a weekend with my family

Interview With Myself

I found the idea for conducting and interview with myself at The Art of Non-Conformity, and I thought it was a good one, if a little egocentric (but is that always a bad thing? I don't think so). Now is a good time to be interviewing myself, so I hope you'll allow me this indulgence, and allow yourself the same indulgence, if you feel it would be useful!

What’s next, self?

Good question! I suppose the situation I’ve always seen as ‘the adult world’ is what’s coming next. Career, rent, tax, study-free weekends…and I feel for the first time that I might actually be ready for it. I’m hoping to stay in York, but I’m open to excitement, disarray and change in direction. However, I haven’t lived in the same place for more than 12 months since I was 18; I would absolutely love to feel secure, still and at home. So, the next step is uncertain, but I’m excited for it, whether it be complete change or a steady orientation in the direction I’m going right now.

Why do you do the things you do every day?

Because I love to do them. Sitting at my table studying last night, I was struck by my love for my degree; the way I felt towards learning upon starting my course is still here with me, and I’m thirsty to understand more and more. I sit in my seminar, the only MA student in a group of two PhD students and two of the world's leading academics in my field (and two of my biggest inspirations). They listen to me, they take my ideas seriously (sometimes they even write them down!) and they support me in the elements of development which interest me the most. I’ve arrived somewhere really amazing, and I feel pretty privileged to be there! This love for what I do stands for many of the other things too, from seeing friends to eating porridge; there’s nothing in my every day life that I would wish away.

What do you really believe in?

Myself - on a non-spiritual level, obviously! I feel that I have the power to do and be what I want, and no one is holding me back, or pushing me forward, but myself.

Where do you find your security?

In my family, Daniel and hot drinks.

What bothers you, and what are you doing about it?

Right now my knee bothers me. I hate to be held back from what I love to do. The only thing I can do is rest it, but I am learning, very quickly, that I need to listen to my body when it calls! I’m trying to develop a better awareness of my body; to know how and when to give it what it needs. I’ve started doing yoga most days, and have stopped drinking habitually. Though I never drank large quantities of alcohol, I felt I was drinking just because I was in the pub, or just because it was Friday night; now I only drink when I actually feel the will to drink, and consequently, I’ve hardly drunk anything at all for weeks!

What worries you?

Honestly, this minute, the only worry I can find inside me to answer this question with is that the future holds so much, and I’m worried that I won’t take up amazing opportunities, or will choose the wrong set of opportunities, and will regret missing out on something amazing. That’s not a worry really, is it? (Oh, and I’m worried that my knee won’t fix in time, but that would be getting a bit repetitive!)

If you had one year left to live, how would you spend it?

No differently from how I’m living now. Except I’d climb mountains rather than write essays, drink more hot chocolate, and bake until there was a national flour shortage.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


The days are continuously glorious, they seem to be finally making up for the misery of the grey winter. Even the night sky is tinged deep blue.

Waking up in the mornings is exciting when there's a world out there coming to life. My curtains are too thin, and so I wake up every morning with the sunshine, at around 6am, and I'm not complaining.

It makes me want to dance, run, walk, skip, outside!

But alas, I must stay still. I have a knee injury, of all things, and it is making me grizzly and frustrated. Somehow my energy is tenfold, now I have no outlet for it.

And then there's studying, of course.

(coordinating my squash with the colour of my mug is becoming a new joy in life)

So what a wonderous thing it is that we are able to bring the spring indoors; to smell the fresh outside while working, eating breakfast, blogging and all other still, indoors activities!

I'd forgotten how amazing daffodils smell! I wonder if I forget every year once the season is over, and this treat lies in wait for me come the following spring. I hope I forget again this year. I'm becoming very fond of their yellow open mouths, peering out at me so inquisitively as I work.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

I Can Walk Under Ladders*

This weekend I have mostly been madly in love. Actually, I have been consistently madly in love for quite a while. But this weekend has allowed many of those shared moments, so normal in their nature, which become something magical as soon as they are shared with someone you really care about.

Nothing really happened this weekend the way thing sometimes happen. There were no surprise visits from intrepid friends, no journeys or celebrations. But that's what I wanted; a weekend without anything to report. Because as magical as it is to share late-night honey on toast, to listen quietly to Radio 4 together on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea, to sit together for hours engrossed in books, reading out funny or thoughtful snippets every now and then - these things can't really be expressed in words, and they certainly can't be reported.

I don't think the word 'lucky' is really appropriate to describe these situations. The situations where you find yourself, somehow, exactly where you want to be, without having striven to get there. But here I am, where I want to be. And I feel really lucky.

After work today the sky was too blue to be inside; when it might rain tomorrow, why study on a sunny Sunday afternoon? Instead, we wandered together around the markets, the crowds slowly petering out as the shops started to close. Finding empty York streets in the sunshine is quite a precious thing, and we wandered relatively aimlessly among the ancient buildings, curling round behind the Minster and peeping down alleys and streets which even in broad daylight look to be exclusively the property of grand ghostly inhabitants of ancient York. The sunlight was perfect, peering over the city and leaving a bright orange light reflecting off the buildings. Again, on afternoons like this, I am aware that here is exactly where I want to be.

*though anyone who knows me well will know that I would never dare try such a thing, of course!

Friday, 5 March 2010

Let them Eat...Cake?

I am simply no good at baking. A lesson I am learning slowly, step by step throughout my life, one flat cake after another soggy sponge.

On open days at school, the cakes I'd so proudly display for visitors' enjoyment would remain uneaten. My brother and boisterous cousins were better at icing cupcakes than me. My attempts at Victoria Sponge would somehow end up on my Gran's garage roof, the feasting grounds of all birdy visitors in her garden.

For some reason, this has never stopped me trying. I love baking, mainly because I love munching on cakes. My favourite kind of sweet treat is in line with my personal 'vice' - oats and dried fruit (can these things count as vices? The quantities I eat can be, I'm sure!). Muesli, granola, flapjacks, crumbles, oaty cookies, fruity muffins...

On Tuesday I was craving flapjacks. I (mostly) followed a recipe; it all looked authenically flapjack-esque, I took the tray out of the oven in greedy anticipation. I waited as long as I possibly could before picking myself a slice of this golden oaty sheet...only to grasp at a couple of oats as the rest crumbled beneath the knife. I was left with a pile of sweet, buttery oats on my plate; too sugary and fatty to see it as granola, too un-solid to even consider it to be a flapjack! Disappointed, I ate the rest from a bowl, with milk. If I'd have wanted cereal, I'd have made cereal.

After a long morning run, I was once again craving oats and dates (dates must be dried pods of heaven, I think). I found a recipe on Nigella's site, which I followed exactly this time (not something I tend to do, admittedly). Date squares. Also known as date slices. Again, this implies some sort of solid snack.


A sloppy, sticky, over-sweet splogde on my afternoon. Actually, it looks quite good in this photo. More of a sweet oaty-date pudding.

Maybe I'll stick to savoury dishes from now on, but don't hold me to that ;-)

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Sit quietly doing nothing.
Spring comes,
And the grass grows by itself.

- Zen Wisdom

March is here. I am allowing myself to call it spring, finally. Spring is not a season, it's a process, one which probably started weeks ago, when we were wrapped up and our thoughts were out in the cold. Now spring is visible, and that feeling is growing inside me; that hopeful energy sprouting like the dafodills all over York. Walking around under a brilliant sky, hearing the birds singing even in the twilight, waking to streams of sunlight through my curtains, seeing shoots of green (real ones, much better than the financial ones) struggling through the frosty ground - what could be better?

I went to a Quaker school, and though I'm not religious, the spirituality of Quakerism is one of the best lessons I learned in my 7 years there. It's something I at least try to keep with me every day, and I'm striving to be an outwardly calm person. If I can be an inwardly calm person, too, then even better. Despite the busy growth that we see in spring, I find it's the best season for calm reflection; I try (and I think I mostly succeed) to observe the world around me, to take time to watch the earth changing below and above, as the flowers grow and the trees turn green. It's an amazing feeling to be surrounded by these changes, I think. To run alongside the river under the trees, and feel so small, wrapped up in a tunnel of ever-changing life.

So now the winter is officially over in my book, I intend to strive for reflection, calm and love of what's already there. For the past few months I have been waiting for this change, for what is to come. Now it's here, so no more living in the future; the moment is all we have.

Monday, 1 March 2010

Even Better than Men in Shorts!

Initially, my weekend unravelled just how I had hoped and expected. (Note: I use the verb 'unravelled' here in a completely positive sense, winding out, moving forwards, opening up, but with a sense of uncertainty as to the direction it will take, and the point it will stop unravelling - a good verb for this context) Friday evening was a quiet one, spent with the comforts and aromas of spices, sweet potato and dried fruits, drinking tea and discussing the world in pyjamas. Friday was such a meteorological nightmare: plodding heavy rain followed by fat snowflakes, wind, ice, damp everywhere! I changed my trousers 4 times as I couldn't leave the house without getting soaked to the bone. It was a relief to change into my pyjamas and not have to return out into the weather!

Fridays now have to remain very quiet, sober affairs; my Saturday runs are becoming increasingly more challenging, and so I have to be strict! I am working on ways to avoid Friday-night sobriety, but for now, its bed at a reasonable hour!

I woke on Saturday with the looming physical exertion and long 'to-do' list. But, according to Murakami, even professional athletes feel dread as they tie their runnning shoes. Once I was off, I was happy to be out in the day. And running on a Saturday morning in York is a highly sociable affair!

I had planned to watch England vs. Ireland over at my friends' house in the afternoon, so I headed over with bottles galore to relax and finally get into the swing of the weekend. I do like rugby, much moreso than any other team sport; the players seem so much more humble than footballers, and so much less arrogant than tennis players! It must be great fun to run around in the mud and rain professionally! I turned up expecting to see only two of my friends, Nick and John, and was quite surprised when Ben answered the door. As I entered the living room, I noticed a rather tanned, hairy figure slouching over the couch. It took a couple of seconds to register that my old housemate and close friend Chris, who has been in Australia for 2 years and still should be, was sitting in the room! Needless to say, the whole day took an unexpected but wonderful turn, and not only did I enjoy a merry 80 minutes of rather uneventful rugby, but also 2 years' worth of catching up, and 5 years of reminiscing.

What I really got from that Saturday afternoon was much bigger than that though. I managed to discover a huge sense of belonging, realising that though everything has changed, the fundamental situation will carry on into the future. We live on different sides of the country, for a large part of our lives we will probably live on different sides of the globe, but friendship is friendship, and we share something much bigger than a postcode. For the first time since a rather hazy halloween party a couple of years ago, we were all together again as our little cliquey unit. Cliques are such a horrible, negative thing, until you're in your own clique. There's a reason other people find it hard to work within a new friendship group (and Daniel commented that, though everyone was perfectly friendly, he still felt very much an outsider); and these little oddities that we share make it the way it is!