To reiterate, learning that the Czech for ‘hello’ is ‘ahoy!’ has been the highlight of my week

Following the ending of my relationship and slow acceptance of working for the entirety of summer, i’d somewhat accepted that any chance of a summer holiday had vanished. ‘Office job’ does not particularly scream bikini and cocktails on tap, so instead of building up a small fort of summer clothes, I’d gradually over time conditioned myself to enjoying work clothes – smart trousers, semi formal tops and *gasp* shoes that aren’t trainers.

Skip forward to last weekend, and my dreams of booking a spontaneous few days away have actually come true. This is surprising for everyone involved – it is one thing daydreaming of a mini group holiday and an entirely different thing actually organising, booking and taking part in it. That alone is the major reason why our romantic group weekend away quickly shrunk from eight of us to four, but a bit of repetitive, insistent bugging and the weeding out of the unreliable ones, and my holiday is booked.

Sure, it’s not the fortnight in Bulgaria that my sister is currently enjoying, or the travels around Thailand that I’ve seen many a Facebook friend post about, but I am determined to enjoy every waking hour of Prague – starting from the minute I get through passport control up until the second I step foot back onto the tarmac floors of Gatwick Airport.

The trouble now, of course, is that combined with a full time job, there are not enough hours in the day to enjoy the holiday preparation. I have not immersed myself in strolls around shopping centres and languid attempts to find the perfect pair of sunglasses. The latter may be slightly unnecessary this year on account of already taking three pairs with me on a five day holiday, but nonetheless I am disappointed that even this small pleasure has been taken from me.

Instead, I’m hurriedly learning basic Czech at my desk and paying over the odds for next day delivery from Topshop and ASOS. Gone are the days where I made holiday lists and lazily ticked one thing off a day. I leave on Thursday after work and my biggest issues at the moment are buying an adaptor plug (somehow not an essential to bring to London from Bedfordshire with me) and changing up some currency. I haven’t made a plane playlist, charged my Kindle or bought airport snacks. The most preparation I have done so far was to put off my perfume purchases to save them for the joys of Duty Free.

Packing, obviously, is a thing of the future and will most likely be done on Thursday in that brief 40 minutes between arriving home from work and leaving to get the train to Gatwick.

Sometimes I press ‘extra sugar’ instead of just ‘sugar’

As I write this, I am sitting in the office, waiting for my third espresso of the afternoon to cool down to just under scalding temperature, before I check my inevitably empty inbox once again and count down the minutes until home time.
I am not cut out for an office job. I am not cut out for nine to five working hours, and delegating tasks, and drinking piss poor (although admittedly free) coffee and enjoying every last second of my lunch break. It is not me.
Sometimes, as a treat, I press ‘extra sugar’ instead of just ‘sugar’ for my daily espresso. That is the depravity that I am currently facing.
My ideal job, I think, and trust me I have been doing a lot of thinking about this, and not only this but also my future house and pets and hairstyle and possibly every other thing that could pass the time, would have flexible working hours. Not a zero hour contract style, but more ‘if I want to sleep in and get out of bed at 11am and have a coffee and go for a stroll first then that’s all okay’ type of job. Admittedly journalism is more about midnight starts and harassing people who don’t want to be bothered at ungodly hours, but it’s better than nine to five.
There is just something horrendously mundane about setting my alarm for 7:30am every morning and the delicious enjoyment that comes from lying in bed until 7:33. Occasionally 7:35 if it is a particularly strenuous day.

There’s something I really dislike about pulling on smart clothes and wondering if I should treat myself to wearing black joni jeans to work and wondering about the consequences if I get told off for doing so… before the realisation that I am an intern and no one really cares if I am here anyway, let alone the fact that my trousers are made of denim instead of cotton mix.
I have become one of those terrible millennials who tweets ‘can’t wait for the weekend…bring on the vodka!!!’ I have become one of those who fills every last minute of the weekend with fun things and tasks and things that I saved up to do on a weekend because my day to day life is spent in an office with too cold air conditioning and white, middle aged men who have accepted their fate to spending the next 30 years at the same desk.
The most exciting element of my day is spent in Tesco, hating myself for throwing away 18.75 minutes’ worth of work on lunch but invariably doing it anyway because I refuse to spend my time outside of work preparing for work by making lunch to take to work. And then habitually buying the same meal deal of a southern fried chicken sub and a red naked smoothie and a bag of peanut butter propercorn because it is the most expensive combination you can buy for £3 and if this is the only way I can f the system during day to day life then I will take it and I will enjoy it.
Again, as I type, I have noted that I have approximately 19 days of work left minus five which I apparently have to take off for holiday but not get paid for before I can return to the joy that is university and optional lectures and weekday nights out and cooking breakfast at 4pm and I am absolutely terrified for Life After Graduation.

Is this an update? Am I back into routine? Who knows

Let’s sit back and take a moment to reflect, shall we? It has been exactly 66 days since I last ‘blogged’… if you can even call it that. My last blog post was supposed to be followed by a lovely overview of Budapest – the best things to see, places to go, neatly filed away with the photos and a few overly sarcastic comments throughout.

Well. Clearly that one didn’t go according to plan. I’m not even really sure where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing over the last 66 days, except Getting Things Done really. It turns out that first year of university is fun, because things don’t exactly count. Obviously, everyone wants to do well (the £9000 counts even if the overall grade doesn’t) but there’s a lot less pressure. Realistically it turned out that no one even asked me for my overall grade so I could have entirely lied and said I came out with a First and no one would have been any wiser. For the record that didn’t happen (obviously) but I did get my 2:1 and carried on into second year – where things do count.

University is a bit odd because you’re paying £27,000 and the first two years don’t even really go towards that. My second year of university was worth a grand total of 33% of my final grade, and I’m not even going to try and figure out the financial elements of that. Third year, oh joy of joys, is worth a staggering 66%. I could literally fuck up my degree so badly next year that I fail it overall. I could become one of the 5% of people who invest £27,000 in a degree and don’t pass it. How mad is that? Whoever put together the logistics of this must have done so after a few blue pints at Corp, that’s all I’m saying.

After Christmas / Barcelona / second year really kicked in, it felt a bit like someone had just pressed ‘GO!’ in my head. I’m firmly of the belief of doing as little as possible in order to succeed, but for once I actually felt like working pretty hard to do well. I spent the last few months slightly petrified that I would wake up and find this magical feeling gone, but alas that did not happen. I’m not sure what kickstarted it (other than the depressing realisation that I was spending my Barcelona semester in the rain) but in the space of a few months I managed to do pretty well at uni and sort my life out. I have got back into routine of going to the gym and eating healthily, I spent a lot more time doing stuff with my friends and, perhaps the most gasp-worthy of all, I actually did some university reading.

Before this turns into a LinkedIn worthy blog post I should point out that university reading may as well be written in Chinese for all the attention I have given it before. A personal highlight of this semester was not opening (or even physically holding) a single book for an essay and getting told on my feedback sheet that I had an excellent array of reading (thanks, Google Books) but how things have changed. A bout of Glandular Fever later and a newly upgraded gym membership and I have been storming ahead, feminist literature essay in one hand and raspberry cider in the other.

I am slightly curious as to how things will pan out in September. Have I used up all of my energy in one semester? I feel like this is looking like a really shit, longwinded series. I am also unsubtly giving myself an escape clause with that first sentence in case I forget (read: choose not to) write again for a long time. To be fair, if I have something to write about then it will get written (who else is there to listen to me rant?) but as I am spending my summer interning in London I am hoping that I will not spend my Friday nights updating my LinkedIn profile and blogging, but rather Ubering round London doing all the fun things my parents have been scared I’ve been doing already…

A boring blog post ft bed, illness and sleep (lots of it)

I am getting quite bored of the view from my bed. I am also getting fairly bored of the view from my boyfriend’s bed. The two places I have spent the majority of my time for the last few weeks. Not to say I don’t spend a lot of time in/on bed generally, but there’s something about having to stay in bed that is very, well… boring.

I am becoming a full time sleeping machine. I used to be proud of my strict napping schedule; being able to internally set alarms and wake up on time; being able to easily get to sleep with the light on and equally being able to get to sleep at night time without fail.

I then somewhat prided myself for getting into a habit of working full time like a Real Person over summer last year, when I did my internship. Since returning back to uni (and the few, futile attempts during that summer) when I have tried to nap, I have failed miserably.

And miserable I have been too. I am not a morning person, and on many occasions I am barely an afternoon person either. I have the awkward balance of needing my sleep but also needing to be comfortable to sleep.

This brings us on to the present. After a week and a bit of shivering, throwing up, altering body temperature between boiling and freezing, and being struck with a permanent headache, I had praised the Lord I was well again. A week later, and we are back to square one. This time accompanied by a sore throat rendering me unable to eat, and neck pains that feel like I’ve spent a good few too many sessions at the gym. Sadly, the latter is completely untrue as, having previously mentioned, I have been in bed. All of the time.

I have ticked off all of the ‘mum’ requirements for getting better: taking my vitamins, eating my five a day, getting enough sleep, and washing my hands frequently. The return of this illness actually pushed me to consider a doctor’s appointment, but the lack of spaces until 29th March has led me to believe I could quite possibly recover, become ill again, and eventually drop down dead before I was seen.

In desperation, I rang NHS direct, who calmly told me (after ticking off the majority of symptoms for viral meningitis) I needed to see a doctor within six hours. I admit, I felt somewhat victorious for actually being ill – the horror of going to the doctor’s and being told I am perfectly fine / overreacting is a permanent fear.

The doctor’s was where it became confusing. After being primarily diagnosed with glandular fever, I was given antibiotics. No necessary medical degree was needed to establish that glandular fever – a viral disease – will not be affected by antibiotics. Not even the eight a day (2 tablets, 4 times a day) that I have been prescribed.

The invitation of a blood test has pushed me back to bed, where I am hoping I can sleep until I am well again. Similar to Sleeping Beauty, part of me is desperately convinced I will fall asleep feeling like I’ve got a permanent hair ball at the back of my throat, and wake up the picture of health. I would also prefer to wake up with long hair, clear skin and a few stone magically removed from my body, but the necessity right now is my throat.

Hitting the peaks of desperation, I have taken to googling “weight loss due to glandular fever” and downloading Bejewelled for the first time in a good few years.

 

 

I have never been so excited to unpack

Having had a brief experience of (relative) homelessness over the past few days, I have decided I am not a fan. From small aspects, like having to find a Costa Coffee when I’m out for desperate phone charging, to the fact that I am currently hunched over in my car using my iPhone’s 4g bluetooth connection for internet, it has been a bad period of time.

In all honesty, in the grand scheme of things, I realise it could be much worse. Returning from Barcelona (I will write a highlights post when I am slightly less bitter) was a drop in the ocean compared to actually finding somewhere to live back in Sheffield, although still an experience I would not care to repeat. However, having a boyfriend who lives in the next city over and doesn’t mind my frequent bathing habits has definitely made things slightly smoother.

The problem with house (/room) hunting in February, especially for two people who don’t particularly want a five month sleepover, is that the majority of good places are taken. The reason for this, of course, is that most students living in a student city, studying at a university filled with other students, is that the student year starts in September. A good six months previous to where we are now. You would think, in the whole of Sheffield, that finding two similar rooms in the same house would be straightforward, but alas not.

It seems that (logically) anyone who has a spare room going has just that. One spare room. It seems that (equally logically) if people drop out of uni, they do it individually. What would have been perfect is a house with two people dropping out at the same time, but alas it was not meant to be. Sadly, quitting uni (and therefore leaving a lovely spare room free) hasn’t quite caught on as a new trend, much to my dismay. Agency fees and deposits aside, paying for a room has got to the stage of me almost throwing money at anyone who wants to offer me somewhere to reside until June.

Looking around houses has got to the point where I could be sharing with the landlord’s pet tarantula and I would still take it. Luckily, today (after a few days of virtually crawling through SpareRoom.com and its similarities) I found a room. It is big, it has a few mirrors, there is a distinct lack of spiders and it is about a five minute walk from uni. It even has a double bed and a free parking space. I feel like God personally has come down, shaken my hand and directed me to Glossop Road. May we rejoice.

It really is the small things in life. I am excited to put my duvet cover on. I’m excited to spread out my countless belongings. The thought of emptying my car, and my boyfriend’s flat, and my old house, and my friend’s boyfriend’s house of all of my countless boxes of stuff is almost exhilarating. I can’t wait to be able to put a wash on, and not get dressed out of a suitcase, and not drive around with a duvet on the back seat. Charging my phone without an Americano in my hand to stop staff members harassing me will be a dream. I can even hang up all of my clothes. Oh, the joy.

 

Nine days into Barcelona and chill and we’re having to return home

Usually, when something feels too good to be true, it is. You think you’ve won £100 on the lottery, it turns out you’ve won a tenner. You think you ran five miles in half an hour, it turns out your pedometer is broken. You think you’re about to move abroad for five months to study in Barcelona, you end up getting fucked over by your university there and returning home after a week and a half. You know how it is.

To say I am making the best of a bad situation would be a complete understatement. The depressing thought of returning to Sheffield, home of endless rain, wind and general misery, after wandering around sunny Spain is rather sad. I have made a long list of things to look forward to, ranging from “less gross tasting water” to “ability to go to Tuesday Club every week”. It is not quite the same as going to the beach on uni breaks and eating tapas for dinner.

I had bigged up Barcelona to the extent that whenever we spoke of it, my friends would make (supposedly) hilarious comments like “you’re off to Barcelona? Should have mentioned it!” Ironically enough, perhaps we should have mentioned it slightly more, for when we arrived, none of our lecturers actually knew of our existence.

Three days of enjoying the sunshine, culture and food of the city and I was really looking forward to the next few months in Spain. Jess and I contemplated travelling round the country, visiting friends in Madrid, inviting friends and family out to visit us. “It feels too good to be true!” we laughed. It was.

Arrival on Monday morning to our first lecture furthered these thoughts. “Specialised Journalism: Culture” proved to be interesting, enlightening, and relatively easy. Writing a critical review on Animal Farm – George Orwell was something I reckon I could have done to an okay standard; the start of my few months of bettering myself abroad. The fact that, lovely as she was, our lecturer didn’t have a clue of our arrival (despite emails) didn’t really stick in our minds.

A (far too) brief meeting in the Mobility office (home of complaints for us Erasmus students) put our minds at rest, as we had been worrying about what language our modules would be in (this is where it all starts to go wrong). Previous to our arrival, after problems with enrolling, exams, accommodation, finance and more, we had sent an entire tree’s worth of emails to UPF to double check our modules would be taught in our own language. A laughably minor point, one would assume. As an international university where English is one of the official spoken and written languages, we asked primarily for confirmation more than anything else. Confirmation we received, and after a lovely four hour break we skipped off merrily to our second module, only to be greeted by a professor with not the best english accent, and the horror of finding out that our other two modules of the semester were in Catalan.

Dealing with UPF’s mobility office has been similar to that of an argument with a brick wall, except I think a brick wall would be marginally more interested in what we had to say. We started our Erasmus period a few weeks late, because UPF wouldn’t let us take our exams at their university. Because we missed these crucial weeks and took our exams in Sheffield, we missed the ‘add / drop’ module period in Barcelona. Despite this being entirely in UPF’s control, we haven’t been allowed to change our modules to any other English speaking ones. Some very hesitant replies later (including one lovely lecturer who told us that ‘it made no sense’ to study in English abroad) and we have established that as lovely as Spain is, it is not worth failing second year for. My knowledge of Spanish consists of basic phrases and tapas dishes, so a presentation at the end of a module in fluent Catalan is slightly unrealistic.

We have spent an entire week arguing with UPF, waiting on replies and ringing our home lecturers for advice and pity. All have slowly been received, some more appreciated than others. Sheffield have been excellent at trying to help us, but, again similar to a brick wall, UPF are hilariously resistant to budging, and we are having to return to Sheffield to take our second semester here instead. We are both potentially €900 down for accommodation, and definitely homeless for the time being in Sheffield as we have rented our rooms out to foreign Erasmus students. Poor and stressed, I am actually kind of looking forward to returning to the sanctity that is Sheffield… once we’ve found somewhere to live. Isn’t life fun?

I am still waiting to be a grown up

I have now been living the 20th year of my life for approximately 10 days. Throughout my younger years (back in the good old days – am I old enough to say that yet?) I had anticipated this year being much more… productive than it currently is. I remember when I was 13 or 14, wondering how my life would be when I was 20. I considered plenty of things, and this was not one of them.

At 20 years old, I am still making cat noises, procrastinating my work and generally succeeding..but only just. I am not ‘ahead of the game’ as younger Georgie had hoped. I am not the fitter, smarter individual I assumed I would turn into. The sad thing is, I’m still waiting for it to happen.

Contrary to popular belief, things don’t suddenly change the second your age changes from starting with a ‘1’ to a ‘2’. I woke up on my 20th birthday feeling identical to how I had the day before. Overnight, the drastic changes I had wished would happen have not happened. I am still not organised, I have no clue what I want to do with my life (I have gained a slight bit of insight with my contribution of £27k to a journalism degree) and I am just as lazy as I have been for the rest of my life.

I think as I’ve got older I’ve become more realistic with my goals. I always knew I wanted to go to university but when I was younger I (naively) thought I would have become a lot more motivated when I grew up. A good few years later, and I am still waiting to grow up. Not that I’m not happy with where I am at the moment, but the magical contrast I expected has not happened. I have a slight fear of reaching my 40s and still wondering when I will grow up. Is this normal?

It is somewhat relieving that most people my age seem to be in the same position. My nan was married at 19, my mum moved abroad at 19, and I am living it up in a student house in Sheffield with a faulty boiler and about 20 extra lbs on my body than I have ever really asked for. At 14 I accepted I wouldn’t be growing (upwards) anymore, when I reached 5’8 a good year or so before my peers. Sadly, I am yet to accept that I may not develop anymore insight purely through ageing. I still look at people in their 20s and think they seem much more mature and grown up than I am, when only a few years ago I was thinking the exact same thing about 20 year olds. How strange.

In the eyes of the law, I have been a legal adult for two years. I have been able to join the army, get married (with permission) and play the lottery (somewhat unsuccessfully) for four years now. I have been able to legally buy alcohol and smoke cigarettes for two years. I still struggle to write cheques properly, I have little clue about politics and I have never tried caviar. I don’t even like wine. The boiler settings confuse me to the extent that I call our landlord round, and words like ‘intermediaries’ send my brain into an absolute frazzle. When am I due to grow up properly?

Berlin 2:2 – an overview of the city

Despite being a big advocate of Christmas (and receiving presents in general) birthdays have never really been a big thing for me. I’ve always usually spent my actual day of birth doing Not Much – either through everyone being busy or not planning anything until it’s too late.

A benefit of getting older, I have found, is that (providing you have someone with an equally empty calendar) planning things last minute does not always hold you back. On the 27th December 2015, I decided I wanted to go on holiday for my birthday and be spontaneous for one year. By December 28th, I had booked three nights at a four star hotel and flights to Berlin, Germany. Plan sorted.

Getting there was straight forward – miraculously, the flights I had booked left from the airport 20 minutes away from my house. Transfers from Berlin airport took a while, on the basis that these flights were so cheap because the airport was about 45 minutes from Berlin centre. The closer airport, Tegal, would have pushed our total up by a good few hundred pounds and the alternate transfer (via train, €3.50 each) was a good opportunity to look through the tourist book we’d been given. Schoenefeld airport has a good variety of duty free alcohol and a cheap Burger King, so I was satisfied regardless.

From a naive outsider’s point of view (my own) Berlin is a like a colder, slightly more modern Amsterdam. The buildings are very similar; very thin and high and in pastel colours, more often than not. My knowledge of German comes primarily from my mother’s brief time spent living there, and not from my heritage. This means that my language capabilities consist of ‘hello’ ‘goodbye’ ‘thank you’ ‘sleep well’ and ‘tortoise’. All of your necessities, of course.

Venturing into Berlin is where you really get to experience the city for what it is. Rich with history, it’s hard to turn a corner without seeing reminders of its past, and many of the tourist attractions mirror this. The street art there is incredible, and again serves as another reminder of Berlin’s tarnished history with the East and West divide. One of the highlights of my trip was visiting East Side Gallery – the longest stretch of Berlin wall that remains. It’s entirely covered with street art, with a variety of multi coloured works on every patch, and the occasional tourist tags at the bottom. You could easily mistake one specific patch of the wall for being authentically decorated, if you don’t happen to see the polite notice at the top of the wall effectively saying ‘this part isn’t Berlin Wall it’s there for the tourist info shop’.

An irony of this is the fact that (usually not seen in tourist photos) Berlin Wall is almost entirely surrounded by a metal fence, to stop people decorating it with their own, personalised photos and words. Inside the wall’s tourist shop you can buy permanent markers; the ideal companion for one wanting to deface public, historical property. I’m not sure what’s worse really – having your grinning photo taken next to ‘Lisa ❤ Robert’ or a 6ft tall piece of metal fence. One guy even wrote his Soundcloud link on the bottom of a stretch of wall, and I lost count of the number of email addresses I saw dotted along.

The food was impressive, to say in the least. I tried Bratwurst, smothered in mayonnaise and eaten sitting in a little outdoors cafe with cushions and music. German coffee is something of a miracle, and would without a doubt be my drink of choice on Death Row. A little bakery we found in Alexanderplatz underground station reduced their prices every evening, so many a Thai chilli chicken sandwich was consumed there too. Perhaps not the most authentic, but delicious none the less.

One word I will always remember my mother telling me in German is ‘Schwarzfahren’ the art of dodging train fares, or ‘black riding’. Before I visited Berlin, I had naively thought that getting around the city would require a lot of time, effort and money. Due to the absolute honesty of German people, train stations have one subtle ticket machine and an even smaller activation machine. We could have (theoretically) travelled around on trains, trams and the underground for free the entire weekend, but alas, we had already bought our tickets. I’d love to say we would have paid because it was The Right Thing To Do, but I think the overhead threat of a €60 fine was the main deciding factor.

Arguably the most frustrating point of my trip goes back again to German honesty. Not to say there is anything wrong with being honest, and I feel I have to point out I am a relatively honest person myself. The problem is, in this scenario, honesty and patience do not apparently go hand in hand. Germans are very fond of the Green Man when crossing the road, to the extent that they will not walk until he is green. In fact, it is illegal to cross before the red man has disappeared. Coming from a small British town, this wouldn’t seem like too much of a problem, until you reach Berlin where all the roads are around four lanes wide and traffic is coming at you from three different directions. I can see why it is illegal to jay walk, but standing in the pouring rain for 10 minutes waiting for the lights to change is ever so slightly infuriating.

On a brighter note, German flea markets are amazing. We visited Mauerpark, Berlin’s biggest Sunday market. For those of us who aren’t fond of 6am starts, the market is open from 9am until 6pm, come rain or shine. On this particular day it was somewhere in between, and I spent a good hour and a half wandering round hundreds of little stalls selling everything from wooden parrots to tote bags to vintage instruments. Prices were relatively cheap, probably because a good portion of the stalls there looked like posh car boot sale wares, but I lost count of the amount of things I would have bought back with me, had Easyjet permitted it.

One surprising highlight was Berlin nightlife. Wandering round the Stadtmitte at midnight on a Saturday night proved to be fruitless, as most of the clubs are not in the ironically named ‘city centre’. For reference, despite Stadtmitte translating as ‘city middle’ it is full of the type of shops I wish I could afford, and not especially bouncing with clubs. After a quick Google search, we found the club district of the City and ended up in a nameless, German, ambiguous looking club. The rumours are true that Berliners love their techno, but it was a lot more commercial than I had first anticipated. The music seemed like the type of thing I would hear on my Tuesday night ventures – house, more than anything. Outfits are slightly more adventurous than your usual high waisted jeans, nice top and shirt tied round waist, but pretty much anything goes.

Berlin is a fabulous city and I would definitely go back. It’s full of amazing architecture and artworks, and the street art is on a level above anything I’ve ever seen before. It’s the perfect city for a quick getaway, and there’s tonnes I plan to do next time I visit, when it’s not -2 degrees and I have a real idea of how the underground works there.