Dasein, Tramore and Explosions in the Sky
I throw the phrase around all the time, but rarely have I actually felt enlightened- you know, that feeling of excitable newness: of wonder that you’ve never quite felt before, which leads you to realise or notice something pretty special. But in the last few weeks this has occurred more than twice and came about amongst all the normality and ordinariness… when I least expected it.
When I say ordinariness I don’t mean to sound dull. It’s never been dull here and I can’t say I’ve felt bored once. But things have become regular. There is a common pace and familiarity. That’s what happens when you start to belong to something or somewhere, I guess. Anyway, I have had routine; wake up, go to class, come home, make tea, hang out in the kitchen talking until its time for dinner, make dinner, watch a movie and then go to bed.
Occasionally something would stir it up, like glow in the dark volleyball, or a streaker-involved rugby game, or a party offering you the opportunity to dress up as Arya Stark from Game of Thrones, or the campus ice cream truck.
But the rain comes back and so does your alarm clock and you live again, which isn’t a bad thing, it’s indifferent. It’s just being. In fact it took me several weeks to feel anything really extraordinary…
I was walking home from town with my groceries in the early evening one day and I heard some birds chirping loudly in the trees above. It was a lovely little song they were singing and it made me smile, but I didn’t really think anything more of it.
I returned home to find an email from my best friend Alice, and one of the things she asked me was “what does Exeter smell like?” I didn’t have much time to reply so I allowed the question to sit with me awhile. A few days later I was coming home from a night out with friends and I was walking at my own pace behind them, taking in everything around me. As I wandered along all happy and warm with wine, I heard them again: the birds singing a different song in the middle of the night. At first it confused me- “god it can’t be 6AM yet could it?” But no it wasn’t, it was only 2AM. And I suddenly recalled all the other times I’d heard the birds singing and I felt totally enlightened; what is so special about Exeter is not the way it smells, but the way it sounds. The birds are always singing here like they do in the sunshine in the spring. But the weather is miserable and it’s dark and cold and no matter what time of the day it is, the birds are still singing. I felt so good in that moment because of this- I felt as free and as happy as they sound, and I felt this way because I realized that I am… like a little birdie with every reason to sing.
I can’t help but look forward to them when I step foot outside now. I smile every time.
Family dinners have continued every week and whilst our Uni work has piled up on us, we still make time for long kitchen talks and card games. It was really nice actually, a few weeks ago I was up talking to Julian and Tom and Ani about all the things we’d like to do in our lives. I told them that whilst I’m mostly unsure, there is one thing I’d eventually like to do and they listened as I shared this dream with them. When I finished talking they all looked at me with kind eyes and told me that if there were someone in this world that would be able to do it, it would be me. And I thought, how lucky am I to be surrounded by such special people.
The other weekend a big group of us did a day trip to a small town called ‘Totnes’. It’s the hometown of one of my favourite singers, Ben Howard and if you know his music you would understand what I mean when I say Totnes is Ben Howard all over. It has lots of tiny little boutiques and gallery art spaces and the markets and street performers are both extremely quirky and very unique. We went and looked at the old castle and wandered around the town centre and ate a great big lunch.
On our way walking back to the train station we heard loud music coming from the centre Church. Curious, we wandered in to find a cool indie band doing their sound check before their big gig that night. They were happy for us to stay so we sat and listened to a few of their songs.
It was one of those discoveries that you always want to have when it comes to new music: literally stumbling upon them. I guess it’s kind of how it would’ve happened back in the day, before Youtube, Spotify, Facebook, television and even radio. You would have had to be there in that very moment whilst they played their music. There’s something so raw about that, and something that makes you almost feel personally responsible for them existing.
Finding new music is always exciting, but I have never found it quite as exciting as the way I discovered this band. It was so spontaneous. I can’t even fathom what it would have been like discovering The Beatles like that… and I bet there were some people that did.
Their name is Matthew and Me. We went to their gig in Exeter the following week and I really enjoyed them. Look them up.
I’ve finished all my classes for the semester, which is crazy- I hardly feel like I’ve been here for 6 weeks, let alone 3 months. I have learned a lot this semester in terms of study, which is nice because too often I look back and wonder what I spent my whole term doing. It didn’t start off like this though. For the first few weeks of Entrepreneurship and Philosophy, I sat there in silence wondering if I will ever understand anything remotely useful or insightful! In fact it wasn’t until six weeks into the course that I finally started to make sense of the content of Philosophy of Body and Mind and contribute in class. I believe philosophy is something everyone should take at least one class in. It totally opens your mind and allows you to consider numerous possibilities at once. It’s like someone giving you a non-religious, and a non-hard scientific based reasoning behind existence and explanation of self, which for quite some time I deemed impossible- it was always one or the other, wasn’t it? Dasein is German for ‘being here’, and the Philosopher, Martin Heidegger discusses this idea of what it means to be who we are and how we make sense in our world. When I started understanding the complexity of what was actually being said, I really started to enjoy learning about it. Doing philosophy has made me wonder about bigger things, (which I seem to be doing a lot lately) and I can’t begin to explain how much I am learning about myself, and what I want from life in the process.
You could say I’m being enlightened ;)
I want to take this opportunity to introduce to you my dear friend Veronica from Sweden. Our friendship has grown so much in the last few weeks and it’s only fair to give her the same kind of recognition in my blog as all the others. So, this is her in a nutshell…
She is as cute as her little blonde curls suggest. She is very small and very sweet. She wears high waisted jeans with cool patterned tees tucked in. She dances with style, uses a film camera, and enjoys good music. She is both interesting and interested and she has a softness about her that I would like to learn to have. She is a lovely friend.
Two weeks ago myself, her and 5 others set out to Ireland for our greatly anticipated St. Paddy’s Day long weekend.
We arrived early Friday morning and spent the day wandering around Dublin city. I’m not sure whether it was because of St. Paddy’s Day or whether the Irish folk are just really proud people, but the place looked awesome.
There were Irish flags blowing in the wind everywhere, with splashes of green at every corner. Irish music could be heard playing loudly from pubs and the streets were buzzing with excited chatter and laughter. It was a very happy place to be that day. After visiting Trinity College, The Book of Kells, Temple Bar and the Dublin Castle we made our way to catch our train down south to Waterford.
It was about 2 hours to Waterford, and then from there we had to catch a bus 15 minutes out of town to Tramore. I’d read about Tramore on travel blogs and it seemed to be quite a nice area, which is why I booked it. And it was! We had the hostel completely to ourselves and the owners were very friendly.
On Saturday we took a nice long walk along the coast, and gosh it was good to be by the ocean again. It dawned on me just how much I’d missed it.
We found an old abandoned home that had the most unbelievable view. Got me wondering what had happened there- why no one could call it home any more? What went wrong? Do they miss it? Or are they no longer alive? What memories are within its walls? Homes are so interesting.
We were so incredibly lucky with the weather- a gorgeous 8 degrees and sunny. I didn’t even need to wear a coat.
That night we lit a fire, cooked a big meal and played board games (one of my favourite ways to spend a cold evening!).
Sunday we ventured into the main town, Waterford to watch the big parade. After eating a great big lunch, we found a place in a little pub where we stayed for most of the evening.
Numerous pints later combined with a long game of Kings Cup and we were very chummy to be in Ireland. I even kept my Guinness glass for memorabilia- maybe illegal but that’s irrelevant. (Quick tip from the natives, if you want to down a pint of Guinness quickly, add blackcurrant syrup to it- tastes average but works a treat!)
Before we left back for Dublin, Veronica, Alice and I shared a wonderful picnic breakfast down by the beach. We found ourselves a hidden little ledge to sit on and ate strawberries, croissants and yoghurt as the sun tickled our skin.
This was probably my favourite part of the whole weekend. As we sat there, a curly little Swedish girl, a pretty little French girl and a funny little Aussie girl, eating and giggling by the Irish sea, I felt so proud of myself. Look at where you are, look at who you’re with, and look at what your learning- good girl for going- you needed this.
We spent one night in Dublin before flying back home, which was nice. We had drinks in the pub from the movie ‘Ps I love you’- always a thrilling feat when you make it on the set of a great film. By the time we got back to Exeter we were all very tired as you could imagine.
Travelling in large groups is a good test of your patience, tolerance, and ability to compromise. I learned a lot from this weekend and even though it was a lot of fun all being together, I probably will travel with a smaller group or even by myself in the future.
Explosions in the Sky:
Suzie came to visit me a few weekends ago. It was funny because it was only our third time of hanging out and yet I could have sworn we’d always been friends. We had beautiful weather the day she arrived, and I showed her around the Exeter University Campus, which is more beautiful than I ever realised. We went dancing that night, whereby afterwards I took her for a little tour of the Harry Potter World within Exeter- Diagon Alley and The Leaky Cauldron. And then we watched a crazy, mind-boggling documentary on stars and black holes.
The following day was spent browsing through old antique shops down at the Quay, enjoying a scrumptious cream tea, and then grooved with cider to a live reggae band that evening.
It was actually really sad to say goodbye to Suzie- lucky she lives close by in London. I cannot thank Glenn enough for introducing us. She’s like a little bit of home right here in the UK.
Money seems to be fading away pretty quickly, so I’ve spent the last month trying to find a job. I went through one in about two weeks, and another I didn’t bother going back to after a three-hour trial. Just when I started to worry that I was being too picky, I received two phone calls in the one day offering me jobs in really great places. The first is at the Imperial, which is apart of JD Weatherspoons Pubs franchise all over Britain.
The second is working in a very trendy and hip cocktail bar called The Monkey Suit, which I am really, really loving. It’s full of low-to-the-ground couches and cozy armchairs. It’s lit with candles and on one wall a projector shines dimly, reflecting random clips from old black and white films or surf videos. The team of people I work with are all very cool, very stylish and very fun. It’s great that I can feel more a part of this place, and it’s exciting that I’m making even more friends.
Just the other night I was walking to work, listening to the birds and thinking about how weird it is that you can belong in so many different worlds. This is why I think we’re not supposed to stay put. My beautiful Parisian Alice is right with her life philosophy, ‘to enjoy the most of it, we can’t be static’. We should keep moving, keep migrating, keep learning and exploring. It is only by doing this that we can truly enjoy everything that surrounds us- all of the sky, the sea, the mountains and the deserts, the animals and the people, the spring and the fall- all of it. I’m not saying that we should never stop to rest, but some people get so old, so quickly.
I heard someone say the other day something like ‘oh well, got to get back to reality’… and for the first time I found that that phrase really irritated me. Why the hell does our reality have to be a disappointment all the time? Why does all the exciting stuff have to be the one off, and all the boring stuff have to be the everyday shit? Why can’t it be the other way around?
Explosions in the Sky are a band. When you listen to their music they make you think. Really, really think.
The most enlightening thought I’ve had since being here is that what I fear the most for my future is not what career I’ll have, nor how big my house will be, or who I’ll end up with, or how many children I’ll have or whether I’ll make lots of money, and be really successful. But rather deep down what I am the very most scared of is boredom.
Some people will say that there come’s a time when you need to grow up and settle down and sort your life out. A time when boredom is no longer a worry, because it just becomes irrelevant. And maybe they are right.
But what if they’re not?
I don’t know any of these answers, but like I said, I’m asking bigger questions than I ever have before and I don’t know if I would have been if I had not moved 16, 982 kilometers away from home.
There is less than one week until I see my beautiful sister in the south of France, and under two weeks until I will be exploring through Egypt with the glorious Chloe.
Will have lots to write about after then I’m sure.
For now, thank you for reading.
New friends, Old friends, and Home.
I believe good music has a wonderful way of completely encapsulating a moment or a feeling. I’ve experienced this a number of times before in my life and like smells, music also brings me back to those moments and those feelings almost perfectly. So before you begin to read, I’d like you to play the song From Finner by ‘Of Monsters and Men’. The way that song makes you feel is how I have been feeling since arriving in Exeter on Sunday the 13th of January 2013.
Believe it or not, the sun was shining that day. I dragged my bags to my accommodation and moved in to room 104 of G Block. What a feeling it was to pull everything out of my big red bag and hang it, pin it, stick it and arrange it. And I won’t lie, my room looks brilliant. Of course I came to realise as I stood at the door in absolute admiration of my nicely decorated dorm, that I had completely filled my bag with stuff to make my room look good, and in exchange I had very few clothes, zero linen, and no charger for my beautiful new camera!! All I could hear as I stood there, was Dad’s voice saying “what the bloody hell are these [referring to fairy lights I insisted on packing]? What on earth do you need these for?”.
It looks damn good Okay.
The set up. So there are 12 bedrooms to each dorm, and there are four floors. I am in G Block, and there are number of different blocks set up like this. We share a kitchen to each floor, and share toilets and showers. We have our own basin in our rooms which actually is really good. No one wants to see me brushing and cleaning my 5 year old retainer with my toothbrush. … ..
Yeah, I wear a retainer.
I grind my teeth.
In one day, I had new roommates. In two days, I had new friends. In one week, I had a new family. I really don’t believe I could have been any luckier. I’ve always loved the way friendships are formed. It’s pretty spectacular how such a diverse group of people from all walks of life can just click. Somehow it just works, almost effortlessly. And this is why I believe our relationships with people make our lives; It’s in our nature to form connections with one another.
For the purpose of this blog, I asked of my room mates two things: to be photographed wearing a sombrero (for no reason but the idiots wore it without question) whilst holding the letter G for G Block. And to answer for me, five questions;
1. What is their number one favourite simple life pleasure? (It has to be tangible).
2. What is the first lie they remember telling?
3. When they were a child, what did they want to be when they grew up?
4. What do they want to be now?
5. What is their life philosophy? What do they live by?
Allow me to introduce to you my rockin roomies…(forgive the layout, I failed miserably- amateur blogger).
So let’s just say they’re a pretty great bunch, and they have all made this experience exceptionally cooler.
On our first night, we all went out to a night club called Mosaic. We stashed our big jackets behind one of the lounges and danced and sweat until the early hours of the morning. We got lost walking home, which was shit because it was cold, and we were tired, and our bodies were sore from grooving hardcore on the dance floor. Interestingly, the fact that we were all new friends, didn’t stop us from becoming openly irritated with one another, which I think now is part of why we bonded so quickly. It was easy to forget we’d just met. Just as we figured out the right turn it started to snow, and we remembered then where we were, and who we were with. We smiled at each other and reached our hands up above us to embrace the snow. I tried catching the flakes in my mouth.
Snow looks even better falling from a dark night sky.
Only three days after settling in to Exeter I was packing my bag again to set off for London. I was so excited because I was about to meet up with a bunch of old friends, many of whom I hadn’t seen for at least 7 months, one I hadn’t seen for over a year. I got myself to Kings Cross with ease to realise that I was the first person to arrive at the hostel. And then for an hour I had to endure that weird and exciting waiting period, looking up to every person that walked through the front doors, not knowing when exactly I would be reunited. They were all arriving from different places but soon enough one by one they came in,… all except the most anticipated, Glenn. He is probably my closest friend out of them all, and he was no where to be seen. We had no way of contacting him because he had no phone and most likely no access to internet. We all decided to head down to the bar below the hostel, and have a few drinks and wait for him there.
We did the math. He was flying from Italy at 5- arriving approximately just after 6… it would take him maybe 45 minutes (over exaggeration) to eventually get to the hostel, which meant he should have arrived easily by at least 7:30pm- if not earlier.
8pm: We all started to get a bit nervous. You see our friend Glenn… Our dear, hairy, hippie friend Glenn, had been travelling around Europe without the proper visa.. for probably way too long. And so the concerns were whether he would be allowed out of Italy, or if he would be arrested.
8:15pm: I went up stairs to make sure the receptionist could tell him where we were so that when he did arrive, he knew where to find us. I checked Facebook in case he’d had a chance to write to us. Nothing.
8:30pm: I was trying to think positively- ‘He’ll come… he’s fine… he is just taking his time… Glenn is ALWAYS late…’ But I unwillingly became really anxious. What if he doesn’t make it? What if he is arrested? What if I don’t get the chance to see him? It’ll have been a total of 14months of no Glenn. I went up stairs again to check with the receptionist; no luck.
8:45pm: We were just deciding on where we should go for dinner, planning on telling the receptionist of our whereabouts so in the off chance that he did not get arrested and was in fact in London he could find us, when one of the guys looked over my shoulder behind me and said in such a calm and chilled voice.. “Oh wait… there he is..”
I swung around and actually squealed at the sight of him. I could’ve crushed his ribs with my tight squeeze! I’ve only felt this feeling a few times in my life, and god it’s a good one. I was so relieved, and so happy. (His flight was delayed!)
And then just like that, ten minutes went by and everything felt so normal. That’s the thing about old special friends; you spend those first few minutes of asking “how you been?” and “whats new?” and then you just be together and be present. You joke and tease and laugh and forget how long it’s actually been. We didn’t have a big night that night, just went for Indian (which was awesome) and enjoyed one another’s company. It was so nice.
On Thursday one of our friends had to jet set and a couple of the others had made plans, so Glenn and I ventured out into the big grey city. Moment by moment we would exchange stories from our last few months a part and learn of each others journeys. Glenn is fantastic. He makes me want to be as carefree as him. For example, I wasn’t allowed to use my phone to look for directions- we had to walk, look and ask- which I think I’m going to try to do more often.
We took our time and eventually made it to Buckingham Palace. It’s a funny place. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful. The tops of the black gates have been dipped in gold which looks stunning against the grey sky. It’s very majestic and very impressive and I am glad to have seen it.
But I do find it kind of weird when I finally see these tourist attractions and I often get bored pretty quickly. It was the same when I saw the White House in Washington DC last year- I was more interested in the veggie patch to the left of the White House, then the bloody White House itself. And maybe it’s because I’ve been so exposed to these things through the media that they don’t come as such a shock to me, or whether I just think that the real astonishers aren’t man made. I don’t know. I remember when my best friend Jord and I walked into The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and thinking wow this place is huge. I remember standing there in the wide open foyer looking around and I don’t know what possessed me to do so, but I tilted my neck right back and looked directly above at the tall ceiling. There in the corner was a small yellow balloon with a big smile face on it that had lost the grasps of its owner and floated to the top. And it really made me smile, more than anything did that day.
Glenn and I walked happily through Hyde Park, and laughed at this silly little scottish dog wearing a woollen top. His name was Bruce, he was chasing the squirrels. We gave them their own voices and skit show.
You could say this small event was a From Finner moment. Simple, I know, but they often are.
We made it to the Natural History Museum with only one hour to check out the dinosaur section. I’ll have to go back there, it was really great.
Later that night our friend Josh met up with us for dinner and we planned the last 18 hours we had together. One of Glenn’s friends lives in London so we made our way to her at around 10pm and met with her and her friends at an awesome night club called The Nest. This place was seriously cool. It was below ground and dimly lit, and was full of such quirky individuals. Everyone was dressed crazily and uniquely. It was so good to see people just having fun dancing carelessly.
What a brilliant night. There I was with Josh and Glenn at a night club in London. It was so bizarre and so right at the same time. The DJ played the best tunes and we danced until the night club closed- you always know that’s a sign of a good one.
The next day I met with another lovely friend Peter, and it was snowing! It hasn’t gotten annoying yet in the slightest. It’s still so pretty. We enjoyed beautiful food and coffee in Soho and saw the magnificent The Lion King musical on West End, courtesy of the fabulous Anthea back home who gave me the money to do this especially.
I met with Glenn one last time that night to bid our final good byes. It was a pretty sad moment. Thanks to our night though, I’d gained a new friendship with Glenn’s London dwelling friend, Susie, who I am happy to say I will be seeing this weekend! And whilst I don’t enjoy parting ways, I know it’s only temporary.
So thank you Mr Fox, Mr Panther, and the rest of the party animals ;)
Thank you mostly for assuring me that our friendships won’t fade… and if they start to look like they are, I know one of us will step in.
I miss you guys, you’re such a top group.
On the way back to Exeter I felt homesick for the first time since landing on the 28th of December. I was so tired and it was so cold outside, and I felt quite lonely. I guess it had hit me then and there the reality of the entire situation. I’d done everything up until that point that I knew I was doing and was excited about. I was so caught up in the whirl wind of having new years in Austria, hanging out with Elena, Emma and the crew in Scotland, unpacking and meeting new people in Exeter, and going to London and having a great time with old friends, that I’d forgotten I was here for Uni. And here for the entire year. I felt really alone, which sucked because in that moment I was.
But it’s crazy, isn’t it, this feeling of being ‘home’? When I arrived back in Exeter and walked into my dorm room, I felt okay again. Everyone was really happy to see me and I told them all about my trip, and then we all cooked a big dinner together. I was so tired that day and yet we stayed up for hours talking that night. Another From Finner moment.
I haven’t felt homesick again since.
Here at Exeter University they are very big on clubs and societies. You don’t come to Exeter, as a domestic or international student and not join either a sporting club or a society. And nor would you not want to! They have massive social events every wednesday usually involving outrageous costumes, hilarious game playing and the perfect amount of banter. I knew straight away that I wanted to join something- anything! And what a good opportunity for me to make some British friends. So when the first wednesday rolled around I asked one of my friends who plays La Crosse if I could join him. He was really excited about it and so I went along. The La Crosse socials are at a great big venue and combine both the girls teams with the boys teams. These people are wild. I’ve never been in such a loose environment before, it was hilarious to watch! Whilst I did end up having a good night, lets just say La Crosse girls are ‘Woo’ girls and, well… I think I’ll try Volleyball instead!
I’ve picked up salsa dancing, which is a lot of fun! I need to find myself a good partner though, because the men have to lead the dance, and if they don’t lead you properly, guess who looks like the shit dancer? Me! I’m also going to start yoga classes too with one of the clubs, which I’m really looking forward to.
We celebrated Australia with tremendous style last week. Our floor organised a big block party for G Block. Each floor had a different theme they were very strictly required to dress up to, and each floor had to provide some sort of punch or sangria to share. We were to start at the fourth floor at four in the afternoon, and work our way to our floor on the bottom. The event would end at the student night club ‘The lemmy’ (Lemon Groove) only 70 metres away. There are no RA’s (residence assistants) or Mentors here, so you can be as obnoxious and loud and ridiculous as you see fit. And. We. Were.
We played beer pong, and flip cup and chanted ‘Here’s to [___] they’re true blue!’ all afternoon… the noise we were making was quite substantial, it was fantastic fun. We also continued Gecko Master throughout all four floors, and in fact have continued it every day since that day. If you’re unfamiliar with Gecko, I will, with immense joy introduce it to you. It’s usually a rule made up when playing a game of Kings, which is how Finn came to be Gecko Master in the first place. He loved this role so much that we have permanently dubbed him the Gecko Master. Doesn’t he do it well. WHENEVER you hear Finn (or anyone the night of Australia Day) yell out ‘GECKO!’ you have to run to the closest wall and press three body parts up against it; the same position a gecko adopts when a predator has spot them moving on the wall/ceiling- they stop dead and lay flat. If you fail to do this, or you are the last person to do this, punishment is dealt- and rightly so. The night of January 26, I was caught out way too many times- and somehow, caught out even when I was the one to have yelled ‘Gecko’. Oh the banter.
It was such a great evening. There I was celebrating Australia on the other side of the world, with very few Australians. And to be completely honest with you, it all felt very Aussie. I didn’t want to be back home for that day, I didn’t want to be with more Australians… It was exactly how it should be- celebrated with diversity and open minds- because that’s what true blue really means to me. The Australians that I have learned from and been brought up with, and have befriended and love think of Australians as anyone who is proud to call Australia home. I was so irritated and appalled that morning when I woke up and saw on Facebook the amount of status’ and comments on fan pages from people who grew up in Australia, who live in Australia, who call themselves Australian saying the most UN-Australian things. I doubt very much that the people that say or think these things would ever be reading this blog because I’m not friends with douchebags, but this is my blog and this has to be said to them anyway…
You absolute fools. You are sitting there, on your privileged computers, in your privileged air-conditioned homes, with your privileged food and beer-filled bellies, writing on the Internet that you want people to ‘go back to where they’ve come from’ (for a number of horrendous reasons I am not going to publish) on the day we commemorate the British coming from the other side of the world (yes they even came by boat!) to migrate and settle in Australia as their home. Don’t you get it???
TO BE AUSTRALIAN IS TO BE GLOBAL- THATS OKAY !! IT’S GREAT. Some Australian’s don’t like the taste of VB. Some Australian’s burn quickly in the sun. Some Australians enjoy snow sports. Some Australians don’t eat meat!
All I know is that when I was here for Australia Day, I felt as Australian as I ever have and I have the rest of the world to thank for that.
I’m really happy to be living on campus again, I’d forgotten how much I loved it. And it’s even better when you enjoy everyone you’re living with. Weekly family dinners has become a tradition, and we’ve had some pretty great meals.
And I’ve never known this many people eager to clean!
We’ve also made a tradition of Sunday evenings at a gorgeous little restaurant called The Old Firehouse. It’s ceilings are draped with dried flowers and is lit mostly just by candle light. The pizza’s are huge, and very delicious and at 9pm acoustic live music starts to play.
Exeter is a pretty lovely little town. It’s very green, and despite what everyone was telling me, we’ve had at least two sunny blue-skied days each week since I’ve come. It will look even more wonderful in the spring time- there are vines wrapped around all the buildings and houses and at the moment they have no colour, but soon enough they’ll sprout!
There are plenty of cute little alley ways with great little cafes and shops crammed within- including the alley of which Diagon Alley from Harry Potter was inspired by.
We’ve just started planning some trips away, St Patricks Day in Ireland, and hopefully I’ll see Mumford and Sons in Paris, and maybe I’ll go sailing around Egypt in April. It’s very easy to forget that I’m actually here for University as well!
Thank you, once again for reading.
Gluehwein, Hogmanay and Aberdeen.
Sometimes the most unexpected experiences are the most memorable. Like going out to dinner by yourself, or falling in love with one of your best friends, or choosing to spend new years eve in Austria with 9 Scots, a massive bottle of jager and a shit tonne of fireworks.
I’m hoping for a year of gloriously unexpected experiences, and when they happen I’m going to write about it.
On the 27th of December I left Sydney airport on a one way ticket to London. In 32 hours I’d passed through six different airports, had five hours of sleep, caught four different means of transport, read only three pages of a new book, had taken only two photos on my new camera, spent one pound (on a bottle of water) and landed in Austria with zero euros in my pocket.
First impressions were ‘this place is nothing like I’ve ever seen before’. Everything looked like christmas cards. You know, the ones with the little pictures of white mountains that stretch on for miles. Pictures with little children playing in ice skates, and sleighs, and having snow ball fights. Pictures of warm smoke pumping out of chimneys of little cosy wooden houses. It all looked like the way Christmas is supposed to look. And whilst I love and live for the summer months, in that moment I was totally content with being completely immersed and surrounded by winter.
Elena- the friend I flew early from Australia to see. She is childishly humorous and wonderfully mean. By ‘mean’, she’s not unkind, she’s just really good at giving you shit and everyone else shit. She is so funny, and maybe I laugh too much at her jokes but I can’t quite help it. She is the type of intelligent, pretty and light-hearted girl you’d like to date your brother. Seriously- I want her to marry my older brother.
Alison- the mother of Elena. She is warm and kind like many mothers are. But like her daughter she knows how to share a bit of cheek and have a good time. She smokes and enjoys wine and is both interesting and relatable.
Rod- Elena’s brother. Typical of any big bro, he is competitive and a little cocky, but good humoured and you can tell he loves his sister very much.
Emma and Ross- the married couple who are so well suited you’d think they’d met at birth. Emma is philosophical and deep, and caring and inclusive, and really friendly. Ross is ridiculously funny and silly and laid back and calm and also really friendly. I like them both on their own and as a couple very much.
Katy and Collin- the engaged couple who will have very good looking kids. Katy is really cool- she’d be like Rachel’s character in Friends if this were a sitcom. She’s confident and makes it possible to have tattoos and class at the same time. Collin is a BFG. He’d be well over 6 foot, and yet I don’t think he’s quite grown up. He gets really excited about almost all things and has a fantastically big smile.
Craig- also known as Bones, which he doesn’t like; also known as CB or cracked bones, which we like. He is kind of indie and has great taste in music. He doesn’t say much but when he does it’s always good value and he too knows good humour.
And then me- the youngest, the rookie and the Aussie.
We stayed in a small ski village called Mayrhofen, in a hotel starting with the letter K that was both too long and unfamiliar a word for me to remember. The hotel was hilarious. It kind of looked like we’d walked straight into some Austrian family home. It was decorated with tacky wall paper and the corridors were covered with lots of strange portraits and quirky nick-nacks.
I liked it.
Our days were typically spent waking up before 7am, skiing or boarding until 11:30am, where we’d meet somewhere at the tops of the slopes for Gluehwein (German for mulled wine- warm cinnamon infused red wine) and hot chocolates. The most awesome spot we chose to do this was inside an igloo. Yeah. A freakin legit proper made human sized igloo. There was a bar inside the igloo and a number of different rooms you could group off into to have a few drinks. Brilliant.
We’d then ski or board for a few more hours before retiring back to the hotel for a quick nap before sitting a four-coursed hearty dinner in the hotel dining room where we seriously ate and drank like kings.
This week was full of so many wonderful and funny moments. I laughed so much. I made my first snow angel, and experienced snow falling for the first time - which is truly something. I held my hands out to catch the snow flakes are they are all different and all beautiful.
Hogmanay is Scottish for New Years. Don’t ask- they’re all a little odd, and that’s what makes them so great.
If anyone had told me prior to December 31st that I would experience the following events, I doubt very much I would have believed them.
On the very top floor of the hotel there was a day spa, with a sauna and steam rooms and a couple of hot tubs. So Emma and I finished on the slopes early so we could enjoy a few hours of relaxation before the New Year celebrations began. We slipped into our swimwear and wandered up stairs. This is how the scene followed…
Lady at reception: vat is five euro each pease.
Lady at reception: Danke (thank you). Here are your towels. Now you must take off your swimvear.
Me: I’m sorry, what?
Lady at reception: take off your swimvear. No swimvear. You must not vear it.
*Emma and me exchange awkward looks*
Emma: we have to take off all our clothes?
Lady at reception: Yes. You must ve naked! No swimvear! Okay? Naked! Fully naked!!
Lady at reception: *(now frustrated)* Take it all off!
Emma and Me: Bahahahahahaahaha !!!@@@##***!!!! What!!
Little did we realise that this mixed mens and womens day spa had a very strict requirement of nakedness. Surely you’d think that was optional? Right? Nup.
After having already paid, Em and I wrapped our naked selves up in towels and proceeded to the only completely empty steam room. We thought we’d be safely conservative there, that was until we heard Katy running in with a big grin on her face. Now, what I quickly came to learn about Katy is that she grew up with the nickname ‘Naked Katy’. She loves getting nakey. So when her and Elena arrived at the spa and were told to get naked, she was over the moon. In she runs, ready to rip her swimmers off singing “there’s just not enough nakedness in Scotland!! Come on girls, push your boundaries, we’re going in the hot tub!!!”
After quite a bit of hesitation and a lot of childish giggling, all four of us made it into the hot tub completely nude. We were all pretty proud of ourselves at this point, and with the bubbles bubbling our bodies were just a blur of pink beneath the water.
And we were fine, until of course the bubbles stopped, just as a big old hairy German man waltzed out of the sauna with his long floppy wang hanging out.
And as you could only imagine,
If we weren’t laughing and splashing so much to cover our private bits we probably would’ve found the bubble button in no time. But we could not calm ourselves down and so we flapped around for at least 2 minutes too long before finally finding the switch.
What a way to relax.
That night at dinner, our blood warm with red wine, we laughed over our naked spa stories with the others and as two Austrian performers played the accordion and yodelled, I realised just how far away from home I was. And yet I felt like I belonged. Maybe not in a uni-sex nudiest spa, and definitely not because of the raindeer we were eating, but because of the people I was with. And even though I’d only known majority of them for just 3 days, and even though I was the youngest by at least 6 years, I felt a part of this group and I felt happy.
After playing the ‘Roxanne’ drinking game in mine, Elena, and Craigs room, dubbed The Party Room, getting well pissed off a huge bottle of Jager, we wandered down to the main street of Mayrohen to count down Hogmanay. The street was wild. People were letting off fireworks at our feet, explosions of colour were happening at every angle. Had I been less chummy I probably would have felt a little scared. We counted down and cheered and woo’ed (like those girls that I hate, do) and hugged and toasted our bottles and drank and really celebrated the new year.
The highlight of my night though is between this moment and getting to the pub. As we walked through the bare streets of Mayrhofen, Alison abruptly yelled out ” Wait! We have to show Tessa a traditional scottish ceilidh [pronounced kay-lee] dance! Everyone, quick, in a line!”
And we stopped where we were, right there in the middle of the road. Formed a line and partnered up. And we skipped and line danced like complete gits to no music at half twelve on new years.
By the end of our week we were all totally sore and exhausted, but what a way to start my year of adventure.
Our flight back to Manchester was delayed, which meant I missed my train back to London. And so Emma and Ross and the crew kidnapped me up to Scotland.
I am in Scotland now. Staying with Em and Ross is their beautiful home with their psycho little dog. Between all the granite buildings and the sky, it’s very grey outside, but very pretty and very Scottish. I’m having a week of gathering myself and organising myself to travel to Exeter on Sunday. It’ll be great to just unpack and move in, and actually feel like I’m not holidaying any more- as much as I’ve enjoyed it thus far.
Elena and I took a stroll around the harbour yesterday and it strangely reminded me of Wollongong. Aberdeen too has the big oil tank ships on its horizon and Aberdeen too has two lighthouses (one big, one small) on the headland. So if you blur your eye sight and look real quickly, you could kind of mistake it for home. Which is comforting.
I don’t miss home yet, but amidst all the fun and adventure, I do miss the people who are back home.
So I really hope to share these gloriously unexpected experiences with you all, as best I can.
Thanks for reading.