Monday, 28 July 2014

five things i've learnt this last week.

I'm crap at small talk.

I went to two work events this week - both were relatively important and 'fancy' and included canapes and people coming round to top up my wine. Despite having worked in my office for four months, I barely know anyone there - not helped by the fact that my jobs entails me being glued to my headphones all day. I did manage to get to know a few people at work a little better, but I did realise that I'm a little bit bad at small talk. At University it was so easy; "where are you from?" "what do you study?", "which halls are you in" etc etc. Now what do you say? Seriously, any tips are appreciated.

It's okay to reach out to people.

I had a bit of a rubbish weekend, and they happen but sometimes I'm a bit crap at dealing with them. Anyway! I'm usually the kind to suffer in silence. But on Sunday I sent a text to a friend and ended up sat on her balcony in Greenwich, listening to the sound of the Thames, drinking white wine and watching the Sun go down over the city. It was wonderful, and we baked banana bread and had a cracking M&S two for £10. I need to stop suffering and start acting.

I need to ring my grandparents more.

This morning my Mum left me a voicemail which said "Its your mother, ring me back." She never rings when I'm work because she's aware of the whole headphone issue and her tone put the fear of god into me. I was convinced someone had died. It turned out nothing of the sort had happened. She just wanted to know about train tickets. But I did have a fleeting thought of "oh god, when did I last ring Granny and Grandad?" and realised it hasn't been for a while. I don't want a situation like that to happen for real. 

It's important to focus on the small things.

After four months of the housemate from hell, the threat of eviction because of his lies, having to deal with his wee on the loo seat, and the stench of his washing up, him screaming about how feminists control the political agenda (really? if only), being woken up at 1am three nights a week (I could go on...) it really does look like I'm getting closer to moving out. Today involved a house viewing, and even though the house wasn't for us it felt real. Soon I'm going to be living with friends, and I'm going to have a home, not a house. 

I'm still crap at killing mosquitoes.

When I first moved to Holland I lived in halls which were affectionately known as 'the swamp'. The place was covered in mosquitoes. At one point I had 23 bites on one arm, and one dinner party at a friends resulted in us killing over 50 in ten minutes. My bedroom at the moment is suffering, although 3 in a night isn't as bad as 50, they're still irritating little shits and despite my practice in Holland, I'm no better at killing them.

What have you learnt in the past week? And send your small talk tips my way!

Friday, 11 July 2014

introducing hema

A few weeks ago, one of the best things happened; Hema arrived in the UK. Hema is one of my favourite stores from Holland, and they now have their first store in London, hidden away in Victoria station (I promise that I do blog about things which aren't Dutch all of the time). 

If you've never come across Hema before, I urge you to go if you ever find yourself in Victoria station, even for five minutes. If you're a lover of Ikea Marketplace and Tiger, then you'll definitely love Hema too. I'm ecstatic I can now buy my favourite mascara and make up brush cleaner again for under a fiver without having to travel to Holland, not to mention I can now also buy all of my favourite Dutch treats including Jodekoken, stroopwaffels and egg cookies without having to beg a friend to send them to me. 

But Hema is more than that - it's a cheapy paperchase, there's a little section for sewing, a little section for cake decorating. There's cheap but good quality make up, coffee, sweets, books, kitchenware and just general bits and bobs. Everything is very pretty and well designed and everything is good value. You'll never feel out of pocket in Hema. 

Hema is a Dutch institution, there's one on every Dutch highstreet and  I'd love it if they had the same exposure here in England. It's just a massive shame they don't offer their one euro breakfast here - I spent a lot of my Dutch student days rushing to get to my nearest Hema to meet friends for breakfast before 10am, and with a baguette, croissant and coffee for a euro, it was worth the early getting up times. Maybe one day?

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

wednesday wishlist: fifty three

wednesday wishlist: fifty three

It's probably a good job that I don't have anywhere near the amount of money I would need to be able to buy my wishlists because I definitely have a taste in clothes which is too skinny for my flabby tummy. I am indesperate need of new work shoes and aren't your legs supposed to look slimmer with heels? At the moment I'm practically running to work and heels wouldn't necessarily be a good idea, and I can't find any which aren't a bit hookery. I've already bought the pink jacquard tee shirt to try and inject a bit of colour into my wardrobe because seriously, it's all black and grey - I'm just waiting for it to be delivered. I'd probably have bought the River Island skirt too if I could find it anywhere in the shops! Again - probably a good thing, sales shopping has already damaged me somewhat. 

What are you after this week?

Monday, 7 July 2014

a little trip to eat a thousand krokets.

In April, I jetted off to Amsterdam (!) and I still haven't blogged about it. I'd love to say I was completely cultural, but I wasn't. Don't get me wrong, I was hardly staggering around the red light district in my Aston Villa shirt, throwing myself into the Irish pubs and coffeeshops, but I wasn't popping in and out of the Rijksmuseum either. My only excuse is that as I used to live half an hour away from Amsterdam, I've already queued for Anne Frank's house and taken the boat trips along the canal and seen the view from library and had a drink in the Leidseplien. This trip was about taking a break from work and getting out of the UK, and it was well and truly worth it. 

We weren't there for long, so it was all about taking in the views and showing my friends who had never been to Amsterdam the sights. I took a little time out to see friends in Leiden which I mentioned last week. While we were there we took some time to visit Dam Square on International Pillow Fight day - the square was full of people smacking each other with pillows, and dressed in PJs. I don't really subscribe to that kind of enforced fun idea, but it was incredible to see feathers everywhere.

We did also take some time out to go to the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam's Jewish Quarter, which was something I'd never done before. It was interesting, but if I'm being really honest, if you're more interested in social history, I think you can learn more about Jewish life in Amsterdam from visiting Anne Frank's house. But it was Museum Weekend in Holland, and if you're planning a trip to Amsterdam to be really cultural, I really recommend visiting on Museum weekend - a vast majority of museums in Holland were either free or half price, so even though I wasn't overly impressed with the Jewish Historical Museum, at least it was half price! 

I also picked up some of my favourite Dutch treats and ate far too many Krokets from vending machines and terrible terrible McKrokets from McDonalds. Terrible tourist? I think so...

Saturday, 5 July 2014

reflections on a year

Tomorrow marks a year since I moved back from Holland. I went back to Holland with a few friends to spend a couple of days in Amsterdam not so long ago, and managed to sneak away to go back to Leiden for a couple of hours. I've said it before, sometimes I miss Holland so much I can barely cope, but sometimes I'm so happy I moved home and didn't stay any longer. 

Visiting Leiden is always a pleasure. The train from Amsterdam went through the tulip fields and it was gorgeous, all the different colours, rows and rows of tulips. I saw a friend for a couple of drinks in De Twee Spieghels, a small jazz bar in Leiden before we moved on to De Bontekoe, a sweet bar in an alleyway next to one of Leiden's many churches. 

Afterwards, I moved on to have drinks with another guy that I used to see when I lived there, underneath the town hall. It was how I spent my last night in Holland, getting drunk at the town hall, just a repeat. Seven beers later I left Leiden, largely worse for wear to see my friends back in Amsterdam. 

It's always odd going back to Holland, because it doesn't feel like home anymore but it doesn't feel like a holiday destination either. Nothing strikes you more than seeing old friends who have new jobs and aren't students anymore, or having to walk because your bike is back in England. I wonder if I'll always go back to Holland and feel like that, half there and half not.

On the other hand, I can't believe it's been a year since I moved home. Where has this year gone? I spent the whole ferry home crying, and that's not an exaggeration. I cried leaving Leiden, arriving in Rotterdam, getting on the ferry, watching Holland on the horizon, cried myself to sleep, and then when we arrived in Hull. My Mum must have thought I was insane. 

I hope there's always a special place in my heart for Leiden.. I also hope that I stop missing it quite as much when those missing times come and I hope that I keep in touch with my friends there. I hope that I can find time to visit in the years that come, and that I never forget the amazing time I had there and all the things I learned.