“I had a dream that I was fine-I wasn’t crazy, I was divine”

Friday before last, my sister came to see me. We met in the city centre for supper at a hippy vegan cafe. It was a cute place and the food was OK, but a little leafy for my tastes. They did the most amazing vegan Dutch fries though. Anyway, we went to see the Bodyguard after that, the musical based on the film and starring Alexander Burke. It was fantastic- funny, dramatic and packed with incredible performances. I found it interesting the use of digital imagery and pre-filmed clips. It made me wonder if that’s the direction musicals are going to take now, in our digital age. Unfortunately, there were some idiots in the audience who kept calling out like it was a pantomime, including in the middle of the grande final I will always love you…just as Alexander Burke was preparing for that last crescendo. I felt for her, and the rest of the cast, and admired how well they coped with it. I can’t believe how disrespectful those people were. Them booing once as the villain appeared was funny but once was enough, you know? They took it too far and interrupted again and again…

The next day my sister and I had a lazy morning, then we went to a local horse and pony sanctuary to pet some horses, although they weren’t particularly friendly. Whilst there we did manage to nab a very friendly kitty, which may have been the highlight. We then went to the cinema, to see the jungle book, which was disturbing and surreal. Freaked me out, especially the singing parts. How does something like that not give a young child nightmares? My child self would not have been able to handle it. But the bear was funny, at least.

My sister left and I was left alone in the flat, with the bad news I had received at work hovering over me.

I can’t talk about it much, not as much as I’d like, but things aren’t well at work. The word redundancy is floating around, on everyone’s mind. It’s obviously making for a toxic workplace. On that Friday before last I had been offered a secondment in another division, i.e. I’d be moved to a different sector of the company for a few days a week for an unspecified amount of time. I was an idiot who didn’t read between the lines and only said I’d think about it. It weighed on my mind that weekend, and I spoke to my family over the weekend who pointed out the other option may be no job. So on Monday I accepted. Thank everything I listened to my family and well, my own gut instinct telling me say yes. Because by Tuesday we knew what was really going on. It was a long, tense and confusing week. It was hard to go to work in the mornings. I felt guilty for having my secondment, when others are facing redundancy, and guilty for my relief that I at least have this other job…for now. It is not certain what is going to happen over time.

I was starting to feel better, to settle into my job, to relax and feel more positive, with the counselling helping. And then this happened. It feeds my negative narrative- see, you were positive, you let your guard down, then something terrible happened. Because I stopped expecting it, it happened.

I am struggling to accept my helplessness in this situation. What will be will be in this situation, and all I can do is keep working. But now the horizon is blurred- what am I working for? I feel sad and demotivated. I love my job, I like my team, I don’t want it to change. I hate seeing everyone so miserable at work. I worry for myself, but also them and their circumstance.

This Friday, I fled back home to my mother and father and cat. I needed to go back to the nest, too vulnerable and scared to face a weekend alone at home, most likely stewing over my feelings. So instead I went home, to be looked after, to shed adult responsibility and it’s burdens and be a child. I spent the weekend mostly at home, but surrounded by my family. I was looked after and fussed over and got a good dose of cat therapy. I needed it. I felt sad to come back to my flat.

It’s going to be another difficult week, I’m sure.

It’s crazy how quickly things can change. I wasn’t expecting this at all, and it’s hitting me hard.

“This complicated, maze-like reality will soon be behind me and I will survive, yes I’m going forward”

The Tarn The TarnView of Ilkley

{Eight more pictures under the cut}

A miserable spring has suddenly switched to a bright, hot summer in the UK. I decided to venture out for a walk on Sunday – I figured that since I am now living in Yorkshire, I should make a start on exploring it. I decided to head to the Ilkley Moor, as I had heard it was very pretty and not too tough for a novice (and thus, someone so out of practice as I.)

I was a little nervous about a sudden turn in the weather (I mean, with the way things have been it’s not unreasonable to expect sudden snow) and nervous because it would be only my second solo walk. My first, I got lost, and I slipped and fell and gave myself a dodgy hip that still seizes up to this day. Thankfully, I would have GPS for this walk. I had planned out my route on the map. I packed my bag with items for sudden weather changes, lots of food, minor first aid items and change to buy something icy later. Then I set out.

I had one bus to take. I was not optimistic when this bus took fifty minutes to turn up. In the classic anxiety mind frame this was a sign, that something bad happening I’m always afraid of was going to come true.

I texted my sister. Be positive, she told me, with not, nor two or even three exclamation marks- but a good five. Stern and confident. OK, I said. It’s gorgeous out here. How’s that for positivity?

Honestly, the Yorkshire countryside, of the tiny amount I’ve seen, is really too pretty.

After a long and tedious bus ride I finally reached Ilkley. I meandered around seeking toilets. Found none. Faced the inevitable and started on my walk. Almost immediately I got lost. Nearly. I caught it quickly, thanks to the moving dot on my digital map, and got on the right path. My first milestone was The Tarn and I reached it easily enough after my initial slip. The route was mostly flat. The tarn did not look as big as it did on the map but the wild flowers and birds made up for its size. I settled down for a light lunch, not wanting to linger too long or eat everything at once, then set out again. The next part of the route was a steep, hot climb. The sun was strong and it had been a while since I’ve pushed my body in that way, my muscles burned with the sudden, unexpected activity. Behind me Ilkley was stretched out in its valley, more hills in the distance, and around me was sparse, dry moor interspersed with great rock formations. I climbed more. And more. Heart racing. Chest tight. I can’t do this I thought. I want to go back. I really want to pee. Then, a shining light. A small cafe- and toilets. I stopped off, checked my map then clambered on. The small rest had felt good but could do nothing in the face of months of inactivity. The path evened out and I could only feel relieved for a moment because then there was a big hill to climb ahead, jagged stone steps to heave myself up, to stop on, feeling awkward and in the way of everyone else who looked so relaxed…my racing heart may not have been purely the exertion, but also a certain anxiety, a keen self consciousness and embarrassment. I slogged on, and couldn’t help grin when I reached the top.

There’s a cheesy metaphor for life here, I thought. Once you are in the thick of it, it’s just as difficult to turn back as it is to go forward, and everything exciting and rewarding lies ahead, so you may as well brave it. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other and instead of thinking look how much more to go think look how far I’ve come. It’s such a great feeling to make it. So much better of the regret of never finding out what you could have had, what could have been if only…

I sat down to admire the views, snack more and send a panicky text to my sister. Then I carried on. I must not have been paying much attention, too relieved at reaching my destination, that I took the wrong turn and ended up walking more of the moor than I intended. I can’t complain- the moor was stunning, the sun bright and warm, a cool breeze blowing, birds singing and a grouse, there in the distance, making its own distinct chatter. I wandered on, enjoying the flat, springy ground, the fresh air, the peace. And I got back to my path. My walk had turned more figure of eight than circular, and I missed having someone else to read the map for me, but my little moving dot reassured me everything would be OK.

I felt a bit embarrassed for being glued to my phone whilst walking. What must others think. I know serious walkers do not like GPS (the look on this one guys face at my uni walking club when I suggested it) and I know we all judge others for being stuck to their phones. I needed my dot though, more than I needed to worry about their scrutiny.

I walked on, and for a while it was good, but then it got boggy and I stepped off the path briefly to avoid a particularly wet, quick sand looking section only to find myself slogging through waist high grass, dry and sharp, thick enough to hide the soft ground so I couldn’t tell with every step how I’d be landing. I had gotten myself got lost. I was going in vaguely the right direction but I was off the path and it was hard going, not to mention I was conscious of what I could be disturbing with my big, clumsy steps. I was fairly certain grouse nest in shorter grasses, but not certain enough. Even though there were no signs, it’s the respectful thing to do to stay on the path when the grouse are nesting. I wasn’t sure if they were nesting, but you can see how my panic was growing, can’t you? And it’s funny, there were so many people around until I needed them as a path marker, something to go to.

Thankfully I escaped the long grass to a flatter, less wild section of moor and could slog up that back to the path, following my dot faithfully. And of course it would be upwards back to the path. I was feeling grumpy and tired again. I sat down to munch and rest, then carried on, keeping hold of my phone in my hand, so the dot was right there. What did I do before the smartphone? Got lost. Wandered around, almost in tears from frustration and helplessness, and struggled. That’s why I love the smartphone. And envy those who can live without them. Now I have GPS, you won’t take it away from me.

I do hope that one day, I won’t have to be led around by my dot quite so much. I wonder what it’s like to have a sense of direction and if it can be fostered, or if I’m just doomed to a dot lead life. ;)

Safely back on the path my mood lightened again. I was still too tired, too unfit for the twists and turns of the day, but had new determination to make it to the end.

I did make it. Going downhill was, of course, awkward and rough on the ankles, but far less tiring. I found an ice cream van, bought an ice lolly, sat down on a bench and texted my sister -“I made it! Second solo walk, success!”

I felt so proud of myself. I felt effing elated. Adrenalin coursing through me, it felt like I could go back and run up that hill. Of course, I didn’t. I just went back to town and got the bus home.

I watched the scenery outside the window and thought about where to go next.

Fox

There was a fox outside my kitchen window this afternoon.

I wasn’t sure at first- I ran to the spare bedroom where I could get a better view to check and sure enough, there it was. There was a fox, lying in plain in sight in the communal back garden.

Picture this- I’m a block of four flats, and my neighbours on both sides are, and all these blocks, and more, look out onto a large patch of lawn, which itself leads to a strip of forest before the next row of houses. There are washing lines strung up in the back garden, and a couple of wendy houses. The fox was close to the forest and one of the wendy houses.

I was fascinated to see it wasn’t actually red- but rather, had a red head leading to a gray, matted body. Watching it, amazement quickly turned to concern- was it usual for foxes to be just lying in plain view like that? I had seen it shift it’s head and front paw, so I was sure it was alive. I googled a bit and it seemed that foxes did like to lie in the sun, and I phoned my dad, who pointed out that it was close to the forest, where it could escape if it wanted. OK, I thought. OK, I’ll leave it. It was just an old fox (a guess of my dad from the grey) taking a nap in the sun. I had the RSPCA webpage opened and I was ready to close it and move on.

Then the fox got up, and it was clear that it was not OK. It could barely move and it was dragging it’s back legs. It got about a meter forward then fell forward and started to twitch. I phoned the RSPCA right away, watching the fox, willing all the automatic voice messages press one for this and two for that would hurry up so I could get some help for this poor creature. I was starting to panic.

In reality, I got through to someone swiftly, and she was really nice. Unfortunately they couldn’t send someone out until they could be sure the fox wasn’t going to run. I had to do the broom test. This involves approaching the animal with a broom to see how they react to your presence, and the broom simulates the tool they use to catch the fox which also tests it. I didn’t want to do this I’ll be honest- remember, communal gardens, and I was still in my pajamas. Also- will it harm me? I asked the woman on the phone. She reassured me it would be OK. So I steeled myself, grabbed my mop (having no broom) and went outside. I approached cautiously, mop held out in front of me, feeling quite frankly ridiculous. The fox will probably just run off I thought. Except it didn’t even stir. “It’s not reacting to my presence at all,” I said to the woman, unable to keep an edge of panic from my voice. And so she agreed to send someone out, telling me to phone if it ran off. I retreated back indoors, not even locking the door, dropping the mop and rushing back to the spare room window. I watched the fox for 30 minutes. It didn’t move. Then – it got up. Please don’t go away, I prayed, help is coming, just rest now, please. It couldn’t get far though. It soon flopped down again. I breathed a sigh of relief that there was a phonecall I didn’t have to make. Just rest, I thought. Help is coming.

The doorbell rang soon after and the RSPCA man was there. “The fox is just there” I said, and pointed vaguely left. He looked and then looked at me “no there isn’t” I peered out. You couldn’t actually see it from my front door. Shit, I thought, embarrassed, and self conscious in barefeet and pajamas. It really is. I said. Right by the wendy house. Completely forgetting to use the British word shed too. OK, he said and went to get his tools. I ventured out to look at the fox. It had been too long since I’d seen it, even just a minute was too long. It’s just woken up, I tried to warn the man. I’m not sure he heard me.

He was just one man, a noose , and a cage. I wondered how this would work. He put the cage down, and approached the fox with the noose. The fox, still too awake, tried to run, he followed and they both disappeared into the forest. I saw a flash of the fox, a flash of the man, heard the rustle of trees and the crush of leaves underfoot, and kept on praying. Please, please let him catch him. The man emerged first and my heart sank. He didn’t catch him.

Then I saw the fox, caught, being dragged along behind the man. It was a terrible sight, really. Even the RSPCA man admitted he hadn’t caught him well. But he had caught him. He was in the cage. I thanked the man as he carried the fox away, went indoors and as soon as the door was shut behind me, rushed to get to the living room to catch my final glimpses of the fox. Watched as the man put him in his van and drove away. Thank you I thought. I phoned my dad to give the final update. Well done, you did the right thing, he said and I think I did. But I don’t know why none of my neighbours did not act- does that make them or me wrong? And I still felt overwhelmed. I was still feeling hyped up and panicky.

I opened my laptop to read through RSPCAs information, to get an idea of the foxes fate. I could guess but the RSPCA info confirmed- the fox is probably going to be put down. The RSPCA only rehabilitate when there’s a chance they can release back into the wild, and that fox was in such a bad way, or rather his back leg was, I can’t imagine there’s much to be done. He seemed feverish, or diseased I suppose- twitchy and restless, clearly in pain. Still at least he won’t have to die painfully, slowly. He can be put out of his agony now, right? Poor thing. It was horrible to watch him dragging his weakened body along, but I couldn’t stop watching, too afraid he will disappear the moment I looked away. That’s why I couldn’t get dressed too, every moment away was too long.

I’m amazed by how quick and efficient the RSPCA were. I’m thankful for it. I hope my donation was enough to express my gratitude.

I feel a horrible sense of guilt for just standing there at first, happily taking pictures of it when it was dying. But how was I supposed to know? I’d never seen a fox before. Let alone a wounded one. What a terrible first encounter. I hope it’s OK now, I’ll keep praying for it.

Modesty

A weird adjustment to working is dressing for work. I find myself getting quite sick of wearing the same things all the time, but still wearing them all the same, stuck as to what I should be wearing. I try and look at what the other woman in the office are wearing but their styles vary so widely that it’s not actually that helpful. If there is one thing that strikes me as the common theme: modesty. I was told about the importance of this in engineering before I started working as an engineer, but you can really see it in the office – dresses and skirts are just above the knee or below, no one wears very high heels, no one wears heavy makeup, bare arms and low necklines are also out.

I’ve always thought I dressed fairly modestly. I like my t-shirts to come right to the neck both front and back, I don’t wear v-necks and I button up all my shirts right to the top. Yet, I miss wearing shorts and miniskirts. I’ve always hated midi skirts, and preferred shorter a-line skirts. I feel so frumpy in an a-line midi though, that I’m left with stretchy pencil skirts only. I become very aware of my figure, in these new tighter, but longer, skirts. Heck, I really miss slouchy clothes. I used to live in loose fitting clothes, hating the feel of material against my sensitive skin, hating my figure and wanting to hide it. My office isn’t formal, but turning up in jeans, a baggy sweater and a mens hoody is, obviously, not acceptable. Suddenly, half my wardrobe is sitting unused because what chance do I have to wear it anymore? I have to keep buying more clothes even though I’ve already got clothes, simply because so much of what I have is not appropriate for every day anymore. Thankfully my office isn’t formal, so I don’t need to wear suits or shirts or heels, on the flipside I then also find myself worrying about looking too dressy. If I wear a dress, or an a-line midi skirt, will I look too done up?

The singular a-line midi I own is clearly haunting me. I want to wear it but I’m totally afraid to. I don’t feel quite ready to take “risks” with my office wear. I don’t want to look slouchy, but I also don’t want to look too formal. I really don’t want to stand out for the wrong reasons. Finding the balance is hard. I find myself having to learn how to dress all over – suddenly trying to work out how to wear fitted sweaters, midi skirts and of course the office staple, the cardigan. Thankfully, all my basics are still OK – all my plain t-shirts and long tops – I just need to learn to restyle them for the office. Thankfully, I am making my cotton only with a hint of viscose wardrobe work for the office environment. I’m not dressing how I like or how I feel comfortable though, and it’s hard not to feel like I’m playing dress up, and badly. It’s hard not to feel self-conscious. It’s hard not to worry about looking fat and frumpy.

I still sometimes pull on an outfit in the morning, just to take it right off again, change into something else, struggling to find something that feels right.

“Because nothing is so fearful as giving up”

St Michaels Church and Hungarian National Museum

{Nine more pictures under the cut}
BUDAPEST, DAY TWO – Woke up fairly late today then headed out to the Szechenyi spa. Enjoyed the spa for about five minutes then became acutely aware was sat in a hot bath with a whole bunch of strangers, all of us barely clothed. There were so many people too. It was claustrophobic.

Afterwards had a great lunch at a nearby cafe and then popped into Vajdahunyad Castle. Vajdahunyad Castle was insane – a mixture of every fairy tale castle and horror movie castle you can think of. Totally bizarre. I wished I had my camera on me to take some pictures, but I had left it at home because of the spa. (That’s why there are no spa pictures either.) We headed back to the apartment to get changed and take a little break. I ate some cake that was way too rich but too delicious and I wish I knew the name of it. We then set off to find St Michaels church. We wanted to buy tickets to the organ concert being held there that night. Usually, there are organ concerts every week at the St Stephens Basilica, but this week being Easter, there was a break in that programme. I had managed to dig through the internet and find out about a organ concert being held at the smaller St Michaels. I was quite determined to go to a Hungarian organ concert, and my sister and her friend were reluctantly allowing themselves to be dragged in. It was a compromise – I hadn’t wanted to go to the Spa, but I did for them, and in return they would go to the concert.

The route to the church was a pleasant walk that took us along the river and past the white bridge. The church was on a pretty touristy bit of street with plenty of souvenir shops and people standing outside of restaurants that would call out to you and try and lure you in. We found the church and purchased the concert tickets we wanted. I had been very worried they would be sold out but there were no problems. We then walked to the nearby National Museum of Hungary. This was a fascinating museum. Unfortunately I went through the first section backwards which was very confusing – I know enough about history to have realised I was doing so, but not enough to be certain of it. Once I’d realised that I could enjoy it knowing I was reading about Hungarian history in the proper order. Going to this museum also helped to clear up lingering confusion from the Legislation Museum the day before. It was a big, grand museum stuffed with artefacts and information. I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately though I lost my sister and her friend fairly soon into the visit and thus spent most of my time worried about where they were, whether they were worried or annoyed. I couldn’t text my sister as you have to give your bags in to enter museum and I had forgotten to get my phone out and take it with me. When I finally spotted my sister, I ran over to her and gave her a big hug…which was inappropriate but necessary.

Reunited, we went back to the tourist street and allowed ourselves to be suckered in to one of the tourist traps…I mean restaurants for supper. We really wanted to find somewhere else, but we decided to stick to the tourist street so we would have enough time to eat before the concert. The food turned out to be pretty good actually, and not too overpriced.

Afterwards we went to the concert. The church was very impressive – much smaller than St Stephens Basilica obviously, and still in the midst of its renovations. It was interesting to see the contrast between the parts that had been restored and the parts that had not. There was something a bit more sombre and slightly more severe about this church. Also, the pews were extremely hard. We sat for two hours on those extremely hard benches, completely unable to get comfortable. This was a long concert. My sister and her friend were pretty bored by it. And as for me, I was interested but also confused- where was the organ? Well, turns out that there wasn’t one. Or at the least it wasn’t connected to its pipes. I waited and waited and listened out for it but it never showed itself. It was a very good performance – a full orchestra, a full choir with some very good leading singers – but the uncomfortable seat and the fact that it dragged on without ever really climaxing was a bit disappointing. The balance between vocalists, choir and orchestra was not quite right too and didn’t utilize the space correctly. I wanted something grand. I wanted to feel the floor shake with the power of the music, as it had the last time I had heard an organ played. Ah well. It was still brilliant, even if the reality was quite different from what I had expected. I did feel slightly bad for dragging my sister and her friend to this. However, I became quite excited to go to the opera the next day.