“Once more, back to those times. It would have been…”

Heather in bloom across the moors
I had a terrible week last week, so I decided to go home to my mom and dads to allow my parents to look after me and help me relax/recover. It was a bank holiday after all – I wanted to make the most of it and really have a good break.

Peak of the Roaches
I got home on Saturday afternoon and spent the remainder of the day chilling at home. My parents and I sat outside for ages, making the most of the warm summer evening. We had a braai, then my dad got out his incinerator to burn some papers, and as the evening chill set in, the fire kept us warm as we talked. The next day I went for a walk with my father. He claimed it would be a short walk, but we ended up walking over 9 miles. Ouch. It was a beautiful route though. We started out near Gradbach Scout Camp then followed a path through the forest near Black Brook and the River Dane to get to the Roaches. There we paused to buy ice cream from an ice cream van placed very strategically at the bottom car park for the Roaches. (So. Clever.)

We then ascended the Roaches. From up there, the countryside stretched out for miles and miles. It was a clear, bright day. All the heather was blooming, in various shades of pink and purple. We were very lucky to spot a Peregrine Falcon as soon as we reached the top, and then later, as we sat down to lunch, there was another Peregrine Falcon scouting out the fields right in front of us.

Juvenile Peregrine Falcon, probably.
Although the zoom on my camera is not the best, I am still amazed and very pleased with the pictures I managed to get. Birds of Prey are so hard to photograph. I get red kites around my flat, but I either never have my camera on me when they are out, or by the time I’ve got my camera out they’ve flown off. The first falcon was too far away. But from up on the Roaches we had the perfect vantage spot to watch, and capture, that falcon hunt.

Doxey Pool

Doxey pool at the top of the Roaches
We carried along the Roaches after lunch, and then descended to make our way to Hen Cloud. We ascended that, briefly spotted a couple more Falcons, a pair this time, circling around each other, although they were too quick to capture. It’s really wonderful to see birds of prey doing so well; they are easy to see these days, even if only fleetingly.

The Roaches with Hen Cloud in the distance
We descended Hen Cloud into a small forest, which opened up onto a country road which followed beneath the Roaches. This was a fairly dull part of the walk, a bit of a slog really, and we were exposed to the bright sun far too much. From the road we could see all the rock climbers out and about – the Roaches is a popular site for it. There were hordes of people out, actually, walking and rock climbing and picnicking. We got back to the ice cream van, stopped for another because why not it was extremely hot and exposed out there, and then headed back the way we had come. (Thankfully, back into the shade of the forest, though it was still hot, sticky. I had expected it to be cold and damp and was woefully overdressed.)

Except we decided to take a detour from our original route to go see Lud’s Church. Lud’s Church is basically a big chasm that has opened up in the forest. From the hot, humid forest above we descended into its cool, damp interior. Moss and bracken coated the sides. Unfortunately my camera lens was dirty so a lot of my photos were marred. But truly, its hard to capture the scale of the place, and its subdued, chilled atmosphere.

Lud's ChurchFrom there we headed back through the forest to the car park, thoroughly tired out. I headed to my sisters that evening for junk food and to play with her cat. The next day I had to go back to my apartment, where I chilled out and enjoyed the remainders of my long weekend. It was tough going back to work today. Work is a little boring right now which doesn’t help. Still, in the end I got the relaxing break I craved. And my parents, as always, spoilt me and for just a while, I could be free of the responsibility that comes with being an adult. It was nice to take a break from it all. And I’m glad the weather played ball – it was bright and sunny the whole weekend, with hardly any rain. :D

Heather in bloom

Note 1: I posted about the Roaches also in this entry here. (It’s funny how weather influences a walk – the Roaches and Hen Cloud were far less intimidating this time with the sun shining, compared to how they were in the snow and rain.)
Note 2: For more information on the Roaches, including some fascinating tales on Wallabies and Yaks, I highly suggest checking out the Roaches website.

Today I was in Tesco (supermarket) when I discovered something I’ve never seen before – a South African section. Not just a part of the world foods, which would have been unique enough, but an actual labeled section. There were biscuits. Chips. Biltong and wors. Guava fruit roll. Beer and cream soda and rooibos tea. And of course, big jars of Mrs Balls chutney and large bags of mealie meal. There must be a community of us! I thought excitedly. An actual community of us, here, in this random northern city, in order for us to get our own section. (Our own section! In the nearly two decades of being here I’ve never seen anything like it. We don’t usually even demand a corner of the world foods. We’ve never had any space in the supermarket that I’ve ever seen…) Alot of the stuff was sold out too, with the dates of restock noted, which must also mean there is a lot of us. To have that kind of demand. I wonder where these South Africans are, how long they’ve been here, why they’ve come. I jokingly thought to myself I should stake out this corner of the supermarket, just to see who turns up.

Honestly, don’t think I’ve been so excited and surprised since my dad managed to find gem squash in our local supermarket (several years ago, and sadly it only happened the once. I wonder if this section will soon disappear too? If the demand is temporary for whatever reason…)

I recently booked flight tickets to go home. To Cape Town. And it’s been on my mind. Home. How long it’s been since I’ve been back. How much it must have changed. How much I’ve changed. I’m excited and terrified and I just cannot wait. I want to go home right now.

I now have three running aquariums. D:

I went to the pet shop today to buy some plants for my 120l tank. I went in and they had kittens in stock. The one kitten came up to the glass and started to meow at me, reaching out with a tiny paw to push at the glass between us at the same time. I nearly walked away with them but barely managed to resist. I then went to the aquatics section and I managed to walk past the Betta section, because I know better than to look, and I looked at the plants and I looked at the fish and then I saw him.

He was in a tank with a bunch of platys. He was white and blue and pink and purple. Every time he moved the light caught a different color. He was swimming up against the glass and I looked at him and I looked at him and I fell in love. I asked one of the staff if it was ok to keep a Betta with other fish like that, and the staff member explained as long as the Betta was put in with fish that didn’t have flowing fins like it he wouldn’t attack it. And as long as the Betta fish wasn’t put in a tank with nippy fish then the Betta wouldn’t be attacked. Are minnows and danios ok? I asked. Minnows, yes. My heart sang. Danios, no. Then quickly I deflated. Could I try it? Maybe… I continued to look at the fish. I had a 12l spare, I had gravel, I had rocks and wood. I could buy a heater and a plant. I didn’t even know where I would put the 12l and I later realized I forgot to buy a thermometer, or factor in that it would be another mouth to feed and tank to monitor when I was away. I had resisted the other temptations (THAT KITTEN!) (all the other Bettas!) (a beautiful black axolotl!)

And I had completely fallen for the little guy.

I got him.

I took him home.

I got his tank set up. It’s very simple at the moment. Since this picture was taken I’ve got the filter in. I’ll soak some of my spare wood to build up the tank a bit. He is a bit shy and fussy right now, as would be expected. He picked at his supper – kept spitting it out – and goes to the back of the tank when I come close.

I hope he is gonna settle in. He was more expensive than my other Betta fish, probably because he is fancier (my other Betta fish was glaring at me as I fawned over the new Betta. Or at least I felt like it. I may feel slightly guilty to my Betta for finding the new guy…a little prettier… :| )

And yes, I did buy the plants too! Gave the big tank a good tidy and put in the new plants. Getting very heavily planted in there and it’s beautiful. My first Betta tank is doing well and it would have been a year since I got my first Betta at the end of this month. I’m placing my original Betta at a year and a half years old, which is kind of awesome.

I’m definitely getting a little too into this fish keeping hobby. I can’t believe I have three tanks. I hope this won’t affect my electricity bills too much :/

Cleaning

I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend decluttering and organising things. Although some of my “markers of adulthood” I mentioned in the last post are definitely out of reach for me there are some I can definitely work on right now – like my savings, and buying nice furniture. And as I mentioned, I’m trying to keep the flat tidy and organised. Trying to settle in to my environment and take pride in it, and let go of a lot of stuff I don’t need because although I don’t mind clutter it can get overwhelming having too much (there’s a fine line between a little clutter and being buried alive under your stuff. I’d prefer not to cross it. ) Also, doesn’t matter how much nice furniture you have, your place is likely to still look like crap if it’s untidy.

So, cleaning. (Not savings, that’s pointless to talk about because although I’ve been improving, I have major outgoings next month which are going to ruin it all :( )

I’ve been reading Unf*ck your habitat by Rachel Hoffman and I am trying to follow her clean for short periods of time then take a good break from it rule. I used to be a marathon cleaner, but as mentioned in that book, marathon cleaning is exhausting and overwhelming. (Where marathon cleaning is basically leaving the mess until it gets too bad to ignore then grudgingly spend hours getting through it, or alternatively waiting for cleaning inspiration to hit and spending hours getting through it. With neither involving much going on between.) So I’m trying to get better about doing small amounts everyday to keep things getting out of hand, and even for my major deep cleaning this weekend I took breaks often, and I watched dramas and YouTube videos whilst organising where possible to keep things as non-monotonous as possible.

I cleaned my bedroom quite thoroughly and I’ve been trying to organise all my random papers. I have many odd bits that I’ve shoved into boxes and did my best to ignore. I’m a mild hoarder who will attach herself to anything, no matter how small or insignificant. But this reminds of this event/thing/time, but what happen if I need it in the future, I’m very good at telling myself these things. I tried to be harsh with myself this weekend. And I made good progress, though I’ve still got a long way to go. :/

“Can I be safe from this sudden fear of change. This sudden fear is strange”

It was my 25th birthday on Sunday. I wanted to write about it, as I have many thoughts about turning 25, but my thoughts wouldn’t come together. Still, they won’t. I am writing and deleting, writing and deleting. So here goes, a random thought dump about being 25 and where my life is now and all my random thoughts about it.

(This is going to be very all over the place, I’m sorry, I just don’t know how to pull this all together.)

25 feels like a milestone age, in a quiet way – the way 16 is to 18. I am, as always, amazed as to how far I’ve come. 25. It feels like I should really know what I’m doing by now. I don’t. And actually, I think that its likely that a lot of twenty somethings feel these same feelings, the weight of the world’s expectations versus our own feelings of loss and confusion. But I suppose I tell myself that because I want things to be coming together now. And I don’t quite want to admit it, that I think about settling down quite often. Not in the traditional sense, like getting married, or having kids. But I think about owning my own place, having a stable job, having some savings, buying nice furniture and adopting a kitty. I think about these things which I feel are some of the markers of adulthood and I see that I have none of them and I feel a little lacking.

I’m 25. I’ve come so far and I have so much, but I’m caught up in feelings of wondering if it’s the ‘right’ things or if it’s enough and I look at others my age and feel a little, fine a lot inadequate. (I guess I’m also caught up in watching my sister, who is older than me so I should accept is ahead of me, but I look at her stable job, the house she has bought and the kitty she has adopted and I ache. Will that be me in three years? Can that be me? It doesn’t feel like my life is heading in that direction yet and again, I ache.)

I’m still settling in to this new stage of adult hood – being a working professional. I know, still. I feel so frustrated with myself too, I keep telling myself to hurry up about it all, but I can’t seem to. My anxious brain takes a long time to process things. So now, almost two years of working gone past and I’m still processing, trying to come up with working professional Catherine, and get rid of student Catherine. For such a long time my life was dictated by academic timetables, coursework and exams that it is incredibly difficult to get out of that mind-set. Work is so difficult. It’s at once incredibly structured and incredibly free. Instead of working to a curriculum, memorising the right things and putting them on a paper and measuring your life’s progress by the grades you get, it’s a lot more abstract. You have to take your own initiative, and then you get judged on how you take initiative and what you come up with, yourself. It’s weird getting used to creating your own curriculum to study and managing your own schedules, and don’t even get me started on also dealing with office life and culture. I still feel like a complete fish out of water at work. There is so much to learn, so many interesting but difficult things to take in and try not to mess up. Being at work, working, can be incredibly rewarding, but also extremely embarrassing sometimes. It’s so awesome getting things right, but on the flipside it’s so awful getting them wrong. You want to impress! And make a good impression! Then you make a typo in a mail to a client, or can’t explain a key concept without getting tongue tied and it’s like damn, self. Come on. I get so frustrated with myself. I need to think about becoming a chartered engineer at some point, but I have no confidence for it. Am I worthy of it? Do I know enough for it? No way can I be that clever and competent.

I still can’t quite believe I have an engineering degree, to be honest. That I am an engineer. Like, what. Even now, 7 years after school, I still sit with the teacher’s words telling me I was never going to get anywhere. Some days I’m crippled by imposter syndrome, clinging on to average GCSEs and poor A level grades, and ignoring the masters in engineering I have, or the nearly two years of actual engineering experience I have.

Then there’s home management. I have been making a lot of changes to my flat, trying to settle in, while terrified of settling in, because it’s a rental and I don’t know when or if I’ll have to move, I just feel like I’m going to have to move and I don’t want to enjoy this flat too much, or buy too much furniture, because moving is painful enough without owning so many things. But I’m trying to settle into the now, enjoy my environment now without worrying about later. (After all, no matter what I’ll be packing crap tonnes of stuff into boxes, and I’ve probably long past the point where I could avoid paying for a moving service.) I’m trying to be good about chores and keeping things clean too. At first I struggled with that – I was so tired from work and commuting. Now I’m driving and my commute is easier and I get home sooner it’s a bit easier. I am incredibly lucky with the place I am living in and I try to tell myself that often, remind myself that even I don’t own my place and I can’t paint the walls or put up shelves, at least I have a warm roof over my head, lots of space all to myself, and none of the problems with scrupulous landlords, dodgy roommates, weird moulds or maintenance issues that some people suffer. I am safe and comfortable. It’s enough. More than enough. I am very lucky.

I am not so good about managing my diet or exercise. I still eat like a student and struggle to exercise – I got to week four of couch to 5k then gave up, I dip in and out of Yoga, but I can’t make anything work. I’m very lazy outside of work.

I’m not sure what’s going on with this blog. I don’t want to give up blogging, but there’s such a large part of my life (work!) that I have to keep private and its awkward working around that elephant in the room (work!).

Everything is messy and awkward right now. While my heart longs for stability and settling down, my life has had other ideas. There’s been so much going on these past few years. But I’m still here, 25 years old, trying to deal with it all and sometimes succeeding, sometimes failing. Just like everyone else, I imagine.