“And although I knew nothing of love, I knew that I had found it, and never wanted to lose it.”

– Entry Island, Peter May

“The Blackhouse” by Peter May blew me away, and I am beginning to realise the flip side of this: I am easily disappointed every time I read another of his books and no matter how good, it just doesn’t measure up.

Entry Island was like that – a good book, fascinating and moving in places, but also long and slow, and narrated gently and without life. (The audio book is excellent for accents and for making each character sound distinct, and the woman sound like woman, but it is utterly without life. whether this is the book or the narration is something to question though.)

Entry Island tells two stories – that of life in the Outer Hebrides in the 19th century during the potato famine and the highland clearances, and that of a criminal investigation into the murder of a wealthy businessman in his home on a remote Canadian island, the only witness his wife. These are tied by the secret and forbidden love between a crofter’s son and the lairds’ daughter in the past, of whose ancestors find themselves meeting in the present.

I had problems with this book, and the main one was the love story. What was it that endured so long? It never felt convincing, and it never grabbed me. The past was told very matter of factly, and the conversations between those in the past felt like they were talking for the benefit of explaining events to us, the readers, rather than talking amongst each other. It came across as stiff, and awkward. Consequently, the romance suffered. The romance should have been heart breaking – young forbidden lovers who risked everything to be together, and lost each other in a moments chance. But every interaction between them was stale, filled with rigid conversation where they explain history to us – we never saw them simply laughing and enjoying each other. We were told they loved each other, but so rarely shown it. There was no heady feeling of being caught up in their emotions, unable to be without the other. In the end, Kirsty was spoilt and stifled, and Simon was locked in by circumstance. It moved me the thought of them looking for each other in the future, perhaps wanting to have that time to really fall in love though.

In the present, Simon and Kirsty were interesting enough. I felt for Simon – he isn’t a particularly likeable character, but I could understand him and his depression and subsequent insomnia. I thought Peter May did an amazing job of showing depression, and how quickly it can develop without a person even realising it, and how he withheld the labelling of it until the end to match Simon’s own slow awakening to his feelings was brilliantly done. I was not sure about the unsympathetic portrayal of Simon’s estranged wife, but I could understand that as the book was from his point of view that he would paint her as the villainess.

I did feel disappointed that this wasn’t actually a reincarnation book. The whole I have loved you before but do I love you know if my memories aren’t my own is a favourite trope of mine. Simon’s memories were that of diaries he had read, and his journey to discover the past was self-driven and consciously done.

The criminal investigation itself was a little obvious as to where it was headed, so as a thriller it didn’t work. But to be honest, I don’t think that was really the point of the book and I didn’t mind. As a look at a part of history I never knew about, and as a character driven book it just about did work and managed to hold my attention. I just wished there was more passion, I wish I had been on the edge of my seat praying for a happy ending, more caught up in it all. I admit I started this book and dropped it initially, so bored with it all, and only reluctantly picked it back up. The book only really picks up in the middle…and even then it’s the history that gets really interesting.

Oh, and I loved the irish character and how Peter Forbes narrated him. Peter Forbes, as gentle and unassuming as his narration is, really is great with accents.

“But here we are in the weeds again, here we are in the bowels of the thing: your world doesn’t make sense.”

Sunday 27th September, on a train travelling North

Late on Friday night I texted my father “I want to come home.” It had started with my washing machine. The washing machine in my flat is unusable, so I’m going to switch it with my own, much better one. Unfortunately my dad and I can’t lift it ourselves, so we need my sister to help. She was on holiday, so it was supposed to be this weekend once she had come back that it would be moved. Unfortunately my sister got sick. So no washing machine. I felt frustrated and started to long for home comforts. I love my flat but it’s still not quite my home. I wanted clean washing and to see my cat, and just for a time, to be a child again. On Saturday morning I woke to a text from my father-“why don’t you [come home]?”. Why don’t I? I thought, and impulsively decided to go for it.

I had a doctor’s appointment at 2pm, so I booked an afternoon train. I spent the morning cleaning and organising the flat and packing, and so after the doctors I could pretty much grab my stuff and go. I arrived in the city centre without fuss, but the city was busy and I felt myself beginning to panic as I wove through the crowds. There were too many people. Too much noise. I managed to sort out tickets and get to the platform, which was also packed. The train before mine was nearly full to the point I wondered if the station crew were going to have to start pushing people to fit, like they do in Asia. I was feeling sick and shaky at this point, and burdened by my heavy bags. I began to wonder if it was stupid, this impulsive trip. All I wanted was to do my laundry, see my cat and be nurtured, and how childish it all was. My train came and I squeezed on. I had to stand the whole way but I got home all right. My dad picked me up from the station and I couldn’t stop rambling on as we drove home. We stopped at the supermarket and drove on. Still I was nattering away, so happy to be home and to be with my dad. I didn’t get home sick like this at university. Yet I had spent my Friday night looking at pictures of my family and my cat and feeling so very alone.

I got home and we ordered takeout. We went to pick up the food and the whole shop smelled like chargrilled meat, and it took me right back to when I was living in Malaysia. I used to be able to buy a stick of chargrilled, spicy chicken with a freshly made naan and garlic sauce for very little. I used to love it as a late night snack after studying in the library for hours. I could hardly stand sitting there waiting for my food, the smell was so strong and familiar. The food in the canteen in Malaysia wasn’t all amazing, yet it was cheap and convenient. I sometimes miss being able to walk down in 5 minutes and pick up a large meal or a snack, without having to worry about price.

Anyway, after a delicious supper, I spent some time with my dad looking at his most recent pics. Then he dragged out the old family videos, much to my embarrassment. My father loved it though. In a surprising twist, it is my father suffering from empty nest, whilst my mom is fine. My dad was so happy to have me back. And it’s clear he is amazed and emotional over the fact that his little girls have grown up. He is so proud of my sister and me, but I think there is an element of sadness that we aren’t young and cute and fully dependent anymore. My father is protective, and you can tell he doesn’t quite want to let go (even if he is, this isn’t that kind of story). Look, he said, at the one video. That one (my cousin) is a vet, that one (my sister) is a chemist and that one (me) is an engineer. Who could tell at that time? He said. Which is, of course, true. I don’t think my parents really had a plan, or guidelines, they followed when raising us. They must be feeling quite relived it all turned out all right ;) My sister and I definitely surprised them at times. We both have elements of our parents in us, but I think we must have surprised our parents sometimes in just what their parenting was turning out (I believe in both Nature and Nurture.) Take that both ways – my sister and I both went through some rough phases. And of course, my father got very gooey over how cute my sister and I were, to my embarrassment and mock annoyance (“what do you mean by were?”)

Tuesday 29th September, a hotel room near London Heathrow

The next day my sister came round. Well, we picked her up and brought her home, as she was too sick to drive. She was pale and a little irritable, but otherwise good company for a sick person. Me, my dad and my sister squished onto the couch to watch some of her pics. The rest of the day followed as a quiet one spent with family and my cat, just as I had wanted. I was glad to go home after all. I needed it. I was a little sad to return to my new city, but at least the journey back was less crowded (I could sit!) and even getting from the train station to my flat turned out to be fairly painless.

Wednesday 30th September, a restaurant in London Heathrow

On Monday I went in to work, but only for a short time as I had a graduate Induction event on Tuesday and Wednesday which I was flying down to London Heathrow on Monday for. My flight was at 9pm so I didn’t feel too worried about missing it…at first. Monday was one of those days where everything, no matter how you plan it, everything goes just a little wrong. I was just a little late for the bus I wanted in the morning, so I had to wait 40 minutes until the next, and was subsequently late to work. I got home again OK, and I packed and left the house OK, but just didn’t make it to the bus stop in time and had to watch the bus I wanted pass me by. That bus was just a little early. The next was, of course, just a little late. I got on, got off, and then found myself stranded in the middle of the countryside waiting for my connection. By this point it was about 7pm. The bus was at 7.30pm. I waited, and waited and fretted if it would or would not come. But it did, and I got to the airport on time. I checked in and waited around then got my flight. The airport was so small that it was all extremely quick and easy. It was a short and relatively painless flight too and I got to London, where I exited terminal 5 and watched as the bus I wanted pulled away. Once again, I was just a little late.

Friday 2nd October, Home

I added dates and locations to this entry, to show how it’s come together. To show how hectic these past days have been, to the point I’m squeezing in quiet down time wherever I can.

Anyway, back to Monday. I waited at London Heathrow outside terminal 5 and eventually the bus came, and eventually I got to the hotel. The hotel was a lot fancier than I expected and I was a bit shocked at the room the company had let me have. It was no tiny, functional room like a Japanese business hotel. Unfortunately there was no free food, which I was really hankering for. I salivated over the room service menu then did the right then and went to take a shower and get ready for bed. I wished I hadn’t got in so late. I had to wake early the next morning, and when my alarm went off all I wanted to do was lie in the glorious hotel king size bed and continue to doze the day away. I dragged myself out with the thought of croissants and bacon and fresh fruit for breakfast at the hotel buffet, which is what did end up happening. It’s my typical hotel buffet treat…though usually I try adding more pastries.

Well, I guess the graduate Induction event was OK. I didn’t enjoy it, I found if far too stressful as a shy, anxious introvert- there were too many people there and what they were selling us was the extroverts ideal career path. But some of the talks were interesting. I also ate a lot of very good food, including over indulging in one too many fancy desserts (5 or 6 little rich morsels a meal…what), which made up for the sheer terror of it all. I did feel my confidence dip though. I had started to feel like I was beginning to settle in to my team at work, but the Induction event brought me right back to my first day- nervous, uncertain and utterly convinced that they’d made some kind of error, that it had been a mistake I was hired. It was a fairly depressing journey back, even if it was more straightforward.

I left the hotel and made the bus I wanted. I got to the airport nice and on time, and dropped my bags and went through security quick enough that I had some time to chill. I went to one of the restaurants and ordered one of the healthy looking meals to make up for all those desserts. I’m not one for salads usually, but sometimes you have to force that rabbit food down. The waiter was really sweet, and I feel bad for messing up the gratuity, even if I have a good excuse of it being my first time giving it. Now I have a salary I know it’s the proper thing to do, but I’ve not quite yet grasped it. Yes, my salary came through on Wednesday, and it wasn’t as much as I was expecting, but it was still more money than I have ever actually owned. Pretty cool.

After my meal I meandered around the duty free before boarding. It was a pleasant enough flight. The staff on my incoming flight were lovely, and then on the outgoing flight they were also really friendly and cheerful. I got back OK, and got a bus, followed swiftly by another, and got back home quickly. Much quicker than the outgoing, thats for sure.

But I was tired, and I did not really want to go in to work yesterday. I wanted to curl up in bed and stay there. I had had enough of dealing with the world to last a good while…but I went into work, and today too, and I did my best to work hard, even if I felt distracted, and demotivated, and negative. I feel a bit embarrassed about that latter one especially.

I’m glad it’s the weekend. I’m going to recharge my batteries so that next week I’ll be ready to throw myself back into work. And be more positive. I don’t hate my job, I am just living with the daily fear I’m not doing it properly, that I’m not good enough…that I’ll never be good enough. The anxious mind, that little traitorous part of my mind, is a little cow. And I found myself listening to it too much, as I retreated into myself to get through the Induction event. I need to rest and recover, as if with a wound to let heal. It will be OK though, of course. It has to be.

Saturday 3rd October, Home

Post title is Richard Siken again. During my foundation year I’d read through Crush on the train journey, again and again, and it soon became an embodiment of my fear and anxiety of that time. That book got me through that difficult year, where nothing was certain, and I was terrified for my future. And now once again I find myself on public transport, a bus this time, holding back tears as I read through those now familiar words. Once again, I find myself feeling those conflicted feelings – grateful to have been given a chance, pleased with my progress, but terrified of what comes next, of stumbling and ruining it all. A certain desperation, moving forward bravely, trying to find something, a clarity perhaps, or perhaps just a freedom from this constant anxiety and self-doubt. It’s funny how certain things come to represent certain other things and this is it with Crush.

I try to read through War of the Foxes the same way but it lacks the intensity, the raw grief, desperation, and let’s face it, misery of Crush. It’s still beautiful, with moments where the darkness of Crush shines through, but its themes are different and I can’t quite sink into it the same way I sunk into Crush. In the beautiful foreword to Crush by Louise Gluck, which I always read first before re-reading the book, she talks about the ferocity of Crush, the way it sinks its teeth into you. War of the Foxes sadly hasn’t done that for me. That didn’t stop me from purchasing the limited edition of it, but that was more to support Richard Siken and his agency, to give back something for what Crush has given me. It didn’t stop me from wishing there was a limited edition of Crush though, with the original, unedited poems (how I wish there was an unedited collection of the works that made it into crush!)

“We are all going forward. None of us are going back”

Well, all letters have come through now. I actually did get a single en-suite room, which resulted in me letting out a rather embarrassing shriek of joy when I found out. My father thought I had won the lottery or something equally epic. No, I just somehow ended up with what I wanted and never expected to get. I was surprised and slightly ecstatic to end up with my first choice of room. Even luckier, I am right next door to my close friend, who is also going to study abroad this year at the same university. With the letters also came the next wave of paperwork and I filled out what I hope is the last of the forms today. The hotel has also been booked, as well as the flights from Singapore to Malaysia.

I am not sure I have mentioned this before but my friend and I are taking a small trip to Singapore before heading onto Malaysia. We booked the flights to Singapore a while ago to ensure we get out to Asia, as there are many flights from Singapore to Malaysia, whereas the flights to Singapore were starting to book out and therefore increase in price. This makes me sound really organized but it was originally my friends idea. I am grateful for her of thinking of this, as it turned out to be a fantastic idea. We’ve got the flights we want, the hotel room we want, and will be spending 4 nights in Singapore to get some travelling done early, and at the same time adjust to Asia as tourists first. It all fell into place with surprising ease, which was a relief. I am greatly looking forward to passing out in a hotel room after the long flight, instead of having to deal with checking into campus. I am also growing very excited about visiting Singapore. I have been flicking through the single guidebook I own and writing itineraries in my head. I am actually rather excited to travel again. Although, I am praying that my friend and I don’t end up arguing, or annoying each other somehow during the 17 hours of travelling and the 5 days spent together thereafter. I hope it ends up being fun.

Apart from that, I am still spending my time trying to prepare. I am feeling better about packing in one aspect- books. I grew to dislike reading on my smartphone, as the screen was just too small to read for long periods of time comfortably, and it eats up battery life. I came to realise I should use my netbook for my reading, therefore I installed calibre and kindle for the desktop. With these on my little netbook I can safely say I feel a bit more confident about leaving my books behind and relying on ebooks for the next year. In the end during term time I don’t tend to read that much so if I could just have a few books on hand it would be fine. The only real drawback is how expensive ebooks are and how limited they are in some way. A lot of the books I want to read are quite old and don’t have digital formats, so I have been carefully reading reviews to find some books to load up for the year and almost every time I find a book I wish to read, the price is something I just cannot afford. I am watching the sales very carefully. I’m sure I’ll find something in the end.

I am still not making much progress with anything else. I did rewrite my to do list and made it more attractive…which is procrastination at its finest right. :/

But with everything booked and paperwork filled I think I can start to feel more optimistic. If I just steadily do a little bit each day it should be OK.

sky outside
It’s 5am (or it was when I started this entry). I went to bed in the early hours of the morning, when was it, sometime between 2.30am and 3.00am and I impulsively grabbed banana yoshimoto’s kitchen to read for 10 or 20 minutes to settle my mind. I ended up staying awake to read the entire book. I want to quote it, but I could not choose a single quote, because I would end up quoting the entire book, as the whole thing is profoundly beautiful. It is amazing how much the author says with so little. I cried  for almost the entire time as I was reading,  the words blurring on the page but still I kept reading, and even afterward I cried some more. I seem to have myself under control now. My face feels sticky- my tears seem to have left trails in my night cream or something. Currently the sky is light outside, I have my lights off and the curtains open, and I feel perfectly awake. I was going to start on another book but I suddenly felt like blogging and so why not.  I think I need a distraction, something to concentrate on, otherwise I’m not sure if I’ll just start crying again.

I went to the wedding reception on Saturday. It was lovely. To risk sounding like Ritsuka from loveless, I made some good memories. No really, I was glad I went, grateful to be invited, even at times I did feel uncomfortable.

The bride looked beautiful, and both bride and groom were so blissfully happy. I didn’t see either stop smiling at any one time. Sometimes you read in books about the way people in love look at each other,  and watching them together was one of those instances where I could really understand what that meant. I felt ridiculously happy for them, and who wouldn’t, seeing how joyful they were and how they looked at each other and how great their wedding seemed to have to turned out.

There were some awkward bits for me personally, of course. I clung to my sister like a child, following her around as much as I could get away with, because as as happy I was, I also felt painfully awkward, dolled up in clothes I didn’t feel comfortable in, surrounded by people I mostly didn’t know, some I did thankfully, although only a little. But mostly I’m not social and I was at  a social event. Total fish out of water scenario.  And there really was dancing and it was a terribly awkward, swaying on  the spot wishing for the ground to swallow me whole kind of affair. There was also an incredible amount of cake and food in general, and I ate to the point where I was sure I could not eat anymore (but still did)

The musician was a live one for most of the evening, this seventeen year old who was one of those ridiculously talented young people that makes one feel somewhat ashamed, like you’ve not done enough with your life, being older than them and  having so little that could make another person admire you. That kind of talent that makes difficult things look entirely effortless. My damn phone died so I could only capture parts of the performance, which sucked.

I did  try the drink to relax thing but in the end that plan failed miserably, as the only alcohol I don’t mind drinking is wine, and that just makes me sleepy. By the end of the evening I was exhausted, probably mostly because of the wine, but still I can’t imagine what it must be like for those who had a bigger part in the wedding, and the couple themselves. I know my sister was emotionally drained. Although I clung to her because I was unsure, I also made sure to be available for when she needed a hug, or to lean into me for a moment.  I am left wishing to never be a bridesmaid, and I did ponder what I’d do when my best friend gets married. (Likely, panic and be useless D:) The amount of work that went into the wedding is incredible, but everything turned out great and  I think it was the wedding the couple wanted, which is all that really matters isn’t it.

Since then I have been back in halls, passing the days lazily, without much purpose, just idly wasting time. I think to myself that I should be doing more with this time, and I try to remember the things I had wanted to do when I had less free time only to find I can’t remember. I have too much time to my thoughts right now. I am very anxious about exams. This bizarre all nighter has been good in that way- allowing me to lose myself in someone else’s thoughts, and their sadness, instead of wallowing in my own.

The picture is of outside my window, the sky at this time is not as impressive as I’d wish.

I can’t seem to end this entry, or even to write it the way I wish. It’s very early, I’ve had no sleep, and my thought are disjointed. I’ll publish this anyway. It can’t be any worse than some of my previous entries XD

Thinking Out Loud

I am currently…

□ eating some Droste extra dark chocolate. It’s so bitter and utterly delicious. My dad recently came back from a business trip to South Africa and bought lots of edible things from there, and the Droste he bought as he changed over at Schiphol. :D

□ thinking of re-learning how to crochet…again. I learned it when I was child, and again when I was a slightly older child and although it was exciting at the time I never actually did anything with the skill and quickly forgot it. For some reason I want to start again. I don’t know why. I’m just bored and looking for things to do with my time. I should really learn how to knit because there’s a hobby which will be somewhat useful (I could make scarves! and hats!) Alas, I cannot knit to save my life. So, crocheting. Yay? Nay? I could totally crochet a scarf…is that possible? idek. Maybe I’ll start cross-stitching again or finish off the millions of unfinished got-bored-of-it cross stitch projects I have lying around (I have a short attention span when it comes to 80% of my hobbies. I cannot do the same thing for too long before I get bored and give up. I know that is a less than desirable quality to have.)

□ thinking about driving and how I should have really been done with my theory test by now and well into practical lessons. I am wondering if I am being an idiot for not taking the chance to learn to drive this year, and if it’s already too late, and if it even matters and at the end of the day. I don’t actually want to learn to drive…I just feel I have to. But do I? Can’t I rely on public transport, as much as I hate it? I will admit for the first time that driving completely petrifies me. The fact that if I got distracted just for one second that I could kill someone(s)…petrifies me. Having that much responsibility is not something I want. I don’t know. I go over it again and again in me head Should I? Shouldn’t I? and in the end nothing gets done. At this rate I don’t think I’ll be learning to drive until I’m in my twenties. Is there anything wrong with that? Should I be ashamed of that? I don’t know anyone else my age who hasn’t already gotten their drivers out the way already :/

□ Reading Happily Ever After by Adele Geras and The Cup of the World by John Dickinson. The former is boring me so I began the latter. I am disappointed in Happily Ever After as Troy by the same author is one of my favourite books ever, and although Happily Ever After is beautifully written the story…feels flat. I am bored of it. I don’t get love at first sight and love that consumes you so totally that you would sacrifice anything for it. I don’t know, I guess I just don’t know much about love in the end. The Cup of the World I am re-reading. I adore this book. It is wonderfully written and the medieval world with just a little touch of magic, romance, and a load of political intrigue is everything I search for in a book. I cannot wait to get through the rest of the medieval trilogy by this author.

□ Worrying about how in a moment of stupidity because of being sleepy from painkillers and boredom I signed myself up to go to the 21st birthday party of a dude in my class. So lets get this straight: it’s a) a party b) for someone I don’t know c) with loads of people I don’t know. Why did I put my name down?! D: I am currently hoping he’ll check tomorrow we are all still up for it and I can make excuses, or I’ll text him on…Friday the night before and say “Something came up!” or “I’m currently and not at all conveniently sick!” idek. I might just not show up: I highly doubt anyone would notice or even care if I wasn’t there. I don’t really have any friends in my class. Most likely cos I’m awkward and unfriendly and slightly weird (not to mention boring and totally uncool). To be honest, I’d much rather stay this anti-social for the time being. There’s a certain safety in being alone.

□ Worked up over the whole university thing and what the hell am I going to do next year?. I have visited two universities thus far  and I think I have an idea of where I want to go next year but nothing is set in stone. Not to mention I need the grades. I am constantly thinking about this, constantly worrying. What do I want? Where do I want to go? Why do I want to go there? Can I acheive the grades required? I wish I could switch my thoughts off but the more I try not to think about it the more I do.

My thoughts are all over the place- one moment here, the next moment there. Over-thinking is a terrible, terrible thing. I shall now eat more chocolate and watch something fun in an attempt to distract myself.