Cathedral

The bank holiday weekend couldn’t have come soon enough – it was wonderful to have four days off work without having to use up my leave. I gave the flat a good clean and then went home to my parents for Easter. Both my sister and I came home that Sunday so we could have lunch together as a family. My parents hid our eggs in the garden, just as they used to do as we were kids. This was random, but amusing. After a good lunch, we sat around and talked…well, bickered, and ate chocolate, and it was a nice chill day. On Monday I went with my dad to Liverpool; there was an organ concert being held at the Liverpool Cathedral which we wanted to see. We did see it, and it was nice, though perhaps not as dramatic as I would have liked.

Afterwards we looked around the cathedral (and I learned that the phrase “pull out all the stops” is to do with the function of an organ, which fascinated me) and then we decided to pay to go to the top of the Cathedral. It turned out to be quite an adventure to get the top! We had to take two lifts and then climb some terrifyingly exposed stairs (I should not have looked down) before we reached the top. The views were amazing up there though. Although it had, of course, been raining the entire bank holiday weekend the sun was trying to come out on Monday. We could see clearly to the Mersey and could spot a few recognizable landmarks such as the Radio Tower and the Metropolitan Cathedral.

Afterwards, we took the lift to another set of viewpoints – to some of the balconies at the top of the inside of the cathedral. This was the coolest. I have always wondered about the hidden stairways and balconies in a cathedral and we actually got to see some of that. Looking down from the balconies was so cool: the people below were tiny and busy, like in a Lowry painting.

I was so glad I had brought my camera. My father meanwhile had not, and without a strap on his phone, was left to take pictures whilst clinging on to his phone for dear life (can you imagine dropping something from that height…)

After the Cathedral we went to get lunch at a terribly overcrowded Pizza Express, and then did some light shopping before going to the World Museum. I loved the World Museum when I was a student in Liverpool; it’s free to enter with a small aquarium which I remembered had some beautiful tanks. I would pop in after or between lectures and sit and watch the fish to cheer myself up/relax. Sadly, the aquarium was undergoing a lot of work when we went in and it wasn’t like I remembered at all. We wandered around some of the other sections and it was nice, but I was disappointed about the fish. I guess nostalgia may have tinted my memories a little, made them better than they were? I know that does happen. It’s funny how familiar Liverpool feels to me, but also how distant now. It’s been a long time since I was a student there. Still, it was a fun day.

I’m not able to travel abroad this year for various reasons, and my UK Railcard which gives me discounts on rail travel is expiring, so I really do need to get out and explore around me like this as much as I can to keep myself from getting restless and to make the most of my discounted travel whilst I still have it.

It was such a long, exhausting journey back to my city from Liverpool though. I slept like the dead and woke up late on Tuesday. I was not particularly looking forward to going back to work after such a nice break either which did not help my motivation. But the week flew by in the end, and was mostly uneventful. I did drive to work every day and back which I am super proud of. As implied, I had taken the train to see my parents and to go to Liverpool, as I couldn’t face such long journeys by car. And I am still a very…all over the place driver. I have good days and bad days, but I am doing my best to gain experience. Today I also put petrol in my car for the first time which I am also proud of myself for (I even managed to figure out how to reset my trip meter!) then I drove down to my local park/nature reserve for a walk in the nice sunshine (of course the weather would turn brilliant when it’s not a four day weekend. :| ) and to check out the status of the spring flowers – the snowdrops have gone, the daffodils are ending, and now finally the bluebells are here. There were also many birds out, and I could see some baby ones too. It’s lovely to see the world come alive after the cold, dark winter. I love how long the days are now. I really got my driver’s licence at the ideal time – not having to worry about driving in the ice, snow or heavy rain just yet (fingers crossed). I drive to work in the light and leave in the light and it’s just wonderful. My days feel so much longer now.

I’m not looking forward to this upcoming week at all: I have my annual performance review and some scary training course coming up. I also have a few doctors’ appointments coming up, for nothing major, just investigation, but it’s a little worrying. The last post was kind of freeing to write though. Sometimes just admitting I’m not OK is enough to feel just a little better. I’m not OK, so I may as well not be OK and getting on with the things I need to be doing!

It was my sister’s birthday recently so I met up with her yesterday to celebrate. We met up in Manchester, and did some shopping and then went for a meal. We happened upon a random food market and I discovered Manchester Tarts, which turned out to be a little sickly but delicious. My sister also took me to this awesome book and music store and I splurged on several new DVDs and books but they were so individually cheap I can’t feel too bad. I also bought new makeup, because there is no such thing as too much skincare and makeup (ahem.) Did I mention my sisters’ boyfriend came along? He was extremely patient whilst being dragged through the shops by my sister and me. I felt a little awkward with him there but I tried to nice, and I’m hoping he wasn’t too uncomfortable/wishing it was just my sister too much. Later, my mom and dad also joined us for the meal and it was a little overwhelming to have us all together (and so weird to be single whilst my sister is there settled into her relationship and bringing him into the family. I felt a little bit like a hanger on, OK. Group outings should always be even numbers.) But it was fun and the food was delicious. We went for Thai food at Chao Phraya. We last went there for my 21st birthday. It’s a good place to go to for special meals- with food that is a little up there in price, but extremely tasty, a lovely drinks menu including delicious mocktails, a good atmosphere and very nice staff too. Afterwards my mom and my sister insisted on going to one last shop, so they did, and myself, my dad and my sisters’ boyfriend sat on the comfy couches outside the changing rooms and waited. Then we all headed to get our respective trams/trains to get home. I got home late, and was sleepy, but happy.

Despite having high hopes for last weeks worth of work, I ended up having a terrible week (for various reasons I won’t bore you with) and it was great to have a nice day out with my family, not thinking about work, being a little frivolous, eating good food. I am a little nervous for this week at work, as last week has definitely kicked my already low motivation, but I’ve taken Friday off and I am going to look forward to a nice, long (much needed) weekend.

“Warm spring that left, won’t you come back to me?”

The past weeks have been swinging between extreme highs and extreme lows. Work is…there is a situation I cannot talk about but which is crushing me right now. I am stressed out and anxious. But in other ways things are good right now – my flat is not looking like a complete disaster for once, I have been getting into reading again and enjoying some good dramas too, my neighbour’s cat has taken to coming into my flat and letting me play with him and cuddle him, and I’ve had some pretty good weekends spent actually doing stuff and not holed up at home feeling sorry for myself (see: work.)

One of my goals when I moved to this city was to take advantage of the cultural elements available to me, and take advantage of my salary, to see more shows. I love going to the theatre to see ballets, plays and operas and I don’t do it nearly enough. So I’m doing something about that now. Opera North are currently hosting a Fairy Tale season and I’ve got tickets to them all. I love fairy tales, especially the dark originals. For these shows too, I admit I was drawn in by the posters, which show the main characters in traditional costuming, although I have been confused as to how different the operas are turning out to the posters. (Very confused.) Anyway, I also bought tickets for Turandot in May. This gives me something to look forward to in these stressful times, and gets me out the house, which is also good (see: no moping.) It’s not too expensive either. After all, you can get a seat for just £15, and I bought a three opera package which meant that both Hansel and Gretel and Cinderella were £13.70 each! (Lets not talk about how expensive Turandot was even with a three opera discount – I wanted a good seat and I better have got one!)

So, the other weekend I saw the first of the fairy tales: the Russian “Snow Maiden”. My sister came up to my city and we went out to supper and then to see the show and it was all awesome. The Snow Maiden was extremely odd – it felt like it should have been sung in Russian, and the costumes were a bizarre mix of traditional and modern that made little sense (I don’t get why the Snow Maiden was in jeans for nearly the entire show whilst all the other characters got to change into different costumes. It was in stark contrast to the beautiful dress that Snow Maiden is wearing in the posters for the show. Shouldn’t the main character be the most beautiful, the one that stands out the most?) But it was short and funny and wonderful. My sister and I went shopping the next day which was also great fun.

I went to see the second of the fairy tales last weekend: the German “Hansel and Gretel”. This was a full on modern production of the opera. Again not as advertised, at all, though I did end up loving it. The music was stunning, and the opera itself was…surreal. It was very odd and slightly disturbing (young children singing happily after brutally burning to death a witch OK then) but it felt true to the dark spirit of the original fairy tale. I thought it was a more successful modern rendition of the opera than the Snow Maiden – the snow maiden swung between traditional and modern, which was confusing, but this one went all out modern. So OK. It was also hilarious… and I loved some of the odd details, like the witches wand being an electric beater (so random) and the use of video and cameras. It was really great. I also appreciated that it was also short – as much as I enjoyed 5 hours of parsifal, it can be a big demand on your time to sit through such a long show! I missed my sister, my default show-going partner, but she let me text her throughout the evening so it was like she was right there with me anyway. :)

I am looking forward to Cinderella, although I was drawn in to that by the gorgeous poster (the dreamy dress Cinderella is wearing, with bare feet) and from these two I can tell already that the actual product is going to be very different. Cinderella will at least be sung in the traditional Italian. Both Snow Maiden and Hansel and Gretel were in English. :( I can understand that for accessibility and drawing younger crowds (a goal of this opera season, if I’m reading the programmes correctly) it makes sense to present the operas in their English versions, but one thing I enjoy about the opera is getting to hear different languages. I would have loved to have heard Russian. Oh well.

This weekend though I am…actually holed up at home. I had plans to go out and buy some more fish, but it’s too cold and miserable. Winter is starting to get to me – dark mornings, grey, dull days and then it’s only a matter of time before its dark again. Last weekend there was actually some sunshine and I felt optimistic that spring may have finally started to come…the bulbs are starting to show… surely it should be time? I need some sunshine already. I’m starting to get cabin fever. I pace through my own flat, filled with restless energy. That’s maybe just the anxiety though. I wish work would be better. Then everything would be so great. I suppose it’s an impossible dream to want everything to be going perfectly well at all times. Come spring, hopefully things can settle down at least. Being pushed to these extremes, often quickly, is exhausting. I try on focus on all the good things going on in my life right now, those highs, but the stress of the lows leaves me so tired out and makes even being happy feel too effortful.

New Year

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Needless Alley, Birmingham

Christmas turned out to be as expected – very quiet, but nice. We followed our plans – Christmas morning, my parents and I packed up the presents in bags, boxed up the food and drove to my sister’s house. My sister had put a lot of effort into making up her house for our family celebrations: she’d put up a tree, and set the table beautifully.

We opened presents and then set about making lunch, eating lunch, and then lazing around after lunch and finishing up with a family game of scrabble, where my sister won over me by 3 points. (3 points!) My sister’s cat was at first overwhelmed, but then quite happy to hang around us, which was cute. By the end of the day she even tentatively came to sit next to me. I got some good presents this year – mostly stuff for my home, as usual. (That’s not an unhappy as usual. I usually request things for my home – it’s interesting to see how people interpret it, and adding those different touches to my house. I like filling my house with things that have an association with a loved one, and/or a pleasant memory.) It was a nice day, but I was exhausted by the evening; as an introvert I can’t take so long spent around people, even my own family. Usually on Christmas I try to retreat in the afternoon, and reappear in the evening. As I was at my sisters house I didn’t feel comfortable roaming around, or retreating, and I felt a pressure to socialise. So I did not get my retreat and recharge time, and it was a little uncomfortable.

Thankfully, for boxing day I could stay at home and ignore everyone. :P

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Turtle in a Santa Hat

The next day my sister and I went to Birmingham together. We shopped the sales a bit, had a meal and then went to Sea Life aquarium! It was awesome. Quite a small aquarium, but plenty to see. It was not too busy either, which was really nice. It was especially good being able to enjoy their 360 shark tunnel without the pressure to keep moving to accommodate the crowds. My sister and I spent ages watching the sharks, and trying to spot their turtle (Surprisingly, even a giant turtle can do what my fish do – hide themselves away perfectly, not a trace.) The aquarium had been done up for Christmas – with lights in the decorative palm trees in the aquarium, a Santa hat on one of their statues, and a plastic Christmas tree in their main tank with the sharks. It was kind of adorable. It was another long, tiring day, but lots of fun and it’s easier to be around just my sister rather than dealing with the whole family. (Not including the cat.)

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Shark not bothered by Christmas tree in his tank

Since then I’ve come back to the flat and reunited with the fish, who probably didn’t even know I was gone, and met up with my sister in Manchester for more sales shopping. Between those two outings I have managed to buy a lot of nice work stuff at reduced prices, which is awesome. I basically bought several sweaters of similar colors and different styles, but as I live in sweaters+pants/skirt combos at work I think I can justify it. And I finally found a nice smart coat I can wear for my meetings! There’s nothing like putting on your formal wear only to cover it up in a casual coat…Which I’ve been doing for over a year now as coats being expensive, I struggled to commit to buying something nicer. But I found a good formal coat and a good price on it in the sales this time. It was still painful to hand it over at the till, but I can live with it. (And finally I can package myself properly for my meetings, which is pretty priceless to be honest.) I then had a driving lesson today. But mostly I’ve been relaxing and enjoying not having to go to work.

I have to go back to work eventually, of course. I have mixed feelings on it. But whatever, still got a couple of days to myself, and I plan to do nothing and enjoy it thoroughly.

Happy new year!!!

(Pictures are from the trip to Birmingham!)

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The Birmingham Bullring shopping center Bull dressed up as a Christmas pudding, because why not

In a World Without You

A life update.

I went to see Bastille in concert recently. They were supported by Rationale. Thank you Bastille for introducing me to such a powerful, soulful voice. I was disappointed to find out afterward that Rationale won’t be releasing an album until next year, which means the songs I heard are unreleased? I am confused. Anyway, after Rationale Bastille came on stage and played a great mix of old and new songs. They played some of my favourites like Laura Palmer, The Draw and Of the Night. Although they skipped out their fabulous city high cover of What Would You Do?, which made me sad. I went with my sister, who had seen Bastille before they were famous (my sister is an unintentional hipster) and it was interesting to hear her talk about how before they were barely filling the standing area, when now the whole arena except for one block was packed. The lead singer was constantly wandering around stage and weaving into the crowd, which was a bizarre game of where’s Wally, followed by two massive bodyguards. He had nothing before, my sister claims. The concert was too short. It was massive fun. And although I didn’t get a chance to check out their latest album before going, I’ve bought it since, intrigued by what I heard. I’ve been looping the album daily since and I like it, though not quite as much as their first. Though to be honest, the bonus disc of Bad blood probably contains some of their best work. I’ve also been looping my videos of Rationale and waiting impatiently for his new album – which I’ve got preordered. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a concert, and it was good fun. The crowds were intense though, and I don’t think I could have coped with that aspect without having my sister next to me.

My sister stayed at mine for the night then the next day we went to see our parents together, where I was to stay for the weekend. I wanted to go back to see my cat…wasn’t there. I needed to see she was gone. It was weird though, being home without her there. I kept looking for her – instinctively scanning every room I entered, looking out the window to see if she was in the garden, looking up at every noise, wondering if that was her, jumping off one of the beds upstairs, or something. I couldn’t find her and I couldn’t make sense of it. I still can’t stop thinking about her, missing her. We received her ashes back from the pet crematorium recently, and we ordered a small memorial stone for her today. It really is tiny, just a little piece of slate engraved with her name. We will bury her beneath the azaleas were she spent her last days, and place the stone to mark the grave, subtle and not fussy, just something to honour her. She was our first proper pet. My first pet. I didn’t realise that I had beliefs about death or what comes next, and I am surprised by how strong some of my feelings are when it comes to how she should be laid to rest. Like, I desperately want to bury her with her nametag, and some of her favourite things. I want her to have them with her for…later. I didn’t know I held that belief. My family probably thinks I am a little crazy.

My sister recently got her own cat, and I am a little jealous. I’m not sure what is too soon for a new cat for myself, but I know I do want another one at some point. There is a cat shaped hole in my heart. I cannot have my own though, due to my rental contract, so I am relying on my parents to want another one. I am slightly jealous of my sister for having her own house now, and having the freedoms that come with it. It can be hard to have an older sibling, to see them ahead in the future, living out the life you are still working towards.

I have really been so gloomy since my cat died. I thought, I wanted, to come back from holiday happy and relaxed, but my cat’s death shook me and uprooted me. I lost my way for a little while, and I am only just putting the pieces back together. I have started my happiness journaling again, I am watching my diet more closely (I stopped eating for a time after my cat died, subsiding mostly on random binging episodes of much junk), and am cleaning up the house, getting that all back together.

I miss her too much.