“I end up feeling empty, like you’ve taken something out of me, and I have to search my body for the scars, thinking ‘Did he find that one last tender place to sink his teeth in?'”

This weekend was another long weekend for me: I’m disorganized enough that I booked the Friday off without realising I was doing so directly after a long bank holiday weekend. Oh well. I went home to my parents on Friday and stayed with them over the weekend. On Friday and Saturday we chilled at home and I showed my parents all my photos from my trip to south Africa, and then on Sunday I went for a nice walk with my dad into the Peak District, before traveling back to my flat. It was a nice weekend, but also awkward, with the usual bickering and arguing to listen to, and try to blank over. Arguments between my parents, my mom ranting at me, and my sister came round once just to shout at everyone which made it all awkward, and it’s just tiring, that kind of atmosphere. I wish my family got on better. Or rather, that we could find some middle ground. Either we are getting on or we aren’t and it’s often hard to tell when the tide has turned. I felt particularly sad to be shouted at by my sister, who I usually get on well with, but she has a cruelty to her, which shows itself randomly and in that way, always takes me by surprise. You never know when she will turn on you, and that makes me feel vulnerable and sad. (It’s confusing – how just a week ago everything was fine and yet now it’s not.) It hurts to see such ugly sides of the people you love. Sometimes it feels like the only one who really wants me to come back, and who enjoys me being there, is my father. It’s a little disheartening – to endure over two hours of boring public transport, and to pay the ridiculous over expense of it, to go there and just end up feeling tired and drained. But I guess if it’s making just one person happy, I shall continue to try and be good and visit my parents as often as I can.

Still. Once going home to my parents felt like a refuge, but now it feels like just another place I need to put on a mask and craft a careful personality in order to avoid stirring the pot or doing something wrong, much like work. It’s not great. I feel unbelievably tired of it all. It was a good walk on Sunday though – the sun was trying to shine, it did not rain, there was no wind, no snow or ice, and the air was warm but not too warm, and smelt fresh after rain on Saturday. We did have to squelch through some terrible mud at one point, but otherwise it was not too hard and very pleasant.

Today I started work at another office, which requires a much longer commute. To get there, I drove on narrow, winding, pot holed, country roads for a good deal of the way, feeling pressured to go much faster than I was comfortable with the entire time by other people driving on my tail. I don’t see what they think they are acheiving by driving on my bumper, except making me more nervous and prone to mistakes. Sigh. This morning there was a thick mist which obscured my view, so it felt like I was driving into nothing. It was very disorientating. Thankfully it had cleared for my evening commute. And, although I was even more stressed this evening, tired and desperate to be home, not bumping along on the country roads with some person on my tail, the countryside was beautiful, and I saw a lot of wildlife. Tommorow I’m trying a different route though, which should hopefully be less in the country. Some much better roads. I hope it goes well.

Long Weekend

The long weekend kind of snuck up on me. I didn’t realise it was Easter weekend until my sister contacted me earlier in the week to say she could come round for the bank holiday if I was free. It was pretty awesome to realise I would have four days off work. Friday and Saturday I switched between chilling out and cleaning. I’d been feeling aweful all last week- headache – and so appreciated the rest and the fact I could slowly go through my chores, no rush. Well, apart from the fact my sister was coming on Sunday. She turned up around lunch on Sunday. We ate, a simple lunch of butternut soup and bread, then we went to a local park for a walk. Of course, the weather was aweful, cold and rainy, and our little walk was fairly short, both of us eager to get inside. We retreated back to mine and spent the rest of the day watching all of Michael McIntyre’s stand up dvds- which were very funny- and ordered takeaway for supper. (Vegan junkfood, yum.)

Today the weather was even worse – as it had snowed overnight. Is it not typical? Finally time off work and there’s snow. My sister and I headed out anyway as I had booked lunch. We shopped a bit then went to lunch. At a cat cafe. Yep, I finally got to go to a cat cafe. One opened at my old city just before I left so I never really had the chance to go. So when one opened in my new city I was determined to experience it. Food and cats – what could be better? It was my sister’s birthday recently so I thought it would be the perfect surprise celebration for her. (She loves cats too.) Of course, she figured it out before we got there. I’d told her I had a surprise for her birthday and to come round sometime for it. But on Sunday she asks me casually if we’re going to the cat cafe. She cannot be fooled :(

She was still excited though and happy I’d thought of it. We had an hour’s slot. Enough to have lunch and wander around the cafe several times trying to find cats, and trying to get them to approach us. Only once we had food did any of them come close to us. Typical cats. There were many of them and they were adorable but of course more interested in chilling out and doing their own thing than anything else. Just being there, and occasionally succeeding at petting the kitties was enough though. The whole atmosphere of the place was just wonderful- with how they’d designed it, all comfy armchairs, cat and local scenery themed decor, and cat towers and mini waterfalls they could drink from, and cat shelves and wooden walkways between then, but also so many different kinds of people, all going loopy over these cats no matter what age or how they looked or whatever. The food was yummy too and they had wonderfully named mocktails – I had a kitty floss and my sister had a cattitude. It was, basically, awesome. And a perfect indoor activity too. So nice to be out the cold and the rain and spend an hour in a room full of cats with my sister. (my favourite animal and my favourite person, respectively.) We shopped a bit more then headed home. Thankfully despite overnight snow it rained all day so it was still miserable weather but easy to drive at least.

My sister went home and then I spent my evening not doing very much, and feeling a little nervous about work tommorow. It’s easy to fall into this altogether more pleasant routine – sleeping late, idling the day away, doing the bare minimum, eating too much Easter chocolate etc.

“The truth does not change according to our ability to stomach it.”

Today I decided I was going to take a day trip to the Yorkshire Coast again. The difference this time was- I was going to drive it. I set off very early in the morning, grabbed a Starbucks, and then headed across to the coast. I had just a single high-speed road to take before a set of narrow, twisty country roads so it wasn’t beyond my abilities – that, and the roads were very quiet early on a Sunday morning. It was just very long.

Gannets
My trip started with a visit to the RSPB Bempton Cliffs. Context: The RSPB is the Royal Society of Birds. The Bempton Cliffs are a long stretch of sheer cliffs part of the Yorkshire coast which serve as a key nesting site for thousands of sea birds, many of them rare (especially in these parts) such as Puffins and Gannets. I have been wanting to go there for the longest time, because I want to see puffins (because who wouldn’t want to see Puffins.) Although the drive did get stressful on the approach to the cliffs, because of aforementioned twisty country roads, I got there OK and even managed to park OK. It was just past 10 when I had arrived, so the drive was just over an hour and a half. Bearable, especially with my excitement about the puffins to motivate me!

At the entrance to the nature reserve a very nice man from the RSPB talked me through my visit and what I could expect to see and he provided a helpful handout – for free no less – with detailed illustrations of the birds to help identify them.
I entered the reserve and began my walk along the cliffs, stopping at all the viewpoints to look for puffins. There were thousands of birds coating every available surface of the cliffs, sitting on the water and flying around the cliffs. (They were incredibly noisy too.) There were a lot of people there too, and I felt quite inadequate compared to the sheer number of them carrying all manners of binoculars, tripods, telescopes and DLSRs with what looked like a meter of lenses attached to them. A lot of people there were clearly Very Serious about birdwatching, and were planning to spend a long time at it. (I even spotted a man asleep, and snoring, on a bench and I imagined him spending his morning at a viewpoint, taking a noon nap before carrying on.) I felt a little sad when they could spot puffins and no matter how much I scanned with my camera on full zoom I just couldn’t. Looking for tiny little puffins among all those thousands of birds was a very strange, frustrating game of ‘Where’s Wally?’, with the picture far away and constantly shifting.

PUFFINS!!!
But, I did manage to see some puffins. Maybe not as many as I wanted/expected? But I was so close to the ones I did see which was absolutely amazing. I definitely agree with the RSPB information that they are slightly comical in looks, but I also found them incredibly cute. I could also see Gannets, Kittiwakes, Herring Gulls, Guillemots and Razorbills. (Basically all the birds listed on the sheet bar two!) I saw the very young, very fluffy babies of the gannets and kittiwakes, nestled in under a parent (Interestingly, and luckily, when I look over my photos I can zoom in and spot things I never picked up with my own eyes – an extra puffin, more babies. It’s pretty cool and I can see why most people were carrying about such heavy equipment – their photos must be incredible.) It was absolutely amazing and it would have been worth the drive just for that, but my day would get better.

My sister is in holiday in Scarborough with some girlfriends at the moment. So I asked her if I could crash their holiday for the day so I could see her- and she said yes :) I drove into Scarborough from the Bempton Cliffs, getting a little lost trying to find the car park I had chosen thanks to my GPS going wonky, but again just about managing it. I met my sister and her friends at a small, out of the way restaurant where we had food like hot sandwiches, burgers, chips, salad and nachos for lunch. It was all freshly made, very simple but flavorful and reasonably priced. 10/10. After a filling lunch we made our way to the beach, where we set ourselves up for the rest of the afternoon. I waded into the water with my sister for a bit, but then we both just lay down and chilled in the sun. Although the day had started out a bit grey, and I had started out wrapped up at the cliffs, it turned into a gloriously bright and sunny day and I was hot even after shedding all my extra layers.

It was really relaxing, lazing about in the sun with my sister and her friends, talking about nothing in particular and soaking in the warmth.

We then went into one of the arcades and wasted only a small amount of money playing the 2 pence a go games, then we did some quick souvenir shopping and headed back to the car. The walk back to the car was unfortunately uphill most of the way and I don’t think anyone was impressed with my choice of parking. :/

Although this was my first time taking passengers, thankfully the nerves about that didn’t get me too much and I drove everyone back safely to their accommodation. I pretty much dropped them off then set off back home. The drive back was way more tiring and I had to stop for some caffeine – even though it was late and I knew it would affect my sleep, I was getting worried for myself and my concentration. After getting a shot of caffeine in me I was OK for the rest of the drive. Thankfully the roads remained quiet and I got home in good time. I am interested to see how I will sleep tonight, if I will manage to wake up tomorrow morning, and how driving will be tomorrow… I’ve had a great day though and I’m feeling pretty proud for all the “driving firsts” I ticked off today, successfully.

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.