Welcome! Honest Lies is the personal site of a 24 year old graduate electrical engineer living in the UK. Covering every day life, books and various other randomness. Read more about me and the site here.

I took the day off work today. The weather was beautiful and I was sure I should enjoy it, but after taking a lie-in and doing some chores I found myself at a loss to what to do with myself. I kept checking my work emails, looking for an excuse to get dragged back in. I didn’t get one. In the end, after some time sitting in my favourite chair, absentmindedly flicking through social media, I decided to get started on my Betta fishes new tank. He was housed in an undersized 12L. I had incorrectly stated it as 19L on this blog, but it was actually only 12L. With a heater and filter it wasn’t too bad, but it was far from ideal. I had wanted to upgrade him to something larger and I was thinking perhaps something fancier too, but bigger, fancier tanks are expensive, and my father pointed out (rightly) that my floors might not like two very large tanks. So in the end I picked up a cheap 24L kids aquarium – basically the larger version of his current tank. That way, I could keep my existing heater, wouldn’t have to pick up too many new decorations…and there wouldn’t be too much extra weight on my floor.

I decided for his new tank that I wanted to add some wood. His tank always seemed a bit plastic and although I wasn’t about to put in some real plants – I didn’t want to buy lighting, or deal with snails/algae/dead plant matter like I do for my big tank- I wanted something organic. A big slab of wood seemed a good choice to add something natural. I picked it up last weekend- crouching on the floor of the pet shop looking through all their samples for the perfect piece, I’d even brought a tape measure with me to check the sizes- and I had been soaking it all week to remove the tannins. These tannins leech out of the wood, turning the water brown. It’s harmless to the fish, but I didn’t want that kind of look for my tank. But the tannins wouldn’t go, so in the end I found myself spending my afternoon boiling this wood in a big pot on the stove. Exciting, right.

It seemed to do a good job getting those tannins out though. And the boiling would also have killed any potential bacteria or fungus in the wood, which is good too.

After that, I rinsed out the new tank, rinsed the new gravel (I was going to combine black gravel with the lighter gravel in the existing tank for a fancy looking substrate), emptied out the existing tank partly so I could move it to one side and put the new one on the table. Then I began to pull apart the old tank, poor fish still in it and looking quite bemused, and build up the new one. Finally, I moved the fish to a bucket so I could finish taking out the items and substrate in the existing tank and empty the last of the water in the new tank. (Poor little guy was definitely having a time of it through this process. Thankfully in the wild, as far as my research suggests, betta’s have to deal with these situations now and then. They have a gland that lets them breathe in air to get oxygen to help them deal with stagnant water conditions. So he could deal without a filter and a small space, only for a time though, as it would be stressful for him to actually live this way. That’s why you shouldn’t keep betta’s in those pathetic 7L betta tanks with no heaters or filters. They may survive it, but it’s stressful for the fish to live like that…I found this article on the Betta’s natural habitat very interesting. You can find a picture of a betta in the wild here, which is also interesting.)

I removed the old tank, pushed the new tank into position and put the fish back in alongside his bucket of water. (I decided to risk using the new tank straight away, due to needing to place it in the same location.) Slowly, I filled the tank, watching as my fish explored every nook of his new territory. Finally, I got the heater and old filter on. I still need to create a baffle for the new filter so I can get that established. I need to buy a new background for the tank. The fish looks happy though, albeit still a little bewildered by all the new space.

He is finally in a proper sized tank. Finally, his tank doesn’t look so pathetic next to my big 120L.

I’m very pleased with it too, though I do think I want to make it even more heavily planted going forwards…

This is how we must be with our minds. We must allow ourselves to feel their gales and downpours, but all the time knowing this is just neccesary weather. When I sink deep, now, and I still do from time to time, I try and understand that there is another, bigger and stronger part of me that is not sinking. It stands unwavering. It is, I suppose, the part that would have been once called my soul.

– Reasons to Stay Alive, Matt Haig

I finished this book a few months back and it still sticks with me. I devoured this book at the time- stealing moments to read on the bus, over a cup of coffee before work (two things I would never usually do.) It is not a perfect book – it does feel a bit dismissive towards medication, and there are some other parts that maybe shifted against me in the wrong way. Overall though, it’s a beautifully written, very honest and personal, account of living with mental illness, and coming to terms with it. I also loved the parts with the tweeted responses from other people as to their own reasons to stay alive- taking the book away from the author’s point of view to brilliant effect. And now, I have a bunch of quotes saved on my phone that I still read over when I need a moments comfort. Today, I am thinking about it too.

(Also: this will sound bad but I love how short this book is. I have too many long, clinical self-help books that, no matter how brilliantly written, just end up feeling like a chore to read.)

Miss You

I’ve spent the past few days in a cabin in Scotland with my family, no internet, and no cellphone reception. I was tempted to write “stuck with my family” but that sounded a little extreme, as it wasn’t all bad.

It was only somewhat bad.

Wait. Backtrack.

My father drove us – my mother, my sister and myself – up to Rowardennan on Thursday. It was an extremely long drive, just over six hours in total, most of it motorway. It was very dull and very exhausting just to be a passenger, and I imagine it took its toll on my father too. We stopped three times and even then, I still felt cramped and sick. (We got to stop at the famous Tebay services though which yay?)

Once we got there we settled into our cabin. Which isn’t as pokey as it sounds. We had rented this cabin/lodge just by the Rowardennan Hotel. There was a whole group of these cabins located on the shore of Loch Lomond, with their own little private beach area and jetty. The lodge was roomy and full of character – three rooms, big bathroom, big lounge/kitchen/living area and large balcony with a view of the mountains in the distance. The bedding and cushions were all themed over deer, highland cattle, sheep and foxes. The walls were exposed wood, the ceilings and floors too. It was kind of awesome. We settled in, and then my sister and I ventured to the jetty together. We sat at the end, right out in the Loch, and soaked in the sunshine and the incredible view. It was very quiet and very still, and I felt small and removed from reality in a way that felt good. Like that the holiday started out well, but over the next few days the reason we were there, alongside the close living quarters, would take its toll and it became a bit tense and awkward. We needed space and didn’t have any. We needed escape, but we were cut off from the things we would usually use to ignore each other – mainly, our phones/internet.

You see, we were there to scatter my Grandfathers ashes. He was born in Glasgow and spent his early life there before work took him to Southern Africa, where he would meet my grandmother and settle in to life there. When he died, my grandmother asked for him to be laid to rest in his homeland. As my father and his family, my family, are the ones living in the UK this became our task. When he was younger my grandfather was an avid outdoors man and the area around Loch Lomond was one of his favourite places to go to. He would stay at the youth hostel just up the road from the Rowardennan Hotel we were staying by. It was an area he knew and loved. Therefore it was decided that we would take him to be laid to rest there. It made for a very sad trip, a very tense trip, as we were all grieving in our own ways.

I wish grief could be more straightforward, more linear. I wish there was a beginning and an end to it. Instead, it comes back, so suddenly and with such clarity. These past few days it came back and I feel devastated all over again now.

Nonetheless, we found a perfect spot for his final resting place and had a small but beautiful memorial service for him. We also did some good walking, went to the aquarium, soaked in the quiet, calm atmosphere of our cabin, and the sunshine and warmth and beauty of Scotland in Spring, before braving the long drive back again. (The drive back felt even longer and more cramped, which I know is psychological but still) (We got to go to Tebay services again though so yay again?) I have to go back to work tomorrow and that’s going to be weird- I feel I’ve not been working enough lately, and I’ve become quite lethargic, quite lazy. My brain isn’t ready to focus on actually being productive…and well, these past few days have been so full on emotionally that I feel like I could do with a holiday to recover. :|

These photos are from the first day, taken from our Jetty. I may post up some more entries with more photos, I may not. This trip feels so personal and my feelings are still raw, so I am not sure if I can write about it.

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!

I started out with two shrimps, then one seemed to mysteriously vanish, so I bought two more shrimps. But instead of having four shrimps now, or even three shrimps, I appear to still have just one. I peer intently into the wild depths of my tank, behind the ornaments and plants, looking for a flash of red and finding none. What is happening to my shrimps? (Is it my danios? It’s probably my danios, isn’t it.) It would seem the only thing I can keep successfully in my big 120L tank are my cloud mountain minnows. (I am fairly sure some of my minnows are at least a year old now!)

Meanwhile, my betta fish is alive and well in his 19L. He has started to flare at me when I get too close to his tank sometimes, which I am taking as a sign of sass and not stress (google searching seems to support my theory). He seems very big even without the extra beard (i.e. when he flares his gills at me) and I am contemplating buying him a new and larger tank at some point. Having just bought a car, I probably shouldn’t, but I worry about him in his on the verge of being too small tank. I don’t want him to feel confined or bored.

I was also looking at old photos of my marimo, and indeed, they look exactly the same then as now. I’m going to be an old, old lady before they become noticeably big. I’ll have to leave them to someone in my will, won’t I?