a blog about an Essex girl living in Swansea, chatting about baking, rowing, other bits and bobs, and some crazy teaching times in India

Friday, 28 February 2014


The title of this blog post is also the title of my final photo album as a student. I also have a couple of pictures of really fat cats and a baby in a walrus costume in there, I'm not sure why. Despite not owning a camera, and sometimes not even a phone that can take half-decent pictures, I have acquired a collection of photos that catalogue my experiences in Swansea.

Really, really cute. But really, really pointless.

This is the time of year that everyone - literally everyone - is starting to reminisce about their time as an undergraduate. Whether it's a comment on Facebook, an article on a website, or even just a conversation with friends, I can tell most people are getting the blues. We're all also getting excited for the 'next chapter', as one of my housemates so accurately put it. 

Where are we going to end up? What will we be doing? Will our degrees matter a couple of years down the line? Will we be married, have kids? Or will we just be an older version of what we consider ourselves to be in the present moment, unchanged by the passing of time, still sitting in a half-clean kitchen with toast crumbs everywhere and mouldy teabags in the cupboard?

What will you do?

I like making life plans in my head. I've done it several times before, and several scenarios have been created and then discarded when I realise that they are, in fact, completely ridiculous or unachievable. The typical stereotype is that girls plan their entire lives out (wedding, house, kids' names etc.) in their heads before it actually happens. Normally by the time they're five years old. I prefer the stereotype for boys: they just want to be a fireman or a monkey or something and not have to plan anything.

Girl: 'I want a big white wedding when I'm older!' / Boy: 'I can eat 'nanas all day!'

It's kind of true. Of course, not everyone fits into this category. No, people aren't as neat and tidy as that, they can't be separated into different compartments that never spill over into each other. We're fluid. I know girls that feel sick at the thought of marriage and guys that would happily settle down tomorrow.

If I turned out to be what I planned for myself in my childhood, I would be a marine biologist (I'm now doing a degree in humanities...), married (to a man named Mark, apparently) with three kids (Kim, Charlie and some other name that I probably now dislike immensely), and have a pink house with a set of plates that had pictures of Barbie on them. I'd also own as many pets as they have on display at Pets at Home and would have eyelashes the length of half my face (my sketches were very lifelike). Yes, I did draw these scenarios out on a weekly basis, labelling each part (Charlie was spelled about three different ways depending on my mood). 

It makes me giggle when I think about the plans I used to have. I like to think I'm much more grown up now, with higher aspirations, more sensible goals, and the desire to have a neutral-coloured house.

In fact, I would still happily settle for a pink one. Hesitant on the Barbie plates, though.

What were your plans for the future? Have they changed? I really do hope so if you're as ridiculous as me.

Big love, xo

Saturday, 11 January 2014

Happy New Year!

Either I'm getting old and cynical, or I'm realising the reality of everything around me. Or maybe it's the prospect of university ending and entering the 'real world'. The thought of it makes my stomach squirm and my toes wiggle in frustration.

When things get hard, that's what I do. I rub my feet together as a kind of coping mechanism. It's like I'm hoping that magic is real, as if suddenly fairy dust will spring from my soles and sprinkle around me. Or I'll have a Dorothy moment, clacking my heels together in my sparkly ruby slippers and I'll be whizzed home.

So dashing.

But, yes, the world is big and scary. My mum can't fix everything anymore, either. People can hurt you very easily, but it just means you need to grow a backbone and stand up for yourself. After a hurricane of teen years/early twenties, I'm hoping that 2014 brings the stability I've always dreamed of.

Who am I kidding? I love a bit of drama.

It's okay, I've started watching Hollyoaks to substitute that. Worrying about the ridiculous storylines on soaps tire me out, I don't have any time for my own problems... "Oh my goodness, did you see the one the other day? Teresa McQueen? Omigod yeah I know!" I am turning into a middle aged stay at home mother. I already enjoy Loose Women more than I care to admit.

Whoever made this sign should be ashamed. (I secretly like it).

With these new bad habits, and knowing that everything will not fall into my hands without me so much as moving a finger, I have decided to make some resolutions.

1. Get a hamster so that I have a permanent bezzie that lives in my room and can snuggle on my stomach for naps.

Oh wait yeah I did that.

Meet Quinn, my little baby gurrllll.

Filter happy, chillin with this cutie.

2. Actually DO my sit ups every night and use my pilates book. And go to the gym more. Then I can get a bangin' bod and be like OH HEY LOOK AT ME if I go on holiday, rather than resembling a human sausage roll with my towel wrapped around me five times and superglued in place so it doesn't fall down.

Which leads onto the next one...

3. Go on holiday. The girls and I are planning for this summer. I'm weeing myself in excitement. Oh wait no, that's just my hamster doing it on my hand. 

4. STOP watching so many Vine videos of people wearing extra large jogging bottoms so they look like human ostriches. 

Hours of fun.

5. Stop embarrassing myself in lectures. No more sticking my hand up to ask for a pen because both of mine have ran out, or falling up the stairs on the way to my chair, or accidentally playing the Krave cereal adverts on full blast my phone because I'm hopeless with technology. 

And most importantly...

6. PASS MY DEGREE or marry Rupert Grint. Both are just as good as the other, right?

They're definitely achievable... I think.

Big love, xo

P.S. I have one more exam. How scary. Good luck in yours.

Sunday, 29 December 2013

Swansea, Essex, Swansea, Essex, Swansea...

When someone tells you third year is the hardest of all and you'll be stressed out a lot, you don't believe them. Not really. You secretly hope they're just being a drama queen, or perhaps they're lying to scare you a bit.


They're not lying, sadly.

Third year is possibly one of the most stressful education-related years of my life. Not that I remember any years when I wasn't in education. It's like you're forbidden to forget the years when you're truly free: those lovely years of other people feeding you (sometimes it's a lot of effort to do so now), wearing clothes that have a lot of stretch in them (I wish it was acceptable to wear more clothes with elasticated waistbands and poppers), and constant compliments on your starfish hands and chubby cheeks (if someone tells me that now, it's just an insult). I think our memories are revolting against us. We force them through so many scenarios that they are punishing us by erasing our beginnings. 

Fishy why are you sleeping!

I didn't go home for very long this Christmas. Instead I found myself booking a train back to Swansea before New Year's, case stuffed to the brim with yet more clothes from home that I really don't need, and travelling across London as the sales were in full swing. I'm sure no one appreciated the rather baggage-laden Essex girl taking up about a fifth of the carriage on the Hammersmith and City line. I've come back to do an essay because I have the concentration span of a goldfish when I'm at home. Three seconds if you were wondering. I looked it up on WikiAnswers, so it's obviously a hundred percent correct. I've programmed myself to actually switch on 'work-mode' when I enter the silent sections of the university library. Bottom floor, desk by a plug for my laptop charger, pile of books that I've lugged in from my room (I'm practically an Olympian at weight lifting now). 

Secretly, I sometimes want to tell the uni that I'm packing it all in to become a yoga teacher in India. Not that I'm qualified to teach yoga. Nor can I do it very well. But it's a nice little dream to have.

Look I'm a pro. 
Obviously this isn't me...

I can't wait to finish. 

Big love, xo.

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Go to bed, Nay.

Standing where I am now, standing up at all,
I was used to feeling like I was never gonna see myself at the finish line,
Hanging onto parts of me, hanging on at all,
I was used to seeing no future in my sight line.

- I'm Not Their Hero, Tegan and Sara.

This is blatantly only happening because it is almost 2 a.m.; I'm getting all thoughtful and acting like a complete and utter idiot. Sentimental and all that. Boo hoo, I'm a third year, everything's ending, everything I once knew is coming to a close. Not quite yet. Almost, though.

Next thing I'll be putting on that Nickelback song about his photograph or whatever it is. 'Look at this photograph, everytime I do it makes me laugh, blah blah blah.' 


I hate how my perspective on everything has changed because of three months far away from home.

I miss you, India. Funny thing is, I kind of want to go back. Summer 2014? Where's my backpack... I'm going travelling.

Big love, xo

Friday, 4 October 2013

No wonder it's called Great Britain

Sometimes I'm very, very bad at keeping up to date with people. I don't think living away from civilisation has helped me much, either. The super-chilled lifestyle of India doesn't require a phone, nor does it require constant internet contact with my friends and the rest of the world. I could quite happily have spent a week oblivious to what was going on outside of Eranhimavu (the town in which I was located), concerned only with teaching the little ones my favourite topic of 'opposites' ("Big big big! Small small small!" Accompanied with a variety of actions; I looked a prize fool).

I would have packed this cutie into my suitcase to take home if that wasn't completely illegal.

So, understandably, it was quite a big shock coming back to the 'normality' of the UK. After the longest three months of my entire life, I eventually took a coach back to the location of my airport in Kerala (not an experience I'd like to repeat, ten hours on Indian roads is more than enough), spending a day on the beach (mostly getting hassled by a guy trying to sell me marijuana; "Lady wants a smoke? I think lady likes a smoke") and getting the most brilliant tan lines of my life - the lines halfway down my calves is all the rage now, didn't you know? - then getting driven to the entirely wrong airport, I was so ready to get back onto English soil. 

All of my experiences have culminated in me finding it amazing to spend all day on Facebook/Twitter/Internet Shopping Sites and believe it or not, my online module pages for uni. My lack of phone use I am also blaming on India. I still stuck with the snazzy little Sony Ericsson that looks like something someone's grandparent would own (whipping it out at uni is one of the best things - who needs an iPhone when you have this little bad boy?). This little blog has suffered a serious case of neglect too. I need to start compiling my India experiences, and writing a little bit about them. 

My lovely third standard girlies.

I'll make a list.

These are a couple of the many crazy things that happened to me in the mad world that is Asia...

- I've had far too many marriage proposals, none of which I accepted, but I did have a running joke with my Dad about an Indian man I made up called Raj.
- I got headbutted by a cow on my bottom.
- I tried so many different foods, some good, some bad, some having the end result of projectile vomiting.
- I had someone throw up on my feet on the bus. Mmm rice and curry on my toes!
- I made loads of amazing friends, especially this one mad lady that goes by the name of Lucy.
- I found out that tapioca is gross. Never eat it.
- Curry is not the best breakfast food.
- I had many near-death experiences on the 'roads' of India (a.k.a. dirt tracks).
- I was called 'Mam' or 'Madam' about a million times a day. I didn't think I'd miss it, but I do.
- I garnered some rather attractive - dodgy - tan lines.
- I met a marriage broker who offered to set me up.
- I touched various elephants, and now have an obsession with them. I want one as a pet.
- I lived with a Muslim family for three months.
- I actually taught kids things. They actually listened to me. I'm so proud.
- I saw too many spiders that were abnormally large. And I am now a spider murderer, my weapon of choice is the lethal instrument, the shoe.

Monster Spider.

But for now I'm back in Welshland, snuggled under my duvet, comforted by the homely sound of rain tapping on my windows, and blaring out Avril Lavigne - 'Whaaaay do you have to make things so com-pli-caaaay-ted.' 


I could quite happily never leave the UK ever again. Best country ever, just saying.

Big love, xo

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Hi there, my name is Man Boob.

This is going to be an entry that backdates itself a little bit. Last time I mentioned that I would write about my trip to the police station, my various food-related nightmares and my experiences as a teacher, so I'll move onto those in a bit.

So far, my life at Apex School has been what I can only describe as a complete and utter rollercoaster ride. Some days I end on a high, feeling like I've achieved something; the children are well-behaved and want to respond to my lessons, and I then feel as if my presence is worthwhile. However, other days can have the opposite effect on me. I won't lie, sometimes I can feel like teaching was one of the worst ideas I've had. It isn't often that I feel like that, thankfully, but on the other hand, life here isn't all rose-tinted spectacles and eager children, ready to soak up any word that comes out of my mouth. When a class is teetering on the see-saw of being a normal group of children or a riotous fairground/zoo, I am just about ready to jump on the train back to Trivandrum, intent on catching the next plane out of here. Back to England, back to Britain, where I am familiar with everything, everyone understands what I say, and I'm less at risk of being run down by a school bus, which is, ironically, a danger every time I attempt to get to school. 

But of course that would be ridiculous. My purpose of being here is to experience the profession of teaching, along with all the difficulties that come with it, it's like a package deal. More often than not I think an English school would be a thousand times easier! At the end of this - hopefully - I'll have made a difference, some lasting impression on these crazy children, and it will have taught me so many new things! 

I'm already at that stage where I'd say I'm 'finding myself.' I always find this expression a bit bizarre, to say the least, as how can you find yourself when you are right there? Your body can't just go for a wander without your brain, can it? It's a notion that a bit up-in-the-clouds, floaty with no grounding. I say this, but all my thoughts are just that - floaty nonsense that have no reason or rhyme. Maybe I don't like to think I needed to find myself, that I wasn't quite whole before coming here. Some of the holes in my life were suffering from a bit of a bodged job, they needed a bit more stitching. Luckily, with all the thinking I am able to do here, the needle and thread has been out again, patching up any cracks in my life, making it shiny and new. Funny how removing yourself from a place and replanting your life somewhere new (if only for a matter of months) can completely change your view on everything!

Anyway, after that off-topic blab, I'll tell you about the police station. If your visa is valid for over a certain period of time, you must register with the police. So yes, this was the reason I went for a cheeky check-up with the police, rather than something more worrying... My parents had a little panic when I first told them. Don't worry Mumsie, I won't be doing a Bridget Jones, stuck in some Indian ladies' prison, exchanging my bras for token items. At least I hope not. Keep your fingers crossed for me. The principle and one of the school drivers (minus his school bus, the average five-seater car was the replacement) took us to a place two hours from the school, called Varkala, to register Lucy (the other volunteer teacher) and I in the head police office for the area. The driver is now fondly known to us as 'Man Boob,' as during our first introduction to this man, we mistook his name, and were left in fits of giggles. This prompted an awkward conversation with the school principle, where we found out that the driver's name was actually 'Mahaboob' (unfortunately not quite as funny) and ended up explaining what a boob was. Lucy and I were both left staring incredulously at the principal after his many repetitions of "boo-bee" in slow, exaggerated speech, whilst trying to stifle another round of giggles.

At this police station, we were taken in to see the Big Chief, in an imposing room, where he sat behind his desk, eyes fixed on us in an investigative gaze as we entered the room. I almost wet myself in fright. Thank goodness the seats were still encased in the plastic covering which I assume they arrived in, as if the unfortunate event had taken place, it wouldn't have been a huge issue... 

A series of questions shot from the Chief's mouth, framed by a rather bristly looking moustache that made him look a lot more severe, demanding information about Lucy and I. Whilst she had a fit of giggles next to me, struggling to answer our version of the Spanish Inquisition we were faced with, I sat frozen in my seat, pale as a sheet. It seemed to take forever, and at one point we were almost sure we'd be ordered out of India. But, eventually, we were informed that we could stay, under the condition that we filled out yet more forms, and obtained documentation just before our departure to allow us to leave the country. All this for a visa!

On the subject of food, I've become quite used to eating with my right hand, so on the odd occasion that I am able to use cutlery, it feels slightly odd. From time to time, I do forget and the left hand creeps in, ready to aid my right in the tearing of a poppadom, but I do my best to keep such instances at bay, as the left hand is used for bathroom-related issues here. Think no toilet paper. Thank goodness I brought my own supply. 

I've had rice almost every day, plus curry, and sometimes an assortment of different bread/pancake-type foodstuffs (chipatti etc.). I'll come back to the UK twice as big if I don't watch it (what with the sweets I am quite often plied with at school). I am pining for my normal fare of meals, toast, pasta... even a bowl of cereal. My daily helping of porridge is no more!

Lucy and I have had a couple of food disasters here. I'm grateful I'm veggie, as I can avoid some of the dishes (beef is buffalo here). One morning we were dished up tapioca, aka vomit, and in Trivandrum one of my breakfasts was coated in sugar (rice, chickpeas and sugar - not the best combo). My worst moment was a case of the sickness bug, I had something quite similar to food poisoning. One weekend was spent in bed/by the loo, hacking up my entire stomach. I didn't appreciate reliving my meals at all. Again, it happened a week later, but I'm crossing my fingers against any future illness. My system can't cope!

I can't complain too much though, as apart from those traumas, I have been fed well and it's interesting trying so many spices and dishes! 

Updates on this weekend next time; my sightseeing in Kerala and what it was like. Hope you are well, wherever this finds you!

Big love, xo

Thursday, 4 July 2013


Boarding the plane to Trivandrum, I was suddenly aware that I was the only white person on this particular Air India flight. I was slightly out of my comfort zone, as I could not hear a word of my mother tongue. Most of the other passengers were native Indians, chattering away in their own dialects, which sounded deliciously foreign, filled with unknown phrases and the frequent 'head wobble' which embellishes most conversation. I felt slightly awkward, acting under my usual persona; not entirely cultured and unbeknown to the various Indian habits that I would soon have to familiarise myself with. In my new clothes I had bought in the hope that I would look respectful in my new environment, I felt underdressed. Some of the women sparkled in layers of colourful cloth and jewellery, whilst I shifted nervously in my seat, adjusting my sombre two-tone maxi skirt and my blouse a size too large, trying to work out just how a sari would stay in place if I was to wear one.

My clothing-related ponderings were diffused by a short but turbulent flight, in which I received my third in-flight meal. By this point, I was just about ready to burst, my stomach was straining. I toyed with my roll, nibbling on some rice and then gulped down my coffee in one go, attempting to stay awake. The caffeine had little effect on my already travel-tired body, which was attempting to battle an oncoming bout of drowsiness from a night without sleep. I'm sure the man next to me - a thirty-something with a creased suit and a similarly creased frown - wasn't too overjoyed at my spontaneous snooze on his shoulder. Thank goodness I didn't leave a complimentary wet-patch there; he probably wasn't looking for a reminder, a.k.a. a dribbly souvenir, from flight AI 227.

Touching down at Trivandrum Airport, I was met by someone from the teaching programme which I am now part of, then bundled into a taxi which promptly took me to Kovalam Beach. Kerala greeted me with some of the best downpours I have seen so far, drenching me from head to toe on my first excursion along the seafront, leaving me to wring everything, from my top right down to my knickers, in the hotel sink.

The hotel, named Sky Palace, wasn't quite the mirror image of its grand name, but did provide the basics, a bed and en-suite bathroom (the classy bucket-and-jug method of washing). The hotel owner was a sweet little man named Gopal, who willingly carried my luggage from my taxi to my room, despite it not being the lightest bag in the world, nor the shortest journey from car to accomodation.

My first week was spent in Trivandrum itself, at a small pre-school which operated under the Montessori method of teaching. The children were lovely but quite often it was frustrating because of their limited English (which, of course, is understandable, because at three years old I wasn't exactly well-versed in the second most-spoken language in the world, nor any other besides). However, I enjoyed chattering away to the boys and girls; my thoughts were that any exposure to a native tongue would be better than none.

The following Saturday I travelled by train from Trivandrum to another large city further up the coast from my arrival port. This place is known as Calicut, and I am now based in a large school about an hour 's drive away from there. My new title is either, Miss Naomi, or Naomi Miss. I'm not wildly fond of the other two, Ma'am or Madam.

"What are Ma'am's parents' names?"
"Naomi Miss, Naomi Miss, are you marriage?"
"Ma'am, you are like a Barbie doll!"
"Ma'am! Ma'am! Brothers? Sisters?"

Some of these I hear repeatedly, on a daily basis, so I'm sure the school must know my family tree now, plus their occupations, and goodness knows what else. My personal favourite this week has been "You are so white!" To which I replied "Umm... I know?" In a rather confused tone.

Anything you'd expect from a schoolchild in Britain, expect the complete opposite here. I've now had a week and a half of hair and face stroking, staring, note-giving ('I love you' - remind me to dig these out next Valentine's Day?) and even gifts of chocolate and sweets (you cannot diet here, no way).

The Apex School, for this is the name of the establishment that I am teaching in, is a learning environment for around 700 pupils, both male and female, ranging from 'kindergarten' age right up to the sixth form years, where I think some of the boys and even girls look older than me. Highly embarrassing. It's a predominantly Muslim school, but the other religions that run through the classes include Christian and Hindu denominations. It is a bit strange, however, as there is no atheism in this area. Either you are one religion or another, you cannot be without. But they all do live in harmony, which I think is a good example to other communities!

I have been assigned the younger years so far, observing classes and teaching in them. It's touching to see them sing songs about elephants and butterflies, and let them construct sentences in the correct tense, but quite often they can be naughty or badly behaved, just as much kids in a British school. Whoever said Indian schoolchildren were well-behaved?
I'll write another update soon, probably about my other teaching experiences, food traumas, new words and my trip to the police station...

Big love, xo