Mood Swings

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Day to day
my mood changes
like the tide.
I am myself
and yet not.

I bloom when I am with him.

Alone, an entirely empty thing.
Fighting against myself
to feel whole for an hour.
I medicate with mindless tv,
distract with books,
a practice I have followed since childhood.
I dread the next day
and leaving the house is a wrench.
 
When he is home,
There is light
In all the dark spaces of myself.
I breathe easy.

And yet I fear dependence,
Fear solitude,    
Fear fear.

I cling to him
and weep
for my strength.

Books of 2014

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Happy New Year to all my lovely blog friends & followers, I hope 2015 brings you love, laughter & inspiration.

To start off my new year, I thought I’d review the best part of 2014 – the books that I read! I made an effort to record all the books that made up my year, & I’m posting them with short reviews. It’s just for fun but if anyone recommends any books for me to read in 2015, I am always open to literary suggestions :-) The ones I loved & recommend have little * beside them.

Books of 2014

1. The Wolf Gift by Ann Rice

This is one of those books that you just power through, get caught up in the storyline & find yourself buttering toast with one hand while still reading. I am a fan of werewolf books particularly the classics but this was a great modern legend. It begins fairly typically with a man transitioning into a werewolf & deciding to track down the creature who turned him. It leads him on a modern fantasy to learn about his new powers & kin. Worth a read if, like me, you’re a fan of the more classically based fantasy stories, rather than teen love stories.

2. The Wolves of Midwinter by Ann Rice

I had downloaded the sequel to The Wolf Gift at the same time, & was quite happy to flow directly on to the next part. This develops the storyline a lot more, mixing wolf legend with Rice’s version of the reality, while bringing the characters on a new journey, including our main character finding an unexpected mate & dealing with the ethics of turning her into a werewolf, or leaving her vulnerable as a human, while their enemies close in. I don’t want to give away the story, but I think if you read the first one, you will enjoy the next. I believe there’s a third in the works too.

3. First Shift: Legacy by Hugh Howey

4. Second Shift: Order by Hugh Howey

5. Third Shift: Pact by Hugh Howey (all three known as Silo #2) *

I am putting these together because they are part of a collection. If you have read Wool (the first stage of the story, Silo #1), you will know about Howey and the Silo Omnibus. Shift is the second stage (Silo #2) of the sci-fi story. Like Wool, Shift has a few different books in it – First Shift: Legacy, Second Shift: Order, & Third Shift: Pact. It precedes the story of the post-apocalyptic world where the population live in a sunken silo to escape the noxious air that now covers the surface. It is a prequel of sorts, explaining the actions that lead to how & why the human race are living underground. It is a fantastic series that I would wholly recommend, especially if you are a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre. I do enjoy them, but I am definitely not a zombie fan, so it was great to read one that did not completely terrify me!

6. Dust by Hugh Howey (Silo #3) *

The finale to the Silo Omnibus, Dust is put into one fantastic book, breaking away from the form of the first two. Our main character from Wool returns in the sequel to the collection, with the reader now informed on the secrets that led to the creation of the silo. Jules knows what her predecessors did, & why they are living as they are, and she is determined to change it. But time is running out.

It’s difficult to explain these books without giving away details! But they really are worth the time to read them. Full of twists & turns, heartbreak & hope for your favourite characters. I would highly recommend this series, they were a favourite of mine, & I was actually sad to finish it.

7. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

In a quietly terrifying book written in the 1930’s, Huxley explores a world set far into the future. Humans are genetically engineered in false wombs in laboratories & designed into one of five life ‘castes’. These people live & die in their castes & do not stray from the path that has been set out for them by the government. The lower castes (or class) are clones bred to do menial jobs. All humans are suppressed reproductively, and there is no such thing as ‘mother’ or ‘father’, but casual, recreational sex is encouraged. In certain pockets of the world there are places unregulated by such laws, & these people are viewed as savages.

A very interesting storyline, it gives an unsettling view of an ‘idealised’ society. Well worth a read, but I am a sucker for these types of classics. It always excites me to see different views of what people think will happen to humans with the advancement of technology & genetics.

8. Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett

Very little explanation is needed, it’s a Terry Pratchett book, just read it. The man is a genius.

9. The Last Hero by Terry Pratchett

See above.

10. Light Boxes by Shane Jones *

Given to me by my uncle who is an author & an editor, I generally read his recommendations because they are always vastly interesting. Light Boxes is about a town terrorised by February, who is a spirit who bans flying & gives them a perpetual winter. Depression hits the town & their children start to go missing, so the adults begin to fight back. This is a great book, vaguely surrealist, & refreshing in its unconventional storyline. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something a little different.

11. A Scanner Darkly by Philip K. Dick

Philip K. Dick in his sci-fi genius creates a story with the main character living a double life, as an undercover narcotics agent placed in a drug household to spy on the ringleader, he plays the part of one of the drug-addled members of the house. The drug of this world is known as ‘Substance D’, a psychoactive drug. The book depicts the conflict in the main character in his ability to do his job while functioning on the drug. It is, like all of his books, extremely interesting, hard to put down, but completely mad at the same time. Any fan of Dick’s books or the movies made from them should read this.

12. The Amazing Maurice & His Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett

I am under the opinion that Pratchett’s books need no introduction or recommendation, but should be read by everyone. This is no exception, set in his Discworld with a talking cat & troop of rodents who team up with a child who can understand them. Brilliance.

13. The Abominable by Dan Simmons *

By chance I found this in a bookstore & I have been obsessed with Simmons ever since. His books are fantastic. The Abominable is set in 1924 & the race to summit Mount Everest leads to the disappearance of George Mallory & Sandy Irving. The following year, a new group sets out to attempt the summit & to find another climber who has gone missing there. But everything is not as it seems on the mountain. I won’t give out any more information on this because you really need to read it for yourself. I knew nothing about mountain climbing before I began this book, but learned as I went along. It is a brilliant book, Simmon’s has a way with words that is eloquent & captivating. There are more of his works along my list, I guarantee if you read one you will want to read them all.

14. Night Watch by Terry Pratchett *

Again, a Pratchett. This is one of my favourite characters in his Discworld – Sam Vimes. It gives an amazing journey through the Watch. I won’t explain, just read it.

15. The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett

The characters in this are the Nac Mac Feegles, the tough miniature men of the Discworld. A laugh a minute with these guys.

16. Children of the Night by Dan Simmons

This is a refreshing modern take on vampirism without giving in to tired clichés & rehashed ideas. I found this gripping and so interesting. It is set in modern times, when an immunologist, Kate, working in a Romanian orphanage with sick children discovers an abnormality in an infant’s blood. She adopts the child & takes him back to America, but the child is kidnapped by agents of Vlad Tepes, the original Dracula. Kate returns to Romania to find her child, not knowing what she’s stepping into.

17. Monstrous Regiment by Terry Pratchett

A small town girl poses as a boy to join the army, with hilarious Pratchett-esque results.

18. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett

Tiffany, our lovely young witch, continues her story in no 32 of Pratchett’s series.

19. A Winter’s Haunting by Dan Simmons

Another of Simmon’s fantastic tales, this is a spooky haunted house tale. A college professor with his life in tatters returns to the town of his childhood to write a book. But he finds himself followed & haunted by his demons, & he is cut off on a remote piece of land. This is a great book, faintly Stephen King-like in how it sends goosebumps down your spine if you’re reading it with the lights off! well worth a read.

20. Thud! by Terry Pratchett *

Another one with my favourite Sam Vimes. This is a brilliant Pratchett book, dark & humourous, with an elaborate storyline.

21. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley *

I have seen several movie versions of this but only this year realised that I hadn’t read the book. What a treat. Honestly, if you’re a classics fan, this is a must. Shelley wrote this book as part of a bet with a group of friends to see who could create the best scary story. For a book written in 1818, it is one that will prevail through time. Everyone knows the story so I won’t explain it, but I found myself overcome with this book. It is so emotional, so raw, and should be a must-read for everyone’s list.

22. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett

Right, we’ve established I’m a Pratchett fan & that I’m just going to say to read them, all of them. This one is about the young witch Tiffany and her dance with winter.

23. Making Money by Terry Pratchett

Moist von Lipwig from the post office takes over the city bank to turn it into a success.

24. Carrion Comfort by Dan Simmons

Another horror from Simmon’s, this follows a group of individuals who use their influential ‘ability’ to convince regular people to perform horrible acts. They then meed to compare, in a sort of game. A chilling story, but gripping all the same. I did enjoy this book with a rather unsettling premise.

25. Hyperion by Dan Simmons *

26. The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons *

27. Endymion by Dan Simmons *

Now, I could gush about this series for a long time. I have read three out of four of this series, and that’s why I’ve put the three together. It is very sci-fi, with humans having several terraformed worlds that they live on, & can travel between instantly by means of ‘farcasters’. A team is picked to travel to a world in conflict, but discover a prophecy of a legend come to life, in the form of a terrifying creature. This series is amazing, I am really looking forward to getting the last book read & tying the story up. A truly elaborate sci-fi fantasy.

28. The Most Dangerous Game by Richard Connell

We’re back to the classics with a brilliant short story that has been the basis for several movies & books. I enjoyed reading this because I had already known the basic storyline, well worth a read.

29. Unseen Academicals by Terry Pratchett

One of the funniest Pratchett books, about the wizards in the Unseen University.

30. The Land That Time Forgot by Edgar Rice Burroughs

I love Rice Burroughs, in my opinion he is up there with Verne in his writing. This is an amazing elaborate tale of the discovery of a continent that has been untouched by modern society (or science if we’re honest), & has it’s own eco-system, hierarchy and inhabitants. An amazing classic, really interesting. If you like Verne, you’ll love this.

31. The Humans by Matt Haig *

I kind of stumbled across Haig accidentally on twitter, but I have to say this book has stayed with me since I read it during the summer. It is about an alien who comes to earth posing as a mathematician who has discovered a secret of the universe & must be silenced as humans are an inferior race who don’t have the rationality to hold this information. While here among the humans, however, the alien discovers the human condition, & how complex but amazing it is to be one. A life-affirming, beautiful book. I have been recommending this left, right & centre.

32. Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant *

I love Dunant, she’s a fantastic writer of period dramas. In this, she tackles the life & legends of the Borgias family, & does an amazing job of weaving their lives around you. There is a sequel promised because of how elaborate & deviant the Borgias were supposed to be. A fan of period dramas should definitely read this.

33. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera

This is a strange novel. It follows a few different lives, but the underlying focus is more on the emotions behind humans, & why they do what they do. It is a really interesting read, but I found that it ends rather abruptly, as if there is a part missing.

34. Out of The Silent Planet by C.S. Lewis *

I found this book in an outdoor market in Paris when I was interrailing. I didn’t know before this that Lewis had written a few sci-fi books & I was very impressed with this one. Much like Verne, it’s set further back in time but the technology in it is quite advanced. A man gets tricked into travelling to a distant planet with someone akin to a mad scientist, & discovers a utopia there. Very very good novella.

35. Letters from an Age of Reason by Nora Hague *

I found this book in a second-hand book store while I was interrailing. There was an insane bookstore in Brussels that had a massive English-language section at €1 apiece. It was difficult to pick only enough that I could carry, but this one was a winner. It is a historical novel, set during the Civil War in America. It’s story is about a young lady from upper class New York, dealing with being a thinker in a society that frowns upon ladies learning anything outside of the home; & a young man growing up in the soon to be war torn South as a ‘high-yellow negro’ in an affluent household. It follows the two of them through a completely heart-wrenching story, when their fates meet. I really enjoyed this book, was totally engrossed in the story while I was travelling. Anyone who enjoys historical dramas will like this. & I will admit an ignorance of a lot of the civil war in America until I read this.

36. The Farmers of An Líonán by Kevin O’Cuinn *

I am biased, because this short story is written by my uncle. It was published as non-fiction, & depicts some of the stories that he heard in a cozy pub when he lived in Connemara. Like I said, I could be biased, but I really enjoy his writing. It is fresh & clean, & seems to cut through your mind & plant it’s story deep into your brain, never to be forgotten. That is all of his short stories, not just this one.

37. Baby Leg by Brian Evenson

A recommendation by my uncle again, he has quite a few copies of this. One of the most surreal pieces of work I have ever come across. Evenson created a whole new genre, something that I believe is called amputation fiction (don’t quote me on that!). It is about a man who has dreams of a woman with one normal leg & one baby leg, suffers paranoia that ‘they’ will be coming to get him. Surreal adventure ensues in the strangest novella. If you are a fan of something completely out there & different then definitely read this. Although I understand that copies are hard to come by.

38. The Cider House Rules by John Irving *

I saw the movie version of this several years ago & remember enjoying it. This was another purchase in the second hand store in Brussels, & one that I took home with me (among the six or seven books my uncle gave to me to lug back!). It is beautiful, heartbreaking, sometimes gruelling, but always enticing. This was one of those books that I needed to sit with for a while, needed about a week after reading it to process, I was still too involved to start another one. Very much a recommendation.

39. Divergent by Veronica Roth

40. Insurgent by Veronica Roth

41. Allegiant by Veronica Roth

All three together again because it’s a series. It was recommended to me by a few friends as similar to The Hunger Games. I found it very good, an interesting idea of life in a town where people are part of one of five factions, depending on their personal attributes & personality traits. It follows Tris when she is chosen into a faction because she most relates to it, but she also relates with other factions, a dangerous game in this society. A very interesting series, I found myself reading them one after the other within about a week because I was engrossed. I haven’t seen the movie but I’m perfectly happy with the book.

42. Land of Terror by Edgar Rice Burroughs

One in the series that Rice Burroughs wrote about a fictitious continent named Pellucidar. I have read a few of the others in the series & they are fantastically interesting. One of which you would definitely have heard of (or at least a derivative of the same) is At The Earth’s Core when two men accidentally burrow into the earth’s core & discover the land of Pellucidar. It is interesting, a real classic sci-fi novel. If you like this genre you will like this.

43. The Lost Continent by Edgar Rice Burroughs

Another hit by Rice Burroughs, similar in storyline to the others I’ve mentioned but with further adventures, great sci-fi writing.

44. Peaches for Monsieur le Curé by Joanne Harris *

Part of the series which began with Chocolat, Harris is a few years (& books in between) down the line with this book. If you have read any of her books, I’m sure this is on your list. Harris has a way of making you taste her words in an exquisite way.

45. The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom *

An amazon recommendation led me to this book & I’m glad it did. An elderly carnival engineer dies at the beginning of the book (that’s not a spoiler I promise!), & goes through the stages of death – meeting five people who touched or were touched by his life. A beautiful representation of how everything we do in life is linked to others, I really enjoyed this quite sad tale.

46. Daniel Fights A Hurricane by Shane Jones

We are back to Jones, another one given to me by the author uncle, it is not as enjoyable as Light Boxes in my opinion. Along the same lines of strangeness, it brings us on a journey with a man trying to save his town from a hurricane by connecting a pipeline to the sea. It is very unusual, I did finish the book & was happy at the ending, but there was a section in the middle where I wasn’t completely sure what was happening. I think I perhaps just missed the point!

47. The Giver by Lowis Lowry

Recommended to me by a colleague, I was at first put off by the fact that it is practically a children’s book, but I was sucked in fairly quickly. Along the lines of Divergent but simpler in it’s presentation, it shows a society where your career is picked for you. The character we follow is given a special assignment that changes his whole world. A beautiful book with a lovely but sad message at the end. Read it if you liked Divergent.

48. Paper Aeroplanes by Dawn O’Porter

Ok, I admit I bought this out of a bit of a grá for DOP but I enjoyed it so much that I bought the second book! An almost gritty truth of being a teenage girl, you will laugh, cry & cringe along with the two girls.

49. Goose by Dawn O’Porter

The sequel to Paper Aeroplanes obviously, it is as enjoyable & heartfelt as the first. If you like the first one, you will definitely read this. Definitely worth the read.

50. Oranges are not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

One of those books I’ve been meaning to read forever, I finally got around to it in 2014. A moving & somewhat scary look at the treatment of a girl in a strictly religious house when she realises she is in love with another girl. A beautiful but hard look at the attitudes of religious parents. I definitely recommend it.

51. The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd

I found this by chance in a bookshop & really enjoyed it. Set across a wide historical timeline, it begins with the gruesome murder of two families in London & the hunt for the monstrous killer. It sets a great scene of how London looked before most of the swamp was claimed from the Thames, & does have a vaguely familiar monster at the centre. A very interesting book, I really enjoyed it.

52. I Shall Wear Midnight by Terry Pratchett *

Another one for Tiffany, & another fabulous one by Pratchett. I won’t prattle on!

53. Snuff by Terry Pratchett

A Sam Vimes adventure, when he is forced to God forbid, take a holiday.

54. If I Stay by Gayle Forman *

I had heard of the movie, seen the ads & hadn’t really been interested. But I then found the ebook & decided to give it ago. I was completely blown away. I thought this was going to be a tearjerking run-of-the-mill book, but I was wrong. Forman has a fantastic writing skill, I could taste her sentences in my brain, & often had to read a sentence twice because I liked how much it felt so much the first time around. It is definitely a tearjerker, but in a refreshing way. This was another one of those books that I needed some time to get over, I think it was a week before I picked up my next one. A beautiful book.

55. Love Story by Irving Cox

Very short story with a kind of trophy husband society going on, where men are bred as prizes for women. Very entertaining.

56. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep by Philip K. Dick

I had seen the movie Blade Runner without having read the book so I missed a lot of the point to it. On reading the book though, I need to see the movie again! It is a brilliant book, with a dystopian society in which androids are manufactured to be almost imperceptible from humans. The main character is a hunter of these androids as they are illegal on earth. A sub-plot in the book is the fact that there is a big societal pressure to own an animal, the equivalent of owning a television now possibly. A complex & very interesting book, definitely worth a read.

57. The Disintegration Machine by Arthur Conan Doyle

A short story by the Sherlock Holmes master, about a scientist who, you guessed it, invents a disintegration machine. Almost a funny short story but very entertaining.

So that’s my list of books from 2014! It’s a long blog post I know but it’s been a really fun one to do. Here’s to the books of 2015! :-)

City versus country living?

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Any of you country dwellers will know it, that feeling of space, of stretching your shoulders & head back & breathing country air. That taste, that scent on the wind.
These things are lacking in the city.
I love the city, love its bustle &          convenience, its essence of being part of something bigger.
But. Being someone who has lived in city & country, I find myself at an odd mix of longings. My inner city mouse relishes having moved back to the city; light, heat & people everywhere. In moving, I thought a wish of mine was being fulfilled.
But now my inner country mouse is clawing at her density walls & wanting open spaces; fields, animals, air. In a city of lights I find myself anxious when I cannot see the stars.
A compromise then. It so happens that where I now live is in the bubble just outside of the city, in that rare midland where the stars begin. I can sit in my garden & watch the cosmos as I always have in the country. Also, nearby I have discovered pockets of countryside built into the suburbia; dog parks, walkways, & the largest park in the city just a stroll from my house.
My inner city & country mice balance themselves, & reconcile to this new change. I can still be the country girl living in the city.
It is the only way I can breathe free, & have best of both.

10 November 2014

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There is no room in this world for my kind;
for the daydreamers, the window gazers, the slow down & look people.
We live in chaos.
Smart appliances & technology
with no heart, no hope.
We few who feel too much,
who weep for the loss of emotional attachment,
who cannot interact with machines as humans.
My daydreaming is met with questions, with segregation. 
I am an outcast of my own making.
In a time where ‘individual’ is only acceptable within parameters,
My kind falters and fails,
trip ourselves up on words while we look to the sky.         
I weep for my kind,
but also for theirs.
Their price is their lack of emotion,
my price is my loneliness.

Autumn Walk

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I walk a slice of countryside pasted into the city,
filling my pockets with conkers pilfered from the feet of trees.
Earphones in and turned up loud,
mouthing words of favourite songs,
arms out & flying.
Autumn sun pours its warming touch on my face,
Cold wind snags in my hair and whispers to me of winter days to come.
I embrace it with open arms,
Smile at the sky,
And continue my hunt for conkers.

Social conventions, is it really worth the stress?

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There is always a lot of weight put on social convention. On what is expected of people, rather than what they want to do. As long as no laws are being broken, what harm is there in wanting something that suits you out of life? I spent a long time fretting over social expectations when I was younger, and it is only in recent years that I am able to embrace who I really am. And trust me, not one part of me fulfils social expectations.

When I was a teenager, I had bad skin, bad fashion sense, was ridiculously clumsy, went from beanpole to curvy in a matter of weeks (thank you puberty), and generally had a gloomy and teen-aged view of life, love, the universe and everything. I also had a love of books and comics, a very mixed taste in music, very little interest in television and a very, very small pool of friends.

Due to teen magazines, advertisements and unending peer pressure, I had a set view on what I should look like, dress like, and how I should think. I was unable to keep up with any of these social expectations. I viewed the girls in my school as rungs above me on the social ladder, as having reached completely unattainable heights. I tried my best to fit into the pigeon-holes that had been created in my school, but I had too varied a taste in everything. I liked comic books and nerdy things, but wasn’t smart enough to fit in with the nerds. My taste in music was so wide that I fit in with neither the pop princesses, nor the goth girls. In short, my own personality made me a social pariah, and this was not a fact that I took lightly. I became withdrawn, took on some very unhealthy behaviours, and by my leaving cert year in school, I was a ticking time bomb. I was obsessed with my weight, my appearance, having the right haircut and colour, the right clothes, being right, and fitting in.

Let’s fast forward.

After school ended and my life actually began, I discovered a hundred new things about myself. One of which was that everything does get better. my skin improved once the stress of secondary school was removed, I grew into my chin(!), my body shape corrected itself to what it wanted to be, which was a curvy but still slim hourglass shape. Curves, as people used to tell me, that I should be proud of. My fashion sense was still based on magazines, but what are you gonna do about that. I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin.

It gets better.

It’s now ten years since I left school. In those ten years, there have been inevitable ups and downs, dark times and happy times, the usual fluctuations of life. Bad teenage experiences have been dealt with, parcelled away and labelled as “life lessons”, and have faded into my history. I am now more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. I’ve got my body image issues like all women, but I have accepted my wobbly thighs, soft curves but overall alright figure as just ME. The realisation that everyone is different is one that I didn’t reach for a long time, but now that I have it, I want nothing more than to shout it from the rooftops.

I have realised (in particular over the past two years), that I am my own person, and that I can look however I want to look, and be whatever I want to be. I have stopped reading fashion magazines – honestly one of the healthiest things I have ever done, ditch those mags right now, they give such an unrealistic view of women and will just make you feel inadequate about your body, fashion sense, career, whether or not you have children etc etc etc – I stopped listening to social conventional ideals of what you SHOULD do. Eg; wow, you’re 27 and still in college/ when are you going to have children, you’ll be 30 before you know it/ have you started saving for a mortgage yet? Oh please. It’s my life. That is something I have only recently discovered. The usual rules do not apply to everyone.

My current priorities are:

Finishing college. I’m in my final year of nursing, a fairly gruelling year is ahead of me, but at the end of it, I will have a career I can take anywhere.

My relationship. My boyfriend and I are currently moving in together. He is excited, I am terrified. And I’ve discovered that it’s ok to be nervous about it, some of the greatest things that I have ever done have completely terrified me. For the record, I am also excited, I’m just hard to live with!

My body. I’m putting this in here because I am more than accepting of my body these days. I’m sure with hard work and the denial of sweet things I could have the sculpted hard-body I think of occasionally. But you know what, I love food. I’d rather have dessert once or twice a week and walk the dog every second day, than work out round the clock and count calories forever. That’s just who I am, fair play to anyone who has any other opinion than mine. As long as I can keep a handle on my shape and am happy with it, who cares.

My future. I have so many people several times a year asking me when I’m going to get married and have children. My answer is usually “does it matter?” I don’t even know if I want to have children, and it’s nobody’s business whether I do or not. As for getting married; yes I would like to, but that doesn’t mean I will. It honestly depends on circumstances, finances and a whole host of other things. As for the question of mortgages or housing, I’m coming round to my boyfriend’s way of thinking that buying a house over renting is mostly about what is expected of us, rather than what we want.

So, my life is not panning out how I had thought when I was a spotty teenager pouring over magazines and obsessing about celebrity diets or airbrushed skin. I am breaking the social conventions because that’s just who I am. Who cares if I’d prefer to travel the world than have a savings account? Who cares if I never marry or have children? Who’s business is it anyway?

These days, if I don’t like a current fashion or trend I simply don’t partake in it. If all the girls in my course are out every weekend in nightclubs, kudos to them, I usually have a date with a glass of wine, a movie and my comfiest pyjamas. I rarely go out drinking, and I don’t drink an awful lot any more anyway. I don’t wear as much makeup as my peers but I don’t really care what anyone else thinks about that! I’m also more comfortable in a jeans & top than anything else, and I’ve stopped dressing to impress anyone else but myself. And you know what, since I realised that who I am is ok, that it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks but what I think of myself, I am so much happier. I think that it is something everyone should do. Why not be the person you want to be, instead of what magazines and trends tell you what you should be. Happiness is really what’s important, not what others think of you.

Changes

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Years pass like minutes; in pages of diaries, postcards & movie tickets.
Life packed into boxes & bags, waiting placidly to be moved.
A new start paved with the memories of past lives,
strange how decades can be organised, compartmentalised & wrapped, slotted into new places seamlessly,
with no consideration for emotion.
I stand, surrounded by pieces of my old life, waiting for a new one to start.

Interrailing writings

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As you know, I was travelling in Europe for 3 weeks over the summer. I’ve been reading back over the poems & tidbits that I wrote while I was away & came across something I wrote while travelling from Paris to Amiens. I’m going to share it with you because it gives me a little longing for that sense of freedom again, but also because when I read back over it, I think it did capture how I felt at the time, watching the world go by from the train window.
I hope you enjoy it :-)

Train cars & steel cables, a concrete jungle of machinery.
Forcing it’s way along fences & through sleepers on the track,
lilac grows wild, untamed, apologetic in it’s beauty.
Further from Paris buildings give way to fields.
Poppies dot the landscape, waving their pretty heads in greeting as the train shoots by.
Paris & it’s suburbs fall away, replaced by yellow fields & rolling hills, tiny towns snuggled into the niches of the landscape.
I catch glimpses of life in this picturesque land –
a teenage girl brushing down a patient horse, a dog stretched asleep in the sun, a child & her mother crosslegged on a platform bench, watching the train pass.
Every few miles, fields & hills give way to the domination of forest, broad bands of trees grouped together, their secrets hidden from view.
Church spires pop up over every horizon,
& cemeteries with towering spires & mausoleums add their voice to the choir of nature,
& dotted along the track, all the way to Amiens –
Lilac. Lilac everywhere.

My interrailing adventure, Summer 2014

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Friends,
I’ve been trying to put into words my experience while I was backpacking, but honestly it’s very difficult to articulate. There were so many individual things that happened that I could turn into stories (& I probably will at some stage!) & it’s hard to place them in any type of order. So I’ve decided that I’m just going to keep it in the order of when it happened. So here goes.
I flew from Dublin to London with my heart in mu mouth. I spent months planning the trip of a lifetime &when it finally came round, I couldn’t quite believe it was actually happening! I’ve been to London before, & frankly it was important for me to start somewhere that was somewhat familiar, as I was going to be travelling alone at certain points.
London was lovely. The trip was, for me, a cultural tour of European cities. Art galleries, churches & museums are some of my favourite things & it was an opportunity to see some things on my Bucket List. I took a tour of Shakespeare’s Globe on South Bank which was just so enjoyable.  The history of the building & Shakespeare’s works was fascinating. I then wandered around the Tate Modern, which I had very much mixed feelings about. I’m not a huge fan of the very modern art, I love the abstract but some pieces of modern art make no sense to me. Anyway, the Tate is an impressive building.
I stayed that night in college halls that are rented out for the summer, that was fun :-)
I had to leave really early the next morning to catch the eurostar to Paris. For anyone travelling that route, I’d highly recommend that route! Its quick, its comfortable & there is a real novelty at taking the Channel Tunnel…provided you don’t think too hard about whats over your head!
Paris was…well, it was Paris. I had never been before, & had probably not paid much heed to the city apart from reading Hemingway or old classics & imagining the city as the fabulous playground of the rich and famous! (I completely live in a fantasy world half the time.) I hadn’t realised how vast Paris was, it was much bigger than I had imagined, everything is so spaced out! Needless to say, my legs were well & truly walked off when those 3 days were over!
Ruairí met me in Paris, to have our first holiday abroad together. It was really wonderful. Before I met him at the train station I hiked to Sacre Coeure to see the cathedral. Standing on the top of those steps at the door of the church, a huge section of Paris is laid out at your feet & it is breathtakingly beautiful.
I sat on those steps for a while & just took it in. By the time I went to meet Ruairí at Gare du Nord I was blissed out from the view from the hilltop.
The three days in Paris were amazing. It had been on my wishlist to spend 8 hours in the Louvre, we managed 6 hours so I’m counting that as an achievement! I can’t even begin to describe the effect that the Louvre had on me. Its an absolute dream come true being surrounded with not only fabulous works of art, but also ones that I had bookmarked in my mind as ‘I hope I get to see that someday’. & I have to admit, even though my expectation of the Mona Lisa was that I would be disappointed, she’s pretty dn impressive when you stand in front of her & realise her history & her creator. I could dedicate an entire blog to the wonders of the Louvre, but for the moment it’s enough to say that if the opportunity to go there ever presents itself; go, & spend as much time there as you possibly can. It is almost impossible to see everything it has to offer, 6 hours & we didn’t manage it!
Just to wander around Paris is to witness beauty & magnificent architecture. It is an unbelievable city. The eiffel tower is impressive, & so is the light show that it puts on in the evening, if you wait till dark it is breathtaking. We also spent time in Les Invalides which has a huge collection of military artefacts & weapons from across the centuries. There are halls upon halls of swords, muskets, one-shot pistols, ancient rifles & knives, it’s really cool! Also, Napoleon’s tomb is there. That man was beyond mad, he had what can only be described as an obsession with Rome & Caesar, seeming to think that he was the next Caesar himself. His tomb & it’s church are covered in Roman symbols & paintings, it’s extremely impressive.
Another favourite of mine was Notre Dame.  I saw Notre Dame cathedrals in several cities but none were as vast or beautiful as Paris. We weren’t able to go up the bell tower to see the gargoyles but Ruairí has promised me we’ll go back someday! 3 days is definitely not enough to see Paris in.
After an unbelievable few days, Ruairí returned to Ireland & I went on, backpack strapped on & really wonderi how I was going to get on being alone. My first solo stop was Amiens, & unfortunately it was not what I had expected. Jules Verne is buried in Amiens & being a huge fan of his, I was planning to see his grave. It didn’t happen however due to a few different issues. Dejected, I went for a walk in their fabled floating gardens to cheer myself up & followed a family of ducks around the lake for a while. While there, the weather turned quickly & what can only be described as a monsoon hit the city! I managed to escape a small island that was rapidly being turned into part of the lake & retreated to the hotel to watch television & eat french crisps.
The next morning, I caught my train to Bruges with high hopes for the adventure getting better. & it really did. Bruges is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been to. It is so enjoyable to just wander the streets of Bruges. The people are so friendly, everyone speaks English (which really does make a difference, I have to admit!), there are beautiful bridges & pathways over the many branches of the river, street performers, vendors & just all manner of wonderful things there. As an Irish person, the movie In Bruges was what drew my attention to Bruges, but I can tell you that it is even more beautiful than in the film. The first evening I was there, Belgium played in the world cup & I stumbled across a town square that was decked out for the match with food stalls, beer & a giant screen. I decided to stay & watch the match with the thousand people that filled the square & I really had a good time cheering them on.
I climbed the fabled bell tower early the next morning & I’m very glad that I did it early, less people equals less squeezing past bodies on the stairs, because the stairs are so narrow that it is terrifying to hang on to the wall while letting others climb past you, panicked looks in everyone’s eyes! But I would recommend it, very highly. The view from the tower is indescribable, I took photos but they do it no justice, Bruges & it’s rooftops are as beautiful as everything else in the city.
I took a boat tour of the river too, its a great way to see the city & all it has to offer. The captain of our 40 seat boat was a great entertainer & made the journey even better.
I visited the Notre Dame of Bruges, which was beautiful & holds a real treasure – Michelangelo’s virgin & child sculpture, which was so moving to view.
When I left Bruges, I could have cried. It was such an enjoyable place, I will have to promise myself that I’ll get back someday.
After the magnificence of a place like Bruges, any regular city is soul-destroying. Brussels was next on my trip & I was not prepared for either how much I’d miss Bruges, or what Brussels is like. I wasn’t a fan, I admit that it is not a place for me.
Starting to feel a bit lonely, I sought out my true comfort & found a huge second hand bookstore that had quite a large English book section. I spent a more than happy half hour there & finally settled on 2 books, remembering that I had limited space & weight in my backpack. I then found an Irish bar & spent a few happy hours curled in a window seat reading a book & nursing a good Belgian beer.
The next day it was raining really hard but I was determined to find a good side to Brussels, so I put up my hood, steeled myself to the rain & trekked to the natural history museum. It holds the largest selection of dinosaur fossils & bones in Europe so I was told, & it was really cool. I love dinosaurs, I am the generation that Jurassic Park was made for & since then, they have always been an obsession of mine. So to spend a considerable amount of the day surrounded by them was pretty great for me! I also got a selfie with a t-rex who was nicknamed Stan :-)
So that was Brussels, some beautiful buildings, the main square is very picturesque but it is not the place for me. I went on to Amsterdam hoping that the adventure would improve there. & it really did. I’d been to Amsterdam before, when I was about 19 or 20, & smoked a lot of weed but did little else. This time I was determined to spend as much time as possible in the Rijksmuseum & wandering, taking in the city. By this stage, I had developed a real love of wandering round cities & doing whatever took my fancy at the time. Amsterdam was no different. My hostel was in the form of a boat with tiny cabins with bunk beds & a shared bathroom & shower. But it was clean & the novelty of it was too much to pass up on it! It was great fun, I spent time sitting on the deck in the sun reading in between wanderings. I hit the Rijksmuseum on my second day & was more than rewarded with a view of 4 (yes FOUR) Vermeer paintings hanging in what they’ve simply named the Master’s Hall. Vermeer is, as you might have guessed, my favourite artist. That doesn’t even begin to describe how much I enjoy his work. The hall of Masters work in that museum is fantastic, the room itself is impressive, let alone the artwork. Having gorged myself on art & sunshine (it was 29 degrees that day), I resumed my wandering. Amsterdam is beautiful, reminded me of Bruges actually in how pretty it is.
I left Amsterdam a very happy girl, & headed to Frankfurt to my uncle & aunt who lives there. As a coincidence, my other uncle had taken a trip out there too so I had an almost family reunion in the train station!
I had a relaxing few days in Frankfurt, I did go to the art gallery there which has quite a selection of Christian art & also a beautiful Vermeer :-)
Four nights with family had me refreshed & ready for the last leg of the journey. I caught an early train to Nurenburg & then a 3 & a half hour bus ride to Prague through fabulous countryside, the forests in Germany are beautiful.
Prague is a city I would recommend to anyone. I had been there with my mother 5 years ago & was delighted to discover that I needed no maps, I remembered my way around like I was following the ghost my footsteps from the previous trip. Everything in Prague is beautiful, the astronomic clock, the town square, the hundreds of churches scattered around the city, the palace at the top of the city with even more of a  fabulous view than from Sacre Coeure in Paris. The cathedral at the palace is also amazing. Due to having a lighter bag from discarding clothes as I travelled, I actually indulged in a little bit of shopping in Prague, which I didn’t do anywhere else. Wandering in Prague is so enjoyable, theres so much to see & even crossing the famous Charles Bridge takes almost an hour when you stop to admire the view & all the statues along the bridge. It was the perfect end to my backpacking, I was so happy to be back there.
I flew home after 18 days of travelling. I visited 8 cities in 6 countries & honestly had the adventure of a lifetime. I was so grateful to Ruairí, my mother & my manager at work for letting me follow a dream. I learned a lot about myself while I was away, & came home feeling more grown up, more comfortable in my own skin & really looking forward to coming home & settling into my life & the plans that I have made.
Coming home was strange, I almost felt like I hadn’t been away at all! For the week after I returned I woke in a panic every night, not knowing what bed or hostel I was in!
The feeling has remained though, that I’m more settled after fulfilling my wanderlust. I literally fulfilled a dream & I haven’t had much opportunity to say that before. I am ready for my next step, for my next college year, to finish my course, get my degree & fulfill another dream of mine.
Obviously there are little stories & curiosities that happened while I was away but to put them all in here wpuld take forever! I am working on a ‘things I leaned while I was backpacking’ post but it’ll be a while before its ready.
So thanks for reading friends, its been fun reading blog posts that I missed when I was away.
Until next time :-) <3

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