Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Change followed by changes - putting new lives in order

Man, it's tough swapping an old life for new! From multiple job offers for me and multiple transfer options for Che and the epic tale that is househunting from afar it's been non-stop.

We thought we had the house side of it all down when we found and were accepted into the commune. Until we weren't. The other housemates had a friend who needed a place and insisted that John tell us we could no longer have the room. He felt really bad about it and I kept trying to reassure him it was fine, all the while freaking a little that we were effectively going to be homeless!

This all led to a last minute day trip to London to do some viewings. We met a real-life slumlord, a very vulnerable thin Greek man with a cat, and our new housemate. We had half decided that financially it would be better for Che to stay in Bath while I went to London and we long-distanced it. But when faced with the reality of being apart it was clear that we could make it work and in fact be much better off fiscally together than running separate homes. So we are going to be living with a lovely New Zealander in an adorable flat with a garden!

It's in Walthamstow, Zone 3 in London which suits our pockets and sense of adventure. It's a very "ethnic" area and a tad rough in parts but it is very up and coming and there are signs of hipsters moving in, so by the time we've saved enough for a deposit for our first mortgage we should know the area well enough to find bargains. I am so excited to explore our new area. There is a newly developed park with a state of the art outdoor gym and an art museum, the longest outdoor market in Europe, a canal network and lots of new takeaways. It's going to be such an adventure. One of my first purchases from my new paypacket is going to be a decent camera to capture it all. And a photography course to learn to use it!

After finding our new home we went for a wander down SouthBank. Southbank is amazing. It's where the BFI, National Theatre and Tate Modern are. Also, the London eye and many of the famous London bridges. It was alive with summer in the city. The Udderbelly festival was on - see the above pic and link if interested. It's a festival with comedy, music and cabaret in a giant upside-down blown up purple Cow. Of course!

Oh well-back to packing with us :)

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

We are joining a Commune!

A story of a Commune

Yep, you read that right. We are joining a commune in London!
I will move in next month and Che will join me the following month. We are really excited about it. We initially have a place for only 2 months but who knows where that will lead. A more permanent place may open up in the home or we may meet people in a similar situation through our home. We may even use the model of this home to found another. The possibilities are endless. Of course there is also the risk that we may not enjoy living with so many people and choose to go back to a "regular" home but we'll see. I'm feeling Gung Ho and happy about waiting and seeing.

The commune (there may be another name for it, we'll find out when we get there) is in a great location in central London. It's a converted warehouse, 5500ft sq and houses 10 people (11 when we are there). The people who live in it have leased it on a 5 year rolling contract and spent the first 4 months of that rent free, converting it into a home. There are meeting spaces where group discussions and reading groups take place. There's a big kitchen and there are communal meals. Last weekend they hosted an art exhibition and a philosophy meeting and it sounds like that's pretty average. The main room is huge and "can be used for  big art projects/trapezing/dancing/yoga/anything else you might want to use it for".
There's a trapeze for crying out loud!! We skyped last night with the guy whose room we are taking over. It was so funny. While we were waiting for the call to come through we were listing our "Bohemian credentials" to each other. Che has the mixed race and artist card, I have the foreign person and exotic traveller card. I worried being married would count against us as they might think we are too old and settled to integrate fully - so I didn't mention it at first!

We had a full tour of the warehouse. The place looks really exciting. There are rotas for cleaning and the other roommates are described as quiet and respectful which is nice. We are very drawn to the idea of living communally. While we can both be introverted at times, we enjoy company and stimulation and believe strongly in community and the old "it takes a village" adage. This is especially true in an urban environment where people tend to gather independently of family networks. It's important to be proactive and put out roots. Feel out like-minded folk to make a village with.

It feels really good to not be stuck and to be on the brink of change. I've no doubt we will stretch ourselves in new ways and I hope we grow through it. I'm grateful that we can do this. 

So this is our next stage - commune living in London! Things are about to get very interesting around these parts...

Monday, 24 June 2013

Those pictures of Nigella Lawson

The beautiful Nigella

 So much has been said about those pictures - about what is happening in them and whether they should have been taken at all. For the record I think;

a). There is nothing "playful" about putting your hands around someones neck
b). How the hell did people watch and take pictures instead of intervening?
c). Those pictures should not have been published
d). The fact that they were published has opened a very taboo subject up to discussion and this is valuable.
e). What Nigella Lawson chooses to do is her business but I have no doubt that her actions will be interpreted by the abused and their abusers to validate their own choices (see (c))
f). I feel very sorry for her that she has been so publicly put in this position

I wish I could unsee those photos. I have a very low tolerance of violent imagery. Aside from that, those images remind me of an uncomfortable truth.

Before I had ever been in love, I firmly believed that if a man ever intentionally hits a woman, then she should leave straightaway. No second chances, no forgiveness. Respect yourself, be strong, get out. All this despite witnessing domestic abuse first hand. I grew up in a small community and heard screams and saw bruises. And all of the women stayed.

But I don't think the issue of domestic abuse is so black and white for me anymore. I realised this pretty soon after I realised I was in Love with Che.

(Obvious disclaimers here - I am referring to a singular strike as opposed to a "beating" and also Che is the most gentle man I've ever met and I believe he would absolutely never ever hurt me)

One day, before we were even married, I was lying in bed watching him get ready for work and knew how difficult it would be for me to leave him. To give up on us. Were he ever to strike me in a temper (it's totally silly to even try to picture it but I think too much) I knew I would hear him out and give him the benefit of the doubt. Love had weakened my resolve. As empowering as love can be, I think it also has the potential to be debilitating.

But I've now come full circle again.
Now that I know Che more fully and believe more strongly in the reality of our love and relationship, the idea of staying is even more anathema to me. When I thought I'd stay, I was naively separating the physical action from the emotional relationship and not realising the impossibility of holding onto the latter after allowing the former.

Were Che to ever strike me, it would be the end of our being together. It would signify the presence of all those scary things (disrespect, dominance, inequality, violence, fear) that have no place in the loving, equal marriage that we celebrate together. As hard as it would be, leaving would be my only choice. To stay would be to live a lie and I respect myself and us too much for that.

So all this is to say that I can understand why women don't leave immediately. Why they fight quietly for what they thought they had. I am now more compassionate towards and less judgemental of women who stay. But that's not to say that I wouldn't advocate leaving.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Ciara got a Job!

Lausanne or London?
After more tears and fits of despair than I'd like to admit to, I have a job. As it tends to go, it was all a bit of a whirlwind in the end, with two offers on the table and big decisions to be made.

After months of hearing nothing but rejection, I finally got an offer in Switzerland, in the beautiful city of Lausanne. It was for an editorial internship at an open access scientific journal, exactly the field I want to move into. There was a shit-load of work to do for the application. Blog posts, essays, company history questionnaires etc. Then came the SKYPE interviews and finally an offer on a Thursday.
The thing was, I had just been asked to write a piece as part of the selection process for a better position in London and submitted it the same day. I was pretty pleased with it and felt hopeful I would hear more.
Also I had my reservations about the Swiss job. It was sounding more administrative and less editorial the more I heard about it. Not to mention that I would be leaving Che behind for 6-12 months with very occasional visits. Or the fianancial side of things. So I initially accepted the offer from Switzerland, all the while hoping that London would make a decision before it was time for me to sign contracts and board a plane.

Luckily London was moving pretty quickly and they phoned me the following Monday with a choice of interview dates of either the next day, the Wednesday or Friday. So off I headed off to London for my interview.
This actually involved two interviews with 6 different people and 2 written tests. It felt really strange sitting down to written tests with an actual pencil and rubber. I naively thought I'd never have to sit an exam again after I finished my undergrad degree 10 years ago!
Speaking to the people there I was getting the impression that this position was going to be way too much of a leap for someone without experience in the industry like me. So I figured I would not get it and debated asking them for an internship even though none were advertised.

Stressing about how much money my day in London for a "pointless" interview cost, I resigned myself to either having to go to Switzerland or be back to square one. My email arrived the following Monday saying I didn't get the position I interviewed for in London, but that they were so impressed by me that they would like to offer me an internship.

I very gladly accepted and now we are off to London! I feel so much better about this. It would have been seriously stressful to take that job knowing I don't have the necessary skills or experience just yet. I've spent enough of my life second guessing my abilities without trying to wing something like that.
The PhD to internship route was how all the other editors I met had gotten their jobs there. I was also told that they needed someone with my background, so I am super excited to get the necessary training to take my place as evolutionary biology editor when the time comes. If it doesn't pan out that way I will have gotten some really valuable experience in my chosen field that will help me get in somewhere else.

So yeah - big changes afoot. The logistics of moving across the country, Che transferring at work, finding somewhere to live etc. are all a bit of a hassle but it's exciting to be moving to the next phase of our lives together.

We have a "Before Sunrise" style goodbye walking tour of Bath planned for this weekend. It's going to be sad saying goodbye to this beautiful city where we met, fell in love and married.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Father's Day

A real-life Polaroid of me and my Dad.

 My Dad was the best Dad a little girl could ask for. He did it all. The playing, the question answering, the encouraging. He had it all down. No one could measure up to him and he would always be there for me.

Until he wasn't. 
No, he wasn't that great strong family man. He was just a man with a family. A family that had baggage and history and real problems. He buckled under the pressure of dealing with a chronically ill wife and found another, ready-made, less-complicated family. And left us.

Now he is someone else's Dad. And facebook tells me that he loves them and they love him and he is the best Dad in the world. But not for me.

Not any more. For me he is the man who emails once every 2-3 months. The man who has nothing to say to me, whose emails of work abroad are, for the most part, strained and impersonal. A man I have not seen in nearly 4 years. A man who looks like my Uncle and pops up on facebook in pictures of expensive holidays with "his kids". He is the man who appears when "something interesting" is happening - a wedding, a degree, a new grandchild. Something he can boast about. And dissappears in beween.

But I love him. At least I love who he was and the way he made child Ciara smile and laugh and feel loved and safe and interesting. I thank him for my childhood and the person he was to me. And I will always remember that and be grateful for it. 
Just as much as I feel the loss of it.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

A break in the Clouds - failing with PMS

One of my favourite places in the World-Worms head, the Gower Peninsula 

Well, I've come crawling back. There was never a conscious decision to not come on here and give voice to my minutia but things got a bit hard there for a while and I needed to regroup a little. Working up the interest level to come here and write was hard, as I had a complete lack of interest in almost everything for a time.

It was nothing different especially - I just got a bit overwhelmed is all. There were tears and dark thoughts but I'm coming through.
This isn't new to me, I battled really hard with some nasty feelings as a teenager which took a long time to be diagnosed as PMS. For some women PMS can be that little bit more insidious and I'm one of them. I've been on the pill since I was 14, and that along with a conscious decision to "be the best version of me" got me thorough some pretty hellish moments.

But the best version of me has been through the wringer of late. Friends moving away and a sense of worthlessness associated with under-employment, coupled with coming off the pill kind of tipped me a little. And of course, because it all happens mid-cycle, it took a little while for the proverbial penny to drop. Now that it has a name I feel more in control again. I'm going to add some evening primrose oil to my morning routine and see how that works out for me.
Genuinely though, just knowing it's not everything else, that it's just my body rebelling can be enough.

It hasn't all been doom and gloom of course.
As I mentioned, I came off the pill. We are not necessarily "trying", but we're not really not trying any more either. Due to some health reasons this may not be an easy road for us and the doctors say sooner rather than later so we are listening to them.

We had a semi-successful vegan May. Halted midway due to a study revealing that a lack of iodine in the diet is not good for the development of babies. This freaked me out as we are vegetarians already and iodine is most often found in meat and dairy. I don't really like supplements. I prefer to get things through food when possible. For example did you know that your recommended daily dose of selenium can be found in one and a half Brazil nuts? And selenium is good for your mental health, endorphins etc.

We also took a trip to the Gower in Wales with some friends (keep an eye out for a post on that soon). It is such a beautiful place. It really centres me.
And some of the biggest news is in my job hunt. I've been offered a job in Switzerland and am waiting to hear back about a position in London that I interviewed for this week. Man I love London. So many people really hate it but I love its vibrancy. I was lucky enough to live there for a year while I did  my Mres and it was one of my favourite years so far.

If you've read all that-thank you. While I was away I was reading my favourite blogs as usual - weirdly I couldn't comment. I think it might be my browser. I am using FireFox but I can't update it because my Mac is too old :(. I might try reading on Safari because I don't like being gagged. I have shit to say!

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Vegan May

This mushy mess is actually an amazing butternut squash risotto and will be on the menu this month.
Not quite sure where April went but Hey Ho! It's May now and that means Vegan May. This is our third year doing it so we pretty much have the hang of it now.
A little back story for you just in case - ee are strict vegetarians and tend to eat vegan a fair bit too. But we slip and fall occasionally so we go totally Vegan for the month of May each year (as much as we can) to get us back on track and feeling healthy again
There are some Caveats:

1. Eating out gets a free pass.
We tend to mostly go for Indian and Chinese anyway so it's not much of an issue but we eat out so rarely that when we do we are not gonna beat ourselves up about it. This is not really about hating the Dairy industry (although I kind of do but am too weak to do much about it), so much as about making some healthy changes.

2. If we go to someone's house we do not expect them to accommodate our faddish ways. We are happy with friends and family being so generous and kind when preparing vegetarian food for us.

3. We can use whatever is already bought or in the freezer. No point in wasting food.

And "Rules".
Again this is more to do with health than Dairy

1. No white carbs.
All wholegrain and wholemeal breads, rices and pastas

2. No soft drinks.
I never used to drink them except occasionally at a fast food place but they weaseled their way into my (shared) fridge via my husband and we buy Pepsi Max way more than I'd like.

3. No processed Vegan foods-burgers, "cheese" etc.

So that's it I think. I've learnt my lesson about lofty statements about losing weight and life-changing err changes. So I'll quit the grandstanding with a whispered "Bring it on Vegan May and watch our energy levels soar."

Care to share your favourite Vegan dinner recipes?

Ciara Xx