July goals

These are the things I’ve planned to do in July, in no particular order.

1. CampNaNoWriMo – I’ve signed up to write 25,000 words by the end of the month. My last CampNaNo in April 2018 was a bit of a disaster, my mental health wasn’t good at the time and what I was writing ended up making me feel a lot worse. This time I’ve got a plot and an outline and the determination not to let my mental health deteriorate, so fingers crossed.

2. FutureLearn – I’ve spent some time this year learning Spanish, and I signed up for an online course after my aunt (who is awesome at finding useful stuff online) sent me a link. I’m also doing a course on sustainability which I’ve always had an interest in.

3. #plasticfreejuly – self-explanatory really, except that as I’m new to trying to live plastic free I’m starting off trying to reduce my plastic use rather than cut it out completely.

4. Getting rid of my braces – hurrah! They’re due to come off later in the month. I cannot wait to see the back of them. Planning much merriment to celebrate their demise.

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Happy Place – flash fiction from a writing prompt

In this place I feel different. There is air, and light, and the freedom to breathe. It isn’t what I expected. I had thought that the room I was entering was the same as the one I had left behind; that I would find the same darkness and dankness there. It’s been a surprise.

When I first entered the room I saw a little girl seated at a table beside the window. “Good morning,”. she said.

“Hi!” I replied. “Where am I? I think I’ve got lost. I was in a really dark place before and now…I’ve come here and didn’t expect to find this,” I glanced around at the pale green walls, white painted floorboards, and comfortable-looking chairs. 

“You haven’t got lost,” she said. “You were meant to find this place.”

“Oh,” I said. I’d thought I was stuck in the dark room forever, and was surprised to find that not only had I escaped, but I was somewhere better and kinder.

I am in a happy place.

You can find the writing prompt I used here

 

Observations from a bus station

I visited Coleraine bus station yesterday (to get a bus, not just to hang out) and while waiting for said bus I had a look around and was reflecting on the differences between the station as it is now, and when I was growing up. There’s a coffee shop in the bus station; the first time I was aware of the existence of such an exotic thing as a ‘latte’ was when I moved to Edinburgh twenty three years ago to attend university. Now, I can get one pretty much anytime I’m in town and want one. How times have changed.

On a less positive note, the provision of public transport which covers the rural areas close to where my family live is pretty bad, to say the least. One bus route only has an hourly service with the last bus leaving before 6pm. It’s quite disheartening for people for whom the bus would be the only mode of transport. I feel that people who live in rural areas are largely forgotten about when it comes to things like this, and good services are limited to urban areas which have a higher population. There are benefits to living in the countryside, but it’s practically impossible to get around without the use of a car.

The Queen’s Birthday Parade

The ‘Trooping the Colour’ parade has been part of the British monarch’s official birthday celebrations since the reign of George III (which began in 1760). I’d seen it on TV, but never experienced it in person. This year, I was visiting London on the weekend the parade took place, so decided to go along to watch.

I left my hostel in North London early, as the parade was due to start at 10 am. I arrived at The Mall at around 9.30 and found a good spot to watch from quite easily.

The parade started off with troops from the Household Cavalry marching down The Mall, accompanied by bands from their respective regiments.

After around half an hour the carriages with members of the Royal Family started going past. The Duchess of Cornwall, Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex all rode in the same carriage. Their outfits were beautiful. The Queen’s carriage followed shortly afterwards.

I’d brought sandwiches with me, so I walked to Trafalgar Square, bought a coffee and had a picnic while waiting for the Royals to return to Buckingham Palace. There were more spectators around for this part of the day. Once all the family members had made their way to the Palace, everyone who was watching the parade made their way to the palace, to watch the balcony appearance and the fly-past.

Watching this event in person was an amazing experience. Because I’ve been so badly organised lately, I hadn’t even realised that it was happening while I was in London until a few days before, which made it a little bit more special (it felt like serendipity rather than something I’d planned). I’d wanted to see a Royal event in person for a long time, so I’m happy that I’ve fulfilled one of my wishes.

Puppy, Bilbao

Puppy is the Jeff Koons’ sculpture of a West Highland terrier that stands outside the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao. He’s over forty foot tall, a steel structure covered with bedding plants which are changed each season.

As Puppy is one of my favourite things about Bilbao, I went to see him a few times when I stayed in the city. The first time I visited, he was still wearing his winter coat, but a week or so later, he was in summer colours.

 

Puppy is free to visit and has unrestricted opening hours.

 

 

London: budget tips

London can be an expensive city, although there are some ways that you can spend less and still enjoy your time here.

1. Buy an Oyster card. It costs £5, and means that you save a lot on transport. I spent £4.90 on a single journey without an Oyster card, but the same journey cost £2.40 after I’d bought one. If you’re planning a trip in advance you can order one online and have it posted to you, or you can also buy it at underground stations.

2. Free walking tours. I did two of these with a company called Strawberry Tours who are excellent and offer a wide range of tours to cover all interests. You just have to tip the guide at the end. They also give a percentage of the tips to charity, which is really good.

3. Eating out in London can be expensive, but if you’re staying in somewhere like an Airbnb or a hostel with a kitchen you can of course cook your own food there. Making sandwiches to bring along with you when you’re out for a day’s sightseeing is also a good idea, there are lots of lovely parks to have a picnic in! I really like St James’s Park, but there are others to choose from.

Less famous London churches

When walking around the city, you can’t help noticing the number of churches there are. As well as the famous ones like Westminster Abbey and St Paul’s Cathedral, the city is home to many other places of worship which are just as interesting. Here are a few I’ve discovered.

St Andrew by the Wardrobe

This church can be found on Queen Victoria Street in the City of London. There has been a church here since at least 1170, although the building was destroyed during the Great Fire of London in 1666 and redesigned by Sir Christopher Wren. It’s unusual name comes from the 14th century, when King Edward moved his Royal Wardrobe to Baynards Castle, which was nearby.

St Botolphs without Aldgate

There has been a church on this site for around 1000 years. St Botolph was a 7th century English abbot who used to be the patron saint of travellers. This church stood at the city gates, just outside the city walls. A few other churches in the City of London area are dedicated to St Botolph; one at Aldersgate, one at Billingsgate, and the other at Bishopsgate.

Christ Church, Spitalfields

This church is on Commercial Street near Spitalfields Market and was built between 1714 and 1729. A commission (called the Fifty New Churches Commission) was set up in 1711; the aim was to build fifty new churches to provide for the growing population of London. The commission didn’t achieve its goal, although it did set up some churches; Christ Church Spitalfields is one of these.