So Bin Ich

Published Categorised as Life in General 4 Comments on So Bin Ich

I return to the UK for good next week (?!?) after a year spent mostly abroad. It will be back to service as normal round here, and I’ve got a whole load of photos of different places that I have yet to post.

I’ve got a fair few new readers lately (mostly from my photos of Japan), and the bio on here isn’t very forthcoming about myself. A lot of the time my approach to blogging is Look Here Is A Thing, but I think a lot of people prefer something more personal to keep reading. So here’s one of those 50 Things About Me things, (with one for luck).

1- I don’t do this blog for money- just for the fun of it, and to keep in touch with people. There’s no #sponcon and the like here. I also don’t use affiliate links, as I think they’re shady. I think it’s sad what blogging has mostly become these days. Most of the “big” blogs are walking adverts, rather than people really sharing their lives. (I wrote a big long post about this topic a while ago). I apologise for my expression in the photo. For some reason I always look like I’m about to punch someone in pictures.

2- My name is Emma. Some people shorten it to Em. Some people (wrongly) assume it’s short for Emily. I don’t really care, any of those will do. I draw the line at Gemma or Emmy. My parents had a primitive early 80s ultrasound and were confidently told I was a boy. Then I popped out and surprised them, and they had to think of a girl’s name in a hurry. They accidentally picked my cousin’s first and middle name. It’s ok though, I have a lot of cousins. I went to her wedding as a kid. It was a surreal experience. “Do you, Emma Jane, take blah blah blah as your lawfully wedded husband?” – “I’ve never met him, and also I’m 8 years old”. It’s strange how Emma is now the number one baby name in quite a few countries at the moment. In the UK it’s a very 70s and 80s name.

3- I was born on the 12th of January 1985. Nearly 3 weeks late and in the wrong year. My star sign is Capricorn. My mum’s side of the family are big into astrology, but I don’t believe in it at all. They like to give gifts with images of your star sign. Unfortunately Capricorn the goat and Aries the ram often have very similar artwork, so I also got given a few Aries souvenirs by my aunt. I am quite fond of goats however. They always seem like they’re having a good time.

4- On the MBTI personality test, I normally come out as the INTP. I’m skeptical about the test and the idea behind it though, particularly the fact that there are only sixteen different boxes to slot people into. However the personality profile the test gives me also says I’d be skeptical about it, so perhaps they’ve got me. The profile from the test rings true in quite a few regards, however it also seems like the worst, most embarrassing of the options, so it’s probably right. It’s also right about me finding irrational or rigid people frustrating.

5- I grew up with no religion whatsoever, something I am thankful for (I wrote something about it here). I still follow no religion, (which is common in the UK). However I’m not a fan of people like Richard Dawkins or their fans, who I feel are just as dogmatic and arrogant as any evangelist. I like to visit religious sites for the architecture and history as well. Which is probably obvious from the number of photos I take of things like cathedrals and Shinto shrines.

6- I spent the majority of my time in the womb at Senate House at UCL (University College London). My mum worked as a university administrator. I feel like I am due something from UCL for that. Maybe some nice Doctoral funding, seeing as I’m a native born daughter of the institution and all. I’ll call them up today in fact. When I get round to it.

It’s also the building that inspired the Ministry of Truth in 1984- it’s an impressive 1930s skyscraper. I spent most of 1984 gestating there, so watch out.I’d love to do a Phd anywhere about something like links between Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura (About the Nature of Things– a Roman guide to the universe and Epicurean Philosophy) and Borges/Calvino, but I have zero hope of getting funding, or to be honest even getting accepted to do a PhD. I’d probably have to do a second MA first in Ancient History. I’m not that keen on that, as most of the MA courses around are aimed at a general History grad audience, and the modules are the same stuff I did as an undergrad.

7- I wear glasses only for reading. My prescription isn’t very strong. The main issue is astigmatism.

8- I have around 30 first cousins, however I rarely see them. I have an older half-brother and sister. My sister has three sons who are 21, 18 and 16. Both sides of my parent’s family come from South London. My maternal grandad was a bona fide Cockney. One of my cousins did some genealogy research, and my paternal grandmother’s family lived in the same street in Battersea that my dad grew up on for nearly 100 years. They just moved to different house numbers every so often.

My dad’s childhood home was opposite Clapham Junction station. A standard Victorian terraced house much like this. Really the only thing wrong with it was the lack of a bathroom.In the 60s the council knocked it down under the guise of “improvement” and built some flats there, where my grandmother continued to live. Those flats are being knocked down again now. My dad’s schoolfriend lived in an identical house two streets away, and his parents were able to buy the house in the mid 60s for around £500, and family members still live there. I just looked up the price, and the same house is now £800,000, which is just ridiculous.

I don’t think any people at the economic level of my grandparents (binman and worked in a pub) will be renting there any more. Even as recently as 5 years ago, my maternal great-aunt was living in a housing association flat on Charing Cross Road right in the middle of Central London. That’s certainly not possible for any normal person now. I’ll talk a bit about London later, but coming from a family that has lived in London for hundreds of years, I now have no relatives there at all due to what’s happening to the city.
9- I grew up in Medway in Kent. It’s a cluster of 6 small towns making up a larger area of ~250,00 people, about 30 miles south east of London. Sometimes it feels like 30 years in the past as well. The big industry there was shipbuilding, but the docks closed down in the 80s leading to a lot of employment and social problems.There are a lot of beautiful buildings and landscapes in the area, but some of the inhabitants are pretty grim. It was one of the few places in the UK to actually elect a far-right, super-nationalist UKIP MP (even if he was later elected out). Charles Dickens comes from my town, so I will never be the most famous resident, no matter what I do. I don’t know if that’s comforting or depressing. The local accent is pretty strong, but I don’t have it strong, especially after being abroad a lot and teaching EFL. You can hear it though in things like when I say house, fought or down, and my total inability to pronounce field and filled differently. Here’s a somewhat well-known poem about my home town.

10- I went to an all-girls secondary school until I was 16. When I compare school stories with other people I feel I got off very lightly. Apart from the usual issues teen angst throws up, my school experience was pretty easy-going. As it was a girl’s school, the idea of “girl’s” or “boy’s” classes or hobbies was refreshingly absent. As was the idea that you should lessen yourself to pander to boys, as they weren’t there to see. I only had to spend time with teenage boys on a voluntary basis. This changed when I went to sixth form and was confronted with the full fragility of the teenage male ego.

11- I studied Ancient History and Modern Languages at Reading for my BA. All my classes were interesting, and I’m glad I did the course there- as well as being a great course I also met some lovely people. Unfortunately it turns out I’m extremely bad at Medieval Latin (details here), which harmed my overall grade. I still wish I had dropped that class rather than persevere with it.

Classes I took:
1st Year: 5th Century Athens, Augustan Rome, Italian for French/Spanish speakers, 20th Century German History, German Language, Expressionism in German culture- ie Schiele, Kafka, Fritz Lang, all that great stuff
2nd Year: Greek Theatre, Classical Sculpture, Ancient Epic, Roman Love Poetry, Latin
3rd Year: Classical Latin, Medieval Latin, Modern Greek, Ancient Greek

12- When I finished uni, I did generic office work for about a year and hated it. So I saved up some money and went to Budapest to do the CELTA to teach English as a Foreign Language, something I’ve done on and off ever since. I miss Hungary a lot sometimes, but couldn’t live there right now due to the extreme right-wing government they have.

13- I also worked at Oxford University and hated it even more than the boring data entry jobs. There were a lot of arrogant snobby people there, and some very racist ones who were allowed to continue with or were actively supported in their bigotry by the institutional culture. When you are at the bottom of a very strict hierarchy at a place like that, your efforts to not go along with objectionable things feel pretty futile, for instance receiving a stern telling off when you refuse to agree with something extremely racist a senior colleague has said. Apparently it’s not “your place” to disagree. So I left and was glad. I guess it looks good on my CV.

14- Between 2008 and 2010 I lived in Brighton, which I loved, but found unreliable for work. I then spent the next year splitting my time between Brighton and London as there was more work available in London, and ended up moving to London full-time. Although I feel at home in London in many ways, seeing as I grew up close by with most of my relatives there, I also feel like the current edition of the city doesn’t want people like me. London just isn’t fun any more, it’s a slog for survival with constantly rising rent but no change in wages, and it didn’t seem worth it any more, so I left last summer, and have worked abroad on and off since. A lot of my friends have recently left London for the same reasons ands scattered to other places. I’m returning to the UK this month and house-hunting in Margate. A pretty and artistic seaside town in the region I come from, with reasonable prices.

15- In 2010 I signed up to do a two year Art MA at Brighton. It was wonderful, and I’d happily sign up and do the whole thing over again. Maybe it was my great classmates who made it special though. I studied illustration, printmaking, animation and bookbinding. When I was 18 I was wavering between university and art school, so I got to do both in the end (and I recommend doing them in the order I did).

16- While studying on, and when I graduated from the MA I tried to get into museum education roles, to little success. I came to the conclusion after underpaid jobs that required post-grad education and multiple languages, that it’s a bit of a fool’s errand. The museum and culture industry is extremely elitist and classist, and is essentially a closed shop which is hostile to outsiders. Being ex-boarding school and having rich parents who can subsidise you to do endless unpaid internships is a better route in than any kind of education and work sadly. Equally sadly, I’m not alone in this conclusion amongst my friends who have also worked in the industry.

17- I have also worked at the less glamorous end of graphic design/production, doing design and production control on catalogues and in-house magazines. I did learn a lot about the chemistry of oil paint from doing one of those catalogues, mind.

18- Since 2010 I have also been going to Austria and Germany several times a year to teach workshops in schools- what we teach varies depending on the school, but always includes creative writing, drama and public speaking, and often cooking or sport. This year I have already visited every Bundesland of Austria.

19- I have spent very little of this year in the UK. This was a conscious decision after the crappiness of 2016. I have taken teaching work abroad and gone on a few budget trips of my own (strongly aided by winning some plane tickets to Japan). So far this year I have been to the Czech Republic, Austria (every region), Switzerland, The Netherlands (albeit Schiphol Airport), France, Croatia, Slovenia, Japan and Germany. I also got to see Lake Baikal at dawn through the plane window, which was pretty special.

20- On holiday I like to walk a lot, and poke around finding things and taking photographs. I’m sure a lot of people would find me very aggravating to travel with. I also very much enjoy flying or taking long train journeys alone. Just me, my thoughts, and snacks, music or books of my choice.

Actually aimlessly wandering around is pretty much my favourite thing to do. That’s how you find the good stuff and get a chance to think about things outside the heat of the moment. I like authors like Raymond Queneau and John Berger’s thoughts about creative wandering. Let’s dress it up and get me business cards as a flaneûse or something. Situationist at not so large.

21- When I was a little kid I wanted to be either Indiana Jones or David Attenborough when I grew up. I guess current me would sort of look like a success to seven year old me if she squinted. I have worked at the Natural History Museum and travelled a lot. Sadly I have not discovered any dinosaurs, treasure or rare beasts.

22- I am a feminist 100%. You either believe women are fully equal human beings worthy of respect or you don’t. If you don’t, I have no time for you. Why bother with anyone who thinks you are naturally inferior.

23- Politically I guess I tend towards the syndicalist sort of anarchism (ie the kind based on building non-hierarchical society on co-ops and unions), but I’m short on patience with many of the “anarchists” I come across. The type I’m thinking of are actually some of the most hierarchical and snobby people I have ever met (and hang out in very white, very upper-middle class groups) — using minute signifiers in fashion, music taste and slang to decide whether people are “real” or not or can be snobbily dismissed as a disposable “normie”.

You can’t change people’s minds about how society could work and get them to listen to you if you make it clear you think they are some kind of inferior peasant from the outset. Strike! magazine published a great article on the male of this species, but it’s not limited to men unfortunately. Radicalism is based on ideas, not dress-codes. The “smash the state first, and we’ll sort out the details later” attitude also annoys me, as it’s a really privileged way of looking at things- it can only be borne by someone who essentially deep down assumes that everything will work out ok for them, because it always has, and well, people like them don’t bear the brunt of these things.

There are a lot of people who are forced to rely on the inadequate safety nets the current crappy system has and it’s not radical to essentially ignore those people and say they aren’t important. (Or even worse, are the cannon fodder for your glorious revolution). It’s true though that I really do hate hierarchies and power games, and enjoy collaborative working. The collective/non-hierarchical projects and collectives I’ve been involved with have run the gamut from wonderful to making me lose my faith in humanity.

What the bad experiences have had in common is that people who didn’t genuinely want to work collaboratively were involved. There were unspoken hierarchies that you were supposed to deny, while always deferring to the people at the top of it, or people who wanted to feel powerful by denying the group the consensus needed to agree on an action (even if really they did actually agree with it). These things only work with genuinely open and honest communication.

All this said, I am also a member of the Labour Party. I can’t really subscribe to the political purity motivated idea that you should refrain from voting because you are waiting for the revolution and don’t want to encourage the liberals or the system. Not while the Tory party is still in power and targeting the most vulnerable people in society with sadistic glee. If the Tories of the 1940s were lower than vermin, I don’t even know what tier of unter-cockroach the current lineup is at.

Abstaining from voting when you have the power to collectively remove a government that is actively oppressing people strikes me again as the height of self-indulgent privelige. Again, everything has been ok for you, and you’re essentially assuming it always will be.

24- My blog is not a place for the socially conservative. If you don’t think people are fundamentally equal, then I have no time for you and make no apologies.

25- I speak French and German. I learnt French as a kid, and have no formal qualifications in it. My writing looks like a dyslexic French person’s- I get stuff like the subjunctive right, but make stupid basic spelling mistakes with silent letters (but never with things like é vs è, because they actually sound different).

I learnt German the conventional way, via school and university.  Due to a Viennese teacher and working in Austria for the last seven years, I now sound pretty Austrian. This goes down well in Southern Germany and Austria, but confuses and annoys people in the North of Germany. I’d like to take the TestDAF, the main C1 level German exam, at some point. It gives you access to post-grad level study in German speaking countries. No way is that going to happen this year though.

I also did a year of Italian classes for Spanish or French speakers at university, which was pretty straightforward. It just felt like more straightforward French.

I’m always doubting that I speak any language however, barely even English, as I start holding myself to impossible standards of perfection – that “speaking” means “completely indistinguishable from a native speaker at all times, never makes a single grammar mistake, and expresses myself at all times like a professional broadcaster or phd candidate”. Which is impossible.

I also find it hard to code-switch between languages fast. I especially find it hard to switch into French as the sounds and pronunciation are so different to the other languages I know. Right now I’m working in Germany, living with two other English teachers in the house of a very chatty old French lady. After spending half the last month in Germany, the other half in France, and speaking Italian every lunchtime for one of those German weeks with a friendly café owner, I think my brain might explode. I keep accidentally replying to French in German, or thinking in German when I’m actually trying to write something in English. Hopefully my brain will re-wire itself, or I’ll just forget how to speak English to make room for the rest.

26- My aim over the winter is to actually read more quality literature in my languages. I can, I’m just lazy and don’t. I would also like to learn more Russian beyond the very basic level I’ve studied.

27- I don’t have much patience for other British people who move to a country and then don’t bother to learn the language, arrogantly assuming that everyone will speak English to convenience them and claiming it’s “too hard” for them to learn. Other countries aren’t full of child geniuses, you know.

28- I like to read a lot in general. I was that kid who would read all the cereal boxes and shampoo bottles. Every year I do the Goodreads Challenge. I usually set it at one book per week- so fifty two per year. I was ambitious one year – too ambitious – and set it to one hundred. I didn’t make it in the end, I only got to seventy five. (Only). “One book a week” doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to a lot at fifty two.

Right now I reading the Lathe of Heaven. Unfortunately my unread book pile is seventy plus high. I can resist all temptations except new books (or even more dangerously, cheap second hand ones). It’s outright perilous for me to go into the Charing Cross branch of Foyles.

Some favourite authors, alphabetically: Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Gaston Bachelard, Elif Batuman, John Berger, Jorge Luis Borges, Mikhail Bulgakov, Italo Calvino, Angela Carter, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Colette, Charles Dickens, Dostoyevsky, Gerald Durrell, Umberto Eco, TS Eliot, Michel Faber, Esther Freud, Graham Greene, Zora Neale Hurston, Tove Jansson, BS Johnson, Diana Wynne Jones, Kafka, Ursula Le Guin, Primo Levi, Martin Millar, George Orwell, Mervyn Peake, Raymond Queneau, Sei Shonagon, Rebecca Solnit, Dylan Thomas, Robert Tressel, Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf, Stefan Zweig

I’ve probably forgotten someone really important there as always. I don’t have a particular genre I favour- just well-written books with some depth and psychology to them. If you see a load of Agatha Christie whodunnits on the reading list, you know I’ve been stuck in bed with the flu. Agatha Christie is the perfect well-plotted yet essentially mindless reading for when you’re ill.

29- My biggest hobby is photography. Unless otherwise specified, all the photos on this blog were taken with a pretty basic Canon EOS 100D (or even my phone). I’ve got two pancake prime lenses- the 28mm and 40mm, and a chunkier 50mm that’s usually at home. That’s it. Nothing fancy.

30- I also like to draw and do art in general. Even though I have an MA in it, I often have to push myself to feel “allowed” to draw. If you don’t leave art school with a sense of crushing doubt, what do you leave with?

31- If people ask me “what music do you like” I often clam up, or try to evade the question like it’s the most difficult question in the world. I guess the best answer is I like the sort of stuff ATP used to put on (before Barry started scamming people). Post and math rock like Slint, Mogwai, My Bloody Valentine and Tortoise. The kind of electronic stuff Warp puts out like Boards of Canada, Broadcast and Autechre. Ambient stuff like Brian Eno and Fennesz. Heavier drone/metal stuff like Sunn O))) and Earth (I also have a big soft spot for the only good nu metal band- Deftones and total cheese like Ghost). 80s punk like Hüsker Dü and Fugazi. 70s punk like X-Ray Spex and the Slits. Post-hardcore like Cap’n Jazz and At the Drive In. Krautrock like Kraftwerk and Can. Pleasingly gloomy spoken word stuff like Arab Strap and Leonard Cohen. Folk like Shirley Collins, Nick Drake and the Wicker Man soundtrack. Motown girl groups like the Shangri-Las and the Ronettes. 70s AOR stuff like Fleetwood Mac and King Crimson. Indie pop/alt-rock stuff like Grandaddy and Pavement. The starker end of classical music, like Philip Glass and Stravinsky. There’s probably lots of things that have totally slipped my mind in that list. I’m interested in lots of different kinds of music. The thing I hate is bland stuff like Coldplay and Ed Sheeran. I find it infuriating.

32- Speaking of the Rite of Spring, my mum’s otherwise sunny and bold little cat is terrified of the intro music. I was watching a film about the riots at the opening night in 1913, and when the music started up she sat bolt upright on my lap, with a look of horror on her face. Like “this cannot be!”. She then ran and hid in the kitchen until it was over. She isn’t bothered by gunshots or dogs on television, only Stravinsky it seems. She must have a pre-modern mind.

Later on, the Festival Hall in London (one of my all-time favourite places) had a piece of sound art in the (elaborately panelled mid-century modern) toilets of a recording of a man whistling the intro to the ballet. I would always have to stop myself bursting out laughing. Imagine if someone had asked me why- I would have had to reply “the look on the cat’s face”. I was sad when they stopped having the eerie whistling in the toilets.

Speaking of Kraftwerk, I’ve got used to listening to them in German, and the English version sounds weird to me now. When I was about nineteen and studying German at university, I found a set of the German versions of the albums cheap in a local second hand shop, and bought them. This was much to the delight of my housemate, who DJed at a local place (RIP the After Dark), and liked playing them to throw drunk people off-guard. As well as helping my German, I think the majority of the songs sound better in German, the original language they were written in. The words flow better and there’s a sly sense of humour there.

Ralf Hütter also has a pronounced Rheinland accent- he says “isch” instead of “ich”. It’s an accent associated with being cosy and chatty, and possessed by lots of of daytime tv presenters in Germany. I like that contrast with the clean, cold, futuristic sound of the music.

Kraftwerk can also teach you German grammar rules painlessly. Die Autobahn is a feminine word, so why do they sing “Wir fahr’n auf der Autobahn”?

It’s a fiddly rule of German grammar with verbs of movement:

Wir fahren auf die Autobahn (feminine accusative case)- We started on another road, and have now joined the Autobahn

Wir fahren auf der Autobahn (feminine dative case- just looks masculine)- We are driving around within the Autobahn, and haven’t changed to another location at all

Thank you Kraftwerk.

33- I can play the guitar and various other instruments, but mostly only for myself. I just freeze up if other people are there, and can barely bring myself to hold the thing, let alone play it. When I was growing up there was a strong idea that music was a “boy’s thing” – I never saw any women on stage at local gigs. The few occasions I did, they had to suffer sexual harassment or a barrage of criticism. Things have improved a bit since then, but my female musician friends have to put up with loads of sexist shit still, and the assumption that they’re automatically crap, and it makes me wonder if it’s even worth it.

I often feel like I have to strongly defend my right to listen to music and know anything about it and that’s just passive listening. You get quizzed with trivia to prove you’re a “real” fan or have any tiny slip aggressively jumped on to make you feel stupid and small, and that’s just talking about music, not playing it. Having to fight to even to get started seems exhausting. I guess my brain has got the message that I’m laying myself in for intense scrutiny and nitpicking in an attempt to diminish and humiliate me, and freezing up seems way safer. This is the point where it’s tempting to dig a big pit and throw those patronising, bullying, insecure little men down into it.

34- I also like to sew, knit, and make things in general. My nan was a dressmaker, so I learnt at an early age. I sometimes teach textiles too. I’m pretty skeptical of the whole craft industry and its attempt to make craft another kind of capitalism though. See here for more details.

35- I have joined up handwriting that makes people go “wow that’s neat and tidy” until they look at it closer and realise that’s it’s actually quite hard to read. I think I probably join up some of the letters in the wrong place too.

Being a time-wasting idiot, I often handwrite out longer pieces of text like this, or at least plan them by hand as bullet points, and then type it up on the computer later. I think it’s good for me to have to put everything down into one rough draft without the ability to skip around or get distracted on a computer. When I write straight onto the computer it’s too easy to faff around making small changes to a paragraph or writing bits here and there piecemeal. I have a big stack of filled notebooks, and (far too many) empty ones for future endeavours. Future historians will either be grateful or infuriated at the chaotic way I use the pages for notes and intersperse different pages of drafts. It makes sense to me at least, and I guess that’s all that matters.

36- I also like to collect bits of ephemera like tickets, interesting packaging etc, and stick them in a scrapbook. You can see examples from previous years here. I already did it anyway, but then we were encouraged to do it at art college. I also like to make sketch/text notes like this of exhibitions, another legacy from my MA and the Visual Diary we were required to keep.

37- I have been making zines since 2002 or so, and started putting some effort into it in 2007. I have lots still in print, and the best bits of the old ones as a collection. They can’t stop me making more. There’s nothing they can do. Nothing. If you want to read about why I make them, you can go here, or get practical tips here.

38- I have a very good memory. Treacherously good. Remember that thing that happened fifteen years ago? I do. (I’m nice enough to not blackmail you). I remember names and faces easily. Information goes in and sticks too. I also have a good visual memory for things like where something was, or retracing my steps. Probably the fact I do all these sketchbooks and collage diaries and so on, and memorise seating plans of students for work helps a lot.

39- At this point I’m essentially ambidextrous. I write with my right hand, as that’s how I learnt (albeit with the pen held completely wrong and half the letters formed backwards or upside down), but a lot of other things I do left-handed by instinct. I had a lot of trouble learning to write well, so probably I was actually just left-handed and was just struggling to do it with my right hand. I got there in the end.

40- I love to cook and bake. I also frequently teach children cooking.

41- I haven’t eaten meat in twenty years. However I’m not a vegan. although I do mostly eat vegan at home. I feel that if you’re going to eat meat you should be willing to kill your own animal, and I know that I’m not. However, I’d much rather spend time with open-minded meat eaters than the worst kind of vegan.

42- I’m horribly allergic to sulphites, which means I can’t drink wine or cider. I also have to check labels carefully as sulphites can turn up in all kinds of unexpected foods. My default drink order is a Jack Daniels and coke. Reliable and tastes nice. I like beer too, but I find it very filling in a way spirits are not.

43- I love going on boats. If there’s a chance to travel by ferry and sit on deck, sign me up.

44- I love to look at maps. Give me an atlas and I’m happy for ages. Lots of other people like maps too, let’s form a club where we just sit and peer at maps together.

45- I love panoramic views, but get terrible vertigo very easily due to some kind of sinus/inner ear issue. The views pretty much always win out, but I’m usually clinging on for dear life to a railing somewhere. Even when I’ve been up there for a few hours or so admiring the view the vertigo never goes. For some reason planes give me no such trouble, possibly because the air is pressurised.

46- At home I drink large amounts of Earl Grey tea (no milk or sugar). Sometimes cafetière coffee too (also no milk, sometimes a little sugar). In a café though, I tend to get a simple espresso. I’m not really into the big fancy milky drinks like frappés etc. I do like Red Bull though, which a lot of people think is disgusting. I’m just not that sensitive to caffeine.

47- I’m also not very sensitive to local anaesthetic. I always have to get several injections at the dentist for it to take. I would like to trade this one in for the sulphite sensitivity, but I’m not sure where to report.

48- I like to grow things, but don’t have a garden, so have a lot of house plants. In the past I have had whole selections of things such as orchids, lilies, herbs and produce, but currently I only have cacti and succulents, as they can be left to be neglected at relative’s houses while I’m abroad. I grew some good chilis last year, which had to be hand pollinated with a cotton bud due to the lack of bees in my kitchen.

That said I have currently deposited twenty different cacti at my dad’s so maybe “only” is too understated there. I mostly get the succulents half-dead from Wilko for 50p (they don’t look after their plants) and perk them up with good conditions, and then propagate their offshoots. If you want a guide to repotting succulents, here is one. My maternal grandad was a keen gardener and used to breed cacti as a side business, so maybe I get it from him. I guess the next step of following in his footsteps is entering vegetable competitions and stealing cuttings from any plant I see in other people’s gardens. If I had a garden, I would love to have hydrangeas, sunflowers, marigolds and vegetables.

49- I also used to be keen on aquarium keeping. I had one cold tank with fancy goldfish with long tails (and one fast pointed one called Roger), and another warm tank with betta splendens (aka Siamese Fighting Fish). It’s not that I lost interest, it’s just that aquariums don’t mix with having to move a lot as you are forced to in London. Moving and refilling the tanks destroys the ecosystem and stresses the fish. A lot of the cleaning of the water is done by friendly bacteria rather than the actual filter, and draining the tank out kills them. Which then stresses and kills the fish because it affects the water quality.

If I had the space and stability, I’d love to have some axolotls. When I was a kid I used to catch and grow newts from spawn, and then release them back into the water when they were starting to get legs. Axolotls seem like the next step (and they’re fascinating animals).

50- I grew up with lots of pets- two cats, a rabbit, a guinea pig, and fish (outdoors and indoors). In the past I’ve also had rats and gerbils. I like all animals really, and find them fascinating, and don’t really mind things like being bitten or getting covered in hairs. I don’t have any pets right now, again caused by living in London. I’d like to get a cat. I love big fluffy dogs like huskies, but would never get one as they are so much responsibility, and I think in general I’m more of a cat person. I like their independence.

51- Let’s face it, when it comes down to it, I’m pretty boring at heart.


  1. Boring? No I don’t think so. I really enjoyed reading. Teaching ESL or EFL opens a lot of doors in the word to you. My daughter has taught in China and Korea and now works with mostly Saudi students at a US university However with our hate encouraging President in the US she may not have students in the Spring semester.

    1. I also used to teach Saudi students who were brushing up on their English before starting university in the UK.

      However our government over here has got ridiculously strict/kafkaesque about visas in the last few years, to try to look like they’re tough and strict and in control. But in an incompetent way- sending people erroneous deportation letters, refusing visas for nonsensical reasons and the like. So it’s massively put prospective students off, and they go to other countries. Or they can get a visa for the degree, but can’t get one for any time before to do preparation classes. So there’s my work out the window.

      1. Also, like the US, deporting completely harmless people for no real reason, or even worse deporting people back to war zones like Afghanistan.

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