25 Things I Thought I Would Have Achieved by 25

This one’s ALL ABOUT ME.

On the eve of my 25th birthday, I can’t help but think about what “25” has symbolized to me in the decade leading up to it. For the many of you thinking “But you’re still so young!” – think of it from my perspective: this is the oldest I’ve ever been! My intention here is not to whine, but to remark on the perception of “25” I have held for most of my teens and early 20’s. The long and short of it is, in my mind, I feel like I should already be more of a grown up!

The 25 Things I Thought I Would Have Achieved by 25:

1. An Adult Job

I have had a lot of difficulty with getting jobs in the past year, as documented by this post.

Perhaps this was naïve of me, but I always thought that by 25 I would have a decent grasp on what I wanted to do – or at least be on the path towards some sort of greatness.

Instead I have felt more often like Marshall from How I Met Your Mother. 

Except he, at least, gets interviews.

rejection-letter

2. Irresistible Good-Looks

Ok, so this is absolutely naïve, but every time in my early twenties I ate half a cake, or decided to have nachos for dinner AGAIN, I always thought to myself, “This is ok, when I’m older I’ll know better and I’ll be fit and sexy.” That hasn’t happened yet. Also, subjectivity plays a heavy hand, as I’m beginning to learn.

Photo on 13-09-08 at 2.39 PM #3

3. A Life

I have had a life in the past. When I moved countries twice and I think I must have dropped it out the window over the Atlantic Ocean. I’m not a strong enough swimmer to go looking for it, so I have to start from scratch. As a 25 year-old, back living with my parents, with a lot of student debt and low income, this feels like a daunting task. But the process has happily begun!

4. My Own Place

I am so lucky to have the parents I have. I love them, and if they hadn’t offered to house me during this period of my life, I would have been stuck in Edinburgh at my terrible job that was sucking out my soul. But at this point in my life, I thought I would at least be independent enough to have my own place.

5. Love

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You can’t hurry love, no, you just have to wait.

6. Independence

This requires many ingredients. One of which is money.

7. Financial Stability and Debt-Free Status

I think this goes hand-in-hand with the desire for an adult-job, or maybe it will never be? I worked so much the past year, especially in Edinburgh, and it made me even more financially unstable than I ever have been. It was a terrifying glimpse into how some people (which could still include me I suppose) live their whole lives. I don’t know why, but I thought my student loans would just magically disappear with all the money I was going to suddenly come into.

Most awful and pajama-looking uniform ever!

Most awful and pajama-looking uniform ever!

8. The Perfect Wardrobe

I expected to have a perfect grasp of what I look good in, in synthesis with current trends. I still, however, occasionally commit fashion faux-pas!

9. Freedom

Again, this has a bit to do with money. Specifically, I would love to have a car and just be able to drive wherever, whenever.

This would be good too.

This would be good too.

10. Happiness

I understand now that happiness isn’t something you ‘achieve’. It’s not an equation: a + b = happiness; happiness is fluid and constantly in flux from day to day, hour to hour. I believe “being happy” means that your flux remains in the happiness range more often than not – that is a good place to be. I want to go to there.

11. More Travel

I suppose that would require money. Or I need to take my own budget travel advice. I guess I can wait!

12. A Reclaimed Youth

Actually, I guess this HAS happened a bit…

13. Stability

 This will come – I hope!

14. Better Habits

Waking up earlier, eating less cheesy popcorn, watching less tv. These things are in the early stages of happening. Also, the past 3 months I’ve written a weekly To-Do list. I know I’m capable of a lot in very little time, but I’m one of the most lazy and scatterbrained people I know. A To-Do list helps focus me.

15. Acceptance of Mortality and Old-Age

I put this on my To-Do list last week. I wasn’t able to check it off.

16. Perfect Health

I have started eating much healthier (except for the cheesy popcorn) and it feels amazing! My insides sing and I don’t feel heavy or bloated as often. Health is a fluid state and can never really be “achieved” without continuous maintenance (and lots of fluids – ha). But I could certainly have it much worse!

 17. Cool Gadgets

Again, a thing remedied by money. However I just got upgraded by my network to a Galaxy s3 so I shouldn’t complain!

 18. A Following

I am very grateful to the handful of people who read my blog. Please continue and share with your friends!!!

19. A Novel

It’s in the works, but I was hoping to have some sort of significant accomplishment in this area by 25.

 20. The Opposite of Loneliness

I have lovely, amazing friends. BUT NONE OF THEM LIVE NEAR ME. I miss them, and I have only just begun to meet people in my new home.

My 23rd birthday

My 23rd birthday in Victoria, BC

 21. Perfect Skin

I’m not a teenager anymore! When do pimples stop??

 22. Even Longer Hair

How long does that shit take to grow?

 23. An Understanding of What My Body Needs

I know I have a gluten issue, but there’s something else ripping my insides to shreds. It better not be dairy or I will cry forever (I love cheese).

24. Success

I have always been fairly successful, and I guess this last year of non-success has brought me off my pedestal. Perhaps that will be a good thing!

 25. An Idea About What to do in My Late-Twenties, and Goals for Thirty

My Identity is largely based in my youth. I KNOW I’m still young, and, for now, I’m grateful for that. Yet, I also know that I have to start thinking of myself as an adult who needs to start planning for the future – or at least thinking about planning for the future! This is a step I’m not sure I’m ready to take, but I’m afraid to avoid it any longer.

I find it funny how we seem to project increased wisdom and general betterness onto our future selves; it always seems to end up being in a different way from what we expect.

I should say that these are all things that are in progress. Even since I started writing this post a several weeks ago, things have begun to turn around! Of course, at the end of this, I have shifted all of these expectations onto “30.” That’s healthy, right?

Thoughts on Loneliness

They say that even when surrounded by people, you can feel alone. Perhaps even more so than when you are, physically, alone.

Parisian love locks - not everyone is lonely!

Parisian love locks – not everyone is lonely!

During my recent travels I have felt lonely. A lot. I have also thought about what it means to be lonely, how we become lonely, why we feel loneliness.

This guy is so lonely he's going to extreme measures to attract attention. Cover up, buddy!

This guy is so lonely he’s going to extreme measures to attract attention. Cover up, buddy!

With travel, you have to accept a certain amount of loneliness. When I first arrived in Edinburgh, I was living in a hostel. For two weeks I flip-flopped between hyper-social and super-introvert. It’s like you have a certain amount of social energy, and when you are thrust into an extreme social environment like a hostel (especially when you’re travelling alone), it burns out quickly and you must retreat back into yourself, perhaps more so than you would normally, just to refuel. These are the hardest times when you’re travelling, because you see everyone around you socializing and having rad times, and you can’t muster one drop of the energy required to join them.

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If you have been travelling on your own and have not experienced this, then I congratulate you. You are better at this than I.

Of course, when I packed up my life and moved blindly to Edinburgh, I expected to feel lonely until I settled in and built myself a new life. What I didn’t expect, however, was how long this loneliness would last, and how much a part of me it would become. Don’t get me wrong, I have always highly valued my ‘alone time’ – even when I lived with a dude, and especially with my myriad roommates over the years – but now it has taken on a different quality, or maybe I am just more critically aware of it.

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I find that my feelings of loneliness are directly related to (or the same as) the presence of my own personal happiness in any single moment. If I have a productive day, for example, I am happier with myself. Even if I spend that day alone I do not necessarily feel lonely. The inverse is also true; when I do nothing, I feel less happy with myself and am more susceptible to loneliness – even if there are people around. This fact about me may have always been true, but I was not aware of it until recently. I love learning stuff about yourself, you feel so much more in tune with what you need!

Evidence of past productiveness: thesis notes

Evidence of past productiveness: thesis notes

Loneliness, or aloneness, can sometimes be exactly what I want. My favourite example of this was recently, when I went with my brother to the Muse concert in the Stade de France, Paris. The absolute best moment was during Madness; I closed my eyes and through some kind of magic, the thousands of people in the supermassive stadium disappeared, and it was just me and Muse and the music. It was glorious. Having my own isolated experience, and then looking over to lil’bro with tears of his own emotional reaction to this song, well, it was a good feeling. A shared loneliness.

M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-mad-mad-mad

M-m-m-m-m-m-m-m-mad-mad-mad

Now that I’m back at home for the time being, I was hoping that my new ever-present quality of loneliness would subside. It has to a degree, but the only time it disappeared almost completely was when my best friend was visiting for a few days last week. Since I was around both my family and a friend, I felt more fulfilled than just with one or the other. I still think, however, that it is with myself that I need to feel content to eradicate loneliness altogether. I guess it’s time to start figuring out what I want out of life and what I need to do to achieve it.

The cold, slippery railroad of life. It's a perilous journey!

The cold, slippery railroad of life. It’s a perilous journey!

In the meantime, I got a cat.

Winston LVOES ME!

Winston LOVES ME!

We’ll Always Have Paris: A Brief Vacation with a French-Hater

There’s a wee little French city that has been the destination for romantics and shopaholics alike for many a decade. It’s called Paris – maybe you’ve heard of it?

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Like many others before me, and many more to come, I have had an obsession with going to Paris ever since I was eleven years old and was growing into my appreciation for all things adult, romantic and materialistic.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

In my recent adulthood, however, I have heard things that have marred this dream and given me a dose of reality (probably a good thing). Paris stinks, it’s dirty, it’s crowded, it’s expensive, Parisians are rude, the Eiffel tower costs your first born child to walk up it, lots of people try to scam you, the whole city is a tourist trap. All these things put Paris a little further down on my list of places to go before I die, but when presented with the opportunity to go, I wasn’t going to say no!

S'up?

S’up?

Having freshly moved to Lyon (him) and Edinburgh (me), my lil’bro and I decided in December 2012 that the following June we would meet in Paris for a few days to see the city. Oh, and also OUR FAVOURITE BAND. Muse. For me, this was going to be the perfect mini-vacation! Paris, Muse, and my brother – who I hadn’t seen in almost a year due to our recent voyages.

Check out the reflection in lil'bro's glasses!

Check out the reflection in lil’bro’s glasses!

The only problem was, in those 6 months, lil’bro developed a deep, lingering hatred for the French. Mostly this was due to the lack of communication, organization, desire to be efficient and a general attitude of malaise within any French bureaucratic system. For example, in order to get a bank account, he needed an address. In order to get an apartment, he needed a French bank account – a conundrum that was a pain to resolve. My favourite story was lil’bro’s attempt to apply for medical insurance. He went multiple times during posted office hours to the office where this was to be done only to find it closed with a posted sign saying “Fermé sans raison” <Closed for no reason> (this may, however, be an exaggeration born from frustration – a trait that comes from my Mother’s side of the family. NOTHING she EVER says is accurate).

Well, I arrived in Paris; still hopeful that it would be everything I wanted it to be.

Within the first few hours I was scammed out of €5 (my fault for being naïve and too nice), was an intended pick-pocket victim (best anti-theft device ever: giant box of tampons at the very top of your bag), hit-on by a Moroccan guy (which made me uncomfortable because his Dad was right there), and harassed by aggressive panhandlers on the train. Whatever, I thought, I’m in PARIS!

Yay! We're in Paris!

Yay! We’re in Paris!

Omg, I don't f***ing care!

Omg, I don’t f***ing care!

When I finally arrived at our 1-star hotel (really not that bad for what we paid), I hunkered down to wait for lil’bro to arrive in a few hours. Then the lightning storm happened. If I typed out everything that occurred in the next twelve hours this post would more resemble a novel, so I will summarize using bullet points:

  • My side: Lightning storm knocks out Wi-Fi, my phone stops working, no way of finding out that lil’bro’s plane has been delayed – hours of worrying what’s happened.
  • Lil’bro’s side: plane late, phone dead, address for Paris hotel on phone, discovers bag was left in Berlin. Bag has phone charger, Muse tickets, plane ticket back to Canada. F**k.
  • Airport says to call next day with hotel address so bag will be delivered, lil’bro skeptical about French promises.
  • Lil’bro asks for computer access to get hotel address since he has no idea where to go, none available. Random girl takes pity on him (he’s adorable) and he uses her personal phone to check hotel address.
  • Lil’bro waits for bus to get to metro, empty bus passes many waiting people. Next bus is LAST bus, not everyone fits on, lil’bro is skinny and angry, gets on bus.
  • Bus takes him to metro, doesn’t know which metro to take, guesses. Guesses RIGHT, happens to find map, miraculously finds hotel. Hotel front door is locked, yells outside for me, I hear him, let him in. He’s safe, sweaty, four hours late and PISSED OFF. It’s 2am.
  • Next morning, call airport, takes 8 tries. They can’t deliver bag after all, but bag is now in France and no longer in Berlin. We TELL THEM we will come pick up bag at airport, they agree.
  • Get to airport, bag has been put on flight to Canada. Has the flight left? No. Go get the bag then. Eye rolls. Agrees.
  • Finally get bag. Lil’bro’s hatred for France has tripled.

Able to relax at least a little, we go wandering around the downtown core and, to be fair, it’s pretty beautiful!

Sacre Couer Cathedral, our favourite building.

Sacre Couer Cathedral, our favourite building.

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Sacre Couer

Pantheon

Pantheon

Palais du Luxembourg

Palais du Luxembourg

I would definitely come back to Paris, but perhaps not until I have a bit more means, seeing as it’s difficult to find even a shot of espresso for less than €3, let alone any decent affordable food.

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We had some trouble getting to the Muse concert too. It was rush hour and people were squeezing themselves onto the metro to the point of overflow. Of course, the trains won’t leave if the doors can’t close, and lil’bro and I were completely exasperated by these people who were more concerned with getting on the train than allowing it to leave, thus causing everyone else to be delayed. It got to the point where station staff had to pull people off and man the doors while they closed.

But, of course, THIS made it all worth it!

Muse! Muse, Muse, Muse!

Muse! Muse, Muse, Muse!

Cool floating lightbulb :)

Cool floating lightbulb 🙂

Muse was flawless; their set-list was literally a copy-paste of my personal list of favourites. Chuffed to bits!

A Love Letter to Canada

Canadian-Flag

My Dearest Canada,

I love the UK very much, and I’m sorry, but I needed to give our relationship a chance. We certainly had some good times. While I lived in Edinburgh I was able to experience so much. Some of it was good: beauty, history, independence, travel, solitude, friends and personal growth. Some of it was bad: finances, my living situation, jobs, cold people, short winter days, the inability to foster my own happiness, and increasing loneliness. In the end, the bad outweighed the good, and though I am stronger for the experience, Canada, I have returned to you.

Saltspring Island, BC

Saltspring Island, BC

Your beauty is boundless. From the mountainous west coast of British Columbia, to the vast flatness surrounding my current small-town Ontario residence.

Looking from the Malahat to Willis Point, Vancouver Island BC

Looking from the Malahat to Willis Point, Vancouver Island BC

Mt Baker from the Malahat, Vancouver Island BC

Mt Baker from the Malahat, Vancouver Island BC

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island BC

Quallicum Beach, Vancouver Island BC

Jellyfish forest (NOT usual!), Todd Inlet, Vancouver Island BC

Jellyfish forest (NOT usual!), Todd Inlet, Vancouver Island BC

Winter in Stratford ON

Winter in Stratford ON

The universal friendliness of your people is overwhelming. My first day back, I was smiled at and greeted by so many people that I ran to a mirror to see if there was something on my face! There wasn’t. This is just the way of Canadians. I had forgotten. And though the Canadian sense of style may not be up to par with the UK, there is a much greater appreciation for inner beauty.

Ziplining in Esquimalt, Vancouver Island BC

Ziplining in Esquimalt, Vancouver Island BC

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Warship graveyard, Powell River BC

Although we have our problems and our history, I still believe that you, Canada, are the lesser of many greater evils. And though I may very well walk away from you again in search of greener pastures, I will always, unfailingly, return.

Happy Canada Day.

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With everlasting love, (and a new patriotic t-shirt)

Ambling Alana xox

Into the North: A Trip to Stonehaven

"Friends Fare" train ticket to Stonehaven

“Friends Fare” train ticket to Stonehaven

Friends are wonderful things. Though I had my initial difficulties connecting with people in Edinburgh, I did make some beautiful, fun, and interesting friends who will stick with me for the rest of my life.

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One friend hails from Stonehaven – a wee place north of Edinburgh, close to Aberdeen.

Stonehaven harbour

Stonehaven harbour

Stonehaven - home of the deep fried Mars bar!

Stonehaven – home of the deep fried Mars bar!

For one glorious weekend, she invited three of us to her home. The best part (other than 24/7 girl time) was having access to a car.

To anyone who has experienced the feeling of freedom you have with a car – especially in the vast countryside – after the confinement of a city and the limitations of public transportation, is it not one of the best feelings in the world?

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We just drove.

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 Along the way, my Stonehaven friend made sure we saw the important local places, like Dundee and Aberdeen.

Dundee beach

Broughty Ferry, Dundee

Broughty Castle

Broughty Castle

Aberdeen

Aberdeen

Hobbiton in Aberdeen?!?

Hobbiton in Aberdeen?!?

Aberdeen University Campus, in the old part of town

Aberdeen University Campus, in the old part of town

A cool old building - part of which has been cleaned. I didn't know they did that!

A cool old building – part of which has been cleaned. I didn’t know they did that!

The absolute highlight, however, was Dunnottar Castle right near Stonehaven.

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 Dunnottar Castle’s dramatic clifftop location, sea views and extraordinary level of preservation are astounding. A seriously special spot!

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So well preserved! Especially since some of it dates back as early as the 1400’s

P1090679P1090687P1090673 This magnificent ruin is Scotland’s entry in the “8th Wonder of the World” competition! If you are impressed by these photos, vote for Dunnottar Castle here: http://www.virtualtourist.com/8thwonder “Jutting out into the North Sea, the former residence of the Earls Marischal is most famous for holding out against the might of Cromwell’s army for 8 months to save the Scottish Crown Jewels.”

I am so lucky that I was able to do this wee trip simply because of friends! I can, without a doubt, say that my favourite parts of Scotland are in the north. Summertime in northern Scotland has no parallel, and these photos are just a meagre testament to the breathtaking beauty of this part of the world.

Searching for Nessie: Northern Scotland with a Fellow Canadian

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

Loch Ness and Urquhart Castle

I was very lucky to have one of my best friends, B, come to visit me for three weeks. After months of planning and anticipation, we were finally together and able to begin our Northern exploration. Our itinerary was rushed – 3 days, 2 nights for a whirlwind tour of Inverness and St Andrews.

Inverness is about 4 hours north of Edinburgh by bus or train, and is most sought by tourists for its proximity to the infamous Loch Ness. Of course, B and I decided we would be the ones to FINALLY discover the truth behind the mystery of the Loch Ness monster. Previous explorers were clearly not up to our intellectual level, which lead to their inevitable failure. We, however, would be the ones to find Nessie.

Oh look! There she blows!

Oh look! There she blows!

When we arrived at Loch Ness, I was pleasantly surprised that (other than the castle) it looked very much like my home on Vancouver Island in Canada. Strange.

Scotland? Or Canada?

Scotland? Or Canada?

The main tourist attraction at the Loch, other than Nessie spotting, is Urquhart Castle.

Some

Some of these ruins date back to the 13th century!

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After spending a few hours at Urquhart, B and I sat down on the beach for a snack, and a dejected last effort to spot the monster of the Loch.

No, B, it's just a swan. Sorry.

No, B, it’s just a swan. Sorry.

Back in Inverness, I was determined to have a look around before the sun set and we were hostel-bound til morning and departure for St Andrews.

Inverness

Inverness

Inverness was surprisingly stunning. I had no idea what to expect of this city in the north, but I would love to go back there one day to see what else this wee beauty has to offer.

Inverness Castle, having been rebuilt several times.

Inverness Castle, having been rebuilt several times.

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River Ness

River Ness

After a suffocating sleep in a room shared with four men who had clearly won and decided to use a lifetime supply of axe (lynx) body spray, B and I woke to a beautiful day, and our impending train ride to St Andrews. I must say, this train journey held the most spectacular highland scenery. B concluded that Hogwarts could easily be hidden somewhere in these remote hills, and that we should probably go looking for it.

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I decided that this would probably not be a stellar idea since Hogwarts has muggle-repelling charms placed on it, our search would be for nought.

"Is that it? Is that it?" No, B, no."

“Is that it? Is that it?”
No, B, no.”

When we finally arrived in St Andrews, I was reminded of all the reasons I fell in love with Scotland in the first place.

Magnificent view of St Andrews Old Course

Magnificent view of St Andrews Old Course

Scottish people make fun of St Andrews for being too English, since the University draws a lot of posh students, and the reputation of the golf courses draw a lot of, well, those kind of people. Golfers. But these are not the things that make St Andrews special to me. It is seriously an amazing place. Between the sea, the cathedral and castle ruins, the long-running beach and the accessibility of the whole town by foot, it is the perfect specimen of British-seaside-village.

Puffin roosts!

Puffin roosts!

 

Cathedral ruins

Cathedral ruins

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Castle ruin!

Castle ruin!

I was delighted that I largely remembered how to get around, my last time there having been nine years ago, and I even recognized the building I had stayed in!

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B also loved St Andrews, being an avid fan of the Royals, especially Will and Kate.

Site of the Royal first date...?

Site of the Royal first date…?

We took a long walk down the beach, famously featured in Chariots of Fire. We did not run.

View from the far end of the beach.

View from the far end of the beach.

I was disappointed that we had to leave so quickly, but we’ve made each other a promise that, when we are rich of course, we will come back to Britain and rent a car so that we can create our own schedule.

A final LOL

A final LOL

A Sunny Day in Stockbridge and the Botanic Gardens: A Photo-Heavy Post

Today was a gorgeous day. I thought I should share it with everyone in this short post.

It’s been snowing here in Edinburgh a lot lately, blizzarding even! Sometimes it even sticks…

One of the very snowy days, at 7am.

One of the very snowy days, at 7am.

 

Crazy Scots.

Crazy Scots.

But TODAY it was clear and sunny, so Ky and I decided to walk into Stockbridge. Stockbridge is a very posh part of Edinburgh that I would absolutely LOVE to live in!

There is always construction to ruin the view.

There is always construction to ruin the view.

Uh oh!

Uh oh!

I love the crescent-streets, they look so posh!

I love the crescent-streets, they look so posh!

Located in Stockbridge are the Royal Botanic Gardens, which are free to walk around. Of course, since it’s winter, they’re not super impressive, but the gardens are still a peaceful break from the busy city.

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WIth the colours so vibrant, the only signs of winter are the leaf-less trees and the dead gunneras.

WIth the colours so vibrant, the only signs of winter are the leaf-less trees and the dead gunneras.

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Ducks!

Ducks!

The serenity of the place was exactly what I needed after a very busy week.

Looking out over Stockbridge - you can see the silhouette of Arthur's Seat, the Castle, and several of the church spires poking up over the city. (It was snowing a bit at this point)

Looking out over Stockbridge – you can see the silhouette of Arthur’s Seat, the Castle, and several of the church spires poking up over the city. (It was snowing a bit at this point)

All-in-all, it was a pretty cool day!

Christmas Alone… Almost

Last time, I discussed the reasons that led me to head to Glasgow for Christmas, and how I was saved from loneliness by Canadian Amber and Hamish the cat.

On the bus ride to Glasgow, I reflected on how unlike me this was. I consider myself a spontaneous person, but only to a point – normally when strangers and inter-city travel are involved, I’m usually turned off. But ultimately, the thought of being well and truly alone on Christmas day (both my flatmates were away) was too pathetic to face.

So, with a backpack full of ingredients for mulled wine, I arrived at Glasgow Buchanan Bus Station to meet Canadian Amber. Being fair-skinned and ginger, Canadian Amber is the most Scottish looking Canadian I’ve ever met. She is an incredibly interesting person, having lived in small-town Vancouver Island, Victoria, Northern Canada (ew) and Los Angeles (while working in the film industry). She now lives in Glasgow while getting her Master’s Degree. She is also unfailingly kind and eccentric.

Hamish is a borderline alcoholic

Hamish is a borderline alcoholic

As we bussed to Paisley, she warned me that it had the reputation for being a rough neighbourhood. I must admit, I wasn’t entirely comfortable with this. Someone, however, made everything better. Ladies and Gentlemen, Hamish the cat!

On Christmas morning, I helped Hamish open his many gifts.

Canadian Amber and her kitteh!

Canadian Amber and her kitteh!

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Canadian Amber and I had homemade eggs benedict for breakfast, then went for a walk around Paisley. No busses were running, almost nothing was open. The sun was shining and the streets were deserted.

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We explored Paisley in almost complete solitude – so surreal!

A cool church in the sunset light

A cool church in the sunset light

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Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey

Paisley Abbey gargoyles. Can you spot the one that looks like an Alien chest-burster?

Paisley Abbey gargoyles. Can you spot the one that looks like an Alien chest-burster?

Canadian Amber and I made a delicious poor-man’s Christmas dinner that evening and stayed up way too late drinking various kinds of alcohol and torturing Hamish.

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He did not have the Christmas spirit

He did not have the Christmas spirit

When I went home the next morning, I thought about what kind of person it takes to invite a stranger into their home on Christmas day. I was very appreciative to get a dose of familiar Canadian hospitality for the holidays!

Facing a Lonely Christmas

It’s a sad situation that brought me to Paisley for Christmas. When I first arrived in Edinburgh and went on a CV-drop-off spree, I bagged a job that sounded too good to be true (hint: it was). I was hired at a five-star Italian restaurant as a server (in a hotel) on a SALARY. Meaning, I signed a contract to work 40 hours/week for £15,000/year plus tips, which is pretty good for a server. Everyone seemed very enthusiastic and friendly; the uniform looked like pajamas but oh well!

Ooh, baby! It hits me in ALL the right places!

Ooh, baby! It hits me in ALL the right places!

Part of my contract, however, was a clause that stated I was willing to work over the legal limit of 48 hours per week (“in case of emergency” I was vehemently told). I was also told that it was required for me to sign it to get the job – first red flag.

I soon found out that the hotel put their staff on salary in order to keep them working for as many hours as they needed. I often worked 60+ hours per week and received no overtime pay, but since we had all signed the over-48-hours agreement, we had no legal complaint on our side. I often worked 5:30am to 4pm or 5pm, but the worst shift I worked was 3pm to 4am. I never saw both sides of 4am so often in my life. It’s a horrible time of day. I still have a scar on the back of my hand from jabbing myself with a piece of loose floorboard I tried to move in a zombie-like daze.

Yes, it's very faint, but it's there!

Yes, it’s very faint, but it’s there!

Working this much also aggravated my knee injury, returning me to as severe a limp as three week after the injury.

I tried dealing with this in as grown-up a matter as possible. I approached the Human Resources manager and inquired about my excessive hours (and also subtly reminded him that he’d told me I’d only be working this much in times of staffing emergencies – perhaps I was just naïve). All he replied to this was: “Don’t worry about it. Don’t worry about the hours.”

Umm… OK?

When I quit two weeks later, my manager and the Human Resources manager were shocked. SHOCKED. And quite upset. “Why?!” they asked. “You only worked 49 hours this week!” I don’t remember exactly what I said to them at this, but I clearly recall holding back a string of profanities.

I worked at this place for a grand total of five weeks – the shortest time I’d ever spent in employment, and some of the most physically exhausting weeks of my life. After quitting, I took a chance emailing a café that had offered me a position I’d turned down in favour of the hotel – and out of sheer luck, they were hiring again! I was re-offered a position, but the only problem was that for the first 4 weeks, it was only part-time.

This lack of funds, right around Christmas time, meant one very important thing: I was broke. My English family would have been happy to have me, but because of holiday travel prices, the cost of visiting them skyrocketed far out of my affordability.

Christmas in Cornwall 3 years ago.

Christmas in Cornwall 3 years ago.

I faced the terrifyingly lonely prospect of spending Christmas day alone.

What I knew I was missing: a lovely family Christmas in Cornwall!

What I knew I was missing: a lovely family Christmas in Cornwall!

Christmas Eve morning, however, I received a text message from a Canadian girl I’d met a month before for about five minutes (she was friends with my landlord). It was something about how sad it was to have Christmas with a lack of snow. I replied that because I was too poor to visit anyone, I was spending Christmas alone. Immediately, and kindly, she informed me she was in the same situation and that I should probably remedy that by bussing to Glasgow that evening. At first, I was reluctant to go – having just ended a very dark, moody month, I had resigned myself to the solitude and depression ahead of me. I almost turned down her generous offer out of sheer self-pitty and my dislike of things-not-planned-in-advance. But she had a cat. So I said yes.

A couple of hours later, I hopped on a bus to Glasgow to spend Christmas with a stranger.

We’ll meet Hamish the cat and Canadian Amber next time in “Christmas Alone… Almost”

Conquering the Law (But not Actually): A Day Trip to North Berwick

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North Berwick (pronounced bear-ick, like Derick) is a seaside village East of Edinburgh. Boy do I like my seaside visits! Again accompanied by my Canadian companion, Ky, we ventured out of the city limits to seek the serenity of the sea.

Most British seaside towns I’ve seen – which is a fair few – follow one of two “themes”. Either they are attraction-based (arcades, manicured beaches, piers and waterfront boulevards), or they are functioning fishing villages. North Berwick seemed to be a fusion of the two.

It was strange for me to see the used, worn fishing equipment, boats and run-down waterfront row houses next door to two golf courses, the Seabird Centre, sailing lessons off the beach and a children’s play area.

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Sailing school!

Sailing school!

North Berwick has two beaches, each with it’s own wee off-coast island. In the spring and summer, you can join a boat tour out of the Seabird Centre that takes you out to these islands, which are apparently rich with wildlife.

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On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

On the eastern-most beach, there is a man-made sea pool!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

North Berwick has two golf courses, which is two too many for such a small town!

A unique landmark of North Berwick is the Law: a steep, high hill (or “Scottish mountain”). The Law was the shape of a very large pimple. This area of Scotland has quite a few such mountainous zits; whiteheads when it snows.

The Law from the beach.

The Law from the beach.

Anyway, the Law is a popular conquest for local hikers – though Ky and I couldn’t muster the motivation to follow in their footsteps (as my title hopefully suggests; I have a bad knee after all!)

North Berwick is a beautiful place to go explore – the beach is fantastic. Ky and I found a “Historical Glen-Walk” path that held such gems as an old house with a tree growing out of it, and some ruined cottages.

Yup, it's growing right outta there.

Yup, it’s growing right outta there.

"YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS" - Nature

“YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME PUNY HUMANS”
– Nature

P1080888Close to town, we discovered an old graveyard complete with a big ruined church. It was supposed to be gated shut, but since none of these things are regulated in the UK, we found a way in anyway.

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Inside we saw a GHOST! No, it's just me.

Inside we saw a GHOST!
No, it’s just me.

The best part of the day, however, was our lunch at Buttercup Café.

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The café was located in the front room of a converted row house, where the living room would have been. There were about six small tables squished into this space. There were four servers. FOUR. They all looked to be no more than 80lbs apiece soaking wet; with their toothpick wrists they seemed only able to bring one item at a time (two-handed) out of the kitchen. Coming from the service industry myself, and often I handle a sixteen-table section on my own, it was hilarious watching four girls struggle to serve six tables between them.

They were all lovely, and I’m hoping, since it was a weekend, that they were in training.

While heading back into the city, Ky and I realized we’d finished our first list of places to visit.

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Where should we go next?