Thursday, 16 December 2010

It's Christmas time, theres no need to get delayed....

As I sit here at the end of the first term of my year abroad, it seems appropriate to make a few deep and meaningful reflections over the past 4 months. However, I am much too excited about going home for Christmas, and so instead decided to write a list of things I am gonna do in England. Year abroad is fab, but this holiday I will:

-Drink so much real milk. None of this UHT rubbish. Real milk. I tried to explain the difference to a French person, and they thought English people went out milking their cows every day. O dear.
-Eat heinz baked beans. For breakfast, for dinner, I don't care. And sing the beans song.
-Cadbury's. Need I say more?
-Be at full liberty to break more fingers and have free health care. Maybe I should try stocking up whilst I'm back??
-Topshop. Urban Outfitters. Accessorise. HMV. O how I miss you.
-Not get charged EVERY TIME I buy anything on my card.
-Eat English food. O foreigners you may give British people stick for not having fine food, but give me my Mum's home cooking any day over your cuisine. Nuff said.
-Go to a club that is the size of an entrance hall. Bring on big clubs with good music!!
-Make the most of family, friends, fun....

Just incase you didn't know it already, I am a MASSIVE Christmas fan. I love being together and being happy, I love the food and the atmosphere and just the time of year. This year more than ever Christmas is so exciting, I can't wait.

To anyone who is reading this...Happy Christmas. I hope you enjoy your family as we remember how lucky we are to celebrate it with them.

And also how lucky we are to eat turkey with pigs in blankets. The concept of sausages and bacon for Christmas dinner did NOT seem appealing to my French friends. Sounds like heaven to me!

See ya in 2011 France :) xxx

p.s heres hoping my flights aren't delayed!!!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

It's a bitter sweet symphony....

No matter how much we plan things in life, some things we can never plan for. This week, I should have been in Strasbourg, I should have been enjoying my year abroad. But instead, I have been witnessing Britain’s cold snap...the –too much temperatures and the excessive snow that make England stop, school shuts, transport breakdown and just generally cause chaos. There is a reason I’ve been home, that reason being the sad loss of my Grandad. Leslie Cook Wilson, 2nd July 1938- 21st November 2010. I love you, and I miss you. I’m sorry I never got to say goodbye.

When I left for Strasbourg 3 months ago, I knew he was poorly. But what you have to understand is my Grandad has been ill for years, and he’s always handled his illness, as my Dad said at his funeral, with such dignity. I think whilst I knew he wasn’t well, I didn’t think I would never see him again. I would have loved just to see him one more time, and up until the moment I found out he was gone I completely thought he would still be around at Christmas when I got home. It feels so unreal. Watching his coffin be lowered into the ground and throwing that flower down after him were harder than I could ever have imagined. Watching my Dad be sad is so hard too. I wish you were still here, Grandad.

But I know deep down he is not in pain any more. He’s in a better place. I’ll see him again one day and I’ll give him that hug I feel like I’ve missed out on. He’s a part of me, and he was amazing.

My Grandad was so generous. Every time I went to see him (which was a lot, I went every week for lunch with my Grandparent’s whilst I was at college), he would always slip a few pounds my way. It was so lovely, and so funny, he would always sneak it into my hand when giving me a kiss and say ‘Don’t tell you mother’ (by which he meant your Grandmother). He truly believed that my Nan, who is the most amazing and savvy person ever, hadn’t worked out that he used to slip us money, despite the fact that she was the one that went to the bank to get the money! Nanny was telling me this week how Grandad always used to moan that he didn’t have any money and say that he didn’t know why, and she would be like hummm I wonder....

Another thing I always remember from my Grandad was him wheeling me, David and Hannah around the garden in his wheelbarrow. He was so much fun. I remember how good he was with his hands, he used to be a bricklayer, and how when he couldn’t do things any more, he still knew exactly how my Dad should do it, and he would tell him! I feel privileged to have spent a lot of time alone with him, and I’ll never forget the war stories he told me and the things he chose to share with me, even when sharing them got a bit difficult. Between his thick Scottish accent and his sometimes a little slurred speech he wasn’t always the easiest to understand, but it was a pleasure and a privileged to talk to him. Every week when I went to see him, he would tell me I was a breath of fresh air. Although, on occasions, this didn’t come out right, and he would say I was a breath of wind. He was so funny.

Apparently he used to say ‘if the crew’s ok, I’m ok’. That sounds like something he would say. Grandad, you’d be loving the snow, and you’d have loved us all being together this week. I wish I could have seen you again, I know you asked about me all the time, and I am proud to be your Grand daughter. I love you, and I’m so sad you’re gone. I’ll miss you, but until I see you again, I’ll be thinking of you, I hope I make you proud. Rest in Peace.

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Bedtime blogposts....

I have just spent nearly 3 hours on Skype, firstly to the beautiful and very much missed Mandie Dee (o girl I can’t wait to live in Brum with you!) then to my absolutely lovely Mummy...o how she makes me realise how lucky I am, she is the most loving person in the world, no contest. <3

All is still well in Strasbourg, its weird because whilst I live abroad and you might think there would be loads of things to report, in fact going to Science Po and working in the parliament is just life here. My French family are continuing to be absolutely wonderful. I have spent so much time with them and am speaking tonnes of French, and I was reflecting on how great it is to have people who care about me here and it truly is fab J However, the countdown-til-home-time advent calendar has begun. 28 days. 4 weeks. I can’t wait to walk down Farm Road to Plums, to pass College House as I make my way towards the familiar but o too distant Beeston...home is calling me. I’ve never been away from home this long, and I am happy, I do love it here, but I feel far away today. I would give anything for a massive hug from my mummy (well, clearly not anything or I’d pay the extortionate amount to go home for the weekend, but you get the idea).

Tommorrow is dimanche in Strasbourg, for once I will be feeling fresh for two basketball matches back to back. I got in trouble last time I blogged for not mentioning basketball, but Giles, especially for you if you understand this...Hoenheim je t’aime! I have been playing basketball (not particularly well, I might add), with a local team called Hoenheim who are absolutely literally amazing! I have been so lucky to play with such lovely, friendly, welcoming people who are making my time in Stras fabulous J Thank you guys. Si vous lisez mon ‘blog’, les gens d’Hoenheim, c’etait juste pour vous remercier ! S’all good.
This weeks events of note were Will getting engaged to Kate…I know she’s beautiful and rich but I think I would have made a much better Queen, don’t you agree? It also saw a very enlightening trip to a French doctor (this is content only for girls, ask me for more details, Hannah, Jess, Jen, you know the score), and perhaps a little sentiment of homesickness. I also went to a party where someone fell out of a window, it was a very strange night…

Next week sees another Strasbourg parliamentary week, which I am very much looking forward to, even if the hour are crazy, as well as a very important event…Harry Potter comes out in French cinemas. Ahh the days of midnight trips to Waterstones to collect the books… It also sees the depart of my French brother to Switzerland, sob, our regular runs have become quite dear to me!

Anyway, just checking in to say all is good, and that I miss you, yes YOU! I can’t wait to be back in England, and if you see me, please give me a massive hug!! Goodnight my loves, lots of love as ever xxxx

Friday, 29 October 2010

And the worst blogger in the world is....

Ok, ok, so its me. Keeping a blog is a great idea in theory, a kind of virtual diary that I can look back on and that I can share my experiences through, but I’ve been too busy living my life to write about it!! But seen as its the holidays, and seen as I do not particularly want to read about Jacques Delors in Europe, I thought I’d update cyberspace...

No matter how eloquently I try to write, there is no better way to say it...I am having the time fo my life! In some ways, I don’t feel I need to write much more, Strasbourg is amazing, the people are wonderful and I am one very happy girl. Everything feels right J In fact, I might just stay here...

My parents and sister came to visit me this weekend, we spent 5 fabulous days together in Strasbourg, I felt proud showing them round MY city, taking them to places that I love and being able to say they are home. It was great. Today I went back to the hospital and they FINALLY took the cast off my hand. It was starting to get really uncomfortable and annoying, but the only problem is that now it just REALLY hurts! L I guess before as I couldn’t actually move it at all I didn’t realise but it is killing me! They said it will be 4-6 months before I can move it fully again, I hope this is an exaggeration....

Otherwise, last week in the European Parliament was incredible! The MEP work for is the shadow rapporteur on the budget, so it was SUCH an interesting week to work through. It was his ‘baby’, which meant I spent my entire week focusing on it. It was a strange moment when, at exactly the same time, George Osbourne revealed the Spending Review, cutting everything in site, and the European Parliament voted for a 5.8% EU budget rise....I hear Cameron has been using his new powers to talk European leaders into refusing to pay the increase, but I won’t start ranting about my dislike for the coalition government, although it is considerable... But the more I am involved in politics the more I want to be involved....

Finally, I have to admit to be missing a few people lots (Alex, Foca, Danni, Freya, Vicky, Frances just to name a few...). I am sure everyone is having a great time and I am not wishing this fabulous experience away, but it will be great to be together again in 4th year! My ever forward-looking mind has started to plan next summer...I am going to visit the wonderful Mr Marullo in Brazil, but with 4 months off I want to get an internship or similar...oooo life is exciting, so many possibilities! So yeah, thats me for now (and probably for like 2 months before I write again!). Life is a blessing and I want to live mine to its full potential. Have a lovely day...: )

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Cold Climate, Warm Hearts?

I don’t know where it has gone, but a month has already passed in the wonderful city of Strasbourg. I haven’t yet tired of waking up in this beautiful suburb, of walking out to fields and being near a beautiful city, to speaking French, to the clean air and to the sense of opportunity for this year. I really do love it here. I feel so lucky to have this wonderful French family; they have welcomed me in and become not my landlord but my friends; it is great to have somewhere calm and caring that I can spend my year. It’s a strange thing coming abroad, because I’m surrounded by people, but sometimes it can feel isolated. I am grateful that I live with these people, they do look after me!

I had my first week in the European Parliament last week, it was too good for words. It sounds cheesy, but I felt at home- one day I want to walk down those corridors as more than an intern, but I am so grateful for this amazing opportunity. I have started uni, maybe not the best day ever (spent an hour sat in the wrong lecture, so confused why she didn’t mention anything other than the French constitution in what I thought was an International Relations class, turned out it was Constitutional Law…), but met some lovely French people and enjoyed finally being back to studying!

But despite all the wonderful things, there is one typically British thing I have to moan about. The weather. When I said I was coming to live in France, I’d expected to spend my whole year wearing my favorite summer dresses, embracing the Frenchness by sporting the odd beret not out of necessity but just because I can. I was definitely wrong. It is already unbearably cold, and the people here assure me it will get worse. They’re talking minus 15 and 20 cms of snow. Now I like snow in theory, but I hate the cold and I hate that sludgy excuse for snow we get in the UK (although I’m assured it’s a proper winter wonderland here). But it really is changeable here…when I get up in the morning, I look outside and it can be beautifully sunny. I get dressed and by the time I go outside, its throwing it down and theres a thunderstorm. Strasbourg doesn’t seem to have any middle ground- its hot or its cold. Just like its people…

Whilst having a little heart to heart with the wonderful Jess Bethom, we reflected on the people we have met so far, and how different our relationships with people have been. Just like the weather is either beautiful or unpleasant, we decided so are the people we have met! Seemingly, I have got exceptionally lucky…I have met so many warm and friendly people- people who have really made an effort to make me feel welcomed, happy and at home. But it seems there are two extremes, no middle ground. Either people have warm hearts, or they are cold just like the weather.

And to be honest, that seems to be the mood too. People are either really happy or not at all. I guess that’s the thing with a city like this, with such an opportunity as a year abroad: you either love it, or you hate it. But sometimes both simultaneously.  Me right now? I hate being far from home and from the people I love. I’m not a big fan of the weather either. But really, I love it. The warmth in the hearts of the people that are important in my French life is refreshing and reassuring. As my Dad’s favourite tshirt says….'Yep, it’s gonna be a good day (year!)’…

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Strasbourg Je t'aime...

Its Thursday morning, one week and 2 days since I got to this beautiful city. After going to an Erasmus party last night, I’m snuggled up in my bed listening to the rain drum on my window, thinking I probably ought to get up, but I’m far too cosy...

The first few days I was here, I was stunned by how incredibly hot it was, having thought it would be cold here, but since Saturday it has done nothing but night there was such a big storm that the thunder woke me was scary!!  But anyway, enough about the weather...

I have done so many different things since I’ve been here I don’t really know where to start. With the basics I guess...I am living with a family (mum and 2 grown up kids, 19 and 23), and it is absolutely fabulous. They are so so nice and have included me in and helped me to sort out everything. I really have landed on my feet, my French mum does my washing and ironing and sometimes even cooks for me, its ridiculously good! I am living in a little village just outside of Strasbourg and its so beautiful. It really suits me, because I love to be able to go out running or walking in the fields (although my running has not always gone well, one day I ran 22 KM because I got so lost!!), I used to feel claustrophobic in Brum. The ‘kids’ are so fun and inclusive, its a lovely vibe in the house, and I have got to speak loads of French already. Its exciting, I’m happy.

Another very exciting thing to have happened is that on Tuesday I went to the European Parliament to sign my contract for a ‘traineeship’ over the next year. As I walked round the confusing corridors of this significant building, I felt at home. Its been a while since I’ve done anything ‘professional’, and I miss it. I am determined to be an excellent parliamentary assistant and to squeeze every little thing I can out of this wonderful opportunity. Its a little bit daunting, I am one of very few Strasbourg stagieres and I want to be a good one, but I’m excited about the challenge.

In other news I have started my French lessons, they’re alright, yesterday we did the passé compose for like the millionth time and it was a bit tedious, but all French is good I guess. I am really looking forward to term starting and getting into the routine, especially because that will mean there will be more people around, at the minute threes a bit of a weird vibe in the IEP (Institut d’Etudes Politiques), as there is no one but the 100 or so international students!

On Tuesday I went to basketball training for the first was cool! It felt weird because I haven’t played in ages and they’re all really good, and given the length of my legs they expected me to be too! Also basketball is a million times harder in another language, there was a 5 second time delay between being told to do something and working out what they meant, but training there 3 times a week is going to be a great way to learn French and to meet people : )

So a week on and all is good...the French administration has not yet lived up to its reputation, all my bank opening, funds applying, phone buying has been remarkably easy. My only complaint that conforms to stereotypes of the French is WHY DO YOU HAVE TO GO ON STRIKE? I have to get the bus to uni and the parliament, and the strike was on my first day in the parliament, so there were no buses. Ah well, I am in France.

I am in my element: meeting people, seeing new things, trying new experiences, pushing myself to be the best I can. Strasbourg je t’aime <3

Thursday, 19 August 2010


Suitcases come in all shapes and sizes. Some are big. Most are smaller. Some are coloured and quirky, more often they’re a standard grey thing on wheels, often a bit wonky and worn. But all have one thing in common. Their purpose. It is two fold. First- the fit all your belongings in. And second- to get them from one place to another. Simple. Or so you might think…

The problem with suitcases it that no one has so far come up with one that will pack itself. And the problem with that is that neither do I like packing, nor am I good at it. Whenever I try to pack, I just end up with several piles of mess, a sore head, a long to do list and a realization that I own too much stuff and don’t know where half of it is. This summer has been a summer of packing. I packed up my uni stuff and unpacked it at home. I thought seen as I wouldn’t be returning to my beloved Brum this year I should properly unpack it, so I put everything away in safe places to make packing for my year abroad easier. Yeah right. I packed for my trip to Spain, unpacked, and repacked every weekend for a weekend away. This packing was SO worthwhile. I have had the most truly fabulously amazingly wonderful summer of my life…ahhh it was lush <3. But then it ended and I packed again and came home, unpacked my suitcase, whilst thinking that 5 days later I would have to pack again for family holidays, after which I would have 3 days to unpack and repack for my year abroad. So I thought I would get a head start. Once again, yeah right. All that unpacking I did at the start of the summer in order to ‘make things easier’ got annoying as I forgot all the safe places I’d put things in. The number of things I have lost and the amount of time I have spent looking for them is starting to get a little riddiculous. The latest thing I turned my room upside down to search for was the 200euros I earnt in Spain, this is an all time high of my losing things ability (I eventually found it, in my jewellery box, obviously).

So now as I look around my room, I see an open suitcase. It is filled with piles of clothes, books, a few cheeky photos chucked in to help avoid feeling homesick. But my open suitcase means more to me than the fact I need to stop procrastinating and start packing. It represents the start of an amazing journey, one that already promises so much excitement and so many opportunities, so many new friends and so many new experiences, probably a little bit of sadness from missing my amazing friends and family, but many more smiles and so much laughter, lots of speaking French, a bit of working in the European Parliament (eeek!!) and perhaps a little studying…! So as I my suitcase fulfils its first purpose and prepares itself for its second, I am reminded of why we bother to pack, why suitcases exist at all. For excitement. For adventure. For experiences. For YEARS ABROAD!!!

I will be keeping a blog of my year abroad. Please keep in touch!!