Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Too Darn Hot: DANISH TRIP: Part Three: Days 2-3/24


Perhaps it was an off day or just a regular Sunday but everything seemed to be running late today. Maybe a local could tell me how often the trains from Copenhagen to Helsingør are 20 minutes late, or the buses take an age to arrive. I'm sure that this would not have bothered me quite so much had the combination of heat and large heavy bags made doing anything besides lying on a bed feel exhausting.
This aside, however, the train journey itself was a pleasant one, despite the heat. The train was clean, with comfortable seats, the view from the window switched from trees along the backs of houses to glimpses of the sea. The minute journey ran smoothly after the initial delay and the aforementioned bus similarly so. Maybe a not so off day, then.
My first impressions of the buildings of International People's College (IPC) was that they were clean and well maintained which is impressive when you know most of the general cleaning is done by students rather than a large team of cleaners and maintenance. There's a real atmosphere here that the people care a lot about the school, not only physically looking after the buildings and keeping things clean and tidy but also about the school as an institution and concept.
This care was also demonstrated in the way meal times are treated; we are all asked to stand behind our chairs whilst we are told what we are having to eat. This is to remind us that we should respect that the food was prepared for us and didn't just "come down from the sky to our plates". The food itself is evidence of care for it is delicious fresh and not at all like any kind of mass produced meal I have had before (there are around 100 students on the course plus staff).
The warm weather encouraged a few of us to wander around the lake in the generous and relaxing grounds...Right I'm going to stop before I right an entire estate agents' ad...


Well...what can I say? I mean, I knew this course wasn't going to be easy but I suppose I din't expect it to be quite so challenging on the first day. Following the language tests that we took yesterday, we were allocated into 8 different groups based on different levels. I had assumed (naively I now see) that at my level of Danish at least some of the class would be conducted in English.
I know...I will benefit me for next year and definitely in the long run to be forced to listen to and understand someone speaking Danish at a normal speed. The trouble is, when you don't necessarily understand every word or you it takes you a moment to translate the words in your head, it feels very much as though the person is not speaking Danish at a normal speed at all but actually extremely fast. I suppose I would say I understood maybe 60% of what my teacher was actually saying today...maybe a bit more if I include what I managed to deduce from context, fellow classmates and the books we were given (to keep, yay!)

After that tiring morning, a very ineffectual coffee and a questionable cup of tea, we were given a brief tour of Helsingør (in English, thank goodness). Helsingør's city centre, the old city, is full of beautiful C17th houses some even complete with being set on straight narrow cobbled streets, up which goods were pulled from boats, sailors drunk and found "company" for the evening, in the centuries before land was reclaimed at the shoreline pushed back, towards Sweden.
We had a brief (and then not so brief) look around the library. It was, quite simply, fantastic. Now...I am the first to admit that I am a complete library nerd and this one was ticking all kinds of boxes. There was a large collection of books, including sections on ever possible specialist subject. There was a good foreign language books section, back issues of magazines and papers and films, audiobooks and even PS3 games to borrow. The children's area was generous with an area for reading, with out without help (or thinking or music, as the sign told me). Overall just a pleasant and well stocked library from my outsider's perspective.
Another landmark of note was that of the statue near the cultural institute. It's based on The Little Mermaid statue in Copenhagen, except that the subject is a "effeminate" man. We were told this was supposed to be in contrast the very "masculine" perception of the men who used to work in dockyards in the city. The reflecting surface was designed so that one could literally and metaphorically self-reflect whilst looking at the statue.
and upon some self-reflection I realise I should be doing my homework and sleeping, not watching people play UNO in a depressingly repetitive and inconsistently enthusiastic manner...

[Edit: I did stay up and watch them...glutton for punishment, I tell you...]

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Cakes in Copenhagen: DANISH TRIP: Part Two: Day 1/24


I thought going to Copenhagen would mean some brief relief from the way-too-hot-for-my-liking temperatures witnessed in the south of the UK lately. This comforting thought was based on weather forecasts and average temperatures which assured me that Copenhagen in early July would be in pleasant but not uncomfortable low-mid-20 degrees Celsius. Now, I can't say that I know the temperature it was today [edit: Or today when I actually post this a day late] but it sure as hell didn't feel pleasant but not uncomfortable, certainly not with my recently acquired and overly ambitious "gap year" back pack on.

Despite this, however, and despite an as yet unresolved issue with my phone network (I'll give you feel at bleeding home), my short (and wholly inadequate) wander around central Copenhagen was very enjoyable, especially when minus heavy luggage. There's a Jazz Festival going on at the moment and as I wandered around by myself, eating jordbærkage, drinking any number of local soft
drinks, already buying tourist tat, eating røde pølser and wondering whether or not I could sum up the guts to purchase take away draft beer to drink on the streets (I could not), I got a free listen of a few of the performances. One or two were...well...interesting though perhaps not exactly enjoyable. I'm not sure, for example, about some interpretations of "21st Century Jazz". Others, however, were nicer, especially a group of talented but young men who seemed to be playing every brass instrument imaginable. They were nice to listen to and I watched them for a while, even blushing bought one of their CDs. During their performance I had one of those moments where you just feel happy and grateful and adventurous - I was in a foreign city by myself, listening to a live performance in the glorious sun, in a beautiful part of the city and watching people dancing together and just enjoying themselves.
After that I went back to my hotel and watched tv...I mean...I didn't want to lose the happy feeling but I also didn't want to go drink alone somewhere. one done. Next, the real challenge. I'm heading off by train to Helsingør to begin my summer school. Kinda nervous, not going to lie to you, but also excited that I'll improve and learn more about Danish history and culture whilst I'm here.
Best get to sleep...(or possibly watch another American film with Danish subs...)

Thursday, 2 July 2015

DANISH TRIP: Part One: a very brief introduction

This story really begins the day I decided to apply for the Viking Studies course at UCL - (or rather, the day I decided to accept the place I had been offered on it) - because that day was the day I agreed to learn Danish from scratch to year abroad standard in 2 years.

Thus, as it transpires, I am soon to embark upon a sponsored trip to Denmark to improve my Danish. I'll be attending a summer school during the week and exploring a bit at the weekend.

I don't really have anything else to say at the moment, other than that I'm going to be writing about the trip, partly to document it and partly because I think it may be a beneficial exercise in some way (don't ask me in what way).

So...yeah...better get back to packing before my mum yells at me again...Seeya on Saturday...bright and horribly early (oh the joys of early flights being the cheapest)


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Favourite Holidays

Sept 18th: Tell a tale of traveling, a city or country you've been to or a favorite vacation.

This is going to be short because I'm having a pretty hectic/stressy time of it right now and my brain is frazzled, so, apologies in advance.

I have two favourite holidays. One was actually a college geology trip to Iceland in October 2012 and the other was a trip to Orkney (as part of a tour of Scotland) in summer 2013. 

Iceland was amazing because a) Vikings akfhslafha b) It's just magical there and c) THE NORTHERN LIGHTS 4 NIGHTS OUT OF FIVE :D ( one night viewed from a hot tub ;) ) 

Orkney was amazing because a) Vikings akfhalshlfashl b) Goregous accents c) Maes 
howe, Skara Brae, Ness of Brodgar, Ring of Brodgar, Stones of Stenness & Tomb of the Eagles 

So yeah, not a great post but all my brain can manage today. Has anyone else been to Orkney or Iceland? Or have any of you seen the Northern Lights?

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

My Kiddie Wedding and Kiddie Divorce

Sept 16th: "Most people don't know this but..."

So....I found this one pretty hard because I can't really think of anything of any significance/interest I haven't already shared with most people I know. Well, that is, of the things I am prepared to share.  I'm drawing a complete and utter blank here. So I asked my friends and one suggested I share a story from my childhood, so, here goes:

Most people don't know this but...when I was 11 years old (in Year 6) I had a "kiddie wedding" to my then "boyfriend". 
I would like to point out that this was not my idea, nor the idea of the boy in question. No, this was some kind of strange project orchestrated by my then circle of friends and one girl in particular who led the whole enterprise.

You see, I had made the mistake of being the first in our group to get a "boyfriend" and that only happened in the first place because of my friends practically forcing the poor lad to ask me out and then practically forcing me to say yes. But because I was the first, mine was the "relationship" which held the most novelty factor and novelty factor to my 11 year old friends meant: "They've been dating for a week. Get them to have an embarrassing kiddie wedding"...I may be paraphrasing there but you get the gist.

So, it was only a couple of days before the planned day of the wedding and my "boyfriend" and I had just been informed of it's impending arrival. I remember being told by friend to everyone to bring in lots of jewelry like badges and rings for me to wear and that her and my "boyfriend" were going to sort out the "wedding ring". 

Then the day rolled round.

Lunch time. My friends help me pin a number of random pins, badges and brooches onto my school jumper, I go out of the Year 6 corridor door into a space of empty playground hidden from view of most of the school. The "boyfriend" stands there, looking as geeky and as nervous as he usually looks, but, pleasingly, looking happy at my arrival. My friend stands in front of him, ready to perform the ceremony. My bridesmaids and I walk over (they're also suitably adorned). When I reach the "boyfriend" the friend acting as registrar speaks. Says some words I don't recall. Then my "boyfriend" produces a ring. He puts on my finger. There's debate over which is the correct ring finger to wear it on. The "registrar" declares us "Kiddie Married" and so we are.

Jump forward a month of so.

Year 6 residential trip. By this point I have decided I no longer wish to go out with the then "boyfriend" and that I actually fancy another boy in my year. This leads to me being far too wimpy to break up with the "boyfriend" and instead making the awful mistake of allowing two of my friends (involved in the original plot to get us together in the first place and then in out kiddie wedding) to break up with him for me - Oh the shame, 11 year old me - and they declare than we have now had a "kiddie divorce".

So...that is the story of how I had a "kiddie marriage" with my first "boyfriend" which lasted all of a month. I did later ask the boy I fancied at the residential out and we "dated" for a few months before he began to annoy me and I ignored him until he got the hint......Don't judge year 7 Rachel....I judge her enough for the both of us....And even if you do judge me, don't judge me too harshly as the ex-"boyfriend" number two turned out to be a bit of a hardcore right-winger in the forthcoming years, with some pretty unsavoury views...."boyfriend" number one was a lovely boy who I actually realised I still fancied even when I was with "boyfriend" number two...but he moved to France half way through Year 7 dilemma solved....

[ Also, Most people don't know this but Sarah is freaking awesome ;) ]

Monday, 15 September 2014

This is my fictional world

Sept 15th: Make a mood board. Are you brainstorming a room re-do, or are you dreaming of glamping with gal-pals? Share a collage of any kind! (Examples here and here).

 So here a couple of collage things inspired by a story I'm currently writing. It's basically about a world that's been massively changed by some kind of environmental change that they call 'the disaster'. In the North (where the story begins about 14 years after the disaster) this has led to a lowering of sea levels and a colder, darker, wetter climate. The first collage (below) is for my main character, Pip. He's about fourteen years old, a shepherd boy and lives with his adopted family in a village on a small island close to the mainland. The fire is because his adopted family are blacksmiths and he often sleeps in the smithy. The stew and the cat are connected to another main character that Pip meets early in the story.

The second collage (below) is for the island in general. It's small, shaped like a fish and lies in a bay close to the northern coast but is only accessible by a wooden bridge/walkway with rope sides (like the pier in the collage). It's fringed by mudflats, meadows, marshes and sea. The mud and the rain signify how waterlogged the ground is by the near constant rain (caused by the disaster). The fog and the stormy sea show the Autumnal weather at the start of the story. The forge and the hall are examples of the kind of buildings I imagine to make up the village. The iris is for one of the main characters who is called Iris because of the colour of her eyes and the rabbit is because one of the only luxuries since the disaster is rabbit stew.

[I got all the images from Google image searches and I made the collages on ]

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Blog-tember: Late to the party

Seeing as I am late to this party, I'm going to do days 1 to 13 a bit more rapid-fire than was likely the intention but hey ho. 

Sept 1st: Imagine the front sleeve of a hard cover novel. Give us your "About the Author" so we can get to know one another, and for fun tell us what your imaginary novel would be about.

"Born in Portsmouth in the mid-90s, Rachel was a bit of a suck-up for most of her school career - well she had to do something to compensate for the distinct lack of pets in her childhood. For GCSE she took a second humanities subject instead of an arts subject as she is no way visually creative, good acting, especially musical (though she did play violin for 6 years as child) nor sufficiently geeky to take a computer course. For A level, she made the mistake of taking both maths and physics in her first year which went...well it went, anyway. Outside of education, Rachel likes to read - well duh, she's author (apparently) - pine for a pet kitten, fangirl over characters from 'Bloodline' & the 'Vikings' and basically have no life."

I'm currently part to mid-way through writing maaaaaaaaaaany stories. One is about a girl at court in the C16, one is about vikings in Ireland in the C10, one is set in a fictional dystopian world in the future-past, one is set in Orkney partly in the Neolithic, partly in the C12 and one is about a band and is set in the present day. OH and one is one I started writing when I was 13 and is well...bad...

Sept 2nd: Write about what makes you happy, from the little joys to the huge game-changers.

Lot's of things make me happy. They everyday little things that make me happy are all those 'uplifting' stories you see sometimes in the news. Things like, "10 year old boy with Autism tells his mother he loves her for the first time" or "75 year old lady marries her partner of 30 years after the legalisation of same-sex marriage" or "Family reunited with pet after house fire". Any positive story about ordinary life makes me happy, at least temporarily.
On a more personal level, my friends being happy (especially if they're clearly very happy or excited) makes me happy. Learning makes me happy. Reading makes me happy. Listening to podcasts and singing badly to music makes me happy. Baking makes me happy. Nice food makes me happy. Scandinavians make me happy. Anglo-Saxons make me happy. Bloodline makes me happy. I could go on listing for a while, so I'll stop...

Sept 3rd: "When I grow up I want to be...." Feel free to answer as your 5-year-old self or as of now.

When I was 5 I wanted to be a steam train driver. I still kind of do, in my heart of hearts. The dream ended when I realised that to sell the Steam Engine Driver look, you had to wear dirty overalls and probably a flat cap. 
When I was a bit older I wanted to be a receptionist in a vets (I dunno either). Then, briefly and in quick succession, a teacher, an author and a actor in musicals.
When I thought about it seriously, aged around 11, I decided I wanted to be an archaeologist and this carried on until about 18 months ago (save for a short time when I wanted to be an astrophysicist hahahahaha) 
Now? Well, the dream is to be a documentary maker/presenter for the TV and radio. If that doesn't pan out (or even if it does) I'd like to work for a museum (curation/research/education) or for a university (teaching/research).
I also want to be a Dr...not a medical doctor....but I want a PhD...I don't know if it will happen...but I'm aiming for it.

Sept 4th: Pick a fashion trend you love and a fashion trend you hate. Win us over!

I'm not really into fashion but there are definitely fashions I dislike. One being wearing leggings (which are quite often cheap and pretty much see-through) with nothing covering the bum area. It's the same as wearing thick tights and a t-shirt but one is more acceptable than the other even though both are stupid. Also, finding a well fitting pair of jeans is a nightmare. As is trying to find "fashionable" shoes that aren't dead flat or heels.
Fashion trend I like? I don't know that it's a trend exactly but I really love waistcoats.
Sept 5th: "I am passionate about ______________. "

Oh well I guess I'm passionate about quite a few things. I can certainly enter into heated debates about any number of different topics. I suppose the thing I'm most passionate about is a sense of fairness. Unfairness and hypocrisy are the two things that make me the most passionately angry.

From the interests perspective, I can't really think of too many things I'm passionate about. I get far more passionate about ideas and principals and actions than about the things that really interest me.
Though, having said that, I do really passionately fangirl over anything to do with Vikings, Celts or Anglo-Saxons or Scandinavian because alsfhakfhalksfhalskhfa 

Sept 6th: A "currently..." post. Tell us what you're loving, hating, reading, eating, etc. If you want to borrow a list, mine is here.

...reading Oh I'm half way through dozens of things but I guess the real answer would be 'The Last Viking 1066' by Berwick Coates
...watching Vikings series one and two again, Great British Bake off, Doctor Who, Strictly.

...trying to make a dress for Comic Con in October with mixed results 

...eating the yummy yummy junk I usually eat

...tweeting the usual inanity.

...going to university in London very soon
...loving my friends and family 

...discovering I'm really going to need to work hard at uni if I'm going to manage my time/budget/diet properly 

...enjoying the books I'm reading at the moment and volunteering

...thinking about all the amazing experiences I'm going to have throughout my four years at university

...feeling excited, stressed, excited, under-prepared, excited, tired, excited, happy, excited a bit more, scared, back to excited

...hoping I'll get along with my flatmates and course mates and for a good year for all of my current friends.

...listening to Fall Out Boy, ABBA, Adam & Joe podcasts, Just William stories, S Club 7...Most of the contents of my iPod

...thanking anyone who bothers reading this

...starting to freak out about just how close I am to moving away from home 

Sept 7th: What's on your current reading list? Or what have you read that you recommend?

I actually wrote something a couple of days ago about my favourite books:

Sept 8th: Music that moves you. Are you a Spotify addict or a Pandora guru? Tell us your favorite artists/stations!

Well....if I'm taking 'moves' to mean an emotional thing then most, if not all, of the Les Mis soundtrack has me sobbing every time and, as with most people I'd imagine, a song that resonates with my current situation is more likely to make me emotional. Songs that always make me happy include Imagine Dragons 'On Top of the World', ELO 'Mr Blue Sky', The Killers 'Mr Brightside', Mika 'Elle Me Dit', anything by S Club 7 or ABBA or from an upbeat musical and basically anything I can sing along to loudly and out of tune.

In a slightly different sense, something else in me is moved by anything vaguely celtic or dark sounding and anything in a language other than English. 
I don't really have a favourite band or artist and I tend to listen to spoken radio (Radio 4) more than music centred radio but, generally, I like rock, country, folk and some pop.  

Sept 9th: Let's talk personality types. Introverted? Extroverted? Unsure-troverted? ;) If you know your Myers-Briggs type, tell us about it! If not, you can take this similar test and share your results.

I'd say I was definitely an extrovert. I really hate being on my own for long periods of time and get really hyper when my family come back from work after I've been home alone all day. Even when I can't really be bothered to go to volunteering or get up early to go see some friends, once I'm there, I crave and enjoy the company. That's not to say I don't get sick of being with people, because I really do. It's a bit of a bummer really that I hate being on my own but I get pretty easily irritated by annoying habits. I certainly don't suffer fools gladly (as my mum would say)...Generally, though, I'd MUCH rather be in company (not too big a group though) than on my own.

Sept 10th: List 10 things that you love about yourself! Let's kick that negative self-talk outta here!

1 - I like that I want to learn new things even though I'm out of compulsory education.
2 - I think I'm a pretty good friend(?) I dunno...
3 - I like that I care about things that I think matter...even if I can't do anything about it
4 - I like that I've got waaaaaaaaaay more confident around new people since I started volunteering
5 - I like that I had the guts (stupidity) to decide to study a subject I really want to do even if it doesn't get me directly into a job
6 - Linked to above, but I like that I'm brave enough to pick a course which involves studying in Danish in Denmark for a year which is something I really want to do but am realllly scared about

7 - I like that I have amazing brave, thoughtful and clever friends who have been through so much crap but are still here
8 - Superficial, but I like my eyes and my nose
9 - I like that I bake pretty alright cakes, as it goes
10 - I like that I like myself enough to have good self-esteem but not so much that I don't know my own flaws (of which there are many)

(I found that list sooooooo hard to do :/)

Sept 11th: How do you stay inspired? Who inspires you the most? friends inspire me a lot. Lots of them have had or are having rough times but they're getting on with it, however bad things are or however bad they feel. On the one hand this makes me feel guilty about my laziness and lack of motivation for many things, but on the other it shows me that if my friends can get up everyday and do something, so can I.

In terms of inspiration for my future career and my passion for public archaeology/heritage/history, I'd say my inspirations are: Mick Aston, Mary Beard, Alice Roberts, Michael Wood, my A level Archaeology teacher, my GCSE History teacher, everyone at the museums I've volunteered at this past year and probably so many more I can't think of right now. 

Sept 12th: Tell us about a favorite tradition. It could be a family tradition or from a holiday, university, you-name-it. What makes it so special?

I can't really think of any specific traditions apart from at Christmas. When we were young, my parents would try to minimise mine and my brother's hyper-active excitement on Christmas Eve by having my brother and I exchange presents before going to bed on the 24th. We still do this to this day even though by this Christmas I'll be 19 and he'll be 26.

Sept 13th: Your current relationship status. If dating/married, give us a glimpse of your story! If single, share about this special season.

I'm single at present and it's okay. There are many upsides to being single and some downsides. I'm not looking for anything but if it happens, it happens. 

Sept 14th: When did you start blogging and why?

I started a few months ago.....I don't really have a good reason why other than because I felt like it at the time....I suppose I kind of thought it would be a good hobby, something to do to get my random musing about things down somewhere and as a way to archive uni when I get there... but mostly it was just....'cause...Not a very good response but that's because I really don't have "a reason" for starting...