Poland sans pression

DSCF6474It’s hard having nothing to do. When you’re really busy with things you need to accomplish as soon as possible, it’s easy to idealise having simply nothing, when in actual fact, it’s rather tiresome (at least in terms of the amount of cat-style yawns)! The problem is, you can’t do nothing: you have to constantly find something.

Another issue is that when you have little to do, there’s this incessant, nagging sense that maybe there is something you need to do – usually this ends up turning towards log-term goals, which then just gets a bit depressing as those are longtime goals and can’t be achieved in the short length of time you have to do nothing.

I’m not really complaining though. Exactly how long  will be like this, I can’t be sure, but it definitely isn’t forever, and my time here in Natolin is even more clearly cut. So, the only thing to do is to make the most of it. With less than 2 weeks in the Golden Cage, I’m determined to savour every moment and with everyone who matters to me here.

For the first few days after exams, it was easy to just go with the flow. I had a few life admin bits and pieces to tie up that I’d put off whilst preparing for exams but turned out to take no more than 2 or 3 hours when all is said and done and then really just enjoyed being able to relax on the grass, in the Polish summer sunshine without any stress at all.

 

On the Saturday, Ronan and I headed off to Poznan with the Polski bus. As the ‘capital of culture’ for Greater Poland, it’s a top ‘to visit’ place whilst in Poland and we certainly enjoyed it, despite the weather taking a  turn towards the wet-side. After a very tasty raclette (in summer and very Polish of course) we found a pleasant craft beer garden just off the Rynek (the typical Polish old town square) and eventually met with Victor and Ia to enjoy a watermelon Pils and other Polish beers*.

 

The next day, we had planned to go to a St Martin’s Croissant making demonstration so took a big brunch in one of the many tempting (and rather hipster) cafes before heading off for a pre-croissant wander. There is a some really nice architecture and we were lucky enough to stumble across the archaeology museum (which is free on Sundays). It was much more interesting than it perhaps sounds and it’s truly amazing what people can build even without machines. The whole island had been marshy and the museum showed how a series of mats and hooked branches helped the medieval Pozn(anians?) stabilise the ground and build huge city walls all around.

Whilst Poznan is, it is like most Polish cities, blesssed with a very charismatic old town, the weather forced us to take cover (albeit not from the wet), in the water park next to Poznan’s activity-loaded ‘lake Malta’. The slides were excellent. And there were so many. My favourite by far was the yellow ‘turbo’ slide. Matching its namesake well, it’s really rather fast. You can even time yourself and compare it to the record… or each others! The competition was intense but I concede I wasn’t the slickest slider.

The spa on the other hand was somewhat unexpected and the surprises continued inside – it turned out the signs of bathing suits with crosses though them really do translate as ‘it’s obligatory to be nude’. In any case, we had paid for it, so we were definitely going to make good use of it!

 

 

After 2 days in Poznan we boarded the Polski bus once again and this time headed to Berlin. It’s only 3 hours from Poznan by bus, albeit a bit of a late start and a rather long break at Schonefeld airport meant we decided to head straight to Ronan’s lovely friend Robin on arriving. We had a great two days in Berlin. It’s such an easy going city with so many parks and green spaces – you can never have nothing to do and our stay was certainly too short. Having both been before, we took advantage of being able to see parts of the city you don’t put at the top of the tourist trail, but are still well-worth a visit, including Templehof airport (site of the Berlin airlift and now it seems, formula-e racing, skylarks and cycling), the walk along the Spree and the Palace of Tears. We had a lovely time too with Robin and his family; eating very well indeed and enjoying good conversation, although it was much too short!

 

 

The 9 hours via Polski bus for the return was a little bit too much,  so we took the train. Polish trains really are excellent. they are much better value and just as fast as trains in the UK, although that might have something to do with the PKP group being state owned. The train was packed full and so indeed was our compartment. It was much more comfortable to share the space however as we all got talking, particularly to a rather energetic El Salvadorian.

 

 

All in all, I’m keeping busy and it’s good. I’m really looking forward to Mum, Paul, Dad and Helen coming next week. But I know that even though it seems endless now, it really isn’t for much longer and as much as I’m excited to go home, I know part of me really doesn’t want this to end!

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*Ok, I’m slowly being converted. East European beers have that ability over even the staunchest I only-drink-wine person.

 

Minsk not Minks

Hello again! The radio silence is over at last – a month’s worth of exams is finally at an end and I’m free to take advantage of the beautiful Polish summer at last. On the other hand, it perhaps wasn’t as intense as it was long – I’ve definitely been up to much more than just revision since last writing…

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The ‘Minsk Gates’

Belarus is an ex-Soviet state sandwiched between Poland and Russia. Until February, it was virtually closed to tourists, except for a small part of the Białowieża forest where you could hike across the border from Poland and into the shared national park. Since February, however, there has been a visa-free regime for EU-citizens flying into Minsk airport for stays of up to 5 days. It might not be the first place you would imagine to take a city break, but if I learned anything from a rather spontaneous trip there in the week before my last exam, it’s that the surface impression is certainly not the principal one.

Nina, Rafael and I took our flight straight after my penultimate exam ended. From the very start, it was clear how friendly Belorussians are: whilst practicing some Russian vocabulary (very basic heads, shoulders, knees and toes-style!), as two Russian-speakers sat opposite us overhead our efforts and helped us with pronunciation.

It’s a beautiful city. Although my view might be somewhat biased by the sunshine, it’s amongst the most clean I have ever visited and we were surprised by how modern much of it is (it was heavily damaged during the second world war, but many buildings seem extremely recent and less recent ones are very well-kept). Almost everyone we met seemed quite cheerful (again, weather helps!) and despite the menus often being exclusively in Russian, we managed to east very well for a very, very reasonable price. If anything, I’m now a huge fan of Draniki and urge anyone to give at least one bottle of Советское шампанское a go*.

It was clear of course, that this wasn’t the Europe we were used to. It is in effect, almost if not an authoritarian state, having had the same Government in power since 1994. It retains the death penalty and numerous international organisations condemn its human rights abuses and accuse it of entrenched corruption. In spite of having abandoned its communist past (the shopping galleries are bursting), it’s a very conservative country with little superficial change in its buildings or monuments and even retains the GUM shop with government-controlled prices.

If ever there’s the chance, I’d definitely recommend visiting before the tourist industry is heavily developed. The historical city centre is lively and very used by locals, there is plenty to do in the day form museums to pedalos to just wandering this enormous city; and for a very different evening there are regular and entertaining ballets and operas in the stunning venue of the state ballet and opera (the cheapest seats are maybe only 5 euros).

DSCF6172We spent 3 days there before returning for a final revision push before the last exam, and it was 3 days very well spent!

 

 

 

 

 

* – or two, or three…

 

A happy, rainy day in April

How did you manage to import the weather too?! Ok, so that joke may have been said one too many times last Friday, but  apart from the eventual arrival of April showers in Warsaw, the UK national day at the College really couldn’t have worked out better.

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The flags are out… and so is the rain!

The day began with a full English (what else), followed by a fish, chip and mushy pea lunch (not forgetting the malt vinegar), before a street party style dinner. Of course, it wouldn’t have been complete without some real English Breakfast tea (Tetley, Twinnings or Yorkshire only, with not a Lipton in sight!*) to wash it all down.

Although fewer than normal made it, due probably to the unfaltering approach of the thesis deadline,  a good group still came together for the evening’s entertainment. Much like the other national days, which have all been superb, there is (thankfully some might jest in the case of the UK ) more than food to a country. A whisky and gin ‘degustation’ (to be very British and pinch the word of our French neighbours) accompanied a photo exhibition of the different land and cityscapes, before the choir sang Men of Harlech and Danny Boy.  The evening then took a ‘funny’ turn, with a ‘How Good is your British’ quiz led by Elie; which I heard but didn’t see as I was being very skillfully turned into a witch by Alaa. After a short whisky-break, our Theatre group performed a somewhat absurd version of a very-abridged Macbeth, until finally we warmed up for the bar with a lively and chaotic ceilidh, called by Jess.

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The Theatre crew do Macbeth: CoE-style

Overall it was a fantastic day; full of laughs, surprises** and a real illustration of the UK beyond London. The canteen especially did an incredible job of preparing the food and even building on our ideas for a ‘street party style’ decoration in the restaurant.

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Brits abroad.

I don’t know what time I went to bed, but know  class was a rather more of an effort at 9:30am the next day than usual and certainly not just for me!

Now it’s really time to knuckle down though: the thesis may be on my desk, bound and ready for hand-in, but my revision notes are little more than coloured pieces of paper and the first exam is less than 7 days away…

*I’ve been converted to Lipton, but honestly, no British person drinks it.
**Hash browns may have been translated as black pudding: although my Dad did point out this is more British, and then there was the Irish flag affair…

April Fools

When you think it’s all going to start calming down, the world always knows how to drop a bombshell. Or two. Or even several…

With the announcement of the General Election in June, I’m gaining yet another new experience: voting by proxy. It’s not much time; calculating based on my experience with post from Poland to make sure all the forms and the like are completed on time, but I will vote no matter what. Beyond that ‘surprise’ (is it really that much of a shock?), things have been quite remarkable here in Poland.

The early spring weather really does seem to have been an extended April Fool. Despite our precocious picnics, we even woke up to snow yesterday, although we’ve been assured it should start feeling a bit warmer at least by May. I’ve also been the lucky receiver of a mysterious postcard that seems to have made a long but rather circular journey.  On a much bigger and rather more concerning scale, what with the tumultuous news from Turkey to the furor in France, the College has been alive with discussion that manages to distract even the most serious of students from talking about their master thesis word count for a while. Who knows, maybe my hair will go pink next?

In any case, life is still rather exciting and is definitely not the monotonous march towards the thesis deadline I had expected following the study trips. I visited Lublin over Easter with Ronan. Although Poland is really not the place to go over Easter (unless your hobby is viewing the outside of closed museums), we still had good time – we met some pretty lively locals in a  bar (who were rather confused by our decision to visit Lublin), visited enjoyed a lot of food and explored the castle.

I’m keeping more busy than ever too. Embracing the slightly better weather, I’m going to start running properly again in earnest and have been going to the swimming pool with Roman and Sarah twice a week. I’ve even found time to practice Russian, although accidentally saying “Извините!” to an already angry Polish lady (I still don’t know what I did… ), probably isn’t the best way of doing so…

It struck me how long I’ve been away the other day. I’ll admit too that I did get quite a few pangs of homesickness and I’ll really appreciate seeing everyone again when I’m back in the Summer. I’ll be thinking about mum too this Sunday as she runs the London Marathon and cheering her on, even during class! It’s an incredible place to be however and I wouldn’t change having come here for the world.

8 days, 3 Countries, 1 study trip and a lot of fun

So, my camera arrived! I am still astounded by the generosity of ‘Hip’ (their term, not mine) Mistral Cafe who sent it all the way back to Poland. It’s amazing the faith in humanity travelling can restore for you.

As the College split into 4 groups, heading to Georgia/Armenia, Belgium/Luxembourg, the Baltic and of course the Visegrad, I was apprehensive about whether I’d made the right choice. Turns out it couldn’t have been a better one. With only 21 students, we really bonded as a group. I feel I know not only a lot more about the ancient and yet modern Visegrad group, but I also know a lot of the students even better.

The Visegrad is a group of 4 countries within the EU (Hungary, Czechia, Poland and Slovakia), united to some extent by their history as well as cultures, and committed to working together. We had some really impressive meetings, with leading academics, politicians and even Commissioners, all of whom were very open. Each country was also very different, which begged the question of how they work together (they don’t always). However by binding together through their history and a collective recognition of the need to cooperate; a interesting dynamic is created: 20170319_122338no matter how euro sceptic they may be, they remain committed to Europe.

So study trips aren’t always known for entailing vast amounts of studying and I definitely got to make the most of each country.

Prague was beautiful, despite the weather. Still recovering from a bit of virus, I didn’t stay out too late, nor did I get to run (an aim in each city); but a visit to the opera (with English subtitles), a walking tour and jazz bar certainly let me taste Prague again – as did the goulash! Moreover I didn’t miss out on the opportunity to visit my favourite haunt either: Cafe Louvre…

Our visit to Bratislava was short to say the least. I’d been told not to expect too much and welcomed the prospect of a single night only before heading for 3 days in Budapest. how surprised I was then to find a beautiful old town with a delightfully easy-going atmosphere after the more impersonal hustle and bustle of Prague. The sun came out too and I even got to run.

The nicest surprise of Bratislava whoever was to see my friend Sophia again. Travelling all the way from Austria (ok it’s 60km to Vienna – but still), we enjoyed a great catch-up over Thai food before visiting a ‘secret speak-easy’ she knew in a cupboard.

Budapest was – hot. Shedding our coats, evening the evening, I felt like I was on holiday (albeit with a lot of conference rooms, but just as much ice cream). It’s much bigger than Prague or Bratislava (after all it was 2 cities), but after 2 days I felt at least a little bit acclimatised. This was perhaps aided by a trip to the Gellert Baths – with a 36 degree Celsius pool outside and a 40 degree Celsius one inside, it really was an experience.

Finally, we rounded off the trip with a quick stop off at the in-restoration Visegrad Palace, seeing where the Treaty of 1991 was actually signed between the then 3 countries, before heading back to our final V4 destination, Warsaw.

All in all, what a chance and what a trip.

*Just don’t think about the fact it’s like a big lab incubator…

 

A journey ends and more begin…

It’s still pretty sunny here, which although unexpected is certainly very welcome!

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10k in Kabaty forest maybe didn’t help…

I should perhaps heed Claude though when he keeps recounting a wise phrase , “En avril, ne te découvre pas d’un fil. Mais En mai, fais ce quil te plaît” which roughly means that in April, don’t take off your coat (you don’t know when it will change), but in May, do whatever you please! The past few weeks have been quite difficult and the jet-setting of my last post probably took its toll. After feeling exhausted for 2 weeks (with some kind of flu), and with lots of support from Ronan and others, I seem at last to be back on form.

Nonetheless, despite cutting back temporarily on sport, life at the college definitely goes on. Ross came to visit me at last and we certainly made the most of it. My bizarre fatigue stopped us from profiting much from Warsaw’s night life but we still made a mini recreation of our inter-railing antics.

Classes meant I couldn’t always be there, but Ross made sure to tell me all about his day’s adventures in the evenings. We visited Warsaw’s Trampoline park – literally a room full of trampolines – before heading into Warsaw’s centre the next day (yes I might have skipped a class…).

Although the science centre was full, we profited from the ‘curiosities’ park nearby: a really innovative space outside the Copernicus Science centre; there are loads of ‘exhibits’ (probably for children, but ho-hum, they were at school) that play with sound. Little drums you can play by enhancing the sound with water on your hands, as well as sound reflectors set apart by around 50m and yet you can talk into and be heard at the other reflector and loads more. What the sheep were for though we never really worked out…

After a quick nap in the planetarium (just kidding, we did watch most of it) and a trip to Lazienki park, we passed the rest of the afternoon in that famous Polish cafe Cafe Nero for a much needed rest and a comprehensive 3-month catch up.

An obligatory trip to Zapiecek for pierogi was followed by the most refined activity of the day: a trip to the Moscow City Ballet’s ‘Sleeping Beauty’. In spite of the popcorn which of course wasn’t there in such a refined show, it was beautiful and the Garland Waltz (once upon a dream) stuck in my head for the next 24 hours at least and I’m still humming it on and off now…

All in all a fantastic prelude to the study trips, although it did mean I went to bed around 9pm for the next 2 nights before the Visegrad. I’ve finally also done my Baba Marta, attaching it to what I think is a Hazel tree with green catkins and purple flowers. Spring here seems to be approaching fast and I imagine it will be an explosion of life here before long. The seasons are much more sudden!

I’ll write another post very soon about the adventures in the V4 – but before that I have to wait for my camera (‘misplaced’ in Prague but making its return thanks to a rather pleasant cafe...)

Suddenly it’s Spring

Time is flying here. Two weeks ago I left a somewhat chilly Warsaw (a period of warmer weather had melted the snow but this had quickly refrozen into very effective ice rinks around campus) and headed to Brussels. Four countries and two weeks later and it’s looking very much like the wintry weather is gone for good.

The campus is looking beautiful under blue skies, I’ve seen my first butterfly (a yellow one!) and I’ve even seen a few trees with what look suspiciously like birch catkins. We’ve each been given a little red and white bracelet by Gabriela and Alex in the Bulgarian ‘Baba Marta’ tradition. When we find the first blossoming tree, or see the first sparrow we should hang it to hang on a tree and make a wish: as Claude, Ronan and I were out running earlier we didn’t stop, but am quite sure it won’t be long before it disappears from my wrist.

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On the French National Day

The diversity of the campus has been really put on show lately with a run of ‘national days’. In spite of limited resources, it’s been incredible how much has been done. First came the Chinese national day (with a series of activities in the evening including calligraphy, which was really cool, and lots of tea), a French national day (delicious food, the Marseillaise by the choir and um, karaoke), a MENA day, Turkey/Armenia and also a Georgian/Azerbaijani day (with superb wine and incredible dancing from Raul and Ia). There’s many more to come too. Each one had been unique but has really shown how  similar many countries are in their richness and sometimes traditions and food too. It’s definitely feeding an appetite for traveling again, despite my slight fatigue after the last 2 weeks.

Natolin itself has a culture too and we’ve been sharing it this weekend with some ‘visitors’ from Bruges who have come for a football match. For one of the few sports that doesn’t much thrill me, it’s definitely been a big topic both here and elsewhere, what with Lincoln City (yes Lincoln), making it into the quarter finals of the FA cup too. They must be going crazy at home ;).

The major reason I’ve not written for so long though has been that I’ve been somewhat of a jetsetter these past few weeks. First came Brussels for some Master’s Thesis interviews: they went really well; it’s nerve-wracking but it was really insightful and it’s much better to do them in person if you an – you end up asking questions you would never otherwise have thought of and there’s always the opportunity to meet more people when there. Francesca very kindly put me up and we had a great catch-up to (with a good dose of wine too).

Then came Oxford. It’s an amazing place and you never feel out of place. It was fantastic to see the Biologists again; even if I did get told to stop apologising for no longer being one… The students might change but the place never does and when you go back it’s always even better than the last time

Almost straight after Oxford I joined a great group to head to Vilnius. The 8 hour night bus trips there and back were perhaps not the greatest ideas, but the rest of the trip definitely more than made up for it. I won’t rave too much about Lithuanian cuisine (if you can believe: potato sausages to go with your potato pancakes and potato dumplings), but the beer was something else.

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  A world of beery beverages…

Unconverted by Belgium, all the more impressive that its Lithuanian beer that’s opened up a new world of beverages to me!Vilnius old town is beautiful, and Victor assured us it is even more so in summer (it’s apparently very green). Although the majority of our trip was probably more authentic than touristic, we did take a trip to the KGB museum, which was pretty fascinating (the miniature cameras were like something straight out of my old Usbourne Book of Everything), if a bit haunting in parts.

I’m now pretty exhausted, and despite some long sleeps this weekend there’s a still quite a bit to catch up. It’s definitely a time to knuckle down with work, but with Spring arriving they’ll be lots to look forward to: my legs are itching to run even more now the sun is out and we’ll see how the 10k goes with Ronan, Claude and whoever else joins on Saturday to see how much work there is to catch-up on after Winter.

There’s also the study trip and visits from friends on the horizon. Beyond that I’m sure there’s more, every day is truly a new one here and as unrelenting as it is, I wouldn’t change it for anything!

 

The Return

So much for regular blog posts. It’s slightly ironic that as life gets most exciting there is less time to think about what’s happening, or even to record it. Then again, I probably could have found time for a slightly shorter blog post, so I do apologise for not writing earlier.

Life in Warsaw has taken a bit of a tighter hold  in this past month though and so many things have come and gone that I won’t even attempt to write them all out here. However, I am at that lovely stage of optimism during studies, when there is so much going on, exams are distant enough in the future that I don’t think about them, but there seems an endless swathe of possibility for the future even further ahead than that. The only thing that marres the optimism is the slight fear I’ll not be able to take advantage of all the doors that are seemingly at least half open now.

I’ve been lucky enough to have had 2 sets of visitors since my last post. A wonderful weekend with Dan and James early in January was spent visiting new parts of Warsaw, including Wilanow Palace (with a hearty pierogi lunch at the Zloty Kroll after) and the extremely comprehensive and well done (albeit rather exhausting) Museum of the history of the Polish Jews. Over 1000 years of history in about 3 hours even exceeded the feats of pace of Professor Butterwick’s European Civilisation lectures during the first term, but it was very interesting. Dan and Nathalie then came last week: we definitely made the most of the bar (until at least 4am: I did say there would be dancing) still managed to see a lot of culture and history (the Gestapo HQ museum was sobering but incredible) and sample a fair variety of the local grub.

The new courses are also pretty interesting for the most part, although much more specific than last term, with a  lot more independent work. Trying to make the most of the reduced contact hours (of course working intensively on my thesis too… 😉 ), we’ve been trying to see a bit more of Poland.

It was rather frozen but I had the most fantastic  2 days in Wroclaw with Ronan: we tried a few new things (opera, the impressive Racławice Panorama  and dwarf-hunting) and enjoyed quite a few others (very good vin chaud, free walking tours and food). It’s a really interesting city with a fascinating past: we learnt have been the city’s symbol since 2004 after they were chosen in memory of the little ‘orange dwarf’ that symbolised the local protest movement against communism). Although if you do go dwarf hunting, bear in mind there are over 400 (not 7) dwarves presently round the city…

College life never stops of course either and even if you try to take a step back, someone will always be organising something. It’s a blessing in reality and so I’m really trying to make the most of every bit – but it definitely tests the ability to keep your own rhythm and ensure you get enough sleep. Last Thursday the College showcased its talent with another poetry night. I’d not yet been to one, but I’ll definitely come again next time.

Francis played guitar whilst students read out poems in their native languages, sometimes with translation. It’s actually a really enchanting experience and makes you think, even if poetry (like for me) isn’t normally something you know or ‘care’ much about. A particularly pertinent one for me was Diego’s: originally in Spanish it translates as ‘Dies slowly‘ which sounds morbid, but is actually very passionate. Cankat and Gabriel’s Simon and Garfunkel-esuqe music was equally awesome. Simone and Liz also performed the first sketch from our theatre group, which was met with howls of laughter as it parodied life in College. We’ve also had the first national day, spending the evening learning Chinese calligraphy, origami and throwing balls into water with chopsticks: let’s see what the Frenchies do next week.20170203_182404

The next few weeks are rather charged up. As of tomorrow, my 2 weeks of near complete respite (meaning I’ve actually made a bit of progress at last in Russian: хорошо!) and I’ll be back to 7 days in a row of courses, before a quick trip to Brussels, more courses, then Oxford and finally a voyage to Vilnius with a group from College. I’m sure it will be incredible, but future posts will reveal whether I’ve made it out the other side!

 

 

A Happy, Homely Holiday

Most of my blogs are usually focused on the future and things I’ve learnt. This one’s not. The Christmas break was so long and enjoyable this year –such that I’ve not had for years and for the first time, I don’t feel that doing very little was a waste of time.

No stress, more life

15697252_1056665667777517_6059869091787251333_nInstead of a jam-packed 7-10 days, regimented to the minutest of details to ensure I met every relative, friend and appointment for their allotted time slot, still finding time for countless other activities envisioned in the previous months – I relaxed. And yet, a lot still got done. In fact, being under reduced time pressure over Christmas actually seemed to increase the activities that could be fit in.

The ‘schedule’ wasn’t rigid and I had time to ‘overrun’ activities. Nothing was missed and everything as much more enjoyable.

The first few days were spent winding down from the term. Mum gave me plenty of space and yet we still got into town to see an old friend and do all the other things we’d planned. I had lots of time to enjoy mum and Paul’s new hot tub(!) and managed to fit lots of sport in.

Christmas day was a dream. We tried the Red Lion pub for the first time on a Christmas day, meaning there was no washing up and everyone could chill. We had time to reflect on those we were missing too, but the fact we weren’t stressed too and that we were all together (seeing almost all of my family) made it easier. Finishing up in the tub with my neighbour, Ross, just topped off what couldn’t have been a better day.

They say everything has a price: well possibly. I’d somewhat heedlessly agreed to run with mum’s club on Boxing Day – a small 9 miles which turned into nearly 11! To say I didn’t enjoy running under those clear blue skies across the Lincoln Heaths though would be quite an untruth.

The best bits

The best bits of are hard to choose (the classic response to any, “how were your holidays?” question), but I really did enjoy seeing so many people over Christmas and New Year. Although I don’t remember much of New Year’s Eve after about 11:30pm, if the first part was anything to go by, I am sure it was amazing!

I even got a chance to visit friends in London. Edouard was kind enough to let me stay at his and we enjoyed a fantastic lunch out on te Saturday. I saw old friends and heard how well they were doing (felicitations encore, Kankou!) on Friday and caught up with so many others, who are also all well, happy and despite being busy, took the time to meet me.

Nothing seemed to go wrong and everything went right. Everything got done that needed to be done, but even though my targets were only reasonable, it was enough.

To say I wasn’t looking forward to coming back to campus would not be true and I am indeed glad to be back now. My first courses have been interesting and it’s been great to see everyone (nearly!) again.

Already the Golden Cage’s intensity is back, but in all the very best of ways. Irakli’s incredible Georgian food (thank you! Georgia is definitely on my list of countries I MUST visit) meant I had to break my sugar-free attempt for another day, and I’m already putting plans in place for activities in the weeks ahead. Nothing has changed and yet everything is better since we’ve been away: I’m looking forward to many a tea (thank you Rafael for the beautiful mug!) and probably a Soplicka, city trips and goodness-knows what else over the next 5 months.

Poland, whatever you have in store – I’m ready*!

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*Except for perhaps the-10°C cold every day.

It’s that time again!

Another New Year

Until 1582, New Year’s Day was actually the 1st of March (hence Dec-ember, having been the 10th month). Although it’s really just another day, retreating festive decorations seem to give way to a clear run of opportunity to get to work on new goals and new hopes for the year to come. After the surprises of 2016 and no less than a bit of excess over Christmas and New Year (there’s a reason I didn’t write this on the 1st of January) I’m jumping on the bandwagon with my own goals for the year to come.

Resolving revolutionary resolutions

Alright, so they might not be revolutionary resolutions, but they’ll hopefully be at least a bit progressive! I’m a big believer in time management (I know, sigh), and one of the ways I like to ‘make good use of time’ is to listen to podcasts while walking and running. This one was surprisingly good and struck a bit of chord, given the timing as I took a walk on New Year’s Day.

In it, Laura Vanderkam suggests that we never really lack time, rather we just don’t consider the activity a priority. We can do anything we want, if we want to do it enough. Based on studies of ‘successful people’ she suggests that they are more often than not, simply good at prioritising. Every decision is a choice of a way to spend our time.

She also gives a structure for organising priorities, and suggests that in each of her 3 categories, we’ll be most balanced and happy if we find a ‘priority’ to put above all else in each.

I’m going to try this ‘structure’ this year and see how it goes. If can make good use of the 8736 hours this year, then great. I’m keeping them flexible and not too specific as if 2016 taught me anything, it’s that you can think you’re heading in one direction one month and you’re half way across Europe the next (and that’s great). And if it doesn’t work out, there’s always next year!

Relationships

1)     Invest more in people who invest in me

I’ve not always felt I’ve given the people who give their time and energy to me as much in return and have suffered for it. With all of the technologies available it’s amazing how you can still lose contact with people you hold dear but perhaps lose pace with.

Taking 20-30minutes every day to consciously give someone my time who needs it should be a goal.

2)     Listen in proportion to my ears and mouth

I’m more and more interested in current affairs, forming opinions and developing new areas of interest I’d never have dreamed of 2 years ago. But to make sure my view is balanced and that I can make valuable contributions to debates, I need to keep a balanced perspective too.

As my mum told me (and will be rather pleased I’m taking it on board), you’ve got 2 ears and 1 mouth – use them in proportion.

Self

3)     Get my 10km time to below 40 minutes and take at least 10 minutes of my last half marathon time

Perhaps my only quantifiable priority: let’s see if I can sick to the training schedule…

4)     Keep this blog going

Of course (and hopefully the readership!)

Career

5)     Make sure that I’m in a job I’m happy in, where I can truly say my responsibilities make a real difference for the better by the end of the year

Without specifying a particular role, I’m trying to stay open to possibility whilst clarifying for myself what that needs to have, so that when opportunities arise, I’ll know which way to go.

The plan

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Steep climb still ahead… At east someone had left a rope…

About 2750 of those 8736 hours of the year will be spent sleeping. Beyond that however, even discounting hours at work (probably about 1800), travelling, eating (1100 hours) and ‘miscellaneous things’, I’m left with thousands of hours to work specifically towards these 5 things. Hopefully 2017 will be full of surprises and maybe even more achievements than those I’ve prioritised above. Anyhow, I’ll only be able to let you know in about 8700 hours/52 weeks/363 days!

P.S. I’d be interested to know what others think/their priorities for this year too.