Spot the Boyfriend

I thought it was weird that Kieran had suddenly vanished while I was in the bathroom. He sometimes hides to scare me and since I’m a massive wuss I was on my guard- there was a suspicious looking lump under the duvet. Too suspicious. It was obviously a trap. I heard a rustling and noticed the door of the wardrobe was open a tiny bit.

Spot the boyfriend:

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face-swap scare

Yesterday I downloaded that face-swap thing for the iPhone. I was trying to face-swap my boyfriend with my moomin- if you’ve never seen a moomin, this is it looking adorable:

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I was given it when I left my job before uni. Cute, right?

I then face-swapped it with my boyfriend (also cute)- I had to share the horrifying result. Still cute?

Think again.

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tsunami

Since I’ve got to uni I’ve noticed how many people struggle with stress, or anxiety or other mental health issues. Most of the time, my anxiety is a result of my family; my mum isn’t always the nicest. But I’ve been thinking recently about anxiety, and what causes mine; and another cause is what happened when I was nine. I went travelling with my family, and we got caught in the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami. We were in Sri Lanka, one of the hardest-hit countries. The waves were reaching about 100ft and we were incredibly lucky to survive it. Sri Lanka was the first place we travelled to- we were there for 2 weeks, decided to upgrade from backpacking for Christmas, found a hotel on the beach, and then the tsunami hit. If anyone does read this, I just want to warn you that it’s about some pretty horrific stuff.

Considering I was 9 at the time I remember quite a bit from travelling- not as much as I’d like, but even now random smells or sights trigger memories I’d forgotten about. However on that particular day I only remember up to a certain point, and then my memory is blank for a long time. I remember chronological events in a detached fashion- the hotel flooding, the way that the whole sea seemed to vanish before the wave hit, the sheer size of the wave itself, and the run inland to the mountains. Our hotel was right on the beach- we’d been having breakfast when the hotel began to flood and at first just assumed it was an unusually high tide. I remember I’d wandered off a little bit from my family and I was looking back at them- it didn’t make sense, all of a sudden there was water everywhere, at knee hight. It seemed to click almost immediately, and the waiters and hotel staff began screaming at everybody to get away. People were running everywhere. My memory of this is slightly chaotic, but I know I was separated from my family and when I did finally find my mum again, my sister had disappeared. Everyone were scrambling around in chaos and Mum grabbed hold of a man as he ran past, asking him to take me upstairs whilst she looked for her. As soon as she left the man vanished, and I was left in the rush of people streaming past. Luckily one woman took hold of me and I went upstairs with her. Panic is weird; we knew now what was coming but I remember glancing down into the lobby and seeing people who instead of getting themselves to safety were wading around in the water (rapidly rising past hip height) trying to find their possessions. I found my mum being bandaged up- furniture was now floating around and she had been knocked over by a table and had then cut her foot open on a bottle. The next event in a series of surreal happenings was looking out of the window to see the sea had vanished. For miles there was nothing but exposed sea bed, it was the weirdest thing; and that was when terror began to set in- it was undeniably evident that all that huge amount of water would return in one. We retreated up the hotel. There was a group of us at the top, someone was handing out Coca-Cola, saying it would help with the shock, and two men were trying to get radio signal to try and get us airlifted out. I was young enough that they were trying to distract me, and knowing I loved reading they shoved a random book at me- I was in shock, so weirdly I could actually focus on it- the only book they’d managed to find was the most horrific account of the holocaust. I dropped it pretty quickly. Next thing I remember was the first real wave. It was a roar louder than you would have thought possible. We were on the top floor and the first wave stopped just short of our window. All you could see was a raging mass of water and debris, and there was a horrible, trapped feeling that this wave might be too big to ever escape. The wave didn’t retreat for a long time, and as it continued to build we began to think it may actually overtop and drown the hotel. We did think we were going to die. What can you do against a 100ft wave? Mum was telling us that if we were picked up and swept away, we had to hang onto her and not get separated. Then, the wave had gone and we were planning to run. The sea had vanished again and you could tell that when it came back it would be bigger. I was only 9; I couldn’t understand how none of the others wanted to run with us; the elderly couple I had been sitting with were staying, along with the men with the radio and several others. To this day I don’t know whether any of them survived. We packed a few things, and left the hotel. The first thing we saw was that the wooden hut we were originally going to stay in had been swept away completely, there was nothing left. The hotel pool was filled with uprooted trees, and even as we sprinted in what we hoped was the right direction, we could see the wreckage- buildings were smashed apart, cars were stuck halfway up trees, fields were flooded, and bodies were strewn along the road. We ran past a small house that had been completely destroyed, and another random thought popped into my head- the woman who lived there had hand-made sarongs for us just days earlier, and she had been ecstatically happy as she had finally saved up enough money to buy a sewing machine and expand her business. The tsunami had destroyed her entire home and livelihood, and there was no sign of her. The run through the streets was a nightmare- we could clearly see the mountains ahead, but trying to wind our way through the labyrinth of alleyways seemed impossible. Cars and motorbikes were streaking past, and we tried asking for help but understandably, no one was stopping. If the wave had come then, we probably wouldn’t have made it. When we finally reached the mountain we joined a group of people at the base who had managed to call in assistance, and there were several false alarms of more waves in the wait for transport. We travelled to a monastery and stayed inland for a long time after that, but before we moved on from Sri Lanka my mother insisted we go back to that same beach. We were living out of backpacks and so hadn’t had much with us in the first place, and since we had decided to run from the hotel in the break between the second and third waves, we hadn’t had much time to pack. Any items we thought might be helpful we donated to the aid workers. 

Writing this now, more than 10 years later, is still incredibly hard. I think about the tsunami a lot, but I try to use it as a reminder that, whenever I have problems which seem completely overwhelming, I can always know I’ve dealt with far worse. To make myself braver.

We were on CNN after that; we’d been very lucky, we’d made it to the capital of Columbo, and were staying with the English Ambassador there. I found the transcript of that interview, which I do want to post on here sometime, but right now this has been hard enough- time to go do other less heavy stuff!

Little Women

People are talking about dissertations, third year, work… just scary stuff in general. Dissertations seem great in that you can write about anything, but at the same- anything. It’s almost too much choice. I love Little Women, it’s one of my favourite books, and I have no idea how I’d do a dissertation on it, but I want to just so I can use the insanely pretty new copy I convinced myself to buy after the other one fell apart/just generally died of old age:

Too pretty to resist.

fighting the boss

I read a quote somewhere the other day, that said one of the best ways to sum up anxiety is like when you’re playing a game and hear the music that means a boss/enemy is about to attack, but you can’t see them on screen or tell where they’re coming from. That’s just the best description. I didn’t realise until I got to uni just how many people are struggling with depression, or anxiety, or just too much stress, and in a weird way it’s sort of reassuring to know other people have experienced the same things. My anxiety has been an issue for a long time, mostly because of my family (they’re crazy and not in a good way). It’s gone back and forth from all round general panic to just the sort of social anxiety of “oh-my-god-someone’s-calling-and-I-can’t-remember-how-to-answer-the-phone-like-a-normal-human”. It’s got a lot better since I got to uni, and that’s partly because of being away from said crazy family, and partly because of my amazing boyfriend. So I wasn’t really expecting it to crop up again and I don’t know if it’s because of the increasing pressure of uni work, the fact that sometime in the future I might have to pretend to be an adult, or what, but out of the blue it came back again, so that I had a teeny tiny little panic attack in the middle of a shop. It’s the weirdest thing- you feel completely fine and then it bops up out of nowhere and whacks you in the face so you’re scared, but not sure why you’re scared, and then it’s even more scary because you don’t know what you’re meant to be scared of, and in one second you’ve gone from normal to hyperventilating in a shopping aisle. It is just that feeling that there’s a boss about to pop up that you’re going to have to fight, but not knowing when or where. People seem to have different opinions about stuff like anxiety- I talked to a doctor once about it who seemed to think it wasn’t much of an issue and that having a massage or going shopping should sort it out. Right. Different stuff works for different people, and I’m still trying to find ways to kind of just shh it down a little but lucky for me, I have a boyfriend who’s helping me kick its ass, and in the meantime, the things that I’ve found that work for me are:

  1. The whole breathing thing. It really does work-it kind of gives you a chance to calm down and remember that if you can’t think of the reason why you’re feeling scared/anxious then maybe there isn’t one.
  2. The adult colouring thing. Seriously. It really helps. It lets your mind sort of disconnect and zone out for a bit, it’s really therapeutic.
  3. Exercise. I hated it when I was little but going to the gym now is actually nice; thinking about nothing for a while and just exercising can really calm you down, and might as well make use of all that nervous twitchiness.
  4. Reading. Just all the time. Reading. Always.
  5. Lists. This is more of a last resort thing when I’m stressing out and although it makes me look like a crazy lady, hunched over a notepad and muttering, putting the problem down on paper actually helps to make it look smaller and maybe realise it’s not a problem at all.
  6. Things that make me laugh, even if it’s just a random picture I’ve found; something that just kinda stops me being all:

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man time

Although my boyfriend does seem to be part cat, he also gets on incredibly well with my little jack russell Panda (I know, I named him when I was 5 alright?) who has lived with women his whole life and therefore loves having ‘man time’. Panda is a lot fatter then he used to be- exhibit A:

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and because he lives with women, he is constantly subjected to horrors such as The Christmas Jumper (and accessories): here he is in antlers and hating all of us:

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So he’s hugely relieved to have man time with my boyfriend, as you can tell by the look on both of their faces when I interrupted them:

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His love for Kieran means I am now completely ignored- for instance, blanking me while he waits for the return of The Man from the shower:

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I’ve been completely demoted. By my own dog.

the importance of boxes part 2

I’m starting to think my boyfriend is definitely part cat. Has anyone else heard the fact that leaving a box out is sort of like a cat-trap? This was at uni, only a couple months after the first incident- I left it unattended for 2 minutes, heard a scurrying down the stairs, and came back to this:

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I managed to capture my own boyfriend.

the importance of boxes

In the summer I bought a fancy new hairdryer with my boyfriend and immediately ripped it out of its fancy new box to plug it in and see that yes, it did indeed blow out warm air, and was about to throw the box away when my boyfriend stopped me with a horrified look on his face. “You’re not throwing away the box, are you?!”. Yes, I was throwing the box away. His face was scandalised. “But there’s so much you can do with it!”. Like what? At which point he promptly seized it, planted it straight on his head, and looked at me with a “and what are you going to do about it?” face. If you can’t quite picture his mixed expression of pride, smugness and pure happiness, I think this sums it up:

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procrastination

This whole adult colouring book thing has kind of taken off- I’ve heard that it’s  because it’s good for adults to take time away from boring adult stuff to exercise a more creative side, or maybe it’s good to do something a bit childish, or that maybe it’s just incredibly therapeutic. All these reasons aside I’m 20, a bit of a kid at heart, and trying desperately to avoid joining the real non-student world, and judge me as you will but I love it. It’s also good for people (like me) who can imagine a beautiful artsy/drawing idea, but when they try to put it on paper it comes out as a stickman. Anyway, it’s incredibly relaxing and oddly satisfying and a lot more fun than doing uni work, and I present to you the result of 3 essay’s worth of procrastination:

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I also used shiny pens, because I wasn’t already being enough of a child:

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an opportunity

I went for a walk with my boyfriend the other day, and we happened to pass a little bunch of kids grouped on a bench. These boys were at an age where it was clearly still a great excitement to be allowed to go to the park without an adult watching and, struggling with the weight of such an honour, they were all lounging uncertainly across the bench, stretching their legs out into the path to ensure that anybody who walked by would see and  immediately realise that they were outside without adult supervision. One of them saw us approaching and perked up immediately. This was his chance. There were no parents. His friends were watching. You could almost see that this was what he had been waiting for- he could say any rude word he wanted and there was no parent to catch him out. All he had to do was pick one. He looked at his friends- they were gazing at him, open-mouthed, egging him on- and all of a sudden this scandalising opportunity was too much for him. You could see the exact moment his mind went blank- what swear words did he know? He shot us an agonised glance- we were almost upon him and he still hadn’t found one. His eyes flicked rapidly between us and his friends as he considered the terrible possibility that he might miss this opportunity. Just as we reached them, panic struck. “Puberty!” he shrieked at the top of his voice and, to a chorus of scandalised squeals from his friends, they all took off into the bushes.