Rejoice! For I have found Faith. And it was on special offer…

September 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

So I’m packing my suitcase (large, plastic and plastered in blue butterflies so as to ensure ease of identification on the luggage carousel – albeit slight embarrassment) and I’m having a complete nervous breakdown because of the distinct lack of…stuff. I’m going to be out of the country for a minimum of six months, yet I’m pretty sure I packed more for two weeks in Turkey. I mean, of course, for two weeks in Turkey it’s necessary to pack at least six pairs of expensive, uncomfortable high heels and then proceed to wear the same pair of Primark flip-flops out every night, but am I being too frugal? And, more importantly, what on earth does frugal actually mean? (Frugal, adj. Practicing economy; living without waste; thrifty.)

Ok, so frugal was relevant in this situation – after all, my sparse suitcase is mostly down to my sudden dislike of spending my (reasonably) hard earned cash. I owe this largely to the fact that I feel like I’ve worked the last three months purely so I can afford to keep my nurse in the lifestyle to which she’s become accustomed (namely one whereby she gets to inject me with whatever she can find in the cupboard, then charge me).

To my own surprise I’ve committed to this new found frugality (word of the day, much?) with all the fervour and dedication of a born again Christian – not to mention the hypocrisy. It’s as if my years of sinful spending only served to allow me to now float along, aisle after aisle, pitying and patronising the weak, lost souls around me with a smile that screams ‘now, dear, do you really need that?’. Just recently I found myself in the queue at Poundland…

Now, you may think that that could happily be the end of the story – that finding yourself in the queue at Poundland (a place of worship for economical shoppers) is quite enough to show that you no longer waste money on overpriced items and, in fact, are now quite the savvy spender. Alas, it continues… I found myself in the queue at Poundland, basket in hand, bluntly deciding that tablets that claim to put a rather unhappy tummy to rest in one hour are probably not worth the 45p more than ones that work within an unspecified timeframe. In fact, I ended up spending much of my time in the queue putting items back (I say back, I mean stashing them on the nearest shelf) because, let’s be honest, I could definitely sneak shampoo and conditioner out of my parents bathroom without too much hassle, and that factor 30 I found under my bed may have been suspiciously more like a paste than a lotion, but it’ll probably still do the trick. It’s safe to say that if, as this nice extended metaphor seems to be suggesting, being tight were a religion, you could say I was having an epiphany.

However, I feel I’ve still a long way to go on the path to enlightenment: the harsh reality is that by the time I had reached the check-out the total for these ‘essentials’ amounted to only about a third of my daily cappuccino spend. As it turns out, not wholly (holy?) unlike the religious types, everything’s a lot easier when you agree with the general gist of the doctrine, but a few tweaks to make it slightly more workable definitely wouldn’t hurt. Thus my mantra: look after the pennies by avoiding things you probably don’t need, and the pounds can go towards things you definitely don’t need (but are generally a lot more exciting to buy).

After all, it was a shame I couldn’t afford a new toothbrush, but at least I can look forward to my new £300 camera arriving. Any day now…

The (really quite unnecessarily) Long Goodbye.

June 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

Ever since I made the decision to depart from the town that has raised me, from the people I love, and from the life that I have been living to head to the great unknown one thing has been blindingly obvious – sooner or later I shall have to turn to this place, these people and this life, and say goodbye. It may be goodbye for a few months (who knows, the world might not be all it’s cracked up to be after all) or for a good few years, but it’ll be a goodbye nonetheless. I was, however, hoping that that kind of emotional exchange could be put off for as long as possible, and confined to a tearful journey to the airport, and some long, lingering hugs punctuated with “PROMISE you’ll call me every day. Twice a day! Whenever anything happens at ALL you call me, you hear?”

Instead, I appear to be spending most of my time saying goodbye, and quite frankly, I’m tired.

Every time my eight month old niece looks at me and smiles as if nothing has ever been as exciting as pressing the buttons on the TV remote, I say goodbye to her – or, to her as a baby, at least. Even by the time I make it back to visit she’ll be walking and talking, and won’t remember that Auntie Terri always thought it was funny to let her press the buttons on the TV remote, even though it messed up all the settings. Each time I go out for the night I say goodbye to the small town phenomenon that is ‘knowing everyone in the pub’. I imagine there will still be some of the same faces when I swing back this way, but even in a town like Thanet, a black hole for change and variety, people move on or move away and a younger, less jaded, better dressed crowd of people will surface. And, just before I go to sleep at night, I say a sad, little goodbye to the person I was that day. Soon the Terri that lived here, in her parent’s house, with her main concerns varying between whether or not she remembered to record Glee, and how she managed to get home without her shoes last night, will disappear to make way for a different version. A more cultured and worldly version, we hope…but definitely different.

So whilst I fight a daily battle with my nostalgia for the present, I consider the options for the next few months. Is it possible to make this journey a  little easier? Perhaps I could try some emotional detachment – fend off new friends that just add to the list of people to say goodbye to, try not to delve into why every family member, every friend, every colleague is just so awesome – work to create a situation less heart–breaking to leave? Or do I allow myself to appreciate the people, the places and life I’m fortunate to have – knowing full well that when the 20th of September rolls around there’ll be more tears and cries of adoration than a group of middle aged women at a Take That reunion concert.

So, what do I do?

No, really, what do I do? That wasn’t a rhetorical question, I’m asking you! There are no life affirming answers here, who do you think I am, Oprah?

So shall I catch Rabies or Malaria? Well, Rabies definitely has the edge when it comes to humour, but Cheryl Cole really put Malaria on the map…

June 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

There are a lot of things in life that you expect to be challenging, but when you get to it are often not all that bad. Like, for example, when my sister gave birth to my niece, Lyla. We all thought it was going to be something from a ‘Scenes Too Gruesome To Show’ special feature on an Exorcist bonus DVD (given that my sister, though delightful, is often taken to grand overreaction at the slightest incidents, and giving birth know). However, when it came to the crunch, it was pretty much a ‘wham, bam, thank you Mam and here’s your little baby’ kind of set up (or so I’m told). Afterwards, my maternal sibiling even went as far as to say that actually – it was kinda fun.

Then there are the moments in life when things that should be pretty clear-cut and straightforward, aren’t. Now, having made the decision to travel the length and breadth of the world with just my smile as a passport and enthusiasm as a guide (OK that’s a slightly romanticised view on the whole thing, granted) does not mean, in any way, that I’m some kind of expert. Now you may be thinking ‘how could anyone, anywhere, ever mistake little old you for an expert, Terri?’ but, believe me, it has happened. And, by none other than the medical profession. Evidence:

Me – ‘I need some sort of jab things, apparently, so I don’t get loads of diseases and stuff when I go to places that aren’t Margate. Can you tell me what to get?’

Medical Person – ‘Well, that all depends, what jabs do you want?’

I’m sorry…what? What jabs do I want? Well! Seeing as you’re asking, oh granter of medical wishes – I would like a Super Jab that henceforward stops me from contracting anything from Malaria to the Munchies; Yellow Fever to Yawns. I want this jab to come in the form of a chocolate needle that I need only pop in my mouth and wait for it to melt…and I want it to cost £1.50. That possible? Yes? No? Thought not.

As it happens, you have what’s called a choice when it comes to travel vaccinations. You can choose to protect yourself against all of the deadly diseases they harbour out East, or you can opt for the ones you really don’t like the sound of (and if you want some expert advice, go with the ones you can’t pronounce, they’re bound to be nasty, right?)

But, of course, the jazzier diseases come with a heftier price tag. So, what to do? Well, the honourable and fool-proof last resort of the truly British, of course. Do what everyone else is doing. What’s that Stel? You’re spending hundreds of pounds on all of them?

Top idea.

But Thailand is full of foreigners? Like, foreign people? That speak funny?

June 9, 2011 § 2 Comments

So the news is out, the money’s paid, the date is set, and all of a sudden me living thousands of miles away is less of a crazy idea, and more of a reality. Cue all sorts of ridiculous panic-induced questions. ‘Are you going to get mugged?’; ‘Are you going to catch rabies?’; ‘Are you going to get caught up in the crossfire of international drug barons in the depths of the Cambodian-Vietnam border?’. Even Nostradamus would have to utter a strained ‘I’ll get back to you on that one’.

Of course they’re not really questions that I’m supposed to answer – or questions that anyone is supposed to answer for that matter – they’re a way of saying ‘are you fucking mad?’. Or, to put it politely, ‘have you fully considered the risks you’re taking by going away?’. The answer is of course  I have, but there’s no way to know what’ll happen – just the same as there’s no way to know I won’t get flattened by the number 32 bus next time I wander to the shops; or develop cancer just because it felt like showing up. I do know that I’m an intelligent, sensible, resourceful person (or so my Dad tells me) and I’ll mostly act intelligently, sensibly and resourcefully. But I’m also an honest person – and honestly? I don’t know what’ll happen the second I touch down in Bangkok. But, rather than terrify me – it excites me!

My Mum, however…not so much.

The awkward moment when things just, sort of, go right…but because you’re a Humanist you don’t know who to thank.

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

When you are going to make a decision that is going to affect the rest of your life, it is always a good idea to do a lot of research, talk to people with experience in that field, and sit for extended periods of time thinking long and hard about what the best option is for you. However, sometimes it’s a good idea to accept a random dinner invitation in case the person sat opposite you happens to have exactly what you need. Cue old friend from school.

Sophie – ‘What are you up to these days?’.

Me – ‘I’m looking to go travelling, just looking for the right TEFL to do as I don’t have much money to spend, but I want to go to Asia for at least 6 months.’

Sophie – ‘Oh me too, I’ve applied to something called TEFL Heaven, it’s one of the cheapest around, you do a TEFL in Thailand then they give you a 5 month placement. Starts in September. You should apply!’

Me – ‘Ok!’

Well that’s that sorted then. If it’s good enough for Sophie, it’s good enough for me. Cheers, universe.

Can we get the bill please?

How am I supposed to know if I’d like to be a journalist – I’ve never been one.

June 9, 2011 § 3 Comments

Post-graduation careers interview – ‘So what exactly is it you want to do with your life?’ Suddenly I’m 16 again and everyone is asking what A-Levels I want to study – only I can’t decide because I just want to do the A-Levels that will contribute to my life plan – Being Rich – but no-one seems to be able to tell me what they are. But this time I’m seven years older, not a whole lot wiser, with a lot more at stake. Cue the stages of Terri’s Life Choice Dilemma:

Stage One – refusing to let go of the past. I know! I’ll do an MA. That way I can continue to come into Uni, pretend like nothing has changed, see all the lecturers who said nice things and made me feel special, and put off making a decision until this time next year. Hang on, how much?!…

Stage Two – being overenthusiastic about the future. I know! I’m going to move to London and start my own business! No I don’t have an idea yet – but it’ll come to me. Money? Don’t they do loans for people with genius business ideas? Oh so I need the idea first, then the money? That sounds tricky…

Stage Three – accept that this is going to take a lot of effort…and make a swift exit. I know! I’m going to travel the world! How? I’ll teach TEFL! I can do a qualification and travel around the world earning money and experiencing amazing things! Hang on…

That one might actually work?

Relax! I’ve got it all planned…

June 9, 2011 § Leave a comment

So apparently  when you graduate University you don’t walk out of the ceremony gripping your certificate (and in my case your gown – gale force winds and a short dress don’t exactly make for the graceful exit I’d planned) to be thrust into a crowd of potential employers all vying for your attention. Who knew?! As it happens when they say ‘thousands of people graduate with degrees’ what they actually mean is THOUSANDS of people who are EXACTLY LIKE YOU will ALL graduate with degrees. They may as well march you out of the ceremony (in my case totter – heels and a very slippery marble Cathedral floor don’t exactly make for the empowered modern woman sashay I’d planned) and into the job centre.

As far as I was concerned – I had it all figured out! I had a job all the way through my degree (in education – nice little set of skills for the CV there), and volunteered in any field I thought I might want to dominate one day; marketing, promotions, journalism. And, of course, there was the actual degree. I worked hard, I did well (a first class degree with honours in English and American Literature, don’t you know), yet there I was; and here I am. Jobless and uninspired – being completely unhirable and painfully normal don’t exactly make for the beginnings of the highly successful career I’d planned. So, with all plans well and truly shot to shit, what now?

Good bloody question.