life elsewhere


It's a grey afternoon in Mannheim, an industrial city that straddles two German states. Its drizzling and, since breaking one of my shutters a few weeks ago, my room has been shroud in a perpetual semi-darkness. There is, however, quite a nice peace found in the quietness of this afternoon. I had a turn this morning about the prospect of time alone and empty in a foreign city and a foreign country. I forged a rash plan of a trip to Frankfurt to see some art in the rain, but stopped myself, aware of the ease of giving into another day of busy-ness, so I again don't have to think. 



Life here is funny: unrecognisable from four months, sometimes I wonder if I am the same person. It's full and busy and social, but also anxious and exhausting and sometimes frustrating. School is a daily challenge of cancelled lessons and somewhat unfulfilling observation, but it is also teaching me so much and creating an acceptance. I have sat in so many funny places, waiting: the right train stations, the wrong train stations, bus stations, forests, on the side of roads. Perhaps its just an oscillation between waiting and busying. Life outside is full of exploration and adventure, chatter and plans. This week has been a little quieter – it is the school holidays and I am trying to catch up on sleep, rest, life – something I am of course not very good at. 


Living abroad is also funny: it's made me realise a lot about the UK – often positive (e.g., health care, attitude towards general public health (free tap water, no public smoking), no ridiculous waiting at crossings, a like for the British small talk) but also given me a smugness as I listen to Newscast and hear food shortages and fuel shortages and increased prices back at home. I miss studying a lot and, as the novelty of it all has worn off and mellowed into a stability, perhaps the outlines of a routine, I know I couldn't do this 'year abroad' jaunt for longer than a year. Maybe live abroad, but not in this sort of constant holiday it now seems to be. Wildly delicious for a year, but after that I will be hankering for more stimulation and purpose. 

Now that I have reached a time in my life with more space, something that again feels so alien from four months ago, I hope to write more and read more, bake more and be still more. I'm sure it'll all appear here. 

Art and Madonna




The cliche reads: don't judge a book by its cover but I am in love with this cover and this book. 

Set in 1920s Berlin, it follows a Turkish man seeking some meaning amongst his loss and loneliness, and the overwhelming and destroying love he feels first for a painting, and then an artist:
'Oh, Maria, why can't we sit by the window and talk? Why can't we open our hearts and souls to each other, as we walk together in silence' on a windy autumn evening? Oh, why aren't you hear with me?'
It has a sense of hope that is crushingly dashed, and the end had me in tears:
'I have no choice but to condemn myself to everlasting solitude. Life is a game that is only played once, and I lost' 
I smiled at his description of moving to Germany:
'My plan was to learn a foreign language and read books in that language and, most importantly, discover Europe...drawing on three or four phrases I had memorised from a language guide I studied during the four-day journey' – Is that what my experience is going to be like?

And, above all, the way Ali describes the painting of Madonna made me think about art: the way we perceive it, understand it, how it makes us feel:
'What was it about that portrait? I know words alone will not suffice' 
'She was a swirling blend of all the women I had ever imagined'
I wondered whether you can ever fall in love with a painting the way he does. 
Upon seeing Madonna, Raif says: 'I'd lived more during the past two weeks than in all the years of may life put together', that that the painting awoke his soul, 'revealing the sublime vista it had kept buried for so long'.
I have spent a lot of time in art galleries lately. The Side Gallery in Newcastle, Somerset House, the National, the Ashmolean, Tate Britain, and tonight the Kunsthalle in my new home. Some of it was pretty bad (namely blank white canvases supposedly evoking spirituality) and much of it neither here nor there. I don't think any of it made me feel in the way Raif feels but I have perhaps found a new favourite – Susanna at her Bath. 


I find art a funny thing to write about: much of it is so visual, how can it be translated into words? When I was writing my thesis, I felt the words describing the art were superfluous – surely just look at the pictures? – yet it is also intriguing to consider a society, culture or history in terms of aesthetics. So, whilst art history is often (and rightly) dismissed as elitist, I believe much can be learned from looking at a picture and understanding how an artist or a society wanted to represent itself. 

Gradually, I am trying to establish a greater vocabulary to understand these things, and expand my repertoire of paintings I like. In a room in the National, on a wall just as you enter, Susanna at her Bath is displayed. By Francesco Hayez, something about this painting I just fell in love with. I even made a detour to photograph the caption before I left. 
I know nothing about the artist, nor really the (religious?) context, but I love the light of the background, and the softness of her figure. Her face is elusive but beautiful, and her figure concealing yet suggestive. It oddly combines a biblical story with female nudity. 

I will never feel the transformation Ali describes, and sometimes when looking at art I feel nothing at all. But slowly, I am learning what I like: in a blend of diverse pieces I suggest are my favourites, I find commonalities: life, colour, movement. 

by way of an update



Tuesday 1st June. Words cannot explain how much has changed since I somehow found the time to write that post. 
That, in a post-Covid world, is undoubtedly an exaggeration – but I can't really believe I existed before finishing exams. 

That my life was scheduled, militarily, as thus:
Wake up, make coffee, do work, eat breakfast, go to the library, eat lunch, go to a different library, come home, revise more, make dinner, catch up, and sleep. 
Day, after god damn day.

It's been a 1.5 months of almost total bliss since; accidentally scrolling through my insta today threw me deep into the nostalgic longing for it all. The warmth, the laughs, the sleeping. 
Gosh, that first taste of Prosecco when I'd submitted my final exam, ran downstairs and into Sara's arms. The shaving foam and the holi paint and the grim water and the exhilaration that came with it. 
And then languid weeks of drinking and lounging and laughing, before being hurried home by corona, and then continuing exactly as we had. 
I spent a blissful week in Cornwall, and another in Northumberland. I opened my results on the side of a road in Corbridge, and cried and drank champagne and checked them again just to be sure. I felt ridiculously overwhelmed that it all paid off, and rang my friends and felt staggering pride. At my diss mark I felt the most elated – 12,000 of my own words on naked women in a seventh century desert castle and some obscure Arabic poems, and, frankly, she smashed it. As my Grandpa said, a first from one of the best uni's in the world – perhaps now is not the time to be humble. Girl is fuckin' proud. 

And since, I've worked a bit, went pottery painting, ran, watched copious Love Island, went clubbing (!), tried to learn some German, tried to sort out the life I am forging in Germany in T-1 month, and felt a bit liminal and a bit lost and a bit distant. 
Weird but exciting times. 

And now I look to some fun trips and birthdays, then moving abroad to scare myself but also to remind myself that this is something of what life is supposed to be about. I've then got graduation, when this crazy and monumental and exhausting process will finally cease, and I suppose then I have to process it all.

I can't wait to write more and read more now I have time, nd the products of this will undoubtedly be shared here, as always

sun and showers


What a time; I have finally found a moment to write – blah blah – you know the score. 
Let me tell you, finals at Oxford – they are tough man. 

There has been incessant rain for a month, a broken laptop, tears, exhaustion, happiness at collections marks, hours, and hours and hours in libraries and honestly, not much else. 
The end is near: it's so sunny and I have spent the last two evenings swimming, a very welcome reset. 

And then, in 8 days, it is all over. 

I am resolutely terrified about it. Who am I without this painful but utterly adoring degree, and how will I cope not living with my friends, and why the heck am I moving to Germany on my own. 
All scary questions and prospects that I just put off by working hard and taking my sertraline and honestly just not thinking. 

But I think some of the best weeks of my life are to come. Three 'n and half weeks in Oxford with no work – I haven't even had a day like that. Thus far it is filled with post-exam trashing, bottomless brunch, swimming, bike rides and a visit from Evie.
I am going to sleep for hours, and will
probably cry because I can't believe how hard this has been, and how amazing this has been. 
Ever grateful, man. 

Peace and love – now I am off to the library, and to avoid Matt Hancock (who is apparently in college this week for the G7 health summit – I know)

xx

thoughts on nearing the end




Finals do be hard, I haven't got much to say to anyone anymore, and there is a nagging fear of 'after'. 
Alas, there have been some gloriously happy moments; my shower thought this morning was that I can't believe I may never live with these people again, I can't imagine myself a full person without them. 
Let us hope our paths take us in a semi tandem direction next year – although I don't have a single solid plan, and thus have the blissful privilege of being able to ensure this does, in fact, happen. 

Anyway, the days are sort of monotonous – but in a reassuringly stable way. Library, packed lunch with friends on the Broad Street steps, library, coffee, library, maybe some fun. 
I have relished in the freedom to go to the pub, and have concluded that one of the best revision antidotes is a pint in the evening – so I will be continuing this as frequently as necessary, provided my work is done. It's nice to have an incentive.
What else?
I have spent a slightly alarming amount: some gold hoops from Seol + Gold, five 2nd hand pieces from Shop Kilo (inc dungarees – see last post), a hoodie from eBay and the cutest orange sweater vest from a Mind charity shop. Orange feels like good revision energy. 
Other things that have been getting me through include by TT21 revision playlist, runs along the canal, and not really thinking beyond today. 
So honestly, good vibes – if a little stressed. But I did 3 collections last week and they went fine and I think it is going to be okay. 

And finally, I can't quite believe I only have 8 more weeks in this beautiful city, to which I would give my heart if I could. It's going to take a lot of reflection to make peace with this all being over, and I am not ready to part with the view out of my window onto the quad, and the meadows in the evening, and people punting, and the sandstone, and god, just all of it.
I'm not quite ready.

Peace out luvers x

purple hues




Emerging from a two month hiatus; I think this might be the longest drought of writing I have experienced. But its a sunny Easter Sunday, everyone else has gone home and I am too hungover to work. So here we are. 

In those two months I have: 
written my dissertation, which was a saga – but a good one, found lots of new places in Oxford, brought my yellow bike back, not written in my diary once, crocheted 2/3 of a sweater vest, ran fast and far, really enjoyed some new tunes, had a lot of delicious dinners with new people, watched the Ru Paul finale on a projector, lost almost all my uni work from the last three years (then got it back), cycled a lot, drank a lot of tinnies, made an excessive amount of sushi, got a girlfriend, ate a lot of packed lunches in the sun, swam in Port Meadow, perpetually felt guilty about not doing enough work, and anxious about not having a job. My instagram saved and pinterest have been, almost exclusively, knitted sweater vests and dishes I want to cook when I have a kitchen. 

It's been very calm and very fun and also quite stressful, but I wrote 12,000 words on naked early Islamic women, started revision and almost finished another piece of coursework. Can you believe it's nearly all over?

Today I am manifesting a sunny walk, a creme egg, perhaps a run if my hungover body can muster the strength, and indulging in the rest of Crazy Rich Asians. Delightful.

I can't wait for 12th April, mostly to drink a draught cider and to go to a charity shop – I want some garish clothes, and certainly some dungarees. Life has some promise in it at the moment, it feels as if maybe the end is in sight. Thank goodness, what a long nightmare this has been. 

A pointless and narcissistic update, but a break in the silence nonetheless. 

reading, watching, listening

February is finally here. 
January felt interminable and dark: if lockdown was epitomised in 31 days, that would be it. 
But we made it through – the days are longer, the prospects brighter (?) and I've got some banging recs to make it all a little more bearable.




Listening:

For a left-wing counter to the mainstream media, I have been enjoying TyskySour – it's critical and interrogative, and offers an oft-ignored perspective. When the news is too depressing and I just want to fall asleep, I've been getting back into 'Nothing Much Happens' where, quite literally, nothing much happens. It's pretty calming and I generally manage to drift off before the podcast ends (although if I don't, it induces much angst).
In terms of music, for work Chilly Gonzales and Ibrahim Maalouf have been keeping me going, as has some more electronica-funky kinda stuff evidenced by my 'fun feisty funk to work to HT21' playlist. I've also been listening to a bizarre selection of 'dark academia' playlists situated in art galleries, baroque french worlds and rainy libraries. Watching what my friends listen to whilst they are working has also been providing entertainment.
For non-work, I made an upbeat 'for how many days am I stuck in this box?' playlist when I was isolating and, surprisingly, it's still providing some bops. I'm also enjoying some mellow evening sounds, featuring a lot of Michael Kiwanuka. 

Reading:

For once, I have manage to complete several books whilst in Oxford. It's been a nice break in longer evenings, and time away from a screen. We have a sick fiction section in the college library, so I have been taking advantage of that. 
I read Magpie Lane, a quasi-creepy inspector story set in Oxford, which I likely wouldn't have read if I didn't live here, but which was quite visceral. Convenience Store Woman was so odd, but lighthearted and warming, and super quick. It was somewhat reminiscent of Exciting Times/The New Me. I am currently reading This Brutal House which is beautiful and wrenching and I am frustrated at myself re how slowly it is being consumed. I don't want to lose the impact or the narrative by only getting through 10 pages a night. It's essentially a written version of Pose – it starts with Mothers of New York's queer scene protesting on the steps of the City Hall. After successive Children going missing, they take a silent stance. It is written in a sombre, poetic tone [I loved the chapter that was exclusively 'category is leather queen/founding fathers/fierce/Chanel/spring-summer realness], and I think is the perfect accompaniment to Pose. 

Watching:

This Brutal House is also a good side to It's A Sin (which I haven't finished, but have enjoyed but also critiqued (definitely too harshly) if you want a bit more queer media. I've also been adoring Great Pottery Throwdown, especially the week with the Naked Raku – yikes! It is so impressive and therapeutic.
Grackle is, as ever, offering immense sanity and stability and whenever I need cheering up, I whack on a vlog and feel content. Her attitude to food is also exemplary and refreshing, but without being a thing and it makes me wanna (allow myself to) consume all da snax.
On topic of food, I also really liked this vid from Helena Rose about the 'perfect' diet. I just generally love her content and narrative about eating etc. Good vibes all round. 
And finally for watching, this video critiquing Bridgerton for race and queer baiting. I hadn't really heard any criticism but had also thought of some quite profound issues (e.g. the unmentioned sexual assault by Daphne), so it was interesting to hear another perspective. 

Misc:

My electric steamer, because we are 00's yummy mummy's who just wanna cook pasta in our rooms; my lack of instagram and minimal desire to return to it; packed lunches in the rain/snow/sun with friends; trying new chocolatey snacks and feeling food freedom; pret chocolate, sea salt and almond butter cookies; tahini + yoghurt + lemon juice; finding the perfect diss reading; wine 

So there we go! 
Enjoy!


endless emotions

I was going to write about some of the books I have managed to read in this interminable lockdown, but instead I've been feeling so much and thinking so much, so that will have to be written instead. 



This weeks moodboard screams: eclectic emotion, pining for summer and freedom, maybe some craving of love and the perpetual reminder to let it be. Senses include: somewhat earthy pastels, the warm tones of sunlight, and the lethargy that comes with it. Exuding a calmness that I certainly am not feeling. 

I have been absurdly emotional recently. I sat crying at my desk before a diss supervision yesterday, and had to dry my eyes and make a cup of tea before I could confront my supervisor and the ridiculous project I have embarked on. It was pathetically amusing. I probably took a photo to document it. And today I saw my friends walking across the quad, started crying, sent a rash and heated message, and than thanked Zuckerberg for the unsend function. 
Tiny, unnecessary things are having a monumental chemical influence, and its quite perplexing. It's also a bit exhausting. I learned the other day that our brains think 4,000 words a minute, which is actually quite believable when I think about the rate at which my mind can spiral. 
But no wonder I fall to sleep immediately.

I have been obsessively fomo-ing recently. The insecurity and expectation it brings can be crushing. Why didn't they knock on me, why wasn't I invited here, were they talking about me etc etc. None of these things are true, rational or evidenced. They also make me sound 13, not 21. 
I then cry, go on a walk, feel okay, and the cycle goes on. Amongst all this retrospection, I've also noticed I remedy myself by investing in friendships that aren't fulfilling, rather than reminding myself that those I live with do love me. It's a lot, and probably pretty toxic for everyone involved. It's perhaps all fuelled by expectation: high and unfulfilled expectations of myself leading to unattainable expectations of others. This is something I want to work on in the coming months of self-exploration. 
Amongst all this, I have deleted instagram, for what might be forever. It's liberating and comforting, although I seek a new source of inspiration. Maybe Pinterest is the answer.

This week has been spent in the one library they are cramming us into. I'm no epidemiologist, but that doesn't really seem to add up in my mind. I have, however, had some lovely lunches on the steps of Broad Street or Radcliffe Square, and enjoyed the nostalgia of a making my sandwich in the morning. Maybe the aforementioned emotion was triggered by the inexplicable stress of my diss. There are so many components that make it incomprehensible, but I'd say the fact I am no art historian, no classicist and can't read Arabic are pretty high up there. When I expressed this to my supervisor, he reminded that he 'did warn me' and that the best work is written through suffering. So that's something. 
I have ten tabs open this evening, including: 'Qusayr 'Amra', 'Origins of the Islamic State', 'Al-Baladhuri' and 'The iconoclastic edict of Yazid' – it all frankly means nothing to me, but is supposed to form 12,000 in less than seven weeks (?!)

Amongst this emotion there was so much good: painting clay, walking to a new cafe, eating bagels on the steps, drinking wine in the cold, using my steamer to make gyoza, a frosty morning, a note from a friend, Drag Race, a good book, interesting if impenetrable reading. 

For second week I am manifesting: less ridiculous crying, more progression with my diss, continuing with my 30-days of journalling, this mellow eve playlist and a few runs. All I really want is a massive party and a night dancing, but that isn't gonna happen for a while.