Positive News

Sometimes, it’s necessary to block out some of the bullshit circulating in the media. So this week, I want to spread some happy news!

Check out this awesome story from Ohio, where a restaurant is actively training ex-offenders on a sixth month placement, in the hopes of providing them with some much needed skills and support. So far since the program has begun, not one of them has re-offended. Furthermore, 90% have gone on to gain employment.




The most surreal day of my life to date (part 2)

Dad and decided to put our emotions to the side, silently reminding ourselves why we were here in the first place. We walked to the entrance of the camp, attempting to maintain an aspect of confidence in order to not appear too vulnerable. The best way that my mind was able to draw a parallel with the squalor that these human beings were living in, was to picture a miserable aftermath of a festival ground, which has seen nothing but terrential rain. Throughout the camp there were disregarded clothes and litter swarming the edges of every corner. I spotted some portaloos (‘who empties these?’ I thought). I was pleasantly surprised to see a cluster of mini shops with incredibly neatly piled stock (where was the animalistic chaos that the media so bravely declared?). Huge generators provided this short term dose of reality for the inhabitants of the camp. 

As we walked further and further into the depths of this vast makeshift town, we passed a nightclub with a multicoloured discoball spinning from the ceiling, an information centre, restaurants, a woman’s centre, a building that providing therapy, a town church and so many other points of rest bite – it was incredibly heartwarming and eye opening to see how the human race can react in situations such as this. One thought that did cross my mind, was how these people were able to buy food at the little shops – did they use euros or was there an element of trade going on within the camp?). This question was left unanswered. 

The camp was plastered with chalk drawings and colourful posters declaring peace and love – I couldn’t help but feel incredibly moved at these clear displays of emotional projection. Children as young as one were carried in their parents arms as they wobbled over the weaving stones paths. Every so often a pair of women strolled by with a plain look on their faces as if they were simply mooching around in their home town. My initial intimidation sunk as dad I blended in with the rest of the inhabitants and volunteers, left completely unbothered.

Embarrassed of our voyeur status, we called Lisa to offer our assistance. Suddenly, roaring through the muddy ‘jungle’ in a truck that resembled something from Mad Max, came Lisa. She jumped out and led us to a 2m by 2m shed where a group of incredibly young boys were staying. Lisa tends to this group of boys who are aged between 10-14 and parentless. The best way I can think to describe this woman, is as an extremely emotionally dedicated social worker (who is not being financially rewarded of course). For these parentless children, all they have is Lisa, the other volunteers and each other. When they roll over at night, the only thing of comfort that they can reach for is a fire retardant felt wall covering (after their previous ‘home’ burned down, the boys were helped by a local charity who provided them with a solid wooden structure, sheltering them from the wind and rain). Lisa attempts to feed the boys on a regular basis (leading them to get some food, they follow behind her like a group of baby ducklings).  However, feeding them is not her only task, she must also attempt to stop them jumping the night trains, where two children have recently died risking their life for some type of escape to the sacred lands of the United Kingdom. Her job is not a simple one. 

As we attempted to attach a gas pipe to a mini stove for the boys using some hair gel as a lubricant  (do’s and don’t’s essentially evaporate in the camp) a young, slightly rounded little boy grabbed my hand and began serenading me in his mother tongue. My heart sank as he signalled to the sky and back to my eyes, passionately closing his own eyes as he did so. The song made no sense to me whilst simultaneously making all the sense to me in the world. This moment didn’t fit the criteria of cliche charity moments we see on television where everyone dances around singing and crying whilst the chosen celebrity turns to the camera and encourages the audience  to donate ‘just £1’. No, the rain was beating down hard and the gale force winds encouraged the thousands of tents to aggressively flap in the wind. Unfortunately a vast amount of media coverage on calais appears to be overwhelmingly negative (cheers DailyMail). After receiving a hug goodbye, my heart truly began to ache. 

I did not leave the camp feeling as if I had made a difference that day, I left disheartened and a little defeated. The reality of the situation does not allow for rest bite or relief. However, the work that these long term volunteers are doing is incredible, and I guess that example of polarity between love and desertion restored my faith a little. I believe that the work they are doing is a beautiful display of unquestionable love that the human race can be so great at providing. Love can only transpire from one person to another through something untangible. This task does not deserve praise, just imitation. Get out there and do something.

The most surreal day of my life to date (part 1)

It’s quite a strange feeling knowing that the last time you embarked on this journey, the car was packed to the ceiling with belongings, holiday luggage and random antiques that your mother had acquired from the last brocante (she’s extremely talented in bringing dying pieces of furniture back to life, yet we still complain about her decision to drag around her purchases with us). During the 12 hour journey, our knees would often be wedged into our chests (only allowing for shallow breathing) and occasionally a friend, boyfriend or grandmother would be forced to squeeze into this tiny, frustrating space that ran on 4 wheels. I never considered the fact that I would mature to a point where I would deem  this infuriating journey to be one that I realised I was blessed to have even experienced. Today, I make the same journey to Calais with my father (only this time my dad drives from Belgium where he is temporarily working and I drive from Amsterdam were I now live – you could say things have changed). We repeat this journey due to the fact that we are offering some ‘hands on deck’ for the refugee crisis that is currently unfolding in Calais.

The journey

The nerves initiated as soon as I read the destination on the impending road sign and it was then that it all began to feel very present. I had to remind myself that these individuals have no option to turn around and go home, so what makes me think that I should even have the option to consider doing so? Presumably , the sensation of home is now non-existent for these people – it has completely dispersed.

Through social networking, I was able to discover a contact to instruct me on all of the ‘do’s and don’t s’ of visiting the refugee camp. The address, provided by a complete stranger via social networking also, allowed us to drive directly to the warehouse where the donated support was piled two stories high. It’s interesting how in these situations your ability to trust a complete stranger has to be inclined to increase, because at the end of the day, it is this blind trust that allows these organisations to execute their work in the way they do.

It soon became evident that every other number plate in the warehouse car park, displayed a nationality of people that were definitely prolific throughout the organisation of donations – Brits. My father and I timidly approached a group of people clustered together, smoking outside the entrance. They all possessed a look of enthusiasm, combined with a dose of sadness and exhaustion.

As we cautiously entered the warehouse I felt completely overwhelmed and genuinely shocked by the sheer volume of donations that stood before me. In a bit of a satirical way, with the radio gently pumping a bit of spirit in the background and volunteers carting items in and out, the warehouse reminded me of a slightly morbid Santa’s workshop – I’m a regular with inappropriate thoughts, sorry.

Dad and I stood between the two story high iron shelves feeling very overwhelmed, insignificant and in the way. This organisation felt like a tightly run ship and the volunteers knew exactly how to run it. Shortly after, dad and I met a feisty woman, who I’m going to call Lisa. She was a boisterous, yet headstrong  individual who dedicated her time to a group of also headstrong lads – many who had no parental supervision or care.  These boys (who she knew by their first names and various preferences), had either lost their parents through unfortunate death, possible abandonment or broken promise of return. The 5 ft 2, sharp yet distracted woman explained to dad and I that there were specific items that the boys needed – hair gel, deodorant and of course clean pants. Lisa explained that not only were these boys mischievous, but at times they were inconsolable and even dangerous. Lisa went on to explain how some evenings, the lads even ‘tooled up’ and shockingly mugged people – their dedication to survive was obviously evident, yet their ability to blend in and behave in the camp, was not. Thus, something such as hair gel obviously presented a bargaining tool for Lisa. At times, I found it difficult to mentally process the hardship that these kids had experienced being combined with certain elements of normality, such as wanting to smell good or have perfectly coiffed hair. Occasionally, the kids turned their nose up at certain brands of canned food that were handed to them and it was moments like this that gently reminded myself of the fact that they were still just teenage boys – this realisation allowed for the unproductive soppiness to wilt away, making way for some much needed proactive emotion.

After receiving the kind orders, dad and I went to the local Carrefour to purchase the goods. After raising just under 400 euros, it’s safe to say that this went a long way and bought a lot of pants – dad referred to us as the ‘pants people’ from this moment onward. Feeling incredibly determined, we then dumped the goods in the warehouse in the most organised way possible (there are strict orders not to interfere with the organisation of the warehouse, otherwise it becomes extremely chaotic).

Dad and I had initially agreed to perhaps remain in the warehouse as the camp had proved to be a vulnerable and highly sensitive area at times – perhaps we would discuss it together upon arrival. However, after a 3 and a 1/2 hour journey and with some guidance of other volunteers, it only felt right to make a visit to the media labelled ‘jungle’. Plus, the general tone for dad and I entering the refugee camp felt extremely non-chalant which subtly soothed our concerns. So, in response, we bit the bullet and decided to go for it – this is what we came for. No discussion was had, just a simplistic gaze to one another based on instinct.

Prior to entering the refugee camp, another volunteer requested that I wear waterproof trousers to cover my ankles as a sign of respect to those who support particular faiths where this would be thanked. I happily obliged, whilst mentally appreciating the volunteers’ sensitivity for other cultures – as if they didn’t do enough already.

We nervously jumped back in the car and using a vague map, cautiously made our way to the camp. After driving for about 5 minutes, a very subtle slip road forked to the right leading us to something which we could not have mentally prepared for. I gasped in disbelief, encouraging my father to follow my gaze, allowing him to lay his eyes on the enormous refugee camp that sat 10 feet away from us, yet a stone’s throw to the ferry port where endless amounts of holidaymakers  would be travelling happily back and forth – practically pulling the wool over their eyes, until the camp was out of their sight.

At the entrance, the atmosphere was tense as groups of men clustered together, staring out at the roads and the people gawping at them from their cars. Something just didn’t feel right in my gut, so we carried on driving, watching the entrance pass us by. First the pull of the handbrake and then the guilty look across to one another. We both voiced our reasonable concerns, and for a moment it all felt far too real. Our sights gazed around our environment to a police van that sat on the outskirts of the camp – we were both fully aware that this was only as a precaution for the tax paying public living on the outside. They provided an initial facade of safety within the camp, however it soon became clear that their interests were not with the people of the camp as they hid around a blind spot, naive to the goings on around the other side of that corner.


Amsterdam livin’

IMG_9597When you relocate to another country, your mind is forced to simultaneously process such a raw influx of information, that it is only natural to feel overwhelmed. I remember within my first month at my new apartment in Amsterdam (that still lacks internet, leading it to be incredibly lonely at times), my determination completely subsided and made way for pure defeat – that night I cried hysterically for about an hour into my fish dinner for no reason at all (I laugh when I reconsider this memory). Everything at that moment seemed so intense and devastatingly overpowering, I had no idea why. So what do you do in that situation? Write to your nearest and dearest, light some candles, count your blessings and go to sleep. I try to remind myself that as human beings, we require polarity of emotions, in order to appreciate the occasions when we feel good.

I’ve now been in Holland for around three months, and as far as relocations go, it’s been pretty straightforward. I fell into a job which I love, working with people who keep me entertained on a daily basis. I have a beautiful apartment (it’s not what you know, it’s who you know that does the trick) and I’m slowly starting to meet people – however this has been the part that has lead to the most personal detachment. The expat community is wonderfully huge in Holland, however the consequence of this demographic, is its fluidity. People are constantly relocating and contracts are constantly shifting. This truly tests your ability to be flexible when you meet some beautiful souls who you know you will be losing in the near future. Don’t get me wrong, when I say I ‘fell into a job’ and so forth, this implies that it was not necessary to make an effort. But, I worked my butt off to gain employment, meet new people, find somewhere to live, literally start my life from scratch – I was simply extremely lucky that everything came to me so quickly. The tip is work hard and eventually you will experience a change that is worthwhile. IMG_8732

There are blissful occasions when I am cycling home from work through the centre of Amsterdam and I find myself smiling the broadest grin – it’s these moments I cherish because I am able to experience a raw feeling of pure gratitude. Alternatively, there are times when I’m embarking on my morning commute when a man decides to ram his bike into mine as we cross paths – even though we both spot each other – this is swiftly followed by a ”fuck you”, to which i respond ”yeah? well…fuck you” whilst trying not to burst out laughing. Plus, although English is spoken by the majority of Dutch (something which has lead me to respect this race of people massively), the language barrier in work environments or social situations often reminds you of the differences that exist between yourself and your peers – I never thought I would be excited to hear a cockney accent as I walk by the canals.

Living in Holland is a constant journey of discovery in how to balance out the scales, attempting to achieve some inner peace and happiness, whilst still being kept on my toes, and it’s an experience that I am certainly enjoying.

There’s so many things that I’ve struggled with since I have moved here, and as a result my personality has definitely learnt to be more adaptable and to put it rather bluntly, all you can do in these environments is simply get on with it. Sulking and being caught in deep emotion are not attractive factors for creating new relationships or maintaining a positive environment. Moreover, when you’re lying in bed, completely alone and it hits you that you are miles away from home, you are the only one to comfort yourself, thus, leaning on others becomes void. This kind of thought process used to suffocate me, but now I find myself completely liberated. A work colleague remarked the other day ”I can do whatever I want to do and no one can tell me otherwise” – that’s when it hit me, that I am literally living the dream. Freedom without limits is such a privilege that we often forget to appreciate it. Now, it’s something that I feel blessed to be able to experience.

IMG_9489The key word for this situation is adaptability. In order to prosper and gain from these scenarios, one must try and remain open minded.

The attractive sister of London

Amsterdam is like the attractive sister of London. The kind of sister that allows others to take centre stage, knowing that one day she’ll get noticed. Amsterdam smiles, whether on a long commute or simply whilst embarking on a pleasurable journey of leisure and exploration. Perhaps it is the lackluster effort to be angry or frustrated, or the absence of restriction placed on the inhabitants and tourists of the city that allow them to unlock this apparent happiness, which other cities seem to lack.

Almost every other happy Larry is riding an old, beat-up traditional Dutch bicycle. The paint job doesn’t need to be immaculate and often a sign of rust or damage signifies passionate use rather than neglect – thus the bike’s appearance equates to nothing and I feel that this reflects Dutch people’s desire to engage primarily in function over the sick, selfish obsession that many have over self-presentation – something which sister London is heavily guilty of participating in. Amsterdam exposes itself to be an influential, elegant and powerful city, but the element of aggressive competition appears to be refreshingly absent.

Today, the weather is glorious and the air is hot, so when the harsh winter falls upon the canals, the positive aura could rapidly enter a hibernation phase, along with the buzz of the city, but if it matches up to its descriptive rumours spoken by others, then perhaps throughout all seasons, Amsterdam can sit safely on its pedestal.


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Holland – day one 

As the title of this blog post reveals, today was my first day in Holland. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that a huge amount cannot typically occur in one day whilst living in a new country, however due to my occasional impatient/anxious traits, I’ve wanted to get the ball rolling pretty hastily. I think a weaker part of me is fearful of any negative emotions that can come into play during a transition such as this, so I want to create as many positive situations as possible – which I consider to be both a flaw and a driver for my personal attitude.

Thanks to my ever so kind aunt and a close friend of hers, I managed to set up an ‘interview’ at a local beach bar – a profession in which I have no experience in whatsoever, but my determination shall overcome this minor setback (one can only hope). So, I set off in the piddling down rain with my aunt to search for this (apparently beautiful beach bar – the pictures were fabulous).

Of course, situations such as this never go to plan and we initially struggled to locate the part of the beach where the bar was situated. After walking that little bit too far, we stumbled across the naturist beach (luckily it was far too windy to be occupied at that time of day, otherwise I’m sure it wouldn’t be fun for either sex). After lots of investigating, trapsing through the deep, damp sand and being caught in a gentle sandstorm, we finally found the bar. To our luck, it was empty, no one in site. This usually immaculate bar was now knee deep in sand and had clearly been battered by a storm that had passed through on Saturday – presuming that the storm had something to do with the owner’s absence, we left and had a coffee at a nearby bar instead, slightly deflated and disappointed.

Shortly after, we received a call rescheduling for another day. As far as I’m aware, the storm had thrown a spanner in the works – no worries, onwards and upwards. I spent the rest of the day applying for any possible job that could potentially suit my skill set, whilst unpacking and settling in to my new life in Den Haag.

In terms of jobs it appears that acquiring one may be more difficult than I had primarily anticipated. A vast amount of the available employment appears to be for the business sector or require a lot of experience in roles that I have never touched. Now, I have a good amount of experience when it comes to editorial roles, however, this isn’t a prevalent career path it seems.

Fingers crossed, day two impatiently awaits.

Moving to Holland – travelling

I thought that it would be interesting to document my hectic experience whilst moving to Holland in order to perhaps offer some information for others who maybe going through the same experience – I also thought that my blog posts could come in handy when some personal reflection is due. 

Last night I attempted to pack my entire life into 23 kilos worth of suitcase – even after shipping the majority of  my belongings home to France and cramming the remaining possessions into a couple of carry-on bags, the struggle felt truly real. God knows what my wardrobe is going to resemble whilst I live in Holland, but I guess that’s the beautiful thing about European people, they truly don’t seem to care or judge when it comes to clothing or belongings – based on my own experiences anyway. Moving abroad with just one suitcase, means that one needs to learn to be a bit sparing with particular items – something that I am awful at, I’ll happily admit. 

After I gazed at my life that had been carelessly squashed into two bags, (self inflicted – I have 0 patience when it comes to packing), I waited for the emotions to aimlessly run, the personal reflections to promptly surface, but nothing brimmed towards the top like I had preempted. Nonetheless, this was nothing to be disappointed about, I would rather keep my eyes dry for this is an exciting time for me. Although, It was difficult saying goodbye to my sister and my beloved friends, I take reassurance in the fact that Holland is not too far from everyone’s own comfort zones. I simply told myself to ‘just think of it as if you are going back to university’, that way I can deal with the distance on a more rational level! 

Due to the fact that I am an EU resident, this takes some of the pressure off when it comes to visa applications and so forth. However, there are many anxieties pointlessly circling my brain, for instance getting a bank account when I start working (do I need to be a resident?), sorting out healthcare (you can be fined for not taking out coverage), getting a bike (it’s the only way to get around in Holland), possibilities of getting lost and of course  worries of being that strange English loner. I’ve never been the kind of person that naturally enjoys risk or new environments, so it’s been a challenge to get this far but I’m heavily relying on my ability to practice positive thinking and hone in on the law of attraction in order to provide the best experience possible. 

One of my close friends suggested messaging some au pair groups on social media in order to potentially meet som people of my age, living in the area. Surprisingly, I’ve already had some positive responses from some people near where I shall be living, so this is quite promising I hope! This trip is really about pushing myself from my comfort zone, because that’s when life truly begins. 

Once I arrive to Amsterdam airport, I shall be getting a train to The Hague where I will be residing. Hopefully, this process is quite self explanatory as I have only completed this journey once before – being an individual that relies on numerous apps to simply get around london, I consider this to be a little challenging for a simple soul such as myself. Finally, tomorrow I have a meeting for a potential bar job – something I have no experience in, so fingers crossed for me! 

Watch this space as the journey begins…