Thursday, 23 April 2015

A realisation

I'm working too much right now but definitely not on the right things.

This is an age old problem of mine. At University I spent more hours working in my part time job than I did on my University work. Then, over the Christmas period I supplemented that with another one or two jobs, none of which were particularly related to my degree or any future career I might have fancied. I like to be kept busy and, more specifically, to be kept busy in ways that are easy to me. I turn up, clock in, the day whiles away and my brain is occupied and relatively free of the overthinking that goes on in there the majority of the time.

I'm at the beginning of the career that I've been chasing for a while and rather than accepting a little less income and taking a day during the week to look for the next project, attend networking events or do anything productive that might actually help me to get where I'm going, instead I'm working long hours in a job that was meant to be supplemental income for me. It was meant to be flexible and no stress so that I could top up the income from my main job. Now I find myself working six day weeks and long shifts.

I could pretend that this has happened because I can't say no to people who were helpful to me when I needed them. I could pretend that it's because I feel bad about leaving the team a member short but I'd be lying to you and to myself. Really I know that this is my problem. It's always been my problem. I avoid hard work by working.

It's easy to procrastinate and push things to the back of the list when you're working six days a week, so the really productive stuff, the stuff that would be the foundation blocks for my career as a researcher, that all gets pushed to the back and I justify it by telling myself that at least I was out there working, earning money and not just sitting reading or watching television.

Actually, perhaps a day a week of reading would give me an idea for a Phd proposal, or help me make an important connection with regards to the work I'm doing right now.

Perhaps I could work on getting my dissertation written up for publication so that the next time I apply for a research post I don't have to skip that desirable criteria and feel so annoyed at myself that I never got round to doing it.

Perhaps I could blog more and also develop my writing for other mediums.

Perhaps I could spend more time connecting with other people working in the same field as me. I could attend lectures or talks about things that I'm really interested in.

Perhaps I could actually show some fucking passion for something instead of scraping by and complaining that I never catch a break, that I work so hard and nothing ever comes from it.

Perhaps I could realise that earning money and working aren't necessarily the same thing.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Ben Lomond

After the tortuous task of getting to Ben Lomond I then had to actually climb the bloody thing. It was the first time that Andrea (who accompanied me up Schiehallion and Ben Nevis) and I had climbed a mountain by ourselves so we were feeling very much like Destiny's Child circa 1999. 

We set off sprightly and full of hope. It had been a week of glorious weather in Scotland but of course, by the time it came for us to climb the mountain, that had all changed and we were faced with ridiculous winds and hailstones. BLOODY HAILSTONES. Andrea and I barely even managed a conversation on the way up the hill, so preoccupied were we with shielding our faces from the ice bullets raining down on us and screeching 'ow, ow, ouch, ow!' repeatedly.

I think it's testament to our tenacity and mountaineering skills that we made it to within 200ft from the summit. Well, it's a testament to Andrea's tenacity and mountaineering skills really. I was all for heading home when it became apparent that there wasn't a rock big enough to hide behind in order to eat my chocolate bar without getting a mouth full of frozen rain at the same time. That was about half an hour into the climb.

We weren't very far from the summit when the wind and hailstones really got to be too much. At one point a huge gust of wind attacked us and we both instantly lay down on the ground to avoid being blown off our feet, and more melodramatically, to avoid being blown off the side of the mountain. The hailstones were whipped everywhere by the wind and all that could be seen was white. It was quite terrifying.

I turned to Andrea and in the most dramatic tone possible I suggested that we 'get off this FUCKING MOUNTAIN!'. 

So we began the two hour descent and returned to the bottom with aching legs, cold bodies and sore faces where the hailstones had pelted us. Ben Lomond had well and truly defeated us. We weren't feeling all sassy like Beyonce' et al now were we?

On the Sunday Andrea mentioned that she would like to go and look at a gorge where the river runs red with the debris from the rocks surrounding it. She quickly followed this up with a disclaimer that it was quite a tricky and dangerous adventure to reach the destination. She didn't need to ask me twice. If you want someone to take part in something faintly ridiculous and entirely not sensible, I'm the person to ask. Clearly.

My mother is going to hate these photographs. I promise I was careful.

We stayed at - Rowardennan Youth Hostel
We ate dinner at - Oak Tree Inn
The second photograph down is courtesy of Andrea's Instagram. You should check it out. She is the queen of Instagram. 

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Getting to Ben Lomond: An Idiot's Guide

Step 1: 

It is advised that you acquaint yourself with one of those ye olde paper map things. This is good for two reasons.

Firstly, it will help you to identify exactly where in the world you are and if you've properly consulted a map then you might not end up in a place which is on a completely different page from Ben Lomond.

Secondly, being vaguely competent at map reading will make life much easier when you stop in a small village shop and ask for directions, only to be confronted with a piece of paper and a pen pointing at a spot on it.

"You're here and that's Ben Lomond there.' They'll say to you, expecting you to understand all the squiggly lines in between the two points.

If you have read a map before you might not look completely non-plussed and nod confusedly before exiting the shop to realise that you still have no idea which direction to drive.

Step 2. 

Do not bother expecting Google Maps to give you the correct directions. IT WILL LIE TO YOU. Google Maps is excellent for navigating around cities. Rural Scotland though, not so much. Basically Google will direct you to Stirling and then send you off in the completely opposite direction.

Given that it's rural Scotland you're navigating round it's probably sensible to forsee the fact that 3G service will be extremely limited. Goodbye Satnav.

I reiterate. Buy a map.

Step 3.

When you arrive at a small village, take use of the opportunity to use a bathroom in the only cafe you have seen for about fifty miles. This is particularly sensible if you are about to drive down a road to nowhere. Your bladder will thank you.

Step 4. 

When you arrive at a road which appears to be a road to nowhere, rather than driving down this for an hour and hoping for the best, it is advised that you return to the village you've just driven through and ask someone for directions.

Step 5. 

Try very hard not to cry when, after driving for an hour down the afore mentioned road to nowhere, you meet another driver, ask him if you are close to Ben Lomond and he replies;

'You're about as far away from Ben Lomond as it is possible to be and still remain in Scotland!'.

Step 6. 

Do not believe the same man when he tells you that once you get back onto the main road the route becomes apparent. It does not.

Step 7. 

When you miraculously find a spot where you can access 3G and have a phone signal do not bother consulting Google Maps. It will tell you that you are two hours away from Ben Lomond because Google Maps is evil and is trying to make you cry.

Instead call your sensible friend who owns a map, did some preparatory research and is much more level headed than you are. She will advise you that you are in actual fact, not two hours away but only about half an hour. Breathe a sigh of relief and curse Google Maps to death.

Step 8.

Following your friend's directions, nervously navigate the road to Rowardennan. Arrive 1 hour and 45 minutes after planned.

Step 9. 

Enjoy the satisfactory feeling of having successfully navigated your way to Ben Lomond. Go climb the mountain and hope that there is a clear path as without one you'll be lost forever on the side of the mountain.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Tombstones and Dogs.

I'm probably outing myself as a total weirdo right now, but I have a mild fascination with graveyards. Always have.

It's not really easy to explain what it is that I like about them. The easiest answer is that I like the peacefulness of them. It's more than that though. I like the kind of creepy feeling that permeates when you enter into one. It feels almost otherworldly.

I spent a lot of time in one particular graveyard as a kid. I'd always take the shortcut to get there, through a field, under a wire fence and then through a little patch of trees and weeds which led me into it. I'd sit on a little brown bench and look out over the green grass and brownish, grey headstones with the spots of moss gathering on them.

Today was nice and sunny in Edinburgh so I went for a little wander and it took me past Greyfriar's Kirkyard. This graveyard is famous in Scotland as it's where Greyfriar's Bobby, a West Highland Terrier is buried and commemorated in statue outside. Bobby is a well known figure in Scottish folklore and the story is that he watched over his masters grave at Greyfriar's Kirkyard for fourteen years before he too passed away. I loved the novel written by Eleanor Atkinson when I was a child and so I've always had a picture of 19th Century Edinburgh in my mind when I think of Bobby. 21st Century Edinburgh isn't all that different from how I imagined it, if truth be told.

I've never been into the Kirkyard before but if you too, like me, are a Greyfriar's Bobby fan and a bit of a graveyard fetishist then it probably won't disappoint.