The week before Christmas…

It is nearly the end of the year and I find myself blogging less as I socialise more.
The weekend saw me thankful for an incredible lie in and lots of being at home relaxing- life has been pretty non stop recently and I really wanted some down time.  I chilled with the paper, a decadent breakfast of a mango followed by salmon and avocado on toast. It was great and reminded me that quality is better than quantity!  I hung out with Doerthe that evening, again reminded and thankful for the disposable income that is mine to be spent in nice bars in West Hampstead. I was also thankful to hang out with Doerthe- a ‘doer’ and who I have not spent time with for a year given On Sunday, I tackled the pile of presents that had started to take over my room and wrapped all bar the twin’s presents.  I spent the rest of Sunday relaxing whilst watching Merlin and I was thankful for the TV distraction via my laptop! I am interested in volunteering abroad for a few months and money seems to be my biggest problem at the moment, so whilst I am inspired, I need some more time and funds…

And so on to the week before Christmas.

Monday ended pleasantly at Tolli restaurant in Kentish Town with very good company, courtesy of Mike and Metadata. I ate so much I couldn’t sleep later that evening but the anti pasti, roast lamb with vegetables and mince pie with custard were absolutely worth it! It was the last time of seeing certain friends in 2011, so I was grateful to be able to spend such a nice evening together, eating and drinking and making merry.

I have decided that having a party or social do on a Monday just does not do. The rest of the week seems to stretch ahead of you interminably, and of course you have to get up the following morning and head to work. No fun. And so with little to do at work apart from basic admin, I awoke on Tuesday feeling a lil bit grumpy. Nonetheless, I was grateful for my penultimate Christmas present arriving from Amazon; that Hannah lent me the Aloe Blacc album; for an amazing home made mince pie and seeing the view across Vauxhall bridge at night. I had a good little chat with Gok on the way home which I am also thankful for.

I have finally wrapped all of the familial christmas presents and shall be rid of half of them later this evening which given their weight, I will be very grateful for. I have also finished creating data cds of various UK, US and world music for my Gambian friends and in the process learnt how to make said cds which I am grateful for. Fingers crossed they get there in one piece! And tomorrow is my last day at work- what else could a thankful girl need?

I recently read another, very honest blog which highlighted the cathartic nature of blogging. I am aware that this blog presents a nice, grateful picture of my life and I do not blog about the mornings when I don’t want to go to work; when I feel so lonely I want to cry; when I feel so ungrateful for everything in my life that I have to give myself a good talking to. But these times do happen and more frequently than I’d like. This blog makes me re-assess each day, those times when I write off my day as average or just plain shite, but then I have to write here and I realise that good things have happened that day. I want more good things to happen each day and I do want to be even more thankful for each day.  

I want to thank again everyone that has texted, emailed or come up to me and said that they have enjoyed the blog, with this encouragement it motivates me more to write and the more I am motivated to write, the more I have to think about the good things in my life. If that makes sense! 

Today I was grateful for our intern Lisanne’s amazing typing ability as she was able to finish some admin for me in record time! I am thankful that it is the weekend so I can get some sleep, sort out my piles of washing and wrap up the many presents cluttering my bedroom!

I am thankful that I did my last secondary workshop today; and that the temporary housemates came home today so the house is full and I am not alone in the house! I am also thankful that it is nearly the weekend!

The Christmas season is upon us and I feel like there is a never ending list of things to do at the moment. I was feeling pretty ungrateful an hour ago but its amazing the restorative effect of reading part of the Saturday Guardian; having a fish pie (not a finest Bart, have to budget these days lol) whilst watching Gossip Girl.

So gratefulness this week.
Monday was our team day and I had a really good time as well as getting on well  with the people in my team which I was a bit anxious about; more people want to join Feminist book club and my secret Santa gift of peanut butter fudge was received well.

Tuesday I was a bit grouchy but we went to our local Sixth form and through a good team effort conducted a useful workshop with a lively group. I was really thankful to Danielle coming over that evening; and also one of my sisters was nicer to me than she had been in a while which makes me look forward to spending Christmas en famille.

Today I am grateful that I read online the beginning of a book I had ordered for my 14 year old sister, turns out it is better for the 18 year old. I am grateful that I have very nearly done all my Christmas shopping, ordering online and getting it delivered to work gives me the two fold pleasure of- a) receiving a parcel in the post and b) re-reading the blurb and getting excited about reading the books. I have treated myself to several new books for the Christmas period- a fantasy novel, two books on Gambia & Senegal and also have received my feminist book reading for January.

The weekends always end up being massive posts but today I am knackered so will make this short and sweet:

Friday: Emile’s leaving drinks, spent a good evening with lots of lovely people. I am blessed to work with fab colleagues, including my managers who both told me that I am beautiful, which was really nice to hear. I’m slightly awkward about compliments, depends on who is giving them really, but its always nice to be given compliments! The lovely Mike Goodland also deserves a mention here for being an incredibly generous man.

Saturday: Post Gambia I have realised how lucky I am to have a disposable income and that I am able to spend silly amount of money on Xmas presents, going out and spending time with family and friends. I am most thankful for finding an absolute gem of a cd for one of my Gambian friends, he had asked if I could send him some songs for nursery children and whilst Xmas shopping, I found the perfect cd.

Sunday: I am grateful to Sam for picking up the ingredients for my secret santa this morning, meant I could have a lot longer in bed! I also had a really nice time with my sister going to the cinema, sharing chocolate and learning about ‘imprinting’ in Breaking Dawn.

On Wednesday I had a really good session at our local 6th form college, I helped two sixth formers start researching volunteering and a potential gap year. I inadvertently started a big debate with several students regarding aid to Africa, changing the system or not and as I walked back to work I was brimming over with ideas and thankful that I get paid to work with interesting young people.

This was followed by our Feminist book club event; it was nice to do something different with new and old friends and the discussion of the play certainly sparked a lot of debate.

Today, I am not so sure.
Nonetheless I’m glad that Howard managed to burn a cd of music I’d put together for one of our Gambian friends. I had a little chat about Kenya with some students, as I definitely want to explore more of Africa next year and we had a laugh about African toilets! Lastly, I was bought a nice cup of tea by a friend this evening as I have got into the lamentable habit of not taking enough cash out with me. And I received a lovely email about this blog.

Yesterdays new perspective and subsequent positive feeling spilled over into to today and I am grateful that I have got choices and that I am free to go wherever I want if I want to.
I am grateful that I have enough spare cash to buy gifts for my family and to treat myself to several new books- a fantasy novel, one about Gambia and one about Senegal.
I am thankful that I have good people around me and that I am trusted by others. I am also thankful that I have a lovely younger sister that wants to hang out with me :). 
On another note- It has been really lovely to receive nice comments about my blog, especially about my Gambia posts so thank you to all you people as the Gambians would say!
Here’s to a wonderful Wednesday.

Today I am grateful for being able to take control; its important to feel like you can make choices about your life which then helps you to take action.

Apart from that, I am thankful that my massive book was collected from the post office by my temporary house mate. I also received my accredited Life Coaching certificate today so I had two bits of interesting post to open, and I love receiving post.

Some of the more regular readers may know that I am a fan of The Power and had been unconsciously cosmically ordering things, mostly for my room. Now a few weekends before I went to Gambia, someone had put a large picture frame in the junk pile at the bottom of my flat. I wanted a picture frame but had not bought the print yet. I assumed that it would be there when I got back and so didnt move it. And of course when I did get back, it was gone. A short lesson in seizing opportunities when they present themselves to you. 

However, when I finished at the Fem 11 conference the following weekend, I had some spare time and so went to the Wellcome Collection where I decided to buy the print that I admired and that I would buy a frame for it despite the cost at a later date. Fast forward to this weekend, and what had been put back into the junk pile? The same frame, albeit with a larger crack in the glass. I’m not sure if this is just pure coincidence or luck, but I am grateful for the frame nonetheless!

Le weekend

Things that I am grateful for this weekend:
I received a very happy text from one of my Gambian friends which was the highlight of Friday! There was also a busker on the tube who made me smile.
I tried Tom Kha soup for the first time that evening which was absolutely divine and I was also treated to dinner by the lovely Uncle Ed, who also lent me his ears in lieu of my husband being abroad.
On Saturday I was thankful for the laid back attitude of my guest Alan, we went to the last part of the Anti-porn conference and got in for free- result! We then were rather hungry and found a nice Turkish kebabery which made us bacon sandwiches despite the late hour. I was very grateful that I was able to cook for all my guests and spend time with them without having to go to the pub- thank you again Alan for escorting Ed to the nearest drinking establishment.
Finally today I am grateful that we got to eat together, all of the old Oswald Court lot at Ottolenghi in Angel. The food was great and I had wanted to go there for ages, so I was pleased I finally had and with all my old uni friends.  It was also really nice to see our friend Liz who I have not seen for a year but very recently got engaged. I had a really lovely weekend with very old friends. I am also grateful that my Gambian friends are looking out for me from afar.

Gambia Part 2

Where was I? The days have started to meld into each other, like the coats of white on white paint that we cover the toilet block with. This is not the most interesting work but we start early while the temperature is still in the early 20s which makes the work more bearable, as does painting inside the of the toilet where you are shaded from the sun. I have never looked down as many toilet holes as I did in Gambia, somewhat ironic as my mother will tell you I’m a little bit anal about loos lol.

The school is growing taller and taller, layers of bricks being laid by the experts, who are mainly men with the occasional wife/ girlfriend helping out. There comes a point where everyone has to help make cement. This is absolutely back breaking work, its about 36 degrees and the cement has to be mixed by hand with cartons of water that need to be collected from a well. There are elements of building that are similar to baking a cake I mused post shovel, my heart racing as I sat inelegantly in the shade; the cement needs to be blended to the right consistency. Doing this work in the heat has given a few of the boys sunstroke and our numbers dwindle as the following morning several of them are unable to work. Luckily we have several nurses in our midst to look after them and I have to say this eases my mind, though as of yet I have not got the dreaded Banjul belly, though I know Howard has been suffering.
The heat continues to pound down and I am glad when Howard suggests going down to help out at the head builder Paul’s compound where the carpenters and other volunteers are creating the tables and chairs. As in London, Howard strides ahead and I am too hot to try and catch him up but at that moment compare walking through the head height grasses and bushes to our usual fast walk to the tube which is quite surreal.
I can’t remember what exactly I did to help out that afternoon but remember being enchanted to be there, sitting in the shade watching the desks being assembled, whilst in the garden, baby goat kids roamed free, sleeping in the shade of the house and chickens roamed around with their chicks, the occasional crow of a cockerel punctuating the drilling and sawing noises. I am too shy to speak to the ladies and children but Karen, one of the volunteers has no fear and introduces herself and learns all the children’s names. As the days progress, it becomes clear that Karen absolutely loves the children and showers them with minties (sweets), smiles and hugs, dancing with them in the street when we visit Francis’s bar later in the week.
On Sunday we went to St Kizitos Church. We arrived early and were entertained by the chirruping of the housemartins and sparrows in the eaves of the church. There is a constant stream of sound here, or so it feels to me the Londoner. We squish on our pew where we have a excellent view of the choir, we are told they  are excellent and I am looking forward to hearing them sing. The old school adage of Sunday best definitely applies here, the ladies of the choir are dressed to impress and everyone else i’m guessing is dressed in their sunday finest. I am a little uneasy wearing my work clothes but comfort myself by thinking that we are going straight to work afterwards- old habits die hard! The mass is a Catholic one and I find myself musing over going to church on sundays as a child; I find certain refrains just come to my lips, all those years of Catholic schooling coming to the fore I guess; my mind wandering to how many people find a partner in church- makes sense given that you know that the person is of the right faith. I start when I hear the tick Oirish brogue of the priest, it makes me chuckle to think of him speaking the word of God to the Gambians in English with the strongest Irish accent ever! I have to mention the spiders- when we arrived we were looking around and to the side of where we were sitting there were two huge spiders the size of my hand span. Everything is larger in Africa!
I also got shat on by one of the lovely chirruping birds during the mass. Moving on from the wildlife… There was a moment in church when I noticed Sophie’s eyes fill with tears as the choir sang, and as quick as a flash I felt a well of emotion arise in my chest, as I realised how wonderful it was to be there and how grateful I was. I had to quell that feeling quickly, knowing how prone to tears I can be in general! The rest of the mass passed and we left in a wave of colour.
That night we go to Bini’s again for the most amazing Sunday roast dinner, turns out the chef was trained in glamourous Birmingham. I have to say it again, we did eat really well in Gambia, the highlights being the meat domoda (satay) and chicken yassa that Josephine cooked for us but also this particular sunday dinner and our last night where there was a Gambian/ Lebanese infusion buffet. There was an interesting evening when we went for Chinese, a slight comedy of errors when it turns out Tracey forgot her husband’s order; sesame toast turns out to be tempura prawns and Howard and others have to leave most of their main courses due to feeling ill.
Its hard and yet easy to believe that this  time last week I was in the Gambia, time flies when you are having fun. I am aware that there is still lots to write about so will continue at the weekend.

Today I am grateful for being able to buy a new painting for my bedroom and also contribute to a friend’s India trip at the same.