A retrospective note on Oxford finals (and why you, too, will survive them)

An introductory anecdote: last summer, holed up in my room in Florence as August came to an end, air conditioning blasting into my face, I found an Instagram account. It belonged to a student at Corpus Christi College, and they made embroidered stands, customised with different designs or quotes. One caught my eye: “What if something wonderful happens?”. After a couple of weeks of panicking at the prospect of a final year packed with work and stress ahead of me, which had been filled with “What if something terrible happens?”, this quote seemed both ironic and apt. I made a note about it and asked them to make me one over the Easter holidays. It took its place above my bedside table for the rest of my time at Oxford. And it turned out to be true. Continue reading

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Chicken soup for the tormented soul: a music remedy for trials and tears

There’s nothing as great as Spotify’s “private session” function. You can indulge in all the tunes you normally pretend to hate (cough, cough, One Direction), put on a cleaning playlist, an embarassingly soppy film soundtrack – the options are endless.

There are reasons that are far from embarassing to make use of this function, though. I had a Spotify playlist this year that was called “if you need to cry”. I had many a reason to listen to it frequently, Continue reading

Beginner’s misfortune

Look, today has been a Tuesday you couldn’t fix no matter what, and on Thursday I said I would make it a good one. I do this a lot. I plan things out in my mind and I will them to live up to expectations. Today was different, though, today I know where I went wrong and why Tuesday crumbled.

It started, I suppose, with the real mistake being the fact I spent the weekend packing for our journey, when I should have been reading Emilia Galotti, act 3, past its second scene.  Continue reading

On loss and lychees

One of the things I’ve made mine, in the 22 years I’ve inhabited this planet, has been my love of all things cold.  I won’t drink water unless it’s absolutely freezing, I keep every fruit in the house in the fridge – including bananas and avocados – and I love nothing more than a sudden spray of cold water when I am in the shower (I have the feeling this is connected to an article I read years ago about it being good for your circulation: it isn’t).

My taste for coldness extends to the environments surrounding me. Continue reading

Meeting Seattle’s “senior nomads” in Florence

Airbnb hopping around the world

Imagine leaving your hometown, selling your belongings, and setting out on a never-ending adventure around the globe, with no end in sight to your travels. It sounds like the stuff of dreams, but it is what ordinary life looks like for Michael and Debbie Campbell, the self-dubbed “Senior Nomads” from Seattle.

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They have been travelling the world since Summer 2013, having retired, sold their car and sailboat, reduced their possessionsand they are staying in Airbnbs each time to feel like locals and get a feel of every place they choose to visit.  Continue reading

Mapping Monet: an art alphabet

“For me, a landscape does not exist in its own right, since its appearance changes at every moment; but the surrounding atmosphere brings it to life – the light and the air which vary continually. For me, it is only the surrounding atmosphere which gives subjects their true value.”

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Claude Monet, famously among the leaders of the French Impressionist movement of the 1870s and 1880s, was one of the movement’s most prolific artists. His 1873 painting Impression, Sunrise (Impression, soleil levant) gave the movement its name, and he played a crucial role in bringing its adherents together. Particularly inspired in the 1860s by the Realists’ willingness to pain en plein air, Monet made his painting technique one of his most important traits – painting different places at different times, often directly in front of the subject, rather than from memory, and became distinguished for his remarkable colouring and depiction of light.

What makes Monet stand out for me, other than all of his artistic techniques and the landscapes he chooses, is the way these move across Europe. Hence, following his footsteps beyond just the gardens of well-known Giverny is fascinating – most are there today, making it possible to step into one of his paintings. Let’s step into his artwork and embark on a journey across the continent.  Continue reading

9×9: nine Florence plans for September

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If I’ve not been particularly active lately, know this: I despise summer. I’ve been lying in cool, fanned rooms when in Germany and regretting having ever gotten out of cooling seawater when I’ve been in Italy. I really can’t think of any advantage to hot, sticky, mosquito-infested, humid weather other than the the pleasant side effect of a tan.

But September – that’s a whole different story. As leaves crinkle and turn golden, and the relief of cold weather make its way towards us, September is a time to wrap up the past season, but at the same time, (even for summer Scrooges like me) make the most of the last snatches of hot air. Florence has so much going on  this month – take a look.  Continue reading

Lessons learned this year

I can’t believe it is now almost exactly eleven months since I set foot in this country. Since being here, Mein Kampf has been republished for the first time in decades, the refugee crisis has become a refugee embrace (in the case of Stuttgart, I have seen so much solidarity and action on the part of so many different institutions and individuals it would be hard to put it into words), Helmut Schmidt has died, and many a worldwide crisis has reached my corner of Stuttgart-Ost, from heartbreaking terrorist attacks to Brexit.

What have I learned? Continue reading

I needed EU

It is not every day that you can get up in the morning and see a country’s fate changed permanently. Whilst I continue, perhaps in a state of denial, to tell myself that things may change, that a people’s referendum is not legally binding, that I’ll wake up tomorrow and it will all be over, so far, since Friday, the 24th of June, I have woken up each following day still a citizen of Brexit Britain, confined to Germany and unable to commiserate with friends, with family, with my university town, Oxford, which voted by a staggering 70% to remain – and yet relieved to be abroad, cocooned away from the abuse that seems to have come as a natural consequence, from the prejudice in the form of leaflets in postboxes and of abuse shouted from passing cars.   Continue reading