the acid house irvine welsh book
Books, Haul, Personal Style

Books and a spot of vintage shopping

Welcome to the first post of 2018, ladies and gents! We’re a little too late in the month to talk about such things as New Year’s Resolutions (I’d probably say something generic like ‘eat more fruit’ and ‘spend more time switching off from the online world’, you get the gist of things), so I thought we could dive right in with a few bits and pieces I’ve acquired over the festive season and first bit of January. Onward!

Books

Okay, you might remember that when I finally made the big move to Newcastle, I was only able to bring about ten books with me. I own around 370+ books in total. It was difficult. Painful. My shelves were a little too empty for my liking, and the bookshops here are too tempting for my own good, so I have actually acquired a few new tomes (and brought a few back with me when I visited Malta last year).

Let’s start with a bit of a Bukowski haul…

The three at the top (Post Office, Factotum, Women) were Christmas gifts from my baby brother, and Love is a Dog from Hell was something I picked up with a Waterstones gift voucher. Bukowski is one of my favourite poets of all time, but I’m ashamed to say I’ve never owned any of his books at all! I also picked up a copy of Stephen Fry’s Mythos with another gift voucher. Lucky me!

Next up, the books I bought when I went to Barter Books in Alnwick (again). I might have mentioned this before, but Barter Books is a gorgeous little second-hand bookshop just an hour and twenty minutes away from Newcastle city centre by bus. It used to be a train station, and today looks like something out of Hogsmeade:

And here’s a look at what I picked up from Barter:

book haul

the acid house irvine welsh book

Vintage Bits

A while ago, I spent some time looking into the thrift/vintage shopping scene here in Newcastle. I love dipping into charity shops and hitting vintage shops to find unique bits and pieces to make my outfits stand out. Sort of. Anyway, I picked up this pendant from The Yesterday Society in Grainger Market:

And these awesome pieces from FLIP American Vintage:

vintage shopping

Snuggly-as-hell 1980s jumper

vintage ralph lauren

Green striped Ralph Lauren shirt

 

 If you’ve got any books (or vintage shops!) to recommend, hit me up in the comments! 

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anxiety breathing exercises
Adult Life, thoughts

How I deal with anxiety spirals

As I type this out on the fly in my favourite coffee shop, I’m on day three of teetering on the edge of a cliff. Fall off that precarious ledge, ladies and gentlemen, and we plummet headfirst into that oh-so-annoying thing called an anxiety spiral.

This manifests differently in different people and it can be triggered by any combination of things; hormones, alcohol, changes in your life, being faced with decisions, public speaking, social interactions, the wrong word at the wrong time, something embarrassing you did five years ago, et cetera. The list is virtually never-ending, and the effects can be crippling to some, and plain inconvenient to others. I’ve experienced situations which had me feeling so helpless, I couldn’t leave my bed all day except to use the bathroom. It wasn’t great.

The anxiety spiral

Personally, the main thing that gets to me during one of these spirals is the obsessive part. If something sets me off, I get tunnel vision and can’t see anything or anyone else but that thing causing the anxiety. And to be quite honest, it can feel like my mind is unravelling at the time.

It’s the end of the world to me, even if to my friends or family it shouldn’t even a blip on the stress radar. I’m the worst person ever, how can anyone stand me let alone like me, I’m the most annoying thing ever to walk the earth, I’m probably too loud and talk too much, I’m not actually a good writer, I’m not really good at my job, I’m not a good person, I’ve probably offended someone today, I sound stupid, and that person who saw me drunk three years ago probably still laughs at me sometimes. This is just a snippet of the thoughts that swirl, quite mercilessly, around in my head when it’s happening; your reality is distorted, and even though what you want most in the world is someone to stroke your hair and say everything is fine, you know you also won’t believe a damn word of it. You’ll probably think they’re just saying that to make you feel better. I guess the best you can do in that situation is to trust your support system to be honest with you.

For people dealing with anxiety know that it generally comes with physical manifestations too – anything from a quickened heartbeat or nausea to a full-blown panic attack. Everyone has their own version of this personal hell, in varying degrees, and I can only tell you what it’s like for me. I’m lucky to have never dealt with a real panic attack, but having your mind obsess and your heart feel like it’s going to bust out of your chest is also deeply unpleasant. Logically, I know my ‘fight or flight’ is kicking in and the adrenaline is making my body feel panic, but that does little to help me at the time.

How I’m dealing with my anxiety

For a long, long time, I didn’t know that this thing that was happening to me had a name or that it was happening to countless others in the world. I was weird and panicky sometimes, that was it. It always passed – but it also always came back.

I got a little older and took time to really dig down into what it was I felt, what triggered those feelings and what made me feel better when it happened. Fast forward to this weekend, and I’ve actually written down, on two sticky notes, the things that aggravate my anxiety and the things that help me manage it. Almost like an ‘in case of emergency’ reminder. Here’s a snippet:

Things that make it worse
  • PMS. Lord Jesus, PMS.
  • Drinking more than two or three glasses of wine.
  • Indecision.
  • Too much coffee.
  • Being disorganised or messy.
  • Falling behind on deadlines.
  • Not taking the time to cook meals.
  • The possibility that I’ve hurt someone’s feelings.
    • And then overthinking this for hours on end.
  • Not being active.
  • Spending time on social media.
Things that (therefore) make it better
  • Regular exercise – get those happy hormones a-flowin’.
  • A clean bedroom and freshly laundered sheets.
  • Five-minute meditations – I use an app called ‘Calm’.
  • Cutting down on social media.
    • I highly recommend switching off notifications as a trial if you’re uncomfortable with completely ridding your phone of the usual suspects.
  • Reading for leisure.
  • Making lists (evidently).
  • Staying on top of my work.
  • Doing things to make other people happy.
  • Sketching, writing, or playing videogames.
  • Spending time by the sea.
  • Puppies. Lots of puppies.
  • Drinking less coffee, and avoiding it after 5pm.
  • Evening Primrose oil. That shit is legit.
  • Getting out of bed and having a shower even when it seems like the hardest thing ever.
  • Talking about it with someone I trust.

Of course, I’m not against the use of medication to help with anxiety and there is absolutely nothing wrong with it. Pharmaceuticals should absolutely not be demonized or viewed as some sort of necessary evil; I have loads of friends who tell me how their lives have been massively improved by anti-anxiety meds, and I’m happy for them. I’m just trying my own thing first, and that’s okay too.

tips to deal with anxiety

Anyway, I just thought I’d share what I’m doing to keep a handle on things and stay balanced when anxiety makes that difficult. Sharing this kind of stuff helps others who might be struggling with it, so I’m all over that.

I’d love to hear what you do when this demon scratches at your door, so feel free to share your tips in the comments!

-Kelly

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the sound and the fury william faulkner
Books, thoughts

#CurrentlyReading: The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

the sound and the fury william faulkner

Another blog post and yet another book my fellow bookwormy friends. I was re-watching Mad Men for the umpteenth time and noticed that Don Draper’s lady-friend, Joy, was reading The Sound and the Fury in one of the episodes. I’ve wanted to read something by William Faulkner for a while, and the title of this particular work is – let’s face it – pretty badass. I’m half way through the novel right now, and wanted to share my thoughts with you guys.

The first thing that struck me was the way he brings together the stream of consciousness technique with a certain ‘bare’ quality that I just love. What do I mean? Here’s an excerpt:

When the shadow of the sash appeared on the curtains it was between seven and eight o’ clock and then I was in time again, hearing the watch. It was Grandfather’s and when Father gave it to me he said I give you the mausoleum of all hope and desire; it’s rather excruciating-ly apt that you will use it to gain the reducto absurdum of all human experience which can fit your individual needs no better than it fitted his or his father’s. I give it to you not that you may remember time, but that you might forget it now and then for a moment and not spend all your breath trying to conquer it. Because no battle is ever won he said. They are not even fought. The field only reveals to man his own folly and despair, and victory is an illusion of philosophers and fools.

That. Last. Line.

It’s not the easiest read in the world, so give yourself some time to settle into the book and adjust to the character’s perception in each chapter. The Sound and the Fury is probably best described as a tragedy, so don’t read this if you’re looking for a light, happy story, and get ready for some messed up lives and fragmented family happenings.

Oh, and I find it best to read Faulkner without any distractions (e.g. TV, Netflix, YouTube – forget about it). At the very most, some instrumental music or the background buzz of a bustling cafe’ will do.

Have you read anything by Faulkner? What do you think about his work? 

-Kelly

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Adult Life, Living Abroad

4 quick tips for living in a house share

If you’re in your late teens or early 20s, you’ll probably be looking at flying the nest and moving into your first houseshare. The taste of independence only just out of reach, and you want it more than a drunk me wants pizza.

Living in a house share is obviously cheaper than living solo, but it’s also a lot more fun if you’re moving to a new city and makes the whole ‘I need new friends’ thing easier to navigate, so I’d definitely recommend it.

Renting in the North East

Property in the North East is known to be more affordable than it is elsewhere in the UK. I can testify to the fact that Newcastle, in particular, isn’t just affordable in terms of its accommodation, but the cost of living is cheap too. You can rent a lovely room, in a house or apartment bang in the city centre, for somewhere in the region of £400 to £500, bills included. I personally used Spareroom to find my place, but there are loads of options if you just hit Google with the right keywords.

Top tip: Always check reviews for the real estate agency you’re thinking about using. You’d be surprised to learn just how many shady agencies are out there, and if you’re a student, you’ll be an even bigger target for ‘questionable’ landlords.

Sidenote: why I didn’t want to rent a property in Malta

In Malta, this time tends to come along a little later in life because rent and property costs are extortionately high thanks to the obscene hike in prices we’ve seen following the gaming industry boom. The average cost of renting a property in a central location in Malta (by which I mean a room in an apartment or a one-bedroom ‘cosy’ apartment) would set you back around €700 to €1000 a month without bills.

Anything cheaper than that is either a golden nugget of a find or somewhere with questionable standards, to say the least. That’s the lion’s share of your typical Maltese salary, living very little for things like food, savings, and a social life after you’ve paid bills. No thanks. Moving swiftly on.

Tips for living in a house share

One of the best things about moving out of your parents’ place and sharing a home with people you’re not related to is that you’ll learn how to live alongside folks who come from different backgrounds to your own. You might become a little family unit away from home and watch Great British Bake Off together every week, or have an absolutely awful time because people are funny. Here are a few tips to avoid the latter, or at least help you handle potentially awkward situations.

1 | Always pay your share of the bills on time

Nobody wants to be that housemate. If one of you has taken responsibility for calculating and paying the bills each month, the rest of the house needs to put up their share sharpish.

The best way to avoid any dilly-dallying when it comes to money matters is to send out an email each month with a breakdown of the bills and the details for the account that everyone needs to transfer over to, with a deadline tacked onto it. Make sure the deadline you set for everyone gives you enough time for the money to come in before bills go out.

2 | Don’t leave passive-aggressive notes

You’re grown-ups. Kind of. You need to be able to talk things out, especially when they’re essentially nothing more than minor misunderstandings. Sticky notes and passive aggressive texts (especially ones that start with ‘can we please remember…’) just piss everybody off, so put on your grown-up panties and talk it out face to face before things get weird.

Before you get to the stage where you’re absolutely vibrating with rage because Brenda left her dirty dishes out longer than you’d like, take a breather. Remember that just because you like to live your life a certain way, doesn’t mean others have to adhere to your cleaning schedule and whatnot. That being said, if Brenda’s leaving her crap all over the house for four or five days at a time, it’s time for an intervention. Not over text.

3 | Organize house dinners

This is the perfect way to bond with your housemates, show off your cooking skills (or try and sharpen them up), and create a warm ‘family’ atmosphere.

Good food, good wine, and some background music set the scene for a little camaraderie and a lot of laughs. Also, it’s always kind of awesome to come back to a home-cooked meal once in a while when you’re no longer being fed by your mum on the regular.

4 | Respect boundaries and space

I’m going to say this one time and one time only: do not assume you can wander in and out of anyone’s bedroom. It doesn’t matter how close you are, and it doesn’t matter if Wendy left her Netflix running and you can’t stand the murmur of Orange is the New Black leaking out into the hallway. It doesn’t even matter if Brenda left her bedroom light on. You do not. Go in. Their rooms. Okay? Okay.

Beyond your bedroom, every other space in a house share is communal. Having a private space that you know people aren’t going to have access to (unless you’ve expressly given that permission) is essential if you’re going to hold on to that precious sanity and zen. For those of us who might struggle with such things as ‘personal space’, ‘boundaries’, and ‘basic human decency’, here are a few quick bits to remember:

  • It’s not your room.
  • If you’ve knocked once or twice, to no avail, do not just walk in. Silence ain’t consent (THIS ONE WORKS ON SO MANY LEVELS).
  • Just because you’re fine with people wandering into your room, doesn’t mean the rest of the world feels the same.
  • Why do you even need to get into that room? What’s so urgent? That’s what I thought. Take your hand off the door handle, Bernice.

Oh, and while we’re here, respect for spaces also applies to communal areas. Other people use that space, so make sure you leave things clean and ready for the rest of the house to use it.

Right, my fellow twenty-somethings, that’s it from me. I hope these quick tips save you some awkwardness in the long run, and if they don’t, well, I tried. 10 points to me.

If you have any tips on living with people you’re not related to, hit me up in the comments!

-Kelly

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Daphne Caruana Galizia murder malta
malta, thoughts

Who killed Daphne? A year on, we’re still demanding answers

Daphne Caruana Galizia murder malta

Image credit: Reuters

I can hardly believe that it’s already been a full year since Daphne Caruana Galizia was assassinated just minutes away from her home in Malta. That’s 365 days of no justice and approximately 525,600 more minutes (and counting) of the government and its various institutions failing miserably. I wanted to add the number of times Daphne’s memorial had been cleared away and re-built, but quite frankly I’ve lost count.

Some days are harder than others

Every time I tap to open Facebook on my phone, I’m met with another smack in the face courtesy of news from back home. These days I barely recognise it as ‘home’, but that’s another story for another blog.

So like any other social media-saturated millennial, I scroll through Facebook, and inevitably come across some more bad news. Another scandal. Another lie. Another piece of Malta’s soul sold to the highest bidder.

Sadness or white-hot anger comes in waves, and sometimes the two come together and I feel overwhelmed. With frustration. Indignation. Disgust. Helplessness. Rage. Disbelief.

On those days, I sometimes need to take a moment and look away from it all before it builds into actual anxiety. I don’t like doing that, particularly because it’s in our own interest to look at this sad state of affairs squarely in the eyes. To be informed. To ask questions. To question authority, more so when they shy away and squirm and show us how much they hate it.

No. Collectively looking away is what got us here in the first place. But I, like many others, often find myself exhausted, buckling under the weight and relentlessness of it all.

But for the most part, I look

I look at every new, shoddy piece of propaganda the Prime Minister’s crew churn out and peddle to their supporters. I look at the blinkered masses sitting, open-mouthed and clamouring like baby birds, waiting to gobble up the next thinly-veiled lie dumped onto them by the powers that be. I sometimes wonder if politicians ever chuckle as they type what they know full well is bullshit of the highest order. Perhaps they’ve been lying and lied to for so long they scarcely know the difference any more. As a quick example, check out the post by ‘Justice Minister’ Owen Bonnici. Yeah, the one who cleared away the memorial and thereby violated our freedom of speech. 2+2=5:

I look at news of another shady link between another big shot bully and another unsavoury character and think about how, in a normal country, you’d resign at the faintest hint of scandal. You’d have some sense of shame. Dawn ma jistħux,  u ma jafux jistħu. All our politicians seem to have is pure arrogance. And lots of money. Money paid out of our pockets. Gentle reminder there.

I make myself look at comments and statuses on social media and I see some hope, some resistance, in the face of hate speech so vile you’d think those commenting were facing their worst enemy, rather than a total stranger whose only crime is trying to hold our government accountable, demanding justice and transparency.

Orwellian Malta

I look at the news that the protest memorial opposite the law courts has once again been cleared away, and wonder if it was on Owen Bonnici’s orders again or not. What are they so afraid of? Do they really think we’ll give up and forget that easily? They did it again last night. I struggle to call Mr Owen Bonnici ‘Justice Minister’ while keeping a straight face. Surely to be a minister of something like justice, one should fight for justice. I’m reminded now of George Orwell’s 1984 and the Ministry of Truth:

The Ministry of Truth is the ministry of propaganda. As with the other ministries in the novel, the name Ministry of Truth is a misnomer because in reality it serves the opposite: it is responsible for any necessary falsification of historical events. – Wikipedia

I look at all of this, and the sale of Maltese (also EU) passports, and the sale of what precious little untouched land we have left to people with more money than morals. I look at the pollution, the lies, the death, the crime, the venom, the impunity, the smoke and mirrors, the racism as a rallying cry, the overdevelopment and €10+ million apartments for the elite when locals can’t even afford to rent a shitty room in a shitty part of town anymore.

Finally, I look at the news that our most illustrious PM let his carefully-curated mask slip and issued an actual threat to Simon Busuttil. He told him he wouldn’t be able to set foot in Malta again – language unbecoming of a PM and more suited to something like a wannabe mafioso in a low-budget gangster movie. This is significant. When the PM appears to bully and threaten someone, it gives the trolls in the comments section and niche Facebook groups a sense of legitimacy when they do it, something like: “if our glorious leader can do this, then so can I. Hell, I’m probably doing him a favour.”

I see Glenn Bedingfield (remind me again what a sexist, ill-mannered bully of a man is doing in parliament?) saying ‘jitlifni’ (translation: he makes me lose my temper”) to justify swearing, in parliament, at Simon Busuttil. To the public, this says: you can attack people and it’s okay because they’re asking for it. It is not okay. This is dangerous.

The situation has never been so desperate

Certainly in not my twenty-something years of life, anyway. Those who lived through the Mintoff years see what’s happening with an intensified sense of dread because they recognise the signs. They know the violence, the fear that comes with an out-of-control government that operates more like a family business or brutish band club. There’s at least one key difference between then and now – social media. The whole world is watching, and we’re here to tweet, write, resist, protest, question, and fight. And I’ll bet my entire comic book collection that the powers that be can’t fucking stand it. They probably yearn for the good old days when they could carry out their shady business in peace. Oh well.

Identity crisis

What kind of labour government is this? As a supposedly centre-left party, labour is meant to represent and champion the rights of the people – specifically, the working class. The average Joe. What we have instead is a self-serving Labour government that caters to the millionaire, the property tycoon, the questionable banker, etc. Fuck the actual people you’re meant to serve, right?

I don’t know if we as a nation even know what our respective parties are meant to stand for any more; truthfully I don’t think they know themselves. But then that’s what happens when we treat politics like football matches and so-called leaders like gods for so many years. Muddied waters and blurred lines and blind tribalism. We are all losers here.

I remind you once again that politicians are doing us no favours by being in power. They are your elected officials, there to serve you, the citizen. They are literally paid out of your pocket. Hero worship and a refusal to hold them accountable over the years has brought us here. They slap us in the face, rifle through our pockets, laugh, and we say ‘thank you’ by giving them the vote or letting them off without so much as a double-take. Or by voting them in again. Hold your political leaders and their cronies accountable.

There is no ‘us’ and ‘them’. They want us to fight amongst ourselves because it takes the heat off of them. Forget party politics and talk of sore losers. Make no mistake – we’re all getting screwed over here. It doesn’t matter which colour you swore allegiance to in the past.

Resist.


Read more about Daphne’s murder and corruption in Malta here:

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international women's day
malta, thoughts

The Sound of (the Prime Minister’s) Silence

On the 5th of March the unofficial memorial set up by mourners following the assassination of investigative journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was swept away overnight. Maybe ‘they’ thought that people would forget; uwiva, let it go ħi. Granted – overwhelming apathy and failure to stand up to the abuse of power is essentially how we got here in the first place, but they were wrong about this one. I write ‘they’ because I assume it took a few cowards to move that many tributes so quickly in the dead of night. Within hours, fresh flowers, candles, photos and banners sprang up once more, with those seeking justice for Daphne and fighting for freedom of speech feeling more determined than ever. I guess that one backfired. The people will not forget and they certainly won’t be silenced.

 

Daphne Caruana Galizia Memorial

Photo credit: The Shift News

 

Hush now

That’s what I want to talk about today – silence. You see, silence can be very loud. When somebody (a dirty politician or sham bank, for example) works hard to keep you quiet, then there’s a 99.9% chance that you know something that’ll see them exposed as the frothing cesspits they truly are. That’s bad for business. They’ll probably try to bully their way out of it by flinging out libel suits like a manic chimpanzee might fling excrement, or threaten to sue you, your grandparents, your auntie and the next three generations of your family if you speak up. Too often, the bullies win and the ones blowing the whistle are left vulnerable. This silence is one of fear.

Then there’s optional silence, far more telling than the silence discussed above. By saying nothing, people speak volumes. Amid all the public outcry and disgust at this underhanded move to erase her memory (and with it hush-up the call to defend freedom of speech and demand justice for her murder), our most illustrious Prime Minister has been very quiet indeed. Wait, sorry – he/his PR team has been quiet about this particular issue, but very busy tweeting about other things. On the 5th, @JosephMuscat_JM was mainly retweeting news about his favourite football team (Milan FC, in case you were curious) and the VOT16 result (16 year-olds can now vote in Malta, and how convenient for the PM that this news item was around to distract the masses on this specific day). He’s also been very talkative about his other smokescreens – I mean accomplishments. His account, like his time as PM, thrives on sycophants praising the hell out of this government, telling the world how proud they are to support his party. They genuinely believe they’re living in l-aqwa zmien (the ‘best of times’, Labour’s slogan). They do it so fervently that you’d think they’ve never heard of car bombings, a slain journalist, the Panama Papers scandal and shady dealings with even shadier people. He has said nothing about the clearing – not on social media, and not on any news articles or in any interviews. Nothing. Whether he gave the go ahead for the clearing or not is completely irrelevant – his silence, his failure to condemn the act, is what makes those responsible feel justified. It’s a failure to do his duty as PM. This silence is one of complicity.

And then there are all the questions. Why so silent? Who has the most to gain from having Daphne’s memory and public outrage fade away? Who has the most to lose when we do get #JusticeForDaphne, and who has the most to lose from real freedom of speech taking root in Malta?

Failure upon failure

Muscat’s deafening silence and the government’s overwhelming lack of action in response to the assassination is made far more apparent by the Solvakian government’s reaction to the recent murder of 27-year-old journalist, Jan Kuciak.  Kuciak was investigating tax fraud that had ties to the government; he and his partner were found shot dead in their home.  Three government officials have resigned (Malta: zero) and the president (who has the same powers as ours) has called for action in the form of an election or reshuffle. So – which Slovakian officials resigned?

  • Culture Minister, Marek Madarič
  • Chief State Advisor, Maria Trošková
  • Chair of the Security Council, Viliam Jasan

The Maltese equivalent of these officials would be something like Minister for Justice, Culture and Local Government, Owen Bonnici; Minister of National Security and Home Affairs, Michael Farrugia; and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carmelo Abela. Just putting it out there.

Our government’s response has been abysmally bad. The sheer arrogance of our PM and his gang of cronies is actually astounding at this point. It’s an arrogance that became even clearer when Muscat was asked about his thoughts regarding the government’s accountability in the case of Daphne’s murder following their Slovakian counterpart’s response:

Naħseb li l-accountability tagħna hija li nsibu min għamel il-qtil […] u nsibu min bagħat dawk il persuni. (I think that our accountability is that we find the ones who committed the murder […] and find who sent those people.)

This is not accountability. This is an arrogant cop-out. What he’s saying here is that in his eyes, it’s all done an dusted now. He can try to wash his hands of the matter with as many bogus answers and smokescreens as he likes – the blood won’t rinse out so easily. Too many questions and crooks remain. It’s the same arrogance that we’ve somehow let politicians get away with for years. Now we’re reaping the rewards, and with the current opposition leader in place, the outlook seems pretty bleak right now.

Why do so many of us not only tolerate this open sewer of a government, but embrace it? Support it? Glorify it? Why do so many people idolise and hero-worship party leaders, acting like they can do no wrong and ready to ignore every evil and attack anyone who dares to oppose the great leader’s views like some sort of twisted mercenaries?

Your elected officials are there to serve the country. To serve you. They’re not doing us any favours (unless they’ve bribed you with some fancy government job, then yes they are because this isn’t a meritocracy right now). They’re being (over)paid to do a job, and believe me – if you or I were doing as a bad a job as them at our 9-to-5, we’d be fired and out the door by the end of this sentence. But that’s the fate of mortals like us; the gods sitting in their lofty parliamentary seats have (unanimously) approved amendments to the Pension Bill, meaning that MPs are eligible for a massive pension after serving for just five years. That’s a potential pension of €40,000 on top of their social security pension. Us mere mortals have to make NI contributions for around 25-35 years for a fraction of that amount. Considering their recent job performance, that hardly seems fair, does it?

-Kelly

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being yourself
Adult Life, Living Abroad, thoughts

What’s a ‘tiffin’ and when will it stop snowing?

As I write this, I’m sitting at Waterstones watching snow drift past the windows overlooking Newcastle city centre. To my left – a red pot of Earl Grey tea (fitting, since I’m so close to Grey’s Monument) and a teacup, with a cherry and walnut chocolate tiffin beside it. What’s a tiffin? I have no real clue, but it’s biscuity and amazing. A few years ago I wanted nothing more than to be in this exact place, just reading a book or doing some research. And now I live here, and I do that – perhaps too often, judging by the number of Waterstones Cafe loyalty cards I fill up. Today, the sky shifts from icy grey to bright blue with sunlight bouncing off the snow – almost blinding. It’s perfect.

It’s perfect because today is one of those days where I remember that I’m doing something I’d dreamt of doing for years before getting the gumption to actually go out and do it. Sometimes, somewhere between the ever-present deadlines, self-induced crises and little worries here and there that come with living alone, I forget how special that is and how much it means to me. So when I crunched through the snow on my way down here today, I felt happy. I feel light. I won’t ramble on about it – just don’t forget to take a moment from time to time to appreciate what you’ve achieved. Just be for a while.

February is at an end and spring is technically just around the corner – although I am curious about when the season will actually show up. Winter seems intent on overstaying its welcome. Yes, spring is synonymous with rebirth (or in my case, awful hayfever), but rather than that, I find that I’ve been thinking about change recently. Small changes, specifically. Changing bits of my day or shifting my habits because it’ll make me feel better in some small way. I mean I’m doing typical things like eating more fruit (ish), maintaining a balanced diet, going to the gym three times a week and all that jazz. I’ve even cut down my coffee intake to a maximum of two cups a day. But I’ve been thinking about one thing in particular: ‘authenticity’.

If there’s one theme in all my work, it’s about authenticity and self-expression. It’s the idea that some things are, in some real sense, really you – or express what you and others aren’t.  – Bernard Williams (Philosopher)

I don’t exactly mince my words when it comes to saying what I think, and I do try to be myself, but I feel like there’s something nagging at me. I think that moving to a new country, not knowing too many people, it can be easy to say or do things that you don’t necessarily think or want to because in your anxious mind it means winning favour or friendships (even if you’re sbukkata/outspoken like yours truly). It’s totally wrong, of course. Back in Malta, your people know you and have done (for the most part) since primary school. They know how old you were when you disobeyed your parents and got wrecked in Paceville, they know who first broke your heart and how long it took you to get over them, and they know exactly how you like to take your tea or coffee. There’s no complication there, no need to ‘appear’ any certain way. Move abroad, and it becomes tempting to be a little too agreeable because you want certain people to like you. Forget ‘silly’ – it’s stressful and unnecessary and should have been left behind in secondary school. People who are meant to become your friends will become your friends anyway, bullshit or no bullshit. With that in mind, I want to work on being a more authentic version of myself, or more authentically me – whatever way you’d like to word it. It’s a strange thing to try and express, but my guess is that if you understand what I’m trying to say you’ve probably experienced it yourself. I don’t even like using the word ‘try’ up there – if you’re trying to be authentic then I feel like there’s still some kind of artifice involved. I suppose it’s something like being the you that you are when you’re alone in your room folding clothes, or happily walking to Waterstones with snowflakes settling in your hair – and not compromising that for anyone, really. The only person you should be concerned about ‘liking’ you, is you. Isn’t that who you can always depend on in the end? Anyway, that’s just been on my mind recently and I felt like sharing – it’s probably some sort of weird way of holding myself accountable to this commitment to authenticity.

-Kelly

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maltese fish soup recipe
Food, Living Abroad, recipes

Kelly’s Kitchen: Maltese Fish Soup (Aljotta) Recipe

maltese fish soup recipe

Hello, internet friends! People say that when you live abroad, you learn more things about yourself. One of these things I’ve learnt in just over two months here is that I love cooking, and can pretty much handle myself in the kitchen (so far, anyway). I find it relaxing and pretty damn satisfying, and I get to eat something yummy at the end of it all. Oh, and I live just a few minutes away from Grainger Market, a huge food market bursting with fresh fruit, vegetables, meat, and fish and all the cheese my little heart could possibly want. How can I possibly resist?

So – let’s talk about aljotta. This Maltese classic was originally considered “poor man’s food”, but has earned a place in the spotlight in recent years, making into some of my favourite restaurants in Malta, generally as a starter dish. I find this hearty soup so filling that I’ll happily eat it as a main, though.

The Ingredients

  • Around 400g – 500g small fish/any leftover fish you might have, cut into small pieces
  • 4-6 garlic cloves (finely chopped)
  • 1 onion (chopped, quite fine)
  • 4 tomatoes (de-seeded, chopped)
  • 2 tablespoons kunserva (tomato paste)
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint (or a handful of fresh mint leaves)
  • ½ teaspoon dried marjoram (or a few sprigs of fresh marjoram)
  • 100ml dry white wine (optional)
  • 2 fish stock pots or stock cubes; alternately you can make a nice broth out of fish bones
  • 1.5 litres boiling water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Lemon (cut into wedges)
  • Rice (optional)

The Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large, deep pan or pot. Toss in the chopped onion and garlic and cook them on a medium heat until soft and golden brown.
  2. Add the fish, mint, marjoram, tomatoes, salt, pepper and stir gently, without breaking the fish. Cook for approximately 5 mins, stirring every so often.
  3. Pour in a (generous) glug of white wine and stir some more. Cook until all the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Add stock pot/cubes to boiling water (around half a litre); add the stock to the fish before adding the rest of the boiling water (again, about half a litre). Add tomato paste and stir gently.
  5. Bring soup to the boil and leave to simmer on low/medium heat for about 30 mins (optional: add rice).
  6. Serve nice and hot, with lemon wedges.
  7. Enjoy with a slice of crusty bread (Maltese bread, if you have it!)

-Kelly

What’s your favourite Maltese dish? Share in a comment!

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malta, thoughts

The situation is desperate.

There are crooks everywhere you look now. The situation is desperate.

Daphne Caruana Galizia

I’ve been trying to write and re-write this blog post for a while now. Part of me still can’t quite believe that Daphne Caruana Galizia is dead – murdered. Assassinated, to be precise. Every time I sat down to write this words just failed me. So I guess I’ll try to keep things simple and attempt to articulate what’s been happening in my head.

First, there came the shock and disbelief. I wandered around the city pretending to look for the right place to sit down and do my work, but really I was in a strange daze, only half-listening and half-seeing. Everything seemed a little muffled. There was the shock at the fact that there was yet another car bombing in Malta, then there was the dread that came when reports came in that it was Daphne. She seemed indestructible to me. Fearless. Relentless. Hungry for justice. I didn’t always agree with what she did or how she did things, but that doesn’t matter – who the hell agrees with a person on every single detail? She was a role model for someone like me – an outspoken Maltese girl who fancied herself a bit of a writer, even when her writing was average at best. Who else did I have? How many strong, intelligent, precise, eloquent female writers did we have on our rock? How many of them have the courage to stand against corrupt politician after corrupt politician, with libel suits and threats coming hard and fast? I couldn’t do it. Hell, sometimes I hover over the ‘publish’ button on this blog wondering if what I’m saying is ‘ok’ – what would I do if I was about to expose another dirty politician? I’d be too scared to click. I’ll probably hover over ‘publish’ and tweak and edit this for an hour before I upload this.

Next, the grief. The morning after the news broke things sunk in properly. I was in bed scrolling through Facebook and pausing at the Maltese headlines that were flooding in. I stopped and read Matthew Caruana Galizia’s heartbreaking status about the moment he heard the blast and rushed to his mother. I read about the moment he was in that field, surrounded by pieces of his mother. Policemen standing, unable to do anything – of course, the police force should have done something when she reported the threat on her life two weeks prior. Now it was too late. Then I just cried. For him and for her and for what it all meant or could mean. For what my home country has become – a mafia state. Words seemed to fail.

The anger and frustration came hot on the heels of that sadness. Outrage. Disgust. They all melted together and the words came back to me in a flurry. Here’s what I shared on my personal Facebook, because I still feel the same:

“They” (Who are they? The powers that be, regardless of political allegiance) might not have ordered the hit but they’ve created the exact conditions that facilitate this kind of brutality. Every politician and law enforcer is accountable. We’re accountable. We’ve allowed for it through overwhelming complacency as a nation.

Oh, and if the police didn’t protect Daphne, how can you be confident that they’ll protect YOU? Your family? That they’ll ‘protect and serve’ because you’re a human being and not because you’re on the same ridiculous “football team” of a political party? That they won’t leave you high and dry because you speak out against corruption (again, forget party colours), or be one of the idiots car-cading to the sound of your death bells? When police rejoice in the murder of a journalist (with no consequences, of course) something is very, very wrong. If you feel safe, you’re not listening hard enough. If you’re not angry, you’re not paying enough attention. If you’re not disgusted, you should be. Keeping quiet is how bullies and scumbags win, or feel they’ve won. We need now, more than ever, to speak up and speak out when we see wrong being done by the people in charge. Forget your party. Fuck the party. This is about your rights and your country. A country that is getting more fucked up by the day.

There have been protests. Vigils. Sit-ins. Some people are standing up and doing things to try and get some sort of justice in the rotten EU state of oh-so-sunny Malta. My only hope is that they don’t stop – that we don’t return to the same lackadaisical attitude that brought us to this point.

There have been statements made by ‘politicians’ trying to ride on the back of this tragedy. The same politicians who just weeks earlier were slagging Daphne off and trying to escape from her pen. Some dared to suggest that heqq, you have to be careful what you say hux (that’s a summarised form of it, anyway). As though pointing out corruption and expecting the culprits to be held accountable opens you up as fair game. I’ve even seen a worrying number of keyboard warriors banging on with their ‘shame on you’s directed at the grieving family for not wanting key figures from our corrupt government to attend the funeral. People are ridiculous.

We still have some strong writers in Malta, but it’s not every day that we get a DCG. That brings me to another thing that’s been on my mind recently – the abysmal state of journalism and news in Malta. Where do our journalists come from? What are we doing to foster good investigative journalism? Are serious journalists even safe anymore? It doesn’t feel like it. Our news outlets are questionable at best, filling their pages or websites with the usual partisan bullshit and barely ever scratching the surface of what’s really happening in Malta. I’ve felt uneasy about this façade we’ve been presenting to the world for a while now. Oh, look, we’ve got the EU presidency! Oh, and look at this, Valletta is the city of culture 2018! Oh, and we did this, and that, and the other! EUROVISION! A news article about toilet hygiene while people are still demanding justice for Daphne’s assassination!

DISTRACTIONS.

The costly aversion of the eyes from the bubbling, open sewers just beneath our pothole-ridden, traffic-choked, garbage-littered streets. Crime. Corruption at the highest levels of government, creating the perfect climate for those looking to do wrong. And yet people persist in keeping their blue-or-red blinkers on, worshipping their leaders instead of holding them accountable for their actions. Make no mistake, voter. You’ll be held accountable for the smallest of crimes – they’ll hold you accountable. But the same rules don’t apply to the ones who supposedly make or safeguard them. Spineless hypocrites (just another term for ‘politicians’).

And I’m sure someone reading this might try to make it look like my views are coloured by one of the major parties on our island. That’s part of the problem, of course. Go ahead – I don’t care. I have no party. To hell with them all. They’ve all failed us. Failed Daphne and her family. We need to start from scratch. Call in pest control because the country is being run by rats. Clean slate. I might be asking for too much, I know.

I won’t be silent. I won’t be afraid. But I don’t think I can bring myself to call that place ‘home’ for now. It doesn’t feel like it.

 

-Kelly

 

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Adult Life, Living Abroad

Moving Abroad: The First 3 Days (ish)

Well it looks like I actually went through with the whole ‘moving to Newcastle’ thing, huh? It’s barely been three days (as I write this post I’ve been in the city for approximately 2 days and 18 hours), but I’ve been running around taking care of all the bits and pieces that need to be done before I settle in properly – namely:

  1. Completing registration at Newcastle Uni
  2. Registering with a GP
  3. Moving in to my accommodation
  4. Getting a UK number sorted
  5. Hitting IKEA for the first time in my life
    1. Trying not to panic about how big and maze-like IKEA is
  6. Shopping for the things I need to function as a normal adult human
    1. Such exciting items include: washing up liquid, laundry detergent, kitchen utensils, hangers, towels, etc.

moving abroad

It’s a work-in-progress..

There’s still a lot left to do, but I’m pleased with how much I’ve sorted over the past couple of days.

moving abroad

Yes, they do get sun here.

21686498_10154974200263316_5596167746482799429_n

One of my favourite parts of the city.

I was worried that I might struggle to talk to people and make friends here, but that was silly because everyone’s been so friendly. I’ve already been to The Botanist for drinks with some other postgrads, a pub quiz, and an actual night out – my first one in Newcastle. We hit a club called Flares, which was an instant winner because it’s totally committed to serving you the cheesiest music and your guiltiest of pleasures (in my case, that’s probably Despacito’). Not a hint of irony. The rest of the night was filled with indie music at a place I’m struggling to remember the name of, but anywhere that plays four Arctic Monkeys songs in rapid succession gets major brownie points from me.

 

 

 

Today I hit the Societies Fair at Students’ Union, and that was pretty cool. I was drawn to the Feminist Society and Debating Society (eek!), and I might look into the Model United Nations Society (double ‘eek!’). Anyway, what’s next? Tomorrow we’re thinking about hitting Alnwick for the day, and tonight the Mediterranean girl in me is craving pasta, so I’m hunting around for the right restaurant. Stay tuned for more northern updates and ‘toon’ quirks…

-Kelly

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