Travel Talk – Crete 2017

This is my Dad, my Mum, and my brother. In June, we went on ‘the last family holiday’.

Every time I say that phrase, it sounds very morbid. None of us are dying or are off to war or have sworn a familial hatred. I personally think this title of ‘the last family holiday’ is an abbreviation. From my parent’s view, it was ‘the last family holiday when both of the kids are sort of kids, well they aren’t kids anymore, but the last one before university and full time employment ‘, and for Joseph and I it was ‘the last family holiday where we both don’t have to pay for anything’. So, let’s just call it ‘the last family holiday’.

Crete sunset

We went to Crete to spend time together, but also to celebrate my brother’s belated eighteenth birthday, and my twenty-first. My twenty-first birthday landed right in the middle of the holiday. I’ll be honest; there was nowhere I’d rather be on my twenty-first than RUNNING AROUND PRETENDING TO BE NATHAN DRAKE IN UNCHARTED 4. (For those of you who have not played the PS4 games Uncharted 4, Nathan Drake basically drives around some hills in a warm country and climbs small, run down towers looking for treasure. I know, I make the most cultural parallels).

I will be honest; Crete has the most beautiful landscape I have ever seen (and I grew up in hilly South Wales). It is naturally untamed, flowers bursting through old stone buildings. Dusty rock faces that crumble into the sea. Twisty roads that climb into the mountains. It’s just like if the Scottish Highlands and Dubai had a baby. Goats and shrubbery and hills; Scotland. Dust and sea and heat; Dubai.

As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. I was in love with Ancient History; the Romans, The Incas, the Greeks. When I found we were going to Crete, I was so happy; ‘think of all the crumbling old pillars I can see! The walls! The foundations…’ I was a little disappointed when I researched the area of Crete we would be staying in, and found almost zero remains of Ancient Greek history. I was in Greece and I couldn’t even learn about the Greek Gods.  What a first world problem. Of course, I was wrong. Crete was bursting all areas of history, including hidden Greek history.

On one of our first days, we visited the ancient city of Aptera. Aptera was a Roman built city, then take over by the Greeks, until it was destroyed by an earth quake in the seventh century. A monastery of St John Theologos was built on there by the twelfth century and only shut within the last fifty years. Considering most of the city is a thousand years old and was ruined by an earthquake, much of it still stands. Nature had begun to take its course and would have definitely taken over if not for the occasional care of the Crete government. We walked through shrubbery and rocks to explore the still standing cisterns, and the caved in temples. The theatre obsessed side of me was very happy to discover they had an intact Roman theatre with usable seating bank. I imagine we would have stayed much longer if the heat hadn’t been forty-two degrees without a breeze. (Also, when researching for this post, I discovered Aptera was actually a very important place for Greek mythology! Well, sort of. The Muses and the Sirens once had a riff off there.)

Skipping forward a few hundred (quite a few hundred) years, we visited the populous Chania Old Town, and the historic Fortezza of Rethymno, both built by the Republic of Venice in their mid-millennia take over. Both places were subsequently taken over by the Ottoman Empire in the sixteenth century, but hey, let’s look at that in a good light; more history for us to see! Chania Old Town is made of dusty orange brick work, and is famous for the Venetian lighthouse that stands in the harbour. It is as typical as you would think of a large tourist town in Crete. Winding alleyways, open doors into homes, dogs and cats roaming the streets. Sellers trying to flog you jewellery, the warm smell of fresh bread, desolate houses next to luxury villas.

Fortezza of Rethymno was a historic sight as opposed to a historic town. We walked around, admiring the old buildings that populated the inside of the fort; the chapels, a mosque, store rooms, a random contemporary art gallery that scared me a little bit. I would advise wearing walking shoes when visiting the Fortezza; the Venetians did not cater for a sprained ankle and sandals.

I was surprised to find that the island had a strong historical presence from World War 2. The German Army attempted to invade Crete by air, but the Allied and Greek troops defended the island. All that is now left of the war are abandoned pill boxes and War Cemeteries. At the end of the holiday, we visited the Souda Bay War Cemetery, where hundreds of Allied soldiers are buried, many of them unnamed. It was a simple, beautiful, and moving place. A memorial in the centre, white gravestones fanning out across the green grass, flowers perfectly kept. It was a place of stillness.

On this ‘last family holiday’, we did more than just sightseeing. After the first two days of blistering heat, it settled to a gorgeous thirty-four degrees at midday; perfect weather for the beach. We tanned on the sand, read under the sun, and swam in the sea.

Oh, the sea. The sea in Crete was a beautiful azure colour; it looked like someone had taken the entire sea and put a saturation heavy Instagram filter on it.

When I go abroad, I like to be a cuisine connoisseur. What I mean by that is I love food and want to try and eat all of it. When it comes to food, Crete truly holds my heart. My birthday cake was a traditional Crete sweet cream pastry from a traditional street vendor. My birthday dinner consisted of wine, chicken, and the ultimate food; rice stuffed vine leave. Oh my. I felt like I had died and gone to foody heaven.

raPmxN1y

As you can tell, I love Crete. I love its beauty, its food, its history. But there was one thing that I became particularly enamoured with, that I would request we pull over on the side of the road for.

Shrines.

On every road, there would be a small open-able box on the side. There were more on the mountains and on the winding roads. Some were made of metal and were rusting away, others of stone with their door hinges falling off. Some were small and made of marble; some so large they took your breath away. In each little box, there were remnants, memories of someone. There would always be a candle and a picture of a saint within, but the contents would vary beyond that. A perfume bottle, cigarette from two years ago, a medallion, a baby photo. I found out that each of these shrines are dedicated to someone who died in a crash, either on the certain part of the road, or nearby. The shrines are put up to remember those who lost their lives, the contents linked to the person and their families. Some of the shrines were much newer than others; glass doors, no dust, fresh flowers. Some were older but still cared for; you could tell this by the lit candle within.  Some were fifty, sixty, seventy years old, derelict and untouched, apart from the curious tourists. Some of the older ones had been reclaimed by nature; we opened one to find it was now a wasp’s nest, another to find that a rat had made the shrine its home. I found all of them curious and fascinating, but the one marking the entry to a small town was incomparable. There was a stone monument with steps up to the centre, where there must have been at least eight separate shrines. At the bottom of the monument there were even more. Despite my attempts at researching, I can’t find out why such a large monument is there. However, it has stayed with me as pure fascination and admiration.

It may be ‘the last family holiday’ (although I highly doubt it; we’ll always have family holidays), but I only have fond memories of my time in Crete. I turned twenty-one in our rented villa. I found out I was graduating with a 2:1 sat by the pool. I spent time with my family, something I miss now I live in Winchester and them in Wales. I learnt about the country and its history, and lots about the food and wine.

Crete is a damn beautiful island and I had a very special time there.

me

My Employee of the Caudate Nucleus is misbehaving…

Dear Employee of the Caudate Nucleus,

This is an official warning from Head Office. Please consider your recent behaviour and the effect it has had on the Work Place.

In other words, what the hell are you playing at? Seriously. Over the last few weeks, nay, months, there has been an immense deterioration in your work. Like everyone, we all have blips in our work and we’ve discussed that, but this is like nothing we have experienced before. You have completely ignored all of the orders sent to you. For an example, one month ago, I requested ‘A Humorous Yet Savvy Blog Post About the Ghostbusters Reboot – ASAP’. What did I get in return? An essay entitled ‘101 Ways in Which You Are a Failure’. Whoa. I expect this from the Department of Mental Instability, but not from you.

Don’t just think that your change in behaviour and work has only affected Head Office, oh no. You’ve affected a large amount of the other departments too. I went to visit the Music Sector (usually large, noisy, and full of life). I found them all curled up around a record player, crying about the inadequacy of their own lyrics compared to Blur’s and Belle & Sebastian’s. Normally, the Music Sector don’t give a toss about their lyrics; they just want to get loaded and have a good time.  Your neglect on your department is severely affecting theirs. And don’t you get me started on the Department of Dissertation. For the last month, every time I ring them, all I can hear is screaming down the line, and I’ve got to hang up to save my ears.

If this issue was just as simple as your poor behaviour and lack of work ethic, we could have a little meeting, have some coffee, and go back to normal. But it’s not that simple, is it? No. You’ve decided to be theatrical and block off your entire office with a Les Mis inspired blockade. Nothing can permeate that wall – no witty comment about Trump, no opinion of Suicide Squad; not even a discussion about mental illness can drag you out of your hiding space (and we all know how much you love writing about that). I feel you are behaving very unreasonably.

I’m sorry Employee. I’m not angry, I’m just disappointed. All I want is for you to come back to us. Come back to me. Remember all the fun times we had, eh? Writing poems about Dragons in Year 3. Writing for the Young Playwright’s Festival in Year 7. Writing shite Morrissey-esque songs in our awkward teenage phase. Remember how happy we were when we got payed and published for the first time? And who could forget the backlash we got over that Red Light District blog post? Probably not a good example but there you go.

We could have some more good times… if you stopped being an insensitive nonce and pulled your arse out of hibernation. I am so close to firing you and hiring Emma Thompson’s Employee of the Caudate Nucleus (if it wasn’t already hired and didn’t cost so damn much).

Well, I would be so close to firing you if you weren’t just a little part of my brain. The only way to get rid of you is if I had a lobotomy. I definitely don’t want that. That would be painful and difficult, I don’t have time for that.

How about you just started behaving like normal and stop giving me writer’s block? Hmm? Sound good? That would be great.

I hope to see the next piece of work on my desk soon (and not in the form of a soul crushing essay, thank you).

Kind regards from The Head of the Work Place,

Rosie

 

(The Caudate Nucleus is the part of the brain that is used when those who write a lot, write. This is according to Zimmer and Lotze and some other psychologists and scientists. Google it if you are interested)

 

(Originally posted on August 23rd August @ https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/my-employee-of-the-caudate-nucleus-is-misbehaving/_

Twenty Tips From A Twenty Year Old

On Thursday, I had wine with brunch. That’s because I am officially no longer a youth folks, that’s the sort of thing I can do now I am a freewheeling 20 year old.  Isn’t that great? Maybe? I think?

It was my 20th birthday on Thursday. I did have a really lovely day, but the loveliness was intercut with panicky thoughts of ‘I’m no longer a teenager, this means taxes are approaching. How do I council tax? What if I get called up for jury duty? DO I NEED A PENSION YET?’ Although I am technically an adult, I don’t feel I know how to ‘correctly adult’. I know about loans and deposits fees and my dad has tried to walk me through pensions but I just feel like I’m lost in the foggy world of grown-ups. I mean, I’m sure I will learn along the way. That’s just how life goes.

Although I don’t know a lot about ‘correctly adulting’, I know a few things I’ve picked up from other people and from my own mistakes. Maybe this’ll help a few of you stuck in the ‘HELP I’M GOING TO BE AN ADULT’ phase – Heavens know I needed all the help and advice I could get. Here’s my Twenty Things From a Twenty Year Old.

  1. Being an adult is being tired. If I ring my parents, see a work colleague, meet up with some friends, the same conversation happens – ‘Hello, how are you?’ ‘Well, I’m tired but alright’ ‘Oh, I’m exactly the same’. Where did our energy go? Who stole it? These are the questions that need to be answered. I think it begins to vanish once you turn 18 and properly leaves when the word ‘teen’ is taken from our age.
  2. Never mix wines. Say this from experience. Never mix wines. You may think that ‘Oh, they are both made of grapes! I’ve finished my white, let’s move on to red! This is a good idea!’ No. It’s not a good idea. It is really not. The morning after will tell you that.
  3. If you are a student, don’t be ashamed of our good friend the overdraft. In between the sporadic releases of student loans and monthly pay days, it can be a legitimate life saver. Get one, use one, pay your rent on time, and don’t have a breakdown. Wahay!
  4. Wetherspoons is the only place you will ever need for food or drink. Especially when it’s a Thursday.
  5. Who is ready for some advice gained from a Rosie Regret? I know I am! We all know that parents say ‘don’t stand on chairs’. When you are little, you think they are just trying to spoil your game of the floor is lava. When you are 19, you just forget that piece of advice because you want to be a strong independent woman who can hang fairy lights on her ceiling without the help of anyone else. Word of advice; listen to your parents and don’t stand on chairs. You could fall off the chair, land on a metal bedframe, head to A&E with a suspected broken bone, get told by a nurse you have such bad contusions it looks like you’ve been in a motorcycle accident, and you have to be on bed rest for a week. I mean, it could very easily happen to you too…
  6. Don’t be afraid to treat yo’ self, even when you are being healthy. Being healthy is hard. All you can think about is that Chinese food you are missing out on, craving that Pepsi, sighing at the rain you are about to jog in. It is worth it, being healthy feels good. BUT (and that is a big, Nicki Minaj sized but at that), treat yo’ self. Eat you lettuce, drink your kale smoothies, monitor those carbs, but don’t cut out everything. Have that cheeky Dominoes every few weeks. Eat that Galaxy when you are cramping. Have that greasy MacDonald’s when you are hungover. You can be fit and healthy, but don’t make yourself sad over it. Treat yo’ self.
  7. The world is obsessed with finding love. The majority of Disney movies tell us that we will only be fully happy when we find true love (here’s looking at you Disney princesses). I see so many people on social media saying ‘daaaaaamn, I need me a boyfriend’. You don’t. I get it; love is wonderful and powerful and worth it. But you can wonderful and powerful and worth it without love. I was before I was in love, and I am whilst in love. You don’t need a partner to be able to feel full of worth.
  8. This gets shoved down our throats daily, but IT’S OKAY TO FAIL. Failing doesn’t make you a failure, in the same way baking doesn’t make you a baker (a little bit different but you get what I mean).
  9. Let me tell you a Rosie secret; soy sauce is my secret ingredient to everything. Stir fry? Add soy sauce. Pasta dish? Add soy sauce. Making a cake? Soy sauce. Don’t knock it ‘til you’ve tried it.
  10. This one has taken me a long time to learn and accept – it is worth it though. You’ve got to cut out the negativity. Sometimes, we can’t avoid it. That’s life. But if you can cut it out, do it. A quick word of advice though; try and make it a positive first. Don’t instantly jump in and cut a problem out (unless it is necessary to do so) as you could cause serious damage and negativity yourself. Try and talk through the negativity, make people aware. If you can’t, you take those jumbo sized scissors, and cut that negativity out. Negativity doesn’t seem like a real word anymore. Negativity.
  11. Never be ashamed to wear last night’s make-up the next day. I am the QUEEN of this. I forget to take off make-up in the night, roll out of bed at 8.45am, find my make-up is fierce, top up the concealer, and run to my Shakespeare lecture looking like I got up in time for this 9am. If you are still rocking that cat eye liner from last night, top up the powder and the Ruby Woo, and get on with your day. (Just don’t do it for three days in a row, that stuff is bad for your skin).
  12. Fitness isn’t actually the devil. Who knew?! The torture of high school PE may have been terrible and left a lot of people with crippling self-doubt, but when you find your fitness jam, it’s wonderful! At the end of a jog, I feel I can take on the world (after a 20 minute breather). After yoga, I feel like the most Zen person the world has ever seen (for about 10 minutes). It’s just the getting up and starting which is the hard bit.
  13. Judging someone by their ‘virginity’ or ‘lack of’ is wrong. Judging some by the number of sexual partners they’ve had is wrong. Judging someone by their sexuality at all is wrong. Simple? Simple. I don’t need to repeat myself, do I?
  14. Dogs are the only perfect thing on this planet.
  15. Take risks, but don’t be a risky fool. Kiss that person you’ve had a crush on for two months, don’t do it if you are in a monogamous relationship. Choose a degree that you enjoy even if the jobs are low pay, don’t choose a degree you know nothing about. Order a jumbo quesadilla if you’ve never had one before, don’t do that if you are highly lactose intolerant. Raise awareness for the issues between the EU and Britain, don’t lie to get votes.
  16. Being sad doesn’t make you weak or stupid or broken. Come on, this is the 21st If someone says this to you, they are ridiculously wrong and you shouldn’t have anything more to do with them. Sadness is an emotion. You are alive. You are not weak.
  17. Cuddles solve a lot. They don’t solve everything, but they make a few things better.
  18. Platonic relationships are just as important as romantic ones. Make time for friends, stay over their houses, go on holiday with them. Don’t leave friends out in the cold, just because you’ve found someone else you like to spend time with.
  19. Drunk women in bathrooms are gems. I go in needing a pee, I come out glowing from compliments, have a new lipstick on, and 5 spare tampons in my bag. God bless those drunken bathroom fairies.
  20. Old white men in high positions either make the world a better place or ruin it. You can apply that to literature, films, or reality if you want. Let’s try and support the former, eh?

So, there are my tips, hints and advice from my twenty years of falling over, making mistakes, and trying my best.

What is the best life tip you have? What’s your opinion on adulting properly?

 

Thanks for reading,

Rosie, out.

 

(Originally posted on July 10th 2016 @ https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/07/10/twenty-tips-from-a-twenty-year-old/)

Let’s Talk: Thankfulness and ‘That Topic’

Do you know how difficult it is to find an image to represent thankfulness? I’ve spent hours trawling through pictures of white women with open arms, staring into sunsets. I’ve given up. Take it. Take the darn picture.


At the time this blog post is being written, the end is nigh.

Well, the end of June is nigh. Although, with what has been happening in the world right now, I know that certain groups are calling it the end.

ANYWAY, I don’t want to talk about the end of the world (in this blog post anyway). Let’s have a little talk about the events of June.

America is still suffering from the mass shooting at LGBTQ+ club Pulse, and Turkey is on high terrorist alert after many bombs were detonated in Istanbul’s airport. In the UK, Brexit happened, we lost our Prime Minister, members of parliament are resigning, Corbyn is being slated, certain MPs were revealed to have been lying, etcetera etcetera etcetera. To put it lightly, June has been a bit of a horrid mess. When surrounded by so much negative news, it’s difficult to see that good things still exist. We’ve each got our own things, big or small, that make us happy and we should celebrate those good things in the face of adversity, whilst not forgetting the negativity. Let’s spread some thankfulness for the goodness in our lives.

I’m thankful for my flowery pyjama bottoms for looking like fashionable trousers so I can be the comfiest childminder around.

I’m thankful for semi-permanent hair dye for making me feel slightly adventurous and that I actually have a little bit of control over my life.

I’m thankful for Brexit  – WAIT WAIT WAIT, LET ME FINISH THE SENTENCE. I’m thankful for Brexit for making so many more people politically aware and active. Every cloud has a silver lining, eh? (In my opinion, it’s a very big, thunderous, torrential cloud with a very small silver lining, but a silver lining all the same. But, I don’t want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU…)

I’m thankful for Tom Hanks. I’m always thankful for Tom Hanks.

I’m thankful for Facebook Memories for making me smile and remember the good times that were had (and then curl up in an anxious ball remembering things and people I wish I hadn’t occurred. Yeah, thanks for that Facebook).

I’m thankful for the NHS. I always am and I always will be. Without it, I would most definitely be dead (thanks life-long asthma and deadly peanut allergy). However, the incidents of June have made me think what life would be like without the NHS. What would us non-rich folks do? What would happen if it was privatised? Sorry, I don’t want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU…

I’m thankful for make-up for making me look less like a zombie with a head cold, and more like a zombie with radiating cheekbones and killer cat eye.

I’m thankful for having a family who love me, friends who care for me, and companions who support me. I am a lucky one indeed.

I’m thankful for the good ol’ British Weather for giving me a glorious suntan. Oh. Actually, I wrote that entirely wrong in my notebook. What I was meant to write was, I’m thankful for the good ol’ British Weather for consistently raining so I can have a ‘socially acceptable’ excuse for messy hair, instead of ‘oh yeah, I forgot to brush it today’.

I’m thankful for the safety of Winchester. This is not a war-torn country, I am not killed for my faith, I am not a second class citizen because of my gender. It is obviously not perfect, of course not, but at least we haven’t seen, say, an increase in racism and violence since the EU Referendum. Sorry, I don’t want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU…

I’m thankful for Adele. Whenever I’m sad, I find the video compilation of Adele laughing and I am instantly better.

I’m thankful for tea. I’m always thankful for tea. This month, I am especially thankful for green tea; thank you for making me feel healthy even though I drink you with chocolatey Wheetos after a night of heavy take-out.

I’m thankful for my blog and my readers for making me feel like I am actually achieving something worthy, even though I am just curled up in my duvet with unbrushed hair and PJs on a Saturday.

I’m thankful that Boris Johnson has dropped out of the race to become PM. Could you imagine Boris ‘Floopy-Doopy-I-Got-Stuck-On-a-Zipwire’ as PM? No, I couldn’t. However, this does mean a hell of a lot of uncertainty within the government on who will be the next PM. Some people in the running are really not suitable candidates. Sorry, I don’t want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU…

I’m thankful for the Dog Filter on Snapchat. Vain, I know, but it makes me feel gosh-darned-cute.

I’m thankful for the modern day wonder that is Lactose-Free Milk. Thank you, Heavens. I can drink milky tea happily again! I can have cereal without worrying if my soya milk has been contaminated with almond! I CAN HAVE PANCAKES ONCE AGAIN!

I’m thankful for community and the aid that it brings. I’m thankful for law and the safety it upholds. I’m thankful for fairness and the wonder it has on our world. I’m thankful for agreements and trade and links. Sorry, I don’t want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU…

*

Let me know what you are thankful for. Let me know what the good things are in your life, however big or small. Let me know what makes you smile.

Oh yeah, and I guess that I do want to remind you about Britain being voted out of the EU. Just because we’ve had the Referendum and we won’t be leaving for two years, don’t forget about it. It can’t be brushed under the table. I’m thankful that we live in a democracy. I’m thankful for the EU and all it does for our country. Let’s not forget how lucky we are to be a part of the EU.

Rosie, out.

 

DISCLAIMER: these are all my own views. I do not mean to offend anyone. If you voted fairly and with faith that what you were doing was right, I will shake your hand and thank you, regardless of voting position.

(Originally posted on July 2nd 2016 @ https://rosiealou.wordpress.com/2016/07/02/lets-talk-thankfulness-and-that-topic/)