Category Archives: Random

Dodenherdenking/Rememberance of the dead; looking back on my grandmother’s life

Munda

My paternal grandmother was a pretty extraordinary woman. She was born in Indonesia in the 1920-ties where she lived on her parents sugar cane plantation until the family returned to Holland after the Wall Street crash of 1929. The boat trip from Indonesia took six weeks, which is something unimaginable in this day and age, where we can fly to the other side of the world in 30 hours and long boat journeys are a thing of the past.

Last week while in Amsterdam visiting family and friends, my dad and I went to see my grandmothers best friend in Naarden-Bussum. We went on Sunday, May 4th which in Holland is Dodenherdenking or Remembrance of the Dead for the people who fought and died during World War II. Although my grandmother passed away 12 years ago, those who knew her still have a vivid memory of her and her friend was full of fascinating tales as well as slightly different versions of stories we already knew. An apt day to visit her friend and talk about her life.

After leaving Indonesia the two friends did not see each other for a while, they were reunited a few years later in Holland through mutual friends and they remained firm friends or more like sisters as her friend put it, until my grandmother died. It was  a treat to hear about my grandmother from another perspective, from someone who’d known her intimately and not as a mother or grandmother. The woman who was revealed to me during the next few hours was completely different to the woman I’d known as my ‘granny’.

Growing up in the shadow of the Second World War and then living through it as a teenager must have been horrific. My grandmothers family; her father and brothers worked for the resistance, as did she and she lost close family members during the Nazi occupation. She never spoke about these times, not to my father or anyone else until she was much older, I can imagine the memories were too painful and raw to remember and relive.

We did not go into too much detail about the war, rather her friend drew a picture of a very intelligent, headstrong, independent and loyal woman, who was both admired and loved by those around her. How I remember her is somewhat different; as a rather stern, proud and serious grandmother who taught me how to wash up and pass a knife correctly. She would never leave her room until she was completely presentable and her hair done just so, something her friend echoed in her reminiscence, she recalled her as always being elegantly attired, even as a little girl when she was dressed in white with immaculately clean white shoes and stockings.

Hearing about her life made me wonder a lot about what it was really like. How was it in Indonesia during the Dutch colonization, what was it like to grow up there as the colonizers and what was life really like for her during the war? And I realised, in particular with regards to Indonesia, that I have no knowledge of that period in history. Having family who have experienced or lived through something always makes that time a lot more personal and interesting. I think I’ve found a new project; to find out more about Indonesia during that period and to read more about the Nazi occupation of Holland during the Second World War. Her life fascinates me and it makes me realise how things have changed since my grandmother was young.

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Netball – how a non sporty girl found a team sport

netball

Since I can remember I have been very anti sports, avoiding most sports, in particular team sports. PE or sport classes in school proved somewhat difficult to get out of as they were compulsory. My male PE teacher, despite being terrified of and pretty obliging to the “but sir, it’s that time of the month” excuse, did not let us get away with it every week; even he knew that was not possible. The classes I did take part in at school involved my running away from or ducking from the ball more often than not, and I was pretty much always one of the last ones picked for a team; you get the picture.

When I told my mum that I had joined a netball team she literally laughed for five minutes; talk about being supportive! But to be honest I still find it quite funny myself, as I’m sure do most people who know me and my lack of sportiness. Saying that it’s not like I don’t do any exercise at all, I’ve been swimming a few times a week since I was 18 and I’ve recently started frequenting the gym about four times a week, as well as swimming once a week, so I’m not a completely hopeless case!

Going back to my mum, once she stopped laughing over the phone she proceeded to ask me what netball was. Funnily enough I had no idea what netball was either until about two months ago. When a friend and I sat down at the end of the season to put together a list of summer activities we wanted to do, starting a Thredbo netball team was top of the list. At the time I too had to ask her what netball was. I still haven’t figured out whether it’s not a sport we play in Ireland or if it was just the school and Uni I went to that didn’t have netball.

Over the next few weeks we managed to get together a team of about 12 girls willing to play, we’re  a mesh up of people who can play well, those who have played before and a couple, like myself, who have never played before. We went for Thredbo White Magic as our team name and we signed up to compete in the 2013/2014 B Grade competition, which will see us playing in Jindabyne every Tuesday evening until mid April.

netball court

I found the first few practices slightly baffling, I had a netball court drawn up for me with all the positions, and then we played half a game changing positions to see who was best suited for each one. I ended up being selected to play either Wing Defense or Goal Defense. It took me a while to get somewhat comfortable with my position and what I was supposed to do, although I’m still far from competent.

Our first match was last Tuesday evening. As we drove up the the courts I started to panic, there were a lot more people there than I expected and I guess I suddenly realised I had to play a match for real and I was still pretty clueless.  We registered, got our finger nails and jewelry checked before donning our bibs and getting out on the court. As the game progressed I, and I think everyone else on our team got more comfortable in our positions and therefore increasingly confident. We kicked the other teams asses – they were a bunch of 14 year old students and we are all in our 20ties and 30ties – but still! The umpire, much to our disgust, was the other teams coach and the ref was someone from their school, talk about being biased, but we still won.

I have to say it felt pretty good to win and I think everyone was both surprised and pretty pleased. However, that was only the first match of the competition, we still have a lot of games to go and I”m really hoping we don’t have to play the girls who were playing in the other courts; they were pretty big and rough looking. I guess time will tell whether I get any better and how we get on. I’ll keep you posted!

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Bestival 2012; music, food, sun and lots of cider

Bestival 2012

At 26 years old I finally lost my music festival virginity at Bestival last weekend! I had been appropriately briefed prior to departure by the girls and was armed with a tent, sleeping bag, wellies, rain coat, dry shampoo, vodka, beer and lots and lots of baby wipes.

Adorable kids in animal wansies

We arrived at the Robin Hill festival site on the Isle of Wight on Thursday evening. Suitably flushed and perspiring we hiked across the entire site in the sunshine cursing all the people who were backpackless and luggage free. Once the tents were set up however, we gladly joined the throngs wondering around and got ourselves a couple of well deserved pints of Gaymers, our staple beverage for the weekend.

Fancy dress day at Bestival; a pair of Blue Tits, an Elephant, a Killer Bee and a Peacock

We were unbelievably lucky with the weather and despite applying sun cream every morning we still all managed to get varying degrees of sunburn. I currently have three different strap marks on my back. Wondering through the festival site we had permanent food envy, I was constantly peering at what other people

Wood fired pizza

were eating and wanted to try everything. I can’t remember the last time I indulged and ate so much, it was heaven. From cheesy chips with loads of ketchup in front of the main stage,  a delicious paella with lashings of tabasco by the Big Top tent to a divine falafel and hummus wrap  from the vegan and vegetarian stall and a lush wood fired pizza on the way back to the tent I was well fed for the weekend.

Tea & Toast

I also re discovered my love for cheese toasties, I’d forgotten how satisfyingly cheesy these delicacies were. They quickly became our nightly 3am snack on the way back to the tent along with a warm cup of chai tea, mmm. It helped warm us up a bit as it was bloody freezing at night, and somewhat eased the pain of sleeping on thin mats on the ground while serenaded by dodgy guitar playing and drunken warbling from the neighbouring tent.

But the main reason, food, sunshine, time off work and cider aside, that we

Glow in the dark dot work

went to Bestival was obviously for the music. Stevie Wonder headlined on Sunday night and he was totally awesome. The hours leading up to it inflicted by a number of less musically appealing bands were instantly forgotten when he came on stage. The XX were also brilliant and I enthusiastically supported my fellow Irishmen, The Two Door Cinema Club.

Silent disco

From Hip Hop Karaoke, the roller disco in the Bollywood tent, DJ’s in the Big Top, headliners and support groups on the main stage and late night dancing at the silent disco, we got around the festival site. Come Monday morning we were shattered, dying for a shower, a real bed, a clean toilet – without a half hour queue and more often than not an unwelcome surprise at the end – and healthy food. The fresh fruit we picked up from the Farmers Market on our hike back to the bus hit the spot, we were all craving vitamins in a big way at that stage.

I’m not going to complain about the journey back as we had an easy ride compared to the queuing other people had to do. We even had time for a cup of tea and a scone with clotted cream and jam while waiting for the ferry, although we did feel like we were repelling the cafe’s customers a bit. But I have to say I’ve NEVER had a more amazing shower in my life than the one I had when I got home, and my hair, well that took some time and perseverance to de tangle. As for my bed, I’ve never really appreciated how soft and horizontal it is. Ah the small things we appreciate after four days of  roughed up camping!

I say, bring on the next festival!

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Books, books, books; my plunge into the dark side of reading

Books, books, books

Growing up in rural Ireland we never had a TV at home; my parents didn’t believe watching TV was conducive to a child’s upbringing. This caused some issues at school when I had no idea what everyone else was talking about, both Corrie and Eastenders remained a mystery to me until I left home to go to University. Even today I occasionally baffle people with my lack of knowledge on 80s and 90s popular culture.

My parents eventually bought a TV when I was 19, I came home from Christmas during my first year at University and my sister took me excitedly into the living room to point out the new flat screen TV which was covered by a nice blue cloth. The novelty of having a TV wore off quickly and it remained largely covered apart from the occasional evening when we decided to watch a DVD.

Without a TV most of my childhood and youth was spent reading, I was forever in a corner curled up devouring a book. My mum used to ration my book consumption to one a day when we were on holidays; maybe she thought I’d become crossed eyed from too much reading. And years later my sister told me that I had never played with her when we were growing up as I was always reading.

Books have always been a big part of my life, I used to read anything I could get my hands on and birthdays and Christmases were always filled with books. As a teenager I was totally enthralled by red headed Anne Shirley, Scarlet O’Hara and Emily Brontë’s Cathy to name but a few adored heroines, while simultaneously devouring The Lord of the Rings trilogy and all the Swallows and Amazons books. Then in my early twenties – along with all the fabulous books I read in my English literature classes at University – I discovered P.G. Wodehouse, Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Åsne Seierstad and loads of other amazing authors.

I’ve always coveted my books and after living in London for two and a half years I finally got all my things shipped over from Ireland. Over Easter my mum and I spent an entire day going through boxes of my stuff – mostly books – in a freezing storage room in the remote town where I grew up in Ireland. I was so excited when everything finally arrived; five boxes filled to bursting point with books and my old bookshelf. I never felt complete without all my books around me and now I can start re reading all my beloved books all over again.

When it comes to books I’m pretty old fashioned. My boyfriend on the other hand is the exact opposite, always up to speed with technology and the latest trends he’s long been threatening to get me a Kindle. My argument has always been that I love having the physical book, breathing in that gorgeous book smell, and the idea of getting into bed and reading a book on a digital device, well that’s quite frankly wrong!

Vikram Seth vs Kindle

So it was with trepidation that I unwrapped a Kindle for my birthday. I had handled these alien devices in Selfridges before out of curiosity, where I found them to be less scary than I expected. A few weeks later and I’m really liking my Kindle a lot; it’s easy to use, it reads like a book – maybe a stupid observation but it was a real worry–and it’s so light in my handbag compared to the giant copy of Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy which I’ve been putting off reading as it weighs a ton.

However, all that said, I still feel a bit weird using it to read in bed. I’ve got a few books left which I will reserve for bed time reading and use my Kindle for tube journeys and everything else. But I’m sure that sooner or later, with a gripping book I’ll properly descend into the dark side of reading, they’re just too convenient!

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Fitness, health and dieting, the delights of summer

Zumba class, might be me soon!

Health, fitness and dieting, the delights of the summer months! There is an even bigger push for fitness this year what with the Olympics being in London, and everyone is promoting something fitness or health related. I’d like to say I’m not influenced by this but sadly I’m no exception to the masses. I always ramp it up in the summer; swimming more, eating better and generally attempting to be a picture of health.

Now saying that I don’t do diets, I love my food too much. Which is why I hate when people decide to tell me how bad the things I love eating are for me. When I found out how calorific wine is I was so upset. The same goes for cheese, bread, chocolate, pasta, basically everything I love is bad for me in some way; carbs, fat, too many calories it never ends. I’ve even started looking at the calories in products at the supermarket, it’s driving me mad.

One of the things that always baffles me in the world of diets are the bizarre fads doing the rounds. The latest craze I’ve heard of in Sweden is a diet of low carbs/high fat which has resulted in a concerning cholesterol surge in the country. I mean I’m no health expert but that just sounds like a stupid thing to do. The disturbing lack of food origin knowledge in young Briton’s doesn’t do much to help things either, if you don’t know where things come from, well how can you know if they’re good for you or not?

I guess it’s true what they say, we’re never happy with what we have and that goes for health, fitness and dieting as well. Despite my healthy eating habits and exercising – tonight I had an amazing Warm Puy lentil, cherry tomato & halloumi salad for dinner after my 60 lengths in the pool –  I’m still not 100% happy.

During the week I’m a picture of health, fitness etc but on Friday’s and Saturday’s I indulge. Pancakes with clotted cream for brunch on Saturday, takeaway pizza or eating out for dinner, ice cream – preferably Ben & Jerry’s Cookie Dough -, chocolate, bagels, you name it and obviously no swimming or excercise of any kind. So in effect I spend the next week repairing the damage of my indulging weekend. But I’d never give them up, even if it meant swimming every day during the week!

Swimming is all very well but I’ve been wanting to try something else for a while, however, going to the gym is one thing I won’t do. When I was at university I tried Circuit Training for a few weeks, I could barely move after the first time and oddly enough my attendance dwindled quite rapidly after that. One thing I have been dying to try for ages though is Zumba. Although I’m afraid that I might not be quite coordinated enough. It’s not that I’m uncoordinated, but when I lived in Holland I tried street dancing for a few weeks and I was just terrible at remembering the routines.

I’ve been researching the classes at my local gym, they offer all sorts of classes  such as Bums, Tums & Thighs, Step & Sculpt, Body Tone, you name it. No idea what half of them are, but maybe I should just give one of them a try.

With Olympic fever taking over the UK, everyone is pushing fitness and exercise. Some of my colleagues are dedicated enough to go to classes at the gym over lunch  but quite frankly I can’t see the appeal of sweating it out during my lunch break when I should – in theory – be relaxing. Although I don’t know how keen they would be to try out the latest Swedish craze, Lunch Beat which is basically a 60 minute lunchtime boogie, without alcohol of course. Oddly enough I can’t imagine that I’ll be adding that to my midday schedule any time soon.

For the time being I think I’ll stick to trying out a Zumba or Step & Sculpt class and see how that goes!

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It’s a hard life!

As a country lass, I occasionally need a fix of green and fresh air to keep me going, oh and a glass of Pimms never goes amiss!

Pimms, mmm

A few weeks ago on a slightly inebriated night out my friend invited me to stay with her and her family in the Cotstwold for the weekend. So last Friday we went off to the country for a weekend of Pimms, animals, sunbathing and green.

William

After work, armed with wine and sandwiches we boarded the train in Paddington and sped off to the green country for the weekend, where on arrival we were greeted by a flurry of fur and furiously wagging tails.

Poppy

Friday was an early night and on Saturday morning I was woken by chirping birds, sunshine streaming into my room and an excited dog. It was the perfect weekend to be in the country, not a cloud in the sky and beautifully warm; proper sunbathing weather. After a trip to Waitrose where we picked up ingredients for a BBQ – I honestly can’t remember the last time I ate so much meat – we did what we’d been planning all morning; sunbathed in the garden.

First BBQ of the summer

A few rather strong Pimms later, I proceeded to make dessert. An amazing looking Heston Blumental recipe, Diamond Jubilee strawberry crumble crunch, or as we dubbed it, a somewhat healthy Eton Mess. First I made a crumble with ground almonds to go on top which was baked in the Aga until golden brown. Next I whipped up a strawberry compote with vodka, elderflower cordial and rosewater to flavour, and finally a yoghurt and

My somewhat healthy Eton Mess style pudding

cream mix. Once everthing was cooled I layered the ingredients in a glass bowl; first the strawberry compote, followed by the yoghurt and cream, and to finish off I sprinkled the crumble and meringue pieces on top. It was the perfect – albeit filling – dessert and tasted seriously good after the delicious barbecued meat, bread and summer salad, which was nicely washed down with a glass – or two – of Prosecco.

Sunday afternoon, after a roast dinner – controversially my second ever roast dinner – sufficiently stuffed and sunburnt we all too quickly found ourselves on the train heading back to London.

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What do you actually do?

‘’What do you actually do?” is a question I am still often asked, when I tell people that I work in PR. Many people, like my mum for a long time, think I work in advertising or marketing, sometimes even journalism, but people rarely know what I really do. This has resulted in a pretty perfected pitch on what PR is, which I have refined quite exceptionally, or at least I like to think so. 

What I really do, or at least what everyone else thinks I do!

This general lack of understanding is I believe, due to the fact that the lines and boundaries between PR, advertising and marketing are becoming increasingly blurred. If, after reviewing the above image (which is scarily accurate), you are still baffled, well the following may or may not be particularly enlightening.  

The PR industry is ever evolving and as much as we might try to resist the changes, particularly when it comes to the evolving media landscape, the ever increasing importance of social media and the online world. These factors have become an essential part of PR. An example of this is how Twitter, a somewhat self indulgent outlet for many, and one which I personally took a while to make friends with, has evolved whether we like it or not, into one of the major forces driving the global news agenda.

The main media contacts for PRs are undoubtedly still the journalists at all the major news outlets. But increasingly PRs have to engage with bloggers, tweeters and the general public. The mainstream media is changing so fast and new outlets are cropping up so quickly that the PR professional needs to possess an increased level of flexibility and forward thinking. And with the demise of the News of the World and the ongoing Leveson Inquiry, journalism is becoming increasingly volatile.

There are many factors which have affected the PR industry such as the move of many publications from print to online. The global economic crisis, as challenging as it has been for many, has opened up an increasing demand for PR, despite the fact that many companies tend to cut their PR budget, as it is seen as a ‘luxury’ rather than a necessity. Already as it is, journalists often rely on the news provided by PRs for their bread and butter, but with an increase in journalist redundancies and less journalists to send out to find news stories, they are turning more and more to PRs for quick and easy stories to fill the pages of both print and online publications. Many of those who leave the media are turning to what most journalists see as ‘the dark side,’ more commonly known as PR.

The PR industry is rapidly growing, making the landscape increasingly competitive. Maybe in order to continue to evolve, PR needs to one day combine forces with marketing and advertising, offering clients a range of capabilities and an eclectic service. If PR does go this way, well our explanation as to what PR is and what we actually do will be made significantly easier!

With a few days off work between jobs, as you can see I’ve had plenty of time on my hands to muse over where PR may or may not be going. 


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