Fears about Coming Home

I’ve clung to the lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Homeward Bound”, “My Little Town”, and Adele’s “Hometown Glory”, each time reciting the words with different levels of excitement. And in just over one week, I’ll have changed residences from a massive metropolis to a village whose population is not even 0.07% that of London. Any of the 300 languages commonly spoken in this hubbub will revert to a measly handful, and don’t even get me started about the diversity shift. I know I’m going to be heartbroken.

Another fear I have is related to communication methods. Being an ocean away from everyone has given me quite a clue about who matters and who I can go five months without thinking about, especially with the absence of a daily “news feed”. I can identify who cares enough to write me thoughtful emails or carve out time to Skype. My fear is that I’ll once again be surrounded by people who I now don’t value as much as I used to. Consequently, I’m worried that by letting in some people who apparently don’t positively affect me as much as I’d like, I will change for the worse. Revert, even. I’ve worked hard and sacrificed a bit to construct the mental wellbeing I’ve proudly created over here and the last thing I want to do is let it disappear.

Without Facebook, I’ve grown confident in the roots of my desires to attend fun events and explore new places: I know they’re not borne out of FOMO or competition. This blog has let me share exciting news in longform (versus Facebook’s constrained status or photo options), therefore ensuring more truth and less bias for “likes”. I’ve told everyone that I’m coming back on that stupid site in June, but I think I’m just going to add my new London friends, maybe stay on for a week, and then hurriedly deactivate all summer until college begins again so I can hear about poorly-publicized (but sometimes amazing) events happening on campus that are impossible to hear about without finding them on Facebook (has happened to me. I hate this but I must respect it.)

Lately I’ve grown fond of soaking up information via podcasts while taking long walks. I’m slightly worried that this habit will wane or become less exciting in a place I’ve lived for so long. I’m also very happy with my cooking habit and ability to provide my own pantry and hope that can continue in some form at home.

I’ve grown used to going out with no shame in reference to how I look or act when I’m in public (don’t worry, it’s nothing that terrible- just, for instance, no embarrassment when I trip or wear a not-so-matching outfit.) I worry this will fade because while no one here knows me and the judgment doesn’t bother me, people at home do know me, have known me for many years, and will continue to mold a reputation for years to come. I’m all for expressing yourself and disregarding others’ judgment, but as most of you readers probably know, it’s tricky to escape your hometown’s critical gaze (and sometimes, gossip.) And truth be told, everyone’s so worried about themselves that half the time, when you make a fool of yourself, no one even notices. However, still a concern.

Right now, my life is really awesome. Honestly worried it has to go downhill from here. Of course I’m looking forward to a lot in the states, but I don’t think it’ll even out. We’ll see.

Finally, I have a few aspects of Wesleyan I’m dreading returning to, such as the negative sides of the students and culture. Here, I’ve been able to feel wholesome and encounter virtually zero pressure to do activities involved in “going out”. That’s not to say I haven’t done anything like that here- I have, but with a great bunch of pals and with locations that are actually prone to be fun, versus Wesleyan’s nightlife that mainly consists of disappointing electronic concerts and frat parties. If anyone is reading this and feels confused about why they don’t like going out at college when everyone else seems to love it, heed these words: it gets better. In Prague and London, I had some amazing nights out with friends where alcohol wasn’t necessary for fun (although it did add) and I didn’t have to listen to obnoxious, enviably intelligent students discuss politically correct race issues and complain about anything they could think of in a Northeastern drawl. Maybe I’m just boring but when alcohol is legal for 18+s, it’s totally more fun to center a party around. Wise elders, feel free to chime in.


And now, a brief log of my time with my Uncle Phil and Aunt Debbie who came to visit! We had a wonderful dinner at a French restaurant in Kensington and a subsequent trip to Westminster Abbey, a major site I admit had been virgin territory to mine eyes until recently. Full of important dead people, including my man C-Dar #win.

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We are quite cute.

Hadn’t seen them in who knows how many years, and it was so easy to talk with them! Great seeing you two!


And lastly, tomorrow morning I jet-set to Dublin and then Barcelona on Monday!!!! No more finals, just RELAXING and doing vacationy stuff! YAY-O-RAMA!

I feel like dancing now. Gonna bust a move, see you in a week!

(P.S. I probably look like a combination of the following gifs.) Au revoir!

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

40 Glorious Routines From The 1988 Aerobic Championships

Lost + Found

Lost: An iPod bursting with constantly updated music.
Found: An iPod dominated by podcasts like RadioLab and Spilled Milk that cuddle my ears on the tube or on long walks around the city.

Lost: Trust in Google Maps’ directions via public transport, which has proven to be woefully inaccurate (mostly for buses.)
Found: Myself, deposited in many unintended locations. But it turned out alright! Which brings me to…

Lost: A nervous heart that beat rapidly upon boarding a bus that would supposedly take me to my destination.
Found: Greater confidence in my ability to ascertain my physical location without a smartphone, usually via one of London’s ubiquitous, helpful street maps. Sometimes, a real live Brit would set aside their reserved nature and help! (Also found: new hand muscles thanks to probably at least 50 lists of handwritten directions!)

Lost: Lots of money. (Maybe not lost… more like spent.)
Found: Lots and lots and lots of experiences. (DUH it was worth it!) I’ve seen quite a few concerts, eaten lots of varied cuisine, and visited a long list of new places. I think food, transport, and travels outside London have been my biggest expenses here.

Lost: It was waning by the end of last semester anyway, but nonetheless, much of the infatuation I once felt with Wes.
Found: Knowledge of what life can be like after college and a growing excitement to pursue that life. Even though mine will probably involve grad school, which is sort of like a continuation of college, it’s another step in the path to move somewhere I choose where I’m supported by a heftier income and therefore possess greater personal freedom. Now that I’ve been exposed to so much, my desires for my future have intensified and grown in number.

And lastly-

Lost: A habit of constantly comparing myself with my peers, usually via Facebook, that too often incurred unhealthy levels of self-doubt (don’t worry, it’s normal, I’m a Millennial.) Also, for that matter, my Facebook account (until June.)
Found: A self that was much more content with my identity and methods of living. The chance to be more self-centered than usual, stemming from my choice of technologically isolating myself from American influences pretty significantly and, well, having a huge new city ready to be discovered at my doorstep… A new type of introspection that came from a much kinder and accepting place than before. I guess it seems obvious now, but this extraction of my virtual persona from a massive judging block surrounded by some very intimidatingly witty and pretty peers (read: unintended competitors) yielded great inner peace. My temporary resignation from Snapchat also facilitated this transition from a state of mind plagued by constant questions of how I could best show off my life to a new mindset where I could live my life according to my wishes, take some pictures for myself and my blog readers, and everyone else would have to make do with stories later on. Honestly, it was an exercise in self-love. Much will change when I return to the states, including social media presence, but I hope I can continue to fend off the tempting gratification that ongoing peer approval infamously provides.


 

As I near the end of “Travels with Charley”, who do I stumble upon but my own Rocinante! (That was Steinbeck’s car that carried them around the US in the book.) Is it a sign??

As I near the end of "Travels with Charley", who do I stumble upon but my own Rocinante! (That was Steinbeck's car that carried them around the US in the book.)

The Power of Loneliness + PAUL SIMON

I’ve been in at least 2 situations where bouncers don’t bother to check my age while my companions get stopped- each of them older than me! Sorta cool.

Also, although I love being so distanced from America through boycotting a conventional smartphone texting service and its apps (snapchat, etc.) and facebook, I admit that that distance has left me feeling lonely more often than I like. Even 3 months in, it’s still sort of strange to rely on email, skype, this blog, and pretty much the post in order to contact friends and fam. However, I still think it’s worth it to stick it out until I return to the states. I’m not sure when I’ll get the chance to majorly de-tech myself (OMG that was an AWESOME PUN. ((detach ~ de-tech)) ) in the future without many formidable consequences. But then I think, but this is just like how it used to be… weird.

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pulling the plug

Loneliness isn’t the same as being alone. As an introvert, I thrive on alone time and rarely feel lonely during those periods. However, although I do have an abundance of independent Sophie time at college, much more than during high school, that amount pales in comparison to the amount at Queen Mary. It’s probably because of a multitude of factors: less in-class instruction time, fewer extracurriculars, fewer friends (it’s worked out well- there’s more to it than just a number, though), etc. And don’t get me wrong- it’s not like I didn’t have enough activities or ideas to fill it. But the fact is that, at least for me, studying abroad exposed me to possibly the most unstructured free time I’ve ever faced (maybe barring childhood summers.)

Predictably, it’s been both favorable and disappointing at times. I’ve relearned how to motivate myself to start essays 3 weeks before they’re due (an eon in college time) but have also confronted new (and accordingly, scary) levels of self-reliance. Going into this experience, I think I understood this partially, but by being in a wildly new place and situation, it’s going to be pretty important to like yourself. You’ll be your only companion, navigator, (mental) conversation partner, and much more during many, many minutes. The specificity of that “many, many” is of course dependent on the type of person you are, but nonetheless, it will probably still be atypically high.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have a stable group of pals since I was little. At school, camps, and other programs I’d prioritize forming bonds with the other kids. But here, although I’ve met some great people, I’ve sought the social interaction I crave in a pretty different way. Or maybe it just feels that way. Here, I supplement my social quota by chatting with strangers also waiting for a haircut or for the concert to start, per se. Relatedly, I feel human connection when

Thousands of strangers squeezed into one arena are suspended in the same energy-charged ether emanating from not just the world-class performers on stage but each other… Hands reach to encircle their lover’s waists, eyes close to minimize distraction from the music, and an undeniable feeling of togetherness unites the pulsing crowd. Even though I’ve come to this concert by myself, there’s no chance of feeling alone.

So yeah, Paul Simon and Sting… you might think of them as peanut butter and pickles, musically. But after being physically tired out by the hit-after-hit, nearly three hour long extravaganza, I have no choice to report that this fusion was incredibly successful. Of course, Sting had a chance to do his rock’n’roll thing and Paul Simon unleashed some particularly mellow tunes on his own time, but when they did collaborate, it was harmonious (PSIMON PUN). I lost track, but I think they played something like three separate encores, each bowling over the audience more than the last- “Cecilia”, “Every Breath You Take”, “Bridge Over Troubled Water”… A total of 36 whopping songs.

Favorite parts:

-When Paul Simon first came on stage, which unexpectedly left me with a face slick with tears. I think it was because I was so happy to see such an influential musician who provided me with stories and harmonies that kept me feeling grounded and comforted during intense times of growing up.

-“You Can Call Me Al” sent the entire audience into a dancing, clapping frenzy. Paul definitely proved his power as a performer.

-“Every Breath You Take”. It was magical. Sting has the voice of a young rockstar, still- the timelessness of his performance was spellbinding.

TODAY WAS AWESOME. And Tips for Not Getting Run Over by London Pedestrians!

It’s eleven o’clock, your half-interesting biology lecture about rodents has just let out, and you’re on your way across campus to a comfy study area. A novice would break out the internal sunshine, but a seasoned walker would know to resist giving in to so soon. Indeed, that stroll will be no walk in the park: it will demand agility, instantaneous decision-making, and something between assertion and aggression. What am I talking about? What it takes to simply walk somewhere in London!

It’s strange, for sure, but the thing is, here, nobody respects any logical rule of staying to one side of the sidewalk. Oddly, they do hug escalator flanks like magnets, but that’s the one exception. So, what you see when walking pretty much anywhere is a horde of people coming at you from every longitude of pavement. But fear not: from a little over two months’ practice, I’ve figured out how to survive unscathed and now you can too!

Behold: the Boston driver trick. If you don’t make eye contact, keep your eyes on a focal point, and bluff as to discourage anyone from trying to alter your pathway, you can silently command the walkway! This doesn’t always work, especially when there are big, lumbering man personalities involved, but it is pretty effective. So there you have it: act as if you refuse to change your walking path and others will accommodate you. Sweet.

It sounds sort of arrogant. But to live in a city, sometimes you have to be ruthless. Especially if you don’t want to expend half your latte’s energy before you even get to work simply by dodging people!


That was this morning. What happened in the hours afterwards was just… a combination of serendipity and good fortune and London magic, I think.

First was lunch: a shockingly delicious chicken and rice soup that I’d made, frozen, and forgotten about. I was rushing to explore London before class, but this soup stopped me in my tracks! It forcefully proved how integral is genuine chicken stock in a soup. The rice, chopped leeks, and a little roasted chicken commanded me to sit down and enjoy. I may have found my go-to recipe! How exciting!

But the fun didn’t stop there. I’d heard rave reviews about this gelato place called Gelupo, so I sought it out and let me tell you– no wait, I sort of can’t, because it transcended language- how delicious this gelato was. I started conversing with the gelatoista (?) about the five-star reviews that had brought me there, and she, in her thick cat-eye makeup and blooming flower balanced above her ear, warmly offered me rapid-fire samples of every single flavor before I could even finish a mind-sentence about how incredible the last flavor was. It’s a pretty nice position to be in, should you ever find yourself practically being force-fed otherworldly desserts on tiny shovel-shaped spoons.

In this instance, I was sold from the first sample: Ricotta and Sour Cherry. I paid four pounds for my treat- a princely sum for a rather petite scoop. But never did I doubt its worth, for soon after I dove into my dairy dream, my mind unconsciously raced through its thesaurus of tasting superlatives until it settled upon the thought of praying to the cherry swirl. I kid you not. I may have had an out-of-body experience today. There were no witnesses, so we’ll never be sure!

I might name my first child "Gelupo"

I might name my first child “Gelupo”

Also around this area of Piccadilly Circus was a fantastically cheeky clothing shop called Lazy Oaf. I’d found it online a while ago, but being in the physical store was a million times more fun! In true Sophie fashion, I tried on the most garish thing there and took a series of embarrassing/YOLO-y pictures. Here’s the least nutty one:

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I felt like a kid in wearing a candy store.

Next was my Museums of London class’ trip to the Saatchi Gallery. I went previously with my mamacita a few weeks ago, but since then they’d changed up their art and displayed some exceptionally exciting art:

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And one last fun day stop:

A tea shop! Ironically, I’d just purchased two cartons of tea at a shop a few minutes before, so upon the sighting of this much cooler shop, I was disappointed. However, after elevating my mood by sampling a trio of cocoa-tinged teas, I told my saga to the sales associate (after asking her what it was like to work at a tea shop; she replied that she is never stressed, gets to give people relief after a long day’s work in (healthy) liquid form, and hears loads of great stories) and she generously gave me a lightning tea lesson and three loose-leaf samples along with a make-your-own-teabag teabag! All for free!

London, you’re the best.


On Monday, Matthew and his friend Forest visited after their trip to Scotland. We had a great time catching up and walking around the city! I was proud to show them Queen Mary, my beloved hot salt beef bagel shop and Brick Lane, Tower Bridge, Big Ben, Trafalgar Square, St. Martin in the Fields and its Crypt Cafe, and they explored Buckingham Palace and St. James’ Park on their own. As with Michelle, it was deeply enjoyable to spend time with another Wes pal and reflect on our adventures together. And exchanging severe dad jokes and puns that make every other person cringe (but not us!) 🙂

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My mom “popped over” to London

Some of my wonderful readers have inquired about where I find energy and time to generate so many blog posts. The answer is that I just love exploring my experiences abroad through writing. I’m inspired to create a lasting narrative of this time in my life and open it up to my favorite friends and family and let them inside my world. I’ve had a separate blog reserved for personal and philosophical musings for something like five years now, so it’s not a new concept, although making it pretty public is.

So about my mom “popping over”: it was so, so wonderful! We enjoyed a lovely weekend together and I’d like to give a small recap of some things we did but not everything, or in great detail.

We visited the Saatchi Gallery (thumbs up), found this hilarious little dog at a gorgeous garden shop, enjoyed Middle Eastern food and snagged a pic on the stairs (lights and tiles in background), then visited the Oxo Tower Wharf (bursting with fascinating creative stores and enchanting watches) and Gabriel’s Wharf for some more fun shops and a great little trumpet/snare drum duo that played some upbeat jazz on the waterfront. A candlelight concert at St Martin in the Fields (a b e a u-tiful church in Trafalgar Square) tied up our day, filling our heads with heavenly choral music. Yes, my mom is amazing!

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A highlight of her visit was a comprehensive rock ‘n roll tour of the West End. We drove past countless residences, places of death, studios, and landmarks of huge influencers of the rock scene including Bob Marley, Paul McCartney, Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon, Cat Stevens, the Beatles in general, Mama Cass… it was so great! Our tour guide used to be a road manager for a rock star (forget who) so he was like an encyclopedia. He even threw in a Coldplay location (I went berserk.) Anyone know of the song “Violet Hill“? It’s deep, dark, powerful tune named after a park in a fancy part of London.

I really wasn’t feeling getting a picture at the Abbey Road crosswalk because I felt like such a tourist, but somehow my mom and the tour guide ended up staging the included photo. Can you tell who wanted the pic and who wanted to not get run over? It is pretty funny though.

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We learned so much, covered an incredibly large area of London, and rocked out to some great music all the while. The guide even told me that Paul Simon was involved in East London/the UK, recording The Paul Simon Songbook and writing Homeward Bound there!

I’d definitely recommend this tour if you’re into London’s rock ‘n roll history.

Fittingly, just a few days later, my London and its Museums professor told us that the day earlier, when he was teaching at the Tate Britain with a different group of students, he turned around and there was Mick Jagger. A scruffy one, he said, but all the same, Mick Jagger!


The last great thing I’ll mention is our trip to the over-the-top artsy restaurant Sketch. The atmosphere, decor, food, bathrooms… I was incapacitated with wonder.

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It was my first real dining experience, and I can’t wait until I have enough dinero to afford another one. The basis of food is art and appreciation for flavor, which deeply resonates with my views.

It was fantastic to have a family member visit me. However, as my friend Caroline talked about in her study abroad blog, it’s also difficult to let go and realize you won’t see that special slice of home again for months. Now that I’ve readjusted to college life, I’m fine, but I sorely missed my friends and family on my birthday (Feb 18). I’m very happy socially over here, but nothing can compare to the physical closeness of friends and family on a special day like a birthday. Can’t wait to see my beloveds upon my return in May or June!

Up next: One-day trip to Venice!

heres and theres

I think I’m graduating to a higher level of cook. As last semester’s half share in the veggie co-op was good preparation, this semester I’ve been faced with the task of cooking food that is:

  1. Healthy
  2. Tasty
  3. Inexpensive
  4. Easy to reheat & freezable or speedy to make.

I’m also tasked with using up my weekly delivered box of veggies (online deal for half price!) before they wilt or go bad. It’s definitely a lot of work but for anyone who wants a challenge that will no doubt prepare them for adulthood, it’s worth it. I haven’t taken pictures, but I just wanna brag a little about what I’ve made recently. Ten seconds of humblebrag time starts NOW

  • Two roasted chickens
  • Shakshuka
  • Chard frittata
  • Squash bread
  • Swede and carrot soup (with homemade stock!)

Humblebrag rant end.

Last night I found a few webpages that tell you how to cook something without a recipe. It’s just like how school is supposed to ultimately teach you how to think versus memorize facts. Recipes are great sometimes but understanding the basics of cooking should come first, in my view. It reminds me of the wisdom that, in order to be successful, you must first learn the rules, then duly break them. Totally applies for ordinary college cooks.

Here are three pages that tell you how to make dishes without recipes:

Frittata

Pea/Lentil Soup <– this guy has a lot of good info

Chili

Also, surprisingly (but also completely understandably), vegetables and comparatively unprocessed foods are pretty cheap sustenance. Last week I made 5 meals out of one roast chicken and lasted over a week on about $12 worth of veggies. It’s not hard to roast a chicken, I swear!

What is your favorite thing to cook? Or something you’re proud of having made? Or want to make?


Yesterday I went rambling around town, pretty lost and in the rain. I was unusually happy, though, and I think it might’ve been because of how friendly the people are. At least in the East End. I was traipsing around a random residential area trying to find the “community cabin” where a swishing event was occurring. Swishing is what they call a clothing swap. It was great- brought some clothes I intended to leave here and got a few staples to keep me going, for free! But back to the kind people: One man, speaking some broken English, walked me closer to the general vicinity on his way to the market. A few minutes later, he saw me again and pointed me even closer. A guy on the street looked up directions on his phone for me (this happened a couple weeks ago too.) And the people who are clueless are warmly apologetic.

A supermarket security guard cracked a joke, a wrap place gave me a free wrap even though my coupon was messed up, and my friend told me a story where after accidentally bumping into them at a bar, an older man apologized and then bought her and her pal drinks (then left.) East London may be lacking glitz but it’s certainly full of good people.


The chocolate here is a million times better than anything you can munch on that’s inside of an American Hershey’s wrapper. Heck, compared to British chocolate, you might as well just eat the wrapper.


Just watched a movie called “Ask Me Anything” that was pretty lame but had some ear-widening quotes at the end. Six second back story so you can contextualize: this girl blogs for a year while she figures out her life before college.

Can I do it? Just live without describing everything I do? Can I cancel my reality show and become a better person? -Katie, describing her intent to end her blog

Katie: “I’m not even proud that I have a blog.”
Bookstore guy: “I like that it’s creative, and that it’s verbal. What I don’t like is that it’s public. Your generation is addicted to attention.”
Katie: “I know. it’s like we all wanna be famous even though we’re not good at anything.”

Now I’m even more self-aware about the narcissism of blogging. Gah, not gonna dwell on it. I’ve swum too many mental miles of self-doubt and the meaning of it all to quit now.


And now for a most random finish, here are some pictures of pictures from an exhibit at the British Museum. It was called “Cradle to Grave” by Pharmacopoeia and was a centerpiece of the Living and Dying room. Very interesting. Pretty much, the middle was a big quilt of pills stitched together to represent the average Western way of medical treatment and on the borders of the glass case were pictures that displayed a man and woman’s life from birth to death. Like the exhibit in general, this installment did a great job at retaining an optimistic view on life and acceptance of death as a part of it. Here is the big pill quilt and some pictures I particularly enjoyed.

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The average Brit is prescribed 14,000 drugs in their lifetime

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Attempt to Identify Culture Shock, Round II

3/4 of my classes seem very manageable, but the fourth, which is a third-year class (only three years of uni, versus our stretched-out four) is very challenging. When reading two of the articles required for class, I stumbled on literally every sentence. I’m not used to that at all, even at Wes! That may be because I steer clear of classes that suggest complicated internal dialects. To illustrate: Biology has an entire vocabulary of its own and I’m able to understand it much better than Economics vernacular, for instance. Epistemologies and ontologies and Hollywoodism (an actual word from a paper I just read) make me stumble. Here’s hoping that with enough reading and office hours, I’ll make it through. Ugh.

It’s also hard to stay patient while making friends. Especially when you have introvert tendencies.

Luckily it’s getting easier to buy food each week. I also found a groupon that delivers veggies to my door weekly for a month (half price!), making it a lot easier to get elusive English vitamins I crave. England has a very carbohydrate and protein-rich diet (fish and chips, steak and kidney pie, tea cakes, bangers and mash, Ploughman’s lunch, Sunday roast, Yorkshire pudding, Welsh Rarebit… see a pattern?)

It’s hard to see all of the students here congregate after class, laughing and playing football (UK version) with each other, when I’m still at the phase where I see friends on the weekend and during class. I’m glad that I’m independent enough so that this doesn’t force me to explore the city with people I’m not very into, but it may be working against me by letting me be so free so often… Or did that last clause make no sense?

Here’s Wesleyan’s page on culture shock. Honestly, the symptoms sound like a day in the life of a teenager, which I’m only a year past, so it’s difficult to ascribe my present loneliness, for example, to CS or just my life as a twenty-year-old. Have a look for yourself.


In other news, I changed the layout of this blog for a freshening-up. You can better notice the links that I embed in text and although you have to click the three parallel bars in the upper right hand corner to see some of the widgets (such as “Today I learned…”), I think this layout is cooler. Easier to comment, too 😉


I’ll finish with a black pudding experience montage.

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Nah, I’ll finish instead with a really wonderful-looking plate of food. In short, I am going back. Again, and again. LOVE YOU HUMMUS BROS!

you are my sunshine, you make me happy when London skies are grey

you are my sunshine, you make me happy when London skies are grey