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Dec. 3rd, 2012

Problem: have had to come into office because Blackboard so slow as to be unusable from home computer. Work being effectively a public place, however, this means I also need not to be a gibbering, screaming wreck - not least because having a breakdown while at place of work is probably a disciplinable offence, also face of the university, yadayada. But holding it together takes so much effort that I can't get anything done; and anything extra makes it impossible even to do that.

Currently hiding in toilets; there's another problem -- my complexion doesn't respond well to crying, so 5 minutes of unavoidable breakdown in bathroom requires half an hour of hiding to recover.

Um... help?

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I want to take some aspirin because pain is interfering with my concentration but am also in need of a therapeutic brandy (luckily I have some in my desk drawer from Tuesday's office campout) and the combination would be on an empty stomach thanks to having had no time to eat today (and now my stomach hurts so I don't want to eat). Are the chances of this causing a GI bleed really that high or should I risk it, do you think...?
Reading this amazing series, "I do not have an eating disorder", and especially this particular post has really brought home something I should have realised a long time ago:

Nobody ever perceives your body size objectively -- even (perhaps especially!) you.

Hmm, after some reflection, cut for possible triggering discussion of weight/size-related issuesCollapse )
Things I need to learn, #117 and #118: Moderation; and learning to monitor and respond appropriately to my own needs, physical, psychological and mental.

It is far too frequent an event that I end up at work too tired to go home and rest, or too hungry to go find food. In fact, the 'too hungry to get food' happens often at home as well -- I put off eating in favour of doing apparently more urgent or important things until I get to the stage where I can't think properly any more because I'm so hungry, at which point I also can't think well enough to obtain food in any organised manner (like cooking, or being concerned with nutritional balance) so I eat whatever random things require the least effort and time. Ketchup or HP sauce and mayonnaise on crackers has made a disturbing reappearance in my diet of late. But, it has just occurred to me, in both these situations I don't actually consciously realise (or allow myself to realise) that I am tired or hungry _until_ it gets to the point of being critical, when as a result I am then much less capable of doing anything about it! Listening more carefully to what my body is saying; paying deliberate attention to how I feel -- this might help me solve the problem.

(As an aside, I don't know whether my resilience to adverse factors such as hunger and tiredness has decreased, so that levels I was once able 'safely' to ignore now compromise my ability to function, or whether the threshold up to which I am able to ignore them has increased. Likewise, I don't know whether I have become more able to focus on the things with which I am preoccupied, that prevent me from acknowledging my basic needs, or whether I have become less attuned to these needs...)

Sitting in a deckchair on the beach, looking out over the azure sea as the setting sun turns the desert and mountains of the Sinai peninsula a deep rose-pink... I feel very lucky to have the chance to experience this and so many other moments of beauty.

(Now, if only I could work out how to upload a photo and share the scene with you...!)

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Week 7

When I last posted, a week ago, I was on the bus on the way to the monthly NUPG meeting. Today, I am on the bus on the way back from Oslo, where I went last Friday to see pyrrha17 as a birthday surprise. My office was being renovated and hence unusable for the latter part of the week, and Lee was away in London since the previous weekend on various tai chi courses and a conference, so rather than sit around at home I decided to go visiting!

We have had a lovely weekend of chatting and catching up (I realised it must have been been around 4 years since I last saw brong! And D & E have grown up so much) and sightseeing too. I got in around 11:30 on Friday, found my way to the right block of flats thanks to instructions from brong (who sort of had to be in on the secret, really - I didn't want to turn up completely unannounced and find that they had all gone away for the weekend or something!) -- and then had to phone pyrrha17 to say "um, happy birthday and by the way which is your flat, because I'm standing in your hallway..." After she had time to recover a bit from the surprise, we went out for lunch and a walk around. The local area is quite charming -- the flats are just by the river, where there used to be a mill. Lots of the historic buildings still remain, and there's a beautiful waterfall, which was frozen into a cascade of waves and ripples of ice! We walked down to Grønelokke, a nearby street lined with funky shops and cafes, and had lunch at an 'ecological' bakery where I ate the messiest but deliciousest sandwich ever, with a Norwegian cheese called brunost. It is a dark, caramel brown with a smooth texture and has a sweet, creamy but slightly tangy flavour -- I meant to get some to bring home but forgot. Oh well, next time...

brong and the kids got home around 5, and we all went out for sushi. The plan was to go to a place just round the corner, but when we got there we discovered it no longer existed and was in the process of turning into a Mediterranean restaurant instead! Luckily there seems to be an abundance of sushi restaurants in Oslo, possibly because fresh fish is already a key part of the traditional Norwegian diet, so we were able to find an alternative without much trouble, and the sushi was delicious! So was the flourless orange birthday cake brong had made, which we had with raspberries and ice-cream for dessert.

Saturday the weather forecast was a warm 6C with drizzle, so we reluctantly abandoned our initial plan of going ice-skating and headed to Vigelund statue park instead. This is basically an enormous outdoor art gallery and public park devoted to the work of the sculptor. Dozens of larger-than-life bronze figures line the walkways, depicting humans at all stages of life, in various states of motion or emotion, singly and in groups. The centrepiece is a fountain (frozen at this time of year, of course) lined with friezes of mysterious scenes, also in bronze. Behind that, a flight of steps leads up to a huge granite obelisk composed entirely of intertwined human figures -- quite awe-inspiring, even considering just the scale of the work. The winter landscape of the park also made a striking impression, with the black silhouettes of bare trees standing in long rows, stark against the white snow.

Of course, the main highlight for the kids was playing and sliding in the mounds of snow. We took them to the playground for a bit (where going on the swing was a bit of a highlight for me too, I have to admit) and then they found a huge great dirty pile of snow to climb and slide ALL the way down, getting gloriously wet and muddy in the process! And then we got on the tram :D

By this time everyone was ready for afternoon tea, so we stopped by a branch of Deli de Luca for some boller. These soft, cinnamon-spiced buns are a traditional Norwegian treat and come in varieties including plain, raisin and choc-chip, the last being a perfect accompaniment to my hazelnut chai latte. Instant sugar high! We walked some of it off on our wander down Carljohansgate, the main street in Oslo, where I got to see the Palace -- only from a distance, but apparently the Norwegian royal family are the least pretentious monarchs ever and are quite happy to let people wander through their gardens, up to their windows and even (by appointment only) inside the palace itself! We didn't have time for that though, so I merely looked at the view from the front. Other places of interest were the main square, where the free public skating rink (just byo skates, or you can hire them if you don't have your own) operates during winter, the parliament house where the Storting is held, the National Theatre and the University, as well as the main shopping street, which is wide, pedestrianised and lined with expensive-looking shops.

On the way home pyrrha17 and I stopped off at the supermarket -- always a fun experience in a new country -- and picked up a few things. I was fascinated by all the assorted fish-bits on sale at the deli counter (roe sacs, tongues and liver among them) but settled for a nice fillet of salmon sashimi to have for a starter. E loves sashimi; I am most impressed -- how many 6-nearly-7 year olds do you know who like raw fish?

We got home to tantalising smells emanating from the kitchen, where brong had already started dinner. I'd brought over several packs of tofu in different varieties (for the record, even the silken tofu in cartons made it through airport security) because it's not so easy to get in Oslo. The fried tofu puffs along with some vegetables became a very tasty stir-fry, accompanied by homemade baked potato wedges. Yum. Poor D was a bit sick when we got home and went to bed early, and the next day she was snuffly and snotty, so pyrrha17 and I headed out on our own and left the rest of the family to a nice lazy Sunday while we went down to the Nobel Peace Prize Museum. I hadn't realised that although the other Nobels are all awarded in Sweden, the Peace Prize is awarded in Norway. The museum had a set of interactive displays with lots of interesting information about the history of the prize, Nobel and his legacy, and all the past laureates, as well as some temporary exhibitions. One of these was related to the 2011 award-winners, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Leymah Gbowee and Tawakkul Karman, three women who have been instrumental in supporting women's involvement with peace negotiations; another was a side-by-side exhibition of two sets of photographs from Afghanistan, one of soldiers, the other of local women -- some very powerful images. We were so caught up in the museum that it was about 3pm by the time we came out. Hungry and in need of lunch, we ended up going back to Deli de Luca for some savoury baked goods -- pesto calzone with lashings of garlic -- and the most amazingly dense, fudgy, chewy and gooey brownies, one chocolate with sticky caramel and chocolate chunks, the other like a Snickers bar with crispy salty caramel, peanuts and a creamy mousse layer. They were so good we had to get another lot, along with some Cocosboller (like snowballs, marshmallow covered with chocolate and coconut) to take home for brong and the kids to try. As it was a bit late to try heading anywhere else (and besides, we were comfortably full and feeling lazy after all the chocolate) we decided to walk home (less than 2 miles, so an easy stroll) and take our time wandering through town on the way. We were rewarded by a spectacular sunset and numerous glimpses into the life of the city, from small shops and local cafes to landmarks such as parks, cathedrals and sculptures -- Oslo has more sculptures on display than just about anywhere else I've seen. When we got back brong had made us dinner again -- tacos this time, which were great (though I was still quite full of lunch) -- and then the girls got out their Disney songbook for a bit of music before bed. Today was a school day so everyone was up early. D & E headed off to their school holiday activity programme at 9; meanwhile I packed my things and then we went to the Fram museum. The Fram was Amundsen's ship for his successful South Pole expedition, just over 100 years ago. When she was taken out of commission around the 1930s, they brought the entire ship to a site on a promontory just outside the city centre and built a museum around it! Around the walls are displays telling the history of Norwegian polar exploration, from the early voyages in the mid-1800s, the North Pole and Northwest Passage expeditions, and Amundsen's historic Antarctic voyage from 1910-1912, along with his race against the British team led by Scott to be the firat to the South Pole. In the centre, you can actually board the Fram, walk around on the deck and go below to see the tiny cabins where the men slept for up to three years at a time, the galley, dining area and (not very much) recreation space, the internal timbers of the ship, and the engine room down below. Absolutely fascinating stuff, particularly for anyone with even a passing interest in the subject, and very well presented. We timed our visit pretty well, as I made it onto the airport express back at the central bus station with 5 minutes to spare... and after a 2 hour bus ride to Torp, a 2 hour flight to Liverpool airport and then a coach trip, here I am back in Manchester!

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Weeks 2-umwhenisitnow?

First there was going to be an entry beginning "omg, two weeks?"', then it became "omg three weeks", "four weeks", and now I've kind of lost track. Oops.

But, (back to the original planned post here) what an amazing hmm-unspecified-amount-of-time it's been!

To be fair, I got back on Feb 2nd and after 2 days was off again to The Hague, so I am still catching up with myself -- but it's not a very good begin-as-you-mean-to-go-on, having neglected to chronicle the entire last month.

In short summary though, the HK/China trip was... good but weird; I've become unaccustomed to behaving as part of a large herd, let alone one where the norms and terms of group behaviour are a) largely unfamiliar, b) not something I have any input into and c) enforced by financial penalties, not just social ostracism. Perhaps I begin to get an inkling of why the choral IV scene can be so alienating to those not part of it. Still, we don't force people to buy the entire group's worth of meals for being 30 seconds late...!

There were plenty of good experiences on the trip, though, once I'd set my clock 7 minutes fast to accord with Group Mean Time and we learned always to turn up 15 minutes earlier than the supposed meeting time. Plus my eyes have been opened to the benefits of a regular getting-up time as opposed to whenever-I-can-get-away-with. This will hopefully help me deal a bit better with work as being Just Work (from which, the corollary should be, I go home at a reasonable hour as opposed to whenever-I-feel-I-have-to-stay-til-to-deal-with-unmanageable-pile-of-things).

I was vastly relieved, though, to wave goodbye to the rest of the group on 19 Jan and be master of my own time once more.

After a day of frenetic work finishing a paper and a most pleasant if short interlude in the island paradise of Mui Wo, I was off to Japan!

(which was utterly awesome but will have to be described later, as I'm about to get off the bus!)

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