Oslo, 15.07.2020

I suddenly find myself in a situation I haven’t been in before. I’m sat in a borrowed fifth floor flat in the middle of the biggest city in Norway, looking out over the sun setting over Oslo, shrouding the parks and the buildings and the castle in mid-July nighttime. This is a fairly quiet part of the city center, but compared to my 2000 people-hometown, everything seems grand and loud. People are wandering on the streets below me, and I am both in the middle of more bustle than I’m used to, and also so incredibly on the outside of it. Not a bad place to be, really.

Big cities are strange. It’s in the cities stuff is happening. Big cities mean life, big cities are synonymous with energy, big cities smell of adventure, new foods and bright colours. People gather in big cities, huddle together in big cities, but people are also incredibly lonely in big cities. Big cities are for dreams and worries and ambitions and nails bitten short.

At the moment I’m so very new to this city. I’ve never lived with the sounds of trams passing outside my window, and it’s a new experience. Maybe the best way to get used to the city bustle is to sing with it. I tried that; a song about how no matter what else you have or haven’t got, at least you’ll always have tomorrow. Maybe the city is a little bit more mine now than it was this morning. Maybe it’ll be a little bit more mine tomorrow. Like I said, I’m so incredibly new to this city. I don’t know it properly and it certainly doesn’t know me, yet. But maybe one day. Maybe this city will lead to small changes that will lead to big changes, maybe this first temporary stay will lead to some sort of personal growth I’m not prepared for and certainly not aware of at the moment. This feels like the beginning of something – I’m just not sure what.

I brought one of my favourite mugs, filled it with tea and now I’m sat overlooking the buildings and the trees in the park. Cars, trams, taxis and electric scooters; meters below me life is going on and on. I can’t wait to join in, but for tonight I think I’m just going to feel oh so very fortunate to suddenly find myself on the rooftops of the capital, to see the city from above, to be in the middle of what feels like everything, and still be a little bit distanced from it. I’ll learn and grow and get to know this city tomorrow. I’m very excited about it.

-Andrea

Book quotes to live by (more or less)

As cliche as it might be, sometimes books just speak to you.
I was looking through old folders of videos, and I found two videos recounting my favourite book quotes of years long gone and passed. There was one video from 2010 and one from 2013 and it was interesting to see what kind of quotes and books made it into those videos, what quotes I felt it important to remember “for ever” and what words I wanted to share with the world. It made me think about the quotes that are important to me now, and it made me want to remake that video with my favourite books as of late.

So here goes; a couple of words to live by, some to laugh at, and others to simply enjoy.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

Spring showers and seconds saved

This morning finds me with a cup of tea and the fourth Witcher book wide open, the window cracked and the sun streaming in. Last night I handed in the last assignment I’ll ever do at uni, my BA thesis has been safely handed in too, and there is nothing else left to do with five years of university. This might be as close to a perfect morning as I can imagine. A perfect spring day.

No one anticipated how this year was going to go, and not in our wildest imaginations would any of us guess that this would be how we’d spend our spring: quarantines and travel bans and social distancing. Working on exams and hand-ins and the thesis has been a godsend in keeping my routine quite close to normal, and for that I’m grateful.

This situation has brought a strange end to my time in Kristiansand, though, and I’m trying to come to terms with it. This city, which has been synonymous with lovely people, social gatherings, study groups and wine nights with people who’ve become my closest friends, now seems rather cold and lonely. Luckily I’ve made friends with the next-next-door neighbor, and we wave and chat across our balconies, both in our own little spheres. Cross-balcony tea parties have become our specialty, and they’re definitely something that’s gonna stand out as the marker of 2020. So, what did you do in April ’20? I finally got into rooibos tea, and drank copious amounts of it while chatting to my new German friend who got virus-stuck in Norway, while both chillin’ out in our respective flats. 

I wonder how many times people have said “I’ll never take a hug for granted again”, from their little self-isolated bubbles, but I’ll join the choir. I hope we don’t forget this time too easily when “normality” comes knocking on our doors; I hope I never take socialising for granted again. Not that every single night out needs to be filled with mindfullness and extreme gratitude, but maybe there’ll be time for a little thought sent to just how lucky I am to have kind people around me. Maybe I’ll just have an extra little think when I’m sat next to someone I care about, with their arm around me as the waves crash against a shore we’ve dragged the boat up on. Maybe I’ll be a bit more grateful for the loud music escaping speakers on a massive stage, and enjoy the feeling of a really good summer concert outside, on one of those nights where the mosquitos forget to bite and the breeze is warm and calm and the sun never really sets. Maybe that will be the time to send a small thought to when we weren’t allowed to gather more than five people in total, to when hugs were out of the question and bright spring nights were intended spent indoors. 

However, this time has made me reconnect properly with friends who have moved away, friends in other corners of the world and different countries, and I really appreciate that. Having to suddenly do all socialising online really bridges the gap of “moved to a different country”.

I’m still filming a second a day, and those seconds are strange to watch back when times are so quickly a-changing. I’ve decided to split 2020 into 3 videos, “January to April”, “May to August” and “September to December”. I did intend to post this earlier than now in mid-May, but oh well..
This year has already proven that it can take us for a ride, that it can twist and turn and properly surprise us, and I’m both anxious and excited to see what else this year has in store for all of us.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day!

-Andrea

Dismantling the Postcard wall and getting rather nostalgic about it

I’m moving out of my flat on the 15th of June, which is, objectively, still more than a month away. However, spending so much time inside this flat lately has really made me think about what this flat means (and has meant) to me and what the future will hopefully bring, and in a fit of … not really inspiration and definitely not passion, but in a fit of something, I decided to dismantle my postcard wall today.

I love my postcard wall. When I first moved to Kristiansand I bought my first ever mailbox, and for a couple of moments, I felt like a proper adult. To fill the mailbox with nice things, I joined Postcrossing, and since September 2018 I’ve sent 203 cards and received 202. Every single card has been meticulously pinned to my wall, and today I’ve taken them all down. It took me about an hour – I wanted to have a read through, and properly look at all of them, not just tear them down.

The postcard wall has served as an interesting and unique piece of decoration to make a student flat seem a bit less dull (and orange, that wall is oh so very orange). It was the one thing people always commented on when they entered my flat; there was always a “wow” or a “what on earth is all this?” But more important than that – it made the flat feel a bit less temporary. The postcard wall was “my thing”; 202 greetings from 202 people I’ve never met, 202 people’s handwritings and well-wishes from around the world, and something that slowly built itself up around me. And as I was taking the cards down, I looked at so many of them and I realised that I can remember receiving almost all of them. I remember when specific cards popped into my mailbox, how quickly I ran inside to register them and pop a message back to the sender, before putting them up on the wall, contemplating whether the front or the back should be on show. I do not know where any of the cards I’ve sent ended up, but maybe they’re on someone else’s postcard wall, or in an album or a box that someone flicks through when they need a smile or a giggle. The postcard wall has definitely made me feel safe and at home, like I’m surrounded by these snippets of time, these conversations happening at kitchen tables and desks all around the globe. What a privilege to get to be a part of such a thing.

I’ve moved six times in the last six years, but this is the first flat I’m genuinely sad to leave. Taking down this wall, which I’ve appreciated so much, felt like the first step to taking my time to thank the flat and start moving out of it. Having to rush all of these cards down, while simultaneously trying to pack up everything else just felt wrong; the cards needed their own time and their own moments. Silly, I know, but it just felt right.

So here you go, I hope you enjoy this little snippet of how the postcard wall came to be history. A lot less dramatic than I make it sound, but to be fair, removing the first card felt quite dramatic to me. Then it became a bit meditative, as I read through the kind words of strangers who’ve all given me a little bit of their time on the back of a card, who all helped make this flat feel a little bit more like mine. And without planning for it, the very last card left on the wall, the very last to be carefully taken down, was actually the very first I received. Full circle, and all that.

Here’s to many more postcards, in many more mailboxes to come. I hope you’re having a lovely day, and that you’re staying safe wherever you are.

-Andrea

55 of my favourite things, pt. 5

~ The Horror and the Wild album ~ world poetry day ~ the first dandelions of the season ~ spring starting to peek its head through ~ “Fair” by The Amazing Devil ~ (almost) daily snapchats of my best friend’s son of about 2 and a half ~ Microsoft Teams ~ The 2016 Moomin Summer mug ~ my nephew’s small hands tucked into warm mittens ~ lavender hand soap ~ hula hoops ~ the coastline ~ the blue table cloth-turned-bedspread which I bought at a stall on the Winchester high street and still love and cherish ~ surprising messages from people I haven’t spoken to in a while ~ loving messages from people I talk to every single day ~ the bluetooth speakers I just managed to get working ~ gathering data for my BA thesis ~ the day getting longer and longer ~ people taking the corona epidemic seriously and coming together to fight the spread of the virus ~ walks along the rocks by the fjord on my own ~ the fjord ~ my little uni flat ~ the bookshelves at my parents’ house ~ my mum’s knitted cardis ~ ao3 subscription emails ~ the on-going search for the perfect jar to store tea in ~ “morning coffee” at work ~ all the musicians live streaming home gigs right now ~ my mum’s chocolate cake ~ a clean kitchen ~ cheesy 2010-romances ~ old diaries ~ a tidy room ~ nicknames ~ finding the perfect birthday present for someone even though it’s not their birthday for many many months and being so excited to give the present that you almost let slip what it is ~ The Witcher book series ~ my IKEA stuffed shark called Willie ~ crossing stuff off my to do list ~ a good sleep schedule ~ living by the sea ~ donating blood ~ being the first one to get up in the morning and popping the kettle on ~ home-knitted slippers ~ “your package has been shipped” ~ rediscovering old favourite books ~ being ahead on tomorrow’s to do list ~ the quiet of living in a tiny place ~ coincidences ~ discount coach fares ~ succulents ~ emails that are easy to write ~ BA thesis tutorials on skype ~ the sun ~ good colleagues ~ skype hang-outs with friends ~ plans for the future ~

Image by Peggy Choucair from Pixabay

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

“Love in the time of Covid-19”

Have a poem, with the aforementioned cliched title, filmed on my webcam complete with the noises of both my mum and dad in separate skype-meetings upstairs. I was only supposed to be home for a couple of days, but then the travel ban hit and now I don’t know when I’ll be able to go back to my uni town. Now we’re three people all trying to do our separate jobs in one house with strangely few doors and a lot of open doorways; it’s not the best solution, but we’re making do. And to be fair, I’d much rather be here right now than isolated all alone in a student flat. Take care of each other, folks.

Love in the time of Covid-19
is waving at each other from across the street
is walking two meters apart
is «I’ll leave your groceries on the porch, take care».

Love in the time of Covid-19
is travel bans and cancelled plans and waterfall worries and loneliness.

Love in the time of Covid-19
is creating an everyday in cramped houses
is home office landscapes and nurseries in living rooms
is a kettle constantly boiling in the kitchen.

Love in the time of Covid-19
is empty streets and darkened towns and school grounds void of children.

Love in the time of Covid-19
is learning to be productive in a new normal
is being together by being apart
is showing we care by breaking the chain.

Love in the time of Covid-19 is a team effort, a global population staying inside, a world worth of shoes left waiting by the door.  

Love in the time of Covid-19
is making the best of strange days to come,
strange days we won’t know how to handle
strange days we never even dreamed of.

Love in the time of Covid-19
is singing together through open windows
is lighting candles for people we do not know
is gathering in applause in houses across the nation.   

Love in the time of Covid-19
is staying inside today so others can see tomorrow
it is solidarity
it is compassion.
it is a choice.

-Andrea

So, the world, huh? Yeah…

These last few weeks have been very strange, and I don’t have anything new to add but for my own peace of mind I have to say something.

Since last Wednesday, we’ve seen a lot of societies shut down. In Norway there are travel bans and shop shut downs and all the unis and schools and nurseries are closed. The streets are empty and no one’s at work apart from critical workers.

People are isolating, turning social distancing up to the max and really taking quarantining seriously. Good.

The rules and regulations made to fight off this virus are strict and they’re a bit scary. Never before have I not been allowed to leave my own house, never before have the streets outside been so empty. Businesses are losing money, people are scared for the future, economies all over the world are taking major hits and who even knows how the world will look after this. But I am glad we’re doing it. Extreme times, extreme measure. This situation is strange and scary, yes, but so is this virus and I will loudly support any measure put in place to gather the world to fight it.

“Love in the time of Covid-19” is a phrase I’ve seen a couple of people use now, and it kind of stuck with me. It sounds silly and and silly is definitely something we need right now. I can also how it is a direct reference to Love in the time of Cholera, a book I started but could never finish. Completely unrelated to the current crisis, it is also a great reminder of my friend’s 12th birthday, when her mum rented the film version of said book, thinking “hm, this sounds like a nice film for a bunch of kids”. It was not, but hey, we got a good story out of it.

However, I think that phrase also got stuck because it poses such an important question right now: what does love look like, in these times of not being able to be together?

It is important to talk about how we show love right now, because it’s so very different from how we normally do it. When we cannot express love by clasping our hands together, by pulling the ones we love into the tightest hug, by sleeping next to each other feeling the calm of everyday, we have to find other ways. Right now we are showing love by staying away, by respecting quarantine regulations, by being cautious. We are showing love by isolating ourselves, so that the risk groups can stay safe, by coming together as we’re staying apart. So strange and so very, very important.

I hope you’re having a wonderful day,
-Andrea

The 2020 mood board

We’re almost through February, and I’m sat pondering this year; the months that have been and the months that are to come.

I love traditions, rituals, small things I can implement into my life to create patterns and familiarity. Sometimes a pinch of gung-ho spontaneity is needed, but I really appreciate small things that celebrate and mark the every day. Christmas (which, once again, I’m aware was a while ago) is one of those times a year that is seeped in tradition; most things done from late November to the 28th of December are done because “it’s Christmas, and that’s how we Christmas.” And I’m so here for it.

However, I’ve never really had any traditions or rituals around New Years, and wishing the new year welcome. I love the celebrations with friends and family, the fireworks and the not-champagne-bubbles swirling in champagne glasses, but I haven’t found a tradition that I’ve either started for myself, or that’s really resonated with me before.

This year I celebrated New Years in Swanage with Harvey and his family, and his mum introduced me to the New Years Mood board, and let me tell you; this is my new New Years Tradition with a capital T.

It’s a really simple idea: get a big piece of paper (I found A3 to be the perfect size, big enough to fit what you want on it, but not so big that it feels overwhelming to fill the empty space), get some of your favourite magazines and spend some time browsing, flicking through the pages. Look for images, colours, patterns and quotes that resonate with you and how you want the next year to be. I found this process a lot more interesting than sitting down and deciding on New Years resolutions, because it felt like getting a different view on things, a different perspective, some new input. I cut out images and texts I liked, put it all together just because I liked it, and then discovered what it “meant” as the process went on.

The process in itself was also nice. It was sitting down, quietly, for a couple of hours, listening to music and just being alone with my own thoughts. Saying thank you and good bye to the year as it quietly snuck out the door, and welcoming the new one, the one that burst in through the window.

And now we’re here. This little piece is now framed in a very simple, narrow, black frame and resting on my dresser; the perfect place for it to blend into the interior, but also for it to be somewhere where I can throw a quick glance at it in the morning on my way out the door, giving a little thought to “how can I make this moodboard happen today? What have I done to implement these elements into my life?”

My 2020 moodboard isn’t mysterious and filled with hidden riddles and symbols. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to feel a bit more comfortable in their own skin, who is on the brink of finishing her education and dreams of a job and a flat where I’ll actually be able to put things on the walls (hence the image of the mugs hanging on the wall), a place I’ll stay for more than the typical student year. This year I’ll hopefully be able to start crafting a life for myself, a life built on those strange BAs I’ve acquired, on my interests and on my skills and abilities. If I squint my eyes, I can kinda see the moodboard reflecting that. It is also the moodboard of someone who wants to learn to prioritize her own wellbeing while still staying active and engaged with the local community, politics, work and volunteering. It is the moodboard of someone who wants to get better at creating small moments of peace in her everyday; moments of books and mugs of tea and knitted blankets bunched up under my chin. My moodboard is my reminder to myself that there is so much I want to do, but all of it doesn’t have to happen right now. It’s also a reminder that unknown, but wonderful, things are yet to come. Things I’ll be excited about, but that I don’t even know about yet. I want 2020 to be a softer year; a year where I’m a bit more kind to myself and where I try to worry a bit less.

I am excited to get back to this moodboard in December of 2020, and to give it another proper think at the end of the year. I am curious to see whether I’ll be able to look back and see specific moments where this little piece of paper has impacted my life. That’s not really the case yet for this last month and a half, but who knows. Maybe soon.

-Andrea

“I love you like a candle flickering on December 1st” (or getting back up on the poetry stage)

If there is one thing I’ve missed since moving away from Winchester, it is the budding community of writers I got to be a part of, and the many opportunities to try out your work on people. I’ve missed electric evenings at the Railway Inn, where you could try your own poetry on for size and then get lost in the words of others. I miss the monthly Poetry Platforms; the space you could perform work in progress-pieces and see how the words you were trying to convey would sit on your tongue, not just on the page.

I haven’t really found anything like that here in Kristiansand, but truth be told, maybe I haven’t looked hard enough. Monday brought a wonderful opportunity in the shape of a Poetry evening at the student union stage; a poesiaften hosted by the student society for Nordic studies.

I got back up on the stage for the first time in about a year and a half, and read two of my own pieces. One in Norwegian and this one in English.

The whole evening was wonderful. More than 50 people came in and sat down, listened closely, shared their thoughts and drank student union wine. There were so many people who wholeheartedly threw themselves into their performances, the atmosphere in the room was warm and relaxed, and I was surprised and happy to find a space at this uni where poetry of all kinds and styles was celebrated and enjoyed. Naively enough, just because I haven’t seen it outright before, I didn’t believe there was a space for poetry in this town at all. Oh, how wrong I was.

This was my first poetry performance in Norway, and it was a lot of fun. Funnily enough, I’m just realising that I wore the same shirt on Monday that I wore to the SO: To Speak Poetry Festival in Southampton a couple of years ago – I guess this is “the poetry shirt” now.

I hope you enjoy this piece. It’s a cliche little love poem that means a lot to me, and it was lovely to finally get to perform it in front of a supportive crowd. It has love, it has spaceships and it has cheese on toast – what more could you want from a poem?

This evening definitely rekindled my love for spoken word-poetry. It was never gone, never burnt down or put out like a campfire under water, it just laid dormant as there were few opportunities to nurture it. Fingers crossed for many more nights like this one, nights that properly refuel the fire.

I hope you have a wonderful day,
-Andrea

55 of my favourite things, pt. 4

~ starting a new tv series you know nothing about ~ finding new books you’ve never heard of before, but the cover looks good ~ chocolate covered peanuts ~ the colour yellow ~ fruit smoothies with orange juice ~ wild rhubarb-smelling all purpose cleaners ~ framed photographs ~ old home videos ~ finishing books you’ve been working your way through for a while ~ getting your bachelor’s thesis proposition accepted ~ quiet study spaces ~ fried eggs ~ decluttering desk drawers ~ my new reading stand so I don’t have to hunch over my books during long study sessions (because I am an old lady) ~ re-falling in love with old favourite albums ~ the Taylor Swift Netflix-documentary ~ early morning bus rides ~ my baby nephew who’s just turned 7 months and is absolutely wonderful ~ the Life’s Library book club ~ quiet Sundays ~ oversized corduroy shirts ~ having just refilled your bus pass so it says “31 days left” when you beep it ~ the sun starting to peak back out in the spring ~ getting to the launderette just to realise that ALL the laundry machines are available ~ frozen grass that creeks under your shoes ~ a filled and organised book shelf ~ surprisingly productive days ~ being able to properly express your opinion at a student parliament meeting ~ seeing your work be published in online journals or other places ~ green apple-scented IKEA candles ~ dry shampoo ~ a newly hoovered floor ~ finally having milk in the house again after forgetting to buy it for a couple of days ~ beautiful handwriting ~ tea ~ my new customised planner ~ New Years mood boards ~ highlighters that aren’t neon coloured ~ examining different language translations of a poem and exploring what kind of different choices the translators were making ~ having your entire future in front of you ~ being able to look back at the past with both nostalgia and gratitude ~ finishing up a really big knitting or crochet project ~ getting started on a new and exciting knitting project ~ plans going exactly as planned ~ learning a new skill ~ proving yourself wrong on something you didn’t think you could do ~ waking up to snow on a January morning ~ mugs that are just the perfect size for your hands ~ feeling the warmth seep back into you after a walk in the cold winter air ~ finally grasping something you’ve struggled with in lectures ~ happy “hello”s on the street as you see people you know hurry past ~ David Tennant’s podcast ~ the new mittens my mum knitted for me ~ a good and respectful debate ~ seeing “assignment submitted” in big green letters on Canvas Student ~

Image by catnamejoe from Pixabay

-Andrea