On memory

My phone is striking.

Apps stop working mid-process, the map doesn’t know where I am, messages don’t send, emails don’t load, the camera won’t take pictures. It’s a pain.

Especially when I still have a weekend left on the road (/rails) and a million photo opportunities. The sun’s out, autumn is well and truly here and it’s golden and crunchy and beautiful. And I want to catch it, preserve it for grey days when I can’t remember what the sun feels like.

Memory full.

Please delete everything to continue.

Ok. Maybe not quite everything. But lots.

I don’t want to delete anything at all. I want to keep everything. Always. Almost always. Even the blurry photos are keys to memories of train rides, bike rides, cold hands, rushing to be somewhere else but desperate to get a picture of where I am as I go. The picture itself is often meaningless, but it reminds me to remember something else.

It’s true of my life as much as my phone. I don’t like getting rid of memories. Mostly. Sometimes I try and they refuse. Much like the photos on my colleague’s phone that kept reappearing no matter how often he deleted them.

On the other hand..my memory strikes too, sometimes. Remembering things seems hard, harder than it should be. Or maybe I’m running too many programmes at once. Hard to say.

For instance, I don’t remember when I last manually backed up my pictures. More accurately, I remember joining my phone to my computer and starting the import, I just don’t remember when it was relative to now and if it worked or not. Sometimes my computer strikes too. If it did work, I could delete the pictures I already have on the computer and make space on my phone. But I don’t remember.

Various clouds have my name on but I don’t trust them enough to just delete everything and hope for the best. My colleague asked me for help with his disappearing and reappearing photos. In the process of finding out what was going on, we discovered that his cloud is only accessible from his phone, since then, my already low view of virtual memory has sunk further.

Memory full.

Please delete everything to continue.

I won’t. I’m spending time during the boring bits of train journeys, going through the masses of old pictures and deleting the ones I probably wouldn’t miss if I really don’t already have them. It’s long-winded so it’s a good thing I’m travelling so far in the dark and/or in trains with windows so dirty I can’t see out.

On the first night in a new city

I moved to Germany to be an AuPair a couple of months over 13 years ago.

I set out by myself with a suitcase and a backpack, flew a few hundred kilometres and got a bus and a train across Germany, in order to live with a family I hadn’t even heard of a week before.

Afterwards, people asked me if I’d been scared, or told me that I was brave or crazy or that they couldn’t have done that. I didn’t understand them, I was just doing what was necessary for the next step. You can’t learn a language better than if you fully immerse yourself in it after all.

I can’t claim I wasn’t at all nervous, but I had so much more to do than concentrate on it.


Today, I got a train from Murcia (and K) to Barcelona (via Alicante but that’s another story).

I am currently staying with people I don’t know in a city I’d never been to until last week (and even then only for a matter of minutes). I say ‘staying with’, but I actually mean I am staying in a room they’ve made free for me. Our paths hardly cross besides exchanging pleasantries and the keys.

As I lie in this tiny room, sprawled out across this bed that is mine for one night only, I realise that I haven’t ever been on holiday by myself. I’ve moved house multiple times, I was an AuPair for 3 families in 3 different places, I’ve been to conferences and seminars and schools and last year to a fish meeting. But I’ve never been anywhere by myself just because.

Purely for the fun of it.

Without a good raison d’etre.

Without a plan or a purpose or anyone I know coming along for the ride.

It feels frivolous – I’m spending money on myself without any kind of visible or tangible or describable payback. There are no course notes, no minutes. Nothing I can show to anyone else afterwards, nothing for a CV or an interview. Nothing I can point at and say, “Look. It was worth the money and effort and time off”.

I’m not spending time with anyone, not helping anyone, not listening to anyone, not filling anyone’s ears with my words. (Your eyes don’t count ;p)

There’s no one else who benefits from it, except maybe my hosts. Just me. Anything that happens, or doesn’t happen, pretty much only affects me.

It feels really weird, and unexpectedly more scary than it has any right to be.

And yet.

And yet.

And yet it also feels good.

And kind of addictive. Like a kick from a drug I haven’t let myself have for a long time, reawakening the urge to just do things without so many millions of thoughts.

I might have to do this more often.

But first I have to find something something to eat.


Barcelona here I come!


On mysterious markets and frustrating pastries

There was an “antique” market held here today.

When I think of antiques I usually think of expensive furniture. In this case the antiques were a mixture of things without any obvious age limit or theme. It was more like a sale of anything old enough and/or bizarre enough not to be wanted by the original owner.

After wandering through the market and back we needed sustenance.

Luckily, Murcia is full of bakeries.

Unfortunately, not all pastries are as tasty as they look. These are filled with overly sweetened strings of an unidentifiable fruit.

Later this evening, I tried yet another good looking pastry and it was disappointingly dry and unremarkable.

In the last few days, on the walk to the sanctuary and on trips around the city, we tried various different sweet and savoury pasties. All of them had the potential to be delicious. Most of them failed. I probably use more herbs and spices and less sugar in my cooking than K does, but we both agreed that the savoury pasties are mostly bland and the sweet pastries often too sweet or too sticky or too dry or too oily.

Considering how attractive they are, it’s very frustrating not being satisfied with the taste/texture.

On having Murcian Churros for breakfast

Lots of Murcians (and possibly lots of other Spaniards) have Churros for breakfast.

Churros are like pieces of deepfried (oozing) doughnut-dough rings. Here, you dip them into thick, custard-like, rich hot chocolate.

When in Murcia, do as the Murcians do.

So I did. And here they are:

On being a late starter

I signed up for Ra’s nanopoblano gig and promptly missed the first day. (ironically because I was deeply involved in a conversation about being late until the early hours of today).

Here’s to starting late and talking later 🙂

On looking out of the window

I’m taking my bike to France by train..

I thought I could spend the 15 hour journey writing and catching up with myself and re-working my website etcetcetc.

Instead I’m looking out of the window and taking numerous blurry pictures of the rivers and mountains I’m going past.

The writing will have to wait.

On vegetable shopping

Train station, half past 6.

Smallish kid: “Mum! Mum! Mum! Can we stop and buy vegetables?!”

Kid’s brother: ” No!”

Smallish kid: “Mum! Can we buy vegetables, please!”

Kid’s mum: “No. We’re in a hurry to get to <Somewhere>. Wait, what?”

Smallish kid: “Can we buy vegetables?”

Kid’s mum: “What do you want to buy vegetables for?”

… And then they were out of earshot. They didn’t buy anything.

On making the most of being ill

Sometimes all you need is a sunny day off to fill with a 2 hour massage and a peanut butter and chocolate brownie ice cream..

A cycle ride through the autumn colours and along the canal into the sunset doesn’t hurt either.


Written yesterday but for some reason not posted properly.

On chainging my plans

Here we go again.

Jesska makes a plan and life makes it impossible to see it through.


At the end of August I bought new fish.

They were quite expensive as cheap fish go (nothing like as expensive as posh koi) and quite a luxury considering that I don’t “need” fish for anything. I decided to not spend any money on anything but proper food (no unnecessary/luxury food like icecream) throughout September to make up for it.

That decision lasted until about midday on the 1st when I got a message from the lady I’d agreed to buy water plants from, asking when she could expect me. I made a mental exception for things-agreed-to-before-the-decision and went to pick up the plants.


I did very well for the next couple of days until I remembered that I’d told people that I was going to be flying home soon and hadn’t booked any flights yet. Flights are obviously not food, but going home and seeing my family are necessary things, so I started looking at flights. They were cheaper than expected around my birthday so I booked them too. Two trips planned more than a few days in advance – way to go Jesska! Except you weren’t planning on spending money.. Ho-hum.

Then it became clear that my tyres couldn’t get much balder before the inner tubes started to show, no matter how much I tried to convince myself otherwise.

I arranged an appointment at the bike shop.


It turns out you can’t get new tyres without new inner tubes (something about guarantees and warranties) and one of my tubes was thin enough to leak anyway. The brake pads were almost as bald as the tyres and the light bulb in my front light was dead. So far so good. I signed on the dotted line and went to work on the bus.

A couple of hours later, I got a call from the guy responsible for working on my bike. As he’d changed the tyres he’d noticed the chain was worn and the cassette (gears on the back wheel) could do with replacing… Me: yeah, go ahead. (I’d had the feeling the chain was getting old a couple of months ago, it wasn’t too much of a surprise to hear I needed a new one. Also, I’m going cycling in France next month and I need to know my bike will be up to the challenge. My French is very rusty and definitely not up to talking about bike problems.)

The next day I got the train (and a bus) to work.


I picked my bike up on the way to teach maths to one of my favourite 13 year olds.

Look at the shine!

Pedalling felt very odd but I couldn’t do anything about anything without being late for my lesson. I ignored the “crunchy vibrations” and rode on regardless.


The next morning I decided to go to work on the bike – if it was still weird when I got home I’d take it to the shop to be looked at again.

Those were almost famous last words.

There’s a very long bridge on the way to work, the only notable elevation change on a route that is otherwise almost entirely flat. My usual routine is struggle up to the top then change rapidly up through the gears so I can make the most of the decline.










Click, slide, scrunch, scratch, click, scrape, squarrk, clickclickclick, screeetch, klapper, schhhhhhh, wrrr


I didn’t make it into 3:8.

Instead I came to a crunchy, panicky, pedal-free halt just before one of my least favourite junctions. A tiny road joins the main road and for some reason a constant stream of lorries pulls across the tiny crossing, often without giving way to anyone, never mind cyclists on broken bicycles.

But, as I said, I stopped before the junction (lucky I had brand new brakes really ;)). Phew!

I got off to inspect the damage.

The chain, my beautiful, shiny, brand new chain, was broken and had wrapped itself between the gears, the ends hanging on the ground.. 🙁

I’d made it 2/3 of the way to work.


I walked the remaining few miles in the first rain in living memory (or at least in a couple of months) wondering what I’d done wrong (probably nothing) and what I should do differently in the future (also probably nothing).


The bike shop was incredibly kind to me on the phone. I almost definitely wasn’t as polite as I could have been but they were wonderful and arranged to meet me for at lunch and mend my chain. For free. Obviously.


The bicycle repair man arrived exactly when he said he would and mended the chain in a matter of minutes. It would have been seconds if the chain hadn’t squished itself so well between rings and chainguard and bike frame. And if it hadn’t been so freshly greased. Luckily for both of us it wasn’t exactly broken, it had just come undone and he’d brought a replacement link.

The chain shouldn’t be able to come apart while cycling. There’d been a series of unfortunate events leading to the exact and uncommon chain undo-al I’d experienced. Neither he nor my brother have ever had a chain undo itself while cycling and they cycle most out of the people I know. I Take that to mean the chance of it breaking/coming undone again is pretty slim – a very good thing because I don’t want it to happen again.

Quick release chain joint – a brilliant idea until it isn’t.

After that he went for a test ride, muttered, adjusted various limit screws and tested and checked and cycled and hmmed and arrred and said that I should probably change the chain rings (gears near the pedals) too.

He’d left them because they weren’t terribly worn, but he thought there must be a few damaged teeth on each ring, enough to make changing gear difficult with a new (unstretched) chain.

The bike is going back to the shop next week. Until then, I’ll be cycling slowly and carefully and walking across crossroads!


Okay, somehow it’s taken me a while to add pictures and press publish.

The bike went in yesterday morning and I’m on the way to pick it up now…

*Fingers crossed the crunching’s gone and the gears do what they’re told*

(Oh yeah, the month is halfway over and I could have already, or at least by the time I’ve paid for the new chain rings, bought my new fish nearly ten times over…. I do love plans..)