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Enjoying England

As a languages student, traveling usually involves going abroad. Of course, I am not complaining about this. I have explored some amazing places which are fascinating precisely because of their difference to England. But, as I was discussing with a fellow language student, England is a bloody good country. Yeah, the weather can be a bit rubbish sometimes, especially for someone like me who feels the cold, but it does have a lot on offer. It was therefore nice, on my most recent trip, to jump not on a plane, but instead on a train (albeit a long, five hour one) to the Lake District. The fact that I thought the Lake District was located in the West Country, and that my sister could just drop me off there, proves how rudimentary my knowledge is on the geography of my own country.

As we progressed up the country and got closer and closer to Scotland, the passengers on the train spoke with increasingly distinct, northern accents. Contrary to most countries, where the friendliest people tend to be in areas in the south, no doubt due to the warmer weather, northern England is known for its affable, welcoming inhabitants. I could get used to being called ‘love’ and ‘pet’. And then going north even further, into Scotland, people seem particularly sweet. I perhaps think of Scottish people as sweet because the first real Scottish people I met were some lovely neighbours I had when I lived in Turkey. When I was younger, I genuinely thought the wife had a condition which meant she couldn’t stop smiling. I later understood it was due to her permanently sunny and cheerful persona.

I got off the train to greet my good friend and former housemate, who has a holiday home in the Lake District. We both survived final Oxford exams together, supporting each other in a time of great emotional turmoil, applying the ‘a friend in need is a friend indeed’ mantra, so I feel our friendship has been truly solidified. We were both pretty hungry once we reached her spacious apartment, located in a stunning village with lots of stone buildings, so we had a relatively early dinner. The next morning, we woke up and went on a long walk, reaching a high point overlooking beautiful, luscious fields and hills. Another friend of ours arrived later that evening. The trip involved lots of walking and eating in all senses of the word, whether it was the healthy salmon and salad dish I prepared, or the Ben and Jerry’s ice cream we happily scoffed down. On one occasion, we went around a maze, which I knew wouldn’t play to my strengths as I have the worst sense of direction and manage to get lost almost anywhere. After a good few hours, we finally figured out how to get out and made it to the end, though no thanks to my orientation skills. Another fun activity was mini golf, which we did by the shores of Lake Windemere before hitting the cafe and grabbing rocky road, coffee and hot chocolate, depending on what each of us fancied.

We really lucked out on the weather, so managed to be outside for most of the day, coming back to have dinner and settle on the sofa for an episode of Love Island, the popular reality TV show which all of Britain seemed to be tuning in for. We also watched a few films. The last day we were there, it rained for hours, but being inside was cosy and fun. We played board games, including a trivia game called Bezzer-Wizzer (10/10, would recommend), and chatted until the early hours of the morning. All in all, it was a great trip.

While most of the jobs I have finally got around to applying for are located in London, and I am looking forward to the London life I have been envisaging for myself, it has been really nice to be home with my family. My home’s countryside location means that there are plenty of places for dog walks, so I’ve been having some bonding time with my parents as we traipse along the footpaths, avoiding the stinging nettles. Today, we all went into our nearest town to watch the film Dunkirk, which I thought was excellent, though also a little cheesy and not entirely realistic (a plane whose engine has failed cannot glide for five minutes). After the film, we went to a pub for lunch. I chose an interesting dish of burnt beef ends (sounds gross but in fact it only consists of the more well-done ends of a beef joint) on jalapeño corn bread, accompanied by seasoned fries.

Recently, I watched the Minimalism documentary on Netflix, which I found inspiring. We have become obsessed with accumulating things and, as the sociologist in the film explained, we are not even ‘materialistic’, as we are interested not in objects for their material worth (i.e what they are fundamentally, that is, cloth to keep us warm and covering ourselves), but for what they symbolise. We want the latest flat screen television because of the wealth, power and success it represents. Those who live a simple, minimalistic life have in fact ended up being far happier; they haven’t been caught up in the frenzy of anxiously, guiltily splurging money they have slaved to earn. Buying objects involves stress. You worry about when the object will arrive, the fact that its value will quickly depreciate, the money you’ve spent on it and whether it was worth it. But if you spend money on an experience, like travelling, it involves greater levels of happiness. Studies have shown that even when you do have some level of stress while travelling, it is often forgotten and only the pleasant memories are remembered. After watching the documentary, I went into declutter mode. I went into my room and reorganised everything, getting rid of the clothes I’ve clung onto for years convinced they’ll come in use some day, but which I know I’ll never wear again. Having everything organised, as well as downsized, immediately made me feel better. Clearer room, clearer mind, I thought to myself. Yet I do have a slight problem. I love clothes. For me, I don’t buy them for practical reasons, I admit it. One jacket would do just fine to keep me warm, I really don’t need ten of them. But neither do I buy clothes because I want people to think I have an extensive, expensive closet. I buy clothes because I love fashion as a form of art. I love looking at designs of clothes, putting things together, having new pieces to experiment with. And while there are documentaries like the aforementioned one which, I have admit, has made me think twice before I buy something I don’t really need, Netflix also has documentaries like Dior and I, which showcase beautiful clothes with amazing cuts, stitching and high-quality fabric that make me want to go on a major, break-my-bank shopping spree.  Wanting to buy a dress, I dangerously went on the & other stories website and saw that they had an incredible selection of dresses on sale. Their clothes are always high-quality, but as a result usually come with a fairly expensive price tag. Buying the dresses on sale, which were reduced to ridiculously low prices, therefore allowed me to enjoy high-quality without the high price. Did I need six new dresses? Definitely not. Did I feel anxious and stressed as I worried about whether I’d got the right sizes and the amount of money that was soon going to exit my bank account? Definitely.

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