Beating the January Blues

The festive season is truly over and we have all returned to work. Another twelve months stands before the next holiday period. Everybody’s face is as grey as the weather outside as the memory of December’s celebrations are fading like a dream. It’s no surprise that January becomes the month that most people change jobs. There’s an urge for excitement again and a desire to seize the next year.  Even if you are happy in your job the blues may still come creeping. To help your beat them  I have put together a short list of tips, hopefully making the winter months more enjoyable.

Treat Your Self

Even if it feels like the pages of the calendar flip by quickly a year is still a long time. Having something to look forward to breaks down the months. Book yourself a mini-break. The promise of sunshine or another culture makes the stresses of every day slip by a little easier. If you can’t wait that long then maybe it’s time for a day to indulge yourself. It doesn’t need to be huge expense. Buy a face-mask or wander around museums and galleries. Anything that gives you a little time for yourself is a good thing. People may say it’s selfish but the truth is that a bit of time to recharge is essential for everybody. We are human beings not robots. Living everyday for the demands of others is the existence of a machine and doesn’t promote an emotionally stable person. Sometimes you just have to treat your self in order to treat others to the best side of you.

No New Year New Me Nonesense

As soon as midnight strikes on New Years Eve social media becomes flooded with statuses. The posters are all proclaiming that profound changes in their lifestyle are about to occur. They are going to go to the gym, give up smoking and despite drinking two bottles of champagne last night they are definitely quitting alcohol. We all know that these attempts rarely last. The reason for this is because they are negative. Starting the New Year by guilting yourself into giving something up like drinking or fatty food isn’t going to make you feel better. Instead of starting the next twelve months with some encouragement you’ve given yourself a lecture.

Rather than revolving our lifestyle changes around something we dislike in ourselves it may be better to choose a positive target. It’s time to focus on increasing our self-worth an value instead of detracting from it. The question is, how do we go about doing this? Firstly you have to figure out what you want to do. Have you always wanted to paint or sew yourself a dress? Then it’s the perfect time to give it a go. Find a group in your area, watch online tutorials and get your hands messy. You’re going to be appalling at first but given time you will achieve, increasing your creativity and developing a new skill. Do you spend eight hours a day in front of a computer screen and have no idea how it works? Thankfully the internet is flooded with free online courses (like that range from programing to art history. Engaging your brain can only be a positive, stretching your view of everyday life. Ultimately, when we are picking changes it’s best to choose something that will make us feel better about ourselves. Seeing ourselves develop and expand is an endorphin boost to beat the blues of everyday life.


Be Kind to Yourself

There are 7.6 billion  Homo Sapiens spinning on a giant rock in a small corner of space. Each of us wakes up every day, hopefully eats, goes to the bathroom and eventually goes back to bed. If you make it through those waking hours then well done. Did you manage to do something a little better than the day before? Congratulations! If today defeated you a little be kind to yourself because there is always tomorrow. The next day might be the best day of your life.




Maya Angelou’s Most Memorable Lessons

Some days life can knock you down and sending your hiding under the duvet. On these occasions I find myself before the bookshelf. The pages contain past wisdom, with the power to perk me up and send me back into the struggle. From Camus I learned to keep pushing the eternal boulder with a smile like Sisyphus.  Whilst the Stoics and Buddha teach how to accept the inevitable. When times seem especially tough I turn back to one of my favourite teachers: Maya Angelou. It is simply Dr Angelou’s positivity that picks me up again, preparing my return to the wider world. I’d like to share some of her most enriching expressions. Hopefully, I don’t infringe too many copyright laws along the way.


Love Liberates

This is a simple lesson and it’s probably one you’re already aware of, “if you love something, sometimes you have to let it go.” Even though concept is common knowledge it’s hard to exercise. Like most things Love liberates is easier said than done. After all, complex emotions and bonds are easily muddled by every day existence. Our intentions can be perfectly pure in wanting the upmost for another but how we express these intentions can be binding. If you are blessed enough be loved and have people that you love then it’s worth loving a little like Dr Angelou.


Homo Sum Humani Nihil a me Alienum Puto

If you’re anything like me then your Latin language skills are none existent. Thankfully there are a number of slightly different  translations of the sentence. Angelou offers, “I am a human being. Nothing human can be alien to me.” Although she was multifaceted person Angelou wasn’t a time traveler from Ancient Rome. The phrase originates from the playwright Terence. A slave who penned himself to freedom during the heights of the Roman Empire.

Dr Angelou emphasised the importance of these words and internalising their lesson. Doing so allows you enjoy  the great achievements of our species. All the components for ingenuity, compassion and creation rest within you. Conversely, any destructive act a human can commit is within capabilities. This makes you empathise and stops you from imparting a moral judgement on another.

Homo Sum Humani Nihil a me Alienum Puto is a hard lesson to live. I must fail about a hundred times a day. But it’s always worth trying again. Offering understanding to yourself and others can only bring people closer.


And Still I Rise

There’s only so long you can lounge in your melancholy. If I need something to kick me into the shower and out into the sunshine then I remember And Still I Rise. When I hear the poem I am reminded of the effort that came before this day: A thousand hunter gatherers who scrapped through harsh winters for our survival; the immeasurable love and support that pushed me to this point in time; every drop of rain water and every rotation of the earth has projected me here. The lesson I learn from Dr Angelou’s poem is that the battle of life must be loved. It’s going to knock you down but eventually you will stand up again.

The Days Out That Didn’t Happen

Research claims that the optimal amount of holiday time is eight days. Just over a week away  is the perfect time frame to improve your mood and recharge you for work again. Defying science I recently found myself with twelve free days. Dividing my time between Stockholm and Manchester, I intended to develop my interests in art and design, returning to my colleagues as a matured individual. Unfortunately, this did not go according to plan because of a conspiracy to close all museums and galleries when I wanted to visit. The twelve days past and I only managed to browse one museum. However, I can still dream and write up a list of my desired days out, pretending I occupied each venue.


Established in its current incarnation in 1995 Färgfabriken is a gallery dedicated to art, architecture and urban planning. The word ‘fabrik’ translates from Swedish as factory, a fitting title that reflects the building’s original industrial purpose when built in 1889. Located in Liljehomen it would have been a perfect afternoon’s exploration. Usually, I take the airport bus straight to the area before heading to ICA for supplies. Not only is the location convenient for myself but the focus on art reflects my interests. On the other hand, architecture and urban planning are fresh realms for my imagination. I usually prefer to explore design through objects as opposed to buildings, so the opportunity to develop an interest in a new medium is intriguing. Alas, the gallery is currently closed for rehanging. Exhibitions don’t reopen until the end of January but the cafe is running still. It’s disappointing that i haven’t seen something so close to where I normally reside. However, the delay peaks my interest further and Färgfabriken is a must visit next year.

Centre for Contemporary Chinese Art

The CFCCA can be found in Manchester’s Northern quarter and promised to be the beginning to my Monday trawl of the city’s galleries. My plan was to peruse the CFCCA, grab some lunch with my friend and finish the day browsing the University’s collection. However, a more thorough search of CFCCA website would have revealed that the gallery isn’t open on Mondays. This left a hole in the morning’s plans and the Christmas market lured us in with mulled wine. Time passed and the University’s gallery had the dropped for the Manchester gallery, bowling and of course more wine.

It’s disappointing to have attempted to visit the CFCCA on a day when it wasn’t accessible. Their collection was alluring due to complexity of modern Chinese culture. I was hoping to examine expressions that detailed existence from such an influential country. With the largest population the breadth of creation must surely be far reaching. Similarly, the experiences of Native Chinese artists compared with those living abroad or children of immigrants provides even richer layers and opportunities for artistic expression.

Despite the set back the day wasn’t lost. Manchester gallery is never disappointing and I enjoyed introducing my friend to Pre-Raphaelite painting. It’s a good feeling to repeat a gallery and reacquaint yourself with your favourite paintings. The gallery appears to have taken Giacometti Alberto’s portrait of  his mother out of circulation. It’s a piece I’m particularly fond of and slightly saddened to see it gone. Thankfully there are still copies online. The following one in courtesy of Manchester gallery’s website.

Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities (Östasiatiska)

Stockholm’s Östasiatiska  was my second opportunity to absorb Asian culture. I can’t explain why I’m heavily attracted to East Asian art but I know it always has me enthralled. Examining simple tea sets and art prints as well as clothing and sculpture   always enjoyable. With a free day I decided that Östasiatiska would be a perfect ending to this month’s Stockholm visit. The museum offers an exploration of Korean, Japanese and Chinese arts. These range from traditional Korean furniture and tea ceremony sets to a sculpture gallery. After absorbing all the artifacts there’s a cafe that even sells flower tea. If there was a tick list for an ideal afternoon then Östasiatiska potentially gets full marks.

Unlike the galleries this museum was open during my visit. My issue was trying to locate the building. It’s situated in Skeppsholmen along with several other museums worth wandering. In truth, I have been to the island several times but this time I got off at the wrong tube station and became lost. With evening drawing in and evening plans looming I decided the destination was a lost cause. I found myself in the national library again. Ideally, I would have preferred to traverse new knowledge but the library is a beautiful , circular building worth revisiting. Just like galleries and museums, libraries always provide a moment of calm and culture against the calamity of the city outside.



Doing Battle with the ‘D’ Key

I’ve had my laptop for about five years. It was a gift for when I went to university. The machine has survived my clumsy care surprisingly well. I’ve smashed the screen once, split tea, water and pizza on it as well. The right hand corner is now murky from a coco cola attack. Despite the neglect the device functions well and doesn’t want to retire to the dustbin just yet. I’m uncertain if this computer or the last McDonalds burger meal in Iceland will last longer. However, although the technology is than the Greek economy it does have a single flaw: The D key is jammed.

The problem started about a year ago, after I last spilled a drink onto it. In an effort at recovery I removed as many detachable parts as possible. During this attempt something became lodged in the keyboard and that has become impossible to shift. Typing now induces the same pain as beginner guitar lessons. I’m waiting on the day my fingers adjust to the required shape and pressure of the letter. This evolution appears to be taking the usual time it takes species to adapt. By the time my digits have accustom themselves to the new environment global warming will have destroyed most of the habitable planet.

There are a few things I’ve tried in order to rectify the issue. Firstly, I endeavored to copy and paste every d I used. This technique inhibited the flow of writing too much. The time taken to reach down the keyboard and click paste felt longer than the extra pressure required. Next, I pretended that the key didn’t exist. I typed as usual, skipping the letter and ignoring the its place in the English language. At the end of the paragraph I went back and auto-corrected every misspelled word. This is harder to accomplish than it would appear. You have to teach yourself how to spell fundamental words incorrectly. I wouldn’t recommend this method because at best it is vexing and at worse you may regress to toddler level spelling.

The solution to the problem is to either dislodge the key and remove the blockage or completely replace the keyboard. I have a replacement already. In fact, I’ve had a new set of keys for nearly twelve months. Unfortunately, I don’t trust myself with a delicate procedure after the accidents I’ve already inflicted on the machine. The alternative is to let somebody else do the operation but that requires sacrificing my favourite piece of technology for a few hours. Instead, I’ll keep the tricky key, take extra care and be grateful for something as mundane as the letter D.


Completing Duolingo and Beyond

If you’re familiar with some of my previous posts then you’ll be aware that I have been trying to learn Swedish for nearly eighteen months. I started after I fell in love with the country and started visiting every three or four weeks. After my first trip, I decided that my visits could only be improved by learning the language. With less than twelve million speakers Swedish isn’t the world’s most influential tongue. The lack of prevalence made my self teaching tricky, especially when there were so few sources to learn from. I settled upon Duolingo and have been plowing my way through their beginners course ever since.

Yesterday, I finally finished all the lessons the app provides. I was presented with an owl trophy and a mark that claimed I am now 57% fluent. I was very proud with my dedication to self improvement. Only attaining my degree has given me a similar level of pride. I searched the app for more tasks, expecting more advanced exercises to take my 57% fluency score up to 100. There were no more activities. All that remained was repeating the same tasks I have worked through over the last year. Just like every other skill repetition is an integral aspect of learning. I intend to repeat the course until I can recall every word with ease.

Duolingo has provided a solid foundation in my Swedish education but there is still a lot to build on. The question I am faced with is how to do further my development. I have tried searching for other apps but they only seem to teach the fundamentals of the language. I am going to search for more online courses, purchase children’s books and translate them with my Swedish dictionary, as well as consume more subtitled television programmes and radio broadcasts. I hope these efforts will further boost my abilities. However, I would prefer some form of structured lesson plan. A course along the lines of Duolingo that is aimed at the intermediate learner. If you have any advice regarding this then it is most welcome.


Happy Ending

Occasionally, I have an insatiable craving for orange flavour chocolate. Last Friday night,  as the sun began to sleep, I went tracking the citrus tasting confectionery. Two minutes into my trek I realised I had forgotten my headphones. The journey to the supermarket is nearly thirty minuets- far too long to wander without music. I had no choice but to double back.

Eager to make up the lost time I stampeded through the streets, left my gate wide open and slipped. Regaining my balance I looked down to see what had tripped me. A small, green frog was stretched across the flags. Bending down I accessed the injuries I inflicted on the amphibian. It’s eyes still blinked, chest heaved with future croaks, but one leg stretched out at an acute angle. The limb had been crushed in my haste. It pulsed with pain as if the attack relocated its heart.

Without the ability to jump I knew the frog wouldn’t survive long. I went inside to retrieve my headphones and a cardboard box. The frog was going to be taken to a calm corner of the garden to live out its last days in peace. When I returned the creature had gone. I searched in the garden light for the wounded animal and found it squatting several meters away. I laughed as it jumped, both legs simultaneously propelling it forward and symmetrically supporting it on landing.

With a few more leaps the frog was taken away by the grass and darkness. The little fellow lived on. I smiled all the way to the supermarket. When I returned I left a square of chocolate for the survivor and made sure to watch my step on my way inside.

WordPress Anniversary

Today I logged onto WordPress ready to write a post about the development of the Pokemon game franchise. I’m anxiously anticipating the November release of Ultra Sun/ Ultra Moon and intended to honour the games’ development throughout the series. However, a notification has altered my plans. The alarm bell icon informed me that I have been writing this blog for just over one year.

Originally, I began blogging to demonstrate my writing abilities to employers. My first posts were reviews of theater productions my friends organised. After after a few months I realised, that despite their work being great, there wasn’t enough material to maintain a weekly update. This forced me to change direction. I had to stop observing what others were doing and focus on things that interested me.

Since my switch to an internal focus I’ve been allowed to explore a lot more topics and reach a much broader audience. Now, I comment on and review my favourite video games and books; political issues that engage and disappoint me;  as well as my travels and other developments that challenge my horizons. The change has only been positive. New subjects strengthen my writing skills by encouraging me to adapt my style. I can hear how my sentences sound less like a piano plummeting down the stairs. Overall, I’ve been allowed to grow within a supportive website of creators.

When I started the blog was a means to acquiring a better job. Even if I find my dream employment I couldn’t give up WordPress. There’s a feeling of accomplishment with every post. No matter how bad your week has been if you can type out a few paragraphs then you have achieved. The only struggle I would change would be my D key. It has been stuck for about six months and using the letter feels like I’m shattering phalanges. For our next anniversary, I shall treat us to a bottle of Champagne, a weekend in southern France and a fully functioning keyboard.