There’s no place like home – but what happens when you have more than one?

What exactly does ‘home’ mean? Where you were born? Where you grew up? Where you live now? Whether for university, work, or because you have loved ones living in different places, many of us have more than one base, and, for me, having two home cities means that home is much more about people than places. On the one hand, I could say that Belfast is my home – this is where I grew up, where my family live, and where myself and my best friends from school, who have all dispersed to different places, gather and catch up whenever we can. However, on the other hand, I no longer live in Belfast, and have firmly established a new base in Glasgow, with a whole new set of wonderful friends, some of whom I now consider family. As previously mentioned in my ‘Reflections on 2015’, my list of reasons to love Glasgow and never leave is growing, so it’s starting to feel more and more like home. Having my two bases relatively close together means I travel between the two fairly regularly, and I have found that there are both perks and downsides to having multiple bases. I suspect a few of these might be familiar to those of you with more than one place to call home!

 

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Image from Pinterest

 

You’re always missing someone.

Having two homes means I have two sets of favourite people, who I often wish were all in the same place at the same time. While this can be tough, it also means that I make the most of the time I get to catch up with friends and family when we are in the same place, and I do really appreciate the people who matter most to me.

 

You understand the difference between a ‘typical’ person of a place, and stereotyping.

Stereotypes tend to arise from observations and exaggerations of people who don’t know a place well, and thus are inaccurate (and often derogatory), but having lived in more than one place, I have noticed that people who live in close proximity tend to share similar mannerisms, turns of phrase and style choices. This obviously doesn’t mean that all the people from a particular place are the same, it just means that people are part of what characterises a place. Just one example of this is in expressions unique to places. Both Glasgwegians, and ‘Belfastians’, as my siblings and I like to refer to ourselves, have some brilliant sayings. People outside Northern Ireland are unlikely to know what a ‘melter’ is, but it’s just too good not to use, even if it’s met with blank faces. Equally, the first time I heard the Glaswegian expression ‘face like a melted wellie’ I gleefully stored it up until the next possible opportunity to casually slip it into conversation. (Read excitedly used it inappropriately).

 

You know which of your homes is the superior for your favourite activities.

For me, Glasgow wins on clubs, but is missing Belfast’s late-night coffee shops. Brunches and bars are a close call between the two – I can recommend excellent choices for cocktails or pancakes in both cities. (Oops it seems my favourite activities revolve around food and drink…) I shall be following this up with guides to some of my favourite haunts in both cities very soon!

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Sinnamon, in Belfast, is one of my favourite places for late night coffee and life chats…

 

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… but Glasgow’s Gin 71 has a pretty fabulous menu. And cocktails in teapots.  

 

It always takes a few days to adjust when you move from one place to another.

After a few weeks with my very loud, crazy and lovable family, my flat seems strangely quiet, and I don’t think I will ever be able to break the habit of cooking enough food for a small army, no matter how long I live on my own. But on the plus side, there’s always enough to feed visitors!

 

You are likely to have a serious case of wanderlust.

Living between two places means you can’t help but notice similarities and differences between them, and personally, drawing comparisons between the different places that I have lived in and visited only makes me want to discover, explore and compare more adventures, places and people. If anyone needs me I’ll be at the airport…

 

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Reflections on 2015

2015, for me, seems to have passed almost scarily quickly. It just doesn’t feel like a full year has gone by since last January, and so, to metaphorically press pause on the beginning of 2016, and in the spirit of thinking … Continue reading

Family: Who says we can’t choose them?

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Image from Pinterest, quote from Disney’s Lilo and Stitch

Most of us use our Christmas break to spend time with family, some who you’ve missed for months or even the whole year, and can’t wait to catch up with, others who, if you were being totally honest, you don’t really want to see but feel like you should. Why do you? Most people simply answer, ‘Because they’re family’. I’m not sure how I feel about this. Don’t get me wrong – if you have elderly relatives who are likely to be lonely, they will appreciate your company, but if this is your reasoning, a visit once a year is not going to stop this loneliness, so I would assume, if you’re seeing someone out of kindness and fondness, rather than a sense of family Christmas duty, you will have a relationship with them, and would see them fairly regularly anyway.

The type of people I’m talking about are your superficial aunt, who doesn’t give you the time of day unless she wants a picture or some gossip to share with her ladies-who-lunch club. Or the cousin who can’t hold a conversation because they are apparently incapable of listening to any voice other than their own. These are not terrible crimes. But if you had friends who behaved like them, how long would you remain friends? To me, family loyalty trumps any other kind – say something even slightly negative about any of my brothers or sisters and I am highly likely to jump down your throat – but I know that (even if they wouldn’t admit it) they would all do the same for me. Relationships, whether family or otherwise, have to be maintained, and they have to work both ways. As much as I love and appreciate the family members I am close to, I am entirely unconvinced by the idea of unconditional love for all family.

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Image from Pinterest

I have also realised that I have gradually and selectively added to the people I consider family; friends I count among my (admittedly numerous) siblings, role models and surrogate aunts and uncles I have found in teachers and friends of my parents. At what point does an unrelated friend reach the status of family? Here are my top five things I have found are common to all my relationships with my (extra and selected blood-related) family members:

  1. Trust. You trust them with your random, at times odd thoughts and questions about life, and they are fully aware that you might be certifiably insane, but they love you anyway. For me personally, this one is really important, because I don’t trust many people – if I trust you, you have made it into the inner circle, and, if you don’t already, I will work hard to make sure you know you can trust me.
  2. Conversation, or silence, is never awkward between you. Sometimes you talk for hours about anything and everything, other times you’re happy to be quiet together, watching movies or crap TV, or listening to music, without worrying that you need to fill the silence.
  3. You can be mean to each other, and know the other wont be offended, (although they will often dramatically protest that they are mortally wounded by your insinuation) but if anyone actually hurts them, you will plot their downfall together. By extension, this also means you automatically hate everyone they hate. Even if you haven’t met them.
  4. You become an accepted member of their actual family, and find that you know as much about their crazy relatives as you do about your own.
  5. You feel like you have known them forever. This might be because, as with biological siblings, you grew up together, and have witnessed all of one another’s questionable choices in dates, fashion, music, and anything else you could possibly have got wrong. You know all of each other’s secrets, so it’s in both of your best interests to keep them, and each other, close. This could also apply to a relatively new friend, who has become a fundamental extra family member to the extent that you are unsure who you went to in a crisis, or phoned to relate your latest ridiculous escapade before you met them.

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Instead of guilt tripping yourself into going to yet another extended family lunch, or visiting your dreaded Aunt Beatrice, choose your family. Surround yourself with your favourite people, whether that is your family, your friends, or a mixture of the two, and enjoy their company, whether it’s Christmas or any other time of the year.

People watching on my travels part 3: Bari and Bitritto

Another place we went on our InterRail trip that was brilliant for people watching was Bari, in Italy. Bari was one of the only places we went where I hadn’t researched a number of potential hostels to stay in, because it … Continue reading

People watching on my travels part 2: Prague and Budapest

Our next two stops on our InterRail trip were Prague and Budapest, and I found them interesting to compare. While Prague is beautiful and sophisticated, both in terms of the place and the people, I personally preferred Budapest. I think … Continue reading

People watching on my travels part 1: Krakow and Auschwitz-Birkenau

A couple of months ago, I went travelling round Europe with my best friends from school, and had an amazing time, not least because of my lovely travelling companions, and the people we met. My next few posts are going … Continue reading

Cocktails, Portraits, Francophiles and Hip Hop Dancers

Getting ready to go out for the night with Emma, one of my oldest and best friends, got me thinking about other nights out I’ve had with her, and how many interesting people we’ve encountered. Emma and I went to … Continue reading

The value of an honest shopping companion

Last week, I went shopping not for myself, but for my sister, partly because I am a wonderful big sister, and partly because I have no money. In the changing rooms, as well as giving her my opinion on the clothes she was trying on, naturally I took the opportunity to have a nosey at other people’s outfit choices, and eavesdrop on their conversations.

What I observed, I have seen before, but the phenomenon continues to baffle me. Why, when your friend is trying on something that clearly doesn’t suit them and asks for your opinion, would you say they look gorgeous? In this particular instance, I was watching two girls, early twenties, one of whom was asking the other’s opinion on a skirt that looked very uncomfortable. She was pulling it down, and trying to smooth the creases produced by the fact that it very much didn’t fit her.

If this was my friend, I know, without a doubt, that my response would be; “It doesn’t fit properly”, probably followed by a suggestion of something that I think would look better. However, here, the other girl said: “Yeah, it looks great, what do you think of this dress?”

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Images from Pinterest

To my mind, there are a number of possible reasons for this. One might be she doesn’t particularly like the other girl, and wants to sabotage her appearance. Another could be she simply wasn’t paying attention and was totally focused on her own dress – observation and multitasking fail – if this is the case, I bet she’s not a people-watcher. However, my guess is the reason for the unhelpful verdict on the skirt is a strange form of politeness, a very British fear of causing offense.

I understand this kind of false flattery between strangers – with someone you don’t know, blunt honesty can easily be mistaken for being nasty or bitchy. But this wasn’t the case here; when the two girls were leaving the changing rooms, they were chatting and laughing, obviously very comfortable in each other’s company.

My next question is, am I unusual in that I wouldn’t be at all offended if a friend told me they didn’t like my outfit choice? I’d much rather have honesty, however brutal, than false compliments.

Perhaps, some people feel they can only comment positively on their friends’ appearances, out of loyalty, but to me, this logic seems a tad confused. It’s not appropriate, in fact it would be considered rude, for a stranger, or even an acquaintance to make a negative comment about your appearance. (Hence why, much as I wanted to, I refrained from commenting on the ill-fitting skirt of my changing room neighbour.) So, it falls to your friends to give honest opinions and advice. If you can’t trust your friends to be honest about something as simple as your clothes, why would you ask their advice on (arguably) more important life decisions, like relationships or career choices?

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Don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you abandon all tact and start critiquing everything your friends say and do; if your opinion isn’t asked, chances are your friend doesn’t want to hear it. For example, I have a penchant for wearing dungarees. I realise that some would say they are a questionable fashion choice, but I quite simply don’t care. They’re fun, and if the fabulous Prince George is wearing them, they must be cool.

Nonetheless if a friend asks your opinion, as a general rule, that means they are unsure, and want advice. So, whatever this odd kind of politeness is, it really needs to stop. An honest shopping companion is invaluable; someone you know cares enough about you to be truthful, whether you need advice on what to wear tonight, or what you should do with your life. Do your friends a favour, and give them honest opinions. Trust me, they’ll thank you for it.

 

Kirsty x

 

Crazy golf: the perfect people watching opportunity

When the boyfriend and I took a day trip to the East Coast of Scotland, we found that playing crazy golf provides an excellent opportunity for people watching. It is one of the few instances I can think of where following directly behind a group of strangers is not considered strange or creepy, and we found the family in front of us on the course suitably interesting.

We agreed quickly on the relationships of three out of the four in the group – a father, aged around fifty, and his two children, a girl of about fourteen and a boy about ten. These three looked obviously alike, with dark hair, olive skin and similar features. The fourth member of the group, however, was a young woman, I’d guess early thirties, very blonde and fair, who looked a little out of place, made more noticeable by her slightly awkward conversation and body language.

What first drew our attention to the group was the boy, in Jake’s words, “being a little shit”. A ten year old boy being bored of crazy golf and winding up his sister isn’t surprising, but when we realised his antics were, in fact, directed towards the young woman, we became intrigued.

After a muttered discussion, and a probably not very subtle assessment of whether or not the father or Blondie were wearing rings, we came to the conclusion that this fourth member of the party must be the father’s girlfriend. I realise that, at least on my part, this conclusion may be slightly biased, given that my Dad has taken up with a blonde of a similar age (incidentally, closer in age to me than to him). However, whether we were right or not, my sympathies were definitely with the unimpressed little boy.

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Images from Pinterest, peterrabit.com and Etsy

My next evaluation of the scenario was that the two children were clearly desperate for their father’s attention, marvelling at how great his golfing skills were, and turning to tell us that he was a “professional golfer”. From watching, we doubted that, but since my golfing skills are questionable – apparently I stand like a duck – I refrained from judging.

Interestingly, the girl’s approach to the girlfriend situation contrasted with her brother’s. She seemed to be making a huge effort to talk to Blondie, and scold her brother for sabotaging her golfing efforts. This could, I suppose, be because she likes Blondie, but what seemed more likely to me, (again, perhaps slightly biased) was that this was her way of trying to get the father’s attention. My guess is that both children would have preferred a day out with just their dad, but he was determined to play Happy Families, and massage his ego by showing off his golfing skills (clearly you’re going to be better at golf than your kids…) and shiny new girlfriend.

From this people watching exercise, I realised that my assessment of situations is affected a lot by my own experiences. I’m still convinced that I was right, or at least close, about the family situation, but I also realise that I probably wouldn’t have reached that conclusion without the picture having triggered a personal response from me. I suppose this makes sense – we like to feel connected to other people. What is interesting is the weird and wonderful ways people find connections with one another. In this particular instance, I found myself relating to someone who, at first glance, you wouldn’t think I would have much, if anything, in common with. This might mean that we think we like people who are similar to us, but, in fact, when we want to feel a connection to another person, we show quite an impressive ability to find obscure links. Or, maybe, I just have more in common with a ten-year-old boy than I’d like to admit.

Kirsty x

Introducing On People Watch!

People watching is one of my favourite pastimes. Guessing careers of commuters on the train, trying to work out relationships within groups of people, wondering why that guy would get such an awful tattoo, or why that couple aren’t talking … Continue reading