Celebrating my first job application!


Today I dropped my first job application and portfolio off! Given my stresses over university over the past few years, and especially the final year, this is quite major for me and I thought it was worth of a post of its own!

At the moment I am figuring that I will be happy to make 50-60 job applications and attend 14 interviews before I give up/change tack. The first few I will definitely treat as practices. Rather arbitrary figures, but I’m trying to keep the pressure off myself for now, as I know that stress won’t help anything.

To celebrate, I met up with a friend to visit the Serpentine Pavilion.

 The 2011 Serpentine Pavilion, designed by Peter Zumthor

A rather unassuming black box building – I’m not surprised I missed it when I first tried to visit in August. In fact it is in Kensington Gardens, not Hyde Park as I’d been told, so that is another reason why we didn’t spot it the first time.

According to the blurb, it is inspired by fenced Alpine kitchen gardens. I’m not sure I would have guessed that! A narrow, dark corridor wraps around the inside edge of the building, and contrasts to the airy flower spikes and seedheads in the courtyard garden within the building. The plants were especially bright with the backlit sun streaming through them.


Week in Pictures, 23rd – 30th September


Friday 23rd September

I went to town again. Wow second day running (this is unusual for me)! This is the roundabout on the way into town. During my summer job last year, I helped come up with the idea of cricket team themed colours for the beds in the summer months, with different colours to match the teams closest to that location. I’m not sure if anyone else of the public ‘got’ the theme!

Roundabout finally flowering in cricket's Cup Match colours, two months after the event. Better late than never!

Saturday 24th September

Went fishing in the evening with my parents. A huge school of round robins swam past the dock while we were getting ready, so I held my underwater camera underwater to take photos of them. The camera couldn’t keep up with them, they were swimming so fast, so most of the photos were a blur. They also kept swimming into my hand, which was rather unnerving!

Lots of Round Robins

Sunday 25th September

To enjoy my last weekend at home, I spent another session photographing the fish, this time actually swimming with them!

I love how intently some of the fish stare at my camera!

Monday 26th September

I will miss the turquoise water! Today was a whirlwind of packing and organising myself to leave home and fly back to England to begin job hunting in earnest. Photography was forgotten about in my rush – that is the one downside of online check in, I can cut my timing almost too finely, as the bag drop is open til 40mins before departure!

Tuesday 27th September

Quintessentially Englandshire

Woke up (or rather I never managed to sleep a wink on the flight) to find myself 5,555km away from home. A catchy distance and nearer than the 4,000 miles which I’d previously had in mind. Though to give myself credit, it is still pretty far away! This street scene is just near where I’m staying, and I thought it looks just about as British as it can get!

I had a slightly disconcerting experience walking a bit further along, when I saw a man with a reddish brown snake nonchalantly wrapped round his shoulders. I’m sure it was there, though no one else even batted an eyelid. This must be London!

Wednesday 28th September

Lincoln Inn Fields

So many times I’ve left things at home by mistake when returning to England for university, and my mother had to find a kind soul travelling later to bring over my belongings. So this time I gladly accepted a package of things my cousin had forgot to take with her the previous week. We met up for a picnic on Lincoln Inn Fields, just near her university. It was a gorgeous sunny day (though I stayed in my jeans all day, so it couldn’t have been that hot!) and quite idyllic, perhaps even better than the picture perfect university prospectus pictures!

In the evening, I went to a brilliantly fun Pirates of Penzance play, starring my cousin (different one from earlier in the day) and his wife. Very memorable, though no photos were allowed in the theatre!

Thursday 29th September

Quiet London

This is the only photo from today, which I took while popping out to get my portfolio printed (yes, in my perfectionism to be sure it looks right, I’m old school!). I’ve just heard about several potential job openings, so I went full swing into getting my application, cover letters, CV and portfolio put together. I should be ready to send it off tomorrow! It is probably a good thing that I haven’t had too much time to spend feeling nervous!

The Wrong Answers


I’m totally afraid I’ll shoot myself in the foot during an interview (I love how optimistic I am, that I’ll even get to the interview stage!)

I’ve got 1,001 answers swirling through my mind to use in response to the obvious questions. Unfortunately I know I lot of them are The Wrong Answers. In a bid to clear my brain of the bad, or at best, useless responses, I’ll try writing them down, here. Hopefully The Correct Replies will be more obvious after this exercise.

Tell us about yourself…
  • *goldfish impression*
  • You may be thinking the deafening silence is me thinking of a witty and/or heartfelt response. I wish it were too.
  • *tears*
  • Marathon Worrier

Why would we want to employ you?

  • Um, you wouldn’t?
  • Given that I wouldn’t employ myself, I’d keep a wide berth of me, if I were you.

Why should we give you the job?

  • Because you’re a brilliant charity
  • Because I’ve worked blinkin hard to get to this point and it would give me a much needed confidence boost.

What would you bring to our company?

  • Not much, I’m a liability
  • Fear, stress, paranoia and a puddle of depressed tears

What are your weaknesses?

  • Are you ready with a long piece of paper?
  • I’m overconscientious. My tutor thought that would be a good one to say.

What are your attributes?

  • I won’t give up. I’ll go without sleep and food if that’s required

What are your achievements?

  • Earned my Duke of Edinburgh gold award…5 years ago
  • Represented my country in women’s hockey…10 years ago
  • Completed course of CBT…this year

What makes you want to work in the UK?

  • I’ve somehow made myself a good reputation in Very Small Home Country. I don’t want to ruin it!
  • NHS
  • I’m from a very tiny itsy bitsy Dominion of the British Empire. I would like to enjoy the benefit of this Domination.

Do you have any questions?

  • Do you have a safe room?
  • What is your sickday policy?

Week in Pictures 16th – 22nd September


Friday 16th September

Went to the nearest beach to see the waves after the previous day’s hurricane. They were back to normal, but still pretty.

After the storm: Early morning light

Saturday 17th September

Was poking about Google maps. The earth is pretty incredible! I’m trying to make some biggish resolution photos to print for my wall (lots of screen shots then merged together in PS. Can’t find a quicker way. Prob quite illegal too.)

Google Desert, somewhere in Africa, forgot to make a note of location, shucks.

Sunday 18th September

Crab holding on in a wave

Monday 19th September

Busy choosing, cropping, printing photos for a calendar for myself next year. Several I’ve shown in my blog recently.

I made a mix of photos of home, sailing holiday, pretty flowers, pets and a couple of artistic ones too.

Tuesday 20th September

(typical) Crazy weather day today. Visited my grandfather in his nursing home and took my grandparents out for juice and cookies near a fort. Took in a geo-cache too (hidden in the wall of the fort’s moat). My grandparents even seemed to understand the concept of being super excited to find a hidden box, then hide it again, ready for more crazy geeks. Bucketing rain on the drive out, boiling hot sitting outside the fort less than an hour later.

Summer shower

Geo-caching at Fort Scaur, with good views east and west

Wednesday 21st September

Spent some time in the evening trying to video my dad’s parrot eating a pretzel. Apparently the previous evening he’d be twirling it like a majorette. I tried making it into a looping GIF, but couldn’t work out how to do it. Here’s a still frame:

Pretzel twirling parrot

Thursday 22nd September

I met up with a friend for lunch in town. I was wanting to pretend to be a tourist, but he wasn’t so interested in taking photos of random street scenes. This is Front Street. Sometimes a policeman directs traffic from inside the Bird Cage.

Front Street and the Bird Cage


More lizards

They make me smile 🙂

’10 Things’ Reloaded

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I’m going to try that final Living Life to the Full cCBT module again, this time with a happier hat on than I wore last night!

1. A banana a day

I can do this!  Especially considering I’m used to having to eat bunches at a time, one a day will be easy.

2. Breakfast every day

I already always do this, so that’s an easy tick on the list

3. Exercise

I do already do a bit, and will look forward to doing more when the weather cools off/move to England where it’s cooler anyway.

4. Get some wow glasses

Yup, looking at the emulsion paint right now…strange to imagine that some of the ingredients started life as itsy bitsy creatures that collected up to form oil beneath the deserts or sea. And while that was happening (well maybe some millions of years inbetween, have no idea about ages), tiny coral polyps were growing and dying one top of each other to build calcium carbonate rock that was ground down and resolidified as limestone hills. These were quarried out to make the stone for the building that the oil-based paint now covers…pretty cool I guess!

5. Music

Firstly I realise that listening to BBC World Service, although not music, does fulfill the intent of this point: to break silence and give me other thoughts to think about besides stewing in worry.

Secondly, why not listen to Mozart or Portuguese folk music if that’s what I like?!

Thirdly, being open to listening to other music that others also like might help me widen my repertoire of acceptable noise.

6. Do a small act of kindness

I will do something for someone every day.

As I, like all other children in my country, have been brought up to be courteous to others, I’m already often saying the right things. I just need to make sure I am sincere with my ‘good mornings’ and ‘good afternoons’, and that my ‘thanks’ are said genuinely, and not just for fear of being told off for forgetting!

7. Take away a takeaway

If I find myself eating takeaways unnecessarily, then I will change and make the effort to cook myself an meal from this type of fast food. (But I will not stop eating a takeaway or readymeal if the alternative is to go without food!)

8. Heavy breathing – get out of breath and get your heart pumping by doing some housecleaning

Point taken, will endeavour to houseclean, quickly.

9. 5-a-Day

Smoothies! Yum!

10. Let memories make you happy

My 101 Things to make me Smile list is growing! Today’s things (and it’s only middle of the afternoon):

  • Daisy Chains (thanks to Nosebody[who happens to be #24!] for reminding me!)
  • Beating Pringles can lids (bongo style!)
  • Lizards

’10 things to make you feel better Now!’

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Nope, sorry I don’t have the magical keys to a happy life, but this is the title of the 8th and final Little Book module on the Living Life to the Full cCBT website.

I seem to have had an ugly negative hat on when listening to the online thing, but anyway, here goes a summary of it and a few of my thoughts.

1. A banana a day

Bananas are a natural source of typtophan, an amino acid required to make serotonin. Well, as for much of the last eight years I’ve had serotonin re-uptake inhibitors and then serotonin antagonists coursing through my veins, it makes sense that having the ingredients to make more of the serotonin in the first place is a good thing.

Aside from the chemical stuff (which I find more interesting), bananas are meant to be good at releasing sugary energy slowly.

My only problem is trying to get myself to eat one banana a day. Having been brought up on homegrown bunches of bananas, the trend I am used to is to gorge myself on bananas for a week, and then feel sick of them for the next couple of weeks til the next bunch is ready. So now I tend to just remember that sick feeling when I think of bananas, and the thought of actually having to buy one, part with money for it, puts me off too.

2. Breakfast every day

Muesli and porridge every day.

I already do this. Porridge in winter, generic weetabix+generic alpen+granola in summer. I am certain breakfast helps, but it hasn’t been the tipping point into guaranteed good moods.

3. Exercise

Don’t be unrealistic: you don’t need to splurge on gym memberships just yet, start by simply choosing the stairs over the lift (like when going out to buy bananas)

I can relate to the realism conundrum: until the weather cools down or I find a silver bullet to energy, I have had to accept I really can’t keep up my morning runs, as they too predictably leave me in a snotty exhausted heap four hours later in the day.

However, I tend to avoid going out to shops like the plague, and I guess I can’t expect the lovely Dr Chris Williams doesn’t know where I live, but in my country we have the silliest planning laws that prohibit any house over two floors. Thus I have a grand total of one (random) step in my house to crawl over every day. It will take a lot of climbing up and down it to call it ‘exercise’.

4. Get some wow glasses

Oh dear!

The online thing tells you to put them on (figuratively is ok) and “look with joyful wonder at the things around you right now. Don’t take things for granted. Think about all the amazing things it took to make the surroundings you’re sat/walking in… even to think about the processes it took to make the emulsion paint on the walls.”

My first thought was oh dear! Then after the emulsion paint line, I had to think, ‘hmmm I’d like to have a bit of whatever the lovely Dr Chris Williams is on!’. But I have to agree that in my heart I know the idea is right. Sometimes I forget to appreciate the good things around me. While noticing the good things doesn’t make everything right, and sometimes in the the short term makes me feel worse about myself for still feeling bad, I also know that being blasé about the good things doesn’t help!

5. Music

Silence = space to worry, so music must be used to drown it out.

Good in theory. Slight problem only in that I really don’t get on with music very well. I can cope with classical music, and even traditional toe tapping stuff if I’m in the right mood. But on an every day level where mainstream music is expected (ie what I can admit to listening to and/or when others might be listening too), I can only put up with it for so long before I have to remove myself from the scene.

As exemplified by conversation with music-college-student-cousin:

MCSC: “Zee, what sort of music do you listen to?”

Me: “Umm, not much, nothing in particular”

MCSC: “What, not even the radio?”

Me: [eyes light up] “ooh yeah!”

MCSC: “Great! What station?”

Me: “Umm, 1160AM…BBC World Service”

MCSC: “God you must be dead”

Point taken.

6. Do a small act of kindness

Eg write a thank you note, put someone’s bins out, say thank you to the check-out girl

I can’t argue with this one. Except for that last one. Again, the lovely Dr Chris Williams can’t know where I’ve been brought up, but let me say it’s in a place where ‘thank you’ to a check-out girl is more likely to be said in the context of “thank you for letting me pass my ‘attitude adjustment‘ exam and letting me out alive!”

7. Take away a takeaway

Cut down on your takeaway meal diet by cutting out one meal a week.

Good in theory and probably for many people, but to be honest it’s rare I do ever get a takeaway meal in the first place! Though I know I should try hard to actually cook myself something, rather than resort to a another sandwich or a bowl of cereal.

8. Heavy breathing – get out of breath and your heart pumping by doing some housecleaning.

Good in theory. I guess doing any sort of cleaning would be a good start!

9. 5-A-day

And drinking them in smoothies is a fairly quick and painless method for getting lots in. Plus you can check off the banana from Step One too!

Just slightly worried by the small print at the bottom: ‘Kidney problems? Please check with your doctor before drinking smoothies’

10. Finally, let memories make you happy

Don’t forget the good things. Write down 3 things everyday.

Funnily enough I started a101 Things to make me Smile list a month ago, completely independently of this cCBT module! However I have now stretched it to 31 things, so that is only 1 thing a day on average (I must not smile much!).  I will make more of an effort to smile and then remember what it was, with the aim to complete the last 69 things in 23 days.

The things I smiled about today and added to the list are:

30. Putting tourist sunglasses on and going sightseeing!

31. Remembering the New Forest Show Heavy Horse Dressage display (and double smile to find they’re still using the same theme tune compilation as they did from my earliest memories when I was 4 or 5 years old!)

I also slid in 21. Explaining geo-caching to others 😉

It feels like this is a rather downbeat post to end my journey with Living Life to the Full.com. I don’t think that has been my overall feeling from it, so I will plan to gather my thoughts on the website course and write a summary post about it. (I know I said I’d do the same thing after my sessions with Celine, the CBT lady, ended, but I haven’t yet. I keep wanting to, but at the same time don’t feel I’m ready to draw a line under that experience.)

read the Reloaded version for a more positive account!

Eye contact o.O


I feel like my mother is picking at scabs. Or acting how my little cousin when he used to poke sticks at my dog, saying ‘let’s aggravate her!’. The newest thing my mother is poking at me with is the fact I apparently don’t make eye contact when I talk to anyone.

I know when I was really little I used to be bad at making eye contact (in fact I didn’t really talk at all). But I thought I had got better at keeping eye contact and it was now something that I didn’t need to worry about. Or at least it was good enough that I could let it be pretty far down my (long) list of things to worry about. So I don’t know why it is something that my mother has just decided to pick on that now, as it it isn’t a new problem. Maybe it’s just that she’s got bored of telling me to be less floppy/be more happy/be more sparky, which has been her favourites for the past couple of weeks.

She thinks she’s doing me a favour by just ‘letting me know’ that my eye contact’s not too great. She says she’s worried for me (or for herself, that I’m a poor reflection on her?) that people will think I’m just rude. I’m reminded of this nice little piece of embroidery by Lindsey.Joy.

During the past few days I’ve been really trying to make an effort to keep eye contact, supposedly to show my mother that she is wrong, and that am perfectly able to keep eye contact. But to be honest, I’m finding it difficult (read: impossible for more than a nanosecond).

So my problem is actually two fold: firstly, chances are that I’ve been wrong all along thinking that I’ve mastered this skill, and in reality people really have always been finding me rude or aloof. It would be ok if I actively wasn’t trying to make eye contact, but as this seems to be my personality, congratulations to me, I’ve added another thing to my list of why I hate myself! Secondly, despite consciously trying, I realise I don’t actually know how to keep eye contact, so don’t know how to fix myself either! My mother thinks that’s a crazy excuse. But really, I mean, where do you even look at the person?! If I look at their eyes I feel like I’m burrowing into their skull and I hate that feeling when someone does it to me, so I don’t want to be a person who does that to others. But if I look at bits of their face, then I feel like a weirdo and it probably looks weird if my eyes are darting about the place. Not really eye contact anyway. I’ve thought about trying to look in the middle distance so that I’m not having to make focused contact, but I’m sure that my gaze probably looks vacant and weird. And again, not really eye contact either.

The other fundamental problem of eye contact is that I suppose it’s meant to help show you’re genuine. But in reality I’m not feeling genuine at all when I’m thoroughly unhappy pretending to be confident making eye contact. I don’t want people to see how uncomfortably I am trying to keep eye contact, so then I look away…and boom, I’ve messed up again.

If any one has some useful ideas on how to keep eye contact – like what to think or where to look, I’d be grateful if you could let me know!

PS This is the one thing that makes me feel marginally better about myself: A Cartoon about Avoiding Eye-Contact

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