24 More Things I’ve Learned by 24

Pastel pink and floral notebooks

Last September I shared 23 Things I’ve Learned by 23. Now approaching my 24th birthday, I’ve put together another list. I’m all for lifelong learning.

Here we go:

1. You can’t and don’t need to do everything. Prioritise your commitments.

2. Qualities can be more important than qualifications.

3. Social contact can help you live longer. Make sure to ‘build your village’.

4. What a stranger at a train station thinks of you really doesn’t matter.

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September Reflections

View from Cissbury Ring, West Sussex

If Richard Curtis adapted my experience of this month into a romantic comedy, it could be called One Wedding and a Funeral. It would feature plenty of love, laughter and tears, without puffy dresses or patterned waistcoats.

September has brought another milestone – going back to school. I recently started the second year of my MA. This looks set to be the last autumn I spend balancing professional work and academic work (and blogging and…). I’m keen to get stuck in and appreciate the experience. Please remind me of that when I’m in the library two hours from home and it’s dark outside.

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A Life Well Lived

Sam, my Grandad, passed away on Saturday. For the past few months, my family has been going through the raw, uncomfortable process of losing an important person. Grandad was witty, clever and always supportive. His steady presence was accompanied by a love of history, languages, golf and West Bromwich Albion F.C.

I miss – and will continue to miss – his stories. In April 2013, we stayed with relatives in Mumbles, a village at the far end of Swansea Bay that leads to the Gower Peninsula. I’ve written briefly about this place as home before. On this visit, like many previously, we walked around Oystermouth Castle. As my cousins played on a tire swing and Nanny looked across the bay, Grandad and I ventured through the trees. He gestured to the house where he and my great grandparents had lived in the 1950s, enthusiastically describing how he grew from a teen into a cheeky young man with a motorcycle. Before this he had lived in Ethiopia and afterwards he moved to Birmingham. In the early 1980s, his young family moved back to the Gower, where my Mum later met my Dad, an Oceanography student from Kent.

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Coeliacs Abroad: Florence

A view of Florence, Italy, from the Duomo.

Molly in Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Italy.

I recently visited Italy for the first time. I met my parents in Florence, where we stayed in a charming, convenient Airbnb for four nights (Friday to Tuesday).

I was excited about the culture but slightly apprehensive about what three coeliacs would eat in the land of wheat pasta and pizza. As with Amsterdam, I researched places beforehand and we managed well.

Here are some highlights from our trip.

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Birthday Month

The murmur of Radio 4 and the smell of onions.
You at work, moving ingredients and thoughts
In handfuls, in circles.
You taught me to taste and to read,
Wrote lines in my first cookbook,
Sparked my imagination with stories
Over toast and tea.
Soon we will mark fifty years of you,
Twenty three of me.
We will break bread – the kind we can eat –
And I will show you this.
A thank you for holding my hand during my first steps,
For sending words of encouragement during the next ones.
For the books bought and borrowed,
The phone calls during moments of pure panic.
For showing me what doing a little good in this world can do.
I hope that you will be around for a long time yet,
But when you are not, I will reach for
The murmur of Radio 4 and the smell of onions.

Coeliacs Abroad: Amsterdam

Amsterdam Photo Grid

Coeliac disease is a chronic autoimmune condition affecting roughly one in every hundred people in the UK. It’s passed on genetically – through both sides of the family, in my case – and can be triggered from birth or later on, due to internal and environmental factors. Having dealt with symptoms and complications throughout my life, I was diagnosed in the summer of 2015. I’ve written about that experience on the Student Minds blog.

Travelling as a coeliac can be complicated. I’m particularly prone to flare ups whilst abroad, when a lot of time is spent on the move and gluten contamination is hard to avoid. Before my diagnosis, I suffered from exhaustion in Ecuador, sickness in New York, a migraine in Paris and stomach pains in Copenhagen. Oh, the glamour. I’m fairly good at managing my condition now, but flare ups can happen as a result of tiredness or stress, regardless of whether or not I have accidentally consumed gluten. Still, I don’t want that to stop me from exploring new places.

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