This is a project which means an awful lot to me...Fisch - Future for Iringa Street Children. 

For one I firmly believe that when we should not live in a world where we can justify sending some children to private schools and provide healthcare for some children which verges on the miraculous while there are still children who die through lack of the most basic education and healthcare.  This project is a small step towards rectifying that imbalance.  

For two the project is based in Iringa, Tanzania.  This is a town which I have visited and is very special to me.  I can still almost smell the sweet scent of the frangipani, taste the warm juicy guavas and feel the glow of the colourful african sun as if I was still there.  This is a picture of the view from Iringa.  Totally gorgeous as you can see.

And finally, and most importantly, Fisch was set up by my beautiful friend Lissie and her husband Rich.  I have a lot in my life to thank Lissie for and I love her dearly.

Its a great project and it relies entirely on donations to keep providing these children with the love, care and support they so desperately need to enable them to get back into society and claim a future filled with hope.

Lost in translation

I have hit a bit of a brick wall this week with most areas of my life - including my van plans.

So far I have emailed about 5 dealers a carefully crafted email with the intro and end in German, and various technical questions in the clearest English I can manage.  Now this email took me a while - so I am not that impressed that I have had no answers.  At first I was inclined to blame the site itself for not deliveing my emails to the dealer - but given how easy the rest of the mobile.de website is to use I somehow doubt a site with that level of professionalism would have a non-functional email system.

Which brings me to the conclusion that the problem lies either in the content of my email, or the fact that I am emailing instead of calling the garages.  Now I would really rather not have to call up every single dealership - for one it will make for a giant phone bill before you even factor in the issues caused by my lack of linguistic talent.  So for now I have revised my email into a 100% German, short & sweet, can I get some info please type of communication.  I'll send that out for another week or so - and if I still get nothing back I guess I will have to resort to making phone calls.

What seemed like forever to find a van now seems to be closing in on me very fast indeed!

Meet my favourite city in the world

My favourite city in the world (so far) is...Miami.  Though more specifically South Beach - and Istanbul is currently running a close second!  Now on paper - Miami and myself would appear to be poles apart.  I love simplicity, honesty and humility, Miami loves wealth, illusion and decadence.  Yet we also have some common ground, like a love of sunshine, green parakeets, palm trees and tropical fish.  

The fish  in the Miami Beach Marina love bread by the way, and they are an absolute joy to feed.  Sitting on the hot wooden dock feeding the long wriggly pipefish and big brightly coloured fish while watching the big snapper jacks hunting the little silver fish up against the rocks is a memory that will stay with me forever.

Miami is one of the few places I associate being truly happy with.  The 4 days I was supposed to stay there turned into a week, and the week into 3 weeks, and I cried when I left.  While in Miami, time slowed down.  The city stood still in a haze of sunshine and heat while the rest of the world kept on turning as if in some different dimension.  Nothing else mattered except the sea and the sand and the beauty of red sunsets, fast cars and well groomed people.  Suddenly I was converted.  I accepted the wealth as normal, supercars didnt even get a second glance by the time I left.  And yet the fact that I was virtually penniless, dirty and unkempt from travelling didnt seem to matter either.  I didnt feel out of place, I didnt feel inadequate in comparison to the tanned toned flawless people around me.  I felt like I was part of Miami.

I reckon if I had stayed there for months instead of weeks I would slowly have converted without even noticing into being a Miami girl.  Perhaps not one of the rich blond beauties, but definitely a permatanned, always smiling person slipping naturally between Spanish and English, as colourful as the art deco buildings around me.  Perhaps Miami's secret is that it is like a dangerous hallucinogenic drug, it captures your heart and your imagination and never releases you.  It is that peculiar mix of Americana, Hispanic influence and natural perfection which makes it impossible to ridicule.  It is the American dream, and yet there is an openness about its imperfections that mean it cannot be scoffed at for that.  It contains all that is worst about immigration and poverty, and yet there is such a rich melting pot of culture that it cannot be looked down upon for that.  I saw the good and the bad in Miami, and I loved it all the more for it.

Its been 4 years since I was in Miami, and I still regulary think about it and how much I would love to return.  And yet I am not sure that I actually do want to go back.  I am scared that if I do, I wont be under the influence of that drug of freedom and contentment.  Im scared that I will see through the facade of perfection that Miami puts up, to see the wasteful selfishness of SoBe and the ignorant insularity of the suburbs contrast against the danger and poverty of Downtown as something unacceptable.  See the flaws, the fraying edges and the cracks in an entirely different light  Miami brought me peace with its haze of perfection, and I want it to stay that way.

But surely no city is ever what we see of it, even if you live a lifetime in a city it is still entirely impossible to understand what it means to all the people who live there.  Impossible to know all its darkest secrets, and all its finest elements.  Maybe it isnt Miami itself that I love, its just a point in time and space where city, sunshine and girl collided to produce a love for a place that I will savour forever.  Even if I never go back, I will always wish I had never left Miami.

100 books challenge!

I used to love to read when I was a child.  I always had my head buried in some book or other, but since I hit secondary school and reading became tied up with studying - I really went off it.  But...in the efforts of trying to replenish my diminishing vocabulary I have restarted reading.  And rather than read mindless chick lit, I thought I would try some real classics.  Feeling all cultured I downloaded myself the Guardian's 100 Greatest Book's list.  Now clearly this is a very subjective list and people who know things about books could most likely soend HOURS arguing about what should or should not be on it.  But I figured it would do for now.  There are some amazing free ebook resources out there like this.  The ones I have read so far are in green - as you can see I have a long way to go!  I have also included ones that I have seen the film of...which again I know is a heinous sacrilege, but it sure makes me feel good to get more of them in green!

1. Don Quixote Miguel De Cervantes
2. Pilgrim's Progress John Bunyan
3. Robinson Crusoe Daniel Defoe
4. Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift
5. Tom Jones Henry Fielding 
6. Clarissa Samuel Richardson
7. Tristram Shandy Laurence Sterne
8. Dangerous Liaisons Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
9. Emma Jane Austen
10. Frankenstein Mary Shelley
11. Nightmare Abbey Thomas Love Peacock
12. The Black Sheep Honore De Balzac
13. The Charterhouse of Parma Stendhal
14. The Count of Monte Cristo Alexandre Dumas
15. Sybil Benjamin Disraeli
16. David Copperfield Charles Dickens
17. Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte
18. Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte
19. Vanity Fair William Makepeace Thackeray
20. The Scarlet Letter Nathaniel Hawthorne
21. Moby-Dick Herman Melville
22. Madame Bovary Gustave Flaubert
23. The Woman in White Wilkie Collins
24. Alice's Adventures In Wonderland Lewis Carroll
25. Little Women Louisa M. Alcott
26. The Way We Live Now Anthony Trollope
27. Anna Karenina Leo Tolstoy
28. Daniel Deronda George Eliot
29. The Brothers Karamazov Fyodor Dostoevsky
30. The Portrait of a Lady Henry James
31. Huckleberry Finn Mark Twain
32. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde Robert Louis Stevenson
33. Three Men in a Boat Jerome K. Jerome
34. The Picture of Dorian Gray Oscar Wilde
35. The Diary of a Nobody George Grossmith
36. Jude the Obscure Thomas Hardy
37. The Riddle of the Sands Erskine Childers
38. The Call of the Wild Jack London
39. Nostromo Joseph Conrad
40. The Wind in the Willows Kenneth Grahame
41. In Search of Lost Time Marcel Proust
42. The Rainbow D. H. Lawrence
43. The Good Soldier Ford Madox Ford
44. The Thirty-Nine Steps John Buchan
45. Ulysses James Joyce
46. Mrs Dalloway Virginia Woolf
47. A Passage to India E. M. Forster
48. The Great Gatsby F. Scott Fitzgerald
49. The Trial Franz Kafka
50. Men Without Women Ernest Hemingway
51. Journey to the End of the Night Louis-Ferdinand Celine
52. As I Lay Dying William Faulkner
53. Brave New World Aldous Huxley
54. Scoop Evelyn Waugh
55. USA John Dos Passos
56. The Big Sleep Raymond Chandler
57. The Pursuit Of Love Nancy Mitford
58. The Plague Albert Camus
59. Nineteen Eighty-Four George Orwell
60. Malone Dies Samuel Beckett
61. Catcher in the Rye J.D. Salinger
62. Wise Blood Flannery O'Connor
63. Charlotte's Web E. B. White
64. The Lord Of The Rings J. R. R. Tolkien
65. Lucky Jim Kingsley Amis
66. Lord of the Flies William Golding
67. The Quiet American Graham Greene
68 On the Road Jack Kerouac
69. Lolita Vladimir Nabokov
70. The Tin Drum Gunter Grass
71. Things Fall Apart Chinua Achebe
72. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Muriel Spark
73. To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee
74. Catch-22 Joseph Heller
75. Herzog Saul Bellow
76. One Hundred Years of Solitude Gabriel Garcia Marquez
77. Mrs Palfrey at the Claremont Elizabeth Taylor
78. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy John Le Carre
79. Song of Solomon Toni Morrison
80. The Bottle Factory Outing Beryl Bainbridge
81. The Executioner's Song Norman Mailer
82. If on a Winter's Night a Traveller Italo Calvino
83. A Bend in the River V. S. Naipaul
84. Waiting for the Barbarians J.M. Coetzee
85. Housekeeping Marilynne Robinson
86. Lanark Alasdair Gray
87. The New York Trilogy Paul Auster
88. The BFG Roald Dahl
89. The Periodic Table Primo Levi
90. Money Martin Amis
91. An Artist of the Floating World Kazuo Ishiguro
92. Oscar And Lucinda Peter Carey
93. The Book of Laughter and Forgetting Milan Kundera
94. Haroun and the Sea af Stories Salman Rushdie
95. La Confidential James Ellroy
96. Wise Children Angela Carter
97. Atonement Ian McEwan
98. Northern Lights Philip Pullman
99. American Pastoral Philip Roth
100. Austerlitz W. G. Sebald
22 down..88 to go!!!

The search begins...

Now that I have somewhere to put the van all fixed up - I have begun the search in earnest.  So that I can get a nice cheap flight deal I really want to get the van found and the deposit paid by the end of February.  My search criteria have now been narrowed down to the following...

  • 2.4l diesel - I decided to go for the 2.4 over the 1.9l as Im hoping it will give me a bit better power considering the van will be pretty heavy when everything is in it.  Hopefully the added power will more than compensate for the additional fuel costs of the bigger engine
  • 150 000 miles or less on the clock - no real reason for this figure, it just seemed like a healthy figure based on the mileages that I had seen
  • €2000 maximum budget.  I had originally set a budget of £2000 - so this is about £1700 of that.  But with the import and registration costs as well this will probably push me just over the £2000 mark.  Which is ok as it was more a guideline than a budget!
  • 1995 or later vehicle - again no real reason except that getting as new a van as possible seems like a good idea...
  • Half panel model - this means there will be at least 1 window behind the front seats.  I think having a window on the sliding door will make the van a lot lighter and nicer to spend time in.  This is more of a nice to have so I will just take what I can find if necessary.
  • Dealer-owned vehicle.  Just to give me a little bit more security really, though I will be getting a TUV inspection done on the van as well anyway.
 And that's my requirement list - I think it should be pretty achievable.  I found one decent looking van on the mobile.de site today so that's promising.  I sent them an email more as a test run than out of genuine interest, I think its a bit early really to be asking a dealer to commit to holding a vehicle until April for me.  But I wanted to test the water regarding the whole English-German communication thing.  I went with my introduction and closure in (very bad) German and the important questions in mainly English.  I figured their English was most likely a lot better than my German.

Having not studied German for 6 years, writing anything in German except my preferences regarding pets, colours and siblings was a bit of a challenge.  This was made worse by the fact that for at least 3 of my 5 years of studying German, we had a teacher who we respected just enough to lock him in his own cupboard on a regular basis.  And we were the good kids!

I guess I wish I had listened to the poor guy a bit more now.  It always amazes me that he didnt have a nervous breakdown - maybe I could learn something from his tenacity...though not from his teaching skills.  I certainly could of learnt a bit more German that's for sure!

Good news!!!

I have found a home for my van!  Its great because...

  • Its dry
  • Its sheltered
  • Its inside
  • Its got lights
  • Its got power supply
  • Its flat
  • Its on a good solid concrete floor
  • Its clean
  • Theres tons of space
  • It definitely wont have to be moved
  • It will fit through the door
  • It is with people I love
This is an awesome step forward and now I absolutely CANNOT wait to get my van and get started!!!

Big big thanks to the lovely donors of this space.  Your generosity will be forever valued.

In remembrance of Quote Days


The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. (Einstein)  I would define, in brief, the poetry of words as the rhythmical creation of Beauty. (Edgar Allen Poe) Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all.  (Churchill) By necessity, by proclivity, and by delight, we all quote. In fact, it is as difficult to appropriate the thoughts of others as it is to invent. (Ralph Waldo Emerson) Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. (Oscar Wilde) By three methods we may learn wisdom: first, by reflection, which is noblest; second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third, by experience, which is the most bitter. (Confucius) Ignorance is the curse of God; knowledge is the wing wherewith we fly to heaven. (Shakespeare) Parting is all we know of heaven, and all we need of hell. (Emily Dickinson) For pleasures past I do not grieve, nor perils gathering near; My greatest grief is that I leave nothing that claims a tear. (Byron) To be a surrealist means barring from your mind all remembrance of what you have seen, and being always on the lookout for what has never been.(Magritte)


An old and dearly beloved friend of mine and I used to have quote days.  The basic aim was to make the grey English days that merge so willingly into one a little brighter and a little clearer.  I have a deep love of quotes, which is made even fonder by this memory.  I wish I had paid more attention to the things we were trying to say to one another through these quotes now.

Van progress update...

So its been a while since I did a van post - so in the effort of preserving my progress for future reference and accountability and all that here is one.

I am still working on finding somewhere to store my van which kind of sucks.  But...I have not exhausted all possibilities yet so I am still very hopeful that I will find somewhere really great.

I have done some furniture board research.  Turns out it will be barely any more expensive to get either new caravan furniture board or 2nd hand units than it would be to get untreated plywood.  So to save myself hours and hours of treating wood just to get a really rubbish finish I am definitely going for the proper furniture board.  Breaker's yards like this seem to be the best places.  Once I have the van and the measurements of what I want I will go visit some.

I have settled on getting a LHD from Germany (because there are lots there and they have easyish sales sites and my German is tolerable).  The German Ebay and mobile.de seem to be the best sites to look.  I havent found a van yet - but I have booked the time off work in April to go and collect it so now I have a deadline to work to.  I find I work a lot more purposefully when I have a deadline.

I intend to get the van inspected before I buy it (like the AA inspections you get in the UK).  The best German companies to do this seem to be ADAC and TUV.  I need to find a bit more out about what documents and stuff need to come with a van from Germany.  I also need to do some insurance research.

My other next steps include finding out about the UK MOT requirements so I can get any necessary work done on the van before I collect it.  I am going to drive it home, and really I should take it straight for an MOT as soon as I get it into the UK - which I then really need it to pass so I can then go home.

And the main task is to actually find the van!  Ideally I would like to get a deposit paid on one by early March at the latest so that I can get a nice cheap flight over.  Let the search commence!

The hypocrite's revenge

When I said I didn't make New Year's resolutions...I take it back (though I maintain they are almost always a waste of time).  But...this one must be memorised and immortalised.  It is a critical matter of life and death.

I will not spend next New Year's crying on the floor watching Father Ted

Happy New Year world!

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