Wednesday, 24 February 2010

In THIS City

And I found that round here In this city That I won't disappear In this city I got nothing to fear In this city, In this city
- Iglu + Hartley "In this City"

I'm not entirely sure which city these guys are singing about but for me this city is Bradford

I moved to Bradford in 2004 to come to university here and study for a Ba in Peace and Development Studies. I remember very clearly a nice older man at church telling me that it was a bit ironic to come here and study Peace.
In the summer of 2001 racial divisions came to a head in violent riots involving large numbers of police and local residents. The riots and surrounding tensions are sensitively portrayed in a channel four documentary. The 3 years between 2001 and 2004 and the fact that I was aged 16 at the time of the riots meant that I didn't know much about it. In fact I came to live in Bradford having only ever been here 3 or 4 times, it was not a city where I knew anyone, I had no friends or family or any sort of links here.

I found it very difficult at first to live not only away from home but without anyone who was looking out for me. I hadn't really had any fears about being homesick or anything like that because I'd had a gap year and lived in Burkina Faso in western Africa for several months and though I had missed seeing my family and friends and knowing the culture, I was not homesick for them, got on with living in Africa and making friends and enjoying life.
Leaving to go to University was a different experience from this. There was no one around who had to look out for me, no one who would automatically miss me if I was ill, I had a sudden fear of having a stroke in the night and not being able to move or talk and nobody finding me for days.
I'm not naturally the most outgoing of people, those first couple of weeks when you start university are full of introducing yourself and wondering whether these people are going to be your friends, are you making a good impression? do you like them? do they like you?
I found this pretty difficult.
I had also moved from my parents house in relatively peaceful suburbia into a university flat with very little communal area in the city. The neighbourhood where the majority of students live is quite poor, because of this and the amount of students its quite dirty and at times noisy.

Within a couple of months of living in Bradford I'd started to help out at a Salvation Army centre on Holme wood estate a few miles out of the city, coming in to contact with normal, non-student people helped me appreciate the city a lot more.

As I lived here longer I began to fall in love with Bradford
I love the fact that there are so many beautiful buildings, I grew up in a town with very few old buildings left in the centre so this was a lovely change.
I love the cultural diversity, I love that Bradford has such a rich culture, there are many many languages and traditions and (rather importantly) foods. According to the most recent UK census (via, of course wikipedia) Bradford has the highest percentage of people of South Asian origin in England and Wales apart from Tower Hamlets in central London.
Bradford has an amazing heritage at one point it was the 5th richest city in the world

The overwhelming view of Bradford from people who don't live here is incredibly bleak.
Bradford has double the national infant mortality rate and the highest rate of gun crime in the country. It also has high levels of unemployment and obesity.

Despite these issues I do truly love Bradford
This definitely feels like home to me
and I feel that I've got nothing to fear

Monday, 15 February 2010


I work in a school
this means I get lots and lots of holidays and that I also get home from work before 4pm when most of my friends don't finish work until 5
I'm very fortunate to have all this extra time when I'm not having to be working
This week I'm spending today and Wednesday sorting out the house and forms and things I need to finish then tomorrow I'm having some of my gorgeous lady friends over for coffee and chatting in the morning
Wednesday afternoon I'm going back home to visit my parents and as my mum only works 3 days a week and my dad is waiting to start a new job I'll have fun with both of them which is very very unusual
On Friday my parents are going to bring me and two of my bestest friends over to Bradford to spend the weekend and we'll have another friend join us here
lots of lovely things to look forward to
I'd better get on with the sorting and tidying

Sunday, 7 February 2010

I know that I'll come across as being particularly British for talking about the Remove formatting from selectionweather but it does have such an impact on me
This past week we've had a couple of days of snow, several days of weird damp fog and last weekend was beautiful and bright.
I don't have a car, I don't drive, it'd be illegal and I'd be incompetent also because of my current financial challenge I'm not really taking buses much this leaves walking or getting a lift as my two main options for getting around the place.
On Thursday evening I walked into town to meet up with friends to celebrate my friend Liz's birthday and passing some professional exams
On Friday night I walked 2 and a half miles to meet some people from church at someone's house
Yesterday I walked around for three hours and, according to google maps about 5 miles into and out of town doing a bit of grocery shopping
I'm trying to get a bit healthier and fitter
It has been so very foggy that sometimes I've not really been able to tell whats coming up
on Friday evening I looked up directions to the house I was visiting because I wasn't exactly sure how to get there and it involved going down a road I've never gone done before but that is very close and goes down the side of the school I work at, I started walking at about 7 when it had already been dark for several hours and the fog meant that I could see my exact surroundings or if anyone was coming until they were really very close, this was the most spooked out I've been for a while. I tend to just go for it and walk even if I know that the road is dodgy or that I'll have to walk through a less pleasant area but think because this road goes between offices and factories and a school and deserted fields and there was no-one else around and no sounds it was unnerving.
I've been listening to "The Dog who came in from the Cold" by Alexander Mcall Smith which is available to download for free on itunes from the Telegraph
He wrote the Number1 Ladies Detective agency books, I don't think hes the best writer, some of his characters seem a little naive, in this book there is a character who is the same age as me who went to university the same year as me but who seems not to know things that I would expect people my age to know.
Anyway I'm off to bed

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

challenging myself

I know its February already and that really personal goals are meant for the beginning of the year but I've been doing a lot of thinking recently about how I spend my money and also how I spend my time.
I earn not very much at all and have been successfully budgeting for the past couple of years but I've not really saved anything and I think really I've often spent money because I've had it rather than because I really want or need something.
In September I'm going back to being a student and will have no income, I know that I will be able to get by on student loans and grants but I'd like to be able to have a bit saved for fun things while I'm studying. My contract at my current job finishes in July and I will have at least 5 weeks before my course starts, though I won't be going on fancy holidays or anything like that I would like to have some fun, see friends and possibly do a bit of volunteering and I'll also need to pay rent and bills, all this costs money so I'm need to be saving a bit for that.
I also want to reassess what my money is going on in terms of food, I'm often guilty of buying things that I don't end up using, I do sometimes get quite excited in the supermarket and end up buying packets for all sorts of things that I never eat.
As well as these personnel reasons for spending less, I also want to be more mindful of the fact that there are people all over the world both in my neighbourhood and far away how are desperately struggling to make ends meet and to make sure that they have enough to eat. I am not struggling financially and really it would be hard for me to not have enough as I know that I have family and friends who look out for me. I'd like to give more money away and to do it in a considered manner rather than just giving if I'm asked
I thought about limiting myself to £15 a week after I've paid rent and bills but I mentioned this to my dad and he was worried about me being able to eat properly so I've decided on £20. This way I can save a little bit each week or anything fun I have coming up (visiting friends, going on trips, school holidays) and not have to limit myself in enjoyment terms because I'm not trying to become mean spirited or worried about money.
So this is it, the challenge, these are the rules I've set for myself
  1. pay all bills and rent
  2. withdraw £20 cash every week on Wednesday
  3. leave debit card at home
  4. in cases of emergency I am allowed to spend more
emergencies include, getting to appointment (doctors, dentist etc.) and needing to take a taxi, buying medicines, where it would be very inappropriate not to give money

now I've got that established
I thought I'd put up some pretty pictures I've taken recently
these are pictures that I took while I was away this weekend with friends in the Yorkshire dales

we had beautiful sunshiney weather and fantastic views

we stayed in a lovely house at the top of a rather steep hill

some of us got tired walking up and down the hill and needed some help

we saw a heron
a good time was had by all
thats it for now