Monthly Archives: May 2008

Hiraeth a hwyl

Note to casual readers: you won’t find anything profound here, just an account of my lovely weekend.

Hiraeth is a special Welsh word which means longing and a touch of homesickness, though it is, curiously, sometimes viewed as a positive, energizing feeling, while hwyl is analogous to the Irish word craic, i.e. good fun and entertainment. (Oh, and a means “and” in Welsh… sorry to end the paragraph with such a plebeian point…)

Well, this last weekend was a very pleasant mixture of the two. I’d arranged to meet my cousin and her husband in Switzerland, as they were enjoying a short break combined with a tour by her choir. She’s had a very rough few months, which made it all the more important to me that we should manage to meet up, having only coincided at weddings and funerals in recent years.

They met me off the train in Zurich and we went for a leisurely coffee and an initial catchup on personal and family news. After stowing my bag at the station (which took forever, as the cash machine had given me a single large-denomination note that it was impossible to change in the machines provided, and then the locker was extremely picky about the various coins we fed it), it was time to make for a meeting with other choir members, consisting of a boat tour with a sit-down lunch on Lake Zurich. The view of the Alps at the southern end of the lake was breathtaking, even though it was a somewhat hazy day. And lunch was a good opportunity to get to know some of the others on the trip.

When we got off the boat we went for a leisurely walk through the old town, and after more food and a lovely glass of wine I had time to explore on my own while the others had a rehearsal or other plans. This was great – I really didn’t know how I would feel exploring a strange place on my own, but it was entirely positive. I struck up conversations with a few people and took pictures of them – two Ukrainians and an American playing chess in the open air, and a woman with the most amazing platform sandals, among others.

After that I went to the choir concert, which was where the hiraeth kicked in. They performed a wide range of works, including Fauré’s Cantique de Jean Racine and Mozart’s Ave Verum, which I have either played or sung in the past and really love, and there were lots of Welsh songs, including the archetypical rugby anthem Cwm Rhondda (“feed me now and ever more (ever mooooore)”). It was just lovely.

Later we had some organizational problems with about 40 of us trekking the streets of Zurich in search of liquid refreshment and no one with a real plan, let alone a reservation, so it was definitely no room at the inn time initially. People dispersed somewhat as a result, but about 15 of us repaired to a beer garden and had a grand time there, regaling the other visitors with four-part singing after the live cover band had finished. It was SO amazing to be part of this – I’ve so missed this spontaneous part-singing that seems to occur on all sorts of occasions in Wales. And it was a lovely group of people and I felt so totally at home, even though I’d only known two of them initially.

On Sunday we got up, had breakfast and headed for Lucerne via a scenic route. Five of us in the car, a full load. And then after a wee bit of walking around, it was time for lunch, and we had a wonderfully leisurely couple of hours down at a restaurant on the waterfront. Again, lovely people, and I felt sad leaving them all afterwards. After a bit more walking around, visiting churches, bridges, shops and other points of interest, I got the train back home.

It was really hard leaving my cousin and her husband, especially as I’d slept badly (again) the night before and had to fight tearfulness almost the whole day, but on the way back on the train I had a growing sense of looking forward to being at home again. And now I have this sense of having had a lovely time and of having really experienced a lot of new things, as well as meeting and enjoying talking to a lot of lovely people.

The upshots of the weekend:

1. It was FANTASTIC to spend time with my cousin and her husband.

2. Even though I didn’t know anyone else from the group beforehand, I had a wonderful time talking to them and enjoying their company as well as the things we had in common.

3. I came back reassured that I could make independent travel and enjoy myself, which I hadn’t been convinced of before, having been way too dependent on being in a relationship in order to travel.

4. I’m joining a choir, first rehearsal tomorrow…

Watch this space for more…


Filed under Intercultural & interlinguistic, Out & about

I need to be nicer to myself

The week back home did me a lot of good. Company, sympathy, support, a change of scene, eating properly and finally managing to get a bit more sleep were all so important and much needed. And I had a few VERY much better days at the end and when I got back.

I’m now slipping back into the bad habit of not being good to myself. Feeling guilty and undeserving, and simply not treating myself with the kindness and attention I would give to someone else in the same situation. I know so well that this is something I have simply got to change, but it’s such an ingrained thing that during these darker times I just don’t know where to start and don’t believe in my own capacity for change.

But something has to change. I can’t go on relying solely on other people to pick me up everytime I fall down. I so want to feel in control of my happiness and that I can do something positive just for me and not to impress or gain the affection of someone else. I wish for the clarity of vision to recognize what can make me happy, and for the courage to go out and get it.

I’m reading Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood, which a couple of friends recommended to me. I’m only 45 pages in so far, but I’m already feeling as if it were a book that was written about me. It’s painful at times, but the way in which it looks at situations and character traits from a more objective viewpoint while detailing the subjective thought processes that go on within some women’s minds is deeply insightful and a lot less exhausting than constant brooding self-analysis.

I’m hoping this book will give me a few pointers as to how I can be nicer to myself, and where to start. Facepacks, chocolate and soppy DVDs are all very well, but I need to delve a lot deeper.

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Filed under Up close and personal


The Bad News: Things have definitely gone from bad to worse this week, and the yucky things that have been happening have been exacerbated by my not being able to sleep or eat properly. I think I’ve hit rock bottom. (I hope, cautiously, that this means I can’t fall any further.)

The Good News: I’m flying “home home” on Saturday for a week. Friends have been on at me to get out of town, and I’d resisted as there was nowhere I felt like going and no one a train journey away that I felt like inflicting myself on at the moment in my subdued state. But “home home” is a rather different prospect, and I feel a huge sense relief at having decided to go: no more panic at how to survive the next two weekends at home here, which I strongly suspect would, for various reasons, have been even more difficult than the last ones. I was also really touched that a friend went out of his way to help me get flights.

Depending on what I need at different times, I’ll be able to talk about things or be quiet, have company or space, diversion or focus, rest and time to recuperate, as well as a much-needed opportunity to see family and friends back there.

I really hope to be able to return feeling stronger and with more of a sense of purpose / optimism / self-worth, and less of a sense of loss / anger / hurt. I’m going to do my best to make the very most of it.


Filed under Up close and personal

Positive achievements #1

OK, time for an update. Admittedly, I have had some awful moments since my last post, particularly over the weekend, but there have been some positive developments that I’d like to report, in no particular order.

  • I bought some cosmetics yesterday. The one and only loyalty card I possess is for a cosmetics company that has a shop in Freiburg, and since they’d sent me a special offer card in advance of my birthday later this month, I thought I’d take advantage of it. So I stocked up on my favourite face cream, got some new body lotion and some face pack, plus I got money off, a free mascara and a birthday gift of a pendant. The pendant is, admittedly, HIDEOUS, but I can use the cord for something more to my taste.
  • When I was feeling particularly awful yesterday morning, I mustered up the courage to phone a friend and simply to say “I feel dreadful, can we meet?”. I think I’ve been tending to wait too much recently for people to contact me, and then when they have, I’ve often felt guilty about moaning or being depressing. Anyway, said friend was available and we went for lunch (more about that later), and I felt a great deal better after a pep-talk, some food and getting out of the house.
  • I have eaten healthily. Yesterday’s lunch was a fabulous salad with turkey bits, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. And later in the day I went shopping and stocked up on a load of fresh stuff, some of which I have eaten today. I have an unhelpful tendency often to eat badly when things aren’t going well, thus punishing myself further, but I managed to counteract that and felt good about it.
  • I worked on my photography. The friend I met yesterday suggested meeting again later to take some pictures of a sort of ad-hoc mass pillow fight that was due to take place at 18:30. I took this as an opportunity to try out RAW format (having only ever shot in JPG until now) and have enjoyed observing that it is a format that allows more flexibility when it comes to editing pictures. There’s still a part of me that is sceptical, thinking that it allows more mistakes and is more forgiving, but in my present state of mind I actually ought to appreciate those features in life in general, I know!
  • I bought a self-help book. Yes, it does perhaps sound a bit sad, but it was something I felt I needed to do. After initial frustration that the apparently relevant bookshop section was labelled “relationships / couples” rather than “breakups” and that most of the books were about how to save / make the best of / enhance your relationship, I found one called Lovesickness: First Aid for Broken Hearts. I’m looking forward to starting it.
  • I went to church. (Yes, I can perhaps hear the agnostics / atheists groaning!) I have not suddenly had an epiphany, but this is part of my search for new ways to occupy my weekends, and I do actually have a history of going to church, even though it’s been many years since I was an active churchgoer. Actually I’d been thinking about trying this for a while, but weekend plans always got in the way. In any case, I went last week for the first time, after arranging with an acquaintance to accompany him and his family. I went on my own today, and although I found myself getting a bit upset at times during the service, I was glad that I had gone,  and I met some more regulars, including a couple of people I already knew vaguely and / or had something in common with. It’s all a bit different from the church I knew in my youth, but I guess I’ll be going along there next week as well, by which time there’ll be plenty of people to say hello to and have a chat with.
  • I’ve know that I’m not alone in feeling sad. I met up with a friend on Friday who I hadn’t seen for a while, and I felt good being able to sympathize / empathize with what she’s been going through recently, and I hope I was able to encourage her a bit. I’ve also received updates from other people I know who’ve been going through truly awful situations in recent months, and it has been both humbling and positive to put my own woes into perspective.
  • I hope to see my cousin towards the end of the month. She sings in a choir that is going to be in Switzerland for a few days, and if things work out, I’ll go down for a weekend and go to one of the concerts, see her and her husband, and enjoy a change of scene and maybe some sightseeing.
  • I’m planning a trip to London in June. I’ll be meeting up with some photography friends, and probably also visiting family.
  • I’ve put my family tree online. I’ve been researching it for over ten years, and I have finally found a platform where I can present and update my results. I’ve spent a lot of time this weekend uploading my database of around a thousand individuals, I’ve had to make some laborious manual changes to it after the software and the website interface had a few problems communicating, but I can now finally contact various family members and show them what’s there. This is great, as it represents a stronger contact point with my family and an easier way of communicating about this topic than simply relaying bits and pieces.

OK, before I sign off I’d like to say how much I’ve appreciated all the comments people have made on my previous posts. I’ve learned a lot, been able to appreciate the situation from different viewpoints, and I feel I now have a much better idea about what I’m trying to do here. Many, many thanks to my friends and family for support, and I hope to be able to give another positive update soon. Watch this space…


Filed under Up close and personal