A Little Bit About…Living Abroad

I’m a Scottish girl living in Spain so you would think “living abroad” would be an obvious topic for me to write about, one which would roll off the tongue easily. But weirdly, it’s not. It’s one of the most complex ones.

I arrived back in Spain at the end of August after a glorious three week break at home at my Mum and Dad’s, where – after quarantining for 14 days, thanks Coronavirus – I got the chance to catch up with some of my nearest and dearest friends and family. The 1st of September also marked my three year anniversary here in Madrid, so it only seemed right to finally tackle a post on my time abroad so far.

But somehow life got in the way of my procrastinating and here I am at the end of September, still trying to express in words what it’s like to live abroad. So here it goes…

First of all, I feel so lucky and blessed to be having the experience I’m having. In only 3 short years, I’ve established a real little life. And I know that sounds ridiculous, and maybe obvious from an outside perspective. But when you first arrive in a new city, it’s not that obvious. It’s hard to imagine that one day you’re going to get to a place where you know where you’re going, where you have a routine. I remember one of the biggest highs being when I started to bump into people I know in the street, something which back home would seem standard and mundane suddenly made me feel like I had somehow established a big enough network of friends and acquaintances and colleagues in a city with over 3 million people to actually meet people I know. I now have a favourite hairdresser, and nail salon, and food shop. I say things to my friends here like “I’ll meet you in the usual bar”.

I guess it’s like starting a new relationship with someone; somehow one day they just feel familiar, as if you’ve known them your whole life. That’s the feeling I have here in Madrid, like I can’t remember life without it.

Speaking Spanish has been a massive advantage for me and my journey here in Madrid, and one which has thoroughly enriched my experience. That’s not to say you can’t move abroad without speaking the language and still have a great time, but connecting with people “fluently” in a different language is – to be outright corny about it – a magical experience. By no means do I speak 100% perfect Spanish, but when you’re able to express yourself enough in a foreign language to actually reflect your personality (as opposed to telling everyone you meet what kind of pets you have and what your hobbies are), it’s such a natural high.

Don’t get me wrong, there’s parts of living abroad which I struggle with. My Mum and I were talking one day and she jokingly asked me if it ever feels like I have two lives, and my honest answer was “yes, it does”. It’s silly to say, but it’s an odd feeling talking to your friends and family back home and saying “I went down to such and such a place down the road” and them not really having any idea of what you’re talking about as they’re not familiar with where you live, with the streets you walk every day or with the people in your life. I’m such a people person and struggle with the fact that some of the most important people in the world to me are a thousand miles away from each other and can’t even communicate in the same language. Now maybe that’s a bit of a trivial “first world problem” to be moaning about, and I should just be grateful for having so many great friends in my life no matter where they are, but it’s definitely something I think about.

My heart will forever lie in Scotland, and I think that deep down I know I probably want to settle down there one day, but right now there is nothing and no one that could convince me to give up my life here in Spain. It’s my home away from home and somewhere I truly feel I belong (and that says a lot considering it’s 22 degrees outside and the Spaniards are already wearing long trousers, wooly jumpers and boots while I’m out in a t-shirt and skirt. Foreigner alert!).


A Little Bit About…Surprises

I’m a massive fan of surprises, both surprising other people and being surprised. I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about the look of joy and elation on someone’s face when they didn’t see the surprise coming. Over the past few years, I’ve arranged more surprises than ever. It’s like I caught a bug for it: I did one, it went well, so I did another.

My friends and I have arranged surprise baby showers, surprise appearances at engagement parties, and I’ve even surprised my friends at the airport. But some of my favourite surprises were for my Mum and Dad’s 60th birthdays. For my Dad’s 60th, my Mum and Dad were coming out to Madrid for the week, so my Mum and I surprised him with tickets to the Madrid Tennis Open and tickets for a Real Madrid game and he was over the moon. But I has ALSO co-conspired with my mum and dad’s close friends who also flew out to Madrid that very weekend to surprise them both. The reaction was priceless (partly because of the surprise in general, partly because they dressed up in the world’s craziest wigs and false teeth haha best surprise ever). A year later, for my Mum’s 60th, my Mum and Dad were again coming out to spend the week in Madrid. This time we surprised my Mum sitting in a bar one afternoon with someone tapping her on the shoulder and it being my Aunt and Uncle and cousins. Again, another priceless reaction (less fancy dress involved this time though)!

Then there’s surprises people have planned for me. A few years ago, I invited some of the girls to my flat for a girls night in, with the idea of having a takeaway and a few glasses of wine. Not long after they arrived, I headed out to pick up the food from the takeaway place 5 minutes down the road. But when I got back to my flat, food in hand, my key wouldn’t go in the door. I thought to myself, “that’s strange”, as I knocked for one of them to open from the inside. All I could hear was giggling and footsteps running about all over the place on the wooden floors. After what felt like the longest 2 minutes, they finally opened the door and shouted surprise: they were all in matching pyjamas and had set up a pamper night of face masks, foot spas and manicures.

But surprises don’t always work out as planned. Thankfully, sometimes a failed surprise can provide just as much as entertainment as the surprise itself would have done. Last year, I flew home to surprise my mum and take her to a Westlife concert (yes 30 years and 60 years old and we still turn into the biggest fan girls when we hear “Flying Without Wings”). The only issue was, I actually arrived in Scotland before my mum did, as she was abroad on a trip with friends. So without even thinking about it twice, I let myself in to my Mum and Dad’s house with my key, grabbed the car and went to visit my aunt and uncle and cousin for the night before surprising my mum the next day. Little did I know that the neighbours – who are always great at looking after the house and keeping an eye on things for my Mum and Dad if they are away – had spotted the car going missing from the driveway….cue panic stations! Here was me obliviously causing havoc!

What made me write about surprises this week? Well because I was going to surprise my family by flying home this Friday for a family get together, but (no) thanks to Coronavirus and the Government rules in place about quarantining, I had to break the bad news early that I WAS planning on surprising them, but couldn’t anymore. I’m gutted, both about the surprise falling through and the prospect of having to spend 2 weeks in self-isolation during my hard-earned summer holidays. I guess the plus side is that I’ll have plenty of thinking time to plan my next surprise…!

A Little Bit About…Laughter

Laughter is the best medicine so they say. After my recent weekend away, I can vouch for that being true. Here’s why…

I’m unfortunately very prone to headaches and in particular, to migraines. Although I’ve managed to get them under control over the past few years by cutting lactose out of my diet, I still often get tension headaches and sometimes the odd migraine. Last week was one of those weeks. I had a pretty sore head all day Monday and Tuesday, and I figured it was maybe just tiredness, but by Tuesday night, my whole head was pounding and every single source of light or sound, no matter how small, felt like a sensory overload and was multiplied by hundred. I took the medication I normally take, which normally works, but I woke up on Wednesday feeling awful. Blurred vision, dizzy, nauseous, pounding head. I went to the doctor who gave me an even stronger tablet, but after 24 hours and 3 of doses of medication, I still wasn’t feeling 100%. I stupidly went into work on Thursday, eager not to miss too much and trying to shake off the pain, but after a couple of hours and yet another visit to the doctor who gave me an even stronger dosage of medication, I had to head home. Back to a dark and silent room. 

I had a weekend away with the Spanish girls from work planned from Friday to Sunday, and mid-week, mid-migraine, I seriously doubted whether or not I would be able to go. But the good news was that the weekend we had planned was a mini luxury girls weekend, in a 5-star hotel with spa access. I figured in the worst case scenario, the girls could go out and explore and I could spend all weekend in bed nursing my migraine. After all, if you’re going to have to spend all weekend in bed, it might as well be in a 5-star hotel room, with Egyptian Cotton sheets, fluffy pillows and wearing one of those fuzzy dressing gowns they always give you in fancy hotels.

But thankfully I woke up on Friday morning feeling much better. A little drained, but much better. I went to work, suitcase in hand, ready for the weekend. But still with the expectation I might have to call it a night early and rest up. Little did I know that as soon as the three of us left work that afternoon and headed in the car to our destination, it would be like magic…migraine no more! 

First up, we spent the 3 hour car journey singing our hearts out to some of the most iconic pop tunes and Spanish “reggaetón” music known to man, before arriving to find a gorgeous hotel in the most tranquil spot. We spent Friday night at a candlelit dinner in the hotel courtyard with a live pianist, before having a few glasses (maybe bottles…) of wine and heading to bed. The next day we did a tour of the nearby town Caceres, then spent the afternoon having the spa to ourselves before getting dressed up to go to Atrio, a spectacular Michelin star restaurant in the heart of the old town of Caceres where we enjoyed an out of this world 23 dish tasting menu. On Sunday we spent all morning at the outdoor swimming pool before heading to a nearby town square for lunch to fuel up before the drive home to Madrid. We laughed all weekend, from start to finish, telling old stories, catching up on gossip and taking pictures. 

Although I’m very aware of how lucky I am to have such amazing friends both at home and here in Spain, one thing that never fails to amaze me about my friends here in Spain is how even though I grew up approximately 2000km away, speaking a different language most of my life, in a completely different culture, the three of us have so much in common and it feels like we’re all one in the same. That made us laugh even more. The fact that we grew up listening to the same music, watching the same TV shows and movies (albeit with funnily translated names into Spanish) and wearing the same latest fashion trends. 

The most important thing was that we relaxed. We forgot about work and migraines and Coronavirus. I feel like a new person this week. Laughter really is the best medicine! Either that, or a life of luxury is, I’m not quite sure. But for the sake of my bank card, I’m going to go with laughter. 

A Little Bit About…Spontaneity

Spontaneity is a funny concept, isn’t it? By the very nature of it, it’s not something you can plan. You can’t particularly look forward to it either, or even aspire to it. Plus, some of us are simply “better” at it than others. By that I mean that some personality types simply lend themselves to being more adventurous and flexible, while others prefer to organise and arrange everything in advance, and probably can’t think of anything worse than being spontaneous. 

Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle. Admittedly, I very much like to play by the rules (always have, always will), so sometimes the thought of being impulsive can put me off my game. That being said, as I’ve come through my 20s, taken on adventure after adventure and even moved country, I’ve had no choice but to grow, adapt and become more flexible (in a figurative way of course, I’ve tried yoga and can confirm I am definitely NOT flexible in a physical way). At the ripe old age of 29, I’m probably less of an organiser than I’ve ever been and now actually enjoy “going with the flow”. I believe that’s what the cool kids call it.

What’s funny is that when you look up the definition of spontaneity, two of the synonyms it gives you are naturalness and artlessness, two very contradictory terms. One, naturalness, positively suggests that it’s the purest and most natural way a human can act, while the other, artlessness, negatively suggests it’s a careless and reckless way to act. But which is it?

If I’ve learnt one thing, it’s that even those organised, structured, planning types amongst us can be spontaneous too. It’s just that their spontaneous looks different to that of a free-thinking, thrill-seeking go-getter. For example, if every single day of his life, Bob plans his meals down to a tee, what he’ll eat, where he’ll eat, when he’ll eat…then one day he decides to leave his packed lunch in the fridge and tag along with work colleagues to try something new instead, then Bob could have skydived off the Empire State Building if you ask me! Changing your lunch plans at the last minute might not seem like a big deal to some people, but to others that’s a massive step. It’s all relative!

This weekend my very own level of spontaneity was “tested” so to speak. A fairly new friend of mine suggested a trip to the beach for the day since neither of us had plans. We booked our train tickets last minute and off we went with a few things flung into a backpack (and a face mask of course!) to spend the day. It was a flying visit and the plan was….there was no plan.  Other than to do whatever took our fancy. Spontaneity at its best!

I thought to myself “This type of thing right here is exactly why I moved to Spain. To see new places, hang out with different people, try unfamiliar things”. That was until there was mention of hopping on a motorbike though….! That’s when the breezy, carefree, spontaneous me went out the window and the wary, prudent, overly sensible me stepped in. I’m terrified of Spanish driving and traffic as it is without hopping on the back of a motorbike haha! But thanks to the “there was no plan” plan, me not being very enthusiastic about the prospect of a motorbike didn’t ruin the spontaneous feel of the day, it meant we simply decided to walk instead.

I personally try to keep an open mind as much as possible and do whatever I want, whenever I want…within certain limits of course. Turns out that limit includes motorbikes! But that example aside, I think a bit of spontaneity is great in life. Why not try something different every now and again? When was the last time you did something out of the blue? You never know what you might find out about yourself. 

P.S. Ironically, I actually ended up having a spontaneous Sunday night nap which is why I’m posting this on Monday night instead…oops!

A Little Bit About…The Beach

For me, one of life’s biggest mysteries will forever be how people manage to look glamorous while at the beach. What is the secret?!

You know the people I mean? With the sunkissed skin and freckles, the golden speckles in their hair and just an all-round glow? While I sit there pasty white – partly my natural “hue” and partly the 3 layers of Factor 50 sun tan lotion I have on – probably with prickly heat on my arms and mosquito bites on my legs. Now I know we should never compare ourselves to others and all that jazz…but come on!

Despite it not being when I look my finest, I have always loved the beach. There’s something kind of magical about being by the seaside isn’t there? It’s like you’re nostalgic for memories of old family holidays while eager to create brand new ones at the same time. But lets face it, these people that make look it look effortless are lying!

Firstly there’s the sand. And it’s everywhere, On your skin, in your hair, in your shoes, in your bag, in your car, in your suitcase….in my not-so-professional opinion, you continue to find sand in unexpected places up to 7 days after a visit to the beach. It somehow creeps in even if you’ve already washed and dried everything. Twice!

Then there’s the suncream. Oh, the suncream! Remember when you were a kid and you would get lathered in sun tan lotion and then told to wait 30 minutes before going in the sea to “let it soak in”? Well no matter how old you are, those are STILL guaranteed to be the longest and hottest 30 minutes of your life, just standing waiting for the suncream to dry before you can enjoy a swim in the sea.

And don’t even get me started on the sunburn. It baffles me, but people (sorry to say it, but especially us Brits) seem to convince themselves that if they burn, “it will turn to tan in a few days”. I’ve never heard anything more ridiculous! If you get burnt, you look like a lobster, end of story. Not a good look in my eyes!

Now if the beach isn’t my chosen fashion catwalk under normal circumstances, I can confirm that the beach in times of Coronavirus is even less so – wearing a sun hat, sunglasses, a face mask and a swimming costume is in no way a glamorous look. Yet it’s one I proudly rocked all weekend!

I spent a couple of days in a quiet seaside town on the East Coast of Spain this weekend which was delightful, albeit surreal, it being my first ever “socially distant” and “new normal” beach experience. We wore our masks until we were in an open space where we could set up camp and from there on out, kept our distance from anyone else on the beach. There were additional security staff on hand to explain the rules and ensure everyone was abiding by them too, so although it was a surreal experience, it was a safe and sensible one.

Since I’ve lived in Spain I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the most gorgeous beaches I’ve ever seen. Small little “calas” with turquoise water, the whitest sand and to-die-for backdrops. The sound of the waves, of people laughing and playing. The sun slowly setting and leaving everything with a golden glow which you can’t help but smile at. And this weekend was no exception.

That being said, Spain isn’t the only place with goregous beaches. My mum and dad recently reminded me of a funny story of when I was about 14 years old: the 3 of us were on holiday in Florida and went to the beach one night to watch the sunset. I can’t even remember how it happened, as thinking back it seems quite out of character for me, but I got talking to a guy on the beach who was about the same age as me and we decided to wander along the water edge, chattting away. But we clearly got too engrossed in the awkward teenage boy-girl chat because the next thing I know, I heard my mum and dad shouting on me. I turned round and realised we had walked really far away, so much so, my mum and dad were just tiny little figures in the distance. One (my mum) frantically waving, clearly panicked I was about to disappear into a Florida sunset and never look back, the other (my dad) beside her playing it slightly cooler but looking equally as panicked! Lets blame that one on the “sea air” shall we? See, I told you there’s something magical about being by the sea….

Joking aside, I really do find being at the beach so relaxing. Being a city girl at heart, it’s an escape. A fleeting moment of relaxation and quiet. Even if I do have to simultaneously worry about topping up my suncream, keeping sand out of the snacks and making sure the parasol doesn’t blow away.

A Little Bit About…Dads

Today is Father’s Day in many countries, a day to celebrate Dads and father figures everywhere. So guess what today’s inspiration is? That’s right, today I wanted to write A Little Bit About my Dad.

Multi-skilled, in his spare time alone, he’s my tax consultant, property maintenance manager and general life advice guru. Oh, and he also provides a top notch taxi service between Edinburgh airport and home. We have the same initials, same sense of humour and many of the same mannerisms (so my Mum tells us), albeit I definitely watch and play a lot less football than him.

I thought I’d share with you all some of the most important lessons my Dad’s taught me over the years. He’s a pretty private person, but he’s also the biggest fan of this blog, so I’m sure he won’t mind me letting you in on a few of our secrets to life since it’s all for a good cause.  

Dream big – Ever since I’ve been little, my Mum and Dad have both always told me I can do anything I put my mind to. Our minds are powerful things, and my Dad in particular has always taught me to use mine wisely…by thinking positively. And turns out he’s right. It sounds so simple, but this is the biggest and best gift I could ever have asked for so guess we need to add another tally mark on the “what I owe you” list haha!

Somebody else’s food always tastes better – this one is so annoyingly true, do you agree? Regardless of what it is, it could be a takeaway, it could be a bag of crisps, it could be a roast dinner. But someone else’s always tastes better! Luckily, that’s what Dads are for…sharing their food with their daughters haha!

I don’t need 30 pairs of shoes – I’m going to compromise on this one and agree with him that I do not need 30 different pairs of shoes. However, I still stand firmly on the fact that I want and enjoy having 30 different pairs of shoes. I think we’ll just agree to disagree on that one, eh Dad? We can’t all wear the same brand of trainers for 40 odd years…

Be an athlete – my Dad’s always joked with me about being “an athlete”, mostly because, well, I’m not. But that’s ok, because what is important is going out and making the effort to do some exercise. Good for the body, good for the mind! Whether it was running my first cross country race in primary school (and taking so long to come back into the stadium everyone thought I was lost), playing Netball in the Scottish Cup Championship or simply just going to the gym, my Dad’s always been there to support me. Not quite managed to get anyone else other than him (and my Mum) to recognise me for my athletic abilities right enough, but I’m sure that’s just an oversight….

Rollerblades are great fun, but not the most appropriate footwear – when I was younger, my Dad took me camping for the weekend. At the time it seemed like the biggest adventure I could possibly be going on and I was so excited that 5 minutes after arriving at the campsite near Loch Lomond, I ran straight into the lake…trainers and all. My Mum is the organised one in the family, meaning if she was there I would have had a spare pair of shoes to change into, but this was strictly a Dad and daughter adventure. Meaning no spare shoes and having to wear rollerblades for the next 48 hours until my trainers dried again! Great fun, but definitely NOT practical. Lesson learnt by all!

Always brush your teeth before bed (and don’t crunch polo mints) – my Mum and Dad were never too strict BUT, there was one thing my Dad told me every single night…to brush my teeth. He told me to promise him just that one thing, to always take care of my teeth, as I’d look back and thank him one day. So even now, at 29 years old and over 2000km away, I still brush my teeth every night thinking of that, and I have to say every time I look in the mirror, I am indeed very thankful for my pearly whites! Have to confess, I do love to secretly crunch polo mints though…sorry Dad!

Anyway, those are just a few of my highlights. And what better way to end than with a Braveheart quote: I love you, I’ve always loved you…dad jokes and dad dance included!

A Little Bit About…Meatballs

You know the feeling when you spend hours making a meal, then you eventually sit down to eat it, but the end result somehow doesn’t seem worth all that effort? Or when you order something in a restaurant because the description on the menu had your taste buds tingling, but when the waiter puts it down in front of you it tastes bland and flat in comparison? Well a few months ago, back when we still attended the office every day, I had a pretty traumatic lunch break in work due to that very type of disappointment – obviously I’m exaggerating about the traumatic part, but I can’t help it, especially when it comes to food. I’d had the cold for about a week (don’t worry, just an actual cold, nothing Coronavirus related), so was feeling sorry for myself – no one else would – and decided I wanted something warm and hearty for lunch instead of the usual sandwich or baguette. So I asked in the canteen if they could do takeaway for the hot food and they said yes, bonus! They always have a selection of at least 3 hot mains to choose from. My choices today were:

  • a macaroni cheese type dish – ruled out because of my lactose intolerance
  • swordfish with a selection of season vegetables – ruled out by being too healthy and not quite cutting it on a day where I wanted nothing but stodge
  • meatballs in a delicious looking sauce with a side of roast potatoes – sold!

I practically sprinted back upstairs so that I could dig in to my calorie ridden, carbohydrate infested meal as soon as possible. Just what the doctor ordered (in this instance, by doctor I quite clearly do not mean doctor and obviously mean the bottomless pit that is my stomach). I made the first cut into one of the meatballs, ready to smush (that’s a word, right?) it about in the sauce and take my first bite. Only to see that the “meatball” was white inside. Hmm, strange right? Well you’ll never guess. What I thought were meatballs, were in fact codballs. That’s right, you read that correctly. Flaked codfish, mushed together and rolled into a ball. Codballs. Yuck! Why someone would come up with such an invention I have no idea. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good fish dish, but rolled up…no thanks!

Now I like to think that I’m a fairly positive, smiley person. Well not this day. I was in a terrible mood all afternoon. Unhelpful to my colleagues, unmotivated to go to the gym that night (ha, any excuse, right?) and in an all-round bad mood. All because of a few codballs (it doesn’t get any more normal the more you say it, does it?). Does anyone else let the small things in life annoy them this much?

Do you want to know the only thing that put a smile on my face again later that night? It was when I remembered this…When I was in my late teens/early 20s, my friends and I used to always hang out at the same friend’s house, as he had converted the garage at his mum and dad’s house into a hang-out space for us all (I can’t believe I just used the word hang-out, I feel like that majorly undermines the coolness of it but I’m not really sure what else to call it to be honest). We spent endless nights there, drinking, eating, dancing, singing, laughing. But regardless of the occasion, or who was there, we ALWAYS used to watch the same movie before everyone eventually crashed out, Michael Jackson’s This Is It. So why did this seemingly irrelevant anecdote end up making me smile after the codball catastrophe? Because every single “morning after” the epic night before, when we’d all wake up with sore heads, the TV was always still on and had been playing the advert at the end of the Michael Jackson DVD on repeat. That advert was for the kid’s movie Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.

To this day I’ve still never watched the actual movie itself, but somehow it holds such a strong meaning for me. Somehow, that random thought process cheered me up and put a smile on my face, making me forget about the white mush of a lunch I spent 8.99€ on and making me think happier thoughts, back to the great times spent with friends (and the not so great clean-ups the morning after the party the night before).

A Little Bit About…Close Calls

I’m in one of those phases where I’m trying to “branch out” into listening to new music, something other than the same 5 Spotify Pop Music Playlists I always have on shuffle. So I’ve started to listen to some country music. When I say country, I really mean country pop. Therefore, not that different. But anyway, baby steps.

One of the things I’ve started to love about country music is the lyrics, because for some reason they seem a little bit more profound and insightful than your typical pop song. One of my favourite artists at the moment is Thomas Rhett (who also happens to have a song with the lyrics “ain’t nothing that a beer can’t fix”, but I promise that’s not the ONLY reason I like his music).

Anyway, one of his songs is called Almost and talks about how we should be grateful for the “close calls” in our life, the good and the bad, because they’ve made us who we are today. He uses examples of how he almost gave up playing guitar when he was younger, yet now he’s a world renowned musician, and how he almost didn’t kiss the girl…who turned out to be his wife.

Think about it. I mean, there are so many different types of close calls. It got me thinking a lot about some of my own, and made me realise it’s such a positive way to look at things

The things you ALMOST gave up on but looking back now, you’re glad you didn’t: Like sticking to your diet or keeping running when you wanted to give up. I remember thinking in my Spanish classes so many times throughout school and university that I must be mental to WANT to subject myself to embarrassing myself in front of an entire class by having to speak a foreign language out loud and probably (almost always at the beginning) say something wrong. I almost gave up. But I didn’t, I persevered. And thank goodness. Because if I did, I wouldn’t be fluent and I probably would never have taken the opportunity to move to Spain. When things get tough, it’s human instinct to want to bail. But some things are worth sticking to.

The things you ALMOST didn’t even do in the first place: Like talking to that person in the playground when you were 5 years old who turned out to be your best friend to this very day. Think just how differently your life would have turned out if you didn’t even do some of the things you have done over the years? So I say apply for the job, phone that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, start that new hobby no matter what age you are – if something is for you, it won’t go by you (as Grans all over the UK would say)!

The “ALMOSTS” which simply turn out not to be for you: Like certain boyfriends and girlfriends, or jobs you didn’t get but wished you did. When these things start to fall apart, it can feel like the world is crashing down around you. But looking back, you can appreciate some things just aren’t mean to be because you have a different path to take in life.

The “ALMOSTS” that could have turned out worse than they did: Like falling and hurting your foot but thankfully not breaking it, or losing your phone but luckily having all of your contacts and files backed up. One pretty prominent example sticks out in my mind for this one. I was in a car accident with a colleague about 18 months ago (a story for another day!) whereby a large container truck changed lane on the motorway without checking his mirrors, and hit our car, sending us into a spin. THANKFULLY, there were no other cars in any of the 4 lanes right at that moment in time, so our car eventually spun out and hit the crash barrier before finally coming to a halt. Albeit the car was written off and we suffered some pretty sore sprains and fractures due to whiplash, we were OKAY! If it had happened even one second before or after, there would have been more cars involved and the situation could have escalated, meaning it was ALMOST even worse. Looking back, I’m so thankful it happened the way it did (albeit I would rather not ever have to go through that again).

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to say we have to look at absolutely everything in life through a set of rose tinted lenses and put a positive spin on it all. But I do think being thankful for the “almosts” and “close calls” in life is a helpful way to look at certain things. Even if it is just something as simple as “I almost forgot to stock up on chocolate yesterday at the supermarket, thank goodness they put those KitKats at the checkout otherwise I would have no Sunday night snack” (true story)!

A Little Bit About…Time

A Little Bit About: Time

I know it’s such a cliché, but time really does fly by doesn’t it? As much as lockdown is taking its toll on everyone, I can’t help but feel that time is passing fairly quickly. I last left my friends and colleagues in the office when it was the beginning of March. Suddenly it’s the end of May. How did that happen?

Back in 2016, I had a work trip abroad for 3 days with non-stop meetings. It was great, and very productive, but it left me with a ton of follow up work to do and an accumulation of emails to deal with. So on the plane home I got my laptop out to do some work. I had an important presentation due in the next day and wanted to use my time effectively, instead of wasting 3 hours watching Netflix or listening to Spotify. In the seat next to me there was a young mum, probably the same age as me, with a one-year-old baby sitting on her lap. I made some brief small talk with her as the flight was taking off. The baby, naturally, was wriggling about, arms flailing all flight long. I constantly reassured the mum that the baby was simply doing what babies do best: playing. Until…

Right as the air steward made the announcement that we were approaching landing and so all electronic devices had to be stowed away (side note, do we EVER use the word stowed in any other context?), I was about to save and shut down my laptop when the baby slammed her cute, chubby little hand down on the keyboard, coincidentally (and soul destroying-ly) holding down the delete button. It was ALL gone. All of it. I genuinely thought things like that only happened in cartoons, not real life! Now I’m starting to realise that maybe all of these things have happened to me to give me good blog content….

Anyway, what does this story have to do with time flying in (apologies, that was a looooong tangent)? Well now fast forward to Christmas time 2019 and I was boarding my flight home to Scotland, when in the row in front of me was the very same young mum and the baby who was now FOUR YEARS OLD! This time the woman’s husband was with them and they had another new born baby. I remember that like it was yesterday (clearly traumatised having to re-do 3 hours of work later on that night) yet three whole years had passed.

I was actually talking to a really close friend of mine recently about this, and we got to talking about what our lives might look like in 3 years’ time, because if we look back 3 years, we never would have guessed we’d be where we are. Back then I was travelling back and forth between Spain and Scotland, practically living out of a suitcase, trying to keep on top of work, my personal life and a whole lot of packing and unpacking. Yet 3 years down the line I now live in Spain and it feels like a lifetime ago I was travelling back and forth. Where will I be in another 3 years? Hopefully not still in lockdown at least…

A Little Bit About…Alba

I’ve attempted a few times to write about life abroad or more specifically, my decision to move from Scotland to Spain. It’s funny actually, when I tell people I have a blog, they always assume that is what I write about all the time, when it’s actually what I find the hardest to write about.

It’s difficult trying to express in words how at home I feel in both places. How I rarely feel like I’m in a FOREIGN country. How I feel just as at home in Spain as I do in Scotland. How I absolutely love my life in Spain, and can say hand on heart I prefer the Spanish lifestyle (it’s hard to argue with so much sun and a constant combination of siestas and fiestas). Yet living here has made me more fiercely proud to be Scottish than ever, and makes me miss Scotland and all of its beauty (even if it is shadowed by grey clouds 90% of the year).

Do I miss home sometimes? Absolutely. I’m not trying to pretend that life in Spain is rosy 100% of the time (particularly in current circumstances). But at the end of the day, Scotland, my family and my true friends will always be there for me, regardless of where I – or they – live.

Do cultural differences sometimes drive me up the wall? Of course they do! Like the fact that people don’t queue up for things in Spain, or the fact they are so direct when they speak. But I’ve grown to love these “quirks” and find they make me appreciate an orderly queue of polite people every time I’m back home more than normal!

Do I get sick of speaking Spanish all the time? Yes, and no. I absolutely love being able to speak another language, and feel like I can express myself differently in both languages. But my poor wee brain sometimes gets tired, that’s for sure.   

And Scotland, what can I say! The land of breathtaking scenery, friendly people, square sausages, irn-bru, tattie scones and ridiculously hairy cows. Like I said beforehand, living abroad makes me even prouder to be Scottish than I have ever been. Hearing a Scottish accent or a set of bagpipes is enough to make the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Bonnie Scotland – I’ll move home one day!

So what made me think about all of this? A good – and very artistic – friend of mine recently drew a cartoon portrait of me and I reckon he summed me up perfectly: he drew me sitting writing at my laptop (he took the liberty of upgrading me to a Macbook, if you’re reading, thanks for that by the way), with a glass of wine at arm’s reach (naturally) and with a window and bookshelf behind me. Through the window you can see some of both Glasgow AND Madrid’s most famous sights. And on the bookshelf, there’s a little Scottish AND a Spanish flag.

I know it might sound silly, as it’s maybe an obvious fact consider I am Scottish and live in Spain. But for me it hit home that both Spain and Scotland make up who I am now, and both play such an important role in my life and heart.

Anyway, why did I decide to write all of this tonight? Because it took me back to why I chose to use the name Alba on this blog. Fun fact, it isn’t a coincidence. Alba is my actual name translated into Spanish. But it also means Scotland in Gaelic. Tell me that is not fate? Oh, and it was just pure luck it also stands for A Little Bit About.

Scotland, I love ye, I’ve always loved ye.

Spain, te quiero, y siempre te querré.