Caledonia, You’re Calling Me…

…and I’m going home. Twice in a month! (Bonus points if you know the song reference). Mid-February rolled around and it was finally time for my rescheduled visit home! I was so excited to be going home at last. It has recently dawned on me that I was in France without going home for longer than I was in China in total! That really blew my mind because it felt like I was in China for so much longer than I’ve been in France.

It felt so good to see my family (and pets!) again. Most of my first few days were taken up with spending time with the people I love and not much else. That’s what I had missed most about not getting home at Christmas. I had still had the Christmas food, I had still watched the Christmas movies and felt the Christmas spirit but the most important part of Christmas for me is always spending some uninterrupted down time with my family. That’s what I had missed and so that’s what I wanted most out of this trip. I went on long walks with my dog and my dad, chilled on the sofa with my mum and sisters, had several XXL glasses of wine with my best friend and even overlapped with a visit from my aunt and cousin who live in England! We even had a bit of snow!

Besides stocking up on quality time with my family, my first priority was getting my booster vaccine and the second was getting a haircut! Both would have been possible in France but just a lot more complicated. Because I had my first two vaccinations in Scotland, it was simpler to also get the third one there as well. As for the haircut, I hate getting my hair cut as it is because it never turns out how I want it. Add in having to navigate that in French and you’re asking for a disaster. I went for a pretty hefty chop as well, in my usual pattern of letting my hair grow long enough that it starts to piss me off and then chopping it short. I was impressed that Amber, my hairdresser, managed to do exactly what I wanted with very vague instructions. This was my first proper haircut since waaaay before the pandemic (though I did have two kitchen trims in between) and I was so happy with the end result!

After spending the first weekend at home in Dunblane, I headed down to London bright and early on the Monday morning. Some of my best friends are based down there and even more uni friends have gone to the dark side and moved there since we graduated so I had a lot of of people to catch up with. I was staying with my friend Jesse in Stoke Newington so the first day was spent exploring around there. Jesse took me to Abney Park Cemetery, a little green haven in the middle of the Hackney streets. You enter and within a couple of metres you are engulfed in the trees, the sounds of the streets left behind. We did a little turn around there and then headed to Clissold Park. In the evening our friend Amy came through from Surrey and we went out for a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner at a Turkish restaurant. No one else I’d rather spend it with! There’s usually a fourth person in this particular group but unfortunately Lucy couldn’t be there because even though she was also in London, she had covid! We finished the night with possibly the cheapest gin and tonic to be found in the whole of London – only £3.20!

The best we could do! (Also peep the new haircut)

My second day in London was very chill, spoiled a little by some horrible weather. I didn’t mind though because at this point I don’t go to London to DO things, I go to see people. We got lunch from a 24 hour bagel shop (opposite the 24 hour baklava shop, for all your midnight snack needs). Jesse lives right next to Stamford Hill which is an area of Hackney with the largest concentration of Hasidic Jews in Europe. The bagel shop is known for its salt beef bagel which me, Jesse and Amy all got. Super thick slabs of the tenderest beef I’ve ever tasted with mustard and gherkins. That evening I met up with a bunch of uni people in Canary Wharf for dinner and a drink. This group all seemed to have ended up either living or working around there (other than one who came in from Surrey for the evening) so it made sense to meet there. It was my first time in that area and it has a very different personality to the areas of London I’m used to!

Canary Wharf

For my last morning we headed over to Jesse’s family’s house to have brunch with them, some lovely pancakes! Jesse gave me a proper tour on the way over, showing me all the sights from Ridley Road market to her old high school. In the end I could only stay for about an hour before I needed to leave to go to the station to head home. It was a lovely few days, just what I needed to catch up with some people I’d really been missing. There was a bit of a storm blowing through that disrupted my travel back but after a few delays and a lift home from Edinburgh, I made it!

Back in Scotland, I went to Glasgow the following evening to meet my friend Hannah for dinner. We went to a place called The Hug and Pint that does small, vegan, Asian plates and then went for a few drinks. We ended up in a pub where her flatmate was playing in a trad circle. Immaculate vibes.Being in Glasgow even just for one evening really made me want to live there one day. It’s been on my mind for a while that I think I could like Glasgow. It’s something very different from Edinburgh, something new. It’s a bit of a Scottish cultural hub, in a way that is missing from Edinburgh, despite it being the capital and having so much history. Trad and folk music have such a presence as does Gaelic and the more I learn of Gaelic the more I want to keep learning and get involved more.

The next day saw an early birthday and very late Christmas dinner! At this point it’s almost a tradition for us to have Christmas dinner not at Christmas (because it’s also almost a tradition that I’m not there at Christmas) and so we combined it with a birthday meal this year! We started with our traditional starter, a spicy tomato soup and then a turkey or a veggie option with all the trimmings. We followed up with a raspberry semifreddo, a semi frozen dessert made in this instance with Greek yoghurt.

And that brings us to my birthday! Or should I say our birthday, I am a twin after all. Unfortunately my mum got covid for the second time halfway through my visit so our day started with a socially distant visit to wave at her through the window! The main event involved going through to Edinburgh for some drinks. Amy and I parked ourselves in the Pear Tree and had lots of our lovely friends drop in on us – my uni friends, Amy’s uni friends, friends from home and others that are close enough to Edinburgh to pop in and say hello. It was such a fun afternoon with a great mix of people so thank you to anyone reading who came along and made my 24th special!

Happy 24th birthday!

And with that I flew back home after a lovely ten days. It felt great to spend some time at home in Scotland and surrounded by family and friends. So great in fact that it wasn’t two weeks before I was back again! This time it was just for a long weekend, from Thursday to Sunday, in order to attend the Edinburgh University Swimming and Water Polo Club (EUSWPC) alumni weekend. EUSWPC was a massive part of my university experience and the alumni weekend is always a good time, with everyone from recent graduates to those who left 10 years or more making the trip back.

The celebrations didn’t start until Friday night so I had a bit of time to catch up with uni friends first, some of whom I’d seen at my birthday a few weeks before and others I hadn’t. I saw my friend Hannah for a bahn mi at a little place in the Arches and then a few drinks. She had just moved back to Edinburgh from Glasgow and was letting me crash in her room over the weekend while she was in London. We had a few drinks at the Library Bar in Teviot, one of Edinburgh University’s student unions, for old times sake until she had to go and make dinner with some friends. I spent the rest of my evening with two of my old flatmates who are still in Edinburgh, Lizzie and Georgia. We had a takeaway, drank some wine and watched Gogglebox then an embarrassingly bad rom-com. It took me right back to Friday nights in lockdown in the Rat Flat, our affectionate nickname for our home as students.

On Friday I spent some time in a cafe by the Meadows working on my lesson plan for the next week. My friend Laurence dropped in on me there and then on my way back to Hannah’s I dropped in on my friend Jack. Friday night was the Welcome Drinks for the alumni weekend which started in Vodka Revolution and ended in Subway (a club not the sandwich shop) for my first proper night out since before the pandemic! It was great to see everyone, especially my Queens (the name of the women’s seconds team that I was part of and eventually captain of). Because of the pandemic, we obviously didn’t have alumni in 2021 so the last time I had seen a lot of people was the 2020 event, just a few weeks before lockdown. I loved catching up with everyone but loved the club part of the night a lot less.

On Saturday I got to see my mum! I fought off my minor hangover to meet her, her partner and Amy at Loudon’s for brunch. Afterwards me and my mum went for a wee walk around Edinburgh, just the two of us. It was nice to spend some quality time together after missing out on it during my last visit. We sat in Princes Street Gardens for a while to people (and dog) watch. Eventually it was time for me to head to the pool for arguably the main event of the weekend, the actual water polo match.

Every year there is a swim competition, a men’s match and a women’s match, all alumni versus students. There was such a great buzz around the pool with people packing in to watch, covid-related capacity be damned. Alumni had won the swim match and it looked like they were going to win the men’t match as well. There were a lot of alumni that wanted to play in the women’s match, which suited me because that meant I could go in for a few minutes, play hard and get out again. I got to see my old coach Derek which was so lovely as I didn’t get to see him last year when I was captain of the Queens because of covid. He was coaching the alumni team which was great because he knows everyone and their skills after having coached pretty much everyone that was there. It was a good game, I had some good battles with a new girl from the firsts team until I got an (accidental) fist to the face! At the end of the match, which we won, I was taken by surprise when I was given Queen of the Match! This is essentially the MVP, something I never got while actually at uni. The Queens and EUSWPC mean so much to me, as does the sport of water polo itself, and this felt like the cherry on top of a great four years in the club.

A great action shot
Queen of the Match!

That evening was the formal alumni reception, dress code cocktail attire (if anyone knows what that means, please let me know, I’m still confused). I wore my one and only (and favourite) nice dress and heels, at least long enough to get some nice pictures and then my trainers went back on. It was a good chance to catch up with people that either weren’t at the drinks the night before or that I didn’t have the chance to speak to. The night ended at Big Cheese, Edinburgh University’s club night, which has been EUSWPC’s go to for many years. I seemed to have aged out of the club life a little and I headed home pretty early like the night before.

Sunday morning is made for brunching and I obliged by meeting my old flatmates again before I had to go to the airport. We went to a nice spot in the West End called Indigo Yard for some good food and some good laughs. After that it was time to head to the airport. The journey home was pretty easy if a bit slow once I landed in Basel, as it always is getting back to Mulhouse on a Sunday evening.

I wasn’t meant to be home twice in such quick succession but it felt so good. I feel fully stocked up on quality time with my family and friends. Scotland isn’t where I want to live at the moment, or really in the near future, but it’s always nice to be back in the homeland. While I may call other places home, Scotland will always be Home. Having the time away from Mulhouse, I’m also ready to take on the remaining weeks in the semester and enjoy what is still to come!

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