10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

’10-Minute Chat’ is a series of interviews talking with extraordinary ‘normal’ people navigating interesting careers, living remarkable lives and following their passions.

 

10 minute chat intelligence officer

📷 www.pixabay.com

M is a dazzling young woman working in intelligence. Her job is to scrutinise and assist in the operational apprehension of individual crooks as well as international crime gangs.

She cut her investigative teeth within the police force for 3 years and is the closest person to a real-life spy that I’ll ever know about.

We met for coffee a few months ago to chat about her career so far and what working in British intelligence is like. Obviously, her name has been changed and she could only be vague with details for security reasons (so cool).

Initially, M didn’t even think about breaking into the world of intelligence and like most people, found herself Googling ‘interesting jobs’ in a bid to find work after finishing up at uni (she studied history).

*There’s a pause while she swallows a mouthful of teacake*

‘  It was my mum who saw a job with the police, and I thought this sounds really cool. I went for an interview, got that, smashed that, and then spent a few years there. 

M went in as an Intelligence Researcher for the police. But the opportunity to develop her career within this role was limited.  The next rung on that ladder was Intelligence Analyst – a highly covetable and often rare role within her industry, as the skills that are taught are so valuable. She decided that the only way she was going to move forward in her career was switching organisations.

M starts from the beginning and goes through what type of person you need to be to work in intelligence.

‘ You’ll have to look at lots of information and be able to pick out really key points about someone to determine what kind of person they are and why they might commit the types of crimes they commit. You need understand trends in their behaviour or in the pieces of data in front of you…You have to keep looking at small details as though they are going to be a clue to something bigger and thinking about details in two ways. It’s quite a skill and it’s taken me a long while to learn.

When I first started, I’d do a task, hand the results in, do another task, hand the results in and then do another task. People would say ‘But what does that tell you? What does it show you? What recommendations can you make from that?’ And I’d be like ‘Oh. I don’t know.’ So you have to train yourself to think ‘Why is this, this? 

intelligence officer

‘So is it like profiling?’ I asked, picturing the dozens of American crime shows I’ve binged on over the years.

No. That kind of training is only specifically for profilers. In my role, you can’t say for definite, anything about anyone but you can give recommendations to give other officers a steer on where to go. As an intelligence officer, you can give them [Editor’s note: as in people on the frontline of fighting crime] an idea on who someone is and the best way to go about preventing them from committing a crime.’

Surprisingly, M paints a picture of how heavily female-dominated the intelligence industry is. She gesticulates wildly, reckoning it’s because women are naturally inquisitive and have the inclination to want to find out everything about someone, like insta-stalking an ex-boyfriend’s new girlfriend for example. [Editors note: 100% both sexes do this- maybe girls are more honest about it?]

‘ If you’re a snooper (like me) you’ll be absorbed looking in and at other people’s lives… I love looking into people’s lives. Being given one little bit of detail and then at the end of a day or two I’ve built up a whole picture of someone’s life. That’s really interesting.

In my old job in our office, it was probably 85% women. In my job now, it’s a much smaller office, there’s two men there and six or seven women. The same kind of percentage. ‘

On the reverse, the operational side of crime-fighting is predominantly male she said. I go for a well-trodden question, ‘What about sexism? Have you experienced it within this world?’

I haven’t come across any. Anyone who comes into my office doesn’t automatically go to the men to ask a question. They might do a bit more at the moment as the men that are there have been there longer and know more.

But I don’t think it’s a question of I’m not being asked because I’m a woman. If you’re used to working in a more female environment that intelligence kind of has, you wouldn’t think twice about going to a woman to ask a question. The issue is more your capability in helping the investigation or not. I’m sure there’s been some but I haven’t come across any. ‘

M quote 2

And as for role models in her industry M looks up to the head of her organisation.

‘ I’ve not met her personally but I’ve seen her talk. She’s really good at commanding a room and seeming like she really cares about what she’s doing. She’s passionate and she’s driven to implement the changes she’s put forward.

She’s a good talker. She comes across as confident. But not like a woman trying too hard to be taken seriously, she’s taken seriously because you respect her. She’s friendly and is approachable. That’s the kind of person I’d want to be if I was in a position of responsibility. ‘

M lights up talking me through her day to day tasks and that the changing nature of her work is always interesting. Her hands are animated again explaining that one minute she could be working on a sexual assault, the next it could be a burglary or drugs; she claims she rarely has a dull day with not much to do.

I work a standard 8-4, but due to the dynamic nature of the work, I am expected to be flexible.

I might go in at 8am and expect to be leaving at 4pm but then they need me and I’ll be staying until 2am the following morning.

You do get paid overtime for it which helps, as it can be pretty tiring at the end of the day, concentrating for long periods of time.

Your well being is monitored though so you don’t end up overdoing it. If you’re struggling they’ll tell you to stop or ask if are you ok to do an overnight and it’s fine if you’re not, you don’t have to. ‘

I enquire what a ‘good day’ and a ‘bad day’ looks like for her. She replies that they are actually one of the same – the worst days are the most exciting and leave her feeling fulfilled having helped defuse a potentially dangerous situation.  

It can get really hectic. You could have a firearms incident for example. It gets very high pressure. Potentially, you’re helping to save someone’s life which is going to have bad consequences if it goes wrong. Those kinds of days (which doesn’t happen very often) get intense and even though it’s not solely down to you, your effort does make a huge difference. That’s quite a full on day. ‘

‘And what about mistakes, have you made any?’ I pry, realising as soon as I’ve asked, that even if she had ballsed-up she wouldn’t tell me anyway. M is completely honest though.

M quote 3

Not any like big mistakes. I don’t really make that many mistakes! Haha. I obviously get little things wrong occasionally but I can’t think of anything I’ve done where I’ve thought oh my god, you shouldn’t have done that, that’s caused a problem.

The pressure and consequences of making a mistake are huge compared to your ‘normal office job’. You’re dealing with safety and people’s lives, you don’t want to have a big slip up because of the big consequences, it can be a little bit stressful.

Good to know the nation’s security is in safe hands.

And what if M wasn’t doing what she was doing. What if she could swap jobs with anyone in the world.

In the world?

In the world

I’d be a professional tennis player. I’d be Serena Williams. I’ve always really enjoyed tennis and I’d love to up my game and have the confidence that they have to do what they do. I don’t feel like I’d ever had that enough confidence to push myself to do something like that. ‘

I push for her to expand on what she means by not having enough confidence. As battling baddies, every day takes having a lot of confidence in your abilities from where I’m sitting.

Because if you’re going to be on the world stage you have to develop a really thick skin and ignore everyone making their comments and opinions about you all the time and I’d read all those awful comments that people say ‘Oh she’s not doing very well at the moment’ ‘Oh she’s looking a bit fat’ I wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning reading those. ‘

Shaking my fist here at you Daily Mail comments section.

From what she’s told me so far, it appears the love of her job is a massive motivator. This kind of priority shift is something that is more likely to be found within the millennial generation. I put this thought to her and she comes back with a conflicted answer that she wouldn’t completely sacrifice happiness for a job. However, she explains that if it came down to it between a job that she loved but didn’t pay very much and a job that was OK but paid more, she would pick the latter to feel more financially secure.

If I had a partner and wasn’t on my own, then maybe I would think differently as they would be there with a level of support. As a single woman living in Surrey, I feel like you have to make concessions. But perhaps for a lot of people, it’s not as important. ‘

My fascination with her job leads me to ask what the impact of doing what she does has her on her mental health. From my narrow perspective, being a civilian who is living in almost blissful ignorance is being exposed to the darker side of humanity a hard place to come back from every day for the people in M’s position.

‘ When I first started I was a little paranoid as you are exposed to a new world of crime – especially things like burglaries that are quite prevalent. But after a while, you become more realistic about it and it just kind of just went away. I think if you worked on something like child exploitation the chances of mental taxation would be far greater but you just have to make sure you look after your health.  

…You don’t really see anything too horrific too often. It definitely makes me feel more aware but in a way, it also makes me feel better.

M quote 4

Looking back at her younger self M talks about her first job at a local sports shop where crippling shyness almost got her fired. She’s regularly made comments in this interview about her lack of confidence but realises how far she’s actually come.  

I just couldn’t speak to any of the customers. I felt so out of my comfort zone. I had never been trained to speak to people on a professional level.

I wasn’t a blagger. Management then got me on the phone for a spell talking to customers and that helped massively. I suppose it’s kind of the same from when I started my police job. I’ve improved since then and I’ll go on to improve at this job. ‘

‘And if you could give your 18 year-old-self career advice now, what would you say to her?’ I ask.

Be more confident in interviews. In the police when interviewing people for jobs, I was amazed at how many people undersell themselves. So I would say be more ballsy to achieve what you want. I think being more assertive and confident is not a bad thing. If you think there’s a better way to do something then say it.  One of my problems is I’m too scared of confrontation to make myself noticed.  

I know myself quite well and I’m never going to be a top, top, top achiever. I just have too much anxiety think about things too much and worry about things too much that I could never lead something or get to the high positions of the women I’ve admired.’

But M says her confidence and anxiety is something she’s constantly working on. Her tips include giving herself regular pep talks, reminding herself that she is smart, capable and successful at a lot of things.

‘ … Plus my lavender oil helps a lot!  ’

You go girl.

 

Interview has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

10-Minute Chat:​ Intelligence Officer

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

PART II

freelance vs full time part two

📷 www.pixabay.com

Here’s part II of freelance vs. full-time. Emma R from 25before25 writes her thoughts on my working week of juggling full-time employment and writing on the side. 

(If you haven’t already, start with part I 😄)


Emma Taylor and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a full-time content writer in the travel industry (Emma T) and myself (Emma R), the blogger behind 25before25 and a freelance writer. The fact we have the same first name is super confusing, we admit.

We published an account of my week in part I along with Emma T’s commentary.

For this post, Emma T has given her diary, and it’s something which is all too familiar. I can really relate to her experience of not getting quite enough sleep, the stress of commuting and not being overly enamoured with a job, coupled with the knowledge the next week will be the same as last week.

However – Emma has a regular and reliable annual income that working freelance will not guarantee. I’m trading financial stability for the freedom of being my own boss. Along with that is the fact that not many of us want to be at home on our own all day, as nice as the idea sounds right now when Dave is loudly telling Gill about his nephew’s birthday party over your head in your open plan office. By working as a freelancer, I have had to make a conscious effort to interact with others, and the potential for isolation will not suit everyone. Also self-employment is a minefield of tax rules which is something I hadn’t really bargained for. I am lucky that I have two accountants for parents, otherwise I’m not entirely sure how I’d manage on that one!

If you enjoy your job then, all of a sudden, getting up to an alarm that is thirty minutes too early to be comfortable, commuting and the ins and outs of your daily working life aren’t such a chore. They can be a pleasure. Finding that thing that motivates and inspires you is the reason for 25before25 – to show you what a diverse array of jobs are out there and to provide role models who have already successfully made that journey of self-discovery.

I have a huge amount of admiration for Emma, who is finding her way to a balance between full-time and freelance, and think this is an entirely sensible (albeit pretty tiring!) approach that shows the reality of starting out.

Emma T’s full-time working week –

 

/ Monday

I leave home just after 7am and get to my office in Surbiton around 8.20am. I have breakfast and an extra strong cup of tea whilst reading the internet. The actual working day is average officey-type work, answering emails, organising project stuff and eating French chocolate treats that have been bought in from someone’s latest holiday.

I’m currently on a temporary assistant content editor contract back in the UK, bought in specifically to help duplicate one lot of information over to another area within a CMS system that feeds the company’s pretty customer facing website. I work to briefs which breaks the whole thing up into steps. For example, this week I’m copying across information about airports – checking facts and editing tone of voice – to another area of the online platform.

I arrive home at 6.45pm and then take to my room half an hour later to tinker with a couple of articles I have an imminent deadline for.

I work solidly until 10.30pm-ish, choosing to skip dinner as I’m too tired and hot to knock anything together. My evening ends with me scrolling through Twitter, trying to figure out what the hell everyone is talking about from the #loveisland tweets cascading through my feed before crashing out asleep.

 

/ Tuesday

There’s a knock at my bedroom door as it opens ‘Emma, it’s 7am. Is everything OK love?’ says my mum.

Sh*t.

I turned my alarm off in my sleep an hour ago. Hopping round my room I’m out the door twenty minutes later. Traffic on my commute is unpredictable so I like to leave early.

I get to the office at 8.40am and eat my breakfast. I’m still painfully tired from a series of late nights and early mornings over the past week / weekend. My working day is essentially a repeat of the day before with the odd email thrown in whereby the wrong content is displaying on an excursion blurb of the company’s website. Some customers have written in to complain and I engage in a lot of back and forth with the overseas team in Italy.

When I leave it’s raining and I’m wearing sandals. My feet are soaked and covered in pavement grit by the time I eventually reach my car, 10 minutes walk away from work..

Once home, I pull out my suitcase and start putting bits into piles – to take, the maybes, stuff that needs washing – ready for my holiday on Saturday. I faff like this for another 45 minutes, trying on summer-scented clothes from last year, seeing if they still fit.

After dinner, I treat myself to a couple of episodes of the Good Wife while writing.

 

/ Wednesday

I leave on time and with no alarm drama. My head and eyes twinge sharply from exhaustion though, as the wind and rain kept waking me throughout the night.

As usual, I get to work early and have breakfast. Plus chain-drink a couple of cups tea in the morning in a desperate attempt to perk myself up.

I coast through the day. Tweaking words, cutting and pasting information from one CMS segment to another and a tiny bit of research into Slovenia makes up my writing tasks. I listen to a handful of my favourite podcasts to stop me from getting too bored and unfocused.

 podcasts

 

By 5.30pm I’m out the door and walking to the car. I’ve got a nail appointment this evening which I’ve been looking forward to for ages, as it’s a luxury I don’t have done very often.I come away with glittery pink toes and semi-sparkly turquoise fingers. A package is waiting for me on the stairs up to my room – a couple of dresses from Topshop. Both dresses are a little big so will need to be sent back, I’m slightly relieved as I can’t really afford them and then the guilt sets in for shopping in the first place.

It’s about 9.15pm at this point and I debate between tackling amends on a couple of articles or more holiday packing. The thought of putting my face directly in front of a screen for another few hours today makes the decision for me. I stick on the Good Wife again and pack / organise until bedtime at 10.30pm.

 

/ Thursday

I’m up at 6.15am and feel more tired than awake. Sleep is eluding me at the moment.

I wash my hair and plug myself into Spotify, blasting the medley of ‘Karaoke Classics’ on this week’s #ThrowbackThursday playlist.

I’m having breakfast at my desk by 8.35am and chugging tea like it’s the elixir of life. The day drags a little as I try to draw out the scant pickings of jobs to do. I’ve completed the brief that I had to work through for this phase of the project  and I’m twiddling my thumbs a lot of the time, pouncing on any email that pings into our shared department inbox. The position that I’m in doesn’t really allow for me to do much more than the project or BAU (business as usual) emails which is frustrating. The workers outweigh the level of work at the moment.

Traffic was awful coming home and I end up going a long way round so walked through the door at just after 7pm. A grumpy layer bubbles up and settles on my permanent state of tiredness.

I go straight to my room, set myself up against a stack of cushions on my bed and crack on with the article amends I put off last night. 10 minutes in and my sister joins me, lounging at the foot of the mattress. I put on some Billie Holiday (because I’m secretly 104 years old and jazz helps me think) and she swipes through Facebook while I work.

I send edits off, close down just after 10pm and get ready to sleep. My pure intentions for an early night  get led astray by falling down an Instagram hole and a gripping narrative in the book I’ve just started.

 

/ Friday

I’ve woken up cross with myself for not trying to sleep at a decent time last night. The barbed twinges of tiredness prod my head and puffy eyes once more while I move at snail’s pace to get dressed.

A relatively traffic-free journey into Surbiton has me at work by 8.20am. I go through my morning ritual and catch up on reading a couple of blogs. The day was slow as there wasn’t many emails coming to the inbox and I’m still waiting on the next brief so I can move onto the upcoming part of the project. We’re told that in the following few weeks we’ll be able to start drafting some relevant travel blogs. That’s much more my bag and I’m looking forward to having something to do. I haven’t felt like I’ve been much use to the company this week.

That evening I race home to my room and continue with some of my own writing bits, plus final packing for tomorrow. I’m finally starting to feel the stirrings of relaxation and excited anticipation for the week ahead. My mum comes up to chat about her day with me around 8pm and suggests we order a Domino’s…

Oh hi holiday-feeling, haven’t seen you in a while!

Freelance vs Full-Time: part two

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

Part I

freelance vs full time📷 www.pixabay.com

I’ve teamed up with Emma from 25before25 again.

This time Emma and I decided to document one of our working weeks and compare the difference between a freelance blogger / travel writer (Emma R), and myself (Emma T), a full-time content writer in the travel industry and doing my own thing with words on the side.

First off, anyone who has free reign over their work schedule and eschewed being stuffed into a traditional 9-5 hole of rigid ‘productivity’, I’m insanely jealous of and fascinated by how they divvy up their day. I often slip into a ‘grass-is-greener’ fantasy of being a freelancer. The flexibility and limitless scope of work is a tempting fruit to want to taste if you’re unfulfilled within a typical office set up.

Freelancing is not for the faint-hearted though, in that the steady security and comforting protection which comes from being a company employee is no longer there to fall back on. You often end up labouring for longer hours and down-time tends to blur with work-time as you’re always switched on at some level.

Plus figuring out the minefield of self-employment tax is utterly terrifying.

However the flip side is, if you’re feeding that passion-fire in your belly by wholeheartedly loving what you do and chasing your ambitions, then the slog and sacrifice won’t be felt as hard in the end.

I think.

Here’s Emma R’s freelance working week –

 

/ Monday

freelance writing Wimbledon tennis

📷 www.pixabay.com

Today I was lucky enough to have bagged a Centre Court ticket at Wimbledon – it was a strawberries-and-cream day rather than work. I’ve never been to Wimbledon before and certainly never thought I’d get the chance to sit in Centre Court during the second week, so this was an opportunity I just couldn’t turn down. This did mean I had about 50 emails in my inbox to deal with when I got home at about 10 pm, but it was totally worth it to watch both Murray and Federer play!

 

/ Tuesday

I spent the day working with landscape gardener, Anthea Harrison, up in Stansted as part of career number 16 for the 25before25 project. I had no idea Stansted was anything other than an airport, but it turns out it’s a beautifully quaint village on the Hertfordshire-Essex border, where you can hear zero aeroplanes.

The morning was spent at Anthea’s client’s house, a large project that included construction work as the garden was being totally re-designed. It was very close to completion when I joined so I just helped out with some of the planting, training some of the clematis’ and titivating (brilliant word I’d never heard before!) some of the bushier plants.

before 

compare freelance writer with full time

duringwriting on the side vs. freelance

after

freelance writing

                 📷 25before25

As it started to rain, we headed back to Anthea’s office and she talked me through the design process, from initial consultation with a client, through to finished award-winning garden, explaining the computer programmes she uses.

I absolutely loved my day with Anthea and think I’d really enjoy being a landscape gardener, though perhaps not for my 20s. It is a job which combines both the left and right sides of your brain; it is creative as well as technical.

By the end of the day, I’m ready to drop and fall asleep pretty early.

 

/ Wednesday

This is one of the rare days I have to work at home and get on top of the backlog of career write-ups that I have. I’ve published up to career number 16 and am seven articles behind (still a couple more jobs to work in though). However, it’s not until about 1pm that I actually start writing, as I spent the morning going through emails that I’ve missed over the past couple of days – mostly organising jobs for the next few weeks and interviews with authors, explorers and politicians. Experiencing 25 careers is a feat in organisation that I hadn’t quite realised when I decided to take on the project!

I also work as an editor of the careers section of a new national student magazine, so I spend some time editing some of the articles which writers have sent in for the first issue and tweaking my own. The deadline is Friday, but I spent most of Sunday working on them so the articles are nearly there.

This evening I head out to meet a friend for dinner in North London. We have a tastecard so that helps keep costs down, which I’m certainly grateful for!

 

/ Thursday

Another day working from home writing up articles and catching up with emails.

I gave an interview with GradTouch – a graduate recruitment company – about my project, and am looking forward to reading the write up.

 

/ Friday

 

Today I spent the day with the Marine counter-terrorism unit with the Met Police, which was rather exciting.

Based in Wapping, I navigated the London Overground network to get to a non-descript Victorian building. It took me about 10 minutes just to figure out how to get in, I must have either looked very suspicious or incredibly naive, entering my first police station.

The team warmly welcomed me and I felt like I had jumped straight into a police drama TV series – there was an awful lot of team banter, plans for operations covered the walls, and about six separate offers for a cup of tea. A constable showed me around the station, taking me down to the docks to see the numerous different high-speed boats and reeling off marine policing trivia – England’s first recognised preventive police unit, don’t you know.

I then hopped in the back of a police van (I won’t pretend that I didn’t find it incredibly exciting) and headed up with two constables to a larger central command centre to sit in on their briefing to the unit which would be joining the marine team for the day.

The operation was partly to engage with the public on counter-terror issues, to reassure them, as well as to deter any individuals looking to cause harm, by placing a police presence in and around the Thames. I was with the half of the unit based on the boat for the afternoon, so spent most of my day on a high-speed cruise down the river, chatting to the officers about their careers.

The positive experience has made me seriously consider the police as a career option, so I’m looking forward to my two other police-based placements next week!

 


 

Thoughts from the Full-Timer (me)

I know that this is actually only 80% of Emma R’s working week. She’s mentioned in conversation that she pretty much does 7 days majority of the time. So in comparison, I’m lucky being in full-time employment that I can take a bit of a break at weekends and my livelihood won’t suffer for it if I’m lazing in bed just eating croissants for a few hours. Whereas the responsibility to make a self-carved career work and move forward is lays entirely at Emma’s feet.

The money side of things weighs more in full-time employment favour as well. Although I’m always worrying about cash, it’s probably on a much, much, much smaller scale compared to Emma. Every 30 odd days the exact same number will reliably appear in my bank account, taking the edge off when I do occasionally splurge on unnecessary stuff. Whereas freelancing can be notorious for ups and downs of how much and when the dolla rolls in. The girl’s got nerves of steel!

I’m drawn in by the variety of Emma’s freelance working week. The mission that she’s on has given her a chocolate-box selection of jobs to savour over the past year. And it’s exciting to read how on one day she’s helping ‘titivate’ bushes (😉) to racing down the Thames with the Marine counter-terrorism unit the next. I get that week in, week out Emma won’t always be jumping from one extreme situation to another, but the personal freedom and example of ‘no day is the same’ of her freelance lifestyle is immensely appealing.

Make no mistake, I’m outrageously privileged to even have a stable position and completely appreciative of all the opportunities that I’ve been afforded from the company I’m with…you can just feel the ‘but’ coming… But I know that at some point in the future I will make the leap to try working for myself. If anything, looking at Emma’s week and reading her wonderful blog has fanned the freelancing flames in my tum even more.

Keep an eye out for Part 2 – My full-time working week juggling writing on the side, along with Emma R’s accompanying thoughts 👍

Freelance vs Full-Time: part one

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

A guest post on : 25before25

 

This month I’m a guest poster on the blog 25before25, an innovative project launched by Londoner Emma Rosen. 

Emma’s aim is to sample a whopping 25 careers before turning 25 through work experience, shadowing and just giving things a go. She explores work / life fulfilment and advocates for a more diverse career education.

5 reasons why you should work abroad 25 by 25

 

5 Reasons why you should work abroad

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.

from egg poaching to bills, bills, bills

 

26th birthday things ive learned

It was my birthday this week, and with any marked milestone on mortality, I got a bit reflective on life and about what I have and haven’t figured out yet. Predictably the latter of the two was a list 50 miles long, but I realised I had picked up a decent amount of lessons (or advice? tips??? I don’t know, life stuff, we’ll go with that) during the 26 years I’ve been rocking around on this earth.

 

1 / That quarter life crisis you get warned about when turning 25….. yeah that definitely happens. But once you’ve waded through hours of self-torture, bought a snazzy car, quit two jobs and stopped anxiously comparing your life accomplishment yard-stick to other 25 year-olds or younger, something shifts. You start caring less about how far everyone else has got (higher paying jobs, not living with parents, having a pet / garden / baby / something to love etc.) and crack on to where YOU want to be.

2 / Making your bed gives the impression that your messy room is actually tidier than it is.

3 / You don’t have to wait for someone else to buy you expensive jewellery. You love it, you buy it. 26 life lessons for 26 year olds

 

4 / How to poach an egg with zero fuss – a) Boil kettle. b) Pour the boiled water into a shallow frying pan c) turn heat up on the hob. d) When pan is simmering, slowly and gently crack your egg into the water. Use a large spoon to softly guide back any floaty-away bits. e) Six or seven minutes later (when you think it looks done enough) scoop your egg out and plop onto a hot buttered crumpet. f) Do the knife thing with the yolk. g) Have your ‘ahhh’ moment.

5 / Saying ‘no’ holds a lot of power. As a natural people pleaser, I’m probably only on a mediocre to poor level getting to grips with saying no more often. No I can’t take on more work this week, no I don’t want to go out, no you’re wrong and here’s why.. It kind of goes without saying that you shouldn’t be a dick when saying ‘no’ to people but you shouldn’t feel guilty about it either. People do you look at you with respect when you tactfully hold your ground with grace.

6 / Hendricks Gin can only be served with thin slices of cucumber and ice. (*waves the flag for middle-classians everywhere*)

7 / Introducing yourself to people is such a minor interaction but creates a huge impact on your wider reputation. Of course it’s daunting going up to someone and say ‘Hi I’m             ’ but it puts you in such a good light in social set ups, to a new work colleague and random girls crying in nightclub loos. Tip: After you’ve done your opening bit, have something else to say. Otherwise you’ll panic and frantically blabber something stupid in an attempt to diffuse the silent awkward atmosphere…..‘So, um.. I secretly borrow my neighbour’s cat when she’s at out..’

Life lessons at 26 years old

 

8 / Packed lunches for work are the best, don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Who doesn’t like saving money every day for sparkly shoes and a steady flow of Domino’s pizza? Crazy people, that’s who.

9 / Don’t settle in life. It’s the cop out option and the killer of youth (I don’t actually know about the youth part. Just made it up, but it sounds like it could be right). It’s so easy to coast and ignore scratching thoughts of ‘I want more than this’. That if you feel like you’re in an OK paying job, with an OK boyfriend, living an OK life that is actually slowly suffocating you, then you need to do something about it. OK?

10 / He’s just not that into you, so stop making excuses for flaky behaviour and put that boy in the bin.

26 lessons at 26

 

11 / With the world balancing uncertainly on a knife edge right now, there’s no such thing as preparing too early enough when it comes to looking after your 90-something self. Lets face it, our generation will be working for much longer than our parents, get less of a pension payout from the state and most likely be paying for a private health service. Now’s the time to be building a safety net, whether a work place pension, a tiny personal investment or a pretty piggy-bank. Even if it’s a pittance, treat future you as a bill to pay every month.

12 / In a pinch, lipstick works as a cream-type blusher and eye shadow. Mascara can be used as eye liner too if you have a light touch and surgeon-steady hands.

13 / Liking ‘boring’ things such as going to bed early, staying in on a Saturday night, discussing the merits of wood vs carpet flooring and listening to Desert Island Discs is not shameful. – These are mine but this point is applicable to your own glorious old lady habits

14 / Along the same vein as the lesson above, it’s also perfectly acceptable to mix your ‘boring grown up’ likes with guilty pleasures. Trashy TV, Buzzfeed quizzes, cat videos, chick-lit books and the Eurovision song contest.

15 / The art of utilising your time wisely,which is kind of a no brainer as even iddy-biddy kids are aware if you don’t do anything you won’t accomplish anything. But its something that I am consistently working on. Little things that help me utilise time is making catch up phone calls when I’m driving in the car (via hands-free, obvs) , replying to messages while waiting for my slow and antiquated laptop to start up or scanning Twitter in the for the day’s news stories as the kettle is boiling for my early morning cuppa.

16 / Keeping a calendar on your phone for all your glamorous engagements relieves a little bit of the stressy pressure from all the stuff you need to remember on a day-to-day basis.

17 / Always have a holiday and / or a block of time out planned to look forward too. Take a break once in a while because you work hard. Plus being a martyr to life gets you nowhere and drains your productively juice…. And gives you wrinkles. Maybe.

18 / Pretending in your head that you’re starring in your own music video when certain songs come on is something EVERYBODY does.

26 life lessons for turning 26

 

19 / Being single doesn’t mean you have to be on the hunt for your next victim boyfriend. If being on your own is thrilling and fulfilling then crack on. But be prepared for sympathy sighs from well-meaning friends and family who are ‘sure a pretty girl like you will find someone soon.’

20 / In your early twenties you start to notice that you can’t keep up the pace of shovelling in the volume crappy food as you once did when you were a teenager (KitKat sandwiches and McDonald’s erryday anyone?!) and still fit into your skinnies. Well, welcome to your mid twenties where the slowing of your metabolism steps down a notch again! Brilliant.

21 / There are very few things in life that can’t be fixed. This is my mum’s motto, a woman who keeps picking herself back up time after time life throws a punch her way or if a seemingly impossible challenge presents itself. There’s always a work around stuff, another option to consider or a different route to take. Put on your big girl pants when you’re feeling defeated and repeat to yourself, it’s not over until it’s over.

22 / ‘Ohh, are you shyyy?’ If there ever was a sentence to make quiet people everywhere flare up on the inside it’s that. Despite the impression that the not-so-loud give off, shy we are not. The last year and a bit I realised the difference between shy and quiet as the opening question was flung my way more times than I can possibly count, particularly around new acquaintances. I’m more than comfortable to talk about any topic under the sun, but only when I feel I have something of value to say. I started to question this default conclusion of quiet people. If you’re not rushing over everyone else to speak does that make someone shy? Umm, nope. We observe, we think and then we open our mouths.

23 / I’m massively inspired by a bunch of crazily creative, intelligent and articulate women (Dolly Alderton, Pandora Sykes, Laura Bates, Emma Gannon and Dallas Shaw, off the top of my head). A common theme each of these women (can I call them badass babes or is that one fangirling step too far???) talk about when discussing work and their passions is that very rarely in life you are handed your dream opportunity to shine. Shit like that needs to be created by you through exploring ideas, hard work and sheer bloody mindedness. Put simply, you will only achieve by doing. You want to act? Go act. You want to travel? Go travel. You want to write? Go write. And if everything doesn’t fall into place after busting your butt for years, then at least you can be satisfied that you gave it a fucking good try. Which is always better than not trying at all. Credit / complain to them for my forcing this sometimes updated blog onto you.

I really recommend listening to Dolly and Pandora’s weekly podcast though, highlight of my commute!

 

24 / Jeans, heels and a nice top is the best outfit formula that can be transferable for any occasion. I.E. A date with the rugby laaad you met on Bumble, drinks in a sticky-floored pub with your mates, dinner at an Italian chain restaurant with your mum or for a casual Sunday stroll around Tesco’s if you’re feeling fancy.

25 / Accept help, advice, clothes, money and support from those around you if it’s offered during low periods in your life. They love you and are there to be leaned on when things get tough. Don’t ever think that you’re problems would be too much of a burden to share with someone who cares. After all, nobody is an island 😎🏝️

26 / Carry a notebook at all times. Something that I’ve learned over writing this post actually. I had 3457 million more of these life blurbs, 98% of them were probably better than what’s listed but because I didn’t write them down my brain has permanently cleared out my thought cache. Scribble down your idea-diarrhoea… even if it is shit.

 

I welcome any other valuable pearls of wisdom or suggestions on how best to change a car tyre without getting muck on your jumper in the comments section below.

26 lessons I’ve learned in 26 years.

First week living in Austria

I CAME, I SAW, I GOT WHIPPED 

 

living in Austria

 

Monday

I landed at Munich around 4.30pm ish. The sun was setting and the pilot on board the plane said the outside temperature was about 1°C.

This was it.

I’m about to be taken to my new home once I collect my luggage from the bag carousel.

The troop of butterflies that had taken up residence on my stomach the week previously had started to flap their wings again, replacing the waves of sadness sparked off from the tearful goodbyes of my mum and sister as I went through Gatwick security a few hours previously.

Getting my belongings together I shuffled through the automatic doors into the ‘Arrivals’ pen and scanned the names plastered on the clipboards held up by the crowd of people leaning in on the metal rails.

Clocking ‘Emma Taylor’ attached to one of those clipboards I walked over to my new colleague.

At the moment, know one at my new office knows about my blog. And I’m not sure how they would feel about me writing about them, so I’m going to be as vague as possible when other people are included in the story. 

We introduce ourselves and start walking towards the main concourse of Munich airport. My greeter says that she is going to take me to the supermarket as it will be too late by the time we get in to St. Johann for shops to still be open.

She offers to wait outside with my bags while I stock up on essential bits. I nervously nod and push through the barrier into the supermarket.

Fuck.

I was not expecting this.

I don’t speak a jot of German, my mind is racing and I have no idea what to buy. My colleague helpfully recommended getting some milk, stuff for dinner that evening and cereal for breakfast the next day, but I haven’t a clue what I even want or need.

Pacing up and down the aisles, I sort of recognise items that I think will be immediately useful.

Milk, yes.

A small bottle of juice, yes.

Soup? I’m not really that hungry but I suppose It will be handy to have just in case.

A drink for the road, yep.

Ah, an apple. I will definitely eat you.

Cereal for breakfast, wow that’s pricey. But I’ll be grateful for it in the morning.

Chewing gum, in my frazzled state of navigating a German supermarket I thought that, yes in this moment gum is essential.

I paid for my eclectic mix of shopping and located my colleague at the front of store with all my stuff.

She asks me if there is anything else I need to do before we leave and that if I didn’t mind she was going to pop out for a cigarette. I follow her through the airport (which incidentally is more like a Westfield shopping centre than an airport, due to the amount of shops / places to buy food) and she leads us through the doors that go outside.

Oh wow.

She had mentioned that there was a Christmas market at the airport and in my head I pictured a couple of stalls and cauldron of mulled wine, but this was something else entirely.

Huge doesn’t even cut it, this was a full on traditional Christmas market, with a decent sized ice rink sitting in the open air area of Munich airport. I wouldn’t be surprised if people fly to Munich just to go to the market spread that they’ve laid on there.

Chatting about our backgrounds, where we’re from and other get-to-know-you-type questions we watched the skaters swirl round the rink for a bit.

My brain went into ‘this is so surreal mode’. I’m in Germany, at an airport market, surrounded by glittering Christmas lights and cutesy stands sell handmade ornaments. I felt like I was floating a bit.

Once back inside we walked to the underground car park.

“So in Germany they have car parking spots for women” my colleague says with a little laugh.

“What?!” Slightly horrified at German society’s presumption that women cant park a car.

“Yeah they are a bit bigger and tend to sit closer to the entrance. I know I felt that way too, but actually it can come in really handy.”

——-

Under two hours later we were in St. Johann, Austria.

The town was eerily quiet.

I couldn’t see much as it was so dark, but I heard the whooshing of a river as I was walked to my new digs and then shown around the spacious apartment.

Sitting in my flat amongst half unpacked debris of a billion bags and replying to ‘Have you got there yet?’ messages from those back home, the sadness of having left the UK behind started to creep in again.

‘What have I done?’ A little voice quipped in my head.

I got ready for bed and then climbed under the duvet, clutching my teddy (yes I have a teddy bear, and what?) in the darkness wondering why the fuck did I decided to do this.

Tuesday

I was told the night before that I would be meeting a staff member outside the office at 7.45am for snow chain training.

Once dressed and fed I opened my bedroom curtains. I saw the river that I had heard the night before, crystal clear water streaming steadily over rocks and pebbles, and then gazed across the banks to the large houses on the other side with their smart looking German 4×4’s parked neatly on a driveway, imagining the happy little Austrian families who must live there. My eyes were pulled up above the houses to the stack of imposing mountains that framed the scene. The weak early morning sunlight had a turned them a soft soothing mix of purple and pink, accented with patches of snow peppering the crevices at their peaks – this is why I’ve made the move.

Tearing myself away from the window and bundling up against the -6°C morning air, I was whisked to a hotel near by from the front of the office (basically the other end of the building where I live) and joined a group of reps who will also be getting a crash course in how to put chains on a tyre.

It went all right. The whole snow chain process is pretty logical but who knows what kind of flustered flap I’ll get into if it’s pissing down with snow on the side of a cliff-edge mountain road with a queue of impatient Austrian motorists waiting for me to get a move on.

Oh well future Emma’s problem.

With no further information about where I was supposed to be that day I tagged along with the reps walking to their training seminar across town.

This was the first time I had seen St. Johann in the light.

Typical Alpine chalets with delicately painted fascias jostled amongst glass fronted modern buildings, there were shops selling clothes, crafts and other knick-knacks. I spied pretty restaurants and a cutesy bakery too. Slightly in awe and a bit taken back at how many shops there were in town, I was expecting a teeny village square with one pub and no place to buy soup or biscuits.

Once inside the training room I sat down at a table and introduced myself to the rest of the group already seated.

I had no idea if I was even meant to be in this session.

Then I spot my flatmate across the room, she’s new to the office as well and arrived a little before I did the night before. We waved at each other as I felt a tap on my shoulder.

One of the staff members leading the seminar is asking me if I would stand up at the beginning to say a few words about myself and what I will be doing within the company.

Fuckity fuck fuck, ‘OK sure, no problem’ I hear myself saying.

The session starts and within 2 minutes my name is called, I stand up – urgh, is there anything more awkward than doing stuff like this – and give a rambled explanation of who I am and my job role, as soon as the last word leaves my lips I hastily drop down back into my chair.

The seminar was interesting, it was geared towards the reps rather than office staff but I found the information useful. We stopped for lunch and I successfully navigated myself through the town back home. The walk allowed me to take in St. Johann again, noting the closed Christmas market stalls ready for the weekend, more clothes shops and what looked like the Austrian equivalent to Boots. Home alone, I cracked open my can of soup and ate the apple purchased from Munich Airport, thinking about what I was going to do for dinner that evening as I hadn’t spotted any supermarkets on my walk and couldn’t risk getting lost before I had to go back again.

I returned to the training course for the afternoon segment, still no sign of a food shop but I’ll have to deal with that later. During the second half of the day I got to know a few of the reps a little better. A lot of them seemed quite young but had done repping before either during last winter or on a summer programme.

Wow they’re brave, I thought. At 19 I felt daring just driving to Brighton and back.

The day was over at 5.30pm and I set off in the direction of home again.

Right, I’m starving hungry, I’m going to adult here and find a supermarket. Steeling myself against the bitter night air, I wandered towards a different part of the town for ten minutes. Across a car park along my way I recognised the shape of shopping trolleys, and then the glow of a bread counter in the distance inside a glass building. YES!

Scurrying through the car park, my tummy rumbling in anticipation I breathed in the warm smells of that bread counter at the entrance of the supermarket.

Then the familiar sense of being overwhelmed washed over me as I stood rooted to the spot holding my shopping basket at the top of the first aisle.

Shit, I don’t even know what I’m looking for or where anything is again, I really didn’t plan this very well, everything looks so different in German and they are closing the store shortly! God I miss Tescos.

Up and down the aisles I went, dithering over what to buy, my stomach angrily growling at me to make a flipping decision. Feeling too hungry to care any more after 15 minutes I grabbed a pizza and a pack of Milka biscuits in desperation.

Poor effort at being a grown up Ems.

Retreating to my empty flat (no idea where house mate had gone) I ate my sad little pizza in bed and went to sleep soon after to stop the weight of loneliness from setting in.

river st. johan

📷 by me – Quick snap on my way to work of the outside of my apartment. 

Wednesday

I opened my bedroom curtains and drank my morning tea while staring at the mountains again (the Wilder Kaiser range). I could never ever get bored with this view, it’s a comforting force against the doubtful voice in my head that keeps telling me I’ve fucked up by taking this job.

At 9am I walk round to the office.

I’m greeted by my new team members as well as the lady who picked me up from Munich on Monday.

Today is another full on day of training with my manager who talks me through the details of my role once more and gets me familiar with a bunch of different systems I’ll be using.

The morning flies by and it’s lunchtime. I’m shown where the SPAR supermarket is (2 minute walk from my house, bloody typical) and pick up some more soup.

The soup here is a bit weird.

Austrians aren’t really ones for fresh soup, yes there are the odd canned soups floating about but mostly it comes in powder form and you just add hot water.

It tastes OK, but you have to really give it a whisk in the pan to make sure the powdery lumps are broken down.

The afternoon was spent pretty much the same way, but with the addition of a team meeting as well to let everyone know what was going on that week.

“Hey Em, we’re going to go driving in a minute”. Says my manager as we walk out of the conference room.

The moment I’ve been waiting for, the first proper time (aside from a dabble in Mexico) driving on the other side of the road.

In the office car park I’m handed the keys to a VW Caddy. It’s huge in comparison to the dinky cars I’ve had back home.

I get in and instinctively reach behind my right shoulder.

Nope, seatbelt is on the other side. Excellent start.

With my manager in the passenger seat giving words of encouragement I slowly reverse out the space, whack the stick into first gear and crawl out of the car park. I’m told to turn left.

I turn left.

I start driving on the left. WRONG BLOODY SIDE EMMA. Christ, the one fundamental thing I needed to remember and I failed immediately. Correcting myself shifting the car over to right hand side of the road I carry on following my manager’s directions.

Thankfully our 20 minute jaunt on the roads around St. Johann went smoothly thereafter. I’m not going to be wining any awards for precision driving but I’m capable enough once I relaxed into it.

As I’m leaving the office for the day one of my colleagues invites me to go with her the big Aldi supermarket up the road.

“Yes, please. That would be great.”

“Cool, I’ll knock for you at 7pm.”

Arriving at Aldi (is known as Hofer in Austria) together 45 minutes later, both of us whip out lists and get working on filling up our trolley. Shopping trip completed (miles less stressful than my last attempt) we were about to trudge back home with our heavy bags when we bumped in to my colleague’s friend. Knowing he had his car with him my colleague wangled a lift for us back to our building.

Finally home, I cooked a decent dinner for myself for the first time and settled down to video chat with my mum.

Today definitely felt more accomplished than the days prior.

Thursday

Much like Wednesday, I spent the day in the office getting to grips with what was needed doing and how processes are carried out.

My manager also took me out for another drive in the Caddy. We went to Kitzbühel in the morning, doing a drive in the daylight this time was much easier than before.

When the working day was over I returned back home and heated up my leftovers from last night’s dinner.

My work phone beeps.

One of my team members is messaging me to see if I was up for going to the pub.

I pause in my reply, partly because I’m tired and have to drive on my own tomorrow morning transferring staff members from one resort to another and then dropping someone off at Munich airport in the afternoon, and secondly my anti-socialness is rearing its ugly head.

I give myself an internal shake and type back ‘Where shall I meet you?’.

Spending the evening at the favourite local bar, I was introduced to more people from the office. Everyone is super friendly and welcoming. I stayed for one beer and made my excuses to leave as I wanted to get a good sleep in preparation for tomorrow…

…Driving on my own for the first time, in a foreign car, in a foreign country, on the other side of the road.

Shit.

Friday 

It’s 8.30am and I’m supposed to already be on my way to a resort 20 minutes away to pick up a couple of staff members, then go on to a second resort, scoop up another staff member and bring everyone back to St. Johann.

Except I’m faffing around de-iceing the Caddy.

8.40am

Shittyfuckbollockswank, I’m still no where near ready to set off, I haven’t even got my satnav programmed with the addresses.

OK, be calm, pop address in. Good.

Engine is on, I’ve put the car in reverse and now I’m slowly making my way out of the car park.

I turn left into the street and I’m on the right side of the road. Fab. So far so good.

Turning right on to the main street I go up in gear. Oh crap, a roundabout.

“Please take the fourth exit.”

Cool, thanks satnav.

“Please continue for 400 yards and then, half right.”

“Please take a half right, now.”

Right, I can totally do this.

My running commentary (spoken out loud to myself in the car) and the dulcet reassuring tones of the polite satnav lady have quelled the rising panic I was feeling. I ease into the drive a little, the sun was shining, the mountains look GORGEOUS and I was making good time now.

Thankfully the trip went well. No major cock-ups.

I explained to my passengers that they were the one of the first people I’ve driven around on the other side of the road in an unfamiliar car and they were massively patient with me pottering along at a snails pace.

I get back to the office and catch up on some emails after dropping the staff members off at their accommodation in St. Johann. After lunch I’m back in the Caddy for a trip to Munich airport as a colleague needs to be on a plane to Finland.

I help load up the car with her bags and give the same speech that I gave to my morning passengers that I’m still very new to driving in Austria. Pleased to say, under two hours later we are at Munich airport and I’m waving her off through check-in.

Phew.

Just one more journey leg to go and I’m back home.

By now it’s dark and I’m feeling nervy (surprise!) again, so start saying out loud to myself my driving actions and what I’m going to do next. For some reason this works and I’m flying down the autobahn and up to the mountains before I know it.

Bed please!

Saturday 

Unsure of time I need to be in work I turn up at the office slightly before 9am.

No one is there.

Balls.

I hang around for ten minutes before pulling out my work phone. There’s a message from my manager.

‘Hey, Em. Please come to the office for 12pm.’

I have the morning free! I walk into town and pick up shopping bits before returning to my apartment.

My flatmate has left for the weekend so I have the house to myself, ahhh lovely.

In the office for 12pm and everyone is preparing for roll out that afternoon (roll out is where the reps get all their work kit for the season). Around 3pm we drive up to the hotel where the new wave of reps are staying and set up different stations for them to visit (like uniform, phones, staff paperwork etc..) at designated group times.

Once the reps had given in the correct forms and collected their assigned gear, roll out wound down. We (the office team) stayed for dinner and drinks at the hotel, finishing the evening up the road to the local bar I had been to on Thursday night.

No need to fill in the blanks as to what happened next…

Slightly drunk on tequila and Mars Bar shots I stumbled home in the early hours of the morning and crashed out.

Sunday 

Feeling a touch fragile, but more tired / dehydrated than anything. I started my hangover cure ritual.

Clean and fed, I got dressed and wandered around the town. No shops are really open on a Sunday (especially food ones, again I miss ❤️ Tesco ❤️). The day was stunningly sunny but very cold, which actually helped drive away the last remnants of alcohol in my system.

During my walk I stopped at the cutesy bakery I had clocked at the beginning of the week and went in to browse the rows of cakes and pastries. Selecting a plump apple danish, I paid for my sugary treat and scuttled home for another video chat date with my mum.

My phone beeps mid afternoon. The girls from the office have invited me to go to Kitzbühel with them for the Christmas markets.

Reaching Kitzbühel by train in the early evening, discussing events of the night before, our group drifted around the Christmas explosion that had planted itself in the centre of the town.

There were twinkly lights and decorations everywhere.

Rows of huts selling everything from handmade scarves and tree trinkets to what looked like fried potatoes smothered in cheese on a stick?

There were kids having pony rides and petting sweet-faced donkeys in one section, while adults indulged in hot alcoholic beverages in another.

Sipping on a Glüwein taking the scenes in, Kitzbühel seems a much livelier and glitzier town than its neighbouring little sister St. Johann.

We round off our evening out with a satisfying carb-heavy dinner and then sleepily decide within the group to split a taxi back home.

I spend the rest of the night curled up on the sofa finishing my book, and later, a glowy feeling of contentment warms me as I get ready for bed.

‘I think I feel like I’m settling in now’ I say internally, smiling at myself in the mirror while brushing my teeth.

Monday

Similar to the days previously, I’m in the office for the morning and early afternoon before scooting off to go pick someone up.

It was another Munich airport run, which I felt confident in doing now.

I was there and back before 6pm followed by a quick meeting with my manager about what was on the coming week.

The whole office was keen to get off work on time as tonight as it was Krampus.

krampus chocolate

📷 by me – Chocolate Krampus 

An alpine festival involving demon masked kids / teenagers (a.k.a the Krampus, – the plural being Krampi? I’m not sure) who whip the by-standing crowds which symbolically represents a punishment for those who have been naughty this year.

There’s a whole lot of folklore about Krampus, it’s even been given the Hollywood treatment and turned into a sort of Christmas horror movie, but I’m not going to go into too much detail about the ins and outs of the festival as I’d be typing away until Easter.

A gang of us walk to the main square of St. Johann which is already rammed full of people safely tucked away behind crowd control barriers.

The parade starts with glittery cheeked little girls dressed as pretty angels, fulfilling the role of helpers to St. Nicholas (who we didn’t get to see in the procession but apparently looked like he’d got styling advice from the pope) handing out bags of treats (just nuts and dried fruit, stingy angels) to the public ‘for being good’.

Hands wrapped round a piping hot Glühwein, we patiently waited for the main event.

Atmospheric instrumental music starts booming through the speakers (98% sure it was the theme song to ‘Pirates of the Carribean’) and the dude who was in charge of the pyrotechnics that year had his moment.

 

krampus fire festival

📷 by me 

Somewhere round the corner a dance routine was going on, but our line of sight was blocked by the hoards of people.

And then we heard the clanging of a cow bell directly behind us. One of the girls from the office who had been to Krampus before said you can hear them coming because of the bells attached to the costumes.

Our group turns around to follow the source of the bell and we see a tall boy dressed in an auburn yeti get up, walk quickly from an alleyway into the crowd and then back again, his face was unmasked covered in black paint, a small bundle of long, thin birch twigs were strapped to his back.

Pyrotechnic Pete was back in the spotlight again, filling the wait with more fiery entertainment, but this time accompanied by heavy death metal.

We must be nearing the start now.

The bells (the bells! the bells!) of oncoming Krampi collective signalled the beginning of their ‘performance’.

krampus festival alps

📷 by me 

Don’t be fooled by the pageantry of the elaborate outfits and masks (which apparently can cost up to £600???!). Krampi mean business and they really wallop you hard with those twigs, it most certainly is not a show.

The festival had a team of volunteers and medics on standby, which inspired a strange mix of solace in knowing that they are there but also fear as are a team of medical professionals really needed??

Krampus 😈😈

A post shared by E M M A T A Y L O R (@ohemmt) on

 

Each Krampus is tagged with a number so if you do get badly beaten then you can report that Krampus along with the identification number to the local authorities.

There were long time periods in between waves of Krampi making their way to the start of the parade route.

And then real fun starts. The crowds are given a 10 minute warning before 9 o’clock when the barriers come down and all those Krampi that have scared the living whatsits out of you from your safe spot amongst the masses, are free to roam the town and whip at will.

Still feeling protected by the barriers, we continued to watch with terrorised glee the last few remaining Krampi doing their thing as part of the parade.

Suddenly, a Krampus came up to our now thinned out area of the crowd. He stops, and in one swift movement gate jumps cleanly over the railing and lands directly in front of me.

Fuck, one’s gone rogue.

Before I can even register what’s happening, he raises his arm back and delivers four almighty blows with that bundle of thin birch twigs to my legs, which catches the rest of the my colleagues up in the beating.

OH.

MY.

GOD.

The sting was made worse by how chilly my jean-clad legs were waiting around in the freezing cold.

I do NOT want to be around for the whipping free-for-all that is but mere moments away.

I escape into a bar with one of the girls from our gang and get myself to loos to inspect the damage.

Craning my neck as I slip down my jeans, angry red welts stripe my the backs of my thighs.

Fabulous.

I poke my head out the bar entrance an hour later and meet up with a few of braver members of our group who remained outside.

My Krampus experience ended in walking briskly home (not to fast to as to attract attention, but not too slow that we are seen as easy pickings) with a couple of others who were up for calling it a night.

With my leg throbbing and my body shivering from being in the cold for so long, I snuggled down in bed with a hot water bottle and tapped out a message to a friend back in Blighty…

‘I came, I saw, I got whipped.’

 

Welcome to Austria!

First week living in Austria

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet

UNTIL WE MEET AGAIN

 

I’ve jacked my office job in and I’m moving to Austria.

Granted, I’m swapping one desk for another, but instead of commuting to a grey business park, wistfully looking out over Gatwick watching people jet off on their holidays everyday, I’ll be Excel-spreadsheeting in the snowy heights of St. Johann.

The past four weeks where I’ve had to get my life together pretty quickly for this move (so.much.paperwork.) has been a blur of dinners, drinks and my darling friends.

So this post is a bit of a love letter to you guys.

Also I’m procrastinating with organising the last few bits that need to go into my suitcase and putting off tidying the bomb site that is currently my bedroom.

It’s not very often you get to explicitly express how much you value and love the people in your life – except maybe at a funeral but then that seems a little too late in the day to write down a bunch of nice things about how amazing the deceased is.

In case you haven’t noticed there’s been a resurgence of commercially branding and capitalising on female friendships (#girlgang) the past 18 months. Taylor Swift and crew have been waving the flag for surrounding yourself with a solid group of lady mates who are more like sisters than friends. Very much a girl’s girl, I’ve been part of my own girl gang for many, many years now and have only continued to add new members to my well-heeled clique.

Apart from family / Cadbury chocolate, my girls are what I’ll miss the most now that I’m about to move away.

Below is why we are friends.. brace yourself, there will be mush.

1 / You listen to my most stupidest worries and only slightly don’t mock me for them.

2 / Being around all of you is like having my own personal cheerleading troupe. If I had said that it was my lifelong dream to go live as a goat in Switzerland, I know I would be supported in every kind of way. (OK, extreme example, but you get the gist).

3 / I am forever grateful for the endless patience that you seem to have by bucket loads when I start droning on in detail about my ~*LoVe LiFe *~  or lack thereof.

4 / That nothing embarrasses you and no topic is off limits for discussion. Toilet troubles, boyfriend’s bits, gross body malfunctions, strange people we kind of fancy, the thought filters get set to ‘disable’ whenever we are around each other.

5 / My love for Beyoncé is considered in any joint playlist I have shared with pals. If you love me, you gotta love B 👑🐝

6 / You’re all fabulous dancers. From slut-drops to epic air guitar moves, ladies there is no one I’d rather tear up a dance floor with than you.

7 / The swearing. People say it’s not ladylike to swear and to that we say fuck them. Having an imaginative sweary group of girls as your bestest buds is a gift that keeps on giving. ‘Cockwomble’ is my word of this shitshow that has been 2016.

8 / When bad decisions and wrong turns cause me to fall flat on my face I am always met with helpful advice and a large glass of wine.

9 / Just for the ‘lols’ alone is reason enough to keep you guys around.

10 / You are my ultimate inspirations. A collection of dazzling women who kick-ass and make me proud to be part of your lives everyday.

 

friends girlgang

 

*Sobs*

Auf Wiedersehen, Pet