Moving to Malta, Mind-fucks and Megabus Gold

This site has become a poor excuse for a gaming blog. For reasons out with my control I have been console-less for a criminally long time and so instead of writing about games, I appear to have turned my life into my very own, really shit RPG that doesn’t even have any dragons. I have the storyline quests (my ongoing articles in which I talk about becoming single, moving to London or going to Thailand to “find myself” only to find myself mostly drunk) and then I break them up with unrelated side quests, articles where I go on rambling tangents about inspirational quotes and why I dislike vacuous, happy people so much. This article falls into the storyline category and is about my newest quest that is so fraught with danger and intrigue that one might even class it as a franchise title of its own. The Oblivion of Elder Scrolls for example.

After coming back from Thailand refreshed and with a new outlook on life (and also discovering that it was impossible for me to afford to live in London on my own without returning to the days of living like a hobo student), I decided that it was about time I constructed a plan to find myself somewhere reasonable to live.  This development happened to coincide with a trip to Malta to attend my school reunion. I flew over in June last year and had a week out there that was so unbelievably, mind-blowingly, fantastically fucking awesome that I couldn’t even begin to do it justice in this paragraph. It deserves an entire article to itself which I will save for another day perhaps.

Anyway, the sun was shining, I was surrounded by old friends, intoxicated by dizzying nostalgia and thrown back to a time when everything was just right, where no one questioned my weird accent or love for the Eurovision Song Contest because everyone had a weird accent and a love of the Eurovision Song Contest. One night after a few drinks, Petra (a friend of mine from school who now lives in Croatia) told me that she missed the place and would move back if she had the balls to do it alone. It didn’t take long for me to realise that with no ties back home and a job that allowed me to live outside the UK, she might not need the balls. I could be one ball, she could be the other! We could do it together scrotum style!

I woke up the next morning bleary eyed, still very keen on the idea but expecting it to have become just another drunken plan that seemed excellent at the time but so difficult to execute that it would just disappear off into the horizon like all my other wild ideas do. I had forgotten, however, that we used to live there, we know people there, it’s familiar, they speak English, they drive on the same side of the road, they have Pastizzi, it’s warm. This wouldn’t really be too much of an irresponsible upheaval. This was, in actual fact, an entirely plausible idea and after deciding in Thailand to be a bit more daring with my life decisions, I felt like it was meant to be, that this might finally be my chance. To my delight, Petra felt the same and so we spent the rest of the year planning our big move.

That big move is in four days.  I am moving to Malta in four days. Holy Fuck.

Now this is by no means a forever thing, initially more like a 6 month tester of the Mediterranean island. It’s completely likely that work or life will get in the way and that sooner or later we will have to move on but if after the 6 month trial period I still like it, then I’ll stay for as long as I want to be there.

Before I could leave though, I had some things to take care of back home in Aberdeen. I had to sell my beloved car and say goodbye to all my friends up there. I decided for reasons beyond even my comprehension that I would take the Megabus Gold, a cheap and terrifying coach company that had recently put beds on their buses. Going to sleep on a bus in London and waking up in Aberdeen was too exciting a prospect for me to turn down. The flight is only an hour and a quarter but this 12 hour adventure sounded like much more fun to me.

I had grand expectations for this trip. Because I am a dickhead I actually packed a little sleepover bag like I was going to a slumber party circa 1992. In it I had pyjamas, a bottle of water, a small packet of Oreos, a book about colonial Holland (?), make-up remover wipes, deodorant, a toothbrush, toothpaste and about 18 different chargers because I am a filthy technology whore. All that was missing was Dream Phone and a book of madlibs.

For my journey I wore a sensible mint coloured jumper with a faux-jewelled collar and my nice ‘travelling’ jeans. I sometimes get a bit of hassle for my choice of attire when travelling but I’m pretty sure that I’m not the problem here, everyone else is. When I go to the airport I like to look nice. I wear my favourite, smartest clothes, I put my make-up on immaculately and put root-booster and coconut oil in my hair. “Why?” you may ask.  Well, because I’m away to go fly in the fucking sky that’s why. I’m going to walk into a lump of metal and I’m going to soar through the clouds and when I get off it I’ll be in another country entirely. I have taken about a million flights in my life and I still can’t get my head around how amazing that concept is and yet all you assholes turn up in your jogging trousers, shit jumpers and withered ponytails like you’re getting the number 2 bus into town to pick up your dry cleaning. It’s barbaric.

I love the travelling parts almost as much as I love the destinations. I like to turn up at airports around an hour before I need to just so I can walk around and look at stuff. I sit in bars and cafes and people-watch, wondering where they are all going or where they have come from. The families with young kids who are going on “holiday” and yet look like they want to kill themselves before they’ve even made it through security, the business men and women who eat alone, pissed off they can’t smash some ales down because they’ve got some bullshit meeting to go to when they get off the plane. I then take myself off to the Duty Free and allow myself one luxury. It’s usually something shit by a designer that in any other circumstances I wouldn’t give a fuck about and try to find something that is within my embarrassingly low budget (“Excuse me, Chanel don’t do fridge magnets or keyrings by any chance?”), and of course I have to buy something made by Kinder and a Viz magazine. Then I get on the plane and have a grand old time. Maybe I was born in the wrong era, maybe I should have been Victorian. Remember the nick of them when they used to get on a train? Ball-gowns and all sorts. That’s how travelling should be, a magical event, and I will not relent even if it is for the god damn Megabus. I make the effort in homage to the wonder of travel.

Well I turned up at Victoria station and didn’t I look like a fucking retard. The place looks like visiting hours in a Turkish prison. There were people getting dragged out by police for not paying, others sleeping on the dirty floors and, my god, so much sausage roll consumption. I felt I’d misjudged the situation when choosing my outfit. I wished I’d dressed in my greasy work overalls, it would have been more reflective of my character after all.

I proceeded to get on the bus where the error of my ways became much more apparent. Everyone was wearing pyjamas already, they had gotten on the bus like that, and with no curtains on the bunk I had been assigned I had no way of getting undressed. I had to sleep in my travelling clothes and under-wire bra which was akin to sleeping on a roll of fibre glass filled with horseshoes.

As the bus pulled out of the station and made its way through the streets of London, I soon realised that falling asleep was going to be a challenge. The only thing between me and death was a 20 stone Glaswegian bus driver and there I was, lying disorientated in the pitch dark, flailing around like a new-born goat. Every time he hit the breaks my heart would race because I had no way of seeing if he was breaking for a traffic light or a fireball pile-up of dead bodies and shrapnel on the M25.

I did eventually manage to drift off and I arrived in Aberdeen unscathed the next morning. Despite my complaints, I would genuinely recommend using the Megabus Gold, it’s cheap and pretty hassle-free considering the length of the journey. Just don’t dress like a prick.

I had a few nights out organised so I could say my goodbyes and they were really great. Really. Great. As the time passed I found myself getting more and more upset that I was leaving. I have memories there and good friends and I know it inside out. Aberdeen really is a cunt. To make matters worse, I have been covertly seeing someone in Aberdeen for a little while. Remember that exotic holiday romance that I was fantasising about in my article about Thailand? Well, I got it. Except I ended up meeting someone out there from the fucking Bridge of Don. Who just happens to be awesome. A male version of me with more tattoos, an impressive book collection and an enthusiasm for the gameshow Pointless matched only by myself. He may actually be funnier than me too. Asshole.

To use an excellent analogy told to me by one of my friends: “Being from Aberdeen is like being in an abusive relationship; no matter how hard you try to leave, you just keep coming back for more.” So what started life as what I thought would be a poignant but mostly joyful departure soon became a complete and utter disaster area. There were tears at the airport and long, wistful, contemplative stares out of the aeroplane window as my home town shrank away into the distance. I did not have a grand old time on that flight and the clothes I chose to wear were decidedly more comfortable than usual.

“Stay here Jillian!” The city was singing persuasively to me from below the clouds. “Look what I’ve got for you! Friends, nights out with people who care about you, a potential husband and father of your children, dancing, going to the theatre, drinking red wine in your pjs and watching good movies, so much sex it will make your eyes water. This can all be yours, just say the word.”

But it’s a trick, and it’s not the first time Aberdeen has tried this one on me. You see, after a while the novelty of you moving back wears off for everyone and you don’t see people as often as you first did. It’s no one’s fault, it’s just the way life goes. Consecutive weekends spent dancing to Toca’s Miracle in Vogue will slowly become a 3 month thing, then a 6 month thing, an annual thing, before eventually ceasing altogether and as the weather gets worse you find yourself locked away indoors watching Escape to the Country and playing video games, desperately trying to transport yourself somewhere else, somewhere better. I’m not falling for it again. I can’t fall for it again no matter how tempting it is. I’m 34 years old, I have to get my shit together and this is my last chance to at least try the life I felt I’ve always wanted.

I don’t want to spend my copious amounts of time off from work just existing, waiting for the wind to die down so I can go to Tesco, I want to go for runs along the promenade, I want outdoor yoga that I know I’ll secretly hate, I want beers at Exiles listening to Pink Floyd and writing articles on my terrace whilst looking out at all the jet-skis and boat parties. I want to eat better, sleep better and occasionally party harder. I’m leaving you Aberdeen and I can’t believe how much it hurts. I’m also leaving you London, my little rebound fling with your fun activities, endless gigs and delicious beer and that hurts too, but *insert generic quote about risk taking and facing your fears here*. I’ll see you on the other side my beautiful friends :)

Begin Quest!

Begin Quest!

On a side note, there’s a good chance I’ll have a spare room so you are all free to come and visit. Bring rowies.

Scotland – Stop Growing on Me Like a Fungus

Ten years ago, if you had asked me to describe Scotland in three words I probably would have said something along the lines of “worst place ever” or “fucking shit fuck” or, if I was particularly pre-menstrual, “worse than rape”.  This is because for most of my adult life I have not been Scotland’s biggest fan.  I was removed from here at an early age and as a result don’t really have that strong sense of patriotism you get when you have lived in the same country all of your life.  Recently, however, there have been some interesting developments which I suspect could signify a thaw in our frosty relationship.

When I lived overseas, I was the most die-hard Scottish person you could find, probably because I was the only Scottish person you could find.  I’m not going to lie, the release of Braveheart in Malta when I was 15 did nothing to hurt me and I milked that fictional motherfucker for all it was worth.  For weeks I had American kids coming up to me at school saying “Wow, I did not realise you guys went through so much”, to which I replied “Yeah (*sigh*), if I’m honest you know, yes, it has been a long and arduous journey fraught with repression and violence but I like to think we’ve come out of it a better, stronger nation” whilst shakily pointing to a scar on my forehead I got from a rollerblading accident – or as I liked to call it “the English”.

In Tunis, at around the same time, I distinctly remember welling up during a St Andrews day party when a bagpiper came into the room (I was totally shit-wrecked on wine and could hardly see, but let’s just say for the sake of discussion that they were the tears of national pride) proving that I did have it in me back then, Scottish was something I wanted to be.  Little did I realise that this was because I had unwittingly adopted some sort of foreign, romantic image of our country:  “We have hills n’ shit, people carry fish around in baskets, awesome!”, etc.

It was with these fantastical notions that I returned permanently to Scotland at the age of 19.  I was excited about it, I could go into town and buy decent clothes, things would generally work as opposed to be broken, life was going to be good.  I think it took about 3 days before I realised that I had just made the biggest mistake of my life.  I got a job at a local pub and in the space of a couple of days someone had called me a “yankee cunt”, a junkie had stolen my wallet and I had seen my first ever ecstasy pill.  Bearing in mind that at the time I had the street-wisdom of a Fritzl sister, this was a highly confusing environment for me.  Up until that point, I thought heroin was a fictional substance made up by Irvine Welsh to make Trainspotting an interesting read.

Looking back now, I can see that I must have been pretty annoying.  I sounded like a Californian cheerleader (really did not look like one) but was telling people I was born in Torry.  Bar a few of the locals at the pub, people were generally not very convinced by me and I don’t blame them, I was a fucking weirdo.  To make matters worse I was struggling to adjust to a life where suddenly I didn’t have any of my friends around me.  I tried to do things like go to college and speak to people in the bar I worked in but at the end of the day I had nothing in common with anyone, turns out no one is interested in talking about Maltese bus drivers or this one time at the British Club.  I think people may have mistakenly thought I was posh too, which is hilarious/offensive – I would be lying if I said that I haven’t pissed in a bottle at T in the Park and put it inside my jacket as a kind of make-shift heating device.  I don’t think Kate Middleton has ever done that.  Anyway, the fact of the matter was I had to get some friends, and if they all happened to be cats then that was just the way it was going to have to be.

It was right around this time that I met Billy (thank God, I fucking hate cats) and Christ knows what made him able to withstand what must have been the excruciating embarrassment of introducing me to his friends and family (I want to say it was my shimmering personality but I did have sex with him, so it was probably that).  For the first year or so, I don’t think much of his friends were clambering over each other to start a fan club; I didn’t take any drugs, I talked a lot, nothing I said was very useful, I dressed weird, I loved the Eurovision Song Contest, I swore constantly and was generally not very feminine but unfortunately for them I wasn’t going away.  Through perseverance I discovered that people can change their minds if you literally give them no other option and now I look upon a lot of them as my good friends.

Over time, my accent slowly began to return to a semblance of Scottish which made everything a bit easier and after about five years I had the foundations of a social life.  Despite this, I still absolutely hated the place and used to dream about leaving every day.  The weather was terrible, there was nothing to do, there were drugs everywhere, they were expensive, people moaned constantly (a bit like what I’m doing now) and no one really spoke to each other.  All of these things made me want to get the hell out of here and to top it all off, I absolutely hated my job at the time.

When I turned 25 I decided to do something about the situation.  I applied to study Geology at Aberdeen University in the hope of getting a job in the oil industry so I could get the fuck out of this hell-hole and back into the comforting arms of an obscure foreign country.  I got accepted and began what was to be four years of good times.  In our class there were people from all over the UK and abroad, none of whom knew each other so we were all in the same awkward boat.  For the first time since returning to Aberdeen, I was considered a local.  It was a very weird feeling because I still felt like a dirty immigrant but it was a good weird feeling.

During the course of my degree I made quite a few friends and was relieved to discover that I didn’t have to force myself upon them like I did with Billy’s poor friends.  We went on numerous field trips together and these were tremendous.  Not only was the banter so good that it was, at times, physically painful but I was starting to see all the hills and people carrying fish around in baskets that I had imagined all those years ago.  I had been so preoccupied with not killing myself I had forgotten that there were parts of Scotland better than literally anywhere else in the world.  I spent eight weeks on the Isle of Skye for one of my uni projects, for example, and it is now possibly my favourite place in the universe.  If you had told me a decade ago that out of everywhere I had been I would like a cold, remote Scottish island the best, I would have taken an angry shit in your front garden.

I now work offshore and get to spend two weeks of every month at home in Aberdeen with Billy and my dog, an arrangement I am pretty happy with.  Over the past few years I have found myself fantasising about leaving this country less and less and looking forward to the Wizard Festival and my annual trips to Skye more and more.  Billy and I want to buy a house this summer and because we are old, crusty and beginning to smell of death, we have been thinking about getting somewhere in the countryside.  The other day he said to me “The way you’re talking you would think that you were happy to hang around here for the next ten years” and, after swallowing some sick, I told him that I think I am.