Saturday 12 February 2022

Welcome to Hypersleep...


I am not yet ready to re-emerge into the new world. Negativity and hate have ruled social media throughout the pandemic and many times I have tried write a post that explains how deeply disappointed I find myself with much of our daily life as it is, has been and will be. What was once a place of inspiration and entertainment has lost itself along the way. 

Many times I have tried to write it and many times I have kept it to myself because I do not want to join the shared depression.

Currently I exist in hypersleep. I may return...

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 29 August 2020

Corona 2020, Month Five…

What a difference five months makes. From the grasping positive beginnings to the onset of Autumnal blues, what a whirlwind of emotions and disappointments, frustrations, storms and heatwaves 2020 is turning out to be. 

This time of year we expect and often welcome the changing season. Leaves begin to turn gold and orange, edging ever closer to the eventual death of summer. Pumpkin spice starts to beckon from on the horizon and as the new academic year readies to begin there tends to come a sense of renewal and new beginnings. This year, perhaps unsurprisingly, does not quite bring those same positive vibes as times past.


This time of year I usually experience a moment – a turning point, if you will – where that seasonal shift becomes tangible. It might be the falling of a leaf or the scent of cardamom and nutmeg. It might come on a chill breeze or in noticing an earlier sunset. It might be felt with September showers or the sudden desire to sink into a bubble bath. For 2020 it has come in the shape of an out-of-character longing to pull on a woolly jumper and curl up in front of the television.


Perhaps this is my subconscious anxiety manifesting as a protest to yet another turning point in my life and the facing of what will undoubtedly be a very challenging return to work. I find myself avoiding reality and turning to familiar activities and escapisms that have propped me up through so much of my adult experiences thus far.  


This time of year I am usually facing and embracing that feeling of a new beginning, but now find I am desperately clinging to the last vestiges of summer, digging in my heels and disbelieving that autumn can be upon us already.


Perhaps this is my conscious certainty that things are going to get much worse again before they can start getting better?

Nothing is certain, except there will need to be pumpkin spice, hygge and a lot of good books to make it to the end of this year.


Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 24 March 2020

Corona Lockdown, Day 1…

So this is 2020. We awaken in a new world, one where the civil liberties we have always so taken for granted are restricted.

As a writer I consider myself lucky that the prospect of having restricted movement and reduced working hours does actually (at this moment) sound appealing. With a novel to finish and a whole new set of characters leaping constantly around in my mind the thought of some quality time confined to a laptop and keyboard is just what I have been craving for some considerable time. It is only the price it comes at that rests heavy on me at the moment.

I do, however, realise that I (and perhaps us writers as a breed) are in that more privileged position, and acknowledge that there are those among us – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, occasional acquaintances, strangers – who will be finding the current situation incredibly difficult to manage and full of anxiety. Perhaps even myself in days or weeks to come? Fast forward through this, the first of my 12-week long, 4-weekly work cycle from the day job, and I may be telling a story that more closely resembles theirs.

2017-18 was incredibly busy for me and brought great change to life, with a change of career, a move abroad and a whole heap of goings on. 2018-19 was a rapid move back to the UK and an intense year of training which left little enough time for anything else. 2019-2020 marked the start of my new career in earnest, and as so often happens, just when I thought that everything was turning out for the best, in August 2019 I got struck down by a series of viral infections.

What followed was a hideous six months of trying to keep afloat in a brand new job in a brand new environment whilst simultaneously visiting doctors, taking time off, taking antibiotics, permanently needing to be in reach of a tissue and a throat soother, spending a fortune on manuka honey, realising I was a little better, then a little worse and starting the cycle off all over again. Three sets of antibiotics, six months of feeling very low (and now I acknowledge that my mental wellbeing had suffered leaving me exhausted and about at the end of my tolerance for winter and illness and getting out of bed in the mornings and short, dark evenings) and now Spring is springing and for the first time in months I have started to feel like a real life human again. Yes.

Years that are even numbers are usually better ones for me and I had started 2020 hoping that was the case. But of course as happens in life when you let your guard down and start to feel that things are looking up, enter Covid-19. In scant weeks I have gone from being an active full time day-worker to being on a 4-weekly rota which requires me to only do a small percentage of my actual job and only attend my workplace one week out of every four, which is a huge change to the routine. Times are very unsettling.

So day one, I sit here at my desk, watching the quiet street and enjoying the sun shining above the rooftops. A magpie walks along the guttering outside my window, oblivious to me and my musings. In the opposite house my neighbour almost mirrors me. He is self-isolating and spends many hours at his desk. I wonder if he is doing the same as I am today. In the distance I hear car engines and the occasional siren, but far, far less than normal. The change is unmistakeable, in our actions and our bearings. This is life, as we know it, for the coming months. This is the new ‘normal’.

As I sit here, relishing the hours to spend working on my novel and reading through my to-read pile, perhaps clearing out the winter clothes and having a spring clean, I wonder what good will come out of our current circumstances. Some will be lost. Our lives will be changed, perhaps considerably, or more permanently than we expect. But with the sun shining I sit here in hope that some of those changes might be for the better.

One can but hope.

To those keyworkers who are far closer to the frontline than I am at the moment, thank you.

No-one would have believed, in the first years of the twenty-first century… and yet it has.  

Elloise Hopkins.

Tuesday 13 August 2019

Where Have I Been?...

Where Have I Been?...

It is almost a year since I sat down with my unfinished trilogy in front of me and had the quiet environment, the headspace and the time needed to sense check my last big writing session and try to let the last 60,000ish words play out in my mind and find the right path to get my characters to where I have, for so long, known they would end up.

Today, thanks to the huge generosity of my next-door neighbours and a bit of help from my parents I am lucky enough to call a cottage in the Peak District home for the next several days. A little time to clock up the word count towards the end of my first draft of the final book in the trilogy and perhaps even find an answer to the inconsistent word count of the first two books. But first…

Outside the window I see sheep and cows roaming the hillside as the sun finally breaks through the clouds of yet another wet, British summer’s day. The evening starts to draw in. My hands are dry from washing dishes in the absence of a dishwasher, and as I reach for the hand cream I realise how healing it is to step away from one’s normal life and take a breath. Change is as good as a rest, they say. If that was true I would feel far more rested than I do, for it has been a few years of frequent change.

Rewind twelve months and I was drawing to the end of a year working the day job in Budapest, readying myself to return to the UK to a change of career and what I knew would be an intense and challenging year. Hungary had provided a year of culture shock, language barriers and new experiences that I left behind only slightly reluctantly (the relentless Eastern European summer temperatures helped with that)  trading a day job career in the corporate world to place myself in a different role, though still an educator, solver of problems and seeker of knowledge. 

I have always kept my two lives separate – that of the day job and that of my life as an author. On paper it is easy to combine a love of writing with the need to work a different job. In real life, when real life gets in the way, it is a balance that all too easily swings one way or the other, no matter how you try to fight to keep them in line. I had to accept, coming into 2019, that it would be a year dedicated to the day job, as essays and study and practical immersion into a new career dominated the hours and days and weeks and months, and left me far more mentally drained than I had anticipated.

Was it all bad? I search for the positives as I sit here now with the unfinished Aethera Trilogy still before me…

What began as an unwanted and forced temporary-retreat from my author-ego this year was not all bad, upon reflection. Not so much in terms of the writing – my characters have been in need of resolutions for far too long, and my trilogy still in need of an agent just as sorely (though distance from ones own work always seems to help in finding inconsistencies and solving minor plot snarls – see: positives).

But working pretty much seven days a week for a year meant not having the time to be online interacting, sharing, being that side of me which I once enjoyed and which many of you know. Not ideal, but not wholly terrible when you look on the flip side. Being away from social media became like a breath of air. All too quickly, not checking feeds several times a day became a joy rather than a worry. Then when I did scrabble a little time to try and catch up I found myself disappointed and depressed at what I found. I had not realised how oppressive and how hateful the world of social media seemed to have become until I had taken a step away from it and then tried to come back.

I’m sure it has been damaging for my author self to take such a huge break from my online presence, and I know have missed so much happy news amidst it all, yet I would hope that those who enjoy my stories and those who know me would not hold it against me. In fact I know others who have purposefully taken a break from social media for the same reason: a brain break. A positivity injection.

If I consider my own sanity and wellbeing I think it has done wonders to disconnect from what can be – stress *can* be, not wholly and completely *is* all of the time – such a negative environment while I was under such pressure in the other part of my life. I realised as soon as it was absent that not having that ‘B’ word in my face all the time, or now you come to mention it the ‘T’ as well, was definitely a good thing. Has the world gone mad? Seeing rational human beings attack one another so furiously based on such irrational groundings is depressing. It made me long for escapism and then embrace the fact that I had it.

Yet like everything, it cannot last. Living only one side of ones life cannot be sustained; the balance has to be restored. So as I try to crawl my way out from the offline cave I have been dwelling in for the last few months and attempt to balance the scales back more favourably towards my author self, I take cautious steps. As one of my beloved characters, Prophet, would say: ‘one step by one step’. I hope to be able to share his stories with you in the coming years.

So while I was working towards another postgraduate degree and learning a semi-new trade and taking a break from social media, my author life did not grind to a complete halt beneath the façade of Twitter. I never stopped writing, although the volume was far less than in previous years. I hope to remedy some of that during this week’s engineered writing retreat. I never stopped reviewing and am currently working my way through an excellent book, aptly enough about unfinished stories, for the British Fantasy Society. Reviews on their website as always. And I once again sit a jury panel for the British Fantasy Awards and have now finished reading the last of the nominations ready to decide on a winner with my fellow jurors.

In a life that tips the scales this way and that and is never short of its trials and tribulations, if I have learned nothing else from 2019 so far it is that celebrating the positives, no matter how small, keeps us going. With 250,000 words of this trilogy already down on paper, today I celebrate that rather than mourn the missing ending as I have for so long. There is little better in life than a great story, and this one will be all the better in the telling for the time spent crafting it.

Where have I been? Graduating. Inspiring. Weeping. Laughing. Bathing. Reading. Hiding. Longing. Living. Walking. Sleeping. On pause. Living at least half a life.

There are always words to be written and stories to be told. I am not gone. Perhaps, only half way there?

Elloise Hopkins. 

Sunday 13 January 2019

The Magic Faraway Tree… Joe, Beth, Rick and Frannie?...

My new day job finds me re-visiting the echoes of my past in a nostalgic haven. When I found out Enid Blyton’s classics were on the list I was delighted, though apprehensive. ‘Didn’t they change the names?’ I asked. I mean ok, Fanny and Dick are undeniably dated, not to mention loaded with innuendo in today’s society, but just who are Joe, Beth, Frannie and Rick anyway?

That’s the thing… Dick and Fanny have connotations, I will admit, but they are connotations to the adult mind, and that is the point. The young Elloise found nothing at all wrong with her heroes’ names. She loved the Magic Faraway Tree, its bizarre and obnoxious inhabitants and the wonderful lands waiting to be discovered among its peaks. If you had told her what fanny meant she would not have been at all interested, telling you to shush so she could see what would happen in the Topsy, Turvy land.

So why did the names get changed? To update them for a modern reader, apparently. I find myself wondering why other books and films of my childhood have not been ‘outlawed’ and re-released in such a fashion. I can think of a plethora of children’s films, even newer ones being released today, which are absolutely rife with adult connotations entirely unsuitable – and let’s face it downright unsavoury – when you consider they are found spattered in between the innocent scenes of children’s films. One only has to switch on the radio or flick onto Youtube to find children reciting the most inappropriate lyrics.

So are Dick and Fanny really so offensive? And just what did Bessie do to deserve the same treatment? Ok, I told myself… have to get on board with this. Have to accept the changes. I found an ebook, a very good reading, as it happens, by Kate Winslet, but no matter how much attention I pay, Frannie is Fanny. Is it you, Kate? Are you reading the original names in subtle protest to this updating? Or is it my brain substituting what it knows to be the original, pure words of this favourite author of my childhood?

Try as I may, I cannot follow these characters’ adventures as much as I did their original counterparts. Frannie is just not as much fun. (See what I did there? A six-year-old wouldn’t.) Rick is the less interesting cousin. By changing the original, some magic, some of that pure, original intention is gone. I have to wonder… instead of censoring our literature, shouldn’t we focus on censoring our society, so that these juvenile, outdated and frankly not that amusing innuendos get censored instead? Would we really suffer if the word ‘dick’ were no longer so amusing?

Just where did it all start anyway? In the follies of our past, where racism, sexism, and all of the other isms were acceptable. Time has moved on. Thankfully our understanding and tolerance has moved on. And now it is time to focus that understanding and tolerance in the right place. Leave Dick and Fanny where they should be, and focus on censoring the right things, before we destroy childhood happiness for the wrong reasons.

I am yet to decide whether I will read the new names out loud to ensure consistency with the modern text or whether I will stick firm to the originals in homage to their time and nostalgic brilliance. Whichever I choose, internally I will not forget where this thought led me today, and will strive never to compensate for the wrong reasons.

Elloise Hopkins.

Wednesday 5 December 2018

Are We Different?…

As someone who feels strongly about gender parity, and about striving for equality, today I witnessed unmistakable gender division which showed me that much as we might push for women and men to have the same rights and abilities, there are  fundamental differences in the way we see the world and the way we process logic which drives our behaviour to be different. 

Today I went to Cadbury World, Birmingham’s world famous chocolate factory, which sadly was not quite as fantastical and rich to me as it was when I was a youngster. Apparently Creme Eggs are not smaller than they used to be – I saw the chocolate moulds which allegedly prove it. Also allegedly they were not originally made with Dairy Milk – apparently that was only introduced in 2008 which I find incredibly hard to believe. Anyway, enough ranting about the loss of the deliciousness that was Creme Eggs. Today’s blog was about the differences between men and women.

At Cadbury World you do still get ‘free’ chocolate (albeit considerably less than you used to, ahem) and in a big mixed gender group today there was a significant difference in the way the males and females treated these freebies.

I am told that men see chocolate as sustenance, as immediate satisfaction, whereas women have a more emotional connection with chocolate, seeing it as a luxury to be savoured. Perhaps this is true, perhaps it is the way chocolatiers have conditioned us to be with their advertising over the years, but whichever of those it is, today when given freebies, almost to a man, the males ate each bar immediately, saving nothing for later, whereas almost every woman popped each bar straight into their bag to take home and have at a later time.

Could there have been any more perfect demonstration of the differences in the way men and women think than this? If I had surveyed every man about why he ate the chocolate or every woman why she saved it would I have received two sets of identical answers? Are we really that fundamentally different in the ways we see the world and the ways we think?

Or was it the behaviour of individual preferences imprinting on the group – one person makes an idle comment about saving it for later so the surrounding people do the same? One person excitably announces how much they love this type of chocolate bar and tucks in, letting those nearby know that it is ok to do so without judgment? I am not sure, but I do know what I saw, and it struck me as significant enough to reflect on it several hours afterwards. Are we fundamentally, internally different, divided by gender, or do we naturally seek to conform as a pack and create this division ourselves?

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 14 October 2018

Screen to Stage…

“You can’t just take a screen actor and put them on a theatre stage; it doesn’t work that way.” I found that comment coming out of my mouth as I left the Birmingham REP recently. I went to a matinee of Rebus. Ian Rankin, Rebus’s creator, wrote the story himself, and it was then adapted for stage and has received fairly good reviews. I love a theatre trip; it is always a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon. 

 I had never read any Rankin books and I have never seen an episode of Rebus on TV, but I know how highly praised the Rebus stories are so I was looking forward to this. I love detective stories in general, to be honest. Give me a Morse, Marple or Poirot and I am captivated. Give me a Nordic noir and I am intrigued. Give me a Castle or a Murder She Wrote and I am content.

The week before the play I read Knots and Crosses, the first Rebus book. I was impressed. Short, sharp, clever, it ticked the boxes, and I arrived at the theatre with a good enough sense of the character and his background to be able to leap forward in his story to the time in his life when Long Shadows is set – beyond retirement as he is pulled back to an old unsolved case and the ghosts of his past. 

The story itself was excellent. The portrayal of the character was along the right lines albeit very different to how I saw Rebus in my head; however, Knots and Crosses was set a long time before this and I do not know what has happened in between these two stories to further shape and damage the character. I also enjoyed the way his past murder victims were frequently on stage providing judgement, accusation, questioning and so on to Rebus as he remembered details from their murders and his past deeds. 

But – and I bring myself back to the point of this blog – sound was an issue. Voice projection, to be explicit. It is not the first time I have seen a television actor play a part in a theatre production and had to strain extremely hard to hear what was being said. Being able to project one’s voice is a key skill in a stage performer. With the best will in the world, if the audience cannot hear you, their emotional connection with you is lost, and that is what happened here, with almost every character on the stage.

Almost every character… with the exception of two. Two female actresses who played the two victims from historic cases, the two ghosts, were the best actors in the play, no question. And most distressing was that they were the only two players who had to share a stage bow at the end. All the rest got solo applause. I found that extremely distasteful.

Two of the main characters were played by actors familiar from television. Their voice projection was poor, both in terms of volume and intonation. Their energy on stage waned in the second half, their performance seeming to shrink as though aimed towards a television camera with a narrow field of vision rather than a theatre with an almost 180 degree span of viewers. It seemed stilted. Perhaps this was the director’s choice? The play was dark, set between seedy bars and gloomy offices; small locations, small discoveries. Perhaps the contained performances were intentional? I will never know if that was the intent, but for me, this detective story with these actors did not translate well from screen to stage. The story – its haunted narrative, its hard, tragic corners, demanded more of a performance, more of a strong darkness, more life. 

(Aside: please see my past blogs about actors playing roles in a different accent to their own. There is no need, people. Get a Scotchman to play a Scot. There is no shortage of fine Scottish actors.)

That is not to say I did not enjoy the play. As I said, the story was excellent. The set adapted very well to the various locations and the overall tone of the play. I came away still having very much enjoyed my Saturday matinee at the theatre. It just left me wanting a little more. Where I should have been reeling with the scale of Rebus’ decision, and the emotional impact of the story, instead I was wondering what had been said, or wishing it had been said with a little more conviction and grit.

You cannot just take a screen actor and put them on stage and expect the output to be at the same level of impact. They are different skills. Performance, honed take by take to a television camera until it is perfect, require far different abilities than standing in character for two hours or more in front of a live audience and being that character, embodying it fully for the audience for every second. I stand by my judgement. Just as a novel writer requires a different skill set to an editor, and a screenwriter from a director, so too does the screen actor from the stage actor. Cast the right ones and the audience will be with you from start to the bitter end.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 30 September 2018

Viszontlátásra, Budapest…

A month ago I left Budapest after living there for almost a year, and now, as I write this, it already feels so distant an experience… I dreamt it ere I woke.

So quickly has my new career drawn me in, filling my days and spare time with reflection and research. So familiar have become my old haunts so fast, old trodden paths come newly worn again. Faces, places of my past once more claimed as mine, as now. The heat and ancient majesty of Budapest, its shimmering banks and the Danube’s magic left behind along with the mysteries of its language and its people.

That was a different life I lived. One that may seem lost in a haze of the moment, but will not be forgotten.

Viszontlátásra, Budapest. You were a wonder. A dream. A foray into the land of the fae for feet that walk earth once again. I shall think of you next time I gaze out across a lake at sunset, or walk through snow-covered streets. The time went by so quickly, but the memories will take much longer to fade.

Elloise Hopkins.

Saturday 4 August 2018

Gender Bias…

Those who know me know that I really cannot stand to see gender prejudice. When we think about gender bias I am sure most people consider it in terms of rights for women, but we should remember that it can go the other way too. This week I had an experience which I found quite shocking, both in terms of what happened and then afterwards discovering what my colleagues felt about it.

What started the whole thing was a pair of shorts. We are in eastern Europe. It has been consistently 33+ degrees outside for the last goodness knows how many weeks. It is hot, and what I mean by that is that it is seriously hot. Hot enough to be permanently tiring. Hot enough to feel permanently uncomfortable. Hot enough to generate a near-constant sheen of sweat across my brow. It is hot.

A fairly new male member of staff came to work wearing a pair of shorts. They were smart shorts, knee length, inoffensive in no way whatsoever. This staff member was told to by his line manager, not in private, but in full view of his whole department, that his dress was inappropriate and unsuited for a work environment and that he should go home and get changed into full length trousers. I did not witness this conversation but am told afterwards that everyone was laughing at him and the manager’s approach was very blunt, and borderline rude.

I checked the policy when I heard this story. Our office dress code is ‘smart dress’ and nowhere in the document states that men have to wear full length trousers or that shorts are forbidden.

Needless to say the staff member in question did not take this order well, and the situation escalated into a discussion with the head of the office and the HR head and a series of latter communications over the subsequent hours and days – the contents of which obviously I was not privy to – but the end of the story is that his contract was terminated. 

When I heard about this situation later on, I was outraged on his behalf. From what I hear his behaviour after the initial incident was certainly unacceptable and as a department manager myself I certainly would not have tolerated that in my own team. However, my point is: the incident which started the chain of events – the request that he go home and change into trousers – shocked me. I completely understand that he would have found that a frustrating and unjustified request. I am not surprised that he reacted negatively.

When I challenged my fellow managers on this, I was further shocked to discover that not a one of them, male or female, agreed with my point of view or saw the decision to send him home to change as a poor decision. When I asked on what basis they felt this was the right thing to have done, not one of them could give me an answer. I pointed out that no one is forcing me to cover my legs in full length trousers or tights in this weather. They laughed. “Are you hot in those trousers?” I asked a male colleague who was wearing suit trousers. He refused to answer. “Do you not see that this is gender bias and is not acceptable?” I asked them. Two of them told me it was not gender bias but “the way things should be.”

I was disgusted by the reactions of all of them, and felt incredibly disappointed that the company I work for, that prides itself on having a modern and open culture, a ‘western’ culture in a traditionally closed and hierarchical society, had a group of such narrow-minded people forming its leadership team. I told them so, and also that I didn’t blame him for being annoyed at being told to go home and change. I explained how disappointed I was to be working among a team of dinosaurs, and left them to hopefully consider what I had said.

At the end of this month I am leaving the company. A career change into a new industry will be my next chapter, and I am pleased to say that at face value my new employer appears to actually embody that modern and open culture that my current company thinks it has. I have recently discovered that my new workplace actually has a gender neutral dress code. There is a little spark of hope within me that I will find the beliefs and opinions of my new colleagues more in line with my own, or at the least open to the ideas of others and open to the idea of change.

Gender bias works both ways, against women, against men, and neither is acceptable. Here, where it was based on unchallenged traditions and illogical decisions, it was a shocking demonstration of old fashioned values conflicting with the modern world. I can only hope the people around me will learn to open their minds a little more after this week’s episode.

Elloise Hopkins.

Sunday 17 June 2018

Viscose is Not My Friend…

When I moved to Budapest I knew I would have at the least just shy of a year and was really exited by that fact. The thought of experiencing all of the seasons, knowing that here they have more extreme seasonal distinctions appealed to my constant desires for experience and variety. Since then, I have learned how it feels to live through some of these seasons.

I arrived in autumn to a pleasant surprise. It was warm, as warm as an English summer, in fact, and I basked in it. Yes I had to do boring admin like queuing for hours at the immigration office, finding a banker who spoke English to get a bank account open, and apartment hunting, but it was an enjoyable weather welcome to my new home and it helped me to appreciate that I had made the right decision in coming here.

Winter was cold. I think in a solid month long period in January/February the temperature remained permanently below zero. Bundling up was a necessity. My thick winter coat was a blessing. Yet I did not feel so terribly cold to the bone as I usually do in an English winter. The lack of a constant wind made a difference. Also the damp in the air, I am told. On stripping off outer layers after being outside, it does not take a further five hours to really feel warm again like I have on occasion at home.

Which brings me more to the now. It is early June. The beginning of March was still on the chilly wintery side of the seasons. In early April when I returned after a break spring and summer had definitely merged as far as I am concerned. For the last two months or so now, bar the odd few days here or there where it gets stormy and the temperature drops to the mid 20s, it has been steadily in the high twenties or low thirties – and we are talking degrees Celsius here – all day every day. I wake up and get ready for work in 27 degrees. I scurry around at lunchtime trying to run errands or hide in the shade from 32 degrees. I go to sleep at night in 27 degrees. In short, it is very hot. If this is spring, I confess I am quite scared about going into full summer. Wish me luck.

I have always loved the sun, and even described myself as a sun worshipper on occasion. Cut to my first weekend in Budapest when I moved here, sunbathing on Margaret Island (Margitsziget). Cut to last summer, England, we had a several week run of very pleasant weather in the 25 degree region. My lunchtime routine became a short walk to the local university campus for a 99 with a flake and a sunbathe before returning to the office. In fact it was the only thing getting me through the work day back then. At the end of the summer I quit the Birmingham property industry, hence my almost-year in Budapest.

As I sit here in my apartment, 9am Sunday, the early morning sun beams through the windows and makes the waters of the Danube gleam invitingly. If I could go and jump in it, I would, but I have been highly discouraged from doing so! Instead I am planning a mini holiday to Lake Balaton, Hungary’s beaches on the lake region, and of course there are always the thermal baths close by when you feel that need to plunge into cool water. Which I do, on around a three-hourly basis. It can be an expensive habit.

For someone who thought she was a sun worshipper, living in sun of this strength, for continuous periods like this, is hard work. Sticky, sun-cream laden skin is now the norm, rather than the sign of a holiday. No freezer compartment is big enough for the number of ice cubes I need in my day. Sweating and continuously rehydrating have become my life. My brain is functioning at around 70% performance.

Even my wardrobe needed a total overhaul, as I quickly learned. Any piece of clothing that is not at least 90% pure cotton, modal, other natural, breathable fibre has been banished back to the UK or at least hurled back into my suitcase in disgust ready for the next journey home. Polyester is a pest. Viscose is an absolute no-no. It is a horrible sensation trying to interview candidates for job openings or lead a training session when you feel over-heated and 100% uncomfortable in your outfit. Never have I fidgeted so much during my working day.

I have now been in Budapest for eight months and like a typical English girl, the weather still very much dictates how I spend my time. If it is going to be a real scorcher, as it often is, I may opt for a cool museum or art gallery trip coupled with a sunshine stroll around Buda Castle, City Park (Városliget) or the island where shade and thermal baths are on offer. If we are in for storms – and my goodness have I seen some phenomenal lightning storms since I moved here – then a welcome day at the keyboard it is. And for the rest, it involves a lot of water, a well prepared picnc, decent walking shoes, a hat, a helluva lot of high factor sun cream, and early morning energy to catch the bus/tram/train to the selected destination for a day of exploration.

I do still love the sun. That fundamental desire in me to feel its rays on my face and see it glinting off rooftops and water has not changed. But my desire to always be in it, feeling it against my skin, has. As someone before who would always have chosen to sit in the sun, now I make a beeline for shade. As someone who enjoys being outside, walking around new places, exploring, finding peace and being left to my thoughts, regularly sitting, dripping with sweat and exhaustion, on busy public transport, going here or there under fierce heat has become really hard work. It has got to the stage where it is almost a chore forcing myself to make a plan to go out and do something with my weekends and getting up early enough to go and do it before the sun hits its peak.

I always say, in life, that I would only ever want to regret things that I had done, and not things that I had not done. So I need to stick to that philosophy and force myself myself to fill my last months in Hungary with soaking up as much of its country and culture as possible before the chance to do so ends. Soon enough I will be back in England, onto the next chapter of my life, and I would hate to return knowing that I did not live this chapter as fully as I wanted to.

Then again, at least, if nothing else, I have learned that viscose is not my friend, and I have found that hiding from the sun does wonders for ones word count.

Elloise Hopkins.