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Musing in Sweden

My annual trip to Sweden in December to see family has developed a charming familiarity. The routine is usually the same - a few days in Stockholm shopping, maybe a trip to Skansen to see the festive market and get in the Christmas mood, followed by a train trip to the country and a few days seeing my relatives. While often the appeal of travel is to try something new, I take great comfort in the routine. Sweden is a place I have strong sensory associations with. I think of the limited and precious daylight, the songs I play on the long drives across the open snowy landscape. I look forward to the meatballs and pickled herring for dinner. I'm even starting to pick up a bit of the language. The events don't change, neither does the time of year, but every year, of course, I am different. 


Jumper - Weekday
Trousers - Zara
Boots - not sure

The beauty of an annual trip is that you can juxtapose the shifts in your life - then versus now. Since Sweden is such a vivid place for me, it makes this reflection particularly vibrant. My experience of 2018 was intense, filled with highs and lows, change, adventure, surprises. I never would have predicted the place I was in when the year came to a close. Equally, I'm very content with where I ended up. 


Jumper - Uniqlo
Hat - brother's
Trousers - Brick Lane
Boots - Vagabonds via Office

I find Sweden a relaxing place too, one with a slow pace, a quiet quality. There is time for reflection, something I have not had much of in my chaotic but wonderful first term at university. I even spent a whole day at my grandma's in front of my laptop writing about everything I experienced over the preceeding weeks. It was immensely theraputic to reflect and preserve those memories. 

City is the Space of Story Making

'I left it at home', I said to my Dad.

'Home? This is your home', he replied, as we discussed the whereabouts of a piece of clothing.

He was right. That was my home but I, without thinking, referred to my university halls, also as 'home'. 

My language adjustment bemused my Dad - he cracked several jokes throughout the day about my weekend 'home' being merely a weekend back at my "parents' house". Now, both are home, and I'm lucky I feel that way. 

I've been at university for almost two months now and it's been intense. Freshers Week overlapped with Fashion Week. I entered with the intention of acting in more plays but have ended up on a sports team. I have met so many new people and am constantly experiencing new things. There have been many surprises and I love it. 

If you followed my writing over the last year, you'll know that the application process was a turbulent period for me. For a long time, I expected to be as far away from London as possible; staying here was never my plan. As much as I loved growing up in the city, I was aching for a change and new territory. And of course, as it so often happens, things went another way. As a result, I went into the London university I now attend with some excitement but no real expectations. Now, I think I'm close to the happiest I've ever been. I know a lot of people who are struggling with the adjustment from school to university, which makes me even more grateful for how well it has worked out for me.

I'm studying English Literature and one of our modules is called 'Writing London'. We study pieces of literature set in London/by London based writers from vastly different time periods, social perspectives and genres. We discuss themes like surveillance, whether that makes London safe or sinister; loss and gain of identity and whether the city helps facilitate a purpose or actually makes it easier to lose yourself; how the mass of people makes 'chance encounters' more likely and therefore more likely to initiate stories. It feels particularly special because we're living it. All of the themes we look at can be applied or understood through our own lens of London. My lens of London will be different to that of people who have moved here from other parts of the UK, even more so to international students; we all have a different relationship with the city. Growing up in West London and moving to central means I too am seeing London through fresh eyes and also getting the change I so wished for. 

One of my lecturers said the other day, 'city is the space of story making'. I liked it so much, I wrote it on a post-it and stuck it on my wall.  As I study the stories of everyone from Woolf to Spenser, I am living out my own story, my own narrative. It's something I agonised over last year, trying to predict where it would be set, who would be the supporting characters, the love interests - all of it now is coming to life. 

The story is only just beginning.


The Paula Knorr SS19 presentation was a kaleidoscope of glamour. Slicked back hair adorned sequin dresses and dramatic draping. The '70s evening wear was amplified by bright lights and mirrors; warm tones and silver in every frame. It was a showstopper to say the least. 


I'm fortunate to have seen several of Edeline Lee's London Fashion Week presentations and the show has become the one on my calendar I most look forward to. There is always colour, there is always creativity, and this SS19 was no exception. A rolling loop of scenes showcased the clothes in the dynamic atmosphere - it was a hybrid of fashion show and physical theatre piece. The models danced in a circle to swing music, there was a clever (and quite meta) reenactment of a model getting photographed. The all white props and setting meant despite the action, your eyes were glued to the clothes; colourful prints, interesting tailoring and '70s vibes all making an appearance. 


The Tata Naka SS19 presentation at London Fashion week embodied the most literal sense of fashion as wearable art. Whimsical illustrations and prints were scattered across feminine pleats and tailoring. The motifs and iconography nodded to the designers Tamara and Natasha Surgulaze's Greek and Roman influences. Other classical elements included the statue-like placement of the models on marble columns, toga-esque sillhouettes and woven sandals.

The sweet and colourful take on Greek and Roman emperors felt at home in the setting of the grand room in Dartmouth House, Mayfair. The setting felt warmer with the addition of live music - a classical guitar player - aiding to shape the Spring/Summer atmosphere. 

Sport, Identity, and the reach of the NRL

It’s finals season in Rugby League. In fact, yesterday, I watched my team, the South Sydney Rabbitohs, lose in the semi-finals; I was heartbroken. Where I live in London, at least in my circle, that carries little weight or meaning. While I grew up watching Rabbitohs and my cousin play for the Wests Tigers, most of my friends had never heard of NRL, let alone seen a game.

But sport, for many, is more than a just game, more than entertainment. It is part of their heritage, a component of one's identity. 

I spent a week in the South of France with some family friends at the time of the World Cup final. My friends are an English family who live in France and had been religiously following the World Cup. For them it was both a connection to England and an opportunity to exercise their patriotism for France, their adopted home. They were astonished when I revealed that despite growing up in England, I'd never watched a game of football/soccer.

So, my introduction was watching France play Croatia in the World Cup Final on TV, sitting in a bar of the South of France with scores of locals. As introductions go, I couldn't have picked a better time or place.

The atmosphere was buzzing. Everyone was adorned in red, white and blue. My friend Edie kept telling me about how 1998, the last time France won the World Cup, was a legendary year (she wasn't even born at the time). It's something she had always heard about in Beziers (the town we were in) and she was ecstatic at the thought that she would be able to live through another legendary match, exactly twenty years later. The streets were lined with fans and everyone was totally invested in the match. As the game progressed, the pints were downed, the screams grew louder, and I started to realise how important this was to the local people. 

And of course, France won.

The celebrations after the win were wild. There were flares, boys piled in cars painted in French colours, racing up and down, honking and screaming. Edie kept running into people she knew - the whole community had turned out for the event. Despite not knowing the sport or even the language, it was an extraordinary experience and I had a bloody great night. 

It got me thinking about our relationship with sport and identity.

Truthfully, when the world cup began, I resented it slightly. England did surprisingly well, to the point where people would run down my street yelling 'It's coming home' - a reference to an England football song from days gone by - and I'd groan. England were playing the night of my school prom and I rolled my eyes when the boys left us to watch the match on the big screen. At the time I thought it detracted from things that were important. But when I stood back and thought about it more, I saw the power of sport to unite. Britain is a nation deeply divided due to the decision to leave the European Union. But in England, the success of the soccer team almost united everyone. Even though the country is facing major uncertainty with views deeply divided, I saw how sport could spark the very best type of patriotism. Of course, England lost in the semi-final. I can't help but wonder if England had made it to the final, and actually won, if it would have healed some of the deep wounds in wider society. 

So why wasn't I moved by it? Why was I not captured by the same spirit as the rest of my friends and most in the country? It's because of my identity. I was born and raised in London and I am a proud Brit but my father is Australian and I also consider myself an Aussie, with a deep emotional attachment to the country and its people. And for my family, ‘football’ translates to Rugby League.

My brother, myself and my dad at a Souths game in 2013

My great grand-father played for South Sydney between 1920 and 1930. His brother and their sons played for the Rabbitohs at different levels over the next thirty years. My grandfather was a life member of Souths and, when he was buried, his coffin was draped in red and green. My father and his family grew up in Alexandria, the Souths’ heartland. He played League as a boy and young man but not professionally and not for Souths. He left Australia nearly three decades ago yet he remains as passionate as ever about the club. He even worked on the turnstiles at Redfern Oval as a young teenager and, despite having had an amazing international career which has taken him all around the world, remembers with awe the greats like Bobby McCarthy, Ron Coote, and Eric Simms. His father and his uncle were part of one of the rescue efforts when Souths were in trouble in the seventies, well before Russel Crowe bought the club and brought to it the professionalism and success that it enjoys today. I am told that if you search South Sydney archives for the name ‘Lawrence’ it will appear more than any other surname on the playing roster. I can’t confirm this, but it is a great story and it is an attachment of which I’m proud.

Watching Rugby League, for me, is a lot about connecting with my heritage. I am so grateful to have grown up in London and I’m a London girl at heart but my Aussie roots and Rugby League connections help define me. It is a sport known for its courage, its toughness. When you get knocked down, you get straight back up again and keep moving forward. My dad taught me about John Sattler, the benchmark for toughness, and a man to this day he admires more than anyone else. My dad taught me the metaphor of ‘broken play’ when talking about how and when to flirt with boys. I was told to ‘play what’s in front of me’ went I went into my final exams not as prepared as I wanted to be. When I need to focus, I think, get to the try line. When I’m not sure which way to turn and don’t want to over plan, I play ‘eyes up footy’. So Rugby League informs not only who I am but the language of my life. It is also I love I share with my father, who I would call not only my Dad but my best mate. 

Chris via NRL.com

The Lawrence involvement in the professional sport lives on. My cousin, Chris, is a veteran of Wests tigers (and had an outstanding year in the second row). I had the thrill of watching him play for Australia at Wembley when I was much younger with my Dad and my-then sports teacher, Mr Brown, an Aussie and, unfortunately, a Cowboys supporter. My cousin Emma is now a well-known Rugby League journalist, and has just joined Channel 10 as a senior Rugby League reporter. So the Lawrence name still features in the world of Rugby League.