Canterbury Tales: March

A belated post about Easter…!

Easter adventures and springtime: how did you see out March?

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A long weekend in Oxford

It still feels like I only moved to Canterbury last week, so it felt a bit traiterous to head back to Oxfordshire for the Easter weekend. Oxford in the spring is one of my favourite experiences ever; it’s so gorgeous, the Cotswold stone shines brightly and there’s a really pleasant bustle to the city. In addition, the Oxford Literary Festival is on this time of year so there’s normally some book-related fun to be had!

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Book-themed stage in Blackwells bookshop, Oxford

Board games everywhere 

I hadn’t seen my parents since (before) Christmas, and friends were around for a while, so it was a great chance to catch up with everyone. A particular highlight was heading to Thirsty Meeples for a few hours; it’s a board game cafe where you pay a set charge for three hours and choose from one of their thousands (!) of games to play. Added bonus: the food and drink is really good too, and it’s licenced if you want to drink whilst playing.

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Definitely NOT having fun…

This time, we played Exploding Kittens (which, sadly, none of us were very impressed with – maybe it would be more fun after a glass of wine?), Ticket to Ride: Europe (always a classic and always exciting) and We Didn’t Playtest This Either!. We Didn’t Playtest This At All was a gift at Christmas, and it’s honestly been one of the most fun card games I’ve ever played. Certain cards cause you t0 lose if you say (or do) certain things, you can win with a round of rock/paper/scissors and it’s generally hysterical fun. Luckily, the sequel is equally entertaining.

To Bills or not to Bills?

On Good Friday, Mum and I went to Bill’s in Oxford for the first time in a while. I’ve been avoiding Bill’s because their staff tipping policy isn’t the best and the last time I went, I had to send food back – which I hate doing so much. Luckily, they’ve improved a lot since last summer and their food is back to mouthwateringly-good standards! [Note: since I wrote this, my parents went back and had a terrible experience, so Bill’s is still off the radar]

The rest of the Easter weekend was spent catching up with my cats, reading anything I could get my hands on and generally having a break from a very busy March! I can’t wait to see what the rest of Spring brings..

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New friends!

Local studies librarians: lose them, lose your community

It’s been a pretty grim week in LibraryLand, if you take the headlines richoceting around the BBC et al as confirmation of what the library community has known for some time: that this government is causing long term, irreparable damage to libraries through council budget cuts that translate into closures and redundancies.

I don’t aim to discuss those pieces here, mainly because I’ve yet to process the reports and subsequent reaction fully. But a great piece came out today about the impact council cuts have had on local studies librarians, and that really hit home for me.

Local studies librarians aren’t always known as ‘librarians’. CILIP’s description of local studies librarians  can refer to archivists or museums staff too, and this is perhaps why we’ve not heard so much about them in the broader discussion of library cuts. (Archives, particularly local record offices, are also struggling to survive or having to reduce their opening hours in the post-recession-Tory-world.) But the work they do is absolutely invaluable.

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‘Mrs Brown at Brighton’ pamphlet from Smith’s Cuttings: History of Brighton, Chain Pier & Aquarium, BH600434, Brighton History Centre @ The Keep

Have you ever tried to research your family history, or needed to find out some information about when your house was built? If you’ve done this in any public building, chances are you’ll have come into contact with a local studies librarian – and the amount of knowledge these staff is hold is absolutely vast. Local studies teams need to know about everything from OS maps to wills and local parish boundaries. They need to be able to teach newcomers how to navigate complex sites like Ancestry and Find My Past (which are free to use at your local library) or how to load a microfilm of baptism records. Nine times out of ten, local studies librarians are both librarian and archivist, explaining both reference libraries and documents. Sometimes they’ll be curator too, as local history collections will often span items held in museums.

It’s a beautifully complex role, but if these jobs continue to be lost the entire community will suffer and local identity is really under threat. Local studies librarians deal with queries from people searching for long lost family members, or from people wanting to recall an event from their past through local newspapers, or from people wanting to know when that extra wall was built in their house and if it’s possible to take it down.

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A fully booked event on the history of Brighton at The Keep, 2015

Many of the people using local studies resources are people who’ve been living in the area for years. A lot of people using the collections will need time with trained staff to get to know how to find the information they need; users are often (though by no means always!) older and may not know how to use a computer.

Time is often key to helping visitors to local studies collections; it takes a while to understand what your user needs from what they’re telling you, and staff then need time to explain how to access the resources available. Reducing opening hours (particularly during the week) can be so damaging to local studies departments; many users visit to feel at home, to continue with a line of enquiry they’ve been investigating for a while, and it’s often part of their weekly routine.

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Open day @ The Keep, 2015

Local studies centres, particularly if they’re centrally located, help to pin the community together: they’re there to preserve everyday lives and quirky events, and to celebrate the past by sharing knowledge with those in the present. Cut staff in this area, and everyone in the heritage sector loses out. It takes years to know most of the pamphlets, books, parish records and newspaper holdings (and the other many different types of material) within local studies libraries and most of it just isn’t available online or through Google. Local studies collections need people to use them, and people to show them the way. Let’s keep them at the heart of our society.

(I worked with the local studies collections at The Keep from 2013 – 2016: I learnt more about East Sussex from the wonderful staff at East Sussex Record Office and Brighton & Hove Royal Pavilions & Museums in two years than a decade of living in Brighton could ever teach me. If you’re ever in the area, I urge you to go and visit!)

 

Canterbury Tales: Week Two, March

Week two in Canterbury! Here’s how my week’s shaped up…

Goodbye Brighton

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Beautiful Kemptown

As proper farewells go, returning to Brighton to sort out the flat for one last time was pretty anticlimactic – I’ve always found it’s easier to just pretend it’s not really A Thing rather than saying goodbye. I came up from Canterbury for the day, but C was really ill so we tried (and failed) to get everything done in an afternoon.

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But oh, Brighton was sunny and lovely and busy and beautiful. It’ll always be home, and I can’t wait to go back in the summer. It’s such a part of who I am, I can’t imagine finally saying goodbye. So I’m not going to.

The New Commute

One thing I’ve been most looking forward to about moving to Canterbury is ditching my commute for something a little less stress inducing: much as I loved Kemptown in Brighton, it took 45 minutes – 1 hour by bus to get to work. (I could have walked, but it would have taken about an hour!) The buses often got crowded (particularly if you had to join at Old Steine) and getting home at the start of term was a relative nightmare.

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In Canterbury, however, it’s just a 25 minute walk to my new workplace – and the route is lovely! I can go cross country through Chaucer Fields, which are the ‘buffer’ between campus and the rest of town. It’s particularly lovely at the moment as spring is finally kicking in, and it’s really nice to get some exercise into the bargain.

The New Job

It’s always a memorable start to your new role when your first day falls on an all-library-staff meeting that takes place in a conference centre on the other side of campus…! It was quite funny, trying to contribute to activities where you’re so new that the words people are saying just about make sense.

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First week baking

It’s been a fantastic week though, and I’m very excited to get stuck into my role. One of the more challenging things I’ve found is getting used to the terminology Kent uses and how that works in relation to Sussex – even terms like ‘IT Services’ and ‘Intranet’ mean very different things here. After six years (and then three as a student) at Sussex, it’s refreshing and head-spinning to get used to how a different university does things – even if you’re fairly used to HE land, there are huge variations!

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Kent’s Conservative Association: blinding lefties with Thatcher statues

My new colleagues, luckily, are all just as lovely as I’d hoped and this is making everything a lot easier. Plus, one of the joys of working with special collections and archives is that it’s basically necessary to spend time getting to know all the cool stuff you now get to use… 😀

The New City

Now that I can get to and from work without getting lost and know where the Cathedral is in relation to most things, the important stuff can begin: exploring the best pubs, restaurants and places to hang out!

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New haircut selfie. Necessary for city exploring

On Wednesday I went out with said new colleagues. First stop? The Goods Shed, which is essentially the place where all my foodie-aspiration dreams go to get new ideas. The Goods Shed is part restaurant and bar, part local farmer’s market – and it’s just heaven. Their cocktails are some of the best I’ve ever tasted and the atmosphere is lovely. I think I’ll be back here a lot!

My other current favourite place is a really chilled out night venue called The Chocolate Cafe, which (predictably) serves many chocolate things until 11pm! It’s really nice to find somewhere that’s not a bar/club open so late, and it’s really nearby too. Again the vibe was  great – I need to go again soon 😀

What’s next: This weekend, C (and the fish) moves in! I can’t wait! Otherwise, I’ll be spending the time trying to shake off the horrible cold I’ve inevitably acquired…

 

 

Canterbury Tales: Week One, March

(This series of blog posts owes a huge debt to Jessica for suggesting the obviously cheesy title)

It’s finally happened – we’ve moved! Unbelievably, Canterbury has been my home for nearly a week now. I haven’t really processed leaving Brighton yet, and probably won’t for a while.

(I say ‘we’; in reality, C is still in Brighton for the next couple of weeks, living at his parents and finishing up some teaching…)

Moving Day

They say moving is one of the most stressful things you can do in life; no matter how many times I do it (and I’ve moved a lot, huzzah renting) it never seems to get any easier. Every time I’ve moved, there seems to be more to do: more companies to contact, more current-home-stuff to sort, inevitably more stuff to pack. This time, it felt extra stressful because a) it was a county move (no more hoping to drag leftovers around by bus/car/carrier pigeon) and b) I’d had a major work event and my leaving do on the preceding two nights.

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Naming your water bottles: important

 

On the day? We had wonderful help in the form of family and friends and four moving humans which made everything about a million times less stressful. There were some particularly memorable moments…

 

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such as when our sofa had to go out the window!

…but it all worked out okay. Better than okay, actually; great! Apart from our internet not being installed. But internet never works immediately, right? Especially if you’re with BT…

The New House

I’ve spent the past week padding around the new house on my own (why yes, I did stay up till 1am the day we moved in unpacking the entire kitchen and I regret nothing) and getting used to its new quirks. As your rent money goes further here, we’ve swapped the half-house for a full house which is such a luxury; we have a cellar, three bedrooms and a conservatory! Not to mention a garden! It’s very exciting and definitely not a sign of Being An Adult. Nope.

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Conservatory!

The New House shares some features with the Brighton Maisonette; like its predecessor, it’s surprisingly close to the city centre yet also very quiet. Both have living rooms on street level so you often get those funny scraps of conservation as people walk by. Both have churches in the vicinity; hearing bells on a Sunday is still a joy.

New House also has some unexpected features –  the quiet, yet frequent noise of the train station level crossing sirens (which I think might become permanently engrained in my head before long) being the biggest discovery. The fact that the house is actually light and warm, unlike Brighton Maisonette’s cold-and-a-bit-dark style, is another. The complex recycling system took me a while to figure out; I became concerned when my recycling hadn’t disappeared magically this morning and I called the council up in a fit of “oh gosh I’ve done it wrong” worry. (I hadn’t; they forgot. They actually fixed it, too, within an hour of my calling).

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My favourite thing about New House, however, is the stunning Cathedral view from my study window. We didn’t notice it when we viewed New House originally (too busy climbing narrow stairs and gasping at the dishwasher); now it’s one of my favourite views, not least because the Cathedral gets lit up at night. I can also see the tip of the Marlowe Theatre as well; such a stunning skyline! (N.B. I still don’t have any decent pictures of this view…)

Exploring Canterbury

As I’ve been off work / in between jobs, this week has been a good chance to explore my new home-city. I’d visited Canterbury a couple of times before moving here (this year to find a house and in previous years to visit family) and liked it a lot.

What I hadn’t remembered, however, is just how old Canterbury is and how far across the city the architecture spreads; the bus stop I needed to visit my cousin is near a pub established in 1570, the streets are lined with cobbles, and there are more parks within the city walls than I ever imagined. A good friend came to visit on Wednesday and showed me some parts of the city I’d not discovered yet; on Thursday, I meandered out on a longer sojourn. The sun crept out from behind the stone and it really felt like Spring had arrived; absolutely gorgeous.

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Canterbury is much smaller than Brighton, but I’m starting to think it’s a bit of a hidden gem compared to the seaside city. It’s got everything you need in a town; high street and independent shops, good restaurants, pubs, incredible architecture, parks. It’s still only an hour from London, but it’s so compact you can walk across the whole city in 20 minutes.

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But sssh on the last point; it’s our secret, okay? 🙂

What’s next: this weekend, I’m off back to Brighton to sort out (and say goodbye to) our old maisonette – before starting my new job on Monday! Fingers crossed the sun stays out – I can’t wait 😀

 

Ch-ch-changes: January 2016

I spent a lot of time last year reading about adventure, taking brave steps, leaping off into the unknown, following your heart. “Aw, wouldn’t a new adventure be fun,” I thought. “But…” …there’s always a ‘but’, I find. And in Brighton, this glorious city of sunshine and creativity and vibrancy, there’s always a reason to stay.

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Brighton, from Kemptown, 2015

The start of 2016 brought a quiet resolution to continue looking for work a bit more solidly than last year. I’ve been in my current role for six years and desperately need a new challenge. I love what I do, I love the people, I love the buzz of showing people the really cool material I get to work with. But it’s been my first job out of university; staying in one place forever is quite unlikely, much as I’d love to stay.

It’s the first week of February and I’ve just handed in my resignation from the first place I’ve ever worked full time. I’m moving to Canterbury for (at least) a year, having accepted a job offer at the wonderful Templeman Library, University of Kent! It’s my dream role, and exactly the one I needed to progress in my field of work.

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Canterbury Cathedral

I am ridiculously excited for this change – I never feel more alive when planning the future – but I’m also terrified. This is probably a sign that it’s the right point to go; change is healthy, it’s good for you. And I can’t wait to see what’s around the corner.

And, oh, I have so much to learn! I’ve got to plan a move for two people across counties, find somewhere to live, continue my MA, make new friends and keep seeing the people I love, discover somewhere new. I’m going to write more here and document the year too.

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It wouldn’t be a Brighton post without a West Pier photo…

One thing I do know: just as Oxford defined me a lot in Brighton, so Brighton will define me a lot in Canterbury. You wear your cities with you, carry them in your heart. And you can always return.

So, 2016, what’s next?

 

 

2015 in review

Can you believe 2015 is practically over already? I certainly can’t. Each year seems to whizz by in a flash of very-very-busy, planning for big important things and chaos when life inevitably throws a curveball to keep you on your toes once in a while.

I didn’t think I’d done much this year, but when I started going through photos, I realised that yep, 2015 was big. 2015’s the year I sort of became an adult; I nested into a happy home, reviewed my priorities more and shifted them when I didn’t like the look of stuff, started caring less about what others think of me. I’m grateful for my health, and even more so that my friends and family survived the year mostly intact. I took an interest in areas of work that looked fun, pushed my boundaries a bit and tried to maintain strong friendships.

I’m not for a second saying that 2015 didn’t have its challenges; I simply prefer not to write about them publicly, because I tend to focus on the negative by default and forget to celebrate the positive. So for balance’s sake, 2015 also brought the return of some annoying mental health issues I thought I’d dealt with, a long-term body-image-and-food problem, a continuation of my inability to handle personal finances, and some bad health stuff for friends. None of the minor health complaints I did suffer from were fully resolved due to the NHS in Sussex being a bit rubbish, and I’m still completely useless at being able to be on time for anything.

But. I’m here. You’re here. This is good, so let’s continue:

January

January started with a whimsical decision to buy a board game, Dino Race, from the best board game shop ever in Oxford. It set the tone for 2015: nearly all of our socialising has revolved around board games in some form, and who doesn’t love rescuing dinosaurs from an exploding volcano? Board game evenings are also excellent for a) rubbish weather and b) maintaining a social life whilst spending little. Excellent fun 😀

Dino Race
January also saw the start of MA Madness, as I manically attempted to get two massive dull assignments in before the March Study School Deadline. Farewell, time! Farewell, sanity! Farewell, ability to talk about anything other than business plans and hypothetical management scenarios! Grr.

Study Desk of Doom

February

February heralded the return of one of my very best friends, Moosey, to the UK after two years living in Ecuador.  A reunion in London followed this month, where we braved M&M World for the first time! Who knew there was so much M&M merchandise? Or so many flavours of M&Ms?!

M&M world

Also in February: causing minor chaos in Brighton’s Lego shop and the continuation of MA madness. Many books, much pizza, little time for anything else.

March

In March, I went for my first eye test in about a gazillion twelve years, and rather wished I hadn’t: I’m short sighted, so things far away are blurry to me! Boo! Glasses awaited, and I still heartily believe that carrying them around in my bag will create an osmosis-like effect that’s just as good as wearing them on my face.

March also contained the arrival of a bread maker, enabling us to make magical pizza dough and healthier lunches. It also saw me complete my MA assignments and return to Aberystwyth to receive more work to do as reward. On the plus side, I got to see some glorious Welsh coastline and remember how much good being outside does for your soul – and, more importantly, I got to bake again! All hail the beginning of 2015’s sweet-toothed-adventures in brownie baking.

Aberystwyth

April

I spent April’s Easter break back in Oxfordshire with family, and once again fell in love with Oxford. Because let’s be honest, in Spring it trumps pretty much everywhere else in the UK. I also peeked into the gorgeous newly refitted Weston Library and stocked up on books from Blackwells for the year ahead. Perfection.

Beautiful Oxford

I made the most of Spring by stomping around Arundel one gloriously sunny afternoon; it’s such a beautiful town! April saw the arrival of Library Cat to my workplace, making tea breaks 1000 times cuter.

Library cat!

May

I felt the Oxfordshire appreciation big time this year, because I went back again twice in May. A particular highlight was a long cycle ride with the still-returned Moosey to Bampton, in the Cotswolds: it’s where some of the external village shots for Downton Abbey are filmed! We spent a magical lunchtime exploring the area and sneaking in the church as I indulged my inner Matthew-Mary fangirl.

Bampton

May wound up being one of the busiest months of the year, so gets three paragraphs here. I also modelled for the first time ever this month for Fresh, which sells beautiful clothes in Oxford’s Covered Market! Can you find me in the picture below?

Photo by Tony Hendon
Photo by Tony Hendon

When I wasn’t flouncing around outside in May, I finally got around to baking a victoria sponge cake (and very tasty it was), held an election party (which promptly turned doomy the minute the exit polls rolled in), caught up with long-lost friends, discovered Atomic Pizza in Oxford and celebrated Chris’ first ever book being published!

June

Realising that I had a lot of annual leave to take and not a great deal of time to take it in, Chris and I booked cheap flights to Berlin in June. He’s a WW1 historian, I love German and history is 50% of my undergrad degree; plus, lots of awesome people had said it was fun. The week we spent exploring the city this month turned out to be one of the happiest all year, as we both fell head over heels in love with the place. I’ll write about Berlin a lot more next year, but June was far and away a highlight.

Obligatory Berlin photo

Summer finally arrived in June, huzzah! This entailed eating a lot of ice cream on the beach, discovering that running outside and working out doesn’t always suck, baking more brownies and going to a Ceilidh for a friend’s mum’s birthday.  We also covered our living room doors in polaroid snaps to jazz the house up a bit.

Summer lunchtimes at work <3

July

The oft-beautiful weather spanned through into July, where one gorgeous day entailed a picnic in Bethnal Green, a visit to the fantastic V&A Museum of Childhood and playing card games on the lawns by Embankment. What luck to have such wonderful friends!

You know you're old when your childhood toys are in the museum...

July was the month where I discovered Smitten Kitchen’s salted caramel brownie recipe, which became my baking staple until about October. I got to use the roof terrace in our flat for the first time and spent a glorious afternoon sipping tea whilst studying outside and listening to Wimbledon tennis. I also explored Wantage and Cambridge again – and Chris got me a ukulele for our anniversary!

Studying + Wimbledon + roof terrace <3

August

In August, Chris’ big brother got married! It was the first major family event we’d been to since getting together two years ago, and was so much fun: a weekend away in the countryside, lots and lots of wine, make-up and pretty outfits – and a fantastic celebration!

August was another busy month socially, as friends from Mount Holyoke College visited and we went to Brighton Pride and explored Sussex’s gorgeous coastline. It was also Moosey’s birthday and a group of us went to Go Ape! in Bracknell. I’ve developed a real fear of heights lately and Go Ape put paid to most of those fears; after you’ve jumped up your seventh zipwire into either the ground or massive nets, suspended only by a couple of cables…you kind of can’t be scared anymore.

September

September is always a busy month for work, and 2015 was no exception. I started off the month ecstatically excited to receive a bursary to attend the CILIP Rare Books and Special Collections Group conference in London. The theme of this year’s event was ‘Hidden Collections: Revealed’, which is exactly the area I want to go into work-wise. After three days of learning more about special collections, rare books and library projects than ever before I came out buzzing with ideas about where to go next!

Rare book from the Wellcome Library, London
Rare book from the Wellcome Library, London

September also heralded The Keep’s annual open day, where I helped to design Special Collections’ food-themed exhibition, the completion of a first aid at work qualification and my first ever baking commission. Huzzah! When I wasn’t wrapped up in work, I visited Tunbridge Wells with some friends, discovered an excellent local greengrocer and got to see Kate Rusby from a front row seat.

October

The end of October saw a second round of modelling for Fresh Clothing in Oxford; this time the fashion show was Halloween themed and I got to walk down the catwalk as the Corpse Bride! Amazing fun.

Chris celebrated his birthday in October, so we had a fab day out in London shopping and generally relaxing. I also hunted down the best red coat ever, mastered pretzel bread, and started relearning German on Duolingo.

Creepy spider is creepy

November

November was a much quieter month than the previous few, but with some wonderful catch ups with friends around my birthday. I feel very very grateful that I’ve got a core group of spread-out people who are always up for dinner and drinks in London – huzzah!

I went to Tunbridge Wells again in November to catch up with my cousin who I hadn’t seen for years, got a bit sheep-obsessed when playing Settlers of Catan, refused to leave my bear dressing gown and gave this blog a much-needed redesign.

December

December was such a busy month, and there are so many highlights it’s difficult to know where to start! Chris and I went back to Berlin, having decided that June’s week was not enough, and we fell in love with the city more than ever before. We stayed in the incredible Hotel Nhow, which was a real treat for us, and spent five days munching warm potatoes and bratwurst, sipping mulled wine, and feeling very festive indeed. We went to the Gendarmenmarkt three times. We’re already planning another trip to Berlin next year. It’s just too perfect.

Oh Berlin <3
Oh Berlin ❤

I also attended my first ever football match in December, watching gleefully (and noisily) as Liverpool won 6 – 1 over Southampton. Amazing! There were also many festive parties, including an excellent work Christmas meal, catching up with beloved friends over pizza at home, taking Dad to see the new Star Wars film, and spending Christmas Day itself cooking lots of food with incredible friends in Brighton.

I can’t wait to see what 2016 brings! What were your favourite moments of 2015?

On being 27

It’s my 28th birthday this month. 28 has always been my “scary age”; when you’re definitely a bit too far into my late-twenties to be thought of as a young adult. In my mind, I’m supposed to have Got Stuff Sorted and Have A Plan and at least Vaguely Know What I’m Doing.

But this post isn’t about being 28. I don’t know anything about being 28 (yet). I do, however, have nearly a year’s experience of being 27.

Overall: I liked 27. It’s a good age; I don’t want it to go. It feels close enough to 25 for my liking and far away enough from 30. And whilst I still don’t Have A Plan, 27 installed a certain amount of adult Can-Do that you probably didn’t have at 25. 27 has been the year that I:

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Found a home. Okay, I’m still renting, but I’ve moved around so freakin’ often in Brighton that it’s easier to count the areas of town I haven’t lived now than those I have. In October last year, we fell in love with a probably-too-big-for-us three (!) bedroom half-house in Kemptown. On moving in day, I re-examined its beautiful old mosaic tiles in the kitchen, stared out at the roof terrace, lost count of the number of cupboards and neat touches all around the place and decided never to leave, so long as I live in this city. A year later, I’m still amazed by how quiet it is and what a friendly community Kemptown has. I absolutely love coming home now; the place needs near-constant work but it’s worth every second.

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Tiles in the kitchen of our Kemptown home

Struggled with the MA, but became somewhat okay with doing so. I’m going to get it done, no doubts; it might just take a little longer than  anticipated. This year I learnt that you can’t be a perfectionist about studying and expect to maintain a decent social life whilst working full time, and seeing as the former are my main two priorities whilst working then that’s the way it’s got to be. I have periods of mass activity,  then a  week or two of mass apathy. For me, trying my hardest at the work I’m doing takes priority over the time it takes to get it done.

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Image credit: pagets.tumblr.com

Got addicted to The West Wing. And then bored everyone senseless about it. I’d be sorry, but you really need to watch every single season of it right now. You’ll learn so much about American politics, fall in love with Josh and watch so many episodes where your heart races because the writing is so good. I never thought there’d be a show that would become a bigger obsession than Dawson’s Creek (…); I was wrong.

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The brighter the running shoes, the greater the benefits of exercise…right?

Grudgingly acknowledged the benefits of exercise. I joined a gym over the summer; it’s just under a mile away, so I can jog there along the seafront. I don’t go as often as I’d like, but it helps so much. I like the physical (rather than mental) exhaustion it creates, the challenge of focusing on physical activity only for long periods of time. Plus, running in small bursts feels like flying!

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Discovered how much fun make-up can be. I was lucky enough to model in two fashion shows this year for my favourite clothing shop in Oxford, Fresh; this, combined with attending a big wedding and reading Sali Hughes’ brilliant book Pretty Honest made me pay attention to makeup in a way I haven’t bothered with for a while. Having super pale white skin left me frustrated and apathetic towards foundation for years as high-street brands tend to ignore you if you’re paler than a white sheet; however, a quick visit to Brighton’s MAC store fixed all that. I now have makeup that matches my skin, and I’ve become a bit addicted to wearing red lipstick on, well, any occasion since someone advised that “since you’re pale, you can basically wear whatever lipstick you like”. It boosts my confidence, and just feels awesome.

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Tried to give up baking for the MA and failed miserably. Everyone’s got their way to relax, right? Yours is probably more conventional but for me, nothing beats drinking excessive amounts of herbal tea whilst baking something new and blaring out terrible 90s music. When I was swamped with MA deadlines in February, I tried to stop baking and just got even more stressed out. Creating food for others and learning new recipes is just a big part of my identity and it’s not going away.

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Began to learn how to say no. You probably spent most of your early twenties in the doing-everything trap too, right? The world has so much to offer, it’s really hard to go “nope this isn’t my thing”. 27 is the age I finally got a bit more comfortable with my own boundaries. It’s good to be tested sometimes, but loud pubs, massive groups of people, drinking a lot…none of those work for me. I also need time at home now, to recharge and check in with my mental health. I prefer smaller groups, board games over drinking games, longer catch-ups. This has, in turn, led to a lot more happy memories and less awkward-sitting-in-the-pub-in-silence; 27 is the year that, despite setting these boundaries, my friendship group actually expanded rapidly and I’m forever grateful for that.

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I’m excited to see what 28 brings! Do you mark your birthdays in any way? What feels different about your life this year?