Canterbury tales: early July 2017

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

The sunshine

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Standard work lunchtime, with bonus of homemade salad

This year, we seem to be having the best weather in ages and it is just MARVELLOUS. I’m all for living in Birkenstocks, painting my toenails bright colours and spending lunchtimes reading under a tree. Yes please. This week we had an all-campus staff BBQ which was really lovely (and, hey, free food) and walking to/from work has been beautiful. Everything seems a bit brighter when it’s summer. Long may it last!

Getting Stuff Done

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I’ve had to have some pretty tough conversations about money and budgeting this week (it’s hard and it’s not my speciality). It wasn’t easy, but I’m positive about trying to set things right. In other adult-y things, my passport arrived (YAY) and I finally submitted a much-worked on MA assignment (DOUBLE YAY) and we got a funding bid in at work and statistics for projects have been conquered and I’ve been trying to use up more food which has resulted in yummy salads for lunch and sweet baked potatoes with dhal for dinner, so all the yay!

Wimbledon

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The beauty of Federer needs no comment

Confession: it doesn’t have to be Wimbledon, it could be the US Open or the French or the Australian or…but, well, we’re the UK, we get loads more coverage of the grass court season cause it’s all here and I tried not to get hooked until about 3pm on Day One when Murray looked healthy and Wawrinka went out and – you get the picture. I love the sound of tennis balls, I love the sport, the women’s (and men’s) draws are really open this year, I love IT ALL. 😀

Philip Yancey book arriving

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Pre No-Spending-Ever kicked in, I ordered a book I’ve been resisting buying for ages and it finally arrived this week. I never thought of myself as Christian (and I still don’t), but the New Atheism really repelled me so I’ve been trying to read a bit more about Christianity that’s written by Christians this year. A friend recommended I start with Philip Yancey’s book What’s So Amazing About Grace? and it’s changed my views about Christianity and God and religion an awful lot, by focusing on the good and examining (fairly) the challenges of being a Christian in today’s world. I’m really looking to reading The Jesus I Never Knew soon.

Brighton

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I went back to Brighton this weekend to see family and spend some time in the city and couldn’t have picked a better weekend. Whenever I return now, I have a love/hate relationship with the city: sometimes it’s busy and drives me up the wall with the millions of people and small spaces, sometimes I yearn to be back there when the skies are blue and there’s good coffee everywhere you look and the city feels so happy and buzzing. On Saturday, I felt the best of both: I ate my favourite food (and delighted in the arrival of veggie-friendly sweetshop SugarSin), caught up with the best friends (on the beach and over a glass of prosecco in the evening) and generally felt very lucky to be in the city. However, I don’t miss how busy it gets on weekends – I had some errands to run and they took ages, whereas if I lived there those extra minutes would just feel wasted – or the fact that it’s relatively big to get around, or the dirt, or every single street feeling like people are permanently trashed on weekends. Those mostly feel like privileged small-city-Canterbury grumbles, but I’m finally starting to appreciate the slightly slower pace of life in Kent which is good.

This week I’m continuing my Wimble-spree, getting stuck into my next MA module and spending work time talking all things Victorian pantomime as preparation for our major autumn exhibition continues apace! I’ve also got my first ever conference paper to write for next week…

What’s bringing you joy this week?

Canterbury tales: end of June 2017

Hello, blog! It’s been a while. Anyway, I’m back with another attempt to write more regularly about day-to-day existence in Kent-and-Library land. I am still in Canterbury (hello, permanent contract!) and still battling on with the MA. One day, one day…

One thing I’d like to be better at is taking time to remember the positive, tiny things that make a difference in every day life: the things that get me laughing in the morning or thinking ‘huzzah!’ when I get in from work. So, this week’s good things are…

Mega-bunny on campus

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Okay, this is technically a cheat from last week, but mega-bunny is still up, still (mostly) intact and still lurking over all the rest of the lifesized-bunnies outside the Library. I think he’s probably made by architecture students. I think he’s better than the sculpture he sits near. I love mega-bunny. 😀

Strawberry cake

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I’ve had an itch to bake this very-strawberry cake from Smitten Kitchen for weeks now, so on Wednesday I finally gave in and made cake just because. It’s been a while since I baked for the sheer joy of it, and after an afternoon of MA work it was exactly what I needed. In true OTT-style, I doubled the recipe, made far too much cake for anyone to ever eat (even with colleagues helping out) and now our kitchen is filled with strawberries. There are worse things to happen. The verdict? A bit too sweet for me, really, but still suspiciously good.

Completion of counselling

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One of the reasons I’ve been quiet on here is a pretty grim one: towards the end of last year my mental health took a serious, serious nosedive and I had to get some extra support, thanks to my excellent workplace, to get me out of it. I’ve been having counselling sessions since early this year and they have honestly been the best thing I’ve done in a long time. This week, we discussed forward steps knowing I only have one session left…and my counsellor and I decided that actually, I’m alright now! I’ve still got some work to do, of course, and I’m scared I might not be able to hold on this good state of mind, but I am so happy to be better than I’ve been in a long time. A good counsellor might not work for everyone, but it’s certainly done wonders for me. 🙂

Harry Potter, Harry Potter

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In small payday treats, I allowed myself to go into Primark today and see what cosy post-gym wear things I could find because lazy. Primark have turned a bit of a corner recently and their branded stuff is amazing! So, of course, I had to find Harry Potter themed PJs. I’m going to wear them all evening with pride 😀

This week, I’m continuing my attempt to get back into gym work after a bad cold, waiting for my new passport to arrive, declaring war on the weeds in our garden and continuing work on our departmental bid for Archives Accreditation in between delivering cartoon-based outreach sessions!

How was your week? What’s been bringing you joy?

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!

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?

 

 

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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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?