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…
I’m still signed off work, so this week has mostly been focused on resting up, trying to quietly get on with MA work for a bit of routine. It’s been good, and I’m feeling a bit better, but mental health is never a straight-line to recovery so…onwards we go:
Books, books, books
I’ve slowed down on the reading front since last week, but it’s been fun to look at what’s unread on my shelves and take a bit longer each day to devour some literature. This week I finished The Summer Book by Tove Jansson, which is of course the exact opposite to the gloomy, moody weather of a UK August. Regardless of atmosphere – it’s a beautiful, beautiful novel filled with almost short-stories, and much like Amy Liptrot’s excellent memoir The Outrun it’s made me want to go exploring.
Les Miserables (and four years of awesome)
Chris and I celebrated our four year anniversary this week – it’s come round quickly! A while back, he had an idea for what we could do and I suggested he book it and tell me on the day. At midnight on Thursday, I opened my card and found tickets to see Les Miserables that very evening – which I’ve wanted to see for years! So exciting 😀 It’s an excellent musical and definitely worth going to (even if the songs have been stuck in my head ever since)
Feeling the love
More magical post arrived for me this week: flowers from work (<3) and a self-care box of things from one of my best friends. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that a) I am so lucky to have people in my life who really care and b) sometimes it’s the smallest things that make the biggest difference.
I’m back home in Oxfordshire for a few days, so obviously couldn’t resist heading into Oxford to see a much-loved friend. Fun fact: even if you’re running for a bus, there are ridiculously perfect photo opportunities around every single corner. I love this city so much!
This week, I’m continuing to work on mental health stuff, hoping to get out on a bike ride if the weather holds up and enjoying being back in the countryside for a bit.
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 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 😀
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.
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?!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
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!
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 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!
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.
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.
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 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 incredibleHotel 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.
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?