Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Not Really Resolutions 2014 l The Conclusion

*Insert standard sentence about "Oh my goodness where has the past year gone?"*

Seriously though. What a year. Right now I'll be very glad to see the back of 2014 but before I shove it out of the door I need to take a few minutes to update you on 2014's Not Really Resolutions. After 2013's miserable performance (2 out of 10 resolutions anyone?!) I felt sure that 2014 couldn't be that bad, and actually it's not gone badly...

1. Read 12 Classics

Completed! After failing last year for the first year ever I felt like I wanted to go for this full force. I've had a pretty good mix of more 'classic' Classics and more modern Classics. Quick overview of some of this year's Classics?

Vile Bodies - easy to read, bit of fluff, funny, but not my favourite Waugh.
Lady Chatterley's Lover - not really that rude it turns out.
The Woman in Black - actually full on made me feel scared when I was reading it. Chilling.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn - just...weird.
Of Human Bondage - took an age to read but I loved it, which is quite a feat considering that the main character is such a sap. But despite that I kept rooting for him.
Mrs Dalloway - oh I could not get into this at all. It's such a short book but I struggled through every page. Would be very wary of picking up another Woolf.

I always enjoy this challenge and have been doing it for the four years that I've been doing the Not Really Resolutions but I think 2015 might see time for a bit of a change.

2. Eat 1 Vegetarian meal per week

Oh dear. This really could have happened and I hate to be a massive tit and blame everything on the break up but I really do. Post break-up my eating habits have just been plain horrific and I haven't made anything, much less go to the effort of looking up vegetarian recipes to try out.

I think I did about 30 veggie meals which is half way there so it depends what my yardstick is for achieving a Not Really Resolution - if it's 50% then I totally did it.

Mind you the number of times I ate toast or had a jacket potato with beans post break-up I probably did end up hitting 52 meals.

3. Do 1 interesting thing each month

January - Trip to London including a visit to see Chloe
February - Trip to Leicester to meet up with Janet
March - A trip to America to see American Girl and Boy get married and take a little road trip around Arizona (can't believe I still haven't finished blogging about that. Eek.)
April - FA Cup Semi-Final at Wembley to see Hull City beat Sheffield United
May - Trip to the London Pet Show and a rainy Bank Holiday outing to a resevoir
June - A trip to North Yorkshire to see Heather
July - The Color Run in Manchester, a trip to London to Lady Dinah's Cat Emporium
August - Nothing - but I was laid up with sciatica at the time so I'm letting myself off
September - A trip to France to see my Dad and a trip to Birmingham with some work friends
October - A night out at the dogs with work people
November - A trip to Bristol
December - A trip to Marrakech - even if all didn't go quite to plan...

4. Save up to buy a car

All done! It's worked out a bit more expensive than planned given that this was supposed to be something that two people were paying for but whatever, I did it all myself and that makes it even more awesome.

5. Finish my Tetris blanket

Not even close. In fact I don't think I even picked it up this year shamefully. The closest I came to it was buying a light up crochet hook because I knew I had an inordinate amount of black squares to make and thought it might make me blind.

I won't feel too bad though. According to my records I made 26 amigurumi things for people this year which is actually pretty immense when you really stop and think about it.

And that doesn't include the random dinosaur I made for funsies...

...or the Father Christmases...

Anyway. You get my drift. No Tetris blanket this year.

6. Learn something new

I was all set to go "Nope, not achieved this one either" and then I thought I wouldn't be so harsh on myself because actually I did learn something new this year. I learned to be on my own. And whilst it isn't as if I was a massive sap who was completely dependent on someone for their very existence, when someone who has been in your life for 13 years ups and leaves you there is a huge amount of readjusting to do.

I'm giving myself a massive gold star for this one because I didn't have a complete breakdown over anything when I really did feel like it. I got on with it and I learned that I'm not a total idiot, he's a total idiot.

And if that's the only new thing I learned this year then I'm ok with that.

7. Sell something at a craft fair

Well no I didn't.

But, see Point 5.

I was a craft fair this year. I was my own personal craft fair and seeing as the reason to do this was to make some money and feel that my stuff was good enough to put out in the public space I have actually achieved that. I've sold my stuff to people and have made some money from it and therefore I'm going to count this as complete.

I know. I'm a massive cheat.

8. Beat my 10k time

Let's not talk about this shall we?

Let's just say that 2014 was the Year that Running Forgot. It was my Annus Horribilis Runnus. I was either injured or mentally broken for 2014 and that did not make for a good runner. Since my bout of sciatica in August I haven't run at all. I will be back to the beginning once I start running again - ugh.


There we have it. Five out of eight will do me very nicely.

I'm looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.

I think.

Friday, 26 December 2014

The Christmas Spirit

Christmas spirit was lacking around these here parts for a long time. At first I thought that it was because I'd been so ill in Marrakech (I was off work for the week after returning home because I was still a super sick person) so I forced myself out once I was feeling steady on my legs and went to buy a tree.

I would love a real tree but I'm also short on space, as well as cash, so I parted with £15 of my hard earned cash and handed it over to Tesco in exchange for a rather lovely specimen.

I dutifully decorated it and plugged in the fairy lights. I lit the Christmas scented candle. I brought out my Christmas mugs. I sent out cards. I wrapped presents. I even put tinsel around the gerbilarium.

But it wouldn't materialise for me.

(I even joined in Char's Blogger Secret Santa in the hope that I would soon start to feel that Christmassy tingle all the way to my fingers and my toes. I packaged everything up (inadvertently being very trendy with my brown paper and baker's twine) and sent it off before I went to Marrakech so I hit Char's posting deadline of 8th December.

The package I sent off is pictured below. My parcel is still MIA at the time of writing.)

Eventually I realised that it wasn't ever going to make an appearance.

I was just too sad.

I have mostly been fine since the break-up and have done a pretty good job at holding my shit together. But sometimes everything falls apart and then I run through the usual cycle - getting mad at myself for feeling sad, telling myself to get over it, telling myself that there are people with real problems, etc etc before eventually reaching a place where I say to myself, "You know what? It's only been 3 months. You're allowed to still feel a little bit shitty, especially at Christmas."

Christmas is a funny one really. There is so much pressure for it to be perfect and happy. There's no room for feeling a bit off. You have to spend it with people and you have to love every single second of it and isn't it brilliant and marvellous?

The closer Christmas got and the more shrill people got asking me if I was feeling festive, the more I started a slowly slide into complete panic mode. I'm not truly, deep down, happy at the moment. I absolutely have moments of awesomeness and brilliance, but in my core, I am so sad and so lonely and that just started to get magnified.

I reverted back to the weeks after the break-up when I would come in from a day of being completely normal at work and just sit and cry for no reason. I had another near meltdown in Tesco. I left drinks with work friends early because I kept having to go to the toilet because I was convinced I was going to break down in tears.

I could not keep my shit together any longer.

I didn't want to spend Christmas with anyone, I didn't want to see anyone. I just really really really wanted to be on my own.

But at Christmas you can't say that to anyone so I plastered a smile on my face, took a deep breath and plunged headfirst into a day of festiveness and happiness with family.

I opened presents. Awesome presents actually. Maybe it was just because I felt so crappy about the day that I was so overjoyed with anything that happened that was vaguely nice? Maybe it was because my family felt a little bit sorry for me this Christmas? Maybe Father Christmas took pity on me and figured I deserved a break.

I'm not one for 'haul' posts *cringes* but the above photo shows just how well my family know me. (How jealous are you of my Famous Five Annual? VERY.) I feel like the Tetris light is a sign that I need to pull my finger out and get on with the Tetris blanket though...

I ate food, I drank champagne, I toasted Christmas, I watched TV, I played family games, I laughed around the table. I did all the Christmas things and I got through the past couple of days, even though my body did what it tends to do when confronted with a difficult emotional time and want to sleep. All the time. Luckily that's socially acceptable at Christmas.

Less socially acceptable was my decision to come back to my flat on Boxing Day late afternoon to spend an evening alone. That decision did not go down well with either sister or mother but given that I'm about to take Mum to Hull and won't return until Monday I decided I was allowed some time to myself.

It's not about sitting at home and moping and feeling sorry for myself you know. It's not as if I'm sat here crying to myself about how my life got completely annihilated a few months ago. It's just that when I'm on my own I can sit here and feel relaxed because I don't have to pretend that I'm fine when I'm not. And I feel pretty sure that there were quite a few of us out there who felt like that this Christmas so high five to us for getting through it.


And because I don't want to be whiny you may now enjoy some pictures of the animals at Christmas...

Note Blinky "joining in" at Christmas a.k.a. sitting as far away from everyone as possible and with her back to the room. 

Friday, 19 December 2014

Photo an Hour l 14th December

Pitifully late with this month's Photo an Hour post. After being ill in Marrakech and then off work for a week, I've been having problems getting my act together and actually caring about doing anything. To be honest I'm giving myself a gold star for actually taking these photos.

This was Sunday 14th December...

10am - Late start for me, still in recovery mode after the kidney infection. Felt bad that the gerbils hadn't had a lot of exercise with me being away and being sick so I set up a mega cage extension into their playpen so they could come and play as they chose. They absolutely loved it and ended up being in there until about 2pm.

11am - Got around to finishing a book. This guy is a bit of a Marmite author, people seem to really like him or have a very visceral reaction to his books. I like him - his books are silly and easy to read and sometimes that is what you need. I wonder about his shelf life though, this book was very similar to his last one...

12pm - My guilty pleasure is absolutely, totally crap made-for-TV Christmas films. I'm not talking Elf, Polar Express, The Holiday, Love Actually here. I'm talking the kind of films you have never heard of, featuring actors you have never heard of with plotlines which are inconceivably easy to work out. I can't get enough of them.

1pm - Finally getting around to blogging, something which I have been completely remiss at lately.

2pm - In previous years I've been pretty good at making most of my Christmas cards. Not this year. I've been low on festive cheer but I gave myself a kick up the bum to make some cute crocheted Christmas tree cards to be given to the people I really like.

3pm - Round at my sister's so I got to see this little squishy face.

4pm - The downside of your sister being the boss? You get to spend a couple of hours of your Sunday sorting out vouchers to give people for a Christmas bonus. Yaaaaaaaay.

5pm - You can't tell from this picture but Rowan was literally sat on me, pushing me right against the arm of the sofa. She has absolutely no sense of personal space and I wouldn't have it any other way.

6pm - I stayed on at my sister's after dinner to help her with the Christmas tree. Having two teenage sons means that decorating the tree is kind of a lonely business for her. I on the other hand will leap at the opportunity to decorate a tree. Any tree.

7pm - And we didn't do too badly if I say so myself. Good bauble placement - I can't be doing with a sparsely decorated tree. And good distribution of lights. The more lights the merrier I say.

8pm - Back home where the washing up from the past *cough* days was awaiting me. It's pretty easy to let the washing up pile up when you're living on your own - you just keep taking plates out of the drawers until there aren't any left, or until there is no more workspace left to stack the dirty dishes. I know. I'm a terrible person.

9pm - In bed with a cup of tea and getting the last of my Christmas shopping done.

10pm - Ever late to a bandwagon. About 4 billion years ago, American Girl and Boy bought me Series 1 & 2 of 30 Rock. I loved it but just never got around to buying any more series. Over the past couple of weeks I rediscovered the box sets I did have and had to immediately buy Series 3 which is oh my goodness even funnier than the first two series. I've already order Series 4. Tune in next week for me discovering shows that everyone raved about 10 years previously...


I feel like I can't thank Jane enough for hosting this year's Photo an Hour series. It's been surprisingly good fun and has got me blogging when I couldn't find anything else to blog about.

Louisa is taking up the Photo an Hour mantle for 2015 and has chosen the first date - Saturday 17 January - so get her blog bookmarked, get the date in your diary and get joining in. I love having a good old nosy at what people do during their weekends.

Monday, 15 December 2014


Probably the worst thing about being single are the weekends. During the week everything is pretty fine, I work probably a little later than I should so I don't spend a lot of time alone, but when I come home, I enjoy the time I have to myself.

Weekends are sucky. Weekends are when people in couples are enjoying the weekend being a couple. Saturday mornings break and I still stifle an internal sigh at the thought of two whole days of my own company stretching out before me.

I went to a lot of effort to book in things for the weekends after the break up, and finding myself in London for work on a Friday, I took the opportunity to pop over to Bristol for the weekend to see an old friend.

After being waved off by Paddington at none other than London Paddington Station I plonked my very hungover body down on the train and headed to hitherto uncharted territory.

A word to the un-initiated - Bristol on a hangover isn't the most fun ever. There are a lot of hills in that place. Hills and I do not get on and I was blissfully unaware of what was in store for me. Add to this the fact that my friend appeared determined to make me see every single sight possible in the remaining time we had left before the light disappeared.

Red wine hangover + hills = not a great tourist.

Tourist attractions visited included Cabot Tower - verdict: The spiral staircase might just kill you but the views once you get to the top really are worth it.

...And the Clifton Suspension Bridge. Verdict: Not as big as the Humber Bridge. Sorry. My expectations are high when it comes to suspension bridges. Although it does win points for being a damn sight older than the Humber Bridge.

...And The Downs. Verdict: Well worth a visit for the views over the Avon Gorge. Also an unnatural number of joggers/runners were there. I'm guessing because it's the only place that isn't on a flipping hill. It almost, almost made me want to start running again.

The rest of the weekend was spent visiting various drinking establishments - so many that I couldn't even begin to list or remember them.

All in all - a good introduction to Bristol. The company was....well, let's just say my judgement when it comes to certain people in my life is still seriously compromised...so I'm keen to re-visit again and maybe meet up with some people that I know are genuinely good people - Hayles? Kate? Jen?

Sunday, 14 December 2014


One of the up-sides to my job is the opportunity to travel to some fancy places, all expenses paid. It's a tricky concept to explain but basically - people want us to recommend hotels, destinations and activities to our clients for their next event so they take us away to show us said hotels, destinations and activities. All make sense?

These trips are few and far between and after a couple of years of working my bum off I was given the opportunity to go to Marrakech for a few days. How could I possibly say no?

I looked forward to it for a couple of months - I would never get an opportunity like this again to see a place so amazing and in pretty luxurious surroundings.

Unfortunately you're talking about me here. A trip to Marrakech was never going to be straightforward and life it seems has been determined to give me a thorough arse-kicking in the last quarter of this year.

It all started with a bout of cystitis in the days before I left. I followed a strict regimen of water, water, water, cranberry juice and water but was having trouble shifting it so the day before I travelled I went to the Drs and got some antibiotics.

That night I got a pain in my back. I quashed the voice in the back of my head that said it was my kidneys and decided I must have hurt my back again.

Thursday's travel down to Gatwick didn't go well - I felt more tired than I have ever felt in my life, the pain was unmistakably across my back in my kidneys and I was starting to get shivery and fevery.

I did what any sane person would do.

Forged ahead.

I was not letting this stop me. I had antibiotics and they would kick in soon. I would be fine.

To cut a long story short I got steadily worse and worse throughout the next two days. I was unable to join the rest of the group for any dinners, I couldn't eat any food, and I mostly wanted to die. Until eventually, at a restaurant in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains I started shaking so much that the group organisers decided enough was enough and I was going to hospital.

Where I stayed for the next day or so hooked up an IV drip.


There aren't really words are there? I don't know why life hates me at the moment.

I did manage to see some sights despite wanting to curl up and die, including a walking tour of the medina, quadbiking in the middle of nowhere, a cheeky little ride on a camel and off-roading in a Jeep (which was exciting but did unfortunately make me feel like my kidneys were being shaken loose).

Unfortunately there was no bartering in the souks for me and the only money I spent was on a job lot of Argan Oil which should last me until the next time I go back to Marrakech for a do-over. I feel pretty smug about it - the amount of money some people pay for Argan Oil over here - bahaha in your faces, I spent hardly anything. BOOM.

One other good thing about Marrakech?


Cats on cats on cats on cats on cats on cats on cats EVERYWHERE.

It was brilliant. And for the most part, cats in pretty good nick and not too grotty like street cats are in some other foreign countries. These felines are well fed let me tell you. The bad part about being in a group of people you don't know - you need to keep your crazy cat lady-ness under the radar. It didn't really work, within an hour people were pointing out cats to me, but it did mean I couldn't stop anywhere near as much as I wanted to to get pictures of said kitties.

I stayed in some beautiful places (hospital clinic aside) and although I'm almost definitely not going to ever stay in these places again, unless that incredibly rich man I'm waiting for walks into my life / lottery win comes off / mysterious benefactor appears, I am eternally grateful that I got the chance to experience both the Royal Palm Marrakech and the Riad les Jardins de la Medina. Not many people get that chance.

Nor do they get the chance to experience hospital in Marrakech - it's actually not that bad although you might want to brush up on your French and/or Arabic before you get admitted, okay?

All in all - I did the best I could. I kept going as long as possible and experienced as much as I was able, which I feel was spit in Life's Eye. You're going to try and mess with me life? Well you're going to have to take me down kicking and screaming.

So who's coming with me for Marrakech Round 2?

Monday, 1 December 2014

The train

I stood on the platform waiting for the delayed train with the hundreds of other people. Huddled together against the cold, like a colony of penguins, equally shielding each other from the worst of the cold, whilst never looking in any single person's direction.

As the train pulled in, we moved as one towards the doors, performing the same routine as on every other train platform across the UK; simultaneously trying to ram yourself through the door whilst still maintaining a terribly British sense of personal space.

We fought through the carriage, throwing ourselves down into the nearest seat, hurriedly shedding jackets and hats and scarfs and bags. Claiming the space as our own, casting glances at those who would be so bold to sit beside us.

Always moving as one yet always moving an individual.

We all sat in our own worlds, studiously ignoring those around us. Ensconced in books and phones, iPods and tablets. No-one looks up, no-one speaks.

I sat and wondered about them all. Keen to not think about my own thoughts that night I threw myself into imagining theirs.

I wondered what that girl was smiling about when she was looking at her phone - a message from a lover, a joke from a friend, embarrassing pictures from the night before, happy news from a relative.

I watched the two girls sat opposite me, whispering to one another so none of us could hear their conversation. It was a dissection of the night before, the scrolling through of a constant stream of messages - was she arguing with someone, or was there simply another person involved in the conversation, being filled in on the conversation happening on the train.

I looked at the guy next to me answering work emails and filling in cells on a spreadsheet. What was it that he did for a living? Was it what he always wanted to do, is it where he thought he'd see himself when he was a young boy?

I wondered where everyone was coming from and going to. A Sunday night could mean that everyone was going home after a weekend away, it could mean they were going away to start their working week. Where were they going to go once they got off the train? Would they be going home and what awaited them there - a house full of friends, a house full of family, a wife, a child, a pet, no-one at all?

They felt like they should be friends, I wanted to reach out to them all and ask them, find out about them. It felt like we should all be connected, all of us here on this delayed train. We all had that in common at least.

But I knew that I was alone. Alone on the train and alone in life. The only connection for me was going to be the next train I caught.

Out of the blue someone started playing a song out loud on their phone. Dancing Queen of all songs. There were mutterings, people turned around in their seats, people took out their earphones. And then it happened - we all caught each other's eyes. Some people rolled their eyes, others smiled, others out right laughed. We mimed the words at each other and danced in our seats. The girl put her phone down, something else momentarily funnier happening with us; the two girls stopped whispering and shook their heads laughing at each other and at the rest of us around; the guy left his spreadsheet alone for a moment, nodding his head along to Abba with the rest of us.

It happened. For a brief two minute period we were all connected. We looked each other in the eye and shared a moment.

And then the music stopped.