Week Twenty-Eight

WHERE IS THE YEAR GOING!?

I knew 2019 was going to be a big’un. I never could have prepared myself for how much of an uphill climb the first half of it would be. I said there was to be no stressing when my birthday party came around and I don’t want any of the amazing people who came to be disappointed or sad. I certainly don’t want my parents’ to feel like all their efforts were wasted. It was an AMAZING night! But honestly? I spent the whole thing feeling very anxious and went to bed crying at 1am because I was so frustrated that I hadn’t been able to enjoy it.

Now, here I am in July and my anxiety feels like it’s finally under control again and I’m absolutely buzzing about life! It feels like everything is coming together. A lot’s going to change over the next couple of months.

I remember New Year’s Eve 2011 very clearly. 2012 was going to be the year everything changed and I knew I wasn’t going to like it one bit. I went to bed early and when it got to midnight I cried. I was right; I didn’t enjoy the changes at all. Going off to university turned my whole world upside down. If I had known back then, that life would always be full of change and that I was just going to have to get used to it, I’m not sure what I would have done. Decided this life wasn’t for me and I was going to live under my duvet for the rest of it? Probably.

I’ve come a long way since then. I am prepared for the fact that the next couple of months may throw me off a little, but I’m also just super excited about EVERYTHING.

Where to start?

Well, today I have a jam session with my new band. YEP, MY NEW BAND. I’ve been really down about my voice ever since studying music at university if I’m honest. Being part of that music department made me feel like a very small fish in an extremely big pond and I never really shook that feeling. If you’ve been keeping up, you’ll know that I’ve repeatedly pledged to get back into singing. I was going to join a choir or find like-minded musicians to work with, but I never kept that promise to myself. I just couldn’t seem to find the oomph.

I work with this great guy who, over the last couple of months, has gone and given me my music mojo back. He didn’t really give me a choice in the matter. He rocked up at my desk one day and told me about this new collective of musicians he was pulling together. He said it was Jazz, but not Jazz. And kinda classically influenced, but not really either. He said he thought I might fit right in and before I knew it I was at the studio with him. It took me over half an hour to sing my first note.

Now, I’m away! We’ve had our first gig and, although I was super nervous, I managed to successfully sing every note and, although I might not have sung as well as I know I can, I was so proud and happy when we finished. Mostly proud to be working with such a talented set of musicians. The guy from work’s a ridiculously talented drummer. We’re playing with an AMAZING classical guitarist and FANTASTIC saxophonist and WE ARE DAMBALLA COLLECTIVE. Plug over, but I’m so excited. Can you tell?

That aside, we’re also moving home! (Providing our references all go through fine and they decide they think we’ll be able to pay the rent each month.) We’re moving in with a friend, into a much bigger home in a lovely village with loads of pubs and a big common and it’s going to be so lovely. And best of all… I can walk to the train station… waheyyyy. No more sitting in traffic every morning!!

Anddd finally, I passed my big qualification at work and now I’m officially qualified to do what I want to do. The world is now my oyster on the career front and I’m really excited to see where work life takes me from here… That’s if I’m not too busy touring with Damballa Collective of course.

All good things.

Life’s more challenging than ever before. Particularly for a worrier like me. But I’m making sure to take deep breaths when I can and I’m taking moments here and there to make sure I’m doing okay. I am doing okay. And next week I’m off on holiday. What better way to look after one’s mental health than to spend a week in the sun, with a good book (Miles Davis’ autobiography being my current book of choice… I’m only 3 chapters in, but I am loving it!) and an amazing friend? Eeeeek!

There goes April

May is one of the best months of the year (not just because my birthday is in May) and I’m very happy it’s here. The sun starts to shine a little warmer in May. The trees are leafy again and the flowers are all out and about. Summer is officially on the horizon and it feels closer every day. We’re all a little more cheery again come May time. And this year we’ve two bank holidays to enjoy! And whether we love our jobs or not, the weeks always feel long and hard and the odd Monday off here and there helps us power on through.

Talking of work… I’ve officially been in my current position for more than a year. MORE THAN A YEAR I TELL YOU. I can hardly believe it. Time does fly, but I must admit that my first day feels like it was a very long time ago now. I still remember it very clearly and fondly. I feel as though I’ve come a long way in a year. In fact, when I think about how far I’ve come I begin to wonder how it can be that it has only been a year.

Somehow, it’s been nearly a month since Naomi and I were at Rhossili beach in Wales. Since then, Manchester United lost to West Brom, Dave and I bought furniture for the balcony, Britain was hit by a mini heat wave (perfect timing dontcha think?) and I went to Dublin for a few days with one of my best friends.

Dave, myself and his parents journeyed all the way up to Manchester to see United lose and we were not happy bunnies. However, that same weekend we bought the furniture for the balcony AND a shoe rack for the hall way and triumphantly put it all together. You lose some, you win some. SO excited to play host this summer and make use of the new set up.

The mini heat wave was simply amazing. It came just as we all felt like we couldn’t take one more day of doomy gloomy skies and chilly temperatures. It was just what we all needed. Besides me, everyone seemed so prepared too! Summer clothes were out in storm and the smell of sun cream filled the tube I got in the mornings. There I was stood in black trousers and a black blazer because my summer clothes were still hidden away and my legs were not in any state to be shown off to the world.

Oh well. I still enjoyed the sunshine plenty. Some friends and I had drinks outside a country pub. A work colleague and I spent a lunch break down by the Tower of London eating ice creams. AND my mum made the most wonderful jug of pimms when I popped by to see her and my dad at the weekend.

We had a fab time in Dublin and I’d recommend a visit. The people are simply lovely for one thing! I highly recommend the free walking tours, the Guinness Storehouse and the food, in general. I loved literally everything I ate while I was there. I particularly recommend a little place called ‘Boxty’ where potatoes are cooked to perfection. This place is proof that potatoes are the best of all foods.

BOXTY

Our walking tour guide was GREAT. He gave us heaps of insight into Ireland, it’s history and it’s people. Dublin Castle, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the infamous ‘Spire’, they all have amazing histories and they’re all excellent spots for photos too.

DUBLIN FREE WALKING TOUR

I reckon the Guinness Storehouse had to be the highlight of our trip. (Although, one evening spent in a pub in Temple Bar listening to traditional Irish music was particularly magical too.) The storehouse experience was so great, because it was all new. I’d never tried Guinness before (believe it or not I actually quite liked it), never learned how to properly taste a stout before and never poured my own pint before either. You have to breathe in through your nose, then sip, then breathe out through your nose… that’s the secret to the tasting. Thank me later.

Brighton, England

brighton-uk-16

I spent last weekend in Brighton with four girl friends, celebrating my friend’s birthday and I fell in love.

I arrived in Brighton tired, hungry, sweaty, clueless and with heavy bags in tow after a very long day at work.

The lively atmosphere gave me an immediate boost. Between the squeals of girls on hen nights, the excitable chatter of everyone around, the yells from lads on tour and the booming voices of train conductors, came the occasional squawk of a seagull, welcoming you to the seaside.

I needed to buy Aperol for the birthday girl. I couldn’t find it anywhere, which was a shame, but I did find that every single person I spoke to was jolly and helpful. Every off-licence owner tried to help me out, the people in Tesco and Sainsbury’s were eager to do what they could and even when they were telling me they didn’t sell what I wanted, they kept on smiling.  The people I passed on the street all seemed super carefree and happy. The driver of the taxi I eventually got was lovely too. I felt like I could have spoken to absolutely anyone and they would have tried to help me out.

The home we stayed in was booked through air b&b and it was absolutely stunning. The perfect seaside escape. It was a little way from the coast, but the seagulls could still be heard, never fear.

In my dreams I live in a house like this one when I grow up. It’s so tastefully decorated, so light and airy and everything has it’s place, but it looks lived in too. It’s just the right mix of old and new and it’s not too big or too small. It’s perfect. Aside from the fact it’s on a really really steep hill. Not only was the walk a challenge, but can you imagine trying to parallel park outside!?

I could have spent days exploring the centre of Brighton and I’ve still no idea how we got from one place to another. All I know is that on your way down to the coast you wonder through ‘the lanes’. There’s bunting everywhere, it’s a maze of madness that transports you to another time and there are shops and stools selling all sorts of bits and bobs. There’s something for everyone. There are so many cute independent shops. There’s so much street food and so many cute, eccentric cafes to be explored. Including Choccywoccydoodah which just has to be the craziest dessert cafe on Earth!

There are loads of cool independent bars and clubs on the seafront too, individual to Brighton. Not forgetting the cute arty shops down there and the fish and chip stands! Fish and chips is obligatory of course.

Brighton has the best of both though. There’s a big shopping centre with all your big name stores, there are chain restaurants and big bars and clubs with names you’d probably recognize.

The pier itself is the epitome of British Sea Front fun. There are arcades and fayre ground rides. I wasn’t crazy enough to brave the waltzers but those of us who did said they were sure they were the spinniest and fastest they’d ever been on. There’s donuts and ice cream and candy floss galore and there’s even a sit down restaurant and bar.

There are many other must-sees we missed simply because we didn’t have enough time. From the stunning Royal Pavillion to the Museum and Art Gallery, Brighton has culture and history too.

Wherever you wonder along the seafront the views are lovely. There’s even a massive 360 degrees moving observation tower you can go up, if that takes your fancy and you have the time. I imagine the views must be wonderful. Brighton’s beach isn’t sandy, it’s a pebble beach, but this doesn’t take away from the fact it’s really very pretty. I couldn’t take enough pictures. Particularly on a sunny day, the sea is so beautifully blue and everything looks so colourful and alive.

Colourful and alive. That’s Brighton for you. I can’t recommend it enough and I’ll definitely be back! I imagine there’s even more to discover than I know.

Sunshine, friends and dodgy signal

I’m on a train, London bound and the sun is out and I’m happy as Larry but the signal keeps dropping in and out so this will have to be a quick one.

Feeling wonderful this week! Volunteering again has genuinely been so much fun and I’ve caught up with a few close friends who I haven’t seen in a really long time. Somehow, catching someone up on life always helps me see everything from a new perspective.

Taking things a day at a time is the key. Thinking short-term, I’m pleased to be helping the Alzheimer’s Society out again. Thanks to the fact I’m pretty good at saving and I’m very good at keeping busy, life’s pretty fine and dandy. It’s looking too far into the future that’s daunting. It’s expensive houses and expensive masters degrees that have every twenty-something year old grumbling about the fact there’s no hope. Even when I go back to working, I don’t know how I’m meant to make enough money to adult properly. 

I’m meeting up with two more wonderful people I haven’t seen in months today and they always inspire me. We’ve got a whole afternoon and I know that it’s going to fly by, so I am determined to make the most of it. At least I’m not alone in this finding my way thing.

I love being on trains. Even busy ones. It doesn’t matter how much I do it, the novelty just doesn’t wear off. Okay, so if you’re standing like sardines on a hot summer’s day, perhaps that’s the exception. That aside, I always enjoy it. Can’t help wondering where everyone’s going and what they’re doing.

September already, say what?

Seriously, where did the summer go!? It’s raining, I’m wearing socks and a cardigan, I feel the sudden urge to light candles again, I used my umbrella last night, help!

You know what? No need to panic. September is a funny kind of month. It might be raining now, but the sun could reappear at any point. I betcha I’ll just get used to grabbing a jacket on the way out of the house and suddenly it’ll be my sunglasses I need again. Britain is the king of mini heat waves.

For the whole of my life so far September has been a fresh start. It’s like the new year, except it’s only applicable to those still in education. New teachers, new classes, brand new exercise books, new homework diaries, new everything.

It seems that if you decide to work in education, when you finish education, the same still applies. I just can’t shake the feeling that a new chapter is beginning. I’m sad that summer is over, but also a little excited about the prospect of a new school year.

I’ve got a job on the horizon at another school for children with special educational needs, one a little closer to home and one where I hope to explore the music therapy avenue a little more.

Until that job begins, I’m going to get back into volunteering with the Alzheimer’s Society. I went into the office to get all signed up again this week and I loved it. If Alzheimer’s Society could afford to pay me to do what I do as a volunteer, I’d do it for the rest of my life. I’m grateful I have some time to help again, before getting back to work.

Right now though, I’m sat on my bed, an old One Republic tune just shuffled its way into my speakers and I’m feeling sleepy. I’m wondering whether to read a new book or just carry on watching Homeland on Netflix. Reading might just make me want to nap, but watching Netflix always turns my brain to mush. Sometimes it’s hard being lazy. I know I’ll be dreaming of days like this in a month or two. Must enjoy it while it lasts. Lazy Sundays are tradition after all.

Spoiled Rotten

My alarm went off at 6am on the day of our flight. I was already packed. Packing took me an entire day, but that’s another story. We got a taxi bus to the airport, got there in perfect time, hopped on the plane and we were off. It was one of them huge planes designed only for long flights like ours and for once, I didn’t panic after take off. I actually quite enjoyed the plane food too. Good news all round.

When we got to our hotel in the Caribbean, I was stunned. I’d never seen anything like it.

This summer, my family and I spent two amazing weeks at a huge resort celebrating my Dad’s 50th birthday. We were spoiled rotten with two pools, a section of the beach, on-site restaurants, a HUGE buffet, a gym, a coffee shop, need I go on? I don’t recall ever having felt so relaxed! It was beautiful.

Now, I’m home again and I’m still not sure where I’m going from here, but I don’t really mind. Okay okay, I say that now… I had a teeny tiny wobble when I got home. I’d allowed myself to forget all about real life and came back down to Earth with a bit of a crash. Since then though, I’ve met up with friends, been to a sixtieth birthday party where drinks were served in teacups and headed into London to see a hilarious show. I’m trying to keep my head up, remind myself constantly that everything is going to be okay, and that I don’t have to have it all figured out just yet. It’s still summer and I’ve still time. I think this afternoon I’ll write a pro/con list, that always helps.

Here comes the sun (do dee do doo)

Genuinely struggling to piece this week together. It’s been a long one, a busy one, a stressful one at times, but ultimately a good one. 

Wednesday was a very good day, I remember that. For my birthday, Dave bought him and I tickets to see The Woman in Black at the Fortune Theatre. For those who don’t know, The Woman in Black is a spooky, thriller that has been running at the Fortune Theatre since 1989. Both Dave and I have wanted to see it for years. It’s infamous for scaring audiences silly, but well known for being an exceptional play.

I had booked the day off in advance, planning to spend the whole day with him. We took our time getting up and out of bed and then grabbed an amazing breakfast in a cafe called ‘A Canteen’. I 100% recommend it. We chilled in central park in the sunshine for a long while and then we headed into London. We popped to Maccy D’s super quick before the show started and then we got to the theatre just early enough for the nerves to build before it began. I’m not going to lie, while we sat waiting I began to wonder if going had been a good idea after all and whether I was going to be able to sit through it beginning to end and I’m glad it started when it did because a minute longer and I may have sissied out and walked straight back out the theatre.

I was so impressed. It was clever, funny, unpredictable, gripping and terrifying and I loved it. It was everything I hoped it would be and more and I am so glad we went! It was just the right amount of scary. Not so scary I couldn’t watch, but scary enough to give me chills.

When we left the theatre it was a beautiful summer evening and I was ridiculously happy. We wandered home slowly via embankment and Hungerford Bridge. I do not think I will ever tire of looking at the view from that bridge. Nothing beats it.

Friday was the last day of this school term and I think I’ll remember it for a long time to come. It was probably one of the best days I’ve had at the school. We had a lot of fun and I admit, it all left me feeling a little emotional. Working at the school has been challenging, you’ll have gathered that if you’ve been keeping up, but it has also been amazing in so many ways. Many life decisions are to be made over the next month or so. Whether to stay at the school or not is something I’ll have to decide before anything else and right now, I feel so torn. Where from here? Teaching? On the job training? Back to University?

This weekend has been super summery and a lot of fun too. I’ve caught up with friends, been out for a fantastic Chinese dinner, had a glass of wine or two and nearly finished my book. Here’s hoping this summer is everything I need it to be. Time to think is a luxury not everyone has and I hope I can make the most of it. Come September I have to pick a path and walk down it and whatever will be, will be. 

Good friends, good food, good music and really good TV

My mum and I are SAT IN THE GARDEN. Yep, that’s right. The weather is officially that lovely. There’s not a cloud in the sky. I’m not even just being British. It’s proper summery. I’m wearing a dress and I’m not even the slightest bit chilly. 

This week whizzed by. Before I knew it, I was curled up in bed on Friday night binge watching Netflix like I’d never been to work.

Saturday was a lovely day. I got up early and rolled to my fitness class as per. Then I ate lots and napped. One of the ladies from work hosted a BBQ in the afternoon. The food was amazing, the weather was perfect and it was so good to spend time with the brilliant people I work with, without having to work. I had to rush off unfortunately, so I’m hoping there are more BBQs like it on the horizon.

Saturday night I headed to Bar Soho in London with Dave to celebrate a friend’s birthday. The drinks were expensive and it was so ridiculously warm that on any other occasion I would have spent the night grumbling, but the music was good and I was so excited to see and meet all of the people there, that in the end I had the best time and when I danced, I danced without a care in the world.

Sunday was spent being happily lazy with the friends who had let us crash with them for the night. We watched a few hilarious episodes of ‘It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’ (which I’d never seen before and now intend to see more of). We put a film on and we cooked a roast dinner. I say we, Dave and I bought the ingredients and our hosts cooked. It was a delicious roast and we definitely owe them one.

When I got home yesterday evening, we had family over and everyone was sat out the in the garden chatting and drinking. We stayed there while the sun went down, time flew and before I knew it, it was time for bed; hence the lack of blog post. So, all that stuff I said about consistency and posting every Sunday without fail? Went out the window didn’t it.

I’ve downloaded Duolingo and I’m learning Italian! Dave’s doing the same; we’re using our competitive spirits to our advantage. So, right now I’m off to do the next lesson or two. Once that’s done, I’ll settle for another evening in the garden. This time with my book for company. 

“Always look ahead, but never look back” – Miles Davis

I just closed my laptop lid and then opened it again about five times in a row. Honestly? This week at work has been really hard, more challenging than ever, and right now I’m full of butterflies. The minute I’m done writing this I’m going to go sit at the piano and sing my heart out. The temptation is of course, to stop writing and just get straight to it, but if all of the ‘top tips for bloggers’ sites agree on anything, it’s that you have to be consistent. Blogging every Sunday except for when you don’t want to, doesn’t quite cut it. 

You know what? If this week has taught me anything it is that I have some amazing people in my life. Not only have I been reminded that the people in my life will support and love me no matter what, but I’ve found that many of the new people in my life are just as incredible.  

AND you know what? The past week aside, this weekend has been great! 

I very nearly backed out of doing anything and opted for a weekend curled up in bed in pyjamas. Instead, I walked ’round the corner to my best friends house. We spent Friday evening, talking everything through, drinking tea and listening to music. By the time I left, she had me convinced I could get on with it and have myself a good weekend.

So on Saturday, I jumped on a train and headed up to Birmingham to visit one of my friends and we went along to the Mostly Jazz, Funk and Soul Festival at Moseley Park. It was pretty awesome. The atmosphere was amazing. The rain held off until midnight. The music was varied and brilliant. The artists all looked like they were having the time of their life.

The biggest names were Craig Charles (who was in attendance despite a leg injury and whizzed around all day on a mobility scooter) and Average White Band (who I didn’t think I’d heard of until they started playing hits like ‘Let’s go round again’ and I found somehow, I knew all of the words). Brian Augar was there too and I think he might have been my favourite. For those who don’t know, he’s a jazz keyboardist and he’s super cool. There was such a diverse audience of people too. I hadn’t known what to expect in the lead up, but I’ll definitely attend a jazz festival again and whether you enjoy jazz, funk or soul, or not, I’d definitely recommend it!

Now it’s my favourite day of the week again and I’m moving forward. I’m popping a quote from one of the greatest jazz musicians of all time in the ‘Title’ field before I press post and then I’m getting myself a cup of tea. Tomorrow is a new day.

Bleary-eyed, still smiling

This week was a tiring one. In fact, I was so tired Friday afternoon I nearly fell asleep in training at work. Every time I closed my eyes it was almost too much effort to get them open again. The information being presented was interesting and valuable and yet I could not stop yawning. I came home with a tummy ache, because I ate way too much cheesy pasta at lunchtime and a head ache too.

Dave came over and we fell asleep in front of a film. We don’t often get time to chill like that so it was greatly appreciated and made me ridiculously happy.

Don’t ask me how, but I got up and went along to one of my fitness classes first thing Saturday morning. My friend and I were both knackered, so we were in it together. We got through it and out the other side with the help of the good music and the sunshine streaming in through the windows. When I got home, I fell asleep, still fully dressed in gym clothes, for another half an hour before getting breakfast. I woke up feeling happy and refreshed. I managed to toss together a really yummy fry-up for Dave and I, before jumping in the shower happy and full of food.

One of my best friends celebrated her birthday Saturday evening. Dave and I went ’round in the afternoon to help put the gazebo and fairy lights up. We had a great time! We got through a few cuppas along the way, but when we were finished the garden looked perfectly party-ready and rain-proof. It was a really good night in the end too. We drank, boogied, laughed and partied to our hearts content.

Today I enjoyed the longest lay-in I’ve had in a while. My mum cooked an amazing roast dinner, as ever. Dave and I watched a few episodes of Dexter and I popped over to my friend’s house to finally say a temporary goodbye to her, because she leaves for Australia tomorrow. I kept my cool while I was there, but got a little teary eyed on the drive home. I’m still proud I wasn’t a complete mess. Right now, I’m more excited for her than anything. I just hope she stays safe.

Currently, I’m sat watching the football with my family. It’s been an exciting match. I’m rooting for Iceland. They’re three goals behind (currently losing 5-2 with only five minutes to go), but they keep getting goals back and I’m still hopeful. There’s just something wonderful about the spirit of their fans and the fact they’re the underdogs. Can’t help wanting them to beat the odds.

I’m feeling happy at the end of a really lovely weekend. This week was a particularly stressful one and I’m so grateful for the fact this weekend has been everything I needed it to be. Its been chilled, relaxed, exciting and fun all at the same time. For once it hasn’t flown by either. I’m still pretty tired, but I know for sure I’ll be falling asleep tonight with a smile on my face and that feels like the most important thing.