Happy New Year! I hope you all had a good night, however you spent it. I was at work (boo!), but managed to catch a rooftop view of the fireworks going off all across London:
I meant to get this done sooner, but Ben and I ended up spending New Year’s Day before I went to work vegging out on the sofa all afternoon and watching the whole of Series 1 of Broadchurch in one sitting. It’s not very often we do that, but he was ill and I needed a sedate afternoon, so it was a perfect afternoon treat (also, for anyone who, like us, missed Broadchurch first time round, watch it! It’s awesome!) Fortunately I am now into my days off, so what better opportunity to look back on my highlights from 2014, and look ahead to 2015 with renewed vigour?
JANUARY The stand out highlight of this month for me was a visit to Paris with Emilie and Fiona. I haven’t been to this glamorous city for at least ten years, and I admit I had thought it a bit overrated. But I soon found myself eating my words! Fiona has a friend, Cat, who was staying there as part of her Erasmus year, so we got to see a gorgeous Parisian flat above Republique, with high decorated ceilings, wooden floorboards and a stunning view over the streets. In our short city break, we wandered the freezing, winding streets and sampled the delights of the bakeries. We crossed bridges back and forth across the Seine, and browsed a tiny bookshop with wooden ladders to reach the top shelves. We explored the skull-ridden catacombs, and gazed in awe at the truly stunning Saint Chapelle, which to this day is one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. In short, Paris captured my heart, and there will always be a part of me that wishes I had a little bolt hole in this beautiful city to escape to, where I could run by the river and gaze over the rooftops, visit the galleries and museums and indulge in exquisite patisserie. I hope to return there within the next year or so, and discover new and exciting corners of this amazing city. You can see the full photo highlights of our Parisian adventure on my Instagram page.
FEBRUARY February was a far more sedate month. The two highlights were celebrating my lovely dad’s 69th birthday at Seckford Hall in Suffolk. Most of the photos above were taken there, and it was a mercifully sunny day, with the first snowdrops bravely emerging from the ground. The middle far right photo was taken out of the window of my flat, and the flowery bed was spotted at a garden centre near my dad’s. The second highlight of the month was not documented in photos, but has had a long-lasting impact on the rest of 2014. Because February was the month that Ben and I started dating. And now, nearly a year on, it seems strange to think that he wasn’t always in my life, as I feel like I’ve known him for years.
MARCH March was, looking back, a rather floral month. The top and bottom middle photos were taken as part of my journey to work on a beautiful afternoon. They were just growing in someone’s front garden! I couldn’t resist snapping a few pics. The daffodils are from a walk Ben and I took around Richmond Park, and the ram (who sits very near my flat) had been adorned with a little flower for Spring! The lights hanging in the air are from Carnaby Street in Soho.
I made sure I got some quality time in with my wonderful mum for Mother’s Day, and the photo in the middle is me and my flatmate Jon celebrating at our friend Sanna’s birthday. My sister and I also met up in Ealing for a catch up lunch at Bill’s, and continued our ongoing tradition of selfie-taking (something which we have also introduced our dad too…)
In March Ben and I went to a Silent Disco at the Shard, which was brilliant fun and felt like we were dancing amongst the stars. We also embarked on our first holiday together (always a nerve-wracking experience, especially as a new couple!), a short break to the Sussex Downs. It was freezing, but we had a great time hiking around Ditching Beacon. We also took a day trip to Brighton, visited one of my favourite people, Anna (and her fiance Adam) for dinner, spent several cosy afternoons inside with good TV and home-made Rocky Road, and parked up at the top of the beacon one night on our way home to look at the stars.
APRIL My April highlights were, again, slightly flower-related, with hints of family time and exploring London with Ben. With the weather on the up I took to the park for some reading and basking in the spring sunshine. The magnolias (always a favourite bloom of mine, despite the fact that they also give a name to one of the most boring shades of paint in existence) also came out to play. However, it wasn’t all sunshine, as the misty morning shot from my flat shows. Even when the sun shone it wasn’t always warm – our family day trip to Eastbourne was a prime example! My sister and I met my dad, aunt and dad’s partner, Sue, for a long-belated birthday lunch for Dad, and it was shockingly cold. The photos look so misleadingly summery, and give no hint of the bitter wind off the sea that chilled us to the bone!
Datewise, my highlight was a trip Ben and I took to London Zoo. I hadn’t been for a few years, and we have a ball. Ben had arranged it all as a surprise, and we took a canal boat to the zoo gate, before wandering around in (again!) the sunshine, taking lots of photos of gorgeous animals (you’d also be surprised at how much of an attention whore that little penguin was…)
May was, again, time to see my dad and sister. We took off for a week to Devon, which is where a great deal of these photos were taken. The bottom left was taken on a drive through Dartmoor, on our way back from Finch Foundry, the last working water-powered forge in England, which is the bottom middle. The top right photo was a place I was very excited to visit: Greenway, home of the late and great Agatha Christie. My dad, my sister and I had been on two such trips before, once back to North Wales, where Mum, Dad and I lived for a good six years, and once to Edinburgh. However, circumstances meant that we hadn’t been on one of these trips for four years, so it was nice to spend some quality time together again.
Back in London, Leadenhall Market was decked out with some patriotic bunting, and Ben and I made a visit to Kew Gardens (their gates are ridiculously ornate!). I also made a brief visit home to see my mum, and we took a trip to Southwold to eat ice cream in the chilly sunshine. All in all, we were warming up for summer!
June heralded the glory of summer. The beauty of the Shard reflecting the sunlight, the clouds and the sky and gleaming like a sceptre. Mum and I went to the Open Garden Squares Weekend in London, going via Trooping the Colour to watch a bit of good old-fashioned British pomp and circumstance. And Ben and I made our first joint trip back to Suffolk to spend some time with my parents. We went to the lovely seaside town of Aldeburgh, the market town of Bury St. Edmunds, and the National Trust site Sutton Hoo, an Anglo-Saxon burial ground near my dad’s. A bit of a Best of British kind of month!
With the height of summer came my reintroduction to cycling. I haven’t cycled in years (living in London, I was too afraid of being mown down by traffic on the Elephant and Castle roundabout to venture out with a bike), but when we took a trip to the New Forest Ben decided now was the perfect time. And we loved it. Two days in a row we took the bikes out on the roads and cycle routes of the New Forest, and I loved every second. Except for getting off the bike at the end of the first day – it was a rather sore walk back to the hotel! It was a lovely few days. The weather was good, the horses roamed free (they stand in the roads without a care in the world, it’s insane!), and we ate ice cream. On the way back to London we even stopped off at Winchester, where Ben went to school, for a tour of the college and a quick lunch in the town (and a bit more ice cream…). We also continued the cycling when we got back to London, exploring the area around Ben’s – Kew, Kingston, Teddington and Hampton Court.
August was spent enjoying summer in London, which is a humid, gritty, slightly tropical experience all its own. I visited the Shard again with Ben, my mum and her partner, Tony, and took the Thames Clipper to Greenwich. I made sure to enjoy the beauty of nature whenever I came across it, whether it be wildlife or sunsets, and even better when the animals and sunlight combined! Mum and I explored a flower-laden roof garden in Maida Vale, and Ben and I went to see the Spectra light installation in the gardens next to the Houses of Parliament. Following the cancellations in July, on Bank Holiday weekend some work friends and I went to Secret Cinema’s screening of Back to the Future in East London (see central bottom photo), taking a step back in time to the 1950s. And my uni friends and I reunited for the first time in ages to watch the magnificent Richard Armitage in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible at the Old Vic.
September was an amazing month. Ben and I embarked on an epic adventure across California for two weeks. We started off in San Francisco, and then hired a car and drove across to the edge of the national parks, and then down to the coast and back up the Pacific Highway to San Francisco. It was the most amazing holiday, and I aim to publish my travel diaries on here during 2015 to give you all the full story. It was incredibly difficult to pick just nine photos that sum up such a huge holiday, but the ones I went with are fairly iconic, such as the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove across it on our way out of SF, and it looked properly impressive as we drove beneath the red-rust arches. The sign for Fisherman’s Wharf, too, is very well-known, but it was such a huge part of our visit to the city (it’s where a lot of our souvenirs for other people came from!)
The photo of the Castro District was taken on a bike tour we made round the city on a boiling hot day. It was the perfect introduction to SF, and I wish we’d had the time to go back and explore the Castro (the LGBT neighbourhood) in more detail. The mural in the top middle picture was my highlight of the bike tour. It’s painted on the side of the Women’s Building in the Mission District, and it depicts women in a variety of profiles, ranging from doctor to astronaut to goddess, celebrating the role of women in society. It was beautiful and powerful, with stunning, vibrant colours and I will rhapsodise on it more in the travel diaries.
The American flag – iconic in itself – was flying from the back of a boat we took to Alcatraz Island and Angel Island, on a day-long boat tour of the Bay. I saw it flapping over the turquoise sea and I couldn’t not snap a photo. The central photo was taken at Pier 39, where we met (and I fell in love with) the gorgeous resident sea lions. We visited them three times in all throughout our stay, and I could have spent hours there watching them sunbathing, snoozing and play-fighting.
The other three photos were from the road trip part of our stay. The mountain is called Half Dome, in the awe-inspiring Yosemite National Park. We only had the briefest of stops through there on our way down to the coast, but you could easily spend a week there.
The rushes are from our drive up Route 101 – Pacific Highway – back to SF. It was one of my favourite parts of the holiday, and we spent a perfect afternoon driving the coast road, stopping every five minutes to take photos and watch elephant seals frolicking in the waves, and singing along to our American Anthems playlist.
Finally, the sunset by the pool was from the idyllic place we stayed at in a small town called Angel’s Camp. We were lucky enough to stay with the wonderful people behind Mineral Wines, Brett and Andrea, and we had a truly fantastic time staying in their little slice of paradise.
I can’t wait to share more stories from our wonderful trip to California – it was truly a wrench to come home, and I miss it even now. I definitely hope to return one day!
October was a month of birthdays – mine and Ben’s both – so we spent quite a bit of the month celebrating. We both took each other on dinner and theatre dates, and we took a trip back to Suffolk to visit my parents for my birthday (note Mum’s gorgeous cat Sampson, who gets papped every time I go home!). We also paid a visit to the seaside, to the picturesque town of Aldeburgh, which will be featuring in a photo reel post later this year.
The weekend before Ben’s, we paid a visit to his uni alma mater of Oxford, which is what the bottom and middle far left photos are, as well as the top centre. The bottom centre and top right are from a birthday walk we took along the South Bank on Ben’s birthday to allow him to flex his photographic muscles. And the autumnal leaves and my crazy shoes were from a wander across The Green in Richmond.
October was also the month that I finally set up this blog, after months of wanting to do so but being too chicken to get my act together. With Ben’s encouragement and technical assistance, October’s Girl came into being on 6th October. Having spent the last few months playing around with having a blog, this year I want to get organised and properly go for it, writing more and developing this little space on the web to be the best it can be.
Finally, the central photo is from a Halloween party we attended, dressed as Supergirl and the bloke from Top Gun. All in all, October was a celebration, not just of our birthdays but of the Autumn in all its fiery glory.
November signalled the turn towards Winter (Winter is Coming…), and with this I managed to get my first cold of the season! But I managed to beat it off with a combination of honey and lemon tea, bonfires and hot toddies, the latter courtesy of the wonderful Peckham Market. This is also where the ginormous scotch egg featured! I also went for walks along the South Bank, watched fireworks from the comfort of Ben’s house with a glass of wine in hand, and went to the fabulous Discover Dogs with Mum and Tony (which only increased my dog-broodiness about tenfold). Finally, Jon took me to my first ever rugby match at the Autumn Internationals at Twickenham. A chilly but exciting month, and the start of the build up to Christmas.
This was the most difficult month to compress into nine photos. I had so many awesome experiences during this month, and I could probably have created about three collages! But these were the ones which made my highlights.
London in the run up to Christmas is a wonderful place. Both the top and central far right photos are from New Bond Street’s fab Christmas lights, which reminded me a great deal of silvery peacock feathers. Ben and I also enjoyed the lights at Christmas at Kew (which I reviewed on the blog), and paid an obligatory visit to Winter Wonderland (the ice sculpture tent was epic. They had an ICE DRAGON. Enough said.) We also enjoyed sunset at the top of the Shard with champagne and candy canes, and I had uni friends round for a Christmas drinks soiree.
Finally, I got to escape back to Suffolk for Christmas with Ben and my family, which was just the best break from work and London. It was a brilliant week, holed up in the country with good food and good company, and we ate loads, walked the lanes, watched the Christmas Day Specials, and just enjoyed time spent together.
Hopefully, the best is still yet to come! This year I will be looking to…
+ Exercise: I always say I never have time, but it’s a brilliant stress-buster and endorphin releaser, so I really need to get into a routine. Running at least twice a week, and maybe some time in the gym doing weights training, as my upper body strength is pitiful! I would love to get back into something like the martial arts classes I took while I was at school. Unfortunately my rota means that regular scheduled classes are tricky to negotiate. But either way, in whatever shape or form it takes, I need to make exercise a priority from here on in.
+ De-Stress: 2014 was a brilliant year, but I will also look back on it as the Year of Stress. My job comes with its own unique set of pressures, and worrying about work was always a lurking concern in the back of my mind. Add to that other stresses of day to day life and I found myself reaching burn out far too often. I need to reign in the panic and anger which comes with these moments, learn to stop myself escalating situations into something more serious than they are, and to stop and take a deep breath and remember that it will all be alright in the end.
+ Friendships: I am a pain in the arse when it comes to contact. I adore my friends, but I have very bad habits when it comes to staying in touch with them. I receive texts and, even with the best of intentions, it can be days before I reply. I know it’s horribly rude and it bugs me when other people do it to me, but with my work schedule it honestly slips my mind to reply, and before I know it I find myself out of touch with people I’ve known for years. I hate that, and I know I take my friends and the love and support they offer for granted at times. So this year I want to throw myself back into these relationships and renew the bonds: to make sure the people I love and appreciate more than they can ever know have at least an inkling of how wonderful they are.
+ Travel: I need to get out there and see the world. After San Francisco, I would like to see more of America, and Ben and I have set our sights on New York for this Spring. But any travel, whether it’s a long weekend in the countryside, a European city break, or an overseas odyssey, would be very welcome, and I need to get down to planning my next adventure.
Blogging Goals: (Can be roughly summarised as UP YOUR GAME):
+ Post frequently – about 3 times a week would be ideal, work depending.
+ Cover a range of topics – I enjoy having a wide diversity of topics to write about, and I want to continue this in the months ahead.
+ Be more active on social media – within limits. I don’t want to spend my whole life staring at a phone screen and counting Instagram likes and Twitter retweets. Life’s too short. But I would like to put myself out there as more of an active presence, and connect more with those people lovely enough to take the time to read my ramblings.
+ Make some friends – part of the reason I started blogging, to meet like-minded individuals the world over who I might be able to forge a friendship with.
+ Attempt to meet the 52 Books Challenge I’ve set myself – to read and review one book a week for a year.
That’s about it for my reflections on the year that was, and my hopes for the year to come. It’s gone on a bit! Apologies, in the process of looking back I realised just how many special moments of last year I wanted to share. I would love to hear about yours, and what you have in store for the New Year. I hope it is your happiest yet!