Edinburgh Hogmanay

Yes, it’s a little late now and most people have moved beyond new year’s excitement and into the more dreary mood of January (or at least that’s the general feeling I’m getting around me at the moment)… but I really wanted to share my experience of celebrating New Year’s Eve in Edinburgh as it was my first Hogmanay.

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Watching the midnight fireworks through the trees on Princes Street

It was my second trip to Edinburgh after visiting in October 2014 (you can read it about it here if you like) and I was surprised to find just how familiar the city felt to me. I also expected Edinburgh to feel slightly intense in the lead up to this huge event, as I’m sure London would, where around a major event I would expect at least an air of anticipation and at most a mad frenzy. However I was pleasantly surprised that the whole time I was there, Edinburgh felt relaxed, chilled and had a really positive vibe. It was as if throwing New Year’s party attended by thousands was a walk in the park.

On New Year’s Eve there were several different events on in the city centre, including the Old Town Ceilidh and Concert in the Gardens (featuring Paolo Nutini). I did wish I had been able to get tickets to the live concert as it would have been cool to hear some live music on the night, but although I booked well in advance (in October) it was sold out even then. The moral is, if you are interested in attending, book tickets really early.

I had tickets to the Street Party which meant that from 9pm to 1am I joined the crowds on Princes Street, sang, drank and danced along to pop music; we even managed to get our photo up on the big screen. Every hour leading up to midnight, there was a small firework display up at the castle, giving a taster of the display to come when the clock struck twelve. I had such a great time street-partying that I didn’t even really notice the time ticking away and the countdown seemed to go by in minutes, not hours. Before we knew it, we were watching the beautiful New Year fireworks at midnight, and one hour later, having danced some more, we were singing Auld Lang Syne before the Street Party finally finished.

It was one of the most chilled, happy, positive New Year’s Eves I have ever celebrated and I would definitely recommend it if you are thinking about doing it. Just make sure you get bookings in early so you don’t miss out.

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The Importance of Being Earnest (in life and blogging, 2017)

Sorry, Oscar Wilde fans, this post has absolutely nothing to do with the play of the same name… I just borrowed the title because it fits so beautifully with my new intentions for 2017.

For the past few years I have written Happy New Year posts, setting out my aims for the year ahead, and I would have done so again. This is usually a time where I like to reflect on the year gone by and approach the new year feeling refreshed and positive. And I very much feel like I am approaching 2017 from a positive place, perhaps the most mentally healthy I have been for several years, and following last year’s struggles with depression, this is a huge achievement for me. I’m so pleased and happy to be here, feeling this way, when at times it didn’t seem possible that I would feel like this ever again.

So, on being earnest. I am interpreting earnestness using the following definition:  earnest-definition

And I am stating my earnestness today because one of my “new” goals for 2017 is to write more. I also said that in 2016, and 2015 and possibly 2014 and 2013… and, did I?

No.

But this year I absolutely mean it. I really do. Seriously. Earnestly. Because my “new year” didn’t start 2 days ago. In a way it started when I returned from Australia in August 2016, with a fresh perspective and outlook. The post-Australia, second-half-of -2016-me was energised and determined not to look back. I have since made some changes to my routine that were holding me back from worklife-balance, from having time for the things I enjoy and I have made some space. Space to breathe, space to relax, space to be myself.

So even though previous new year’s resolutions to write more have not stuck, I am hoping that 2017 will be different, that I will use the space I have created to write, express and put myself out there in a way that I feared to do so in previous years.

Happy New Year readers, let’s have a good one!

 

 

Jet

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It is just over a month ago that we lost our family pet, Jet, and I have been meaning ever since to write him a tribute… but I needed time enough to do him justice… as he was a very “special” kind of pet 🙂

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Jet was a complex little dog who was many things at many times… he could be cute and adorable, he could be silly and really stupid, he could also be aggressive and there were times when you had to know to leave him alone; but in the end he was our dog – we loved him and he loved us back.

We got him in April 2000 when he was 9 weeks old… and the fun started there. He was a naughty puppy – he got kicked out of puppy training and it didn’t take us long to realise that he was very anti-social as he would always try to bite other dogs, even if they were just minding their own business. He often ran away and I remember him jumping the fence on many occasions… and also remember searching the neighbourhood, knocking on doors asking if anyone had seen him.

Even though Jet could be a pain sometimes, we soon realised that a lot of his aggressive behaviours stemmed from the fact he was actually terrified of unknown things; that he got nervous around other dogs and then tried to bite them. Realising this helped me to understand why he didn’t act the same way as most other dogs.

As he got older, Jet mellowed a lot. When he was young, he was the one taking us for walks, choking himself on the lead in desperation to walk at the front. As time went on, he slowed down and didn’t mind trailing behind at the back any more. He used to have a lot of energy and run round the house in crazy loops when a member of the family came home. In the last year or so of his life, he just about managed to wag his tail for you when you came in.

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There are so many stories about Jet’s craziness that made us laugh over the years… like the time he ran across an iced-over lake to chase a bird and then fell in…

there was the first Christmas with Jet, where dad put a bird decoration on the tree, and Jet tried to eat it…

…when Jet learnt to climb the stairs for the first time, but got stuck when he realised that he didn’t know how to get back down again…

But as well as all the crazy things, Jet was a friend when we needed him most. He used to keep my sister company when she was writing essays; he kept my other sister company when she spent a year living and working at home after graduation, and, as for me, daily walks with him got me through a difficult time in my life and I feel forever grateful for that.

Jet… we loved you and we will never forget you… thanks for all the fun times

 

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Home and Away

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Yes… I’ve borrowed the name of the Australian soap opera for this blog post, which fits nicely because I very much intended to write about my trip to Australia on my return, there are so many photos, a couple of videos, and so many experiences I could write about (and probably will, when the time is right). However, since my return I have very much enjoyed all the simple things I missed when I was away and all the things about being at home.

In the couple of weeks since I got back from an amazing trip away, I have actually enjoyed just doing normal things like sleeping in my own bed, and enjoying living in a new area of London, where I do feel a lot happier.

I have also enjoyed spending some lovely days with my family (there is a wedding to prepare for!) and some lovely catch-ups with friends. A few days ago, our family also said a sad good bye to our beloved dog Jet, who had a long, happy (and crazy!) life.

When I get a little more time to reflect, when I can give these things my full writing-attention so I feel I am doing them justice, I will write more about Australia and also I am planning to write a little tribute to Jet.

But for now, I just wanted to write this post to say that whilst I had an amazing time away, I am also happy to be home, and happy that I feel so at home in my new flatshare. I feel that I have returned with a refreshed, invigorated outlook.

Watch this space for the upcoming blog posts… possibly featuring a video of some whales 🙂

 

From London to Australia…

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Today is a big day. Later I will be catching my first ever long-distance flight and will be away for nearly a month. It’s going to be the biggest trip I’ve ever done. I’ve got a huge backpack and my passport. Everything seems ready.

I’m comforted and happy that I am looking forward to this trip and have been more organised with the planning of it than trips I did last year. One of the first blog posts I wrote on here (about 4 years ago now!) was called ‘Travel’ – simply about how I enjoy travelling; at the time I thought travel would always be something that made me feel excited, happy, adventurous.

However in the last year, I lost interest in travel and didn’t feel excited about trips anymore. I felt scared deep down, but on the surface it was like I felt nothing. I didn’t plan trips with anticipation like I had before. I can see now that maybe that is because I had lost interest in everything I had enjoyed. When I realised I’d lost interest in travelling, I felt I had lost a part of myself and I didn’t know if I would get it back again.

But after several months of positive changes (and lots of them, in all different parts of my life, including food, drink, house move, new hair cut, just generally taking more care of myself), it is like the Me That Travels is back!

And here I am, ready to go, I even prepared this map of my trip (it’s quite technical and I think you can zoom in to see things closer). I’ll keep in touch as best that I can, maybe not on here but perhaps on Facebook and Instagram! See you on the other side of the world 😉

Ynys Mon: Old and New Memories

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Last week, on May Bank holiday weekend, I went on a somewhat risky holiday to North Wales.

  • Risk 1: the weather – everybody knows that Britain does not have the best weather… and especially in North Wales it can be very wet and windy. I was just praying it would be dry!
  • Risk 2: nostalgia – should you ever go back to a place you once held happy memories? The risk is that the changes you find from past to present are upsetting, or stirring up old memories could be emotional in a way that you are not prepared for.

This was not a typical British holiday. My sister, parents and I were going to be staying on the Isle of Anglesey (Ynys Mon in Welsh – and sorry for those who know there should be a circumflex on the o but I can’t get my computer to do it!), which we left about 21 years ago, when my sister and I were 7.

Old memories

I have a lot of happy memories from my time there, and nearly all of them involve being in the outdoors, on the cliffs, at the seaside, in the woods and in all weathers, too. Splashing at the windy, cloudy beach, in wellies shaped like frogs; searching the woods for the Three Bears’ house (thanks Mum & Dad!); being pelted in the face by hailstones at school pick up time; a school trip on a life boat; walking past long reeds and grass, thinking of the adders that could be lurking there; picking honeysuckle from the roadside as a gift to a teacher (a little bit of a teacher’s pet, clearly!)

I left a piece of my childhood heart in Wales and I really wanted to go back, most specifically to the South Stack, where there is a lighthouse and where we used to go and look for puffins with Dad. This is a place I always remembered fondly.

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South Stack

New memories

Going back 21 years later, it was time to look back but also to create new memories in the present, being older and wiser and more able to appreciate the stunning scenery around us. We won the gamble we had taken on the British weather as it was sunny and warm throughout our stay, with hardly any wind on our trip to South Stack and Holyhead mountain. It felt like a miracle to see the sea with no white breakers and to be walking around Anglesey in short sleeves… and having to put sunscreen on my fair British skin. I was no longer the child hiding her face in her coat to stop the painful white ice-stones pummelling into me. (As you might have guessed from that old memory, that was the day I learnt what “hailstones” were).

Another new memory I will take with me about Wales is a sense that it holds some kind of spiritual, magical feeling. There were times when we were walking through woods with the sunlight slightly breaking through the leaves, the flowers and undergrowth dappled with light, a peace around us, everything so still but also as if it was somehow waiting to come alive. I’m not sure I am really describing this feeling very well, but when you think about Welsh myth and legend, with the red dragon emblem, it does feel appropriate that this sense of magic seems to live and breathe in the Welsh landscape and countryside.

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a sense of spirit and magic

 

Scenery

I have mainly written this post so that I can let the photographs I took really speak for themselves about the beautiful landscape and scenery of our trip. The sunny weather was the perfect backdrop to show it off, but also, if it had been gloomy, it might have brought out a different “moody” feel to the landscape. Whatever risk there is with the weather, this nostalgic trip has awakened a deep love in me for this part of Wales, this “home” I left, and still carry with me in my heart.

South Stack and Holyhead Mountain

 

Woodland Walks

 

Coast and Beach

 

Snowdon National Park – Llyn Idwal

A Letter to Anxiety

Dear Anxiety,

My toxic friend, my emotionally abusive lover, we’ve had an on-off relationship for years (mostly on… but you know there were times when you weren’t there).

You know what you do to me and how you make me feel.

The intense times, the passionate times, that is when you are most destructive. You make my head spin, my heart is in pain, my breath is short, I shake, I feel as if something terrible is going to happen, I cry, I snap. You are all-consuming.

Other times you aren’t so intense, but your damage is always there. Making me feel sick to my stomach, making me feel restless and edgy, making me upset at the slightest thing.

Sometimes we even have a threesome with depression. It’s like you two hang out together. Feeding off and into each other. Into me.

But, Anxiety, I’ve lost touch with you recently. To be honest, it’s like you just walked out on me. Where are you? Where have you gone and how long for?

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want you to rush back. The last few weeks have felt so good without you.

But then… maybe I’ll start to miss you and the things you do for me. Because you are someone I go to as a knee-jerk reaction, a default setting, and in a very backwards way you are protective and safe.

But right now, I’m telling you, Anxiety, feel free to stay away as long as you like. Seriously. I love it now you’re not here.

When you come knocking at my door again, there’s no guarantee I’ll let you back in, but if I do, it won’t be for long. I might even be strong enough to kick you out.

Love,

Jo