Looking forward, looking back

20161230_150620 This year… well. It’s been a tricky one and, I’ll admit, that sometimes it’s been hard to rationalise what’s been happening in the world. It’s been a confusing, sad year and there have been times when it’s seemed scary and unknowable. I’m not sure if 2017 will be any better in that respect, but I have to believe that there will be hope. Otherwise, what’s the point?

From a personal perspective, 2016 was OK; I navigated the world the best I could. One of my highlights was talking to Lauren Laverne on her radio show about my experiences with postnatal depression. After that conversation, one of my friends opened up to me about her experiences. It felt good to help someone and for me to acknowledge what I’d gone through (which I hadn’t done hugely openly before) and to know that I was helping someone else. I want to keep having these conversations, to keep helping others where I can. Mental health issues will continue to be important and as anxiety about the world increases, we need to support each other as best we can. We need to help each other. I want to be kind in 2017; goodness knows, it feels like we’re going to need it. I also need to help D understand about kindness to others. It’s never too early!

2017 will also mean changes: D will start school in September (which I cannot quite believe), but this poses questions for me. I always knew I wasn’t going to have another child, so this period means that I can start to look at my career- I’ve been working three days a week for the last three years. Do I increase my hours? Stay the same, but pick up more freelance work? Study? I don’t know yet. It’s quite thrilling but also terrifying. I’ve never really been good with change; my life has been pretty risk-averse! But I want to start exploring avenues and options that I’ve never been confident enough to try. I want to embody the fearlessness of Carrie Fisher (whose novels I would like to read in 2017- as well as finally getting round to seeing Star Wars!)

stay-afraid-but-do-it-any-way-what-s-important-10041241My new years resolutions are simple: sort out my passport (it’s due to expire this year- and it’s still in my maiden name, despite the fact that I’ve been married for nearly six years!); bake something sweet and vegan so that my boss can eat some of the cake I take into work; write to three people I admire (after Victoria Wood died, I sorely regretted never having written to her. I might start with Alan Bennett. After all, it worked with Angela Lansbury!); and to grow red sweet peas, even though I’ve heard they don’t smell much. But it’d be wrong to not grow my favourite flower in my favourite colour, even if I only do it once.

Other than this, it’ll just be business as usual- trying to keep my anxiety about the world in check, being kind to others where I can and trying to sleep well (insomnia is an unwelcome friend at the moment.) I just want to try my best in 2017.

I wish you and yours a happy, peaceful 2017.

Angela Lansbury, the NHS and looking forward to Christmas

Hello! It’s been a while, hasn’t it? How’ve you been? I’ve been good, if busy, and life has done that thing it does sometimes where it sort of meanders away from you in a haze of stress and too much junk food because you’re too tired to eat properly. I’ve also been hding from the news and stuff, because I’m not 100% sure how I’m coping with the wider world on a daily basis. It’s a wonder we don’t run around wailing at the state of it all.

So, on a smaller scale, where are we at here? Well, D had an operation on December 2nd- a fairly straightforward one, to remove his adenoids and to put grommets in his ears. We’d first had him tested just before last Christmas and discovered that he did have a degree of hearing loss. As I’d had glue ear as a kid (and I have an on-going processing disorder as a result), I suspected he might have it himself- so I was relieved when we knew what it was and how it would be treated. And, unlike me having the op in 1990, he didn’t have to stay in hospital overnight, which was a HUGE relief. He was diagnosed quickly and within eight weeks of confirmation, he’d been operated on. Thank goodness for the NHS- it really is bonkers that some people want to get rid of it. I can’t praise the staff at the Royal Alex highly enough. Every single person who worked with us and D throughout the whole process was lovely and I’m very grateful that they have given him his hearing back. He’s got a whole new part of the world and it truly is a bit of a marvel to see.

You may also be wondering why I’ve mentioned Dame Angela Lansbury in the title of this post (unless you follow me on social media, in which case you’ll totally know what I’m on about…) D has become slightly obsessed with Murder, She Wrote on ITV3 every evening. We were channel-surfing one night and he asked to watch a bit. I figured there was not really any harm and: BOOM. His new heroine is Jessica Fletcher. It’s now a bit of a shared passion of ours, if I’m honest.

Anyway, I wrote to Dame Angela, asking whether it would be possible to have a signed picture for him. I had read that she usually sends out printed autographs- this was fine- although I explained about the operation and D’s love of Jessica Fletcher. So imagine my surprise when we received this:

15039737_10154002715702267_7634002859009306621_o She even addressed the envelope herself (I double checked the handwriting with examples online.) And so, dear reader, there is proof that there is good in the world in 2016- and that good is Dame Angela Lansbury. I framed it and hid it until the night before the operation; D insisted we take it with us to the hospital, much to the bemusement and amusement of the adults who spotted it. It now lives on our mantelpiece, as if Jessica Fletcher is our long-lost aunt. It makes D happy, confuses the hell out of Benn and makes me feel like I did something cool for my kid- everyone’s a winner.

And now term has ended, I don’t have much in the way of work to do over the holidays and all is well with the world. D is going to be Joseph in the nursery Nativity, I am going to read and knit (I won a £250 Etsy giftcard, which I seem to be intent on spending on new yarn, despite good intentions to use it for gifts throughout the year) and just unwinding. It’s been a whiplash of a year and I just need to recover. Who knows- maybe I’ll get back into the blogging spirit!

Thoughts from beside Anne Bronte’s grave

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Anne Bronte is the only member of the family to be buried in Scarborough; after her death, aged 29 in 1849, Charlotte made the decision to ‘lay the flower where it had fallen’ and bury her sister quickly (there were three mourners at Anne’s funeral- Charlotte, their friend Ellen Nussey and their old school teacher, Miss Wooler.) The spot she chose would have been picturesque in 1849, beneath the castle walls and with a view out to the north bay. It still is a peaceful spot, albeit the bottom half of the graveyard is now a car park. Nothing, it seems, gets in the way of modernity.

Harbour from the top of the castle #scarboroughcastle #scarborough #sea…:

View of the North Bay and harbour from the top of Scarborough Castle

Although I knew I definitely wanted to visit Anne’s grave, I was taken aback when D and I stumbled upon it by accident on a morning walk (where inspired by the old fellas on their walks to buy papers or to give their dogs a wander, he began to return their greetings with a cheery- and very northern- ‘MORNING!’, much to everyone’s amusement.) Unbeknownst to us, we were staying five minutes away.

The day was warm and sunny, and even D realised we were somewhere that required a bit of quiet. We sat on a bench next to the grave and looked at the view; the sea was calm and the view was stunning. I noticed that there was a spot in front of the grave where the feet of people who were visiting had worn away the grass. I wondered how many people visited the spot every day. I’d been told that there were often flowers on the grave, but there were none on either of the two days I visited. I had looked for wildflowers to put down, but had had no look. Maybe they would have been more appropriate for Emily anyway.

In a funny way, I think it’s appropriate that Anne is the Bronte who is not buried at Haworth; she was the only member of the family who really had any professional success in a job away from home. Although she disliked being a governess, she was able to cope being away from her siblings. If it was Emily buried far away, I imagine she’d haunt Scarborough like Cathy until her remains were returned to the family vault.

Also, in a lot of ways, Anne is the family outcast. In a literary sense, she’s often left out in the cold. I’ve never met anyone who raves about her work in the same way they do about that of her sisters. No one ever says, breathlessly, that they are definitely an ‘Anne’. So maybe it’s fitting that the quietest Bronte is on her own, and noticed and visited for herself.

A few days later, we were in York when I had a sudden urge to walk down a particular street. It turned out that some part of my subconscious apparently remembered that there was a Bronte-related plaque:

Casual #Bronte spotting in #York. It's now a Next.:

“On 24 May 1849, Anne said her goodbyes to her father and the servants at Haworth, and set off for Scarborough with Charlotte and Ellen Nussey. En route, they spent a day and a night in York, where, escorting Anne around in a wheelchair, they did some shopping, and at Anne’s request, visited York Minster. However, it was clear that Anne had little strength left.”

I must have walked past it on previous trips to  York, but something drew me back- it’s pretty inconspicuous. After I took the picture and was walking away, it dawned on me that the reason that Anne and Charlotte had stayed on the site was that they were on their way to Scarborough, where Anne would die four days later. Four days had lapsed between finding the grave and finding the plaque.

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Anne’s death, coming as it did so soon after those of Emily and her brother Branwell, seems so tragic. Her apparent strength in the face of death seems brave and admirable (although it seems that Charlotte’s claim that her sister welcomed and longed for death are wrong; Anne wrote in a letter that she had many things she still wished to accomplish.)

On Sunday, 27 May, Anne asked Charlotte whether it would be easier if she returned home to die instead of remaining in Scarborough. A doctor, consulted the next day, indicated that death was close. Anne received the news quietly. She expressed her love and concern for Ellen and Charlotte, and seeing Charlotte’s distress, whispered to her to “take courage”. Conscious and calm, Anne died at about two o’clock in the afternoon, Monday, 28 May 1849.

There’s a plaque on the side of the Grand Hotel commemorating the place of her death..

I mused on the life of a quiet, shy woman who had written books that challenged early Victorian views of women. I wondered whether she would have been happy with the choice of her final resting place, or whether she would have preferred to be buried in the church at Haworth. And then, my thoughts interrupted by the chattering of an excited child desperate to get down to the beach, I walked back home in the sunshine.

Postnatal depression, music and me

A weird thing happened to me a couple of weeks ago and because we haven’t had any wi-fi, I haven’t been able to write about it (even though I really, really wanted to.)

Back in July, I was listening to Lauren Laverne on BBC6 Music; as part of the show, she has a weekly feature called ‘Memory Tapes’. I’d been listening to a girl talking about her life and listening to Sigur Ros as she flew over Iceland and I thought maybe I could email in my own memory tape. So I did- and promptly forgot all about it. Except about two weeks later, I got an email back asking if I would be free to be on the show on August 10th. OBVIOUSLY, I said yes.

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Source: BBC6Music

My memory tape had been built around Benn and D, specifically songs that reminded me of key moments in my life with both- and I mentioned in my email (it’s on this page here) that I had struggled with PND. Although I’d never been explicit about my struggle with it online, I have been vocal about it away from social media and the blog. I knew that this element interested the producers of the show and I was determined to talk about it openly. So I did. (Despite the aforementioned lack of wi-fi making it bloody hard work to organise the whole thing.)

Now, I’m a massive fan of Lauren and have been for years, so I was dead nervous. Turns out, she’s absolutely lovely and encouraging. It was a bit weird hearing her do radio stuff before my call was cued in, but I tried hard to focus on what was being asked. I talked about how music was the anchor that threaded together my memories of D’s early months-I have huge swathes of stuff that’s forgotten or unknown to me and I can piece them together through a few songs. I spoke about how I knew I was lucky that I had had an excellent health visitor and GP, but that I knew not everyone was so fortunate. I guess I wanted people to know that you can get through it, but that we need to be more open and less dismissive when someone asks for help with their mental health. It took me months to admit that there was something wrong; when I was pregnant, I’d been assessed by a team as to how likely I was to get PND. They had been happy with my prognosis and I felt a bit of a failure when I realised something was up. In fact, I’d gone to the doctor about something else when it all came out. I am so, so grateful that she picked me up so quickly. It meant that it was nipped in the bud relatively early, although I would continue to be on medication until D was nearly three.

The aftermath of the call was slightly surreal; people sent lovely messages to the show which were read out on air and I had loads of supportive tweets. It felt good to talk about something that has been so important and shaped my life not so long ago. I’m fine now, but I know how it felt to not be fine. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help. Keep asking until you get it. Don’t be fobbed off.

After the call had gone out, I received an email asking if I minded if it went on the website- they’d had a huge response. Of course, I said it was fine. If you want to listen to it, it’s here. (Weirdly, I sound so much like my sister, it’s *creepy*.) I don’t know if it helped anyone, but hopefully it showed that PND is something that can be overcome with the right support. We need to talk about it more openly and make it less taboo to discuss it; to listen when someone asks for help and to notice maybe when they are unable to.

Spinning plates

Hello! I feel like it’s been ages since I sat down and actually blogged properly. Truth is, I’ve been super busy with work and stuff and it’s all kind of run away from me a bit. It happens.

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It’s always busy in the spring- it’s crunch time for getting Year 11 ready for their exams and I have to make sure that their coursework is all present and correct (this can sometimes feel like I’m herding gigantic kittens and managing a large load of printing at the same time). I also have to keep up with the rest of my work in a job that has recently made the top 5 most stressful jobs. Yay!

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Then, of course, I have a three year old at home- which is like herding many tiny kittens at the same time, with the added bonus of a really thick actual cat thrown into the mix to add to the fun. I’m not complaining though. I’ve learnt a lot about Lego Star Wars in the last few weeks and Bronte brought in a slow worm, which led to an interesting discussion with D about creatures that live in the garden.

I also recently started taking on a bit of freelance work: mainly proofreading and copywriting. It’s good to do some jobs that bring in a bit of extra work and money, and I’m choosing jobs that I can fit in around everything else. I’m not daft- I take work when it’s quiet elsewhere- but I enjoy it and I prefer it to signing up to do exam marking, which is way less flexible.

So, the upshot, I’ve been busy. But definitely in a good way. I’ve still managed to do bits and pieces that I liked (I’ve been working in the garden and I have three books on the go at any one time, as per), but I’ve appreciated them more than normal. I’ve also been sleeping BRILLIANTLY, which really is no surprise.

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The fact is, if I actually admit it, is that I like being busy. It shows me that I’m well and that my mental health is OK. It may be that it’s not always the right thing to do, but at the moment it serves me well. I like feeling useful and I like getting stuff done.

BUT! I am looking forward to the long weekend! I finished marking all of my Year 11 coursework (a Very Big Deal Indeed) and I have no work to do this weekend, bar prepping some display stuff. D is staying at his grandparents’ tomorrow and I am looking forward to just taking it easy. And I will very much enjoy and appreciate some downtime. After all, I think I deserve it.

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Prepping for spring!

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I have spent most of the last few months mourning a winter that has never quite arrived in Sussex; I’m convinced that people were wearing hats, scarves and big coats out of force of habit rather than necessity. Now that there’s some sunshine, I’m feeling a bit more hopeful and happy that our extended autumn (it feels like folly to label it ‘winter’) is on its way out. The days are starting to feel slightly longer and I’m feeling cheerful- it’s time to plan my garden!

A couple of weeks ago, I went on my annual trip to Seedy Sunday, held in the Corn Exchange in Brighton. As you can see, I came home with a huge amount of seeds, as well as some interesting varieties of seed potatoes and a membership to the Sussex Wildlife Trust.

Despite saying that I wouldn’t focus entirely on veggies this year, I did end up buying a ton of vegetable seeds; I always buy from Pennard Plants, as they have special show offers, I’ve used them before and, yep, I love the packets! This year, D had asked me to grow a pumpkin for Hallowe’en and a beanstalk (although I’ve had to explain that you’re going to get beans, rather than a giant, on your beanstalk), hence the fairytale-type packets. As well as vegetable seeds (I’m trying again with a couple of failures from last year, most notably squashes and tomatillos), I came home with lots of flowers- all of which, inexplicably begin with S. I’m obviously creating a Sesame Street garden without realising it.

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As well as my usual sweet peas, I’ve been really lusting after snapdragons. They’re so pretty and cheerful- I’m thinking of putting them in an area by the backdoor- and I fell in love with them last summer. They remind me a bit of the talking flowers in Alice in Wonderland. I’d also like some phlox and am debating planting crocuses and snowdrops later in the year so that they can be enjoyed next spring.

I’m also thinking about layout- last year, the potatoes were by the back door and more tender plants, such as tomatoes and courgettes were further up the garden, which meant that the snails and slugs (grr) could get to them before I noticed in some instances. However, I do have some unusual potato varieties this year- purple and blue!- so I don’t want them to be too far away! I also need to replace the raspberries, which I put in a quite frankly RIDICULOUS place last year and that need to come forward in the garden. Ah well, you live and learn.

Lastly, I’ve realised that I can’t do everything I want to do, which simply boils down to money. I have to decide if I want new terracotta pots or border plants and I can’t do everything. But I’ve accepted that it will most likely take me years to get the garden the way I want it and I am OK with that. I’ll just enjoy the process until then.

 

How women on TV shape my career goals

Now that D is three- and will be starting school in September 2017, eek!-I’ve started to think more about where my career is and where I would like it to go. At the moment, I’m happy where I am and what I’m doing, but there are things I would like to achieve (if I had a Five Year Plan, this is where it would come in.)

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll know that I LOVE TV. I like to say it’s because I teach Media Studies, but it’s really just that I’m a telly addict and have been forever. I love Netflix and I love a good binge-watch. What’s surprising is that I’ve found career inspiration in some of my favourite shows and that by watching these four women, I’ve started to think differently about my own job and the way that I work.

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Leslie Knope- Parks and Recreation

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Leslie Knope is a ball of contradictions- sometimes she’s brimming with self-confidence, other times, she’s on the floor with self-doubt. And although Amy Poehler (one of the greatest comedians of the 21st century, IMHO) plays Leslie for laughs, there is something in her character that most women can relate to; she’s a visible embodiment of someone with imposter syndrome. Leslie’s key strength, though, is her love and support for her colleagues. Yes, she looks after herself, but she cares deeply for those around her- and not in a self-sacrificing way.

Dana Scully- The X Files

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Scully (and Gillian Anderson) has been a heroine of mine since I was twelve. Although I’m not very good at emotional detachment, I’ve always admired Scully’s dedication to her job, her dry humour and her dogged pursuit of what she thinks is right. At work, next to my desk, I have a poster with a picture of Scully, reminding me that if I have a bad day I should think about what she would do. It stands me in good stead.(I also like Stella Gibson, Anderson’s character in The Fall, but don’t really feel the same connection to her. Did I mention I just really love Gillian Anderson?)

Viv Deering- No Offence

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If you haven’t seen No Offence yet, I urge you to seek it out (the series is on All 4). I loved Viv as soon as I saw her- northern and bold as brass, obsessed with clothes and very, very sweary. She’s sort of like the old stereotype of the northern, working class matriarch but updated and promoted to DI. She presents a tough-as-old-boots persona and won’t take nonsense from anybody, but isn’t vile to work for. Her sense of humour, ruthless determination to do her job well and her ability to stick up for those working for her make her an excellent, if occasionally slightly scary, boss. I want to be more self assured and trust my judgement a bit more- Viv’s the woman to look up to. (Also, when the young PC answers the above question with a hesitant “..Seven?” Viv replies “Oh, good. I do love a man who isn’t bothered about career progression.”)

Alicia Florrick- The Good Wife

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The Good Wife is my current obsession. I love it because it’s full of interesting female characters in addition to Alicia (Kalinda, Diane and my personal soulmate in the world of work, Elsbeth Tascioni), but my focus in terms of career is Alicia. She mucks it up sometimes, she often feels like she’s struggling to parent her kids and she has to deal with an on/off husband who is a bit of a git. Yet, she manages something that resembles a work/life balance (she also drinks a lot of red wine) and looks amazing at all times. I am currently debating whether I am going to grow my hair into an ‘Alicia’. But it’s the way that she negotiates her career that impresses me. It doesn’t always go right, but she brushes herself off and starts again- and this attitude is one worth holding on to at times of disappointment.

I guess all these women have a lot in common and represent idealised versions of women in the workplace. However, I reckon if I can channel just a little of what they have in my own job, I can see improvements. We’ll see.

Tell me- who do you admire in a career sense?

 

Some thoughts on detox teas

A few years ago, I had a nerdy tea blog (you can read it here.) It really was the start of my tea obsession- I mean, I reviewed sixteen types of Earl Grey as an experiment- and it’s really interesting to note how massive tea has become since I wrote it.

Every now and then, though, I find myself going back to it when I see the expensive detox teas doing giveaways. I did a detailed breakdown of what went into these teas and why they really aren’t worth the money; they are pretty much the modern equivalent of snake oil in some cases. The case I looked at back then was a spectacularly dodgy-looking outfit (there were accusations of fraud and over-charging) and, while I’m not accusing any of the newer brands of doing anything like that, I do think it’s important to research what goes into this often very expensive, highly marketed teas.

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If you want to see my whole post, it’s here– but I’ve also cut and pasted the breakdown of ingredients in that particular tea, which are pretty common in the ‘detox regime’ teas. You could have similar effects with bog-standard (read: cheap) herbal teas. The teas promise fast results for a very expensive system (this one was offering a two-week course for £40); in fact they won’t do much.

BTW, I’m not a scientist. I Googled. Check with your doctor if you intend to do anything health-related, obviously. I’m just trying to save you some money.

Oolong tea: on its own, oolong is used as a weight loss aid. So you could pick up a decent packet of this for around four quid (you’d get more than thirty cups out of it too…)

Hawthorn: Again, another ingredient that is used in Eastern medicine for digestion. You can buy tablets from Holland and Barratt if you really want to try this (but fennel and peppermint are much cheaper and nicer as teas)

Lotus leaves: basically another digestive aid, with added roughage.

Alisma rhizome: stimulates the kidneys and makes you pee. So you’ll lose water weight. Which you would put back on really easily. You could just drink more liquids (including green tea and water) if you want to cut down on  bloating.

Cassia seeds- most commonly used in laxatives.

Gynostemma Pentaphyllum- this may lower cholesterol. But so do apples, brown rice and avocados. Still not seeing how this tea is worth eighty quid a month.

Poria- another pee-inducing ingredient

Anyway. Nothing will ‘detox’ you except your liver and kidneys. You could have these effects by eating better, upping your water intake and exercising. I get it that these are attractive (I would love to be able to not worry about my weight!), but please think before you give up your money for a silver bullet that just isn’t worth it.

Musings on a mural

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The day after Boxing Day, I needed to get out of the house for a bit. I wasn’t up for a run (I haven’t been for a run since my ill-fated attempt at Hove Park Run last month…), so I decided to go for a long walk around where I live.

I found myself in a tiny graveyard. I was half looking for a particular grave that I knew was there but, like most of December, the day was damp and gloomy- and it wasn’t a good day for a grave hunt (I’ll probably blog about the hows and whys of my search in a future blogpost. It’s a writing related thing.) I also felt a bit odd, wandering around a graveyard on my own, dressed ever so slightly like Justin Bieber. I appeared a bit weird, if I’m honest. And then my eye was drawn to the little church that sits by the graveyard.

I’ve lived near this church, on and off, for most of the time I’ve lived in Brighton, but I’ve never been in. I only found the graveyard about ten months ago, by accident. I noticed that the church was open, so I stepped inside. It was a welcome respite from the weather and I was curious to see what it looked like in the actual church itself.

What I found was a small, pretty church with three thirteenth century murals- the picture above is the best one and it tells the story of the murder of Thomas Becket. It fascinated me and I sat there for a while, just looking at it. I’m not religious, but I found myself sitting in this deserted church (it’s no longer used for worship, but is open most days for visitors), deep in thought. I mean, it’s not every day that you unexpectedly come across a mediaeval religious painting about a mile from your house, is it?

The thought that struck me was that the mural was nearly 800 years old. Somebody at that time painted these pictures on the walls, with no idea that some weird girl, 800 years in the future, would sit there thinking about it all. I thought about all the people who had sat in the church over the centuries, looking at the paintings- whether through devotion, boredom, curiosity or a mixture of all three. Inrealised that the existence of the paintings means that the area where I live has been inhabited for nearly a thousand years and that the church has seen plague outbreaks, survived Henry VIII’s reformation of the church, civil war, a massive fire in 1906 and everything else. It’s slightly mind-bending. I’ve looked at a book that was published just after Shakespeare’s death and the park that contains the church has two ancient elm trees which have stood since the time of Elizabeth I. Both of these thungs impresed me with their longevity. I feel it whenever I go to a museum. Time is everywhere.

I found that I thought a lot about that mural and about time in the days running up to new year. We all get wrapped up in thoughts of ‘new year, new me’ and become focused on stuff like that. But we’re just specks in time, aren’t we? We all think, thanks to stuff like Doctor Who, we’ve become more confident with stuff to do with time and space and history and science, but it’s funny how one thing-in my case, a picture of a martyr- can make you really stop and look hard at your life and your place in the world.

 

 

Ten years in Brighton

Ten years ago today, I packed a few bags and a couple of small boxes of belongings into my aunt’s teeny tiny hire car and drove from Lancashire (I’d been at my cousin’s wedding the night before) to Brighton, unsure of what would happen to me once there. I’d had a really rough couple of months- the details are not interesting- and had managed to get a compassionate transfer to the Brighton office of the arm of the Civil Service I’d been working for in the six months since I’d left uni. I started applying to study for my PGCE at the Brighton universities. I was certain this was what I wanted.

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Brighton had seemed, to a lot of people, an odd choice. Surely I should have gone to my other favoured city, Manchester? It was near to my home city of Leeds and it was just, well, northern. But I’d been to uni in the North West and, although I’d enjoyed my visits to Manchester and generally loved everything about it, I didn’t know anyone there. I also didn’t know it as well as Brighton, where my aunt had lived for a few years and where I’d been on holiday a few times. I also knew I wanted to live near the sea.

I came down here with a vague idea that I’d stay for six months. I’m still here. I have friends, family (my aunt is still here!) and a whole support network that I’ve made from scratch. I met Benn on my first day in the office and in two weeks we’ll be celebrating being together for ten years. I no longer recognise Leeds when I walk around and feel like a fish out of water whenever I visit; I used to be able to navigate its streets at 3am on a Saturday night with no problem, no matter how much I’d had to drink. I could only do that now in my adopted city.

I’ve lived a third of my life by the sea (although, ironically, I rarely get to go and actually look at it!) and my life has changed completely and utterly. I’m still sometimes as sad as I was when I arrived, but I know that I have so much to help me get through it. If you’d have told me, when I moved here, that I’d be married with a kid, a job I’ve been in nearly nine years and a group of excellent friends, I wouldn’t have believed you.

And although the city sometimes drives me mad and I threaten that I’m going to move back up north, I still love it.

Here’s to the next ten years, Brighton.