Baby Steps

We all know it’s been… a year. I don’t care who you are, unless you’re a multibillionaire, 2020 has not been kind to you.

It’s felt like it’s piled up here, in my house: I started the year ill (labyrinthitis), got ill again with probable COVID in March, balanced the longer effects of said illness (nine months and counting!) with homeschooling, working as a keyworker and generally trying to keep life going generally in a straight line. All was relatively fine- as fine as it can be during a global pandemic, anyway- until my husband had an accident in June that led to a period of testing and quarantining so he could have operations. Add a child who has an uncanny habit of catching cold and we’ve now done five bouts of isolation, which is about as fun as you imagine it to be.

Throughout all this, it has been very easy to give into the wave of despair. There’s nothing we can do, is there? We have no control over vaccines, or shutting airports, or Brexit, or whether people go on long drives to test their eyesight with their small child in the car. It has all felt so hopeless. And now we’re to be shut down again for how long, because the warning signs of the spring, of Italy, of a pandemic a hundred years before haven’t been heeded. Because, because, because.

I remember very clearly a sunny day in April, where I sat on the bottom step in my house and cried. Not just gentle, Hollywood-feminine crying of a single tear, but full-on ugly snotty crying, with proper sobbing that I suspect the neighbours might have heard had they had their backdoor open. I had had a bad day with homeschooling. I was tired. My sense of smell and taste hadn’t come back yet. I had had enough. I remember thinking I had no idea what to do or how I would change anything. I could feel the anxiety of years building up and threatening to wash over me in a huge, virus-based tsunami.

But then I thought: baby steps.

I couldn’t change the big things, but I could do something small. I could wash my face- that would be a small step towards something like normality. On the mornings I couldn’t rouse myself out of bed, the cat would demand I did so anyway because she needed to be fed and cats don’t care if you’re ill. Time became a soup, rather than a linear thing, so the baby steps became a routine of marking out hours, minutes, even seconds if I needed to get through them to the next thing. It became a game: if I got through this hour, I could do X. If I got through the whole day, I could do Y – which was normally to go to my allotment, which became a very good way to keep track of time because of seasons and squirrels stealing my vegetables requiring my attention.

Slowly, I found I was able to cope. Of course, I couldn’t change the big things but I could manage some kind of control. If I’m honest, all I wanted to do was whatever the human equivalent is of that thing cats do where they lie down with their paws tucked underneath them. I still haven’t managed that. But I managed to bring a sense of calm, most days, to a brain that seems sometimes utterly incapable of doing it by itself.

2020 has also taught me that I’m not quite the fatalist I thought I was. Instead, I was able to find small slices of optimism: sometimes, it was as simple as a nice day meant I could go on a long walk wherever my feet took me. Suburban Brighton isn’t quite Paris, but it’s good enough on a sunny day. Plus everyone planted tulips, so of course I have planted lots for next year. There’s also comfort in the fact that these days will pass, although we don’t know when. I suspect they will be fascinating for future historians and that many books will be written about this period. Politics and history exist in cycles, because humans are driven by them. One day, these politicians, this prime minister, will be a memory and a lesson in how not to do things. Hopefully a change will come soon.

People give me optimism. As a whole, I believe we’re more good than we sometimes think. Yes, there are unpleasant people, but you can’t focus on them. As Mr Rogers said: we should always look for the helpers.

Baby steps.

The importance of being ordinary

I’ve been ruminating lately on what it means to be ‘ordinary’. We live in a society where we’re told, from being very young, that we should strive to be extraordinary: be famous, be beautiful, be clever, be rich. Alexander the Great had conquered half the world by the time he was, what. seven? Why haven’t you written a dozen best-selling novels by the age of 36? Hell, why haven’t you written ONE? Everyone wants to be descended from Cleopatra, but then gets disappointed when they find out that their Who Do You Think You Are moment is back to back Welsh miners and Irish labourers (hiya, ancestors!)

Alexander the Great: extraordinary, with lovely hair as well apparently.

At the same time, we’re told that ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things- especially in a pandemic. Protests, Major Tom, staying at home to combat the virus. But it doesn’t really compare, really, when you’re looking at those 30 under 30 lists and feeling like you’re hurtling towards insignificance. We’re all meant to achieve something before we’re forty, or else (as society puts it) we’re for the scrapheap. Societal gaslighting at its finest.

But what if we rejected this narrative? Embraced just being ordinary, whatever that means for each of us. I grew up in a very working-class, northern family in the 90s, where standing out was frowned upon, where being bullied was thought as probably being partly my fault because I went out of my way to stand out (I didn’t. I was just an eccentric child, a trait that I am noticing is developing in my own child, but which I embrace, rather than squash.) I didn’t pursue my interest in acting because it wasn’t a ‘real job’. I suspect my journalism degree was only tolerated because it might lead to a job and also I needed an A-level in English, which was seen as a proper subject. Ironically, being taught that I shouldn’t stand out meant I didn’t have the guts to try and get an actual job in journalism and that my confidence means I’m always a bit squeamish when chasing writing jobs and rarely think I’m good enough to do so. Tough crowd, your inner critic.

Being extraordinary looks quite tiring and, as I experienced burnout as a teacher, I’m not sure I’m really built for it. Sure, it’d be nice to have some of the things that come with being special. Maybe sometimes I’m a bit jealous. But not so much that I can’t feel pride for my friends when they achieve things I wish I could do. I know a lot of writers who have actually published books.

But. There have been times when I have been grateful for my ‘ordinary’ life. I am immensely privileged to have a nice life, much easier than that I grew up in. I have everything I need and I do not live in fear. I have a job. I am well and my kid and husband are healthy. Everything is in a fine balance and right now the plates are balanced without too much spinning from me. As a lifelong anxiety sufferer, I am always ready for the next catastrophe and 2020 has felt like the Olympics for me. I can’t rest on my laurels for too long.

And 2020 has felt like the year of the ordinary person. It has been them who have stood up when those we are told are extraordinary have screwed up- delivering meals, protesting injustice, helping those who need it. We can’t always depend on the extraordinary to do the right thing, we have learnt this year. We have to stick together, in our ordinariness. If we do that, we can support the quietly extraordinary people who work behind the scenes- not the dodgy politicians spouting about how we don’t believe in experts, but the actual experts- to do what they need to do to help everyone. Nobody is an island. It’s just some islands are less showy than others.

Going back to the ancestors thing- we shouldn’t be disappointed when we learn we’re not descendants of Cleopatra or Edward I or whoever. Think about all those generations who went before you, all the quite probable ordinary lives (unless you’re hugely aristocratic, or something) that led to you being here. All the disease, the war, the mistreatment, the malnutrition that was survived in order to produce you. You are here because of those so-called ‘ordinary’ people who BBC producers would probably think were too boring to produce an hour long show about.

Embrace your ordinariness. There’s a hell of a lot to be said about it.

Bookworming my way through 2020

Happy new year! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it’s pretty brutal out there right now. 2020 is going to need some serious self-soothing and we’re only eight days in… It’s good and important to be aware of what’s going on in the world, but it’s important if you can- and you need to- take a break from the news. Add to this the added expectations of new years’ resolutions and it all seems that we’re in a permanent state of anxiety and a never ending discussion of how to make ourselves feel better. (Although to be honest my main resolution seems to be ‘make more pies’, so I’m not exactly Gwyneth Paltrow.)

Last year, on a whim, I bought a beautiful hardback copy of The Secret Garden. I have a bit of a thing for very nice, yet relatively inexpensive hardback copies of classics. I was, I decided, going to save it for when I was feeling my anxiety creep up and revisit a favourite from my childhood. In this vein I have also picked up three more classic books I loved as a small girl- Heidi, A Little Princess and Little Women (even though I can’t even remember if I liked the book much as a kid, or whether my A-level Media Studies essay comparing the 1994 film of Little Women with The Virgin Suicides ruined the story for me.) I’m not going to lie to you, either- I bought the latter three purely because they have beautiful covers designed by Anna Bond of Paper Rifle- apparently you can get a copy of Alice in Wonderland and Anne of Green Gables also. I have my eye on a very nice edition of The Borrowers, too, mainly because a) the compendium of novels given to me by my Grandma for Christmas the year the stories were adapted for the BBC remains one of my favourite presents ever and also b) as a small ginger child with limited role models, Arietty was the OG.

But. Those books also hold very strong emotional memories, something I’m revisiting by reading Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm: A Memoir of Childhood Reading, which I pre-ordered ages ago and then didn’t get round to reading until now- proving my belief that every book has its Martine McCutcheon-esque perfect moment. I remember reading all of those books in cheap volumes collected from one of those part-works which came with a magazine (discarded), each book bound in faux leather with oft-smudged type printed on very thin paper. I loved them.

Life wasn’t always easy- home could be difficult and I was badly bullied at school- so I was quite drawn to stories about little girls with hard lives, even if I seriously doubted whether I would ever be the benefactor of a mysteriously well-timed windfall. I remember being mesmerised by the thought of goat’s milk in Heidi (god, that was a disappointment, as an adult. Johanna Spyri really sold me a number on how delicious that was.) and obsessed with the idea of a garden of my own, which I fully attribute the fact I have a garden and an allotment to. I even have my own robins which follow me round, unimpressed. Just call me Mary, yeah?

So why am I writing about these novels, now? Mainly because I think, like the Lucy Mangan book, for me these books’ time is now. I need escapism again, but this time from the wider world. I’m curious to see how I respond to the books as an adult with my own child (did I really love Little Women, or no?) So, aside from making pies, I’m going to make 2020 the year I revisit the books I loved so much and that meant so much to me. I’m hoping that I find some of the same comfort in the stories again. I think it’s also important that I never taught any of these novels, so they have a position in my brain where they are linked purely for enjoyment and escape- and I have a feeling that we’re going to need a lot of both to get through the early months of what already feels like a turbulent year.

Writer’s HQ: Brighton Writing Retreat

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Please note, the author of this post is not as glamorous as Joan Crawford.

I have been trying to write a novel for two years. I have the idea, but I am not very disciplined. Luckily, my friend Jo is better at this stuff than I am and has had loads of success with her writing- and is one half of Writer’s HQ. She suggested that I try one of the monthly writer’s retreats held around the country.

Through writing sprints and goal-setting (and gold stars), the retreats aim to help you unlock your potential and get something down on paper/screen. I bumbled up with the aim of a thousand words and a short story submission for Mslexia magazine. Within an hour, I’d smashed both of those things and started working on something that could later be a novel. By the end of the day- which is also filled with a great lunch and generous servings of tea and cake- I’d written 6,500 words, earned three gold stars AND had loads of goes on the giant indoor swing.

The atmosphere was supportive and no-one read their work out, which was a relief. We all had different goals: writing short stories, plays, screenplays, pitches; editing. I’m pretty sure all of us left with a sense of accomplishment. And everyone was so nice! In the breaks, we chatted about books, babies and all sorts of other things. If I didn’t have pesky commitments (a child and a husband with a Brighton season ticket), I’d seriously be there every month.

Since going, I’ve found a way of working in twenty minute sessions that’s way more productive than trying to work for a solid hour (I can write 1000 words in two twenty minute sprints, whereas a full forty minute session would probably be mostly me pratting about on Twitter.) And although I have yet to get into a solid, regular writing habit, they have a free online course starting in a couple of weeks which I’m signed up for. I’ve previously completed their Seven Ideas in Seven Days course (review here), so I am DETERMINED to finish this bloody novel, mainly because I’d like my brain back for a bit without the characters taking over.

It’s also worth mentioning that you can try all of the courses free for seven days and then sign up for full membership if you want. I can also highly recommend the Writer’s HQ Facebook groups for support, even if I did accidentally make someone cry with a piece I put on there.

So go forth and write. Join a retreat and have fun. I’ll buy your novel at the end of it.

 

Dance like nobody’s watching

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I am not a natural dancer. My hearing isn’t brilliant, so I can often miss the beat. I have the hand-eye co-ordination of a sloth who has had too much caffeine. I certainly don’t look like a dancer. But that doesn’t mean I don’t try. I mean, I watch Strictly! I know the names of certain dances!

I have certainly tried very hard in the past to be a dancer, although I came to it quite late. Much to my mother’s despair, I was never interested in ballet and she never forced it on me (I was much more your dinosaurs-and-motorbikes kind of girl as a preschooler.) But later on, a relatively well-known dance company came to my school and, desperate not to be the pudgy, badly bullied girl with a bad haircut I was, I signed up. I was good at Drama and thought I could put aside my self-esteem issues and become A DANCER! I tried so hard. I went on the outing to the dance studio. I went to see the dance company perform. I can’t actually remember if I performed. Maybe I’ve blocked it out. Oh, I was so bad. I was awkward, from being a teenager. I was awkward because I was picked on by the girls who took to dance more naturally. But by Jove, I can still remember that ridiculous dance and I could still probably perform it, although having gone through puberty proper and childbirth since, it’d be quite a tricky ask. And a  few years ago I used my Christmas money to sign up for jive lessons. I loved it. For about three weeks until I discovered I was pregnant and then my life became one of nausea and exhaustion. I still can’t hear ‘Rock Around The Clock’ without my feet beginning to shuffle though.

I never dance in public- I haven’t been to a club since the Romans were being chased around Anglia by Boudicca- although I’ll have a quick mum-shuffle round the dancefloor at a wedding if I’ve had enough gin and the buffet has had enough vegetarian food to keep me going. I love dancing. But dancing with others is not my passion. No. My passion is dancing around my kitchen, by myself, flailing to something probably from the 80s. Imagine me, dear Reader, only this evening throwing myself about to Bowie’s Modern Love and Wham!’s I’m Your Man, dressed in leggings and a man’s jumper thrown over a dress that resembles a scandalously short monk’s cassock. I looked ridiculous- but I was happy.

Goodness knows, the world is an unhappy place at the moment. My mind is an unhappy place a lot of the time and my body- well, that’s a battleground all of its own. But when I am enthusiastically throwing myself around the ground floor of my house, music turned up, safe in the knowledge that no-one can see me (save my son, who may or may not enthusiastically join in by spinning on the spot so much that I have to boogie away from him in order to not feel sick myself.) It feels good. I’m not judging myself, no one else is judging me; I’m not really thinking. If I did, I’d probably be horrified by the ‘shapes’ I’m ‘throwing’. But it’s my kitchen, my music. I love it. Afterwards, I know I’ll feel tired and a bit daft, but I’ll also feel euphoric, even if only for a bit. I won’t change politics, I won’t change the things that stress me out, but I will have a break from them. Ultimately, it’s an escape from my own brain and that is always welcome.

I’m not one for a ‘new year, new you’, because quite frankly it’s nonsense. But a quick dad dance round the kitchen to old-school Kylie? Sign me up.

Strictly Come Dancing: Week #13- The Final (Part 2)

We’re baaaack. After a quite frankly disappointingly conservative set of showdances (seriously, where was the Lycra? The high-wire stunts?) and slightly uninspiring judge’s choices, it was quite clear that unless there was a major shocker, Katie was going. Still, at least Anton got his ‘journey to the final’ narrative this series.

Jay and Aliona- Paso Doble (It’s My Life)

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I’m not 100% sure why they’ve picked this- it’s nowhere near their highest scorer and I think that most people (myself included) would have preferred their jive to have been revisited and they did say that they wanted something they wanted to improve on.  This was definitely a brilliant paso and SO powerful. Throughout the series, Jay has made dancing look so effortless and stunning- those shapes he can make with his body are just mind-blowing. (Also, fun fact- my mum is not a Strictly viewer, but she’s sat through it with me tonight and has turned into a rabid Jay fan, which is quite fun.) CRAIG! WHY NO TEN?! Gah.

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno- 10 ORIGINAL SCORE: 33 TOTAL:39

Georgia and Giovanni- Charleston (Hot Honey Rag)

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I loved this Charleston first time round- it was (is?) the highest scoring Charleston of the series and was when I think Georgia really started showing what she was capable of. Of all the dances tonight, this is the one that scored the highest on its original outing. Again, it was light, bouncy and fun- and was a brilliant dance for Georgia to end her Strictly experience on.

Scores: Craig-10 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno-10 ORIGINAL SCORE: 39 TOTAL: 40

Kellie and Kevin- Charleston (Star Wars Cantina Band)

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Oh, very clever. Do your Star Wars themed dance the weekend a certain small, low budget movie opens. This surprised me when I first saw it; I remember not being certain that it would work, but it did. This was definitely sharper than before and just as much fun. (I still think that raucous Viennese Waltz is my favourite of Kellie and Kevin’s dances, or their beautiful Fred ‘n’ Ginger routine from last week.) OH CRAIG. AGAIN?

Scores: Craig-9 Darcey-10 Len-10 Bruno-10 ORIGINAL SCORE: 32 TOTAL:40

I’d be quite happy with whoever wins, tbh.

And the winner of Strictly 2015 is….. JAY! (I definitely said he was a dark horse from the start.) I am so pleased, but also sad for the other two, who I liked equally well. It also shows, too, how the judges and the voting public can veer wildly from each other.

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So we’re done. After spending HOURS writing up this blog- roughly about 15,000 words worth of typing- and being a general smartarse on social media, I can’t quite believe it! I’m not sure if I’ll do it again next year, but it’s been a lot of fun.

Strictly Come Dancing: Week #10

Well, this week was sure to be a bit of a cracker, wasn’t it? After all, we’ve spent the last few days living through #Jameliagate and Ola claiming everything’s a fix- it’s certainly been stormy. As we get towards the end, it gets more exciting, right? There’s nowhere I’d rather be than on the sofa, being a smartarse on Twitter about people who are always going to be way better at dancing than me.

Alas, I was at a cricket club dinner with Benn last night (we NEVER go out twice in a month, so I’m not quite sure what happened there) which ended with me getting into a debate about the merits of Margaret Thatcher. I’m pleased to say that I stayed calm. It’s safe to say that I did miss Strictly. So, without further ado, let’s get going…

Kellie and Kevin- Salsa (I Want You Back)

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Aw, I love this song- it’s cute and fun, which kind of sums these two up in my mind. In the same way I could never find a Kirsty fan, I’ve never met anyone who dislikes these two. This was fun and light (these Latin dances are always much easier to watch when the celebrity is a good dancer, no?) and I enjoyed it. I liked that you could see the cogs working when Kellie and Kevin were trying to work out Len’s ‘GR8’ comment, too.

Scores: Craig- 8  Darcey- 8 Len- 9 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 34

Katie and Anton- Argentine Tango (Libertango)

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You know how Anton has, like, super fans who will vote for him regardless? I never understand quite why- maybe it’s his longevity on the show, or his chin, or the fact he changed his name so that it’d sound a bit more suave or something- I’m not one of them. I don’t mind him, though, and last week’s American Smooth is one of my favourite dances of this series. I’m always a bit wary of him and Katie doing ‘sexy’ dances (although I appreciated that their rumba wasn’t smutty) so I’ll admit I came to this dance a bit reluctantly. I liked that someone in wardrobe decided that Katie should be dressed as a stroppy mermaid this week and that this was a proper, old-school Argentine tango (Anton is never going to jazz his dances up, is he?) with loads of kicks and flicks. I liked it.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 32

Helen and Aljaz- Viennese Waltz (At Last)

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I’ve given up comparing Helen to old film stars. She’s gorgeous and a brilliant dancer, but she never feels entirely natural. I’ve said before that she’s a bit like Peter in that I think she’s concentrating so hard that she can’t unwind properly when it’s needed (hi, Latin dances!) Interestingly, I think Helen splits the audience too, so it’ll be interesting to see where she finally places in the competition- I’m not as sure as I was that she’ll be in the final, but who knows? It’s getting quite hard to predict now that we’re getting to the end and when the celebrities have a bad week, they then have a habit of doing phenomenally the next week, as happened here. Anyway, this was beautiful and really played to her strengths- and who wouldn’t look that happy to be dancing with Aljaz?!

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey- 10 Len- 10 Bruno- 10 TOTAL: 39

Jay and Aliona- Tango (When Doves Cry)

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Jay appears to have had a stressful week- he’s certainly been saying some odd things on the telly, so maybe the pressure’s getting to him. Saying that, the tango should be his forte… and what a CRACKING song to tango to. I love it; all stompy beats and dramatic moments. This was brilliant; complex, spiky and menacing (Benn noted how brilliant their timing is and how perfectly in sync they are with one another.) A beautiful, sexy and dangerous tango that used that song to perfection. Thrilling.

Scores: Craig- 9 Darcey- 10 Len-9 Bruno- 10 TOTAL: 38

Peter and Janette- American Smooth (Sweetest Feeling)

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I think we can all agree that last week’s jive was as bad (if not slightly worse) than watching all of My Former Neighbour’s Iceland adverts back to back whilst being force fed a prawn ring from said frozen food outlet. So this week, he’s back and he has a point to prove! This was certainly sweet, if a tad gimmicky. Could Peter’s days in the competition be numbered? He’s really starting to stick out now that the competition has ramped up a bit. Also, I just want to add that I HATE that open mouthed ‘surprise!’ face he does.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 8 TOTAL: 31

Anita and Gleb- Rumba (Read All About It)

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Oh, a rumba. Do you know what fills my heart with more dread? The fact that it’s a rumba danced to Emelie Sande. In front of what appears to be a Kindle Paperwhite. Because nothing says sexy than a badly edited, free edition of Jane Eyre. As a rumba goes, I guess it was OK- lots of anguished facial expressions and wiggling about. I will never warm to this dance. I loved Len’s rant. A man after my own heart.

Scores: Craig- 7 Darcey- 8 Len- 7 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 31

Georgia and Giovanni- Paso Doble (The Final Countdown)

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Despite my better judgement, I have grown to really like these two and I think Georgia is a contender to possibly win- she’s been on one of those cliched ‘journeys’ that producers and viewers love and she has a great chemistry with her dance partner. This was brilliant- if a little unorthodox with the pro banging a drum at the start- and how brave is Georgia for doing all that bit on her own? This was FABULOUS and a properly dramatic paso. Loved. It. I mean, even if Craig is singing its praises, you’re onto a good thing, right? I did think the judges scored that a bit low, to be honest.

Scores: Craig- 8 Darcey- 8 Len- 8 Bruno- 9 TOTAL: 33

Group dance: Quickstep

Ah, this is when you can tell it’s really getting serious, innit? We start getting the fancy group dances and then two dances each a week. (Oh and don’t get me started on the ‘freeform’ dances.) Quickstep is a good choice, but there’s so many ways it could go wrong too… I did wonder-and Craig confirmed this- if the male celebrities have a harder time of it, as they lead and maybe don’t have experience of this kind of competition? Also, this is the one time when Len’s ‘final say’ is probably actually fairly useful, right?

Order of points:

7 points: Helen and Aljaz; 6 points: Georgia and Giovanni ; 5 points: Katie and Anton; 4 points: Anita and Gleb; 3 points: Jay and Aliona; 2 points: Kellie and Kevin; 1 point: Peter and Janette.

So we have HELEN at the top and PETER at the bottom-  I predict he my be going in the dance off…

Got any thoughts? Let me know in the comments or tweet me: @wuthering_alice.

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.

 

Ch-ch-changes: I’m not quite ready to give up blogging just yet…

So after writing the other day that I was fed up of blogging, my brain has decided to be contrary and think of LOTS OF THINGS it wants to write about. So you’ll not be rid of me, just yet.

However, there will be a couple of changes. This blog will be for my general lifestyle stuff- pretty much as before, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I’m not writing three times a week like clockwork. I’ll obviously tweet my links and you can follow me on Bloglovin’ to keep up to date- the button is on the sidebar.

I’m also setting up a new blog, solely for my book reviews. This will be known as The Bookish Badger and will be where all my book stuff goes. As soon as that’s ready to go, I’ll publicise the link.

I hope this works out!

Where do I go from here?

Hello!

I’m still officially on my blog holiday (and thanks to my ace guest bloggers!), but I’ve been having a think about the blog and the direction I’d like it to go in 2014. This year, I’m 30 and as I change, I feel that the blog should a bit too. The problem is this: I don’t know what my USP is. I’d like you to help me by telling me what you’d like to see more of, less of and everything in between.

With this in mind, I’ve set up a survey that I would really appreciate some of you filling out. You can be as honest as you like (believe me, I’ve lived through OFSTED, so I’m OK with criticism as long as it’s constructive!) and I will use this to help me improve the blog over the next year.

Click here to take survey

One thing that I will try and do better this year is to respond to comments; I got a bit lax at this last year, so it’s a definite resolution!