This Year I Will…Oh, Not Again!

I’ve made resolutions every year for a long time and now, sitting here in bed at lunchtime on a Saturday, I can’t actually recall one I’ve kept. Not long term. Not for real. That’s the problem with New Years Resolutions though, isn’t it? Just a group of people standing still as the clock strikes twelve, the first day of a new year, the first day of a new you. And we feel inspired (and probably drunk). We feel invigorated. We feel like we can do anything. Flash forward a few weeks and those 20 resolutions are pretty far from your mind. And the thing is, the father into the year you get the less realistic your goals seem. The less impetus you have to actually complete or continue or work towards or start. To think the start of a new year is it, this is the one, this time I will is just dangerous. And kinda deflating.

2018 had some glorious moments. I went on more holidays than I ever have in a year before. I worked hard and I spent pretty much everything on exploring new places and trying new things. I don’t regret any of it. I saw beautiful, brilliant places and everywhere I went I fell in love. I was selected to attend the Penguin Random House WriteNow 2018 conference in Nottingham. I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would be elicited, the passion and inspiration I would feel afterwards. I wasn’t prepared for the confidence it instilled in me whenever I look at my own work now. I wasn’t selected as a winner by PRH. But in my head I think I’ve won, something at least. I won the chance to hear real life publishers and editors and agents say to me “your book sounds so good” and “that’s the kind of book I love pitching to publishers” and “your writing is so wonderfully atmospheric”. These are all direct quotes. I have remembered them. I have written them down and inscribed them on my brain, I have cradled them and hugged them and pressed them close to my chest in moments of self-doubt and loneliness and fear. They have comforted me and driven me and inspired me. They have taught me not to give up, to stand strong, to finish this book and every book after it and to send them into the world. It was the best day of my rather short life so far. I imagine it will be the best day of my life for quite some time to come.

2018 also had some harrowing moments. I have felt adrift for a long time now. I think I’m in a bad place, and I’ve now made peace with the fact that I need to do something about it. I want to both tether myself to safety and float off into the clouds. I want to live bigger and brighter and freer and at the same time it’d be great if I could just stop. Just for a while. Just long enough to free myself of the fog that has engulfed me for longer than I care to admit to, longer, I fear, than I can remember. If the world could stop spinning for a minute or hour or day or week. If I could just stand still and stop for a month or a year, would it make it better? Would I emerge from hibernation a free woman? Would I know who I am, what I want, what I need? Or would I have wasted precious time just lying in the fog?

This year I’m not making resolutions. Not in the tradition sense. I don’t want more goals that I will never achieve hanging over my head. Instead, I have chosen an aim for the year, just one, and a list of objectives that will help me reach it. My aim is to end 2019 in a better place than when I started. I know, I know. So much for not being too ambitious, huh? How will I do this? By hopefully having more self control and motivation to complete some of the objectives than I ever had to complete resolutions.

Objectives for 2019

  1. To figure out who I am. Let’s start with the biggie, amirite? I want to spend more time learning who I am and what I want, and improving the parts of me I want to improve. I want to blog more, maybe start journalling, write more, do more art. Express myself spiritually. Maybe do some yoga or something. I want to exercise more and care more about what I put into my body. I want to learn to care for myself more than I do now. It’ll be a long slog. I don’t expect to be perfect on the 31st of December. But I want to be better. I want to feel better.
  2. To explore the world outside my home. 2018 was a great year for travel and experiences. This year I want  to continue to broaden my horizons and see new things. And not just travelling abroad – I want to see more of Edinburgh, my city, and of Scotland and the UK. I want to go to more book talks. I want to join a book club and an am-dram society and maybe a writing club. I want to go on long walks and listen to music and podcasts and audiobooks. I want to take a book with me wherever I go, and sit in new cafes and new parks and read. I want to visit all the museums and bookshops and galleries I can find, and soak myself in art and culture and shows and freedom. And I want to travel. Everywhere. Anywhere.  To establish a little corner of the world just for me.
  3. I want to be happy (or at least happier) in a job/career sense. I want to find a place where I don’t feel sick whenever I’m at work. Maybe it doesn’t have to be a forever career. Not yet. I’m only 23. I have time. But I spend so much of my life at work. I want to be somewhere I can enjoy rather than tolerate, somewhere that doesn’t make me sick with stress and anxiety and crushing sadness.
  4. I want to write more. Sounds simple for a writer. But in a more specific sense, I aim to have the WIP I took to WriteNow 2018 finished and READY TO SUBMIT TO AGENTS/PUBLISHERS by the one year anniversary of that day. So September. I have 3/4 of a year. I can do this. I also want to start writing other things. Short stories, some screenplays, little drabbles about my characters, fanfiction, everything. And I want to enter some writing competitions. Hone my skills. Make some moneys. Show myself that a career as a writer might actually be possible (hah, when I’m like 60  and have a body of work as long as 20 buses maybe). If I enter my work into things I have a shot at being published before the year is out. If I don’t enter anything, I do not. It’s just that simple really, isn’t it?

 

I want to leave it there. I’m not going to overwhelm myself. And I’ll try not to beat myself up if it gets to the end of February and then March and then April and I’m still sad and stuck and struggling. It’s a process. It’s a long one. But by focusing on the one thing I want (to be happy) and the four general steps (okay, four general leaps) I can take to get there, maybe I’ll end this year in a bit of a better place. Even marginally. That’s what it’s all about at the end of the day. Whether you stick to resolutions or not, don’t get yourself down. All that matters is we’ve all survived another year, and fingers crossed when we look back we can still see some good for the bad.

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A Weekend in Inverness in Pictures

This is an assortment of photos I took while in Inverness. They were all taken using my iPhone (so I apologise for any blurriness etc)

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The Victorian Market right opposite the train station
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While it’s now got mostly modern shops, the layout and building itself is still lovely
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And they had a Christmas tree!
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The castle stand on a bit of a hill
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It’s now the Sheriff’s Courts (I believe?)

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The statue in front of the castle/courts is for Flora MacDonald, who helped Bonnie Prince Charlie escape to France
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The kinetic theatre show in the museum was stunning!
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Entry to the museum is free so I highly recommend you go and see the show

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You can see how restless the river was!
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The wind and torrential rain raised the water level and made it very choppy

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A column outside the shopping centre
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The shopping centre had a sweet little nativity scene

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A couple of the lovely the buildings I happened to walk past when I was exploring

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A Weekend in Inverness – The Good and The Bad

Hey all!  I’m writing this the day after I came back from Inverness – and what a trip it was! I went with a friend and we took the bus all the way up (a pretty taxing journey but nice scenery). Firstly, Inverness is so pretty! Even when we got there in the dark and with heavy rain, it was so lovely (probably because of the pretty buildings and Christmas street lights). And the bridges were lit up!! I definitely wasn’t expecting that. I would’ve spent ages staring at them if I wasn’t drowning with every second we were outside. We got there in the evening on Friday, ate and went straight up to our room. We might’ve done some night time exploring if it weren’t for the rain but we were both pretty tired so we agreed to go up to our room and start the trip the following morning.

An aside here about the hotel we stayed in – it was called the Waverly Guest House and it’s on Union Street (which is about 5 minutes away from the bus station and literally across the street from the train station). We got a very good deal from Groupon (or Wowcher, or some other site like that but I’m pretty sure it’s Groupon) and paid £50 for 3 nights bed and breakfast. It was amazing value! The room was very nice (ours had 3 single beds, 2 chests of drawers, a table with a kettle and tea/coffee, and a TV). It wasn’t en suite but there were 2 bathrooms along our corridor (shared between 5 rooms I think?) and I never had to wait or anything. The rooms were clean and tidy. They weren’t cleaned during our stay (they probably would have been if we’d stayed longer I guess) but I’m not a messy person so it was fine. You got a hand towel and bath towel, and there’s also hand dryers in the bathrooms. Breakfast was a “continental” style – a selection of cereals, toast (white and brown, with individual butters and jams/marmalade), bananas and pain au chocolat. You could pay extra for a cooked breakfast,  but at £9 I thought that was pretty pricey (especially as I’m a pescetarian and my friend is a vegetarian). You could ask for eggs on toast or croissants and a few other things but again, they had an additional charge which I think was pretty steep (if you really wanted a croissant there’s a coop down the street where you could buy them for a lot cheaper). These additional items were the only thing I thought wasn’t value for money however – the rooms and the included breakfast were brilliant.

On Saturday we woke at 7 (breakfast was 7:30-9:30 Monday-Saturday and we wanted to get an early start). We had been planning on going to the Highland Park/zoo in Aviemore; however, due to some unfortunate circumstances my friend decided to leave that day after breakfast. This unexpectedly made my trip into a solo adventure (my first solo holiday, exciting!). On the Saturday it drizzled pretty continuously throughout the morning, although it did pick up in the afternoon (I’d advise you to take scarves, hats, gloves and waterproof jackets if you visit Inverness in the winter). Because of the weather and the scarce buses available (and the person who I have the zoo pass with no longer being here) I decided not to go Aviemore and instead explored Inverness itself. I went to the shopping centre (thrilling I know), walked up to the castle (now the Sheriff’s Courts) and wandered around the Museum. I’d highly recommend the kinetic theatre show in the museum (upstairs, in the art gallery bit). It was beautiful! I have some photos but in order to really understand how lovely it was you need to watch it complete with the music.

Once I’d spent a few happy hours in the museum (it’s quite small but there’s quite a lot crammed in), I wandered along the river and explored the Old Town a bit. The Victorian Market building (just opposite the train station) is very nice. I went out for dinner and then retreated to my room kinda early to plan where I was going to go the next day.

On Sunday, I originally wanted to go to the Ship Space – a museum with scale replicas of the Titanic, submarines, lifeboats etc. that you can actually go on! I had breakfast, snaffled some bananas and a pain au chocolat so I wouldn’t have to buy lunch (such a rebel, me) and set off. There were blue skies! The first of the trip! Woo! I had taken a photo of the map to the Ship Space on my phone and so set off, determined and enthusiastic. After wandering for half an hour and doubling back on myself several times (and stopping suddenly and squinting at my phone a LOT), my enthusiasm was waning. I asked three people where I could find “the Ship Space”, “the ship museum”, “the titanic museum”, and “the place with the titanic replica. There’s a bridge near it” all to no avail. So in the end, I packed away my directions, gave up on outside help, picked a direction and started walking. I found some lovely buildings! I never did get to the Ship Space though…maybe next time.

In the end, Sunday was spent wandering aimlessly, admiring the pretty houses and generally getting myself lost and found again. Apart from a heavy rainstorm in the middle of the day, it stayed pretty dry, albeit cold. The weekend overall was uneventful, a nice way to relax and unwind before exams start.

Relaxation ended on Monday, when I had to get home. Originally supposed to be getting the bus home with my friend, I had to get the train back instead. Bought my ticket on Saturday, fine. Picked it up on Sunday, all good. Went to station on Monday…cancelled. Bummer. After finally tracking down a member of staff and asking what I was supposed to do, I was directed onto a bus. I had to get the bus to Perth which was an ordeal in itself. The bus smelled strongly of mould, the woman sitting next to me fell asleep on my arm and it was looooooong. Again, lots of nice scenery though. And there was a cute dog in the aisle! Yay for the small things. At Perth train station we were put onto a train to Edinburgh and finally home was in sight. I have to say, the train journey was lovely – I spent most of it staring out of the window in glee. Stunning countryside.

And then I was finally home! Taking two and a half hours longer than it was supposed to and leaving me completely shattered, but I was home. All in all, I had an amazing time in Inverness (and I took lots of photos, which I will put into a separate post). Would I go there again in winter? Hell no. Would I go there again in summer? ABSOLUTELY YES!! In fact, I think I will go back in summer 2016 (just during the week and hopefully without all the dodgy weather). I love Inverness and would highly recommend it to anyone who fancies a short break in the Capital of the Highlands.

Goals for my next trip to Inverness: going to the Highlands Park (I think there’s more buses during the week so fingers crossed); finding the Ship Space (second time lucky!); going to the Culloden Battlefield and Clava Cairns (a battlefield and Bronze Age tomb that’s a little way out from Inverness – I’d take a bus out and spend the day there if I went to Inverness during the week next time); doing an open top bus tour of the city (they don’t run in the winter and it wasn’t ideal weather for open top this time anyway).

Illness, Deadlines and Inverness!

Hey everyone. It’s been a busy, stressful few weeks, which hasn’t been helped by me falling ill a couple of weeks ago and feeling terrible for ages. At first it was just a cold which wouldn’t have affected me too badly (I get a lot of colds, so I’m pretty used to them by now), but then I developed a bad cough and sore throat, and a recurrent ear infection made an unwelcome visit and everything just went south. I’m feeling on the up now though (at least my cold is gone and I can semi hear again, even if my cough is still here) so hopefully things will just get better from here. At the very least, I should be back on full form by Christmas. Also, it’s December so I can officially say YAY CHRISTMAS IS COMING and none of you can hate me for it!

I also had coursework to complete for every subject (an essay for linguistics, a lit review for psychology and an essay AND a report for human skeleton). They were all due within weeks of each other, and me feeling lousy definitely did not speed up the writing process. BUT they’re all done now (at last, finally, hoorah) so now I can have a small break before my exams start. I’ve decided to celebrate by going to…

INVERNESS!!!

Inverness is a Highland-y place in Scotland (quite a bit further north than Ed). I’ve never been and I’m REALLY excited. I’m going with a friend of mine, we’re staying in a local B&B, and we plan to visit the zoo/Highland Park  near there that’s connected to Edinburgh zoo. The rest of the weekend we haven’t quite decided yet. We’re leaving today (Friday) and returning on Monday. I don’t yet know whether there is wifi where we’re staying, but if so you will hopefully get an update of each day (complete with PICTURES). Fingers crossed, eh?

Well anyway, I hope you’ve all had a better start to the winter than I have, and I hope you have a great weekend! Let me know if you plan on going anywhere fun this December. See you soon!

Surprise! Last Minute Trip Home and Train Food

Hey all! As you all know, I’ve spent the summer in Edinburgh and not back home in Staffordshire. My parents came up to Ed for a week, I’ve had lots of fun at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (which I’ll do a post on very soon) and I wasn’t planning on going back home. So how did I find myself alone on a platform, awaiting my second train you ask? Well, that’s a combination of running out of money (the rent is paid and my student loans don’t start until the end of September), missing my parents and Nanna (and my dogs) more than I thought I would, boredom, and the fact that my best friend Rach is home until the end of September and I didn’t get to see her before I left Staffs in July. We’re very excited to be seeing each other again. Very. She goes to university in Wales and I am obviously in Edinburgh, so I think the last time we saw each other was Christmas (potentially Easter, my memory is awfully bad at times). IT HAS BEEN FAR TOO LONG.

So here I am. I’ll be back in Staffs for a little over a week, and return to Ed next Friday. Then soon enough uni will be starting again. I’m ridiculously excited to be starting second year. I usually buy food on the train, but this time I ate before u left and just brought snacks for the train. I got 2 boxes of watermelon slices, a bag of rocket (one of only leaves I eat in salads – the other being lambs lettuce) and a bag of apples. Fun, huh? I also got a massive bottle of sparkling water and a bottle of pomelo honey iced tea from my local Chinese supermarket in Ed. it’s lovely!!! I highly recommend you pick up a bottle if you ever see it – there’s lots of different ones to try. I tend to favour the ones with honey, as I find it makes the drink a touch sweeter. Of course you could add any kind of syrup or sweetener if you wanted to.

   
I also bought a hot chocolate at the station just now, while waiting for the second train. I usually have hot chocolate with caramel syrup, but as luck would have it my train was late in and the caramel had sold out. The guy recommended hazelnut instead and, although I don’t particularly like nuts, it did make a very nice hot chocolate. Basically melted Nutella which is ALWAYS good. 

I don’t have much planned for this week, apart from seeing family and Rach, but I’m sure something fun will come up. Until then!

Friday: London in Pictures

Hey all! My best friend and I are in London for a little mini break, and I thought I’d share with you all what we get up to. There’s so much to do here – we’ve been discussing coming for a week next time to be able to her more in! I’ll do each day separately as I think we’ll get up to a lot more on Saturday. 

  
We got into Euston station a little after lunchtime. We didn’t have to be at our room until 3 so we headed off in search of lunch. The weather was amazing all day, and hopefully it’ll be just as good the rest of the weekend!

  
We went to one of the many Pret a Manger cafés for lunch. I had a sushi selection, edamame beans and red grapes, with a coconut smoothie. It was kinda expensive but I saved most of the beans and all of the grapes to eat later. You can tell how sunny it is by the terrible photo quality!! I was so desperate to tuck in though that I didn’t realise until the food had been packed away…

  
We were pretty disorganised in our plans, but we managed to find a room on AirBnB. It’s in Teddington (although we get off the train here). It’s a lovely room and the host is so nice! Hannah and I bought Oyster cards, and I almost had a heart attack the first time I used it – I thought the journey had cost £13.55 when the machine was actually telling me that I had £13.55 left on my card!! So much for being of the technology generation, huh?

  
We’re staying in a beautiful classic leafy suburb, with squirrels! They wouldn’t stay still for a photo shoot though…

  
And this is the lovely posh bit of town that we found ourselves in when we got lost…how on earth do you get lost from Regents Street to Leicester Square?!? We must’ve taken a wrong turning somewhere but don’t ask me where… At least we got lost in what looks like a nice neighbourhood though.

  
At last we made it to Leicester Square. I love it here – all the hustle and bustle is so exciting! We went into a theatre booking office to see if there were any cheap tickets going, and we managed to get tickets to a show on Saturday night – you’ll have to wait for tomorrow’s post to find out what we saw and what we thought of it though! We also attempted to find Cafe Rouge as we have vouchers but it was nowhere to be seen! I’m adamant it was somewhere near Leicester Square as we’ve been before, and we even asked a bouncer and still couldn’t find it. In the end we gave up and went to Ed’s Diner instead. We’ll find Cafe Rouge tomorrow.

   
   
Ed’s Diner is adorable! It even has little jukeboxes by every table – gotta love a bit of Elvis when you’re eating your American classics, right? I had the Chickpea and Quinoa burger plate (it came with fries, onion rings and coleslaw). I was so hungry I just dived straight in without taking a picture but it was delicious! I DID remember to take a photo of my dessert though. I had the pancakes with maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. It was heaven on earth! The pancakes were lovely and light and fluffy, and soaked up the syrup beautifully. Even the ice cream, which is usually just the limp side, was so creamy and completely delicious! If any of you guys ever go to Ed’s Diner then I totally recommend you try the pancakes. Go! Now! 

And that’s really all we did the first afternoon. Stay tuned for pictures of Camden Market, (hopefully) the Globe Theatre and the show! See you soon guys.

Chuffing Back to Edinburgh!

Well, the time has come. I’m on my way back to Edinburgh and my second semester of university! I had a lovely time at home, catching up with family and friends and relaxing with my dogs, but I must say I’m glad to be on my way back. In just the few months I’ve lived in Edinburgh, it’s already come to feel like home for me. I miss my little flat! I miss my flat mate, Irene! I miss the brilliant friends I’ve made! I miss my skylight and my new Harry Potter books! Yes, it’s good to be going back.

I’m on the train from Crewe to Edinburgh now and I was VERY surprised to see that it’s mostly empty. I guess it’s because it’s midday on a Thursday? But hey, I’m not complaining – I get plenty of room to stretch out and I was able to squish my (very full and VERY heavy) case into the luggage rack next to my seat so I didn’t have to try and push it into the overhead thing.

Hopefully, there’ll be no delays or anything and I’ll make it into Edinburgh at about 2:30. I’m so glad I live so close to the station – it means I don’t have to drag my case far. Woo! I hope you all had a brilliant Christmas break (if you had one) and, if you’re a student, have a safe journey back to university or college!