Sunday, 26 January 2014

Dryanuary (I know that's not the official name, but if you say it really quickly I think it has a better ring to it!)

New Year’s Resolution Number 1 – improve diet! 
New Year's Resolution Number 2 – make time for real Laura time!

By way of adhering to both of these resolutions, I made a rather extreme (by my standards, anyway) decision at the beginning of the year. Every year I have made an attempt to at least say ‘this year, I am going to take a break from alcohol’, and every year I have failed to even say that sentence without an overwhelming sense of doubt, let alone make it a reality. This year, however, despite the reactions of my highly supportive friends (said with a slight hint of sarcasm after mutual agreement that perhaps we could all support each other in our endeavour, followed by shock and awe at the news this weekend that I am still standing by my word), I am making a proper go of it!

Admittedly, I did not start at the very beginning of January, as I had to see to the alcohol store leftover from Christmas (there is still Gin hiding in the freezer if anyone is looking for any) to avoid temptation! However, I have now survived three weekends, substituting Cobra for pineapple juice, cocktails for Turkish teas and red wine for cranberry! I’ve hardly dared to openly own up to my choice to give up alcohol for fear of imminent failure (as I write this, I worry that I sound rather like an alcoholic – as if the ring addiction wasn’t enough!), but this weekend marked a significant achievement in the proceedings, so I now know I am doing well.

Last Saturday I awoke with the most atrocious headache. It was as though my body is so used to my usual morning-after-the-night-before state that it decided to give me that hungover feeling just so I wasn’t in danger of missing it too much. Of course, I was less than impressed, but thankfully it cleared and a most productive weekend followed. This weekend has been equally as productive and although less adventurous, with the weather as it has been, it has been quite nice to spend some time feeling cosy inside. Friday nights spent cleaning to music bordering on an anti-social volume (I’m simply engaging in friendly competition with the Portuguese folk music so loud from our downstairs neighbours that I always feel convinced there must be a live band performing in our kitchen) and/or doing an extravagant food shop have become something I genuinely relish the thought of (old before my time?), and mean that Saturday is not spent in comatose, but instead has the potential for productivity and the outdoor element of making time for ‘real Laura time’ (when I want to venture out, anyway)!

Friday night thriller. It's how I do.
Last night came my real test, as all the odds were against me;

I went out for a friend’s birthday.
I went out for a friend’s 30th birthday.
I went out for a friend’s 30th birthday where I knew no one (Dutch courage had to instead come in the form of over-enthusiastic violin playing detrimental to the living room before I left the house, but that’s a-whole-nother story!!).
I went out for a friends 30th birthday where I knew no one and drinks were in a GIN BAR (gin is my favourite, just for future reference when this is all over)!

The thing is, I not only survived, I really enjoyed myself. Despite the genuine shock expressed by the barman when I ordered a gin and tonic without the gin (he was shocked? Imagine how I must have felt!), the fact that others have expressed admiration, and that I am feeling and (I may be imagining this but) looking better in myself makes me feel like this is totally worth it and I have a true respect for people who do this every year! I won’t share what’s going on in the back of my mind right now, but we’ll see how the land lies; the spoken aim is until Easter/my birthday.

And hey, I had three sausages for my tea tonight. That’s an odd number. I still know how to have a good time!

Sunday, 19 January 2014

London isn't all that big really.

Attempting to write a half-decent post in 15 minutes having just made the discovery that Mr Selfridge returns to ITV TONIGHT (I am beyond excited)!

My pursuit of green space today began with a trip to Regent’s Park. In the planning of a route to take, I turned to a map of the area (maps are yet another of my slightly strange likes; perhaps at a time like this I realise even more than usual how this is for their prettiness as opposed to the practicality of them) and got rather over-excited that there are actually three of the better London parks within a stone’s throw from one another – I refer to Green Park, Kensington Gardens, and Regent’s Park itself (this is one of those embarrassing moments where anyone reading this will be saying, ‘well, obviously. I could have told you that Laura’.

Love a bit of 'Old and New'
I had a whole day planned with rough timings and everything! However upon arrival to Regent’s Park, and an encounter with a more detailed park map, I discovered that in my prior map-reading endeavour I had missed a trick – Primrose Hill!

As viewpoints go, I’ve always been more than content with Hampstead Heath and Alexandra Palace, or a bridge across the river somewhere. I’d heard of Primrose Hill, I was just never sure where it was, and have never put in any great effort to locate it. I now see why it is where I should have dragged people for New Year’s firework-spotting, as unlike the afore-mentioned hills with views, this one seems to offer rather a close encounter with the city – instead of half guessing what the different buildings jutting up in the skyline are, I could clearly distinguish The Shard, The Gherkin, Canary Wharf, The London Eye, and even the towers belonging to Tower Bridge.

Mesmerised as always, I could have probably stayed for a day if it wasn’t for the American tourists en mass and slippery mud unsuitable for sitting. I’ll definitely be going back for more!

As most of my days let loose on London tend to go, the rest was spent wandering the streets as it dawned on me how one place almost became the next;

Regent’s Park to Primrose Hill to Chalk Farm to Camden Town and back around in a grand circle to Regent’s Park.

(who knew that Regent’s Park was so close to Camden, that Chalk Farm looks so different in the day time, and that Primrose Hill is practically PART OF Regent’s Park? You did. I do too now!).

Graffiti I had crossed paths with before and regretted not taking a photo of. I do love an elephant!
Stables Market, Chalk Farm/Camden 
Colourful graffiti on a bridge over Regent's Canal
I ache a little, and definitely did not (but I did really) have a nap upon my return home, but it was absolutely worth it. Another weekend well spent I think!

(Mr Selfridge did not disappoint, catch it if you can/are at all into that sort of thing)!

Sunday, 12 January 2014

A park/green space a Sunday/weekend keeps the doctor away

Woke up with what appeared to be the beginnings of a cold (dread, oh dread) this morning! However, after a mug of Twinings Defence Tea (I know, shocking that I would abandon my Earl Grey kick-start... I had one shortly afterwards, panic not) I felt quite alive!

12 days into the New Year; so far, so good. Had a highly productive morning after what can only be described as the most surreal week. No tube or heating on Monday, hospitalised children on Thursday morning and afternoon, a bandaged kitten and time off work on Friday, and yet seemingly a positive and productive week, so this morning was really a natural progression!

Adhering (of course) to my New Year Resolutions, I have managed to make and eat sandwiches for lunch every day this week and have then eaten substantial food in the evenings too – impressive! I have then made this weekend a ‘real Laura time’ weekend, as a sort of reward for being so good during the week (is that really very sad?).

Saturday was spent in Norwich where I was blessed with glorious weather once again! Determined as always to fit as much in as possible so as to make my visit entirely worthwhile, I first took a detour into town from the train station along the river and through the Cathedral close. For lunch I paid a visit to my favourite Fish & Chip shop (I refer of course to the Grosvenor Fish Bar) to sit on a wall on St Gregory’s Green for a spot of people watching and ‘Big Mack’ eating. I then headed to The Egg for hairdressing – after years of suffering in a hate-hate relationship with my hair, I finally landed myself with a style I can almost deal with, and a good hairdresser is like gold dust, so trips to The Egg form the reason for my Norwich visits! As well as providing good hairdressing, they conveniently provide a good excuse to visit my home from home from home; can’t complain!

Interestingly/bizarrely, I always seem home with more shopping bags from Norwich than I do from any days spent in London. The convenience of shops in Norwich and my familiarity with them makes for far too accessible shopping opportunities! After storming around the shops to cram in as much as possible, I settled down for what Norwich is best for, tea with a friend.

Owing to my absence on Saturday, I knew that today had to be highly productive. In my experience, this can be a rather large risk, as I always find that when I really really need motivation and energy, distraction and procrastination rear their ugly heads, and my day is spent browsing SoundCloud, Youtube and Spotify (instead, I spent the entirety of the London – Norwich part of my journey partaking in SoundCloud browsing, causing my phone battery to die in the other direction. I was actually extremely impressed as it did make it as far as Stratford before giving up on me!). Somehow this weekend, I have managed a healthy balance of both of those things, which leads me on to the true ‘real Laura time’ nature of this weekend.

Today, I made the decision that at some point, I was going out for a walk. This meant that a, b, and c had to be done first. So they were. There are a good selection of sizeable green spaces in my part of London, and having already discovered and enjoyed a few, I decided to venture to pastures new today. Armed with Google maps in my ear so I could march along through shadier parts (or rather hurdle my way across an unhealthy amount of dog mess piles) looking like I knew exactly where I was going, I headed for Downhills Park. The perfect combination of cultivation, sport and recreation, play structures, wooded areas and an open common (not forgetting the toilet ‘for ‘everybodies’ convenience’), it was a very pleasant place for a stroll. Perhaps I may change my mind or find a better location, but I could almost picture it in the summer, a potentially ideal spot for outdoor productivity!
A surviving scattering of pink amongst the greenery
Although the Google maps lady kept interjecting, my ears were also filled with new music that I have finally given myself the opportunity to discover this weekend! Although my initial plan was to take work to do on the train, at this end of the weekend I'm feeling very glad that I allowed myself the down time.

Just feeling very positive really - keep it up 2014.

Saturday, 4 January 2014

A new calendar year, some more New Year Resolutions

New Year's Resolutions from 2013:
- stop being so lazy
- budget
- pass the PGCE year/get a job

Well, I'm sitting with my feet up on a new pouffe/fighting over a pouffe with a sleepy kitten as I write this so I'm not entirely sure how well the first two went, but I am sitting in London (on a chair, in a living room, in my flat - sounding a little like Funny Bones) having definitely succeeded in achieving resolution number 3!

As mentioned in last year's post, resolutions are made by me at every turning point. While it may be a new calendar year, I am bound to a life of academic years, so really, my big turning point happened in September. When asked how teaching is going so far, my response has been

'well, there's certainly never a dull moment'

and it's so true. Already, this 'year' (academic) has taught me a lot - I am handwriting this before I type, and my handwriting strikes me as a big change. As materialistic as that may sound, my handwriting has been the topic of great discussion through the years. A lot like Marmite, some have always thought it very neat and thus I have become designated scribe for many a task, while by others it has been considered atrocious.

So 'poof' is apparently really spelt 'pouffe'. Who knew?
Anyway, divulging too much pointless information. What the year has taught me most is to be reflective. I've always considered myself to be reflective anyway (at least, my ramblings have led me to believe that that's what I was doing), but I wonder whether perhaps there are different forms of reflection (as she bursts into song from Mulan). I'm not going to go into some potentially dull, potentially very lively philosophical debate with myself over the matter, I am simply going to suggest that perhaps this year's resolutions are the result of the effects of a first term in teaching (can you believe I survived?!).

Feeling more like myself in this moment than I have done in weeks, I am aware that holding on to this sense will require a manifold approach, in which all folds are intrinsic and a direct result of one another. So here we go...

Resolution Number One - improve diet! 
Actually eating would make an excellent start (although perhaps post-Christmas, returning to a diet consisting entirely of Hemsley & Hemsley recipes wouldn't be the worst thing in the world). Diet also refers to liquid intake (sorry Hugh, I think I might attempt to cut back). Watch this space.

Resolution Number Two - make time for real Laura time!
This involves intentional aimless wandering, unnecessary pampering, musical moments, reading and WRITING more (I know I've said it before, but I really will return to more regular posting)!

And Resolution Number Three (just to follow on from last year's pattern) - pass my NQT year/hold on to my job!

As ever, I'm beyond broad in the hope that in some small way I may be able to achieve something this year! The main aim is to maintain the colour that has come back to me (I literally mean my skin tone, that's not meant to be deep and meaningful - it's pure vanity) and fight off the bags under my eyes until Easter at least (no one wants to look sallow on their birthday)... challenge, accepted!