I normally add a quote to the beginning of each post that sums up or enhances my writing. However, I’m going to use my monthly recaps as an opportunity to sum up the month – be it the mood, the weather, my feelings… Anything really. I’ve spent the entire month of August in London, trying to get out and explore old haunts and find some new ones! I’ve also had some great catch-ups with good friends, so here’s to the friends in my life!
‘There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship.’ – Thomas Aquinas.
Back in January, I announced I was going to start monthly recaps on my blog. If you missed last month’s, you can find it here. Now, as we head into September, it’s time for my eighth recap. I spent almost the entirety of August in London, bar coming back to Wales now right at the end of the month (I am writing this from Wales – my visit straddles the end of August and the beginning of September). London has felt loud and noisy this month, mainly because I’d reached my limit with the city before going away again for a few days! I find I need to go away every month to six weeks to escape the hectic city and recuperate, and now that I’m back in Wales, I can already feel my head clearing and the silence here is very regenerative. Aside from this, I have enjoyed some great nights out, I’ve had visits from three great friends and was treated to a great surprise by A.
- E and G visiting and going to XOYO. When E and G told me they would love to come and stay for a night, I bought us tickets for a night out in XOYO, a club in Shoreditch, where Erol Alkan is currently in residency. They arrived after work and we got ready and had some fun pre-drinks with my housemates before heading out for the night. This was my first time going to XOYO and I really enjoyed the club – it’s a good size, it’s busy and fun and in a good easy-to-reach location. My only complaint? It’s a bit expensive – even by London standards, in my humble opinion. I almost cried when I checked my bank balance the next day! It was worth it though, we had a really fun night, despite the fact I accidentally fell asleep before E and G came home and they were locked out for an hour before I woke up… Sorry about that guys! The next day, G headed off and E and I went for a coffee in Vauxhall before she had to get her bus back to Cardiff. It was great to have them to stay.
- Seeing J’s choir concert. P and I went along to watch J singing in her choir about halfway through the month. We’d been expecting a sit-down, perhaps slightly dull concert, but we were pleasantly surprised to be standing up (there weren’t any seats), dancing along as the choir sang some modern pop songs and told a story through music. I thoroughly enjoyed the concert and it was great to see J, who killed it alongside her choir group. Afterwards, we grabbed a drink each and congratulated J on her performance. The group, Some Voices, raise money for a really worthwhile charity called The Choir With No Name, whose mission is to enable marginalised people to make friends, build their confidence and skills and find their place in society, so it was great knowing the money I paid for the tickets went towards helping that cause.
- Some great work drinks / nights out this month! I mention these fairly frequently in this blog, but I do get on really well with a lot of my work colleagues and love it when we have a good night out all together. There were a couple of unplanned evenings, and one massive night out to say goodbye to A who was moving onto pastures new. My hangover was so bad the next day, I lay on the sofa in work with my laptop on my stomach in the afternoon, as I couldn’t physically stay sitting upright any longer! It was so horrendous that I’ve kind of cut back on drinking since, as I just cannot face another hangover just yet.
- Impromptu crazy golf with P and Z. Z and I arranged to meet for a couple of drinks on Brick Lane and were joined by P when he turned out to be a mere two minute walk away. After a great toastie and some vodka/cranberry cans, we headed back down Brick Lane and, on impulse, P suggested we go and do a quick round of crazy golf. It turned out to be really fun and we spent the next forty five minutes going around the course. The best bit? I didn’t come last, but second!
- A’s hen do. A is one of my best and oldest friends – I’ve known her for ten years now! She is marrying J in September and so, despite her protestations, a hen do was thrown and a group of her closest friends and relatives went along to help her celebrate her ‘last night of freedom’ *eye roll*. We had a great supper club at The Muddy Lion and enjoyed ourselves with tequila tastings between each course and the strongest punch I’ve ever tasted! Everything was delicious and we had lots of fun, before moving onto the Bussey Building in Peckham to finish our night out at Soul Train. I headed home around 2am, having had a great time!
- Seeing C for the first time in about 18 months! C was booked into the Heathrow Terminal 4 Premier Inn which connects to the airport via a covered walkway, so I headed down there one Sunday evening to stay with her and have a good catch up before she flew back to New Zealand the next day. It turned out to be a really nice stay – despite the proximity to the airport there was no noise from any planes and the hotel is very new, with great amenities. We took advantage of the dinner and breakfast deal and spent the evening chatting and sharing our news. The next day, I waved her off in the departure lounge before heading back into central London for work.
- A taking me for a surprise evening out. A spent the month travelling in Europe, Israel and Morocco, but messaged me two weeks before she returned, telling me to keep my evening free on 24th August – she was taking me out for a surprise evening of fun. I duly booked out the evening and met her on Oxford Street after work. We headed for dim sum and caught up with all our news. I was keen to know her thoughts on Israel and Morocco and she wanted to know about life in London while she’d been away. The surprise turned out to be tickets to a comedy night at SoHo Theatre – an Australian comedian called Matt Okine. Being Australian herself, it wasn’t surprising A wanted to go! I thoroughly enjoyed the comedy – Matt was witty and quick, with the sort of ‘story-telling’ comedy that I enjoy. I’ve not laughed so hard in a long time, and am super grateful to have a friend like A who treats me to such lovely surprises!
- Heading back to Wales for a long weekend. It’s been six months since I was last in Wales. It’s a long overdue visit and it’s wonderful to be back. It’s so quiet! I’m going to be coding, posting this monthly recap blog, taking some walks, eating good food, relaxing and I’ll be heading to C and J’s wedding on Saturday evening as well, which will be lovely. More to come about my stay in the September recap, I daresay!
- Shopping for wedding outfits *eye roll again*. I really hate clothes shopping. I avoid it was much as possible, and rarely venture out to get new clothes. It’s like a once every six month expedition, where I get jeans, t-shirts and everything else I need in one swoop and then avoid it again for as long as possible. However, with two weddings in September, I really needed to get some new outfits, so I bit the bullet and headed over to Oxford Street last weekend to buy something. I’d decided against a dress – dresses just aren’t me, I find them uncomfortable and I’m never very confident in them. After years of trying to wear them to weddings, and always looking back and hating photos, I’ve decided it’s time to do me and go for trousers or a jumpsuit. After hours I finally found a colourful printed jumpsuit that I love and picked up a black jumpsuit as well, so I’ve actually got a choice of outfits to wear to the weddings. Shopping leaves me tired, frazzled and stressed out though, so this was a definite lowlight of my month! I won’t be heading out for new clothes until at least the new year now… I hope!
I’ve decided to (for the time being) replace Posts of the Month with a short update on my coding progress for the month, considering I’m not actually really blogging at the moment. So here is my first progress update!
Book of the Month
How Not to Travel the World: Adventures of a Disaster-Prone Backpacker by Lauren Juliff. I’ve been making a conscious effort to read more this month and watch less Netflix. As such, whereas I normally read less than a book a month normally, I managed to finish three books in August and I’ve been persevering with On The Road by Jack Kerouac, which I’ve been struggling through for a while now. This month, of the three books I read, my favourite was How Not to Travel the World. Lauren has been travelling the world for six years now, since leaving home in 2011. Before she chose to travel, she suffered severe anxiety, had depression and developed an eating disorder. At one point, she did not leave her house for six months. This book is the story of her first year or so of travel – how it pushed her boundaries, helped her recover and how she literally is the most accident-prone traveller going! It’s superbly written and really inspiring – if Lauren can travel, anyone can! She’s now living the dream, travelling around the world with her boyfriend and spending each day exploring new places and making money from her blog, Never Ending Footsteps. I would highly recommend this book if you love travelling, especially against the odds, or if you’re suffering or have ever suffered from mental illness and need some motivation to follow your dreams and go out to see the world. You can find a link to buy Lauren’s book here.
Instagram Pictures of the Month
My photos this month have all been taken in London. I’ve tried to get out whenever possible to explore some new areas and re-visit my favourite old haunts.
I choose these three images based on which got the most likes on Instagram and then tell the story behind the picture. Disclaimer: They are not necessarily my favourite photos!
Blue Whale, Natural History Museum, London. One of my favourite places in London is Hintz Hall, the epicentre and glorious architectural highlight of the Natural History Museum. Until last year, the centre piece of this wonderful museum was the full size ‘Dippy’ skeleton in the Hall, but this is now going on a UK tour and has been replaced by a magnificent blue whale skeleton that hangs, suspended, from the roof. I’d been meaning to go along and see the new skeleton for ages, but only made it, finally, this month. When I walked past the first time, the queue to get into the museum was down the road, so I went for a stroll in Hyde Park and sat reading my book for an hour or so before heading back to Exhibition Road at around 4.30pm. I’ve been here hundreds of times before and know most of the museum like the back of my hand, so made straight for Hintz Hall to view the skeleton. After taking numerous photos, including this one, I wandered into the rock room just off the main hall and spent a quiet half hour pacing up and down between the rows and rows of display cases that house the rocks and minerals of the world. I’ve always been fascinated by geology and used to collect rocks as a child (still do, kind of… There are a fair few in my room anyway from various places around the world!). I think it’s the amazing shapes and the array of colours they can be found in, from acid greens to canary yellows to azure blues and the brightest oranges, purples and reds. I find it extraordinary that such amazing colours can be created naturally. I left when the museum closed at 5.50pm feeling more relaxed and soothed than I’d felt in weeks. That’s what a blue whale skeleton and some rocks will do for ya!
Street Art, Brixton, London. A and I often meet in Brixton nowadays, since it’s super easy for me to get a bus down there and she can catch a train through to the station and it’s the best place to meet with the least hassle for both of us. We go for drinks, food, coffee and catch up, filling each other in on our news and exchanging gossip. One sunny Sunday, we met up in the late morning for coffee and moved onto an amazing (and super cheap) Turkish cafe for mezze and salads for lunch. I arrived early and strolled down Electric Avenue, heading towards Brixton Village to my favourite coffee shop in the area. Spotting this street art down a side alley, I changed course and wandered down the deserted street, which smelt slightly of piss, and stopped to admire the street art. I’ve been a big fan of street art since I lived in Wellington, and there is a glorious plethora of it across London, with new pieces springing up every single day. This piece brightened up the otherwise grimy side alley and I took several photos before continuing on my way to meet A. We went on to have a lovely morning together and I posted this image later that afternoon, with a promise to myself to head out again soon with the sole purpose of getting some more street art images for both my Instagram feed and, perhaps, a new blog post in the future, reminiscent of the one I posted about Wellington street art.
Green and Ruins, St Dunstans in the East, London. I have been meaning to visit this beautiful ruined church for an absolute age and have been putting it off for no good reason for a very long time. However, after I finished seeing A that Sunday, I didn’t particularly fancy going home. The sun was shining and I had a free afternoon. I walked halfway back to Kennington from Brixton and then made the decision that St Dunstans was not going to be put off any longer – today was the day. I hopped on the next 133 bus and headed north of the river to find the church and explore the City on a quiet weekend afternoon. Whilst St Dunstans wasn’t as quiet or peaceful as I’d hoped (there’s quite a busy road just down the street from it), the ruins are absolutely stunning and the whole place exudes an air of days gone by. I sat on a bench amongst the walls for a while, soaking up the atmosphere and watching a pair of tourists take photos of each other under the arches. A bride and groom with their photographer arrived for a photoshoot and there was a group filming some sort of dance scene on one of the lawns. Other people were reading, or sitting and chatting quietly. One man was offering interview advice to someone on the other end of his phone call and sipping a Starbucks coffee. I took this photo whilst I was sitting there, observing all of this, and it’s the best image I got of the church in my opinion. Afterwards, I walked into the City and explored quiet Leadenhall Market, overshadowed by towering glass office blocks – the Cheesegrater, the Gherkin, the Walkie Talkie. Reflections on reflections, shadow play, old meets new. The place was almost deserted save a few more adventurous tourists, slightly off the beaten track.