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. December is all about Christmas, right? The food, the lights, the time spent with loved ones, the giving and receiving of presents, time at home, time to relax, all the alcohol… So it seems fitting for the quote this month to reflect the season of peace and goodwill on earth!
‘Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful.’ – Norman Vincent Peale.
In January 2017, I announced I was going to start monthly recaps on my blog. Throughout 2017, I’ve posted these updates religiously, even during the period where I was focused on my coding and took a break from writing for a while. I have loved having these recaps to look back on and remember all the wonderful (and sometimes not so wonderful) things that have happened throughout the year. I’m going to keep these up this year as a result, and just need to round off 2017 with the December recap before I move into 2018 proper and focus on the year ahead.
If you missed the recap from November, you can find it here. December was always going to be a busy month. Before October was even over, I had my weekends leading up to Christmas all entirely blocked out with one fun activity or another. Whilst all the festive frivolity was fun, it did lead to one panic attack, some anxiety and a bit of burn out by the time I headed back to Wales for Christmas with my family. Needless to say, slowing down for a week at home was exactly what I needed, and I rolled into the new year feeling much more relaxed than I’d been just a week earlier.
- Not one, not two, not three but FOUR roasts in one month. The biggest Christmas bonus? All the food! I ate no fewer than four roasts in December, one every weekend. One I cooked myself for three friends, another was had after a cold walk in a cosy pub in Marylebone, the third was a group of friends gathered around the table at the Hollybush for perhaps the best roast I’ve ever had and obviously, the last one was Christmas dinner! The best meal of the year… I just couldn’t get enough of the stuffing, sprout, spud combo this month!
- A snowy day. Admittedly, the snow actually looked prettier when viewed from indoors, but we ventured out none the less since it almost never snows in London! Not properly, anyway. We took a walk through St James’ Park, stopping along the way for hot chocolate, and then headed for Marylebone for the second roast of the month, as mentioned above. It was a lovely day, despite getting so cold and wet my legs went all pink and tingly!
- All the work fun. My company know how to do Christmas celebrations well! We had a fantastic evening curling in Stratford (seriously, try it, it’s so much fun!), participating in a scavenger hunt and downing shots. As well as this, I had some other work evenings out, such as the Christmas party, a small tech group gathering and a random Tuesday where I was only meant to stay for one drink and ended up pissed after drinking Bailey’s all night… And then there was all the fun in the week before Christmas… Festive films, too much Michael Buble, all the cheese, Bailey’s hot chocolates… Yep, it’s safe to say we seriously overindulged!
- Learning how to make dumplings! I’ve already mentioned this in my post reflecting on 2017, because these dumplings were SO. DARN. GOOD. Seriously. The best dumplings I have ever eaten. P, J and I descended upon A’s house to drink mulled wine with her and learn how to make these dumps. We probably ate about 50 in the end, and had a lovely evening chatting and catching up while we wrapped, A cooked and everyone had a few mugs of wine. Perfect!
- Three visits to Borough Market. Literally one of my favourite places in London, and the run up to Christmas is the best time to visit. It’s lovely to support small, local producers and buy artisian, handmade products. I spent a small fortune on cheese in Neal’s Yard, picked up amazing mushroom pate and bought a f’load of Brussel sprouts and purple carrots for the family Christmas dinner. Yum!
- Going back to Wales. By the time Friday 22nd rolled around, I was so ready to leave London and head home. It felt so wonderful to have a full week back in Wales – the longest amount of time I’ve spent there since June 2016! I treated myself to an Uber to Paddington station, got a train to Abergavenny and was back in the blissfully quiet countryside. Just what I needed!
- Christmas Day itself! I love Christmas, mainly because of the food, in case you hadn’t noticed. But I also love that my family comes together, I get to spend time with the four most important people in my life all at once and it’s just great. We also had the wonderful additions of my Nanna and Grandpa to keep us company for Christmas too – it was lovely to catch up with them and see them for such a long time! Christmas Day was filled with presents, food, Bailey’s (so much Bailey’s this year!) and plenty of family time.
- More snow and catch-ups with friends in Wales. Whilst I was in Wales, it snowed quite heavily between Christmas and New Years, which was both beautiful and mildy irritating as it nearly scuppered my plans to see friends. E has now moved to Australia for a year, so I had to see her before she headed Down Under. We didn’t let sheet ice hamper our plans, and I drove at snail’s pace to spend a few hours with her catching up. The following evening, I headed to Builth to have dinner with H and L, which was lovely. We exchanged presents and had a nice meal and caught up on each other’s news.
- Heading to Devon to finish off 2017 in quiet style. I met A in Bristol and we headed to Devon for a couple of nights away over New Years. Our AirBnb was so cosy, with beautiful touches such as homemade fudge and a bottle of wine in the fridge for us to enjoy. What an amazing host! We had a completely chilled time, binge watching Black Mirror and eating lots. The absolute highlight of the trip for me was the train journey we took from Newton Abbot to Dawlish Warren. This section of the track runs right alongside the coast and the waves smash up against the wall as the train rumbles by. It’s absolutely beautiful and I’d highly recommend it, followed by a walk along the beach at Dawlish Warren. After our excursion, we cooked pizza and saw in the new year in quiet style – watching the fireworks in London on TV under a duvet with mugs of tea… We know how to party!!
- Feeling so drained I just longed to leave London. Going back to Wales came literally at the perfect moment. I sat on the edge of my bed before departing London and told A I felt completely drained and exhausted. I spent December burning the candle at both ends, and paid for it. In addition, there’s been a few things going on in the background that have left me extremely tired and more than a little stressed out. I’ve never wanted to leave London so much as I did that evening, so thank goodness I could! Getting an Uber to the train station was the perfect start to my two week, much needed break.
- A panic attack and bout of anxiety so bad I had to take a day off work. I’ve had panic attacks before, and anxiety too. I’ve spoken about it on this blog in the past. But I’ve never experienced anything so bad that I felt the need to have time off work. I am grateful my managers are understanding and considerate when it comes to mental health, and my time was allowed without question or judgement. The panic attack itself occurred on a Saturday morning and was exacerbated by a hangover. Thankfully, when I rang P, he was able to talk me down and get my mind moving, so I managed to calm down. However, it led to a short, intense period of anxiety that lasted through until the Tuesday morning and was exacerbated by events I’m not happy to share on this blog. I took most of Monday off work and felt much better by Tuesday, but it wasn’t pleasant and I hope I won’t be experiencing such severe anxiety again for a while!
Posts This Month
- Seasonal London. A run-down on things to do in the capital depending on the season, be it skating in winter or picnicking in summer, and everything in between!
- Visiting Bath: One of my Favourite Cities in the World. A guide to visiting Bath, including eating and accommodation recommendations, and all the sights!
- Reflections on 2017. My annual round-up on the year that has just past, including my personal highlights, the low points and photos from throughout the year.
TV Series of the Month
Black Mirror. Obviously.
The fourth season of this critically acclaimed show and man, it did not disappoint! What a season! Every single episode was thought-provoking for its own reasons. I found Metalhead particularly jarring, although Maxine Peake’s acting was, of course, impeccable. Also difficult to swallow was the episode Crocodile. Without spoiling the plot, this episode had something of a noir feel about it and left me feeling uneasy as the closing scenes played out.
More enjoyable, but no less thought-provoking, was Hang The DJ, a more light-hearted episode revolving around dating. It was an interesting spin on social norms and how we interact with others whilst on dates, how they play out, how relationships work and so on. One of my favourite episode was USS Callister – it was the perfect opener, with excellent graphics, a great cast and a brilliant storyline.
My least favourite episodes were Arkangel and Black Museum, and even those episodes were strong in their own way. It was a season I would highly recommend, and if you’ve not seen any Black Mirror before (where have you been?!), all four seasons are now available on Netflix. These long, dark winter nights are the perfect time for a marathon!
In other entertainment news, who else is excited that Friends is now available on UK Netflix?! What a great way to start the new year!!
Instagram Pictures of the Month
My photos this month were taken mainly in London and Wales, with one throwback shot to Ireland and one from my time spent in Devon at the end of the month.
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!
Christmas is Coming, Covent Garden, London. I headed home early from the first work night out of the month, and crossed Covent Garden on route to Embankment tube. Seeing this glorious tree made me feel properly festive. The lights in London in the run up to Christmas are always fantastic – they really set the mood and get me ready for the season ahead. There is nothing like reflected lights shining on slick cobblestones, or the twinkle of fairy lights in a window to lift my spirits as I walk home from work or go about my business around the city.
Toy Town, London. A view from the Walkie Talkie. It was bitterly cold and I hadn’t yet invested in my new winter coat. I tugged my jacket tighter around me and wished I’d brought my scarf with me. The visit up to the Sky Garden was unplanned, hence the lack of appropriate clothing. There is nothing I like more than a view from upon high, be it a mountain overlooking green countryside or a skyscraper towering over the city vista. Throw in the fact that visiting the Sky Garden is free and you’re onto a winner! I’d definitely recommend a trip up – grab a coffee, enjoy the views and relax.
Where Land Meets Sea, Beara Peninsula, Ireland. Nobody knew where I was. I was completely alone and I hadn’t told a soul I was going for a drive and then this walk, following the clifftop, the wind taking my breath away. I hadn’t even messaged my family to say I was heading out. It’s nothing something I’d recommend, but the occasional times I do it I always have the best kind of adventures. This walk took me through a bog (I ruined my shoes), found me crawling on hands and knees as close to the cliff edge as I dared to take photos and then I found this spot – a small stream flowing into the ocean. Ripples and currents ebbing into the waves, that sucked and smashed and clawed at the rocks as the swell rolled in with the breakers.