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. January has been strange, in many respects. Although the year started positively, with trips to Devon and Norway, the majority of the rest of the month has been taken up with flat hunting, flat viewings and generally speaking, stress, anxiety and ultimately, disappointment when we didn’t get the flat we really wanted. So here’s a quote to sum up the month!
‘House hunting is easy. It’s the catching it part that’s difficult.’ – Susan Gale.
In January 2017, I announced I was going to start monthly recaps on my blog. We’re now at the end of January 2018, and it’s time for the first recap post of the year!
If you missed the recap from December, you can find it here. Looking back, January feels like a really long, difficult month. Although it started off on a good note (a four-night visit to my 25th country, Norway, to celebrate my 29th birthday), things kind of went a bit downhill from there with reality biting pretty quickly once I got back into the swing of work. Oh, and the flat hunt. Don’t even get me started. However, and prepare for some corn, I do feel grateful for the fact that when I think hard enough, I can still find more highlights to write about than lowlights. Yes, looking at the month as a whole, it’s been a pretty stressful start to the year, but when I dig deeper, I can pinpoint many great things that have happened.
- Taking the night train from Oslo to Bergen. There is something wonderfully exciting about boarding a train in the dark. You unlock the door to the little sleeper compartment to find a cosy little space, with the beds made up, the blind down and everything ready and waiting for you before you’re whisked across the country. A sleeper train is one of my favourite kinds of adventure, and I was particularly thrilled to share this journey with Mum. Whilst I didn’t sleep very well, we did get to experience a magical winter wonderland as the train sped through the night. The views beyond our window were quite ethereal – picture book snow scenes illuminated by a full moon – and we spent some time with our faces pressed to the window, peering out, entranced. It was a great start to our Norwegian adventure!
- A glorious birthday in Bergen. We spent the morning of my 29th birthday on board a cruise that took us out into the fjords around Bergen. It was icy cold on deck as the boat picked up speed and the wind chill sent the temperates plummeting. Even wrapped up with several layers on, I was freezing! It was worth it though, to see the sunrise and view Bergen from a different angle. I even got to see my first ever sea ice! Afterwards, we warmed up with a hot drink before I took the funicular railway to the Floyen viewpoint for sunset. I spent about half an hour inching my way through the forest, across snow so densely packed it had turned to ice, trying not to fall flat on my arse. I stood quietly to watch the sun slowly sink below the horizon, the sky a riot of colour. It was a perfect sunset. Later, Mum and I ate Thai food and then relaxed. It was a great birthday – not too much fuss and spent in a new country.
- Taking the day train from Bergen back to Oslo. We took the train back to Oslo as well, this time largely in daylight. On the way back, we were treated to the stunning scenery Norway has to offer – huge mountains plunging down into vast blue fjords, the deepest snow I have ever seen and glimpses into every day Norwegian winter life. We spotted people riding snow mobiles and cross country skiing across apparent wilderness. At Norway’s highest train station, I stepped off the train for a couple of minutes to experience the extreme sub-zero temperatures and take a few photos. It was a wonderful journey, with such beautiful views. I was agog at the window all day and didn’t read a single page of the book I’d brought with me!
- Ticking something off my anti-bucket list! Visiting Bergen was something I added to my anti-bucket list a while back, when I realised that my name, Bethen, autocorrects to Bergen on most phones. It seemed fitting that I should visit over a birthday, with my Mum, and that Norway was my 25th new country! I’ll be posting more on my trip to Bergen soon.
- Birthday pizza celebrations at Homeslice. This evening made me realise just how great my friends are! I didn’t even realise I had quite so many (which sounds silly, I know!). I told P we needed a table for eight before I was corrected and told there were actually ten people in our group. I always get slightly anxious before introducing new people to each other, but I needn’t have worried. Everyone got on like a house on fire, and messaged me later to tell me so! These people are gold.
- Booking some exciting flights! Yep, my next trip is coming together nicely… J and I booked our flights to Nepal a couple of weeks ago! We’re heading there for two weeks in April, and I am beyond excited to visit this country I’ve been longing to see for years! You can expect a lot of new posts about our time there coming soon to the blog!
- A catch-up with A in Wagamamas. Wow, it had been such a long time since I saw A. It was so good to finally catch up with one another and hear all of A’s news. Plus, a Wagamamas treat night is always a bonus! We’re spending the day together again soon, which I’m already really looking forward to!
- Always having E around when I need her. I don’t know where I’d be without E sometimes. She’s my absolute rock, and is always here for me when I need her. I’ve felt grateful for her presence this month, her constant patience and bolstering, and her continued reassurance that everything is always going to turn out okay! Thank goodness I have such a great person in my life to take care of me when I need it!
- Getting hooked on Sudoku. E got me into them, and I have to say, they are literally such a great way to pass time! I am really enjoying my new Sudoku app and have been spending a bit too much time on it, staying up until 1am one night to try and complete a particularly tricky puzzle.
- Flat hunting in London. So. Fucking. Long. And so absolutely God-awfully horrible! The whole damn process. From the constant scrolling through property website after property website, to the constant phone calls from agents at all hours of the day and night, to the viewings (this flat’s too small, this one is too far from the tube, this one is a shitty area, this one is just disgusting), to actually finding somewhere you like and the stress of putting an offer in, the underlying excitement and then the pure shit of a greedy, absolute fucker of a landlord telling you that your generous offer is too low and they won’t accept it unless you go in higher. Like, no. The whole process. Just no. We are now taking a bit of time off to focus on other things that we have going on, since flat hunting literally seems to have consumed our lives for the past few weeks. I know we will find somewhere eventually. I hope, anyway. But in the meantime. What a load of shit!
- Severe anxiety over one weekend. Brought on by flat hunting, struggling to decide whether to put an offer on a property, tiredness, stress… I spent a day at home instead of going to Greenwich as planned and E came to spend time with me. I managed to push the anxiety away after about twenty four hours, and luckily it’s been kept at bay since then. But it wasn’t pleasant while it lasted!
- Having to say goodbye to two of my really good friends on the same day! Yeah, this one majorly sucked. One of my closest work friends left to go travelling, and one of my best best friends A moved back to Australia. It’s difficult losing people you’re close to, even if you know that you’ll see them again soon. I’ll miss having A in the office every day, and I’ll miss messaging A to come and do random London things with me on a whim. I know I’ll see them both again in the not too distant future, but it’s not quite the same as having them around all the time!
Posts This Month
- My 2018 Ambitions. In which I outline my goals for the year!
- My 2018 Reading Challenge. A list of 12 books that have been recommended to me by friends, family and colleagues. And a cheat list of books I also want to read this year. Because I love a good cheat list!
- Feeling Small in Wadi Rum. A reflective piece on my time spent in the Wadi Rum desert last March, and how small it made me feel.
My 2018 Reading Challenge Book of the Month – January.
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie.
This book was recommended to me by G, and wow, it was intense! I knew I’d enjoy the book before I even picked it up, because I really enjoy Agatha Christie’s books, but this was such a good one.
As with all her books, this is a murder mystery and I was kept guessing right up until the end as to who the suspect was. I won’t give away the plot, or include any spoilers, but if you’re a fan of Christie’s other books, or enjoy a good murder mystery, then this is among the best I’ve ever read! It thoroughly deserves it’s high 4.2/5 rating on GoodReads. I’d go as far as to say I’d rate it higher – pushing up to 4.5/5.
It was the perfect way to kickstart my challenge and get me into reading again. It helped to make me excited for the challenge ahead and I’m looking forward to starting my February recommendation at the beginning of the new month – Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
In January, I also read:
- Desert Snow: One Girl’s Take On Africa by Bike by Helen Lloyd. I have really enjoyed reading about Helen’s adventures in both Siberia (I read that book over Christmas) and in Africa, which she writes about in this book. She is a courageous, intrepid woman, a fantastic role model and she has inspired me to challenge myself more in the future.
- This Is London by Ben Judah. I am halfway through this book, so will roll my commentry over to February’s recap as well. So far, this book as gripped me, with stories from the other side of London that most people generally choose to ignore. It’s a compelling insight into the lives lead by immigrants all over the capital and a must-read for anyone who wants to learn more about London in depth.
TV Series of the Month
When Netflix added the entire ten seasons of Friends to their site on 1st January, of course this was what I was going to watch when I had spare time. Yes, it’s the fifty thousandth time I’ve rewatched this programme. Yes, it’s lame to keep re-watching the same episodes over and over every couple of years. But it never gets old! The jokes are still funny. And for the most part, it’s not even aged that badly either in terms of how it addresses subjects such as sexuality and gender equality.
This show is started running over 20 years ago and it’s still good. That is an achievement! I for one am thrilled Netflix finally added it to their UK site. It’s been the perfect TV to watch whilst the rest of this crazy month has been going on.
One thing to note though: how annoying is Ross now when you watch it back?! Nowadays, he comes across as controlling, manipulative and a super jealous boyfriend / ex, especially with regards to Rachel. As the series has progressed throughout January, I’ve become more and more irritated by his character and sometimes downright pissed off! The more I watch Friends, the more I think that Joey and Rachel would’ve been the perfect couple if the writers had had the guts to let them be together, but instead we end up with Rachel quashing her dreams to stay in New York and be with Ross. Urgh.
Instagram Pictures of the Month
My photos this month were taken mainly in Norway, Devon and London, with one throwback shot to Ireland and another to our time in Jordan. I also posted an image of the library in my parents house to coincide with my post about the reading challenge I’ve set myself in 2018.
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!
Pink Sky at Night, between Bergen and Oslo, Norway. I have never seen so much snow in my life as I did on this day. The train wound slowly across the mountains from Bergen. As we climbed higher and higher, the snow just got deeper and deeper. The rivers and streams started freezing up, waterfalls were sheets of ice. Norway’s winter landscape is a beautiful and pristine world, every tree and house cushioned by inch upon inch of snow and ice. Taking photos from a moving train can be difficult, but I managed to get a few pictures I was happy with, including this one as the light began to fade. I love how the cabin seems to be nestling amongst the trees – despite the snow the scene almost seems cosy. And that pink hue in the sky… Absolutely beautiful!
Birthday Boat Trip, Bergen, Norway. The boat inched up a narrowing finger of water, with high cliffs on each side dropped dramatically down into the fjord. I wanted to get a different angle on the scene, and used the burst function on my phone camera to ensure I got the Norwegian flag in full flow for this shot. The wind buffeted us, turning our cheeks pink and raw and our fingers became stiff and immoveable. For a time, I stood at the prow of the boat, with my scarf pulled up to my eyes. I had difficulty breathing in the cold and my eyes streamed. With the scarf pulled up, I couldn’t see the bow of the boat below, only the water ahead, which felt a little like flying. We warmed up in the cabin afterwards with hot chocolate, wrapping our hands around the mugs to thaw our fingers. The boat trip was a birthday present from my parents, and was the perfect start to my day!
All of the Lights, Oslo, Norway. I was a little surprised that this photo garnered so many likes on Instagram. I took it while we were strolling around Oslo waiting for our night train to depart for Bergen. We popped into H&M and tried on jumpers, then walked the city a little, taking in what we could in a short space of time. Afterwards, we spent a couple of hours in a cosy coffee shop, reading quietly, watching the world go by and sipping hot drinks before heading off to catch our train.