In which there is some gardening


I have to admit, my enthusiasm for home improvements is pretty low at the moment and still recovering from the epic work we did on the house. But the itch for DIY never completely goes away if there is still stuff to be completed, and boy are there definitely things to be done on the garden.

This is what the garden looked like when we bought the house in September 2013:


After being neglected for a year, and used as a building site for balcony construction, by this spring it was running a little wild. We cut down the insanely tall and light-blocking leylandii and a hell of a lot of shrubs earlier this year, having a mad chipping and burning session. We then did nothing over the summer and it ended up looking like this.


In order to create what we wanted, we decided that the best course of action was to start afresh, strip everything back to nothing and have a blank space to work with. Although it doesn’t look like it, there are some great plants in there that are well worth keeping and destroying these would have been a real shame, so we hired a gardener I’d met at the allotment in order to dig them up and pot them. Best decision ever, I have to say. I could have done this, but crucially I didn’t want to, plus this guy has way more knowledge than me and made sure the plants made a happy transition from ground to pot. After four days of his hard work and a session with his rotivator when the ground was clear, this is what we’re left with:

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Unlike the house, there’s no deadline with this so we can take our time over what happens next. We’ve got drawings, we’ve got ideas, all that needs to happen now is for me to get more enthusiastic about actually doing the work!

Oh, and in line with the rest of the country, it’s been a great year for our apple tree. Eight bags picked and still so many on there!


In which those were the months that were: June and July edition



Trips, barbecues, picnics and birthdays… June and July had a great mix of fun stuff that was planned in plus some more spontaneous things.


Watched Jaws in the woods and Dirty Dancing in a hot tub
This summer is clearly a time of watching films in odd places. As part of a Two Wheeled Cinema event, we cycled over to Leigh Woods and watched one of S’ favourite films on a lovely warm night, while eating Munchies and cider on a picnic blanket. We then rode back in the dark through a deserted Ashton Court, which was eerie but quite beautiful. Dirty Dancing in a hot tub was as much fun as it sounds — six ladies in a hot tub, waiter service to bring drinks over, a room full of equally excited girls (plus a couple of boys) and then an 80s/90s music video party afterwards.

Went to Copenhagen
My Canadian friend Steph was out there with her family, so it was too good an opportunity to pass up meeting them and visiting another country at the same time. Plus it was the week before my birthday so I claimed it as an early present. It was very similar to S’ birthday jaunt to Amsterdam earlier this year — lots of cycling, nice beer, just in a lot warmer temperatures!
Turned 33
The sun (just about) shone on my birthday week (although it was super windy), so on the Saturday before I had a picnic in Queen Square followed by drunken pizza at Renatos, and then on my actual birthday, a Wednesday, I met some friends for dinner and lots of rose. S was supposed to be away that week on a cycling trip (with my blessing) but he broke his bike (oops) and so made an appearance on the actual day after all.
Celebrated a friend’s wedding
This was one of the most fun weddings I’ve ever been too, with lots of delicious food and a lovely Somerset location. As the bride is half Indian she had a sangeet (a traditional ladies’ henna event) the night before the wedding, where I had a gorgeous pattern put on my hand as part of the celebrations and ate an amazing curry cooked by her dad.
Had a reunion in the New Forest
Best friend Z was back for a bit from Australia, so we gathered a group of university and school friends and went on a mini break to a cottage in the New Forest for a weekend. Much fizzy wine was consumed (as a starter, four of us got through four bottles by 6pm on the Friday), we saw some super cute ponies and I got to hang out with some of my favourite people.
Spotted sheep in the city
Bristol is currently hosting a Shaun the Sheep trail, where individually decorated Shauns can be found dotted around. There are 70 to ‘collect’, so over the course of a bike ride two weeks ago we got 22, then we added another 12 to the mix last weekend in between buying nice coffee and eating tiffin.
Gone freelance!
And so far it’s going very well — I’ve learned a lot about gluten free cooking and papercrafting.

In which my working life changes yet again


In a situation that I’ve encountered several times before, in just over a week I will be made redundant from my job. Unlike previous times, however, this role was maternity cover so it didn’t come as a surprise that my services would no longer be required; in fact, I’m quite amazed to discover that I qualify for redundancy pay (I’ve done two fixed term contracts back to back which have gone over the magic two years.)

In the past few months I’ve been applying for jobs in the same company, but while I was offered a role, it just wasn’t right, and something was holding me back from saying yes. Hitting ‘send’ on the email where I said thanks but no thanks was simultaneously terrifying and liberating: what if I’d made the wrong decision?

But ah, what if I’d made the right one?

And I believe I have: as of mid July I am going full-time freelance. It was a decision that took a lot of mulling over both in my head and with S, but now that the die is cast I’m really pleased I’ve done it. Going part time freelance in 2010 worked out super well and led onto wonderful things — including my current publishing career — so I have every faith that this will too.

I’ve already got work booked for the rest of July and all of August, which is fab, and the aforementioned redundancy pay will also provide a nice cushion, so for the next few weeks at least I am set. I’ll give it a go until Christmas, and then re-assess, and if my dream job comes up in the meantime then I will apply for it. But I’m excited at the prospect of being able to branch out and try new things, work for different magazines, and also at the thought of being able to go back into working for the third sector in addition to publishing. I am ready. Let’s do this!

In which that was the month that was: May issue


You’ve gotta love May, with its double bank holiday action. Shame the weather wasn’t playing ball all the time though! So this month I…

Went on another 20s’ themed hen do


I’m very glad I kept the accessories from my previous 20s hen dos as I had another one this month down in Torquay. I love a few pearls and ankle strapped shoes though, so all good with me, and this one featured a murder mystery which was fun. The bride was challenged to take a selfie with each of us that demonstrated how we knew each other: since we’re trapeze friends, that necessitated finding somewhere to go upside down! We ended up hanging from our hocks on the fence outside the Torquay big wheel — and just got the photo before we were angrily told off by a cafe owner.

Continued working on the garden


S hired a breaker and filled up an entire 6 yard skip with concrete, which I helped to load, and the absence of piles and piles and piles of concrete means we have more of a blank canvas to start with. A friend from work is training to be a garden designer and has offered to do some sketches for us of what we could do with the space, so I’m excited to see what she comes up with.

Enjoyed two bank holidays

For the first one we mostly lazed on the balcony, which had its glass put in on the Sunday, and drank Prosecco to celebrate. For the second we had thought about going to North Wales but the prospect of bad weather put us off, so instead we did a lush bike ride to Chew Magna for a pub lunch on the Saturday when it was actually sunny, then I spent the Sunday finishing off the painting inside the house (it’s done! Finally!) and visiting the allotment on the Monday. I also tried a Black Espresso Magnum and a peanut butter Cornetto, so the ice cram quota was nice and high.

Knitted more booties


Two more friends gave birth this month so the needles have been busy with more booties. The next step is to start following more complex patterns and attempt something that’s properly shaped.

Took one of the nicest train journeys ever


I popped down to Totnes this week after work to see a friend, who’s back briefly from Germany, and got to travel along the stunning section of railway that borders the sea by Dawlish Warren. Looking out and only being able to see water is pretty special, and even more so as this was the bit of line that got washed away during the 2014 floods but was rebuilt within two months. Hurrah for engineers!


And then got depressed. Let’s hope the next five years pass quickly.

In which there is a house tour


Our balcony was finally finished over the bank holiday, and so coinciding with S taking some photos of the house with a wide-angled lens, I thought I’d share the fruits of our labours over the past few months.

When we moved in, the house was stuck in a time warp. The electrics all pre-dated the 1977 colour change, there was no central heating and the bathroom still had the original 30s tiles (sadly not good enough to keep). We were only the third owners since 1936, with the couple before us being in there for over sixty years. It was described as “in need of some modernisation”. It definitely needed TLC. A friend of mine called it “retro”, which I think was rather too kind! This is what it looked like before.

Living room

Living room

Dining room

Dining room



Front bedroom

Front bedroom

Back bedroom

Back bedroom



Small bedroom

Small bedroom

There were loads of great original features though — internal doors with Bakelite handles, the leaded glass front door and picture rails in most rooms. S loved the cellar and the garage as potential bike storage/workshop space. And, of course, the view. The view is what really sold it to us, being high up and looking out towards South Bristol and Somerset. We knew there was so much potential for it to be an amazing house.

Over ten months we stripped wallpaper, knocked down a wall and an outhouse, did the bonding plasterwork, dug the foundations for the balcony, put in a lintel, rebuilt a wall, sanded and polished the floors, built shelves and painted. A lot. External contractors rewired it, installed central heating and a woodburner, swapped windows and doors over in the kitchen-diner, did the top coat of plaster, put in a new kitchen and bathroom and built the balcony.

And here’s how it looks now…




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Seeing these photos side by side makes me realise how far we’ve come from that day in September 2013 when we fell in love with the view. Every time I put my key in the lock, I still get a thrill to see it all complete, and I genuinely can’t imagine living anywhere else now.

For those of you interested in the details: all paint Wickes white trade matt with a top coat of Dulux matt soft sheen in brilliant white; kitchen: all units, sink and worktop from Wickes; dining room: tiles in fireplace from; bathroom: suite from Bath Store, tiles from Topps Tiles; living room: floating shelves built by us using batons, tongue and groove and redwood planks; cat: photographer’s own!