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

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

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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.

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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.
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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.
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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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!

Voted

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

In which there is a house tour

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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

Kitchen

Kitchen

Front bedroom

Front bedroom

Back bedroom

Back bedroom

Bathroom

Bathroom

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 http://www.milagros.co.uk; 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!

In which that was the month that was: April issue

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April is one of my favourite months: blue skies and blossom popping out everywhere. It’s been pretty warm here, too, so lots of meals have been eaten on the balcony and the first falafel of the year in Castle Park.

This month I have…

Upped my culture quota

I saw a contemporary circus show at the Old Vic (Under the Dark Moon) and comedy at the Tobacco Factory (Tom Stade), although neither were amazing. But of note was that even after a large glass of wine prior to the former, I didn’t want to fall asleep  in the darkened auditorium, so I’m taking that as a win for the MAD.

Celebrated Easter and a friend’s wedding

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My ex-university housemate got married on Easter Saturday at a rowing club in London where the Prosecco flowed, the favours were Mini Eggs and the youngest guest was just five weeks’ old (my other ex-housemate’s baba who received a pair of last month’s knitted booties). We took advantage of being in our nation’s capital by going on the Eye the next day (which S has never done) and wandering around Westminster in the sunshine. We then sat on the balcony for pretty much all of the Easter Monday, eating a lot of chocolate. The stash is still holding out, however.

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Treated my mom to afternoon tea

We headed to the Royal Crescent Hotel in Bath to celebrate her birthday, and the weather gods smiled on us too, so we got to sip our Champagne and eat our cakes and scones and Bath buns in the magnolia-filled garden. Can highly, highly recommend this place: the food was delicious, the fizz dry and the service impeccable.

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Celebrated six months in the house

We marked the occasion by buying and framing some new prints, getting a proper vase (as I was constantly nicking S’ specialist beer glasses to put flowers in) and continuing the destruction of the garden!

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