Slightly later than usual, here is my now annual, somewhat narcissistic look back on the previous year.
- What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Went trekking in the Atlas Mountains. Ate soup from a bread bowl. Took part in a childhood memory, The Crystal Maze. Had my home featured on a design blog. Pitched a feature to a magazine I had no prior connection with and had it accepted for actual cash payment! Visited Durdle Door in Dorset. Knitted my first two baby hats, which I’m really proud of. Knitted my first rabbits, which I also love. Cycled to work. Watched an opera all the way through.
Oh, and get pregnant. Yep, I’m having a baby! The ETA of Mini W, as I have dubbed them, is 18th May. So this has also led to a whole load of other firsts: having an ultrasound, wearing maternity clothes, feelinh a baby kicking me, sharing intimate bodily details with total strangers…
- Did you keep your new year’s resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
Last year I said “I just want to appreciate everything I have, continue to grow my freelance work and be the best wife, friend, daughter and sister I can be. I’ve also made a decision to do more of what I want to do and stop saying yes to things I don’t want to do (albeit in a polite manner).” I would say that’s been pretty successful. I read The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a **** earlier in the year and found myself nodding in agreement to everything the author said. Consequently I have really tried to only do things that I want to do, and while it’s not always worked, it’s definitely more in my consciousness. My freelance work has gone really well this year, and I’ve expanded my clients as well as launching a specific subsection of my business with its own website and branding. I’ve certainly been more appreciative of everything I have – global and personal events in 2016 have made this even more necessary – and I hope my friends and family would say that I’ve been a good person to have in their lives. Certainly everyone gave us an amazing and joyous reaction to the announcement of Mini W, so that bodes well! So this year, I want to continue on the same path, with the added addition of being the best parent I can be, and a bit less freelance work.
- Did anyone close to you give birth?
We welcomed a new niece in April, then friends’ babies in February (twice), April, May (twice) and November. Next year I have two friends (who handily live just around the corner) giving birth in January and February, and I’m sure (hope) that more will be announced. More hats and rabbits to come!
- Did anyone close to you die?
My wonderful friend N, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2015, died in August. I had the privilege of dancing at her wedding in June, which was the last time I saw her, and I’m glad I have such a happy final memory of her. Her death hit my friends and me really hard, and has really shaped how I view life and ensure that I am even more grateful for everything I have. She was an amazing person – funny, clever, engaged with the world, generous. I miss her a lot and still rail against the sheer unfairness of what happened to her.
- What countries did you visit?
Morocco in April for my mom’s 70 birthday, and then an epic Eastern European road trip encompassing Croatia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Hungary and Austria in July.
- What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Wine, caffeine, unpasteurised cheese. I’ve only lacked these since September but my, it’s been hard at times. Alcohol and caffeine really do make everything taste better.
- What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
10th September, when I found out I was pregnant.
- What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Managing to give up all alcohol for three months straight and then reducing it to less than half a glass of wine beyond that! On a less superficial level, having the confidence to cycle to work. Luckily a lot of the route is off road, by the river, making it a lovely commute, but I’m still really pleased that I’ve had the courage to brave Bristol commuter traffic for the busy sections. Cycling to work is ace, and a great way to bookend the day.
- What was your biggest failure?
The fact I can’t think of one either says that I’m really arrogant, or that I had a lucky year. Hopefully it’s the latter!
- Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nope, I’ve been (touch wood) really well this year, even while pregnant. In fact I feel a little bit guilty sometimes when people ask how I am and my response is fine and dandy, especially when I know so many people who really suffered with morning sickness and fatigue.
- What was the best thing you bought?
As with last year, we have really tried to cut back on buying objects, as the older I get the more I despair at just how much stuff there is in the world. So again, the ‘experiences’ I bought, such as holidays and meals out, were the best. In terms of objects, I bought a pair of black boots that are the same as my beloved fox red ones, which I do love and wear a lot, plus a second hand cat jumper (it’s freaking awesome). Oh, and paying someone to landscape our garden was a brilliant decision.
- Whose behaviour merited celebration?
As always, S continues to be my absolute favourite human being. He has been a rock this year, and I genuinely don’t know what I would do without him. I was also so grateful to have an amazing group of supportive friends this year to cope with various issues that came up.
- Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Oh, the list could go on for ever here. Trump, Michael Gove, Boris Johnson, journalists from The Daily Mail and other such tawdry publications… So much of national and international events in 2016 made me appalled and depressed. It’s important to remember the good stuff, though, which is why I really liked the list of positive news stories that Colonel Chris Hadfield posted on his Facebook page on 31st December. Go check it out and feel a bit better.
- Where did most of your money go?
We spent quite a bit to get the front and back garden landscaped, but as mentioned, this was definitely worth it as man, lugging railway sleepers around is hard! Most of our money went to savings, actually, which is good to build them up after the Great House Renovation of 2014 and in light of having an extra mouth to feed this year.
- What did you get really excited about?
Telling our family and friends about Mini W. Spending time with one of my best friends in Sarajevo. Winning both of my crystals in The Crystal Maze!
- What song will always remind you of 2016?
Lover of the Light by Mumford and Sons, and Made-Up Love Song #3 by The Guillemots, although sadly not for the happiest reasons. The latter was N’s first dance, and the former was played at her memorial service. But as well as being poignant, they also remind me of what a wonderful human being she was. On a happier level, Justin Timberlake’s Can’t Stop the Feeling always makes me smile.
- Compared with this time last year, are you:
–happier or sadder?
As happy as I was last year, as for the majority, it’s been a good year. Events on both a domestic and global scale make me even more grateful for my life, and my wonderful friends and family.
–thinner or fatter?
I’m 22 weeks pregnant, so definitely fatter! How much is a baby and how much is Christmas excess though is debatable…
–richer or poorer?
Richer as, aside from the garden, we’ve not had to do anything on the house and we’ve been able to save quite a lot. When I stop work this is going to come in handy!
- What do you wish you’d done more of?
Dancing, not worrying, going to the allotment.
- What do you wish you’d done less of?
Wasting time on my phone. As with last year, working on evenings and weekends. The curse of the freelancer! But the payoff is that I get to have odd weekdays off from work and also plan nice things such as the now-annual trip away I take with my mom. And I never learn, but stressing about deadlines. It always works out! I really ought to know that now.
- How did you spend Christmas?
S and I spent it with just the two of us (and Olivia). It was a sadly alcohol-free celebration for me, but I ate lots of warm mince pies and clotted cream to make up for it. I got given a lot of socks and chocolate (we now have a drawer full), we spent mornings snuggled under the duvet watching TV and I did absolutely no work at all.
- Did you fall in love in 2016?
I really understood for the first time what it’s like to feel overwhelming parental love for someone, even someone who’s not yet here.
- What was your favourite TV programme?
S and I binge watched series 6 of Game of Thrones over Christmas and New Year, which was excellent. I feel that events are finally starting to level out and nasty people are starting to get their comeuppance.We also got through Stranger Things very quickly, and even went to a DJ Yoda gig inspired by the series. I really enjoyed The People v OJ Simpson, particularly the episode that focussed on Marcia Clarke. The ‘San Junipero’ episode of Black Mirror was superb, and so life-affirming — very different from the usual dark predictions that leave me feeling drained and depressed after watching. I also started watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix, and have reached series 5. S is not joining in with this, and in fact is not that impressed that it’s the only reason we’ve kept our Netflix subscription going.
- What was the best book you read?
Out of the 75 books I read, The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett was definitely my favourite. I loved it so much that I went out and bought it for my friend for her birthday and I keep telling people that they need to read it. I also really enjoyed The Muse by Jessie Burton, which S gave me for Christmas.
- What was your greatest musical discovery?
There was nothing noteworthy this year. We continue to listen to a lot of funk and soul, and saw Craig Charles live on Good Friday, who was excellent, and made up for the god-awful phone-in gig we last saw him give in Bristol.
- What did you want and get?
Exchange and completion on our old house. A landscaped garden.
- What did you want and not get?
To finish the online journalism course I started in April. The trouble with self-study is that
lounging around reading paid work has to take priority, so I’m only halfway through. My aim is to complete it by April, however, so it’s done before I start my maternity leave.
- What did you not want and not get?
Long periods of unemployment. Hurrah! I had a quiet April but I just used it to spring clean the house and get ahead with regular commissions, so while I could have done with some more income that month, it wasn’t the end of the world.
- What was your favourite film of this year?
It doesn’t make me sound highbrow but I really loved Bad Neighbours 2!
- What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 34 and we had a rum and reggae evening with friends at ours to take advantage of the warm weather and the balcony. I made jerk chicken and coleslaw, and we drank several bottles of rum. Then S took me to Go Ape in the Forest of Dean, which was a lot of fun, and that evening we drank a lot of Prosecco and ate pizza while watching Mystic Pizza.
- What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
.Less worry and more alcohol.
- How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
I would never really describe myself as having a ‘personal fashion concept’, as I’ve been wearing exactly the same type of clothes for years now — skinny jeans, short skirts, dresses, boots. A few years ago I made a conscious design to be much more aware of where my clothing was coming from, and not to buy from the worst ‘sweatshop’ offenders on the high street. I have kept this up now and will only buy from a handful of shops that put effort into the transparency of their supply chain and that have better ethical ratings than Primark, Asda et al. It’s not always easy but it’s worth it. I also consider that (myself included) people have too many clothes, clothing is far too disposable, and this is something we really need to address as a matter of urgency. I’m halfway through watching The Minimalists documentary on Netflix, which I can highly recommend if this is something you’re interested in.
- What kept you sane?
I took up yoga on a regular basis this year, which really helped to calm down the chattering in my head, as well as being good for my fitness and strength. I find regular swimming good for keeping sane too. Mostly though, it’s my amazing husband. He always, always knows what to do to keep me calm. And red wine or gin as a last resort!
- Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I’m always partial to a bit of Kit Harington.
- What political issue stirred you the most?
Oh my gosh, where do you start with this considering the year we had? If I had to pick one, though, it would be the EU referendum. I am still horrified that the UK voted to leave and am hoping against hope that something comes along to block it. I wouldn’t have minded so much if I felt that Leavers had voted for good reasons, but it seems that the majority of them did it as a protest vote without considering the consequences. I was also appalled at the xenophobia that it stirred up.
- Who did you miss?
My friend N. We didn’t meet up a fraction of how much I would have liked, but we always had a lot of fun when we did. I still can’t really believe I won’t see her again.
- Who was the best new person you met?
I got to know one friend and her partner (now husband) a lot better this year, and I’m so glad I did. I now count her as one of my closer friends and someone I can talk to about so many things.
- Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Always be grateful for what you’ve got.
- Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
“They say that new life makes losing life easier to understand” — Jack Johnson, If Only I Could. It’s a cliche but it’s so true. I found out I was pregnant a month after N died, and it helped to put things in perspective a little. I like to think that this baby will have some of her amazing characteristics, and I look forward to telling them about her achievements. I’ll probably skip the more juicy tales of us getting drunk at university, though.