Author Archives: ldnphile

Waiting for Sunrise

–5– I’ve woken up before the break of day today, a bit perhaps unconsciously planned. Yesterday I spent some time thinking and speaking about how much I need to get back into writing regularly. It is a good, healthy thing for me. And right now I will take anything that will make me healthy! I’ve had a terrible month of sickness in March, which I very much could have done without. And pushing myself back into work/normal life has just ended up with me having a secondary infection (nothing major). I’ve gone to the Doctor now and got myself some antibiotics, so I hopefully should be back to good health in a day or two. But it is a reality check that I need to slow the pace of life down at bit from what it’s been.

I said to Jimbo yesterday that perhaps I’m not writing as much these days because I don’t think I’m doing anything particularly exciting anymore. But actually, I’m doing all the things I’ve wanted to do. When I lived in Oregon, I wanted to move to London, continue to travel, and overall live a good, active life (hopefully with a kickass husband). There was much striving and talking about it on this here blog which some of you may remember. All that ambition to do it has ended up with me getting it. And now that I’ve got it, I don’t want to talk about it as much. It’s a weird thing to consider. It’s kinda like when a band release their debut album, which they have most likely spent years on writing and creating, and everyone loves it. They get some fame and notoriety, spend a couple years on the road touring. Then they make the second album and it’s like a bit of the magic is lost. The passion in the music and lyrics isn’t there as much anymore. They’ve done what they meant to do and it’s hard to come up with something new when you’ve been busy doing what you were trying for so many years to do.  God, I hope I’m not really suffering from Sophomore jinx, am I? Let’s hope I have a long successful career of blogging in front of me or else you’ll be sad and incredibly bored.

But enough of that. Let’s write a bit about all the things I have been up to this year. If I remember correctly, I have only been out of the country once so far. That was a trip to Hannover, Deutschland in January for MIL’s birthday. It was a short weekend trip with much driving and darkness. Like literally dark. Northern Germany in the beginning of January doesn’t get much sunlight. From the small bit we got to see in the daylight of Hannover and Hamelin (Where the Pied Piper was from. No, I didn’t know that either.) I really liked it and would be very interested in going to see it in the summer when the Maschsee is loaded with boats and people enjoying the weather. Also Hannover looks to have some fantastic formal gardens.  And a newsflash: German wine is really quite tasty. It’s mostly white and some of it is sparkly. The none sparkly one tastes a bit grass like to me, which I like. We stopped for a loo break at a bit of a fancy pants restaurant on Maschsee when we were wandering about and decided to have a glass of wine while we were there. It was the best one we had all weekend, but unfortunately we haven’t been able to find it again! We will just have to go back to Germany and try to find it and I’m totally not against that.

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Pied Piper and his gang of merry rats

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A church and a very slippery cobblestone road

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Jimbo in the schnee!

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Maschsee probs more fun in the summer

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Trees in the mist

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Weeping ash in the mist

The big highlight so far has been the American family invasion of London and then going up to Scotland for the main party with both families for our second, greedy wedding ceremony. A few travellers came over early from America and spent some time in London with us, which we really enjoyed. They got to help celebrate Jimbo’s 30th birthday too at our favourite Sri Lankan restaurant. After a few days of seeing the sites and seeing our favourite pubs, we headed up to Oban for the main event. It was so much fucking fun to have both families trapped at Cologin holiday village on the West Coast of Scotland just outside Oban. I think perhaps the children had the best time as they were allowed to run freely around the grounds, chase sheep and throw stuff at each other. Actually, I wish I did that too. It was great fun and we left the ceremony proceedings and location a bit of a surprise for everyone. We had a full on pagan ceremony at a very old broken down Kirk called Kilbride just down a path from where we were staying. I think it was absolutely perfect for me and Jimbo. I spent the whole ceremony holding back tears as I was enjoying so much the connection with nature the ceremony had. I made it to our tree planting (it was an Apple tree, eating apple) bit of the ceremony before losing it. Trees and love and nature: a step to far for Colleen. The rest of the time we were busy eating masses of cheese and Jambon de Bayonne, hiking and making our way through 5 bottles of single malt, many ciders and many beers. We managed to escape the holiday village for a trip to Mull and Iona on the Monday, which was fun except for the lack of places to eat on Iona. The weather held at the perfect moments that day and I am grateful for seeing Iona and the Scottish Coos in full on sun with my family.  We had another little shin dig on the Tuesday night with dinner and a ceilidh (like Scottish square dancing) before most people headed off in the morning. It was probably for the best as Thursday morning we woke up to a couple inches of snow at Cologin. I wasn’t expecting that, but it made for a beautiful hike up in the hills that day.

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Drinks at the Queen’s Head

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Drinks in St. Pancras Betjeman Arms before going up to Scotland

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Me and my Nini

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We aren’t being rude, we are asking for blessings from the spirit of the East

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We better get this planting depth right.

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Snowdrops were out and looking grand at Kilbride

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Hiking buddies

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Fam on Iona with cows

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Drinks at the pub

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A rainbow spotted on a hike

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Snowy but wet hike

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the end of the Jambon de Bayonne

Since then we have been busy recovering mentally, emotionally and financially from the Scottish adventure. We did manage to sneak up to Malvern last week to see Jimbo’s parents and their new home. The weather was great and we had some excellent ciders and got to play skittles, which is one of my favourite British pastimes to participate in.

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Severn Valley

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Jimbo on the top of North Hill

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Ledbury

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Skittles!

In London we have been good and working our way through our one new pub and one cultural event each month challenge. So far:

January Culture: Protests!
January Pub: King and Co in Clapham for me and I can’t remember the one for Jimbo

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My favourite protest design

February Culture: A talk at Royal Geographic Society by the team creating the Transcaucasian Trail (which we definitely want to do at some point!)
February Pub: pre-drinks for talk at The Queens Arms

March Culture: Andrew Hunter Murray at Soho Theatre
March Pub: The Pepys in the City

For April we are going very high brow, but you’ll have to wait and see what we have for that. I am really enjoying the push to go out and do something new and different every month. It’s easy to slip into a regular routine and forget about all the fantastic things London has to offer.

Besides all that, we are SOOOO looking forward to our trip to Austria at the end of the month. We have three days in Vienna and then 6 days camping on the Danube in Mostviertel, the heart of their perry (called ‘most’) and wine production country. We have a couple of bikes lined up as well, so hopefully the weather is nice for many good long cycle rides. There are also some other trips for the summer booked in, but I will tell you more about that on another post.

Ahhhh, the sun has now risen, the cat is asleep on the couch with me and I have finished my second cup of tea. I think I may just sneak back into bed for a quick kip. Yep, I definitely feel better for writing. Thanks for sticking through it to the end. Let me know how you all are doing out there. Cheers

 

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Make 2017 Great Again

We are only 12 1/2 hours from a new year. I think I can confidently say the majority of people I know are looking forward to this annus horribilis of worldly events to being behind us. The only think saving this year for me are the Cubs winning the World Series and marrying Jimbo. And to be fair, those are two substantially positive things. They almost tipped the year into the positive, but came up a tad bit short. Despite it all, I am happy and healthy at this years end, which bodes well for 2017.

I have come up with a shortlist of resolutions for 2017, which should be achievable. My 2016 goals kind of floundered (mostly the writing one), which doesn’t please me. I think I ended up writing 45 out of the 100 times I was supposed to. I probably failed the other ones if I could remember what they were (likely fitness related). In my brain it felt as though there was not any extra capacity to do such leisurely things. The whole year has been a test of trying to get through everyday, accomplishing everything that needed be done before the next day arrived. The last week and a half have felt pretty decadent with the amount of lounging around the house we have done. And now we have another couple days of it. I would like to title 2017 the Year of Leisurely Pursuit aka Recover from 2016. Ok here are my resolutions:

  1. Read 30 books – I made it through 21 this year, a far cry from the 40-50 I used to get through, but with work and a demanding husband it won’t be possible to read more than 30.
  2. Visit one new pub in London every month – Easily achievable. Hopefully this will get us out on the town either after work or on the weekends.
  3. Go to Culture once a month – We don’t go out and experience the cultural side of London very much at all (it’s primarily pubs). I don’t want to leave London and a have a long list of things I wish I would have done. Every time we go out and do something vaguely cultural (i.e. Catnip Festival) we seem to enjoy our time or at least have a lot to discuss or think about afterwards.
  4. Workout at least once a week – This isn’t very ambitious, but some weeks I easily fail this mission. So we will set the bar low and hope to get two to three workouts in a week in reality.
  5. I can’t think of anything else at this time.

I want to have a writing goal, but maybe if I don’t set one I won’t feel as pressured to do it and may be more inclined to do it.

I have some photos for you of what I’ve been up to (honeymooning). I lost my fucking camera before the wedding and lost a couple months of photos. I’m totally not upset by it. So everything I have is post marriage.

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Coco de mer palms are badass

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They also have a great phallic pollen catkin type things. And I want to touch them.

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I spent a lot of time with a drink in my hand staring into the ocean on honeymoon.

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What we’ve been doing since October.

Let’s hope for a prosperous 2017 for humanity and the environment. If not, carpe diem until the icebergs melt.

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Blogging never felt so good

25/100 Well well well.  I’ve gone ahead and decided to show my face again. Even after all these months.  You see…I’ve been quite busy with stuff.  And like I mentioned in my previous couple posts, my bloody computer is still mostly busted! I did take it to Apple to see if they could fix it, but them being super clever said “oh no, we can’t fix it. It’s too old. By the way, have you seen our new Macbook Pros downstairs?” And once I could escape their over the top Apple employee robots, I took my broken laptop and ran. The “genius” said my video card was dunzo. I didn’t really believe the guy. So a couple months later when I had a chance I hooked my computer up to a TV. And suddenly before my eyes was my computer desktop on the flat screen! So, it wasn’t my video card. It is my screen. But I digress.
So I realised the other day that it’s now July (it was still July when I thought this). And I have gone 2016 without one post and it has weighed heavily on me the last week. So with the other half out on the lash tonight, I figured I would take some time to say hello. Mostly, I have a load of photos to show you because realistically you don’t want to hear a re-cap of the last 7 months of my life. Basically it’s been the busiest, funnest, craziest, emotionally draining 7 months. Jimbo and I managed to go to Spain twice, France twice, Scotland, Bristol, Kent, County Durham, Sussex and probably some other places I can’t remember. I managed to shove in a lot of studying too. Studying and practiced yielded a UK drivers license, municipal arborist specialist certification and a graduate certificate in agroforestry.

Oh also we got engaged, moved in together and have been planning two wedding celebrations.

So yeah, phew. Now that August is here, we don’t have as much traveling to do. So we are both focused on fitness training for the upcoming vow taking ceremony. It’s only a couple of months to go now and I’m adamant I will be in the shape of my life for that day. This week will hopefully be the first week I make it to boot camp twice. I’m shooting for every other day work outs until our wedding day.  I’d settle for 2-3 days a week of weight training. Coupled with this I will try and scale back the drinking binge we seem to have been on this year, especially May, June and July. Every year about this time I typically go on a drinking hiatus. I’m not sure what it is, but it always seems like the right thing to do.

Any who, I will now go into a small photo blog, showing some of the shenanigans we’ve been involved in in 2016.

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On the beach in Barcelona on a beautiful day

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Sagrada Familia in Barcelona

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Jambon festival in Bayonne, FR

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Txotx! Pronounced “chuch” it means your glasses better be empty because it’s catch some cider out of the barrel! At a Cider house in Astigarraga with Mum.

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San Sebastian, Spain.

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Txotxing by myself. I’m comfortable with it.

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Bristol. The cream canal boat is where we stayed that weekend.

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Me and the Clifton Suspension Bridge

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Wood trolley v 2.0 on Islay, SCO

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Camping at Fyne Fest

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Heaven: Fyne Fest Walkers Bar

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I think our last drinks at Fyne Fest 2016

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On the boat to Jura

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Beach cow! In Islay.

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Islay

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Wicked hike on Islay

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A day at Wimbledon Centre Court

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Only Roger Federer in person!

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Clapham Common Plane Avenue looking lovely on a Summers day

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My hops plant with burrs.

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My favorite road sign. It means I’m almost home.

I’m pretty pumped as I purchased a brand new digital camera last week. Who still buys digital cameras? I do because my phone camera sucks and it’s just not the same. My other one was due for an upgrade any ways, then it had an unfortunate accident in Scotland involving falling off a rock onto another rock. It held up for another month, long enough to get me through that trip and to come back. But then it decided to stop working, so I had to upgrade. My new one (on which the last three photos were taken) is a new Sony RX100 II.  I want some nice photos from the weddings and honeymoon, so basically I had no choice but to get one of the best compact cameras out there. So far I am pleased.

I have lots to update, but one can not do it just in one update. Hopefully with living at the same address and no more school I will have more free time as we won’t be rushing between our two separate houses in the evenings. I want to finish the year strong with posts. Hope you’re all well. I’m off to bed.

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MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

100/100 I know you may think I may have made up that 100/100 score, but I haven’t. I’ve been on the journal writing like it’s nobody’s business the last two months to make it happen. I’m pleased to finish my goal a whole day early. Nothing like taking it to the wire.

So I’m on Christmas and New Year’s holiday here in France with James’ parents. We’ve been down here a week now and it seems to have flown by despite us not doing all that much. We’ll be back in London in a few days, but not before a visit to Biarritz and Bordeaux. I’m looking forward to both.

The last month has been like most of the end of the years for me: how many nights of drinking can I fit in each week with out seriously damaging my health and being cognizant and productive at work? I’ve really enjoyed the last few weeks catching up with everyone, furiously writing Christmas cards, and fitting in as much activity as possible.

We were in Brussels a few weeks ago a couple days after “the lockdown.” It wasn’t actually too bad when we visit. There were many police and military present, but only in the touristy areas. Other bits were perfectly normal, perhaps with a few less people on the streets.

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Me on the bike in Brussels

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James trying to figure out how to work a bike made after 1980. Lolz

It’s hard to remember all the stuff we’ve been doing since we seem to be doing something or going somewhere nearly every weekend.

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James getting his cuts on.

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Me working hard, laying hedge in a slightly hungover state.

I forgot one weekend we managed to fit in some hedge laying at one of the parks near our house. If I wasn’t feeling a little hungover, it would have been better. But as it was, I really enjoyed it. The trees we were trying to lay into a hedge were completely outsized for a hedge, but we were making the most of it. It was some hard work though.

We went to our friends Jessica and Jonathan’s wedding a few weekends ago which was really good fun. We only had to journey up to Kennington and then onto Brixton, which helped make the fun easier and more accessible. Not that we wouldn’t have gone to the other side of the Earth to see J&J get married, the convenience of being able to get home in under an hour helped. We had an awesome time dancing to mostly 90s R&B. You can’t go wrong with that at all.

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Dancing by myself and I don’t care.

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Me and Jessica busting some moves. Check out my alien arm.

………
I have just taken a 5 hour break from this blog entry. In the interim I finished several glasses of beer, wine and fortified wine. Also, we got beaten by James in Phase 10 (again).  He’s going to fit into the family alright in the long term.

I’ll just post some photos and some talk of our current trip to France. We are down in the southwestern bit of France, which I have never been to before. I can see now why people seem to enjoy the southern bit of France for holidays. I can’t vouch for the eastern bit (towards Marsaille), but this western part is pretty fantastic. We will obvs be down here again, because the Parents are here. And I’m not complaining. All the sunrises and sunsets are pretty amazing. There are hardly any people around too. We are very close to the mountains too. It is like being in Bend, but without any people or any of the breweries around. It’s about on the same level of beauty, for realz.

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James looking like a bad ass over the River Saison.

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New bicycles we will be riding when we visit the france

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I’m up a mountain in the Pyrenees ! In flats!!

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Pyrenees and stuff

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Me in a rampart shooting hole thingy in Navarrenx

Tomorrow we are heading to Biarritz to pick up our food for New Years celebrations (mostly seafood for everyone but me. I will partake in some oysters, but that’s it). I’m looking forward to seeing the coast of France. It will be the first time for me.

I will leave you with some photos from the last few months. I will be back early in the new year with my 2015 best of list. Hopefully I can get my computer fixed, which is still broken. It’s doing my head in to not have a computer.

Happy new year all!!

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Apfelwein is the best!

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Me and the Jimbos at Smith Rock in Oregon. It was a lovely day to be hiking.

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Mckenzie Pass in Oregon!

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Me and Kelly in Chicago!! So happy to see her

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Gnomes at Halloween!!!!

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Smiley Jimbos in Carlisle. Before the whole thing flooded.

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Prettiest cat in the whole entire world.

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Quick!

64/100 I’m writing this as quickly as possible for a very respectable reason; my computer has been mostly broke since August. I say mostly, because the screen only works in spurts. Spurts that seemingly have no pattern. So, that is one big reason I haven’t done any posting on here. Soz. I’m thinking things have reached a breaking point and I’m going to have to take my computer in for fixing in the next couple weeks.

When I get it up and running once again, I will post a nice post and put many lovely pictures up from the last few months.  I will get one photo in for this post if it takes me all night. This one was taken in August in Frankfurt, Germany at Apfelweinfest. (I believe my computer died a couple days before the trip). Apfelwein is what English speaking people call cider. I had to accommodate James’ need to drink cider and join him on the trip. It was a burden, but these are the types of things you have to do when you are in a relationship…..

In the end I ended up loving the German cider and found it much superior to English cider. Since then, we have been schooling ourselves in the different ciders produced from various regions in England and have found Kentish cider to not be too far off the German kind.

That’s it for now. Toodles peeps.

Taking my medicine. Like they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

Taking my medicine. Like they say, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.

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Down time

46/100

Well well well. Long time no type. I think 2+ months between blog posts is an abhorrent effort on my part, but as you can see by the higher number of writings from my last time, I have been writing. I’d like to get to 50 times writing before the end of the month, which puts me a month ahead on reaching my writing goal for the year. I had plans to write during this long weekend all along as I have been given a mostly free weekend to myself. Then I was kindly reminded of the absence of blog posts through a Whatsapp message this morning from the person who is responsible for my lack of posting. So now, in my moment to myself, I share with you all the happenings of my life.

Primrose Hill with the Hawthorn trees in bloom on a beautiful May day.

Primrose Hill with the Hawthorn trees in bloom on a beautiful May day.

So quite a lot has been going on since my last post. In terms of my personal sanity and brain capacity being compromised over the last few months, I have now finished my 3rd class of 4 to achieve a grad certificate in agroforestry. It was a bit of a slog the whole semester, but I still managed to do well somehow. I wanted to finish my course this Fall, but I hear there is a class which may be more interesting and less science intense in the Spring, so I will wait until then to finish. It has been really good to go back to school and be learning about something on the periphery of my knowledge base on trees. While not all of it is applicable to my current job, the way trees grow, take up nutrients, are affected by other plants, and affected by sunlight are probably things I should know about and that’s what I’m getting from this class. I am looking forward to not being in class this Autumn as my brain could use an extended break from the day to day rigors of coursework. I have become forgetful and more spastic since the course started and I don’t think that’s old age kicking in.

Oak woodland in Tooting Common

Oak woodland in Tooting Common

Spring has sprung on the Regent's Canal

Spring has sprung on the Regent’s Canal

I’ve been spending a lot of time out and about, neglecting putting my laundry away, vacuuming the house and talking Piccadilly. This has mostly been due to James, who has pried me out of my comfortable little cave to go do things. He would likely say the same thing about me. I think it’s been great to get out and see things I would like to do, but doing them on their own is not that interesting.

Our first outing was quite far. We ventured up to Derbyshire and to the town of Buxton over Easter weekend. Due to it being Easter weekend, the trains were fooked and we had to take 4 trains each way to get to and from. But since we both like train journeys and it meant we went through Sheffield and could stop at the Sheffield Tap for libations, we weren’t too bothered. We had a great time visiting the popular Solomon’s Temple and Poole’s Cavern. I haven’t been on a visit to a cave in a long time. The main reason for going to Buxton, besides the beautiful scenery, was for the beer. I’ve become a big fan of Buxton Brewery over the last year and I very much loved drinking Buxton and Thornbridge beers in the place where they come from.

Poole's Cavern

Poole’s Cavern

Atop Solomon's Temple in Derbyshire

Atop Solomon’s Temple in Derbyshire

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Solomon’s Temple in the distance through a maze of of old Lime kilns.

Since I’ve had course work and my mind is frazzled, we have mostly just been going out in London town since then, but other plans are on the horizon. Oh and someone decided to break their toe (not me). But it’s been fantastic going out in London, finding new drinking holes, enjoying the old ones, walking, talking and seeing what is going on in the city. We did this for my birthday too. Our adventure took us through Holborn, over Waterloo Bridge (my bad), back to Embankment and up to Covent Garden.

A flattering birthday photo

A flattering birthday photo

Last week we randomly ended up going to a Rugby Tournament at Twickenham Stadium, which I had not yet been to. It was great fun (mostly because I saw USA beat England and USA ended up going on to win the tournament) with a very mixed nationality crowd. From there we walked to Richmond to sit by the river and possibly see the tallest tree in London. We were going to drink in a pub, but there didn’t seem to be good beer or cider available at any of them so we got some bottles from Whole Foods and sat down by the river and enjoyed the calm sereneness of life by the Thames. And by sereneness I mean motorcyclists revving their engines, people throwing bread crumbs to the pigeons 5 feet from us and a drunken stag do of 10 drunk middle aged guys to the other side. Very relaxing. But we did manage to drag our tired selves further down the river to see the tallest tree in London: a big old London Plane which has benefited from a life down by the river . Supposedly it is 40m tall, but I don’t believe it. I’d say 38 and I’m not sure it’s the tallest either, but what do I know?

Really, I don’t think there are too many things better in life than walking with good company and having a nice drink along the way. And as that’s what I’ve mostly been doing the last few months, I am very happy and content with life. I said I was a few months ago and it hasn’t stopped since then.

I’m off to Scotland in 3 weeks for a week and a half in the Highlands and the Isle of Mull with my friend Laura. Laura and I haven’t traveled together before and it’s long overdue. This time in 3 weeks we will be having our final Fyne Fest pints, doing a bit of hair of the dog I imagine. I’m very much looking forward to those 10 days of traveling.

I’m sure I’m missing loads of stuff I’ve done in the last 2 months, but I can’t think of them at the moment. I just spotted one of the photos I am posting to this entry. Here it is:

Dreams come true. They do.

Dreams come true. They do.

It’s not very interesting, but I was working here on Thursday this week. And I remembered when I was staying in Swiss Cottage on a visit to London back in 2010, I went for a run and ran past this spot on my way to Regents Park. And as I passed it I thought to myself, “why don’t they let me work here? I can do this level of gardening and better.” I got a goofy grin on my face when I realized this was the place and instead of gardening I was taking care of the trees. Not too far off. Often I think of my life as a long narrative. I like to think of those moments as foreshadowing the story of my life. Or perhaps I just read into things too much. Either way I like them.

Any ways, I will leave you now. I have a wedding to attend this evening in Essex and I’m mildly panicking on the inside thinking I don’t have shoes to wear tonight that I thought I did. It’s going to require a dig in the boxes under my bed and then possibly a frantic cycle ride to Balham to buy shoes I don’t really want to buy when I could be using that money on fun in Scotland. I leave you with nice photos over the last few months. I hope you’re all enjoying life as much as me. Cheers.

Me and some bluebells

Me and some bluebells

The Lego exhibit at the old Truman Brewery

The Lego exhibit at the old Truman Brewery

Richmond Bridge

Richmond Bridge

Me and two really tall Planes

Me and two really tall Planes

The view from Primrose Hill. I've been working in the area and happily having lunch on the hill.

The view from Primrose Hill. I’ve been working in the area and happily having lunch on the hill.

More gratuitous shots of bluebells in Perivale Wood.

More gratuitous shots of bluebells in Perivale Wood.

Me and a Lego Pencil guy.

Me and a Lego Pencil guy.

A walk in the woods

A barefoot walk in the woods with Jimbo.

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40 days and 40 nights

33/100 You may or may not be aware that I went on a 40 day adventure through the land of Sobriety. From 31st January to 13th March (well most of 13th March) a drop of alcohol did not pass my lips. It was a very good time over all and I would do it again, but not for a while. This time of sobriety coincided with quite a few changes happening in all facets of my life leading to a contentment with life which I have not experienced in a long time. Was it the lack of alcohol that made it so? Will it last now that I’m back on the booze? Hard to say really, but I am going to make the most of it until then. I think my time in Zambia and Malawi cleared a bit of the muck and mire from my brain and I go forth with a new focus on finding happiness in life. There’s not much to be upset about and so many things to be thankful for. Long may it last.

I went out Friday night to celebrate the end to my sobriety. Before I went out I thought 2 pints would be a sensible amount of alcohol to partake in for the first night and I was going to stick to that. But of course I got invited to the beer festival taking place near work where I sunk 2 pints before I knew it. But by the end of the night I had consumed 5 1/2 pints. I thought I was doing ok, but that proved to be untrue come Saturday morning. (DRINK WATER, COLLEEN!) I slug myself feebly out into the living world on Saturday afternoon for some social engagements, but the pain of it all was written on my face. I didn’t last long. Let’s hope any drinking adventures coming up are slightly more sensible.

Crocuses in Hampstead Heath last week

Crocuses in Hampstead Heath last week

I haven’t got very many photos from life recently. I have been stuck in the office for the last few weeks, which means my photo taking opportunities are limited.  The days are getting longer now and the purple plum trees are starting to hit full bloom. Pretty soon the cherries, apples and horse chestnuts will be in bloom and it will be full on Spring time.  I have been able to cycle into work with less winter wear. Before I know it I will be cycling happily in shorts and t-shirts, which is my preferred way to ride.

St. Pancras gardens in bloom

St. Pancras gardens in bloom

Any who, I have to ready myself for a furniture delivery so I can convince one more person to come live with me. It’s been a pain in the ass trying to let out the 3rd room in my house. I don’t get it. I would have totally jumped at the opportunity to move in to this house for the price I’ve got it up for. People are ridiculous. Any one of you want to move in? Even for a couple months? Extended holiday in London?  Do it!  Ok, friends, have a good week and take care.

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Playing large

(27 of 100)*
“There is no passion to be found playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”
– Nelson Mandela

As 2014 drew to a close, my mind overworking about the past the present and the future (more than normal), I knew something was afoot. My brain was helping bring me down both mentally and physically. There’s no such thing as repression in the mind. The thought/issue/problem will wield its head in ways you could never imagine. And you may not even recognizing the thing as a problem or outwardly affecting you, but it’s there any ways. The brain is ever so helpful. So with a restive holiday period and three weeks away from Normality, my mind was let off its leash and allowed to freely wander. And wander it did do. Through all the good and the bad thoughts. It all inevitably ended me in a teary mess of confusion and vulnerability like none before. Luckily I had an excellent travel partner who let me let it out in my own time and terms and listen openly and give me feedback. Cheers, Puff.
I want to stop here and say that I would love to one day stop being so vague. Vagueness has been a common theme on this blog for as long as it has existed. I want to tell you about what’s going through my head, but I can’t yet bring myself to do it on such a public platform. There are quite a few of you, both family and friends, who I have put my guard down to tell about it, but to write it out is very difficult to do. I can barely manage to acknowledge it in my own private journal. It is far in my past but it has an enduring effect on seemly everything in my life. Now thinking about it, I believe this blog/writing online for nearly 20 years started from it as well. I’m just beginning to realize all that it affects. I want to change it all this second, but I will have to rebuild most of my brain. Creating new ways of processing and communicating thoughts will take sometime. The best news is that process has begun. l will one day be prepared for full disclosure. Watch this space…..

Ah hem. So, where was I? Oh, back on holz, enjoying the sun. So three weeks in Zambia and Malawi in the rainy season, which was filled with a lot of sun, were incredible. I would write out all the details of the trip, but I believe writing that would be very unsatisfying for me and you probs would just flip to the photos any ways. So let’s save both of us some time. Also, like most travel adventures, the best bits were the anecdotal small moments of the trip. Writing them out and explaining would likely take more time than they did to occur. I’ll will tell you in bulleted format what I got out of the trip or learned whilst there:

  • The most popular beers in Zambia contain corn, which kind of ruins them.
  • “Express train” means something very different in Zambia compared to Europe
  • I have developed an addiction for handmade jewelry
  • Life should be lived in color and warmth
  • Deforestation for subsistence farming is real in both countries
  • Slash and burn hurts my soul
  • Victoria Falls are unbelievable to see, hear and feel.
  • Walking across the top of Victoria Falls and peering over the edge is one of the coolest things I’ve ever done while traveling
  • I’m a terrible artist
  • There are a lot of beautiful, colorful fish in Lake Malawi
  • Letting your guard down hurts but also feels so good
  • I will never again go on a long road trip with an English person
  • We don’t spend enough time playing card games

I think that’s it really. Let’s get to the good stuff: the photos.

Planning the trip from Backpackers

Planning the trip from Backpackers

Big red train

Big red train

Falls

Falls

My take on the very popular stance of local Zambian boys

My take on the very popular stance of local Zambian boys

Falls

Falls

One of many dumb poses for photos done on the trip.

One of many dumb poses for photos done on the trip.

How big are you C-A? SOOO BIG!

How big are you C-A? SOOO BIG!

Our guides at Devil's Pool at Lake Victoria

Our guides at Devil’s Pool at Victoria Falls. Not my cool shoes I was forced to wear.

Rumbling along through the Nkotakhota Wildlife Reserve at dusk

Rumbling along through the Nkotakhota Wildlife Reserve at dusk

Traditional Malawian game which was kind of like triple jump with Carrie-Ann looking on from the lake

Traditional Malawian game which was kind of like triple jump with Carrie-Ann looking on from the lake

Lake Malawi fishing boats

Lake Malawi fishing boats

Vegetables and nshima, typical Zambian meal

Vegetables and nshima, typical Zambian meal

So it was pretty fun as you can see. I’ve got some alright videos too if you ever want to see them. Come over and check them out.

During the trip I thought a lot about what my next step is. I do believe my next step now is not to take the next step. I will stay put for a while here in London town. It’s part of that realization process I spoke about earlier. Changing those neuron pathways. Some really exciting opportunities are sitting in front of me professionally waiting to be taken. It would be foolish to let them pass me by. Before the trip I was looking at them negatively, but now I am very optimistic. That all may go out the window come mid-summer, but I don’t think it will. Time to get stuck in and live the life I am capable of living.

Overall, life is very on the up and up here. I hope it is with you as well. Let me know what’s happening out there. I haven’t had any comments in a while.

*I’m trying to write 100 times in 2015 as part of my new years resolutions. This is number 27. I did good on holiday.

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Year in Review: 2014

I have just had a nice time going through my photos from 2014. There are some good memories stored in those photos and some lovely scenery. I am a lucky son of gun who is way too privileged. I’m not sure why I’ve lucked out to get to see and do all the things I get to do, but since it’s being offered up, I may as well take it before someone else does. So. 2014. Pretty good vintage I would say as far as experiences go. I kind of forgot how much traveling I did at the beginning of the year as I barely left London after June. Feels at the moment like I haven’t traveled in years. 6 months may as well be a couple of years in my nomadic life. I had a great time in London town as well. Making new friends and getting ever closer to “old” friends. Long may it continue into 2015.

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Home

Best trip: Porto, Portugal My trip to Porto was break before going on break to Ireland. I needed a few days to gather myself with so much going on with work and school and being told to leave my house a week earlier. I have heard so many good things about Portugal in the last couple years, I thought I’d try it out. I went to Porto over Lisbon because I wanted to see where Port was from and how it was made. I so wasn’t disappointed with my few days in Porto. I met some lovely like minded people who had randomly chosen Porto for a holiday as well. I went to a couple places producing Port and very much enjoyed all the tastings I went to, but for some reason chose not to bring any back. Dumb. I think I will have to go back to correct my error. Even if you’re not in to Port, the city is absolutely stunning. Beautiful architecture, a picturesque river running through the middle and lots of good food to eat. I recommend it highly.

The streets of Porto

The streets of Porto

Best trip Honorable mention: Kintra Farm, Islay, Scotland I believe I’ve already said quite a bit about this place. It is a bit of camping magic with hot showers to boot. I really forgot all about work and life while on the bluffs above the 7-mile beach for the 4 days I stayed there. Weather was great and the whisky and fire weren’t bad either. And hardly a soul around except for the nice couple from Glasgow with the dogs who kept weeing on my tent who were staying next to me. Now if someone would just come with me next time and help me haul back firewood from the the beach I would be much appreciative.

I want to do this again sometime. Anyone care to join?

I want to do this again sometime. Anyone care to join?

Best book I read: Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin I read most of this while in Scotland and the rest over the summer. It is the most readable history book I’ve ever read. If you are interested at all in the American Civil War, learning what a badass Abraham Lincoln was or how to lead a nation, read this.

Best book Honorable mention: A Moveable Feast by Earnest Hemingway I’ve got a soft spot for Mr. Hemingway. Maybe because he was an expatriate like myself. But this book, autobiographical about his time in Paris, is lovely. I really gleaned a lot from what he told about his writing process (not that you can tell that on this blog). It was nice to read it while in Paris as well.

Best song: Hozier – From Eden Well, this Irish dude is a pretty incredible singer. It seems like the rest of the world has realized how good he is now. I’ve been following him for the last year via BBC Radio 1. This song played several times on the radio while we were driving around Ireland and it made me ever so pleased.

Best song honorable mention: Dan Croll – In/Out Me and Bobbles had the best time dancing to this tune at the Dan Croll gig down in Brighton in March. In fact we danced like fools to all the songs with no one apparently noticing, which pushed the dance moves further than they would have ever gone. And now, anytime this song comes on, I’m forced to dance like a lunatic.

Best new food: Kothu After searching out the best curry in Tooting, I found some positive reviews for Apollo Banana Leaf, a Sri Lankan restaurant on the high road. Bobbles and I went here for a meal and got the traditional Sri Lankan Kothu. It was life changing good for both of us. And we have introduced it to some other people who have agreed with our review. I crave it all the time. Luckily it’s only a 10 minute bike ride away and sometimes the Kothu food van shows up at KERB in KX, which is an extra special lunch time treat. Puff and I get 3 veggie portions and split them.

Best new food honorable mention: Oysters I had my first ever oyster at Fyne Fest this year. Surprisingly tasty and not what I was imagining at all. I have gone veggie since August, but I will likely lift the moratorium on meat when I go back to Fyne Fest if only to get salmon kedgeree and shoot a couple of oysters again. Yum.

Proudest moment: Doing my first pull up Must have been back in March when I finally accomplished this. I was training for our big 20 mile assault course race and thought pull ups were going to be important for all the walls we had to get over. And I’m talking the real deal: thumbs in, chin over the bar pull up. I started out in January unable to lift myself up at all. I wasn’t sure I’d reach the point when I could do it. Seven weeks later when I finally got to the point where I could do one I was over the moon. It felt like a really big accomplishment. Much bigger than getting a master’s degree that’s for sure. Now I try to do a couple of pull ups everyday (both thumbs in and thumbs out) just to keep it up. My next step is to do it from full extension. I have been trying but my stupid right shoulder, which I’ve enjoyed injuring many times over the years, seems unwilling to rotate properly to lift me up and shoots me some lovely pain when I try. Maybe by the end of 2015 I will be able to do it.

Proudest moment honorable mention: Getting on the exec board for trees I felt a bit forced into doing it and completely unqualified, but for some reason they decided I was alright enough to join the cool kids club for tree officers here. It has been really interesting and a great challenge for me professionally since June. I have a lot of catching up still to do with the other members, but I think I’m doing ok. Unless I really mess up, they are stuck with me until June 2016.

Perhaps they heard about my stellar ability to make a pot of tea for my team.

Perhaps the board heard about my stellar ability to make a pot of tea for my team.

Well, I would like to think there are some other best of categories I would like to explore, but I think I’m tapped out. Time to finish packing and head to the pub for some cask ale before 3 weeks of bottled beer in Africa. At least that’s what I’m anticipating. I leave you with some nice photos from this year. Happy new year all.

Hampstead Heath. Giving me moments of much needed sanity.

Hampstead Heath. Giving me moments of much needed sanity throughout 2014.

The Poppies at Tower of London. Really touching and beautiful.

The Poppies at Tower of London. Really touching and beautiful.

The most serious Cap'n America ever: my buddy Puff

The most serious Cap’n America ever: my buddy Puff

Pretty cat who loves looking her best whilst keeping warm.

Pretty cat who loves looking her best whilst keeping warm.

A perfect sunrise in Tooting Common. I get to spend a lot of time here now and I love it.

A perfect sunrise in Tooting Common. I get to spend a lot of time here now and I love it.

Cheers to you and happy 2015.

Cheers to you and happy 2015.

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The dirt

Thank goodness the winter solstice has come. I find the few weeks before the solstice the toughest mentally and physically out of the year. Everything seems to reach a state of entropy in my life. It makes me someone I do not care to be. This year was no different. With school coming to an end, wavering, looking for any bit of strength to write my last paper, I found myself with a distinct lack of energy. I would like to blame a virus (or possibly a moldy flat) for my lethargy. It was so bad I did not cycle for two weeks to work and took a few days off from work as I could barely power myself to make breakfast. I had to lay down after taking a shower one morning and I did not get up for another 6 hours. I was also bitter and uninterested in communicating with anyone unless I had a beer in my hand (social lubricant!). If no beer then PLEASE NO TALKING! No bueno mis amigos.

But the solstice arrived and it was a good day. Things turned around in so many ways. I got outside to plant up my new hops rhizome (Chinook flavor!) in my garden, the first time I’d done anything with a shovel in about 5 months. I miss so much having a dig in the ground and having dirt under my fingernails constantly. There is something so much more satisfying about gardening than creating Excel spreadsheets. Quite surprising that. After that I went for a good, but difficult run through the muddy Common and began to once again feel like a decent human being. Amazing what a bit of exercise will do. And more importantly, what a bit of dirt will do. I was so pleased to be scrubbing dirt off my legs and feet. And watching the dirt circle down the drain in the shower. It felt like I’d finally hit the ground after a tough few weeks and was able to wallow in the mud in the most positive way possible.

I felt amazing cycling into work all this past week as well. Imagine how happy people in the developed world would be if they were able to walk/run/cycle to their work. I think we’d all be better off. But people want to drive their cars and be miserable and that’s fine too I suppose.

So now it’s Twixmas. It’s been a very quiet few days here at home and I have loved it. I needed some days to myself to unwind on what has been a very mentally challenging year. My normal patterns of day dreaming dwindled in the last 12 months for one reason or another. I can feel it in my bones that I have not gotten the mental rest I so need to maintain my appearance as a well adjusted, respectable professional woman. And I go into 2015 with a lot to think over for what will happen in the next 18 months. Many things to consider, but most of it depends on how 2015 plays out. Luckily for me I have 4 more days of work and then I am off to the African continent for 3 weeks for further woolgathering and letting the electrodes shoot in all the places in my brain which seem to not get the attention they need any more.

So besides that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play?

A Bulgarian, an American and a T-Rex walk into a bar….

A Bulgarian, an American and a T-Rex walk into a bar….

Well, Christmas was good. I had a lovely time with my friends Laura and Latina. I had a few pints in the local during the day and then was at home for a few hours before heading over to Latina’s house for dinner. We had a great time listening to Laura’s “Now that’s what I call 90s” on cd, wearing funny hats and amusing ourselves with a Oliver the T-Rex. It doesn’t take much.

I don’t know what we’re doing for new years. We have two options and I think I would prefer the easy one as I need to be alive, well and with some money left over on January 1st. We will see what happens, but it will be fun.

There’s not much else to report. I will get my year in review up before I leave for Zambia. I have started gathering my “best of” in my brain the last 36 hours. It’s just putting it down on paper….or binary code.

I hope you all had a nice Christmas and are enjoying a couple days of quiet before 2015. Peace.

Team Streatmas!

Team Streatmas!

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