Here we go again… It’s the time of year, in these last remaining hours of the current one before we turn over into the new one, where I take my annual look back on how quickly yet how slowly this year passed; what I did and didn’t get done; and how many steps forward and/or backward I took.
All in all, 2018 was the best year I’ve had for a while, though it inevitably had its ups and downs, like any other year.
I did manage to improve two things this year: regaining a better work-life balance and posting more to my blog thanks to my 100 Days Project (which is still in progress, so not quite following the 100 consecutive days element).
And I even managed to take some ‘proper’ self-portraits like the ones I described in last year’s wrap-up blog.
Inevitably the most consuming part of my year, though according to my Sleep Cycle stats, the most stress-free and relaxing part of my year (my sleep quality during that period increased to 80% from an average of 59%, and my time in bed increased to almost 7 hours from an average of 5 hours 48 minutes) was visiting the South Island of New Zealand for the first time to be a bridesmaid for my friends Erin and Nick; and returning to visit friends and family in the North Island of New Zealand, as well as Melbourne and Tasmania.
Apprehensive but excited about being a bridesmaid for the first time, I was lucky Erin and Nick were so organised and managed the whole intercity coordination of the bridal party so well. Apart from looking hilariously wobbly walking down the grass aisle in heels first ahead of the bride, I think I managed to carry out my duties fine and it was wonderful to see two of my friends tie the knot after so many years. It was also a chance to make good friends with the other two lovely bridesmaids, Liz and Kirsty, and get to know Erin and Nick’s families a little.
Though the schedule and long distances of travel required for the wedding (zipping between Christchurch, Timaru, Hanmer Springs and Windwhistle) didn’t allow for too much sightseeing in some respects, I did see quite a bit of countryside along the way. Enough to know I need to pop back to the South Island sometime for more exploration!
The few days I was able to stop over in Wellington were also a lovely chance to catch up with new and old friends and catch Wellington at its signature blustery best. It was wonderful to fleetingly catch up with Hugh and meet Kenno and Janno over a delicious dinner discussing robots and filling in blanks between cryptic Facebook updates.
Similarly, catching up with Debbie and her family was a nice relaxing interlude after the wedding, full of wine and late night nattering over old times. Waking up to my new, inquisitive friend Monty was also a joyful way to start the day. I seriously considered popping him in my suitcase…
Despite moving around so extensively during my life, the place I’ve lived longest so far has been Melbourne at a cumulative count of about 18 years. I’d not been back even for a visit since June 2010 but, suffice to say, if I were to feel homesick for Australia I figured Melbourne would be the place I would feel it.
But sorry, Melbourne, I didn’t. It was lovely to visit old haunts, discover new haunts, and more importantly, reconnect with many friends I hadn’t seen face-to-face in too many years, but I only felt a fond affection, no longing, for the city I spent so many years in. Once more my affection for London as ‘home’ was reinforced.
Having said that, Melbourne was, unsurprisingly, wall-to-wall with catch-ups, which was wonderful. I squeezed as many people into my time there as I could (and squeezed them, when I could), and managed to fit in a dance at an indie night; a couple of exhibitions including the NGV Triennial; a friend’s gig; and visits to old and new haunts.
Thanks to fellow photographer, Anthony Schroeder, I also managed a day trip out to the redwood forest in East Warburton with two lovely ladies (one heavily pregnant at the time), Jess and Preethi, and a stop-off for a pub lunch with Chris and his now-fiancée, Helen. The day out provided just the right level of calm amidst a frantic sea of brunches, lunches, cheeky pints, dinners and nightcaps.
After only a week in Melbourne I popped down to Tasmania to visit with my parents and catch up with my Uncle John and his partner, Verna, who timed their visit to coincide with mine.
My parents had sold their home in Redland Bay, on the outskirts of Brisbane, just as I was finishing my last visit to Australia in mid-January 2013, so it was my first time in their new home and only my second time in Tasmania, in a different part of the island to where I had visited in 2002, shortly after my return to Australia.
Though lengthy wandering was not on the cards with my Mum’s reduced mobility, my Dad and Uncle ensured I saw quite a lot of the countryside while I was there, and we were lucky to see quite a lot of wildlife.
My camera got quite an extensive workout while I was in New Zealand and Australia and I’m still working through the photos from my trip.
Thank you to everyone who managed to make time to meet up with me in both New Zealand and Australia, whether the odd one-to-one or the cluster of friends descending on a bar, pub or cafe in various parts of Melbourne. Thank you to Erin and Nick for inviting me to be part of their big day, and thank you most of all to my Uncle John for making my visit possible. I may no longer call Australia home, but it and my friends there still hold a special place in my heart.
As if a one-month trip to New Zealand and Australia weren’t enough for one year, I managed to sneak in day trips and weekend trips with friends and/or to visit friends in:
the New Forest,
Brighton (times two),
Margate for ‘Screamland’ at Dreamland,
I gladly took my camera along for most of those trips, so have plenty of photos to work through.
This year was not just one of meeting up with old friends, but of making new ones, and I also finally emerged from a bit of a stasis to entertain the idea of ‘a serious relationship’ again.
Enter Simon who has an uncanny sense of the sort of things I love that he can show me in and around London and beyond, including:
a ‘secret’ nuclear bunker in Essex;
a parkland walk following an old railway from my neighbourhood to Highgate;
a neon heaven in Walthamstow;
chalk caves in south London;
a 1930s mock Tudor council estate I somehow missed just nearby to Highgate Cemetery (which I became a Friend of earlier in the year); and an endless list of gorgeous pubs.
I’ve also spent far more time in the ‘great outdoors’ this year than previous years.
Wandering through woods and parks;
enjoying the lights at Lumiere London;
and finding or being introduced to new gasometers before they are inevitably removed from the London skyline.
So, here’s to 2018, and here’s hoping 2019 continues the upward trajectory I’ve been on the past couple of years.
Here’s hoping it’s also onward and upward for all of my family, friends and any lovely people reading this. I raise a toast to you all x
Oh, and I also took a load off my shoulders, finally.