All across the world today there are people, just like me, who are looking back on the year that has passed and ahead to the year that is to come. It’s the perfect time to review what you’ve done, what you’ve learnt and how you’ve grown as a person, and to begin planning adventures and intentions for the year ahead.
If you’re a regular reader of blogs you’ll be inundated with people clicking ‘publish’ on their own version of this post today, but I like to write these every year – they’re great to look back on as a way to gauge how far you’ve come. I don’t set New Year’s Resolutions as I know it’s pointless because I’ll never stick to them, and tomorrow I’ll be writing about my hopes for the year ahead (so be sure to check back to read that) but in the meantime – how was 2018 for me?
Well, at the end of 2017 I promised myself a few things – to eat veggie more (nailed it, I’m now vegetarian), to unsubscribe from the hundreds of mailing lists I found myself on (done), to delete old and unwanted phone numbers (done), get rid of old clothes that don’t fit (done) – but the main promise I made to myself was more internalised. I didn’t shout it from the rooftops but it was the most binding and heartfelt promise I made – I promised to make 2018 a year of healing, happiness and adventure. And boy did I come through for myself on that one! 2018 turned out to be everything I hoped for and so much more!
At the beginning of January came a moment I’ll never forget – I was discharged from my Cancer Consultant and told I only need to be monitored once a year from now on. I still get a tightening of the chest when I think of it – what a way to start the year!
Within just a few days of this the year really kicked off with the birth of our nephew. He is such a lovely little boy and I can’t wait to see him grow as a person over the years to come!
At this point in the year we were coming towards the end of what felt like the longest winter ever but we braved the cold one day by spending a weekend in Rye where we embarked on a walk with some Alpacas! My one was called Stewpot and Ben’s was called Alan and it was so much fun! It was absolutely baltic by the end so we went back to our AirBnB cottage to warm ourselves up in front of the log fire with a glass of wine and some rubbish TV – it was such a great weekend!
I had an absolute blast going to see award-winning Elvis impersonator Ben Portsmouth. It’s no secret how much I love Elvis (I’ve branded my skin with him after all!) and this is probably the nearest I’ll ever get to seeing the real thing. I was amazed by how much like Elvis he was, right down to the small mannerisms. I didn’t stop grinning the entire night!
I got the results back from my 23andMe DNA test and it was so interesting! I might do a dedicated post about it in the coming weeks in case anyone is interested to see what it’s all about, but it put some old family tales to bed as they proved not to be true!
I’m a great believer in memories being more important than material things, so for my friend’s children’s two birthdays we took them up to London for the day. We went on the Emirates Skyline over the Thames, on a Clipper boat down the river, did a tour of Tower Bridge, went for lunch on the Southbank, visited the Sealife Centre, had dinner at The Rainforest Cafe, took a London bus, then went to a huge sweet shop that I can’t remember the name of to get them some bits to take home. We were all absolutely shattered by the end of it but we had such a great day – I’m very lucky to have children like these in my life, they’re such incredible people and I love the bones of them!
We went for a cheeky low-cost weekend in Devon and had an absolute blast. We were so lucky with the weather whilst we were there and although it had been nothing but cold, wind and rain for the previous few months, the sun came out and we found ourselves sat down on the harbour wall outside the pub in Clovelly which was pretty idyllic. I took a few deep breaths whilst we sat there watching the water and it was one of those life-affirming moments where you become acutely aware of everything around you and how lucky you are to be here.
My brother, sister and I took my Dad for a day trip to a few places he had wanted to visit – first on the list was Dunkirk and then we hopped over the border in Belgium to visit some other historical sites relating to the Second World War. It was a lovely day all in all and we had some real laughs together, but it was very grounding to spend time walking around the memorials and reading the names of all the lives that were lost. Absolutely heartbreaking.
This was the month that I got the results of the MRI scan I had gone through private healthcare for and was told that I’ve been walking around on a broken leg for all these years and need surgery to fix the damage that has been caused. I was using my private healthcare to get this done but the insurance company very kindly informed me that they were going to increase my monthly payments from £30 per month to £536 per month, which obviously is ridiculous, so I had to cancel the policy and begin the process of going through the NHS all over again. Spring of 2019 will mark the 5-year anniversary of the leg being damaged and I’m currently awaiting a date for the operation. Keep your fingers crossed for me that it’s soon and that it works please!
I somehow managed to crack my tooth on a Dorito, went to see a dentist who told me it was too badly damaged to be saved and that it needed to be taken out, then spent 1 hour and 20 minutes trying to get it out. In the process he managed to snap the tooth in several places and I ended up with two pieces left embedded in my gum and a third piece was actually pushed up through the gum and into my sinus where he had been pushing so hard on my face! Bizarre, bizarre, bizarre. Anyway, I ended up with a really bad infection and lots of pain, went to see another dentist and was told I needed surgery to rectify what he had done. It ended up costing me over £1000 to put it right but thankfully I was able to get the costs covered by the dentist who caused all the damage, but it was a right kerfuffle.
Because of the infection and the pain I was on a lot of painkillers and medication and I was a little bit out of it for those couple of weeks. As a result, when I did my online shopping I ended up ordering over 1.5 stone of potatoes, 18 toilet rolls and 15 packets of rice. I was very confused when it all arrived!
This was a fun month! We were invited along to the Twentieth Century Fox offices for a special 30th Anniversary screening of Die Hard which was great fun – it’s such a classic film and it was great to watch it on the big screen.
We also had a couple of gigs – Flight Of The Conchords who were absolutely brilliant and a bit of a dream of mine to see, and Foo Fighters who Ben listens to continuously. I didn’t know a lot of their songs but it was really good to see Ben having such a good time – he was shattered the day after from all the jumping about and singing!
The final weekend of the month was spent on a long weekend in Stratford-upon-Avon as a surprise for Ben’s birthday. Again we were so blessed with the weather, it was so hot and sunny and we were able to stroll around taking in all the Shakespearian sites and spend time sitting by the river and in a couple of beer gardens or two. We also stayed in the cutest little AirBnB – all in all it was a great weekend and so good for the soul.
What a month!! Fast in the footsteps of June which was a lot of fun, July came along and blew it out of the water! We went to see Jersey Boys – my third time seeing it but I can never get enough of it; I’m a big Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons fan and their songs hold so many memories for me, I had butterflies the whole way through the show.
This was also the month we had our special two week holiday – 1 week in Crete and 1 in Shropshire – and Ben surprised me by proposing! I had absolutely no idea it was coming so was taken completely aback. I won’t go on about it too much here, but if you want to read how it happened there’s a post giving you the full lowdown here.
Our week in Shropshire was great and despite the fact our car blew up on the way there and needed to be dragged back to Essex on a tow truck, it was a week of relaxation with Ben, my brother and sister-in-law, and I loved every second of it. Add to this the World Cup and it was a pretty magical month all in all!
Another brilliant month – I knew I’d had a good year but I didn’t realise until I wrote this quite how good it had all been! This was my birthday month so I had a few special events in the diary. I went on a Jack The Ripper Tour with Haydy, our friends Sian and Dan came down to London for the weekend so we got to spend a day with them which is always great fun, Ben took me to see a show called This Is Elvis which tells the story of his life interspersed with some of his songs, we spent two nights in Cambridge where I got my most recent tattoo, and I got the results of my most recent Cancer mapping scan which gave me the all clear!
A much quieter month after a good few months of endless plans, we spent time with friends and family, went to see a special screening of Terminator on a 4DX screen (my first time seeing a film in this way and it was brilliant!) and we spent a day exploring Kings Cross for a blog post collaboration which was really nice and – again – we were lucky enough to have absolutely blazing sunshine for the day!
I spent a night ghost-hunting with my friend Rachael at an old estate in Essex called High House. I didn’t see or feel anything personally myself but the person who was guiding us told me that there was someone there with a message for me – I didn’t know who they were but, strangely, when I told my Mum about it she said she thought it was a cousin of hers that I never knew existed. I do believe in ghosts and spirits etc, but I always go to these things with a healthy dose of scepticism just to be sure. Ben and I are going on another ghost-hunt next year which I’m really looking forward to!
This was the month we received the results of a DNA test we had done on Poppy to find out what breeds she’s made of. I did this purely out of curiosity as we’ve never really know what she is and the results were – honestly – a complete surprise! I’ll write about this in a dedicated post for anyone that is interested in perhaps getting one done for their own mixed-breed dog. It doesn’t change anything but it’s great to know what she is, finally!
I spent a long weekend in Bath with some of my friends and had an absolute blast and – what a surprise – we were blessed with amazing weather! I’ve been so lucky this year that each one of my adventures has included the sun shining. Bath is a beautiful town and there is so much to see and do, I definitely think Ben and I will go back at some point in the future.
With the winding down of spending for the end of the year came another quieter month. We still saw friends and family, and went to West Ham’s home games, but additional fun stuff was kept to a minimum.
At the beginning of the month we visited the first restaurant in Essex to be given a Michelin Star – The Flitch of Bacon. This was a special meal to celebrate my brother’s 30th birthday and the food was amazing. I had a starter which was just a selection of garden vegetables but it was the tastiest thing I have eaten in a long time and I was amazed they could get so much flavour out of such everyday ingredients. If you’re in Essex and looking for somewhere special to eat, I definitely recommend you visit!
I also spent an evening in Margate with my Dad and brother as one of our favourite comedians – Stewart Francis – was playing there as part of his farewell retirement tour. Much of the town was closed as it’s out of the summer season, but we had a wander around, got some pizza for dinner, then settled into the theatre (which is tiny – less than 450 seats by my reckoning) and watched the show which was really funny. I’m so glad we managed to see him before his retirement, something ticked off the To Do list that will always be special for us three.
This has been such a quiet month but also ridiculously busy! Seeing friends and family, celebrating Christmas, trying not to spend too much… So our activities other than Christmas get-togethers has been limited, although we did take our friend’s children to a West Ham game and then a tour of the stadium as their joint Christmas present (they support the team, we didn’t just drag them along!)
We also looked after their younger brother for a day filled with walks in the park looking at the ducks, picking up massive leaves and shouting “woof woof!” at every dog we saw, before coming home to watch children’s films and have snuggles on the sofa. He is such a lovely little boy and so easy to spend time with; I love all three of them so much it hurts.
This year has passed so quickly and has been an absolute whirlwind of activity, adventure and spending time with the people I care about, but it’s also been a year of deep reflection. I stopped making effort on those friendships that have always felt so one-sided, I’ve stopped trying to be everything to everyone, and I’ve worked hard on loving myself in the same way I love other people. I’ve read more, I’ve stepped away from drama and negativity, I’ve spent more time outside and have taken great big lungfuls of fresh air, I’ve let go of the things and people that cause hurt, I’ve started taking care of my skin better, I’ve discovered more about where I stand on moral and social issues, I’ve fought for what is right, I’ve spent more time offline and away from my phone, and I’ve stopped apologising for the person I am and embraced every one of my oddities and quirks.
I’ve kept the promise to myself I set at the beginning of the year and focussed on healing and happiness, and I am so pleased I have. It’s been an important year for me in so many ways and I’m so thankful for everything that’s happened.
So, with 2019 just around the corner I’m making plans for what I want the next 12 months to bring and I’m excited. I’m writing down my hopes, dreams and intentions for the year ahead and I hope that you’ll stick with me for it.
Finally, I would like to say I am so grateful for each and every one of you that read this blog of mine. I have grand plans for 2019 – I’m not going to be going full time (imagine that!) but I’m going to be here more regularly and I’ve got my brand new shiny newsletter (“Coffee And A Catch Up” – sign up here!) which will be sent out on the first day of each month full of extra chatty content you won’t find on here, along with a round-up of what I’ve been writing, articles and posts from other people I think you need to read, recommendations for products, books and films… it’ll be like catching up with a friend over a coffee and I’m excited to get started (and also really nervous). Blogging has always been a hobby that has meant a lot to me and through numerous factors I found myself losing my faith with it over the past couple of years – comparing myself to others and the inevitable doubt that started to eat away at me as a result. I’m a normal girl – I’m not a fashionista, I’m not a beauty buff or a whizz in the kitchen; I’m just me and I want to do my own thing. So thank you. Thank you for being there for me today, for this year, for the years before and for the year that is to come. Every single page view, like, share and comment means so much to me.
I hope that 2018 has been as good to you as it has to me and, no matter what the past 12 months has brought, I hope that 2019 will be a year of great health and happiness for all of us.
Happy New Year everyone – see you in 2019!