Category Archives: Personal

2020 – The Summer That Wasn’t

Back in January, which feels like a year ago by now, myself and the husband booked ourselves on a two week dream trip to the cities of Eastern Canada (Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto). Like with Japan and South Korea, the idea was to take a bit of a post break. However, this trip didn’t happen. I mean, they aren’t even really allowing people in at the moment.

Putting in for the cancellation of the plane tickets and hotels for what was going to be an amazing trip with whale watching and Niagara Falls provided a bookend for what has undoubtedly been the worst months of my life.

Thanks to COVID-19, my industry went beyond bananas and I have been part of a team doing horrendous amounts of overtime to the point where the legality has been questionable. The amount of work, the lost weekend days and the incredible pressure drove me to some of the darkest mental places I have ever been to. Darker than many of those that caused my total breakdown when I was teaching.

List Item: Shout as loud as you can
Status: Completed

This wasn’t quite how I envisaged ticking this one of, but it happened as a wider part of this summer. Screaming until I was hoarse. Screaming because I just couldn’t take it. Then having the guilt and conscientiousness that made me log back into work some 40 minutes later.

List Item: Accept a personal flaw
Status: Completed

Given what this summer was, I learned a lot about myself. I also accepted that I should have probably sought proper help after my post-teaching breakdown and that a lot of those patterns are still there. Patterns that became heightened this summer and ended in me having a day off sick where literally all I did was sleep. I am now getting help and we’ll see where that goes. If I am able to just get my panic reflexes back under control, then I don’t really care what I have to do.

List Item: Forgive someone
Status: Completed

On a professional level, this had to happen a lot this summer. I can’t really go too much into things, but there has been a lot of forgiveness that has had to happen else I would not have been able to move on. This has been a bit of a development for me as I can be one for grudges. So despite all the horrible stuff, there has been some real personal growth.

List Item: Keep a secret
Status: Completed

Given the confidential nature of work I’ve had to undertake this summer – this goes without saying really.


So, where does this all fit in with the blog aside from some crossings off of some longstanding items? Posts have still been going up, but I haven’t actually written a proper post in three months and before then it had been an additional three months since I was writing at least one post a week. When lockdown started I had a lead of six months and now it’s closer to six weeks.

I still want to do this blog and one day maybe I’ll get back to more than three things in a week. Being actually able to write this post and contemplate starting things up again make me think that I can start to get back to some degree of normality, so let’s see how the first posts look as they go up next week.


Post Break!

Four years ago, when I went to Japan on my honeymoon, I took a bit of a post break so that I didn’t have a mountain of page links to update after returning from 2+ weeks of holiday.

This year I am so happy to say that I will be going to South Korea for a magical fortnight in Jeju, Busan and Seoul. It’ll basically be Easter by the time the posts of this holiday go up, but that’s not the only reason for this post break.

As of writing this, I am having a bit of a rough time at work and I’m so mentally exhausted that this blog is becoming harder to muster the energy for. I’m hoping to have some more stability by the time my six month lead starts to be eaten away… but that’s pretty much out of my control for now.

Still though. I cannot wait to see what adventures await me in South Korea. It’s truly one of those big bucket list places to cross off.

Note – Now I am here many months later and very excited to be Korea, I am happy to report that I got offered a permanent contract in my job. This posting gap came at the perfect time for both my trip and for my past self. 🙂

A Post About Being A Friend

When making the first (and subsequent) drafts of the ‘to do’ list there was something I hadn’t quite thought of: evidence. Sure, for a number of them I can take a photo of a place I’ve been or write a short thing about a piece of music that I have listened to – but what about some things that can’t quite be forced or quantified?

Today I’m crossing off something that I had kinda forgotten was on my list and, thanks to have an ultra thoughtful friend, I actually have something concrete I can cross it off with (and also said was okay with my using in this blog).

List item: Be there for a friend in a time of need
Status: Completed

So imagine coming home from holiday to find this postcard in an envelope. Pretty much all the feelings right? I won’t give back story on this, as I don’t want to really say too much, but I was so incredibly touched to receive this – and has actually made me resolved to send more thank you notes as it really is a lovely feeling to get one.

My apologies is this was a bit of a cringe read, but honestly it was a bit hard to write this without thinking of a certain song from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend…

I need to make more of an effort with some of the other items on the main list – so hopefully I will be able to pepper more posts like this amongst the longer term projects.

What’s On TV – RuPaul’s Drag Race

List Item:  Watch half of the 1001 TV Series You Must Watch Before You Die
Progress: 195/501
Title: RuPaul’s Drag Race
Episodes Aired: 117
Year(s): 2009 onwards
Country: USA

There is no better way of showing the difference in work colleagues between myself and my husband. Where I fast-tracked The Great British Bake Off to talk to some of mine, he asked to fast-track RuPaul’s Drag Race in order to share it with some of his. Yes, both are competitions and involve a great deal of innuendo – but that’s where the similarities stop.

For the uninitiated, RuPaul’s Drag Race is a competitive reality show between professional drag queens in order to be crowned “America’s Next Drag Superstar”. The challenges that the contestants face include photoshoots, acting, singing, lip-syncing and the infamous ‘Snatch Game’.

As someone who is afraid of drag queens (yes, I have been known to flee when one enters my personal space) I was really apprehensive about watching this. Over in the UK I have only really come across the more aggressive types of drag queens which has resulted in me viewing them all as scary gay clowns.

So let’s start the healing.

For the purposes of ticking this off we decided to watch two complete seasons: the first and fifth (the latter being recommended by the hub’s work colleagues). And we watched both of these incredibly quickly – especially the fifth season because I fell in love with this show.

I don’t really watch much reality television (especially with Bake Off switching channels), but what really got me with Drag Race is the cheer level of talent on display here. They have to make clothes, be witty, sing, act and do all of this whilst being pretty (or fierce depending on the persona). The level of respect that I now have for these drag artists is so high now – especially for the more accomplished ones that I saw.

This is where I probably should mention the performer who really helped me work through this fear of mine: Jinkx Monsoon. If I had watched the first season before the fifth I would have probably would have used a picture of Nina Flowers, but there you go.

In the two weeks since finishing off Season 5 I still catch myself looking for Jinkx Monsoon highlights on YouTube. They found new ways to make me smile and to soften towards the whole concept of drag artistry. It’s not something I would really want to go and see live (mainly because of the amount of alcohol consumption involved) but I think the number of times I have watched this clip on YouTube shows just how far I have come.

List item: Overcome a fear
Status: Completed

It may be a bit too soon to call this, but I think the healing has truly begun.

So yes. I will now be watching the rest of this show and it will be an utter delight to do so.

Lost In Japan: Day 16 – Tokyo to London

For these posts in Japan I actually wrote the bulk of the text during downtime (train/plane/bus journeys and late evenings mostly) so I could have a nice way to properly look back on my honeymoon.

At midnight I received an email from British Airways informing me that our flight was going to be delayed by two hours. It was 5am when I saw this message, in two hours the pre-booked bus would I be arriving at the hotel giving us four hours at the airport.

No matter, I just reasoned that it would mean more time in Japan. Plus, I had seen what the Japanese have done with turning buildings into ridiculously cool malls, I was sure that Narita Airport would follow the same pattern. Thankfully I was right.

I was pretty sleep deprived at this point (weird dreams about being best friends with a history teacher followed by one where I was Lisa Simpson tend to do that) so I was pretty much wafting around the pre-security area checking out the many shops and restaurants. Hubby said he wanted to try a more traditional Japanese one (unlike McDonalds, which was offering a surprisingly large number of breakfast items). Since the first place we came used natto in their breakfast (blech) we just went next door.

List Item: Try half of the combined 1001 food booksFood items: Turnip greens and Tamari shoyru

Whilst he went for the ‘Japanese Breakfast’ I went for the cheaper option of tempura and hot soba noodles. I had written today off as being one where there would be no food items, and here were two at once. I am pretty sure that I have done the tamari shoyru previously in the holiday, but this was he first time that I heard the waitress specify it as such. It also gave me my first taste of turnip greens, which went well with the broth that the noodles came in.

Progress: 775/933

In order to speed along the time we had a proper explore of the airport, including the observation area and the airports Pokemon Centre store. We managed to whittle away our extra yen through extra souvenirs (including an adorable plushie of Narita airport’s mascot) and some extra sweets to bring home.

The flight itself (twelve and a half hours long) reminded me of how good the food was in a Japan and just how long 12 and a half hours can be. I know that in-flight meals are not typically gourmet (although Qantas was particularly nice), but this was a real comedown.

Still, it afforded me time to do quite a bit of drafting for Tripadvisor reviews, de-weed by Animal Crossing town, remind myself of how much I loce Juno and stare out at some spectacular scenery (pictured: a Siberian plain). It also allowed me to get incredibly annoyed at a Japanese woman in front of me who not only tilted her seat all the way back, but also managed to twitch so much that I got repeatedly winded by the fold-out tray.

A hour and half car trip later (curse you M25!) and we were home.

List item: Stay up for 24 hours
Status: Completed

Yes, this was not how I had wished to complete this list item, but seeing how I woke up at 5am it just ended up working out this way.

Still, when there is half price Domino’s Pizza knocking at the front door I guess staying up for that long isn’t too bad. Plus, thanks to this we were both able to minimize the post-Japan jetlag. We woke up the next day at 4:30 in the morning… but as long as we are able to stay up until 9:30 tonight we should be fine.

We spent the morning sticking on the laundry and unpacking all of the souvenirs we bought… it was a lot more than I think either of us expected. The last minute addition of a Narita Airport mascot plushie (the plane-bird thing on the far left) really rounded it off for me.

List item: Have and maintain a collection
Status: Ongoing/Completed

During our trip to Sicily I decided that I really wanted to resurrect my childhood keychain collection. I also got a really nice one in Luxembourg. I feel that now that I have bought a whole lot of these from different amazing areas in Japan I can now definitively say that this collection is back up and running. Now I just need to find a place to display my favourite ones in a way that makes me not look like a Boy Scout.

And… that’s it. That’s the end of my Japan trip and honeymoon. Truly, it has been the best time I have ever spent on holiday (second is a three-city trip to Australia back in 2010, a trip I never thought could be topped). A time so amazing that I have started working out the itinerary for our next visit in a few years (Sendai, Osaka and the tropical island of Yakushima are candidates).

That Time I Got Married

I just want to start out by saying how strange it is to do a blog post about my wedding. I mean, as I am writing this it is two evenings after the event and I still do not have a lot of photos from the day (those will be retrofitted in). Anyway, let’s begin:

List Item: Make a will
Progress: Completed

Okay, I know this is a bit of a bait and switch. The thing is, the cold hard logic reason to get married is because of depressing reasons like wills. However, let’s not dwell on that and get to the real thing!

List Item: Be involved in a wedding (in any way)
Progress: Completed

List Item: Throw a party
Progress: Completed

This has been an almost 3-year-long engagement. My husband proposed to me on Christmas Day in 2012. During this time, I had a mental breakdown, we bought a flat…

List Item: Move house
Progress: Completed

…and we had to save up for both a wedding and a honeymoon. We actually started to look at booking a wedding about a year and a half in advance. Seeing how we are both fairly low maintenance in that respect and very well organised, I must say that all the work prior to the wedding has not exactly been too stressful for either of us. I guess that when no dress, make-up or flowers are involved, weddings can be rather simple.

List Item: Make a budget
Progress: Completed

The most stressful bit actually happened the day before the wedding when the cake delivery driver trying to deliver the cakes to the venue before it had opened. It all worked out fine though. The cheesecakes were delicious and beautifully presented.

Now, there is a big part of me that wants to write a blog post where I describe my wedding in the minutest of details. The thing is, I feel pictures explain things a whole lot better than words do. So I’ll let them do the talking and interject with some key things.

Song that we walked down the aisle: ‘Reprise’ from Spirited Away
Song that we concluded the ceremony with: ‘Everything Is Awesome’ from The Lego Movie

Food served at wedding ‘breakfast’: Burgers topped with gruyere, piri piri chicken, halloumi kebabs, celeriac coleslaw, salads and lemon tart
Wedding cake: 5 types of cheesecake

Song for the first dance: ‘I Love You, Honeybear’ by Father John Misty
Song I had the most fun dancing to: ‘Chicago’ by Sufjan Stevens with my mum
Amount of leftover food: Three meals worth
Day had: Perfect

To conclude, as I sit here writing this blog post (where I am so freaking excited about heading off to Japan in the morning for my dream holiday/honeymoon) I am still feeling so incredibly lucky. Lucky to have a husband who loves me as much as he does and who gets me totally. Lucky to have been able to fill a room with so many generous and amazing friends. And lucky to have an amazing mum who will dance merrily with me to Sufjan Steven’s ‘Chicago’. It was just one of those perfect days.

It’s Good To Share & It’s Good To Win

Full disclosure, I was going to do another album write-up (it has been a month after all), but here I am in mid-August and the 2015 of the albums list is yet to materialise. Instead I’m still cleaning out the back catalogue of bucket list cross-offs with something more positive than my recent teaching post.

List item: Share something you love with someone else
Status: Completed

Okay, so this is a bit of a easy one. Still, it’s one of those things that I probably should do more often and I acutally got proof of it this time!

I think I have mentioned before that I love Sufjan Stevens. This also means that when it is Christmas time I tend to play his Songs for Christmas albums ad nauseum. If you are in the mood for a strange Christmas metaphor that ends in a festive cover of Joy Division, then ‘Christmas Unicorn’ really is the song for you.

As a Sufjanatic I guess I feel it is my duty to share his music…


List item: Win an award
Status: Completed

Okay, so this happened a while ago now but I am still super proud of this. I know some people think work awards are a bit lame, and I would normally agree if I had not won one, but this felt like all the extra work I had been putting in had been noticed.

I didn’t accept this gracefully either. Where everyone else sheepishly got up on stage, accepted the award and then walked back down… I went a bit further. Like, holding it above my head and nodding my head as if I was some faded rockstar receiving a lifetime achievement award. It got some cheers from the back, though.

Professional behaviour kinda flies out of the window when I am super-psyched.

The thing is, I had an all day meeting that day. My line manager (thanks to advance warning) got me to come over thinking it was something properly mandatory and business-like and there it was, divisional awards.

Okay, I’m lame. But as someone who doesn’t win things this was a major deal :).

Back When I Was A Teacher

January 8th. This is not a day that means something to a lot of people unless you’re Jenny Lewis, in which case happy birthday and I love your music.

To me January 8th is one of those dates that has really started to stick out for me – it marks the last time I ever taught a class. On this day I had a nervous breakdown after my GP basically refused to help me with, what I now know was, my rapidly deteriorating mental health.

I ended up in hospital that night. It was an evening that was equal parts relieving, humiliating, upsetting and necessary. To be unequivocally told by a mental health professional that I should quit my job because I was becoming a threat to myself? Well, there’s nowhere else to go from there is there.

Let’s back up a bit here and start back at the beginning of what lead to that evening.

It starts in May 2011, when out of sheer desperation of five months of no job-hunting success I applied to do a PGCE and snagged a place on the Biology course at King’s College London. The fact that the local sandwich bar refused me a job due to lack of experience and suddenly I was deemed good enough to enter the road to teaching still strikes me as rather strange.

Still, I was moderately happy to get onto this because I still remembered being a student at an independent school… which in retrospect meant I was completely unprepared. We started in September.

The first few weeks we really good. We did a bunch of teaching theory, learned some interesting practicals to teach different areas of science and we started to gel as a group of wannabe teachers. This lasted for nearly a month before being placed into our first school. Here we began to observe proper science lessons until it came the time where we would be up there teaching our first lesson.

List item: Teach someone
Progress: Completed

It was the first week after the October half term. The class was a top set Year 9 and I was teaching a 50 minute physics lesson about the difference between mass and weight. It took me about a week, off and on, to plan this lesson and it was over so quickly. I must have thrown up 3 times that morning before doing the lesson and, to be honest, it went off a lot better than I thought it would. I did a few more rather quickly, including a Year 7 lesson on classification involving Beanie Babies, with a cover teacher remarking that I seemed like I had been teaching for a while. The thing is, after the first lesson and after the nervous energy wore off I came to the realisation that something wasn’t right with me doing this.

List item: Go pond-dipping
Progress: Completed

I persevered and after a lot of hard work at two different schools I passed my PGCE. Part of it included doing some field work and learning how to organise outdoor activities such as sampling pond-dipping. I remember us catching and naming some small fish and crustaceans, it was a lot of fun.

The week after that trip I received a letter from the school I had my first placement at saying that they were offering me a job as a member of the science department. I was so happy and relieved to finally have a job, after all that’s why I went into teaching rather than some calling to the profession.

(My own classroom!)

 List item: Babysit/Look after kids
Progress: Completed

And so I entered my NQT (Newly Qualified Teacher) year. A year I was almost immediately told was going to end up being harder than the PGCE year. Still in the first few months I still had enough energy and optimism inside of me to try to make the best of things.

With the reduced timetable that came with being an NQT I found that, whilst it was hard and I had to basically build up my bank of lessons, I was able to just about cope with a lot of what was being thrown at me. I was able to take delight in making colourful display boards and drawing bad cartoons as start activities.

List item: Entertain people with a puppet
Progress: Completed

The first term went really well. The children loved me, I was passing my NQT observations and with one of my Year 7 classes I was able to let out a bit of my silly side by including an emu puppet in my lesson as a plenary activity. Sounds bizarre, but having 11 and 12 year olds explain the difference between solids, liquids and gases to an oversized purple bird worked for a lot of them.

After Christmas things changed. I had become such a part of the furniture that a lot of the classes began to change on me. My Year 8s got to the point where I would be having panic attacks in the science prep room every now and then with the technicians finding me almost foetal behind the cabinets as I could not deal with the behaviour in those two classes.

List item: Allow someone to make their own mistakes
Progress: Completed

As with all things there was a silver lining (other than the summer holiday which never seemed to arrive quite quickly enough). My Year 9 class. No matter how bad a day was I knew that everything would be fine during those 50 minutes. They were well-behaved, engaged and just so eager to learn. They allowed me to teach in the style that best suited my personality; tangential, slightly leftfield but with the aim of both entertaining and informing. I never really had to worry about behaviour (maybe once or twice, but no class is perfect) so I could just be me and it was such a tonic.

List item: Attend a court case
Progress: Completed

Luckily for me I managed to snag two weeks off in my NQT year because of jury service. I actually pleaded with the courts to put me on a case that would last for weeks… they smiled and went back to their day-to-day work. It was worth a shot? At least I got to be a foreman, that was interesting.

 List item: Inspire someone
Progress: Completed

We got to the end of the year and I got this amazing card (with a present) from one of my Year 9s. I was not looking forward to being a teacher with a full timetable after passing my NQT and I was so close to quitting. But, me and my partner had bought an apartment, so I was trapped.  Also, I found out that I would be teaching top set Year 10 which meant that a large section of the class that kept me sane would be still there when I came back after the summer.

The problem was, I was never able to truly relax in the summer. For the final two weeks I could not sleep properly and I was having nightmares about going back to teaching. From that September to January it was just a downward spiral punctuated by bright moments with my Year 10s and Year 11s. We got to Christmas where I had to mark over 40 pieces of controlled assessment which meant I had no time to relax, so I came back to the school completely frazzled.

Three days of teaching later and that was it. I mentally and physically collapsed to the point that my GP told me that considering the number teaching had done on my mental health that they would be able to sign me off for months. Not wanting to bleed the school dry I took a few weeks to clear my head and make up my mind about whether I could survive on savings for a while as I job searched or if I had to go back to teaching.

I handed in my notice as soon as that decision was made, threw the anti-depressants in the bin and I’ve been mentally stable since.

In the end, things have become so much better in these two years since. I have a job that I am happy with, I have time to be a friend again, I can be the partner (and now husband) to an amazing person, I can feel free to be me again. I got my life back.

This is the what January 8th means to me. The day where I finally was able to take the advice from a fortune cookie I consumed the Saturday before and take back control of what my life was going to be:

List item: Take advice from a fortune cookie
Progress: Completed

I have one regret from leaving teaching. I was never able to say a proper goodbye or a thank you to the students who kept me sane for that year and a half. If any of you come across this (you know who you are) I just want to say:

“I am sorry. I tried so so hard and by leaving the way I did I feel like I failed  you after all the trust and love that you showed for your eccentric red-headed science teacher. It was a true pleasure getting to know you guys and I wish you all the best in the future.”

My Lego Centrepieces

Hello! It’s been a long month and a lot has happened! Well, I am writing this in the summer and can only now properly post these pictures since my (now) husband wanted me to keep these under wraps for the day of the wedding.

Well, I can post these pictures now.

List item: Build something truly awesome out of Lego
Status: Completed

Okay, so awesome is a pretty subjective. However, in my eyes these are pretty damned awesome so I consider this all ticked off. Especially since I designed all of them.

Totoro was the first that I designed. We figured that each table should have a Lego design that reflecting our interests. Since My Neighbour Totoro is one of my favourite films, and since I have a large plushie version sat opposite me a lot of the time I am on my laptop, it made sense to make one featuring him.

This penguin (based on Gunter from Adventure Time) was probably the easiest one to build of the designs. It used to be a bit more complex, but issues regarding the available shades of Lego bricks made me simplify this one a bit. Others were far more effected though. Despite being the easiest it still took the better part of an hour to build.

In order to make all of these we had to order 1300+ pieces of Lego. 400+ of these were just the black 1×1 pieces since they made up the outside of most of the outsides. The story is the same with this Lego Lego Batman. A lot of black being used here, but also the only use of the pale yellow.

Whilst all of the others had an original image that I pretty much copied from, this cat (and the below dragon) were ones that I designed using an amalgamation of different ones. Mainly because my original attempt at a cat design was pretty damned pitiful.

The issue with this cat is the tail; it snaps off rather easily when you carry the design around. We managed to avoid this when we put it on a resting board, but (like all of these) they were an absolute devil to get to the venue.

This dragon is, if you ask me, the best of the centrepieces. It was the last one that I designed and was the first one that was actually built. The dragon is an exception since it was not done after a shared interest in the way that the others were. This dragon was made in honour of our newborn niece – previously known as ‘draakje’ or ‘little dragon’ before the gender was known.

It was one of the more difficult to design and build, but it was definitely worth it. Well, all of them were worth it – but this is definitely my favourite.

Notice of Absense


So, I’m getting married very soon and then going on an amazing Japanese honeymoon. Therefore I will not be posting any posts on here for a month. There will be some posts about the wedding and the honeymoon (since they will inevitably cross a few things off my lists), but those won’t be going up for a few months. The benefits of getting ahead eh?

Anyway, the posts will be starting up again on November 9th with some pictures of my awesome centrepiece since I am ludicrously proud of them.

Until then!