Monday 31 December 2018

Wanderings Lately :: December 2018

I hardly ever write a wanderings in December post, mostly because by the time it's the end of the year I have put together a long beefy one with a round up of everything that year which obviously includes December.

No matter how much I intend to be more chilled out in December, it's never really possible because I also want to catch up with friends before heading home for Christmas. This year I had a full week booked off before our office closure. My December has really felt like a break because of it, and I've still had plenty of time for those catch ups but not felt so burned out because I can lie in the following morning.

December was nicely full of festive cheer. On this, the last day of the year, I'm spending the day keeping up those traditions made since my awful New Year in 2011; making resolutions, looking back over the year at all that's been achieved and setting my intentions and predictions for where I'll be at the end of 2019.


Uni girls catch up in Windsor, secret santa, red wine, tacos and Anita's friendly cat. Always a fantastic time with these girls; can hardly believe it's 12 years since we all met. Some friendships come and go, and others move from dressing up as Army girls on nights out, through babies and weddings to civilised evenings with a glass of red. 


Mum and I carried on our yearly Christmas market expedition, this time heading to Lithuania. Vilnius was very festive, the decorations and lights made the city a nice place to wander around and we had a big snow storm on the first day. The Christmas market was actually fairly small, but we spend time in a few of the city museums learning a little about the city and country. An interesting place that's been controlled by so many nearby powers, and is now enjoying some independence and opportunity to establish it's own long held but muted personality.

Christmas Traditions

Some things happen every year at Christmas; work Christmas party, housemate raclette dinner, my homemade dessert and my mum jazzing up a christmas pudding. Others this year were possibly a one off but still added some festive cheer; ice skating and dinner at the Tower of London/St Katherine's Dock and a visit to St John's Church in Epping.

Wanderings in 2018

A year always seems to pass by so quickly, things I consider quite recent experiences in reality were a significant time ago. I always like to go back over the year around New Year's Eve to think about what happened in the past 12 months. In 2010 I had a horrible New Year started 2011 in a bad state of mind without any real direction or stability. Since then, I have made this time of year one to reflect on all of the positive things I've achieved through the year and really considered what I want for the year ahead. I write a letter, to be read by my future self the following Christmas, full of musing on things I know are already planned for the year and others speculating on where I want to be in life by next year. I really enjoy opening and reading about what I had hoped for and thinking on all the things I had no idea would happen the 12 months before.

Today I am finishing this post looking over my 12 months of 2018 and later sitting down to write to my 2019 self.

I'm ending this year feeling good about 2018 and excited for all that promise that 2019 might bring. 


We had no internet (and heating for a while) in January. We get a terrible signal at home as well, so our evenings were taken over by puzzle making. 

I also took a random day off to visit the Winnie the Pooh exhibition at the V&A. This turned out to be AA Milne's birthday which is Winnie the Pooh day. Serendipity at it's best!

Highlights include; Cooking for Syria and making it through the darkest month of the year without the internet!


My first ever work trip to Turkey. We spent three days at a conference for the Chevening Officers. I met so many different personal work based goals on this trip, but also started it off by losing my passport at heathrow airport. So it had its ups and downs!

Highlights include; Learning to make Macarons, visiting Bletchley Park, Flight Club darts and a visit to the Museum of London.


March was full on, just as I like it! 

It was full of celebration for International Women's Day. Firstly we helped Siobhan find her wedding dress which was very exciting. I also went to see one of my favourite authors - Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in conversation with Reni Eddo-Lodge who wrote a very thought-provoking and powerful book. A celebration of women and specifically the black woman's experience. 

We had our IWD celebration at work, my first event as a member of the social committee. I also took Jasmin to watch a live podcast recording of women discussing women's bodies, body positivity and the female experience and how different it is for all different women.

Lastly, I headed off on my first solo work trip to Kosovo. I had room service for the first time which was cool but no where near as exciting as I had expected. Since it's just eating a meal alone in a hotel room, I don't know what I was really expecting beyond this.

As I was working, I didn't spend time exploring much of the city of Pristina, but being in the country and meeting candidates for the scholarship was fascinating. I learnt more about the country and region as a whole and left a little more informed than I was when I arrived; basically my favourite part of travelling. 

Highlights include; Attending the Commonwealth Day service at Westminster Abbey and seeing some of the royals in the flesh.


Third work trip of the year - and the last for a while. After Easter I went to Kiev. I've been before so this was an interesting one as I was revisiting a city I was already familiar with. Kiev is a beautiful city, a hidden gem in Europe. I stayed on for a couple of days to take a day trip to Chernobyl which I hadn't been able to do last time. 

It was a thought-provoking and compelling visit. I really enjoyed walking around abandoned Pripyat. Despite its sombre past, seeing a place so frozen in time was really fascinating. I am captivated by the human stories from history, thinking about individuals and their experiences. Who lived there? Who shopped in that supermarket? Who was the last person to vacate that small house? Who left that rusted car? When we hear about significant events from history it's often in a large scale sense, giving an overview of the greater effect on society or the world as a whole. But when you visit a specific place, you can put yourself in the moment a little more, and consider how it might have impacted individual people. How would you have reacted? How would you have felt?

Outside of this work trip, we were also treated to some great weather, and the start of happy lunchtimes out in Tavistock Square with my colleagues. I also had another afternoon tea, this time at the Swan at Shakespeare's Globe. Another great tea to add to my list!

Highlights include; Bring roped in my first ever park run 5k, and seeing Mo Farrah run past me during the London Marathon.


Work perks this month included a fancy meal at Fishmonger's Hall, a tour of one of the reading rooms in the British Library and standing outside Number 10 (also got to meet Palmerston the Foreign Office cat).

Siobhan, Jasmin and I spent our bank holiday at the London Wetland Centre, chatting in the sunshine and bird watching. The former much more successful than the latter. 

We also held our annual Beamers netball tournament, where we reached the quarter finals.

Highlights include; A sunny bank holiday on John Lewis rooftop meeting my friend's new boyfriend.


I went to see Johanna before she departed Nice at the end of June - and beginning of July. Leaving beautiful weather in London for more beautiful weather in France. Of course it was lovely to see Johanna again, and to spend a few days eating breakfast of croissants on the beach and wandering along the Saint-Jean-Cap-Ferrat coastal path.

Highlights include; Joining Siobhan and her mum on the women's march to mark 100 years since some women got the vote and more netball with our first official work tournament.


My first Farewell event with Chevening at Alexandra Palace, quite an event seeing all 1600 scholars under one roof at the same time.

Watching professional Netball for the first time at the Copper Box Arena.

Work summer party, in glorious sunshine on the roof terrace of the Lyric Theatre in Hammersmith.

Highlights include; Two very different Hen dos for two very different brides.


August was wedding month! I made my own dress for all the weddings this year. Two within a week of each other. The first was Chelsea's in Cheshire reunited with a couple of boys from my time in Korea. Then a week later in Croydon with my London girls, and all of us in primary colours.

Then we had a weekend trip with the family to Southwold. The weather took a turn, but I quite enjoyed having an excuse to sit inside and read!

Highlights include; The weddings (of course) but also a 10 year China reunion, netball awards evening, and a trip down spice girls memory lane.


Another wedding, this time a family affair. My dress got another outing!

Took advantage of mum's V&A membership to see the Frida Khalo exhibition. What an amazingly complex and outstandingly talented woman. 

Then an Open House London weekend of two halves... on the Saturday Jasmin and I went to Lancaster House. This was probably the most rainy day in London all year and we got stuck outside because we missed our slot by a couple of minutes as we were stuck in the queue. Thankfully they let us in on the following slot. It was an impressive building, with a history of hosting important politicians and camera crews filming everything from Downton Abbey to National Treasure 2.

Highlights include; Catch up with friends (despite the rain) and discovering a different view from a riverside rooftop.


Work travel (again!) to Sarajevo and Macedonia. More fascinating insight into the Western Balkans region. Fun fact: Skopje has an excess of statues, mostly of men. Covering bridges and the edges of buildings. One of which is Churchill.

My first Chevening Orientation at the excel. This one had more meaning for me as I had been involved in the application process. I met some of my scholars from Kosovo who I'd had a direct hand in assessing and offering the award to.

Highlights include; All the work trips but also saying goodbye to some great colleagues.


Trips around the UK with my new travel companion :-)


I've just written about December, but this month I have been off work for the majority of the month. Work involved our Christmas party at Tobacco Docks, a great success followed by pizza at work the next day!

Mum and I in Vilnius, sheltering from the snow and drinking all the mulled wine. Even if people didn't really understand the concept of the keep-cup we tried our best! 

Highlights include; Mum waiting for the 'parade' which was actually a protest. Post Christmas Walk in Richmond Park. Christmas Raclette at home.

:: 2018 you were a blast. Here's to a warm Spring, sunny summer and beautiful autumn in 2019 ::