A blog about travel, books and navigating your twenties in one piece

Friday, 17 April 2020

The Happy List #09

It's been a bit of a week. Nothing in particular has happened, it's the same old social distancing/isolation we've all been living through for the past month now. I've just felt quite irritable this week. So I thought I'd restart my old happy lists as I don't feel like I have the energy to write a proper post today but I want to keep writing on Fridays and I'm kind of hoping looking for the positives will get me out of this funk. So here are the things that have been making me happy during this time:

The best sunset one year ago today - not sure I'll ever get over how beautiful this sky was

1 // Reminiscing about travelling - I get memory notifications on my phone pretty much every day and this time last year I had just arrived in Thailand on the island of Ko Phi Phi, one of my favourite places I visited on the whole trip. I remember it being a really really long day getting there and when we finally made it Liam making me hike up to this spot and me not feeling all that energised to do that (read: moody and tired). But as you can see in the sunset above it was so worth it. For quite a few months after I got back from travelling I didn't let myself think about it, I found it too painful after Tai's death and later mine and Liam's break up. But I've started to really think about it and appreciate it again. It was such a special time and amazing to think how different life was a year ago and how lucky I am to have seen such incredibly beautiful places. That Thai island will always have a special place in my heart, one of its beaches is probably my favourite beach I've ever visited.

2 // Caggie Dunlop's new podcast Saturn Returns - I hadn't heard much from Caggie Dunlop since I used to watch her on Made in Chelsea when it felt like we were all a bit obsessed with her back in the day. But I saw a few days ago that she's launched a podcast and in the first episode interviews one of my favourite podcasters, Elizabeth Day. Their conversation makes for brilliant listening and I really enjoyed it and the tone of the podcast, I've got the next two episodes downloading and I'm really looking forward to listening to them! 

3 // Cookies - Cookies are one of the best sweet treats going in my opinion and my new quarantine mission is to perfect them and find the best recipe. I started last week with The Anna Edit's famous recipe and man they were good. I made 12 and they lasted 5 days, which I think is pretty good going. I could only get hold of gluten free flour though so I think they'd have turned out a little better if I had my usual self raising flour but they still tasted amazing and were a big source of joy while they lasted. Next on my list is the Pret recipe for their chocolate chunk cookies and I am so excited to try them.

4 // Writing a pub quiz - As I said in my post last week, my friends and I have been having a weekly pub quiz and take it in turns to be quiz master and this week I'm writing the quiz and it's been really fun putting it together so I hope everyone enjoys it on Sunday!

5 // Teapigs Honeybush & Rooibos Tea - I'm a big fan of Teapigs in general but there is one of their teas I'm particularly in love with. I discovered their Honeybush & Rooibos tea when working at Wimbledon where they for some unknown (but wonderful) reason had it in our staff cupboard. It's so delicious and one of my favourite things to drink and it really got me hooked having it every day there. Now I'm at home nearly all the time I'm drinking it more than ever and it's just a really lovely tea, I'd highly recommend. Nothing like a tea break to perk up your mood a bit.

There we have it - five things that have been putting a smile on my face despite my rubbish mood! I hope everyone's hanging in there ok.

Friday, 10 April 2020

Currently #15

Happy Easter weekend everyone! I know it's pretty gloomy at the moment, I was meant to be going to Cornwall this weekend and you know there's a global pandemic going on doing a lot of damage, but I hope you're able to find some joy in the small things. For me it's the feeling after going for a run (not so much the run itself), doing some baking and pub quizzes Zoom-style.

I thought today I'd just check in with one of my favourite style of posts, and if you're interested you can read my previous Currently posts here.

Living my best life last year in Laos, so wish I could go back to this day

Reading :: I'm powering through The Dutch House by Ann Patchett at the moment and absolutely loving it. It's a novel about a brother and sister and their journey through life from rich to poor and unearthing the past of their physically-absent mother and their emotionally-absent father. It's been longlisted for the Women's Prize 2020 and I can totally see why - it's incredibly well-written and truly gripping. My Mum got this for me for Christmas after Nigella Lawson recommended it in her summary of her favourite reads of last year and as it's a beautiful hardback, I hadn't picked it up yet. But now that I'm reading at home instead of on my commute it felt like the perfect time to and I'm so glad I have! I'd highly recommend it if you're looking for a new book to read and take you to another world at the moment.

Eating :: Everything. Honestly my snacking has gone through the roof the past few weeks - strawberries, marmite rice cakes, mini eggs, I can't get enough. I've just made a big batch of this veggie chilli and it's absolutely delicious. I've been on the hunt for a really good vegetarian chilli recipe for a while and I think this is the one - good old BBC Good Food. Super easy to make and really tasty, give it a go if you're a big aubergine fan like me!

Thinking about :: Well this is the big one isn't it. We all have so much on our minds at the moment even if like me you're in a pretty privileged position and able to work from home without many worries. I've of course been thinking a lot about Covid-19 and the impact it's having and how crazy it is that that it's totally transformed all of our lives and how incredible our NHS staff are and wondering when it will end and on and on and on. I've stopped watching the daily Downing Street conferences and limited my Coronavirus news intake to the BBC Coronavirus Newscast which I think is doing an incredible job of covering the news in a really helpful way. It means I now have a dedicated half an hour a day to catch up on the news and I'm finding that's the best thing for me to help with feeling overwhelmed. I've also been thinking a lot about Buni the last few days. It was four months since she died two days ago and it would have been her birthday in a couple of weeks. In so many ways I'm thankful she's not here right now and living to see all of this but I miss her so terribly. I hate the way grief can knock you and totally take your breath away and there's nothing you can really do about it. Just have to get through it.

Watching :: This Is Us. Oh my goodness I am in love with this show. My friend Ben told me I absolutely had to watch it a few months ago and I remember hearing a lot of hype around it but it somehow passed me by and wow I'm glad I finally started watching it. This Is Us is a show about a family, 3 triplets and their parents and the lives they lead, told in multiple time frames. That's not really the best description of it but basically it's the most heartwarming (and at times heartwrenching) show that will make you think about family life and the complexity of human nature in the best way. Also it has Jess from Gilmore Girls in it so you should watch it for that alone. I've been watching it on Amazon Prime and I can't get enough.

Listening to :: Aside from a million podcasts as always (*so* excited that The High Low is back), I've been listening pretty non-stop to my Easy playlist on Spotify. I always have it on when I'm working at the moment and it's the perfect soundtrack that allows me to concentrate on work but also to make it slightly more fun because of the great music, if I do say so myself. I've also been listening to Dua Lipa's new album a lot which is so good (goes without saying).

Loving :: Like everyone else I'm sure, I'm really loving virtual pub quizzes at the moment. My friends and I have got a weekly one going for about 13 of us and it's just so fun and a nice way to round off the week (we've been doing them on Sundays). It's definitely not a like-for-like substitute for seeing them in real life but it's the best we can get at the moment and they're great. I think in general trying to have a routine through these unsettling times has been really good for me so even fun things like this becoming a regular thing are a huge deal right now.

That's everything! I hope you're all staying safe and that maybe you've found some recommendations in this post that can help if you're looking for some stimulation at the moment while we're all stuck inside.

Friday, 3 April 2020

The Last Year

I can't believe I'm finally sitting down to write this post. It's only taken over a year and a global pandemic to give me the kick up the bum I needed to write it. But here I finally am.

It's been so long that I feel like I don't remember how to write on here. So much has changed that I don't know where to start.

I remember before I went travelling my sister Meg (a very seasoned traveller and general giver of great advice) told me not to worry about things at home while I was gone, that she was sure I would find as she had on return from her travels that everything was much the same. So much so that I would actually be shocked at how home could possibly be exactly how I left it when I came back with a whole new perspective and so many experiences that most people wouldn't understand. She did give the caveat that Brexit would have happened though which we were both sad about.

It turns out though that Brexit didn't happen when it was meant to. But my entire world crashed nonetheless in June and I don't think I'll ever get over it really.

Travelling was amazing. South East Asia was incredible and this is the first time I've really allowed myself to think about it since I spent three months there from March to June last year. It's only now that we're all stuck inside that I've finally started to appreciate it again. And I do know how incredibly lucky I am that I got to spend that time travelling in itself, let alone now when it's not a possibility for anyone.

But on the 2nd June 2019 my sister Tai was killed in car crash by a drunk driver when she was on the way to the hospital for a nightshift in New Zealand where she lived. I still can't believe those words are true ten months later. As you will know if you read my blog before now I spent three months in New Zealand last year, the first one with Tai and my brother in law and nieces, and I wrote about how special that time was to me.

I never once thought that would be the last time I would ever get with Tai and trying to come to terms with her death has been the hardest thing I have ever done.

When I got home from her funeral and after six months of travelling everything was a complete blur. It's only now that I look back that I just don't know how those weeks went by. I came back, started a new job, and then two weeks later my darling grandma (Buni) had a horrible fall and was hospitalised. She never came home.

Buni had to go from hospital to a nursing home where she stayed until she died on the 8th December 2019. Again if you've read my writing before I'm sure you'll know Buni was really a second mum to me, she moved in with my Mum and me years before she died and played a totally pivotal role in my upbringing. It was almost funny to be experiencing death a second time in this year in such a different way. To grieve Buni while I was still grieving Tai was also a blur. I know I will grieve them both in some way for the rest of my life. But while I miss Buni every day she lived an amazing life, to the age of 87 and she was so ready to go.

Meanwhile Tai was 40, had two young girls who needed her, and more than that, deserved their amazing mum to bring them up with their dad (who is doing a stellar job despite everything).

My Mum and I moved house in September. Liam and I broke up in November. This pandemic has changed life completely for all of us in a matter of months. And as you can gather life is nothing like it was when I left to travel.

And that is why I haven't sat down to write. How do you write about all of that? How do you even think about all of that when it's happening?

I don't feel words will ever fully do justice to all of these things. But I can try to use them to. And I feel like I have some time to do that now.

I also want to acknowledge that I am so very aware that people have it far worse off than me. I'm not looking for pity in writing this post I promise. I have a roof over my head, the best friends in the entire world and amazing family. I find joy in books and films and the little things that have never been so important. I'm training for a half marathon in October (me, the girl who hates exercise and especially cardio... I can't believe it either) to raise money for the charity Sands in Tai's name.

This is just the course life has taken me on over the last year. And if I'm going to write here again I can't not write about these things.

So I don't really know what I'm going to write about anymore. I'm not sure that I'm an authority anymore on how to navigate your twenties in one piece as my blog tagline says. I'm not in one piece at all. But still going.

Maybe I'll dig my travel diary out and write about Asia. It seems funny to now and silly when we're all inside and far bigger things are going on. But maybe it will be good for me to relive it and appreciate those days before everything royally went to shit. And maybe it will be good inspiration if anyone wants to travel there after all of this.

Maybe I'll just write about books and films or maybe this can just be a place for me to check in again. We'll see. But I'm going to try and come back to this space, and I hope you'll all have me back.

Sending love and good thoughts to everyone at this time. We've all just got to try to get through each day. There will be an after all of this.
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