Touchdown!

Well well well. 100 days, 9 countries (10 if you count Wales – Rob is…) and one hell of a lot of photos later – we are HOOOOME!

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*disclaimer – Rob does have a tan, it’s just he’s standing next to me, so you can’t see it…

That photo was taken at Bangkok International Airport at 2pm on Wednesday, and a mere 25 hours later (!) I was strolling through my front door. The Big Flight itself was fine – we got Haagen Dazs with our tea (!!) and even managed to sleep for a bit. The worst part was the 5 hour wait at Hong Kong while waiting for our connection! But it was kind of nice to end the trip back where we started it. There is a special spot on the floor of Hong Kong airport (1st floor, by the Starbucks) that part of me will always call home. <3.

I’m still getting used to the fact that I can get drinking water from the tap, and not the 7-Eleven down the road, and occasionally have an urge to douse my hands in sanitiser gel, but I. Am. Home.

Two overriding thoughts on being back: 1) Britain is so QUIET… I spent 10 minutes trying to find my earplugs before I went to bed on Thursday, then realised “that weird noise” outside was… silence. And 2) Cheerios are the best thing ever. I would say “I’d forgotten how good Cheerios were”, but let’s face it, I hadn’t.

I’ve spent the last couple of days waking up at 4am, unpacking, and trying to remember that I no longer have to get maximum wear out of an item of clothing before it goes in the wash bin (ewww).

I have SO many photos and posts to come sharing a snapshot of my memories of each place, so stay tuned! Meanwhile you can of course read the blogs I wrote while I was out there for Oneworld365 – you may have already seen them if you follow me on Twitter.

Ahh. It’s good to be back. Did you miss me!?

A love letter to Cardiff

This evening, after nearly 6 years here, I started packing to leave Cardiff. And while my overriding thought was, “Why do I have so many clothes?!”, I have to admit, it’s emotional. This city has been many things to me, not least, for years now, my home.

Cardiff, I hated you when I got here. Naïve, terrified 18-year-old me did everything I could to spend as little time here as possible. I spent my first morning here on the phone to my mum, sobbing, hiding in my bathroom so my new flatmates wouldn’t hear me. I didn’t know anything or anyone here. The unfamiliarity, the rain, the scary new housemates, all these people so… different to everything and everyone I knew. I already had friends. I already had a home. Why cheat with this imposter?

My heart was back in Bournemouth, and so that’s where I was too, as often as I could be. After lectures finished on a Thursday I’d be on a train. I dread to think how many miles my mum clocked up on the road to the station and back – rainy Thursday nights we now reminisce about when we make the same journey. “Do you remember when I was in first year, and I hated Cardiff?…”

But gradually, I came to realise – home doesn’t stop just because you left. Home had started to move on. And at the same, sneaking pace, you began to lure me in too. Now my heart really was confused. Gradually, as the train pulled out of the station, my heart would give a little tug backwards. I’d start to wonder what I was missing. A vintage fashion fair, one weekend. Wow, I thought. We don’t have those at home. I’ve never been to one of those before.

And gradually, I began to test it. Test the water, and test myself. Try not going home this weekend – just see. If it’s horrible (and part of me, rabbit-in-headlights, still expected it to be), you can go home next time, vindicated. You can shake your head in disbelief as you tell your mum, you just don’t understand how horrible it is. You can gesture around at the kitchen you grew up in; it’s not like here.

I tested it, and Cardiff, you passed. I stayed. It took months, but then you didn’t only grow on me, I began to revel in you. All this newness! So many opportunities – places, and people, and sights and sounds, tastes and jokes and moments – home began to look smaller. And stiller. As it should be. Now my heart was no longer trying to keep up with both Here and There, I could see them both for what they were. And what they are still.

And what are you, Cardiff? You are glorious. You are the place I met some of my truest, greatest friends. You are where I danced, throat sore from singing and cheeks sore from smiling. You are where I learnt so much – not just about what I was here to, but about myself. You are where I learnt how much I loved my subject; so much that my heart signed me up for a fourth year. You are where I achieved, from the smallest victories (my first attempts at home cooking) to the big ones, graduations, 10Ks and beyond.

You are where I started to make myself. To build the person I’m going to be and the life I’m going to have.

You are where I fell in love. With the person that is truly the other half of me, who has taught me more about myself and what I want out of life, and supported me to build that person and those dreams, than anyone I’ve met before. Without you, Cardiff, that wouldn’t have happened.

And now, with that person, I’m leaving. I’m not sure how long for. And even when we do come back, we’ll be on borrowed time. My heart knows I don’t want to be here forever. Because how would I know what else is out there, otherwise?  I want to try it, to test it and see. If I don’t like it, I can always come back.

Because thanks to you, Cardiff, I know now that moving on is a good thing. It’s a brave and right and wonderful thing. It’s nothing to be scared of. It’s what you do.

If we never moved forward, what would we have to look back on? Thanks to you, Cardiff, I have six whole years.

 

The CIPR Awards!

So! Friday night, we had a bit of a party. A PR party!

The party started in the office really, as thanks to mounting excitement levels and a pretty substantial supply of Halloween mini rolls (Oh Waitrose, how we love thee), nobody really did much work on Friday afternoon…

After managing to lock myself in my workmate’s spare room while getting changed (not even joking – her housemate shoulder-barged the door down…) we made it to The Hilton to meet the rest of the team. We glam up rather well, don’t you think!?

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We were up for 2 awards, and we’ve never really had a team night out before, so we were all quite buzzy and excited from the start. Though my boss’s bubble was punctured when he had to pay £7 for a G&T  at the bar… then rounded the corner and saw the free wine. Woops.

I couldn’t help but be aware that basically everyone who works in PR in Cardiff was in the same room. It added to the buzz, I think – eyeing up the competition! It was also a corker of a networking opportunity for me… But more on that later!

There were a lot of intros and speeches and (randomly) a pub quiz of sorts to get through before we got to what we were all after … FOOD! I’d been to dos at the Hilton (*clang*) back in my Student Media days so I was expecting big things – and they didn’t disappoint! Pork terrine and piccalilli, stuffed chicken breast wrapped in parma ham, and (my personal fave) a gorgeous tangy lemon mousse and shortbread biccie. I could have eaten it all twice. And had to stop myself hoovering up Eira’s biccie too. Then – awards time!

The host was Matt Johnson from This Morning and he was, err… merry to say the least! I don’t know if all “PR dos” are that rowdy, or if it was just his hosting skills getting the room going. Well – I’m not sure swearing at a company who were nominated lots but didn’t win anything (awkward) and offering bottles of champers to the loudest table in the room (a man genuinely stood on his chair, waving a candleabra) can be called hosting skills… But still!!

There were quite a lot of categories to get through, and they dotted about the list – which kept it fresh, but also meant I never knew whether my category would be next! My heart would pause ever so slightly when the applause died down and the next one was announced… but it turned out I wasn’t til quite near the end.

I was up for Outstanding Young Communicator, and went to a panel interview back in the summer after making the shortlist. On the night it was down to just 3 of us – and they made us stand up in front of the whole toom! Which they didn’t do for any other category. So in terms of literal exposure, it was fantastic – I was so glad I wore a brightly-coloured dress!

My heart really was pounding by this point, and my arms felt all wobbly. It felt very, very quiet in the room, and my cheeks were suddenly very warm. It was exciting. I have to say it, standing up in front of a whole roomful of PR professionals, singled out among them – I was really quite proud of myself. Everything I said on my application form was true. I’ve worked really hard to get to where I am.

I didn’t win, but that didn’t make me any less proud. I am sure everyone says this when they don’t win something, but I honestly didn’t expect to! I said well done to the guy who did win (networking 😉 ), and as we were chatting he asked me how old I was. Turns out he’s 5 years older than me! And I’m fairly sure the person who won it last year was about the same age.

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Making the final 3, at my age, having worked for just 2 years… that’s not bad. We didn’t win in our other category either, Outstanding Small Consultancy – but we can be proud of ourselves there too. We are not just small, we’re tiny – there’s 4 of us – and we’re doing some really good work. We’re holding our own! We were still on that list – we were, and are, still competition. It was recognition of all of those things. It showed others not to disregard us, and showed us not to disregard ourselves.

And we kicked ass at the karaoke afterwards.

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I’ve always said, travelling or no travelling, it was still time to move on. But I am going to miss these guys!

Tweeting a few people the next morning (always on!), the Director of another agency sent me a really lovely message to say how well I’d done to be a finalist, ending, “your time will come”. This has shown me that, after this far, people think something of me. Now, people expect something of me.

My time will come? Damn right it will!

Happy National Poetry Day!

Today is National Poetry Day, and I for one am enjoying revelling, rolling and rediscovering words, words, words. It feels right that this year’s theme is water, as it’s been bucketing it down all day here!

I always loved poetry, and had loads of Books of Verse and A Poem a Day and Spike Milligan as a child. I still remember the cover of the Children’s Book Of Verse that I had (wonder where that is nowadays?) and used to read them like I do novels now, flicking through or sitting for many happy hours. I was always destined to be a Lit student, wasn’t I 🙂

I kind of wish I’d done a bit more poetry during the English Lit side of my degree, but as I got older the Language and Linguistics part has sort of overtaken. Not that I mind – it just means that the poems that really hold meaning or sentiment for me are ones from, well, before. My English Lit A Level, Carol Ann Duffy’s The World’s Wife collection – Mrs Midas in particular (I have to say I’m pleased I still remember them -the studying paid off!) but also earlier in school. We did Alfred Noyes’ The Highwayman in Year 5 or 6 and learnt to recite it, and I still remember it now.  rhythmic and evocative. The Highwayman came riding, riding, riding… 

(I also remember our teacher’s incandescent outburst when some of the boys in my class trilled “Galloped awaaay to the West!!” in stupid girly voices… Maybe that’s why it’s stayed in my mind?)

We did Auden’s The Night Mail in Year 8 or 9 too, and learnt to recite it as a group, in a circle, all the desks pushed back. I remember the energy and electricity in the room and it feeling like the train whooshed past us, and the smiles on everyone’s faces the first time we all got it right!

I also remember drawing a picture to accompany a Christina Rossetti poem about a monkey when I was in Year 1. Something about curling a question mark with it’s tail… I love remembering things like this; it kind of makes me a bit warm of fuzzy to think I did love words from that early on. Nice to know I’m doing something I really do love, and have loved for a long ol’ while!

Weirdly, my two favourite poems have Highwayman-esque overtones. I say my two favourite because for a long time I got the two confused, conflated them into one verse that flitted from one to the other.

I’ll leave my real, real favourite til last, but this is a close second. I don’t remember when or where I first heard it – I think either this, or the other one, was (weirdly) engraved on to the side of a building or hotel that we used to drive past on the way to my godmother’s house when I was little. I noticed it from the car one time, and then always kept a lookout to see it again. I loved that something so romantic, so artistic, was right there – right in the public eye. Not tucked away in a book to enjoy curled up by myself, but right out in the open for everyone to enjoy. It made me feel like poems weren’t my secret anymore, but something for us all to celebrate.

Looking at it now though, it makes me wonder if it was too long to go on the side of a building. Maybe I’m remembering it wrong, I’m just sure I saw “Is there anybody there, said the Traveller…” . That line, the image of “the moonlit door” and the “champed the grass” have always stuck with me. Kind of get shivers – it’s so quiet, so still, and so sad. It made me sad as a child too, and I still can’t work out why.

Is there anybody there?’ said the Traveller,
   Knocking on the moonlit door;
And his horse in the silence champed the grasses
   Of the forest’s ferny floor:
And a bird flew up out of the turret,
   Above the Traveller’s head:
And he smote upon the door again a second time;
   ‘Is there anybody there?’ he said.
But no one descended to the Traveller;
   No head from the leaf-fringed sill
Leaned over and looked into his grey eyes,
   Where he stood perplexed and still.
But only a host of phantom listeners
   That dwelt in the lone house then
Stood listening in the quiet of the moonlight
   To that voice from the world of men:
Stood thronging the faint moonbeams on the dark stair,
   That goes down to the empty hall,
Hearkening in an air stirred and shaken
   By the lonely Traveller’s call.
And he felt in his heart their strangeness,
   Their stillness answering his cry,
While his horse moved, cropping the dark turf,
   ’Neath the starred and leafy sky;
For he suddenly smote on the door, even
   Louder, and lifted his head:—
‘Tell them I came, and no one answered,
   That I kept my word,’ he said.
Never the least stir made the listeners,
   Though every word he spake
Fell echoing through the shadowiness of the still house
   From the one man left awake:
Ay, they heard his foot upon the stirrup,
   And the sound of iron on stone,
And how the silence surged softly backward,
   When the plunging hoofs were gone.
This is the one I always got it confused with. And the other contender for The Poem On The Wall. Rudyard Kipling’s The Way Through The Woods. It’s a bit sad too – the idea that something was there, and now it isn’t, and nobody will ever really know. Because remember, there is no way through the woods.  Happy National Poetry day, everyone.

They shut the road through the woods
Seventy years ago.
Weather and rain have undone it again,
And now you would never know
There was once a road through the woods
Before they planted the trees.
It is underneath the coppice and heath
And the thin anemones.
Only the keeper sees
That, where the ring-dove broods,
And the badgers roll at ease,
There was once a road through the woods.

Yet, if you enter the woods
Of a summer evening late,
When the night-air cools on the trout-ringed pools
Where the otter whistles his mate,
(They fear not men in the woods,
Because they see so few.)
You will hear the beat of a horse’s feet,
And the swish of a skirt in the dew,
Steadily cantering through
The misty solitudes,
As though they perfectly knew
The old lost road through the woods …
But there is no road through the woods.

Woods

Sisters and brownies

This is the end of our first week in “Barrybados” – or, Rob’s aunt and uncle’s house in Barry. Rob’s not actually here this weekend (he has a habit of doing that!), but only a couple of “spare part” moments – we’ve only been here a week, it’s to be expected I suppose!

Rob’s aunt and uncle have 2 daughters – Jodi and Carly – so the house is super girly; I’m loving it! It’s so not what I’m used to, having grown up with 3 brothers. We had a Bake Off this weekend to celebrate Jodi’s birthday. I’ve met Carly a few times but only met Jodi at her wedding in the summer. As in literally met her for the first time outside the church, it was a bit weird! But we have a lot in common (like a propensity towards waaay too many books) so it was nice to get to know her a bit better.

Rob was slightly gutted to have missed the Bake Off – you know what that boy’s like when it comes to cake. But we had time to get our entry in the oven before his train on Saturday! Check these out…

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Those, my friends, are double chocolate cherry brownies, courtesy of this recipe from current GBBO contestant Beca. Gooey or what!?

I had to leave the hazelnuts out as Carly’s allergic but these are SERIOUSLY gooey so a bit of crunch would be nice! I had quite a small tin so the mixture made two big batches, which yielded 18 fairly sizeable brownies. The second batch was a bit better I think, as it had more of the cherries and white choc chunks in (they must sink to the bottom of the bowl slightly once you mix them in – I did a little trip down to the train station in between batches so the bowl was stood on the side for a while!). I have renamed them Danger Brownies this afternoon as it is dangerous to be alone in a room with them – one disappeared (ahem) while I was boxing some of the leftovers up for the guys at work tomorrow.

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For my first attempt at brownies I was pretty pleased! And I think it’s a recipe you could easily chop and change. Just don’t pay too much attention to the frankly obscene amount of butter that goes in.

We had a pretty good spread to judge between!
– Jodi’s rosemary and red onion focaccia rolls (providing a much-needed something savoury!)
– Eileen’s berry crumble traybake (deeeelish, and not too sweet)
– Will’s fondant fancies (he spent literally HOURS on them… they are not easy!)
– Carly’s cupcakes: raspberry and white choc and chocolate orange. Cake. O. Rama.

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We each tried some of everyone’s and then each wrote down our top 3. Jodi’s rolls came out the winner – possibly something to do with the fact that a) it was her birthday and b) we were all CRAVING something savoury by the end of the afternoon… Only joking – they were definitely my fave!

It was really nice seeing the girls together, too. I’ve been thinking recently how nice it would be to have a sister. I never thought I wanted one – I love my brothers, obviously, and really love how close Mum and I are. She always calls me her “saving grace”, some respite from the house of boys! And growing up around boys meant I was never one of those shy girls or silly girls who don’t know how to speak to boys; I’ve always had lots of male friends too. And I always used to say that if I had had a sister we’d have fought like anything. Saying that, me and the boys had some pretty colourful moments; a house full of teenagers wasn’t exactly peaceful! But it’s different with girls. Girls can be so…. mean.

But now that we’re all a bit older, I think differently. I look at all my friends with sisters and think… that would be nice. I don’t really have a best friend as such – I’m lucky enough to have some really lovely, really close friends – but I can’t help but envy people who have that one friend, that one person. Where you’re theirs and they’re yours, no question. My closest friends sort of have other people in that “best friend” slot (or they do to my mind, anyway), and I think that if I had a sister, that doesn’t really matter so much. You’ve kind of already got one right there.

Maybe it’s because there’s a lot of wedding talk going on around me. We’re getting into that stage now, after all. Sisters are often bridesmaids – not just because they’re your sister, but because by that time you’re out of the scary, fighty teenage phase and you’re probably pretty good friends too. And with the on-going wedding-ness, my mind’s been wandering to drawing up my Imaginary Bridesmaid List, and the people I’d choose to be mine, either haven’t or wouldn’t choose me to be theirs, due to either the presence of sisters or best friends. In some cases one and the same. Would that then be weird, to choose them if they hadn’t chosen me? But then who else would I have – can someone be your best friend, if you aren’t theirs?

Maybe I’m just being over-sensitive. I always have a bit of “absence guilt” – but in my more rational moments, I know that people grow up and move away. You just have to pick up the telephone more often, that’s all.

Another Imaginary List – the Imaginary how-many-kids-do-you-want List. I always said I never wanted more than one girl, because I wouldn’t know what to do with a house full of girls! But maybe it would be nice, to have a girly house. There was a mum and her two daughters, probably my age, in the café today, chatting and having coffee together. I watched them for a little bit and thought, even if they did fight like anything when they were younger…. that would be nice.

A taste of the Great British Bake Off!

I never did much baking when I was younger. I definitely remember licking the cake mix bowl as a kid, but food tech GCSE was definitely one of the most traumatising experiences of my life!! I’d never really made a cake until second year of Uni, a birthday cake for my cake-loving new boyfriend… It was chocolate and covered in royal icing and chocolate buttons to make it look like a football. It may have taught me (the hard way) not to open the oven door when your cake’s baking… But I can safely say Rob loved attempt number two.

Anyway, since then, my cakes have got better, slowly but surely, and greatly helped by the two incredible girls I lived with last year! Both incredibly creative and very knowledgeable, natural bakers. Penny had an inbuilt cake sensor; even with our rubbish oven she just knew when it was ready. She’s like the Spiderman of the cake world. And EPS once made a full-on Disney princess-style castle cake, using ice cream cones covered in pink icing for the towers. Unbelievable. And I began to gradually pick up some of their skill (and a lot of their leftover icing).

You may have seen a few of my tentative baking adventures pop up on here over the past few months… and if you follow me on Twitter you’ll see I love The Great British Bake Off. A lot. Maybe too much!! SO – you will imagine how excited this very very amateur baker was to hear that one of our clients was hosting an event… and that they were only booking an actual GBBO star baker to come along!!

That star baker was the lovely Brendan Lynch, who was runner up in the last series. After a week of emailing him back and forth (and a couple of ridiculously exciting phone conversations – I got real butterflies!!) I now know everything about him, from the name of his dog (Monty) to what first got him into baking (working through Raymond Blanc’s book) to his favourite bakes (French, Italian, Sicilian and German pastries. Fact.). And – I got to meet the man himself yesterday afternoon :-).

I was umm-ing and ahh-ing all week about whether to go – it’s an hour’s drive away, I didn’t want to intrude on a client thing… But he did seem genuine in his encouragements to me to come along, even promising to save me a loaf of bread if I couldn’t make it!

The event was so much fun. It was like a private baking lesson! Brendan is just the most lovely guy – charming, warm, eloquent and knowledgeable. And very sweetly funny, too – I think he took a bit of a shine to Rob, being the only guy there! As we came in he had just started to mix up a soda bread, which he talked us through in great detail, then popped in the oven. It was just so exciting to be there and watch him! He had some great little tips. He brushed natural yoghurt over the soda bread before baking it, and sprinkled over barley flakes – tiny things that really aren’t hard, but make the final thing just that much better. Soon we could smell it baking and…. yummmm. We were all drooling while he started on recipe number 2.

This was a cinnamon and orange Kringle bread – it’s Scandanavian. I know! One of his missions is to bake breads from all around the world. He’s currently working his way through the Baltics (#topfanfact). And of my goodness, it was amazing. Two words for you: cinnamon. Sugar. Spread all over the dough (on top of a layer of melted butter, because cinnamon equals “instant death” for yeast). Then rolled, sliced (sans chopping board, on the beautiful marble show home kitchen work top… !), simply twisted and shaped into a ring. The finished thing looked so impressive, but it was so easy to do! If I’d just seen the recipe in a cookbook I’d have automatically written it off as too hard, but having seen it done I’d genuinely give it a go now. It’s not as hard as it looks, this baking stuff!

And then, of course, we had a good old chat about Bake Off. And a few behind the scenes secrets were revealed!! Firstly, he is not a fan of those fancy slidey-door ovens – which I always thought looked pretty fab. Secondly, did you know the contestants only got £150 towards ingredients? And that’s for the whole 10 weeks – including all the practicing they do at home. It was just so interesting to hear what it’s actually like to go through the experience – and I think Brendan’s maturity and self-assuredness going into it obviously helped him deal with the more “commercial” side of being on a TV programme.

You can tell what a talented and knowledgeable baker he is, and how much love he has for doing it – but he said himself that he wasn’t what the production company necessarily wanted out of a “winner”. Shows like that need a bit of a poster boy – but then, he’s absolutely got what he wanted out of the experience. He truly took it for what it is (unlike another contestant on the series, who was apparently “blacklisted” after a tell-all blog post she wrote found its way into the press – oh dear) and is riding the wave, but on his own terms. He’s doing demonstrations all over the country, going into schools and judging competitions, and teaching baking 2 days a week (note to self: must look into this!). He’s working on a soon-to-be-submitted book proposal, and he’s working with a number of charities on a project he’s truly passionate about – taking baking into care homes. Not just to just give elderly residents something to do – he was very respectful of the homes themselves, but it’s a matter of keeping occupied and keeping happy. Baking can help people, and he is particularly passionate about how baking can help people with dementia.  Smells and tastes are incredibly evocative, and baking can help bring those memories back to life.

I honestly could have stayed all afternoon! I made sure I got a picture, before we left, of course…

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And just as we were leaving, he wrapped this still-warm apple, raisin and caraway seed soda bread in baking paper and placed it in my hands. As good as his word! And I can confirm, it’s absolutely bloody amazing. Have been slicing bits off all evening yesterday, and all day today. We had to stop specially to buy posh jam to go with 🙂

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Oh! And alongside answering all our baking qs –  particularly how to avoid soggy bottoms, of course (proper patisserie shops paint a thin layer of melted chocolate on top to “seal” the pastry before the cream and fruit goes on top – err, yum!) – he gave me some great tips for baking scones. Sift the flour, sugar and salt a mighty 5 times, be very gentle when you cut them out (resist the urge to wiggle the cutter), and soak sultanas in water (or booze!) before adding them to get them to plump up a bit. So I had to have a go this morning didn’t I?

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The verdict? Deeee-licious 🙂

It’s on.

Do you remember a little earlier this summer, when I told you I wanted to go here?

NZ

And here?

sydney

Oh, and here?

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And some other places too…

Well. Oh, people. Well. It’s happening.

I’m going.

12th of November.

I’m going travelling.

I’m FINALLY GOING TRAVELLING!!

After how many years of talking about it? And saving up for it?! And trying in vain to convince all my friends that one day I would actually go and do it?!

It’s got to be at least… *counts* 7 years. I was very, very close to doing a gap year before University, and I remember the moment that sold it for me. I was sat in a Geography lesson and we were watching a video about the Galapagos Islands, and I just thought… there is so much to see in the world. That there is so much more to this life than the little triangle that contained my school, my house, and the shopping centre where I worked. And I could go to the Galapagos Islands if I wanted to. I could go and see it.

And now I finally am.

Well, not the Galapagos, but that’s still on the list. But I am going to Hong Kong, Sydney, Fiji, New Zealand, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. I’ve told the landlord (scary). Today I told the boss (scarier). And now I’ve told him, I can tell you!

I want to just burst whenever I think about it – I can’t handle trying to think about it all at once, I have to break it down into bits! Now that we’ve both told our bosses we can ramp up the planning, so it’s all systems go from here. We’re even moving in with Rob’s aunt and uncle for the last month, to save money! (Is it weird I’m really looking forward to that? It’ll be really nice to live in a house… and it’s OK, because they aren’t his parents 😉 !)

I’m slightly terrified about the prospect of being unemployed for the first time since, well… ever, when I come back – the boy will be too, but will have pupillage lined up for September. Me? Well, it’s up to me when I get back! Realistically my prospects are pretty good – I’m even going to be blogging for a travel site while I’m out there (more on that later) – and being frustrated about being home with no cash will spur me to get cracking on the job hunt.

Now that we’ve told everyone it’s just like a clock ticking down. It feels like all the little things that annoy me about our flat are even more annoying than normal, now that I know we’re leaving soon. Can’t wait. Cant. Freaking. Wait. It’s finally happening, people. It’s on!

Love is

Yesterday, Rob came home early from football training to save me from the giant moth that had flown out of our kitchen bin.

Now that, people, is true love.

❤ 

sandwich

(Nope, I don’t know how it got in the bin either.)

 

Finalement

There is something big that I haven’t shared with you.

Something very big. Huge. Literally life changing… and long awaited.

Ready?…

 

… Rob got a job. A pupillage. He got one. He got it.

He got it!! AAAAAAAH!! 

Sorry that it’s taken me so long to share this with you all… In all honesty, we’ve been running around like whirlwinds since we found out that we’ve barely had time to take it in ourselves! We found out a couple of weeks ago, but were kind of pinching ourselves and holding our breath until he’d had the contract, signed it, and delivered it back. Which he now has. Which makes it finally, finally, seem very very real. Finally!!

For those of you who don’t know, these pupillages? They’re hard to come by. You can start applying the year before you do the Bar Course, and you have up to 5 years to secure one from the year you pass the Bar. This was Rob’s second “proper” go through the system – he did have a couple of interviews in London the year before he did the Bar course, but by his own admission had no idea what he was doing. But he certainly got one hell of a lot of practice between then and now! Maybe, what, 50 interviews, altogether? Here, there and everywhere. From Leeds to London, Oxford to Liverpool, and everywhere in between. He moved to Holland for three months. Worked flat out every night after work, and every weekend, for months, months on end. And… now it’s done. He’s got it, and I cannot tell you what it means to him, to us or to me.

I’ve hinted darkly at “What It Was Like Last Summer” before on this blog… and I’m not going to go into it all again. Because I don’t have to 🙂 We never have to go through that again. That was the overriding emotion when he told me – absolute relief. Not surprise, because I always knew he could do it, how much he deserved to do it – but that’s not how it works. It was all about whether someone would give him the chance to do it. A huge, suffocating weight, one that we’d got used to carrying just above our shoulders, threatening to bear down… just lifting. And then: yay!!

And then, jagerbombs. Dangerous times. We were at our friend’s birthday party, you see, a big post-uni get together that happens every summer in deepest, darkest Taunton. He had the interview 9am that morning and we hit the road as soon as he could get out of his suit and into his flip flops! It was always going to be a good distraction of a weekend because we flew to Spain the next day. Which led to some confusion when the Chambers finally called…

Basically, I did the most girly, silly thing I could do. And left my entire make up bag in Cardiff (next to the sink in the bathroom… I could picture it sitting there!!). The day before we go to Spain for Rob’s cousin’s wedding. Yep, not ideal. And so not the kind of thing I do! I was so annoyed with myself. So having explained this to Rob, and asking whether he could call his uncle (who we were flying out with) to see if there would be time for us to go back to Cardiff the next day to pick it up, when the phone rang, I assumed that’s who it was. And so pottered back out to the garden to moan to the other girls, and ask if I could scrabble through their supplies for eyeliner later.

Then Rob appeared from round the front of the house, saying we should check the car again. I’d definitely already checked the car, and so assumed he was pretty cross with me for adding another journey to our weekend of transportation. We walk away from all our mates, and he’s just talking rubbish, and I can’t work out why. I’m waiting for him to tell me off, or at least to tell me what Barry said, but it’s like he’s just talking to, well, keep talking.

Then we get to the front of the house.

Then he says, in this crazy, quick, slightly strangled voice – “That was all bullsh*t. I just got pupillage!”

I don’t think I’ll ever forget him saying that! I just squawked (I won’t dignify it by calling it a scream, it was too messy to be a scream) and threw myself into his arms. Then Josh (the birthday boy) appeared as in all the commotion we’d managed to let the dog out. So I’m up in the air, crying, Rob’s holding on to me, and Josh is running round our ankles trying to catch the dog! Bizarre. But brilliant.

We went back into the garden and seeing me walk up shaking and still sort of crying assumed we’d had some massive fight… But Josh told them what had happened. And his parents appeared with champagne!

It turned what was going to be a “lets-behave-ourselves-we’re-going-on-holiday-tomorrow” kind of evening to an “oh-my-god-pass-me-a-jagerbomb” kind of evening… but sooo worth it. We have a plan now, people, we have a future, and OK, so technically we always had one of those, now I can actually see it!!

So exciting. So bloody exciting. He gets to actually do it, actually go and be a barrister, after all this. Can you imagine working that hard for something, and then never getting to actually do it? It was something he was preparing himself for, and we’d have dealt with it, should it have come but… this is so, so much better.

He has to go to London to get his wig and gown before he starts. He’s excited about the engraved box with his name on… I’m excited about the serious Harry Potter overtones…

hardwork2

Off the grid

I’ve just got back from a week in the hills of Southern Spain; lounging by the pool, strolling to the beach, leaning over cliffs to take in what I’m sure you’ll agree was one hell of a view:

DSCF4204

And the one thing I didn’t do? Turn on my phone. Initially out of fear of mental roaming charges, I switched it off at the airport, and turned it on again a week later. No Twitter, no Facebook, no emails or texting. I had a wobble 48 hours in, mostly because I missed texting my mum 😦 … but 1 cheeky message off the boy’s mobile and that was that.

I was officially, as I like to call it, off the grid. And I loved it!

I may try and deny it, but I am one of those people who are always within an arm’s reach of their mobile. I’m definitely more of a texter than a phoner, and am unashamed of my love of Twitter – mostly because those are the quickest ways to get in touch, to check in, to find out what’s happening. And while it was initially a bit weird not being privy to that rolling stream of news… it was also kind of wonderful! Peaceful. I switched off. Holiday mode. And yeah, the Royal Baby was born, but I didn’t really miss anything that hugely, vitally, life-changingly important. And more than that – I kind of like being missed.

Let me explain. Everyone has That Friend. The one who, on a Monday morning at 9am GMT posts something along the lines of this:

instagram

Morning! Miami / Corfu / Thailand / Sydney you’re looking beautiful today… glad I’m not at work!!

Weirdly, being a phone lover (and this may well change when I finally get my hands on something that can use Instagram) I don’t ever want to be that guy. I don’t want to experience things through my phone screen, or people’s reactions to what I’m doing… I just want to experience them. You go away to, well, go away. Don’t try and constantly check back in with everyone, link them in to what you’re doing, seeing, eating… Be away. Be missed.

We still have Big Plans to travel the world one day, and you can guarantee I won’t be there bugging you while you settle in at your desk. I’ll be out actually enjoying it all. And I’ll fill you all in when I get back.