“ The year 2010 in review. „
I realise it's getting into 2011 now and probably a bit late to be looking back at last year but this year has so many big things planned and I want it to be much better then the up and down year of last I wanted to look back and think about everything that happened and share it with you good people. ****The Start**** I seen in the year as I expect 99% of the UK did, drunk with friends. It was snowing and It took a 1 hour taxi queue and 30 minute drive to take me and my friends back to my empty house because my parents were away to continue the party. (never again hate tidying) The new year and first day was great and I was very optimistic about the year. I signed up to the gym and surprised myself by going very regularly and began to noticed a change from my chubby self. 2009 was bad and alot of that was down to me and my long term girlfriend ending our relationship after 3 and a bit years which is quite long for two 21 year olds. That said in 2010 I'd totally forgot about this and moved on it was going to be a very good year I felt. In February time I began seeing someone else from miles away which was hard but it was good. I won tickets to go see a radio 1 show in a Local city and went with friends and had a brilliant time. I also tried Ice skating for first time as an attempt at a romantic double date but me falling flat on my face for an hour was far from that. ****Berlin/Poland**** By complete accident I mentioned to friend at work that I'd never been to a proper festival and it so happened him and three friends were going to a music festival in Poland after a few days in Berlin and he suggested I come and I said Yes :) A few weeks before I was set to leave I was for a second time in a year doomed to be a singleton haha. However I had a great 2 weeks holiday to look forward to and so had no time to mull over it. Got to Berlin after rearranged flights which seen us Given £250 compensation from easyjet. We arrived in Berlin and spent a few days there sampling the beers, sights and food it really is a wonderful city with great history and surprisingly to me really friendly people as I thought the whole German/English thing would be a tiny problem. We then took an agonisingly long 9 HOURS!!! train in 30 degrees Celsius heat and my ipod battery was dead. It was most unpleasant but was well worth It for the 4 days of fun that followed. 70p pints of heineken, Bars devoted to just ice cream!! and fun people. Camping was fun at the festival and while there we met up with a group of 5 Manchester folk who im now really good friends with. After seeing some brilliant acts like Pearl Jam and Fat boy slim it was time to head home and back to work :( ****Itunes festival**** Back home getting prepared for final year at uni, the big one and also working every hour under the sun at my part time job I was pleased to find out I won tickets to see Biffy Clyro my favourite band at the Itunes festival in Camden town London about 500 miles away but I wasn't wasting free tickets so I grabbed my friend lisa and we went. We stopped in a lovely hotel under the London Eye staggered to the show deep in London and watched what is to this day still my favourite show Iv ever been too. A day of sightseeing and a nice meal followed before going alllllll the way back home and once again back to reality. ****The rest**** Finding out my auntie had a brain tumor was the lowest point of the year but watching her get healthy and all clear again months later was the highlight. The year was filled with boring nights out and occasionally a good one that I enjoyed but they were few and far between. I'd become bored with the repetitive uni, work, sleep routine and wanted something big to look forward too and that was just around the corner Whilst having a chat and catch up with a friend she let me in on charity work she was doing and a big trip to Tanzania they were arranging to do volunteer work amongst other things like climbing Kilimanjaro. She asked "would I be interested" and I said yes without a seconds thought. So June 2011 I will be living in Africa for a whole month doing volunteer work and loads of other stuff (which is only starting to seem real now) ****The End**** I was relatively happy with the year behind me but happier and excited at the year I'd already began to put in place for 2011. I ended the year as I started it, With a party at my house while my parents were down Chester with all my other family. Had a few friends round food, music and even attempted vodka jelly. It was a small scale end to a pretty exciting year and ended pretty good with me beating my friends at poker :) ****2011**** Even though looking back 2010 was pretty good I want this year to be even better. A month away on Safari, climbing a mountain, volunteer work is one way its going to be brilliant. A music festival in Belgium to look forward too and my best friend being married at the petwood hotel in Lincoln makes 2011 look like it will be the best yet Thanks for reading Hope you all have amazing years too :)
I remember writing a review for 2009. It was depressing, I was heartbroken, I was stressed and I'd had glandular fever. Oh my, how things change. So, how was 2010? It was very stressful, but ultimately, a life of change. In January, I met my new boyfriend's parents and thankfully all went well and he reported back that they liked me. In February, my ten-pin bowling started to fall back into place and I bowled my fifth 299 game. Surely that 300 is coming my way soon? Surely? Come March, I was stressed. Very stressed. Why? Work. Yes, work. I know most people see their job as a means to an end. If you're lucky, you enjoy your job, but for a lot of people, having a job is a means to an end and it's a bonus if you don't mind getting up for it too much. I liked a lot about my job. I also liked the pay packet. However, there was also a lot I didn't like and that was the general structure of my team, the constant feeling of being harassed, not being able to meet deadlines due to the pointless interruptions from my manager, being made to make tea by my manager, despite being the second most senior in my department (it was very demeaning), my manager taking credit for work I did and being checked up on all the time. Reading it back, it doesn't sound that bad, but please be assured it was hell, I was miserable and other colleagues thought it was awful. So, I had my own idea for my own business. It played on my mind for months and months and eventually I decided "sod it." I jacked in my job and took a chance. I wasn't financially able, but I couldn't take the misery anymore and I didn't stand to lose anything as I have no house or car. Telling my manager I was leaving to set up on my own was the best thing ever. I handed in my notice that August and I felt free. In addition to this, Oxford University were offering a part-time degree course I wanted to do. I applied for it on a whim, not expecting to be accepted. I got called up for interview. A week later, I opened my acceptance letter. Wow. What a feeling. So, I was faced with juggling part-time study and my own business, but I felt great. I know it's going to take some time to make the business pay, so I decided it would be a good idea to find a part-time job. So, I applied for a 2-day a week job in a private school and explained my circumstances. I got the job. I'm now busier than I've ever been, but I love it. Yes, I work for someone else part-time, but for the most part I am my own boss and I love that feeling. I have 5 clients already - not bad when I've only been going a couple of months! Finally, I made the decision to take up running. I'd started before and always quit, but this time, I stuck at it. I started in April as a size 14/16, 12.5 stone and ran a 10k in May, Race for Life in July and a half marathon in September, followed by another in October. Now I'm under 11 stone and a size 12. I'm running the Brighton Marathon in April. Another massive change in my life - thanks 2010! How did the year finish? Pretty well - yes I had some bad news, but it was my year in that I changed my own life and did it on my own. And a 2nd place finish in a bowling tournament in December was also a nice note to end on ;) Bring on 2011! Happy New Year all!
1)What did you do in 2010 that you have not done before? I moved abroad as part of my degree. I spent a summer working in Rome, just for the fun of it. 2) Did anyone close to you give birth? Noone close to me gave birth, although a few more distant friends are pregnant and having babies this year. 3) Did anyone close to you die? Thankfully nobody! 4) What countries did you visit? Italy, France, Germany, Switzerland, Luxembourg, although plan on visiting a lot of different countries this year. 5) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? More time with my boyfriend, living in different countries means I miss him tonnes. 6) What dates will you remember from 2010? May, date not remembered - moving home from Edinburgh, it was so sad to be leaving that beautiful city 24/07/10 - when my boyfriend and I had our first kiss and got together as a couple. It was on the terrace outside his house overlooking a lake in Italy, super romantic. I had crazy butterflies and couldn't sleep at all! 01/09/10 - moving to Strasbourg, France to begin the last 2 years of my degree. 17/12/10 - the date I was meant to be going home but got stranded at Paris CDG airport (See Air France review for details) 22/12/10 - the date I finally got home for Christmas!! 7) Did you suffer illness or injury? Just kidney infections - ouch!! I would trade them in for flu or broken bones anytime..... 8) What was the best thing you bought? My Reiss bag: gorgeous, practical, money well spent. 9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration? No one really 10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Men of a particular nationality who think that blonde girls appreciate/deserve lewd remarks and harassment every single day of their lives, it is actually disgusting. One of the girls who lives with us; 27, working as a teacher, living in a flat rented to students who wants silence 24/7 and started screaming at the rest of us even for going to the bathroom after midnight, pathetic but a bit crazy too; issues seem resolved now but we are still hoping she moves out! 11) Where did most of your money go? Rent and flight tickets, pretty much the same as it will this year, with a reasonable amount of clothes in there! 12) What song will you remember from 2010? Alejandro by Lady Gaga. It was overplayed when I was working in Italy so it brings back many fond memories. 13) Compared to this time last year are you happier, fitter, more productive? I am happier, thinner by half a stone (thank you France!) and more productive intellectually; I read more books and study much more willingly this year. 14) What do you wish you had done more of? Travelling instead of working, but university and a part time job tied me down in Edinburgh. 15) What do you wish you had done less of? Procrastination. Even when I was putting off doing uni work or sorting things out at home, I didn't really replace it with something useful....... 16) What was your favourite TV programme? Tough call, I didn't really have one favourite but my weekly online fixes were generally 90210, Gossip Girl, How I Met Your Mother and The Inbetweeners when I managed to watch it from France. 17) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year? Even people who really annoy me or put me down, I think hate is a very strong word, so nobody. 18) What's been the best book of 2010? The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson. The plot was extremely well written and intricate, the book was like an addiction and I love books that you can sit and read whilst ignoring everything that you should be doing. 19) What did you want and get in 2010? Finally a gorgeous flat, somewhere I might want to stay next year too. Ooh, and I lost half a stone which made me very happy! 20) Who was the best person you met? My boyfriend, followed by his entire family, some of the loveliest people I have ever met in my life. 21) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010 No matter what you plan to do, life has its own plans for you so don't expect things to go exactly how you want them to; the surprises can be ten times better though. 22) What do you have planned so far for 2011? I am starting to learn Spanish on a self taught basis and I have trips planned to Portugal, Rome, Naples, Florence and Poland. General travelling plans, as well as getting fitter and giving my room back home a total clearout when I go back; a life de-clutter session is much needed.
I've never done a personal review like this so here goes! Nationally; a year 'called the big freeze' saw snow and ice in January, February, November and December the most I've ever seen. We have a new government coalition - you can decide for yourself good or bad!. Lot's of Job losses, gloomy news and at the end of the year the announcement of a Royal Wedding! Globally; we saw Haiti suffer a terrible earth quake, Volcanic eruptions causing air traffic chaos and 33 miners are rescued from a collapsed mine whilst another collapses with fatalities in New Zealand. Myself; January ---------- Plenty of snow fun for me and the kids - hubby doesn't really like it!! we didn't have any days of school but I took my two girls to school on their sledges which they thought was great and it was a brilliant work out for me! I hope it's something they'll always remember! Otherwise January was another typical month, my small wine glass charm business is always a bit slow in January after the rush of December so I took on more family research and won a big customer. February ----------- Such a short month and a non event really! strapped for cash we didn't do anything for valentines or half term really. March -------- Went down to Dawlish Warren in Devon during the Easter hol's with friends, had a fabulous holiday and enjoyed getting out. It had rained so much though the ground was very wet and soggy! April ------ Easter was enjoyed by all with an Easter egg hunt in the garden. Put up my new (second hand) greenhouse - so exciting, couldn't wait to grow something in it and quickly went to work trying out a few things such as tomatoes and seedlings. Sad part was finding out my father in law was quite ill and the start of many months of in and out of hospital. My mother in law having passed away seven years ago meant the looking after fell to the children. We live close to the hospital but it's still a difficult time not knowing what's wrong. May ----- At the end of May we went on our annual two week main holiday, this year to Hayle in Cornwall and we weren't disappointed, I love Cornwall to bits. We had nice weather - not the best but still it was lovely. Was hard to be away while father in law was not well although he was home while we were away he was constantly on our minds and caused a little friction. However we managed to keep it cheerful for the girls visiting St Ive's on a train, going to Flambards and spending time on the lovely beaches. June ------ My birthday! I had a nice birthday although it was a difficult time as my father in law was diagnosed with lung cancer, deciding what to do and what treatments to try he gradually became more unwell and was in and out of hospital. Had a lovely crop of strawberries - yum I love me strawberries - see review for them! July ----- School holidays - trying to find stuff to keep them occupied especially as usual the weather wasn't great! must try and remember to always get the paddling pool out way before the summer holidays! we had a few nice days out and about and just relaxing. Had a lovely crop of green beans, potatoes, onions and about 6 peas!!! will have to try more next year. August --------- Again school holidays, we had one camping trip to Bournemouth which was nice and the girls enjoyed it. Being a family historian I was also interested to try and find the grave of a great grandad that we wanted to know more information about, we wondered what it may say on the grave so what did we do! - trek through a graveyard trying to find this flippin grave and once we were there hubby wouldn't give up even though I had a plot number and couldn't find it! so I decided to knock on the door of the only house within the grounds presumably the groundsman! he was retired but said he'd help, he found the plot and we realised there was no stone - what a disappointment after all that time! he said sometimes the grass grew over then or they were taken away he was sorry. After he left I thought I'd just tap the floor - it felt hard, so I moved the grass with my hands and discovered that under the grass and mud was the stone! it was so exciting - I know that sounds mad! anyway we revealed his stone with nothing more than his name!! lol! so that was that! September -------------- We decided to chat to the school about our eldest daughter, we've always had difficulty and she's just a bit different, she's struggled through school, hates new situations/things and cries a lot. She was starting year six and we knew we needed help and to see what's what. After a long discussion with the head she could see that things were not right and agreed to getting us some help. Our daughter was distraught at the thought of going on a school holiday away but we knew it would be good for her, we eventually decided with the help of a very supportive head to make her go, I know it sounds cruel but the head is lovely and she promised to call which she did. Father in law was getting worse and my hubby was finding it all hard, they were very close and I knew it didn't seem good. As tests were being done to find out what type of cancer he took a turn for the worst and when the phone rang at 5am I knew it wasn't good news. The family were called in and he passed away within an hour. It seemed so sudden even though we knew he was ill, he'd been fine in January and February how could it be so so quick. When the results came back we found that it was a slow growing cancer and that actually he'd had heart failure. In a way we feel it was a blessing, he was an independant guy at 79, he was still driving the week before he died, he'd have hated to have had a slow growing cancer that just slowly took hold of him. Still it's not easy for the family and for our girls it was a hard time. October ---------- Our daughter went on the trip, getting her there was terrible and the head admitted it wasn't easy but she did it and was proud of herself, we were proud of her too! she said she'd never do it again! After this we had another meeting with the head and she admitted she wondered about the possibility of Autism which is what we've wondered about for a while, it's more difficult to diagnose in girls at times she seems perfectly normal and I wonder if I imagine it but within hours things have kicked off. We had the funeral or my father in law and the start of clearing the house a job I'd never really thought about how hard that would be. We also had a few days away at a friends chalet during October half term, we had planned on taking my father in law but that was not to be, we went anyway and actually had a lovely time, I think it was needed by then and we realised that he would've struggled anyway. November ------------- Eldest daughter turned 11! she hated parts of her birthday and loved others, she hates having happy birthday sung to her and hid under the table at one point! She enjoyed the food!! December ------------- Getting ready for Christmas, we knew it would be different and hard but we knew we had to make it nice for the kids. I wonder if sometimes the thought of something is worse than the actual thing. It actually went well. Business for the wine glass charms wasn't quite as good as other years, I need to do more marketing. Obviously along with everyone else we had all that snow and ice and we enjoyed a few more trips on the sledge much to the delight of the girls!! I couldn't believe how cold it went. My grandad aged 92 had a stroke, my Aunty took him to hospital to get checked out and they decided to keep him in, whilst he was there under their care he fell out of bed and broke his arm, the family made a decision to get him to convalescent care for Christmas. The hospital had been terrible, the physio had said he'd never walk again, he was undernourished, they'd put him on blood pressure tablets when he didn't need them which knocked him out. By end of December having spent a couple of weeks in convalescent (paid by himself of course!) he was taking a few steps and looking more healthy. It's disguisting really. My youngest daughter turned 8 on New Year's eve - great when she's older! so that was a lovely end to the year although I don't like them growing a year older I miss the baby years! We had a quiet New Year's eve in this year as hubby didn't feel like celebrating. Believe it or not I have had worse years although this was up there with them. Hopefully this year will pick up and we'll have a bit better year, I hope we get a diagnosis for our daughter so that we can start to work with it and learn how to handle things when it gets hard.
Well they always say that there is a year you will always rememeber and I do believe that 2010 was that year for me. *January* I started off the year single and facing the dread of A level exams so January wasn't really my month, that was until the final week when my Best Friend admitted he had feelings for me and asked me out... YAY!! *Feb* Feb 1st I accepted his offer and finally after months of waiting I had a boyfriend again. With my exams over and done with (for a few months at least) I had time to focus on work and just chill out. My dad and brother decided that they wanted to take up scuba diving so my mom and I started looking at an exotic location to go on holiday, considering as we normally go to europe we were extremely excited. *March* The first weekend of March was the first time I'd ever been away for a weekend withut my family and I loved it. My partner is in the Household Cavalry down in London so I went down to Londn for the weekend and had an amazing time. Being a huge History geek I managed to drag him to the Tower of London and he even drove out so I could go to Hampton Court (I still love him dearly for this, its the most amazing place i have ever been). I even got to go into Horseguards and see the horses which was pretty cool. Its quite surreal being surrounded by the soldiers all dressed up and ready to go on parade. *April* By Far the best month of 2010! My partner and I had been looking at going away and on the first week of April this is exactly what happened. We set off on a week long road trip of Europe, a holiday that I will never be able to top. We travelled through France and stopped off in Belgium for a few hours(enjoying a Belgian Waffle in Brussels!!!) After Belgium we headed to Nurgurg in Germany anf of course with my Partner being a mega Petrol Head we ended up going around the NURBURGRING! quite a few times, it was such an adrennaline boost but unfortunatley I couldnt drive because I didnt have my driving test booked until we got home from the trip :(. After Nurburg we headed down to Fussen in Bavaria which we used as a base to travel all over the place. We visited Neuschwanstein, Innsbruck in Austria and Zurich in Switzerland. All of this we did in a week and everyone is still amazed with how much we managed to do. We arrived back in the UK a day before my 18th birthday, so of course I celebrated my 18th in style... going bowling with the family haha all alcohol fuelled of course. The week after my 18th I finally took my driving test and passed first time!!!! within days I brught my car, a 2003 Ka called Noddy =D. *May* Not much happened in May. My partner took me up to an open day at York St John university and the rest of the month was full f revision for my final A level exams. *June* A Level Exams!!! I was majorly stressed out but I passed so its all good news. June was also the month I went with my family on our diving holiday. With my dad and brother being fully qualified divers we headed out to Nuweiba in Egypt and spend a week all inclusive at the Hilton Hotel. It was an amazing holiday and so unlike anything I'd ever done before. My mom has a pacemaker so cant dive so I stayed with her and gained a qualification in snorkelling instead which was just as good as diving because there are so many fish in Egypt you can see them from the surface. *July & August* I left my old job as a waitress and started working full time making Car seats for Land Rover which was pretty cool as I love cars. July also saw me going between my home and Windsor to visit my partner. We even went to watch the British Touring Cars at Silverstone which was absolutely amazing. Im one of those people that only watches motor racing for the crashes and as all the British Touring cars do is crash I had great fun. I also found out I'd been accepted at York St John University so started preparing to leave home!! *September* I moved from Shropshire to York to go to university to study History. I'm enjoying university and being 150 miles from home. Septemebr also had my Partner telling me hes going to leave the Army in 2011 so hopefully ill be able to do another fab review of 2011 *fingers crossed* *October* HALLOWEEN!!!!! Im a die hard goth and love Halloween so knowing that my partner was going to be in york with me for the weekend we headed out and spent the whole weekend partying! *November* I travelled home for my little brother birthday which was pretty fun and my mm decided to tell me she wants to take me to disney land for halloween next year (excited is an understatement) *December* CHRISTMAS!!! My partner came on leave for 3 weeks which was amazing and I really didnt want to let him go back. We visited Castle Howard and decorated the flat with so much nightmare before christmas stuff it looked more like halloween than christmas, but we didnt care. 2010 has been the best year of my life and im just hoping 2011 brings: * a new flat and finally living with my partner * being accepted as a special constable with the police * Passing my first year at uni *fingers crossed* (my first exams tomorrow lol!)
It was within the last twenty minutes of 2010 that Neil Simon of Biffy Clyro was up on stage in Edinburgh's Princes Street Gardens and he announced: 'This is the last song you'll hear in 2010'. It was in the next few minutes that they played 'Whorses.' There's something so instantly uplifting about that song and something that triggered four minutes of reflection upon the year before and four minutes of forward thinking for the year ahead. I don't usually get so sentimental about New Years. It's merely marks the passing of time doesn't it? However, I did get sentimental. 2010 forced me to grow up. I transformed from a melancholy unaspiring individual to an ambitious and hopeful university graduate. I feel like the first half of 2010 is barely worth mentioning due to the abject misery that was the final semester of my last year at university. My social life went out the window, I burnt the candle at both ends most days and nights and I was convinced that despite my hard work I was destined for inevitable failure. By the time I'd finished with exams I didn't even bother looking for jobs convinced that my degree was worthless. What a surprise it was to find out, half way through June that I got a 2:1 (upper second class degree). I think my screams of joy could be heard in the whole of Edinburgh. At the end of the month my flatmates and I all moved into a big beautiful late Victorian building... beautiful in theory. We soon discovered that our landlords were absolute, utter (insert explicit vocabulary here). For a relatively cheap £300 a month each, we were quick to learn that you pay for what you get. Now our dealings with our landlords are worthy of a separate rant alone (or in our case a 3000 words angry letter) but I don't want to bore you. However, here's an example of our windows fiasco. March (upon viewing the flat): Landlords: 'Oh yes, you shall get new double glazed modern style windows to replace those shoddy ones held together by sellotape.' June: No new windows. July: No new windows. August: No new windows. We start to voice our complaint. September: Alas, windows! Windows are installed. We then get told after installation. No they are not double glazed as they promised but 'draft proof'. Paint work is left chipped and blinds and tiles not replaced after the installation because our landlords refuse to have someone fix it. We are forced to look at eye sores. November: Draft-proof my arse! My window starts to wobble in the wind and the cold air gets through. Luckily, we became good friends with the builder man who agrees to come back and sort the window. Not his fault, but due to the fact that the windows they bought for the flat were ridiculously cheap. December: Claims of draft-proof windows are bollocks. We freeze even with the heating on. January: Other flatmate's window starts to leak in the rain. We are lost for words. We surrender. We give up... So, we live together in a shoddy flat. We've had mouse problems, the carpets look dirty, the wallpaper is chipped, the ceiling is peeling off in places... I could go on and on. At least it gives us flatmates something to bond over. Anyhow, our flat may be ridiculously run down but at least I am learning to enjoy life again. Surely I should have started looking for jobs the minute I got my degree. Sucks to that! I was intent on regaining my life back. I'm going to start to sound over-dramatic and overly sentimental again but one of the first things that happened was my own little personal 'musical epiphany'. I got to sit down and listen to a lot of music that I'd never really listened to before. Since then, I've discovered my love for Pearl Jam, The Small Faces, Humble Pie, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Chris Cornell and countless others. It was just really nice to immerse myself in things I love again - in music, in art and other things I enjoy. I also got to do a spot of travelling with my flatmates. We weren't really able to afford any fancy holidays abroad. No escapades to the Venetian coast, no sojourns in the South of France. However, we have had a lot of fun just visiting places in Britain. If anything, train journeys with my flatmates are always entertaining (and admittedly quite irritating to any fellow traveller). Our train back from London involved a pot of chocolate icing, marzipan and marshmallows. High as kites, it seemed everything was funny. Our recent journey back from Stratford-Upon-Avon involved equal amounts of hilarity, and disproportionate volumes of wine. If anything, the train journeys were more fun than the actual holidays. Oh how our fellow travellers adored us those days... Something that really startled me this year was something that by September I never really intended to do: I fell in love. It all started in June when I developed a silly crush for my flatmate's online friend, the sort of crush which screams out 'I haven't had a decent man in the last year of university and I'm crying out for some lovin' - the type of crush that reeks of desperation and untempered female hormones. It was the type of crush that was sort of reciprocal but not as reciprocal as you may have hoped. After all, a few flirty remarks hardly constitutes a romance. A few months down the line and I really couldn't give a flying *fudge* about romance, men and love. As far as I was concerned I was quite happy with my wonderful flatmates - no doubt the best friends I have had my whole life. Who needed men?! And then I started speaking to someone else who quite interestingly turned out to be the friend of my girly crush. At first, I treated him with suspicion and slight hostility, particularly as he is considerably older than me. But we ended up talking quite intensely online and he turned out to be a funny, easy to talk to kind of guy. I think that even after our 8 hour MSN chat, I was still in slight denial that there was any kind of feeling whilst my flatmate joked about wedding bells. However, it just dawned on me one day: 'I haven't met him. I haven't even seen him in person but I think I like him.' I think even then my fondness for him was laced with doubt. However, all doubts were cast aside when I met him in person in November. It really was the start of something rather special. I don't think I've ever really clicked with someone in the way that I clicked with him. Come December, we were spending Christmas Day together and he met my parents. It didn't feel too fast either because it all felt very right. I had a wonderful Christmas with him and hope to have many more with him. I'd love to say that everything about Christmas and the New Year was shiny and lovely but this was not the case. For the past few years, my gran had been suffering from cancer and in December it seemed that she lost her battle. I think everyone was in hope that things might turn around until very late on. My gran is a strong and resilient woman and this was not the first time she'd been hit by the dreaded big C. However, during Christmas and into the New Year, my gran was moved to a hospice and began to deteriorate drastically. Every time I saw her she looked worse each time. It was when I saw her on Christmas Day that I found it really difficult. There's nothing more crippling emotionally when someone you love loses their spirit. I saw it when my granddad was ill early last decade and I was seeing it with my gran. I did enjoy my Christmas day but I really wished my gran could have enjoyed it with me. Strathcarron Hospice did a beautiful job in keeping my gran comfortable and suffering from as little pain as possible but it didn't make seeing her any less heartbreaking. The last time I saw my grandmother was a week ago today and when I saw her I broke down. You could clearly see that she was dying and she could barely speak. I was really glad I got to be with her that day. At one point I was left alone with her and I got to tell her how I felt. I told her: 'I love you to pieces y'know'. For the large duration of when I had been with her she had been slipping in and out of consciousness due to the pain medication and really struggled to form coherent words but when I told her that a big smile spread across her face that I'll never forget. It was the last thing I got to say to her. After that day I went back to Edinburgh. I meant to go back and see her but my family told me that since the day I saw her she had been unconscious. So I didn't see her since. I got to say what I really needed to say to her and she heard me and I found it too painful to see her deteriorate any further. Two days ago, Wednesday 12th January, my grandmother died. Thankfully, she was under the care of some fantastic nurses. I suppose you wonder how I am able to talk about all this so soon. I'd say that it is not a case of being able to talk about it but being able to write about it. In a sense, it is therapeutic. I was very close to my gran and I have many fond memories of her. I'll remember her letting me play her Sound of Music record endlessly when I was a little girl; curling up to her and granddad with uncooked jelly when there was a power cut in the night; her dressing up as the Snow White witch at Halloween with a glossy red apple; the surprise and tears at her surprise 60th birthday and that time when we were all snowed in and Kat (my sister) and I pretended to be aiming snow balls at her doorway. I will particularly miss visiting her in her house, always having the intention to only spend a wee while up there and leaving three hours later after another one of our epic blethers. I loved that I could speak to her about most things that were happening. It's going to be really hard not to be able to do that anymore. My gran was always there to confide in and have a good natter with. The turn of the year has been a really difficult one with two contrasting emotions. On the one hand, I've met someone that I really really care about and hope to have a future with and on the other hand I have lost someone who was such an integral part of my past - a very loving gran who took really good care of my sister and I. Despite the start of this year being tinged with grief, I do look forward to 2011. After having enough of my escapade from hard work I've just started applying for graduate jobs, with a view to one day becoming a manager of an arts, culture or tourist based organization or project. I've even entertained the idea of living with a man later in the year. Never did I think early in 2010 that I could possibly consider shacking up with a man, cats and all. In 2011, I really want to do something with myself. I really want to make something of myself and do something that helps and affects others. I think I would like to start by doing something for Strathcarron Hospice, a place part-funded by charitable contributions. They took superb care of my gran, providing warmth and comfort that a hospital just couldn't provide to the same degree. I would like to thank them in return by helping to raise funds for future patients there. 2010 was a very important year to me - a year for growing up, for thinking about my future and various other serious 'adult' matters. I look forward to the future, albeit one I will have to endure without my lovely gran. *~MEMORABLE MUSIC OF 2010~* ~Biffy Clyro's 'Only Revolutions' ~ Fantastic album from start to end. Most of you have probably heard Matt Cardle's cover of 'Many of Horrors'. Now I love Matt, but you really gotta' give the original a listen. Biffy Clyro are a smashing Scottish band and I love that Neil Simon sounds Scottish when he sings. ~Pearl Jam's 'Amongst the Waves' - Technically it's a track off their 2009 album 'Backspacer' but it was released as a single in 2010 and I do thoroughly enjoy it. It's a very uplifting song. I very much enjoy the video which emphasises the importance of the ocean in light of 2010's oil spill. This is something which I felt strong about as I pretty much fell in love with the Gulf of Mexico in 2009 after swimming in it. Nothing beats paddling in a warm ocean at night and jet skiing next to dolphins in the daytime. ~The Black Keys 'Brothers' - Their best album to date. The Black Keys are a rock band from Ohio that perform a lot of bluesy-inspired rock. I particularly enjoy the tracks 'Tighten Up' and 'Everlasting Light.' ~Tim Minchin's 'Matilda, a musical' - My adoration for this musical goes far beyond the music but I thought I'd squeeze my praise of it into this this section. I saw this at Stratford-Upon-Avon and LOVED it. It is a 5 star show. Witty, musically terrific songs, with great choreography and talented child actors. Magical! *~FAVOURITE TV PROGRAMMES OF 2010~* ~Misfits - I saw the first series of this programme early last year. The plot premise is based on the idea a bunch of Asbo youths gain super powers. Sounds daft, doesn't it? Well, don't let you put that off. It's a great programme with a funny and memorable, if adult, script. ~Merlin - Merlin was back again with its third series and this time Morgana was eeeevil. She makes a much better baddie I must say. ~ Dexter - My favourite serial killer came back with a fifth series having just suffered a tragedy. I say no more... ~Being Human Season 2 - Nothing beats a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire living in a house in Bristol. *~FAVOURITE FILMS OF 2010~* ~Kickass - This film is incredibly violent but incredibly fantastic. It's based on the idea of an average joe who tries to be a superhero. I appreciate Aaron Johnson as he's easy on the eye and Chloe Moretz is developing into a wee star. ~A-Team - I don't understand why people were disappointed by this film. For a start, Sharlto Copley was hilarious as Mad Murdoch. I'm hard to please when it comes to action films. Loved it. ~ The King's Speech ~ I know this was only released in the UK this month but as IMDB states that it was released in 2010 I'm cheating. An absolutely stunning film with flawless performances that I believe deserves best picture at the Oscars. Colin Firth, Helena Bonham Carter and Geoffrey Rush blew me away. ~Prince of Persia - Oh who am I kidding? I just liked this because of Jake Gyllanhall with a beard. *~DISAPPOINTING FILMS OF 2010~* ~Legend of the Guardians - A film about owls. It's a very pretty film and I do love owls. However, I couldn't tell you much about the plot. I fell asleep half way through and I NEVER fall asleep in films. The 3D affects failed to keep me interested. ~Paranormal Activity 2 - Was I tense? Yes. Was it scary? Yes. Was the ending what you hoped it would be? Far from it. They needed to up the scariness. Note to be taken for any Paranormal Activity 3. ~Gulliver's Travels - Very much a Jack Black film, the humour fell flat at several points. I did enjoy the singing of Edwin Starr's 'War' at the end but not much else. *~MY YEAR~* So that is my year. I decided to leave out a section on general highlights and lowpoints of the year this year because if I'm honest, I can only think of negative things. This largely revolves around government cuts gone a step too far, or at least a step away from helping the common man, and a step towards filling banker's coffers. The government REALLY hacked me off and I don't think I'm the only one. This new tax will only drive down consumer spending. My review on the whole must have come across as very serious, lacking in lightheardness. Well, I assure you, my humour hasn't gone and I haven't suddenly gone all serious on you know. For a start, I would like to voice my criticisms of Lady Gaga. What was with that meat dress?! Throw her to the lions at London Zoo already. Here's to a fantastic 2011, one where we are ready for the challenges ahead and one that is meat dress-free!
2010 was closely centred around two new editions to the family. But it was also quite a giant step for me as well. The first few hours of the new year were quite ppeaceful. We had just adopted two stray cats that we had been feeding in the summer and decided to keep them in from the cold. The youngest was brown and white kitten named Lily and the other was an older golden Persian named Sandy. Sandy and Lily had both become great editions to the family. My mum had overcome her dislike for cats as well, while my aunt and nan were more attracted to Sandy, my mother became very close to Lily. Lily quickly gained a lot of weight since living with us. My mum and nan were convinced that she was pregnant and Lily started throwing up a lot. Three months later and we thought things were starting to be a bit odd. I had suggested that we take Lily to the vet. They thought that either Lily had a miscarriage and became pregnant again or that it was a tumour. She had to stay in for two weeks and then visit the vet again for an operation. In the end it turned out that Lily was just overeating and she's still in great help. Lily had a major distress in late August, when her mother, Sandy passed away at home. I was camping in Cornwall at the time so it left just Nan and my Aunt to bury her near the gates where she always used to sit. When I returned home, it was rather strange to be coming home to just one cat as I always hoped to see both cats be better soon. In late 2009 I submitted a poem to be featured in featured in Young Writers' anthologies and I received a letter congratulating me as the poem was selected to be published. The book was sent to me in April. I submitted another of my works to the same place and fate repeated itself. As a result I ended up with two bold certificates saying "Talent For Writing". I found them really flattering because I love writing. My art course at college was going fine. I was a lot more social compared to how I was in School but still maintained some shyness. The teachers praised my hardworking ethics, but thought I should work on improving my work. It was at College were there was a lecture about volunteering, and I found the lecture really useful because I thought it would be a great way to add more experience for my job hunting and a nice way to meet new friends. I think the day after that, I walked into British Heart Foundation, had a look around and bought Kiss From A Rose single by Seal for 50p and asked about doing voluntary work. I filled in a form with my details and I heard back some weeks later and started doing 4 hours a week on Saturday. I'm still there and doing Sunday's there. Another highlight from this year is joining Ciao and Dooyoo. I wanted to practise working on my reviewing skills and the communities are very helpful and it all seems to be working. The summer holidays were fine, I enjoyed my trips to Devon, Cornwall and Isle Of Wright and spent a lot of time in the swimming pool. Compared to summer 2009, there was a much more peaceful atmosphere. I returned to college with a brand new attitude. I wanted to be much more proactive and had a more clearer idea what I wanted to do after college because I wasn't really sure. I was in the final year of the course I've always wanted to study. The work was harder, but my grades are beginning to improve. Things ended on a bad note on October when three unknown lads in hoodies stole my blackberry outside college while I was texting a friend. One tried to steal my iPod from my pocket, but I kicked him between the legs so he couldn't. Another twisted my arm so he could take my phone and the other ran. It left me speechless, but I found it comforting that there witnesses who quickly called the police, and a friend and tutor who came to support. Although I heavily relied on the phone, the thing I was most worried about was Nan and Aunt would be panicking because it was taking me a long time to get home and I hadn't called back to say where I was. The original phone that was stolen was never recovered but I managed to get a new phone on contract for 2 years, it's been insured and I've purchased things to keep the phone protected. Things were starting to get back on track in November and that was when I changed from working on Saturday in British Heart Foundation to the Sunday where I started getting trained at the till. Before the till training I was mainly adding stickers on the book and moving stock, but the till work has been a much more dominant role lately. At December I truly began to notice how quick the year has gone. In April, I couldn't believe that it was already April and I was getting excited for Christmas. I was really happy to have a white Christmas. It's one of the first white Christmases I've had in around ten years. I've always liked the snow because it looks so pure and shimmery. 2010 ended outside the cinema where I walked around with friends and family until the the clock stroke twelve. Overall, I've had a very fantastic year. It's been filled with challenges, but it was worth it. The time flew.
"They say that life is like a coin. You can spend it any way you like, but you can only spend it once." I spent my 2010 exactly as I wanted and I loved it, I intended to take control and make memories, as I'm sure anyone who has read some of my reviews will know I'm a huge motorsport fan so needless to say there was plenty of 4 wheel action in my year. We attended rallies, track days, kart racing, banger racing and tracks all over the country. But the two main events of the year happened within a week of each other in July. The Goodwood festival of speed in Sussex and the British Formula one grand prix at Silverstone, but in the sense of order ill start at the beginning. We decided early on in the year to have a week of local fun we took time off and explored. We visited castles and piers, aquariums and lighthouses museums and beaches. I'm a true believer in knowing where you live before venturing to where others live. We had so much fun and by doing it in term time we were able to get closer to everything. Then I got a phone call to say I had won a competition for front row seats at the black eyed peas and Cheryl Cole concert at the O2 as well as hotel and expenses, the year was going in the right direction. The concert was incredible a real once in a lifetime at an amazing venue and although not the night Tom Cruise got on stage it was the night Derek Hough (the is he isn't he boyfriend of Cheryl) made a shock appearance sending the cameras into a frenzy. If you are a fan of racing and have not had the chance to go to Goodwood for the festival of speed you really should try I have reviewed it on here but cannot stress how close to the stars and cars you can get. This year we chatted with f1 drivers, Superbike riders TV chefs and Chris Evans...lol even managing a chin-wag with my favourite F1 driver Jenson Button which with him being so popular at Goodwood was something we were really pleased with. We sat in the Sussex sunshine watching million dollar cars race up the hill climb and then finished the weekend off by going into Goodwood house for champagne and cake an amazing event. We barely had time to catch our breath, before we headed off for the British grand prix...a girly weekend under canvass amongst a sea of flags and air horns. As always an amazing weekend with an atmosphere you cant replicate We all cheered as Vettel got a puncture and Alonso's drive through was announced and even without a British winner we all stood and screamed home Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton, (and yes we had banners....we were THOSE people) after the race we walked the track checking out the new layout. We made a second venture up to Silverstone for the world series by Renault event a free weekend with great racing and in motorsport free events is quite rare and we made the most of the weekend which for a free event saw thousands of people enjoy Renaults hospitality. As the year finished our idea for gripping it by the horns took an interesting twist when at a banger racing event we were asked if we wanted to be extras in David Essex's new TV movie Tribe yet to be released. They didn't have to ask twice, we had a real laugh cheering on in a fight scene and watching the behind the scenes action. I thought this was going to be then end of the adventure that was 2010 when I received a call about some part time work making handmade Christmas crackers now that's something not everyone gets to do so in the spirit of the year I agreed choosing to refer to myself as a Christmas elf...well I was making things for Christmas. The look on peoples faces when you tell them what you are doing is hilarious. As the year came to a close my 25th birthday drew nearer and we wondered how to celebrate when work called saying they were throwing a thank you/Christmas party on the night of my birthday and that because of the uniqueness of the job there would be people from pineapple dance studios filming for their Christmas special. Eventually this would be cut from the final TV show but singing Christmas carols on my birthday with some of the people from pineapple dance studios is something I wont for get in a while, then as my birthday began to end the snow began to fall turning everything to glitter and giving my year that little bit of sparkle every girl needs. (I must quickly add in I love snow and am a complete kid when I see the first flakes) 2010 was deffinatly a year to remember but I now believe if you put out into the world what you really want eventually it will come to you...so for 2011 I would like Jenson Button and Michael Buble with bows on, a Mercedes Mclaren SLR and tickets to Monaco for the Grand Prix.....Well a girl can dream cant she.
"It was the best of time, it was the worst of times". Like most years 2010 was a mixed bag for me. I have some precious memories of 2010 with lots of gigs, weekends away and celebrations but on the other hand there have been sad and bad times too. JANUARY "A Winter's Wedding" January started off uneventfully with me working New Year's Day. I had spent that New Year's Eve at a friend's house eating pizza and chocolate fondue with good company. Nothing particularly exciting but fun nevertheless. January for me was dominated by my original London friend Sian's wedding. I helped organise her hen do. She does not drink and is not into clubs so we booked her party at the Build a Bear Workshop in Covent Garden followed by a meal in a Kosher restaurant in Golders Green. Sian, bless her, has an obsession with stripes, spots and stars so we all had to dress in these patterns We stitched the poor lassie up big time by putting multi coloured spots all over her face and taking her out in her nightwear. It was a surreal experience walking her down to the underground in pretty straight laced Hendon. A fun time was had by all making their own bears but unfortunately the restaurant left a lot to be desired and put a slight dampener on a very fun day. The wedding took place in a lovely hotel in Manchester and was mainly a traditional Othodox Jewish wedding but with aspects of a Misorti one, as men and women could sit together. It was my first Jewish ceremony and I as a non Jew was fascinate and honoured to share the couple's happy day. I was especially honoured to take part in the ceremony by signing the civil register. My friend looked very much the blushing radiant bride and to our amazement was not in spots or stripes but looked beautiful in her wedding dress. I thoroughly enjoyed the pretty energetic circle dancing that dominated the reception. The wedding, like most Jewish weddings was on a Sunday but I had taken the whole weekend off, so I could spend a bit of time with my sister who also lives in Manchester,. January also took me to Hertfordshire to meet up with an old school friend I had recently become reacquainted with due to the wonders of Facebook. It was lovely catching up and meeting her delightful family. January also saw the first gig of the year and an outdoor one at that. Yes I was mad enough to stand in the freezing cold in the courtyard of Somerset House where Vampire Weekend were playing a free gig to promote the launch of their second album Contra FEBRUARY "Romance is not Dead" February is synonymous with Saint Valentines Day. I know it is cheesy and a commercial marketing con for companies to make money on overpriced heart emblazoned items but I'm also a soppy old romantic at heart. I had been dating my boyfriend M since the previous October so was secretly looking forward to February 14th. I was in luck, as we had a really romantic day. I bought him a Ben Sherman jumper and he got me a big heart shaped box of Thornton's chocolates and this most beautiful red glass pendent whilst we shared breakfast in bed. We were going to take a twilight tour of the National Gallery's most romantic paintings but found the group far too large. We started it but after the first stop realised we were never going to see anything so wandered off on our own. We later had pizza at the restaurant where we had our first date. MARCH "A Star is Born" March was very much a family month for M and I. The biggest news came early in the morning of Saturday 27th March when M's older brother and his partner became parents for the first time to a beautiful baby girl and I became Auntie Sarah. As our relationship blossomed and became more serious it was time to take M up north for a nerve racking trip to meet my parents. Luckily all went well and it was not too traumatic for him. Whilst we were in Scotland we spent a couple of days in Glasgow meeting up with some of my oldest, closest friends. It was with great joy to see my friend's 14 month old son and how far he had progressed from when I last saw him at his christening roughly the same time the previous year. In the middle of March the gigging year started in earnest. I had seen the very lukewarm Noisettes in February but it was not until I saw my hero Frank Turner play the Roundhouse mid march the magic really began I had seen him twice previously and he never fails to disappoint with his brand of anthemic folk punk. The last major event of March was my 33rd birthday. I decided to have a retro bowling party at one of London's boutique bowling alleys. After the bowling I ended up going to a comedy gig in East London with one of my mates which was very good. However it was what happened after that I will remember for all the wrong reasons. I go stranded in Stratford with a shut Blackwall Tunnel and the last DLR and Jubilee Line trains already departed. A taxi would have cost over £40 so I rang a friend who lived fairly nearby. He could not put me up but knew a B and B fairly close. All I can say it was a place to lay down my head.It was the type of place where I slept with any valuables underneath my pillow for fear of he lock being broken APRIL "We want to be Smith's Crisps" I'm not that religious but I always try and do something for Lent. One of my biggest weaknesses are crisps and other savoury snacks so decided to give them up for Lent this year. I spent the Easter weekend with M in Lancaster with his family visiting his gorgeous new niece and exploring the historic old town. We decided not to give each other Easter eggs but he surprised me with some family sized bags of crisps when Lent was over. Boy were those first mouthfuls like manna from heaven. MAY " A New Era" I remember back in 97 the optimism of New Labour coming to power: 13 years later and we were all disillusioned and needed a change. 2010 was the year when a Lib Con coalition came to power along with Britain's first green MP in Brighton. I must admit having lived as an adult through Conservative, Labour and now the coalition governments whoever are in powerall seem much of a muchness to me. May was M's 32nd birthday and I really wanted to spoil him as he's so important to me. His birthday weekend started out with perhaps one of my most embarrassing but rock and roll moments of the year. It had been a tough day at work so hit the pub early. The beers were sliding down very nicely and M and I were going to see my friend's band "Vets in Hong Kong" . They are a fantastic band who have even been played on Six Music once at 2 in the morning!! I do hope the boys are destined for great things as they are a tight little band. http://www.myspace.com/vetsinhongkong. The band started to play but by this time I was feeling a little worse for wear and dashed to find the toilet or a door for fresh air. I did nor make it in time and was sick all over a table and thus immediately asked to leave the venue. Luckily for M his birthday weekend got better. We spent an afternoon at London Zoo where I had very mixed feelings, as some of the animals were housed very well but others especially the giraffes I felt sorry for in their bare environment. The next day I whisked M away to a nice little hotel in Colchester where we had a lovely day and night exploring England's oldest town. The celebrations did not stop there , as a week later we went to see the Modfather himself Paul Weller play the Royal Albert Hall. It was the first time I had been to this prestigious venue and it was probably the gig of the year for me especially when he did "You Do Something" and when Kelly Jones of the Stereophonics came on to duet on a couple of old Jam songs. JUNE "Football Crazy" As a Scotland supporter I can not really comment on England's performance in the 2010 Football World Cup held in South Africa. Who can forget the insect like drone of the Vuvezelas that dominated that tournament and beyond. The World Cup coincided with our first foreign holiday away as a couple. M and I had booked a three night city break to Prague. . We spent a few lovely days exploring Prague's backstreets, ancient buildings and its beer houses. M like a significant chunk of men is football crazy and I remember watching the England versus Slovenia game in a lovely little bar in Prague. JULY "BBQ s and Brighton Beach" July was very much barbecue season. Firstly there was my work's annual garden party with barbecue which is always good fun. This was followed closely one sunny Sunday by my house mates and myself having our first house barbecue which was a great success. In between the smell of charcoal and sizzling sausages M and I celebrated one year of knowing each other by going to Brighton for a day trip. It was a breezy summer's day walking along the pier, supping cider in some of the Lanes pubs then fish and chips on the beach before heading back to London, AUGUST "Ciao ciao for Now" I have previously been to a few Ciao Meets and always had a whale of a time at them. August's London Meet held in the All Bar One on Ludgate Hill was no different. I did take a select group round the "office" before going for a pre meet drink in the fabulous Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese. The meet was a mix of catching up with people I had met at previous meets and getting to know new faces. It was fabulous meeting people whose work I have admired for years and who can forget our gifts of bright orange industrial strength Ciao lanyards. Another month and another weekend away for M and I . This time it was to his family's barbecue at his youngest brother's house in rural Leicestershire. It was another glorious weekend of long country walks and more char grilled food! I even sat in the garden when I knew there were chickens next door which are my biggest phobia. It was during this weekend M's youngest brother announced his engagement so I look forward to a wonderful country wedding in the Cotswolds next year. SEPTEMBER "Change for the Worse" One of the things that I love most about my job is the big sprawling department I'm a member of. Its unique as there is little hierarchy and you have a Saturday A level student doing the same job as 70 year old casual. We are from all different backgrounds and walks of life and generally get along like one big happy family. In September the management in their infinite wisdom announced a restructuring of our departmental, splitting it in two. We had to choose which side to be on with very little information about the specifics of the new roles. Morale in the department was at rock bottom. Our team worked well the way it was but management being management had to fix something that was not broken. During tis crisis we did have Alexander McQueen's memorial service where I did see the great and the good of the fashion world along with some very precarious shoes. Bjork's performance brought shivers down my spine, as it was so spellbinding. OCTOBER "a Wedding, a Funeral and an Engagement" The evening of 5th October was one of the strangest ones of the year. One minute I was jubilant as I heard the news of M's oldest brother;s engagement then less than half an hour later my mood had totally crashed when my mother told me the sad news that my Nana had died early that morning. My nana was 83 and had been ill for a number of years with Alzheimer's. So in a way her death was one of the kindest things to happen, as she was free from the pain and confusion that blighted her final years. In the days leading up to her funeral on the 13th of October I was overcome with a number of emotions especially guilt, as I had not sen her for a an number of years. I wish I had made more time to go and see her. Her funeral was a beautiful one especially the horse drawn carriage. She would have loved all the attention it produced , as it brought the traffic to a standstill. My biggest memory of the day was reciting my Nana's favourite poem "Mickey Plum" with my sister and cousin at her funeral. Nana Rest In peace. Just a couple of days after the funeral there were celebrations again , as I attended the second wedding of the year. My best friend's brother was getting married. He. The groom is from Scotland whilst the bride was from Hong Kong. They met through mutual friends when he showed her around Edinburgh. They fell for each other and a very long distance romance ensued. It was a lovely fairly traditional Scottish wedding with a ceilidh and the groom looking like Rob Roy McGregor with his curly red shoulder length locks and his full Highland dress. The ceremony was broadcast to China via Skype so the bride's family who could not make it did not miss out. October was very much a full month. M and I managed to squeeze in a long weekend up in Manchester so he could meet my sister. We had a bit of fun finding Manchester's rock and roll heritage including Salford Lad's Club. We also managed to get a half day in Lancaster seeing how big M's niece had grown. October saw our last gig if the year seeing Mummford and Sons at Hammersmith Appollo. I was very impressed with their musicianship and harmonies. NOVEMBER "Snow Joke " November was a quieter month than October thank goodness. It was the month Prince William announced his engagement to long term girlfriend Kate Middleton. we all waited with baited breath for the announcement where the wedding would be. At work most of us hoped for the actual choice Westminster Abbey, as the thought of all the chaos the build up to the wedding would bring would be too much to bear. Bonfire Night saw my house have our second little get together with mulled wine, silly games and sparklers plus the wonderful firework display on nearby Blackheath. November also brought in the new regime at work which was difficult to get used to at first but its slowly growing on me although things will never be the same. The end of November brought early snow plus a cold and a chest infection I could not really shake until the New Year. DECEMBER "A Bittersweet End to the Year" December is Christmas and I manged to have my first Christmas Day off in four years. M and I marked the occasion with a quiet little romantic Christmas just the two of us. It was peaceful and relaxing and he again spoiled me rotten. My pile of presents was like a mini Mount Everest. So to New Year's Eve. I was supposed to go to a friend's party but was working early the next day so opted to have a quiet night just me and the television. I got home and found the boiler was broken so no heating until after the Bank Holiday. I curled up on th sofa underneath my duvet and at 11.15 M rang to beat the midnight telecommunications gridlock. We were talking when he asked me to go to the front door. There he was. He had come from Reading to surprise me and so I would not bring in the new year all alone. That's perhaps the most romantic thing that has happened to me in my entire life. On a sad note his granny had died that afternoon. So a very bitter sweet strange New Year for me. 2010 was truly the year of M and I . It was also the year when I took control of my finances, paid off my overdraft and started a little ISA so one day perhaps M and I can get our own place. Next year will be a big year for us too. I've started looking for a new job in Reading. So it will be a new job, new flat and new location with M by my side. Who knows what 2011 will bring but I'm very excited by it all.
I have always enjoyed doing these type of self 'interviews' but have been torn whether to write this as last year wasn't the best. Having read quite a few 'Reviews of the year' by others I decided to take the plunge as I'm hoping that by the time I write a review of 2011 it will be a lot happier! January~ After a quiet and quite sad Christmas (the first one without my Gran), January kicked off with the invasion of the snow. School was constantly shut and the weather played havoc with day to day routines and the most worrying of all was my dad's 6 month cancer check up had to be postponed until early February.. February~ The snow was still lingering and quite frankly was becoming a pain - even my boys were fed up of sledging, snowball fights and constant snowmen building by now. Plus, snow somehow just isn't very magical when it's not Christmas! Dad's prostate cancer check up came and I was like a nervous wreck waiting for the phone call from my mum to let me know how he had gone on. His blood count was slightly higher than before but was apparently *normal*. Phew, that's worry over for another 6 months.. February saw my Grandad taken into hospital several times due to his poor breathing. He kept getting recurring bouts of pneumonia and heart attack after heart attack, but amazed everyone by recovering each time. March~ March saw my Grandad in and out of hospital. He would be in for a few days then home for a day or two before the ambulance would have to be phoned. My grandparents have always lived next door to my parents so I have always been incredibly close to them as I have grown up with them. On 2 occasions we were told he had very little chance of pulling through, but my grandad is a tough cookie and amazed everyone once again. April~ This month was again just a blur of hospital visits - totally sick of seeing the Bradford Royal Infirmary by now.. May~ Grandad taken in yet again, and at the time we didn't realise it would be for the last time. After being told there was only a 10% chance he would pull through again he went and recovered (to a point). As my grandad had water on his lungs he was given water tablets which subsequently made him urinate far more frequently. He was too weak to get out of bed so was given those cardboard 'urinals'. He asked a male staff nurse for more as no one was coming to empty them but the nurse told him he couldn't have more than 2 at a time and to 'go to the toilet' - bearing in mind my grandfather was 85 and so weak by this point he could barely sit up in bed this didn't go down too well with us as you can imagine. June~ I'd booked a last minute holiday to Great Yarmouth for the Summer holidays so even though there was something to look forward to my grandad's health made it impossible for me to get excited. After hearing the news he had fallen in hospital (my mum phoned every morning to see how he had been in the night) I didn't know what to expect when I got to see him later that day. When I walked into his room I gasped - my grandad's face was black and blue and had huge cuts all over. He looked like he had done 10 rounds with Tyson. He was confused and had no recollection of what had happened. The worst thing though was the fact a male staff nurse (who we later found out wasn't qualified to do what he did) had glued a large gaping cut on his forehead - but had DRIPPED glue into both his eyes and blinded him. I was in such shock at seeing my once strong grandad in this way and made an excuse to go to the toilets. My uncle found me 20 minutes later in the hallway sobbing. It turns out the other nurse who had told my grandad he couldn't have anymore urinals had scared him into trying to go to the toilet on his own, where he fell a number of times and cracked his head and face open whilst falling.. July~ My grandad was deteriorating but kept amazing everyone by still being with us day after day. The doctors said they were gob smacked how his body could cope with everything that was happening. I went regularly to visit and combed his hair which he loved. He had a full head of wavy hair that everyone admired so I spent hours combing it for him. It was the least I could do. When news came of yet another fall I was starting to worry even more. Monday 20th July my mum met me at the school gates whilst I was picking up my boys and said the hospital had called them in early to say he only had a few days left. I don't know how I made it home that day but was determined to go see him early the following day. Tuesday 22nd July. 6am. When our house phone rang I knew it was bad news and my mum managed to tell me between sobs that the hospital had phoned to say he had just passed away. Even though we knew it was coming I felt like someone had punched me and winded me and I was inconsolable. I decided to take the boys to school (even though they were close to him) as I felt it was best they were 'out of the way' as I felt they didn't need to be around adults who were upset. Thursday 24th July. Dad's 6 month cancer check up was here yet again and I didn't think I could cope with anymore bad news. Luckily he was technically in remission so thankfully some good news! My boys broke up for the summer holidays from school and we had our holiday on the Saturday. I really didn't want to go away and leave my mum but she insisted my grandad would have still wanted us to go so off we went for a week in Great Yarmouth. We had a good holiday given the circumstances though I was dreading returning home on the Saturday as it was my grandad's funeral on the Monday. The funeral was a sad affair as can be expected, but I wrote a moving letter of tribute that was read out. I was glad that July was almost at an end. August~ This month seemed to pass in a flurry of keeping my boys entertained. I was lucky they were at home and they not only kept me busy but took my family's mind off the previous month's sadness. Though we were incredibly sad about previous events anger also started to erupt at the appalling treatment my G'dad suffered and we set about putting in an official complaint. In my Grandad's own words he had gone into hospital *normal* but was reduced to a broken man - something I will never forgive the hospital for. September~ Boys back at school already! Had a run in with Zak's new teacher - I can see us having words more and more for the rest of the school year! On the 11th September hubby and I went out for a meal as it was our 11th wedding anniversary which was nice albeit the there was still an air of tension from the continuous '3rd baby; argument that has been going on for a while! October~ My gran and grandad had a caravan in Mablethorpe that we always stayed in, me when I was younger and when I was older with my husband and children. When my gran died my grandad couldn't bear to go again so sold it but I missed Mablethorpe as it reminded me of happy times so we decided to book a few days there on the chalet park (how retro!) in the half term holidays. We had a fantastic few days there and the weather was not too bad although it was freezing down on the beach whilst collecting shells with my boys. It was very poignant as my cousin and his girlfriend were stopping nearby at the same time as us and my mum had asked me to scatter my grandparents ashes on the beach as it was there favourite place. My cousin Wayne and I left our prospective partners and my boys at the park and went and scattered the ashes - sad but very fitting. It had started to rain as we went to the beach but on leaving there was a beautiful rainbow which made us cry. We decided the next thing was to go to the nearby pub for a well needed drink! November~ This saw my oldest son's 7th birthday and unfortunately saw me turn 35. I was instantly depressed as it's half way to 70! The only thing that cheered me up greatly was the fact my husband is 9 years older than me! Nothing much else happened apart from the dreaded return of the snow..!! December~ I was looking forward to Christmas and having two young children makes that all the more special. Everything was going fine until on the 8th December (my hubby's birthday) he phoned me from work to say he'd nicked his finger at work so was on his way to hospital. He works in heavy engineering so didn't think much of it until he returned home 6 hours later. He had actually got his finger trapped between 2 motors that they build and cut the tip off! He had an open fracture and would have to be off work for a few weeks. All very well and good but he doesn't get full sick pay so money as to be even tighter than usual. Luckily I had got all of the presents for everyone throughout the year ( I buy something every month ) and I had saving stamps for Morrisons supermarket that I had also saved up for all year (ooh how organised!). It worked out quite well as the finger in question was his little finger on his right hand, but he could still drive so he came in handy for helping out with the school run! He also got to go to the boys nativity play at school and join in lots of other things he would have normally missed out on so it wasn't all bad I suppose. Christmas was nice and seeing my boys faces light up opening their presents was the best thing in the world. New year was spent quietly at home and hoping that 2011 was going to be a lot happier. I am very sorry if this is depressing to read I only hope the next one of these I write is far more cheerful! Here's to a happy new year for us all..
First off, I appreciate how late this, but I have been busier than ever with my various projects, which bodes well for 2011. I did consider not writing anything, as I thought moment had past, but in the end it was just too indulgent of a tradition let pass me by. 2010: The first year of a new decade, which again hasn't received a title the majority are comfortable with. I really didn't like the naughties as a term. It was just a non-word and totally unnecessary. For me, the 2000s, pronounced two thousands, worked in the same way as the 1900s. However, I have no issue with using the term twenty-ten. After all we were comfortable using the term nineteen as a prefix for the majority of the 20th century. Saying two thousand and ten, which unfortunately seems to be the most popular way to say it, just seems a bit "In the year of our lord..." to me. Anyway, enough trivial debate, on with my annual review... Humble Beginnings Well, I started 2010 the same way as I saw it out: in a stationary caravan awaiting the construction of our house and battling snowy elements I haven't seen since I was a child. However, this doesn't mean we stood still throughout the year; far from it. Not only has 2010 been a year where we have sought out the best builders for the job and got the finer details right with the planners, but all systems are set now for work to begin. As I write this, it is January 2011 and the first stage of building preparation has started in earnest! Knocking the Balls in I looked at my career in 2010 as one big pool table. I have invested years in covering the various pockets with scant rewards. 2010 was the year I started knocking those balls in. I didn't do too badly. The CCMA brand has attracted the attention of a wide range of clients both and outside the martial arts/self defence world. And bookings seem to be piling up for 2011. Changing Views, Challenging Views I have never really thought of myself as a radical, but I see now that the mainstream world of martial arts is not a place I want to reside. It's sad, but that place which I once looked towards in awe does little to inspire me these days. Ideas have become institutions and despite so many exciting new things happening outside the martial arts world, few instructors are grabbing this knowledge and running with it. Instead I see the superstitious world of the past now turning into the world of the New Mystics. Postmodernism has finally arrived in the martial arts world and suddenly everything is equally good, and totally contradictory ideas co-exist with one another without question, which allows for all the nonsense to creep in. And still the same egos drive this nonsense, whilst their followers feel erudite. However, the rest of the world is really beginning to wake up to the rubbish going on, and more non-martial arts documentaries and podcasts begin to look at the pyjama party with derision. However, there is hope. This has also been the year when I have met some wonderful forward thinking, free-thinking, critical-minded and enthusiastic martial arts veterans join me on several of my open workshops in Kenilworth. Since then I have been contacted regarding a think tank for the advancement of self defence and practical martial arts training, and I have witnessed some brave individuals challenging their supposedly progressive associations and taking the bold step to go out on their own. The Legend of Salt and Sauce My niche historical book about two famous elephants that lived in the UK from 1902 until 1960 continued to sell into its second year. I received a few nice bookings, where Dad I gave a PowerPoint display and I read excerpts from the work. It is always nice to speak to people who have connections with the real story and I still get emails now from different places. Apparently there is a play being made in Chicago that is drawing some its inspiration from my book. Animals Despite the economic situation work was busy this year with my parents' business. Just about any commercial you see on British TV featuring a live wild or exotic animal will come from the family business. The third annual open weekend was an even bigger success than before with capacity visitors and even an extra day privately booked for the Girl Guides/Brownies centenary. There was such a good vibe on three days with our wonderful volunteers. Below is a list of brief reviews of the best books I read in 2010. Last year I read an unprecedented number of really good books, but the majority of the films I saw for the first time were mediocre. Books of 2010 Countess Dracula - The Life Times of Elizabeth Bathory the Blood Countess - Tony Thorne I started my snowy year finishing off a book I began reading in 1998! My enduring memories of reading this brilliantly researched and thorough examination of the facts around a case that has descended into very dark mythology was sitting in a Honda garage on several occasions whilst the mechanics kept failing to find out what was wrong with our CRV. Those who know me and have read a lot of my non-martial arts work will know I am very sceptical about anything that has a slight whiff of conspiracy theory, especially historical events. However, Thorne's rational examination and debunking of certain absurdities that have arisen around the woman that has become known as "Countess Dracula" are hard for any serious historian to dispute. However, Thorne does not zealously invest in a controversial theory. He merely puts matters into context and filters out the obvious mythology leaving the case genuinely open. Doctor Who Logopolis - Christopher Bidmead This was an audio book I got free through my Amazon Vine membership. I have always enjoyed seeing how major changing points in a respected and beloved franchise are handled. It is interesting to see that this novelization came out three decades after the storyline had been aired on TV. "Logopolis" tells the story of the Fourth Doctor's final adventure, which ends with his transformation into the Fifth Doctor. In reality this is a clever plot device used to explain the changing over of actors. Few franchises bother to explain this and just rely on audience's willing suspension of belief - think James Bond, Professor Dumbledore, Superman or any number of long running TV drama characters. However, perhaps it is this inherent respect for their fans that goes back to the 1960s when the first regeneration occurred that has helped "Doctor Who" remain a firm favourite amongst the most unforgiving, critical and enthusiastic of fan bases - the sci-fi and comic-book fans. A further benefit of making the transition from one actor to another such an integral part of the story is that character they portrayed takes on its own protected identity . To have the same author who penned the original screenplay handle both the novelization and the narration further added to amount of respect being paid to the franchise. This book joined my endless supply of podcasts and several other freebie audio books from Amazon Vine when I made my regular lengthy journeys to teach mixed martial arts and self defence. Ten Days in a Mad House This is a classic 19th century pioneering example of investigative journalism and the most famous expose of mental health treatment in an institution. "Ten Days in a Mad House" was a book that influenced many of our fears about the way people were treated in such places and prompted dramatic changes in health care. In retrospect it also highlights the huge amount of ignorance that underlined the running of mental institutions and those who decided who should be committed to them. The book is a report, a virtual diary, of a journalist who was able to easily fool the relevant authorities in a very short space of time that she was mentally unstable and therefore fit to be committed. She then goes undercover and endures the humiliation, lack of adequate hygiene, bad nutrition and physical abuse the asylum has to offer its inmates. When seen against the type of sensationalist, staid and downright abstract journalism that was common at the time; this is a revolutionary piece establishing the ascent of the journalist "in the field". I began reading a lot of reputable science-based psychology studies this year and I still have a lot to wade through. A lot of the works debunk commonly held misconceptions about cognitive and behavioural psychology. Therefore, I found "Ten Days in a Mad House" to be interesting as it was written in a time when a good deal of psychological myths - hugely influenced by the likes of Sigmund Freud - were in the mainstream. Although this book does not bring into question any ideas regarding the analysis and practice of psychology or psychotherapy it does show the disturbing results of ignorance in the field. This free book came via the Librivox volunteer public domain audio books. It was something of a dubious bedtime companion and I frequently found myself nodding off only to be awakened to an account of some awful ordeal that the reporter had to endure. My nodding off is no reflection on the story or even the volunteer's delivery (although on the latter point it can be very hit-and-miss with Librivox), but just my final victory over insomnia. Since I can remember I have used audio books to get myself to sleep. Understanding Reasonable Force - Mark Dawes Taking on more bookings than ever before to teach self defence and having been selected by Mo Teague for his Hard Target System has made me push my education in self protection further than before. In recent years I have made a concerted effort to get the best information and to be able to recommend the best resources for anyone who trains under me. There are many factors connected to the correct teaching of self defence or self protection. As more much-needed attention is thrown onto the soft skills side of things, I am witnessing many instructors who essentially started their self defence training wearing 19th century Japanese underwear and throwing abstract aggressive movement to thin air now becoming bewildered in a quagmire of pseudoscientific information and military-sounding terminology. I watch as they itch to teach an impressive looking flow drill, hit some pads or generally engage in an exercise that involves a lot of shouting without really addressing the major and important factors related to self defence. Take the law for instance. Fair enough, during the on-set of a violent encounter your primary concerns are securing your safety by any means possible. You don't want to be preoccupied with fears regarding the use of reasonable force. However, that is a lot easier said than done. We are regularly hit by the headlines of a sensationalist media that puts across the message that innocent people are routinely being prosecuted for defending themselves. We rarely hear about the majority of cases where people are commended for their bravery when enacting citizen's arrests or the even more common cases that don't even go to court because the person using self defence were well within their rights. Dawes is a rare example of an expert on reasonable force. Understanding this area is not only important from a law-abiding citizen's point of view, but I think it is a pretty vital responsibility for anyone who is teaching the use of force in a modern civilian situation (in other words not in sporting or historical enactment context). This book was massively overdue as are his further publications on the subject, including "Understanding Unreasonable Force". It remains a mainstay on my highly recommended reading list for any seminar, workshop or course I give that deals with self defence. Recollections: An Autobiography - Viktor Frankl Having thoroughly enjoyed logotherapist creator Viktor Frankl's tiny yet hugely powerful memoire on his experiences in a Nazi concentration camp I was intrigued to see what this extraordinarily inspirational individual had to say about his life. Psychoanalysis is now a controversial area of psychological study. Freud was its pioneer and his uncompromised attitude towards the scientific community has helped consign much of his discipline to the quackery bin. However, Frankl somehow transcends a lot of the nonsense by appealing more to philosophy than psychology. He connects the two in his autobiography and my feeling is that although I might not buy into logotherapy there is something to be said for the man's hypothesis that when there is a strong enough "why", a "what" and a "how" is easier to find. Like his most famous work, "Man's Search for Meaning", Frankl's autobiography is a slim and humble affair. The man is not strong in the joke department despite his belief that he has used humour very effectively in his therapy, but his modest observations and self-depreciation are refreshing changes to the usual boasting that permeates your average autobiography. In Defence of History - Richard J Evans Despite my cheerleading for science and eventual wholehearted concession that the scientific method is the only real way for humanity to make productive movement forward, my inclinations are strongly dominated by a love history, the arts and literature. Therefore, through the lens of empirical scepticism (it's not my only viewpoint I hasten to add) I found my main interests for setting records straight and combating irrational thinking was the study of good history. History seemed like the right brain equivalent to science as far as its purpose was to establish facts and discover new and exciting things about our existence. However, history, as the old "This Sceptered Isle" cliché goes, is also primarily about telling stories. Bring up as much dry research and empirical data as you like, but essentially what draws the historian is the love of recreating something that no longer exists and will never exist again. In science you can establish certain "truths" and, for argument's sake, certain laws that stand up to rigorous objective testing. History has valiantly tried to do this and succeeded to a certain degree, but ultimately we are still dealing with other people's perceptions of reality. The postmodern movement observed this key factor and exploited it to ridiculous lengths, essentially dismissing the whole concept of history and raising all its methods and opinions to equal status. Of course, this attitude matured as history no longer became a compulsory subject in British schools. In this brilliant work, Evans carefully examines and scrutinizes the history of history, focusing primarily on the major changes in the way we study history. As the title implies, it is a defence against those who have argued the invalidity of the subject, but it isn't the critique I expected. I came to "In Defence of History" after Damian Thompson's light and entertaining book "Counterknowledge" further raised my concerns not only about the effect of the conspiracy theory on history, but also harm caused by other issues like hyperdiffusionism . Evans didn't offer a more in-depth account of these problems, but he did provide an insight into the many methods that are used to study history and how they are progressing against the assault of postmodernism. Becoming the Natural: My Life in and out of the Cage - Randy Couture I was fortunate to be given an advance copy of this book by my friend, the publisher Fiaz Rafiq. How much of Couture's book is ghost-written is debatable, but nevertheless the result is a very candid and entertaining autobiography of the life a successful amateur wrestler who fell into the game of mixed martial arts. What I especially liked about the style of this autobiography was the way Couture did not try to make excuses for any of the fights he lost. He mentions certain factors that would have influenced his performance, but he does this with his successes too. The book is light reading, but still very engaging and you get carried away in the lead-up to all his matches, often forgetting the outcome until he reveals it. 1415: Henry V's Year of Glory - Ian Mortimer I intended to finish this book as I flew over to Turkey, but this was my first holiday with my toddler daughter in tow, so I ended taking the whole 10 days of the holiday to finish the final quarter of this book. Nevertheless, when I wasn't rushing around a non-toddler friendly environment it was worth it. Ian Mortimer brought me back to history with this revolutionary approach to its study. "1415" continues Mortimer's series on England's rulers dating back from the 1300s. Henry V is an English icon and symbol of courageous leadership and spiritual piety. However, Mortimer's extensive research - and I do mean extensive given the privileged access he has to primary source archives - reveals a religious fanatic who uncompromisingly engaged in a pointless war to justify his father's usurpation of the throne. What makes the author's approach so different and revealing is that he tells the story of Henry V's campaign in France and the momentous Battle of Agincourt as a virtual day-by-day account of the year 1415. Far more than a biography - although a lot of the evidence provides some interesting insights into Henry's complex character - the book reveals and reports critical events that would influence history for centuries to come - from the eventual rise of the Reformation to the English Civil War. The book also provides us with the reasons why men like Henry who were merciless in his treatment of anyone outside his closest circle of trust became so defensively protected by a mythology that became so intrinsically linked to national identity. Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science - Martin Gardner I began this at the end of my Turkish holiday and count it as one of my summer books. Carl Sagen's "Demon Haunted World" is often referenced as the bible of modern scepticism. However, another pioneer in the field was the great Martin Gardner and the great modern sceptical writer (and founder of Sceptical magazine) Michael Shermer cites this as the first comprehensive study on the subject. Gardner, like Harry Houdini, who is often considered to be something of a godfather of debunking, and James "The Amazing" Randi, the current king, was a magician. The thinking goes that this gave him an advantage in his critical thinking capacity. In other words when one knows how to create an illusion it is easier to see through the illusions (and delusions) of others. However, Gardner doesn't touch upon this area of his career in his systemic explanation of the origins of disparate weird beliefs from those who believe in a flat or hollow Earth to phrenologists to ESP. It was written in the 1950s and stands the test of time as a relevant book on debunking weird claims. To date none of the strange beliefs he has listed have stood up to scientific scrutiny, none of his fallacies have been successfully reverted back to facts and it is still as relevant now as it was then. This isn't to take away Gardner's then contemporary reflections of the time. His discussions of his highly intelligent contemporaries and their strange beliefs foreshadows Michael Shermer's essay "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things" , Ben Goldacre's chapter on the same subject in his "Bad Science" and Dan Gardner's book on highly intelligent people who get predictions wrong, "Future Babble". However, the one thing that is alarmingly inaccurate about Gardner's book is his optimism for the decline and fall of such psychology-based pseudoscientific cults like Dianetics. This was a "fad" that Gardner predicted would probably run out of steam after its founder, the science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, hit legal and financial problems. Today we call it Scientology! 59 Seconds: Think a Little, Change a Lot - Richard Wiseman It is refreshing to find a genuine science-based study on psychology doing so well in the book charts. Therefore, I was recently amused upon reading some of the negative feedback this book received. The criticism aimed at the book was its lack of "new material". Judging by the reader's whole review, he was used to books produced by the self-help movement. Such books tend to thrive on producing new approaches to handling life and involve some form of psychology - often of the homespun variety. What the reader failed to understand was that this book is decidedly different from the overwhelming majority of "lifestyle" books out there, simply based on the fact that every single mental exercise or piece of advice stems from extensive peer-review research. Wiseman isn't just telling you what works for him or relying on anecdotal evidence - again a common mainstay of the Oprah Winfrey approved pop psychology books out there - he is providing you with the best information available based on lengthy and extensive studies, where positive results have been repeated the world over by independent behavioural psychologists. Despite all this dry research the book lives up to its promise in providing easy mental exercises that can be done every day in under a minute. Extra Chilli Sauce: A Dark Tale of Violence, Retribution and Success - John Skillen The tough guy autobiography market is now saturated. They have their own sub-section under "True Crime" and in most instances the writing - generally done by ghost-writers - is as trite as the morals of the individuals are reprehensible. John Skillen is one of life's real rough diamonds. I know this because I have met the man on several occasions and have always been impressed with his professionalism and fairness. He was one of the first people to book me to teach a children's self defence seminar, at a time when my concepts were not exactly mainstream and many warned me that it wouldn't work. John was already a name with an awesome reputation. He had little to gain and possibly quite a bit to lose for putting me on, but he had the courage and the belief to do so. I see this characteristic carried over into his much anticipated and very enjoyable autobiography. He is humble and not boastful of the mistakes he made in life, mistakes that got him in trouble with the authorities and time inside, and he is a golden example of someone who turned his life around for the better. Unlike many a contrepreneur, as described in Steve Salerno's "SHAM", John didn't profit from his life of crime by hypocritically going around telling youngsters to not do what he did and then pocketing money from such talks. He learnt an honest trade, built himself a business teaching fitness and martial arts, and became a success. Before then, of course, he built up a professional reputation working some of the most dangerous doors in the country. John's book doesn't descend into piety, self-justification, psycho-babble or come across as preachy. It is just an honest tale with a positive message about change. Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error - Kathryn Schulz This was my summer book. This is one of the best books I have read in recent years. I was thoroughly impressed with the rational and yet very enthusiastic approach Kathryn Schulz took with her subject matter. It brings an amazing amount of optimism to a subject that we intuitively have real psychological problems with. The book looks at the whole concept of wrongness, including all the ways we can be wrong, the feeling of being wrong and how error helps us to progress. I learnt a lot from "Being Wrong" and it has helped further influence my own approaches to my work and life in general. The Perfect Nazi - Martin Davidson Being interested in the Nazi regime is not uncommon. A disproportionate amount of history is dedicated to the study of the rise and fall of the Third Reich and their leaders. There is something about the way it gripped the developed world and almost ruled it that frightens and fascinates us. Among the many issues arising from the Nazis, I am intrigued by the way it captured the minds of the masses. It's something that is explored in such books as "The Reader", which puts a compassionate human face on a person responsible for carrying out a very evil job, and films like "Good", which explore the apathy of the career Nazis. Martin Davidson has a very prominent and respected position in the BBC's history department, so therefore he saw it as something of a duty to uncover his grandfather's part in the Nazi story. What he found was a high ranking SS officer who had been with the party since its extremist fringe days. There was no confirmation of his grandfather's director involvement in crimes, as a lot of evidence was destroyed before the Allied Forces took Germany, but his career path makes it very likely he was involved with the violence of the SA and at least knew what nefarious activities the SS were endorsing. Mistakes were Made (but not by me) - Carol Tavris and Elliot Aaronson This served as the perfect companion book to Schulz's more philosophical "Being Wrong". Tavris and Aaronson use their knowledge and experience as trained psychologists to tackle the issue of self-justification and its driving force, cognitive dissonance, head on. This is the best book on the subject I have read and it provided a fascinating insight to the intrinsic problems I see facing the martial arts world of today. Again, this was a real education to me and I wholeheartedly recommend it. A Killing Art - Alex Gillis "Warts and All" martial arts books are few and far between. Finally the world's most popular martial art gets its history investigated - and not before time. Most "traditional" martial arts have a murky history due to urban legends, suppressive governments, lack of literacy among instructors and jealousy among respective schools. However, Korea seems to have suffered extraordinarily. This book uses primary source material and impartial investigative methods to uncover the real not-so-ancient origins of tae kwon do and how its history got rewritten and embroiled in deadly Korean politics. Unfortunately, much like the tae kwon do satire, "The Foot Fist Way", I feel there is still too much affection for the art itself and Gillis, a 25 year veteran of the system, still holds back some critical thinking when it comes to discussing the combative side. Nevertheless, I consider it a modern martial arts non-fiction classic, ranking alongside and in the spirit of "Angry White Pyjamas", "Watch My Back", "The Last Wrestlers" and "The Pyjama Game" in its frankness. SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless - Steve Salerno I have a good deal friends in the self-help movement and admit to following certain reasonable principles put forward by popular figures in the field. Geoff Thompson is a good friend of mine and I enjoyed the early work of Stephen Covey. I don't do this blindly, anymore than I follow any approach wholesale and without critical thinking, but I like a lot of what a very small handful of these individuals have to say. However, a good deal of what is written out there is bunk. At best it simply repackages the obvious and at worst it bases itself on pseudoscientific principles and outright charlatanism. Salerno's book is a complete attack on the movement. He takes no prisoners as he goes after the biggest hitters in the field - most of who seem to be protégés of Oprah Winfrey. It is not a balanced critique, but a much needed book to challenge a lot of nonsense that is permeating our media, education system and culture. Debunked!: Conspiracy Theories, Urban Legends and Evil Plots of the 21st Century - Richard Roeper Richard Roeper's very light read is a wonderful straight-up dismantling of the most conspiracy theories of our time. Roeper's style is simple and sometimes brash. It is full of humour and not preachy in the slightest.
Unusually for me, I wrote a full rundown of my year at the end of 2009. To recap, I began 2009 working in advertising at a contract publisher, quit, spent six months trying to become a freelancer, went on holiday to Italy and then gave up and got an almost identical advertising job at the end of the year. 2010 had a bit more narrative drive to it, however. January After three years in the same flat in South West London, I finally decided it was time to move, in spite of the fact 2009's freelance experiment had eroded my savings. I moved into a nicer house in the same area, but it was still a housesharing arrangement, and never one about which I felt very permanent. My job selling advertising across several legal magazines got going in earnest, and I quickly realised that I hated it. January was marked by the move, hating my newish job, rehearsing my lead role in Come On, Jeeves! and an awesome birthday where my girlfriend treated me to a meal at one of Gordon Ramsay's restaurants. February Let's not labour the point about the job, but I really was struggling to get through the day by this point. February was a month for theatrical rather than professional success: I took part in my first ever photoshoot, to promote Come On, Jeeves! We performed at the end of the month in the Old Sorting Office theatre in Barnes to sell-out audiences, received a huge amount of publicity in the local press, and garnered wonderful reviews from the Wodehouse Society, among others. I was playing Bill, the Earl of Towcester, a stand-in for Bertie Wooster with strangled vowels and a gambling problem. It was enormous fun, and the strongest production with which I'd ever been involved. March No sooner had the applause died down for the Wodehouse in the last week of February than I started the audition and rehearsal process for Great Expectations with the same amateur dramatic company. I'd auditioned for the part of Pip, but unfortunately there was someone much better-looking, slimmer and better at acting in the company, so I played Pip's low-key friend Startop, a large chunk of the chorus and bad amateur actor Mr Wopsle (draw your own conclusions). I was a bit disappointed not to be playing the lead, but it was an incredibly wordy play and it was probably for the best given subsequent events. As we got on towards Easter, it became clear that changes were afoot with my job. As I hated it anyway, I wasn't going to stand for it getting any worse, and started looking for an alternative. April Rehearsals continued for Great Expectations. Various actors dropped out for various reasons, and with each departure my chorus duties got a little larger. The three magazines I worked on were consolidated into a single monthly title and gained a terrifying director who I was informed was the 'company axewoman'. I wasn't sure whether the magazine was being rejigged in a frantic attempt to remain profitable, or whether they were hoping to sell it off and trying to make it more attractive to investors. Either way, my job was being threatened in no uncertain terms, and I tried a little harder to find something else. Success! A job lead suggested to me by an ex-girlfriend (and which I'd initially discounted as it looked dull) turned into an Advertising Manager post with an important professional association in the financial sector... May May was the month everything changed. I left my previous job, with absolutely no regrets. Still, they'd paid for my jury service the year before, and that was the only reason I'd joined them in the first place. Ha! I had about ten days off between the two jobs, and filled the time with a romantic long weekend in Paris (it rained, but we saw the Mona Lisa and had champagne and snails in Montmartre), and then appeared on stage with Honeysuckle Weeks and Denis Lill in their touring production of Agatha Christie's Witness for the Prosecution. Richmond Theatre needed a few bodies to play jury members in the show and as I was available I jumped at the chance. I did three shows, getting a promotion (of sorts) to the court's public gallery for the last night, and ended up getting squiffy with the lady from Foyle's War and Gus from Drop the Dead Donkey. Wonderful stuff. Then I started my new job, but after a month of swanning around Paris and treading the boards, that was a bit of an anti-climax, really. In case you were wondering where the writing's got to this year, May was also the month I had my translation of Giacomo Casanova's Histoire de ma Fuite commissioned. It was supposed to be out in time for Christmas, but following several serious concerns about my publisher, I quietly neglected to supply them with the manuscript. The fact that they never made any attempt to contact me over this confirmed my misgivings. Never mind. June Great Expectations finally hit the stage, after a rehearsal period which even the director would acknowledge as 'difficult'. I don't want to apportion blame, but I would observe that every single young (or youngish) lady who had auditioned for but not won the part of Estella had dropped out by the time we opened. Incredibly, the show seemed to be a bit of a hit, and I was glad to be part of it Word of mouth spread, and we were playing to full houses by the final show. Wopsle wasn't a big part, but I had two great moments, especially in the second half where I played an unconvincing Hamlet, complete with an outrageous Boris Johnson wig. I also started making comical amounts of money on a certain other writing site beginning with the letter H. July July was a relatively quiet month, as the amateur dramatics took its traditional summer break. I ducked the odd call, as people wanted me to audition for the Christmas show Alice in Wonderland. I decided to give it a miss, needing an extended break after heavy involvement in four successive shows. Looking back, I sort of regret that, it was a bit of a precious attitude, but I really was exhausted. I agreed to do a much smaller show with my brother at the London Wetland Centre instead. I devoted July to trying to make even crazier amounts of money from the certain writing site beginning with the letter H, and was a bit freaked out when I succeeded. The new job continued to go very nicely indeed, thank you very much. August I caught up with Honeysuckle Weeks again briefly as I saw her take the lead in Chichester Festival Theatre's production of Pygmalion. Frustratingly, I have to be careful what I say about August's main event in my life. I did my first TV work, appearing as an extra in a pilot for a writer/producer/director whose work I'd admired for a couple of decades. It was a small cast and crew, and a really great way to spend a Monday. And I believe that's all I can say until the show gets picked up for broadcast. Frustrating, I know. In other news, I made it through the whole three month probation thing at the newish job, and continued to thoroughly enjoy it. On the home front, however, I'd begun experiencing the negatives of sharing a house with white South Africans (it's pretty much all negative, unless you really like barbecued food and slagging off black people). Preparations were made for another move... September September kicked off with a move to yet another slightly nicer flat in the same area of South West London, this time moving in with my brother and his fiancee. The flat was and is palatial compared to everywhere else I've lived in London, and it's worth every penny of the extortionate rent just to avoid hearing how South Africa's 'gone too far' since the end of Apartheid from over-privileged southern hemisphere Nazis. Anyway, rehearsals began for the London Wetland Centre show, in which I played Rabbit 2, which is a bigger part than it might appear. I also got to do a second day's filming on the secretive TV project. This time it was a much bigger affair, however, a full day's shoot at Shepperton, right next door to whatever period crap Scorcese's planning on inflicting on the world in 2012. Filming rules, and anyone who tells you it's boring is just insecure and wants to stop you getting any action. October October was a terrifying month financially. What with the swapping jobs, moving house twice and swanning off to Paris, you may already have guessed that 2010 has been an expensive year for me. It was, seriously, if anything goes wrong with my life at this point, I am screwed, the savings tanks are empty. I thought that deathblow had come when, in early October, my girlfriend found a hole in my loveable cat. An inch-long vertical gash in her right side, right through the skin and exposing the muscle and bone beneath. So straight, and in such an odd place, that we still think it was inflicted by a knife. One piece of advice to all you animal lovers now. Buy pet insurance. £440 is not a vet bill you want to see one Saturday morning six weeks after you've moved house and you've just booked a holiday in France. Buscemi made a full and rapid recovery, thankfully, but I was truly shaken by the whole experience. Also in October, I returned to France for another long weekend. This time I was visiting my penfriend for a surprise birthday party. Now, you may have seen something in the news about a spot of bother in France in October. I rocked into Bordeaux's Place de la Victoire early on a Saturday morning to see the world's most stereotypical Frenchman waving a sign saying 'Mort aux Riches' (Death to the Rich) with about ten thousand of his mates behind him. There were no trains, of course, everyone was on strike. Except the taxi drivers. I had no option but to take a £200 taxi across the South of France to complete my journey... whichever way you look at it, it's going to take a lot of reviews of Tesco Value products to make back that money. Other than that, the trip was a massive success! My appearance at the party was a complete surprise to my penfriend, and I got to spend some time in the Dordogne and Bordeaux, two areas of deep personal importance to me. I also managed to get a train back to the airport, rather than risking a repeat of the taxi incident... November As we approached the end of the year, I got even busier. Work took off in a very positive way - I had the Annual Dinner, at which I met Alastair Campbell (nice bloke), and I went on a day trip to Paris for our French counterparts' Annual Conference. Also a lot of fun, and I did some Christmas shopping on the way back (mostly things which went slosh). Rehearsals for the Wetland Centre show continued, and I was also commissioned to write a huge slab of travel articles for a certain website which has recently been in trouble for publishing falsified travel reviews. What can I say, they paid well. December My year ended, as did most people's, in a confused flurry of snow, ice, burst pipes and then one last glass of champagne. At the start of December my penfriend came to visit me for the first time in our fifteen year history and we had a great time. I got a part in another am dram show for 2011, Terence Rattigan's Flare Path, and this time it's directed by a former Doctor Who director, so I'm in geek heaven. The Wetland Centre show was another sell-out, in spite of a ton of snow falling on our opening performances, and even my blog started getting a nice number of visits (drunkwriter.blogspot.com if you'd like to take a look). 2010 was a great year for me. I was kind of on the ropes when it started, in a job I despised and tasting the defeat of my freelance experiment. But with a wonderful girlfriend, an awesome cat, and a lot of hard work, I feel like I've regained the initiative this year. I might not be paid for it, but I have an acting career of which some of my struggling actor friends are now jealous. I might not be proud of it, but I have a career in advertising of which many of my advertising friends are now jealous. And getting paid for my writing is just incredible. For 2011 I hope that I'll be appearing in another three or four shows (Flare Path, Sisterly Feelings, Wind in the Willows and possibly another Wetland Show), and that I'll continue to travel (three international trips is pretty good, but it's a bit gutting that they were all to France and all lasted less than three days). I might not have become a full time freelancer, but I've kept up all my freelance work, and in spite of the dark days ahead for this country, I think I'm doing quite nicely now, thank you.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past" (Thomas Jefferson - Third President of the United States) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I am not generally the retrospective sort. I prefer to look forward, to the future, rather than to dwell in the past. That said, sometimes it's worth looking back to take a closer look at the road you have travelled, the footprints you have left behind, and the companions who have walked with you. The year 2010 was a full of incident - some good and some not so good, but each milestone has added another marker on this journey we call life, and they should be celebrated for that if nothing else. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Time is an illusion, lunchtime doubly so" (Douglas Adams - English Author & Dramatist) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I started the year without a job, a situation entirely of my own choosing. I was disenchanted with where my career was headed, and had lost interest in my job and the organisation I worked for. Rather than plod along until something better came along, I decided to resign, take a career break, and seriously consider what I wanted to do next. I wasn't quite sure when and how to pull the trigger, but the catalyst turned out to be the early birth of my first son (and second child) in September 2009. My employers were more than generous, paying me my six months notice instead of making me work it through, so I had the incredible experience of being able to be a constant during my son's first seven months. It's a joy and a privilege that not many fathers will ever be able to experience. In early January, I was invited to an interview, which four months and nine further interviews later led to my current job. I work for an organisation that I can take pride in, a boss who looks out for me and respects my family life, and work that is genuinely interesting and challenging. The road to employment wasn't always smooth - I had moments of self-doubt, frustration and discouragement, but as a man of faith, I trusted that God and the talents and abilities he has blessed me with would pull me through. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Whatever the eye sees, the heart won't forget" (Traditional Armenian Proverb) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fast forward to June, and the exciting prospect of visiting my ancestral homeland for the first time in 23 years. The trip would never have been made had my sister not decided to have her wedding there, so I was doubly blessed by seeing her married, being an active participant in a traditional Armenian wedding, and then spending five days afterwards exploring the homeland with my parents. What I saw and experienced has given me a deep and longing hunger for more. I have shared many of the stories, sights and wonders of that trip on this (and other sites) - and it is easily the most engaged and passionate writing have ever produced. The short time I was there left an indelible impact on my heart, mind and soul, and I look forward to the opportunity to go back and finish the journey I started. It may take me a while to get back - life is like that sometimes - but I certainly hope its not another quarter century before my return. Having been rejuvenated and recharged by the visit, I returned home to my wife and children, and immediately knew from the beaming, glowing smile on my wife's face that we were expecting again. God had blessed us with a third pregnancy, another son as it turns out, and we are eagerly anticipating his arrival in late February. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Russia is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma" (Winston Churchill - Politician & Statesman) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ It never ceases to amaze me how life seems to repeat certain patterns. No sooner than I had returned from Armenia, than it became clear that work commitments would send me to Moscow in late October. I have been to Moscow once - for a manic twelve hours between flight connections - on my way to Armenia those 23 years ago. I was bemused by the coincidence, but very much looking forward to my Russian adventure. As with all business trips, finding time to enjoy the city you have been sent to can always be something of a challenge. However, I as lucky that I had friends working there, and that my last day was a Russian public holiday, allowing me to schedule a late flight and enjoy some of what the city had to offer. I was lucky to be able to stay at the iconic Leningradskaya Hotel - one of Stalin's so-called "Seven Sisters" and enjoyed every minute of the experience. However, the highlight of my trip came from an unlikely source. I went to meet the law firm we use in Russia - a branch of a large American law firm that hires local, Russian lawyers. The partner who usually looks after our account was away on business, so he nominated a colleague to chair our meeting, and then take me to dinner along with two junior colleagues I was familiar with. I had never heard of this guy before, and was puzzled as to why someone who had never worked with us would be used as a substitute. The minute he walked through the doors of the meeting room (I should have been suspicious - it was named after Armenia's capital - Yerevan) I knew form his face and demeanour that he was an ethnic Armenian. We hit it off immediately - common ground is easy to find when you're both standing on the same ground to start with - and during dinner that evening, he told me "tonight we meet as client and law firm - tomorrow let me take you out as an Armenian brother". He took me to a swish Armenian restaurant called Noah's Ark, and then drove me around Moscow afterwards (it scrubs up very nicely at night), before depositing me back at my hotel. We said our goodbyes, and as I turned to leave he said "You didn't think you'd be leaving Moscow without a gift did you?" before presenting me with a 20 year old bottle of Armenian Ararat brandy. Friends are found in the most unexpected places. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Dogs have owners, cats have staff" (Anonymous) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ On a more personal note, this month I said goodbye to a dear and treasured friend - our family cat of seventeen years, who we sent to his rest a few days ago. He was called "Kinu" (a moment of hormone-induced madness by my sister, who didn't want to be too obvious by calling him "Keanu"!) and he was a member of the family from the day she brought him home - as a flea-infested kitten and the runt of the litter - to my top floor flat in Putney, presenting me with a fait accompli which I have never ever resented. We have had our share of deaths in the family this year, but for immediacy and emotional impact, it seems bizarre that the family cat sticks out much more vividly in my memory than any of them. I can see him now, chasing butterflies, going mad at light reflections and inquisitively cocking his head every time I unwrapped seafood stick. Sometimes it's the little things... ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "The first forty years of life give us the text; the next thirty supply the commentary on it." (Arthur Schopenhauer - 19th century German Philosopher) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I can't let a year in review go by without mentioning that I turned forty this year - its meant to be a big milestone - the halfway point in your life, but for some reason, it passed my by a little bit. Maybe its because its not the numbers that define who you are, but how old you feel in your heart. I am incredibly blessed to have two (soon to be three) lovely children and a patient, understanding and beautiful wife who puts up with me and keeps me young (she's nine years my junior - wahey!). We celebrated our ninth anniversary this year, and to paraphrase an old Armenian proverb, often used as a toast at weddings "I look forward to growing old with you on the same pillow". So with that, I look forward to the new experiences and challenges that 2011 will bring. A that is left to say is a very Merry Christmas to all of you, and a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year full of plenty. God bless you all. © Hishyeness 2011
1) What did you do in 2010 that you have not done before? Lived with people other than a boyfriend. 2) Did anyone close to you give birth? No 3) Did anyone close to you die? No 4) What countries did you visit? Unfortunately, no where. Hopefully that will change in 2011. 5) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? The ability to understand the linguistics side of my degree course better 6) What dates will you remember from 2010? The whole of September. I moved to Nottingham and started university. 7) Did you suffer illness or injury? Apart from the flu in November, nothing. 8) What was the best thing you bought? Books! I know that isn't just one thing but I have bought a lot of fantastic books this year 9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration? No one in particular 10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? Stupid celebrities. I'm really sick of hearing about footballers in the press and the things they do wrong yet they still get paid too much. 11) Where did most of your money go? Rent and going out 12) What song will you remember from 2010? Christina Perry - Jar of Hearts. Heartbreakingly beautiful song 13) Compared to this time last year are you happier, fitter, more productive? I can honestly say that my fitness has probably not changed at all but I am definitely happier and more productive. Moving to university has helped both my happiness and productivity. I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere. 14) What do you wish you had done more of? Studied. My exams are coming up and I'm feeling very unprepared now. 15) What do you wish you had done less of? Maybe going out when I should have studied. I have really been enjoying being a student again, even at 24 and the freedom to go out when I want again is fantastic. 16) What was your favourite TV programme? Glee! I know how cheesy this show is but I cant help but love it anyway. 17) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year? No. I've been lucky to have a pretty easy year people wise. 18) What's been the best book of 2010? Shade by Jeri Smith Ready. This was the first book I ever received for review after starting my blog and it is one of the ones that had the biggest impact on me. It is a fantastic paranormal romance with a lot more too it than you would probably think. 19) What did you want and get in 2010? To feel happy about my life again. I went through a pretty tough time after moving back from Canada and I felt really lost. Going back to college and getting a place in a university that I was desperate to go to really made me realise that my life is heading exactly where I want it to and I shouldn't look back anymore. 20) Who was the best person you met? My friends at university and my flatmates. Moving to Nottingham would not have been this perfect had it not been for these people. My flat mates are amazing and my friends from my course are just like me and in the same situation. It's nice to know that other people feel the same way that I do. 21) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010 Live life to the full and do whatever it is that makes you happy
1) What did you do in 2010 that you have not done before? Nothing 2) Did anyone close to you give birth? I'm not super close to either of them but two friends had baby girls. I almost got broody when the first one was born as she was all cute and newborn and vulnerable but last time I saw her she was a few months old with a snotty nose, stinky bum and just sitting there all fat and grizzly. I'm not a big fan of babies. 3) Did anyone close to you die? No, but my aunt died in late 2009 and I only learned of her death in 2010. She was such a huge part of my childhood and even though we had been estranged for a few years I always hoped we would be able to have a relationship again. Her death was sudden and she was only in her 60's and it really shocked me as I always thought she would live forever. 4) What countries did you visit? England, three times!. They talk funny there and use weird money but the locals are largely harmless. 5) What would you like to have in 2011 that you lacked in 2010? Some excitement and a challenge of some kind. I'm slipping into a boring rut here and need something to get my brain working properly. 6) What dates will you remember from 2010? none really stand out 7) Did you suffer illness or injury? No more than usual 8) What was the best thing you bought? Probably my car, my trusty old Astra being written off when a snow plough decided to drive into it in late 2009. I went to the motor auctions with my BIL and he was told to find me a small car within my budget. He got me a car for a brilliant price which is purple and shiny and runs well. 9) Whose behaviour has merited celebration? My cousin, G. He has been prepared to stand up for what he believes in as well as stand up to the older generation of our messed up family and tell them they are full of S**t and have behaved appaulingly so as to keep the so called good family name intact. 10) Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? My ex and daughters father. We had managed to maintain a reasonably amicable relationship up until late 2008 when things got nasty between us. I think the CSA threatening to take his driving license away if he didn't actually pay some money towards our daughters upkeep had something to do with it and instead of blaming himself for not supporting his child he blamed me for getting the CSA involved. Stunts he has pulled included telling my daughter I didn't love her and only wanted her for the money I could get for her, phoning the school to tell them I am an unfit mother, threatening to go to court to get custody of our child etc. Our daughter did briefly move in with him after we had an argument, she was gone for 6 hours before coming home in tears and has refused to speak to him since. It wasn't until December that she told me what happened that day which wasn't pretty. 11) Where did most of your money go? Bills 12) What song will you remember from 2010? no idea I don't really pay attention to music very much 13) Compared to this time last year are you happier, fitter, more productive? Happier, a lot happier in fact due to a long term family rift being mended (see no 9) and having contact with my extended family on my dads side who I had not seen since my teens. The reasons behind the family breaking up had weighed very heavily on my mind for more than half my life and being able to spend hours talking over everything that happened with my cousin G made a huge difference. More Unfit despite getting the wii fit I have put on weight and hardly exercised. Productivity has not changed 14) What do you wish you had done more of? Exercised 15) What do you wish you had done less of? no idea 16) What was your favourite TV programme? The Scheme, a fly on the wall documentary set in Ayrshire was pure comedy gold. 17) Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate last year? No 18) What's been the best book of 2010? Best fiction was Room by Emma Donoghue and non fiction was Wedlock by Wendy Moore 19) What did you want and get in 2010? My extended family back:) 20) Who was the best person you met? Plipplop, I'm not sure if I met Rosebud in 2009 or 2010 so will put her in just in case it was 2010 and she feels left out. I also met loads of new members of my extended family ie my cousins kids. 21) Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2010 Nobody lives forever so build bridges when you can.