2014 – the highlights

Happy New Year (nearly)! I hope that 2015 will be a good year for everyone. Thank you as always for reading the blog and joining in with my mayhem over the past twelve months. In case you missed them, here are a few of my highlights:

In January, I took on the 100 Happy Days challenge – sharing a photo of something that makes you smile every day for 100 days. It wasn’t always easy, which is why some of my pictures were of such exciting things as shower gel or an umbrella, but it was a lot of fun and it was definitely a worthwhile experience to look for something positive in every day. It’s easy to forget that sometimes.

Here’s one of my favourite Happy Day photos, taken on an afternoon walk at Bluewater in Kent:

Bluewater

February was pretty quiet – I was still doing the Happy Days challenge though, so plenty to smile about. And it was in February that I had the Big Idea, which would prove to be very important later in the year (more on that in a minute).

Ideas notebook

March was the Month of Mabel. A brief note of explanation – I’m a member of a pub quiz team, and each week, the winning team was handed a sheep and challenged to take a photo of her in some location or other. My first outing with Mabel was to London, and was a lot of fun, even if I did have to adopt the ‘if I don’t look at people they can’t see me’ approach a lot of the time. Mabel’s subsequent adventures included going to work, having a pub lunch, playing tennis and going on The X Factor. (That one took a bit of imagination.)

Mabel gets the tube

In April, I had a long weekend in Naples with my mum and my sister for the Davis Cup GB v Italy tie. Which we lost. But besides that sad fact, and the frequent biblical rain showers, we had a great time. And I got to practise my (very) basic Italian. (Hint: when you don’t know the word for ‘dessert’, just say ‘cake?’ with a hopeful expression. It works.)

Cake

And then in May, I discovered Guernsey. Lovely Guernsey. I went to visit a friend who’d moved there earlier in the year, and fell instantly in love with the beautiful island (and, most importantly, its stunning sunsets). It’s a strange little in-between world, neither England nor France, and has a charming, old-fashioned feel to it. Also, the weather was amazing. And did I mention the sunsets?

Sunset at Cobo Bay

 

In June, I enjoyed a brilliant and inspiring day at TEDx Houses of Parliament. This was my second visit, and once again, I came away feeling like I could change the world (which I still haven’t done, but give me time). This was the day that introduced me to the concept of outrageous optimism, and this immortal quote from wobbly comedian Francesca Martinez: ‘Even an arsehole can change your life.’

Houses of Parliament

July was most memorable in the UK for being very stormy. I’m not good with thunderstorms as a rule – I’m quite scared of getting struck by lightning and I’m fairly averse to loud noises too, so I was pretty proud of myself when I ventured out to take some photos of one particularly dramatic storm. I don’t know about anyone else, but when I look at this picture, I hear ‘There’s a storm coming, Harry…’

Pre-storm

Technically July and August, but next comes our family trip to Scotland for the Commonwealth Games. We stayed in Edinburgh and commuted to Glasgow for the Games, then spent a few days exploring Edinburgh before returning home. We got rained on a lot, spent hours waiting for park and ride buses, saw a one-legged man throw a discus, watched a penguin parade and discovered literally the best cheesecake I’ve ever eaten – so good that I haven’t really shut up about it since.

Strawberry and blueberry cheesecake, Dubh Prais, Edinburgh

In September, I got my Christmas present from my sister, which was a tiger encounter at Port Lympne Wild Animal Park in Kent. I adore tigers, but they tend to be a bit antisocial, so I was very excited at the prospect of getting a bit closer and actually seeing one for a change. But it was even better than that, and before I knew what was happening, I was feeding two beautiful Bengal tigers. I won’t lie, it was pretty terrifying – they were a lot bigger than me and on one occasion I did nearly lose some fingers – but I wouldn’t change it; it was incredible.

Meeting the tigers at Port Lympne, Kent

Also in September, because I can’t not mention it, I had a few days in Barcelona, and went inside the Sagrada Familia for the first time, which was basically breathtaking. I will be going back.

La Sagrada Familia, BarcelonaIn October, my sister Helen and I climbed the O2 Arena in London. It was supposed to be the sunset climb, although by the time we got to the top after getting suited up and having a safety briefing, we’d almost missed it. But even so, we had some great views across London and the South East, and the satisfaction of reaching the top without falling off. (This was a genuine worry before we started.)

Up at the O2

And so to November, when I wrote a book. And by that I mean I wrote 100,000 words of semi-coherent plot, which I hope to make into a book in 2015. This was all part of NaNoWriMo, and basically meant I had no social life for a month, but it was totally worth it. Not only was it great to get the Big Idea finally on paper, but there was also the exciting feeling of having set myself a challenge, and completing it. Which is probably why I’ve now decided to learn German in January. What could go wrong?

NaNoWriMo - 100,000 words!

As for December, that was mostly about panic-buying gifts for Christmas, because I hadn’t left the house at the weekend for most of November. But I managed to fit in a movie screening of Birdman, which is out in the UK tomorrow, at Twentieth Century Fox in London. This was the latest in a series of exciting developments over the last few months that have also seen me become a blogger for London Theatre Direct. I never thought, when I started this little blog, that it would take me anywhere – so again, thank you all for taking the time to read my nonsense; I would have given up long ago without you.

Twentieth Century Fox

Here’s to the new year and all the challenges, experiences and happy things it brings 🙂

 

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