2018 : A Year In Review
It's not even 2019 yet and I'm already spring cleaning.
Folded towers of forgotten clothing lay on the bed, waiting to be listed online. Stacks of unwanted DVDs are bagged up downstairs, ready for my next charity shop deposit. Lastly, we’ve finally decided to donate our artificial Christmas Tree, bought last minute some years ago, in favour of a real tree next year. The Christmas decorations come down tomorrow after I get back from the gym and hopefully this post will be live. Start as you mean to go on, I guess.
This year has been challenging. Let me recap...
In January we took a trip to Three Cliffs Bay on the south coast of Wales and got a call from my sister who had gone into labour with her second child. We ended up looking after a very unsettled toddler for the night with no prior experience and no overnight gear. Watching Finding Nemo and eating Pom-Bears at 2am probably wasn't the best choice of distraction but at least he's still alive and my sister arrived home two hours later with my niece, Alex.
We've visited the Forest of Dean quite a bit this year, I bought an iPad Pro which, I'm only now finding my feet with, we've decorated the house some more and I got my eyebrows micro-bladed. That was a life changer! It might sound stupid to others (we've all got our own hang-ups that are a completely personal thing) but after having spent my life up until that point having no brows at all. It meant I could swim and surf with friends without fear of looking like a drowned Moomin every time.
In March, I turned thirty years old. We booked an apartment at Longleat Centre Parcs for the weekend and got my brother and closest friends in on a day pass to spend the day together. We started in the pancake house, then onto mini golf and bowling before spending countless hours in the plaza. Water parks are one of my favourite things and to spend the day within the company of people who constantly have me in stitches, was the best way to say goodbye to my twenty-something years.
This warm-glowy feeling was quickly extinguished when my Dad was taken into hospital two days later. He first went to Bath RUH and I regret to admit, I wasn't too worried. My brother and mum were with him and he'd been into the hospital before and come out just fine. I started to worry when I got told it was because of a heart attack.
He got transferred to Bristol BHI, a specialist for the kind of dangerous territory my dad was now occupying, and at first, he didn't want to see me. I don't know why, probably because I'm a bit of softie and would cry when my car broke down, let alone this!
Then the snow happened and left everyone (except me) a bit stranded and unable to visit the hospital. I sat with him all day whilst he passed in and out of consciousness, blurting out random sentences that made no sense due to the medication and setting the blood pressure alarms off every five minutes. I didn't know that would be the last time I'd speak to my Dad.
I won't go into the details after this point too much, they are still very raw. He had an eight-hour emergency surgery to save his life, got taken to the CICU where he remained on life support until he passed away on the 30th March 2018 as I was driving home from the hospital. I broke the news to my family.
That month was a blurred mess of panic attacks, broken nights, shot nerves and desperate prayers. I tried to work in the waiting room so I wouldn't get behind and found myself painting bedroom walls when visiting time was over. I needed something that required little thought but kept me occupied. The time afterwards was spent with my family. I remember all sitting in my mum's front room watching tv shows about painting competitions before I put on the film 'We Bought A Zoo", a terrible choice considering it's about a dude who's lost his wife and was dealing heavily with grief. We had my Dad's funeral later that month.
In April we went to Iceland. We had been planning this trip for well over two years and we almost called it off at one point. Looking back, not cancelling was the best thing I could have done. I grieved a lot during that trip but the sights and sounds of that beautiful little island, kept me grounded and reminded me that there is also light even when darkness dominates. I took some of my favourite photographs on that trip and I would not hesitate to go back should the opportunity arise.
In May I decided to start a new company. It's called Mowka (pronounced how you would say 'cow') a surfy/hikey/outdoorsy brand where the designs don't pander to the stereotypes of women. Some friends told me I should make it women only but I don't believe in excluding genders in order to make a product more unique. It's inclusive, aimed at active folk of all abilities who happen to like clothing that hasn't got a 'pink version' for women. Anyway, I've been stressing over every little detail so it's still a work in progress but will be launched next year.
I took a trip down to Polzeath in June with my mum and brother. Just the three of us, sleeping under the stars (well mum was in the campervan), taking each day slowly and enjoying each other's company. They say that the loss of a loved one can make or break a family and I definitely feel like it's brought us all closer together. A slither of silver in a clouded sky.
In July I redesigned my website to make it more in-line with what kind of work I want to produce going forward. I still have some creative block when it comes to drawing but with the help of the iPad, I'm slowly getting over that. My brother bought a cottage just outside of my hometown and we spent a while fixing things Dad never got around to and gutting the cottage ready for renovation. We ended that month by watching our two housemates get married in the Isle of Wight, on the grounds of a beautiful manor house.
I went camping in Croyde with my friend Zoe in August where we went surfing in some of the roughest white-wash I have ever been amongst. Every wave would hit like a train and before you had time to wipe the salt from your eyes, two more beat down on you again and you'd have to dig your heels in the sand as not to be washed back into shore. It was an amazing (though short) trip and I can't wait to do more of them this coming year.
My car broke down but I fixed it with the help of some handy advice from an AA guy. I went to Reading Festival, got a commemorative tattoo and hired a personal trainer. I wasn't in the best shape and wanted to take action rather than just join another gym I wouldn't go to. This was another life altering decision and it's one of my biggest accomplishments this year. I have never been in better physical condition and mentally it's helped too. I can't show enough gratitude towards my PT, Grace Hall. She's super supportive, pushes me further than I think I am capable and we have a laugh too.
In September myself and Dan became godparents to this adorable sweetheart.
October was when I realised that I had receded quite far from any resemblance of social life and decided to make more time for friends. I think it felt like the right time to allow myself to be happy again. So with that in mind, we hiked the ridgeline above Llyn y Fan Fach in Wales with some friends. I went to a festival in Bristol called Wild & Well with my friend Steph, where I tried paddleboarding and rock climbing for the first time along with archery, pottery and discorobics!
Later in the month we picked pumpkins from a local farm, spookily decorated the house and arranged a Harry Potter party. On Halloween itself, we rigged the hallway to glow a blood-red colour and I answered the door to kids in a witch costume whilst the Stranger Things theme blared out from behind me.
November consisted of more work on Mowka and a little trip to Cheddar where I started to get my photography mojo back. Once you've been shooting in Iceland, it's hard to not have the photography blues after that. I celebrated one of my best pal’s 30th birthday, shot my first published reportage for a magazine called Circus Journal (which is due to be released February 1st 2019) and became an ambassador for an independent ethical outdoor brand called The Level Collective, which I have admired for years now.
That leads me neatly to December. It all started so well or at least it felt like it did. I was on top of my gift purchases, had the cards ready to write and had already decorated the house to get the most out of the festive season. Then I was hit with the worst bought of flu I have ever had or at least that I can remember. I completely lost my voice, had no energy, a fever and the sweats, the works basically. That knocked me for six and put me out of action for the best part of a week, it might have even been two.
We didn't send out the cards in the end, which I still feel bad about but there you go. I didn't make a wreath or get a hot chocolate and go ice skating. I even missed my mum's birthday and my work Christmas party. It's safe to say I was feeling pretty bummed out after feeling like I was going to end this year in a much better place than where it started.
Then we spent the Christmas period up in North Yorkshire with Dan's family, the cat and two kittens. We were fed until we burst every day and sat by the open fire in the evenings. The beach was only a six-minute walk away so we found ourselves there most days. There's a video on Dan's Instagram account shot on Christmas Day when a thick fog descended and enshrouded the entire coastline. It was an incredible sight to watch the fierce winter sun trying to push through it. This trip put me back in much better spirits and I came back to Bristol feeling ready to tackle what's ahead.
Our housemates are moving out next year, we ourselves might move too, we may have other challenges ahead of us that we're not aware of yet but I'm certain that we can handle anything life throws at us.
If you've gotten this far then thank you so much for reading this whole thing. I never intended to rattle on for so long but I guess I just had a lot to say! I also want to thank everyone who has supported me this year no matter what form it came in. It's been greatly appreciated and has helped me climb back out of a very dark place.
I'll leave you with some light-hearted recommendations and favourite things from 2018. Have a great New Year everyone!
Favourites from 2018
Book: The Girl Who Climbed Everest by Bonita Norris
Album: Post Traumatic by Mike Shinoda (if you like Linkin Park and are going through grief, this is the album for you) and The Devil's Walk by Apparat.
Movie: Solo: A Star Wars Story
Place To Visit: Iceland (obviously)
Food: It's got to be Wagamama's Vegatsu Curry! I've had so many this year
TV Series: Late to the party but I've been loving Downton Abbey
Netflix Series: The Crown, Dark and I'm into 'You' right now too
Podcast: Ear Hustle and Serial Season 3