Hello! I am here for a half-year update, although another month has disappeared by the time I’ve posted this – that about sums up my year!
I’ve really wanted to write more, and there is nothing particularly wrong. (With me, that is. There is plenty wrong with the world at large, which might be affecting my motivation on some level.) I’ve just been stressed with work. I know ‘it’s just books!’ – one of us says it at least once a week to keep perspective, as the past few months have been difficult for everyone. But I’d been feeling not good enough, and it was starting to take over. I’d wake up an hour before my alarm and mentally start answering emails. Even sleep was no escape – apparently my sleep-talking has never been so bad!
Anyway, I won’t bore you with this any longer, but I thought it would be a bit artificial to turn up after four months, list all the good things about this year, and potentially disappear again. However, one of the good things is that a couple of weeks ago a lovely new assistant joined our team, and I’m hoping she can help us settle back into things. (Plus her English has a Scottish influence, which is a bonus.)
To the highlights of 2018! Despite my introduction, there have been many. After not going anywhere for 18 months over 2016/2017, this year I’ve been to York, Leeds, Abergavenny, Verona, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius and Trakai!
My friend came to stay as she was freelancing for the BBC. We went for dinner with two other friends we met in France, where we spent a year eating mountains of cheese and drinking gallons of wine. We’ve only been all together twice since, so it was so lovely to have dinner together six years on. (SIX YEARS?!)
Another friend came to visit, and I realised it was especially nice because I rarely spend one-on-one time with most friends now – it’s always lunches/dinners with as many people as possible squashed into a day or two back in Scotland. We had the best time, mostly just eating and drinking, with a trip to Kinky Boots and some SingStar thrown in.
I also went to see Hamilton! I’ve got to be honest; I bought the tickets mostly to avoid fear of missing out, but as a result, I loved it. It’s so clever, the music is brilliant, and it’s an interesting part of history to cover. I’ve been listening to the songs ever since.
I started yoga. Yoga makes me feel old. I used to be able to do some of the stretches so easily when I was dancing (when I was half my age, then), whereas now it feels like my muscles could snap. I’ve realised I do not breathe properly at all, because even after four months I still cannot inhale for five, exhale for five. And the first difference in strength I felt only two weeks ago, when I managed a sort of half Chaturanga before collapsing to the ground. It’s worth it though, for the ten minutes of pure calm at the end.
For the opposite of calm, I’ve taken up tap dancing again. It makes me realise how little I engage my brain these days, because some of the steps require far more of my concentration than they should.
I have been reading. Obviously. I finished Robin Hobb’s Liveship Traders trilogy earlier this year, and decided I’m ready for more six-hundred-page novels already, so I’m onto the Tawny Man trilogy. I also loved:
- Caraval by Stephanie Garber – a sort of theatrical, bizarre, creepy, magical, mysterious, glamorous spectacle. I can’t think of the right word for it, so there’s a few.
- Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi – there was a lot of hype around this novel, but it lives up to it. (Despite what I thought was a glaring plot hole near the end, which I haven’t had the chance to discuss with anyone yet. Did anyone spot anything awry?) I thought this was absolutely brilliant.
- Greatest Hits by Laura Barnett – this is slower paced than books I normally enjoy, following a character from childhood to her sixty-fifth year. The pay-off was that, by the end of the novel, you’re involved with the character in a way that normally takes a whole series to develop.
I should have been writing them down because I’ve definitely forgotten some good ones. I also read 1984, and I’m glad to have finally done so, but ‘enjoy’ is not the right word. It was impressive, of course – in a terrifying, depressing, disturbing way.
I’ve been to two weddings. My cousin got married in Abergavenny in Wales, where the sun shone all weekend, and I saw some of my family for the first time in about fifteen years. It was a great day. We also went to a Lithuanian/English wedding. The ceremony was held in a beautiful church in Vilnius – one of the ones you visit as a tourist, where I never really thought ordinary people could get married. The reception took place in an equally stunning venue in Trakai, where we took over all the rooms, and fairy lights created a sparkly outdoor ‘ceiling’ all the way from the building to the lake. It was just perfect.
So there have been many highs – one quite literally. My surprise birthday present was a trip over Trakai in a hot air balloon. And this had been one of the more unrealistic items on my bucket list! I admit I had some nerves on the way to the field where we would take off: ‘Did Adam check our travel insurance?’ quickly spiralled into ‘Will my savings cover flying my body back?’ but when we finally left the ground, it was so peaceful. The weather conditions were perfect for flying. We drifted over Trakai Castle, close enough to wave to everyone on the ground and in the water around, low enough to skim the tops of the trees nearby, then high enough that you couldn’t pick out people anymore. It was a surreal experience, and such a special way to celebrate my birthday.