Yesterday the clocks went forward in the UK, marking the beginning of spring and it pains me to have waited so long to finish my draft post of what I did in 2015! To be fair, this year already has been massively hectic with a new job, a new workout plan and the constant headache of a new kitchen that’s still not complete after two months weeks.
2015 brought me one failed flat purchase, one successful flat purchase, trips to Paris, Positano, Naples, California, Malta and Turkey, the passing away of a loved one, a friend’s wedding, my first ever half-marathon and so much more. Hopefully 2016 will also be the year I started properly blogging again!
At the start of the year I had the biggest urge to fill up our days with things to do and places to go. Normally, take any weekend and you’ll find Ned and I on the sofa doing not very much. But, as 2015 kicked off I planned to try something new and despite horrendous weather, I stuck to my guns and we set off on a Sunday stroll along the Parkland Walk, walking from Finsbury Park through woodland towards Highgate.
January was also the month of two work trips, one to Mountain View and one to Kitzbühel, Austria. I spent two weeks in Mountain View and I’ve never felt so homesick, as we’d only just got Chickpea in October and so it was my first time apart from her! Even so, I made sure I had fun while in Mountain View, thanks in part to some epic hostess skills from my colleague Ana in Noe Valley, SF 🙂
Towards the end of January, my colleagues and I stayed for a couple of nights in Best Western Premier in Kitzbühel, Austria. The highlight was a fantastic meat & cheese fondu accompanied by drunken singing at Steifalm restaurant. I also can’t forget our very own tour guide who stopped traffic to play his bugle!
This was the month Ned and I celebrated our three year anniversary in Paris. Hands down the highlight of the trip was the Autour de Midi jazz club/restaurant. On the ground floor, we had the table next to the entire jazz band as we ate our traditional French cuisine. After dinner we headed down to the cellar where some of the best live jazz of my life was performed.
Highlights of trip included the view of the city from Bar La Vue on the 34th floor of the Hyatt Regency hotel, and we learnt a ridiculous amount during the Sandelman’s Walking tour. Also, some friends were visiting Paris the same weekend, so we met up and dined at La Pharmacie followed by low-key drinks at Bespoke round the corner.
This was the month where I naughtily arranged a viewing for a flat I’d seen for sale on Zoopla. Ned and I went to view it and we put an offer in a day or two after. You only have to read this blog post to find out what mistakes I made and, on the flip side, what I learnt!
Ned and I made the mistake of following our heart and not our mind when it came to our first almost-house. It took SO much of our time, with planning meetings with mortgage advisors, moving money around and relentless scanning and filling out of documentation.
Clissold Arms Pub: On what was the first really hot day of 2015, we decided to walk to Clissold Arms in Muswell Hill. As we were both on a Fitbit obsession at the time, it killed two birds with one stone – exercise as well as discovering a new area (Crouch End up to Muswell Hill).
Gillespie park The first few minutes were… Underwhelming. Then, we came to a clearing and it started to become less ‘abandoned alleyway’ and more ‘natural hidden gem’! Walking past the wind turbine, we came across a blue ecology house with a cafe and two ponds nearby.
The children in the park were having a delightful time spotting wildlife and running about through the small forest area. Other than the odd person, this city oasis is wonderfully quiet so is well worth going if you want a few minutes of solitude amid London life.
This was the start of many big changes in the stable, unchanging life I’d grown to love! My team went through a re-org, with various people running around like headless chickens in the fallout. My job changed (in title anyway) and so I flew to the Mountain View head office for an offsite to come up with a team action plan.
I had about 3 weeks’ notice for the work trip and it looked like it was going to clash with one of my best friend Michelle’s hen do’s. Thankfully, I landed in the morning on Saturday and, after a quick wardrobe change, headed out. Although I missed the start of the hen do, I made it to Revolution in time for the cocktail making. Dreamboys was definitely a one-of-a-kind experience with memories I’ll never forget 😵
We kicked off June with one of the best holidays of my life so far: Positano, Italy. For my favourite eateries and things to do you can read my guide to Positano.
It was just after our trip to Italy that a few issues came to light with our almost-there house purchase. The two-bedroom flat actually was more like a one-bedroom flat as the works done to it were not legally approved. We just couldn’t run the risk of these issues biting us in the future.
After a few bleak discussions we decided to pull out completely from the purchase. Our flat in Highbury was being viewed by other couples anyway, but we didn’t realise how soon it would get snapped up. When we tried to put a halt on leaving the agency just said “The new tenants will be moving in 4th July”… Our life was crumbling all around us 😔 You can read here the valuable lessons along the way during the house-buying process.
My string of bad luck (if you excuse the gorgeous perfection of our Positano trip) hadn’t stopped there. My friend Mandy and I had booked a delightful gin cruise for our friend Aline’s birthday, and the whole thing turned into a bit of a scam as it didn’t actually happen! After vacant promises of rebooking the cruise and complimentary gin, the guy who ran it went quiet to my pleads for money back. It took weeks to finally get him to man up and pay us what we were due. To add insult to injury, I left my Miu Miu sunnies in the toilet of Crate Brewery and when I went to claim them back two minutes later, they’d been taken. The very next day was even more taxing, as Ned and I had to put the material manifestations of our happy little life into storage. They would eventually stay there for almost 8 weeks!
Thankfully, the month ended a lot better when our offer for another, larger, better located flat was accepted. Things were looking up 🙂
London enjoyed a heatwave of epic proportions at the beginning of July. My friends and I rented bikes from Richmond train station and had a lovely day cycling along the river and up into Richmond Park. We spent the rest of the Sunday afternoon drinking outside The Cricketers on Richmond Green, enjoying live music and watching a charity cricket tournament called The Green Cup.
Less than two months after my previous work trip, I went to California again for work. Memorable moments included sleeping through a Sunnyvale earthquake, going on a team outing to the beautiful Regale winery and visits to San Franciscan restaurants and bars.
July was also the month I got to see my beautiful friend Michelle wed Werner in an idyllic village church.
By now, Ned and I had been living in a colleague’s spare bedroom for over a month. We desperately missed our old flat, having space to lounge about and I was pining for various clothes that were locked away in storage! August was a horrendously bittersweet month for Ned and I.
It was the month that we finally got the keys for our new flat by Clissold Park. Despite this massive step in our lives, summer 2015 dealt us and the family a horrible blow with Ned’s dad Jim’s fight against his brain tumour reaching its conclusion. When I first met Ned, his dad had only just been diagnosed and was given a mere few months to live. That was 2012, and I’m so grateful that I ended up having an extra two years in addition to that diagnosis to spend with time with Jim.
Throughout July and August, Ned and I would travel up to see Jim and Cathy in Arkesden as many weekends as we could. I’m grateful that at the very least we had our own flat for us both to come to terms with our loss, and in some ways it was a welcome distraction from reality thanks to the endless boxes in need of unpacking.
My journal entry for 1st September begins “So today was spent watching This Morning, Loose Women, ironing clothes, looking at kitchens and using the washing machine about 10 times! Oh, and also registering all our bloody appliances and tracking them in the Ned and Jeni tracker :)” On the surface this might seem super monotonous, but to me this was pure bliss. Ironing in my OWN flat, with my OWN iron and washing with my OWN washing machine!
In our first full weekend together in our flat, we let Chickpea out into the garden for the first time. It was really amazing to see her soak up all the newness of being outside and get to do what cats do! We also got our first CAD render of our new kitchen and for the first time ever I set my alarm to do a 10km run on a Sunday morning.
September was also the month I saw the play People, Places and Things, with a memorable performance from Denise Gough. Being in London, it’s sad but sometimes I genuinely don’t realise how lucky I am to have so many plays, musicals and attractions on my door step. Hopefully I’ll make the most of it in 2016!
I took two trips abroad this month, the first being to Malta for a girly long weekend. It’s been ages since I had a girly holiday and I really hope I get to do more in 2016. You can read my Malta travel trips here too 🙂 Life’s too short not to fly abroad for the weekend!
The next trip was to Istanbul for work which was coincidentally on my birthday, but to make it better Ned came out to meet me. We went on a Walks of Turkey tour (write-up here) on a wet, cold and windy day. My colleagues who had been before said Istanbul in summer is on a whole other level, so I hope I get to see Istanbul ablaze with sunshine one day.
When I wasn’t jetsetting abroad, I was preparing for my first ever Royal Parks half-marathon. I’m beyond proud of myself for my 1:54 time despite a pretty laid-back training schedule. Roll on 2016’s Hackney Half!
Ned and I held our annual Halloween Housewarming at our flat; we’ve now held something similar three years in a row. I decided to glam it up as Mia Wallace, coaxing Ned to be Vincent Vega. Unfortunately we didn’t manage a Mia & Vincent pic, partly because Ned refused to keep his “itchy and embarrassing” wig on!
About 60 people came overall, and while I really enjoyed spooking up the house (police tape across the staircase, spiderwebs draped over paintings and the bathub, creating a witches’ brew) I don’t think we’ll hold such a big party next year thanks to the epic clean-up job required!
This was the month one of my closest friends Mandy told us she was going to be a mum! We were having brunch as a belated treat for my 29th birthday, when she turned to Aline and I and said ‘so… you’re going to be aunties next June!” I think I burst into tears with happiness for her. Mandy and Tom are such a fab couple and I cannot wait to meet little miss Turner Owen next June!
Later that day, we then went to Ronnie Scott’s for a Sunday Jazz Lunch session. It was a really special day, hearing Mandy’s news and then sipping wine listening to live jazz 🙂
We also went on one of our many walks outside of London, heading to Box Hill for a Sunday stroll followed by pub lunch. One of the highlights of this walk is the Stepping Stones Walk. We followed the route but the river was at high tide so we saw sweet FA! I also learnt a valuable lesson on this walk, and that is stop assuming Dr Marten’s can double up as hiking boots.
A cultural highlight was going to the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at the Natural History Museum. The majority of his works appropriate material that has been broken apart: “For most of his work, the destruction has already been done by others, either by authorities who have condemned Qing Dynasty temples or, in one case, by a devastating earthquake” (SMH). His showpiece, Straight, involves him straightening out thousands of rods that failed to support a school in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, exacerbated by corrupt officials siphoning off some of the building funds for their own purposes.
The exhibition, CAU, features a replica of Ai’s son Lao’s pushchair. This was hand-carved from expensive marble, sourced from the Fangshan imperial quarries. Ai Wei Wei’s marble artefacts are just as useless as these extravagant pieces which served Imperial China and it’s no coincidence that Mao Tse Tung’s mausoleum contains marble from the same quarry.
In December, I was still working on the Google Play merchandising team, and this month was hectic thanks to the onslaught of on-store promotions in the run-up to Christmas and New Year’s Eve. To get into the Christmas spirit, some friends and I went to the Enchanted Woodland in Syon Park near Richmond, and attended a few drunken Christmas parties with friends too.
For New Year’s Eve, Ned and I played scrabble, drank Nyetimber champagne (my favourite!) and ate crudités before heading to our local pub for a cheeky drink pre-2016. I also found these amazing printable New Year’s Eve cards via Pinterest. It was actually quite fun going through our key moments of the year and asking ourselves what made us laugh the hardest?
2015 was a mixed bag for me, but overall I’ve come out of it with a new job, a new flat and 2016 shows no signs of the fun stopping with plans to visit at least 10 countries over 2016!