Post on 2nd January!

I feel in between today, as usual.

However, a Christmas gift came in the post today to cheer me up. I’ve always been in Scotland (where 2nd January is a public holiday) for New Year in the past, so have never known post to arrive on the 2nd of January before.

The gift was a tree decoration from our family friend Chris. We always see her at New Year but obviously couldn’t this time round.

Tree decoration

I also made my own birthday cake for the first time ever, with instruction from Dad over video call. I’ll be able to tell you tomorrow if it turned out okay!

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’
Coldplay – ‘Christmas Lights’
Heaven 17 – ‘Let Me Go’

Three years blogging… and a reflection on some accidental New Year Resolutions

For years, I didn’t start new habits at New Year – or if I did, they never stuck for very long. However, for the last four years in a row, I have chosen something to focus on every year and have stuck with it. My life is a lot better as a result, and so I’m hoping I’ll be able to stick to my main 2021 goal too.

At the start of 2017, I started going to Slimming World. The accountability of the group setting enabled me to lose the five stone that I’d been trying to lose for nearly a decade, and though I’ve not managed to stay at target during the pandemic, I only have a stone to lose again this next year (which is a lot easier than five!). Life at a healthy weight is immeasurably more physically comfortable and something that I will never take for granted. Once Christmas eating is done, I’ll be back on the light meals again – I’m following a calorie-based approach rather than SW now, but I’ll always be thankful for the motivation it gave me.

At the start of 2018, I started this blog. It was always my aim to blog every day and so sometimes, especially during the empty year of 2020, blogging has felt like a bit of a chore. However, the habit of getting my words out into the world has given me confidence to do so in other ways, such as reading at poetry nights and publishing text adventure games. I love having the blog as it just feels so much more ‘mine’ than social media pages.

At the start of 2019, I got sober. I’ve mentioned this before but I feel so, so incredibly grateful that I managed to do this (and get the first difficult year of sobriety out of the way) *before* the pandemic hit – I really believe that things would have gone nowhere good if I’d still been drinking in 2020. It’s still not easy, but life is so much more stable than it was two years ago, and that has been so important over the last few months.

And at the start of 2020, after four and a half years of more sporadic running, I started a daily run streak. The start of a new decade seemed like a good time to do it, and I just wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Again, this was incredibly well-timed in terms of the pandemic, as I discussed yesterday. Whatever life throws at me, and however long it takes for races to come back, I’ll always have my run streak to keep me motivated.

On to 2021, then, and this year the main focus will be to get my house in order (literally). I already made a good start by spending a few weeks in November/December sorting out all the junk that I’d been hoarding upstairs since we moved in, but there’s a lot more to do, and a lot of daily habits that I need to instil. One of the major negative factors for my mental health is that I constantly feel that my house is dirty and untidy, and so I can never fully relax. Making time for my house projects this year, and keeping on top of the upkeep, will hopefully allow me to feel a lot better.

On a personal level, I’m feeling quite hopeful today. Not for 2021 as a whole, but for one day at a time, which is how I’ve managed all my other big life changes over the last few years.

I’m excited about tomorrow.

Lancashire hotpot
Another day, another New Year recipe I made myself for the first time. Lancashire hotpot is all about the crust, and it came out just right.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Deacon Blue – ‘Queen Of The New Year’
Tears For Fears – ‘Shout’
Abba – ‘Happy New Year’
Traditional – ‘The Blaydon Races’
Beach Boys – ‘Sloop John B’

Parallel lives

Taking a break this evening from the old photos and returning to the here and now. Hogmanay, like the rest of 2020, feels a bit confusing and bittersweet. I think 2021 will eventually be better, but it will take some time, so I certainly don’t feel like celebrating tonight. Just a quiet evening at home with BBC Scotland on TV.

It’s my first ever New Year away from Scotland and so this year I had to learn to make Dad’s famous Hogmanay pizza for myself and Geth. Through the magic of video chat, Dad was able to help me with the dough, and on the whole it turned out really well. I hope I’m equally lucky with the Lancashire hotpot for New Year’s Day tomorrow.

Hogmanay pizza
Fish pizza for Geth, veggie for me.

I completed my first year of running every day this morning! A year ago, I noticed that Smashrun did a special virtual badge for running every day during a leap year, which was what motivated me to start my run streak. Today, I finally got the badge, and a bonus one to boot:

Smashrun badge
Smashrun badge

I’ve spent a large part of the year trying not to think about the Parallel Universe Where Coronavirus Didn’t Happen: the races, the gigs, the trips abroad, the time with family and friends. But there are other parallel universes that are a lot less happy – ones I only narrowly avoided due to sheer dumb luck, or the grace of God, or whatever you want to call it. The parallel universe where I hadn’t started a run streak on the first of January, and as a result didn’t run at all after March because I had no race-related motivation. The parallel universe where I hadn’t quit drinking, and ended up drinking more and more as a result of lockdown and stress. The parallel universe where loved ones weren’t able to stay safe this year.

I didn’t end up in the best timeline, not in the slightest. But I also didn’t end up in the worst. I survived, and I have hope. Bring on 2021. Even if I kind of wish we could just skip the first half of it.

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Proclaimers – ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’
Travis – ‘The Last Laugh Of The Laughter’

parkrun tourism: Vogrie

For part two of the New Year’s Day double, Geth and I got back in the car and headed out to Vogrie parkrun, which is south-east of Edinburgh.

Vogrie parkrun
One parkrun down, one to go!

It’s a really interesting experience running a second parkrun the same morning, making it up to 10k distance for the day! Obviously you get a break (typically spent frantically driving between parkrun locations), so it’s not quite the same as running an actual 10k, but I would imagine that most people take the second one easier. Geth and I certainly did – I came in more than three minutes slower than I had done at Portobello earlier that morning – although that was partly to do with the fact that Vogrie is very traily and hilly in places, and quite muddy on the day (requiring a lot of care on downhill sections!).

While I’m not ruling this one out for future New Year’s Day doubles, I think I would prefer to visit it in the summer, when there’s less chance of mud. It’s unlikely to happen this summer, of course, but maybe next year!

parkrun tourism: Portobello

Geth and I managed quite a few new parkruns during our Christmas trip to Edinburgh. We’d only ever previously done the main Edinburgh parkrun at Cramond while visiting Mum and Dad, but this time round we found ourselves with multiple reasons to go further afield. One of these was my desire to mark my first sober Hogmanay with my first ever New Year’s Day parkrun double the following morning – and the main Edinburgh parkrun doesn’t run on New Year’s Day, having done its special event on Christmas Day instead! As such, I had to select two alternative local parkruns for my Edinburgh-based double.

Portobello parkrun
Another pop-up sign. I’m collecting a lot of these photos!

The first of these was Portobello in north Edinburgh. I’d been meaning to do this one for a while but had never got round to it – the lure of Cramond and its lovely flat, scenic course is usually too strong. It turned out to be a nice fast three-lapper round the very pretty Figgate Park. The course isn’t as flat as Cramond, but it’s a lot more shielded from the wind! Geth fell in love with Portobello parkrun and immediately planned to do it regularly during the several weeks that he was (at the time) planning to spend in Edinburgh for work in May. For obvious reasons, that trip won’t be transpiring, but I still hope that we’ll both get to do Portobello parkrun again sooner rather than later.

Homeward bound

Geth and I are back in Newcastle after spending eleven days in Edinburgh for Christmas and New Year. It’s been lovely, but it felt like a long time to be away from home, so maybe next year we’ll do two separate trips – it’s not that far to drive.

We did one last Scottish parkrun this morning – back to the main Edinburgh parkrun at Cramond, which was my first ever tourist run on Christmas Eve 2016. It was busier today than I’ve ever seen it, but then I’ve never been there in the first week of January before!

Tomorrow will mostly be spent getting things unpacked, washed and put away. I’ve got one more day left to enjoy the Christmas decorations before I have to take them down on Monday.

parkrun 100 top
Not quite an OOTD: my parkrun 100 top arrived today! Not quite in time for today’s run as I had hoped, but a lot quicker than the seven months it took for my 50 top to arrive. Excited to wear this next Saturday!

Today’s earworm playlist:

The Boomtown Rats – ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’
Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’

Inbetween days

I like to have a quiet day on the 2nd of January, in between the madness of New Year’s Day and my birthday. It’s nice to have the downtime, but I do always end up feeling a bit maudlin. The first half of my thirties has just flown by, and I imagine that if anything the second half will go quicker.

I went out for a quick gentle run this morning, something that will be a daily habit for the next while. It was nice to turn my legs over after yesterday’s exertions, and I feel a lot less sore of calf than I have been on days after parkruns recently.

I don’t really feel ready for my birthday, and I don’t really want midnight to come. It will, of course. It always does.

Out for a run
Sort of an OOTD: giving my new Lonely Goat top a run out.

Today’s earworm playlist:

Ludwig van Beethoven – ‘Ode To Joy’
Hans Zimmer – ‘This Land’
Rihanna – ‘Diamonds’

Two years of blogging

New Year’s Day is also my blog’s birthday! I started my rambles on here two years ago today. I’ve not had a lot of time for long review posts over the last couple of months, but I love writing on here every day and documenting my life. I have a few things left over from 2019 that I’ll be posting about over the next couple of weeks, but after that I’ll be starting a whole new series of posts for 2020!

I’ve had a lovely New Year’s Day. Geth and I got up early to do the parkrun double this morning, driving to a couple of parkruns that we’d not done before. After that, Auntie Chris arrived for the family tradition of exchanging New Year gifts, and we had a good evening of eating – Dad made Lancashire hotpot for the New Year meal, as is traditional, and I was so hungry after all the running that I ate a whole half of the veggie hotpot! I need to avoid making this a habit once I get into the long marathon training runs, or I might end up eating the whole of Newcastle.

I’m doing RED (Run Every Day) for an undecided period of time, so I’ll be nipping out for a quick mile first thing tomorrow morning. Other than that it will be a very quiet day!

(I’ve not had time to post my New Year Resolutions today – will try and sort that out tomorrow.)

Lonely Goat purple vest top
Not quite an OOTD: Geth and I got Lonely Goat (our running club) tops as New Year presents to ourselves. Looking forward to taking this out for a quick spin tomorrow morning!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Tomohito Nishiura – ‘Searching For Clues’
Koichi Sugiyama – ‘Unflinchable Courage’
Jesse Llande and Mel Smith – ‘Poor Old Father Christmas’
The Lancashire Hotpots – ‘Purple Zone’
The Boomtown Rats – ‘I Don’t Like Mondays’
The Boomtown Rats – ‘Rat Trap’
Jason Paige – ‘Pokémon Theme (Gotta Catch ‘Em All)’

Turn of the decade

Today is the day that we say goodbye to the 2010s and look forward to the 2020s. What will it bring? Hopefully the music will be better (I’ll be doing a whole post about that in a few days’ time).

As such, it was wholly appropriate (I feel anyway) that I spent the day playing with tech from a totally different decade. Dad tested the old five-and-a-half-inch floppies in the drive for the BBC Micro, and they worked! I’ve now identified all the old games on the disk, which was a real blast from the past. There are games on there that I haven’t even thought about for thirty years.

I’m having a quiet evening in with the family for my first sober Hogmanay, and it feels great. I’m looking forward to welcoming in 2020 with alcohol-free fizzy wine and Dad’s traditional Hogmanay pizza, and I’m also very excited about doing my first ever New Year’s Day double parkrun tomorrow morning.

Target Practice, BBC Micro, 1983
Not an OOTD: Target Practice, a Micro game from 1983. I couldn’t quite work out the controls for this one but it looks nice!

Today’s earworm playlist:

Tomohito Nishiura – ‘Searching For Clues’
Kuana Torres Kahele, James Ford Murphy and Napua Greig-Nakasone – ‘Someone To Lava’
Blur – ‘End Of A Century’
Travis – ‘The Last Laugh Of The Laughter’

End-of-decade shoes

I still have all the shoes I was wearing at the end of each decade so far in my life. Because I am that much of a hoarder.

On Hogmanay 1989, I was wearing my brand-new bumblebee slippers, which had been a Christmas gift from my Grandad MacLeod. They’re not exactly party shoes, but then I was only four (very nearly five). I was very excited about staying up for the bells for the first time though!

1989 bumblebee slippers
My bumblebee slippers, thirty years later.

On Hogmanay 1999, I wore a pair of silver Barratts sandals (super ’90s with minimal straps and a blade heel). I’d bought them specially for the millennium. It was the first year that I took in the bells with my friends instead of my family, drinking Bacardi Breezers and shots of tequila, which feels very grown-up when you’re fourteen (very nearly fifteen). It felt like the start of a really special phase of life, which in a way it was, but it was also the start of something that turned out to be quite dark and destructive. I suppose that’s teenage turning points for you.

Barratts sandals, 1999
My Barratts millennium sandals – a bit worse for wear twenty years later.

On Hogmanay 2009, I wore my Vivienne Westwood Lady Dragons, which had just come out that year and were all the rage among shoe fans. They cost about half of what the Lady Dragon range costs today, but they were still a hugely extravagant expense for a broke recent graduate, and so I absolutely treasured them and looked after them very carefully. As a result, they’re still in good condition, unlike my very battered Barratts millennium shoes! At twenty-four (very nearly twenty-five) I felt a bit aimless, but didn’t really want my life to change – I took in the bells in the same pub where I’d been drinking since I was sixteen, and thought that I would be doing that forever.

Vivienne Westwood Lady Dragons, 2009
My Vivienne Westwood Lady Dragons – still much-loved favourites a decade on.

It’s Hogmanay 2019, and for tonight I have got some very special shoes that I’ve been saving for my one-year soberversary. My soberversary isn’t for another five days, but I thought it’d be okay to wear the shoes early seeing as it is the end of a decade and all. When I was younger and extremely broke, I adored beautiful designer shoes, and would have killed for a pair of Christian Louboutins, but I was never anywhere close to being able to afford them. In late 2018, I was able to buy a pair in a sale, and, knowing that I was about to quit drinking, decided to save them as a gift to my future self for when I’d managed a whole year sober. They are very definitely not outdoor shoes – I would only ever wear them in the house so as not to spoil the trademark red soles – but that’s okay, seeing as these days my preferred place to take in the bells is at my parents’ house, in the same room where I said goodbye to the ’80s thirty years ago. At thirty-four (very nearly thirty-five), it’s nice to come full circle.

Christian Louboutin 'Decoltish' shoes, 2019
My long-awaited Louboutins – quite possibly the most special shoes in my life so far 🙂

My very first New Year resolution for 2020 is actually a New Decade resolution – for the entirety of the decade, I will not be buying shoes (except for necessary purchases like running shoes), because I already have far more than any sane person could possibly need, and the ones I do have are well-made and timeless. I will make an exception in December 2029, when I will find myself another nice pair of end-of-decade shoes. In the meantime, I will just enjoy my existing collection!

Hogmanay 1989
Some pictures from Hogmanay 1989. Note the bumblebee slippers in the lower right corner, and me whirling around in my Superman cape!
Hogmanay 2019
Same room, same me. Not the same shoes. Or the same spider plant!
Four decades of Hogmanay shoes
Four decades of Hogmanay shoes!