Tuesday, December 31, 2013

The Best of 2013 - Looking Back at The Year

There's no escaping it, I've been terrible at keeping up with my blog this year. In fact, it's been slowly neglected since its peak in 2008, when I published a mega 122 posts. In 2013, I'd written exactly one post, with this last minute one taking it up to a grand total of two. I feel bad about it, because my blog was somewhere I would capture all the interesting things going on in my life, if only to aid my own reminiscence in years to come. I've let my future self down.

Blogging has also been a welcome non-work related outlet for my writing over the years, although in recent times, since my job has largely involved creating non-stop content for others, I must admit I've struggled to find the discipline to sit down at weekends and churn out any more words. I do think Facebook and Twitter are also partly to blame, providing a handy platform to share bite-sized accounts of holidays, events and the like, so that sometimes a whole self-indulgent blog post can feel a tad superfluous.

But what the hell, I have had a lovely year on the whole, so here it is in one long vainglorious digest. Even if you only skim over and look at the pretty pictures, I'd say it's worth a look. I would promise to try harder in 2014, but I have a feeling I'd be kidding myself and you.

January


We spent 1st January in Slapton, Devon, recovering from a night out in the village pub the night before with Harriet, Lewys and their friends. Our gentle New Year's Day involved a rather picturesque walk around Slapton Ley and down to the beach, before driving back to Eastbourne less than 24 hours after we'd arrived.


We may not have had a White Christmas in 2012, but the snow arrived in time for the annual Wassail ceremony in January, lending the event a little extra elemental magic. This atmospheric procession of fire and ice led us to the traditional blessing of a new orchard and back again to raise a glass of hot spicy cider to the apple trees.


Our first proper cultural outing of the year (not including Panto and the infamous Cod panto - as seen above - which is performed every year by the crew), was to see One Man, Two Guvnors at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. I don't think I have ever laughed so hard at a show before, and I honestly thought Jordan might wet herself when the waiter fell backwards down the stairs. Tears were rolling down our cheeks.

February


The end of January and most of February were socially and culturally sparse, thanks to me being laid up with a trapped nerve that made work difficult and any kind of strenuous activity (including driving) impossible, but I did manage a couple of gentle outings during the rehabilitation period. My first gig of the year was Boo Hewerdine at the Greys in Brighton. Little did I know then that he'd be back again to play at my local pub, The Lamb, in October. A double-Boo year is a good year.


I am very grateful to the friends and family who accompanied me on restorative walks and comforting cake missions during my sick leave, including Jo and Nancy who came over for a bit of both during the February half term. Nancy could hardly bring herself to eat this beautiful rainbow cake, made by the lovely ladies at Neate's.

March


This little nephew braved the elements with us for an Easter trip down to Devon in Kiki the campervan, and saw his first waterfall during a magical walk around Lydford Gorge. We also visited a wild and windswept Tintagel, and discovered that Nutella and custard is an outstanding topping for pancakes.

Having succumbed to the hype, a gang of us went to see Matilda the Musical in London, which was excellent for a children's show but not quite as subversive and edgy as the critics would have you believe. If anything, I thought Dahl's anarchic brilliance was somewhat tamed by being set to music, but it was a fabulous day out which ended with drinks at my old favourite theatrical dive, the Phoenix bar.

April


More outdoor adventures happened in April, when the weather was kinder, and we camped out in Graffham with Kiki and her best friend Olive (and Olive's keepers Steve and Linda). No campfires allowed in this woodland site, but it was a splendid base for an all-day walk with a pub lunch along the way, and several games of Kubb.

May


I've always wanted to dress up as Abba with my sister and our other halves, and what better occasion than the Swedish-hosted Eurovision in May? An evening of international snacks, key-change drinking games and endless wig-swapping ensued.


After a night of all-out campery, sometimes one needs to reset the balance with an injection of wilful geekery, and we managed to combine some of this with a day out at Michelham Priory with Andrew and Amy, where we spent at least an hour talking to a couple of skilled flint-knappers who were there as part of an ancient crafts fair.


A visit from the in-laws prompted us to visit Glynde Place for the first time, and to have lunch at the Trevor Arms for the first time in a while. Both were most pleasant, as was a trip to Bexhill in the sunshine, where we found some sort of exciting boat race going on.

June


At the end of May and into the start of June, Kiki and Olive reunited for a trip to the Welsh mountains, for the tiny and wonderful Fire in the Mountain Festival. Red kites swooped overhead, the sun beat down for three days straight and all kinds of music poured out of every nook and cranny of the little farm. We learned Appalachian flat foot dancing, sang in harmony with our fellow festy-goers, bonded around camp fires and ceilidh-d our way through the weekend, but Ant's highlight was a morning spent in the woodcrafts area, turning a new stick to replace a broken one in our Kubb set, so that we could teach more new found friends how to play. 


This photo (my favourite one of the year) was taken at Rubjerg Knude Fyr in Denmark, on one of the sunniest days of our Nordic adventure at the end of June, just before we reached the very top of the country. Having driven up through The Netherlands and Germany, we explored most of Jutland and Odense and discovered stunning beaches, fairytale castles and heart-breakingly magnificent midnight sunsets. Of all the delights Denmark had to offer, though, I was most affected by its very tip - Skagen - where the distinctive light has inspired many generations of artists including the troubled but brilliant P.S. Krøyer, and where you can stand (as we did) with one foot in the Baltic, and one in the Atlantic, watching the two seas gently crash into each other. I have never been so transfixed by a painting as by Krøyer's Midsummer's Eve Bonfire on Skagen's Beach, which captures a community of painters, fishermen and poets gathered together for the midsummer festival, their relationships and emotions exposed by the haunting glow of the fire.

July


Sometimes after going to far-flung places, you need to remind yourself that there's no place like home. This pretty little spot just down the road at Cooden Beach was the scene of a few mini getaways over the summer; the perfect place to escape to on a Friday night to watch the sun set, cook a barbecue supper, walk along the sand, camp out in Kiki, and even one time, to watch a seal dancing about with the morning tide.


The day after this particular idyllic evening, we went on one of the shortest-lived but most memorable picnics ever; our Brighton friends struggled through traffic diversions to make it just in time for the heavens to open literally ten minutes after we'd all trekked up the hill and sat down to eat. But nevermind, because the communal soaking led to much retrospective merriment, as we all dried off and warmed up with cups of tea back at our place.

July was also a good month for gigs, with Ana Silvera at The Vortex in London, and Regina Spektor at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill both soothing us into the height of summer.

August


Photo by Paul Spink.

August is the month of open air Shakespeare in Eastbourne, and this year's EODS offering was The Tempest. I've often thought that they should use the seafront setting to its full advantage and put on this shipwreck/desert island drama, and was so happy to see the minimal set incorporating the natural backdrop of the sea. To see my brother in law in a frock was an added bonus in what turned out to be an excellent production. I'd recommend you read James's review which sums it all up rather well.


A family camping weekend near Bodiam castle and a trip to its medieval festival was another highlight of the summer holidays. I especially loved seeing one year old Axel relishing The Great Outdoors as an opportunity to test out his newly toddling legs. I'm not too sure how impressed he was with this medieval monk, though.

September


The End of the Road Festival is so called because it claims to be the final festival of the summer, happening as it does at the end of August/beginning of September weekend. I've been a couple of times before, in 2009 and 2010, but it had changed a bit in the last three years. For one thing, there was an extra stage for the main acts, which took them out of the cosy walled garden and into a less intimate open field. It's still a small festival compared with many others, but I did find the cuteness has slipped somewhat. Nevertheless, it was an excellent weekend, with some memorable gigs including David Byrne and St Vincent and Ed Harcourt among my personal favourites, not to mention our own outstanding performance as the cast of a five minute production of The Wizard of Oz, which you can see for yourself above. 

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Ant also experienced his first silent disco, at the end of our absinthe-fuelled final night. If you've never been to one of these, you should - it's truly hilarious. Especially when you take your headphones off and hear everyone singing along out of tune as can be witnessed here. Pure joy!

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September brought a third Mini Maker Faire in Brighton, after months of preparation and promotion. I got to interview Maggie Philbin (yes, she of Tomorrow's World fame) and Bill Thompson among others as part of my live reporting duties - have a listen to the podcasts here


It was also the most colourful month of the year, thanks to a visit from Neel (who now lives in Melbourne), at whose Colour Block party I was one of only a few who chose to dress in green. Interestingly, pink and red were the most popular colours, and we discovered that far too many people base their knowledge of the rainbow on the children's song (which has the colours in completely the wrong order) rather than any useful acronymic reminder.


My birthday weekend was a special one spent eating cake and playing games with loved ones, and catching up with old friends at Paul D's 50th party on the Sunday. It's rare you get to see the theatre crew decked out in posh clothes (frocks are far more common); they don't scrub up too badly at all.

October


As the nights started drawing in during October, we finally (after three years of living here) got around to decorating our bedroom and living room, ridding them of our predecessors' wallpaper and replacing the dreaded peacocks with far more soothing stripes. On the cultural front, there was an outing to see Cabaret at The Congress, my abiding memory of which will always be the overheard conversations of bemused punters who'd come expecting Pop Idol style jollity and were apparently upset to be confronted by harrowing holocaust themes. "I preferred The Bodyguard" was one classic comment.

My favourite film of the year, Le Week-end, was also in October. The touching and intentionally uncomfortable story of an ageing couple celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary in Paris, it starred the master of pathos, Jim Broadbent, elegantly foiled by Lindsay Duncan as his beautiful but jaded wife. 

November


November was a momentous month for us, because after almost year of assessment and preparation, we were officially approved to become adoptive parents. We celebrated the day with an ice cream on the beach and a trip to Brighton to collect Bobbie and Anna's G-plan sideboard (now in pride of place against the new stripy wallpaper in our lounge). This photo was taken on the weekend before panel, on the Downs above East Dean.


It was also an important month for Doctor Who, which celebrated its 50th birthday with a feature length spectacular that was shown in cinemas as well as on TV. It so happened that our Who-mad nephew and his mum were visiting that weekend, so we of course took them to see it in 3D at the Crumbles after loading up on pizza.

December


This is my favourite snap from Ant's birthday soirée last week, capturing as it does the camp insanity of the evening. The theme was Fanlight Fanny's Festive Frolic, and festively frolic we did. And yes, that is me in the turban; what of it? I've spared Ant the humiliation of posting a picture of him in drag, although if you ask him nicely, I'm sure he'll be persuaded to share.


I haven't mentioned work at all in this post yet, although it's obviously taken up quite a lot of my year. That's not because I don't enjoy what I do (because I do), but unless you're also a social media/digital type person it might be a bit dull. One work thing of which I am really proud this year, and that I think you might enjoy, is this animated Christmas ad I conceived and commissioned for The Body Shop.


Christmas itself was spent Up North this year, and after 300 miles of battling through wind and rain, we managed to relax for a few days of quality time with the Miller clan, even making it as far as The Lakes for a family gathering in a soft play centre.

I expect there are many other highlights I've neglected to mention (please, do remind me of them), but these are some that stick in my mind as special and memorable occasions. Thank you to everyone who has helped make 2013 a very jolly and fulfilling year; I really am a very lucky girl.

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So on the last day of 2013, I'm sat here reflecting on the past 12 months, and contemplating the year ahead. It certainly looks set to be eventful, if not for the same reasons as this year and the ones that went before it. I hope I'll be able to find time to show my blog a little love in the months ahead, but if I don't, you'll know why.

Happy New Year, one and all.