I recently did one of those Facebook game things, the ones that you do in insane moments of utter boredom. It was my 2020 horoscope based on my Chinese birth sign, which is evidently the Pig. According to the horoscope, 2019 had been a poor year and 2020 would be much better. It was incorrect, 2019 has been fabulous. If nothing else it saw me cross off two, yes two, things on my bucket list.
Bucket list item number 1: a trip to Iceland to see the northern lights. I’ve shared my photo with you, and I swear that is the northern lights. Sadly, I didn’t have a camera up to the job, but they were there and I saw them. As for the stars, for me and my aspirations of being an astronaut, that was almost as exciting as the lights themselves.
But Iceland itself is such a magical place. The scenery is just out of this world. My favourite visit of the trip was to a small village, Eyrarbakki, to the south of Reykjavik. We stayed at the home of a friend, and I can without a shadow of a doubt say that evening was the best of my life, the views, the horizon was so clear, the sea, the snow, being cosy by the fire, eating authentic home made food. It was so special, that Iceland has now gone on to my husband’s bucket list.
Bucket list item number 2: Paddleboarding. Less Jennifer Aniston and more hippo on a wobble board, but I did it. In the salubrious surroundings of Bristol Harbour. To be fair, the views from the board were fabulous and it was great to see the city from a different perspective, but it’s not the most welcoming water ever! The one thing I wish I’d done differently was fall in. I think if I had fallen in and removed that fear, I might have gained confidence more quickly. I’m definitely going to do it again.
Highlight of the summer: parasailing. I’ve always wanted to have a go at this, but never found anyone daft enough to do it with me. Enter an old family friend who let slip she’d give it a try. As ever, I bounced on to the boat, thinking this was great fun, and only at the point of lift off did I start to consider where I was and what I was doing! It was fantastic. It was so quiet and peaceful, with great views of Albufeira from the sea. The only downside was that even from that short ride we could see pieces of plastic floating in the ocean.
Special occasions: two weddings. Absolute belters. Both so completely different, but both relaxed and definitely about the love of the two people getting married, rather than the actual wedding day itself. One in a field in Staffordshire, one on a boat in Bristol. One spring wedding, one autumn wedding. It was a real pleasure and privilege to be invited to them – they will be hard to beat.
Travels around the UK: we flew to Belfast for a friend’s 60th birthday party, which included a food tour of the city. If you’re ever ,looking for a good traditional Irish breakfast, the restaurant in Belfast City Hall is the place to go. I’ve been fascinated with Irish History since I did my first degree, so to be able to visit the city was a real treat for me. We did a Black Cab tour and the knowledge of our driver was second to none.
We also embarked on a tour around the North West of England, specifically Burnley and the Lake District. I’ve never visited Burnley before and was pleasantly surprised. Despite the weather being awful, the scenery surrounding the town was just stunning and our hosts were so incredibly welcoming that poor weather did nothing to dampen what was a fantastic weekend. As ever, the Lake District didn’t disappoint. We stayed in Bowness and abandoned our car for a few days, using buses and boats to travel around this fabulous part of the UK
2019 was also a great year for catching up with old friends. I’d found myself in somewhat of a slump at the beginning of the year and said yes to more opportunities, throwing myself into them with gusto. I went on a fantastic hen weekend to Bath, it was actually great to stay in the city for a few nights rather than just pop over from Bristol for a day trip. I met a friend that I’d not seen since we left school and spent a lovely afternoon catching up on news during a walk at Trentham Gardens. I met another school friend for a coffee in Bristol that lasted for a good few hours, as we too caught up on 30 years worth of gossip. And I reconnected with an old family friend and her family. Again, we’d not seen each other for about 25 years, but it was like no time had passed at all, and it was this re-acquaintance that provided me the opportunity to go para-sailing.
But perhaps the best thing for me in 2019 is I finally started to get a grip on my mental health. It’s been a long time in progress, but finally I can say I am in my happy place. I am content, and I have actually started to look forward, rather than wallow in the past. My initial reaction to anything isn’t panic first act later, I’m starting to get my head around a calmer response to events and to take things a little more in my stride. I’ve realised that I don’t have to be perfect at everything all of the time; that I dont always have to enter insane challenges to prove I can do something, that I dont have to have a proper qualification for everything I do. I still have a long way to go, but finally I am enjoying meandering along the way, looking at the sights, rather than staring solely at the destination.
So, bring on 2020! If it’s anything half as good as 2019 then it’s going to be a wonderful year.