What Did I Miss?

So, its been a minute or ten.

I mentioned a few posts back that I was offered and accepted a new job, and this first month has been a whirlwind that I’m still trying to process. Everyone I’ve met so far has been lovely, but I’ve been working with a client from Day 2 and it feels like I haven’t really had much chance to catch my breath!

March was a complete whirlwind. I turned 25, and celebrated at Hawksmoor with my family, Duck & Waffle with my housemates and in Shoreditch with all of my friends. I was thoroughly spoilt and had a lovely time at all these places. Turning 25 was something that didn’t feel that much of a big deal at the time, but reflecting on it, I think this being my 25th year has definitely been a bit of a driver in me sorting out my fitness and my financial position.

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I spent a lot of my final weeks in my old job recruiting for the next cohort of graduates for the scheme that I was on, which was the National Graduate Development Programme. This took me to both the LGA and to Preston to assess candidates which was a really valuable experience, and I’m hopeful that there are some really good people about to start their journeys in local government.

I also went to see Sondheim on Sondheim at the Southbank Centre which was a concert of Stephen Sondheim, featuring some of my favourite musical theatre singers including Tyrone Huntley and Julian Ovenden. I also saw Macbeth and 42nd Street, and you can find my thoughts on those by click through the links. I spent Easter at home with my family, and enjoyed a good break before starting my new job.

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April felt like it was over in the blink of an eye. Getting to grips with a new job, longer hours and more travelling was a lot to deal with. I also saw my very first opera with my housemate via ENO’s Opera Undressed programme. Whilst I’m not sure opera is completely my thing, I do always appreciate the arts having programmes that make them more accessible.

One of my favourite bands, Arcade Fire, also toured during April and I headed to Birmingham to see them with my family. Whilst this did mean I get to wake up 5.15am to make it to work again from home, they were so worth it. Their live shows are worth every penny and the atmosphere is always electric. I’d highly recommend seeing them if you get the opportunity. Whistle-stop visits also continued when I headed to Bristol for a few hours to catch up with my work friends from Birmingham, who it was just lovely to see.

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May also feels like it’s storming past, but I promise I won’t be quite so absent!

Amy
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A Month in Review: February

Feb 18

The Book of Dust and a very photogenic mug. A very indulgent lunch dessert. Flying to Barcelona. The Sagrada Familia.

February is the shortest month, so does seem to fly by, but this February really did seem to storm past me, hence why this post is definitely later than it should be! This was possibly enabled by the fact that it saw me get offered and then accept a new job. It’s a bit of a side-step for me, as I’m moving into the private sector, but won’t be abandoning my local government roots completely, as I’ll be moving into consultancy, looking at redesigning services.

The process was very different to applications I’ve done before, and within two weeks I’d had two interviews and been offered the job. It was a trickier choice to make than I expected, as I really care about my current place of work, but I’m very excited about the new challenge I have ahead!

I Read: 3 Books, my favourite probably being Hamilton: The Revolution

I Listened To: My vintage Spotify playlist which I started adding songs to in about 2013. It’s been a blast rediscovering old favourites like Foals, Patrick Wolf and songs that I loved in uni

I Watched: Collateral which features Carey Mulligan and is very good when you get past the slightly cringe dialogue. Phantom Thread which I weirded out by at first, but the more I think about, the more I like.

Lowlight of the Month: February was pretty great; the only mildly irritating thing that happened was me completely destroying my nails attempting to remove acrylic’s by myself (don’t do that)

Highlight of the Month: So many! My new job, my final residential module for my graduate programme and our trip to Barcelona

Amy
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A Month in Review: January

January 1

January 2

A view of the 02. Early morning pink skies above Canary Wharf. The most amazing sushi I’ve ever eaten at Mei Ume. A view of Westminster rooftops. Discovering the lobster roll hype at Burger & Lobster. HighRemembering that sometimes Spoons is all you need. City Hall & Tower Bridge, stumbling across landmarks still doesn’t get old. In the room where it happens.

So I wanted to write monthly review posts to get my head around what I do each month, so the year doesn’t feel like such a blur. Being that it is now only 10 days until the end of February, I’m not sure I’m doing so well!

January definitely felt like a long old month, and the constant grey skies didn’t do much to fix the feeling of it dragging forever. However, now that time feels like it’s flying I’d do anything to go back to this slower month.

I Read: 4 Books. My favourite was definitely La Belle Sauvage by Philip Pullman

I Listened To: Emotion by Carly Rae Jepson (especially enjoying this song) as a bright alternative to the weather.

I Watched: The new season of Black Mirror (USS Callister & Hang the DJ being highlights). The third season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. 

Lowlight of the Month: Brad’s Status. What on earth even was that film. I didn’t actually review it here as it made me so mad. Don’t see this.

Highlight of the Month: Seeing Hamilton right in front of my face after booking tickets over a year ago and listening to the soundtrack was pretty magical. The cast were incredible and it was worth the wait and the ££.

Amy
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A Year in Review: 2017

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2017 was a bit of a whirlwind year. Looking back at it, I remember the early months and then everything post August seems to have been one massive blur.

It’s also been a year that has contained many ups and downs. I’ve had some fab holidays, eaten at some really nice places and had the best time with the friends that I’ve made. But there’s also been some pretty rubbish moments; both due to the ongoing garbage fire that has been the news, and some bad times at work, which have meant that I was quite glad to see the back of this year. However, I did want to look over the highlights of last year, to get me in the zone for taking 2018 by the horns.

A Year in London
In August I marked surviving my first year living in London. I had my worries about living here, mostly focused around how expensive rent is, whether I would find nice housemates and whether the pace would cause me to burn-out spectacularly. 

Fortunately, whilst it is a horrendously expensive place to live and warps your perceptions of the cost of everything (£500,000 for a 1-bed flat? Reasonable!), I have loved being here. I really landed on my feet finding housemates who have become actual, proper friends who have pushed me to say yes to more things than I would ever have before.

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Living here also means you have access to numerous places for food, and this year has been an absolute treat when it comes to eating out (highlights include Gaucho, The Oxo Tower Brasserie, Dalloway Terrace for afternoon tea and The Modern Pantry). I’ve also been lucky enough to see loads of brilliant theatre, and I managed to get tickets to see Arcade Fire at a tiny boxing venue and a great nice watching one of my favourite bands. 

Whilst I can understand that the cost of living here, and the perma-overdraft life can definitely take its toll, the idea of leaving feels pretty unbearable. 

A Trip to Paris
As I mentioned, this year featured two pretty great holidays. The first was a crazily spontaneous trip to Paris for my 24th birthday. Lounging on the sofa with my housemates, I mentioned that I’d never been to Disney or Paris. Somehow within about 45 minutes we had Eurostar tickets, hotel and Disney passes booked. 

Paris is a city I’ve had a bit of an obsession with since I was a teenager studying French at school; it just seemed the height of glamour; and watching numerous films and TV shows that featured it over the years didn’t do anything to dent that perception. 

So, despite the rain and the slightly dodgy food in the Eiffel Tower restaurant, I was beyond thrilled to see this city with my own eyes. Ticking off the Champs Elyees, the Louvre, the aforementioned Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, I had a fantastic 24th. I then thoroughly enjoyed embracing my inner child at Disney. You can read more about the trip here.

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A Trip to Las Vegas
I’m not going to go into too much details about this as I literally just wrote a post about it, but my trip to Las Vegas was a pretty late highlight of my year. Getting to travel ‘abroad abroad’ for the first time with friends and travelling to the US was pretty great. It also meant I could check off seeing the Grand Canyon from my bucket list.

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Having Great Friends
When the going gets tough, having good people to turn to is really important, and this has really showed over the past 12 months. From the above amazing holidays with my lovely housemates; somehow attending a ball in Oxford with my work friends; picnics in Battersea with my school friends; catch-ups with my former work friends that literally lead me to lose my own voice. I feel very lucky to have them.

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Work Work Work
Whilst work has been a little all over the place this year, and I’m currently a bit :internal screaming: about my future, there are definitely moments that I’m really proud of. Writing a document that has a real impact on shaping the future of my organisation; delivering a programme of music festivals over the summer; and finally discovering my backbone. I’m hoping 2018 will see some positive changes in this area.

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Top Books I Read in 2017:
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, an incredible debut novel which explores the history of slavery and colonialism, beginning with two sisters Effia & Esi; one who is sold into slavery, and one who marries a slave-owner.
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, a brilliant part-memoir/part passionate argument for a remodelling of the US justice system is a very important book.
How to be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, I fell head-over-heels for Ellis’ memoir of a life in reading and attempting to find herself in novels.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green, Green’s latest work is unlikely to convert anyone who isn’t already a fan, but I loved this painfully honest look at mental illness
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a young adult novel will tackles issues that I’d never read about in fiction, The Hate U Give follows Starr as she grapples with the unlawful shooting of her friend by a police officer.
Between the World & Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, a blistering memoir of Coates experience of race-relations in the US
Special mentions also need to go to A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles, The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss and Wild Swans by Jung Chang

Top Films I Saw in 2017:
La La Land,
I unashamedly loved this film. Emma Stone & Ryan Gosling are wonderful as the central couple, the music is great and whenever I watch it I get an old-school musical high.
Hidden Figuresa film that I think deserved more attention. Following three African-American women in particular who were integral to the space mission at NASA.
DunkirkI have never been more on edge when watching a film than I was watching this. Fantastic ensemble of performances, incredible score and generally great film-making
Baby DriverAnother film that I feel kind of bad about loving (especially due to recent revelations about Kevin Spacey), but I do. Ansel Elgort is great as the reluctant getaway driver, and the sound design and score is great.
Girls Trip, the best ‘chick flick’ I saw this year. A group of friends has become estranged, and when one is invited to New Orleans to be part of the Essence conference she sees it as the perfect opportunity to get everyone together again.
Paddington 2, just a super adorable, feel-good film.

Top Things I Saw on Stage in 2017:
Hamlet @ Almeida Theatre,
a really beautiful production, led by a truly amazing performance by Andrew Scott
Angels in America @ National Theatre, a real event of theatre which I felt really honoured to see. A fantastic piece of theatrical history and its content remains important.
Jesus Christ Superstar @ Open Air Theatre,
JCS is one of my favourite scores and getting to see it performed (twice) in the magical surroundings of Regent’s Park and featuring an excellent performance by Tyrone Huntley made this something very special.
Network @ National Theatre,
one of the most unique stage productions I’ve ever seen, with a fantastic, timely plot.
Follies @ National Theatre, 
it was great to see a score that I’ve heard so many things about performed live. With stunning costumes and a painfully real plot, Follies was a very special night at the theatre

Amy
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A Staycation in London

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As you may have guessed from the silence that has fallen around these parts; things have all been a bit crazy the past few months. When it got to late September, I became increasingly aware that if I didn’t take some leave from work I would being burning out in quite a spectacular way.

So, about a month ago I decided to take a week off to just enjoy living in London, and to make a dent in my list of places I wanted to visit in the city.

National Portrait Gallery, St Martin’s Place
Whilst London’s museums are places that I’m always happy to visit, there is something about art galleries that make me feel a little bit…unintelligent. However, with a wealth of free ones in London, I really need to move past this and so the National Portrait Gallery seemed like a good place to start.

Going during the week meant that it wasn’t too busy at all, and I could find all those paintings that are so famous; the Tudor monarch paintings (including Elizabeth I and Anne Boleyn), the only portraits of Shakespeare & Jane Austen and the Branwell Bronte portrait of his sisters. It was also really good  to learn more about the abolitionist movement and the British Empire. It’s obviously a bit white man heavy, and the ‘modern’ end gallery is a bit strange (…not sure Ed Sheeran really deserves to be in the same museum as Mary Wollstonecraft), but I did have a really good morning here.

Opera: Passion, Power & Politics at the Victoria & Albert Museum, Cromwell Road
The V&A is my absolute favourite museum (thus far!) in London. I love the variety of the exhibits they have and the building itself is just stunning. I was still a tiny bit nervous about forking out for this exhibition. I’m (perhaps obviously) really into politics, and did a special project at school about the intersection between socio-political context and theatre; but opera is not an art that I’ve ever seen live.

However, I needn’t have worried as this exhibition is fantastic, and definitely doesn’t require you to know (anything) about opera. You’re given a neat audio set; which plays specific pieces of music and audio as you move through the hall. The exhibition takes you on a tour of several European cities, a key opera associated with it and the historical events at the time. I was fascinated to learn about the separation in Italy, to see how little attitudes towards foreigners have moved in the UK and I thought the USSR section was also really interesting. I’d highly recommend this (and the seriously great cafe).

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The Paignation, Cabot Square
My housemates & I are always looking for good places for drinks in our local area, and The Paignation has always been on our to go list due to its really pretty fairy-light festooned exterior.

So we decided to head there for some after-work drinks/after-chilling-all-day drinks on the final day of my staycation. Due to its position in Canary Wharf you can really handily book tables even just for drinks which means you don’t have to awkwardly stand. The drinks are great and it’s within handy stumbling distance of Shake Shack; home of frankly one of the best burgers I’ve ever had

I also went to the theatre three (THREE) times; including twice in one day. I met up with my Mum and we ate more pasta than necessary at Spaghetti House, before checking out the matinee of Dreamgirls. It was my third time, and I just want to say that Karen Mav and Jocasta Almgill were fabulous as Effie and Deena. I also watched Beginning that evening, and followed it with Evita on the Thursday.

The battery reset that this week gave me was so needed, and definitely set me up for dealing with the ongoing (minor) crisis that is work at the minute. What else should I be adding to my London list?

Amy
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24.

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24 things I’d tell my 14-year-old self.

On the 6th March, I turned 24. Which is a wild age to type, as I still feel about 19. 24 makes me feel very much like I’m cosily in my 20s and, somehow, ten years on from my early teens.

  1. Leave your eyebrows alone. Seriously. Step away from the nail scissors. You won’t believe this now, but in a few years people will be applying products to their eyebrows to make them fuller not thinner, and you’ll miss these ‘slugs’.
  2. Listen to your doctor about moisturiser. I know you’re skin is super oily anyway, and idea of adding more liquid to it is horrendous, but your GP is a skin specialist and knows what he’s talking about.
  3. Don’t eat caramel when you have your braces on. You will already have to spend tons of time at the dentist, don’t force yourself to be there more. Plus brace glue tastes grim.
  4. Don’t be disappointed when things don’t go exactly the way you planned. From the age of 13 you will have a carefully planned forward view of your life, and things won’t go exactly the way you wanted. But I promise it’ll all be worth it.
  5. You will find a boy who likes you. More than one. Stop worrying so much about none of the boys you know ‘liking’ you, when you know deep down you don’t really care for them. Good(ish) things come for those who wait.
  6. Don’t worry about being cool. There’s nothing wrong with reading the Brontes and then some chicklit, or blasting Taylor Swift. People who judge people on the things they enjoy are boring
  7. Likewise, never be afraid to be passionate about the things you love. Theatre, literature, dance, fashion. These things don’t stop you being able to have opinions about politics or the Big Issues; they make you a rounded person, and never feel you need to hide this for fear that people will judge you.
  8. Wear the bright colour. Or short skirt. Or lipstick. You can wear all these clothes you look longingly at before buying another pair of jeans. No one will judge you.
  9. You are not too fat to wear shorts. Seriously.
  10. Try to worry less. I know telling you to stop worrying completely is daft, because that will never happen. But try and relax more; you’ll do fine in the exam/the trip out with you friends will be fine/things really will be okay.
  11. Be honest about how you feel. Tell your friends when they’ve upset you. Tell the people you date how you feel about them. Tell people when you’re not okay.
  12. There will be a day when you can speak in front of people and not want to curl up in a ball. You will be in a debate society where you’ll be in the final of a competition. You will get a job where presenting is at least a monthly occurrence.
  13. The people you’re best friends with now won’t always be your best friends. In some cases, you’ll lose touch with them completely. And whilst that will hurt (horribly), you will find others; and all of them will teach you so much.
  14. Trust yourself. There will be a point soon when you change your mind about your best laid plans, and you will face a lot of confusion from people around you for this decision. But stick to it; it will send you to a wonderful university where you will meet great people, study a subject you love and set you on a path to find the career that might just be your thing.
  15. Step away from the Dream Matte Mousse. I know everyone is wearing it, but it does not suit your skin tone, and draws more attention to your skin. Likewise, stealing Mum’s No.7 tinted moisturiser.
  16. MySpace will stop being a thing soon. This is a devastating blow to the hours you’ve spent on the HTML/profile song choice. You will never stop missing those MySpace bulletin quizzes. But maybe stop being so open in your blog posts, people will misunderstand them (sadly).
  17. Your parents have your best interests at heart. They might drive you completely crazy, but they really only care about you. Maybe give them a bit of a break.
  18. The ending of Gossip Girl will be very disappointing. 
  19. Be a little kinder than you have to. To be fair, you do already try hard to be good to people, but keep this up. There is nothing wrong with being kind, and people will always remember you for this.
  20. Don’t stop writing. In your diary, in various blogs, in word documents.
  21. You will never get better at the bleep test. Sorry. Fortunately, though, your PE teachers will stop caring about lessons so much when you hit GCSE years, and you’ll be able to spend your lessons ‘running’ around the field.
  22. You will never be able to drink tequila. 
  23. Never stop standing up for what you believe in. Your opinions matter, and don’t let anyone make you feel like you don’t.
  24. The best is yet to come. Things are going to be a bit difficult for a few years, but I promise, there are so many exciting things to come that I really don’t want to spoil for you, that will make all your hard work so very worth it.

Amy
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Postcards from Paris

Waking up at 5am to get on the early Eurostar to Paris. Getting soaked on the Champs Elysees and having to emergency buy an umbrella from Marks & Spencer (and sneakily use the Dyson hairdryer in Sephora). Unexpectedly finding parks and the Eiffel Tower. Eating a somewhat underwhelming meal on the first floor (good for ambiance though). Taking all the most instagrammable view shots. Going to the Louvre, finding the holy grail, the Mona Lisa and the Viva La Vida album painting. Eating an amazing meal at Le Maison de Verlaine. Discovering Notre Dame is just a fifteen minute walk from the hotel. Going to the jazz club from La La Land. Waking up bright and early for croissants and heading to Euro Disney. Screaming my face off, seeing small children getting super excited at meeting all their favourite characters and buying Disey ears (of course).

Getting to spend my 24th birthday in Paris with my housemates was pretty amazing. It’s a city that deserves leisurely wanders, and I’ll definitely be going back.

Amy
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