Fancy Dress

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Sometimes you have years that just slope by lazily, without much changing from one end to the next. Then you get those years where your life feels unrecognisable from the point that the bells struck midnight at the start, to the point where you tuck into the Christmas tree chocolates at the end. This has without a doubt been one of those years for me, in fact it’s been the biggest year of my entire life. On the first day of 2014 I woke up in Panama City. I was half way through 6 months of backpacking, starting in South America and taking in 16 countries through Central America up to the USA. I’d already seen and experienced so much; but felt like I still had so much left to go. Due to being on the opposite side of the world as the year started, I had no idea how the rest of it would unfold. Where I’d be living, what job I’d have or what my life would look like in any way. I certainly had NO idea I’d be planning a wedding! Being a total control freak; the concept of having so little idea or handle on my future is something that would have used to terrify my. But that’s what I mean when I say it’s been the biggest year of my life; travelling taught me so much about my personality and boundaries and lifestyle that basically meant I came back a different (better!) version of me.

Anyway! I could ramble on about my ~feelings~ and ~journey~ for hours but I’m guessing anyone reading this is doing it through a Baileys or mulled-something haze (if not, why not?) so I’m going to keep it simple, and just list some of the big events of this year that I most likely failed to blog about as I have been way more active over on our travel blog Twentysomething Burnouts. I’ll try and keep them in chronological order!

Why are you calling me Beyonce? I said FIANCEE!

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On the 25th January, not long into the shiny new year, Nick asked me to marry him (read all about it). We were enjoying a couple of weeks holiday from travelling (I know, how sickening) on the Corn Islands off the Caribbean coast of Nicaragua. We’d had a lovely meal, then strolled to a secluded beach that we had visited earlier in the day. It was just as beautiful at night. The air was balmy, the sea smelt incredible, and we sat snuggled up doing some star gazing. And then… it happened! Although it’s obviously something we had nattered about here and there, I had rationalised that there was no way Nick could bring a ring with him, so in my head I had completely parked the idea of any proposal speculation. It’s the first time in my life I have been fully speechless (until I yelled YES!) He couldn’t have asked at a more perfect time in our lives and trip. Having spent every minute of every day for the 4 months prior; and supporting each other through close-encounters with scorpions, death defying boat rides, teeny tin-can aeroplanes and 32 hour bus journeys with no air con OR toilets… we certainly knew each other well enough to be confident we can take on anything else in our forever future. We get married in September 2015 and so far I’ve done a bit of planning… and a LOT of obsessively watching Don’t Tell The Bride as research.

A friendly face in deepest, darkest Guatemala

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If I started writing about every highlight of our travels, it would go on for a hundred years and basically be Twentysomething Burnouts. If I started writing about every highlight with a certain Craig Heathcote in 2014, it would also go on for a hundred years. Therefore I will try to keep this section short and sweet! When we had initially announced our travel plans we had tons of people say they’d come out and see us at various points. Obviously then things like real life, work, holiday allowance and penny pinching get in the way; but despite all of those things Craig stuck to his guns and managed to wrangle over a week to join us out in the midst of Guatemala, a place I doubt would have been on his top holiday locations otherwise (to put it in context his mum kept asking, “Where are you going again? Guantanamo?” !)

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By the time February rolled around, I have to be honest and admit that we were slightly waning. We had been travelling at absolute breakneck speed in order to see all of Latin America in a tiny space of time; and sticking mostly to overland travel. Two detours had held us up; the first being an excursion to the Galapagas (yay), the second being Nick’s terrifying back injury in Colombia so as we trucked through into Central America we were racing against time to get to Guatemala in time for our date with a VIP. We hadn’t had basics like hot water for 5 months. We were SHARING a pair of socks. We had gone a month without soap. Everything we were carrying around stank, had holes in it and was bleached with too much DEET contact. We were obviously still loving our adventure, but were fraying around the edges and this meant that Craig’s arrival was exactly what we needed! He arrived with a giant My Little Pony tote bag (soz Craig) that my sister and he had packed full of clean clothes, British treats and stuff to make us smell better. He had magical things like new music – we had been sharing 2 ipods with a total of about 80 songs for months. He had new news from home, updates on all our friends and just a totally different outlook on life. It was so special! You can read all about our actual adventures here and here. Those 10 days are an absolute highlight of our entire trip. Big beers, breath-taking views and places that constantly 1-up’ed each other, wild swimming, late night jungle nattering and being zoomed about in the back of a 4×4. Oh and the time a monkey threw a rock at Craig’s head (and luckily missed!)

Here we go again London

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We were moving to Brighton, then we weren’t. We were done with London, then we weren’t. I wrote all about it here and despite all my previous grumbles with life in the big smoke, I’ve had such a fantastic time since moving back and am so happy that a few twists and turns of fate bought us back here… for now!

It’s my job to read books!

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On the night we landed back in England, I couldn’t sleep. I had a serious case of reverse culture-shock, and a bigger case of jet lagging. Despite the fact I’d planned to avoid any semblance of job hunting for a few weeks of family time, it was 3am and I couldn’t sleep so I thought I’d just take a peek at the jobs on the market. I am so happy I did, because it’s then that I spotted the job advert for a role doing digital and social media bits at Penguin Random House; so after 6 months of not working or even thinking about work I had to attempt to pull together a convincing cover letter and update my CV. As a lifelong bookworm, it’s my dream job. I’m so lucky to work with so many inspiring people and just felt at home from my first day, it’s a very special company indeed and whilst there are challenging moments, it’s made life after travelling a lot easier to stomach. Plus, overtime is… reading! Who can complain about that?

Craigfest

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We had only been home for a month or so when our Craig turned 30! And luckily for all his friends, he did it in serious style. We rented out a beautiful venue in Dorset (um I think…my southern geography is so dire) for a couple of nights. There were bands (including Chime Hours), dancing, ping pong, walks in the beautiful grounds, bonfire, marshmallow toasting and all bunking down in dorms with lots of chattering late into the night/morning. And not even the British weather could dampen the party!

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Not such a Twentysomething Burnout anymore

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I turned 30 in May, officially hanging up my right to call myself a twentysomething burnout. I wrote about it here da da DAAAAAAA, but have come to the conclusion that the hype, fear and build up to 30 is so much worse than actually being 30 itself. In fact being 30 is absolutely no different to being 29, funnily enough! I was a total spoilt brat and milked my birthday for months. I am lucky enough that my eldest sibling Meg is my decade twin, and turned 40 this year. This meant we could throw a party for all of our friends, which Meg masterminded and did all the hard work on whilst I was still backpacking about; an amazing present in itself. The party was 80s Vs 90s movie themed… which sounds niche but it was amazing how inventive our lovely guests were. We had Ghostbusters… The Craft witches, Blue Brothers, Tank Girl, Marty McFly, Edward Scissorhands, THE TITANIC (!), Indiana Jones, When Harry Met Sally, Alien, Leon, Addams Family, Waynes World…. so many more. Meg and I took it in turns on our playlist with an hour of 80s, then an hour of 90s, and back again. I felt so fortunate to all my amazing friends who travelled from up and down the country to croon along to en vogue. The night ended strictly at 1am when the venue turned off the PA. But would we stop partying? No! And so my fondest memory is everyone insisting on screeching their own 90s hits super loudly until we were politely asked to leave… singing “this could be a case for Mald-ah and Scah-lly” at the top of our voices.

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Nick indulged (without TOO much persuasion) my wish to go as Sarah and the Goblin King from Labyrinth, my all time favourite childhood movie. I bought an 80s wedding dress from eBay and he ordered a “Sam Fox” wig from Amazon. He even did an amazing hypnotic dance with the crystal ball in front of everyone. I think he really embraced a bit of Bowie! A super special memory from this year was that after the party we were staying at Meg & Eds, which was just a 15 minutes walk down the river from the venue. Having had a few G&Ts, I decided we may as well just walk despite the time. So I walked in my full on HUGE wedding dress, holding 10 helium silver star balloons, through central London at 1am. Everyone we passed obviously thought we had just got married (I really hope Nick doesn’t take that as a hint to don his Goblin King costume at the wedding for real) and we had people shouting congratulations, asking to take photos and taxis beeping their horns. It was a balmy night, and town seemed to be full of just friendly, well wishing passer bys.

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Yorkshire Day

In the summer I had some holiday days to use up which coincided with YORKSHIRE DAY, the most wonderful day of the year! It was a great excuse to head up north and spend a week quality time with Lol, which I never get to do. We did lots of dancing, watching Ru Pauls Drag race, perfecting or telepathicness to the point of being too lazy to talk out loud, running round giant Asda, making nachos, eating nachos and gallivanting around the moors in the rain.

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End of Cougar Season

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In November Nick caught me up and turned 30. We went to Paris for a long weekend of real animals and skeleton animals (and eating lots of cheese) you can read about it over here and here. I also went on lovely trips to Exmoor, Sweden and Ghent, so haven’t really had too much time to get the post travel blues.

I am still stupid at 30

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Just so this isn’t a boring blog of humble brag-ish boasting (ugh I hope not) I am still monumentally bad at functioning in life. I have had 2 trips to A&E this year, an infected horsefly bite oh… and lets not forget the time I managed to drop a pint glass on my eye from a great height – I was bending down snuffling about in the fridge and knocked it off the side straight onto my eyeball. Cue black eye for a week that gradually turned into a purple eye, a green eye and then a yellow eye.

This has been such a lovely post to write, it’s been so fun reliving the best bits and remembering just how crazy this year has been. I’ve focussed on the ups here, because they are the nice bits to re-live rather than being a moaning minnie. However that isn’t to say there haven’t been downs. It’s been a really hard year in a lot of ways. My battle with the ombudsman over my messed up surgery in 2012 has cast a shadow, as has the fact I will need surgery again (wah) and the pain I still have pretty much most days on some level. A lot of my friends have had tough years and it hurts me to watch the people I love go through rough stuff; even though they are all handling it in really inspiring, impressive ways and it’s usually me wailing away rather than them! I guess this is just to acknowledge the fact that whilst the year on the surface can look pretty perfect, it’s definitely been a huge learning curve in so many ways and I’ve been trying really hard to get better at coping with my anxiety and being a worry wart. Thanks for reading the blog this year, and whilst I haven’t updated as much as I’d like, I can’t wait to tap away over the Christmas break some more.

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Birthday parties are a tricky business. As an auto-pilot anxious type, I love them in theory but then suffer from crippling nerve rattles as the event arrives. I worry that no one will come, that they will come and it will be awkward, that no one will mingle, that the drinks will be too expensive, that the music won’t work, basically every scenario from a bit crummy to nightmare un-recoverable-from embarrassment. I got around this issue by having a joint party with some fellow May-babies for a few years and that helped take the pressure off. That birthday ship has now sailed, so last year I had a solo affair. Wow, could you tell I was a party rookie! I planned it on a Friday night; so everyone was tired from a tough work week and drop outs were rife. Then I didn’t have any dinner. Then I met everyone in a Mexican bar, didn’t eat ANY dinner, and accepted every shot of tequila my generous guests (and strangers) offered me. After probably an hour I was too drunk to stand up and ended the night at about midnight being forced, in a manner similar to how police put robbers in their cop car, into a taxi by Nick. It was such a waste! I had fun, but I could barely remember being there and then felt so horrific and sorry for myself the next day that even looking at cake or wrapping paper made me feel queasy.

Not this year! Surely being the grand old age of 29 is all about learning from your mistakes and this year I was determined to make it my best party ever. My birthday was also on a Saturday which is a precious, rare gift in itself! I was lucky enough to have my brother come to stay from Yorkshire (he hasn’t visited in 5 years!), my friend Manda visisted from Cheltenham (via Paris & Yorkshire) and my best friend & her husband train-ed over from Stoke. Before I even talk about the glorious theme, you’ll be relieved to hear that I stuck to 3 key rules to avoid birthday disaster:

  • Eat dinner: Prior to partying we stuffed our faces at the glorious Chicken Shop where they even put candles in a brownie and sang happy birthday to me!
  • Stick to one genre of drink: I only accepted Vodka, Lime & Soda’s all night. I didn’t veer from this one choice. It was both refreshing and merry making.
  • NO SHOTS FOR GOODNESS SAKE! (I might have had one tequila at Aces & Eights Saloon Bar at 1am to congratulate myself on not being too drunk)

Suzy & Sam

Wes Anderson is my second favourite director (David Lynch clinches #1, sure Wes would totes understand) and I’ve wanted to have a Wes Anderson theme party for a VERY long time but worried it would be slightly obscure. Then the exquisite Moonrise Kingdom came out in 2012 and I felt more confident that people might have heard of him and be up for the challenge. I knew instantly that I’d go as Suzy Bishop because she is a) my new fashion icon and b) I already had most of the clothes. The only thing I had to do was sew cuff/collars to a 60s vintage dress that was sitting unloved in my wardrobe, and I bought a special pair of green (real!) stag beetle earrings from this lovely lady on Etsy. Nick was a trooper and rather than go for someone cool and manly out of The Darjeeling Limited (his favourite) he agreed to wear a questionable fur hat and be the Sam to my Suzy. I bought a £4 khaki shirt from Primark and sewed some vintage scout badges all over it. I also sewed on a felt badger that is actually from a brooch Nick bought for me in the first week we met, when he was off galavanting at End of the Road festival and I was pining away. I think we did a pretty accurate job?

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I was so touched by the effort all my friends went to in order to make my birthday perfect. The costumes they cracked out must have taken days and weeks of preparation and so much thought and care. I got so choked up being stood in a room surrounded by my favourite people all dressed as characters I love so dearly. For the party I hired the upstairs of our absolute favourite local boozer; The Pineapple. If you live in London (or ever visit London) you have to visit this quaint little slice of Kentish Town brilliance. The pub is so kitsch, with pineapples adorning the inside, a conservatory room, tropical bird wallpaper and excellent ales / Thai food. I felt it was important I had a location that Wes himself would approve of; and the old fashioned lantern lamps, open fire, dusty couches and gaping windows were perfect. We also had a sweet little sound system set up, which my brother & Nick’s brother Phil happily took over with some impressive playlists. From the Royal Tenenbaums soundtrack to The Walkmen to Daft Punk’s Get Lucky over and over, there were a lot of drunken Eli-Cash swaying dance moves going on by last orders.

& Here’s a run down of the costumes in all their glory…

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Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom) & Dignan (Bottle Rocket)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 1 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Richie & Margot Tenenbaum – Number 2 (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Team Tenenbaum

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Dudley (The Royal Tenenbaums)

Team Zissou

Team Zissou (The Life Aquatic)

Bird

Suzy Bishop in bird form “What kind of bird are you?” (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Sam Shakusky (Moonrise Kingdom) & Francis (The Darjeeling Limited)

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Richie Tenenbaum & Eli Cash (The Royal Tenenbaums)

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Max Fischer x 2 (Rushmore)

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Richie Tenenbaum (The Royal Tenenbaums) & Suzy Bishop (Moonrise Kingdom)

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Mr & Mrs Fox x 2 (Fantastic Mr. Fox)

It was only right that we gather together for an en masse Westastic group photo, and in-line with his cinematography movie-poster style, dead pan faces all round! Which on reflection makes it look like we were at the worst party ever.

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The best thing was the variety of films & characters my clever friends managed to cover. EVERY single Wes Anderson film was represented. After partying until we got booted out of The Pineapple, the hardcore Wes-dressed hit Aces & Eights Saloon Bar for some power ballads and amaretto sours. An unexpected amount of people came over throughout the course of the night yelling WES ANDERSON at us and it stirred up alot of excitement. It was surprising how many people recognised what the theme was, especially as by the post-midnight point various bits of costume had been lost/stolen/abandoned. I would love to relive the night over and over, and might just force everyone to dress like this every year. I like to think I’m the only person to ever have this theme for a party? Next time I’ll dress a Wes himself…

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