Joy in 2013 – A Photographic Review

As this is the final Weekly Photo Challenge of 2013, the theme being ‘joy,’ I thought I would make it special. I already had written a review of the year and included some of these photographs, but I thought that it would be nice to do a photographic review of my blogging year too – these photographs have been taken throughout the year after starting my blog in April, with either the subject itself or the finished photograph that has brought me joy.


Wobbly surveying her territory, May


How The Bloke and I celebrated Eurovision, May


My sleepy little friends, May


The start of a beautiful meal with mum, June


The Bon Jovi stage at Villa Park, June


The London Eye and Houses of Parliament, July


Flats in London, July


A side street in Birmingham, August


A view of Birmingham from the new library, September


A bench in the park, November


The German Market, November


A day in the Spa, November


A stunning sunset, December


Moon, December


Wobbly is absolutely delighted with her Christmas present, December

I’d love to know what you think… Which one is your favourite?

You can also find me on Twitter @Suzie81blog

All photographs are copyrighted to Suzie81

Ghosts of December 23rds Past

I moved to Birmingham in 2001 and so I have travelled up by train on the day before Christmas Eve every year since. Over the years my younger sisters have moved out and have preferred to spend this day with whatever boyfriend they have had at the time, so it has traditionally become a day for me and mum.


My tree this year

Today’s experiences have been very similar to those of the last five years. I got an early train, managing to avoid the mass exodus of half the population of the city, I battled against the high velocity winds and rain that always seems to accompany a visit to Manchester and I witnessed an old lady getting accidentally slapped in the face with an extremely large sausage roll. It wasn’t anything sinister – a woman was eating it, the wind blew it out of her hand and straight into the face of an unsuspecting elderly lady walking past. I shouldn’t have laughed, but I did. (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I’m a bad person). I arrived at my mum’s house to be greeted by her three hyperactive and rather smelly dogs. I immediately changed into a clean pair of jammies, plonked myself on the couch and laughed at the dogs gleefully shredding the stuffed animals that I had brought them from Christmas. Mum made some lunch and after we had eaten we put on a James Bond film and that was the last thing that I remember – I slept for several hours and awoke to Noel Edmund’s ‘Deal or No Deal’ blasting from the TV.

There’s something extremely comforting about being here, even at 32 years old. It’s warm and cosy, the dogs are asleep and as I write my mum is in the middle of her soap opera marathon, which she delights in telling me the storylines, despite the fact that she knows I don’t watch them. There’s an opened box of chocolates between us, the remnants of what was a teddy bear shredded on the floor and I keep getting a hint of pine from the enormous tree that is standing proudly in the corner of the room.

It is this scent that is quintessentially the essence of Christmas, evoking hundreds of memories from years gone by.


The dog shredding his present, with White Christmas on the TV.

We’ve always had a real tree. The house that I grew up in had a large living room and we would buy a seven foot monster and spent hours decorating it, adding to it every year with the various toilet roll based decorations that we had created at school. The 23rd December would be an excruciatingly exciting time – we had bought and wrapped our presents but weren’t able to put them under the tree as we had a beagle, Patch, that once took it upon herself to eat everything, including the bath salts, which she promptly threw up later in the day. Our activities often depended on the weather – it would occasionally snow and my sisters and I would build a snowman, we would watch all the Christmas specials on the TV, we would order a takeaway- a special treat – from the local pizza place and I would spend every December 23rd watching the clock and desperately wishing for time to pass quickly.

As a teenager I attempted to be a little more ‘cool’ about the notion of Christmas, but secretly I was just as excited about it as I was as a young child. I counted down the days, then the hours and then began clock-watching on the 23rd. As I grew older I got a part – time job at McDonalds (not the most exciting job I’ve ever had) and so December 23rds were spent working, after which I would return home with offerings of left over Big Macs and Veggie Burgers, much to the delight of my father.

After I turned 18 and was legally allowed to drink, my sister and I would go out on the day before Christmas Eve, and this was a tradition that lasted for several years. We indulged in many silly activities, but one in particular stands out for me: We had enjoyed a brilliant night at Bar Juice and after eating pizza in a kebab shop we got a taxi home. It had snowed, our house was at the top of a hill and the driver was unable to drop us off outside, so we had to walk the rest of the way. Unfortunately, we were wearing high heels which wouldn’t grip in the snow and in our drunken state we ended up crawling up the hill on our hands and knees, laughing all the way. When we finally managed to make it into the house we were greeted by our less-than-impressed mother who became even less impressed when we both promptly threw up in the bathroom. Classy ladies.

As an adult December 23rds have been difficult over the years. My family split up and consequently relationships have been strained, and in some cases are now non-existent. We’ve lost various little friends – our beagle, Patch, and later our retriever, Ollie, but we’ve been lucky to find three more little friends to share our lives with. I am grateful for being able to spend this day with a wonderful mother and her smelly dogs, and I hope that there are many of these in the future.

In response to the Weekly Writing Challenge

Mix Tape Masterpiece: A Playlist Of My Life

ImageThe theme for today’s Daily Prompt is a playlist that represents you, and I personally love the idea. Music has, and will always be the driving force behind almost every aspect of my life – I teach it, I love it and I have made important connections with others because of it. I truly believe that it is the only universal language on the planet. I’ve discussed MANY times about the effect that music has in my life, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone so far as to create a playlist that represents me. There isn’t a limit and I need to be careful that I don’t go overboard, but hopefully the resulting list (which isn’t in any order of importance) will give you a rough idea of who I am.

1. Don’t Stop Believing: Journey

This song has followed me everywhere throughout my life – it seems to surface at times when I am in a happy place with people that I care about. I would like to add here that the GLEE version does not count!!!

(Video uploaded by gsbajak4)

2. I Won’t Send Roses (from Mack and Mabel): Jerry Herman

This was my grandfather’s favourite song, and my favourite version of it is sung by Robert Preston. It’s a beautiful piece of music and I remember spending many hours at the weekends listening to it (on vinyl) at his flat. It makes me feel at peace and gives me a beautiful reminder of a wonderful man.

(Video uploaded by bernieb48)

3. When Love and Hate Collide: Def Leppard

This song has helped me through some tough times – the chorus in particular contains some harmonies that I refer to as ‘gut chords’ – they’re so pwerful it is possible to feel them in the gut. I have loved it from the first time that I heard it and it is one of my ‘go to’ songs that I listen to when I am in need of comfort.

(Video uploaded by Def Leppard)

4. Adagio For Strings: Samuel Barber

This was the first classical piece of music that I truly fell in love with and one of my greatest memories is playing this on stage with a large string orchestra. Fabulous.

(Video uploaded by Miles Romanus)

5. Over the Rainbow: Eva Cassidy

Lying on a balcony in the hot sunshine in Malia, staring at a blue sky while this song played on the CD player in the background is potentially one of the most truly wonderful moments of my life so far. A stunning voice from a woman whose talents were taken away from us far too soon.

(Video uploaded by JohnWhite67)

6. Bring It On Home To Me: Sam Cooke

I adore this song. This is a song I will listen to in the bath to help me relax. Fabulous.

(Video uploaded by strictlyOldies)

7. Always: Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi are my favourite band. I’ve seen them five times in concert all over the UK and love most of their songs. However, this song has always spoken to me and it is also on my ‘bath’ list, as well as being a song I regularly do at karaoke.

(Video uploaded by BonJoviVEVO)

8. Seasons of Love (from RENT): Jonathan Larson

This was a song that my college choir sang. We all love this song, the harmonies are great and it has stuck with all of us over the years – my friend even had a choir sing it at her wedding. Some of my happiest times.

(Video uploaded by BroadwayWorldSongs)

9. I Can’t Help Myself: The Four Tops

This was a song that I grew up with – my mother is a huge motown and soul fan and so a large amount of my ‘pick me up’ playlist consists of songs like this from the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. I love this song in particular and it reminds me of my mother teaching me how to dance to this in our living room as a child.

(Video uploaded by bol2funk)

10. The Blower’s Daughter: Damien Rice

A stunning, beautiful song. The reason why I have included this particular song is because I feel this passion and intensity that the song evokes.

(Video uploaded by Damien Rice)

I could go on and on – I’ve stopped at ten so you wouldn’t fall asleep, but these are songs that best represent me, my personality and my life.

Pants On Fire: Little White Lies

Most people are guilty of telling lies in life, whether they are used to spare someone’s feelings, save face, avoiding trouble or making oneself feel better.There’s a million different levels of lies, from telling a friend that she looks good in a dress that closely resembles a trash bag, to the monumental porkies told throughout history by various world leaders.

I had several different ideas when I saw today’s prompt. The biggest lies told in history? The fact that both my father and ex were compulsive liars? Lies we tell our children? I’ve already discussed at length lies that I tell my students, interesting lies I’ve been told by students and advertising lies.

Continue reading

On The Edge: Finding My Bliss

I love the title of today’s Daily Prompt – ‘On The Edge.’ It’s certainly how I’ve felt at times this year..

There’s different coping mechanisms that I’ve developed in order to attempt to retain some form of sanity. I use them for different things and at different times – I refer to it as ‘finding my bliss.’

Long hot bubble baths – these are normally perfect in the evening after a long stressful day. Sometimes I’ll simply lie in the hot water and read a book until the water goes cold. Other times require a full pampering session: face mask, deep conditioner for my hair, exfoliation, foot scrub, bath soak… I can quite happily spend hours doing this. I always feel much better afterwards. It’s nice to be able to spoil ourselves once in a while…

Writing. I’ve said this many times before, but when I’m stressed, I like to write. Blogging has certainly decreased my stress level over the last few months. I like the anonymity of it and feel like I am able to truly discuss things that are important (or just plain silly things that I find amusing) without fear of judgement. I generally find it a very therapeutic experience.

Running. The time that I spend running varies – sometimes I’ll set myself little challenges to go further or faster and I often follow the same route. I think about things that have annoyed me that day and mentally beat it up as I move – it’s a brilliant way to release anger and aggression. Unfortunately, I hate it. Even the thought of it makes me die a little inside and I really have to force myself to put my running gear on.  However, when I’m back home, showered (and can breathe properly again) I feel euphoric (my Iron Maiden playlist also helps with this). I actually just got back from a run when the prompt was posted and I’m sitting here feeling good (albeit a bit sweaty) as I write.

Music. This is my absolute passion in life. A fabulous song at any moment is enough to lift the spirits, but I have certain songs that I will listen to in order to relax me and cheer me up. I (very occasionally) play too, but I prefer to listen. I have music playing all the time, and being a music teacher means I have the freedom to include some of my favourite music in my lessons.

A good film. As with music, a film will serve the purpose of making the world disappear for a while. I have a set group of about ten movies that I never get tired of watching. Sometimes i’m in the mood for a good ol’ fashioned ‘chick-flick’, other times I need to have an action film where people get beaten up. When things are really bad, there’s usually only one thing for it: anything that has been made by Disney or Pixar.

Karaoke. Earlier in the year my local pub held a karaoke night on Thursdays and me and the BM became regulars. We got to know everyone and it was an awesome community to be part of. Id return home happy after having a brilliant night. Unfortunately, it was cancelled after only a few months. Every Thursday, I miss it. Occasionally an opportunity elsewhere will come up and we’ll go, and it’s still a fabulous form of stress relief.


Cuddles. Whether it’s with The Bloke or The Cats, a good cuddle goes a long way. And who could resist this little face?

Fabulous Food. Occasionally on a Friday evening me and The Bloke will go to Bar Estillo, our favourite restaurant. The food is wonderful, the cocktails are fantastic and the atmosphere is lovely. I particularly love the patatas bravas and the Amaretto Sours cocktails, with the white chocolate and dark chocolate mousses with biscotti. Can’t beat it. We always return home relaxed, rested, and usually feeling a little sick.


Friends. A good night with good friends is always good for the soul. I wrote about this in a previous post, and I’ve included the link. I’m very lucky in that i have a wonderful group of friends and I love spending time with them – meeting for meals, drinks, going to the cinema, dancing, fancy dress… They’re certainly an entertaining bunch of people!!


And when I’m in need of a break – I visit my mum (not that I visit her when I’m stressed – I visit her to catch up). She buys my favourite food in, we have a good chat, I have a lovely sleep and I always feel much better. Oh, and the lure of the three gorgeous (if somewhat stinky) dogs that she has helps too.

There you have it – ten ways I ‘find my bliss.’
Picture Credits:

Never Again

I normally enjoy most things that I do, but one thing that I’ve never really warmed to is walking or hiking over long distances. My mother adores going for long walks and I remember having to participate in many of them as a child and young teenager.

It wasn’t that I didn’t enjoy exercise – I regularly played badminton, went to karate classes and I swam several times a week, but there was something about simply walking that I found boring and tedious.

One of my closest friends at school found an advertisement for a walking group and she begged and pleaded with me to join her. She was exercise obsessed, I was weak-willed and consequently one Sunday I found myself stood on the top of a hill with a group of strangers. We went through the introductions and polite conversation, and then we walked. And walked. And walked. FOR EIGHTEEN MILES.

What I had assumed was that ‘a walk’ would mean a leisurely stroll across the hills for a few hours. Instead, these people were machines. They set off at a pace that would have put them in competition with Olympians, and sometimes I almost had to jog to keep up whilst attempting to avoid an epic amount of goat poo. It was cold, it was windy and I returned home with blisters the size of two pence pieces from my mother’s hiking boots and an absolute promise to myself that I would never participate in anything like that again.

I’ve stayed true to that promise, and I can guarantee that the only time you’ll ever see me up a hill whilst wearing hiking boots is if… No, it’ll never happen.

Picture credit: The Great Outdoors.