2021: A Year in Review

The Bloke asked me the other day of my opinions of the last twelve months. Admittedly, my initial thought was to respond with “dumpster fire.” On a general day to day basis it has been tough. Working from home sometimes means that it is difficult not to get into your own head and can feel like you’re spending 24/7 within the same four walls, and during moments of extreme stress there is little escape. However, amidst the lows there have been a number of highs.

The start of 2021 was indeed a dumpster fire of epic proportions. Within the first month The Bloke got covid (this was before the vaccinations were available) and was incredibly ill for weeks while being quarantined upstairs, two family members had heart attacks (both are thankfully doing okay), the roof in the kitchen started caving in after five years of asking the landlord to fix it and when I lost my temper he put our rent up in retaliation. A few weeks later I had to have a tooth removed – a small filling fell out just before covid hit in 2020 and dentists were closed for months – and after a year the tooth became so damaged the only option was to take it out. 

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Christmas in Narnia at Castle Howard

Earlier in December I took my Mum to York for her birthday. This was something we had been planning for a while – neither of us had visited before and it was a great opportunity to spend some time together as we hadn’t seen each other in person since June.

Part of the trip was to explore Castle Howard. Mum had wanted to visit since watching the Brideshead Revisited series in the 80s which was filmed there (in fact, it has been used as the location in many movies and TV shows, most recently serving as the family home of the Duke of Hastings in Bridgerton), and I discovered that there was a Christmas in Narnia event taking place at the time we wanted to go. Perfect. I booked us a hotel in the centre of York so that we could also explore the city.

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A Pre-40th Birthday Trip to London

I turn 40 at the end of November. I’m not phased by the prospect of it, but instead of my usual birthday request of taking the day off and doing nothing except watching my favourite films and eating my favourite food I wanted to do something special to actually acknowledge it. 

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Intentions

I wake up each morning full of enthusiasm and intentions and tell myself that I’m going to write a blog post today. I get up, turn on my laptop… and then it’s 6.30pm and I find myself finishing work for the day and feeling mentally spent. It isn’t that I don’t want to blog – even after eight years I still get an enormous buzz from pressing the ‘publish’ button, but it has become less of a priority as other things have taken over. I’d like to change that, especially after receiving so many nice messages from bloggy friends who were wondering where I’ve been.

As I haven’t posted for several months, there’s a lot to talk about. 

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Exploring the Holy Austin Rock Houses at Kinver Edge

Exploring the Holy Austin Rock Houses

The Bloke and I have been watching George Clarke’s National Trust Unlocked series and were particularly intrigued by his feature on the Holy Austin Rock Houses, especially when we discovered that it was only a forty minute drive from where we live.

Kinver Edge is home to the last cave-dwelling population in England, with a number of cave-houses carved into the local red sandstone.

According to the National Trust, the earliest record of people living in the rock houses is from 1777, when Joseph Heely took refuge from a storm and was given shelter by a “clean & decent family,” describing how the location of the rock houses provided open space and a better quality of air than the village situated below. The houses “warm in winter, cool in summer” and generally dry, had access to water from the well and later, gas, but no electricity. Sanitation was by earth closets. Continue reading

Daily Gratitude Challenge Day 7: Travel Experiences

In an effort to inject some positivity into my daily mindset and the online world I have created a Daily Gratitude Challenge and I am inviting everyone to participate. If you have missed my introductory post that explains the challenge and maps out the daily post schedule, visit here.

What travel experiences are you most grateful for

Day 7 is all about the travel experiences you are grateful for. Travel wasn’t really something that was particularly important to me until my late 20’s – I had been on some package holidays to a few places abroad but never really took the time to explore anything while I was there, preferring to focus on sunbathing during the day and partying at night. However, a trip to America on a school trip that I was supervising introduced me to all of the incredible things to see and do while visiting a new city, even more so when a natural disaster left us stranded for a while (and gained us an invitation to the White House). Since then, travel has become high in my priorities and I am incredibly grateful to have seen and experienced some amazing things. Continue reading

A Weekend in Manchester and Some Personal Time

It’s been a while since I blogged without purpose. I’ve missed it – the act of writing has always been therapeutic. On a personal level I’ve been busier than ever – I’ve met a whole bunch of brilliant people and my workload has reached capacity, which is amazing, but the downside of this is there’s little time for doing nothing.

I received a message from my friends from 6th form to meet up for a meal in Manchester – we have known each other for over twenty years and have stayed in contact, meeting up every so often to catch up. They’re a great group of women – all are doing well for themselves with families and jobs, and I love the fact that even though I don’t see or speak to them for months at a time, we slip back into conversation as though I had seen them yesterday.

I decided to make an extended trip out of it and booked myself into a hotel room for the night. To my recollection there has only been a single time I’ve done that during the time The Bloke and I have been together (which was when he had a minor heart operation) so the concept was somewhat of a novelty, despite the fact that The Bloke is more than supportive of any time I want to myself. Continue reading

40 Before 40: The Bucket List

40 Before 40 The Bucket List

When I first left my job to become self-employed I created a Bucket List. Some of it consisted of small goals that were designed to push myself forward in my new career path, while others were seemingly far more outrageous and frivolous at the time, being included in a ‘pipe dream’ section at the end.

Rather unexpectedly I managed to complete the entire list, with the final item being ticked off after I had the chance to meet Dolph Lundgren – my ultimate celebrity crush of 30+ years – in December 2017. However, since then I haven’t really focused on major goals, instead choosing to go from day to day with little direction other than getting through the month ahead.

In November I turned 38 and so I decided that I would create a 40 Before 40 Bucket List – 40 things to see, do and achieve before I turn 40 years old – in which I have just under two years to complete. I’ve seen quite a few of them online and after a period of time of feeling like I have little direction this seemed like the perfect solution: acknowledge what I want to do… and do it. By putting it in a public forum I am making myself accountable to not only myself, but for those who read and follow Suzie Speaks regularly. Continue reading

2019: A Year in Review

As I was creating my Bullet Journal spreads at the beginning of the year I decided to incorporate a Memories and Highlights page, not only to keep track of all the positive things that I experienced, but also to serve as a gratitude list. I have diligently filled it in all year.

It turned out to be invaluable. I haven’t particularly felt like I have enjoyed this year very much and my mental health has been low at times, but being able to look at an entire page of experiences, events and things that have brought joy to my daily life has successfully served as a reminder of how much fun I’ve had and how lucky I am. Granted, there have been a few things personally and professionally that haven’t been pleasant, but these have been far outweighed by the positive.

Here are just some of the fantastic things that have happened in 2019… Continue reading

Christmas Silliness at the German Market

The German Christmas Market arrived back in Birmingham a few weeks ago. Over the years it has become a source of debate among the locals (of which, after nearly 20 years of living in the city I now consider myself to be a part of). Like Marmite it is both loved and loathed in equal measure, with the call for the now duplicated stalls to be replaced by some of the many incredible independents that the city has.

I’ve never been one to stand around in the crowd to drink Gluwein, but I do try and visit at least once a year. I like the atmosphere, the lights and – of course – a rather massive German sausage followed by chocolate and banana crepe and some of those yummy mallow chocolate-covered things. And poffertjies. And large slabs of garlic bread that creates breath so potent that it could kill a vampire at one hundred metres. Continue reading