2016-2017; Another year

Another year is over and we’re all trying to find our feet in 2017. As much as I sometimes see the fuss around ‘New Year’ as a bit pointless, I do like the impression of beginning a new chapter that comes with the change of date – generally speaking, as people we have always found new beginnings and clean slates appealing and a motivation for change  (who starts a new fitness programme on a Thursday?).

I have spent the past week or so drafting a list of my own personal ambitions for 2017. Unfortunately I am currently fighting off a rather persistent illness which has left me quite unable to act on most of them so far,  so I thought I would take the opportunity to look back on 2016 in the meantime instead.

From a global media perspective, 2016 seemed a little cursed. Looking a little closer you home however, I am looking back on 2016 rather fondly. I did lots of fun things, caught up with some old friends, took a couple of holidays, got a new job, made progress on the house and made progress on myself too. As I didn’t really get my act together on the blogging front, I wanted to share some of the highlights with you now.

February – Long Weekend in York

In February I arranged to take Pete to York for his birthday to coincide with both the Jorvik Viking Festival and going to see Týr, a band he is a big fan of but never managed to catch live. I was in the early stages of what would go on to be an epic chest infection and pleurisy but still had a lovely time getting away with Pete and seeing York and all the Viking attractions. Unfortunately the Jorvik Viking Centre itself was closed after being badly flooded at the end of 2015, but the rest of the Viking Festival was really interesting and enjoyable – Pete entered the ‘Best Beard’ Competition and was very pleased to come in 2nd place.

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clockwise from left; Micklegate, Emblem of the City of York, Jorvik Vikings
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clockwise from left; Hnefetavl (Viking Chess), Pete as Dick Turpin, Second Place in Jovik Best Beard Competition

March – Chickens!

Since we moved to Wales in 2013 we have toyed with the idea of getting chickens and in March Pete decided to go for it, built a coop with help from a friend and then bought us four hens from a local farm. I was a bit apprehensive at first, but it’s actually been really enjoyable to keep them. It took a few months before they started laying eggs but we haven’t been short of eggs since.

Since we got the first four hens our flock has now grown to 8 with the addition of a cockerel who we hatched from an egg ourselves, two hens that were a gift from a neighbour and one more hen who we rehomed from a colleague of Pete’s who was having to move away and couldn’t take the hen with him.

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The Original flock
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Chipper – Our very own hatchling. Clockwise from top right; hatching day, one day old and four weeks old
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clockwise from top right; me with Chipper at 4 weeks, Mabel & Beauregard, Chipper at 2 and a half months

March-April – A Hen-do & Wedding

At the end of March I went on my first ever hen-do for my good friend Laura. We had a great day and night out in Oxford, starting with a walking tour, then lunch and drinks, followed by cocktail making, a late night tour of the castle then on for more cocktails all followed up with afternoon tea the following day. It was lovely to catch up with some friends I hadn’t seen in ages and to let my hair down a bit!

Although it was a bit of a trek down from Wales to Oxford I returned the following weekend, this time with Pete, to celebrate the wedding days itself!

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Obligatory Hen-do accessories, Cocktail Making, Afternoon Tea

June – Northumberland

In June we went away to Northumberland for a week with my parents and our dogs. We stayed in a lovely cottage near the ‘village’ of Twice Brewed which was within walking distance of part of Hadrian’s Wall. We had (mostly) great weather and spent lots of time out and about and did lots of walking, I clocked more than 100,000 steps on my FitBit and we tired the dogs out thoroughly.

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Playing Shield-Maiden at Homesteads Roman Fort, Alfred owning Hadrian’s Wall, The Sycamore Gap in Hadrian’s Wall near our cottage
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Ruins of Thirlwall Castle, Molly enjoying the sunshine and a sheep outside the garden wall
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Lindisfarn Castle, Cragside, Bamburgh Castle
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Walking along Hadrian’s Wall and a very tired dog

July – Croatia

For the past three years Pete’s research has required him to spend around 3 months every summer living in Croatia and for the first time in 2016 we actually managed to find a mutually convenient time, and the money, for me to go out and see him. So, despite being terrified of flying on my own, I headed out for a week at the end of July which also happened to include my birthday! It was far from a ‘normal’ holiday, but I was expecting that, staying in an old house in the middle of nowhere with no mains anything – water from a tank that needed to be kept topped up, gas from bottles and the only electricity from a car battery in the main living room. I had the best time and it made the summer apart from Pete and Alf so much easier.

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Me & Pete, My accommodation, The meadow next to the house
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Radio Tracking, Croatian Lunch and a baby Salamander
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Plitvice Lakes 
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Clockwise from left; Lake, Birthday wine and epic food

September – Wedding Weekend

Just after Pete returned from Croatia in September we had a mission of a weekend attending two weddings nearly 300 miles apart. It was important to us to be able to attend both so we didn’t mind making the effort to get to both. It was a lovely weekend with great weather on both days and two lovely (and very different) ceremonies. It was strange that having had very few friends get married we had 3 this year, that combined with 2 babies in our close friendship group probably suggests we’ve got to ‘that stage’ in life (not planning on following suit ourselves mind!).

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Wedding Number 1 – tipis in a field in Yorkshire
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Wedding Number 2 – Pete as an Usher at a Church Wedding in Hampshire

Well that’s ended up being quite a lot longer than I expected, but enjoyable for me to look back at all the pictures we’ve taken over the past year. It’s not that nothing good has happened since September, but I thought I’d better reel myself in before this becomes even more of a mammoth post than it is already!

I’ve been saying this for a fair while now, but I really do hope to get back into blogging properly so hopefully this will just be the first of many 2017 posts!

For now I’ll leave you and say Thank You to everyone who made my 2016 so great, and to everyone who might still be reading this.

Happy New Year,

Love

Betty

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We Are Adventuring. We Are Adventurers

“Adventure – Be Your Own Pet”

December ended up being a pretty hectic month for me one way and another, I didn’t get to blog as often as I would have liked even though I got up to some cool stuff I have really wanted to share. Now this stinky cold/virus, that is still hanging around, has been severely impairing my brain function and ability to do most things.
So, I thought I’d break myself back into blogging and try to do a bit of a mini review of the more interesting things I did in the build up to Christmas (mostly around Winchester). In line with my 2011, and now 2012, Resolutions, I’m still trying to make much more effort to get out and do things as part of my plan to improve my mood and enjoy life more, and these are some of the mini-adventures I’ve been on in an attempt to do that 🙂

Ice Skating in Winchester

While Pete was away over the summer, we decided that, in order to make sure we spent more quality time together when he returned, every Tuesday would be Date Tuesday; a day/evening to do something other than sitting on the sofa all evening. So, as soon as I remembered that it was December and that the ice rink was back in Winchester, I booked us in for some Tuesday afternoon skating 🙂
The setting was lovely, with the ice rink set up right next to the Cathedral and surrounded by the little sheds that constitute German markets in this country. We were booked in to skate from 4.15, and so the sun had set and all the lovely Christmas lights were on by the time we took to the ice. Neither of us are experienced skaters, but Pete was much more confident than me and spent most of the time with me firmly attached to his arm.

Winchester Cathedral and Ice Rink
Pete and I (wrapped up warm in my awesome River Island Leopard Print Trapper Hat!)
Warming Up afterwards in the cafe, with tea and cake 🙂
Wearing: Hat, River Island. Top and Cardigan, Dorothy Perkins
Christmas lights near the Cathedral

It actually wasn’t too cold and I managed to not fall over once! Despite being quite scared, I had a really lovely time, especially the yummy lemon drizzle cake afterwards. I ached like nobodies business the next day though (from the skating, not the cake).
We definitely caught it at the right time though, as apparently peak times (mostly weekends) were ridiculously busy, which wouldn’t have been so much fun.

Star Gazing on St Catherine’s Hill

The following Date Tuesday, Pete decided to take charge and took us out to sit on the top of St Catherine’s Hill (near Winchester) in the hope of seeing a meteor shower.Unfortunately, the weather didn’t work in our favour and it was too cloudy to see the sky and too cold for me to wait too long. It was still nice and peaceful to be sat up there, just the two of us and the dog, in the dark, under a blanket, with a thermos of tea. Goodness knows what anyone would have thought if they’d come across us!
I got to take some interesting low light pictures though.

Lights of Winchester from St Catherine’s Hill
The Moon behind some spooky looking trees
More spooky looking trees

Winter Solstice at Stonehenge

Pete and I have wanted to go to a summer or winter solstice at Stonehenge for ages now. While you can usually only go and walk on a set path around the outside of the stones, at the summer/winter solstice (longest/shortest days of the year) and at the two equinoxes (when day and night are of equal length) the site is opened up, primarily for Druid/Pagan worshippers, and you are allowed to get right up to the stones.
This year we decided to take the opportunity, and took Pete’s brother, who lives in New York, and his New Yorker girlfriend along for the experience (as great as NY is, you definitely cannot do this there!).
The biggest downside was the 5am wake up call, to get up and get ready in time to drive across to Stonehenge for 7.30am, when the site opened, and get in position for the 8.09am sunrise. In fairness, I could have got up later, but I wanted to put my make-up on :/
The road alongside Stonehenge was crazy busy, as were the lanes where people were parking. It was clear some of the more ‘hardcore’ visitors had been there at least overnight and had set up camp in their vans, with fires, chairs and cooking stoves. We found a reasonable parking space not too far from the site, hopped the fence (actually I slipped and got a massive bruise on my shin) and headed through the sheep towards the stones.
There were quite a lot of people there, but nowhere near the numbers you see at the summer solstice. While there were a lot of people clearly there for religious reasons, floating around in awesome cloaks with big wooden staffs, there were also a lot of people just there for the experience. There was a ceremony being conducted in the centre of the circle (not that I could really see that through the crowd), music and drums, a fair amount of drinking, and just a generally jovial and good natured atmosphere. We even got offered lavender shortbread by a passing lady in a cloak!

Me and Pete touching the stones
Sunrise through the eastern stones
The Stones

If you ever get the chance, I would totally recommend you head to one of these celebrations at Stonehenge. While the summer solstice might seem the obvious choice due to weather, you will have less chance of actually seeing anything due to the high numbers of people and, also, sunrise is much earlier in the summer than the winter!

Doing the Tourist thing in Winchester

After the sunrise we had a whole day to kill, and, even though my primary instinct was to head straight back to bed, it was decided we would head into Winchester to show Pete’s brother and his girlfriend the sights. Although we’d only been in the city a few weeks earlier, we didn’t actually do anything other than the ice skating.
We managed to fit quite a lot into the day and I was very impressed with myself for managing to keep going and not get shirty with anyone through tiredness. We made a brief round of the Cathedral grounds, saw the statue of King Alfred, visited The Great Hall and saw The Round Table and went round the City Museum.
The statue of King Alfred wasn’t the easiest of attractions to see, being situated in the middle of a road, right next to some rather popular parking spaces, but we got a few good pictures. The Great Hall and Round Table were interesting too, but the City Museum was by far my favourite part of the day. The exhibits were fun and there were lots of things (for kids) to get involved with, including dressing up clothes for each of the different eras!!

Statue of King Alfred
The Round Table in The Great Hall
Pete and I dressed up in cloaks in the Roman section of the City Museum
Playing shop in the Victorian Pharmacy in the City Museum
Trying on a selection of hats in the Victorian section of the City Museum

It was all really good fun, which, given how tired I was, must mean it was a really, really good time. An added bonus, all the attractions we saw were free (statue) or only had donation boxes (The Great Hall and City Museum). FYI, we did make donations! Beware the giftshop attached to The Great Hall though, you could easily spend a lot of money in there!!

That ended up being a pretty long post. Hope you didn’t get too bored!
I’m unlikely to be that busy again for quite a while, due to work load, so you probably won’t get another post this long again for a while.

Hope you’re all well,
Betty
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