We have just come back from a long-long-weekend in Lydford, Devon… and it was a little more eventful than planned!
Things Wot We Did:
Turned the car into a boy racer…
…and then got assistance in making the boy racer slightly less, well, exhaust-dragging-on-the-ground-style… by a bunch of Polish moving crew, who turned up with a large length of wire and a beaming smile to bodge everything back together so we could get to the campsite…
Managed to not burn beans
Gave some alpacas a shower
Did burn sausages
Met Big Dave (who was, indeed, a Chonk)
Got grumbled at by Mr T
Turned the Otter into either Vincent Van Gogh or Adrian Stephen, we’re not entirely sure which
Lost Dartmoor (it did reappear later on)
Didn’t eat dinner with the Devil – the cauldron was broken
Got sat on by a sheep
Climbed up way too many hills
Climbed down way too many steps
We were staying in Lydford Caravan and Camping Park, which was lovely – we bagged a great spot for the tent with a lovely view, and it was a really nice location. Everyone there was so helpful too! (Mostly with helping us find a garage so we could stick the exhaust back on and get back to Oxford…) and it’s a really nice little village. We tried the local pub (The Castle Inn) which does great fish&chips and a pint or two of the local cider, and also had a very friendly cat that we said hello to.
We spent a morning with alpacas at Lydford Gorge Alpacas, run by the wonderful Helen. Mr T was not exactly feeling the trekking bit, so we went to play in the stream instead, and then got to help give everyone a shower – and met a sheep! (Snowball. VERY floofy!) Walking back through Lydford Gorge was beautiful – it’s well worth a trek, and the walk from the waterfall side to the Devil’s Cauldron is the best (as it’s down by the river, and has the best views!)
And then we got to see OTTERS and more OTTERS and some more OTTERS and the SQUEAKIEST BUNCH OF OTTERS and it was fantastic! We started off at Dartmoor Otter Sanctuary, where we got to meet a whole bunch, see some swimming (they have an underwater viewing tunnel and it’s fantastic – we had one point where two lots were swimming either side! They are so elegant, even when trying to gently murder each other) and also met a bunch of British otters, who included the aptly named Big Dave. (Think raccoon, basically!)
And then over to Dartmoor Zoo, where we met a bunch of lizards, spotted a snoozing tiger and a bunch of fluff that was probably a wolf, got (thankfully) ignored by the lions, saw the cutest Burrowing Owl chick (SO FLUFFY AND SO GRUMPY) and then got to feed the noisiest and most adorable bunch of otters! They were so cute, although the keeper did stop us out of sight to explain everything, as you can’t get a word in edgeways once the collection of general chaos in otter form spots you & the dinner bucket…
We also got to wander round Okehampton while picking up the (mended) car; headed over to the Eden Project for a lovely day looking at a ridiculously huge variety of trees; and generally got to admire a lot of really really nice scenery! We took the scenic routes wherever possible, and it’s totally worth the extra 15-30 minutes of driving; so many wonderful bridges, cliffs, valleys and views…
We are now home, got told off by the cat (who of course then had to sniff everything) and have managed to dry the tent out. A good few days away – even if a little* stressful!
*Home managed to be a bit stressful too, as our cat-sitter forgot to feed Bobble at one point… thankfully another neighbour stepped in and he’s fine, but oh boy did we hear about it when we got back!
Long time no speak! It’s felt harder and harder to update here; partly because I feel like I’ve got nothing happening, partly because a lot of what I want to say is either nebulous or Not A Good Idea or just eh, and partly I’m struggling because it’s a should… and I have enough of those in my life! (Although having said that I have Nothing Happening, this has turned into quite a long post… I should update more often!)
But February has got here, and the snowdrops are coming up, and there’s been a few slivers of sunshine, and the cat has been enjoying his radiator bed. Let’s do some Happy Things!
1.I got Animal Crossing New Horizons: Happy Home Paradise extension, which has been fun! It kept me sane over Christmas and I decorated a bunch of houses, which was great. I have been playing it a little more recently – I’m currently engaged in a war against the ever-expanding tulips, and also a minor war against Tom Nook: I refuse to pay THAT AMOUNT to extend my storage! Which means curating my storage… but then I can sell almost anything at the shop, so that’s been fun. PAY ME FOR MY RUBBISH, RACOONS!
2.Sewing! I have started cross-stitching again; using patterns mostly, but I found some mega-cute ones, so that’s fine. The pic here is from MimsiDesign on Etsy, but there’s been a bunch of cute (and mostly cat-themed…) ones that I’ve found – not sharing as some of them are going to be presents!
3.Planning holidays! My Advent Calendar for the Otter last year was Experiences, and so they’ve got vouchers for trips all over the place, ranging from small day-trips to see sheep or (lots of) otters, to a suggestion of a museum in Antwerp (hopeful for an autumn trip with my family!) and llama-trekking in Dartmoor. It’s been good to look at the year and see what we can do, and at least pencil things in.
4.Work has actually been ok! I feel like I’m settling in more; I still very much dislike Elsevier as a company and frankly it’s infuriating how badly my department is treated (we’re basically forgotten, despite doing a lot of the ‘cleaning’ work) but the work itself is relatively easy, my colleagues are lovely, my editors are lovely, and my boss is frankly amazing. (She has checked in with me every two weeks, and last week we actually discussed whether I wanted to take on more work – WHAT IS THIS CONCEPT?) I’m also currently doing some work to see if I can make myself a career, or at least figure out a learning programme for the hour a week that I’ve made sure I’ve carved out. So there’s progress?
(I didn’t end up learning Ruby, by the way, because the bit that they helpfully forgot to mention was that I needed to learn it in two weeks… with a full-time job and a part-time job? Uh, no. And it’s apparently one of the harder languages to pick up – someone’s suggestion on how to learn it was to go and learn Python first! So that was a firm no from me. Life is far too short to be confused about maths when I have other things I could be doing.)
6.Shall we do some more? MUSIC! I’ve been enjoying the compilations on AlexRainBird’s channel, and they’ve introduced me to a bunch of new artists – some of whom haven’t got much out so I’ve just been buying singles, but some have albums! I had found that listening to the same music as I’d been stressed or depressed to wasn’t helping my recovery, so trying to find new things has been great.
6.Organising! I am broke as fuck this year due to a couple of things I didn’t expect (yay taxes!) but I have a spreadsheet, and Plans, and I actually feel sort of in control? Or at least like I’m in a position to be able to make decisions based on a firm base, and I know how I’m building everything up this year. We also had a couple of house opportunities come up (one of our favourite neighbours is sadly moving) but it felt good to be able to confidently say “No, that’s not right for us” and also know where we stand if something does come up. That said, the Otter found the Best House Ever – it was filled, floor to ceiling, with books. They were a little bit sad when said lovely neighbour (who is the Sensible Person around here) pointed out that the house was unlikely to come with the books.
7. We’ve also been making some household changes – we recently switched from Botley Community Larder to Oxford City, and I am IN LOVE – Botley finished at 5 and always treated me like an unwelcome nuisance for daring to Have A Job and only being able to get there at 4.45 (which also involved a lot of stress and rushing for me), and then never had much food left… and Oxford City are open until 7, had everything plus extras, plus are super nice, and I got our usual bits plus an entire box of not-quite-going-off mushrooms (seriously, they did us for four meals) and three boxes of Coco Pops and a mango and it really is the small things that make me happy! And I’ve been checking out the various subscriptions that we have, what we can get in bulk, what we actually use… I mean, I don’t think it will help much in the crazy year that’s heading for us, but at least it’s a bit of savings that we can spend on cat biscuits. (Look, I know the household priorities.)
(Also if you’re in Oxford, see what your closest larder is! There might be similar schemes in other places – it’s a community larder rather than a food bank, and the aim is to use surplus food: so anything going out of date, weird labels, overstocked, simply can’t be distributed for some reason… we ended up with a bagful of Starbucks iced lattes one week, a huge bottle of Costa chocolate syrup, Waitrose bread, more limes than anyone can do anything with, a fridge full of potatoes (not all the larder’s fault, I admit) and Christmas Pudding flavour chocolate – in amongst normal veg, tins and bread. It’s brilliant.)
8.More Oxford – going out! I’m still being careful, and have been sitting outside/going to quiet places when possible. But over the last few months I’ve been to Shin (fantastic Japanese food), Coffeesmith (best chai latte I’ve ever had), finally got into The Missing Bean (weekday lunchtimes is where that’s at – don’t even try on a Saturday!) and a friend and I have a favourite place for breakfast on Saturday, but I’m not going to tell you in case everyone starts going there. (Ok, ok, it’s the Organic Deli. They do the best pancakes.) Jamona also do great Indian, and I’m still a big fan of Taberu (Japanese – really good sushi!) I feel like I’m starting to get to know the city a bit more, which is nice.
9.I’m writing this on Valentine’s Day, so I’m going to gush: the Otter is just wonderful. Actually being able to talk to someone, and have a conversation about issues/feelings/emotions/what the problem might be/previous history that could be affecting something/how something makes you feel – both good and bad! – is really nice. It’s also really nice to be able to have discussions about anything and actually feel both listened to and responded to. So they’ve been cute, wonderful and generally adorable! (They’re also now working for the OED rather than in computer games, and so much less stressed! That’s been wonderful too.)
10.And a final one: the Grumpiest of Grumpy Cats is, you will be pleased to know, still Grumpy. We also have confirmation that he looks like a walrus (I don’t yet have a comparison pic to confirm that, but I will get one) and is thankfully less chonky than previously (he was approaching 6kg! Now 5.3, much to his disapproval.) He’s absolutely loving his life; 7am sharp is cuddles on the sofa, 9am is morning snoozes on a warm lap when the Human starts work, and then it’s a flexible schedule of radiator naps, yelling breaks, occasional trips to the biscuit-bowl to refuel, back to napping on a lap until dinner, and then a post-dinner snooze in the radiator bed until bedtime in a blanket nest on the sofa. We’re very blessed to have had lockdown with his company, although I’m starting to transition back into a day into the office every now and again, and that is going to require Explanation… (or biscuit bribes when I get home. Both work.)
And a Kate update: As you may be able to tell, I’m feeling… better? Occasionally (ok, frequently) manic, and I definitely have more energy; I spent two hours on Sunday being a whirlwind of chaos and cleaned the entire house, and still had energy after…it was a bit strange. I’m still crashing occasionally, but it’s “I need a nap” rather than a full-day crash, which is good. I’m over six months on Citalipram, and it does seem to be the right base for me; we’re experimenting with doses (I’m currently dropping it a bit, as the manic has got a little too manic) and we’re just going to see how the next few months go. (On which note, my doctor is lovely.)
I’m still grey, though. Nothing really gets through, and I still don’t really know how to feel with anything. I’m struggling with motivation – I can just read Reddit or play Carcassonne and it’s just… existing. Sewing has been good, because at least that’s producing something while existing, and it’s fairly mindless. But I haven’t written, don’t really read, and can’t focus long enough to watch anything – even Ghibli isn’t great. I manage some games, but can’t really get into longer ones; Patchwork and Carcassonne have been my go-tos. I’ve got a couple of projects that I’m really excited about, but I just can’t summon the enthusiasm to tackle the huge pile of obstacles to even figuring out if they’re feasible. (Sorry, Dad. I know you did loads of work on the box and I haven’t looked at anything else for that project yet!)
But then I do also wonder how much of it is the depression, how much is the fact we’re LIVING IN A FUCKING PANDEMIC, and how much is recovering from a three-year severe burnout. So I’m trying not to expect too much, and just appreciate that I’m a lot better than I was a year ago. (And very thankful to be in a better place, too; still dealing with bursts of anger and frustration, still dealing with guilt, still very upset over the whole thing. TL;DR: sucky job did some long-term damage. Quelle surprise.)
Everything is getting better, I think, or at least my energy is on an upward trajectory and I’m definitely not as bad as I was in terms of mental health. But I’m still very much just keeping going, and just putting one foot in front of another. But hey ho, sunshine is on the way! And the cat is cute (and grumpy), so that’s always a win.
Well, it’s me and Romans, which meant I was very happy… but after visiting Mr Gladstone, the Otter and I trundled over to Chester for a couple of days!
We walked the walls (several times), found the Rows, three charity shops, two jumpers and no books (I was a little worried about the book-loving Otter after that, but I think he got an overdose at Gladstone’s), ate fresh donuts and wandered round a Christmas market, dodged the drummers (loud enough to be heard two streets away, though) and sat by the river, and I got to squeak about the amphitheatre, walls, towers, gateways, street layout, armour, language, religion, invasion, Druids, Crazy Romans and general chaos that was classical Roman Britain. We also saw two centurions and a gaggle of small new recruits with foam swords in a very straggly line… and learned that the ‘orrible Celts used wee in their hair, urgh! (And that children are terrible at figuring out who’s in the front and back rows of said straggly lines.)
We did also ponder what Wild Beasts could have fought at the amphitheatre. Screw the lions, I’d bet on a really pissed-off badger winning against anyone…
We stayed at The Boathouse, which was lovely – the pub itself is right on the river with some lovely views, and the rooms are across the car park, so not noisy! We had a really nice evening on our first night; we found two cosy chairs (actually, the whole pub has a wonderfully cosy vibe) and the staff were quite happy for us to stay there for a few hours, reading and occasionally ordering new drinks or nibbles. Breakfast was also lovely, with sunny views over the river both days, and the chance to watch dogs and their owners on the other side of the stream.
We had a fantastic dinner at Hamayuu, which is tucked under the Rows on Watergate Street, and is absolutely recommended. (Also worth booking! – we got in as a walk-in by the skin of our teeth.) I can also highly recommend Melt Town on Music Hall Passage (just off Northgate St) – really good toasties, although you have to be a fan of cheese. The skunk plate above was some of the decoration…!
We got some glorious sunshine, some light drizzle, and a lot of really lovely walks. Chester itself wasn’t too busy and was lovely with the Christmas lights, and it was really good to be able to just wander – particularly after having four very sedentary days while reading/writing.
We headed home via a couple of days with the family (and I got to see some of a different side of Gloucestershire! – for despite the Otter actually growing up about 5 miles from The Pub, I’d never actually been to his area of the world. There’s some nice scenery and cute sheep, which is always a plus.) And then we got home to see a small grumpy lump, who promptly yelled. There was a List of Complaints, which seemed to feature “not enough biscuits” quite prominently… (he had actually had enough. Three people had been verifying that he had enough.) But he has forgiven us now, and everything is back to normal – with lots of purrs!
So a lovely week away, and – even better – when I logged back into my work this morning to 100+ emails… it was fine. No anxiety. No stress. I just trundled through everything, picked up all the threads, and everything carried on. Bliss!
Next up: Christmas! (Argh. How did we get to halfway through December?!)
The Otter and I have taken a blissful week off, and trundled our way through a storm across to Chester, where we are staying with…
Mr Gladstone himself (and robin), at his Library.
“Gladstone’s Library is a unique institution. It is Britain’s finest residential library and its only Prime Ministerial library. It was founded by the great Victorian statesman, William Ewart Gladstone and, following his death in 1898, became the nation’s tribute to his life and work…. A place for serious study or a relaxing retreat for booklovers, the longer you stay, the more you will enjoy Gladstone’s Library. ”
The accommodation is lovely; we’re on the top floor, with a fair-sized room and its own bathroom (and desk, if you feel like sole working!) and there’s a really nice restaurant with breakfast included every day. The common room is absolutely stuffed with books, cosy chairs and sofas, and they’ve been putting the fire on every night (I’m currently writing this curled up in a chair in the common room, with Otter reading a book on the sofa opposite!), but the reading room is also amazing; two quiet floors of academically-stuffed shelves and cosy writing nooks, and a plethora of armchairs in the main rooms in case you want to just read. It’s been fun treading up the spiral stairs and working out which nook to settle into!
There’s some really nice walks around too, and we’re heading out this afternoon (during a slightly-less-windy-and-rainy period – this is Wales, after all) to visit Flint Castle and a beach. I’ve managed to get some writing done, caught up on book reviews and have some more writing planned for the next few days, so it’s been fairly productive. It’s definitely a lovely place to write, though, and because everyone’s here for the same thing, there’s a really nice atmosphere. The staff are wonderful, food is excellent, and it’s just a wonderfully relaxing place to read, write or just chill.
We’re heading into Chester itself for a few days later in the week (Romans! Amphitheatres! Temples! Walls! Shopping! More Romans!) and then heading back towards a grumpy cat – who is being very well looked after, although I’m sure he will be complaining bitterly about his treatment and the instructions we left about biscuit dosages… (he does adore his temporary hot-water bottles; it’s just the dinner portion sizes that he doesn’t like!)
Where on earth is time going? And also has anyone seen my brain? I’m sure I had it here a moment ago…
So what’s happening at the moment in the World of Kate?
Sad news first; my grandma, Molly Moody, passed away last week. I know a lot of my friends met her in Salisbury and as we lived with her while growing up, she was a huge presence in my life. But she’d reached 100 (!!) in August and saw my sister get married in October, and last week had lunch, had a nap, and just slipped away – so we don’t think that’s a bad way to go! The funeral is going to be hard for me (various reasons) but I’ve also been taking the time to just reflect and grieve, so it’s as easy as a loved one passing can ever be.
In more random cheerful news, Things:
I’m learning Ruby! Still in the stage of “wait no I’m thinking of CSS, and now I HAVE TO DO MATHS? WHAT EVEN IS THIS?” but I’m sure I’ll get there.
The cat is still cute, stinky and purry.
Our Kiwi neighbour is home, after almost a year away! We had a lovely burn-up with cake, and I made cinnamon rolls that turned out really well – may have to repeat those…
I’ve been ultra-organised and got my Christmas presents mostly sorted (it’s been a very productive coping mechanism) so that feels good!
Been seeing more friends, which has been lovely, and trying to catch up with people I haven’t seen for a while.
Got some writing time coming up!! We’re going away in December and I will have a dedicated couple of days… so hoping to do more work on Greensky Book 1o, and get that finished!
I had a bit of a rant about my ex-job (aka. Rebellion) on Facebook the other week, and that felt productive – I think I’m slowly coming to terms with everything, and working my way through the emotions. It still hurts and is still hard to process, but I’m just trying to let it all be, and settle. (And also still staying away from social media and the book world, really, because that makes it all worse.)
I found a new series! Another Victoria Goddard, the Greenwing & Dart series – they are wonderful, ridiculous adventures that start small, and end up chaotic! The next one in the series (book 6, Plum Duff) is out this December, so I’m looking forward to curling up with that over Christmas. I also got my hands on the second Scholomance (wheeeeee) and now NEED THE FINAL ONE because what even was that? (Review to come!)
We went for a lovely sunny walk in Wytham Woods – it was an absolutely glorious day! The leaves have started to turn now, and we need to go back.
Beyond that… still grey. Still struggling. Everything’s still just flat. The new medication (c. 4 months now) is working well, in that I have more consistent energy and I’m able to cope, but definitely still Down. But hey ho, we just keep going! I was able to cope well with the wedding (which was lovely, but weddings are Hard!), and I’m hoping the pills will get me through the funeral and Christmas (both very hard things for different reasons) and then we’ll see.
Have a gorgeous sunset, and be kind to yourselves!
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