Monday 2 January 2023

2022 Round up: Places

After two years of having to think every trip through carefully, attending untold numbers of events online instead of in person and cooling my heels on holidays in Britain (I would call this a staycation but I don't want to excite any pedants so will not), 2022 was the year I finally felt like there could be time around and about the place. And, true to form, I managed to get away somewhere at least overnight in every month of the year. I visited all four parts of the United Kingdom. I camped in a new palatial tent that has its own front room. I went skiing again for the first time in two years and I hadn't forgotten how to ski, thankfully. I went to two teaching conferences. Only two planned trips were cancelled - a skiing inspection visit at Easter that was called off due to the P&O palaver; and the camping weekend I had planned in Snowdonia, when I realised nobody else was likely to be coming with me. Not too bad at all, considering the past couple of years. 

(While I am a lover of a selfie, as we all know, I have made a conscious choice to share mainly pictures of just me in this post, where possible, as some people prefer not to be pasted too liberally all over the internet, I mean you Mr Z). 


A little Belfast weekend to see my friend Naomi and meet her new baby, Bethan. Here I am in the museum with an actual cannon from the Spanish Armada.


Finally ditched British shores and headed to France for some much longed-for skiing, in Les Carroz. 


A night and day in Tamworth to update my ski qualification.

A weekend in Manchester for a teaching conference.


A weekend in Portsmouth. 

A couple of days in the Gower, instead of what should have been a second week of skiing. 

A quick visit to London to get a hair cut and catch up with the fam.

Wonderwool weekend in Wales, incorporating a wander around the Four Waterfalls walk. 


A minibreak to a lovely spa hotel in Bucks, so Mother Hand and I could visit Bletchley Park. 


A weekend in Scotland to visit Jen and fam.

A very quick trip to London to see Six at Hampton Court - original cast, just awesome.

Several nights in Birmingham for exam board meetings - both good to be back and frustrating to be back, particularly since this coincided with the rail strikes. I surprised myself by choosing the gym over breakfast after the first day, I'd forgotten what it's like stopping in a hotel, they did not stop feeding us. 


A weekend in the Gower with Rachael and Alex.


The big Iberian road trip: we caught the ferry from Portsmouth to Santander, staying there a few days, then on to Oviedo via Gijon, then a few days in A Coruna with day trips to Santiago de Compostela, Lugo and Ourense, then on to Vigo where we left the hire car, catching the train to Porto for our last few days. Great fun exploring, my favourite part being the As Catedrais or Cathedral Beach, which we made it to for sunrise and low tide. Just awesome. 

On my return, I hopped off to Croyde for a couple of nights' camping in my new tent (bought for a jaunt to Snowdonia earlier in the year that didn't go ahead in the end).

Then Portsmouth. This was not a pleasurable trip as it ended with me dropping Mother Hand off at hospital, where she remained until November. 


Portsmouth, twice. Thanks goodness for the beach, where I went for swimming after most hospital visits. I even saw a seal in the water one evening - a first for me. 


Portsmouth. I was able to bring Mother Hand home for an afternoon.

London, for a hair cut and a niece catch up.

Scotland with Mr Z for our first holiday since 2019. We stayed at a glorious hotel on Loch Ness; this is from the coast near Inverness.

Portsmouth, again. I spent the weekend at home with Mother Hand, ahead of her coming home permanently, phew. 


A weekend in Oxford for an education conference.


Portsmouth for Mother Hand's birthday. 

London for a couple of days betwixtmas, for family catch ups.

Fingers crossed for Costa Rica in 2023...

Sunday 1 January 2023

2022 Round up: Knits

It hasn't been the year of the knitting. I was working on the same jumper for the whole year - I finished it in the first week of December. I don't even know why it took me so long. I love the jumper, it's a pattern I've wanted to knit for years (Milou), the yarn the lovely...meh. I thought I had lost my knitting mojo but then, in the part of the year left when I'd finished the jumper, I managed to knit some mittens, a toddler jumper, a baby cardigan, my first attempt at brioche in the form of a hat and one hexagon (2021 me is very disappointed with 2022 me, who was meant to continue the streak and get it all finished). 

I don't even have a picture of me wearing the finished Milou, although I have been wearing it a lot. Here's an old picture of it, from May, when I finished the body and started the sleeves. Seriously, how did it take me 6 months to knit a pair of sleeves?!

In the middle of the year I took a brief pause to knit a hat and a headband from a ball of yarn that the textiles teacher at work gave me as a gift for swapping car parking spaces with her (car parking is extremely tightly controlled at school, I'm not just anal about my space, promise). She also gave me a bottle of wine but it was the yarn that I was most pleased with and I didn't want it disappearing into stash, so I whipped up a hat for a friend who'd had a particularly nasty lost pregnancy and needed something bright, and then a headband with the rest. 

Then the December binge. I've made a montage of these because I can't get the pictures aligned to my satisfaction using the Blogger editor. 

The jumpers are in my favourite workhorse yarn, Rico Aran; Lara's has some of the ladybird buttons on the shoulder that I bought at Wonderwool this year. The hat was knitted from Adriafil Pascal, a chunky yarn I found in the wool shop in Bath, I just loved the colours; the pink strand is Coopknits and wow, that pink is amazing. I love the contrast. I knitted most of the hat in the recommended needle size, then ripped it back and started again one size up as it was a little bit tight. This has gone to Mother Hand for Christmas. The mittens are from a luscious skein of Triskelion baby alpaca, purchased at Wonderwool in 2015. And the single hexagon, though pleasingly, I have done another 3 and a half today whilst watching the first series of Happy Valley. 

So, I guess I finished strong. I am going to knit a couple more fronts for the Presto Chango before my new nephew grows out of it, then I fancy the shawl I wound the wool for 1+ years ago, and after that I might make a start on the ripple blanket. It's about 2,800m out and a bit more than double that in, sigh. But I guess I am just stashing for retirement, right?

At least that total should be easy to beat in 2023 (famous last words). 

2022 Round up: Reads

Having totted up my reading for the year I find the list is longer than I was expecting, in no small part due to the large number of audiobooks I've managed to get through. This represents a little bit of learning about myself: that I am not good at finishing non-fiction (not really news, I've know this for years) but that I am good at listening to it in the car. I can get through an audiobook in about 2 weeks of driving to and from school and, given that I was driving to and from Portsmouth regularly in the autumn and that my favoured swimming spot is an hour's round trip, sometimes faster. This is also partly due to the fact I cannot stop Audible from taking my money and the credits expire which is really irritating, but considerably less so now I am listening to the books. 

Here's the round-up, then:


The Betrayals by Bridget Collins

The Drowned City by KJ Maitland

Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Katherine of Aragon: The True Queen by Alison Weir

The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman

Resurrection Men by Ian Rankin

A Respectable Trade by Philippa Gregory

Black Mamba Boy by Nadifa Mohamed

Company of Liars by Karen Maitland

Tidelands by Philippa Gregory

The Fortune Men by Nadifa Mohamed

Life, Death and Vanilla Slices by Jenny Eclair

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

So, I think we can safely say my genres are crime fiction and historical fiction, then. The Betrayals was a gift from Sib and I read it immediately before I put it on a shelf and forgot about it. The Osman books are marvellously well-written. I didn't love the Weir, I think I know the history too well and the book was extremely long (as was her reign I suppose) so it really dragged. My friend Caroline leant me the Jenny Eclair and it was a light-hearted tonic for the autumn. I think Cloud Atlas and Black Mamba Boy tie for best read of the year; maybe Mohamed slightly pips it. I loved Cloud Atlas a lot but it took a while to get going. Black Mamba Boy just blew me away, right from the start. Highly recommend (though there is one extremely violent episode in it, fair warning). 


4000 weeks by Oliver Burkeman - a book about not worrying too much about productivity. I didn't finish it but there was a great point in there about work filling the time you give it, and therefore you may as well give it less, because it will never be done anyway. Profound. 

Natives by Akala - I have a paper copy of this book but found it much easier to have it read to me by Akala himelf. Some gems in here for teaching Politics and History, as well as just understanding Britain better, eg Akala mentions that shift in dominant ethnicity of Black people in Britain, away from Caribbean and towards African.

Brit-ish by Afua Hirsch - I found with this one that I was happily getting to a point, often, when I knew what Hirch's point was going to be. This usually happens when my reading has started to sink in. Another audiobook narrated by its author, always a winner.4

The Second by Carol Anderson - all about gun laws in America and how they both reflect and reinforce a racist system. Full of history, strong interpretation, quite scandalous in parts. 

The Secret Lives of Church Women by Deesha Philyaw - accidental fiction choice. Short stories. It worked well for journeys to and from work.

Beyond Belief by Jenna Miscavige-Hill - continuing on from my 2021 audiobook theme of women escaping cults (see: Educated (the best) and Unfollow) I tried this one about leaving Scientology but it was not my favourite. 

The Book of Trespass by Nick Hayes - my current listen, this book is amazing. Just amazing. I love it. Each chapter involves the author trespassing on another piece of land and telling a story about land ownership and common rights in England. I love it. 

Special mention should also be given to other audio treats of the year - The Coming Storm podcast on BBC Sounds; the serialisation of The Dark is Rising, also on BBC Sounds (broadcast in 17-minute chunks across the Christmas period and absolutely superb); various episodes of the Intelligence Squared podcast, namely interviews with William Dalrymple, Olivette Otele and Dipo Faloyin. 

I also started (but did not finish) half a dozen non-fiction books in hard copy....I expect they will pop up on the 2023 audiobook list.