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So long, October

8 Nov

A little later than planned (sort of like the US election results) here is what I got up to in October – a month that went by so fast I didn’t realise it had ended!

October brought the reintroduction of a recommendation from the government to work from home where possible but, despite an alarming number of cases, we have still avoided lockdown. I’ve also stopped going to the gym (I didn’t feel safe and the classes I went to have been cancelled anyway) and I decided to halt my tennis lessons with a heavy heart just to be on the safe side. Several larger get-togethers in my social circle were also cancelled which was disappointing.

Luckily I’ve had plenty of things to do with my two Masters courses now in full swing. I’ve spent most of my time with a head in a book or watching comedy series which is the best and safest place to be right now. It’s hard work but I’m enjoying it so far and learning lots.

In October I was busy making cards for little people. I made these cards for my niece and nephew for Halloween because they were disappointed not be able to go trick or treating. I’m not sure Halloween cards are even a thing but the card producers are missing a trick if they’re not.

I also went for a few autumnal walks as the weather has been mild and dry. I managed to spot a lot of weird mushrooms on my travels. I’ve never seen anything like these before and they do look good in a photograph.

It was also the time of year to visit Jucker Farm for their amazing pumpkin exhibition. The exhibition seemed to be a bit scaled down this year but the diver was my favourite. I love the colours of autumn and I’m hoping the reds, oranges, browns and yellows are with us for a good while longer!

Autumn Delights

24 Oct

I love autumn. Apart from the rising cases of Covid and my cancelled flights back home. Oh, and the dark mornings.

But apart from that I love the colours, being able to wear huge jumpers and not feeling guilty for spending the whole evening on the sofa.

I also love that it’s time for pumpkins and booted-walks in the forest.

No autumn time is complete without a trip to Jucker Farm, just outside Zurich. They have a pumpkin exhibition each year where they make huge displays from pumpkins. This year the theme was ‘Under the Sea’. This diver was my favourite.

Purchasing a pumpkin isn’t mandatory but it would be rude not to buy at least one. So we came away with a pumpkin and a butternut squash. The butternut squash was made into yummy soup and a butternut squash and feta quiche. I’m still planning what to do with the pumpkin…

On a walk to the forest recently I spotted quite a few funky fungi. So funky that I’m pretty sure they’re not edible! So I just took some photos and left them for a forest creature to nibble on!

Super September

30 Sep

If you blinked you might have missed September. It’s been a busy month which is why there’s a lack of blog posts this month.

I celebrated my birthday at the start of the month, went on holiday, ended up in quarantine (because my holiday destination was added to risk list while I was away) and started my Masters programmes. It’s been all go – even though I’ve been confined to four walls for 10 days of it.

I’ve also had my flights in October back to the UK cancelled so I think international travel for this year is over. Being quarantined has been ok but I’m not in a massive rush to repeat it.

In September I hit 200 days of being sober. I must admit that being on holiday was a real test of my willpower. Is it even a holiday if you don’t have a refreshing cold drink in the sunshine? Luckily one of our favourite bars had non-alcoholic cocktails so I was happy enough. And the bonus was that they were classed as ‘children’s cocktails’ so they were cheap as well. I actually think virgin Strawberry Daiquiris taste nicer than ones with alcohol in.

A gianr virgin cocktail

Knowing that I would have to quarantine when arriving back in Switzerland I went running almost every day and managed to run about 50km which is more than I was expecting. I enjoy running along the beach anyway but it’s even better when there is virtually no one else around. (The government in Spain are strict about wearing masks etc and hardly any hotels, bars or restuarants were open).

So the first thing I did this morning when I was released from prison, I mean quarantine, was go to the gym. I had a feeling I shouldn’t have started my membership until October because there was always a risk that I might have to isolate. But that’s how life is sometimes. The main thing is I’m healthy and can get back to normal life.

Life didn’t stop for me in quarantine. I have managed to get a lot of writing done and I even helped come up with a concept for a microfilm for a Zurich Film Festival competition for my friends who then went on to film, edit and enter it, while I was stuck at home. All in all, a great month!

October looks like it is going to be busy again: I’m not sure how I managed to do so much travelling in the past. I’m going to be very busy with writing and trying to complete more of my challenges!

I hope you had a great September and are looking forward to autumn!

Adios August

3 Sep

August was a busy month and there were some surprises along the way. Here (slightly later than planned) is what I did last month:

The online drama classes I toook during lockdown finally went live with a socially-distanced audience. I was completely unprepared but I managed to get through it relatively unscathed. I was quite taken aback by some of the comments I received for my monolgue performance and a scene that I wrote which was staged read. It is so incredible to hear something your wrote being brought to life by actors.

I got accepted to not one but two Masters programmes. I didn’t think I’d be accepted to either of them but I found out I had got places on the same day. Incredible stuff. After a lot of consideration I have decided to do both of them. I know it is going to be a lot of hard work but I would be impossible to choose one or the other. I also have a contingency plan if worse comes to worse. Both are writing related and I’m so excited to start. I have already bought lots of new stationery!

I found out one of my short stories will be published later this year around November. It’s given me confidence that what I write is publishable and I have been writing more as a result. My problem has always been that I don’t finish writing that I start so I will be finishing projects I’ve started in September before my courses start and I forget about them completely.

I completed the bonus round of my online book challenge group which means I read 20 books in two months. I read so much but my to read pile just keeps getting higher and higher.

Speaking of challenges I finished another challenge from my 40 Before 40 list. Here is the link if you missed it.

I also finished my 12 week transformation programme at the gym. I did two weeks, had a two-month break because of lockdown and then completed the last ten weeks this week. It’s made such a difference, even though the early mornings are a killer. I’m hoping to get back to more running as well as continue with some of the classes that I’ve enjoyed. This week I’m having a break though because I feel like I deserve it.

September will be busy. It’s my birthday and I will be going on holiday and starting my Masters courses! It’s going to be another busy month but I’m ready for it!

Hope you have a great September!

Time to float

18 Aug

It’s been perfect weather to float down the river in a blow-up dingy! And by that I mean it’s been so hot, the only way you can cool down is by getting down to a body of water and immersing yourself in water.

I did this last week with a friend. I don’t think I even went once last year so it was long overdue.

The hardest part is always blowing the boat up. Luckily we have two of us to share this task. We were ready to go in no time.

Pumped up and ready to go!

The best part about floating during the week is that the river is far less crowded. Go on a weekend and there are so many boats and inflatables that it feels a bit like the Wacky Races on water. It was so quiet and relaxing.

I also realised that part of the river we floated down is the same part of the river where I used to go running during my lunchtime – this activity is on hold thanks to COVID as I’m now running around where I live rather than the office.

View of the city from the river

Last time I did this activity, it felt like it lasted forever but it seemed over far too quickly this time. I wanted to go back to the start and do it all again. Of course, I realised when I got home that I had got sunburnt despite putting plenty of sun protection on. Luckily it wasn’t too bad but I definitely have a mark where my t-shirt has been.

I am hoping to get another chance for a float this season but time isn’t on my side with a few trips planned for my days off and tennis lessons about to start up again so I am keeping my fingers crossed that the weather stay good until September!

Bye Bye, July

2 Aug

Slightly later than planned, for no other reason than laziness, here is what I have been up to in July:

I completed the first round of my online reading challenge that I take part on a regular basis. I managed to read 11 books in July, mainly because TV has been so shockingly awful. I’m now only one book away from reaching the target I set for myself in 2020 which was 75. I have a feeling I might surpass my total from 2019 but I’m going to challenge myself to read some longer books I have been putting off for a while.

The ‘offline’ books I read in July

I’m now 100% in on the weightlifting/gym routine and I am enjoying it. Four session a week plus running and tennis lessons has been gruling but I am getting used to it and managing to stick with it. The added benefit it that I actually sleep. I’ve been a notoriously bad sleeper, espeically over the past few years but now (as a result of the training and the early mornings) I drag myself to bed before 10 almost falling asleep before my head hits the pillow.

The package of tennis lessons I paid for it almost at an end and, considering I had never really played before, I’m very happy with the progress and I might keep playing on in the winter.

I took part in my first ever improv show. I still can’t make up my mind if I liked it or not. The audience seemed to be entertained which is the main thing. More classes will start in the new year and I’m tempted to carry on with it.

I’ve also had online script writing lesson which have been great fun and I’ve learnt a lot. It’s given me quite a bit to think about in terms of whether I want to focus more on script writing or novels/short stories. I guess I can always do both!

I’m not sure what August will bring but there is another drama performance in the pipeline and more reading of course. Perhaps later in the year there will be a holiday or a chance to go home to see family and friends. Fingers crossed!

Gardening Success

20 Jul

I’m not the world’s best gardener but I have been trying to spend more time in the garden, especially as the chances of a two-week holiday this summer seemed unlikely. I took it as the perfect opportunity to invest time and energy into the garden while I’m here to enjoy it.

I’ve been surprised by my successes so far. The cherry tomatoes are coming along (a few even look like they are turning red); the snack peppers have already been ‘harvested’ once; my sweet peas are growing like the clappers, but alas! no sign of any flowers yet; and a moldy tomato I decided to plant to “see if it would grow or not” seems to grow an inch every time I look at it.

I need to replant the ‘moldy tomato plant’ because it needs more space to grow into at the rate its growing. I’ve been meaning to do that for the past five days now but I will do it tomorrow.

Here are some photos:

Lots of cherry tomatoes and the first ones turning red!
This is what happens when you plant a moldy tomato…
First ‘harvest’ of snack peppers

I would like to grow other vegetables and plant but at the moment I don’t have deep enough soil. I’m already thinking about investing in some more permanent (and deeper) plots of soil for next year!

Back to Drama

13 Jul

During the Lockdown, I busied myself with online drama course offered by an English-speaking theatre group based in Zurich. It was so much fun. I didn’t do much acting and drama when I was at school (long story that I’ll save for another time) so I’m making up for lost time and trying to learn as much about drama and the theatre as I can. I like having a hobby that is completely different to my day job but also compliments my ambitions of being a full-time writer.

Now people can meet in person again, drama classes are back and in person (while observing the 2m distancing rule as much as possible). So I signed up for an Improvisation class. It sounds like the stuff of nightmares to most people, being without a script and taking suggestion from the audience to be used in the scene, but I’d much prefer to do that than learn lines and lines from a script that I’m bound to forget anyway.

With any luck what we learn in the class will be showcased in a performance near the end of the month. The luck part is hoping that a second wave hasn’t hit and it’s still possible to perform live.

Then later in August the theatre company is hoping to bring some of the pieces that we studied and created in lockdown to the real stage, which is such a great idea. I’ve put myself forward to perform a couple of pieces so I just have to see if they are chosen to be performed on the night.

On top of that I’ve also started an online screen writing course. It’s online because playwright who is workshopping it is based in the UK so for once an online course is happening online for logistical reasons and not because of a global pandemic. I’ve never written anything before for the stage or TV apart from a short play I wrote as part of the online course that ran in April. It’s very fun to learn something new and I’m hoping it will also help me develop interesting characters to use in a future book or short story.

I am grateful, in a weird way, for the pandemic because I wouldn’t have been able to take these classes and find something I have a passion for. Obviously I hope life will return to normal as soon as possible but I would like to stick to the acting and theatre now I’ve found it.

Bye June!

30 Jun

Another month has come and gone and we are half way through 2020. It’s strange to think we have spent about half of this year in lockdown and I am still working from home at least for another month. What a crazy year.

June itself has been pretty uneventful. Things have been slowly opening up in Switzerland but I’m more than happy to spend as much time as possible at home for the time being and spend time doing (socially distant) sports.

I have started going back to the gym in the mornings. Two weeks before lockdown I signed up for a 12 week fitness plan. I was just getting into it when I had to stop. I’m now in the third week of restarting the programme and I’m starting to feel the benefits already. This means my ambitious running targets have been dropped for the time being but I did get out of bed this morning at 5.30am to go for a 10km run because I realised yesterday that I hadn’t run a 10km in June. I enjoyed it a lot and the sun hadn’t come up. I hate running in heat!

I’ve finished another one of my 40 Before 40 challenges this month as well. I’ve not written about it because I only finished it yesterday but that will be coming soon and I’ve started another challenge from the list – which will take about 6 months to complete.

I’m going strong on my alcohol-free year. It’s something like 130 days now and I’m finding it ok. I think it’s definitely having a positive effect on my wasitline as well as my pocket.

I took part in an online theatre performance. A playwright had written a series of Zoom calls for us to perform all based on Lockdown life and the performance was recorded. I was so nervous about it but I enjoyed it and I hope the audience did too!

My writing progress has slowed down a bit. You might remember I finished the first draft of a novel in May and my plan is to get busy on some other writing before coming back to it later in the year to start the first of many rounds of edits. The hope that I would be able to use my ‘high’ of finishing the book would end up with me being more productive on other writing projects wasn’t been realised. But I have two submissions for competitions in early July to make so I need to get cracking on those or I’ll miss the deadlines.

In July I will be taking part in my online reading challenge again, aiming to read 10 books which fit 10 different categories. I’m happy this challenge means I will be able to get some more room on my reading shelves.

I am also aiming to post every Monday in July on this blog because I realise I haven’t been so good with updating this recently. This is partly because I’ve not done anything that deviated especially from my lockdown routine so it didn’t seem like there was that much to say.

Life after Lockdown

18 Jun

With restrictions slowly lifting, I was thinking about what life would be like when things return back to normal after Lockdown, or at least as normal as they can be after a global pandemic.

I know some people have struggled with the restrictions and have found life difficult but I’ve try to embrace Lockdown life and make the most of it. If you know me, you’ll know that I love travelling but not being able to has given me time to think about what else I like doing and what projects I could do safely from home that have been on my to-do list for a long time.

I am hoping that working from home will continue long into the future (at the moment we have been told to work from home until the end of July and then spilt working will come into effect all being well) because I feel a lot more relaxed working in my little office space at home and I can do everything as well as I can if I was sitting in an office in Zurich.

I have been thinking about what things that I started during Lockdown I want to keep doing. Here’s a little list:

  1. I am pretty bad at keeping in contact with people. I blame social media for a portion of this. When I can see what people have posted from day to day, I feel like I have been in contact with them but seeing where someone went for dinner or which airport they are flying from on their latest holiday is not the same as picking up the phone or sending someone a personal message to see how they are. I’ve made an effort to speak to family and friends, and reconnected with others, during Lockdown and it feels good to hear back from people or to spend 15 minutes on a video call catching up. I will endeavour to carry this on.
  2. We’ve been having a weekly family quiz. I’ve lost count of how many weeks this has been but I’ve really enjoyed hunting down questions when it was my turn to write them or scratching my head at questions when I wasn’t quiz master. I’m not saying that I want to commit to a weekly quiz in the future but I wouldn’t mind doing it once a month or so. I’ve also been doing a monthly quiz for the netball club because we haven’t been able to train which has been fun too. Basically, quizzing is here to stay.
  3. This is a strange one… during the panemdic I ordered monthly contact lenses online. I’d switched to single use lenses more than 10 years ago. Seeing reports of wildlife and nature thriving while people weren’t travelling made me think I should do more for the environment. So I decided using monthly lenses would cut down on my non-recyclable plastic waste and I will save a ton of money too!
  4. I’ve managed to draft a novel in Lockdown and in general I am enjoying my writing and I’ve made some good habits around my writing. I can see it’s improving slowly so I would love for this creativity to carry on, espeically when I come back to editing my novel (which needs a huge amount of work.)
  5. Running has been a regular part of my day over the past three months. It meant getting out of the house and enjoying fresh air. The highlights were my early morning runs. I’ve forced myself out of bed a handful of times for, what I call, morning miles and every time I was amazed by nature. I managed to see a fox early one morning, another time a red kite swooped down to catch some prey less than 10 meters away from me and I saw two rabbits running away from a fox last week. Incredible stuff which made the long hard slog of a weekend run worth it.
  6. I realised yesterday that I haven’t had to make an excuse to get out of any social activities. I know what you’re thinking – that’s easy because we haven’t been able to socialise! But actually a lot of my hobbies and groups have moved online, like writing group and drama classes. I’ve found it really liberating to not feel that awful sensation of guilt about trying to come up with an excuse about not wanting to do something that I signed up to do when I was feeling in a better mood. I am hoping to have the courage in the future to be more honest and able to only make plans I want to commit to.

Has there been anything about Lockdown that you would like to keep?