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Ciao January

31 Jan

I don’t know about you but I feel like this month has lasted for about 90 days but I’m not sure why. Because I work in finance, January is always a busy month as everyone is so interested in finalising the full year results and, as a result, I end up working longer hours. Maybe that has something to do with it.

Today marks the end of the first month of the new decade and also Brexit will finally happen at midnight. With so much going on, it feels like it is a good moment to sit down and have a look at what I have been up to over the past 31 days.

  •  We welcomed in the New Year at home with Raclette and plenty of alcohol. I’m not a New Year’s Eve person by any stretch of the imagination so that was fine with me. It was nice to be at home for a change and feel relaxed enough to do virtually nothing.
  •  I went back home to see family and friends in the middle of January to try to make up a little bit for not being home over Christmas for the first time in seven years. It was great fun but I completely derailed my aim to try to eat healthier.
  • I finished the latest installment of the online Book Challenge by Erin that I have taken part in for the last 2 years. I only finished my final book of the challenge last night so I am still to post my review about the books but it will be coming soon.
  •  I managed to stick to my fitness goals for January that I blogged about earlier in the year. It was surprisingly easy to stick to and I have managed to run for more than 50k over the past month. Apart from a few blips in my healthy eating programme, I have also managed to stick to a good diet. In February I am hoping to do exactly the same but I also want to do more exercises like sit-ups and press-ups at home to help me slim down.
  • I’ve got stuck back into writing again after taking a bit of a break at the end of last year. So far I have 6 drafts of story stories that I hope I can make into a collection at some point this year. I also have 3 other story ideas on the go.
  • I was elected to the committee of the netball club at the end of last year and I have been busy updating the website and posting things on Instagram and Facebook. I’m enjoying it so far and it makes me more motivated to go to training every week.
  • I also cashed in my birthday present by attending a brewery course in Luzern last weekend. I found it really interesting and the free beer tasting was also great.

It seems that my wish to take it a bit more easy this year is already out of the window. I genuinely don’t realise how much I do until I sit down and thing what I did over the past month. In February though I will be taking a two-week holiday in a warmer climate which will mean more time for running, beer drinking and writing. I can’t wait!

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Birthday Treat

28 Jan

At the weekend I cashed in my birthday present from last year and had a great time on a Master Brewer course. I find it slightly worrying that my birthday and Christmas presents normally have a boozy twist to them. People are going to have trouble buying me presents when I get round to doing my alcohol-free year!

My boyfriend had bought me the course and we both went to the Luzerner BierBauer on Saturday to learn more about brewing beer. The company itself is a cooperative run by 12 members. I’ve visited the big factories of Heineken in Amsterdam, Carlsberg in Copenhagen and Guinness in Dublin so it was interesting to see an operation on a smaller scale.

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We were told that part of the equipment used for the brewing was made from an old heating tank! You definitely wouldn’t find that at the larger breweries. The machines in the larger factories are all operated by touches of buttons and automatic processes.

As some of the equipment is make-shift, the process there is very time consuming and it must be a huge commitment for the 12 people involved to co-ordinate who does what and when. They brew on the weekends because they have jobs to go to during the week so it makes sense that they invite people in to see how the process works and can earn some money in the meantime.

We also got our hands dirty by cleaning out the vat where the malt was brewed, so I felt completely justified in having more than a couple of beers afterwards.

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Cleaning the vat out

The beer they made is only sold at the brewery itself and is sold at two restaurants in the area. With this in mind we bought some bottles to bring back to enjoy at home.

2019 in Numbers

30 Dec

As the year and decade is coming to a close, I thought it would be good to review my year in numbers as I did last year.

So here it is:

  • 102 is the number of books I have read in 2019. I have no idea how I have managed to do this. At the start of the year, I wasn’t working so I did have more time to read but I also had a break half way through the year where I hardly read anything for 2 months. This means I covered a huge 30’208 pages over the course of the year and the longest book I read was Gone With The Wind. I want to set myself a challenge reading goal for next year but I also want to dedicate more time to writing so I will have to put some thought into that.
  • I visited 7 new countries in Europe this year: Leichtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Poland, Romania, Serbia and Ukraine. I now only need to visit 6 more and my challenge to visit 40 countries before I am 40 will be completed. So far, I don’t have any definite plans to visit any countries that are on my list but that will most likely change.
  • Talking of challenges, this year I have completed 7 more challenges from my list and 3 of them are very, very nearly finished. Of the challenges that I have completed this year, my favourite was paragliding in Interlaken in the summer.
  • I competed in 2 international netball tournaments this year which is incredible when I only started playing netball again at the start of this year. It would have been 3 but I was in the Ukraine exploring Chernobyl when the tournament in Amsterdam was held.
  • I have run 270km this year and cycled 223km. I would like to think that I can easily beat these totals in 2020 but that means that I have to lose some weight and stay injury free.
  • I have completed 4 short stories. This is a mini-miracle because for years I haven’t been able to finish any story I have started. I am now planning on completing a collection of short stories early next year. I also made a rough plan of a novel which I might revisit next year as well.
  • I started a new job and have already been there for 6 months.
  • I’ve had one of my photos published in the Swiss inflight magazine and one of my tweets appeared on the BBC Sports website during Wimbledon fortnight.
  • Most recently our family celebrated not one but two important birthdays with both of my grandparents reaching their 90th birthdays.

2019 was a great year. I have managed to tick more things off my list and stayed happy and healthy for the most part. Who knows what 2020 will bring. There is only one way to find out.

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A great reason to celebrate

23 Dec

In a few days it will be Christmas Day. For the first time in seven years, I won’t be altering the lyrics of Chris Rea’s hit song to “Flying Home for Christmas”. I am staying in Switzerland for Christmas and New Year. It’s a strange feeling, not getting everything packed and psyching myself up for battling through the huge lines at security and passport control.

The truth is that I feel like my Christmas was a couple of weekends ago. We went back to the UK to attend my grandparents’ 90th birthday party. Having one grandparent turn 90 is amazing, never mind both of them within a day of each other. My grandma is actually one day older than my granddad. It was a great reason to celebrate: so often people are too busy to meet up and never quite get round to doing it.

I was trying to think about all of the changes that they would have seen within their lifetime and my head hurt after a while because a list of everything that has changed in the last 90 years is pages upon pages long. And they are even up with technology – they check my blog to see what I am up to on a regular basis!

I can’t remember the last time that all of our family was in the same room at the same time. It was so nice to see and catch up with everyone before the real panic of Christmas kicked in. We had dinner together and because, it was a basically a Christmas dinner with Brussel sprouts, Christmas crackers and mince pies, I feel like I haven’t missed out on a traditional English Christmas. At least this time I didn’t fall asleep in front of the TV after drinking too much Bucks Fizz before 11am!

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Celebrating with Grandma and Granddad – can you spot the 90-year-olds?

I was hoping that staying in Switzerland would mean that I would be guaranteed a white Christmas but the weather is far too warm to snow in the city at the moment. It looks like it might snow next week. In the meantime I will be eating lots of Fondue and Raclette which are traditional winter eats here. It does make a change from eating dry turkey for the next two weeks but the apartment will definitely smell like smelly socks for a week.

Wherever you are and whomever you are with, I wish you a relaxing and enjoyable holiday season.

Shooting success!

11 Dec

This year I set myself a goal of getting a result of more than 70 out of 100 at a shooting competition. Before last weekend I had shot 69 a grand total of 3 times! I had almost given up hope of ever getting 70.

All that changed at the very last meeting of the year. Somehow I finished the day with a total of 79! To say I was surprised was an understatement. I was also over-the-moon happy and I haven’t been able to stop talking about it since.

I think shooting is a lot like golf from a psychological point of view: the more relaxed you are, the easier it is. It’s so easy to overthink it. Because I had all but given up on hitting my target and wasn’t trying to get a great result, I was more relaxed. It’s pretty hard to be relaxed when you are holding something that could blow someone’s head off but you know what I mean.

Even though I am still happy with the result, there is a tiny part of me that is kicking myself that my last shot was a 6. One point higher and I would have reached the 80 mark. I guess I will have to wait to reach that milestone next year.

I won 2nd place for the women’s section of the competition. Ok, only 2 of us took part so that’s not so impressive. I won a Grittibänz as a prize. A Grittibänz is a delicious, baked man that it traditionally sold around Christmas time in Switzerland.

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My prize!

I would have ended up in 7th place if the men and women’s sections were combined meaning that I beat quite a few men who have been shooting all their lives. Now that’s impressive!

WriteCon 2019

7 Dec

This time last week I was at WriteCon in Zurich. It’s an informal conference that happens every year in Zurich which allows writers to connect and provides a number of workshops throughout the day. I’ve been meaning to attend for the last two years but something has always cropped up so I haven’t been able to go. I was determined to go this year.

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And go I did. The first workshop that I attended was led by Jason Donald, who has published two novels and is now working in screen writing. The aim of the workshop was to talk about how to edit your work and freshen up pieces in your second draft. The ticket price was worth it for this workshop alone. I learnt a lot of new things and interesting ways to look at things I have written. I wanted to rush straight home and look at some of the things that I had written the day before. The advice was so practical and completely made sense to me. I also gained confidence from talking to Jason about the feeling that I have that my writing doesn’t ‘fit’ into a specific genre and about how I have started writing a book but have abandoned it to write a collection of short stories. He had exactly the same feelings and his first book started off as a collection of short stories which he eventually wrote together when he realised that there was an underlying theme to all of the stories. Perhaps I am on the right path…

After the lunch break I went to a workshop called “Pathways to Publishing”. I anticipated this would be a general discussion about how to decide between self-publishing and a traditional publishing route and what the pros and cons of both was. It turned out it was mainly a discussion about traditional publishing. It was interesting because I learnt how little an author earns per book that is sold and I also learnt that authors get paid every time a book of theirs is taken out of a library (which helped my guilty conscious when I borrow books rather than buying them).

I was surprised how many people had a negative impression of novels that are self-published. Many famous authors self-published their work, like Virginia Woolf, Mark Twain and Stephen King. So long as the book is well-written I don’t see the problem with it. I think self-published novels get a bad press when they haven’t been edited properly and people have self-published just to say that they have had a book published. I am still trying to decide what I think is best to do but I need to write the book first!

All in all, I’m glad I went. I met some more writers and learnt some things that I have already been able to use when I am writing. Hopefully, it won’t be too long before I have my book finished.

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Farewell November

30 Nov

Let’s all say it together so that it’s out of the way: ‘How on earth is it the end of November already?’

This time in a few weeks we will all be stuffed with food, chocolates and booze wondering how on earth we are going to shed the weight so we can get back into our trousers to go back to work at the start of January. When we do go back to work in January, we will be in a new decade. This is a little too much for my brain to process at this point in time.

I feel like this month has been more relaxed than previous months but I’ve managed to do cool things this month that I have enjoyed.

Here is what I got up to in November:

  • After a long absence from the stage, I made my long awaited comeback. My drama group had a performance to share what we had learnt during the course. It was terrifyingly nerve-wrecking but a huge amount of fun and I was glad that some of my friends took time out of their busy lives to come and see it.
  • I finished my swimming course. I also learnt so much doing this and I sort of got used to the early mornings. Without having the motivation of the course, I actually haven’t been swimming once since finishing it but I have promised that I will go at least once a week between now and Christmas.
  • I finished my writing course and I am now working on a collection of short stories which I hope I will be able to publish in early spring next year.
  • I had a nice break in the sun in Tenerife with my mum. I was able to go running most mornings and drink a decent amount of local beer. We also went on a stargazing trip but, because it was cloudy, we didn’t see any stars. We just ended up cold and wanting to get back into the warm bus.
  • I joined the esteemed ranks of a non-nail biter after failing for year after year and, in doing so, completed Challenge #34 of my 40 Before 40 challenge.
  • And I visited my 34th European country when we visited a very wet and windy Monaco.

December will be full on as it always is. Work will be busy and my diary is looking full as it stands, unless I do my classic thing and make last minute cancellations!

I hope you had a great November and you are looking forward to celebrating the festive season.