I was struggling to find words to describe the past few months, to piece together how life as we know it became life as we knew it.
And then, on an episode of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? of all places, along came this quote:
‘It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.’Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I could, so easily, write off this year. I’ve seen only a handful of friends in person this year; I’ve not seen my parents or sister since Christmas. I’m still living in Cambridge (which is picturesque and rather nice sans touristes, but not somewhere I’ve ever felt especially at home). I’ve not gone on a single hike.
Yes, it was the worst of times – but only sometimes, and time spent dwelling on those would do nothing but expend energy I simply don’t have.
It’s also been the best of times – and a wake-up call to realign my time with my interests. Here are just a few of the pretty darn good times from the past six months . . .
Cycling to Norwich
If you’d told me a year ago I’d cycle 150km in a day, I wouldn’t have believed you. Heck, if you’d told me six months ago, I wouldn’t have. We booked a few days off at the tail end of August and cycled to Norwich (and back) to see Laurence’s parents, as neither of us fancied catching the train. Whilst there, we squeezed in a 90km ride to Mundesley (pronounced Munsley) via Happisburgh (pronounced Haysborough – thanks for setting us right on that one, Uncle Geoff!), had our fish and chips fix and dropped by to see Laurence’s aunt and uncle. Our route back to Cambridge took us through Ely, where we saw my auntie, uncle and cousins and enjoyed a cuppa and a slice of homemade cake (thanks, Auntie Anne!).
I’ve been dipping my toes into language learning again over the past couple of months, and thoroughly enjoying it. If I’ve learnt anything*, it’s that you have to try a few resources out and see which work for you. I didn’t get past the first sequence of videos in iversity’s ‘Spanish for Beginners’ course as it felt incredibly dated, and only made it through the first module of edX’s ‘Basic Spanish 1: Getting Started’ course, which was very thorough but felt quite slow-going. I’m currently learning the basics through Duolingo, though I could definitely do with setting aside time to jot down vocabulary and practise grammar.
*Aside from essential phrases, such as yo quiero un gato (I want a cat), that is.
Packing up our life into boxes, suitcases and rucksacks revealed just how much stuff we’d acquired over the past three years. Maps, leaflets and tickets from our travels. Kitchen knick-knacks that hadn’t seen the light of day since going into the cupboard when we first moved in (why hello again, plastic apple-shaped timer). Piles and piles of paperwork. You get the picture. We kept what we needed, and donated what we didn’t. After all, it didn’t make sense to pay to move things we weren’t using – and we don’t have space for surplus stuff in the new place. We enlisted the help of a local removals company, and everything went swimmingly on the day. (If you’re based in/around Cambridge and need a man with a van, I would highly recommend Tom’s Van.) I am so, so glad we moved – our new flat is cheaper, toastier and, best of all, there are no slugs lurking by the door.
Plump, juicy berries caught our eye whilst out on a run, dodging rabbit holes on Coldham’s Common as dusk fell. We returned in the morning, methodically working our way round the field, tubs in hand. The morning’s pickings left to soak, we headed out on our bikes to Saffron Walden. We put tubs in my pannier bag in case there were more blackberries to be had, and hit the jackpot in a layby on a quiet country road. I could feel a jam-making session coming on, and sure enough we had enough berries for two crumbles and four-and-a-half pots of jam. (Thanks, Katie for the tip on how to remove maggots and other bugs from blackberries!)
Six Months in Six Photos
We’re off to see my parents, and I am beyond excited to see them after all this time. I’ve got my fingers and toes crossed that the powers that be don’t throw a spanner in the works. Aside from that, I’m aiming to cycle 2,000km this year – I’m about 100km off the mark at the moment.