Four years....

Today's post is written amongst the boxes, bags and general debris of my final clear-out of my teeny tiny, much beloved little flat. Tomorrow I hand in the keys and head up north to my parents, before then returning to my new home in London. And what can I say, I'm feeling a little wistful.

I've lived here for four years. Four whole years. That may not sound like much, but for me, ex-military brat and then student who moved a fair bit, that's looooooooooooong time. I've lived in twenty-plus locations in my twenty-eight years, so a four year stretch is pretty impressive! It's also the first place I really made my home - I bought things for it, cleaned it, moved stuff around....

I have so many memories of this quirky little space. The first time I saw it, all sunny yellow walls and tiny kitchen (and I remember thinking, "where's the bed?"). Long evenings sinking bottles of wine with friends who came to visit, good chats and silly adventures. Learning how to cook on my trusty ancient brown cooker - not just student fare but real food - roasts, cakes, sauces.

I recall a hundred evenings curled up reading, or on the phone with Hannah or Henry or Naomi, or sat at the table writing a letter, or sending a card of congratulations (wedding, engagement, baby, job, home...), or singing along to showtunes because I was all on my own in the big house. Days wandering around the gardens, Bob bringing me fresh produce, Janet prepping flowers for another village occasion. Emma-dog woofing a greeting as I clicked through the gate, all wagging tale and bushy mane.

Waking at four or five am and writing reports, old episodes of 'Sex and the City' on in the background. The lonely, lonely nights after late stints at school, stuck far away from my friends. The first Christmas I had Dave, my tree, and the delight of adding a few new ornaments each year (one chosen by me, others gifts from friends and pupils). Listening to the rain on the flat roof during summer storms. The total crisp quietness of winter snowfalls.

I've done a lot of growing up here. As well as the aforementioned cooking, I've relaxed into myself over my years here, I think. I'm happier, I'm healthier (and 20 pounds lighter), and I think I know far better what's important to me. I've started to truly love what I do. I've learnt how to drive. I've travelled. I've learnt. I've fallen in love.

I leave this little flat so very happy to be starting the next phase in my life, but also immensely grateful for the thing things I've learnt and the times I'm spent here. And so glad I now upgrade to a proper bed (can you believe I slept four years on a couchbed? :-)).

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Picnicking and other bits of loveliness

So, after the whirliness and mix-ups of Friday, the rest of the weekend was a chilled and lovely combination. Saturday morning was a well-earned lie-in, then cuddles and tea and silliness. Then Matthew, Dave, Rich (a colleague of Matthew's) and I all had a barbeque in our newly spangly garden - we now have a patio! And gravel! And decking! And a decent fence! Then on to the next event of the weekend - Newcastle United v. Leyton Orient.

Yes, Matthew's beloved Newcastle were playing Leyton Orient, the team whose ground is a mere hop, skip and jump from the house. So off we went to watch Newcastle play a team a good league below them. And get beaten 6-1. Oh my! At points Newcastle were just unlucky - good shots juuuust getting saved and all that, but more than one of those goals they just gave away. Newcastle just got relegated from the Premier League to the Championship, so I think Leyton (and their fans) were just incredulous when the goals just kept on coming.

Me, I was just happy to be there, at my first Newcastle match. I can't say I enjoyed it as much as the other matches I've gone to with Matthew, but I'm glad I got to go because Newcastle are one of about four things I think he loves more than me (or just as much, mayhap? ;-))! I'd go to another match for sure, but I think the lower league, smaller ground matches are a bit more fun. Plus, you get tea and chips! :-)

Saturday night Dave, Matthew and I were just awesomely lazy. I made the boys watch four episodes in a row of Come Dine With Me. I love that show! Just lots of tea and chat and early night, and some baking ahead of Sunday's fun...

...for yesterday I had my "Woohoo, I now live in London!" picnic. Our house is lovely, but with more than a dozen folk would get a little busy, so instead we all went to Regent's Park for a picnic. And it was lovely (if a little chilly!). Cakes and champagne and friends and hugs and chat, the perfect Sunday afternoon. A really cool girl called Anna and her friend Maria came too so I and some of my friends could help with a project (more on that soon), it was lovely to meet them! We all just had loads of fun.

5 o'clock arrived and as the grey skies turned to rain we all went to the pub for more banter. Fun and cosy and lovely (apart from when a barman dumped some scalding tea on my friend Emily - darling, I hope your leg is all better today! Poor girl!), and Matthew and I didn't leave till half seven.

Then home.


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How to wind up home alone(ish) on a Friday night

1. Do not own a watch.

2. Forget that long (awesome) chats and equally long tube rides can make getting to places tricky.

3. Leave pyjamas for third fun thing of the day all the way at home in Leyton.

4. As soon as you leave home, realise your phone is fast running out of charge. This adds to the fun.

5. Have fun lunch in Spitalfields. Stay and linger over lattes.

6. Go to Notting Hill Gate. Have amazing girly time with chat and cupcakes.

7. Keep chatting.

8. Keep chatting.

9. Get to Notting Hill Gate tube. Realise that it's seven o'clock. The time you were due to be in North London. Wearing the pyjamas you've left in Leyton.

10. Beat self up mentally, almost burst into tears.

11. Calm down, rationalise, text apologies for the evening's event and promise to bring cakes as a sorry offering soon.

12. As the pyjama party is now out, text the boy who is due to be at home waiting for a grocery delivery.

13. Get on train. Underground train. No signal.

14. While on train, realise that you could be really nice and get boy's favourite pasty if you stopped at Liverpool Street en route, and then get the quicker train on. Ah-ha!

15. Dash up, buy yummy food, sprint onto train that is juuuuust about to leave.

16. Phone rings. Boy. "Where are you?"

17. "I'm just leaving Liverpool Street, where are you, honey?"

18. "In the pub at Liverpool Street, Dave's cool to wait at home"

19. "Oh".

20. Phone cuts out, as only enough battery left for texts now.

21. Stuck on train to Stratford, texting, apologising to host and friends, saying sorry to boy and explaining phone probs.

22. Change trains and spend the ride to Leyton about to burst into tears (I hate letting people down).

23. Get home. Say hello to flatmate Dave.

24. Check trains.

25. Definitely no way of getting up to North London. Oh well, can have time with boy.

26. Oh no I can't, he's still out.

Definitely time for a shower, a cup of tea, and a pasty, methinks. Today has been great, but the last two hours have been an epic fail (no one's fault but mine). Awesome Crazy Dave, I'm so sorry I missed your shindig. I was so looking forward to hanging out. I hope we can see each other before too long, and that you all had an AWESOME pyjama party!

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On foot

I love getting to know a new place by walking around it. In London, for some people it's getting the tube map straight in their heads. For some it's the bus routes. For other's it's knowing where's good to drive and where to avoid. For me, it's hitting the pavement, iPod on, and wandering around the city. I love coming up from the Underground and starting to get a handle on the areas which are above the many stops and stations on the map.

I went for two wee donders yesterday, through two wildly different areas of the city. I walked down from Swiss Cottage (after having parted with a significant chunk of money to join a gym there...I find committing to a membership is a great motivator. I'm always loathe to waste money! I also bumped into two ex-pupils of mine there from a previous guise as an Assistant House Mistress at a girls' school....genuinely bizarre!) to Baker Street. I had originally aimed to walk further, I will admit, but had told the time incorrectly (FAIL!) when walking past a clock, but still got a decent walk in.

My route cut through many of the beautiful areas of North-West London, Swiss Cottage, Primrose Hill, Regents Park. I love this part of town, full of greenery and quiet privelege. It also makes me a little wistful's the sort of place I'd love to live, but realistically, it's unlikely it will ever happen. Without a huge chunk of pennies, it's just out of reach. And while I work hard and I do feels like it's just out of reach. I'll keep hoping, but it may be a step too far. Lovely to walk through though.

My leisurely walk turned into a decided powerwalk when I discovered that I was late to meet the beautiful Siobhán, but I managed to zoom across to Holborn and we went for coffee and peppermint tea and chat. :-)

After that I gave Matthew a call, and he was out having a pint with colleagues. So I could go home....or I could go for a walk. So walk I did, from Holborn to Liverpool Street, right through the city, passing crowds of bankers and city workers in their suits and skirts, taking in the sights. Some of the skyscrapers are so big they truly mess with the perspective of this country mouse. I saw some cool things on my route - St Mary le Bow church (about whose minister I once read a book), The Bank of England - and I heard the bells of Bow church too (apparently to be a true Cockney you must be born within hearing distance of these fabled bells).

And then, Liverpool Street, and home....

Where will I walk today, I wonder?

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All change

So here I am, blogging live from London. And what a change it is! Whereas in the village my soundtrack was birds, the breeze through the trees, and the occasional lawnmower, here the air is full of noises - jets flying to London City (not too loud though, thank heavens! RAF brat that I am I was dreading low flying Tornado level noises), cars, voices, just the hubbub of the city. The closest I get to birdsong is the squak of a pigeon as Dave shoos them away from the back garden. Our little house is starting to look quite lovely though. Matthew and I built loads of Ikea furniture and it's all looking quite sweet. I'm typing this in our cosy little study right now, which is a room I think I'm going to love. Such a good space for writing, working, blogging, daydreaming...

I went for my first solo explore yesterday, just seeing where my feet might take me. It's a bit rough and ready round here, but there are some intruiging little places to explore. I've never felt quite so 'other' as I did on my walk yesterday. The East End is so busy, so frantic, so lairy...I think it'll take me a wee while to figure how my laidback hippy schtick meshes with it. I was highly amused to discover though, whilst googling for images to pop in this post, that my region of London is also a code name for fans of 'One Tree Hill' (love that show. Trashy joy!) who want Lucas and Peyton to be a couple (4 evah!!!11!!)....

Speaking of trashy TV, I actually sat still for long enough to watch some today and yesterday. Yesterday while I was ironing (I know, how retro and 1950s of me) I stumbled across an episode from cycle 2 of America's Next Top Model. Ooooh, fun! OK, I already know who wins, but still. Entertaining. I tucked myself up with a cuppa for another ep today. I also watched another show which my friend HBR had recommended, so I'd Sky Plus-ed last night.

Have you guys heard of 'Four Weddings'? Basically it's a reality show which pits four weddings (and four brides) against one another. They score each other's big days and then the winner gets to go on an all expenses paid honeymoon. I actually really enjoyed the show - I think it helped that the couple I liked best won! They were so sweet...actually, all the couple were lovely, but I just think my favourites were the lovliest...

It may also help because I am actually a guest at four weddings myself this year... In two weeks I go to Maria and Colin's reception (and I'm taking the lovely Christy as my non date, as she's staying with me that week). Late August Matthew and I go to see his work friend Jon marry his lovely fiancée, Holly. In November I fly up to the wilds of Scotland to see the lovely Simon marry his beautiful Nicole.

The fourth wedding is actually the third in order, but I am super excited because at this one I get to be a bridesmaid! I am so thrilled! My friend Jenna is marrying her lovely fiancé Chris. In Texas. So Matthew and I will be flying out there for a week and hopefully doing some exploring in and around Houston (where the wedding takes place) and Dallas (where Jenna and Chris live). Does anyone have any cool ideas of stuff to do?

I am so excited for Jenna. Her road has been a trying and unusual one, and I'm so thrilled she's going to get to marry the man she loves! Jenna and I have been friends since our days singing harmony at the Findhorn Foundation...

Speaking of the north, this time next week I'll be preparing to head up for a couple of weeks of fun and silliness with friends and family up there. I am so excited (but I'm going to miss my boy like crazy :()! A wedding, a Join Meet, a Christy coming to stay, and some good old Forresian banter? Yes.

It'll also be nice to recharge and be chilled for a few days, to go and walk along the beach, to drive up to Califer and look out across the Firth. I rarely get home for more than a few days at a time, so a couple of weeks will be grand.

But before that, fun to be had! Coffees and afternoon teas and lunches and drinks with many of my favourite folk....and...

A Mamma Mia pyjama party....

My first Newcastle United match (they play Leyton Orient in a friendly on Saturday)...

And a picnic Sunday....

Bring on the fun - hope all your weeks are going well!

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London, baby!

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(Close to) Wordless Wednesday

It's packing mania here. Because on Saturday, my life goes in a van, and I move to London! :)

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My weekend, in short phrases

Transporting goldfish to and through London via tube and train (they made it, yay!).

Not really understanding what was happening in the cricket!

Making a fry/grill up for hungry boys.

Meeting new people, and remeeting lots of Matthew's friends, chatting and chilling and being silly.

Chatting with a boy called Billy about music, books, and Scotland.

Dancing like a crazy person in the aptly named 'Club de Fromage'.

Reading 'Stephen Fry in America' and planning roadtrips and visits.

Gorgeous homecooked roast dinner of nom, cooked by Jason, with tender delicious roast beef and tonnes of veggies.

Sunday afternoon drinking wine and chatting with some of my favourite folk!

Doing my impression of a dog on the tube, letting the wind ruffle my hair and sticking my tongue out like a loon.

Cuddles with my boy.

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PS And now, the move is nigh! Back to the flat tomorrow and lots and lots of packing and sorting... Wish me luck, please.

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Summertime, and the living is easy (well, easier...)

I am well and truly on summer break. I have a million things to do, sure, but the 6 am starts and emails demanding reports, results, and meetings all feel like a lifetime away! Now I have emails about bridesmaids dresses, picnics, and moving dates. Good times.

A week tomorrow is moving day, and I feel a little underprepared, but I know I'll get it done somehow. Next week should be easier, as it's T-5, T-4, T-3...etc., whereas this week it's still over a week away, so bar the obvious (books, DVDs, winter clothes, etc.) I've been wary of packing stuff I might need. I also need to go and clear out my classroom. Now *that* is going to take a while. I've also kicked off another exercise streak (exam season ruined me this year). I'll let you know how it goes!

Right, time to get changed, get packed, go for a swim and get to work. Tomorrow I am down to the city again for Matthew's birthday drinkies. Oh, and I have to transport two goldfish. By rail...

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Well I am sitting here writing this well and truly on summer break. As I type it's a little after six on a grey and stormy July evening (I've already done the drowned-rat look once today! Soaked through and needing a towel as soon as I got through the door!), and I am relaxing with a cup of tea, waiting for my handsome boy to return from work. It's his birthday today - if you're reading this later, honey, Happy Birthday! Thank you for making my already blessed little world an even happier, lovelier place. I hope this year is so very good to you!

So we're well and truly into July now aren't we? And what a month it has been! The last few days of school were a true rollercoaster - laughter, tears, bittersweetness, kindness, snideness, love.... All in all though, I'm glad that chapter of my life is done. I had a wonderful four years at that school, but the time to move on had come. I'm lucky in that (I hope) I've made some friends I want to stay in contact with, but it was also time to get along. I'm so nervous about starting my new school in September but so very, very excited too!

Weekend was chilled and relaxed - on Saturday Matthew and I arose very late, went for delicious (and enormous!) Italian, the spent the evening relaxing in the garden with some candles, some cake, and some wine. Just a lovely time together, watching the swallows in the pale blue sky, then counting the stars twinkling through as twilight gave way to evening.

Sunday I got up fairly early...because I had birthday cupcakes to make. Then Matthew and I headed back to London (where I am right now). Monday I did some 'cleaning fairy' jobs around the house here, and was just about to get a little bored darling friend Jenna texted to see if I wanted to hang out! Jenna's a Forres friend who lives in Edinburgh, butshe was in the city doing some stuff, and had an afternoon to kill. So we walked, drank tea, ate cupcakes, went on pedalos, pretended to be geese, drank lovely pear cider. Photos to follow once I'm home and on my own machine. We also did lots of wedding chat (Jenna's engaged) and I got to see the rock in person. Then Jenna went off to Stansted, and I went for a coffee before Matthew and I went on a little adventure to....IKEA! We wanted to check out some of the stuff we want to buy for the much shiny! I'm excited for our plans. Then home for cuddles and a Swedish beer and some barbeque beef.

Next we stayed up till midnight so I could give Matthew a rendition of 'Happy Birthday' and he could open his gift (he liked it, yay!). Then today so far has been reading, napping, Nando's, cleaning and getting soaked. And now a relaxed evening ahead.

So why "Eastside"? Well, it's a silly nickname Matthew and I have for round here. I like it. Most of the people are friendly. It's lively. It's easy to get into central London. Sure, it's a bit loud and a tad messy, but it's a city - I'm hardly in it for rolling hills and birdsong. It's a new phase, and for every negative there will be a positive.... I'll keep you all posted!

Tomorrow, back to the village. Moving day is in ten days...I have to get packing!
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Month of blue skies and goodbyes.

Month of moving to a new place, and a new life.

Month of late nights and early mornings.

Month of vans and boxes and lists and lots of donations to the charity shop.

Month of reading in the sun, and cuddles, and cups of tea, and strawberries from the garden.

Month of Ikea furniture and unpacking and beers in the garden.

Month of farewell dinners, and hugs and handshakes.

Month of plans and dreams and thinking ahead.

Month of heat and hot, and then driving north to the cool sea breezes of Moray.

Month of cleaning, cleaning, cleaning.

Month of being an adult, then being (like) a child. Got to love visits home! J

It’s going to be crazy….

….but I’m so glad it’s July!

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