All the things I have been doing instead of writing this blog

I seem to experience life as a series of distinct phases - identifiable blocks of time which enclose a certain set of emotions, places or events.

Some of these phases are easy to pick out, marked by a distinct boundary such as the time spent living in another country, or perhaps bordered by the limits of a relationship. Others are murkier - with lines blurred between multiple events or a slightly messy emotional landscape. I am currently in a period resembling the latter - opaque around the edges and unsure of its direction or locality.

I have been remarkably absent from this blog since May. Not for a lack of trying, but every time I sit down to write, I encounter the creeping sense that I have nothing important/interesting to say about anything, even myself - which is after all the subject I know best! It's also hard to describe what's going on with your life or how you perceive the world when you yourself are unsure. 

So yeah, welcome to Bethan in her the late twenties crisis. Two years on from finally getting her shit together from the early/mid twenties wtf period, she's back asking the big questions: Who am I? What am I doing? Why am I here? What the hell does this all mean?

Outside of sitting down and staring at an empty screen as if I were in an existentialist melodrama, my life has actually been reasonably full of interesting things. 

Two weeks in the oven that is Paris

 The view from the top of Notre Dame

The view from the top of Notre Dame

Back in June I spent two weeks in Paris, working for the first seven days, then generally being a tourist for the remainder. Paris, like the UK, was absurdly hot for the most part, peaking at 35 degrees for a good few days. (I genuinely forgot what not being sweaty 24/7 felt like).

I'm quite lucky in that my work only really requires access to a computer and a reasonably good internet connection, however I am admittedly a people person and do very much enjoy being in the office. It was a bit of a shock to be flying solo for a week, relying on chat and video calls, even if that week was spent in Parisian cafes and co-working spaces. 

Alongside work, I tried to fit in as much sightseeing as possible - including Versailles, The Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, Café de Flore, the Centre Pompidou, Notre Dame and many, many boulangeries/patisseries. Unfortunately I didn't make it to Disneyland Paris in the end, so that's my excuse sorted to head back in the very near future.

View from the top of the Louvre

Not that you really need an excuse to visit Paris - a city that remains so gorgeously in a state of decay and yet also defiantly youthful. 

Trying to buy a house

The second feature of my last few months has been the decision to get on the property ladder here in York. Let's just say Rightmove and I have become pretty good friends every evening...

Because I'm fussy and *very* protective over my ability to walk home after a night out, I'm ideally looking for something in a pretty limited geographical area. York is also quite expensive... but I'm hoping I'll end up in a nice two up, two down terrace near enough the city centre. 

It's going to be a bit of shock flying solo for a while after 27 years of living at home or in various house sharing situations. I'm am super excited to decorate though and do a massive IKEA/Reclamation yard haul (I've already picked out about 90% of my furniture.) 

Upping my speaking game

After getting a diversity scholarship to speak at UpFront 2017, I made a promise to myself to try and pursue further speaking opportunities. 

I really do think one of the best things you can do to build resilience is to try and do things that scare the shit out of you, ideally as often as possible. Whilst I'm not a wholly unconfident person, I do suffer from pretty bad stage fright (sweaty palms, palpitations etc.) 

A couple of months ago I responded to the call for speakers for Dot York, York's digital conference. I actually submitted to speak as part of the "Survival" category - with the aim of sharing something meaningful about how we can ensure the survival of the planet through ensuring we have a positive impact - basically taking everything I've learnt from Bright Ethics and packaging that into a compelling argument for action.

I'm happy to say that my submission was chosen and I will be speaking at the conference in October, which should give me plenty of time to work on my talk and delivery style.

Peach

As we have our first gig in over a year on the 24th July (a fundraiser at York Fringe for the Lord Mayor's charities - tickets available here *cough* *cough*), I've been working on some more material for Peach!

Check out the demo below for our latest track:

Sunday Summation 21: Coastal adventures, London and Stargazing

It seems that all of my good intentions have not manifested into a steady stream of blog posts. 

I must admit that my creative energy has been focused elsewhere recently - The Guild, Bright Ethics, my Google Squared Course, another business project and work on a longer form piece of writing. I'm not sure if this will take the form of a short story or if there's material enough for a novella, all I know is that I'm 4000 words deep into a project that *feels* deeply satisfying.

As a child with a bedroom next to my father's study, I used to hear him tapping away at his computer late into the night. I used to wonder why he spent so long at work, didn't he want to play computer games, read or go to bed? As an adult it has become clear that I have inherited the same sense of compulsion when it comes to work - a bored Bethan is a sad Bethan. 

Whitby Abbey

1. Roadtrips to the coast

Last weekend I picked up a new car, replacing the old hunk of metal which has been my travelling partner since I was 19. 

After a serious period of deliberation over whether I should indeed get another car, as opposed to simply relying on pedal power, I made the somewhat non-eco friendly choice to invest in another set of wheels. As someone with a long term chronic pain condition, a vehicle gives me freedom on the days where I simply cannot use human powered transportation. Needless to say, I have gone for the most eco-friendly option in my price range (an electric car will be the next step in a few years.)

Having lived with a less than reliable car for over a year now, Des and I took the first opportunity to test our new set of wheels as part of a longer range journey. The drive over to Whitby certainly put the new motor to the test, especially on the steep ascents which transport you onto the North Yorkshire Moors plateau. 

Once safely in Whitby we took a short stroll along the pier, arm in arm, headfirst into the cold breeze. This was followed by an obligatory visit to The Magpie Cafe for fish and chips which we then ate back on the pier, vigilantly watching out for seagull raids.

With a couple of hours of winter sunlight left we ascended the steps up towards Whitby Abbey, a place I visited first on a school trip when I was around 7 or 8 years old. 

Whilst up on the clifftop I had a moment of "oh shit, I'm so much older but this place has barely changed and will be here probably for hundreds of years after I'm dead." The only reasonable action after this revelation was to seek warmth and a hot drink in the nearby Youth Hostel (conversely the place I stayed during said school trip). 

Bethan and Catrin

2. Sister Reunion in London

Apologies for the slightly grainy photo on this one - I had limited choices!

A couple of weeks ago I was lucky enough to be in London for work and managed to meet up with my extremely talented sister, Catrin (she's in a band and is way cooler than me). 

We had a great catch up over pizza and even managed to get into an argument with four men over Donald Trump (not the best pick up chat...).

Orion Nebula Amateur Photo

3. Staring at the stars

When he was younger, one of Des' hobbies outside of music was amateur astronomy. 

He still has most of the gear hidden away in our garage and come a clear night, is known to get everything out for a spot of star gazing. 

Despite being bitterly cold, the recent crisp winter evenings have provided the perfect setting for looking at the heavens. Using our very loved Cannon D2300, Des managed to rig up a pretty decent photography setup, which we used to capture an image of the Orion Nebula above.

The light pollution where we live is pretty heavy, so the images aren't as detailed as they could be.

Pairings Platter York

4. Friday routine

Des is currently working from York City Centre on Fridays' - which has become the perfect excuse to head into the city and meet in the early evening for an end of week celebration.

Our current unwinding routine starts at Parings Wine Bar, where we held our engagement party last year. This can involve both wine and food - both of which are excellent. Last Friday we indulged in the Deli Platter pictured above.

5. First class hacks

My colleague tipped me off about Seatfrog whilst we were in London and both facing a mid-evening train back to York after a long day. 

The app essentially allows users to bid on selected first class seats before departure, starting from £5. Whilst the auction process is not completely transparent, I did manage to bag a first class upgrade from Kings Cross to York for £14, which was well worth it for the lounge access and wifi on the train. 

Currently it seems that the service is only running on Virgin East Coast, however the website does indicate that they have plans to expand in the near future!

6. Great Medium articles

My love for blogging platform Medium is ongoing. Here are a few of the excellent articles I have read over the past few weeks:

50 Things You Probably Forgot To Design

Find a way to do more for others than anyone else is doing: A 9-min Guide to Winning at Customer Retention

63 Best Digital Marketing Tools You Should Know About in 2018

7. Song of the week

Just because. 

That's all folks! Speak this coming week (I promise)

Sunday Summation 20: The post Christmas catch up

So, time for some weekly reflection. 

It's been quite a while since my last post of this nature, so I'm not too sure where I last left you - probably sometime back in deepest darkest 2017. 

I'm slightly late with this week's Sunday Summation as I spent most of Sunday evening trying to come to terms with the fact that my two week holiday was well and truly over.

Despite my body clock resetting itself back to my university routine (bed at 2am, wake up at 11am), I actually managed to have an activity filled festive break, the highlights of which did not include multiple trips up and down the M1 and M62. 

Some things have changed for the New Year, others have stayed the same, so I thought I would use this week's round up to recap a couple of events/bits of news from the last few months (as opposed to a scintillating overview of my past week spent in PJs watching Mad Men).

Nancypuss

Saying goodbye to Nancy

In November we sadly said goodbye to our much loved cat Nancy. 

As an old lady with multiple health issues, she had surpassed all expectations in living well into old age. In mid November it became clear that her back legs were failing fast due to a spinal tumour or cyst (the vet was unsure of the exact diagnosis, but sure that it would be fatal either way). This was severely impacting her quality of life and in all likelihood was rather painful, so we decided to let her go peacefully.

Almost two months on, I'm still surprised at my grief. Whilst she was not a child, a close friend or family member, she was part of our family. 

River cruise Budapest

A winter trip to Budapest

I suspect I may elaborate on my experiences in a longer post as there's a lot to say about this city. 

In mid December we set off from Manchester airport on my Birthday for four days in Hungary's capital city, staying in the luxurious and central Hotel Prtestige Budapest.

Most of our trip was spent exploring the city on foot, on one day I clocked up over 26,000 steps as we carved out a trail along the river and through festively lit streets. 

The highlight for me had to be the river cruise we took along the Danube late one afternoon which included a glass of fizz and a stop off at Margaret island. 

Making more Peach

In the past I have described Peach as the "creative vehicle" which Des and I use to make music together, but that sounds a bit wanky. Basically it's the name under which we post our various jams and musical experiments, some good, some less than mediocre. 

Being cooped up together in inclement weather over Christmas provided a prime opportunity to work on a couple of new tracks, including the one below. (Apologies for my sub-par vocals, I'm definitely out of practice).

Getting back on the bike

After falling out of love with cycling in 2017, I have decided that this year will be the year of the bike.

My car is essentially dying a slow but certain death, so at some point I'm going to have to decide whether to get another one, or try and go without.

I'm lucky to live a few miles away from my work and am also only a 7 minute cycle from York city centre and the railway station. My favourable location, coupled with the cost savings and undesirable environmental impact of car ownership, are good reasons to err on the side of no car. Plus the feeling of cycling right past stationary traffic is like no other...

In order to test my hypothesis, I've decided to try going for one month without a car whilst I still have one, just to confirm to myself that it is indeed easy, cheap and good for my health. 

One of my biggest obstacles to cycling everywhere is mainly concerns over safety (I am lucky to be in reasonably good shape so the fitness aspect should be OK).

To make sure I'm doing everything I can to protect myself, I've invested in a new top quality helmet and some extremely good high vis clothing - opting for this impressively luminous and lightweight gilet

If you're a fellow cyclist on the streets of York, do say hi!