The last of my yearly review posts, this one is all the things that have happened this year.

2016 was hard… in so many ways, for so many people. So I’m focusing mainly (though not exclusively) on the good here, because those are the things I’d like to remember.

Friendship was a major theme of the year for me – making new ones, consolidating new-ish ones, refreshing old ones, and letting go of some entirely. Also, right at the end of the year, making friends with a kindred spirit in the cat food aisle of Tesco. Yes, really. #officiallyacrazycatlady. My friends have put up with a lot this year, and have endlessly soothed and comforted me during the bad times, and also shared in and multiplied the good ones. I am unbelievably blessed!

Kittens have had an interesting year – Luna got hit by a car at least once and lost all her claws on one foot (they’re just now starting to grow back). She came home three more times with mashed claws, and we had two more emergency vet visits, at which point I bought a curfew cat flap, which they are not that excited about, but which is soothing my frazzled nerves during the winter days when it is full dark before I come home. They’ve had a whole string of things wrong with them, including an operation Luna needed on her mouth earlier in the year, and I am now on first name terms with the entire staff of Colne Valley practice. Who have been amazing throughout. They are, however, as glorious as ever, and while I’ve had some WTF moments, I am very glad they are in my life and that they’ve survived the building of the house, the garden and then the studio!

The build is finished! I’m writing this from my garden studio, and I got all my keys back from various trades on 22 December. Which felt momentous, after sixteen months of disruption. It has been exciting and stressful in equal parts, though now the dust is (literally) starting to settle, I am enormously grateful to have created my perfect home almost from scratch. Now I just have to pay for it…! The studio feels particularly momentous, as I need to kickstart all my business activities again, and having a dedicated home for that is quite magical – it’s true that you don’t know you’ll miss something until it’s gone! It’s also very restful to have my living room back and not have trailing cables all over the place…

Family health including my own hasn’t been brilliant, but I’d rather not dwell on that – suffice to say that we have all survived, and I hope 2017 will be better. Mum and Dad have as always been an incredible support to me, particularly during the build, and I am very much counting my blessings to have them with me at the end of this year.

I’m still embracing my singlehood and being single at heart, and am fairly sure I am happier out of than in a relationship. Which is a weird thing to get my head around no matter how certain my feelings are, and no matter how many years pass – because we spend our whole lives expecting to both want and get the happy relationship ideal that is hawked to us everywhere. I am much more aware than I was before of the bias towards couples that exists in the world, though apart from the cost of living alone and the lack of invites for a plus one at weddings, I am fortunate that it doesn’t affect me much.

More than ever this year, I am relieved to be childfree by choice. There are many children in my life, both family and friends’ little ones, who I am delighted to spend time with, but I am more certain than I have ever been that that is not a route I want to go down for myself. The cats are quite enough responsibility! I explored becoming a surrogate early in the year, something I have been thinking about for a long time, but it turns out that in the UK, you have to have a healthy pregnancy of your own before you can be a surrogate for someone else. And having a baby that I definitely don’t want so that I can help someone else have one that they definitely do seems a step too far! So that idea has been shelved, and given my emotional state this year, it’s probably a good thing!

Here are some of my favourite images of the year, in no particular order… 

 

Lovely things which happened, again in no particular order, and subject to me coming back and adding things as I remember them… 

Adventures to Selsey, Cornwall, Crowthorne, Twinwood and Pin Mill; spa days and spa breaks; Center Parcs in January; wandering in Wivenhoe; and also Devon, Kent, Bristol, Milton Keynes and other places for weddings. I spent more time on the beach this summer than I have in the previous five summers combined!

Getting my photography confidence in spades (thank you girls for your faith in me, you know who you are) and doing some actual shoots including a wedding, a baby shower, a bridal boudoir session, burlesque/boudoir mini sessions, an autumn friendship shoot and some glorious pet sessions

Launching a whole new business turning people into mermaids for the day, becoming a Fin Fun approved reseller, coaxing insurance for it out of a bemused but helpful company, and doing some beach photoshoots too

Discovering I live within half an hour’s drive of FIVE different beaches

Becoming an auntie to Willoughby, Julia and Mike’s little boy, in January – I haven’t seen him nearly as much as I’d like to have done in his first year, but I have never been quite so overcome with love as the day that I met him.

Celebrating my 30th with family and also with friends – was overwhelmed with love and happiness that so many people came to help me celebrate

Gatherings with dear friends – including celebrating the winter solstice, which is something I’ve been meaning to do for years

Multipod goodness – Maddy discovering she is one; meeting up with Emma in Bristol; and embracing my own multipod ways for work and life

Getting an accountant! The bliss of not having to spend today in my traditional NYE tax return panic is delightful. Also opened a proper business bank account which is frightening but lovely

Creating a writing/photography circle – it’s loosely a writing circle but I chose to focus on my photography this year, and it is SO UTTERLY WONDERFUL to have likeminded people to be neurotic about my craft with, among other things

Accidentally wrote a children’s book about the cats – I am hoping that during 2017 this might become an actual book – watch this space!

Random lovely events including Country2Country with Mum, Dad, Claire and Diana; afternoon tea at Wivenhoe House; Harry Potter studio tour with Lizzie; a mini meet of my car club at the very cool diner on the A12; seeing Rich Hall live; Harry Potter midnight party for the Cursed Child launch; dinners with friends;

Recording a podcast and writing an interview piece for two major sites which I hope will come out in 2017 – massive milestones for my career shift and my little businesses!

Lots and lots of mermaid swimming – parties, spa days and also meeting and swimming with other mers

Having my colours done

Many evenings putting the world to rights over Ink Drops wrapping with Annastasia, who has been unbelievably lovely this year

Finally acquiring the camera of my dreams (and being brave enough to sell one of my others and some lenses to fund it)

Kayaking!

The NSPCC book fair, which was just glorious and is now a firm fixture in my October calendar

Shopping for my wedding dress (it’s a long story. I’m not getting married though)

Buying rings to celebrate my mermaid & photography achievements this year, and then freaking out everyone with a photograph (still #sorrynotsorry, it has to be said)

Seeing my Dad’s childhood home, which was up for sale by coincidence just as I was heading down to Cornwall to visit family – and the agents very kindly let me in and showed me round, which was wonderful.

Featured in Yes and Yes (eee!)

Read the whole Wheel of Time series (14 books) and Harry Potter series (7 books) among my year’s reading

… and some other stuff, which I’m sure I have forgotten!

I failed utterly to do my usual accurate counts of books read (lots), weddings attended (also lots), engagements (less than usual, I presume because everyone is already married now), pregnancies and babies (about average), deaths (way more than usual) and milestone events for those I love (bloody loads, a crazy number of people I know have been doing the big three of marriage/house/children in the last few years). Business has taken a back seat to the Enormous House Project and some other stuff, and the day job, while suffering from my usual cycle of love it – tolerate it – hate it – love it and repeat, has been especially useful to me this year. I have hated having to leave the house for it every day, but the support and friendship I’ve had there, not to mention the routine in a year of crazy, might just have been my saving grace.

I’m now off to drink Baileys and read books and cuddle the cats, and do some more happy planning for 2017. Whatever your New Year’s Eve holds, I hope 2017 brings you health, happiness and joy.

Making rainbow unicorn bark
2016 in review: Daydreams to Do