2017 – A Chinese New Year in Review

It has just dawned on me I never got round to doing a write up for 2017. Oh how you poor souls must have struggled to survive these past ten weeks. Well good news, it’s the Chinese New Year, the Year of the Dog in fact (why do I say that like it’s that big a deal?) which automatically gives me an excuse to do the yearly review in February.

I’ll keep this short and sweet because I’m multitasking this between a conversation of Papa Bennett’s new Volvo and Mumma Bennett discussing ISAs and investments. There’s also a crumble in the oven which I need to keep an eye on (did I ever tell you how middle class my family is?)

Anyway, a quick update on 2017.

Important Stuff Kicking Off:

  • Trump / Brexit (use as headline news where appropriate)
  • Bruce Forsyth, Adam West, Peter Sallis, Tara Palmer-Tomkinson and, most painfully, Keith Chegwin died this year. According to The Sun (look, it came top of the Google search) more men died than women. Not sure if this means more famous women are needed, more famous female deaths are impending, or The Sun is sexist (or all three)..
  • Meanwhile, in Ireland…
  • Meanwhile, in London…

 

Personal Stuff Kicking Off

  • In March 2017 – bought a house (no biggie) and started a mini-series on my website documenting the process of buying and doing it up. You can access the series via the link on the top bar or here: The First Time Buyer Diaries (TFTBD)
  • June – builders moved in for a week and took off the back of my house to increase the size of the downstairs bedroom. Given the back of the property was protected only by a sheet of plastic for several days sleeping didn’t come too easily on those nights. Spoiler – I survived. (I’ll write more about this as part of TFTBD at some point.)
  • August – went on a mini-break to Prague. (Why Prague? Because it’s the cheapest place a skint homeowner can visit within the EU, that’s why.) Booked a hotel room in the centre of the historic capital which meant easy access after all the tourist hoards had left (although FYI the bars close early!) Particular elements to call out were a Gerhard Richter exhibition and a classical music concert. Found both experiences very emotive.
  • August – Bought a car. Still recovering from the expense of buying a house and paying for a holiday, my lovely blue Fiat 500 (and all associated costs) quite literally broke me. For all of about two weeks I had hardly two pennies to rub together. That was fun…
  • In September I started a new job in the glamorously corporate world of finance, working in project governance (haven’t you seen 50 Shades? Control is sexy). This job is wonderful because a) it pays more b) all the men have to wear suits and c) the support, development and progression networks are vastly superior compared to where I was before. Oddly enough A and B were not articulated in my original job interview.
  • October – discovered my new job is nothing like Wolf of Wall Street.
  • Technically it happened in January 2018 but I’m going to tell you anyway. Long story short, I’m now single. I’m fine, that is unless you’re offering to buy me chocolate, wine or coffee. In which case I’m a mess.

In Other News

  • I created this masterpiece for my sister’s birthday, putting together my two all time loves: Windows Movie Maker and Phil Collins.

(Ridley Scott should be afraid is all I’m saying.)

  • Swindon 18-30 breeched 600 member mark.
  • Writing stuff stagnated somewhat, but looking to revitalise this for 2018.

 

So overall a busy year for the world (Trump, Brexit, need I say more?) And for me (house, car, job, at this rate I’m going to run out of things to spend my money on, hah-hah as if I just typed that!)

Happy New Chinese Year everyone!

Advertisements

Line!

Evoking emotion in me is like filling a massive man-made dam. You keep pushing and pushing to go further, to fill it higher, until suddenly the walls break and water goes everywhere. Many lives and friendships lost, terrible mess, nightmare insurance claim.

Problem is I often don’t know when to stop. It’s like the world is challenging me to tip toe over the thick red boundary, to see the signs and ignore the warnings. To step over “the line”.

Within our family we’re pretty good at keeping each other in check. A slip of the tongue and down the phone you’ll hear me dryly saying “line! Line!” As if I’m  voicing a submarine siren or hitting a desk buzzer. I used to mimic the action, that was until people in public places started expressing concern that I was having a some kind of seizure.

“Line! Line! Line!”

Outside of family there’s no such restriction on what I say. Now obviously I never say anything offensive or plain stupid, I’m not Donald Trump, but that doesn’t stop me saying things that are a bit kooky and classically Alice. A throwaway comment that develops into a very strange trail of thought, carrying on and on until I look up and realise that, at best, no one is listening or, at worst, I get “a look” which says it all; “must remove from LinkedIn.”

Only recently have I discovered that I’m not alone in evoking stupid thoughts. Someone at work is equally resilient to being unable to locate the line. At first I thought “oh my God, another one exists! Yay!” now I’m thinking “oh my God, how does this end? Will the world implode if we share one pun too many?”

I’ll spare you the full detailed story that has developed between us because honestly it’s pretty weird (I know, even by my standards). This fictional life started with an innocent accidental wave on Facebook – 30 minutes later and it had become all kinds of Mighty Boosh.

To make matters worse, the colourful (and ongoing) contents were inadvertently brought from the safe confines of social media and into the office today. You can only imagine the looks (or non-looks) the pair of us were getting. I may have discovered the older, more ‘out there’ version of me, but I’m also discovering why “you can never have too much of a bad thing” isn’t a common saying amongst sensible people. The banter is wonderful, but the confused looks and hole-digging explanations? Hmm, that’s harder to put up with on a day-to-day.

Where is my conversation controller, my stupid stopper, my tame talker? Where is my internal, one word, monologue when I need it the most?

“Line! Line! Line!”

 

Written in response to the WordPress prompt Evoke

Things Are Going To Change Around Here

You’re lying on a beach, the warm Mediterranean sun kissing your sun cream-sheen body. There’s a Pina Colada in hand (it could be the second or third, but who’s counting anyway?) And you think to yourself, “yes, this is pure bliss”. Suddenly, out of nowhere…

“Things are going to change around here!”

You’re sat in an English beer garden in summer, holding a pint of ale that comes recommended by the landlord himself. There’s a gentle breeze flowing through your hair as you idly watch dog walkers stroll by. It could just as easily be Devon or as it could be Suffolk (but who’s reading the map anyway?) And you think to yourself, “can’t go far wrong”. Then…

“Things are going to change around here!”

You’re stood by a roaring fire, munching down on festive treats. Outside it’s dark and cold, but inside you worship only the primitive flames. The wine is pouring a plenty and the boxes of mince pies are never ending. You don’t care much for the brand (who’s checking the price tag anyway?) And you soon find yourself curling up into a ball and drifting off by the glowing embers. As your eyelids slowly lower, with loving family all around, you think to yourself “life doesn’t get much better than this.”…

“Things are going to change around here!”

***

All three of the above are, give or take a few juicy words, all scenarios I’ve shared in the company of my beloved Papa Bennett. It’s basically a family tradition, when you reach a sweet spot in life he will almost always cry out those seven words. “Things are going to change around here!”

Usually the statement will be followed by something that he feels is currently out of balance. These fall into two categories and you can usually pin point what he’s going to say and when he’ll say it down to a T. For example, Christmas time after eating four mince pies in one sitting = health, three days into a beach holiday = work balance. And every time we tell him “work less hours!” Or “eat less junk!” all we get is a look of horror. “I couldn’t possibly do that!” he says.

Papa Bennett aside, used in the right way the statement does have weighting to it. I think to myself, wouldn’t it be better to, instead of pledging resolutions at New Year, instead say TAGTCAH? (Does that read like a Lord of the Rings character? Or a nasty throat infection?)

Without going into the potted year of the Alice Bennett show, 2017 has been so unbelievably busy. New house, new car, new job (and everything else in between). I’ve dealt with busy builders, evil energy suppliers and a mortgage provider who tried to fob me off with a blank cheque. Swindon stays the same, sure, but everything else has changed.

What’s going to change around here in 2018? Well, things I hope for:

Life to calm down (at least the things I can control)
I received a Christmas card this year with the added note “hoping 2018 is just as thrilling as the one before!” Well no, no I really hope it isn’t. I’ve invested enough time and money on the power three (house, car, job) in the past year, I welcome a break!

Stop worrying over the little things.
Recently someone gave me a piece of written feedback. I highly paraphrase, but it went something like “you’re doing great, but you’ve seriously got to stop worrying and overanalysing everything.” (So I’m going to stop fussing so much over the little things.)

Learn how to read electronic messages.
…My knee jerk reaction to the above email was to heavily defend why I cared so much about my job. I reread heir comments a week later and realised that I’d completely misread what they were trying to say. They’d written the comment in good humour as part of a longer email as a gentle nudge to relax a little. And yet I latched onto one slightly negative thing. That was silly and I wish I could take it back and not given out the Alice Bennett sob story. So as a writer I also need to learn how to read (hah, how ironic).

Stop overanalysing emails. (See above.) Because colleagues will think it weird and will be scared that they’ll appear on blogs, like they’re working with some kind of corporate Taylor Swift.

Write something awesome
Like truly awesome

Grow nails, preferably by finding something/one as actual motivation.
Because nothing else is working and I hate my hands and want nails so bad. I’m thinking like The Rock or Channing Tatum as personal trainers, Richard Branson staring me down from the other side of the office, and/or a naggy Martin Freeman? Not fussy, whichever comes easiest to hand (eh, see what I did there? Pun Goddess.)

Be you Alice because when you’re not spilling coffee everywhere you pass off for a decent human being. And you need to damn well appreciate it more.

IMG_8854
(Also because Oscar Wilde’s people called. Turns out he’s already taken.)

So there’s my ‘things are going to change around here’ list for 2018. Comment below any of yours, in the meantime I’m off to take on the new year.

Lets do this.

A Christmas Message

Presents? Check. Food and drink? Check. Festive tunes? Check. Good.

Now remember, your mission is to end the day like this:

164696_474173336049_3127190_n

A bit blurry, but you get the idea.

Merry Christmas one and all, now go forth and be me.

My Housemate’s a Mermaid: 2016 in Review

Crikey is it that time of year again? Can it really be New Year’s Eve? With a backdrop of Homes Under the Hammer you wouldn’t think it. But then India is off at one of her multiple New Year’s Eve gatherings and Jools Holland has a prime time slot on the BBC, so it must be.

It feels the world is a very much different place compared to this time last year (back in 2015). The world lost many great people including stars from music, television, film and the literary world. Just when it felt like we couldn’t lose anymore another one dropped down, taking the world by surprise and reasserting in the minds and Facebook statuses of millions that 2016 was one of the bleakest years in celebrity culture. Mind, according to a recent BBC report, the number of celebrity deaths in 2016 reached 32, whereas in 2015 there were 29 so perhaps not as extreme as we all think. Sorry to be a buzz kill on this, but with an ageing generation of celebrities and drug culture 2017 could easily match or surpass 2016 in respect of notable deaths.

There was also a lot of political upheaval around the world. Brexit, Trump, Syria to name but three. Alongside this there have been (what feels like) countless bombings and acts of terrorism around the world, all of which bringing trauma and misery to one extent or another. There was also the announcement that Toblerone’s were changing their shape. That scandalous story almost brought Britain to its knees I’m telling you. Do I honestly think the world and chocolate industry will see sense in 2017? Pfft, of course not!

Moving on to personal developments then. At the end of 2016 I can still lay claim to two parents, two cats and a sister. I still live in Swindon at 10 Starfish Road with four other housemates including that famous mermaid. Company I work for remains unchanged. Swindon 18-30 Professionals continues to go from strength to strength with ever increasing members and a new sponsor. Local coffee business Baila Coffee and Vinyl join our two pre existing sponsors, Baker Street Wine Bar and Club and The Royal Oak Gin and Oyster Bar. In addition, we also welcomed a new event organiser to the leadership team, taking number to four. Stratford and Evesham Social diversified by widening itself to include those aged in their 20s and 40s, and also welcomed a new event organiser, taking leadership team to three. The group is still searching for a sponsor but membership growth continues to steadily grow as word of mouth and online postings help to spread the word.

I suppose the real big, very much change to my lifestyle, news is that I’ve started seeing someone (alias ‘the tall, bearded, Scotsman’). This is admittedly new and exciting stuff. He gets me roses and stuff, spoils me rotten, cooks amazing food (protein deficiency is no longer a problem in my diet!) and makes me smile.

Flowers.png

In terms of New Year resolutions from 2016, results have been pretty hit and miss. (Resolutions in black, updates in red):

Personal goals (in no particular order)

  • Write 100 blog posts (this post is my 35th) –  Achieved! This is my 206th post (thanks chiefly to Nablopomo for upping the post numbers).
  • Learn how to apply make up without stabbing myself in the eye. Achieved! After a few mistakes, including the application of mascara to my arm, I finally got the hang of eye make up.
  • Learn how to look good in make up (“Alice, is that a black eye?” “It’s eyeshadow.” “Practising for Halloween?” “Err, yeah, sure.”) – Debateable success. Work in progress.
  • Get Swindon 18-30 Professionals up to 350 members (ambitious, we’re currently at 240) – Ambitious? As of 31st December 2016 membership stands at 455. Achieved and succeeded.
  • Get North Cotswold Young Professionals up off the ground – Work in progress. The group operates well, but needs an additional event organiser to get group fully self running.
  • Stop wallowing in self pity and actually grow my nails – Failed.
  • Write/make headway on getting a book written – Writing on a completely different book is underway.
  • Get more sleep – Limited success.
  • Attempt Spanish in some shape or form – Utter failure.
  • Keep up the hard work and stick with the gym – Achieved!

Mama/Papa Bennett’s goals for me (FYI – these are not confirmed)

  • Get a boyfriend – Achieved!
  • Preferably rich – Mind your own business.
  • And attractive – Achieved!
  • Who also has a liking for sailing (for common interest) and football (because papa Bennett has been wanting to get into it for years). – Never sailed and, owing to Scottish heritage, not a big football obsessive. Not that I mind in the slightest.
  • And takes a keen interest in TV shows such as Coast and period dramas. Failed, but then he is of the male variety.

India’s goals for me (again, TBC)

  • Stop being always right – Failed
  • Stop batting younger sisters with pillows – Failed
  • Stop forcing younger sisters to wear silly hats in public places – Failed
  • Accept that this run isn’t appropriate or normal:
Failed
  • And understand that certain older sisters will never become professional Strictly dancers while they call this “dancing”:

 

Failed

So overall some big successes and achievements and some missed targets. Also some goals made which I didn’t even set for myself, notably organising my first ever formal Summer Ball in August. An event that may have pushed me right to the very edge but in the end was one of my greatest achievements in recent years. I also have other things going on in the pipeline which at this time would take too long to go into detail over.
New Year’s Resolution 2017:
  • Don’t Jeff it all up
  • (Oh and grow my nails. Like, actually grow them.)
All in all, this year has been pretty decent for me. As I said this time last year:
Here’s hoping that next year will be more fabulous and amazing than 2015. I really have my fingers and toes crossed that it will be. I know I’ve sad it 15 odd times before, but I have a feeling 2016 is going to be a good year.
And you know what? I was right.
Happy New Year Everyone!