2016/17

2017 - Emma's Picture Postcards

My blog feed last week included a lot of mentions of 2016 either being downright pants, or a variant of “actually, surprisingly decent, all things considered”. I had a lot of great highlights, but overall it was a pretty rough year for me personally.

A big hurdle was having to quit my job in July, with no new opportunity to go to, no firm idea of what I really wanted to do, and at a time when the employment market in Aberdeen was (is) dire. I have a bad habit of getting emotionally invested in my work, and considering that this particular job was in a very small business, working for people I had considered friends, it was difficult to give up on. I’ve also struggled with a variety of other issues this year, big and small, which have frustrated and upset me and which I’ve dwelled on to a point that I’ve realised is neither healthy nor normal. I’ve been proactive over the last couple of years about getting physically fit and strong, and I’ve decided it’s about time I applied the same approach to my mental health as well. Wish me luck 🙂

My rock throughout, though, has been my little family of three – me, James and Puss, that is – I didn’t pop out a child while your back was turned 😉  James and I have now been together for almost six years, and have had Puss for almost four and our house for three and a half.  The house has felt like home since the day we found it, but I feel like this is the year where we properly settled in and made it our own.  James also finished his PhD this year and got a long-term contract as a researcher in the same department and I’m so proud of him 🙂  I’m proud of our relationship too – I’ve been a pain in the ass at times but he’s been nothing but patient and supportive and kind and understanding, and I feel like we’ve come out of this year stronger and knowing each other better.

The other big positive from the past year that I intend to carry on into 2017 is that I made face-to-face time with friends a priority.  I can sometimes be a little rubbish at keeping in touch remotely, but I have always been a big fan of visiting people wherever they may be.  It can be an effort and an expense, but I’ve never once regretted spending that time and money to see them.  Plus, not only do I get to spend time in their lovely company, but I have an excuse to visit the place they’re in, usually with free accommodation!  In the past I’ve been to Iceland, Gran Canaria, all around Germany and even to New Zealand to see friends and they’re some of my favourite travel experiences.  Closer to home, Sarah and I have gotten into a nice routine of meeting up every few weeks, and I’ve seen my other Aberdeen friends a fair bit but need to up this a little next year.

Speaking of travel, though, 2016 was in theory a low-key travel year for me after big trips to the USA in 2015 and Iceland in 2014, and especially since I was without an income for a while!   I did get a surprising amount packed in though, which was lovely: James and I went to Skye in March, a family party in Dalgety Bay in April, York and Italy in August and Germany in October, plus I also went to London twice, Edinburgh two or three times and to my parents’ house in the Scottish Borders for Christmas.  Most of those were repeat visits but it was my first time to Skye, York and Tuscany, so for a quiet year, my wanderlust quota is quite happy!  In 2017, I’m off to Nottingham next week and we have a trip to Northern Ireland planned for late spring some time and Italy in August for a wedding.  We’re also hoping to head off for a city break or two somewhere in Europe – the list of potential destinations for this is as long as my arm so we might have to pick one out of a hat 🙂

As for blogging, it’s been a mixed year on that front too.  I went along to my first blogger meet-up in March, which feels like a lifetime ago.  Getting involved in the local blogging community has brought some lovely experiences and friendships and fun opportunities, but also occasional feelings of comparison and obligation that I’d pretty much managed to avoid previously.  I think that was helpful though, because I now have quite a firm idea of what my priorities and expectations are.  First and foremost, I’m here for my own enjoyment, because I like writing and taking photos and having people read and look at them, especially if they like them.  I would like to post more regularly and not worry about every post being the best it can possibly be.  I’m going to try to remember that I’m not trying to write something that’s helpful, but something that’s enjoyable and that maybe provokes a bit of thought or wanderlust.  I’m never going to be a daily blogger.  I said this time last year that once a week feels ideal, and I agree with that now.  Looking back at my stats, I posted half as many posts in 2016 as in 2015, which makes me sad, but I got twice as many views and visitors, which is nice.  Part of that is natural growth and me telling people the blog exists, and some is from casual social media promotion – again, I’m confident that I’m never going to be a social media guru, especially because I usually just don’t like Twitter, but I’m happy with my current level of dabbling.

Anyway, I’ve been writing this post for days so I’m going to go ahead and push ‘publish’.  Enough naval-gazing for now 🙂  Happy New Year and speak to you soon!

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2016 Bucket List

Kings Chapel, Aberdeen - Emma's Picture Postcards

So I’m the kind of person who, when I know something might happen, subconsciously talks myself around to it, to the extent that I sometimes convince myself it’s definitely happening. James’s contract at Aberdeen University is due to finish in April, and although his supervisor was working on securing a big grant to hopefully keep him on, he’d mentioned that if that didn’t work out, he’d look at a couple of other opportunities – at the opposite end of the UK.

Aberdeen is our home – I’ve lived here for ten years now, and James for five, and we bought our house here two years ago. We have really good friends here, and it’s a nice place to live – just the right size of city, big enough that it has all you need, but small enough that it still has a sense of community, plus I love being by the sea – although I’m the first to admit that being this far north, in a city built mostly out of grey granite, can be pretty depressing in winter.

All that said, we were keen to stay in Aberdeen if possible, not least because James absolutely loves his job and department, but we weren’t against the idea of moving. My job is currently based from home anyway, and there are more opportunities in my line of work in the major English cities. The weather would be better, and we wouldn’t have to work out which major airport was most convenient to transfer via when going on holiday, because we’d be near some of them… Safe to say, in the back of my mind, I’d come round to the idea and was kinda looking forward to a fresh start.

You guessed it – the grant was secured, James had an interview, and we are 100% definitely in Aberdeen for the next four years. Haha. I am happy about it, and very proud of him, and it’s great to have the security of knowing exactly where we’ll be. But to make it seem a little extra shiny, I decided to make a bucket list for this year, to make the most of being close to the lovely things Scotland has to offer!

  1. Edinburgh Zoo. I visited Edinburgh Zoo so many times as a child, and I don’t have a single tiny negative memory about it. I absolutely love it, and it’s been too long since I’ve been back. Nothing will stop me making a trip this year.
  2. Blair Drummond Safari Park. On the other hand, I have never been to a safari park, despite the fact that there’s a really good one a couple of hours away. This looks like such a fun day out so I really hope to make it happen in the summer.
  3. Race for Life. I’ve done the Baker Hughes 10K twice with work colleagues, the first time with very little training and the second with more. I’m planning to sign up for Race for Life to get me back into doing some cardio (and of course because I love the cause!) but I think I might stick to the 5K this time so I’m not quite so crippled afterwards! I’ve been really inspired by Lucy in the Clouds’s “13 x 13” Challenge so am looking forward to getting my trainers on when the weather gets a little warmer.
  4. Skye. When my mum was little, she and her parents and siblings used to go to the little Highland town of Gairloch regularly, and when I was a teenager she took us on holiday there, and we were instantly hooked. We’ve been back so many times since, both all together as a family and separately. As much as I love visiting new places around the world, a trip to Gairloch will always be at the top of my getaway wishlist, and there’s nowhere else that makes me feel so calm. The Highlands have so many beautiful places though, and across the water from Gairloch is the spectacular Isle of Skye, and I’d love to finally make it over there to explore.
  5. Eilean Donan Castle. And conveniently located on the way to Skye, is Eilean Donan Castle – you know the one, it’s pinned about 1,000 times a day on Pinterest.
  6. CairnGorm Mountain. I actually listed “Cairngorms National Park” originally, but looking at the map I’ve actually visited the park quite a few times without really realising it – taking clients to the distilleries in Granton-on-Spey and Tomintoul this summer; a day white water rafting near Aviemore; a hen weekend in a cottage at Glenlivet; a road trip to Ballater a couple of years ago. The main thing I have in mind though is a trip on the Funicular Railway, which I didn’t know existed until my parents went there this summer. The scenery is spectacular from the road, but I’d like to go up the mountain and see it from above.
  7. The Kelpies. A giant road-side sculpture which I’ve so far only been able to admire in photos. I’m hoping to take a detour to see them next time I drive home to visit my family in the Scottish Borders.
  8. Decorate! We were really lucky to find our house as it was in great condition, and we haven’t had to do much to it apart from some minor repairs to the roof and guttering, replacing the boiler, oven and a chunk of fence. We really need to get some painting done though. I’ve never done any decorating before and didn’t really know where to start, but when my mum asked if there was anything I wanted for Christmas, I jokingly asked her to come up and help, and to my surprise she said yes! So hopefully with her help we’ll soon have some shiny new rooms – I’ll take before and after pictures 🙂

What’s on your bucket list for this year?