Tag: love

2017: The Year In Review

It’s New Year’s Day already and that means it’s time to do our annual Year In Review. At this time last year I had almost completely freed myself from a terrible, punishing job at the World’s Worst Company – I was almost at the end of my contract, slogging through the last of a huge pile of paperwork and looking forward to being formally released mid-January. I was in love with a Person who I wasn’t supposed to be in love with during the second half of 2015 and much of 2016 but by the time 2017 materialised it seemed to be really over, at last, and I formed a new and more worthwhile relationship with my Playstation that I had for Christmas.

By the end of 2017 I had visited 5 countries and set up home with someone new, in my first serious relationship since this blog began.

January

January arrived, as it is wont to do. I handed back my keys at the World’s Worst Company, left the building and returned to full-time self-employment. This was definitely the high point of the month. I was in terrible physical shape due to being overworked for a long time but I was optimistic for the year ahead. I joined a local community choir, to give my lungs some exercise and to provide an opportunity to keep dressing up in outrageous, huge-skirted, 1950s frocks, a habit I formed during the last few months of going to work. Check out this little number, it has dinosaurs, which turned out to be rather a theme for January.

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I played Far Cry: Primal on my Playstation and it was the TLYW Game of the Month.

Far Cry® Primal_20170118035629
Far Cry® Primal_20170118035629

I celebrated my new-found freedom going out around London. I saw some art: I went to the Robert Rauschenberg exhibition at Tate Modern.

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I went to the British Museum to look at some African masks

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and to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum.

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I went to the gym, which was a new thing. I despaired about the state of my teeth, which is never a new thing.

February

I got seriously into live music in February and started going to concerts and operas around London. The first event was a performance by the London Philharmonic Orchestra of Haydn’s Creation at Royal Festival Hall. Then I returned to Royal Festival Hall for a performance of music by Philip Glass. After that, I went to the comic opera The Pirates of Penzance and then to Rigoletto, both sung by the English National Opera.

I went to the British Museum again, to look at John Dee’s crystal ball. Dee was a 16th-century mystic who advised Elizabeth I. Then I went a third time, to see the South Africa exhibition, which was amazing. I felt relatively well-informed about South Africa, having visited in 2016 and learned as much as possible about its history while I was there.

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I went to an exhibition of board games at the Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green, London, which is an extension of the Victoria & Albert Museum.

I ate heartily, at South Bank Food Market and Comptoir Libanais.

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In February I conceived the idea of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming, an organised programme of console gaming, in which I lined up a total of 14 console games to be played at a rate of one a month. This programme continued well for the first three quarters of the year. Game of the Month for February was ARK: Survival Evolved, which was awesome and turned out to be my favourite game of 2017. I will definitely return to it. I will do a separate post about my 2018 plans for gaming.

ARK: Survival Evolved_20170227004731
ARK: Survival Evolved_20170227004731

I went to the gym and caught two colds, which was so predictable. At least I was trying.

March

I continued to be excited about music and went to hear the Philharmonia Orchestra perform Stravinsky’s Firebird. The below clip shows Stravinsky conducting the last three scenes of The Firebird himself, it was recorded in 1960.

The story of The Firebird comes from Slavic folklore, a theme which held my attention for the rest of the month while I was reading The Bear and The Nightingale by Katherine Arden.

I fulfilled a lifetime ambition by seeing the wonderful Marc Almond perform live in Camden.

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I went to the Royal Academy to see an exhibition called America After the Fall: Painting in the 1930s, which featured Edward Hopper and Grant Wood.

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Then I returned to the RA to see an exhibition of Russian art (mainly paintings and ceramics, some films) from the period 1917-1932, that is, immediately following the Russian Revolution.

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Dress of the month was this turquoise Ophelia by LindyBop.

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Game of the Month of was God of War III: Remastered.

God of War® III Remastered_20170327221550
God of War® III Remastered_20170327221550

April

My interested in classical music continued in April and I went to Royal Festival Hall yet again to hear Mahler 5. I’d been in hospital with cellulitis, having had a run of bad health for about three months, and they let me out just in time to go to the concert.

mahler 5

I also went to the Royal Opera House to see a performance of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, which was one of the best things I’ve ever seen. The production took my breath away with its scale and beauty and I cried at the end. 10/10, would go again.

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Then my interest turned from opera to ballet and I went to see George Ballanchine’s 20th-century ballet Jewels, performed by the Royal Ballet. It was glittering, as one might expect.

Game of the Month was Witcher III: Wild Hunt.

White Orchard
White Orchard

May

A fabulous month. There was more opera and ballet. I went on holiday to Spain and France. I fell in love twice, latterly with Harry, who was about to change my life by becoming my first serious partner in several years and moving in with me before the year was over.

Opera of the month was Mozart’s Magic Flute. I enjoyed it so much, I saw it twice. It was performed by the Charles Court company in the back of a pub in London’s Islington. The second time, I was with Harry and it was our second date.

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Ballet of the month was Casanova, a new ballet by Kenneth Tindall, performed by the Northern Ballet Company.

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I went on holiday to Spain, where there was a resort and a beach, then I went to Paris, where there was wine.

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Game of the Month was Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag. It was glorious and I particularly enjoyed sailing ships and fighting at sea.

Assassin's Creed® IV Black Flag_20170528183133
Assassin’s Creed® IV Black Flag_20170528183133

June

There were terrorist attacks in London and Londoners were annoyed. I went to the historic Black Friar pub in London, which was built in 1875 and has stained glass windows.

I went on another date with Harry, this time to see Wayne Thiebaud at White Cube.

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Then we had still another date and went to London’s Kew Gardens. The summer weather was beautiful, we had weeks of sunshine, not to be underestimated in the UK.

kew tree house

Dress of the month: Nadia, by LindyBop, in a nice guitar print.

nadia guitar

I cleaned my house magnificently because of being in love. I had new, matching tableware from Portmeirion, the first of two sets this year.

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Game of the Month was Red Dead Redemption.

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July

July saw two things happen: Harry started cooking at my house, revealing fantastic cooking skills, and I went on a health kick. I purchased a Nutribullet, made smoothies twice a day and started doing a lot of exercise. I felt v healthy and only stopped with the hours of punishing cardio because my hair was falling out (I am not good at doing things in moderation).

 

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There were some nice walks on Hampstead Heath.

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We had an interesting meal at the Carousel restaurant at Tate Modern, including green matcha cake.

The restaurant has this view across the Thames. That’s St Paul’s Cathedral on the other side.

view across thames from tate

While we were at Tate, we also went to see Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (and finally blogged about it in September).

soul of a nation

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George Romero died and I wept.

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Game of the Month was Battlefield 1.

Battlefield™ 1_20170729223245
Battlefield™ 1_20170729223245

August

My business life heated up. I had to blog far less and do less video gaming but I travelled more. In August I went to Rotterdam, Den Bosch and had my 51st birthday in Amsterdam. This is the point where I suddenly had a lot of photos and no time to post them, so you are still waiting for pictures of all these destinations. Here are some teasers.

Rotterdam.

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Den Bosch.

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Amsterdam.

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Harry and I managed to squeeze in a date at London’s Camden Lock.

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Game of the Month was Batman: Arkham Asylum.

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September

Work was in full swing. By this point I was right in the middle of the busiest four months of 2017. There were no more fun dates around London or outdoor exercise sessions. I just worked and focused on meeting deadlines. I don’t even have any photos from that whole month.

Harry was supportive while I got all my work done.

Game of the Month was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, arguably the greatest of the GTA series.

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This turned out to be the last month of the TLYW Year of Console Gaming that I could fit into my diary. We are reviving the programme this January.

October

We celebrated the blog’s 7th birthday.

I went to Rotterdam again. Here are a couple more teaser photos. I’ll do detailed travel photo posts in due course.

Delft.

delft canal

I then went to India. Managed to get this quite nice snap out of the window on the plane.

plane clouds india

Spent a few days in Bangalore.

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Managed to carve out a very small amount of time to see some art, of which more later.

November

Finished working in India, went straight to Orange County in California.

Really nice weather, was like a British summer.

Back in London, Harry and I went shopping at The Japan Centre to celebrate his birthday.

December

Continued to work at a breakneck pace during the first half the month, then gradually began to slow down long enough to do a few Xmas things.

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Harry and I went to see The Nutcracker performed by the English National Ballet.

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Then, quite suddenly and very near the end of December, I finished work for real, cleaned my house, visited some relatives and settled in for a slightly delayed Christmas Day in London with Harry.

xmas cocktail 2017

And that was 2017. I wish everybody a very happy and prosperous year to come. I wanted to say that before hitting publish last night but someone was very keen for me to get off my PC and come to bed. Anyway, happy new year.

Did you break up with that boy?

Hello, dear readers. I’ve been having a frightfully busy time with work and travel, which is why I haven’t blogged in two weeks or played any video games. I thought about doing some gaming now because I have a night off for the first time in ages, but it was that or talk to you.

I spoke to my mom on the phone yesterday and we had a nice chat. She said ‘did you break up with that boy you were seeing?’ She was referring to Harry, as he was the clear winner of that epic period of romance which happened a few months ago and is referred to here on TLYW as Starry Skies.

‘No!’ I replied, in surprise. ‘Why would I break up with him? He’s lovely and we have a very good quality relationship.’

‘You stopped blogging about him’, said Mom. ‘Well because things are taking off, that’s why, and I wanted to keep it more private’, I said. ‘We are getting to know each other and are probably going to start living together. He is an absolutely delightful boy from a nice family and is kind to his grandmother.’

‘Oh, that’s very good’, she said. ‘That’s so important.’

She is right, it is. That’s why he is special. Added to which he has the brain of a mathematician and the body of a model, is a fantastic cook, loves cleaning and loves me. He is irresistible. He is so cute that he lights the place up like a Christmas tree, it’s like Christmas around here all the time. I couldn’t ask for more, could I.

Harry and I were talking the other day, we were standing in the hall where he was kindly tolerating my smoking out of the window. ‘I think I’ve done very well and that I am lucky to have you’, I said to him. ‘If I ever show signs of forgetting, remind me that I said that’.

So that’s where we’re up to. We are having a Relationship and are going to live together. It’s a big step for me as I’ve been single for 7 years, pretty happily. I am out of practice and a bit nervous. It occurred to me the other day that the last time I entered a new relationship, in the sense of committing to an actual partnership, was 2005. I was 39 then, I’m 51 now. My partner back in 2005 was 29, and my partner now is 24, so there’s that. God damn. I feel young. I also feel a bit like Stephen Fry because I am that fat. I also feel a bit like Calvin Klein because I am that glamorous.

Harry bravely gives his heart to me even though he believes that I will one day tire of him. This just makes me love him more, but he is wrong. I will not tire of him. If he wants a serious relationship, then we will see how serious he wants to get. I wonder what type of wedding he would like to have. Maybe I will get that beach wedding in the Bahamas I’ve always wanted. Not while there’s a hurricane there, obviously. Maybe wait for the weather to calm down.

Shall we have a tune? I think we should. Let’s have some vintage Christina Aguilera. I’ve been using Shazam recently. Enough said.

Christina Aguilera: Back In The Day (2006)

 

Real Food Market at King’s Cross, London

I was passing through King’s Cross between business meetings, and happened across the Real Food Market.

Bread, cheese and cheesy bread formed the basis of a couple of delicious meals with Harry. I was completely enchanted by the doughnuts and bought several, which I then realised I could not sanely eat, as I am already the size of Mariah Carey and I am supposed to be trying to look attractive for my new boyfriend, albeit not in a spangly leotard, so I took them downstairs to my neighbours.

Here’s a link to the official website. Recommended if you are in the neighbourhood.

http://www.realfoodfestival.co.uk/real-food-markets/kings-cross-market/

Dear old Mariah. Here she is, in fine voice in 1990. I didn’t listen to this kind of music back in the day, I wanted Biggie Smalls, Snoop and Ice Cube, but in retrospect I can appreciate what a great voice she had and that she was only about 20 or 21 at the time of this recording.

Apparently she has a new single out tomorrow.

Mariah Carey: Vision of Love (1990)

I have been travelling and there will be more food and travel news soon.

Camden Lock

A date with Harry. We went to the market at Camden Lock. It rained, because we like that in Britain, in the summer. It makes a change from the winter sleet.

Lunch. Obviously very important. I had a chicken katsu burger and sweet potato fries.

General outdoor scenes. Harry and I are falling in love and it is turning into quite a serious relationship. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ended up living together or even getting married, if his parents can handle the shock of the considerable age gap.

A hipster selling moustache wax and beard butter.

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The fancy tea shop. Harry is a big tea aficionado.

The Japanese shop.

A stall selling candles. They all looked and smelled delightful but I couldn’t have any because they are paraffin and my lungs don’t get along with paraffin candles. I discovered this after I bought a huge sampler pack of miniature Yankee Candles in all different fragrances, so I sent them to my sister-in-law who I don’t particularly like.

I love the photo of this lady and her husband. It was very clear that she desperately wanted one of these candles, if not several, and spent ages looking at them, but her husband did not take the hint. Then she tried passing them to him in an attempt to get him to take an interest, but he was not having it. As you can see, he is not even looking. I felt bad for her. We had a little chat about how nice the candles were, because she needed somebody to agree that they were nice.

And that’s all the news for now, as I am super busy today. I have lots more photos to share with you, but they will have to wait for next time.

Stamppot

Food is a huge part of my life since I met Harry. We eat out. We cook at home and try out recipes. He is a good cook and is encouraging me and giving me confidence. This afternoon, I cooked and he wasn’t even there. You don’t see that happen too often outside of Xmas.

At work, I am learning about Holland so I had a go at making Stamppot, which is a Dutch dish. Stamppot roughly translates as ‘pot of mashed vegetables’. Here’s my amateurish cooking. The results were quite good and I even put some in plastic tubs in the freezer for later consumption. I felt very domesticated and quite victorious, even though I made plenty of mistakes and cooking has never been my strong point.

The essence of a stamppot recipe is this: get some root vegetables, eg potatoes, boil and mash them; get some green, leafy vegetables, eg kale, boil and stir into the mash; stir in fried onion and bacon pieces. Season and serve with pieces of smoked sausage.

Here’s my amateurish version that I did today, with extra bacon instead of sausage.

Realised that I needed to use up a bunch of interesting-looking vegetables from the farmer’s market, including these carrots. img_3928

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Chopped up a potato. Chopped up a red onion. Vaguely fried everything in butter in the saucepan for a while, with no clear idea of what I was doing, then developed a sense of purpose and transferred the onions to a frying pan. Left the carrots and potatoes in the saucepan for boiling.

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Looked around for more of the market vegetables to throw in the boiling pan. Cauliflower. Red cabbage.

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Chopped up another onion and fried with some bacon pieces and too much oil. I always use too much grease and have much to learn about frying.

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Don’t forget to boil some kale. Later realised I should have put the cabbage in with the kale, note for next time.

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Make sure everything’s cooked.

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Mash the potato (cauliflower, carrots, etc), add milk and seasoning – big spoonful of Dijon mustard gives it a kick. Stir in the leafy veg, bacon and onions. Yum.

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I loved everything about this recipe and will definitely make some different versions of it to try out various combinations of ingredients and also to get good at cooking bacon and smoked sausage, a subject of which I know little.

There will be more food posts soon. As I mentioned, it’s a big part of this romantic relationship I’m suddenly having. We are cooking and eating while getting to know each other. I’m quite fat but that’s not really Harry’s fault and is mainly because I secretly eat cake when he’s not around.

 

NutriBullet and general food news

OK, so I am on a mission now for improved health. You know me, I am happiest when I am on a mission. I’ve done 10 hours of walking in the last four days and I am right on the brink of resuming weight training. I’ve been walking on Hampstead Heath, which is gorgeous, as you can see.

I have finally acquired a NutriBullet, two years after everyone else, and it has been a real game-changer. As we all know, eating healthily is a lot of hassle, especially if you are like me and you don’t want to cook. I have all good intentions and everything and I don’t mind making a salad once in a while but I can’t possibly do that three times a day, it is out of the question. The NutriBullet, which is a fancy type of blender, is the antithesis of cooking. You don’t have to cook anything and you don’t even have to use a plate to eat the results, you can drink it straight out of the cup you made it in. No cooking, barely any washing-up.

I am photographing everything I eat, because that’s a proven method of keeping me from eating junk, so here are a couple of photos.

Spinach, spring greens, strawberries, pineapple, ice, protein powder, nuts. Chuck in blender, add water, pulverise for 1 minute, slurp.

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Kale, spinach, banana, peach, pineapple, strawberries, raspberries, protein powder, nuts. A really great way to use up fruit that is on the turn.

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Look at that, delicious.

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I don’t think I’ve ever eaten so healthily and I feel fantastic.

I am dating Harry and we are falling in love with each other. He’s excited that I’m excited about health and I have made a couple of nice meals for us. A simple mixed salad with smoked salmon. Observe my beautiful Portmeirion tableware.

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This was yesterday, I was so proud of myself. A salad made with spinach, red onion, strawberries, raspberries, blue cheese and sesame seed croutons.

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Soon I will start letting Harry cook, because he likes to cook. Score. I am so happy with this boy, he is really lovely and I have cancelled all of my other relationships except for Fyodor, who doesn’t count because of being in Russia.

Starry Skies, Chapter 8: Ice

I was in the London Bridge area last night because I was on a second date with Chockney, who you may remember from Chapter 6.

In theory, Chockney is perfect. He is very attractive, despite his advanced years. He is sensitive and artistic, yet solvent (makes a nice change, usually if the people I date have any money it’s because they are still living off their parents). He is clever. He’s transparent and not secretive. He’s quite engaging and he’s a nice person. He’s sincere. He really likes me. He is my age. He is available for a relationship.

As you know, dear readers, I fall in love about twice a week, but as for being in a relationship, I would have to cast my mind all the way back to 2010, by which time that relationship was in a terrible state and had been for a couple of years, which is why I ended it and started this blog. The last seven years have been the happiest years of my life. I’m so glad I captured it all here.

Chockney talks about being in a relationship like it’s perfectly normal, which I don’t think it is. I don’t think it is normal. It’s common but not normal. He uses phrases like “being on my own” which make absolutely no sense to me, I have no idea at all what it means and I’m not very sympathetic to it. We’re all alone, all the time, from birth until death, and anything else is an illusion.

I can no longer remember what being in a relationship is like. The aspects I can remember aren’t very valuable to me. Honestly, I think I just hated the drudgery of parenting and being in a relationship made it slightly more bearable. But the parenting is over now, he’s grown up and gone to live in another city. There isn’t anything in my life that I don’t like except for doing my tax return and having to think about things like mortgages and pensions. In every other respect, my life is sweet and a work of art.

I don’t even know what I am doing with this guy. The last time I had real feelings for someone, it was the Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love With in 2015 and 2016. That was sincere love. I miss it a lot, I miss him a lot. I wish I could have that again but now I’ve found someone who basically ticks all the boxes and is offering a Real Relationship, I am horrified. I am a block of ice. I don’t mind having dinner and listening to myself make conversation, I am very engaging company. But I don’t want to be kissed and sex could not be any further from my mind. He takes for granted that I’m not seeing anyone else, because he’s not concentrating hard enough to ask the right questions. Am I ‘in a relationship’ with anyone else, definitely not, and have not been for 7 years. Are there people in my life who I am in some way involved with, yes, obviously, there always those people. All the time. Even if we don’t count Harry, there are two people in France who are excitedly waiting for me to come out there and join them in August. I’m spending a week in the south of France with the rich American lawyer and then I’m going straight from him to a games designer who I’ve known for a number of years who lives in the part of France that borders Switzerland. None of these things could correctly be described as ‘being in a relationship’ but they are very much real people and they are alive. They are what I have instead of a partner.

Chockney assumes that if we begin A Relationship (in fact, I think he thinks it has already begun), it will be monogamous. Again, because he thinks monogamy is normal and not merely common, he doesn’t ask me. He just assumes that monogamy is what people do, probably because he is old. If he asked me, he would discover that I haven’t been in a monogamous relationship since I was 16. That was the 1980s. That’s how long ago it was. If I tried something once in the 1980s and haven’t done it again since, that’s a reliable sign that I don’t want it and I am not interested.

I am a block of ice. I am a nuclear winter in a pretty frock and meticulous make-up. Don’t even try to hold my hand, I have never liked holding hands, I find it embarrassing, it makes me feel like I’m five. You can walk along next to me and that’s all you’re getting.

Why am I even seeing him, you may ask? Good question. I can identify two reasons.

(1) I have certain household repairs that need doing that are beyond the abilities of the 24-year-olds that I usually date. I could pay someone, but I don’t want to.

(2) More seriously, everything was changed by The Person Who I Wasn’t Supposed To Be In Love With, who haunted my life like a beautiful, insubstantial ghost in 2015 and 2016. I loved the Person with all my heart. I was swept away. I would have spent the rest of my life trying to make him happy. I haven’t seen him in six months and I still miss him so much. It makes me teary if I think about how much I loved him and how we used to romantically gaze at each other. I miss that. I would love to have that again. But apparently I can only love ghosts. I can’t deal with it in real life. Real-life chances of love, like this one, turn me into stone. I am the Ice Queen. I will break his heart.

He needs to go. Right after he’s mended a few things around my house.

Let’s have a tune. Church.

M.O.P. – Cold As Ice