If you’ve learned anything from my 2018-in-review series, it’s that I will do whatever it takes to drag out a blog post for the sake of content. It’s to give you something to read each week. To help you unwind after a stressful week at work. To keep you busy on a lazy Sunday in bed. But if you did miss the first three installments to this four-part series, lucky you! Here’s all the content you’ve been skipping:
November and December signal the start of Winter. Not officially, no, but to me, they signal the coming of Christmas. The excitement builds over these months as shoppers tear down stores, hunting for that perfect gift for friends and family. They’re all about the wind-down, progressing from one year to the next. They’re about reflecting on the year-gone-by, learning from your mistakes and understanding how to make the following year your best one yet.
They’re both usually really, really cold, making for the perfect excuse to cuddle up with a hot choc or two.
The most I had ever done to honour the dead of the First World War was wear a poppy. Each and every year, I’d pop a pound into a jar, take my minute of silence, and move on. This year was different. This year, the Municipal Offices in Cheltenham were lit up with a magical display honouring those who fought in the war. A video was projected onto the building, with incredible surround sound emanating from all over.
It was in recognition of everyone who served on the frontline and the homefront. You’d be doing yourself a huge disservice if you don’t watch it in full.
Last week, I talked about the famed Cheltenham Literature Festival. I spoke about how visiting it had topped my to-do list for years, and that I’d never got round to going. In close second was a much-needed visit to Gloucester Cathedral. It’s an architectural beauty, as recognised by its inclusion in the Harry Potter franchise. The courtyard that photo was taken in is the same one in which Ron tells Malfoy to ‘eat slugs!’ The adjacent corridor from the cathedral can be seen earlier in that same scene.
There’s so much to see in Gloucester Cathedral, and a wealth of History within.
I visited London last year.
Like, a lot.
I whisked myself away to The Old Smoke once again in December – but this time, to explore London at Christmas. It was a sight to behold. Huge angelic structures adorned the streets and fairy lights lined the buildings. Choirs could be heard everywhere. It was truly mesmerising – like something out of a holiday movie.
Even more impressive was Winter Wonderland. Reasonably-priced mulled drinks kept me warm as I watched skaters crumble on the ice, though my one mistake was visiting too late. Food and drinks stalls were rapidly closing, leaving my belly empty until gone 11pm. Worse still, the fabled ferris wheel shut its doors a mere six minutes after I’d arrived.
I continued my excursion round Christmas markets in the UK’s Second City. Birmingham offered an equally packed experience, but the glorious tastes of those nutella/marshmallow and strawberry/cream-covered waffles made the hassle worth it.
Ho, ho, ho.
Christmas came upon us, offering the perfect excuse to demo my first homemade Christmas cake on an unsuspecting family. I’d maximised the cake’s ability to soak up alcohol, leaving the icing until Christmas Eve (would not recommend doing anything this stressful the night before Christmas). And though the sponge had quite literally split in two when layering on the marzipan, I exceeded all expectations.
It tasted amazing.
I’d never known just how well a homemade Christmas cake could turn out, especially compared to store-bought ones, which feel bland and cardboard-like now. That being said, you definitely shouldn’t try and make one this year. Stay tuned this winter, when I reveal why I wouldn’t do it again.
For me, Christmas is about family. It’s about love, celebrating friendship and spending time together. New Year’s Eve, on the other hand, is about partying. It’s about celebrating the end of the year in the biggest way you can. That’s just what we did: with friends, I shared a bottle of prosecco or two and welcomed in the start of the new year, our eyes trained to the TV, and to the Millennium Eye. We watched fireworks explode all over the monument, before returning to the most intense game of Battleships I’d ever played.
I left the next morning in good spirits, wondering how on Earth the next year would ever top 2018.
I can finally say it: that’s a wrap on my 2018-in-review series! I genuinely never envisioned it lasting so long, but that’s what happens when you don’t plan posts effectively. Join me next week for fab and fresh content. I promise it won’t be another 2018-in-review.