It’s hard to know where to begin. The world is experiencing a global crisis and somehow writing a blog seems insignificant and a bit odd.
However, this space has evolved into a personal journal for me and despite a few months of neglect, I feel compelled to document and to share again.
Wherever you are in the world, Corona virus is having an impact. Sometimes, it is hard to comprehend just how much of an in impact because it feels so surreal. But as the situation progresses, I have found myself experiencing the reality and consequences in so many different ways. Loved ones have lost jobs, friends are in isolation and family members are struggling to get basic supplies. Like many, I am experiencing anxiety and have realised I need to check on the news just once a day in order to protect my mental health. I have felt anger when I hear of others selfishly living life as if they were before this awful disease took over everything. I feel sadness when I see the death toll and the strain on our health system. It is a massive rollercoaster of emotions.
The lockdown in the UK has been a wake up call and has highlighted so many things I took for granted in life. I am hugely grateful we are still able to go our for solitary exercise each day, but living in a city, I have found it difficult to avoid people at times.
On Friday 27 March I took my lunch break from working at home at 2pm and decided to cycle through the city centre for daily exercise. In the 14 years I have lived in Cambridge, I have never experienced it like this.
No bikes, no cars, no people. All shops and restaurants closed.
Kings Parade is usually the busiest tourist hotspot. Not in lockdown.
The Corpus Clock with no one infront of it.
The Mill Pond without any punts or people. So strange to see.
I took a couple of videos whilst cycling the empty streets.
As the situation takes hold, like many, I am trying to find a new normal and take each day as it comes. I am feeling very grateful to be able to work from home and for video calls with family and friends who are distancing or in isolation. My flatmate and I are taking moments to appreciate our home and spending time together after work to try and separate home and work life.
Dating at a distance in a lockdown has been another challenge to get my head (and heart) around. But I know that it is a minor adjustment in comparison to others who are struggling with so much more.
If you are isolating during this tough time, I am open to finding light together on the difficult days. My flatmate Emily reminded me that literally the whole world is in this together and I feel there is strength and comfort in that thought alone.
I can’t quite believe my Year of Claire project has come to an end. One whole year of focusing on myself and prioritising personal growth. There were highs and lows, lots of laughs and plenty of change.
Before I reflect on the entire year, here’s a little round up of what happened in December!
My work schedule was incredibly hectic for the entire month (more on this later), but I managed a couple of quick catch ups with friends. I visited the Mill Road Winter Fair (that tartiflette was amazing), crocheted a baby blanket for friends and walked Leo for Hannah and Ian.
My job as a Facilities Coordinator was very busy in December! The tech firm I work for were moving to a new office and it was our Department who managed it all and worked on the fit out. As a Department of only 4 people it was a lot of work (250 staff to move!), but a great project to be part of.
We worked long long hours and weekends too, but it was worth it! My boss and I are really proud of the new space. My favourite part of the project was working with a plant contractor and picking furniture for the Library space. Despite the exhaustion and hard graft (we cleared the old office too so I am a pro at chucking stuff in a skip and moving crates now!), I’m grateful to have had the chance to throw myself into work this year.
The day we started to move offices was also our work Christmas do. We decided to pop by for the meal for a couple of hours break, so I got ready in 15 minutes and rushed off to our NYC themed bash. My work colleagues are so much fun, so I was glad to make it for a while.
Jo and I decided to throw a more low key Christmas do for the Cambridge Creatives group this year. We met for drinks and delicious vegetarian meze at Thirsty and Hungry. We got very tiddly on a school night, but it was great to celebrate everyone’s achievements and let our hair down a bit. Even though I’m no longer running my shop. I’m happy I still get to hang out with my creative pals in the city!
Even though I had limited time to get festive this year, Em and I managed to get a tree and I had Christmas Day and Boxing Day off work to spend with family. I watched TV with the pets, saw my Grandad, played games with my cousins and read festive books with my youngest niece.
December was definitely the most hectic month of the entire year.
The Year of Claire project was one where I continued to embrace change and positivity and it felt good. I had a couple of weekends away to Amsterdam and Brighton. I upped my fitness regime and got stronger. I worked on my anxiety through therapy. I moved out of a houseshare into a wonderful flat with Em. I did so much flat pack. I fell in love and had my heart broken. I went on dates and met some great people who opened my mind and heart again. I closed the door on my business and threw myself into work. I got creative for fun again. I spent a lot of time with friends and family making memories. I rode my bike. I went paddleboarding. I flew in a vintage plane over my city. I drank coffee and went for solo brunches. I read books. I ate a lot of ice cream.
I’m hoping 2020 will allow me more time to blog, make, date, and work. I haven’t set any goals yet, but I’ll be taking January to reflect and plan in my new journal.
Time for another life recap for the Year of Claire! October and November were busy months with big changes and a hectic work schedule. Here’s a round up of what I got up to…
In early October I attended the opening launch of the new Miller Harris fragrance store in Cambridge. An absolute visual merchandising dream – colourful interiors and dreamy scents, I completely fell in love with the brand! All the scents are unisex and I was kindly gifted their best seller Scherzo to try. I think it is the best scent I have ever tried, they are all so unique and beautifully packaged.
October was a month for a few treats by the way of pretty flowers and chocolate treats from the famous George’s Bakery. I also visited my favourite colourful wall in Cambridge which is home of the delicious burgers from indie food legends Steak and Honour. Lastly, I got a daith piercing to see if it would help the migraines. Soon after I had a 3 week vertigo attack and a terrible migraine weekend, but since then things have been much better! My hearing has also been a bit of a struggle lately, but I’m learning to tell people and try not to visit super noisy places as often these days.
Autumn arrived in Cambridge with plenty of blue skies, pretty leaves and frosty mornings. I planned to take a little photowalk around the city to shoot some red ivy on the beautiful buildings, but life got in the way and I just managed these snaps on the way back from the gym or on my cycles to work.
Halloween at my office is a big deal and this year my team and I dressed up as scary clowns! We had a lot of fun and even had a power cut at work that day. Work has been really great in general and I’m thoroughly enjoying the day job. We’ve had a huge office fit out project to work on with builders and designers, so coordinating lots of different elements for that has been busy and fun. The design elements have been really interesting, especially the flooring, moss walls and plants.
At the beginning of November, I finally left my house share of 9 behind and moved into a new flat with one person. Em and I are delighted with our new pad! I’ve been enjoying the bath lots and I did a lot of flat pack with gin when I moved in. I promise it isn’t too wonky! We love making the new place our own and I’m so grateful to have left the traffic noise and the main road behind.
Even though it has been a busy couple of months, I did a few crafts when I could find time. A blanket I made my niece 3 years ago needed a little repair and I started a denim skirt at the Sew Cam social sewing day.
I also spent a weekend with family for a 70th afternoon tea party and took some time to see my Grandad in his new care home. He has Dementia and Parkinsons, so it is not always easy to visit him, but the care home is lovely and I am lucky to still have a grandparent at my age!
Talking of age, I celebrated my 36th birthday with friends, cake, cider and greek gyros for dinner at my favourite bar Thirsty. It was a nice evening to reflect and despite all the difficult times I’ve had, I felt so much happier this birthday in comparison to last year!
The last weekend of November was spent in Brighton enjoying the winter sunshine, the upside down house, the beach and plenty of good food. Despite losing my watch and having a few panic attacks whilst I was there, it was a nice weekend and felt good to escape Cambridge for a couple of days.
I also visited the Brighton Etsy Made Local market and the Cambridge Made Fair in the same weekend. Although I felt a little sad not to be selling this year, it was super to catch up with creative pals and to start my Christmas shopping. Work has been so manic this year that I am waaaaay behind!
So, a very busy couple of months for work and life but fun all the same! I can’t believe in just 1 month the Year of Claire will be over and we will be entering a new decade….
In 2018 basically everything in my life changed. A very long term relationship ended, I closed my small business, I changed my job and I moved into a house share with 8 strangers. You could say it was a lot to handle, but with my positive mindset I pushed heartbreak aside and threw myself into the new adventures.
I’m not going to lie, moving into a house share in my mid-30s did kind of feel like taking a backwards step in life. I had lived with a partner for almost 15 years and built a nice home together in a rental. It look me a while to rid my anxieties about ‘life stages’ and social expectations for someone my age. Financially it was pretty much the only option I had if I wanted to stay in the city centre. Cambridge is basically London prices for housing, eating out and drinking now. I’ve paid £10 for a gin & tonic and almost £7 a pint before!
I digress. In the summer of 2018 I packed up a 3 bed house, shoved a ton of stuff in storage, and agreed to rent an overpriced en-suite room in a converted B&B on a main road. It had been newly renovated and everyone was moving in at the same time. Advertised to professionals only (the Spaced reference there pleased me!) I thought it would be a good call. I felt I needed lots of company at that moment in time and saw having 8 new people around me as a positive to keep me going through heartbreak.
It was a surprising 18 months with a lot of laughter, frustration, stress and ridiculousness. There are people I will keep in touch with and people I won’t. In the last 6 months the turnover was pretty high with the letting agent relaxing his professionals only rule. It was more like a student house with lots of temporary 3 month lets and it became exhausting to keep welcoming new housemates only to have them leave again and be replaced. Here’s what I learned along the way…..
Just because someone is an adult, doesn’t mean they know how to adult.
I lived with 8 people between the ages of 22-35. In some cases, the younger people were the ones who had more life skills and knowledge for taking care of themselves. We had one lovely Romanian girl who was the most awesome cook and her mother would send HUGE care packages full of cookies, wine, cheese and home made pastries for us all. There were younger lads who had their shit together and had impressive careers for their age.
With housemates from all over the world, we learned that in Greece and Hong Kong it is common for people to live with their parents well into their 30s, being cared for in every way. Because of this, some were more independent than others. I showed people how to use a washing machine and some helped others turn on the oven. There was a big stretch of life skills.
We also learned that some people are just incredibly lazy! We had a group chat with the letting agent to report issues and get news of new housemates. In this group one male housemate asked for a robotic vacuum. When I replied to tell him there was a Henry on the first floor he said “but that isn’t robotic”. He added that he wanted a robotic hoover because he was lazy. And that it was better if someone else paid for it…..he also asked us if we wanted to “pay a lady to do our ironing” because apparently that’s a woman’s job. *sigh*
Even the contractors employed to do repairs were incredibly lazy and incompetent. We nicknamed them the cowboy builders as so many incidents happened and so many things malfunctioned. Too many to list and so many hilarious conversations with the letting agent. Who mostly replied with eye roll emojis and grumbles!
The concept of putting the bins out and retrieving them was lost on most of the household and don’t get me started on people ordering takeaways and then not answering the door. Weird. If I’ve got a Deliveroo on the way I’m stalking the driver on the map as soon as it is on the way.
2. Cleanliness is not important to a lot of people.
Even though we had a cleaner once a week you can imagine what a kitchen looked like at times with 9 residents. We were lucky enough to have a huge island to prepare food on, but this often became one guy’s cooking experiment area where he would bake bread and explode the flour, cook elaborate dishes and guarantee to burn everything every time. He caught the oven gloves on fire, melted a spatula by leaving it on the hob and once burned batches of sesame seeds. 5.times.in.a.row.
We had incidents of noodles and food left in the sink for days, meat blood dripped on the floor and sink (GROSS), unflushed communal toilets and daily paper napkins left on the dining table after being wiped on mouths. Luckily I had my room as a sanctuary and cleaned the kitchen as much as I could to prepare my meals. At one point there was a ‘mystery smell’ which no one could identify, even after I cleaned all the fridges out and searched high and low for the source.
Our breakfast bar had a small area where we would leave some treats to share with each other. If someone traveled they added chocolates or sometimes nice things they had baked. At first it was great and people respected the area. Eventually it became a dumping ground with rotten apples, weird items people didn’t want to eat and generally just grossness.
You could suggest that I cleaned up after these people, but I lost my patience in the end and checked out! After all I was not there to look after them. In the end I chose meals that were minimal to prepare so that I could spend as little time in the kitchen as possible.
3. Common sense is a completely mislabeled phrase. It isn’t common.
Funnily enough there are too many incidents to illustrate the lack of common sense, but I was baffled by some situations. One housemate admitted they never cycled with lights on and one would park his car across the main road onto the pavement in front of the house in a diagonal fashion. No surprises when he received parking tickets for obstructing the bus lane!
The amount of times our front door was left open overnight was utterly ridiculous. It didn’t even stop when there was an armed drug raid a few doors down or when there were incidents outside on a weekly basis (it wasn’t a great street to be on). I was baffled how many people struggled to close a door properly.
4. Some people will literally consume anything.
3 day old chicken hearts, octopus from a tin, fish that has been cooked and then recooked for days, questionable meat that other housemates advise is off, mouldy vegetables, burnt food and I once found a pint of open milk (in a fridge I didn’t use) that was 3 MONTHS OUT OF DATE.
One housemate would use the oven as storage for whole cooked chickens. Then proceed to reheat day after day in a vat of oil. Sometimes you could smell the oil on the 3rd floor of the house at 11pm. Yes people cooked at 11pm. Goodness knows why.
Oh and throughout the 1.5 years and many housemates, we were always living with at least 2 Huel dickheads at any one time. It is a common diet for Cambridge tech guys – I see it at work all the time! One of them even made Huel pancakes and tried to share them…..we passed!
5. Group Whats App chats are worth muting for your mental health.
I think we probably all have that Whats App group chat that makes us feel a bit stressed. Mute it and only check it when you want to. It honestly helped me get through the last 6 months of living there.
Annoyingly, one house mate refused to join the group chat as he didn’t use Whats App, but I think he was onto something.
6. Self awareness is a spectrum.
Door slamming, stomping, shouting, some people just weren’t aware of the noises they made or how their behaviour affected others. Some were considerate and checked in to make sure their activities weren’t disturbing others, super nice! I did hear things I would rather not have heard and one person liked to iron in the corridors at midnight every week, slamming the iron down in between pressing.
I know I’m not perfect and there were times I could have been more self aware, but I think I naively assumed most people would be considerate towards others.
7. There will be some good times.
Some of the original housemates that were there for the first year were a lot of fun. We had nights out, nights in, shared dating stories, cooked group dinners, watched movies, went on holiday together and laughed a lot at some of the things we experienced – a Home Alone drinking game at Christmas was a highlight and watching the house fall apart around us and the letting agent’s attempt to assist was entertaining if nothing else.
I actually enjoyed living with guy mates again and also found a great friend in Emily who I now share a cosy 2 bed flat with. I made my room as homely as I could make it and it was so nice to have a space that was just mine. I think I hadn’t had that since my uni halls back in 2002, so it was a bit of a novelty that didn’t really wear off. No one to judge my houseplants or pink cushions or excessive toiletries and face creams in the bathroom! It was a good place to start single life again.
8. Living with strangers will teach you a lot about yourself.
I discovered I’m really an extroverted introvert (Ambivert?!). I really valued my time alone every day and also some time to chat with others. Even though we were a household of 9, it often didn’t feel that way. I remember when Jack used to visit he would comment on how empty the communal spaces were on some days. People were coming and going a lot.
Living on a main road was challenging. My anxiety levels definitely got worse and the constant super loud traffic noise and house/street disturbances contributed to my insomnia. Which in turn contributed to my lack of patience toward others. The relief I felt when Em and I moved into the new flat was immeasurable. A new environment was just what we needed. I know that I need a quiet home where I have control over my surroundings and where I can retreat for some calm.
I know that living in a clean and tidy home helps me feel better. I decluttered when I moved and purged a lot of belongings. It felt good. ‘Stuff’ just felt overwhelming and I have carried that tidy and more organised me into my new home with Em too. One of the guys that I lived with couldn’t believe my Marie Kondo folded t-shirt and sock drawers. A week after he moved out he texted me a picture of his neatly folded t-shirt drawer and it made me smile.
So to end this long ranty blog post, I can summarise by saying the house share was AN EXPERIENCE. Living with just one friend now is way less stressful and I couldn’t be happier with our flat! We have a nice view of the local church, the river close by and a lovely colleague is our upstairs neighbour.
Have you ever lived in a house share? I would love to hear your stories.
Time to make has been hard to find lately, but I finally finished a craft project! Today I wanted to share this Chunky Crochet Rainbow Blanket I made for my pals Ali and Jam who run super colourful brand Hello Dodo.
The original idea for this yarn (Bernat Softee Chunky) was to make rainbow cardigans for myself and Ali. However, once I started working it up, I knew it would just be brilliant to make into a large colourful crochet blanket for their whole family, pooches included!
The chunky yarn was quick to work up with an 8mm hook. I just used half treble stitches (hdc in US terms) and made rows of 9 in each colour. Each row took up 2 balls of yarn.
Total time to make was probably around 20 hours, but it was a great make to finish as Autumn began – it kept me warm on my lap as it got bigger!
After blocking, the blanket easily covers a double bed (here it is on mine) and it is super snuggly to wrap around yourself too. I hope Ali, Jam. Hero and Pepper will love it and use it for years to come! They live in a super colourful house in worthing so I think it will compliment their home style pretty well.
I’m definitely thinking of making another chunky blanket in this yarn, perhaps in a ripple pattern or with some pom poms on the corners…..maybe in the grey and more subtle colours for me.
Like the quilt I made a couple of years ago, this one was hard to gift actually. I kind of wanted to keep it for myself!
I’ll be working on a few baby blankets for my next crochet projects to gift to friends for their new arrivals. Taking my crochet back to simple patterns has been refreshing as I’m using my brain power to tackle dress making instead lately.
I hope you enjoyed seeing my latest project. Let me know what you think and what craft projects you are working on!