Come Join Me Over Here!

Hi there!

I'm glad you've come to read my blog, but unfortunately I don't live here any more!

Feel free to trawl through my archives or look up my posts on Scoliosis which will always be at home here, but when you're ready please come and join me at my new home:


See you there!

Catherine Ann x

Saturday, 25 January 2014

2013... Unlucky For Me?

So yesterday, I surpassed 10,000 views here on my blog.

Wow.

I began this blog on St. Patrick’s weekend last year. I’ve always loved making up stories, and I’ve been writing prolifically since the age of about twelve, but it was always something I was really shy about.
Then in September 2012 I met Bambi, and we started swapping bits and pieces of our writing. One day, I decided to write a piece especially for her. This was when the idea of writing for people actually came to my head.

I hit upon the idea of a blog soon after that, but it took me a while to put it into action. When I finally did, I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be. I just uploaded a few recipes, wrote a little bit about myself, then school, then happiness.... and suddenly, for some reason, people were actually reading it. It began to be more than just my friends refreshing the page. There were stumblers-upon, friends of friends, people who genuinely wanted to read what I had to say. And when I mentioned it to people, they didn’t say, “You weirdo!” They said “You have a blog? That’s so cool, I’d love to see it!”

So thank you all for that! Writing is what I love most in the world, so I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to be read.

I called my blog “2013, Unlucky for Some” and I’m often asked why. Doesn’t it seem quite a pessimistic title? Well, yes and no. Everyone said 2013 was going to be an “unlucky” year. But when I began 2013, I had this lovely group of new friends and had just finished with the lead role in my school play. It was set to be a pretty nice year. So I decided to make my blog about whether or not it would be unlucky. It was to be written by a teenager, aimed mainly at teenagers, documenting the highs and lows of 2013 and how I’ve dealt with them. I wanted to stray a bit from the stereotype that teenagers think their lives “suck”, but I also wanted to maintain that we sometimes do take that attitude! As I always say, a stereotype has to come from somewhere!

My conclusion? 2013: Overall, a decidedly lucky year.

I honestly had no idea that this blog would have such a wonderful reception. It’s led to me being interviewed for local radio, participating in research for TV3, and writing for www.spunout.ie and www.foroige.ie. It has also helped me to come out of my shell and make some amazing new friends, whether directly or indirectly!

Again, thank you all so much for your support. I love seeing my views increase, and when people leave comments, or message me, or like the Facebook page, follow me on Twitter or even come up to me at school and tell me they like it... well, it means the world, and if it didn’t happen I probably wouldn’t be doing this after nearly ten months—that’s a lifetime in teenage years, by the way.


So, now we’re at this milestone (I remember getting so excited about 100!), I’m going to reveal a little surprise for all of you, and then offer a treat.

Another question posed to me about the title was: “What are you going to do when 2013 is over?”

Short answer: I never expected to get this far!

Long answer: Once I realised that this was something I’m very passionate about, I began to plan past just a year or so of blogging. Writing is something I’m going to do for the rest of my life—I can’t imagine not being a writer—and blogging has become a huge part of that.

So I’ve claimed the domain name www.catherineannminnock.blogspot.ie, and it’s going to be my new website as of September, 2014. It’s going to be called “The *something* Diaries”, I think, depending on where I end up going to university. It will largely detail my journey into a new place, new  uni, new friends...

That’s where you come in, loyal readers.

When I began blogging, I didn’t want it to be about me. I wanted it to be about you. This is not my diary where I talk about myself all the time. It’s not my place to vent my frustration—why should you have to listen to that? When I do speak about negative experiences, I tend to do so after I’ve come through them so you can at least learn something. I also try not to give away too much. You don’t come here to read about my issues, and I doubt you’re that interested in the ins and outs of my personal life.

But I have found that some of my most popular posts are the ones where I talk about my feelings; make them a little more personal.

What do you think my new site should be like? Do you want more of those opinion pieces, more recipes and craft, more about school etc... or maybe even more of my unsolicited advice on things I know nothing about?

Also, how much do you want it to be made of words? Perhaps you’d like more pictures? Or would you be interested to witness my first foray into the world of vlogging, perhaps?

I need to know, because I want to plan this out properly and do it right. “Unlucky for Some” has been a great experience, and has afforded me the chance to practise, but this time I want to get it right. Perfect. 
Professional, even.

 So if you have any opinion at all, please tell me. Leave a comment, email, run up to me in the street, I don’t care. I might even make a survey or something. I just need your help to make my new adventure your new adventure, too. What were your favourite themes in2013? What do you dislike about the blog? What would you like to see more of?  Is there anything about me you’d like to know?

Also, if anyone is interested in lending a hand, it would be more than welcome. This can come in the form of ideas, pictures, help with videos, maybe even content at some stage.

...which brings me on to my little treat.

It’s another competition, in celebration of 10,000 views!

A writing one, this time.

I want you to write a blog post for Unlucky for Some, entitled: “2013: Unlucky for me?”

Was last year good for you, bad for you, or did it twist and turn? How did it begin and end? What lessons did you learn? You can write anything you want really: it doesn’t even have to be true. Size-wise, I’m not one to talk (Mrs. Rambler), but try to keep it the size of an average blog post. I’m not going to be too strict about that.

This time, I think I’ll pick a novel as a prize and I’m going to try and open the competition to as many people as I can.

I’ll let you know more details in the coming week!

With much excitement, many thanks, and lots of love,

Catherine Ann Minnock,

Un-Professional Blogger. 


Thursday, 23 January 2014

Happiness... Selective Memory.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, and seeing this picture on Facebook inspired me to write a blog post about it.

I'm sorry that I can't remember what page I found it on! If I do find out, I'll let you know. If it happens to be your, please tell me! 




This is another of my happiness posts, about how we can feel happy more often (remember, not find it or achieve it).

You know how sometimes we get a bit of selective memory loss? We all have it. Some things come back to us with alarming clarity while often if an event is described, even from the recent past, we’ll screw up our foreheads and ask, “Was I even there?

I’ve decided that maybe this can be a positive thing, a tool we can use, if we select our memories wisely!
When I was in middle school, a teacher asked us to work in groups and think of things people had said to us that had made us feel a certain way, and that we would always remember. We wrote them down on a sheet, and then a member of each group was asked to go up and write them on the whiteboard.

She’d divided the board up into two categories: positive and negative.

The negative side had teeny tiny words crammed in every corner, every single colour of board marker, everyone’s handwriting all muddled together.

The positive side contained a single, solitary sentence, and to be honest I can’t even remember what it was.

Conclusion: when someone says something hurtful to you, it stays with you forever. But if someone pays you a compliment, it’s likely to be buried in your mind by more “important” stuff in a few short days.

An example I can give myself is my accent. I was born in England and have lived in Ireland for almost six years now. My accent has never changed, because I have never made an effort to change it. If anything, I have tried to keep it the same. I like the way I talk. Unfortunately, this led to me being picked on for a lot of my school life. People telling me I was pronouncing words wrong (in my own language), or that I was talking “too posh” or simply strangers following me around the school for the sole purpose of mimicking every word I said. Sometimes, most of the time really, people would be doing it for good-natured, friendly banter. Others just used it as an excuse to bully me, and I found this really hurtful.

It didn’t stop me from talking, fortunately or unfortunately!  ...but it did make me feel a bit embarrassed, even ashamed or afraid, to read in class or speak publicly.

Then in Transition Year I took part in a poetry recital competition, “Poetry Aloud”. It was a great feeling—public speaking is actually something I’m quite good at, and I finally had the confidence not to worry about what others thought.

The next year, I took part again and got through to the semi-finals in Dublin. There was a break after reciting my first poem and a girl came up to me in the bathroom and said, “I thought you did really well. You’re so lucky. If I had your accent, I’d never stop talking!”

This girl probably has no recollection of the event, but I remember it to this day. I’m so grateful to her. Since then, a few other people have said they love my accent, too. It made me think: why should I keep those negative comments in my mind, when I could be focusing on that lovely girl who paid me such a nice complement?

So that’s my new plan, and I’d advise you to do the same. Forget about the time someone said “You need to lose weight” or “you’re too skinny” or “look at the state of your hair” and remember the time someone told you that you’re beautiful. Believe it or not, they’re not just trying to be nice. People rarely make the effort to compliment unless they mean it. So remember that; don’t dwell on the negatives.

I’ve noted down a few lovely things people have said to me in the past year. I’ve had my share of nasty comments, too, but they have no place in my blog post or my memory.

·         You are so beautiful.
·         You’re beautiful, you know that? Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
·         I wish I had your confidence.
·         That’s a brilliant idea!
·         Thanks for always being there for me.
·         I’m asking for your help because I know you work really hard.
·         You don’t even need to wear makeup.
·         Your teeth look very nice lately. (A bit random, mummy, but thank you all the same).
·         If it wasn’t for you, everything would fall apart.
·         I love your blog! I read it all the time.
·         You’re so motivated.
·         I love your accent.
·         Your voice is so sexy. (2013, everyone, the year I was first referred to as sexy).
·         You’re amazing, girl!
·         I love you.
·         You’re such a good friend.
·         You have a real talent for essay-writing.
·         Dude. You are honestly the sweetest person I know. (Thanks, dude!)
·         You make the BEST food!
·         And the funniest thing I heard all year: “I assumed you’d have an exotic boyfriend with a name like Christian.”

It’s only in writing this that I’ve realised there were so many! I’d intended to put down about five or so... I’ve also found some of them to come from the least likely of sources, remembering that people can be so lovely sometimes!

If you feel like you’re not hearing any of these, then either search your memory harder or find some new friends. No, it’s not easier said than done.


Catherine Ann x

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Food, Glorious Food... Spiced Mocha Cake

This idea came about when I was thinking about making a chocolate cake, and what I could add to bring out the flavour. Before, I’ve used a hint of coffee or vanilla, and I also tried a brownie recipe with some spices in it.

I decided to incorporate a more intense coffee flavour with this in mind, and developed a recipe for this gorgeous winter warmer, a spiced Mocha cake. Mocha is a combination of coffee and hot chocolate, and is my favourite drink on a cold day. I experimented with this cake so you don’t have to, and I think you’ll love it! Even someone who’s not a fan of chocolate cake said they enjoyed this slightly spicy combination.

If this isn’t your cup of mocha, however, you can always experiment with your own proportions!

HERE’S WHAT YOU NEED...
8oz (200g) Caster Sugar (or granulated if you don’t have any... just cream more vigorously!)
8oz (200g) Butter/Marg/Baking Spread
12oz (300g) Self-Raising Flour
4 Medium Sized Eggs
1 Heaped Tsp Mixed spice
1 Tablespoon Instant Coffee
2 Tablespoons Cocoa Powder
A little golden syrup

...AND HERE’S WHAT YOU DO:

1)      Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl with a wooden spoon.
2)      Beat in the four eggs with a tablespoon of the flour.
3)       Sift in the rest of the flour, spice and cocoa.
4)      Mix the instant coffee with a little hot water, just enough to make a thick liquid. Then stir it in. This is the cheaper, lazier option I used. Alternatively, if you have a pot of strong “proper” coffee made, then you could add in three tablespoons of that.
5)      Beat the mix together and pour into a greased, lined cake tin.
6)      Bake at 200˚C (180 fan assisted) for about 40 mins, or until a metal skewer comes out clean.
7)      Cool the cake on a wire rack. Before it’s cooled completely, drizzle some golden syrup over the top. This is a nice extra touch. I found the coffee took out some of the sweetness, which was nice, but it also meant that a little syrup on the top really added contrast.

8)      Enjoy! 




I don't think my cake's going to win any beauty contests... it's always a bit unpredictable when I shove it in the oven and pray it will rise evenly! Perhaps I should pat down the mix properly or put more effort in...

...but it tasted delicious, so frankly, I don't care. 

Blogmas #12: Christmas Pressies!


I know that you’re usually looking for gift ideas, er, before Christmas, but I wanted to show you what I gave some of my friends, and it wouldn’t have been fair to spoil the surprise!

I was totally awful with my presents this year. Last year, I had decided what to give my friends in July, and most of the prezzies were bought or made and wrapped by around October, just in time for me to make the ChristmasCake. I was one organised bunny.

This year, however, was different. Christmas sneaked up behind me for weeks, and then there it was in the middle of December, tapping me on the shoulder and going “Psst! Psssssssssst! What about the presents?!”

“Panic stations” is an understatement. I didn’t want to be caught out and just buy my friends the first thing I laid eyes on in the shops, but I was also short of time and ideas.

I usually like my presents to be a bit personal—that’s why I love to make some stuff, too. If I don’t have the time or ideas to craft a present however, I’ll put together lots of little prezzies that will mean something to the recipient. Think about what you would like to receive: one main present, or a collection of little gifts to delve into? Personally, I love the latter. So if I can’t make something, I’ll opt for that. This was the case for Bambi.
I knew that Bambi needed to chill out a bit more. (To be fair, i need to chill out moe, but this post isn’t about me so shush). She’s the smartest girl I know, which she utterly deserves, but it also means she wants to do really well in her exams. I know myself that even when everyone is telling her she’ll do well—you will, Bambi—it can still cause a lot of anxiety and stress. So I put together a bag of gifts based around the theme “relaxing”.

(In case you haven’t noticed... I bloody love themes.)

I put together a few little things I knew—hoped—she’d enjoy. If you have a friend about to do exams, or going through some stress (i.e. any teenager ever) then you might give these a try: chamomile tea, a scented candle, essential oil (I’d wanted lavender, but when I couldn’t find any, poppy went just as well), bath bombs, a notebook for her to write all her stressed-out thoughts into... I think that’s it.

For Crow’s present, there had been a few ideas knocking about in my head for ages. The first being a wax tablet. We’re both writers and for my birthday he gave me a beautiful Italian quill. I wanted to carry on the theme. Wax tablets were used in Roman through Medieval times to write on. They consist of a wooden frame (or two hinged together like a book) filled with beeswax. You can then scratch in the wax with a stylus to form words, and rub them out when you’re done by smoothing it over. Did you think the modern day iPad or other tablets were a new invention?

The problem was finding beeswax. I looked everywhere, even asking my local beekeepers’ society. To give you an idea of how difficult this was, I had the idea in July and finished making the tablet five days before Christmas, just hours before I’d be seeing him! Anyway, I ended up finding blocks of beeswax in a local health food shop. The thing is, you can’t really use candlewax as it will harden too much so you won’t be able to rub out your words.

It was a case of running home with my wax and pouring it into the frame my dad had made for me. He also made a stylus out of bamboo... but I have a hunch Crow will end up just using a pencil!





I also gave him the comfiest pyjama bottoms ever, a sippy cup (because he spills things a lot, often on me) and this book, which I think is a wonderful idea. I’ll have to ask him how it went down, though!



We’re both on Twitter by the way, you can follow us @catherineann.mk and @dearsaul

I was totally stuck for Wolf and Phoenix’s presents, which is bad because they’re the two I’ve known longest and see all the time! I think—hope—it’s because I had exhausted my good ideas in previous years! It was only a week or so before Christmas and I was asking Crow what he thought. He told me Phoenix might like clothes... and then bingo! I promptly ignored all the other wonderful ideas he was having and made up my mind.

I bought a plain t-shirt for Phoenix and a striped apron for Wolf. I also went online and bought a selection of assorted small buttons. Did you know that on ebay there are people who spend all their time sorting buttons into categories and selling them for reasonable prices? I love these people. I love ebay.
So I decided to give Phoenix a personalised t-shirt and Wolf a personalised apron with their initials. I really like how they turned out, and I only pricked my thumb about twice! Overall, these took me about an hour each to do, and that was sitting watching telly.









Thumper’s stepsister has just moved in with her this year, so I got them a book of cocktail recipes with cocktail umbrellas and facemasks, perfect for a girly night in!

For some of my other friends, I gave them food—foolproof and delicious! It was either my special honeycomb, or extra bits of Christmas cake. I always make too much mixture—on purpose—so I get one full sized cake and a smaller one. I cut this smaller one into squares and gave it out wrapped in tissue paper.

So that was pretty much it! I also received lots of lovely gifts which I’m delighted with—thanks everyone!

I leave you with one last tip—never go Christmas shopping past the 20th December. I swear I was terrifyingly close to strangling and old lady and telling a child that Santa wasn’t real (don’t know where I would get that idea...)


 Happy New Year!

Catherine Ann x

Friday, 17 January 2014

Blogmas #11: A Happier New Year.

So this year I said I wasn’t going to do New Year’s resolutions, because I didn’t need the pressure really. But here we are, a few weeks in, and I’m already making (and, dare I say it, keeping) three different ones. Maybe it’s an addiction. Or maybe there’s just a lot about me that needs to change!
I’ve got three separate ones, and if all goes well, I’ll actually be talking about them on three different websites! We shall see. For now, here’s a brief summary:
1)      Make every minute count (in other words, stop faffing around and actually do things)
2)      Move more! Recapping on my summer fitness regime, and bringing myself up to scratch so my back doesn’t get stiff.
3)      STOP WORRYING. That’s what I’ll be talking about today.

I’m a worrier. I worry. A lot. I’ve probably touched on this a few times before. I’ve also mentioned before that there are a lot of people who I love very much.
This is a recipe for disaster.
You see, if something is wrong in my own life—maybe something bad has happened to me, or  I’m concerned about my exams, or I’ve had a fall-out with a friend... If it’s me with the problem, then that’s sad, but I know all the ins and outs of the situation and how I’m feeling about it. I can chat to my friends and family who will help, and I always know deep down that things will be better soon.
But what about when my friend has a problem? Which of course, since they’re human, they will. And they’ll confide in me, which I love. But when a friend is upset, it worries me to death. Because I don’t know all the ins and outs. I don’t know how they’re really feeling. I know it’s bad, but is it a serious bad, or an “I’ll be OK after a cookie” bad? I have no way of knowing. And that scares me. I think about them all the time, they occupy even more of my mind than food does. If that’s not serious, I don’t know what is.
I’m sure there are people like priests, psychiatrists, schoolteachers, maybe even parents, I wouldn’t know, who can listen to someone’s problems, sympathise, try to help, give advice, worry a bit, and then get on with their own lives.
Not so for me. I know I could never do any of those jobs.
A little while ago, a problem affected my group of friends. It wasn’t really anything to do with me, but it touched all of us in some way or another. People confided in me about it, and I was glad. I love that my friends can come and talk to me about anything, and I’m always ready to listen and try to help (which I rarely can, but howsoever...)
It all began to get a little much. I felt like I was being pulled further into the situation and couldn’t get out. I had my own things to deal with: school tests, and just... my own life, I suppose. It got to the point when I’d come home from a long day at school and there’d be some other development to panic over. I was afraid to check Facebook or text anyone, in case I’d be pulled into something else. I couldn’t concentrate at school. I was afraid to talk to people in case I said something I shouldn’t. And I didn’t talk much about my feelings because there just didn’t seem room for me to have feelings right then. I didn’t have the right.
One particularly bad night, I was losing sleep. This had been going on for a while. My mum came in to talk to me and I told her a bit about what was going on. It all sounded rather pathetic when I said it out loud, and on some level I knew that. That was what scared me: why was it affecting me so? She pointed out, not that I was in any way ready to hear it at the time, that in five months’ time everyone would have forgotten about their current problems, and I wouldn’t have a clue what was on the exam.
So my New Year’s Resolution (number three) is to stop worrying. Or at least, stop worrying so much about things I can’t change. To be a bit more selfish in some ways (not that I’m exactly Mother Teresa right now), and remember that my friends and family are not stupid. They can look after themselves. Maybe. A bit.
I started thinking about this last weekend. I was staying in England with my parents, there to visit Cub for the first time.
I looked around at my family, from the oldest member to the new, and thought deeply about my resolution. Really, honestly, everyone was fine. 2013 had been an eventful year, and not the easiest for any of us. But here we all were, still alive. We had survived. Cub was lying in someone’s arms and as long as there was enough food and a warm place to sleep, he was fine. Why can’t the rest of us be like that?
I went up to my hotel room that night and turned off my phone. Ran a bath,. Soaked for a while. Lounged on the bed. Raided the free biscuits. Then I took some advice from “The Women” and asked myself the same thing Meg Ryan did. “What do I want?”

I wrote out a list. The top thing was “get to university”. I had to stop myself writing “for x to be happy” and so forth. I just focused on me.
In the morning, I went for a walk and practised being selfish. England is a much easier country to be selfish in. You don’t even have to make eye-contact with people if you don’t want to. Some might find that cold, but it can be a blessed relief when you’re trying to focus on yourself.
Nobody comes up and grabs you in the street or shouts at you or randomly tells you their problems. Then again, nobody asks how you are... but I’ll sacrifice one for the other when I’m focusing on me.
I went into a cafĂ© and thought. I didn’t worry about how my family were getting on, or what was going on back in Ireland. I thought about my writing. I thought about going to uni. I thought about one day getting married and having kids.
None of that would be affected by the ups and downs of my friends.  
If someone has a problem, they can still come and talk to me. But I’m not going to tip toe round it any more. I’m going to tell them what I think and feel, and tell them if I have a problem (because occasionally I do). Then I’ll leave them, trust them to deal with it on their own. When I’m in French class, I’ll be thinking about French, not the latest secret I’ve been told.
If you;re having this problem, just remember that everyone else is just like you. And if you can cope with your life (even if only by the skin of your teeth), they can too. Any kind of relationship is about the give and take... Don’t be afraid to take just a little of what you give. Don’t be afraid to say, “Can I just concentrate on myself today?”

If your friends are as brilliant as mine are, they’ll understand. They’ll want you to be a little selfish.




What do you want? 
If nobody else existed, what would you be doing?
What do you love, besides other people?

Focus on this. You have friends because of who you are. So just concentrate on being you for a while.




Whew. That was deep and personal and whatnot! That’s going to be the last of its kind for a while, as Blogmas is coming to an end! I’m sorry it’s taken so long, but I have mock exams in three weeks! The last Blogmas post will relate to Christmas presents. Unfortunately my wonderful Christmas present of a new phone, which I do love, lost all my pictures, so I have to get friends to photograph their own prezzies! Anyway, look out for that in the next few days and Merry January! ;) x

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Blogmas #10... Introducing Cub!

I had to keep this one a secret for the longest time, but know I can tell the world!

It’s something I’ve been waiting for since the summer, and now it’s arrived I am just over the moon.

It’s going to be a lot of responsibility, but also amazing fun...

OK, I’ll stop beating around the bush.

As of four weeks ago,

I am an auntie!

That’s right! Elephant and Panther have had their first (of at least a dozen, I hope...) baby! Panther gave birth to a beautiful little boy in December, just before Christmas. A little earlier than expected, but let’s not complain! He is perfectly happy, healthy and handsome... he takes after his dad and uncles and I know he’s going to make a lovely young man.

As they live in England, my parents and I flew over for a visit last weekend. I couldn’t wait to see him (after the twelve albums of photos we’d seen), but i was also a little bit apprehensive.
“What do you do with a baby?” I’d been asking people. I’m the younest in my family, so I’d never had experience before. What if someone let me hold Cub and I dropped him? What did you say? Did you coo? Did you talk to them normally? Shake their hand? Pat them on the head and give them a treat?
I love chatting to kids when they’re at that talkative stage, but Cub wouldn’t be able to talk. What was I to do?

It turns out, I didn’t have to do anything. I don’t know whether it was the fact that he’s a baby, he’s particularly adorable for a baby, or the fact that my own brother actually made this little human, but all I could do was sit there enchanted, watching his every move: flexing his tiny fingers, wiggling his wee toes, creasing his little face, and then opening his eyes to regard the person cuddling him with comfortable indifference, “like I even care, just keep still, will you?”
And when he was finally placed in my arms, I didn’t worry about dropping him or holding him wrong or making him cry... it felt natural like I’d never imagined it would be.
Also, he didn’t poo or wee on my skirt, which I found very considerate indeed.

I can’t wait to see Cub again, and when he’s old enough, I’ve decided exactly what kind of aunt I’m going to be. I will be the aunt who:
·         Always has sweets.

·         Teaches him to bake.

·         Buys him all the Harry Potter books and forces him to read them—it’s for his own good, you know...

·         Plays a game of “fortunately, unfortunately” like they do in Tracy Beaker so he can decide that he wants to be a writer—which of course, he will.

·         Teaches him how to actually get a girl’s attention, not how boys think you get a girl’s attention (Or a boy’s)—but not until he’s at least twenty-five. Buying books and cooking will be involved. Wolf-whistling will not.

·         Tells him all the lies that Elephant told me when I was little, and that to this day I am discovering are not true. (Turns out, praying mantises don’t actually eat little girls...)

He’s also got another lovely auntie, Panther’s younger sister, and an auntie-in-law. I’m sure they’ll do some of these things too, so that he’ll be spoiled rotten and sent home to mum and dad expecting cake and sweets all the time.

I can’t wait for this next chapter of my life, and everyone else’s. I bet I’ll get to have more than one nephew or niece (the gender neutral noun being “nibbling”—I know!) and hopefully some children of my own... but not for a long while yet!


Yours, feeling very very old and not at all wise,

Catherine Ann x

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Blogmas #9: The Inevitability of Christmas...


We all have those days when we feel like it’s never going to get better. We might be worried about something, we might be feeling lonely, or maybe a tragedy has shaken our world to its very core.

And then there are the days when we feel like it couldn’t possibly get better because life is just so goddamn amazing! Everything is coming up Millhouse, as it were, and you wonder how you could ever have felt bad...

Most days are somewhere in between. It may sound like a clichĂ©, but it’s true: every  year has its ups and downs. There are good years and bad years.

We spend so much time looking forward and worrying about the future, planning and thinking ahead, that it can sometimes feel like past and present get lost, muddled and confused.

I’m currently planning where I want to go to university in, gosh, nine months time, and revising for the exams to get me there which will begin in just five months! Then there are the oral exams in April and I have coursework due in March. What with all these plans, and still trying to enjoy the present just occasionally, it can feel like I’m on a really fast train careering down the tracks and there’s no time to even check the signposts, let alone stop and smell the roses. Changing my mind at Houston doesn’t even come into it.

All this high-speed travel, metaphorical and literal, has made me aware of the inevitability of Christmas, and the saying that: “Things change. And friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.”

Christmas doesn’t care if you’ve had a good year or a bad year. Christmas doesn’t care if, for whatever reason, “it just doesn’t feel like Christmas” for you. The days pass relentlessly, and Christmases come and go. And I suppose when I’ve seen seventy of them, I won’t remember any of the stuff that takes over my whole brain right now (and yes, that includes differential calculus).  I’ll only remember the important bits, like if I get married or have children, or maybe publish a book someday. Who knows?

You might have had a bad year, and you might have niggling worries about 2014. But when Christmas happens, no matter where you are, it’s a sign that life goes on. Love goes on. Whether you’re celebrating with family or friends, or even on your own. Whether you’re in the house you grew up in, you’ve moved to a new family home, or you’ve emigrated to Australia, Canada, America... Whether you enjoy your turkey and ham or try to change up the routine. You’re still there and it’s still Christmas.


However you spend it, Christmas is a reminder that the world never stops spinning and time never stops passing. Another year has passed. Christmas is here once again: and you have survived.
Picture by Tara.

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Blogmas #8: The Best Worst Christmas

I don't like change! if I had my way, everything would be the same. I'm a stickler for tradition, and since my mum re-arranged the kitchen cupboards I've felt like a sufferer of ridiculously early-onset Alzheimer's.

I was therefore fretting profusely over this Christmas. I've been known to fret, anyway--just ask my friends--but I was really worried about this. I'm a Christmas fanatic, as you may have guessed, but this year was going to be *shudder*... different.

A lot of my family live abroad, but we've always had at least two of our three boys, sometimes plus guests, home for Christmas. This year, however, it was just going to be me, mum and dad. Ferret is in Afghanistan right now. Tiger and Duchess went to Duchess' parents house to celebrate. And Elephant and Panther... they were otherwise engaged. I'll be explaining that in Blogmas #12!

I worried that it wouldn't be the same. I worried that mum, dad and I wouldn't have a lot to talk about for the whole day. I felt like I wouldn't feel the Christmas spirit and the house wouldn't be so full of laughter and joy.

I was right: it wasn't the same. But, as the writer Patrick Ness said at the Mountains to Sea Festival... "Why does different have to be better or worse... why can't it just be different?"

It wasn't. In fact, it was as near perfect as it was going to get. It was a chilled out Christmas the like of which our house has never seen... and as it turns out, that was just what I needed.

We all exchanged presents and get exactly what we'd wished for. We relaxed, chatted, watched some serious Christmas telly and the one thing that hadn't changed was... the dinner.


The "good" cutlery and Country Roses dinner set, plus the Irish tradition of having two kinds of meat, turkey and ham. YES.

Christmas wasn't quite as lonely as I'd anticipated, either. In the morning, our neighbour came over for a cup of tea. In the evening, other relatives visited. They knew we'd be alone on Christmas, and came over to keep us company. Just because that's the kind of people they are.

I've been known to "give out" about people dropping in--you know, when I'm in my PJs at midday on a Saturday, perfectly acceptable... but now I understand the attraction. That people are thinking of you. Or that people are driving by your house and just drop in, to see how you're getting on.

I hope everyone knows what I'm talking about.

Merry late Christmas.