Posts Tagged ‘Nonna’

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Tube update: Ravenscourt Park & Stamford Brook

February 17, 2013

Despite the fact that we’ve been living in Chiswick for 4 months now, and I go through these tube stations pretty much daily, I have never actually walked past Stamford Brook and Ravenscourt Park. Toby and I finally did this after dropping Hannah off at Hammersmith so that she could make her way back to York – I am so glad that she enjoyed her weekend with us 🙂 It’s important to me that our home is welcoming to all of our guests so that people think of us fondly and return to visit us again in the future! We had a fabulous time with her, and it was so good to have catch-up time.

Once we’d put her on the Piccadilly line train, we wandered back through the King’s Mall arcade at Hammersmith (which reminded me of the Broadwalk near my nan’s in Bristol in terms of the sadness of a lot of the shops there – although we discovered Tiger which was excellently quirky, and I even dared to go into Primark), and then along the Chiswick High Road. We stopped for a lovely coffee and toasted sandwich at Artisan café, which was a light and airy space which rejuvenated us before continuing on our way. I also got some more book ideas at Waterstone’s – as well as Wuthering Heights, I have made a start on an ebook gay fiction series by Nick Alexander (50 Reasons) which I’m enjoying so far. I’m also spending time with albums by A$AP Rocky and The Weeknd. Here’s to the week ahead, and perhaps some more musical and literary discoveries! 🙂

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exploring Little Venice + Kilburn. (multiple tube update!)

January 27, 2013

Today, Toby and I had originally planned to go to see the Royal Ballet photographic exhibition at The Hospital Club near Covent Garden. However, because we couldn’t work out if the exhibition was open today (the page with the exhibition said it was on today, but the opening times for the venue states that they are closed on Sundays), we decided to go elsewhere. After a think, I remembered that one place I had always been curious to visit was Little Venice. Cue much singing of Duffy’s “Warwick Avenue”.

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Warwick Avenue and Maida Vale is another beautiful area of London, with lots of grand white terraced houses with the columned steps up to the front doors (one of my ambitions is to one day live in a house with white columns flanking the front door. Dream big.) and big leafy trees. We had a walk around Little Venice and its triangle of water – it was smaller than I expected, but there was still a pretty riverside mini-park: The Rembrandt Gardens:

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and then we ended up on the other side of the canal in somewhere called Sheldon Square, which reminds me of Big Bang Theory.

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After this, we moseyed on up through Maida Vale and onto Kilburn High Road. It’s not a glamorous location by any means, but the mish-mash of cultures (Muslim here, Jewish there, pan-European further up the road) and the busy hum of people gave the area a buzz that was nice to experience – once, at least. Toby and I were amused by some of the shops which looked like they had been imported from 20 years ago. If HMV and Blockbuster are now out of business, how shops such as “Computer and Mobile Land” and “Half Price Games” are still surviving is beyond me. The proliferation of Poundlands and Shoe Zones gave me the impression that my grandmother had had a hand in designing the street. Anyway, to complete the post, here are the tube stations that we managed to cross off the list on our walk from Maida Vale to Kilburn. Now we’re back home, I’m taking refuge on the sofa for the rest of the evening – and it’s well earned!

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last Christmas.

December 15, 2012

I remember when I started this blog that I would write quite lengthy, detailed posts about my personal life and about all of my feelings and experiences. This blog has been around for over 3 years and during that time my life has transformed in a lot of ways: I did a postgrad, started working in jobs I actually wanted, learned to drive and bought a car, entered a long-term relationship, moved to London and supported myself, moved in with my boyfriend… I made the decision not to talk about my relationship in too much detail because I feel that my private life is just for me and for Toby – but he informs everything I do now and is such a big part of me that every post on here, more or less, is influenced by him or concerns him to some degree.

Although I am certainly more mature and guarded about what I choose to post on the internet, sometimes I miss the honesty and openness with which I used to post. Sometimes, when I have dilemmas in my life, I find myself typing my question into Google in search of some advice. And sometimes I find some decent food for thought, whereas other times there’s just nothing sensible or nothing that quite touches the nature of what I am going through. But on those occasions where I do find something that can help me, through offering a kindred voice or shedding an alternative perspective on a situation, it’s really valuable. And so I have decided that in this post, I am going to be honest and talk about what is on my mind, in the hope that one day someone else might find my post and it might help them to know that they are not alone.

Yesterday I was speaking to my mother on the phone and apropos of nothing, she asked me that when I am in Bristol for Christmas, that I don’t voluntarily reveal the fact that I am gay and in a healthy, happy long-term relationship with my partner. The reason for this is that my uncle and aunt are coming up from Melbourne for the holiday to visit my grandmother. My cousin (my uncle and aunt’s daughter) has been living in Bristol with my grandmother for the past six months, and during this time she has demonstrated that she has grown up a lot from the irksome child and teenager that she was when I had previously met her. And yet the other day, my mother was having a conversation with her and my grandmother, and my cousin asks “how is Alan getting on with his flatmate?” Toby is my boyfriend, my lover, my partner with whom I share a flat – but he is so much more than my “flatmate” that I paused a little bit – because surely this is obvious, and my cousin (whose recent displays of emotional intelligence lead me to believe that she would have caught onto this) must know that Toby is my boyfriend. My mum then told me that my cousin has revealed in the past that my uncle (who has hitherto always been nice to me) “hates certain celebrity chefs because they are gay” apparently. And so, my mother has asked me not to volunteer any information about Toby to “keep the peace on Christmas Day” and to keep my grandmother happy, because otherwise relatives’ reactions “may cause a scene and my grandmother will get upset.”

What the fuck.

I am not at all angry at my mother for wanting a peaceful Christmas – it’s perfectly understandable. My mother’s side of the family is Italian (and therefore Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe them as religious with the exception of my grandmother who goes to church twice a week – but only since my grandfather passed away 5 years ago). But I have introduced Toby to my father (who has made crass comments about gay people in the past but has never been anything but welcoming of Toby and supportive of me in my relationship – I feel that his macho posturing isn’t really indicative of his views, which annoys me somewhat – why does he even need to act a certain way therefore? But I appreciate the fact that he is accepting of me) and everything has been fine – Toby has never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in my parents’ home. My grandmother has met Toby a few times now and they get on ok too – neither is my grandmother stupid; she knows who he is to me, even if she doesn’t say it out loud. But here lies the crux of the problem – everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody is actually fine with my sexuality, but everybody seems to think that they are the only “enlightened one” and that nobody else approves. So it remains a big open secret. Which to me is partly laughable, but also quite painful because I have absolutely no shame in having found a man that I love with all my heart, and having established a strong and secure relationship with him. Shouldn’t this be something that could be appreciated, if it’s too much to ask for it to be celebrated? Why do I have to keep quiet about the most positive (out of a range of very positive things in my life) part of who I am today?

I have always been the Beyoncé of the family, if you will. (Prepare for me to toot my own horn in the next couple of sentences.) Not only because I’m musically talented, but I am the only person on my mother’s side of the family to go to university, let alone to the University of Oxford and then on to achieve a postgraduate qualification afterwards. I am the only one who has successfully moved out of Bristol. I’m the slimmest and most fashionable out of me and my cousins. I have an interesting job which pays a decent wage (but more about that in another post, as I have an announcement to make!). I am 27 years old and I have done pretty well so far (with some wobbles along the way – but hey, that’s life right?). With all of this hard work (which was for myself, but it didn’t hurt that it pleased others also), it would appear that the fact that I am gay, that I happen to be attracted to men, and that I have now built a life for myself with another man whom I love deeply, resets everything. I will never be good enough, and no matter what I did or what I achieve in the future, I never had a chance at being “good enough” because of my sexuality, which is something I cannot control. I love being gay, I love Toby, I am very happy with my life and with myself (apart from the fact that I ought to quit smoking and that next year I am going to lose weight – but there’s a forthcoming post for that too because my musical goals and my aesthetic aims are going hand in hand in 2013).  And I can’t talk about any of it, because other people may react to it, and it may upset someone else. Well, it upsets me! What about that?

Back to the phone call. So my mother asked this favour of me. I fell silent, and I said that I didn’t know if I could do that – I certainly couldn’t promise anything. I know that she understands, and I know that she didn’t like asking, and I am not angry at her. But I am angry at my family because I am never going to be good enough, and I am not able to relax and completely be myself. I told my mother that I didn’t understand why I should compromise myself. It’s not natural for one to shout their gayness or their homosexual monogamous relationship upon entering a room – this is not my intention. But I am 27 years old, and I am not afraid of them anymore – I have built my own life, and at the end of the day, I don’t live in Bristol and I don’t need the validation of my family. It’s nice if I could feel comfortable with them – but if that’s not going to be a possibility, c’est la vie. I will choose Toby over them, if it has to come to it. I am sad that it might have to come to that – but maybe we can’t have everything. I have a lot, and that’s enough. But I refuse to be intimidated by small-minded, low-aspiring people. I don’t even really know if they are small-minded – this is all just rumour and myth. But after all – I’d better not say anything, just in case.

I want everyone to have a lovely Christmas day. I want Toby to feel welcome when he comes to Bristol, and the fact that he does perplexes me even more in light of this request. I don’t want my grandmother to be upset, and I don’t want anybody to cause a scene. But it’s not my fault if they cause a scene because of their own prejudice, surely? I don’t understand why I have to conceal, compromise and sacrifice my identity in the presence of people whom I see only occasionally, and who are my frickin’ family, so as not to rock a phantom boat. Am I being unreasonable? Because perhaps it’s not such a big thing to ask, for one day. But then, to me, it’s not really about one family day – it’s about me being denied the ability to openly be myself, to celebrate all of the things I have achieved and the precious gift of Toby’s presence in my life. He is wonderful, and I don’t see why I have to downplay this. I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops (though sometimes I want to! 🙂 ) because that would be unnatural, but neither am I going to lie about it because that is no more natural either.

This is bringing me to the sad conclusion that, whether or not a scene occurs, I feel like this will be my last Christmas in Bristol with my family, for at least a while. I don’t want to hurt my family by not celebrating with them, but at the same time I am an adult now, with the right to live my own life. (I can’t lie – it will be nice to actually not do a big travelling jaunt for one year.) I’m old enough to make my own decisions and to choose to stand my ground and enjoy my life in my own home. I have proven my worth time and again, and I now have the flat, the job, the relationship – the evidence to show for it. It’s not my fault that my family members may be insecure or jealous, and I don’t see why I should compromise myself to appease any inadequacies they may or may not feel. It’s not my problem. If I cannot be myself on Christmas day, then maybe next year it has finally come to the point where I’ve got to start making my own traditions, and if it means being by myself then hey – I’ll do it. I would never begrudge Toby going to spend time with his family, and maybe I would be able to join them instead. I don’t know – this whole situation has thrown me into a realm of “I don’t know”. What I do know is that I won’t lie, I won’t hide, and I won’t be ashamed. I am strong enough and secure enough to stand alone – I’d rather not have to, but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it. A part of me hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised this Christmas and all these worries and postulations will count for nothing. I really don’t know what will happen – I am confident that I feel the right way about the situation, but I hope that I will have the grace and the presence of mind to react correctly and in a dignified manner to whatever situation arises.

I’ll let you know.

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table for two.

June 16, 2012

Tonight I cleared the table (on which I keep my printer, laptop, books I’m currently reading and other paraphernalia I use on a daily basis) in order to serve up a proper dinner for two – I laid the table and served up a bowl of prawn crackers, a plate of spring rolls, a bowl of Thai green chicken curry, a bowl of Thai red chicken curry, along with some drinks. The reason why I wanted to do this tonight was because I had been doing chores on and off all day, Toby had been watching TV and playing Pokémon White on his DS for most of the time, and I felt that it would be nice to turn everything off and just eat and chat in a civilised manner for a short while. It was really nice and although it was by nature somewhat romantic, it wasn’t like I lit candles and dimmed the lights (though I did turn off the television and had some Roberto Fonseca on in the background). I just wanted to make dinnertime a time to chat and reflect on our day. To have some good conversation.

When I was younger (at a guess, about 14 years old), I remember listening to the radio on the way home after my mother had picked me up from school. There was a news item on the fact that less and less families were eating a sit-down dinner at the table. Now, apart from when we would have Sunday lunch at my nan’s (which was an infrequent affair), generally I would eat my meals in front of the television, and later on my mum would have something to eat in front of the tv, and eventually when my father would come home from work / the pub, he would eat something too.  We didn’t eat as a family very often in my youth, except for when my dad would bring home Chinese takeaway (which I always loved). Partly because our schedules rarely meshed, but also partly because we didn’t really find mealtimes conducive to talking – we didn’t have much to share with one another as a family. I was a youngster who enjoyed my privacy and I didn’t get on with my father that well in my childhood, so anything I wanted to share with my parents, I would share with my mother because generally my dad didn’t show much of an interest and I certainly didn’t want to let him in very often either. My parents were often at loggerheads with one another, and even when they weren’t, my mum didn’t really want to wait for my dad to get home just to have a meal she could prepare for herself two hours earlier, and my dad wouldn’t make much of an effort at conversation because he was already tipsy / drunk.

After my dad had his final cycling accident and decided to ultimately give up cycling (or otherwise lose his family, because my mother and I had both had enough of picking up the pieces at Frenchay hospital), he began to find more enjoyment in cooking. My mother also had a hand in this, as she was tired of my dad complaining about the food she had bought to cook with – so she essentially said “if you don’t like what I make, then make something yourself!” Fair enough – and fair play to my father, he went ahead and did it. As I became older, my tastes in food matured, and I found that the meals my father would make (albeit often quite spicy-HOT) would be quite enjoyable. So we started to eat together more often. It was ironic that as my parents needed to be less disciplined with me because I was demonstrating my own sense of self as an adult, we began to happily and willingly eat meals together and make conversation – when I was listening to that radio broadcast, what came to mind was families forced to eat together by an overbearing patriarch or matriarch while everyone else squirmed in their seats in near silence. When I was younger, that’s what a family meal meant to me. And now I am older and a grown man in my own right, I enjoy sharing a meal with loved ones, catching up about one another’s days, and making conversation and sharing opinions on a range of topics, both current and perennial. It was a symbol of each member of our small family finally learning to accept one another, learning to argue less with one another and see other points of view, and becoming close knit and more loving towards one another – although I must stress that I don’t think family dinners of this type can cause or force a family to bond – the love and understanding has to be there already!

I feel that the most important thing is not having a strict family rule to eat together – while I understand why some families do this (during our conversation tonight, Toby said that his family would always eat meals at the table together) and I think it’s a nice idea in theory, in practice I definitely feel that an eating situation should be comfortable for all concerned. If it’s not convenient to eat together, or conversation and relations are strained, then it’s better to eat in front of the TV or in your room or wherever you feel happiest and safest. Mealtimes, like all other times, should feel comfortable and flow comfortably. In life, we go through enough awkward social occasions that I don’t know if it’s really necessary or advisable to inflict more upon ourselves. But I am now old enough and happy enough to appreciate the value of good shared food, good shared conversation and an easy feeling of camaraderie. Eating at the table with Toby tonight was an absolute pleasure, and the extra few minutes of preparing the table, serving the components of the meal individually, and washing up the extra used crockery and cutlery afterwards were absolutely worth it for a relaxed meeting of minds and hearts.

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Tube update: Shepherd’s Bush Market, Wood Lane & White City

April 10, 2012

Toby and I have been greatly enjoying our extended Easter breaks, and we’ve been doing a lot of resting and relaxing (under my nan’s forceful instruction!) watching Angel, Desperate Housewives and a range of films (including Hop on Easter Sunday, which made me a happy bunny!). However, today we went on an outing to Westfield to do some shopping where I picked up some nice new shoes for work from Deichmann, Madonna’s new album MDNA and the new GQ Style with the delectable Channing Tatum on the cover. We also had a delicious lunch at Wahaca, which served great Mexican tapas-style food within an ambience that made us forget that we were in London!

We decided to be healthy and walk from Earls Court all the way up, and so we did a little detour so that I could see Shepherd’s Bush Market, Wood Lane and White City tube stations. Et voilà 🙂

We haven’t decided where yet, but we may go on an outing tomorrow so keep your eyes peeled here for more tube stations ticked off the list!

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Cooking in 2012 – February: Lasagne.

February 2, 2012

So this month I made a dish that I have in fact made a couple of times in the past: lasagne. I love it, it’s perfect for the extremely cold weather we’re currently experiencing, and it’s Italian and therefore I should be able to make this in my sleep. I felt confident that I could impress Toby with this one, and be able to do it without any help.

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I used this recipe as a basis, but it was kinda confusing. My first big stumbling block was “crush the garlic to a paste with the edge of a knife”. Now, I don’t know if you have ever tried this, but it’s fucking difficult. I got irritated (because chopping the vegetables and preparing everything had taken a surprisingly long time), ranted on twitter, had a cigarette, and then just decided to chop the garlic cloves into really small pieces, smoosh them up, and call it sufficient.

My next issue was the completely unclear nature of the recipe. You put the carrot in after everything has been cooking for quite a long time? Huh? And you stir in the oregano practically at the end? Why? Most importantly, it never tells you to take the fried mince off the warm plate and back in a saucepan to mix it with the rest of the ingredients for the meat sauce. It leaves this completely to your imagination. Now, common sense dictates you would eventually reach the conclusion that this is what you have to do (and with Toby’s reassurance, I got there) – but I am far from a confident cook. Even though I have made this recipe before, I don’t ever remember it being so complicated or confusing, and recipes not spelling everything out for me explicitly is A BIG PROBLEM.

But we got there. I cheated and bought some white sauce rather than making it from scratch – this was probably a good move because as it was, we didn’t end up eating the finished lasagne until 9:45pm. Which is late. But it was very very nice – and better than a shop-bought one! I was proud!

With a night’s perspective on the whole matter, I can now ask myself the big question: Was it worth all the money I spent on ingredients, and all the time I spent stressing and preparing and cooking and washing up? I am very hesitant to say “yes”, to be honest. I did learn a lot from the experience, such as:

  • as much as I want to be independent, sometimes it’s vital to ask for help.
  • as time-consuming as cooking and preparing ingredients can be, you can always do chores / errands in the interim while the food is cooking / baking. Which is satisfying.
  • I take after my mother, as the Italian side of me is clearly a fashionista rather than a foodie (though my waistline lately might disagree). Oh well.

I am trying really hard with this cooking thing, and it is a resolution that I made so I will see it through for the whole year. And I sincerely hope that as I gain more experience with cooking, it will be less traumatic. But at this point, I genuinely hate it. I can’t lie – as good as my lasagne tasted, and as convenient as it was that I got two meals’ worth out of it (I finished the leftovers off tonight), I would have much preferred to have bought a ready-made lasagne from a supermarket and warmed it up. Less stress, more time to enjoy my evening with Toby, and less money wasted on ingredients – the remnants of which are now sitting in my fridge until I throw them away in a few days’ time. Perhaps if my circumstances change in the future, I will have more motivation to cook a meal for two more often – and perhaps a better kitchen to cook them in! But for now, at least Toby seemed to enjoy the meal (which is a big plus), and my family sounded impressed when I told them on the phone.

Next, I want to attempt to make Toby a moussaka the way my nan makes it – which is amazing. I don’t expect to live up to her lofty standards, but I will give it a go! Eep.

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2012, here we come!

December 30, 2011

The time has rolled around, once again, for my two standard end of year / new year posts. The first one is my own personal review of 2011, evaluating how I did with my aims for the year, and looking forward to 2012 and what I hope to achieve within the next 12 months. So, to recap, my aims for 2011 were:

1. Buy a car.
Tick! I not only bought a car, but I crashed it and then sold it 6 months later!  Driving was a major achievement for me, as it was 6 years in the making, and represented a triumph over my nerves and my previous failure (I have been a lucky person who generally didn’t have to deal with failure too much in life, up until I started learning to drive). But I also learned the hard way that it’s a big responsibility, that it comes with a whole trapping of expenses, and that while being able to drive is an asset and a liberation, living in London and not having to drive anywhere is also a blessing. When the public transport system is good, life is good. (Let me tell you, having gone home to Bristol for 6 days over the Christmas period, I immediately starting missing my car and how easy it made travelling from place to place. Bristol, step your public transport game up please!)

2. Get a job in London.

Tick! Although I miss the warmth and camaraderie of my colleagues in Cirencester (I yo-yoed about how much I enjoyed the job, but I became much happier and carefree once a certain colleague left), my new job in Notting Hill is a whole new challenge – I’m always busy, I’m never bored, and I am learning many new things. Plus, I am earning more!

3. Move to London.

Tick! As you know, I am now living in my own little studio flat in Earl’s Court, which is pricey but very conveniently located for transport (bus stop and tube station outside my front door), and also only a 15 minute walk from Toby’s place.

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger!

Tick! I love my baby and I realised early on in 2011 that the 100+ miles gap between the two of us wasn’t going to be feasible. We missed each other all the time, and although I may have ended up in London anyway (I’m a city boy at heart), he was the driving force between the transformation in my life and career that has occurred this year.

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album.

Nope. The microphone never happened. I have recorded some new material (and written even more), but I am hoping that the album will be complete next year.

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft.

Sort of. I am debt-free, apart from my student overdraft and my student loan. My car ended up being a big drain on my finances, and moving to London required every penny I had. Plus, I did have a wonderful holiday to Seville with Toby in July, which I wouldn’t have traded for anything but did further delay me paying off my student overdraft. But with my first couple of pay checks, I paid my parents and Nonna back for the money they lent me to settle myself in London, I paid off my credit card, and sorted myself out financially. The student overdraft is my primary financial focus for 2012.

So I guess 4.5 out of 6 is not bad at all! I seem to have more success when I write my yearly aims down, so here goes for 2012:

1. Learn to cook a new dish every month.

Toby is a fantastic cook, but I want to learn to make healthy, interesting meals so that I can return the favour from time to time, and enrich my own skill-set and repertoire. Tonight, Toby’s housemates Michael and Naomi have made some very yummy sushi, so that is one thing I shall aim to make; I also enjoyed watching the British Bake-Off and am tempted by the idea of whipping up my own lemon tart!

2. Cut down on takeaways – to once a fortnight.

I’m not quite as svelte as I was this time last year. I have got into the habit of having desserts, of snacking unnecessarily from time to time, and from cooking quite simple dishes (similar to how I was at university). This is all fine, but I am going to moderate myself a bit and cut down on takeaways from Dominos, Pizza Hut and Jasmine Garden.

3. Move in with Toby.

I would like the two of us to move in together; it feels like the logical next step for our relationship, but we both need to be at ease with it and it also needs to be an affordable and convenient location. Moving in will happen when it happens, but I’m just putting this wish out there in the universe and perhaps in 12 months’ time, I will be able to tick this one off the list! 🙂

4. Pay off my student overdraft.

See above. This year I have really improved at budgeting and restraining myself from impulsive / extravagant purchases; therefore, I am determined to pay off at least £200 a month. So even if I don’t pay the whole thing off by the end of the year, I will have made a sizeable dent in it! Fingers crossed!

5. Learn Italian

Ok, let’s get this done once and for all. I am half-Italian, therefore it will not only be easy (especially having studied French and Spanish) to learn Italian, but it will be culturally enriching and give me a new understanding of my own heritage. Work have offered to pay for / subsidise an Italian course for me, but my initial plan of attack will be to buy an Italian novel, an Italian dictionary (and possibly an Italian grammar book), and keep a pen and paper by me as I read – and just have at it.

6. Learn to sew

Because I feel somewhat babyish whenever I have holes or rips in my clothes, and I have to take them to Toby’s to fix. I presume that sewing is a relatively simple skill, and therefore I should learn to do it and allow myself to be self-sufficient when it comes to repairing my belongings.

7. Finish my new album

This year will be the year! I am over halfway. Keep your eyes and ears peeled!

8. Go completely digital with my music and film collections, and only keep physical copies of what I really love

Having moved to London, I was unable to carry all of my DVDs and CDs with me. I would need a truck. Obviously, I have my computer, my iPod, and I was able to take quite a few of my DVDs here; but I have realised that I don’t really need most of the physical copies that I own. So I will sell them, give them away, and go digital. I will open myself up to buying things on iTunes much more (believe it or not, B.Slade’s album Diesel that I bought a couple of months ago was the very first album I bought on iTunes!), and perhaps I might need an extra external hard drive. But I am willing to embrace the digital age (only a few years late!), and also make it much easier for myself to move flats and houses as I go.

Wish me luck, and have a Happy New Year! x