The last of 2019

Happy new year everyone!  Any good plans or resolutions for the new year?  Or the new decade?  I will turn 40 later this year which seems a little bit surreal, but otherwise I haven’t made a 2020 to do list.  I did join a gym in December during my time off and am loving it.  I got pretty unfit with all the commuting in 2019 so I’ve been kicking my own butt to get back into shape – swimming, spinning, pilates, yoga, dance fitness — and I’ve just got an orientation to all the gym machines which I typically avoid because they look like medieval torture devices!  Today my pecs and hamstrings are particularly sore.

I start a new job next Monday at the Wales Audit Office as a project change manager.  I was intending on having a little break but as soon as I turned on my job alerts in December this role came up so I applied.  It seems a really good fit for my skills and is just 2 miles from the house with good flexibility and holiday leave.  I haven’t worked in the public sector here in the UK so am interested to see what it’s like and am excited to embark on another new adventure.

So let me just catch up on some of the happenings in the last couple of months in 2019… I left off in Wiltshire… the following weekend we met Estelle in Bristol at the SS Great Britain, a fantastic museum/exhibit!


According to wiki: “She was designed by Isambard Kingdom Brunel for the Great Western Steamship Company’s transatlantic service between Bristol and New York.”  “She was the longest passenger ship in the world from 1845 to 1854… and was advanced for her time.”


One of the reasons this was such an awesome exhibit is because you could actually walk under the waterline to see the hull, propeller and dry dock where the ship was built.  If you look at the picture above, it looks like the ship is in the water, but it’s an illusion.  They built a glass shelf around the ship which holds about 6 inches of water and a set of stairs that gives you access to the temperature and humidity-controlled space below!  It was super ingenious… just like Brunel himself apparently.  Until I came to this exhibit, I hadn’t heard of this man but he turns out to be a really famous British engineer, responsible for many civil engineering projects which are still in use today.  You should read about him on Wiki if you are interested in the history of civil engineering (maybe one or two of you?!).


Here’s Morg on deck — annoyingly no sails to set but never mind.  Below decks, they did a great job restoring and depicting life aboard, complete with crew quarters and a galley full of pots, pans and food they were likely to eat.  It was a really fab day out — a great meet up with an old friend and plenty to keep us all entertained and interested!  Thanks Estelle for this suggestion.


A few weeks later we were carving pumpkins with Morgy’s good friend Zeke and his dad Mat.


Mat and Zeke did an awesome Batman pumpkin which I sadly don’t have a photo of.  We went a bit nuts and carved three this year, including one of those tiny pumpkins.  I had never attempted a tiny pumpking carving but Morgy suggested it so we gave it a try.  He was very cute but we couldn’t leave his “hat” on otherwise the tea light would have burnt it – ahh the hazards of Halloween!


And then it was work, work, work until the end of my contract in November — as I mentioned in my previous post I really miss my lovely colleagues at the QAA!


Just before I finished up, we took a weekend trip to London to meet up with Hefin, Emma and Elis (family who lives in Norwich) and to see some of the touristy sites.  First stop was the Tower of London to see the crown jewels.  The boys loved trying on the armour:


…and seeing the guards marching back and forth.


Afterwards we walked across London Bridge:


And enjoyed “bottomless pizza” at a Gordon Ramsay restaurant close to the apartment we rented.  The boys devoured cheesecakes for dessert.


In the morning, we happened upon St. Paul’s just at mass time, which we managed to stay at quietly for a full 15 min 😉  The dome on this cathedral was absolutely amazing, both inside and out.


We walked over the Thames again towards the Tate Modern…


And then hopped onto a river taxi up towards the Houses of Parliament.  Big Ben is currently under scaffolding but the houses themselves are still very impressive buildings.  Dull day though, I know!!  It’s been a very wet and dark autumn and winter.  In any case, great to be in the capital to see some of these historic sites and great to catch up with Hef, Em and Elis!


November ended with a lovely Thanksgiving celebration at our house with neighbours and friends (from left Aled, Ed, Sarah, Paul, Anurag, Beth, Mat).


And of course the children pulling faces – Morgy, Oliver, Zeke and Tom…


…heralding the beginning of this year’s silly season!  In our house this means bringing in the Christmas tree from outside, with all it’s spiders and other small insects 😉  We are proud to share that this tree has been sucking in (a very small amount of) carbon dioxide for three years now.  A good Maori quote to describe this: Ahakoa he iti he pounamu (although it is small it is a treasure).  🙂


After I took that photo, unbeknownst to me a number of other photos were taken which I discovered only when I transferred them all to this laptop…


Yup Morgy got hold of the camera and took 100 pictures in the dining room.


…and showed us the xmas tree from a different perspective!


I am including this last one purely so I can mention the British election on 12 Dec 2019 in which the Liberal Democrats (whom Aled helped campaign for) and the Labour Party got absolutely thrashed by Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party.


For Remainers, this was a dark day.  For me, it marked 3.5 years of ongoing political turmoil here in the UK which is accomplishing nothing productive at all.  In my opinion it’s resulted in the UK being distracted from real issues such as the NHS (the public health service) and climate change.  As this issue is debated over and over, the country is going backwards in global perspective.  A famous quote from Mikail Gorbachov: “If you are not moving forwards you are moving backwards.”

We cheered ourselves up by making our wreath at Roath Park Pleasure Garden — one of my favourite pre-xmas activities:


Onwards to Christmas!  This year we were joined by Aled’s parents and brother Hefin and family.  Here are Nanna and Hefin on Christmas Eve.  Nanna and I enjoyed an afternoon at the theatre — we saw Les Miserable at the Millenium Centre down in Cardiff Bay and it was fantastic.  I absolutely love that production and know every song by heart!

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The boys made out like bandits on Christmas day:


Look at the delight!

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Naturally there was some “present envy” going on — these two photos demonstrate it perfectly:


“What have you got?”  Hilarious!


The weather was beautiful on Christmas Day so the boys were able to try out their new things — a new bike for Morgy and some roller skates for Elis!


Morgy really loves the new bike!


Then it was time to get cooking — we went non-traditional again this year with a lamb leg:


With plenty of help from my father-in-law Steve on the veg chopping, Auntie Emma’s amazing help in the kitchen, Nanna on table setting, and dads on child-distraction-present-trying duties, we turned out some delicious meals!


Here’s a lovely pic of Emma and Elis:


It was a wonderful holiday – thank you everyone for all the lovely presents and cards from around the world!

…and just before new years… the last highlight of the Christmas period… we caught up with an old friend from Wellington who is originally from Birmingham… that’s right folks, Rob and family!  By now he and Naomi have two little sprogs — the oldest one Mabel pictured here with Rob.  It was so nice to see them albeit briefly!  We miss you guys!


So that was 2019!  I wish you all the very best for 2020!  Enjoy it but please also if you could do something to help save the planet, I’d really appreciate it  XOXOXOX