Notes to January.

I know what you’re thinking. Who am I, after all this time, to think that I can just swan back in here with an upbeat post about pasta and act like everything is normal? Look I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be away for so long. Time just got away from me there, and between lockdowns, planning the move and looking for a new job (whilst still working flat out at the old one), I just didn’t have anything remotely eloquent or valuable to say. I had a lot of feelings sure, but actual thoughts, opinions, witty insights? No chance. I think if I’d sat here in November and tried to type out a coherent train of thought, we’d still be waiting. So yes, it’s been a while. Things have happened. But let’s catch up and start 2021 as we unofficially intend to go on shall we?

So. We’ve moved. Last time we spoke I was blabbering on rather excitedly about B’s new job and a potential move to the South East in the closing stages of 2020. Having yearned for the big move back to the UK for the past 4 or so years, it was a pretty exciting prospect, and even now reading that post back I can’t help but smile at past me, so excited and bright eyed for the future. Well, we did it baby! That’s right, on the 20th November 2020 at around 5pm I boarded a Eurostar bound for London at Centraal station and never looked back, arriving 5 hours later on my new doorstep here in Hove. Ready to start again.

Of course since then we’ve done our 2 weeks of quarantine, the whole Christmas debacle and then the subsequent national lockdown, so truth be told although I’ve now lived in Hove for going on 2 months, I still feel like I haven’t really been (save for the seafront, which right now is my daily walking savior). Save for a cracking Sunday roast at The Connaught (meal I still dream about daily), there just hasn’t been much opportunity for exploring what our new ‘hood has to offer. From what I can see though, I think we’re going to do just fine here, and I can’t wait to get out and about when it’s safe to do so.

Alongside the move came another big change: my job. Indeed the end of December saw me packing up my metaphorical desk and leaving my role that I’d been at for nearly 4 years. A bittersweet moment for sure; I will and already do miss the fantastic people I was lucky enough to work alongside, and I’ll always be grateful for the opportunities I had – but at the same time it was time to move on, I had overgrown that role and it was time to change the guard and give the team new direction. It was hard, but it felt right. So far the new job is pretty solid; the people seem nice and the work is familiar yet different enough to keep me entertained. It’s been pretty weird starting a completely new job in a new field; even just the culture of the new place is crazy different than what I’m used to. Normally when starting a new job in an office environment you pick things up just by overhearing conversations or chance interactions; you get to know your new colleagues over coffee and casual encounters. Remotely you are just you; you need to seek out information yourself, and ingratiate yourself with people through overly enthusiastic Teams chats and awkwardly formal “coffee chats” that need to be booked in well in advance (and last no more than 15 minutes). It has been pretty lonely and isolating at times – I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t rang my mum a handful of times for a “I don’t even know what I’m meant to be doing” rant. Luckily towards the end of the month I’ve started to gain a little bit of momentum so I hope in February’s round up I can report back a little more positively.

Apart from the new job, there’s very little in January to report. The month started with a bang (quite literally) as B and I toasted the end of 2020 with Nigella’s Coca-Cola ham (simply stunning) and a bottle of Prosecco, watching the fireworks at midnight from our loft bedroom (if you squint on a sunny day you can see the sea). Oh, and a board game or two in front of Pixar’s Onward. I am usually pretty vocal about my absolute hatred for anything NYE, so this year’s low-key celebration suited me just fine. And whilst I was glad to see the back of 2020, it was also a great moment to reflect; after all, my main aim for the year was to make the move to the UK and we did achieve that. Compared to just a year ago, we are in a new city, a new flat with new jobs and adventures ahead of us. It can’t be all bad, right?

Beyond that it’s been pretty steady sailing in January; I’ve spent a lot of time in the kitchen, baking up a storm (these doughnut muffins came highly recommended by my mum and I’ve since made them twice with jam and Nutella filling, my god they’re good) and keeping myself busy. Other culinary highlights of the month include this rather scrumptious pork belly roast, lasagne complete with homemade pasta sheets courtesy of B, and last weekend’s rather fabulous butter chicken biryani which quite frankly, knocked our socks off. I’ve also been living for our weekly Deliveroo – I think with lockdown and dreary January days, we need to cling on to whatever gets us through and right now (in the absence of friends and family and y’know, actually leaving the house) that beacon of hope for me is food. So sod it, I’ma eat until this is all over and I’ma eat well. Seeing as we can’t discover Brighton’s restaurants quite yet, we’ve been bringing them to us; so far we’ve sampled quite the range, from Dishoom (amazing amazing), Shake Shack, Pizza Face, Danny’s and Fatto a Mano. In February I’m itching to try the new Tide Seafood Kitchen, Bincho Yakitori (I had booked a table for early January but tier 4 put paid to that, doh) and maybe even a repeat to Danny’s because hey, February 12th is Chinese New Year and that salt and pepper chicken was to die for.

In between eating my feelings, we’ve been using our bountiful free time to catch on films we never got round to seeing – shout out to Knives Out and Shutter Island – and whiling away my Sunday afternoons with a book and some chocolate. Since being back in the UK I’ve been making up for lost time with my sweet treats, tucking into Galaxy Minstrels, Terry’s Chocolate Oranges, Dairy Milk Caramel and all of the things I so missed over in Amsterdam but could never find (or at least, not for a reasonable price). I think I’ll do a separate post on the books I’ve read recently because there are some good ‘uns. Exercise has taken the form of long weekend works at the sea front (so fresh, a novelty I hope that never wears off) and pretty frequent runs as I take advantage of my more relaxed work schedule to escape for a lunchtime meander. Any other spare moments (look I have a lot) have been spent playing games with B – this was the month we realized that we both quite like mystery-type games, gobbling up Return of the Obra Dinn and Her Story over the course of a weekend. Seriously, even if you’re not into games, Obra Dinn is something to check out.

Looking at all that, it all seems pretty idllyic. New job, slow weekends, a fresh start… and in many ways it is. Truth is… I’m fine. Everything is fine. And that’s just it. Nothing more nothing less. And after a year where I think we’ve all felt paralyzing fear, helplessness, utter despondency and (quite often) unexplained anger… I’m pretty fine with fine. Do I hope that February brings some good news and we start to see the path back to normality? Absolutely. Am I desperate to start making plans with loved ones to reconnect and change scenery? You know it. But at the same time I realize it could be so much worse, and that all I need to do is keep my head down, keep plugging away and hope that things change soon. In the meantime you know where to find me, baking Millionaire’s Shortbread and dreaming of sunnier climes.

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