Saturday, 29 December 2012

New Year's Resolutions

Not even made it to the New Year and already thinking ahead to what my resolutions may be. For me resolutions seem to be made not only on the 1st of January but at every turning point; new term, next birthday, even just a new week. Had a lovely week post-Christmas full of family visits, a spa trip, and a brief walk on the beach cut a little too short as we were caught out by a torrential downpour. All of these things got me thinking about what I already have and love, and what might benefit from a little change. Hopefully this year should be a pretty exciting one, with a bit of luck ending with the completion of my first term of teaching. I suppose the only thing is how I get to that point, so I thought resolutions this year could help to lead me there.
First the family visit experience. I have an unusually tiny family admittedly, with only two cousins, two sets of aunts and uncles and sadly only one grandparent, but we never cease to have fun. Visits are often limited to once or twice a year, yet despite the distance and the time apart it always surprises me just how alike we all are. Christmas in particular is done better by no other family in terms of the sheer volume of decorations, eating, and silly games. Highlight this year had to be my 86-year-old Nan (‘same age as the Queen don’t you know?’) acting out the word ‘dead’ in a charades-type game – complete silence, and a bout of hysteria swept the room as no one knew quite how to react to the situation (she really was very convincing).
Spa was a first-time experience of the whole shebang so quite a revelation, but very lovely. Sitting on a lounger in a darkened room with pictures of the beach and sounds of the sea didn’t feel quite as satisfying when I wasn’t getting a tan, and spending the day in a robe surrounded by fellow robe-wearers could take some getting used to. Then managing a cup of tea and a mince pie whilst covered in mud was not something which was particularly successful and the consequence of mud washed off by ‘tropical rain’ may have been more than a little disturbing to other guests. Regardless, would definitely repeat the experience!
Finally the walk today was not quite as idyllic as the last one, although again quite an experience. As everyone else abandoned the beach when the first few drops of rain fell, we soldiered on thinking them complete wimps – only seconds later to be soaked through to the bone resulting in a hasty, side-stepping escape, battling against the winds in pursuit of a beach hut for shelter!
Life is fun, and I wouldn’t change a lot of things for the world. But aims for the year are as follows (and now I have plenty of witnesses to give me the much needed nudges):

1.       Stop being so lazy! The contrast between a year spent on my feet all day, every day, to a term of 9-5 sitting down is already taking its toll – I WILL start moving more again.
2.       Budget! If I actually want to be able to afford to do anything or go anywhere by the end of this year, I really need to keep an eye on my spending again... Yes the ring and vintage habit may have to take a cut-back. I weep.
3.       Pass this year! Think that one’s pretty self-explanatory. Just got to make sure I don’t burn out, hence the need for my down-time, friends, family, and having fun. Maybe I’ll even get a job too??

I’m excited.            

Saturday, 22 December 2012

The tradition of Christmas shopping

Friday evening well spent wrapping presents and writing cards while the parents were out dancing the night away; my life is too exciting. Night before I had my first trip to the new Sainsburys in town... I know it’s Christmas and time to relax but I need to get out!

So spent the day in Cambridge yesterday finishing off Christmas shopping with mother – always a tad tricky when the only person you still need to buy presents for is the person you choose to go with! All the same it was a successful trip, although I was officially slightly disappointed by the city for the first time and my appreciation for Norwich was very much heightened. Tradition foretells that mother (or Dad on the odd occasion) and I visit Cambridge in the week leading up to the holiday for a spot of last-minute Christmas shopping. Cambridge always has such a lovely feel to it and whatever the weather, lunch is had sitting on the wall of King’s College and people watching. In all honesty, it’s the architecture and how pretty the lights look at this time of year that has the biggest appeal but for shopping purposes I was less than inspired this year! It may just be a case of not knowing where to go in Cambridge combined with a case of now being much more familiar with where to go in Norwich, but Cambridge city centre seems to distinctly lack independent businesses! The only reason I did so little shopping in Norwich this year was because I had so few opportunities to go into town, and wandering aimlessly around Cambridge yesterday all I could think was that I knew exactly where I would have gone if I’d still been in Norfolk!
With the vintage shops like Prim Vintage, Goldfinches and Antidote for my every clothing and accessory need, little boutique, art and craft shops like Lisa Angel, Follies (which I am very sad to see go), Elm Hill Craft Shop and The Jade Tree for my every jewel, ornament and stocking filler need, and most importantly great food places like Louis’ Deli, Amaretto Deli and Jarrolds for my lunch and Norfolk product present purposes, we’re spoilt for choice in Norwich – and there are SO many more to choose from, not to mention the cafés and bars for rest stops! Having now lived in Norwich for 3 years and nearby for 15, I honestly thought I was bored of the city, but on reflection I don’t think I could now settle anywhere without such a vibrant and eclectic mix of independent businesses because they make shopping, eating and drinking such a treat!

Maybe, just maybe, tradition may take a turn in a different direction next year.

P.S I suppose the all important question of the best busker remains? Think ‘man-in-a-bin’ is officially in the running, first encountered in September and still stuck there yesterday... (still wish I’d seen him get in!)

Sunday, 16 December 2012


I’m wrapped up in the softest Christmas blanket you ever did feel, surrounded by the pandemonium that is the festive season in the Brockway household! Not even two days back home and already we’ve had a trip to the beach and more importantly, I’ve had a paddle so feeling the need to get all cosy.
                Been off the radar for a couple of weeks while I’ve been buried deep in books and I can’t really believe that the writing has started again now I’m back in King’s Lynn of all places! One of the books I was buried in has the title Flotsam, which has now become my new favourite word.

1.     material or refuse floating on water
2.     useless or unimportant items; odds and ends.

So today while I was walking along the beach at Hunstanton I was very aware of the flotsam amongst the seaweed and the endless piles of razor shells – which, by the way, I am slightly obsessed with walking over because the crunch is SO satisfying! Unfortunately, I didn’t find anything at all interesting – well and didn’t really look too closely to find anything anyway – but I really do love just how much there is to see at the beach. Although we often take the same walk, the coastline really changes. Every time you go things are a different colour, or the sand is a different pattern, or there are different things washed up that weren’t there the day before. Only this time last year the whale appeared, and I’ll always remember our shock that so many people had decided to go for a walk on the beach that Christmas Eve, not knowing what would greet us once we reached the sand and having the realisation that it wasn’t us being trend-setters so much as the whole whale-washed-up-on-the-beach situation!
                Today was so sunny and peaceful and we had those reeeeally long shadows, which I always love because they make me feel really tall and leggy! I began to wander out to the sea before realising quite how far out the tide actually was, but it was so worth it. The waves were really lapping the shore and it just sounded so calm. No matter what the time of year, I HAVE to go for a paddle – fear not, I was wearing wellies (so actually it probably doesn’t really count) – while my poor parents just wander along waiting for me to come back.
                As much as I like to think I’m not a huge fan of Norfolk and the idea of having no clue where I’ll be this time next year really excites me, I still love to know that this will always be home. I can’t ever imagine being too far away from the sea, and even less so the Norfolk coast!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

A petite selection of Christmas music

As I write this post my advent candle is burning down the number 5 and I’m eating a warm mince pie. I’ve just come in from slipping and sliding in the snow having been to a performance of Britten’s Ceremony of Carols in Norwich Castle so I’m definitely full of that festive feeling.
                As an absolutely unashamed and indeed self-professed Christmas-lover I am as you would expect, thoroughly excited that December is finally upon us! I don’t think there’s anything about Christmas that I don’t like beyond the tacky cheesy stuff (because yes, of course, I am a Christmas snob). The food, the present buying, the decorations, the lights, the nip on your nose, the cosy candlelit evenings in front of the fire when you come in from the cold, and the endless board games and puzzles, it’s all marvellous. But there’s one thing in particular that I pretty much count down to each year from the end of one Christmas to the next, and that’s the music!
                I’m almost certain that my family and I are the only ones with such a ‘taste’ for all things Christmassy, but regardless I’d love to share some Christmas music with you as it’s the only time of the year that I might get away with it!

The one which kicks off my December and is then almost continually on repeat through to the 12th night every year is Vaughan Williams’ Fantasia on Christmas Carols. I can’t even imagine how many times I’ve listened to this piece, and yet every time the opening passage still manages to give me goose bumps. A potentially sweet or maybe a little strange story about this one – my Mum was in a performance of it when she was pregnant with me, and I finally got to perform it myself last Christmas. I can’t help but feel that this probably explains my absolute adoration for the piece, and also perhaps why I seemed to know the alto part so well last year even though I’d never sung it before! (Or maybe it’s just another strange Laura thing)...

I suppose for me, the beauty in most Christmas music is really in the performance of it. For this reason, I apologise in particular for the version I’m posting of this carol, but it’s one of my absolute favourites and I can hardly hate a Cor Anglais introduction (fondly known as Daddy oboe and another of my instruments but sadly one for which there is very little demand)!

So to the Christmas jazz of which our collection seems to grow with abundance every year. I always feel as though I have been transported to a vintage Christmas - one where I’m pretty convinced Bing Crosby would be sitting in my living room - whenever we're playing some Christmas jazz. I admit we have way too many Christmas jazz CDs and there’s far too much to choose from, so one is a favourite (and the version from the film Elf, who can complain about a bit of Zooey Deschanel?) and the other actually scares me slightly but has to be listened to regardless because it’s still quite entertaining (apologies, really didn’t have many to choose from)

Very aware that this could end up being a horribly rambly, musical-overloady post, so just twooo more that my Christmas wouldn’t be complete without! Got very over-excited (and yes probably a little embarrassing) in Waitrose last year when shopping for roasty things while this one was playing

Barry Rose – Carol Symphony (1991 Digital Remaster): Allegro energico – (the rest of the symphony follows if you’re at all convinced)

And finally, the music I heard tonight in Norwich Castle, exactly 50 years after its premiere performance in the very same venue, the Ceremony of Carols

Sir David Willcocks – A Ceremony of Carols Op. 28: 1. Procession (definitely not complete without the following movements but I didn’t fancy link bombardment!)

A very merry December!