Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New year, new home

So 2008 is upon us and, on this first day of the year when so many people resolve to make changes in their lives, my little blog is moving home. I've set up a page on a travelling website where I can write about where I've been and upload photos for you all to see, so to keep up with my trip and the first four months of this year in my life, you need to head on over to http://www.sarahbarbour.co.uk. There's even a Subscribe button if you want to receive an email whenever I post something, and you can still make comments or send me private messages. I'll be updating from the end of January!

Before I sign out, there's just time for a quick look back over 2007. At the beginning of the year I set myself five goals to work towards, and I'm very proud to say that I have successfully completed four of those five aims. Each month, £200 of my salary has moved straight across to my travelling savings account and I haven't even been tempted to dip into it for things that weren't directly needed for my trip. It's been hard living without the money, but having the willpower to do so has been easy. Going away has been my big motivation over the past twelve months and I can't believe it's actually this month that I'll finally get on the plane!

In addition to making savings (goal one), I've also increased my earning potential (goal two) and I think that the email my Director sent round our office praising me when I submitted my resignation letter is ample evidence of that. When I get back I'm looking forward to applying for better paid jobs and all the skills I've gained this year will certainly help. I've also completed goal three and passed my driving test! It was stressful and scary but I did it first time and I'm so proud.

Goal four, to reach my target weight, just hasn't happened this year. I've been to the gym regularly but haven't been able to eat healthily on a regular, consistent basis. This is the one area of my life that I haven't been able to motivate myself for this year and it's the one thing I'm annoyed about when I look back over what's been otherwise a thoroughly brilliant year. I'm just hoping that I'll eat less when I'm travelling and that this will kickstart me into doing better when I return.

And finally, there was goal five - to find a boyfriend. Back in January I knew that I couldn't control this but that I could make more of an effort, yet throughout the first half of this year I spectacularly failed to do this because I realised that I just didn't want to. I was completely happy and contented with my life and began making plans for one person and not two, and so, as so often happens, a fantastic man just fell into my life when I'd finally decided that I didn't really want one. Luckily I didn't turn the opportunity down (thanks to some people who talked to me at important points - you know who you are!) and now have a gorgeous and quite genuinely lovely boyfriend who started this year by telling me over the chimes of Big Ben that he loved me. I can't quite believe my luck.

I started 2007 thinking that this would be my waiting year - saving, planning and dreaming for everything that was to come. Instead, I had a completely fantastic twelve months of doing, experiencing and living which I'll always look back on as an amazing year. I'm going into 2008 preparing for the trip of a lifetime followed by a return to a new job, new house and new life with someone really special. I can't wait!!!

I may come back to this little blog when I'm back in the country. As I've had less to worry about I seem to have had less to write about - I'm sure it's always the case that contentment is less interesting than angst, and that happy people don't need to seek comfort from spilling their feelings to the world. So I may be back, I may not...but for now, I'll just say that I'll see you on the other side!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

If Carlsberg made team meetings

Yesterday afternoon we had the best team meeting ever. If anyone's ever been to a better meeting than this I'd love to know about it! The agenda unfolded as follows.

Item 1 - Chocolate. We've recently bought a web enquiry service from a specialist provider and to thank us for spending thousands of pounds they sent us a large box of Thorntons chocs. Item 1 was therefore an instruction to consume a lot of chocolate during the meeting.

Item 2 - Admissions. Something actually relevant to our work.

Item 3 - Shopping. Our Director, struck down by the Christmas spirit, told us all that we could take a half day off at any time of our choosing during the next two weeks to go Christmas shopping. This will not come out of our annual leave. We were mightily excited by this news.

Item 4 - Food. When we moved into our current building there was a strict edict that none of the teams in the building were to bring in hot food. This was a year and a half ago and most offices are happily flouting the rule. We have now been told that we can do the same. Cue much celebrating and purchasing of cup-a-soup and baked potatoes. We really know how to live it up!

Item 5 - Marketing. Another actually relevant discussion.

Item 6 - Winter Ball. We all went round and told everyone what we're wearing to the staff ball. Then it was 4.55 so we went home. Best meeting ever!

So, as a result of item 3 above, I'm leaving work at 12.15 tomorrow to get ready for our all-staff ball. This means that instead of running in the door, throwing my dress on and running back out again in 15 minutes flat, I have five wonderful hours to paint nails, straighten hair, drink wine and pour myself into my dress. Getting ready to go out is one of my favourite activities and I'm really looking forward to putting on my new dress and jewellery, getting merry with my colleagues and having a bit of a dance. Plus MGL is coming with me which means I get a lift home, my colleagues get to meet him and I get to ogle him in a suit which is another of my favourite activities! All in all it should be a fab evening and I can't wait. I am however trying to avoid thinking about the morning after - at 6am on Thursday I may not be a very pretty sight!

Sunday, November 25, 2007

One Sunday in November

When I was single, I really didn't like Sundays.

There. I said it. When I was single, I was determined to prove to myself that every aspect of life could be just as fun and rewarding as it was when I had a boyfriend and, with a few small exceptions, I was successful. However, on a regular basis I found myself feeling lonely and depressed on Sundays, and sometimes I couldn't even blame it on a hangover. It's easy to entertain yourself on a Friday night (wine to celebrate the end of the week, good tv, looking forward to two days of freedom) and on Saturday (productivity during the day, food shopping, cleaning etc and then more wine and cheesy telly) but by Sunday after a weekend alone the shine has gone from life ever so slightly and it's hard to think of interesting ways to pass the time. At one particularly low point I even found myself looking forward to going back to work because it would mean having people to talk to, which I hope is something that will never be repeated!

So yes, despite my usual optimism, I just didn't like Sundays, and at about 4pm on another day of sitting at home, I would find myself wishing for a boyfriend - someone to share my lazy day with and transform it into time off to be treasured rather than frittered away. And today, I got my wish. MGL and I woke up at 9.30 and spent an hour and a half in bed, savouring the lack of alarm calls and reasons to get up. When we did finally drag ourselves out of the horizontal, we ambled to Starbucks for a coffee and a chat, and then strolled round town looking at market stalls, popping into shops and laughing at little children in Jephson Gardens. After we'd had enough of the cold we walked back to his for chips, dips and a cheesy film, before heading to Raquel and Mark's for a lovely dinner to round off the day. It was a long, lazy day filled with nothing to do - and I loved every second of it.

Single life was fantastic and I know that I can live a full life on my own. But at the moment, being in a couple is pretty damn special. Big happy grins all round.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The price is right

I have always been good at shopping. I am the person who finds amazing bargains in the sales, or who takes an item to the till to discover that it's suddenly half price and no-one's got round to re-labelling it yet. I am also the person who blags a 20% discount for some barely visible makeup marks on the inside of a shirt. However, yesterday I impressed even myself with my ability to bag a bargain.

It all started a couple of weeks ago when I went into Debenhams to browse through their Christmas party dresses. I was immediately confronted with a wealth of beautiful creations, all of which I could have bought instantly given the money and all of which cost £100. Depressed by my inability to afford them, I trudged back to work and lamented being poor. Ever since then I've been doing sums in my head to work out how I could afford to treat myself in time for the work Winter Ball, and had just about become convinced that with a 20% off voucher from a colleague and a bit of extra saving here and there, I might be able to not entirely bankrupt myself.

Yesterday, having returned to work feeling bunged up, snuffly and not at all disposed to go outside for the rest of the day, a colleague casually mentioned in passing that Debenhams were holding a Christmas Spectacular with at least 20% off all clothes. Ignoring the pleas from my pounding head that I remain seated and stay calm, I legged it into town at lunchtime, grabbed the five most beautiful dresses and had a trying on spree which left me hot, sweaty and feeling a lot more ill. The effort was worth it however, as I narrowed down my choices to two. Now I only needed to find these two in different sizes to work out which fitted best, and I was away.

Returning to the shop at 5pm, I settled upon my favourite dress: a gorgeous black number covered in huge purple circles, with quite an unusual shape and netting in the skirt (I love netting in the skirt!). Proceeding to the till in the knowledge that I was buying a £100 item for £80 which I still couldn't really afford, I had the first of my sudden brainwaves. "I know", I thought, "I have a Nectar card in my purse with lots of unused points on". At the till, a second brainwave hit. I could open a store card for this one purchase only, and save 10%! Discounts galore later, I left the shop with a beautiful £100 dress that had cost me precisely £60.21. Bargain.

And, to top it off, I've saved £15 already this week through being ill and not going out or catching any buses for three days. Total amount I have to find from December's budget for my £100 dress? £45. Plus, as a new storecard holder, I have just finished the rather wonderful mini box of Lily O'Briens chocolates that I received free with my purchase. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why girls love shopping.

Now I just need to decide what jewellery to wear with it...

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Things that have happened recently

I have been ill. This has caused me to miss a wedding and take two days off work. As of tomorrow I will no longer be ill but will still be snotty, coughy and disgusting.

I have finished re-reading the whole Harry Potter series. I completed the final book yesterday and the tears mixed with general snottiness and unstraightened hair were, I must assure you, an extremely attractive sight.

I have cooked a kick-arse spaghetti bolognaise.

I have had a lovely short haircut.

I have completely failed to blog.

I have been to Barcelona. I have seen the sights, walked for miles, eaten wonderful food, drunk delicious wine and had a lovely, relaxed, happy time which promised many more joyful holidays to come.

I have fallen in love.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Looking forward

So, my few weeks of madness have come to an end and I have a few days to take a breather and look forward. Two weeks ago I had a wonderful but very busy birthday, and last week I had a stressful time at work with two open days. My blogging therefore suffered under the onslaught of fun and tiredness. However, I'm now free to comment on some very happy thoughts that have been swirling round my head over the last couple of days.

Firstly - work. On Saturday I worked at my last ever open day, and now it's really starting to feel like I'm on the home straight. For the next couple of months we'll be concentrating on admissions processing, something which I enjoy and am good at, and at every meeting when we discuss future plans I'm finding that I'm no longer taking notes as we're discussing projects that I won't be there to work on. I have one more on campus event to organise, one off campus fair to attend and two Christmas parties to go to (tough job but someone's got to do it) and then I'm really out of there. It feels like a great weight is gradually being lifted, and I can see the finish line in sight. I can't wait to get there!

Secondly - holiday. For most of this year I've been so focused on getting to January and leaving my job that I've almost forgotten the reason why I'm resigning. The other day, however, I had one of those little moments of realisation when I remember that I am actually heading to the other side of the world for three months for the trip of a lifetime, and I had shivers up my spine. It's now less than three months away and I really need to start planning the last little bits and arranging my leaving parties - strangely I half thought I'd never reach this point and I can't believe it's nearly here!

Finally, and probably most importantly, my love life. Regular readers will know that I am a difficult person to please in this area. Over the last couple of years I've complained about being single and lonely yet I've whinged about all the men who have actually been on dates with me, and recently I've stressed verbally rather than in writing to several people about losing my freedom once I actually did find someone I wanted to see more than once. Now, however, after a very well timed intervention a few weeks ago by various people to stop me doing something very stupid, I am pleased to report that the complaining is over. For the moment, at least, ladies and gentlemen, I am happy. My boyfriend is definitely living up to his nickname - he does lovely things for me, he puts me first, and following a conversation a few weeks ago, I still have my free time to sit around and generally do nothing which I need having lived on my own for so long. What's more, I'm really starting to look forward to seeing him when we're apart and to daydream about things we could do together. He's always been lovely but I haven't always been sure that I wanted to be with him - but now all that's changed and I'm gradually starting to like the idea of seeing him more and more. It's rather a fabulous feeling to know that when my life gets turned upside down next year, and I come back in April to a completely new existence, MGL will be one of the continuous presences that I haven't lost. And he'll still be gorgeous.

Ain't life grand.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Quick update on my life

Birthday - fabulous. Pink fizz, gorgeous food, muchos wine, fab friends, prezzies.
Day after birthday - three bagels, muchos chocolate, lovely lunchtime with MGL.
Birthday weekend at home - homemade food and drink, amazing meal out at very swanky restaurant (including brandy, limoncello and champagne cocktail!), Mahler 2 in Symphony Hall.
Work this week - immense stress. One open day today, another one on Saturday. Far too much to do and not enough time to do it in.
5pm this Saturday - my last ever open day over! Then off to MGL's parents - eek.

Normal service may be resumed when I finally stop...

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grinning madly and loving the world

I must apologise for not blogging much recently. I've felt that I haven't had anything interesting to say, which is odd because I usually blog about things that are of no interest to anyone, but there we go. However, I couldn't let this past weekend go by without a mention because I've had the most fantastic time!

Saturday didn't start particularly well as I had to work on an open day which entailed getting up at 6am, but when 4pm came I legged it as soon as I could back to our office and into MGL's waiting car to be whisked back home where I changed and finished packing. Then it was off to the station and onto a train to London! As soon as we pulled away from the station some yummy deli food from Sainsbury's was magicked out of a bag, and as I munched on quiche the Pimms appeared! I spent the next two hours happily quaffing from a camping mug and feeling very pleased with the world.

Once we arrived in Marylebone it was onto the tube, and after adjusting the route to take into account the Circle line closure, we arrived at Lancaster Gate for a short walk to a very nice hotel one street away from Kensington Gardens. Bags were thrown on the bed and then it was out the door and back to the station for a mad dash to Leicester Square, and during the train journey I was handed a birthday card containing two tickets to the 8.30 performance of Avenue Q! I couldn't think of a better present or anything that I'd have appreciated more.

A very brisk walk later, we arrived in our seats at the Noel Coward Theatre with five minutes to spare, and I had time to appreciate the grandeur of the theatre and the fact that we were bang in the middle of the row, six rows from the front in the stalls! Brilliant seats for a brilliant show which was hilarious, cleverly staged and performed by some really talented actors. It was MGL's first musical and only my second London show and we both really enjoyed it.

The show finished at 11 and we headed to the Tottenham Court Road for a drink and to find out the rugby score which was very exciting. After that we started walking in the direction of the station, and had such a good time chatting and seeing the sights that we carried on and ended up walking all the way back to the hotel. It was so lovely to walk in the dark through the lights and along the avenues, chatting and laughing.

This morning we headed out into a beautiful warm sunny autumn day (after brownies for breakfast!) and spent an hour walking round Kensington Gardens, kicking through the leaves. We ended up ambling down to the Diana Memorial Fountain (verdict: I have no idea how anyone could have thought it was safe for children to play in given the speed of the water over the smooth stones) and had a distant glimpse of the London Eye across the river.

We then had to check out, so we lugged our bags back to the tube and headed to South Kensington and the Natural History Museum. We finished our deli goodies and ate more brownies on the grass in front of the building, and then spent a couple of hours wandering around reliving our childhoods and overdosing on information boards. By 3pm we were completely knackered in both the brain and the feet department, so we made it back to Marylebone and collapsed onto the train where we dozed our way back to Leamington and finished the brownies. We got home at about 6pm and since then I've enjoyed giving my arms and feet a rest from all the walking with heavy bags!

I had such a wonderful time this weekend. I've been so busy this week with my brain constantly full of lists and things to do, and to put my time in someone else's hands for a change was such a release. MGL planned a fabulous birthday surprise for me and I could tell that so much thought had gone into it, from the musical soundtracks on the CD player in the car to the Pimms on the train. I feel so happy and relaxed this evening, and I can't wait for Tuesday when I turn 25 and celebrate with pink fizz, good food and ten of my lovely friends. Life at this precise moment is pretty damn good.

Monday, October 01, 2007


So, after a rather horrible day during which I went all wobbly at my desk and had to avoid speaking to people for a bit because I thought I might cry (for highly random reasons!) I pitched up at the gym for my moment of truth. Having thought that it might be the icing on the cake of my bad day, I was really surprised and pleased to find that in the 8 months since February, during which I've been continually disappointed by my inability to eat healthily, I have in fact only put on 4 pounds and only 2 of those were of fat! This suggests to me that if I actually start eating properly and keep going to the gym as I have been all year, I can actually still lose some weight before I go away. I had a kickarse workout and walked home feeling on top of the world once again. Phew!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The shadow of dooooooom

Today I was ambushed by one of the lovely ladies at the gym and made to agree to being weighed and measured on Monday evening. This will be an extremely depressing experience as I am the fattest I've been for two years. I believe that for the rest of this year I may have to re-grow some willpower.