Phase 1: out for drinks

So, tonight, for the first time since 13th March, we were allowed out for drinks. Having been quite nervous at the start of the quarantine period, I wasn’t sure whether I’d be up for drinks on the very first occasion we were allowed out, but after more than two months inside, it felt like such an occasion that it really had to be celebrated. So I arranged to meet up with my friend Jessica near her house in Ruzafa.

Now, the problem with Ruzafa is that it’s one of the places to be in Valencia, particularly for the hip international brigade. And the problem with Jess and I arranging to meet up there is that we both worked until 8.30, so by the time we’d finished, quickly got ready and (in my case) walked there, it was almost 9.00, by which time all the terraces (with their reduced capacity) were full. We wandered around for a bit, slightly surprised at how many bars hadn’t opened at all, and then decided there was nothing for it. We’d have to go elsewhere.

Elsewhere was a toss up between Monteolivete, where I live and El Carmen. We decided on El Carmen, partly because there’s more life there and partly because we knew a friend was already there and we hoped he might have a table we could join. The first of these premises turned out to be entirely false – almost every bar was closed – but fortunately the second paid off. Mariano came to find us in the Plaza de la Virgen and led us back to a bar I’d never been to before, where we managed to get seats and drinks. What more could we ask for?

What more we were given was a very drunk Mancunian who declared that True Colours was his favourite song ever when for some inexplicable reason I showed him a video of me playing it on the ukulele. Mind you, he also declared that his father was Jimi Hendrix, so that probably tells you all you need to know.

It felt a little strange to be sitting outside again sipping a glass of wine in a (somewhat divey, if I’m honest) back street, but it was also good to be with friends and to feel normality starting to return (although only being allowed into the bar one at a time to order didn’t feel quite so normal).

And then we walked home through the oh-so-quiet streets and things didn’t feel so normal after all. But it was good to get out, good to see parts of Valencia I hadn’t visited in two months, and good to drink in company with friends.

And if you were hoping for an update on the Pedro situation, I’m sorry. All I will say is that yes, I have seen him. And yes, he is great. And yes, I am feeling very happy right now. But that’s all.

One way or another, life has changed. I have changed. Jessica said this evening that she saw a side of me she hadn’t seen before. I’m going to take that as a good thing. 

How things will shake out in the longer term remains to be seen. There are lots of questions still unanswered, about work, about life, about home, although the home questions are starting to come together, and all being well I’ll have a new roommate in just a few months’ time. But isn’t that the fun of life? If we knew everything that was going to happen, it would be boring.

Life here is never boring. Long may it be so.

Running

This morning, for the first time in ages, I went for a run. Now, the first thing you need to understand about my lack of running recently is that it is not entirely (or even mainly) down to the lockdown. I was determined to keep running after the half marathon, just as I always am, but I only managed a few runs before going into a winter shutdown, just as I always do. So, lockdown has really been a convenient excuse not to restart in March as I usually would.

Now, I can’t say I particularly wanted to go for a run this morning. As I keep telling people (although nobody seems to believe me) I don’t actually enjoy running. I’m not sure I’ve ever really enjoyed the running part of running. I enjoy the challenge of completing races. I enjoy chatting with friends. I even enjoy the challenge of setting myself a target and hitting it. But the actual running part? Not so much.

Despite that, a number of people had expressed surprise that I hadn’t been for a run yet, and I suppose it felt like time that I got out there and did it. I wasn’t that worried about it – Belinda’s workout sessions have kept me pretty active and thanks to her focus on abs, I even managed to complete a 90 second plank the other day in response to a challenge from a friend. That may not sound like an achievement but is for me. When I was training for the marathon I had to start at 20 seconds and that nearly killed me! I may be the only person coming out of lockdown in better physical shape than I went into it.

So, after two days of short walks and a day off yesterday, I dusted my trainers off and set off for a run. I walked down as far as the riverbed to loosen up, and noticed on the way that my ankles were a bit sore. Strange. But when I started running, they stopped hurting. Even stranger. I guess running uses different muscles.

I told myself I’d run for 10 minutes in one direction then turn round and run back again. 20 minutes should be enough to do an easy 3km. And so it was – 3.25km in fact. And I actually found myself smiling to myself as I was running. What the heck?

I still won’t say I enjoyed it, but I did enjoy the fact that I had closed both my move and exercise rings before breakfast. And now I don’t have to run again for at least two days, and I like the sound of that too.

Lockdown: the let-up

So, today has been quite an exciting day. Today, for the first time in 7 weeks, I went outside and walked around with no purpose other than to get some exercise.

If you’re not already aware, as of today, we in Spain are allowed outside for exercise. There are various timeslots applicable in towns and cities of over 5,000 people (of which Valencia is clearly one): 6-10am and 8-11pm for the general adult population, 10am-12 noon and 7-8pm for people in need of support and over 70s, and 12-7pm for children up to 14 years of age, with supervision. If you’re walking, you can do so with one person you live with and must remain within a 1km radius of home. For sporting activities such as running or cycling, you can go further, but you must do it alone.

I haven’t been sleeping brilliantly recently (for reasons that should soon become clear) so I had planned to get up and go first thing, before the streets became too crowded, but in the event I didn’t wake up until 6.50 (I didn’t get to bed until 2.00!) and was in no rush to get kitted out and go, so I ended up waiting until this evening.

I left home at 9.00pm feeling a strange nervous excitement. There was a really strange atmosphere, not least as I’d picked the time of the cacerolada protest to go out, so there were loads of people banging pots and making a heck of a noise. The streets were pretty busy, perhaps even more so than when I used to walk to work, although there was far less traffic. Someone coughed as she walked past me. I found myself holding my breath a lot.

And then I got to the park in the riverbed and I walked, first one way and then the other. It’s fair to say that the footpaths were even more crowded than the pavements had been, but by walking on the grass, I managed to avoid being too close to anybody – and somehow managed to avoid treading in anything undesirable either! Then I turned back towards home, taking a different route along quieter streets. I walked around the block a few times before letting myself back in but somehow, I was quite happy to come home after less than an hour, knowing that I’ll be able to do it again tomorrow. In fact, tomorrow I might even go for a run. Or not. (My legs might not be too happy with me after this morning’s online balance workout!)

There were lots of people out exercising this evening

All in all, the whole experience was quite surreal. It was weird to be outside and walking freely on the streets, but at the same time it also felt weird to be quite so nervous of the people around me. I’ve never experienced anything quite like it before. I imagine it’ll get easier with time. I just hope we haven’t been let out too soon – I know for a fact that not everybody is following the rules, and the more they are relaxed, the more people seem willing to stretch them.

And I have good reason for wanting to stretch them myself – but as you’ll probably already know if you know me at all, if I am anything, I am one for playing fair.

Anyway, what is this reason of which I speak? Well, let me start at the beginning.

When I left the UK, my friends at Skills & Learning kept telling me that I was going to meet a handsome Spanish man named Pedro or Pablo and settle down and be very happy with him. I never really believed any of it, but I played along and whenever I’ve spoken to Kimberly, she’s asked me how the hunt for Pedro was going. But in truth I wasn’t really looking. In fact, in less than two years I’ve gone from being terrified of being alone for the rest of my life to actually feeling quite happy and confident on my own. I am enough.

But that’s not to say I don’t have room for someone in my life. In fact, perhaps it made me more open, more relaxed about letting life bring what it may. Certainly, I had started to joke with my friends that I needed a Spanish boyfriend to help improve my fluency. In fact, I think I told him the same thing on the night we met, which I now regret. But I was far from sober and I thought I was being playful and flirtatious, although it probably just came across as gobby. Fortunately, it didn’t stop us exchanging phone numbers.

The problem is that the night we met was the night of 7th March, exactly one week before we went into lockdown. We had arranged to meet up again on 14th, but then events conspired against us and so we went into lockdown without having seen each other again. We still haven’t. And as we live more than 2km apart, the current exercise rules don’t even allow us to walk in the same area, let alone stop and say hello.

So why am I telling you this? Well, for the same reason I wrote about my wobble early last year. Because I want to be truthful, always. And because I can’t not be upfront about it any more. Last week, when I wrote my last post, I struggled with how much I should say. This time, there’s no question of being coy. And it’s ok. He knows. We have talked loads, both by chat and video call – the longest video calls of my life (which is quite something considering they have been mostly in Spanish). And he gets me. He totally gets me. And it’s crazy and it’s weird and it’s wonderful.

At the writing group on Wednesday, the prompt was ‘gap’. So, other people wrote about minding the gap at Bank Station or a gap in a wall. Not me. I wrote about the gap between who I am and who I appear to be, the gap between how we all are and how we present ourselves, and whether it’s really possible to ever be completely seen. And although I didn’t specifically refer to video calls, I was thinking about them. Do they widen the gap, or do they narrow it? Certainly, it’s an intense way to communicate. There is nowhere to hide. And maybe that’s why we’ve been so honest with each other.

My friends think we’re slightly bonkers, that we should have arranged to meet up today, but I find it really reassuring that he has put me under no pressure to do something that would make me feel uncomfortable.

There have been moments when I’ve thought we might never meet, that he would get bored of me before we were allowed. Each time, the thought has got me down for a few moments. But then I remind myself that it doesn’t matter.

That might seem a strange thing to say about something I want so much, but it’s not. Because there is no such thing as future happiness. There is only happiness in the here and now, in the moment. If I am happy now, that is all that matters. And I am. And so, I think, is he.

So now we just have to hold tight for just over a week until we (hopefully) enter ‘phase 1’ and the restrictions loosen up a bit more. And then I’ve told him to expect an enormous hug. And I’ll probably become mega-shy and say ‘Oh my God,’ a lot, but that’s nothing new.

Where things will go after that, who knows. But I can’t wait to find out.

Lockdown: six weeks on

So, we’ve officially been locked down now for six weeks. In some ways it feels like longer. In others, it feels like less. It certainly feels more recently that I was dancing with my friend Alex in the window of his flat. Probably because not much has happened since then – although in another way a lot has happened.

I realise that lockdown has been a really hard time for many people, but for me it has, on the whole, been a lot less stressful than I might have imagined it to be. It’s easy to say that it has changed me, and maybe it has, although I think perhaps it’s more that it has shone a light on things that were already there. Despite my occasional evenings out with friends, before lockdown I was quite a solitary person. Lockdown has certainly highlighted the importance of contact with others and through the magic of the internet, has brought me closer to certain people. It’s also reignited my love for playing the ukulele. And in spite of it all, the last few weeks have been a really happy time for me.

Me and my ukulele

The truth is that lockdown suits me. Despite initial misgivings, I enjoy teaching online. I enjoy my online writing workshops and exercise sessions. I’m not the slightest bit bored: in fact, there still isn’t time to do everything I would like to do. And so I prioritise, and I can see my priorities changing.

Sure, it would be great to get out and get some exercise, to get back out into the countryside, to meet up with friends, but I’ve always been comfortable at home and my room has become a sort of safe space for me.

I’ve spent most of the last six weeks alone in the flat. I’ve only been outside once each week to go to the supermarket, and I’ve spent the vast majority of my time in my room. I could have made use of the living room or the balcony, but generally I don’t, except for the daily applause – when I’m not working or cooking. (Sometimes hunger strikes at just the wrong time!)

Speaking of the daily applause, we seem to have settled into a routine of Resistiré followed by clapping for a couple of minutes, followed by Viva España, accompanied by the woman next door on the castanets. I have to keep reminding myself that it’s not the English version they’re singing. It’s easy enough to remember when I’m out there on the balcony clapping along, but on the days when I’ve been in the kitchen, I have sometimes found myself singing along with ‘España por favor!’

Anyway, we know already that we’re going to be subject to lockdown until at least 9th May, by which time it will have been 8 weeks. It’s almost certainly going to be longer, although it seems that the government is planning to start easing the restrictions from mid-May, so hopefully we might at least be allowed out for exercise. Children are to be allowed out under supervision as of tomorrow (lucky them). But there’s also talk of possibly having to tighten things up again if the curve starts to go the wrong way. I’m praying it doesn’t happen – for the people directly affected, for the health workers, of course, but also for my friends and for my own wellbeing.

In the meantime, I just have to be patient, to live in the moment, accept that this is how things are for now and hope that the transition into the real world goes smoothly when we’re finally allowed out there. And keep reminding myself, whatever happens: todo saldrá bien.

Lockdown thank yous

I took part in another BeBalanced exercise session this afternoon and I really wanted to say a big thank you to Belinda for everything she’s doing to keep me (and others) active during this period. Thank you, Belinda.

I was invited to – but didn’t attend – a coffee morning organised by David from Valencia Writing Factory. David has been doing an incredible job of keeping the Valencia writing community connected and of encouraging us to continue to write in difficult conditions. Thank you, David.

I also received a message from Maria, asking me whether I wanted to take part in an online language exchange this afternoon. Thank you for thinking of me, Maria.

And I received a message from Joanna about the writing services she’s offering to members of the Black Dog Writing Group during the lockdown. It’s really nice that I’m still part of the BDWG family. Thank you, Joanna.

All this got me to thinking about all the other people who have done so much for me during lockdown and I wanted to say a big thank you to them – to you – all.

I nearly thought twice about posting this. After all, there are so many people in lockdown right now, and I’m sure you’ve all got your lists of people you want to thank too. But still, that’s not a reason why I shouldn’t write mine.

Image by S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay 

So here we go – with apologies to anyone I’ve forgotten.

  • Ana and Javi – for allowing me to continue working and giving my time a focus and a purpose.
  • My students – for attending and participating in my classes with good humour. It’s great to see your faces each day and to retain some semblance of normality, even if you no longer have much to say when I ask what you’ve done this week!
  • My colleagues – for the encouragement and the sympathy / advice when things don’t go quite right.
  • Nouska – for allowing me to stay cocooned in my room for a bit longer, even though my contract expired at the end of March.
  • Jessica, Thom, Kimberly, Jodie, Su, Debs, Lily and Rosie – for all the WhatsApp / FaceTime / Houseparty chats.
  • The Alcoy crew (and especially Josh) for checking in and continuing to share the love.
  • David – for keeping the Valencia writing group going, facilitating (and providing) online critiques of our writing, organising virtual coffee mornings and sharing online teaching tips and advice.
  • Kimberly, Josh and Jodie – for reading my stories and giving feedback, even when you don’t know what on earth I’m on about.
  • Daniel – for the long chats in Spanish, the encouragement (and resources) to learn Catalan, introducing me to Berto Romero and the many reminders that this won’t be forever.
  • Marigold, Melanie and Veronica – for the encouragement to keep singing & playing and the gentle humour.
  • My neighbours for not complaining about my singing – or my aerobics sessions!
  • Belinda – for cracking the whip and not allowing me to turn into a marshmallow.
  • Joanna – for the 250-word challenges.
  • Everyone on FB whose memes, videos etc. have helped to keep my spirits up.

And then of course there are the supermarket workers who have provided me with hand gel and gloves, served me so patiently and even thanked me and wished me a good day when they are the ones who should be thanked. There are the refuse collectors and the delivery men and the police and the hospital workers (who fortunately I haven’t had to come into direct contact with) and so many other people who are working to keep the country going. There are the singers and the comedians and the racing drivers entertaining us online. There are the companies giving their content away for free. And there are all the other people who are staying indoors and doing their part in trying to combat the disease.

I realise that not all of these contributions are equal. I realise that sharing a silly video with me is hardly the same as going to work in a COVID-19 ward. I don’t wish to imply that it is. But I think we should acknowledge that we are all facing our individual challenges right now – mine are likely quite different from yours – and I’d like to thank everyone who has helped me to deal with this situation.

It’s not over yet, of course. Spain has just confirmed a further lockdown period until 26th April, and it’s very likely it won’t be the last extension. Even when things do start to change, it’s likely they’ll do so gradually. I don’t know whether I’ll go back to work – physically – at the academy before the summer holidays. I don’t know whether there will be any summer schools this year. I don’t know what will happen in September. But whatever happens, I know that I have a whole network of people around me, who care for me in one way or another, who are helping to keep me going.

My routine might have changed – I get up later now and stay up later – but I don’t feel stressed at all, except when I have to go out shopping. In a strange way (whisper it) I actually feel that the restrictions of the lockdown have given me more freedom to do the things I really want to do. There are fewer demands on me, fewer expectations. But still, I think I would be struggling if I were completely isolated, if I didn’t have anyone to talk to, to laugh with, to share my writing and my singing with.

Fortunately, I do. And I want to thank you all.

Lockdown: Day Ten

Well, we’re ten days into lockdown and today has been quite an exciting day.

First, the M&S clothes parcel I’d ordered for my birthday finally arrived. The delivery man asked me to come downstairs to collect it – he’d put it on top of the mailboxes and was standing by the door, so I had to shout my passport number at him, which was interesting. But I was happy to receive the parcel and the clothes are great, so it was fine.

It was the first time I’d gone downstairs in a week, so I took advantage of the opportunity to check whether there was any other mail and there was: a notification that Correos had tried to deliver another parcel for me (which I assume is my birthday present from my sister – thanks Su!) and a very exciting envelope containing my new Spanish driving licence.

I took all this back upstairs and then embarked on my second journey downstairs of the week – and this time I went all the way outside into the street.

I didn’t feel quite so anxious at being outdoors as I did last week. I’m not entirely sure why. There were definitely more people around but that should probably be a reason to be more worried, not less.

There was no queue to get into the supermarket, thank goodness (although perhaps there should have been as it definitely seemed more crowded than I’d anticipated). They had run out of gloves at the front door, so I just had to gel my hands and then whizz through to the fruit and veg section to grab some gloves before I got collared by an over-zealous member of staff. I already felt somewhat slack as pretty much the only person in the whole shop not to be wearing a mask, so not to be wearing gloves either was intolerable. Fortunately, there were plenty in the fruit and veg department – after all, everyone else was already wearing them by the time they got there!

The shelves were noticeably better stocked this time, although there was still a shortage of hummus (it was the avocado variety or nothing). I didn’t panic buy but I did try to buy enough for the week ahead – which is not the way we usually do things here in Spain – so I was presented with a pretty hefty 50 euro bill at the end. Mind you, that did include the bottle of gin I thought I might be needing to get me through the next few days of online classes – or rather, to help me recover from them!

My only classes today were with teenagers. To be honest, I think the online classes I’ve delivered to teenagers so far have gone even better than the face-to-face ones usually do. I love using Zoom. It’s really easy to use, and it has all the functionality I need, including screen sharing (so they can still play Kahoot!) and an interactive whiteboard. The students generally seem to listen much better than they do in the classroom, and if they won’t stop talking, I have the option to mute them. If only we could do that in real life!

For the young learners yesterday, it was more challenging. Parents, please be aware that if your child is having an online class, everyone else in that class can hear the conversation you’re carrying on behind them. And as for you having a conversation with the child… well, please, just don’t.

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Anyway, the other exciting news from today – I know, more! – is that I have finished re-writing a piece for the writing group blog, and I’ve also finished the first draft of a new short story. Yes, I have been busy! Unfortunately, my Catalan and Norwegian practice on Duolingo has had to take a back seat. I’ve only gained 309 points so far this week and someone else has racked up 6300, so I don’t think I’ll be winning the Diamond League this time round!  But still…

I know that most of the people who read this are in the UK and so are just embarking on a lockdown of your own – although with exercise being allowed I’m not sure it really counts as a lockdown. But it probably still feels quite strange, and you’re probably also wondering how on earth you’re going to fill your days. Don’t. If you’re anything like me, you’ll be just as busy as always, if not more so.  I ordered a jigsaw puzzle nine days ago, thinking I’d need something to keep me busy. It still hasn’t arrived and even if it had, I honestly don’t think I’d have found any time to do it.

My life – work, social and otherwise – is now pretty much entirely online. I don’t know what I’d do if my computer broke. I pray I don’t have to find out.

And finally a plea. Please, please, please do take this seriously. I know the numbers don’t look that huge for the UK yet, but you’re only about a week behind us on the curve and things haven’t slowed down here yet, despite the more radical lockdown measures that have been taken here. Although there have been reports of some people being fined for walking toy dogs, dressing up as dinosaurs and attending open-air parties, most people have been sticking to the rules. I’m far from the only person who hasn’t been out and about in a week.

Sure, there’s only so much we can do. My flatmate could bring the virus back home tomorrow and I would know nothing about it until it was too late. But if we all do our bit, we can beat this thing. 

If you won’t do it for yourself, please do it for those around you, for those you love. And do it now, before it’s too late.

Lockdown

I’ve been reading a lot about Covid-19 and it’s fair to say that there’s a lot of conflicting information out there, even from apparent specialists in the field. I’m not a scientist, much less a virologist so I have no intention of weighing in on the argument as to whether the Spanish government’s policy is or is not the right one. I will just say that I believe they are acting in good faith to protect Spanish citizens, and perhaps the sense of confidence that brings is as important as anything in times like these.

And these are extraordinary times. It is the first time in my life that I have been obliged by law to remain in my home at all times (with a few important exceptions). And it feels very, very strange. But other than the panic buying – which eventually did take place here, although later than in some other countries – it feels like there is a very strong sense of community, even as we are isolated in our individual little boxes.

For the past two nights, there have been co-ordinated rounds of applause across Spain for the healthcare workers and other essential workers who are keeping the country’s services running. There is a whole programme of balcony events planned, including children’s events featuring the slogan ‘todo saldrá bien’ (everything will turn out fine). People are stepping up to help elderly and vulnerable neighbours. Companies are offering services free of charge. And – largely – the confinement is being observed. We are all in this together.

As for me, I had a pretty lazy day one. I didn’t do any exercise. I watched the TV news and an episode of a Friends, but nothing else. I went up to the roof to get some washing in. I did some Norwegian and Catalan on Duolingo. I listened – and sang along – to lots of music (mainly in Spanish, because that’s how I roll). And I made a model of a dog so I could joke to my friends that I now had an excuse to go outside.

But most of all, I talked to people, by phone, by WhatsApp message, via social media. Because although I am quite a homebody, somehow when you’re denied human contact, it is the thing you crave most. I will not feel another person’s arm around my shoulders for at least two weeks – maybe months. I will not feel another person’s skin against mine. But I can hear their voices, I can sing with them, I can laugh with them and we can tell each other that this too shall pass.

Please, if you know people who are in isolation, spare a thought for them, spare a moment of your time to check in and ask how they’re doing. Especially if they are alone, elderly or vulnerable.

Things are tough right now. Until the government announces its package of economic measures (and even beyond that) many of us are living with uncertainty as to what will happen to jobs and businesses. At the moment, I can’t even begin to worry about that, but I don’t have my own company with staff to pay. I’m sure for those who do, the economic pressures must be right up there alongside concerns about the virus itself.

For myself, my mental health is pretty good right now. But I can imagine that for those who are suffering with depression or anxiety (and I mention those in particular only because of personal experience) it must be even tougher to be shut up amidst such uncertainty.

As I said at the start, I don’t want to get political. There are tough decisions to be made. There are tough times ahead. Let us be the light in each other’s lives. Let us keep each other’s spirits up in these tough times.

Todo saldrá bien.

La exposición del Ninot 2020

A couple of weeks ago, I went with two good friends to see this year’s Ninot Exhibition at the City of Arts and Sciences.

If you’ve forgotten what a ninot is, you might like to take look at this post from last year (has it really been a year already?) which explains all.

Just as last year, there was a huge range of different styles on display, but there were a few themes that seemed to run through many of the entries. One was environmentalism, which is ironic considering the horrendous environmental impact of burning the Fallas monuments.

I didn’t take as many pictures as last year – and those I did take are mainly of the children’s ninots – but I thought I’d post a few of my favourites here anyway for the benefit of those of you who won’t have the chance to get to the exhibition yourselves. If you can, it’s worth a visit – and at only 3€, including the chance to vote for which ninot gets saved from the flames, the entry fee is a bargain.

Blogging

It’s project time for the students – this term they don’t have exams but they have to produce a project instead. As teachers, we have a certain amount of freedom – ok, we have a lot of freedom – in choosing what the project looks like. And we’re encouraged to give our students a certain amount of freedom too.

Now, as some of you will know, I am really interested in the use of technology in learning environments. I’ve also been doing (yet another) MOOC about teaching with technology, which has encouraged me to go beyond Kahoot! and incorporate different and more challenging technologies into my teaching. I don’t want to be one of those teachers who restrict my students’ learning opportunities through my own limitations. So I’ve decided that for their project, my B1 students should make a blog.

I can’t give you the link as it’s a private blog (privacy and all that) but I’m really excited about the project.

The blog, ready and waiting for content

The next thing to consider was what kind of content I wanted the students to produce. I decided on reviews – that way, hopefully the temptation to copy and paste from Wikipedia will be less. As for what they should review, I’ve left that up to the students. I’ve told them their audience: other students, staff at the academy and potentially also their parents, and I’ve asked them to produce reviews of films, books, TV shows, restaurants, tourist attractions or anything else they think will be of interest to that audience.

I’ve also left it up to them to decide exactly how they want to present their reviews. Personally, I’ve stuck mainly to text in my posts, but there’s no reason why we can’t include links to online presentations, videos, audio files… They can choose. And variety is, as they say, the spice of life.

It’s taken a bit of work to set the blog up, to put together a project launch presentation and to think through the structure and marking criteria for the project, but now that it’s up and running, I’m really looking forward to seeing what they produce. I daresay there will be a few surprises along the way – hopefully good ones. And you never know, they might even inspire me to improve this blog too!

New Year, same old me

I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions. That’s not to say I never make them but, like many people, I have been known to make resolutions that haven’t even lasted until the end of January. And whilst a new year might mentally give us the opportunity to turn the page on what’s gone before, I don’t believe that I’m likely to suddenly become a completely new person. 

To be honest, I’d completely forgotten about the whole idea of resolutions, so when I was asked by my flatmate, Tessa, what my resolution for this year was going to be, I didn’t know what to say. To be honest, I can’t even remember what I did say. It clearly wasn’t anything particularly meaningful.

Image by Pexels from Pixabay 

I spent New Year’s Eve celebrating with friends old and new. Jessica, one of my friends from the CELTA course, came over to the flat and together with Tessa and some of her friends we played games, laughed, ate and drank, and had a lot of fun. Then, just after eleven, we headed out to the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, where we met up with another CELTA friend, Thom, and his other half, Roberto. Thom told Roberto that he must only speak to me in Spanish (presumably because I was complaining about not speaking enough!) and that was it… Spanish all the way. And as I’d had a few glasses of wine, I didn’t mind at all. People laugh when I say that I’m fluent under the influence of alcohol, but if you define fluency as being able to speak quickly and easily in a language – thank you dictionary.com – then yep, that’s post-wine me. And to hell with the mistakes.

Midnight came and went, we ate our grapes and drank our cava. I met a girl from Chelmer Village in the queue for the toilets (small world!) and then when the music ended at 2.30am, we all headed off to our respective homes, me chattering away to myself in Spanish all the way. 

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay 

And that’s when I realised what my real resolution for this year is. This year, I am going to speak more Spanish. And I’m not going to be embarrassed about making mistakes. Well, ok, I probably am, but I’m going to speak it anyway.

Then, on Thursday, I attended an online intention setting workshop. I’m not going to try to reproduce the content here but suffice to say that the idea of intentions is that you set yourself on a course, a path you intend to travel, with a focus on how you want to feel, rather than being rigid about exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it.

One of the pieces of advice we were given was to start by celebrating your wins rather than focussing on the things you wish could be different. And we were then led in a guided visualisation that aimed to focus us on what is really important in our lives right now and what we want more of in the future. And that’s when I realised just how far I have come. 

The last lines I wrote during that workshop were these: I am so happy and contented right now. I just want more of the same.

That’s a pretty darn positive place to start a new year from, right?