At the turn of twenty-fourteen, I wrote a post that took a look back on the difficult previous twelve months. It was hard at times and rewarding at others, but ultimately it was a cathartic exercise aimed at putting the year to rest and looking ahead to the next. As the end of last year began to creep into view I started making plans for a similar post, but December swept over me and January was so busy that I never quite got around to it. At least, that’s what I told myself. With my photos selected and the writing planned, I realise now that, unlike last year which I so needed to round up and put away, I am struggling with the idea of saying goodbye to twenty-fourteen and, more importantly, looking ahead to twenty-fifteen and the mass of terrifying change and challenges it is sure to bring. But all the same, I need to reflect on what has been the best year of my life and start the process of settling my head into the right mindset for this year. So with this in mind, here is an illustrated look back over my beautiful twenty-fourteen – albeit two months late…
The year begins with friends and a kiss. In the first weeks Grant, Adam and I help Becki produce a short film for her course, though admittedly I think we spend more time giggling than actually filming. I introduce G to my orchestra crowd at our Christmas/New Year’s meal; he and I are still very new to each other, and we walk hand-in-hand, learning about each other (and ourselves) through talking and baking. Amongst the smiles I focus on my History and English coursework – the former I loath, but I love the latter. My sister hops on a plane back to her life in California, very different from who she had been the first time she left. I think a lot about self and selves.
I play violin in the band for my school’s production of Annie; the week is a blur of takeaway pizzas, the games ‘Heads Up’ and ‘Flappy Bird’, fancy dress and endless silencing of giggles. G comes to watch my riding lesson for the first time; I introduce him to Woody. We have our first Valentine’s Day and take an adventure up to the coast. For the week-long half term holiday I have more schoolwork to complete than during the three-week Christmas break, but it all sinks into insignificance for a few days when our happy community is shocked by the death of one of our own.
This month brings a difficult decision about my future; eventually I choose the University of York as my first choice, with the University of Sussex as my insurance, and cross my fingers. Alongside my schoolwork I spend three competitive weeks preparing for school’s annual inter-house music competition – they pay off, and our house takes the Main Choir prize as well as the coveted Mair Cup. Only afterwards do I appreciate what a highlight of my school career this was.
I turn eighteen in the first week, and in the second G and I take our first holiday together. It is the most beautiful week I have ever lived, and as we leave I make him promise that we will come back.
The following week I am fortunate enough to accompany internationally acclaimed pianist Stephen Hough playing Dvorak’s little-known piano concerto with the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra. I imagine it is the single most incredible musical opportunity I will ever experience. I write a piece for the Evening News about the event.The constant activity (and Easter chocolate) means my schoolwork drops behind, and I begin to panic properly about my upcoming exams. G and I take a wander through Foxley Wood to look at the bluebells and I think about perspective.
I sit my first exam – a three-hour Harmony paper for Music – and later my General Studies AS papers for which I have had all of one hour’s preparation. The first paper is on Feminism and Modern Art, and I have to stifle a giggle at my own sheer luck in the exam hall. I leave Wymondham College after two years with S Club’s Reach For The Stars ringing in my ears, and tears of loss and laughter behind my eyes. Away from school, bees nest in my wall, and at the end of the month G turns 21.
I begin my third summer onehundred, and to start with it is filled with revision. The upper floor of the library at school is my second home – I am there even on days without exams. My ‘proper’ exams start – first History, then English and finally Music. My liberation comes suddenly and, I realise, reluctantly. I don’t quite want to let go of this yet – I don’t know how. I get a new passport; empty pages filled with possibility. I return to school for Music Open Day, and I learn how to run. One day I go out looking for a story and walk to the next village by accident; on the way a kingfisher darts beneath the bridge I stand for and I understand freedom. G and I spend a day at the Royal Norfolk Show, and another strawberry picking and baking. I go back to school for Speech Day, and realise that next time I’m there it will be to pick up my A Level results. There are concerns that I have no plans for the next fifteen months of my life. I apply to vInspired’s Team v programme, having seen an advert by chance on an e-newsletter.
July is filled with music – not only are there the standard end-of-term County Strings and County Youth concerts to perform, but the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra spend a week performing in venues around Belgium. We receive standing ovations at every concert and I feel completely privileged to be there. It is such a beautiful week.
I spend five days helping out at Nine Acres Equestrian’s school activity weeks, during which I learn that I can run hour-long sessions on various equine topics including saddlery. I know more than I think I do. G rides a horse for the first time, and is immediately hooked.
G and I take out the double kayak a couple of times; on one occasion cows follow us all the way downstream; swans chase us half the way back; a kingfisher flashes past and we catch sight of a fox lazing on the bank. I begin to understand G’s love for being on the water. Dad buys me Villette and I find a lot of myself within her pages. Rosa flies back from California, but she is not herself. I join a number of my friends from high school to say goodbye to a particularly influential teacher, and Charlotte, my oldest friend, and I take a shopping trip. My summer onehundred starts to fade into the distance, and I’m not sure why or how. I travel to London for my interview for the Team v programme. Later I find out I have been accepted and it means much more than I anticipate. I also apply, am interviewed and granted a place on a journalism summer school. I don’t know what to expect.
I spend the first week of August across the border in Scotland with G’s family. We walk and kayak on the loch outside our doorstep; we drink coffee in the waterside cafe and meet a highland calf on the road. On the way home we stop off for a night in the Lake District. I buy a wetsuit and we kayak on Derwentwater; it feels a little like home for us. Members of the County Youth Orchestra participate in the Havago festival at the Forum, Norwich; we spend some time playing some pieces, and members of the public are invited to conduct us. I lead the orchestra for the two days and it is some of the most fun I have had with music. Emily, Heather and I busk for while on the streets. On results day, I find out I have a place at the University of York despite just missing my offer. I’m disappointed with the grades, but over the moon that I’ve secured my place. The next four years suddenly seem to fit together. In the final week I travel to London and spend a week on the News Academy Summer School with eighteen 16-23-year-olds. I haven’t thought much about it, so when we are led to the News UK HQ at London Bridge, fed pizza and compete to interview a world-famous celebrity on the first night, my jaw hits the floor. Over the week we produce a 16-page newspaper we entitle ‘Shift’ (read here). We speak with top journalists and I interview the Acting Director of the BBC Proms. It is the most ridiculous week of my life, but also one of the most extraordinary.
G starts his new job, and I work at Nine Acres from 7:30am most mornings. Members of the Pony Club perform a demonstration at the local village fete. I attend Team v’s Warm Up Day and can’t believe what I’ve stumbled upon; I travel back to London later on to see Joan Baez with Rosa. Nicky Morgan, Boris Johnson and David Cameron all read ‘Shift’ at their Party Conference. We continue the paper online.
The News Academy host a conference in Norwich which I photograph and, when the journalist from the EDP asks if he can use the pictures for the piece he’s writing, offer to write the piece for him instead. He tells me if I get it to him by that evening he’ll give me a byline in the paper. I spend my penultimate week at Belsey Bridge Conference Centre with the Norfolk County Youth Orchestra and it is not the same without my group of friends, most of whom have now left for university. I don’t quite know how to feel. We play the Elgar Cello Concerto with Irena Josifoska, a young cellist from Serbia, and a programme of English music. I play harp at a beautiful marriage blessing and G and I spend a day at the Pensthorpe Vintage Fair, drooling on beautiful classic cars and cuddling alpacas. I join the gym. I attend my first Team v Resi spent learning about and planning for our first campaign – Beyond a Tin of Food. It is heartbreaking and thrilling at once. I participate in the Hunger Challenge and struggle with its intentions, but I also give a successful assembly at my old high school and make plans for the following month.
We celebrate Dad’s birthday on the 5th and G and I watch the fireworks at his local rugby club. We spend some time clearing out his 1970 Morris Minor Traveller, Merlin, before he is taken away for some restoration work. We picnic on the local nature reserve, watching the mist as it creeps in over the landscape. Rosa and I spend a perfect evening at the Royal Albert Hall seeing Jackson Browne. I stay with her in Canterbury for a few days.The beautiful Stagswood, aka Woody, passes away gracefully. At the end of the month, we hold our first Team v pop-up event at the Forum, Norwich, for Beyond a Tin of Food. It is an amazing and fascinating day, and I am so proud of my volunteers.
I spend a week at Mum’s school giving assemblies on Beyond a Tin of Food every morning and instigating a food drive there. On the last week of term we take some students with us to deliver over 900 items of food and toiletries to the local foodbank. I am harassed by three separate men in one day in Norwich and write an angry Facebook status about it, and at the riding school I try out a new addition to the yard – 16.2 hands high Henrietta, a grey Irish Draft x Thoroughbred. Mum is terrified, but I adore her. G and I take a short break to Cologne to see the Christmas markets. It’s our first holiday abroad together and although it isn’t perfect, we have a wonderful time. I spend Christmas Eve at his house and we stop on the drive home to look at the breathtakingly clear sky, only for a handful of shooting stars to flash in front of our eyes. He buys me a tablet for Christmas, and it’s called Dave.
Between Christmas and New Year I undertake the task of completely clearing out my room whilst Rosa and I binge-watch The West Wing. I realise that my sister is starting to come back. I go to Grant’s for New Year’s. He cooks, and we drink Prosecco followed by rum and coke with New Year’s radio mixes on loudly, and welcome twenty-fifteen in with a kiss.
Twenty-fourteen was incredible, and I was devastated to leave it behind. Twenty-fifteen brings with it not only a fear of what is to come, but of the pressure to make it as good as the year before it. But for me, last year was all about attitude; approaching events, tasks and opportunities with openness and positivity meant that they fell into place – and it was those things that made twenty-fourteen as perfect as it was. But in the grips of winter, I struggle with being positive. The cold freezes my mind and darkens my vision until I struggle to see light in anything. So now I realise that I have to start embracing and looking forward to the changes which are to come, or I will never be ready for them – and once I start approaching the next ten (!) months positively, the beauty and wonder should fall into place. Here’s to twenty-fifteen – and this year my resolution is to write my year-in-review blog post on time!