THE GALLERY

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I’m not an illustrator.

Nor do I paint or draw.

And I certainly don’t know much about art, except for knowing what I do and do not like. I’m drawn to portraits, neon strokes and photographs, mainly. I like pictures of faces, stories and things that hurt my eyes or make a statement. I like art both old and new, but mostly modern and colourful.

But the thing I love most about the art world? The place in which the pieces are housed.

Art galleries are a place of stillness, quiet and calm in cities normally abuzz with activity. They’re a place for opinions and unrushed time. They’re the perfect place to spend a rainy afternoon. I particularly like the gift shops at the end. I always buy the postcards. The black and white ones. Always with faces in them.

But which are my favourites?

Although The Met mesmerised me, The Tate Modern will never be topped. Not only is it located in one of my favourite parts of London, but it was also one of my favourite first date spots shared with Ryan. I’d known him for no more than three weeks when we headed there one Saturday afternoon. After wandering the halls, we sat side by side on the floor of the Turbine Hall, just so we could chat some before we went our separate ways for the evening. We’d already had coffee, wandered along the river and walked as slowly as we possibly could, but we still had more to say to each other, so we sat awhile. You know what it’s like when you first meet someone: so little time, so much to say.

Although The Tate makes for the perfect date, The Saatchi in Sloane Square is dear to me, too. Filled with space, light from the large windows and deathly quiet at anytime of day, it’s a great way to clear the mind. Or just look at the pretty pictures, of course.

And The National Portrait. A classic I love for no other reason than because I like to look at paintings and drawings of people. Plus, the building itself is epic.

I know art galleries can seem intimidating and it can sometimes feel like you don’t belong if you don’t know your Pollock from your Hockney or you’re not wearing something other than a pair of jeans, but they’re free for a reason: art is universal and all are welcome.

What’s your favourite gallery in the world and why? I’d love to know.

THE RESOLUTIONS

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Each year, I make promises to myself.

To take steps to make this year a little bit better than the last. To enhance my life and move forward. And 2017 will be no different.

As I reflect on last year’s goals, I have come to realise that I have achieved 3/5 of them, which – for such a busy year – is pretty good going if you ask me. Carrying over my wish to actively help a chosen charity into this year, here’s what I will be focusing my energy on over the next twelve months…

Wear My Wardrobe

I have closets in Bristol and London. I have two chests of drawers, four shelves and umpteen boxes of shoes that reside in each available corner of my flat. Why then, do I seem to end up wearing the same five things to work each week and shoving on a pair of mom jeans and a jumper at the weekend? I’ve decided that, this year, as 2017 could potentially be our final year on earth before we implode from Trump’s bad decision-making and the fallout from Brexit, I am going to dress as if each day were my last. Dunagrees on a Monday? Sure. Stripes and spots? Why not?

If, by the end of January, there is anything I haven’t taken off its hanger or uncrumpled from its drawer, I am going to sell it on Depop or hand it over to charity for someone else to love. Watch this space.

Quit the Junk

I love trash TV. So much so I wrote about my adoration for it a few months back. However, as much as I worship it as a means to switch off, I have come to realise it does nothing for my creativity levels and that the more time spent watching things on catch up, the less I read and write. This year, I am going to unwind with books, notepads and pens rather than drifting off to the dulcet tones of Chigwell or Cheyne Walk crackling from my laptop.

Geek it Up

Last year, I said I wanted to learn how to code. I had a blast at it and decided that I simply couldn’t dedicate that much time to something that didn’t involve people (I hate hiding behind my screen for eight hours a day as it is) so put an end to that digital adventure.

I do still want to channel my desire to learn into something else, though.

I recently watched Caitlin Moran giving a talk to creatives about the best advice she had for them. My favourite piece of advice was to be as geeky and interested in what you love as possible. She said ‘you cannot be too obsessed with what it is you’re going to do for a career’. So, with this in mind, I am going to sign up for writing courses (that I can afford), watch YouTube videos on how to be a better wordsmith and work hard each night to get to where I want to be.

So, aside from aiming to drop two dress sizes by summer and swearing to exercise as hard as Kayla Itsines, those are the top three things I want to focus on this year. I pretty much want to wear clothes and work hard. Should be easy, right?

What are your resolutions for 2017? I’d love to know.

THE NEW YEAR

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If you are reading this, then congratulations, you’ve made it through one of the most dismal years to date.

You’re a survivor, a hero, a cockroach of the highest order, if you will.

(Although, saying that, the clock hasn’t quite struck twelve yet, so perhaps I should be a little more cautious about what I say…)

I think that even if you aren’t normally the type of person to spend the last few days of each year reflecting on the preceding twelve months, you have probably made an exception this December because let’s be honest, 2016 has been a hectic one.

On a personal level, it has been a memorable year. Emotional – packed full of change, celebration and exciting news. Epic – from moving cities and starting a new job in a different industry to friendship groups shifting and changing. And sad – a combination of bad news and broken relationships aplenty.

On a public level, it has been an insane one. The deaths of some of our most treasured icons and idols have left us feeling at a loss; the wars that continue to threaten our world are maddening; the outcome of the US election is laughable; the murder of Jo Cox is heartbreaking; the shooting in Orlando and the Nice attacks are frightening and Brexit is, well, Brexit. I mean, I could go on, but do you really want me to? I think we are all quite clear on exactly what went wrong this year – you don’t need me to reel off each disappointment one last time. After all, we’re supposed to be celebrating our departure from this foul state of affairs in a few hours, so let’s look forwards shall we?

Although it might not be time to forgive the wrong-doings of the past year, I think it might be about time we forgot (or at least put them aside for a while) as we enter a new chapter. I know I’ve had enough of talking about how shit it has been; it is making me feel sluggish, lazy and a bit defeatist. I’m sick of expecting to wake up to bad news. I don’t want to grow immune to sadness and loss. I refuse to let negativity become the norm. Besides, it’s almost insulting for us to sulk so much about what an awful year it’s been when people have it far worse each and every day of their lives and still continue to smile.

So, with 2017 – a brand new, sparkling year of hope – almost upon us, it’s about time we took some responsibility for what is happening. Feel hard done by? Shout about it. Upset about something in the news? Don’t pick up your phone and frantically type out 140 characters hoping to make a difference, actually get out there and do something about it.

2016, after berating you for long enough, I would actually like to thank you. Thank you for being the busiest year yet. For distracting me from what was going on around me by not letting my feet touch the ground with weddings, parties and trips (perhaps you knew I didn’t like change?) and thank you for making me feel so deflated for so long that I feel more driven than ever to succeed.

2017, although we are all very much looking forward to meeting you at midnight, I ask you to be kind to us. We’re all a little fragile from what came before you and we’re all a little nervous about next year, so please understand that you won’t be meeting us at our best tonight. It’s unlikely that we will be working the room; we will probably be very drunk, looking a little dishevelled and hugging our loved ones tight at midnight – but bear with us, tomorrow is a new day and we can start off on a better note then.

So, everybody: here’s to making it through one of the most trying of years. I hope the next twelve months bring you love, light and happiness. Or at the very least, fewer deaths and less bad decisions.

Have a good one tonight and be forever grateful for the things you do have.

Happy New Year.

THE ROUNDUP – 2016

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2016, for the most part, has been a bit shit.

Even Christmas Day was ruined by the theft of yet another great artist, making me think it might be best if we all simply stayed inside and hibernated until 2017 to avoid being taken, too.

As we reach the finish line, however, I think it’s about time we let go of the series of unfortunate events that have occurred over the last 12 months and celebrated the good memories that were made in 2016 in order to shed some light on the year of shade that will forever be remembered for being the actual worst.

Here are my personal highlights of the last (almost) 365 days.

Pretending to be Anna in Oslo

We started the year in Oslo, which is probably the most amazing place I have ever been to. Astonished at paying a fiver for a can of Coke but even more in awe of the snowy landscape that swept me off my feet, I felt like I was in Frozen. Funny enough, though, despite the amazing surroundings, my highlight was simply walking home from dinner with a hot chocolate in hand, taking in the moonlit cityscape. It’s the little things, I guess. I made a little film here.

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A Weekend in Cornwall

We head to this part of the world a couple of times a year, each year, to see Ryan’s nan. We’re so lucky to have somewhere to stay down there while we explore hidden beaches, eat chips and drink coffee at our favourite place in St. Ives and hunt for the perfect cream tea. My favourite moment of this particular weekend was being wrapped up warm, next to a blazing bonfire on a blustery British beach, looking out into the ocean until it grew dark.

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Waving Holly Off on her Road to Rio

Holly has been my best friend from the moment we sang Mamma Mia – the A-Teens version – in front of our entire school dressed in matching baby pink t-shirts and Adidas shell toes, so I know her pretty well. She has worked her bum off since she was 14, rarely leaves South West London and is scared of pretty much everything, so when she announced, in May, that she was following the love of her life to Rio for the rest of the year, I couldn’t be anything more than overjoyed for her. If anyone deserved a break in the South American sunshine, she did.

(Come home now please)

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Moving to Bristol

Who’d a thunk it? Moving cities takes a lot of hard work. Not going to lie, leaving that flat in Wimbledon and my friends and family behind broke my heart, but Bristol has treated me well. I have been a bit cheeky, though, heading back to London every time I get the chance. Here’s to spending more time there in 2017.

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Glitter Balls at Glastonbury

Weeing in wellies, manicures at midnight and walking home as the sun rose. There’s no point retelling one’s favourite moments from their time at Glastonbury because, to be quite frank, the stories won’t make much sense beyond the gate. Highlight of this year? Adele.

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Travelling to Spain to See a Beautiful Couple Tie the Knot

At the start of the summer, we headed to Spain to see two friends get married in the most stunning of settings. We stayed in a gorgeous villa with some friends and spent a few days in the sunshine. It was perfect.

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Our Algarve Adventure

Hot. So, so so hot is the first thing I have to say about our trip to the Algarve. Another holiday centred around a wedding, we stayed a little longer (of course) and boy did Portugal deliver. Ryan found his one true love there: Pastéis de Nata and I found my happy place: Sagres; we wandered through fish markets, spent precious down time together by our private pool on the farm and I acquired more freckles than I ever thought imaginable. It was bliss.

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Brother Popping the Question

I just can’t believe he’s managed to kid someone into saying yes. In all honesty, though – he’s picked a good’un and I couldn’t be happier. Our family is getting bigger and I like it.

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Watching One of My Oldest Friends Get Married in Paris

Ellie has been an adult since she walked out of her mother’s womb, so it was no surprise that she would be the first of us to get married. In sixth form, dressed in scuffed blazers, wearing far too much makeup for school and with absolutely no idea what was waiting for us on the other side of our A Level exam hall, she told me that when we were older she wanted to get married to a tall, dark, handsome stranger, in Paris, at Christmas time. Nine years later and I found myself hopping on a Eurostar over to one of the most beautiful cities in the world to watch Ellie do just that. Magical.

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So there we have it: my highlights of the last 12 months.

I’m starting to think that perhaps 2016 wasn’t so bad after all…

NAT. IT WAS THE WORST.

What are your favourite moments from the year of doom? I’d love to know.