2017 began on top of Primrose Hill. I had Jordan on one side and my cousin Li on the other. Standing on a picnic blanket in the cold and drizzle, glitter on our cheeks and face paint smeared around our eyes. The fireworks exploded ahead and the crowd surrounded us with tipsy cheers and chat. I’ve had worse New Years Eves and staying sober was surprisingly still fun; we drove home screaming the biggest hits of the year out the car window and Li rolled her eyes before dipping in and out of sleep.
2017 has been a good’un. It’s probably the first year of my adult life where I haven’t lived overseas and nothing dramatic has happened. It’s nice to have a year to rest I guess. But to be honest, I haven’t rested, things have been hectic and busy and upsetting and brilliant and stressful, and for the most part I’ve been pretty happy.
I worked as a childminder in St Albans and looked after a girl (7) and a boy (5) – the family were and still are bloomin’ amazing and I felt very at home straight away. It took a little longer than I’d hoped for the kids to warm to me but I persisted with singing Dua Lipa in the car and cooking them food that was good for them rather than the potato smileys which they so tirelessly begged for. My patience was tested everyday but on the whole I had a lot of fun and was grateful to not be stuck behind a desk. I drove a car which was older than myself and I successfully locked the keys inside one day whilst the kids screamed and wished ‘mummy was home and we never have to have a nanny like you again!!!!’. Building fairy gardens and making race tracks out of bins were the highlights of the job, reverse parking in a diagonal space each week was definitely a low.
As a special treat to the kids, during half term I took them out to Pizza Express. The waiter gave them crayons and paper – the girl showed me her drawing, I expected a little family portrait or a rainbow, sun or something on that level of sweet. She shows my a yellow box with a ghost outline inside; underneath she’d written ‘snapchat’ and explained this was the logo to the app that she loved so dearly. ah.
I cooked bolognese in the slow cooker, roast chicken, carbonara and a whole host of meals with meat for the kids. I’ve been veggie on and off for years and am a pretty strong willed one at that. However, during my time with the kids I would feel awful guilt for throwing away uneaten food from the kids – and for the first time in a long time I would casually eat a forgotten sausage from their plates. Or help myself to the last serving of spaghetti Bol. Before I knew it, I’d served myself a portion of the same things they were eating. I always felt awful for it afterwards but couldn’t put it down to whether it was the action of digesting meat or just the feeling of guilt afterwards. When I finished working there I didn’t touch a single piece of meat.
In January and February I was obsessed with the gym. The mornings, nights and what seemed like a large chunk of the day were dark, wet and miserable and the gym was my go to for a quick pick me up. I didn’t bother with a training plan but threw myself into cardio and classes and felt great for it.
Valentines day was a bizarre one. My little dog Peachy was due a holiday (or my dads friend fancied looking after her for a few weeks) so with the excuse of driving North, I took the oppurtunity to treat Jordan and myself to a weekend in Liverpool. The second hand shops were fab, the food was more than decent and we discovered so much beauty that the city offered. We stayed in a converted prison and took lovely photos and generally had a really good time. That was until we went back to the car, ready to go home. The car windows had been smashed and there was glass shattered all over the seats. The guys who worked at the car park told us how a man had smashed windows of three cars, looking for things to steal. He’d taken about €2 euros from the car but left the sat nav. We spent all morning ringing our insurance company and car garages before finding a place which would put a temporary clear plastic sheet over the passenger window as no one in Liverpool had our window in stock. The plastic sheet was noisy and let in a lot of cold air, which wasn’t that entertaining on our 6 hour drive home in the rain.
March came by and I got a new job at Oxfam. The whole process was strange but pretty painfree. This was my third role at Oxfam so I had manageable expectations and knew what to expect when moving to and living in Oxford. Spareroom.com became my weapon of choice once again and I spent hours trawling through listings of dingy, damp and disgusting homes. I picked the best of a bad (and pricey) bunch and drove down the m40 to see potential new homes – Jess Glynne blaring loudly so I could strain my voice and give myself a headache signing along before I’d even arrived. Houses in Oxford are generally very old. Therefore houseshares are old and unkept. Your housemates are likely to be students, publishers or working at Oxfam. I saw houses that were so cluttered that there was nowhere to hang your coat, put your bag or even sit down – pots and pans hung from every wall in the kitchen, rugs were covered with piles of newspapers. I just saw shitty houses. I spent another 2 weekends seeing rubbish places that cost £500 – £700 a month for a room. Which is damn right insane. As I was losing sanity and hope of living within a decent distance from town and work, I saw a place in Cowley on Hollow Way. There were 2 female housemates, one guy and a visiting dog. If the dog wasn’t enough to sell it to me, the price was. It was the cheapest of the bunch, right by a bus stop that could take you to Cowley Road, town or the station in 20 wish mins and I was a 9 minute walk from work. I messaged them straight after I’d seen in it and moved in a week later.
Turns out all wasn’t peachy as my room was teeny tiny, a lil mouldy and we had dramas almost every week. My (female) housemates totally made up for it though. We had a good thing going on and could laugh off the annoying instances that seemed so frequent.
On April 23rd I ran the London Marathon. I decided to raise money for Otjikondo School Music and Arts fund. So many people I know understand why Otjikondo is so important to me and music and Arts at the school is something I always get stuck in with when I go back to Namibia to visit. I’d been really lucky with my training, I took things slowly and it had been enjoyable for most parts. Knowing I was doing this all for my lovelies at Otkjikondo gave me the motivation I needed for early starts, long runs, stretches and good nutrition. The day came and I wore an Ovambo outfit kindly made by my mum – my name was spelt out on the front with ‘Otji’ on the back. I arrived at the start line with my friend Lucy, the atmosphere was as everyone describes, ‘incredible’. As we stepped over the start line, I looked to my left and saw Prince Harry, William and Kate cheering on the crowd – I screamed ‘omg the royals!’ And they full looked at me and waved. Maybe if I’d made a little more effort, I’d be planning a royal wedding now instead of writing this out. The run was amazing – you forget about the pain in your legs and the weight of your feet when you have what feels like the whole of London out to push you on. My name was called out every 5 seconds or so and I spent so much of the course jumping around and spotting people I knew. You also realise that no matter how much you plan, you will never know where your friends or family are standing, so you are on and off your phone (whilst running still), whatsapping, sending your location and phoning people for the few seconds of joy when you see them. The signs in the crowd had me cracking up and some of the costumes were fab. The final stretch down the Mall is something I
I’ll never forget; the crowd are going crazy, you find this energy from somewhere and I sprinted the length of it, posing for photos as I went. I collected my medal, goody bag and walked towards my friends. My legs buckled, I froze up and hand to physically pick up my legs to walk along. We spent the afternoon walking (thanks dad), drinking and chatting about the day. I went to work the next day and felt like a zombie for the rest of the week.
Festival season came around faster than I could expect and it was my job to lead the Stand as One campaign – reuiniting refugee families in the UK and overseas. I drove to, set up at and lead the campaign at Common People, Download, Glastonbury, Lattitude, WOMAD, Reading and Bestival. I was lucky to be working on a campaign that so easy for myself and the public to get behind. Although the work was fulfilling, it didn’t stop it from being tough. I really struggled with the workload and hours and would often be at the office from 8am until past 8pm. I told myself I needed to put my all into it but it meant I was worn out and physically exhausted. The perks were driving my beloved van (it became my second home) and meeting so many passionate and genuine volunteers. Nothing compares to friendships I made over the summer, as well as catching up with friends from 2016 when I was also volunteering. I made it through 7 music festivals with the help of volunteers, friends, colleagues and family. It’s something that taught me so much (how to tow a van out of ankle deep mud, how to negotiate for free food, how to put up an 8 man tent in gail force winds, how to blag your way backstage, how charge 30 phones in a caravan and how to keep my nerve around people who are no help at all) and I experienced moments which others only dream about, but I think one summer is enough. It puts a strain on yourself and everyone around you and my energy and wellbeing was something I didn’t want to give up again. Despite the tough times, we achieved some awesome things; my team of volunteers signed up over 19,500 people to Stand as One and because of the support behind the campaign, Angus MacNeil MP has chosen refugee family reunion as a Private Members Bill, to be heard in Parliament in March 2018. Plus I tatted some awesome clothes, costumes and more cider than I could carry.
A friends holiday was in order and we managed a last minute trip to Budapest. Im not sure how we managed to regain a friendship between the four of us (Mollie, Rhiana, Anna and myself) after all the puns – just a bunch of Budababes, buDABpest on em, getting Budapissed, budaboozy and the rest of it. We had a really chilled, fun time and joined the hoards of hen and stag dos – ‘yeah we’re on our hen do, our costume is that we all wear denim. Cool right…?’. The most ridiculous part of the holiday was the beer bike we signed up to do; a way to see the city and drink litres of beer whilst cycling on a 8 seater vehicle. It would’ve been great, if it weren’t for the fact that 2 pedals were broken, meaning we were all doing more work than we should’ve been. By the end of the tour we were outside the converted bike/car vehicle, pushing it along the road – tipsy but not drunk, as it felt like we cycled the Tour De France. Never again.
One day I woke up and decided to go vegan. No pre planning, didn’t need to watch ‘What the Health’ or ‘Cowspiracy’. Didn’t buy a cook book. Didn’t make a food diary. I just thought I’d give it a go. 7 months later I’m still well and truly vegan, and it’s so much easier than you’d think. Obviously there are loads of benefits; I sleep better, my skins clearing up (slowly albeit), I’ve lost weight and I do have more energy. But there are unexpected changes, at times I feel weak but its because I haven’t eaten enough (you have to force yourself to eat almost double as you used to), sometimes people will say you’re being difficult or anti social or ‘you’re not getting enough protein!!!!!!’ – but you have to trust your morals, body and education and know that you’ll be just fine.
Summer passed and I turned 23 at a surf festival in Cornwall (volunteering as a steward all the while). Our male housemate told myself and the 2 other girls that we had to leave the house in Oxford as the landlord wanted to refurb. It turns out he lied and just wanted us out so he could live with his deadbeat mates. If they wanted to live in a dingy house with added damp for decoration, then they were more than welcome to it. We found out they’d listed our rooms for rent without telling us, conducted viewings in our rooms whilst we were away (disgusting violation of privacy if you think about it) and didn’t even say bye when we left. We packed up a van and drove our belongings to London. I can confirm that this was probably the pit of my year; I was sick with the flu, we were stressed and had more stuff than we could’ve imagined. With a month still remaining of my contract at Oxfam, I moved into housesit at a gorgeous family home close to central Oxford. I spent my evenings cooking, gardening and reading. I felt like I’d gone to a retreat, only it was free. They did have a 16 year old cat however which screamed like a toddler and put its paws on my face at every oppurtunity.
I sat in limbo – nowhere to really call home, no job and no idea what to do next. As usual, I went overseas to fill the void. I spent 3 days in Brussels with ONE campaign. We were telling EU leaders why they should renew the Aid budget, which supports people all over the world to access good quality health care and education. Conference days were insightful but became tiresome when we were sat in the same seats, watching presentations for hours and hours. However, the food was top notch. As always, the vegans assembled and we ploughed through salads, sandwhiches, wraps, pies, veg, fruit, grains etc etc. Bono sent us cupcakes as a thank you our hard work (seriously) and we managed to convince MEPs to vote in the way we wanted them to. Not bad for a bunch of young activists from around Europe.
Scrolling through facebook one evening and I see an advert for ‘UpRising – Fastlaners. 18-25 and unemployed? Free course’. Hell yah I love me a free course and I was unemployed as heck. I signed up, had a quick chat with an Emma on the phone and received info by email. It was an 8 day course in London, visiting different businesses and places of work, designed to give you the skills and contacts you’d need to get a job you really want. I wasn’t totally sold on the idea but I had the time to do it so I got involved. As cliche as it sounds, I met some really awesome, like-minded people. We shared the pains of job hunting, application writing and just the general disheartening feeling of being rejected for things you know you’re perfect for. Each day took us to new workplaces; start up spaces, software developers, charities, corporate offices, media agencies etc. I loved how much we focussed on our own ‘brand’ and catered to what was relevant for us individuals rather than just seeing us as ‘unemployed young people’. My confidence grew (who knew there was space to go) and by the last day I was truly gutted to say by to the friends I’d made.
After completing the course, I went to a job interview at Comic Relief and heard the next day that I’d been offered the role. With 2 weeks until the start date, my mind turned to travel. I sat at the computer and googled ‘hot countries in November’. Fiji, Bali, Hawaii, Mozambique, South Africa, Australia. A few destinations were ruled out due to distance and some were uncharacteristically stormy for the time of year. Morocco popped up. I’d never been keen to go as I’d heard questionable stories from female mates who’d been. However, when I realised you could surf there, I changed my mind and booked flights and a week stay at a hostel in Taghazout. I planned to spend 7 days surfing and probably go to a few more cities before flying home from Marrakech. After a few days surfing, I knew I wouldn’t be in a rush to leave. The waves were decent and day to day costs were so cheap, I saw no reason to explore when I was enjoying relaxing and doing F all. The only downfall were the bed bug bites that covered my body. I was red and rashy and was told repeatedly that it was my clothes that were dirty and thats why I was being bitten. Errrr nope. It wasn’t until other guests started being bitten that they took me seriously. I moved bed 4 times, attempting to escape the mites which had taken over the whole hostel. Bugs aside, it was a well deserved break and being in the water everyday made me fall in love with surfing. Being in the ocean and experiencing it’s force is a powerful feeling and grounds you. I went from a newbie surfer to riding waves with friends who have surfed for years – I’m no expert yet but I’m a lot more confident in deep water and on bigger waves than I was when I arrived.
My windswept hair and salty, sandy body returned to the UK and began working as a social media exec at Comic Relief. The environment is hectic but there are some helpful and cool people to help you through it. Commuting from my parents in Welwyn was a bore so I found a cute little room in a 2 bed flat in Clapham South and live with a girl called Kabeh. We get on really well because she’s a fellow Leo and generally a lovely, genuine person. I try walk to work most days and get the tube when it rains. I have a slow cooker which I’m strangely passionate about (err hello hot porridge ready for you when you wake up) and have busied myself with London life. Yes its pricey but its also equally great. Theres always an event to go to, people to catch up with and bars and restaurants to enjoy and I don’t actually know what I did with myself before I moved here.
I ended the year in Vienna – back with Jordan, Li (plus my aunty, uncle, and other cousin in Austria). The days leading up to NYE were a mixture of fireworks, waltzing, snow that turned to sleet, hours spent in comfy vegan restaurants, admiring Picasso’s work and sitting on my aunts pantry floor to try and warm up.
Admittedly, it is strange and very self indulgent to write so much about ‘my’ year, but its so satisfying to get it all out, reminisce and remind yourself of what you’ve been through and achieved in 12 months. Like I said at the start, I don’t feel like 2017 has been a momentous year. I look back and wish I’d of aimed higher or committed myself to something substantial. But if I had done that I wouldn’t have met half the people that I did this year.
Massive thanks to everyone who’s made it amazing – Mum, Dad, J, G, Rhiana, Mollie, Anna, Natalie, Kate, Jacqui, Emma, Kabeh, Max, Summer & Alan, Marcia & Bernd, sooo many people at Oxfam and my new pals at CR. (+ many, many more)