Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic) – Episode 3

The last time I posted was 7 months ago, and it simultaneously feels like nothing and everything has happened. Episode 2 of “Moving to Scotland in a pandemic” ended with me about to start my new job but struggling to get the whole house selling and buying process started. So a quick recap of June-December:

Leaving your job in a lockdown situation is really weird. I generally don’t like being hugged by random co-workers who you briefly worked with once on a project years ago, but having a farewell on Teams was just… really weird. My team got me an amazing leaving gift – a Hotel Chocolat Velvetiser and a Tatty Devine gift voucher – and I spent the day getting a bit teary-eyed at the lovely emails arriving in my inbox.

We also put our house up for sale as the lockdown eased and we started having viewings that we had to do ourselves. A very enlightening experience. One of the viewers criticised Husband for not “getting on the roof” to clear the moss. Enlightening.

If leaving your job in lockdown is weird, starting a new job in lockdown is even weirder. Especially as we still hadn’t moved to Scotland so everything was done online. Honestly, it was really hard, and I had pretty much no idea what I was doing for the first two months but I’m still there 6 months later so I must be doing something right!

July was also the month of my first post-lockdown hair cut. Never have I felt so relieved.

August went in a blur of packing up our house – we had secured a rental property in Scotland so the countdown to our big move was on. Both Husband and I had our pandemic birthdays – we just went out to lunch at our former local pub and continued packing. This feels like a long time ago now!

On the morning we moved, we woke up early to say goodbye to Fleet Pond – I had spent most of lockdown walking around it and the weather was beautiful on that last morning. We followed the removal van up through England and arrived at the rental shortly before midnight. We were both exhausted and slightly delirious from the drive so we pretty much went straight to bed, but not before wondering whether we’d made the right decision by renting somewhere without seeing it first. Scotland was still under stricter restrictions, so we didn’t get an opportunity to see anything before signing the contract. The previous tenants had left the place in such a state, and the house hasn’t been decorated in maybe 20 years.

After paying for a professional to come in and throughly disinfect the place, we have grown to love it – well, perhaps not love it but we have amazing views from the front and back of the Trossachs, the Campsies, Ben Ledi, (the photo at the top of this post) so it’s worth putting up with the freezing cold rooms and dilapidated wallpaper. We know it’s only temporary.

I started working on campus pretty much as soon as we moved, and have continued to be in the office since then. There are only 5 of us in the big office, but even though we’re all distancing from each other and keeping safe, it still feels odd being there. We also bought a brand new car – a cute little Audi A1 called Jonas who is 100% a boy racer car

Probably the most incredible thing that happened in October was seeing the Northern Lights for two consecutive nights above our house. It was incredible, especially considering it was only minor solar activity so the potential is there for it to be even more epic in future.

We went on many walks in the Trossachs which is only 20 minutes away from our house – we still need to find quiet loch walks as they can be oddly busy, but Lendrick Hill is definitely one of our favourites.

Trump lost. I cheered for many hours upon end.

I also found a new hair stylist who gave me the grey hair of my dreams. Yes, it took 10 hours, but I have never been happier with a hair colour.

Which brings us to the end of of this deeply unsettling year. We were put back into lockdown, temporarily released from lockdown, only to go back into lockdown on Boxing Day. As for Christmas, Husband and I stayed in Scotland and I cooked a fantastic lunch, if I do say so myself. We had our very first real Christmas tree which has been much less hassle than I was led to believe, and I spent quite a lot of the vacation worrying about my poor students who were unable to get home for the holidays. It certainly wasn’t how I expected to spend Christmas 2020.

But the biggest miracle is that we may have sold the house. We’ve had a fairly steady stream of viewings since it’s been on the market, but it’s an awkward property to sell – a small first time buyers house in an expensive location. But just before Christmas, we had two offers so hopefully we can start 2021 with a finalised sale.

I can’t wait to get back to some kind of normality for 2021, start searching for a house, and exploring this country that we now call home. And hopefully kickstarting the blog with some actual interesting content.

Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic) – Episode 2

Almost 2 months ago, I resigned from my job in order to move 450 miles north to Scotland. A reasonable person might have assumed we’d be a quite a significant way through selling our house, that we’d have put a bid in for our dream house, or that we’d be surrounded by our worldly possessions in boxes.

Sadly, the UK lockdown has prevented all of this from happening and we have made next to no progress. This week continued to be complicated albeit in a slightly different way – it’s now possible to sell our house in England, but the housing market in Scotland has yet to re-start. It’s kind of irrelevant anyway as it appears as though our original estate agent has furloughed their entire staff. I’m hoping they’ll be back soon as we really liked them!

There are a few houses in Scotland still on Rightmove to consider but you do have to ask yourself why they’ve been on for a long time (one in particular looks like it was the site of a couple of gruesome murders). I have found one spectacular Gothic mansion but it’s way above our budget – we might still put in a stupidly low bid but it’s doubtful they’ll accept.

We’ve accepted that we’re going to have to rent for a bit which neither Husband nor I have ever done before so that’ll be the next task to figure out. There does seem to be plenty of apartments around, but I’m not entirely sure if we’re allowed to move into them. It’s all so very confusing but I’m hoping for some clarity from Nichola Sturgeon this week.

On the plus side, the household waste recycling centres are now open, which is lucky as we don’t want to take very much with us.

And my local Starbucks has re-opened, so when it all gets too much, I can queue for an hour to get a frappuchino. Yes, it is worth it.

Mr Jones Watches – All This Will Pass

I don’t have much opportunity to wear one of my many watches at the moment. Time just doesn’t seem to matter so much when you spend 23 hours of the day inside. Despite (or maybe because of) this, I decided to expand my collection and add number 20 which has a beautiful message for these crazy times.

I do frequently feel my anxiety levels rising – when I stand in the queue at the supermarket, when I see people out walking wearing face masks, and when I think about when I’m going to be able to sell my house. The watch reminds me that all of this is temporary, and that “life will (in time) return to normal” as Crispin Jones explains.

The watch is available in black or white, and all have unique patterns of blue, orange, and green. You can also choose from a number of different straps – I chose the classic black stainless steel, but simply changing the strap makes it into an entirely different watch.

The back of the watch has another reminder that we have to keep going. The end isn’t quite in sight yet, but we’ll get there.

The watch isn’t limited edition so is currently still for sale – Mr Jones Watches will donate 10% of the money received for each watch to the World Health Organisation’s COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

Moving to Scotland (in a pandemic)

Part of the reason why I haven’t posted on here this year is because I haven’t been able to share what’s been happening in my life. It’s quite hard to know what to write when I haven’t wanted to give away the huge plans that Husband and I have. Yep, we’re moving 400 miles from the south of England to the middle of Scotland. In a global pandemic.

About a year ago, we were on a trip in the New Forest with our Texan friends. They told us about all the different states and cities they lived as their children grew up, and we told them about our plans to retire to Scotland – somewhere rural, in a much bigger house than our tiny two-bedroom place, maybe with lots of land. Ooo, and an epic view.

Our trip was constantly interrupted with emails and texts from people at work – my team had just found out that a huge number of people were going to be made redundant, and I had started to worry about my own job security. As I became more and more stressed, Jack asked me if the job was worth it, and why don’t we just move to Scotland now instead of waiting for retirement. We didn’t have an answer for him.

Fast forward to Jan 2020 – I’d been making a half-hearted attempt at looking for a job in Scotland, but nothing had really caught my eye. I didn’t want to take a step backwards in my career and as I’m in quite a niche area, there hadn’t been that much to apply for. And then a job advert caught my eye – right salary, right skillset, slightly different type of employer. I sent in my application and crossed my fingers.

A couple of weeks later, I was invited to interview. Husband and I decided to make a mini-break of it – we’d both fly up after work and spend a few days in Edinburgh, one of our favourite cities. The night before my interview, I checked us in to our flight online, BBC News 24 on the TV in the background. I had just sent the boarding passes to the printer and told Husband to download the Flybe app when I heard the news reporter mention Flybe.

Yeah, they’d just gone under. After about 20 minutes staring in shock at the TV, hoping that there had been a terrible mistake, we gave up hope and started looking at alternatives – BA flights were crazy expensive, with the train just slightly cheaper. We booked two seats on LNER, and just hoped we’d get a refund for the original flights (we booked the flights through Virgin Atlantic. Over a month later, and we’re still waiting for that refund…). It meant we had significantly less time in Edinburgh which was a shame, but we did secure an upgrade to first class using Seat Frog which was a blessing as the train was packed with other Flybe passengers.

This was also the very start of the Covid-19 crisis, so my mind was all over the place during the interview. I was convinced that I had done terribly, giving messy, scattered answers. The interview took place north of Edinburgh, so I made my way back to the hotel we were staying at, looking forward to the commiseration kanelbullar that Husband had just bought me from the Soderberg nearby. Just before I got to the room, my phone rang with the call that would change my life – I had got the job. I got back to the room, told Husband, and burst into tears of relief.

That evening, we went to Bread Meats Bread on Lothian Road for the most incredible celebratory burgers, maple bacon sweet potato fries, and poutine). In a couple of months time, we’d be moving to Scotland, and my dreams of a proper grown-up house with an epic view would come true.

Well, I’m sure you can see where this is going. The day we were due to put our house on the market, the Covid-19 lockdown started in the UK and we’re a bit stuck. The job is still on, the move is still on, but I just don’t know when the new house is going to happen. We may need to rent for a while if we can’t buy (or sell!) but we still want to take that risk. I don’t want to get this close to living my best life only to lose it, so although it’s going to be hard, we’re going for it.

The photo at the top of this post is where I’ll be working. How could I say no to that?

Mr Jones Watches – The Ascendant

Oh hi guys. It’s been a while since I’ve opened up WordPress – it certainly wasn’t a conscious decision and I am hoping to get back in to it soon. In the meantime, I have a new watch! Some things never change.

The latest addition to my collection is incredibly beautiful and photos do not do it justice. The Ascendant is by French artist, Marion Labbez who has made four watches for Mr Jones (I own one other of her designs – Nuage). It has textured gilded palladium which creates such a reflective and polished design, and has probably the most complicated system for reading the time.

The hours are in the tree at the top. So far, so good. The minutes is where things start to get tricky.

  • A small gold star – 5 minutes
  • A large gold star – 10 minutes
  • A large silver star – 30 minutes
  • The moon – 0 minutes

“If the stars are on the line, then it’s exactly that time past the hour; slightly above the line means subtract a minute or two and slightly below the line means add on a minute or two”.

I haven’t worn the watch yet, but when I do, please don’t ask me for the time. It’s not for that.

(Also, check out the new wooden box at the top with a very satisfying open and close mechanism. I appreciate the small details).

This is watch number 19 for me – take a look at the rest of my collection.

December 2019 Things

For some indeterminate reason, my blogging really tailed off towards the end of 2019. I definitely still enjoy it, but the last year of the decade seemed much quieter for me than previous years. It’s hard to find inspiration when all you’re doing is working and sleeping! I’m sincerely hoping that 2020 has a lot more for me than 2019!

Liberty Advent Calendar
Another year, another Liberty advent calendar. Was there anything revolutionary in the 2019 version? Honestly, no, but I still find it immensely enjoyable. See you next year, Liberty.

Christmas in Norfolk
We (being me, Husband, and my Mum) decided to check out of Christmas this year and found a gloriously quiet barn in the middle of the Norfolk countryside. Hopefully a blog post will follow because we had such a lovely time.

Seals at Horsey Gap
Technically part of our Norfolk trip, but I had to have a separate entry on the list for the incredible seals at Horsey and Winterton. From October to March, thousands of seals descend on the beaches and dunes along the Norfolk coast to have their babies. We walked to Horsey on Boxing Day, really not knowing what to expect, but they were everywhere, including on the paths. It was amazing – truly a memorable sight.

Everyman Wokingham
Visits to the cinema are few and far between for me these days, but Husband was desperate to see the new Star Wars. Luckily, a brand new Everyman cinema has just opened about 20 minutes away, so I was more than happy to indulge him. It’s great cinema (and I have enough photos for a separate post. Promises promises).


November 2019 Things

November happened in the blink of an eye, and December rushed at me unexpectedly. I feel unprepared for the last month of the decade!

Eddie Izzard
The month started at an Eddie Izzard gig – the fifth tour I have seen of his (Circle, Sexie, Stripped, Force Majure and now Wunderbar). Honestly, if you don’t like Eddie, there won’t be much for you in his latest, and possibly final, show but I adored it. We had seats on the 7th row, so my idol was pretty much directly in front of me wearing an incredibly hot outfit. And an added bonus for Tim and I – we were sat just in front of Dawn French and Dame Judi Dench. Tim nearly lost his mind. The whole evening was a delight.

Vegan chicken
November was also the month I developed a short obsession with Absurd Bird’s Vegan Chckn tenders. I had them at both their Bath and Soho locations – I don’t have the best taste buds, but they taste exactly how chicken tenders should taste. Delicious.

Homewood Bath
We were in Bath for an overnight stay at Homewood – a beautiful country house hotel, restaurant, and spa. I do need to write a proper blog post about this, mostly because we had the most epic chandelier in our room which 100% deserves a separate post on its own.

Bridget Riley
I didn’t know anything about the artist Bridget Riley, but I saw mention of a Hayward Gallery exhibit on an It’s Nice That article and decided Tim and I had to go. Some of her prints made my eyesight go funny (and possibly led to Tim tripping up a number of steps) but I fell in love with her work. It’s on until January so go see if it you can.

Crafty Fox and ScandiMarket
I managed to get two markets done in one day at the end of November – the Scandimarket in Rotherhithe and Crafty Fox at The Department Store in Brixton.

The Scandimarket is a street market set up on between the Finnish and Norwegian Churches in Albion Street and is filled with amazing scandi food and crafts. It winds its way around both of the churches which were fun to go in, and I bought some incredble sourdough from the Bread Station.

We got the tube over to Brixton for a very warm Crafty Fox – I bought a beautiful ring from Tumble and Rose and I now want to cover my fingers with more of her beautiful work.

October 2019 Things

And just like that, the new academic year kicks off and everything starts to settle down. October is still a little chaotic at the start, but we’re almost back to ‘normal’ by the end of the month, which gives me more time for myself.

John Robins – Hot Shame
I adore the comedian John Robins and I was so excited to see his Hot Shame tour at the Hammersmith Apollo with my BFF (and fellow PCD) Tim. John told a masterful tale which had me laughing and squirming in equal measures, and as Tim noted, it was painfully relatable. I don’t know anyone else who can do a 20 minute section on dehumidifiers and still make me laugh so much.

Watch Number 18
I can’t go a couple of months without a new watch.

Living With Yourself
We watched the whole of the Paul Rudd and Aisling Bea Netflix show, Living with Yourself in one sitting. It was like an entire series based on the Buffy episode, The Replacement where Xander was split into two – one with good hair and styling, and one without. And I loved it, and couldn’t guess how it would end.

Vaporetto Pizza
I love food trucks, but living in The Country in the UK, they are few and far between. It was inevitable that I would get giddily excited when realising that a Vaporetto pizza truck had set up on my drive home from work. It’s just a little too far away for me to get them home warm so a little bit of re-heating is required, but they make beautiful pizzas. It’s almost like I’m back in Texas

Still European. Thank goodness.

48 Hours in Copenhagen – Cisternerne

This last post about my 48 hours in Copenhagen (alternative title – “Did you really go to Copenhagen just for a burger?”) is about possibly the weirdest place you can visit in the city – Cisternerne.

The Cisterns is an old water reservoir found beneath the Søndermarken park in Frederiksberg. For some crazy reason, it was turned into an exhibition space for the Frederiksberg museum – the man who had this idea is a mad genius as it’s one of the most unique spaces I’ve ever been to.

We walked through the park on a wet and humid afternoon on the look out for the entrance to the Cisterns – the tall glass structures which house the stairs down into the reservoir (although one of buildings was closed for renovation when we visited).

Their website seems to suggest that one artist shows there each year, and 2019 was the turn of Superflex; a Danish art collective who flooded the Cisterns for their exhibition, It’s Not the End of the World.

Superflex are best known in the UK for the swings they installed in the Tate Modern. They focus on climate change and dystopian futures and play with this concept for It’s Not the End of the World.

When you enter the pitch black space, you’re asked not to use torches or your phone to light the way, and your eyes do adjust (well, mine did. Husband’s didn’t, so he held my hand most of the way around). There’s a glorious neon sign which illuminates the darkness and reflects on the water. A few other spotlights prevent you from bumping into the concrete walls.

Sidenote – how good is Night Sight on my Pixel 3 phone? It really is so dark down there.

After wading your way over to the neon sign, you walk over to peer into three ‘rooms’ through partially open doors and cracks in the side with light pouring out of them. The rooms are actually flooded decaying bathrooms – super creepy, made even creepier because there were very few people visiting at the same time as us.

Another fun element of It’s not the End of the World – you get super cute welly boots to wear around the reservoir!

The current exhibit runs until the end of November when it’ll close for the winter. Can’t wait to see what 2020 brings.

Mr Jones Watches – A Perfectly Useless Morning

As I struggled through my 11th year of start-of-semester chaos at work, I made myself a promise – just get through Registration and I will treat myself to a new Mr Jones watch. I had my next purchase picked out – A Perfectly Useless Afternoon designed by Belgian artist, Kristof Devos. I had missed out on buying one of the limited editions, but a slightly modified version has since made it to the permanent collection. I set time aside to buy my latest watch the first weekend of October to mark the end of an insane two weeks.

And then – surprise! – a new design was released before I could make my purchase. Called A Perfectly Useless Morning and also designed by Devos, it has a beautifully autumnal layered design which is so charming to look at.

The hours are marked by the trees, with the yellow leaf acting as the hour hand and the bird soaring around as the minute hand.

And I got my lucky number once again.

By the way, I’m not ruling out buying A Perfectly Useless Afternoon as well – I couldn’t possibly leave my Kristof Devos collection incomplete.

This is watch number 18 for me – take a look at the rest of my collection.