What a year!
2011 has definitely been one of those years that would be described as a roller coaster. It’s been a BIG year – so much has happened and most things have been at the extreme end of either amazing, or terrible.
The year started in Australia, where I visited to see some lovely friends get married at the end of 2010. I had a quiet New Year’s with family, which was the best way to see in the year after so long not seeing them.
This was followed shortly after with an epic flight back to London where I returned to no job and a house move on the cards.
We moved in with Hugh, Colin’s best mate – a massive change from living just the two of us and a huge change of environment from the buzzing Portobello Road. It was a good little house we had going there though – as far as flat mates are concerned Hugh was up there with the best of them.
The next few weeks were spent job hunting and working as many hours as I could get my hands on at the pub just to stay on the same savings track we’d been on since before I left.
Then one of the biggest highs of the year came when Colin proposed. It was a beautiful proposal – we were at a Thai restaurant right on the Thames River. It was candlelit, loads of champagne, amazing food and the love of my life. Couldn’t have been better!
Following that was a bit of up and down – not knowing whether to move to Australia or stay in London. After we decided to stay in London we then went through a massive shit fight with the UK Border Agency… and no there is no other word for it. I don’t want to get into the details but it involved a lot of dead end phone calls, lack of response to emails and letters.
This period of the year also saw us both working upwards of 70 hours a week and not really seeing each other much, resulting in me getting the worst illness I have ever had in my life – the mumps!!! Unbelievable! It is certainly something that I would never wish on anyone. It is incredibly painful and makes you pretty miserable, aside from the fact that you have to go into complete quarantine.
The battle with the home office continued with the result of the loss of our passports and every single document that proved that we were a couple – about a week before I was due to leave the country when my visa ran out. This meant that I had to buy an emergency passport – a big dent in our savings.
The next few months while challenging were pretty awesome. I spent 5 incredible weeks travelling around Europe with my beautiful friend Alicia, which was one of the best experiences of my life. We travelled on a strict budget – making us both very aware of how much we were spending and meaning we both made the most of the countries we were in by doing the not-so-touristy things that each place offered. We covered Slovenia, Serbia, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Czech and Austria.
The only downside was having to spend 5 weeks away from Colin – the longest time yet.
I then had 3 fly-by weeks back in London while we sorted out our next lot of visa issues and then we flew home to Australia.
I can’t describe what it was like to be home. It was amazing. Our first 2 weeks (Colin’s only two weeks in the country) were action packed and FULL of loads of travel and running around seeing people. We covered Melbourne, Sydney, Newcastle, Crescent Head, Kempsey, Ballina and Byron bay in 10 days.
We had an amazing reception from Colin’s family some of which he hadn’t seen in 20 years – they made us feel so welcome and very much a part of the family.
My family were incredible as always. Colin did the rounds in each place meeting a large majority of the family and trying really hard to remember all the names and how we were all related to each other.
After Colin flew back to London I spent a long weekend with my 3 best girlfriends from school and another week in Sydney trying to find some short-term café work to no avail at which point I went home for some much needed R&R and family time. I got to spend loads of time with my two gorgeous nieces and in a short time managed to become the favourite Aunty. I caught up with my sisters and my Mum and Dad and had lots of amazing long walks on the beach with Zoe, a few swims (despite the fact it was winter), ate loads of good food and loads of bad (tim tams) and caught up with heaps of my Aussie mates over my birthday weekend.
Again, the only downside to this was the fact that Colin and I had to spend 6 weeks apart (another record and something we never want to do again). The other challenge we faced was living off savings and one wage for a good 6 months of the year – when you live in London or if you ever have, you will understand how difficult this is. I’m so grateful to my family for making it easier on us in so many ways!
Returning to London in mid-August I spent the next few weeks job hunting doing the final planning for our London version of our wedding and got the best surprise that Mum and Dad were going to join my brother in coming over for it.
We had the most special day in September. It was definitely the best day of my life – made all the better by having my big brother and my Mum and Dad there to watch it happen. It was exactly how we planned and exactly how we wanted. Small, beautiful, intimate and surrounded by our closest London friends and some of our family. Naturally, it would be ideal if my sisters could be there and all my Australian friends but we are going to have a round 2 when we come back to Australia to celebrate our relationship with those people present.
Another plus to this time was the week or so surrounding the wedding when we got to spend loads of time with Colin’s mum and my brother and Mum and Dad. It was nice to see they all got along (despite the rugby result) and awesome to spend some time with them.
After the dust settled it was back to job hunting for me and working for Colin. I managed to pick up pub work and some freelance work here and there to tie us over and after about 2 months of solid looking I landed a great job in central London doing exactly what I want to be doing – result!
Colin also changed jobs during this time meaning we are both being challenged professionally, both working really hard (and seeing not much of each other) but both much happier in our professional lives – and of course both getting a solid wage coming through!!
This brings me up to Christmas and where I’m sitting right now. Christmas was spent with some London-based friends who don’t have family here and dog-sitting our favourite London pups! And now it’s the end of 2011… overall a pretty great year with some big challenges that have made us stronger and which we’re pretty proud to have overcome and some incredible rewards. I for one am exhausted reading back on that, and very much looking forward to starting 2012 with my amazing new husband! A lot is coming our way – another move, our postponed honeymoon, more savings and, well who knows?? Guess we’ll have to wait and see!!