Celebrating My 21st Birthday!

One week ago, I turned 21! Yes, that does mean my birthday was on the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War, which is why I decided to primarily celebrate my birthday the day before.

My parents drove 200 miles to Liverpool from home on the Friday night, and arrived at my uni house early on Saturday morning – with a bunch of stuff I’d left at home in September in tow. This was quite an amusing collection of things – reheatable hand warmers, a new jumper, my waterproof coat, and some other bits and bobs. When I moved into this house 2.5 months ago, I had belongings spread around the country – it took some time to figure out where everything was!

We didn’t linger in the house long; we walked down to Liverpool’s Key Lime Café, where they serve a variety of breakfasts, including American style pancakes alongside more savoury things like Eggs Royale. After a leisurely breakfast there, we headed to Central station and hopped on a train to Chester.

We’d decided to spend the day there rather than in Liverpool, as my parents had never been and I enjoy going. I think it’s almost the perfect city, in my mum’s eyes – plenty of history, interesting architecture, good size, but without the same mania that can surround places like London.

My entire family has a thing about history, I think – we’re all interested in it, and so I knew my parents would enjoy seeing the cathedral. We spent quite a long time in there, actually; I think we spent an entire half an hour trying to find one particular feature by a window… it turned out to be on a different window than the ones we were looking at. But by this point, my dad had a hankering for a coffee, and I was a little hungry, so we went to the cathedral’s café for lunch.

It was at this point, while we were waiting for our food, that my mum decided to reveal what she’d been lugging around all day in her backpack – when I’d enquired what was in it, her answer had been “space”. For some reason, I actually believed her! But, alas, she unpacked a collection of coloured envelopes and presents.

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Photos courtesy of my dad, who a) has a far better camera than I do, and b) was the only one to actually bring said camera with him… I forgot mine. I was also paying absolutely no attention the fact he was taking photos.

Now, in all truth, I hadn’t been expecting this – I knew their stay in Liverpool wasn’t going to be cheap, and I’d already had an intended-21st-birthday-present earlier in the year (awkward timing meant it arrived a little closer to my 20th birthday instead!). Nevertheless, I received a pair of earrings (which I’ve worn every day since), some perfume, chocolate and notebooks from my parents, and some other jewellery and cash from other relatives, which I’m very grateful for.

After lunch, we left the cathedral and had a bit of a lazy wander around the city walls and exploring the city, including a visit into a tea shop (my parents are definitely tea people, I can’t say the same myself) and an old pub with a good few centuries of history behind it.

Soon enough, the sun was starting to set and we went over to Miller and Carter for dinner – and odd thought, considering I’m pescetarian and they’re primarily a steakhouse, but they had a fair menu of non-meat dishes so I had salmon. I’m pretty sure my dad had steak, but I have no clue what mum ordered! Terrible memory, I know. I think I was a bit caught up in conversation to notice.


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The next morning, my parents turned up bright and early at my house again (it was now my actual birthday) and we went straight back to Key Lime Café for breakfast. This café is conveniently positioned opposite Lime Street Station, and thus in close proximity to St George’s Hall, where Liverpool’s Armistice Parade was due to take place. As we ate our breakfast we saw various groups of people in various uniforms getting ready for the parade.

We were careful to leave the café with a good amount of time before the parade was due to start, and managed to find a fairly good place to stand, a little way to the left of the monument pictured above. It was a lovely thing to watch; the crowds filled the area and during the ceremony, poppies were released from the roof of St George’s Hall, and petals were released from the top of the radio tower – the wind was blowing in the right direction so they all fell over the plateau and crowds.

I didn’t capture any of the parade and ceremony on camera; aside from the fact I forgot to bring my camera again, it seemed a bit inappropriate. But I had my poppy on, and my mum grabbed a programme they were handing out beforehand, and she managed to catch a few petals (that woman is amazing), so I do have some souvenirs.

After the ceremony had finished, we waited for the barriers to be moved so we could get closer to the monument (which I have walked past dozens of times and know quite well, but we wanted to see the wreaths). Then it was down to the docks to find some lunch, because the world would have turned upside down if an outing with my family didn’t largely revolve around food!

Sadly, the early afternoon meant it was time for my parents to leave. We got a taxi back to my house (instead of the 30+ minute uphill walk), and then my parents were off on their journey home.

So yeah, that’s what I did for my 21st! I’m never that big on birthday celebrations, and celebrating at uni can be a bit weird when your friends and family are miles away, but it was really nice to spend this time with my parents.

Why I Don’t Care About Numbers at the Gym

For a lot of people, when they work out, it’s about a number: a weight they want to get down to, a weight they want to get up to, a weight they want to lift, a record they want to beat. Me? I have no number. I go to the gym for one reason and one reason only: to keep my body fit and healthy. I’m not looking to impress anybody, and I’m not going for aesthetic reasons.

My body has a history of injury, so I’m really just happy when it’s capable of doing exercise. I have to be aware of what my body’s limits are and just how far it’s safe to push it.

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I started going to the gym regularly two years ago, when I first arrived at university. Through a stroke of luck, that autumn was the time when the tennis elbow I’d been struggling with for the previous five to six years finally eased off. But, in consequence, that had left me with incredibly underdeveloped muscles in that arm (and the surrounding shoulder/chest area) because I couldn’t use it properly for so long. I was pretty weak on the muscle front in total, really.

But for whatever reason, when I moved to university, my body finally started co-operating. I was very tentative when I started going to the gym – when it came to running, I only did short bursts, afraid I would reignite that old injury. When it came to cross-trainers, I could only do short bursts because I didn’t have the strength for it: two minutes on a low setting would tire me out. When it came to weight machines, the absolute lightest setting was difficult for me.

Building up muscle over the last two years has been a slow journey, and I’m in no hurry to rush it. I have definitely seen remarkable improvements – simple as it may seem to some, I could barely lift heavy shopping bags two years ago. Now I do it without blinking an eye. The shape of my arms has changed incredibly; I used to have absolutely no shoulder definition, and very skinny arms. I still have skinny arms, but now the muscle definition is visible. I can go on a cross trainer for a good fifteen minutes on a medium level and continue my workout elsewhere afterwards. I’ve done 5km runs on the treadmill and felt good afterwards, rather than like my foot was splitting open – which used to be my reality.

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About nine months after joining the gym

To other people, who don’t live with my body and who don’t know its history, the numbers surrounding my workouts seem unimpressive. 20kg weights aren’t seen as much. Taking 45 minutes to run 5km is seen as slow. Only being on level two of the cross trainer seems mediocre. But for somebody who would be unable to walk for a day after running 400m, completing a 5km is amazing! For somebody who had to quit playing piano because the strain on their arm was just too painful, to be able to actually lift heavy boxes when moving house is triumphant. I kid you not when I say that even something as simple as plaiting my own hair was a challenge only a few years ago, because I lacked the strength to hold my own arm up for that long.

Even during the last two years I’ve dealt with other injuries – back in February this year, my thumb on my writing hand became so strained I actually lost the ability to handwrite for a while. Thankfully, I’ve mostly regained the ability since then – though I doubt if I’ll ever get back up to my old speed. I’ve also had knee issues, which meant I stopped using the cross trainer for a while so they could recover. But these injuries have been easier to deal with, and I suspect it’s due to that base line of fitness I’ve managed to build.

And that’s why I don’t care about the numbers. Of course I like seeing how fast or far I’ve managed to run, but I’m only looking to build muscle and fitness in the way that’s best for my body.

What about you – do you go to the gym? Do you have a numbers goal? Maybe you’ve got a condition/injury that you’re trying to work through? Let me know.

 

The Autumn Tag!

We’re nearing the end of October, which means it is well and truly autumn – though I feel like somebody forgot to tell the weather, because I’m on the northwest coast of England and it was 17 degrees today! That’s like a standard UK summer. Regardless, the jumpers are out, the shorts have been left at home, and I was recently tagged to write about all things autumn by both Esther Ruth Wyse and Jess Cantoni!

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What signifies the start of autumn for you?

For me, autumn begins when the leaves start changing colour and I’m cold enough to put jumpers on again. Though I do get cold very easily – especially after the summer just gone! I know everyone else was hating on the 33 degree heat around London but I was LIVING for it. When it dropped to 22 degrees I was practically an ice cube, I’d gotten so used to the heat.

What is your favourite autumn scent?

I’d say my favourite autumn scents are orange-y, lightly spiced scents. Please note I’m very bad at describing scents, so that’s my best effort! But generally, if it’s orange-y coloured, whether it’s potpourri (not that I’ve ever bought that, mum does occasionally) or candles, I’m good with that for autumn.

What is your favourite autumn colour?

If you’d asked me this three, maybe four years ago, it would have been a red-wine burgundy. I kid you not, most of my wardrobe was that colour! Nowadays I’m really into the mustard yellows that have been in the shops for the last couple of years, and I definitely love gentle browns – y’know, for boots and things.

Are you a fan of PSL (pumpkin spice latte)?

I’ve never had one! I don’t really drink coffees at all, so it’s not a drink I’ve tried.

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What is your favourite autumn drink?

I like a good hot chocolate. Preferably on the really chocolatey side! I’m not always the greatest with dairy though, but I’ve recently started using oat milk and, turns out, that makes a very smooth hot choc.

What’s your favourite coffee shop and their drink of choice?

Like I said earlier, I don’t really drink coffee (caffeine + me = bouncing off the walls and a lot of inexplicable giggles), but I do love the frozen chocolate drinks from Starbucks/Costa every now and again – I have no idea what they’re called though, because Costa changed the name of theirs recently and I literally never remember what the Starbucks one is called! It’s that one… with the cream… and the ice… and the chocolate… Let me know if you have any idea what I’m on about.

Apple pie or pumpkin pie?

I’ve never had pumpkin pie either! I’ve definitely had apple tart before, which I’m not sure counts as apple pie, but I’ll go with it – it’s alright. There are better desserts, but it does the job. I prefer a stroodle, or an apple cake my mum makes.

What TV show, new or old, are you looking forward to in the next few months?

I usually look forward to the new series of Doctor Who, but I have no TV license or TV aerial in my third year student house, so can’t really watch TV as such… so I’ll be rewatching How I Met Your Mother, Friends, Once Upon A Time, and all the Harry Potters. Big shout-out to Netflix and DVDs!

What is your favourite autumn fashion trend?

Cable knits. C A B L E   K N I T S. I love a cable knit. So warm. So cosy. Jumpers, cardigans, socks, gloves, scarves… Give me all the cable knits.

What is your favourite comfort food to enjoy in the colder months?

Probably duck spring rolls. I eat a pescetarian diet in the main because of stomach issues, but duck spring rolls on an autumn night are so good. Alternatively, baked camembert and toast. My mouth is actually watering right now.

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What is your favourite autumn activity?

I love baking in the autumn, and cooking seasonal things – like soup. Last year I made pumpkin cupcakes and pumpkin soup for the first time, which I think went quite well – I usually end up baking at least a few times in autumn (this week I made sweet potato & leek soup and chocolate orange fairy cakes). I think carving pumpkins is fun too, but obviously that’s only really a Halloween thing. I’d like to go pumpkin picking at some point though!

Are you a fan of horror movies?

I’ve never been all that into horror films, because I’m not really into that thrill, but I have been watching some recently because I’m studying a Gothic fiction & film module at university so every week we have to watch a different film – we haven’t gotten to the modern ones yet so the most recent one we’ve seen was made in the 1960s! Having said this, an odd series of circumstances meant I did watch the Daniel Radcliffe version of The Woman In Black about five times from when it came out in cinemas to when it came out on DVD. Having said this, I don’t think it counts as horror… does it? So – long walk for a short drink of water – no.

Do you ever do anything fun for Halloween?

I haven’t in recent years, but I do remember at some point growing up my parents threw me a Halloween-themed party (I have an awful memory but this might have been a birthday party, because my birthday is 11-Nov and therefore close to Halloween). They drew and cut out witch and monster heads and hung them from the ceiling, and the house got all decorated, so that was really fun. I did some trick-or-treating as a kid too, like everyone.

What was your favourite part about Halloween as a child?

Not sure about a favourite ‘part’ exactly, but my favourite memories would be the party I just mentioned, rewatching the early Harry Potter films, and watching all the Halloween films on the Disney channel.

Are you a bigger fan of Bonfire night or Halloween?

I probably celebrate Bonfire Night more than Halloween, so I’ll say Bonfire Night – though in my head I sort of rank them equally! Last year I did nothing for either, because I was in deadline mania, but I’ll see if there’s anything going on this year.

Where is your dream destination to visit in the autumn?

Don’t ask me that! There’s too many. Iceland in the autumn was amazing, but I’d love to see Madeira in autumn too.

Do you always forget about the clocks going back?

Usually I’m vaguely aware that it’s going to happen, but never know which day. Then I Google it after my mum reminds me. I have vague memories of getting ready for school at what turned out to be 6am instead of 7am once back in either primary or early secondary school, and I was really wondering why nobody else was getting up until I saw the time on a clock that changed automatically. I didn’t bother taking my uniform off before crawling back under the covers for a while.

When do you usually start preparing for Christmas?

Compared to most people these days, really late! I’ve always had a rule – no Christmas until after my birthday. My housemate, whose birthday is six days after mine, also has the same rule, so for us it’s mid-to-late November when we start thinking about Christmas! Although I have already started lightly Christmas shopping, but sometimes it’s just easier to get that done early. Considering my birthday is an entire six weeks before Christmas, I don’t think it’s too Scrooge-like – yet I have had birthday presents wrapped in Christmas paper before… Not cool, guys. Not cool.

That’s all of the questions! Thanks so much to Esther and Jess for tagging me, and now it’s time for my tags – I feel like most bloggers I follow have done this one already so I’ll only tag a few!

Sophie from In Sophie’s Mind

Rav from An Earthly Mama

Kate from Finding Kate

Dani from World Meet Dani