2016- The Best Year
You probably read that and internally screamed BREXIT! TRUMP! CELEBRITY DEATHS! TOBLERONE! And yes, undeniably this year has had lots of dark, sad moments.
However, in these days between Christmas and New Year (which I like to call ‘Inbetweenmas’) I like to look back and reflect on the past 12 months. And actually they’ve been bloody brilliant. So I thought I’d share some of the happiness and light, the big heart-burstingly joyous things and the tiny pieces of glitter, plus some of the things I’ve learned this year, just in case you need some respite from the doom and gloom.
- My best friend beat cancer. And did it like a fucking boss, rocking a headscarf and red lips like a movie star and all the while teaching me about strength, dignity and love. Life after cancer isn’t suddenly wonderful again, in truth, the repercussions of the illness linger long after the all-clear is given, but if anyone has stuck a middle finger up at it all and called cancer a bellend, it’s her. She’s my hero and also has made me way more vigilant about checking my boobs and generally being a bit more on top of my health. CHECK IT GUYS.
- A bunch of my close friends all achieved personal goals, they got married, they had beautiful babies, they celebrated milestone birthdays, they landed exciting new jobs, and continued to be the most wonderful, brilliant bunch of pals who always inspire and support me.
- I swallowed my fear of improv and took part in a Musical Theatre Improv Evening. I wasn’t very good, but everyone did laugh a lot and it taught me to laugh in the face of things you’re scared of.
- I drank a LOT of beer at the brilliant Craft Beer Rising.
- I saw Caitlin Moran speak and read some fucking brilliant books and had all my ballsy, feminist fires lit once more, and it made me thank my lucky stars that I’m surrounded by some of the gobbiest gals around.
- I did another show with my partner in Cabaret Crime Joe Atkins, firstly for two sold out dates at St James Theatre, and then for a WHOLE MONTH at the Edinburgh Fringe. It was amazing, and terrifying, and emotional and the hardest I have ever worked and I am very proud of it all.
- I played in the snow, ate smorresbord and drank the best beer of my life in Copenhagen with my best mate, and I learned that I never wanted to hear the song ‘WONDERFUL WONDERFUL COPENHAGEN’ again.
- One of my oldest, dearest friends and his husband got married and adopted three children, who I have had the massive pleasure of getting to know this year. They are a wonderful, beautiful family and I am so happy that those three gorgeous munchkins are now in a home that has love spilling out of every nook and cranny. Love is love is love.
- I went on the best holiday of my life to Melbourne, where I became closer with the Australian contingent of my family and made some wonderful memories with my best mate. Big distances may be hard, but big hearts that teem with love make it bearable.
- I ticked a big one off my bucket list and completed a Creative Writing course at UAL and at the end, submitted a short story that I am still super proud of.
- I fell in love. Ooh, this one is a biggie.
Back in February after a conversation with one of the aforementioned brilliant chums about my perpetual single status and how glum it was making me feel, I decided to be brave. I’d had my fill of dating apps, and found it really hard to meet anyone and so I turned to my friends to help me. I put this status up on Facebook:
And I was overwhelmed by the response. It was shared hundreds of times, I had comments, messages and emails from both friends and strangers not only suggesting matches, introducing me to their single friends or offering to take me on dates but from a whole range of people (again, strangers and friends) saying how much they respected what I’d done, applauded the bravery of putting myself out there and wishing me well and that they hoped I’d find someone. I went on some lovely dates with some very nice, interesting men, and my confidence and self-esteem benefited from a well needed boost.
AND THEN I MET HIM!
After accidentally ignoring his message for a couple of months (DAMN YOU ‘OTHER INBOX’ ON FACEBOOK!) I began messaging a chap who was a friend of a girl I went to university with, who’d seen the status. After some back-and-forth which genuinely made me laugh, we went on a date and within five minutes I knew that he was the one I’d been waiting for all these years (and I don’t care if you’ve just reached for the sick bucket, it’s literally true). Before him, all my entanglements and encounters with men and matters of the heart had ended in tears, being treated terribly and leaving me feeling worthless and completely despondent. I honestly believed that relationships were just something that happened to other people and in my heart believed that something about me just wasn’t good enough for anyone.
Turns out, I was wrong! He’s kind, patient, supportive, warm and makes me laugh so much I snort wine out of my nose. He’s handsome, he’s intelligent and creative and most importantly, is really good at snogging too. Oh and he makes really good pies. He makes me feel loved and like I deserve to be loved too. In short, I’m bloody head over heels and taking a leap of personal bravery and putting myself out there, paid off and I URGE anyone else to do it. So yeah, this point is quite a long one, but thank you to all those who shared that status. And to him for being my tortoise.
- I took on a new freelance social media job and continued to write this blog, and was paid to write collaborative posts as well as having the opportunity to work with lots of lifestyle brands, charities and PR teams. It’s been awesome and I am still grateful for every opportunity that arises from this little space of mine on the world wide web.
- I watched Aussie Rules Football AND LOVED IT. I played mini-golf, pool, ping pong and went bowling and even though I was terrible at all of them, I thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also learned that with the right person, having a personal trainer isn’t scary. Maybe sport isn’t so bad after all.
- I road-tested pancakes for pancake day and experienced my first ever sugar crash and learned that I never want to do that again.
- I directed ‘The Wizard of Oz’ for my theatre academy and continued to be so blooming proud of the kids I work with for their spirit, teamwork, ever-growing confidence and stage skills.
- I did some lovely gigs singing some Sondheim at the Phoenix Artist Club, singing highlights from my Edinburgh show at The Cockpit, doing ‘A Berlin Kabaret’ at the International Brecht Symposium at Oxford University and a wonderful new workshop musical ‘January’ at The Canal Café.
- My gorgeous book club, The Bookie Monsters entered into its sixth year and I read some wonderful books this year (the one that knocked me for six this year was ‘A Little Life’ by Hanya Yanagihara. If you haven’t already read it, go grab a copy now. And maybe pick up a pack of tissues while you’re at it.)
- I continued to do battle with my anxiety goblin and the blues, sharing my thoughts and experiences and keeping the conversation alive. Every time I post about these things, I’m overwhelmed by the response I get. It makes it all easier because the more we talk, the less scary it is.
- I saw a whole bunch of brilliant gigs and theatre including: The Melbourne Symphony Orchestra at The National Gallery of Victoria, ‘Titanic’ at Charing Cross, ‘Jackie’ at Wimbledon, ‘Alto-holic’ at The Alleycat, ‘Funny Girl’ at The Savoy, The Horne Section in Corsham, James Morrison and Pat Metheny at Ronnie Scott’s, ‘The Comedy About a Bank Robbery’ at The Criterion, ‘Fury’ at Soho, ‘The Bodyguard’ at The Dominion, ‘Keep Dancing’ at Milton Keynes, ‘Harry Potter and the Cursed Child- Parts 1 and 2’ at The Palace, Tituss Burgess at The Hippodrome, ‘The Colour Purple’ on Broadway, ‘Tosca’ at The Coliseum, ‘Murder Ballad’ at The Arts, ‘Liza Pullman Sings Hollywood’ at Cadogan Hall, Bridget Christie at Leicester Square, ‘Guys and Dolls’ at The Savoy, ‘Goodnight Mr Tom’ at The Duke Of Yorks, ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ at The Apollo, ‘Variety Night’ at The Old Vic and Joe Stilgoe at The Lyric Hammersmith
- I spent a brilliant day in Brighton with loved ones, drinking in the sunshine.
- I jaunted around an autumnal New York with my family, eating way too many tater tots and spending far too much money in Sephora.
- I was given my favourite ever birthday present. These Harry Potter knitted dolls. Thank you Sam Parker.
- I went on a beer brewing course with my Dad, which led to him setting up Brennan’s Brewery in the shed. You’re never too old to learn a new skill.
- I went for a blustery mini-break to Cornwall for my FIRST EVER trip away with a man. SAUCY.
- I was nominated for my first ever award. Thanks to all who voted for me to win Best Solo Show/Cabaret in the West End Wilma Awards. I didn’t win, but to be nominated next to Kerry Ellis and Bonnie Langford made me feel bloody proud!
- As well as my drama teaching, I took on my first private singing students this year, and found I REALLY ENJOYED teaching them too.
- I sang ‘Defying Gravity’ 53 times whilst wearing a massive pink Fairy outfit and way too much glitter. Ahh panto.
- I made some exciting decisions and plans for next year which I cannot WAIT to put into action. I’ve got a fire in my belly and a song in my heart. I feel like I’m going headfirst into 2017 knowing what I want, and feeling determined to get it. I want to be happier, more secure in both myself and my career and to enter my thirties feeling positive, grounded and hopeful.
So, yes, this year has had somewhat of a dismal wash over it, but actually, for me personally? Well, it’s been pretty bloody great. Enjoy your last few days of Inbetweenmas, and I’ll see you all in the new year team. First one to say ‘Dry January’ is a rotten egg.