2010: A Year of Fireworks

I don't write as much as I used to. I don't remember as much as I used to.

As the wonderful Field Notes notebooks remind me:

I’m not writing it down to remember it later. I’m writing it down to remember it now.

2010 was an epic year for me, for many reasons and while on one hand it's a good thing that I lived it so thoroughly rather than stepping back and being an observer, I don't want to forget it either, so inspired by the incomparable Jon Tan, and with a little nod to the "Agile" world in which I work, I'm writing my retrospective.


2010 began with Fireworks, setting, though I didn't realise it at the time, the theme of the year. After many, many years of watching them on television, I finally saw the London New Year fireworks in person (despite having lived here for more than eight years), courtesy of the Royal Festival Hall's New Year Party.

However, Pirates, Ceilidh-dancing, Fireworks and Bellinis all too quickly gave way to Airports and International Travel as I jetted off to Singapore for the second time in a month on the 2nd of January.


I've travelled for work a bit before, but never so far, or in such relative luxury, so the experience was quite the culture shock. As if the travel culture shock and jet lag wasn't enough, I then spent a week 31 floors above Singapore in one of the noisiest working environments I can imagine - the trading floor of a major international investment bank. I left there every day with a blinding headache from all the noise, and at the end of the week with a much better understanding of the needs of the people it's now my job to design applications for.

Zoom Zoom

Eggs Benedict

Sunset over the Marina

On a personal level, I got geekily over-excited about staying at the Fullerton Hotel, which sits on one of the most exciting parts of the Singapore Formula 1 race-track, ate amazing food (seriously, didn't have a crappy meal the whole time I was there), saw some stunning cityscapes and took lots of photos.

Starburst Gradient

Commuter Cloche

Two weeks later, another bank, a crocheted hat and January gave way to…



February started well. I was on a high from the successful end of the Singapore assignment at work and learning to use my new Sewing Machine with a cushion-making class at The Make Lounge.

Sweets with my Sweet

Valentine's Day was spent with my fiance and a Champagne Tea at Liberty (a new tradition) and all was well.

Then work got a bit more complicated and stressful and my third attempt to do a 365 Photo Project came abruptly to a halt a mere 46 days into the year.


Wearing The Ring

The beginning of March is probably best forgotten, though I've learned a lot from what went wrong in those two weeks. It picked up mid-month when we visited the incredibly talented Chris Parry to collect the engagement ring we commissioned for me from him.

K Knitting

It ended fairly quietly, with some gentle knitting with friends, and a trip to North Devon to spend Easter with my soon to be in-laws.


Bristol Planetarium

April was a pretty eventful month. A couple of days after Easter I was admitted to hospital to have my gallbladder removed. It had been giving me problems for a while and had (I realise now) packed up completely a few weeks earlier, so it was good to get rid of it when I did, even if the timing was a bit off, coming, as it did, a week before the Big Scary Gathering of The Families, where our combined families all met for the first time.

It was quite a momentous weekend for other reasons though. Thanks to the lovely Laura Francis, who dragged me to Collage Green Bridal, I found my wedding dress. I've never been a super girlie-girl, but the second I put that dress on, I knew it was The One. An unexpectedly emotional moment.

We spent the weekend as a combined family, getting to know each other and viewing wedding venues and the business of organising our wedding began to get underway properly.

The rest of the month was spent recovering from my surgery and easing back into work.


UX London

In May, still recovering from surgery, I started a new long-term assignment at work and went to UX London and took my first, faltering, sketchnoting steps.

I whooshed past my six-month anniversary at work and began down the road of really trying to make UX work in a large, agile project, in a domain where I had no previous knowledge or expertise, so things were a bit quiet as I tried to get my head around all the new stuff I suddenly needed to know.

Shiny Red Bicycle of Awesome

I did manage to get myself a shiny new Bicycle though.

K's birthday at the end of the month brought some new excitement as we headed into…


BMW Alpina B3S Convertible

K took delivery of his dream car, a BMW Alpina B3S Convertible, bought from a friend and ex-colleague a mere hour before midnight on his birthday and so began the summer of headscarves and remembering to put sunscreen on before getting in the car.

Wedding planning continued apace, and I scared myself silly on the company summer outing to Go Ape. I'm really not good with heights.

I got an iPad and amazed myself at how awesome technology is now, by watching the European Grand Prix Qualifying Session on the iPad, via 3G while sitting in the passenger seat of the car, en-route to stay with a friend for the weekend.

Sketchnotes about sketchnoting

The month ended with some improved sketchnoting at a London IA meeting and a trip to Macclesfield.


East London from Above

July was Working, Wedding Planning and Weekends with Friends.

It rained a bit, and I got up the confidence to start cycling to work.


On the Thames Path

Shadwell Basin

By August, the toll of Working and Wedding Planning was beginning to tell, but the cycling was getting easier, and I started to really enjoy it.

Attending a friend's wedding mid-month made our own impending wedding seem so much more real and was a really lovely event, especially seeing the parade of hangovers the next day.

Wedding Invitations

After much dithering about the design, the Wedding invitations went out, and the Fireworks made a re-appearance.

The end of the month saw us in Crete, for a desperately needed holiday. Unfortunately, Murphy's Law of not taking holidays kicked in and I spent most of it in bed with a flu type illness which was so bad I wasn't even well enough to celebrate my birthday.


is in a room with a VIEW  on Twitpic

September saw us take a trip Up North to spend one of our last precious weekends before the wedding with friends and pretty much directly led to the purchase of a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes for the wedding.

I got my make-up done professionally for the first time and came out of the shop significantly lighter in the wallet than I went in, but looking the best I think I've ever looked. What a revelation.

A meeting at the end of the month reminded me how awesomely cool some of the views in Canary Wharf can be, and how lucky I've been to be able to see them.


Rush hour on the Wharf

October started with a mad rush to Bristol to finalise the details for the wedding. I went back to the dress shop to get my dress fitted and fell in love with it all over again.

Slightly squashed sanity



I discovered Instagram and the month flew by in a blur of Work, Emergency Cake and Weddings (the planning of ours and the attending of a Uni Friend of K's), ending in a trip to Bristol for the final dress fitting and wedding hairdo trial, via a Zombie attack.

The amazing Mike and Christine arrived from Houston, Texas to photograph the wedding (and stop me from going batshit mental in the week before the wedding).


she read to him

I managed not to freak out (too much) getting all the bits and pieces together to take to Bristol for the wedding and at 5pm on the 5th of November - Guy Fawkes Night - I married the love of my life in a candle-lit ceremony in Byzantium Restaurant in Bristol surrounded by family and friends.


Later, the fireworks made another appearance as we cut the cake.

Photos by R

The party went long into the night (and for some, into the next morning) and we staggered back to work a few days later a bit giddy with the excitement of it all.


The tail end of the month saw work kick back in big style with the first public release of the software I've been working on and me doing a workshop on Agile UX at the UX People conference, which started off rockily but improved exponentially as the day went on and which inspired me to get out and do more next year.


Party Frock and Wellies


Bucks Fizz and Presents

December began with snow and party frocks and wellies, continued with more snow, another public release of our software at work and slowed down for a quiet family Christmas with the in-laws.

As I write this, my husband is packing the car and we're about to head off to spend the New Year with friends.

It's been an amazing year and these are only a fraction of the memories that I'll be taking forwards into 2011.

Have a fabulous New Year.

See you on the other side.

My Dad

62.365: Dad Dad,

This year, more than ever, you're closer to my mind.

I'm getting married, Dad. To a man I wish you'd been able to meet. I love him so much, and I know that he loves me to, and it's wonderful, and for all that I'm looking forward to being his wife, it's really hard for me to plan the wedding, because every time I think about it, I can't help but feel that there's something—someone—missing.

You're still the first one I want to talk to when anything happens, good or bad, and so much has happened lately that I wish I could have talked to you about.

I can't believe it's been eight years.

I miss you so much.

Jack Pickard

jackp and garethr In November 2005, I went to Manchester for an AccessifyForum meetup.

One of the people I met there was Jack Pickard, and while I don't remember much of what we talked about, I do remember laughing a lot. With, rather than at, him.

Our paths crossed a few times since that weekend, and whenever we met, he was always kind, funny and obviously passionate about accessibility.

He was someone I didn't see very often, but always enjoyed spending time with, and kind of assumed there'd be other chances to do so, so it was with no small amount of shock and sadness that I read on twitter last night that he had suddenly passed away over the weekend.

His passing is a tragedy, not only for the wife, two children and other family he leaves behind, but for the wider accessibility community. There aren't so many of us that we can afford to lose the good ones.

Rest In Peace, Jack. You always were a thoroughly decent chap.

Breaking Bread With Brad

I read blogs for several months before getting up the guts to actually start one, because I didn't think I had anything to say, and anyway, even if I did have something to say, I couldn't have a hope in hell of saying it as well as the people whose blogs I'd been reading. Eventually, during yet another sleepless night, my curiosity about this new thing overcame my shyness and I created a blog, wrote my first post, hit publish, and waited to see what would happen.

What actually happened was not very much, as (what seemed like) the entire blogging community (blogosphere, if you will…) upped and went to Austin, for SXSW 2000.

I don't remember if there was a Break Bread With Brad that year, or the year after, but I know that I'd read about SXSW and Break Bread With Brad every year, and every year I'd be consumed with jealousy at those who were there, and swear, next year would be the year I would go.

It took me seven years to make it there, and for many reasons, it's an experience I will never forget.

The day before I was due to fly to SXSW, I did a full day's work. I had to, I didn't have enough holiday, and there was certainly more than enough work needing done. After work, I went home, started packing, and, because I was so excited about finally getting to go to SXSW, I couldn't sleep. So I stayed up all night and did a quick redesign of my blog, hitting publish on the new design a whole 10 minutes before the taxi showed up to take me to the airport.

At 4am ish.

Fast forward a few hours, and I've made it to Austin, having not slept a wink on the flight. I'm completely wired from excitement but in that twitchy, been awake for more than 24 hours place too.

I should go for a nap when I get to the hotel and check in, but there's things to do and people to see and I'm in AUSTIN, BABY, YEAH!

We head out into the heat and chaos that is Austin in early March (we, being myself, Mike and Christine - two very dear friends who've made the journey from Houston to attend the conference and are serving as my guides to all that is awesome) and eventually, rock up at Break Bread With Brad.

I don't remember much of the detail, but I do remember meeting the man himself, and being greeted like an old friend, even though we'd actually met before. I know I'm not the only person who felt that way after meeting him for the first time.

I bumped into him a few times during the next few days, and each time he was the same - charming, welcoming and FUNNY.

I mean, I knew he had some game in the humour department - I'd read his blog for years, but the reading didn't even begin to compare to the real thing.

The last night of SXSW I found myself at dinner with a whole bunch of people, including Brad. Even better, I was sitting opposite him at one of the table.

I can't even begin to go into the details, mostly because I can't remember them exactly, but what I do remember is being very, very afraid of two things.

1. Of taking a mouthful of food, because it seemed that every time anyone got brave enough to put something in their mouth, someone would say something so profoundly hilarious that you'd either choke on it or spit it out.

2. Of actually peeing myself because I was laughing so hard.

Today, on hearing of Brad's untimely passing, I'm saddened, because I genuinely thought he'd go on, being himself, breaking bread with anyone and everyone, and doing it with every inch of the charm, wit and outrageousness he was known for, for many years to come. I honestly never thought that I'd only get the once shot at breaking bread with Brad.

He was a legend, and he will be missed.

…and if you didn't know him, you should listen to this audio file from Fray Cafe.

My Second Time - Brad Graham - Fray Cafe 9

The 5th of November (2006)

Three years ago, at about this time of night, I was eating dinner in the Banana Leaf restaurant in Clapham Junction. I'd been awake for more than 36 hours, and it's fair to say that I was a little delirious, but it wasn't just from lack of sleep.

22 hours earlier, on the platform at Poplar DLR station, I met someone, and that meeting would change my life.

When I left my house on Saturday morning (the 4th of November) I did so smelling slightly of hair-dye and with no idea what was ahead of me. I knew I was going to a blogmeet in the centre of London and afterwards, I was heading to Poplar to meet up with a friend, to celebrate her birthday. She was spending the day at Earl's Court, at the Top Gear exhibition and show, and the only reason I wasn't there with her was that I wanted to catch up with various friends who would be at the blogmeet.

I took my knitting with me, as I (pretty much) always do, along with a change of clothes for the evening ahead and set off into town.

The blogmeet was great fun, and despite being a little crowded and overwhelming, I was quite energised as I squeezed through the crowds and headed out the door of the pub towards the tube station.

I called my friend to let her know I was on my way and we agreed to meet at Poplar DLR because I didn't know the way to her house. In the event, they were later than expected, because of overcrowding and generalised weekend tube carnage, and so when they turned up, I had parked myself on a bench and was knitting away quite happily (I was knitting a pair of wristwarmers. I still have them).

I looked as the crowd spilled out of the crowded carriage, and once it had cleared a little stood up to find my friend. I spotted (and greeted) her first, followed by her boyfriend (who I'd met previously) and then my attention was caught by a third person.

Something lit up in my brain in that first look and a few seconds later I was introduced to her friend and the "Oh, Hello…!" in my head was far more Grace Brothers than the greeting I verbalised.

A little flustered, I put away my knitting and we ambled back to her house where a few more people were due to arrive, to partake of pizza before a night out on the town.

The conversation flowed, the pizza was good and the night out lasted longer than I expected, and so I accepted an invitation to stay over, rather than have to make my way back to the wilds of North London alone.

Back in Poplar, the four of us: me, my friend, her friend and her boyfriend talked, laughed, reminisced, ate cold leftover pizza and slowly wound down from a great evening out, and eventually, she and her boyfriend made their way upstairs to bed (after lending me a t-shirt and some shorts to sleep in) leaving her friend and I alone downstairs.

I knew by this point that I was attracted to him, but didn't think he was interested in me so I'd pretty much written off the idea of anything happening between us and was just enjoying the conversation. As it goes, I was wrong and I will never forget our first kiss.

We didn't sleep at all that night.

We talked, and kissed, and talked a lot more, and at some point in the wee small hours of the morning, I took an enormous leap of faith and told him some deeply personal stuff. The sort of stuff you wouldn't normally tell someone you met less than 12 hours previously, but it felt important and it felt right.

I don't think I've ever been as scared in my entire life, nor as elated when he didn't run screaming, and in that moment, the course of my life changed in ways I couldn't begin to imagine or appreciate.

We spent the day together, not really wanting that first flush of togetherness to end, even though we'd already made plans to meet up again the next night.

When I eventually got back home to north London I was exhausted and delirious, overwhelmingly happy and at the same time, feeling like a part of me was now missing. I knew then that I'd met the person that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.

I was desperate to tell my flatmate, but when my flatmate opened his door as he heard me come up the stairs and told me that my shower had leaked and dye-filled water and showed me the red streaks down his wall I collapsed on the stairs leading up to my room and cried my eyes out for a full ten minutes as he looked on in confusion and that mixture of panic and discomfort that men get when they're around a crying woman and don't know what to do. It wasn't that it was a disaster, but I was just so emotionally jangled that it was too much and I couldn't cope with it.

I had no idea then that I'd be where I am now.

It hasn't been easy. We've had our ups and downs like any couple, but even though he's currently lying in bed having contracted Swine Flu and we're not out celebrating like we planned, it doesn't matter.

All that matters is that I love this man with every fibre of my being, and he loves me too, and there is nothing better in all the world than that.

Three years is just the beginning, and now I have something that's really worth remembering on the 5th of November.

Eight Years in London

All this Bristol malarkey has taken over my brain to the extent that my eight year anniversary of moving to London passed without thought or remark. So much has happened since I got in that van with my sister on the 28th of September 2001 and we set off for points south (me to London, her to Dover).

I realise that I've now spent almost a quarter of my life in London, and until recently didn't see a life outside of it, but it's funny how the world turns…

If you'd asked me six months ago where I thought I'd be living in eight years time, I'd probably have said London.


Who knows. I certainly don't.

I'm looking forward to finding out though.


62.365: Dad

I remember listening to Radio 4 in the car on the way home from wherever, and sitting in the car outside the house because we were halfway through "I'm Sorry, I Haven't A Clue" or somesuch, and we wanted to hear it til the end.

I remember going to computer fairs and buying bits and pieces and building computers together on the kitchen table.

I remember how every visit to anything had to include a stop for a "cup of tea" which almost always involved cake.

I remember "The Goon Show" re-enacted, voices and all.

I remember sitting on wooden stools in the kitchen until my bum went numb, watching the TV or talking about things.

I remember the flat bottomed handwriting, because he always wrote against a ruler, except near the end, and that shaky, unflat handwriting still breaks my heart.

I remember the stupid Tandy beachball that blew out of my hands on Lossiemouth beach and running into the North Sea after it, afraid I'd get in trouble for losing it. I remember him running after me to stop me from going too deep, and telling me it didn't matter, but that he wished I'd dropped his (unread) copy of the Glasgow Herald before I ran into the water.

I remember having Dr Seuss read to me when I was ill with tonsilitis.

I remember him cooking "proper" fish and chips in batter at home once, when mum went away for a couple of days, and how it felt so rebellious and tasted all the better for it.

I remember him telling me to go live my life and not put everything on hold waiting for him to die.

I remember so much.

I miss him so much.

I can't believe it's been seven years.