For all you lovely folks who have enjoyed A Year Til I’m Thirty and want to following my continuing exploits, please head over to www.nowiamthirty.journoblog.net and join in with my new blog. Comments, suggestions and lively discussion welcome!

When I finished this blog in February on my 30th birthday, I was both sad and relieved.

I had enjoyed having a place to whitter on about whatever was making me smile or frown or laugh or rant, and I have to admit it gave me a warm fuzzy feeling every time I got a comment from a reader.

But it was also another thing on my ‘to do’ list (not The List, but my day to day list) and after it finished, I found it was nice to just live life for a while without constantly analysing events and anecdotes to see whether they’d make a good post.

However, after almost three months I’ve started itching for a platform where I can once again share my thoughts without having to wait for a commissioning editor to approve my ideas.

And so, I am  very pleased to announce that I am in the process of whipping up a new and improved blog, which I hope to launch in May.

In many ways it will be much broader in scope than this one, covering all of my interests from crafts to writing to current affairs to God, and I’m planning on including photos, guest bloggers, interviews and maybe even a bit of video on occasion – are you as excited as I am yet?!

If you have any suggestions for things you’d like to see, topics of interest or anything else, do drop me a line via Facebook, Twitter or by leaving a comment here.

I look forward to seeing you all on my new blog in just a few weeks!

I’ve thought so many times over the last year about this particular blog post. About what I’d say and how I’d feel. I didn’t realise it would be quite this emotional.

For once in my life, it seems that words aren’t quite adequate. I have so much I want to communicate, and yet I’ve rewritten these first couple of sentences a dozen times already.

I should start by looking at that list I wrote back when I was just 29, to see how many things I’ve managed to tick off. After all, that was kind of the point of this blog.

But you’ll remember, dear Reader, that I take exception to the word ‘should’. And besides, even though I’ve achieved almost all of my original goals, somehow that doesn’t seem quite as important any more.

I’d much rather tell you about the incredible weekend away I’ve just had with my friends and family in Devon.

I’ll always be grateful to the genius who directed me to the Helpful Holidays website (thanks Jax!) where I found the gem that is Sheafhayne Manor.

The old shooting estate of Sir Francis Drake, it was like something out of an Agatha Christie film or a game of Cluedo, with twisty staircases and interconnecting rooms and the most incredible grounds.

There we played board games in front of a roaring log fire, explored the gardens and surrounding fields with our cameras and wellies, took full advantage of the billiards room and generally reveled in the luxury of it all.

We scoffed a ridiculous amount of food in the vast kitchen and dining room thanks to the expert catering skills of my mum and her glamorous assistants, and enjoyed a bar that included everything from wine, beer and champagne to port, mead and quince liqueur.

The pinnacle of the festivities was the 1920s themed cocktail party on Saturday night, and I am still in awe at how amazing everyone looked in their fancy dress – pictures to come on Facebook soon!

As I think about my birthday weekend, I realise that my feelings about the last few days echo my feelings about the last year in general, and indeed my life so far.

The manor was amazing. The food and drink, the games (including the hilarious “how much do you know about Rin” quiz), the presents, the luxury – all were wonderful beyond expectation.

But what made it truly special were the people who shared it with me.

Looking back over the three decades I’ve spent on this earth, there have been a lot of achievements that I’m proud of. I would say that I’ve lived my life to the full, and have no regrets that start with “I wish I had…”

And yet the most important element of my life is the people who I’ve known and loved and been loved by.

So thank you to all of you who have got me to where I am today. I couldn’t have done it without you – I wouldn’t want to have done it without you – and I am so excited about all the years we have to share together in the future.

My knitting project, which started out so well, has been languishing in my beautiful wicker knitting basket for weeks.

It’s not that I’ve lost interest – not at all. In fact, I’d love nothing better than to curl up in front of the TV and finish off the three or four hours of work that are left before I can wear the garment.

But I’ve been putting it off. I didn’t know, you see, whether I could remember how to pick up stitches, something I will need to do if I’m to add the side ribbing.

Luckily, just the other day a colleague of mine happened to mention that she was about to embark on a new project herself.

“I didn’t realise you could knit,” I said. “I don’t suppose you know how to pick up stitches, do you?”

She did of course. I brought in my close-to-finished cardi the next day, and within minutes I was confident I could finish it off.

All I needed to do was ask for help. Simple really, when you think about it.

But asking for help isn’t something that comes easily to me. It’s not that I’m independent or stubborn, I simply don’t think to ask.

I don’t know why but it seems built into my wiring that I should try and do everything myself, and so I frequently keep going until I’ve run myself ragged.

Another example is my birthday party. I hadn’t noticed how stressed I was getting about the whole event until my mum offered to arrange the catering.

Suddenly a weight lifted from my shoulders as I realised that this is what had been worrying me. Finally, I could get excited about everything.

The best thing about asking for help though, is how it blesses the person that ends up helping you.

In recent weeks I’ve babysat for friends, given people lifts, listened to problems and even done a bit of catering myself. And I’ve loved every single moment of it.

Making a difference to other people, particularly people you care about, brings a quiet joy that can’t be explained but has to be experienced.

Perhaps I should finally get someone round to help me put up my bed, hang my mirror and fix my shelves.

If my last year as  20-something were an episode of Countdown, the ‘duh-duh, duh-duh, duh-duh-deduh… dow!’ tune would be starting round about now.

With just 22 days to go until my 30th birthday, I’m rapidly running out of time to finish my original list of things I wanted to achieve before February 9th.

Not that I’m going to put too much pressure on myself – this is, after all, a fun and more importantly voluuntary exercise I’ve been doing, not a legal requirement. Nevertheless, I’d like to get as many ticks in as many boxes as I can by the time the deadline arrives.

Of my original list of 15 goals, I have accomplished 10, including watching the sunrise lift off at the Bristol Balloon Fiesta, getting published in a national newspaper and completing a teaching course.

Of the five remaining goals, one simply isn’t going to happen now – Chessington, Alton Towers and all other theme parks of that nature are closed for the winter, though I could start gathering support for an early spring visit.

However there are still four left that I have a reasonable chance of getting through, if I make a concerted effort to schedule them in over the coming few days.

The jumper shouldn’t be too difficult. I’ve already knitted the majority of it, I just need to sew the pieces together, pick up the edging stitches and knit the remainder of the rib. Simple, but I’ve been putting it off for about a month, for fear of doing it wrong.

Then there’s eating something I grew myself. A little more difficult seeing as how circumstances have changed and I no longer have a garden. But I’m not one to let obstacles get the better of me, so later today I will pop to the shops in my lunch break to buy cottonwool and a packet of cress seeds. I’ve always loved egg mayo and cress sandwiches!

Next there’s the autobiography. I’ve struggled to find one I genuinely want to read, even at the central library where they inconveniently group all biographies by subject matter rather than under a separate ‘biography’ section. However, I did finally stumble across an unlikely volume that caught my fancy – David Hasselhoff’s Making Waves! Well, I did grow up on Knightrider and Baywatch. I’ll go educational on the next one.

And finally my great grandfather’s letters, which are crying out to be translated from their original German. I have to say that after an enthusiastic start to this exercise, I kind of lost momentum, though I do have an exceptionally kind offer from a long lost school friend who is living in Germany to at least make a start on some of them. So what I need to do is set aside a morning to go to the library and use the scanner to make electronic copies to send her.

Of course, I’ve also got a new job to do, a house to keep, friends to see and a birthday weekend to organise. But then, there’s always something to do, isn’t there?

The trick is to carve out those bits of time where you can achieve the goals that mean something, that are just for you, otherwise you can end up just surviving rather than really living.

Friday was a very strange day for me. I woke up feeling nervous and excited in equal measure: it was my last day at the Western Mail, my workday home for the last four and a half years.

At 5.30pm I would no longer be a senior features correspondent, and would have to say goodbye to the only grown up job I’ve ever had.

On getting up, I spent a few minutes agonising over whether this auspicious occasion deserved a special outfit, before defering to my comfort and going with snow-conscious layers.

Then, having negotiated the icy roads to the station, I felt a twinge of emotion as I surveyed the train station where I’ve spent countless mornings reading the Metro and drinking coffee.

Sentimentality bowed to realism however, as I bought my last train ticket – what a relief to be able to swap an expensive 1 ½ hour commute for a 15 minute walk to the office!

As I arrived at 6 Park Street, my boss greeted my arrival with a cry of ‘Ooh, last day!’ and I giggled nervously, unsure how to react to the weird form of celebrity which is bestowed on anyone brave enough to hand in their notice.

Then I began the laborious process of clearing the random mounds of magazines, press releases, make up and catalogues that inhabit my desk, something I really should have done a lot sooner.

All through the day, the tiniest things took on new significance – washing my coffee cup out for the last time, proofing my last page, sending my last email.

It was the end of so many habits and rituals and comforting familiarities, and my writer brain wanted to absorb them all for posterity.

But mostly what I wanted to remember was the people, and Friday provided plenty of opportunity for that too.

There was lunch with the girls, all pizza and gossip, and then drinks in the evening where I didn’t have to open my wallet once.

Several people came over during the afternoon to give me a hug or a handshake and a “good luck” and at the end of the day I blushed my way through a lovely farewell speech and the opening of my extremely thoughtfully chosen presents (a knitting needle bag and a sewing case, which, as you can imagine, I am thrilled with!)

As I sat on the train home after my farewell drinks, I was a jumble of conflicting emotions.

There was gratitude towards those whose friendship I have enjoyed and those who have taught and encouraged me over the years, and there was a good kind of pride too, as I handed over the supplement I’ve worked hard to make a success.

Of course there was sadness, because I’ve got to know a lot of really good people over the last four and a half years and I will miss them, but there was also a strange sense that this wouldn’t be the last I saw of Media Wales, and that somehow, someday, I’d be back again.

And then of course there was excitement, because I knew that on Monday – today – I would start a whole new life full of adventures.

Perhaps, after all, I should have called this blog post ‘beginnings’.

Expectations, I usually find, lead to disappointment. Sorry, that sounds a bit negative for the first post of a new year doesn’t it?

I don’t mean it to be so. It’s just that this last few weeks has taught me a lot about them.

For example, I had high expectations of Christmas, particularly the six course Christmas Eve meal which, as you know, I’d been planning for weeks.

No matter how much I told myself not to get too excited, that it could all go horribly wrong and that I mustn’t let that get to me if it did, I still found myself imagining just how great it would all be.

Then two things happened.

On Monday 22nd, it started to snow… and snow… and snow. My car died, and I couldn’t get to work. Worse, my mother was snowed in, and didn’t think she’d be able to make it to Bristol.

On Tuesday 23rd, I started to cough… and yes, cough… and cough. By Wednesday, the day before my meal, the day I had set aside for major food prep, I felt like death warmed up.

Both of which served to convince me, despite fervent prayer, that Christmas was at best going to be delayed by a few days, if not cancelled altogether.

In the end, as it happened, the snow cleared enough by the Thursday to allow my mum to travel safely to me, and there were no problems with my sister and her boyfriend’s train from London.

Miraculously, given how awful I felt on Wednesday, I managed to get through both Christmas Eve and Day not only in one piece, but actually with a great deal of enjoyment.

My much-planned meal was fantastic (if I do say so myself!), we ate our fill but didn’t overdo it, ditto with the wine, the presents were all well received and we even got to bed on time, ensuring full enjoyment of our turkey lunch the following day.

Which is why I’m grateful that we had that couple of days of expectation-lowering stress, as we anticipated the worst for the weather and my health.

Now, as I anticipate a new year and all the changes that it has in store for me, I am once again trying to keep my expectations at a reasonable level.

But to tell you the truth, it isn’t easy – I’m just so excited to begin!

When something interesting is happening in my life, I generally like to talk about it. For me, it’s all part of the build up, and I get almost as much pleasure from discussing things as I do from actually doing them.

So you can appreciate then, dear Reader, how hard it’s been for me these last few weeks to have had to keep a secret from you.

But now finally the cat is out of the bag and I can tell you all about the massive changes that are afoot in my life.

It all started when I realised that my time at the Western Mail was drawing to a close. I was feeling restless, unfulfilled and ready for the next step.

But what exactly was that next step? Journalism jobs aren’t exactly thick on the ground and anyway, was that really what I wanted to do?

After all, my deepest desire was never to be a journalist, but to write novels. Wasn’t it time I got started on that dream?

Also, I wanted to do something more worthwhile. Writing about what shoes are in trend and which anti-aging moisturiser works best can be fun – but it doesn’t exactly change lives.

I won’t take you through the long and arduous journey I’ve been on since making the decision to have a career overhaul, but the upshot is this:

On Friday January 8th, I will bid farewell to the Western Mail after 4 ½ years of working first as a trainee reporter, then senior reporter and then senior features correspondent and editor of WM.

On Monday 11th January I will travel to London for a training day with the Vodafone Foundation’s World of Difference programme. Yes, I’m one of 500 lucky applicants to have won a grant aimed at allowing people to work for a charity of their choice for two months. Certainly ticks the ‘worthwhile’ box, doesn’t it?

On Tuesday 12th January I will start my placement with Aid International, a fabulous charity run by my church, with whom I have signed up to do a trip to Zambia next summer (if you want to help me meet my £3,000 fund-raising goal you can do so here).

Then, on Friday 15th January I start another new job, which bears the impressive sounding title of ‘arts lecturer’ at Eastwood Park Prison. In actual fact, I will be teaching a variety of crafts to the juvenile girls there, assuming I get security clearance for any of the materials I want to use!

Finally, with an extra 10 hours a week freed up by not having to commute to Cardiff any more, I have every intention of getting to work on that novel I’ve dreamed of writing since I could hold a pen.

So there we have it: my new life in summary. It’s going to be exciting and scary and challenging and all sorts of other things… and I absolutely cannot wait.

I’m starting to wonder whether TV is my version of kryptonite – the one thing that can drain me of all powers and leave me slumped on the sofa doing very little for hours at a time.

This week I decided to fast TV, and even three and a bit days later, the effects have been astounding.

I’ll set aside the obvious spiritual benefits of sacrificing something you enjoy for God for a time, which are so numerous I would have to write a whole book on them (until I do, check out The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting by Mahesh Chavda).

But even for the non-Christian, cutting out any and all interaction with that great big box in the corner of your living room is quite a revelation.

I wouldn’t have thought I was a particularly dedicated couch potato – I’m far too busy a person to waste hours sampling the delights of the small screen.

I certainly don’t have a soap opera addiction, nor am I endlessly glued to the antics of various ‘celebrities’ in their jungles, or wannabe celebrities in their Big Brother house, and I couldn’t care less who wins X Factor.

OK, so I like to have something on while I knit (the jumper’s coming on nicely by the way) and I’m partial to a bit of Scrubs or a good film when I want to relax.

But then, as I’ve always argued, I need the down time. I can’t be on the go every minute of the day, surely?

True. However, taking time out from TV has broken through a couple of little lies I’ve always believed.

Firstly, watching TV isn’t actually that relaxing. If you’re stressed because, for example, you have lots on your plate, the most relaxing thing you can do is start to work through some of those chores, not stick your fingers in your ears and go “la, la, la” while you escape into a fantasy world.

Second, there are way more interesting things to do than watch TV, which will suddenly occur to you when you have a couple of hours to fill which you’d otherwise use to plough through those back issues of CSI you recorded on your Freeview box.

Since Monday I’ve tackle a bunch of jobs I’ve been putting off (everything from admin to calling everyone to sort out my 30th birthday party), I’ve got into a new book, listened to a downloaded radio preach I’ve had since August, read a bunch of cool new blogs, and even cooked a bit more adventurously.

I’ve also, as intended, spent more time with God, reading the bible, praying and also making a start on the numerous Christian books I’ve had on my shelf for ages that haven’t yet been touched (first up, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller).

It’s been an awesome few days, in which I’ve not only felt closer to God and more effective in my praying, I’ve also felt more at peace in myself, and more fulfilled and satisfied with my life.

So when the TV does come back on, I’m determined that it will be for very limited bursts and very specifically chosen shows.

And if I feel myself getting sucked back into coach potato living, that TV licence is getting canceled.

I’m starting to wonder whether TV is my version of kryptonite – the one thing that can drain me of all powers and leave me slumped on the sofa doing very little for hours at a time.

This week I decided to fast TV, and even three and a bit days later, the effects have been astounding.

I’ll set aside the obvious spiritual benefits of sacrificing something you enjoy for God for a time, which are so numerous I would have to write a whole book on them (until I do, check out The Hidden Power of Prayer and Fasting by Mahesh Chavda).

But even for the non-Christian, cutting out any and all interaction with that great big box in the corner of your living room is quite a revelation.

I wouldn’t have thought I was a particularly dedicated couch potato – I’m far too busy a person to waste hours sampling the delights of the small screen.

I certainly don’t have a soap opera addiction, nor am I endlessly glued to the antics of various ‘celebrities’ in their jungles, or wannabe celebrities in their Big Brother house, and I couldn’t care less who wins X Factor.

OK, so I like to have something on while I knit (the jumper’s coming on nicely by the way) and I’m partial to a bit of Scrubs or a good film when I want to relax.

But then, as I’ve always argued, I need the down time. I can’t be on the go every minute of the day, surely?

True. However, taking time out from TV has broken through a couple of little lies I’ve always believed.

Firstly, watching TV isn’t actually that relaxing. If you’re stressed because, for example, you have lots on your plate, the most relaxing thing you can do is start to work through some of those chores, not stick your fingers in your ears and go “la, la, la” while you escape into a fantasy world.

Second, there are way more interesting things to do than watch TV, which will suddenly occur to you when you have a couple of hours to fill which you’d otherwise use to plough through those back issues of CSI you recorded on your Freeview box.

Since Monday I’ve tackle a bunch of jobs I’ve been putting off (everything from admin to calling everyone to sort out my 30th birthday party), I’ve got into a new book, listened to a downloaded radio preach I’ve had since August, read a bunch of cool new blogs, and even cooked a bit more adventurously.

I’ve also, as intended, spent more time with God, reading the bible, praying and also making a start on the numerous Christian books I’ve had on my shelf for ages that haven’t yet been touched (first up, The Busy Woman’s Guide to Prayer by Cheri Fuller).

It’s been an awesome few days, in which I’ve not only felt closer to God and more effective in my praying, I’ve also felt more at peace in myself, and more fulfilled and satisfied with my life.

So when the TV does come back on, I’m determined that it will be for very limited bursts and very specifically chosen shows.

And if I feel myself getting sucked back into coach potato living, that TV licence is getting canceled.

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