So. That was the week from Hell. Hell with a capital H. Actual Hell.
Ok, I exaggerate. But it was very, very, very busy. Last Tuesday, I was handed a pile of undergraduate essays to mark. Sixty of them, in fact. I had never marked an essay before but here I was, being trusted with the grades of sixty poor, unsuspecting first-years.
(The fact that they were first-years and that their grades do not count automatically made me feel a lot better).
Normally, we get two weeks to mark essays but due to some discrepancy in the essay-marking timetable and some pretty busy days in my own schedule, it eventually transpired that I had four days to do 30 hours of additional work. Yes - on top of my usual workload (which currently involves running an online study, designing my next experiment, replying to emails and attending meetings where I basically have to persuade people that I'm still worthy of the funding I've been entrusted with), I had 7.5 hours of extra work per day to get through.
And then I got gastroenteritis. Which really helped things.
Needless to say, I am SO ready for this weekend. I am going to go for a nice long run, practice my conference presentation ready for Wednesday (still waiting for the shitting-myself to kick in), read all the magazines and books and eat SO MUCH FOOD. And I shall also probably involve copious amounts of prosecco.
Anyway, today I wanted to share some pictures from our summer holiday last year. In my last post, I told the full, unabridged version of mine and Michele's engagement story (which is so not your typical engagement story - I was reading a wedding magazine last night and chuckled at the two-line summaries of newly-engaged couples' announcements; I think ours would simply have to read "well... it's a long story...").
We got engaged whilst on holiday with my family and whilst it was certainly unusual and complete with all the makings of an excellent, romantic story (dog poo, cows, feminism, dodgy pub carparks, cloudy skies, a dearth of champagne - what else could a girl want??), I wouldn't change it for the world.
It also makes our holiday snaps all the more special to me.
First things first - yes, this is August in the UK. One of the reasons I thought about putting these photos up at this time of year (reason #1 being my terrible ability to keep up with regular posting) was that from the weather, you really can't tell that it isn't February here!
We spent a couple of hours wandering around this famous coastal town, eating the BEST fish and chips from the Magpie chippy (vegetarians, beware - the chips are cooked in beef fat but Lord above, if you're a shit veggie like me, they are GOOD) and climbing up to look at the famous abbey.
Robin Hood Bay
Robin Hood Bay is one end of the famous coast to coast walk that stretches over the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales. As well as the South West Coast Path, this is one of the long-distance walks that I most want to complete in my lifetime. Like all morally questionable people, we parked in the parking spots reserved for church-goers and nipped down for a quick stroll on the beach and through the delightfully pretty town.
Random walks in the country
Hang on, weren't we in Yorkshire? Well, yes, that's what we thought too. The day after Michele and I had our surprise engagement, we all packed into the cars and decided we'd go for a daytrip to the Lake District (which is quite literally my favourite place in the entire world).
Haaaaalfway there though... we received a phone call. From the lady who owned the holiday cottage. Who very politely informed us that we had left all of our belongings behind. We were very confused. Until we realised that Mum had actually booked us in Friday-to-Friday and not Saturday-to-Saturday as we had thought!! Cue U-turns on the A-road and the fastest packing that my family has ever performed in its life.
We just weren't ready to go home though. We were still all high from the news of the impending nuptials and buzzing to get to the Lakes. So we huddled outside the cottage, desperately scrounging the last scraps of wifi before being released into the great, internet-less countryside, searching for a hotel in Cumbria that would have availability for six people plus a dog at last-minute notice in the middle of August. Ha.
In the end, we found somewhere near the nuclear power plant that had space. Woo hoo! But at least it meant we could have two glorious days in the most beautiful place in the world.
Skelwith Bridge and Elterwater
^The photo that inspired our engagement announcement photos. Yep. We basically changed our profile pictures to images of ourselves being slapped by the other, ring full in view. Obviously, it was Michele's idea...
^ Says it all.
One of our favourite walks is the circular loop from Skelwith Bridge (where the amazing and super veggie-friendly cafe, Chesters, is - just check out that hunky salad plate!) to Elterwater. It's such a lovely relaxing stroll beside the river with beautiful views of the Langdale Pikes in the background. We've always had a print of this Heaton Cooper painting of the Pikes in our living room so every time we see them outlined against the sky, it feels like home.
It began raining on this particular walk, so Michele put the hood up of the coat he had borrowed from my Mum. I don't think I have ever seen anyone have quite so much difficulty with a hood before. I could barely take the photo I was laughing so much.
Grasmere gingerbread and the rest
We didn't have much time at all in the Lakes but no matter how short the trip is, there's always time for gingerbread from Sarah Nelson's Grasmere gingerbread shop. I'm not normally fussed about gingerbread but this is something else. Especially with a dollop of the lovely sugary rum butter on top. The last couple of photos are of Lake Windermere.
I especially love the last (you can probably tell from my homepage) - as we were driving along at the end of our trip, the trees suddenly fell away and this view burst into sight. The majestic lake stretching out in front of us and out of sight, the magnificent pikes reduced to soft outlines beneath the endless sky, distant sunlight rolling across the fells. There is something about this place that feels as though it is a part of me more than anything else I could ever put my finger on. I am a foodie, I am a nerd, I am a dog-lover, I am a vegetarian, I am an italophile, I am a feminist. Yet underneath it all, the biggest part of me is in these hills. They have always been the place I am happiest and the place I feel the greatest connection to my childhood and my grandparents who are no longer with us. Now I can add the memories of those first heady days as an engaged woman to the repertoire. And I will be coming back here to find all of those things for the rest of my life.