Note: this was mainly written before the COVID-19 outbreak escalated in Europe... I am looking back at it now with nostalgia. How different March's update will be.

This month I have been...

Jesus Christ, it feels like I haven't done anything except work. It turns out that part-time PhDs are a lie. I know that some people routinely work 12+ hours a day, but I for one lack their ambition and, quite frankly, their masochism. I split my time 50/50 between my job at PHE and my PhD nowadays. There are many wonderful things about this arrangement. I enjoy the contrast between the varied and collaborative workload at PHE, compared to the total control (and responsibility) for my singularly-focused PhD research. The two roles complement each other perfectly. However. The amount of work leaves a lot to be desired. Today for instance, I worked 13 hours, and I have 12 hours of work ahead of me tomorrow. Tomorrow is Saturday. I am dying.

Ok, so it hasn't been all bad. I went to Ockenden Manor with my dear friends Tamsyn (again!) and Becky for a wonderful one-night spa break. Despite my period putting up a good fight, I had a brilliant time. We arrived on the day that Storm Ciara was huffing and puffing across the country, which made the outdoor jacuzzi an interesting experience. Two whole days passed by, in which we did nothing but eat, drink lots and lots of wine, swim, lounge, read. Absolutely marvellous. High points Taking silly photos outside while the storm raged around us / Discovering that the nearby Waitrose had a wine bar while we waited for our spa time to start / Getting back in the pool and remembering what it feels like to fly / Smuggling a week's worth of snacks into our room / Just stopping and breathing for once! Low points Leaving??

To give up alcohol and post-6pm carbs/desserts for Lent. Oh my goodness I am so miserable.

GAIL's chocolate chip cookies on an almost daily basis. They are hands down the best cookies I've ever tried. And I know - I went on a pilgrimage around New York hunting for the best cookies, and I can confirm that they are in fact Londoners. A branch has just opened around the corner from my office so it's probably time to kiss what's left of my bank account and my waistline goodbye.

Catching Up.
As well as the spa weekend, I had some wonderful time with friends. There was a long and boozy Franco Manca meal with Nathaniel and Tamsyn, a laughter-filled afternoon with fellow inhibition training PhD students Jo and Ray, and I treated my "girlfriend" Caroline to a home cooked Valentine's meal complete with cheese fondue, cardamom chocolate mousse (which, admittedly, was dense almost to the point of being inedible), flowers and champagne. And my wonderful writing group ladies, as always.

If Michele and I happen to have a day off at the same time (radical concept, I know), we go for a walk in London. We've been working our way through the Capital Ring, and February saw us complete the stretch from Crystal Palace to Wimbledon Park. I really enjoy these little adventures - just getting out of the house and away from laptops (and datasets, omg I hate data so much at the moment) feels so freeing.

I am so obsessed with the Red Handed podcast. I basically think Hannah and Suruthi are my best friends. I don't know what I'm going to do when I've caught up with the current episodes and can no longer listen to three episodes a day and pretend that it's fine that I'm basically socially isolating myself to get all my work done (moan moan moan). For the first half of February, I listened to the same albums as last month (High As Hope, Dopamine, Get Lifted and H.I.T.H) and then the second half saw some 90s club anthems sneak in as I sought desperately for brain fuel to keep me going with work (moan moan moan moan moan).

Not as many books as I'd hoped - I read Anne Frank's diary which was, of course, devastating. I also read Difficult Women by Roxane Gay, a collection of short stories, some of which I loved, others less so (but then isn't that the point of a collection called "Difficult Women"? I shouldn't love and identify with all of the characters. Women are allowed to be complex and unlovable - this is surely the point!), and The Best American Essays of 2019, a New York purchase. Will be noting this article on how to read more for the coming months.