Hi everyone, I hope you all had a lovely Christmas and this post is a little bit different from my previous posts.
As we are about to close the door on 2023 and start 2024 I did just want to write a post to reflect on this year, which has definitely been quite a rollercoaster ride of highs and lows, as well as shoutout to some amazing people I’ve met along the way.
Going It Alone
Towards the end of 2022, I started going to a few things on my own that previously I wouldn’t have done, usually as I’m not a particularly confident person but after going to the cinema on my own and to Tomb Raider 26 in Derby last year, this year I have done some more things on my own, which I have definitely enjoyed and feel like this is something I want to continue in 2024.
Though I had gone to gigs with other people in the past I had definitely turned down going to them alone because I felt that people would stare or I would feel weird when I’m in there waiting for the show to start, or more often people would come back to me late and the tickets would sell out, so I didn’t even have the option to do this.
After going to the cinema alone though this felt like a natural progression and whilst waiting for the show to start is definitely awkward once the show starts I’ve always enjoyed it and left with no regrets.
Also, in a similar way to my observations of going to the cinema alone, I did notice at gigs the people sneaking in on their own at the last minute so it is definitely not a just me thing.
For 2024 I have already booked two shows to see Girls Aloud and Ne-Yo in Birmingham which I’m very excited to see.
I also went to Chelmsford and made a weekend of going to Derby for Tomb Raider 27. Both times I did some wandering round and exploring both areas which I would also like to do in 2024. I went to Chelmsford to meet my bookish friend for the first time who is on Instagram @Witches Brewbooks and have become very good friends with.
She also introduced me to her book club in 2022 but it has been great meeting people onlne with a similar passion to me for reading and talking about books. I have also joined a second book club my locla bookshop has started which has introduced me to many more authors and genres than I would have done previously.
Tomb Raider 27
I also have mentioned in my original post about how lovely the Tomb Raider community is and I got to chat to some of the people I had only spoken to online for the first time in person. I spent the Friday of that weekend having drinks with @Loneraiderart96 and his husband @d3arjohn_ on Twitter.
Loneraiderart is a fantastically talented artist and I will be purchasing one of his pieces for my notebook for my studies next year (more on that down below) but wanted to feature his Instagram down below and one of his amazing sketches.
I also met Chris from Raidercast in person who has a very big Tomb Raider YouTube channel/podcast and I wrote an article for earlier in the year – his videos are definitely worth a watch, especially when his husband Alfredo plays Tomb Raider though I would recommend starting with Tomb Raider 1 and working through (so far only the first three games have been done).
Honestly though this community is so great and I love seeing everyones work and creations around Tomb Raider and I could carry on about this for a long time. TR28 has been announced for next October whihc I will be attending so definitely can’t wait to see everyone again.
Now we come to the part of the year which definitely was a challenging and dififcult time as we lost a very close family friend, Jean, my Auntie Pauline and also my cousin Judith within the space of three months over the summer.
Whilst all three did have health problems it was still a shock and difficult coming to terms with one only to hear news of the next.
Though I’m not a deeply religious person, I do hope that there is something on the other side and both Jean and Auntie Pauline are now reunited with their husbands and my cousin with my Aunite Una and Nan and Grandad.
This kind of brings me on to my third area and losing those fmaily members whilst devestating also made me want to revisit something I started during Covid then largely sat on for two years, mainly just out of my own confidence and negative self-talk but this made me feel a bit braver.
As a little kid I used to love jumping around dancing to the radio (especially groups like S Club!) but then in my teenage years that went by the wayside as I wanted to be “cool” and also do something “serious”.
In my 20’s I did pick up Zumba again through the video games but mainly did it at home and though in my previous role I did eventually tell people about it (usually as I drunkenly did a Zumba routine at office Christmas parties!) it was only during Covid I did the course to become an instructor.
However I had a lot of fear about dancing in person, sober, in front of people so never actually attended a class in person. During the summer I saw a post for a local Zumba Masterclass which was hosted by my now Zumba mate Vince.
A masterclass is when a guest instructor comes to teach a regular Zumba class (usually as they are doing an instructor training in the area) and this one was with Hender.
After umming and arring I decided to buy a ticket and turned up, I figured I would just do the class and then find out if I liked it (and if I got laughed out the room then maybe I’d know once and for all it wasn’t for me).
Although this plan went better than I thought in an unexpected but the best way. During the class Hender was getting people to come up onto the stage and pointed to me. What I just remember thinking was both WTF and also surprisingly how unnervous I was once I got up there – Vince also got a clip of this which I’ll put down below.
To say the time since then has been crazy is an understatement. I became friends with Vince on Facebook and a month later was going to his classes and practice teaching a song. All I have to say is a massive thank you to Vince as you have been brilliant and helped me to push myself much further in the last 4 months than I had got in 8 years of doing Zumba, and also Hender as this was definitely the moment where I realsied I could do it in person and now wanted to.
You can also check out Vince’s classes on his Facebook page which are at the time of writing in Penn near Wolverhampton and West Bromwich Leisure Centre.
I also attended another masterclass with Morgan Brown who I had a chat with afterwards at a meal too and she was lovely and it was also great to meet some more Zumba instructors.
I also have two masterclasses booked for early next year and I’m definitely looking to pursue Zumba more seriously. One of my first steps is to study the Exercise to Music Level 2, which gives me an excuse to buy a new notebook and stationery!
2024 – The Blog Future
As we are about to go into the New Year, I have had some thoughts around this blog and plans for the future.
Whilst the blog will always revolve around books as the main focus, I have begun to think more about the name I gave this blog back in 2014, that a “novel chapter” can also mean trying new experiences as something that is novel is also a novelty, and many people talk about new chapters in their lives. From this I have decided to start expanding the content to more areas in 2024.
One of the first areas I would love to write more about is Zumba and fitness and what I learn on the level 2 course and if I can help other instructors in the UK so this may be a section that is added to the blog. Maybe wrapped up in this will be some content about my favourite songs from Zumba, routines and so on.
I will also be expanding out the film and show reviews and travel posts as I have enjoyed going to them, both solo and with family and also love sharing my thoughts on them on here (it also helps with the climbdown a few days later when its back to reality 😂).
I am also considering adding a newsletter to the blog where I can share some more info on what I’ve been up to and also book reviews as I’ve been reading them.
Part of organising this blog around my day job since I moved it to WordPress in 2021 is I have to schedule posts weeks and even months in advance – in fact many of the upcoming book reviews are books that I have already read as I write this now. The newsletter would allow me to tell you what I’m reading at the moment and also my immediate thoughts with the more detailed post coming later on.
I’m also going to be taking a deeper dive into some of the books I’ve read and answering questions readers have asked on the internet, just to give my opinion beyond whether a book is entertaining or not which is usually the scope of my reviews.
So this post has been a bit quite a bit longer than expected but has definitely been one which has been inside me for quite a while now. I would love to get some feedback on the blog future plans and also what your plans/goals are for 2024 in the comments down below.
I also hope sharing these experiences will help one person who feels unsure to be a bit braver and try something that they have wanted to do for a while but haven’t felt able to that you 100% can and would love to hear about how it went down below.
All that is left is for me to wish you all a Happy New Year for 2024 and may it bring you and your loved ones peace, health and happiness.