Don’t make direct eye contact…

…with 2022. No sudden movements or loud noises, in case we spook it. Shhhhh, tiptoe gently into January, please.

This blog was going to be a reflection of the year, using our family Jar of Happiness as an aide memoire, like I wrote last year. But we’ve been pretty remiss with the jar since the start of the autumn so that’s not possible. Despite the fact that 2021 felt like the longest year ever, this will be the shortest round up and you’ll be pleased to note that most of it is in picture format.



A surprising number of things brought me happiness this year. Pre-summer, when we were still under Covid-house arrest because of my vulnerable wife, lots of this happiness was food based! We had a meal dropped off by a private chef, a local curry chef and a baker have both delivered to our door (dangerous discoveries), our neighbour has kept us stocked up on cake (which she bakes but doesn’t eat herself) and we’ve even had fun doing a few online cook-a-longs.

Date night (homecooked) to formally mark 1 year locked up together, back in March 2021

One of the best things about this year, compared to 2020, has been our ability to actually see friends and family. Sure, it basically has to be outdoors no matter the weather but it has been such a joy to see actual faces and not just through ZoomTeamsMessengerSkypeHangoutsFacetimeWhatsapp. I’ve been hanging out online and studying with the best group of people since September 2020: The PhD Forum. Being able to meet many of them in person this year has been magical. We’ve also been blessed with the opening of The Crate Café in Bosham (check them out here), which has meant we can meet up with local friends and family in an outdoor space with food, coffee, heaters and shelter.

Our dear Maggie also turned 13. Despite scaring us back in March with rapidly declining health, she’s bounced back and made it to another Christmas.

Cake from dog bakery before anyone complains I’m feeding her sugar



Achievements wise, a few not too shabby things have happened this year. I’ve finished the data collection aspect of my PhD so now it’s all in my hands to finish 🤢. I managed to pick up some work at the University, doing GTA (graduate teaching assistant) bits – and I’ve secured some work for 2022 in terms of marking and RA stuff (research assistant).

I built several Lego sets this year, completed a paint by numbers and a diamond art doodah, and learned how to make sushi.

The biggest accomplishment of the year, if you speak to my wife, is probably my creation of The Wonky Bar: our at home pub complete with a cinema-style entertainment space.

We also got a new car – sounds fancy but it was a downsizing situation to save money. We managed to do a lot of the DIY projects we’d been putting off… and then promptly sold our house! It was on the market for 9 days and had 9 viewings before it was snapped up.

My reading challenge this year, set on Goodreads, was 36 books – I was aiming for an average of three a month. Managed to just nip over the line with 40 and there have been some crackers.



This human…

Find someone who looks at you like Helen looks at hot chocolate

To clarify, I don’t mean my wife is ugly just that the ugliest thing to happen this year was in relation to her. Her asthma tried to take her from me back in July/August. An 8 day hospital stay, resuscitation, new meds and treatment plan, and 6 months of recuperation mean she’s still here. But, bloody hell, that was close.

We also said goodbye to Pinch, the last of our cat tribe. She was 14, dinky and incredibly opinionated. The house is definitely a lot quieter without her.

Other ugly things: I turned 40. FORTY?! Although, as it happened mid-pandemic and I couldn’t see anyone, I’ve grandly declared that I’m going to remain 39 until it’s safe to party. I also had a kidney stone removed just days before, so spent my birthday enjoying a series of infections, alarming reactions to medications and a very slow recovery. Multiple courses of antibiotics basically meant the universe gifted me my first ever experience of thrush, just in time for my 40th birthday. Joy.


I can’t end a blog post on the topic of thrush so, instead, there’s lots on the horizon for 2022. I should be turning 40 again and celebrating by popping across to Northern Ireland for a PhD Forum / postponed birthday get-together. I should be getting my other kidney stone removed at some point. We should be moving house. I should be completing the PhD 🤢 and maybe even popping up to Sheffield before I submit. Note the choice of modal verbs… two years into plague living, I think I’ve got the hang of avoiding firm plans.

Entertaining myself (work avoidance?)

This has nowt to do with books, studying, work or libraries. It’s a random one.

We’re sharing the cooking and I’ll readily admit that Helen, my wife, is cooking the most. She and I have been figuring out the shopping orders and meal planning. Connor, the man-child, has been helping out with lunches and has now begun to join in with cooking some of the evening meals.

We’ve been talking, quite openly, about how cooking in different contexts requires versatility and an ability to adapt skills. Connor is an excellent competition and industry chef. If you want something fancy and complicated, he’s your guy. It will take him a long time and he’ll use every tool available in the kitchen, but it’ll be worth it. If you want someone to work as part of a team to deliver multiple covers at the same time for sustained periods, he’s your guy. Since working for Wahaca, and now Zizi’s, his approach to brigade cooking, minimal wastage and preparation is impressive. Both restaurants have an open kitchen and – before the apocalypse started – we loved eating in both and watching him work: controlled, efficient and fast.

But we would also watch him – eating our lovely, discounted food – and comment that he is just not like that at home! When cooking, he’s messy, slow and forgetful. As he’s recently completed a reflective essay for college, we talked about this at length. He and I have decided that context is key and he doesn’t adapt his mentality to suit the situation. For instance, he’ll rush at college because he’s used to working at pace in industry kitchens for fear of the wrath of the Head Chef! At home, he isn’t mindful of equipment use or mess because he’s used to cooking in teams at college and work, the latter with the benefit of a KP. I did point out to him that at Wahaca, the chefs took turns at being the KP and he hated being KP when the other chefs were chaotic… Also, any chefs who were too messy or wasteful during their shift had to do an extra KP stint as punishment! The fact he doesn’t apply that memory to cooking at home is evidence that he finds it hard to adapt his approach and learn from experiences.

Anyway, Helen and Connor cooking across Monday 4th to Wednesday 6th of May led to some disappointing results. I amused myself my writing each of them a Trip-Advisor-style-review… Apparently this is now going to be a new game and we’ll each be reviewing one another’s meals moving forward 😂 I have no doubt I will suffer their revenge!

Date: 04/05/20

Chef: Connor

Dish: chocolate brownies

This is a tried and tested, gluten free recipe by Leon. It uses haricot beans in lieu of flour; whenever Helen and I have cooked the brownies in the past, no one could believe they’re flourless. They’re rich, chocolatey and gooey in all the right places.

Connor’s attempt: chalky, savoury, flat, crumbly, unrecognisable, soul-destroyingly-disappointing. Somehow, he had baked them for 4 hours and they were still undercooked. Indeed, the portion gifted to his best friend was tasted, spat out and unceremoniously binned. Even Connor thought they were dirty. They are currently festering in a tin, uneaten and ignored.

Date: 05/05/20

Chef: Helen

Dish: Pad Thai

A firm favourite, I was excited to have Helen’s famous Pad Thai for dinner. Sigh. There were no nuts, it was super dry, the green beans were very obviously the frozen kind and the beef Quorn pieces were a disaster. It was filling and the cauliflower pakoras served on the side (which I later discovered weren’t gluten free) were delicious. I do hope Helen returns to her older, more reliable recipe.

Date: 06/05/20

Chef: Connor

Dish: tomato soup with mozzarella and fruit toast

The soup was tasty and the chef is handsome… There endeth the positives of this less than mediocre experience.

The soup wasn’t hot enough and all the cheese had coagulated into one rubbery lump of sorrow. Also, I ordered fruit toast (all my gluten free bread is stored in the freezer) but the chef didn’t pay attention and tried to coerce me into eating regular toast. He wasn’t at all professional when I refused. For those of you who don’t know, all gluten free bread is significantly smaller than its normal equivalent, so I requested three slices. The third slice was burnt and I was told the chef would “scrape the black bits off.” I insisted upon a fresh slice so, all-in-all, the chef had used six slices of hard-to-obtain gluten free bread to provide me with the necessary three.

Imagine my horror (given how hungry I was due to the human-error-induced-delay) when I discovered the new slice of toast was, in fact, also burnt! The chef had served it pale side up: an old and nasty trick to mask ineptitude because you are blissfully unaware of the toast’s true nature until you bite into it.

My wife enjoyed her dirty toastie (leftover chilli and cheese) but commented that service was slow. When I complained to the chef, he was unapologetic. We are eating in the same venue tonight – due to limited options – so we hope there’s an improvement.