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.

The bestest doggo

This post was written in 2021. Maggie gifted us another year of cuddles, walks and love before we had to say goodbye (19/01/2022).


Our eldest canine child, Maggie, is 13 on the 11th May. A beautiful English Springer Spaniel. She is seriously slowing down: her arthritis is getting to her, her eyesight is failing and she frequently forgets why she’s entered a room. A couple of recent incidents – where she’s clearly been in acute pain – have us worried that our time together is rapidly running out. She didn’t want to stand up this weekend so we had another trip to the vets who adjusted her pain meds. We’re actually grateful for the year+ stuck at home because it has meant uninterrupted time with her.

(You can’t see on a post blog but there was an hour’s break here so I could snuggle her and cry. Pets really do break your heart).

Anyway, I don’t want to write Maggie a eulogy after she’s gone; I’d much rather write her very own acknowledgements page whilst she’s still here and I can read it to her.

We got Maggie back in 2008. Helen (my wife) had been through a major health scare, serious surgery and subsequent emergency surgeries to stem internal bleeding. Afterwards, we got the puppy we had always said we’d have one day because we realised we didn’t want to put things off when tomorrow can be so uncertain. Maggie is our yay-Helen-didn’t-die dog. When we arrived to pick up 8 week old Maggie, we realised it was not a good breeder – the conditions weren’t awful but they weren’t great either. And the pups had been docked. We couldn’t leave her there because we were immediately in love.

Helen wanted to call her Cat – she thought it would be hilarious on dog walks. It was vetoed. She also suggested She-Ra, Mumm-Ra and Moog. All also vetoed. Although I conceded and allowed Moog as her middle name: Maggie Moog. It’s the origin of her nickname, Maggie Moo Moo, which was inevitably shortened to Moo or MooMoos.


Thank you, Maggie, for giving us a much better routine. We were both prone to working 16+ hours a day in the office / at school; once you were part of our family, one of us would be sure to get back early to be with you. I mean, the work continued but at least we were doing it at home.

Thank you not only for the interesting walks but also for the holidays. I know Helen likes to travel abroad but I’m happiest when you’re with us on a holiday… and that means exploring the UK. We’ve stayed in some lovely spots and visited loads of beaches. You haven’t once caught a bird but that hasn’t stopped you trying.

Thank you for being my insomnia buddy. I think my night time shenanigans are probably why you’re so good at your daytime naps. It doesn’t matter whether I’m powering through the night for a deadline, up as a slave to my bladder or just having an existential crisis… you’re there with a tail wag and a snuggle.

Thank you for being such an empathetic soul. You can’t bear it if we’re ill, if we’re sad, if we’re bickering or even if we’re just retelling tales from work with Oscar-worthy performances. You’re straight in there with a nose boop and a cuddle to make it all better. For five years, we tried to have a family. You saw us through all of those painful, failed attempts, the constant stress and the miscarriage that took me years to get over. I’m no good at speaking about how I feel but it has always been easy to speak to you. You’re the best listener, even though you always express your opinion very clearly with a trademark snort.

Thank you for being an absolute trooper. I’ve lost count of the surgeries you’ve had: neutered, cut paw (not your fault), knee reconstruction (not your fault), bladder operation (not your fault) and stitches for a barbed wire incident (that one was probably your fault). You’ve been the goodest doggo with all of those recoveries, even though you’ve wanted to spring and bounce because it’s in your nature. I’m pretty sure our insurance company isn’t your biggest fan. The bladder operation was scary: we were told it was cancer and you might not make it through the operation if the vet decided it was too much to cut away. It had all happened so fast and I was away for work. I insisted that Helen brought you home – the surgery was due to be the next day – so I could drive back from Sheffield (250 miles ish) to spend that night with you in case it was our last. Not a chance that I would miss a snuggle and a goodbye. Turned out not to be cancer and we’ve had many more years with you since.

Thank you for the many, many, many wonderful memories. Your willingness to dress in clothes and pose for a photograph. Your love of our (now diminished) cat clan. Your apathy towards poor Edith who we thought would be good company for you in your elder years (hahahahaha). Your sweet tooth*, which we discovered after you stole a dozen donuts when we were asleep and had to deal with a hyper-sugar-rush version of an already springy Springer for 48 hours.

Thank you for being the absolute best girl. You’ve done so much for us.


* we do not enable her sweet tooth but it doesn’t stop her hopelessly begging if we have cake.