A Love Letter to… 2018

a love letter to...


Dear 2018

I’ve been doing this letter for a few years now, and if nothing else, it’s a good excuse to actually pull my finger out and blog. I probably write this post in the same frame of mind every year, with the start of a brand new year approaching, I feel motivated to give myself a kick up the bum and actually provide this blog with some content. We’ll see how long that lasts!

I’ve been thinking about this past 12 months a lot, and it’s been a pretty OK year. I’ve done lots of fun things, and nothing disastrous has happened (no broken limbs this year), but equally, nothing truly momentous has happened. I feel as though I’ve been resting on my laurels a bit, in all honesty; maybe kind of waiting for something to happen, but in my 36 years on the planet, if I’ve learnt nothing else (I’ve actually learnt a lot of things), I at least know that good things don’t actually come to those who wait, they come to those who go out and make them happen. So that’s going to be my mantra for the year, especially when it comes to writing. I’m going to try and make something happen in 2019!

2018 was the year I went vegan. As I write this, I’ve been vegan for a whole 364 days, as I took part in Veganuary at the beginning of the year. I have written a little bit about it before, and as we go forward, I’m hoping to actually blog some of the amazing food that I eat, both at home and out and about.

I’ve spent another year, on and off, going along to Mark Kermode’s regular monthly event at the BFI Southbank – this has been my third year, and though I haven’t made it to as many as in the past, I’ve been lucky enough to see the likes of Michael Caine, Hugh Grant, Mike Leigh, Josie Lawrence, Steve McQueen and Rami Malek, amongst others.

I’ve been abroad twice, (which is kind of a big deal for me, someone who doesn’t travel that much) to two countries that I have never visited before. The first was a press trip for the magazine I work for, to a beautiful hotel in the Austrian Alps, and then over Christmas, my friend Hannah and I went to Portugal, for an all-inclusive five days in the sun. It certainly made for a different kind of Christmas, and I’m missing the blue skies already!

I went to a Dodge Brothers concert, to a J.R.R. Tolkien exhibition in Oxford, went to Scaresville (a truly epic haunted village Halloween event), visited Audley End, I went to YALC, I had all my hair cut off (and regretted it). I went to see The West Wing Weekly being recorded as the show went on tour, at Union Chapel, and absolutely loved every single minute of it. If I had to pick a highlight of the year, that might be it. I survived the Beast from the East and all the annoying snow it brought, and the heatwave of 2018, and all the annoying high temperatures it brought (never happy, except in spring and autumn).

I gained a new baby niece, taking the nibling total to 456 (or something like that). I got to spend time with my friends and family, though never as much as I would like. I started my driving lessons again, in the hope that one day soon I’ll be able to take and pass a test, and be able to spend more time with the people I love, due to not having to rely on stupid public transport.

I worried, worried, and worried some more about the state of the world, and despaired at the actions of the people who are supposed to know what they are doing. We’re now staring down the barrel of the truly godawful prospect of Brexit in March, and who knows what’s going to happen then? I’ve realised that all I can really do is concentrate on me and what I can do, both for myself, and for those who are worse off than me, and hope that things don’t turn out as badly as we’re all expecting them.

What a cheery way to end this look back at the year! Farewell 2018, thanks for the memories.

A Love Letter to… is an ongoing series (that I tend to update once a year.)

37 Before 37

37 Before 37

Now that I’ve turned 36, it’s time for me to unveil my next birthday list. In case you don’t know, each year, just after my birthday, I make a list of things I want to achieve by the time my next birthday rolls around. I’m notoriously bad at it, I rarely tick more than a few things off each list, but I persist anyway because I really like making the lists, and by this point, the list is kind of central to my blog!

Unbelievably, 37 Before 37 is my tenth list! As I mentioned last year, each year gets harder and harder, as I have to think of one new thing for the list. I tend to look around the internet for inspiration, but the problem there is that many people make grand lists of big life events that they want to achieve, and my lists aren’t about marriage, houses, babies, etc. They are about the little things that make life a little more interesting!

So here’s this year’s list. Some are a bit silly (e.g. get drunk – on the list because I don’t really drink any more but it’s fun to sometimes have too much!), but I’m going to try hard again to get them done!

  • Tick off three incomplete items from previous lists
  • Watch ten films based on Shakespeare plays
  • Watch ten animated non-Disney films
  • Read all the Poirot books
  • Finish three cross-stitches
  • Knit a blanket
  • Go to Paris
  • Do something amazing for Hannah’s 30th birthday
  • Re-read Lord of the Rings
  • Buy a car
  • Set up a home writing space
  • Get a National Trust or English Heritage membership
  • Have a day out with my sisters
  • Watch 52 films by women (written or directed)
  • Go to ten new-to-me vegan restaurants
  • Have watched ten foreign-language films from this list
  • Bake eight cakes
  • Complete an online screenwriting course
  • Go to the theatre
  • Learn to play my ukulele
  • Have a regular yoga practice
  • Go on five weekends away
  • Start an IGTV channel
  • Establish and stick to a morning skincare routine
  • Feature five Essex Loves interviews
  • Enter a writing competition
  • Earn money from my blog
  • Photograph fifty new blue plaques
  • Re-design my blog
  • Finish watching E.R. and Buffy the Vampire Slayer
  • Listen to 12 audiobooks
  • Get drunk
  • Use 12 new vegan/cruelty-free items
  • Go to a live recording of a podcast
  • Rewatch The West Wing
  • Go to a boot sale
  • Watch all previously unwatched Steven Spielberg-directed films

By the way, if you’re wondering how I got on with 36 Before 36. a round up post is on its way, but time was ticking away and I thought I’d better get 37 Before 37 up and running so I could make a start!

Birthday Club 2019

I’ve decided to try again with a Birthday Club – it worked really well a couple of years ago, but then I dropped the ball on it last year, despite encouraging people to sign up! So I’m going to try again…


The rules are simple. Send me an email with the details below, and I’ll pair you up with another person. You can then buy a gift, or a small selection of gifts, up to a value of £10-£12, before postage, and send it off in time for their birthday. They’ll then do the same for you!

Email me – itydarling@gmail.com – with the following information:

  • Name
  • Postal address
  • Date of birthday
  • Age (if you want to share!)
  • Likes and dislikes, including allergies

Closing date for entries is 2nd December, and I’ll endeavour to get people paired off by 9th December, so that anyone paired with an early January birthday will have plenty of time. I’ll also try and send a reminder email a week or so before your partner’s birthday, in case you’re as unorganised as me!

On Iceland, orangutans, and palm oil


Over the past few days, you’ve probably seen the Christmas advert that Iceland, a UK supermarket, were planning to show on television. The advert has been deemed to be ‘directed towards a political end’ by the broadcast code for advertising practice, and Iceland have therefore been prevented from showing it on television, but the full advert has been doing the rounds on social media. It’s actually a short film by Greenpeace that highlights the devastation of the palm oil industry on orangutans and their rain forest homes.

People are up in arms, and why wouldn’t they be? Not only is the banning of the advert worrying, but it has stirred up a lot of emotions about orangutans – they are beautiful creatures, (ones that already feel tragic because of their droopy faces) and their homes are being razed the ground for us. Anything that can make people think about the human impact on the world is a good thing; if you do any amount of reading on the subject of the environment, you’ll know that we’re very nearly at a point of no return when it comes to the resources that we use.

My main issue as I watch my newsfeeds clog up with petitions and sad-face emojis, is that the vast majority of the people who are upset are committed meat-eaters. I’ve made a promise never to be a preachy vegan, and I think that, for the most part, I’ve stuck to that in the ten and a half months since I swore off animal products. I’m not perfect, and there are plenty of things that I know I can still do to reduce my own impact on the world.

But as your friendly neighbourhood vegan, I’m here to say that if you’ve watched this Iceland advert and felt truly worried about what we, as a species, are doing to this planet, you may want to take a look at some of the statistics about animal agriculture. Greenhouse gases, water consumption, pollution – all things on which you can make an impact by going vegan, or at least by reducing your meat consumption. Take a look at the Veganuary website for a detailed look at some of the benefits of changing your diet. If your conscience has been pricked by an animated short film, take this chance to find out more about how your lifestyle can make a difference.

As a non-preachy vegan, I’m not even going to get into the discussion of why the plight of a baby orangutan elicits sympathy in a way that a baby cow doesn’t. Again, there’s a whole wealth of information at your fingertips if you’re interested in learning more.

It’s interesting when something I spend a lot of time thinking about, both on a personal and professional level, hits the headlines, and I see what I know is true: as a society, we’re all worried about the future, and for the most part, we all love animals. And I’m sure that as time goes on, more and more people will connect their own actions and choices with the future of the planet. It can be daunting, especially as we know that real change can only come via the people in charge. But I truly believe that my own choices are important.