Wednesday 13 March 2013

What I Did On My Holidays - Trip to St Lucia

"Pre-wedding holiday?" I can hear you ask. "Are you crazy?"

Not crazy at all - well, only in the 'desperate for sunshine' sense. We have spent the last year using all our holiday time staying at home, for wedding planning, the Olympics and Christmas - a year in which the British summer just decided not to bother and it rained on us for what seemed like 360 days out of the 366. Sometime in November, when we finally concluded that any chance of good weather was over for the year, we thought a holiday sometime in February would be nice. Somewhere with a chance of blue skies and sunshine.

So - the Caribbean. We picked St Lucia simply because it sounded more 'nature-based' than some of the others - rainforest trails, volcano springs and the two Pitons (large peaks, formed like volcanoes but the molten rock solidifies underground before it has a chance to erupt). We booked the Sugar Beach Resort, which is nestled next to the beach between the two Pitons.

To say that we were ready for a holiday was an understatement. By the time the plane touched down on the island we were bouncing with excitement, mainly at the idea of heat and sunshine - and luckily there would prove to be plenty of both.

Apart from climbing Gros Piton (ok, yes that was crazy - it was like walking up and down stairs for four hours), we didn't really do a lot - sleeping, swimming and reading was enough to keep us happy this time.

Our room, with garden and patio
Beach overlooking Gros Piton
Reading by the pool
Then retiring to the mini plunge pool in our garden!
Surveying the view from our patio balcony
View from the top of Gros Piton
Halfway up Gros Piton, looking at Petit Piton

Sulphur Springs - preparing to bathe in volcanic mud

Reading my AOW Book Swap book on the beach - happy days
View of the Caribbean Sea from our balcony - mmm!
Always something lovely about having breakfast outside!
 While we really liked the island (mostly for the February sunshine it should be said), if we went back to the Caribbean we would probably choose a different island or at least look for a different hotel. The Sugar Beach is in a fairly isolated, if beautiful, spot and there was no easy way of venturing out on our own which, if we hadn't been there to simply relax, would have created difficulties.

We had a few problems with service and room facilities - for example, the 'butler' was obsessed with making dinner reservations (and failed to organise the scuba-diving we wanted to do) and the bedside lamps seemed to fuse with amazing regularity for the second half of the week. The worst problem was coming back to the room one afternoon to find that housekeeping had left all the doors and gates of our room open while they went to fetch fridge supplies. Anyone could have walked in! All in all, it made us quite glad we weren't on our honeymoon - when somewhere markets itself as being sheer perfection, it's easier to notice when things go wrong.

However, there was sunshine, heat and a much-needed opportunity to spend lots of time together - and with two months to go, that can't be a bad thing!

Tuesday 12 March 2013

Soundtrack of a Journey into Marriage: Whoosh

This blog was originally intended to mostly be a diary of the countdown to us getting married, so with all the doom and gloom of job-hunting and house-hunting of late, maybe it's time to provide some wedding cheer.

This time in two months (the time is flying past, hence the 'whoosh' in the title) we will be married and preparing to head down to Devon for a few days of peace, quiet and pub lunches. And nothing says "Wedding Alert" like that moment when the invitations land on doormats up and down the country.

We took quite a long time to decide on our invitations, as we had wanted to do them ourselves but really wanted something fairly artistic and, as you will see, our drawing skills are not quite up to doing anything which is leaving the house.

We stumbled across Momental Designs which is run by American artist Kristy Rice, and were hooked by the beautiful handpainted designs. I had a phone call with Kristy to talk about process and design, and two weeks later we were sent our first prototype. It was amazing to see our design ideas turned into reality.

Some months later, the design and production work was completed and a week or so after that, they arrived (along with a couple of hefty postage and customs bills, which we hadn't been expecting - one drawback of using an American company).

We added some cream ribbon and luggage tags embossed with silver cherry blossom, printed address labels and they were ready to go.

The final design

My design for the reception card - just as well someone else did the final design!
Luggage tag production line
Cherry blossom - stamp plus silver embossing powder
Ready to go into their envelopes!

We rushed down to the Post Office the day we went on holiday - it was an oddly nervous moment handing them all over and hoping they would all arrive safely.

It's been really exciting receiving the first responses and hearing everyone else's positive opinions about something we put so much emotion into. Now, if everyone else could send their RSVPs back please...

Friday 8 March 2013

It's International Women's Day...

... which in Russia and many other countries is a public holiday and should, in my opinion be a feast day here too. As well as providing me with fond memories of picnics in snowy Yaroslavl woods with bunches of flowers, IWD serves as a reminder that the world is better off for having smart, educated women playing a full part in society with the choice to do so.

And because there are so many of them out there (how could there ever be too many?) and because I've been all caught up in job stuff and weddings, I'm directing you to Any Other Woman where everyone is writing about what it means to be a woman.

Happy reading - I promise it's worth it.

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Perspective: Qualification and Job Hunting

Since I last posted, I've become a qualified solicitor (Celebrations with cake and champagne? Well, if you're offering...). However, if you've kept up with the sheer, erm, (non-)flurry of posts - admittedly most of them were more like half posts drafted in my head, whoops - you will be aware that I wasn't going to be staying at the firm where I trained and that I was adding 'find a new job' to the to-do list.

Before we went on holiday (more on that when we're slightly less jetlagged) I had an interview with a firm down in Bristol. I really liked them. I liked the work they do and was attracted by the sectors they specialise in. They liked me too, enough to ask me back for a second interview.

On my way back from Bristol, I suddenly wasn't so sure. Alan and I had talked about how we would make it work should I get an offer; it would involve weekly commuting, having lives in Bristol and London... and a lot of time apart.

Accepting such a job in Bristol would be a declaration that the south-west was where my career was going to be, at least for the next few years. That in itself wasn't unthinkable. The legal sector is expanding in the region, and a lot of big firms have chosen to base themselves there.

However, despite the cosy EU notion of freedom of movement of workers, simply relocating so far for a permanent role is not so easy - not when there's two of you to consider. Alan is pretty entrenched in the London market, and, while not tied to insurance, catastrophe and risk modelling is relatively London-centric for the time being. On the personal side, we've been looking forward to starting our lives as newlyweds and have enjoyed starting to make plans for Life Post-Wedding, things that we want to explore and experience in the couple of years before we even consider things like starting a family.

So although at first it felt like moving to Bristol could be an opportunity for an adventure, in reality it would mean that we would spend those precious years snatching time together at the weekend, while perhaps losing touch with other friendships through wanting some time to ourselves. It worked for six months with my secondment to Paris - the idea of doing this with no end date to aim for (or, the end being that we would want to start a family - and isn't THAT a minefield for working women to negotiate?) seemed less and less palatable.

This afternoon I spoke to the recruiter and withdrew my application for the role, explaining my predicament and emphasising that if the firm should have a similar role in London, I would jump at the chance. Whether or not I live to regret doing this, I am grateful that this situation has made us revisit conversations about how we see the next few years - we have obviously talked money and children before now, but it's important to keep talking these things through.

While this has made me reassess and focus on what I want and currently need from my career, it has also made me think: is this one of the base differences between men and women in a couple? Is it an advantage of being female that I feel that I can afford to turn down a job in order to put our family life first right now? Would it have been easier to make a decision in the other direction if it had been Alan with a job offer elsewhere? I can't help thinking that the answer to both these questions is yes...