New Year’s Eve
New Year’s Eve 2014-15 was a lot of fun. Umit and Caitlin came over and we found a Buzzfeed list of unusual NYE traditions around the world. We decided to do as many of them as we could before midnight, which included walking around the neighbourhood carrying an empty suitcase whilst banging on pots and pans; throwing money backwards over our shoulders; stepping into the new year with our right feet first; and writing wishes for the year on little pieces of paper, which we then burned and drank in fake champagne (mine came true).
New Year’s Day
Caitlin and Umit left in the early hours of the morning and I went to bed at 5am. This meant that I didn’t wake up at my normal time. Instead, I was woken up by my phone ringing. When I picked it up, it was a close friend of mine saying they were in hospital. It was serious.
I went straight to the hospital and sat with my friend for a while. It was a sobering way to start the year.
And then the house fell down
In February my bathroom floor fell into my downstairs neighbour’s bedroom. It was not a small hole. This kicked off a whole series of house-related horrors, including: the discovery of nine years’ worth of human faeces under the bathroom floor tiles, with mushrooms growing from them; a hole inexplicably opening up in the concrete just inside the front door; the kitchen cupboards falling off the walls; the boiler being condemned as unsafe; and bits of the wall in the hallway falling down.
We’re getting somewhere, gradually. The structural things have now been fixed, but the boiler’s still broken and I’m still waiting for a new kitchen.
A digital forensics research conference that takes place twice a year in the US and Europe, DFRWS’ European event this year was held in Dublin.
It was a brilliant week of intelligent conversation, drinking, boat trips (somehow we always seem to end up on a boat) and a ‘forensic rodeo’, the winners of which are pictured above.
I have two favourite conferences: DFRWS and SADFE. This year I went to both and they were brilliant fun.
Running an art exhibition
I’d wanted to do this again ever since I ran an art gallery for six months several years ago. This year I finally did it again, in conjunction with Gitoon, with whom I was sharing an office at the time.
I was surprised to learn that I didn’t actually enjoy it very much. The process of finding artists, deciding which works to accept, getting them all to the gallery at the right time, and deciding where to hang them all in relation to each other, wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d remembered.
I’m glad I did it, because it meant fulfilling an ambition. But I seem to have cured myself of the desire to do it again.
The few weeks of insane travelling
2015 was a very travelly year on the whole, but there was a bit in the middle that was particularly crazy.
Essentially, I went from Dublin to Glastonbury to Bristol to Oxford to Middlesbrough, stopping off in London for about a week to set up the aforementioned art exhibition. After Middlesbrough I travelled up the country, met my mother in Carlisle, drove to Scotland together, saw my grandparents, went to Blackpool, got back to London, spent a few days sorting the house out and repacking my bag, flew to South Carolina for a fortnight, and then finally returned home on the 9th of June, having set out to my original destination on the 21st of March.
No wonder I was tired.
TSFIC was interesting because it was the first conference that properly highlighted for me the differences in outlooks between UK and US law enforcement agents.
I work with a load of different people, and many of them have more militant views than I do. A lot of them are in the military, for example. Some work for weapons developers. Some work for the government. Many are academics, or people who work in forensics companies. I often find myself surrounded by tough-looking men who look for military solutions.
I thought I was used to this. Then I went to America.
They have a whole other view on counter terror over there. They’re very into the military, much more so than we are in the UK. Just speaking to people at the conference was fascinating; it’s easy to assume that because you share a common language, you’ll share a common culture, but that really isn’t the case.
The most hard-hitting example of this – and one which also reminded me just how weird my job (and life) can sometimes be – was a talk about counter terror by a US terrorism expert.
Seated in a basement room at a swanky hotel in Myrtle Beach, we watched videos of some of the most disgusting things humans can do to each other. He described each item in detail, talking at length about how we must fight terrorists and how severe the threat is. We saw things no human should ever see, and these were only second-hand, through video footage shot by the people who were actually there.
Afterwards we went upstairs and had lunch on the balcony, overlooking the excellent view pictured above.
I looked around, but I seemed to be the only person who was really appreciating how much of a juxtaposition that was.
Falling in love with South Carolina
I do a lot of travelling and I like most of the places I visit (the exceptions so far being – unsurprisingly – Middlesbrough, Blackpool and Slough). But I have never fallen in love with a place the way I fell in love with South Carolina. Even though the police were terrifying, the guns were plentiful and the ocean tried to kill me. Even though it was so hot I could barely move sometimes, and so humid I felt like I was melting.
I miss it a lot. I’m going back for three months next year, which will either cure me of it or make me love it more.
Memphis the Musical at Shaftesbury Theatre
Umit and I have been BFFs for several years now. He’s seen some shit happen in my life, and he’s been there with coffee and wine and cocktails when I’ve been ranting about some of it. But he’d never seen me cry.
Until we went to see Memphis, and I sat sobbing into my scarf at the interval.
It was absolutely brilliant. I need to go and see more West End shows; considering that I live in London, it’s ridiculous that I don’t go to the theatre more often.
Speaking at my old school
I love my old school. Mainly because I owe it my life, which is a good reason to love something, I think.
I went back in July and spoke to a group of pupils about what it’s like to be a woman and work in technology. How working in a male-dominated industry has an effect on you even if you think it won’t. Even if you’re blind to it while it’s happening.
Afterwards I wandered around the town and caught up with some friends I hadn’t seen in far too long. Then I went to see my grandad, who looks smaller and older each time I see him, but is still gardening with more energy than I could muster for it.
Singing soprano for the first time in a decade
I used to do operas and musicals all the time. In recent years I’ve stopped, for a number of reasons. But when a few weeks ago I stumbled across a local fair and met a lady who said there was an open rehearsal for a performance of Requiem that’d be taking place that evening, I decided to just go for it.
I went along, rehearsed, went home, got changed, went back to the church and performed at the gala that evening. As we sang Jerusalem, a shaft of light burst through the stained glass window and illuminated the choir. It was a beautiful experience, and one I intend to repeat.
I hadn’t been to SADFE before and I hadn’t been planning to go to this one either. It’s a digital forensics conference that’s held once a year in different locations around the world.
This year it was in Malaga. One of my forensics friends persuaded me that I should give it a shot, and since Spain is only a short flight from London, I decided there wasn’t really a reason to miss it.
If I hadn’t booked non-refundable flights and hotel, I would have backed out at the last minute, because by the time it came around I was exhausted.
I’m so glad they were non-refundable. I had a brilliant time.
Every morning I had to walk up the hill at sunrise, which provided some beautiful views. The conference was fun, the people were excellent – some of the DFRWS crew were there, along with some new friends – and I had the best pina colada of my life in a little square in the city centre.
Plus, it gave me an excuse to fly back via Barcelona and see Caitlin again, which is always a good thing.
Cancelling my travel plans and starting divorce proceedings
I was supposed to be in Africa in November and December. I was looking forward to finally meeting my Twitter friend Wolfgang, trying Ugandan coffee, and being shown around Cape Town by Paul, whom I met at DFRWS this year.
But I’ve been eligible for a divorce for about a year now, and it’s really hard to get one while you’re abroad because there’s all this paperwork to do and you have to do it all at the correct times.
So I postponed the Africa trip, put everything else on hold for a while, and got down to it. It’s surprisingly difficult, actually. There’s something really different about legally removing yourself from someone’s life; it’s not the same as just breaking up. Not the same as anything else I’ve done. But it’s the right decision, and I’m glad we’re finally doing it.
Wine and friendship
I’ve had several excellent chats with friends over wine this year.
- With Caitlin in Barcelona, at a rooftop bar overlooking the city, telling each other things we probably shouldn’t have disclosed.
- With Umit over my first steak in about three years, at Flatiron in London.
- With Ali and her flatmates over homemade vegetarian curry.
- With Holly, a “let’s go for a drink” that stretched into a “let’s have dinner” and then an “oh shit it’s midnight”.
- With Anna and Simon and their friends, over nibbles and full-blown meals in their beautiful kitchen in Glastonbury.
- With Sharyn, who came over “for a few hours” one Saturday afternoon, but then we lost track of time and suddenly it was 4am.
- With my mother, who came over for the day and I baked a camembert and fed her wine until she finally relaxed enough to have an actual conversation.
- With Caitlin again, at a smaller bar this time, sitting in comfy armchairs talking about life.
- With Anna, when we decided to “have a nightcap” after the others had gone to bed, and suddenly it was 4am. Again.
The Hallowe’en party
I decided to have a Hallowe’en party, then I freaked out because I don’t really like parties or people being in my house, then it turned out to be really fun.
We all dressed up and drank wine. We did a Special Thing just before midnight. We talked and played a couple of brief rounds of Never Have I Ever, for old time’s sake.
I might make it a tradition.
The day the bathroom was finally done
Honestly, I nearly cried. It has a floor and walls. A FLOOR AND WALLS.
Now we’re hurtling towards the end of the year and it’s nearly 2016 already. Today Caitlin and I are going to set our resolutions for the next twelve months – a tradition we established a couple of years ago and which seems to work quite well.
This year has had a couple of really difficult bits, but on the whole it’s been a good one. I’ve achieved a few ambitions, done a lot of travelling, and made some new friends.
Here’s to the next twelve months!