When you’re younger, everyone always tells you that time passes in the blink of an eye and then, before you know it, you’re an adult. Whilst I most certainly do not feel old enough to be an adult, I appear to have now somehow spent 21 years on this crazy, beautiful planet. To celebrate my 21st, I wanted to reminisce about 21 of my favourite memories from my life so far, so I’ve put together this little blog post of happy moments.
1. Growing a giant sunflower every summer with my mum when I was a child
When I was a a tiny tot, every summer had to involve growing a giant sunflower with my mum. I remember being delighted with how high they would tower over me when they were fully grown. At the end of the summer when my sunflower died, my mum would always cheer me up by collecting seeds from the dead flower head and explaining that they would grow into a beautiful new sunflower the following summer. My love of the outdoors and the natural world definitely started in my early years!
2. Making cheese straws with my grandma
At the end of every holiday visiting my grandma and granddad on the Isle of Wight, my grandma would often suggest that we make a batch of cheese straws for the ferry journey home. Before we left, she would always present my sisters and I with a little ‘party bag’ of sandwiches, liquorice allsorts and a few of the cheese straws we had made together. Sadly, I have very few clear memories of my grandma because she died when I was very young, but I will cherish this one forever.
3. Spending a junior school inset day in Burley with my dad
On a sunny day off from school when I was little, my dad asked me if I would be interested in going on a spontaneous trip to Burley in the New Forest. Naturally, I thought this was the best idea in the world and it is now one of my clearest childhood memories with my father because it was such a lovely day out. We watched baby New Forest ponies playing the woodlands, fed goats handfuls of grass and bought various flavours of fudge at the local Burley Fudge shop. Then, nearer the end of day, I peered into a shop window and spotted the most beautiful fairy ornament that I had ever laid eyes on. I thought that the little fairy was far too expensive, but my dad insisted that he wanted to buy her for me and I have had her on a little shelf above my window in my bedroom ever since. I also collected a few other fairies by the same artist that keep her company!
4. Landing the part of Titania in my junior school leaver’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream
In my final year of junior school, I auditioned for the part of Titania the fairy queen in our leaver’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I have always loved all things fantasy, so to land the part of a fairy was exciting enough, but to land the part of a fairy queen and a main character was more than my little year six brain could handle. I studied hard to learn all of my lines and songs and acted that part like my life depended on it. To this day, I still have my script and I still remember all of the lyrics to my solo song!
5. Stopping for Minghella’s ice cream on Brading Down on the way to Sandown beach
On our family visits to the Isle of Wight in the summer, we always spent the warmest days of the holiday at Sandown beach. The drive to Sandown winds up over Brading Down and, for as long as I can remember, we have always stopped off in the car park there to buy an ice cream from a man called Bill in his Minghella’s ice cream van. Sadly, Bill retired a few years ago and we haven’t seen a Minghella’s van up on the hill since, but I’m still hoping that someone might take up his spot in the near future. Minghella’s ice cream is the best ice cream money can buy, but it’s not all that easy to find because it’s a small-scale Isle of Wight brand.
6. Family Christmases on the Isle of Wight
When I was younger, all of my Isle of Wight family used to pile into my grandma and granddad’s house at Christmas and we would have one massive, crazy Christmas dinner all sat around a huge table in the living room. I love memories of these Christmases because I don’t see my Isle of Wight family very frequently and it was so nice to have them all there smiling, laughing and celebrating together.
7. My first trip abroad to Athens, Greece
When I was 11 years old, my dad told us that we were going away on our first family holiday abroad and I practically exploded with excitement. We spent just under a week in Athens and I have far too many amazing memories of the trip to single just one out. From swimming amongst colourful fish in secluded coves to drinking freshly made lemonade on the long, hot hike up to the Parthenon, Greece was an incredible adventure and I loved every moment of it. I would definitely like to see more of Greece in the near future, but Athens will always have a special little place in my heart.
8. Seeing McFly live with Kathryn
I am shamelessly in love with McFly’s music and I always have been. Whilst most people followed the crowd and decided to see them as an ‘uncool’ band in secondary school, my friend Kathryn and I were stronger fangirls than ever. In year 9, we went off to Bournemouth to see them play live and I was blown away. It was my first gig and the music was just amazing. We proceeded to see McFly live another 3 times over the coming years and, to this day, we are still making plans to see them again!
9. Visiting Malta
I don’t think I could pick just one memory that made Malta memorable, because my dad managed to plan so much into our short week there that there are far too many lovely memories to choose from. We took a cruise out around the island on Fernandez II from Sliema to the Blue Lagoon, ate dinner by the water at Raffael in St. Julian’s and, thanks to one of my dad’s friends who lived in Malta at the time, even spent an afternoon/evening swimming in Tigne Point pool whilst watching the sun disappear over Valletta. During my time there, I was amazed at how lovely everyone was and how happy they were when they realised that you were having a lovely time. Malta really is a tiny island with a very big heart.
10. Stargazing in Death Valley, California
When you’re on the road travelling, taking photographs and exploring one place after another, you’re often so caught up in what you’re doing that you rarely have a moment to think and reflect on everything. However, it is one of these rare, simple, reflective moments that definitely makes it into my top 21 memories. There I was, laying on my back and gazing at the glittering night sky in the middle of one of the most extreme landscapes on the planet. I was exhausted but exulted by the adventures so far and, eyes wide with excitement and ambition, I realised just how lucky I was and just how much I adored the natural world.
11. Nailing my grade 6 classical dance
Growing up, I attended ballet classes at the Elizabeth Hamer School of Dance (now Bell Ballet) taught by the lovely Mrs Hamer herself. Whilst ballet in general is a wonderful memory from my life so far, there is one particular moment that stands out in my mind. Mrs Hamer was always a fantastic teacher and, on finishing a dance, she would always have a long list of constructive criticism for improving your work. However, whilst I was training for my RAD grade 6 exam, I completed my classic dance and after a short pause, the only thing she could say was “well, wasn’t that just lovely, girls?”. To this day, that simple memory is one of my proudest moments.
12. Buying my prom dress
There’s something really magical about putting on a long, beautiful gown, but unless you’re a celebrity, most women don’t really buy or wear very many long dresses in their lifetime. That’s why buying my prom dress is still one of my favourite memories 5 years on. Since year 11, a lot of girls have sold their dresses because they’ve ended up hating them, but my beautiful little dress is still hanging in my wardrobe waiting to be worn again; I wouldn’t part with it for the world.
13. Hiking up Sólheimajökull in Iceland
On my second trip to Iceland, I had the amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to hike up a glacier. We set out early in the morning and, armed with a set of crampons (spiky metal shoe attachments) and an ice axe, climbed Sólheimajökull. The trek was hard on the legs because you have to stamp your feet into the surface of glacial ice in order to maintain grip. However, when we reached the top, the view was more than worth it; I will never forget the way the sunshine glittered across the surface of the ice. If you ever get the chance to visit Iceland, do not let that opportunity pass you by! It is one of the most remarkable landscapes I have ever seen and I would return in a heartbeat.
14. Modelling/dancing for ‘Symphony of Flowers’ in Winchester Cathedral
In 2013, Winchester Cathedral hosted an incredible flower festival event inspired by music and entitled ‘Symphony of Flowers’. As part of the event, some of the florists had designed outfits adorned with flowers to be worn as a moving display in and around the cathedral. My sister and I were contacted via our dance school and asked to model the outfits for the week-long event. We roped in our friend Penelope (she now travels all over the world and blogs as The Flyaway Girl – you should totally check her out!) and had an amazing time dressing up in various outfits and chatting with the general public at the event. Marianne and I also performed some ballet routines in the open hall of the cathedral, which were beautifully captured by Rob Compton Photography. I think I love this memory because it was just so fun and unusual; it’s definitely not something I do everyday!
15. Walking the Tennyson Trail on the Isle of Wight with my mum and my sister
On a sunny summer day in 2013, Marianne (my sister), my mum and I set out on a 10 mile trek along the Tennyson Trail on the Isle of Wight. The walk wound through fields and forests and eventually hugged the southern coast of the island, terminating at Tennyson monument on Tennyson Down. On reaching the end point and reading the monument, we realised that we had also coincidentally walked the trail on Tennyson’s birthday! Afterwards, we headed down into Freshwater Bay and spent an hour or so dipping into rock pools and exploring the caves before we headed back. All in all, it was a really lovely day and I know it will always be a favourite memory of mine.
16. Visiting the Eden Project in Cornwall, UK
As a lover of the natural world, the Eden Project was always somewhere I wanted to explore. In the summer before I started uni, my boyfriend surprised me with a trip to Cornwall and I have been in awe ever since. Unless someone told you, you would never imagine that the whole of the Eden Project was once a hideous land scar from quarrying. Today, it holds huge indoor tropical and Mediterranean biomes, as well as the most beautiful outdoor gardens and other attractions. The project also encourages sustainability and I was amazed by how much of the food and drinks served there (even the delicious ice cream served in the restaurant of the Mediterranean biome) was actually grown/created at the site. If you’re visiting Cornwall soon and you’re contemplating what to do on your trip, please go to the Eden Project and experience its magic!
17. Winning a bottle of bubbly in a pole dancing competition at Pop World
On a 90s themed night out in my first semester of university, the DJ at Pop World decided to kick off the night with a pole dancing competition that anyone could take part in. Rather unsurprisingly,
slightly very drunk me decided that this would be a great idea and, although I’m still not sure how this ridiculous decision didn’t end in disaster, I actually managed to dance my way to first place and win a bottle of bubbly! This is definitely one of those outrageous freshers memories that will never not be funny.
18. Finding a baby mouse, successfully caring for it and returning it to the wild
In the summer of 2015, I was walking with a few friends when I spotted a baby mouse hunched over on a road beside the curb. The little thing was so weak, but I scooped him up and carried him home, desperately hoping that he might recover. After a few days of sleeping and nibbling on my favourite muesli (along with apples and blackberries from the garden), the little mouse had recovered and grown dramatically and was ready to be returned to the wild. We released him into a copse near a nature reserve (after speaking to wildlife experts from the reserve) and, whilst I was sad to see him go, I was so happy he had survived.
19. Ask Italian lunch dates
Over the last few years, a few of my closest girl friends and I have met up for lunch dates at Ask Italian a number of times. When we’re all back from uni in the holidays, the first thing that’s suggested is a lunch date at Ask and we always have the loveliest time chatting away about hilarious school memories and how time has flown. These little lunches out definitely make it into my favourite memories and I can’t wait for our next meet up in the Easter holidays!
20. Walking along Caminito del Rey in the El Chorro gorge
This time last year, I travelled to the south of Spain on fieldwork for part of my undergraduate degree. Whilst most of the days were jam-packed with uni work (yes, it wasn’t just a holiday), one day was reserved for a walk along Caminito del Rey in the El Chorro gorge and I can honestly say that it was one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. There is no way to describe how incredible that gorge walk is and pictures just don’t do it justice. So, if you’re travelling to the south of Spain anytime soon, go and check it out for yourself – you will thank me!
21. Sitting on Brighton Pier on deck chairs in the warm sunshine
Last summer, I spent the majority of my weeks in a laboratory researching for my undergraduate dissertation. However, as a small taste of freedom before the start of my third year, I spent a couple of days in Brighton with my boyfriend. The weather ended up being insanely warm and sunny and I had the loveliest time exploring The Lanes, eating ice cream on the beach and even swimming in the sea. In the hours before we caught our train home, we sat on deck chairs on the pier in the baking sun and tucked into a bag of freshly cooked churros and I remember being so, so happy. Brighton is definitely one of my favourite places in the UK.
It might sound cheesy, but writing out these memories really made me realise how lucky I am and how lovely my life has been so far. I’m proud of the various things I’ve achieved, but I definitely owe my thanks to a lot of people (especially my parents) for making all of these wonderful things happen. So, I can no longer call myself ‘twenteen’ and I think it’s finally time to accept that my teenage years are well and truly behind me. I am now undeniably ‘in my twenties’…and that is terrifying, but also very exciting. I hope this chapter of my life will hold just as many exciting adventures and beautiful memories as the last.
I hope you enjoyed reading through these 21 little snapshots of my life!
Lots of love, Alissa