Wednesday, 7 November 2012

topsy turvy

i'm a doctor!
i did it!

i had my viva last week and got the highest mark i possibly could with no corrections.

but now life feels a little strange...a little topsy turvy.

sometimes i feel really proud (of course), mostly it doesn't yet feel real and occasionally i feel blue.

there are many rational explanations for this (something really stressful happened last week and i guess i'm still a bit bruised from it, hormones (blah blah) and also it's kind of like an anti climax. for four years i've been focussed on my thesis, for the past year and a half i've struggled with the ghastly writing up process and now it's done. over. this is FANTASTIC. i am THRILLED. i would have wept for days and days if i had had to pick up the thesis and continue reworking it.

but now i feel like i have to learn how to just 'be' again, how to relax! 

this weekend we're off to our local spa up the mountain so it's a good start.

ps my thesis will be available on-line very soon so i'll share the details here when it is if you want to dip in and see what all the fuss was about.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Thursday, 4 October 2012

pirate skills

well, italy was thoroughly restorative and totally wonderful but i have no time to share any photos for the moment as we're busy sorting for our next holiday!

tomorrow we drive to marseille, get a ferry to corsica, hire a yacht with friends (and my brother and cousin) and spend a week sailing back to marseille.

i have never been on a yacht except for on a calm swiss lake so i have everything crossed that i find my sea legs quickly and suck up this adventure. plus i'm hoping to learn some pirate skills from raffaele :) (this was him last year in the south of france).

Friday, 7 September 2012

in need of a break


i am so very tired. it has not been an easy time recently. thank *goodness* we are going on holiday at the end of next week - two weeks in ischia, with my brother and parents joining us for the first week. then one week back at work and then a week sailing round corsica with friends.

i have never been more in need of a break.

if you would like to see my ischia photos from last year, you can read this post or see these flickr photos.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Sunday, 26 August 2012


sunday morning - a self portrait

this morning i cried and cried. as a release, i think, from such a tough past few months.

yes, life has been wonderful in many, many ways but the process of writing up this thesis has almost broken me and now, as soon as i have had a chance to just stop and relax a bit this weekend, my body has given up.  i thought i was sick but it's just a physical and emotional crash.

but, as a friend erica said,  i did it. an emotional let-down is normal and now i need to re-find normal.

raffaele suggested company and fresh air would be good so sunshine, a ride on my new bike (post on this to follow!) and brunch with friends made me feel much better emotionally at least.

thank you for all the lovely messages of support on instagram. what a wonderful community.

nancy x

Saturday, 25 August 2012

a birth announcement

i forgot to post this announcement that i shared along with the photo of my finished thesis:

after a long & difficult labour, i am delighted to announce the birth of my doctoral thesis, weighing 267 pages & over 75,000 words long. mum & baby doing well!

i posted the news as soon as i had e-mailed it to bristol to have it printed and bound  and it was such a  busy day in the office that there was no chance to celebrate. so messages of congratulations coming in from all over the world via the wonderful web (and text messages too) were a real treat. of course i celebrated properly when i got home that evening (as seen in the photos in my last post) and then i flew back to submit two of these (one per examiner).

 i should point out the champagne was for me not as a bribe!

unfortunately all the (well-meaning) advice about my viva has painfully reminded that i have submitted but it is not finished. i am hoping for the viva to take place in november at the latest and then, once i have made the final round of corrections as requested by the examiners (argh!!), i will be truly done and dusted!

BUT i have time to switch off a little (a lot) in between now and then with a trip to italy in a few weeks and then to corsica in october. oh my goodness, those holidays will feel so well deserved!!

this week has been insanely busy (and stressful) in the office but raffaele and i have also had full and fun evenings all week so today i have finally crashed! cue achey body, tight chest and a headache. i have no other plans today other than sitting on the sofa and catching up with photo and video editing and a bit of blogging. i bought an iPad as a treat for submitting (plus my parents contriubted to it for my birthday) and today is the first chance i've had to properly use it! the summer and the internet really don't mix but today is much, much cooler and cloudy so the sofa, rather than the lake, is definitely the place for me to be.

Saturday, 11 August 2012



i just watched mo farah get his second gold medal. WHAT a race and how inspiring to watch someone give it their ALL to get something they really, really want.

today has been really tough as i am REALLY NEARLY there, i am just so tired of it all at this point! i am planning to finish my thesis tomorrow evening, which will coincide with the closing ceremony of the olympics. feels fitting somehow. i have worked SO hard for this. i have had a lot of the olympics on in the background while making final, final, final changes which has been really nice.

i've never felt patriotic before but the success and determination of british athletes and the whole london atmosphere has been surprising and enjoyable and it is so wonderful that it has inspired so many people, especially a younger generation.

my grandfather, peter west, was a commentator (mainly cricket and rugby) and he commentated at the tokyo olympics in 1964. unfortunately i can't find any BBC images of that on-line but here are some others because my grandpa was also an inspiring man and i know he would be SO proud of me on the eve of my finishing this PhD.

 grandpa is the one on the right

he got me a signed photo of steve cram because i used to compete in long distance running, although i was a better sprinter - see below!! steve cram was commentating for the BBC for the 5,000m race just now so that made me smile. and grandpa encouraged me to write a letter to seb co as well (another nice link to london 2012) and i told him i had asthma, which i knew he had too. he replied with a signed photo as well. ace.

right, on with the final push. GO, GO, GO!!

note: i am only 10 years old in this photo and i can't get over how incredibly muscly my thighs are.

ps - i had a feeling i had already written about grandpa on here. you can read that post here.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

running out of reserves

i'm so tired of this.

i feel like i used all my reserves to submit a full draft and now that i have to do corrections it really does feel like it is never ending.

so, i am pressing on and taking one day at a time and trying my best to change my attitude about the situation. for example, by focussing on the fact that each day i work further on this is making it a stronger piece of work that i can be even more proud of when it's done.

but for the times when i don't have the strength to think positively or the strength to formulate more ideas, i rely on a LOT of coffee and enjoy sunbathing in the sun spot in my study.

Saturday, 30 June 2012

work hard, play hard

note - i wrote this post the other day but never got around to publishing it.

also? today is especially tough. ooooof.

so, on with the post...

these days are tough but also wonderful. a colleague is currently on leave so my responsibilities have suddenly increased, as has my workload. i really enjoy my job (working for a consultancy helping to buy and sell luxury jets as well as manage assets - a world away from academia!!) and the challenge has been extremely rewarding. but the other day my thesis was returned with corrections. more corrections than anticipated. my supervisors are very impressed with the standard of my work but they want it to be even better and their perfectionism is overwhelming.

juggling both these new workloads tipped me over the edge yesterday and i sat at my desk with tears in my eyes, trying my very best to keep calm and focus on the positives.

luckily, i have managed to negotiate some time off at very short notice so the next week will be spent ploughing on with final changes. i didn't really feel i had time to PROPERLY relax in between submitting my draft and getting this new feedback. but this means  it will all be over, properly over (except for the viva) sooner than anticipated.

but life has most certainly not been all  work, work, work. the weather has been glorious, except for a few rainy (but pretty warm) days here and there. life revolves around the lake and our balcony and most work-day evenings still have a holiday feeling to them, despite raffaele and myself having very early starts and working very long days. we have had BBQs a plenty, swum in the lake and been on a speedboat while a friend wakeboarded behind. but the highlight was spending time on a yacht.


here are a few photos to add to this unusually wordy blog post. i have some lovely little videos of recent lake life too but am never at a computer long enough to upload them. i'll share them soon...

sailing into the sunset
sunset supper on the yacht

raff having a pre-dinner swim

ps. a very belated thank you to all of you who commented on here, by e-mail, text, on facebook , twitter and instagram. sharing my highs and lows with you all has been a real help on this seemingly endless journey!

nancy x

Monday, 11 June 2012

i did it!


done and DUSTED! i just submitted a thesis which i am SO proud of!

there is a little more to do once my supervisors have read it in its entirity but all the hard stuff is done, OVER.

it's plain sailing now!

i am over the moon and shattered all at the same time. i keep thinking of all of the ways i want to celebrate. but right now, i can hear raffaele pulling into our driveway so we'll have a drink on the balcony and both bask in the glory that it is OVER (almost...)

Friday, 8 June 2012

the final push

so, here i am, very close to a finish line but not THE finish line.

i am working super hard this long weekend (thursday was a public holiday in switzerland and fridays are my study day) to finish a polished draft. i am behind schedule but i am optimistic and, most importantly, i have begun to feel very pleased with what i have written to date.

it is very difficult for non academics to understand why this is going on and on, why i am having to work quite so hard, why i didn't make my deadline of last week and why i can't take a break - especially this weekend. some people are even pissed off with me because of it! thank goodness raffaele is so incredibly supportive and he is oh so proud of me, as i am of myself :)

so, here it is, the final (almost) push. i will be able to take it easy for the next month or so while my examiners comment on the most recent draft. but then i'll have to crank it up again, make the FINAL corrections and officially submit! i anticipate a summer of champagne and mini celebrations!

for now, it's GO GO GO and there's no going back!


Saturday, 5 May 2012


so, here i am, blogging again...

life recently has been full - fabulous in many ways but supremely tough in other ways. well, just one - my bastard thesis.

i am SO near the end now and, for the first time yesterday, i could actually see it. i could taste my freedom. but, as is so common with this stage of a PhD, i started off fresh and positive this morning, enjoying a lazy brunch with raffaele and some exciting news from a friend. and then it all went downhill...

i am working in my office at the weekends at the moment. it is a place where i am used to being efficient (in my new job, which i really love) and generally helps me to feel i'm not missing out on fun in the sun since it is in a business district so no-one is around.

this afternoon i had a meltdown for the third time in seven days. i have set myself a target which i need to reach by tomorrow evening and despite making (slow) progress this afternoon, all i could think was that it doesn't look like i'll make that target. i don't really have a choice at this point since a full, polished draft is due with my supervisors in june. so soon!!! this is much more excellent than negative since it means it really is nearly over. well, the hardest part. there will be (further) revisions to make, of course, but the bulk of it will be done.

raffaele has been as supportive as he can possibly be. as supportive as anyone can be without having gone through the hell that is the final stages of a thesis. he is looking after me and making me laugh but also encouraging me to toughen up, to think positively, to push through this very last stage.

he just sent me a text saying i need to be a warrior :)

so, here i am, with my tear-stained warrior face, blogging about this stage in the game. because i guess i would like to have it to remind me, to look back on, as a diary entry.

i looked up a suitable warrior image on pinterest (since google is full of dire fantasy creatures) and this one made me laugh so it gets a place in this post. it's a bit like i feel at the moment - trying to be strong but not really pulling it off.

i'll be back with an update soon - stronger, fitter and even closer to the finish line!!!

nancy x

Wednesday, 7 March 2012


this was me last night. shattered (as evidenced by dark circles and a slightly crazy expression) but with some champagne for the second night in a row as, approaching midnight, i *finally* submitted another chapter (a day late but still - hurrah).

but, save for some bubbly and a tiny lie in, there is no rest around these parts. motivation is still high but this is a SERIOUS test of endurance and i am constantly having to give myself pep talks and focus on the positive.

generally, i am *very* proud of what i have achieved to date but i need to keep up the good work for:


thanks to the lovely ivana for tagging me in a '#merightnow' thing on instagram because it made me take a photo of myself there and then and document this achievement. oh i do love my iPhone and my photo diary that instagram makes so easy and fun to do. below are my latest pics. you can find me as nancyflowers on there. pop by and say hello!

right, i'm off to eat some pheasant risotto (made with last night's leftover roasted pheasant - yum) and carry on working but by watching one or two parenting documentaries so it's straightforward 'easy' work.

nancy x

Sunday, 4 March 2012

something to celebrate

i just put a bottle of champagne on ice for an important day tomorrow - an anniversary and a (polished) thesis chapter deadline.

but here's the thing, i'm actually back in bristol. i start a job (in switzerland, of course) in april and therefore had this slot to push forward with the hardest most gruelling section of my PhD. otherwise known as re-writing the literature review chapters. hell. on. earth.

i knew i needed complete focus and that the only way to achieve that was to become a hermit once again (worked a treat this time last year). i didn't tell anyone intially (save for a very few close friends) because i was worried people would put pressure on me (in the nicest possible way) to meet for a quick coffee or drink and, as wonderful as that would be, it is not compatible with hermit life. it breaks the flow. i get out of the zone.

i will try my hardest to reconnect with people before i have to make my way back but we will see how the work goes. i am living and breathing my PhD having *finally* reconnected with it. i am powering through and am determined to finish the two most difficult (for me) chapters before i return HOME to switzerland, to my man, to my new job and to life on the lake!!

leaving switzerland (even only for a few weeks) was so difficult to do because part of me felt like i was running away and that i should be able to write my thesis (or cope with my work) anywhere. but i realised i just had to do what i had to do. it was made particularly hard because raffaele and i are apart for tomorrow - our six month anniversary - well, six months since we got back together. but raffaele reminded me that we'll have so many more anniversaries to celebrate and we will postpone this mini marker in our life to celebrate together when i get back - with lunch in italy or something wonderful like that!

it has warmed my heart how thrilled and excited about our love story people have been. it is pretty damn special though so it hasn't surprised me, just made me smile that little bit wider. i am so excited about what lies ahead for us both and i am so delighted that we found our way back to each other.

raffaele, it makes me so happy that you enjoy reading this blog and you are so wonderfully supportive about everything i do. i love you with all my heart my darling. happy (early) anniversary.

nancy x

ps - seeing as i have quite a few new followers (and subscribers) on this blog and on twitter, you can read about the holiday we got back together on by clicking this link and you can read about how wonderful raffaele is for me by clicking here.

this is a wordier post than usual, so here are some photos that i don't think i have shared here...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

brunnen sunset

i live here! *pinches self*

spotted via the brunnen tourism page on facebook and taken by irene schmidt.

Monday, 27 February 2012

a litle insight

i was tagged by bianca at back to bobs

1. Post these rules
2. Post 11 random things about yourself
3. Answer the questions provided by the one who tagged you
4. Create 11 new questions for the people you tag
5. Go to their blog and tell them they’ve been tagged!
random things about me
1.  i was born the day that elvis died - 16 august 1977.
2. every year or so my taste buds develop and i like something i used to hate - most recently gherkins.
3. i love swimming in deep water.
4. at the age of 14 i was an extra in the TV series 'an american werewolf in london'.
5. i have to be very drunk to get up and dance at a party.
6. i attended my niece, faye's, birth. she is almost 15!
7. my grandpa, peter west, was the first ever gillette razor man on TV. he was a rugby and cricket commentator first and foremost but also did wimbledon and hosted come dancing, miss world and a few game shows. i have recently discovered that his BBC desert island disk interview is still on-line so i'm listening to this as i type :) he died 9 years ago and we miss him dearly.

8. my favourite language is greek cypriot (closely followed by italian).

9. i have swum with sharks in mexico and thailand (knowingly) and in perth (unknowingly at the time).

10. i hate goodbyes.


11. having lived in so many cities and countries, i felt that bristol was, without question, the place i most wanted to settle. however, now, brunnen, in central switzerland, is very definitely home and i could not be happier here.

questions bianca asked me

1. If you were on Mastermind, what would your specialist subject be (what do you know heaps about)?

i would be awful on this show! something to do with childcare?!

2. Name one thing you want to do before you die.

have children.

3. What is the best gig you’ve ever been to?

girls aloud (ha!) i went with my cousin, phoebe, a few years ago and it was one of the best nights of my life. we had such a fun time and just laughed, danced and sang our hearts out.

4. What’s the weirdest thing someone’s asked you?

 this is so tough! i'm sure i must have been asked some odd things but nothing sticks in my mind.

5. What’s your biggest regret?

doing this PhD is the answer that first springs to mind but i know that that is short term and i’ll be very happy to have done it in my life. my biggest regret is staying in a bad relationship for too long. neither of us were happy and it was only once i got out of it that i realised just how damaging it had been for me. i have learned from that experience though – to never settle for anything less than i know deep, deep down in my heart is not right for me.

6. What is your favourite book from your childhood?

this is difficult as it depends what age and there are so many. but two firm favourite authors were roald dahl and arthur ransome. i can’t wait to read those with my children. also poem anthologies by michael rosen were wonderful.

 pictured above reading roald dahl's the magic finger at about 5 or 6. in my swimming costume!?

7. What’s your biggest pet-peeve?

the sound of people biting their nails (it makes me want to throw up) and people using the word ‘nom’.

8. Name one thing you’re terrible at.

mental arithmetic. i just cannot do it to save my life! i often have to count out loud and on my fingers. thank goodness for calculators. i got an A in maths GSCE but only because a tutor trained me to pass & i promptly forgot everything i know (which i’m prone to doing whatever the subject!). i often wish i was better at maths given that it would help a lot with my knitting when amending and designing patterns.

9. when you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

a teacher. i used to arrange all my toys in a classroom set up, take the register (my absolute favourite thing to do) and would even put those animals who were going home for lunch in a cupboard for an hour. i just loved being organised and still love that now.

10. do you have any phobias and, if so, what are they?

i get very claustrophobic. i used to suffer from crippling anxiety attacks so any situation where a room is crammed full of people and i can’t easily get out will get me pretty stressed.

11. Name one guilty pleasure.

eating my body weight in pasta.

  bloggers i tag
lottie, if you want to keep your blog food focussed, you're welcome to guest post here on my blog x

to those who i've tagged, please don't feel you have to do this just if you think it's a bit of fun!

  questions for them

1.    what achievement are you most proud of to date?
2.    what is your current obsession?
3.    what makes you belly laugh?
4.    what is the thing you cook best?
5.    what talent do you wish you had?
6.    what is the most recent thing you've learned?
7.    what is your favourite way to relax after a tough day at work?
8.    where would you like to go on holiday next?
9.    what is one of the hardest things you’ve ever had to do?
     10.   name one thing you’ve inherited from either parent. 
     11.  what is your favourite (alcoholic) drink?

Monday, 20 February 2012


 and in no particular order...

·         blogging in attempt to avoid my bastard thesis (for this is the only way i refer to it these days)

·         weaning myself off sugar in my coffee (a habit i took up again when i moved back to switzerland)

.       about to go for a walk to try and blow my thesis blues away

·         swooning over my gorgeous boyfriend (a daily occurrence of course)

·         looking forward to skiing as a treat once i’ve finished two more chapters

·         feeling proud of various members of my family

·         waiting to sign a contract for a new job. i’m going to be a swiss resident again. so thrilled!

·         uploading videos of my granny to flickr (that i’ve been taking over the past five years) to store them there and one day get around to editing them for the whole family

·         finishing knitting projects for polly, wilfryd and bess

·         planning knitting projects for raffaele and darcie

·         designing business cards for figs and roses

·         contrary to the above, wondering if i might abandon the whole figs and roses plan and just enjoy a year (or two) of knitting for friends and myself (i’ve never knitted anything for myself!) and learning more and more skills*

·         feeling the closest i’ve ever felt to quitting my PhD. which i won’t. ever. i just wish i had never started one**

·         collecting recipes and ideas on pinterest for my office packed lunches

these are  two images i spotted on pinterest the other week (via as petals fall) to inspire me to push on through this hideous phase. the image at the top of this post is some post it notes i bought myself to cheer myself up through this stage too. i love them.

*i never intended figs and roses to make serious money (that would never work with the hours required to knit one single item but it would have covered the cost of materials of course. now i have a job which will mean i can afford to buy all the yarn i want (!!), i wonder whether i should just indulge in projects that take my fancy and get pleasure from giving them to friends. we shall see...

**i still believe that a masters does not *nearly* equip you with an idea of just how tough a thesis is to write. the first few years are fine, the data collection is wonderful. but the writing up stage? hell. on. earth.

this blog was inspired by bleubird vintage's post 'saturday'. what are you doing currently?

Sunday, 19 February 2012

my little brother is 30!

my wonderful little brother turns 30 tomorrow. he's in LA celebrating and currently lives in beijing so i haven't seen him for a while. this is a virtual birthday card to him with some of my favourite photos of the two of us plus one of my favourites of him at the end on a camping trip we took a few years ago to durdle door in dorset.

30 years ago my dad picked me up from school to tell me there was a surprise at home. my response: ice lollies? i was a very jealous 4 and a half year old and there are so many dreadful things i did to dan as a baby (!) but we are wonderfully close and i miss him.

so, happy birthday dan!! your 30th birthday card to me had me in tears and is the nicest thing i have ever read. i am still waiting for our picnic :) but maybe we can have it on a boat or up a mountain when you come and visit me and raffaele in switzerland.

i love you ever so much and am ever so proud. may this year be a fabulous one for you and this decade the best yet.

nancy xxxxxxxxx