2016: #whatjusthappened

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Twenty-sixteen. Woah, amiright?

Srsly it's been *quite* the year. I could zoom in on my life – me, myself, I moi, what fun – and talk about how I started the year on a small sheep station in the dusty centre of New South Wales, in Australia (population: 2) and ended it in the hustle and bustle of London, the 25th largest city in the world.

I could also talk about my own personal highs – starting a career in television, visiting my UK home for the first time in 612 days – and lows, like having to spend the first part of the year stressing over the visa resulting from said experience living on said small sheep station in the dusty centre of New South Wales. 

Or I could just move on to reminiscing about the exciting (read scary AF) global developments that happened in 2016, like 'Brexit' (not a fun new British biscuit to try with your next cuppa, Mr I've Been Living Under A Rock) and T–. Sorry, let me try that again. Tr–. Urgh, sorry I just can't seem to say it. Trump. There we go: President-elect of the United States of America, Mr Donald John Trump. Ahem.

OK, I'll do it all. If you've read this far I probably haven't sent you off to sleep yet anyway 🙌. So, in honour of the year where #whatjusthappened was surely the most used hashtag of all, I present the highs, the lows and the woahs of 2016.

The highs


Trading the sticks for the city lights

Family, friends and readers of my travel blog will know I spent three months working on a farm so that I could live in Australia for a bit longer. The first highlight of 2016 was throwing off my heavy, mud-caked boots and sticky jeans, and pulling on some finer threads to journey back to the bright lights of Sydney. By the end of the first week in January I was back at home in Newtown, spending light evenings sipping wine in the garden, donning a bikini for hot beach days and reaffirming my bond with my laptop (not to mention that thing called The Internet) in order to obtain any employment I could get my hands on.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Playing in Strathfield Symphony Orchestra

In between emails to and from prospective employers, I found an invitation to play the flute and piccolo for Strathfield Symphony Orchestra. I jumped at the opportunity and after several weeks of rehearsals found myself playing fave film scores – cue 'Harry Potter', 'Star Wars', 'Forrest Gump' and the other usual suspects – in Strathfield Town Hall with a damn fine orchestra. A piccolo solo in 'Hedwig's Theme' would be the highlight in *your* year too, trust me.

Continuing to explore Australia 

Another thing I did in between job and visa applications was to continue exploring as many places in Australia as I could. By the end of January I was jetting off to Hobart, the beautiful capital city of Tasmania, and in March the sun was still scorching in the tropical Whitsunday Islands where we spent Easter. Top of my list from Day One has been Uluru and in June we explored the incredible sights of  Uluṟu-Kata Tjuṯa National Park and the nearby(ish) King's Canyon. I also fell in love with Sydney's northern neighbour, Newcastle, after a dreamy weekend spent there devouring French food, sunsets and surf scenes.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Working for television

By now, you might be wondering: did she ever get a job (or ever have time for one)?! After a year of freelancing, in 2016 I finally got my big break in the Sydney media scene and it just so happened that this was in the TV area of things. I found myself producing the social media for Gogglebox Australia, The Great Australian Spelling Bee and, most recently, The X Factor Australia where I got pretty close to the TV production process, trotting around with a camera and social media app-filled iPhone, working with and producing the judges (I ❤️  Iggy Azalea) and contestants.



Running City 2 Surf

When I moved to Sydney, I heard about a magical 14K run that takes you from Hyde Park in the centre of the city, through the picturesque Eastern suburbs, and out to the world-famous Bondi Beach. "If there's anything I want to achieve living down under," I told myself, "It's this run." It just so happened that fate was on my side: a friend of mine announced she had been given a free entry pass that she couldn't use and I was milling about with thousands of other runners at the City 2 Surf start line a week later. It is the longest run I have ever done and I was pleased to have been able to run most of it (even 'heartbreak hill'), although my legs were less pleased, and I couldn't walk properly for a whole week after the race.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Visiting home for the first time in 1 year, 7 months, 3 weeks and 2 days

I arrived in Sydney in April 2015 and since then I haven't looked back. I would be lying if I said the homesickness didn't kick in pretty solidly by the middle of this year and so I *finally* did it: I finally booked myself a return flight to my homeland, my heart, to my beloved friends and family; to the soil I have missed with everything I have. 

The lows


Struggling to find a job

It's no secret to my friends and family that getting a job was *hard* for me when I arrived in Sydney and for basically my whole first year living in Australia (hence the aforementioned farm/visa blip). I don't know whether potential employers didn't like the visa I was on, rejected the previous experience I had had ("wha's this 'BBC' thing you mention 'ere, mate?") or just thought my name was a bit weird 🙅. Whatever it was, it was a struggle (I whinged about it here) and that's why I am so grateful for the stints I had at Music Feeds as a News Producer and then at various TV production companies working as a Social Media Producer.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath


Hearing about the mass shooting in Orlando

I don't know about you, but to me 2016 seemed to be particularly rife with horrific acts of violence, murder and cruelty. On 12 June 2016 I cried with the rest of the world when I heard that 49 people had been killed and dozens more injured at Orlando's Pulse nightclub, a supposedly safe space where our LGBTQI family and friends should have been able to drink, drag and dance without fear of persecution. What was worse was that media coverage all too often dubbed the incident 'terror attack' instead of 'hate crime' and in doing so failed to really highlight the ongoing plight of LGBTQI people suffering from discrimination across the globe. Anyway, it's not just about us gays. The world weeped when massacre after massacre was reported in the US; when France seemed to take a battering with multiple terror attacks; and when there seemed like there couldn't be much more terrible news, Munich got a turn. And there are dozens I haven't mentioned here.

Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath

Losing faith in humanity 'cause Australia still hasn't passed marriage equality

My significant other and I attended no fewer than four marriage equality protests this year alone and the Liberal-National Coalition *still* won't put a bill forward for marriage equality in Australia. I'm not even going to go into why this is just the most draconian, dinosaur-y, dogmatic move the government of a 'modern' Western nation could make in 2016 because it's been said a million times.  I mean, even Ireland and it's history of deeply entrenched religious views has managed it. Australia, just... PUT THE BILL. PASS THE BILL. MARRIAGE EQUALITY NOW! See – I even know the protest chant off by heart.




The woahs


Brexit

On 23 June 2016, 52 per cent of the British population voted to leave the European Union. That is: to regain sovereignty over laws affecting Britain and relinquish the rights of free movement, funding for disadvantaged areas and freedom from the outbreak of war between separate European nations (to put it very simply). The lead-up to the referendum vote saw heated campaigning, largely spurred on by extreme right wing intolerance, racism and abhorrent ignorance, escalate into murder when white supremacist Thomas Mair stabbed Batley & Spen MP Jo Cox in a vile and cowardly act of terror. RIP.

US Presidential Election 2016


The US Presidential Election

When I attended Sydney Opera House's Festival Of Dangerous Ideas this year, I somehow found myself at the receiving end of a spiel given by a well-known author-cum-conservative-libertarian (yeah, I know – I should have known better). Anyway, when asked what she thought of the circus that was the US Presidential Election going on at that time, she said "It was a fun experiment watching Britain have Brexit but not in America, please," flinching the possibility of a potential president Trump. Fast-forward two months and November 8 was upon us and, lo and behold, America had it's own Brexit. The disgustingly misogynistic, racist, cheese puff-coloured clown Donald Trump held 306 electoral seats while the dignified political veteran Hilary Clinton clung on to 232 seats in the electoral college. The nation was aghast; the world shocked. But many of us found ourselves to be wearily unsurprised that the deeply ingrained sexism that glues modern civilisation-as-we-know-it together had determined the result.

*

So, as I come the end of 2016 I find my heart is broken and my cynicism is at an all time high. But there is still hope; the is always hope. Aussie feminist powerhouse Clementine Ford published her powerful feminist manifesto, 'Fight Like A Girl, in 2016; fave musos Daughter, Wild Belle and James Blake and M.I.A. all released albums I couldn't stop listening to in 2016, and J.K. Rowling released a new Harry Potter book, 'The Cursed Child', albeit it in play form. I mean, look, there is *always* hope.

So there you have it: my romp back through 2016, which included a series of unfortunate events (and otherwise) that may well have shaped your year as well as mine. Now all that's left to say is Happy New Year and see you on the other side! 

– RP x


Photo © Rosie Pentreath
Photo © Rosie Pentreath



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