For those spared the traditional hard copy Christmas letter this year, either because your card envelope was just too small or I decided it was about time you had some respite, here it is...
Hello again ...
This time, the phrase 'it's been quite a year' rings truer than ever, cementing my
smouldering visceral dislike of career politicians of all stripes...and reality TV stars.
I'll come back to Brexit and Trump later. Actually, no I won't.
2016 started off with a bang with ringside seats to the New Year's Eve fireworks in London; lots of excitement and colour and a real sense of atmosphere and joy. Go see it if you ever get the chance.
Some project review work in Brussels in February, an accreditation visit to Glasgow, and regular meetings held with and between various other professional bodies kept the neurones firing, along with several lectures at Jodrell Bank finding out just how small we are in the overall scheme of things. A short holiday in Cornwall with embarrassingly glorious weather and several trips to Grasmere and Italy's South Tyrol made the months whizz by. Or maybe that's just my age.
Afternoon tea at Wedgwood's is a delicious experience that I was able to enjoy on two occasions. Fancy china, white linen tablecloths, unlimited dainty sandwiches and cakes and an array of teas to choose from. Preparation for this hardship entails a small breakfast and the skipping of lunch - take it from one who knows.
I've spent quite a bit of time this year learning more about my ancestors and, in particular, my maternal grandfather who fought, and was badly injured, in the First World War. Mark and I took a trip to Ypres and Passchendaele in October and drove to the location where my grandad was shot on 26th September 1917 as his battalion advanced to capture a ridge known as Otto Farm. As well as visiting Tyne Cot and other war graves sites, we spent time at the WW1 Memorial Museum at Zonnebeke and at the Menin Gate where we stayed for the playing of the Last Post. Every evening since 1928 the Last Post has been played under the Menin Gate Memorial in Ieper/Ypres at 8 o'clock exactly. A day that will stay with me for ever for so many reasons. To break the mood there was also the added bonus that Mark and I got lost in the dark Belgian countryside whilst driving back to the hotel in Lille.
On a less sombre note, monthly visits to Rode Heath Farmer's Market and Rode Hall gardens coupled with the occasional visits to Bodnant Garden and Chester Zoo have ensured my fresh air quota. Mark's wonderful Father's Day gift of a tour of Kerry Vale vineyard + wine tasting was followed up later in the year by my self-serving Father's Day gift to myself - a tour of the Purity Microbrewery + beer tasting. I have Robyn's Father's Day gift of our joint spa day to look forward to just before Christmas. I am one lucky father.
This year I've been fortunate to be entertained on various evenings by the wonderful Paul Carrack, Chris Barber and his band (still going strong at 86 years young), the wonderful Jools Holland and his band, the majestic Bruce Springsteen and the towering E Street Band and then, the evening after Bruce, by the lights and power of a full Etihad Stadium rocking to Coldplay. It took me the weekend to recover.
Yet other evenings were filled with Paul Simon at the Royal Albert Hall (who's as good as it gets), the live version of Jeff Wayne's classic 'War of the Worlds' album which was just spectacular, the sublimely good Danny & the Champions and various brilliant jazz musicians during my annual pilgrimage to the Copenhagen Jazz Festival.
People listened to and appreciated have include Bill Bailey, Eddie Izzard, Robin Ince, Germaine Greer, the good Prof. Brian Cox, the good Lord Peter Hennesey and the good Sir Vince Cable...I even got to meet Whispering Bob Harris and have a chat about needle time and the Beach Boys.
We live in interesting times; with that caveat I wish you health and happiness, the merriest of Christmases and the most peaceful of New Years.
If I believed in New Year's resolutions then top of the list would be more frequent postings here. I don't think that would count as a miracle - so it is within the realm of possibility. Have a great 2017.