Year end & year beginning

Reflections on 2016 and excitement for 2017

Reflecting on 2016 this New Year’s Eve, I have much to be happy about – I’ve achieved lots and had new experiences – but I’m not entirely happy with the balance I’ve achieved in the course of the year. So here is my end of year reckoner and ideas for what I plan to do in 2017 to achieve better balance.

Home life has been joyful in 2016 with children coming and going and playing and growing. After 25 years we had our first taste of being “empty nesters”, for about six weeks, and we adjusted fine. The house stayed really tidy and a packet of Oreos lasted a whole fortnight.

Social life in 2016 has been good too, particularly re-connecting with school friends most of whom I hadn’t seen for 30 years.

2016 saw my second, full year following a plant-based diet. Having been vegetarian since the age of 18, I haven’t found the transition to veganism difficult. I haven’t even missed cheese, or my former guilty pleasure of Gregg’s vegetable pasties, which I anticipated I would. The biggest challenge I encounter is sourcing decent, nutritious vegan food when travelling for work, particularly if I fancy something warm. No doubt this will continue to be a theme in 2017. All in all a big tick in this area of my life, the occasional wiping of sour cream from my avocado on toast breakfast and mayonnaise from my lunchtime salad leaves notwithstanding.

A once beloved vegetable pasty from Greggs, the Bakers

My professional work in 2016 has been very fulfilling. Having made a significant career change at the beginning of 2013, I think last year really saw me hitting my second and third careers’ grooves (yup, I have two, quite different careers at the moment). With my principal role, I have enjoyed travelling to, and working with colleagues in, Basel, Geneva, Zurich, Madrid, Luxembourg, Dublin, Cambridge, Peterborough, Reading, Swindon, Watford, Cheltenham, Bracknell, Marlow, Monmouthshire, Cardiff, Exeter, Southampton, Milton Keynes, Welwyn, Hertfordshire and, of course, London. Phew, what a lot of travel this year. And ok, if I’m being completely honest, I don’t think I experienced the full beauty of Peterborough and Watford…

Oftentimes on my travels I get to enjoy views like these, each of which I have had fun trying to photograph in 2016

The second string to my professional bow had me clock up 3,600 miles to run a small performing arts-based business on Saturday mornings. Hugely enjoyable and rewarding, except the bit on the M25. Yeah, those 1,500 miles were less enthralling.

Don’t misunderstand, I love my travel. Hiraeth travels with me though and when away from home I often feel wistful for the cwtchiness of my little cottage in Surrey (and all my kitchen gadgets and vegan cookbooks, naturally).

Occasionally on my travels, I get to “enjoy” views like these. Yes, these are actually the sights from two of my hotel rooms this year. On these weeks, the hiraeth is very strong with me.

Lots achieved and much to feel proud about. On the other hand, not enough exercise, too many pots of hummus eaten in hotel rooms and too few moments of calm. So, to help address the imbalance, here are my plans for 2017 (I am resolutely not making resolutions, if you see what I mean; I’ve made them for years and never stuck to them, so I don’t see the point):

Travel will remain a feature of my professional life in 2017. I plan to take an evening walk around whichever town I have rocked up in (assuming it is not raining and I am not booked into an “express”-type hotel on the side of a motorway or dual carriageway) and I plan to seek out a local vegan or vegetarian restaurant. And I need to try different tactics to take home with me, so that I have just enough, but not too much, hiraeth to see me through to the end of my working week;

I want to expand my mind, not in an LSD way, but in a cultural growth way. I plan a visit to a gallery or museum once a month;

I have a collection of 100s of vegan recipes. When I’m not travelling, I plan to cook many more of them in the coming year. Eat the rainbow and all that;

I adore taking photographs. I plan to take more and better photographs.

I’m pretty excited about all of this. Right then – let’s make a start.