I’ve never found New Years’s Eve a time for celebration. For some unknown reason I always harbour a melancholy feeling deep inside. A sadness for the year that’s gone. My Mother is the same; perhaps it’s a celtic thing. A darkness in our souls that rears it’s head in the depth of midwinter and blinds us to the truths that are all around.
But of all years, this is the one that I should be glad to see the back of. Shouldn’t it? You don’t need me to tell you that 2016 has hardly been a vintage year for the World, we all know what’s happened. Whatever your political persuasion, the likes of Brexit, terrorist attacks, Trump’s election, and the ongoing situation in Syria have far-reaching effects for all of us. And sadly, many people seem to have nailed colours so firmly to their own particular mast, that they seem incapable of being mature enough to agree to disagree on things, and respect the fact that others may have another opinion to themselves.
Though despite all this, reflecting on what 2016 means to me personally has been quite surprising. Early in the year we walked around the 700 year old wonder that is York Minster, and even four very young children were moved to awe inspired silence at the gothic beauty and splendour inside. A similar wondrous silence occurring just a month later as they witnessed for the first time lambs being born at a friends farm. I don’t think I’ll ever forget their collective joyful smiles at seeing the new life emerge before them.
I have lost one dog, and gained another. The first being stolen from our farm one night, and not being seen since. A low point for our family not just for this year, but for our lives. But our new Welsh Sheepdog Gus, could just turn out to be one of the high points. He is an unbridled joy to be around, and is already universally adored by the entire family. He has ‘it’. That special talent and instinct that some working dogs have deep within their bones, and it’s exciting to see what he can become with time.
I held in my hand a Roman coin that a man with a metal detector found on our farm from 68bc. 68BC! It was an old coin even before the Romans arrived on this island. As a hopeless history geek I can’t begin to tell you what a thrill this was.
We have harvested excellent crops of grass, maize, and spring barley, but very average crops of winter wheat and particularly winter barley. Though the weather, and therefore soil conditions when doing so were unusually good, making the whole job relatively stress free. And throughout 2016 the best flock of hens we’ve ever had have performed like champions, laying well above average egg numbers for their breed. Cattle prices have held up reasonably well, and we’ve begun to see some of the benefits of expanding numbers over the last few years. Our hard work is beginning to pay off in that department.
I’ve spent a joyous long weekend with old university friends and their families, and watched our children hare around together forming fledgling friendships that will perhaps last for even longer than ours have. The thought of this brings a tear to my eye. I have taught my two oldest Daughters to ride a bike. And in fact, I let go of them both for the first time on the same day. And what a day it was. I suspect that I will remember the feeling of pride and elation as they zoomed away on their own for the rest of my life.
We Christened our youngest Daughter in the Church where we got married, my Parents got married, and my Grandparents are buried, surrounded by our family and friends. And afterwards we drank beer, ate hog roast, and toasted the health of our beautiful baby girl together. A day of laughter and celebration, followed by a day of more than a few sore heads. Memories are made of such things.
I badly tore the ligaments in my right shoulder, which has made farming and parenting a challenge all year, though it’s finally on the mend. We spent a memorable week in North Devon, playing on the beach, splashing in the surf, and eating pizza and drinking wine in the dunes (Us, not the kids. They don’t eat pizza.) And met in person the first of several twitter friends. Shout out to @newlandfarm and family who welcomed us to their farm in deepest, darkest Exmoor and even provided our Girls with a pony to ride. They’re still talking about it now. The kindness of social media friends never fails to astound me.
I have ran two half-marathons, and loved *almost* every second of both. Taking part in such large events surrounded by similarly minded and positive people was an incredible experience, and I’m proud of the money that I raised for Save the Children. I hope I enjoy the marathon that I’m training for in April as much. Though at the moment, after a week of Christmas excess, the thought of it makes me die a little inside. I’ve also been interviewed and appeared on my new favourite podcast (Shark Farmer Podcast, hosted by the one and only Rob Sharkey – check it out on iTunes) and made many new friends from that experience in the good ol’ US of A.
I stood with my one great love in the pouring rain at the Etihad stadium in Manchester, and watched my other great love perform for two and a half hours the songs that are the soundtrack to my life. My Wife, and Bruce Springsteen; I can’t separate the two. We danced together to Dancing in the Dark, just as we did at our wedding, and I’ll never forget that moment if I live to be 100. You can’t start a fire without a spark, folks.
I watched England and Sri Lanka play cricket at Lord’s with my Brother in Law, with Her Majesty The Queen flying overhead in a Chinook helicopter. After the match we met my Sister at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese pub, off Fleet Street. The former watering hole of such luminaries as Christopher Wren and Charles Dickens. I could’ve happily stayed there with two of my favourite people in the World drinking Guinness and wallowing in the history of the place for days.
I’ve attended two good friend’s weddings and celebrated their love and marriage with the best of them on the day. At the first of which, I got to see my beautiful Wife and Daughters as bridesmaids. We’ll be looking at the photos and reminiscing about that day for the rest of our lives together. I’ve also seen our 3rd Daughter, who turned 3 in August, both terrorise us and delight us at the same time throughout the year. We all know that 3 year olds are assholes, but my goodness she’s a character with it. I find I can forgive anyone almost anything, if they have a wicked laugh, twinkly eyes and an invariably grubby face.
I have started this blog! Eventually. I’ve been wanting to do it for a few years, but wary of criticism I haven’t had the nerve. I’ll keep working at improving it, and I’m conscious that I’ve a way to go, but here it is, grammatical errors and all. And you know what? I’ve bloody loved it. And I’ve even been offered some paid writing jobs for next year on the back of it, which is a bit of a head-kicker for me and far more than I ever expected. It’s also partly got me into a new project, which I’m tremendously excited about. You never know what’s around the corner if you’re willing to give new things a go eh?
And lastly, I’ve said Goodbye to a few much-loved family members. Two weeks before Christmas, both my Wife’s Grandmother, and Grandfather (on different sides of her family) went on their merry ways. They both lived the exact lives they wanted to live, worked hard, raised families and had no regrets, but they’ll be very sadly missed by all of us. Yesterday I read the eulogy and carried the coffin at her Grandfather’s funeral, and I can honestly say that he was one of the finest men i’ve ever known. I will miss him immensely. So it’s been a very sorrowful end to 2016 here.
So there you go/ dyna ti. In 2016 I have loved, laughed, lost, and above all, lived. Tomorrow night my Wife and I are staying in together at home on our family farm, and when the animals are all fed, and our Children are tucked up in bed asleep, we plan to drink a bottle of pink champagne that we’ve been saving, and count our numerous blessings. Life is wonderful, and there’s so much to look forward to in 2017.
A very happy new year to each and every one of you.