Sunday, January 06, 2008

Looking back at 2007, what I am doing next

Last year I started a rather half-hearted attempt at reviewing the previous 12 months. I think I got as far as March before I got bored of that idea. So here, in one fairly pithy and hopefully brief post is what I liked most about 2007 and what I am looking forward to doing in 2008.

In January I saw the play Frost/Nixon - can it be almost a year ago? This was I think my only visit to the theatre in 07 and a well worthwhile and enjoyable evening it was. I remember walking back along Shaftesbury Avenue to the tube, my mind buzzing with moments from the play and the excellent performances of Frank Langella and Michael Sheen.

February saw me making my annual trip to the Brighton Modelworld, which normally falls a couple of weeks before my birthday at the end of the month. When I was a kid this used to be a special birthday treat as my dad would always take me (by bus of course!) to Brighton on the Sunday of the show and I would spend many happy hours visiting the various model railway layouts, a particular thrill being the 'live steam' layouts. The highlight though always was watching the model boat clubs who would have a large pool set up at one end of the hall to 'play' with their boats. This year they had a model Titanic and the obligatory iceberg.

I got Sky at the end of March after many months of debating whether the cost was worthwhile. Looking back I think it was but it has probably turned me into more of a couch potato than I have ever been!

The beginning of March saw the regular Groovy Gang trip to MK and this time I suggested a visit to Bletchley Park, which I think everyone enjoyed. I certainly did and shamefully I've not been back since although I don't live far away and have a free pass for entry until this March.

One of my regular days out saw me taking an impromptu trip to Liverpool on 24 March. It was all because I had mixed up the date of a meeting of a railway enthusiasts group I am involved with. The AGM is typically held in Crewe but I bought my rail tickets for the wrong weekend. So instead of spending two Saturdays in Crewe, I decided on the second occasion to make the short journey further on to Liverpool and enjoyed glorious sunshine as I looked around the cities two cathedrals.

In the middle of April I took a short break to Newcastle and the North-East. I'd long wanted to visit this part of England and in particular to indulge a railway interest of mine - to travel the Settle to Carlisle line. So on one of the days I took myself off for a round robin from Newcastle via Carlisle and Settle to Leeds thence via York back to Newcastle. It was a wonderful day, full of beautiful scenery not least the magnificent views from the Ribblehead Viaduct, a stop in picturesque Settle and an enjoyable late afternoon break in York. It has also whetted my appetite for doing the Settle to Carlisle again, this time the 'right way round' as it were and by steam train.

In May I had another holiday, this time with the Groovy Gang and despite the weather not always being that kind to us, that week spent on the Grand Union canal was one of the happiest moments of the year. There were a few minor disasters on the way, not least my terrible driving which saw us nearly ram other narrowboats a few times and ended with a particularly severe collission with the canal bank on our route back through Milton Keynes (I am sure Jamie will never let me forget the latter!). The memory that abides most from that week was of having fun, lots of it. Plus all those nice pubs we stopped in, the hearty meals, the quenching drinks and the irreplaceable company of my friends. It was a brilliant week and I so much hope that we do something like that again.

June saw me boarding 'The Golden Arrow' at London Victoria for a terrific day out, being hauled by steam almost all the way to Folkestone Harbour and back, stopping off in Canterbury for an afternoon break, before a spirited run round the Kent coast back to London. Although an expensive trip, if offered, I would do it again tomorrow. There is something unbeatably fun about being on a steam-hauled train, a magic that you just don't get from modern rail travel.

Staying on the theme of all things steam, it has been something that has dominated a lot of things I did last year. 2007 after all was the fortieth anniversary of the end of steam on what was the Southern Region of British Railways in 1967 and I made visits to the Bluebell, Mid-Hants and Severn Valley Railways (although that was GWR of course) during the year. Sadly I didn't get an opportunity to visit the Swanage Railway and missed their gala. However, it was an enjoyable and somewhat emotional weekend in July having been at the Mid-Hants 'End of Steam 40th Anniversary' gala on 8 July and then chasing three railtours over the Saturday evening and Sunday morning, also celebrating this important anniversary. One of the unforgettable moments was seeing 34067 Tangmere in full flight as she stormed through Fareham in the beautiful evening light on the Saturday.

Star Wars Celebration Europe in July was another highlight of 2007. This was 3-days of wall to wall Star Wars fun and excitement. I remember on the Friday evening going to Canary Wharf to see a concert of film music instead of staying to watch Star Wars. That was one of the best bits. But, much like the canal boat holiday in May, the abiding memory was not the event itself but the people, my friends. They made that weekend so special and enjoyable and fun and I wouldn't have wanted to have been there without them. Sunday night when it was all over and as we were drifting home felt like such a huge disappointment. I was feeling emotional on my way back on the DLR and I tried to keep in mind what a great weekend it had been, trying to dismiss the disappointment that it was all over. I still have my memories and no end of merchandise, photos and even DVD's of the event to remember that happy weekend.

I managed to cram a lot into August. Not only was it the annual Groovy Gang Park Meet at the beginning of August, as always held in perfect weather, but we visited the Star Wars Exhibition at County Hall in less generous weather a few weeks later. Plus I was handing in my notice at work and looking forward to starting a new job at the beginning of September, squeezed in a visit to my parents and trip to the New Forest to see Jamie & Theresa, not to mention having a couple of memorable nights out with work colleagues and attending the BBC Proms.

September onwards seemed to be quieter months for the most part. My new job in London started at the beginning of September although by the end of the month it was clear things were not going as well as they should. By November I was collecting my things and leaving.

I got in a couple more visits to preserved railways in September and October, attended a wedding at the beginning of October and saw some of the Groovy Gang a couple of times while I was still down in London.

November seems to have consisted mainly of crossings out on the calender. Just about everything I had planned and pencilled in got knocked off course by me losing my job on 9 November. I did make a trip to Sheffield the following day, although that wasn't my original intention. For a few days, it all felt like I was living on auto-pilot, going through the motions before I got a grip of myself and got a focus on where I was going from here.

The final month of 2007, was one of interviews and disappointments. I decided to catch up with a few people before Christmas. Over Christmas was a busy time with The War of the Worlds on the 22nd, meeting with Ram & Anne who had come over from the States on 27th and a trip to Basingstoke, long planned and postponed on 28th to see Paul.

So that was 2007 for me, in essence. And for 2008...

Well I have lots of aims for this year, not least to get back to work. My objective is to secure something by the end of January, whether it be permanent or temprorary. I am going to keep looking for jobs in London because I really did enjoy my time working there albeit briefly in 2007.

Also, 2008 is the year when I start taking charge of my life, finally losing weight and getting into a better and healthier way of seeing the world. I am starting the 'No Diet Diet' tomorrow, which is being serialised with The Independent. The first thing I have to do tomorrow is to give up the television for the day. That's going to be hard! But I am determined to make this work for me. I am going to change my habits and attitudes and I am going to be a better person because of it. That's simply my aim for this year.


Carla said...

Good overview of your year, and great goals for 2008.

Personally, I'm already thinking of postponing one of my goals for 2008--the driving licence. I have paid for 6 lessons and will finish them, but I am probably going to stop there and decide what I want to do next. Maybe wait until it warms up. Maybe never go back to it again.

Carla said...

Mark, I'm just returning to say that I had a look on amazon at this No Diet Diet book and it looks really good. I've been wondering how to break myself out of this sort of cocoon I feel I've built around myself in the last few years. (Getting a drivers licence was one way I was hoping to break out, but it may be that I don't have to be a driver to feel free as a human being!) I think I would like to buy a copy of this book and use it for its self-help aspects alone, regardless of any weight loss side effects. Thanks for telling me about it. I am going to buy a copy (if I can find one online--amazon seems to be sold out!)

Could we work through it together, you think? I would love to be your No Diet Diet buddy! We could compare notes on all the challenges as we go. What do you think?

jamie said...

i don't know about changing your habits and attitudes,but you've no need to aspire to becoming a better person. you're a pretty solid person,,just as you are.
and a good friend,