Saturday, December 31, 2016

new year reflections...

Another year’s reflections (as always - a reminder to ME!):
For me, the most depressing words of 2016 are “Brexit” and “Trump” (I know there are lots of other words/phrases I could add to these – such as refugees, climate change, Syria/Aleppo, Tory government, Labour Party, the media, the haves-and-the-have-nots and austerity, to name just a few!). If you check out my facebook page or this blog from time to time, you will no doubt already know this! I’m afraid my faith in democracy has largely disappeared. The EU Referendum (which should never have happened in the first place) was a shambolic, disastrous farce - with outrageous claims and lies from both sides… and something that can’t be reversed in the short- or long-term (our children and their children have to bear the brunt of its consequences). It seems that, as a society, we’ve become a hateful, vindictive, racist, selfish bunch… and it saddens me beyond measure. Trump being elected US President simply underlined our very worst fears. SURELY, it couldn’t happen? But, ridiculously and (probably) catastrophically, it HAS.

Another depressing aspect of 2016 has been the death of so many high-profile/famous individuals, including: Muhammad Ali, Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, Prince, Victoria Wood, Alan Rickman, Ronnie Corbett, George Martin, Terry Wogan, Carla Lane, Jo Cox, Fidel Castro, Johan Cruyff, John Glenn, AA Gill, Rick Parfitt, George Michael… to name just a VERY few.

Anyway, on the more positive things:
My top TWELVE, in some sort of order!! (I’d intended to limit it to just FIVE, but found it impossible – it’s been a bumper year!): The Year Of Living Danishly (Helen Russell); The Iceberg (Marion Coutts); Coffin Road (Peter May); Oxford (Jan/James Morris); Postcapitalism (Paul Mason); A Year Of Marvellous Ways (Sarah Winman); Quiet (Susan Cain); Rose (Georgina Hounsome+Alexandra Higlett); The Old Ways (Robert Macfarlane); Somewhere Towards The End (Diana Athill); Sheila (Robert Wainwright) and The Narrow Road To The Deep North (Richard Flanagan).


My top nine (in vague order… Mark Kermode and I just have to agree to disagree)… again, can’t get it down to 5:
Spotlight; I, Daniel Blake; Rams; Ethel and Ernest; Captain Fantastic; High-Rise; Bone Tomahawk, Trumbo and The Eagle Huntress.

(broken down into various categories):
We’ve been absolute rubbish at going to the theatre this year!
Jane Eyre (National Theatre)(brilliant!); The Snow Queen (Bristol Old Vic) and You Can Never Tell (Shaw’s Corner).
Highlights: Lisa Hannigan; Grayson Perry (if you can call his performance a “concert”!?); Tom Robinson; Three Cane Whale; Paul Bradley, London Klezmer Quartet and Nessi Gomes.

Not as many as I’d have liked (but I might have forgotten one or two?): Alexander Calder “Performing Sculpture” (Tate Modern); The British Museum generally (particularly enjoyed revisiting The Parthenon Sculptures plus Assyrian+Egyptian sculptures); Daphne Wright “Emotional Archeology” (Arnolfini); Fabric of India (V+A); and, of course, the Annual Open Exhibition (RWA).

I actually watched a little more “live” sport this year, including: Cricket at Taunton (three days, I think) and at Edgbaston; Football at Villa Park (Villa lost to Liverpool 0-6!) and at Ashton Gate (Villa lost to Bristol City 1-3!); Rugby at Ashton Gate (Bristol Rugby lost to Northampton I0-32!).
Once again, we’ve been blessed to be able to meet up with many of our lovely “special” friends (they know who they are!) on a pretty frequent basis during the course of the year… always special occasions… and have also really enjoyed making new friendships. Other highlights included Julia+Joe’s wedding in Tuscany and Kerry+Allan’s wedding in Stoke Poges – with brilliant friends; getting together with the wonderful Franziska Opp (from Germany/Iona), Joy Banks (from Canada) and re-connecting with Nick+Christine in Luton.

Another really enjoyable, busy year, including:
1. I’ve still very much enjoyed continuing to post a drawing or photograph every day as part of my “One Day Like This” blog (now approaching 800 drawings and 800 photographs since I started in September 2012). I also produced another Blurb book of drawings (and, this time, photographs) entitled “Four Years Like This” to mark four years of blogging.

2. I joined a brilliant Drawing Group – organised by a wonderful lady (and talented artist!), Charlotte Pain, with the support of the Churches Conservation Trust. We meet for two hours most Tuesdays (and also occasionally go “on tour” to draw other churches on the CCT’s list.

The Group also held its first exhibition “Within The Wall” at St John-on-the-Wall church, Bristol.
3. We had another successful Arts Trail at number 40 (I think this was our 13th consecutive year)… and attracted some 700 people into our basement over the Arts Trail weekend!

4. I produced a large, coloured drawing (well, three drawings – one for each of our front windows) as part of the very successful Window Wanderland last March.
5. I provided some photographs for an exhibition in Saint Stephen’s church in Bristol as part of a Friendly Stage/B.Friend fund-raising evening.
6. I produced a 2017 Calendar of Bristol drawings (you might recall that I undertook the drawings a year ago!)… and sold all 50 copies by the beginning of November!!

Cafes, reading, drawing, photography, walking, cycling (rather less this year), living near the sea (well, sort of…) and, of course, looking after our Bristol grandchildren remain very important aspects of my life (although, now that they’re all at school, our time with them is sadly a little reduced these days… but school-runs and child-sitting partly make up for it!).

Feel SO lucky to have the family we have… and great that we all “get on” so well and are able to see each other regularly (even if we don’t see the Chorley/Lancashire contingent as often as we’d like).
It’s good that Gaol Ferry Steps FINALLY opened this year, just down the road. As a result, I spend a fair amount of my café time at the wonderful Mokoko! Wild Beer is also amongst the units there – great designer beers and lovely food!!
I think I need to do some brainstorming as far as “future projects” are concerned. It’s possible that I might be involved in art project in Leeds with my great mate Si Smith and a few other family members perhaps. I’m also vaguely considering doing another calendar – this time based on Birmingham (my ‘home town’)… or maybe even Oxford? I’ll obviously continue to explore Bristol (perhaps drawings and/or photographs from around Temple Meads?) but also maybe old boats at Sharpness? Cardiff? Clevedon? Bath? Forest of Dean? Lyme Regis?  Perhaps also more train excursions exploring places within easy reach of Bristol? Coastal walks? Canal-side walk to Bath? We’ll see (I think I said the same thing last year!)…

We’ve tightened our belts a little this year, but have been delighted to enjoy an excellent few days in St Ives (celebrating Ruth’s 40th birthday!) and a week in beautiful Cortona, Italy (celebrating Joe+Julia’s marriage).

I think I’ve only played one game of golf this year (or was it two?).
We continue to be part of the Community of Saint Stephens (St Stephens Street in the heart of the city) and it really does now feel like our “spiritual home”. We’ve made some really good friends with the very special people there and, although my own faith-life continues on its rather meandering course, it all feels pretty good, hopeful stuff…

The successful hip replacement (April 2014) continues to REALLY make a huge difference… walking and cycling are no problem at all. Brilliant. The other nagging health issue I commented on this time last year was persistent bursitis in my right arm. It lasted for perhaps 9 months and was quite debilitating, but I’m pleased to report that this has now largely cleared.
After a nagging flu virus, followed by a persistent cough, earlier in the year, I was aware that I was becoming a little short of breath at times (nothing dramatic, I hasten to add!). Following various tests, it turned out that I had an irregular heartbeat (“Atrial fibrillation”) and have been duly prescribed blood thinning tablets. I continue to attend various hospital appointments to monitor all sorts of stuff – which is fine by me as it feels a bit like an “oldies MOT”!
I actually feel in very good health and probably walk 3-4 miles virtually every day. If only my teeth+gums, cut/inflamed right shin (which is taking an absolute age to heal) and perhaps hearing(?) would sort themselves out, I’d be a PERFECT, healthy specimen! 
1. Being a Trustee at the wonderful Windmill Hill City Farm continues to be good fun (it’s an amazing place with some brilliant people working/volunteering there). A fair amount of hard work and responsibility, but it all feels very worthwhile.
2. After several years of helping, I’m giving the local Arts Trail steering group a ‘break’ for another year (at least!) – hopefully, they’ll find enough willing hands to allow it go ahead!
But hey, for us as a family, it’s been another pretty good year… and we continue to count our blessings.

Photo: family on Leigh Woods Christmas Eve walk.

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