So did you have a nice Christmas? I hope you did. Mine was everything that I hoped it would be, well mostly. Having said goodbye to our last paying guests on Airbnb my wife and I had the house to ourselves pretty much for the first time since mid September. We love having guests stay with us and going by our reviews, we make pretty good hosts too but the prospect of having the house to ourselves at Christmas was fantastic and a week on, well worth the wait.
I received a few presents which always goes down well of course. A history book of world changing battles. It is funny how so many history books and television documentaries concentrate on warfare rather than the other 99% of life. I remember reading of a medieval monk who would keep an annual diary of events and one one year he simply left it blank as there were no battles or raids at all!
It was also my birthday on December 28th. My favourite gift of all was an inexpensive silver pocket watch on a chain of a type you see in Sherlock Holmes or Downton Abbey. I remember I had always wanted one since I was about 5 years old which is about 34 years ago. It was a very quiet day that was mostly filled with reading, watching television and writing. A substantial amount of chocolate cake was eaten though which was nice.
We didn’t go out on my birthday itself but on the following day went to a new restaurant in my home-town where they serve foods from all over the world. I’d never been to one like this before and it was a little unusual though the food was all delicious so over 2 or 3 smallish plates I ate my way through the best of Indian, Chinese, Thai, Italian, American, Mexican and British.
One of the best things about the week was having spare time. Sadly it has rained hard every day and so we only got out for a walk once (we are ignoring the monsoon outside and going for another as soon as I finish writing this). We had time to eat proper foods though not over indulge. How nice to wake up when it was vaguely light and not drive anywhere.
There was time a plenty to watch television. I know lots of people complain about television and how commercial it is and it is a tradition in GB that all the television channels show their best content for this week. Our cable box is overflowing with recordings for the next 6 months. It’s so nice to have time to watch what you want and not just for an hour or so in the evening. I don’t watch soaps or much sports or anything at all celebrity driven which means apart from Downton Abbey I don’t watch anything on one of the 2 main British TV channels, ITV, all year long. However I’m happy to explore everything from BBC 1 on channel 1 to 284 to watch the Young Doctors notebook, a very interesting though niche show starring Harry Potters Daniel Radcliffe portraying the exploits of a Russian doctor sent to distant Siberia. Films and documentaries are scattered over the first 428 channels at least. There is plenty for everyone if you really look for it. It’s often overlooked just how wonderful an invention television is and how lucky we are to be able to see things from all around the world.
Having the whole of Christmas week on holiday really allowed me to do some of the things I have been meaning to for a long time. In the only day where there was no rain, I went in the garden and pulled up some parsnips from the vegetable patch, they have been waiting for a month or so but the ground has alternately been frozen or far too muddy. However they came out pretty good as can be seen below.
I also decided to set up my own tour company as I had been thinking about for some time. It’s called Ye Olde England Tours and I’ve created a website linked to this blog and I registered for some free advertising at TripAdvisor, YellowPages, Thomson and Google. There is still much to do but it is a start.
Similarly the spare time allowed me to finally finish writing the first draft of my second book which is a travelogue. I could have finished months ago but just couldn’t find the time. Even so, it only took 3 years to write compared to the 9 or so for the first book. I have books 3, 4 and 5 in my head and even a bit on paper but I have to get book 2 published first.
It made me realise that in effect I had done my New Year Resolutions early. New Year Resolutions date back to the ancient Babylonians in modern day Iraq who would promise themselves to pay back outstanding debts of the previous year. Romans would make promises to their god Janus for the coming year, Janus of course is where we get the name January from. Medieval Knights would re-affirm their commitment to Chivalry with their annual Peacock Vow and Christians would attend Watch-night services and pray for their resolutions they had just made on New Years Eve with similar traditions taking place for followers of Judaism in their New year, Rosh Hashanah.
I must say I am not one for New Year Resolutions and I think they are a bad idea, at least with regards to modern resolutions to lose weight or stop drinking so much or do more exercise. What worst day could there be for doing this as the first day at work after the festivities in the cold and dark of January? To me January 2nd is all about survival and getting through the day. Similarly I don’t really get the celebration of New Year. Every New Year is always the same as the last. After having a week off work and doing what I want when I want, why on earth would I look forward to getting up at 5.20am in the dark for another 4 months and another 12 months of commuting and going to work? If any one year had been any better than another then I could understand it but by the age of about 7 I realised New Year was just one big downer. Going by a report in todays Independent newspaper, 40% of Brits won’t even bother to stay up to midnight citing tiredness, lack of money and bad weather as primary reasons for giving it a miss? And why should they? If they are anything like me there is probably very little they can do that will make life more fun next year.
That’s why I did all the things I have been wanting to do but couldn’t due to lack of time and energy this past week. I might not be able to change my life on January 1st but hopefully over time, writing a second book and starting my own company will pay off and help me enjoy a life-style which is more my well…. style.
If you don’t feel like giving anything up in January then don’t. Give up New Year Resolutions instead. All of the main main “resolution” type achievements of recent years have happened because I wanted to do it when I decided. 2.5 years ago I decided I was overweight so in the September I started dieting and exercising and lost over 3 stone and it is still off today. Last April I decided I was drinking too much Diet Coke. Diet Coke was the only “comfort food” I had and as I don’t smoke, eat junk food or really drink alcohol I didn’t think it was that bad in comparison to others. If it wasn’t that bad it still probably wasn’t that good for me so I just stopped drinking it and never looked back. Even blogging was something I had long wanted to do but started last summer not in January. There is one last thing I wanted to do this Christmas week and that was break into freelance writing but sadly time has nearly ran out. I will get round to it but just not tomorrow or perhaps any time in January. Maybe one sunny spring morning in March though.
However 2012 has had some good things around the world. In the United Kingdom, against all the odds just about everyone watched and enjoyed the Olympics and 6 months on no-one is complaining they were a waste of money. Team GB actually came third in the world, not bad for such a small country by size and population. I’ll always remember those 2 weeks and especially “Super Saturday” night when we won 6 Golds and 3 Golds in just the space of a few minutes. Perhaps the only time I’ve ever been proud of my country for something that was happening as I lived it.
The spread of freedom across North Africa and the Middle-East. I have visited most of these places and had friends from all of them. I’m so pleased that they overthrew their tyrannical governments with and without foreign help. Lets hope they make it to true democracy by having several peaceful changes of government.
I had lots of fun too. Several BBQs in the garden, visits to lots of places in the country and more walks and houses than I can keep track of. Plus a visit to Malta in the Mediterranean, sunshine and history is all I ever ask for! I still remember the incredible moment of being let into the locked grotto of Saint Paul underneath the Cathedral and thinking of whose footsteps I was standing in.
Opening up our house on Airbnb has been terrific. I’ve met people from all sorts of jobs, Accountants, fire jugglers and hair-dresser to Tom Cruise as well people from all around the world, Britain, Italy, Denmark, USA, Mexico, Australia and New Zealand. It was like backpacking but with out the travelling.
Finally starting blogging has been a great experience. It’s fun writing and reading other peoples blogs. I hope I’ve kept to my remit of blogging on just about everything with a slight leaning to history and culture and current affairs without boring too many people. It’s interesting how sometimes what I think is a good blog is not as successful as posts I think are only average. If I could pick one blog that I enjoyed writing the most and which was one of my earliest posts it was about my Uncle who got was shot down by the Red Baron in WW1. People who have just come across my blog lately or even just today might like to click on the link below:
Happy New Year to everyone wherever you may be.