2018: It’s been another good year

Schiehallion

I can’t complain. I’ve turned 71 and I’ve ended the year at 70kg. By and large there’s been more good news than bad, although some of the latter is pretty awful, and I’ve got the luxury of being able to take a view from a position of some security.

Here’s a rather arbitrary list of stuff that happened during 2018 and which I find significant.

1 Brexit continues to be the big black cloud on the horizon but at least we end the year with a real chance of a ‘people’s vote’ and just maybe that will result in us staying in the EU. Certainly the odds are much higher now than they were a year ago.

I find that in my networks maybe 9 out of 10 people voted ‘remain’ and it’s difficult to get out of the bubble to understand why there is such a big split across the country. It’s become a badge and on recent holidays it’s only when you’ve confirmed that your fellow tourists are also remainers that you really relax in their presence. Whatever the outcome how are we going to heal the split? Do we have the political leaders capable of doing so?

2 we had local elections in May and we ran an energetic and professional campaign in Histon & Impington and were able to get all three Lib Dem candidates elected. There were similar results across South Cambs but we were the only ward with two incumbent Independants and a significant Labour vote to contend with.

It was an exhilarating campaign and I enjoyed being part of a cohesive team both within the ward and across the division and working with some real professionals. I was especially pleased with the quality of our communications and the clarity of our messaging. The contrast with the other parties was dramatic and probably made the difference.

3 the country disgraced itself in its treatment of the Windrush generation. It’s difficult to find words to describe the thinking behind a policy which would deny a continuing right of abode to people who’d been invited to come to the UK to work some 60 odd years ago. David Lammy’s speech in the matter in parliament was epic.

The year has ended of course with the rules relating to EU nationals who wish to continue to live in the UK after Brexit. We seem to have forgotten that over the centuries people have come to this country to work and to contribute to its development (in the same way that Brits have emigrated to work elsewhere). Today the NHS and many other sectors of our economy are kept alive by people from the EU. Why would we not want them to be welcome here?

4 Geraint Thomas won the Tour de France. You generally get something to cheer about where Welsh sport is concerned and Geraint gave us this year’s excuse. It’s remarkable that he comes from the same Cardiff comprehensive as Sam Warburton and Gareth Bale.

In football my old home team Connah’s Quay Nomads continues to do well and has reached the semi-finals of the Scottish Challenge Cup (!) and stands second in the Welsh League. My new home team, Histon FC, meanwhile is in second place in the Thurlow Nunn ECL Premier Division.

5 I ticked off the only place to visit in my bucket list viz the Taj Mahal. It was everything I expected and more and crowned a trip to New Delhi and Jaipur which was pretty epic even before seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise.

Juni and I also enjoyed holidays in Sardinia and Oman and short breaks in Yorkshire and Dyffryn Ceiriog.

6 three cheers for the NHS. Well actually that’s not specifically necessary in regard to my ectopic tooth extraction in March because I went private and most of the cost was covered by BUPA. However private and public medicine do coexist in this country and I was happy not to be a drain on public purse but at the same time to fund medical practitioners who also work in the NHS.

When I returned from India I ‘enjoyed’ a TMD (a temporomandibular disorder) which seems to have cleared up but it did take an age. I remember being looked after at the time by an Italian at the Firs House medical practice, a Spanish pharmacist and a Portuguese dentist. Three cheers again for the EU and its contribution to the NHS.

7 I’ve made contacts with lots of people from my Connah’s Quay and Hawarden Grammar School Days through some energetic Facebook work by Phil Thomas et al. Phil turned up at the Hawarden GS reunion and has really set about bringing people together.

And in another blast from the past I had a long chat with Chuck Adams whom I know from Jakarta and Hong Kong days. Chuck and I were two of a group of four friends in Jakarta. Chuck now lives in California. The other two were Kiwi Phil Judd, who was my best man but seems to have died, and John Finigan (I was his best man) who did well at the National Bank of Kuwait. John seemed to finish his career in banking at Golimt Bank in Mongolia which he left in 2014. John’s trail has gone cold.

8 nobody seems to have died. At least nobody in my circles of friends, acquaintances and family although I did hear that Peter Mackay whom I’d known at Shell passed away early in the year.

On the bigger stage there was the sad news about former Lib Dem leader Paddy Ashdown just before Xmas. Others who died include ex US President George Bush who, in statesman terms, would tower over Donald Trump,

9 good food continues to be readily available. I do very well at home of course, where Mrs J keeps me well fed, but I’ve also enjoyed some excellent meals eaten at some super restaurants including Taverna Dai Matte in Cagliari, el Pultal and Movida in Alghero (Sardinia), 1921 in Bury St Edmunds, the General Tarleton near Knaresborough, Sushi Bar Hanamatsuri in Leeds, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi in Cambridge, the Red Lion in Thornby, the Fox and Hounds in Eaton and Sant Angelo in Wetherby. Several others just failed to make the cut but nonetheless deserve an honourable mention.

I shall also commend the breakfasts at the General Tarleton and the Hand in Llanarmon and note the discrete supply of bacon on the breakfast buffet at the Crowne Plaza in Muscat. And although we didn’t enjoy the best of food in Oman the flaky Yemeni bread at al Maida al Arabia in Muscat was exceptional.

10 and finally: I continue to pursue the health benefits of a moderate diet of alcohol. I’ve enjoyed lots of super wine and have added Primitivo from Puglia in Italy to my list of house grapes.

I’ve also been able to drink lots of ‘craft’ lagers (the best seem to come from Scotland). My current favorite is Schiehallion and ranks alongside Estrella, Budvar and Pilsner Urquell as a one of my preferred beers. I’ll furthermore finally admit that I don’t like English beer (much to the disgust of fellow Lib Dems and my Labour friends).

I complement my healthy drinking with a reasonably intense exercise regime and generally get some exercise on 3 days a week. My standard run is more like 8km these days and in gross terms I’ve exercise more in 2018 than in any year since 2013.

That’s it. A rather fuller look back than in previous years but generally the same message: I really am blessed with my life: friends and family, good health and the resources to be able to enjoy life.

But to complete the year … I’ve got a cold to see the new year in.

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