A letter to 2017

So here we are – another year passed.   And the more that pass, the more compressed a year becomes.    The spatial gap that exists between January 1st and December 31st is definitely more finite than it used to be…

As I age, I find life is slowing down, and I’m getting less done in a day than I used to be able to manage.  And with those days appearing to pass more rapidly, the lack of progress compared to previous decades seems so much more pronounced.

So now is a good time to reassess where I am, what I have achieved in the last twelve months, where I have wasted valuable minutes and what I need to do to address this ongoing.

Big Ben's bongs rang out for only the second time since August to usher in 2018 before falling silent again on New Year's Day

It’s midnight, and Big Ben is chiming in the arrival of 2018.  Gone are the days when everyone stood around the living room singing Auld Lang Syne, shaking hands and big hugs.  Now, it is a non-event, my mum sat at home on her own, Sue already in bed, the sparkling wine still in the garage ice cold yet un-opened, the annual grossly excessive waste of money on fireworks in the capitals around the world once again filling our TV screen – for a few brief minutes.    How much more we could do with that sort of money.

Thinking back on the year just past, it has had one or two downs, a couple of good highs and a lot of coasting in mediocrity in between.   Travel continues to be a favourite pastime and we plough a high percentage of our available funds into it every year.   Our reasoning always being “we don’t drink, we don’t smoke,so why not”.

We started the year with an early break in Lanzarote, our first visit to the island, enjoyed it so much that we contemplated investing in a holiday home there, but that’s a little way off yet.   We are revisiting in January 2018 and it will be interesting to see if we get the same feeling again.

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This last year we spent our main holiday cruising the Mediterranean with most of our now extended family, and had some really nice short breaks in between.

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One highlight of my year was a very brief but enjoyable stay with my friend Joe in the Czech Republic, where we toured Germany and I got to share his good company once more.  We had full itinerary including Colditz Castle, Buchenwald and the Bach Museum, coupled with a return to his beautiful home in Dolni Lanov, where I got to meet his wife and son again – always a pleasure.  I’m hoping we can get to do something similar in the next year or two – Joe fancies Ireland and I’m up for that.  It shouldn’t really be difficult to organise this sort of short break but with a very limited holiday entitlement it isn’t at all easy to squeeze everything in.

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Me and my friend Jo outside of Schloss Colditz in September.

The thought of retirement brings some obvious advantages in terms of having the freedom to fulfil ambitions, so long as the funds hold out.  Something to explore in 2018.

Our airmiles continue to accumulate and as well as contributing towards the cost of Lanzarote, we managed to juggle a romantic weekend in Jersey as well, which was also very enjoyable.
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I also squeezed in a very nice week’s fishing – well, that was a slight compromise, fishing between excursions of the local area around York and Malton in order to make sure the boss was also enjoying the break.  But no complaints, it was the best fishing to date – and i’m going back over 40 years.
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Travel will also feature heavily in 2018 – our ongoing timeshare investment, which had initially turned into a serious financial burden and white elephant, has been transformed by our careful use of the British Airways AMEX card air miles program, which provided the flights to Mexico in 2016 and has just done so again for our forthcoming return to Riviera Maya later in the year.   Being locked into this timeshare has caused a little inflexibility which I don’t enjoy – I like the freedom to be impulsive and being forced to use or lose these membership weeks has tied our hands on more than one occasion.     Fortunately we only have three weeks left in the package, which equates to either three x one-week holidays in the Canaries over the next three to four years, or one week in the Canaries and one more two week stay further afield, in 2020 probably.  After that we’re free to go wherever and whenever we choose.

In between Lanzarote and Mexico we already have a weekend in Brighton planned, a UK destination that we have often considered but never quite made it, plus there is some talk of a holiday on the Spanish mainland in September with some of the family.  And that will about use up all of my available holidays for 2018 unfortunately.

See, I’m already having to plan forward by that amount.  I look forward to the days of no limitations and no pre-planned events,  just all spur of the moment decisions.

In other news, 2017 witnessed Kimberley’s engagement to Alan, and we have until Summer 2019 to plan and prepare for the wedding.  Prior to that, Kirsty and her partner Alun (aren’t they kind to make it easy for us?) will present us with our first grandson, which is both a source of excitement and a little anxiety – over thirty years of “only girls” will take some adjusting to.   In June the last of the girls left home to live with their partners and the feeling of an empty home was a little difficult to get used to.  Even now I’m not sure if we have fully adjusted to life on our own.    Something to work on in 2018.  Life after children.
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Kimberley and Alan

Kirsty continues her career as a nursery assistant and is currently working towards her next level of exams which should allow her to progress further.   Kimberley is just completing her second year of salon ownership and while it isn’t s goldmine yet, it is giving her a steady income which will eventually boost as her initial start up loans are repaid.

Of course our two delightful granddaughters keep us quite busy and never fail to make us smile with their antics. The eldest is just getting into blogging and makeup, while the little one has a remarkable vocabulary for her age and a personality that keeps us smiling and on our toes at the same time.
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The (current) grandchildren…

Of course I can’t miss out their mother, Stacey, who continues to work for Garibaldi Secondary School and in her spare time is building a successful fashion/lifestyle/review blog which is bringing in many benefits like free dress samples, free meals at restaurants etc.   I wish I could be as successful!    Check this one out at www.amessinadress.co.uk

Stacey is also developing her amateur dramatics and after a few roles with the West Bridgford Operatic Society, she has switched to Carlton Operatic Society for her first stage performance at Nottingham Royal Theatre in their production of Top Hat, 29th May – 2nd June.    How exciting!

We are of course as always very proud of all of their individual achievements.


Work is stable / uneventful, more steady than normal actually, with hardly any overseas trips to disrupt normal life regime, but that has also brought a drop in earnings which has been quite noticeable as we try to continue to fund our various extravagant excursions.

While for many years I concentrated on career progression, I realise it is now time to dismiss thoughts of greater responsibilities and stresses and concentrate on sorting out our lifestyle ready for retirement, which is a maximum of 8.7 years away according to the pensions dept.  Doesn’t that sound a ridiculous distance away at the moment?   And yet it will be upon us before we know it.

November 2017 saw us finally clear our longstanding mortgage, but at the same time lose a considerable amount of pensions growth through some seriously poor administration of my pension fund.  We have toyed with a few different scenarios regarding moving into a more suitable property for our latter years, but 2018 brings a stay of execution as far as moving home is concerned; after some serious investigation in the latter half of 2017 it became clear that downsizing had some serious limitations that were unpalatable to one or both of us.   So for now the emphasis will be to make our home of 28 years more “elderly friendly” and work will start on our final house modification which will bring a new much needed en-suite bathroom facility and the all essential home lift which will allow full use of both floors for the foreseeable future.   So early 2018 will see me enlist the services of a planner for the house modifications and a pensions advisor to see if we can’t fix the huge pension loss incurred last year and bring that 8.7 year deadline down to something more attractive and worth waiting for.

It is true I don’t stay focussed for long on any project, and 2017 wasn’t much different.  My oil and watercolour paints have all but dried up, partially due to lack of space but also due to lack of motivation.  With over 100 paintings collecting dust in the loft, there isn’t much point in producing more.

And for the first time ever, I didn’t get my camera out to capture the scenes around Christmas Day.  I couldn’t see the point to be honest, more of the same, only to be stored away and never viewed again.

My plans to produce websites for both my art and our travel reviews were accomplished, and building on this I have input a lot of time and effort into creating travel videos on our newly created youtube channel.  After a year though, it has become apparent that I’m never going to catch up with the more lucrative bloggers who have turned this hobby into a serious living, and with some disappointment I will reluctantly close down the youtube channel early in the New Year, as the effort:benefit ratio is non existent.  I may still create the odd video if the mood takes me.  The travel website has had a little better success, and takes less effort to maintain, so maybe that will continue through 2018, to be reviewed again by the end of the year.   My art website has not generated any interest and that is definitely going to fall subject to my range of cutbacks.  It seems sad but the truth is no one will notice its demise, which sort of reinforces the reason for shutting it down.

If you want to check any of them out (no pressure, i’m not touting for ‘hits’) you can go to my websites http://www.worldtraveller.me.uk and http://www.robertminchinart.co.uk,

our facebook pages https://www.facebook.com/worldtravelleruk/ and https://www.facebook.com/RobertMinchinArt/

or you can go to watch some of our videos at

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCsuOJsoOxqFyJ2YS9s4V4DA/ or just go onto Youtube and search for “rob and sue’s world traveller”

One project I did enjoy starting and that has took a backseat in 2017 was this blog “45 miles” which I am using as an electronic journal of sorts – recording my thoughts for my daughters and grandchildren to hopefully dive into when I’m no longer around.

http://www.45miles.me.uk

It started from a book that Stacey bought me for Christmas one year where I am supposed to record special moments in my life – I have of course had to go one step better. There are services now that can turn websites into printed books and that will be my ultimate goal – something tangible for them to keep and hopeful cherish.  And maybe it might not be that far away – I find my mind wandering more and more each passing day, and it is a concern that this will be my ultimate downfall.  I’ve just wrapped the rest of a cooked pork joint in clingfilm and promptly put the pork in the drawer with the clingfilm instead of the fridge.   Strange behaviour indeed.   But not enough yet that I need to go and have it checked. There’s currently no cure for dementia type illnesses and I don’t see any benefit in worrying about it.

Hooked, nay addicted to social media, I have spent a ridiculous amount of time in 2017 on facebook and twitter, the latter mostly arguing some political brexit debate with people who I don’t know and actually don’t care about their opinion.  So there will be some pulling back on these in the new year.   Similarly, I find mind numbing games such as Candy Crush entertaining due to the fact it needs little brain input – so in effect gives my overly busy brain a rest while playing.   But I spend too many hours playing pointless games.    My latest craze has been a photo competition website called Gurushots – they set challenges, I submit photos from my 22,000 image collection, and the global public cast their votes on the thousands of images input each day, with the aim being to win each challenge and progress up the ranks towards “guru” photographer.  In the first week I have progressed from Newbie to Advanced (about halfway up the scale), but I have already realised that there is little comfort and no reward from the global public voting on my imagery.  Who actually cares or recognises “Guru”?   Having my current title of photo “advanced” is irrelevant in the offline world.  Maintaining this particular game is resource heavy ( I have spent hours in the first week searching for photos that fit the theme) and has no real benefit other than a short time ego boost.  So I’ve already deleted my account on this game before I get any further embroiled, and the games on my ipad will soon follow.     It was fun while it lasted though.

I may keep Facebook for the time being as it does allow me to keep in touch with many acquaintances overseas who I would otherwise lose contact with, but it is one of my new resolutions to stop checking it every 10 minutes or do.

Healthwise, 2017 was relatively stable for us except for a minor blip regarding my injured knee, which I damaged back in February and after weeks of unsuccessful physio eventually required surgery in November;  that is now behind me and my main, critical and primary plan for 2018 is to, once and for all, lose the ridiculous amount of weight that i’m carrying around with me – or more importantly, that my body is having to carry around on my behalf.    After many false starts, this has to be the year to fix it, if I’m to realistically extend my lifespan.  And I’m already making lifestyle changes to make it happen.

In 2016 I took the decision to stop contacting some of my old ‘friends’ as it had become apparent that it was a bit of a one way street, and sure enough, we didn’t receive any invitations once I had stopped making all the running.  I’ve extended this practice a little further in 2017 and witnessed the same outcome.   The result of course is that I have diminished my “friends bank” to virtually non-existent, which feels somewhat lonely at times, but then again there is little virtue in one-way friendships.  There is always the niggle in the back of my mind that they have only said “yes” to my invitations out of sheer politeness.  Am I that uninteresting?

2018 will see me focus on the one or two remaining friendships that have substance, and concentrating my efforts on support my family as it grows even further.

So there it is, a new year with some important changes, and some important goals.

Best wishes to all for 2018 and I look forward to report back how it all went this time next year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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