Around this time of year I relish the opportunity to reflect on my experiences throughout the year. There’s something calming about the process.
The outcome is an annual blog post published between Christmas and New Year – a way of bringing the year to an end, and looking forward to the next year.
A self-imposed appraisal, now something of an annual tradition, comprises a selection of content highlights, some memories triggered by pictures I’ve published in various places on the internet and a few plans for 2017.
Content Highlights from 2016
What was the stuff I enjoyed creating throughout the year? This part of the process is fairly light touch – just looking over blog post titles and seeing which triggers what emotion. The following ten highlights are those which triggered some happy memories.
I loved producing these short podcasts for the ESC Insight website in the run-up to and during my visit to Eurovision in Stockholm this year. Surprisingly for me, I do still enjoy listening to them too.
The ESC Insight podcasts encouraged me to make more of my own Thoroughly Good Podcasts this year. The most recent one – an extended unedited interview with pianist and conductor Howard Shelley – is my favourite.
Who doesn’t like a word map? This post was a personal exploration inspired by International Women’s Day started whilst I was recovering from pneumonia. I was amazed by the things I learnt about myself during the process.
This maybe my most favourite post of the year. It’s short and to the point – a hint of the kind of stuff I’d like to do more of in the next twelve months. Brevity is rather pleasing on the eye.
The other surprising thing about the post is how it summarises one of the defining characteristics of the year – celebrity deaths – and does so before the full onslaught got underway.
Looking back on the year’s pictures (some published, some not) triggers different memories.
What surprises me the most is how I’m smiling in quite a lot of these shots.
Eurovision in Stockholm
In the years I’ve been writing about Eurovision, the contest has changed a tremendous amount. This year more than any other I’ve been aware of how its become something of a pilgrimage for those of us who ‘get it’.
This picture brings a smile to my face every time I see it. On the left is my partner of nearly 20 years, Simon, who was attending his first Contest. It was the first contest for Jess on the right too. We met in the arena before the Final. It was a very exciting during which I ended up drinking quite a lot of alcohol. Most unlike me.
On my way back from Verbier in the summer, I dropped in on former colleagues at the European Broadcasting Union. It was my first visit to the spiritual home of the contest and, whilst trotting around what is quite a dull building, I had a chance to lift the trophy. The smile says it all. I was, quite frankly, made up.
2016 was undoubtedly the year I understood the link between stress and illness, specifically how extended periods of low-level anxiety can damage the immune system. I wasn’t quite prepared for pneumonia, nor the slew of related illnesses which followed.
Recuperating was rather difficult: I wasn’t used to having to tell myself to not do anything and just rest. Colleagues sent me flowers and told me not to logon to work email.
Reconnecting with School
My demons with school have been laid to rest. This picture, taken at a school reunion, is proof.
Not everyone was able to get along to our school reunion this year. Marcel (above) was one of them. He and I were good friends back st school but lost touch. Social media reconnected us, and during a lightning visit to Suffolk during the summer we met up for a beer in Cambridge. I don’t normally smile like this.
Becky (left) and Emma (middle) were two very important friends of mine at University. We hadn’t seen one another for ten years when we met up in Yorkshire. Our trip consisted of a lot of nattering, some gentle hill-walking, and visits to local pubs. It was a delight.
I went to the Wimbledon LTA Tennis Championships for the first time this year with the adorable Hannah whose generosity of spirit is something I aspire to. We spent all day there. I wouldn’t normally use the word awesome to describe things, but in this case it’s appropriate.
This is the interior of MUPA – Budapest’s newest concert hall. It has a majestic quality both inside and out. It was the sight which greeted me shortly before I stepped into the auditorium to watch my first ever Wagner opera -Das Rheingold. I found it a deeply moving experience. I saw two other operas in the Ring Cycle before returning home a convert.
I was invited back to Budapest to write about another music festival later in the year. I love the travel opportunities I get, and especially appreciated my extended time in Hungary’s capital. I really hope there are more opportunities like these in 2017.
During my second trip to Budapest I started exercising regularly, running along the banks of the Danube every morning. I never imagined I would ever enjoy the process. But now, three months later I find I feel restless if I haven’t run. It’s helped me develop a strategy for tackling procrastination, and it’s transformed my mood too.
Last year I set out my intention to be more mindful about what I published, to use email less, and to be bolder with my fiction writing. I was successful – distancing myself from my own copy was healthy, it’s helped me understand what interests me. It’s also changed the way I write – more concise, less verbose. I no longer look on email with suspicion. I use the phone far more to discuss things. Far more healthy.
The unexpected things are worth documenting here too. I’ve found myself pushing back in a lot of areas in my life, establishing personal boundaries. It’s the equivalent of having attended the village fete for years on end, but this year for the first having the opportunity to set up my own stall there. I’m not entirely sure what I’m selling at the fete, but the opportunity to have a retail space is rather nice.
My relationship with Facebook has changed radically this year. It was already on rocky territory late last year. As 2016 draws to a close, I’ve deactivated my profile. I’m looking forward to an extended period without it. This year its caused rifts and misunderstandings, blurred the boundaries between professional and personal relationships and helped sustain an unseen addiction I realise I quite like to be without.
Most importantly of all, I’ve come to realise that I no longer rely on my professional work to define myself as an individual. This is the most liberating thing of all this year, underlined by travel experiences to Verbier and Budapest earlier in the year. It’s also led to a number of new opportunities for next year, and goes some way to explain the thinking around the goal to seek out freedom next year.
Some thoughts for 2017
In the spirit of concision, this year’s objectives are in list form.
1. Face change with boldness; feed challenges with an open mind.
2. Be an architect, not a victim.
3. Help more.
4. Seek out freedom; eradicate addiction.
5. Reduce my digital footprint.
I published 184 posts in 2016 (compared to 165 posts in 2015, and to 158 in 2014). The increase in numbers of posts is because unlike the year before I didn’t run a live blog for Eurovision or for the duration of the BBC Proms.
The highest traffic generating post was the Ulster Orchestra’s appearance at the 2016 BBC Proms (1043 views) and the LSO’s Mahler 3 concert (589 views), both reminders of highly-charged musical high-points.