What did 2013 teach me? I suppose it taught me a lot more than I am consciously aware of, but the stuff that has come out on top of my recollections is as follows, and not in any particular order:
- I am still growing - physically, that is. It hasn't been a particularly astounding year for taking care of my slightly beleaguered body, although half way through I felt that it might turn out to be. Food is an important element of life - not merely nutritional, you understand - having been brought up in a household where the resources and habits were such that asking for a piece of fruit was frequently met with a response in the negative, followed by an explanation/illustration/lecture about how such profligate wanting would bring my parents to bankruptcy and money didn't grow on trees. I am, therefore, a sucker for food - comfort food in the shape of savoury stuff in particular. despite the reputation to the contrary, UK food (which I grew up with) is hard to beat in terms of savoury goodness and satisfaction. I'm not making excuses, simply stating that in 2013 I learned that I had still not matured enough to stop friggin' eating too much!
- I have become a dinosaur. I wouldn't mind being a Pterodactyl or perhaps an Allosaurus (being a T-Rex would, I think, feel a little like living a cliche) but sadly I seem to have become a rather ponderous bovine 'terrible lizard' (if you didn't know, that's the literal translation of 'dinosaur'). I'm talking about work. After taking myself out of the rat race in 2012, I found a job this year which gelled with my policing experience. Since July I have been repeatedly shocked at examples of childish and unprofessional conduct that I've witnessed in the workplace. Not really being in a position to perform my customary supervisory role, I've been forced to bite my tongue and keep my thoughts to myself. Now I think that I understand why the older guys (the ones with improbably baggy pants that seemed to start just under their nipples and make their way unhindered to their ankles) at work all those years ago used to say so little...bah, humbug.
- It's never too late to try something new. This relates directly to a strategy to address my expanding waistline, and only just squeezes (see what I did there?) into 2013. Three days ago I watched a documentary which has set me off on a course which I hope will entail the loss of significant amounts of ugly fat (no, I'm not going to chop my own head off) while re-invigorating my rather neglected body. I'm rather excited because what I'm trying to do seems to be eminently sensible (well, it makes sense to ME, which may not be the same thing) and most importantly; sustainable. I'll bore the hide off you with updates (if it works as I hope) and keep very quiet about it if I fall off the wagon.
- I'm not too old to be very surprised. The Catholic church (a member of which I used to count myself) has managed - I suspect somewhat by accident and to the horror of the Vatican's bureaucratic empire - to elect as its leader a man who continues to say sensible things, compassionate things and things which challenge political leaders to do the right thing by the overwhelming majority of the world's population (i.e., the poor). Pope Francis ('Frankie' to me and his other close buddies) has been, if you'll pardon the word, a revelation. I had all but given up hope of the mighty Catholic church allowing a compassionate human being to rise to the top. He may be a one-off; I sincerely hope not, and I fervently hope that he will continue to make a big noise about the imbalance between the world's rich/super-rich and the world's poor. There is probably no more important issue today.
- I missed my dad. I don't mean that I miss him - which, by the way I still certainly do - I mean that I missed him. I missed finding out about him while he could still share something of himself. Over the years I didn't ask enough questions or ask them persistently enough to get some answers. All I know of my dad is what little he allowed to rise to the surface, an idea of which can be gleaned from the fact that after over seventy years of life all he ever wrote down about himself was about four or five pages (and I had to repeatedly ask for that). He barely told us any more face to face. He was a lovely man, a kind man and a tough man, but he made a sad mistake in this regard. I will not let the same thing happen to my children.
- Looking forward is still fun. My lovely wife and I have formulated a plan for our semi-retirement which hopefully will happen in around five or six years' time. It's a simple idea, but one which fills us with excitement about doing something rather different and creating a new chapter of our lives together. It will be something which is entirely ours, with no vestiges or echoes of our prior lives. It will be an adventure (in a gentle kind of way), and it gives me a strong sense of looking forward to growing old within our little dream, together.
- I'm fortunate. Not lucky, but fortunate. I am deeply in love with my gorgeous lady, and she with me (that alone is enough to make the world worth living in), together we have three fantastic children (rapidly becoming adults) of whom we are very proud, and we live in a truly beautiful part of the world. Despite the different routes that we have taken to get here, we have made this happen, without the intervention of luck or anyone's imaginary deity. We've worked hard to be happy today; we deserve it.
- It's not over until it's over. My wife and I have lived different lives for most of the past thirty years. We got together on the stroke of midnight 1983 and became an 'item' within seconds. We were together for nearly three years before we went our separate ways, but as 2008 came towards an end (along with my marriage) we found one another again - well, to be fair, she hunted me down - and we have now been married for more than three years. Last night at the very last gasp of 2013, we marked thirty years since we first locked lips/sucked face/ kissed one another romantically, which was indeed the very beginning of our first relationship (she attacked me!). The road between there and here has been...interesting. There have been a full lifetime's worth of ups, downs and sideways-es in the interim, but I have to say that none of that really matters. We are, after all, and after all these years, where we truly belong. Together.