I think it goes without saying that the general consensus is that 2016 as a whole was a bit of a poor show. On an international level, we said goodbye to some real icons of television, film, literature and music, but on a personal level, I know there were quite a few people in my world who struggled.
For me, 2016 was a year that had ups and downs; seeing people I care about going through bad things always hurts, and there was definitely a large dose of that in these past 12-months, and a few stresses and strains of my own took their toll on my frame of mind, leaving me with a decidedly ‘meh’ feeling about this year as a whole.
With that in mind, I decided to make 2017 a year that really counts. I’m setting myself goals rather than New Years Resolutions and will be sharing those with you in the coming days, but for now, as we say goodbye to a year that so many are glad to be closing the door on, I thought I’d reflect on what 2016 has been for me.
The Year That Was – 2016
I went to my first ever West Ham match at their old, iconic ground, Upton Park, and became a season ticket holder when they moved to their new home at the London Olympic Stadium. I really love going to the matches, despite how cold it is at this time of year!
We also went on tours of both Upton Park and the new stadium too, getting to see what goes on behind the scenes which was really interesting.
We celebrated our 1-year anniversary with a stay at the old West Ham Hotel at Upton Park and dinner at Plateau in Canary Wharf; the first restaurant we ever went for dinner together at. The food was as wonderful as we remembered and the service was second-to-none, then to go back and sleep at the football stadium for the night was incredible. Standing at the window, looking down on the halfway line without another soul in sight was definitely something I’ll remember for a long time.
Ben’s sister got married on a beautifully hot and sunny day in May. The weather in the week leading up to it had been a little iffy, so we thought there may be clouds and rain on the day, but we woke up to glorious sunshine and it couldn’t have been more perfect.
I changed my hair four times this year – cut it short, grew it, had extensions, then cut it again to donate 8-inches of hair to The Little Princess Trust. I get bored with my hair really easily, so I’m forever changing it.
We bought new sofas as the one I had with my old housemate wasn’t very homely. They really are the most comfortable thing ever and they’re huge which is handy when you’ve got two humans, a dog and two cats trying to get on them at the same time!
We spent a spontaneous day and night in Windsor, visiting the castle, walking around the town, eating and drinking. It’s unlike us to do anything spur of the moment like this – having a dog makes it near on impossible (thanks dad for puppy-sitting that day!) – so it was a really nice little adventure to have. If you haven’t been to Windsor, you have to go; it’s stunning.
We celebrated our 1-year Gotcha Day with Poppy and her 3rd birthday. I ordered her a special doggy cake from Hungry Hounds Bakery for the occasion and she devoured every slice she had in a matter of seconds!
I spent three happy weekends hanging out with Sian (and the boys). With me in Essex and her in Swindon, plus both living busy lives, we don’t get together very often, but when we do we always have an absolute blast. Whether it’s wandering round historical National Heritage sites, sinking champagne, or going to the circus, spending time with her is always good for my soul.
My friend’s 7-year old daughter was diagnosed with a rare form of Cancer, for which the treatment isn’t available in the UK. Following this news, we began a huge fundraising drive (Amy’s Angels) to get together the money for them to travel to America for the medical help she needed. They’re still out there at the moment and her treatment will continue into January, at which point she will be coming back to the UK for Chemotherapy. To see how Amy, her brother and her mum have dealt with this has been really moving and I’m not ashamed to admit I’ve shed a tear or two. I hope 2017 will be the year they get some good news and can start to rebuild their lives.
We went to Crete again – the place I feel most grounded and at home. It’s hard to explain, but when I’m there it feels like everything inside my body slows and calms, and I’m “home”. Bizarre, I know! We had a brilliant sun-soaked week there and were gutted to have to come home, but fingers crossed it won’t be too long until we can go back.
For my birthday Ben took me to The Gilbert Scott, a Marcus Wareing restaurant I have wanted to go to for ages. This was one of the best dining experiences I have ever had and the entire evening was perfect from start to finish. The fact they make the best Old Fashioned’s I’ve ever tasted definitely helped to elevate them in my estimations!
We spent a long weekend at Bishops Castle Barn in Shropshire celebrating my brother’s birthday. Time spent at the barn is so settling, resetting you totally with it’s silence and depth within nature. Laying in bed at night and listening to an owl hooting in the tree outside the window was a definite highlight for a townie like me!
Having now known Ben’s group of friends for over a year, I’ve got to know them so much better than I did this time last year and they are a gang of stone cold legends. Every single time we see them we have so much fun, laugh continuously, and all just get on so well. We’ve had lots of adventures together this year, and had a brilliant day celebrating the wedding of one of the couples, who had a ‘hidden design’ cake. Their wedding was perfectly executed with every single element of the day thought about in great detail. We danced non-stop for about 4-hours, which my dodgy knees didn’t thank me for the next few days…
After finally watching all the films earlier this year, we booked ourselves on to the Harry Potter Studio Tour which was really good. To see the amount of work, man-power and technology it took to create what we saw on the screens was fascinating and I was walking round open-mouthed for a lot of the time!
So there we have it; 2016. A year that acted to remind me of our mortality and how important it is to make the most of every single person we have around us, and every single second we have in this world. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the little everyday things and lose sight of what is truly important. Next year I will be making steps to embrace the minutiae of life and really value what I have.
Before I go, leaving these as the last words on A Penny For Them in 2016, I just want to say thank you to each and every one of you who takes the time to read what I write, follow me on social media, and to be a part of my world. I am so grateful for you all.
I hope 2016 has been kind to you and I hope 2017 is everything you dream it to be.
Happy New Year!