31 December 2015
The final lesson of 2015 was that sometimes, if you stick at something long enough, success will come. Conversely, I also learned that there are times when you have to cut your losses and give up. The main theme was that life is far too short to be unhappy.
September started with a visit to Bristol. As expected it was a graffitifest but, surprisingly, some of the best work was by unknown local artists rather than the famous Banksy. Obviously fame and fortune isn’t everything in the art world.
Graffiti seemed to be a theme for September. For a long time I’d been meaning to check out the graffiti wall along Western Esplanade where American GI’s scratched their names before embarking for D-Day. Finally I got round to it and I was glad I did because I’m not sure how much longer it will be there.
September turned out to be a month of major change. First I passed my driving test. The euphoria gave way to fear when I realised I would now have to go out driving on my own. The best way to deal with fear is face it so the very next day I drove to the White Swan in the rain and practiced parking. My next drive was to Lakeside. The walk around the lakes was pretty boring but I felt I was making progress, especially with the parking.
The next change was, if anything, even more scary. For eighteen months I’d persevered in a job I basically hated. It had never been what I wanted to do with my life but I tried hard to make the most of it. In the end a series of changes of management, new, unworkable rules and being a buffer between staff and management who wouldn’t listen to reason was too much. For the first time in my life I quit, even though I had no new job to go to. There would be no more sunrise walks to work, at least for a while.
Newly unemployed I spent most of October in North America with Commando. After a shaky start we enjoyed exploring Manhattan although three days proved to be too short to see everything. We did spent time in Central Park of course and walked the High Line.
We’d expected cold weather but got twenty five degree heat and blue sky. A whistle stop tour of the city took us to the World Trade Centre for an emotional visit followed by a quick cruise on the Statten Island Ferry. The coming of the rain coincided with the end of our stay but for once we weren’t going home.
From New York we flew to Toronto and a family reunion. Our first three days in Canada were spent in a Gravenhurst motel with amazing views over Gull Lake. Commando ran and I walked the woodland trails worrying about bears and finding glacial erratics and fantastical fungi amongst trees so bright I wished I’d brought my sunglasses.
Maggie and Alan showed us Muskoka and reminded us of the importance of family. We were priveledged to see cousin Katie, surrounded by beautiful things to make her smile in the last days of her life. She still had a sparkling smile and brought a reminder that life really is too short to be unhappy.
Our next stop was Toronto where we learned of the kindness and generosity of Canadian strangers. We discovered that even a big city can provide wonderful views, especially from the top of the CN Tower. Commando ran his first sub four hour marathon on a freezing cold, sunny day.
The awesome power of nature was reinforced when we took a drive to Niagara to see the falls. It was a long drive by English standards but another thing we learned was that a couple of hours is just down the road for Canadians. Either way it was worth the trip although I still can’t get my head round the idea of getting in a barrel and jumping.
Back in England a trip to Exbury Gardens showed there is autumn colour to be found in the UK too. Odd looking fungi are not just a Canadian thing either.
November was mostly about consolidating my driving skills and trying to avoid the rain that just kept on falling. CJ and I managed to stay dry for our Remembrance Day trip to the Netley Military Cemetery, but only by the skin of our teeth. There was also a trip to Twford and my first look inside the church there. Then there were the killer steps in Shawford.
There were also more cygnets to hunt. This time black ones. Sadly these were as illusive as the white one’s had been in the spring. There were moments when I thought they didn’t even exist but I did have a photograph from the Southampton Heritage Facebook page to prove they did.
Finally, at the beginning of December, I did see them. Typically it was when I wasn’t really looking for them and the little devils refused to come close enough for a decent photo. Still, beggars can’t be choosers, which is another lesson I need to take heed of.
The weather stayed wet and windy and the only walks I had mostly revolved around getting Christmas presents. Still, I did see a robin on the common and Commando and I saw Santa flying over Southampton. Perhaps my last lesson of the year should be to be content with what I have and, maybe, to go out and walk even if it is raining. Watch this space to see if I learn that one…