Sunday 31 December 2023

2023 over and out - hoping for more in 2024

2023 was not a bad vintage. It wasn’t brilliant, but at least nothing dreadful happened - a positive thing in these unsettled times. I did a few things, though hope to do more in 2024.

So here we are at the end of another year, feeling slightly full up with left over festive food and Prosecco, heading that bit further out of middle age and into older age. My bones and joints are beginning to tell me, as such. Well, I had a sports injury which refused to go away for the first five months of this year. Sure, that happened when I was 26, but back then in 1995 sports injury treatment was a relatively new thing.  Almost 30 years of adopting the various and evolving techniques, my worn out knees are becoming less and less responsive to the typical RICE (rest, ice, compression, elevation) methods. They just groan, creak, and stay stiff. The wood rot is setting in. That has been quite frustrating. 

Thankfully, after a few physiotherapy and podiatry trips I recovered enough to be able to take part in the Paris Triathlon, Paris-Versailles Grande Classique running race, and the Ötillö Cannes SwimRun, my first such event abroad.

I also got up to Scotland during the World Cycling Championships and swam in Loch Lomond. Then I went on to Edinburgh and swam at Portobello Beach and ran around Holyrood and Salisbury Crags.

I feel blessed to still be able to do these activities and maintain reasonably good health - something I don't ever take for granted.

Through sports I made a couple of new connections, notably at the SwimRun, where I met some friendly women from Lyon, with whom I enjoyed a good time on that glorious day on the Côte d'Azur. I hope to see them again in 2024 at another event. 

Away from the sports field I got more into language speaking, by keeping up my conversation exchanges. There were my Italian partners - Ilaria from Milan and Alessandro from Rome, plus my Spanish contact, David from Burgos. As for French, I became more integrated into my French conversation group and got to know the folks better. I think Michèle had a great idea setting up this group, and I have gotten to know Deborah, John, Monika, Nick, Pamela, Paul, and Sonja a bit better. We have our own little group in South London, and that makes a big difference to have folks to socialise with locally.

Music continued to feature in my everyday life too - more specifically, making music. Although I regularly played my clarinet and my flute, I feel that my level plateaued. I only did one concert in 2023 - at Fairfield Halls, Croydon with my local symphonic band. Then I bombed out of doing the other dates. The concerts with my folk band clashed with other things I had planned, and the concerts with my concert band were hampered by unfavourable conditions for me. I must admit that as much as I enjoy playing in community bands I realise I am not prepared to play in the rain, in the freezing cold, or in blazing heat with no shade! I also like to play either before or after a decent meal. This might sound a bit "I don't do stairs" à la Mariah Carey (!) but I need to keep in mind certain fundamentals. I pay for the pleasure of playing my musical instruments in these bands. So pleasure is what I intend to get. I can't see that happening on a miserable winter's day like what we had between October and December. Also I don't feel comfortable being in a band where the leader thinks it's okay to accept those conditions for its players. So I think 2024 will be a year of new beginnings, and hopefully good progress on the music front.  

Work has been steady, with no new type of project done. That has been remiss of me for not getting properly organised. I did too much coasting along in 2023, and not enough striking out. I hope to do more of that next year. I have always been one to see the opportunities presented to us in the free world we live in, and take up those opportunities. Folks in many parts of the world just don't get the chance to do what we are able to do in the UK and other economically developed countries. So I don't like to pass over those moments. 

Still, I did a few things. My medical copywriting ticked along, and so did the cycling journalism. I was very pleased to have had the opportunity to interview the Amaury siblings at their headquarters in the west of Paris. Jean-Etienne and Aurore between them (with input from their mother Marie-Odile) head up big name brands like the Tour de France, Le Dakar (formerly Paris Dakar) and L'Equipe newspaper. These family directors hardly ever give interviews to any media - French or international. So I was very honoured to have done the interview with them for Rouleur magazine. This came on the back of the interview I did with Marie-Odile Amaury in 2021 for Cyclist magazine. Another person I interviewed, also for Rouleur, was Amina Lanaya, second in command at the Union Cycliste Internationale, cycling's world governing body. I even got to do a bit of modelling, when I did a photoshoot for Brompton cycles.

Getting out and doing things has become more important to me as I get older. Every second week the newsreaders announce the death of yet another person from my era - people that formed the tapestry of my life - even if I didn't meet them. Of course in 2022 we lost Queen Elizabeth II, which was nevertheless very sad even though it was imminent. At the end of that year we lost Pele, and also Vivienne Westwood whom I did meet - and that trend of folks exiting the world stage has continued with increasing frequency. I was saddened when Friends star Matthew Perry died. (Caveat: I read Friends, Lovers, and that Big Terrible Thing at the start of this year and was so shocked to learn about the extent of his substance addiction I was amazed he was still alive.) He was the same age as me. He's actually six months younger than me, though his co-star Jennifer Aniston shares exactly the same birthday as me. There is something disconcerting about folks of a similar vintage to yourself dying. I felt the same about Sinead O'Connor's passing.

Then there were household names like Tina Turner, Terry Venables, John Mottson, Henry Kissinger and George Alagiah.

In cycling Tijl de Decker aged 22, and Gino Mäder aged 26, died in cycling accidents, and also incredibly shocking and tragic was the death of Melissa Hoskins aged 32, who was killed in what appears to be a domestic incident with her husband.

I was also very sad to see the demise of a fellow local cycle racer, Tabitha Rendall, succumb to bowel cancer in the space of four months - just aged 52.

Reading about so many people of various ages passing away makes me think about my own mortality. I don't want to get too morbid about things here, as I help myself to another glass of Prosecco while watching the Jools Holland Hootenanny on TV. But before we do the 10-second countdown to 2024, I want to just say no one knows what's around the corner, so I just want to do what I can to write that book or do the round the world trip or any other bucket list stuff before exit day comes. 

That round the world trip could even be done on two wheels, as I made progress with my motorbiking when I got my A1 license earlier this year. I even went to a couple of biker meets in Surrey, and next year I hope to go further afield in the UK and even to France. Some say it might be a typical mid-life crisis thing to do, but I say Carpe Diem!

So in short, 2023 was not a bad year. I did a few good things, and there were a few fun moments. I am not one for New Year's resolutions, and just prefer to change habits in an organic progressive way. I do hope to do more in 2024. 

Happy New Year!  

No comments: