For the most part 2018 was rubbish. I certainly won’t be remembering it with any affection, that’s for sure. But in amongst all the poop, there were some lovely moments. Such as seeing Caity get married, it really was the most perfect day and she looked stunning. Mr B and I celebrated ten years of marriage. My granny had seventy people sing happy birthday to her the week before her ninetieth birthday. All of my kids continued to hold down jobs, as did Mr B (which in this economic climate is something we often don’t acknowledge enough). And we kept our a roof over our heads.
We also thanked the powers that be for our amazing NHS. This year more than any other several family members have spent more than their fair share of time being cared for by the NHS, with us spending time in uncomfortable plastic chairs and drinking cup after cup of mediocre tea.
All of which should be the focus when I look back at 2018 in years to come. But along side those highs, and the unimaginable lows, came the things I learnt this year. Some of them about other people (oh what I learnt about other people) and some of them things I learned about myself. Every month I learnt something so what better way to focus on the good about 2018 than to group them all together in one big reflective look back?
Here’s what we learnt:
- Devizes is quite a pretty town, on a canal and that it is the perfect spot to park your new motorhome for a weekend. It probably isn’t the best place to be though when you get a phone call to say your father in law has had a stroke at the other end of the country.
- You shouldn’t go away for said weekend in said motorhome without having at least some idea about how it all works. Rocking up to a campsite at 8pm in January with no clue on how to get water or electric into the damn thing is not a smart move. Ditto how to turn off the alarm that activates every time you move at 11pm.
- You are never too old to do a pub crawl when it is raining and you can get a bus back to your motorhome. Though that does then impede your ability to react to the phone call from your mother in law and drive 200 miles north.
- No matter how old you are, or indeed your children are, when they are sick you need to be there. You need to scoop them up when they are curled up in pain and you need to drive them to A&E.
- When they are admitted for surgery you are the one who has to read the scary consent forms, though you are no longer legally allowed to sign them.
- If you call 111 and they say they are sending an ambulance, that you need to lock up any animals, secure the property, get ready to go, they aren’t kidding. A local first responder will be on your doorstep within minutes, a paramedic will follow, and half an hour later an ambulance will be reversing onto your drive. Our NHS dealt with all we threw at them in January and we shall always be incredibly grateful.
- When you wash your car you have to use two buckets. You have to have a pile of cloths and sponges and you have to pay attention. There is washing your car and there is washing your car. Apparently.
- I can post photos of me on Instagram and get amazing comments. This was the first month I really started doing this and every time I did the reaction was fab so I vowed to do it some more.
- My parents showed me that even in your 70s you can still have fun and go on adventures. They entrusted me with their classic rally blog and asked me to share stories and photos every day from their five country trip. I learned that I can blog beyond just dumping my own thoughts on the internet.
- Sometimes you need to just phone people and say “are you in?”. Luckily for us Penny and Rik were and we got to see their new home that’s just an hour away from Mr B’s folks. Food for the soul.
- Sneaking off to France for Valentine’s Day was also food for the soul. Though that could have been the fruits de mer we had in Sangatte. Either way it was a lovely day.
- We also learned that the roadworks on the M40 /M42 /M6 are relentless bastards and we would spend more time in them this year than we could ever imagine. But it would be worth it as it meant we were spending time at Barrow Towers and that has been important this year.
- I love Comte. Not something new but I learned that you can get to St Paul’s from Waterloo in about ten minutes so going to an event where I got to eat Comte and hang out with other Comte fans is super easy.
- And that hanging out with friends is also important. Our friends at Le Beaujolais have always been fabulous, and the backdrop to a fun evening. Whether we have rocked up just the two of us, or as part of a crowd, their restaurant in the west end is a little haven of calm. And cheese.
- When you have a convertible and it is -4, has snowed but is now dry you have to drive down the local high street with the roof down. Actual law
- One thing I should have learned was that I should have introduced myself to the handsome chap at the Ronald McDonald House Charity dinner before I threw my phone at him and asked him to take a photo of me with Matt Dawson. I might then have learned Paul was the CEO of McDonalds. Actual CEO. Mr Big. And not somebody I should have thrown my phone at and asked him to take photos.
- You are never told to learn something new. I learned how to take photos at night by really using my camera on its manual settings. Allowing me to get some fab shots of the London Eye.
- And my granny learned that despite the fact her daughter is in Vietnam it is still possible to chat and wave in person thanks to technology. Mind blowing when you are 89.
- Fashion was cruel in 70s. Enough said
- Hospital tea never tastes great but is, without doubt, the greatest tea you will ever drink when you are visiting.
- Dogs love peanut butter. Who knew?
- You can get a wedding dress in a Mini by just putting the roof down.
- Horses really do just roam in the New Forest, wandering across roads, and you can get up close and personal.
- Sometimes you just have to go and photograph things. Regardless of how tired you are. You will always feel better afterwards. Especially if it involves lunch with a good friend too.
- Angles on photos can make you look thinner, with perkier boobs, in an instant. Confirming that actually nothing on the internet is real.
- Dogs at Polling Stations is a real thing and that when we live opposite our local polling station Cheeky will be happy to pose several times a day.
- When I said nothing on the internet is real, I lied. Friendships on the internet are real. Gorgeous Lara who I have never even met knew that we were having a tough time and sent me a mug with a daily reminder I needed to hear. Lara has a lovely blog that is well worth a read: Lara in the middle
- Mothers of the bride have to wear a hat. Another actual law. And they make you feel just a little bit special .
- My hair really defines my mood. If I am having a bad hair day then I am in a foul mood all day. Why is that?! When I have a good hair day I want to swish it and post photos on Instagram. If I won the lottery I would employ a hairdresser full time to arrive at my house every morning and to travel with me.
- My addiction to Real Housewives franchises went through the roof this year. I am up to date on them all, from Orange County to New Jersey I binge watch them all thanks to the HayU app. I learned they really are my escape mechanism when I need to switch off. Though my mum in law is a real housewife of Cheshire so when I saw this make up bag I had to buy it for her.
- I could be mother of the bride, and spend the day with my ex husband and all his family and the world wouldn’t end. It would all be okay. A day that many divorced parents dread could go off without a hitch. Caity was the most gorgeous bride and we had the most incredible day.
- During my speech I asked everybody to raise a toast to our family’s real matriarch, our beloved GG. We all sang “happy birthday” to her a week ahead of her 90th and made sure that she knew how much her being there meant to all of us. Little did we know that just eight weeks later she would pass away suddenly. The photos from that day are ones we will treasure forever.
- When your daughter gets married at a venue that happens to have a Starbucks on site, she will go in there, in her wedding dress and ask for a drink. Complete with her new name.
- Ellie ended up back in hospital in the middle of the night and so I learned the art of juggling. I had never been as tired as I was this summer, yet just when you think you can’t do anymore you find you actually can. That was a real eye opener.
- One of the greatest things I learned this year was on a weekend away at a yoga retreat in France. I learned SO much about myself. And my body. I did a f*cking handstand for christ sake. My blog post about it all is here: The one about the yoga retreat
- I also learned that you can get up at 4am to photograph the most amazing sunrise, running around the Yorkshire Dales in your pyjamas in order to get the shot you want. You can pee behind a bush at 5am and the world carries on spinning. I also learned the importance of breakdown cover when Annie’s poor car stopped working in the outside lane of the M6.
Part 2 is here if you want to read the other things I learned this year.