Well another 12 months is coming to a close so I like to look back on the last 12 months to reflect on whether it has been a good year or not and to set myself some goals for the new one coming up.
In my looking ahead to 2017 I listed quite a few things I wanted to achieve so it seems sensible to address them first. I wanted to develop my French this year and thankfully I did get to enrol and finish my French Improvers course in the Brasshouse Language centre. The shame is because of my last contract in St Albans I was not able to enrol directly onto the Improvers Plus straight after but that is two down (beginners and improvers) so I am ready and waiting for an opportunity to tackle the next one in 2018.
I declared that I wanted my current contract to run up to June 2016 at the time, it ended up running until June 2017 and looking back after another contract since, it was a great one with great people and a good experience. However, my decision to bail at that time I still think was right despite the contract after being a strict 3 monther.
I set myself a target to hit 5 new countries this year, and I managed a whopping 9, but more about them as I flap on about what I’ve been up to in 2017.
I also said I wanted to go to the big boxing event AJ and Klitschko and Lee and I were probably at the 3 big UK fights this year in Haye Bellew, AJ Wlad and AJ Pulev at O2, Wembley and Millennium Stadium (still cannot call it anything else…). I did fail on my target to get to a darts major again in the last year Phil The Power Taylor plays though, I’ve loved darts since I was a kid as the Valleys is a big darting place and my father has played an watched since he was young. I really wanted to get to see Taylor live one more time, but it looks like I will need to go and see him in a exhibition now if I want that experience one more time.
I really did enjoy working with Personal Trainers in most of 2017 but from my travels in August I had stopped, and with the contract working away from home in the latter end of 2017 it has meant a massive step back into a rather disgusting state so no doubt this will form a key part of 2018 goals and #OperationDontBeAFatBastardForCuba.
I also said after going to the Michelin Starred Balmoral restaurant I wanted to get to 3 more starred restaurants this year. Unfortunately, I have done none, although every time my folks are up we go to some new amazing places as I like to treat them when they visit. I will no doubt carry that forward to 2018 and step up my efforts!
Some more failures of sorts in the shape of credit cards, I declared I wanted to be credit card free but I do have 1 remaining which I am very comfortable with. I need to weed that one out though so another carry forward and this is starting to sound like pretty much every business meeting in every company (TAKE OFFLINE, CARRY FORWARD… basically we’ve all done f**k all and we probably intend to do f**k all until you forget about these actions/goals).
My big regret is that when my phone broke and had to go back for warranty I completely fell off the wagon on my 1 Second Everyday videos, I was smashing it up until July but without my phone I could not do it and I didn’t keep it up on it’s return so I am proper disappointed in that. I won’t be doing that nonsense again in 2018 though it was annoying.
Time to have a look back at what I got up to. I kicked off 2017 with a trip to see my Godsons and some cracking Arsenal aways in Bournemouth Away and Preston (A). 2017 really has seen some cracking domestic away days and we have had some really rough days with a great bunch of people in Woz, Emma, Gaz, James and co in particular. Sutton (A), Boro (A) and the truly epic FA Cup Semi final, Final and Community Shield stick out.
In January I headed off for my now traditional trip to New York City to see 4 Islanders matches and Jon and I got to see snow and freezing conditions as per usual when I visit NYC and some Islanders wins. It is fair to say my obsession with Hockey continued and grew in 2017 and the Islanders are starting to be another sporting bane of my life along with The Arsenal, but nothing else will ever reach the levels of that (hopefully).
In February was Jason’s stag do who was to marry my sister in March. The stag do was in Bristol and safe to say I was a disgusting state, in fact, the Stag and I didn’t even make the evening and I ended up sleeping in my own chunder – lovely! February also saw ANOTHER Munich trip with the same result of course, I am so fed up of that place it is unreal, in hindsight, as depressed as I was about missing out on the UCL for the first time in 21 years, I was at least happy I would not have to go to Munich again!
That same week saw me have to attend a driving course for speeding which I was miffed about, but that’s my fault for being naughty. The worst part is, as I type this I was driving to Norfolk yesterday and I am concerned I was over the speed limit on the A11 so I hope not and I hope I don’t get the dreaded letter because with my car bump this year I could do without it (more later). Also that week, we kicked off the wedding prep for Kim and Amie’s wedding with some suit shopping and I was looking forward to being Groomsman at the wedding (and the stag in Budapest).
I kicked off my French Improvers course in March and Lee and I went to see Haye/Bellew at the O2 London. Live, we did not obviously see the extent of Haye’s injury so we just couldn’t believe what we were seeing, and at the end of 2017 that charade is still ongoing – won’t be going to any rematch!
March also saw my sister get married to Jason at the amazing Oxwich Bay near Swansea. It was an amazing day and night and it’s been great to see Kim get married this year and my nephew Dougie growing into an amazing little dude. As I right this we are waiting for my next nephew or niece and she is 8 days overdue so it needs to crack on and join us before Christmas (she just better not give birth during The Arsenal Liverpool on Friday). I am so glad the weather held out in WALES in MARCH (she must be mental) but on the coast it was a brilliant event and venue and so good to see family and some old friends again.
As I mentioned in my looking ahead to 2017, a very old friend of mine Mr Fuge got married to Sara and February was his stag do in Butlins which if I am honest, I was sceptical about because quite frankly, I hate Butlins… but it was a great trip and a great catch-up with all the old friends that I rarely get to see let alone drink with these days.
Into April, and I was buzzing for the newly released Blackberry KeyONE, so I was like a kid at Christmas when I finally got the new device. Boro Away deserves another mention in April, because it was an epic away day with too much Jager but hilariously good fun and I cannot even remember if we won the game, but it was a great trip! The Semi-Final followed a week later and that was disgustingly rough. We played Man City and we got so demolished beforehand I was an absolute mess at the game. We won though so ANOTHER FA Cup final to look forward to in May was amazing, and in my drunken state a few days later a life-sized Arsene Wenger arrived on my doorsteps, bought from eBay.
In the final days of April, Lee and I went to see AJ/Klitschko at Wembley which was a pretty spectacular event and then The Arsenal played the Spurs away the day later which we lost 2-0 so I don’t even know why I am mentioning this, should be brushing over it!
In May I started going to some of the Birmingham Round Table events, tipped off by my Uncle who was National President among other roles in Round Table through the years. If it was not for the contract away from Birmingham at the tail end of 2017 I would have carried this through but that is to be picked up again in 2018.
As it seems every year, there was a sad part to the year where we had to say goodbye to an amazing Gooner and friend Annette Clarke. Annette and Russ (her husband) have been friends seen at The Arsenal for many years now so when Annette lost her battle with cancer it was a befitting send off for her with a lot of The Arsenal lot in attendance. She continues to be missed and it’s quite nice to see Timehops pop up on mine and friends’ timelines of some of the many away days over the years with Annette in attendance.
Typical that the FA Cup Final was a day before Sara and Fuge’s wedding so it made for a heavy couple of days but very very memorable days at that. The FA Cup final was absolutely incredible and a total Wembley masterclass from The Arsenal. When Aaron Ramsey nodded in yet another FA Cup winner, the limbs and scenes were incredible. I am immensely chuffed to have been able to see us at Wembley so often in the last few years. The wedding next day was equally good and even though I was struggling at the start, after a great ceremony and a few jagers, I soon perked up and ended up in such a state, joining another wedding party to do Oops upside your head after ours had wound down in the early hours.
In June I took my folks to Worcester Ladies Day which was another great day of racing. My father had a friend who was a bookie there and he gave us a free 5-bet to put on the derby (which was not at Worcester) and I had a 50-1 winner which I was absolutely buzzing about! Great day and we’ll definitely be doing another in 2018.
June also saw the first of my 9 new countries in 2017 to scratch off my world map. Budapest, Hungary for Kim’s stag was a great one, although think I was a bit old to be with a bunch of army and ex-army doing push-ups in the streets. I was happy to scratch off Hungary and despite a quiet first 6 months of the year in terms of countries visited, it was going to seriously ramp up from here on.
Ricky Gervais – Humanity live at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham with Ashford finished a great June and I headed to Dubai in the first week of July for a couple of relaxing holidays I’d promised myself. I spent 8 days in the roasting heat of the desert and even though Dubai was pretty soulless, I really enjoyed it as more of a chill out than ‘travel’ experience. I did head to Abu-Dhabi and go dune buggying which was incredible though.
After a quick visit to Lee for his 30th, I was straight back to the airport and off to Morocco (new country 3) for another relaxing holiday in Marrakech. I really loved this place, the hotel was proper full on relaxing and Medinah was absolutely mental and I am glad Tom was there (who I’d met at the tail end of South America trip) because a. it was mental enough navigating it and b. he helped in me negotiating my outrageous huge statue purchase from the Souks which I managed to get home somehow. We did a tour of the Atlas mountain which was cool too and the weather was incredible there, I ended up coming back a ridiculously dark colour.
After my two relaxing holidays it was back to Wales to fulfil some son duties dog and house watching for my folks and sister as they went to Gran Canaria. Was quite nice to relax back home and do nothing but walk the dogs up the mountain every day!
After they returned I went to Newmarket for Kim’s local stag and that was again a very messy but class day at the races (I didn’t win sod all at this one). I ended up getting mortal and stayed out with the locals when they all went back to Norwich, thankfully two very kind locals managed to get me back to my hotel (only for there to be no sign of anybody) so it was the first and hopefully the last time I had to sleep in the back of my car 🙂
One of my oldest and best friends Mark and Clair gave birth to their 2nd child Evan, who have not had it easy so I was absolutely over the moon that Evan was delivered healthy and safely to extend their amazing family. Then it was time for me to hit some more new countries with my trip around Eastern Europe.
I spent 3 and a bit weeks across Eastern Europe ticking off Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus and then also popping into Berlin on the way back before ending up in Marbella for a few days to meet up with my folks and Uncle (who lives there). The whole trip was brilliant with brilliant weather throughout the trip and some of those places were really memorable. At the end of that trip it was a total of 8 countries and with the Europa League draw approaching, I was hoping that the total would jump by a few by the end of 2017!
In September I kicked off a new contract in St Albans which on the face of it seemed really good and actually in hindsight was a good experience. However, the staying down there in St Albans 100% of the time did take its toll, mainly on the weight eating out every night and some seriously unhealthy early starts due to the contractor car parking. I still would have liked it to go on longer than the 3 months because the people were great and there was some desire to do things better, but the way it was funded meant no chance of extending that particular stay. For my health, it was probably a good thing so I planned to go on my US trip and then take Christmas off and get back in the game in January.
Unfortunately, the Europa League only threw up 1 new country in the group stages. My luck we drew a team near Minsk (BATE Borisov) so I am probably the only person who’s ever visited Belarus and Minsk twice in such a short space of time, but the trip was a very good one. The best Europa League Away was easily the Belgrade trip though which not only ticked off my 9th new country for the year but made for an absolutely brilliant away trip. Great people, lots of Jager and a win… all you need really.
It was back to Butlins (but the Bognor one this time) for Jobling’s stag do. It was a great weekend with people I had not met before and was much needed as en-route to the stag from work on Friday night I got in a car accident. A guy entered the roundabout when the roundabout was not clear and the idiot just basically drove into the side my beautiful motor. It was a low speed accident and I wasn’t hurt at all but the placing of the bump meant I need two new doors (still not sorted as I write this) so I was a bit thrown given I’d not been in an accident before.
The end of October saw Lee and I head to our last big boxing event of the year in AJ and Pulev at Cardiff. We had ridiculously good floor seats (as we are prone to paying for) but we had such a good laugh and drink through the day (ending up clubbing at Popworld in the late afternoon) we could have probably done without the boxing if truth be told!
November was basically a football and work month with me tying up the latest contract. In addition to work, was the final group stages trip to Cologne. I traditionally hate the trips which have a higher attendance and certainly German ones (Munich has haunted me) so I was not looking forward to it that much. Another reason I was not looking forward to it was because I was in such a state the week before when we had done Spurs over at Home 2-0 in an epic game and day. Anyway, thankfully, great people and a good city saved the trip, even though the game was an absolute dire affair.
This month (December) has been very cool as I set off on my Islanders pilgrimage to see some games on the road. As I try to get to see the Islanders at all 31 teams arenas I jetted off for a few days in south Beach, Miami, Florida before seeing the Islanders Vs Florida Panthers in Fort Lauderdale. The next part of the trip was in Tampa where I saw Islanders @ Tampa Bay Lightning and that was the end of the beautiful weather as I moved to Pittsburgh and Boston after that to see the Isles vs the Penguins and the Bruins. We ended up with 1 win, 1 OT defeat and 2 regulation defeats which was not great but it was a great trip and brilliant to see the Isles in these arenas.
As I returned I was expecting my new niece or nephew to have arrived but still nothing yet. I have just returned from seeing my two Godsons which I always love and am about to go back to Wales for Christmas to spend it with family (and a new niece/nephew if it gets a groove on). ** IT MUST be here by New Year (was due 10th December) so I will have to update **
I am buzzing for 2018 and am hatching some plans for it, it is a shame Wales did not make it to the World Cup because that would have featured heavily but not having that allows me to do some other things. Mark and I went to the home game Vs Austria and it was an incredible atmosphere and a great day/evening so it was hugely disappointing not to make it. Not sure if I will be able to hit as many new countries next year as I would like because I need a strong year of work but we shall see what I cook up over the next week or so before the New Year.
Thanks to all that have been part of 2017 however small a part. The Arsenal in particular is a stressful thing as all Gooners will know but the countless away days and euro aways are made enjoyable by the people. I hope everybody has had a great year and if not, I hope 2018 is epic for you. If I have missed anything from 2017, apologies, blame my wall planner which is my absolute go-to for these things!