A Look Back on 2018

I started these quite a while back now and love looking back on the year gone to make sure I appreciate what has happened, and if I have not achieved anything I wanted to, to renew the efforts for the year ahead. I still maintain that if reviewing your year on New Years either makes you feel better about the 12 months just gone or more positive for the next 12 then it’s worthwhile. There are many that think it’s a load of nonsense and that is fair enough, but years gone just roll on and on in the same routine and plans, goals, dreams can quickly disappear if you don’t take stock at some point.

Anyway, looking back on my plans for 2018, there is certainly a mix bag and I am quite happy to say up front that overall 2018 has been a bit of a shit one. I have been lucky to be able to look back on the last few years absolutely buzzing about the 12 months gone by, but this one, I have probably had some of the toughest months I have had. In terms of events, they will seem like nothing, but throughout some of the stages of this year I have never felt anxiety or panic like it and those are days, weeks and months that I do not want to revisit in a hurry!

More about that later, but I am going to go through my 2018 wishes/goals from this time last year and see how I’ve done! My first goal was around my beloved New York Islanders, I intended to go and see the Isles in 4 new arenas which would have taken my total to 11. Unfortunately, I only managed to see the Islanders in two new arenas which took my total to 9 (Philly and MSG). Being quite honest, I very much doubt I will get to see them in other arenas in 2019 but you never know!

My next thing was to jump into a new contract and not take many holidays so I could start targeting a second property for 2020, this most certainly didn’t happen and was the start of a few dodgy months! I had been extremely lucky to bounce through my 5-6 years of contracting from contract to contract and they were amazing years, giving me complete financial freedom and freedom to travel and have complete control over my time. Unfortunately, when my short term contract ended (in hindsight it was a mistake to take it but I never expected it to just be the 3 months) I was not able to bounce into another contract. I guess what made it worse is when I finished that one I went travelling to follow the Islanders across multiple places in the US, then had Christmas and then went off to New York for more hockey action. When I returned back, there was just nothing available, and even though I was not struggling for money I started to panic because mortgage, car etc is all just me so no money for me = no backstop. In reflection, I think there was no need to panic, but you are not in control of that and I had experienced for the first time ever stress headaches and anxiety attacks. I would not go and say I was depressed, but the anxiety attacks were frightening… the random sudden tightening of chest and complete panic was something I would not wish on anybody and the fact it could happen anytime during day or night (even when sleeping) was terrifying. If I remember rightly, I think it worsened after I had been unsuccessful in an interview for the first time ever (in over 11 years), at that point I was a big fat pig and confidence was low so I really started to panic then. I think what made it worse was the feedback was that a candidate came across as ‘more energetic/enthusiastic’ for the role, which really alarmed me because it’s something I have never been accused of having a lack of. Once again, in hindsight, I over thought this but again, you don’t have control over it. So I was in full scale panic mode, a big fat pig and low on confidence. Anybody that knows me will know the moment I move away from Norfolk for work I always want to go back immediately and am always on the look out work there. A friend from Uni sent me a potential lifeline, more about that later 🙂

I set myself a goal to hit five new countries which I did successfully taking my total to 45. I visited Russia, Luxembourg, Denmark, Albania and Ukraine which I was very pleased about.

Unfortunately, due to the timing, I had to cancel my big trip I had planned to Cuba, not because of the dosh but because I had it planned in the diary for dates which ended up being super inconvenient for that lifeline I was just talking about!

As you may have guessed by now, this mysterious lifeline which I keep building up ended up with me moving back to Norwich, this meant my goal of moving onto the next level (3rd level) of my French language also got put on hold because the Brasshouse language centre in Brum is a bit of a drive from East Anglia!

I also intended to continue the work I had done with a Personal Trainer when I got back from NYC but due to the work situation that did not happen and I ended up ballooning into a disgusting whale at a weight I had never been in my life until then.

My bold prediction of Fury coming back to the Heavyweight division and dominating, knocking AJ’s block off may not have materialised in full but I think he’s certainly back in business and right in the mixer! I absolutely love Tyson Fury and after that Wilder disgraceful decision, I really hope he can beat him second time around (I am not convinced he will though, my worry is his chance has gone with the element of surprise).

I said I wanted to read one book a month on the kindle, I failed miserably but I will be carrying that over. Reading is food for the brain and I miss it, I just was not in a place for reading, and it’s been a bit of a whirlwind in the last 6 months of the year.

I made a vow to clear all the credit cards and I have done that which I am pleased about, given I am now back in full-time work, that is rather handy!

Charity work/Community work was something I wanted to do and in truth, I did not get anywhere near that in Birmingham but my return to Norwich saw me join an organisation called Goodgym which is a fantastic organisation where you run as a group, do an activity for the community (littering, painting, meeting old people’s home residents, weeding… massive variety of things) then run back. I have met some great people there and it’s one of the main reasons why I have taken to a new hobby… running. As well as GoodGym, I have also started a fundraising attempt for Save The Rhino International.

I had enjoyed dipping my toe into Round Table in Birmingham, but despite moving to the city where Round Table began, the days they meet just has not worked out with my running and Goodgym so I have not pursued it further.

I was buzzing for Read Dead Redemption 2 in my forward look at 2018 and despite it being in my hands on release date I have not had much time to tackle a lot of it. I will absolutely be doing that over the first few weeks of the year though, such a beautiful things needs the attention it deserves!

Football was stressing me out in 2017 it seems and I made a bold claim that I would love to make 2018/2019 a football free season. The weird thing is, even though I had no real intention of doing this I have largely put myself on a break from football after the first few fixtures at the beginning of season. With the move back to Norwich and the focus on running and sorting myself out, I have limited myself to the odd game and the European Aways. I have to say, I doubt I would have made the progress with weight and running if I had been hitting the Away Trail like in the past years.

The two final things I failed on were catching up with the Uni crew, but now in Norwich hopefully a good venue to catch up and reminisce. The last one was to hit some more Michelin Restaurants in 2018 but it was beans on toast for a lot of it so no chance of that there 🙂

Looking through month to month, the end of 2017 was incredible as my niece Dottie was born so Christmas was a pretty crazy one.

In January I started off the year with my traditional visit to New York, and Jon and I were interviewed for the Islanders/NHL website covering our commitment to the Isles. We headed to the Philly game in crazy now on a Greyhound coach, and I got to see us give the Rangers and ass whoopin’ at the MSG. https://www.nhl.com/islanders/news/british-isles/c-294840328

In January I also crammed some more hockey in by going to see the Cardiff Devils at Coventry Blaze and really started to enjoy RoundTable Birmingham.

In February I was still pretty relaxed about the work situation and crammed a lot in. Spurs (A) was messy, Ostersund (A) was a mega trip in the snow, back to Wales for Sister Act Gospel Choir with my mother, a visit from the folks to Brum and a battering from Man City in the Carling Cup Final.

March saw our Europa League campaign continue but the panic regarding work had well and truly set in by now. Milan (A) was welcomed relief and a great trip/result. The folks came up to Birmingham for another visit, more keeping an eye on me I suspect as my mother can detect things wrong within seconds on the phone.

In April I was in London getting my Visa for Moscow (A) and a friend from Uni sent me a full-time gig I might be interested in based in Norwich. It was not ideal as the person he put me in touch with called while I was on the dark fruits in a Wetherspoons at midday (might as well make a Russian Embassy visit in London a day/night out!) but anyway this ultimately led me to interviewing for the role and I got the job. I was absolutely chuffed, there was a bit of relief but the fact is I always said if I left contracting, it would be to go back to Norwich and thankfully the role I did get forced to leave contracting for, meant I got to move to where I want to be. The role meant I was due to move to Norwich/Norfolk for the 3rd time (and I hope the final).

After I got the gig I started the process of shutting my company down. I think it is fair to say sitting here now I would be pretty down in the dumps about leaving contracting for full-time if I was in Birmingham. I miss the ridiculous wedge, I miss the freedom of holidays but all of that is irrelevant because I am back in a county/city I absolutely love and call home. While the first half of the year was largely a total nightmare, one which I would very much like to forget, the 2nd half was gearing up to be great and back in the fine city of Norwich!

I didn’t start the new gig right away because I have priorities, and there was a Europa League campaign to finish. I had been to every away game so I was not going to stop at the Semi Final! My bad luck drew us against Atletico Madrid which meant I was going to Madrid (and Atletico) twice in a short space of time because I had arranged to go with my Godson many months ago. We got dumped out of the semi final and it did at least mean I did not have to go to Lyon 3 days before I started my new job.

Madrid with my Godson was a great trip and shortly after I moved back to Norwich and started my new job. I rented a place near the station for the commute to work each day (drive was apparently a nightmare) and was all moved in after some standard amazing help from the folks. The amount of times my folks have moved me about is unreal, but I really hope they won’t have to do anymore city to city moving for me, but never say never!

May was already looking much better and a great weekend in London for Tiesto with Lee topped off what was a great month, but also a new chapter. Rowe’s Enterprises Ltd was no more sadly, but the website lives on and I was back in business.

Most of my weekends after moving back were spent out on Norfolk beaches, or out in the Norfolk countryside and the amazing weather in the summer meant it was just an amazing return and I absolutely loved my self titled ‘Norfolk Sundays’ out and about on huge walks.

So I had got back to where I wanted to be, but I was an absolute whale so I needed to sort myself out. The Norfolk Sundays helped with huge walks but I decided to join Goodgym which I mentioned earlier but also start Parkrun on a Saturday morning. Those two decisions shaped the rest of my year (and without sounding dramatic, perhaps my life) after I really took to running and happily list it as one of (if not my top) hobby.

July was just full of weekends and days going out and about in Norfolk, getting to as many beaches as possible and doing as many parkruns and long walks as possible to kick-start ‘Operation Don’t be a fat bastard in Norfolk’. At the end of the month we had a great day at Snetterton for the Touring Cars with Lee and my two Godsons, but after blazing weather all month it decided to be absolutely shocking for that day!

In August my folks visited for a brilliant 10 days in Norfolk with amazing weather. Plenty of great meals, Newmarket Races, boat trips, walks, canoeing, pub quizzing, bingo, beach trips etc.

With the season starting I did get to Chelsea (A) and Cardiff (A) but that is when my running got series and I was really gunning for better times in Parkruns and enjoying the Goodgym runs. Parkrun transformed me, and at the end of 2019 I have done 20 Parkruns and had personal best times in 17 of them. I have gone for 29 minutes odd for 5k to 20 minutes 55 last week in just 5-6 months.

August also saw a trip to Luxembourg with Jon to tick off another country. I did not expect much of Luxembourg to be fair but it was a cracking trip and a great place, well worth the visit and dirt cheap to get to (not cheap there though… DO NOT GET TAXIS).

In September I was fully into Operation Don’t Be A Fat Bastard in Norwich and was smashing my Personal Bests in the 5k, and I managed an excellent 10km time for my first ever race… the Coltishall 10k. I was completely hooked after this and the rest of my year pretty much revolved around running!

I also went to my first Wales (A) game in Denmark in September which was a brilliant trip and gave me the taste to do more. There’s a totally different dynamic to Wales (A) then The Arsenal (A) and if I am honest, I care more about the success of The Arsenal but Wales (A) was pretty special as a trip and amongst your own people.

Work also takes me to Edinburgh once a month and I headed up there for my first trip, after contracting and travelling for work for so long, it was quite a relief to have to go travel to see a customer once a month to get out of the office.

October was also a mega month for me because I took the running to a new level by joining a fully fledged running club, Norwich Roadrunners. This was a great decision and I am absolutely buzzing to be part of the club, and it has improved my running massively. I had a bit of a set-back though in that in my 2nd 10k in Yarmouth I missed a giant kerb on the promenade and twisted my ankle. I somehow managed to finish (3km to the end) and with a very decent time, but it put me out for a couple of weeks. I made it back for the Trowse 10km race (my third) which was just down the road from me and came back with a really strong time so I was buzzing for the runs, training and races ahead.

October also saw a trip to watch Norwich based Rylan Charlton box his 2nd professional fight in the iconic York Hall, London. With so long out of The Arsenal away I descended into Jager filled chaos but I think I enjoyed myself, despite the shame hangover afterwards. He got a crackin’ win and went onto a 3rd win which I could not attend in November.

Lisbon (A) was also in October which turned out to be a belter of a trip with great people. Despite my break from league action, I was still on the Euro (A) trail and Lisbon, despite my reservations of being a big red member tour, was actually brilliant.

November took me to my 2nd Wales (A) game and a new country in Albania. Another absolutely belting trip, although the game this time was absolutely poverty (it was a friendly). Albania is somewhere I never thought I’d end up going if you would ask me 10 years ago and I am glad I did, Tirana was epic.

I crammed a 10km race in November (Breckland 10km trail race) after being really badly injured trying to run around the Great Park of Tirana. I didn’t think I would be able to race it I gave it a go and run a very good time.

Finally in November was another epic Europa League (A) tie in Kiev. We played Poltava and it was due to be played in Poltava. We had a party hummer lined up for the 5 hour drive but the day before they moved the game to Kiev due to the imposition of Martial Law due to a scuffle with Russia. Another great trip with great people, standard trip for me in that one night was disgustingly heavy and the rest were spent being a vegetable and drinking water.

December saw more 5km PB’s tumble and also my 10km PB at Thetford Trails (44:05). I did break my ban for Spurs (H) and I am glad I did as it was an amazing day and the best atmosphere I had ever experienced at The Emirates with a united fan base and a side that whipped Spurs 4-2.

The Norwich Road Runners party was a bit messy but a great way to top off my first few months at the club. All that was left for me to do was go home for the holiday.

Christmas was great and I had not seen much of Dottie, Dougie and my family being so far away now so it was a great time. Unfortunately, Dottie had chickenpox so I had to keep distance (I have never had it) but still managed to have a great time.

The year ended in a pretty devastating way for us as a family, but despite the 5 hour distance I am determined to make that gap seem like nothing at all and focus on my family back in Wales for 2019. Even this did not take away from a great Christmas and I look forward to jotting my goals/ambitions for 2019 in the next day or so and am determined to write off that grim half of 2018 and get back to living the dream!

Having harped on about running so much, you will see from my look ahead to 2019 that I have grand plans in terms of races (3 half marathons – one which is one of the toughest around). I am raising money for Save The Rhino, please check out my page, even if you are unable to donate. If you are able to donate, I would be hugely grateful as I have a £1000 target by November next year, and I really want to hit £250 by the new year (which is only tomorrow)!