Another year has flown by and I feel like it’s been an epic one, but I’ve been lucky to feel that each year recently which is not something I could say for all of them before. I remember dreading new year, realising the year ahead was going to be much of the same, but these days I really do look forward to them and always try and make the next better than the last.
First thing I like to do is look at what I planned to do last year and see if I’ve managed to tick them off or not. The first point I make is about making 2016 more epic travel wise than 2017 and on that front, I think I’ve done more than ok!
I started off the year with an amazing trips to New York in January and then to Alberta, Canada in February. In NYC it was again very cold and snowy but I got to see 4 home games, and I stayed in Brooklyn this time which was a great experience. I also met the New York Islander players down in the locker rooms and got autographs and photos so it was a proper memorable trip for me. In Alberta, I headed to the Canadian Rockies, Banff which just blew my mind. It was such a stunning place, and I went dog sledding which will long live in the memory, as will the tours of Banff.
After Banff, I headed to Calgary and Edmonton for some New York Islanders on the road action! The games were great to experience other stadiums, and one of the highlights of the whole trip was the olympic bobsled run with an olympian, it was mental. I was so chuffed to do it, following in the footsteps of the famous Jamaican bobsled team!
As usual, there have been some great Champions League Away trips, and not always has the result matched the trip. 2016 saw us bow out of the Last 16 after a trip to Barcelona. The weather was great until the day of the game which was a complete washout which made the game, the result and the experience all the worse! This was my 4th time in Barcelona (my favourite European city) but no more football visits please!
The group stages in 16/17 drew us against PSG so it was a great trip to Paris. I was chuffed to head to a new stadium and I was obliterated the night before so I was very subdued on the day of the game, despite it being quite a good game and result.
Finally, the final game of the group stages was Basel Away, my first time in Switzerland (scratch off the world map) and a great win for The Arsenal made it a very decent away trip.
There was some small trips in 2016, I went to Bratislava/Vienna for my birthday with the folks which was a great trip and both Bratislava and Vienna are epic cities. We also headed to Dublin in August which was less cultural and more drinking and having a well earned break with the folks. Also in August, I visited a mate in Karlsruhe which was a brilliant bank holiday weekend and I am hoping to go back in 2017.
The major trip though was October/November when I travelled across South America for 6 weeks. I managed to get in 6 countries in that time; Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. It was the first time I had done a group tour rather than on my own, and even though I didn’t favour that over going solo, I had an incredible time, met some incredible people and did some unforgettable things such as the 4 day Inca Trek to Machu Picchu, bungee jumping, paragliding, helicopter rides and hang gliding. My favourite city by far was Rio De Janeiro, although my favourite country was Peru. I am still way behind on my notes for that one as didn’t have my laptop so hopefully I can finish them off by the end of the year.
The second thing I hoped for was to extend the current contract (thoughts in December 2015), and I did extend in March and also extended again after my return from South America, which means in theory, I am tied up until June 2017. That second extension was an odd one because I normally go travelling when I know I do not want to renew and I use to purge thoughts of the previous contract and come back refreshed for the next. It was odd and quite difficult to come back to the same contract it has to be said, but I did it because we had a change in structure that I was enthused about, so I was keen to stay.
I also said I wanted to do some home improvements in 2016, I have definitely failed on some of these. I wanted a walk in shower put in and a customer made wardrobe to fit the strange space in my bedroom. I failed on both of those counts but I did invest in a cleaner/ironer which I am absolutely chuffed about and has made it so much more pleasant coming home from work to. She isn’t going anywhere in 2017 I can tell you! As a little plug, if you need one go to hassle.com and if they work your area I can get you a free clean if you use my code (message me).
I wanted a massive year for The Arsenal, and despite many more epic away days both in the UK and abroad, it was not meant to be. I have already mentioned the champions league aways and there are too many away trips to mention but I was pleased to be at the last ever game at Upton Park and the first ever at the Olympic Stadium (for The Arsenal). The away trail is gruelling and exhausting, but we do it because we love our team and I have no doubt I’ll continue it into 2017.
I had picked up around 2.5k’s worth of Euro 2016 tickets in the ballot but I was leaning towards selling them, and that’s exactly what I did. However, I did keep apart one pair which gave to Lee for his birthday as it was in and around the date. We went to Paris for a long weekend for the Quarter Final which ended up being France Iceland (originally thought France Wales, then France England but hey ho…). It was a great long weekend and I loved the Stade de France.
I said I wanted to keep in touch with people better (where it was reciprocated) and this hasn’t materialised at all, in fact I think I’ve done the opposite. Also said I didn’t want to interact as much with friends as online contacts, I think I’ve managed that but maybe that’s where the slippage has come, no online contact = even less chance of actually speaking/seeing friends who live a distance away. I no longer accept that people who have children are naturally busier or less obliged to make effort than those who don’t. On a more positive note, in January and July I attended some weddings which meant long overdue catch-ups with many people. The year started brilliantly with Nick and Fiona’s wedding in Norfolk which was a great occasion and great to catch up with old University and DCS Rapid friends. Sam and Vicki’s wedding in July was also brilliant, and ended a 10 year wait for a catch-up between Sam, Hannah, Lucy and I who were in University together. The final wedding was a great old friend Morgan’s marriage to Emma which was a special day and I absolutely love any opportunity to catch-up with the oldest and best friends from back home.
In my goals for 2017 I said I wanted to do one charitable thing a month. I have been fairly successful in that, I often buy food for the people outside co-op but I had visions of varying the gesture rather than the simplest one so I am carrying this over into 2017. I am proud to have done Santa Appeal in the Rhondda again this year though so hopefully the child I got will enjoy the gift at Christmas, where his family may not necessarily be able to give him much on the big day.
I need to mention a brilliant weekend in June when me and the folks went to Royal Ascot as their anniversary treat. We went in the Royal Enclosure and had a weekend away which was epic. I didn’t win bugger all but my mother and father did, so it was a great weekend overall and great to get spruced up for her majesty and the GG’s!
I also got to mix a catch-up with my best mate, Godson’s and The Arsenal legends in September when we went to The Emirates for Arsenal Legends Vs Milan Galore. It was great to see the boys, both my two Godsons (Bradley, Charlie), Lee and Big Jens, Gilberto, Safe Hands, Kanu, Bobby Pires, Freddie etc! Kanu bagged an amazing hat-trick and at times it was like watching The Arsenal of old!
In 2016 I embarked on an 8 week programme with Shapeshifters to rid some body fat % and since the end of that programme I have been working with a Personal Trainer. I absolutely love it and although a lot of my trips put me back a few steps, I love training and the progress I am making. I am not interested in dropping weight necessarily, just body fat % and that is ticking along nicely.
December is always packed and this year was even more so with Champions League away and many Arsenal away games. I got back to Wales for a great weekend or my nephew Dougie’s 2nd birthday where we went to the Toy Mine in Heritage Park and he had a birthday party with a load of bouncy castles on the Sunday. It got me excited for Christmas, and I couldn’t wait to go home.
I said in January another of my aims for this year was to make big decisions ready for 2017 about whether to buy another house in Norfolk or pursue other things and while I don’t yet have the plans in concrete, I do have one or two plans I am exploring completely new to when I wrote it in 2016. I have definitely ruled out the new house in the East for now, but saving for the 2nd house continues ready for when I can either bring myself to sell my place in Birmingham or stomach the new Stamp Duty for 2nd homes.
It was a great Christmas, especially seeing Dougie’s face now he’s 2 and understanding Christmas a bit more. It was exhausting though watching him playing and having so many more presents for us all to open. Christmas eve was also great after heading to a party at a play venue in Caerphilly and then having a Chinese around Kim and Jason’s. A few days in Birmingham with the folks now with lots of nice meals and nights out planned, then heading to Norfolk to spend New Year with my Godsons. After all that, I’ll be back to the Arsenal away trail at Bournemouth and 2017 will be underway.
It’s been a great year, thanks to all those involved and I as usual I am planning ahead, so I am looking forward to the new Sasco Wall Planner going up and me plotting to make 2017 an absolutely epic year.