2013: Of dreams and nightmares

The year that triskaidekaphobes had been dreading for decades has finally come and gone. No longer will they be reminded of their peril every time they have to write down the current date. The rest of us can draw a line for a new start and reflect on another year past. Not soon enough for some, and tragically too soon for others.

An ode to Judith Pote

The year didn’t get off to a good start, with the news that my aunt, who had been bravely battling cancer for several years, was finally succumbing to its vice grip. Having lost my own mother to cancer many years ago, I can empathise deeply with my cousins and what they have been through this year.

My aunty Judy had always the kindest of heart; always determined to see the best in people; to do right by those she loved and to avoid sides in any conflict. Not an easy accomplishment where I was concerned in particular, though she managed all the same. She never had much voice for anger, though she was brave and would not be trifled with. She was brave, kind, and genuine and loved by everyone. She has been missed by everyone this year.

I have always been close to her sons, who are an immense credit to her. My thoughts will be with them all later this month.

Turning over a new leaf

Most people who know me are aware of my long standing affinity for a certain herb, one which for some time had been a hindrance upon my life. I was aware of the problem and resolved to face it for a while. In February I finally determined to turn my back on it for good. It was not easy, I could not do it alone, but [so far at least!] I have managed it and feel so much the better for it. Much of what I went on to do this year might not have been had I not. My sincerest thanks a gratitude to all those who helped and supported me.

Iceland: The land of snow and fire

March saw the first of several epic holidays I took this year, to the frozen, surreal landscapes of the most volcanic country in the arctic circle. I went alone, hiring a 4×4 and driving through the tundra, although I was advised to avoid the mountain passes as a lone, inexperience icelander! I saw the great Geyser, along with many other geothermal pools and fissures in more secluded spots away from the tour buses. I saw the glacial waterfalls of Gulfoss and swam in hot springs. I also managed to see a bit of the northern lights, although my photographic skills failed to capture it successfully. I also sought out the local swing dancing scene and made some new friends at a social event in Reykjavik.

Fred Astaire eat your heart out

I briefly dipped my toes into the world of tap dancing this year. I went along  with a friend for a laugh, but really enjoyed it. I invested in a cheap(ish) pair of tap shoes and went back every week. I can’t claim to be brilliant; I cant even claim to be competent; truthfully, I am an awful tap dancer, but I enjoyed it all the same. Sadly our tap teacher had to return to Australia to look after family, I’m not sure if I’ll find another class that suites and fits into my rapidly filling schedule this year.

London Lindy Exchange

It was a highlight of my year last year, and this year was even better. Epic performances from bands such as Echos of Ellington, Steve Coombes Hot Six and artists Gordon Webster and Naomi Uyama really made the event. I stayed to the end of every evening, including the blues after party on sunday, where the outstanding Gordon Webster came along and played for free way into the early hours. There was an afternoon party on the Monday bank holiday too. I was shattered by the end of it all, but so worth it and cannot wait for LLX 2014.

Moving on from the Lonely Planet

My fixed term contract at the Lonely Planet expired in June and I decided to take a job elsewhere. I left to work for a much smaller company, where I would basically be in charge of creating and managing the cloud computing infrastructure. A challenge that had me nervous to start with. I pleased to say that I managed, and now have a solid infrastructure which scales and manages itself. I will be adding a few posts about some of the neat tricks I have employed in achieving this.

Sun, Pasta, Gelato and Swing Dancing

In June I jetted off to beautiful Como in the Italian lakes for a week long swing dance festival. Half of the London swing dance scene was there, many of whom I knew others were new acquaintances. We were sun seeking, gelato eating, photographing tourist by day; swing dancer extraordinaires by night. We explored the towns that pepper the lake’s waterfront, sampled way too many flavours of gelato, the local food dishes and vino!

The main piazza had been converted into a stage and dancefloor and every evening saw live bands and swing DJ’s playing while the crème of Europe’s swing scene congregated on the dancefloor.  Every evening, at midnight, the scene moved down to a club where swing dancing continued until 4am. After 6 days of dancing for around 8 hours a night I was exhausted but certainly feeling fit!

Sadly this festival will not be returning until 2015, so I will need to seek an alternative for 2014.

Hearts and Seoul

I was also honoured to be invited to a friends wedding in Seoul in South Korea in July. My first jaunt into Asia, I found it a slightly unsettling culture shock at first, but after I acclimatised I had a great time. As we were there for a wedding, there was obviously a stag party, where we went on a bar crawl through the notorious Itaewon area of Seoul, well known for its debauchery. No goats were involved, however.

The wedding was a traditional Korean wedding, which was an interesting experience for me, involving fantastic traditinal robes (known as Hanbok) and hats, some wooden geese, and quite a lot of bowing.

We also explored the palace and other sights of down town Seoul; rode on the Subway (I call it the Seoul train); danced gangnam style in Gangnam (yep, its a real place); gorged ourselves on the local cuisine and booze, although for me Makkoli was a bit too much; and of course, I sought out the local swing scene and tried my best to keep up with the frighteningly good dancers.

It’s the little things that count

I also made a few new friends this year, unexpectedly, whom I met at the odd little event throughout the year. These are sometimes the friendships that can become the most valued when there was such little expectation to begin with. I am truly honoured to know these people and that have helped me out, in all those little ways that make such a big difference. Thank you my friends!

And finally…

My last hurrah for this year a night out at the NYE masked ball for the Last Tuesday Society; a decadent and debauched affair where face masks must be worn and effort on your outfit is required.. assuming you wear an outfit at all! Everyone was glammed up; there was an orchestra, dancing, and cabaret acts; live nude drawings and a naked feast, where gold pained naked people fed bemasked revelers food from gold platters. This was certainly an eye opening, sometimes eye popping experience. The perfect way to end the year!