In The Shadow of a Goblin

NO resolutions, no pledges, not even doing Dry January (or the far harder-sounding RED January), just a few plans which need piecing together in the coming months.

And one promise to myself – to get the New Year’s Day blog post written on the intended date for the first time since it became a Travel Marmot tradition four years ago.

That first one was written in near darkness in a bar by a Ghanaian beach (although not posted until we found strong enough WiFi a couple of weeks later), the ones that followed rather trailed in during the opening weeks of the new year.

All were written in the same spot in my flat and, reading through last year’s entry, it would be easy to claim that not much has changed in the last 12 months (there’s even a football match being largely ignored on the TV, as there was last year).

So, we’ll call that quits then shall we? Not much has changed, nothing to rattle on about.

Maybe not. Not that much has changed looking around from my seat, although that disturbing, now worse for wear, goblin lantern – found that much out about it – is clinging to the lampost outside my window (thankfully, not for much longer. Hopefully).

But plenty has happened in the intervening 12 months – some of it great, some of it good, some of it… well, life can be a bit shit sometimes can’t it?

The most noticeable change, at least for other people, is there’s a fair bit more room in this chair than there was last January.

Then the diet was about a month old and the weight was starting to come off. It continues to do so, maybe not as fast in the last few months and certainly not since last weighing in before both Christmas and a family wedding, but the chair is under considerably less strain than when this all started. To the tune of six stone.

There’s a way to go, a bit more than a stone to get down to the round figure eventually picked out as a target and then two more targets in my mind – where they will stay – which will put me at roughly my lightest since playing rugby and schooldays respectively. Both of which were a long time ago.

Don’t want to bang on about the diet, there’s only so much interest most people can feign and will post a link to a piece which should see the light of day elsewhere in the next couple of days (got to write it first), but it has played a key role in the last year.

As nice as the weight losses are (surprised how fluctuations either way can affect my mood), it is the little plusses you notice which provide the real impetus to keep going – trousers which fit again, other clothes given a fresh leash of life (one pair of trousers, at my reckoning, fitting for the first time in eight years), a belt moving up a notch or being able to do the seatbelt up without garrotting myself on a flight which is suddenly much more comfortable.

Alongside the diet, there has been an effort to get fitter which has also stumbled a bit over the last few weeks through a combination of work, bad back (some things never change) and indifference. The post-work gym crew needs to get its act together again.

Country number 58

Re-reading last year’s new year post  a lot does remain the same. The job has not changed too much, the flat is the same (a lot of things very much in the same spot) and the Wotsit-coloured shitgibbon still occupies the White House – this time last year, evidently, he was declaring himself a stable genius.

And we are still careering head first towards Brexit without anyone knowing what is going to happen while nobody on either side is willing to concede they can’t get exactly what they want or at least what they think they voted for. But let’s not go down that particular rabbit hole.

There were some personal highlights of the year.

The Boston Red Sox won the World Series, Gloucester mixed some excellent rugby with their normal ability to lose games you expected them to win and my travels chalked up country number 58 (Monaco on a Trans Africa reunion weekend in Nice) and state number 40 (West Virginia, leaving Michigan as the sole one missing this side of the Mississippi) during a trip which took in New York, Gettysburg and three bears. But no porridge.

My contribution to the wedding

And the last couple of months were dominated by the wedding of my nephew who, in trying to do the exact opposite, picked a rare Sunday when Gloucester were playing. Which is when he’s supposed to be working.

Which was a lovely distraction from the undoubted low point of the year.

At this point last year, was coming to terms with the fact that my friend Nick was fighting a tumour.

Being blokes, we were far more likely to chat and catch up about travel, football (delighted he got to see his beloved Lincoln City win at Wembley), music, old times… anything really rather than the elephant in the room, although it was pretty apparent early on that this was not something that could be ignored for long.

But even when it had become clear how serious things were, it is still difficult to come to terms with the fact he is gone and that it happened so fast in the end.

Don’t want to dwell too much on Nick – have done that elsewhere – but his loss has coloured much of the last few months and a fair amount of what is to come, be that work (no matter how much we moaned about it, he loved journalism), life away from the office or travel.

Nobody understood my need to wander as much as Nick and after a couple of years with little more than a standard vacation, might be time to come up with something a bit more expansive.

And that certainly holds true for this blog.

It might have been a bit quiet in terms of posts for much of the year, but it certainly has not in recent months behind the scenes and working out a few ideas.

A few tweaks you might have noticed, there’s a few more to come and a lot more regular writing – if there is a new year resolution, that is it – on travel, overlanding and the musical journey through my iPod.

Let’s see where the next 12 months take us.

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