It’s that time of year again where we’re all mourning the passing of Christmas and looking ahead with anticipation, hope or perhaps dread at the coming of a new year. With more time than usual on our hands, it’s a chance to reflect on the past 12 months as much as look forward to the next.
I wanted to use the opportunity of what will be my final post of the year, and the culmination of this 52-week project, to acknowledge my highlights from 2018, just before I head off to Edinburgh to celebrate NYE in style at the Hogmanay.
In a year of ups and downs, I have decided to focus only on the best bits to go out on a high. While they vary in nature, 4 of my 5 top experiences made fond experiences to look back on, while the 5th was something else entirely…
#1 Our Work Christmas Do At St Mary’s
It’s easiest to start with the most recent highlight which was our work Christmas do at St Mary’s Stadium, the home to Southampton FC.
It was a special day out for so many reasons. At face value, Saints had only won a single home game all season (or was it all year?) so to beat an in-form Arsenal who hadn’t lost in something like 23 games was unbelievable. The final score was 3-2. We even bumped into the winning goal scorer afterwards.
But the day was about so much more than just the football.
We had a hospitality table with five courses of food and all the drink you could stomach. We had a great crowd on our table: a jolly Professor from Birmingham ‘with more money than sense’ and a friendly family from Holland who had flown in for the match and joined in with our drinking games.
More importantly though, it was a priceless send off to two great work colleagues and a celebration of everything we had achieved together this year.
Onwards and upwards boys!
#2 Belated Flat Warming Weekend
For the next highlight, I have to rewind a couple of months to our belated flat warming gathering. The weekend nicely represents the best change that happened to me this year, which was moving into an amazing flat with one of my best friends.
While it took a few months to finally organise, half a dozen home friends making the trip down to Southampton made for a special weekend. It was a chance to properly catch up with them in a capacity you can’t do in a flying visit to the pub, and an opportunity to play host in a flat we are immensely proud of.
Along with a lot of laughs and a new art collection, a new relationship (not for me) actually came out of the weekend. We’ll have to bear that in mind when we’re drawing up the invitee list for next time…
#3 Summer Tournament Camping
When I think back to the summer, something I was looking forward to for a long time was a weekend away camping with friends to play in an outdoor korfball tournament. It might not be a memory that I’ll treasure for years to come but it was just an
Driving up to Oxford, I enjoyed playing in a team full of friends I don’t get to see very often, not taking it too seriously, and soaking up the sun. The following Disney-themed fancy-dress karaoke social was the icing on the cake. We played drinking games outside into the early morning until I was falling asleep in my camping chair. The tent wasn’t too bad either.
Sometimes all you need is sunshine, friends and beer.
#4 Croatia By The Pool
It’s rare for me to go on holiday and sit by a pool with a book. This year I had the chance to do just that when I went away to Istria in Croatia with my girlfriend’s family over the summer.
My usual idea of a summer break would be city-hopping with friends so the chance to sit back and enjoy an incredible villa and a slower pace of life did me a world of good. Something I should bear in mind for the future.
Not only did I have a great time with them and loved Croatia (especially Rovinj), we happened to go during the World Cup frenzy. As something of a lapsed football fan, I really got into following England this year and watching them play in a World Cup Semi Final against Croatia, while we were there, was definitely something to look back on.
#5 Auschwitz Over Easter
Of all the things I did this year, the most important – the experience I carry with me today – was visiting the Auschwitz and Birkenau concentration camps.
Over Easter, I went to Kraków in Poland with my girlfriend. It was a beautiful city, especially the Old Town, and somewhere we loved exploring. But the real reason we made the trip was to visit Auschwitz, both being students of history.
I was initially reluctant to write about the experience but I decided in the end that I felt obliged to, and recorded my thoughts as carefully as I could manage. You can find my account here, although be warned it includes deeply upsetting images.
Having already said everything I want to say on the experience, I won’t repeat myself here but I am grateful for having had the opportunity to go, something I wish more people took the chance to do. I can see myself returning in the future if I ever find myself needing the profound sense of perspective it brings you. A reality check like no other.
I hope this Christmas you have taken some time to reflect on your year and maybe plan ahead for 2019.
This is me signing off for 2018. I wish you a happy and prosperous New Year.