Well, at the dawning of the New Year, and as 2017 takes its first tentative strides through the cold and the gloom, there is so much to look back at and reflect upon. As always, it was a year laced with a heady mix of highs and lows, but I’m happy to report that the highs out-numbered the lows by some distance.
So, how did the year start? Well, it started very well indeed, on our lovely, sun-drenched patio at home in Mexico. With the warm winter days easing us into 2016, it was all systems go on the work front. As Leslie’s career soared to greater and greater heights, and my forthcoming book series really started to take shape, we hit the desks for long, productive days, and revelled in our work. We’re fortunate enough to love what we do, and to be able to do it from home is very rewarding.
As expats we need to leave Mexico every six months to renew our visas, and as a combined visa-run/birthday present, in January I jetted south to explore stunning Guatemala, and had an amazing ten days discovering pyramids, mountains, lakes and jungles, all excellent research for Book 4 of my Hiram Kane adventure series. And to finish the birthday celebrations, no sooner had I returned home than my good friend Jason arrived from Turkey for a visit, and we had a great catch up.
After Leslie’s birthday in February, then it was all systems go in preparation for our ‘wedding’ ceremony. You may recall that Leslie and I were officially married in Thailand in August, 2015, in what was just a no-frills, no-guest registrar thingy in a dingy office in Bangkok. But we’d always planned to have an actual ‘wedding’ in San Miguel on our 5th anniversary, St. Patrick’s Day, March 17th, and that day soon came around. Friends and family joined us from all around the world and here in San Miguel to help celebrate our wedding, and a brilliant time was had by everyone involved. For my part, it was a proud day indeed, and I feel privileged to have married my beautiful and talented best friend, Leslie.
It was also wonderful to give visiting friends and family a taste of the Mexican lifestyle we’ve chosen and come to love so much.
Spring came and went, and as the weeks flowed, so did several drafts of my book series. Whilst Leslie was jetting all around the globe on exciting writing assignments, I stayed at home and got my head down, and by June I’d completed four, full-length drafted manuscripts. The first draft of a new book is always the most fun stage, as there’s a total freedom of expression, and you never really know what’s going to happen in a story until it happens. I can’t deny I’m loving my work!!
And finally, it was summer, and the event Leslie and I had been waiting for since the official marriage the previous August: our honeymoon. We jetted off to Jamaica, to a beautiful resort in Montego Bay, and had a suitably glorious time. For Leslie, it was the first week off work in more than a year, and she enjoyed a well-earned rest. But the honeymoon didn’t stop there, as we combined that vacation with some working travel on a road-trip across the southern USA, from Texas to Florida, where we passed through some lovely old historical towns, including Pensacola and New Orleans, and finished up on the beach at the legendary Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach.
Leslie and I are big fans of house sitting, as it gives us the chance of travelling to new and exciting places we might not usually go, and of course, we get to meet so many cool people. So, from Miami we flew to the Bahamas, where we began an amazing 3-week house/dog sitting assignment just yards from the spectacular beach in Old Fort Bay. It was a super relaxing stay with two lovely dogs and the usual mix of work and play. As so often happens, Leslie was given a great opportunity of flying to an exotic new place for a work assignment, this time Finland, so in her absence I spent long hours writing, before hitting the bar around the corner and drinking with the friendly locals, several of who have become good friends, most notably Bain, owner of the Traveler’s Rest Bar.
One day while walking the dogs on the beach, I had a sense of being followed. And I was. By a tiny, abandoned and lost puppy. I decided I couldn’t just leave him there, not with such a pleading look in its eyes, so I took it back to the house. I’m delighted to say that the existing dogs enjoyed having a new puppy to play with, and the owners, upon their return from their own trip, soon fell in love with ‘Finley’, and he’s now the newest member of their family.
After the Bahamas, I rushed home for a week to rent out our house, and Leslie went back to Europe for an assignment. What better place to rendezvous afterwards than magical Venice for a few days, before we boarded the magnificent Viking Sea for a two-week Mediterranean cruise. It was my first such adventure, and I loved every minute. We had a fab time, visiting Italy, Croatia, Greece, Spain and France, before we headed back to Italy to explore the archaeological site of Pompeii, nestled in the shadows of the mighty, brooding Mount Vesuvius. We made some great friends aboard the cruise, and I’m sure they’ll be friends for life.
Next, we embarked on a gastronomy and wine tasting tour of Sicily and the nearby Aeolian Islands for a few weeks, where we met more great people we now call friends, before at last making our way back to my homeland, England, just in time for winter.
By signing up for more house sitting assignments, we got to tour the country while catching up with old friends, and finally spent a fun-filled couple of weeks with my mum for Christmas, our first together for about fifteen years.
Now the holiday season has well and truly passed, and as I sit here in Ludlow, the pretty yet sleepy castle town in Shropshire, writing this belated review of 2016, one thing is clear: it was, quite simply, another amazing year in my life, a life that just gets better and better with every revolution of the Earth around the Sun.
There were, as I mentioned, some low points, a series of niggling and painful old sports injuries, for example. But worse, the resurfacing of some long-dormant social anxiety problems that once again reared their ugly head. These often crippling anxiety issues are something I’ve managed to keep hidden from most people, friends and family included, for the last twenty years, and to be honest, much of 2016 has been a struggle, but with Leslie’s support and understanding, we’re through the worst. Mental health is something that has come much more into focus for many people over the last few years, and I urge anyone reading this who hasn’t had to deal with it, either themselves or with a friend or loved one, to try their utmost to understand it better. With a little more patience and comprehension, many people’s lives will improve, and we can all play our part.
But, like I said at the start, the good parts of 2016, without question, have out-pointed the bad, and as I gaze out onto the misty meadows beneath Ludlow Castle, 2017 stretching out ahead of me like a deliciously open and inviting canvas, I know without any shadow of a doubt, that this year, once again, promises to be the best yet.
So, a Happy New Year to one and all, and may it bring you peace and happiness!!