Do you ever get those years, where, quite out of nowhere they take the most unexpected of turns? It was always going to be a year of change for me, but in now way could I have predicted the the events of the last twelve months. At the end of April, on a particularly sunny Monday I left Blackwell – now Wiley – Publishing after more than seven years. Although I did return for the summer party, this year held at Oxford’s Bodleian Library. I’m now working at Oxford University Press doing similar XML type things to books in an office shared by the silent lexicographers of the OED. Still, it gives me time to think stories and revise Blood & Fire. As I write this I am close to finishing up half of the second draft.

A couple of week’s before my last day, and after about a month of daily emails I met Emma, who I met after going on Emma is a veterinary nurse, likes it that I’m a writer, and shares my love of nature and conservation – she’s also mad enough to go on National Trust holidays to build dry stone walls and rhodie bashing! And just last weekend we were reminded we were reminded that both of our all time favourite pieces of Christmas music is Hele-Hutchinson’s beautiful and evocative Carol Symphony – The First Noel of which was used in the BBC’s 1985 adaptation of The Box of Delights. Since we met in April there has been hardly a weekend that we haven’t seen each other, and every weekend that we do, we seem to have a better time – I feel so lucky to have found someone with whom I can share all the things that I love. J

I’ve never been to the West End for the theatre before. In February, I organised a coach trip for work to see Wicked – with no expectations of what to expect, it was defyingly gravity brilliant. I was back again in May to see the last but one performance of Evita. Then in August my parents took me to see the Bolshoi Ballet at the Colliseum – which was farcical fun – a little-known comic-ballet with music by Rimsky Korsikov(??). Then in November I went with Emma on a vets night out to see Cabaret – a little bit different to the amateur production that my brother played trombone in all those years back. And just last month I went into London again to see Swan Lake at the Royal Albert Hall with Emma and her family. Together with my frequent visits to the local playhouse and my annual pilgrimages to the Oxford-based, site-specific Creation Theatre (Hamlet in the old prison, and currently Tales from the Brother’s Grimm in an antique spiegeltent), I gues you could say that its been a bit of a cultural year.

In terms of holidays, after exploring my way round eastern Europe in recent years, this year I revisited home ground with a return visit to Wast Water in the Lake District in October, scene of my first ever conservation holiday exactly ten years ago. And then, just a couple of week’s ago, I went to Craflwyn Hall in Snowdonia with Emma to build steps up a mountain. The only problem we found of being together for a whole week, was the pain of separation when we had to go back to our separate homes at the end of the week.
Not that either of us are really lonely when we are in our own homes for we have 4¾ cats between us – work that one out if you can! Bella and Arthur continue to keep me entertained, and, fingers crossed, have so far managed to not destroy their first Christmas tree.

As well as continuing to play flute and piccolo in Abingdon Concert Band my place in band history is assured, if not for my playing style, but for the presentation. For years now I have been continually raising the bar in terms of posters and programmes, and an ever-sleeker website (just google for it). In the last couple of months, the band was successful in several grant applications and raised enough funds to buy a new set of banners to front our music stands. So the light blue/dark blue colour scheme and logo will live on for at least the next 30 years (we just celebrated our thirtieth anniversary!). Our next concert, is an actual, proper Christmas one, so really I ought to stop messing around with Christmas cards and get on and practice The Nutcracker, because by heck its hard!

All that is left for me to say is that I hope that Your year has been as good to You as it has been for me. I look forward to hearing what kind of year that You have had had, and please, have yourself the bestest of Christmas of all time and make the new year the bestest ever again…!