2019 was a pretty epic year. Tl;dr – I turned 30, Lizzie turned 30, both my parents turned 70, I ran a marathon, raised about £5000 for charity,
The year began in Scotland with a group of my closest friends relaxing and eating – probably the only New Years Eve I’ve celebrated this decade. I’m not very good at relaxing – I need to mentally prepare for it otherwise I keep trying to run around at a thousand miles an hour. January also saw a new boiler (I’ve almost forgotten what a cold shower feels like, although my wife remembers quite clearly), the AGM of the local community centre that I am chair of the Trustee Board for, and stepping back from the local improv group I helped to lead. I also returned to Wilmslow Parkrun to celebrate my 1 year Park-iversary, and headed down to London to meet other people who would be running the London Marathon for the MS Society. January also saw me remembering the passing of Mum’s cat – the first step to mum moving out.
The highlight of February was a romantic valentines day trip to the dentists for me an Lizzie. We followed this up with a proper date – a trip to London to see two of our favourite musicals. I was also slowly ramping up my training, and spending more time with mum talking about her potential move to a new nursing home.
My calendar shows very little happening in March – but I was out running 3 times a week, and visiting mum once a week as well to discuss options for new homes and try and do some tidying. I was also delighted to be nominated for the Univeristy of Leeds Partnership award for my work supporting student wellbeing, with half a dozen nominations from students. I love my job, but it is extra special when people tell you that you are making a real difference to their lives.
April ended up being pretty busy, what with mum moving into a new nursing home and the London Marathon within the space of a week (and we had a week’s holiday in Barra!) All marathon plans have a “taper” period in the week or so before the marathon, where you stop running and allow your body to be in the best physical shape for a 26.2 mile run. During this time you’re meant to refrain from strenuous physical and emotional exertion as much as possible – so naturally this was the week that mum ended up moving. And then the big day – my one and only marathon. You probably already know that it went pretty terribly, with a knee injury stopping me running before the half way point, meaning that I had to limp 13 miles to the finish line. It was pretty emotional, with over 500 people seeing my livestream video of the last mile and crossing the finish line. I had aimed to raise £2000 but ended up doubling this to raise £4100 for the MS society. I’m pretty sure that I haven’t run more than 26 miles since then!
There was no time to relax as May was also full on. A week after the marathon I was back in London for a comedy show with Thespianage – the Manchester comedy group I’m in. The next week we hosted a friend who was in Leeds for their PhD viva, and after that we headed down to Devon for my Dad’s 70th birthday at a lovely hotel near the Cornish coast. It’s strange – I’ve packed so much into this year that I haven’t had the chance to properly take stock of how live is slowly moving onwards. May also marked a year until I began my bike ride across America.
June started with a stag do in Newcastle (I survived!). We also saw lots of shows – some great, some OK – and got to see some close family. But in the background things were tough. Mum had moved into the new nursing home but after spending over £300,000 on her own care she was reaching the stage of needing financial support to pay the costs of care (which in a nursing home typically costs about £900-1100… a week). However, despite having moved into a place that met her specific needs and that Social Services agreed was the best place for her we were facing a funding shortfall of £200 a week – which meant that if mum was going to stay where she was we had to find nearly £1000 a month. We were at the narrow end of the social care crisis in this country and spent the next couple of months trying to work out what our options were.
The month began with my 30th birthday – a quietish affair with another trip to London to see a musical and a surprise meal and trip to see The Eagles. In some ways turning 30 is a big milestone – but being so focused on America meant that my birthday ended up happening to me. At the same time I was telling people that I’d be a bit rubbish at just being a friend until America was over – there just isn’t time in the day to do everything I’d like to.
August saw a few celebrations – a friends wedding, my bosses birthday – as well as my longest training ride yet with a trip to Shrewsbury and back, over 200 miles in 4 days cycling. With financial worries continuing I also turned to my Facebook friends to help crowdfund for my ride – and was amazed to receive over £800, covering the cost of my flights, visa, and insurance. Sometimes it’s easy to feel alone even when we are surrounded by people who love us.
Another month, another lovely wedding. We’ve been lucky to have so many amazing friends tying the knot this year. September is also a busy month at work with new students returning and so it was nose to the grindstone to get everything in place to help them settle in. As well as leading on the organisation of induction week in two schools I run a peer mentoring scheme, as well as using the week to talk to students about wellbeing, mental health, and how to get the most out of their studies. September also saw the most blogs published in 2019, with three posts appearing across the month covering IBS, getting older, and adding 300 miles to my route across America. This was also the month that we found out that our financial worries were over. That being said the stress that me and mum experienced from trying to find somewhere within the local authority budget had a big impact on us both, and the need to find a solution to the social care crisis that our country is experiencing remains urgent. There are lots of families who won’t have the support and good luck that we had who would be faced with the choice of care that isn’t excellent (one home I visited will never be forgotten by my olfactory senses) or taking on a second mortgage to cover costs. Something needs to change.
Another month with plenty of good – some excellent bands, some great times with friends – and lots of challenges. It often felt like I was just treading water.
To mark a decade since the first show of the improv comedy society in Bangor we headed back to Pontio for a special show. It was lovely to be back, reliving old memories and making new ones. I managed to see lots of old friends from the Union and even some of the academics who supported me through my degree. Hard to believe it has been 10 years since I arrived at University. November also saw me getting the flights for America – a job I had been putting off for far too long. I also gave my first School talk about mental health.
The last month of the tweenies (did we ever come up with a name for this decade?) was suitably sweet n’ sour. We celebrated Lizzie’s 30th birthday, saw several excellent shows (I’m looking at your Dear Evan Hansen), and as things quietened down at work I managed to crack on with organising my bike ride, including confirming my first accommodation. But it was also a tough month – those of you who know my wife will know that she has struggled with her mental health this year, and in December she gave in her notice at work as it was making things worst. But at the same time we’ve used Christmas to spend actual, proper time together and so we are ending this decade and starting the next in a difficult place but with a positive outlook on life. In fact just today – the last day of the decade – Lizzie has had a job offer.
So there you have it – 2019. A strange, wonderful, stressful, painful, emotional year.