Now I have made it back from my sojourns in Slough (there’s a book title), a thawed-out but waterless N Ireland with people queuing in manner of refugee camp, and Paris, where I attempted my own version of a phylum feast (ten species at least, I reckon), it’s time for a retrospective on 2010 before I move onto the next via a mountain of chocolate that will have to eaten through or thrown away. And I couldn’t throw it away, that would be rude.
2010 was, for me, maybe the most eventful of my life to date. See below for some of the weirder of last year’s events.
1 I got married. Not weird, unless you’re me and my husband, and get married in Ireland, during the weekend of the ash cloud. Waking up on Thursday, 15 April and my husband saying, ‘I’ve got some bad news….’ was one of the low points of my year. Seeing 40 of my friends struggle off the bus we then hired and booked onto the ferry and put them all on to drive from London to Ireland, at 11pm on Friday, 16 April, will probably be one of the high points of my life. We drove from Kent to Ireland, back again, and then from Kent to Madrid (in 30 hours and with some very good friends), all in the space of a week. I averaged 4 hours sleep a night. I got drunk the day before my wedding and woke up at 5 am, dry-heaving. Classy! On my wedding day I stayed up for a full 24 hours – it was an Irish wedding, after all. I made a speech. My granny got up and danced just weeks after back surgery. We drank nearly all the wine we’d ordered for 30 extra people. Someone was sick on the best man’s suit. The last people standing were me, my dad, my brother, brother’s girlfriend, and my sister. My husband was passed out in his pants. An excellent, epic, unforgettable experience that is now legendary to friends of friends of friends.
2. The ash cloud was the crown on the previous four months, which involved travel disruption to my birthday, Christmas, holidays, and hen do, for a variety of ridiculous reasons including ‘power failure’, ‘frozen tracks’, and ‘entire city shutting down due to worst snow in 25 years’ (whatever). Everyone I know now thinks I’m some kind of travel curse and won’t travel anywhere with me. Walking through the frozen wasteland of Sheffield in my flipflops, just back from New Year holiday to Gambia, was an odd start to a year that just got weirder. (We also got driven home by the Gambian police on New Year’s Eve last year, I just remembered, and I stroked a crocodile and was sicker than have even been in life (not crocodile’s fault)).
3. 2010 was also the year I refused to give a lap-dance on stage to a sleazy man in a fireman’s uniform (I highly doubt the young man was qualified; his baby-oiled chest alone constituted a serious fire hazard). Just because I’m getting married doesn’t mean I’m going to rub up against you, dude. Maybe I should have expected this when choosing Adonis cabaret for hen do though?
4. After finally making it to Mexico for our honeymoon (by rebooking and driving to Spain in a day and a half…), I read many books, drank cocktails from 10am (I was jetlagged), went scuba diving for a total of two minutes (never again, it is like HELL), saw a dolphin, and started writing my second book. I’d finished it by July (this was April), and before you start feeling sorry for my husband, he spent a whole day on honeymoon applying for a job, and then got up at 7 another day to listen to his team crash out of the Championship (RIP Sheff Weds, who also had a weird year).
4. He then got the job and became CEO – at 32 – of a fairly big charity. So it was a pretty good year for both of us. Also he is so busy he doesn’t mind me ignoring him to write and mutter to myself, as most of the time he will be fiddling with his Iphone and muttering about macroeconomics and development indices.
5. Because of this new job we then went to Africa for most of the summer, travelling round Kenya and Uganda. We saw zebras and hippos and lions and elephants and hyenas and chimpanzees and giraffes and….and we didn’t get ill even once and I finished the edits on my second book (I remember writing a fair bit of it by the pool in the Kampala sun – it’s a hard life). And I went to many schools and homes and met lots of amazing people and hopefully helped in some small way.
6. As I’ve said I didn’t catch any of the multitudinous diseases one can contract in central Africa, not even food poisoning (smug, but if you’d seen how violently ill I was in Gambia at the start of the year I deserved a break. If you like I’ll tell you the exact meaning of the phrase ‘projectile vomiting’). But the whole time I was away I was steadily losing vision in one eye, and when I came back, after attempting to convince five specialists something was wrong, I was diagnosed with a detached retina and whisked off for surgery to stop me going blind. It’s still not totally better but is certainly on the mend. Going down stalled escalators is still a considerable challenge, and out of all the body parts you get two of, I now have only three where both work. I reckon an ear is next to go.
7. Shortly after I came back from Africa, a friend sent me a link for a new competition run by Sony and the Dylan Thomas Prize. When I got the email, the competition closed in ten minutes’ time. I sent the book I’d just finished by the pool and thought no more about it.
8. I then found out I was longlisted. And then shortlisted. And then I got to go to Swansea for much fun and literary mingling and drinking (too much) and it was brilliant. Andrew Davies said he loved my book! Did I mention this already?
9. I also got signed by an agent and she started submitting it to publishers. If you’d told me this at the start of the year, when I had only just got round to showing my first book to one person, my husband, I may not have believed it. I hadn’t even written the second book then, so it just goes to show, if you want it enough and you have a good idea and you’re prepared to finish it, anything can happen in a year. Watch this space for further developments.
10. Lots of other things happened this year too, like we found a house and are in the process of buying it, and we might get a dog, and I learned to drive again, and I did my first writing course, and I made some new friends, and I had lots of fun times with old ones, and went to my ten-year school reunion, and many others….let’s hope 2011 is just as good, although I could do with fewer injuries and ash clouds, thanks universe.
Hope 2011 is as exciting and fulfilling for you!