2011 has been quite a big year for me, in a few ways. So I thought as the end of it is nearing (and there’s no way I’ll remember to do it next week), I’d do one final blog before starting my seagoing rambles in January. Below, split into numbered sections - not in order of priority - is a round up of my year. Probably not of interest to anybody but myself, and maybe my parents whom I don’t tell much in real life, so if you decide to read on, good luck and thank you.
One - Job.
This time last year I was living at home, working in a boring hotel and waiting for the next canal boating season to start. A summer working on a hotel boat was something to look forward to but finite in its reach - I’d applied to join the merchant navy and was waiting to hear whether I had a chance at a career, and if I didn’t, I had no clue what I was going to do. This time this year, I’ve completed a good first phase of a cadetship and am being sponsored by a great company. I’m qualified in first aid and firefighting amongst other things, and in January I get to travel to Singapore to join a ship which will visit lots of other parts of Asia and Africa. For the first time in a number of years I’m motivated, interested in my job and having a great time.
Two - Books.
I have spent a lot of the year reading and writing, and there have been four books (none of which new) which had a particularly big effect on me:
The Autobiography Of A Super-Tramp, WH Davies - an old edition of this was an extremely well-thought-out gift from someone who meant a lot to me at the time. I loved the true tale of the hobo writer who beat and worked and tramped his way across countries and oceans, lost a leg and didn’t seem to whine much about it, and eventually became a success. A precursor to Kerouac and the like.
If On A Winter’s Night A Traveller, Italo Calvino - see here for details.
Blindness, Jose Saramago - being blind is my biggest fear, and I’m already halfway there without my contacts in. Therefore it goes without saying, although it appears I’m saying it anyway, that this book in which all but one of the nameless characters loses their sight absolutely terrifies me. Saramago writes simply and clearly and this only enhances the horror.
The Time-Traveler’s Wife, Audrey Niffenegger - in terms of the way I see life, I reckon I’m approximately quarter past Generation X. This is jointly due to time of birth, age/interests of friends and a brief but memorable late-teenage Douglas Coupland obsession. As a consequence of this I’m not particularly emotionally available when I read (and in life, but I’m working on that); I revel in detachment, observation, irony and sarcasm instead of personal involvement. But The Time-Traveler’s Wife had me in tears, floods of actual tears, several times. During work breaks, which wasn’t too convenient. Beautifully heartbreaking, funny, tragic, gorgeous story, which the film didn’t go a long way to justifying. I was left broken.
Three - Harry.
Boy meets girl. Boy undoes girl’s bra in the library. Girl gives in to the incessant pestering. Boy and girl work out all of their arguments and problems in the first few weeks. Boy and girl fall in love. Girl hopes that four months of separation will be OK due to technological advancements such as email. Girl misses boy a bit just now.
Those are the major changes. Other memorable bits include a week I spent early in the year that I can't really talk about, coming face-to-face with bison in a zoo (they're frickin' mental looking. I want one as a pet to scare off Jehovah's witnesses), an entire summer making cakes and contending with awful guests with my new friend Debbie, camping and climbing a mountain with the rest of the Maersk cadets, steaming the skin off my fingers, trying to explain quantum physics to a seventeen-year-old, meeting loads of Twitter folk in a tiny bookshop in London, and drunken bonfires on the beach with new friends.
My 2011 has been fun, exhausting and extraordinary. I hope my 2012 will be equally so plus more, and I hope the same for you.