Tuesday, 5 August 2014
Thursday, 27 February 2014
Wednesday, 15 January 2014
None of us want her to go obviously. Not me, our son Vince, my family, our friends, relatives and cousins to whom she's cool Aunt Stacey. Just the small fact that because she's not from round here the Government says she's gotta go.
Vince and I had a good dad & lad day in the North West for a couple of hours afterwards, well as much fun as you can have when your hearts broken into 18,600 pieces and you can't tell your son when his momma is coming back.
I began the year much like this one bathing in the ashes of personal defeat. I had just come back from a mostly agreeable New Years Eve party with my friends in Bicester that unfortunately, for me, culminated in seeing my former fiance from six months previously snogging her new boyfriend. I went back to our, now my house, and took it out on the less expensive and replaceable kitchen equipment.
I needed a change of scene and as luck would have it, I was able to join my parents on a trip to Oman, where my dad was working at the time. 10 days of sun, beaches and the secluded silence you only get in the Mountains was as good a place to take stock as any.
I mean real sleep, I have never slept as deeply or as well as I did in the Desert, going to sleep and waking up naturally, getting over eight hours every night, I felt like Superman waking up every morning. I enjoyed swimming in the sea and could not stop myself from laughing after running on the beach from the hotel and back. I even had an improtu kickabout with a bunch of expat Iraqis - my 'Beckham 23' shirt helped and proved that despite their being a 'war' on, the beautiful game is the universal language - especially if you're far from home.
While I was away, I was keeping a close eye on unfolding drama at home. The BBC was awaiting the publication of the Hutton Report so I was due for a busy time back in the Press Office and equally pressing, Middlesbrough were taking a 1-0 lead into the second leg of the League Cup semi-final against 'The Invincible's' Arsenal side that would not lose a league game that season.
A momentous night at the Riverside Stadium saw the Boro triumph on aggregate and travel to Cardiff for the first time to contest a major Cup final against Bolton Wanderers on the fateful date of February 29th. The whole family went to Wales for the weekend and we enjoyed a tremendous day beforeout and about in the Capital running into friends and familiar faces at every turn.
Not getting to a major final every season, we decided to do things in a little bit of style and managed to book a Corporate Box for the whole family to watch the game from. The game has been well covered in other places but despite leaking a goal just before half time, the two we had scored in the first 15 minutes saw that 128 years later, Middlesbrough FC had won it's first major trophy and I, and pretty much everyone I loved and cared about, was there to see it.
A week later, I started chatting with a bright, sparky, clever and amazingly attractive girl from Atlanta called Stacey - and so it began, although I had to pull out the big guns to keep her interest...
Suddenly my life was transformed and energised even more, by a relationship I wasn't even looking for when it exploded into my life. I still feel that way when I look at her.
I had been planning to take a trip to the USA later that year anyway but now I had a specific reason to go and a city to visit - Atlanta - for the first time. I've never been so nervous, excited and alive as when I saw Stacey for the first time at Hartsfield Jackson airport. The busiest airport in the world it may be but it still stopped when she spotted me and smiled. We had a great 10 days together - I've always been an Ameriphile and we hung out, passed the friends test, went to the Baseball and clicked like we'd known each other for years. It was just right.
I reluctantly headed back to England and reality but we had already made plans for Stacey to spend Christmas with me back in England. In the meantime, I had Middlesbrough's first European adventures to look forward to, starting in with a trip to the Czech Republic and Banik Ostrava. Leaving from Teesside Airport, my brother, Dad and seemingly half of Teesside descended on this Eastern European steel making town and felt decidedly at home with the locals. Boro progressed over both legs but lifelong friendships were made in our twin Steel City
Stacey and I kept on chatting throughout the Autumn and Middlesbrough shrugged off their history of mediocrity, beating the likes of Liverpool, Man City and Villa in the league and in one special evening making Lazio look like a Northern League outfit in the UEFA Cup.
The year ended with Stacey coming to the UK for the first time and despite the tactical error of taking her to Whitby in December and actually making her cry with the cold, she met my family and friends and actually decided to come back again. And again, and again.
So as I sifted through the broken sugar bowl and spilled milk of the kitchen lino before I had to take a cold shower and drive to work in London that cloudy New Years Day not knowing the filips and fun awaiting me in the year ahead, so we don't know what's round the corner this except for one caveat. It will be better than last.
It has to be.
Monday, 23 December 2013
It's Christmas Eve and while there's always something to bemoan and regret from the previous year but if there's a one lesson to take from A Christmas Carol, it's to be thankful.
I'm thankful that I'll be seeing every person I'm closest to in the world in the next 24 hours and despite a rough 2013, Stacey, Vincent and I are together as a family for it. Everyone healthy, everyone together.
I'm thankful that in really tough times for a lot of people we can give Vince a good Christmas, enjoy some nice food and drink ourselves and look ahead positively to 2014.
I'm thankful that despite not working right now I'm strong and grounded enough not to confuse my own self worth and self confidence to a job, nor the process itself or the approach.
I'm thankful that I've made so many great friends over the years and while it gets a bad rep, social media allows me to keep in touch with old and new friends in America, Australia and New Zealand daily if need be.
I'm thankful that we're alive now at the peak of human civilization, achievement and advancement and for 24 hours at least, a lot of us will act accordingly and as we should the rest of the time.
I'm thankful that after a trying and tough year, I can go forward with firmer foundations into 2014 and make it better in every way so much so that in a years time I'll be writing how thankful I've been for the best year ever.
Happy holidays from me and mine to you and yours, I hope 2014 brings you everything you want, need and deserve and I'll leave the final meditation on the season to Mr Dickens.
'Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father. He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world. Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.'