Being a true Scot I love Hogmanay and the New Year (almost as much, if not more, than Christmas). There's something about drawing a line under the year that's past and stepping over it into the year that's to come, that's very therapeutic, especially if the past year hasn't been a particularly good one.
Not that this is the case this year. 2009 has been a pretty good year on the whole.
It started with an Ithaca* walk following Bristol's Heritage Trail and ending with a bowl of soup around our dining table.
(* the name given to the 6 of us who meet once a week to share food, drink and stories of our journey through life - which I always look forward to and which keeps me going)
We had a loft conversion, a house face lift and stripped floorboards in the autumn of 2008 but the makeover wasn't complete until the kitchen and bathroom floors were tiled in January. And we're still not back to normal, whatever that means.
After being on the waiting list for several years I was finally offered a place in the Gasworks Choir. It's been a while since I've sung properly (20+ years ago at Edinburgh University) and the first time I've sung alcapella, which was pretty scary to begin with, but which I'm gradually getting the hang of. I've now done two terms, with concerts in May and December and an 'appearance' at the Festival of Song at Stourhead. I also took part in Sing for Water at Lloyd's amphitheatre.
I surprised myself by joining the WI, without the need of a blue rinse! The Malago WI is one of the latest urban branches run by some frighteningly efficient yummy mummies who have devised an incredible first year programme including Christmas decorations, egg cosy knitting, creative writing, Indian head massage and clothes swapping. And lots and lots of tea and cake!
As if that weren't enough to be getting on with, I've also started to attend, albeit sporadically, a Stitch and Bitch group that meets twice a month at the Tobacco Factory. One or both of my daughters usually comes along too. I started knitting a scarf for myself but was waylaid by a patchwork blanket for my younger daughter. Suffice to say I haven't yet finished either! Still there's something very relaxing about sitting with a drink and chatting away while you create a work of art. And there's always someone to help you when you get stuck.
I've been on two Year 6 residential trips to Treginnis Farm in Pembrokeshire. The weather on both occasions was excellent and we had a fantastic time with the farm staff and the animals as well as several long walks along the spectacular coastal path.
I became involved in the Grow Zones project, an Earth Abbey initiative to encourage and support the growing of fruit and vegetables in back gardens. I've helped make over a couple of gardens and have had our garden made over in return. I also took a course in permaculture which I hope will come in useful as we expand our microholding.
We took two holidays, the first a week in our old favourite, St Ives. It was our tenth visit, and our tenth cottage, this time a stone's throw from Porthmeor Beach. We did a few of the normal things - Easter morning service at St Ia's (where we missed Andy Couch), the Tate, body boarding, walks to Man Head and Clodgy Point and from Lelant, and breakfast at the Porthgwidden Beach Cafe. But we also racked up a few firsts - a very muddy walk to Gurnard's Head where the heavens opened, but where we were fortunate to take shelter, and lunch, in the Gurnard's Head Hotel, a pint at the Sloop and dinner at Blas Burger, an eco-friendly fast food restaurant on Smeaton's Pier.
The second holiday was one we'd been promising ourselves ever since our older daughter went on her first Bristol-Bordeaux student exchange three years ago. Her host family in Bayonne invited us to visit them 'en famille', and this year we finally took them up on their offer and spent a delightful 10 days getting to know both them and the Basque country. We travelled by train, stopping off in London for a few days in both directions. Our time was split between their homes in Bayonne and Creon (just outside Bordeaux) and highlights for me included a dramatic re-enactment of a battle between the French and the English (no prizes for guessing who I cheered for!) and the delicious paella we shared with 20+ of their family and friends on our last day. It was a real privilege to spend time with the family who'd looked after our girls and whose own girls have become honorary members of our family. I hope one day we'll be able to return the favour.
We've also made two summer trips to Scotland. The first was to visit prospective universities for my elder daughter who sits her A levels next year. We took the train to Durham (which we'd laid great hopes on but which sadly failed to impress) and then ventured further north to Edinburgh from where we took day trips to St Andrews and Glasgow. The 4 year MA course appeals and, if all goes to plan, our daughter will follow in her parents' footsteps and study at Edinburgh (albeit social history, as opposed to French or Zoology).
The second was just a week later when we travelled to Biggar, again via Edinburgh, to attend my an old friend's 50th birthday ceilidh. It was only as he welcomed his guests at the beginning of the evening that we learned that he had got married that afternoon! We didn't know many folk there, apart from his family, but we had a wonderful night reacquainting ourselves with the dances we'd first learned at school.
I've been busy campaigning. Our local community organised an effective protest against the opening of a new Tesco store and I travelled to London to take part in The Wave demonstration at the beginning of December. Cutting down on waste and reducing my carbon footprint are still priorities with so much more to do.
All in all I've had a good year. AS levels and UCAS applications have been stressful and with A levels and GCSEs to come next year we're not out of the woods yet. I try to stay 'chilled' but I'm afraid I don't always succeed. Hey ho!
Still, tomorrow's another day ... and another year!