Looking back, glancing forward 

Looking back on my journey in 2016 it’s been a time of great personal change, massive change in some respects and survival. I won’t make resolutions as they appear far too firm and unbending but I have some clear aspirations for 2017. But first a quick look back. Starting with the high or lowlight of the year, still not sure, my retirement at the end of April. The event itself was very humbling and could not have been a better way to finish. The day will stick in my memory for a long time to come and I also have the videos if I need any reminder. The following day I entered my office, cleared my desk and left the building, 34 years at the University was over. I never thought I would retire and to be honest still getting my head around it. I also thought I’d left a legacy of a well respected research centre, international journal and website, 14 years building a strong set of products. Now at the end of this week the Centre will shut and wonderful colleagues will be forced to leave. Nothing justifies this action and has soured the end of year for me beyond words. My time with the Probation Institute has kept me around the world of probation, an important transition and a new challenge, despite it being a brutally difficult time for probation.  

My second deep memory of 2016 was my final trip to Hong Kong. Always made to feel so welcome by colleagues there, many I now regard as friends, the farewell dinners were sumptuous and wholehearted. I will never forget the warmth I felt with these wonderful people in a wonderful place that I’ve come to love over the past 15 years. Another door closes but much continues and so it is important to look forward to my aspirations for 2017.

Let me summarise first:
1. Strive for a ‘reasonably healthy’ year

2. Complete first draft of my novel by May 18th

3. Undertake the photography course #AYearWithMyCamera2017 and improve my skills

4. Connected to 3) my project will be ‘My Yorkshire’

5. Continue creating and building memories 
How much I do and how well I do it does revolve around maintaining my health. This year has been rather odd health wise as I started it with a lot of pain and a worsening prognosis regarding my cancer. An intervention in March designed as a stop gap has remarkably sustained me throughout the year and I have much better symptomatic relief. That is really good news and I hope it can continue, five years and counting. Strangely since April I have suffered a number of relatively minor though debilitating ailments which have brought me down and one results in me now fighting the somewhat vague but definitely annoying, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. All very inconvenient but we fight on though how much I achieve has to be set against this backcloth, hence the aspirational tone of my ‘commitments’.
You may regard my second aspiration as rather specific. I have asked two friends to review the first draft of my novel as I guess I am now at the stage where I need to know if it is worth a second draft! I needed a deadline so have invited my friends to join me at a secluded venue in mid-May. Whatever state it is in, it will be ready for perusal. I have around 67000 words so just need to focus.
My third aspiration is a repeat from last year. This is a free no-hassle photography course, where you can do as much or as little as you want. Each week an email sets you a task which is related to skill development. I started last year with much enthusiasm but retirement, health and embarrassment at getting so far behind meant I drifted away from the course. I am back this year with renewed determination. You are asked to choose a project and last year I chose birds on which I did improve as the year went on. So I need another focus.
Thinking about this I came to the conclusion that exploring Yorkshire would serve a number of goals- visiting and revisiting my favourite haunts is always enjoyable, systematically capturing this through photos, reflecting on what I find. I have started perusing maps and planning some ideas. I will of course opt for the traditional boundaries of Yorkshire to include Hull and Middlesbrough. I hope the end product will be a personal book, mainly of photos, reflecting this journey. 
I think these aspirations will give me some realisable goals whilst enabling me to take life at an easy pace and incorporate the many activities and events which the year will provide, particularly my focus on family and friends and not forgetting Barnsley FC, Tickhill CC and Yorkshire CCC. 
I know it is conventional wisdom to regard 2016 as a bad year and certainly some strange, sad and depressing things have happened. The world remains in such an unstable state both at home in the U.K, but also in USA and I saw briefly the difficulties ahead for Hong Kong, the tragedy of Syria continues to unfold uncertainly and the ever present threat of terror incidents makes life uncertain for all. Too many people suffer from the bad, sometimes selfish decisions of others. At a global but also a local level. Dogma driven decisions on the NHS, education, probation and prisons blight wonderful services and I can personally vouch for the wonder that remains the NHS despite attempts to undermine it. I have had services from five different departments, met many wonderful nurses, had support from my GP and am still here!
I don’t see myself as old and never saw myself as retired. So 2016 will stay in the memory as a time of transition to something new and challenging. I won’t work again, my energy levels say no and I will continue to adapt both to retirement and my place within it. Thanks for following my blog so far, have a great new year and after 51 more blogs I will be back to reflect in 2017, I hope!

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