All months are equal, but some months are more equal than others. Not really sure how many photos I took (or collected) across 2022, but thought I'd shuffle through them and pick out one for each month. It was surprisingly (or perhaps unsurprisingly) harder to do so than I thought.
January was a month of gigs and guitars and boats. Then, so were they all, more or less. Dad and I tried, and failed to relaunch Calstar. I had more success with Amanda and racing the Albacore, and went sailing on the estuary again with some old friends out of Lydney.
The photo I picked though was of Nikki, at the end of lunch at our favourite restaurant in Gloucester. The date was January 6th, our wedding anniversary. I'd forgotten we'd gone there for our anniversary last year. I was planning to do so again this year. Clearly, I am a creature of habit.
February was a breezy month. We finally got Calstar back on the water and the water stayed out the outside where it was supposed to, but didn't get the chance to take her anywhere. I had some fun racing with the Laser in the South Cerney Frostbite, the gusts on one particular Sunday hitting more than 40 knots. The roof of my house lost a few tiles to the weather. I paid a very nimble man to climb up there and put them back. Would've loved to have take the opportunity to have climbed up on my roof myself, but clearly middle age has installed in me at least a modicum of good sense.
Some races were cancelled towards the end of the month because of the wild weather. A neighbouring boat broke her tethers and was flipped onto our Albacore, thankfully doing no damage. I took Jack down to the Club to check, but the winds were too strong for me to even safely open the gate. We retreated, and stopped off on the way home for a walk up Robinswood Hill instead.
We didn't reach the top. These days Jack is an elderly gentleman, and was more than content to settle for the view half way up.
March was mostly about gigs, seemingly end to end. Every weekend, and during Cheltenham Race Week, a run of four nights at the Whittle Taps. After two years of restrictions, the mood was bullish and the band's diary full. In total, and not counting the open mic nights, I had 47 gigs across the year. Of those, 4 were solo shows, 28 were pub gigs, 5 were functions of various kinds, 6 were weddings (one of which was my daughter's) and 1 was on a boat.
The loss of two venues also saw 6 cancellations. Which in any normal year would feel dire, but compared to the cancellations of the previous two years, felt hardly worthy of remark, only deep sympathy for the two venues concerned.
The photo is of my brother, taken on stage at the Taps during Race Week. I don't pretend to understand horse racing, I'd even go so far as to feel a little bit of antipathy towards the idea, but I do enjoy the party Cheltenham throws to celebrate the Gold Cup.
The weather was kinder for April, and we actually managed to get Calstar our from her dock for a couple of trips. The first was a brief shake-down, an out and return up under the bridges with a friend along for company. For the second, we turned poor Calstar into a canal boat, joining in with some friends from Portishead Cruising Club to take her up the estuary, onto the Sharpness Canal and up to Gloucester.
It involves scant little sailing and far too much use of the engine for my taste, but I think it's one of Dad's favourite trips. We'll probably do it again this year. The photo was taken as we were passing under the Old Severn Bridge on the way up to Sharpness.
April was also marked by the Albacore's mast step failing, putting her out of action for a few months. On the bright side, Nikki, after much painful searching, finally found herself a dress for our daughter's wedding. I almost picked that photo for the month, but the photo of Dad also included Calstar and the Severn Bridge, so it pipped her to the post for April.
Nik never reads anything I write here anyway, so I reckon I'll get away with it.
May always feels like such a month full of promise. My photos are full of dinghies racing on the lake, birds in the back garden, gigs and open mic nights. An old friend got married and asked us to play at her wedding. News came that another friend of ours who lives in Weston had had a litter of puppies. Suddenly my social media feeds were full of images of all these little bundles of fluff and chaos.
I held out for a few weeks, but eventually succumbed to the inevitable and the decision was made. Nikki claims it was me that made it, but I can't help but feel that I was somehow manipulated. Nonetheless, I'm happy to own it. The weeks that followed would be spent arguing over puppy names and hoping that the one I'd set my heart on in the photos would be ours. Late to the party, we were low down on the waiting list so would be amongst the last to get to choose.
The photo was taken early in the month, coming back to Portishead after a weekend away in Cardiff with Dad and Calstar. We had some good sailing in May.
At the beginning of June, chaos descended upon our home in the form of a fluffy black and tan bundle of attention-seeking mayhem. The little girl with the orange collar, that we'd picked out of the photos as being our first choice, was overlooked by all the other families ahead of us on the list, and Lottie came home to us.
Not everybody was pleased. Boo and Jack are both ten this year, and whilst the new puppy brought a fresh least of life and energy to Jack (the two have become inseparable) Boo gamely suffered her for the first day, and was then rather put out once he realised she was here to stay.
So the photo is one of the very few we have of them together. Perhaps one day we'll fix the divide, but not, I suspect, until she calms down quite a bit more than she has over the last few months. In the meantime, there's plenty of space here for them to co-exist without having to cross paths too often.
The band had more weddings across June, along with plenty of other work, and I had a couple of solo gigs myself, which were fun. I was invited back to my old sailing club at Frampton-on-Severn to crew of a friend in his Enterprise a couple of times, which was a real treat. And I went for a 16km walk with another old friend along Offa's Dyke. Something I think I should do more of.
At the beginning of July, along with a couple of friends, I took my first karate grading in about six years and passed, gaining my 2nd dan in Wado Ryu. It means very little to anybody but me, but I was, quietly, very pleased. It's just another milestone on a journey I started back in my very late teens, but a milestone nonetheless. And whilst, to coin a well used cliché, I fully subscribe to the idea that life is about the journey, not the destination, it's nice to see the occasional little indication of progress.
Lottie became the terror of puppy training class. The gigs kept rolling in, the Albacore was returned to the Club repaired but remained unlaunched and untested as various distractions competed to keep my path from crossing with Amanda's on the lakeside. The weather was glorious however, and plenty of hours were spent racing the Laser around the cans.
At the end of the month, my daughter got married. My wife looked gorgeous in her dress. So, needless to say, did my daughter.
In August Dad, Nikki and I got on a plane and went to meet our friend Mark and the yacht "Amore" in Croatia. It was Nikki's first trip overseas since we'd met; after our first date, which, funny enough, was a coach trip to France, all our family holidays over the years have been here in the UK.
Croatia is lovely. Aside from growing up in the Middle East, I've spent a little bit of time away from Nikki in France, Denmark, Montenegro and Greece, and Croatia is, without any hesitation, my favourite out of all of them.
Everything was clean and well looked after, the people were, seemingly without exception, friendly and pleased to see you, and everyone spoke exceptionally good English. The latter is, I suspect, a terribly "English" way to judge a nation's people, but in comparison to France, Montenegro and Greece, it simply removed a barrier and made you feel immediately welcome.
Which is not to say any of the other countries I've mentioned are not exceptionally welcoming (Greece, in particular, stands out in this regard) but Croatia was very special.
One day I shall learn a second language. I can count to ten, say hello, good-bye and thank-you in a respectable number of them, but otherwise being only able to speak English has always felt like a dereliction on my part, especially given the many opportunities I've had over the years.
Amanda and I finally managed to relaunch the Albacore in September. With the nights slowly drawing in, the Wednesday evening racing at South Cerney came to an end. I won the Laser series, and took 3rd place with the Laser in the overall Hotdogs series, which I was really pleased with, especially as I beat Burt into 4th. Who was, to be fair, in the latter weeks of the series, distracted by his impending marriage or I suspect he'd have had me easily by the end as he's really a much better racer than me. But a win is a win is a win.
Dad and I got away over to Cardiff again with Calstar. Both Calstar and my Laser have been sadly neglected since then.
I'm less concerned about the Laser, I bought her with the intention of mainly leaving her under her cover anyway whilst I sailed other boats. But we need to do better with Calstar this year. We didn't get out with her nearly enough in 2022.
In part because I spent so much of my time sailing abroad.
Towards the end of the month, I travelled out to Montenegro to meet up again with Mark and Amore, to help sail her back to her winter berth in Greece. Nik and Dad stayed behind this time; our intention was to bypass Albania altogether in a single passage down the coast, and neither fancied joining us for that.
It was the best bit though. The passage was a long reach with around 20 knots of good, steady breeze on our shoulder. Blue seas and blue skies gave way to a night sail beneath a pristine heaven garlanded with the Milky Way, festooned with a spray of bright, glittering stars and bookended at dusk and dawn with the company of dolphins.
October is a month full of birthdays. My two sons', my brother's and my late mum's. We took Lottie to the beach for the first time. During my couple of weeks away in Montenegro and Greece, she seemed to take the chance to spring up from a puppy to a proper lanky teenager, with both her ears finally standing up at full mast pretty much on the day of my return.
My friend Burt got married, and we played for his wedding. At the end of the month, Nikki claimed payback for all my time spent away sailing in exotic climes, and we had a long weekend away with a couple of friends in a caravan on a Butlins holiday camp in Minehead. The things I do for love.
The photo was a rare moment when Nik and I had all the kids together with us in once place, out for supper in Bristol to celebrate Ben and Sam's birthdays.
November was all about the band. There was the usual run of gigs, including another wedding and a fireworks party for November 5th. But we'd finally agreed to play New Year's Eve again at the end of the year. We usually skip it as our drummer goes away with his family for the holidays and, obviously, finding a sub for a date like that is a bit tricky.
But when Sam, the landlord of the Railway Tavern, had (again) asked us if we'd think about it, Jamie piped up and said "What about Danny?" So I made the call and Danny said yes.
As I think I've mentioned, Dan was a very early band member, our second ever drummer back in the mid-90's, and a long, long-standing friend. The catch was that he hadn't picked up a stick or hit a drumskin in over three years. So by November, when he'd again expressed his concerns that he'd been having trouble grappling with a few songs in the set I'd given him, Jamie found a rehearsal studio we could hire in town, and we settled down to practicing regularly every week with him.
The band hasn't had a regular rehearsal in absolute years. Each of us has full time jobs and full time families, and with so many gigs it's been something of an unnecessary inconvenience for a long time.
I found I really enjoyed myself. Getting together without fail one evening every week in a nice studio to practice towards an agreed objective was actually great fun, and kind of why we'd started the band in the first place, all those many, many years ago. Because, funny enough, we do actually enjoy playing together.
New Years Eve is done now, and needless to say, Danny excelled himself. I've got this week off (the band, not the day job) for my voice to recover, but we've actually gone and booked the studio again for another rehearsal next Monday.
So Dan and Jay get to be the November photo.
I got a haircut in December. Actually, it was the end of November, but I'm using a bit of poetic licence to move it into the following month for the sake of balance as I've written enough about the previous. It was noteworthy because it's the first time I've been to a barbers in about fifteen years. I have a genuine dread, almost a phobia, of walking in and a guy with a pair of scissors asking "What would you like?"
Well, a hair-cut, obviously.
Which is pretty much what I said the last time, all those years ago. I so completely failed to express my wishes that the guy resorted to working through a line up of his other customers, "How about like that? No? What about like his? No? Okay, what about this gentleman?" at which point, on seeing my face, said gentlemen incredulously asked "Why? What's wrong with my hair?"
It was positively mortifying.
So I've relied upon Nik to cut my hair for years. But having been together now for close on thirty of them (note to self: anniversary Friday, must work out exactly how close before then!) I think the point where she really gives a damn about my appearance enough to want to do anything about it has long passed.
I tried cutting my own hair once, thinking how hard could it be? Yeah. That didn't end well.
So I picked a quiet Wednesday, walked into the barber shop next door to where my wife works and asked for a hair cut. She knows the guys in there, and apparently has been telling them for years that she'll send me in.
Like most things of such a nature, once faced down, my fears were proven totally unfounded. I spent a very pleasant forty-five minutes or so sat in a chair talking to a young man called Perry as he snipped and cut and generally tried to make me look presentable despite the questionable material he'd been given to start with, and listened patiently as I nattered on about sailing.
Because that's what you generally get if you say to me "So, what do you do then?"
I shall definitely go back. But I think I'll pick another day when it's quiet.
So December's photo should probably be one of Perry, but I didn't take it as, generally speaking, I think taking photos of strangers and posting them on the Internet is a bit of an intrusion. I did take some photos of my haircut in the mirror (later on, once I got home, not whilst I was still sat in the chair!) but nobody really wants to see that.
Instead, Miss December is, of course, Lottie. It snowed, and she loved it. And, unlike the haircut, which as mentioned was actually a (very late) November haircut for December, Lottie's picture in the snow was genuinely taken in the actual final month of the year.