2015 has been a difficult and challenging year because of having to deal with sensitive family issues as well as illness amongst friends. It has seemed that as soon as one problem is resolved another has quickly come galloping over the hill.
So as we approach the new year I thought it would be nice to reflect on my positives for the last year, things I have really enjoyed and from which I have derived a good deal of satisfaction.
First and foremost has been the pleasure of watching my grandson develop, now 2 years and 3 months old he is extremely mobile and keeps me fit chasing him around the park and the long walks at Dunham Massey country park. He has also developed a penchant for cappuccino and tea-cake, which he is rewarded with after he has finished his activities.
From a very personal point of view my real highlight was spending a day at the East Lancashire Railway at Bury on the one-day photography course. The excitement of seeing a gleaming steam engine churning out smoke as it snaked its way from Bury to Rawtenstall and being able to take photographs (on a beautiful summers day) was a sheer joy. For those of my age there will always be something magical about steam trains.
The musical year has been a bit underwhelming, the Proms concerts broadcast on the BBC each evening were somewhat dull and unexciting, save perhaps for the two concerts by the Berlin Philharmonic. The one real highlight was attending a performance of the opera Jenufa in Leeds earlier in the year by Opera North. The visceral intensity of Leos Janacek’s music allied to a heart-rending story left me emotionally drained as I left the theatre. I would put this in the top three musical experiences of my life.
More music again for this choice, and the relatively unknown Saint Andreu Jazz band from Barcelona. I came across the band on YouTube by accident and became intrigued with the fact that Joan Chamorra the band leader had put together a band made up of those aged 6 to 20. And it was the playing of 8 year old Elsa Armengou that made me do a double take, here was an 8 year old girl playing Duke Ellington’s “Mood Indigo” on muted trumpet Watch, listen and be amazed.
Another highlight for me was the “poppy display” at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park (on until the 6 January 2016, so if you haven’t seen it, get down there!). This was a section of the “Blood Red Sands and Seas of Red” installation at the Tower of London in 2014. The section had been dropped from the bridge into the lake and looked stunning. I understand from staff at the park that 20,000 visitors came the first weekend.
My holiday this year was a short five-day trip to Lisbon where I managed to explore parts of the city I had never ventured into on previous visits. In particular the area of Estrela and the area slightly further west, where many of the embassies are situated (and very fine buildings they are). Lisbon still retains its magic for me and I look forward to an early return perhaps sometime next year.
Finally, the real highlight of my year was the recovery from a very serious illness and major operation of my friend and colleague Mike. His slow recuperation was hastened by the fact I obtained a supply of Svyturys beer and promised him some when his health permitted…………hence, accelerated rate of recovery.
So, here is to a much more positive 2016 and a return to Lithuania after an absence of 15 months to see all our friends and colleagues again.