As 2018 draws to a close, it’s a good time to extend Happy New Year greetings from Paul, Stella and I…. and also to reflect on the year that we’ve had. I’m sure I’ve forgot some things that are really important but hopefully you’ll forgive me for that and enjoy reading the summary I put together anyways.
2018 Start – The first day of 2018 we drove around the Golden Circle in Iceland. We saw some amazing things that day and on that trip in general setting us up well for the year.
2018 Visitors – This year our we had another wonderful visit with Mum and Dad which included a trip for the three of us down to Essex plus visits to the usual Wirral haunts. My friend Annalie from New Zealand also made a trip over along with her son Erik – we went shopping and Erik became best friends with Stella.
2018 Photography – I’m still learning all the time and hope to be able to say that until the day I put my camera down for good… I’ve enjoyed shooting more weddings with some great photographers and put a lot of effort into improving my website. I was really excited to meet Elke Vogelsang for a second time at her workshop on creative dog photography. She is so lovely and an amazing photographer to boot. I also hit the Photo Show at the NEC with Denis again, the SWPP photography convention in London and went to an off camera flash photography workshop at Owen Barn. For my something different this year, I took a course in architecture photography when I spent an enjoyable day wandering around Liverpool with some like minded people.
2018 Camping – Our first camping trip of the year to Silverdale – on the Cumbria/Lancashire border – was a bit of a cold one. After two nights of feeling rather cold and Stella’s bowl freezing over we upped sticks and headed for the comforts of the Midland Hotel in Morecambe. I can’t tell you how much like heaven it felt like to be there! Other camping trips included my second music festival, Beat-Herder, which was a bit of a raucous affair in Lancashire, a trip out to Abersoch to camp with Nicola and Cathy and their respective families, spending a gorgeous May Day bank holiday weekend in West Cumbria and a weekend in Pooley Bridge at the amazing Hillcroft Park. Hillcroft Park definitely wins the award for the best campsite visited this season as a result of its great location and facilities.
2018 Cottages – Our first weekend away in 2018 on what has now become an annual pilgrimage for Paul’s birthday weekend was to a cottage called Filly Island. It was on a very small island with just the cottage on it whose insides had been upcycled. It was near Cirenchester in the Cotswolds and we both thought that it looked lovely but it’s functionality was a bit more of a challenge. My favourite cottage stay was Bag End in Keswick in November. We didn’t have any grand expectations so therefore this place easily exceeded them. We both agreed we’d like to stay there again. Another nice one was the Old Smithy in Priors Marston where we stayed when I photographed a wedding at Warwick House in Southam – we extended our stay making a nice long weekend of it. I stayed at a very old cottage called Stoney Lane in the very quaint village of Thaxted, Essex with Mum and Dad when we spent a few days exploring the area – that suited us quite well too. Although strictly speaking not in the cottage category, we stayed at the Midland Hotel in Morecambe twice this year which is definitely my favourite hotel and was such a treat. In November we had feature sea view room with a balcony – I could have just sat in the room and starred out at the sea all day long.
2018 Sights – My trip to Milan with work gave me the opportunity to see the very grand gothic Duomo di Milano – that was definitely worth a few pictures. Kings College in Cambridge and the amazing stain glass was also very memorable when I toured the college with Mum and Dad. Paul and I both really enjoyed seeing the professional cyclists who were cycling the week long Tour of Britain in Ambleside. I also finally made it to the Hadlow Road Grade 2 listed heritage railway station museum on the Wirral Way which was a bit like stepping back in time.
2018 Walking – I think my favourite walk this year was heading up Walla Crag when we were staying in Keswick in November. It was a beautiful day and the views are spectacular up there without too much climbing effort. It was also a pleasant contrast compared to trying to summit Skiddaw the previous day and failing because of the wind – that had us an all fours job! Another note-able walk was the knee crunching, paw scratching descent off Kirk Fell in Wasdale Valley on the May bank holiday weekend… The next day we recovered with a rather less adventurous but very nice smelling and tasting trip to the Muncaster Castle sausage festival.
2018 Concerts & Plays – My favourite concert this year was seeing Love Actually shown with a live orchestra at Liverpool Philharmonic Hall. I saw another movie with live orchestra when I saw the Snowman at Liverpool Cathedral which was very sweet. I took in three plays including Baskerville (based on Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s novel, The Hound of the Baskervilles) at the Liverpool Playhouse and Othello at the Everyman (interestingly cast with a female lead) and a pantomime called the Snow Queen also at the Everyman. Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds falls into the category of musical and maybe the Simon And Garfunkel Story does too. Musicians included Katie Melua, Razorlight and then there was the Beat-Herder festival with Boney M (although sadly not playing any of their Christmas album) and a new discovery of a band called Soul Wax. The most traditional of all was the carol concert at Chester Cathedral the week before Christmas – it was nice to have a good ol’ sing to some of my favourites.
2018 Food & Drink – 2018 was the year I discovered Biscoff. It is good for baking but I can eat the stuff right out of the jar – oh my. I learned about making and cooking with tofu on a Tofu Guru course with the Vegetarian Society and I also realised that Dominos makes great pizza – much better than frozen supermarket pizza. Sure it’s expensive but we have ordered it as a treat a couple of times this year. Their delivery tracking app is also really cool! Still on the fast food front, we finally got around to checking out Caribou Poutine in Liverpool. It was authentic enough and we enjoyed it but there really is nothing healthy about poutine so it’s not somewhere we’ll get in the habit of going to! When Mum and Dad were here we had a proper Thanksgiving dinner on Thanksgiving weekend with turkey and all the trimmings. It was the first time Paul had cooked a whole turkey and it tasted amazing. And finally a shout out for cocktails – both 2 for 1 cocktails at The Courtyard in Oxton and my favourite new cocktail which is the Midland Hotel in Morecambe’s Bahama Mama. My slight obsession with alcohol that tastes like fruit inspired Paul to get me a cocktail shaker for Christmas!
2018 Firsts – I’d always wanted to go to the Remembrance Sunday service at the Cenotaph at Hamilton Square in Birkenhead so this year we managed to do that. It was very cold – but very moving and very busy. The amount of support for it was the thing that struck me the most.
2018 Afternoon Teas – I’ve had a few of these – the usual suspects to accompany me are Emily, Helen and Harriet although the girls from work are also involved in a couple. This year afternoon tea has been enjoyed at the Gardeners Cottage, the Midland Hotel, Hilton Liverpool City Centre, Hillbark Hotel, Arley Hall, Riverhill Hotel just up the road and Thornton Hall. Thornton Hall won an award for afternoon tea of the year so we had great expectations there – I’m afraid I wasn’t quite sure it lived up to them. The service was a little slow and I wasn’t that keen on the little trifle on the top tier. The visit to the Riverhill Hotel was slightly marred by celebrating Tranmere Rovers players descending on the serenity of the restaurant having just been promoted up a division in the football league. I did go back to the Riverhill Hotel a second time though and the guys came along this time and had savoury afternoon teas. I think on reflection my favourite afternoon tea was the one I had at Gardeners Cottage which was cosy and classic with its mismatched china, wooden tables and massive scones.
2018 Weather – What a summer we had. Definitely the warmest that I can remember in the 20 years that I’ve lived here. Although the heat wave was over when Mum and Dad came to visit in October, we had wonderful dry weather as they have the past few years when they’ve come at the same time.
2019 Look Ahead – You never quite know what the year to come will throw up but I am optimistic about 2019. We have a couple of holidays booked, some entertainment (meals, concerts) on the cards and two sets of Canadians provisionally lined up for a visit so things are starting to come together…