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Looking Back at 2007

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    15 Reviews
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      05.02.2008 23:03
      Very helpful



      Kids are not the future. Change is the future.

      Lets start by rewinding our memories back to December 31st 2006, its almost midnight and most people are waiting for the countdown for the beginning of 2007.
      Its a time when people generally hope for happy times, and wish others the best of luck for the following 12 months. For some people its a time when dread sets in, over what traumas and nightmare they will face over the next year.

      Much happened in 2007, but looking back on the year as a whole, for me, it made me realise what kind of a world we live in today.

      New Years Eve 2006:
      My friend and her partner had a party for New Year, there were only around 10 of us around to their house for drinks, a few daft party games and a curry. It was fun - we usually all go out to a pub or club for new year, but decided this year it would be quiet affair.
      Half way through the night around 10pm around 20 kids were fighting outside, completely paraletic on god knows what. We heard the commotion and looked out of the window. One boy around 13-14 years old was getting beaten up by 3 other lads around 16 years old. We rang the police. One lad gets up onto the roof of my friend's boyfriends car and starts jumping up and down. The Police turn up, riot vans, the works. On going outside to one of the police officers, my friend's boyfriend told the officer that the car belonged to him, that he didnt know the youth standing on the roof of it, and asked the officer to get him down immediately. My friend's boyfriend wasnt aggressive, drunken or abusive, yet the police officer pushed him to the floor, then politely asked the lad to jump down from the car and move on.

      We were disgusted that the police officer was so lenient on these drunken kids, physically assaulted my friend's boyfriend, and then made everyone go on their way. We took the police officer's ID number and made a complaint about him the following day. The sergeant in charge, denied that this officer was even working on this night, and accused us of making the whole thing up.

      Once again, the guilty get off scott free, my friend's boyfriend is left with a damaged car and a bruised back from where the police officer pushed him over.

      The very start of 2007 taught me that the is no meaning of the word Justice.

      I turned 28 years old in 2007. Its not old, its not young, its an age where you have had hopefully, a third of your life experience. Alot of people consider 28 to be young, but when I see teenagers in 2007, murdering other kids, holding knifes to everyone and beating up innocent people, 2007 made me realise just how much life in the UK has changed for many over the past 20 years.

      2007 also made me nervous about having children. I want kids, but it is so difficult to bring up a child, as many of my friends are experiencing at the moment, with all the gang culture of today.

      2007 saw many children murdered by other children, 2007 saw many elderly people assaulted by children, and 2007 saw a craze of "happy slapping".

      I remember 20 years ago in 1987, us kids were petrified of kicking the football in the street just in case it hit a car and we would get told off. We would never ever dream of back-chatting or verbally abusing an adult. We didnt run riot in huge gangs, or be threatening to anybody of any kind.

      In 20 years where has it all gone wrong?

      I know this is a slightly morbid review, but I'm in a situation now, where I'm sturggling to believe that this country is a safe place to live. Home is supposed to be about feeling safe, feeling secure and confident in your being. Many people just dont feel like this anymore.

      If 2007 is anything to go by where improvement is concerned, god only knows where we will be in another 20 years.

      People could say I should put this review in another section, but I dont feel it belongs there. This review IS about looking back at 2007 for me, as it is when the light cast a bright beam with the realisation of the world we live in today.

      I hope there is a section for "Looking back at 2008" in a year from now, it would be nice to write a review about people doing good things for one another, about being safe and secure.

      We'll see what happens and I'll see you in 12 months, provided I've not been murdered by a hoodie.


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        28.01.2008 15:34
        Very helpful



        My year last year

        I once wrote a review about my favouriter year ever. It was 1995 and it was the year I turned 18. I would now like to turn to the year that has just ended 2007. It is another milestone year for me as I turned 30. I loved it as it was another memorable year full of travel, Ciao meets, some celebs and a happier more secure Sarah. It is a year that can compare to 1995, as it will certainly will be one I will look back at fondly and remember many happy memories along with a few not so good ones.


        2007 started with family and ended with family. I started it in my sister's flat in Manchester where my family were gathered after a lovely Christmas away in Tunisia. I had just started a new job at Saint Paul's Cathedral as a steward. I was pleased to have got the job, as I had the interview way back in August 2006 and had given up hope of getting the job. I was really pleased to get it, as it was a paid job in the heritage sector, which was where I wanted to be. I was living in Romford with my boyfriend and his parent and I was unhappy there . I needed to get out and regain my freedom.


        Once back from Manchester I needed to turn my attention to getting the hell out of Romford with or without Duskman, I knew I had a limited budget but wanted to live in a semi decent area which was not too far to commute. I had convinced myself I wanted to be in north London perhaps in Archway or the Holloway Road, as it was not too far from Highgate and other nice areas! After looking at a few rooms in houses and not finding them quite right I spotted an ad for a room in a house in the Blackheath/Greenwich area. Yes I know this was in the south and I had set my heart on the north but I phoned up and arranged a visit and fell for the fairly large room with fireplace in a Victorian semi. I fell in love with the greenness of Greenwich and the twee middleclassnes of Blackheath. I 'm in Charlton which reminds me of my old home in Stretford in Manchester, as it is not great but not grotty and is within easy reach of lovely places with great quirky shops, eating places and pubs. I paid the deposit on my room and then was preparing to move when my world started to crumble again.

        One of the conditions of my employment with St Paul's was a satisfactory medical. However the company doctor was not satisfied with my eyesight, as I am classed partially sighted. I was sent to a Haley Street specialist and his opinion was the same and he felt I would struggle with the job. A meeting was called with personnel and my line manager. I was going to fight but I knew there was a chance I would be dismissed and back to square 1. Luckily I did fight and then I was given an extended probationary period with certain restrictions in my duties. I was well chuffed.

        The following weekend was a busy one as we had our late staff Christmas party singing karaoke in the crypt of Saint Paul's!. The next day I was traveling to Miadstone to meet up with Torr, Orlando, RICHADA and others. I remember it was a bad day for traveling as the District and Circle line was out but it was worth it as it was nice meeting up with everyone again and rekindling friendships as well as making new ones. The next day was the big one as I completed my mission said goodbye to Romford and moved to Charlton. I 've not been back to Romford since and have no desire to ever again.


        Like most people I found February to be an uneventful month. I spent most of it settling into my new home and exploring my new environs. I did spend a nice Saint Valentines Day eating chocolate fondue with Duskman. Bliss. I attended my first gig of the year seeing the Glaswegian group the Hussey's. (The guitarist and songwriter James McColl used to be the lead singer of the Supernaturals) I always like seeing them as the band know us fairly well because Duskman does an unofficial site for them

        MARCH - THE BIG 30

        Luckily for me March was more interesting than February. I had became very comfortable in my little Charlton home and my attentions turned to finding some social activities. iI Manchester I had been a member of my old church's book group so was keen to find another one. I enjoy making reading, a solitary pastime, into a social one. I joined not one but two book groups. One a council library one and a more informal one in a pub in Greenwich. I stuck the council one for a few months but it was more structured and everyone else was at least fifteen years older than me so when the to groups became too much I jacked that one in and concentrated on the pub one. I 'm still a member and look forward to discussing books and lots of other stuff with other like minded individuals. Through that book group I have made a couple of good friends as well. A result I would say!

        March was also the first of my little jaunts away from London. I had been avoiding my beloved Manchester (apart from a quick visit to the airport and my sister's flat) since I moved away from there in May 2006. This was because I missed the life I had there and all my friends there. If I had gone back sooner I would have never left, as I was so unhappy with my new life in London. However with a new job, new place and a more positive attitude. it was nice to go back to Manchester and catch up with familiar faces and places. This was swiftly followed by my 30th birthday itself. I don't feel 30 bit neither was I traumatised at turning the big 30. I was working that weekend but I still managed to get totally hammered in a pub near St Paul's the night before my birthday. On the day itself Duskman and I had a an intimate cosey dinner in a nice Italian in Blackheath.


        April came and the sun shined like it was summer. Duskman is two weeks two days younger than me so on the 16th April we had another 30th birthday to celebrate. We had a lovely meal at the Living Room (on buy one main course get another free courtesy of Olive Magazine!) and then headed up to Camden''s Koko to see Camera Obscura live. The music scene for me was a plus in 2007 as it continued the previous few years trend of throwing up good interesting indie acts. I particularly enjoyed the Pipettes, The View and more recently the Wombats. May this good music continue into 2008. Unfortunately it also spawned the horrible Kate Nash with her her inane lyrics about lemons and using mouthwash.

        As mentioned I had a quite quiet 30th birthday the previous month. Our main birthday treat was yet to come as Duskman and I booked in to a b and b in Brighton for a (slightly) dirty weekend away to truly celebrate leaving our 20s behind. I 'd never been to Brighton before but it was a blissful weekend that included a lovely day with Ciao's RICHADA and the lovely Mrs R. We will never forget a trip to Preston manor in Brighton where we had the most incompetent tour guide going.
        He literally forced us to do his tour

        "Come here for your tour". He progressed by giving us an introduction to the family tree.,

        "This man was very rich and he died, This was his son and he was also very rich then he died" and so on. He continued around the various rooms of th kitchen giving us the most basic explanations of the objects in he collection whilst heavy handedly hitting them.

        "Dese are pegs for hanging their clothes up"

        "Dis was used for keeping their meals warm. They did not have microwaves then"

        At one point he said "These are herbs for their food" and RICHADA and I had to inform him it was a basket of lavender. The best one came when we saw a print of the last Supper which was summarised as "Dis is the prophet and his guys". This guy was so bad he was good. Sasha Baron Cohen could not write better comedy! He was obviously a security guard that had been given a good introduction to the collection then used when they needed him as a guide. He could not judge his audiences needs or knowledge and his presentation was abysmal! RICHADA and I will never forget this guy as he put smiles on our faces even though he did not educate us at all!

        Amongst the fun of April I did learn that my probation had been extended again as my supervisor still flt here were a few things that still needed work on. I was disappointed at first but just vowed to work extra hard as I knew I would get there eventually. April also brought new staff to the cathedral. There was Noel who was to become my partner in crime over the coming months and John a guy who was so pompous, know it all and arrogant that everyone predicted he would not last five minutes. Eight month later he's a very funny guy who supplies us with great free range eggs from his father's farm although he is still very opinionated!


        May was a time for trips into the West End. The first one was to see one of my musical idols Emma Pollock in a tiny venue the Borderline. Emma Pollock was in the Delgados,one of my all time favourite bands but they split. When I heard Emma was touring as a solo artist I had to go and see her. The gig was fab and it was good to know the Borderline had a very good value Happy Hour. Look out for Emma's support acts the punky Pop Up and the Joni Mitchell like Emmy the Great. Emma herself was fantastic and I plucked up the courage to talk to her. She seems a lovely person.

        At the end of April my sister came down to London to see me. I had a whale of a time showing her all my new favourite places. The highlight of her trip was dinner at one of the Savoy's informal restaurants. Dining there felt luxurious. We were going to get a cocktail there but my sister balked at the £12+ price tag even if it was part of her birthday present. We then swiftly departed to the Lyric Theatre to see a wonderful production of Cabaret. One of my minor resolutions for 2008 is to go and see more theatre as I thoroughly enjoyed Cabaret.


        05/06/2007 was my sister's birthday. it was also one of the highlights of the year for me as that was the day I had another meeting with my line manager and personnel. The result had me jumping for joy. After six months I had passed my probation and was offered a full time permanent job at Saint Paul's. That was certainly one of my highlights of the year. I felt I could plan now I had total job security. Face it the cathedral has been there for 1400 years in its various buildings so is not going to go disappear that easily (I hope!).

        Once the job was secure my mind turned to traveling. First port of call was Belgium for Werchter festival taking in Bruges, beer and chocolates along the way. it was a lovely week away and proved Belgium is far from boring.


        July was a memorable month for a number of reasons. The smoking ban came into effect in England in July. I am a non smoker and have found this legislation has improved my drinking experience considerably as I do not come home reeking of smoke.

        Talking of smoking I met a rather famous cigar smokers, at work. I met Sir James (hows about that guys an girls) Saville himself. He he was attending the annual Knight's Bachelor service in the OBE chapel. He's a bit of a childhood legend for me, as I was an avid viewer of Jim'll Fix it He came along with another Knight complete with a woolly hat. it was only when he started talking I realised who he was. He was really friendly and nice to me asking me where I was from (as he spotted I was a long way from home). He said he was going to come and kidnap me!! I shook his hand . Wow was that exciting or what!!!

        July was a wet wet wet month with horrible weather. I remember 21st July (the day the final Harry Potter novel was published) as the weather was so bas that the rain got into the fire alarm system at St Paul's and set it off. We had to evacuate but no one wanted to leave the building , quelle surprise. I found the only way to get people away from the cathedral was to go outside on the steps myself hence getting soaked to the skin. It was also the day of our staff garden part but that ended up being held in the crypt!


        August was the month of the ARC group. ARC is a project that brings European students and other young people together. They participate n the life of a cathedral by giving tours of it in their native language for board, lodgings and a small amount of pocket money. Our ARC group were lovely . I grew fond of the group and enjoyed a number of occasions where large amounts of alcohol was drunk with them. When they went I missed the sound of their different languages echoing around St Paul's.

        August was all the As, as ale was an important part of August. I went to the Great British Beer Festival for the second year and tasted some rather good ales and the odd cider. It was there I signed up to become a member of CAMRA. I've been meaning to for a couple of years now but actually got round to it at the festival. May there be plenty of good interesting halves of ale supped in 2008.On a sad note I lost one of my uncles to cancer. I did not know him that well but still it was a shame as he was only 59 when he died.


        Way back when I was 15 I was supposed to go on a school exchange to Berlin but it fell through. 15 years later on 9 August I was on a plane bound for Berlin to be an English speaking tour guide in the Beeline Dom (Berlin Cathedral) for a week. I had been going with another girl from work but she pulled out at the last minute and the reserve was unable to go. So I set off alone. I was actually staying in the cathedral as they have a two bedroomed guest apartment in their bell tower. I remember arriving then being left in this apartment and feeling slightly alone but that feeling soon wore off and I had a fabulous time. It was fun doing the talks, the building was beautiful and my German hots were nice. As well as working I manged to do some sightseeing including a walk round all of Berlin's most notorious relics of the Second World War and the Cold War. I also spent a a lovely day walking round Scloss Charlottenburge, a beautiful palace in Berlin's suburbs. I enjoyed my work and was delighted by how much German I remembered fromschool


        Itraveled to Brum with Duskman in tow for my second Ciao meet of the year. This one was a very small and select affair organsued by Chrisise (promotions lass). There was supposed to be six of us there but poor Koshkha (Barbara) got stuck on a train platform in Northampton and could not make it. I was disappointed as I did want to see her again but did get to meet the lovely Gizmogizmo and see Fuzzy98 again (Lynsey and Saran), Our time in Birmingham was short as we had toy get back to London to go to a friend's birthday party.


        We had final drinks with the girls at the Ciao meet then realised we had less than 10 minutes to our coach, which meant we had to leg it. Chrissie and Duskman were much faster than me (Chrissie is in training for the London Marathon) and I could not keep up. I lost my footing on a raised bit of pavement and tripped falling awkwardly on my right hand. I soldiered on in a bit of pain and went to the party but ended up in casualty having my hand checked out just in case. I thought I had just badly bruised it but the X ray results came back showing a break in my finger. I was due to go to Scotland but had to postpone it by a day to get my hand in plaster. I almost canceled Scotland completely but decided I would rather be up there as my mum and best friend are both trained nurses and another friend is a physio. I had another fab week catching up with friends and family. October ended nicely as I did manage to meet up with Koshkha after all, as she was in London on business and we had a lovely meal out together.


        November can be a depressing time. it's cold and dark outside and it is not quite Christmas. This November was different due to a meeting with heroes of mine and a girly holiday in the sun. I've been a huge fan of Wet Wet Wet for years. I spent hours and hours of my teenage years daydreaming about meeting them. November 13th was the day when my dream came true. The Wets were doing a signing in a record shop on Oxford Street. I was off that day so leaped at the chance to meet my idols. I arrived there early to get a good spot for the mini gig right in font of the bassist Graeme Clark . I remember getting more and more nervous and exciting as the time for them to hit the stage approached. I was like a 1r4 year old again. Tommy the drummer eased my nerves when he came out just before the gig and was friendly and down to earth. He reminded me of an older version of a friend's husband! Their performance was electric and it was a thrill to see them so up close and intimate. The band left the stage and my nerves came back as I queued to get my CD autographed. I truly was back to being 14 and I was so gauche and nervous. I remember talking utter garbage to them. They must have thought I was mad. I do have a lovely picture of Clarky smiling at me so he must have been happy when I told him he was my favourite and my second love after Duskman (who had volunteered to come so duly introduced them to each other. Poor Clarky)!. My ambition for the next time I meet the Wets is to speak to them in an intelligent adult way not as an overgrown school girl!

        I headed straight from the record signing to my friend's house as we were going to Marrakesh for a week of sun and culture. It really was a fabulous time. We had lovely warm sunny weather and had a good explore of Marrakesh. We found it fascinating but at time busy and sometimes intimidating. We managed to get out of the city for a couple of days and I remember a lovely drive into the Atlas mountings and also paddling in the Atlantic Ocean in Essaouira. I have decided to try and get some winter sun every year as it does wonders for you in those dark days of winter.


        It was my first full December working at the cathedral and it was manic. I maanged to do most of the overtime and worked right the way through including Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. It was nice especially as the special day got nearer but at times th behaviour of the visitors/worshipers were less than Christian if they could not get into the church for a carol service. By the end of it I could quote the Christmas story word for word as I had heard it so often.Our staff Christmas carols with a drinks reception then our departmental Christmas meal was a bit of relief ,as we shut th doors early and could relax and get into the Christmas spirit ourselves. I did miss an evening of overtime as I went to Wembley to see my boys Wet Wet Wet. |It was a good night but not as good as the record signing, as nothing could top that being so close to them

        I managed to get a break after the hustle and bustle of Christmas and spent New Year back up in Scotland with my family, friends and Duskman. It was a quiet New Year but nice and thus the year came full circle.

        As you can see I had a pretty eventful year. The highlights for me were my travels abroad, meeting the Wets and getting job security. It is a shame I also have to remember the broken finger!

        So to 2008. I have decided to set a few goals for myself. I want to be sensible and start a pension and learn a new language. I have taken up Polish evening classes. It is very difficult due to all the CZ Szxs and words do not read as how they sound but I will persevere. I resolve to to finish all my book group books before I go to the meeting and try not to bluff that I have read the ending when I have not. The next one is a daft one. I plan to go to each and every open underground station and see what is there! It will be a mammoth task but a fun one! Finally I just want to be settled and happy living with Duskman again!


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          19.01.2008 11:12
          Very helpful



          Another year we wont get back..

          I'm not going to waffle on about my personal year as it's boring and egotistical and there's not a lot to say anyway, other than girls, booze and sport. Well at least two of the three anyway. Nope, it's another A-Z for me as they are the best fun and you get to stuff all your 'any other business' in them or things you want to revisit from previous reviews to tidy up your personal look and, of course, rant at the year. I like a good rant and this is a rant special!

          A-Z of 2007

          A is for applause

          I'm not comfortable with this minute's applause thing at football matches. It's not democratic and somewhat lazy if you ask me, those choosing to actually remember in silence looking like they are being disrespectful, even though it's a 'minutes silence'. You're going to be cheering and clapping for the next ninety minutes anyway so it seems someone tacky and lacking thought to clap like a seal. In the Seoul Olympics of 88, because the Koreans didn't know much about athletics, they were told when to clap and when to be dead silent, announcements on the P.A and big screens...When a football ground is dead silent then that shows real respect to me. I don't like someone deciding in the media that we should all clap like communist lemmings with no emotion. It all began when Alan Ball died. Go back to the silence please.

          B is for bloody speed cameras

          It's clear that the police are spending too much time targeting drivers for speeding offences over other, more labor intensive convictions. Its not speed that kills but just plain bad driving. Most fatalities are on country roads where ambulances don't get their in time because no one reports the crime, or plain logistics, the crash is too far for the ambulance to get there in time. Ok, I know the arguments-you shouldn't speed. But since the forest of cameras has matured there has been an alarming drop in more serious motorist convictions. Whilst speeding 'nicks' have risen from 700,000 to 1.7m under Blair and Brown in ten years, tickets for driving through red lights and pedestrian crossing without stopping has fallen 55%, more likely to produce child and elderly fatalities you would think. 70% of all pedestrian deaths on the roads and in the towns and villages involved the people that were supposed to be on the pavement being drunk. But even more seriously drunken driving statistics are falling, down 7% in 2005 alone. In that last ten years prosecutions fell an alarming 45%! Now you may say people are being more road aware and that s why the tickets and arrests have fallen for those types of offences. But you might also say there are fewer road cops looking for drinks now. In that case why is speeding up 200%? The answer, of course, is speeding fines bringing in revenue, easily to prosecute, and bring down those all important league table numbers. I call it lazy policing, the government call it enforcement.

          C is for the Credit Crunch

          The banks aren't lending to each other these days because they don't know how much debt each other has, so cant assess the risk of that lending. Some big banks have cracked, quite literally in northern Rocks case, revealing their unthinkable losses, The Rock now draining 10% of the nation's taxes. Imagine what would happen if the government has to bail out the other banks and financial institutions feeling the strain. With a record 400 'footsie' companies set to reveal profit warnings this month I think you get an inkling.

          It was the right thing to do to save the bank at the tie and in effect Alistair Darling has kept confidence in the banks. But we are all in debt in some way, be it personal, maybe your partner, or even the kids at university, and this is why the bank went t*ts up.
          On the subject of paying for uni according to a parliamentarian committee its women that are the slowest to pay off their debts, especially when it comes to student grants. Whilst it take males graduates eleven years on average to pay off their student debt it takes women some 16 years to clean the slate. Experts put it down to the usual career break and childcare issues with no mention of new shoes and little runarounds. Anyone in the student debt pit will know that the student loans company interest rates doubled in 2007 from 2.4 to 4.8% per annum, pushing £80 per month when you qualify for repayment at the threshold of £13,000 per year now.

          D is for Drugs

          Since Blair effectively legalized pot we have seen a huge increase in drug factories in the U.K last year, most run by Vietnamese gangs, that particular ethnic minority's criminal tendency of choice. Some say the government plan was to knock weed down to class C was purely because of the number of people in jail for drug offences-less arrests less prisoners to deal with-rather than for reasons of health. Penalties and sentences all around drop when the alphabetical classification changes

          Last year the police discovered 28 cannabis factories in Northamptonshire and already they have found 8 in the first 14 days this year, one behind the central police station, no less! The sniffer dogs must have been bouncing of the walls! Picture Chief Wiggam and his deputy and you are in the right ballpark with Northamptonshire police.

          As a non user of drugs I appreciate there are just as many users out there as criminals and so they are unlikely to 'dog in' the villains, but I still feel we aren't coming down hard enough on soft drug peddlers, usage ultimately leading to class A in our delinquent youth that kick fathers to death.

          Intriguingly, since Pot and the like has become accepted and openly smoked on the streets, usage has fallen 17.5% in young people in just two years in the U.K. As expected it's no longer a 'cool drug' and the kids have moved up the alphabet to ecstasy and cocaine, the later seeing usage increase dramatically last year. And to those who say, hey, what's the big deal with using drugs? Well the issue is young black boys being shot in the back of the head in London and Manchester to feed your grubby habit, which you are responsible for. And for those who say legalize it, I say a druggie will always tell you one can never take enough drugs in the day. Do you want to live in that society where everyone's selling the Big Issue and then abusing you if you don't support their destructive habit by buying a copy?

          Some brain dead cop said ecstasy should be legalized because more people die from aspirin than the happy pill. He knows full well that aspirin is used by people to attempt suicide for a cry for help. With idiots like this in the force its time to get tough by shouting the 'W' in the War on drugs.

          E is for England

          I'm tired of more idiots calling for an English Parliament. We have one and it's called Westminster. If you don't want the Scottish influence then don't vote for Scottish M.P`s here!
          Scotland can devolve all they want and I'm glad Alex Samond and his SNP got in power in 2007 and fighting Brown over student fees and other controversial charges. Maybe then they will be big issues at the next election in England and some of those charges and taxes will be over-turned to win our vote. We all know Scotland sucks England dry of taxes but they are still nearer British gas supplies than we are so we should keep them sweet until the moment is right.

          F is for foreign prisoners

          2007 was a record year for them, now some 18% of the prison population here, mostly in for fraud and drugs offences. If the government weren't chucking people out early because of the over crowding its believed it could be twice that number. But because interpreters are too expensive to police forces and woe betide if they don't get the paper work exactly right on these guys many go un-prosecuted. Countries of origin don't want them back and so reciprocal swaps are tricky.

          In 2007 Brown and Blair came up with an unbelievable scheme to thin out the embarrassingly high number of offenders in our jails by offering them a 'resettlement package'- in other words a bribe to go home, which included lumps sums of up to two grand and an accompanying health packages, only if they agreed not to contest their immigration status. The theory was that the government-so you the tax-payer-would save money in the long run by not allowing lawyers to drag out the cases so they can cause more mayhem here, let alone saving on housing and sustenance costs.
          Now you would think pretty much everyone would be up for a get out of jail free card and that two grand of pin-money. Not a bit of it! Only 116 foreign prisoners took up the offer in 2006 and they are in no mood to turn down an even bigger gift horse in the mouth of staying here. British prisons are easy and guarantee three square meals a day, bed and board, and an early release back into the community where they are freely fleecing it! They have made it to Britain and they aint going anywhere.

          So far two million pounds has been paid out to these criminals this way in three years and although it's a drop in the ocean you have to say it doesn't exactly encourage foreigners not to commit crime here again. And I'm bloody sure they won't spend the money on setting up legal new business in their countries of origin when they get back, what the money is meant for in the first place. 850 prisoners took up the offer over the trial 48 months and I'm sure will be back soon to cash in again.

          Hundreds of foreign prisoners, of course, are also allowed to stay here on human rights loop-holes when they are released from jail. And yes, I hear you say, what about my human rights! Brown currently spends 15m a year on two foreign only jails in the UK and a third is now being built. There are currently 5400 Muslims in our jails, mostly terror and fraud related, but only 767 confirmed Catholic jailbirds. It costs £11,000 for a forced removal of each foreign criminal. Another £36 million pounds has been awarded to non criminalized bogus asylum seekers to go home; they entitled to double the package of foreign criminals. Somehow I don't think this would have happened under Thatcher. Now do you hate her as much?

          G is for Global Warming

          The MET Office says that the soggy summer of 2007 was part of the second hottest year ever in the U.K. I just don't believe them. It was cold and horrible and I missed a lot of cricket last year, always a good pointier to annus horibulus. When you hear Al Gore is getting paid 350k per lecture to deliver his propaganda fueled lecture then know wonder he's happy to spread the word of this erroneous warming. And that infamous image of the Polar Bear seemingly in more distress than Kate Winslett on the melting iceberg he used to plug his movie? Well it turns out it was an image taken in the summer and not the winter, the Polar Bear in anything but distress, the bergs usually melting away at this time of the year, the Polar Bears enjoying the seasonal family frolic of Iceberg racing.

          As we all know is it was a write-off last summer here meaning if global warming was real then this would show a big dip on the Manhattan chart. Not so. It was only the third wettest and coolest summer this new millennium. In other words no change in the British weather. These summers are normal and the main reason our mums and dads took us to Spain in the seventies and eighties. If this is global warming then I say get on with it because it's wet and horrible and I want me moneys worth.

          H is for Honor killings

          In 2006 the so-called honor killings have risen dramatically. Since the first 'officially' recorded one in England in 2001 there have been over 50 prosecutions and some say over 200 murders, many unsolved. I can understand that if you have high Asian immigration you bring with that one or two anachronistic and barbaric practices then you will have the odd case. But we are really caught in the headlights over this and don't seem to want to act. In the black African community we have also seen a huge rise of female circumcision and even black magic practices known as voodoo.
          The thing that's so evil about honor killing (an oxymoron if there ever was) is the way the families, relatives and even the local communities where they occur often close ranks and don't dish up the killers, the police having to put huge numbers of officers on to the case to get justice. I know we are a gutless nation now and scared to comment on race issues but young Asian women seem to be having a really hard time of it, especially in their mid to late teens over arranged marriages and traditional female roles in Asian families as they end up in a tug-of-war between family and career. I think it's about time we stood up for them in the U.K. With the Muslim terror threat, sorry, "Anti Islamic Activists", also coming from that community it's about time some of the males of that creed started respecting the country that has bailed them out.

          I is for Immigration

          I was all for the Poles coming in as they couldn't claim benefits and so were always going to graft, doing the crap jobs we wouldn't and so boost the economy, the way the black economy and migrant market works everywhere in the world. You're a humble visitor; you get your head down and make some money, you go home when you have achieved your objective. An earlier government report in 2007 announced that of the 1.7 million new jobs created in the U.K 1.4 million of them were taken by migrants.

          I was expecting a halt on this cheap labor by now, the objective having been achieved. I think we have reached the tipping point now guys and its time to slow things down to take the strain of local services, housing and wage costs. Inflation has been impressively kept low, even with high oil and debt costs, not because Brits are budgeting but because the new immigrant serge have taken nearly every new job created in the U.K at cost wages, wages British workers CANT live on with their traditional nuclear family overheads. The Poles just cram 7-10 people in a rented house for the summer and send most of the money home, some £7 million pounds a day alone going into Polish banks according to their chamber of commerce, others say the sum pushing 2 billion a year going out to Poland. It's been worked out that half a million fewer Brits are in work today directly because of being undercut by Eastern Europeans.

          Research by the Independent House of Commons Library calculated that 24,473,000 people of working age born in the UK in 2003-the year prior to EU expansion-had fallen to 23,948,000 by the end of 2006. 525,000 British citizens were no longer in employment because of the intense migrant flow. Immigrants, as hard working as they are from places like Poland, are no longer filling gaps. They are putting Brits on benefits and out of work. Admittedly it may not alarm you guys much as they are in lesser positions ,but as from last week skilled foreign migrants can now poor in and begin to undercut and take professional positions here, no protections for the traditional British middle class now. These guys will not only be 'filling gaps' but driving down wage and pension costs across the board. A sizeable chunk of British industry is fed up of paying good money to poor graduates and has demanded this change in the employment laws I the U.K to source foreign graduates.

          Even with a record 'Brain Drain' (smart and wealthy people leaving to be replaced by poor and under skilled) employer still prefer hard working and diligent Poles to the home grown talent. The reason they are hard working and diligent is those jobs is we don't have their cheap overheads that can sustain that living wage. And they are just as likely to leave those jobs as their British counterparts, the next Pole that bounds off the National Express bus at Victoria Coach Station ready to pick up the rifle on the production line. And we all know they sit around the house all week and prefer to send the money home over boosting the local economies. £10,000 here is £70,000 there. When do you ever see or hear all these foreign young people in the pubs?

          J is for Justice

          The deportation of the Ghanese lady with cancer is disgusting, and a sign of the intolerant country we are becoming. Seeing it on the news was like watching the Nazis emptying Jewish hospitals. The reason why she can't get treatment in Ghana, of course, is because all their doctor's are working for the NHS in England! The hypocrisy of this is unreal. I'm sure Watford Football Club will be successful in their claim to keep that young player who's visa has expired so why are we making an advantage of this lady? This is callous beyond belief and when you hear about the abuse of the human rights laws to help criminals and violent asylum seekers stay here and being successful, the latest loop-hole being to claim judicial reviews to drag out their cases even more, you do wonder what the point if the human rights laws are, other than to make lawyers rich through deliberately ambiguous legalization. Please can we target those who are taking the pi** Brown!

          K is for Knighthoods

          The cash for honors and influence debate peaked this year as Tony Blair and his cronies were interviewed by the 'rossers' for allegedly selling knighthoods and titles for hard cash to fund the Labor Party. It's the way political parties have always been funded here for 400 years and no one sees any change in the future, New Labor receiving no charges after an exhaustive police investigation.
          The establishment isn't about to start prosecuting the establishment and I feel sorry for the copper who had to the investigating. But such is the way the system works all the people involved in taking us to that illegal war in Iraq got gongs-including the red ink merchants who worked on the dodgy dossier-and this career copper will also be rewarded by a corrupt and absurd system. At least this way we can trace the corruption back, checking the lords and barons business deal that year. Without this method of inducements the money trail would be harder to follow. Why dot we just devalue the titles to paper ones, therefore no access to politicians and government state contract tenders.

          L is for Liverpool

          The whinging city of Liverpool (laughably this years 'European City of Culture'), bemoans when we don't give them enough sympathy over their fallen but when we ask them to cough up the killer of the little boy shot in the head they do nothing? The place is incredibly self-centered and now we hear the crime capital of the north now, even overtaking Manchester. My favorite quote comes from the excellent Bill Bryson who said the first time he went to Liverpool he thought 'there was some sort of litter festival going on'...

          You have professional scouscers like Cilla Black and the Beatles that go home just to brush up their ascent, not exactly something to crow about...

          M is for McLaren

          Both racing team and manger bottled it for England big time, Hamilton and 'Macca' slipping and sliding of a skiddy and bumpy surface into oblivion. Where as one is young and can rise again the other walked away with £2.5 million for failing, perhaps the reason why we have an under motivated national team still. You have to laugh when they call these high pressured jobs. I think we can excuse young Lewis for folding at the last but not Macca. Standing there with his branded umbrella and coffee cup, fearing the end so cashing in to the last, the words shower and s**t not only summed up the Wembley pitch.

          N is for No Smoking

          As expected there are 'New Lease' and For Sale' banners and signs going up on all manner of pubs and boozers in England since the smoking ban has come in. Apart from the obvious reasons of predominantly working class drinkers that smoke staying home its also staffing problems that are hurting the trade now, non smoking employees that want to work in pubs in short supply. Bar staff are the most likely employee's and employers to suffer from alcoholism and the most likely workers and bosses to smoke at work-some 70% at the last calculation. The ironies are stacking up over the brutal smoking ban and the trade isn't laughing. One very big pub chain is set to issue profit warnings next month with two more to follow.

          Now I have never smoked, but have no issues over other people smoking and I feel a smoking areas should have been set aside in bars and clubs for smokers. They bring in huge tax revenues; die young so can't drain state pensions; have accompanying tax raising bad habits; and so cut my tax bill down very nicely Thank you very much. But when the old boys see their 100 year old working mans clubs close down and the old girls lose their bingo-halls you have to say this was a targeted policy (almost spiteful if you ask me) by those New Labor champagne socialists who clearly hate their core voting working class demographic.

          O is for Obama

          Can a black guy win it or will Hilary's tears and Americans racist heart revert to type and vote for what they know-ivy league educated white guys? The younger more ideological voters supported Obama early on but like the 1988 Jessie Jackson campaign, may go wobbly in November and desert him at the critical moment. I hope Obama is in the Whitehouse by this time next year as for the first time both black and white America will have to confront their obvious failings and he will have to address that.

          P is for parking fines...

          One in ten motorists in Britain are likely to get a parking tick this year. New rules are coming in from March 31st and it's going to be even more painful for drivers. They are even going to retrain CCTV cameras on to parking bays and lowered curve parkers so to be able to issue tickets through the post and without wardens.
          The number handed out has rocketed by 400% in the last five years alone. The total was 794,851 in 2001 and in 2006 it was an incredible 3,402,860 tickets! Brighton retained the top spot last year and so rampant are the wardens there they even ticket peoples cars with blue disabled badges. You rarely see that in Northampton. Isn't it weird how those people with the blue badges in the windshield always have new cars. I believe applications for the stickers in Greater London rose 2000% in just three years when people realized it would exempt them form the evil congestion charge. Not that I would ever suggest people that had no disability would do such an outrageous thing.

          With all these stationary cars around, rather ironically speeding convictions have also risen by a similar percentage. I sense a pattern here guys! In my hometown of Northampton they handed over parking control to a private company in September, presumably rather determined to get Northampton back in to the top five most tickets per head towns in the U.K, where we were in 2005. The time allowed to get back to your car on a parking bay was immediately dropped to two minutes and you are now no longer allowed to top-up. If you don't make it back and beat the 28 wardens patrolling the commercial zone in the town its £30. The sneakiest trick they have is deliberately disabling parking meters so when you go to pay or nip in with the ticket whilst you are paying and so away from your car. In the first three months they managed to hand out 12,000 tickets, a national record outside of London. If you think just how clued up drivers are here already you can see what Nazis they are. You even have to pay for hospital parking on Christmas Day in Northampton, only the neediest and serious patients visited on the 25th. Disgusting! When you read those home truths that the government is actually giving foreign criminals pay-cheques and bribes to leave the country of up to £5,000 pounds and you have to pay to see your dad die it makes you scream.

          It's always worth appealing tickets to the NPAS (National Parking Adjudication Service) as a last resorts as of the ten thousand that made it there 57% were overthrown. It is a postcode lottery though and if you live in the Ribble Valley district then you have a 100% chance of over throwing the ticket if you appeal, where its just 9% in Reigate and Bandstead council in Surrey.

          Q is for the Queen

          The old dear is now the United Kingdoms longest serving monarch and the most respected lady on the planet, and she's all ours. Remember that.

          R is for Rape

          Rape figures are rising in the UK with nine out of ten attackers being known to the victim. 70% of rape victims in GB are under the influence when attacked, the attacked normally female and aged 25 and under, and on average claim they are attacked between the hours of 11pm Friday night and Sunday 2am. Half of all rape claims to the police are made on the following Tuesday, time enough to digest the terrible event. Yes there are predatory men out there that do nasty things but I think its booze and drinking by young people in particular, and not a particular increase in nasty guys, which is driving that rise. If you're female you cannot afford to get yourself in a compromising position with a guy that's been drinking if you can't control those events because you have also been drinking.

          The London ambulance service reported a record number of women unconscious on the capitals pavements this Christmas/New Year partying season due to that rise of alcohol poising in young women of all social classes. Is it any wonder rapes are raising if the girls are getting drunk and losing control? The times I have seen young girls in next to nothing in all weathers stagger home on their own across notorious parks and car parks half-cut is staggering. And if you try to offer advice you feel like they will scream or something. Booze is not only emancipating women but its making them vulnerable and I don't feel comfortable with that in the great scheme of things. Women should be respected and looked after, not toppling off their stilettos at 3-30am.

          A man from my hometown of Northampton was imprisoned for three years because of a fake rape claim made by a woman who was notorious for it, and has probably done it again at the time of writing this. Incredibly the prison service are demanding he pay the £12,500 'cost' for his time at Her Majesties pleasure, the money to be deducted from his sizeable compensation claim for lost wages and general disruption to his family. Heres an idea-why not make the women who made the false claim pay the 12 grand! It may deter a few more silly young women from doing it, young Johnny Evans of Manchester United knowing all about that one.

          S is for Shoplifting

          2006 was the highest year on record for shop theft, mainly because the CPS had the brainwave of decided not to prosecute anyone for it any more, preferring derisory fines and giving the retailers more rights to sue thieves, recovering some of the estimated $830 million stolen every year in Britain. So it was no surprise retail theft exploded last year, up 65% on the year before, purely because of the introduction of one of Blair's infamous and pathetic on-the-spot-fine scenarios. The average shop theft is £156 but, you guessed it, the average fine is just £80. It exactly the same with car insurance where there's that mentality in there no point insuring a £400 car for £500 pounds a year. I think you guys can quickly work out how the druggy low lives, bored housewives and the small proportion of undesirable Eastern Europeans responsible for most of our retail theft will raise the money to pay the fines! I saw a whole family of Romanians get arrested by plain clothes cops in Northampton for retail crime and I suspect it's not an unusual occurrence across the nation. Coupled with all the addicts and regular tealeaves out there thieving, it seems you can just shovel it in your bag and get away with it now. Bring back Thatcher!

          T is for Trains

          On the day they announce the new fare increases nationally, Network Rail has the bloody cheek to do critical repair work on my line on the first day back to work. The whole track was up at Rugby and nothing moved all week. We were herded on a bus at Northampton and trundled up to Brum on Stagecoach, purely because Network Rail didn't want to pay double-time over the holidays to their track guys. The network has always been repaired when the trains are in light use over the holidays and this was a complete joke.
          Few people realize that a privatized railway under Blair was taking double the public subsidy our nationalized one was, most of that in huge share options to private owners. Get it sorted or resign. Privatized bus companies no longer get the subsidies they need to provide services to the people who most need buses, workers and old folks, and so they just hack services, leaving a crappy public service and me fuming all year.

          U is for Umbrella

          Not only the chosen headgear of the summer but the number one song for eleven weeks, prophetic indeed. Perhaps a duet with McLaren and Rhianna on Top of the Pops 2 is called for! Pray the new Newcastle United manger doesn't resort to any kind of climate protection at St James Park man.

          V is for Victory!

          Obviously I'm not talking about sporting success as I don't think we won a thing last year, 2006 very much the year of coming second. I'm talking about Gordon Browns bold decision to confine the troops to barracks in Iraq and calm the city of Basra. If the people want to reject democracy and be run tribally then so be it, their choice made. And if that means the militias take over and a new Saddam is seeded from that ethos, and then armed by the west, then so be it. I'm tired of the war and we need to bring our brave and rather gullible lads home. If 450 soldiers a year are smoking drugs to get a deliberate discharge then trust in the army has gone and may never be recovered if we don't stop this madness, unless, of course, the army starts recruiting drug addicts. Apparently the junkies were very effective fighters in Vietnam, memorably captured in Apocalypse Now.

          W is for Work

          Lowest unemployment rates ever? What a load of bollards! Last week we learn there are more than half a million people under the age of 35 on incapacity benefit in GB, more than there are on normal jobseekers allowance in that age group. Now I'm not suggesting the bulk of them shouldn't be on it and swinging the lead; we have all gone through stress and depression in our lives at some point when we felt we couldn't contribute at work. But clearly the fact that total was just 75,000 under the tyrant Margaret Thatcher for the same benefit suggests certain parties have colluded to hide people away from the official unemployment statistics.
          For me there are nearer five million people not working and claiming benefits in the U.K and that's why half of Poland is here. It's no good pretending these people don't exist because everyday they don't work they are damaged even more. And with mass immigration taking all levels of jobs now that figure is set to rise.

          X is for XXXX

          I'm afraid British porn has not improved in the last year. There's something freaky about seeing pasty English birds with fake tits, pointing at you like a couple of space-hoppers, let alone those readers wives covered in tattoos and piercings, bouncing up and down on fat lorry drivers from Swindon. Not even Stan Collymore gets turned on by that stuff.

          Y is for Youth

          Nick Clegg seized power in the Liberal party and is well placed for the next election. But its youth and looks not experience and ability that seems to matter in politics today. At least Gordon Browns days are already numbered. A strange oddity is the numbers of prominent politicians that see their name begin with letters low in the alphabet. We have seen Brown, Blair, Cameron, Clegg, Bush; Berlusconi, Azanar, Chirac....and the list goes on in the new millennium, which begs the question: are the current people picked to stand for elections purely because their names are nearer the top of the alphabetical pile, the first good looking one to pop up gets the vote?

          Z is for Zimbabwe

          I saw a brilliant quote in the Times from the BBCs John Simpson that read:" Zimbabwe is the poorest country in the world with the most millionaires", referring to its hyper inflation, the local currency seeing the average weekly wage paid in millions of Zimbabwe dollars.
          I think it's a disgrace that our government labels us racist when we say anything remotely opinionated on people of a different skin color yet they stand by and allow Mugabe to starve his people. Now I know we can't solve Africa's corruption and tribal hatred but we could stop trading with the worse offenders in the Commonwealth. For too long Africa has used the slave trade history and projected white racism as an excuse to fail and ironies of all ironies means there's is more African slavery going on today then there was 200 years ago because of that attitude, West Africa in particular riddled with bonded and forced labor. If we are going to invade Iraq for oil then how about a bit of ying for the yang and help an African peace force kick Mugabe out to make up for our Middle East antics. I think the world would sleep better if genocides were a thing of the past in Africa. 75% of all Britain's new AIDS cases are coming from Zimbabwe and two thirds of those are female. What has my country become in ten short years under Blair...


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            06.01.2008 00:35
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            Looking back at year 2007.

            On personal note it was more or less like any other year in the past. I don't recall anything major happening in my life. It was same routine, eat, and go to work, do exercise in bed and outside bed, be nice to my girl so she could be nice to me, spend money, spend time with friends, and play sports.

            Some of the things which I did less of in 2007.

            I didn't drink as much.
            I didn't spend as much.
            I didn't watch TV as much as previous years.

            I watched more Movies in the cinema
            I enjoyed life much more in 2007.

            These were things which I did personally.

            I didn't like car fuel prices increasing so much.

            I didn't like all the crap that Gordon Brown told the nation.

            I can't remember much about 2007 otherwise.

            I hate watching news because what is news nowadays. It is all rubbish.

            2007 was one of the hottest years on record and I enjoyed it to the max.

            I don't care what happened elsewhere in the world. I was too busy living my life the way I wanted to. The world doesn't care about me and I don't care about the world.

            I never think of the wars in the world or anything else for that matter. Because these things happen every year. What is the point of worrying about the world when you can't do anything about it?


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              03.01.2008 18:54
              Very helpful



              A pointless waffle of consumerism! ;)

              Ah, 2007. Now you have gone, we can look back and... well, you've gone, and that's that! This is, after all, a consumer site, so here's a vague summary of Things Wot Calypte Consumed over the past 12 months!


              Let's kick off with the shorter section! This wasn't a great year for the cinema, imo, and more than once did I consider handing in my cinema pass for a break. If I tell you that my movie of the year was the gorgeous gore fest of 300, you might get the drift! ;) A very very quick rundown of some of my viewing:

              The good:
              * 300: oh, some hated it with a passion, but I found it so beautiful within the gore. I love Greek myths, so that helped - as did the nekkid buffed manflesh on display, I'm sure ;)
              * Die Hard 4.0: am I actually putting this here?! As I said - it was a poor year for flicks, and this did exactly what it claimed it would, and beat my expectations
              * Stardust: knowing the story *exactly* from the book didn't help, but then it got going and it was just... rather sweet, actually
              * The Bourne Ultimatum: definitely the best of the three, even if the camera work did leave me a little nauseous!

              The could've done better:
              * Blood Diamond: epic, moving, but... meh. Worthy subject matter can only take you so far
              * Sunshine: started well, ended in a mess. Looked cool doing it, though
              * Spider-man 3: why, HOW, could you have such a cool villain and NOT USE IT?!
              * Pirates otC 3: perhaps if I hadn't spent the first half hour wondering wtf was going on...
              * Harry Potter 5: s'alright, but I had to read the book to get much of anything from this gallop through the plot
              * The Golden compass: ditto!

              The dire:
              * Ghost Rider: 'nuff said!
              * Beowulf 3D: strip away the novel effects, and the story just wasn't up to scratch in the telling


              I did actually get a slight funny turn looking at my list of books read (yes, I'm that sad. It does mean I know exactly which 55 (!) books I read over the year, though - 'cos otherwise my memory would fail me completely!) and remember finishing Orson Scott Card's 'Ender' saga with Shadow of the Giant. Never living up to the initial story - Ender's Game - it still read well enough. And turn, because I so vividly remember sitting in my bedroom back at my parental home, which I have only just visited again - plus ca change, plus ca meme chose, non?

              Actually, that slip into French leads me neatly to one of the year's recommendations: Julian May's wonderful Saga of the Exiles/Galactic Milieu joined sets (which, largely set in French-Canada, does have an annoying habit of including all sorts of French from the characters!). Exiles starts in the future, where Earth has been accepted into the peaceful galactic community of the Milieu. Only, some people really don't care to live a constrained, peaceful, hippy-ish existence, and jump at the chance to travel back through a time portal to a more simple way of life. Alas, the portal is fixed to a single time point in the Pliocene era - and one way. No one can come back, so no one knows exactly what's out there. Preparing as best they can, obviously things don't turn out to be exactly what the exiles were expecting...

              Set before 'Exiles', the Galactic Milieu trilogy jumps us back to the future (!) and tells the tale of Earth's joining up with all these aliens. It follows a very talented family - one with powers of telepathy, telekinesis, and all sorts of other trouble! Both sets get the thumbs up, although I do suggest reading 'Exiles' first.

              Other recommendations from 2007 include Margaret Atwood's The Robber Bride - not as good as the brilliant Blind Assassin, but still well worth the read, as four victims of one woman's treachery and deceit find friendship and possibly revenge!; Neil Gaiman's Stardust - pretty much identical to the movie, to be honest, just without the pictures, but I'm glad I'd read this fairy tale first; The Watcher Trilogy, by Tony Ballantyne, starting with Recursion - imperfect but intriguing sci-fi; Jasper Fforde's Nursery Crime Division books, The Big Over Easy and The Fourth Bear, proved to be just as clever and a bit more accessible than his Thursday Next set; and finally some historical fiction, in the shape of the Boudica trilogy from Manda Scott. Having hated history at school (Highland Clearances and 19thC mining communities doing little for me!), I find a complete joy in the fictionalised version, adding drama and emotion to dry facts. Boudica had the added bonus of covering both the Roman Empire - always intriguing - and my/our own Celtic roots.

              Alas, this was a very mixed year for my fiction, and I had as many disappointments as not, I feel. Studying and exams in the first quarter of '07 led me to pick some very simplistic reading, and while the likes of Harry Potter - nice to have a finale! - and Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea quartet were wholly charming, some younger reader tomes from old favourites turned out to be... well! Raspberry of the Year goes easily to David Eddings: always one for a repetitive type of story (Belgariad, Tamuli), he outdid himself with his latest series, The Dreamers. The first book, The Elder Gods, was actually quite sweet, but not only did the story repeat in later books, whole paragraphs repeated *within the same volume*!! At first thinking I was just tired and had skipped back a chapter, it turned out that Eddings had merely copied the same section in the guise of telling it from another character's viewpoint! Noooo! What a cheat!

              More familiarity from Terry Brooks, too. Not that I can expect more! The Voyage of the Jerle Shannara was actually the first of his books I'd bought (for £1!) before realising there were two preceding series and stocking up - slight mistake! Turns out this later volume, and trilogy, were actually that bit better, although still similar to the early novels. And in fact, the series was a whole lot more enjoyable than his attempts to stray, imo, as I finished off the Landover books. A good premise - real-world lawyer buys a magical kingdom, which amazingly turns out to be real! - just wasn't done with the panache and style I think it could have been, and became just a bit of a drag.

              Let's end on an up: Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith hit paperback, proving that Tiffany Aching's world is the best of PTerry's work at the moment. And not only was it the best of the three so far, but it took the topic of teenage angst-y-ness and did it a whole lot less annoyingly than Harry P. Mind you, with Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg about, there's only so much of that nonsense you'd get away with anyway! ;)

              Oh, and the music, the food, the... bath products?! Let's not review *everything*, eh? ;)

              Here's to 2008, everyone - may your reading be plentiful and your movies entertaining. Oh, and your baths hot and relaxing!


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                03.01.2008 03:53
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                A great year

                My 2007 - Full of Adventure

                I have to say I have for once finished a year happy and I'm exited for 2008.

                * January
                I had met my partner in 2006 however started going out with him in 2007. It was nice for once to be treated like a princess and be with someone who made me happy. I started a new job where I was getting more experience in the finance area. Straight off even though I was getting paid considerably more I regretted leaving my old job and missed my friends who I had worked with previously, but I couldn't go back to my old job as I had spent 6 weeks training someone to take over my job. So I decided to stay where I was and hope I just needed to settle in and would like the job eventually. I've been doing my degree part time for 3 years and in January I had very difficult exams and came out of them feeling very depressed thinking I had failed them all.

                * February
                My dad had been ill and had taken two TIA's in 2006 which we were very worried about as he is still young, but this month we got the brilliant news that he had gotten the all clear and just needed to be monitored every now and then.

                * March
                I was starting to get very restless and still was not happy in my job. My sister and I took a trip to New York for 5 days. Our parents heard of our action packed trip and decided to join us which was really nice as I hadn't been on a holiday with my parents in a long time. Plus it was a nice way for our dad to get away from work and relax. We had such a lovely break seeing the sights of New York plus I got to go in a limo for the very first time.

                * April
                My partner and I decided we would take a year out and travel. This was the most exciting but scary decision I have ever made in my life. My friends didn't believe me for ages as I had always talked about it but never done anything about it. We planned our route and decided to work in Australia along our travels.

                * May
                Lots of preparation had to be done for going away. It was really hard to pack for a year and contrasting climates.

                * June
                Finally the day came to set off on our adventures. A tearful departure couldn't be avoided and I had mixed emotions about setting off. I think that was mostly due to the fact that I didn't know when I would return home. First stop was Beijing and our hostel was the foulest place I have ever seen in my life all I can remember thinking was 'Is this what I'm going to have to put up with for the next few months'. On our first day away we hiked the Great Wall of China I instantly forgot about our smelly hostel and remembered why I had went away. It was the most marvellous experience ever and I don't think I will every forget it. I would say so far it has been the biggest highlight of my trip. I stayed in Beijing for a week and seen some amazing sights. Second stop was Hong Kong where we visited Disneyland (see Disneyland review), Victoria Peak and the famous Victoria Harbour, We went to a village which was made up of boats in a harbour (it even had a boat dust bin). It was strange to see how different people lived and I was enjoying the culture of the places I was visiting. I had seen so much already! The hotel we stayed in was lovely so that was a great relief. We took a day trip over to Macau to see the casinos and I was asked for ID even though I am 22 I was so embarrassed lol! I got a text from my mum telling me I had passed my exams things were going great!

                * July
                Next stop was Singapore for a few days. We went to a Night Safari which was something unique to me. I'd never seen one before and my boyfriend who is very quiet was persuaded to dance with fire dancers it was very funny! Then we went to New Zealand where I got to catch up with some of my family. We toured about New Zealand (see New Zealand review) for a few weeks on a tour. I got to spend my birthday on a glacier it was a magical experience I had never spent my birthday on ice and in the snow. This was a beautiful dynamic country with some great sights and we made some friends along the way.

                * August
                At last we arrived in Australia, the first few weeks were super busy and quite hard, sorting out paperwork, looking for an apartment and finding jobs. My partner found getting a job in Sydney a lot harder than me. I didn't have to wait too long on getting a job after signing up with about 20 agencies (this was very stressful its like 20 interviews in a week). Some agencies were nice and some made you feel like your existing skills were rubbish. As this was the first time I had lived by myself I found it a challenge to juggle working, chores, paying bills and sorting out my trip all at once. Well onto the good things I saw the famous Opera House, Harbour Bridge, Bondi beach and Blue Mountains.

                * September
                I started to miss home but didn't want to regret going home so decided to move up the coast in a month's time to Brisbane. I went to Hunter Valley (see review) and seen Princess Diana's wedding dress in a tribute to her in the Powerhouse Museum.

                * October
                I had a short break on my way up to Brisbane and got to see Whales in wild it was fantastic, you got to see them up close. Also I visited Seaworld, Dreamworld (I got to go inside the Australian big brother house and got up close with the cutest baby tiger) and I went to Warner Brother Studio's. When I arrived in Brisbane it got stressful again with looking for a house and job. This time my boyfriend got a job really easily and I struggled for a few weeks before I was lucky to land the job I still am in now. An apartment wasn't too hard to find however we had a bad problem with ants (loads of bug spray sorted that out!) We went to a Halloween parade which was like nothing I had seen before and watched a video under the stars. Justin Timberlake "bringing sexy back" tour was a must and I went to see him in concert. The lighting was so cool with the start of the concert seeming like the stage exploded. He sounded great live but wasn't as sexy as he thought or even as good looking as he does on the television.

                * November
                We visited the world famous Australia Zoo a day after the official Steve Irwin day (see review). Home sickness struck again and we decided it was time to go home and started to look for flights. As we had bought round the world flights we had great difficulty getting connecting flights for the places we wanted to visit. Finally after a lot of enquires and being messed about we got flights home for March time. Amongst all the searching for flights we had another bug problem in our apartment, this time it was termites. It was a nightmare about 100 of them (and I'm not exaggerating) coming through the cracks in the wall and vents after a thundery night. My partner woke up with them crawling all over him yuck yuck yuck! I ended up after in the hospital with high blood pressure and not feeling well. I was told it was probably stress and to get check ups when I got home and to relax. Easy to say when you've horrible creepy crawlies all over your apartment! Anyway we haven't had anymore bugs and fingers crossed we don't have anymore before we leave!

                * December
                This has been the strangest Christmas ever as it was so warm. We spent the day at a man-made beach near where we live, but it didn't feel like Christmas as the sun was shinning brightly and it wasn't cold. I kinda missed the cold which I never thought I would hear myself say and that warm fuzzy feeling you get at home. Home was very much in my thoughts the whole christmas holiday. New Years eve was nice as we went down to the river and brought the new year in with a brilliant firework display.

                **The Year As A Whole**
                This year as a whole has been full of great experiences and I have seen so much. I have grown up so much and learnt to appreciate my family and friends. Being away has given me a mixture of emotions with lots of ups and downs. It has been one of the best years of my life.

                I am looking forward to the year ahead as I am touring the rest of Australia, Tasmania, Fiji, Honolulu and Los Angeles. Then I will be returning home to catch up with my family and friends the most important thing to me in my life.


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                  01.01.2008 18:22
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                  A year I will never forget.

                  A Year to Remember

                  2007 began in the way that every year of my grown up life has begun. Pretty quietly. A small alcaholic beverage in hand. Something fireworkish on the telly box. A heart filled with hope for the coming year. Fairly standard really and rather comforting in it's normalness.

                  This year I am sitting on the futon, with fireworks exploding in a blaze of colour and light on a slightly larger television, with a bottle of lucozade (to keep me awake), a bar of chocolate (much the same idea) and a creature of such astounding beauty and gloriousness in my arms that the lump in my throat this year has nothing to do with all the things I haven't done yet, nor any regret for the year past, but simply awe at this tiny child I have made, nourished and watched for the last 12 weeks.

                  Eva Rose is 12 weeks old today and quite simply the best thing I have ever done in my life.

                  Her arrival, or at least the nine months preceding her arrival were frought with illness and worry over Himself, job losses, lack of money, as well as my constant morning sickness which landed me in hospital. But they are so faded now they are like the ashes left when you burn a sheet of paper - they have floated away and disintergrated softly into nothing. They are not important any more. It feels strange that I have consigned almost a whole year away, but it feels right too. All this looking back is only useful to a point. We think of the things we have done. we wonder how we could have done them better, and then we let them go. That's how it's meant to work I think. And for once in my life, that is exactly what I have done. 2007 was a wonderful year. Because for all the heartache and worry, for all the feeling like I would never be well again, for the tears of excitment and anticipation and pure unadulterated stress, I have this beautiful girl who looks up at me with such adoration as I have never known. A beautiful girl with a whole lifetime of New Years to look forward to, and a hundred thousand days or more to grow and learn and become herself. And that is the gift that last year gave me. And I will treasure her as much as I treasure the sudden understanding that life is surely about the future and what is to come as it is about the today and the yesterday. So my darling girl, I will live for the todays, wait for the tomorrows, and smile as I let the yesterdays go.

                  Thank you for reading, may you all have a beautiful 2008. Kate x


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                    01.01.2008 00:56
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                    Make the most of life

                    All I can say looking back on the past year 2007 is that it has been quite a peaceful happy non-eventful year.

                    Although to some this may seem very boring and hey ho not much to read about, I can only breath a sigh of relief.

                    After moving into our house last year I can honestly say that this year after doing some decorating and a few odd jobs it now feels more like ours.

                    In January 2007 our daughter had her 15th birthday, I can only say it was a lovely celebration and that we were thankful. You tend to take kids birthdays for granted, but this is not always the case as we found out in 2006.

                    Feburary 2006 we received a phone call early on a Saturday morning to say that our niece who was 13 had died in her sleep.
                    To say we were mortified was an understatement. It was an undescribable feeling. Our lovely little niece had died, gone to bed and didn't wake up. She was six weeks younger than our daughter, every milestone they had reached was more or less at the same time. My sister-in-law was in total shock, as for her younger brother and sister they couldn't grasp the fact that she had gone.

                    The funeral later that month was dreadful as you can imagine, the little coffin, her friends crying, her 86 year old grandfather watching on. It was the sadess experience of my life.

                    The last two years of Amanda's life were spent in North Wales due to family circumstances. This was 350 miles from us.

                    We travelled the 350 miles back home, promising that we would do our best to help them move back down south to be nearer to us.

                    Eventually in November 2006 they managed to be re-housed in Kent, 5 minutes from us.

                    In 2007 I have watched my youngest niece and nephew bloom and grow, I watched them both at christmas, I am so proud and so grateful, I really have started to apprieciate that we should never take life for granted. But I am also so grateful for the 13 years that Amanda had and for all the special memories that we have. We can all sit down as a family and remember the fantastic times we had. She was a very special little girl.

                    Looking back at 2007 I can only say that I am truly thankful that this year our family has grown stronger, as I watch my daughter, My mum, my partner, my dear sister, my sister in law and all my nieces and nephews. Amanda,My Dad and my Grandparents who are no longer with us you are always in memories.

                    Thank you for an uneventful year.

                    All the best for 2008.


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                      31.12.2007 16:45
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                      A YEAR OF UPS AND DOWNS... BRING ON 2008!!!

                      Well... here we are... the end of yet another year! Can you believe it?!?

                      It's seems very appropriate that I noticed this topic and am writing this op on New Years Eve (or Hogmanay as it is called in my native Scotland - where I don't live now... *Sigh!*).

                      Today is the most common day of the year to look back on the year that is about to end and reflect - whilst looking forward - and wondering what the New Year will have in store for us all.

                      So... how was 2007 for you? For me it was a roller coaster of a year to put it very mildly. The usual ups and downs, I guess - though in hind-sight, there seemed to be more downs than ups.

                      THE START OF ANOTHER ORDINARY YEAR... OR NOT!!!

                      In January, my partner Kate and I found out that she was pregnant - and thus plans changed practically overnight. Obviously, given this news, the fact that I was living and working in Edinburgh and Kate was in Newcastle was a problem so in February, I moved down.

                      Geographically, this made sense and was of course the right thing to do but was (and still is) quite difficult at times as most of my family and friends are still up north. As the months passed, Kate's pregnancy became harder for her to bear - with the arrival of morning sickness (they really should have called it morning, afternoon, evening and night sickness) etc.

                      MONEY'S TOO TIGHT TO MENTION...

                      The financial aspects were also a problem as when I moved to Newcastle, I took a temporary job which as it turned out was actually very temporary. It's not been a great year for jobs - with me having to take several temporary jobs in a row - which believe me is no great thing when you have a pregnant partner!


                      There were thankfully very few losses this year with all loved ones doing well at the time of typing this - and long may that continue.

                      The only loss I can think of is the passing away of a friend of our family - the mother of one of my best child-hood friends. It was a huge shock and a sad loss for everyone who knew her but on the plus side of that, we are all the richer for having known her. She will never be forgotten.

                      IT'S A GIRL!

                      In between all of this, Kate and I decided we wanted to know if we were going to have a little boy or a little girl. When we found out we were definitely having a little girl, we were faced with an even harder decision... A name to give her!!!

                      With a due date of September 21st slowly but surely approaching, we were struggling to settle on a name for the little one! Kate usually kept suggesting names that were wither ludicrously old-fashioned or just plain naff.

                      September 21st came and went and still there was no baby! Eventually, in the wee hours of Monday, October 8th, Kate began to get feelings that labour was finally starting. The truth is that her labour didn't get underway in earnest until about 11pm on the Monday night. At a surprising 18 days late, Kate gave birth to our daughter, Eva Rose at 5:42am. She weighed 7lbs 6oz and was utterly perfect.

                      Eva's now almost 3 months old already and Kate and I have already learned that when it comes to being parents, the apprenticeship is for life! Like anything else, there are good days and not so good days.


                      I've always been a person who loves Christmas and with Christmas approaching, 2007 was no exception to my ramped excitement levels for Crimbo - especially as it was Eva's first Christmas.

                      Sadly my anticipation of Christmas and all the festivities was more than soured by the fact that I was fired one week before Christmas!

                      I was gutted on so many levels, I can't even begin to say (but will try anyway!)... The job I'd been doing was in a print shop, working with Photoshop etc so for once it was a job where the work was actually of interest to me. I twice passed up a job that would have paid much better (given the print shop job was only paying a measly £5.52 per hour - national minimum wage - and by cheque!) which meant I was taking into account the job satisfaction versus the wage - at least for the foreseeable future.

                      However, after a mere 8 weeks in the job, the boss saw fit to show me the door - with a lot of utterly poor reasons for doing so. To say I was (and to a lesser degree now, still am) angry about it all is a complete and utter understatement. I've now come to realise that this person isn't fit to run a company and in all honesty, the old adage works incredibly well here... She honestly couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery!

                      Right. That's me given my last breath talking about my ex-boss and my lost job. At the end of the day, I know I have skills that were and would continue to be very beneficial to the company but that's their loss at the end of the day.

                      Anyhoo... that's enough of that negative guff!!! It's almost the end of the year - and everything that's been and gone this year can just be chalked down to experience.

                      Suddenly I'm feeling a little bit more confident that 2008 will be a year that will be positive all in all... God... I bloody well hope so!!!


                      I just want to conclude by saying this:

                      MAY THE BEST OF YOUR 2007 BE THE WORST OF YOUR 2008!!!

                      Have a really Happy New Year, everyone!

                      Best wishes,

                      Derek. :¬)


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                        31.12.2007 14:00
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                        Happy New Year

                        Quite happily I am willing to brush 2007 under the carpet and say hello to 2008. Wipe it away with many of the other bad years that I have had in my life which seems to be more than good ones.

                        2007 has come in all shapes and forms for me and it some ways it has been good and in some ways it has been bad, i've learnt a lot of lessons and have been able to decide what i want from life and set targets for 2008.... achievable that i hope.

                        The Good

                        I can honestly say that careerwise 2007 has been the year for me, as some of you may know I am extremely passionate about what I do and I have project undertaken that I haven't actually had the opportunity to be involved with. On a scale of one to ten I would say this year has got to be a ten. When starting my career in marketing as the time went by I always wanted to have the opportunity to work abroad and being recognised for what i do best. During the year I have been working with a Company in America undertaking a joint branding product on a new line of sport supplements. For what we have done together my talents have been recognised by an American organisation which has made me extrememly proud of myself and give me that thrill of yes I could actually go places with my work and build that success story that I have always dreamed of.

                        Following a bad patch of financial difficulty after a messy marriage break up a couple of years ago, 2007 has also seen me back on my feet and stable again with no worries of what bill are going to drop on my door and whether I am going to be able to pay them or not. A slight sigh of relief there or should I say a huge sigh of relief.

                        The Bad

                        I started of the year with the perfect partner who I believed understood me and wanted to spend the rest of their life with me. As a divorcee I have a huge barrier in front of me which occasionally drops and lets people into the wonderful world of Gemma. This very rarely happens but on this occasion it did. Spending several lovely months together at the start of the year, various romantic breaks to different cities and a lot of laughs we decided to part in July, looking back now maybe it was for the better, maybe he wasn't the one for me. Who nows but I plough on with whatever life has to through at me, which I think I get a bad deal to be honest.

                        From reviews that I have written before, you may know my dogf is ill, 2007 hasn't been a good year for Sandy either as he has battled with his illness and has had more ups and downs this year than any before. He is eight years old and my best friend, formally a rescue dog who was thrown out because of his condition, at least he has a happy home with a mummy that spoils him rotten and looks after him and pay his god damn expensive vet bills.

                        I have also seen the death of a few nearest and dearest this year. It all happens as we get older and we have to face up to facts that people are not going to be around for ever. I don't see funerals as a bad thing, I see them as an opportunity to celebrate their life, shed a few tears and that but they wouldn't want you to be sad. On one occasion this year, I have to share this with you, highlight of a funeral. We were burying a close Uncle of mine and we pulled up at the cemetary.... now only something could like this could happen to me .. a typical blond that doesn't always get it at times... however the funeral guys opened the door to car, me not expecting it, i fell out of the car ...pure comedy value like something out of my famous Only Fools and Horses. At least it put a smile on everyones face and made people laugh, thats something that I have no problem in doing.

                        - The Past Couple of Months-

                        I have stayed single for the past couple of months however I have met someone kind of special that who knows may develop into something more, I'm just keeping my barrier up and taking each day as it comes. If i get my hopes up which in the past I normally have I always get let down, this time I am taking the approach of go with flow and see what happens. Two months down the line we are still dating so it can't be bad. No rush...only fools rush in.

                        I have made some decisions over the past couple of months about my career and I am still not sure which way I am going to do. I have a stable job as a Sales and Marketing Manager, however I am getting to stage where I feel that I am outgrowing this particular position and I am looking for that all important challenge.

                        - 2007 Achievements -

                        - Being Recognised by an international organisation
                        - Wallpapering my bedroom with no help at all from a male and making a good job
                        - Meeting new people, making new friends and not being afraid of the single life, maybe its for me

                        To be honest I can't think of anything else that I have achieved, surely I have.

                        Well thats enough to bore you with and I hope you all have had a better year than me.

                        May you all have a very Prosperous 2008.

                        Gemma x


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                          31.12.2007 12:10
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                          Not our best year...

                          2007 was a bad year for us overall, with a few good bits thrown into the mix.

                          We went up to Lincoln three times in the year, to see my family there. The first visit was at the start of the year, when we celebrated my Nanna's 100th birthday on January 3rd. What a remarkable woman! She had only recently moved into a nursing home, after living in her own house by herself for some thirty years since my Grandad died.

                          We had a lovely birthday party for her and I got to see some of my extended family who I hadn't seen for years. We stayed with my Mum during this time though and sadly had a huge argument, which culminated in us breaking off contact.

                          After her 100th birthday, my Nanna went downhill, became hospitalized and died on February 21st, her death apparently quickened by contrasting C-Difficile. It seemed very unfair, but we concentrated on the positives. Her aim had been to reach her milestone birthday and not to have to sell her home. She achieved both of these.

                          Nan's death brought Mum and me back to our senses and we made up and began speaking again. We both realised that we would regret it, if we had continued our feud and wasted the time we have.

                          We were back up to Lincoln for her funeral on March 5th. This was the first funeral I had ever attended. My granddads had died when I was young and I had missed my uncles' funerals. At the age of thirty-seven, I went to my first one and hated every minute of it. It was also the first time I had seen my fifteen-year-old son cry like his heart had broken and that hurt too.

                          In April, my Great Uncle died aged 95, but I didn't go to his funeral, as we weren't close.

                          It was back up to Lincoln in July for a happier event - my Gran's 90th birthday. Another amazing woman, still living in her own home and doing remarkably well for her age. We had a great garden party and again it was a chance to catch up with relatives I hadn't seen for decades. Lovely memories.

                          The sadness of my Nanna's death followed me throughout the year. Each birthday was the first one without her; I missed her letters and phonecalls. I think it made me value my family more and after her funeral, I have kept in much closer contact with my cousins, so we can hopefully keep that up, as it is something she would have wanted.

                          One of the few good things to happen in the first quarter of 2007 was that I won £500 in the GfK survey! This meant I could buy us new curtains, saucepans, a microwave and various other bits we needed round the house. My best purchase was a portable TV and DVD player for our bedroom. We hadn't had one before and this meant I could go into my room and watch the old movies I love, without taking over the main TV!

                          I had rekindled my passion for old film stars in 2006, getting back into Marilyn Monroe fandom. 2007 saw me also become entranced by Louise Brooks, Clara Bow, Diana Dors and Jean Harlow and I collected books, pictures and their films on DVD over the year.

                          This led to a new love - silent films. I bought many of Clara Bow's off Ebay and loved those, then hubby and I attended a big screen showing of Louise Brooks' Pandora's Box. The film had a live orchestra playing a new score to the movie and the evening was presented by Paul McGann. Fabulous!

                          My eldest daughter left school in the summer and got great exam results passing ten GCSEs with 2 A* grades, 6 As and 2 Bs. She was accepted in college and is currently continuing to make us proud by studying five A-levels. She wants a career in musical theatre and our year has been punctuated by going to watch her shows, which have been really good.

                          Our fourteen-year-old daughter rebelled through the entire twelve months of 2007, persisting in smoking, drinking and arguing, with only glimpses of the lovely girl we knew was underneath. We just hope she changes a few things in 2008, before she starts her final year at school.

                          2007 was a big year for our youngest daughter too, who turned eleven in April. I had been trying to get some help for nine years, convinced that not all was well, but few listened. Finally, the primary school staff were noticing something was wrong and when my Nanna's death prompted no emotion, we again asked for medical help and were finally referred to the Children's' hospital.

                          She was diagnosed with ADHD and is still being checked for signs of autism or Aspergers'. She has been on medication for the past two or three months and hopefully now she is on the right one and the right dose and will continue to improve.

                          She began High School in September and the staff was astounded at her behaviour, as she had already reached the first stage of the exclusion process within a couple of weeks of being there! Her medication now allows her to focus and concentrate better, which will hopefully see an improvement in both her work and behaviour and enable her to stay at school and get a good education.

                          Hubby got a new job in May - the same kind of job he had been doing before, but the change meant he didn't have to commute but could work in the same city we lived in! This meant much shorter days for him and a bit more of a lie-in!

                          As for me, I published my book on women's gymnastics in the 1980s and received some wonderful comments, which made the whole 16-month writing process well worth the effort. Hopefully Volume 2 will follow in 2008.

                          My Dad published his autobiography too ('Hold the Front Page and Send in the Clowns' by Peter Brown - it's available from Amazon!), continuing to fill his retirement with more work than he did before! Not to mention being the stay-at-home parent of my seven-year-old half-sister!

                          I continued to develop my interest in photography and took probably thousands of photos. For my 38th birthday in October, I chose a day at the zoo with hubby, where I took 500 photos of the animals there.

                          Being rather anal, I have written lists of books I have read, cinema and theatre visits and so on, for many years. I have lists of each book I have read for over twenty years now and although I am an avid reader, the most books I have read in a recent year have been 34 in 2005. I hoped to beat that in 2007 - and did. I have read fifty books this year!

                          These were mainly factual rather than fiction, with a big dollop of biographies and autobiographies, plus a smattering on animals and history. The fiction I read included books by Ian Rankin, Minette Walters, Diana Gabaldon, Mark Haddon, Alexander McCall Smith, Simon Brett and Elizabeth Kostova.

                          The best books I read in 2007 were Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon and the Jean Harlow biography Bombshell by David Stenn. The best autobiography I read was Elaine Lordan's Whatever It Takes. (She played Lynne Slater in EastEnders.)

                          I also went to one concert (Michael Ball), one play (Bedroom Farce in Bath, starring Colin Baker and Natalie Cassidy), and one radio show (David Tennant interviewing Richard Wilson) and saw four films at the cinema (Harry Potter, Pandora's Box, Ratatouille and Run Fat Boy Run).

                          Let's hope 2008 will be a better year for all of us.

                          Happy New Year!


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                            30.12.2007 17:39
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                            A year that will not be missed

                            It's fair to say that it isn't a good idea to wish away your life, in fact time passes quickly enough without needing to wish it away. The end of this year however couldn't come quick enough for me, there have been various reasons, most of which will be revealed in the following paragraphs. However in my previous 24 years on this planet I have had some bad moments but nothing could prepare me for the mess that 2007 would become.

                            At the end of 2006 things were going quite well. I'd just returned to England from a week Snowboarding in Val D'Isere. I was in a very good, but still reasonably new relationship, my health, whilst not perfect was good enough and things for the coming year looked like they were going to be the makings of a very good year. The reality however was to be something quite different.

                            As is often the case my year started in January and as months in 2007 would go this was actually a very good one. I started it looking for a new job. I was still receiving physio on an ankle problem that had been with me for years. It meant I was leaving work early once a week and suing that time for Interviews I was offered a job with Leadbetter Construction in Abingdon. Before making a decision on the job I went away with my girlfriend at the time to see We Will Rock you and spend the weekend in London for her birthday. While still deciding on the Leadbetter offer I was asked to Kingsoak homes for an interview early in February.

                            So on the 2nd of Feb I went and met the Commercial manager and director of Kingsoak and after an hour and a half interview I was offered the job, which I duly accepted and handed my notice in with Kier's on the Monday. The following day I went up to Manchester to watch the Reading game for my first visit to the City Of Manchester stadium. This month would also see the end of my relationship with Pip as after the whole month of things not really working we called it a day towards the end of the month. So despite now finding myself single, I did have a new job.

                            In fact despite my introduction of doom and gloom, March was a pretty quiet month really. I had my Kier's leaving do early in the month after 2 and a half years there we headed out to Basingstoke for an all you can eat Chinese. I always find settling into a new company to be a strange situation but sticking with it, things seemed to be going well and early signs were that this would be a good move for me. I also headed back to Val D'Isere for a Day of snowboarding on the Eurostar, a very surreal but enjoyable weekend.

                            It still looked like being a reasonable year as it moved into April. I was still getting settled into my new job and my new company Ford Focus arrived early in the month. A couple of dates with a couple of different people, nothing that really went anywhere but it was nice to be back in the swing of things again. I was also making some good mates at my new work.

                            I'd managed to make it through to May before disaster really started to strike. Early in the month the brand new Focus I'd been given by work came to grief. I was driving back from my parents on a Sunday evening when a young girl slammed into the side of it, buckling the wheel and caving in the rear passenger's side of the car. The towards the end of the trip while we were at my Uncle's in Lincoln for a long weekend we got the phone call we were all dreading at the time. My Uncle Les up in Cumbria had died.

                            So the start of June seen us heading back to Cumbria for my uncles funeral. A very sad day and something that forms one of my biggest regrets. Due to a few family issues, which I won't go into here, I only really met my Uncle Les for the first time about 3 years ago. I really regret letting things get in the way of getting to know him properly and perhaps for that reason this was a really bad day for all of us. The rest of the month was a busy one at work, with our year end at the end of June and a lot of work still needing to be done.

                            My employment changed again on the 1st July, only this time it was due to company restructuring and following the takeover of David Wilson Homes Barratt's decided to get rid of the KingsOak brand. As a result I was now working for Barratt Homes but apart from a change of name on my pay slip everything else remained the same. A night out at Windsor races with work as an end of year celebration really cemented a couple of new friendships and also helped to resurrect an old school friendship.

                            Then on the 21st July something happened that has and will continue to change my life forever. I was just about to leave work for a well earned week's holiday on the 20th when I developed a bit of a shoulder pain. This carried on for almost 24 hours before I decided it was too painful and I needed to go to Hospital and have it checked out. After an hour or two in A & E I was moved to another room where it was explained that I had two air pockets under my lungs, pushing my lungs into my rib cage and that was what caused the pain. Starting to get a little worried I sat there opened mouthed not really sure what to say.

                            A few hours later and some more tests and I was being taken for Surgery. It seemed that I had a hole in my stomach and had I waited 2 more days I could, quite possibly have died given the pressure on my lungs. The next week was spent lying in Basingstoke hospital recovering from the surgery before I was finally allowed to go home, well to my Mum and Dad's anyway. I do intend to write a lot more about this soon but it really opened my eyes to a lot of things and with the help of some very good friends I made it through it all.

                            As a result most of August was a complete write off, spent at my parents either awake trying not to move too much because it hurt or sleeping. I did manage to make it to Reading festival but it took a lot out of me and even though I went in daily from home may not have been the best idea.

                            The same can really be said about September. I went back to work on the 3rd but only managed to do half days to start with and building back up. I finally got away for a few days at the end of the month to Munich to celebrate my 25th Birthday, perhaps the one I'm most relived to have seen. This was in fact the only Holiday I managed this year and I intend to make sure that isn't the case next year.

                            I was actually quite glad when October came round. It seemed that after the worst summer I could imagine from a personal point of view things were starting to move forward. It was at this point, whilst sat in Germany at the start of the month savouring one of my first beers since the operation that I couldn't wait for the year to end. The rest of October was quite a quiet one. We went out to Jongleurs comedy club for my birthday. Then at the end of the month, having returned my company car, I bought myself an Audi A3 sport back s-line as part of my new enjoying life mentality.

                            As my health improved throughout November I started to feel a lot differently about things and again it was beginning to be reflected in my attitude. I went to see the Foo Fighters at the O2 arena in London and managed to get myself tickets to see them next summer at Wembley. I was still taking things quite easy but I could feel myself getting better as the month progressed.

                            Having seemed like it was never going to arrive it finally arrived and December would see a very mixed month once again. On the positive side I started snowboarding again and have even bought myself a new board ready for the trip to Lake Louise in Canada I've booked for the end of January. I also got to spend Christmas with not just my parents but my Aunt and Uncle up in Lincoln and the rest of their family which has been nice. On the downside however, in the event that really put the cherry on top of my year. Remember that nice new Audi I bought myself in October? Well whilst waiting to turn right at a junction another young girl ran into the back of it, snapping the axle and mangling the body work. It's currently in a garage being repaired.

                            So there we have it, possibly the worst year of my life so far, although it is one that will remind me just how lucky I am for many years to come. The only thing left to do now is look forward to what next year might hold?

                            Well there is the trip to Canada at the end of January, something I am very much looking forward to. I also intend to move at some point and there is an outside chance of going to work abroad, but regardless of all that I will be making sure that what ever happens I will be doing it for me and from January 1st I will be starting a fresh, bring on 2008.

                            Cheers for reading and hope you all have a good New Year.


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                              30.12.2007 16:57
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                              My Year in View

                              I have always contributed to the "Year in View" category - a time for a little private and public reflection, to look back at the year that has just gone, and a time to refocus for the coming year. However this is one year, I will not be sorry to see the back of, quite frankly!

                              Rewinding the clock a little over a year, and I was in Geneva, consulting with a five star hotel chain, but more importantly I was dealing with a horrible piece of news, something which I was to find out in 2007 is actually harder than dealing with bereavement itself. Without going into the details this bombshell was down to a close family member who is mentally unstable and has caused a lot of hurt to many people but nevertheless someone we have supported for 20 years.

                              I was only consulting in Geneve however, and I left there a few days before last Christmas to go and spend the holiday period with my sister in hotter climes. I spent New Year's Eve at home and in my local, and while I didn't know what the future held then, I hoped I would have hoped for things to be a little different.

                              Top of my New Year's Resolutions then, was to get a new job - something closer to home. I actually had a call to go for an interview with a lovely four star chain while out in Geneva and so by the first week in January I spent several hours in the interview process before netting myself a new job, about 30 minutes from home and in a stunning hotel. However the day had already had its low point in that morning a favourite uncle (my husband's uncle) passed away in the early hours. The day after the funeral, I began my new job, for once, based within a hotel instead of driving between lots of them.

                              February came and my elder sister visited with her daughter for a few short days; we attended a concert in the City Centre although unfortunately the trip was a little short to squeeze in much sightseeing, just a little shopping in Nottingham, but still it was good to catch up. Poor niece had a cold and probably would have been better at home, but the concert was very enjoyable.

                              I was also struggling with trying to dissuade my parents from selling their home and then renting it back, something which was to make the news later in the year as the sub prime mortgage market made the news. My Mum was having none of it, despite the fact that selling the home for a pittance and then renting it back for a fortune was doing nothing to achieve her aim of living in a bungalow. Work proceeded at our own house, in particular we decorated two bedrooms and the hall, stairs and landing, which is a sizeable area as we are three storeys.

                              The spring of course must have been one of the warmest and driest on record, and I would frequently come home to find my husband in the garden, part way down a glass of wine and on the phone to my parents, trying to talk them out of the nonsensical deal. However a phone call just before Easter worried me, and I told my Dad I would be up on Easter Sunday, and would cook dinner for them both as a treat.

                              We travelled to Prague during the first week of May, a trip which had been planned for five months to coincide with the builders installing a new bathroom. Our previous bathroom actually dated from 1930, the main problem with this being a very basic shower attachment over the bath was serving as our main shower, and it constantly leaked into the kitchen - I think I was looking forward to getting home more than the trip itself. However Prague is a wonderful city, and I recommend going for at least five days to fit everything in. We got back on the Saturday night, prior to bank holiday, and I dashed upstairs expecting to see my almost complete bathroom, only to find a bath with no taps, no sink, and a toilet with no seat or cistern! In fact we were another week before the bathroom was even liveable and after a week of showering at work (hotel!) or neighbours, or even visiting the pub just across the road to pay a visit, and it is perhaps no surprise that we are still in litigation with this company! (But not for reasons of delay, unbelievably they are trying to charge us significantly more!)

                              Prague in fact was to become my only holiday of the year, more by accident than by design.

                              June came and almost went. The hot dry days that were abundant in March and April seemed to have been replaced by hottish days and loads of rain. Torrents in fact. So much so that one day I had no option but to get my feet wet if I was to get to my car, the rain along my road unable to drain away. On driving out of the village, I realised I had forgotten my mobile, however decided I wasn't going to go back and have to wade through puddles once again.

                              That day, I got a call at work to say my Mum had died. Colleagues ran me home, although that was not easy as there was extensive flooding and the main road to the village was now closed. I finally made it and I picked up my mobile phone, to find loads of missed calls including calls from my Father using Mum's phone. A friend of theirs stayed with him until I finally got there at 630pm, some 7 hours since she had died, at home, but weather was not on our side in the Midlands and North that day and the journey was literally the longest ever. I still had to ring my sister overseas, as I didn't have her number at work, and she had also not taken her blackberry to work that day, so it seemed to take ages to locate her.

                              After a night where I hadn't wanted to go to bed, I picked up my two sisters from Manchester airport and Piccadilly train station respectively. None of us had ever had to organise a funeral before, but it was so good to be able to spend time with each of them, and while grieving ourselves, we had our Dad to protect. The funeral was on July 4th, and obviously was difficult, although we did get to spend time with some relatives and Mum's friends, which was nice in itself. Unbelievably, I got home the next day to read the most shocking letter of my life thus far. I know timing might have been the problem but it seems the malicious acts of the year before had come back to bite. In fact it shook me up for far longer than the news of my own Mum's death and still does.

                              We had, however, in our trip to Manchester, managed to call at the home of one of my best friends. Now living in Buxton, her and her partner had decided to have a child at the ripe old age of 39, fallen pregnant immediately and married at Gretna the previous December. Myself and my sister visited the new family, and I was able to feed their six week old daughter with a bottle, which was a lovely moment for me and for them.

                              I had literally been back at work a couple of days when I got a call from my Dad's neighbours to say he was in hospital, where he was to remain for about 9 weeks. Although I live 100 miles away, I was still the nearest relative geographically, and there was lots of "stuff" which cannot be ignored, after a death. It perhaps didn't help when the hospital told my Dad to have his "next of kin" there the following morning at 0830am and wouldn't tell him why. While not in the best of health, there was no reason to send us that message, immediately after a bereavement, but thankfully he did come out eventually. At the same time, my husband's cousin also passed away after illness, someone he was close too from school days and beyond.

                              My friend Claire was a rock of support helping me at my Dad's house as well as treating me to a much needed day at Eden Spa and visiting my Dad in hospital. It was devastating then, to attend her own Father's funeral in October, in fact the day after I left the job that I only started in January.

                              Anyway, unbelievably among all of this, I was being head hunted for a more senior role at another hotel, there were lots of reasons not to go, including familiarity with the company I was with, loyalty as they had been compassionate, organised accommodation for my family, and hadn't questioned my return to work, but I did succumb to the other company and had three lengthy interviews before deciding to join them at the end of October despite being asked to stay where I was with a promotion. I did finish with my employer in the first week of October and wanted a few weeks off to chill out, and so didn't fit in another holiday in the end, partly for financial reasons and partly for the need to chill and rest. At the beginning of October my niece who married last year had her first child, a little boy.

                              And December, despite having owned my house for two years, we had never spent Christmas here. We have just had my Dad to visit for the week, along with my sister and niece again, and we have had a good time, well as good as can be expected given it was exactly six months since Mum died. He seemed to enjoy the local though, just ten paces across our road!

                              So. I apologise if that read was melancholy and depressing but it does unfortunately sum up my year. I started a new job at the end of October, and despite only having worked there 8 weeks, I feel I needed that fresh start, now I drive a new direction each day - the role is more challenging for me and I am working a long way from home, but equally it was a private goal which I accomplished quicker than I expected, albeit in a different company to the one I imagined. I am staying tight-lipped about 2008, as it is a big year for me, the year I turn 40 (life changing, they tell me!), and career wise I think I am in the right place for now and for the future - but my main priorities are to look after my own needs, which have been somewhat neglected, but in particular spend more time with my Dad and my two sisters.

                              Thanks for reading, and all the best for 2008. I don't know where I will be but I hope it is in a better place!
                              Helen xx

                              Our Family Chain

                              We little knew that morning
                              That God would call your name.
                              In life we loved you dearly
                              In death we do the same.
                              It broke our hearts to lose you
                              But you did not go alone
                              For part of us went with you
                              The day God called you home.
                              You left us beautiful memories
                              Your love is still our guide
                              And though we cannot see you,
                              You're always by our side
                              Our family chain is broke
                              And nothing seems the same
                              But as God calls us one by one
                              Our chain will link again.


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                                30.12.2007 13:34
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                                A good year for me

                                I can't believe it's almost the end of another year!

                                At the start of this year I was still in sixth form at my high school (although it does feel like much longer ago), studying for my final A-Level exams. In January I had my first A2 papers and some AS resits that I hadn't done as well as I had hoped in first time round. I had eight exams in total and I put much more effort in this time round.

                                My dad's birthday fell on a Sunday (28th January) this year and my sister and her children came to our house for tea. When I came in from work we had a birthday cake for him and it was a really nice afternoon. Also, by this point I only had one exam left to sit so I was starting to relax more.

                                It was in January that I started getting offers from universities. I had conditional offers for the University of Strathclyde and De Montfort, Leicester but didn't find out about Newcastle (my first choice) until later.

                                In February my eldest nephew turned ten! His birthday also fell on a Sunday so my sister and the children came to our house for tea. Darius is a huge Doctor Who fan so my sister bought a Dalek birthday cake, which he loved. I made him a birthday card with a Dalek on too so his birthday was quite Doctor Who related!
                                Darius was asked to represent his school in a swimming gala in February and although he didn't win, he really enjoyed it. I was very proud of him.

                                During half term, my mam and dad took me down to Leicester to the open day at De Montfort University. As it is about a 4-hour drive from where we live we stayed overnight in a Holiday Inn. I really liked the university but was still hoping that Newcastle would give me an offer.

                                Towards the end of February I got the letter I had been waiting for. A conditional offer (ABB) from Newcastle University. I was so pleased but I knew I had to work hard to get the results I needed.

                                The modular exam result day eventually came round on March 8th. We had been waiting for what felt like ages only to find out that the exam board server was down and we couldn't get our results. Everyone was nervous all day long but just as the bell rang our teachers told us that our results were in so we went to the relevant departments to find out how we had done. I was really pleased with my results 2As, 3 Bs and 3 Cs, making my AS results ABC and having an A and B in my first A2 papers towards my overall marks. I was really proud of myself that my hard work had paid off and I was determined to do just as well or better in my final exams in May/June.

                                My sister, brother-in-law and nephews went on an adventure weekend at Kielder with the Special Needs group they attend on a Saturday afternoon. As my niece, Toni, is just little (one year at the time) she stayed with us for the weekend :) I was still at work over the weekend, but it was nice to see her when I was at home.

                                Joanne, my sister, started Northumbria University in March. She enrolled on an Adult Nursing course. I'm really proud of her, as she has three children to look after as well. I can't believe she is drawing close to the end of her first year! Doesn't time fly!

                                As I knew that I might have to move to Leicester in September, when my drama group were doing Speech and Drama exams I said I wanted to do one as it might be my last chance. The exam that I chose to do was my Gold award and this needed 2 candidates. I managed to persuade my friend to do it with me and we worked hard on it for ages. The week before the exam our teacher was worried that our solo mimes were not good enough so she asked us to drop out. I had spent hours and hours working on it so I refused and made sure my friend did too (I can be quite bossy if I have to be!) We went into the exam and although we had to start again as my friend forgot his lines, we passed 94% with honours! I was really pleased for both of and was glad that we stuck it out! We each got a certificate and a trophy.

                                In April, I decided to start thinking about getting a new car as my 9-year-old Citroen Saxo wasn't very good and was only ever meant to be temporary while I gained some confidence. I discussed it with my parents and then I ordered a Peugeot 107 from work. I was so excited but I had to wait about 4 weeks for it to arrive.

                                Towards the end of April, I went shopping to the Metro Centre with my mam and dad to get a dress for my Leavers Ball (June). I got a beautiful pink one (strictly speaking it's not a dress - it's a bodice and full length skirt - but it looks like a dress when it's on)

                                My car arrived on May 4th so I went to work to pick it up. I was really excited. It was so different to my Saxo so it took a bit of getting used to but I loved it (and still do) On the way home I decided to call her Jem (Jules and her Jem) and I put the miniature that I bought in Berlin in 2006 on the dash board, where she still proudly sits.

                                I turned 18 on May 16th, this was a school day and the day that the year 11 students were leaving so we had a party for them but my teacher also bought me a (pink!) birthday cake so it was like a mini birthday party for me. Also that night was my drama group so I took a birthday cake and everyone sang Happy Birthday :) it was really nice. When I went home my parents had a cake for me too. The day after my birthday was my Sign Language class and my best friend (emz_angel) brought a cake for me and everyone signed Happy Birthday. So in total, I had four birthday cakes for my 18th birthday!!

                                I left school on May 19th, on study leave for my exams. I was so glad to leave, as I didn't like my school throughout my time in sixth form. This was also the day that I went out for my birthday meal with my parents, Joanne and Craig and Emma.

                                Throughout June I had my final A-level exams. My youngest nephew turned 8 on the day I had my chemistry paper :) His birthday was through the week but we still had a cake for him on the Sunday when they came to our house.

                                The leaver's ball was on June 28th and it was a wonderful night. It was a brilliant end to my school career and I felt like a princess in my pink dress :)

                                In July I went back to school in the Special Needs department, where I had been helping out twice a week throughout sixth form. I went for two weeks and I enjoyed it so much! I was so sad when I had to leave as I felt like I had really left school and I knew I would miss the staff and students a lot.

                                Every year my family have a Get Together. This takes place in my uncle's (my mam's brother) large back garden. My aunties, uncles and cousins gather there and we get to see each other :-) We all sit in the garden as there are lots of us and the garden is bigger than the house. There is a bouncy castle for the kids (which of course still includes me!) This year it took place in July and it was a really enjoyable day.

                                In July my eldest nephew, Darius stayed at my house for a few days. My parents were at work so it was just he and I through the day. We had so much fun. We went to the park, baked Dalek cookies, played board games and visited my grandparents. I really enjoyed it but it was hard work!! Lol Joanne came to pick him up on the Wednesday and we went to Woodhorn Museum for the day before they went home.

                                The following week Dominick came to stay with me for a few days. This was also a lot of fun. We did very similar things that Darius and I had done, but we both really enjoyed ourselves. Dom and I played lots of Monopoly (the Newcastle and Gateshead Edition) and we went shopping for picnic food the day before Dom went home. When Joanne came to pick Dom up we all went to the park (it was a nice day) and had a picnic. I really enjoyed these couple of weeks and would like to the same again next year (if they want to) Toni didn't stay with me this year as I didn't want to look after her on her own as she was only one at the time and I thought she'd be harder work than the boys lol!
                                In August we went to Nice, France. As we were getting off the aeroplane, we saw my parent's friends who live in France so they invited us for a meal at their house. The ten-day holiday was really enjoyable and it took my mind off results day (the day after I got home)

                                Results day came and I didn't get the results I was expecting (Biology B, Geography B and Chemistry D) but I was close to the boundaries of the grades higher so I went to Newcastle and appealed, with the reference I had from the special needs department. The following day I got a phone call offering me a place. I was so pleased!
                                Toni turned two in August :)

                                During September I was getting sorted for University and I babysat for my friend from Sign Language a couple of times. I left my drama group because Sign Language fell on the same night.
                                Fresher's Week was the last week in September and I really enjoyed making friends with people on my course. We had lots of inductions so I couldn't take part in lots of the activities but we went to the Heaven and Hell party, did archery and went shopping! (Metro Centre)

                                Lectures started in October and I enjoyed learning loads of new information. I travel to university on the bus everyday so this was tiring me out a bit as I was getting up at 6.15am to get into Newcastle for a 9am lecture.

                                I also started level 2 British Sign Language again as the other course was cancelled after our teacher left in May.

                                It was Joanne's birthday in November and we had a birthday cake for her too, the day after her birthday when she came to our house.

                                At the beginning of December, Joanne and I went to Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle to see Kaiser Chiefs and it was really good! As well as enjoying the music I enjoyed spending the night out just Joanne and me :)

                                I was awarded two prizes at the school prize giving for my achievement in my A-Levels. This was held on December 21st, it went on for a long time but it was nice to get my prizes. My mam, dad and Joanne came to watch me get the prizes :)

                                Christmas was really nice, my grandparents came for Christmas dinner and Joanne, Craig and the kids came on Boxing Day. I was back to studying again the following day as I have exams in January. I'm looking forward to New Years Day when they'll be coming back :)

                                2007 has been a good year overall and I feel like I have achieved a lot. Here's to a happy and healthy 2008 to us all!
                                Thanks for reading!


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                                  27.12.2007 17:47
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                                  What's not to like?

                                  Last year I made some new year resolutions and published them on this site. These were based on previous "life goals" I'd written as a 17 year old and recently found, and on my "6 month plan" written during a careers seminar that year and posted back to me 6 months later. So how did I do?

                                  Number one was to get an A* in GCSE Spanish - check! The exam was in May, and the results came in August, on the very day I came back from 2 weeks in Spain. I walked off the plane and into college, and got the envelope with the letter and asterix I was after. Then, more fool me, I signed straight up for A/S Spanish. There's no rest for the wicked.

                                  Next up was placing top 3 in another trampolining comp. It was my last year of competing as a student and what I really wanted was a medal, which, yay, I nabbed by coming 2nd in my first comp of the year. I've since stopped competing, and pretty much stopped bouncing too, so it was nice to get one last piece of hardware for the trophy shelf. Which later became a trophy ROOM (see April below)

                                  After that I wanted to lose weight, which I did, but then promptly put back on. I am exactly the same weight now that I was this time last year, which I suppose could be worse. But with plans afoot to move to a beach (more later), I'm going to need to hit the gym when it finally reopens next week (shut for 2 weeks over Christmas? Are they kidding me?)

                                  I also wanted to publish a book, which I clearly didn't, because if had done so you would all know about it by now. Maybe next year. What I did get to do in 2007 however was to read an awful lot of books, courtesy of www.thebookbag.co.uk and that is definitely some consolation prize.

                                  My final two resolutions were to buy a house and get a boyfriend. I did get the house, and a nice one at that just after April. I didn't get the boy, but a friend got upgraded to friend with benefits in January and is pretty much still there, despite having left the country for 3 months in the middle of the year (seriously...I get the hint. You don't have to switch continents to get away from me). For next year, well, to be honest I think I'm gonna take away the benefits. But I do have a big year planned....

                                  Before we get on to that, what have I been up to this year?

                                  In January I put my apartment on the market. It sold 10 days later and I began to panic. I had no real idea of where I wanted to live or what my money could buy, so began viewings in earnest every night, but just as you have to kiss a lot of frogs to find your prince, you have to see a lot of dumps before you find "the one".

                                  Early February I bought a house! It was mucho exciting for me but a bit scary too - it wasn't necessarily "the one" I'd dreamed of a whole month earlier, but I was getting angsty and this one seemed nice enough so on impulse I put in a offer that was accepted. I know this was lucky - my first viewer of my apartment bought it for the asking price, and my first offer on a place was accepted too - but at this point I felt it was the least I deserved for all the stress. Lawyers and estate agents are Not My Friends.

                                  That afternoon we drove to Scotland for a trampolining comp and I think I bored people the whole way up with tales of my new places, fuzzy as they were (I couldn't *really* remember all that much more about it though I knew the agent's sheet off by heart.

                                  In March we went to Madrid for mothers' day (officially) and to practice my Spanish and give me a topic for my oral exam (unofficially). It was a good trip until they lost my luggage on the way home. At Liverpool airport when asked to identify 5 unique things in my luggage, the first was my GHDs, the second was my Spanish text book with oral draft inside, and the remaining 3 were varieties of cookies and chocolate. It was a sad week until that baby showed up again.

                                  The week after, happily flying Ryanair this time not Easyjet, we went off to Dublin for a bounce and a bit of chilling - my last "international" comp, but it was a good 'un.

                                  In April after a lot of faffing around and some missed deadlines thanks to thick buyers I moved into my house and it was way better than I remembered (from the 5 minutes I had spent in it previously). The former owners had left me loads of furniture and even a dishwasher (my first in 7 years, so more exciting than you might think) and now I had more bedrooms than people. Hell, I had more bathrooms than people! This was cool. I also had a shoe cupboard in my bedroom, and a coat cupboard, thanks to left-behind furniture meant for a couple now belonging to just me. I had 2 spare bedrooms so one became a trophy room for about 30 seconds until I realised two shelves does not a room make, at which point it became a study with a trophy enclave. The space didn't last long though - I moved in on the Friday and had a lodger by the Sunday, meaning we were down to a 1:1 ratio of people to bathrooms. How ghastly. The lodger, however, was my mother who had recently relocated to Manchester. It's an interesting arrangement since we'd not lived together for 7 years at this point, but it works ok, and I have a handy house-sitter for trips abroad. The cooking / cleaning / lawn mowing is just a nice bonus...

                                  A few weeks after moving in, I took an exam in Medical Terminology. The recommended study for this is 10 weeks (we did it in 5) and it's aimed at medical secretaries (which I'm not), but it was a fun course and my colleague and I both aced the exam gaining credits (score 85% - 95%). Plus, a masters in health management plus an AMSPAR certificate must mean I'm virtually a doctor now, right?

                                  July was the month of the graduation ceremony for my 2nd masters (and my first in-person graduation since I was state-side last time around). It was...less than thrilling. It rained. It was at a university I don't feel I really went to (this was an odd degree funded by work, hosted by two universities). It's hopefully the first and last graduation ceremony I'll be at, but I suppose you have to do it once, if only for the cap and gown moment.

                                  This month was also when I attended my first ever wedding - of a uni friend 3 years younger than me. That didn't make me feel old at all... It was also the month I went to Venice with some friends for a dirt cheap but rather fabulous long weekend. Pasta, gelato, sunshine, and all for less than £150 (3 nights B&B in a 4* hotel + flights). What's not to like?

                                  Later that month I bought a TV (again, my first in 7 years). Then I remembered why I'd never had one - there is nothing on worth watching. I seem to have now resorted to watching Friends and Scrubs repeats even though I have them all on video or DVD. Ho hum. X Factor was quite fun though until the wonders that were Same Difference were robbed by the hideous little Scottish boy. Still it could have been worse - Nikki could have won...

                                  In August I went to Spain, turned 25 (argh), came back from Spain and picked up my GCSE results. Spain was niiice, very hot and relaxing. Turning 25 was less nice - as my "there are cakes in the kitchen" work email said, "It's all down hill from here...". Kidding, I know 25 is no worse than, say, 24, but there is something alarming about being half way to 50. I need to get on and start doing stuff in my life.

                                  Cue September when I did something - I signed up to A/S Spanish (woo!) but there was a plan behind it. This, as my colleagues are now sick of hearing, involves me moving to Mexico in the spring. Having had enough of the, oh, nice, comfortable, career progressing well paid job of mine, I have decided to jack it all in and move to the Caribbean for a year. We shall see how it goes, and it might be one of those things that's better in the imagination than in reality, but right now I'm super excited, despite not having booked yet. The plan is to come back tanned, skinny and fluent in Spanish. Vamos a ver.

                                  The following month, "bored" of "only" having one subject to study, I signed up for courses in editing and marketing, and though I expected it to be the latter, it's the former which I'm finding the most interesting

                                  In December I went on my last holiday of the year, to Cologne for the Christmas markets. Not having been there since I was 8 or 9, I didn't have many memories of the place so it was like going to a whole new city. The chocolate museum comes highly recommended.

                                  I finished off the year by hosting Christmas. By which I mean cooking vegetarian party food for myself and the rest of my family (all both of them) but hey, it sounds good. Even though it was my first Christmas in the house, it feels like I've been here forever.

                                  So that was 2007. Plans for 2008? Move to Mexico (duh!), live on the beach, maybe write that book, or if not, at least write a ton of reviews on the place for the folks back home. Be happy. Try not to miss the new house, sorry, family too much.

                                  Now, who wants to tell me about their year?

                                  4* because things can always get better.


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