2013 feels as though it lasted five minutes and went on forever. It wasn't a great year, but compared to the terrible time some of my friends have had, it's not been too bad, for which I am grateful.
As the calendar rolled over from 2013 to 2014, I was having a great time in the company of some wonderful old friends, the sort who are more like family, and my lovely step children. They stayed for a couple of days, then got away early on the 3rd of January, just as another spell of awful weather came in. It's a good job they were driving, despite the horrible road conditions, as only an hour after they had left, I heard that trains were not getting beyond Cardiff due to flooding.
I see from my first post in 2013 that a lot of people in the UK had a miserable Christmas and New Year 2012 due to flooding, and it was the same, if not worse, this year. A series of lows brought heavy rain, hail and gale force winds. Early December saw the east coast experiencing the worst tidal surge for 60 years, washing cliffs and homes into the sea. People in places like Kent and Surrey had no electricity over Christmas. I lay in bed at night listening to scary shipping forecasts, with wind speeds ranging from gale force 8 to hurricane force 12! Further heavy rain brought flooding, then more rain and westerly gales combined with high tides to create storm surges, creating more flooding and some impressive damage up the west coast. There are some amazing pictures on the BBC and local newspaper sites of flooded Somerset levels, where trees and telegraph poles show that you aren't looking out to a lake or the sea. The storm surges came through sea defences in several places on the Welsh coast, flooding and smashing properties, breaking up roads and undermining railway tracks. The high shingle bank at Newgale was breached, with stones pushed back all over the road, and I saw an impressive photo of the pub and shop surrounded by flood water which also covered the main car park and campsite, completely closing the coast road up to Solva and St David's. Hotels and flats on the front at Aberystwyth had to be evacuated as the sea punched holes in the prom and waves crashing against the sea wall bounced almost as high as some of the five-storey buildings. I was amazed to see people standing close to impressive waves breaking at Porthcawl. Quite mad - not only can the waves sweep you off your feet, but they also throw rocks around! I thoroughly recommend you go browse for some pictures if you haven't already seen some, and always recommend a visit to John Mason's blog. Meanwhile, much of the USA and Canada has been in the grip of a polar vortex which has shifted south, resulting in astonishingly and dangerously low temperatures and more impressive pictures.
There were thunderstorms later on the 3rd which resulted in the power here going off and on, and at one point in the evening there was a sudden ZAP! and crash of thunder, after which I left the computer off and went to have a candle-lit bath and curl up in my pyjamas and gown with a hot water bottle and hot chocolate in front of the TV. The following morning I couldn't re-establish an internet connection and it took 4 days to discover that the ZAP! had been a comms cable being fritzed. Luckily, I was mostly backed up, and it wasn't the network card or whatever. Being without internet left me feeling disconnected from the rest of the world and surprised by how stressed I felt as a result. I realised how much I rely on just being able to look something up, pop into Facebook, send an email or easily find information whenever I need to. Being without a computer as well would leave me feeling like I'd lost something essential. In the past eight years or so, my computer and internet connection have become my security blanket.
So here we are in January again, a new year but the same old thing - thinking about resolutions and muttering darkly to myself as I try to finish the accounts for the tax deadline at the end of the month. Every year I resolve to have a cleaner, tidier house, to be more organised, to lose more weight and take better care of myself and so on and so forth. I used to beat myself up about my perennial failures, instead of focusing on the many small successes. In the end, though, resolutions for new year (or at any other time, for that matter), are generally just decisions to try to make changes to improve yourself, your lifestyle and your environment for the better and to find a way to do the things you want or need to do.
My word for 2013 was More, as in do more, be more productive, creative, organised. I'm not sure that I managed it completely, (and I doubt anyone ever looked back on their life and felt they should have spent more time doing housework) but it is still a good word. While casting around for this year's word (Plan? Skills? Create? De-clutter?) I saw what friends were posting to sum up their previous year and form a basis for the new year's resolutions. Some had a sort of score card going on. (weight lost: 7 kg; operations: 2; new qualifications: 1; new job: 0 ...).
Perhaps I don't need a different word for this year, or a set of resolutions. All the usual challenges still stand, and the To Do list is as long as ever. It's just a matter of finding the areas for improvement. The winter storms and loss of internet for a few days have shown the value of disaster planning and increased resilience. I need more income (doesn't everybody?). There's nothing like having to solve problems and attempting to do more for highlighting what you don't know. So I shall continue to try to fill the gaps in my knowledge and skills, especially in terms of computers, crafts, and dance.
Bring it on, 2014; I'm resolved to enjoy it!