Dec 312013

2013 was a year that will always by in my memory, thanks to the wedding of my eldest son Jamie, to his long-time partner Alice, and four amazing holidays. My trips this year took me to the Outer Hebrides, along the railways of North Wales and return visits to Tromsø and Herm.

Jamie’s and Alice’s Wedding

The wedding took place on June 8th and was a day to remember. The ceremony took place in the Booking Office of the Midland Railway Centre at Butterley and was followed by lunch on a steam train, which made several journeys along the line to Ironville and back.

The bride and groom with Alex, Sandra, Luke and me.

The bride and groom with Alex, Sandra, Luke and me.

After lunch, the wedding party and guests boarded a London Routemaster bus which took them to Eastwood Town Football Club for the evening reception.

The wedding was planned meticulously by Jamie and Alice, who thought of everything. It went entirely to plan and everyone had a great day.

Rain-free holidays

The four holidays I had in 2013 were remarkable in that it didn’t rain on any single day in the four weeks, although it did snow overnight while in Tromsø. What made it more remarkable was that two of the holidays were in arguably the wettest places in the United Kingdom, North Wales and the Outer Hebrides.

The first holiday of the year was a return trip to Herm, but this time we stayed in the hotel, rather than one of the self-catering cottages, most of which are located at the top of a steep hill. The White House Hotel is situated beside the harbour and we stayed in the Crow’s Nest, a room at the very top of the hotel. From here there were stunning views out to Guernsey and we saw some amazing sunsets.

White House Hotel, Herm

White House Hotel, Herm (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Herm is a small island that offers peace and tranquility, as well as beautiful scenery. Despite being small, there is everything on the island that you could need for a relaxing beach holiday. We have already booked for 2014.

In July, Sandra and I had a fantastic holiday in the Outer Hebrides. In the three weeks before our arrival, the islands had been damp and drizzly, but as we flew in to the beach airport on Barra, the clouds parted and we were treated to a week of glorious sunshine, while the rainy weather drifted down to Selston.

We booked a holiday through Hebridean Hopscotch who arranged everything for us. A hire car was booked and we journeyed from Barra, in the south, through the length of the islands, ending in Stornoway, from where we flew back to East Midlands Airport.

Golden Road on Harris

Golden Road on Harris (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

The scenery on the islands was breathtaking and around every corner was another photo opportunity. I expected the islands to be stunning, but I wasn’t ready for some of the spectacular and barren landscapes. This is another place I would love to return to.

My third holiday was called Welsh Mega Steam, and that’s an accurate description. 14 steam lines in 8 days, taking me from Llandudno, down through Snowdon to Aberystwyth, finishing at Welshpool. I wanted to do this journey so that I could travel on the new section of the Welsh Highland Railway into Porthmadog, and so that I could visit the new visitor centre at the top of Snowdon.

View from the summit of Snowdon

View from the summit of Snowdon (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

Although the holiday was a little longer than I would have liked, and I was glad to get back home, it did enable me to see lots of places that we holidayed at when the kids were younger. It brought back loads of memories.

For my winter holiday this year, I returned to Tromsø in Norway, this time with friends Sue and Simon. I have been to the city to witness the Midnight Sun, but this time I wanted to experience the Polar Night. There was the added advantage of seeing the Aurora Borealis for a third time.

Colourful Tromsø

Colourful Tromsø (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

I love Norway. The people are so friendly and the scenery is beautiful, even in the Polar Night when an eerie blue light is the only daylight you see. I always feel sad when I leave Norway, but it’s only a couple of hours by air from Britain, so this is yet another place that I will visit again and again. In fact, I am already planning a trip to Tromsø and Svalbard for the summer of 2014.

Meanwhile at Bracken House

At Bracken House, the gardens continued to mature, although bad weather earlier in the year meant that I never really got on top of jobs outside. As a result, grasses took over the wildflower meadow and the flower borders had more weeds than I would have liked. The vegetable patch also suffered from the poor Spring weather, but later in the season, the vegetables started to catch up. A first attempt at growing potatoes produced a reasonable crop, and they will be grown again in 2014.

When I bought my Mac Pro five years ago, I elected not to buy a 30″ display, settling instead for the 23″. I finally got my 30″ this year when I picked one up on eBay for £600 – they cost £2,500 new. I also purchased a Mac Mini from eBay to act as a control machine for backups. This allowed my ageing MacBook Pro to become dedicated to handling the weather station.

After three years, I finally finished cataloguing my photos using the excellent Aperture software. I now have 30,470 photos in my collection, dating back to 1998. My next task is to scan in my printed photos, a job I started a couple of years ago, but abandoned in favour of cataloguing my digital photos.

In other news

During the cricket season, I was asked to co-present a programme on Mansfield Radio covering local Nottinghamshire cricket. This allowed me to get to a few cricket matches that I wouldn’t normally visit, but, at three days a week, it was quite time-consuming.

More names on a wall

More names on a wall (Photo credit: Alan Rowley Photos)

I did my usual publicity duties for Camelot, the most rewarding of which was a volunteer event at the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas. A group of winners did some gardening duties at this impressive and very moving place.

At the end of November, I won a competition organised by Trent Barton to drive a diesel engine at Ecclesbourne Valley Railway. I was able to take the controls of a Diesel Multiple Unit and a Class 33 at the event which lasted for six hours. We were given the use of the stretch of line from Wirksworth to Duffield and it was great to drive a DMU, which is my favourite type of railway engine.

Driving a Class 33 diesel engine at Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

Driving a Class 33 diesel engine at Ecclesbourne Valley Railway.

And finally …

I had my last drink of alcohol around midnight on December 31st 2012, so I have now gone 12 months without any. I can’t see me starting drinking again in 2014, as I want to try to lose some more weight. I end 2013 nine pounds lighter than I started it, and I want to lose another couple of stones if I am to fulfil some of my travel ambitions.

If you’re reading this, I hope you have a peaceful and prosperous year, and I hope we’re all still here to read my review at the end of 2014. Happy New Year!

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