2017: The Year of Cautious Optimism

Despite the many terrible world events that happened in it (Brussels, Paris, Nice, Orlando, Syria, Turkey, Brexit, Trump, Berlin to name but a few), 2016 was a great year for me personally. I married the love of my life after five years together, had the most joy-and-love-filled celebration with friends and family followed by a two week trip around my favourite places in northern Italy. I also had not one, not two, but THREE fantastic hen celebrations in London and Las Vegas (!), a relaxing break with friends in the beautiful Belgian Ardennes and an amazing holiday to Vietnam (thanks to Tom and Lily for having their wedding there!), plus numerous other special moments shared with special people. And for all of this I feel incredibly thankful.

The instability in the world has proved our future is far from certain, and that every day is a blessing and not a guarantee. I am therefore approaching 2017 with an attitude of cautious optimism. From a personal perspective there is much to look forward to, and potentially big changes afoot, not least my MSc in Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology starting in February.

From a wider world perspective, I do believe that we can, to some extent at least, be the change we want to see in the world. Even if it’s only on a micro rather than a macro level, when individuals come together to realise a common goal – whether it be helping other humans, animals and/or the environment – something magical happens. If we never look outside of ourselves and our own immediate concerns we not only lose perspective but we also fail to make a positive impact on the world around us. Whenever my time comes to shuffle off this mortal coil I hope it can at least be said I made some progress on that front.

So here we stand on the threshold of a new year. The future may be uncertain, but it is also what we make it. I don’t know about you, but I plan to make 2017 the best year yet. Happy New Year.

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Turkey’s Off / The Perils of Staff Error

Having frequented public houses for a vast portion of my adult life (and a fair amount of my pre-adult life – shhh, don’t tell my parents), I’ve learned that customer service in such establishments can be somewhat hit or miss. Either they treat you like a member of royalty and refuse to let you lift a finger or put a single hair on your precious head out of place, or they mistreat you so badly you end up thinking a day trip to Hades might have been a more pleasant experience. Staff rudeness is my primary bugbear, closely followed by lackadaisical service. But today I experienced a third category of crap service before I’d even set foot into the pub in question: The perils of staff error.

Several weeks ago I thought it might be nice to organise Christmas dinner in a pub for a big group of friends – a group of forty, to be exact (I don’t like to make things easy for myself). Having scoped the idea out it seemed to be a winner, so I went ahead with choosing a suitably traditional north London boozer and signing people up. Once the numbers were confirmed I sent the festive menu around with instructions for everyone to place their food orders and pay fifty per cent of the cost into my bank account a week in advance by way of a deposit.

So far so (Christmas) gravy, right? Wrong – because this afternoon I picked up a frantic sounding email from the pub asking me to contact them right away. Fearing the worst I did as asked, and once they’d reassured me the dining room itself (which we’d exclusively reserved for the occasion) was still reserved and I’d breathed a sigh of relief they dropped the bombshell – that the festive menu didn’t actually start until three days after our ‘festive’ lunch. Furthermore, they wouldn’t be decorating the pub for Christmas until the evening of the day we were due to dine there (although they did make the noble concession of promising us crackers – hmm). So here we are with an exclusively reserved dining room entirely devoid of decorations bar a handful of Christmas crackers, and a menu about as Christmassy as a Cadbury’s Crème Egg (although as I write this it’s now looking as if Christmas pudding may be back on the menu – hallelujah).

Still, I appreciate these are first world problems and we shouldn’t complain. The Spirit of Christmas is about far more than tinsel and turkey and, unlike many thousands of people across the world who are battling deadly storms, erupting volcanoes and open warfare, we will be safe and warm with good food and great company – and no amount of turkey could compensate for that.