Arrows of Peace: An Epilogue, 2017

2017 had a bit of everything – old, new, borrowed and blue. While parts of the year have felt very long, altogether it has flown.

It began with a wedding in rural Wiltshire, with comforting friendly faces to mellow the January ennui. The happy couple’s firstborn arrived later in the year, a sharp reminder of how swiftly life can move in the fast lane.

Then there was a trip to London City Hall, headquarters of the Greater London Authority, to celebrate the launch of a new course that had been a large part of my working life in 2016.

February provided a bit of a jump-start, with a hair-raising birthday followed by a trip to Brighton to play my first escape room – Bewilder Box.

Bewilder Box, Escape Room Experience, Brighton

2017 has been about playing hard and working harder, trying to make more of the opportunities offered by London life.

There have been let-downs along the way, but it hasn’t quelled the enjoyment of seeing some fabulous shows: fictional journalist Jonathan Pie; David Tennant as Don Juan; and both Knightmare Live and Elixir (Head First Acrobats) at the Underbelly Festival.

If the first half of the year was given to theatre, the second half was given to music, with Elgar at the Proms plus fabulous gigs by the Sons of Pitches, a talented Accappella group from Birmingham, and Tom Chaplin, the outstanding frontman of Keane.

Alphaville at Schloss Rheydt, Monchengladbach, August 2017

It was a thrill to see Alphaville again in the stunning Schloss Rheydt, near Mönchengladbach, supporting their first album in seven years, Strange Attractor. My review of the album became the most-read piece in this site’s history.

And at home, to be Best Man at my sister’s wedding was a watershed moment for myself and for the family. It’s the most positive I’ve seen my folks since my dad’s stroke in 2014, and a day we’ll all remember for a long time to come.

These highlights punctuate a work-dominated year, which steadily grew in intensity when I became heavily involved with the University of London’s new website.

At times, it felt very much like a return to the PhD era – a labour of love that became a long trudge to Mordor. There were 12-hour days and some weekends, though this was usually by choice rather than by demand.

And it’s been tough to accept the decidedly mixed response to the new site. We could easily have spent another five months getting it perfect, but instead gave every ounce of energy to get it live sooner.

Steady as she goes

I was reminded of 2014, the year after completing my PhD, when exhilaration slowly turned to anguish. I had a project I was proud of, a decent academic profile, and good references. Yet, opportunities were so hard to come by. Interviews were spurned.

You start turning your back on that which you once treasured.

Thankfully, a lot has changed since then. In 2017, I managed a large project. I’ve led a team. I’ve dictated the tone of voice across a major international university website. It’s pushed me to the limit, but I’ve never minded that.

I’m fortunate that I no longer need validation from other people to gain from what I do. I have faith in it – or enough, at least, that the university’s ‘shop window’ is all the shinier for my contribution.

I’ve searched for that sort of stability and self-assurance for an awful long time. Thanks, 2017, for delivering it.

Peaceful arrows

These assets are evident, it seems, in ways we don’t recognise.

Last year, I expressed concerns about frustration getting the better of me. There was less of that in 2017. When you’re able to show what you can do, that energy gets channelled into more fruitful endeavours.

It creates less doubt, more quiet confidence.

Museum of Film und Fernsehen, Berlin

I did have moments of vexation – one in particular where I couldn’t help voicing my disappointment after being stood-up for a third time by the same person.

Frankly, I shouldn’t be giving out numerous chances. So often in similar situations I’ve let desperation get the better of good sense, and that is my own fault.

But a better momentum was building. Chances kept coming. And in the end, it paid off with aplomb. The late autumn brought some lovely memories, including sunset at One New Change and dinner at the even loftier Sky Garden.

I’m not entirely sure what 2018 will bring, but right now I’m optimistic. That’s where I’ve wanted to be, and long may it remain.

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