This year has certainly been “interesting”. So many celebrities have died, so many political storms have broken and so many times I have vowed to stay away from the news, from facebook, from the internet, from the world beyond our village, etc. Etc.  Of course such vows only last for as long as your low mood, tears, anger or frustration or whatever emotion triggered the vow remains in either mind or memory. Once the emotional weight eases, so the vow slowly gets broken.

The year in the public eye truly has been, as Dame Helen Mirren said, sh*t.  But that isn’t the only 2016 I remember. I often enjoy reviewing my year and I would like to share some personal positives which balanced the bad news out.

In January my husband and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary with a wonderfully crazy and exhilarating trip to a wet, windy and wild Blackpool. The highlight of the trip was having dinner in a glorified beach hut right on the seafront as a storm raged around us!

In February, my garden burst into an early spring bloom, and I baked some delicious hot cross buns in order to mark the start of lent. This might not sound like much but the gardener in me adores spring bulbs as a sign that winter is indeed retreating, and the hot cross buns were a huge challenge to get right considering I am allergic to dried fruit and cinnamon! They were amazingly delicious though, I can still recall the taste!

In March an early warm spell saw me in shorts at the end of the month.  I also enjoyed the opportunity to spend a few brief moments with a terminally ill friend who always inspired me to face the future without fear.

In April I went on retreat – well, two retreats, one after the other. The first was a spiritual pilgrimage to Lindisfarne, the ‘home’ of a saint whose life story I find uplifting and which resonates with me – Cuthbert. The second was disability themed and organised and looked a lot at self acceptance.

The highlights of May definitely were warm weather and spring harvested vegetables from my garden as it entered its third year of cultivation.  I also got my first Open University module completed and submitted this month, which, although an enjoyable course, certainly was a relief to finish.

June saw me focus on the garden to the exclusion of almost every other activity as I got ready for the village Garden Safari, which I had entered for the first time. My garden, the flowers and the crops were especially important towards the end of the month and harvesting food and making strawberry jams kept me sane and focused on what was important to us as a family.

In July we went on a relaxing and fascinating family holiday down to the south coast of England, learning about the exploits of William the Conqueror in 1066. The combination of mild and wet made it a very good year for certain vegetables and I did lots more preserving, jam making and pickling.

August brought the first bramble harvest and I had a whale of a time making pints and pints of bramble jelly, some for us, some to give away, and some just because I wanted an excuse to take a walk in the misty morning light.  I also had great fun entering the village flower show for the first time.

In September my husband got some great medical results that he’d been waiting to hear for a long time. We celebrated with the first batch of rosehip jelly and a visit to the beautiful garden of Alnwick.

October saw me getting stuck in to my second Open University module, looking specifically at my chosen specialisation, psychology, for the first time. Visits to several special places and special people helped fill the month with joy.

November had two specific high points. Firstly our church congregation voted in favour of allowing equal marriage on the premises. Secondly, we went to see my husband’s favourite band, Marillion, in concert.  We worked together as a family to begin Christmas shopping and planning for gifts and surprises for each other.

And finally December, not over yet, but filled with wonderfully misty, frosty, muddy walks, still picking ripe rosehips from the hedgerows to make winter hedgerow jelly, making stacks of edible goodies and sharing a beautiful and blessed Christmas with loved ones.

So, for me, 2016 has been fun, full, and exciting. I have felt honoured and blessed and loved. And when news has been bad, there has always been something good to balance it with. And I am full of hope that 2017 will be similarly positive.