It's become something of a habit now to write a blog post summing up the excitement of the year gone by. I have done it for the last two or three years so I don't see why 2017 should be any different....
But, when I started to look back at the year gone by it occurred to me that 2017 has actually been a lot different to previous years.
Not so much in terms of work... I have had a really enjoyable year in that regard but away from Photography things have been well, different.
So, I figured that instead of writing a post simply talking about the wonderful weddings I have been to and the travels I have been on (lots and none respectively), I would write a little about some of the things that have effected me over the last year and that have (I hope) helped me grow as a person, with a few images from the year thrown in for good measure.
I should say that a lot of this will indeed be quite personal, so I will keep details somewhat generic but this has been the story of my year so here goes...
Back in December 2016, I registered my interest in volunteering some time with a pilot project taking place in Worcestershire called 'Reconnections'. It's a project aimed at combatting chronic loneliness in people aged 50+.
I wanted to hear a little more about the project because I feel that in recent times we have tended to give less thought to older people..... we are to wrapped up in our own lives, our own little social media bubbles etc. and the thoughts and opinions of the older generation seem to have been pushed aside for some reason.
Anyway, I applied to take part in the project and a training session or two later (together with a criminal records check which came back clean fortunately) I was teamed up with my client.
One of the things that struck me during the training was that there are people who simply don't speak to another human being for days on end. Not even on the phone. Examples were given of people calling the speaking clock just to hear another voice, or arranging unnecessary doctors appointments just for human contact. It was heartbreaking.
Anyway, fast forward 12 months and I have been spending a few hours more or less every week with my new friend (I can't call him a 'client' anymore... we have become firm friends). He is a fascinating man.... with more life experience (not just in terms of his age...92) than most of us could ever dream of. I have learned things.... both factual and philosphical. I have come to understand a little more about what older people have to put up with on a daily basis... for example, my driving habits have changed as I now think a little more about who might be behind the wheel of the car in front of me that might be driving a little slower than I would like.
After six months, I was supposed to move on from my initial client to start working with another (the sheer scale of people that are lonely is frightening)... but, I can't do it. I have come to think of my 'client' as a true friend and I don't want to give up my time with him.
If you are in Worcestershire and can spare a little time please do look up Reconnections.... not only will you make a huge difference to someone else's life, but you might just change your own to.
Sadly, things haven't been totally upbeat throughout the year, and there is no point pretending otherwise.
Towards the middle of the year I received an email telling me that a recent acquaintance had taken his own life. Naturally I won't go into any great detail but I will say that we really can't simply take for granted how we think other people might be feeling.
The person in question had all his life in front of him. A talented and friendly chap with a wonderful wife, a great family and lovely new home.
I attended his funeral and was blown away by the number of people that were there... it was standing room only. He was truly loved by many people. The main message that came out of the funeral was that we should just talk to one another. If we are tempted to bottle things up we should talk about it, no matter what it might be. And if someone tries to talk to us about things that are on their mind we should really listen, not just pay lip service to their problems.
Suicide is the single biggest killer of men under the age of 45 in the UK. This is astonishing to me and has to change.
For more information, check out https://www.thecalmzone.net
On another less than cheerful note, I have also been trying to understand as much as I can about Dementia this year. Again, no point going into details about this but I would absolutely 1000% encourage everyone to do the same.
Go visit www.dementiafriends.org.uk and get yourself on a training session. It will only take up one hour or your life and you will learn LOADS, and there might be cake to!
With all of this going on, with the exception of a few lovely days in St. Ives at Easter, my wife and I haven't taken a holiday this year which has been excruciating at times. BUT... we are getting away next year and we cannot wait!!
Naturally I can't talk about my year without mentioning my work. It's been busy! A fully booked wedding season. Meeting new friends and catching up with old. New venues (The West Mill, Shustoke Farm Barns and Peckforton Castle) to name just three, and old favourites (I love you Lemore Manor, Dewsall Court and Brockencote Hall). A wedding in Malta. A wedding in Dudley. Both very different... both utterly wonderful. Couples with lovely heart warming stories. An amazing firework display (can't tell how much I was worried about photographing that!). Morris dancing. A lot of Ceilidh's and Kilts. Oh, and singing Policemen.
It's been great.
At the end of every year I am very much the type of person that suffers from 'Delboyitis'... i.e. "This time next year Rodney, we'll be millionaires..."
I'm always thinking of what I want to do in the coming year... whether it's get fitter, pay off a loan, finally visit that city I've always wanted to go to. But it rarely happens. Life gets in the way.
Well not 2018. I am going to own 2018!* A nearly full wedding diary (still a few dates left so jump in quick... I'm not doing as many as 2017), plans to finally (I've been procrastinating for ages) launch another element of my photography business, together with tentative plans for something completely different totally unrelated to photography or weddings. Oh, and I have rebranded slightly and LOVE my new logo (I love cats and have big glasses, so....)
I am going to finally finish the desk I have been making for the last year or so, and I will fix all the bits around our house that I never have time to do.
I am going to go to the gym again (if I can remember where it is).
And lastly, I am going to try to and unplug as much as I can from the interwebs and appreciate every last minute with the people I love.
Thank you so much to everyone I have worked for this year... you have all been amazing, patient and so much fun to spend time with. And thank you to everyone that have booked me for 2018... I can't wait to work for you all!
Best wishes and happy new year!
* Edit. The leak that we have just found in our garage roof is not getting 2018 off to a great start....! :-(
All images © John Colson.