1. What a year. It’s been a year that has seen the loss of many beloved people and political turmoil, and to be honest, it’s not as if the bad news is going to stop coming magically when the pages of the calendar are turned to 2017. So. It’s worth reminding ourselves of the good things that happened in the past 12 months too.

On a personal note, we did a bit of travelling, caught up with great friends we hadn’t seen for ages and small son started school. We got out lots and did exercise, we went to a tonne of music gigs and festivals and saw family and even made it to the beach once in a while. But here are some of my highlights of the good (and eclectic) things that happened in 2016.

Leicester City  -until this year, I rarely admitted to being born in the East Midlands city. But the city seems to be on the up. They found a former King of England buried in a car park, but of course, it was the club’s fairytale rise to become Premier League winners that just defied expectations. When they started their campaign, Claudio Ranieri’s team were 5000-1 outsiders for the title, and their success was a major coup for the city, plus fans of Gary Lineker’s underpants. What made me smile was a sign during the victory parade that said: “Had a hunch we would win – Richard III.”

 

Beat the Street

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While Pokemon Go seized the headlines for getting people outside walking, I was lucky enough to be involved with a project that might rival it in terms of longevity. Started by an ingenious doctor, Beat the Street is a community-wide initiative to encourage people to walk more and to get outside together. It saw fantastic success this year in Reading, Birmingham, Wolverhampton and Liverpool. Bringing communities together, the rewards are happier, more active communities with real benefits in terms of reduced diabetes, less traffic and better mental health

Line of Duty – The quality of TV drama is unrecognisable compared to a few years ago and I often hear people talking about Happy Valley, The Missing and other series. For me, the stand out TV event of 2016 was the third series of Line of Duty. I’ll admit that I came across this Between the Lines-esque series on police corruption by accident when I saw an interview with the brilliant Adrian Dunbar and was quickly captivated by the incredible talk-talk-talk interview scenes. While extolling the virtues of walking, cycling and running with Beat the Street (see above), I spent hours sitting on my behind catching up quickly with the first two series. Apart from quiz shows and football matches, I have never spent so much time shouting at the TV or hating a character as much as I disliked the Caddy. Incredible TV!

Honourable mentions: Rake, Modern Family, and the return of Gilmore Girls.

Big Issue Kev – This made me cry about the unfairness of it all, and feel better about the world in equal measure. Despite being homeless, Newbury’s big-hearted Big Issue seller raised an incredible sum of £5000 for Children in Need.

http://www.newburytoday.co.uk/news/home/19937/big-issue-seller-kev-raises-5-000-for-children-in-need.html

Ragged Bear

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Festival season doesn’t end in September! A new music festival called Ragged Bear launched this year and gave us the opportunity to see a line-up including Gaz Brookfield; the Devil’s Prefects; the Leylines; Wille and the Bandits and Neck. The next one is October 28th 2017!

West Berkshire Mencap –

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At a time when funds are hard to come by, there was some generous acts to support the charity; staff at Stryker made 36 bikes in a team-building event and donated them to children. Then celebrity chef Daniel Galmiche became a patron of the charity and spent a day cooking salmon with people with learning disabilities to officially open the new training kitchen. Lorraine Chase – what a legend – supported the race day having flown in from heaven, or perhaps Luton airport.

Ultra Daddy – An amazing achievement and so exciting to be able to track my friend online as he swam across the Channel through night and day back in September. Thanks to regular videos and updates from his wife, you get to witness the sheer insanity of undertaking such a challenge – not only the pure physical hell, but the logistics of stopping for nutrients and what happens at the other end. An inspiration.

The Colour of Time- Newbury

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The Corn Exchange in Newbury, with funding from Greenham Common Trust and the Arts Council, has put on a fabulous feast of brilliant outdoor events. The Colour of Time was a homage to the Indian Holi festival and saw the town go crazy in a riot of colour. The lantern parade was a similarly beautiful event that brought the community together – for an hour or so, at least.

Step up 4 good – Greenham Common Trust organised a fantastic running event across Greenham Common to enable people to raise money for local projects. It was brilliant to see so many people turn out in the rain to take part, to help small son to put his shoes back on, such was his enthusiasm in the mud, plus to see a lad with disabilities cross the line.

So, don’t invest too much in the idea that 2017 will “be a better year”. In some ways, it will, and in some ways it won’t. Famous people will still die and there will be shenanigans in all walks of life from politics, to music, to culture, to people pushing in front of you at the supermarket. There will also be good times too, so hold your family tight and appreciate the good things. Happy new year xxxx

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