2014 – places I’ve been, things I’ve seen

Countries visited: 6
Currencies used: 2
Flights boarded: 0
Trains taken: God knows

I was quite a busy guy in 2014 – and I’m sure I spent more weekends away from Bristol than in it. Without an efficient app to track these things, I’ll just have to rely on my memory and photos.

There have been plenty of trips around the UK, including fun days and nights in Norwich, Bury St Edmunds and London amongst others. I even managed a couple of trips up north to Leeds – the first of which featured the annual Eurovision gathering. Good friends The Bentleys played great hosts to a night of Eurofun, and the fourth iteration of my ever-improving Eurovision spreadsheet got another outing. It turns out we thought Iceland should have won based on their whole performance, although Denmark had best visual show. Stats are fun.

In wider travels, one four-week period in the summer saw me roadtripping across Europe, visiting the Edinburgh Fringe and camping in Wales. The roadtrip, originally planned as a weekend in Portsmouth, took in five cities over seven days and saw us drive through France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany and the Netherlands. This last one was particularly pleasing – despite having driven through the southern tip of the country in 2011, a year when I also changed flights in Amsterdam, I never felt I could say I had been to the Netherlands. Now, having wandered round Maastricht, taken photos and bought lunch there, I can finally tick it off my list. The European countries I’ve visited now form a visually pleasing contiguous group with no holes – if you ignore the pesky principalities.

Map of Europe

Sweden would be a satisfying next step

My trip to Edinburgh I have covered elsewhere, and was very fun. On getting off the train from Edinburgh back in Bristol, we were picked up from the station and headed straight to the Brecon Beacons for a few days of camping and the great outdoors. Scotland, England and Wales within 24 hours – it was mighty tempting to find a flight to Belfast that evening, I tell you! But stay in Wales we did, and it was a jolly lovely trip, made all the more exciting by a fire which completely destroyed the garage of the property in whose fields we were staying. Thankfully nobody was hurt, but it was an eye-opening time as teams of us campers passed buckets of water from a duckpond and threw them over the roaring inferno. I have to admit, I see the burn holes in my hoody as quite the souvenir from the weekend. Huge respect to the fire service and the job they did when they showed up and put the thing properly out.

Earlier in the summer, I also attended my second Glastonbury, serving as a steward again with Oxfam. It’s a great way to do the festival – meeting new people and getting fed, whilst plenty of time remained to take in all the sights and sounds the week had to offer. With a couple of extra days off for events like my graduation – it’s safe to say that by the end of the summer I was both skint and out of annual leave allowance. Still, I’d saved up enough by the autumn to visit a log cabin in Hampshire for a weekend with uni friends – now an annual tradition which includes hot tubs, games, and plenty of food and drink. Long may it continue!

As if the cabin excitement wasn’t enough for November, I also got to visit Manchester to take part in University Challenge! Sadly, my episode won’t be broadcast, as it merely served as a full dress rehearsal for the series of Christmas specials, but it was still huge fun. Real Paxo, real Roger Tilling saying my name, and a real victory of 205-15. We even got to stick around to watch the celebrity shows being recorded. Huge thanks to my team captain Paddy for letting me take part in the day, and introducing me to some great new people!

Of course, on top of all this, there have been plenty of weekends in Bristol – visiting the cinema or theatre, or curled up watching a DVD. Highlight of the filmic year was probably Boyhood – although The Lego Movie and ’71 also both standout in my mind. Interstellar felt like something that would make a good 5-series TV show, but in my opinion tried to fit too many things to suit a single movie. I’ll keep better track of films this year thanks to signing up to Letterboxd  – a good service to check out if you haven’t already. As for TV – I watched all of Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, and finally finished the last few seasons of How I Met Your Mother. I also bought a new phone which supports the iPlayer and 4OD apps, which has made catching up on things far easier for a guy who spends ten hours a week commuting. Special mention to Grayson Perry: Who Are You? – a great 3-part series released this year, and one that made a couple of days of commuting much more interesting.

I made relatively few trips to the theatre (besides Edinburgh) in 2014, but have made the step of getting involved with the Bristol Improv Theatre, which is great fun. I hope before the year is out I’ll appear on stage doing something creative – though I did pop up doing the occasional talk on stage for Science Showoff in 2014. If you know of live any act you think I should see – whether acting, singing, joking or dancing – please let me know!

So, what for 2015? Perhaps a TV appearance? Perhaps visiting a new country. More Eurovision, more tootling across the UK, and who knows where else? Here’s to the next adventure!