So - the pizza bases are rolled out and in the airing cupboard, rising. The wine is in the wine glass, Reisling. And I'm sat at the computer - musing.
I think it's fair to say that, on the whole and all things considered, 2009 was a shit year. Probably the shittest on record for me, personally - and possibly for the Waring family, past and present, generally.
Let's have a look at the lowlights.
March - made redundant. Kicked out of a job that I loved, something I'd built up from scratch over a three year period to something that was - just - on the verge of something interesting. The right people were in place to take things on to the next level - except I wasn't going to be involved. Despite the kind words, and the honest praise that my (ex) colleagues gave me, bottom line was that I was the expendable one. And it wasn't just me, of course. Two of my cousins, my first wife, and many close friends also lost their jobs this year. My son, graduating with a good degree, has struggled to get his foot on the job ladder and is temping where he can until things pick up.
April - we lost our cat, hit by a car before my eyes, dying in my arms. A source of real joy and pleasure, particularly for Mrs W. A good, happy life cut short in moments.
November - and worst of all - my son told me that the lump in his neck was not a benign piece of gristle, it was something that needed to be cut out as soon as possible, along with half his thyroid gland, a series of lymph nodes and (possibly) some nerves and veins as well. To be followed by radiotherapy to kill off any remaining Bad Cells that might have escaped surgery.
Oh, and I turned fifty. At a point in my life where I'd kind of hoped things would have settled down into a steady and comfortable, if dull, routine - all of a sudden I'm lumbered with a raft of financial and personal uncertainties and stresses I could, quite frankly, be doing without at my age. It was never supposed to be like this...
But however bad things get, there will always be good things to provide some sort of balance? Won't there? Well yes, 2009 did have its moments here and there. Let's look at the good bits of 2009.
I may have lost my job, but the response to my loss from friends and close colleagues - who know a bit more about my abilities than the people making the ultimate decisions, unfortunately - confirmed to me that I am, actually, pretty good at what I do. When I get the chance to do it. So I look forward with some optimism despite the conditions. I am currently working on a short term contact that came about as a result of a personal recommendation from my former employer - that wouldn't have happened if my abilities were in question. So let's build on that in the New Year, things can - and will - get better.
Hopefully before the money runs out.
My football team continued to overachieve - fifth place in the league and two trips to Wembley, despite a succession of injuries to key players throughout the season. Put to one side the so-called Big Four, and Everton 'did the double' in 2009, which I think is rather a nice way of looking at things. Now admittedly it's not looking so great this season - but a couple of decent cup runs and a few players back from injury could turn things round dramatically.
On the music front, both Glastonbury (with Matt and the Wells Massive) and Latitude (with Simon) were big highlights in the year. The weather stayed good for the most part, the company was excellent and the music - for the most part - was sublime.
Key highlights from a year of festival and gig-going would include:
- Magazine in Manchester and at Latitude. How to do a reunion tour with style and class. All the hits, plenty of humour and fantastic musicianship, all comfortable with each other.
- Doves in Delamere Forest. Local lads made good.
- Glastonbury - many, many highlights, but The Gaslight Anthem, bringing on Bruce Springsteen in the JP tent was possibly the biggest. Neil Young and the neverending Rockin' in the Free World. Roger McGuinn in the Acoustic Tent. Hot Rats and Dead Weather in The Park.
- Latitude - Pet Shop Boys, sublime both here and earlier in the year in Manchester. Nick Cave, raging and ranting. Squeeze, the greatest greatest hits set imaginable. The Gaslight Anthem and Doves, again. Surprise of the festival - St Etienne, only there to get a decent spot for Magazine but enjoyed every minute.
- A reformed Pele in Liverpool. Old mates together for a fond farewell.
- Depeche Mode - Stadium Rock with synths. A great night out.
Most of the year's viewing was of DVD Box Sets, series-long blasts of immersion in some compelling drama. Started the year with The Wire, continued with The Shield and we're currently halfway through Prison Break. Loved them all, but The Wire was magnificent, really living up to the hype. Honourable mentions also to Dexter, The Corner and the Red Riding trilogy.
Reading material this year was rather dominated by Davids Peace and Simon - The Damned United, the four Red Riding books - and then Homicide and The Corner. All wonderful on the page as well as on the screen. And - of course - The Word: magazine, podcast, blog, way of life.
Other good stuff?
Well, putting this thing together has given me a great deal of pleasure this year - glad I've kept it up and it amuses me, if no-one else.
Having the time to spend in the kitchen and the joys of breadmaking.
Pedro - bowel-related mishaps and all - has been a source of joy since he came into our lives in May.
Having the love and support of a good woman - thank you, Mrs W.
But most of all, seeing Matt, awake and talking, after eight hours of surgery in December. That was the best thing that happened this year.
But still - roll on 2010. Bye bye 2009 - you won't be missed.
On the soundtrack today, Ruben Gonzalez. One of the Buena Vista Social Club musicians, Ruben was in his late seventies when 'rediscovered' by Ry Cooder. Releasing his first album (Introducing...) at the age of 78, he continued to play with the BVSC and solo until just before his death at the age of 84. A dapper, dignified old man with a light touch on the keys. Proof that age is no barrier to talent.