As the year draws to a close, we ask our friends and collaborators to look back on the past twelve months and share their significant moments. From Mat Bingham:
I look out of the window. The colours are washed out a subtle palette of browns and yellows, and the wind tries to shake the trees from their slumber to no avail. Autumn is truly here as I think over the things I have done this year.
Only three days ago I was in India, a riotous assault on the senses. The smells of spice and body odour pervade everything. The roads are a choreographed ballet of chaos; trucks, buses, Tuk Tuks, motorbikes and cars narrowly avoid colliding with each other in the hazy smog. In amongst all this, people who don’t have a motorised form of transport brave the traffic on foot every day to move their goods by cart to the local shops for sale.
My driver is an expert in navigating his way through the traffic. He took me to visit an old hill fort some twenty kilometres from the city. As we bounced along the track climbing to the top of the mountains, I focussed on retaining my lunch. The travel sickness pills hadn’t helped much. It was a relief when we finally reached the car park at the foot of the fort. I escaped the car and took some deep breaths, letting my stomach settle before heading up the steps to investigate the ruins.
The fort is a popular place for Indians to visit at weekends, a break from the hustle and bustle of the city. Street vendors sit under makeshift tents either side of the path selling snacks and bottles of water to the visitors.
I watched buzzards and kites circling high overhead in the late afternoon sunshine. Taking in the view sat on one of the ruined walls, I kept thinking about the Himalayas. Those jagged teeth on the roof of the world are never far away in my thoughts. But this was a business trip — the Himalayas would have to wait for another year.
Our Welsh Collie, Skye, is fully grown now. Intelligent, strong-willed, affectionate and fun, she stole my heart the moment we brought her home. She is always trying to communicate with us. In frustration, she can sometimes give me a little nip on my arm if she thinks I don’t understand her.
During the first frosts I took her out in our Land Rover. I scraped enough ice from the windscreen to see as I drove along the winding track from our house. Skye was on the front seat barking, looking at me, then at the windscreen, then barking some more. I tried to figure out what had got her so agitated. Then it dawned on me, and stamping on the break pedal a little harder than intended, the Land Rover squealed to a halt. Opening the door, I slid down from the leatherette seat, and with a sharp intake of the icy cold air, scraped away the ice from her side of the windscreen. Once back in the Land Rover I looked at her, seeking her approval. Tail wagging, she looked back at me and then at the windscreen. All sorted. She’s so clever.
This year seems to have been a year of aeroplanes. My son loves them, so we spent an amazing afternoon at Duxford in the spring watching aerial displays, the fighter jets seemingly defying gravity with spins, turns and stalls that made your jaw drop. We also visited Coventry Airport at Easter and had a clamber around inside a Vulcan Bomber. To round the year off we went to Hendon RAF museum on Remembrance Day.
In the chill of February sunshine I took my partner Hannah to see the kingfishers on the River Weaver, my old patch. Whilst there I asked her to marry me. She made me very happy by saying yes! Since then we have been busy planning the big day. These things take a lot of organising but it all seems to be in hand. I can’t wait for 7th April next year — we are also making plans to spend our honeymoon in the Himalayas.