This year could be described as my annus mirabilis. There were so many firsts that happened this year; notable events; unusual things and milestones. This post has been badly planned, so I apologise if I ramble, omit things, and generally do a bad job. But this is free entertainment for you…

I suppose I’ll start with the ugly business of personal milestones. I started what I refer to as my first “proper job” — on a contract, decent wage, responsibilities… Proper adult stuff. I turned 30, which is less of an achievement but a milestone nonetheless. I jointly run an organisation (have I told you about maaple?). I went to my first Pride event, in London. I travelled widely this year, visiting Barcelona, Cancún, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Wrexham. I made my first ever contribution towards paying back my student loan. I have achieved much this year.

My office doorSo let’s start with my job. I’m just coming up to the end of my first year working at Oxford Brookes University in the OCSLD. I work as a research assistant and I have been involved in a nice variety of projects that are mainly centred around student experience, but some have been a little bit outside my field of expertise. It has been a great experience professionally so far, and while publications have been lean for another year, there is plenty of scope for something to happen next year.

On a personal and social level, this has perhaps been my most successful year. Starting again in Oxford has been very fruitful. My work colleagues have been great in helping me to settle — particularly Simon and Katie who have done a lot to help me get out of the house! Our regular trips to Thirsty Meeples, with Liz, Liz, Fiona, Pauline, Tamsin and Jayne, are always good fun! I have met some people outside of work nearby, too: Jack, Anna, John, Andy and Holly are my regular pub quiz teammates; I quite often go to watch football matches and hang out with Jack, too; I’ve also met up with Chris and shared a love of sushi (actually, sushi seems to be a thing around here…!). I certainly have not been bored here!

Work has not always been a happy place. We were all astounded and devastated when Rauri passed away. He had not long been a part of our team, but he showed great promise and enthusiasm and had already made big impacts on the department. I have been covering the role of DMeLD since, which has broadened my experience still further. Although it has been a temporary arrangement thus far, it may become something more long term. We have not yet decided what to do with Rauri’s allotment, however.

My friends from “back home” are still very important to me, and it was marvellous to have them in Oxford in January for our 2014 Christmas meal (we have accountants among our number…). Sophia is growing fast and there’ll soon be more children in our group. Sebastian has already arrived and his cousin will be arriving soon! Louis and Helen got married this year, and it was such a lovely event. However, bowling at the groom on his wedding day was perhaps the most nerve-wracking thing I did this year! I did my usual annual trip to Silverstone with Nick and visited him and Belle; I went to see Pete and Laura in North Wales towards the end of the year; I stayed with James and Jess, and saw Matt a few times.

Erasmusbrug, RotterdamAnd, though I’m sure you can scarcely believe it, I turned 30. To celebrate, I went to Rotterdam with Pete. I’d hoped more would go, but his company was more than ample. The shower arrangement was a little unusual, but the internet-connected TV made up for that. We had many drinks and laughs, and went to see the live theatrical performance of Ayreon’s The Human Equation. It was a stunning performance and there will be a DVD/Blu-ray release of a recording next year. I’m looking forward to that. Being high-fived by a Dutch guy in the middle of Rotterdam for repeating a spell name featured in the Harry Potter series was perhaps the most bizarre event of the year… but pretty cool nonetheless.

There is a part of me that exists only online and there are some people that I only know online and haven’t met. I hope 2016 changes that. My friends in Norway — Maria, Malene and Peter — are high up on the list of priorities now. We’ve been working on recording a series for Minecraft, along with Phil — who I’ve known for a long time! — and now Otto. We have some videos that we’ve uploaded privately (ask me if you’d like to see, though they are early drafts).

I’ve also chatted a lot with Kasandra, Lisa, Sascha, Racko, Jas and Kirien. I met up with Liam at the tail end of last year and we’ve chatted ever since. Steven sends me a lot of photos on Snapchats and I try to keep up! I went to my first Pride event and met George and Marion. I’ve known Caleb and Mike (“Dodo”) for a while now and are pretty important to me. It was an aim of mine to meet Rob this year and I’m so glad I got a second opportunity to do that. I’d love to meet all of you (or again, if I have already!). I’ve certainly made a good friend in GJ, and I really wish for her to get her belated fair share of good fortune this year.

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And I had an amazing time in Mexico. I could have had a great time on my own: the food was great, the place was wonderful, there was so much to see and do. However, the people were even better. Everyone that went to the workshop (too many to mention, actually!) was simply lovely and welcoming; very encouraging and supportive using in my Spanish, and answering my inane questions of Mexican customs and cuisines! Esmeralda, in particular, was very encouraging and we had some good chats while we were there. Adriana is simply a wonderful person. I hope we’re all able to do it again next year!

As you can tell from this post, people are very important to me. I’ve had amazing times and bad times this year, but the people in it are the most important thing. Stick around for 2016!

P.S. If I’ve missed you out, it’s more than likely that it’s because I’ve been careless!