Saturday, June 23, 2018

Choiring Along

I haven’t updated in a while, but that doesn’t mean I’m not doing anything. I’m actually a lot busier now than I have been in a long time. It’s just that I’m not doing anything you’re likely to be interested in.

Aside from our calendar of social engagements (bit of exaggeration there) and random domestic emergencies (broken windscreen, waiting for a mattress to be delivered and then wondering how we’re going to get rid of the old one), the activities filling up the bulk of my time include writing and singing, and I realize these activities are of little interest to anyone not A) currently writing a novel, or B) actively engaged in choral singing.

I have, therefore, elected to talk about my choir, figuring you would prefer that over me talking about my writing, in much the same way as you might prefer to be stripped naked, tied to a fence and beaten with a rosebush over, say, being dipped in a vat of hot oil.

Recall that I was accidentally promoted to the office of Choir Director after volunteering to be a temporary instructor for the foundering Show Choir. Then Show Choir abandoned us and threw me into the deep end and, well, here we are. But, I hasten to add, it is a good place.

The first weeks of being a pretend choir director were, as you might expect, a bit rocky. Aside from me not knowing what I was doing, numbers were a worry. We bumped along, flirting with single digits for a long time. On one occasion, only seven people showed up for choir practice. Seven people are not a choir, they are a septet.

All through that time, when every week looked as if it might be our last, I kept thinking: “If we get our numbers up to twenty, then we will be a real choir.”

Eventually, our numbers grew to a baker’s dozen and I accepted a booking at the Horsham Day of Music, which seemed to galvanize the choir. Fear is a powerful motivator.

Long story short, we had an outstanding debut. The choir performed brilliantly, and we managed to hide our shortcomings—which included having only an alto section—through creative arrangements and careful song selection.

It was a triumph, and they were justifiably proud, but it left me with the problem of what to do next. And on top of that, because of our public appearance, we—incredibly—gained another member. And another. And another. We now have, at last count, twenty members, over half of whom know me only as The Choir Director instead of that guy form the tenor section who got a little ahead of himself.

I would agree that, having a real choir—with Soprano and Alto sections, even—means I am, in fact, a real choir director, but that still doesn’t mean I know what I’m doing.

I see this as a critical time for the choir. Having gained so many members in such a short time, it is essentially a new choir, and that means I need to up my game. As such, I’m putting my newly acquired music theory knowledge to the test by arranging songs into two-part harmony, which is a challenge for both the choir and myself.

It’s a fine line to walk, making the choir challenging enough to hold everyone’s interest, but not so challenging that it drains the fun out of singing. I suspect finding and walking that line is the goal of every choir director. And it isn’t easy, because it’s never the same. Some choirs like to be stretched, others prefer to just have a nice sing-along, and if what they’re doing doesn’t suit them, they’ll walk.

And having finally achieved the goal of acquiring twenty members, I can’t afford to lose any.


This is one of the songs we did at our debut performance. The video was taken by the husband of one of the members and it demonstrates the disadvantages we faced. We were a small choir, singing outside to a group of not-always-interested people. Still we held our own and, for the people standing directly in front of us, we produced a good sound.

What is missing from the video is my introduction, explaining that, because it was an all-female choir, I would be taking the tenor parts.


Friday, April 27, 2018

Glory, Glory

I have been living in Britain for over sixteen years now, and in my earliest days here, I heard about an ice cream concoction called a Knickerbocker Glory. It was, they told me, the ultimate childhood treat, a combination of ice cream, whipped cream, sauces, sprinkles and other yummy stuff served up in a tall glass.

It sounded like something I needed to try, so I kept searching for one, but they were nowhere to be found. The more I looked, the more elusive they seemed. My friends assured me they were a favored childhood treat, but it seemed they had become extinct during the ensuing years.

Yet I still heard rumors of them. Like the Yeti or Bigfoot, there were unverified sightings by friends and acquaintances, but never any concrete proof that they still existed in the wild or, more importantly, any sighting of my own.

Then, in an ice cream shop along the seafront in Ramsgate in Kent, there, on the menu, was the elusive Knickerbocker Glory. Naturally, I ordered one straight away.

Yummy, but vertical.

It was everything my friends had promised it would be, but left me wondering why it was considered the ultimate treat. I enjoyed it thoroughly, but in the end, it was just a vertical banana split, without the bananas. A banana split, being horizontal, has much more room for whipped cream and toppings and, as an added bonus, you get a banana with it.

While I am glad I finally got to tick that off of my To Do list, if I ever visit that ice cream parlor again, I’ll order the banana split instead.

Horizontal, and yummier.


Wednesday, April 11, 2018

My Name is Michael

I’ve just had what you might call an intervention.

I guess I was in denial. You know the tune: I’m not dependent on it, I’m just a casual user, I can quit any time. It’s a comfortable little lie to live inside of, until something happens…

So, yeah, this morning, my Smartphone broke.

I visited most of the seven stages of grief—desperation, disbelief, bargaining, anger, hope—everything except acceptance. I performed CPR (Continually Pressing Reset) and tried defibrillation by plugging it back into the charger, but nothing worked. It happened hours ago and I’m still carrying my poor, dead phone around in my pocket, like Kala, the gorilla-mother of Tarzan, who continued to clutch her dead baby to her chest until she found a substitute in the white-skinned child. And like Kala, I’m still taking out its cold, dead body to shake it and press the ON/OFF button, hoping against hope that it will miraculously come back to life.

I was going to post a photo of my dead Smartphone,
but I need my Smartphone to take the photo.
Oh, the humanity!
I think my lack of acceptance is because it happened so suddenly. If it had been behaving strangely, or had a warranty about to expire, I might have been more emotionally prepared for it. But it was so sudden. Its alarm went off this morning, like always, I turned it off, unplugged it from the charger, checked my e-mail, updated my Garmin Activity-Tracker, read a few news articles, and put it on the desk beside me.

Not five minutes later, I got an e-mail saying I had a message from HMRC telling me I needed to log into their site to get an important message from them. (For you US readers, HMRC stands for Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, which is the UK version of the IRS, and like the IRS, you do NOT ignore messages from them.) So I went to the site, put in my username and password and got a screen telling me they had—for security reasons—sent a text, containing the access key, to my mobile phone.

As soon as I picked up the phone, I knew something was wrong. It seemed colder than usual, less lively, less animated. I felt a chill bloom in my stomach. And then I looked into its blank, dead face. It was, it was…sorry, I can’t talk about it.

Since then, I’ve missed several alarms that were to go off to remind me to do things, I couldn’t check my schedule, I couldn’t use the satnav, I couldn’t look anything up, I couldn’t listen to any music, I couldn’t access the calculator. The emptiness stretched on and on.

It was then that I realized I had a problem, so I checked (on my laptop, because my phone…well, you know) for some group to help me, someone going through the same thing I was, and to my relief, there is an  organization to assist people like me. It’s called by the unwieldy name of Addicted to Smartphone (Small, Handheld Or Large) Electronic Systems, but is better known by the acronym ASSHOLES.

ASSHOLES
It was a relief to know I was in good company. Those people who use their Smartphones in the cinema or the theatre, they are ASSHOLES, the couples in restaurants who, over dinner, ignore each other and spend the evening glued to their Smartphones, they are ASSHOLES, the people who cluster in front of paintings in an art gallery taking photos of it on their Smartphones, they are ASSHOLES, the people on the train who shout into their Smartphones, “I’M ON THE TRAIN…” they are ASSHOLES, as are the people who wander into traffic while sending texts, or take calls while they are driving. They are, like me, all ASSHOLES.

ASSHOLES
But now that I know I’m one of the ASSHOLES, I can start my recovery. I can begin to start learning to live without my Smartphone, to be more self reliant, to realize I don’t have to be connected all the time. And someday, by the grace of God, and by taking it one day at a time, I may no longer be one of the ASSHOLES.

Yeah, her, too.
I am, however, going to go out promptly tomorrow morning to see if I can get my phone fixed. It’s okay though, really, I don’t have a problem. I’m not dependent on it, or anything, I’m just a casual user, I can quit any time.



If you want to find out if you are one of the ASSHOLES, take this quiz:  http://illnessquiz.com/cell-phone-addiction-test/


Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Practice Retirement

My wife begins her retirement today. Sort of.

She’s actually been off for the past four days, but that doesn’t count because it was the Easter Holiday weekend and she’d have had it off anyway. Also, she’s not really retired, she’s just sampling the life of leisure to see if it suits her. It’s a sort of practice retirement, to see if she’s ready for the real thing.

Most people don’t find retirement difficult, but my wife has one of those jobs that defines you, like police, fire fighter or serial killer. She works in social services. It’s a calling, not a job, and it’s what she has wanted to do from an early age, so giving it up is not something to be undertaken lightly. Our Plan had her retiring last summer, but she decided she wanted to keep working. The Tory government being what it is, however, meant that the job, and its increasingly insane directives, began putting undue stress on her, and I encouraged her to rethink her decision.

Stole this off the web.
Fortunately, and uncharacteristically, her employer came to the rescue by offering something called a Career Break, which would allow her to take a year off—without pay—to rest, recharge, rethink and then return to work. Or not. It proved to be the prefect solution: she gets to be a layabout for a year, realize what it is like to have a lot of time on her hands but no income, and then decide if she wants to keep it that way or go back to the job that was slowly killing her. Really, it was a no-brainer, so she took the offer and her final day of work (for a year, at least) was last Thursday.

So far, thanks to the holiday weekend, it’s had no impact on us, although we did celebrate last Friday by going out to dinner at our town’s Michelin star restaurant, because there is no better way to commemorate a 50% loss of aggregate income than by spending the equivalent of our bi-weekly grocery bill on a single meal. But it was worth it just to be in a restaurant where the servers don’t wear name-tags and you’re discouraged from hanging your coat over the back of your chair. From today onward, however, things are bound to be a bit different.

When my wife was only home on weekends, I had the whole week to myself. I’d get up early, then write, play music, go into town, take a nap or go see friends, and not have to worry about informing anyone of my plans. On weekends, there was a different routine, involving a cup of tea first thing in the morning (yes, I do get up and make my wife a cup of tea first thing in the morning), then, generally, a walk in the park, a tour around town (just to see what they’re getting up to these days), a protracted discussion about what we might have for lunch, and then having it. And then I’d follow her around the flat and annoy her for the rest of the day.

That’s fine for two days in a row, but now every day is Saturday. That’s a lot of cups of tea, which I don’t mind, but it’s also a lot of days I might be tempted to sleep late, which would impact my writing. So I somehow have to get used to the idea that, although my wife is not getting up to go to work, I still need to get up early and do as much writing as I can before it’s time to bring her a cup of tea because, after that, I’ll just follow her around the flat and annoy her for the rest of the day.

I expect there will be a lot of adjustments. I also suspect that, like me, after a few months she’ll begin to wonder how she ever fit a full-time job into her schedule.

In anticipation of this event, and feeling that I ought to keep at least a little of my time free to spend with my wife, I sat down and listed all the tasks I was performing, and how much time they took up. The total came to 46 hours per week. Now, I don’t necessarily have to do all of those things every week, but still, that’s more than a full-time job, and I’m supposed to be retired!

So, as you can see, changes need to occur in both our lives if we’re going to achieve any sort of balance. I’m all for that; I suspect a lot of the things I do are unnecessary and won’t be missed if I drop them from my routine.

We’ll be keeping that morning cup of tea, however.

Stole this, too, but then I modified it.

Monday, March 26, 2018

First World, Third Age, Thirteenth Trip

Years ago, before the notion of leaving the States occurred to me, if someone had said to me that, one day, I would be sitting on the quay-side, in Malta, gazing over the sparkling Mediterranean Sea and thinking to myself, “I liked Cyprus better,” I, literally, could not have believed them. It would have been akin to attempting to convince me that one day I’d be sitting in a café on Mars thinking, “They don’t do a grilled cheese here the way they do on Moon Base 7.”

I am here to tell you, however, that it is so. Not Moon Base 7’s famous grilled cheese sandwiches, but the fact that I have become such a world-weary traveler that I can sit in an extremely desirable Mediterranean destination, compare it to another, and find it wanting.

This opinion, I hasten to add, is not Malta’s fault. Malta is, in fact, a perfectly adequate island, in possession—I am certain—of many fine qualities. Those qualities, however, remain eclipsed by factors that, not long ago, would have been incidental, but which now loom large enough to derail an entire holiday. The first, and most pervasive of these, is the hotel.

Time was, a hotel was just a place to store my stuff while I went out and did things. More recently, however, I have come to appreciate certain qualities that most tourist hotels offer, these being an assortment of the following:

  • A decent sized room, sometimes large enough for a table and chairs.
  • A balcony, or outdoor seating area.
  • An adequately sized bathroom.
  • A café/restaurant/lounge area where you can sit with a drink and relax with a book.
  • Maid service that has your room cleaned by, say, 2 PM.
  • A view of something, anything.
Our hotel in Malta had none of these.

View from our room.
The room was tiny, with an archer’s slit of a window that looked out onto a brick wall.
The bathroom was so small that, after you showered, you had to dry off in the bedroom.
And there was no place in the hotel to sit an relax, which was a shame because the maids didn’t clean the room until 5PM, which made it less like a hotel and more like a B&B, where you were expected to get up and leave and not return until the end of the day. This wouldn’t have been so bad had it not been for the second factor: The Area.

Malta is lovely. On our wanderings we found much to admire, but the half-mile on either side of our accommodation was tourist hell. It was on a busy road, one side of which—the hotel side—was packed with restaurants, one after the other. And the dining rooms of these restaurants extended onto the sidewalk, so you were essentially walking through an endless string of dining rooms, dodging waiters, diners and other pedestrians. (We did, in fact, step into a restaurant's dining room when we stepped out of the hotel.)

The other side of the road—once you found a crossing—hugged the waterfront and might have been idyllic had it not been for the barkers. Every ten feet you encountered someone touting bus tours or boat excursions, making what should have been a nice stroll into something reminiscent of a county fair midway.


"Step right up! Buy a trip for the little lady! C'mon now, best deal in town!"
Even this might have been manageable had it not been for a third factor: we were both sick.

I felt bad on the flight, and worse when we arrived. Then my wife got a cold. And being forced out of our room and not allowed back in until 5PM and having not much to do except wander around and pose as bait for barkers did not make for pleasant days.

Valletta, just across the bay from us. We went twice. It is a 2018 European City of Culture.
It was marvelous; you must visit!
I realize all the above smacks of First World Problems (Whaa! I went to Malta and didn’t have a marvellous time!) and the fact that I am older than I used to be (give me identical circumstances—illness and all—shave 20 years off my age, and I’d have had a brilliant adventure) but privilege and age aside, you can’t deny that this holiday did not stack up favorably when compared to others we have taken, and I put that down to the final factor: triskaidekaphobia

Midway through the holiday, I began to suspect that triskaideka-trickery was at work, and as soon I go home I checked my holiday spreadsheet (you knew I had one, didn’t you?) and found, to no surprise, that our Malta trip was our thirteenth excursion to the Continent.

I am not superstitious (much) but, I can’t deny the evidence, or the outcome.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

The Perfect Storm

I freely admit to being a Weather Weenie. I proudly tell people I haven’t had to clear the snow from my roof in 16 years, and I respond to complaints about Britain’s famously dreary weather with the boring but true observation of, “I don’t have to shovel drizzle.” The idea of spending another winter in conditions similar to Upstate New York is not something that inspires warm nostalgia, and I have been grateful for the past five or six years of agreeably mild winters.

Still, I wouldn’t have minded going through some of what happened to the rest of country this past week. I’m not a masochist, but it seems like a missed opportunity.

Here’s what happened:

This winter has been agreeably mild, as well. It would be cold for a few days, then it would go into the 50s or 60s, then we’d have some cold, rainy weather, followed by a string of 50-degree days. It was, in short, a normal winter, and spring was already within our grasp. Crocus, snow drops, even daffodils were blooming, trees were budding, and the air smelled of damp earth and the promise of new growth. It was lovely.

But we are Brits, and we love to complain about the weather, often to hyperbolic degrees, therefore, when an “Arctic Blast” was predicted for last week, I figured we’d just get a few days of chilly weather before, once again, enjoying more spring-like days. I wasn’t alone in thinking this: the weather is so routinely dramatized that many of us were surprised by just how cold the Arctic Blast –dubbed The Beast From the East (the Brits do love word-play)—was.

When it gets down to Zero here, that’s just 32 degrees Fahrenheit, and I don’t consider that cold. It rarely does get down to freezing, by the way, and when it does, it doesn’t stay there for long. This Arctic air, however, brought the temps down into the low 20s F, which is cold by anyone’s definition, and they stayed there, day and night, which, in my experience, is unprecedented.

This resulted in the ground freezing and ice forming on puddles and ponds. I know you people from back home are reading this thinking, “Yeah, so what?” but there are school-aged children here that have never seen ice in the wild.

The cold caused some disruptions because we’re not used to it being that cold for that long. Then, after a few days, something unexpected happened: Storm Emma came up from the south, met the cold air from Siberia, and the snow started.



Storm Emma meets The Beast From the East.
No, it's not a WWE Wrestling match, it's what happened this week,
with a helpful hand to explain it all.
I’ve seen it snow here before. I’ve even seen it snow a significant amount (meaning two or three inches), which would wreak havoc and cause panic for a few hours until it melted. But those incidents, in addition to being ephemeral, were also localized, so it was only one bit of the country struggling while the rest got on with their day.

This storm, however, covered the entire British Isles, dumping snow—as much as a foot and a half in places—over England, Wales, Scotland (but they’re used to it) and Ireland. The frozen ground kept the snow from melting, as did the frigid temperatures and the bitter, driving wind. What resulted was a New York Style winter, visited upon a land with a traditionally mild climate. The results were predictable.


Major roads were closed; people spent the night in their cars.
Trains stopped running, trapping people in cold, stationary carriages for hours. Roads became blocked, trapping people in their cars, sometimes over night. Airports cancelled flights or shut down completely, stranding thousands of people who couldn’t get to their destination, or go back home due to the weather.

Farmers struggled to keep their herds fed, watered and, in the case of dairy farmers, milked. To add to their misery, the daily milking had no place to go as the trucks couldn’t get to the farms, so the farmers had to dump the milk. People who could get to shops found them empty, and unable to re-stock. And at least one baby was born in a stranded car.


You generally expect to see drifts like this in Upstate New York
But people came out to help. They brought food and water to stranded travelers, they cleared snow, pulled cars out of snowdrifts, services—hospitals, police, social workers and even the people who fix your gas heating—made heroic efforts to continue running and get to people in need. A man booked a string of hotel rooms so homeless people could sleep someplace warm. They struggled, but they persevered.

During all this, I learned (there has been NOTHING on the news except reports about the weather all week) that Sussex, where I live, has been the least effected county in the country, and I’m a little bit disappointed by that.


This is the extent of our winter storm.
We’ve been, at best, inconvenienced. We have had only a dusting of snow, which made the roads slippery for a while. You can get to the shops, and there’s plenty of whatever it is you want to buy there. The trains are running (and for Southern Rail, they are running as well as they usually do, which is not very well), the roads aren’t closed, no one is stranded anywhere nearby, and we even had choir practice during the worst of it.

We’ve been lucky, but I can’t help feeling, as I watch the misery in other parts of the country, that we’ve missed out on something special, a chance to step up to a challenge, to prove ourselves in the face adversity, to re-live a little of that Blitz Spirit. Instead, we’ve just hunkered down, complained about the cold and gone about our business.

In years to come, when talk turns to the great winter storm of 2018, everyone else will have an unending supply of snowstorm-from-hell stories to tell, while all we’ll be able to do is say, “Yeah, I remember; it got cold for a while.”


Snow: it's a bitch, but it can be pretty.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Sixty-Three Years Young

Yes, it’s my birthday today and, unlike previous years, I am unabashedly owning my advanced age, because the World Health Organization has given me a reprieve.

Three years ago, I crossed the line from Middle-Age to Old, and I wasn’t very happy about that, but the WHO recently had a re-think and came up with a new Young/Middle-Aged/Old labeling paradigm, which turns me into a young man again.

As it stands now, if you subscribe to the WHO’s new guidelines—and you’d be daft not to—you are considered Young until you reach Middle-Age, which doesn’t kick in until you are 66.



As a bonus, Middle-Age has been extended to 79, so you’re not considered Old until you get to 80, which gives me some welcome breathing space.

And that’s about as nice a birthday present as anyone can get.

With luck, by the time I reach 79, the WHO will have extended Middle-Age to 90.


Me, in 1955, still very much in the Young category
Me, now.
Actually, this was last week, when I was still OLD -- that explains the grimace.
Now that I'm a young man again, I'll have to rethink the cardigan.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ringing In the New Year

My, oh my, isn’t 2018 clocking along! It’s the 10th of January; half the year’s gone already!

With the shitstorm that was 2017 behind us, we have to hope that 2018 gets better, and not fall into the trap of thinking, “Well, it can’t get any worse.” I fear it can, what with Britain tripping over its own feet in the race to become a Third World nation, and the US careening headlong toward their goal of becoming a Banana Republic. Given that, the only thing left for us (you know, the people who aren’t responsible for the mess, but who have to suffer the consequences) is to try our best to make 2018 a good year for ourselves, on a personal level.

(You could, of course, become an activist and work to make things better on a global level, and, frankly, I hope you do, because I can’t; that’s not in my skill-set.)

Those things that I, personally, am working on to, personally, make my life a little better (or at least help me, personally, while away the hours in an agreeable manner) are, personally, getting off to an optimistic start. Unlike the wider world.

I’m afraid I need to back-track a bit here. Some time ago, something came into my life that gently altered it very much for the better: I got a shed.

It’s not actually my shed, it belongs to my mother-in-law, but I talked her into buying it to replace the old one, which was rotting away. The new one is bigger, and pretty much my domain.

It’s nowhere near as big—or as kitted out—as my dad’s shop, which was about half the size of our house, but I make do, and I have already built a number of things in it, the first being the workbench.


I wired it up with electric; it has a heater, and a kettle.
Naturally, I can only work in the shed when I’m at my MIL’s house, but I’m there often enough that I can make steady progress on my projects, and enjoy the nostalgic ambiance of making things out of wood. The scents of sawdust, varnish and pipe smoke (yeah, it’s my shed, I can smoke in it if I want to) all bring me back to the days of watching my dad working in his shop, and it is so gratifying to be following that tradition, even if I’m nowhere near as good.

The choirs are starting up next week. I have no idea how well that is going to go, but I do have hopes.

And my writing has taken an interesting turn.

I’ve written a few times about what I have been working on for the past five years -- the 8-book fantasy-adventure series for my grandsons. I also wrote about how, even though I am retired, I spend most of my time NOT writing, and earlier this year, I even posted about how I no longer consider myself to be a real writer.

I didn’t really think much more about that, or make any momentous decisions, but over the past few weeks it has occurred to me that, right now—despite labelling myself as a non-writer—I am being more consistently productive in my writing than ever before. I have finished Book V and am now working on the truncated, children’s book to send to my G-boys (as a belated Christmas gift), and am looking forward to starting Book VI. My alarm goes off every morning at 5 AM and I almost always get 1,000 words written before 8.

I don’t recall any resolutions to pull this off (or any more than the normal amount of resolutions) but, over the past few months, this has become an ingrained habit, one that I hope will carry on into the new year, and beyond.

I also had an epiphany about the series, and some welcomed information from my son. I had a bit of trouble with this year’s book, and realized I wouldn’t get the boys’ version of the book to them by Christmas. This didn’t worry me because, as I have written several times, I didn’t think they cared about them. This was, of course, due to me dropping pebbles down the well but never hearing the splash. When I told my son I wasn’t tossing a pebble in this year, however, he told me the boys would be disappointed because they look forward to the books and really like them.

Who knew?

This gave me renewed enthusiasm and some clarity on what I am trying to accomplish, which led to what I hope is the final resolution about what I am going to do with the books once I finish them. Right now, they are all rough drafts, nothing more than five individual piles of words that need to be hammered into coherent stories, but I am now far enough into the series that I feel confident enough to begin that process. And I have decided that the books will be, to the best of my ability, straight-up fantasy-adventure stories fit for publication, or, at least, self-publication.


Me, at work on my books.
(In case you haven't figured it out, this is a staged photo.)
Writing 1,000 words a day has not only helped move these stories forward, it has also spurred my Patriarch Diaries on. Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on your point of view, the essays I have written are far too long to post here. “Television” pushed the blog-length limit at 1,500 words, and I am now working on one about cars that is 2,000 words and counting. So, the good news is, my Patriarch Diaries are shaping up, and the good news is, I probably won’t be posting them here.

In short, my writing is going as well as it ever has, the choirs (fingers crossed) are on track, and I’m enjoying working in my shed. What else could I want?


And for my next trick.
Well, to play the piano, for one, and I have decided that 2018 is the year I learn to do it.

I’d better get busy, the year’s half gone already!