Ten days ago, my old friend Emma died. She was one of the most passionate and courageous people I have ever known, one of the very best friends I've ever had. Without her, I may not have survived the first years of illness. She had a brain aneurysm, then a stroke and died at the age of 32.
Today is my thirty-third birthday. I had decided against posting my usual review of the year, but then it would be wrong to behave as if this has ruined the year. Emma was around for most of 2013. She won't be around at all in 2014, which makes 2013 an altogether better year in this respect. Death is a permanent absence, not a dark blot on a timeline, even if there is a particular point when it is more painful than it will be in the future.
In the end, I decided that the thing I can't do is write about the lows of the year, which have been numerous and some remain ongoing, but since none of them involve the death of someone I really love, they're all pale and pathetic just now. Meanwhile, I am very lucky and an awful lot of good things have happened for me this year.
Thus, the positive aspects of my year, in bullet points:
- From the middle of February to the middle of March, we rented a cottage on the Norfolk Broads with a friend, to see how we got on living together. We got on very well. It was a beautiful place and there were several days when we watched a Barn Owl hunting up and down the adjacent field. It wasn't meant to be a holiday - we tried to carry on as normal - but it was as good as a holiday and a very nice one it was too.
- In April, Mr Goldfish and I got legally married, amid an unseasonable blizzard. This was supposed to be a very quiet bureaucratic affair but, with the help of a small invading army of only-vaguely-invited family, ended up being really rather special. We became demi-husband and demi-wife.
- On May 1st, we held the eighth Blogging Against Disablism Day.
- Throughout the summer this year especially, we were lucky enough to see a lot of niblings Sophie and Alex. They're wonderful kids, if in completely different ways.
- In June and early July, Stephen and I made my wedding dress from scratch, from used neck ties.
- In July, we had our wedding in my parents' back garden. This was extremely special. We were quite nervous about doing everything differently and effectively leading the service ourselves, but apart from a slight panic the night before about whether it would be possible to broadcast on-line, it was everything we had hoped for and more besides. Thanks to all of you that helped make it so special.
- In early August, we celebrated my Granny's 90th birthday. Granny is an amazing woman and we all feel extraordinary lucky to have her around.
- About a week later, we embarked on what turned out to be a six week honeymoon in Ceredigion. This was blissful. I swam in the sea. I wrote and wrote. Stephen did some woodcarving. We both painted a little. It was wonderfully peaceful after months of stress and excitement.
- During our honeymoon, we became a media sensation after Suffolk Police issued a press release about my pencil. At one point, my face appeared on the front page of Cambridge News. We were discussed on Heart FM. Google suffolk police pencil - it got all over East Anglia. Charting the progress of our media fame through a intermittent mobile connection was both surreal and hilarious. Especially as, when I told my folks about the first newspaper we were in, they wouldn't believe it.
- I have done a hell of a lot of writing this year and have been generally feeling very good about it. If I hadn't been so ill in the last few months, I would have almost certainly finished my second novel. As it is, it's coming along very well.
- My favourite cousin had a baby and quite unexpectedly, we got to spend an afternoon with them both soon after. New babies are always fascinating.
- I guest-blogged for the F-Word during October.
- In mid-October, we celebrated my Mum's 60th birthday. She was terrified that we were planning a surprise party with all her friends and family there, despite explicit instructions not to and our reassurances that we wouldn't. So, as it was, the quiet gathering was a little like a surprise party, in that Mum had convinced herself she was in for something much worse.
- Early in December, we learned that there's a good chance that we should be able to move out from our parents' houses into a place of our own at some point in the new year. This is very exciting news, only slightly complicated by the various and significant complications life holds at the minute.
Next year will be completely different. Right now I have many many feelings. They're not all bad, by any means; I count my considerable blessings. It is also impossible to lose someone so brilliant without reflecting on your tremendous fortune for ever having them in your life, for their good example and all the lessons they taught you.
I hope you all have a super Christmas if you celebrate it, a lovely break if you don't and an extremely happy New Year. Thanks for reading, commenting and generally being around in 2013.