So, it’s that time of year again, when everybody pauses to reflect upon the months gone by and mainly think about two things:
1. How quickly the year has passed and how quickly the resolutions I made in January were broken.
2. The Christmas holidays are all but over and it’s time to go back to work.
Neither of these is the most cheering of thoughts, so it’s probably best avoiding those topics for now, particularly as this evening most people the length and breadth of the United Kingdom will be heading out for some intensive partying.
As I gird my loins for celebrating the bringing in of the New Year, not to mention the New Decade, I’m feeling more pensive than usual. Maybe it’s because I’m just back from visiting family in Northern Ireland and feeling a little fragile after another stint of early morning travel. I’m listening to my iPod, scrolling through the songs and albums who have been close companions to me these past twelve months. It’s amazing how, after just a few opening beats or strums of a particular track, the special memories I have accumulated come flooding back. It can be overwhelming, as images, aromas, sensations, flow from my brain throughout my body, tickling endorphins, making the hairs on my arms and the nape of my neck prick up. I might be physically sitting in my room as I type, but emotionally I am peering over the edge of the Great Wall Of China, its hot brickwork beneath my feet; I’m standing on the 106th floor of the Empire State Building, taking in the panorama circling around me; I’m drinking in the smell of a Jamaican sugar plantation; I’m standing face to face with the Terracotta Army in China, the gap between us closing centuries of history and two completely alien cultures.
On the downside, I’ve eaten dog, jellyfish, camel, maggots, snake and donkey. Every silver lining has a cloud.
You see, I have a particularly addictive vice: travelling. I love it. I can’t get enough of it. I’ve been back in London less than twenty-four hours and already I’m twitching to go somewhere new. This year I’ve travelled to more countries than I ever thought I would experience in my lifetime – eighteen, to be exact. If I split the space time continuum, meet my much younger self, and tell me that in years to come I would be driving from New York to South Beach, Miami, and set foot at The Whitehouse and Buckingham Palace, Kenedy and the Chinese Space Centers, clamber to the pinnacle of Victoria Peak, Hong Kong, and swan about casinos in Atlantic City and Macau, I would probably have told my older self to stop wasting my time on such pipe dreams.
(While I was there I would also have told my younger self to stop wearing ill-fitting, woollen jumpers.)
But I have done each and every one of those things – and more. Much more. And here’s the bit I can’t quite believe: I get to do all of this in the name of gainful employment. As another new song kicks into life, and I squint backwards along the winding, rocky path which has led me to this point, I consider some of the milestones which led me through the 2000’s. I think about starting up my own business, and what a unique form of physical, mental and emotional torture that was at the time. I think about how I was first struck by the idea of writing my own series of cookbooks, as if a meteor suddenly fell out of the sky and clonked me in the head. I think about how that series was so long in the making yet this year won me the kind of awards and acclaim I never, ever believed would be placed at my door. Thank you Mr Cointreau. I think about how, should I feel so vain, multiple videos featuring myself are only a mouse click away.
Please don’t misconstrue my intentions here. I don’t want to become a bore and prattle on about what a wonderful year – a wonderful ten years – it has been. I don’t want to come across as a braggart. Rather, it’s important for me to continually acknowledge how blessed I am. There are two reasons why I have been able to arrive at this point, after many thousand air miles, many sleepless nights and a lot of heartache.
Firstly, I have a great team headed up by Hilary, without whom none of the above would have been possible. That sounds like a glib Oscar acceptance speech, but it’s true. My team are essential and invaluable – they keep me going, and, most importantly, they’re not afraid to tell me which of my crazy ideas are good and which are plain crazy.
Secondly, I have a great network of family and friends who support me in anything and everything I do. In the past year I’ve met people who most would consider to be superstars or celebrities. I’ve dined with the rich, the good and the not so good. I’ve chinked glasses and bumped canapé trays with millionaire businessmen who carry more money in their wallet than I will ever see in my bank account. But – and it’s a big but – I remembered to fly home to visit my mum on fifteen occasions. She keeps me grounded. And whilst I love travelling, it can often be a lonely pastime. An empty hotel room for one will never compare to the home in which you grew up.
I could go on. I could talk about each and every one of the experiences that I have stored up this year. They each appear fresh to me as their accompanying melody starts to play through my headphones. But I don’t want to take advantage. I’m sure you have better things to do: memories of your own to consider, or perhaps a party to attend.
And I don’t want to think about my carbon footprint. I know those planes would have flown without me as a passenger, but still…
So, here’s to 2010 and what it may bring. I do hope that you will keep checking the site, keep reading these blogs, keep sharing in my journey. To my family, friends and followers, I extend my best wishes for a happy and fruitful New Year.