As always, life away from Integra tends to major on family, music and football with the occasional holiday thrown in for good measure!
2019 was a tough year family health wise with my mother’s dementia significantly deteriorating following a fall and a requirement for a hip replacement. Whilst I was determined to get her back on her feet and walking (after a month in hospital she was confined to a wheelchair) and an intense series of physio sessions achieved this – sadly her mental state just headed south and she is now only a shadow of her former self. Sadly, mum is aware of this deterioration and that just makes matters worse. She has recently had to move within her wonderful care home into a “higher dependency” wing where her care provision can better match her condition.
My brother Chris broke a business trip to Europe and stayed with us for a few days so he could catch up with mum. He also managed to take in a Watford match v Crystal Palace whilst he was here.
Sue’s mum has been undergoing treatment for cataracts over the last year or so. Generally, the treatment has been successful and the outlook positive.
My wife Sue has, herself, had a number of health issues and a disproportionate amount of time has been spent attending clinics, hospitals and undergoing various treatments during the year. No sooner has she got on top of one aspect than another seems to appear. We are hoping for some good news in January following some tests and that 2020 will be a year much more clear of disruption and pain.
For myself, I do need to get a tighter control over my blood sugar levels (I have been type 1 diabetic for 30 years) and I am looking at trying to get one of the new “permanent” patch monitor systems to use as, like in business, what gets monitored gets achieved. Having an easy “minute by minute” ability to know where one stands will undoubtedly help manage things better.
I guess these situations affect most families at some time, particularly as we all get older and I have become much more aware of what is affecting others. I think I have even developed greater empathy with people which, for those of you have known me for a long time, is not a word usually spoken in the same sentence with my name!
I have always taken the approach of not worrying about things I cannot control and focusing on the positive and the things that I can do something about. I intend to continue in that vein.
Sue and my son and daughter, their partners and the grandchildren continue to bring immense joy. Incredibly our eldest granddaughter will be fourteen in January. Georgia is a beautiful human being, I just wish she didn’t make me feel so old!
Music has taken a little bit of a back seat towards the end of 2019 although Sue and I did manage eight Wishbone Ash gigs on their UK tour including a couple in Scotland as well as Ashcon in Leicester.
Ashcon was undoubtedly the best ever and, as usual I got to play on the Friday night at the Barley Mow along with many other fans and on the Saturday at the Y Theatre. The weekend was a sell out and it was great to catch up with friends from all over the world.
Ben Granfelt and Claire Hamill who both have a long history with Wishbone Ash were part of the main event but I was fortunate to get them both to join us on the Friday night and play “taster” sets. The venue clearly did a roaring trade that evening as, within 24 hours, they had contacted me and booked again for 2020!
Breaking our journey back from Scotland with a stay in Whitby it was good to catch up over dinner with the Pipe family. Jamie and Andy are part of The Mentulls who we had enjoyed seeing play again at Hook a few weeks earlier.
Other bands seen in the last couple of months have included The Rainbreakers, The Sharpeez, Lethbridge Owen, the David Sinclair Four, Sari Schorr and the Engine Room and the John Verity band.
The early weeks of 2020 will see me attending gigs from Micky Moody and Papa George, the Cinelli Brothers, Ollie Brown, Catfish, Gerry Jablonski Band, Sam Kelly’s Station House, Never the Bride and Roadhouse.
At the end of January, Sue and I are heading into Europe for a short road trip and will see Wishbone Ash play in Germany at Osnabruck and Worpeswede and in the Nederlands at Zoetermeer.
We have also booked a longer road trip in France in May where, as well as some serious travelling and sight-seeing (including Carcassonne which has been on the “bucket list” for years) we will take in four Wishbone Ash gigs as well.
Taking some quality time away from business is a key objective in 2020 and, as well as the aforementioned trips, we are currently looking at another European break in September (either Southern Italy and Sicily or perhaps the Douro valley in Portugal) and Tallin in Estonia at New Year.
Our road trips across Europe are taken in Sue’s range Rover Evoque which is far more practical then my F type Jaguar. I am replacing the F type in March and I’m going electric!
Whilst the range limitations (c250 miles), or more crucially the ability to recharge, will see the car used for UK use (I have had a charger built in at Integra Towers) I am really looking forward to the arrival of the iPace HSE. A beautiful car with incredible performance and with incredible personal tax benefits that will see me some £7000 per annum better off vs my current car. Watch this space for news of whether the reality lives up to the dream!
Finally, in this personal update, I cannot ignore the football. Watford have had a terrible season to date and were adrift at the bottom of the Premier League until a couple of weeks ago. The appointment of Nigel Pearson and Craig Shakespeare has however seen a dramatic improvement. We always had the quality but now there is the belief, desire and passion to go with a greatly enhanced level of commitment and work rate. Ten points from the last twelve available has seen the Hornets regain touch with the teams above and the “Great Escape” looks to be on! Come on you ‘Orns!