Annus Horribillus

For reasons which will become apparent from the below, I haven’t felt much like posting new blog posts recently, BUT, I’m back once again. As I’ve had so much positive feedback about my earlier posts, I’ve decided to post an occasional ‘legacy’ post (don’t you just hate modern parlance?), the first of which should appear at the same time as this post.


Annus Horribillis: not a clinical term for my unsavoury rear-end, but a Latin phrase to describe what I’ve just experienced – a totally shit year. I can’t begin to tell you how much I looked forward to New Year’s Day 2017.

It wasn’t without its lighter moments though and, in keeping with the title of this piece, I did, during the course of 2016, have to suffer the indignity of my first ever prostate exam. The ‘examiner’ was an earnest young GP who had never met me before. He must have thought I put up too little in the way of protest and asked “Do you know how I do it?” I said, “I do, but shouldn’t we at least go out to dinner first or something?” Well, he must have been even more naïve than I thought because he laughed out loud at my witty retort…

…then he violated me. Actually, to be fair, it probably wasn’t the ideal start to his week either.


In fact, the first half of 2016 went really quite well – I lost loads of weight, got fitter than I’ve ever been, cycled up a mountain for the first time and worked regularly with the excellent band of Andy Fairweather Low. He really is a fantastic songwriter, guitarist and singer and on top of that a really interesting guy – a former national-level tennis player I discovered over dinner one night. What’s nicer still is that I’ve never got the merest whiff of big-time from him.

It wasn’t until August that it all went rather pear-shaped. The month started well with my riding the Ride London Surrey 100 cyclo-sportive in 5h43s. Oh how I wish I hadn’t stopped for a wee – I’d have broken 5 hours and averaged 20mph if I hadn’t.


The following weekend my dear old mum was taken ill and eventually succumbed to a massive heart attack while she was in A&E. The treatment she received was second to none from everybody involved; paramedics, doctors and nurses; I really can’t praise them enough. She had reached the ripe old age of 86 and was totally active and self-sufficient up until the day she died. Now, what’s become apparent to me subsequently was that my mum had acquired skills in addition to the more obvious day-to-day ones, namely:

  • an ability never to throw anything away that might, just might come in handy one day. The fact that she’d long forgotten where she had hoarded these things seemed not to matter. Suffice it to say that I’ll soon be on first-name terms with the operatives at my local municipal tip.
  • an ability to fit a disproportionately large amount of furniture into a very modestly sized flat. No, really, it should be a game on the Krypton Factor or something.
  • an inability to resist buying in bulk anything she perceived to be a bargain. I don’t think I’ll be buying myself any washing liquid in a long time. It’s a shame I don’t wear Marks and Spencer’s ladies’ clothes too… I mean, I do wear ladies clothes but M&S isn’t my outfitter of choice.

Yup, losing your mum is a heart-breaking experience, finding out subsequently that her life savings will be going straight to the tax man is a harsh coup de grace.


A week later I was on a skills-development session with my cycling club and, it would appear, I hadn’t developed one of the skills. On a particularly technical bend I ‘lost’ my front wheel and crashed heavily. Thanks to the wonders of modern technology I know I was travelling at 23mph when I hit the deck. My shoulder was in enough of a mess that I was whisked through A&E in no time flat and then the problems started. It pains me to say it, but it seems to me that if you’re not actually knocking at death’s door, the NHS is completely broken. I was operated on the next day (see pics at top and below) and told I could go home afterwards. Well, it’s a good job I refused to go home because they had to give me morphine in the night. It strikes me the system expects your relatives to look after you on the wards; the nursing staff certainly don’t appear to have the time to do it. It’s all a bit third-world if you ask me. The last straw for me was when someone refused to spread the butter on my toast because “it wasn’t her job”. What happened to compassion eh? It wasn’t like I’d asked her to wipe my annus horribillis was it?

Yes, it does set off airport metal detectors.


THEN… having got back into the swing of working after a frustrating six-week convalescence, someone put a brick through the tailgate window of my car and nicked a rucksack containing my laptop. What a drag! It was only because of my injury that it wasn’t slung over my shoulder.  Despite the expense and hassle of getting the screen and computer replaced, I feel quite smug that I’d backed-up my data the preceding day, and quite relieved that the sort of criminal for whom a brick is the tool of choice is not interested in identity theft. (I’ve just looked in the mirror and it’s definitely still me).

THEN… in early December I went to do a gig in a rather posh ski resort in the French Alps. It sounded like a dream gig until we were told it was for the lighting of the Christmas tree lights in the town square and that we’d be playing on an outdoor stage. Well, the temperature was about minus four when we played. If it wasn’t bad enough being outside in that weather clad in light stage clothes, to do it holding 16lbs of brass made it feel like my very life-force was being sucked out of my body via my fingertips.

Christmas tree – Megève town square

This was followed by a very stressful hour-long argument the following day at Geneva airport trying to get my beloved Conn Crossbar into the aircraft cabin. We were eventually given the ultimatum whereby we either put the saxes in the hold at a cost of £65 each, or buy a seat for them at a cost of €408 each!! We opted for the cheaper option and then arrived on board to find a 200-seat aircraft with only 50 passengers on its itinerary. This was a display of jobsworthery like I’ve never before experienced.

I could go on, believe me, I could go on but I’m 1000 words in now.  Right, normal light-hearted service will be resumed soon, and don’t forget that ‘legacy’ post. Do please leave a comment – it’s often the catalyst for the next post.

Until the next time…

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