The start of a new year and time to review the last year, as I did here, and to look forward to the coming year. As might have been said in a favourite TV programme, I’m not a big resolutions person. I normally make one that I religiously stick to, to not make any resolutions. This year I am again not making any. I have decided though to try and put a bit of a dent in the profits of Mr Amazon and the other booksellers by not buying any new books until I have read all the books I have in my reading pile, on e-readers and in my bookcase that I have not read. I do not expect this to be a hard and fast rule, or resolution, more just something I want to try and do. Obviously, if Milan Kundera or Jonathon Coe were to release a new book then it would have to be bought. Recognising that it has been over a decade since there was a new novel by Mr Kundera and Mr Coe has just had one out I am not holding my breath for something new to read on either account. When you include the number of books that will come my way from JTO during the year then I do not think I will be without something readable in my hands during the coming year.
Another thing to consider at the beginning of a year are plans for travel. In June last year I went with JTO on a great trip to Hamburg.(Hamburg Town Hall pictured) Like one of my favourite European capitals, Riga, it was a Hanseatic port. I must admit to knowing nothing about the Hanseatic League before going to Riga but after the visit to Hamburg decided I wanted to visit more Hanseatic port cities. So, for my birthday in March JTO and I are planning to visit Gdansk. As well as being a Hanseatic port, when it was in Germany before 1945 it was the birthplace of the German author Günter Grass whose memoir, ‘Peeling the Onion‘ I read a few years ago which made me want to visit what was then Danzig. Of course there is also the significant role it played in post-war history as the birthplace of Solidarność, the trade union which played such an important part in the ending of the false division of my homeland continent. So that I’m looking forward to a lot, particularly as the plan is to travel there by rail so we’ll be crossing Europe.
I expect to be working in the UK for July and August giving a chance to catch up with family and friends there then. After finishing the contract I’ll return home before heading off for a break with JTO. The plan is to go to Israel. I’ve wanted to visit the country for a long time but reading another book, ‘City of Oranges‘ by Adam LeBor (blog) about the story of ordinary people and their lives in the history of Tel Aviv-Jaffa. In 2005 we went to Egypt and were struck by how the landscape looked like the pictures in the illustrated bible I had as a child. As well as visiting Tel Aviv-Jafa, I’m looking forward to seeing for real the places like Jerusalem I read about as a child when I was in Sunday school or when younger and reading bible stories for myself.
As well there are visits by JTO to the UK later this month and probably in May. In 2003 we visited Corsica, some of which was for JTO to see members of the French Foreign Legion Parachute force storm a beach near Calvi. That is not expected to happen this time. But, on the stocks is a visit to the island and a travel around it by train following the viewing of this. I expect there will be visits out into parts of Alsace to experience more of the place which we call home.