Merry Xmas - I got you a newsletter

My 2014 - Edited highlights of a meticulously haphazard year

Merry Christmas

I can't decide if I've enjoyed 2014. So, so much has happened.

It's been a real year of 2 halves. The first 6 months... weren't great. And the past 6 months - some of my favourite of my life so far.

For the first time since childhood, it's been a year that hasn't gone lightning-fast. Maybe because it's been jam-packed with 3 jobs in 3 different countries, a continent-hopping boyfriend whose rising star has seen him flown all round the world, the arrival of my gorgeous godson, a cheeky half marathon, a new direction in my career, and more family weddings than the average psyche should be expected to handle.

And so, as a Christmas card/present/newsletter thing, here are some of my 2014 stories and photos, to share with anyone who cares to take a look.

January: It all started so well

I kicked off this year as an unemployed bum. Having quit my job in December, I spent January lazily soaking up the New Zealand summer. My bubble was unceremoniously burst in no time. By the end of the month, I was battling with the bite of the English winter, the headache of the modern NHS, and the mental strain of too much time spent alone.

March: A welcome arrival

With the arrival of Spring, along came Max. His 2014 European adventure included promoting Everything We Loved at the Transylvania International Film Festival and attending the Berlinale Talent Campus, after which he showed me round Berlin (his old stomping ground) for a week. In between the fancy-ness, we made trips around the UK, and spent a helluva a lot of time in London (anything to minimise time in Cambridge...
Big image

The Summer of Weddings

So I must just be getting to that time of life, but I went to 5 weddings this year.

Starting back in April with Mhairi and Iain:

Big image
Next came Chris and Liz with their '50 Shades of Pink' extravaganza

June - The Ups and Downs of a Best Man (aka PassportGate)

One of my major reasons for uprooting myself and living in the UK again this year was that big brother Dan had asked me to be his best man, a privilege that I wanted to do justice to. With... inconsistent results.

Dan likes beer. He wanted to go to Belgium for his stag. Makes sense. So I dutifully organised a weekend to Brussels for Dan's select 16 merry men. I'm hugely honoured that Dan chose me to be his best man, but arranging a stag do is an experience that I hope NEVER to repeat.
Now, I'm a man who's accustomed to my share of pressure - I work in an emergency department ffs - but somehow organising this weekend away became a recipe for some supremely stressful times. The biggest problem was that before this year, I'd never been on a stag do before, so my only frame of reference for how they're supposed to go down is those awful Brits-Abroad-Look-How-Hilariously-Obnoxious-We-Can-Be documentary shows. So I set about as un-obnoxious a weekend as I could. Accommodation - check. Activities - check. Places to eat and drink - check. Transport... check.
...Transport. God. Damn. Eurostar. Anyone who's traveled by Eurostar will know that the only form of ID they accept is a Passport. I was very aware of this. I went out of my way to make sure all the other stags knew this, as this immensely patronizing email I sent out the week before we set off will attest to:
Big image
I think everyone who I'm sending this newsletter to knows the end of this story. But for those who I managed to avoid sharing my shame, please imagine the how hard my stomach plummeted to the ground when I arrived at the train station and it slowly dawned on me that my passport was sitting in my flat in Cambridge. Also picture how, for everyone else, this was an absolutely golden way to kick off a weekend that traditionally revolves around humiliation. And know that, despite being a superficially functional adult, I've chalked up another Idiotic Life Fail that I will never live down.

July: Officially One Tough Mudder

Back in Cambridge, I somehow allowed my A&E colleagues to convince me to join their team running the Tough Mudder. Now, I'm not exactly inclined to great feats of strength and had never even tried a 5k prior to this. Why I thought attempting to run 20k, with ball-breaking obstacles thrown in for good measure, was a good idea, I guess we'll never know. And I had less than a month to train.
I remember those first couple of practice runs with a shudder - barely able to jog for 2 minutes before needing a breather; a red sweaty hot mess. But after that initial bodily protest, something just clicked, and I was amazed at how far I could jog without any break. It was a real lesson for me about how incredible the human body is - it's basically designed to adapt to whatever challenge we throw at it. And so come race day, it really wasn't too much of a struggle (as much as these photos might suggest to the contrary). Who's with me for the next one?

The Muldoon Empire expands

(Annoyingly not in August, from a narrative perspective)
Big image
Dan and Lynsey's wedding was the first of a series of ridiculously brilliant weekends in the second half of 2014. After my disastrous attempt at a stag, I feel like I really redeemed myself with Best Man-ly duties. From helping to set up the Ballroom in grand style, to delivering my sonnet cycle speech (#fierce), to not losing the rings for the 20 minutes I was entrusted with them, I had a spectacular time. And then there was the dancing. All of the dancing. Dan and Lyns really made the weekend their own, and were the epitome of the effortlessly happy couple throughout.

I'dd also like to take this opportunity to say sorry to Lynsey, for getting you boo'd on your wedding day. (It still counts as an apology if I'm grinning to myself while typing, right?)

And six weeks later...

Big image
Jimmy and Kirsty tied the knot in trademark lavish style at the gorgeous Jabajak vineyard, amazingly managing to predict South Wales' first sunny day in a decade. My responsibilities were happily fewer this time round, so I was free to have myself a little *moment* the night before the ceremony and accidentally shave a huge chuck of my own hair off. (Idiotic Life Fail #27). The big day was flawless, complete with a beautiful outdoor ceremony, an England vs Wales sing off, and EPIC first dance. An amaaazing way to complete the Summer of Weddings, and to further establish the Muldoon Empire in a new territory.

September: Kingdom of Wonder

It's difficult to be brief about the biggest adventure of my year. I don't think I truly knew what I was getting myself in for in Cambodia. It's a country still struggling to get back off its knees after the Khmer Rouge genocide in the 70's and 10 years of Vietnamese occupation in the 80's, with some of the worst standards of living and health statistics in the world.

But despite wide spread corruption (the government and the police only serve those that can afford to bribe them, and even doctors and teachers expect their palms to be greased to do any more than the bare minimum) and crushing poverty (the average wage is $80 USD per month), the people in general remain positive for the future and shamingly generous with what little they have.

Build your future today

I'd like to take some time to promote the wonderful work of the charity I was volunteering with. The Build Your Future Today Centre (BFT) are a tiny Cambodian founded and operated Non-Governmental Organisation based in Siem Reap. Their motto is "Knowledge is hope. Peace is Development". It's headed by Sedtha Long, who started his lifetime of philanthropy after surviving the Pol Pot regime and opening an orphanage for kids who had lost their parents, some of whom he even helped escape. He's an awe-inspiring man, who flows with generosity and has a vision for a bright future that I wish more people shared.
BFT work by travelling to villages surrounding Siem Reap - some as far as 75km away, and accessible only by tiny dirt roads that are often impassible in rainy season (our truck got stuck on my second time out there, and we were rescued 2 hours later when a passing tractor swung by to investigate the commotion). They work with their selected villages over the course of 4 years, to take them from a hand-to-mouth existence to self-sufficiency.

The programme is really robust. They start simple; in the first year, feed the kids (because how can a malnourished brain learn?), before building them a school for the second year onwards. They build toilets and wells. They teach the adults (many of whom grew up in wartime and received no formal education) English, basic public health and sanitation, practical skills to produce items to sell. They start farmers clubs, teaching 5 villagers at a time a new farming technique, then teach them how to take the products to market and negotiate for the best price. They even get Buddhist monks involved to speak to families affected by domestic violence and addiction.

I've seen the difference they make. The contrast between a village that BFT are just starting to work with, and one that has had their support for 4 years is incredible. It was a privilege to be able to contribute to their great work, and now that I know the extent of the problems they face, I'll be much better equipped to help them the next time.

There were also lots of fun times too

I finished working with BFT in October, and come November I was re-reunited with Max, who came to join me for 2 weeks of pure holiday. We temple hopped, soaked up the Water Festival, cycled everywhere and ate like kings.

A few closing thoughts

By working in one of the world's poorest countries, and spending time with people that (by Western standards) have 'nothing', my eyes have truly been opened to what gives human life meaning. Security, health, community, growth. It seems to me these are all the conditions people anywhere in the world need - to be safe and sheltered, to be cared for when their bodies fail, to belong to something greater than themselves, and to be learning something new.

The problem with the wealth and power and possessions that we're encouraged to pursue in the West is that we do so to keep for ourselves. Imagine the world if we could learn to redistribute these, with the end goal being that every person's basic needs are met.

December: New starts

And so here I am back in Auckland, and it already seems a completely different place to the one I left. Firstly, there's been big shake ups in my social scene - Ant and Steve, 2 of my best friends since moving to NZ, have each had a baby boy, less than 2 weeks apart. Steve and Becca have little Quentin Fox, and Ant and Emma have Roman John William, and have asked me to be his Godfather *smiles at the prospect of corrupting youth*. They're 3 months now, and insanely adorable.

I babysat for Roman last week. It didn't even last for 2 hours, but holy moley it felt like a loooooong evening! Parents everywhere, you have my utmost respect.

The end of this year marks a couple of important milestones for me. Firstly, I've started a Proper Job. Not that my other doctoring jobs weren't proper, but I've finally committed to specialist training. As of 2 weeks ago, I am training to be an Emergency Medicine Consultant. Which comes with a step up in responsibility - I'm the most senior member of staff in the emergency department overnight - and the joy of exams next year. It's a 5 year training course, which means that I'm applying for New Zealand residency, so I'm going to be in this neck of the woods for the foreseeable future if anyone feels like planning a visit.
This year also marks the end of my 20's - I turn 30 on January 10th. I always imagined that my 30's would usher in a new level of maturity and sophistication. If so, I have a lot of maturing and sophisticating to do in the next 2 weeks...

And so this is christmas

...And I'm working. Nights. But when I finish Christmas morning, Max is coming to pick me up and take me to his parents, where I'll open presents, sleep, and wake up to Christmas dinner. Which sounds like a win all round really.

Here's wishing you the merriest of Christmases, whatever you're doing and wherever you're doing it. And a heartfelt wish for health and happiness for you and those you love in 2015.

Thanks for letting me share the highlights of a wonderful year with you. Now tell me, what have you been up to?