Are you, like me, sick of people saying that 2017 was a year of ups and downs? Are you, like me, bored of people saying how proud they are to have come through a tough twelve months with such good friends by their side? Are you, like me, fed up with everyone’s optimism for the year ahead, despite the fact they have no noticeable skills or abilities that will make 2018 any better than the year before?
Well, you’re in the right place, as this year in review will say none of the above and will only deliver the cold, hard facts about a year in the life of me, Ash Billinghay, Senior Copywriter and purveyor of fine words and sarcasm.
For those unsure what this is all about, why not look back at 2016: A year in review? That post was full of misery and uncertainty, and will give you a good idea of the kind of tone to expect over the next few paragraphs.
If you don’t care what this is about, then let’s plough forward and get this show on the road, beginning with, as is tradition, January.
January was a weird time, as Lincoln City were making headlines for holding Championship side Ipswich to a draw in the FA Cup. Anyway, you don’t care about that, what you do care about is the fact I had my second, third, fourth, fifth and potentially even my sixth date with the girl I’m now living with (I know!), and that I got myself a new job to expand my horizons and grow my CV.
This resulted in me looking for flats in the northern sweat pit that is Leeds. More on that in approximately no time at all.
Flat hunting is one of the most stressful things you’ll ever do. The same applies to house hunting, or bungalow hunting, or probably even houseboat hunting, but with flats you get extra pressure. You’ve only got one floor to look at, and on that floor you’ve got to find warmth, space, and potential for joy.
I looked at two flats, and this was my mistake. Flat number one was tiny, and despite its beautiful location, its lack of fridge, washing machine and enough space to live in put me off.
Flat number two won me over. It was a huge basement flat (alarm bells) with a massive amount of space, in a prime location oozing with potential. It looked lovely on first viewing, and within ten minutes of stepping foot in the door, I was making an offer.
Oh, if only I knew then what I know now.
Moving out was heart breaking. I loved my Sheffield flat, but an urge to better myself was taking me away from it. Stay tuned through to December to see how long that lasted.
I moved in to new flat the day after my birthday, and from that point on, everything went a little bit wrong with it.
Starting a new job can be daunting.
I’d been in my last one for three years, and actually really liked it. I was only moving because I have grand ambitions to be the best version of me possible, and an opportunity missed is a moment wasted, or something like that.
It felt weird starting somewhere new. I had to learn new names, and remember new passwords, and I suppose rebuild my brand in a new location. But, on the bright side, Lincoln City got through to the quarter finals of the FA Cup, and I got to sacrifice my brand for the sake of cheering loudly as we got battered 5-0. Never mind.
Anyway, I got to explore Leeds, get lost in new places, and do it all with my now long-term girlfriend by my side. Getting lost together turns ‘bumbling around in a panic’ into ‘going on an adventure,’ which looks much better on Instagram.
Have you ever been to Liverpool? Neither had I, until April 2017, where I went along and met a lovely French man called Sean and his girlfriend Jenni. With them, and Grace on my arm, we wandered through parks, drank our way through every pub we could find, and best of all, watched Lincoln City lift the National League trophy. Ok, admittedly I was the only one really watching this, in a deserted pub in which I had to request they put the game on, but it was wonderful to see.
My only regret was that, after a lifetime of seeing us suffer, I couldn’t be there in person with my Dad to watch our moment in the spotlight. I’ll make it up to you, Dad, with lots of trips to see us languish in mid-table in the Football League. You reds.
Other April highlights included… no, wait, Lincoln winning the league was it. Nothing can top that.
In May something magical happened, when during a routine walk round through nature, we discovered a mystical band of characters known as ‘The Friends of Roundhay Park.’ Their dog followed us for a while, and we were invited to join in with their park cleaning activities. We declined and never saw them again, only hearing their song in the trees whenever we passed a park.
We also got to try on fancy hats in a shopping centre, an image of which later went to appear on a cushion in our flat.
Speaking of the flat, I should point out that by now I’d become aware it was a shithole, full of damp walls, a bathroom that leaked whenever it rained, spiders that would eat you given the chance, slugs, broken appliances and a maverick landlord who would let himself in whenever he fancied, instantly breaking the tenancy agreement.
Other things I found included the pound meter that needed topping up for power, and slime growing up several of the walls.
It took three months of living in hell for any of this to be fixed, and despite claims that he’d used ‘the best people in the business’ for it, the damp came back with a vengeance within weeks.
Fuck you, flat. I wish I’d gone for the tiny new one in a fancy location. Who needs a fridge, anyway?
This goes down as one of my favourite Junes in history. Since moving to Leeds, I’d really missed my friends and began to feel a little bit homesick. So, when I got to spend a weekend in Whitby with them, I was full of glee and delight. Whitby is a babe of a town, and the seaside is one of my favourite places to be. Prancing about on the sand, running like a coward from the cold, northern seas, and eating copious fish and chips all made this one of my most cherished 2017 memories.
I could go on, but this picture will do a much better job of expressing the joy I felt.
I could count the number of weddings I’d been to on three fingers. Until July, that is, when it went up to four, and I got to sit a little awkwardly in a Catholic church as everyone around me sang along with hymns and prayers I’d never heard of. More awkwardly than that, at the end of the ceremony everyone turned to each other and, with a handshake, said, “Peace be with you.”
I misheard this, and spent the next few minutes saying, “Pleased to meet you,” to a very confused Catholic congregation.
I’ll remember the day as being a wonderful chance for me to meet new friends, have fun and watch a lovely couple get married. Others will remember it for me pouring water down my drunk girlfriend’s mouth, as bridesmaid duties got the better of her.
That’s another skill to add to my LinkedIn.
July was also home to the busiest weekend of my year, where I went to my best mate’s birthday party, some weird outdoor festival where a man played bamboo, and London all in the space of three manic days. If you’re considering getting the coach to London, don’t. It smells. Also, if you think you can drink that amount of alcohol in such a short space of time, you’re wrong, you can’t, and you shouldn’t even try it. You’re not 21 anymore. Grow up.
Skinny jeans have been my go-to fashion choice ever since I had the confidence to start wearing them. For a long time, I based my image on having thin legs and big hair, but then I started going to the gym and, soon enough, it didn’t work anymore. This was made obvious during an August walk up in the Derbyshire countryside, where my impractical choice of clothing promptly split, leaving my groin feeling very fresh and airy.
Not long after, I discovered how expensive actual jeans can be, and forked out on a pair that will hopefully last me longer.
August also saw me lose in an obstacle course to a three-year-old boy, so maybe I need to go to the gym more.
IKEA is a wonderous place. I’d never been to one before, so September opened my eyes to some incredible possibilities. One such possibility was a tea cabinet, which I put together all by myself to house my ever-growing collection of teas of the globe.
Go to IKEA, readers, it’s got everything there.
September was even more memorable for being the month my girlfriend moved into my damp, falling apart flat with me. Look at me, cohabiting with a girl. Do you see this, teenage Ash? Remember when you thought you were unattractive and would never find love? Remember that bitch who cheated on you for 18 months and made you feel like shit again? Remember all those bad haircuts that rightly put girls off you?
Look how far you’ve come. Now you share toothpaste with the love of your life.
In October, my friend announced she was carrying another human life in her stomach, and I felt paternal instincts that I didn’t know existed. What is this wizardry? How can something so small grow into something so big? Can I please be the uncle who leads it astray and feeds it too much sugar, to make up for the fact I am diabetic?
All valid questions.
This month also saw me dress up as a terrifying witch doctor, embracing Halloween in full for the first time since I dressed as a rabbit, got too drunk, and walked home dragging my furry carcass behind me.
And, most excitingly of all, I missed Sheffield so much that I decided to move back there and make it my forever home. This meant I’d need to remember how to drive, and suddenly, things literally moved up a gear.
It had been a solid seven years since I last sat behind the wheel of a car, so what better time to get back into the habit than in the cold, icy weeks of November? I could see the fear in my instructor’s eyes when I sat behind the wheel and told him how long it had been, but three lessons later and it had all come flooding back to me. The starting, the turning the wheel, the stopping at red lights. I was a natural.
According to the photos saved on my phone, that was pretty much all that happened in November, but remembering how to move a large, metal object at fast speeds is exciting enough.
The year ended with as much excitement as it had begun. Honestly, in all the years I’ve written this review that only about six people ever read, never has it featured so little sarcasm, regret, or pessimism for the year ahead. I’m sorry about that, readers, as I know you don’t come here for happiness. You could find that with any copywriter, but with me you expect a certain bitter tone of voice. I fear I have let you down on that front with this post, but I should also point out that I don’t care, as 2017 was a bloody delight.
There were no ups and downs, only ups and a lot of damp.
December saw me, for the first time ever, spend Christmas with a girl and her family, splitting the day between clans Billinghay and Hollister. I also bought a car, and am now legally allowed to drive it at up to 70mph on the roads of the United Kingdom. So far, I’ve driven it to places such as Asda, Chesterfield, Sheffield, Aldi, McDonalds and Edinburgh. Who knows where it’ll go next? (Probably to and from Leeds quite a bit, what with me moving back to Sheffield. Yay.)
In short, while other people are talking about years of struggle that they feel stronger for having come through, I’m going to take this chance to brag about how good my year was and how I thoroughly deserve it. Go 2017. You were the tits.