Certainly, in all the long-haul flights I did this year, there wasn't a moment of disquiet, not one. But I'm not going to list them all, or count the different airlines, or countries, or modes of transport (helicopters! horse!) or hotels I stayed in, or thousands of photos taken, or even the number of trips I went on (or, "holidays" unquote, tch). Not tonight, anyway. Instead I'm going to remember some of the people I met, all different nationalities and ages but who all had - have - in common a wonderful enthusiasm and positiveness, and an eagerness to share.
I really liked Tehei too, at Taoahere Beach House on Moorea in Thailand, who was so motherly and hospitable, and took pity on me up in the honeymoon villa all on my own, and brought me meals and flowers and baskets of bread, and invited me for a family dinner with her children to eat poisson cru she'd prepared herself, which we ate alongside the lagoon, with fish jumping in the dark.
our guide in northern Australia, who looked like your typical Territorian: khaki shorts, stout boots, hat, tanned, a bit rough round the edges maybe - but he was lyrical about Kakadu, and so respectful of Aboriginal culture, and clearly in love with the land. Also, he had a most unexpected imagination, that kept him amused on long drives when all his passengers had fallen asleep, and in his head wrote screenplays for movies which he was keen to share in generous detail. I honestly hope Drop Bear: the Movie gets made - sounds like a classic.
There's no way I could ever forget Sean, at the Lindisfarne Hotel on that island, who thought he was so funny, which made him funny, but not how he intended, not that he'll ever know. He had a routine, you see, a set piece full of jokes that he trotted out as each roomful of guests turned up for breakfast, without ever being hampered by the fact that the previous audience was still sitting there, listening to it again. And again. But he threw himself into it so enthusiastically that it felt mean, to criticise.
The second time I went to the States, it was Jerry from Georgia, elderly and bald as a coot but full of life, who made the strongest impression. He was another passenger on the Silver Whisper cruise from Boston to Montreal, and a stalwart of our Trivial Pursuit team. At the end of each day's competition, he gave me his share of the place-getter's tokens, and he was olde-worldly flattering and complimentary, which was sweet. Excellent lesson in not writing off old people as just, well, old. So much more than that!
their bike tour. Even I, who hadn't been on a bike for years, felt inspired and capable, and with their encouragement not only kept pedalling along the far shore of Lake Wakatipu, but actually enjoyed it. And Laurence's dinner at the (sadly now burnt down) Paradise Lodge was genuinely 5-star.
In Scotland it was two people: John and Paul, who run 94DR which is a classy and comfortable B&B in Edinburgh. They were indefatigably cheerful and enthusiastic, full of suggestions for how to spend our time in the city, and effortlessly welcoming. Breakfast there was as much of a show as at Lindisfarne, but genuinely fun and really delicious: raspberry and rhubarb compote, homemade granola, porridge made (of course) the proper way with salt in it, avocado and bacon bagel... Yum. And Molly the dog was friendly too.
So many other countries, so many other people - it was a very busy year - but I want to finish with a guy I never even spoke to. Just some random dude relaxing above a waterfall at Gunlom in Kakadu, he provided the perfect focal point for my favourite photo of all of the thousands I took in 2014. Thanks for coming along for the ride. See you next year?