Shropshire Star

2023: A Year To Remember

And just like that, 2023 has almost come to an end. From the King's Coronation to England reaching the final of the Women's World Cup, it's been quite a year.

The coronation of King Charles III

We've also had Barbie v Oppenheimer at the cinema, the grand final of Eurovision in Liverpool and The Beatles were back at the top of the charts.

World events including conflict in Gaza and the ongoing war in Ukraine have continued to dominate the headline while the cost of living crisis has maintained its grip on the country, although there has been some good news with fuel prices falling.

But, even when times are hard, many of us see the end of a year as a great time for reflection and celebration of everything that has kept us going.

It's also when many of us set our goals for the New Year and think about those bucket lists items we want to tick off during the next 12 months.

So, with that in mind, Team Weekend have looked back on their highlights of 2023 and are sharing what they are looking forward to in 2024...

Andy Richardson

2023: I have a single highlight from 2023 and it’s this: family. Because here’s the thing. The people closest are often those most overlooked. They’re the ones we take for granted, the ones we ask to go to the tip because we’re busy doing something else. They’re the ones who listen to our dreams and schemes, our plans and hopes, and the ones who have our backs when others let us down, or when we over-reach. Too often, there’s zero thanks, no bunch of flowers or humble expression of gratitude. And yet they’re the ones who keep us on track, who make sure we stay out of trouble, who love us unconditionally just for being who we are.

So while it would be easy to pick a list of stuff from 2023, like The Ashes, buying a signed David Bowie record, releasing a record (yes, really, through out little independent label), or writing a shedload – actually, a containerload – of books, none of that really matters, does it. Because the stuff that counts, when all’s said and done, is family. It’s the ones we love. And it’s our ability to recognise their kindness, their warmth, their generosity, and their willingness to come with us on the mad, crazy dreams upon which we embark.

So when I look back on a year that was just a little bit crazy, a little bit full-on, a little bit intense, and a little bit wild, I have in mind just one thing: family. It’s not the stuff that got done, the achievements racked up, the excitement and adventure – though there was plenty of that. It’s the people who had my back, who enabled, who supported – nah, let’s call it what it is – who loved. And for that, I’m forever grateful because family’s the best, innit.

2024:It’s the simplest of questions, though I’m not sure I have an answer. What am I most looking forward to in 2024? Man, I don’t know. Getting through another day. Talking to my mom and dad. Sending mad videos to my sister. Surprising my brother with cool stuff. Or spending time with my favourite, favourite – She Who Must Be Obeyed. That’s it, really. It’d be nice to stay in good health. It’d be nice to run a bit more. And it’d be even nicer to eat my own bodyweight in really good quality chocolate brazil nuts, or to buy more orange cloths – it’s a thing, at the moment, but it’ll pass, probably. I’d be great to see some cricket, to work a little less, to achieve some dreams. And I guess I’m looking forward to spring, when I’ll find out whether the fruit trees I planted in December have made it through the winter and are going to bear fruit. But, to be honest, all I really want for 2024 is a little family time. The rest’s just gravy – pretty good gravy, to be fair, but gravy nonetheless.

I gave up on New Year’s Resolutions – and gifts, and birthdays, and Christmas, and convention – more years ago than I care to recall. If I want to buy someone a gift, I just do it. If I want to buy someone flowers, I go to the florist. If I want to do a good turn, I don’t need to be limited to a random date. And I also gave up on the idea of hoping for the best, when it’s easier to take control and work towards a goal. I love new year, the idea of a new start is compelling, but most of all, I love my family, and am happy just relaxing with them.

Heather Large

2023: It's been a year for exploring new places with enjoyable weekends away in the Peak District, York and Pembrokeshire and a week's holiday in Cumbria.

Our hotel stay in the Peak District was a very generous wedding gift and we had fun visiting Bakewell in Derbyshire and Lyme Park in Cheshire.

We celebrated my husband's 40th birthday in Wales and were treated to glorious weather.

It was a pleasant surprise but as the weather forecast had been rather pessimistic, we were not prepared and felt rather warm in our jeans.

The trip to York was for my birthday (not a milestone one, that was last year) and the highlight for me was the York Bird of Prey Centre in Huby.

The hawk flying display was stunning but it was the owls that truly won our hearts. We still can't believe how lucky we were, it was a case of being in the right place at the right time, as one of the volunteers spotted us taking photos by one of the aviaries and asked if we wanted to go inside.

It was feeding time, so we were lucky enough to spend some time getting an close-up view of the owls as they swooped down for their food.

I was really happy with how my photos turned out. We enjoyed a sunny week in Cumbria where we rented a house in the seaside town of St Bees. We spent a lot of time by the coast and the lakes, including Loweswater and Derwentwater.

Being married to a petrolhead means that cars have featured heavily in my highlights of the year.

I joined my husband for a track day at Curborough Sprint Course, near Lichfield, which was great fun. In July, he finally got to enjoy his Christmas present which was a supercar experience at Mallory Park Leicestershire.

He was able to chose four cars, from the likes of Ferraris, Lamborghinis, Aston Martins, to drive around the track.

Then in August we returned to Mallory Park for Retro Rides, a nostalgic car show.

My final highlight of the year was seeing Ocean Colour Scene just a fortnight ago.

They were the first band I ever saw live, aged 15, and they continue to be one of my favourites today.

So I was excited when I saw the group announce a date at The Halls in Wolverhampton, especially as it would also be the first time visiting the revamped venue.

OCS didn't disappoint, they never do. It was a great night and I enjoyed singing along with the likes of Riverboat Song and the Day We Caught The Train.

2024: The past year seems to have disappeared in a bit of a blur so I'm looking forward to more spending time with family and friends.

With pals, it's often hard to find a time that's convenient for everyone and I always think we will manage to fit something in between the end of summer and the start of the build-up to Christmas and it never happens.

But January to March tends to be quieter and once the first day of the year has arrived then it's easier to make plans and stick to them.

One of my 2023 resolutions was to get out with my camera more and devote more time to my photography hobby.

I've done pretty well on the whole and I'm pleased with the shots I've captured and I'm keen to continue this over the coming months and year.

We are in the early stages of planning a road trip to France which might include also making our way down to Monte Carlo, because the largest quarter in Monaco tends to attract a lot of supercars.

Some friends also moved to Lyon at the start of the year so we're looking forward to calling in on them and catching up.

We had booked tickets to attend this year's Goodwood Festival of Speed as an early first wedding anniversary celebration.

And with many of the car manufacturers marking milestones such as Porsche’s 75th anniversary and the 60th anniversary of McLaren Racing, we were very much looking forward to the event.

But, unfortunately, in the week running up to the festival, the weather forecast started to look a bit dicey and it kept getting worse.

Oh well, can't be helped, we thought, so we packed waterpoof jackets and warm clothes, and prepared for a rainy and windy day.

But the night before, having travelled down to a hotel nearer the venue, the event was cancelled over health and safety concerns due to to a severe wind warning in the area.

The good news was that our tickets were to be rolled over to 2024, so now we're keeping our fingers crossed for a nice, sunny day and a fun time at Goodwood in July.

Dan Morris

2023: Ah 2023... we hardly knew ye...

I can't be the only one who feels like this year flew through at a lightning pace the likes of The Flash would be proud of. More so than other recent years, this one seemed to rocket along for me, but happily it still dropped off its fair share of joy.

I was able to spend some fantastic quality time with my father, camping with him in the North Wales tundra this November.

While this was a daft idea in the extreme, this meant that the laughs were plentiful and it will forever be a trip we'll never forget. Not to mention it involved regular visits to some of the finest takeaways in the land, and therefore a very liberal breaking in of my belly before Christmas. Happy days indeed.

Happily my work has brought me plenty of fun highlights in the last few months, with Challenge Dan having led me to learning how to distil Gin, curate antiquities and survive a Victorian incarceration. This has been an absolute hoot, and I'm looking forward to sharing plenty more of my adventures with you during the next year.

Yet while all of this has been wonderful (and it really has), there is one shining star of my year that will never be eclipsed. Indeed, she is not the highlight of 12 months, but of a lifetime.

During 2023 I have seen my daughter transform from a beautiful bundle of delicate baby into a strong, brave and confident little human with a wonderful character of her own.

She is mischievous and loving, happy and cheeky, forthright and considerate, good and just that delicious little bit bad.

Seeing her develop over the last year has been extraordinary, and I have never been so proud of anything in my life.

This has culminated in her recently finding her feet, and now she is proudly walking and strutting her stuff whenever the mood takes her. Usually, this is when there is a big enough crowd to show off to... I really don't know where this kid gets it from.

My little peach tree, you are not only the best part of the year that's been for me, you are my best friend, the reason I breathe and the light in every dark place that exists. You'll always be the first thing I think of when I wake up, and the last thing I think of when I go to sleep, and being your daddy is the greatest adventure anyone could wish for. Thank you for sharing it with me, and here's to so many, many lovely years to come.

2024: Aside from pure excitement and what Little Miss Morris might have in store for me for the next 12 months, I'm actually looking forward to a lot of the far more superfluous stuff that 2024 is set to bring.

The Games of the XXXIII Olympiad – or the Paris 2024 Olympics to most of us – are set to be a cracking laugh. Indeed, there's just something about The Olympics that brings people together, and I'm looking forward to the atmosphere and spirit around the tournament to come.

As a film critic I'm obviously full of beans when thinking about 2024's awards season, particularly, of course, The Oscars. After a year that gave us 'Barbenheimer' and Killers Of The Flower Moon, competition for the coming gongs is strong.

Yet of course, 2024 is set to bring us plenty of fresh cinematic delights, with Dune: Part II, Deadpool 3 and Gladiator 2 (to name but a few) due to land. I truly look forward to spending an obnoxious amount of time reclining in my local multiplex with my closest pals next year, hot dog in hand and waiting for Hollywood's finest to entertain me.

Finally, I'm looking forward to a bit of travel time next year. It's been too long since I've left Blighty's fair shores, and it'll be nice next year to re-broaden the horizons a little bit.

All in all, I'm just looking forward to another 12 months spent with my favourite people, doing my favourite things. When it all comes down to it, who could wish for more than that?

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