So, it’s the last day of 2023, and so it’s time for a review of the year. Here’s my review of 2022.
The main event to happen for us in January was getting our solar panels installed. Nearly a year later, and they have saved us around £850 so far, both by reducing our energy usage from the grid, and income from selling our excess electricity back to our energy supplier. This means that it’ll take about 11 years to get a return on our investment, although we’re on track to pay off the cost sooner than that – hopefully late in 2024.
January isn’t very conducive to days out, being a cold month with short days, but we did fit in a visit to one of the large Chinese supermarkets in Manchester. Except it was the week before Chinese New Year and it was packed. January is also my blogiversary month and so my blog turned 21-ish years old.
We had a day out at Dunham Massey, one of the National Trust properties within an hour’s drive of home. It’s actually a good place to go to at this time of year, as it has a Winter Garden with plenty of flowering irises and snowdrops.
On a different weekend, but in a similar part of the country, we went to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester. Quite a bit of the museum is currently shut for renovations, but we enjoyed the Turn It Up exhibition (which is now at the Science Museum in London). One tip – if you’re driving from the east of Manchester, you can park for free at Hollinwood tram stop, and then take the Metrolink direct to Deansgate-Castlefield. Our (then) seven-year-old was fascinated by the tram, as it leaves the old railway line formation to travel across Manchester’s city centre streets like a bus – we don’t yet have anything like that here in West Yorkshire.
We made yet another trip across the Pennines to Manchester, to visit the newly-reopened Manchester Museum, at the University of Manchester. It’s expanded a bit since our last visit, with new temporary and permanent exhibitions. However, the previously-excellent café now only serves vegetarian food (or it did when we went) which is a shame when you have a child who only wants to eat a ham sandwich. Thankfully, there are other eateries nearby – I recommend the Navarro Lounge.
On the blog, I posted my adventures with Homebridge, in a blog post that liberally quotes from Linkin’ Park’s ‘In The End’.
Somewhere that we’d been meaning to visit for some time was Martin Mere, and we finally got around to visiting in March this year. It’s primarily a sanctuary for wild wetland birds, but they also have some Asian small-clawed otters, flamingoes and other birds that live there. Part of the site was closed due to avian flu when we visited so we’ll aim to go back sometime soon.
March also means a trip down to Great Yarmouth for Sci-Fi Weekender, which was great as always. We got to meet Nina Wadia, who found fame in the pioneering 90s sketch show Goodness Gracious Me, and more recently had a minor role in Netflix’s adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Sandman. We’ll be back in 2024.
Closer to home, we went to Hardcastle Crags, a National Trust property overlooking Hebden Bridge. As well as the woodland walk, there’s a mill which is now a café and visitor centre. It’s off-grid, so all its electricity is generated from solar panels and a hydroelectric turbine, and it has composting toilets as it’s not connected to the sewerage system. There’s also a lot of information about how they are incorporating natural flood defences like leaky dams to prevent the sorts of flooding the area experienced on Boxing Day in 2015.
As my existing iPhone 8 was showing signs of age, I got myself an iPhone 13 Mini. I particularly like its wide angle lens mode which lets me take photos like this one of Manor Heath Park in Halifax, which I can’t currently do on my DSLR.
We spent the Easter weekend in York with my parents, and so we fitted in visits to Murton Park (incorporating the Yorkshire Museum of Farming and the Derwent Valley Light Railway) and the York Castle Museum. Later in the month, we had a get-together with friends from university to go to Tropical World, and we ended the month with an afternoon at Thwaite Watermill.
I also re-started regular blood donations. My last successful donation had been before the pandemic; I’ve since been back a couple of times and will be going again some time in January.
My wife also started swimming lessons, with the same company that teaches our child. At present, she has a half hour one-to-one session each week and is making good progress. Unfortunately, she never had the opportunity to learn properly as a child.
May the 4th is our wedding anniversary (yes, we know – Christine came down the aisle to the Imperial March). And the 4th May 2023 marked our tenth wedding anniversary. We’re still very much in love with each other and we celebrated with a quiet lunchtime meal at the Engine Social in Sowerby Bridge. May is also my birthday month, and I turned 39 this year.
We also had a trip to Cannon Hall Farm at the start of the month – it’s somewhere we go to at least once a year as there’s plenty for young kids to do. New for 2023 was the nocturnal animal house.
We made the first of three trips in 2023 to RHS Garden Bridgewater, north of Manchester, having bought an annual RHS membership with Tesco Clubcard points. It’s a lovely place to visit, with some formal gardens mixed with woodland and an excellent play area.
It was also around this time that Christine got a diagnosis of sleep apnea, and started using a CPAP machine. Her health and wellbeing has improved massively as a result. If you, or someone you know, is a heavy snorer, it may be worth you/them speaking to a GP to get a referral for a sleep assessment.
Across the Pennines again for a trip to Heaton Park, one of the largest public parks in northern England. There’s a lake, some excellent playgrounds, some animals and gardens, and often a visiting funfair.
We also made a brief visit to RHS Harlow Carr, near Harrogate, including a meal at Betty’s. Indeed, we’ve visited all but one of the Betty’s locations now – we just need to go to the one in Northallerton next.
I last visited Jodrell Bank with my parents, probably in the 1990s, so it was nice to go back again. Much has changed since, but it’s still a working observatory and as such it’s a ‘radio quiet’ zone where you must switch off your mobile phone.
July is when we usually set off on holiday, and this year we stayed at a campsite to the south of Tours in France, in the Loire valley. On the way down, we called at RHS Wisley, the first and largest of the RHS gardens, and stayed a night at the Brooklands Hotel at the historic racetrack in Surrey.
Some of the places we visited included:
- Parc des Mini Chateaux – like a model village, but all of the models are of castles (châteaux) in the Loire valley.
- Grand Aquarium de Touraine – an aquarium, always good for a wet day.
- Château du Clos Lucé – Leonardo da Vinci spent some time here and several of his inventions have been recreated in the castle and the gardens, both of which are great.
- Château d’Ussé – allegedly the inspiration for the story of Sleeping Beauty, and includes a walk with rooms set up to tell each part of the story.
- Château du Riveau – a castle and gardens which has only (relatively) recently opened to the public. It’s very whimsical, with some amusing sculptures in the garden and bizarre taxidermy.
We also had two bigger days out. Another place that I haven’t visited since the 1990s was Futuroscope, a theme park full of futuristic architecture and lots of different cinemas showing 3D and 4D films where the seating moves. As we went in late July, we didn’t stay for the evening show as dusk was way after our bedtimes, but we thoroughly enjoyed our day.
The second big day out was to Zooparc Beauval, one of the world’s biggest and best zoos. We’ve been before, in 2018, so we focussed on the new areas that weren’t open last time, and then our favourites. It’s one of the few zoos in the world to have Giant Pandas, and has had some success with breeding them too with a couple of youngsters there when we visited.
We started the month in France, but only just as we arrived back in the UK on the 3rd. We called in at the Hotel Chocolat Factory Shop near Northampton on the way back.
One of our friends from university turned 30 (yes, there’s a bit of an age gap between us and some of our friends) and so we had an afternoon at the Leeds City Museum. Yes, the above photo of boomboxes is a museum exhibit, because you’re old.
August is always a super busy month for me, as I work in university admissions, but we briefly called in at the Piece Hall in Halifax for Calderdale Pride 2023. And over the bank holiday weekend, we went to Chatsworth. We didn’t go inside the house, but we explored some parts of the gardens that we hadn’t been to before, and the farm is always worth a visit.
Back at Christmas 2021, we received some gift vouchers for Chester Zoo, and with the validity running we found a free weekend to go. A large part of the zoo is being redeveloped at present, but we got to see the new flamingo enclosure, and my favourite red pandas were awake for once.
We also had a morning at the Askham Bryan Wildlife Park near York, although this was partly to kill time whilst we waited for hospital visiting times to start. My dad ended up spending over two months in hospital this year with a number of health issues, probably brought on by Weil’s Disease. He’s on the mend, although he’s still building up strength in his legs having been off his feet for so long.
Due to Dad’s health issues, we had a subdued celebration for my wife’s 40th birthday, but we did have a lovely meal at Tattu in Leeds.
With the nights drawing in, there were fewer days out, but I did restart blogging again after another six month hiatus. I also joined Bluesky, which is now my second-favourite social network after Mastodon. If I know you and you want a Bluesky invite, let me know.
In November, I rolled out the new theme (current at time of writing) and wrote several more blog posts about Home Assistant. Maybe home automation is going to be my mid-life crisis?
Again, no days out in November, but my Dad made it home from hospital and so we went to York to visit him. We also changed to a new internet service provider at home.
And so to this month. As my family is a little spread out, with some of us in Yorkshire and others in Oxfordshire, my cousin normally hosts a pre-Christmas meal in mid-December. However, it’s her turn to get a new kitchen and it wasn’t ready in time, so ended up hosting a meal for nine people at short notice. We managed it; Christine cooked cassoulet with some duck legs that were cooked using the sous-vide method for 36 hours in our Instant Pot.
Although I started wearing hearing aids in October 2022, it took me until this month to blog about it.
And there we have it – 2023. For us, it was a good year on the whole, with some mixed news on the health front. See you in 2024.