When I started this blog back in 2010, my goal was to write at least twelve entries a year. Initially I didn't even manage this rather modest target, but in 2012 and 2013 I exceeded it. However, 2014 has proved somewhat tougher, so here I sit on the second-last day of the year, entirely bereft of any inspiration and with only eleven blogs written since January. But I am determined not to fall short again, so I thought I'd get into the spirit of New Year and list my top news stories of 2014. Here they are ... enjoy!
(1) I travelled around Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in May/June. I had always wanted to visit the three Baltic states but my wife wasn't very interested ... so I simply went on my own. And what a fantastic trip it was! My travelogue (with pictures) can be found here.
(2) South Africa regained the number one ranking in the world for Test Cricket after winning a series away to Sri Lanka in July. "Test" cricket is the absolute pinnacle of the game, and being number one means that we are acknowledged as the very best (see www.icc-cricket.com).
(3) South Africa beat New Zealand in a rugby international for the first time since 2011, a 27-25 victory in Johannesburg in October (see www.scrum.com). New Zealand are widely regarded as the best rugby-playing nation in the world, so to beat them was a major achievement ... particularly since the "All Blacks" had only lost one match since winning the World Cup in 2011.
(4) South Africa qualified for the finals of the African Cup of Nations (AfCON) in 2015, the first time our national football team has managed this since 2006. The credit for Bafana Bafana's huge improvement must largely go to Ephraim "Shakes" Mashaba, who took over as coach of the national team in July 2014 ; his sound judgement, tactical awareness and astute planning very quickly brought positive results.
(5) A parkrun was started quite close to where I live, and I very quickly became hooked on this regular Saturday morning activity (see www.parkrun.co.za). I did the Fish Hoek parkrun many times and achieved a personal best (PB) time of 22:15, but went significantly faster on the flat Green Point route (21:29) and also at Rondebosch Common (21:46). My goal for 2015 is to go under 22 minutes on the tough Fish Hoek course.
(6) One of the last remaining relics of the Cold War, the stand-off between the USA and Cuba, appeared to be coming to an end in 2014. A series of meetings between representatives of the two countries had been held in Canada in 2013 and 2014, and in December this year Barack Obama (president of the USA) announced that the USA would be resuming full diplomatic relations with Cuba for the first time since 1959.
(7) Ebola, a deadly virus that until now had been confined to a few minor outbreaks in Africa, flared up in February and quickly became out of control in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. Thus far nearly 8000 people have died and the epidemic shows no signs of abating ; infections have been reported in a number of countries outside of Africa as well.
(8) No less than four commercial aircraft were lost in 2014 - two from Malaysian Airlines and one each from Air Algeria and Air Asia. One of the Malaysian Airlines planes was shot down over southern Europe, where Russia and the Ukraine are engaged in a conflict over ownership of the Crimean peninsula. The reasons why the other three crashed remain a mystery. 2014 was a bad year for flying ...
Scary - I've flown Malaysian Airlines three times (South Africa to Australia in 2001, to Thailand in 2006 and to Argentina in 2010) and Air Asia once (Thailand to Cambodia in 2006)
(9) The Rosetta spacecraft (launched in 2004) went into orbit round comet 67P after a ten year voyage from Earth and successfully landed a probe on the comet's surface, the first time ever this feat had been achieved. Interestingly, this was a European Space Agency (ESA) mission and not one of NASA's ; now that the Space Shuttle has been mothballed, NASA are in the embarrassing position of not having the capability to launch their own spacecraft! You could argue that NASA are less capable now than they were back in 1969 when the first Moon landing took place.
(10) 2014 was the 100-year anniversary of the start of World War I, the first truly global conflict on the planet.
(11) Several famous people died in 2014, including Robin Williams (actor and comedian), Nadine Gordimer (author), Joan Rivers (comedian), Joe Cocker (singer), Richard Attenborough (actor), Lauren Bacall (actress), James Garner (actor), Alfredo di Stefano (football player), Eusebio (football player), Mickey Rooney (actor) and Shirley Temple (actress).
And that was 2014 - some bad (eg. Ebola, the Ukraine conflict, crashed planes) but quite a lot of good and, most importantly, I've managed to reach my goal of twelve blog entries during the year ... All that remains is to wonder what 2015 will bring?