This year I headed east to the Tower and jolly good it was too. I still think Somerset House is the best but the Tower's rink is larger than the small one outside the NHM and who can fault that setting.
Of course I was overtaken by who knows how many 6 year olds, but I don't mind that - honest!
However I do mind the chap who rammed into me at the precise moment I was wobbling causing my feet to fly up and my bottom to go crashing down.
I think I've earned a small brandy after dinner - for medical purposes, you understand.
It's fair to say that ol' blighty is having trouble saying goodbye to 2012.
All of the TV channels seem to be showing their take on the London Olympics, with everyone from Lord Coe to Sporty Spice popping up on the box or in newspaper columns. Today the New Year Honours were announced and as expected Ben Ainslie becomes Sir Ben while Wiggo becomes Sir Bradley.
As a Christmas treat I re-watched the opening ceremony and discovered a connection with the beach volleyball (above).
Can you find out what it is?
Updated: Tillerman is correct! The announcer at both events was the same, namely Layla Anna-Lee:
INT: Top Yacht studio, three presenters interviewing Buff Staysail who has in one hand a mince pie and the other a large glass of mulled wine.
We're here with Buff Staysail who has caused more chaos to British sports and royal family than even the last month's washout rainfall.
BUFF STAYSAIL (to MAY)
James, me old mate, how've you been? Your agent told me you'd lost your voice, become allergic to electricity and then had to move abroad for legal reasons, yet here you are, fit and well! Good on you sport! We should grab a tinny or two after the show.
...er... (cough) .... that ailment might be coming back.
Jeez, poms, always getting sick.
So Mr Staysail, we've been told you're a sailing journalist - what's your take on the America's Cup? Who's going to win the Vendee Globe?
Well of course the Alinghi campaign is the dark horse for the next America's Cup and my money is on Sam Davies for that French race.
Clarkson and Hammond exchange glances and smiles
So who exactly do you work for?
I'm freelance, not tied down, ready for anything - do you want my CV?
Buff passes Clarkson some ragged pieces of paper.
CLARKSON, holding them gingerly
It's all wet
Might have spilled some of that mulled wine of yours on it. Bit of waste, as its good stuff.
Buff downs the remains of his glass and looks around hopefully.
Any chance of some more? I've only had five glasses.
So the mystery of your unemployment is explained.
I'm currently putting together a proposal for a campaign for the NRA in America - it's a Buff Enterprises at-risk project.
Do you mean the National Rifle Association?
That's right. I've noticed that very few sailors are armed and it's time to lock and load while tacking and gybing!
CLARKSON, HAMMOND and MAY
Just think of the market - I mean, safety potential - of all sailors having a gun. Just handguns for dinghy sailors obviously, but every yacht should have an automatic rifle or two. Just what you'd need when pirates come up the Chesapeake!!
You can't expect there not to be pirates when all yachts have guns, its just common sense. Jeez, keep up. But I have the solution to that - rocket launchers!
CLARKSON, HAMMOND and MAY
Well if the good guys don't have rocket launchers then the bad guys win - stands to reason.
Or be like the UK which has gun control and a firearm related homicide rate just 2.5% of that in the US.
I'm not going to mention that in my proposal - jeez, I'm not stupid you know!
On that bomb-shell, it's good night and keep safe.
Well after that film that showed the exception that proves the rule that MORE POWER is always a good thing, its time for the Top Yacht Review of the Year!
So what did you get up to May?
Well in April I went along with my chum Oz Clarke to see the University Boat Race and very pleasant it was too apart from the two swimmers....
Two? I thought there was just the one.
Actually there was another. There was this Australian sailing journalist (or so he said) called Buff Staysail that kept hanging around with us and so I asked whether it was possible to swim out to the boats as they went by - on a purely hypothetical basis you understand - and off he went.
That's strange, because one of my highlights was the Diamond Jubilee and I was in charge of keeping the Duke's hip flask full with Scotland's finest when we were distracted by what can only be described as someone mooning Her Majesty the Queen, and royal protection told me it was an Australian alleged sailing journalist called Buff Staysail.
One of the goals of this summer's Olympics was to "inspire a generation" and encourage GB's yoof to put down their iThings and go get some exercise. And after yesterday's sport feel good back-slapping jamboree today gives us some hard numbers in terms of cash to be spent in England on sport.
Sailing's done ok: a slight cut, from £9.6m over the period 2009 - 2013 down to £9.3m (about $15m), a similar trimming exercise to that done on rowing, though canoeing is slightly up.
Of the £9.3m the majority, £5.8m, is to go towards "participation" i.e. getting the new generation out on the water via schemes such as the RYA's OnBoard programmes. The remainder is to go towards "finding the next Ben Ainslie" including:
Developing the existing network of Volvo RYA Champion Clubs which identify and nurture young talented sailors in their early years in the sport
Enhancing partnerships with Junior Class Associations to provide junior racing and training programmes and optimal race training environments
The creation of six to ten regional high performance clubs
Training squads and support at regional and England national junior level
Exposing young talented sailors to appropriate international regatta experiences
Support to develop the coaches working with young talented sailors
More detail here which was also the source of the pic above.
Updated: the £9.3m above was the funding in England to get the next generation out on the water sailing. Today in this announcement the UK's budget for the next Olympics was revealed and sailing's getting a £24.5m ($39.2m) war-chest for the Rio campaign. That's up 6.8% and makes sailing the 4th best funded sport, after rowing, cycling and the whole of athletics.
It's time to get all nostalgic about the best year of sport Britain has ever seen with the BBC's Sport Personality of the Year (hashtag #SPOTY), which could be Ben Ainslie (above).
We've just had a helicopter flyby of London by night, Emeli Sande, Olympics highlight clips and even Clare Balding.
Now meeting the contenders - so good luck Ben! When lines open, call 09015 2282-02 (landline) or 62282-02 (mobile) to vote for the greatest Olympic sailor ever.
To be honest not expecting much, but it will bring back lots of good memories from "the best summer ever".
Updated: the lines are closed and the votes have been counted. As expected Ben was in the second half of the SPOTY shortlist but still picked up 35,373 votes to come in 9th out 12, and was jolly close to being 8th.
It's getting close to the time of year when newspapers and bloggers are preparing for their review of the 2012.
There's extra spice this time round with the threatened end of the world, so just to be on the safe side this blog is getting in early with this year's best non-sail.
What is a non-sail? you might well ask. Well it's the best sailing plan that never happened for one reason or other, and for me it was to have been a day-sail on ICAP Leopard (above).
This Farr designed canting keel 30m maxi has won line honours all around the world including a Fastnet race record, and no doubt would be a blast to sail.
Obviously it is usually more than a little out of my price bracket - or so I thought until I saw an email from OnDeck Sailing offering individual places at reasonable prices. A deposit cheque was shortly in the post and I sat back to wait for the big day.
The week before I wondered if I'd missed the email on joining instructions & paying the remainder so pinged off a query only to get a disappointing reply - it had been cancelled due to lack of interest.
Lack of interest? Seriously?
But alas it wasn't to be and I now have my refund to re-invest in next year's sailing ventures.
I recently spent far too long at London Heathrow terminal 5 and one of things that caught my eye while wandering it cavernous space was the Olympic memory tree, and on it there was this message from US sailing's Paige Railey (above):
It's not as old as the nearby Brunel's Thames Tunnel, the world's first under a navigable river, but that one is currently being used by the East London Line.
However it is eerie and spooky enough: the echoing footfalls, the smell of damp and feeling the weight of water above your head.
It was just the thing to experience while re-reading the "Rivers of London" series 3rd book, "Whispers Under Ground" and by concentrating carefully I could almost sense the vestigia those books speak of.
There were more tunnels on the way home, taking the Docklands Light Railway and then the District line at Tower Hill:
More tunnel pics to be found at the Londonist web site here.
Interesting interview with Ben Ainslie on the Telegraph here, touching on whether it could be "Sir" Ben in the future and what it felt like to carry the Team GB flag at the closing ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games.
Update: see also this article on the Guardian web site making the case for Ben Ainslie to be BBC sports personality of the year, though to be honest, lacking somewhat in faith in his success.
Having a spare Sunday I took the tube from Putney to Greenwich to make up my own mind, and found myself conflicted between delight and a hollow emptiness.
On the plus side there is much to enjoy, from the rigging gracing the sky, the blocks and spars wired up with ropes as they should be. The space under the hull is a amazing, full of light, the old tea clipper glowing in gold. The much debated main deck (composites not real wood) doesn't distract from the overall look.
But... it felt wrong.
The old, real Cutty Sark didn't have a lift forcing its way between decks. It didn't have a visitors trail leading you between exhibits, it didn't have fake tea chests, it didn't have sailing computer games, it didn't have a whopping great hole cut into its side:
It felt like the Cutty Sark "experience": it was no longer a ship that could set sail, and when that happens something for me dies.
But was that an option? Things were in a bad way before the fire, as can be seen by this unrestored beam:
The metal was similarly corroded, so it would have been less of a restoration and more of a rebuilding.
There is that philosophical question if you replace something bit by bit at what point it is no longer the original, and that could have been a choice for the Cutty Sark. However that option still remains as someone out there could build their own tea clipper, using her as the design template.
While saddened by what she has become I feel that her current form has a chance to survive for future generations, who can then decide what they want to do with her. There is the question about whether raising the hull is the right solution structurally but I am not qualified to judge, though I understood there was a steel shell holding everything together taking the load.
The Cutty Sark does look good, and it is a great day out for families, which means more people will see her, learn about her and be impressed, being less conscious of the lack of sailability. She is part of Britain's maritime history, part of the National Maritime Museum.
The tag line is "Harry Potter grows up and joins the fuzz" - aka the bill, the boys in blue, the met, bobbies, plod or to give them their full title, the Metropolitan Police force.
But that isn't right either, as the hero, Peter Grant is no Hogwarts educated orphan, but a true Londoner, born and bred in its council estates and comprehensive schools. Joining the force hoping for a career solving crime he's about to be moved sideways into paper pushing when he meets the only witness of a bizarre murder case, a ghost.
Soon he's sworn instead into the Met's specialist force to handle all the weird and wonderful of London, hidden in the bureaucracy as Economic and Specialist Crime Unit 9 or ESC9, and then out on the streets battling a malicious spirit while learning magic.
The rivers of the title are gods and goddesses ("real" ones, not the fantasy of Peter Ackroyd) namely mother and father Thames and all of their tributaries from hoity Tyburn to the sensual Beverly Brook (and it really adds zest to that line "I found a gun on Beverly Brook").
Its a great read, rattling across London like one of its underground trains, zippy language and plot.
And the real star is London itself, sprawling, magnificent, historic, modern, rich, poor, art, music, life, death, architecture, character, legends, its people and places.
Appropriately the cover of the UK edition is taken from Stephen Walter's The Island, its intricate minute drawings capturing the density of stories within this city. Alas in the US there is a different cover and title "Midnight Riot" which I don't think is as good.
But the book inside is as good in either, and there are two sequels to enjoy, "Moon over Soho" and "Whispers Under Ground".
Best read on the tube heading home late at night, but if that's not an option don't worry as it will transport you there.
One to put on the Christmas present list - for others and yourself.
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