January 2024: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Jan 16, 2024 | Stuart's Patient Newsletter


I can’t believe we are now already in the second week of January, Christmas and 2023 seem such a long time ago.

Christmas was great for us – Matt and Mims stayed in London this year but we went down to see them between Christmas and New Year which was lovely and in fact, it was like having two Christmas days.

On Christmas Day itself we were up early as usual. Leo and Willow go out the same time every morning regardless of whether it’s Christmas Day, New Years Day or even my birthday!  The only good thing is that there weren’t many people up and around at 6.00am on Christmas morning, which meant there was no ‘disagreements’ between Leo and any other dogs.

Leo will be 10 in March and is becoming a bit of a Grumpy old man. In fact, Maria says there are two of us who are becoming grumpier as we get older!

For the second year running we had lunch out which saved Maria from spending the whole of the day in the kitchen, which is what has happened for many years on past Christmases.  The food was lovely this year, the wine was great and best of all – no washing up!

New Year is a very quiet affair for us and this New Year was no different to previous ones. Gone are the days of going out and partying until the early hours of the morning! Now it’s a case of staying at home, seeing the New Year in and waiting for the neighbours to set their fireworks off. The fireworks don’t bother us, but as you can imagine, the dogs – Leo especially, go ballistic!  There is no point even considering trying to sleep until they have all finished.

This year there must be a shortage of fireworks (probably due to Brexit!) as we only had about 15 minutes of Leo barking at the top of his voice. I did fleetingly consider knocking on our neighbour’s door at 6.00am on New Years morning, just to wish them “All the Best” for 2024, but Maria advised against it. She said that would be the sort of thing a ‘Grumpy old man’ would do!

One thing I do always do, is make several New Years resolutions. Some I manage to keep, but most of them usually don’t last until February.

This year so far so good – I am taking more exercise, ‘we’ have cut down our wine input and I have had a day off work. I even promised Maria that I would take a whole 3 weeks holiday this year! – well, we shall see – especially as we’re only just into January!

Whilst contemplating my Resolutions, it got me thinking how this practice all started. Apparently, though we might think we can lay claim to the practice of making resolutions for the upcoming year, it actually all dates back to the ancient Babylonians.

For them, the year started in mid-March, when crops for the season were planted. During Akitu, a 12-day religious festival, the Babylonians made promises to the gods in return for good favour in the coming new year. So, it is from this ancient practice that today’s New Year’s resolutions are believed to have evolved.

In 1582, Pope Gregory XIII introduced the world to the Gregorian calendar. At that time, he declared that January 1st should mark the start of the new year, and the Western world soon complied and so New Year Resolutions, being made at the turn of the year began.

Two facts I found which make me feel slightly better are that; only 31% of people stick with the promises they make to themselves and a whopping 81% fail by February. Also, the four most popular types of goals people set are to exercise, eat well, lose weight, and save money.

Sound familiar?

So, what can you do to improve your chances of making your New Year’s resolutions a reality?

According to personal growth experts, New Year’s resolutions fail for many reasons, ranging from goals that aren’t realistic to those that aren’t specific enough. So…..

  • Be realistic: If you want to develop a healthier exercise habit, start slowly and build up over time. Be more reasonable so you don’t set yourself up for failure.
  • Be forgiving: Forgive yourself if you get off track, but then recommit to your goal. Remember to try again, don’t just give up.
  • Be specific: Vague goals like “lose weight” or “exercise more” just aren’t specific enough to hold you accountable. Decide what your ultimate goal is and break it down into smaller steps.

 This year I am not the only family member making New Year’s resolutions, in fact Matt’s wife Miriam and Jenny’s fiancée Jevon have made the same one – both to pass their driving tests this year. Neither have got round to doing this in the past but apparently this is the year. I’ll keep you updated!

Maria and I were talking about this and reminiscing about when Matt passed his test. Needless to say, like me he didn’t pass first time – not that Maria and Jenny keep reminding us. Anyway, Matt learnt to drive in a very old Cleo which he thought was a great boy’s car. He used it to go and see his friends who lived locally, the gym and fencing sessions which certainly made our lives a little easier.

However, whilst we all worry when our children start driving by themselves, Maria and I tried to stay very cool about it, that was until one morning when he decided he would drive to school and take Jenny with him.

Normally I took them both into school but this one morning Matt needed to be into school early. Jenny for once in her life was out of bed without a huge battle, so they were both ready before me.

Matt had said to Maria “I am going to drive into school as Dads not ready”, this was quickly followed by Jenny saying “I will just go with Matt” as she walked out of the door!

Maria trying not to be the over-worrying, or controlling parent agreed. I was in the shower and oblivious to the situation and the first I knew about it was when there was a banging on the shower door!

When you are standing covered in soap with your eyes shut you do get a bit of a shock. I wiped the soap out of my eyes and opened the door to find Maria standing there as white as a sheet. Before I could ask what was happening – and I can still remember her exact words even after nearly fourteen years – she said “My whole world has driven off up the drive and if anything happens to them it’s going to be your fault for being late!”

Apparently, Matt had wheel spun the car on his way up the drive and then sped off – I suspect being a seventeen-year-old lad, he had done it deliberately, no doubt encouraged by his sister, just to wind up Maria!

I have never put my clothes on so quickly before I jumped in my car and sped off after them. I caught up with them on the outskirts of Newcastle and like something out of Starsky and Hutch, – the original ones! – I stayed about three cars behind and followed them to school. To be fair Matt drove perfectly well without any mishaps what-so-ever, as I dutifully informed Maria, that all was well with her world!

I remember reflecting on this a few days after the ‘incident’ and two thoughts came to mind; firstly, how would it have been my fault if anything had gone wrong and secondly, if it was Maria’s whole world that had driven off, where did that leave me? I concluded that the joys of being a dad and husband are that I come at the bottom of the pecking order – certainly well below the children and probably even below the dogs!

At least I know my place and as some would say, the only way is up!

90 Not Out!

December is always busy in our house. Not only is it Christmas but it is our Wedding Anniversary, Mim’s birthday, Matt’s birthday, and my Mums birthday which last month was her ninetieth!!

Never one to do anything by half measures, Mum had a four-day celebration!

It started on the Friday evening with Stocksfield Flower club Christmas party – Maria goes with her and swears blind she is at least 20 years younger than anyone else there! They watched a lovely festive demonstration, followed by coffee, mince pies and you guessed it – gossip!

Saturday night was champagne and cake for her actual birthday and Sunday was a family lunch out with Jenny and Jevon.

Monday, the pièce de resistance, was an afternoon tea party for her and 13 friends!

I must admit this was great fun, in fact they were probably noisier than a bunch of teenage girls, although I suspect one or two may need to change the batteries in their hearing aids! The Prosecco flowed in good measures and the food was excellent. I did worry that the blood sugar levels of all of them were probably going to be much higher than they should be, due to the amount of cake consumed! – but Mum had a great time and by the comments of her friends they too thoroughly enjoyed themselves.

Getting to 90 is some achievement considering the time Mum grew up in – during the war and after with rationing etc. however, I am pleased to say Mum is completely ‘with it’, she looks after herself and meets up with friends for coffee etc most weeks. She still ‘plays’ golf when it’s not raining and drives herself about locally. Not bad for 90!

And as one of her friends said to her after her tea party, “Well that was great, let’s hope we’re still here in 10 years time to do it all again for your 100th” – what a celebration that would be!

Thank you!

I would like to thank all of you who participated in Jenny’s “Biscuit” survey. The answers were interesting to say the least! I can report that our patients enjoy a wide variety of biscuits ranging from the usual Hobnobs through to the more unusual ones that I have never heard of!

The winner by a mile was the good old “Rich tea.” It also seems that most of you are definite “Dunkers”!

The second thank you is to each and everyone of you who recommended a friend or relative to us for an eye examination in 2023.  It is with your help that we continue to grow as a practice.

For every new patient we make a small donation to the Guide Dogs charity. Through your recommendations we managed again this year to donate over a £1,000

As a thank you each year we enter the names of everyone who recommended us into a draw for a prize. This year’s prize was a meal for two at Rebel, which is a lovely restaurant in Heaton. We have had great meals there and can highly recommend it!

This year’s winner was Angela McC, who kindly recommended her husband to us -we hope you enjoy your night out!

We plan to do the same for this year, so if you have a friend or relative who you think we may be able to help, please pass along our details and when they come to the practice, we will put your name into the 2024 prize draw.

The highlight of 2023, with one week of the year left, was the completion of the regeneration of Saville Row. It has taken 20 months but it finally seems to be finished, as you can see from the picture below. Whether it looks like the Parisian Boulevard from the architect’s design …… I shall leave that for you to decide!

So, what has 2024 got in store for us?

Firstly, we have 2 new members in our Dispensing team.

Kayleigh, is a very experienced fully qualified Dispensing Optician, who started on the 1st December with us and has fitted straight in. Kayleigh is extremely enthusiastic and has a wide knowledge of frame design and lens types.

Our second new dispensing team member is Emma who joined us last week. She has lots of experience working as a dispensing assistant and is now going to commence her training with us to gain her full professional dispensing qualification. Emma brings a youthful perspective to the practice, which is something we really appreciate.

My plan for 2024 is pretty similar to the last 32 years, to try and continue to improve the quality of the service we provide for you.

I see each year as a new start and a new opportunity and I am just as excited about this year, as I was when we first started.

It just remains for me to wish you a happy and healthy 2024 and I hope to see you soon.

Best wishes