I was born in the year of the rabbit, 1963, and I know that my friends are the most important and precious aspect of my life.
This year saw me lose too many friends that were very dear to me, some through horrific events. Two of these events occurred just weeks before I left the UK to cycle across the United States. It was very sad, and still is, but I know that friends come in and out of your life as time rolls by, but if you're lucky some stay forever.
2011 seems to have been a year for extreme weather. Pauline and I set off from Boston on the 18 May and from almost day one we experienced wild and unusual weather patterns, repeated across the globe.
In January, Queensland, Australia had major floods. On 22 February Christchurch in New Zealand was hit by a magnitude 6.3 earthquake destroying large parts of the city. March brought the worst tsunami ever witnessed in Japan.
In April, the month before I left for the States, over 300 tornadoes had already hit America. A figure that would rise to 753 by the time the season ended. At one point 200 tornadoes touched down in the space of 48 hours. Just one week after I landed in Boston, a 1 mile wide tornado swept through Joplin, Missouri, killing 162 people. With caution we continued to push west keeping a watchful eye on the weather forecasts. Not long after the Joplin tornado, Minot in North Dakota suffered a terrible flood as the Mouse River swept away many homes. In August we would find ourselves cycling through Minot and would witness the aftermath first hand.
June saw a large volcano in Chile erupt, and by the time we were almost across Montana in August, Hurricane Irene swept up the east coast of the States putting 65 million at risk.
I returned home at the start of October to learn of severe flooding in Thailand and shortly after a 7.2 magnitude earthquake hit eastern Turkey. Then, just two weeks ago, Christchurch finished the year as it had started with another quake hitting the town.
We were lucky to escape most of these terrible weather events, though coming very close at times. I used to think we had poor weather in Scotland but these events go to show how calm and temperate Scotland really is.
2012 is the year of the dragon, a year that is meant to bring much happiness and success. To all those who had to deal with so much devastating change in their lives over 2011, I hope that 2012 lives up to it's Chinese zodiac meaning.
A happy and prosperous new year to you all. Stay safe.