WRIGHT THINKING: Pondering the ups and downs of 2014

A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.
A hostage runs to armed tactical response police officers for safety after she escaped from a cafe under siege at Martin Place in the central business district of Sydney, Australia.

As the year ends, it’s time to ponder the ups and downs of the last twelve months and think about those we’ve lost – and what we’ve gained.

The randomness of life and death always comes to mind, and your heart goes out to those people who lost their lives in the awful accident involving a dustbin lorry and Christmas shoppers in Glasgow just last week.

Something as everyday as buying last minute gifts ending in tragedy seems so particularly sad, and a sharp reminder of how tenuous our hold on life can be.

Of course, as we get older, we expect to lose friends, and it’s always days long gone that come to mind when we look back over lives well lived.

It was really sad to hear of the passing of top comedian and radio presenter Mike Elliott a few days ago.

If you can picture this, I first bumped into Mike when we were both playing in folk clubs over 40 years ago, and his superb gift for comedy was very evident even then.

As you will know, he went on to be an amazingly unique radio man, and played many good roles in films too, hitting his peak with his excellent portrayal of the boxing trainer in the big screen version of Billy Elliott.

Sadly, the curse of terrorism has filled the news pages many times in 2014, but what shines through stronger than lunatic hatred is the human response of the majority of the population.

You may remember the awful hostage story from Sydney in Australia recently and I felt a particular resonance with that as I’d been in the exact same street a few years ago.

Seeing the faces of people facing death and horror in their normal working day was particularly affecting.

What came out of it, though, was a perfect example of people, and Australia, at their best.

As you may have heard, some Muslims were afraid to be out in the city the next day because of possible reprisals from people who tried to tarnish an entire part of the population without realising that, sadly, all cultures have their evil people.

One Sydney resident tweeted the phrase “I’ll ride with you” as a simple statement of solidarity and support for people who felt fearful about taking a bus to work – a fear which was not of their own making.

Incredibly, that sentiment was retweeted in the tens of thousands and social media comes into its own when it demonstrates that the creatures of evil are massively outnumbered – something we should never forget on the darkest days.

To end on a happier note, one of my best days came in late November when I hosted the Entrepreneurs’ Forum Conference at nearby Wynyard Hall. An interview with George Clarke, of Channel 4 and Sunderland, led to an exchange which turned into comedy gold.

If you are a techie person, go to YouTube and search for my name and George’s together and all will be revealed. And if not I’ll tell you more next week.

Very best wishes to you and yours for an excellent 2015 – and much laughter and love in the world.