2021 in review

Posted by: Chris Witham - Posted on:

2021 was a year in which I nearly lost my life. I signed a consent form to have my left arm amputated. I had my first ride in an ambulance as a patient, my first general anaesthetic, my first overnight stay in hospital and my first ever plaster cast. I had 13 weeks off work and end the year still on a phased return. I do however, thanks to the wonderful efforts of the NHS, still have two mostly functional arms. And thanks to Great Western Air Ambulance Charity, I’m still alive to write this update!

A year of firsts and a year of thank yous. I have so much to be grateful for this year.

Picture review

If you don’t want the details and just want the pictures, here’s a video with a second for nearly every day in 2021.

Looking back, I’m reminded about what a wonderful part of the world I’m fortunate to live in. Despite lockdowns and restrictions, we’ve been able to enjoy a few holidays this year. I even took a flight! There’s been some great whisky, helped by two trips to Scotland (it’s been too long since I last visited). We’ve spent more time together as a couple and more time with friends virtually and face to face.


Unusually for me, I took time to set some objectives at the beginning of the year. And it’s been quite good to look back and see how well they went, despite it being a difficult year in many respects.


Read 12 Books – good effort, will repeat

I’m quite a slow and irregular reader. I wanted to try and do more reading this year.

  1. Emotional Agility – Suan David
  2. How to be an antiracist – Dr Ibram X Kendi
  3. Measure what matters – John Doerr
  4. Surrounded by idiots – Thomas Erikson
  5. The 4 hour work week – Tim Ferriss
  6. The 5am Club – Robin Sharma
  7. You can really grow – John Hindley
  8. Invisible Women – Caroline Criado Perez
  9. The Joy of Work – Bruce Daily
  10. The Bible (60%)

My dad recommended our library’s audio book loan service after my accident and I couldn’t hold books easily. Borrow Box is a great app, a bit like Audible, but free like a library! I’ve really enjoyed listening through the app.

Cycle 1500 miles – something for 2022

300 miles ridden. In one sense, a huge fail. But given that I haven’t been able to ride a bike for half the year due to my accident, I’m not too upset. The positive news is that I can still ride inside on my turbo trainer and at some point, I will have built up enough strength in my arm to be able to ride outside again. A target I want to try at again in 2022.

115Kg > 105Kg – something for 2022

This did not work for the same reason my cycling didn’t. I spent 13 weeks off work and didn’t do a lot of moving around during that time. I’m just grateful to still have two arms and a good prognosis. The support of my family and the NHS have been excellent and I’m glad I can work towards this goal next year.


New role – complete

For those of you who know me, and know my job title, this might come as a surprise. I came very close to getting a job at NHSX early on in 2021, just losing out at the final interview stage. The process of applying and writing my presentation really helped me think about what excites me at work and what I find rewarding.

After 5 years in my role, what my secondment and applying for other roles has shown me, is that I work in a fabulous team and there is a lot more to life than the money we make or the status we have. The care and compassion within our team was really evident this year after my accident. So I decided, like other times before, that I wanted to stay put. I was very grateful however that we were able to re-evaluate my role which has grown significantly in 5 years. So my job title has stayed the same for simplicity, but my renumeration now fits the scope of my role more accurately. I’m very happy, as I get to continue to work with the brilliant team I’ve helped to build and feel appreciated for the work I’m doing.

Team of the year – not an objective

This was never a formal objective of mine. But a true testament to the amazing team I work in. Our Digital Learning for Leadership team won our Divisional end of year award for Team of the year. I am so proud. As a team we’ve had many setbacks this year, lots of health issues, bereavements, hardships, serious injuries. We’ve also done a huge amount of work to continue delivering activity online where it would normally be in person. We’ve delivered some big strategic projects alongside the tactical stuff and looked after one another through the process. Thank you to everyone in our team, you are wonderful and I love working with you.


In church live-streaming – complete

At the end of August, I blogged about live-streaming in church. This has worked really well and we’re still using this setup now.

Complete One Year Bible – partially complete

I’ve really enjoyed our church bible study group reading through the One Year Bible and meeting weekly to discuss what we’ve read. After my accident, I got quite behind in the readings but I’ve finished the year having read 60% of the plan.


New Clerk and Staff – complete

After I updated our job description and did some work on accessible recruitment, I’m pleased to say we appointed an excellent clerk. Emma brings with her a wealth of experience and has already made a big impact on our council and how we operate. We have also successfully recruited a new facilities manager who will start in the new year and will really help drive forwards our plans to improve our town centre and expand our facilities.

Future plan for town centre – complete

We were successful in our bid for the Government’s Levelling Up Fund and as such, 2022 will be an exciting year as we start to see developments quite quickly.

Dockham Road Site – good progress

Plans have progressed well for our acquisition of the old Doctors surgery and our future plans for the site. Expect more developments throughout 2022.

Build Skate Park – almost complete

We have now finalised the design of the new Skate Park and placed the order to build. Construction will start early in 2022 and completion expected towards the end of March. This project was delayed by my medical absence but I’m really glad with the consultation and engagement we’ve been able to do with stakeholders to reach the final design of this £250k investment.

MUGA Upgrade – almost complete

The order has been placed for our Multi-use Games Area to be resurfaced next year. The work will be completed around March when ground temperatures raise enough for successful install.


I had a few objectives for my role in the Governors this year. Due to the nature of them, I won’t go into details. A few have been stalled due to covid restrictions and my accident. Others are progressing. It’s been quite a good year for the governors. We’ve welcomed some new governors and I’m looking forward to the year ahead.


French windows in dining room – complete

We had an excellent local builder install our new French windows. My mum, dad and sister built a deck for us (under my instruction with my arm in a cast) and we’ve really enjoyed the extra light in our dining room and the utility of the deck. It’s been great to spend more time outside as a result.

Decorate dining room – complete

After the French windows, we got the dining room replastered and decorated. With lots of help from friends who have laid floor, painted, done carpentry, wiring and moved furniture. We are very blessed to have so many great friends and family who really helped out when I wasn’t able to do the work.

Office floor – complete

Being off work provided a good opportunity for my office to be dismantled and redecorated. Mum and dad were super helpful again. I now have a nicely redecorated office and a new floor which provides a great environment to work in. My bike is now in my office on my new turbo trainer so I can continue to do some riding while I can’t cycle outside. Work were very supportive following my accident and provided a new sit/stand desk and special chair to support my arm and allow me to work in more comfort during my recovery. I’ve really found the standing desk to be helpful.

Airing cupboard – complete

Following our boiler being replaced last year, I sorted some shelving out in the old airing cupboard. The extra space where the tank used to be has been very helpful, especially as Rachel’s Fairtrade shop continues to operate out of our spare bedroom.

Decorate hall, stairs and landing – outstanding

Given my in ability to do DIY and everything else we’ve still accomplished through lockdowns and recovery, I’m really not too bothered we didn’t manage to get the decorating done. It’s nice to have a project to kickstart the new year!


A crazy year in many respects and one I’m not keen to repeat. Every time I tie my shoelaces or open a packet of cereal, I am so grateful to still have both hands. I’m grateful to our neighbours who helped my wife keep me alive until the ambulances and air ambulance arrived. I’m grateful for the NHS and GWAAC who saved my life and saved my arm. I’m grateful for all the family, friends and colleagues who have supported my recovery. And I’m grateful for what I’ve still been able to accomplish in a year unlike no other I’ve experienced before.

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