2019 Yearnotes

I always like Nat’s yearnotes and every year I mean to write some. So I have.

Home

Ann and I bought our house in April. It was almost instantly an adorable home. There wasn’t much we had to do to the place and, to be honest, massive home improvement isn’t on the horizon. We got bird feeders up within days of moving in, curtains soon after, and it’s been a wonderful, comforting base through Winterval.

I have also cooked, so much. Three books in particular have taken a hammering: Flavour, Fresh India and East. At Christmas I “got Ann” both volumes of Greenfeast, so I’m excited to see what bubbles out of that. Probably the simplest, luxe-looking stuff.

Basically, I spent a lot more if the year nesting than I expected. Fewer weekends away than past years, fewer jaunts beyond the commute-route. That has been a warm and welcome thing, I absolutely love that we’ve found a place where that feels right. And/also in 2020 I’d like to venture a bit wider again. Bought myself a new walking jacket a few days ago as a promise of time outside.

Culture

Nesting made for a TV-heavy year. And, looking back through the ‘stuff I liked’ posts, a few jump out as making a mark: Chernobyl, Russian Doll, Atlanta, Succession, Watchmen. Nothing that hasn’t been on every end-of year list.

Watching Deadwood for the first time was terrific. I’d love to go back to that sometime soon. It felt like a Punchdrunk production. I got a similar feeling re-reading The Luminaries: intimate and thoughtful portraits of people caught up in a gnarly whodunnit.

Three films stand out. Into the Spider-verse and Knives Out I adored for being fun, confident films made by people who seemed to genuinely enjoy their work. Avengers: Endgame I found to be a cathartic closing off of that whole world. I certainly don’t feel like I’ll be rushing to see more of the Marvel movies, or chasing down the TV shows.

Work

I still work at Juno, and I still really like my job. I’m really happy to be able to say that. The work is stimulating, I enjoy wrangling a working product, and I work with great people. It is also very hard work.

This year my responsibilities expanded pretty dramatically. I’m part of the management team, I line manage a few people, I help plan and run the product. There are parts of that I’ve come to be pretty good at – I have a solid sense of what a thing should do and how to scramble at a problem. I’m less stable on business development, and I need to double down on some of the people management things I came to late in the year.

I do want to think a bit about the difference between ‘things I have learned to do’ vs ‘things I have learned to do at Juno‘. Those questions plagued me after leaving my last job(s), so I’d like to give them space to breathe in a workplace I’m happy in. To that end, I want to find time to write critically/thoughtfully about my work. Might not publish it on here, but it’d be nice to carve that thinking time out.

Hobby

A really good year for gaming and painting. I picked up two painting trophies, played a full league of Warcry and got a couple of tournaments in too.

I have found a nice focus to be in smaller-scale stuff. I have been super-proud of single miniatures and warbands, much less enthused by army painting or batch-painting. I feel the same about the games themselves: playing badly for three hours is not fun. Playing punchy skirmish games through in 45 minutes is hugely entertaining – even when I lose.

I’ve closed out the year with my best-painted model to date – Da Red Gobbo, above – and a bit of a promise for taking on only small-scale things next year. That feels like a good, sustainable energy to take into 2020.

North Coast 500

Sassetta and Iceland were lovely family holidays, and I got out to Oslo to teach a couple of times. But the trip of the year was probably Scotland. A week on the road around the top of the country felt wide and open and adventurous. I’d love another trip like that, so we’re going to plan one in New Zealand.

In summary

I had a good time in 2019. I’d like to do more of it in 2020, but better and different.

Stuff I liked in December

Finishing a re-read of all the Discworld books

I’ve had a slow-burn re-read of the Discworld books on the go for the last three years. That wrapped up after the collectors library release of Snuff and Raising Steam. It’s been a treat. As I wrote in March, the Witches books come out on top – Lancre and the Chalk are wonderful spaces to get lost in.

What I loved: character, adventure, magic. The world itself, which in one of upheaval and progress (not the entropy of a lot of fantasy/sci-fi). A central theme of the books is ‘the death of wonder’, and he’s great at showing the gentle, persistent struggle required to keep it alive.

What I didn’t love: the politics of the Disc doesn’t evolve much over thirty+ years of writing. Women are always being ‘remarkable’, wives usually dote and support as a priority, Ankh-Morpork is always ‘a melting pot’. In individual books, the references are small and throwaway. At the rate of one a month, it’s a much less flattering picture of the author.

These things gave Pratchett space to show a city full of folks who are one bad night away from being raging bigots. I get the sense that he had a lot of hope for people, but absolutely no faith in populations.

Warcry league at Bad Moon Cafe

It’s been great fun actually running a whole gaming campaign through to completion, and Bad Moon remains a terrific gaming venue. I’m excited to do another season in 2020.

Let It Snow

Of all the slightly-shit Christmas telly I watched this year, this was my favourite. Much better than it needed to be.

Maraoke

A great bit of video of Ann and I doing ‘Free from Desire’ by Gala sums up the night for me. Lots of fun, lots of dancing, stacks of singing. Start of a great Christmas.

Kermit doing ‘Once in a Lifetime’

Christmas

Christmas was great this year. We hosted two family events in the run-up and it was just the two of us on the day. Very chill, mostly pyjamas, no fuss (although I bumped into an old GDS colleague on a trip to the pub, because London). I cooked an incredible nut-roast, drank my body weight in prosecco, and that night we took a stroll through the unlocked park by the house. It was perfect.

A woodpecker on our bird feeders

Like spotting a celebrity in a corner shop. Not a Hollywood star, but definitely someone who’d won a BAFTA.

Leatherhead to Box Hill

Stuff I liked in November

The Stone Tape

Found via John Coulthart’s blog, I loved this creepy/trippy audio drama. Nice start to the month, stomping through Crystal Palace park on a misty morning.

Fireworks

Speaking of Crystal Palace Park, the fireworks were pretty banging. I love fireworks. Always a signal that it’s jumper-season, proper welcome to winter.

Thorpe Park

Our feeders

We’ve got seeds and fat balls up in feeders out front and back, and the swarm of sparrows, blue tits, coal tits, great tits, parakeets, jays, squirrels and pigeons that munch on them are a daily treasure. Happily passed half an hour with a coffee watching the back one the other day.

Related: I started walking a stop further out in the mornings. Meeting woodpeckers, foxes, wrens and the rest is a very calming entry to the day. I’m enjoying work, which is good because the hours I’m in require more sustained concentration and attention than any job I’ve had before. These morning strolls quickly started feeling essential, for balance.

Race Chaser

Tip from Ann – Willam and Alaska’s Race Chaser Podcast was a top-notch companion to the Drag Race UK endgame.

On that note: I loved Drag Race UK. First couple of episodes felt very ‘Drag Race: The Fans’, but after that it turned into a pretty tight season. Not as much arbitrary drama as the last few seasons of Drag Race proper, and some great challenges. Good work.

Booksmart

Good, tight, road-trip/party/self-discovery movie. But, like all movies in the genre, I have come away from it wanting to rewatch Magic Mike XXL.

The Red Gobbo

Comfortably the best painting I’ve ever done. It feels good to have a miniature at the end of the year that so clearly captures how far my painting has come on. Very proud of myself. More things to this standard this year… which probably also means painting fewer things.

Other Spaces

UVA’s setup at 180 The Strand is great. The end piece, The Great Animal Orchestra, is extremely my shit. Black room, light bars and soundwaves, water surrounds, drone, field recordings. I’d have comfortably spent the full loop in there, although I’d been at London Bridge right beforehand and Ann rang to see if I’d been caught up in the incident there. Took me out of the art, and put in my head a little bit.

Luckily I went into TRANSFORMER: A Rebirth Of Wonder afterwards with Mark, and some of that was so shit I started to feel a fair bit better.

Stuff I liked in October

Typing this with a bit of a bruise in my soul after realising I put my favourite wool jumper in a wash instead of handwashing it and, well, it looks like Ann’s getting a nice “new” jumper

Realms at War

RAW is an outstanding narrative event for Age of Sigmar held each year in Cambridge. Super-unique, with a lot of care put in by the folks who pull it together. I went a couple of years back and had an incredible time, but had to skip last year as I was in Oslo.

This year I cleared the weekend for it and had two excellent days playing weird and wonderful (and not especially competitive) games of AoS with my Court. I also picked up a painting prize – which was a huge surprise. And not one I felt I deserved… but chatting to the judges afterwards I feel like I know why I got it, and where I can put effort in to push them all up to that standard.

Phil on telly during Taskmaster

Watching an ad-break, and who do I see but Phil. Amazing. BAAAAT!

Oslo

Realising Chris and Tom made me more polite

After a stop in a cafe with Lars and Einar I realised that I bus my own table in almost every place. Obviously it’s polite/the right thing to do. But I probably only do it because of Chris and Tom chiding me for not doing it in a cafe in Portland five years ago.

That, right there, is the real face of peer pressure.

Succession

Greg blog

Greg’s blogging again. Which I always like. His line about when reflection is helpful (“A healthy point where it’s not about unpicking, post-mortem or should-have-done-betters, but to look at what actually came to exist and my (very crucial role) in lots of it.“) reminded me about the drive-by reference I made to doing similar earlier this year.

It’s also made me think about how I’m going to blog next year. Probably not monthnotes, but we’ll see.

Roller disco

I’m not a good skater, but, in Ann’s words, “you’re one of the best people in here that never goes skating”. No tumbles, plenty of speed, quite a lot of fun.

Sorting files and stuff

Dropbox’s price rise made me rethink where all my stuff is kept. I’ve been churning through bits and bobs and changed all the backup stuff and, in the process, saved myself about £100 of storage fees. Boring admin thing, but that’ll cover the cost of my replacement jumper.

Stuff I liked in September

Warner Brothers studio tour

I’ve been pestering Ann to take me for ages, but she wouldn’t relent until her niece and nephew fancied it (it being a busperson’s holiday for her).

It was really good. Made me want to have been part of a ten-year project. The different facets of industrial-scale production were riveting, and they’ve put a fair amount of thought into what’s going to show off the best of the franchise and the skills of the crew.

Fleabag

Saw this during its run at the Wyndham. It was very good. Chunks of it don’t feel like the play Waller-Bridge might write for Fleabag *now*, but it’s still devastating in all the right places.

Succession

What a horrible, nasty little show Succession is. The fall of the Murdochs, by way of The Thick of It. I’m hooked.

Pepys’ diary during the Great Fire

Well done Phil!

LGT

I played at two events during the London Grand Tournament. The Age of Sigmar doubles was an absolute crash of bad communication and terrible decisions between my teammate and I. But I loved the Necromunda narrative tournament. The pack had been written by my pal Alex, and over two days my fragile little gang battled in out amid massive, intricate tables.

I did terribly. But I won Best Painted gang, which I was very pleased with. Got me reinvested in hobby stuff in a big way too. Roll on RAW.

Losing at an Escape Room

A bunch of folks from Juno went to Escape Entertainment, enough for two teams. Our team wanted to get out, but weren’t too invested in the race aspect… until we heard the next door team cheer. I don’t know that I’ve ever felt true camaraderie, before that moment.

East

I cooked three meals a week from Meera Sodha’s new book and it’s felt like a luxury. Very happy to have it on the shelf.

Takis

Loved the big, noisy art. Probably going back before it closes.

AHO visit

The AHO second years hit town for a few days last week. We were very fortunate have good people feed them with ideas. Huge thanks to Tim, Martin, Kara and Keeley at GDS, Nat, Mink, George and Charlie from Museum in a Box and Matt.

Got them up to Walthamstow Wetlands to get rained on too. A++, would drench students again.

Iceland

Ann and I took our Mum’s to Iceland. A fair magical trip. The Northern Lights danced in red and green, the baked good were heavenly, and I drank glacial meltwater. I’m pleased I’m in a place in my life where I can can take my Mum on a trip like that.

Stuff I liked in August

Warcry

Games Workshop’s new skirmish game is a genuine treat. Fast, characterful, dynamic and small. It’s the game equivalent of my favourite books and films. I love playing it, and I’m sure I’ll sink more time into it than any of their other games over the next few months.

Nat’s paragraph about the LoVE burger

“It’s absolutely mind-blowing. It has the perfect balance of creamy, crunchy, acidic, sweet, and fatty, and I just can’t get enough of it. It’s astonishing that fast food invented ways to democratise such a sophisticated flavour profile.”

SPOILERS: it’s not actually as good as Nat’s paragraph about it

Midsummer nights dream at The Bridge

Neither Ann or I actually like Shakespeare very much, but one of my Warhammer pals was in the cast and it seemed like a neat idea. It was actually terrific. Funny, light, energetic. I felt like I ‘got’ more of the stuff between the lovers than in any other time I’ve seen it or read it. Very pleased to have gone (and to have got promenade tickets too).

Atlanta: Robbin’ season

I’ve deleted a lot of telly and films off of my list this month, because Robbin’ season was so good it kind of reset my bar.

The first series of Atlanta was great, but plays the setup (‘up and coming rapper just getting by’) in a fairly trad way. It sets Robbin’ season up beautifully though. The second series unpacks authenticity, masculinity, mental health and realness in a fragmented, choppy way. The patchwork of stories flipped from chilling to hilarious to devastating. I loved it, and I can’t wait to binge it all again sometime.

Antibiotics

I’ve been ill most of the month. The first half was an ear infection that was nearly healed before I made it all much much worse with a cotton bud. After 33 years, I accept that cotton buds are bad. Medicine is amazing though.

Reading old favourites

I re-read Pattern Recognition and Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry this month. Really enjoyed them. Didn’t feel particularly knotted about them, the way going back to old favourites sometimes can. Malry in particular I’m happy to have gone back to: it’s such a concise, angry little book.

HMHB album titles

  • Back in the DHSS
  • Back Again in the DHSS
  • McIntyre, Treadmore and Davitt
  • This Leaden Pall
  • Some Call It Godcore
  • Voyage to the Bottom of the Road
  • Four Lads Who Shook the Wirral
  • Trouble over Bridgewater
  • Cammell Laird Social Club
  • Achtung Bono
  • CSI: Ambleside
  • 90 Brisodal (Crimond)
  • Urge for Offal
  • No-One Cares About Your Creative Hub So Get Your Fuckin’ Hedge Cut

(I’ve not listened to much by them, but I like “She’s In Broadstairs“)

Amrutha lounge

Ace vegan restaurant in Earlsfield. Highly recommended.

Colleagues

This was a good month at Juno. Got some tricksy stuff shipped and started laying the groundwork for features that move the whole thing forwards. Feels like the start of a step-change, and that’s bloody lovely.

Stuff I liked in July

A late edition, because I went on holiday.

Taskmaster Series 8 finale

Series 7 was the best series, but I still enjoyed 8. The finale left Ann giggling for about half an hour. Thumbs up.

Mind over Mortal Realms

I took part in a day of Age of Sigmar gaming in aid of MIND, the mental health charity. It was absolutely fantastic – a great gang, really open to telling some stories with tiny models and dice.

Warhammer’s been a pretty great hobby outlet for me the last few years, alleviating anxiety and opening up a space for thinking and doing that’s not tied to work or production or progress. Felt nice to use the hobby to raise a money for other people who need different kinds of support.

Stranger Things 3

I skipped the second series after an episode because I got bored, but I enjoyed season 3. Too many characters, too many stories, but some extremely stupid fun all the same.

Queer Eye’s ‘Disabled, but Not Really’ episode

Ann: “Antoni teaches him how to make a chicken salad and Bobbi LITERALLY MOVES A WALL so the guy can use his bathroom properly for the first time in seven years.”

Cheathco’s shallots

Exquisite. Sweet and delicious roasted with a bit of salt and oil.

Sassetta

A holiday of reading, swimming in a lake, staying up and watching the stars, eating great food, and watching swallows zipping about. Glorious.