Goodbye 2018. Seems like it was only a year since I last posted a year-end
message ('that's kind of the point' - Ed.
On the whole, I've had a very busy and active year. Mentally I'm a feeling a lot better than I have been for a long time, and despite a grim situation in the country I've found rationing my exposure to the news has helped me from despairing at things too much.
Cottage IX was an absolute belter of a weekend. Thanks to Curio for organising it and for everyone who came. Of so many great moments, hearing Gaz call out a location, only for me to check the map and reply 'Miss' to a stunned and silent team was one of the most memorable.
BeexMeat was also fun, and I'm glad I took my own tent rather than use the Travelodge this year. It helped with the Sunday morning too...
After an absence of almost two years I finally attended a couple of re-enactments again (albeit with a different group) and it felt good to be out in the field again. Definitely going to do so more in the new year. A friend introduced me to her old boss who does musketry with an English Civil War ('surely Wars of the Three Kingdoms?-Ed.
) group and we were talking so much about the hobby and our various experiences that we quite forget our friend was also there. I might be tempted to go along to an event and try it out but that depends how timings and interest work out. Can't decide if I want to be Wrong but Wromatic or Right but Repulsive however, and there's no way I want to hold a pike.
The highlight of the year for me was a trip to Morocco. I spent the first week touring myself, taking in Fes, Meknes, and Marrakech, before joining up with an organised tour for a five day trek to summit Mount Toubkal. I'd never done a commerically organised holiday before, and so was a little apprehensive, but I got on really well with the others in the group and the trek was very well organised. Hiking is a lot easier if all your gear is being carried by a mule team, and your tent's ready for you when you reach the camp. Definitely a form of holiday I'm intersted in trying again.
I also spent a week hiking in the Cairngorms in May. The weather was absolutely perfect for such a trip and it was almost entirely midge-free. I love getting up to Scotland. I also had a long weekend for my birthday in Glasgow, and took in a rugby game and an ice hockey match as well as more cultural stuff. I somehow managed to book a seat in the one completely exposed row at the rugby ground on a very wet, cold, and snowy night. It's the first time I've gone for two cups of coffee at half-time rather than a beer!
Gigwise I went to see British Sea Power in Reading back in February and Frank Turner in Dublin in April. I also went to two proms. Showwise I went to see 'Hamilton' in London and absolutely loved it! Amazing show, and worth going even if you don't know anything about American history or hiphop. I also bagged a couple of tickets for an ISIHAC recording and dragged a long a friend who'd never heard the show before as an experiment. He enjoyed it, and Samantha was as wonderful as ever.
Now the obligatory lists:Best TV
: Toss-up between 'A Very British Scandal' and 'Civilisations' . Hugh Grant was suitably scary as Thorpe, and National Insurance cards are finally funny. 'Civilisations' had a shaky first episode but soon found its feet and several of the episodes were really thought provoking. Would have liked more Mary Beard and David Olusoga as their episodes were definitely the stand out ones. Heck, if you don't want to see anything else, you should still go and watch David Olusoga's two episodes on the effects of imperialism, colonialism, and racism on art and history. Best Podcast
: 'Remainiacs' has been a island of sanity and foul language in another traumatic political year. Best Radio
: John Finnemore's sketch about the gnu turned my entire understanding of language and the animal kingdom upside down. Best Album
: Frank Turner's 'Be More Kind'. Initially I felt it was weaker than his earlier work, with what I thought to be sub-Chris de Burgh melodies and cloying lyrics, but I found myself playing it over and over. There's still something creepy about being part of a 1000-strong crowd yelling 'Make America Great Again', despite the cheesy sarcasm of that song. 'The Lifeboat'
might be my new favourite modern ballad. Best Book
: Of the books published this year, Cheesman and Klaas's 'How to rig an election' was a comprehensive but easily readable overview of how leaders across the world try to maniuplate votes. It's been a while since I've read a proper piece of comparative politics and the examples used covered a vast array of countries whilst openly admitting that older democracies have also used the techniques discussed.
So, with just over 12 hours of the year remaining and probably a shitstorm of a year ahead, here's some words by Mr Turner to close:
In a world that's decided that it's going to lose its mind,
Be more kind, my friends,
Try to be more kind
Have a great 2019 and carry on being the most excellent people on the Internet!