I'm pleased to say that my blog count for 2017 was better than last year (and the year before that!), having doubled my efforts (Darth Vader would have been proud). 61 posts isn't bad – my best effort since 2012 – and it didn't feel too difficult to achieve (although summer was a bit of a dry spell).
So, 2107 - here goes.
Boys are growing up, again! What is it with small human beings and their propensity for increasing in size?!? Seriously though, number one son turned 10 this year, which made me feel all sorts of conflicted emotions including sadness (he'll be a grown up and leave home before I know it), pride (he's doing well at school and is a good kid) and bewilderment (me? a father? seriously?). Ten whole years since my life was changed forever by becoming a dad. Crazy. What's great is that I am beginning to be able to engage with him more and more like an adult. For example we sometimes have normal grown up conversations - something I've longed for for ages.
My bother and his partner welcomed their third child into the world, a lovely healthy girl, in May – so it seems the next generation are well and truly in full swing.
Wifey and I are getting on well. I'm really grateful that things are solid between us. I think the fact that we are making more of an effort to catch up with each other on a dedicated basis helps (i.e. booking in brunch dates). This should prove doubly important now that we are both serving in the church and the resultant stress / time demands that brings.
I am constantly reminded of how fortunate we are as a family in all sorts of ways - the challenge is to never take things for granted.
My faith has had ups and downs of sorts. Not that I've wavered in my faith to any degree, but I am hyper sensitive when it comes to sound doctrine and all that. The notion of 'false prophets' is something I find myself often thinking about and I have become a bit disillusioned with the charismatic approach to Christianity (not that I was particularly sold on that movement in the first place). There's a tension between sound biblical living that is right-relating and engaging with the fallen world in which we live in - something which many Christians, I fear, don't really get. Not that I'm an expert. It's often reallly hard to separate truth from lies - it's like trying to separate dust from treacle. Oh well, ho hum. Will keep thinking on that one.
I'm continuing my leadership training course – only four more essays to go, woohoo! – which has been interesting but quite a drain on my time and headspace. Once I've completed it, I hope to find something worthwhile to get involved in in the local community which is linked to the church. Foodbank, maybe.
As for church, I've only just started out as a deacon. I'm sure I will have lots to write about in a year's time but at the moment I have no real idea what it's going to be like. I've already had my first meeting and that was pretty painless, so watch this space I guess.
My travels this year were fairly minimal. Apart from a jaunt to France over spring half-term with most of my immediate family (where we had an amazing time), we didn't get to do much else apart from going to London in the summer (a trip to the Natural History Museum being the main focus) and a visit to relatives in Oxford and Yorkshire over the summer.
For next year, we're off to France again in August (just us this time), but apart from that we have nothing else planned.
I think I've done a bit better with my reading this year. I'm not the quickest of readers but I'm a bit more determined to keep on top of it and make sure I read a variety of genres (not just sci-fi which is my favourite). I've also gotten into the habit of reading 'spiritual' books at breakfast time. It's my way of trying to double up my reading efforts and trying to avoid dwelling on the news (which is very depressing at the start of the day).
I've written an overview of my reading here.
So, I've managed 84 films this year, which isn't bad but I would have liked to have seen at least 100. I guess that's something to aim for next year. The problem is, I rarely have a couple of hours free in the evening these days. After settling the kids for bed, sorting the house out and catching up on work, it's usually 9pm and then watching an entire movie seems a bit much (especially if it's over 2 hours). I have gotten into the habit of watching films in segments, but I don't like to do that too often as it does seem to stop the flow a bit.
My favourite films of 2017 (in no particular order) are:
- American Made
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi
- Baby Driver
- The LEGO Batman Movie
Having upgraded our Virgin package and subscribed to Netflix, we are following a whole load of TV shows. Here's what we've been watching:
- Mad Men (We are still plodding through this, having arrived at the eighth - and final - season. Eventually we'll get there).
- Designated Survivor (We're now onto the second season of this drama set in a parallel world where the US President is actualy a likeable guy determined to do the right thing).
- Stranger Things (Season two was as good as the first. I just hope they don't screw it up going into next year).
- The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Season two felt less funny than season one. Still, the characters are great and there seems a bit more mileage left in it).
- Master of None (hilarious observational comedy with plenty of pathos).
- SS GB (dark and thoughful drama set in an alternate Britain where the Nazis won the Battle of Britain).
- Star Trek: Discovery (I started watching it, but lost interest halfway through. Not sure I can be bothered...)
- The Handmaid's Tale (Powerful drama not a million miles from home which is kinda scary).
I saw very little this year in terms of shows/theatre this year, but I did get to see a show by proxy because I was filming it on behalf of a friend who was one of the actors. Called 'Quiet Hands' it told the story of an autistic boy who is being bullied by his housemates. It was just three actors on a bare stage but it was very powerful and moving.
We were very lucky to get to see Coldplay in the Millennium Stad - er, Principality Stadium (dang, keep doing that!) in July. It was a breathtaking show, even though we were stuck right at the back on the top tier. Good memories.
For Christmas, we usually take the kids to a show of some kind and this year we went to see Wind in the Willows at the Sherman theatre. It was brilliant - with great songs, terrific acting and a gorgeous set. Hopefully we'll go again next year to see Alice in Wonderland.
Work has been plodding along as usual. Not much to report on, but I have been encouraged by new networking opportunities - plus I invested in a couple of decent cameras and other filming equipment (thanks to a hefty bank loan) which has really improved the quality of my work.
I've been working on some short films, but haven't done as much as I would have liked. The only one that came out in 2017 was 'Timicide' which we shot at the end of 2016. We did a couple of other shorts, but just mucking around really. One of my shorts is languishing in post-production which is frustrating (all my own fault though). I hope to do more this year coming, but it all depends on time and capacity.
I also had the opportunity to edit a feature film for the first time. It was a low budget crowdfunded sci-fi thriller but due to lack of funds and various setbacks its release has been delayed signifcantly. Only time will tell how long it will be before it's completed.
I've only been properly ill once in 2017 (in May), which is a record because I'm usually grotty two or three times in any given year. Not sure what to put it down to, but it may be something to do with the fact that I'm trying to eat more healthily (well, I'm *trying*). I'm definitely eating more fruit and vegetables these days, and while my exercise regime is a little sporadic I'm pretty much on top of it most of the time. Would be great to get rid of the belly, though.
I did have a 'back episode' back in August when my back went completely and I was in pain for weeks. It was almost debilitating but thankfully subsided eventually. It sure made me feel old!!!
I do exercises now to try and compensate and hope it will prevent any future problems.
Well, we had the divisive General Election, Trump's appaling presidency and the ugly fallout of Brexit. With a smattering of terrorist attacks and various disasters it was a pretty downbeat 12 months. But then, aren't they always? It's all too easy to focus on the negatives when there's plenty of good stuff happening that often gets underreported, ignored or suppressed by the bad news.
I was struck when, watching something related to the 80s, there was the same level of hysteria and panic about various world news from the time. Stuff that has been and gone, consigned to the history books. I just made me think that we shouldn't be troubled by what's going on in the present. Yes, react to what's going on - don't just let bad people get away with bad deeds - but don't allow these things to dictate our sense of wellbeing. It's easy to forget that most human beings are good, kind and trustworthy – and that most events are fleeting and temporary.
We had the – ahem – joy of caring for stick insects in 2017. I say 'we', I actually mean 'I'. I became the sole care giver and, despite losing a few initially have managed to keep them alive all this time. Fascinating and curious beasts, I wouldn't say I have any affection for them - just a spot of loyalty I guess, seeing as they were a gift to my boys from my younger brother. How long they'll live for is anyone's guess as they're not in the most ideal environment for their species (it's a bit cold here in Wales!).
Like last year's post, I'll end this with a brief mention of a funeral I attended this autumn. My aunt sadly died of cancer and it was an honour to join my family at the service. I don't always feel affected by funerals, but it was a very moving occasion and unsurprisingly made me reflect on my own mortality (as well as others around me). I remember my aunt as a very gregarious and uplifting person. I wouldn't say I was particularly close to her, but she did her auntie duty well and always took an interest in us, even though we didn't see her very often. From what I understand, her final months and days were not very dignified (whose ever are?), but my memories of her are positive – someone who was ready to be life and soul of the party. I think that's the best way to remember her.
And on that note, dear reader, I shall sign off from my first post of 2018.
Have a good one!