Happy New Year!
My, how time flies when you neglect blogging!
Seems my last post was over two months ago, and I was hoping to maintain the momentum I'd managed to achieve since the summer when I was trying to post about once a week. In terms of numbers I did 49 posts in 2015 (Argh! Very annoying ... I could have written one most post just to nudge it up to a nice round 50!), which was much better than the previous two years when I did 24 (2014) and 17 (2013).
So, if I can achieve at least 50 posts in 2016 I'll be happy. I think the main reasons for stumbling was illness and work so I'll have to watch out for those. I must try and remember the purpose of this blog (ie mainly to keep my hand in with writing) so I don't abandon it again in the future.
Anyhoo, onto my reflection of the last year:
The biggest highlight of 2015 was spending three days in New York with wifey. It was a truly memorable experience and worthy of celebrating our 15th wedding anniversary. Pity it was only three days, though! I visited Cadbury World in Birmingham for the first time as part of my fortieth birthday celebrations (not the most inspiring of experiences, but fun for what it was) and we did a weekend trip to London in the autumn to show the kids some of the sights. We also traveled to Oxford and Yorkshire to visit relations in the summer, but we usually do that at least once a year anyway so nothing new there. Disappointingly we didn't get to go to France over the summer but we have booked our Eurocamp stay for 2016 so that's something to look forward to.
I only read a handful of books this year (as usual) but I think the one that stands out is Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. It's a brilliant dystopian tale full of retro nostalgia that I couldn't put down, which is a rare thing for me.
I've seen plenty of films in the last year, but sadly not many in the cinema. The best film of 2015 has to be Star Wars: The Force Awakens which I managed to see just before Christmas (I hope to write a review about it sometime soon). A welcome return to the feel and tone of the original trilogy, it was a relief to see the beloved franchise back on track. If it wasn't for Star Wars, I would have chosen Mad Max: Fury Road for my pick of the year, which was a terrific reboot (sort of) of another franchise.
Films I've seen this year (mostly on DVD):
Thumbs up: Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Avengers: Age of Ultron (only just a thumbs up), Dallas Buyers Club, Inside Llewyn Davies, Philomena, August: Osage County, Hyde Park on Hudson, Maleficent, Calvary, The Butler, Chef, Begin Again, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Big Hero 6
Thumbs down: Terminator Genisys, Minions, Home, Mr Turner, The Amazing Spiderman
Being self-employed has its ups and downs, but I'm grateful for the flexibility it brings as it has certainly come in handy numerous times this year when I've been ill or had to step in for childcare duties. The downside is always the unpredictable nature of my work and how often I don't know what I'm doing from one week to the next. Also, it can get scary when I've not had work for weeks and clients are taking ages to pay me. Even so, I'm not moaning or complaining. I'm sure if I had a steady regular job like most people I'd be complaining about annoying colleagues, crap pay, stressful targets and other problems associated with employment. One piece of encouragement is that December was pretty full on with work. Typically, December is a dead month and I become quite stressed about what I'm going to do to get through to the New Year. This year, thankfully, was different and even more remarkable is the number of projects I've got lined up for January (an equally quiet time), so I'm quietly optimistic about year ahead.
Faith and politics
Why I've lumped them together I'm not sure, but they seem to come together for me anyway. I am desperate to 'do my bit', 'play my part' and 'make a difference' but in some ways that's easier said than done. As a Christian, faith and politics are kind of interlinked. Like all believers, I'm called to care for those in need ("....love your neighbour as yourself..." Matt 19:19) – whether I feel like it or not. This can be worked out on an individual level but cannot, I feel, be ignored on a wider level which is why I think it's important to get involved in politics and speak up about issues. Sadly, on both fronts I don't feel like I'm doing very well. We give a fair amount of our income to support various causes (and we support a Ugandan charity I visited in 2014) but ever since the depressing outcome of the General Election I've felt the need to do more.
I have done some work producing some short videos for Hope Not Hate – a grassroots campaigning organisation aimed at fighting racism. Part of their work is to counter the likes of UKIP which are attractive to racist types and they're doing a great job of countering the negative attitudes towards things like immigration. So I suppose that's something. And I'm always signing petitions for various things that speak up against stupid things our government is doing or attempting to do. I do feel I need to support a political party, however, but can't decide between Greens, Labour or Plaid Cymru.
Coming back to faith, I've become more and more convinced that God is a just God but ultimately more loving than we can possibly imagine. That should be the default position of all Christians on every issue, however uncomfortable that might be. Certain Christians like to come from an angle of God's anger, vengeance and punishment but I find that hard to reconcile with the teachings of Jesus. Not to say that we're free to do anything we want ... but I guess if one's default position is love then you can't go too far wrong. There's a hefty challenge right there, especially when you consider Jesus' teaching to love your enemies.
So, in summary, I'm not doing nothing – just gotta do a bit more!
This year has brought home to me the reality of life's fragility more than ever. The horrific situations in places like Syria, the related refugee crisis and the various terrorist attacks we have witnesses in the news have demonstrated this on a global scale, but I have also had friends, relatives and associates battling cancer (one of whom didn't make it). So that's all a bit of a downer.
I've been using Facebook less and less these days (mainly by deleting the app from my phone). I accept it's a useful tool for keeping in touch with people, but I was getting a bit sick of reading endless narcissistic posts that only served to make me feel more inadequate. I'm still using Twitter, but mostly as a business tool rather than anything personal (except promoting my blog posts, of course - hah!).
2015 and all that
On a final – and lighter – note, I was excited for us to finally reach the year 2015, being a big Back To The Future fan. In case you didn't know, the future featured prominently in the second installment of the time-traveling adventure and ever since I saw the movie I've been fascinated to see how its predictions of life in 2015 turned out. Seems they weren't totally off, just not quite in the way it was imagined.
So, thanks for reading. Wishing you a terrific 2016!