Monday, January 2, 2017

A review of 2016

As I write this, I am painfully aware that I haven't posted much since the summer. I vowed to write more often this year, but this simpy hasn't happend. At least I've written more posts than in 2014 (yay!).

I think, to be honest, I've run out of puff. Available time for writing seems to be non-existant these days and I'm increasingly being pulled in different directions when it comes to work, family and other activities. I will, however, do my best to maintain some kind of presence on this blog, even if it is very sporadic. If I can do at least 25 posts then that will be a good start (although I said 50 last year - erk!).

So here goes number one!

Family life is as hectic as ever. While the boys grow older, their demands are still there – just slightly different. Having two strong-willed boys in the house means tantrums and fights are a common occurance, but I have been trying really hard to be at peace about it. Both Wifey and I are doing our best to ride through the various storms that come our way and I think we are just about coping. My only hope is that as the boys mature, things will settle down a bit.

One thing Wifey and I recognised was that the demands of raising children has meant our marriage has been somewhat neglected. Working to address that, we have been going through a marriage course and have taken advantage of my flexible working hours, carving out time during the week for just the two of us to spend together.

2017 may well see some interesting changes as we have been exploring the possibility of fostering, and this year is when we begin down that route in earnest. Whether I am ready for this remains to be seen – but we won't know until we try!

I had two trips abroad this year. One was with family and the other with work. We went to France Eurocamping in August which was great, although I've come to the conclusion that I really can't be dealing with tents. They're OK for a one-off weekend, but for an entire family trip it's not my cup of tea. This is mainly because of the lack of sound proofing from other campers (who kept me awake in the night) but also the inconvenience of no toilets in the immediate vicinity, amongst other things. I do like my creature comforts! Next time, we'll be staying in caravans at the very least ...

My other trip was to Mallorca in May. I'd been asked to help out filming a wedding over there, and while we were only required to film for the one day I was gone for four days in total (what with travelling and all). It was ... an interesting experience. It felt a bit weird to be hanging out with the family (who I'd never met until the day of the wedding!), as we were all staying in the same hotel. It was also the time of the Brexit referendum and waking up (after leaving the reception at 1am) to find Britain's future in disarray was bewildering to say the least.

I've read three really good sci-fi books this year. One is called Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald, which revolves around the power struggle between several families who have control over different resources on the Moon. It's been described as Game of Thrones in space and even though I've not read those books, I know enough to see where that description is coming from. It's gripping reading and I hope a sequel is in the works. The second book is called Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson and is set on a vast spaceship that is heading out into deep space to colonise the star system Tau Ceti. Needless to say, things don't quite go according to plan and the crew of Aurora face all sorts of problems both on the journey and when they finally arrive at their destination. The book poses all sorts of questions that arise from the hugely difficult scenario of colonising the stars and is very thought-provoking indeed. The third book is The Time Machine by HG Wells. My first encounter with Wells' writing, I was incredibly impressed with how forward-thinking he is, written over a century ago well before computers and many other technological marvels we take for granted in this day and age. One of the greats of sci-fi literature, it's a shame the book is quite short – but impressive nonetheless.

Other books I've read: After the Funeral by Agatha Christie (I'm not a big whodunnit fan, but it was my first read of Christie), In Cold Blood by Truman Capote (an incredibly detailed account of the horrific murder of a family in Kansas and the subsequent capture of the culprits).

My favourite film this year was Arrival, which was deeply atmospheric, emotional and thought-provoking. A big film that didn't feel like a big film (apart from its subject matter), it managed to avoid being too similar to other alien invasion films (e.g. Independence Day).

Notable films I've seen in 2016 (in no particular order): Interstellar, Wreck-it Ralph, Coraline, Django Unchained, Boyhood, The Martian, City of Ember, Brooklyn, Whiplash, Kung Fu Panda 3, The Guard, Batman V Superman, Suicide Squad, Kubo and the Two Strings, Ant Man, Ex Machina, About Time, Rogue One, Jurassic World, Spectre.

We're not regular theatre-goers or anything but we did get to see three shows in 2016. In February we saw The Lion King in London. A truly epic performance – the sets, costumes and actors were amazing. Number 2 son wasn't particularly engaged, but at least he didn't throw any tantrums in the middle of it. Next up, in September we went to see The Mousetrap in Cardiff's New Theatre. An Agatha Christie whodunnit that's been in the West End for years, it evokes all of the tropes of the genre without seeming tired or unoriginal. The cast was great and the set – an old manor converted into a hotel, where all of the action takes place – was first class. Finally, we got to see a panto before Christmas (according to family tradition). It was Pinoccio at The Gate in Cardiff. Aimed squarely at the kids (with a few nods to the adults), Black Rat Productions helped get everyone into the panto / Christmas spirit. The actors did an impressive job playing multiple characters and the sing-a-long sections were fun.

Whilst I was in Mallorca, the family were lucky enough to be in Cardiff during the 'City of the Unexpected' Roald Dahl celebrations. They got to see James and the Giant Peach crash land in the middle of Cardiff, as well as Fantastic Mr Fox running around the city centre. It was a shame I wasn't there as it looked like a lot of fun.

Working as a freelancer has become the norm for me now. I can't imagine working for someone else again (unless I really had to). It still has its moments of frustration and difficulty but at least I'm my own boss and being able to fit work around family commitments is a definite plus. The business has grown steadily over the last twelve months, which is a real encouragement. I could always do with bigger and better work, but the way things are at the moment it it feels like I'm in a good place. Next year I hope to invest in new equipment and focus on more creative projects as best I can.

One positive aspect of my working life is the fact that I have the freedom to explore personal projects. This has meant I was able to direct my first short film this year. Entitled Refuge, it was inspired by the refugee crisis and can be seen here. My second short, which I directed as well, is a sci-fi comedy and was shot just before Christmas. I hope to have an edited version ready within a month or two.

Ugh. There's the elephant in the room. Do I need to say anything? Brexit was a total cock-up and the lowest point in British politics (probably ever). I dread to think how things will pan out over the course of our EU withdrawl, but I have to remain optimistic I suppose.

And then there was Trump.

The orange, misogynistic, racist clusterfunk of a man became the most powerful leader in the world and thre's nothing we an do about it. God help us. No really, God better help us.

I am even more disillusioned with politics than I was after the last general election. I must admit, I haven't been able to get that heavily involved in the political process, apart from signing countless online petitions and writing to my local MP (which was never replied to), but now I'm beginning to wonder if the only thing we can do is just let things run their course. Surely we will slide into some kind of economically retarded fascist hellhole, but hopefully the masses will eventually realise what total twats everyone's been and rise up against the Farag-ist Trumpetons lording it over us, thus restoring peace and justice to the galaxy. Or something. 

My faith bumbles along as usual. I still believe in God, so that's a start, and actually with all the crap that we've witnessed in 2016 I can't begin to imagine how hopeless it must feel for those that don't have any faith. I mean, at least if everything falls to pieces, I've got my hope in the future: spending eternity in heaven with the Most High God which is pretty awesome and reassuring. Given that, I suppose I should be able to ignore the bile and fludge going on out there and just get on with being, y'know, a good Christian like what I am called to be.

Earlier this year, I enrolled on a Christian leadership course which takes place once a month (apart from the summer and Christmas hols). I was hoping it would prove useful in terms of building up my faith and my confidence as a leader, but I'm not entirely convinced at this point even though most of the material is good. I'm committed to doing it over two years, so I've got a way to go – hopefully it will be worth the effort in the end (and I will at least get a qualification once completed).

Other stuff
In November I invested in a new MacBook Pro after my old one died in the summer. It's not one of those new-fangled magic touchbar ones (not enough decent ports, too expensive), but a 2015 model. In computer terms it's ancient, but it suits my needs just fine and is nice and zippy compared to my sluggish iMac. Whether I will be a Mac user for much longer remains to be seen, as Apple seems to have completely given up on their professional customers. 2017 might be the year I finally give in to the lure of the accursed Windows platform, but hopefully Apple will sort themselves out and I won't have to.

In September I attended the funeral of an amazing and inspiring friend, Eileen Younghusband. I had worked with her on and off ever since she was featured in an NHS film I was involved in back in 2008-ish I think. She was a formidable woman who was working pretty much right up until her death at the ripe old age of 95, leaving behind a legacy of books about her life and her role in the Second World War, amongst many other worthy achievements. I didn't see as much of her in her last few years as I should have, which seems to be the common regret when it comes to those who have passed away, but perhaps it was because I was convinced she would keep on going well into her hundreds.

And on that cheery note, I shall welcome the new year with open arms and hope that things will be a bit brighter this time around. Chin up, let's doooooo this.

Bring it on 2017!

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