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January 1st 2019
How is your 2019 so far? Good? I've half-heartedly sorted out my garage, and watched two episodes of Taskmaster, so it's going great guns for me so far. Anyways, here are the Coddies. You know the Coddies, right? They're the annual film awards I dish out on this blog, causing much excitement throughout the streets of Hollywood and other, lesser, cities. A movie is eligible for this most prestigious of award ceremonies if either: (i) I saw it at the cinema on general release in 2018; or (ii) it was released in the UK in 2018 and I saw it elsewhere - this year that meant cinema (35), DVD (5) & streaming (13). In addition news, that's a total of 53 films, just misisng out on last year's record of 54.
As ever, this means that some films I really enjoyed didn't manage to make it into the nominations, in particular Creed II, Kodachrome and The Mercy. I also saw quite a few disappointing films in 2018, particularly non-superhero blockbusters like Solo and Tomb Raider, but the worst film of the year was Downsizing. Right, onto the awards...

Best Film
Winner: I, Tonya - from the start, this film exploits the comic and tragic possibilities of the true story of Tonya Harding, a working class girl turned ice skating champion turned co-conspirator in the breaking of her rival's knee. The fourth wall is repeatedly broken, almost everyone is an unreliable narrator, the cast is astounding (see below); the film's ambition is astounding and it doesn't put a foot wrong. While it remains very funny throughout, it also explores the pain, prejudice and exploitation in Tonya Harding's story.
2nd: Avengers: Infinity War - speaking of ambition, this 19th film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe brings together 22 lead characters and serves them well, a great film in its own right which makes Avengers: Endgame the most anticipated film of 2019 by some margin.
3rd: Bad Times at the El Royale - a flawed masterpiece where a group of strangers with secrets come up against each other in a once-popular hotel. The third act is a bit of a let down but this is still a great film.
4th: Game Night - the funniest big studio comedy in years, with Jason Bateman & Rachel McAdams leading an ensemble cast in a murder mystery gone wrong. Imaginative and great fun.
5th: Mission: Impossible - Fallout - possibly the best in the six-film (so far) franchise, Tom Cruise's efforts to kill himself for our entertainment reach new heights with helicopter chases, bathroom fights and Halo jumps aplenty. The supporting cast is also spot on, with Henry Cavill on lovely moustache-twirling form.
6th: Molly's Game - Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut does not disappoint, telling the true story of Molly Bloom and her high-stakes poker games, with a great performance from Jessica Chastain and the excellent script you would expect from Sorkin. Michael Cera as Tobey Maguire is cheeky.

Best Actor in a Leading Role
Winner: Rami Malek (Bohemian Rhapsody) - the role was supposed to be Sacha Baron Cohen's, but he left due to creative differences; the film itself went through a long run of problems including the firing of director Bryan Singer; reviews were not especially kind (although I thought it was a very good film). Putting all of that to one side, Malek's performance was wonderful; the vulnerability of Freddie Mercury behind closed doors was beautifully captured, as were his triumphant performances on stage, in particular Live Aid. Capturing the iconic singer is perhaps an impossible job, but Malek does fantastically.
2nd: Sam Claflin (Journey's End) - this adaptation of a WWI play is all about the mental horrors of war, and Claflin's long breakdown is played superbly; he is a real talent and one of the more versatile actors around.
3rd: Gary Oldman (Darkest Hour) - as Winston Churchill he finally got his Oscar, but I suspect that this won't actually got down as one of his great roles. He's unrecognisable under the prosthetics, and does a great job capturing another icon, but is perhaps too larger than life for a truly empathetic performance.
4th: Lakeith Stanfield (Sorry to Bother You) - the film is absolutely nuts, a dark satire on race relations and capitalism, but at its heart is a Stanfield's performance, charistmatic and funny without being zany.
5th: Jason Bateman (Game Night) - Bateman has arguably been playing the same role for well over a decade, but in this comedy his talents are put to good use; it's hard to imagine anyone else being so consistently funny as the straight man at the centre of the madness.
6th: John Krasinski (A Quite Place) - what a year for Krasinski; he's gained plaudits for writing and directing, but that shouldn't take away from his excellent acting here. The scene where he tells his daughter that he's always loved her is tear-jerker of the year.

Best Actress in a Leading Role
Winner: Margot Robbie (I, Tonya) - she joined the A list after Wolf of Wall Street, but this is arguably the first film that's truly allowed her to showcase her talents: funny, angry, vulnerable. Not to mention convincing as an ice skater (albeit with plenty of visual tricks). This won by a mile, one of the best performances I've seen in years, and truly heart-breaking at times. Robbie also co-produced; I hope she can find more roles like this.
2nd: Saoirse Ronan (Lady Bird) - Ronan has a great track record - and several Oscar nominations - and this is possibly her best performance yet, as the title character going through the tribulations of a girl on the cusp of leaving home. She plays brilliantly off a very talented supporting cast.
3rd: Lady Gaga (A Star is Born) - the surprise of the year, Lady Gaga plays completely against her public image - at least at first - as an ingenue making her way into the music business.
4th: Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) - in a peculiar film that only really works if you can buy a sexual relationship between a woman and a fishman (I couldn't), Hawkins is great as a mute woman in strange circumstances.
5th: Emily Blunt (Mary Poppins Returns) - amazingly, Blunt doesn't yet have an Oscar nomination. She may break that trend in this title role: stern but joyful, and showing more open empathy than Julie Andrews did in her career-defining performance several decades ago.
6th: Hailee Steinfeld (Bumblebee) - Steinfeld is one of the most compelling young actors around, and while she appears to have chosen a more mainstream career than, say, Saorise Ronan, she anchors this Transformers film beautifully, bringing to life the ET-like relationship between girl and car-robot-thing.

Best Director
Winner: Craig Gillespie (I, Tonya) - in case you hadn't worked it out, I think this is a wonderful film. Gillespie melds the drama, comedy, direct interviews, mock-archival footage, fourth-wall breaks etc. with aplomb, creating something unlike any film I've seen before. An utter triumph, and it bodes well for his upcoming 101 Dalamatians prequel, Cruella.
2nd: Anthony & Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War) - I must admit I wasn't sure they had what it takes to take over Joss Whedon's Avengers gig, but I was wrong: the action and visuals were as great as expected, but they also alllowed more character development and emotional heft than I was expecting.
3rd: Christopher McQuarrie (Mission: Impossible - Fallout) - McQuarrie has been very open about the process behind making his second Mission film, and it's nuts: scripts unwritten and major plot points undecided until well after many shots were done, but the kinetic action scenes and razor-sharp focus made us all suddenly realise that Mission: Impossible is the best action franchise out there.
4th: John Krasinski (A Quiet Place) - I'd seen Kransinski's second film, The Hollars, which is serviceable but nothing more. This suspense-horror film is an astonishing upgrade, creating tension without cheap jump scares or (much) gore. Working with his wife, Emily Blunt, was also clearly a good call.
5th: Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale) - with a great ensemble cast and a wonderful location, this is a beautifully directed film. The twists are done very well, for the most part; it is very atmospheric without needing to be unduly crude or disturbing. I look forward to more from Goddard's imagination.
6th: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) - Gerwig appears to be flying the flag for female directors at the moment - which is a position I'm sure she'd much prefer to share - and she handles this semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story with a light touch. I look forward to her further work, too.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Winner: Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther) - he's already a Coddie winner for Creed two years ago - he's also typically excellent in 2018's Creed II - and now he'll have to make more space in the cabinet for this win. Marvel has had a bit of a villain problem previously, but Jordan's Killmonger is a tour de force; he dominates the screen with righteous anger and strength. Every superhero villain role is proclaimed as something more subtle and complex, but here - thanks to Ryan Coogler as well as Jordan - it's actually true. His final scene is particularly strong.
2nd: Sebastian Stan (I, Tonya) - as Tonya Harding's sometime husband, Sebastian Stan has to play the role in several different ways: for example, the meek and well-meaning supporter that the character likes to think he is, and the manic domestic abuser that Harding describes him as. He's marvellous throughout.
3rd: Paul Walter Hauser (I, Tonya) - this is probably the most obviously comic role in the film, and Hauser is hilarious as a schlubby nobody with titanic delusions of grandeur. Beautifully underplayed.
4th: Andy Serkis (Black Panther) - and this one is beautifully overplayed. Serkis has already played Klaue in Age of Ultron, but here Ryan Coogler lets him entirely off the leash, a portrait of manic villainy that manages to be entirely joyful. It's a shame we almost certainly won't see the character again.
5th: Lucas Hedges (Lady Bird) - following his stunning performance in Manchester by the Sea, Hedges has a smaller role in this one but is typically great. One scene in particular is heart-breaking and turns the film on its head for a while.
6th: Christopher Plummer (All the Money in the World) - replacing Kevin Spacey at the last minute, Plummer does a fine job as the heartless and miserly J. Paul Getty. Classy.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Winner: Laurie Metcalf (Lady Bird) - Metcalf plays the mother of the title character, and it is a role of some depth and variation: while she is sometimes thoughtlessly cruel to her daughter, Metcalf helps us to see what has led the character to that position, and certainly she never plays her as a villain. Her final scene caps a remarkable, empathetic performance.
2nd: Allison Janney (I, Tonya) - she got the plaudits and awards, and it was a tough call not to give her top spot here (maybe I'm just contrary); also the mother of the title character, in her case the cruelty is anything but thoughtless. Funny and thought-provoking.
3rd: Letitia Wright (Black Panther) - the third outstanding performance in Black Panther is also a star-marker for Wright as the title character's sister. Oh, and genius. She's funny, light, and confident. Letitia Wright is going places... hopefully we'll see more of her in Avengers: Endgame.
4th: Cynthia Erivo (Bad Times at the El Royale) - amidst a fantastic cast on top form, Erivo is the break-out star: she gets to use her beautiful singing voice, but even aside from that produces a wonderful performance as one of the mysterious strangers who's way out of her depth.
5th: Claire Foy (First Man) - in possibly the most disappointing film of the year for me (having loved Damien Chazelle's previous films Whiplash & La La Land), Foy is more than solid as Neil Armstrong's fearful wife. She is showing herself to be one of the most versatile actresses around, shaking off The Crown well.
6th: Melissa Benoist (Sun Dogs) - one of the surprises of 2018 was this directorial debut from Jennifer Morrison, which has a great script and cast, and it just missed out on nominations in a few categories. Benoist - whom I mostly know from Supergirl - gives a great and layered performance here.

Best Visual Effects
Winner: Avengers: Infinity War - there is a danger of taking for granted just how good the effects are here. The fact is that the central character, as well as several supporting characters, are entirely or mostly CGI and yet still provide significant emotional heft throughout. Astonishing stuff.
2nd: Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle - Andy Serkis's decision to make the animals slightly cartoon-y (also bringing in some of the features of the motion capture actors) was a good one, as it allows more connection with the characters. The film doesn't work as well as it could, but it looks incredible.
3rd: Bumblebee - another film where the lead character is CGI, but the top notch effects (as well, of course, as Hailee Steinfeld's performance) make the audience really feel for Bumblebee. Even though he's a car-robot-thing. The action scenes are also clear and well done. Michael Bay, take note.
4th: Annihilation - it's a shame that this was released on Netflix because it really deserved to be seen on the big screen. Great and imaginative visuals. And truly horrifying at times.

Best Writing Adapted Screenplay
Winner: Aaron Sorkin (Molly's Game) - there is a Coddies tradition that, if Aaron Sorkin writes something, he gets an award. I don't think this screenplay is up there with The Social Network, but I'm just a sucker for Sorkinese: Kevin Costner is particularly well-served in his relatively brief appearance; Sorkin loves writing stories about parents and children.
2nd: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick, Ryan Reynolds (Deadpool 2) - go on, then. Both Deadpool films are more mainstream than they pretend to be, but this is very funny - the X-Force demise is particularly hilarious, as are the mid-credits scenes - and a rare recent success story for Fox in the superhero world.
3rd: Simon Read (Journey's End) - my common complaint about films based on plays is that they feel too play-like - stuck in one location, for example - and that's probably true here. That being said, it's a great character piece that digs into the harrowing effects of war on a range of different people.
4th: Phil Lord, Rodney Rothman (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse) - this has a lot going for it (see below) but the strength of the screenplay shouldn't be ignored: balancing several characters and back-stories with the perfect focus on each, this is Sony's best superhero film since Spider-Man 2.

Best Writing Original Screenplay
Winner: Steven Rogers (I, Tonya) - one last Coddie for I, Tonya, bringing it up to a record-equalling four (and a record-equalling seven nominations). If this had been a fairly straight story of over-ambition and failure it could still have been great; as it is, it goes way beyond that. Tonya Harding's mad story lends itself to a telling as crazy as this.
2nd: Charlie Brooker (Black Mirror: Bandersnatch) - very late in 2018 we got this choose-your-own-adventure film. It's a gimmick, but Brooker made it more than that, as you would expect from the endlessly inventive Black Mirror: it gets deeply meta, and while some of the endings(!) are less satisfying than others, overall it's a remarkable achievement. Get ready for a number of weaker take-offs.
3rd: Greta Gerwig (Lady Bird) - Gerwig spent years writing this, and she never took the obvious choice when she could give us something more truthful and thoughtful.
4th: Drew Goddard (Bad Times at the El Royale) - Goddard is another writer-director who eschewed the obvious story points. I loved the setting of a once-popular hotel that is practically deserted, and while the third act doesn't quite tie together the narrative strands as I'd hoped, it is still a remarkable piece of storytelling.

Best Animated Film
Winner: Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - this is the best animated film in many years, a truly breakthrough achievement in the medium. The visuals absolutely blow you away, feeling ripped from the pages of a comic book but with an energy you rarely see in any kind of film. With a great collection of characters, including an interracial lead, and a talented cast of voice actors, this came very close to being on my Best Film list. A sequel and a female-led spin-off are already in the works. Can't wait. Imagine how good Solo might have been if they'd stuck with Lord & Miller...
2nd: Teen Titans Go! To the Movies - I don't think anyone was expecting this to be as funny and inventive as it was, given that it's basically a spin-off from a kids' cartoon, but it's also well worth a watch. It also has the best Stan Lee cameo of the year.
3rd: Incredibles 2 - this was fun but nowhere near as ground-breaking as the original. While I enjoyed it at the time, it is rather forgettable and symptomatic of a slight waning in Pixar's powers.
4th: Coco - speaking of which, I didn't enjoy this one at all. I didn't care if the kid got to play his guitar. Zijian made me watch it, and I spent the entire film being grumpy because I wanted to see something else.

Best Documentary
Winner: Making Fun: The Story of Funko - I only saw one documentary, and it was this on Netflix. It's basically a long advert for Funko and is not really worth watching. Sorry.

January 7th 2019
Yesterday was the farewell service for my Dad, who has retired as a vicar, and so I made my way down to Somerset for the service (and a gathering afterwards where my parents were presented with some gifts, and I ate lots and lots of food). Anyways, as part of the service Dad, Mum, Simon & I all chose a couple of hymns to sing, and we were all asked to say a little something to introduce them (albeit the brief wasn't too specific, so I decided to talk a bit about life as a vicar's son over the years). I thought I'd reproduce my script, so you can see what I was planning to say - and, if you were there and have a good memory, you can see what I cut out, either accidentally or deliberately, and what I ad libbed on the day. Here it is:

I'm Colin, although many of you will know me by a different name: Simon. Or sometimes even Peter, which I always took as rather a compliment, rather than a comment on my beard and ongoing hair loss.
I've been asked to talk a bit about what it's like to be the son of a vicar. I find that a difficult question to answer it's rather like the question Simon & I often get, which is what it's like to be a twin. The thing is, I've never not been a twin, and I've never not been the son of a vicar or, at least, not until now. So perhaps I'll shortly be able to give you an insightful view into what it's like not to be the son of a vicar.
As a vicar's son, I have been privileged to be heavily involved in church life. I have sung in choirs, been a sidesperson, played music, and, in a previous church, rung the bell in every service, shortly before it had to be blocked off as unsafe to ring. I have probably turned down more coffee than any other man in Somerset. Unlike my mother, though, I have never dressed as a Christingle orange.
Another question I was often asked growing up was if I'd like to be a vicar as well indeed, people still occasionally ask me if I'd considered it. This always seemed a bit strange, as well if I found out that someone's father was an accountant, I wouldn't ask them if they'd be an accountant too but I never had any difficulty in giving an answer. Which was no. God hadn't called me to it; also, I'm pretty sure I couldn't do it. Having seen Dad be a vicar all these years, I've seen his gifts of patience, love, diplomacy, perseverance and genuine concern for others, and I see why God called him to this job. I would not be able to do it.
On the other hand, I'm in an amateur dramatics group in Bristol and played a vicar in a play a couple of years ago. At that time it was very useful to have a contact who could provide me with a dog collar.
The greatest thing about growing up in a vicarage is, in fact, the greatest thing about anyone growing up with a Christian influence in their lives: learning early the truth about who God is. My parents never forced me to be Christian I don't think it's possible to force someone to be a Christian but, as you probably know, I am indeed a follower of Jesus. One of the most exciting things about leaving home and going to University was that my relationship with God was mine, and it wasn't tied to one particular church or parish, or to my Dad's job. Today it is a great joy to be able to worship God here as well as to worship him in my church in Bristol. And it is by the grace of God that I know that, while Dad is wonderful, he is only the second best of my fathers.
I want to thank you for the welcome that I've had whenever I've been here, the interest that you have taken in my life in Bristol, the love you clearly have for my parents, and for those special times when you've got my name right. The first hymn I've chosen today is a beautiful hymn about what Jesus did for us, and the response it demands from us, and is in fact one that I chose for our farewell service when we left Worcestershire: When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.

January 21st 2019
1. What did you do in 2018 that you'd never done before?
2018 is actually the first year that I remembered to keep a list of the new things I did. Here are some of them: sold something on eBay, got put at risk of redundancy, created a LinkedIn profile, got offered a job by a company other than AXA or Standard Life, deleted my LinkedIn profile, gambled online, bled my radiators, got caught speeding, went up Cabot Tower, liked an Instagram post, booked a taxi online, hosted a pub quiz (several times, now), got a credit card, drove barefoot, ate a Big Mac, hired a car, wore a onesie, and went to make local grill. After which I got quite dramatic food poisoning. That'll do it. Oh, and a bunch of stuff from question 21.
2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
I don't really do proper New Year's resolutions any more, but I had intended to read more books last year, and possibly managed it. This year... let's just do better.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Yes. Always.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Geographically, Paddy Ashdown did. Sherpa, my parents' cat, was sadly put down in December.
5. What countries did you visit?
I believe I took more flights in 2018 than in the whole of the rest of my life combined, but almost all of them were to Scotland and back for work. Edinburgh is a lovely city, but less so when you mostly see the inside of an office and then the inside of a hotel. The other flight was to Northern Ireland, and I also popped across the bridge to Wales (before it was free) to see PGH, so 2018 was basically one long tour of the UK. Nothing further afield than that, though.
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
I'd love it if I had a working back. That would be sweet. Also, let's get out of the way the fact that I've bought ridiculous amounts of Funko Pops again this year, and 2019 will be the year I get the Scrubs ones I've been looking forward to... but where are the ones from The Office? And are they ever going to finish the Firefly line?
7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
Good ones include seeing Billy Joel, watching Wolves beat Spurs at Wembey, performing improv for the first time (albeit to a very small number of people). It's been quite the year for football, in fact: England's World Cup run, in particular the penalty shootout victory against Colombia, will live long in the memory; watching Wolves beat Cardiff with two penalty saves in stoppage time - even though I only watched it at a pub - was also a great time. Apologies to the good people of The Mouse, Westbury-on-Trym, for more excessive response.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
After several years of failure, we managed to win the BAS quiz again - this time with John taking the traditional "Zijian replacement" spot - and will have the pleasure of hosting it this March. Having come close in the last few years, it felt great to taste that sweet, sweet victory again. Speaking of victories, I successfully escaped an escape room with my good friends Rich, Rob & Ant (spoilers for next year's entry: I've just solved another one with Steve & Laura). Towards the end of the year I was published in the Times twice: my second Listener crossword, and a re-write of Good King Wenceslas to tell the story of Gareth Southgate.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Physically, my biggest failure was not being able to overcome my weak back and get back into running. I went to see a doctor, who contemptuously printed off some back exercises - which seemed to make things worse - so I had to drop out of the Bristol 10k. James, in my stead, recorded a time of 43 minutes under my name, so I guess it's actually kind of a success. Look how positive I'm being. So positive, in fact, that you're not going to hear about any more failures here. Move on.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
OK, this is also a bit of a downer. As Week of Quizzes II came to an end, I got the flu - for only the second time in my life, I think; it really annoys me when people say they've got the flu when they've really got a cold, but this was proper flu - and I was in bed for several days. In fact, I tried to get back to work and they basically sent my home after I'd made some pretty silly errors. Which were hopefully illness-induced. More recently, I cut my finger on a sofa cushion and it got pretty infected. Good times.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I bought a new TV, which I'm very pleased with. 49 inches. Then I went to see PGH, and he'd just got a 50 inch TV. Darn. Anyways, once I'd got used to the size of it - Tom Hiddlestone filled the screen somewhat disconcertingly in The Night Manager, which was the first thing I watched on it - I was delighted. It also meant I could pass on my old TV to a worthy cause (people who wanted a TV).
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My mother published her two-volume novel At a Stroke, which was a remarkable achievement - I enjoyed the launch event on a stormy night in Somerset, even if all the photos I took turned out not actually to be taken because I hadn't pressed the button hard enough - so, well done her. Wolves, of course, merited significant celebration during our promotion campaign and our strong start to the Premier League season. Jennie & Justin got married, on a lovely day; Rob & Kari got engaged, as did Powly & Joanna (and it was great to see him again for the first time in years).
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The people who didn't believe that my patented technique for building a snowman with the assistance of a wheelie bin would be triumphant. I had the last laugh, though, because it was an utter triumph, as documented on my Facebook page. I'm telling you, people, that if you want to build a snowman and the snow you've got isn't really packing snow, fill a wheelie bin with snow; turn it upside down; build up snow around it and hey presto. Great snowman.
14. Where did most of your money go?
Mortgage repayments. Also, I started my maths masters in 2018 - which I'm really rather excited about; I've enjoyed getting back into studying maths for the first time in over a decade - and that wasn't cheap.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The England penalty shootout was insane. Never before have I shouted that much in a pub. And, let me tell you, my view of the screen was utterly terrible. The excitement in the build-up to the semi-final was also great, even though the actual match was obviously very disapppointing.
16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
Piano Man by Billy Joel will take me back to the stadium-wide singalong at Old Trafford, the culmination of a fantastic gig that I enjoyed with Ant & Ben. While Bruce Springsteen is still probably my favourite ever gig, this one was a close second - not only a lot of my favourite Billy Joel songs, but also my favourite Beatles song (A Day in the Life). Superb. Also, Bohemian Rhapsody will call to mind 2018 for me, given that the Thomas family performed it in its entirety - and in costume - in the Chiselborough Christmas Cracker.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
i. happier or sadder?
ii. thinner or fatter?
Probably a bit fatter. I haven't exactly fallen off the wagon, as it were, but I've been less strict over the last six months or so.
iii. richer or poorer?
Richer. When I took the new Standard Life job I haggled, baby. Man, it felt awkward.
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
I wish I'd done a bit more acting: I was in a one act play in December but our midyear play was postponed, hopefully it will get off the ground again soon. However, on the other hand, I started doing improv, which I absolutely love - I wrote a whole blog post about it here, but the short version is that it's fun, friendly, supportive, joyful and you should do it. I wish I'd done even more than I had.
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
In hindsight, it's difficult to justify the amount of time I spent watching YouTube interview videos for Fantastic Beasts 2.
20. How will you be spending Christmas?
Exciting times! Now that Dad has retired - in the last couple of weeks - Christmas is gonna be different. And 2019 will be the year that I host a Christmas BBQ here in Bristol. Golly, I'm excited. Excitement amongst other members of the family for having a Christmas BBQ is, well, muted.
21. What have you achieved from your '40 by 40' list?
In 2018 I achieved the following:
- Watched Wolves at Wembley (the first time they'd played there since 1988)
- Stroked a pigeon
- Visited Northern Ireland
- Did an improv course (two, in fact)
- Saw Billy Joel live
- Learnt how to use chopsticks (as verified by Zijian)
- Bought curtain holdbacks
- memorised John 15 (although I think I might need to re-memorise it)
- Visited SS Great Britain (with Steve & Laura)
- Watched a F1 race in its entirety
- Finished 12 of the BBC's Big Read list
- Visited 9 of the parish churches in Bristol & Avon
- I went back to the Edinburgh fringe, but I'm not counting it because it was too fleeting
22. Did you fall in love in 2018?
As my Instagram followers will know, I fell in love with a particular flavour of Co-op ice cream. It was incredible. And part of the reason for my answer to the thinner/fatter question above.
23. How come it took you so long to notice that there wasn't a question 23?
Well, this is embarrassing. It took me four years to realise there was no question 21, and another four years to spot that there was no question 23. Any other missing questions? Impossible to know.
24. What was your favourite TV program?
Right at the end of 2018 I became rather obsessed with Taskmaster, the Dave show where various comedians are given amusing tasks to carry out. It's imaginative and joyful, and this week I'm going to try it out with some friends in real life... I also watched through Parenthood (I think that was 2018), kinda liked Maniac, and continued to enjoy Brooklyn 99 & Hunted. I thought Jessica Jones season 2 was a great return to form for the Netflix Marvel series - this view doesn't seem to have been widely shared, as they've all been cancelled - and I enjoyed the DC crossover episodes, even if I've stopped watching Supergirl and Flash recently.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Hate is stupid.
26. What was the best book you read?
I started Of Mice and Men on New Year's Eve 2017 and finished it on New Year's Day 2018, if memory serves, and it's one of my all-time favourite books. I also enjoyed very much enjoyed Birdsong, Far From the Madding Crowd & I Capture the Castle. In the world of non-fiction, I've been slowly reading Anthony Seldon's account of Gordon Brown's premiership and I rattled through Bob Woodward's book about Donald Trump in the White House. They make an intriguing pair: neither Brown nor Trump seem at all fitted to lead a country, but Brown comes across as a good man trying his best. Trump... does not.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
Taylor Swift's All Too Well is a masterpiece. Also, one of the guys from improv reminded me of how great Disturbed's cover of Sound of Silence is.
28. What did you want and get?
Having very much enjoyed Harry Potter and the Cursed Child when I saw it with Zijian in 2018, I've also bought tickets to see it with Simon in 2019. Speaking of tickets, it's been a long time goal of mine to see Eagles, and I was delighted that they announced a European tour - I snapped up some tickets pronto. I also got a job, which was nice, and I'm confident that I was right to choose Standard Life over the other job I was offered. Oh, and this is the question where I always list the Warwick people I saw: Ant, Charissa, Dom, Ellie, Emily, Hazel, James, Jason, Jen, Jez (who moved, with Sarah, to Bristol), Larry, Rich, Rob, Sinead, Sophie, Steve & Will.
29. What did you want and not get?
One time I went to my local newsagent, wanting to get a copy of the Times. I picked it up and put it on the counter, presenting my Times voucher and saying "this is for the Times". Somehow, when I got home, it turned out to be The Guardian. Very disappointing.
30. What was your favourite film of this year?
As the Coddies have already revealed, I, Tonya was my favourite of the year (with Avengers: Infinity War not far behind). Of the non-2018 films I saw for the first time last year, my favourites include: Primal Fear, The Disaster Artist, I Capture the Castle, One Fine Day, and Living in a Material World.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old?
I turned 33 and had dinner with my friend Jenny, before doing some quizzing with other friends (reading each other questions out of a quiz book; Jim's idea, which worked very nicely). I must admit that, having discovered that the pub quiz was cancelled and the pub kitchen was closed, it was shaping up to be one of my less fun birthdays, but we salvaged it in the end.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Wouldn't it be great if bacon were good for you?
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
You know what? I've got a semi-serious answer this year. I bought a jumper I'm very fond of - I'm wearing it now, in fact - which has a good length and a high neck. That's my thing, now. High necks on jumpers.
34. What kept you sane?
I can't emphasise this enough: the mute button on social media. It's wonderful. For example, rather than raging at the idiocies of people online, I can just mute them. Oh, and the Weekly Planet podcast. That's got me through a few Mondays.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most?
I've said it before and I'll say it again: Melissa Benoist and I could be very happy together. Also, I am in full agreement with Newt Scamander about Tina's 'salamander eyes'.
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
The ongoing nonsense emanating from WASPE continues to enrage me, and I feel very strongly that we shouldn't have a second Brexit referendum.
37. Whom did you miss?
Jenny, Pete & Walid from work - I'd worked with them all for several years, off and on, so it was sad that we parted ways earlier in the year. Also it was a shame not to manage to see Matt or Guy this year, so I'm glad to say that I'll be seeing them both in a weekend this coming March. Sometime in November I was thinking that it was a shame that I'd not seen Rob all year, and he literally texted me the next day to arrange a meet-up, which was a great weekend with Ant & Rich too. Oh, and having not seen Steve & Laura for a few months, I just turned up on their doorstep.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
One of the wonderful things about improv was making a lot of new friends - I won't list them all, but the ones who were on both of the improv courses I did last year are Jonathan, Lyle, James, Martin, Fernando & Ollie; I'm already a couple of weeks into the next course and continuing those friendships.
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:
2018 was a year of more questions than answers - literally - but here's a lesson I was trying to learn at the start of the year, and very much still need to learn: "Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
40. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
I'm not holding onto You / But You're holding onto me
East to West - Casting Crowns

what was I listening to?
Rockin' With - Little Richard
what was I reading?
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
what was I watching?
Avengers: Infinity War
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