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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, 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 am I listening to?
Red - Taylor Swift
what am I reading?
Love in the Time of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
what am I watching?
Justice League
January 2019

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