1. What did you do in 2018 that you'd never done before?
Axe-throwing! Mike organised it for his birthday in early March. It was knackering but fun and I was very, very bad at it due to my upper body strength being non-existent. Which was annoying because my aim was pretty much perfect - I was hitting close to the middle of the target each time but didn't have enough power behind the throw to embed the axes. I was marginally better than Paul, by virtue of getting precisely one axe to stay in the target, which is one more than he managed. :P
In October, I also made vegan cupcakes for the first time, so my vegan colleague could join in with my birthday treats. They turned out much better than expected (and tasted exactly like non-vegan cakes – if anything they were moister!), but also affirmed my suspicion that I could never become vegan. I bought some "free from" spread to make the buttercream and it tasted of chemicals. Give me real butter any day. :P
(Having said that, I also found a recipe along the way for making your own vegan butter, so I might give that a go in the new year.)
My next challenge is to see if the cupcake recipe will convert to a full-size cake recipe. Vegan baking is less ‘cookery’ and more ‘science experiment’…
2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?
As usual, I didn't bother making any. Next year we should be significantly better off, financially speaking, so I might actually get around to some of those things I've not been able to afford before. For the most part this includes furniture / curtains / possibly driving lessons…
And, since my health is on the mend - fingers crossed - I might actually have the energy to do stuff again, including joining the gym.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
Not this year.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
I'm not sure if it counts as 'close', but I had two work colleagues pass in the space of a month, which was... yeah.
The first was someone I used to work with at Legal - she was a Senior Solicitor when I was there but had worked her way up to Head of Law. She died unexpectedly from a bleed on the brain in early September. I had literally seen and spoken to her only a couple of months before then and she seemed absolutely fine. Whenever we crossed paths she would make the time to ask how things were and have a catch-up, even if only for a couple of minutes; she absolutely did not need to do that considering our respective job roles.
The second was less unexpected but no less sad. One of our Principal Officers lost her son (who had a life-limiting illness) earlier in the year and was off sick long-term as a result. She was essentially forced to come back to work before she was ready, and after a few months started having stomach pains. Initially they thought it was a compacted mass but it turned out to be bowel cancer. She died later in September shortly after moving into a hospice.
As you can imagine, all of this was very hard to process, particularly as I heard about the first (through another former Legal colleague on Facebook) whilst I was away on holiday, and had to mentally shelve it until some later point. I saw the email about it when I got back to work, which "unshelved" it pretty quickly, and within a few days we heard about our other colleague.
A lot of us at work have been re-evaluating the relative unimportance of petty work stress. There are much bigger things to worry about, our health being one of them. A colleague who retired in July hit the nail on the head when she said that this place is literally killing people. Given that from April 2018 our TUPE arrangements will end, I think a lot of people are going to start job-hunting in the new year, myself included. There's too much uncertainty about what could happen in April, and it’s more than obvious that loyalty means shit to senior management.
5. What countries did you visit?
Bulgaria, as ever. :) We didn't quite manage to slot a trip to Sofia in this time, but on booking the flights it transpired that it's cheaper to fly back from there than from Burgas, so it's something to consider for next time.
Also my folks want to go on holiday to Turkey at some point, and we floated the idea of synchronising our respective dates so we can house/cat-sit for them. It would need to wait until I can drive, though, otherwise we'll be completely isolated and/or reliant on the goodwill of their ex-pat friends. There is one bus a day from their village to either Burgas or Yambol, and whilst I’m sure that would be an exciting adventure, I wouldn’t want to get stranded. :P
We also went to Buxton for a family holiday in March, which is not in a different country, but much like most villages in Bulgaria it has its own ecosystem. ;)
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?
Please, for the love of anything, better physical and mental health. We do seem to have found the solution now so I'm crossing everything it's possible to cross that it eventually works as the GP seemed to think it would. I can live with having regular injections if it’s only for another year or so – in fact, I can probably live with it for the long-term if it keeps all the symptoms at bay.
7. What date from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
I'm honestly terrible at remembering dates. This year my November-December period was not quite so insanely busy as last year.
The main event of 2018 was the wedding of Paul's niece, Jade, on 14th July. Despite some travel hassle the day after, it was a really lovely day. It was right in the middle of the heatwave so the weather was perfect - hot but not too overbearing.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I don't think it's really my achievement so much as my GP's, but we did finally find the answer to my mysterious health condition, almost exactly four years since it all began.
Also, again not my achievement, but Paul graduated with his Masters in Public Health in December.
What was your biggest failure?
I had my re-audition for choir at the end of January. It actually wasn't a failure because I passed it (I'd even improved since last time, as it turns out!) but it triggered some serious anxiety / imposter syndrome issues at the time. I was fine right up until the point I was in the room, then my anxiety kicked in because I’m a self-sabotaging POS, and as a result I felt like I did really badly. Also, this still-chronic sinusitis has significantly reduced my lung capacity / breath control, and sometimes singing makes me light-headed, so that didn’t help either.
It was also not helpful that the membership secretary was having issues with the database, so initially could only provide me with my latest audition grade, which was a B. She put a "well done" in the email, but I spent two days stressing about it because my grammar school education has completely fucked me up in terms of perceiving anything lower than an A as being an abject failure. When she eventually sent me all the information, it turns out I'd got a C+ last time so had improved by two grade points!
(Actually, the fact I'm even mentioning this as a "failure" is a perfect indication of that mindset!)
I suspect it's just that Adrian is very intimidating on a one-to-one basis. On the same day we did our "voicing exercise" for the upcoming concert in June, where we had to sing the first two lines of the National Anthem in front of Adrian and all the other people in our vocal part, and I was less nervous doing that than I had been in my re-audition. I think when there's an 'audience' my adrenaline kicks in but when I have auditions I tend to collapse.
Thank goodness I don't have to do that again for another five years. :P
Also – once again – writing. I think the last thing I properly finished was in February and since then the combination of snow in March, an extended heatwave and being perpetually knackered completely scuppered my inspiration for several months. Meh.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I ended up off sick for a week in April because I did something to my back whilst gardening. Usually when my back hurts it's in the usual place, on the right-hand side, but this was on the other side and I could barely move for about four days. So that was fun.
In November I also managed to catch norovirus and was off sick for two days, one of which was spent sleeping and the second of which was spent tentatively eating very small amounts and rehydrating myself. On the plus side, it knocked off the half-stone I seem to lose whenever I have my steroid jab, though I can’t recommend it as a dieting technique. :P
Other than that, just the usual up until May when I had my Magic Injection – the most annoying symptom this year has been the anxiety, I think, and I am SO GLAD it also cleared up along with all the other symptoms. I suspected for a while that everything was connected, including my mental health, but I hadn’t realised quite how connected until I suddenly realised I was feeling less angry and grrr-argh all the time. :P
11. What was the best thing you bought?
My feather-shaped fondant mould, which made constructing angel wings for my colleague's retirement cake a LOT easier than I was first expecting!
I also replaced my craft storage drawers with the unit I intended to buy originally before Hobbycraft randomly stopped stocking it for a month or so. I now have one of the 11-drawer rainbow towers, which has given me a bit more room to store everything (although irritatingly the drawers are not big enough for my slightly-bigger-than-A4 card/paper pads from Lidl). I'm going to use the other one for baking stuff as my cupboard is getting very full again. (I can't believe at one point my baking cupboard was a corner of one shelf...)
I also LOVED the Lindy Bop dress I bought for Jade's wedding. I wanted something to match a pair of sandals that I already owned and managed to get exactly what I was after, plus a black petticoat and bolero cardigan from eBay, and everything fit perfectly. I also legitimately got to have the “I love your dress!”, “Thanks, it has pockets!” conversation with someone at the wedding. :D
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
I actually can't think of anyone this year.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
*insert obligatory comment about Tories/Trump/Brexit*
Also, there was an incident in August whereby David's kids caused a load of drama - neither of them wished my mum a happy birthday and then acted like David was in the wrong when they were called out on it. Neither of them have properly come to terms with the emigration, it seems, and indeed don't really understand the reason behind the move. At the moment it looks like they're happier cutting off all contact rather than trying to understand.
I've always felt really uncomfortable with how they perceive David and indeed their relationship with him as an "absent parent", perhaps because my own experiences were so negative. David has done more for his kids than my dad ever did for me, and I just find it really frustrating.
In many respects, my own journey in coming to terms with the emigration has been akin to a grieving process - I think I went through every single phase of that over the course of the first year. In that sense, it feels like David's kids are stuck in the "anger" phase and presently have no intention of moving on. Neither of them have made the effort to visit in the entire time since the move, and they have far greater means to achieve that than Paul and I do. So yeah, I think that says a lot.
Also: as ever, senior management at work are The Actual Worst. Things have been slightly quieter since going into the Trust and Mr Corporate can occasionally be helpful as long as you ask him the right questions (he has a tendency to give you very vague answers unless you give him a specific question, which just creates more uncertainty), but everyone is becoming quite antsy about what will happen come next April, when the TUPE arrangements end.
I kind of feel like I need to mention Tumblr-gate here as well, which feels like a repeat of Strikethrough and the beginning of the end as far as the internet we know and love is concerned. We started the year with the Net Neutrality shitstorm, with similar things potentially going down in the EU, and it feels like that big safety net of the web is starting to unravel.
I’ve been saying for some time now that the current climate we live in – the Tories, Trump, heavy-handed “purity”-driven internet policies, and capitalism ruining literally everything – are the death throes of an institution which knows it’s becoming obsolete and is doing everything it can to create as much misery as possible before it dies. I firmly believe that eventually, things are going to change for the better, but it’s not much comfort in the here and now when everything we’ve come to rely on is slowly betraying us.
14. Where did most of your money go?
For once, my money actually went on some nice things rather than just bills and food. I've bought new clothes this year which weren't just for work! I've had my hair cut regularly! We also managed a few days away in Blackpool in June, and a family holiday to Buxton in March, in addition to our regular “proper holiday” in Bulgaria.
Having said that, quite a lot of money went on Leo's vets bills back in May, though thankfully we were approved for credit and it should all be paid off by the end of February.
Also: craft stuff. OBVIOUSLY.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
I definitely looked forward to Jade's wedding and our holiday to Bulgaria. By the time the latter rolled around it had been over 12 months since the last time we had properly gone away.
16. What song will always remind you of 2018?
I've been shockingly bad at buying new music this year so I can't think of a specific song...
17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
(a) happier or sadder? Marginally happier, if only because my physical health issues have been sorted and it turns out my mental health was a direct side effect. :P
(b) thinner or fatter? Slightly thinner, in that I managed to lose half a stone immediately after having my Magic Injection - which was mostly because it stopped me feeling constantly hungry all the time. My gym-starting plans were scuppered by the heatwave but it's definitely on the list for next year.
(c) richer or poorer? I've actually been slightly better off this year, at least to the degree that I haven't been constantly panicking about money every single month. I suspect that's also gone some way to improving my overall mental health...
18. What do you wish you'd done more of?
Socialised - I've been a bit of a hermit again this year, notwithstanding I continued to be unwell and lacking in spoons for the first five months.
Writing. The Plotbunnies TM are still percolating as strongly as ever, though. ;)
19. What do you wish you'd done less of?
I think for once I've been less inclined towards pointless stress at work, because I've given up on giving a shit. I made a conscious effort not to get involved in things, and other than a couple of frustrating team meetings / stupid management decisions, things have been a bit quieter. The Secure Email Fiasco continues to be a huge bug-bear and a prime example of why I should never volunteer for anything, but thankfully from some point next year it’s going to be discontinued anyway and our standard email will become secure.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Thankfully, I wasn’t working on Christmas Eve again this year, which meant there was less of a mad rush to get everything finished before the Day. We did our food shop this year at the big Morrison’s at Five Ways, only to discover it was not as impressive as previous years (there was barely any fresh/loose veg and they no longer spray mist over it, the deli was lacking anything exciting, and even their range of spirits was unimpressive compared to before). This resulted in us buying the veg at the local market instead, which TBF was probably cheaper and fresher.
On Saturday (22nd) we had the family get-together. We initially offered to do this at ours but Paul’s sister-in-law (Andrea) had booked an AirBnB in the city centre instead, which it later transpired was to avoid further drama with Brian (Paul’s dad). (I forgot to update about this because it’s been an ongoing saga dating back to last year. Maybe later. :P)
On Sunday (23rd) we went to see my grandmother and uncle. Her dementia is definitely getting worse – she’s pretty much unable to form short-term memories, so where before we would get the same story from my childhood every time we visited, now we get the same story from the past week/month/whenever four times over in the space of an hour. Thank goodness, the news about Bulgaria seems to have stuck, but she only ever mentions it in the context of my mum and not David, as though she’s forgotten he exists. We also tried to tell her that my mum had two new cats and she convinced herself it was us who had two new cats, and when we tried to explain that again it just wouldn’t go in – she is now convinced it’s her crazy cat lady friend who has them. My uncle is understandably at the end of his tether and at one point shared that my father is “not cooperating”, whatever that means. They want to find somewhere else to live, preferably a flat or a bungalow, and we promised to see if our agent had anything available. The rent on their current place is extortionate, quite frankly, presumably because it’s a Shiny New Build even though that means you get precisely six square feet of space in any given (weirdly-shaped) room. Anyway, yes – it’s more than obvious that she needs some kind of specialist care now but the chances of her agreeing to go into a care home are precisely zero, so everyone’s basically stuck.
On Christmas Eve we had the traditional get-together with friends at our new traditional location of Las Iguanas in the Arcadian, which was as pleasant as ever. Four cocktails and a late night, after three relatively early starts beforehand, did mean that I was knackered, however…
Christmas Day was just Paul and I as usual, and I managed to cook dinner for the first time in about four years despite having a streaming cold / runny nose (which now seems to have gone, go figure). Paul helped minimally by making stuffing and doing the heavy lifting to get the goose out of the oven. We now have enough goose fat to last about four years, not to mention the 2 litres of stock. :P
On Boxing Day I slept until midday and would quite happily have managed another hour if Leo had let me. :P
Back at work yesterday and today, but thankfully off all of next week.
21. How did / will you spend New Year's Eve?
Probably just a quiet one again TBH. Family are coming over on New Year’s Day as it’s Paul’s 40th, so I’ll be making some scones for a cream tea using the lovely tea set we bought from the local charity/antiques shop, and later cooking whatever he decides he wants for dinner.
22. Did you fall in love in 2018?
23. How many one-night stands?
Perpetually redundant question is perpetually redundant.
24. What was your favourite TV programme?
As the squee on Twitter indicated, I very much enjoyed the Inside No. 9 live Halloween special. So many levels of meta! (It has done nothing for my crush on Reece Shearsmith.)
We also started watching Parks and Recreation and Brooklyn 99 on Amazon Prime. We're four seasons into Parks and Rec and only one into B99 (the former is free, the latter is not) but have very much enjoyed both.
We also rewatched series 1 of Psychoville in light of the Inside No. 9 special, because we missed the final episode the first time it was on. We had Virgin Media at the time and were watching it on catch-up, and the BBC conveniently 'forgot' to upload the final episode at the same time the DVD was released. So we've now seen the final episode and the one-off special (and the first two episodes of series 2, yesterday), which has only cemented my view that they're secretly (or perhaps not so secretly) fans of Most Haunted...
I have actually managed to put a significant dent in my EastEnders backlog this year and at time of writing my recorded episodes are at November, so I’m only a month behind, as opposed to six. I have set up several other things to record in the meantime, however, as for once the Christmas telly has not been too awful.
25. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?
Well, just when you think the Tories and Trump can't sink any lower...
26. What was the best book you read?
As ever, I did the majority of my reading on holiday. I re-read some Angela Carter (The Magic Toyshop and The Bloody Chamber - some vestiges of my English degree), and also bought and read Girl, Interrupted having only ever seen the film. I also read a Helen Dunmore novel I got in a charity shop, Burning Bright. I'd forgotten how compelling she was and may just add her entire back catalogue to my Amazon wishlist for later transfer to my Kindle...
Sadly, I have not gotten much further with We Need to Talk About Kevin, so I should probably try and finish that. I also downloaded Nina is Not Okay by Shappi Khorsandi as it was on offer for 99p, so I really must get around to that...
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
See above re: no new music this year. Although I did get four CD’s for Christmas so that more than makes up for it!
28. What did you want and get?
The good thing about having spare money, finally, is that I can occasionally indulge in things that I want to have. :) Such being the case, I can't think of any one specific "big thing" that I wanted this year.
It has been a really great year for game releases, though - Paul got me the new Tomb Raider for my birthday, and also on the list are Red Dead Redemption 2 (oh my god the graphics look amazeballs), the new Assassin's Creed and The Last Of Us 2 when it finally gets released. Hellblade also looks really interesting.
I also replayed all of the Uncharted series again over the summer – except the first one because the Nazi bunker monsters are a huge NOPE.
29. What did you want and not get?
For Article 50 to be revoked and Brexit to be declared null and void. There's still time...
30. What was your favourite film of the year?
Oooh, this is difficult. I really loved Isle of Dogs, which we saw at the cinema, as well as The Shape of Water. We tend to watch a lot on Sky Movies, including all the bad horror films, so I couldn't say what else specifically jumped out at me.
Special mentions for: Deadpool 2, Wonder Woman, Coco and Murder on the Orient Express, though there have been loads of others.
On Christmas Day we also watched Ready Player One which was enjoyable, except I did keep getting distracted during the external scenes trying to identify whereabouts in Birmingham they’d filmed it. :P
Oh, and after relentless bugging from a colleague I also got around to watching The Greatest Showman just before Christmas and found it chronically underwhelming. It looked pretty enough but was trying too hard to be Moulin Rouge, without the benefit of psychedelic bells and whistles, and the pop style of the singing was incredibly irritating to the point that all of the songs sounded the same. I imagine this is exactly how our parents felt about our generation’s music, TBH, but it makes me feel so old.
It turns out there’s a “reimagined” version of the soundtrack which is sung by pop stars (I might at least give the first two tracks a listen as they’re by Panic! At the Disco and P!nk respectively – I haven’t heard of anyone else. :P), which is a bold claim when the original version sounds like a pop album already. Hugh Jackman made a good attempt but he struggled with the high notes in this as much as he did in Les Mis, and I liked the Bearded Lady, but everyone else was pretty much the same annoying twangy pop tween fifty times over.
C+, Must Try Harder.
(Honestly, I would much have preferred an actual screen adaptation of Barnum, which I actually thought TGS was until I looked into it.)
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I was 37 - we had a very chilled out day where I played the new Tomb Raider, made my own birthday cake and had Paul cook me dinner.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Finding a solution to my health problem a bit earlier - I spent a few months kind of in limbo because I was stuck in the GP / referral machine until one specific GP finally conceded defeat and decided to sort my pain out, which then turned out to be the "miracle cure" I was after...
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2018?
I've given up on the pretence of being normal so I'm back to embracing my inner weirdo - geek t-shirts and hoodies is the way forward now. My mum crocheted me a cardigan with a unicorn horn on it for my birthday, which I specifically asked for while we were out there, and Paul just looked at me in despair. :P
34. What kept you sane?
Gaming and crafting, which uses a similar creative part of my brain as writing. Baking not so much because of the level of stress it causes when it goes wrong. :P (ISTG those Bake-Off contestants are not overreacting when their bakes fail.)
35. Which celebrity / public figure did you fancy the most?
Reece Shearsmith again, not helped at all by the Inside No. 9 special. I think half the reason is that in stuff like Psychoville and League of Gentlemen he's very good at making himself look hideous, so it's always a pleasant surprise when he's not. :P
I don't think there was anyone new, as far as I know.
I think I'm actually over Johnny Depp purely as a result of his recent high-profile nonsense. I can't in good conscious ignore it, because even if he did respond/act in self-defence, that's still not an excuse. I will always love his prior collaborations with Tim Burton, and of course Pirates, but it will have to stop there. I am actually curious as to whether Burton will work with him again after this - thankfully nothing came out of the woodwork about him during the #MeToo movement, but I don't want to have a moral/ethical crisis about a director whose work I've loved since I was a child...
36. What political issue stirred you the most?
Trump's government being literal fucking Nazis over Mexican immigrants.
And, obviously, Brexit negotiations being a complete and total shitshow. JUST GIVE UP AND ADMIT YOU WERE WRONG ALREADY.
(Also, the fact that whenever there’s some hoo-hah in the news about Jeremy Corbyn it’s always a distraction for some nefarious policy the Tories are trying to sneak out unnoticed.)
37. Who did you miss?
Nobody specific, just a general feeling of Not Seeing People Enough.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
We had a new girl start as a minute-taker in our team and she's gelled really well with the team dynamic. It's always a bonus when that happens. (Also: I am no longer the youngest person in my team! Well, it had to happen eventually…)
39. Did you meet anyone you only knew online?
Not this year - Jackie and I still need to organise a Derby Gaol Sleepover...
40. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018:
Life is short and then you die - don't spend it stressing about a job that’s trying its hardest to kill you.
41. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year:
As mentioned above, I didn’t buy any new music this year, but these lyrics feel pertinent from one of my favourite new release last year:-
My freedom is burning
This broken world keeps turning
I’ll never surrender
There’s nothing but a victory
There’s not enough rope to tie me down
There’s not enough tape to shut this mouth
The stones you throw can make me bleed
But I won’t stop until we’re free
Wild hearts can’t be broken
(P!nk, “Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken”)
Right, I've quickly checked this for formatting errors but not necessarily for typos, so apologies in advance for any I might have missed. I'm updating during a lunchtime lull before catching up on my backlog of distributions prior to going on leave.
Happy New Year, y'all!