This year has been weird and unexpected in fantastic ways. As it draws to a close, I wanted to point out some of the many things I did not see coming.
I am a dab hand at being an uncle now. I have three godchildren, two nephews and a niece. For some reason, most of the time, they don’t hate me. I think they recognise that I’m on their intellectual level. Last month, Freddie Schiernecker was born. Despite my best efforts they didn’t go with my name choice of Lil Paulie. The first time I held him, he settled on my chest and fell asleep. I looked up at my brothers with tears rolling down my face.
“What the fuck is the matter with you?” they asked.
When my friends asked if I wanted to go to Legoland to “help out” with their kids (my godchildren), I think we all knew what they were really asking – “would you like to act like a kid for a day?”
We had an amazing time geeking out over Star Wars lego and watching the kids go through varying stages of joy and fear. Realising that the Ferris Wheel went quite high was a particular worry for the boys and Toby did not appreciate me using him as a human shield on the log flume. It was great to be able to visit as it wasn’t something we were able to do when I was little. That being said, the whole thing is a horrific money-spinner and I feel sorry for parents.
I was given the opportunity to visit Monaco for work. The best part was that I got to travel with one of my favourite people and that I got the better room. Monaco is a strange and beautiful place full of strange and beautiful people. I bought the most expensive sandwiches in Europe and on our last evening, won big in the casino. Rory also made me swim in the sea while trying to avert his gaze from my tight swimming shorts.
I had done a minimal amount of yoga before. I had tried Pilates when I realised there were a lot of women there. This year I took to yoga in a big way. I’ve been going to a couple of different classes and have felt so many benefits as a result. Taking the time to focus on your body and your breath has had incredible benefits for me. I often harp on about my mental health and I cannot believe the difference yoga has had.
I also got to stay in a yoga retreat in the base of the Himalayas, because I’m a total cliche. There, Yogi Bobby made me stretch looongerrrrrrr than I ever had before.
5. Hypertrophic Literary
Having read the excellent When You Bleed To Death several years ago, I quickly decided that I wanted the author, Jeremy Bronaugh, to be my friend. I reached out to him by email and we struck up a transatlantic friendship. Jeremy is also a fantastic artist and I have both his graphic novel and sketchbook signed and proudly displayed on my bookshelf. Along with his amazing wife Lyndsey, he runs a lit magazine which I made it my goal to be published in. In Spring I achieved that goal and had a piece in Hypertrophic Literary. It was really special to open a copy and see something I had written, alongside other great writers and the beautiful designs that frequent every issue. My next goal is to visit my American friends.
6. Dad’s wedding
I knew that my old man would get married. I didn’t think about what my involvement would mean and how much extra time I would therefore get to spend with my dad and brothers as a result. I broke into his house and stole his passport so we could take him to Amsterdam on a secret stag and then, along with all his wile old mates, we had a day out doing archery and riding quad bikes before a curry and a failed attempt to drag him to the Pink Toothbrush.
The big day was just that, a big day. I got to give a best man’s speech on behalf of my brothers and my dad mistook a giant mirror as another wedding going on next door. I ended up sitting up with my brother until three in the morning, watching true crime documentaries and talking absolute trash. It made me really appreciate the people I have around me.
7. Seizing my space
This year I made a conscious effort to own and love the space I occupy. I’ve been in my flat for four years and in that time a lot has changed. As a result, it was cursed with a series of different memories. Like the cliche man living alone, it was all basic and the furniture was taken from wherever I could source it. I’ve now cultivated the space and made it feel more like somewhere I want to spend time, particularly important when it is somewhere that I spend so much time. I’m happy here and I’m happy now.
8. A lot of writing
It’s no secret that I would love to get to a point where I could be fully reliant on my writing for an income. That means committing a lot of time to my craft. This year I have written a historical fiction novel which is currently out with agents for consideration. I also took part in National Novel Writing Month and wrote 73,000 words in just 20 days. That piece was about my travels this year and may well come to something at a later date. I’ve got a number of projects in the pipeline for 2019 and am very excited about them.
It has been an important year for friends. I am fortunate to have different groups in different places and being able to meet new people and learn what they are about is one of the many joys in my life. I have a league of fantastic memories with old friends and have been able to cultivate new friendships. In December last year I asked someone I kind of knew if she would come last-minute Christmas shopping with me at Big Tesco and now Poppy is the person who knows what I am thinking before I know it myself. I also reconnected with Jaz and our friendship has flourished as a result, spending an awful lot of time drinking coffee and judging everyone else.
Through Laughter Academy I have made a number of important friendships I now wonder how I survived without. Being able to talk about writing with Lewis, sharing music with Ash and chuffing well adoring Jess for being amazing have been great additions to my 2018. I was also fortunate enough to appear in a number of improv shows including a 24-hour improvathon with an amazing cast and I feel like our PTSD bonded us in a way others will never understand. This is of course on top of spending time with Luke, George, Benjy, Lee, Ross, Ross, Hollie, Sam, Cat, John, Ali, Olly and everyone else.
I got to meet my friend Lottie after being Internet-only friends for a number of years. Spending time with her, her parents, Sophie and Steve was great fun and they made me feel very welcome in their home, even when I had to pass out on their floor drunk.
I got to spend more time with Scott including seeing Iggy Pop, Arcade Fire and Queens Of The Stone Age together. Eventually we will get that podcast started.
Through work I also made some great new connections, especially Kane and Laura. I also made a series of new friends in February when I visited York to watch the Super Bowl half-time show while everyone else seemed more involved in an American football game that was on the same night. As a result I was dragged into a Fantasy Football league that has taught me a lot about what nerds they are.
Through my travels I connected with a number of people and hope that I’m able to visit them in 2019.
If you’re reading through and don’t feel that I’ve captured our relationship that came to fruition in 2018 then this comment is for you. You’re fucking special too.
In my most obnoxious Eat Pray Love move to date, I spent a couple of weeks travelling around India in September/October. That trip included time in Delhi, Rishikesh and Goa as well as an incredible trip on the Rajdhani Express. My thanks to Sally for the initial suggestion. I am pleased to report that the trip has continued to influence me and I remember every single day with nothing but joy. If you are considering going away and doing something different, especially if it’s on your own, then my advice is to go for it. I cannot believe the different ways the trip impacted me as a result of being away on my own. It taught me love, patience and pain and I don’t feel like I’ll ever settle down on the other side of it.
Photos under 7 and 9 © Film Free Music Photography
All others from my iPhone so technically mine.