World Of Winfield

Being English: It’s Complicated

I’ve been wanting to write an article on my nationality and my relationship with it in the post-Brexit age of increased English nationalism for some time – and with England in the final of Euro 2020, the time has come.

There was a time when I’d watch every England game, hand on heart singing the national anthem. Nowadays, I start tournaments almost kind of begrudgingly though I quickly get into being an England fan once more as my negative associations with England as a country temporarily fade. Yet I still cannot help but feel that although I’m excited for the final, I would have been much more excited 10, 15, 20 years ago had we made a final then.

It could be my age. It could be that I’ve just had too much fun in my life. It could be that I’ve somewhat fallen out of love with football itself (though what a fantastic tournament Euro 2020 has been). Perhaps the fact that I’m as interested in the stock market as the transfer market takes some of the shine off too – there is so much more to my life and my interests than football nowadays.

But I cannot help thinking that it is my perception of England as a country that is the main impediment.

Brexit. Aha.

Let’s start with Brexit. Yes, that old chestnut – it isn’t going away. Before those of you that still somehow believe in Brexit get triggered, I do want to stress that this is my perception – this is my experience of how England (well, Britain) has been damaged in my eyes. It doesn’t invalidate your perception.

Before Brexit, I believed that Britain (yeah I’m conflating Britain and England at times, get over it) was an open, liberal, tolerant society. I knew from the likes of the EDL that there were still some residual pockets of racism, and from the UKIP vote that there were a fair-sized minority that were anti-immigration and seemed to prefer a closed, backwards, illiberal society.

I didn’t realise that those that wanted a closed, illiberal society, those that were against the metropolitan, cosmopolitan, welcoming country that I was proud of, were the majority. Delusion on my part? Probably.

Of course, Brexit meant different things to different people and I am having to generalise here. I know people who voted for Brexit who are almost as open and liberal as I am, I know people who voted for Brexit who are intolerant and would boo England players taking the knee, who are still dear to me. I know people who voted remain (or claim to) who I consider to be intolerant and backwards.

But the important point here is that my perception of Britain had changed. Other people apparently had got their country back. I’d lost my country – it was no longer what I believed it was. I was no longer proud to be British, or English. A few days later we got knocked out of Euro 2016 to Iceland. I thought it was funny, and deserved.

Nastiness

Of course, since then we’ve seen an increased division in society – partly, I think, spilling in from America – their culture wars slowly seeping into our post-Brexit divisions.

Examples of such include our government cutting foreign aid, which goes to some of the poorest people in the world – a callous act.

We have a home secretary (ironically a daughter of immigrants forced to leave Uganda) who is now making being an asylum seeker illegal. She suggested that England fans should boo the England team for taking a stance against racial injustice.

We also have a fascist hiding in a tree who I won’t name, who actively campaigns against the RNLI – because they might rescue refugees from drowning. What kind of country have we become?

Then we have the culture wars – both sides of which repel me. You have those who cling onto the idea that the British Empire was the greatest in history, and those who claim that all British history is the work of the devil. The reality is likely somewhere between, with both heinous crimes such as the Amritsar massacre, slave trade and the Boer concentration camps – juxtaposed to spreading ideas such as the rule of law and time, inventions such as the steam engine, world wide web and lawnmowers – and of course, the battle to condemn slavery to history.

Our history is complex and complicated – like my relationship with England itself, but it is being used as part of the culture wars both by the hard left, and also by the loathsome right-wing government of the day.

Speaking of which, we also have the most incompetent Prime Minister of my lifetime, the most corrupt government of my lifetime, and until recently the opposition to the government was a bunch of anti-Semitic communists. I’ve got to the point where I actually no longer care – I don’t care if Scotland becomes independent, I don’t care if Northern Ireland joins Ireland, hell I don’t even care if Labour form the next government. It’s that level of don’tgiveafuckness.

So how the hell am I supposed to be proud of my country?

Hey, Gareth

Step forward – Gareth Southgate and the England team.

I think the first shots were fired in the friendlies, and I don’t mean of the footballing variety. A minority of fans booed their own players for taking the knee – you know the kind, “keep politics out of football”…unless it involves singing songs about German bombers or the IRA, which of course is absolutely fine.

And as I mentioned earlier, Priti Patel defended “fans” booing players for doing such, certain right-wing people claimed that they would boycott the England football team because of this, and Boris Johnson refused to condemn the booing, though a few days later he did at least urge fans not to boo players for doing so.

Shortly after the booing incidents and the loathsome comments from certain right-wing politicians/commentators, Gareth Southgate wrote this most marvellous article entitled, Dear England – which had an eloquence that I can only dream of, and caused him to be labelled a tool of “deep woke” by unnamed elements in the government, because apparently anyone that can write well that isn’t from Eton must be suspicious.

The most important thing that I took from Gareth Southgate’s article was that you can be both a believer in social justice, in believing that you can reduce racism, in that you can support a more open and tolerant society, etc – and also be proud of your country.

Of course, on the pitch, the way that the team have been set out, the pragmatic almost German-like approach to winning games and ensuring that we are difficult to score against, yet have that quality up front, have made Gareth Southgate’s England team absorbing to follow if not Brazil-like.

But it is that extra side of things, you know, the side that certain people say should be kept out of football (and music or anything else that people tend to get famous for because you suddenly shouldn’t have political beliefs if you are popular) that have kind of married the two elements for me. We have a leader and a team that actively stands up for many of the values that I believe in – leaders that seem to have been so missing in English/British society in recent years yet are now centre of our attention.

Not only that Gareth Southgate and the England team are modern day representations of the England that I thought we were, they are leaders that are bringing together a very divided country.

Maybe it will only be temporary. Maybe we will immediately go back to being a divided society, the culture wars will enhance further, hatred and nastiness will deepen.

But at least I’ve seen that I can be proud of England once more. Sure, it is complicated but it has always been fucking complicated to be English. Yet it is a reminder that there are lots of wonderful, good people in the country – and maybe, despite some heinous government actions that I’m sure will continue, maybe, just maybe, society really is going in a direction that I and hopefully you can be proud of.

Maybe, England really still is the country that I thought it was prior to Brexit. Maybe, in more ways than one, it is actually coming home.

James Went To The Lake District

It looked like I would have to eschew foreign holidays again this year, so myself and two of my closest advisors decided a couple of months back to book a staycation, and the Lake District was a fairly clear choice of preference.

We booked a cottage on Airbnb that was pretty much in the sticks, near the west of the Lake District. I didn’t need to look at any other properties as soon as I was sent the link, my response being, “BOOK IT NOW” – 3 double bedrooms, a very large kitchen, a large living room, a huge garden to the front, a whole meadow to the back. Plus it smelt like my Grandma’s house from the 1980’s…though that bit wasn’t advertised on Airbnb.

We had two larger cottages to the side, otherwise just fields – you could see the cows from my bedroom in the morning. And smell them when you stepped outside.

There was a good pub 20 minutes walk away in one direction along the country roads, one not so good pub that was more reminiscent of a student halls bar from 1998 40 minutes in the other direction, with a restaurant 40 minutes away also. Yes, we were in the middle of nowhere.

Walking

One of the main premises around the holiday was to do some walking. The first full day there we walked along the River Esk estuary, which became pretty muddy and boggy at one point – and would have been part unfollowable were the tide in.

Once we turned off the coast and headed inland it actually became fake warm – enough to take off my coat. In England. In May. Shocker. Then we walked through some woods, over some hills, through fields of sheep and down back into the village where we started – which had its own mini railway that was even more extortionate than First Great Western.

The next day was actually sunny again – gloriously so, so we changed our plan from walking around the lake to walking along the coast, setting off from St Bees and serenaded by a fat bloke with his arse hanging out from the nearby caravan park. Everywhere in the country had heavy showers except the west of Cumbria, so we couldn’t really have picked a better spot.

Plus it was stunning. A steep uphill climb at first along the cliff, we followed along, down into a cute hidden bay – we ventured off track to go onto the beach which was a rocky and wet path, before heading back up the steep hill and along the coast to more stunning views in the glorious sunshine – it was so nice that I even considered giving Brexit a chance.

Plus it gave me two great photo opportunities. Firstly eating a sandwich in Sandwith.

Then I wanted someone to take a photograph of me having a wee on this pile of burnt sticks…but they refused. Guess you could say that they pissed on my bonfire.

The final walk was on a cloudy and damp morning, which started off nicely – through a farm, into some bluebell woods then around the edge of a lake – you could barely desire more enticing scenery.

Alas, it got a bit boring as we walked along a road back, then through a farm where we were walking through fields of worried lambs and pissed off looking sheep, without clear directions, through one field of cows and increasingly boggy land – I was a little on edge expecting either a sheep or cow to charge at me and the whole section of the walk was not helped by having to jump over streams, climb over a wall and then follow a rocky footpath downhill that had turned into a stream. The sausage roll at the end was good though.

Eating

Whilst one of my accomplices was in charge of suggesting walks – generally very successfully, I tend to always take the role of suggesting where we eat or drink. For some reason I am trusted on this.

The first night we just wandered down to our local which was a 20 minute walk along a country road, The Bridge Inn. I wasn’t expecting great shakes from it, especially as it had one of those never-ending menus that certain types of pubs have and I always wonder if they can actually be good at all of it – or any of it – pizzas, pub classics, burgers, steaks, salads – given that I was in Cumbria I decided that I should really have the Cumberland sausages and mash.

I nearly went for the Cumberland sausage and Cumberland cheese pizza – though they did look a bit basic when we saw one go by.

It was so good that we came back on rain day – soaked after our 20 minute walk where I could only choose between lamb shank or pie, as by this point I was on a gravy eating competition with absolutely nobody.

On our first full day there, after our walk we also went to Woodland’s Tea Room for cream tea – well, I had beer, a toasted sandwich and a scone – the scone was absolutely delicious, the sun was shining in pretty much clear blue skies – you can hopefully imagine how good this felt after the spring we’ve endured.

The other really memorable meal featured gravy – of course – and was a steak and ale pie. I asked for no peas. The pub/restaurant was called The Bower House Inn, and they told me that their pies are not served with peas. It came with peas. Pie was truly sexual though – as was their gravy.

Yes I flicked a couple of peas onto the floor in protest.

I did eat some haggis and black pudding balls as a starter at another place – though their main was a bit average. And I cooked one evening – spinach and feta stuffed jacket potatoes.

Misadventures

On the Thursday it poured down with rain all day, so we looked for something else to do. Our idea was to drive to Windermere though it was over an hour away – maybe we’d end up in Keswick at the pencil museum too. I’m loathe to visit museums due to mask requirements as they are just not compelling enough and they can wait until the pandemic is over – but I would have broken my stance for a pencil museum, wouldn’t you?

Alas we followed the directions on Google Maps rather than taking the main road which was slightly longer. Google Maps took us to somewhere called Hardknott Pass which is apparently the joint-steepest road in England.

We saw the warning signs but didn’t really take too much notice until we were driving up the first part, in the pouring rain, steep uphill climbs around sharp bends with death falls if you make a wrong move. I did my “everything will be fine” thing like at the beginning of the pandemic, but it was fucking dangerous. Luckily we found a spot to turn around.

Alas, this mean that we didn’t get to Lake Windermere. We did get to a pub called The Black Cock, which amused me childishly. Woke pub renaming has not yet made it to the Lake District.

And then on the final afternoon, not really knowing what else to do but having a couple of hours spare before our dinner, we drove to Whitehaven. I’ll let the pictures do the talking:

Staycationtastic

There is a point to the story, which is that anyone upset about their beach holiday plans being cancelled during the middle of a pandemic (how dare the government want to control the borders during a pandemic…albeit only from countries that Boris Johnson doesn’t want to get a trade deal from) – you can actually have a good holiday in the UK.

The Brexit repositioning of the country over the last 5 years has made me more dismissive of my country – and wishing to be European rather than British, but you have to make the most of what life offers, and this holiday to the Lake District, along with last year’s to Cornwall and the weekend breaks to Matlock and Stratford-Upon-Avon have been timely reminders that this country is actually fucking great.

I may not appreciate the politics or the attitudes of some groups of people – and don’t get me started on litter or pavement cyclists.

But we have some stunning scenery, great pubs, really nice walks – we even have good weather sometimes. Cakes, scones, sandwiches – you won’t find Europeans doing better than we do. Pubs in the UK are far better than in other countries – our craft beer scene is arguably superior to even Belgium’s nowadays.

I expect it won’t be too long before I go elsewhere again – maybe Cambridge or Bristol, maybe Somerset or Wales. Nothing is booked yet but there are thoughts.

So, if you haven’t already, do consider taking advantage of this opportunity of restricted travel to enjoy Britain. But do stay away from Shitehaven.

James Went To Matlock

I had contrasting responses to the end of the two main lockdowns – as the first lockdown ended I was still very subdued and I think somewhat shaken out of living – it took weeks until I ventured to a pub or restaurant.

This lockdown, I ended with a flurry of activity – drinking out on both Tuesday and Wednesday evening (which is rare for me), then a staycation in Matlock for the weekend.

Why Matlock?

The reason for the staycation is that when our Vacuum of Integrity announced the roadmap out of lockdown, we realised that it would be not until 17th May when myself and my sister could legally visit our parents. We did consider breaking the rules, but I have tried to follow them with very few exceptions, and those only once the cases were very low – when we were discussing how to meet up, we were still in peak grass on your neighbour phase.

Yet there was a way around this. From April 12th, we could meet outdoors for dinner, or in a pub – or even a zoo. And then we realised that separate households could book self-contained accommodation – so we could have separate Airbnb bookings in the same town, and meet up in the garden, pub garden, restaurant garden – etc.

We did look at Cheltenham at first, but everything either lacked parking, lacked a garden or was too expensive, so I shifted the search further north, and fairly randomly came up with Matlock – kind of half way between London and Hull.

It was kind of surreal at first, meeting up with my parents for the first time in 6 months – we walked up the hill (some big hills in Matlock) to the nearest pub, sat on what seemed to be the only remaining table and ordered some drinks.

Ahhh. A beer with my family. Finally.

Matlock And The Area

Matlock itself is quite a beautiful town nestled in the Peak District. Some stunning views, some steep hills – one of the walks that we could have gone on has this path along the outside of a cliff that just makes me feel ill looking at it, and if you search Google for Britain’s Scariest Footpath, then you’ll find it. Good job my mother vetoed it.

Matlock has the River Derwent running through it, some nice forestry, steep hills – and the weather was sunny all weekend – I even ditched my coat at times. Oh and importantly, it has an M&S. Definitely quite an upmarket town without being overly so.

Unfortunately we didn’t do much research before going there – I’d tried to find some pubs with outdoor areas to book in advance, but updating websites and social media doesn’t seem to be a thing in Matlock.

And we didn’t research places to go/things to do either. After a little wander around on the Saturday we got the train to Matlock Bath. Which is rather different to Matlock and not what any of us expected.

Apparently people in Matlock think that Matlock Bath is a shithole. That would be overstating it – the town itself has the same stunning scenery and many gorgeous stone-based buildings.

Yet – the horrors – it has Union Jacks. Urgh. Not sure whether I’m being serious or facetious there. It also has a huge amount of fish and chip shops, candyfloss stalls, arcades (closed due to covid) – basically everything you’d expect at Bridlington without the same level of obesity. And sooooo many bikers – hundreds of motorbikes in this small town.

Still, we got the last available table outside a half-decent pub, which was out the back so we didn’t have our conversation interrupted every 30 seconds by noisy motorbikes, that actually served Neck Oil – yes, Neck Oil that far up north, had a half-decent menu (well, better than a Greene King), then made our way back to actual Matlock – where we sat in the sunshine and chilled.

Yeah, we should have done some research.

Matlock but no Blacklock

In the evening myself and my sister cooked the Hawksmoor feasting box – making it a steakation. Get it? My Dad’s joke, I cannot take the credit for it. There was a porterhouse which I’d never cooked before and struggled with, a rib-eye and a fillet.

I have to say that the porterhouse was outstanding.

And the triple-cooked chips were so, so, so gorgeous too. It also came with creamed spinach and a garlic mushroom – and was far too much food for us. Oh and gravy. Why gravy with steak? Not that I’m complaining.

Sunday arrived and we drove towards Derby to find a Sunday roast that I’d booked – again it took a while to find somewhere that had a good roast dinner that was actually taking bookings. I complain about poor websites in Europe when I visit – well, the same is true further north. Is it just London where people bother to update their websites so people know whether they can book ahead?

Roast was pretty good – though only two roasties and the parsnip was solid. Very tasty lamb though. Chocolate dessert was yum also.

But I don’t want to turn this into a not being able to write about food blog.

Life has returned

I have to say that I feel much better now life has returned. I feel like I am living again, that I have things to be excited about – that I can enjoy my life fully. Once again life is about more than work, study and avoiding covid.

Seeing my parents was the most important thing to do, which was healing for my soul after the heartbreak of a cancelled Christmas. Well…a postponed Christmas.

Other than that, it has been good to get back out on the roast dinner trail – I’m booked for the next few weeks now which is exciting. Plus I have some other things booked – drinks in London tonight (yes I’m actually going out on a Friday night), a sit-down nightclub experience at Costa Del Tottenham tomorrow, an actual staycation in the Lake District in a couple of weeks, and then Christmas 2020 to end May which is very exciting.

I keep using the word, “exciting”. How exciting.

The Most Pointless Staycation Ever

A couple of months ago, my employer, who I normally hold in very high regard, advised that staff couldn’t carry holiday over into the new year starting 1st April. Meh.

I still had 5 days left to take. We were in the middle of the worst phase of the covid crisis – everything was still going to be closed no matter when I took the holiday. I wouldn’t be able to go to a pub let alone another country. We’d also just had a sudden stratospheric warming event in early January so the likelihood was spring would start cold, so I wouldn’t even have opportunity to sit outside in my front garden.

Normally a staycation can be quite useful. My life runs on multiple to-do lists, and they tend to gradually get out of control at times…well…most of the time. Until I have some time at home, like a staycation, where I can just concentrate on catching up on all the life admin.

Yet covid means that my main to-do list of regular/semi-regular tasks is cleared most weeks now. The time saved from not commuting means I have time to spend on this during the working week.

The other useful thing about a staycation is not being in the office – 5 whole working days away from the Met line and the office. Yet covid means that I spend 22 hours a day in my bedroom, 1 hour in the kitchen and 1 hour outside walking.

I would not have booked this week off if I had any choice in the matter – it was my best hope for a week when there might have been some warm sunshine. I had planned on a week off in April originally – when I hoped the pubs would be open and the weather would be warm.

I had nothing really to do. All the occasional cleaning tasks like cleaning the fridge that I tend to put off are long completed. I couldn’t go anywhere. I couldn’t sit in the sun. I didn’t even want to bake a cake.

It really was going to be the most pointless staycation ever.

Or was it?

React

The one thing that I will probably never be on top of, is the amount that I need to learn for my job as a software engineer – or at worst, the amount that I could learn. Thankfully I enjoy both learning and writing code.

So I set out to learn React. Quick snippet for those that don’t know what React is, probably 90% of you. JavaScript is the main front-end web development coding language. I know this well – I’m good at JavaScript though still probably 2-3 years away from expert status. Then there are libraries/frameworks that use JavaScript to make websites even faster (and other good stuff) – but you then have to learn how they work, how they are structured, etc.

Learning JavaScript thoroughly is a beast, learning React on top of that is quite a mission, though I think I can do it in months rather than years. I did actually start learning React 4 years ago, but I didn’t know JavaScript well enough – and then I got my job at Lovespace where I needed to know jQuery (the first popular JavaScript library) – so I brushed up on that, before I then had to learn AngularJS.

Now at M&S, I use pure JavaScript, with Node for the server side – though that is basically JavaScript.

However, soon we will be using React! And I don’t know it. So if I don’t learn it I will go from being really good at my job to being useless. Plus I also need to learn TypeScript, GraphQL and Next, though all smaller missions that learning React. I bet you are tired even reading about what I need to learn.

Yeah I write this…10’s of 1000’s of lines are out there of my code. Scary.

One of the attractions about becoming a software engineer was that it always changes, that I’d always need to learn – of course, the money is rather attractive also. Knowing React probably increases my salary expectations by around £10k – and increases the amount of jobs that I am qualified for by rather a lot – React is very much “the thing”. In theory, with another 2-3 years of experience I could easily command a salary of £80k – if not £100k. M&S ain’t going to like that!

So that is pretty much all I have done. Instead of writing code for M&S, I’ve been learning code so that I can write even better code for M&S in the coming months when the project hopefully starts.

But it wasn’t a holiday

Alas, all this time coding and the brainwork required does mean that it feels like I’ve just had a normal 9-5 week – plus I studied for much of last weekend too.

I really haven’t done anything else. I did cook some ox cheeks in the slow cooker, which were superb. And I watched England vs San Marino. Oh and I spent £440 on an ergonomic office chair. Well, it was money that Ryanair won’t be getting this year.

What I really need is a break from the pandemic – a break from the UK – a break from the flag-shagging morons in charge of this country. Or at least to get away from Harrow from a few days – my bedroom – my prison cell of a bedroom.

I am going to have a Blacklock all-in tonight with a nice bottle of Rioja. And yes, I will be eating with another human being which means breaking rules for only the second time this year. Judge me if you want – but I need a snippet of humanity, a few hours away from my computer, a few hours away from the endless months of solitude. Everyone else has been breaking rules, though they often don’t seem to even admit it to themselves let alone everyone else – some proper hypocritical shite on social media but that’s a discussion for the beer garden in a few week’s time.

Don’t worry, I’ll be back in front of my computer for the rest of the weekend – though I’m going to keep the studying to a minimum. I might even not do any.

Things To Look Forward To

I’ve been peak miserable this week. Emotionally defeated, mentally exhausted – physically exhausted too. Lockdown and being on my own for the best part of 3 months has finally broken me. Well…temporarily.

Weirdly in the first lockdown, peak misery hit after a couple of months – and the same has happened this time. Though it is compounded by the strictures that I’ve put myself under, with no alcohol, no cake, no chocolate, no fun – as well as no face-to-face human interaction (bar occasional 5 minute chat with my housemate).

It’s kind of been like groundhog day for the last few weeks actually, though only really this week has it got to me.

Weekends have become nothing more than an extended lunchbreak, except I’m still writing code and studying – I probably did around 10-12 hours of studying and coding last weekend – though I do once again have a nice speedy roast dinners website.

This is kind of fun to solve problems and improve things, but it isn’t really what I want to be doing on a weekend. Mix in some cleaning, general life admin and some really boring things like listing CDs on Ebay or sorting out the music I’ve illegally downloaded over the last year (which means formatting files names so they all look neat…yeah I’m so anal) and my weekends are pretty dismal. And lonely.

My working week recently has involved re-doing work that I’d previously done – one ticket which took about a week of effort was to replace something that was implemented in a rather horrid hacky manner to test out a theory…the theory worked and is worth 6 figures of incremental revenue – but that meant I had to implement it properly and replace the horrid hacky thing I’d built (there wasn’t a non-hacky way to do this test).

Other tickets have had to be re-done because there was a backlog of code reviews – and those tickets being reviewed and implemented all affected each other so when changes were implemented in one, things then had to be redone in the other tickets in the backlog. Finally ready to test on the public come Monday – after nearly 3 months of work and re-work by myself and my colleague. So if you are buying a bra and see a matching items carousel, do add some knickers. Or vice versa. Thanks.

So it has been a bit frustrating at work – and dull outside of work. I know good (ish) times are tantalisingly close, but the winter of doom is persisting. Detox doesn’t help with the lack of fun – I would love a few beers or a bottle of red wine one night, I am soooo ready for it – but also I’ve lost 6kg in weight this year and am no longer obese. It has been a dull few months (it feels much longer) but a period of time that I think I’ve made as much use of as possible.

Yet there are moments, like now, when I just want to give up my efforts. If I think about it long enough, I feel weary, I feel isolated, I feel miserable – not depressed – but miserable. I generally avoid talking to people unless they instigate it, because I fear feeling like I am missing out. I sometimes wonder if this is comparable to being in prison but without the drugs. I really have had enough of this fucking pandemic.

I concluded that it was time to write about it. And what better after a moan than to remember that I do have some things to look forward to.

The list of things that I am looking forward to

So these are all things which should definitely happen in the coming months. I’m not even thinking of trips abroad or being off my head in some muddy field dancing to shitty tech-house. Just things I’m pretty certain will happen – things that are in my control – things that I dare hope for.

  1. I am finally going to see somebody other than my housemate or a delivery driver this weekend, as we are now allowed to meet one other person for a picnic, so my sister is visiting with a roast dinner from an actual pub. Yes we are going to sit outside in 11’C, showers and a chilly wind. Dominic Cummings.

2. A week off. I was a bit pissed off about being told that I cannot carry my holiday over until the next financial year, so I had to take it in March. Really would have preferred it in April so I could have actually done something like sit in a beer garden on a Tuesday afternoon. But I am looking forward to a week off, my emotional wellbeing needs a week off – even if the main thing I’m going to do is study – roll on the last full week of March and give me one day of warmish sunshine PLEASE! Alas, weather models currently suggest snow more likely than warmth. Fucking sudden stratospheric warming.

3. I’ve ordered a curry from the highly-regarded Clay’s in Reading. I keep hearing how good they are and keep meaning to order – finally I’ve done it. Arriving next weekend.

4. The end of the detox! I know this lockdown has been easier without drinking because I’m constantly needing to keep myself busy – whereas drinking gives me more downtime, and more time to ponder what life used to be like. Yet detox is far less fun too, and I have been avoiding talking to people because I feel like I’d be too tempted to drink. I am now bloody well ready for a beer or 5 – and my detox will end at some point on my week off – date undecided. I’ve even ordered some beer – and found some Bone Machine too. Hmmm Bone Machine.

5. Sitting outside in the warm sunshine and having a beer or two. Yes, I really cannot wait to be able to plonk my chair outside in the front garden (the back garden is a shithole), t-shirt on, short shorts hopefully on, beer in hand. Bliss. Those who read my weather forecasts will know that I’m expecting a sunnier and drier spring than normal – though that first warm day where I’m not working might take a while – if it happens on my week off that would be amazing (and will be my detox end date), if not then hopefully for Easter.

6. Blacklock. Ohhhhhh Blacklock. I think for my week off I’m going to order an all-in for the weekend. This may or may not be my detox ending celebration – and what better way to end my detox with a load of beautiful meaty goodness and a nice bottle of red wine?

7. Matlock. From Blacklock to Matlock. So I haven’t seen my parents since October and this hurts – especially missing out on Christmas with them. We realised that 12th April means that we can meet outdoors and stay in self-contained accommodation within our household (granted I am stretching that definition slightly) so we are staying in the same area and meeting up for outside hospitality and walks. This really is necessary for the soul.

8. Roast dinners outdoors. Also from 12th April I will be able to start booking roast dinners, albeit outdoors only and one assumes it might be quite difficult to find anywhere, especially for the opening weekend. I do need to pull my finger out on this one.

9. A trip to the Lake District. So last year 3 of us went to Cornwall just as London was disgracefully plonked into Tier 2 – gosh tiers really do seem like they are from a different age. We are repeating the feat this year and going to the Lake District – pubs and restaurants should be open indoors and our trip will be fully legitimate – 3 separate households staying in 1 house. They also have a goat. Yeah, the goat sold it to me.

10. Christmas 2. A date has been set – the final bank holiday weekend in May and we are going to faithfully recreate the Christmas that we never had, as best as possible. Presents, decorations, tree, turkey roast (not sure my mother knows this part yet), sprouts, mince pies, booze, Christmas songs, yadda yadda. Well…unless…Boris…

I feel a bit better now. Hope you are all surviving…if you survived reading to this point.

Corona Moaner: Contented Isolation

Years ago I would have bemoaned my loneliness on Valentine’s Day. You could probably search this blog for a few “why am I so lonely” posts.

This year, I didn’t care. In fact, I now feel like I prefer being on my own.

I remember when the first lockdown happened, saying things like “well at least it didn’t happen in winter – at least we have the warm sunshine and I can sit outside and have a beer”.

Well…

I remember the first lockdown, when it was all new to us – there was a sense of worry, of the unknown, but most of us that are not exceptionally old, obese or otherwise unhealthy were gradually reassured by the data. There was a sense of “all in it together”, meme culture was at its best on social media, banana bread baking was the British cultural activity of the spring – that super sunny spring meant that we could sit outside.

Zoom calls were a plenty – I was normally having two a week. I was in touch with lots of people still – phone calls, arguments on Facebook over lockdowns, arguments on Twitter over masks. The sudden shock of isolation was there yet there was that camaraderie and togetherness without being anywhere near anyone.

The long winter of doom

This lockdown feels a lot different. Coming right in the depths of winter and right at the start of my 3 month detox – this one is a tough cookie. Winter can be tough to get through in normal years, but there is normally things to do, culture to visit, restaurants to eat at – people to see.

This lockdown, I’ve retreated very much into my shell. I’m not arranging Zoom calls. I’m not being invited to Zoom calls. I’m not speaking to many people at all. I don’t feel like speaking to people.

Apparently I’m not alone in feeling this way – my Twitter feed has plenty of people saying they are finding this lockdown tougher and more isolating – I’m sure I read in The Economist that people are having a lot less family/friends Zoom calls in this lockdown, but cannot find the article online to share.

So why am I feeling so anti-social?

It isn’t that I have nothing at all to say. Work is going well, I’ve enquired about the possibility of a pay rise, I’m getting involved with recruiting and learning Node and React at the weekend. Weekends otherwise have been filled with life admin/cleaning which is pretty boring, but I’ve still ordered a few roast dinners to review – though I think I’m going to knock those on the head for a while, until we can socialise again.

I’ve been losing weight – it has plateaued the last couple of weeks but I’m down 3.5kg this year. I’ve booked a holiday to the Lake District. Stock market investing is fun/awful/great/shite – depending on what day you read this. So I do have plenty to say – and I’m still well up for an argument over masks.

I guess not drinking doesn’t help. I feel that my detox could very easily be broken – as I could be emotionally broken without too much effort. And I’m trying to stay strong enough to complete my detox, which will end some time near the end of March I think. There isn’t a date as I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself – but I do feel that Zoom calls will just make me want to drink again. So maybe that is part of the reason why I’m avoiding social contact.

But I think mostly the reason why I’m feeling so anti-social is that I really miss everyone. I miss going to pubs with friends. I miss going to restaurants with family. I miss wandering art galleries with people, craning my neck to try to see past the hordes of people with camera phones.

That sense of longing to want to just simply sit opposite someone, look into their eyes and talk to them, over a glass of wine, whilst they scroll through Instagram and take no notice of what I am saying but at least they are there.

And every time I speak to someone, I just want to make plans to do something with them – and there is no point.

There is hope

Psychologically this winter lockdown has been fucking tough. I’m doing what I can to get by, and I guess retreating into my shell, avoiding social contact is part of this. And it isn’t like I’m ignoring people – I’m just not instigating things.

Not drinking actually helps get through lockdown – as much as I’d love a bottle of wine and would thoroughly enjoy one right now – I can end up miserable once drunk when alone. Alcohol helps – then un-helps. Losing weight helps me be happy, as does learning stuff and sorting out all my mess – all things which I am able to control and am concentrating on.

But spending time with people makes me most happy.

I am trying to keep myself happy and manage being alone as best as possible – everything I am doing during lockdown is to try to make my life better after lockdown.

There is hope. Spring is on the way and it looks like being a sunny spring, at least for March and April, eventually warm too. I’ve taken the last week of March off as holiday (we are not allowed to carry over holiday this year which is pretty shit) – but I’m hoping to be able to sit outside, have a beer in the sunshine, order a Blacklock roast dinner, have a nice steak, go on some longish walks. And do lots of studying – as there is a huge amount to learn for the probable new tech stack at work.

And at some point not too far away I reckon I’ll be able to invite my sister over for a roast dinner on a Sunday.

Most importantly, I want to go visit my parents and have our stolen Christmas. They’ve both had the jab, cases are as low as they were when they visited London in October – but I still think we are a fair few weeks away from it being socially acceptable to pack a suitcase and travel 200 miles up north.

Speak to you at some point. Maybe.

Happy Birthday To Me: Episode 41

Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday to me. Happy birthday dear me. Happy birthday to me.

Look what I got for my birthday:

I’m lying, I didn’t really get that.

Look what I got for my birthday:

I’m lying. I didn’t really get that.

Look what I got for my birthday:

Yes, I’m blessed enough to have a sister weird enough to buy me porn for my birthday.

I think I need to mention the pandemic in case somebody hasn’t thought about it enough today

So I was lucky last year in being able to celebrate my 40th birthday when covid was something in China and wouldn’t come to this country so we had nothing to worry about. This year, lockdown and winter have combined to eliminate most forms of enjoyment of life. But I insisted on enjoying my birthday and I had a bloody good attempt at a bloody good day.

Firstly I took the day off work. I enjoy working but the freedom to do whatever I wanted, within the bounds of the very limited options that I have nowadays was even more important.

I started by walking up the hill in Harrow. EXERCISE. I left my house before 7am.

Then I emptied my large wardrobe so that I could move it 5cm to the side. Then filled it back up. Gosh I am living the life, aren’t I?

You know how sometimes I think I know best (you may have noticed that I don’t mention herd immunity much now)? Well when I put up my DJ desk the other week which involved 5 hours of screwing, I decided not to attach the speaker stands, ignoring the instructions, as my speakers were too large for them, or so I thought.

However, I concluded that I was wrong, so I then spent an hour or so screwing speaker stands to the unit yesterday. Which meant having to unload the DJ desk, move it to an area where I could reach it for screwing, do the screwing, move it back and put everything on to it. And it was really quite awkward to do so, after the whole stand was put together.

Are you bored yet? Yeah that was my morning. The cupboard had to be moved as the speaker stands just didn’t quite fit without that little bit of extra space.

I made a nice lunch.

Garlic didn’t really work with the smoked salmon and I could have done with some Hollandaise, but hey, this is not the perfect birthday.

After a bit of studying (need to understand Node, Mongo and Express properly so I can build a dating website), I had a Zoom call with my family, where I opened my birthday cards – 3 of which came from my Grandma. And a Christmas card from her brother. Ahhh old age is going to be interesting, isn’t it? My sister also bought me the Dishoom book, which I am looking forward to starting next week. Am I the only person that goes through recipe books from beginning to end?

Then had a Zoom call with my sister, Martin and Ali – I feel like I was on good form, though helped by my first beers of the year. A detox break – I might have another break in a month or so, but the intention remains to make it until the end of March. Then again, I intended on something similar last year…

Blacklock incoming

And the evening was all about the Blacklock all-in. 4 types of chops – two lamb, one pork chop and one small rump steak. Seriously beautiful. Beef-dripping chips, which I slightly overcooked, some kale, some fried bread and THAT chop sauce. Annoyingly I overcooked the chop sauce also – I followed the instructions but it just reduced far too much.

41 years old and still shit at taking photographs

And that was followed by their white chocolate cheesecake, which this time came with rhubarb topping. So, so, so good – I think the 6th time that I’ve had their white chocolate cheesecake and it felt like the best ever. I really need to be on commission.

Also topped off with a bottle of red wine – first time I have paid more than about £8 for a bottle, at least to drink at home. £32 it cost – a treat and it was bloody nice too, an Argentinian Malbec.

And that was that. I didn’t even see my housemate in passing so I spent the whole birthday on my own. It could have been better – it paled into dismality (new word, just made it up) compared to the fun and jollity of my 40th birthday last year.

Yet you have to make the most of life, considering your circumstances. And I think I just about managed to have a bloody good birthday.

With blessings and gratitude to all those that wished me a happy birthday…I hope I thanked you all individually but I’m sure I probably missed someone.

2021 Goals

Time to set myself some goals for 2021, and they will not involve any holidays, and definitely not Japan. Clearly I am setting them in height of the pandemic with little opportunity to do much that doesn’t involve a computer, so they will be slanted towards computer stuff.

I’m also setting environmental targets for the first time ever. Don’t worry, I still love steak, actually really appreciate the usefulness of plastic and would love to get a flight or 10 in 2021 in an ideal world.

Health

Lose 10kg. I can do this. I think I will actually do this this year. I have fewer excuses. I work from home. I can easily eat a low calorie diet. I can sleep enough. I will have plenty of time where I cannot eat or drink out.

The detox, or two. I’m loosely aiming for a 3 month detox to start 2021 and to help me achieve quite a bit of the below. I intend on drinking on my birthday in late January, and Christmas 2, though I guess Christmas 2 will be April at the earliest.

Reduce wine at home. One of my major downfalls in 2020 was the bottle of wine on a Friday night, after a few beers. And the bottle on Saturday night. This needs to be the exception, rather than the rule. One bottle, at home, each month?

Work & Finance

Pay rise. A pay rise is impossible when there is a company-wide pay freeze so if you can all buy a few more bras and pants I would appreciate it. However, if the pay freeze relaxes then I will put a case forward for one. I can earn circa 30-50% more elsewhere thanks to what I’ve learnt so far at M&S, but I like it there. 2022 would be move on year if I don’t achieve a pay rise.

Invest £10k. I love investing in the stock market – it was my favourite thing of 2020 and, of course, would have been my least favourite had I lost money. I am saving for a house deposit for some crappy new build in a scummy part of London, so to stick to my plan of having a deposit by the end of 2023, I must save £10k this year. Which does depend on both a pay rise and a lockdown so I cannot spend much.

Charity. Give at least as much to charity as I did in 2020 – which was £363.80, according to my calculations.

Coding

Learn React and put some React code live. If you actually remember what I write on these every year, you may recognise this. React is the thing I can learn that will boost my future earning power most. Plus it looks like we are moving to introducing it at M&S and I’m trying to get involved as much as possible…I’ve launched the Learn React teams channel at work, even though I know zero. So, learning is one thing – but creating something either for personal use, or shipping React code live to the M&S website is required to complete this.

Create a web app. I have an idea in my head for a social media network and a dating website. Not sure I entirely want people to use either, as shit would just get too complex/heavy, but I want to learn how to make one, and also to look good for my portfolio.

Rewrite portfolio. I need to massively update my personal developer profile/portfolio. It is sooooo out of date. I don’t yet have any idea what to do with it, annoyingly.

Rewrite a blog. A couple of my blogs are way out of date and could be much improved, DJ Mix Of The Week and House Minimal Techno Disco both spring to mind. At least one of them needs redesigning and modernising.

Stuff

Upgrade my life. Didn’t do very well on this last year, but over the course of the year I need speaker stands, computer speakers, monitor, office chair, laptop, keyboard (yes it needs to light up) – all this needs upgrading in 2021.

Declutter. I surprised myself with starting a decluttering project in 2020. I have a loose goal of maybe owning 10% less stuff, but quite how I count that is another question. I managed to get rid of 134 of my 2,058 CD collection last year, so if I can get that to 300 removed this year, plus sell/bin my Mixmags then that would be a good achievement.

Plants. I need a nicer front garden when I sit out and drink beer in 2021. So plant some plants in planters.

Environment

Zero food waste. I feel that zero is probably impossible but it is easier to measure and should push me towards thinking of solutions. I don’t feel that I waste much anyway and I get my fruit and veg from Oddbox so I’m actually saving food waste already (and you should sign up – you get £10 off and so do I if you use my link).

10% green investments. If you know me, you’ll know that I enjoy investing in the stock market. I’m going to aim to put 10% of what I invest in purely green investments – so things like solar companies, sustainable infrastructure, wind power, etc.

20% green charities. I do give a bit to charity, fairly haphazardly as to what I choose, so this goal is to ensure that 20% of what I give goals to environmental causes. Charities that don’t disagree with free-market liberalism – as making people poorer doesn’t make people greener.

Future Years…

So I shouldn’t set goals for just 2021. Looking further ahead I am hoping to either get a promotion to senior software engineer at M&S in 2022, or a new job in 2022.

Mid-2023 is the very earliest that I think I will be able to afford a deposit on a shabby new build above a kebab shop in London. That is me assuming that I make 1% a month on average in the stock market (I’m way ahead of that), that I get a good pay rise this year and that a £50k deposit is sufficient – it may need to be £75k, I’m really not sure. Also I might get away with less with the Help To Buy Equity Scheme, but again I’m not sure. To be investigated after the pandemic.

Also in 2022…Spanish wife. Si. Es cierto.

Review of 2020 Goals

Well we all know what 2020 was like in terms of fun, enjoyment and quality of life. So, was 2020 a productive, successful year for me?

I’ll go through the original goals for 2020 that I set myself in, erm, February (don’t you remember that we still had a life in January?) – original headings in bold, original elaboration in italics, and 2021 comments in ordinary font. Not sure why I explained that to you as it should be obvious what I’m doing.

Health

Two Detoxes. A 3-week detox prior to my 40th birthday and a 3-month detox after my birthday.

Hmmm, kind of did this. Well I did the 3 week detox, then 2 of the 3 month’s – guess what caused me to start drinking again in late March? Though I also had another month off in November.

75% successful.

Stop unnecessary drinking. This is the bottle of wine at home on a Friday night after work, or the can of beer at my desk on a Friday afternoon, or drinking prosecco on a Tuesday afternoon at work…that kind of thing.

Well I didn’t drink at my office desk in 2020. But I drank plenty of beer and wine on my own, albeit quite often with a Zoom call to start.

0% successful.

Lose Weight. …maybe I actually will lose weight this year – and my goal is 10kg for the year. I am setting monthly goals too – January I have passed, February I will almost certainly pass. If I fail my monthly goals than I will punish myself with a vegetarian roast dinner…

Well I finished 2019 at 107.5kg and finished 2020 at 101.2kg. At one point at the end of November I made it down to 97.3kg, so I technically managed 10kg, but I’m comparing like to like so…

63% successful. Oh and I had forgot about setting monthly goals by April. Blame China.

Work & Websites

Work towards promotion. …I want to ensure that I have a plethora of experience and evidence behind me to go for it in 2021. This means learning JavaScript in a more technical fashion (I have quite the reading list), improving technical presentation skills, improving my test-writing ability – as well as shipping some damn fine code.

2021 will be too soon for promotion – I’ve now read the job spec and it is really something for full-on seniors, people with say 7-8 years experience. I have learnt loads this year, I am more comfortable with presenting technological information, and now actually good at writing tests.

100% successful.

Met Line Bingo. I’ve started work on a website called Met Line Bingo – which will be a fun, simple game for passengers to play when they are delayed AGAIN.

So I wrote the code for this, it was all working on my local machine, pushed it live, it didn’t work – then covid happened, nobody used the Met line let alone got delayed on it, and I lost interest.

I just think I didn’t bundle the assets correctly.

80% successful.

Improve websites. I do want to do a complete re-brand of my roast dinners blog, and at some point my iwillbeawebdeveloper page.

I did rebrand my roast dinners website – in fact I completely rebuilt it and made it super quick too. Really quite impressed with myself – even my vegan manager appreciates it. Didn’t touch iwillbeawebdeveloper.

50% successful.

Explore

Monthly culture. I want to do a different cultural activity every month this year (granted January I didn’t and February I probably won’t). Burlesque, ballet, bingo, comedy, cinema, theatre, musical, drag brunch, 20/20 cricket…that kind of thing.

Ahhh China.

0% successful.

Japan. Well, the flights are booked, the first hotel is booked. Research is ongoing. I am going to Japan.

I didn’t go to Japan.

0% successful.

3 New Countries. I normally aim for 4 but fail, and with half my holiday allowance being taken by my trip to Japan I’m making this more achievable.

Does Cornwall count as a country?

0% successful.

Random Country. I really want to play random country holiday with someone this year.

0% successful. Thanks, China.

Upgrade My Life

Replace stuff. Now I have a reasonable salary, it is time to upgrade my belongings – my battered office chair, my ugly over-sized (but free) office desk, my slow Surface, tired towels, suitcases with broken wheels, computer monitor with weird wavy lines, computer speakers that are far too bass-heavy.

So I bought a new desk and a new suitcase. There is really no excuse for not achieving this in 2020!

30% successful.

New socks. I need to finally get rid of all my old, tired socks too. Sock upgrades are required.

My sock drawer is full!

100% successful. BOOM.

Double my savings. I’m not telling you how much I have, but I do want to double the amount of saving that I have by the end of the year, and ideally have a fair amount in shares.

I cannot remember exactly how much I had in savings at the end of 2019, but I’m certain that I have twice as much or even 2.5 times as much now.

100% successful. Thanks, China.

Move house? I don’t want to do this, even though I know the pain would probably be worth it. …I’m going to look into what is out there.

I did start looking online when we had anxiety-inducing the “everyone back to the office” phase. And I am now saving for a deposit on a flat.

50% successful.

Be Kinder

Donate to charity more. Last year I gave a total of £76 to charity, which was up from £46 the year before.

According to my spending records, I gave £363.80 to charity in 2020. Check me out.

100% successful.

Waste less food. …I do buy too much food that I don’t finish – cheese for example I rarely eat a block before it goes off.

I definitely threw away my (un) fair share of quarter blocks of cheese in 2020, but on the flip side I’ve signed up to Oddbox and apparently I’ve rescued 156 kg of odd & surplus fruit & veg that might’ve otherwise gone to waste. Gosh, what a champion I am.

80% successful.

Plant a tree. Bit out there this one, but it is something good I can do for the planet and local area.

Masks required? No thanks.

0% successful.

Overall?

That gives me an overall goal success score of 48.7%. Not bad.

Time to start writing some 2021 goals. Some covid-proof goals.

Most Memorable Moments of 2020

A few weeks ago I put myself through the misery of a one-hour BBC documentary charting the pre-pandemic course and the scientific response (or lack of) as things unfolded in China, and later Europe.

It was like watching a horror movie.

We’ve all lived through this horror movie this year and I don’t intend on a eulogising look back through this hellscape – but unfortunately even most of my highlights of 2020 are from the context of covid. I have every intention of this being a positive piece of writing to reflect my own being, but it is of course grounded in the situation and not every turd can be glittered.

I guess I should start with some covid shit. My top 6 are definitely my top 6 moments of the year – but previous 9 moments have no real order.

15. Masks on tubes

I don’t even know where to start with the emotional clusterfuck of covid and its restrictions. From the worry over whether it would stop me from going to Japan, to wondering when I would ever see another human. How the whole scenario made me angry, confused, anxious – and for quite a few weeks in May/June I was in quite a pit of misery…many others said that they also struggled in May/June.

But for me, peak misery was when masks on tubes were announced. The thought that I would be stuck in Harrow forever depressed me.

And fuck, the arguments about masks. Gosh…I generally don’t like being on the same side of the argument as a Corbyn, so it was quite painful defending it. I still think I’m right in that they are bullshit, and suspect that they may even have contributed to this new super-spreading variant, but I guess we’ll never know (or won’t be told for years).

But eventually I relented and got on the tube. I sometimes even put it over my nose now.

14. Guess who’s garden

So we’d all gone from working in the office as a team, to working from home – which for me was a delight, no Metropolitan line, being able to wake up when I was ready, being much better able to control my diet.

Yet there was something missing in terms of team cohesion, and everyone kind of asking if people were OK but not really sure if they were themselves, of course having to handle the whole situation and the new experience of being in separate silos – and being very alone.

Which is when I realised the answer. I organised a game of “Guess Who’s Garden” for the team one Friday afternoon and I really (possibly deludedly) think this actually helped, and our regular Friday games from then on helped enforce our team spirit.

Can you guess who’s garden this is?

My new team that I joined in November doesn’t have anywhere near the camaraderie – and my old team no longer has their socials.

13. THAT spring weather

Spring at times was fucking miserable because of you know what – as I mentioned above there were times when I was more miserable and down than I had been in a good decade or more, especially a 3-4 week spell in May and June where my solitude and hopelessness really got to me.

And maybe the long, glorious spring of watching my neighbours sunbathe whilst I was working didn’t actually help matters, not to mention the drills, the chainsaws and the fucking lawnmower every single day. But looking back now in the depths of winter and the second wave, the weather really was gorgeous.

I was quite happy with my short shorts on in my front garden, drinking my IPAs, listening to minimal techno, reading about covid-19 in The Economist.

Simple pleasures.

12. Falling in love

Yes, you read correctly. Summer was a glorious time, I fell in love with Lola, so sweet, so sexy, so chilled and so white that even my most distant relatives in Hull would approve.

Yes, my AEG Chillflex Pro air conditioning unit kept me cool all summer – no matter how hot the rest of the house was, my bedroom was chill.

11. RIP Swennieh

Oh man. If there was ever someone I met that didn’t need 2020 to teach them to make the most of life, it was my dear friend, Swennieh.

The news came in August, I think. I didn’t believe it at first. Then I cried. What a top bloke and I was honoured to know him. If you knew him, you know exactly what I’m on about.

I know a couple more close friends lost loved ones, and another close friend has successfully been battling cancer. It always puts my own struggles into context.

10. Barnard Castle

For me it was the political moment of the year. The guy – the unelected advisor who’s self-appointed mission was to fight unelected advisors – in one fowl swoop (foul swoop or fowl swoop?) managed to undermine everything the government had been attempting to do with the lockdown.

Every single time from that moment onwards, someone had a third person on a pub table, had a hug indoors, drove to Beacon Beacons – whatever the cursed break of whatever new rule – “but Dominic Cummings” was the answer.

Seriously, how many times did you excuse your minor rule-breaking with “but Dominic Cummings drove his kids to Barnard Castle to test if he could see”?

If Boris Johnson had had sacked him on the spot, whilst the pandemic course would not have changed, the public would be more likely to be paying attention now. Alas, he had to wait for Carrie to defenestrate him. Oh for a proper leader. Anyone. Any party.

Next slide, please.

9. Not going to Japan but I made people laugh

I guess I live to put a smile on people’s faces.

Still would have preferred to have gone to Japan. Fuck you, China.

8. Hull City losing 8-0

Part of being a Hull City AFC fan is being able to enjoy misery. Memories consist of singing songs like, “silverware, we don’t care” and “how shit must you be, we’ve scored a goal”. I feel like I enjoyed being a Hull City fan more when we were proper shit in the 90’s.

At the end of January, we were 8th in the league, challenging for the play-offs and I stuck £5 on us being relegated at 250-1. I mean, there was a thought process other than being a Hull City fan – I’d watched a couple of games and we were shite, I thought our manager was clueless, I thought we’d fluked some recent wins. I knew we were selling our star player. 8th in the league though.

We then went on a run of 12 games without winning, we were one point above the relegation zone and about to play a team in the relegation zone when – BOOM. Yes, I cannot even do a football post in 2020 without mentioning covid. FFS.

But when the league restarted, we were even worse – and lost 8-0 to Wigan. Wigan got relegated.

We finished bottom. I won circa £1,150.

Making money from your football team being relegated? That is such a 2020 thing.

7. Boris’ Christmas emotional stabbing

I don’t know where to start with this.

I don’t blame Boris Johnson for the pandemic. I blame China. I do however blame Boris Johnson for running a government of incompetence and cronyism.

And for giving us false hope about Christmas. I could cope with not being able to see my parents at Christmas – I don’t mind having to wait a couple of months for things to calm down again, for the vaccine to be rolled out. But it was the pretending that everything would be fine for 5 days despite expert’s advice that it was a bad idea. It was the hope that killed me. And one very upset family.

Oh for a proper leader. Anyone. Any party. I feel like I’m repeating myself. OK, only happy shit from here. No more Boris Johnson.

6. Cornwall

One of my closest advisors suggested going for a staycation in October. Another of my closest advisors also joined.

We settled on the idea of going to Cornwall, which is somewhere I’ve never been before and is absolutely stunning. Who needs Tokyo’s used panties vending machines when you can go to Drippy Droppy?

It was less than 3 months ago yet feels 3 million tiers away, we stayed in a converted mill, had some nice walks, saw the beach, shit myself at the cliff edge a few times, pined for proper London beers, had a pastie.

And finally managed to visit two good friends on the way in Dunster for a roast dinner who I’d only been promising to visit since before the referendum. Not mentioned Brexit much, have I? You impressed?

Just look at that rugged beauty
Just look at that ragged beauty

5. Stratford

No, not that Stratford, the one with the river.

As soon as we were allowed, me and my sister went north to see our parents – though they wouldn’t hug us or come anywhere near. Well, we went one day before we were allowed to , but you know, “Dominic Cummings”.

And then we booked a family holiday in Stratford-Upon-Avon for a few weeks after. Staying in a Travelodge. On the 3rd hottest day ever in Britain.

It easily goes down as one of my most memorable and fondest moments of the year – being able to go away, albeit in the UK, with my family after a pretty emotionally scarring few months.

Posing with lampposts. Great lamppost though. Right?

And my mum hugged me.

4. I’m a future star

Work couldn’t really have gone any better this year. The pandemic meant that I got to work from home every day which I love – no more moaning about the Metropolitan line. I’m healthier, more productive, yadda yadda.

And I got a new manager. A vegan. Uh-oh. But he’s sound as fuck and doesn’t mind my hesitantly mentioning what I do on a Sunday (whenever I’m allowed to, anyway).

I’m officially in the “future star” box, which 10% of staff are and is the second best rating. I am actually going places and it feels like it. I love working for M&S and even better that they seem to like me too.

I still have to pinch myself – 4 years ago I’d just been fired from my first web developer job, which was a bit of a failure, with the words, “I don’t think you are cut out to be a developer”.

Need to add a few more strings to my bow next year, then come 2022’s moments, I will hopefully be writing about a promotion. Or a new job. Your call, M&S. And don’t you dare ever again tell me that I should do Veganuary.

3. I actually lost weight

Every year I say that I am going to lose weight and almost every year I put on weight.

I finished 2019 at a whopping 107.5kg. I will finish 2020 at a still whopping 100.5kg – I was actually down to 97.3kg at the end of the plastic lockdown but then I started drinking again.

And you know what this is thanks to? Yep, the pandemic. And working from home. Next year, my goal will be to become officially “fat”.

2. Investing

Investing in the stock market has been one of the most enjoyable things that I’ve done all year, which is possibly kind of sad and maybe I wouldn’t have said this had I not made circa 20% profit.

Certainly I wouldn’t have firstly put so much money in, and also had the spare money to invest, were it not for the pandemic. So, thanks covid – you’ve helped my financial situation.

I have to say that I have always wanted to test myself against the stock-market, as I’m arrogant enough to think I know enough to do well. And so far so good, though any idiot could have made money this year had they started investing after the crash. Yet I am outperforming the FTSE by some way.

Early days, but it has given me hope that I might actually be able to save for a deposit for a flat. There is now a plan and for the first time ever I think I can actually be able to save up for a deposit for a flat in some dosshole in outer London.

But how the fuck is Tesla worth £1.3m per car produced?

1. My 40th birthday

I was blessed enough to have my birthday pre-covid, back in January when it was a thing that was bad in China but could never happen over here.

The Wednesday of my actual birthday I spent with my sister, who proved even more indispensable in 2020 and not just because she can drive me places. We went to Casa Tua for brunch, Flight Club to play darts in the afternoon, then Blacklock for dinner. Ohhh Blacklock. So, so good.

On the Saturday we spent the day and evening at Mare Street Market, and loads of people I love turned up.

And the Sunday we had a roast dinner, with two lots of Rule Of Six groups all around the same table – crazy shit. It feels so distant a time now, but I’m delighted that I do have some great memories from my 40th birthday.

Thanks

So, thanks for helping me get through 2020. I hope in my inane attempts at humour I helped you a little bit too. Thanks for arguing with me about masks. Thanks for arguing with me about Brexit. Thanks for not arguing with me about the wrongs of racism (well, mostly).

Maybe I’ll see you in 2021. Or maybe I won’t!

Love to all.