Sorry that I’ve been a bit quiet in the last week or so. I haven’t been in the best of health and, well, it has been Christmas and I’ve also had to work. Life has to come before ‘blogging.
So, 2010. Is it so very predictable to talk about the year just gone when it comes to the end of the year? If so, then call me Mr. Predictable of Predictable Lane, because that’s exactly what I’m going to do. However, I do find it much easier to talk about the year 2010 at the end of December when lots of things have happened, rather than to do so in January when you’ve got very little material to work with. Call me Mr. Conventional of Conventional Street, if you like, but make up your mind. I can’t be Mr. Predicatable and Mr. Conventional. Anyway, if I reviewed this year before it happened, at least I’d have been able to accurately predict one thing… that the England football team would (under)perform like a bunch of talentless, over-paid, non-league players at the World Cup. It’s no exaggeration to say that we were one of the very worst teams out there. Even North Korea seemed to have more of a chance than we did.
My World Cup, bizarrely, was spent in Milan. The thinking behind that was that Italians are football crazy and spending a couple of weeks in an Italian city rich in culture with lots of exciting games to watch in the evening would be a great way to spend the early summer. Unfortunately, the reality was a little different. The Italians (or specifically the Milanese) seemingly couldn’t give a toss about the World Cup and we struggled to find anywhere showing the live matches other than an Irish Pub with extremely rude staff or a local bar which they seemed to open when they felt like it. On the whole, I enjoyed the experience, but found it extremely expensive (16 euros for a pint of Carlsberg in one bar near the station) and a bit same-y after a while. I would have liked it much more if we’d have been there for a week rather than a fortnight. Oh, and if England had won all of their games and played with a little bit of skill and pride instead of playing like a bunch of lobotomized monkeys… but that would have surely been asking too much.
Let’s rewind to how the new year started. On December 31st, 2009, I was working a late shift and finished at a depot in North London at approximately 11:00 p.m, after which I was to be taxied home. I was hoping to get to my home in South London in time to see the new year in, but it was looking increasingly unlikely and, as the time ebbed away, I knew that I was going to be spending my first minutes of 2010 with a London taxi driver. Sure enough, as Big Ben chimed, I was going past a 24-hour convenience store in the Wandsworth area and a group of drunken teenage chavs outside the shop were holding their cans of newly purchased Stella Artois in the air shouting, “Happy New Year, you fuckers!”. It was at that point, just as the year began, that I got a bit of a sinking feeling about 2010. Surely things could only get better?
In fact, the whole year has been a bit on the strange side, but also really rather wonderful. I met someone in late January on a very silly group I created on Facebook, we got chatting, soon exchanged very frank life stories and I began to get some rather foolish feelings of love before I had even met her. Then, late on February 9th, she invited me to Brighton to come and meet her and I arrived, on my motorbike, at just after midnight on February 10th. After a few hours talking and, after a bit of a kiss and a cuddle, I left Brighton on Cloud 9, having met the person I’m now planning to spend the rest of my life with. Unfortunately, that elated feeling was interrupted by me losing control of my motorbike on the way home, coming off at about 40 mph in icy conditions and ending up in Redhill Hospital. The outcome of this was me tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in my left knee and having about five months off work, which was much less fun than it sounds. Still, the time off work allowed me to spend more time with Corinne than I could have if I’d have been working, so I suppose being in pain and having trouble walking had its perks. Probably my single highlight of this year was when, on August 27th, Corinne and I got engaged and, around the same time, I moved in with her. Life doesn’t get much better than that.
I’ve been fortunate enough to see a lot of great artists this year, such as Jeff Beck (great), Eric Clapton (disappointing), Brendan Benson (superb), James McCartney (promising), David Ford (sensational), Ray Davies (not great), Paul Weller (good, but self-indulgent), Divine Comedy (excellent), Jason Lytle (good) and Squeeze (brilliant). I’ve been unfortunate enough to miss quite a few concerts too, such as Grant-Lee Phillips (owing to volcanic dust), David Ford (three times – twice owing to my motorbike accident the week before and once, last week, thanks to the snow) and Rufus Wainwright (family crisis).
Apart from my favourite albums (which can be viewed on a previous ‘blog entry, dated December 8th, 2010), my main forms of entertainment have been television and film. I’m normally much more of a book reader than I have been over the past twelve months, but the only relatively new book I’ve read this year has been Stephen King’s Under The Dome – and that was published in 2009. I thoroughly recommend it, though. It’s one of his best. Many of the films I have gone to the cinema to see in 2010 have been accompanying my daughter, Bethany, who turned fourteen this year and, in truth, I have only seen a handful of new films. However, out of the ones I have seen, the three films to really stick in my mind as exceptional were Alice In Wonderland, Despicable Me and Inception. I’ve spent the rest of my film-watching time catching up with a lot of things I missed last year, courtesy of Sky Movies. In fact, I only watched Avatar for the first time a couple of nights ago, so it’s fair to say that I’m not exactly in the running to present Film 2011 any time soon.
2010 has been a rather good year for television, though. New programmes I have enjoyed include the rather tasteless Him & Her, which was like The Royle Family with added sex, set in a bed-sit, Coppers, a no-holds-barred documentary on the police force and Frankie Boyle’s Tramadol Nights, an uncompromising, offensive, outrageously funny stand-up and comedy sketch show. Favourites which have returned and haven’t disappointed are Doctor Who (OK, Matt Smith isn’t half as good as David Tennant, but it’s still a great show), the ever brilliant House MD, Peep Show, QI, True Blood and the criminally underrated Harry & Paul. The third series of The Inbetweeners was supremely funny in places, but over-the-top and extremely disappointing in others, with the main roles often descending into caricature.
Of course, it feels almost frivolous talking about this year in terms of my life and my favourite music, films and other entertainment. There have been some devastating world events, killing – in total – hundreds of thousands of people. Earthquakes, tsunami, floods, volcanic eruptions… some of the news has been difficult to process and unimaginable in consequence for people living a relatively comfortable life in the United Kingdom. What can we do? Alleviate our guilt by throwing a pound or two in the collection buckets at train stations or the high street. Maybe set up a direct debit to help fund the Red Cross. Go about our safe lives feeling slightly guilty that we have got it pretty good, compared to so many others. However, it has to be said that you solve nothing by living in a state of perpetual guilt. There’s nothing to be gained by attempting to absorb all of the pain and suffering in the world and continually reminding everyone that their troubles, compared to others, are minimal. People don’t want to hear it. There’s (nearly) always somebody worse off that you, but that doesn’t always make your worries easier to bear, nor is it any great comfort. Of course, perspective can be lost sometimes – like that woman from Chatham who rang 999 to report the theft of her snowman or, even, the reaction of the world to Mary Bale, the woman who flung that unfortunate cat into the wheelie bin. Yes, what she did was cruel and wrong, but what was even more shocking for me was the amount of death threats and threats of violence that she received for that moment of madness.
Of course, I can’t sign off without acknowledging our change of Government in the UK this year, from an unpopular Prime Minister that nobody voted for to an unpopular coalition that, well, nobody voted for. Unfortunately, I was one of the many people who the Liberal Democrats made a complete twat out of, although, in my defence, I was personally attempting to re-elect the affable and effective incumbent Carshalton & Wallington MP Tom Brake. The fact that the whole party suddenly became the one which I agreed with most was just a happy coincidence.
With the introduction of proportional representation/preferential voting instead if the antiquated first-past-the-post electoral system, the scrapping of University tuition fees, higher taxation of the super-rich and people who earn up to £10,000 a year paying no tax on their income, this was a party I felt I could get behind, after feeling well and truly betrayed by the Labour Party. I’m not sure that anyone could have seen coming, however, the fact that nobody got an overall majority and the Lib-Dems, holding the balance of power, deciding to form a coalition with the Conservatives, rather than their more natural political allies, Labour. Of course, all of the Lib-Dem campaign promises have gone out of the window and they have lost a huge amount of support and credibility, as they are seemingly fitting in with the Tory ideals and policies rather than having any great influence on the present political events. It’s all very disappointing, but what makes it even harder to swallow is the fact that my vote was, effectively, a show of support for those bastards who are currently in power.
Well, tomorrow will be 2011. It’s just another day, very much like today, but a new year is often a symbolic event for people. It’s a time when you can put the events of the previous twelve months behind you and start anew. As for me, I’m looking to continue building my life with my beloved Corinne and our family, to maintain and build relationships with my two daughters from my previous marriage, to plan for a wedding in 2012, to completely transform the house we live in and, last but not least, to learn to drive. Yes, although I’ve been driving trains for years, I don’t actually have a license to drive a car. Shocking at the age of 35, I know, but I’ve never really ever felt the need, until now. I’m also resolving to keep writing this ‘blog. That may be good or bad news to you – although if it’s bad news, why are you reading this in the first place? Are you a masochist, or something?
Other things I’m looking forward to in 2011 are new albums by Iron and Wine, Ron Sexsmith, Teddy Thompson, R.E.M. and the follow-up to The Seldom Seen Kid, one of my favourite albums ever, from Elbow. I’m also rather excited (already) that I’ll be seeing Elbow at the Brighton Centre in March. I’ll be very surprised if that isn’t one of the best concerts I’ll go to next year. In the pipeline are new albums by Coldplay, Julian Lennon, Foo Fighters and Rush. I’m still hopeful for a new Jeff Lynne album, perhaps a new George Harrison release and maybe even Noel Gallagher will break his post-Oasis silence. Liam’s group, Beady Eye, are releasing an album at the end of February, but surely that isn’t going to be much good… is it? As for television, I’m also anticipating the return of Torchwood. It’s been too long.
Well, it’s customary at this point to wish you all a very happy, healthy, prosperous 2011, full of good fortune, tasty sandwiches, interesting and varied days, wine, song, love, sex, sexy love, lovey sex, vitamin c, decent coffee, frequent refreshing cups of tea, baths, showers, bidets, immersion heaters, step ladders, sunshine, lollipops, rainbows, lucky pennies, dogs, frogs, hogs, logs and snogs. OK, not snogs. I hate that word. So… yes. I wish you all of that. Feel free to miss out the parts you don’t want, but life often brings you many things you don’t want, so it’s often better to have an unwanted immersion heater than a poke in the eye with a pointed stick. That’s my philosophy, anyway.
Happy new year, you fuckers!