It’s my thirty-ninth birthday today. I only have one year left of the extraordinary decade that is my thirties. I intend to make the most of it and be as ready as I can be for my forties, which I hope will be an even better decade for me.

I didn’t think I’d still be learning about myself at this age, but every year brings more wisdom, experience and confidence. This year I intend to say ‘no’ a lot more and focus on identifying the things that are right for me.

I celebrated my birthday with family, cake and presents under the Christmas tree in Edinburgh this morning, and am now back home in Newcastle for a quiet evening with pizza and TV.

Birthday cake
With my birthday cake, made with care as ever by Dad. (c) John Cooke 2024.

…and this is 2024!

Happy New Year everyone! Still with the Cooke family for the Christmas break, with everyone here having a lovely festive season.

This year’s New Year Resolutions:

  • Get rid of at least half of the stuff in my house, preferably two-thirds. A lifetime of hoarding has left me with so much stuff I don’t use that’s just getting in my way. I’ve got to the point where I just want it gone.
  • Spend six months making a polished game for IFComp (the biggest text adventure game competition of the year) rather than making six small, rushed games for smaller comps and jams and burning out by the middle of summer.
  • Run big marathon PBs at Manchester and Yorkshire and continue to take chunks off my half marathon, 10k and 5k PBs.
  • Be more focused with my strength training.
  • Try to work with my fickle changes in interest when it comes to my hobbies rather than fighting the former and seeing the latter as chores. Right now my biggest non-running passions are fashion and Duran Duran. At some point in 2024 it’ll be videogaming again. At some point, maybe in several years’ time, it might even be Doctor Who again. That is fine. It’s fine that I neglect some hobbies while I’m passionate about others. It doesn’t make me a bad fan or a bad person, and I don’t need to catch up with five years’ worth of online discussion all at once if I come back to something after a while.
  • Play ukulele again. And, in the spirit of the above, not be demoralised that I’ve pretty much forgotten how.

And here’s the annual ‘happy birthday’ to my blog! It’s been going for six years now. Even though it’s mostly just parkrunday and Phone Box Thursday posts at the moment, I still really appreciate having an outlet that’s just mine.

So that was 2023…

I feel like I get busier and busier every year. Last year’s main resolution (‘be less busy’) most definitely did not happen!

Business is doing well. I’ve got a couple of important contracts at the moment that are providing me with steady work and will continue to do so in 2024. The day job (my proofreading business) is nicely balanced and provides me with time for all my side hustles and hobbies.

I released six games this year (seven if you count the short demo I put into SeedComp round 1), which equals my record from 2020. However, I wasn’t happy with the final releases of most of those games – they were all rushed due to jam and competition deadlines – and so in 2024 I want to focus on taking my time and making a quality product. As such, I expect I’ll only release two or three games next year.

Running has been an extraordinary journey this year. At the start of the year, I was still really struggling with my ankylosing spondylitis, and after a disastrous half marathon in February, I had to defer my place in Manchester Marathon to 2024. However, I was able to start biologic therapy for the spondylitis in the summer, and the pain has all but disappeared – meaning that I could finally start training properly in a way I’ve never been able to do before. My mileage is up to a baseline of 30 miles a week, and all the extra running has paid off – I’m hitting PBs I could never have dreamt of this time last year. The only thing that I felt was missing in 2023 was my annual attempt at the marathon, and I’m going to make up for that in 2024 with two marathons and an ultra. I feel like I’m finally free to discover what I’m actually capable of in running, and I’m so excited to see what I can do in the marathon.

The extra running has also meant that I’ve finally been able to shift the pandemic pounds and am back down in my ideal weight range! Which means I can run even faster. I’m in a really good place with health and fitness. I still owe a lot to the Town Moor Bench Runners (Benchies), as it means I’m out for a social run with them three times a week and have a really good running routine as a result.

I only visited one new-to-me parkrun this year (Denton Dene, which started in west Newcastle this summer), but I hope to do a few more in 2024! I also completed the fourth year of my daily run streak today – with a half marathon, which feels like such a different thing from what it did at the start of the year. I’ve run every day since 1st January 2020 and have no plans to give up the streak any time soon!

Music-wise I mostly listened to Duran Duran, including their new Hallowe’en album, which I really enjoyed. I also went to see them in May, which was fantastic as ever! My only other gig of the year was seeing Holly Johnson in November. I’m going to start catching up with belated reviews of these gigs soon.

I don’t think I watched any new TV and films this year, with the exception of the annual Strictly series and The Super Mario Bros. Movie (which we bought on BluRay – no cinema visits in 2023). I sometimes semi-watch what Geth puts on the TV in the evenings, but as ever it’s mostly YouTube.

Videogaming was a bit of a wash, as I just didn’t have time with all my other stuff going on (and I’m not the kind of person who can just grab an hour for gaming here and there – I need a whole day). However, I did play and complete Final Fantasy II (largely because Geth wanted to play the Switch version and I didn’t want to be spoilered), played two out of three episodes of the Sea of Thieves / Monkey Island collaboration (I need to find time for the third in the new year), and finally finished Bravely Default II after playing it on and off for over two years. I’m still working on The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles… hoping to get it finished soon!

My successes and failures regarding last year’s New Year Resolutions:

  • House stuff and decluttering 1: wear (or get rid of) (or both) every item in my wardrobe, with possible allowed keepsake exceptions such as my wedding dress. Clothes are the biggest decluttering target for me. Um… well, I’m a lot more aware of what’s in my wardrobe due to my ongoing use of the YourCloset app to log what I’m wearing. I have donated a lot of clothes, but I have so many. I’ll get back to this project with a vengeance in the new year.
  • House stuff and decluttering 2: paint at least one room. A fail. I really did want to, and I still have the paint ready. Hopefully soon.
  • Rollover from last year 1: finish at least one of my longstanding unfinished game projects. I suppose Lucid Night and Marie Waits might count, as they were both originally planned quite a few years ago!
  • Running 1: do better in races than last year. This is a fairly low bar to clear. It was indeed a low bar, but I cleared it in style. I have huge new PBs in the half marathon, 10k and 5k distances.
  • Running 2: run more races than last year. I miss 10ks. Another definite success! In contrast to last year’s four races, I ran eleven this year – including five 10ks.
  • Running 3 and rollover from last year 2: take part in parkrun every possible parkrunday. I’m not intending to travel to any non-parkrun countries so it should be doable if I’m lucky with health and weather. Not quite. But I did do pretty well this year – I only missed three (four if you include Christmas Day, which I never attend).
  • Rollover from last year 3: catch up with Doctor Who. Nope. Too busy! I’m still buying the BluRays, so I’ll catch up with it at some point.
  • Rollover from last year 4 and the most important on the list: prioritise videogaming. I did sometimes, but at other times, other things took priority. This is something that can be a bit dependent on my fluctuating interests.

Resolutions for 2024 tomorrow! They’ll be similar, but I want to make a bit of a fresh start this time round.

Merry Christmas!

I’ve done my best to clear the decks for a good break this Christmas, so I’m trying to do as little as possible. Hope everyone reading has a lovely festive season!

Pleased to say I survived Whamageddon for the first time ever! This was largely due to a noble act by Geth at parkrun on Saturday morning – someone was playing the song on the start line, he recognised it and dragged me away before I could hear it (his hearing is a lot better than mine), sacrificing himself to Whamhalla in the process. In future years I’ll be taking myself out of the game by playing the song in the early hours of 1st December – the last few days have been a bit unexpectedly stressful! I did really enjoy playing the video on YouTube at 2am this morning though!

A lovely early run with my headtorch this morning to start the day, and soon we’ll be having breakfast and presents with the family.



I feel like I’ve barrelled through most of my thirties at a rate of knots – forty is definitely very much visible on the horizon – but so far it’s been a much better decade than my twenties and I’m feeling really positive about this age. As I get older I realise more and more that what is expected of me should not be the focus, and that life should be lived in the way that I feel is most right for me.

A lovely quiet birthday today with the usual cards and presents under the tree, birthday cheesecake made by Dad, and time to myself to relax.

Birthday cheesecake

…and 2023 hopes

It is New Year! I am continuing to enjoy quiet festive time with my family. Dad made his traditional Hogmanay pizza last night and is making his traditional Lancashire hotpot for New Year’s Day tea tonight. Life is good.

This year’s New Year Resolutions:

  • House stuff and decluttering 1: wear (or get rid of) (or both) every item in my wardrobe, with possible allowed keepsake exceptions such as my wedding dress. Clothes are the biggest decluttering target for me.
  • House stuff and decluttering 2: paint at least one room.
  • Rollover from last year 1: finish at least one of my longstanding unfinished game projects.
  • Running 1: do better in races than last year. This is a fairly low bar to clear.
  • Running 2: run more races than last year. I miss 10ks.
  • Running 3 and rollover from last year 2: take part in parkrun every possible parkrunday. I’m not intending to travel to any non-parkrun countries so it should be doable if I’m lucky with health and weather.
  • Rollover from last year 3: catch up with Doctor Who.
  • Rollover from last year 4 and the most important on the list: prioritise videogaming.

I made the list shorter (and easier) this year in the hope I’ll get more of it done!

P.S. Happy birthday blog!  It’s been five years since my first post. I’m no longer blogging daily, but still at least twice per week, and I think the blog will be better in 2023 as a result.

2022 reflections…

It’s been another busy year and the fact that it is nearly over has taken me slightly by surprise. An important 2023 resolution (spoilers for tomorrow’s post): be less busy.

Business is still ticking along okay. I have some plans for the continued curation of my portfolio career and also some scary decisions to think about. We’ll see how things go this next year.

I released three text adventure games this year. I don’t feel like it was a vintage year – I went really hardcore with the game creation from February until June and then burnt out a bit – but I did do really well in the competitions where I entered my first couple of 2022 games. I won the TALP Jam 2022 with Barry Basic and the Speed Daemon, and placed third in ParserComp with Things that Happened in Houghtonbridge (my first release with a longer narrative). I also had another fun little go at speed IF for EctoComp – it was pretty much all I could manage in the second half of the year!

I graduated from the TechUP Skills Bootcamp in Software Development in March. This has been a huge stepping stone in terms of thinking about adding more tech aspects to my career, and I’ve continued my involvement with TechUP by attending an in-person reunion this last November.

Running has been a tale of two halves this year. I ran four races, all of which were various levels of disastrous (largely due to bad days with my ankylosing spondylitis). However, I have (stubbornly!) completed the third year of my daily run streak today, and I’ve rejoined a wonderful social run group who have really given me my running mojo back and helped me believe I can be a bit faster. I’ve also visited four new-to-me parkruns (Tøyen, Agnew, Crichton and Holyrood) and started to manage a few faster parkrun times again!

I didn’t put much effort into listening to new music (too busy) but I did attend a few gigs, including the last of the COVID postponements: a Paul Young and Go West double header, Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran (twice!) and Jim Bob of Carter USM. I know what my music ‘comfort food’ is and it’s been a big help this year, which is the important thing.

I’m still very behind with TV shows and films this year – I still haven’t watched the most recent series of Stranger Things, though Geth did finally put Obi-Wan Kenobi on recently and I enjoyed bits of that. I didn’t record much Christmas TV on my digibox this year as it was getting overwhelming, but I have enjoyed some old favourites over the last couple of weeks. It’s been another year of YouTube osmosis via Geth (who is still mostly watching videogaming and running channels), and another great year for Strictly (I loved this autumn’s series).

Videogaming in 2022! I spent the whole year wanting to do it and hardly ever getting round to it! However, I did play and test a lot of IF games relating to the competitions in which I was involved. I’m still working my way through Bravely Default II (since February 2021 now!), finished the first of the two games in The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, got very excited about the first new Monkey Island game in thirteen years (and absolutely loved it… up until the ending, which I found a little disappointing!), played my usual Christmas-themed ’90s platformers while on Christmas break, finally finished every puzzle in Link-A-Pix Colour, and started Block-A-Pix Colour (equally absorbing!). I’m really hoping to be able to play more in 2023!

My successes and failures regarding last year’s New Year Resolutions:

  • Sort out the house. It didn’t happen last year and it may not happen this year, but I would at least like to get some more stuff up on the walls (including that spice rack I bought a year ago) and work out a more manageable cleaning schedule. I’m counting this as a success! We revamped our living room and got all the stuff on the walls. I’ve been semi-successful with the cleaning schedule, and I’m very proud of the fact I’ve managed to declutter a lot this year, fighting a lifelong hoarding habit.
  • Don’t book any midweek trips away and assume I can just ‘squeeze any work in’. I’m far too busy to be away during the week. Trips will be weekend-only with very rare exceptions. For most of the year I managed this, but there were a few unfortunate exceptions. Hoping to whittle this down further in 2023.
  • Get one or two of my years-in-the-making longer game projects published by focusing on those rather than short things for jams and competitions. A failure, unfortunately. All my 2022 games were new ideas. I’ll try again next year.
  • Use the skills from my TechUP course to build at least two fairly complex websites. This hasn’t happened yet, though both websites are in the early planning stages.
  • Create some games using Python! I did experiment with this a little.
  • Take another big chunk off my marathon PB at the Edinburgh Marathon in May. The less said about this, the better.
  • Get back to the fitness level I was when everything screeched to a grinding halt in March 2020. Nope. But really it’s just needing to lose a bit of weight that’s holding me back, as it has such an effect on my ankylosing spondylitis.
  • Get my parkrun ‘different events’ total up to at least 30, continue to volunteer once a month, get my Wilson index to 15 (geeky – don’t worry if you don’t know what that is) and take part in parkrun every possible parkrunday! I made progress with all of these, but didn’t fully succeed in any… 27/28 different events (depending on if you count volunteering at juniors), volunteered every month except November (I was booked to do it but they cancelled!), Wilson still stuck on 7 (haven’t had the energy to find an #8), and the non-skipping of parkrun rule lasted until the second week of January when all my locals were cancelled due to winter weather.
  • Listen to more music and keep a closer eye on what’s going on with synthwave, industrial and heritage artists. Nope. I’ve not had time for this. Would love to listen to some more synthwave though.
  • Actually leave the UK for the first time in four years (Ireland is the plan… not going far but it’ll be something!). Ireland did happen! And also Norway and Spain. It was lovely to explore again.
  • Catch up with what’s been happening with Doctor Who. It’s my favourite TV series but I’ve drifted away from the fandom over the last few years as I’ve been busy with other things and haven’t been hugely fond of the Whittaker/Chibnall era. I’m about two and a half series behind! I didn’t have time for this. It’s now a 2023 resolution seeing as the 60th anniversary is coming up.
  • Finish all the books I’m reading. I’ve got into an awful habit over the last year where I start a book, read it for a week or so (last thing at night in bed is my reading time), neglect reading for the following week or so (because I’m anxious about not getting enough sleep if I read… even though I know I sleep better if I do), then abandon it and start a different book. This year, I’m going to concentrate on one at a time and read them right to the end. 20 books in 2022 seems like a good target! I didn’t manage 20 books (because I’m still doing the start-and-abandon thing) but I feel like I did read more in 2022.
  • Make a LOT more time for videogaming by keeping my evenings and weekends free. My game backlog is probably 1,000+ now and it’s time to start whittling that down. It’s my favourite way to relax and I most definitely have not been doing enough relaxing in 2021, so this has to be a real priority over the next year. This was a total fail and probably my biggest disappointment in 2022. It ties into making more time for myself, which I have just not been doing.

Resolutions and hopes for 2023 tomorrow! Though you can probably already guess they’ll be similar to last year…

Merry Christmas!

I’ve had a nice few weeks prepping for Christmas and am now enjoying the celebrations with family. I hope you’re all having a lovely time too!

Christmas cake

I’ve got some New Year’s Resolutions posts coming up next week, some additional festive parkrunning and some blog plans to share. In the meantime, I’ll be doing a lot of videogaming and sleeping. Enjoy the festivities everyone!

Thoughts on our 10th wedding anniversary

I often imagine what future dates will be like.  But I’m not sure I would have accurately predicted, ten years ago today when Geth and I got married, what our lives would be like a decade on.

I would have been semi-surprised to see myself living in Newcastle.  We already knew that Southampton (where we were living at the time) wasn’t quite right for us in terms of distance from family and various other things, but at that point we were hoping either to move back to Scotland or to somewhere like Manchester or Leeds.  Newcastle wasn’t really on our radar, and in fact the first time I ever visited was when we were househunting after Geth got the job here, but I’m really happy here and with the life we have in north-east England now.  I feel settled.

While I had vaguely thought about running after enjoying the indoor version on Wii Fit circa 2009-2010, I don’t think I would have imagined that I’d have got into the habit of doing it every day – or that the first thing I’d do on our 10th anniversary would be to go for a run in the pouring November rain!  I also couldn’t have imagined that I’d have got Geth (who at that point was resolute about ‘walking to work being enough exercise’) into running too…

I would have been surprised (and a little disappointed) to see myself mostly still spending my work days proofreading.  Ten years ago, I still viewed my proofreading business as a bit of a stopgap, and hoped that my creative work would support me eventually.  That hasn’t happened yet, but I’ve taken a lot of positive steps in the intervening time, have branched out a bit and am now very happy with my portfolio career and its future possibilities, even if it’s still the proofreading that’s the bread and butter.  I wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see Geth taking on senior academic roles and winning teaching awards, though I might have been a little indignant on his behalf (as I am now to some extent) that it hadn’t happened sooner!

For our anniversary celebration itself, I blithely assumed that we’d be off in the tropics somewhere!  But we’re so busy with work that it’s actually quite impressive we’ve made the effort to go out for a meal tonight, rather than collapsing on the sofa with a takeaway like we usually do these days.

So much has changed.  But while I can’t speak for myself, I’m happy that Geth is exactly the same as he always has been.  He is my constant in life and I couldn’t love him more.  I’m so excited to see what the next decade brings us.

10th wedding anniversary