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.
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.
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.
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!
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…
Geth and I did do a New Year’s Day parkrun this morning but I’ll save my regularly scheduled parkrunday post for tomorrow. Lots of 2022 stuff to discuss today!
This year’s non-binding 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.
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.
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.
Use the skills from my TechUP course to build at least two fairly complex websites.
Create some games using Python!
Take another big chunk off my marathon PB at the Edinburgh Marathon in May.
Get back to the fitness level I was when everything screeched to a grinding halt in March 2020.
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!
Listen to more music and keep a closer eye on what’s going on with synthwave, industrial and heritage artists.
Actually leave the UK for the first time in four years (Ireland is the plan… not going far but it’ll be something!).
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!
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!
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.
It’ll be interesting, as ever, to come back to this post in a year’s time! I didn’t make any resolutions last year except the house-sorting one, which was kind of a fail… let’s hope there’ll be more hits than misses in 2022.
I always intend to post lots of blogs at the end of the year with lots of big lists of all the things I did and the media I consumed and my highlights… but December is always so insanely busy I never get round to it. Maybe in 2022 I will write them as I go along haha! It’ll just have to be one megapost this year…
This year’s big resolution was to sort the house out. I did not do that and now it is one of 2022’s big resolutions. Other things have just taken more priority.
Business exploded in a good way this year, which means that I’m now working a lot more hours. It’s taking a while to adjust my life to this, and I’m beginning to realise that I can no longer just plan a trip away midweek on the assumption that I won’t have much work to squeeze in. 2022 will be a lot stricter in this regard.
Since October I’ve also been very busy with studying for the TechUP Software Development course. I have learnt a lot of Python and other very interesting things that I will be taking forward as my career gradually transitions more towards tech. (The Python knowledge will also enable me to do some very fun stuff with my game development!)
Running has continued on a more positive trajectory this year, with races and parkruns returning. I am nowhere near as fit as I was in March 2020 when everything shut down, but I have still managed two important PBs in 2021 – I took nearly five minutes off my 10k PB at the Sunderland 10k, and more than 45 minutes off my marathon PB at the London Marathon. I have also completed the second year of my daily run streak today and am hugely proud of that, as it’s been very difficult at times. Finally, parkrun-wise I have visited two new-to-me parkruns (Girvan Prom and Southwark) and earned my V25 t-shirt with my 25th volunteer stint!
As usual, I didn’t listen to much new music, but I absolutely loved the long-awaited new Duran Duran album Future Past, and I was over the moon at finally being able to see them live in Birmingham in September. Geth and I then saw Andy Taylor the very next night back home in Newcastle, and we had a great time seeing Soft Cell in Leeds in November. Lots more COVID-postponed gigs to come in 2022 (and some reviews of the ones I’ve recently attended!).
I watched pretty much zero new TV shows and films this year, though there were a few I added to my ‘buy the BluRay at some point’ list. I did record a lot of stuff on my digibox though! Geth has watched thousands of hours of YouTube channels about gaming and running, and I’ve enjoyed those by virtue of being in the same room. I did enjoy the Strictly series in the autumn, as ever.
I didn’t manage to find nearly as much time for videogaming this year as I would have liked, but there have still been a good few games to enjoy. In addition to playing all the other text adventure games in the jams and competitions I entered (see above – and also finishing off the Adventuron Christmas jam games from last year in January!), I finished Bravely Second in time for the much-anticipated Bravely Default II coming out, played Bravely Default II on and off from February but have still not made much headway ten months later, played the interesting demo of Project Triangle Strategy (set for full release on Switch in 2022 as just Triangle Strategy), finished Final Fantasy I (finally! I will be moving onto FFII for 2022), got very freaked out by Return of the Obra Dinn, got most of the way through The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles, played about ten minutes of Pikmin Bloom before deciding it wasn’t for me, enjoyed a couple of old ’90s platformers for Christmas that I’ve loved since childhood, started Braid again (will actually finish it this time!), continued enjoying the lovely meditative filler game Link-A-Pix Colour, and COMPLETED EVERY SINGLE DEMO ON THE NINTENDO 3DS ESHOP (a project I’ve been working on for years). Watch out for next year, when I will be putting some serious effort into finding a lot more time for games!
I have lots of plans and resolutions for 2022, but I’ll talk about those tomorrow…
I’ll do a separate earworm playlist post soon…. maybe (I’m considering starting to log that separately from the blog and doing a yearly chart instead). So far it’s three weeks’ worth of Christmas music and Disney/Pixar soundtracks. I must admit I am looking forward to listening to something else in January in order to clear it all from my brain.
The week in between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day is my favourite week of the year. Quiet days with lots of videogaming and Christmas food. (This year I’m going to try and make the following week special too… I never really get the chance to have a ‘birthday week’ as there’s always too much going on with New Year followed by the dreaded ‘back to school’ feeling, but I’m going to try. Focusing on this week first though!)
It’s been so long since my last stretch of free time that I’m a little overwhelmed by all the options, so I’m going to spend this afternoon planning them out so that I’m not dithering during the rest of the week and can just curl up with my chosen books/games/podcasts!
However, a Christmas gift came in the post today to cheer me up. I’ve always been in Scotland (where 2nd January is a public holiday) for New Year in the past, so have never known post to arrive on the 2nd of January before.
The gift was a tree decoration from our family friend Chris. We always see her at New Year but obviously couldn’t this time round.
I also made my own birthday cake for the first time ever, with instruction from Dad over video call. I’ll be able to tell you tomorrow if it turned out okay!
Today’s earworm playlist:
The Weeknd – ‘Blinding Lights’ Coldplay – ‘Christmas Lights’ Heaven 17 – ‘Let Me Go’
For years, I didn’t start new habits at New Year – or if I did, they never stuck for very long. However, for the last four years in a row, I have chosen something to focus on every year and have stuck with it. My life is a lot better as a result, and so I’m hoping I’ll be able to stick to my main 2021 goal too.
At the start of 2017, I started going to Slimming World. The accountability of the group setting enabled me to lose the five stone that I’d been trying to lose for nearly a decade, and though I’ve not managed to stay at target during the pandemic, I only have a stone to lose again this next year (which is a lot easier than five!). Life at a healthy weight is immeasurably more physically comfortable and something that I will never take for granted. Once Christmas eating is done, I’ll be back on the light meals again – I’m following a calorie-based approach rather than SW now, but I’ll always be thankful for the motivation it gave me.
At the start of 2018, I started this blog. It was always my aim to blog every day and so sometimes, especially during the empty year of 2020, blogging has felt like a bit of a chore. However, the habit of getting my words out into the world has given me confidence to do so in other ways, such as reading at poetry nights and publishing text adventure games. I love having the blog as it just feels so much more ‘mine’ than social media pages.
At the start of 2019, I got sober. I’ve mentioned this before but I feel so, so incredibly grateful that I managed to do this (and get the first difficult year of sobriety out of the way) *before* the pandemic hit – I really believe that things would have gone nowhere good if I’d still been drinking in 2020. It’s still not easy, but life is so much more stable than it was two years ago, and that has been so important over the last few months.
And at the start of 2020, after four and a half years of more sporadic running, I started a daily run streak. The start of a new decade seemed like a good time to do it, and I just wanted to see how long I could keep it up. Again, this was incredibly well-timed in terms of the pandemic, as I discussed yesterday. Whatever life throws at me, and however long it takes for races to come back, I’ll always have my run streak to keep me motivated.
On to 2021, then, and this year the main focus will be to get my house in order (literally). I already made a good start by spending a few weeks in November/December sorting out all the junk that I’d been hoarding upstairs since we moved in, but there’s a lot more to do, and a lot of daily habits that I need to instil. One of the major negative factors for my mental health is that I constantly feel that my house is dirty and untidy, and so I can never fully relax. Making time for my house projects this year, and keeping on top of the upkeep, will hopefully allow me to feel a lot better.
On a personal level, I’m feeling quite hopeful today. Not for 2021 as a whole, but for one day at a time, which is how I’ve managed all my other big life changes over the last few years.
I’m excited about tomorrow.
Today’s earworm playlist:
Deacon Blue – ‘Queen Of The New Year’ Tears For Fears – ‘Shout’ Abba – ‘Happy New Year’ Traditional – ‘The Blaydon Races’ Beach Boys – ‘Sloop John B’
Taking a break this evening from the old photos and returning to the here and now. Hogmanay, like the rest of 2020, feels a bit confusing and bittersweet. I think 2021 will eventually be better, but it will take some time, so I certainly don’t feel like celebrating tonight. Just a quiet evening at home with BBC Scotland on TV.
It’s my first ever New Year away from Scotland and so this year I had to learn to make Dad’s famous Hogmanay pizza for myself and Geth. Through the magic of video chat, Dad was able to help me with the dough, and on the whole it turned out really well. I hope I’m equally lucky with the Lancashire hotpot for New Year’s Day tomorrow.
I’ve spent a large part of the year trying not to think about the Parallel Universe Where Coronavirus Didn’t Happen: the races, the gigs, the trips abroad, the time with family and friends. But there are other parallel universes that are a lot less happy – ones I only narrowly avoided due to sheer dumb luck, or the grace of God, or whatever you want to call it. The parallel universe where I hadn’t started a run streak on the first of January, and as a result didn’t run at all after March because I had no race-related motivation. The parallel universe where I hadn’t quit drinking, and ended up drinking more and more as a result of lockdown and stress. The parallel universe where loved ones weren’t able to stay safe this year.
I didn’t end up in the best timeline, not in the slightest. But I also didn’t end up in the worst. I survived, and I have hope. Bring on 2021. Even if I kind of wish we could just skip the first half of it.
Today’s earworm playlist:
The Proclaimers – ‘The Joyful Kilmarnock Blues’ Travis – ‘The Last Laugh Of The Laughter’