Category: Monthly

The Recap: January 2020

January is over; I’ve been getting physio on my knee (it’s improving, at last!), we celebrated Lucy being four years old, and my Uncle getting married. Our wee dog Sasha had a knee operation and is recovering well. I’m still a vegetarian and feeling good within myself for it. Ohh and we met up with friends over a wonderful meal at Five March.

And, so far, I’ve been managing to stick to my resolutions (more on that soon).

Watched

  • The Expanse (Season 4) – still a fun watch, I think the condensing effect of TV makes the storyline work better than the overly complex and somewhat over whelming novel.
  • The Mandalorian* – If you are even a little bit of a geek for Star Wars you will LOVE this. It’s wry, funny, and perfectly pitched, with enough action to be fun, and enough character development to pull you in. I’ll say no more, just watch it!
  • Watchmen – A slow burn that is worth the wait. Genuinely weird at times (as it should be) and a wonderful sense of foreboding throughout. Clever setting and smart continuation from the movie of the same name (with nods to the original comic) has allowed them to extend this universe without feeling disconnected from it.
  • The West Wing – my favourite TV show and I tend to start rewatching it at this time of year for some reason. Something to do with the long dark nights?

*Link caveat: I watched The Mandalorian via ‘another source’ so YMMV!

Read

  • Cibola Burn by James A.Corey – AKA Book 4 of The Expanse series which I’d started last year and finished just ahead of the TV show. Not sure I’ll read book 5, starting to feel a bit too convoluted and ‘samey’.
  • The Rumour by Lesley Kara – Quite enjoyed this, the story of the impact a rumour can have in a small town, featured some nice twists and turns once it really gets going. Leave time for the last few chapters as you won’t want to stop reading!
  • The Likely Resolutions of Oliver Clock by Jane Riley – what a lovely and wonderfully observed book. A simple enough premise, with some glorious characters that leap from the page. You’ll laugh and cry.
  • The Silence Between Breaths by Cath Staincliffe – Wow. What starts out as an easy read soon turns into a brutal examination of life during and after a tragic event. A couple of chapters of this moved me to tears. Be in a good place when you read it.
  • My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – As an older sibling this made me question a lot of my protective thoughts I have for my younger sister. Crisply written, wonderfully observed, the kind of book that keeps you awake until past midnight just so you can finish it.

FYI – Did you know if you are an Amazon Prime users with a Kindle, you can get two novels a month FREE? From a selected list, you can see your choices as part of Amazon First Reads. Caveat: The links to the books above are via my Amazon affiliate link (which earns me almost pennies every year).

Listened

  • Adam Buxton Podcast – various episodes from last year as I was catching up – needless to say Derren Brown and Billy Connolly were well worth it. Just a lovely series of chats with a jolly, silly, friendly man.
  • Marigold by Pinegrove – a more country influenced album than previous efforts, but nice to have them back.
  • Hotspot by Pet Shop Boys – sneaking in under the wire, one listen through so far and it’s the usual catchy fare.

My Favourite post
No contest this month, as ever, writing a birthday letter to my niece is a tradition I’m glad I’ve started.

My Favourite Photo

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Waiting for first orders (taken at 8am)

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November challenges

November is over and I no longer need to write a new post every day. It’s finished, done, finito. Looking back at what I’ve published and there are some posts in there that I’m pretty proud of, and others that I’m well aware I cobbled together even though I didn’t really have the motivation. But it was a month long challenge and I did it. Kudos and self fives to me!

It’s been a long time since I did something like this; it’s one thing blogging to a schedule as I did in 2018 (3 posts a week), quite another to do it every single day. To that end, having a list of titles provided was more liberating than I thought it would be, even on the topics I was dreading having to write about (hello religion and politics!) I found myself able to construct and firm up some thoughts that I’d normally have left pinging around my little brain as I scrabbled around to write for the topic of the day.

A few years ago I participated in NaNoWriMo – the goal of writing 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November – and managed to complete it even though that felt like a much bigger struggle as it became all encompassing, every evening I sat at the computer with the same base topic churning over and over in my head as I frantically typed and watched the word count rise. It felt like pressure and towards the middle it was a challenge to keep going, the motivation purely to hit a number count, not writing for the enjoyment of writing.

Each of the posts I wrote last month were a breathe of fresh air, given I was free of figuring out what to write about. It allowed my brain to wander and I think the posts are better for it. On the whole I wrote most of them a few days in advance, taking time over the weekends to draft the next four or five, then refining them day by day before scheduling them to appear on the correct day of the month.

And it all started somewhere else entirely.

I’ve been quietly using micro.blog for a few weeks now, mostly just to try it out, prompted by randomly browsing the archives of my own site and remembering a time where I didn’t care about the volume of each post as sometimes a thought can be captured in a few lines of text and nothing else is needed. I started following a few people there and towards the end of October, one of the people Jean MacDonald (a founder of micro.blog) said she was going to try something akin to NaNoWriMo just on a smaller scale and with a randomly generated word being used to prompt one post a day in November.

What a great way to force myself to use micro.blog everyday and so I followed suit and you can view them all here. They’ve been cross posted to Twitter as well, garnering a few likes on that platform which was interesting too.

Quickly after that, in response to Jean setting the challenge, another person on micro.blog – Andrew Canion – said he was doing a blog challenge in November along similar lines and before I realised we were into the middle of the first week of Thursday and I was committed to completing both challenges.

Both challenges have been fun and challenging in different ways; Keeping the micro.blog posts short and succinct has led to some creative thinking and forced me to boil down what I’m writing to only the essential words, the longer blog posts I’ve published here have allowed me to roam and think about the given topic and I’ve learnt a lot about myself on the way too, isn’t it always the way?

Part of me is glad the blog challenge is over, writing a new topic every day is taxing at times, but part of me wonders if I could keep it going, if given a decent list of topics to tackle. Having that focus removes all of the writers block for me, no more staring at an empty screen and hoping inspiration strikes, as each topic was enough to prompt at least a few lines of thought that I could pull together and expand on.

Equally the micro.blog challenge offered a different approach but the same freedom to explore.

Perhaps my occasional malaise about my blog is simply lack of inspiration.

Perhaps I will look to this approach more often in the future.

Perhaps.

For now, I’m glad to be able to not have to think about what I’m going to write tomorrow…
P.S. Did you spot the one that used the first letter of the prompt word to start each new paragraph?

December in review

The last monthly review of the year! Not sure I’ll keep these going next year but time will tell.

Lived

Highlights

Ahhh December, and your parties and nights out; the work night out was the usual nonsense, the party at a friends with a huge spread of excellent (homemade) party foods was fun, the gym night out was a great cocktail filled laugh, and I started a new tradition with some colleagues (aka Team Awesome) by going to the Panto at the Pavilion which was utterly bonkers brilliant!

The run up to Christmas was nicely busy too, some good times, and apparently I’m now popular enough to get invited to too many places at the same time, which saw my Christmas Eve and Boxing Day both featuring double invites… check me out!

Christmas Day was wonderful as always, a very relaxed day mostly focused on little Lucy, and my ‘second’ Christmas Day (with the ‘family’ I chose) was a wonderful food and drink filled day of laughter (as it always is).

I feel very VERY lucky and very blessed at the moment.

Stepcount: WHO CARES IT’S CHRISTMAS!

Read

Nothing finished, too busy galavanting! (As my wee granny would’ve said)

Watched

The Last Jedi
A must see for any Star Wars fan and whilst I’ll post no spoilers, I did leave the cinema a little underwhelmed. Not massively, it’s still a gloriously large scale sci-fi romp but it didn’t entirely feel part of the same universe? Hard to put my finger on but I bumped on a few scenes in the movie and still not quite sure why. It’s a good movie, but not a great one.

Also watched:
It’s a Wonderful Life.
Saw this at the small local Grosvenor cinema, a bottle of wine, comfy seats and the usual happy tears streaming down my face. Doesn’t matter how many times I watch it. Officially Christmas now!

Listened

Nothing new, too busy to stop and think so have just been revisiting favourite bands/albums from the past couple of years. Smatterings of The Go! Team, GoGo Penguin, and a few classical piano playlists have been tiding me over before the Christmas songs descended.

November in review

Lived

Highlights

A busy month that has flown in, with many highlights. I’m still waxing lyrical about Slava’s Snowshow which was beguilingly magical, two stonkingly good gigs, my first (and second) trips to Murrayfield, and I even wrote a couple of reviews which was a bit weird as I’ve not really done that since the Yelp community in Glasgow got shut down (boooo to Yelp!).

Visits to my family, time with friends new and old, seem to have set me up for a great December, and writing this piece was a big piece of that too. It was a lot more cathartic than I’d realised and despite being so busy these past few weeks, life continues to improve in other ways and I’m already looking at 2018 with a big smile on my face. Well done November, well done November.

Stepcount: 285, 398.

Read

Talking as fast as I can by Lauren Graham
Bought on a whim, and because Gilmore Girls, this was a short sweet read, that centres around Lauren’s time on Gilmore Girls but reaches out to her childhood and formative years. Funny, melancholy at times, but endearingly lovely I’d highly recommend it if you are a GG fan.

Also read:
Finders Keepers by Stephen King
Not quite finished this one, but the second book in the Mr.Mercedes crime thriller trilogy. I am trying to read this to learn how to develop characters and how to write dialogue but, as always, it’s so easily written to read that I’m just being swept along.

Watched

Jim & Andy: The Great Beyond
If you have Netflix. Stop everything and watch this now. I don’t care if you aren’t a Jim Carrey fan, this is WAY more than that. Focussing on the making of Man on the Moon (the Andy Kaufman story) it is an utterly transfixing documentary, revealing a man who seems a little lost yet entirely calm and centred. Featuring footage shot, by Kaufman’s family, during the making of the movie (some 20 years ago now), it follows Carrey’s utter disappearance into the role and find him reflecting on life after it in an utterly compelling interview. I cannot recommend this enough, but don’t want to say any more than I have. WATCH IT.

Also watched:
George Michael: Freedom
Finally got around to watching this. Had no idea how big he was in the USA, and I guess the legal fight wasn’t something I was fully aware of. But ohhh the songs, the voice. What a loss.

Listened

Mostly Gorillaz and Royal Blood, but also IDLES, Go Team!, and Thundercat. The latter thanks to the ever fabulous 6Music that I don’t get enough time to listen these days (must sort that out).

October in review

Lived

Highlights

My birthday month, something I am increasingly not bothered about celebrating (hence why it doesn’t pop up on Facebook) and a few gigs as we start to roll into gig season. Weezer were fab, Grizzly Bear were ok. Also got some more tickets for gigs next year, nothing major really… Roger Waters, Foo Fighters, just small gigs… tell that to my bank account mind you.

And despite ordering it weeks in advance, the Halloween costume I ordered failed to show in time for the party I was attending, but my backup t-shirt was just fine (simply read ‘Error 404 – Costume not found’).

Gym is still a thing. Feels like I’m turning a corner with it, three times a week now.

Caught up with a guy I went to school with, hadn’t seen him since then so was both odd and familiar in a weird way.

Ohh and finally got a contract extension for 6 months to see me through to next year. Makes Xmas a little more relaxed.

Stepcount: 265,833.

Read

The Loney
My choice for book club and I enjoyed it. A dark story that slowly gets darker and darker, touching on religious fanaticism and a very mature young boy and his brother as they travel to a religious retreat. The events that unfold are a little too telegraphed but I liked this. Some good writing and a reasonable story.

Watched

Stranger Things. No, not the second series, the first. I hadn’t watched it as I didn’t really think it was my thing but, and I’m only a few episodes in, I’m really enjoying it. It’s not as ‘horror’ as I’d been made to believe, but is nicely weird with that wonderful 80s theme going on. Yeah, ok, you were all right, it’s fab!

Also good

  • Thor: Ragnarok – Utterly silly big movie stuff this, but it’s funny, self-deprecating and fun. I do like that the ‘Avengers’ movies each have their own styles (Thor = big and fun, Captain America = dour and lifeless?)
  • Blue Planet II – always MUST WATCH TV and with the advances in technology there is some stunning imagery. Fascinating, engaging, and informative.

Listened

Weezer. Mostly. To prepare for the gig. Also some Grizzly Bear for the same reason.

Nothing notably new that stuck though, but then I didn’t really go looking for anything this month, too much else going on.

September in review

Lived

Highlights

A good month, quieter than August even though it was my Mum’s birthday at the start of the month, and my Dads at the end. Singapore envy not withstanding (my friends were there again), I confirmed a six month extension to my contract, attended one of the best gigs ever, got a new tattoo, had a wonderful day out at a gin festival, and attended my interview for Glasgow 2018 volunteering, so fingers crossed I make the cut (9k+ people applied for around 3k positions), ohhh and I randomly caught up with some old school friends who I haven’t seen for more than 20 years.

Food wise, Babs continues to impress, had my last Buntzel (the vendor is moving to Manchester), and Book Club had brunch at Ocho which was underwhelming…

Health-wise the physio on my knee is going well, and Conditioning classes at the gym are keeping me ticking over to Bootcamp starting on the 4th October.

And I’ve seen a little more of my beautiful niece who is continuing to delight! She is learning lots of new words (not quite got Uncle G down yet…) and it’s so much fun to see her personality emerging.

Stepcount: 258,586.

Read

The Other Mrs Walker
Book club choice and I thoroughly enjoyed this. A little slow paced at times, but the author – Mary Paulson-Ellis – has a nice turn of phrase. At times wry, at times dark, the story of a middle-aged woman who finds her own life oddly twisted up in the death of an unrelated old woman.

Watched

Blade Runner. Ahead of the upcoming new Blade Runner movie (for which I have high hopes) I thought it worth revisiting the original which is still stunningly realised, dark, moving, and sets the bar pretty high for the new movie.

Also good

  • The Good Place – an odd, quirky little show on Netflix. 20 min episodes about a woman who has made it to The Good Place after she dies, despite not really deserving to be there.
  • The Expanse – season 2 of this sci-fi world. I think it’s now caught up to where I stopped reading the books so season 3 will be interesting

Listened

Ahead of their gig later this year, I’ve been listening to a lot of Post Modern Jukebox. They do covers of contemporary songs in older styles (swing, big band, etc). There is something delightful and full of joy brought to the songs that are re-worked, and I can’t wait for the gig!

Other than that, Nadine Shahs new album continues to see her evolve but retaining that wonderful voice, Queens of the Stone Age released another album which ticks all the QOTSA boxes, as did the Foo Fighters who released an album not short of obvious influences.

Also worth a listen is Lorde on Song Exploder podcast, breaking down the making of her song Sober.

August in Review

Lived

Highlights

A steadily busy month, punctuated with four days off with a rather vicious vomiting bug! A couple of great gigs, some great food and life is pretty good. Mind you, I’ve just started doing the exercises the physio has given me and I have new found hatred for foam rollers (I’m loosening my quads) and wall sits.

Health-wise I’ve given myself a bit of a kick as I’ve not been eating as best I can and having missed some Bootcamp sessions my weight has trickled back up. So back to health eating and I’ve signed up for the next Bootcamp session which kicks off on the 4th October – lean and mean for Christmas??

Alas some sad news this month with the passing of my Uncle Hamish. Fond memories of visiting Dundee and marvelling at some of his sculptures, some of which I now own.

Stepcount: 225,079 (a big drop as the vomiting bug impact me for about 10 days all in).

Read

The Essex Serpent
Oddly captivating and I’m sure I only picked this up based on a random recommendation. I’m not really one for ‘period’ pieces but this feels like a modern novel that just happens to be set in the late 1800s. A little out of balance at times when it comes to character development, but I enjoyed this more than I thought I would when I was halfway through it.

Also good

  • V for Vendetta – Book Club choice, I’ve read it before but it’s been nice to take the time to go back and take my time to really absorb the artwork.
  • Mr. Mercedes – Ahhhhh a much easier read, not read a Stephen King book for years but they always have a familiar feel, his own little, weird, dark, creepy world.

Watched

Not really watched anything of particular note, and not managed to get to the cinema this month at all so I’ll just remind you all that whilst I have watched all of the episodes, Game of Thrones sucks.

Listened

Nothing new here either. I must remedy this in September!! (which is one advantage of doing these roundups)

July in Review

Lived

Highlights

  • TRNSMT Festival: Radiohead
  • Six by Nico: Route 66
  • Attended the Death Do Us Part Danger Show – including getting up on stage and pulling a sword from the mouth of Rachel Atlas
  • Pizza at Paesno with some BootCampers (and Paesno continues to make me ‘meh’)
  • Survived a Subcrawl!

Bootcamp is going ok, my injured knee not withstanding as the guys have been great at giving me alternative exercises. Other than that I’ve started looking for a new job, my current contract ends in October and whilst there is talk of an extension I’ve still not gotten anything in black and white. Daily meditation is continuing, and of course little Lucy continues to be a source of wonder as her personality grows.

Stepcount: 276,079.

Read

Life of Pi by Yann Martel
A re-read for Book Club. I don’t normally re-read books but as I started to get back into this I remember why I enjoyed it the first time around and why it annoyed me towards the end. All about pacing, something the film version handles much better, as some of the scenes in the middle to end sections of the book start to get tedious. That said, I do love the opening section as it’s so easy to place yourself as the young Piscine, wandering the zoo, imagination running riot. However I am starting to see a trend with Booker Prize books, take a solid story arc and pepper it with far too much visualisation and description?

Also good

  • The Jordan Rules by Sam Smith – one year in the early life of what would become a hugely successful Chicago Bulls team, written by a sports reporter, a fascinating look into the inner workings of an NBA team and the massive ego that is Michael Jordan.

Watched

Dunkirk
Where to start. A taut tight tension filled movie that takes a different approach to the visceral opening scenes of Saving Private Ryan, instead slowly ratcheting up your heartbeat throughout with some clever pacing, overlapping timelines for the three main ‘stories within the story’ and that soundtrack is something else (check out the next Weekend Reading for why).

It is beautifully shot, utterly bleak and horrifying, taking us into the crux of a war, where sacrifices are made for the greater good. I don’t recall a movie where I felt quite so sucked in to each moment as the movie switches across three different characters.

I didn’t leave the cinema for a few minutes after the final credits rolled. Not because of the tears streaming down my cheeks, but because I was emotionally wrung out and exhausted. If you have an ounce of empathy in your body, this movie will affect you. If you are a lover of a beautiful crafted piece of cinematography and direction, this movie will affect you. If you want a stark reminder of what happened in Dunkirk and just how utterly terrifying it must’ve been to be on that beach, this movie will affect you.

For me, this movie should be shown to children as part of a WWII trilogy (Saving Private Ryan and Schindler’s List being the other too).

Also good

  • Spiderman: Homecoming – who DOESN’T love Spiderman, right? Thankfully now they’ve sorted out the legal nonsense, Spiderman is brought in to the Marvel/Avengers fold to great effect.
  • Scandal – Starts slow, and is utterly ridiculous at times but very watchable. Think West Wing meets 24..
  • Moana – Yay for Disney! Safe to say that the merger of talent from Pixar is helping them produce some sumptuous looking movies
  • Nocturnal Animals – what’s not to like? Missed this at the cinema but more proof that Amy Adams is surely due an Oscar soon

Listened

With several gigs lined up in the coming months, a lot of my playlists are starting to bend towards those specific artists. However a couple of new albums/artists have snuck on to my radar:

  • At the Drive-In – supporting Royal Blood later in the year, I’m wondering why I haven’t really heard more from these guys. RAWK!
  • Big Thief – who doesn’t like some lightly ethereal vocals and guitaryness?
  • Sleaford Mods – VERY late to this party, but there is something wonderful about the stripped down anger of this that really resonates
  • IDLES – a nice companion for the Sleaford Mods
  • Perfume Genius – undecided… I think I like this a lot, but very mood dependant

June in Review

Lived

Highlights

Aside from that, counselling still going well, so well that we’ve paused my visits and I get to fly solo for a while. Meditation has slipped the past couple of weeks so need to get back to that, and a few days of flu-like symptoms has stopped me from going to the gym and I’m missing it.

Me. Missing going to the gym. Who’d a thunk it!

Stepcount: 258,261.

Read

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
Read this for Book Club. Didn’t actually GO to book club as I was full of the cold but I enjoyed this a lot more than I thought I would. It’s engagely written and you are quickly taken back to those school days when you discovered friendship and more with someone else. The fondness, the excitement, the building love of the two main characters as they slowly discover each other and themselves was endearing.

Watched

Wonder Woman
There has been a lot written about this and rightly so. Massive box office hit featuring a strong female lead (not the first strong female lead but I don’t think Alien opened as strongly at the cinema?) and directed by a woman. In no shock to a lot of people it was smart, funny, and less focused on the usual superhero mantras of ‘power’ and ‘dominance’ (the fact that Wonder Woman has both is never the focus).

And it was funny. And moving. And well balanced. And (mostly) well paced (that final fight scene was a bit too long for my tastes). It was fantastic and I really hope this is more of the direction that DC take with their superhero storylines, can you imagine Justice League being less focused on the men? That’d be something.

Also good

  • American Gods – finally started watching this and it’s growing on me. Visually stunning, echoes of Hannibal, and Gillian Anderson at her scene stealing best (although Crispin Glover brings his usual ‘weird’ to play with chilling effect).
  • OITNB – an odd season give it’s set over the course of a few days, and OMG how good is Uzo Aduba (Suzanne)! Strong performances throughout as well.

Listened

Glastonbury
I’m seeing Radiohead this week and their headline set makes me hopeful for a repeat in Glasgow. Foo Fighters did what they do best, rocked hard for 2 and a bit hours and yes, their cover of Under Pressure brought tears. Katy Perry looked like a lot of fun, Barry Gibb was unsuprisingly excellent (why are the Sunday evening ‘headliners’ still surprising people? They’ve been doing this shit for decades!). Elbow and The Killers as ‘surprise’ acts would’ve been amazing to see for the buzz that generated. Kinda gutted I was watching it all from a sofa, but glad I was able to share the Saturday night with friends.

May In Review

Lived

Highlights

Aside from that, whilst I had a lot of things on, almost every day, it felt like a quiet month. Admittedly a lot of my focus has been inwards, my physical health and fitness have driven a lot of my decisions (not drinking on nights out for example), and my mental health is definitely improving but obviously that too takes a lot of hard work. Meditating as a ‘habit’ as pretty much in place now too so, whilst not busy, I feel I achieved a lot.

In other news, the hunt for a poster sized version of the yellow Saul Bass designed movie poster of The Shining continues.

Stepcount: 271,702.

Read

The Sellout by Paul Beatty
Didn’t even finish this book, and didn’t make it to book club either. An intriguing idea, and there is no doubt the writing is very clever but there in lies my problem. It’s a little too clever at times, and felt a bit like the author was showing off. Maybe I should’ve stuck with it longer than I did but, Booker Prize winner or not, it was a struggle to get through the third or so that I managed. No doubt I will pick this up again and love it, but it was just too hard going and not engaging enough to keep me reading.

Watched

Fargo (TV series)
Only just realised I didn’t make it to the cinema at all in May, but as I was completely besotted and gripped by Fargo on Netflix I’m not sure I noticed. I’ve rattled through Season 1 and already a good way through Season 2.

Martin Freeman in the first season is excellent when give a little more freedom, and as he ages I’m liking him more and more (and seeing him in grittier roles helps too), add in a superb cast, some wonderful subtle and very dark humour, and Fargo the TV series matches up well to the iconic (and one of my favourites) movie.

Season 2 feels even stronger, and whilst it has the same core setting, it is presented with clever visuals and some stellar performances all round. Loving it!

Also good

  • North by Northwest – not my favourite (Cary Grant is just a little too ‘ham’ for my tastes in this role) but it’s Hitchcock so still worth a watch as the tension gets racheted up and up and up.
  • House of Cards – Season 5 is out on Netflix, need I say more?

Listened

Chris Cornell
A larger influence on me than I think I realised, one of my favourite ‘rock’ voices and a sad loss. The acoustic covers sit heavy on my heart, and Superunknown has been on repeat.

Also good
Slowdive, The Amazons, Perfume Genius, Julie Byrne, and MUNA have all hit my playlist but, as of yet, none of them have really stuck.

The real question is, where is the album of the summer??