|GRAND QUEST: This year I slew the Arch Demon, wooed a flame-haired|
bard and avenged my father's murder. Everything in games counts, right?
ILL-ADVISED as it may prove to be, I have decided to look back at the targets I set myself on this blog 12 months ago to see how I have fared. You can read the original list here, just to prove that I'm not cheating.
The resolutions, if you want to call them that, were a rag-tag bunch of things that I wanted to start doing, or do more of. I've scored each item out of ten, just to give the analysis the slightest sniff of credibility.
By considering what I actually achieved in 2016 I hope to give myself an extra incentive to redouble my efforts in the year ahead. Or to put it another way, when the sun sets on the 18th year of this Millennium I will have conquered Lea Monde, grown an immaculate crop of carrots, actually got all the way through Gormenghast and finished writing a novel. Or at least some of these things. Definitely. Probably. Maybe.
- Reading - I started the year with a Neil Gaiman anthology and I ended it with Wolf Hall. In the middle I crossed off some books I've been hoping to read for ages, including The Martian Chronicles, Rebecca, And Then There Were None and Poldark Volume I. I tried to keep a decent balance of books with trolls and books set in the real world. I am open to suggestions for titles which mix the two. 7/10
- Journalising - My local news site is gradually building an audience. This year I've had readers' letters, stories provided by "contacts" and the first articles to have attracted more than 10,000 views. I even got into an angry exchange with an irrational reader - which was certainly nostalgic. Building an audience on Facebook has been a key, if only because it has fewer window and fireplace vendors trying to attract your attention than Twitter. Having to build a news site from nothing has been incredibly rewarding and I do feel that I'm starting to play some kind of role in a community where traditional papers have abandoned their posts. That said, for all that the site has grown, I'm essentially no closer to getting back into journalism full-time. After three years, I start to wonder if it isn't time to abandon hope and go back to one of my original career plans (digging up dinosaur bones or solving impossible locked room mysteries from a rural windmill base are among the possibilities.) Site - 8/10. Jobhunt - 2/10
- Building models - I built HMS Victory over the period of several Sunday afternoons. It is now berthed on the top of my bookcase. The flag may or may not be upside down, but being slightly shortsighted I can still admire it from a distance. 7/10
- Socialism in the UK - There's only so many times you can shout yourself hoarse about public ownership of the railways without starting to sound like a nutter. Mind you, trying to make the case in a quiet, reasoned way is enough for The Sun to brand you a Communist infiltrator anyway - so we may as well shout. I haven't got time to make a proper defence of Corbyn's Labour Party here, but suffice to say it hasn't been an especially enjoyable 12 months for those of us on the "hard left". 7 and a half out of 10 (There's a good joke there somewhere.)
- Resowing the vegetable patch - I joked that I started to grow vegetables because I feared that civilisation was on the verge of collapse and I'd need to have the ingredients for a decent hotpot in a post-Sainsbury's society. It might be a tad optimistic to imagine that the end times will essentially be The Good Life with bandits, but with the current state of the world it's important to retain a degree of positivity. That said, the beetroot crop could have been better. 6/10
- Photography - The other morning I stole out at first light (definitely the best time for stealing) and took some photos of the frost which had settled on the nearby common. I now regularly take a camera out on my walks and I do feel I've learned a lot since the days of using a crap company phone to take pictures for the paper. Although to be fair that wouldn't be difficult. 9/10.
- Proper grown-up stuff - Being able to give a blow-by-blow account of the Battle of Hastings, having almost perfect recall for members of the cabinet and listening to an unhealthy amount of Radio 4 unfortunately does not make up for my abject failure as a well-rounded adult. On the plus side, I'm fair to good at quizzes. 1/10
- Seeing friends - I managed to get down to see my mate's show in London - possibly the darkest musical ever written - although I missed his concert a few months later. I had a long talk with another old friend about the collapse of neoliberalism and divisions in society over a nice roast in Moseley. Not as many meetings as I'd like, but always informative and enjoyable. 6/10
- Get up-to-date with the Marvel films - At this point you might question whether watching comic book films is any sort of achievement. But clearly you have not felt the shame of being a geek who has to admit in public they are yet to have seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier two years after its original release. A dark, dark day. Thankfully I've now sat through everything except Antman and Doctor Strange. Oh, and I haven't seen any of the new DC films, but that has less to do with the paucity of multiplexes locally and more the fact that they're all kinds of awful. 8/10
- Beating Vagrant Story - I haven't attempted this, although occasionally I glower at the box on the shelf. I have however beaten a game called Dragon Age Origins - not a new title by any means, but definitely the best RPG I've played for years. By making a party system the centre of the adventure, it got as close to the experience of standing in a shed with some mates trying to score a critical hit as I think a computer game could. I successfully wooed the flame-haired bard lady Leliana (wouldn't happen in real life) and got hopelessly lost in a woodland (a definite possibility in real life.) 0/10 for Vagrant Story (having chickened out), but 9/10 for Dragon Age (even if I did spam the health poultices to take down the final boss.)
- Writing - To be discussed anon.
I think that's everything. At some point this month I may draw up a revised 2017 list. To that I could add such things as going to the theatre more frequently, remaining seated throughout Andy Murray matches and celebrating my 30th year with an historical pilgrimage around the UK!