What Kind Of Year Has It Been? 2016 Edition

Happy New Year everyone! 2017 has begun, the year that shall not be named has passed, so it’s time to take stock of how well the last twelve months went, and what the next ones have in store for me and my little corner of the internet. As so much has been made of how generally awful last year was, I’ll only be looking at the positives, which is also something of a resolution for me. So, here’s some great stuff that happened to me last year: Continue reading

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November 2016 Update

I have been trying to write this post for over a week! And it’s such a simple one to do, just ramble a little about what I got up to in the past month, put some links to the posts I’ve written, bemoan my lack of productivity and how much I’ve still got to do, and move on! And given how unproductive I was in November, this should have taken no time at all. I think I’ve been putting it off because this is the month where I finally admit defeat. Even if I’d got this post out as planned on the 1st of December, I still wouldn’t have had a chance, as I’m over 40 films away from my target, and that’s more days then there are in December. Now, one week later, I’ve written little new and watched even less, so consider my towel well and truly thrown in. “Wait!” I hear you cry, “what about the week after Christmas, when you’re job is closed down until after New Year? Surely you could watch and review lots of films then?” My response would be a firm and resolute “Maybe” were it not for the numerous family-based activities occurring during that week, which will severely hinder my film-watching and film-reviewing abilities. So don’t expect a repeat performance of last December, wherein the final week was spent valiantly catching up on the goals I’d fallen behind on. This year I’m taking the much easier, more sensible and less stressful option of just plain giving up. Not entirely, I might add. I’ve got no hope of achieving my 100 films from the 1001 List goal, but there are others. I only need to watch-and-review one Blind Spot pick and I hit that target, so A Matter of Life and Death is in my imminent future, which is more than OK with me. Similarly, I’m three “Bad” movies away from that goal, and I’ve already watched one and started the review, so that should be relatively straight forward. The Film-Makers challenge is trickier, given I’m 9 away from completing that. Granted I’ve already watched at least two eligible films, but it’d be difficult to see that one through. If I achieve it though, and somehow make all the Film-Makers movies to also be from the 1001 List, then along with the Blind Spot and “Bad” movies, and maybe even a few pending review, I could perhaps get my 1001 goal up to 70. That’s my target, let’s see how I do.
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October 2016 Update

So October was my least productive month in possible my site’s history, amassing a total of just four posts, two of which were weekly updates. Needless to say, I didn’t hit my targets. Wedding preparation stepped up a gear, as did day-job commitments dealing with the fall-out from last month’s China trip, plus my TV viewing is far exceeding my movies, with season 2 of The Wire, season 7 of The Walking Dead and season 1 of The Night Of all being part of October’s obsessions.

Out in the real world, October saw me at least partially embracing an annual event I normally shy away from, Halloween. It’s a significantly lesser holiday here in the UK than elsewhere in the world, but a friend of mine holds an annual party regardless and, despite living pretty damn close I’d never gone before, with this being at least his 8th year hosting one. I’ve always been busy or exhausted or away, but this year I had nothing going on, plus he’s moving soon so it’ll be his last party, so the plan was made and I sorted out a Dr. Alan Grant costume that absolutely no-one recognised until I produced the paper mache velociraptor claw, and even then I’d say less than six people got it. Philistines. Anyway the party turned into a late on, or rather an exceedingly early one, as I drank rather too much alcohol (I had almost an entire litre of amaretto to myself, plus numerous whiskies and rums) so my decision to walk two hours home at 4am without a jacket was probably not my best, and might explain the stinking cold I have now. Still, I had a good time, regardless of how much of a waste the following Sunday was (I’d set aside the morning to get some writing done, this did not happen).

So as mentioned, brace yourselves for a truly meagre list of October’s blogging accomplishments:

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September 2016 Update

September was a very busy month for me, but also not so. I’ll explain. Aisha had to work late a lot, so I had to cover more of the Murphy- and house-based duties than usual, which is fine although it explains why the early weeks of the month were a bit light review-wise, because I didn’t really watch a great deal. Then we went to visit my grandparents on the Isle of Wight for a long weekend, again where not a lot got watched but mainly due to spending time with them and enjoying the island. Plus my Grandad insisted that his in-car MP3 player was reading his song files and displaying the titles and artists incorrectly, so I had to reformat close to a thousand songs during the stay, amending the titles, track numbers, artists and albums, almost entirely manually, whilst attempting to explain to him what I was doing, how it would work, and essentially every aspect of how computers work. I used to work data entry over the summers between university years, and let’s just say there’s a reason I don’t do that any more, and it might be the same reason I didn’t want to do it on my holiday, but family is family.

The point where the month became busy then not busy was the last two weeks which, if you’ve checked my weekly updates, you’ll have seen I spent back in China. The company I work for needed some parts from China fairly quickly, but we also had some adjustments to make on the tooling, so I went out and liaised with the factory several times, checking samples and suggesting changes, without having to wait for the normal 5 days of shipping for the parts to reach us. The means of the company contacting me whilst in China was the phone in my hotel room (I gave them my mobile number, which worked, but they refused to use it), and I had to be on-call to see them or talk to my bosses back home at a moment’s notice, so a great deal of the past fortnight was essentially spent inside a hotel room. I spent some of it working, other parts longing for social media to not be blocked in China (especially because I plan the Lambcast and do all of my LAMB admin stuff through Gmail, which is also blocked), and the rest of it watching movies and TV. I binged the entirety of Police Squad! and the first season of The Wire, and watched an additional twelve films from the confines of my room. It would have been more, but I did have to actually visit the factory, talk to the supplier, and leave the hotel room for the purposes of my sanity. Hence 12 films were watched, but only four of them were actually from any of my lists, as others were watched whilst doing other things, so this time last month when I said September could be really productive, or not, that is what I was talking about, and comparatively to the rest of the year, it kind of fell in the middle.

So what about China? Well, when I visited back in January it was a very structured visit along with my boss and his wife – this time I was on my own – so we met with suppliers every day and they took us out every day, and there wasn’t a great deal of culture experienced. This time I got to immerse myself a little more (I still ate at the hotel most days, but that’s more because they had a decent buffet and, being on my own, that way I didn’t have to sit around doing nothing waiting for the food to arrive, I could just enter the restaurant, gather my food, eat it then head straight back to my room or out for a walk). My main mass generalisation is that the Chinese people I ran into the most live very impatient lives, particularly around food and travelling. In traffic, no-one ever lets anyone out of a junction or into a lane. You merge at your own damn risk, and if you’re a pedestrian crossing the road (or indeed walking along the pavement) then if you’re not fearing for your life and moving with your head on a swivel as though enemy snipers could take you out at any second, then you will not survive to the end of the block. And perhaps even more dangerously at the breakfast buffet one morning I placed two slices of bread into the communal toaster (the kind with the timer that you set and come back to when it pings) and walked away to get a drink, only to see the man who had been stood immediately behind me, watching me insert the bread into the toaster, remove one of my slices and walk off with it. There are many things that puzzle me about this. Did he think I had put the bread in there for him? Was this some kind of silent fat-shaming for me daring to have two slices of toast? And, most troubling, why was he satisfied to take a slice of entirely untoasted bread out of the toaster, where it had not been situated enough time to even begin to warm up let alone toast, when there was almost an entire loaf of non-toasted bread RIGHT NEXT TO THE FUCKING TOASTER?!?!? I didn’t say anything, mainly because he probably spoken English as well as I speak Chinese, which is to say not at all, and also because I couldn’t really foresee an outcome where I didn’t come off as some kind of toast-obsessed raving mad man. Also I’m British, and making a scene is just not done, even over toast.

As for evening meals, I was taken out on a number of occasions by the supplier I was visiting, and the most memorable (and second-most delicious, my first ever Korean BBQ being one of the best things I’ve ever eaten) was to a lobster house (actually crayfish, but they call them lobster). I’d not had lobster (or crayfish) before, and it was quite delicious, even if the crustaceans had to be broken apart with my teeth and hands clad only in thin plastic gloves. Whilst the meat is nice, I find it not really worthy of the effort taken to find it amidst the mess of shell, claw and innards. Also, for the entirety of the meal there was a TV on the restaurant wall showing a loop of footage of live crayfish¬†frolicking in the rivers and having a merry old time, before being caught, killed and cooked for my dinner. There’s not much that’ll put me off eating something, but seeing that very thing in a live state whilst I’m expected to rip off its claws, ;gouge out the head and skin it with my fingers is gonna be close. I thought that’d be the worst of it, right up until the last day when we went to a chicken restaurant with the exact same concept, but this time with video footage of rows upon rows of battery hens supposedly making me oh so anxious to chow down on their brethren. What made this even worse was that the chicken there wasn’t even all that good.

Other adventures were had, but I’ve rambled on long enough and haven’t edited the photos yet, so if I think of something interesting I’ll add it to the next weekly post. For now though, let’s see how my goals stacked up for September:

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August 2016 Update

As I’ve not watched or reviewed anything since the “weekly” update a few days ago, consider this a combination of this week’s update, as well as the regular monthly recap. Hence, it’s time for a stream of consciousness ramble about whatever is currently on my mind.

I love London. I used to live there for a year (in Stratford, near where the Olympic stadium is, though when I was there it was near the big pit they were building the Olympic stadium in) and yesterday I got to spend the whole day there, under the mission of renewing my passport, a form-filled process that also contains a four hour window of waiting around for the passport to be processed, so I used this time to run a couple of errands revolving around scouting out supplies for the wedding and obtaining food to insert into my face. One of the things London is perhaps best known for is its public transport, with trains, tubes, buses, taxis and rickshaws all over the place, ready to take you wherever you need to go, generally at a reasonable price, but as I had time on my hands and not a lot of destinations on my route, I set about on foot, to better experience the bustle of London’s streets.

London is amazing. It’s full of every conceivable kind of person. All races, religions, genders, social classes and people from all the countries of the world. And every single one of them was in my way. It seems that when you move to London you become at least 40% more attractive and stylish, but everyone also loses any sense of personal space, be it their own, anybody else’s or, more specifically, mine. Granted this began on the train journey up which, due to safety reasons, took place aboard a train one carriage shorter than intended, meaning everyone was packed in like sardines making a particularly stiff-necked mission to not visually acknowledge the person whose armpit is making out with their ear. I ended up standing for most of the journey so a couple could sit next to one another, which was fine.

Anyway, in London my above-ground bipedal route took me past many of London’s infamous sight-seeing destinations, such as the London Eye, Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, Nelson’s Column and Buckingham Palace, which was in no way my intention – I walked at the mercy of Google Maps – so much of my travelling was spent circumnavigating roaming gangs of tourists and photographers, who cannot understand how standing at one far side of the pavement and photographing their family at the other could possibly inconvenience the tens of thousands of people trying to pass this impromptu photo studio. It’s not just the monuments though, people take photos of some of the most inane and mundane stuff. It still puzzles me as to why people insist on taking photos of telephone boxes and buses, just because they’re bright red. Maybe it’s from being a local that I’ve just gotten used to their iconic design, but taking a picture of something that hasn’t been used to make a phone call in years and has since become equal parts public urinal and prostitution billboard makes little sense to me, and there are so many London buses on every damn road that surely they must lose their appeal sooner or later?

On the subject of transport, in London every single type seems to follow its own set of rules with regards to indicating, roundabouts, lane usage, traffic lights, whether the pavement is an acceptable alternative to the road and whether pedestrians should be even slowed down for, let alone stopped at, even when crossing at a designated pedestrian crossing. Pedestrians are the bottom rung of London’s vehicular hierarchy, and all the other drivers are more than happy to remind you of this, but I resisted the urge of the underground and walked everywhere. My train from Bournemouth and back was the only mode of transport I used. Was this all just to rack up the most amount of steps on my FitBit? Absolutely. My previous record was just over 25,000 steps in a day, which included a run, a few bike rides and several dog walks, so I expected to hit around 30k with my London escapades. To ensure this I even walked the three miles each way to the train station and back, and walked Murphy before I left in the morning. Turns out I didn’t really need to do that, as my daily total, after I’d returned home and collapsed face first onto the bed in a weary, sweaty, bedraggled mess, was just shy of 42,000, which equated to walking a little over 20 miles. There’s no way I’m ever going to beat that. Oh, and did I mention that last week I cut the side of my big toe open, along the outside of the nail? And how it hurts to walk? Yeah, I’m not a bright person, and today I can barely move.

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July 2016 Update

Brace yourself for some first world problems people!

I went for a run on Saturday. You see, we’ve been having our bathroom redecorated for over three months now and, due to numerous scheduling issues with the various tradesmen involved, we’ve been without a shower for the past month. This means for the past few weeks when I’ve wanted to clean myself it has been with the aid of a bath, and being a little on the larger side than most I find the act of getting into and out of a bath to be awkward and cumbersome, and often resulted in great deals of splashing. I’m a fan of having a shower, so 30 days of baths has been less than ideal. Then, on Friday, our new shower was fitted, so Saturday morning I decided to really maximise the potential of this month-in-waiting shower. So I went for a run. My first run in months, mainly because I get very sweaty when exercising (I believe I covered this recently) and didn’t fancy the idea of bathing in that sweat post-run. The intention for this run was for it to be a kind of warm-up, a breaking-in gently back into the world of exercise, given all I ever normally do is cycle, and that uses completely different muscles (FYI, I have amazing calves. You can cut cheese with them.). In reality, however, I got lost. As such the run, which devolved into a jog, then a walk, then a sort of prolonged stumble, ended up lasting almost two hours and traversed me approximately nine miles, including one big unintentional loop around a residential area I barely knew existed before. I’ve never regretted living at the top of a big hill more than when I finally made my way home. I’d made my daily FitBit target of 12,000 steps before 8:30 am, which is ridiculous.¬†The only problem was I didn’t cool down properly afterwards, so whilst the post-run shower was easily one of the best I’ve ever had, what really would have been useful to ease my aching joints would have been a nice long soak in the bath.
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June 2016 Update

This month I’ve been taking some steps. Thousands of them. Every day. I could even tell you how many, because I’ve joined the Fitbit cult. But the metaphorical and marginally more relevant steps I’m actually referring to are ones in the right direction, blog-wise. Small ones, granted, but small steps of progress. What am I blathering on about? Well, for the month of June, and for the first time since January, I managed to meet all my targets, and even exceeded them on one account. I haven’t caught up to where I should be in the year overall, but I’m where I need to be on a monthly basis.
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