2018: BUY ONE YEAR, GET THREE FOR FREE

Or, at least, that’s how it feels.

Let’s recap, shall we?

At the start of the year, I was a month away from being released from a job that had turned sour and toxic. I was vastly overweight, crippled by stress, and deeply unhappy. I hadn’t completed a full piece of writing in well over 2 years, and hadn’t completed a novel in closer to four (and that one had been stillborn: a melange of bad writing and awkward choices that simply refused to come to life and be sellable).

Then, of course, we moved to Karratha. Luscious took up a position teaching at the High School. I tra-la-la’d out of the job with nary a look back (How well was I respected? My going away gift was a book of art from the Kimberleys (I was going to the Pilbara, several hundreds of kilometres away), and my Director, who knew me since my first day, could only comment on the fact that I occasionally swore when asked to make a speech about my achievements over the 8 years of my time there). I started teaching relief at Luscious’ school a day or two a week, sat down to write, and opened up my recipe books and my copy of House Husbanding for Dummies.

How’s that worked out for me? Wouldn’t you like to know?

 

BATTERSBY’S GIANT YEAR OF LIVING IN THE COUNTRY AND SHIT
1. What did you do in 2018 that you’d never done before?

Moved to Karratha, duh 😉

I spent a year serving on the Committee of the Australasian Horror Writers Association, as it recovered from the disastrous Presidency of a previous administration.

Not to mention, actually taught in a classroom– having graduated in 1992 and sworn never to do so. To make matters worse, I’m likely to take up a contract to teach part-time next year, so that’s it: I’m a writer and teacher, now.

HAND ME MY ELBOW PATCHES!
2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?

Honestly, no. Adjusting to our new lifestyle took more time than I expected, and many of the things I’d hoped to achieve, well, I got partway there, if it all. I can’t do 75 push-ups a day, although I can do 40 or so, which is better than I’d have imagined 2 years ago. I didn’t learn a song on the guitar or enter the Cossack Art Awards. Still, it looks like we’re going to be here for a few years, at least, so there’s still time. I’m not yet completely junk food or cool drink free, although my consumption has drastically decreased. But I did manage to read 24 books for the first time in a long time. In fact, assuming I finish the one I’m on right now, I’ll hit 37. So, That’s something.

My goals for next year? Well, I aim to lose another 10 kilos: if I end 2019 at 90 kilograms or less, I’ll be a happy man. I’ll be aiming to complete at least one new novel. And that’s it. Anything, and everything, else will be a bonus. As odd as it may sound, right now I’m too happy to make goals. I just want to attack everything that comes my way, and see what I can conquer.

 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, although two people I’m very close to, and who matter to me dearly, suffered terminations. My heart breaks for them.

 

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Also no. My father has finally succumbed to permanent dementia and global aphasia, however, so the terminal decline of his health can’t be terribly far away. It’ll be a sad end for a man who prided himself on his verbal acuity and what he thought was charm.

 

5. What countries did you visit?

Some days, Australia circa 1947.
6. What would you like to have in 2019 that you lacked in 2018?

A bookshop! Oh, my soul for a bookshop! A Lego Users Group. A Nandos. Zambreros. Another bookshop! A theme park, with blackjack, and hookers! In fact, forget the park!

 

7. What dates from 2018 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

The 31st January. I walked out of my hated job a free man, stepped on to an aircraft, and landed in Karratha. I’ve never looked back.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Losing the weight. Something I hadn’t achieved in almost a decade. You know, since I started working at a job that went South and which I started coping with by comfort eating and drinking. You know, since then.

 

9. What was your biggest failure?

At this point, probably failing to fully convince Lord 14 that Perth is behind him for the next few years and he needs to create a fulfilling life for himself here. He has achieved fantastic things this year, but he’s yet to truly immerse himself in our new lifestyle, and still regularly pines for things and people left behind.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

Funnily enough, I’ve not suffered any illness since I walked out the door of that job that went South and which I started coping with by comfort eating and drinking. You know, since then.

As to injuries, well, I’ve been swimming regularly for the first time in many years, hitting the gym for the first time in many years, and attending regular kickboxing lessons with a 14-year-old who seems determined to make the most of a twice-weekly opportunity to legally beat the living shit out of his Dad, so ooooohhhhhh yeah, there have been injuries……
11. What was the best thing you bought?

You mean, besides the plane ticket? The 12 month pool membership got me out of the house on an almost-daily basis, into the water, and swimming. It was the first step of my weight loss, and an important source of relief from the all-pervasive heat (as I type this, today reached 49 degrees in parts of town. Yeah. That’s celsius.)
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?

All of the family, but especially Luscious. She has adapted to our new life with aplomb: taking on the role of main breadwinner, becoming the teacher in day-to-day fact that she has spent so long dreaming of becoming, providing care and inspiration for over a hundred teenagers, and earning the respect and fellowship of her peers. She has grown immensely in the time we’ve been here, and is the powerful, independent, strong woman I always knew she was.

Lord 14 has become a central pillar of his Scout Troop, a true leader, and is about to head off to the national Jamboree and head up a troop there, as well. He’s become a keen kickboxer (and is ripped as a result), and despite being the target for a couple of troglodytic bullies and morons, is excelling in his schoolwork. And Erin has started her first job, gained her Learner’s permit, spent time volunteering at an animal shelter, and adapted to her life as a country girl beautifully. They’ve all done me so proud.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?

Our grandchildrens’ father has proven himself a prime OTC, once again, this year. And there have been individuals at the school who have heaped misery on our undeserving son. A particularly vexatious right-wing author made life a misery for the AHWA committee, when what we need was to focus on righting the many wrongs that had caused the ship to list. Although, to be fair, his general douchebaggery has been a known quantity for some time. And, of course, you only have to peek through your curtains to find large swathes of the western world helmed by orange-dusted, right-wing, repressionist shitweasels. Our own country included.
14. Where did most of your money go?

Water bills. Air-conditioning bills. Sex toys for geckos. Singlets. Memberships. Postage. Online shopping for all the actual things you can’t bloody get here, like BOOKS and graphic novels and bloody BOOKS.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Finally turning the long-discussed 18 Month Plan ™ into reality, and then getting her and finding out that it was something we can turn into a long-term lifestyle.

 

16. What song will always remind you of 2018?

A song I swore I would play as I walked out the door of my job, and did.

 

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?

Thanks to leaving a job that triggered clinical depression; a change in lifestyle that includes regular swimming, gym attendance, and kickboxing; and a move from an established public service breadwinner to a first year teacher, I’m:

i) considerably happier, in that I am, for the first time in at least 3 years, consistently actually happy on a day-to-day basis;

ii) 11 kilograms lighter than January 1st, and much thinner; and

iii) monetarily poorer, but significantly richer in quality of life.

 

joined

 

This was me, as of January 1st 2018. 47 years old. A pixieteenth short of 5ft 10in (177cm) in height. Weighing 111.6 kilograms (246lbs). Chest 119.5 cm; waist 116 cm, hips 126 cm, bicep 40 cm, thigh 64.5 cm. Tee shirt size somewhere between a double and triple X depending on the tee and whether I was feeling baggy or not on the day.  And that’s me, today: 48; weighting exactly 100.0 kilograms (220lbs). I’ve lost 5.5cm from my chest, 3cm from my waist, 2cm from my bicep, 3.5cm from my thigh, and 14cm from my hips. Another 10-20 kilos to go, but as starts go, it’s the best I’ve had in years.

 

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. It’s actually been a good writing year: my publisher informed me that Magrit will be re-released in paperback in March 2019, and I finished and submitted Ghost Tracks, the first full novel I’ve finished in nearly 4 years. But I wish I’d done more. We moved up here partly so I could concentrate on my writing, and get my career back on track after having it so fatally weakened by the Toxic Job. One novel is a start, but I was hoping to have completed three or four in the first 2 years. I need to get a shufty on.

 

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?

Sweating.
20. How did you spend Christmas?

The kids will be home for the first time in years, so it’ll be breakfast and presents for four, before a lazy day of movies, food, and lazy lazing about. Luscious and I always prepare ourselves something special, but because Karratha is so insanely hot at the moment, we’re going to settle for making up a cold buffet for lunch with lemon meringue pie and key lime pies for dessert. Dinner will consist of picking at whatever we don’t finish at lunch.
21. Who did you meet for the first time?

About 15,000 teenagers, teachers, librarians, aspiring writers, FIFOs, kickboxing fans, shop assistants… you know: an entire town.
22. Did you fall in love in 2018?

Renewed my great love for Luscious, and discovered new aspects, and ways to express that love, which have brought us even closer together than we thought possible. It really is our world, now. You’re just living in it.
23. What was your favourite TV program?

We’ve watched a tonne of good TV this year. The Good Place season 2 was outstanding, although season 3 has represented a real dip in quality and enjoyability. I introduced the family to the always-wonderful Death Note, which I hadn’t seen in years. The City and the City was a mostly-excellent adaptation of one of my favourite China Meiville novels, and David Morrissey is always delightfully watchable. We discovered Seven Periods with Mister Gormsby, a New Zealand comedy about teaching was funny because of just how damn truly it represents the inside of most teachers’ heads. Wild, Wild Country and Evil Genius were brilliant crime series, as was season one of Making of a Murderer, which we finally caught up with. We started season one of Westworld, which is stunning, and of course, the greatest television spectacle of all was on, again: the 2018 World Cup.

But three shows stood out for me, in particular:

The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell is an utter delight. Part cooking show, part dark muppet fantasy, part goth wet dream, part Addams Family homage, it was lovely in all the right– and perfectly wrong– ways.

Counterpart was, in many ways, The City and The City done right: a dark,twisting, and thrilling exploration of crime across alternative realities, pinned down by an utterly superb double performance by JK Simmons. It is, in my opinion, the performance of his career. An open ending paved the way for a second series. I can’t wait.

But my favourite show of the year was Taboo. A brilliant cast, including Tom Hardy, Jonathan Pryce, Tom Hollander, Franke Potente, Jessie Buckley, Stephen Graham, and Oona Chaplin meld crime, mysticism, intrigue, and otherworldly spiritualism in Georgian London. It’s a maelstrom of powerhouse performances, stunning imagery, inspired direction, and taut writing, and it was, by far, the show that resonated with me for the longest.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No, all the people I hated last year are gone, consigned to the dustbin of memory. if a man does good business when he rids himself of a turd, I did a lot of very good business.
25. What was the best book you read?

It was a good year for reading. 36 books and 66 graphic novels (including, literally, every one in the Karratha library). The full list is below, but special mention goes to:

  • The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, an in-depth examination of the dirty tricks bureau of Churchill’s World War Two government by Giles Milton.
  • The massive three-volume The Life of Graham Greene, by Norman Sherry, which describes everything but the colour of the underpants Greene died in.
  • Blood, Sweat, and Beers: Oz Rock From the Aztecs to Rose Tattoo, a brilliantly readable and compulsively one-eyed history of the loudest in Aussie pub rock royalty, by Murray Engleheart, and
  • SAS Ghost Patrol, by Damien Lewis. A thrilling and almost-unbelievable account of the most astonishing desert raid of the Second World War.

But the two best books of my year were Trace, by Rachael Brown, a brilliant investigation and analysis of the murder of Maria James, and This is Going To Hurt, an account of his time as a doctor within the NHS by Adam Kay that is, by turns, uproariously funny and genuinely heartbreaking, and which had me leaving the last page in tears.

Worst book of the year was the self-indulgent, hateful, and altogether pointless drivel Sabbath’s Theatre, by Philip Roth. That this tripe won awards probably proves exactly what every sneerer and anti-literati ever said. Ironically– given the author– it’s nothing but a load of authorial wank.

My Graphic Novel of the year, and if I’m truly honest, my actual books of the year bar none, are the three volumes (so far) of Monstress, by Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda. It is a narrative tour de force, set in a world where myth, magic, and technology combine with a distinctively Sino-Nippo-Anglo-Barry Windsor Smith aesthetic. I haven’t been this entranced with a comic book series in a long, long, long time. It is visually, narratively, and in terms of its characterisation, the best comic book I’ve read in decades.

My full list:
1. The Who’s Who of British Crime in the 20th Century, Jim Morris
2. Best American Mystery Stories 2011, Harlan Coben (ed)
3. The Angels, Bob Yates
4. The Murder of Nellie Duffy, Stephanie Bennett,
5. The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare, Giles Milton
6. I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen, Sylvie Simmons
7. The Life of Graham Greene Vol 1: 1904-1939, Norman Sherry
8. The Broken Shore, Peter Temple
9. Annihilation, Jeff Vandermeer
10. The Life of Graham Greene Vol 2: 1939-1955, Norman Sherry
11. Sabbath’s Theatre, Philip Roth
12. Tactics of Mistake, Gordon R Dickson
13. I’ll Be Gone In the Dark, Michelle McNamara
14. Dorsai, Gordon R Dickson
15. The Life of Graham Greene Vol 3: 1955-1991, Norman Sherry
16. Mr Mike: The Life and Work of Michael O’Donoghue, Dennis Perrin
17. The Greedy Bastard Diary: A Comic Tour of America, Eric Idle
18. Jack the Ripper, Susan Casper & Gardner Dozois (eds)
19. Saturday Night: A Backstage History of Saturday Night Live, Doug Hill & Jeff Weingrad
20. Dangerous Visions 2, Harlan Ellison (ed)
21. Lost, Stolen, or Shredded, Rick Gekowski
22. Red Harvest, Dashiell Hammett
23. Planet According to the Movies, Marc Fennell
24. 39 Years of Short-Term Memory Loss, Tom Davis
25. The Scar, China Meiville
26. Ilium, Dan Simmons
27. Railsea, China Meiville
28. No Country for Old Men, Cormac McCarthy
29. The Best Man to Die, Ruth Rendell
30. The Violated, Bill Pronzini
31. Don’t Let Go, Harlan Coben
32. Trace, by Rachael Brown
33. Blood, Sweat & Beers: Oz Rock From the Aztecs to Rose Tattoo, by Murray Engleheart
34. SAS Ghost Patrol, by Damien Lewis
35. The Submissive, by Tara Sue Me
36. This Is Going to Hurt, Adam Kay

 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?

Sadly, nothing came to me this year. It was a year of listening to old friends, rediscovering lost memories, and generally just sinking into musical comfort food. There’s always next year.

 

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

71 films this year (full list at the end), and some utterly wonderful examples of excellence amongst them. Rope was one of the few Hitchcock movies I hadn’t yet seen: it’s magnificent, easily one of his best 2 or 3. Lord 14 led us on a Bondathon, in which we got as far as Moonraker before Roger Moore’s overall awfulness forced us to take a break. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri was utterly brilliant, The Shape of Water slightly less so. Dunkirk was epic. I Kill Giants was a beautiful rendering of one of my favourite graphic novels. The Predator and Bohemian Rhapsody were both far better than their general receptions led me to believe. Game Night was genuinely, raucously funny, as was Tag. Sorcerer was 90 of the most edge-of-the-seat minutes I’ve seen in a long while. On the Beach and The Outlaw Josey Wales were utterly brilliant.

On the Adam Sandler Refuses to Quit Award for Outstanding Never Do This Againingness side: Venom was a trash fire. The Cloverfield Paradox was astonishingly stupid. Warcraft was exactly what its general reception led me to believe. Solo: A Star Wars Story defined cynical-and-pointless- cash-grab. The Snowman was just terrible. Jurassic Park: Fallen Kingdom proved that particular franchise should be allowed to go the way of the dinosaurs. The Meg was all that and Jason “Ugh, not Jason Statham” Statham. Teen Titans Go! to the Movies was an unfunny version of a very funny show.

And all of them, in a moment of utter perfection, fell by the wayside when we watched what was, simultaneously, the most enjoyable and the worst movie I saw this year.

The Room has reached beyond cult status. It’s pure awfulness has become legendary. Every story you’ve ever heard about it is like a glimpse into the depths of human insanity. And they’re right. They’re so right. There is not a single performance, not a single shot, a single camera angle, a single moment, that isn’t the single worst thing you’ve even seen. And it is also the single funniest movie experience I’ve had since the days of propping up a couch, hooting with derision at 50s rubber-suit-monster movies with my Uni friends. It is deliriously, psychotically, addictively, awful. Wonderfully so. It is, without any doubt, the movie of my year.

AND IT’S TEARING ME APAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHTTTTT!

tearingmeapartlisa

Here, for the sane of reading, is the full list of fillums I eyescrawled this year:

1. Coco
2. Dracula: Prince of Darkness
3. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri
4. Inception
5. Godzilla: Planet of the Monsters
6. Akira
7. Cloverfield
8. Contact
9. Predestination
10. Death Note (2017)
11. Edge of Tomorrow
12. Rope
13. Black Panther
14. Killer Klowns From Outer Space
15. Annihilation
16. Game Night
17. Gattaca
18. A Wrinkle in Time
19. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
20. The Cloverfield Paradox
21. The Long Kiss Goodnight
22. Spiderman: Homecoming
23. LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring
24. Warcraft
25. Ghost In the Shell (2017)
26. I, Tonya
27. Steve Martin & Martin Short: An Evening You’ll Forget For the Rest of Your Life
28. A Stupid and Futile Gesture
29. The Shape of Water
30. Sorcerer
31. Solo: A Star Wars Story
32. Deadpool 2
33. The Snowman
34. Mad Max
35. Mad Max 2
36. Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome
37. Mad Max: Fury Road
38. Unbreakable
39. Beyond Skyline
40. The Girl With All the Gifts
41. I Kill Giants
42. Blazing Saddles
43. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
44. Dunkirk
45. Casino Royale
46. Dr No.
47. From Russia With Love
48. Goldfinger
49. You Only Live Twice
50. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
51. Diamonds Are Forever
52. Apocalypse Now Redux
53. Live and Let Die
54. Day of the Jackal
55. Die Hard
56. The Man With the Golden Gun
57. The Meg
58. Westworld
59. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies
60. Split
61. The Spy Who Loved Me
62. Conan the Barbarian
63. On The Beach
64. The Dirty Dozen
65. The Outlaw Josey Wales
66. Venom
67. Moonraker
68. The Room
69. Ocean’s 11
70. The Predator
71. Bohemian Rhapsody
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

I was 48, and spent the day feeling older.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?

A FREAKING BOOKSHO… I mean, getting more deeply immersed into my writing career. But, given the depths to which it had disintegrated, any forward movement was good movement. It’s going to take a year or two to fully recover– any possible momentum from Magrit has been long lost, so I’m starting again from scratch. In case it hasn’t already been made clear, thanks and fuck you, City of Rockingham.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2012?

NO SHOES! NO SHOES! HAHHAHAHAHHAAAAAAAA NO SHOES, LA LA LA LAAAAAAA NOOOOOOOOOOO SHOES!

Or, you know, something like that.
31. What kept you sane?

My water bottle, regular trips to the swimming pool, and the delicate ministrations of my invisible Martian dinosaur love slaves.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?

Where to start? Let’s just acknowledge that I am riven with teeth-grinding fury and hatred for the Lieberal filth that are turning our country into their own personal fleshlight, and go from there.

 

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2018.

Trust, support, belief, and love start at home. And finish there.
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

What can I say? There is only one song, that has dominated my view of the year.

I ain’t gonna work here no more
I ain’t gonna work here no more
Honey, come & dance with me
Cause I ain’t gonna work here no more
The stars gonna fall from the sky
The stars gonna fall from the sky
Diamonds, jewels & rubies too
And the stars gonna fall from the sky
Oh– Oh–
A million miles away from here
And I ain’t gonna work here no more
You can’t tell a man by his clothes
You can’t tell a man by his clothes
A toad is a prince in someone else’s eyes
And you can’t tell a man by his clothes
I ain’t gon’ be treated this way
I ain’t gon’ be treated this way
This time I think they’ve gone too far
And I ain’t gon’ be treated this way
Oh– Oh–
A million miles away from here
And I ain’t gon’ be treated this way

A Million Miles Away, David Byrne

 

And with that, my darlings, it’s time to shut the door on the year. Thank you for reading, have a wonderful Robanukah, and I’ll see you back here, in 2019.

robanukah

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