We all thought it would be better, didn’t we?
And okay, in many ways it was, but let’s be honest: 2021 was as difficult as 2020 had been before it, and in just as many ways was worse, because it was just like 2020 but this time we bloody well knew what was going to happen, and then we had to watch as all those fuckwits went ahead and did it anyway.
On the personal front, well, yeah. Things weren’t easy. But Big Decisions ™ were made, and Some Plans (pat. pend.) were begun, and this time next year I’ll have nothing but amazing successes and happinesses to report. Right?
Soooooooo…… anyway. 2021. Year in Review. Let’s do that.
1. What did you do in 2021 that you’d never done before?
Semi-adopt a teenager. Lord 17’s girlfriend came to live with us to escape a home life that was, well, less than ideal.
2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Well, let’s see.
- Half an hour writing time a day: BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH.
- Walk, pool, or gym everyday: BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH2thesequel.
- Better diet, and limit the cool drink: BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH3TheSearchforSpock.
- Regular blogging: BWAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH4WhichisScottyandWhichistheWhale?
- Get down to Perth and exhibit in Bricktober: Yaaaaaay (waves tiny flag).
So, yeah. Not a stellar year, as plans go. But there were mitigating circumstances, as the Karratha adventure crossed the line into Too Toxic to Be Supported ™ and plans had to be made to leave.
So plans for next year remain roughly the same, with the added benefit of taking place somewhere else. This year I’ve split them up unto “musts” and “wants”. To whit…
3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
No, but I did finally get to spend some proper time with our new granddaughter, who shall henceforth be known as O-Rex on this page.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
No. My parents are both dead, and the rest of my family are young enough that, barring the unforeseen, they should live a good while yet. And I’m not really close to anyone outside of that.
Smart thinker, me: if nobody likes you, nobody is a cause for worry…
5. What countries did you visit?
So there’s been this thing called COVID……
6. What would you like to have in 2022 that you lacked in 2021?
Peace. Stability. Calm. A clear vision of an uninterrupted future. My Lego room back.
7. What dates from 2021 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
None, really. It was that kind of year. Lady Girlfriend came to live with us, and it was decided to move back to Perth, but I can’t really point a finger at specific dates for those things. Mainly, the year just sort of rolled by like rice pudding dripping into an open eye socket.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Getting down to Perth to participate in Bricktober for the first time since coming up to K-Town? Managing to teach no less than six different classes throughout the year – twice the amount I should have – thanks to various teacher departures and incompetencies? Maintaining my happy-go-lucky, chirpy attitude like a cockney corporal in a prisoner of war camp movie?
9. What was your biggest failure?
No progression in any single aspect of my life whatsoever. This year was the equivalent of episode three of a seven episode Doctor Who story.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
Nothing more than the usual accumulation of niggles and aches.
Smart thinker, me: if you never move, you can never strain anything.
11. What was the best thing you bought?
I can’t remember: was the Thermomix this year or last? (Honestly, the days just blur into one another these days. Nine time out of ten I can’t even remember the date, and even then, I have to look up to see what day of the week it is). If it’s this year, then that. And the air fryer, which I’m pretty sure we got Luscious for her birthday or Mother’s Day.
Also, having just come back from Perth, I lashed out and bought an expensive, hand-made mask from a stall at the Fremantle Markets, which was so much better than the mass-produced ones you can buy in the shops it isn’t funny—it’s constructed so that the ‘muzzle’ actually sits off your face, and the wiring is heavy duty, which means I can mould it to my nose and breathe without feeling like someone is clamping their hand over my nose constantly. Plus it’s Spiderman patterned, so points for coolness, too.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My family, who immediately accepted Lady Girlfriend as one of their own, and have done everything in their power to be the family she needed. A few of my colleagues (you know who you are, and if I don’t talk to you outside of work, you know who you aren’t), who struggled to maintain their levels of professionalism and duty of care in the face of increasing difficulties. Every single one of my friends — both those I know in person and those I know online — whose struggle to remain masked, vaxxed, and safe while the communities outside their doors seemed determined to pox themselves into oblivion I followed with admiration and fear.
And, as always, Luscious, who still struggles to deal with the grief of losing our son in 2019, but who opened herself up without reservation to bringing our eldest daughter into the house to help her overcome a serious meth addiction, with all the heartache, pain, and strife that came with it, and still found the energy and love to be her usual Classmum self to a group of students who seemed to take delight in causing her pain (in case I haven’t mentioned it yet, I’m so glad to be going back to Perth). This year almost killed her, and she did it anyway.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
(Gestures at everything)
Specifically? A couple of new colleagues who exhibited every behaviour ever designed to invite contempt and derision: one, a walking sick note who spent more time suspiciously coughing every time the head of department walked in than actually teaching, to the point where conversation was widespread over just how he could afford his rent with so much unpaid leave; the other a creator of so many complaints from students, parents, and colleagues that we had to limit our bandwidth use so they could all fit on the database – a creepy, handsy, verbally inappropriate misogynist who generated endless requests for class changes from female students.
Moving 1600 kilometres away from them feels like a metre too short…
14. Where did most of your money go?
I don’t know, but my Lego and graphic novel collections got waaayyy larger, and so did my stomach……
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
Ultimately, escape. It saddens me to say it, because Karratha really started out as a wonderful, adventurous sea change…… well, dust change…… but getting back to Perth is going to be such a relief. In four years we’ve gone from an environment that was a bit rough and ready, to one that was simply violent, to one that is straight-out dangerous, and that’s just the workplace. None of us need the stress.
16. What song will always remind you of 2021?
There’s been no song that’s really encapsulated our year, or provided a soundtrack to our days. This recent-ish discovery does sum up a fair portion of my feelings towards the universe this year (plus it’s an absolute corker). It’ll serve.
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Happier. The decision to leave Karratha came a year earlier than planned, and at very short notice, but once it was made, a weight lifted, and almost all of our conversations are about plans going forward, rather than the struggle of coping with the present. This is a Very. Good. Thing ™. And spending a fortnight back in Perth over Christmas, and playing with O-Rex (Have I mentioned O-Rex?) went the longest way towards revitalising my spirit.
Fatter. It was not a good year for eating, or losing weight. Too much Real Life ™, and I slipped uncaringly back into old habits.
Richer. Two incomes is better than one. Although we’re trying our hardest to correct that by attempting to buy another house to live in down in Perth, so that should see us back to our scraping-by selves real soon.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Wading through sludgy days dominated by exhaustion, the behaviour of colleagues and students, general low morale and despair, and just sheer what’s-the-point-ishness.
20. How did you spend Christmas?
In Perth, with my family around me, playing with my new granddaughter and teaching her to pull faces and do an evil laugh. A man’s got to have hobbies.
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Apart from the abovementioned colleagues, and a new year’s worth of students, a few fellow AFOLs at Bricktober, and a proper, interactive interaction with the gorgeous O-Rex. (Have I mentioned her?)
22. Did you fall in love in 2021?
O-Rex. Totally and unreservedly.
23. What was your favourite TV program?
TV was a constant this year, and possibly too much of one, as I arrived home from work most days too exhausted and demoralised to concentrate on reading or attempting to create. Lots of true crime was absorbed, as well as some lesser-known reality TV bake-off style competition shows about body paint, and flower arranging, and proctology and so on for which I shall remain not sorry.
Highlights of the year included introducing Lord 17 to the glory that is the original Cowboy Bebop, as well as his introduction of me to Tokyo Ghoul; the delight of multiple series of Lego Masters from multiple countries; and the hilarious mockumentary brilliance of American Vandal, as well as revisiting the sheer gilt-edged genius of Frasier and wallowing in the entire run of Bob’s Burgers. But two shows stood out beyond all the others, and share The Good Schitt’s Place for Unexpected Wonderment and Fabulosity: Squid Game, which was everything everybody said it was, and more—brutal, shocking, funny, engaging, and thoroughly gripping; and WandaVision, which proved that Marvel is not only capable of doing good things when they step away from the bloated MCU self referential soap opera, but that it can do extraordinary things when it uses its characters to open up storytelling opportunities that advance the nature of the medium it works within. Both were extraordinary viewing experiences, and amongst the very best television I’ve seen in a very long time.
At the other end of the spectrum was Marvel companion show Loki, which was as flaccid and inconsequential as WandaVision was not, and Metal Shop Masters, a show that took the template that has served clever-people-competing-in-niche-skills shows so well, added a fantastic premise – metal sculpture – and somehow served up something that was, well, a big fat bundle of meh, lacking engagement, tension, and even vaguely accomplished artworks. But the Oh, Oh Dear Award for Ideas That Should Have Been Left in the Same Dumpster Chris Lilley Lives In has to go to the live action version of Cowboy Bebop, which managed to take a passionately loved, deservedly-classic TV show and somehow make it look more dated and cheap than a Metal Mickey out-take. I lasted a single episode, which from a guy that’s loved the original show and movie since the moment they first came out, is all you need to know.
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Honestly, I think I’m too tired for hate, and then the vile criminals of our Lieberal government throw some more shit in our eye, and I arc up all over again – as I write, the Novax Jerkoffic affair is all over the papers, and the Scum Government’s grubby fingerprints are being revealed all over the back of the scenes, so it just. never. fucking. ends.
25. What was the best book you read?
A thinnish year for reading, as outlined in the TV section above. For the most part, I preferred to read graphic novels this year, to the point where I eventually lost track of them and gave up listing after close to fifty. But I still managed to hit my base aim of 24 books, although it helped to have school holidays to do it in. A lot of biographies this year, including a lightning obsession with all of Peter Hook’s memoirs, and discovering James Shapiro, who filled my Shakespeare needs in the same way Catherine Arnold’s books do with my fascination for London.
Best unexpected gifting came courtesy of a former student, who started our relationship by calling me a stingray-faced motherfucker as he overturned a table and stormed out of class, but after we discovered a shared love of boxing, became one of my favourites as I watched him work to turn his reputation around, and who subsequently found himself an apprenticeship that makes him super happy. I gifted him a copy of a biography of Mike Tyson, and a little later, he did the same to me with Kostya: My Story, Kostya Tszyu’s autobiography. Even lovelier, when I tried to return it, he refused: “No, mister. You taught me books are gifts, never loans. It’s yours.”
Shut up. You got weepy.
But read of the year, for me, was 1606; Shakespeare and the Year of Lear, by James Shapiro, the first of a trilogy of Shakespearean works by the author, and one that was so lively, gripping, and beautifully researched that it sent me diving onto Book Depository to get my hands on the other two. I’m a long-time lover of the Bard, and equally fascinated by both the Tudor and Jacobean eras: this book (these books) were the literary equivalent of gorging on a perfect meal.
26. What was the best graphic novel you read?
I read a lot of graphic novels in 2021. They were a literary comfort food: nourishing enough that I could engage with them, but also easily digestible so that I could cram five or six into my brainhole in quick succession. I’m not sure when I stopped listing those I read, but I recorded just over 40 (you can see that list here) when, in reality, I easily topped 80.
Of those I recorded, the prize was easily The Authority Omnibus, a stunningly beautiful hardback collection of Ellis and Millar’s entire run on the titular team, which I love way more than I should. New volumes of Monstress and Something is Killing the Children maintained the superb levels of both titles, and I managed to get my hands on both volumes (to date) of the superb The Black Monday Murders.
On the downside were the third in the increasingly irrelevant and derivative Umbrella Academy series, and the only volume I’ll ever touch of the truly awful RIPD, which was made into an apparently-also-awful movie that I think I’ll give a permanent hard pass to. Badly-drawn, horribly written, with an art style that veers between bored-student-idly-doodling-in-notebook and you’re-not-as-edgy-as-you-think-kid, it constantly delivers every yawn-worthy cliche and swing-and-a-miss attempt at humour you’d ever want to hate in a book as determinedly amateurish as this one proves to be.
27. What was your greatest musical discovery?
I really didn’t listen to very much new music this year, until I was driving back from Perth on the 3rd of January (I’m counting it) and the iPod decided to spontaneously not recognise iTunes, leaving me to twiddle between JJJ frequencies as best I could. The countdown to the Hottest 100 is well underway, meaning I received a 16-hour crash course in songs the presenters think are cool, and gave my Shazam app a damn good tapping along the way.
I’m a sucker for that genre I think of as songs that could fit on the Black List soundtrack – slow, semi-electric, sorta-country, spoken wordish things that make you want to sip whiskey and pet a really old dog on your porch. So Lana Del Rey’s Breaking Up Slowly is the one that really stuck with me.
28. What was your favourite film of this year?
It wasn’t a big year for movies. In fact, I probably watched more movies with students as part of our film studies and end-of-year slowdown than I did outside of school, and a lot of what I did watch involved stuff I’d seen several times previously.
Still, a visit to take the grandkids to Croods 2 gave us the sequel we didn’t know we wanted, but did. The Others, a movie I’d never bothered with because of my complete antipathy towards Nicole Kidman, was a masterpiece that took all of the things I hate about her cold, lifeless, personality and turned them into advantages. The Suicide Squad was exactly the Suicide Squad movie I’d hungered for the first time. Dune proved to be a beautiful epic of exactly the right kind of space opera. And Spiderman: No Way Home was a fun-filled relief after the awfulness of the previous Spidey outing. So, all in all, I may not have seen a lot, but there were plenty of highlights.
At the bottom of the Uwe Boll Memorial Pile of George Lucas Droppings I found Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle – no surprise, given how much I dislike every single main actor in it, but hey, thanks, year eights for insisting, and also thanks for insisting on the sequel, which I think is called Jumanji: Why Are We Doing This Again?, which proved to be, unbelievably, even worse.
12 year olds. What are you gonna do? Anyway, you can see my full list here.
29. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
I turned 51, and as it was a work day, I worked. As is our tradition, I was made whatever I wanted for dinner and had my choice of movie to watch, so I spent it quietly, with my immediate family, eating comfort food and watching comfort movieness.
30. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
A feeling of growth. I have stagnated so deeply – professionally, creatively, and as a person – that I’m afraid even attempting to resurrect anything to do with myself will encounter too many obstacles and will simply result in anything failure. And then what will I do?
My goals for 2022 are an attempt to kickstart something, anything, along those paths. I can only try, and hope.
31. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2021?
Given the heat, the work uniform was a polo shirt, shorts, sneakers and socks, so I spent most of my time looking like a granddad on his way to Boring Camp – which I guess I pretty much am these days.
Outside of work, the order of the day was generally ‘as little as possible’. Shorts, singlet, and thongs if you forced me. So bogan slob chic, basically.
32. What kept you sane?
I’m not sure I understand the question.
33. What political issue stirred you the most?
I get tired of saying this, but our Lieberal Government never cease to amaze me with their incompetence, corruption, entitlement, lies, and at times, outright contempt for the people in whose name they are supposed to guide the country. Their list of injustices and crimes is simply too long and ongoing to list here. Suffice to say, they were at it again throughout the year, and the shit just never seems to stop.
Like everyone else with an IQ over 80, I remain heartbroken by the seemingly unstoppable spread of COVID, and the continued destruction of the planet in pursuit of a capitalist cult that is dying before its practitioners eyes. I do what I can as an individual, but spitting into a firestorm can get awfully tiring.
34. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2021.
Professionalism is an outmoded concept. It has been replaced by institutional self-interest and targeted blindness. All I can do is keep my own house in order, and stop expecting those around me to know the difference between right and wrong.
35. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
I don’t wanna go out (I don’t wanna go out)
I don’t wanna go out (I don’t wanna go out)
(I don’t wanna go out I don’t wanna go out)
(I don’t wanna go out I don’t wanna go out)
(I don’t wanna go out I don’t wanna go out)
(I don’t wanna go out I don’t wanna go out)
— I Don’t Wanna Go Out, X