2016: WTFTYTW

Can anyone explain what the hell just happened? I mean, I know we had a year, and all, but what the actual fuck? Who gave 2016 red cordial and fizzy lifesavers the moment it woke up?

Anyway, if I can dodge the rain of dropping celebrities long enough, here’s a quick attempt to sum up my year in a slightly longer form than just shouting “dumpster fire!” while pouring liquid lava up my orifices.


1. What did you do in 2016 that you’d never done before?
Had a children’s book published. It’s called Magrit, and if you’ve not heard me mention it before, it’s doing quite well. I accepted an invitation to present at the 2017 Asian Festival of Children’s Content in Singapore, the first time this writing gig has sent me overseas as the educator, rather than the student. And, though it hasn’t been announced, I’ve been offered a 2-week residency in 2017– again, the first time I’ve received one as a pro rather than emerging writer. Exhibited at the interstate Lego show Brickvention. Attended the Brisbane Writers Festival, and what’s more, did it as an invited guest presenter. (Oh, and also sold out a Writers Festival. Baby.)

See what I mean? None of these were frigging goals. None. And yet, when you say them like that……

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
 I didn’t achieve a single one, but the shape of my year changed so prodigiously that they became irrelevant around about May and simply didn’t appear on the radar after that. For 2017, we’ll be setting some goals as a family and any personal goals I set will be in service to them.

Other than writing. Man, I have to get back to writing. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My first-cousin-once-removed-in-law (she let’s me call her Jessie) had her second. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?
My cousin Amanda took her own life in July. I’ve never been overly close to my cousins, but Amanda and I had reconnected over Facebook over the last 3 years or so, and had chatted happily enough. I didn’t know it was coming, but then, isn’t that the nature of such things?

And, of course, every single celebrity in the Western world died, including several who played important roles in my cultural upbringing, not least among them David Bowie, Prince, Gene Wilder, Muhammad Ali and Leonard Cohen. It was that kind of year.  

5. What countries did you visit?
Melbourne. Which, admittedly, is just a different part of Australia, but may as well be a different country. A different country filled with hipsters and deconstructed vegan air-fried health cafes on stilts. And late-night bookstores. And cool things. 

Also Brisbane, which is also not another country, but seems to be where I keep an awful lot of my friends, so it’s nicer to call it that than a friendcloset. 


6. What would you like to have in 2017 that you lacked in 2016?
Adequate meds. 
7. What dates from 2016 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

27 February. The day Magrit was launched upon an unsuspecting, and somewhat distracted, world.
25 November. The last day of Lyn’s degree. She’s fought so hard, and overcome so much, for so long.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
Honestly? Despite all the good things that happened, it might just be surviving the damn thing. 

Keen-eyed readers will notice I’ve said nothing about my day job. Keen-eyed readers would be right. While my writing world has had a lot of momentary ups (although no real, actual writing)– and my family continue to be my strength, my support, and my happiness– my professional life has been the kind of dumpster fire other dumpster fires dream of being when they grow up. The smoke is slowly clearing at the moment, but from October last year until a few weeks ago it was a spiralling descent into despair and depression that I genuinely saw no way to escape. It coloured every aspect of my life, killed my creativity, and came very close to derailing me permanently. 

Thankfully, some things have changed, some people have moved on, and I’m slowly clearing away the accretions, but 2016 will still be the year I look back on as the one where it all came crashing down and I had to claw my way back out of the rubble.


9. What was your biggest failure?
Not recognising the signs and looking for the exit sign.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
A vicious and hard-fought 12 round split decision victory over depression. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our super-comfy bendy relaxation zone. Other people call it a recliner couch. I call it a horizontal puffy heavenpod.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
As always, my family amaze and inspire me.

Ms 15 glided her way to a report card that I might be able to equal if I cut up all of the report cards I ever received and glued the best bits back together again.

Luscious finished her University degree with a grade point average that resulted in her being invited to study (it seemed) every post-graduate course her University has ever offered, and saw her awarded a paid internship for the graduate diploma she’ll be completing next year.

Master 12 fought and scratched and pushed his way past illness, extreme bullying, and an incompetent and weak school administration to make his way back into the school system and graduate primary school surrounded by school friends, teachers who backed him, and a school that understood his situation.

My bonus daughter Cassie stayed strong like a mother bear in the face of a toxic and dangerous partner, and managed to extricate herself and her children in such a way that her kids remained safe and protected the whole way through. The war continues, but she wins battle after battle, and her strength is amazing to watch.

And my nephew, who came out at age 15 with grace, dignity and maturity, secure in the knowledge that his identity is strong. He’s a hell of a kid, and I’m proud of him. 

Honestly, as far as this family goes, I really am just the fat one who follows at the back and hope the cool kids let him hang out with them. 
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Holy Jeebus, where do we start? 
The filth that make up the Government of this country. America: I mean, just all of them. If you don’t know why, come back from space and pick up an internet. Vladimir Putin and the warmongering, evil, fascists who prop him up. The troglodyte State Government we suffer under, and their mindless slashing of arts finances and illegal acts on the Roe Highway extensions. Lionel Shriver, who came to Brisbane and betrayed the organisation she represented by spouting a tirade of such ignorance and racism that it still makes me angry and ashamed to be part of the same industry.
Also, a puppy shat on my lawn at some stage and never came back to pick it up. 
14. Where did most of your money go?
Credit card debt, mortgage refinancing, and as I made the mistake of letting Luscious come with me, Christmas decorations.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
2017.
16. What song will always remind you of 2016?

17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
Definitely happier, all things considered, and more content. I’m thinner, just– at one stage I did dip below 100kg, but I’ve wavered back up to 104kg at the moment, which is still better than the 112kg I was at my heaviest, so I’m calling it a small win. And, thanks to various refinancing efforts and redistribution of debt, the decision to move to smaller, lower-mortgage house is finally beginning to pay real dividends. which means that we may not be richer, but we’re far more comfortable on a pay-to-pay basis.

Overall, it feels like we’re in a good space, and ready to add the final pieces to make sure 2017 works its arse off for us.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Writing. Happiness.Making the most of my time away from the workplace.

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

Stress, depression, fear, worry. Fighting for the right of my family members to simply be. 
20. How will you spend Christmas?
Tradition is for us to wake up with the kids and do presents at breakfast, before the grandparents take them for the rest of the day to do big-family-gathering things, and Lyn and I settle in with a platter, some wine, and a few good movies. I see no reason to change this arrangement. 
21. Who did you meet for the first time?
About one hundred million billion jillion gazillion Queensland schoolkids. Several very cool writers including Carole Wilkinson, Yassmin Abdel-Magied, and the super-lovely Katherine Battersby, who I met when we checked into the Brisbane hotel at the same time and completely messed up the programming of the poor staff trying to check us in simultaneously.

Also, a whole bunch of very cool Lego people (IT’S A THING!), including the incomparable Shannon Sproule, Damien Saunders, and Paulius Stepanas, the last of whom helped me laugh my arse off through the most ridiculous game of Dirty Brickster I’ve ever witnessed

22. Did you fall in love in 2016?
Stayed in love. Guess with who. Go on. Guess.

Hint: she’s graceful, and dignified, and looks like this:

23. What was your favourite TV program?
Longmire was excellent, right up to the point where it wasn’t. That might say more about me than the show– I have a low tolerance for serial TV, and get bored once I perceive the characters turning into templates of themselves or the plots beginning to waver away from a strong central theme. The Flash had a great first season and a slightly-less great second season. True Detective Season 2 was an odd come-down from the brilliant first season: not bad per se, but just…. less good, relying on some fantastic performances to keep it going, instead of fantastic performances over a scintillating plot.

Stranger Things was delightfully wonderful, packed tight with fantastic performances from a collection of young actors who absolutely nailed every aspect of every moment they were given. The plot was pure fantasy brilliance: by turn delightful, creepy, outright terrifying and emotionally gripping. It was a tour-de-force on every level.

But just pipping it, for me, was Netflix’s let’s-fuck-up-the-superhero-template-and-see-how-they-like-it Jessica Jones. Incredibly bleak, powerful, fraught, and unmissable. I was hooked from the beginning and had to carefully ration it lest I run out of season before I ran out of messed-up feels.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
I have a deep and dark dislike and mistrust of a work colleague who proved herself untrustworthy, malicious, and altogether the kind of person I would happily emigrate to avoid. Not outright hatred, but I’ll be glad to tell her exactly what I think of her, in  minute detail, on the day I leave.

Outright hatred? Let’s mention my daughter Cassie’s former partner Ashley: an abusive coward who threatened the safety and welfare of her and their two children under the age of five. Room 101 is too good for him– he should be expunged.

25. What was the best book you read?
I gave 5-star ratings to a couple of old masters this year: I revisited Anthony Burgess’ A Clockwork Orange for the first time in 20 years, and was blown away by it all over again; and Elmore Leonard’s Fire in the Hole was more of his typical brutal brilliance.

I didn’t read anything that was truly atrocious this year, largely because I stuck mainly to graphic novels. But Brian Michael Bendis’ run on Guardians of the Galaxy was the last word in blandification, turning Dan Abnett’s wonderfully screwy and charming collection of lunatics into just another pale B-Grade Avengers clone. 

26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
It was a good year for music. A whole bunch of songs found their way down the tube to the iTunes account. Leonard Cohen’s You Want it Darker and Nevermind were stunning, as was Montaigne’s Clip My Wings. Bowie’s final album produced three songs I keep coming back to: Blackstar, Lazarus and ‘Tis Pity She’s a Whore. Say My Name by Peking Duk. Jen Cloher’s cover of The Slits’ Typical Girls. King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard’s wonderfully odd People Vultures.

But my number 1 pick, when Hottest 100 time comes around, is Illy’s joyful Catch 22. I’m not the hugest hip-hop fan, but this balances all the right components perfectly. It’s tuneful, catchy, with a great turn of phrase, and compulsively singable. It is, quite simply,  my favourite song of the year.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?
It was a wonderful year for movies, or maybe I just didn’t have the money to fling on too many outrageous dogs.

Honestly, three weeks ago, when I watched Doctor Strange twice within 24 hours, I’d have said it was the most enjoyable film of the year by the length of the straight, At the time of writing, having watched Arrival last night, for the second time in just over a week, I’d say toss a coin. Either or. Or, to quote Chris Hemsworth’s hilarious Kevin from first runner-up and Fuck-You-Whiny-Fanboy delight, Ghostbusters: Potato, tomato.

Doctor Strange. Arrival. Go watch Ghostbusters, too.  Whichever one, I don’t care. You’ll thank me.

And this year, I’m adding a new award to my filmic list. The Those Who Can Do-y Award, which I’m awarding to the much-maligned Suicide Squad. It might be because I’ve been a fan of the Squad since I was knee high to something that isn’t quite knee high, but damn it, I bloody well enjoyed this movie, despite every critic in Christendom parping on about what a despicable piece of shite it was. Well I enjoyed it, and I pre-ordered it on Blu-Ray, and I enjoyed the extended cut even more than the theatrical cut, and I’m giving it an award, so fuck you, headless ghost of Roger Ebert!

I may be working through a few issues at the moment.

The Shut Up And Die Already Will Ferrell Award for 2016? I can’t remember if I saw the terminally tedious and overblown snoozefest The Martian this year or last: either way, I’d rather get the 19 hours I spent watching the damned thing back than talk about it, so I’m giving a great big bear trap to the filmic gonads of Batman versus Superman: Dawn of Justice. Not even naming this film’s mother Martha would have made me like it. And if you get that gag, you know.

You. Just. Know.

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

46, and I worked. Yay. But Lyn did make me my favourite meal, and I was showered in money for a most unusual present– my very first tattoo, which I’ll be having inked next week– by friends and family, so it was pretty symptomatic of my year: not the way I expected it to go down, but pretty bloody good nonetheless.

29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Financial independence.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2016?
Indifferent.

31. What kept you sane?
Lyn. Always Lyn.

32. What political issue stirred you the most?
Heh. Heheheheheheheheheh……. Whadda ya got?

American elections. Australian elections. The rise of fascism (Fuck you with your ‘alt-right’. If it marches like a Nazi, and salutes like a Nazi…) in my own country and across the Western world. The Henna Nazi’s return to the Australian senate like some zombie boil that refuses to be lanced. The destruction of arts funding in Australia. The rise and rise of Donnie Drumpf. Having to listen to that freaky little piss-stain Malcolm Roberts talk. Ever. The climate of fear, bigotry and outright terror that friends, peers, and people I admire are living through simply because they do not conform to the outdated and ignorant world view of people who wear suits on Sunday or tie a flag around their shoulders like a cape when they get pissed on National Nationalism Day of Your Choice.

Take your goddamn pick.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2016.
Change is inevitable. The rate of change should be in my hands, and nobody else’s.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.

They’re lining up the prisoners
And the guards are taking aim
I struggled with some demons
They were middle class and tame
I didn’t know I had permission to murder and to maim.


      — You Want It Darker, Leonard Cohen.

2015: THE YEAR THAT WHATEVER WHATEVER WITH SOME GOOD BITS AND STEAMING GYPSIES THROWN IN FOR GOOD MEASURE.

What an odd year it’s been. 

2015 started out positively, with a major life change that boded well for our financial stability and lifestyle– a change that played out happily. But it’s also been a year of creative moribundity (Is that even a word? See what I mean? SEE?) and professional dissatisfaction that has soured my day job almost beyond salvation. 

As always, it seems that my life consists of my wife and family, creative career, professional career, health and well-being concerns, financial concerns, and the need to take time out to draw breath. And, as always, it seems I can’t get them all to balance. 

So, here goes. 2015 in review:


1. What did you do in 2015 that you’d never done before?
 Visited Bali. Made a concerted effort to lose weight. Threatened to sue a school. Exhibited at an art show– the fabulous Bricktober.

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Honestly, I didn’t really have any goals for 2015, and the year rather reflected that. I spent most of the year drifting, to the point where my writing career, in particular, has suffered greatly and has almost disappeared. 

In 2016 I want to achieve a couple of things, to whit:
  • Continue my weight loss. I peaked at 111 kilograms this year, which is rather a lot for a bloke who tickles 5 ft 10 in his stockinged booties. I’ve managed to get down to a smidgeteenth over 102, but I won’t be happy until I’m at 90, looking towards 80. I’m trying to develop some muscle mass as well, and enough flexibility and conditioning that I can do something I’ve never before attempted: step into a boxing ring and go a couple of round with someone. I’ve never been muscular, I’ve never been able to fight. There’s nothing about it that wouldn’t be a challenge. Which is why I want to have a go.
  • Rediscover my writing mojo. I dried up this year, almost completely. 2 short stories published, neither of them above 3000 words, 2 further short stories completed, neither above 2000. Father Muerte and the Divine is so bad nobody wants to touch it with a hazmat suit on. I’ve scrapped it, and next year, I’m starting my whole career again, getting out of Dodge and finding a new place to hang my shingle, metaphorically speaking. Don’t know if it’ll be crime fiction, kids fiction, realism, humour or whatever, and I don’t really care. I just know I don’t want to hang around here anymore.
  • Change my work situation. I’ve been at my current job for almost six years, and I’ve grown tired of devoting so many weekends and evenings to a job that returns only slights and complaints. Either my situation changes or my place of employment will. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?

No, I got a year off.
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Luscious’ cousin Andrew died of a DVT aged 51. Andrew was one of the good ones: always friendly, open to new experiences, a real teddy bear of a guy. He’d just come back from a trek to Nepal to explore a burgeoning Buddhist faith. It was a real loss. 
5. What countries did you visit?
After how many years I finally get to fill this one in! We spent five days in Indonesia, in the Seminyak region of Bali.
6. What would you like to have in 2016 that you lacked in 2015?
A sense of purpose.
7. What dates from 2015 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 

10 January, the day we moved out of our expensive, crumbling, dead weight white elephant of a house in Mandurah and moved into a smaller, far more affordable house closer to work.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I really don’t feel as if I achieved anything worth noting this year. I’ve lost some weight, which is good, but every kilogram I take off is burdened by the knowledge that I should never have put it on in the first place. Returning to a healthy normality shouldn’t be viewed as some sort of grand victory.
9. What was your biggest failure?
Slipping into despond over my writing and not being able to find a way out.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
I did all right, although Luscious managed to snap two ligaments in her ankle slipping off an aerobics step, and has been hobbled for the better part of three months. 
11. What was the best thing you bought?
Our new house. By moving into it we improved our financial situation, moved closer to a good school for our daughter, and streamlined our lifestyle. With the extra money we had from not servicing a crippling mortgage we were able to book two holidays, one overseas; fund Lyn’s Weight Watchers membership, which resulted in her getting a job with the organisation and me joining; join Master 11 up to Scouts; and generally just enjoy a standard of living we haven’t been able to give the family for over half a decade.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
My darling wife, who came to the cusp of graduating her degree, lost 15 kilograms or so in (as I recall) about three days, coped with an horrendous campaign of bullying at school that brought Master 11 back to home-schooling, started a new job, wrote, left her old faith behind and sought out a new spirituality, and still found time to discover a love of, of all things, American college football (Go Huskers!). She’s an absolute inspiration to me, and she does it all while still thinking of herself of somehow not worthy of celebrating, Go figure. 
Master 11, who set a goal of returning to the schooling system two years after illness forced him to leave, and who had the maturity to stand up to a concerted campaign of bullying and a weak and insipid school administration who refused to do anything to combat it, and make the decision that he was happier, more fulfilled, and better cared for by being home-schooled. And then knocked year five out of the fucking park.
And if 2014 was the year of Ms 13, what with the dux and the Head Girl and the Junior Council and the plaudits and the whatnot, then this year saw her adjust to a new school, and a new area, with quiet aplomb. So, you know, not bad all round, really. 
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
The disgust I feel at the behaviour of our ruling parties, and that cancerous boil Tony Abbott in particular, s barely expressable. People are dying because of their corrupt brutality. May they all die slowly, in pain.
The administration of Master 11’s school, who allowed bullies to run rampant and make his life a misery, and when victim-blaming didn’t work, proceeded to throw up their hands and claim it was all too hard, that the system didn’t allow them to make any real impact or changes, and couldn’t Master 11 just make an effort to stay out of the bullies’ way? A gutless, spineless, quivering jelly of a principal, weakening and deflating the entire school administration underneath him.

14. Where did most of your money go?
For a pleasant change, it went on advancing the lifestyle of my family, rather than servicing a crippling mortgage. A family holiday to Bali was taken, and Luscious and I are visiting Melbourne in early 2016. Master 11 joined Scouts. Luscious, and then I, joined Weight Watchers: a move that has brought us extra motivation, extra energy, and towards the end of the year, extra income as Lyn took on the role of coach.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?

Once I was there, the trip to Bali. I didn’t really want to go: everything I’d hard about the place indicated that it was a cargo-cult toilet of over-beered commercialisation, where cashed up topless bogans went to drink themselves stupid while wearing $2 beer advert singlets. And there’s no denying that that side of the island can be easily located. It’s Kuta. But we were fortunate to be domiciled away from it, in a beautiful semi-rural area, where we could take the time to absorb the underlying culture and expose ourselves to the history and people of the region. And the more we did so, the more excited I became. By the time I found myself at the base of a 40 foot waterfall in a deep gorge halfway up a mountain, watching my little boy stare around at the surrounding forest, with not an AFL banner or cheap DVD stall within two hours’ travelling time, I had found a side of Bali that was easy to love. I can’t wait to return.

And, in the same way, I’m excited about returning to Melbourne in January, after 14 years. This time I won’t be alone. Lyn will be with me, and we’re looking forward to wandering throughout the City wherever the will takes us.
16. What song will always remind you of 2015?

Delilah, by Florence and the Machine. Not for any real thematic reason, as much as it was the stand-out in a series of strong female voices that coloured my listening throughout the year.


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

I’ve struggled with depression this year, especially as my writing career pretty much withered and died due to my day job. I struggled under a demanding and unrealistic boss, and my weight and pain became an increasingly difficult burden. Surprisingly, the last 3 months of the year have seen a turnaround in everything but my writing, and so I find myself happier, thinner and richer than at the same time last year. 
18. What do you wish you’d done more of?

Writing. My career pretty much died from dehydration this year.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Torpidity. It’s been very hard to get going for much of the year. The passion for many of the things that have sustained me for the last 5 years– my day job and writing, in particular– dried up, and it was hard to motivate myself to correct it. I feel very much at a crossroads, and I’m not sure where things go from here. 
20. How did you spend Christmas?
Luscious really embraced Christmas for the first time since leaving her previous religion, so we had trees and home-made baubles and crackers and stocking stuffers and tinsel and the whole gaudy, fun, production. We laid out pillowcases for the kids filled with little bits and bobs, then had a big breakfast and shared our presents, before the kids went off to their grandparents’ for big-timey Christmas spoiling and Luscious and I settled back with a big-ass platter and I had my first beers for months, and we spent the rest of the day watching movies with the airconditioner on.

Perhaps my favourite part of Christmas this year were a pair of new traditions: firstly, this was the year when our adult children hosted the family get-together for the first time, meaning we took ourselves off to Aiden and Rachel’s place the weekend before the big day for a slap-up meal, present exchange, and general love. Which was just utterly lovely. And second, there was the Secret Santa book exchange:

Way back when I was a student and skint, my best friend Sean and I would buy each other a second hand book for Christmas. The rule was that the book had to be *perfect*– exactly the kind of book the other would have bought for themself, if only they’d seen it first. When Lyn and I started doing Christmas together, we took on the tradition, with a small addenda– the book had to be the kind of book the other wouldn’t have bought for themself at first sight, but having received it, it must elicit an “Of course!” response.
Then, earlier this year, that meme started floating around Facebook. You know, the one about Iceland, and Christmas Eve, with the books, and the hot chocolate, and the eighteen foot snowbanks outside the front door. And the kids discovered Secret Santa….

Upshot: we ended up Elizabeth’s Bookstore two days before Christmas, one by one, with a $20 limit and our Secret Santa victim written out on a gift tag. The result was us all unwrapping our mystery books together on Christmas Eve, and spending the morning reading with the cool drink, and the 40 degrees celsius outside the front door.


It was brill.


21. Who did you meet for the first time?

Nobody. It was an insular year. The Bogan Sloblord next door, who has since moved on to boganny pastures new, was a particular delight, and probably enough for one year. 
22. Did you fall in love in 2015?
Really, I should get rid of this question. 
23. What was your favourite TV program?

It was a good year for television. We don’t have terrestrial television, so apart from missing out on the dubious pleasures of the unending stream of reality TV humiliate-the-ordinary-folk shithouses of the Fattest Block Factor Kitchen variety, it means we have to source our viewing in other ways. A combination of Pay TV, DVDs, and downloads gave us a parade of exceptionally strong fiction, of which the first seasons of True Detective and The Blacklist knocked our socks off, and of the myriad of true crime shows we watched, Murder Book was the most compelling. A short, brutal and charismatic reality show called SAS: Who Dares Wins tied in with our fitness focus in an inspiring way.

But it was two family shows, in the end, that really capped our year. Firstly, the return to form of Doctor Who after years of frustrating mediocrity was an utter joy. Peter Capaldi gave us a mature Doctor in control of his environment that harked back to the very best of Troughton and McCoy, and the scripts and direction (usual pile of shite from Mark Gatiss not withstanding) made for the best single season since the heights of the Tom Baker era.

But it was The Flash that brought us together, as a family, in a frenzied need to know what next what next? week after week. Engaging characters, warm and personable performances, a real sense of danger, and just good family-oriented fun made this the standout show for me for 2015.

Special mention, of course, to the worst show of the year. The Memorial Steaming Pile of Gatiss this year goes to Season 2 of Broadchurch. Flaccid where the first season was taut, unlikeable where the first was damaged, and simply unpleasant where the first was flawed, season 2 took characters that struggled with demons and secrets in it first iteration and made them simply arseholes. I lasted two episodes before giving up and choosing life.

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?

No. I’ll try to do better next year. 
25. What was the best book you read?

How ironic that I spent so much money on books this year, and yet the best book I read was recovered from a ‘free to a good home’ box at a community Centre.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale is a true crime classic on par with my absolute favourite of the genre, The Maul and the Pear Tree by TA Critchley and PD James. Its examination of the murder at Road House, its dissection of the criminal justice and policing systems of the 19th century and the formation of Scotland Yard, and its exhumation of the life and character of its star turn, the feted detective John ‘Jack’ Whicher make it a gripping, un-put-downable classic. 

Two books made my DNF pile this year: A Perfect Spy by John Le Carre is a flatulant, self-indulgent pile of blancmange by a true master of the thriller genre, and all the worst for its author’s provenance. And The Bloody White Baron by James Palmer is an biography of an immensely compelling figure, delivered in such a gossippy and incoherent manner as to make it unreadable.
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
An awful lot of dance music came back into my life this year, in particular the fantastic banger Freaks, by Timmy Trumpet with Savage, that was never played at anything less that fuckmethat’sloud!

But even more prevalent than that was a trio of strong female voices that really shaped the musical soundscape of my year.

Adele first came to my attention with her theme for the generally awful movie Skyfall. Her theme is an anthemic classic that went on to high rotation, as did her widely-known single In Too Deep.

My fancrush on Courtney Barnett started last year, when I discovered Pickles In the Jar through the Hottest 100. I followed that up with the even better Elevator Operator, and haven’t been able to get it out of my head since.

But, like pretty much everyone else on the planet, Florence and the Machine was my big breakout this year. Starting with Ship to Wreck, then the utterly sublime Delilah, and ending with Queen of Peace, her incredible voice and theatrical arrangements really were the sound of my year. Wonderful, wonderful stuff.

27. What was your favourite film of this year?

2015 was a fantastic year for films. Right from Predestination in January to Suffragette last night, we saw a procession of stunning, wonderful, entertaining or just downright brill movies that makes for a list that’s just too damn long to provide a rundown for each. So, in no particular order (and keeping in mind that the year of production may not be 2015. This is just the year in which we first saw them), movie highlights for the year were:
  • Julius Caesar (1953)
  • Big Hero 6
  • Inside Out
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  • Predestination
  • Ant-Man
  • Stardust
  • Suffragette
  • Interstellar
  • Star Wars: The Force Awakens
But the absolute best, the most surprising an enjoyable, movie was, for me the low-budget New Zealand vampire comedy What We Do in the Dark. It was funny, touching, absolutely on point in every moment, and brought back nostalgic memories of the days when I took me to the sadly-defunct Lumiere cinema to see arthouse treasures like Man Bite Dog and Cube, movies that fit no particular template but barrelled along through sheer bravado and a damning of the torpedoes. All things considered, and particularly when placed alongside the bloated, epic clusterfucks I’m about to mention, it was the movie I most enjoyed this year, and gets my pick.

Of course, there’s also the requirement to honour the misbegotten, the damned, and the just no damned good. So, my list of contenders for the Adam Sandler Career Death Blow in the Shape of Kevin James Award, are:

  • Jurassic World: a 2 hour Chris Pratt audition tape for the role of Indiana Jones that hang together about as well as a marionette made by a chimp and is a giant-rampaging-CGI-dinosaur movie that managed to simultaneously bore and traumatise children, with added sexism and plot holes you could fit a T-Rex through. A massive snore.
  • Blitz: (1). A Jason Statham movie. (2). A Jason Statham movie that someone, somehow, persuaded Paddy Considine to be a part of. (3). A movie I forgot so hard I had to IMDB it to remind myself when I saw the title when I checked my movie list for the year. Yes, I keep a list. Shut up. 
  • The Hobbit- Battle of the Five Armies: Holy. Shit.
But even wore than those, even more pointless and bloated and whiny-fanboy-you-raped-my-childhood-whiny-fanboy-ranty, even more the death knell of a franchise that should have died with dignity thirty years ago, was Terminator: Genisys. If you ever wanted to watch a bunch of utter no-names pretending to be characters made famous by utter no-names you didn’t realise were actually as good as they were thirty years ago and now owe a silent apology to, watch that whatever her name is who isn’t Linda Hamilton, or that block of wood with neck muscles not being Michael Biehn, or Matt Smith just… actually, you know what? Don’t. You can buy the original Terminator for less than the ticket to see this giant monument of shit at the cinema cost. Do that instead. Do anything instead, 
28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?

45, and I spent the day at work. They can’t all be winners.
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Any feeling of success in any field of endeavour whatsoever.
30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2015?
Fat man hiding. With Lego motif.
31. What kept you sane?
Distraction. 
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The ongoing criminal behaviour of our finally-ex-PM. Tony Abbott is a human rights criminal, as are those members of his Cabinet who were complicit in the detention and torture of innocent refugees. I look forward to the day when they are made to account for their crimes. 
33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2015.
My work will not thank me for my victories, but it will remember to count my failures.
34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Ticking away the moments that make up a dull day
Fritter and waste the hours in an off-hand way
Kicking round on a piece of ground in your home town
Waiting for someone or something to show you the way.
Tired of lying in the sunshine, staying home to watch the rain.
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today.
And then, one day, you find, ten years have got behind you.
No-one told you when to run. You missed the starting gun.
                        — Time, Pink Floyd.

HERE’S LOOKING UP YA!

The drinks are cooling, dinner’s on the simmer, and I’m about to close down my innahnet for the duration.

I’ve decided against resolutions for the coming year: truth is, it’s been hard, at times, to keep my nose above water this year, and the idea of doing anything other than trying to get my personal and professional lives on track in 2015 does not appeal. So, rather than set up a wishlist I’ll spend a year feeling bad about not achieving, here’s a short list of things that’ll be nice to have happen, and a list of things I was glad to have happen in 2014.

  1. Lose some weight. No targets, no plans. I’ll be in a new town, with new opportunities to be active. If I lose some weight as a result, I’ll be happy.
  2. Give precedence to my writing. There have been too many distractions this year. My career has wallowed, and I’ve lost impetus. I’d like to recover that, and get back to the only thing I’m good at.
  3. Spend more time with my family. I’m moving 15 minutes closer to work. I want to make good use of that extra 30 minutes a day.
  4. Get out to some more Lego events.
  5. Be happy. I’ve spent too long this year under stress, and miserable because of it. I’d rather not do that again.
  6. Sell more work: whether it’s a new novel, more short stories, a film script, I’m not going to care. I’ve been happiest when I’ve been running my career for my own amusement. I’m going back to that.

As to the year just gone, here’s a few of the good things:

  1. I was invited to present a workshop at the Perth Writer’s Festival, a career highlight and proof that I could think about entering the wider literary world with a straight face.
  2. My family blossomed in ways that brought me to tears on occasion. 
  3. I sold a few short stories, and every one was to a new market.
  4. We sold our expensive, hard-to-maintain white elephant of a house and bought a new, smaller one nearer to my work, which should ease our financial pressure in 2015.
  5. I found a group of largely like-minded Lego fans and made it to a couple of group meetings, giving my hobby a social dimension it has previously lacked.
  6. I had a good year for passing on my experience, with a number of workshops and public appearances under my belt.
Happy new year, y’all. See you next year.

2014: THE YEAR I CAN’T EVEN THINK OF A MILDLY WITTY PUN FOR THE TITLE OF THE YEAR IN REVIEW POST REVIEW POST

Time to look back on 2014, and like SOCO in an abattoir, carefully pick through the mountains of shit in the hope of discovering something worthwhile.


1. What did you do in 2014 that you’d never done before?
Visited the Moondyne Joe Festival in Toodyay. And presented a workshop at the Perth Writer’s Festival. Which, basically, means that I peaked in February.

Apart from that, this was pretty much a rinse-and-repeat kind of year. 

2. Did you achieve your goals for the year, and will you make more for next year?
Let’s be honest, I don’t even remember what my goals were, but let’s be even more honest: no, I didn’t achieve them. It was that kind of year. I’d make some for 2015, but let’s be even super-honester, I doubt I’ll achieve them either. I can’t even tell you if I’ll still be writing at this time next year, and if we’re super-duper-holy-shit-we’re-being-honest-now-aren’t-we-honestest with each other, if I’m not writing it’s not like very many of you will be here this time next year to read whether or not I’ve reached them, is it?

I’m moving house in January. Let’s just see what a new neighbourhood and new financial situation bring before we make any rash promises. 

3. Did anyone close to you give birth?
My Bonus Daughter Cassie gave me tickly-sausage grandchild number 2, Anthony, in February. 
4. Did anyone close to you die?
Luscious’ Uncle Neville died in October. Not close to me, but it touched Luscious and that’s close enough for comfort.

5. What countries did you visit?
A country road took me home, to the place I adore. Somehow I ended up in West Virginia.

Or nowhere, take your pick.

6. What would you like to have in 2015 that you lacked in 2014?
Inspiration, independence, the means to be my own man instead of exhausting myself at the beck and call of whatever bureaucracy pulls my strings for once.

7. What dates from 2014 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? 
Because I am a time-traveller, the date from 2014 that will stick with me is 10 January 2015. That’s when we leave this white elephant of a home I have hated for over 4 years and re-establish a new, streamlined Batthaim in a house we can afford, with gardens I can maintain, in a town we want to get out and about in with facilities and social opportunities we want to pursue.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
I achieved goose eggs this year. My biggest achievement was in allowing Luscious and the kids space to achieve. And did they and how: I talk about that below. But some days, the best thing you can do is be support staff for others, and that pretty much sums up my domestic and professional lives.

9. What was your biggest failure?
Burning out. I shouldn’t have allowed myself to get to this place.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?
No, but Master 10 had enough for all of us.

11. What was the best thing you bought?
A smaller, more manageable house closer to work and the activities and facilities we use on a regular basis. We move in January.

12. Whose behaviour merited celebration?
Miss 13, who was made Head Girl of her primary school, became a Junior Councillor at the City, and topped a year of hard work and academic extension programs by being awarded dux at her graduation. As far as perfect children having perfect years go, she was, well, perfect.

And, as a pair, Luscious and Master 10. Apart from an abortive attempt to enter the school system, which lasted less than 4 weeks, Master 10 was all but housebound with Rumination Syndrome for the past 18 months. Together, he and his Mum tackled this enforced isolation with a combination of positivity, focus and determination to maintain a quality of life that left me stunned in their faith in each other and the size of the obstacles they conquered on a daily basis: so much so that Master 10 graduated year 4 in mid-November, a full month early. In between times, Luscious maintained a full external load of University study, never dropping below a Distinction in any assessment, maintained a functioning household, and still found time to fit writing in around the edges.

As I began to burn out under the strain of a stupidly high-pressure job and the need to shore up a stuttering writing career, I have watched in little short of awe as they continued to confound despair, illness and ongoing stress to have the kind of year that would make any husband and father weep with pride. They have been my inspiration, and more often then not, the only thing that dragged me out of my bedroom to work in the morning. Faced with their sheer brilliance at life, I have been shamed into attempting the minimum many times more than I wished to.

I have an incredible family, but even more so, they are superb people.

13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed?
Can we go past the vicious, incompetent, and downright criminal bunch of thugs, sociopaths, and bigoted zealots that the repressive, inbred right-wing of this country voted into power?

Nope. We can’t.

14. Where did most of your money go?
Keeping our heads above water, with the occasional foray into a quick weekend away with the kids.

15. What did you get really, really, really excited about?
The opportunity to start buying some of the classic space Lego sets I not only had as a kid, but also the ones I missed out on. What can I say? Escapism’s been pretty big for me this year.

Master 10 conquering his Rumination Syndrome and insisting he be enrolled in school for 2015 was the most brilliant thing in the world to witness. As of the time of writing, he’s 12 weeks recovered and counting.

16. What song will always remind you of 2014?
17. Compared to this time last year, are you: i. happier or sadder? ii. thinner or fatter? iii. richer or poorer?
More tired, fatter, and flatter.

18. What do you wish you’d done more of?
Getting out of the spiralling circles inside my own head and enjoying simple interactions with the real, outside world. I spent far too much of the year gnawing away at my own stresses, and far too little using the small oases of peace to find some joy.

19. What do you wish you’d done less of?
Hiding in social media. The fucking stuff is a virus, giving me far too many opportunities to spit out pronouncements instead of reflecting and taking positive action. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest… all we do is shout at each other in simple sentences (verbal or visual), all of us at the same time, until the signal to noise ratio is so overwhelming, so all-encompassing, that we wire ourselves up to it and stop believing in the real world. And maybe, if you have a great work-life balance and your keel is set to the optimum angle, that’s okay. But I’ve spent too long this year scurrying into it as if it was some kind of refuge from the process of dealing with my real world careers, interactions, and problems. And because I’ve viewed it as a refuge, I’ve used it to build up walls of unhealthy behaviour and statements I would never say in the real world, because this is my refuge, dammit, and here I can choose the manner of my interactions and structure the world to suit my own uneven psyche.

And here’s the thing: I don’t even like it. And somewhere, this year, I forgot that. Because, when it comes down to it, I’d rather kick a football than tweet. And I’d rather read a book than a status update. And while I recognise the irony of announcing all this via a blog post, the truth is, I don’t care: why am I happy to live in a house without terrestrial TV but can’t live without fucking Twitter, of all the useless wastes of my psyche? My balance is gone.

So I’ve canned my Twitter account. And I’ll be going through all my little social media accounts that I don’t use, don’t care about, and am better off without. And if I end up with only this blog– which I’ve been maintaining for over 13 years and is, more often than not, a conversation I have with myself than any brilliant, all-encompassing social connector– and my private Facebook page, wherein I keep in touch with those people I don’t get to see in person and those hobby groups that only exist on-line, well, I’ll probably be all the happier for it.

20. How did you spend Christmas?

We’ll be at Luscious’ brother’s house, with various members from her side of the family. The kids will be in the pool, Luscious will be in her cups, and I’ll be circling the table trying to see if there’s any left-over crackling I can gnaw upon.

21. Who did you meet for the first time?
Several members of the Perth Lego Users Group, who finally gave me an outlet to attend a build day and meet some fellow AFOLs. I’ll be looking to get out more often in 2015. 
22. Did you fall in love in 2014?
No, I have enough love already.

23. What was your favourite TV program?
It was the year of the crime show in the Batthaim. Apart from introducing Luscious to an old love in the always-excellent Dalziel and Pascoe, we also finished off Ripper Street and Whitechapel from 2013 and ploughed through Vera, The Inspector Lynley Mysteries and (my favourite) The Suspicions of Mr Whicher, all of which were uniformly excellent.

That said, the best thing we discovered this year was nothing of the sort. Last Week Tonight gave a forum to the brilliantly incisive John Oliver, this weekly HBO satirical show presenting him as the outsider who can say the things that established Americans like Stephen Colbert and John Stewart and their mainstream channels can only hint at. And oh, how did he say those things! From incredible skewerings of the Olympics, FIFA, US policing methods, and pharmaceutical lobbyists, to wonderfully absurd campaigns to rescue horny space lizards (and wouldn’t it be wonderful if I was making that up?), Oliver took a format on the verge of saturation, destroyed it, and built it in his own, flame-mouthed image. It was so clearly the best thing on TV it makes you wonder why we can’t all be like that.

If you’ve not experienced, here’s how he covered the subject of our own Unca Jugears, the dumbfuck we have to apologise for every time he opens his mouth:

24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year?
Not hate, but I have developed a fine contempt for several individuals that has affected the way I’ve interacted with them. Some I cannot avoid, as they revolve around the same professional circles, but I can certainly feel my career arc altering to exclude them.

25. What was the best book you read?
I handed out three 5-star reviews on Goodreads this year. I re-read The Lord of the Rings for the first time in years, and found it as utterly stunning as I always have. Not always a good book– time has enhanced its flaws as well as its moments of perfection– but it remains a truly great one. I also revisited a favourite writer in GK Chesterton. I read his masterpiece The Man Who Was Thursday for the first time, and found it an utterly delightful, comic crime caper with a philosophical bent that lends the spiralling absurdity a serious underpinning that lifts it above a merely humorous work. 

But, overall, I’m going to plump for Lucius’ Shephards’ The Dragon Griaule as my book of the year. I’d read two of the contained stories before, but nothing could prepare me for the sheer scope, ambition and shining brilliance of this collection. You can read my full Goodreads review here, but take it from me: this is one of the best and most important works of fantasy of the late 20th Century. 

Honourable mention goes to The English Monster by Lloyd Shepherd, a thoroughly wonderful novel that started out as a fictionalisation of the Ratcliffe Highway murders (a subject of great personal fascination) and then morphed into a fantasy crime procedural that had me alternately gripped and giggling with delight at the sheer narrative chutzpah. Put simply, it’s the kind of novel I want to write when I grow up. 
King of the Graphic Novels this year was Thor: God of Thunder #1 by Jason Aaron and Esad Ribic, which I called an absolutely stunning re-imagining of the Thor character, with an epic storyline befitting a major player in the Marvel Universe and a powerful God to boot. You can read my full Goodreads review here
The Will Self Memorial Just Shut the Fuck Up and Stop Award this year went to Michael Crichton’s stunningly awful Pirate Latitudes and Michael Hjorth’s deeply tedious crime novel The Disciple, both of which sit proudly atop a DNF pile of two. 
26. What was your greatest musical discovery?
A couple of years ago I gave up on JJJ, as it all it ever seemed to play was second rate American hip-hop, and I was mightily sick of the same whining, out of rhythm yelling, song after song. Halfway through the year, prompted by the death of my iPod, I returned to the station an was immeasurably pleased to find that they’d rediscovered such things as melody and singing. I’ve even gone so far as to vote in the Hottest 100 for the first time in years. So here’s what I voted for, including my favourite pick of the year, a new track by one of my old faves, The Hilltop Hoods:

4. Wrong Direction, British India.

Good old-fashioned tuneful pop music with fresh lyrics and a sense of sweaty urgency. It’s not breaking any new ground. It’s just good, clean fun.

3. Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars. What can I say? I love a big band sound, I love funk. And nobody does it better right now than Mark Ronson. All the sounds and rhythms he perfected behind the likes of Amy Winehouse are in full, ahem, swing here.

2. Maybe, Carmada. I’ve loved electronica since the days when Thomas Dolby and Howard Jones were wandering around sounding like nobody else around them. Not often, but every now and then, a track sticks, and sticks hard. I’m well into this one right now.

1. Cosby Sweater, Hilltop Hoods. Yeah, so I’m old enough to remember when hip-hop wasn’t about hitting women and being a scumbag. Rhythm, message and a sense of fun: there’s no school like the old school, and this is just one hell of a fun, shape-throwing old school hip-hop slice of goodness. It’s also my favourite song of the year.



27. What was your favourite film of this year?

Damn, but there were some good ones this year. First release cinema-wise, my most-anticipated movies were Guardians of the Galaxy and The Lego Movie, both of which I found to be fun, funny, and utterly delightful. Both movies were riven with self-awareness, calling out their audience on the geekiness that had brought them to the cinema while simultaneously reinforcing and validating the love of the material from which they were wrought. Cinema has the power to influence, inform, and change modes of thinking, and yet, these movies were built on central foundations of fun and inclusiveness, and I loved them. The other much-anticipated event, from my point of view anyway, was Godzilla, which, well, wasn’t. A few good scenes, interspersed with dull, uninvolving characters played by actors with no discernible personality, may not make you the worst movie of the year, but it will ensure that I shan’t be picking up the DVD later in the year.

The Battbox played host to a number of crackers, as well: Sex and Drugs and Rock and Roll, Andy Serkis’ love letter to Ian Dury, was memorable for a stunning central performance. Ditto Eric and Ernie, a BBC Made-for-TV effort that cast a sympathetic and nostalgic view back at the early days of the beloved Morecambe and Wise. Longford was emotionally exhausting, The Enemy a labyrinthine and twisted look at a broken psyche that was a most unexpected pleasure and the best thing the terminally inconsistent Jake Gyllenhaal has done in years. Europa Report was the best SF movie I saw this year, supplementing its low budget with a superbly tight script and flawless performances, and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was stunning in its brutality and visceral performances.

But for me, Ralph Fiennes scintillating adaption of Coriolanus, transporting the action of Shakespeare’s play to a modern, Balkan setting, was my film of the year. A superb cast at the top of their form– Fiennes and (particularly) Brian Cox have never been better– performing one of the most underrated of Shakespeare’s works, in an adaptation that enhances the scripts’ strength and pares away its weakness to leave a perfectly filmic treatment…. while the 1999 Titus remains, to my mind, the best filmic adaptation ever of a Shakespeare play, this is only slightly less worthy, and easily on a par with Ian McKellen’s brilliant Richard III. It’s a stunning achievement.

This year’s What Did You Expect, It’s an Adam Sandler Hate Crime Stinking Turd Sandwich Award goes to Blended, which is just the latest… well, the hint is in the title. 

28. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you?
44 this year, and I spent the day at work. Birthdays are nice and all, but when Luscious has a hospital visit you need time off for, you swap your RDOs around. 
29. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying?
Control.

30. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2014?
If the shit fits…

31. What kept you sane?
To be honest, I was so burned out by the time I reached my Christmas break I’m not sure I retained it. I find myself utterly repelled by the thought of returning to my day job, of taking up my keyboard, of doing anything beyond keeping my front door closed and the world on the other side of it, that I’m not sure sanity is necessarily the issue.
32. What political issue stirred you the most?
The continuing inhumanity and sociopathic hatred evinced by the current Liberal government. Let’s be clear: buffoons like Joe Hockey and Malcolm Turnbull may be simply incompetent and unfit for office, but Tony Abbott, Scott Morrison and Christopher Pyne are criminals, and it will be a happy day when they are dragged into court to answer charges. Long may the dwell in ignominy and disgrace.

33. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2014.
It’s time to concentrate on my own goals and peace of mind first. I’ll get to the rest of you in your turn.

34. Quote a song lyric that sums up your year.
Woman, I know you understand,
The little child inside the man.
Please remember, my life is in your hands,
And woman, hold me close to your heart.
            — Woman, John Lennon

EVERY YEAR IS GETTING SHORTER, NEVER SEEM TO FIND THE TIME

Well, this is the end of it, I suppose, 2013. Can’t say it’s been entirely vintage.

There’s been good: As announced the other day, I’ve sold a children’s book and opened up a potential new market for myself. I saw my children continue to blossom into stunning young people, and Aiden moved out of home to continue his personal growth out in the wider world. Luscious found new skills and new levels of personal growth. And yet….

Master 9’s illness is well documented, and I can’t overestimate the effect it has had on us as a family. It touches every decision we make, every plan we undertake. Luscious, in particular, sacrificed almost all of her personal aspirations in order to care for him: setting aside her University studies; ceasing her search for employment; putting down her writing career for the duration. It’s only now, almost 8 months later, that she is beginning to think about how to incorporate some small measure of ambition into her life, now that his illness is so completely part of our fabric that we can deal with it automatically.

My day job has become simultaneously more complicated and a greater part of my daily thinking: new laws and an increased management responsibility have combined to severely curtail my own writing time, and I find myself more and more decided that what little spare time I have, I want to spend focusing on Luscious and the children rather than my own selfish ambitions. Our house continues to be a tiresome burden– a large, ramshackle mistake we should never have made– but with no financially-viable options, I have little choice but to invest a severe portion of my minimal spare time and spare income into its upkeep over the next few years. Either we sell up and move, or we reconcile ourselves to staying until the children are grown. We can’t sell, so the decision is made.

My day job is my day job, and it’s a good one– after aaaaggggghhh years in the Tax Office I know a good wicket when I’m on it, and I’ve been on it for almost 4 years now– but I’ve reached a position of stasis: I do good work, but I have no ambition to move further up the corporate ladder, so I either accept any changes that are imposed upon me or seek new employment, and I’m nowhere near ready to do the latter. And while comfort may be a good thing, being paralysed is not. There may come a time, one day soon, when I have to decide which one applies.

Our financial situation is, well, private, but I’ll go so far as to say that Thoreau was right, and we need to simplify, simplify, simplify. We have some hard choices to make, and there are days when I feel exhausted before I face making them. Put simply: we can’t go on like this, but what we can go on like is, as yet, hidden.

And, of course, I’m still fat, I’m still in pain, and I’m still not the man I thought I was going to be when I wanted to be one.

So what comes next?

If the story of my year has been anything, it has been one of growing disillusionment. I’ve found myself drawing away from speculative fiction, particularly as a reader: a quick scan of my Goodreads list shows that our visit to CrimeScene WA in October preceded a massive change in reading habit, and I’ve been swallowing crime books wholesale over the last couple of months. It’s a habit I’ll be continuing for a while, too: there’s only so far I can take myself as an SF author, and I can’t help but wonder, as I continue to be enthralled by the works of Walter Moseley, Elmore Leonard, James Ellroy and the like, whether I might be in need of an infusion of new skills, and new horizons.

Naturally, what I have attempted, are a couple of picture books. Because reasons, that’s why!

As it has been for a dozen years, writing seems set to be my refuge. I’ve started two picture books, and I’ll be completing them over the Christmas break. It’s time to finish the edits of Father Muerte & the Divine and get them to Agent Rich. And I want to have at least one adult and one children’s book completed in the new year, and be started on at least one other: I’ve not yet cleared my desk of speculative work, and in truth I may never do so– it’s simply the desire to expand my literary ambitions that I acknowledge. The best I can do is write as quickly, and as widely, as I can, and aim to move farther from my beginnings with each work. I’m too old and too busy to attempt to find another marketable skill– if I want to escape the mundane world, I’m going to have to write my way out of it.

It’s summer, and I’ve started walking in an attempt not to lose weight, but to simply inject some movement into my day– a desk-bound day job and a desk-bound second career do not make for an active lifestyle, and I’ve fallen too readily into torpidity as a way of life. I’m also addressing my eating habits: Luscious is a brilliant cook, and although I love to cook I find it all to easy to let her take the load and not contribute anything myself, making her carry the full responsibility for determining what we eat, how often, and in what ways. I’ve resolved to take more responsibility, to stop being the one to say “take a night off, let’s go and have chips”, to stop being selfish and undermine her efforts to keep us healthy. In short, it’s time to shoulder some of the load. Lyn always chooses the healthy option, but it’s my responsibility to back her up and put in a shift.

We have bikes in the garage, parks within walking distance, beaches surrounding us… it’s time I put in a shift there, as well. I have no intention of losing weight: I’ve tried that every year for the past five years, and all that happens is the month count decreases while the weight target does not, and as it gets more stressful so I crumple and give in. I’m just going to eat less and move more, and if weight comes off, all the better.

Financially, well, it’s time to face those hard decisions and make them. I’m naturally indulgent of my family: Luscious and I both had difficult childhoods, Lyn especially, and I very often use the desire to live a better lifestyle than we experienced as an excuse to satisfy my indulgent nature. It is, I think, time to grow up and start looking at bigger pictures than I have done in the past.

2013 was supposed to be a year of breaking out, until that plan met the enemy and couldn’t survive. 2014 will be a year of consolidation, of small changes in moderation. Lyn has already started: she can’t go back to Uni, not yet– we’ll be homeschooling Master 9 for another year at least– but she can enrol in short courses, and home-based education, and has already done so. The best I can do is follow in her wake, and gently nudge all those aspects of my life that have become trapped in the mud out of their ruts and onto drier ground. If that means I take steps towards a new horizon in 2015, then so be it.

As a final gift for the year, play clicky the linky to view a mix-tape of the 60 songs I highlighted throughout 2013 via This Is My Jam.

Here’s to 2014, y’all.

A TIME FOR THANKS

My year is almost done. Apart from some sporadic popping up and commenting, I’ll be closing the doors on the world next week for a ten day break alone with my family, to recharge the batteries that fall so desperately low by this time of the year.

So before I go, my thanks to everyone who helped make our journey through a difficult year that little bit more possible, and especially to everyone who took notice of our son’s health struggles and were there to jolly him up with Facebook comments, good wishes and offers of friendship that were invaluable to him and so uplifting to us.

And my most especial mention to our friends Lilysea Oceanesque, Grant Watson and Sonia Marcon, and Kim & Kris McMinn, who went above and beyond the call of duty by treating him as not just the son of people they knew but as a friend in his own right, and whose gifts and words of encouragement kept him from the brink of some very dark times. Your kindnesses will not be forgotten.

To everyone, a glass raised for 2014.

2013: THE YEAR THAT SPOKE TOO SOON

Less than a week ago I claim I haven’t seen a movie worth calling the worst movie of the year, not a single movie that rivaled 2012’s Dark Shadows as a bottomless pit of craptitude.

Then we spent Sunday afternoon avoiding the heat by watching After Earth and Pacific Rim on DVD.
If I’d waited one week more….