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My 2020. As ever there are a load of graphs in Stats for some graphical summaries of things over time, many of which are up-to-date. Let’s gloss over the broader state of things for now because, you know.

§ The move

Photo of a view over a valley of fields lit by sunrise with a snowy ridge forming the horizon and a red brick house to one side looking over it all
This morning, looking towards Abbey Dore (n.b. that is not our house)

It’s a couple of days short of a year since we moved from central London to Herefordshire. Moving at the start of 2020 will be very handy for working out how long we’ve been here in future, making it easy to provide a zero-based count of years. Well done to anyone moving in the next few days, and congratulations on choosing a one-based count instead.

It’s hard to separate how I feel about being here in general from how I feel about the past ten months specifically. What with settling in during January, then being a little hampered by flooding in the area in February, we only felt like we were starting to explore and get to know people when everything began to shut down. So I’m not sure exactly what it will be like to live here in more normal years.

We were, of course, extremely fortunate with our timing and, aside from being more constrained than expected in our movements and socialising, we’ve been much less affected by the virus and the lockdowns than most people. I miss London most days but, at the moment, the things I miss most about London – cinemas, gigs, coffee shops, bustle, and chatting with friends – wouldn’t be happening much, or at all, anyway.

It is lovely here. When the weather’s not bad, anyway. When it’s bad it feels like that’s all there is. It doesn’t feel like “home” yet but I’m not really sure what that means. It’s only having left London that I recognise which aspects of being there, which bits of the city, were familiar enough to feel like home.

§ Work, etc.

This year I did 116 days of work, or just over 23 weeks, which is the second highest in my relatively slack life over the past five years. (I have a graph of that I’ll add to the stats soon.) In that time I’ve worked for five clients on seven web projects, including continued improvements to Job Garden. There was no acting this year, unsurprisingly.

I haven’t started any new online personal projects this year. I feel like all my available non-work computer time is spent maintaining existing things or just adding little tweaks. Which is sometimes fine. I think I’d need to stop work, or at least know I have hardly anything on for a while, before I was ready to start making something new.

GitHub counts 2,403 “contributions” by me in the past year, which includes both work and “play”. That’s more than any previous year; in fact the figure’s been increasing every year since 2011.

§ Health

I haven’t yet caught COVID-19. The big win of the year.

Last year I was swimming a couple of times a week and going to the gym to do weights 2-3 times a week. This year we’d just started going to a nice little gym in the next-but-one village when it closed and we haven’t felt safe going back yet. So since March an average week for me, exercise-wise is roughly:

I’ve lost track which of Adrienne’s free 30-day courses from previous Januarys I’ve worked through. She’s a bit too chatty and slightly too woo-woo for my brutal taste but she’s very nice and sometimes that’s also what’s needed. I might try doing her forthcoming Breath series once a day this January, as much as that page makes me cringe.

I don’t enjoy the workouts but they’re good for me. And I only enjoy the first 30 seconds of running, but ditto. And, on average, I’ve got faster at running, which isn’t an aim but isn’t bad.

The Apple Health app tells me that my “Cardio Fitness” has steadily declined from 53 to 42 VO2 max over the course of the year. Which is still above “average average” and about what it was in the middle of last year. I’m not convinced Apple Health knows what it’s doing.

46 47 prescription-medication-requiring headaches/migraines this year, which is about average for the past three years. They’ve been a little more erratic – nothing for a couple of weeks and then two within days – but there are worse problems.

§ Media

I only saw seven films at the cinema this year, half the previous lowest number per year since my records began in 1990. Six of those were at the local Borderlines Film Festival which got in just under the wire before lockdown, and appears to be optimistic about holding 2021’s festival from late March… From those I loved The Lighthouse, Bait and Portrait of a Lady on Fire.

No gigs, theatre or visits to museums and galleries this year.

I didn’t make the most of lockdown-downtime by doing more reading than usual. I read 18 books, the lowest since 2013, and 32 periodicals (mostly the LRB and I still have a backlog), the lowest since I started recording them in 2005.

Of the fiction I read, Berlin Alexanderplatz by Alfred Döblin was probably my favourite; not a lot grabbed me from my choices this year. Of the non-fiction Agnès Poirier’s Left Bank was definitely top of the list; I loved it.

We watched a lot of TV this year, up to a couple of hours a night and more regularly than usual, what with not going out. I enjoyed lots of shows, with the standouts for me being both seasons of Succession, the wonderful Normal People, most of Westworld season one (it was nonsense after that), Chernobyl, and O.J.: Made in America. All very recommended.

Music… In accordance with tradition I put my charts on Flickr:

Chart of 20 artists with the top ten being: Bad Moves, Sylvan Esso, mxmtoon, ME REX, Randolph's Leap, Fiona Apple, Kelly Lee Owens, Martha, and The School
My Artists chart for 2020 on Flickr (also see Albums and Tracks)

This year I’ve listened to 9,380 different tracks by 3,796 different artists. The total number of track listens (scrobbles) for the year is 13,993, the most since 2005.

My most favourite new, and new-to-me, albums this year were, in no particular order:

§ Online

I’ve stayed off Facebook even more than in 2019, when my only real use for it was to keep up with the place where I was doing acting classes. This year I’ve only used it for giving away various bits of furniture in local groups which worked well (although Freegle was about as useful in the end). On those occasions I’ve glanced in and seen updates from people I often don’t have any online awareness of otherwise but I still can’t bring myself to use the awful thing.

Similarly with Instagram, which I’ve only used when following a link from elsewhere to something specific. Even if I didn’t feel awful about the Facebookness of it, when I last used it regularly I got very tired of seeing an ad every fourth photo. Someone (I forget who, sorry) did point out that you can use Instagram on the web and (sssh!) there are no adverts. So maybe using that would mean I’m effectively costing Facebook money and so it’s morally acceptable?

I’ve tweeted more than I have since 2017, with 749 tweets from my public account. Sometimes this feels like a big mistake. Other times it’s fun. I don’t know. I’ve liked 544 tweets, more than any other year. I’ve no idea why, but that’s good. 99% of the time I like tweets because they’re interesting or very funny, rather than as a general acknowledgement of a reply to me, which seems a common usage. Viewing friends’ liked tweets on FaveJet remains a joy.

I almost forgot to even mention Mastodon because I rarely even open whatever the app is called that I used to access it. I tried.

I’ve written 64 blog posts, including this one, which is slightly less than the previous two years but still alright. I could often have split my weeknotes into several posts each but I also know that without the weekly self-imposed deadline I wouldn’t have written most of them.

I posted 140 links, about the same as the previous four years.

I’ve posted 94 photos on Flickr which is less than last year but not very unusual.

I first used Amazon in 1999. This is the first year since then I’ve spent no money there. That feels good. Although, of course, like so many people running websites I’m currently a bit stuck with using AWS, both directly and indirectly via hosting on Heroku. I’d like to change that (I hate using S3, for one thing) but it feels like a lot of un-fun work.

§ Goodbye 2020

Let’s not be too hard on the year 2020 itself. It’s simply an arbitrary division of time given a number based on some mythical/historical event and, while these annual markers have a large psychological impact on how we think about our lives and the world, they’re not responsible for the good or bad events that happen during their time. Years don’t kill people, chance and people kill people. And fuck them.

So I feel some sympathy for this once-futuristic year, 2020, the distant target date of so many futures forecasts back in 1999/2000 when I was training to be a futurist. While it would be just as wrong to assign feelings to a year as to blame it for events, I’d imagine it would have had high hopes for its shiny new self, only to become forever tarred with what we despairingly refer to as “all of this”.

It’s been a bad year
Tomorrow we’ll wake up
And keep on going

May you have better luck in the next arbitrary division of time.

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  1. I wanted to thank you for recording your thoughts about moving over the last year. Last fall, I moved from a city I loved to a small town I think I can make a home in, driven mostly by the devastating cost of housing. It’s nice to see some of my own hopes and fears reflected here, and your experience makes me lean towards hopeful.

  2. Thanks Sus. It's definitely difficult to move somewhere completely new but I hope you can make it a lovely home and you feel increasingly happy there.