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2022

Time to look back over the year, mainly so I can realise that was a whole year that just went past, and remind myself that some things did actually happen.


§ Home

Last year I wrote:

At some point in the middle of the year I realised that I no longer missed London at least once every day.

But for some reason this year, that came back and several times a day I’d miss the Barbican, and coffee shops, and walking around city streets, and a wide mix of different kinds of people, and events to go to, and friends, and laughs, and all of that. I think I’ve been back to, or at least passed through, London more often than in 2021 which was always both great and frustrating – good to be back, but I still haven’t felt comfortable doing a lot of the things I miss most, because of covid-cautiousness.

Of course, rural Herefordshire has many good points for us. A bigger home, a large garden, beautiful views, friendly neighbours, silence, fresh air. I couldn’t live somewhere like this on my own – a few weeks while Mary’s away trekking is only do-able knowing that it won’t last – but being here together it certainly has its upsides.

I know that even after five or six years away from Bristol I was actively thinking about how and when to move back there from London. But that faded and I assume I’ll eventually feel more settled here, with less yearning, even though I don’t want to lose what I see as the big-city parts of me: enjoying newness, diversity, change, weirdness, all things that are in short supply here.


§ A photo of a large, bare oak tree on a frosty hill, with a clear sky behind it that fades from a gentle blue-purple at the top down a a light pink
An oak tree in January

§ Work, non-work and retirement

I did more paid work this year than last year but still a small amount: 59 days compared to only 33 last year (a full-time job with five weeks of holiday would be about 227). I still consider myself to be moving through semi-retirement on to full retirement but who knows when that will be.

Psychologically I feel mostly retired, in that this year I haven’t stressed at all when I have even a month or two of no work. I’m very fortunate that my response to that can be, “I’ll be fine.”

But it’s just as well that I did have some work this year, given the state of the markets in 2022, with my ISAs and pensions losing everything they gained over the previous crazy couple of years. I’m glad, and lucky, that I didn’t have to start drawing on them just yet.

When I’m not doing work I still spend a lot of time at the computer making websites, for myself. I’ve always thought that when I no longer have to work I’d carry on doing this, except the past few years I was starting to question that. I felt… not burnt-out, just that I’d had enough of it all.

A year ago I said:

There are a couple of web projects I’d quite like to make but I’m wary of what a time sink they can be.

I found some more enthusiasm towards the middle of the year – I don’t know why – and 2022 was the first year in a long time in which I created a new sizeable project, ooh.directory.

Also I felt an urge to retreat a bit from the physical world to the internet. A conscious decision to spend more time on the computer and online, which is not the kind of thing Medium-writers, or opinion columnists, or New Year resolution writers encourage, but still. I think it’s part of not being 100% happy here, and wanting to be where my people are. If I can’t hang around friends and other interesting people in nearby streets and coffee shops, then I’ll spend more time hanging around them online. That encouraged me to try making something new.

There’s always a kick from launching a new site, whether it’s only a few friends saying “that’s nice” or a wider reception, like ooh.directory got. All good for feeding the needy ego.

Now, of course, I have the improvement and maintenance to do. The upkeep of websites is one of the things that put me off starting anything new for so long, and I had at least chosen a project that didn’t require user accounts, which makes life simpler.

I didn’t expect to have to trawl through and approve hundreds and thousands of blogs submitted to the site – I imagined spending my time ambling round the web looking for interesting ones – and that’s sometimes a chore. But I’m looking forward to adding new features. So it’s felt like a move forward, in some way, which I haven’t felt for a while, professionally.

I’m reminded of something I blogged in September, a friend describing having experienced “growth” as opposed to “change”. I’ve often thought of that since, and my own distinction of “growth” being more expansive than the usual “improvement” or “moving forward”. Being more productive online feels a bit like growth but, because it’s accompanied by a conscious retreat from the outside world, like shrinkage. I’m not sure on which side the balance lies.

In the past week, as previously wondered about here, I did set up a Ko-fi funding page for Pepys’ Diary which has been an interesting first for me. Just the thought of being able to pay all hosting-related expenses from contributions, never mind having a bit extra, is quite a change after years of making stuff online.


§ A photo looking across a valley where a thin layer of mist has settled over the trees. A low sun casts shadows across the green fields closer to us.
Grey Valley, looking towards Orcop, in January

§ Acting

Last year:

I’ve no idea if acting will go anywhere now.

Yeah, nowhere. I did go to a couple of day-long classes in London towards the end of the year. And, although it was lovely to see some familiar faces, and to stretch those acting muscles, it isn’t leading anywhere. It’s not worth the long journey to London even for day-long classes and I can’t see myself doing much else acting-wise. Even trying to get an agent and auditions seems ridiculous from out here. Like, I’m going to travel for hours just for a brief, probably unsuccessful, audition for something, when I could just stay home?

I know that next time I’m in a conversation with someone, describing what I like about acting, and the struggle to get better at it, that I’ll really miss it all over again. But until then, I guess it’s just computers.


§ A photo looking across a field of tall green crops to some trees. The tracks of a vehicle lead away from us in a pair of wobbly lines, through the crops, towards the trees.
A field near us in May

§ Health

I still haven’t had Covid! Amazing. I haven’t even had a cold for three years, a benefit of hardly going anywhere and being cautious.

I’ve continued to rely on Apple Fitness+ for workouts and for recent months have settled into a weekday routine of one 30-minute Strength workout, and one 30-minute Yoga workout. Weekend days are either a 45-minute Yoga workout or a 60+ minute walk. There are plenty of days when I have other things to do, or I’m not feeling up to it, but those are the aims.

I don’t enjoy it but I do enjoy feeling better the rest of the time. This is the first time in my life – other than one or two of Adriene’s 30-day Januarys – when I’ve done yoga nearly every day and it feels good. I’m not bendy but I can just about touch my toes and I’m definitely improving.

My knees, which were painful in odd ways since late 2020 are mostly better. I’m not sure if that’s due to a couple of months of the physiotherapist’s exercises, the strength workouts, the yoga workouts, stopping going walking every day, or only the passage of time. They’re not 100% yet, and I wouldn’t start running again, but they’re much, much better. Not running and, the latter half of this year, not going out walking much, have probably contributed to my feeling of staying inside, away from the place we are.

61 migraines in 2022, beating last year’s record amount by one on the final day of the year! Well done migraines! First prize!


§ Looking over a hedge and into a wide, shallow valley of fields and trees. The sky is blue turning pink in the distance.
Grey valley not being very grey, in July

§ Media

Movies

I went to the cinema once, for the first time since 2019, and saw Everything Everywhere All At Once which was fine I guess.

But I did watch more films on TV this year than I have for a long, long time, which was good. Looking back through the summaries of my weeknotes, the highlights were:

I also watched a lot of Éric Rohmer films. I don’t think any make my “best of the year” list but there were many good parts and collectively they were a good part of my year’s movie watching.

TV

Also after looking back over the year, these were my TV watching highlights:

A photo looking across a ploughed field, the furrows leading away to a vanishing point straight ahead. At the far end of the field a tree-covered hill disappears up into a misty sky.
A misty morning in September

Music

The two albums from this year that I enjoyed the most were definitely Anna B. Savage’s A Common Turn:

and The Beths’ Expert in a Dying Field:

There weren’t many albums I loved this year, but others I liked were:


§ A photo looking across a valley where the trees and fields are dusted with a very light shimmer of snow. The sky is blue and everything is sharp. In the field down the hill a horse grazes under a large tree.
A horse in December

§ Learning

After years of practicing German with Duolingo, Memrise, Busuu and Lingvist I stopped entirely at the start of 2022. After so much daily practice I still couldn’t really string a sentence together and remembering to do it every day seemed like a pointless burden. I’d love to be able to speak, write and think in another language but without living in another country or, at least, having a better reason than mild curiosity to devote more intensive effort to it, it’s a waste of my time.

I also stopped practicing jazz piano at the start of the year, not touching it again until September when I began again, most days. I finally got back to about where I had been – in terms of the the few pieces I’d learned to play from memory – before I stopped again this month, feeling too busy. I aim to pick it up again because it was good to be making some progress in the final week or two, even managing a little improvisation around the basics that I’d learned.

I learned to scythe! And only went slightly mad in the process. I maintain that in the right hands it’s a reasonable way to cut a load of long grass. Unfortunately I think those hands require a lot more experience than I am likely to acquire any time soon.


§ This summary feels both too in-depth in terms of my ickle feelings, and too cursory, in that I’ve missed out a bunch of things. Such as a nice trip to Edinburgh, and some good times in London, including seeing so many lovely people for the first time in years at Interesting.

But there’s only so much time I should spend on the computer so that’ll have to do. Have a good 2023 you lot.


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