Well, 2010 sure was an eventful year. Against the backdrop of a global financial meltdown, I have had my fair share of ups and downs. So here comes my best and worst bits in nice, easy bitesize chunks (for your convenience, of course...):
1. New House!
We finally moved to Roath after nearly two years waiting. It has been a big risk for us - particularly given my self-employed status - but it was worth the wait, and even though we still have tons to do we love the place. The only sad part is that the purchase was only possible because of Wifey's inheritance from her mum :-(
2. JKY in his new skool
The little boy is growing up fast and loving going to school (albeit nursery at the moment). He'll be off to Uni before I know it...
3. Matt Smith
I have a strange relationship with Doctor Who - sometimes I love it, and sometimes I think it's absurd. Matt Smith took a bit of getting used to but I really like what he's doing with the character and look forward to the next series.
We did a cheap as chips seaside holiday in July and thoroughly enjoyed it - sometimes you just need to get away and do something simple together as a family. I'd happily do it again in '11 if necessary...
5. Healing On The Streets (HOTS)
I signed up to a Healing On The Streets initiative at church and although it's been a slow start I'm getting more and more comfortable with the idea that God can and does heal on a regular basis. I expect to see the miraculous someday soon.
6. The West Wing
Bartlett for president! Wifey and I have rediscovered this TV classic after buying the box set (all SEVEN series!). Truly masterful writing with witty dialogue and thought provoking subjects, we easily get through four episodes in a weekend - it's 'Friends' for grown ups (as my father-in-law put it).
7. Succumbing to the Jesus Phone
Yes, I bought an iPhone 4 and it has transformed my life (including how I spend time on the loo). No longer am I embarrassed to write a text message in public due to my crusty old mobile or am I stumped on that elusive bit of trivia while out in the park. I can, however, confidently predict that in six months my gadget/baby/saviour lump of plastic and metal will be superseded by a newer, sexier and faster version.
1. Screwing up big time
I did this thing at work. I can't really talk about it. It wasn't exactly my fault ... but could have been the end of my career. I thank the Lord we managed to fix it, but at one point I was a complete mess and didn't know what to do.
Thank you global banking system. Thank you greedy capitalists. Thank you impotent financial regulators. You have messed up the world economy good and proper. It will take ten years to put things right, by which time everyone will have forgotten and make the same mistakes again.
3. Stagnant Faith / Dissatisfaction With Church
I've been meaning to blog this, but haven't had the time to do it justice. Basically, I don't feel like I'm particularly moving forward in my faith, and I'm getting tired of church (not that I've got a problem with the people - they're all great). My hope is that doing something practical and real (ie HOTS) will jump start my faith again...
4. Noisy neighbours
We moved into our lovely new house and a few weeks later some lovely neighbours moved in next door. Unfortunately, they work unsociable hours and keep me awake at night. They aren't rowdy or anything, it's just the walls are too thin. Trouble is, I like my sleep.
5. Not having another baby
We've been trying to conceive for a couple of years now. With time against us, it's becoming more and more frustrating. Even fertility treatment has failed us this time round. I know we should be eternally grateful for what we've got in JKY, but that doesn't take away from our longing for another child.
6. Moving house
We moved house this year. Twice. Once into our rental in Roath and then again into our purchased house. I don't want to do that again for a long time.
7. Living from month to month
I have said umpteen times on this blog that running a business is hard work. It is also stressful and unpredictable. We are just about surviving from month to month, but that's not good enough. A breakthrough is needed in '11.
Er - that's it. I actually had to scrape the barrel a bit there for the worst bits - I wanted seven points just so it was even (my latent OCD just kicked in), so actually 2010 wasn't too bad a year.
I'm quietly confident and optimistic about 2011. At least we don't have to move - stability is a good thing.
A few weeks ago we decided to have a housewarming for our new home. The plan was to have an open house over the weekend in the hope that this would maximise the number of people who could attend.
Rather than just invite friends and relatives, we wanted to use it as a way of also meeting the neighbours, so a fortnight in advance of the weekend we posted invites to the houses on our 'block'. The invite was thrown together pretty quick, rushed through on our printer, and just said that we were new to the area and wanted to say hello.
We had a really nice time, although at one point it was crazily manic as a load of people descended on us all at the same time on Saturday afternoon. Most of these, however, were not strangers from the block.
Of the 45 invites dropped through letterboxes, a total of 8 people came over (representing 6 households). That's a response rate of 18%, I think (I never was very good with percentages so correct me if I got that wrong). Not bad, I suppose, although I was hoping it would be more.
In fact, I did worry that the entire street would pop in all at the same time, but obviously that would never happen. Also, if you take into account the fact that a lot of houses in our area are student-let (therefore not necessarily being rented out yet), and people only had two weeks notice then the turnout rate seems even better.
Wifey and I are really passionate about community because we believe it's a force for good that ultimately keeps us safe, sane and happy (and is a reflection of what God wants for humankind). People have hundreds of friends on Facebook across the globe but hardly know their next door neighbours. This 'experi-party' was our little attempt at trying to kickstart a bit of community lovin'. Whether it worked or not remains to be seen.
Obviously, you can't expect to see relationships blossom and communities form all because of a one-off event. The hard bit is taking the time to develop those encounters into something more meaningful and long-term.
Maybe we need to have another party ... mince pie, anyone?
We have sweated blood, cried sweat and bled tears to get it out there. Many men and women have fallen by the wayside to make it a reality.
Let's just hope their sacrifice wasn't in vain and that people actually buy it! (hint hint)
It is the sci-fi phenomenon (try saying that after a few pints) known as Kangazang. Read by former Doctor Who Colin Baker, it comes in a 3-Disc boxed set with bonus DVD all for less than the price of a round of drinks. Bargain? I'll say!
It's been sixty-five million light-years in the making ... take it away Mr Cooper:
The beach was deserted. Nothing but the rolling surf to keep me company as I ambled across the shingle. I was having a bit of downtime on holiday. JKY was asleep, Wifey was doing her crossword, so I went for a stroll to enjoy just chilling out by the sea.
Looking for something interesting washed ashore, I never expected this:
Sometimes you just can't avoid being reminded of work ... wherever you go.
Seems Karl Uban is keen to play Dredd in the new movie. Great - I think he'll do a good job going on his performance in the recent Trek reboot, although topping Stallone from the '95 movie shouldn't be too difficult.
Why they are bothering to do it in 3D is beyond me - seems daft to waste all that money on a gimmick when they could use it for sets or SFX.
All this made me come up with this strange Trek / Dredd mashup:
Ripping up the carpets in our new house was a truly liberating experience.
It also helped me to feel a bit more settled about having a new house. Strangely, I think the reason for feeling so odd about it was that it felt like we were intruding on someone else's property. Technically it is ours - every brick, floorboard and lightswitch - but I guess it takes time for the reality to sink in.
As we set about making our mark on our home, we noticed a droning, buzzing sound coming from under the ground floor.
Wifey waited for the pest control guy to come round and, sure enough, there was a colony of potentially angry bumble bees right underneath our feet.
If we'd pulled up a floorboard they probably would have swarmed to protect the queen and done some serious stinging. It doesn't bear thinking about.
Sadly, the bees just had to go. Apparently, pest control prefer to leave bees - they're an important insect to the ecosystem and don't cause any bother unless aggravated. Unfortunately, having them living right beneath was dangerous. It was either us or them.
The bees had several hundred stingers, an acute sense of direction and dynamic flying capabilities at their disposal. Us humans, on the other hand, had two smoke bombs.
The battle was swift and bloody. In a matter of minutes, the colony had fallen and the bees were no more. Wifey found the bee's reaction to the attack quite upsetting - she said she could hear their screams of pain as they died. Sob.
I do feel bad about what we did, but then I'm glad we've been spared the fate of Macaulay Culkin from 1991's My Girl (oops - spolier! sorry!).
Rest assured, to atone for our sins we'll probably make a donation to some bee charity.
I know I am incredibly fortunate (not that I believe in luck per se, but to save lengthy theological debates etc let's just go with it, shall we?), but I am feeling slightly unsettled about the fact that we have finally bought our house.
After over a year of house views, endless frustrated phone calls and many hours spent imagining our dream home we finally have the keys and have stepped over the threshold into our new possession.
The problem is, I don't feel ecstatically happy. I feel guilty. I feel anxious.
Maybe it's because I don't feel I deserve it. Maybe I feel bad that other, more worthy people are not in the position to buy a house like ours. Maybe I feel sorrow about a sorely missed Mum and Granny whose death made it possible for us to afford our new home.
We've still got one month left on our rental before we have to move out. So, while this transition period is extremely useful in terms of doing up the house and moving in gradually it's probably contributing to the unsettled-ness. We are, after all, occupying two houses for the moment.
Hopefully once we've made the final push I should feel more at peace about things.
Moving house has prompted us to have a good de-clutter/sort out, which has involved various trips to cash generator, charity shops and the tip. We've also managed to burn about three trees-worth of paper (I think it's OK to do this - I'm pretty sure burning paper is carbon neutral).
I've kept several shoe boxes of correspondence and random bits of paper over the years and when going through this found my obituary.
Yeah, that's right. My obituary.
Unfortunately, this isn't one of those time-travel Doctor Who-esque stories with a shocking twist at the end. Back in the late 90s I'd decided to write a slightly tongue-in-cheek obituary for myself - probably because I was bored.
Here's how it goes:
"Obituary, The Times. 20th April 2075.
Sir Justin Chaloner MBE, OBE
Just a couple of months after his 100th birthday, Sir Justin Chaloner surprised many by dying at such an early age. Not only was he physically fit for a centenarian, but possessed all of his faculties right until the moment of his death. Indeed, his last words summed up many things about his life: 'I hope I did my best...I'll try harder in heaven!'
Film Director, Artist, Actor, Poet, Diplomat and an inspiration for a whole generation, Sir Chaloner was living proof that determination and a strong spirit can get us all through the hardest of times.
Born in Wales in February 1975, Sir Chaloner had a relatively normal up bringing. He never talked much about his childhood and some say this was because of dark secrets he wished to conceal. His wife once said, however, 'It was a part of him he wished to remain private.'
His first glimpse of fame arrived when he was 29, after his first major film for Miramax broke all box office records for a British production. Entitled, Razor Edge, it was a witty action thriller to rival Tarantino and Rodriguez. He later went on to make only a handful of films, as he divided his time between more diverse pursuits.
His success as a poet began after publishing a collection of his works in 2003, which attracted critical acclaim and demand for more. In line with his style, however, Sir Chaloner opted to try something else, and no further poetry was ever published.
A keen supporter of human rights and equality, Sir Chaloner was always willing to lend a hand to protests against individuals or organisations which failed to treat people fairly. He even risked arrest when Cardiff Council threatened to cut spending on homeless support.
By his mid 40s, Sir Chaloner had earned a reputation for being an effective diplomat and was employed by the UN to negotiate several international disputes - including the famous Argentina Crisis of 2023. Some say had it not been for Sir Chaloner, we would have been plunged into World Was Three.
By the time of his death, Sir Chaloner had appeared in three films, has his artwork displayed in the Tate and has helped to end worldwide poverty. He leaves behind his wife, three children, Samson the labrador and Fuzz the cat."
Hmmm - no pressure then. I'm only slightly behind on a few things.
If you don't hear much from me over the next few weeks it's because I'll be busy figuring out how to end worldwide poverty while coming up with a hit movie script. Oh yeah - and brushing up on my Spanish....
I consider myself privileged to have been alive when the Michael J Fox Sci Fi Romantic Comedy Back to the Future appeared in cinemas. I was about ten years old when I went to see it with my cousin while visiting him in London during the holiday, and I vividly remember the excitement and awe of watching that film.
I also remember the video* for 'Cloudbusting' by Kate Bush which was shown at the beginning:
At the time, I couldn't quite understand why they showed the whole thing - this was a cinema showing films, not Top of the Pops! I just wanted to get on with watching the movie.
Having said that, I did have some appreciation for the steampunk cloudbusting contraption (not that I had any idea what steampunk was back then), as well as the story involving mysterious men in black coming to kidnap the mad professor-type dad (kinda fitting for the film that followed, I guess).
All this was, however, wasted on my impatient youth. It wasn't until I'd grown up that I came to appreciate the song for what it was. It's one of my favourite Kate Bush songs - Bush's haunting voice and the rousing orchestration make it one of those anthemic, epic songs that is timeless.
So even though, at the time, I was frustrated by having to sit through seven minutes of warbling, the marketing pulled off. The seed had been sown, and over time I grew to love a song that once I had resented.
Who would ever employ a marketing strategy like that these days? No-one, because nobody is prepared to wait that long anymore.
*points of interest: the father was played by Donald Sutherland and the song is based on the true of story of some fruitcake psychoanalyst who believed in a cosmic energy called Orgone
A few years back I shaved my head to raise money for Soul in the City, and while Wifey was less than keen she let me it do it because it was, you know, for 'charity'. I soon let my keratin-based growth return to normal but must confess I missed the freedom of a dome-shaped bonce. Not having the wind transform my hair into some form of ungainly shrubbery or spending ten minutes each morning glooping sticky gel or wax into my mane was great - it let me focus on more important things in my life like curing cancer, negotiating peace talks with Iran or coming up with alternative new words for 'fickle'.
Unlike most normal people, my hair grows like it's on steroids so ideally I need a cut every fortnight, but as a compromise I aim for once a month. Trouble is, my hairdresser has been off work for a few weeks after breaking a bone in her foot, and I've been really busy so my hair has just been getting longer and longer having not had a cut for at least two months.
So tonight I decided to take the plunge and shave it all off again. Not for charity this time, but just for the hell of it (I know, I really live life on the EDGE don't I?).
Less insulation on top makes the summer just that bit bearable, but no doubt I'll be back to see my hairdresser soon. After all, I'll have a full head of hair in no time and it'll need chopping again.
I don't use Gumtree much, but have just advertised some old magazines I'm giving away. Go here and here to get your hands on vintage Empire and MacUser literature - no seriously! I'm NOT KIDDING!!!
Anyway, while browsing, I came across this ad in the Freebies section:
pain in the butt girlfriend she is lazy, unwilling to work, no fun in bedroom, answers back, moans all the time. answers to the name of LOUISE please try and keep the same name as shes a very dim 29 year old. thanks for reading
Oh dear - someone needs a bit of relationship counselling...
Back in the olden days, there was no YouTube. Cyberspace was a pretty dull place.
Then, in 2005 a couple of guys came up with the idea of a video social networking site. The rest, as they say, is internet history. Or something.
Anyway, I was amazed to see the first ever upload from one of YT's founders. It's pretty bland and yet typical of the kind of content YT is riddled with. If only they'd thought about filming the elephants taking a dump, or someone getting attacked by a monkey.
No doubt cyber-archaeologists will be searching for this historic gem in centuries to come.
Over Easter we went to the National Railway Museum in York. It's a very impressive place to visit, and I don't think you have to be a trainspotter to appreciate it. I particularly enjoyed sitting in the cabin of the famous Mallard (the fastest steam locomotive in history).
Unfortunately, JKY had a complete meltdown in the middle of the museum because he wasn't getting his own way. This was a Force 12 tantrum with foaming mouth, drooling snot and serious lashings out of extremities.
It lasted for 15 minutes.
As we tried to to calm him as patiently as we could, many many members of the public walked past (mostly families and older people). Although I tried to ignore them, I couldn't help thinking that as they walked past staring at us they were quietly judging our parenting skills and thinking things like: 'Just give him a big slap.', 'Don't pander to him', 'You're not doing it right', 'This is really spoiling it for the rest of us', 'Give him some chocolate or something'.
I'm sure in actuality, most of them knew exactly what we were going through and were just glad it wasn't them. However, it didn't feel like it at the time.
So, the next time you see one or two parents trying to calm down a screaming toddler, please don't judge them and bear in mind the following:
- Every child is different. What works for one child in terms of discipline probably won't work for another. God in His infinite wisdom made us unique - right from the moment we pop out of our mummy's womb. That's what makes parenting challenging sometimes - ultimately, it is up to the parent to try and figure out the best tactic for their little one.
- Toddlers are incredibly immature emotionally. They see things very black and white - plus, in their mind the entire universe orbits around them 24/7. You cannot reason with them in the way you can with a seven-year old, hence the stormy tantrums.
- Smacking or hitting a child is not necessarily the best option. I have become increasingly anti-smacking the more I have learnt about what is teaches to young minds. By hitting a child, you're basically saying it's OK to use violence to resolve an issue. For example, if a child hits you and you hit them back as a punishment, surely you're giving a confusingly mixed message and presenting yourself as a hypocrite).
- Youngsters over the age of two are constantly testing boundaries. It is their way of figuring out their place in the world around them. If boundaries exist in a family set-up they feel secure and protected (testing these boundaries are a way of checking they are still in force and that the security continues to exist).
- Bribing children with chocolate etc in order to behave sets a problematic pattern of behaviour for the future. It may make things easier in the short term, but will make life a lot harder later on. Children should simply do as their parents say with no answering back and no bribes. This is admittedly a high standard to expect but is at least something to aim for. (by the way, I'm not saying we've never resorted to a wee bit of bribery in the past but we at least try and keep it to a minimum!).
- Sometimes, the best-intentioned and most loving parent in the world will either get it wrong, forget to do the right thing or just be at the end of their tether. It happens to us all.
(By the way, I am not in any way writing this as if I'm some kind of authority on parenting - believe me, I'm not. I'm just making some observations based on my own experience, that's all.)
When a family is struggling in public with a tazmanian devil of a child, on the whole they are usually loving parents who are trying the very best to bring up their child in the right way. Only the very tiny minority of parents are neglectful or cruel to their offspring.
I think we handled JKY's behaviour as best we could. I can't think of how we could have done it any different without compromising our principles or losing it completely. So what if our son was screaming for 15 minutes? Eventually he calmed down and we were able to carry on.
No doubt there will be many more meltdowns of this scale to come (especially if we are blessed with another wee little one). I guess it's just part of earning one's Parenting Battle Scars.
Parenting Battle Scars - yeah! That makes the whole experience seem almost worth it!
Why oh why has Thorpe Park launched new rides based on the Saw movies??
It beggars belief, it really does. As far as I understand, the Saw movies centre around the exploits of a serial killer who enjoys putting people in traps where they have to cut off various appendages in order to stay alive. Er - great fun...
I think the whole Saw phenomenon is indicative of a sad society which revels in gore, violence, pain and death. I can just about bring myself to appreciate some horror films as well-made pieces of artistic filmmaking - Jaws or The Shining spring to mind. Most, however, are exploitative and tap into the dark side of humanity too easily (they also tend to consist of bad acting, a poor script and a total lack of imagination).
Theme Parks are meant to be fun and family-oriented. These new rides that glorify horror are contrary to this notion.
I got Star Trek (the 2009 JJ Abrams version) on DVD for my birthday and even though I missed it at the cinema, I knew it would be good. Abrams really nailed the sci-fi re-boot which was a fun, action-packed, old fashioned adventure that managed to respect the source material while still setting itself apart as something new and fresh.
It was one of those films that I wanted to see again straight away, and couldn't wait to get into the DVD extras. For me, that's a rare thing indeed.
One thing Abrams said was that the challenge was to re-invigorate the franchise and in so doing make it possible for anyone (from the hard-core Trekker right through to the completely uninitiated) to enjoy the film. That's a tall order, but in my opinion Abrams and crew managed to pull it off. Let's hope the sequel does away with the so-called 'odd-number Trek curse':
So now I'm all excited about things of a Trek nature, I think I should point out that I'm not a Trekker. I've always had a bit of a love hate relationship with the Trek. I'd always considered myself more of a Star Wars kind of guy, but thanks to the betrayal/fiasco/letdown/pig's ear of the Phantom Menace and Abrams' directing efforts on the new film my loyalties aren't quite as clear as they were.
This is difficult for me as my gripes with Trek are many and varied: - Why have the bridge on top of the ship's saucer where it's easy shooting for would-be baddies. Surely, the bridge on a starship should be right at the core of the craft? They have video cameras in the future as well, you know. - The Next Generation was all a bit dull and relied too much on characters employing convenient science mumbo jumbo plot devices in order to resolve any problems. - Trek technology is never quite convincing enough. We have phones that can communicate across the planet and it's only 2010. It will be another 200 years before Kirk and crew get to lark about in space. Surely the Federation will have come up with something infinitely more advanced than our humble iPhones.
- The writers too often use time travel in the story while having little concern for the repercussions. One example of this blatant disregard for all things chronological is in the new Trek film which (here be spoilers!) completely obliterates an entire timeline (and therefore perhaps negating every Trek series or film that was ever made previously).
Having said all this, I do have a small amount of affection for things Trek-related. There is something endearing about the comradeship that exists among the crew of the various vessels, plus if you take away the sci-fi nonsense, Trek is essentially a human story where men and women overcome great obstacles all for the greater good of humanity (or something like that anyway). The notion of what Starfleet represents (i.e. an intergalactic humanitarian peace-keeping force) is also quite laudable.
One can't deny the cultural impact Star Trek has made over the last few decades. Most people, I think, are familiar with aspects of the Trek universe - and I'm sure the sci-fi show has inspired countless inventors and scientists to go on and do what they do.
So am I about to commit my life to the ways of the Trekker? Actually, no. In my opinion, the hard-core Trekkers who are out there have a quai-religious attachment to Trek - meaning their loyalty to the franchise is unflinching and non-critical.
They also prance around in Trek uniforms which is just silly*.
So that kind of devotion is totally out for me. All I can say, however, is that I have a new-found healthy respect for Trek and recognise its worthy contributions to all things sci-fi.
Well done, Gene Roddenberry!
*however, if anyone bought me a miniature Enterprise for my birthday I would be inwardly very excited...!!
My childhood back in the 80s was peppered with long-forgotten foodstuffs such as Pacers, Top Deck and Smith's Salt n Shake.
Today I had a random flashback about Ice Magic. This amazing chocolate sauce turned hard when poured over ice cream (hence the 'magical' properties - although surely that's just boring old physics at work).
It was a veritable treat back in the day, but can be easily achieved in modern 21st century life by simply melting chocolate in the microwave and pouring over your favourite frozen dessert (we did this today, in fact!). Of course, that's not as 'magical', is it?
I wonder about how many thousands of those curious plastic Ice Magic bottles are hidden deep under a quarter century's worth of landfill?
We finally got the keys to our new rental yesterday which was a big relief as it was touch and go at one point.
All we have to do now is empty the contents of our current house into this new one which, as those of you who have moved home will know, is quite a stressful endeavour. Wifey has been an absolute star doing most of the planning and organising of the operation. She has been in her element drawing up lists, notifying people of our change of address and getting hold of a billion boxes to store our junk.
Frankly, if it was me organising it all we'd probably end up moving to Krakow by mistake, so I'm happy to be just told where to lug stuff.
I'm so grateful to God for such an amazing wife and the fact that, while we are complete opposites most of the time, we tend to work pretty well as a team.
I'm also grateful for our new home (obviously) - but one thing tickled me when we popped round to introduce ourselves to the neighbours. The guy mentioned that everyone on the street pretty much knows each other (it's a cul-de-sac) and that he tries to send out a newsletter every once in a while.
I don't think many street communities have their own newsletter - but our new one does! How brilliant is that?
My parents finally did it, and moved out of the family Homestead two weeks ago (I've finally managed to find some time to write about it, such is the level of hectic-ness at the moment).
It was weird to think that after that day, I'll probably never set foot in that house ever again. A new family (a couple of medical professionals with loads of animals but no children) have taken up residency and they will probably spend the next thirty or so years there. They will create a new family home with new memories and my family's influence on the building will slowly but surely fade away as they redecorate and move things around.
These things happen all the time, of course, but it's still strange, especially given the length of time that the 'stead was home to my family. When I think about these things, I wonder about all the other families and individuals that lived there since it was built over a hundred years ago. The structure of the house must be saturated with human presence - all emotions have probably been experienced there at one time or another: love, hate, greed, anger, sorrow, suffering, elation, pity... the list is endless. Not that I believe in such things per se - but you have to wonder what several generations of life do to a building or place.
So now my parents have moved into a swanky new build near Monmouth. The house is lovely, and most importantly doesn't require any work to be done on it. It's actually warm - which couldn't be said for the old house - and as yet it's still new to having anyone living in it. Over time, I guess, the new occupiers will make their mark.
As for me and my family, we are on the move too. We're moving into rental for six months while we try and find a home to buy. This is good because we get to move to the area we want to live in - but it does mean throwing money away to the landlords. This is the first time I've rented for over ten years, and I've been made acutely aware of the challenge to young people trying to find somewhere to live. I'd forgotten about bonds, agency fees, references and all that.
Frankly, I think the amount people have to pay is ridiculous. Inflated house prices and rental fees make me angry - although I really don't know what the solution is, and we're probably perpetuating the problem ourselves by selling and moving on. A tricky one.
Hopefully, by this time next month, we'll be in our new home. All I've got to do now is sort through all my crap and try and box it up. Wish me luck!
Last week I finally got to see Avatar in 3D (just 'regular' 3D, you understand, not this new-fangled 'Imax' 3D everyone's talking about).
First off, I have a few of gripes I'd like to get off my chest: - The 3D didn't seem to work for me. It wasn't as impressive as I'd hoped because at times it was blurry and nothing really 'jumped out' at me throughout the film. Was it the fact I was wearing my own specs (filthy ones, at that) under the 3D glasses? Am I one of those in the minority who have eyes that simply can't process a 3D image (now that is daft - I see in 3D most of the time)? Or was Cineworld Newport just a bit rubbish at configuring the latest in visual technology? It's hard to say. My non-speccy-wearing mate Jon who was with me didn't seem to have any problems. - I found it a bit racist in a weird sort of way. The Na'vi appeared to be a bit too similar to other cinematic portrayals of African tribespeople. Maybe my own ingrained prejudices were being provoked ... dunno. - The new New Age references were a bit daft, but I don't feel as strongly about it as some right-wing fundies have in the States. Geez, guys, it's just a story. Stop being so threatened by anything that doesn't fit with your worldview - you should be more confident in the Truth. - The story is hardly original. But, then, most epics follow a relatively predictable narrative.
Right - that's the negative out of the way.
Aside from all the niggles mentioned above, I was deeply moved by Avatar. Not because of the borderline-soppy conclusion where the protagonist 'gets his girl' after enduring great danger (staple ingredient of any epic movie), but simply because of what was on screen. It was a showcase of remarkable creative talent - talent that has created an entire world from scratch (admittedly taking elements of our own planet and tinkering with them) and made it hyper-realistic.
For me, that creative talent points to an even greater creative talent. God is the creator of all things - us, our world, our solar system, our universe. He made man in His own image. And so, we are creative because He is creative. Avatar helped me to glimpse God at work in a new way, but I don't have to travel several light years to appreciate His handiwork.
The wonders of God's creation are all around us, and so too are the fruits of our own creative efforts - which would not be possible without Him.
Last year, I started work on a little short video I made which was inspired by two random things: A Manic Street Preachers song and a website called onesentence.org.
It took me ages to finish purely because it was a little pet project that got sidelined by more important stuff. However, caught up in my own little whirlwind of New Year motivational energy I managed to get on and put it up on the 'Tube.
I have been meaning to mention this for ages, but never got round to it. So here goes.
If you are fed up with paying too much for motor repairs, never quite trust the garage you normally part money with and just want to go somewhere trustworthy, I would highly recommend Lewis Motors on City Road in Cardiff.
They do MOTs, repairs, servicing and diagnostics.
They also sell - get this - TAMIYA remote control cars. How cool is that? A garage that sells RC cars!
Check 'em out.
Lewis Motors 1 City Road, Cardiff, CF24 3BJ 029 2048 0829
Communion is the one Christian ceremony I struggle with - not because I don't agree with it, more that I find the ritual a bit distracting from the actual meaning. It can be a bit of a palava organising a whole load of people to get their bread and wine. A throng of churchgoers en masse can be a strange and unpredictable animal indeed.
Last night, we had a prayer meeting at church where there was a time of communion. It was all very informal, so instead of wafers we had a crusty baguette broken into pieces and rather than the special little insy individual cups we normally use for the wine (or grape juice, in our case) it was just a couple of tumblers for us to share.
We each went up of our own accord to share in the bread. So far, so good.
The tumblers were then passed around the circle and each person took their turn to take a sip of the 'wine' (grape juice).
***Remember, this is supposed to be a 'holy' and 'spiritual' moment, where we reflect on Jesus' sacrifice - dying at the hands of His enemies in order to save mankind from eternal destruction.***
Being last in line to receive the 'blood of Christ', I wait patiently for my turn to partake in this final act of communion.
When the tumbler arrives, I look down and what do I see? Several bread crumb 'floaters' sitting on the surface of the grape juice kindly passed onto me from my fellow believers.
Driving past the Millennium Centre this morning, me and my colleague did a double take when we saw a certain blue police box-shaped time travel device plonked down in the snow.
Ditching the car, we scurried over to see Matt Smith and Co filming the current series of Dr Who in the freezing temperatures.
I don't know what script re-write they had to implement in order to take into account the sudden arrival of snow*, but I'm sure they thought of something. One thing's for sure - I bet the crew were swearing extensively when they got up this morning.
Please accept my apologies for the poor quality of these images. They were taken with my little camera phone which is a bit ancient...
* OK OK, I know there was snow forecast, but Cardiff very rarely gets decent snow for more than a few minutes!
Having followed very little of what was going on in Copenhagen last month I'm not in much of a position to judge the proceedings. From what I've seen and read, however, I get the impression that China and a few other states did their very best to scupper the hoped-for outcome - a binding agreement between all signatories to reduce carbon emissions.
In the end, it was a watered-down statement of intent with no balls to speak of.
The leaders of the world had the historic opportunity to work together for the eternal good of humanity ... and blew it.
This is surely why we are a doomed species. When we work well, together, we work really really well. When we can't agree on anything, the sh*t hits the fan big time.
I can see why, at some point in the near future, someone will come along and try to unite humankind under a single world government in order to tackle the politio-social challenges of an overpopulated planet.
I am quite pleased with myself that I've managed to keep this blogging malarky going for 12 months.
A small part of me didn't think I'd make it this far, so I'm glad it was proved wrong.
I don't know how many people have read my posts, or how many tune in regularly but if you are part of that infinitesimal group - I thank you. If you haven't read it, maybe you should give it a try ;-) .
This blog is still what I thought it might be: part diary, part random musings, part links of stuff I've found on the web. It may change at some point, but probably not for a while yet. I also know I need to give it a new title, so if you have any suggestions, drop me a line.
2010 (or "twenty-ten" as I've heard it's supposed to be pronounced, so better do that properly) is upon us and I have high hopes for the next 12 months. Not least because the last year was so awful....
Okay, that's not quite true. 2009 was OK, I guess. It was mainly overshadowed by Wifey's mum's death, but also unsettled by constant worry about the business and whether we could afford to get through each month.
Thankfully, I have managed to survive being self-employed for over a year now and as we seem to be slowly climbing out of the recession (the emphasis being on 'slowly') the next twelve months should be a bit less fraught.
New Year is something of an arbitrary way of marking a specific point in time, but it serves as a useful opportunity to look forward and offer that little ray of hope that maybe - just maybe - things will improve.
So what am I hoping for and looking forward to in 2010? Without wanting to prophesy or make any grand predictions, I have a few thoughts about what I expect to see happen in the coming year:
- Firstly, I'm hoping that the business will pick up. December was a quiet month, but we have lots of potential stuff happening in January. We also have a couple of exciting products due for release that, if successful, could help keep things on an even keel. 2010 should be the year that sees us getting one step closer to producing TV programmes. It will also be the year of solidifying exactly what we do and who's on board with it.
- My parents will be moving home at the beginning of the year. This will be a major upheaval for them (as well as me and my brothers) seeing as 'The Homestead' has been home for over two decades. Despite the transition pains, it should, however, be an exciting new chapter for the family. It will pose some challenges in terms of JKY's babysitting, but I'm looking forward to visiting the folks in a new place.
- We will - hopefully - be moving home this year as well. Having sold our house and had an offer accepted already, we're just waiting on the sellers to find their next home. I think January usually sees a load of new homes come on the market, so things should get moving again after the December slump. Our prayer is that we don't have to wait much longer. Whatever happens, we aim to move to Roath in 2010 and that fills me with great excitement.
- I need to get fit. I really do. My waistline is slowly expanding and my flexibility is almost zero. My diet could be better too. How I fit in regular exercise into my already hectic and exhausting life is anyone's guess but I know I need to do it.
- JKY was our little miracle back in '07, but we are ready for another one, God willing. Our struggles with fertility are well known to friends and family and we've now been trying to conceive for almost a year now without success. Having just the one child is incredibly tiring and life-sapping so I'm dreading the thought of having another for those reasons ... BUT I really do want a bigger family and give a brother or sister to JKY. Wifey getting pregnant again would make 2010 a year to remember.
- My relationship with God has been the usual one of highs and lows this year. I feel like I've learnt a few nuggets along the way, but it's still work in progress. I hope to get closer still this year and in particular make more of an effort to memorise scripture.
- Lastly, I intend to keep blogging! Yes, after my initial enthusiasm, I have settled down to writing a blog post roughly evey week. That's about all I can manage at the moment. If life slows down at all (hah!), I might be able to manage a bit more but we'll see...
So that's my 2010 preview.
As Benjamin Franklin once said: "Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man."