Monday, December 28, 2015


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?


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.