I had a look for any of those short questionnaires or memes, as some people call them now – does everything need to have a new name just because it’s on the Internet? – but I couldn’t find anything to suit my needs. So during the evening of Hogmanay as my girlfriend struggled with illness and I struggled with red wine, champagne and whiskey, I thought of what 2005 really meant to me…and I’m amazed at what little has come out.
There’s the obvious ones straight away, and these are in no order of importance, but the whole blogging thing. Oh, and since I hate the term blogging I mean writing. Not for my own site, but for The Movie Blog. I’ve written more this year than ever, and I like to think I’ve engaged more people and written stories that have prompted more discussion. I’ve certainly spent more of my time on the Movie Blog and I often think that the people who read the stories don’t really appreciate how much of my own time I spend researching and writing.
Writing and posting to an audience who actually engage with you directly through email or the comments on the site is amazing. I’ve always loved writing so much, but never thought that I could really enjoy it and find something other people would find worthwhile come out of it too. So far with my writing on the Movie Blog it has given me that very feeling, and it’s a feeling that’s grown this year.
Also on the Movie side, I’ve been graced with the great gift of attending movies for free, being delivered Screeners for movies, and the biggest thing movie wise this year, attending the Edinburgh Film Festival as a member of the Press. This just blew me away, and for two to three weeks I felt like someone else entirely.
There’s a site I read from a photo journalist who dropped his previous life of a Broker, and he calls his site Someone Else’s Life. This title, and the way he describes his new life, makes me think of those few weeks. I felt like I was living someone else’s life, almost that that time was over there, and my normal life was over here. It was amazing. I was a proper journalist, and not only did I write for The Movie Blog but I also had a second commission and I wrote for Twitch too. Have a look at my article list for just what I have written. Of course I say commission in the production of work sense of the word, not in the “I’m getting paid for this” sense! Still, those were two amazing weeks of my life, and I treasure them.
This is also the year that another of my hobbies broke out into the area of work. My enjoyment of photography expanded from slide film SLR Landscape to the purchasing of a Digital SLR. Now a lot of people will be saying that there’s not a lot of difference, but there is, and not only in quality in high quality pictures. It changed the way I took photos, I was still very careful and considered about taking them, but I found the development process on digital far more convenient and I started using it more. Then the BMW-Williams Formula 1 car arrived with Mark Webber driving for the big office opening and I was all over it. That marked a point of recognition from work colleagues that I didn’t realise at the time.
Certain parties saw the photos and thought that I might have some talent (fools), and much later in the year I was asked to take the photos for our work night out. Now, works night out may not sound that big to you, but this was the whole of the Edinburgh HR department, and in one of the top financial institutions of the world, that’s a big department.
So I did, and I experienced something else that was quite scary. I became a paid photographer for an evening. Now that meant that despite the free food and drink I was offered, I didn’t really have time to sit around and eat, nor the ability to drink. I scoffed my meal, made polite chit-chat and raced around the room, and I hardly drank a thing. What was amazing though were the thanks and gratitude afterwards, and the praise of the photos themselves. I took over two hundred photos and although I am very critical of them, those who organised are very positive, it was something I had not expected.
The year cannot go without mention of the move at work. An amazing new building was created for the staff, and it is amazing, it’s a Microsoft style campus. I do love working there, once I am there that is, the travelling isn’t the best part. We have a street down the middle of the building where you can visit shops, a hairdressers, coffee shops, a dry cleaners, you get the picture. It’s superb. Not to mention the external buildings which comprise of a huge gym and social club – that means a pub and a games room with pool tables, an Xbox and PS2’s!.
As I said the downside to this is the travelling. Despite me being on the west side of the city, as is the new building, I have to travel all the way into the centre of town by bus to catch another bus out to work. That’s about ninety minutes all round. Sure, there’s a closer and more direct bus, but that means a twenty minute walk and a forty minute bus trip to a transfer to another bus for ten minutes…more hassle. So this marked the year I returned to cycling to work.
However, that didn’t turn out so well. Despite being a confident, careful and extremely law abiding cyclist, I was subjected to the dangerous task of commuting on a bike. This results in approximately two near misses a day (cars near missing me, not the other way around) and usually one more serious incident per week. It’s now making me believe that I’m going to be knocked off the bike within the year. See Top most dangerous vehicles to cyclists and Cycling accident with a truck for some such stories.
It’s that last story that really describes the lengths drivers will go to in order to try and kill the cyclists on the road, and it’s that incident that prompted me to go to the Police and report someone for Dangerous Driving for only the second time in my life. The first was in a car, this time I had no idea it would be truck vs bicycle in what can only be described as attempted manslaughter. Now despite having cycled on off-road races that were much more worrying than commuting to work, I am on edge during every cycle and find I’m now very nervous when I hear a larger vehicle approaching. Surprisingly, I still haven’t received any Police visit to investigate the reported crime.
During this year I also realised I was old. Getting nervous of traffic while cycling was a small sign, but then I also hit thirty-five and discovered that most of my current and old friends now had babies, and if not one, then two. This was fabulous news for them but indirect pressure for me. Now, couple that with the age…and you get the idea. I’m older.
Something else happened that pushed that age boundary for me, I suddenly realised that I wasn’t appreciating new music. My Father would call the music I listened to “doof-doof music” and I would laugh thinking that he just couldn’t understand dance music, and that I would never become like that. Now I find myself listening to the radio in the morning and wondering why that droning, monotone screaming is even vaguely passing as a song. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like Rap and Hip-Hop, but some of these new Rock\Pop\Indie bands…Another sign of the age setting in.
The final thing that this year has marked is a huge reinforcement of the realisation that I am with the woman I intend to be with for the rest of my life. Now if any of my old friends, or even ex-girlfriends are reading this, you’ll be amazed to know that I am totally in love and that selfishness has disappeared from my life. It’s something that I’m amazed and warmed by.
Everything is now “us” rather than “me”, and happiness has more and more been found just with being with my partner rather than doing something specific. Take this very evening for instance, she’s been ill and we stayed in to play very old Trivial Pursuit and drink wine while watching the AFI top 100 movie quotes on telly…Another sign of old age? No, a sign of total happiness and of being contented.
Looking at the world at large this year has brought some realisations that we can’t just live in isolation anymore, our lives don’t stop at our front door, they pour out onto the streets and into other peoples houses, as their lives do with ours, and not just separated by streets but by oceans and continents.
I do feel that there is now a very visible “cause and effect” in our World. That’s something my work colleague always says to me. She claims I am a black and white kind of guy who says it like it is. She, however, is a more politically aware person who will manoeuvre situations to make them work in her favour. I adore her and she’s taught me loads, but she’ll never change the person I am, no one will, that’s just who I am.
No matter, this year has taught the American Government that their foreign policy decisions may well affect their future. Their decisions to pull out of Afghanistan just when they needed rebuilding after funding them in the Russian war contributed to the mass hatred of their country and some of the difficulties they are currently facing. That’s not even mentioning their tactics for engaging, detaining, deporting and interrogating foreigners who they deem as potential threats. Let’s not even discuss this continued trend of detaining people against all International Laws.
There’s also the London bombings to think of and the repercussions they bring. Despite the years of being terrorised by the IRA, who are now legitimately wandering the halls of Parliament, this event seemed to burn into the minds of the English more than the past ever did. The attitude of standing tall against the danger and continuing despite everything was still very much there, but you could see the fear has grown.
My view on all this is that we, as a world, might have finally woken up to mass injustice. Having read about the Genocide in Rwanda and the pathetic and hollow words that came from the UN, then the undermining and deliberately obstructive ways of the US, I was appalled. We, as in the United Nations, let Bosnia and Somalia pass by with firm words this would never happen again, yet we just watched and aided as Rwanda did to itself an act that just shouldn’t be seen in any World.
Seeing and understanding this, made me realise that we have to stand up against the evils of the World, but not as an excuse for oil or weapons of mass destruction. We have to do it for clear reasons, and for me the genocide of the Kurds, Iraqi and Iranians was reason enough.
Yet it’s not just physical oppression that we need to stand up against, it’s the slow destruction of our planet and those that stand blindly against it with their fingers in their ears singing away. President Bush says there is no evidence of Global Warming and then his country is hit with some of the strongest storms they’ve witnessed, temperatures rising, weather patterns are changing (no decent snow again in Scotland!) and the Ice Caps are shown to be melting away.
Still we stand and do nothing. Small measures are put in place to make us feel like we are doing something, but it’s all too little too late. Big leaps need to be taken and they need to be taken en mass, not with someone hiding in the back saying it’s not happening to them.
Another aspect of this is the recent news, and I’m still waiting to find out if this has happened or not, that Russia might switch off Gas supplies to the Ukraine, a major supply route to Europe and the UK. If this dispute over rising costs from Russia continues and the Ukraine refuse to pay, something akin to 25% of the EU’s gas supply will be cut off, and then what do we do? The UK doesn’t even have enough stored fuel for two continuous weeks without a supply, and in that time you could surely experience brownouts and loss of service. So what are we doing about it? Nothing.
Why isn’t the Government telling everyone about their grants and incentives that they offer for households to install renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and water electricity generating systems? Why aren’t they forcing housebuilders to build new housing with solar panelled roofs, or moss covered roofs, and even install the micro wind generators on each building to supply 33% of the average household electricity supply? Why?
The answers are usually pathetic and selfish, pushing the politics to the side for the moment, most people complain about their view being damaged. Well your kids views may be damaged by a rise in sea levels, temperature and weather changes, depleting ozone layer, poorer air quality, etc, etc.
Why is no one looking at the big picture and just looking outside their own front step? Look to your neighbours, and your neighbours neighbours. Look beyond your self enclosed space and see what is happening to the street you live in, the estate, the Country, even the World. You can do something.
This is probably the other thing I have realised this year. I’ve become increasingly more aware of issues like these and I’m becoming more vocal and more active about them. I’m tracked down how to find out what your Politicians are doing locally, nationally and Worldwide. I’ve even found an easy way to write to them, and I’ve started using it. I’ve even begun to notify the Council where bad roads are. Is this an age thing too? I’m not sure, I thought you were supposed to be more socially aware when you were younger!
I may have digressed slightly there but for me this past year has been one where I have become more aware of events outside my house and my street, and I’m actually trying to do something about them. My home reading has somewhat changed having just finished (with a review pending) the excellent and harrowing book Shake Hands with the Devil: The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda by Romeo Dallaire from Amazon UK, and I’m heavily into my next tome The 9/11 Commission Report: The Full Final Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States. My outlook has most definitely changed.
This new found social awareness changed my opinion of many things this year. I began as a staunch supporter of Make Poverty History, but as I began to understand what they stood for and the issues within Africa I backed away from the campaign. My band was removed and I began more and more to realise that the bull headedness of the campaign could either achieve a lot less than it claimed to, or bring extremely negative results.
Cancelling the debt a Country owes could free up its Government to spend its profits and resources internally, making the Country stronger and more able to help itself grow long term. It sounds a great idea, but that assumes that the Government is strong and free from corruption and, for want of a better term, evil. This is not always the case and especially so in some of the Governments of Africa.
In June we heard about the news that one such country was using its resources and funding to great use as Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe ordered the bulldozing of 200,000 homes, and not empty derelict housing, but housing where people were living, alleged to be homes belonging to people who opposed the Mugabe Government.
This was one perfect example of why pushing the World leaders just to blindly cancel the Third World Debt was not a method I could agree with. I began to believe that safeguards and requirements had to be put in place to ensure Governments and Countries reformed along with a phased reduction of their debt until the debt was zero and the country was ruled democratically and freely. So my views moved from signing up to and supporting the campaign to backing off and realising the problems with MPH. It was a big decision, and one which I totally stand by to this day.
On a lighter note, corruption and failure was evident throughout one of my favourite sports, Formula 1. The story is quite evident from the headlines through my Motorsport category of posts. Corruption and failure even before the start of the season, banning of BAR and the farce of the US GP.
However it wasn’t all bad and my favourite driver David Coulthard showed new life at Red Bull. It’s fair to say that he, Martin Brundle and Jenson Button, despite his wranglings with the press and other teams, are the reasons I am staying another season. If the farce does not improve this year I doubt I will be back for another helping.
Keeping loosely on sports and lightening the tone even more, my friends and I discovered something that proved to be amazingly fun through 2005, Texas Hold ’em Poker. My friend Martin purchased a nice big professional poker case with all the equipment necessary to get going, and before long we were dab hands. Well, not really, but we are having lots of fun. Presents of Poker have been rife from this household during Xmas 2005, and for good reason. If you haven’t tried, you should. It’s great fun, tense, and full of strategy, a great way to get people round a table for some merriment and chat.
Looking back on what I’ve written both in the wee hours of this morning fuelled with drink, and some twelve hours later somewhat sobered, I’m surprised at actually how much has come out and how much I’ve actually accomplished in 2005. It’s certainly been a busy year for me and quite a landmark one work wise. It’s quite telling that you can see that none of these discussions relate to my actual job – other than commuting and being in a new building – the rest is about my other “work” and this sets the tone and direction for the coming year.