As December comes to a close and the dawn of a new year approaches…although actually I didn’t finish writing this anywhere near the end of December and you know what, I’m going to throw my hands up and admit that’s a bad show. It’s the one entry I promise myself I’m going to do, and yet every year I make an excuse for why this December the 31st recap always emerges in March and then promise to do better the next time around. I didn’t even get one out for 2015. Basically, I’m a terrible human being. Terrible. To my mum, the only person who actually reads this, I’m sorry. Calling this an end of a year review is false advertisement isn’t it? Apologies to everyone. You can have your money back.
As December comes to a close and the dawn of a new year approaches, it’s that golden time for people to turn inwards and contemplate just how the last 365 days have progressed. There are probably two ways to view the state of things, firstly on a personal and professional level and then to look outwards and consider things on a national and global scale. With that in mind, 2016 has been fragmented; my personal and professional life has been pretty great, whereas on a larger scale…well we all know what down this year.
It’s been twelve months of change, 365 days of political upheaval and fifty two weeks of ‘oh God what in the name of Jeremy Corbyn just happened?” In short, 2016 has been a rollercoaster ride that might well lead onto another drop. Or a disastrous fairground tragedy. Or the apocalyptic end of the world as Earth becomes a scarred, desolate wasteland singularly populated by crumbling skyscrapers and the sort of bacteria whose favourite meal is a combination of sulphuric acid mingled with the broken tears of the innocent. On a completely unrelated note, there has also been no shortage of melodrama in the last twelve months. It’s been quite delicious.
First – and probably most importantly – politics. There’s nothing I can say that a hundred thousand more haven’t said more eloquently, but I’ll say it anyway. Brexit and Trump taught me a few hard lessons. Firstly, that I’m living in a bubble. I work in the media, am generally surrounded by young people with pretty liberal ideologies – in fact I’d go as far to say that I’m one of the more conservative people in my friendship circles. I also live in an urban environment in one of the metropolitan capitals of the world. We’re all guilty of assuming that the rest of the society has had the same experiences as us, and thus share the same ideals: Of course we should stay in the European Union. Of course everyone can see that Boris Johnson is a grubby opportunist only serving his career. Nobody could be fooled by the publicly school educated Farage and his pint swilling, racist diatribe. Nobody would believe the unsubstantiated claims of the elusive 350 million a year headed in the direction of the NHS, or the promise that we’ll sever ties with Brussels and miraculously be transported back to post war 1950’s Britain, complete with the good old days of milk, honey and the echoes of colonisation. It’s in the bag lads!
And then, the bloody United Kingdom only went and voted to leave the European Union didn’t it? In the words of the most dreary musical release of 2015, ‘I Wasn’t Expecting That.’ (Sweeping generalisation, but clearly the people who voted Brexit probably also purchased that awful song, so that’s two horrors to thank you all for. Cheers.)
Later, in November as the results of the US Election were announced, I thought, of course they are going to vote Clinton in. She might be a flawed candidate but at least she’s not a xenophobic, tax dodging, infantile, immature adult baby who shouldn’t be allowed within six states of the nuclear codes let alone inducted into the highest echelons of power. He’s not a diplomat or a leader, he’s emotional, aggressive, thin-skinned and he has stupid hair. The voters will see through his lies, his promises of walls and division. It’s in the bag gents!
And then the United States voted Donald Trump and his toupee in as their next president and hair piece.
That fatal phrase: “Of course.” Arrogance really, in retrospect. Suddenly, politics has taken a sharp and unexpected diversion into the murky unknown. Of course it has. The signs and the discontent have been there for years, I just never bothered to notice. Of course, I didn’t.
Society is about reaction. Everything has a cause and an effect, and these two monumental shifts are a result of many different factors, among them a huge portion of society being ignored. I’m guilty of it. I like to think I have at least a basic empathy and understanding of people – parts of my job involve and rests on meeting and understanding people from all cross sections of society – but I realise that maybe I don’t. And ultimately, as much as I joke about it, that’s my problem, not anyone else’s. When I woke up to the news of Brexit, I was angry and my first thought was “how can people have been so stupid?” It took a while to understand this it’s not about stupidity, its not about ignorance – though seeing racism and homophobia spike following the result wasn’t encouraging – but that maybe I was too self involved. Living in this privileged bubble where I’m lucky enough to be living my life without compromise, in the career that I always hoped to do, I suppose I was took it all for granted. Of course Brexit was going to go the way I wanted to, everything else always has.
Of course. Off course.
Here’s the thing, I still adamantly believe that we should remain part of the European Union. I still adamantly believe that Farage is the worst sort of pond scum possible – that’s not based on Brexit, that’s because he’s certifiably the worst sort of pond scum possible. I still believe Boris Johnson and David Cameron are absolute children who made a terrible mess then left someone else to clean it up and are the true villains of this piece, (yes even more than that toad Farage). I believe that the referendum should be taken as advisory rather than legally binding, but what else can you really do in this situation? It should have never have been called, but it was, and here we are. And as for Trump? There’s nothing I can add that other people haven’t already. The one bright spot is that Clinton won the popular vote in the US so at least the majority of Americans agree with progress. It’s enough to make you want to piss on your bed sheets right Donald?
Outside of the political landscape – and to be fair to our Honorable MPs at least there were no swine or sow incidents of note this time around, well done ladies and gentlemen – things are not half bad at all. My nephew continues to grow at an unfathomable speed; he’s picking up words and expressions faster than I ever managed at his age and his personality is beginning to really show through. His current phrase of choice is ‘sea bass nipples.’ Yes, I taught him that. Am I a good influence? Debatable.
I’m currently sat writing at my childhood home for what will most likely be the last time. My parents are, after months of deliberation, selling up the house they’ve been in for over 21 years and mum is finally getting the bigger kitchen she’s been demanding for – lets be honest – the last 21 years. I’ve spent the majority of this Christmas break boxing up our lives and it feels strangely cathartic. I wouldn’t describe myself as sentimental, and although I think I’ll miss this house when its gone – after all it’s the place that I grew up in – it’s feels right for them to be moving now. The new house is fresh and modern, it’s in a really nice area and the structure is more manageable than my childhood home. Besides, I haven’t lived here properly for almost a decade so it’s difficult to feel real sadness for somewhere I left behind a while ago. All things must go.
I got really fit and then lost it again. At the end of 2015 I was heavier than I’d ever been – to be fair, this wasn’t a state of emergency, my BMI was still alright – and it was a kick in the right direction. I ended up picking up running again. Eventually I was clocking up serious miles on a weekly basis, but this proved pretty tiring. My body was not happy with me. This summer I was the king of the road. Then it got cold and my willpower was pathetic. So this winter, I settled for becoming king of the oven baked camembert. I really wanted to run the marathon, but when I didn’t get a ballot or charity place, I lost all motivation. I’ve dusted up the running shoes though. At the moment, the distances are short – a few miles at best – but I’ll get there again not least because nobody wants to see this tyre forming around my waist. I’ve also cut down massively on the amount of alcohol I drink. I feel better, I think clearer and my bank balance is sexier.
At the start of 2016, I aimed to expand my professional CV a little bit. If you wanted to know how many litres of gunge it takes to fill a 2m by 1m tank, I was the guy to ask. If you needed to know what it felt like to try and arrest Gemma Collins on national television, I can tell you first hand. (It’s not pretty – but hey, my eye roll was broadcast to 3 million people). Whilst Big Brother and Geordie Shore had taught me a lot, there were aspects of my industry I knew nothing about. I had no idea how to properly cast, I’d never really been in a studio and barely felt the pressure of a live show. I’m pretty proud of myself for hitting those targets. I suppose the downside if that sometimes its difficult to see people with less experience tearing past you, but that’s part of the decision that I made, and hopefully it will pay off in the long run. It certainly feels like it at the moment, I hope I’ve got a much better idea now of how a show works in general. Having said that, I am missing doing horrific things to willing human beings in the name of task and games, so hopefully that’s something I’ll get back to. Anyone got a vat of gunge?
Also – and I’m as nicely surprised as anyone – I’m in a happy, healthy committed relationship. Granted I thought the Scottish thing was going to fade after a few months, but that’s what compromise is about right? Accepting other people’s geographic flaws. After years of traversing the carnal canal with nothing less than complete enthusiasm, I feel more settled than I have in years. Anyone who knows me well can tell you that I’m a bit of a rolling stone, especially when it comes to relationships. Yet here I am. We’re well over the year mark at this stage and I couldn’t be happier. It’s almost disgusting. I can feel the rocks my twenty two year old self is throwing at my back. Grow a backbone man! Sow your seeds, etc. etc. I think what’s particularly great – soppiness about to abound, you have been warned – is that I’ve not just gained a partner but a new travel buddy. Last year we headed to Belgium, Denmark, Sweden and Iceland and this year’s plan is even more international and ambitious. Rome and Japan are booked and ready to go and Canada is planned. I spent two straight years backpacking by myself around the world and I wouldn’t take back a single moment, but there’s something really nice about seeing all these places with someone else. How sentimental. How saccharine. Brexit. There you go. Balance things out a bit.
There isn’t much else to say about this year. In fact, I didn’t really plan to write an essay, but there you go. Do I have any resolutions for next year? Yeah, why not? I want the ducks and a lake and a family portrait, a pipe and a dog at my feet. I want a stall at the fete selling strawberry shortcake and walls that are very discreet. (If you got that, you are either into obscure pop music or you are Nicola Roberts). I also want world peace. But more than anything else, I want unlimited sushi and one of those spiralizer things that make vegetables turn into ‘healthy pasta’.
Good luck 2017. You are going to need it.
Song(s) of the Year – Tears for Fears – Everybody Wants to Rule the World / The 1975 – Somebody Else