Farewell, 2021

The 12 months of 2021 has been another Covid year when everything has remained on-hold. I’ve spent time waiting for things to get back to something vaguely normal, only for another rise in Covid cases again and more uncertainty to prevail.

At least 2020 didn’t start out quite so bleakly as 2021 did. My main concern when 2020 began was whether I had enough pairs of pants and socks for my ten-week trip to Australia and New Zealand.

What neatly summarises how little I’ve actually done this year is when a hair cut is viewed as a major event, even if my doomed mullet was 18 months in the making.

I only gig five gigs this year. This is the lowest number of gigs I’ve done since possibly 2008, when I took an official hiatus from comedy after starting my new job as a reporter for a local newspaper. I ended that year burnt out and in hospital with a broken ankle, so I’m grateful that neither of these things happened. But there’s still technically time left in the day.

For the first eight months of the year, I wasn’t really missing comedy at all. I’d already kind of got it out of my system during 2020 when there were no gigs running. Arguably, I never quite got back into the rhythm of gigging regularly after the Edinburgh Fringe of extreme
highs and lows in 2018.

Anyway, I wasn’t missing comedy this year until I saw my Facebook feed filled with people braving the pandemic and doing shows at Edinburgh with full rooms in August. It was particularly seeing my old room at the Kilderkin full that made me really miss it and want to be there. But then most of the comedians I know who went there ended up getting Covid afterwards, which is what put me off going up in the first place.

The end of August saw me returning to the comedy stage. I felt a little rusty at the first one, then much better for the second, even if being in a room full of people did make me paranoid. Then I did two performances of HTWAPQ, one in Stroud with a few technical difficulties. Then one in Swansea, with no technical difficulties but instead had chatty volunteers on the door who ended up annoying the entire audience. The fifth and final gig was for the year was in Ashton Keynes at the end of November. That was also fun. But I’m going to need to solve my booking admin issues for 2022.

Probably the highlight of my year was the brewing day down at Stroud Brewery, where I was joined by three of my good mates to spend the day making ale. It was so different to anything I’d done before and proved just how little I actually knew about the brewing process. In short, it’s nothing like cooking a pot of something where you can make adjustments to the flavour as you go. It’s more of a science like baking where measurements and temperatures have to be exact, otherwise everything goes wrong. And if you make a mistake, you have little control in changing it. These are reasons why I enjoy cooking and avoid baking.

It was really strenuous work with the mash in, but the combination of learning, drinking, and laughter made the day fly past. I would definitely like to do it again one day. The brewing day was part of the Covid crowdfunder for the local brewery, which also got me growing hops in my garden. While this year’s harvest only yielded 1.5 hops, it was a fun project to have. And next year, it should yield least three hops.

A week in Westward Ho with my family was enjoyable, although not exactly relaxing as I was on driving duties and mainly concerned with making sure my dog wasn’t too stressed out by her new surroundings. Still, sunshine and ice cream every day on the beach is never a bad thing.

This year, I also had my Facebook account of almost 15 years locked due to what was described as “unusual activity”, despite the fact that I barely post anything on there these days. To unlock it, it asked for me to upload a scan of my official photo ID such as a passport or driving licence. That wasn’t going to happen, so that was the end of that. With it went an archive of pictures and stupid comments over the past decade and a half. But it’s fine. As Kylo Ren says: “Let the past die.” But the thing is, the past is already dead. That’s why it’s called the past. It also means I won’t get quite so jealous if I don’t go up to Edinburgh in 2022.

In October, I returned to working full-time. I just don’t have to worry about commuting as it’s all home-based and I can still take my dog for long walks every day. My bank balance is looking a lot healthier at the end of the year than it was at the start. It’s been nice to have a break between Christmas and New Year, even if my Covid booster on 23 December did hit me harder than my first two doses of the vaccine.

And there were two visits to London. Cue more paranoia of being surrounded by large groups of people. Importantly, I met up for a pint with Moz and Langton. It was the first time that the three of us were all together in four years. Hopefully, 2022 will see more of this. My current plan is to move there in September.

Then there are all the shows I consumed on Disney+. WandaVision was unlike anything I’d seen before. It left me perplexed and fascinated at the same time. Falcon and the Winter Soldier and Loki were both entertaining. And Hawkeye was surprisingly great. The recurring theme for these shows is taking a character I’m not overly fussed with, but doing something new and interesting with them so that I want to see what that character goes onto next. With The Bad Batch, it was fun to step back into the Star Wars universe. And The Book of Boba Fett has started promisingly.

My film of the year is actually The Suicide Squad. The first Suicide Squad film was atrocious for a number of reasons, but maybe all its problems were solved by prefixing the title with ‘The’. James Gunn’s sequel surprised me and made me laugh a lot. And while Spider-Man: No Way Home was good, there wasn’t much in there that really surprised me.

Although 2021 has seen some highlights and not many lows on a personal level, I will be glad to see the date turn on the calendar amid the hope that 2022 will be better and see an end of this infernal virus.

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