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December 31: The End

I did it! I survived the year, and managed to write a diary entry for every single day in 2017! Colour me happy πŸ™‚

If you’ve been keeping up to date here, then there’s little for me to add at this point. On the personal front I survived the end of my marriage and, instead of my live caving in, I found light at the end of that particular tunnel. Life is new, and different, and okay. Most importantly, the Kinderbesten are ok. It’s been a challenging year for the Elderbeast in particular, and while he’s not yet where he needs to be, I’m celebrating all the forward steps he’s taken since this time last year. Meanwhile, the Kinderbeast effectively taught himself to read this year (with help from his teachers and Reading Eggs), which has broadened his world a fair bit.

Writing these diary entries has been an important part of the year for me. I vowed to write a post each day for the whole year, but it was about more than just meeting that goal. I started this project because I had a compelling sense that I should document this year. In the end, being able to offload my thoughts onto these pages has probably been one of the things that helped me get through the last twelve months. However, in any year, being able to sit down and reflect on your day is an important tool: it enables you to apply a perspective to things, and it forces you to process your thoughts (in much the same way that simply talking, and having to organise and verbalise your thoughts, is an important component of therapy).

So the big question is obviously: am I going to continue this next year? Well, the answer is both yes and no. I’d love to carry on as I have been, but the truth is that this project has been a burden as well as a benefit. It takes some significant chunks of time each week to get these posts written and I’ve constantly been at least a week, often more, behind. As rewarding as this project has been, I don’t like having things hanging over me. Consequently, much of the year has had a spectre of ‘must catch up with those blog posts’ lurking over my shoulder. On the other hand, I have genuinely enjoyed writing these posts and knowing that (a small handful of) people are interested enough to keep reading them.

So, I have a compromise.

For 2018 I’m going to attempt a weekly diary post. This should give the benefits of reflecting briefly on each day, while sparing the excruciating details. It may also free me up to writing some blog posts on other topics over the year (such as writing). The fact that the year starts on a Monday makes this even more appealing to my sense of organisation.

As they say: watch this space …

December 30: Visitors

Today my Dad and his wife arrive from the UK. Or, more accurately, tonight.

I was able to offload the Kinderbesten for a few hours to give me the chance to do some cleaning and tidying up around the house, which also means I get to see in 2018 with a reasonably clean and tidy home. My folks weren’t due to arrive until close to midnight, but the Elderbeast was determined to stay up and see his grandparents, so we passed the time with a marathon of The Good Place–which we both love and now can’t get enough of.

The folks arrived in good time. We caught up over some tea then, finally, everyone headed to bed.

A short entry for quite a big day.

December 29: It (again)

Another lazy day at home which, really, is what these holidays are all about: a chance to get on with minor odd jobs and not be bound by work, school, whatever.

I picked up It during my Boxing Day shopping trip, which of course became the selection for this week’s Fridate Horror. Somewhat appropriate too that one of the year’s biggest hits, one of the most successful horror films ever, and one steeped in history and nostalgia, should be our last horror movie of the year.

I’m happy to report that the shine doesn’t wear off after a second viewing. One of my issues with the first time I saw the movie was that it felt like half a movie: this is because I still very much had the book in mind and was preoccupied with how well the earlier half of the story could stand on its own. This time around I barely gave that a thought. As a result, the film seemed much richer: the sense of place and character was so strong I came away wondering how Chapter Two could possibly compare. Meanwhile, the creepy bits remained just as effective.

I still haven’t managed to reread the book though. Maybe in 2018 …

December 28: New phone day

My new phone arrived today!

I have been an iPhone user since the release of the 3G model, upgrading in turn to the iPhone 4s and then iPhone 5s. With no real need to upgrade beyond the 5s, I skipped the 6, 7 and 8 altogether. I was further put off by the price of the iPhone X (and didn’t want to add expensive phone instalments to my monthly contract) so I made the decision to jump ship to Android. I’d had my eye on the OnePlus 5 for some time, but decided to hold off when the 5t model was announced. Just before Christmas I saw a reasonable deal online (on the 5t) and snapped it up.

I could have probably gone another year with my iPhone 5s: it was still working perfectly well after 4 years. The only negatives were that it was getting a teeny bit slow and the camera wasn’t really up to scratch any more. However, I’d decided that a new phone would be The Big Treat I’d allow myself for 2017. Sure, there was some lingering panic over shelling out nearly $700 in one go on something I didn’t really, truly, honestly need … but it was comfortably overshadowed by the simple excitement of having a new phone.

So, let’s run through some first impressions.

Firstly the size. It’s up there with the plus sized iPhones, so it’s a LOT bigger than my old phone. One of the reasons I held off upgrading my phone for so long was that I was happy with the size of the 5s and didn’t want a bigger phone sticking out of my pocket. However, it’s taken almost no time to get used to the size. Fun side note: my dad has an iPhone 4, which now looks ludicrously tiny to me!

The main improvement I was looking for was with the camera. It’s true that the Google Pixel 2 and the iPhone X are getting all the attention for their cameras, but the OnePlus has gotten pretty good reviews in that area too. My iPhone 5s was sorely lacking when it came to low-light photos (making it almost impossible to take photos of my [black] cats indoors) and the selfie camera wasn’t great either. Luckily the camera on the OnePlus 5t is excellent. I took some test shots of the cats and the Kinderbesten almost as soon as I switched it on and am very happy indeed with the results. The selfie camera almost makes me look like a different person and the low light performance is phenomenal. It may well not be the best phone camera on the market, but it’s more than good enough for me.

Performance, in general, is also much better. My old phone was starting to struggle, especially under iOS 11, but this one zips along with barely a second thought. It’s surprisingly refreshing being able to slide from screen to screen instantly, and know that your apps will all load without the need to think about it for half a second first.

Finally, the most significant change is jumping from iOS to Android. I’m not too heavily invested in the Apple ecosystem, so the only prep required was to add all my existing phone contacts to Google (which was not anywhere as easy as it should be!) and back up my photos. I was pretty excited about this shift to be honest: one of the fun bits about getting a new phone is getting to play with all the new stuff, but Apple have’t really been adding any fun, new stuff to their phones lately. Also, as a proud owner of a Chromecast and a Google Home mini, I figure an Android phone will work much better with all of that.

So far I’m loving Android. While I understand the benefits of iOS being relatively locked down (easy to manage, easy to use) I’m relishing the flexibility that I now have with the OnePlus. I’ve taken it slow, not wanting to make too many changes and forget how I did them, but I’ve already downloaded a new icon pack and set up some gestures. One of my favourite, albeit tiny, things is being able to place my icons and folders in any arrangement I want (unlike iOS, which automatically stacks your icons to the top left. I’m also able to place widgets on my screens (although the only one Ive found so far that doesn’t look like a complete dog is the clock. Another major improvement is the ability to swipe down and get media player controls: no more having to open Plex, Netflix, etc to pause whatever I’m watching.

In summary: no regrets.

December 27: Boxing Day sales

I finally made it to the Boxing Day sales today. Nice and early. My main goal was to get a 2018 wall calendar. For the last many years I’ve had a Doctor Who calendar no surprises there). In recent years they’ve produced some really nice comic art style calendars, and I was hoping to get one of these. No dice this year: all the Doctor Who calendars were boring Photoshop jobs. I ended up with a really nicely design Nightmare Before Christmas one instead.

Over the last year, the wall calendar has become particularly important for me, serving as a visual reminder for key dates (such as when we have late start days at school, when the kids are at their Mum’s for the weekend, etc). Without it I doubt I’d have much clue what was going on week to week. Yeah, sure I could use my phone, but it’s that at-a-glance thing that I really need going on. And something pretty to stick on the wall.

I had a few other things on my list, which I failed to get. But I did take the opportunity to pick up a few more classic Doctor Who DVDs while they’re on sale. I suspect, given the way the market’s going, that these DVDs won’t be on sale much longer so I’m slowly, casually, and cheaply picking up the ones I want while I still can. It may turn out that the ‘ones I want’ are all of them, but we’ll see.

December 26: Boxing Day (aka Christmas recovery)

I briefly considered checking out the Boxing Day sales today, but sanity prevailed and left us all to enjoy a traditional day of post-Christmas recovery. The Elderbeast went off for the afternoon to see the first Scorchers game of the season, while I baked my Christmas Ham and watched movies with the Kinderbeast.

The Elderbeast came home in time for us to watch the Doctor Who Christmas special together, which is always a seasonal highlight. We were both pretty excited about this one, as it gave us our first chance to see Jodie Whittaker in action and I was pretty stoked about seeing David Bradley as the first Doctor. That said, as fun as they are, these Christmas episodes are typically a bit of a curiosity: never not entertaining, but almost always eminently forgettable … which makes it baffling that they tend to use these episodes for their tentpole moments (such as Peter Capaldi leaving).

Ultimately, it was a perfectly good episode, solidly made with many highlights, but once again little more than a romp. The problem with the regeneration episodes, is that part of you is always just waiting for episode to be over so you can get to the last ten minutes. The problem with our episode is that the sound on the last ten minutes went completely out of sync, which pretty much took us out of the whole thing.

Whatever. I’m still excited about Jodie Whittaker πŸ™‚

December 25: Christmas

I wasn’t entirely sure how Christmas Day was going to go this year, given the change in the family situation. We’d long ago, as part of our Parenting Plan, agreed to continue doing exactly the same thing for Christmas Day that we’d done for the past few years: namely go to my in-laws for the day. It’s the perfect compromise: it means the Kinderbesten get to spend the day with both parents, without being shuttled around from place to place; it’s still a proper family Christmas; and we celebrate on what is effectively ‘neutral territory’. It also means I don’t have to cook, which is a bonus.

As has been going on for the past few weeks, I was woken up early by the morning sun pounding through my sorry excuses for bedroom curtains. The Kinderbesten, bless them, awoke a little later. The Elderbeast ploughed directly into his stocking. Meanwhile, in a turn of events that I will find forever amusing, the Kinderbeast insisted on having some iPad time first (“I’ll open them later” he said casually, when I asked about the stocking full of presents sitting in his bedroom).

Main present opening happened a few hours later, after breakfast, once the Kinderbesten’s mother joined us. A little while after that, we headed to the in-laws for yet more present opening (during which I was delighted to acquire a fresh bottle of Grey Goose). Much fun was had with the Kinderbesten’s new Cozmo robot, and a very delicious Christmas dinner was consumed. Overall a perfectly pleasant family Christmas.

The Kinderbesten and I headed home at about 7pm. I had determined to end the day with a viewing of Gremlins, even though I was convinced I’d only make it about half an hour before falling asleep. In the end, I managed to get through the whole film (with a glass of wine in hand), which proved a most excellent end to the day.

Christmas: survived!

December 24: Die Hardmas

For the last several years (I can’t honestly remember how many it’s been) my Christmas Eve has more or less accidentally slipped into the following tradition: watch Die Hard; wrap the Kinderbesten’s presents; finish the evening with a ghost story.

This year, I’m pleased to say we continued that tradition with one major change: the Elderbeast requested to join me and my friend for Die Hard. Talk about your rites of passage. This necessitated wrapping the presents a few days earlier (the benefits of a #childfree weekend), but we were more than happy to oblige. With the presents out of the way, this meant we were able to devote our full attention to Die Hard, instead of the 20% or so that isn’t occupied trying keep two bits of wrapping paper together while you hunt for the tape.

It’s a nice development: your kids growing up to share and participate in your traditions (no matter how ridiculous they are). And Die Hard, as always, was awesome. Perhaps even more so, given we were able to watch it rather than just have it on in the background.

Having sent the Elderbeast to bed, we followed up with A Warning To The Curious, the second story adapted for the BBC’s Christmas Ghost Story strand (all the way back in 1972). The strand was revived a few years ago, but I was sad to see that there wasn’t to be a new ghost story this year. Never mind, I have a DVD set of the lot and am always happy to pick through the oldies. There’s something about the blend of M.R.James’s stories and that old 1970s BBC style that really pulls every scrap of creepiness to the screen.

Overall, a perfect Christmas Eve. The only thing I got wrong was filling the Kinderbesten’s stockings with presents before placing them in their rooms–turns out they were both expecting empty stockings to be hung on the bed (which would, of course, be magically filled with presents by the time they woke up). Noted for next year …

December 23: Friendmas

Today saw the debut of a new tradition: Friendmas.

One of my friends has a birthday on Christmas Eve, and has always held a low-key event in the days before Christmas. This year, things went the other way with a full dinner, much decorations, present-giving and general splendidness. It was pretty much Christmas Day before Christmas, but with friends … which I guess is the point of the title.

Let’s do it again next year!

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