Monthly Archives: December 2021

Chrimbo updates

I’ve mentioned a number of Christmas traditions i keep up here in the past, and thought you all might have wanted some updates.

I, alas, lost the Pogues Game on the very first day — i was putting on “Driving Home for Christmas” and failed to notice that The Algorithm had queued the song of my nightmares up for me next. (I proceeded to lose again on the night before Christmas, this time at the hands of Bradley Walsh.)

You’ll be pleased to hear that our annual exchange of Christmas gifts on Minecraft went all according to plan this year. Someone built me a little shrine to do as i pleased with, which was quite nice of them.

Not pictured: the already-burnt Gävle goat.

Finally, i’ve added the annual haul of records to the database for your perusal… but mostly for my own reference. 🙂

My predictions for 2022

This post is also available as a fancy, proper done-up page on the main site.

Well, here we are again. 2021 is almost over, and it was better than 2020, thank… well, you should probably thank every God just to cover your bases and make sure it doesn’t happen again. (And the biologists, too. They have a vial of smallpox and they know how to use it!)

So. What do i think might happen in 2022? Well, here’s my list of predictions, in no particular order. Some of these i’m absolutely sure of; some of these are just a wild guess. I’ll come back at the end of the year and give each one a grade, from “aye” to “kinda” to “nah”.

🦠 The pandemic 💉

  • There will be no mask or distancing mandate in England by the autumn equinox. The “plan B” measures will likely be relaxed at some point in March — perhaps earlier if Tory backbenchers get too fed up.
  • The booster jab rollout will proceed unremarkably, as we all silently accept that we’re just going to have to treat covid like the ’flu now.
  • Australia will continue being paranoid, but New Zealand will slowly start reducing restrictions.

🦁 The United Kingdom 🦄

  • Queen Elizabeth will die. I say this every year, but i genuinely do think this will be the year — it’s not uncommon for widows to pass shortly after their spouses, and she’s been attending notably fewer public events recently. Some related predictions:
    • Her death will be after the Platinum Jubilee celebrations, simply by virtue of them being relatively early on in the year. Nevertheless, it’ll put something of a damper on the national mood.
    • Somebody famous will get sacked as a result of ill-advised commentary, probably from the BBC.
  • Boris Johnson will muddle along as prime minister despite intra-party discontent.
  • A terrorist attack of some kind will occur in Northern Ireland. Tensions have been rising for some time, and, though nobody wants it to happen, one can’t escape the feeling that it will.
  • In the local elections:
    • The Lib Dems will make gains, Labour will also make gains, but not as much, and the Reform Party and Ukip will backslide.
    • A refugee from Hong Kong will get elected to a local council. Just a feeling.
    • Someone who is neither male nor female will get elected to a relatively major position and the press will have a paddy over it.

🦅 The United States 🗽

  • The Democrats get absolutely pummelled in the midterms, as Biden’s popularity flags and roadblocks in the Senate prevent much from passing.
  • Donald Trump will have a major figure excommunicated from the Republican party, likely a potential 2024 candidate. Ron DeSantis? Mitch McConnell? Himself? Who knows!
  • Kyle Rittenhouse will run for Congress. This will somehow be the least stupid thing to happen in the United States in 2022.
  • Several people will die at the hands of a or many “QAnon” adherents. Mass bleach-drinking? Someone shoots up that pizza place again? We’ll have to wait and see.

🌍 The rest of the world 🌏

  • Xi Jinping will shit himself. Okay, not literally, but many world leaders will likely make efforts to distance themselves from the Chinese government.
    • A multinational company will close its offices in Hong Kong due to concerns about civil liberties.
  • Emmanuel Macron will be reëlected as president of France.
  • The Notre Dame redesign plans will be quietly replaced with something more in keeping with the building’s historic layout.
  • Gay marriage will be legalised in another Asian or African country. We’re coming for you, Uganda! (It won’t be Uganda.)

📱 Technology (sorry) 💽

  • The “metaverse” will neither be a gigantic flop nor as big as its proponents hope. Some people will quietly adopt virtual office spaces, teenagers will get VR headsets for their birthday, and furries will continue being furries, but there will be no great revolution.
  • The NFT bubble will burst. Sorry, i mean, uh… the token that represents your claim of ownership to a jpeg of the NFT bubble will burst?
  • Someone will announce a mid-range or “budget” folding phone, opening the floodgates to more widespread adoption. Probably Xiaomi.

🎬 Entertainment 💿

  • Avatar 2 will bomb and possibly kill James Cameron’s career. Really: who on earth is actually excited by the idea of an Avatar sequel? Anyone? Literally anyone?
  • The year’s blockbusters will largely be fine. Nothing great, nothing terrible. Wow, another Marvel sequel? I’d have never guessed! That one where the moon crashes into the Earth might be good dumb fun.
  • Someone will drop the album of the decade. You hear those rumours about Kendrick Lamar?

Lords of Misrule 2021: “Dancing.png” (for lack of a proper title)

As the solstice arrives, the week winds down, and the days begin once more to lengthen, it’s time for our final submission for this year’s Lords of Misrule. This one comes from an artist known only as Newt S. For the last time this year, Io Saturnalia!

In the style of an old carving (of some sort), a group of anthropomorphic animals (including a snake, fish, flamingo, and what i think is a hamster?) dance in a circle wearing traditional European ceremonial dress as the sun sets behind their forest clearing.

My sincerest thanks for everyone for participating this year. I wasn’t expecting a single submission, let alone five of the bloody things.

Lords of Misrule 2021: Walking and picking up trash will benefit you personally

Today’s submission, a plea to pick up litter while on your morning (or evening) constitutional, comes from one Quinn Casey. Io Saturnalia!

1. Forces you to walk slower

I normally walk at an incredibly brisk pace. I have found a zen to slowing down to A) pick up the garbage and B) turn around slowly and admire the clean patch.

2. A pass to roam in “less-than-public” land

I’m not talking about hopping a fence into someone’s farmland. There are areas in the US that are legally private property, but in practice are wild, unused spaces.

For a rule-follower like myself it’s a “you know it when you see it”. Some real life examples of property I regularly trespass on and cleanup:

  • A paved sidewalk that ends onto an HOA stormdrain, with well trodden dirt paths throughout.
  • Government / Utility company land
  • Land beside train tracks, under bridges, and on maintenance roads

Picking up trash adds a layer of innocence to your case when pleading ignorance of your trespassing. Even if you are never confronted, it may help immerse you and ease your law-abiding mind.

3. Repeated hikes are prettier than the last

Paths you roam frequently will be cleaned faster than they accumulate garbage, and there comes a point where the space looks natural, untouched by human kind. In my opinion, having those wild spaces close to where we live is essential to mental health.

4. An excuse to go for longer hikes

I’m stubbornly attached to the (unhealthy) notion that a productive day is a successful day.

5. A problem local enough to solve

Where does this trash go when you bring it all back to the bin? Does this encourage more consumption/litter, since the waste isn’t immediately obvious anymore? Is litter even a substantial environmental problem, or is it just aesthetic?

I don’t pretend to know the answer to these. These are problems for a society, a larger than life culture. For too many years this was the excuse I used to not care at all. To not take any action whatsoever.

What’s the point of helping at all?

Well now I’ve found one. (5, if you’ve been keeping count) reasons to take action in a localized, meaningful way.

Small but constant effort by everyone is just as impactful as a one off million dollar idea. For true change we need to alter our behavior for the long term.

Relax, take a walk. Bring a bag.

New book smell / old book smell

Paper streams through a printing press
Photo by Srdjan Ivankovic.

When i was a bairn, my mam would take me to this great big bookstore in Amsterdam, just a hop and a skip away from the city’s central plaza. It’s held a special place in my mind ever since. What burns brightest in my memory, though, isn’t a book or an item of decor or an especially kind employee, but a machine. On the top floor, around the corner from the gift shop, sat the shop’s on-demand printing service.

Twenty-four hours a day, new pages would roll through its glass walls, printing and printing and printing until a book was fully-formed. I don’t remember what was in these books, or what they looked like — i was seven, give me a break — but i’ll be damned if i don’t remember that smell. Freshly-stamped ink, that petrichor of paper, that which one can still catch a whiff of in just-delivered magazines on one’s front porch.

All things must pass eventually, of course. Ink dries, paper cools, and before you know it, your beautiful book smells like nothing at all. Yet in between the tiny strands of ground-up wood that make it up, something else, something just as fragrant, is happening — and to understand the power of that, we must head across the North Sea.

I’ve blogged about Barter Books before: the Mecca of second-hand books, housed in a comically oversized railway station in Alnwick (built that way to the Duke of Northumberland’s specification). It is, in no uncertain terms, one of the coziest places on earth, despite its immense size. Daylight streams through the windows, and when none are to be found, artificial lights decorate the air with a firey golden glow. The most important factor in its gezelligheid (to borrow a term) has long eluded me, but i think i may have finally figured it out.

As books grow musty and yellow with age (a common condition second-hand), they, as any fule kno, gain a certain odour, similar to and yet entirely different from “new book smell”. Crack open the spine, and an earthy, wooden aroma wafts into the nose, with a slight hint of vanilla and an inkling of all the people who’ve leafed through it before. When enough of these old books are in the same place, the air becomes less like that of a building, and more like that of a forest — a way of being outdoors without being outdoors.

Maybe that’s why it’s so cozy in there.

Lords of Misrule 2021: “A Saturnalia piece”

Welcome back to our first annual Lords of Misrule! Today’s poem comes to us from one Noa S. Enjoy.

do you
do you
do you ever
ever ever
wonder whether
maybe maybe
something else
is hiding
in this world

i see things
anything but
in this world

would i
could i
if there were
love these things
like i loved her
she is
touching me
hiding trying
to watch me
she is
missing me
now she
loves me


Lords of Misrule 2021: “Words of Advice”

Saturnalia! As you may remember, at the start of the month i announced that to celebrate the holiday season, you could submit anything you wanted to my website and i’d put it up. I’m pleased to say several people took up my offer, and i’ll be putting them up daily starting today. Our somber first submission comes from a reader by the nom de plume of Ræl H. Bishop. Enjoy.

I think I might’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m gonna die some day.

A story has no purpose if it doesn’t have an end.

We will all die some day and never again be able to feel the sun shine on our faces, shielding us with warmth.

But it’s that very fact that lets us enjoy the sun for his bountiful rays.

Be here, now.

For even the sun will burn out one day and never shine again.

The not-particularly-monthly-anymore recap, “good heavens, is it really almost 2022?” edition

Hi, all. Sorry for the wait. Here’s some things i’ve watched and (mostly) enjoyed since August. Hope you enjoy.

Patrick Bateman, main character of “American Psycho”, listens to the album “Seventeen Going Under” in his earbuds.

Films watched

  • Michael Sarnoski’s Pig (2021): Nicolas Cage. (B-)
  • Cary Joji Fukunaga’s No Time to Die (2021): Having never seen a James Bond film before, i have to say i enjoyed it, even if the artsy-fartsy cinema i saw it at wasn’t the ideal venue for a massive blockbuster. A racist gets kicked into a vat of acid; what more do you want? (C+)
  • Lana and Lily Wachowski’s The Matrix (1999): The most 1999 movie to ever 1999 its way onto the screen. It suffers somewhat from its own success; i’d heard so much good about it that, even though by technical standards i could of course tell it was a good film, i still found myself somewhat underwhelmed by the ending. (B)
  • Denis Villeneuve’s Dune: Part One (2021): I got the immersive experience by really needing to go to the toilet about halfway through and having no idea when the film was going to end. Amazing visuals, amazing scope, amazing score, i did not feel a single emotion. (B)
  • Wes Anderson’s The French Dispatch (2021): Part two of an unexpectedly Timothée Chalamet-filled day at the pictures. It’s another Wes Anderson film! If you like Wes Anderson, you’ll like this. If you don’t, you won’t! There is nothing more i can say about this except that the projector was slightly broken and cut off the top 10% of the frame. (B)
  • Mary Harron’s American Psycho (2000): Me and a group of friends watched this over Discord for laughs and generally memed our way through it — and yet, even among our decidedly unserious, Scorcese-killing atmosphere, we were all genuinely fucking terrified at the chainsaw scene. A masterclass in tension and subtle comedy. (A+)
  • Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man (2002): Watched with friends over Discord. It feels like i’m throwing an axe at someone’s altar here, but good fucking heavens, this movie was laaaame. It ticks off basically every cliché on the list, with seemingly no self-awareness… i’ll admit, though, i did have fun on a purely campy level. (C-)
  • John McTiernan’s Die Hard (1988): An absolute thrill-ride from start to finish. Every time you think it can’t get any more extreme, it does. “No shit, lady, do i sound like i’m ordering a fucking pizza‽” (A)
  • Brian Henson’s The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992): Greatest Christmas film ever made. (B-)

Music listened to

  • Sam Fender’s Seventeen Going Under: I’m naturally biased as a Geordie boygirl myself, but the second i heard this, it went straight to the top of my album-of-the-year rankings — and it’s not even a contest. (A+. Best track: “Seventeen Going Under”)
  • Lucy Dacus’s Home Video: No spoilers, but the closing track? Ye Gods, did the closing track give me a teary eye. (A. Best track: “Triple Dog Dare”)
  • Underscores’ Fishmonger: A fascinating fusion of hyperpop and pop-punk. It’s patchy in a few places, and the repeated samples got on my nerves, but i’m excited to see what this band(?) does next! (B-. Best track: “Spoiled Little Brat”)
  • Sigur Rós’s Takk…: I love it. I really do — but i found myself having to take breaks every so often because lead singer Jónsi’s falsetto came dangerously close to giving me a migraine. (B. Best track: „Hoppípolla”, natch)
  • Some interesting stuff from the Isle of Wight-based band Wet Leg, dripping with wit and sardonic vocals. Can’t wait for the album!
  • I went to my first concert since, you know, the thing. All glory to Elbow.

Other recent minutiæ

  • I’ve been taking up sketching in my journal to ease the brain. I’m not anywhere near good enough to be posting anything on here — trust me — but it’s just nice to have a creative outlet. 🙂
  • I went on a brief jaunt out to the old Roman temple at Benwell, but to tell the truth, there wasn’t enough interesting about it to turn it into a full post. I did, funnily enough, pass about five different religious denominations on the bus there — a church, a mosque, a gurdwara, a Hindu temple, and a Hare Krishna society.
  • Storm Arwen absolutely fucked parts of Northumberland. My neck of the woods was largely unscathed, but the next town over didn’t fare so well — they didn’t have power for about a week.
  • There were a couple of Barbadians interviewed on Radio 4 about the country’s transition to a republic, and it rather struck me how similar their dialect is to our West Country accent.
  • You simply must listen to this poor woman’s Aspidistra getting absolutely roasted on Gardeners’ Question Time. It’s at about 10 minutes in.
  • Now that the nights are getting longer again, it’s getting to be good weather for stargazing. I really must get myself out to that observatory in Wark again at some point…

Relevant pictures (and one audio file) from jaunts out

In the middle of a typical English suburb, the ruins of an old Roman temple. There's not much left — just a stone-brick border and a few altars, the naos being filled in with gravel.
The aforementioned temple, dedicated to the obscure Romano-Celtic God Antenociticus.
A rickety wooden path is obstructed by a mossy, fallen tree.
One of the many, many trees knocked over by the storm. (And this was taken a fortnight after the fact!)
The sound of Arwen pattering against the window.