1. What did you do in 2013 that you’d never done before?
- Wrote a TV screenplay. And made the semis of a prestigious screenwriting contest with it.
- Went to a same-sex wedding I’m a finger-flicking cynic over marriage at the moment for various reasons, but woohoo for equality! They played Maria by Blondie on the dancefloor which couldn’t be more perfect. I never want to go to a straight wedding and hear Robbie Williams ever again.
- Recorded a song Well, I’ve done it before but not recently – now easy thanks to GarageBand on the Mac. It’s a cover of Amy Winehouse’s Wake Up Alone. Because you can only listen to an album relentlessly for so long before wanting something tangible from it…
- Started writing a novel and actually stuck with it Behind at the moment, but still substantially further in than I’ve ever been before.
- Went to an art auction Another world to me. But not quite as much so as I’d imagined, in that it’s a bit like watching a play. Just a really fast play involving unreal sums of money and requiring a flawless attention span.
- Read 22 Days In May by ex Lib Dem MP David Laws, about the formation of the Coalition government. In bed * Well, nothing was going to top last year or the year before for things I did in bed, so why even try? (* it was background research for The Book. I’ve just got past the bit where he recounts the flavours of the sandwiches he and William Hague ate for lunch at their meetings with the civil service, and I’d like a hug now please…).
2. Did you keep your new years’ resolutions, and will you make more for next year? My main new years’ resolution involved knuckling down with the novel, so yes. For next year, I want to finish it, sell it and firm up the rest of my work and life plans.
3. Did anyone close to you give birth? Not this year, no. Since I have about 20 of them this is probably the first year in memory a cousin hasn’t.
4. Did anyone close to you die? No, thankfully.
5. What countries did you visit? I saw in the new year in Northern Ireland, where I’d never been before.
6. What would you like to have had in 2013 that you lacked? Money, mainly.
7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?
- Mid-March – when I submitted my screenplay.
- My cousin and her husband visiting in May, and going to the Cotswolds with them.
- Passing through Durham on the way to a work thing and seeing two of my best friends from university, one mired in PhD hell.
- Going to the David Bowie exhibition at the V&A with @arcadiaego (as well as the exhibition itself, finding out we’d muddled the dates and our mutual friend wasn’t there because she was in Berlin was memorable…)
- My (29th) birthday in June. It was a lovely day, and dad taking me out to celebrate represented progress from him swearing at me on my 18th…
- The day I went to work in the London Library, couldn’t, and just sat in St James’s Square in the sun writing my book instead.
- Taking a London friend to the Chinese Restaurant Time Forgot in Bucks (Food nice. Decor circa 1987).
- A couple of nice, cheap dinners in London with another friend. We seem to be good at snaffling out places.
- The day I went to Greenwich and then saw Private Lives (same friend as above).
- The week of my writing retreat.
- Filming my first TV appearance.
- My Belfast friends’ visit last month.
- Last week’s pre-Christmas jaunt in London with one of my best friends.
8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?
- Getting this far into my novel.
- Paying off the Career Development Loan that funded my journalism training.
- Taking up running, sticking at Pilates (and being able to do the routines at home when the classes are too steep).
- Finding some things/people who make living around here seem bearable rather than trying to pretend I don’t live here.
- Unfollowing people on social media whose constant and default position is misplaced anger. To lift someone’s quote: “It’s like the magic roundabout. It never goes anywhere.”
- Being asked to be patron of an SpLD organisation in the North East, albeit having no idea what that actually involves.
- Appearing on TV, albeit briefly.
- More conference talks. I wryly introduced a roomful of bankers to the word ‘intersectionality’. It was more fun than it sounds.
- Getting to the advanced stages of the BBC Writers Room.
- Getting on well with the kinds of people who’d have given me a China-sized inferiority complex when I was younger.
- Becoming wiser in all types of interactions, and more aware of the need to make sure my hopes and efforts aren’t exceeding the other person’s (though it is still impossibly hard to let go of some even when they clearly are…)
- Having a boyfriend disappear on me and managing not to be as upset as I was entitled to be, considering he knew I’ve been bereaved by suicide and it’s a fairly incomprehensibly shitty thing to do to someone who’s been through that. Really, my anger/infatuation quotas were probably just too exhausted from previous years to do anything other than take it in my stride.
- Finding a friend serendipitously as a result of two slightly awkward friendships.
9. What was your biggest failure?
- Being broke, and all that comes with it.
- The Discover tab on Twitter is probably the closest thing I own to masochistic porn. For some reason, I subject myself to regular reminders that people I like think Guido Fawkes and Toby Young are something other than massive wankers. It’s not all bad, though; it introduces me to nice people too (qv)
- Cynicism. The more research I do for my book and the more I think back over how it has come to be, the more I think a high-flying career and/or a lavish wedding are things to run away from like the clappers, not aspire to. I don’t know if that’s a ‘failure’ or not but there it is.
- That my heart still leaps when I see or hear someone’s name.
10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Depression and anxiety are never as far away as I’d like them to be. Other than that, a bank holiday of stomach trouble from a dodgy burrito place off the Strand (I mention this in the spirit of “Don’t go there“).
11. What was the best thing you bought? Cheap theatre tickets.
12. Whose behaviour merited celebration? Anyone who was kind to me or to those in need of kindness. Special mentions to those who’ve helped with research for my book, and to the bloke who offered me a tissue on the Tube when my eye makeup started running, so that I didn’t have to wipe it off with the back of an envelope (yes, this is a memorable rarity on London transport). In the wider world, Paris Lees is a really good example of how to do social justice activism right.
13. Whose behaviour made you appalled and depressed? A few people, but mostly because of pre-2013 actions that are difficult to explain.
14. Where did most of your money go? Paying off the last of my postgraduate loan, and uncharacteristically large overdraft (but it’s done now – wahooo!) Train travel. Counselling.
15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? Seeing old friends, and Durham. The writing retreat. Going to London on warm days. Going to the theatre and exhibitions.
16. What song(s) will always remind you of 2013?
- Good Tradition by Tanita Tikaram
- Sit Down You’re Rocking The Boat from Guys and Dolls
- Start As We Mean To Go On by Thea Gilmore
- Sleep To Dream by Fiona Apple
- Slip Away by Mario Basanov
- Anything by Deep Purple or Bruce Springsteen. Because I run.
- They Don’t Know by Kirsty MacColl (how on earth did I get through eight years of friendship with a bloke who named his cat Kirsty after her and never hear this song til after he died? And why don’t I own any whole albums by Kirsty? This must be remedied!)
17. Compared to this time last year, are you…?
– Happier or sadder? Whatever “less sex but half a novel” equates to.
– Thinner or fatter? My weight never changes much.
– Richer or poorer? At the moment, poorer. Which is quite the worry.
18. What do you wish you’d done more of? Earning. Singing. Travelling.
19. What do you wish you’d done less of? Procrastinating.
20. How will you be spending New Year? With family in London. First family new year since I was 16, because I don’t really feel like, and can’t afford, a huge celebration at the moment.
21. Did you fall in love in 2013? No comment.
22. How many one-night stands? None. I’m generally with Cerys Matthews on this one.
23. What was your favourite TV programme?
- The Thick of It. Obviously.
- Broadchurch (Not flawless but overall very compelling, and Olivia Colman deserves all the awards in the world. And it was filmed in the town where my grandparents used to live, and where I did my first journalism work experience – not like the Broadchurch Echo, thankfully…)
- Fresh Meat (Consistently really, really funny)
- Borgen (A series brave enough to go against the annoying screeenwriter’s trope that complex issues can be overridden by love)
24. Do you hate anyone now that you didn’t hate this time last year? Not that I can think of.
25. Do you like anyone now that you didn’t like this time last year? No, only that I didn’t know.
26. What was the best book you read? Non-Fic: The Righteous Mind by Johnathan Haidt, about the brain science between political/moral/religious differences of opinion. Fic: I haven’t finished it yet (and keep mangling its title…) but Instructions For A Heatwave by Maggie O’Farrell beautifully evokes a dyslexic/dyspraxic profile (via the character Aoife).
27. What was your greatest musical discovery? That Nouvelle Vague covered Too Drunk To Fuck by the Dead Kennedys and Amy Winehouse covered Monkey Man by The Specials
28. What did you want and get? Some more recognition for what I do. A decent suntan. A writing holiday.
29. What did you want and not get? Enough money for what I do. A summer holiday. Mutual, uncomplicated love.
31. What did you do on your birthday, and how old were you? I was 29. Spent it in London with family and saw an exhibition of Native American art, then The Book of Mormon.
32. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? I’m having two: Money, and people owning their past actions.
33. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2013? Freelancing: where your smart outfits are for conferences and counselling, and most of your clothes are the ones your mum decided were mutton-dressed-as-lamb…
34. Who kept you sane? Most of the long-standing people in this category know it already (I hope). I don’t know whether the new entrants would be pleased to hear it or not, so no comment.
35. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? Private Lives made me miss the days of going to plays and procrastinating university essays by trying to work out which of the leading couple I fancied more. Having watched most of Drop The Dead Donkey on 4OD I’d add Stephen Tomkinson, except him playing the priest in Ballykissangel sort of ruins it (for any younger readers: Ballykissangel = What Sunday Nights Were Like Before The Internet…).
36. What political issue stirred you the most? The Syria Crisis, the perennial cockery of Iain Duncan Smith and George Osborne, the deaths of Thatcher and Nelson Mandela.
37. Who did you miss? People I never see because they’re busy, far away or dead.
38. Who was the best new person you met?
- Many more than I can name at conferences and speaking gigs.
- All the people at my writing retreat. Whether or not we manage to stay in touch I’ll always have the fond memories.
- My long-term email buddy Allan, who works for various dyslexia and dyspraxia orgs north of the border, and very kindly took me to see The Commitments on stage (which is really good!)
- Courtesy of Twitter in all its glory: In the spring, fellow shouter-at-the-telly-during-Question-Time Karen (@karencdrury), then in the summer two most lovely pals-of-pals, Jason (@Eireinthecity) and Melanie (@mgerlis), who is not only lovely but unlike most Lovely People, lives very near me…
39. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013 Writing well is the best revenge. To be honest I probably learned that the year I learned the alphabet, but implementing it’s a matter of time and place.
“We’re gonna set this record straight. We’re gonna do what must be done.” Start As We Mean To Go On, Thea Gilmore