2015: A Brief Blast Back Through the Year Fantastical…

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2015: thanks and ta-ra to the Year Fantastic…

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2015! Whoa! Yeah, that happened. Way back on New Year’s Day I doodled up a unicorn and, with a hopeful spirit, hailed 2015 as the ‘Year Fantastical’. Turns out that it lived up to that title and then some. From my perspective, it’s been a pretty damn fantastic and quite incredible year.

So much happened in 2015 and I feel like I’ve done a lot, experienced a lot and learned a lot. Come the end point where we get all reflective and retrospective (it’s customary and inevitable) I’m struck by how ‘big’ and full of stuff this year seems. I’ve got so many memories of moments streaming through my mind and from all of them flow a multitude of thoughts and feelings. Some people say that I think and feel too much (tsk and hush, you people!) but, hey, I can be no other way. Plus, thinking and feeling are what make us human beings and what make us realise that we’re alive. The alternative is living on autopilot and if you’re living on autopilot you’re probably not engaging with life and consciously appreciating it. Hey! Life! Existence! Appreciate it!

So then, here I am thinking and feeling over 2015 and appreciating it before we say ta-ra. It’s been a year in which I thought and felt a lot. I smiled a lot. I cried a lot. (It was the death of Spock, the Norwegian Eurovision entry and Inside Out) I had triumphs and I also had some disappointments, but the good stuff far outweighs the bad bits. I’ll focus on the good in this brief personal look-back, ’cause there’s no point me dwelling on the crappy and/or grave bits here. (Though I will give a shout-out to several late, great cultural icons and my all-time favourite t-shirt which is lost somewhere in Italy. *sighs* I miss ’em all.)

Off the top of my head, here are some of the things I did and experienced that made 2015 genuinely awesome (as in they inspired awe and made me go “awwww!” or “awwww yeah!“): I got a tattoo; I levelled up as an English teacher by passing a CELTA course; I got to explore Dublin and Zürich among several other culture vulture trips; I took a train ride through the Swiss Alps; I saw what’s left of the Magna Carta; I got to enjoy la dolce vita over and over in bella Italia in places familiar and new (including Verona, Padova, Venice, hitherto unexplored sections of the Liguria coast and Emilia-Romagna to name a few); I went to the opera and enjoyed that experience in Verona’s ancient Roman arena; I became a hero to a whole new set of Italian children in Milano, Torino and the countryside near Padova; I composed the summer hit single that was ‘Pineapple Hands‘ and that became a minor cult phenomenon; I gave ‘Free Hugs’ on Valentine’s Day in the world’s most beautiful shopping arcade; I witnessed Italy’s biggest food fight – the all-out insanity that is Ivrea’s Battle of the Oranges.

I like this photo as an image to encapsulate the beauty, adventure and feeling of 2015...

Yeah, this photo sort of encapsulates the feeling and adventure flowing through 2015…

Throughout, I doodled like a demon and have spent most of the year with inky fingers. I also wrote some pretty good stuff and had a lot of fun working away at various creative projects. Daredevil , WiiU videogames and hanging with my family made home downtime a good time when I wasn’t off on (mis)adventures. Otherwise – turning to ‘important stuff’ and current affairs for a second – in spite of it all, there were progressive political and social moments in 2015 that gave me hope. The same goes for technology and science (there’s water on Mars!) and, sportswise,  I’ve been enjoying the Boston Celtics’ continued upward trajectory towards contender status.

Sonically speaking, my soundtrack to 2015 was mostly Dinosaur Pile-Up and Ghost and they gave me immense live shows to experience and brilliant new albums to crank to death. As for films, there have been so many superb movies released this year but my two favourites of 2015 were Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Mad Max: Fury Road. They beat all the rest for spiritual reasons, sentimental reasons and because they are stand-out supreme imaginative visions and masterpieces of cinematic storytelling.

I decided to close the year in suitable style by watching The Force Awakens again and that makes me even happier as I head into the future. Having had my nice nostalgia moment I’m now going to close this self-indulgent rear-view-mirror ramble. First though, before I hurl myself heart and soul into 2016, I’d like to hail all the human beings who shared the experiences and really made 2015 something special. I had a blast with both old friends and new friends this year and I’m grateful for all the energy, the companionship, the generosity and the niceness that people have directed my way over the past twelve months. It means a lot and I truly appreciate it. High-fives, hugs and ‘awww yeah!’s to everyone.

So, that was 2015 then, and thank you 2015. I say it’s high time we hit the New Year and moved on to the fresh adventures and experiences lying ahead in 2016. Awww yeah. I’m excited…

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Heart…

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Hailing Hobbits and Hearing Tolkien Rock on the Radio…

Hum hum hum! (Those are seasonal Dwarf hums. Misty mountains cold? Forgotten gold? Aye?) What’s happening? I’ve been busy humming on, all hopped up on doing Christmassy things, in case you were wondering. Joining the Alternate Reality News bulletins on the ‘things I do daily’ list, the Magical Christmas Artefacts Advent Calendar has been opening up every day of December over on my sketchy doodle blog. One of my favourites so far is the Jolly Holly 3D FestSpecs…

I might stick these on and go and see The Hobbit in 3D…

Today, however, celebrating Christmas is taking back seat while I celebrate something else, for ’tis Hobbit Day. Happy Hobbit Day! The Desolation of Smaug is out in cinemas and I’ve been to see it and, oh by Gandalf the Grey’s undergarments, it’s glorious. In honour of the momentous occasion several Tolkientastic things are going down. Over on Den of Geek my weekly column is devoted to Peter Jackson’s Middle Earth movies -mainly focusing on their epic length and defending said ludicrous runtimes. These films need to be overlong affairs because the material is epic and because we need to immerse ourselves in larger-than-life blockbuster films every so often. It’s an event and we should savour the spectacle and enjoy spending as much time in the Tolkienverse (or any other fictional fantasy realm) as possible.

But wait there’s more, my Precious! Tonight I’ll be joining my old man (he’s a wizard who should know better) and Sean McGinty for the FNAT show on BBC Radio Lancashire. I’m going to rock out, ramble on nonsense and present an interview I did with Airbourne frontman Joel O’Keeffe. Mainly though – getting back to Middle Earth – I’m going to be leading the team through an hour of tracks all inspired by Tolkien’s works. There are some great prog rock tributes to The Lord of the Rings, I tell thee. I also hope we’ll be playing Flight of the Conchords’ “Frodo, Don’t Wear the Ring” and Leonard Nimoy’s “The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins”. It just wouldn’t be a ‘Best Songs About The Lord of the Rings’ playlist without those classics…

That will be on air at Midnight though the main show starts at 10pm and is subsequently available on the BBC iPlayer. In the meantime you can go and see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug at most cinemas and I recommend it. This update blogpost needs an appropriate image so I’ll leave you with Gandalf wearing 3D specs (not as magical as my Holly Jolly 3D FestSpecs)…

He is not a conjurer of cheap tricks. I don’t think he likes the 48fps gimmick…