Essays and discussions

Review of 2018

I've been trying to think of something to say about this year other than just posting the “this is fine” comic (you know the one I mean) and being done with it. Between the awfulness of brexit and Trump there has seemed little room in the political world for the things that politicians tend say they went into politics for: public service and making things better. I'm not going to spend much time talking about either of these things. I'd be happy if both went away, but I honestly don't think that's going to happen. I think Trump will be remain in office until the end of his term and I think that Britain will leave the EU with, at best, May's deal, at the end of March 2019. That last one makes me the more angry though. May's deal probably is the best that she could get, but only because of her entirely self-imposed red lines. The ones designed to appeal to the racists and xenophobes that she imagines populates middle England. Without those, we could keep freedom of movement (which, of course, goes both ways) and thus stay in the Single Market and Customs Union, avoiding any issues with the Irish border whilst still “taking back control” (a meaningless phrase, if ever there was one).

I've spent more time in 2018 watching Scottish politics than I have in the past and I despair at the Scottish Tories and their continuing obsession with Scottish independence; I'd love for someone to analyse all the media interviews given by the SNP and the Tories and see who talked about independence more. My suspicion is that the Tories would win by a country mile, as they try and hide behind one constitutional issue while ignoring the much larger one with the trunk and grey hide slowly crushing everyone in the room. Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP have, on the other hand, played a weak hand very impressively. Nicola constantly gives the impression of being the Only Adult in the Room and between her passionate and consistent defence of other EU citizens and her unabashed love of books and reading has turned me into a bit of a fanboy.

The unrelenting obsession with brexit in the British media has had an impact on my media consumption habits this year. I now consume much less news than I used to. Particularly on the radio. I used to listen to the Today and PM programmes religiously on Radio 4 on the journeys to and from work every day. I've cut that right out. I still listen to the main news bulletin but as soon as I leave the house I now switch to a podcast. This does mean that I'm listening to more interesting and varied things on my commute now, and has relieved my blood pressure at the same time. As to what I've filled my time with, although I like fiction podcasts, I prefer to listen to something else on my commute. As a result, I've found a stack of new ones to listen to. These are 99% Invisible about architecture and design; Reply All about the Internet; No Such Thing as a Fish from the researchers behind QI; and Reasons to be Cheerful about political ideas and ways to improve the world. That last one is co-hosted by Ed Miliband, who, it turns out, when he's allowed to be himself, is witty, engaging and charismatic. I mean, I love the podcast and all, but I'd be willing to live without it and risk “chaos” to live in the alternate universe where he was PM after winning the 2015 general election.

2018 was also the year that I finally got Netflix. I originally got it so that I could watch Star Trek: Discovery, but I really kept it once I discovered The Good Place. I've already blogged about this but it's worth repeating just how good it is. Now into its third season, it continues to evolve and be thoughtful without ever losing sight of its characters or its vision. My other explorations of Netflix have tended to stay within the fluffier side of things (if I want grimdark, I can watch BBC News 24) but I've loved the new She-Ra series, Queer Eye, Steven Universe and The New Legends of Monkey. It was also, of course, the year that the Doctor became a woman (although still not ginger). I was very excited about the new series and the 13th Doctor is everything I had hoped and more. The new feel to the show is interesting, with Chibnell's storytelling feeling much more low-key than his predecessors, which is a bit of a relief after some of the more bombastic excesses of the RTD and Moffatt eras. Having three companions in the Tardis for the first time since the 80s has been interesting. I know a lot of people hated the idea of Bradley Walsh. I didn't know who he was so didn't have any emotional investment either way, but I think he's been fantastic. Of all the characters this series, I think he's had far and away the strongest character development arc. The other character who affected me more than I was expecting was Yas. I hadn't been expecting how good that it would feel to have someone who looks (a little) like me travelling with the Doctor. She's the first (full time) South Asian companion in the series' history and maybe gives me a little (just a little) insight as to how it feels for all the girls who finally see the Doctor now looking like them. I do feel that Yas has had the least character development (even in the episode set in India she felt sidelined), which is something I hope will be corrected next season (even if that season won't be until 2020).

Right, enough rambling about media. Of course I've had a lot to say about books this year, but I've been saying that as I've been going along over at GoodReads. You can see my Year In Books there which includes reviews of everything I read.

In my personal life, I think this is the first year that I've actively had fun with my nephlings. My niece loves board games so that's something that we already have in common and I'm happy to play them with her. My nephew is much louder than his sister and loves everything to do with dinosaurs. He's a wee character too. I don't know if it's my imagination that he's developed a personality faster than his sister, but he's got something to bounce of and imitate, I suppose.

At work, two big projects kept threatening to come upon us throughout the year, and neither did. Until the middle of December, when both happened at once. So the first half of 2019 is going to be interesting. At least the access control stuff is going fairly smoothly. I've not locked out any whole departments all year!

Although I've walked out on strike several times in my career this year was the first that I felt strongly enough that I joined the picket lines. We had a fantastic turnout, around the country, and the employers eventually agreed to our demands to set up a Joint Expert Panel on pension reform and agreed to its recommendations. It was a fantastic example of collective action and has reinvigorated the whole union, as members from across campus were table to talk to each other and exchange ideas.

To finish with (and staying brexit-free), here are some more good news stories from around the world in 2018. I've missed many of these (Twitter is reasonable at news curation, but not perfect) but they're all encouraging. There have also been great strides at LGBT (and especially trans) rights worldwide, and the Republic of Ireland (Ireland!) has overturned a constitutional ban on abortion (come on Northern Ireland, you're tardy — although you'll need a government first). These are all recognition that we're not so different, despite who we are or who we love and that we all deserve control over our own bodies. And if that's not a good news story then I don't know what is.

— 31 December 2018

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