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2009 Dec 31

I don’t send round robin letters with my Christmas cards. I don’t usually manage to send Christmas cards. But if I did send cards and if I did include a letter, the tradition would be to brag about how my kids are doing so well in school and how gorgeous our new kitchen is.

Failing that, I thought I’d have a quick look back at some of the stuff that happened to me me me me me this year. I thought it might be cathartic. For me. Me me me. (Links to Twitpics where appropriate.)


I took part in the first round of the Laughing Horse New Act Competition. I made it through to the quarter finals, which was nice. Thank you to the big gaggle of people who came along to support me. One of those was Michael of the thomyk podcast. Oh yes, I’ve been doing stand-up. Not sure I’ve mentioned that on the blog before. So yes.

I am relying on my Google Calendar, which tells me that nothing else of interest happened in January.


Things started hotting up in February when a toffee removed one of my fillings. There followed quite a lot of visits to the dentist and, after the second attempt to install it, a new gold filling. I now genuinely hear a ding! whenever I smile.

February was also the month of a night at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill (acts included this ukulele band); of Twestival, where I met Thom of the thomyk podcast; and of my quiet retirement from the Lib Dem Voice editorial team.


Mid-March was the quarter final of the Laughing Horse competition. That time I didn’t get through to the next round. Ah well. The competition is back in 2010 and I’m taking part again. I should probably take a similar perseverance approach to Mastermind – I had my unsuccessful audition in March too.

At the beginning of the month, I went grave hunting not far from where I live and finally tracked down my great-grandmother’s grave marker in an overgrown and badly kept part of Camberwell New Cemetery.

At the end of the month was Barcamp London 6, a geeky unconference held at the lovely theguardian offices in King’s Cross. I gave a talk on politics and twitter. I’m afraid it was rather dull.


April was the biggest making-stuff-to-go-on-the-internet month. The first weekend saw the 2009 48 Hour Sci-Fi Film Challenge, in which my team produced the short Pressure Valve in less than two days. As part of that, I met Billy from the internet.

At the end of the month, with Michael on one of his many overseas jaunts, I joined Thom as a stand-in host of the thomyk podcast. In retrospect, that episode talks rather too much about Michael Jackson.

April was also the first and currently last time I played squash. Yes, squash.


May was quite a big month. I turned 30 and celebrated/commiserated with a karaoke bash. I do love karaoke. Helen gave me a ukulele for my birthday which, as YouTube will testify, may have been a tactical error.

It was a good Eurovision Song Contest this year: lots of entertainment during the final came from twitter and I won £30 for correcting predicting Norway’s victory.

I did the last comedy gig of my twenties, which was a fundraiser for the film Booked Out. It went well and premiered a New Joke. The month rounded off with a rather fun 40th birthday bash featuring one song from each of the last 40 years.


Following an internal reorganisation at work, I changed jobs immediately after June’s European elections. I visited Google’s London HQ for a seminar and hosted a fundraising quiz for the Suzy Lamplugh Trust. The timing of the local election results meant I missed the Liberty AGM, despite having partly joined a year earlier so that Chris would know someone else there. Thanks to a plea going out on twitter from director Ben Miller and star Noel Clarke, I spent a couple of days in Kilburn as an extra in their new film Huge.

Judging from my diary, it was around June that our local pub quiz team formed, a loose collection of regulars and occasional quizzers who would win every week if only the questions were restricted to one particular TV show. And I’m glad it did because it’s given me lots of nice evenings in the pub with a lovely group of people, all of whom I’ve got to know better as a result.


Having missed the Greenwich Beer Festival, the Ealing Beer Festival and July’s Karaoke Circus at the 100 Club, July’s best moment was Blur in Hyde Park, a brilliant afternoon/evening/night where I bumped into a whole load of old friends. I also did my first gig outside London, at the Birdcage in Norwich, thanks to host Dan McKee.

Travelling back to the capital by car, I stopped at a service station and picked up a copy of Your Family Tree magazine. I’d never bought the magazine before but I thought the article on podcasting might be interesting. Turned out I was in it.


In August, I continued what turned out to be a whole year’s run of missing beer festivals by failing to go to the Great British Beer Festival. I returned to my former home of Leeds for a wedding and made suitable noises as the taxi drove past places I recognised and other appropriate noises when things had closed down or been built. I also went to see Nick on the Fourth Plinth.

I made my annual pilgrimage to the Edinburgh Fringe and saw lots of shows, highlights being those by Richard Herring, Tim Key, The Penny Dreadfuls, William Andrews and Robin Ince. I also did a couple of gigs on the Free Fringe. One of them I’ll be professional and refrain from commenting on; the other was a last minute guest slot in Alan Sharp‘s show, complete with minute or two of new material, which was lots of fun to do and probably my best gig so far.


A busy first week in September included Hackney for the Reece Shearsmith’s Haunted House radio recording; a trip along the District Line on a 1938 Tube train with Helen (her video); and Lloyd Woolf‘s Buy a Weatherperson a Drink Party, where I met the lovely Anna, Simone and James, and the Chief Exec of the Royal Meterological Society.

Derren Brown returned to the TV with his lottery predictions and, through the inadvertent magic of search engine optimisation, I got thousands of views on my Derren Brown lottery song. This was also the subject of my contribution to the first episode of new podcast The Pod Delusion.

Because of who I work for, the big thing in September was always going to be a busy week in Bournemouth for party conference. My main memory is being press ganged into doing stand-up in a hotel bar for our department’s end-of-conference get together and being slightly put off when the new Chief Exec wandered in halfway through. I talked more about party conference in the Pod Delusion’s second episode.

September also saw the second Plinther I went to see in person: the other Will Howells (no relation). Annoyingly, I had to leave for conference a few hours before Mike took the plinth.


Michael took the Plinth in October – an early start to a long day that ended with a rare trip clubbing. The following day I went to Dr Debbie’s very interesting talk on Thatcher. I took a leap of faith and upgraded to an iPhone; a week later I was at Broadcasting House for the recording of the Penny Dreadfuls’ Guy Fawkes radio play fumbling to work out how to switch it off. With Michael off on holiday as soon as he had deplinthed, I made a second guest visit to the thomyk podcast to not talk about Trafigura. In other podcast news, I contributed to the third episode of the Pod Delusion and was guest host of episode five.

I went along to Barcamp London 7 and gave an interactive talk on things that annoy me, which seemed to go down much better than my previous talk. Best moments of October though were Mr and Mrs Morris’s lovely wedding and my first visit to the glorious Karaoke Circus, where, amongst others, I met Paul and Kate.


November featured my doomed attempt at NaNoWriMo; a great gig from Jonathan Coulton with Paul and Storm; Robin Ince’s CD recording; a very funny debut show from Los Quatros Cvnts; more karaoke; more stand-up; a trip to the Bletchley Park fundraiser Boffoonery, where I won a painting; my most recent contribution to the Pod Delusion, on the subject of the Large Hadron Collider; and more. Which might explain why my NaNoWriMo was doomed.


Karaoke Circus returned for a brilliant Christmas show at the beginning of December. Lots of great acts though my favourite was Tony Gardner and Ben Miller’s recreation (here it is on YouTube) of Bing Crosby and David Bowie’s awful Little Drummer Boy. I apparently channelled a cross between Sonny Bono and the Boston Strangler for I Got You Babe.

I went to Stewart Lee’s very good new show and the last two episodes of As It Occurs to Me, which – good news – will return next year. I went to Wales and discovered that the Cardiff councillor I was chatting to in the pub is a (very) distant relation. I enjoyed this year’s 9 Lessons and Carols for Godless People and in particular Alan Moore, despite never having read anything he’s written. I went to the Royal Albert Hall for the first time and sang Christmas songs and then it was Christmas and stuff, with my own Christmas message and the thomyk pantomime.


At locations as diverse as the BFI IMAX, the Prince Charles in Soho, a local pub theatre and Bad Film Club at the Barbican, this year I saw Watchmen, Star Trek, Bats, Harry Potter and Whatever the Sixth One’s Called, Milk and Mega Shark vs Giant Octopus. I also went to the premiere of State of Play. Milk is probably the best of those and, rarely, a film that actually changed my behaviour: I don’t think I’d have gone to the moving vigil against homophobic violence in Trafalgar Square in October if I hadn’t seen the film a few weeks previously.

Bye bye, 2009

Turns out I’ve done rather more than I remembered. And that was quite cathartic, if a bit egocentric. In retrospect, 2009 was a much more positive, productive year than I’d given it credit for. And as for 2010 – well it’s up to us, isn’t it?

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