Annual Report 2015

Since 2009 I have been keeping a record of certain things in my life. Here is a roundup of 2015.

Fitness
Over the last few years I’ve been increasing the amount of fitness activities that I do. To get logged it must involve a change of clothes/footwear. I tend to log minutes of activity rather than distance as it is a lot easier.

  • Running (in a year I did the marathon) – 3251 mins or 54.2 hours (2014 – 1130 mins)
  • Swimming – 175 mins or 2.9 hours (2014 – 0 mins)
  • Circuit training (BMF and Project Awesome) – 4565 mins or 76 hours (2014 – 6050 mins)
  • Cycling (mostly off-road) – 385 mins or 6.4 hours (2014 – 105 mins)
  • Kayaking – 160 mins or 2.6 hours (2014 – 0 mins)
  • Walking (hills/mountains) – 2800 mins or 46.6 hours (2014 – 900 mins)

321.6 hours of exercise! Not bad eh?

Cinema
Given that I love films and going to the movies I have seen a paltry eight films this year. Exercise and TV at home have muscled their way in!

‘Inside Out’ was easily my favourite, not least because I was crying like a baby from the warm up short ‘Lava’ and blubbing and hugging my daughter by the end of the main feature. I also found Jurassic World quite a guilty pleasure.

Movies at home
I saw 69 movies in the comfort of my own home this year, down marginally from 71 last year. The pick of the bunch from new films that I saw was probably The Raid 2 on Netflix. Absolutely jaw-dropping fight scenes.

TV shows
I watched what looks like a lot of telly this year, something like 289 hours of it! This looks like a massive number but it does boil down to only 5.6 hours a week which isn’t even an hour a day. This encompasses over 50 series (seasons) of various lengths.

The highlight was re-watching the entire five series of Breaking Bad (still one of the finest things ever on telly). This was closely followed by series 3 of House of Cards which has managed to keep up the exceptionally high standards of the first two. I also have a big soft spot for the legal drama ‘Suits’, now in series 3.

On the low point I started watching ‘Sons of Anarchy’ but it wasn’t grabbing me and I found the gender politics pretty irredeemable.

Books
I managed to finish 20 books this year which seems to be about my average. The theme seems to have been that I’ve re-read a number of books in 2015 including all the Hornblower series, the Lord of the Rings trilogy and one of my favourite books ‘The Right Stuff’ by Tom Wolfe.

Of the new books, reading ‘Fatal Passage’ by Ken McCoogan on my arctic explorer hero Dr John Rae is the highlight. I’m sure i’ll be re-reading this at some time.

View (and comment) on the 2015 Annual Report spreadsheet for the full details.

 

2015 – A Year of Adventure (and Microadventure)

This has been a pretty stellar year for doing cool stuff and I’m already looking to see how I can top it in 2016. What did I get up to?

Winter skills course in the Cairngorms, Scotland
In January I headed up to a snow covered scottish highlands to do a Winter Skills course with Cairngorm Adventure Guides. This was my first go at proper winter mountain walking and I absolutely loved it. There was a ton of snow, including one proper white out and some potentially challenging conditions.

View from Cairn Gorm

Apart from learning some of the basics with the ice-axe and crampons it was just amazing to be up in such a wonderful winter landscape for 4 days. This trip was also great for giving me a shot of confidence on hiking in winter. A superb start to the year.

California trip (inc. Yosemite)
I was lucky enough to be sent by my work to northern California in May to organise a conference. Following this I was even luckier to get away for a week to see some of the beauty spots.

I hired a car and headed up to Yosemite,somewhere I’ve passed through before but not really spent much time in. I spent a half day in the amazing Mariposa Grove with its giant trees and another half day climbing the mist trail in Yosemite Valley itself. Read the full blog.

Yosemite

My big day was climbing up the seemingly endless switchbacks from the valley floor to the top of Yosemite Falls. From here I walked the ten mile round trip to El Capitan. In total I walked 16 miles and ascended over 900 metres in just over 7 hours. Tiring day!

Yosemite

After Yosemite I drove up to Lake Tahoe and then to Point Reyes National Seashore. An fabulous trip!

All the photos from the trip on Flickr.

Blue Moon Microadventure
Since my winter and spring adventures I was pining for some adventure but not really having the time to get to the remote ‘cool’ areas of the country I had despaired of what to do. It was in the summer that I stumbled across the Alastair Humphreys book ‘Microadventures‘.

I found it revolutionary. Instead of big, expensive, far away adventures, do them quick, close and cheap. It also introduced the idea of camping without a tent to me. So simple and yet it still keeps the essence of adventure. I’m now addicted.

Sunset above Seaton

My first bivvy adventure was with my 7 year old daughter Rose on the cliffs above Seaton in Devon during the ‘blue moon’ in August. Read the full blog post. Feels especially good that we shared this experience.

Hadleigh Castle Microadventure
Keen to go on another adventure I was also keen to find like minded people which led me to the ‘adventure army london‘ group on Facebook. This led to going on a campout with a group following Dave Cornthwaite at Hadleigh Castle near Leigh-on-Sea.

Hadleigh Castle

It felt very different going with a gang of 13 rather than on my own or with my friend andy. What I did get, apart from a lovely night out, was to meet some like minded people, many of whom now I count as friends. Read the full blog post.

Cobham Wood Microadventure
As cool as it was going with other people I felt I was ready to go on a solo microadventure. I decided to see if I could fit a quick one in at the Darnley Memorial in Cobham Wood.

Cobham Wood microadventure

There is a certain special buzz about being out in nature on your own, especially for a city boy like me. I loved it, especially when I saw some bats and a wonderful sunset and sunrise. Read the full blog post.

Loch Ness Marathon
The really big adventure this year was supposed to be completing my second marathon and smashing my personal best. When it came to it I found that finding time to train over the summer was quite tough and my preparation was far from optimum.

This meant that the race itself was incredibly hard, especially as I was determined to attempt a sub-four hour time. The middle part of the marathon was a crisis point for me and i’m actually really proud of myself that I was able to dig deep and find the grit to keep going and meet my ambitious goal.

Loch Ness marathon

Read all of the Loch Ness Marathon blogs.

Kayaking BCU star 1
Embracing the idea of adventure and inspired after watching some microadventure videos I was keen to try Kayaking. Not sure how much I would carry it on, I didn’t want to spend a fortune learning the basics. Luckily the Tower Hamlets Canoe Club offer a four evening course for £50.

Kayaking course at shadwell basin. Fantastic fun!

I’m now a star 1 qualified kayaker and I’ll decide in the new year as to whether I’ll go for my star 2 or concentrate on other things. I did really enjoy it and would love to do more if I have time.

Read about the course in full.

Project Awesome
A number if the people I was with at the Hadleigh Castle campout seemed to do a crazy sounding early morning workout called ‘Project Awesome’. Captained by tv star Danny Bent initiation into this group has been a fantastic positive thing in my week. Loud shouting, hugs, a sunrise and a badass workout is the way to start the day!

Black Mountains (Brecon Beacons) camping
There was a time when my annual weekend in the hills with my friend Andy was all the outward bound action that I’d be looking at in a given year. This year we aimed to check out some of the black mountains in the Brecon Beacons.

We were a bit unlucky with the weather but time on the hills is always great. Read the full blog post.

Houghton Forest Microadventure
I was really pleased with this microadventure, it illustrates how I can squeeze in a campout following something else. I was down in Houghton Forest near Arundel doing some off-road cycling and running. My fellow cyclists/runners left to go home and I marched off into wood and had my own microadvenure.

I did get pretty creeped out by the owls that called out all night out but that is the wid for you!

Read the full blog post.

Coombe Hill Microadventure
Missing some company I put the word out to my chums in Project Awesome and Yes Tribe to see if anyone fancied a Christmas microadventure. I was absolutely delighted that 15 people joined me on Coombe Hill near Wendover.

The weather was warm(ish) for december but WAS wet and very windy. This didn’t stop the brilliant group I was with from having a great time. I’m so inspired by them that I think i’ll plan one a month into the new year.

Annual Report 2013

Well it seems I’ve been keeping a record of various activities for five years straight now. Each year I add another bit of data and I’ve ideas on how to add more for 2014. This year I recorded all the cinema movies I went to, all the tv shows and movies I watched at home, bread that I made, books that I read, fitness that I took part in and cultural places that I visited.

Goals achieved
Looking back, I unusually didn’t seem to set myself any formal goals for this year. At the time, however, I was still writing a daily blog and had started on an exercise kick. I stopped writing the daily blog in the summer but I’ve stuck with the exercise and I’m feeling that this has been a real success (more on this later).

Report:

Movies (at the cinema)
This has been an exceptionally slim year for my cinema going with an all time low of 15 movies. It has not been the sparsity of good films but my increased fitness regime that has been to blame and I think I’ve missed some real corkers this year too. Of this (short) list, my top three are:

  1. Gravity 3D
  2. Searching for Sugarman
  3. Stoker

Despite being the favourite and despite even Mark Kermode saying it was alright, I think I still would have preferred Gravity in 2D. I feel confident that it would have amazed me as much. Gravity is notable as my only 5 star film (at the cinema) this year.

Movies at home
This year I have watched 63 movies at home, mostly via Netflix, 38 of which were films that I’d never seen before. I clearly like to re-watch stuff! Of these my top picks would be:

  1. Cave of Forgotten Dreams
  2. The Descent
  3. Do the Right Thing

It is interesting to note that two of my top three involve caves but for utterly different reasons!

TV series
For the second year running I can say that I have barely watched any scheduled television and stuck for the greater part to Netflix, DVD box-sets and to a lesser extent iPlayer. On top of that it has been a stellar year for quality too with a bumper crop of top-class entertainment. So much so, in fact, that it is painful only picking out a top three. The top shows that I watched were:

  1. Breaking Bad – series 1-5
  2. House of Cards (2013) – series 1
  3. West Wing – series 2-4
  4. Twin Peaks – series 1 and 2
  5. Ripper Street – series 1 and 2

As I am still quite far behind on watching many established shows I can usually wait these days until they have completely finished their run before watching. I was therefore able to see all of the superb ‘Breaking Bad’ without having to wait a year between seasons/series. It is up there with ‘The Wire’ as a very nearly perfect show and had a terrifically satisfying ending too.

In numbers, I watched 22,129 minutes of TV, which is approximately 368 hours. It sounds a lot but that is only an hour a day on average which I am not too ashamed of.

Books
At the same time that my TV watching has gone up, my book reading has gone down and I have only completed 15 books this year. I started two others but didn’t finish them. This is despite loving both my kindle and the local library! Worse than that, there were not even any truly wonderful books that I can report back on and nothing had five stars. My top three were:

  1. Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose
  2. Summer of Blood – the Peasants revolt 1381 by Dan Jones
  3. Battle of the Atlantic by Andrew Williams

It is notable that more or less all the decent books that I read this year were histories and i’m really longing for a wonderful novel to come along.

Bread
I’ve been regularly baking bread for several years now but this year I thought that I would record what I baked and when. I only thought to do this in February but is still pretty interesting. I have recorded making bread 40 times since February and i’d guess there would be at least a couple more in January. This would mostly be a batch of two large loaves each time. Eleven of these batches were sourdough.

Fitness
This category is new this year and I’m quite pleased with the way i’ve broken it down. In total I did110 separate sessions of formal exercise (something that I got dressed up sporty for) adding up to 5113 minutes (85 hours). Broken down, I did:

  • British Military Fitness (BMF) – 3870 minutes
  • Running – 1041 minutes
  • Cycling – 112 minutes
  • Swimming – 90 minutes

This all averages out as two 45 minute sessions a week which I don’t think is too bad.

Cultural visits
I made 16 ‘cultural’ visits in 2013. This could be a museum, art gallery or historical place such as a castle. This a big improvement on past years and I hope to continue this next year.

Coffee shops
My vague idea here was to record all of the independent coffee shops that i’ve been to, however, I didn’t really think how best to do this and this kind of fell by the wayside. I’ll pick this one up in 2014 and add the coffee beans that I use in my own coffee.

Goals for 2012

I’m a little bit late with this post as I really should have written it at the turn of the year rather than a month later. My goals for 2012, however, are as follows:

Write more

First up I want to write more this year. I’ve really enjoyed writing blogs over the last three years but they got quite intermittent last year which was a shame. I’d like to use this blog to continue to document my hobbies as well as various trips and projects that I do.

I’d also like to have a go at writing a blog post every day, for January at least, and after that see how I go. Rather than an account of the whole day I think if I just keep each post to one idea or thing that has happened it should be quite manageable. I’ll also keep this blog separate so as not to confuse things.

Read more

I like reading and I like books and for a number of months I’ve actually made a point of noting down in a list the books that I want to read. I can get a bit carried away with lists and over the last few months I have accumulated over 80 books on it. Over the last few years I’ve read between 20-25 books a year so even if I don’t add any more there is already 3-4 years worth. I really enjoy reading history books and I’ve tried to get into more classics recently but I should allow myself a few more trashy page turners in between too. Ultimately though, my aim this year is to read over 25 books. Should be doable.

Television

To give myself more time to do the first two goals I am vowing to only watch ‘quality’ television this year. Far too often I’ve found myself watching rubbish on TV and to be honest, there are other things I’d enjoy a lot more, including writing and reading. No more ‘Don’t tell the bride’ for me. On this note, I’ve got a lot of TV series box sets that are excellent and I’d like to watch but are not always popular with the Missus who, to be fair, is not a fan of violent stuff. It would be great to get through some of these if I can though and there is some crossover for us.

Ideally of an evening I’d like to watch an hour of ‘quality’ TV such as an episode of The Wire or Madmen followed by reading or writing a blog post. Then Bed.

Become a Pie Master

Over the last few years I’ve really enjoyed my bread-making but to a certain extent I’ve reached my limits at it. There are still some speciality breads that I’ve not made that I’ll have a go at from time to time but I was really after a new culinary challenge. After making a small pre-christmas request I got given a Pie book and a few pie making accouterments.  It is therefore my goal to become a bit of a ‘Pie-master’ by the end of the year. We should have a great time trying in any case.

Magic

This one has been carried over from last year when I failed to achieve it. I love magic and sleight of hand and would love to be able to do a few tricks. My aim is therefore to be able to deliver three separate magic tricks on demand by the end of the year.

Grow Wheat

I’ve been keen on bread making for some time, even regularly making my own sourdough but there is one more obsessional step to take. Growing my own wheat.

I’m not sure quite why I’m so keen to do this, as good flour is relatively easy to get hold of? Maybe it is because it is a challenge and a bit pointless that I find it an attractive idea. I’m keen to show my kids where food comes from and when I’ve mentioned it they do seem pretty keen so maybe it’s just educational?

The first challenge amongst many is getting hold of some wheat which, due to strict distribution laws, is harder to obtain than you might think. Hard to get a small amount in any case. Getting half a ton delivered would be no problem apparently. If I can get over this stumbling block we are in business.

Touch Typing

This final one may be the biggest challenge of them all. I’m sure having to look at the keyboard as I type has professionally held me back a bit. As another goal is to write more it now seems the right time to learn to touch type. There seem to be many free online courses and demo’s so I also have the few excuses.

Setting aside the time for this task will be tricky but I’m determined to crack this one if I can.

Annual Report 2011

Well, it’s been an exciting year. Here is the news and facts about my cultural life that are fit to print.

Photography

The big achievement in 2011 was to complete the ‘One photo a day’ project without missing a day. I did my first one in 2008 and I’m wondering if I should keep doing this every 3rd year? Praps I’ll see how I feel in 2013?

In total I took 4216 pictures with my ‘good’ camera (Canon 5D) and uploaded 891 of them to Flickr. I’ve not really kept tabs on how many iPhone photos I’ve taken.

Books

I attempted to read 20 books in 2011, though one was War and Peace that I had started the previous June (!!!) and David Copperfield that was not finished until 2012. I didn’t finish the Mitfords book as I felt i’d gleaned enough by half way or ‘Suttree’ which I just wasn’t enjoying.

It was quite a mix of books including trashy thrillers, classics, biographies and quite a few history books. All of the books, listed in the order I read them, including my favourites:

  • War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy (finished)
  • The Mitfords – Letters between six sisters – Edited by Charlotte mosley
  • The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe – Daniel Defoe
  • Firewall – Andy McNab
  • Rifles – Mark Urban
  • The Last Kingdom – Bernard Cornwell
  • The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Stanley Kubrick biography – John Baxter
  • Nelson – A personal history – Christopher Hibbert
  • A Call for the Dead – John Le Carre
  • Absolution Gap – Alistair Reynolds – GOLD
  • The Lost World – Arthur Conan Doyle
  • Suttree – Cormac McCarthy (Did not finish)
  • How Not to Grow Up – Richard Herring
  • Conquest: English Kingdom in France – Juliet Barker
  • War without Garlands – Robert Kershaw – Bronze
  • David Copperfield (Started) – Charles Dickens
  • The Blackest Streets – Sarah Wise
  • The Greatest Show on Earth – Richard Dawkins – Silver

Cinema

I saw 22 films at the cinema this year. Overall not quite such a stellar year as 2010 but there were a couple of corkers.

Black Swan – Gold
127 Hours
True Grit
Never Let Me Go
Animal Kingdom
Paul
Submarine
Pina 3D – Silver
Fight Club
Attack the Block
Senna
Tree of Life
Super 8
Captain America
The Guard
The Inbetweeners
Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy – Bronze
Drive
Ides of March
Adventures of Tintin – Secret of the Unicorn
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

TV Films

This year I kept a record of the films that I saw on my television either via a DVD or recorded from a station:

  1. Local hero
  2. Italian job
  3. Jungle book
  4. Mean streets
  5. Evil dead
  6. Hot fuzz
  7. 12 Angry Men
  8. Midnight run
  9. Romanzo criminale
  10. Day of the Dead
  11. Pirates of the carribean: dead mans chest
  12. Skeletons
  13. Heat
  14. Transporter 3
  15. The money pit
  16. Top gun
  17. In Bruges
  18. Grosse pointe blank
  19. The Prestige
  20. Rollerball
  21. Watchmen
  22. Coming to America
  23. Good will hunting
  24. Open range
  25. Mad Max 2
  26. Ghost town
  27. District 9
  28. Four Lions
  29. About Schmidt
  30. The assassination of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford
  31. 3:10 to Yuma
  32. Kick-Ass
  33. The Town
  34. The Magnificent Ambersons (part of)
  35. Dog day afternoon
  36. Back to the future
  37. Trading places
  38. Star Trek

TV Series

I have a long list of TV series’ that I want to watch but I don’t get the opportunities that I would like which has meant that I’ve only racked up a few. All three were good but the finale season of The Wire has to be the winner.

  • Battlestar Galactica – Series 2
  • The Wire
  • Arrested Development – Series 1

Museum Exhibitions

I saw a few Museum exhibitions, my favourite being the Don McCullen, War Photographer which I thought was very powerful.

High Arctic – National Maritime Museum
Warhorse – National Army Museum
Degas – Royal Academy
Afghanistan – British Museum
Ministry of Food – Imperial War Museum
Don McCullen: War Photographer – Imperial War Museum

I visited the galleries of many other places and I think i’ll try to record all of my cultural visits next year.

2010 Annual Report

This is a quick round-up of some of the things that i’ve managed to record during 2010.

Photography
I took 2594 pictures in the year of which I uploaded 430 to Flickr. This is approximately half the amount that I took in 2009.

Cinema
I saw 17 films at the cinema this year, 9 less than last year but this is fairly expected as I hardly went out after the birth of my second daughter on 30th Sept 2010.

Of the films that I saw, most of them were pretty good and only one (The Brothers Bloom) that i regretted seeing at all. My top three were:

1. A Prophet
2. Inception
3. Cemetery Junction

Books
I started 21 books in 2010 with only one ‘did not finish’ and one still reading. The ‘acclaimed’ Wolf Hall was the only one I failed to finish, mainly because I found it a poorly told story. 7 of the 21 were proper history books, 1 an autobiography and the rest novels. My top 3 were:

1. The Code Book: The Secret History of Codes and Code-breaking by Simon Singh
2. Russia vs Napoleon by Dominic Leiven
3. Redemption Ark by Alistair reynolds

Not a stellar year for reading in many ways with only the ‘history of codes and codebraking’ being outstanding. I’ve been reading ‘War and Peace’ since June and at the turn of the year still have the last 1/4 to complete. Though a great book it is intimidatingly long and a bit of a mill stone around my neck and I’m afraid i will feel glad to finish it.

Exercise
No running, no swimming and an unrecorded amount of cycling. Not a great record on this front i’m afraid. Between January and September I cycled almost every week between 1 and 3 times a week (to work and back).

Things to do before I die

I’m 37 and nearly a half and it occurred to me that if there was anything that I really wanted to do before I was 40 then I might need to start planning them now. So I started thinking and talking about it with my friends.

One nice thing that has come up is how I’ve actually done quite a few very cool things that might be on other peoples lists. I’ve swum in the caldera of a live volcano, climbed a glacier, seen an iceberg (all Iceland), been to the Grand Canyon and Death Valley, gambled in Atlantic city and Las Vegas, scuba dived coral reefs and battleships (Red Sea and Scapa Flow), parachuted, visited the Pyramids of egypt, visited every national park in the UK, run a marathon, completed a triathlon and got married and had children. Probably other things that I’ve not thought of too.

So what other things would I want to do and how many are achievable before I’m 40? This may end up a list that changes over time but here are the ones I can think of (in no particular order):

  • Sail across an ocean
  • Write a book or magazine article and get published (nationally)
  • Visit every continent (might not need to do Antarctica)
  • Public display or exhibition of my photography*
  • Solo wild camping trip*
  • Olympic distance triathlon*
  • Get a tattoo*
  • Climb a 5000m+ mountain
  • Watch England play live at Football, Rugby and Cricket and go to Wimbldon
  • Own a bespoke suit
  • Take part in ‘Tough Guy’ race*
  • Go to a Music Festival (Glasto?)
  • Learn to make amazing bread*
  • See an Opera at Glyndebourne
  • Try surfing
  • Learn a foreign language
  • Go skinny dipping
  • Read ‘War and Peace’*
  • Watch every Martin Scorsese film*
  • Learn at least three magic tricks*
  • Be on Radio 4
  • Cycle London to Brighton (and get up Ditchling beacon without stopping)*
  • Go to the Hay Literary Festival
  • Go to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

*Things to do before I’m 40
Completed

I’ve tried to pick things that are at least feasible, if quite challenging. Several are going to be a bit tricky due to financial constraints or with time considering I will have two young children that I will want to spend time with over the next few years.

Lets see how I get on.