What I’ve been doing:
Those familiar with this blog will notice I’ve changed the layout and one further thing I wanted to try in 2018 was a new monthly blog format. The idea is to write briefly about the month just passed, in the hope that people will comment/reflect on it and a conversation can begin.
This month, the first of a new year, I decided straight away that I wanted to change a few things in my life. Well, I’d already decided on a job change, and before Christmas I had an interview at another printers. On the 2nd of January I received a call saying that I’d got the job. I accepted and handed my notice in straight away which felt great. I’ve said I’ll write about that job and how it ended in more detail someday, and I will, just not now. The good thing is that I’m out of there and off to pastures new.
I’ve also been looking for a new place to live. We love our current flat but unfortunately a local cricket club acts like a pub/club/band practice arena and our sleep and simple home comfort is being disturbed. It’s really frustrating because if it wasn’t for that, the flat would be perfect and we’d stay a long time. But as it is, I need to get out. My ears can’t stand any more bass guitar. Hopefully something will pop up soon and we’ll rent a van to move all our stuff. I’m certainly not moving house in the back of a Corsa again.
Currently I have a week off as I’m now in between jobs so I’m getting straight and relaxing a little. As always at the start of a new year, I vowed to write more. So far that’s going OK but I need to treat it like a second job. I’m also planning on contacting the local RSPB site at Dovestones to look into doing some voluntary work. Some day in the future I’d love to work in a different field, and I’ve always found doing some voluntary work can go a long way. I also love the area and would find it a privilege helping to maintain it.
One other thing I’ve done this month is to start studying Spanish again at Instituto Cervantes in Manchester. I studied there throughout the whole of 2016 and loved every minute of it. My Spanish improved a lot and I met some great people. In 2017 I decided to take a short break, which somehow turned into a year. It was a big mistake and my progress has suffered somewhat but the important thing is I’m back, and my new class is great. Hopefully this year I can really push on with it.
What I’ve been reading:
I started the year with one of my favourite writers, Karl Ove Knuasgaard. In August 2017 he released the first of a quartet of books named after the seasons. I read the first ‘Autumn’ straight away after going to an event in Manchester where he read from the book and signed copies. Unbeknown to me, the second book ‘Winter‘ came out in November so whilst ordering some Christmas presents I bought myself a copy. It was a joy to read his words again. The books are simple, he starts them by writing a letter to his unborn child, and then goes on to talk about the things we fill our lives with. For example, cotton ear buds, some 2 pages about those. Owls, another page or two. Basically whatever came into his head during those days, he wrote about. Like I say, it’s incredibly simple and why should his opinion on these things matter? Well, because it’s Knausgaard, and he makes me love being alive and able to think.
I then read a short book that my partner got me for Christmas titled ‘The Day Before Happiness‘ by the Italian Erri De Luca. I enjoyed that a lot and finished it within a day or two.
Then I started ‘The Book of Dust: La Belle Sauvage‘ by Philip Pullman. This is volume one in a trilogy of books set before the His Dark Materials trilogy. I finished it just a few days ago and am already feeling a bit lost not being in that world. Philip Pullman’s books were some of the best I read as a teenager and I would recommend them to everybody. I now can’t wait for the next two to be released.
Right now I’m reading a book called ‘Hunger‘ by the Norwegian Knut Hamsun. I picked it up a few weeks ago after spotting it on a table in Waterstones. The edition is by the publisher Canongate and has ‘THE CANONS’ written across the bottom. So far I haven’t read a bad ‘THE CANONS’ book, and this looks set to follow the tradition. I’ve only read the first 50 pages so far but already impressive.
What I’ve been listening to:
[Edit: I’m combining my WIBD blogs with the Songs of the Month blog, here is the SOTM entry for January] Wanting to carry on with my songs of the year in 2018 but actually starting the year with a track I was listening to at the end of last year. ‘Alone’ by Jessie Ware was released in September and I first heard it on one of my drives to work and back. Skip forward to January, I bought her album from Fopp and have had it on in the car since.
The album ‘Glasshouse’ was released in October and it’s a strong, 12 track record, which ranges from ballads like this one, to more poppy tracks like ‘Your Domino’ which is currently getting radio time. Standing in a Caffè Nero queue two weeks ago, I heard an acoustic version of this track and it was even better. Her voice is so simple, but it’s clean, it’s strong and it’s easy on the ears. There are a lot of vocalists out there right now that feel the need to shout to be heard, but Jessie seems well above that.
I think one of the things I most like about her is that she just seems so normal. I heard her last week with Chris Evans on his breakfast show, and she came across as just your regular mum that simply enjoys making music. Not in it for the money or the fame, she just wants to write music, and that’s hard to find these days. Perhaps one of the most impressive songs on the album and a track that showcases her talent and normality is the ultimate track called ‘Sam’ in which she writes a song dedicated to her husband. The lyrics are simple yet powerful, and as the song ends we’re graced with an outro that Bon Iver would be proud of.
Other bands/sound I’ve heard throughout the album, and perhaps the reason I like it so much, are the 1975 (random guitar parts, the slow bluesy tracks and the beats) and John Mayer (tracks like ‘Slow Me Down’). When you go through the album though, there’s a whole range of sounds, and it demonstrates exactly what Jessie and her team are capable of.
This year I’m also going to mention a few other tracks that stood out in the calendar month. For January, they were: 17 – MK, Fireworks – First Aid Kit, God’s Plan – Drake, Breathe – Jax Jones & Ina Wroldsen.
What I’ve been watching:
I said this year I’d watch more films and so far so good. As of 30th Jan, I’ve watched 16 films this year. These include Sing Street, Elle, The Tenant and Get Out. So far the standout film has been Elle and it will probably be one of my favourites of the year. A full list of films for 2018 can be found here: https://letterboxd.com/mgmckenny/ (Btw, I highly recommend this app/website and if you’re on it give me a follow.)
In terms of TV I’ve been watching quite a bit of that too. I’m close to finishing Herzog’s ‘On Death Row‘ series which are 8 in total and tell the stories of 8 different person/s on Death Row awaiting execution. I found out about the series a few years ago after watching his documentary ‘Into The Abyss’ and this series is really just an extension of that. It’s a dark series that is sometimes deeply unsettling but well worth a watch.
I’ve also just finished season 2 of the Scandinavian series ‘The Bridge‘. We (my partner and I) watched the first series a year or two ago and had taken our time before starting the second, but it was well worth the wait. Some of the acting by Sofia Helin and Kim Bodnia in it blows me away.
I watched all of Black Mirror season 4 and I have to say I was disappointed. 1 or 2 episodes stood out (Metalhead and the Star Trek episode) but the rest should have stayed in the ideas bucket.
We’ve also been working our way through Kieslowski’s ‘Dekalog‘ series again. If you’re not familiar with this, it’s a 10 part TV drama series based on the 10 commandments and written and directed by (probably) Poland’s most prolific film director Krzysztof Kieślowski. He extended 2 of the 10 episodes into films, which go by the names ‘A Short Film about Love’ and ‘A Short Film about Killing’. The TV series is every bit as good and I’m eagerly wanting to finish it.
And finally I have just a few episodes of the American version of ‘The Office‘ left. I’ve been watching this on and off for well over 5 years now. Hopefully within what’s left of this month, or next month, I’ll finally finish it.
Thank you for reading. Like I said at the beginning, this is a new format and I hope people enjoy it. If you’d like to talk further about anything above I’m always here to chat.