Swings, Roundabouts, Rollercoasters

I've been reading a few end-of-year lists, whether about books or blogposts, music, films or poems. I quite like them. They help me see what I've missed or remind me of things I'd forgotten. Perhaps not when they're conservative sausage-fest lists though, which interest me less. But in general I like looking at them. They help me try to make sense of things. The key word for me this year, personally, has been: busy. That may be an understatement.

This year has been on rails. Frantic. A rollercoaster car that somehow manages to navigate the curves at high speed without falling off and plummeting into the earth. I definitely signed up to the ride, but have rarely felt like I had any control over steering the thing. Just stay in the car and hope for the best.

I've been teaching (and planning, and marking) all year, postgrads and undergrads, which has been hard at times but hugely rewarding. I've had my regular work deadlines (editing comics and other freelance) coming round on a monthly loop across several different projects and publishers. The main publishers are based in San Francisco so we tend to work very late hours around deadlines. We've travelled a lot for work. Comicons are great fun but they're also exhausting. The comics themselves are really satisfying to work on. Swings and roundabouts, as well as rollercoasters.

Then there's the Poetry Comics book I made, and the two exhibitions and assorted workshops that went with it - they've pretty much dominated the year for me. It doesn't sound like much in a sentence, but you can read more about the whole thing here. Then there was the annual Poetry Book Fair which I organise with Joey Connolly - more people through the doors than ever, more publishers, and thus more work, but I think we just about managed to pull it off. Next year: more help. I've done some fun readings too - furthest away was at Toppings in St. Andrews, biggest was probably the Newcastle Poetry Festival. I gave a paper at the Goldsmiths Poetry Conference, ran a comics workshop at Nottingham Uni with Delightful Husband, wrote reviews, read new books, watched new films, rewatched Die Hard, all that stuff. The book I realise I've purchased most frequently this year, in order to share the delight with others, is Tom Jenks' & SJ Fowler's 1000 Proverbs (Knives, Forks & Spoons Press) which you'll find a sample of here.

Any end-of-the-year list is largely personal. What stands out most for me (perhaps unsurprisingly, given how much time I spend running around like a coke-addled labrador) are all the personal things, many of them moments I've spent with family and friends. I threw my husband a Tolkien-themed 40th birthday party and everyone came round to decorate hurridly for the surprise - I looked around our house in glorious chaos, mid-bunting, mid-light hanging, mid-dressing, and fell in love with everyone in the room, all busy and helping each other. I laid on my back on the Aldeburgh stone beach in November and fell in love with the stars. I fell in love with my husband over and over after the silliest things, rarely the most meaningful. I swam in the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Our little cat became so relaxed one evening when purring on me in bed, she stretched over and fell off it completely, and our laughter scared her right out of the room (she came back). I cried a little hearing Joanna Newsom play live again. I cried a little reading Ray Fawkes's The People Inside. I loved eating toasted sandwiches with my parents at Turf Lock on the River Exe. We went to the Empire Strikes Back Secret Cinema event and watched Ben Kenobi die ten feet in front of us. My mother-in-law stroked R2-D2 like a pet.

I've also been to an extraordinary number of weddings this year, for my age. It feels horrible to lump them all into one "wedding" box though. The older everyone gets, the more significant weddings seem to become. It's very different watching 40 year olds get married than watching 20 year olds. They were all weddings of people we've seen go through horrible and wonderful times, and were all so different. I feel lucky to know so many people still doing anything as optimistic as getting married. This year has been filled with love.

Except when it hasn't, of course. What else have we seen? An election that put a Tory majority back in power. An expansion of our warmongering in the Levant. More bombings. More homeless refugees in need of aid. Paris. Paris. Record-breaking hurricanes. Climate change realities. Beloved public figures shown to be sexual predators again. A seemingly endless run of shootings in the States and so much systemic racism. At the same time, we saw close-up photographs of Pluto for the first time. A snapshot on the way to infinity I can hold in my hand on a screen and experience, all so briefly, before I turn it off and zoom back into my own life, rush down a sandwich, drink a glass of water. I don't know how to make sense of the world.

Perhaps the word isn't just "busy" but "tired". I'm so tired of the news, the world, these horrible things, the sense of inability to effect change, the lack of time to engage with it anything more than superficially. I'm so immensely glad of all the opportunities I've had this year, and it has been amazing, but it won't do. I need more time. We all need more time. We're running out of time.


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