2015, a year in figures and fragments

2015 was an unsticking.

365 days filled a little better than in 2014, I think.

My 30th birthday. A fourth decade. I thought hard about about this turn. That marvellous line of Ann Friedman’s: “It was around age 29 that the number of fucks I gave about other people’s opinions dipped to critically low levels.”

IMG_1162

But this wasn’t a year of less fucks. Maybe it was a year of more. It was a year of finally getting moving and doing things – of making friends with a human memento mori by name of Wayne Chambliss and realising that there is no time but now to act.

It was a year of saying yes.

I grew stronger, physically. I learnt to travel, finally. I spent more time out in the wild.

A first swim in the Pacific; an icy dip in the River Brathay at Chapel Stile.

Sleeping in interesting places. On top of a Bronze Age barrow. Under countless stars next to an abandoned gold mine, in a Nevada desert valley so dark the Milky Way was stretched gauzelike above us. A pillow fight in Circus Circus, a decaying casino hotel in Reno. Mountain hostels and an urban bothy. The air mattress of my oldest-standing friend, now living in Berlin.

IMG_2844

103 miles of the 192 mile Coast To Coast path across northern England, from St Bees in Cumbria as far as Grinton in North Yorkshire, before my blisters got infected in the constant wet and the pain was too much to continue. Nine Standards Rigg on the top of Hartley Fell: nine pillars, 800+ years old, standing on the watershed between the Irish and North Sea. Nobody knows why they were built.

Shooting a 12 gauge rifle in Nevada, and blowing a bottle to smithereens with a .35 Magnum, buzzed on 18-year-old Lagavulin.

A 3,500 word essay published about that journey.

Another 3,000 words published about that road trip, on a moment of unease in the ghost grids of California City. Two years of writers’ block finally lifted. I’ve been writing in coffee shops a few nights a week since. It feels good – it feels like relief.

It feels there’s a lot to be done: my work doesn’t have the depth I want, it doesn’t have the subtlety or artistry, I feel no-one takes me intellectually seriously and fear it’s because my output isn’t good enough (yet) to deserve that seriousness. But I am at least, at last doing the work required to address that.

40 books read in 2015 – that’s part of the work, too. Documenting them all on Instagram.

56 miles walked down the Thames Path in two and a half days, including 31 miles / 50km walked in a single day, my longest 24-hour hike so far. One private island loaned for the night through the generosity of strangers.

IMG_2047

The kindness of strangers who gave me a bed for the night at Phantom Ranch, too, at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. “You’ve 5 seconds to decide before we head out the door.” Yes.

Hiking out from the camp at 7am to catch the sunrise. A mile of ascent and 1.8 billion years of geology. Plans afoot to walk 70 miles of the Tonto trail along the length of the river in late 2016 or 2017.

06:54: dawn on 1st November from the 40th floor of the Heron Tower. A cloud inversion, the peaks of the Gherkin and the Cheesegrater rising into a glorious dome of bright blue. Descending fast in the lift an hour later, we sink into a grey miasm of fog, a real London pea-souper, the city muffled. Boundaries between worlds feel porous. It’s All Hallows.

IMG_2109

Strange omens: a dragon in a quarry in Tilberthwaite. The wings of a pigeon, ripped off and laid out on the middle of the road in Holborn neatly, the tendons like hands pointing at one another. Jack Parsons, for that matter. Ghost towns. A forest fire in Mammoth that looked like an atom bomb going off; a red sun; ashfall. A sublime thunderstorm on top of Kinder Scout.

31,162 miles flown, or thereabouts – to Los Angeles twice, Berlin twice, and Toronto once. A few moments of thought as to the environmental impact. Yet according to Charlie Loyd,  and David McIver, carbon offsets actually work. So I buy them.

My kitchen ceiling collapsed into a pile of rubble, and had to be fixed. A wooden worktop counter, a new ceramic sink. Stripping the wallpaper in the hallway and painting it grey. A fire in the garden behind mine that I watched destroy my back fence in a few minutes, the old ivy going up like a torch. My beloved garden foxes didn’t come back.

A 25% payrise. It helped.

I learnt to deadlift, squat and clean & jerk, and got probably the fittest I’ve ever been in my life (though I’m still not under 10 stone). I came off the pill for the first time in about 10 years, and my body fat distribution has changed. This year I want to quantify that with a scan so I know better what I’m working with.

IMG_0061

I cut my hair short and wore a backless red silk dress to a wedding and remembered I’m allowed to dance in high heels once in a while. Thank you Alex for the invite.

New friends both corporeal and algorithmic. Travels with Wayne and Brad, and their circles met through those trips (Joel, Ryan, Jared; Harriet, Thomas & Theo). Fine company on the international art-tech-futures merry-go-round as the whole gang went to Transmediale and I met the crew from Thirdwave Berlin. Igor recommending me for Aerials in Toronto in the autumn. Getting to know @botaleptic, the cyborg Hugo Reinert.

IMG_0836

Two candles lit at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, downtown Los Angeles.

Half a dozen goals at the start of the year. All but one of them met (the failure: “Don’t duck dating.” There’s only so hard I can push myself.)

Themes for 2016 still emerging: dawns and sunrises; leap years and leaping; the journeyman. A list of thoughts, goals, hopes stretching to eighteen or twenty points, which needs some condensing.

5000 metres or 16,400 feet in elevation gain in two hikes either side of the New Year not a bad way to mark the threshold.

IMG_3064

Comments are closed.