What 2015 and I did together

Another year gone, another retrospective blog post. 2015 and I largely got on well this year, bar one notable exception I'll get to later. I was realising this a couple of weeks ago when I was doing my usual bit of self-flagellation that is the wont of the self-obsessed. Frankly, although I sometimes find it difficult to believe, I kind of kicked 2015's arse.

On Jan 12th, after nearly five years of trying, I finally moved from my top-floor one-bed in Weoley Castle to a lovely two-bed in Kings Heath. I was convinced that something was going to jam into the works, but apart from the odd suit getting in the way of human business, the process went off, and the thing I'd assumed would happen - the new homeowner's version of imposter syndrome - never did. Whatever wool I pulled over the buyers' eyes appears to have remained in tact. Yay me!

Little Tiny Dot ep1 poster

In February I started Little Tiny Dot, a TV music podcast which I'm thinking of bringing back for another run in 2016.

It was fun to spend a Saturday collecting songs and clips from TV shows old and new, but it's definitely something that works better as a limited run rather than an ongoing endeavour.

Number 32

In March I turned 32 and had a barnstorming housewarmer forward-slash birthday party. Upon returning home I found an email inviting me to talk at a conference. More on that story later.

All kinds of memories get baked into the walls of a home, so it's important to have as many good ones as possible. As I write this I'm intermittently listening to a podcast I recorded during one of my final days at the old place, where I talked about the kinds of memories that had been baked into those walls; some good ones, but quite a lot of sour ones too.

And as I think about the future, I consider how important it is for me to make good memories here, and to not take too many of life's worries home with me.

Chris Hoy

In April, after securing a bike shed for residents on my road - the closest I've ever got to civic engagement - I finally took delivery of a bike and started cycling to and from work. I did it Monday, and on Tuesday evening I decided "nope, this probably isn't for me". I knew I was going to keep the bike anyway, but understanding my own limits was important.

As a blind guy, being able to get from A to B independently is not just of practical use, but morale-boosting. The canal route I took was OK but it needs a high degree of focus, and if I'm honest, the idea of spending an hour or so in fear didn't strike me as the best way to get around. I don't regret the experience at all, and although certain members of my family like to think it's about me being pigheaded, with respect, they've never been in my shoes so have no frame of reference.

May brought a mixed bag. In the middle of the month, something awful happened, and it's at this point that I feel it's important to distinguish between Mark the person, and the Steadman that makes whimsy on the Internet. What happened affected me (Mark) and my family, and those closely connected to it, and it's not the business of the rest of the world (that is to say, it is other people's business, but it's not my place to make it so).

Two days later I was on-stage, more as Steadman than as Mark. It's hard to have to compartmentalise but I hope that in doing so I made a couple of my family members proud. I wrote about the experience of Paradise Circus: Live, and it remains one of the highlights of my year. It's just so shitty that it came only two days after my decade's lowlight.

At the end of the month I ended up in Cardiff, where I spoke at and attended DjangoCon Europe. I met some wonderful people, recorded some audio for a potential podcast series and had a good old fashioned Mark Steadman crisis of confidence.

On this trip I basically learned that I'm not the kind of guy who can go to these kinds of events on his own. I can physically do it, but it's too mentally taxing to wander around, trying to spark up a conversation or, more likely, muscle in on one that sounds interesting. 2013's DjangoCon in Poland had been such a wonderful experience that I thought I'd be able to reproduce it, but the chips just didn't fall right this time.

Under construction

After polishing off DjangoCon, June saw me run ragged at work with a mammoth task that had me awake for 36 hours straight. I was also battling a flea infestation in the flat, which was fun. The task sort-of just-about got done in time, and has been totally worthwhile, saving the company hundreds of pounds a month. So, y'know, all in all, not awful.

I also did manage to get my arse on a barge with my dad, brother and eldest nephew. No locks to contend with as we took an easy, scenic route, but it was fun and relaxing, and I was even able to drive the thing without getting us too horrifically jammed up.

This was the month I also started the Bullet Journal process, a method of planning and logging that's analogue, time-consuming but somehow completely effective.

It was also the time I finally finished putting the finishing touches to what turned out to be a one-episode podcast series, called The City is Alive. I'd like to revisit the series and do more, but it takes a lot of work and at the moment, my heart's in a different place.

Me in a silly hat and wig

More tricky stuff for my closest family in July, but luckily everything turned out fine. For Reasons, I put on a silly hat, wig and "kilt" (a picnic blanket with pleats) and joined my extended family for a get-together. I also watched a bunch of films and worried about people, including my cat, who I was convinced wanted nothing to do with me... which is kind of true, because it was summer and she wanted to be out. This is fine, except when it's midnight and you want to go to bed, but she wants to play in the carpark. Guh.

The Substrakt crew

July saw me back on the same canal as before, locks aplenty, this time with the Substrakt crew. Our numbers are changed a teeny bit since the photo above, but this remains one of the best days I've spent with Substrakt, and reminds me what an awesome, friendly team we have.

I took part in a radio competition, in which I had 24 hours to make a four-minute piece of audio that told a story relating to the theme "time change". I thought I might have placed in the top 20 as I was really proud of what I'd done, but got not a sausage. Still, it was fun to hang out in Birmingham city centre at midnight with my friend and talk to strangers. It also gave me a little more material for my - currently one-episode - podcast series.

Me with R2D2

September was all about Dragoncon. I had stupid amounts of fun with Matt and Sylvia who so kindly opened their home to me. I ate fantastically well, drank heroically and got to meet some of the podcasters I've been listening to for the last few years. I'd love to go back.

It also heralded the start of a new way of thinking, activating the retro thrusters on my strange brain and letting it pull up, instead of driving headlong into a world where I thought I had to "put out content" to somehow justify my place.

I'm still not certain of what my place is, but I know that just throwing stuff at a wall or throwing up a beacon screaming "look at me" isn't the way to find it. Hence, the recording equipment I took to Atlanta never got used, and I haven't put significant effort into a new solo project since.

October was all about Ignite Brum, an event that's been about five years in the making. I was asked if I'd be interested in taking over the loosely-licensed brand and put Birmingham's first Ignite event on at the Glee Club, and after months of wrangling we finally got it together, and ended up with my second highlight of 2015.

I'm exceedingly proud of the show we put on. There were problems of course, but I think I dealt with them well, and had a great team behind me, including Caroline Beavon and some volunteers from BCU.

I put so much work into the event. So many evenings and weekends. The diet went out the window and I was down about £100 on gifts and other things, but I regret nothing, as every ounce of sweat and every penny was visible on the day.

Our next event is in February. I'm terrified, and I can't wait.

A little earlier in the year I'd taken delivery of a Raspberry Pi which I tried to use as a media centre. It didn't quite work out, so I retooled it as an emulator for a bunch of consoles and old PCs. I started a blog and a YouTube channel dedicated to playing old MegaDrive games in random order. The idea is now to publish every Tuesday and Friday.

Me in a flat cap

December isn't really for starting anything new, but it did give me the chance to work on a uniform for the coming year. I take the Jobs approach - which I think was also (mis)associated with Einstein - in which you pick an outfit that works, and just stick to that. So, I'm now a lumbersexual with a twist of pigeon fancier.

I had a rubbishy Christmas Eve. Those who saw me out that night bear no responsibility for this, but something clicked when I stood alone in a crowd of young'ns at the front of a gig, and I had the same kind of sense that I had in Cardiff, that I shouldn't do these things alone anymore. It's just... a bit off (and you can interpret that word any way you choose).


But I'm hopeful for the new year. I crawled out of my own head a few days after. I've become better over the years at understanding how my brain works against me, so I'm better at combating it. Returning to regular exercise and a healthy diet will really help regulate things in the new year, but I've got things to plan for 2016 which won't be easy, but I'm hoping will be rewarding.

I basically kicked 2015's ass. It tried to kick back, but I beat it. I'm so sorry I can't say the same for some of my loved ones, as they've had it much rougher than I have. And if your year's been more negative than positive, you have my sympathies, and I hope you have a better 2016.