Best TV shows of 2020

I don’t watch enough TV. I have, however, loved some TV shows this year.

The Mandalorian
So, the quality of The Mandalorian is incredible. Each season is like an 8-hour film. I love how The Mandalorian is connected to the Star Wars universe but has a completely different story. If only the sequel trilogy had attempted the same thing then it would have been so much better. Apart from the cuteness of Baby Yoda, the action is the best thing to watch. The episode where Baby Yoda is kidnapped by Dark Troopers is ace!

The best thing about The Mandalorian is probably its legacy – so many quality programmes are now being made in the Star Wars and Marvel cinematic universes now that Mando has convinced everyone that it’s possible.

The Great British Bake Off
It’s cheesy but I almost cried when the Bake Off was announced as returning. There is something so comforting about this programme. It is perfect escapism TV – for an hour or so each week COVID didn’t matter. All that matters was if Peter could bake a cake. A brilliant series!

The Fall
Ok, so The Fall wasn’t released this year, but this was the year that we binge-watched it. It was totally captivating. Incredible programme.

Neighbours
I don’t watch any other soap so Neighbours is a totally guilty pleasure. Each day it is reassuring and entertaining. There have been some brilliant plot lines this year. The only problem has been that we have not been able to watch as many episodes this year because of COVID!

This Country
This year we fell in love with This Country. The show has flown straight in as one of my favourite comedies ever. It is hysterically funny!

The Last Leg
The Last Leg is the programme that has summed up the year. In January/February it laughed at the idea of COVID. Then by the end of the series there was no audience. It returned with Adam Hills in lock down in Australia and Josh and Alex presenting from their homes via Zoom. It returned again in a socially distanced form at the end of the year. That they awarded Dominic Cummings the Dick Of The Year Award over COVID tells you how much we all hate Dominic Cummings.

Gogglebox
Quite possibly the best programme ever. Entertaining, uplifting, comforting and awkard every single week, the stars have really cheered me up this year.

The Stranger
I’ve already written about how much we enjoyed The Stranger. It was awesome.

Favourite Tunes of 2020

2020 hasn’t been a vintage year for music but were are a few gems.

The Weeknd – Blinding Lights
Ok, so this was technically released in 2019 but it enjoyed most of its success this year. The song is, excuse the pub, an absolute blinder! It sounds fresh every time you hear it, yet also sounds it was released years ago. I’ve not really enjoyed much of The Weeknd’s music before – part of this was stubbornness not to engage because I hate the way he is too lazy to spell his name properly. But between Blinding Lights and In Your Eyes, 2020 has been a vintage year for him. Both tunes are amazing, but Blinding Lights is phenomenal!

Ella Henderson & Roger Sanchez – Dream On Me (Roger Sanchez Remix)
Ella is such an amazing singer. She has released so much good music but has never really followed up on her initial success with Ghost. However, in 2020 she released some crackers and it was hard to choose my favourite. I have gone with Dream On Me as it samples one of my favourite songs, Another Chance. However, I could have chosen Take Care Of You as that is fantastic too!

Purple Disco Machine & Sophie and the Giants – Hypnotized
Before streaming became the thing, the hype around Purple Disco Machine would have been huge. His Nineties-revival remixes are amazing and this remix of what I assume is a Sophie and the Giants song deserved to be massive, like the Robin Schulz remix of Prayer in C was in 2014. Hyponotized is brilliant and is well worth a listen!

McFly – Tonight Is The Night
I love McFly. I really enjoyed the documentary All About Us in November. Tonight Is The Night is such a good tune, I listened to it on repeat after watching it!

BTS – Dynamite
All I know about BTS is that they are Korean, they usually don’t sing in English and that girls love them apparently. Yet, somehow this year they released Dynamite – one of the best pop songs of the year by a mile. I don’t know how they managed it, but fair play.

Yellow Car Punch

Yellow Car Punch has become an obsession and I play it all the time!

Around eighteen months ago our children and their cousin started playing Yellow Car Punch in the car. I had never heard of this game before but it kept them busy on journeys, so why not. They weren’t actually hurting each other and they were mostly quiet – seems like a good idea. I assumed at first that they had made the game up!

It wasn’t long before I was involved in the game too. I then did some research and discovered this wasn’t just something they had made up. Yellow Car Punch, or The Yellow Car Game, is a well known pastime!

We play in two ways – both rules are really simple.

The first way is to be the first person to spot a yellow car. When you do, you shout, “Yellow Car Punch!” and lightly pat the other person. So far the children have obeyed the rules and haven’t hurt each other.

The second is to count as many yellow cars as possible. My record in one day is 21 – the best places to spot them being Llangollen, Rhyl and New Brighton.

I am now totally obsessed. I count yellow cars all the time. I know when I am going to spot them on my journey to work. I shout, “Yellow Car Punch!” whether there’s anyone else in the car or not. I once shouted it during a work-related call I was making in the car – embarrassing!

There is actually a website which explains the rules and describes the history of the game!

Do you play?

The Rhythm Of The Night

I wanted to describe our recent experience of the Coronavirus world.

On Monday 21st September our youngest started with a cold. After months of barely coming into contact with anyone, it was inevitable that we all would catch colds. We thought nothing of it. That evening our daughter started with a cold as well – again we thought nothing of it.

The following day our daughter was sent home from school because she wasn’t looking well. As her mum works at the school she took her temperature and it was high. Mum, and two children were both sent home straightaway as there were coronavirus symptoms. I phoned and I had to leave work as well. It was time to go into self-isolation until we received a negative result.

It took around six hours before we could finally book a test. The test was the next day in Warrington. Quite a way to travel, but that was the nearer slot. The test is not pleasant. You have to rub the swab on the tonsils right at the back of the throat for 10-15 seconds. You then use the same swab to put up a nostril and swab the inside of the nose for 10-15 seconds as well. You pop the swab into a tube, seal it all and hand it back.

The test took place in a car park. Someone directs you and guides you through the process. It’s all a bit surreal really. But the car park was very quiet and there were maybe 10-20 cars there.

The children’s results came through the next day, in exactly 24 hours. Our daughter’s was negative but our son’s was positive! We were in shock. What we presumed was just a cold was actually the virus. We had to notify the schools where we work, as well as anyone who he had come into contact with at the weekend. Later in the day Test and Trace contacted us and, over a long phone call, they took the details of everyone formally and any places where we had spent time over the eating, e.g. eating out. He had also had a haircut so we had to pass over their details.

The children were doing ok but we could not get their temperatures to stay down, although their cold symptoms gradually began to fade.

My wife’s school asked her to do a test which she did using a postal kit. She received a negative result in three days.

At last weekend I started with a cold and feeling rough and a high temperature started. So I booked another test for Monday. This one was to be in Runcorn. Once again, it was in a car park. There were literally two other cars in there. I received a negative result in 18 hours.

As I am asthmatic, my cold, like typical, started to aggravate my chest and I started with a cough. So a couple of days later I went for a second test – this time in Deeside. (This test centre was something more permanent and so it was like arriving at the scene of a movie.) I was also able to see a doctor but had to drive to the local hospital to do this which was also surreal. I was prescribed steroids and antibiotics. Another negative result arrived later that evening.

So here we are on day 11 of self-isolation. We have had one positive test and the rest of us are negative. The child with a positive test had very mild symptoms. I have had worse symptoms but have tested negative twice. Two schools have been disrupted as we haven’t been able to go into work. Two classes (50 children) at the children’s school were sent home for two weeks and their families were disrupted. One of my son’s friends had to close half of his business down as they needed to take it in turns to stay at home to keep their son at home. My mum, brother, two sisters-in-law, one with a boyfriend and baby all had to stay at home. Friends have been able to do things like shopping and running errands for us. Although I first thought that I might save some money on petrol, I have driven to Warrington, Runcorn, Deeside and Leighton – over 140 miles – for tests and to see a doctor. Massive disruption to our lives and also to our friends’ and family’s lives. We are confused, shocked, fed up, feeling useless and anxious. What a couple of weeks it has been.

We finally get to move back on with our lives on Wednesday.

Holiday

We took the gamble and booked a holiday to North Wales. We stayed in Conwy – in a brilliant cottage just on the edge of Conwy, facing the town walls.

We visited Conwy, Llandudno, Rhyl, Beaumaris, Benllech, Bango, Llanfair PG, Caernarfon, Colwyn Bay and Llanberis. It was so good to get a change of scenery. We all had a brilliant time – just what we needed. The absolute highlight of the year!

Due to Covid restrictions we weren’t allowed to go into our holiday home until 5pm. So we decided to book a trip to the Welsh Mountain Zoo for the day. This is a lovely zoo and we always love visiting. After arriving at the holiday home we went to do some shopping. Unfortunately I bumped my car slightly in the supermarket car park. How annoying. We bought chips for tea on the way back.

On the Saturday we went to Caenarfon and Bangor on the Saturday. Neither place was particularly special. Carnarfon was particularly rough. There was some sort of conspiracy rally going on where literally muppet who could hold a microphone was allowed to speak. Nightmare. We called at Penmaenmawr beach on the way back. That night my brother and I went out in Conwy. It was a bit weird with all of the Covid restrictions but we managed to get a drink at a secret beer garden behind a beer shop. It was great!

On the Sunday we stayed in Conwy. My other brother’s family came up to see us and spend the day in Conwy. We had a brilliant time. We went on a boat ride which was good and explored the town and did some crab fishing.

On Monday we went to Llandudno and had a brilliant day there. My third brother and his wife joined us for the day. It was great! We had chips back in Conwy which were great!

On Tuesday we went to meet our little boy’s friend and his family in Rhyl. It gave us something to do as it literally rained all day. We had a meal out, taking advantage of Eat Out To Help Out.

On Wednesday the weather was better. We went to Angelsey. We visited Llanfair PG, Benllech and Beaumaris. Some of our favourite places! That evening we went out for another drink – the pubs were harder to get into that night.

On Thursday we went to Llanberis. We visited the Slate Museum (normally a nice day out, but due to Covid changes it was rubbish this time). We went on a train ride around the lake afterwards which was great. That evening we went on a walk around the town walls which was amazing!

On The Friday it was rubbish weather again, but we spent the morning looking around some shops in Conwy. A nice, relaxed end to the holiday.

Here are some photos from the holiday.

Dream House

Today I spotted my dream house. Ok, it is in Congleton, so maybe there could be nicer places to live. But I reckon this is up there in my list of dream homes.

Opposite a beautiful mere. There’s even an Indian restaurant almost next door (until the knock it down and build more houses on it).

It will only rush you half a million pounds!

There are still houses for sale and you can see them here.

41

So, I’ve been 41 for a month now. And, I have to say that I hate it.

41 is a prime number and although I like prime numbers, I don’t want to be one. I don’t subscribe to the prime number age theory.

Prime numbers are awkward numbers. Nothing fits in to a prime number and that’s how I feel right now. I’m not fitting in.

I’m really fed up, if I’m honest. Things aren’t going too well and life is getting to me. Financially things are really hard. Work is hectic and I can’t switch off from it and I can’t keep on top of everything that I need to do. There are not enough hours in the day. I’m not seeing enough of my friends because I can’t afford to. I cannot keep the house tidy. I need to do some improvement work to the house but can’t afford it right now. I can’t eat properly as food seems to make me ill. My car needs replacing.

I love my job but it is really tough right now. The only thing that gets me through each day is my gorgeous family.

Things have got to improve this year and I’ve got to sort my life out as I can’t go on. I’ve heard that people feel unhappiest in their forties so I have got to get a change of mindset soon.

Sorry for the honest post.

New Year’s Resolutions

I am rubbish at keeping to new year’s resolutions. Lots of the promises I make to myself are immediately hard to keep for two reasons. Firstly, because it’s my birthday so early in the year, so I almost immediately break the routines I am keen to get in to. Secondly, because I have no willpower. At all.

But I am going to try to keep to these during 2020, so I am sharing them so I can remind myself about what I’m trying to do.

In no particular order:

  • Spend less money – a big one. A HUGE one. I need to do this. 2020 is about spending less money wherever possible. The things I buy need to be essentials.
  • Find out what is wrong with my stomach or at least what foods make me poorly – in the last few years I seem to have developed intolerance to certain foods – bread in particular. I can’t go on making guesses and feeling poorly. I need to get this sorted.
  • Collect stamps and coins – see, I have no willpower. I am trying to get into buying first day covers of stamps and coins (specifically 50p coins). But this is such an expensive hobby, I will need to see how it goes. If they announce, let’s say Lego stamps – I will get them. If they announce stamps with caterpillars on, I will not. Same with coins – if I’m interested, I might take the plunge. I will write about this potential hobby at some point. This will be the one treat this year. Although I will hopefully buy the Friends Lego set at some point.
  • Keep the house tidy – I can see clutter, even as I write this. But I can’t carry on having an untidy house. I need to get everywhere as straight as I can get it.
  • Use my phone for less crap and be more productive with it – I waste so much time reading social media. I want to limit this and use it for more productive things, like keeping a diary, maybe.
  • Create more social media content than I consume – I want to use social media to build a platform for this blog and for a professional blog. I also want to develop my wife’s online presence for her little craft business.
  • Go to bed earlier one night in the week – I am beginning to feel my age. I need more sleep.
  • Read more – I have found it hard to keep up with reading in 2019 for various reasons. Back on to it in 2020.
  • Regularly spend time sorting the garden – I say regularly instead of weekly as I couldn’t commit to that. Spending any time doing this at all would be an improvement compared to last year.
  • Iron once a week – hate this.
  • Eat more fruit – looking forward to this, actually.
  • Clear the garage and loft – we have so much crap that needs getting rid of. And we have so many things we could sell and generate a bit of money.
  • At work I want to be relentless in our pursuit of high standards in the school, keep everyone focused on our school development plan and avoid making errors in administration which I have managed to do this year and last.

Around the World Beers

Over the last few months I have been trying to drink beers from as many countries around the world as possible. I managed to reach 21 different countries.

Belgium – Stella Artois

China – Tsingtao

Cyprus – Keo

Czech Republic – Pilsner Urquell

France – Champignuelle

Germany – Warsteiner

India – Cobra

Italy – Birra Moretti

Japan – Kirin Ichiban

Latvia – Cesu

Lithuania – Gintarinis

Mexico – Corona

The Netherland – Heinken

Norway – Ringnes

Poland – Tyskie

Russia – Baltika

Scotland – McEwans

Spain – Estrella

Thailand – Singha

Turkey – Efes

USA – Budweiser

Lost

At the end of last week I read this article about Lost. It describes Walkabout as the most important episode of Lost. It’s worth a read if you loved the series. I can still remember the moment we discovered that Locke was in a wheelchair before he came to The Island…

Lost has now been replaced by Game of Thrones as my favourite TV series of all time. But Lost continues to be a close second. Lost is the reason we signed up for Sky TV back in the day, after Channel 4 lost out to Sky One for Season Three onwards.

The show still gives me goosebumps. The thing I loved is how the producers set about to tell a complete story from start to end. I hadn’t watched a show like it before. 24 was my favourite before. The things you knew about 24 were that something dramatic would happen on the hour every hour, and that by the end of the series, Jack would save the day. Lost hooked viewers in for the complete ride. You couldn’t drift in and out – you had to pay attention and watch it all.

The twists were superb and the way the mythology was built over the seasons was excellent. It had the biggest cast I can remember, and it was good how characters would come in to the show and then be missing from a few episodes. There was so much depth to the show that it could do that and you’d still be drawn in. In fact, with just a few episodes to go of the show ever, it abandoned the entire main cast and focused on important, yet barely featured, characters.

I still to this day find myself cross at Lost for a few things. The best ending to a season ever was at the end of Season One when Walt was snatched. And we still don’t really know why. And the entire last season was a let down with the confusing sideways flashes. And, when rewatching, I can’t believe that I was a fan of Jack when I watched the first time.

But I can see the influence in Lost in shows like Game of Thrones, with its large cast and complete story telling. (Funnily enough, people complain about GoT’s final season too.)