Christmas and new year is a time for reflection for most people. It never seems to work that way for me.

I’m in favour of Christmas. It’s a great distraction from the depths of winter. But I do find it probably the least relaxing time of the year.

With Christmas having fallen on a Wednesday this year, the quirk of the calendar means that I have had over two weeks off work. That is unusual for me. But despite all that time off work, I’ve not really stopped all holiday.

On top of all the usual social duties of seeing family and friends, we’ve had a daunting amount of housework to do, both planned and unforeseen.

Saturday 21 December saw me finishing off the last of my Christmas shopping.

Sunday 22 December we visited friends in Dunbar.

A queue of people in the IJ Mellis cheesemonger

Monday 23 December saw us do our big pre-Christmas supermarket shop. I also participated in the great Morningside tradition of waiting in the lengthy queue to buy cheese from IJ Mellis cheesemonger. In the evening, Alex’s sister and her fiance collected some old furniture we needed to get rid of.

Tuesday 24 December was my dad’s birthday. So we visited my parents for lunch. This was also our only chance to see my brother and his wife before Christmas. In the evening we did some prep for the big day because…

Me wearing a santa hat and beard at Cramond parkrun with Alex

Wednesday 25 December saw us hosting my parents for Christmas Day. I squeezed in the Christmas Day parkrun as well. I happened to get my personal best time, while wearing a Santa hat and beard.

Alex's sister and her fiance moving my old sofa

Thursday 26 and Friday 27 December we visited Alex’s parents in Fife. This involved more help with moving furniture around for Alex’s sister and her fiance.

Five jägerbombs, a beer, and a jack and coke on a table

Saturday 28 December I spent the whole day in Kirkcaldy. I arrived early for parkrun (about which more in a future post). Then I met friends for lunch and drinks. Then went on a lads’ night out with old school friends.

Sunday 29 December was therefore, inevitably, a bit of a write-off. But I still went with Alex to collect some wallpaper steamers from her colleague. This involved me being very brave soldier through my hangover, and smiling and conversing as if I felt fine.

Me stripping. Wallpaper from the ceiling

Monday 30 December saw us spend most of the day working on ripping out the old room where our new kitchen is going to go. We got rid of most of the old wallpaper and got rid of the old cornice. Tough work, and dizzy on the ladder! Then out at night for Alex’s friend’s birthday.

Me and Alex at Midmar Paddock with the fireworks in the background

Tuesday 31 December we went to the tip to dispose of the wallpaper and plasterboard that succumbed to the previous day’s work. Then we hosted a couple of our friends for new year’s eve. A fairly chilled out affair, with board games, gentle boozing, and a trip to Midmar Paddock to watch the castle fireworks.

Wednesday 1 January I was ill. Not alcohol. Alex can vouch for the fact that I developed a bad fever overnight. I think it was a reaction to turmeric. This doesn’t seem to be a common thing. But it is the third time recently I’ve reacted like this after having a turmeric-heavy curry. It was a great shame as I wanted to join Alex for a new year’s day lunch at her friend’s parents’ house. As it was, I slept until 17:30.

Plumbing underneath our kitchen sink

Thursday 2 January we dealt with a drain blockage that developed deep beneath our kitchen sink. The plumbing there seems to have been hacked together. No surprise given some of what we’ve discovered from working in the other room. There’s no point in fixing it properly when we’re about to move the kitchen, so some bowls of water are papering over the cracks there for now. We spent most of the rest of the day tidying the flat after the Christmas chaos.

Friday 3 January saw what I thought was going to be a lunchtime catch up end up being an all day session.

Today and tomorrow is the closest I get to having a rest. Although I did parkrun this morning, and we’ll be going out for another birthday party tonight.

Looking back and looking forward

So I’ve had barely any time to eat some of the chocolate I got for Christmas, never mind reflect on 2019, or indeed to look forward to 2020. But there are a few things that immediately stand out.

While 2019 has not been without its challenges, it has also been a notably brilliant year for me personally. I got married to Alex in February. We had two amazing honeymoons — one in Skye immediately after the wedding, and a trip to Mauritius and Réunion in September (blog posts forthcoming).

As you’ve seen, we’ve also got exciting plans for our home. And I’ve had a good year at work, including being offered an acting up position as user experience manager.

As always, there are things I want to do more of in 2020. How I’ll find the time to do them, I’m not so sure of. I feel like I’ve already cut out everything I don’t have to do, and a lot of the low-priority wants as well.

I say this every year, but I hope to read more. My simple target will be to reduce the length of my shelf of unread books, which for a few years now has grown faster than I can keep up with.

Fitness goals

Most of my other goals are related to various aspects of my health and fitness.

Over the past couple of months I’ve taken up running again more seriously. Friends have suggested a variety of targets for me — some more ambitious than others.

Alex wants me to try and reach my 50th parkrun this year. Since I’m up to 9 at the moment (it would have been 10, but I forgot my barcode today 😓), that means doing parkruns most weeks. I’m certainly looking at needing to do 3 or 4 a month. That could be challenging as there are weeks you’re away or you’re busy or simply can’t make it. 50 is a nice target to aim for, but I won’t be disappointed if I reach 45.

It has also been suggested that I am long overdue attempting a 10k run. Others even think I should train for a half marathon in April!

I have decided to target doing a 10k in early spring, with a half marathon and maybe one or two other 10k races coming later in the year.

I also think I’ll do Pedal for Scotland this year. In 2019 I barely did any cycling at all, apart from commuting places. In 2020 I’ll change that. This makes for a big mixture of endurance activities.

This week I treated myself to a Garmin Vivoactive 4 smartwatch. It’s not the first smartwatch I’ve had — I got a Moto 360 way back when, but it became a brick fairly quickly. As a loyal Android user and Google fan, I’ve been waiting patiently for Google and WearOS to get their act together around fitness. But it just hasn’t happened.

I toyed with getting a Fitbit, but after doing some research and chatting to other runners, I’ve ended up getting a Garmin watch. I didn’t expect that. I thought I’d get something cheap to tide me over for a while. But I think I’ve caught the bug. I am now taking this running and cycling business seriously.

State of the blog

Something else I always do at this time of year is think about what I’d like to achieve with this blog in the coming year. In 2018 I committed to posting every day.

In 2019 I created a schedule for the year, of what topics I wanted to cover in which weeks. The idea was to write regularly about a handful of topics — design / user experience, motorsport, personal life — and make that pattern less sporadic. I didn’t really get into the swing of that because I never had the time to do it properly.

However, I have been pleased at how some posts have got some good traction. For example, my post about the false paradox of accessibility and aesthetics got picked up by UX Collective.

Over Christmas I’ve also spent a bit of time analysing who I’ve been linking to over the past year. This was partly to help me figure out which media outlets to donate to this year. The most linked-to outlets were RaceFans, the BBC and the Guardian. Probably not a surprise.

I posted 101 link posts in 2019. But only 30 of them were links to articles by people that were not white males. I’ll be honest, I thought I was doing better than that — but I wasn’t sure, so I wanted to check. It’s just as well I did. I’ll put more effort into making that more balanced in 2020.

This past year I also changed domain name from .co.uk to .net, which feels right in these Brexity times.

The number of email subscribers to this blog has surpassed my expectations this year. It is a small list, and numbers have tended to fluctuate slowly. For some reason, the second half of this year has seen steady growth.

I’m never quite sure what drives people to subscribe these days. If you fancy telling me, it might help me focus on what I should do with this blog in 2020.

I currently use this website to cover a variety of topics — work, personal life, Formula 1, politics, whatever. While each strand seems to give something to someone, I know it can also put people off.

If you’ve made it this far through this post, you must be a loyal reader. So please let me know what you’d like to see more, or less, of on my blog. Email me: contact@duncanstephen.net.

Thanks for reading.

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One response to “2019/2020”

  1. […] I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I have a goal for 2020 of completing my 50th parkrun. I noted how this meant that I couldn’t afford to miss many parkruns this year. […]

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