1st Annual Review – 2013

2 Jan

In a nutshell, 2013 sucked more ass than a human centipede (2nd sequence). I am more than a little pleased to see the back of a roller-coaster year with more than its fair share of excrement. On the plus side, in spite of some overhanging segments of said centipede, I’m actually going into 2014 fairly positively, and for the first time in as long as I can remember, am optimistic about the forthcoming year.

This is the time of year where bloggers and columnists traditionally indulge in a blow-by-blow triumphant record of their most astounding moments of the year, gloating at all of us who have failed to reach those dizzying heights. A time where confessions are laid bare, one final dig is got in at the arch-enemy of the moment, and newspapers talk about all those people who died this year before 15 December in their obituary round-up.

Its also the time when bloody everybody talks about their New Year Resolutions – an arbitrary list of promises written on the wind, most of which will be scrubbed off by the end of next week. I’m not doing that – there is absolutely no point. Aside from a) general promise to myself (not a NY resolution) to be more positive and stronger going forward, b) resolution of an outstanding legal matter – already in progress.

I will indulge however in a little reminiscing over the last year and pick out a handful of highlights and lowpoints that are shareable. A couple of nights ago I was talking with a friend about the key moments of the year and realised that on the whole it had been far more positive than I had previously admitted. Its probably helpful to remind myself of these just now. I’ve chosen not to dwell on the negativity and the more unsavory events of the last 12 months.

2013 began as it ended, with me marking New Year’s in the surroundings of my parents’ house, surrounded by family and feeling pretty miserable while in the middle of making massive changes. I spent the next few weeks between my folks in Ards, and the house in Downpatrick moving out the last of my stuff.

On location for the YouTube intros - abandoned shoot for River Patrol, summer 2012

On location for the YouTube intros – abandoned shoot for River Patrol, summer 2012

January dealt a mixed blessing. I made my debut on Hammer’s YouTube channel introducing the first set of films from their pre-horror days to be released on the channel (including the ‘lost’ film River Patrol, which was sourced from my own privately held print), but also officially ended my work on retainer with them after nearly 7 years. I’ve kept some official work with them, writing the viewing notes for both the Dracula and The Mummy Blu-ray/DVD releases this year (found on the DVDs in the sets as PDFs), and I’m currently working on a book about the pre-horror history of the company which should be ready later this year and which may or may not end up as an ‘official’ title), but my day-to-day life is no longer so Hammer focussed. I’m still available if and when wanted, but now in a freelance capacity which does at least allow me to comment a little more comprehensively again – I’ve always kept my objectivity, but on occasion chose not to voice it. I’m proud of some of my work during the period, and saddened that the last couple of years of the relationship were as difficult as they were for me personally.

My publishing business effectively went into hibernation in January too, with no new product issued in 2013. I’ll blog elsewhere about what’s happening with that – but I always said we’d spend the first couple of years testing the waters and the systems before re-launching. We’ve lost a couple of books and authors in the process, but the business is being restructured before a re-launch. I worked damn hard on it, developing it over the last six years, so darn sure it isn’t going away. We’ve announced a couple of agreements reached in 2013 for books which start publishing this year, and there’s a couple more being kept quiet for now. It’ll be worth the wait.

Genuinely, this cupboard is where I slept for several nights in February. My dog might have joined me - I'm not saying.

Genuinely, this cupboard is where I slept for several nights in February.

February was hell. Utter hell. Having moved all of my things out I ended up back in Downpatrick packing up the rest of the house, and cleaning for days on end. Add to that dealing with a very pissed off landlord (who knew more about what was happening than I did) and sleeping in a cupboard for several days with no bed or heat and only my dog for company, it was little wonder I ended up ill. Returning to clean out the mess that was left in the sheds and power-hose the yard a couple of weeks later was like Chinese water torture – thinking I was clear of that place and then being dragged back to hell – and left me feeling utterly ashamed. While I’ve not been put off country or rural living for live, I’ll certainly be more careful about the practicalities in future, and am reminded why I prefer living on my own.
We also said goodbye to the Fantastic Films Weekend in Bradford after the National Media Museum decided to call it a day on the event after a decade. Deeply frustrating after I helped curate the 2012 event, and I know our figures were better than ever before. I spent many happy June weekends in Bradford and forged friendships I hope will last long into the future.
My nephew Eli’s christening offered the first major family event of the year.

The first rays of a new rising sun shone on me around then. The rest of the year took a considerably more positive turn.

Me and the late James Herbert - photographed in October 2012.

Me and the late James Herbert – photographed in October 2012.

March brought the death of author James Herbert, and I returned to the airwaves at the BBC for the first time in nearly two years as I shared some thoughts on his passing for Arts Extra.
Then in April we lost folk icon Richie Havens, a man I’d met several times in Belfast during the naughties. His passing moved me to the core and began something of a process of re-evaluation in my personal life, which is still going on.

April (my birthday month) also offered the delights of two major family art exhibitions in Belfast – with the Ulster Museum hosting a major John Luke exhibit (my great grandmother was a cousin of Luke), and W5 at the Odyssey hosting an exhibit of my uncle Will Simpson’s Game of Thrones artwork. I caught Will’s exhibit at the opening in February – but didn’t see the Luke show until the closing weekend in April.
By a strange coincidence, I was doing a bit of family tree research at the time and was directed (by Will) to an episode of Who Do You Think You Are? which prompted further research and gave us another celebrity connection to the family from the same line – via the Logan’s of Ahoghill and my 4x great-grandfather we’re blood related to Graham Norton (technically my 4th cousin, once removed).

Family time with my brother in Edinburgh

Family time with my brother in Edinburgh

May saw me designated an honorary lady when I was invited to my sister’s very low-key hen night.
I took a long-overdue trip to Edinburgh to visit my brother, during which we were utterly house-bound owing to the appalling rainfall. I also visited the Scottish Screen Archives (near Glasgow) for the first time, in the hunt of information about Elder-Dalrymple Productions with mixed success.
I also began a creative partnership with writer Rachael Kelly, which has seen us attend a multitude of media events, plus begin developing a number of film projects including a couple of documentaries and a short fiction piece based on a script by Rachael that I’m planing to direct this year. Getting back into the buzz of creativity was a real lifter.

June saw some of the best weather of the year, and I spent a day of it in the blazing sun in a dark suit as we celebrated my wee sister’s wedding. A great gathering of families and friends. We were so glad my paternal grandparents were able to make it down from L’Derry as Granda hadn’t been well for some time (before or since).
I also continued my long volunteering association with the Northern Ireland Cancer Fund for Children and set off on one of two cycling challenges over the summer in order to raise funds – taking part in the Bangor Coastal Challenge – 100km around the Ards Peninsula. A route I’d wanted to do many a time, I deeply enjoyed the ride.
Oh, and BBC’s The Voice had two Northern Irish lasses in the final – Leah McFall and Andrea Begley. I’d been an Andrea girl from her first turn on the show so was thrilled with the outcome. Months later it dawned on me I knew Andrea from my days working the Law Library at Queen’s University where Andrea was a student – and one of the nicest I had to deal with.
Oh, and I was treated to a private personal guided tour of the Game of Thrones production office and sets down in Titanic Quarter.  Jealous much?

Bonfires in Newtownards, July 2013

July began with my return to the QFT education programme, introducing Before Midnight.
I’ve been back plenty since.
I spent the 11th night watching the various bonfires around Newtownards from the beautiful setting of Scrabo Hill, and juxtaposed a visit to Milltown Cemetery with watching the 12th July Orange Order parades in Belfast. By the end of the month I had also taken my first trip into the Bogside in Derry – fully embracing all the visual representations of NI’s political divide.

August proved to be a brilliant month.

The Connolly clan at my grandfather's 80th birthday party

The Connolly clan at my grandfather’s 80th birthday party

Made a couple of visits to Grey’s Point in August to watch the seals. Volunteered again with the NICFC for the World Police and Fire Games (though without the scophophilic pleasures offered to some of my female colleagues after an organisational hiccup meant I had to miss the volleyball game…).
Then there was what has been jokingly dubbed our international rock star week, during which I saw Snow Patrol live for the first time and reconnected with a couple of old friends at the Little Matador debut gig in Bangor. I rode a high from that week for quite some time afterwards. Wheels were put in motion that week that continue to gain momentum.
And I took part in my 4th Lap the Lough cycle around Lough Neagh, again raising funds for NICFC.
I closed the month with a workshop for the Takeover Film group at QFT.

We also celebrated my maternal grandfather’s 80th birthday at the end of August, bringing together the Connolly clan for the first time since, well, my sister’s wedding actually. Having stayed with my dad’s parents in July, I spent a night at my mum’s parents in September. Felt good to reconnect like that and do something I’ve not done much since childhood.

My "Conn O'Neill Bridge" artwork prior to exhibition

My “Conn O’Neill Bridge” artwork at home prior to exhibition

Ended up doing another night in Derry in September during my attendance at the Belfast Media Festival (seriously under-attended). Then to the launch of the Art In The Eastside exhibition in Belfast where my ‘Conn O’Neill Bridge’ artwork was included, to my surprise and pleasure.
I also became a god-father/guardian/uncle-not-by-blood in September to wee Henry. One of the surprise happy moments of the year remains the moment I was asked to do it and I just burst into tears. Funny the things that tug at the old heart-strings.

Spent a few days down in Dublin helping a friend out, doing a little genealogy (dispelling one long-held myth) and in meetings for future events. And in the spirit of ‘nothing ventured’ I attended an open casting for a tv series – got a call back enquiring about availability (I was very available) and then nothing.

October started with a film location recce in the Mournes and quickly evolved into my participation in the BFI Gothic programming – slots at the QFT again, my debut on RTE television and radio, and in the Irish Times and giving the 2nd annual Stoker Address at the Bram Stoker Festival in Dublin. What became a very Dracula oriented few weeks continued into November for more film intros including a special screening of Hammer’s film at the Harbour Commissioners Office.

Of course November was also going to involve Doctor Who for me, so I used the opportunity to disappear to Edinburgh for a weekend to watch the special with my brother and discuss a couple of 2014 projects. A brilliant few days and a lovely time dandering around the city and indulging in their Christmas market. I’ve missed Edinburgh a lot – and am actively looking for a job opportunity there.

And so to December, so fresh in the memory. I donned the Santa suit once more for NICFC, with both my nephew and godson visiting (and being terrified). Just before Christmas we went to see Will’s new exhibition at W5 (revisiting on Monday past with my brothers). And overall during the month spent a lot of time with family and friends having a very quiet and subdued festive period (generally speaking).

Brother Ben at uncle Will's new exhibition at W5

Brother Ben at uncle Will’s new exhibition at W5

I had a conversation earlier in the year with a couple of friends I hadn’t seen in maybe a year. They seemed to be of the impression that I had moved away – even though I was up in Belfast most weeks. Hell, I was only in Downpatrick not Iraq! But out of sight out of mind – and there were times when I needed a friend. A couple of other friends have come back into my life (not that they were ever out of it completely), and its been a real thrill to see them again and spend time talking freely about the things we all care about. More than anything this year has been about friends and family for me, as I reset, and nobody can take that away. Several times lately I’ve heard people comment on how much more like myself I seem now – especially compared to the last couple of years. The reality is, I never went away, but I certainly wasn’t allowed to express myself the way I wanted to. I had to give up myself in order to find myself.

Snow Patrol at the Limelight - 30 December 2013

Snow Patrol at the Limelight – 30 December 2013 – it is, really!

I ended the year on a relative high. Not New Year’s Eve, which I seldom count – though that was spent once again at my parents’ (where I currently live), in better form – but the 30th December, which I spend with one of my best friends at a charity gig for Alzheimer’s Research in Belfast. The surprise headliners turned out to be Snow Patrol – a stripped down acoustic version. Seemed somehow apt.

Of course, I’ve left out the worst bits of 2013, and there are several. And I’m not going to give too much away just now about 2014, but there are good things around the corner. I have appointments in the next couple of weeks which might just decide not merely the rest of the year, but my entire future.

Throwing the coin up into the air and don’t care what side it lands on.

Driving a stake into the vampiric scarecrow ghost of 2013

Driving a stake into the vampiric scarecrow ghost of 2013

There will be writing. There will be books. There will be films. There will be events. There will be friends. There will be family. There will be music. There might be sex (but probably not involving me). There might be tears. There will be outrageous flirting. There will be travel. There will be celebrities. There will be chocolate. There will be me. There will be you. There will be us.  Stay tuned.




One Response to “1st Annual Review – 2013”


  1. The Sherlock Holmes English-speaking Vernacular - January 13, 2015

    […] I wrote my “1st Annual Review” on the blog this time last year, I was in the middle of a very unpleasant legal matter that […]

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