Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Weird religious unsolicited mail volume 3

A few days ago we got a large envelope through the post addressed to "The Occupant" at our address. When I opened it, inside was a book about Islam and two booklets, all produced by an Islamic charity that is trying to win hearts and minds for Islam.

They are substantial publications and, as you would expect from something designed to persuade you to become a Muslim, they start from the preposition that Islam is the Truth and the best thing ever for all human beings. Any suggestion of repression or oppression in Islamic societies is all a big misunderstanding, you see.

The booklet about Muhammad has an interesting blurb on the back.

"There is no doubt that Muhammad matters." That's a unarguable starting point. It also struck me as being almost identical to what Christians would say on a booklet about Jesus. I'm not sure if that's intentional or not.

I don't know how the people who sent this to me got my address. Maybe they have been mailing the entire neighbourhood. Islamic unsolicited post is new to me, and this isn't the most random religious post I've received. In 2015 I got sent some photocopied pages of absolute batcrap loopiness that I'm still not a hundred per cent sure was serious. I blogged about it back then. Seriously, you have to read it.

Then in 2016, I got sent some Chick Tracts through the post. If you don't know what Chick Tracts are, they're ultra-fundamentalist evangelistic propaganda, mainly written by a guy called Jack Chick, that go beyond asking you accept Jesus into your life, and basically tell you that whatever you are interested in is inspired by demons. (Someone even turned a Chick Tract about demons running Dungeons & Dragons games into a horror movie called Dark Dungeons!)

I got sent three by someone, who decided to stay anonymous. They did helpfully write some advice on the back for me, though, recommending some books and telling me to have house meetings to discuss things. When I posted the pictures on Facebook someone else in my Friends list knew someone who had been sent something similar, so I don't think it was an isolated thing aimed at me personally.

I have to admit I haven't held any house meetings to discuss things. Years ago I read God's Smuggler by Brother Andrew. I'm not sure how it would help, unless I was embarking on a career smuggling Bibles.

There's a few common themes to all these mailings:
1) I don't know who sent them to me
2) I don't know how those people got my address and why they thought I would want to receive this information
3) Whoever sent them to me seems to think that sending unsolicited reading material through the post is the best way to engage me in their religious ideas
4) There has been no follow up (not that I want any)

I am sure that whoever has sent me these things has done it with the best of intentions. They want their truth to illuminate my life. Ultimately they want to save my soul. They may even feel that they are obeying a direct order from God. But if it's so important, it's a shame it's so ineffective.

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

Capturing the experience of parks football

Sorry, goalie, but if you're going to lean nonchalantly against a post during a game, then some cheeky bugger might take a photo of you and stick it on their blog.

(Taken at Grange Albion v Caerau FC on 11 January. Grange won 4-1.)

Monday, January 13, 2020

Cinema trips in 2019

Another end of year review.  I saw 10 new films at various cinemas this year, as well as a special screening of Labyrinth for Cathy's birthday.

Selfie with a film star 

Subdividing those 10 films into subcategories, I saw 5 animated films, 4 superhero films and the latest episode of the Star Wars franchise.

Here are the films (BEWARE SPOILERS):

How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World
I don't really remember much about this. There was a theme about the world not being ready for humans and dragons to co-exist peacefully so the solution is for the dragons to be hidden away. Not the most positive of messages. 

The Lego Movie 2
Another disappointing sequel. The first Lego Movie was excellent with a reveal of the human world in the final third of the film. Unfortunately the sequel uses the humans as a plot device from the get-go almost and it just doesn't work. There was a great song midway through and I really liked the subtitled velociraptors, but that wasn't enough to make the movie pop like the first one. Cathy was also very upset at the way Fabuland animals had been enslaved in subterranean mines.

Captain Marvel
I really enjoyed this. Lots of humour, a cracking 90s soundtrack (including Garbage's Only Happy When it Rains), Skrulls, and some backstory in the "Cosmic" part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe including a bit more about the Kree and their homeworld. I thought Brie Larson played the main role very well, being vulnerable enough to be believable as a human and soldierly enough to be believable as a member of an elite Kree battle group.

This vies with Captain Marvel for my favourite comic book movie of the year. Zachary Levi is a brilliant comic actor and he carries off the role of child who finds himself magicked into an adult mage's body in a much more credible way than should be possible. Mark Strong was a great scenery-chewing villain as well. There were some scary scenes which juxtaposed a bit awkwardly with the knockabout comedy. But, overall, this is the first DC Comics Movie in a long while that I've actually wanted to watch again (or at all!)

Missing Link
A stop-motion animation about an explorer who finds an intelligent "missing link" and tries to help the sasquatch find his Himalayan relatives. There's a very funny joke about the name of the valley where the yetis live but not much else really stood out. Worth a watch, though. 

Avengers Endgame
The conclusion of the 10 and a bit year movie arc and, whew! It was about time. There are some good bits. Chris Hemsworth as Thor gone to seed was very funny. The film was also interesting for showing the after effects of the Thanos "snap", with support groups and people trying to rebuild their lives. Superhero movies don't often do introspective like that.

Overall, I quite liked the quantum time travel nonsense plotline because it had to be something like that and as far as time travel can ever work in a movie, it worked. Iron Man's closing line to Thanos was suitably momentous. There was quite a protracted goodbye scene, which dragged as such scenes tend to do. When superhero movies aim for an emotional punch they rarely land it on target.

Toy Story 4
I was very disappointed by this. In fact I wrote a massive blog post about why it annoyed me, although I didn't post it because I felt like I sounded like an old man shouting at the clouds. But, basically, there was no real warmth in the script and the characters I've loved from previous films were sidelined. The real thing that irritated me is that Bonny, the toys' new owner, doesn't really care about her toys. She treats them disdainfully and it may feel strange to say this, but it felt disrespectful. It wouldn't have been so bad if the scriptwriters weren't treating the established characters equally disdainfully.

There were a few things I enjoyed - Bo's radio control skunk vehicle, and the new characters Bunny and Ducky - but I really didn't need this movie.

Spider-Man Far From Home
The Marvel Cinematic Universe returned post-Endgame with this slightly silly movie. I like Tom Holland as Spider-Man. Unfortunately I had spoilered this film for myself by finding out a key plot point, and I think that hampered my enjoyment of the film because I knew what was coming. (Mind you, Cathy spotted the 'twist' before it happened anyway.) It was also a bit juvenile being a school trip to Europe film as much as a superhero film.

Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker
Another "well, that's finally over" franchise movie. My main criticism of this film is that it tried to ram too much in. It had about 3 or 4 stories in there and none of them were given enough time. The mystery of Rey's history was solved, sorta. The resistance won, sorta. Evil was vanquished, sorta. But by the end it felt like there were no original ideas being tapped. Bring back a character from the original trilogy - this time, Lando. Develop a planet-destroying weapon - this time on Star Destroyers. Make up for a plot hole from the original trilogy - in Cathy's words, "a great injustice has been righted". Go back to the idea of Force Power being linked to genetic heritage, because why not? 

Like several of the other sequels I went to last year this was a bit meh. You don't need any more Star Wars films than the Original Trilogy in my opinion. The sequel Trilogy isn't bad, but it isn't great either. 

Frozen 2
I really liked this. I went in with low expectations and it had a few story problems. But it has a great message of keeping on on dark times and if you can't see too far ahead just "do the next right thing", which is an excellent message. They wisely reined in Olaf as a character and there is a fab song with a montage spoofing 80s music videos, which had me laughing out loud. Of all the animated films I saw in the cinema in 2019, this was the best.

My aim for 2020 is to expand my horizons a bit and try to see some films that aren't animated, superhero movies or continuing an existing franchise. (I've already made good on that intent this month, so we'll see how I do over the course of the year.)

Sunday, January 12, 2020

My collection of collections, part 1: Souvenir monks

I was giving my mate Tom a lift home the other week and commented that I'm a bit of a collector, and he asked what I collected. And the answer is, just about anything. I've dabbled in stamps, baseball cards, filled football sticker albums, filled at least four shelves with Boba Fett action figures, have boxes of Action Force sitting around, collected the back catalogues of various bands, and the complete output of certain authors, and have literally thousands of Lego bricks in my house (although Cathy has equal claim to them!).

On reflection, I'm a collector of collections. I've known this for a while. I wrote about it a few years ago when I was looking at the psychology of collecting for my MSc dissertation.

This year I thought I might write a few blog posts about some of the more random things I collect or have collected. And I'll start with a small, fun gathering of souvenir monks, nuns and choristers that currently sit on one of my bookshelves.

I have nine of these little clay figurines. I don't know who produced them but they were for sale in gift shops attached to cathedrals and other Christian buildings.

I bought my first one in Wymondham Abbey in Norfolk in 1996, when we went on a family holiday there. (Wymondham Abbey is an interesting building. Half it was a monastery that was abandoned when Henry VIII abolished them all, but the other half was the parish church, so that bit of the building survived in use while the other half fell down. William Cowper, the eighteenth century poet and hymn-writer was part of the congregation there for the last few years of his life.)

Of the others, I'm pretty sure I bought the tall monk in the centre from Prinknash Abbey near Gloucester, either the monk or the nun from Bath Abbey, the chorister from Liverpool Anglican Cathedral, when I visited Liverpool for the first time in 1998, and maybe the monks from Bristol and Hereford Cathedrals.

I've also acquired some from other people. My friend Terri had a few and when she moved to Japan she gave them to me - I think that's where the ones from Christchurch Priory came from, because I've never been there. I haven't been to St Mary's church in Nantwich either. I know my parents went to Nantwich to visit the salt museum there. If they popped into the church for a nosey (and it's apparently well worth a look) then my mum may have bought me a monk.

I have not seen these figures on sale anywhere for ages. In the last couple of years I've been in gift shops in cathedrals in St David's in Pembrokeshire, Ely in Cambridgeshire, and St. Albans, and not seen any for sale among the other souvenirs. I always have a look for them.

From memory I think there may also have been choristers with red robes under their white cassocks. The ones I have both have blue robes, and I would like to try and get a red one for completeness sake. I also don't know if the nuns only came in black habits. The monks came in brown, black and white habits, which it would make sense to match to the monastery, except Prinknash Abbey is a Benedictine house and Benedictines wear black habits. White habits are worn by Cistercian monks. Maybe my souvenir was just visiting from another order, until he came home with me.

Saturday, January 11, 2020

ACCA19 Update - extending the audit deadline

Cathy says she told me that I'd posted the audit too soon, and she was right. The day after I posted the results of this year's audit, a Christmas card arrived.

This raises a conundrum. I got a hardline response from Chris (of "Merry Fartmas" fame) on Twitter, who said that Twelfth Night was the obvious cut off point. But then I reminded Chris that every year the big audit we submit to in work extends its deadlines and he replied with laughing emojicons so I'm pretty sure we can also re-evaluate the results to take into account new data.

But first you may be asking, who is this late card sender. Well, everyone, let me introduce you to Stewart. I met Stewart when I was doing my MSc. He's a good mate who introduced me to Nepalese curry in Bristol on a night out when I missed my train home, and together we have braved the away ends of Rodney Parade in Newport and the Memorial Ground in Bristol to support each other's respective football teams. He was with me at the first half of my frustrating attempt to attend two football matches in one day. (Yes, I'm still bitter about those blooming floodlights!)

And the thing is, Stewart has rescued one of our "none" categories this year, because he sent us this...

Yes, that's right. It's a donkey! Our only one this Christmas. But what really makes this card isn't that it's the only donkey in the audit. It isn't that it's illustrated by Quentin Blake, one of my favourite illustrators. No, what really makes this card is the hilarious handwritten message inside.

How could I not re-open the audit to include this when someone has written that?

So, there you go. Just when you thought the ACCA was over, it lives on!

Updated categories:

Total number of cards: 83 84 (last year: 82)

Hand-made / home-produced cards: 5 
Cards designed by kids: 4
Cards with glitter: 13 

Charity cards
Cards sold in aid of charity (or fundraising):51 52
Total number of charities represented: 42 
Most popular charity represented: British Heart Foundation (11).

New for 2019: charity card cause breakdown
Cards raising money for cancer charities: 26
Cards raising money for other health issues: 31
Animal charities: 2
Children's charities: 13 14
Overseas development charities: 11

Religious themes
Religious-themed cards: 24 
Cards featuring the Nativity: 14 
Christmas story 'characters':
Three kings: 6 
The shepherds: 2
The star of Bethlehem: 0
Angels: 2
Choirboys: 0
'Cartoony' religious: 1

Other themes
Santa: 3 
*Christmas Elf: 1 
Penguins: 2
Bears: 1 
Deer/reindeer: 3
Christmas decorations: 5 
Christmas trees: 12 
Christmas food: 2 
Robins: 0
Donkeys: 1
Sheep: 0
Other animals with or without Santa hats: 6
Winter scene/scenery: 12 
Snowmen: 6
*Snow / snowflakes: 2 
Licensed characters: 1
Llamas: 0 
Hares and Moons: 1 
Holly and wreaths: 0

Messages on the front of the card 
Cards that mention 'Christmas' on the front: 26. (1 religious themed)
"Seasons Greetings": 3
Mentions "Jesus": 0 
Bible verse: 2 
*Lines or titles of Christmas carols: 7 
*Lines or titles of Christmas songs: 1 

Friday, January 10, 2020

Christmas carols audit 2019

I did this a couple of years ago for the 2017 Christmas season, analysing the choice of songs in 6 Christmas services. Because Cathy was recuperating from serious surgery in December 2018 we didn't actually make it to any carol services at all. But in 2019 I made it to three services, a Methodist evening carol service, an Anglican midnight communion service on Christmas Eve, and the Christmas day service at a non-denominational charismatic church.

The longest set-list was at the Methodist carol service, although they had fewer pieces by the choir this year. The songs featured were:
Once in Royal David's City (solo / congregation)
O Little Town of Bethlehem
Cradled in a Manger, Meanly
Away in a Manger
Born a Stranger (choir)
Come and Join the Celebration
In the Bleak Midwinter (choir)
Jesus is the Heart of Christmas
Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
O Come All Ye Faithful (all 5 verses!)

I quite enjoyed this service because it had a few unusual songs and also we were spared from singing the glurge-dirge that is In the Bleak Midwinter. Born a Stranger was a lovely song while Jesus is the Heart of Christmas encouraged us all to think about Jesus while decorating the house and mentioned tinsel and stockings and stuff.

The sermonette also referenced the Protoevangelium of James. a second century apocryphal book that included a story about Joseph's reaction when he found out Mary was pregnant. As a church history buff with an interest in alternative early Christian writings, I found that quite interesting.

There were four carols in the Church of England midnight communion service:
Once in Royal David's City
Good Christians All, Rejoice (this has been updated from Good Christian Men, Rejoice to be a bit more gender inclusive)
O Little Town of Bethlehem
O Come All Ye Faithful

Looking back to two years ago, this is the exact same setlist as the midnight communion I went to in 2017 in the same church, so it seems they have found a selection they like and are sticking with it. I'm not complaining, these are all great carols.

There were only two "carols" in the Christmas Day service, along with two other songs, which I've bracketed. The songlist was:
The First Noel
(Praise the Father)
(O Come Let Us Adore Him - which is the chorus of O Come All Ye Faithful, but with additional lyrics set to the tune of the chorus)
Joy to the World (with updated, unnecessary lyrics)

The data-set now includes 9 services, and the most popular carol is still O Come All Ye Faithful.

In order, the most popular carols are:
1) O Come All Ye Faithful (8)
=2) Once in Royal David's City (5)
=2) Hark! The Herald Angels Sing (5)
4) O Little Town of Bethlehem (4)
=5) Silent Night (3)
=5) Away in a Manger(3)

I hope to continue this in future years, but I think I will have to try and attend a few different services in some other churches to get a more representative sample.

Wednesday, January 08, 2020

A dozen to end the decade - 12 cards from the ACCA '19

The Christmas Card Audit has been thrown into chaos with the arrival of a card yesterday, after publication, with important results-altering artwork. I will update that post shortly while bearing Cathy's admonishment that "I told you that you published it too early!"

Meanwhile here are some cards that arrived in time to be counted first time round.

I know some people send us cards just to see if they can get a mention in the Annual Christmas Card Audit blogpost. Talk about observation changing the system being observed! (That's a real known scientific principle, folks) Even more competitive are the people who go out of their way to pick cards they want to get featured in my eclectic selection blog post that follows the ACCA, when I scan the cards I want to mention, or liked the most. Some people even write in the card that they are doing this. It amuses me.

We've got some really cool cards here, and a few random ones. To kick off, this year I kept a note of "animals" cards that weren't deer, sheep, robins, penguins, bears, donkeys, llamas, dogs in Santa hats, or hares posing in the light of the moon. You'd think there wouldn't be many animals left. Well, I adored this hand-drawn piggy in a Santa hat.

The numbers are meant to be a countdown to Christmas, I think. Anyway, I thought he was great, and I'm including it here even though Anna only addressed the card to Cathee [sic].

Another animal, and this was a first for us, was a Christmassy narwhal.

What's Christmassy about a narwhal? Well there is that carol, isn't there? You know the one I mean! The First Narwhal! (Grooooaaaaaaannnnnn.)  I also liked this card because he has a googly eye. You can't beat googly eyes.

Cathy and I both gave each other cards featuring animals celebrating Christmas. See if you can guess who gave who these.

Deer or reindeer have their own category in the ACCA every year because there are so many of them. But this was new, and also won the 'Most Scientifically Accurate and Educational' category.

Cathy's cousin Adam blessed us with that. At first I thought it was showing us cuts of meat off a reindeer, so I was a bit relieved to see it was "just" the skeleton.

Speaking of scientifically accurate cards, this rainbow is slightly colour deficient. However I did really like it. I think "Yay! Christmas!" is probably the best wording on a Christmas card yet.

Santa wasn't very popular among the cards we received this year, but I quite liked this glittery card of Santa (or several Santas) learning to ice skate. The one bottom right is saying "I've fallen, and can't get up."

Time for the obligatory religious card in this selection. It is sometimes a struggle to find one worth including because they are often so boring. Cathy noted this year they almost all seemed to be exclusively in a blue palette. However, there was one that stood out, that was handmade by our friend Ailsa. It's a kind of batik and shows the magi following the star.

Another Christmas tradition is the special Christmas song. Terrorvision released a belter of a Christmas song this year and when Cathy bought the download, the band sent her a Christmas card as part of the deal. Had to include it here!

One person who made it very clear they were aiming for the blog post when she gave us this card was my sister in law, Abby. To be fair, this was an excellent card as she knows how much I love the Statue of Liberty. I thought this was very cute, so there you go, Abs, if you're reading this, you made it!

And finally, we have always had an ACCA category of "Christmas Food". Usually, it's puddings or mince pies, but this year it was exclusively sprouts. First off, we have Chris's effort which he claims he picked to try and get sprouts as a category in the ACCA. It was also slightly vulgar and the first card I've ever had that wished me a "Merry Fartmas". The sprout in the middle is on a small spring for that 3D effect which doesn't scan very well.

And then, the card that ticked the most boxes this year. Terrible pun - check. Personalisation - check. Welsh greeting - check (the only Welsh card in the ACCA this year). And it's the other sprout card, this time from our friends Sara and Leanne.

And that's the dozen for 2019! Thank you so much to everyone who sent us cards and newsletters this year!

Monday, January 06, 2020

The Big Annual Christmas Card Audit 2019

Well, here it is. I've been teasing the ACCA on Twitter and Facebook, and judging by the comments I get from people on social media, in person, and in some of the Christmas cards that you send, this is the only thing on my blog that you lot are interested in.

The auditing process...

After several years of declining numbers our number of Christmas cards received stabilised this year, which was pleasing. The trends were interesting again this year. Still, no dogs in Santa hats, although there were a couple of other behatted animals, and a dog with a stocking. Christmas trees were very popular this year, as were cards featuring 'wintery scenes', possibly because we don't get snow any more in our warming world.

A word about the audit process, because I know some audit nerds read this every year. I tend to count cards by the most prominent 'theme' or most important aspect of the card. So, for example, Santa in his sleigh being pulled by reindeer would count as a 'Santa' card . If it was just the reindeer with the sleigh waiting patiently on a rooftop next to a chimney, it would be counted as a reindeer card. Some cards are unclassifiable, even with all the new niche categories I keep adding.

In the religious category, it works like this: if the card features Mary, Joseph and Jesus it counts as a 'Nativity' card, even if the wise men and shepherds are also depicted. If it's just baby Jesus, then it's also a Nativity card. So the Wise Men category is just the wise men; the shepherds the same. Angels appearing to shepherds would be a shepherds card. Angels on their own would be in the angels category. It's arbitrary, but at least I've been consistently arbitrary since I started.

On a final note, a few people have started picking cards that they think will break my categorisation. No one has succeeded in doing that yet. It does amuse me that people try.

Anyway, on to the audit. New categories are asterisked. (I probably should stop adding new categories.)

Total number of cards: 83 (last year: 82)

Hand-made / home-produced cards: 5 (down from 7)
Cards designed by kids: 4
Cards with glitter: 13 (down from 17)

Charity cards
Cards sold in aid of charity (or fundraising):51
Total number of charities represented: 42 (up from 36)
Most popular charity represented: British Heart Foundation were the winners again this year, with 11.

New for 2019: charity card cause breakdown
Cards raising money for cancer charities: 26
Cards raising money for other health issues: 31
Animal charities: 2
Children's charities: 13
Overseas development charities: 11
[Cathy noticed that, possibly for the first time ever, we received zero Oxfam cards]

Religious themes
Religious-themed cards: 24 (down from 30)
Cards featuring the Nativity: 14 (down 1 from 2018)
Christmas story 'characters':
Three kings: 6 (same for the third year running)
The shepherds: 2 (up 1)
The star of Bethlehem: 0
Angels: 2
Choirboys: 0
'Cartoony' religious: 1

Other themes
Santa: 3 (half as many as 2018)
*Christmas Elf: 1 (nice that the workers who keep the whole shebang running get a look in)
Penguins: 2
Bears: 1 (can you believe that one year we had 12 cards featuring bears; that's a trend that has receded as fast as the polar ice shelf where they all live)
Deer/reindeer: 3
Christmas decorations: 5 (up from 2)
Christmas trees: 12 (double the number from 2017)
Christmas food: 2 (both sprouts!)
Robins: 0
Donkeys: 0
Sheep: 0
Other animals with or without Santa hats: 6
Winter scene/scenery: 12 (up from 3 in 2018!)
Snowmen: 6
*Snow / snowflakes: 2 (I can't really believe this has never been a theme before)
Licensed characters: 1 (The Snowman of Walking in the Air fame)
Llamas: 0 (This was a new category last year, but maybe the llama fad is over)
Hares and Moons: 1 (Another new category last year, and presumably not over)
Holly and wreaths: 0

Messages on the front of the card 
Cards that mention 'Christmas' on the front: 26. Just 1 of them was religious themed. This just confirms my repeated observation that religious themed cards don't use the word Christmas. Also, again we just had the 1 card saying "Nadolig Llawen".
"Seasons Greetings": 3
Mentions "Jesus": 0 (again)
Bible verse: 2 (same as in 2018)
*Lines or titles of Christmas carols: 7 (same as 2018)
*Lines or titles of Christmas songs: 1 (and that's pushing it because the words were "Fa la la la la")

Catch up on previous years
2015 plus 10 favourite cardssenders analysis and Bible verse breakdown
2016 plus favourite cards
2017 plus a dozen favourites and Christmas carol audit
2018 plus 15 favourites

Sunday, January 05, 2020

2019 - football review of the year

Calendar year football reviews are a bit odd, as they traverse the tail end of one season and the start of the next. But thanks to the Futbology App (formerly known as the Groundhopper App) I had a handy run down and summary of all the games I went to in 2019. I made it to 40 games, which is a record number in a year for me, and included a short summer stint of fun in the Europa League following Barry Town all the way to Belfast.

I'm not going to bore you with crap match action photos from 2019, because there are enough of those on my 2018-19 season review post, and my summaries of pre-season, and August, as well as my hilariously disastrous attempt to go to two games in two different countries in the same day!

Instead, here's a photo from the Art of the Wales Shirt exhibition that was hosted in The Museum of Welsh Life in Saint Fagans in November. It featured match-worn shirts from 1958 up to the present day.

The thing about the Futbology App is that it awards 'badges' for certain achievements like seeing a certain number of games. I didn't know that until I got one in one of my first games of 2019, when I 'checked in' at Newport County v Leicester City. Embarrassingly, this figure is wrong because I still hadn't entered every game recorded on my spreadsheet onto the App, but I'm including it for the sake of completeness.

But my first real badge was also at Rodney Parade a few months later, when I saw Newport County for the 10th time.

I then got a double when I went to Belfast - it was my 25th Barry game, and a new country!

October was a bumper badge month. I picked up a badge for seeing QPR for the 10th time, as they lost to Cardiff. I also got a badge for watching Wales and for my 350th game - a genuine achievement this time. It was for Barry v Airbus, an otherwise less than noteworthy game except that in a season where Barry seemed to only score screamers from 30 yards, their second goal was the closest of tap-ins ever.

I wrapped up the year with a badge for my 25th game at Jenner Park. I had actually got the badge for 50 games at Montgomery Waters Meadow (eyeroll at the sponsor name) when I saw Shrewsbury play Portsmouth back in March, but I didn't screenshot it at the time. Even I didn't anticipate I would be so sad as to stick them all on my blog.

I really like the Futbology App. It's nerdy enough to really scratch my data itch and the badges give you something to collect as well! The badges have all been rebranded with the name change now, so I'm glad I screenshot them when I did.

Finally, a big shout out to all the people I went to games with in 2019. That includes my Mum, Dave Matthias, Zac Matthias, Dan and Iona Warburton, Steve Hilsden, Tom Sargent, Sara Crowley, Callum Crowley, Nigel, Neil and Paul Crowley, Leanne Evans, Steve Hacker, Jon Davies, Stewart Smith, Paul "Podge" Davies, my fellow block 14 Salopians Jim and Jean Williams, and Brian Cooper, the friends I've made at Barry Town - Mark, Mike, Steve, Ian, Rhys, Leon, Daley, Joe, and all the other brilliant members of the Jenner Park faithful,

Most of all, I want to thank my Dad for the game at Telford, which turned out to be our last footballing adventure as just us, and for all the games, the tickets he never asked me to pay him for, the driving to random places in far-flung parts of the country, the phone call deconstructions of games and tactics, the enthusiasm, the infectious passion, and the love. I've taken to wearing his cap to football matches. He goes with me through every turnstile, jumps up for every goal. I miss him every game.

Saturday, January 04, 2020

Bye bye Christmas for another year

All the decorations (which in our house means a lot of toys) are back in the loft now. But here's something a lot of people don't know about the traditional Christmas story. There was a fourth wise man and he brought the baby Jesus the gift of style and a love of capes...

Of course, after Christmas comes the Annual Christmas Card Audit! It's on its way.