2013: a year in review

Another end-of-year reflection for future me to enjoy. It was an incredible year in which I pretty much sorted my life out. Most notably, I turned 40, and got engaged!

I pledged to make less noise in 2013. I aimed to be quieter and just get on with my work and personal life. This I did, and it was wonderful. I published zero blog posts, wrote almost nothing for anyone else, and did only the speaking jobs I’d committed to way back. I had less to say and just wanted to learn new things, so I kept fairly quiet. With less extra-curricular work and a regular schedule I had more time to focus on my personal life, and I really made good use of that.

There was still plenty of travel, but less crazy than the previous few years. I made a total of ten trips, again mostly abroad. I visited four countries: Italy, Portugal, Canada twice, and the United States three times. Cities of note included Vancouver, St. John’s, Florence, Venice, Lisbon, Montreal, and New York (three times).


January began as the previous ones had, with frantic prep for New Adventures. This one was different though, as it’d be the last. As I’d hoped, it was wonderful, and I owe a lot of people thanks for their contributions and goodwill. I’ll miss those great moments that the conference delivers — especially all my internet friends coming to my hometown each Winter — but I certainly will not miss the stress.

Geri made her first visit to Nottingham, and around the conference, we found time for ourselves, somehow. We also experienced possibly the craziest duvet-like snowflakes this part of the world has ever known.

The month ended with one of our quarterly Fictive Kin retreats. This time we hired an enormous barn in the Peak District for a week of work, chat, singalongs, drink, and food. We also made a group trip to see Manchester United at Old Trafford (thanks to wee David Hughes), and climbed a big rock.


There were a few quiet months this year, and February was one of them. I was mostly at home recovering from January. Lots of learning, working, reading, and homemade soup.


A mostly quiet month ended with lots of back-to-back action. I did my annual presentation to the students at Nottingham Trent University, then the next day I headed down to Milton Keynes to present at the Geek Night. The next morning I left incredibly early to catch a flight to New York where I enjoyed an actual holiday with Geri. After a dozen or so work trips to NY, it was wonderful to have a week doing only touristy things, based out of a lovely little apartment in Cobble Hill. Geri bagged us tickets to see Sigur Rós at Madison Square Garden which was, as you would expect, epic.


Another quiet month just working, making plans, and making no noise. Lovely.


We lost an old family friend to cancer this month, which messed me up for a while. Too many memories of losing my Dad as we said goodbye to a man who’d been a big part of my childhood. Rest in peace, Roy.

I was thrilled to have lost around two stone (28lbs) at this stage of the year too, after much sacrifice, exercise and hard work. It's fluctuated a bit recently, but I'm on track to be just right next year.

The month ended with a fun day out at the Net awards, before eventually crawling back for a brief sleep ahead of an incredible June.


Geri and I had planned a hectic itinerary for June, which began with my third trip to Vancouver where she was speaking at Interlink conference. We explored the city on foot and bikes, had dinner with good friends, and ate lots of gelato. Sadly I had to leave before her talk to travel the width of Canada to her hometown of St. John’s, Newfoundland where I was to speak at Go Beyond Pixels.

A day later she joined me and I had the full tour, met her friends and family, and was even "Screeched In", making me an honorary Newfoundlander! I loved the place and felt right at home. Cannot wait to return.

From St. John’s we took an overnight flight via London to Pisa, Italy. We’d been invited to attend a wedding in Tuscany and decided to make a week of it and explore some of northern Italy. We spent the first couple of days in Cinque Terre, based in a wonderful apartment overlooking the village of Manarola, with visits to Riomaggiore and Monterosso. Next, we headed to the tiny untouristy village of San Miniato high up on a Tuscan hill for Glen and Emma’s wedding. After that, we spent two days lost in the beauty of Florence, and the trip ended with two days in incredible Venice. We both fell in love with Italy and can’t wait to return in 2014.

On our return, we got back into a work routine punctuated with trips around the Peak District and a day out in Whitby. I can honestly say June 2013 was one of the best months of my life.


Mostly quiet, up until mid-month when I travelled back to Canada for our second Montreal work retreat where we laboured under a relentless Canadian heatwave. After that, a few of us took the ten-hour Amtrak through beautiful New York state ahead of a few days work in Manhattan. The heat in NYC was almost unbearable, topping 100° on several occasions.


So, this was a BIG one. Geri came over mid-month and expected a weekend trip to Snowdonia. However, for almost a month I’d been plotting something ambitious and terrifying.

The night before the trip, I told her we wouldn’t be going to Wales. I then explained that we’d be going somewhere else instead, that she’d need her passport and to plan for hot weather. Once we arrived at the airport I revealed we’d shortly fly to Lisbon — a city I fell in love with in 2012. I gave her a special notebook and the first of a dozen or so custom souvenirs I’d laboured over for a few weeks.

The whole thing was so strategic. I arranged a car from the airport, a hotel with a terrace overlooking the best view of the old town, and a detailed itinerary. At each location I handed her another custom souvenir, gradually building the excitement and momentum. After a bus trip along the river, we returned to the hotel where I put some traditional Fado songs on and took delivery of champagne. Within a few minutes we were on the terrace overlooking the city, and I was a trembling wreck.

Still, I managed to mumble the little speech I’d committed to memory, and eventually produced the ring. I’d been prepared for disaster, but as my intentions became more obvious, Geri nodded, smiled the biggest smile, and encouraged me to do it! Moments later, we were engaged! That evening walking around Lisbon I was floating. I think that was the greatest evening of my life, and I still cannot believe it’s really happening.


On our return, we announced the news to family, friends, and the internet, before heading down to Brighton for a week, partly for the Reasons to be Creative and dConstruct conferences, and partly to enjoy ourselves.

Back in Nottingham, we celebrated my 40th birthday (and our engagement) with a party at my house. It was wonderful to see so many good friends and welcome them into my home. Huge thanks to Geri for all the brilliant surprises and prep, and for all the thoughtful gifts from everyone else.


October brings the annual Autumn trip to New York for Brooklyn Beta. This year it was more ambitious and bigger than ever, yet still retained that magical undefinable something that sets it apart from almost all other events. We also managed a few more touristy things and hung out with friends in Manhattan.

At the end of the week, I said goodbye to Geri ahead of three months apart. Sad face.


Work, and more work. One of our Fictive Kin projects really evolved this month, and I had great fun simply designing, and trying to stay a few steps ahead of the team. We also spent time planning wedding things, including various print ideas, which we’re very excited about. As two designers, we feel the pressure: our invites and other things must be amazing!


A busy work month, coupled with the usual pre-Christmas distractions. Still, not having to stress out over New Adventures prep was a joy. Mid-month I met one of my design heroes, Sir Paul Smith, which was a huge thrill.

Looking towards 2014

I cannot wait for 2014 to unfold. Without question, our wedding will be the major event for us, although the 2014 World Cup is a close second. I joke.

I’ve already got a few trips and a little more extra-curricular work lined up, including talks in January and February. However due to wedding prep, honeymoon and other things I’ve already turned down several speaking opportunities, so maybe I’ll stay fairly quiet again this year, and focus on my personal life and my work.

My main goals are to hit my ideal weight, look after my health, get out and about more between trips, and eventually set up home with Geri. Looks like we’ll be getting a dog towards the end of the year too, which I’m pretty excited about as I’ve wanted one for about 35 years.

So that’s that. Hastily written, but a great year to look back on later.

Beat that, 2014.