The New Roaring Twenties…

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(Written New Year’s Day). 2020. How’s that for a sci-fi sort of number? One that I might dare say was full of hope and optimism in the years of my childhood and teens. In RPGs and films the prediction might have been a little more negative, such as the dystopian worlds of Cyberpunkand Blade Runner, but it was the sort of date far enough away in the future to be both realistically distant & close enough to hopeful for familiarity. I’m writing this on a laptop of unprecedented power and portability (and still getting used to not hearing a fan whirr to life when I turn it on, or for a hard drive to whirr). In the late eighties PCs were there, but out of reach for most people. Now even the most basic smart phone holds wonders almost undreamed of – the Hand Computer of the classic 1977 version of Traveller come to life.

As I mooched over social media last night, as yesterday became today, last year became this, there were all sorts of primarily positive sentiments sloshing around, like so much convivial booze. Whatever the year had been, whatever the decade had been, may it be better ahead, seemed to be the general tenor. Some reflected on the decade gone (pedants need not comment), and the positive and negative changes. Others spouting well-meant motivational rhetoric about taking control of your destiny were balanced by the language of the Raging or Screaming Twenties (I prefer the New Roaring Twenties, if only because it’d make a great band name!) Our Beloved Prime Minister (or whatever you wish to insert for the B…) seems to think that by sheer good will and emotional projection everything can be wonderful. I wonder how many others do (for whatever value of wonderful you may choose)?

Me, I’m not sure if I’m a cynic, a pessimist or a realist. I do not see anything like the power of individual agency that I come across, and certainly do not see a land of golden opportunity in the future outside the EU that Brexit claims to deliver. Am I raging? No. Am I angry, probably. I may yet be proven wrong, and if convinced of that would hope I’m big enough to admit it, but I don’t believe it. Do I bear ill-will to those who disagree? Not particularly, but I hope the reader will understand if I don’t rally round to the Great Patriotic Cause, because I think it’s an ill-considered, over-simplified vision, one the implications of which will take years (possibly the whole decade) to sort. If I’m right, and poorer, and hungry, I will try not to say “told you so” too often. I may be busier trying to help others worse affected. And don’t get me started on the drift or lurch to the political Right, I’m trying to not be too negative!

In which case, what positives can I look forward to in the next year, or the next decade? I don’t post New Year’s Resolutions, because I patently fail to achieve them. Most of them just roll on from year to year, rather like me, so until I find a way to lose weight (do housework, cut down alcohol etc) with no effort and minimal expense, that’s not going to change. Likewise, any of the positives, of writing more for publication, of doing further study, playing RPGs more, require a positive effort and a degree of investment and sacrifice that I’m not sure I can give.

That said, there have been positives over the last year, and achieved [COLOR=var(--color-text)]without much effort. Somewhat to my surprise my daughters gave me quite a lot of book[/COLOR]s at Christmas 2018, alongside one from my Good Lady Wife. Somehow in consequence [COLOR=var(--color-text)]I’ve read more last year than in a very long time, and without my journalling suffering much, if at all. I can’t say I’ve read all the books I was given, but it’s spurred me to read again, which has to be good (both for me and for the [/COLOR]Waterstones[COLOR=var(--color-text)] in town!) Books I can particularly remember are Michael Palin’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Erebus[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)], Anna Funder’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Stasiland[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)], and the great discovery of the year has been in the nature books of [/COLOR]John Lewis-Stempel[COLOR=var(--color-text)], [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]The Wood[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] & [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Meadowland[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]. It’s been a long time since I’ve been a little reluctant to pick up a book for
half an hour knowing that it takes me closer to the end, but is so good that I don’t want it to end! John Sopel’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]If Only They Didn’t Speak English[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] didn’t quite live up to expectations, but David Graeber’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Bullsh*t Jobs[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] was thought-provoking. I’ve still not finished Mark Galeotti’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]The Vory[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] (for no reason other than there’s quite a lot of it) nor Edgar Catero’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Meddling Kids[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] and Alan Moore’s [/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)]Jerusalem[/COLOR][COLOR=var(--color-text)] in all it’s immersive, gorgeous glory, which requires far too much time and concentration. In fact I don’t think I[/COLOR]‘ve finished a single piece of fiction this year.

I’ve got plenty of RPG material that I need to read properly (probably over a dozen volumes: four for the now sadly-discontinued The One Ring, The Yellow King RPG, Zweihänder, the new RuneQuest, The Eleven Lights, the Traveller 5 Big Black Books….), and still want to get an active game, other than at Cons and the one I created for Becky’s birthday. (She, however, geek daughter that she is, wants another one for the next birthday…) There are other possibilities, but how likely or realistic they are, I don’t know. Looking back on the decade, I got my wish to be full-time University Chaplain, and don’t regret it at all, but it’s not freed up the time for more gaming in the ways I’d hoped or expected (though I have no desire to return to the previous pattern of life and ministry… and exhaustion!)

A rather different revelation has been that despite my use of correct nomenclature my innate measurement structure still includes yards and feet! Ask me to show you a metre, using the classic “hands apart” technique and I’ll show you a yard. Strange but true. Oddly I’m equally conversant with inches and millimetres, and with domestic weights (at least in the kitchen). Strange but true. I still reflect my upbringing in unconscious ways, born in the late 60s, primary education in the 70s, but have no desire to return to a glorious past that wasn’t. Which is as good an end to this rambling piece as anything I can manage, without spending more time crafting it!

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