“Tradition is just peer pressure from dead people”  - see previous years’ blog posts here:

2009 //  2012 // 2013 // 2014 // 2017 // 2018 // 2019

So… when I wrote “2020 - I’m looking forward to you… but please play nice!” I definitely didn’t think that 2020 could be WORSE in terms of world/UK politics, climate crisis, refugee crisis, etc but oh how wrong I was. I’m saying nothing about next year. Whilst this year has been filled with way fewer people, places and activities than we’d hoped and planned (and way more anxiety, pain, gaps and cancellations - as it has for everyone else, I know) Ruth and Martha have been the best people to be locked down with. It’s been a hard old year but I’ve loved catching up with friends and family on WhatsApp, Meet, Zoom and all of the other online video chat tools - looking on the bright side it’s opened up some more frequent contact with people who are further away and so we’d not quite have seen so often. I’ve loved working in the shed (right up to when it got too too cold and thermals, hat and heater didn’t get it much above 10°C!) and I’ve loved our many, nore local mini adventures. I’m so glad we had a family “exhibition” early in the year - and fitting 35 people in our house for chili afterwards was a total hoot… and all the more special looking back as it was the last such gathering of the year. I hope and wish that next year is more sociable and less covidy and I can’t wait to engage with our various local communities so much more once we’re allowed. Thanks to everyone who made 2020 possible.

Here’s to 2021 being a year of fair winds and following seas!

Here’s some lists to round up my year because who doesn’t love a list?

Instagram

No international travel and fewer places to go meant fewer photos in general but I still captured a few moments:

2020 in 9 photos

  1. Shedworking - so grateful for this little spot of plywood calm to work in.

  2. Screenshot of a little side-project website I made to help people deal with Covid-19 isolation

  3. Martha had an escape from her parents to a forrest school for a few hours, Ruth and I had a walk

  4. I carved a spoon - it’s not practical as a spoon and I’m not sad about that!

  5. Same beach, different day!

  6. I haven’t spent enough time on this but here’s my tiny synth rig - I need to make more music!

  7. Showing solidarity at the Brexit day march

  8. It’s funny how it surprises me that I live close to the sea each day when I walk there!

  9. Different beach, same kid. Sea swimming was a highlight of the year - I hope to do it again really soon!

Places

A few trips and walks come to mind as faves this year - sorry to any spots and trips that I forgot (they probably happened this year but it felt like last year!!)

  1. Western Harbour lighthouse, the seafront and Granton pier - almost daily walks and 100% love.

  2. Achnasheen - we made it back briefly and I cannot wait until there’s a little more in terms of facilities to spend a lot more time there.

  3. Oban

  4. East Lothian’s beaches (when they aren’t too busy)

  5. Cammo Estate

Music

Music really is what keeps me going at work… and it’s such a love outside of work time too! This has been a year of less metal more techno - as you can see!

  1. gattobus - Trails
    The album is amazing and Higher is my track of the year by a long long way.

  2. Big Giant Circles - Road Quest
    I’ve mentioned that I love BGC before and this album is especially great. 

  3. Donato Dozzy - Parola Rework
    I could literally listen to this track on repeat for the rest of time!

  4. Jon Hopkins - Singularity
    Seeing Luminous Beings live was something else!

  5. Four Tet - New Energy
    2017, 2018 and 2019… and 2020 - this album just keeps on giving!

  6. The Midnight - Kids
    I’m not even sure how to describe the sub-genre but I love this - 80’s mall historical cultural record synth electronica anyone?

  7. Taylor Swift - exile (feat. Bon Iver)
    Bon Iver - 22, A Million really has been on repeat since 2016 but his appearance on this album is something else. His perfroamces give me shivers https://ellis.scot/2020/11/shivers/ and perhaps some day a live version of exile will appear.

  8. NOFX - West Coast vs. Wessex
    An unlikely combo and it works so well! I missed a Frank Turner gig last year - this, the Live In Newcastle album and some of his live streams this year filled the gap. 

  9. Dan Deacon
    Become a Mountain from Mystic Familiar is stunning. I’ve been a fan of Dan since 2008 it seems https://ellis.scot/2008/09/song-of-the-day-266-dan-deacon/ - this year was just a bit of a resurgence!

  10. Carla J Easton - WEIRDO
    Carla’s last album was on my 2019 list and the new one is fab too. 

  11. Tupper Werewolf - Flavour Country
    Fab tunes frae Glasgow.

  12. Los Campesinos! - By Your Hand
    Love this band, especially this track. 

  13. Fear Factory - Final Exit
    It doesn’t matter that this track (and album) have appeared here before, this track gets work done!

  14. Ann Clue - State of Mind
    I’ve listened to this track a lot, other Ann Clue stuff is awesome too…

  15. Bloc Party - The Love Within
    Ever since the Jools Holland performance his track gets me every time!

  16. Ryanosaurus - Tesseract Interface
    Tesseract Interface is a great album and The Bird And The Bleeps Slip Hypnotic Remix is top of that!

  17. Henry Jackman - Kick Ass 2 Main Titles
    This track is perfect for testing new headphones - turn it up loud!

  18. Marco Bailey - Burn Colin Benders’ Modular Take Over Remix
    Pure techno love.

Gigs

Normally this is where I list a bunch of bands, despair at having seen so few. This year I saw:

  1. Jon Hopkins at the Usher Hall

I guess if you only get to see one gig and it happens to be this legendary one and it’s with Mike, Craig and Al then really it would have been the number one gig of the year so why go to any others?

Apps

The same old apps get used again and again by me, and I’m always to see what others have on their home screen for daily access. Here’s my list of apps that have got me through the year:

  1. 2Do (for to keep me organised - normally alongside Google Calendar, but that didn’t get much love this year!!)

  2. Chrome (let’s face it - I’d be lost without it - especially the password management and bookmark syncing)

  3. Chess.com (for getting truly - enjoyably - gubbed at Chess by Kev!)

  4. WhatsApp & Instagram (for staying in touch)

  5. Spotify (for the beats)

  6. Netflix/PrimeVideo/BBC/All4/YouTube/Disney+ (for the teevees)

  7. Inoreader (for the feeds)

  8. Too Good To Go (for saving tasty food from bins)

  9. Duo Lingo (for the learning - I hit 500 day streak on Spanish and still can’t hold a conversation but I’m TRYING)

  10. Hexen (for filling the modular/Eurorack gap until I become Warren Buffett)

  11. Slack & BBC News (for doomscrolling)

Websites

My optician reminded me that, ideally, the human eye shouldn’t be spending more than a few hours a day looking at a screen - as someone who spent their formative years on the internet I can say that nary a day goes by that I’m not close to (or far exceeding) 12 hours!

  1. https://twinery.org/ The year of sending a novel to a publisher it was not, but I had fun putting a kids book together and Twine was the tool that got that job done. Clunky but fantastic at putting interactive fiction down.

  2. https://is2020over.com/ Yes - and thank F for that.

  3. https://www.travellingtabby.com/scotland-coronavirus-tracker/ I like data and charts (and that’s putting it lightly) but there’s nothing jolly about the number of hours I’ve spent pondering covid this year. Still - thanks to all who’ve been busy plotting it all.

  4. https://covid19-self-isolation.netlify.app/ A little web project by me.

  5. https://airtable.com/ I have a few starting ideas of projects and Airtable is a fab tool for those not-quite-a-spreadsheet not-quite-a-database ideas.

  6. https://ellis.scot/ Every now and then I blog - maybe it’ll be more next year!

  7. And then there’s where I spend 90% of work time - Google Sheets, Analytics, Data Studio and Tag Manager… and Simo’s blog

Board Games

We love a board game in our house - I far prefer strategy and don’t love word games as much BUT Bananagrams is the single Ruth and Jono game of late nights, especially before heading to the station for the sleeper train (in days of old).

  1. Bananagrams

  2. Mexican Train

  3. Ticket To Ride Europe

  4. Carcassonne 

  5. Sushi Go/Sushi Go Party

  6. Boggle

Top first watch films

I do miss my cinema trips with Kev an awful lot! As a result of it being a stressful year there were a lot of comfort films… Disney+ also contributed to a bunch of Marvel rewatches. It wasn’t a year for embarking on a lot of new cinematic experiences! Here are the top first watches (some are oldies that I somehow missed, others snatched in the brief months of cinema before lockdown!):

  1. Knives Out
    Ooft! Loved this. First new whodunnit I’ve seen in ages. I hope they do more!

  2. Jo Jo Rabbit
    An emotional film about Hitler that was somehow disguised as a brilliant comedy.

  3. Parasite
    This was worthy of all the accolades.

  4. True Romance
    Turns out I only saw the end as a kid and hadn’t seen the whole thing through - turns out that it was really good!

  5. Zodiac
    This didn’t appeal the first time round somehow but finally getting to watch it and I was bowled over by the performances. 

  6. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
    This film does things that I’ve seen films do little bits of before - the glitching, the swapping between animation styles, the integration of the soundtrack - but none as well as this. Much love!

  7. Hamilton
    I’m guessing this will have been on lots of people’s lists this year - what a triumph of storytelling.

  8. Cerdita (Piggy)
    The Edinburgh Spanish Film Festival is a cinematic highlight each year - having it from home actually meant that I saw more films than normal. The Shortest Afternoon (where there are a few hours of short films crammed in) is always a winner and Cerdita was the best of the best this year. 

  9. The Weasels’ Tale
    Another ESFF film - these old-age actors showing the kids how to do it!

  10. Peanut Butter Falcon
    This is a truly beautiful movie - the cast and script are absolutely bang on.

  11. Hotel Artemis
    This looked like it was going to be crap (never judge a film by it’s 224x126px streaming service preview image and all that) then surprised me with a really small, almost bottle episode-esque world that was crafted to perfection.

  12. Bill
    The Horrible Histories/Ghosts crew did it again - another fun romp into a past that might have been!

Top film rewatches

Something warming about returning to some of these:

  1. Moon
    So much love for the acting skills and model sets in this one!

  2. Anna (Luc Besson)
    Sasha Luss was great but we all know Helen Mirren was the star.

  3. Casino Royale
    Lots to hate about Bond films but they do still have a place in my heart and I honestly think this was the last good one!

  4. Wonder Woman
    One of the more underrated Marvel films I think.

  5. Big Hero Six
    I don’t just like this film, I want to live in this film.

  6. Clue
    Started the year with this film… it’s a triumph of silliness and jumpscares.

  7. Paddington 2
    I think this might be one of Hugh Grant’s finest moments!

  8. Kill Bill
    I’d forgotten how amazingly tight this film was.

  9. Kill Bill 2
    The less jolly of the sequels on this list!

Worst films

I watched some crap this year, no doubt about that.

  1. 6 Underground
    Was this a good bad film or a bad good one?! Some moments were truly special (the choreography of the fight inside the boat was on point!) but overall it fell far short in terms of script!

  2. The Rise of Skywalker
    Honestly? All that effort to get to this film and it felt like all of the effort was on the visuals and none on the script.

  3. Close
    Torn on this one - female cast and director were amazing… but the plot was too contrived.

  4. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
    They should have stopped at 3.

  5. The Old Guard
    Again - so torn on this. The history of the characters was so rich but the end just felt so weak and other bits felt rushed. Dare I say that this would have been better as a series?

  6. Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom
    Should have stopped at 1.

  7. Girl in the Spider’s Web
    I’ve had the idea of societal politeness stuck in my head on and off for ages and I think there’s something similar for film studios… if you buy rights to a book series you aren’t committing to make one film you’ve got to see it through. If you can’t get cast to commit then get a different cast. I think when Sony took on Dragon Tattoo they should have completed the original set and left it at that - this was just throwing good money after bad but also, to continue on the idiom train, salt in the wound.

  8. Extraction
    White saviour shit.

Top TV

Here’s my TV picks from the year:

  1. Schitt’s Creek
    I was genuinely sad when Ruth and I got to the end of this - it kept us going through much of lockdown.

  2. The Expanse
    I stopped watching after season 2… it turns out that season 3 was an absolute blinder when Kev prompted me to return to it!

  3. Ghosts
    BBC’s Ghosts is such a laugh - loved watching this. The characters are so brilliant and the story surprisingly profound at points!

  4. The Runaways
    A teenage superhero storyline that’s surprisingly well done.

  5. Race Across the World (series 2)
    Good R&J TV - travel, mild competitiveness and some nice human moments

  6. The Witcher
    I wasn’t as raving about this as others were (mostly because Henry Cavill was so wooden) but it had some fun, confusing moments and Joey Batey is a proper star.

  7. Agent Carter
    I missed most of this when it went off UK TV (or switched time or something) - it filled in some gaps in Marvel stuff and I think Peggy should have had way more film time. If we get D+ again then I think it will have to be a S.H.I.E.L.D. marathon because I’m a long way behind thanks to the same thing happening to that series!

Top Christmas Films

  1. The Muppet Christmas Carol
  2. The Grinch (2018)
  3. Elf
  4. Die Hard 2
  5. Arthur Christmas
  6. The Santa Clause

Playlists

Despite still trying hard to listen to albums from end to end some playlists get pounded, especially during work time:

  1. New Scottish Releases

  2. Brain Food

  3. Sci-fi Scapes

  4. Liminal

  5. lofi hip hop beats

  6. Cyberpunk 2077

Kickstarter Projects

I have a TERRIBLE history of backing Kickstarter horses that fail to deliver either when expected, to the desired quality or, in one notable case, at all. The thing is I still love the idea of Kickstarter and really want these projects to be successful. It’s a shame there isn’t more support with fulfillment for sellers and more financial safety for backers.

Wins:

  1. Attack Surface - Cory Doctorow audiobook. Delivered on time, it’s a fab audiobook and does what it said on the tin.

Loses:

  1. Arpeggio - ordered October 2015, not yet delivered (but also not refunded or pulled out yet)
  2. Magic Puzzles - expected delivery October 2020 - not yet arrived
  3. Madi: Once Upon A Time In The Future - expected delivery November - not yet arrived
  4. Childfood: Recipes for Young Coolinary Explorers - expected delivery November - not yet arrived Perhaps I’ll have luck with these 4 in 2021!

Podcasts

Along with home-working has come a massive drop in cycling, bus journeys, train rides and long drives so podcasts have seen less love than in the past few years but a few have continued to get ear-time: 

  1. In the Dark
    One of the few good news things this year - Curtis Flowers was released after 23 years in jail after In the Dark investigated and proved that he was unfairly convicted of the crime in each and every one of his 6 court cases. This is where investigative journalism nails it!

  2. 99% Invisible
    Roman Mars FTW.

  3. Future of StoryTelling
    Always interested in storytelling and formats and this podcast had some great moments. I’m also loving the StoryThings newsletter.

  4. Reply All
    Listen to #158 - you will not be disappointed.

  5. Small Operations and Song Exploder
    I wish I had more time and money to commit to music - this is a reminder to keep dabbling!

(I guess I should note here that radio continues to get a lot of love. The brief solo drives I’ve had have been filled with Kerrang, Radio 4, BBC World Service or Radio 6; family drives have had more than a fair smattering of Magic at the Musicals!)

Books

For someone who loves reading and writing THIS MUCH it’s more than a bit of a shame that I didn’t read more this year, and that so few of the books that I did read hit home. That said, I know two things - one, I was reading some quality long-form stuff that did take an AGE to get through because I was savouring it and, two, I was working my ass off in other parts of my life! Here are my top picks:

  1. Neal Stephenson - Seveneves
    One of the best books that I’ve ever read.

  2. Terry Pratchett - Strata
    I’ve had this on my shelf so long I began to think I’d already ready - turns out I hadn’t and it was a joy to read. The imperfections of Pratchett’s writing were what made it special… knowing that the whole of Discworld was still to come after he wrote this is humbling.

  3. Neal Stephenson - Reamde
    There was a lot of improbable stuff in this book, but it flows so nicely and logically together it was a tense and fun read.

  4. Women Invent the Future
    I love what DotEveryone did with this - and I think more readers should check it out as the female lense on the past (and the future) is still so painfully underrepresented. 

  5. Dará McAulty - Diary of a Young Naturalist
    Engaging, poetic, challenging and heartbreaking - Dará is an amazing author telling a vital message.

Thanks for stopping by.