5 Reasons Not To Vote!

Vote.

Regardless of who you’re voting for: Vote. That’s the best advice I can give right now: Vote.

The second best advice I can give is to read up on who you’re voting for. Read manifestos, look at past voting trends amongst the candidates and their parties, go into that polling booth informed and educated. If you can’t though, if you don’t have the time, then at least just vote, hell, at least, if nothing else, make sure you’re registered by May 22nd.

You’ve probably heard the stats rolled out again and again, that 18 – 30 year olds aren’t voting. Why should you? What reason do you have for voting? Perhaps you came here looking to have your arguments justified… Well, lets see.

The Parties Don’t Care About My Age Group

True, maybe they don’t. What Politicians care about is people who are actually out there voting. If us youngsters refuse to vote, then they’re not going to aim themselves at us to begin with. By voting now, in this election, you ensure they will sit up and listen in the next. By not voting, you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face. For some parties, the best thing we could do is keep quiet, not vote. They’d rather not engage us, they’d rather brush us aside. If we go out and vote in this election, we ensure that in the next all parties have to take us into account; and that’s true of any age group… just look at the trends! Whilst keeping this as objective as possible, I’d argue that some of the parties out there are aiming themselves right at us, they’re discussing things of key interest to us now, and us in the future.

Vote: Think about the future, ensure that our age group is heard in the next election, and that the future of people who replace us in this age group are continued to be heard.

 I Don’t Agree With Any Party.

Understandable; especially considering the above. Maybe there’s nobody appealing to you at the moment, they’re not discussing the issues you’re interested in, or worse, they’re taking the issues you care about and producing nothing you agree with. That’s an absolutely fair viewpoint… but, there’s an answer. Weigh up you options. You may not find a party that agrees with you 100%, but you might find that you agree with one parties policies more than another’s. It’s a cliché, but pick the lesser of the evils. By not voting, you’re not mitigating against the worst case scenario. Even if the most you agree with a party is 10%, it’s better to vote for them than have your vote ignored. Not only is something better than nothing, but this is the best stepping stone to getting to a future where you agree with a party 15%, 20%, and more.

Vote: Anything is better than nothing, if you don’t really agree with any, but REALLY don’t agree with some, vote for the lesser of two evils… Build those building blocks towards better parties in the future.

All Politicians Are The Same.

We always get hurt, right? Whoever we vote for, things go awry, policies aren’t upheld. It’s easy to write these things off as broken promises, fractured trust, and it can be easy to say all politicians are the same. Regardless of whether I agree they are or not, my answer is simply the same as above… Vote for the lesser of the evils. It’s true politicians want to win your vote, often they may say things they’ll struggle to do later, but at least vote for those that are trying to do the things you agree with, or have a history of voting the way you agree. Simply choosing not to vote only guarantees you’re never heard.

Vote: Help those Politicians you agree more with, trust more, or appreciate the values of more, hear your support by voting for them.

My Vote Doesn’t Matter.

Your one vote may not make or break the election, it’s true. This is one of the hardest mindsets to overcome, that one person doesn’t make a difference, so why should they? The masses are loud and your opinion drowns… right? But what if everyone felt that way? What if nobody felt it mattered? It does. It really matters. Not only do you prove to others that the mindset can be broken, you set a trend amongst peers to do so too. When we vote, we help convince others to do the same, when we take it seriously, others take it more seriously too. It’s like Recycling… Your one plastic bottle that you didn’t recycle may not destroy the world, but if nobody recycled? The impact would be great. The more of us who recycle the better the world will be, and the better example we set to those who ‘don’t have time’ or ‘can’t be bothered’.

Vote: Your opinion has a bigger impact than you think, it matters to your friends and family, it matters to your social networks. You set an example by voting, and the more people voting the better.

The Party I Agree With Will Never Win.

This is a reason I hate the way we currently vote; I was all for the Alternative vote those few years back. We always seem to end up in this race between Conservatives, Labour, and Lib Dems. Perhaps you want to vote Green, perhaps you want to vote Independent. What’s the point? They won’t win… Well, of course they won’t if you’re not voting. Not voting because your party won’t win is a contradiction, and it’s very, very similar to the point above. The parties you agree with need your support, they need you to vote for them regardless of the difference it makes, and it shows them (and all the other parties) that people out there agree with them. By not voting, you’re not encouraging them to maintain those values, and you’re not encouraging them to keep trying. If every voter out there felt the same as you, that they weren’t going to bother because it didn’t matter, then these parties will fade away, and other parties values and beliefs will only get stronger.

Vote: Even if you don’t think your party will win, you can only help by voting and letting your voice be heard. At the end of the day, even if they don’t win, you ensure that people recognise that these values matter to someone.

I honestly don’t care who you’re voting for, regardless of my own political alignment. I don’t care if you’re voting based on your area, based on your job, based on the future of the country, or voting on Brexit. I don’t care if you’re voting passionately, from the heart, or if you’re voting tactfully, ensuring the lesser of the evils in your area. By not voting, all we do is ensure that the whole country isn’t heard equally…  Over a third of people in the country didn’t vote in the last election, that’s a third of the country in silence. Perhaps the conditions aren’t perfect right now, but we can set a foundation for elections going further. We need our voices out there and need to encourage others to do the same.

Please register to vote by May 22nd, and please attend the polling stations on the day to cast your ballot.

My image, my focus: Kindness Challenge Week 1

Imagine a figure, blurred. The background behind vibrant, bustling and ever changing; a wall of monitors displaying thousands of different images and flickering all at once. Each flashing image has a soundtrack, but each is simply drowned by the other; each a smaller part of the ever growing cacophony. You’d be forgiven, given the scene in view, that these countless images, that there is no meaning here; that each screen serves only to be part of the whole, and to perpetuate this mess of unintelligible information. Closer inspection of the figure in front, however, will show you that his eyes do shift briefly, that his attention does focus, and his own image along with it. The blurred figure, in fact, may not be blurred at all when his eyes focus, like a lens finding a focal point. When he sets his sight on one image, one dream, he aligns again. There is definition to him, shape. He has presence, and physicality where previously there was none… but it’s fleeting. It’s lost again to the next saccadic movement.

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This week was Self Love on the 2017 Kindness Challenge, my intentions, for which, can be found here: Setting My Intentions. This week we’ve been challenged to take note of all the ways we feel we have to earn our own approval. This sounded a good premise on its own, but then I saw the suggestion of ‘Create a self-portrait’. Now, I’m no painter, but I am a photographer. I was determined to build an image with my camera and use that as a statement ‘This is who I am’ or ‘This is who I feel’, and then counterbalance it with an image of ‘Who I would like to be’. I never had the time or resources to take the image, though. I had the equipment, but the setup was a little harder than I’d care to admit, I wasn’t able to achieve the vision I originally set out to portray – the irony isn’t lost on me, by the way. Then it occurred to me, I may be a Photographer, but I am also, undeniably a Writer! So, I turned the image into prose instead… and thus I started doing myself a kindness… I’ll explain.

See, the piece above is open to interpretation… but to me represents my feelings towards myself. You’re welcome to interpret my writing however you see fit, and I’d love you to share below if you see it differently, however I’d like to explain what it also means to me. The figure, if you hadn’t guessed, is myself… or, at least, the way I feel about myself. I’m fuzzy, undefined, intangible. The backdrop in the piece is a portrayal of my dreams, my many, many dreams. Unspoken, and unreferenced, there’s dreams of being a good boyfriend, being a good son, being a writer, being a photographer, being the best me I can be… I often feel I am struggling forward towards these dreams, but also that I’m making no progress, mainly because, more often than not, I am just sitting back and watching them pass me by. If you’re a regular reader you’ll know this lack of motivation is a constant topic I try to address; this piece is no different.

Early on, I realised that the Self Portrait I had in mind was out of my reach, my aim was too high, and it was unachievable. Rather than beating myself up about it though, I knew I still needed a post for Self Love this week. So, I adapted. By doing this, I achieved my dream image, but I painted it with words rather than painting it with light. I didn’t allow myself to become distracted (mainly because I had a deadline) and I didn’t allow myself to become disheartened (because I found a different route of approach).

My soul searching for this week has revealed that I feel lost when I am not working towards my dreams, but also that I am far too content to allow myself to get to that point. I have so many dreams I want to achieve, that sometimes I simply lose sight of the one for the many. The sheer quantity of them, and the lack of focus I have for them, encourages them to build up and encourages me, their viewer, to simply sit back and watch them play out without me. My dreams define me, for better or worse. I want to say “I am a writer!“, I want to say “I am a photographer!“, I want to say all these things, but I won’t allow myself to define ‘Me’ that way if I don’t achieve them. That’s how I judge myself worthy of approval, if I’m succeeding in these goals. I need to teach myself to understand that these goals and dreams may help to define me in some instances, but they certainly don’t define my worth. I need to learn that I am capable of loving myself even when I don’t meet my standards, and that through self-love I actually support myself in meeting these standards in future. If I support myself, if I focus on the aspects in my life that are worthwhile, that help build my future, then all the better. I need to focus on ‘getting there’, not focus on having ‘not got there yet’.

If I had to set a Mantra based on my discovery for this week, it would simply be: “Find Focus”.

When I’m down because I’ve wasted another day without creativity: Find Focus. When I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t spent as much time with my family as I could: Find Focus. When anxiety is building up inside of me at the thought of ‘putting myself out there’ and taking a risk: Find Focus.

What do you think? Let me know in the comments below!

Setting My Intentions: 2017 Kindness Challenge

So, earlier this year I signed up for the 2017 Kindness Challenge, hosted by Niki on Richness of a Simple Life. Everything about the challenge appealed to me. I’m someone who values kindness, optimism, gratitude, and all those wonderful things, and this is exactly what the Niki is trying to encourage. The challenge itself is a 7 week focus on bringing more Kindness into your life, complete with weekly prompts and themes on how to do such. I’ll copy and paste the weekly themes below and, if they appeal to you, I highly recommend you hop over to Niki’s blog and take a look!

First things first though, we’ve been asked to Set Our Intentions… So, lets go!

sign-up

My Intentions for the 2017 Kindness Challenge

As I stated above I value kindness in my life. I also value happiness, optimism, and gratitude. I also don’t think any of these factors are exclusive; I think everything builds together to create a better lifestyle. I’ve had my times in life when I’m down, upset, and melancholy, my times when life just doesn’t seem to be going my way. During these times you tend to find one, or more, of these factors has slipped. Perhaps I’m not feeling grateful enough for the things I have, my place in life, and that’s leading to feeling unsatisfied. Perhaps I’m not feeling optimistic about things, expecting things to go wrong at any point, and that’s causing anxiety. It’s because of this that I try to blog when I’m feeling down, I try to analyse my feelings and I try to inspire gratitude and optimism within myself. Of course, these are only two examples out of a give four, and even that isn’t a comprehensive list… I feel there’s far more values that are out there, that are important to our well-being, so here I’m just summarising a few.

Why Kindness then? Why a Kindness challenge?

Firstly, I’d say a challenge to promote any of these pillars is beneficial, regardless of how familiar you are with them. If this was a Gratitude Challenge, or Happiness Challenge, I’d still be eager to take part. Persuading people to focus on these mind-set’s/behaviours is a positive thing. Kindness though, in particular, is something I’d like to be challenged on.

I’d call myself a kind person; I’m eager to help, I’m eager to encourage. I have my moments where I’m selfless, but I’m not without those moments where I’m selfish. Kindness is something I try to do with my daily life, but it’s not something I’ve necessarily focused on to the extent that I’ve focused on other things like gratitude (which I try to do semi-regularly here on the Clouds)

Also, if you take a look at the schedule below, many of the themes within this challenge are surrounding the topic of Self Kindness; things like Self Love and Self Acceptance. This is something I really feel I need to work on, especially when my confidence dwindles which it has done of recent. Honestly, this challenge couldn’t have come at a more apt time and really makes me think about Creating Coincidence once again… but, that’s its own separate post (it actually is – click the link).

So, to summarise, my statement is that I want to be kinder to myself, I want to gain more confidence through self love and be less judgmental of myself through self acceptance. At the end of the day, if this challenge just makes me think and reflect a little bit more, then it’s already of benefit. I’m a big believer in ‘Small Steps Towards the Future‘, you’ll have heard me say it before, and in my eyes any small step towards a kinder future, is a small step towards a brighter one.

Hopefully that serves as a good statement! Hopefully it’s something you’d like to join. The themes of the challenge are below, and you can find a link to the Challenge Sign up further down.

Themes:

  • Week 1 | Self-love
  • Week 2 | Self-compassion
  • Week 3 | Self-acceptance
  • Week 4 | Kindness role model
  • Week 5 | Choosing kindness
  • Week 6 | Kindness without expectation
  • Week 7 | Grateful for kindness

For the next 7 weeks you’ll be able to keep track of how I’m getting on every Thursday, and if you’d like to join the challenge yourself then head over to 2017 Kindness Challenge (it states 7th of May!). If you fancy commenting on my statement in particular, then please let me know in the comments below!

Making Connections: A Thursday Thought

For a reason I can’t explain I’ve been thinking a lot about connections.

It’s strange to think just how many connections we make in everyday life, be them professional or personal, big or small. The word itself has connotations of business, the old adage of “It’s who you know, not what you know”, and from there there’s a pressure around the need to network; the need to find people who can provide a helpful step up the proverbial ladder, a proverbial foot in the proverbial door.

In fact, connections can be something completely different; it doesn’t have to all be red tape and white collars. My blog was born over 5 years ago, a mere journal for me to jot down some thoughts at the time, but it was only ever something I looked at once a year, if that, and never really took seriously. Fast forward to last year, one of my best friend’s, Andy, convinced me to join a creative writing course, where we were introduced (and then ‘connected’) with Shelley. She convinced me it was worthwhile taking my blog seriously and really putting myself out there. From that connection, I’ve found many different people from all around the world; I’ve joined writing prompts, I’ve joined challenges, and I’ve joined Facebook groups. Connections leading to connections.

It can be easy to think a connection is something more tangible, it’s someone you can point to, someone who’s number you have, someone who ‘knows a guy’; really a connection can be something as small as a shared smile. By writing, by creating art, by simply giving form to our internal thought processes, we create potential connections that can span further and longer than mortal life. We are still connected now by works of art, by literature, by film or by photograph. We are connected to people we will never meet, or who’s names we’ll never know. To share our art is to create a connection en mass. To me, that’s beautiful. To me, that’s worthwhile.

Connections give us a power. They can give us support, they can give us guidance, and through them we can share our passion and our philosophy. We were born a social species, our evolution was encouraged by our communication, and through it we continue to better ourselves. By sharing our thoughts we are able to better each other; simply by increasing understanding and by portraying different perspectives. We live in a time now when our communication has transcended physical movement and speak; we exist in a world where we can learn from people across the globe. Right now there has been no better time to forge ‘connections’.

When I sat down to write this Thursday Thought, I wasn’t expecting to write so passionately, but now, writing this final paragraph, I feel genuinely moved. A connection is something more than a mere contact in a faceless industry, it is an ability to create understanding between us. When I write my blog posts, I first and foremost write them for me, but within them I try to include a positive angle; I try to promote my belief that we can all be good, that we can all be inspirational, and that we can all benefit from sharing. Nothing warms my heart more dearly than when I see us helping each other. Regardless of how we do it, be it charity work, random acts of kindness, or something as ‘trivial’ as writing a blog, we put aside differences and judgements to make the world a better place. If that isn’t making connections, I don’t know what is.

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In 5 Years Time: A Thursday Thought

Where will you be in 5 Years time? Can you visualise it? These are the questions being asked today.

I’m doing something a bit different this Thursday, by answering the questions posed by Shelley’s Blog in her post January in Review!

Q1. Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What small steps can you take between now and December 31st to achieve it?

In 5 years I see myself as a writer/photographer. I’m out of the daily 9 – 5 grind, I’m out of the sterile, stressful, impersonal office, and I’m in a studio of my own. Level Up Photography is bringing in frequent customers, Dark Background is publishing my work and the works of others, and in the down time I’m writing my novels or working on the Clouds.

The small steps to get there are the usual: Do more! Write more! Greg and I over at Level Up have been meeting this week, we’re getting the paperwork sorted, the website sorted and we have a client meeting in a few weeks. Things are running smooth there. As for my writing, I just need to write more, as I always need to, but thankfully I’ll finally be getting my study set up this month so that should create a dramatic increase in productivity.

Q2. What does a day in the life of your dreams look like? Write your perfect day from the minute you wake up to when you go to bed. Where are you, who are you with, what would you do?

I wake up next to Kirsty. We snuggle for a bit before getting up.

We go downstairs and feed Toby (our Cat) and, if Kirsty has it her way, the dog (She’s Pug-Obsessed).

We cook breakfast and call down the kids (I’m assuming this is the 5 years’ time, scenario)

I leave for the studio, and drop the kids to school along the way.

I work on my latest novel, or read the latest manuscript, or edit the latest clients photographs.

When all my appointments are done I drive back home.

I spend some time with Kirsty before we have to pick the kids back up.

Then in the evening we all eat together, we watch TV, read, or play boardgames.

The kids go to bed, Kirsty and I snuggle on the couch, Toby tries to squeeze in between us as always.

We go to bed together, I read for a bit, then we fall asleep to begin the day anew.

Q3. If money was not an issue what career would you have or what lifestyle would you adopt?

Studio! Studio! Studio!

Writing, Photography, Publishing.  They’re my main aims; they’re how I want to make my livelihood.

That said, “if money was not an issue” I’ve always said I’d love to run my own small games company. It’s a daydream of mine that, when I win the lottery, I’ll hire a bunch of students and create video games… Put my writing into that form as well as books and blogs!

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So, there we have it. That’s where I will be in 5 years… Give or take. As always, thanks to Shelley for those reflective questions, was great fun to fill out! Why not give it a go? Feel free to ping back here so I can see yours too!

How We Misinterpret Value.

What is Value?

If you said “How much money something is worth” then you’re only half right.

Value is worth; plain and simple. In our ever more materialistic society we often equate value to money. We can tell someone how something wasn’t worth the money, or was a good bargain! Regardless of the price tag hanging off something, it doesn’t necessarily portray a value.

How do we value ourselves?

Take employment. Have you ever felt undervalued at work? I know I have, and I know it crops up on our “Temperature Checks” (a questionnaire we get sent out to see how everyone’s feeling). Now is this feeling simply about pay? It could be, depending on your job, but more often than not I’d assume it isn’t and I’d assume that a pay increase would only momentarily affect your sense of value. I’d actually assume it’s because management make decisions with, what appears to be, little foresight to your well-being, or it could be the sick days they wont let you take because there’s a deadline coming up. It could be the sheer amount of work they expect you to get through with no respite, or it could simply be that it’s not the job for you and it doesn’t let you show off your skills.

Value, it then seems, is actually akin to effort and time. How much time and effort someone puts into us is how valued we feel, and how much time and effort we put into something is how valuable it is to us.

How should we show we value others?

We can also apply this to other people around us. If you really value the people around you then you go to effort for them, you put the time in to see them. I always tend to spoil people, I like to spend my money on someone who isn’t me, but recently I’ve realised this can fall a little empty sometimes. I bought Kirsty a mountain of gifts for Christmas, but not many of them held too much value. I realise more that the time we spend together, the two of us just together, the effort of tidying up or cooking dinner, without having to be asked, represents value so much more than a new pendant or teddy bear will ever do. Does that mean the gifts were unwanted? No of course not. It does, however, mean they weren’t as valuable as I originally gave them credit for; I’d been convinced a higher price tag was equal to a higher worth.

How should we show ourselves the same value?

Likewise we can attribute this to ourselves. Take a moment to think about how you usually show your value yourself. Many people will treat themselves, which is great! But many people treat themselves by spending money. Maybe you buy that book you’ve thought was a little too expensive, maybe you buy a desert that isn’t in your diet plan. Again we often try to spoil and treat ourselves with these things that have a monetary cost. There’s actually nothing wrong with that occasionally! But, if it’s all we do, it can lead to that empty feeling I mentioned above. I know whenever I feel down I do a bit of retail therapy, I buy countless games I never play, and, for a few fleeting moments, I feel better… it doesn’t ever last. If instead Value = Effort/Time we should be spoiling ourselves by taking time out of our day to relax, by practicing yoga or mediation, or by going for a walk or a run. Of course money can help, perhaps we go on holiday, or we buy a film we sit down to relax with, but in these instances money is an enabler, not a showing of worth.

We can also show ourselves we value our dreams. Mine is to become an author, a photographer, and to have a blog. I take time out of my day and put effort into making those dreams become reality. I show myself that I am worth my own effort and time. In the constant pressure of the daily grind, our minds so full of obligations and chores, we can lose sight of this and, sometimes subconsciously, we feel less valued; we feel unfulfilled.

An old adage is:

Everything is worth what its purchaser will pay for it.
Publilius Syrus Roman Writer (~100 BC) via Quotations Page

But what if we started thinking things are worth how much time and effort we’ll put in. What if we showed our love for each other by doing things we wouldn’t normally, by being mindful, by looking after ourselves and them. Even old Publilius above didn’t state it had to be paid for with money; maybe he meant time. It’s just something to think about!

How do you show others you value them? Do you show yourself that same amount of value? Let me know in the comments below!

2016: A Thursday Thought

As we usher out 2016 in a hurry, and lovingly embrace 2017 as a welcome change, I wanted to use todays Thursday Thought to reflect back on what 2016 did right. All years have their ups and downs, but it’s the ups I want to remember and celebrate.

Arranged in a somewhat-but-not-really chronological order (which is actually just a giant mess of memories):

Derren Brown: My first memory of this year. I’ve mentioned “Theatre Trips” further down here, but this was deserving of a mention all of its own. Kirsty bought me tickets to see Derren Brown, which is perhaps one of the best presents I’ve ever had!

Madam Tussauds: Going down to see Derren also gave Kirsty and I an excuse to check out Madam Tussauds down in London. I was particularly excited for the Marvel experience, I have to say.

Boardgame Expo: I love boardgames, I love introducing people to boardgames, I love kickstarting boardgames… There’s so many out there, you just have to look past the infinite number of monopolys and risks. It was great to go to a convention that celebrated them, whilst allowing us to have some hands on time with games we hadn’t played yet. It also led into us having a…

Boardgame Nights: In 2016 we had many a boardgame night and each was as good as the other. We played: Codenames, Betrayal at the House on the Hill (For Halloween and I have an especially good memory of Woodys character being blown off a balcony one round into the Haunt phase), Catan, The Game of Thrones Boardgame, Deerlord (With Woody doing 3 different personalities in one), Munchkins, Poor Choices, etc.

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The first of 2016’s many boardgame nights!

D&D: On a similar note, we had many a good D&D session in 2016. Though we took a break in the latter half of the year, I’m looking forward to getting this back off the ground again.

DMing at D&D: Another similar note, 2016 actually saw me DM (Dungeon Master) a two part campaign in front of 5 (6 if you count Kirsty, watching from the side-lines) of my friends! I was a mess of nerves before it started but was possibly up there as one of the best experiences of 2016. The fact it was something I’d put on for Woodys 30th Birthday just sweetened it even further.

WWE Live: Also on the subject of Woodys 30th Birthday, as a gift we both went to see WWE Live when they came to our local Birmingham venue. It was a real laugh and, whilst the show itself wasn’t exactly amazing, the memories me and Woody will have of us chanting, drinking, and laughing will remain.

Gigs: I also went to numerous venues for numerous other reasons too; I saw The 1975 with Sid, Minus the Bear with Woody, Skindred with Kirsty, a Comedy show with the lads and even saw a live screening of some TED Talks.

Theatre Trips: 2016 continued me trying to visit the theatre more and more. I saw plays with my Mom and plays with Kirsty. My fondest memory is perhaps seeing The Alchemist at the RSC: Neither Kirsty or I had any idea what we were about to watch and I ended up absolutely loving it.

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Taking in a show!

College: Andy and I went back to college in 2016, where we studied Creative Writing! It helped to give us both a kick up the ass, it helped me to invest in my blog again, and it’s helped me put my dreams into perspective.

Geocaching: Speaking of walking, I have a fond memory of Geocaching at the start of the year with Common and Luke. It might have only been a few hours of one day, but it was great fun. It’s something I’d love to do more of in the New Year going forward.

Escape the Room: Something else I want to do more of going forward, is Escape the Room. I can’t describe the incredible fun this was; such a different experience unlike anything else! Andy, Jess, Kirsty and myself all tasked with solving a mystery. It could have been a recipe for disaster, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. We’re already booked in for February so 2017 will definitely have more Escape the Room antics.

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The Room from which we Escaped!

Alton Towers: My birthday this year involved a trip to Alton Towers. Though it was preceded by a dodgy McDonalds breakfast (never again) it was still a great day out and a ton of fun.

Cakes: 2016 held lots, and lots, and lots of cakes. My mom started baking more and more, and Kirsty even rediscovered her love for it. In fact, for my Birthday they both ended up making me the same cake! (It was pure coincidence)

Clockwork Clouds: June/July saw the resurrection of Clockwork Clouds and the increase in my writing overall. Thanks to going back to college, and thanks to taking part in some challenges, I’ve upped my blog, I’ve upped my followers, and I’ve got a semi-regular posting here on the Clouds. We got a little disorganised by the end of 2016, but with everything else I think it’s allowable. We’re back with a vengeance in 2017 and there’s plenty more to come!

Aladdin: So for Christmas 2015 I bought Kirsty tickets to see Aladdin – The Musical down in London. Something she didn’t shut up about for 8, yes 8, months until we went. Was an absolutely amazing night though, with a brilliant show and a lovely little weekend stay.

Lunchtime Walks: So work isn’t exactly top of my list, though I’m thankful I have a secure job that isn’t terrible. Work days wouldn’t be complete though without my lunchtime walks with Simon, where we played Pokémon go, vented off steam, and sometimes spent a lifetime in Greggs. These walks kept me going on my Monday – Friday.

New House: Need I say more? I’ve written about this so much recently. This was possibly the highlight of 2016 that overshadows everything else.

Toby: When Kirsty moved in she brought with her an extra member to our household. It’s been so long since I’ve lived with a pet, but now I can’t imagine my home without this big ball of fluff.

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Toby and I; just chilling!

Cozy Nights In: Some of my favourite nights this year have just been composed of lying on the couch, or in bed, with Kirsty on one arm and a good TV show or film in front of us. We’ve watched some great films and some fantastic television.

Cinema Times: Speaking of great films, there’s been some fantastic cinema outings in 2016. Civil War, Dr Strange, Arrival, Rogue One. I love going to the cinema, and seeing how on Jan 1st Kirsty and I signed up for Cineworld Unlimited, I think 2017 will have plenty more films in store.

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A Pre-Cinema, Date-Night Snack… (Rub Smokehouse, Birmingham)

Date Nights: A great excuse to pig out and go to the cinema! Kirsty and I had a lot of date nights in 2016; we think it’s vital to make time for each other, even when you live together! I will always love going out for food and drinks with her.

Weddings (as a photographer!): So 2016 saw more work for Greg and I over at Level Up Photography. We shot more weddings in 2016 than 2015, and we booked more for 2017 too. 2016 was the year we really took ourselves seriously!

Weddings (as a guest!): The biggest event of October ’16 was a trip across to Wales. It started with a fun, laugh filled car journey shared between Luke, Common, Kirsty and Myself, we picked up Pete along the way and all crammed into a car. That weekend we all stayed at the same hotel, we all got drunk together, we all got suited and booted, we all met up with old friends we hadn’t seen for years, and, more importantly, we all got to see Bronwen get married. It was such a happy occasion filled with an immense amount of love. Definitely one of the best memories of 2016.

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Having a great, if somewhat drunken, party for Bronwen’s Wedding!

Dr Who Experience: The trip to the Wedding gave us a good excuse to detour into Cardiff and visit the Dr Who Experience! Kirsty is a mega-super-duper Dr Who nerd, so it was a great time for the both of us (along with a confused looking Woody and Amy!).

Decorating: So stressful and time-consuming, but so rewarding! It was great to be productive with Kirsty and my family, whilst also making a big difference to our home. Now we can’t imagine it any other way.

Pokémon Day: When the decorating was all done, and Kirsty and I had chance to relax, I surprised her by buying us both the new Pokemon games, along with Pokemon onesies, and a copy of the Pokemon movie on BluRay! Needless to say, this was a really fun afternoon and a perfect memory for us to share in our cozy new home.

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Pokemon Day!

Nieces & Nephews: I don’t have any brothers or sisters, so I’ve never really experienced looking after kids or entertaining them; even as a kid myself I used to prefer the company of adults. Kirsty, on the other hand, has a niece and a nephew with another niece on the way. We looked after them for an afternoon at ours and it was pretty crazy, but I loved every minute of it, and not just because it served as a good reminder of what an amazing mom Kirsty will be one day.

Christmas: 2016 was our first Christmas in our new home. I was in love with how Christmassy and cozy our house looked, the tree, the decorations, the lights and the candles. It was magic.

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Our Magical Christmas Lounge

Secret Santa x2: So 2016 I finally got around to planning Secret Santa between myself and my friends; I’ve wanted to do it since I moved back to Solihull in 2013. This lead to me being in charge of Secret Santa at work as well, and then doing two Secret Santas in the space of one day (each time dressed as Santa! though that was my own choice). I was especially pleased with the thought and effort everyone put into it.

Pop Vinyls: Too many Pop Vinyls came into our lives this year; we don’t need any more for a while! Plus 2016 will forever be known as the year of the Three Illidan Stormrages.

Reading: One of my favourite achievements of 2016 was increasing my reading. Despite being a writer, despite having the goal of a published book one day in the, hopefully near, future, I had forgotten to actually invest some time in reading. Well, in 2016 I read more books than I have in perhaps the last 5 years combined. It was a good productive year for reading and, to top it all off, Kirsty bought me a Kindle Paper White for Christmas! Lots more reading to come.

All in all some great memories! How was 2016 for you? I’d love you to share some of your happy memories in the comments below!