Back on the courts for 2019

One of the things that brightens an otherwise dull January is the return of tennis. Things in tennis-land go quiet in December, once the finals are all complete and players are taking a well-deserved rest. But the WTA swings back into action in January, and we are already saturated with coverage. Brisbane, Auckland, Shenzhen and some bonus Hopman Cup were all available on our screens this past week.

With a year of the ups and downs of the tennis rollercoaster ahead, here are five things I’m looking forward to:

  • Seeing how Halep fares without coach Darren Cahill. I always worry that too much is made of the coach/player relationship – the player has to be superbly talented to get to the top regardless of who is talking them through it. In Halep’s case, though, it’s clear that Darren’s no-nonsense attitude worked to great effect and helped her battle through whatever nerves or negative thinking was holding her back. Last year, she retained her World Number 1 spot, and took home her first Grand Slam winner’s trophy. Not bad going. Like many, I was gutted to see that the dream team would be parting ways, but on the other hand it does give us a chance to see if Halep can retain what she’s learned as she continues this journey.
  • The comebacks. Murray continues to be a warrior and fights to play. He’s said many times that he’s not sure how much longer his playing career will go on for so every day is a bonus. It’ll be interesting to see if he can get any more decent success, he’s certainly worked for it. The same goes for Serena Williams, who already bounced back into the game in incredible style, but has just that little way to go to get back to her dominant self. Watch this space.
  • The chasers. Those who are just starting to show what they’re made of – Svitolina, Ostapenko, Kvitova, we can even put Kerber in that bracket after her drop in performance following previous dominance. Halep needs to watch her back because there are so many talented players just waiting for a chance at the top spot.
  • The rule changes – of all the tweaks this year, final set tie breaks is the one I’m most interested in. I know some people enjoy the Wimbledon matches that go on for 5+ hours, but I’m fascinated to see the furious tension in those final tie breaks, as opposed to the exhaustion of two players slugging it out to the dying moments.
  • The unknowns. What is, of course, one of the highlights of any tennis year is getting to the end of it and realising the player that is now a household name was nowhere at the start. Like Naomi Osaka’s rise to glory last year, it’s always fab to see the youngsters breaking through and fighting with the established names. Who will it be in 2019?

Even though tennis is on almost all the year round, and the rolling nature of the points system means it is never really done, January does feel like a fresh start of a new season. Four fresh Grand Slams await, with hundreds of fabulous tournaments in between, let’s get this thing going!

Films to look forward to in 2019

There are lots of articles written at this time of year looking back on the months gone and looking forward to the next twelve, and I’ve been intrigued by the variety of “best upcoming films” that have been touted. How many of them am I looking forward to? I had a browse through a few articles (Wired and The Guardian, in particular) and picked out the films that stood out to me.

Captain Marvel – It looks good, more female superhero-ness is great, and I am desperate to see Agent Coulson back on the big screen again. But Marvel, oh Marvel, our relationship is complicated and only getting more so.

Destroyer – Yes, if only to wonder the entire time through: “Are you sure that’s Nicole Kidman?”

Dumbo – Nope, I couldn’t even make it through the trailer. The CG is a bit weird and my heart breaks for that little elephant, I don’t need it to look more real.

The Favourite – Definitely on the list. Three top actresses in some kind of complex royal love triangle? I’m in.

Fighting With My Family – I don’t really care for wrestling, but it’s directed by Stephen Merchant who we have established I love and The Rock has been tweeting endlessly about it too, so, on balance, I’m in.

The Goldfinch – I didn’t know they were making a film of this and am very intrigued. I remember quite enjoying the book although it ramped up to some action that didn’t quite fit with the rest of the story to me, curious if the film does the same or can smooth over the tonal changes.

The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part – if the trailer is anything to go by, this will be more meta goodness wrapped up in a fast-paced Lego adventure. The problem I have with this is that the spin-off Batman film was so good, I don’t know if I still care about Emmett and his friends.

Pokemon: Detective Pikachu – I am more than clueless about the world of Pokemon but is it just me or is this the weirdest trailer ever? I’m also not sure I can take seriously anything voiced by Ryan Reynolds now. That ship has well and truly sailed and it was called Deadpool.

Stan & Ollie – This looks great. I don’t know enough about the pair, unfortunately, but the trailer looks very interesting.

Star Wars – Episode IX – Obviously, although we won’t get to see this until 2020.

Toy Story 4 – Hmm, I don’t know. Toy Story 3 did a real number on me, those toys in that furnace. I don’t know if I can cope. I suspect it’s definitely on our list though, and that’s all they need from me.

X-Men: Dark Phoenix – I mean, yes? Maybe? Where even are we in the X-world these days?

There are a lot of films I’ve missed, naturally, and hopefully there will be plenty of excellent surprises throughout the year as well – stay tuned to Film Watch to see which ones make the cut!

On the record – Was Peter Kay right all along?

Before we get into the album adventure for 2019, it’s worth a quick reminder of why this project even started and if we have made any progress on the original premise. Three years ago, it all kicked off when a conversation on Peter Kay’s Car Share caused a real life debate in our household.

I was on Kayleigh’s side, that you could have whatever album you wanted as your favourite, whether it is a compilation or not. Mr C was firmly on the side of Peter Kay/John, who rejected the idea of a compilation album being eligible for selection as your favourite.

So, after three years of listening to albums, I can update that I now understand both sides of the argument and… reluctantly… admit that Peter Kay was right. Although, I don’t think Kayleigh’s entirely wrong.

The trouble is, I think they are talking about two different things, and it’s the word album being used in both contexts that is the problem. If you are like John, then you’re considering the album to be a body of work put together by an artist to tell a story or share an idea in the form of anywhere between 10 to 20 songs.

If you are like Kayleigh, then an album is anything available to buy (on CD in her case) whether that is a collection of songs by one artist or by many. It’s called a compilation album after all. But the trouble is that it’s not really the same thing as the one-artist-one-story-to-tell album, despite featuring the a-word. In this day and age, it would be more accurate to describe it as a playlist. And once you get to that point, then you can easily see that John is right – you can’t have a compilation as your favourite album when it is, in fact, just a really good playlist.

He’s right but that doesn’t mean Kayleigh is completely wrong, it just means he needs to narrow the parameters of the argument for her.

And yes, I do know I’ve put too much thought into this. Just wait until I get back to agonising over the impossibilities of a top ten albums of all time list.

2019 goals

I’ve seen a lot of debate recently about the usefulness of new year’s resolutions – are we putting too much pressure on ourselves? Are we pushing for hard to achieve activities when we should be revelling more in what we have and who we are? I think there can be an element of this and I can respect those who don’t care for a resolution one way or the other. I personally think, however, that it’s a great time of year to consider what you’ve done and what you might like to do in the coming months. Self-reflection can be useful.

Last year, I wrote a heartfelt missive that encouraged everyone to be nice. That still holds true to this day, perhaps even more so. I said, at the time, that I didn’t want to indulge in specific goals but now I regret that because I want something to look back on.

So, with that in mind, here are my goals for 2019:

  • Finish the Alphabet Adventure.
    I started this god-damn thing nearly nine years ago, and thought I could whip through the alphabet in a single set of twelve months. There are just two left to do, and even my mother has said that finishing things should be one of my resolutions this year. So, it’s on the list.
  • Develop an app.
    You know the score, I’m trying to learn Swift and iOS development (latest update here) and there’s only one direction that ends up going in, my very own app.
  • Watch more old films.
    Film Watch is still going strong, and we enjoyed an excellent 80s revival period during the last few months. But I feel like I need to go a bit older, get a bit more culture, delve into the black and white pictures of this world.
  • Attempt a challenging walk.
    I discovered the rather excellent concept of a long distance trail this year, what else is out there?
  • Continue my cooking journey.
    This year, I have two proud kitchen moments – successfully cooking with the HelloFresh Christmas box, and the fact that I don’t stop in the ready meal aisle anymore. I want to just keep this going – invest in my kitchen-ware and gadgets, have confidence to experiment with recipes, keep trying to replace processed and bought foods with homemade items (pasta and granola-type bars are next on the list), and just generally keep finding those proud kitchen moments.

That’s my specific goals, but as per 2018 “be nice, be thoughtful, be kind” are still top of the agenda. Welcome in, new year, let’s see what you’ve got in store.

The friendly neighbourhood

When we purchased Shadow of the Tomb Raider, we opted for the season pass to include a handful of future downloadable content releases. Two additional tombs were available by the time we settled down for our Christmas break, and it was 100% our plan to raid them over the festive period.

Except, then, Sony had a sale and we bought Spiderman and now it’s like Lara who?

I had heard people raving about this game and was interested to see what it was like, but I am really so very fussy when it comes to Playstation Games, there’s not a lot that holds my interest.

Spiderman almost didn’t, too. The first wave of baddies, whilst crucial for setting up the story was about as off-putting as it gets. Tricky, mostly button-mashing, and really… I just wanted to get to the bit where you can explore the city.

That’s where the game comes into its own. Persevere through that early battle and you are left with the entirety of glorious New York to swing through, scrambling up walls and over rooftops, crashing down to earth and scaring people like crazy. The graphics are amazing, the sprawling city a wonder to behold, and some of the vistas – well, it was no fool that opted to have a photo mode in this game too.

So far we’ve uncovered a few of the side mission things you have to do – hunting down backpacks, taking photos of bizarre cat statues, doing science at scattered research stations. Some of it is easy, some of it is hard, some I really don’t like (the one where you had to swing between two electro-magnetic storm things as they moved in at various points and zapped you… ugh). It seems like there’s a lot more to do and a lot more to discover, and now I’m annoyed because the Christmas holidays are very quickly running out.

What a great game this is, and what a reminder to sometimes listen to what the general population is saying and give these things a try!