Happy anniversary, 53°North, Eeyore’s Gloomy Place, Acquis and just plain-old Gary Taylor. The web site I mean, not me. That would be silly.

Eighteen years of tears, laughter, tears, more tears, and… well, you get the picture.

I started while on the PG Dip in Public Communications at what is now Leeds Trinity University, just before my first solo trip to Brussels. Coincidentally, I should be going back there this September too.

It’s a bit of a cheat, as the site as a whole went through a few changes, so the original database was archived as I relaunched myself; then it was merged with the newer content. That’s why there only 417 posts – I did a bit of editing of the past, partly to remove some things I really ought not to have posted. This isn’t social media.

Over those 18 years a great many things have changed, some of which I’ve documented here, good and bad.

I got fat

So did WordPress. That easy-to-hack blogging platform has become a CMS (it thinks) behemoth. We now have a block editor, JSON files and all sorts of nonsense I don’t begin to understand. I’m amazed that this site and Baked Beauties haven’t properly fallen over yet. And it still doesn’t have a proper way of doing images, if you want to divide things up into categories or by tag. Too busy being clever with the block editor to go back and fix the basics.

My hosting site is not much help either. I just spotted a note saying that php7.4 is deprecated, but the highest version of php they have is… yes, 7.4. Something else to fix, when I find the time.

But I’d still rather have my own site than trust things to Facebook, or LinkedIn, or any other place that can harvest my content for its own reason.

I got poorly

Obviously, there’s the cancer. Two years on, no re-occurrence, which often makes me feel a bit of a fraud as I’m working with someone with Stage 3, I know someone with Stage 4 and one of my bestest friends died in May 2020 having only been diagnosed in August 2019. It being the Time of Covid I couldn’t attend his funeral, though he still managed a great turnout.

My mental health suffered. In retrospect, it all started during a protracted restructuring at Leeds Met Uni in 1998. I’m currently temping where there’s a protracted restructuring taking place (I’m 17 months into a three-month contract). Much the same happened at my last place too. But it really went on a slide 10 years ago, hit rock bottom in 2019 and has been slowly recovering ever since.

I’m still looking for daily wins, though there are in ever-shorter supply. I get much more frustrated by things these days. And tired. Not having a permanent, local job isn’t helping.

I volunteered. A lot.

I was already helping Emma at 59 (Huddersfield) Squadron, but I also took on Leeds United Ladies in 2007, then CIPR Yorkshire & Lincolnshire in 2010. I’m still sort-of on the CIPR committee; and I can’t quite escape the Air Cadets. I’m now Treasurer at the Civilian and Welfare Committee; despite wanting to leave after doing the role after five years, we don’t have anyone to take over (not just willing people, any people) and I’m now Acting Chair.

This is the main reason I swerve away from volunteering activities at work. I’ve done my bit, thanks.

I lost my friends

That sounds a bit melodramatic, but I only have one friend in Leeds now, and she’s been trying to move away for the last few years. Not because she’s my only local friend, you understand. Not that she’s told me, anyway.

My former social group is scattered to the four winds. They’re all happy; married, with kids, sometimes both. I’ll admit to being upset that a big chunk of them forgot my birthday this year, until it was someone else’s. We’ve not spoken since.

I learned new skills

I mean, I’ll always have a go at new things, but it’s nice to have a chance of succeeding, right?

I took the annual rail patronage figures from the Office of Rail and Road, fed them into an Excel spreadsheet with previous years, exported the results as a Comma Separated Variable file, imported that into a MySQL database, then used a php script to interrogate the database and compile a .kml file which I then zipped into a .kmz file. Plus the pins for each station.

Easy, really.

And then I discovered Inkscape, and started drawing maps. And I scanned in some old media to try and recreate, for practice. They look good, too. I’m no designer, and would never claim to be, but maps and charts might be something, or the odd graphic here and there. When I find the time.

Also, some of the custom code that runs this web site, and my old family tree site. Still got those language skills.

I’m… different

Which some people seem to have trouble with. I don’t run with the crowd… I don’t even like crowds. Never been one of the lads. For me, hell is still other people.

But when I mention my hobbies… this web site, the drawings, the rail stuff, following Fred Deakin on Twitch… and fail to notice major TV dramas, what’s happening on GBBO and who tops the charts these days… you don’t always have to take the mick. You could, for example, feign interest. Like I do.

The future

Not my future, as such, but of this web site.

I haven’t invested time in it for a while. I stopped doing the monthly round-ups, which were really just a way to make sure I wrote something.

But as it happens, there’s a few posts I’ve got ready to roll. I ought to commit to doing one a day for a week, but it’ll be one every few days; on Paula Vennells, proportional representation, and my AI thoughts which I’ve been meaning to do for the last year.

I also need to re-look at the site template. When I created it, I didn’t have a 24” monitor, and I’ve noticed at least one error on big screens. Easy to fix, but I’ll need to re-acquaint myself with the stylesheet.

But really, I need to make some time. To be less tired, to stop spreading myself so thinly and to accept that the site won’t be running in three years at this rate, never mind a further 18!