23 Moments Of 2023

Welcome to my moments of 2023 – as usual these are not highlights, though most of them are. They are the most important moments of 2023 in my life.

I achieved some pretty whopping things in 2023 – bought a flat, left Harrow, spent 6 weeks in foreign countries including living there.

And I damn well enjoyed quite a lot of it.

However, it all has to be taken into context with the first of the 23 moments, and pretty much the first thing that happened in 2023.

23. Heart failure

So my sister took herself to hospital on New Year’s Day. I didn’t think too much of it at the time, other than her asthma was bad.

But they kept her in, and a couple of days later diagnosed her with heart failure – which was a shock to me, and I still don’t think I’ve processed it properly. Multiply this by infinity for how my sister feels.

Heart failure sounds serious. It is serious. Though you wouldn’t know it now being with my sister – and I have no idea how she copes with such a busy life, how she copes with commuting, going out multiple times a week and having this shit to deal with. I think I live my life pretty fully, but my sister really does.

It’s under control, there has been progress, she seems great in herself (obviously bar the knowledge of having such a serious condition) – but it is probably a life-long condition, and one with added risk.

My sister is the closest person to me, but we are also not very secretly in competition with each other – you can be assured that she is competing to out-live and out-last me also.

22. Discovering Co-Pilot

AI gives me great hope for technological advancement for humanity, even if it may do away with my career that I’ve worked super hard to achieve.

Co-pilot in Visual Studio Code is just mesmerising – it finishes off my code for me, I press enter and it tells me what it thinks I want next, based on what everyone else in the world has done.

Co-pilot doing its thing

It’s not always right, but sometimes it is spookily correct – sometimes it knows what I want before I even realise myself and ask it. Scary.

More importantly, I fully believe AI will leave to huge medical advances – it already seems to have finally cracked the problem of our anti-biotics having been overused, in likely having found a new anti-biotic. What else will it cure in time? Possibly everything. I don’t think there is a limit. Though what the hell society is going to do with an ever-growing whack of old NIMBYs that live forever, won’t work, yet still expect pensions, health-care, social care, etc is something AI might not resolve.

Once Co-Pilot for Windows is released fully (and not just on preview), that will probably be my cue to buy a new PC. Or even make one? Feels like a goal for 2025.

21. Zero tasks day

I love a to-do list. Whether it is restaurants, roast dinners, countries to visit, websites to build, things to learn – or just my day-to-day tasks.

One of my goals for 2023 was to get my main task to-do list down to zero, and this does include tasks that I’ve set myself for building things on my websites (or guiding ChatGPT/Co-Pilot to do it) and one magical day at the beginning of August I achieved it, possibly for the first time since I discovered to-do lists were a thing.

I probably should have enjoyed my summer more, but I do love that sense of achievement.

Currently my to-do list has 82 items on it. Hmmm.

20. Viewing the flat

Another one of my goals for 2023 was to buy a the right to live in a flat for the next 100 years (fingers crossed AI doesn’t let me live until 150 years old).

The first flat I saw was in Leon House – I don’t remember for definite, but I think it was a different flat to the one I bought – though also I think I saw the flat I bought on the same day too.

Either way, immediately upon arriving at Leon House, I was like, “this is me”. I did look at other places, and I did return multiple times to view flats in the building – especially but not only the one I bought.

My new home - a brutalist block of flats

This building is me, right?

From that date in early March, I knew where I wanted to live. But also I knew what I wanted to pay – and it wasn’t the asking price of any of those for sale.

19. Interview failures

One thing I failed at in 2023 was interviewing for a new role.

I started the year not especially happy in my role, so spent some time looking for a new one. However, I had to contend with a market that had gone from me receiving 20+ recruiter messages a day the year before despite not being interested, to receiving 2 a month. Of course the better roles are generally the ones that don’t need recruitment companies to spam blindly anyone with the word “JavaScript” in their profile, but this is more a measure of how quiet.

That said, I did get some interviews. Sometimes I did quite well – but a couple I totally flopped at. The ones I flopped at were dispiriting, so I decided to can looking for a job and concentrate instead on looking for a new flat – something I could be successful at.

18. Offered accepted

On May 9th 2023, I had my offer of £280,273 accepted – which was a pretty decent discount from the market value of £300,000 – a price I thought it was worth.

Originally my hope was to find somewhere for £270,000, but I decided to upgrade my budget once I fell in love with Leon House.

Also worth noting was that if I had accepted the original counter-offer of £285,000, it would have worked out slightly cheaper when taking into account interest payments, due to the amount that interest rates went up during the course of the negotiation time. Negotiating actually didn’t help me, alas.

17. Miserable July

How shit was July?

Rain.

OK, I had a great time in Paris, but the weather in July was soooo disappointing – all the background signals were pointing to a long hot summer, and June really delivered, yet July was rain, rain and more rain – especially on a weekend.

My dentist was particularly evil one Monday, I had bad news from the doctors (which I ignored), my housemate was treating me as if I was some kind of alien disease. Plus I had a terrible hair cut…6 months later I still haven’t dared to go back to a barbers.

Oh and I missed all the thunderstorms that every other area seemed to get.

16. Valencia

Ahhh España – the first of two visits in 2023 was a holiday to Gandia, but we had two day trips to the gorgeous city of Valencia on the rather painfully busy train.

I loved the vibe of Valencia, it felt quite exciting but also a safe city – unlike Barcelona. Loads of gorgeous buildings including the delightful Valencia Nord train station, we had the probably best ever patatas bravas there, found a couple of cute craft beer places (which was a relief after the craft-free resort of Gandia) – and got to see a dear friend who I’ve not seen since before the pandemic. I do eventually get around to visiting people!

15. The Hill Of Decision

The other day trip to Valencia was when my housemate sent me the letter advising that bailiffs were turning up in a month’s time to our house, due to my landlord’s difficulties. Whilst I was on the train of pain in Spain, though at least we had a seat this time.

My flat purchase was going nowhere – it was 4 months since I’d had my offer accepted and it seemed nowhere near completion. Strangely enough, when I sent note of my impending eviction to my solicitors, things sped up – they actually started chasing instead of being like “well, we’ve sent the requests so there’s no need to chase”.

What to do? I’d always wanted to live in Spain, this was an opportunity to do so, work would allow it (for two weeks anyway) – it felt unusually brave for me and there were logistical issues like putting everything in storage, timings, questions around what would happen if I moved to Spain and the flat purchase fell through, or it took much longer. So I walked up the hill the next day.

View of Gandia from the hill

Long walk, nearly 30’C by time I came back, up a hill, down the hill, through a road tunnel into an industrial estate and back to the beach for a potato salad and beer.

Decision made. Unless the flat purchase was done in time, I’d move to Spain.

14. Cancelled flights

In August I needed a holiday, in September I finally booked one – to Gandia in Spain. My sister was coming – now having finally been allowed to catch a flight, as long as it was somewhere close with a good hospital, just in case. Something stress-free.

So, of course, we were on the Elizabeth Line to Heathrow, and I casually checked our departure time to find out that the flight was cancelled. British Airways were fucking useless – cancelling it due to “bad weather”, yet somehow we rebooked onto a Ryanair flight that evening, which flew right over a thunderstorm – my sister being terrified and even I had the odd moment of “fuck this”.

Not exactly what the doctor ordered.

And then on the way back, whilst on the metro in Valencia…flight cancelled! Cue another fun night in Valencia, and a flight via a 3-hour stopover in Paris on very little sleep. Urgh.

Flight cancelled board

13. Harwood Arms roast dinner

If there is no roast dinner on my top moments of the year, then you know I had a difficult year.

Thankfully, The Harwood Arms seriously impressed. I’d wanted to go for years, but its always so difficult to book – they release their tables 90 days before, and you have to book on that exact day of release.

The Michelin star pub did not disappoint – the Cote De Boeuf sharer that myself and my very good friend, Zag, shared was wonderful – the yorkie came with stewed beef inside, the roasties were golden and crispy – I even had dessert.

12. The Art Of A Code Review

One of the downsides of working at M&S as a software engineer is that there is (was?) no real software engineering community – there was no way really for us to come together as engineers, there isn’t even a properly functioning mailing list.

So a few of us in 2023 decided to get together and create some form of community…which ended up expanding to cover the whole of tech, albeit something I didn’t necessarily agree with as it means that we still don’t really have an engineering-specific community, but it is what it is, I was out-voted – at least there is something now.

As well as being a founder, and I’d like to think a fairly core part of the engine keeping it running, I’m most proud of stepping outside my comfort zone and doing a presentation on The Art Of A Code Review. Being good at reviewing code is a different skill from writing it, and one I find people have put less time into than their coding skills, quite often.

This was when our community was fledging, so there was only around 30 people on the call, but I was quite taken aback by the amount of positive feedback I received. I should really get it on my James Winfield software engineering site, and maybe make more of a deal out of it.

11. Gorgeous Walks in Malta

Don’t you love those first warm sunny days in spring? When you can finally ditch the coat, and have a beer in the sunshine. Even Heineken can taste good in such circumstances.

Nowadays, I try to short-circuit what can be a tortuous wait for warm sunshine in the UK, by having a holiday in late March. In 2023, I waited until I was fairly confident that there would be warm sunshine somewhere in the Mediterranean, and booked a trip, by myself, to Malta.

Well, what a stunning island, but most of all I enjoyed my long walks along the coast.

View of the sea in Malta

As much as a love of good beer is a theme in my life, so quite a few of my highlights are long walks. In Malta, the coastal walks were occasionally a bit tricky – with fairly rough terrain and some sharp slopes to navigate, though nothing too tricky. Simple and happy times. I should do more of this.

10. Heart Progress

I don’t remember when it was, but maybe it was April/May kind of time, when my sister had some results which showed progress in the treatment for her heart – for me, this was a turning point when I went from being worried/uncertain/scared to having confidence that, sure, there’s a risk, but we can manage this.

Well, the doctors and my sister can manage it – and I will be there for support.

9. 23,000 at Hull City

I still vaguely have some connections to my home town, even if I find myself enjoying the ballet nowadays as much as football.

Hull City's ground, looking quite full

We went in April to an end-of-season game with nothing to play for, and there was a crowd of 23,000. The season before, we were getting attendances of 10,000.

What happened? Well, we have a new owner, Acun Ilıcalı – the Simon Cowell of Turkey, who when he isn’t busy running Survivor, is flying to watch Hull City – and genuinely seems to be in love with the club and the fans. Plus he seems to know his football.

He’s invested in the club, and the playing style – Liverpool and Man City send their up-and-coming talents to us on loan, the manager is forward-thinking and has space to develop and make mistakes – and he seems genuinely loved in whatever he does.

It’s kind of a dream, after decades of mostly shit owners. And how many football club owners will go to the pub before/after a game to meet the fans?

8. Gandia Thunderstorm

So I have a thunderstorm shield. Reading barely ever had any decent thunderstorms – I moved out and they had some crackers.

I went on holiday to Gandia, and on the Sunday I flew out, London had its most spectacular thunderstorm in years – the same one I flew over with pretty crazy turbulence.

Thunderstorms were due on the Wednesday, and that was when we planned on our day trip to Valencia, however they arrived on the Tuesday instead. In Valencia. Where we weren’t.

However, in the evening, we retired to the beach after dinner for a drink and I had the very welcome consolation prize of a distant, spectacular thunderstorm in Valencia.

7. That Sunrise in Benalmadena

I have to say that I preferred getting up in the morning and walking along the beach in Benalmadena/Malaga, watching the sunrise, than I do walking through Croydon’s housing estates, seeing varying amounts of cloud. Well, normally it’s still too dark to see cloud.

However there was one morning in Benalmadena where even the locals were photographing the sunrise.

THAT sunset in Benalmadena

Although I had some ups and downs there, I can envisage a future living there, on the coast – sea 10 minute’s walk away, mountains an hour’s walk away. Apart from the fact that Benalmadena was soooooooo British/Irish, it was the perfect location for me. It’s definitely a possible longer-term goal…

6. Moving Out Weirdness

Many of these moments are proper highlights, others are sad/frustrating moments – this was just fucking strange.

On the Monday, Lovespace (ex-employer!) picked up all my stuff. Then I had a bare house, bar a suitcase which was going to Spain, and one or two other necessities, which was going to my sister’s where I’d stay a night before flying out.

It was just weird when my whole life’s worth of stuff, which was mostly in a bedroom, was just gone. And then the next morning, I went for a walk in the pouring rain (without umbrella), had a shower, got changed, packed my stuff for work, closed the door and posted the key.

Goodbye Harrow. Goodbye rats. Goodbye damp.

I miss Spain, but I absolutely don’t miss Harrow.

5. Malaga Sunday Funday

I think the highlight of my time in Spain was when my sister came to visit me one weekend – timed perfectly with the Little summer of San Martín, where temperatures made it to 28’C on the Sunday…in mid-November.

Unbeknown to us, the Spanish Prime Minister was trapped in a building in Malaga the night before by a large crowd of protestors – and the same protesters were on the march on Sunday – basically Spanish Tories upset about the amnesty for the Catalan leaders that held the insurrection a few years back.

Also two of our friends visited that day – more coincidental timing that their road trip through Spain and Portugal passed through at the same time, we had damn fine tapas in the evening, sat in the quite hot sunshine and just enjoyed life in Spain. How nice it was to have people around me, after a couple of weeks alone.

4. Up The Mountain

Ever since I arrived in Benalmadena and saw that there was a mountain within walking distance, I craved walking up it. Like, really craved walking up it.

View of the mountain in Benalmadena

Alas, I was working during the week. The first weekend I wanted to go to Malaga instead on the Saturday and for a roast in Torremolinos on the Sunday, the weekend after I was on call – so they were both out of consideration.

Knowing my sister was due the coming weekend, I decided to start and finish work early one day, and set off at 330pm to walk up the mountain. It was quite a challenge – there were slightly higher peaks I could have gone to, but I didn’t really know the best route – I was just doing the closest one.

Damn I loved the sense of achievement – almost like getting to 0 tasks on Todoist. The silence was amazing, the view was stunning – and this was just when the weather was improving after an iffy week or so (bar the weekend which was glorious). And it was when I was getting to appreciate Benalmadena, and looking past all the cheesy Irish pubs.

View from the mountain in Benalmadena

3. Getting my stuff

Getting the keys to my flat wasn’t a highlight of the year – it was more like, a relief, I guess. I was actually really sad to be leaving Spain – I was questioning why the hell I was buying somewhere in Croydon. Then again, apparently we cannot live in the EU for more then 90 days out of 180 for some reason. Apparently something we voted for.

And it was a bit awkward at first – no mattress for the first night, I was eating off baking trays for a few nights, I had no chair, relying on my mobile hotspot for the internet (though I did occasionally use the shared workspace in the building).

So when my stuff arrived – I was joyful. I was home. I could now make it a home. All I had to do is find everything I needed, clean everything so it no longer smelled of Harrow, and find a place to put things. Simple. Was fun unpacking.

My new flat with loads of boxes

And yes, I occasionally do a little dance and go OMG I own this place. Even after 6 weeks of owning it. I might do another one now.

2. Taste London

I loved this festival. And it wasn’t a music festival – it was a food festival.

Remember glorious June? The first month of the long hot summer that didn’t happen…but at least June was hot. Everyone was in a good mood, there were sooooo many good looking women around, so many gorgeous beers to drink, and so much food to sample – vegan bacon, crickets, weird Japanese shots – plus lots of really good restaurants were selling small plates.

I did a lot of things in London in 2023…more than ever, around 10 or so theatre shows, 42 roast dinners, 20 zillion craft beers, plenty of good restaurants (though not enough), ballet, comedy, long walks – but Taste London was by far the event I enjoyed the most. I was on such a high coming home. I even danced to ABBA.

1. Sat Next To The River Seine, Having A Beer In The Sun

So Paris on the Eurostar was somewhere my sister really wanted to go…and after the year she had, I wasn’t going to say no, even though I’d been multiple times before.

But actually, on this trip, I discovered Paris more – and did the proper tourist stuff too, up the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Montmartre, the Pompidou Centre, a cruise along the river – we were proper tourists, and really packed in quite a lot.

Yet my favourite moment was sitting on the side of the River Seine, drinking beer, soaking up the late afternoon sunshine, and admiring all the tourists, freaks, gays and beautiful people walking past.

Apparently I enjoyed my favourite moment of the year so much that I didn’t photograph it.

Sign saying "merde"

Here’s a beer from somewhere else in Paris instead:

A beer in Paris.  Cheers!

Cheers! What a year that was.

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