Neil Turner's Blog

Blogging about technology and randomness since 2002

2015 in review

It’s time for my annual review of the year just gone. The theme for this year is ‘when I grow up’, for two reasons. One, it was the name of a song that I sang in a concert in April, but also because some major grown-up things happened to Christine and I this year.

You can read my previous posts from 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010 and 2009.

Anyhow, without further ado, here’s January.


We decided that 2015 would be the year that we would buy a house, and January was the month when we started looking at potential properties in earnest. However, it would take until much later on before we’d actually buy a house, and then even longer before we’d be able to move in.

As usual, the 14th January was my blogiversary, marking 13 years since I started blogging. I was also sent a UPS to review; that’s now been passed on to a friend who could make better use of it.


The Bradford Brewery

February saw the first big step forward in the house-buying process – we had an offer accepted, for the home that we ultimately bought. I also visited the opening of the Bradford Brewery, which later became famous for a Twitter spat with the then-local MP George Galloway, and got a new iPhone after my previous one started to give up the ghost. We went to see the comedian Josie Long in Leeds, and the cabaret act Fascinating Aida in Bradford in the same week.

February also saw the blog move to a new server, for the first time in a few years. I’m now running it on Bytemark’s flexible BigV platform. The server move also meant that I could more easily add an SSL certificate for the site, which went live in the same month.


Muscat Grand Mosque
March was a busy month, by comparison. The first week was taken up by being a theatre technician for Moby Dick! The Musical, for which Christine was the producer and also a performer. This was the first of three shows that I worked on this year, all at the Bradford Playhouse. I then had a busy couple of weeks at work, followed by a week away in the Middle East for work. This was my first overseas trip for work, and saw me visiting Amman in Jordan and Muscat in Salalah in Oman, via Dubai and Bahrain. It was a great experience and allowed me to visit countries that I will probably never have chance to see again, but the days were long and I had to work hard out there.

On a sadder note, it was a year since my good friend Dave Jennings passed away suddenly. Christine and I still miss him but we’re able to move on now.

The busy month meant that I didn’t get chance to write about much on the blog, apart from how I wouldn’t be buying an Apple Watch. I still haven’t bought one.


Never Work With Children or AnimalsThe big news in April was me passing my driving theory test – a key milestone in learning to drive. I’d taken and passed the theory test before, back in 2006, but they’re only valid for two years and as I didn’t subsequently pass my practical driving test back then, it expired. Still, it was a big step forward.

Over the Easter weekend, we went on a day trip to Fountain’s Abbey, with my parents.

I don’t often sing in public but I decided to take part in a small concert, at the very end of April. As Christine was organising it, I decided that being part of it would mean that I get to see her more often, rather than spending two nights a week apart due to rehearsals.


W. G. Bagnall 0-6-0ST No. 2 "Florence"
In early May, we discovered that Christine was pregnant. At the time, we kept it mostly a secret, telling only close family and our respective employers.

I had a fun day out at the Foxfield Railway with my family. My dad turned 70 at the very end of 2014 and his birthday present was to be a train driver for the day, so we spent the day trundling up and down the short preserved railway near Stoke on Trent. His birthday present this year, from Christine and I, was a photobook of the photos that I took on the day. I haven’t seen the finished photobook yet but I gather it has come out well – I ordered it from Apple through the Photos app in OS X.

May is my birthday month, and this time I became the rather unremarkable age of 31. We went to Tropical World in Leeds.


Stripping wallpaper
We finally completed the house purchase in June, and so we were able to start work on renovating it. We’d originally expected to be able to move in after around six weeks, i.e. early August, but the more work we did, the more we realised that additional work would be required. Ultimately, it was late September before we moved.

I did the second of the three shows in June – a production of Our House, the Madness musical. I got called in at the last minute, but it was a great show to work on.

June was the month when we went public about Christine’s pregnancy (although I didn’t blog about it until July). We kept mostly schtum until after the 12 week scan, mainly because there’s a higher risk of miscarriage in the first trimester, but also because we wanted to be able to show the ultrasound image. Until then, we didn’t have anything really tangible to show, apart from a positive home pregnancy testing kit.

A day out in Manchester gave me the opportunity to write about the renovation of Manchester Victoria station, which was nearly complete in June. I also finally started writing about my middle east trip, over a couple of weeks.


Cheers! #Instagram

I was back in Manchester in July, this time for a stag weekend where I probably drank more alcohol in 48 hours than I did for the whole of the rest of the year. Thankfully, a lot of this was at Brewdog, so it was good alcohol.

We had a free meal out at a local chain restaurant, in a role as a mystery shopper. It was a good experience, although sadly we haven’t had the opportunity to do it again, as none of the visits offered since have appealed to us.

I wrote my first piece on Medium. It got a few views, but I was a bit underwhelmed, if I’m honest. A subsequent post later in the year barely got noticed. I also belatedly updated the blog to comply with the EU cookie directive.

And I bought a selfie stick. I haven’t really used it much though.


Saltire flag
I passed my driving test! It was technically my third attempt, following two attempts in 2007, but was the first time after a long break, and with only two minor errors. It was a big relief, as I think we would have really struggled with our baby daughter later on, had I not passed by then.

August is always busy at work, thanks to it being UCAS Clearing, so I didn’t get chance to write about much on the blog. We got to end the month with a trip to St Andrews in Scotland, for the wedding of two very good friends, over the bank holiday weekend.


A photo of our new car, a Nissan Note

Two big things happened in September. The first was finally being able to move into the house that we’d owned since June, albeit right at the end of the month. Since moving in, we’ve done some more painting but renovation work has been on the backburner whilst we got ready for the baby’s arrival. In any case, the work remaining is relatively minor and not urgent, hence why we were able to move in.

We also bought a car. This actually happened before we moved – and having a car made the house move a little more bearable. It’s not a great car but it meets our needs, and I haven’t managed to crash it yet I thankfully. Although the paintwork has gained several scratches and the front right wheel arch needs replacing after I got a bit too close to a metal railing whilst reversing. We need to get a little more money together before we get these issues fixed in the new year.

We went to a couple of stand-up comedy gigs in September – Justin Moorhouse played our local pub on one of the first dates of his UK tour, which was nice of him, and then we went to see George Egg in Bradford as part of the British Science Festival.


Tower Bridge
Although we were able to squeeze in a short, last minute visit to London in 2014, in October we made proper plans and spent a full weekend in the capital. This also gave me over a week’s worth of content for blog posts, which was helpful.

Whilst I’d decided not to buy a full-blown smart watch earlier in the year, I decided to splash out on a Fitbit Charge fitness tracker. Three months on and I’m still wearing it every day, as it’s a good motivational tool. It encourages me to take the stairs rather than the lift, and to move around more when waiting for things. I’ve even tried its sleep-tracking feature of late, seeing as how sleep is likely to be at a premium for the next few weeks.

I was rather disappointed with the Sunrise calendar app being discontinued. I’m managing with the stock iOS Calendar app for now but it’s not as good.


Yorkshire Sculpture Park
We picked an unseasonably warm and sunny day to visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, and specifically the poppy cascade that is there until early in the new year. November also saw the long-awaited opening of Bradford’s new shopping centre, which has been under construction for over a decade. I’ve been through it a few times since and it has always been busy. There’s a handful of empty shops but these seem to filling up quickly – a trend that’ll hopefully be repeated elsewhere in Bradford city centre.

I had a go at brewing my own beer. The beer was okay, although I never drank any more of it after writing the blog post. It’s almost certainly spoiled by now.

We went to two live gigs in November –Dara Ó Briain in Halifax, and Professor Elemental in Leeds – and made a second annual visit to the Thought Bubble Comic Con. And I was part of the technical team for Sleeping Beauty, the last of the three shows this year.


And so to this month. Obviously the arrival of our baby daughter was by far the biggest news, and we’re all now back at home now having recovered from the birth. In fact, she was lying on my arm whilst writing part of this blog post, so any mistakes are probably her fault. As well as worrying about the birth, I was also worrying about the flooding that hit our town – thankfully, we weren’t directly affected but getting to the hospital for the birth was interesting.

We had a quiet Christmas at home, so that we could enjoy some time alone with just the two of us. Tentative plans for New Year’s Eve have been made, but these are very much weather-dependent.

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