2019 has been, it’s not inaccurate to say, a year. Sometimes great, and sometimes horrific – horrific on a personal, national and global scale. We’re now in a new decade, with all the hope, promise, fear and dread that brings – but hopelessness and apathy are the oppressor’s most effective tools, and while we all need to allow ourselves time to mourn and recharge, we must fight back against the rising tide of intolerance, bigotry and prejudice in all their forms as they become increasingly, insidiously normalised in our current climate.
In trying to dredge up the positives of my particular 2019, I found that there were more than I had initially given credit to (thanks to Dr Esther Odek for the inspiration to list the top 4 personal achievements of the year!) I’ve angsted over my viva results in a previous post, and though it took time for me to recover, as 2019 ended I felt more assured in and fulfilled by my research than I had since I submitted my thesis at the start of the year; perhaps even since I began the PhD, period. My family, friends, supervisors and the Cardiff LAWPL community were all instrumental in helping me wade through the mire of 2019, and I’ve been more keenly aware of looking after my mental health this year than any other (the physical health/fitness is still a work in progress, but I’ll get there one day…)
Contrary to what I thought after walking out of my viva, getting a ‘revise and resubmit within 12 months’ result is not a career death sentence – it’s just the next step on the road to getting your doctorate. If you’ve made it to the viva, then you’ve already experienced doubt, hardship and setbacks in your PhD journey, and this result is no different. I will forever be proud of submitting my PhD thesis on time, especially since 2018 was such a personally fraught year for me and my family, just as I will be proud of my defence in said viva, and the encouraging and constructive feedback I received from two of the most eminent scholars in their respective fields. The resubmission date lies on an ever-nearing horizon, but for the first time in ages, I’m not afraid of it (though you might want to ask me again in two months’ time…)
In keeping my spirits high and my mind engaged on non-thesis (but tangentially related) matters, I am ever thankful to the Sherman Theatre, New Theatre and Chapter Arts Centre, whose artistic delicacies I have been privileged to review for Get the Chance. I’ve been voraciously scribbling reviews of fiction ever since I could first hold a pen, so to be a bona fide reviewer means more than I can say – my review of Cinderella is even up in print at the New Theatre! I’m thankful to Nathan Scott-Howe at the New Theatre who went above and beyond to make sure that I was a part of Cinderella’s Christmas celebrations, and to Lucy Gough, Chris Durnall and the entire creative team of The Creature at Chapter for not only producing an incredible and innovative play, but for their kind responses to my review.
And I can’t enthuse enough about the incredibly welcoming team at the Sherman Theatre, especially Tim Howe, Ness Williams and Chris Lloyd, who continue to enrich Cardiff’s Law and Literature module by generously offering their kindness, insight and hospitality. The amazingly dedicated, creative and above all kind team has made the Sherman into what I feel is the soul of Welsh theatre; Artistic Director Joe Murphy pledged to produce theatre ‘rooted in Wales but relevant to the world’, and I cannot wait to see what they do next, especially in light of their latest thrilling season of plays. It was a privilege to be a part of their promo campaign for Hedda Gabler, not least because it was such a powerful and moving version of Ibsen’s play. Prioritising my PhD has meant that I hadn’t taught since 2017, but being involved on the Law and Literature module this year with Professor Ambreena Manji has been a pleasure and a privilege – it was in 2019 that I delivered my first ever co-lecture, with Ambreena, and it has been a joy to engage with our excellent students on topics that are increasingly relevant in our times. They give me hope for the fight ahead.
Speaking of my personal and professional highlights of 2019, I was honoured to be an invited speaker on the Welsh National Opera’s Nature of Crime and Justice panel, an event that took place as part of their Freedom Season. Produced by Maris Lyons, the Freedom Season centred around themes ranging from crime and justice and immigration law to modern slavery and freedom of speech. In addressing these socio-political issues, the season’s programme of events included discussion panels, debates and the operas, shows and even a VR experience which explored those themes in greater detail. Sitting on the dais with chair Professor Mona Siddiqui and my co-panellists Hilary Brown, Matthew Gold and John Manders, meant that my impostor syndrome readings were initially off the charts until I learned for myself that they were some of the most wonderfully brilliant and bounteously kind people I’ve ever had the delight to meet. The discussion we shared is one I will treasure.
As for this humble blog, I completed only two of the numerous posts I’d promised in last year’s end of year update (namely, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot and Locke), so I’m reluctant to make such vows this time around even I could, especially because from now until March, it’s thesis resubmission action stations. Since The Rise of Skywalker squished my heart into a fine pulp (for many, many reasons that I will definitely delve into one day), my enthusiasm for the saga has somewhat dulled of late. I’m sure I’ll be back on my Star Wars nonsense before long, but for now, I’m just giving myself a time out from that galaxy far, far away. Happily, for me, some things remain the same: Joanna Newsom is still the soundtrack to my long dark tea-times of the soul, A Wrinkle in Time remains the most egregiously underappreciated gem of the last decade, and I’m still mad (and forever will be) about the way Sleepy Hollow, Penny Dreadful and BBC’s Robin Hood ended. There are certainly posts percolating in my thesis-addled brain, but I’ll leave them a mystery until I have the time and/or presence of mind to bring them into being.
Happily, I closed 2019 with a one-two punch of excellence: seeing in the New Year by actually leaving the house (a personal NYE first) and witnessing the Cardiff firework display (see photographic evidence of said outing above), and by finishing Richard Ayoade’s new book Ayoade On Top with tears of laughter in my eyes (the houseboat chapter alone deserves a Pulitzer); I can only hope that 2020 is similarly brimming with excitement, Ayoade-related or otherwise (preferably the former).
And to fulfil the quota of any self-respecting year-ending/ year-incepting post, here’s an arbitrarily ranked selection of my favourite 2019-related things…
Top 5 Films of 2019:
- Knives Out
- The Dead Don’t Die
(Bonus: Joker, which both grieves and enthrals me, against my better judgment)
Top 10 Films Not From 2019 But That I Watched in 2019 and Loved:
- Predestination (2014)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
- Creed II (2018)
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (2018)
- Bad Times at the El Royale (2018)
- Welcome to Marwen (2018)
- Paris is Burning (documentary) (1990)
- Boy (2010)
- A Ghost Story (2017)
- The Fear of God: 25 Years of the Exorcist (documentary) (1998)
Top 12 TV Shows of 2019 (An Unconventional Number, but It’s My List After All):
- The Good Place
- Avatar: The Last Airbender (the only show on my list not to air in 2019)
- She-Ra and the Princesses of Power
- Steven Universe
- The Dragon Prince
- One Day at a Time
- Killing Eve
- Brooklyn Nine-Nine
- Project Blue Book
- Good Omens
- The Tick
Top 5 Books I Read in 2019:
- Ayoade On Top: Richard Ayoade
- The Governesses (novella): Anne Serre
- The Disaster Artist: Greg Sestero and Tom Bissell
- The Princess and the Fool: Paul Neafcy
- The Tea Master and the Detective (novella): Aliette de Bodard
Top 5 Theatre Productions of 2019:
- Hedda Gabler (Sherman Theatre)
- The Creature (Chapter)
- Cinderella (New Theatre)
- The Snow Queen (Sherman Theatre)
- Peter Pan Goes Wrong (New Theatre)