2022: My Highlights

It is that time of year again, when we naturally look back, take stock, list our achievements –  our triumphs, trials, sorrows and joys. And I am no different. Yes, despite all appearances to the contrary, I too am but a mortal man, bound to such trivialities as the inexorable passage of time, and the inevitable marking thereof.

It has become a habit of mine therefore, to list the highlights of my year past, if only so that my blog gets updated at least once per annum, and so to stave off that ever-present temptation for a white, middle-class man – starting a podcast.

Of course, I skipped last year, because it was mostly rubbish apart from Spider-Man: No Way Home. But this year was mostly better, so I have begun again, so as not to break the cycle permanently.

So here is a roughly chronological list of my 22 top highlights from the year of our Lord, 2022. I have chosen the number 22 as it is a palindromic number, and because it is the maximum number of regions into which five intersecting circles divide the plane. It is also, as we all know, the central polygonal number. And – most importantly of all – it is Jude Bellingham’s shirt number of choice.

And so, with our life story complete, we begin our oatmeal and raisin cookie recipe.

I went to America. I had never been before. Finally, the New World welcomed me into its fractured and confusing bosom. We went to North Carolina to visit my brother-in-law and his wife. We woke up and it had snowed everywhere. We ate Chick-fil-a and Jonathan Helser gave me Covid. We also popped into New York and as we first walked out from the subway it started to snow. Magical – as if we were in a classic movie like Serendipity, Elf or Avengers: Endgame. We climbed the Empire State Building, saw the Statue of Liberty, walked through Central Park, ate a glorious steak bagel, went to the Met (which one? They all suck), and Emily developed an ongoing knee problem.
Next year: I’m going to pass on Covid to all the prominent worship leaders. Next on my list, Graham Kendrick.

I turned 32. Of course, as I turned 30 in 2020, that didn’t really count. So technically, we’re still treading water there. But speaking scientifically, I have now spent 32 years on this curious planet. 32 is such a non-descript age that I can’t think of anything to write about it.
Next year: I will turn 33.

I got new glasses. And I’m a whole new man. Out went the dark frames. In came the gold. Surveys have shown that I now appear to be 78% more attractive, and 85% more intelligent.
Next year: I’m going to stick with this one. Quit while you’re ahead. Give the rest of you a chance.

I discovered Taskmaster. This is probably the most impactful of all these highlights. I believe this has changed the entire trajectory of my life. Greg Davies and Little Alex Horne have taught me so much. I now march into the future ready to look under every table, to mistrust every instruction, to scream ‘a lime’ whenever I buy ingredients for guacamole, and to annoy Emily by insisting that ‘all the information is on the task’ when she asks for clarification on anything.
Next year: I will become the Taskmaster. Send my friends on merry, pointless errands and judge them for their feeble efforts. I will sit upon my golden throne and hold sway. All shall be subject to my whims.

I released an EP. A whole 6 worship songs. There was a subtle Alan Rickman reference and a brief cameo by my cat. I honestly believe that it’s some of my (read: Joe Connell’s) best work. Having raised the money in late 2019, it was so good to get this out in the world. I’m genuinely proud of it, and people have actually listened to it. More than have listened to anything else I’ve put out. Which is progress! If you’re someone who has listened and enjoyed or been impacted by the EP, thank you so much!
Next year: I’m going to release the same thing again, but slightly different and hope no-one notices. Got to feed Spotify’s insatiable algorithm.

I hosted an EP Launch Party. To mark the EP’s release I put together a little band and we played a little gig. And people paid to come along and listen. Some even baked cakes. Phil Griffiths learned to play bass specially. Which was just lovely. It’s always nerve-wracking doing something like this – if no-one turns up, it’s painfully obvious. So thanks again if you came along – it really means a huge amount!
Next year: I’ve been rehearsing with the lads, and I reckon I may do another one. What do you reckon?

I won a football. It was the Solent Churches Football League Cup. My second piece of silverware with New Community FC. But this time, I actually played in the final. A solid 45 minutes at right back, keeping their winger quiet. Until they brought on someone faster than me. We came back from 2-0 down to win on penalties, with keeper Dave Lawton winning the hearts of the fans with his outstretched left foot saving the decisive penalty. Emi Martinez copied it from him.
Next year: Let’s try and avoid relegation I think. Easier said than done with our current form.

Liverpool won two trophies. And laughed at everybody who implied it didn’t mean as much because they were both on penalties. I can’t think of a funnier thing than Kepa coming on to save penalties, only to concede 11 and then miss his own. I watched the FA Cup Final by myself in a hotel room in Bristol, and I furiously refreshed BBC Sport for the League Cup Final. The whole season was phenomenal. Beating United 5-0 at Old Trafford. Getting closer than anyone to the Quadruple. You’ve got to celebrate this stuff, even when things don’t end the way you wanted.
Next year: I’ll take avoiding the Europa Conference League at this point to be honest.

I played with Lianne LaHavas’s drummer. It was at a friend’s wedding and he didn’t even tell me til afterwards. Probably for the best, really. It was one of 4 musical acts I was involved in on the day. And that wasn’t even half of the day’s music overall. I played Carly Rae Jepsen on clarinet, and wrote a song for the occasion. They then made me play that song right before playing one of the most famous songs ever written. Still, it was mine that everyone was talking about for the rest of the day. In your face, McCartney. Killer canapés too.
Next year: I will play with John Mayer’s bassist, Taylor Swift’s keys player and Stormzy’s backing vocalists, then trick them into forming some kind of super band.

I officiated a wedding. It was genuinely one of the honours of my life to be asked by Steve and Ruth to take their wedding ceremony. To be a part of an historic moment in someone’s journey. I wore a wonderful multi-coloured top and called the bride and groom weirdos. There’s still hope for the ordination training yet.
Next year: I will officiate all the great weddings. The Royals, Kardashians, Rooneys, whoever manages to get Chris Evans to settle down.

I watched the European Champions live. Of course, they weren’t champions at that point yet. Football hadn’t quite come home, but it was on its way. The Lionesses dismantled Northern Ireland 5-0 at St Mary’s. The atmosphere was great, and we had little whacky things to make noise with.
Next year: I will watch Taskmaster Champion of Champions.

I got a new Laptop. My old laptop died a sudden and unwelcome death, so I had to spend all my money on a new one, which I didn’t enjoy as much. Still, the new one is beautiful, and I only have to plug in one cable at work for charging, USB accessories and a screen. Living the dream.
Next Year: I would love to not spend that much money on anything thanks.

I went to Canada. That’s right, none of North America is safe from me now. We went to see my sister-in-law and her husband over in Nova Scotia. It is all mountains and lakes. We ate Wendy’s, went camping, saw an eagle, cooked a live lobster (during which time, it sadly passed away, I am forced to report), and looked up at a night sky with more stars than I think I’ve ever seen.
Next Year: I’m gonna go back, and I’m gonna see a moose. Look right into its eyes and tell it secrets about the universe.

I stopped being a Communications Manager. It was one of my goals this year to work fewer hours for church, and this certainly achieved that. My two years as a Communications Manager have been good, and I’ve enjoyed the experience. But the relief of not having to think about scheduling Facebook posts, and writing newsletters and video notices scripts, has been even greater than I could have imagined. I can’t recommend it highly enough. Why don’t you quit your job today to see how it feels?
Next year: With the extra time now afforded to me, I will learn to whittle my own walking sticks. I will set up one of those mysterious stores in the woods that never stays in the same place. People will call me the walking stick man.

I joined the Church Leadership Team. Now, this wasn’t one of my goals for this or any year. I suspect that is one of the reasons that I am on the team. To be serious for a second, this was a decision that I did not take lightly but took time to think and pray through. I approached it with no lack of trepidation, but also with an acknowledgement of the honour that it is to be asked. So far, it has been a pleasure to be a part of the team, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.
Next year: Having had a taste of power, I will worm my way into Elon Musk’s inner circle and become part of Twitter’s leadership team. I will finally instigate the long called-for edit button and be hailed as a hero of the people.

I went Viral. After years of posting ridiculous videos on the internet, one finally caught on. Was it one of my original songs? One of the edits that I’d worked tirelessly on? No, it was a 6 second reel of me flicking an in-ear pack and then singing a snippet of Gnarls Barkley. Over 9000 likes and counting. Whenever I go onto Instagram, there’s more of them. I can’t move for people congratulating me on my popular video. I’m harangued in the street. Gnarls himself keeps trying to call me. I just want to live a normal life.
Next year: I will retreat to a hut on an island off the coast of Scotland. There I will ruminate on my failures and sink into an existential funk, much to the chagrin of a certain subsection of Youtube.

I acquired Doc Martens. I’ve taken my first steps into a larger world (painful ones to start with tbh). I’ve joined an exclusive club, and now I’m approximately 43% cooler. However, I’ve paid for this in the roughly 40 minutes each day that I spend putting them on and taking them off.
Next year: I will find Martin Clunes and kick him with my new boots.

I read the classics. Not all of them, but I did read Austen, Brontë and Dickens. Does Agatha Christie count yet? I also finished The Divine Conspiracy, which – while a phenomenal book – had been dogging my reading schedule for almost two years by my reckoning. Finally free.
Next year: To balance it out, I will only read Star Wars fan-fiction.  

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