2023 Highlights

2023 is fast reaching its inevitable fiery end. Like all 223 years before it, it will soon be the past, making way for the bold new sci-fi world of 2024.

This time of year is a time of reflection, a time for looking both forwards and backwards.
Looking backwards is much like looking forwards. Except that the things we look at have already happened. This makes things more certain – relying less on imagination and more on your phone’s camera roll.

So, as usual, it’s time for me to list some stuff that happened in the past year, along with a relevant goal for the year ahead. This year, I will list 23 of these things, because 23 is the smallest odd prime that is not a twin prime. Also, according to the birthday paradox, in a group of 23 or more randomly chosen people, the probability is more than 50% that some pair of them will have the same birthday. Of course, 23 is the number of trees on 8 unlabelled nodes, and it’s also a sexy prime with 17 and 29.

No, really. That’s actually a thing.

I led Shine Jesus Shine accompanied by pyrotechnics. No joke, I think I may have completed worship leading. At the Pioneer conference, we were closing with Glorious Day when I launched into a spontaneous chorus of the Kendrick classic (causing some impressive on-the-spot transposition from the rest of the band). This was spectacular enough by itself, but when John Heasley switched on the pyrotechnics from the conference opener, he created a moment for the ages. I genuinely burst out laughing.
Next year: I am going to hunt down Graham Kendrick and tell him this story.

Liverpool beat Man Utd 7-0. Now, this year hasn’t been the best year for football, I will admit. Though it’s ended pretty well. But beating your greatest rivals by 7 goals, just when people were starting to think that they were better than you again. That’s the good stuff.
Next year: I will continue to watch the highlights from the game once a week along with Peter Drury’s commentary, or Mark Goldbridge’s reactions.

I turned 33. Equalling Jesus’ earth record. For about 30 years or so, it looked like I was at least keeping pace with the Son of God for achievements. However, from the ages of 30-33 he really overtook me with a speaking and healing ministry that is still talked about 2000 years later, not to mention the whole dying for the sins of the world and rising from the dead thing. Comparison is the thief of joy and all that.
Next year: I will turn 34

I became the Taskmaster. Yes, as promised last year. This time I actually achieved one of my goals. For my joint 30th birthday party with Emily (don’t @ me, the maths checks out) we made some friends humiliate themselves on camera, while other friends did thousands of pounds worth of free labour for us. Meanwhile, I sat in a wingback chair and passed judgement. It was marvellous. A real career highlight.
Next year: The only possible way up is to become a judge on a popular TV show. I will take Bake-off, Strictly or Britain’s Got Talent. If the people from Pottery Throwdown come calling, tell them I am NOT interested.

I released some new music. Now this is an interesting one, because to be honest my little acoustic EP wasn’t actually much of a highlight for me. I look back with some regret – I feel like I tried to rush this and I’m not super happy with how it turned out (no fault of those who did a great job with the mixing and mastering). Nonetheless, it remains a highlight, because I achieved something I set out to do, and I firmly believe that putting stuff out there into the world is always something to be celebrated.
Next year: I’m gonna release some music that I’m really proud of. Also, potentially a song about farting and another about a Triceratops.

We celebrated 5 years of marriage. It genuinely seems bizarre to me now that there was ever a time when we weren’t married. It’s been top-notch so far. Would recommend. Not with Emily though. She’s mine. Find your own.
Next year: We’re gonna skip right to 10 years, so plan your gifts accordingly.

Led the Youth Takeover at Church. Once a month after church I gather an entire horde of young people (along with a team of wonderful helpers) and we play some music, teaching them to part of a band, and what it means to be in the worship team. I believe it’s genuinely one of the most important things I do. In July this year, I led worship with all of them for a Sunday, and it was incredible. I was so proud of them all. It wasn’t like one of those times where you humour the kids and let them join in. They absolutely nailed it.
Next year: I’m going to impersonate a supply teacher and enter a group of school children into a battle of the bands without the permission of their caregivers.

We inadvertently created a mosh pit playing at a friend’s wedding reception. They requested Killing in the Name. Not the PG-13 version. We obliged. Chaos ensued. Tommy D played the solo on keys and I nailed the run in the second verse. No children were harmed.
Next year: We will do the same at another friend’s wedding, but during the signing of the register at the church.

We discovered Margaritas. The drink of kings. Mexican kings. Thanks to Hannah’s recipe, Emily now makes a mean Margarita. The cucumber ones are excellent. Come round ours and we’ll have a Mexican night.
Next year: We will discover something else that everyone already knew about. Have you heard Daft Punk’s Get Lucky? Sound of the summer, I’m telling you.

I watched indigenous sports. Americans and Canadians have all these kooky sports they’ve made up to play with each other. It’s so much fun. In America we watched baseball. Someone got hit on the head with the ball, a dog ran around and picked up the bats, and there was an enormous fireworks show at the end even though they lost. In Canada we watched Ice Hockey. There were fights on the ice and almost one in the crowd. In the halftime break they brought out some kids who tried to play ice hockey but just fell over lots.
Next year: We’ll watch baseball, gaelic football and that cheese chasing one.

I brought out a range of merch. Another of my goals for the year. Using Adam Jenkins’ incredible designs, there is now a super-fashionable range of t-shirts, mugs and tote bags that you can buy from me on this very website. It’s a great way to look cool and to support my music.
Next year: I’m actually gonna sell some of it

I went to Scotland. I’ve been before, but this time it was particularly beautiful, and now I’m afraid I’m going to have to buy a beautiful house on the banks of Loch Lomond. We saw red squirrels and ospreys, ate haggis, drank whisky and took two boat rides on the lochs.
Next year: I’m going to develop drinking and smoking problems and become a recalcitrant detective. I may not play by the rules, but I get results.

I turned a corner on blue cheese. For a few years I have dabbled. Bit of stilton and pear with a salad. Bit of Roquefort with honey. But this year, I finally made the leap. I officially like blue cheese. It’s tasty, and I make no apologies.
Next year: I’m going to start eating mould on other food. Bread, milk, cheese. I ain’t afraid of no bacteria.

I saw a bittern. If you didn’t know, one of my favourite past-times is birdwatching. (This is because otherwise I’m afraid I would be intimidatingly cool.) 2023 was the first time that I’ve kept track of what birds I’ve seen though. And without doubt the highlight was my first ever bittern. A bittern is a member of the heron family. They’re quite rare and very secretive. I saw it twice – just a glimpse as it flew into the reeds.
Next year: I’m going to start my own wildlife series and crown myself David Attenborough’s natural successor.

We got a drum booth at church. For a long time, I’ve been sceptical about drum booths, believing that drummers should just learn to play drums properly. And whenever I have to put the blesséd thing up, I am inclined to agree with my past self. But when it works, my word. What a difference. The truth is, that we actually haven’t turned up the drums since we got it. The drummers don’t have a clue. They’re playing their little hearts out and no-one can hear. ‘How did it sound Mikey?’ they ask me. Little do they know. It’s wonderful.
Next year: It’s well beyond time we started covering the bassists with a giant paper bag.

Emily Graduated. Well, this is cheating a little, as I didn’t do anything for this. But it was a really proud moment, as Emily graduated with a first in midwifery. She has done so well over this last 3 years and what better way to mark it than to sit in the guildhall and clap strangers for 2 hours.
Next year: I will enjoy the fruits of her labours as Emily becomes the main breadwinner, and I’ll stay home and bake. Maybe she’ll leave me some cash to go out and buy myself something nice.

Little Drummer Boy. Picture the scene. The start of the carol service. The lights are down. All we hear is drums with a glimpse of light-up sticks up by the Christmas trees. Goosebumps. 8 drummers. Extra flashing lights. It was so epic, everyone forgot what a stupid song it is. Props to Mike Martin whose idea it was and who brought the drummers together. It’s his highlight really. But that moment (an hour and a half before the service started!) when we first put it all together was such an incredible feeling of relief and exhilaration. You can watch the real thing here.
Next year: I’m going to try and persuade Theo to let us do that medley of Christmas pop hits, complete with orchestra, choir and trapeze artists.

I completed Little Alchemy. This is a game I’ve playing on my phone, on and off, for about 7 years. You combine different elements to make other elements. There are 580 to find in total, and I have found them all. Eat your heart out Ash Ketchum. The final one was nut. Mix squirrel with tree.
Next year: I will become an actual alchemist and combine real elements to create the elixir of life.

I read 29 books. I always aim to read 24, and this year I’ve beaten that total by 5. Quick maths. My favourite fiction was probably Wool, from the Silo series. Beautiful writing, clever premise, short chapters. I can’t tell you how much I love a short chapter. My favourite non-fiction was As Kingfishers Catch Fire by Eugene Peterson. Chuffing love me some Peterson.
Next year: Maybe I’ll hit that nice round 30.

2 responses to “2023 Highlights”

  1. Sharon Everitt Thompson says:

    Some fantastic achievements, way to go I wish I had thought to do a list. Praying you z as church all the goals you have set yourself in 2024

  2. Stuart says:

    You are so right. Training up the youth worship team is the most important thing you can do, because it inspires young people to worship God for who he is. Keep them focused on the One who made everything, and they will grow into amazing leaders of worship for the next generation!
    (P.S. I enjoyed the funny bits of this blog too)

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