Let’s Try It Again… 2020 Recap

Okay, so the previous post was stupid. Let me do it again, better.

In terms of my photography, overwhelming majority of pictures taken in 2020 were with my smartphone and always in my area. This is the first time since 2016 that I haven’t made any trip outside Manchester. None of this mattered, in the end, as I took the best picture in my life with my phone a street away from my home!

Squirrel in Heaton Park, from September

The year started with storms, I remember there were two or three and they always happened at the weekend, so that that was no going anywhere for me. After that–well, you know. At first it was, need toilet paper? Pasta? Bad luck, mate.

It seems incredible now, but I did go to a concert this year. As in, a live performance by a singer. It was Halsey in Manchester Arena and it was back in March, before the first lockdown. Probably wasn’t very responsible, but hey, nothing happened.

My most streamed song of 2020 was the suitably titled Doom Days by Bastille (my inspiration for the short story The Journal). I also listened to the two albums Taylor Swift released this year, Folklore and Evermore.

It will be a while before live shows are back again. I also had a ticket for Phantom of the Opera, which was supposed to run for two months in Manchester, but like everything else, it was cancelled. Arts have really suffered with this and it’s not like the government cares; instead of supporting them they tell people in the industry to retrain. But don’t touch sports, oh no, not our precious sports, and even more precious football. Heavens help you if you anyhow endanger our football and our obscenely-paid footballers!

So what was I saying, oh yes, the annual recap… this year we were all staying at home and our new best friend was the streaming services. I remember that Disney+ launched here in UK just at the right time for lockdown.

Linda watches Star Wars

One of the TV shows that got much praise this year was Mandalorian. I’ve not watched it (yet), I’m not in the Star Wars fandom (they do have the hottest Latin actors though, Oscar Isaac and Pedro Pascal), however as I got myself a 12-month Disney+ subscription, I did watch the new trilogy and Rogue One. I liked Rogue One best, fabulous movie and might be one of my very favourites. As for the new trilogy, well, my first thought when I woke up the next day after seeing The Rise of Skywalker was: this should have been Finn’s story. John Boyega was right.

Star Trek premiered the Picard series and now we’re on Season 3 of Discovery, which has so far been the best. I thought the tone of Picard was a bit off, as if the writers were anxious (they probably were), but this can be easily overcome in future seasons.

This was also the first year in however-long that we had no Marvel movie released. We’ve been waiting for that Black Widow forever! But it’s good to have a bit of a break and hey, there’s still time to get into it, folks, if you haven’t done so!

Being at home and doodling

I doodle sometimes, I have almost filled my little A6 sketchbook. I once had a phase where I was drawing castles, and it seems I’m back in that phase again.

Tragically, I’ve not done as much reading as I should have done. I picked up The Book Thief by Markus Zusak and it took me three whole months to get through it. Such a slog, also the title is a lie–she doesn’t really steal books. Spoiler, I guess, but who cares. It tries to be interesting by having Death as a narrator but it reads just like any other third-person limited POV, with a “I collected their souls” inserted here and there to keep up the appearance. I swear I’ll never read Holocaust fiction ever again. I’d rather watch a good documentary about it.

But on the other hand I rediscovered my love for Sherlock Holmes and even dedicated a post to the famous detective, which at 2600 words is my longest.

Another thing that happened in Manchester was, the big concrete wall in Piccadilly Gardens was torn down. There is still a concrete wall, but that can’t be torn down because there is a coffee shop and a restaurant on the side of it. People hate them, I know they’re ugly, but for the purposes of my Gloomscapes series, I don’t mind a bit of brutalism. I’ve seen articles online calling the wall “Manchester’s Berlin Wall” and I’m like, can you just not. Nobody is getting shot crossing from Portland Street to Primark! Please. If there is criminal activity or drugs going on in Piccadilly Gardnes, that’s hardly the fault of the wall.

I end with one of my typical phone shot of something random or weird, Sam Call Me written by chalk on the gate to my local park. Well, there is a certain Sam that is close to my heart, so you can say that the picture is not as random as it would appear on first sight. I mean, not in real life, it’s the actor Sam Claflin, lol.

And that, my friends, concludes my second 2020 recap post.

Hand Sanitiser Tied To A Tree

You can’t get more 2020 than this picture.

Of course, you find hand sanitisers at all sorts of places these days but what’s funny about this one is that it’s installed there temporarily. As you are no doubt able to observe, these are market stalls. Markets in Piccadilly Gardens only open Wednesday to Saturday (maybe Sunday, but I have no idea, I’ve not been to town on a Sunday in years). So when the markets are not there, neither is the hand sanitiser. I just love it so much.

Old Trabant

This month marks 30 years since the end of Communist rule in Europe. Berlin Wall, that unmistakable symbol of the East/West divide, fell on the 9th November 1989. While scrolling on Twitter on the day of the anniversary, I came across this article by Ken Sweeney, where he calls Trabant cars “chariots of freedom”. What has a car got to do with the collapse of autocratic regime?

Well this. Trabants were manufactured in East Germany; I remember there were plenty of them in former Czechoslovakia. They were quite awful, a subject of ridicule and to this day bring back memories of those times. But, as Ken notes, they were also the vehicles that transported people from East Germany through the newly open border to the West. Thus, chariots of freedom.

Surprisingly, I happen to have some pics of them too.

This is from 2013 when I was visiting my family back home. Taken on a motorway, obviously, near or just out of Bratislava. Brother and me went on a short trip when we spotted it in front of us. Of course I had to take a pic. Looks like someone is a fan!

I never take pictures of cars, I never learnt to drive and I’m not interested in them but I never miss an opportunity for a good random or weird shot. Even long before I conceived the idea of Random and Weird Phone Shots.

There is also a model of Trabant displayed in Imperial War Museum in Salford Quays.

I just love how something so awful can decades later be thought of in any positive terms at all. I like a good redemption story.

They say a car needs to get you from A to B. For East Germans, that A and B were more than just places on a map.

Random and Weird Phone Shots – Abandoned Shoes

I was passing through Albert Square one day when I spotted these on the steps of the statue of Prince Albert.

Of course, a pair of shoes lying about is probably not such a phenomenon. Like, people may get drunk and lose their shoes (or at least I think they do, I wouldn’t know, I don’t drink but Ed Sheeran mentions it in one of his songs and that’s as good an authority as any) but notice how neatly they have been laid there on the step. You may have heard of the famous six-word story that goes: For sale. Baby shoes. Never worn. Attributed to Hemingway, but this is disputed. So, what if you did a similar thing based on this photo?

Found. Pair of shoes. Very worn.

It was shoes in strange places that started this very series so I’m glad we’ve come the full circle.

Yes it is election today

Election of the Members of the EU parliament, that is!

And this time around, I AM allowed to vote–and sure as hell I AM voting!

You may be astonished, shocked even. Are you telling me that EU is actually not unelected? Are you telling me I can vote for MEPs?

Why yes. How else do you think that horrible nicotine-riddled repulsive frog-face that shouts so much and whose initials are the same as National Front got that job? (I am not typing his name here because I refuse to soil my blog with it–not because he’s Voldemort. He wishes he was Voldemort, but he’s more like Uncle Vernon.) He also passionately loves that job, because why else would he lead such a loud campaign for his new party? Because he wants to get elected again so that he can still have the said job.

But forget about ugly fascists, that’s not why I’m here, I’m here to tell you to GO AND VOTE. If you don’t want Brexit, vote for a Remain party. (This would be Greens or Lib Dems in England.)

Something else I want to say now.

As I say in the linked post, I am–as an EU citizen–allowed to vote in local elections but not in general elections or referendums (yeah, that one that affects my life most, isn’t democracy great?) I am also allowed to vote in EU Parliament elections–but this was not so straight forward.

The way it works in UK is: you register to vote at your local electoral office. Every time you move house, you should do this, so that your address is up to date (also it helps with getting credit). Before an election takes place, you will receive a poll card, like the one on my picture. You don’t need to take this with you to vote, it’s just for information. Now, like lots of people, I never paid attention to any EU elections before 2016. I didn’t even know when they took place and were not on my radar. I was under the impression that I couldn’t vote in those either, because of something someone told me (someone who was either lying or didn’t know). I only found out I could because now I’m connected with other EU citizens in UK and activists through social media. And wouldn’t be connected to them if it wasn’t for Brexit, so ironically, it was Brexit that made me learn about my right to vote in EU parliament elections.

Why was it not so straight-forward, though? Well, because I had to register for EU Parliament elections separately from the usual register. Someone I follow on Twitter, a fellow EU citizen, tweeted a link to the necessary form. So I printed the form, filled it in and posted it to the electoral office. A few days later I received the form back, not the one I sent but a new one, same but with my details filled in by computer and with a barcode at the bottom. So I sighed, filled the fields I needed to fill in, signed it again and personally dropped it at the council offices in their mailbox, while out on a lunch break. I heard nothing from them. In the meantime, poll cards arrived for the other tenants in this house (I live in a house converted to flats with shared letterbox) but not for me (don’t you just love being excluded?) I felt so stressed about it that I rang the electoral office and they confirmed I was indeed registered. I was so relieved.

And my poll card eventually came.

The reason I write all of this is: why does it take grassroots activists for me to find out about my right? Why was I not informed about this?

And it’s not just me, I know the other EU citizens also didn’t know. Luckily groups like The3Million have been doing a great job raising awareness to get everyone registered. But it’s not their job to do so. The councils know if you’re an EU citizen. They know it well enough not to let you vote in general elections and referendums that may ruin your life. So they should know it well enough to inform you in time that you need to register separately for EU elections. The issue is not that there is a separate form for a separate register. I don’t mind filling in another form to get what I need. The issue is that we were never told about it.

Why is there a separate register for EU citizens to vote in EU Parliament elections? If I’m not mistaken it’s because the form is also a declaration that you are not also registered in another EU country, so you won’t vote twice, in two different countries. If you’re an EU citizen living in UK, you can vote either in your home country, or in UK, but not both. I get that.

Of course we don’t do that. That’s cheating and we don’t do cheating because that’s what bad guys do and we’re not bad guys, we’re good guys. For me it makes sense on every level to vote for UK MEPs. Like, I left Slovakia before it even was an EU country, I don’t even know how it works there and what parties there are. I don’t follow Slovak politics. I know they recently elected a woman for a President but I already forgot her name. (BTW, Slovakia is a parliamentary democracy and the Prime Minister has bigger power than a President.) Point is, I want to vote for UK representatives.

How it should work, in my opinion is: electoral offices should send every EU citizen who is registered to vote a letter some time before EU Parliament elections, informing them that they are eligible to vote either in their home country or in UK, but not in both and that if they wish to vote in UK, to complete the enclosed form. Simple.

Why this is not done, I don’t know.

It almost sounds like they don’t want us to vote.

It also almost sounds like voter suppression.

But that can’t be.

Or can it?

PS: Don’t forget to vote.