So, that was 2008 then.

You wouldn’t know it from this burnt-out husk of a blog, but I’ve been blogging like crazy for months and months. But it’s all been on the village website, and that’s a very different form of blogging – and in terms of writing style, you’d scarcely even know that it was me doing it. It takes many hours of every week, it involves a lot of behind the scenes work, and I absolutely LOVE doing it – because the site has made a genuine, tangible, positive difference to village life. Never underestimate the motivational power of second-homer’s guilt!

(Although in truth, the village stopped feeling like our second home a long time ago.)

There are six of us on the village blog team – three full-time administrators and three part-time contributors – and we work remarkably well together, pooling our different skills, perspectives and areas of interest. As a result – and I didn’t see this coming twelve months ago, when we were trialling the site – the blog is updated several times a day, every day, almost without fail. Since we launched in late March, we’ve only had one day with no new posts at all, and between us we’ve already racked up a whopping 1191 posts in nine months. And people still think nothing happens in small villages? I think these people might have us confused with (shudder!) the suburbs.

Over the past month, our stats have been spiking to a surreal degree, for reasons already mentioned. Over 20,000 page views in December for a village with around 500 on the electoral roll isn’t normal, and it’s unlikely ever to be repeated. Of course, we’re all as pleased as Punch – but as a seasoned veteran of the medium, this is not altogether unfamiliar territory, and I’m aware of the attendant hubristic dangers. For that reason, I’m looking forward to a general calming down in the new year, and to a restoration of business as usual. We can’t be on the telly every week!

Without a doubt, launching and maintaining the village blog has been this year’s biggest personal achievement. Away from that, it’s been a year of constant gig-going, with dozens of reviews in the Evening Post to match (none of which have been written 100% sober, thanks to that lovely 6am copy deadline). I’ve learned to surf the wave of anxiety that washes over me on every walk home, and to embrace it as an integral part of the process. Which is all to the good, because I’ve historically never been much good at managing fear.

The same holds true for the artist interviews, which are in some ways another exercise in terror management – but I’ve enjoyed honing the skill of extracting the maximum possible amount of information from my subjects, within the confines of a 15-20 minute phone conversation. OK, so Liza and Jennifer were f**k-ups, even if the finished pieces made for entertaining reading – but I had a good run this year, with personal favourites including Gary Numan, Phil Oakey, Boy George and Vince Clarke (from the Eighties Survivors wing), and Martha Wainwright, The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn and Elbow’s Mark Potter (from the Contemporary Artistes wing). Oh, and Martha Reeves, who was completely charming and adorable, and left me more posthumously star-struck than any other artist (I floated about in a happy swoon for the rest of the day).

And then there was the day job, which chugged along nicely this year, credit crunches notwithstanding. In geographic terms, I work on my own (albeit in a friendly office), and I spend much of my working day in close contact with people whom I’ve never met in person. It’s a curious existence – but as with the artist interviews, I quite enjoy presenting an edited version of myself, and managing the image which I portray. Interestingly, both exercises feed into each other in terms of confidence building, and dealing with the unfamiliar (again, two historically weak areas).

Nevertheless, and despite being busier than ever before (whatever happened to that quaint concept known as “free time”?), there have been periods when 2008 has felt curiously static – particularly when contrasted with the event-packed rollercoaster that was 2006, for example. Looking back on it all now, I think I’m beginning to grasp what this year was really all about: consolidation, concentration, application, and the steady building of new skills. And that’s not such a bad way to spend a year, is it?

A Happy New Year to all my readers!

Update: I’ve listed some additional highlights of 2008 in the comments.

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