Regret! Lament!


Just kidding. I’m not actually weeping but hey, the thought occurs to me that I might have taken a wrong turn. Nearly four months ago, I pulled the pin on what had been intended as a ten-year project. My Big Decade, running from age 60 to 70, was meant to stock each calendar year with varied but precise daily challenges, various Big Years. But I ran out of steam and I was repeating myself and … well, maybe the original idea was a crock? So I cancelled the enterprise halfway through.

Now, a while later, I reckon I’ve lost something. Without obsessive daily pressure on my obsessive psyche, I’ve gone backwards in certain areas. I’ve lost fitness and am drinking a tad too much and my weight balloons – is this due to the pandemic or lack of a fitness/wellbeing Big Year? I’ve dropped all the little daily tasks that previous years had witnessed – am I now set in my ways? Some of the original romantic ideas behind the Big Decade – do a Tough Hikes Big Year, Andres, or why not a Global Birding Big Year? – are now just youthful memories, and isn’t that a damned shame?

Should I set off again? Should I harness my innate desire for daily structure, for structured challenges? I don’t know and I’m blessed if I perceive how to even contemplate this maverick notion.

The End of My Big Decade

My Big Half Decade

Five years ago, on my 60th birthday, I had a brainwave and launched a Big Decade, with the intention of running different Big Years for ten years. Each Big Year would impose a daily, obsessive requirement or activity, for 365 days. I saw my Big Decade as one way to inject energy into my 60s.

I decided yesterday, on my 65th birthday, to call it quits after five years. It has been half a Big Decade and that’s the end of it.

Why abandon what has been both meaningful and fun? Well, I’ve changed. At age 60, I sought huge challenges: a Big Year of tough hikes, a Big Year of long pilgrimages, a Big Year of daily birdwatching. Now I’d like to commit the second half of my 60s to writing and family (one delightful surprise in my life has been the arrival of five grandchildren), while still occasionally hiking, birdwatching, etc. At age 60, I promised myself a Rock Music Big Year, in which I listened daily, followed by Reading and Movie Big Years; I did the first and the other two are now part of regular life with my review blog ( At age 60, I wanted to dedicate a year to battling coal, the scourge of climate change, and another year devoted to the Greens. I’ve moved on from those days and now Extinction Rebellion is the go, and it’s something that can’t be obsessive, it waxes and wanes. And what has also become clear to me is that writing, especially the nuclear book, has to remain central (I have in fact run six “writing” Big Years over the last half decade), not just a daily “must do,” but embedded deep into the cracks of every day.

Let me tell you that the Big Half Decade has been marvelous and I commend to you the idea of daily obsession, focus, and grit, but this discipline hasn’t always worked as well as I’d imagined it would. If I narrate the half decade, you’ll get the picture. 2016 was Jogging (which worked brilliantly, that was the fittest I’ve ever been) and Writing (only partially successful). 2017 saw Fitness (expanding into cycling which worked well until I broke down) and Writing (once more a mixed bag) and Rock Music (wunderbar, such joy!). In 2018, I ran a Big Year called 1,000 (i.e. a thousand words a day, didn’t work), a Freshness Big Year (based around a holistic approach to fitness, a minor flop), a Big Year of learning how to self-publish books (tick!) and a Stillness Big Year (just ten minutes of meditation a day, a success that I haven’t kept up). In 2019, I retreated into myself with two writing projects, the nuclear book plus research on a new birding/climate change book; much useful work eventuated but also much dispirited flailing. I began 2020 with a Parkrun Big Year, which was halted by Covid-19, and a Big Year devoted to Extinction Rebellion (Covid also scrunched this but in any case, I discovered daily obsession is not the way to do activism). More recently, I’ve gone back to a Writing Big Year (motivating but I’m motivated not by the Big Year concept but by love of the work) and a daily habit of improving vocabulary with unusual words (fun but hardly revolutionary).

All in all, my 2015 brainwave sometimes delivered significant results but often sent me down blind alleys or even distracted me from what I should have been doing. I rue none of it but keeping it going until age 70 no longer makes sense.

So … no more. No more Big Years. No more blog. This is the final post.

Writing Big Year: Bring on the next six weeks


4:06 PM on Day One of Lockdown #2 in the city of Melbourne in the country of Australia. I experienced a visceral shock at the sudden plunge from “nearly unlocked to normality” (well, I’d been sitting in a cafe for two hours every morning, once again writing amongst humanity) to home lockdown (only four reasons to leave the house, folks). The shock was more pronounced because a much-delayed grandparent visit to Darwin has had to be shelved once more. But there’s no point in whining when so much of the world lives amongst Covid-19 risks a magnitude higher than mine.

So . . . six weeks, forty-two days. Unlike the first lockdown period, which yielded progress but nothing outstanding, this time I am pent up to hit every day running and to see the quasi-incarceration as an opportunity, both for writing and life in general. We are but our actions allied to our dreams, and this time I intend to make me proud of myself.


No more lockdown

There isn’t such a word but that’s what I’m doing. Here in Melbourne the lockdown has begun to be eased. Five people to your home … that doesn’t sound like much but it let us go see our local grandchildren yesterday for the first time in two months. Emotionally, that feels so much like a release, that I’m ceasing the daily “Lockdown” posts on this blog site. Those 46 Lockdown posts were nothing profound, just a means of prodding me to be attentive to the strangeness of the Covid-19 times. At the same time, I’m ceasing the daily “Defiance” posts on my other blog (an example here); those 43 posts were similarly aimed at keeping the flame of climate action burning. From today onwards, lockdown no longer imprisons me.

2020 recast


We’re not out of lockdown yet but in my mind and heart, I’m now calling myself free. Free to look forward. Free to embrace a fervent future. Free to dream big.

After a month-plus of hiding and indulging, I now gaze outward. I wake up early. I strive.

Within the swirling chaos of everyday life, my Big Decade skeleton overlaying 2020 will be two big years, the Writing Big Year launched yesterday, and the continuing, trivial-but-uplifting Lexicon Big Year.

How I wish the rest of 2020 spanned twelve months, not merely eight!