Matt Houlbrook: mobile historian; beard growing, head shaving; occasional cycling.
A slightly belated look back at 2012 to kick off the New Year…
1. Mobile historian
It was a good year to be a historian. After struggling with the difficult second album book for eight years I finally started to make progress. It turns out the best way to escape crippling self-doubt and anxiety at never being able to produce anything as good as Queer London again is to escape the UK and hide away in rural Massachusetts for a couple of months. Who would have thought it? I managed to return to civilization with my social skills vaguely intact and decent first drafts of the final third of The Prince of Tricksters. To say that I was bloody delighted would be an understatement. For the first time I can actually see light at the end of the tunnel. The writing has stalled over the past couple of months, but now I have a sense of how the project can and will come together in the next year. Watch this space.
It was a good year to be a historian because of the amazing people doing this job continues to bring me into contact with: I have been lucky to be able to talk about the past with an amazing group of incredibly smart friends, colleagues, doctoral students, passing acquaintances and undergraduates. Whenever the self-absorption and self-doubt becomes too great, there always seems to be another compelling intellectual encounter around the corner to remind me of exactly why we do this job.
Note to self: must not continue to labour under the delusion that writing another history book is somehow equivalent to the struggles of the Stone Roses without the drugs and the exotic hideaways.
Note to self: must eventually produce something that’s better than Second bloody Coming.
2. Beard growing
3. Head shaving
4. Occasional cycling
2012 was the year that riding became more than occasional—I had my best year on the bike, after missing so much of 2011 because of my back.
Some facts and figures:
My top five cycling things of 2012:
5. Getting over 5000 miles in a calendar year for the first time ever
4. Becoming a cyclist rather than just a mountain biker—discovering the new pleasures and opportunities and challenges that riding on road, commuting, cruising around town and touring open up.
3. Spending two months in proper mountains over the summer: however grim the weather gets in the UK I’ll never forget the excitement of flying down the Green River Road back into Williamstown in the evening sun or the buzz of spending an hour and a quarter grinding and sweating my way up Mount Greylock.
2. Getting to ride with a group of smart, funny and interesting people. You know you’re in great company when the miles fly by however grim things get. Thanks to Adam, Dave, Erika, Hannah, Mark, Nick and Roger.
1. And a winner that I would never have predicted this time last year: spending twelve days cycle touring down the Danube from Ulm to Vienna. Stunning scenery, great weather, fascinating pasts and presents and a wonderful travelling companion. Officially the Best Holiday Ever.