A Life In Pictures, December 2021 Update

Posted: 31 December 2021 in family, life, personal, phil

Leaving aside the whole ‘How can it be the end of 2021? We’re still in March 2020?‘ thing, it does kind of feel like at least eighteen months since I updated this annual post.

And given the lack of opportunities for new photos – I’ve probably been ‘out’ (as in out in company) less this year than I have any other year, ever, including 2020 – I’m almost surprised I’ve got any new shots to include.

But unlike last year, I never really considered skipping it this year. Hey, we survive by our traditions, and after this long – my gods, we’re slowly approaching two decades of this silliness – that its appearance won’t, or shouldn’t, surprise anyone.

As I stress every year, this whole thing only started as a bit of a giggle in 2004, something to amuse and horrify in equal measure; I never intended at the time to do it again… and again… and again.

But, somehow, it evolved into an annual tradition for me. (As well as for others, given the usual responses of “awwww” at the admittedly cute pics of me as a small child.)

I’m occasionally asked Why do you do it? I mean, it’s not as if I think I look great as a teenager, or at any point since then, really, although I’ll readily acknowledge that I looked at least passable once I got married. But a) I’ve been about as embarrassed as I’m ever going to get by the pictures, and b) people who haven’t previously seen them get the unfettered joy and silliness of joining in the mockery…

And this year more than most, people can do with something silly to enjoy, and something enjoyable to be silly about.

So… preamble over, it’s The 2021 update to A Life In Pictures.

As always, I’ve removed just a few shots from those that were in previous years’ posts, and added some new ones from this year. And, as in recent years, there are some new ‘old’ pics – newly digitised pics from my past – that appear in this post for the first time thanks to the usual technical wizardry.

So, without any further ado… in chronological order…

Those are the earliest photos I’ve got of me… looks like they were taken the same day; my older brother is in the background.

3 years old

Three brothers – must be around 1967 or 1968, so I’d be around 3½ years of age?

Aged 4


Not exactly sure when this one was taken but might have been the same day…

I’m five, I think, here in this shot and the next one.

It was 1972, ok? And I was at my brother’s bar mitzvah. I was eight.

I knew that I broke my arm around now, and I knew that I went on holiday with it in a cast; wasn’t sure I had any photos, though. Well…

My son takes great delight in this shot – I think I was 10 at the time.

Me at age 11. I still remember the wallpaper; very, very odd gold pattern to it.

The main ‘man’ – my barmitzvah, August 1977

Three brothers – my barmitzvah, August 1977

Starting the dancing – my barmitzvah, August 1977

Just after my 15th birthday

August 1980, I’m 16 – yes, that is a curly perm. Shut up.

November 1982 – Freshers’ Fair at Manchester Poly

1983 – me at the PULP office, 2nd year at Manchester Poly.

A year or so later, at home for Easter…

Age 21, at a work leaving do, having left Manchester Poly a month or so earlier.

1985, at my brother’s wedding… at which I was best man. Yeah, 21 again.

At my dad’s 60th birthday in 1989, aged 25, more than thirty years ago. Shocking.

Three brothers – 1991, I believe

1994 – A nice one, from Laura’s and my wedding day – aged 30

A low res shot from the wedding that I discovered in the archives…

I love that I found this next pic. Laura’s still one of my favourite people on the planet. And this is another great pic of us on our wedding day. And yes, ahhh I had dark hair back then…

This next one’s an odd one for lots of reasons; first off, it’s obviously my BBC pass from when I was writing for WeekEnding on Radio 4; secondly, when I visited New York just after 9/11, it was better as ID for getting me into buildings, places, meetings than my actual passport… even though it had expired six years’ earlier…

The earliest pic I have of my lad Phil (excluding ‘scans’). Me, a new dad, aged 31. And so, so tired.

Me holding my son… he’s 18 days’ old here.

Me in New York, January 1998, just after we lost Mike

Part of a formal family shot, mid-1999

June 1999 – my spiritual home

August 2000; taken by Phil – he was five years old at the time

October 2001; New York, six weeks after 9/11; visiting Ian

May 2002, Hypotheticals – not a happy Budgie

Bristol, 2003. You can see the greying hair now…

July 2004 – working at the office

December 2004 – at my nephew’s bar mitzvah. See? I scrub up nicely occasionally. Three generations of Barnetts.

Not exactly sure when this was taken but would have been around now…

August 2005 – at Brighton. First picture for ages that I’m genuinely happy with.

September 2005, last picture of the Nissan before I crashed it…

April 2006, at the flat.

Again, mid-2006.

Me in December 2006… looking slightly more relaxed.

May 2007, Bristol, Saturday night, at around 2 in the morning… very relaxed… aided by what Alistair Cooke used to call ‘The wine of Scotland’.

May 2008 – Phil and me at Comic Expo

May 2008 – Me interviewing Dave Gibbons at Comic Expo

October 2008 – Me and Phil, studio shot for the bar mitzvah

November 2008 – formal pic for Phil’s barmitzvah.

July 2009 – At the BERG 40th Anniversary Apollo 11 drinkup (pic by Matt Jones)

November 2009 – Me and Phil at a friend’s son’s barmitzvah.

July 2010, on Mastermind. No, not an illusion; you’re not allowed to wear black for the show…

August 2010, at Laura’s

October 2010, from Phil Tanner’s Photos – Mitch Benn ‘Proud of the BBC’ video shoot) The actual video’s here.

December 2010, after the office party

October 2011, trying out a beard… not quite yet… but give it a year…

Laura took this one in April 2012 – not a bad shot of me, all things considered.

And then I had my hair cut…

Lost my father in October 2012 – here’s the progress of the shiva beard before trimming it down

Sequence of shots, demonstrating Lesson 1 about falling asleep in a friend’s house where children live. Don’t
(November 2012)

This final one attracted the title “… and all the woodland creatures gathered around, for they had never seen a creature such as this in the forest.”

Me, at The Leveson Inquiry. The reading of the summary, not giving evidence…

The delightful Clara Benn proved that I’m tiny when sitting next to Mitch Benn…

Isn’t perspective fun?

Met up with an old friend, and wandered around Camden with him. A nice afternoon…

And so to 2013…

Well, in March, I did a charity event where I wrote twenty-four stories in twenty-four hours for Comic Relief.

That’s Mitch Benn in the background, writing his comedy album, which he did also within twenty-four hours.

Phil turned up to support us…

And I got progressively more tired, and more silly, as the hours passed…

A small accident with the beard trimmer led me to shave off the beard I’d had for roughly a year…

Most people were glad I grew it back almost immediately

Towards the end of the year, there was something new… a mini-me. Or to be precise, I was scanned for a 3D printing of myself. Very strange to see myself post-scanning on a screen…

But that was nothing to seeing the actual result…

In July, managed to catch up with an old friend, at his reading of The Truth Is A Cave In The Black Mountains at the Barbican. One of my favourite photos, entitled Two beards (old friends attached).

Around the same time, I wrote a post on the rising tide of overt anti-semitism in the UK, and that I’d personally faced. I used the following shot to illustrate it. I was and still am very happy with how it turned out.

Some time ago, remember, the delightful Clara Benn had taken a shot which proved I was substantially smaller than Mitch, tiny in comparison, in fact. November 2015, she proved it again…

Once again: isn’t perspective wonderful?

Never liked the next shot in colour, I do, however, really like it in black and white. From mid-2016.

Anyway… Moving on…

Towards the end of the 2016, close friends had a baby, and I got to say hello both in October and November. I’ve never hidden how soppy I am about babies. I suspect these photos prove it.

And this is the shot, at the end of 2016, that convinced me that if I ever do get a hat, it’ll be a Homburg, not a Fedora…

And in December 2017, this one of the new[er], short[er] haircut.

In August 2018, my lad Phil was in town for a few days. We realised it had been a while since we’d had pics taken of the pair of us. So here are two.

And, of course since we had that pic, and I had a similar one from almost exactly ten years’ earlier, I was kind of obliged to put the two together. I really like this image.

In October, I attended a protest march for a People’s Vote. It ended up with 700,000 people… plus me. No idea why my hair looks so… flat in this one, almost skullcap-like, in this shot, but I really like how it looks. Oh, yes, of course, that’s Mitch as well.

And so to 2019…

It’s rare there’s a pic of me that even I will reluctantly admit is a good shot, especially if it’s a selfie, but you know what? I really really like this one…

Of course, that was after a haircut.

I look decidedly less good immediately before a haircut…

(2020 edit: When I took, and stuck up, the above shot, as always it was just for a giggle. It genuinely didn’t occur to me that in 2020, there’d be pics that made the above ‘before’ shot look coiffured.)

I just wish any pics from Edinburgh didn’t look like I’d photoshopped me into previously taken shots…

Oh yeah, I was in hospital in Edinburgh. I wasn’t impressed…

Here’s another post haircut pic…

And so, to 2020… with everything that you’d expect: ie very little happened that involved taking photos.

Although, Mitch’s 50th birthday in January was one such event. I mean, I could have put a dozen shots up from it, but here’s just one, with Phil:

Operation Haircut performed in March; quite like this ‘portrait’ shot.

March 2020: Who knew it was to be the last haircut for a while…? OK, I was one of the lucky ones; I had a haircut just a couple of weeks before lockdown. But lockdown then came, along with this fun prezzie/mask from Phil:

Lockdown lifted in July 2020, but it was possible – if another lockdown came, to be quite some time before I had another haircut, so I went short this time.

One more mask shot. You know, had you asked me before this year whether I’d look worse in a hat or a mask, I think I’d have said a mask. Now? I’m genuinely unsure.

US Election night; November 2020; me and the Benn’s labradoodle Merry.


And so to 2021, another ‘hardly any reasons to have photos of me’ year; I mean, Mitch didn’t have another 50th birthday party. (Though I think he should have, you know?)

So, let’s just jump to the first ‘odd’ pic of 2021. In March I had a hospital appointment which there and then (as in ‘don’t go anywhere, we’re doing this now…’) led to a small mole removal. Well, the mole was small; the removal, not so much.

(And yes, I try to keep this an all ages blog, but I mean, dammit, that’s going to leave a weird scar.)

To be honest, any other pics of it just show it healing. And yes, it healed with a very weird scar.

After that for 2021, I’m afraid we’re back to the ‘oh, good god, how the hell did you walk around with hair like that? In public!’ shots.

And even a ‘you used to all around like that, with your son? And he still talks to you?’

And even

Before I managed to get a long awaited even-shorter-than-usual haircut…

Fortunately I got to get another pic with my lad after I’d had a haircut…

Equally fortunately, haircuts as a thing returned to at least a semi-regular occurrence

And towards the end of the year, I even managed to get my ex-wife Laura to appear in a pic; I mean, I do tell people we do regular coffee and catchups and that she’s, one of my favourite people on the planet.

Remember Merry, the Benns’ labradoodle? Complete photoslut, I assure you.



But to end this year’s shots, bringing this completely up to date… this was from the other night. I include it here now merely to wish you and yours a happy new year, one as full of love, joy, health, and silliness as you can fit in. And the fervent hope that the year to come will be better for us all.


And now the traditional invocation:

Mocking may now commence.

(Oh, since I’m regularly asked: the iPhone app I’ve used in recent years to digitise printed old snaps and photos from old photo albums, so that they’re effectively high resolution scans, is a free Google app called Photoscan. I genuinely can’t recommend it highly enough. IOS version; | Google Play version)

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