Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Things That Made Me Happy in 2014


She really does get more wonderful and beautiful every day. It is a very peculiar phenomena - some scientist should investigate. She gives me a reason to get up in the morning and a reason to come home at night. I know that it is wrong to project perfection on anyone, but aside from too much Candy Crush and Pocket Planes, there is very little she can do to improve...

My friends

I have so many good people in my life. Of course, there are my very close friends that I see daily - David and Sathyai. Aside from Bella, no-one puts up with my shit as much as them. Their patience and generosity is boundless. I could say the same about Paul, Graham, Bob except that they all have the good sense to live slightly further away from me and so their burden is lighter.

Beyond these parameters, there is a long list of people that have made me happier this year; Phil, Katy, Peter, Amber to name a few. Special acknowledgement is needed for my past and present work-colleagues; Dermot, Debra, Duncan, Elaine (again, amongst others) who have first hand knowledge of my incompetence and yet still support me and offer me kindness.

I also need to mention people from further afield. It has been amazing to see James and Carol again this year. I could write pages about James and the friendship he has offered me. If I was draw up a list of reasons why I should emigrate, they would figure highly. Of course, there have been many people that I have connected with primarily electronically this year; it has been great to be back in touch with Simon. I have also valued many of my old students that have kept in touch. This is not merely because it is nice to know what people are up to, but they have also fed to me lots of interesting thoughts and ideas.


Of all the things that make me happy, chief among them is music. I have been buying much less new (i.e. current) music these days. However, there remains a steady inflow. Primarily soul music. I have taken the opportunity to properly investigate Aretha Franklin and Al Green this year, and that has paid dividends. Of the few 'new' LPs I have bought, Run the Jewels 2, The Bug's 'Angels and Demons' and Lee Fields' 'Emma Jean' have all stood out. The jury is still out on D'Angelo's 'Black Messiah'.

Steve at Polar Bear has continued to furnish me with amazing CDs. They have rarely failed to contribute to my general happiness this year. Probably the biggest single event this year was the Numero Pop-Up Store in September. The Wonderful Bella allowed me to massively over-indulge myself. Given that I spent best part of £250 and walked away with a whole box of CDs, there were hardly any disappointments. I have only just finished working my way through the box.

Finally, and this is lame, but it did make me happy: I finished writing up that 'my favourite albums' list. It is a great pleasure to revisit so many albums that shaped my life.


On balance, work has probably contributed more grumbles than anything else this year. However, there are a few things to be grateful for: good results this year, positive observations, MUN. One of the things that keeps me positive is the fantastic relationships that I have with my students. Aside from showing an interest in a subject that I love, they are often funny, kind and generous.

Television and Film

I have seen a few good shows and movies this year, and they are worth a note. True Detective was the TV event of the year for me, eclipsing Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, which were themselves both excellent. We finally watched the whole of the US Office, which made us both happy. I have been slowly digesting and massively enjoying Peter Cook's little show from the 90s 'A Life in Pieces'.

As for movies I was most taken by 'The Babadook' - a tasty little Australian horror movie that should certainly become a classic. Other movies that have stayed with me are The Killers, Gone Girl, and Simon, King of the Witches. Special mention should be made of a film that Bella forced me to watch: The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Despite the premise, which filled me with dread, I enjoyed it more than almost anything this year.

General Stuff

I have been reading more this year. Having had a few years of reading bits and pieces, I have read several whole books this year (standouts include Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music and Joe Hill's 'Heart Shaped Box' [thanks, Sathyai]). I am looking to forego distractions like Facebook and Reddit (beyond the cursory) and seek to set aside time to read more seriously. On a similar level, I have managed to write a few bits and pieces this year. I hope to expand on this.

Not unrelated, one of my favourite things, and things that have made me most happy, are good arguments. I often feel that I am imposing myself on people when I argue, but there have been some great discussions and debates and I am grateful for these - and the patience of my friends who put up with them.

Teddy and Wednesday have enriched my world this year. Kittens are awesome.

Despite that I write this full of cold, I am grateful that I continue to have good health. My lifestyle makes me unworthy of such a blessing, but nonetheless, it is good to generally fit and strong.

I have had some lovely food this year. Of course, much of this has come from the lovely hand of Bella, but various restaurants and take out joints have contributed. My favourite meal out was courtesy of Mimmo La Bufala in Hampstead.

Lots of things have made me happy this year. Of course, there are the things I have mentioned, but there is a very long list of things and people that I have not mentioned. I often give the impression of being grumpy and complainy, but that is primarily because grumpiness and complaints amuse me. Even my gripes make me happy. Life is good.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Secret Santa

I have never been a fan of Secret Santa. However, I have just experienced my worst ever SS. This tops the one where I did not receive my present. Oh, and the other one where I did not receive my present.

This time, my gift went uncollected, and my present was an old box of cards, emptied of contents, filled with scrap paper, a tangerine (to give it a mystery weight) and £5 in an envelope. Even by SS standards, this was poor...

Still, it was handy to have a fiver to hand...

Monday, December 08, 2014

99 Luftballons

In 1983 to 1984, Top of the Pops had a short spell of including coverage of the European charts. There is only one thing I remember from this, and probably there is only one thing worth remembering: Nena's 99 Luftballons. The song was evidently dominating the German charts, and so week after week, it appeared.

Even for 1983, it was a bit of a throwback. It was a tasty slice of power-pop in new-wave dressing. Kim Wilde's Kids in America in 1981 covered the same sort of sonic territory. Nonetheless, Nena was hot, German (read: exotic) and had underarm hair - so I was hooked. A few months later, it was re-released in English, polished (just a smidge). And I was hooked again. Apparently, Nena carried on releasing records, but none ever crossed my path.

What did I learn? Underarm hair is nothing to be afraid of. Thus opening the door to Siouxsie and the Banshees a little while later. Also, understanding lyrics is utterly optional. It's still a great tune.

Sunday, December 07, 2014