So another year has come and gone, and I know I’m about a week or two behind the rest of the blogosphere in posting a nostalgic review of the past twelve months… but here it is. A few things I really enjoyed about 2014:
My favourite novel of 2014 was most definitely The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt, which I reviewed here. I also enjoyed Gilead by Marilynne Robinson (reviewed here) and The Pale King by David Foster Wallace (which I don’t know how to begin reviewing, but you can read an excerpt from here!)
My favourite non-fiction book of the year was almost definitely J.K.A. Smith’s How (not) to be Secular, which deserves a re-read early on in 2015, but has already influenced my thinking and preaching so much.
Other books worthy of a mention include Smith’s Letters to a Young Calvinist, Julian Barnes’ Nothing to be Frightened of, Andreas Köstenberger and Justin Taylor’s The Final Days of Jesus and Bill Hybels’ The Power of a Whisper.
I listened to some great music in 2014. The debut album by The Winery Dogs was a 2013 release, but has remained a regular feature in my listening, and put me onto guitarist Richie Kotzen, whose plentiful back catalogue I have devoured over the past 12 months. Some fantastic hard blues rock with soulful vocals.
I’ve also enjoyed the new releases by two of my favourite progressive bands: Kaleidoscope by Transatlantic, and Second Nature by Flying Colors. The former full of ridiculously long, pompous music, and the latter combining virtuoso musicianship with great poppy songwriting.
The debut from Royal Blood was also a highlight and contains my favourite riff and musical interlude of the year (Figure It Out, 2:09-3:04 – simple, uncomplicated, but nicely crafted).
I also enjoyed my first (and second) visit to the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall: Mozart’s Requiem and an evening of Russian music from Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky and Tchaikovsky.
I’ve seen some great TV and films this year. My favourite movie was definitely The Grand Budapest Hotel, since I adore Wes Anderson’s OCD visual feasts! And this may well be his best film yet.
On the small screen, I enjoyed catching up on Broadchurch season 1 (which I had somehow managed to miss the first time round!), The Newsroom season 2, and I finally finished 30 Rock. (Well, technically, I finished it yesterday, so it creeps into 2015. A sad moment, but plenty of laughs to revisit!)
Not sure this really deserves its own category, but my favourite sporting highlight of the year was attending the tennis at Wimbledon. Since I now live only one postcode and a 20-minute walk away, it was a no-brainer that we should go, and despite the early start and awful rain, it was a great day!
My favourite restaurant meal of 2014 was definitely the tasting menu at Indian Essence, Atul Kochhar’s restaurant in Petts Wood. We happened to be staying out that way for a few weeks around the time of my 30th birthday, and it was a great place to celebrate. I am constantly amazed by Atul’s recipes and am yet to eat anything he’s concocted that has not made me utter “wow!” I am eagerly awaiting the publication of his Benares Cookbook, and also super-keen to return to dine at Benares, since my first visit there definitely ranks as one of my top meals of all time!
Oh, and if I can be so cheeky as to sneak a meal that I made into the list, I really enjoyed the challenge of recreating the Wahaca experience for Helen’s Birthday. We squeezed 12 ladies into our little front room and I spent the whole day creating a spread of Mexican food, which was really great fun. And I even surprised myself by how similar my rendition turned out when compared to the real thing (which I think was more a testament to good recipes and great ingredients than my skills!)
I saw some great stand up comedy in 2014. Highlights include Doc Brown performing inside an enormous inflatable bowler hat (!?) and Daniel Kitson’s Christmas show at the Battersea Arts Centre. Both were unique experiences!
I’ve learnt plenty of new things over 2014, but if I had to narrow my educational experiences down to two, I would pick these. One I have received and one I have given.
In May I spent a day on the bread course at the E5 Bakehouse in Hackney, which was undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable learning experiences I’ve had in ages. It was such fun to learn how to bake sourdough bread – something I had always failed at before, and have since had great success in! I learnt so much in such a short period of time – the teaching was excellent, the recipes are fantastic, the breads we made on the day were plentiful and beautiful, and it gave me a far greater appreciation for the art of bread making. I looked up a whole load of courses before I booked this one, and I definitely think I made the right choice. Great value for money, and an amazing day.
And my favourite experience where I was the one delivering the teaching was definitely spending two days unpacking the gospels for the Catalyst Leadership Foundations programme. I’d never before taught for that long in succession. Plus, having to master so much material and fit it all into two days was an enjoyable challenge. As is so often the case, I probably learnt as much from the experience as the students did – new insights into the gospels that I’d not seen before, new things about the strengths and weaknesses of my own teaching style, and plenty of things to do differently for the future! I was very grateful for the opportunity.
And finally, four Hs for which I was thankful in 2014.
Helen – of course. We celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, and for the 7th time we looked back at the past year and marvelled at how different it had been to the previous ones and how far we had come.
Health – given some of the health challenges of previous years, 2014 was generally a year of good health, for which I was extremely grateful.
Holiday – our trip to France in the Summer was simple, quiet and one of the most relaxing holidays I’ve had in ages. Good food, good wine, good weather, good books and good company.
Home – The biggest achievement of the year was finally being able to buy a flat in London! It feels like it’s been a long time coming, and a real challenge given the state of the housing market, but I’ve so enjoyed having 7 months in a place we can call our own. I’ve even enjoyed the opportunity to learn DIY… ish!