Thursday, January 31, 2013


I missed Michael Haneke’s film “Amour” last year and so gratefully accepted the opportunity to see it at the Watershed last night (their Head of Programme hailed “Amour” as his film of 2012).
I thought it was absolutely wonderful.
It’s a film about love and death and about a couple in their 80s. Their lives are fundamentally changed when the wife (exquisitely played by Emmanuelle Riva) suffers a series of strokes and her husband (played by Jean-Louis Trintignant – a most amazing actor) cares for her.
I cannot commend this film highly enough.
At times, I found it difficult to watch (perhaps this has something to do with me being in my mid-60s!) and yet I was completely captivated.
It has huge dignity; it’s devastatingly painful; sensitive; graceful; beautiful; agonisingly poignant; disturbing… and simply LOVELY. 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

boundary changes

The Tories will be very disappointed by yesterday’s defeat in the House of Lords over the proposed electoral boundary changes. According to the BBC’s Six O’clock News yesterday, it seems that the changes might have provided the Conservatives with as many as 20 extra seats at the next General Election.
However, I suspect that their tears will be of the crocodile variety.
As far as the impending Scottish Referendum on potential independence is concerned (in Autumn 2014 – to coincide, perhaps, with the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn?!), Mr Cameron has nailed his colours to the Union flag.
Of course, this is a very sensible “win-win” strategy.
If the Scots vote against independence, Cameron will take huge credit for keeping the union together (even though, I suspect, his support might encourage people to vote in favour!). If the Scots opt for independence, Cameron will shake his head and declare it a very sad day for the “old country”…
Actually, if the Scots do opt for independence, Cameron and his party will privately (and some not so privately) be jumping for joy – because this will ultimately remove all the Scottish MPs from the House of Commons and thereby (because of the current 58 Scottish MPs, only ONE of them is Conservative) make all future General Elections very much more difficult/virtually impossible(?) for the other “major” English parties to form a future Government.
So, while yesterday’s debate was all about electoral boundary changes… the REAL boundary change vote has still to happen.
Maybe it’s time for us all to move north?

Tuesday, January 29, 2013


So, the Government has now announced its planned HS2 route north of Birmingham.
On my facebook status this morning, I said I thought the project was “fundamentally wrong”. What I should have said was that I believe the thinking behind HS2 was fundamentally flawed (this applies to both the first and second phases).
I suspect that the country is pretty split over the proposed project but, it seems, that the project is largely supported by the three main political parties. Many will say that HS2 will transform the current situation where many areas within the UK are economically isolated from London and the South-East.
I’m all for vision and innovation, but I fear that technology might well have rendered the project a very expensive, outmoded, white elephant long before its planned completion date of 2033 (and PLEASE don't think that this means I'm a head-in-the-sand/leave-everything-just-as-it-is kind of person!).
Ministers tell us that the economic benefits to all communities are “pretty compelling”. Mr Cameron has declared that "Linking communities and businesses across the country and shrinking the distances between our greatest cities, high-speed rail is an engine for growth that will help to drive regional regeneration and invigorate our regional economies”.
Over the past few months, we’ve heard arguments in favour of HS2 along the following lines: a) there will be huge economic benefits for the country (including more than 100,000 jobs), b) there is a strong environmental argument in support of HS2 and c) it represents a practical and entirely viable scheme.
These arguments have subsequently been roundly countered by academics and pundits alike.
The Government line now seems to have shifted to use of the word “connectivity” (aren’t spin-doctors wonderful!).
Ministers can airily indicate its projected £33billion cost (originally put forward in the last days of the Labour Government, so who knows how much its true cost will be come 2033) safe in the knowledge that they’ll be “well out of it” by the time it’s completed.
Is it really worth spending all this money so that we can travel at 200mph instead on 125mph?
Who will benefit from the project in the long run? All those living in the north? I really don’t think so – I think the real beneficiary will be London.
Professor John Tomaney of the School of Planning at University College London, who has researched the effect of high-speed lines across the world, said: "The argument that high speed can reshape economic geography has been used in several countries around the world such as France, Spain, South Korea… but in practice there is very little evidence that building a high speed rail line heals north-south divides”. Indeed, Tomaneyn found there was strong evidence the other way, with the capital cities rather than the provincial towns, benefiting from the line. In terms of employment, therefore, the argument in the government's report that the line would create 100,000 jobs smacks of pure fantasy.
I’m all for improving rail transport (although I remain horrified by the constantly increasing fares – despite so many more people using the train… and don’t get me started on “privatisation”!). Stand on any station platform these days and you’ll see LOTS of instances where redundant tracks have removed. Wouldn’t it make more sense to spend money developing the railway infrastructure so that it can better respond to the increasing numbers of users?
I’m afraid I share Christian Wolmar’s concluding view in yesterday’s Guardian:
“Today we have the internet, broadband, mobile telephony and even the possibility of driverless cars let alone more mundane exogenous factors such as oil prices and planning policies that ultimately could all affect demand for rail travel. The variables and what Donald Rumsfeld would call the ‘unknown unknowns’ over a 20-year period are so great that in effect, despite all the pseudo scientific business case methodology, this is all one big punt by the politicians. Yet, despite the lack of evidence to support the case for the line, it has now become part of the political consensus supported by all three main political parties rather like the idea in the noughties that Britain's wealth would be sustained by allowing bankers free rein. And we all know what happened next”.
PS: Oh, and the Government persists in telling us that HS2 fares will be virtually the same as the rest of the railway network (but, hang on, aren’t the current high-speed fares some 20% more than other fares?)… it might be worthwhile seeing if Ladbroke’s will take a bet on this – it could be the answer to all your retirement financial worries!
PPS: just so you don’t think that I’m a “southern softie”, London-Bristol is the same as London-Birmingham in distance terms.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

european union

I’ve listened to what Mr Cameron has had to say about renegotiating about the terms of Britain’s EU membership and, frankly, I find it all incredibly depressing.
One of the founding objectives of the European Union was to create an “ever-closer union”. Under the Coalition Government (which, as far as the EU is concerned, has caused huge disagreements between the LibDems and the Conservatives), Cameron has been distancing himself from the principle EU member countries and yet has still been trying dictate policy from the sidelines. Yes, I appreciate that there are many EU policies that Britain would ideally like to change but, surely, you are in a far stronger position to argue your case from the position as a “full” team member. Cameron has declared that creating “an ever-closer union” is NOT the objective for Britain. Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of other EU leaders are adamant that they will not allow Britain to “cherry pick” terms – and I don’t blame them in the slightest!   
I rather like the French foreign minister’s comments (as reported in The Guardian) on the matter: "You can't do Europe à la carte… I'll take an example which our British friends will understand. Let's imagine Europe is a football club and you join. Once you're in it you can't say: 'Let's play rugby'."
Clearly, Cameron’s latest remarks will be music to the ears of the majority of his Tory colleagues. The whole affair makes me want to shout “CAMERON DOES NOT TALK FOR ME!” from the rooftops!
As far as I’m concerned, the worst-case scenario would be for the Tories to win the next election outright and for an “In or Out” referendum on the EU to be called. Sadly, I firmly believe that the British public would vote to leave the EU (you can just imagine “The Sun”, “Daily Mail” and “Telegraph” newspapers coming up with all sorts of bigoted headlines as to why we should quit). To my mind, this feels rather like us allowing the British public to vote on reintroducing the death penalty… frighteningly, the public would no doubt vote for its return(?).
Yes, I know, I’m fast becoming someone who doesn’t even believe in the democratic process! How pathetic is that?
“I’m all favour of things I agree with”… you sad, sad man.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


In another bid to increase my cinema-going in 2013, I went along to the Watershed this afternoon to see Dustin Hoffman’s “Quartet” (his first film as director and my third film of the year!). It’s based on 78 year-old Ronald Harwood’s play of the same name and set in a retirement home for (mainly?) classical musicians.
It really is an all-star cast and includes Maggie Smith, Tom Courtenay, Pauline Collins, Billy Connolly, Michael Gambon, Sheridan Smith and a whole host of other well-known personalities (plus some REAL retired musicians!).
It was gentle, funny at times (some good lines – none of which I can recall!), somewhat predictable and, actually, an ideal film to watch on a bitterly-cold Wednesday afternoon. I got the feeling that the actors (and the director) enjoyed themselves during its filming.
I enjoyed it.
PS: I’ve just checked some film reviews and note that Peter Bradshaw (Guardian) gave it two stars and Anthony Quinn (Independent) gave it just one!! I think it deserves at least three…
PPS: Obviously, if you choose to see a film like this (especially on a Wednesday afternoon), you’re virtually certain the audience will be retirees like me. I think there were about 20 of us in total – all grey+aged, except for a man in his 20s who seemed to be escorting his father(?). I turned up about 10 minutes before the film began and queued outside Cinema 1. I was first in the queue and then two elderly women joined me, followed by a retired couple… then three couples (all in their 60s) walked past all of us and lined up at the front of the “queue”. Clearly, this really didn’t matter at all because it was a fair-sized cinema and, at that stage, there were going to be more rows in the auditorium than actual members of the audience… BUT you should have seen the disgusted faces of the two women behind me!!  

Monday, January 21, 2013

january 2013 books

More book stuff:
The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared (Jonas Jonasson): This is a truly bizarre, funny book… and I loved it! It’s about the unlikely adventures of a man who avoids attending his own 100th birthday party by climbing out of the window of his room in an old people’s home. In its early stages, it felt as if the writer was asking readers to suggest their own ludicrous, additional storyline at the start of each chapter - something along the lines of the TV programme “Whose Line is it Anyway?” perhaps, with an emphasis on improvisation… but it proved to be much cleverer than that. An endearing, optimistic book - and a complete change from the rather dark recent novels that have emerged from Scandinavia!
The Bees (Carol Ann Duffy): Even though I’m keen to change matters, I generally struggle with coming to terms with poetry (invariably, I feel I need a few notes giving me some background for specific poems!). But I DID love this short collection of poems (her first as Poet Laureate). I was particularly drawn to those relating to her dying mother, to war/dying soldiers and to some of her more political writings… but, frankly, there are an awful lot of highlights!   
Star Pilgrim (Simon Small): This is something of a mystical sci-fi novel. By the time I’d finished it (and I read it pretty quickly), I felt a little like the way I did after the first time saw the film “2001: Space Odyssey” - trying to understand/come to terms with its concluding stages. However, there was (at least) ONE significant difference and that was that I’d be blown away by the majestic nature of the film, whereas much of the book simply irritated me! That’s perhaps a little unfair. There is much to commend Small’s book: it’s very readable; he’s a good story-teller (although I’m not a great fan of his writing style); it’s thought-provoking and insightful. Fundamentally, I fear, my views are rather coloured by the fact that I’m not a great lover of Christian fiction!
Full Circle (Michael Palin): I’ve had this book for a couple of years and had largely read it in its entirety, but only through “dipping into it” in a rather haphazard way. So I’ve just read it through “properly”. The Full Circle of the book’s title refers to his route tracking along the edges/rim of the Pacific Ocean. The book was published in 1997 and it was interesting to note how much has changed in some of the countries (eg. China) since that time. Michael Palin’s a bit of a hero of mine and I’ve loved his various TV journeys (and books) – although I do think the formula has started to wear a little thin of late (I started watching his recent “Brazil” series, but failed to get beyond the first programme. His books are excellent in their own right – he writes extremely well (both funny and bizarrely informative) – and this was no exception.
Leaving Alexandria (Richard Holloway): This is a wonderful, brave and frank autobiography. I really didn’t know very much about Richard Holloway before listening to him talk at the “Festival of Ideas” in Bristol in May 2010. I subsequently read (and very much enjoyed) his “Looking in the Distance”. This book tells of his journey between faith and doubt. He resigned as Bishop of Edinburgh in 2000. I have to say that – with him having aired his personal religious doubts and, to some extent, his critical attitudes towards the “absolute confidence” of church authorities – I was surprised that he accepted the post in the first place; he admits that vanity and ambition probably had something to do with it! As a character, I think he has always been a “bit of a performer” and so, at times, I felt that he was enjoying the drama of what he was writing about (and, to be fair, he acknowledges that he’s probably been unwise in publishing some of his early books). I felt a particular empathy with his comments regarding the Conservative Evangelicals within the Anglican Church (and their attitudes towards gays and to women priests - women bishops were yet to enter the debate!). Holloway says he doesn’t “any longer believe in religion”… but he “wants it around: weakened, bruised and bemused, less sure of itself and purged of everything except the miracle of pity”. A beautiful, eloquent, profound and powerful book.    

Saturday, January 19, 2013


Until this morning, I hadn’t shaved since the start of the year.
The “beard” has now gone.
For posterity, the above photograph is a reminder to myself NOT to try grow a beard ever again... 
If you’re a facebook friend, you might have seen the following rather pathetic note on my “status” feed for 9 January: 
Steve hasn’t shaved since the start of the year.
Although he did have a beard for over 20 years, he wasn’t never really any good at facial hair (far too many bald areas… essentially he was lazy and just found shaving tedious).
Perhaps vanity got the better of him… he thought he might end up looking like George Clooney?
In the event, he now looks like old man Steptoe… (and, if you don’t know who old man Steptoe was, then you’re far too young to be reading this).
Oh good grief!”
Until the heavy snow arrived, we were due to have a lovely, regular BABEs lunch in Bristol today (BABEs stands for Barnes, Adams, Broadway and Eyres!). In view of the uncertain weather, we sadly decided to cancel… probably for the best, but still sad. Ken+Debby+Ian+Gail+Diane+Steve+Moira+I get together for lunch (at various locations between Oxfordshire and South Hams) to celebrate our respective birthdays.
The reason I mention “beards” in this context is that Ken, Ian+Steve all possess beards - I was the only “shaved male”. As you can see from my facebook note, I soon realised that my patchy, bald, grey beard was NOT a thing of beauty (AND made me look EVEN MORE like the grumpy old man I’ve probably become!). However, I thought it would be good to keep my beard until the BABEs lunch so I could be “on a par” (well, vaguely) with my other great male buddies – and to provide them with something to laugh about on these dark, bleak, January days.
Well, it wasn’t to be.
PS: if I’d started growing a beard in November, I might have got some Father Christmas work perhaps?

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

the impossible

I went to see Juan Antonio Bayona's film “The Impossible” at the Watershed this afternoon… Moira preferred knitting+nattering with her friends! As you’re probably already aware, it’s about the Boxing Day Tsunami of 2004 and, in particular, the true story about how a family of five survived the catastrophe. Naomi Watts (the mother) and Ewan McGregor (the father) are both excellent – as are the young actors who play the three sons.
I already knew the story of the family’s truly remarkable survival (the film title is entirely appropriate) and, clearly, this made watching the film a little easier to take! The staging of the tsunami is stunningly effective (and convincing) and the story is compelling. Almost inevitably, the film is so focused on the family that it barely touched on the devastating effects the tsunami had on the lives of others – or, indeed, the deaths of some 250,000 people.
Nevertheless, a very impressive film.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

the sad, sad demise of bookshops and record shops etc… it’s YOUR call.

So, HMV, the music and DVD chain, has just appointed administrators. It’s just the latest casualty on the High Street and put some 4,350 jobs “at risk”. This is very sad news… but even sadder, from a selfish, personal perspective, it will also apparently mean the end for “Fopp” (my favourite local record store on College Green, Bristol). The reason for its demise has been put down to online retailing.
Karine Polwart (a favourite singer/songwriter of mine) wrote this on facebook this morning:
“Now I know HMV ain't no friendly society but it's going under tomorrow, taking FOPP with it. One less obstacle to global Amazon domination? And less and less chance of some local manager or knowledgable, dedicated and enthusiastic employee (like the mighty Fiona McMenamin) punting local, bespoke or off the radar stuff? Of course, Amazon does the algorithm recommendation thing too. And artists like me agree to have our stuff stocked there. I posted elsewhere to note that an incredible 80% of my December sales were through Amazon. What's an eco-leftie like me to do?! Genuine question(s). Do we really want all our choices to come down to a mathematical formula? Maybe we're happy with that compromise? Maybe it's more efficient? Do we want our hard won cash for luxuries like CDs and books to go to a creative tax dodging beast? Even my local Coop has an Amazon locker pick-up facility!! The Coop for goodness sake. I am on one bit irate letter wind up starting this week I tell you. Edinburgh bookstores are fighting back with overt displays about being local stores who pay their taxes. But it's down to all of us eh? What do we do?”
I completely agree.
When it comes to buying books, I’ve been trying to avoid using Amazon and have been endeavouring to buy books from bookshops, secondhand bookstalls or from Green Metropolis. In pure money terms, I appreciate that this simply doesn’t make sense.
Take this recent example when I was purchasing our latest Book Group book:
I called in to Foyles bookshop in Quakers Friars, Bristol (which I LOVE).
They hadn’t got the book in stock but, if they HAD got it at the shop, it would have cost me £14.99 (list price).
They told me I could do one of three things: a) they could order it for me and I could collect it in 3-4 days (and, presumably, it would cost me £14.99?); b) I could go online and click on their “delivery” option – which would cost me £10.49 (free delivery); or c) I could go online and click on their “click and collect” option – which would cost me £12.74.
Isn’t this a depressing state of affairs? In other words, I could save £4.50 by simply avoiding use of my local store altogether!
When I expressed my frustration to one of the shop assistants (who are all quite wonderful, knowledgeable and helpful, by the way!), he was completely sympathetic… but shugged his shoulders in a way that seemed to say: “yes, we’re not going to be able carry on like this, are we”.   
Of course, I could always have ordered it from Amazon (global domination and tax-avoidance aside, of course!) for just £6.30, with free delivery – a saving of a mere £8.69!!
Don’t get me wrong, I completely acknowledge Amazon’s efficiency (and convenience)… it’s just that we’ll end up losing so many of our local shops if we continue down this road.
As Karine Polwart says: “But it's down to all of us eh?”

Sunday, January 13, 2013


I went to my first Quaker meeting this morning.
Last November, following the Anglican Church’s vote against allowing women bishops, I declared that: “As for me, I think this marks the end of my time worshipping in the Anglican Church. A separate, personal, lonely journey starts today”.
Since then, I’ve spent part of my Sunday mornings pouring over various books rather than joining Moira at St Mary Redcliffe church. At the start of the year, I made a list of 52 “things-to-do” for 2013 (yes, I know…!) – and one of them was “experience Quaker meeting”. The trouble is that I’m really good at list-making, but not particularly good at putting my intentions into action. It’s strange how these things happen but, a few days ago, our lovely friend Gareth made a chance remark that she’d been to a Quaker meeting the previous Sunday and intended to go again. So, today, I took the opportunity of accompanying her to our local Bedminster Meeting House in Wedmore Road.
It proved to be a fascinating and fulfilling experience and I was made to feel very welcome. I certainly intend to attend other meetings fairly regularly over the coming months.
In my current “nomadic” spiritual state, it felt like a very good place to be… both challenging and reassuring… a sort of comforting harbour on my somewhat choppy journey.
PS (in case you know nothing about the Quakers, these are some extracts from various leaflets in my welcome pack): Quakers is “a small group of some 25,000 worshippers in the UK… meetings are based on silence: a silence of waiting and listening… Quakers share a way of life rather than a fixed set of beliefs… Our understanding of faith is that true fulfilment comes from attempting to live life in the spirit of love, truth and peace, and by seeking and acknowledging that of God in everyone.” Key aspects: truth and integrity; simplicity; justice, equality and community; and peace.  


Wednesday, January 09, 2013

pre-raphaelite exhibition at tate britain

Yesterday, Moira+I went to see the Pre-Raphaelite exhibition yesterday - it was very good to get to the Tate before the exhibition finishes next week. I think the Pre-Rapaelites were the first artists to impress me as a young teenager – I was very fortunate that Birmingham Art Gallery housed so many wonderful examples. So, it did seem a little strange (but, obviously, very predictable) to see so many of the “Birmingham” pictures featured yesterday. I know the works and techniques of the “major” artists ( ie. Holman Hunt, Rossetti, Madox Brown, Burne-Jones and Millais), pretty well and still feel confident about recognising their paintings(!). It was an impressive exhibition – although, like most of the major exhibitions these days, pretty crowded. If I’m honest, the work no longer invokes the utter excitement in me in the way it did in the early 1960s… but it was lovely to see the huge body of work again.
PS: After battling our way through the crowds, it did seem somewhat ironic to be able to amble through deserted rooms full of Turner’s stunning paintings at the end of the afternoon… such a privilege to be able to see these and, of course, the bonus is that it was entirely free. We are so lucky, aren’t we?
PPS: The other huge bonus of our trip to London was being able to meet with up with lovely Diana – a work colleague from Brocklehurst Architects. Somewhat frightening, it was 17 years since we last met! She was in very good form and looking stunning (really didn’t seem to have changed at all!). Happy times.

Monday, January 07, 2013

my latest new favourite cafe

Actually, my new favourite place isn’t really a café at all… and, although it does “do” basic coffee, its speciality is tea (and I’m not a great tea-drinker, I’m afraid). It’s called Lahloo and, according to its website: “this dynamic new company offers tea drinkers a boutique collection of loose-leaf tea from some of the world’s finest small tea gardens. Lahloo brings you fairly traded, natural and organic teas from artisan producers all over the world”.
But, for me, the real attraction is that it’s a simply beautiful place to enjoy a cup of coffee (or tea!); it’s on two levels (albeit quite small) plus garden/patio area… and the staff are very nice too!
With my ongoing hip issues(!) and the fact that it’s located in Clifton village (yes, I know!), I accept that my visits won’t be an everyday occurrence*, but I’ll certainly be making lots more visits over the coming months.
*I appreciate that I could drive, but I’m desperately trying to avoid using the car as much as possible.
Photo: downstairs “café” space (with the raised garden/patio area beyond).
PS: if you like tea, then please check out this website of our lovely friends, Bruce+Sara – who grow and make “home-grown, hand-picked, artfully-blended herbal and wild teas. All ingredients from our Cambrian mountain forest garden, or close by”.

Sunday, January 06, 2013

midnight's children

Moira+I went to the Watershed this afternoon to see the long-awaited film version of Salman Rushdie’s book (published in 1980) of the same name. I haven’t actually read the book – but will hopefully do so over the coming months. It’s essentially a magical story involved two babies born at midnight at the birth of India’s independence, who are switched by the maternity nurse and inherit each other’s lives by mistake. The private and public lives are intertwined in a world of hope, violence and betrayal.
Rushdie’s book took on some 60 years of India’s history (and Pakistan+Bangladesh!), so there’s an awful lot to fit into a two-and-a-half-hour film. In the event, I found the first part of the film rather more compelling (and the child characters too?) and the latter section a little too blurred in terms of the wealth of the country’s recent political history (and the film’s storyline) it tried to fit into the final hour. Nevertheless, a brilliant story and a film well worth seeing – it’s definitely made me want to read the book.  

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

new year’s day beach walk

It was a beautiful sunny morning yesterday and Moira+I were determined to blow the cobwebs away to celebrate New Year’s Day. We toyed with the idea of trawling around the wonderful Arnos Vale cemetery – but it didn’t seem quite suitable for the occasion(!). So, we ended up driving to Berrow and repeating a NYD’s walk we did six years ago… and on a similar cold, but beautifully sunny, day.
Our usual approach to the beach is via the footpath that crosses the Burnham+Berrow Channel golf course, but we had to turn back due to flooding (our walking boots were no match for one of the shin-deep water sections)!  
Anyway, we duly parked a little further down the road and enjoyed a beautiful “fresh” walk to welcome in the new year.
Photo: although there were a reasonable number of people about, most of them stayed on the “sand track” that ran alongside the dunes – which left plenty of beach for Moira+me to explore!

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

new year review and thoughts...

Last December, I posted this about the forthcoming year (and reflecting on years gone by).
I commented on how experience tells me that, even if/when there are periods of gloom, there WILL be things that fill me with joy that, at present, I know NOTHING about.
I just LOVE that this happens every year.
I listed a number of headings at the time and thought I’d use these to reflect on my personal memories of 2012:
My top six (I couldn’t limit it to just five!): The Sense of an Ending (Julian Barnes); A Walk-on Part: Diaries 1994-99 (Chris Mullins); Love of the World (John McGahern); Churchill: The Struggle for Survival 1945-60 (Lord Moran); The Winter Vault (Anne Michaels) and The Dignity of Difference – How to Avoid the Clash of Civilisations (Jonathan Sacks).
My top five (again, in vague order – although we didn’t get to the cinema all that often): Samsara; The Artist; Barbara; Monsieur Lazhar and Beasts of the Southern Wild (and also Biutiful – but I only watched this on DVD!).
A BRILLIANT PIECE OF LIVE PERFORMANCE (spoilt for choice, so I’ve broken these into extra categories):
My top five (in order): The Odyssey (Paper Cinema at the Tobacco Factory); Comedy of Errors (RSC in Stratford); The Tempest (RSC in Stratford); Twelfth Night (RSC in Stratford) and Julius Caesar (RSC in Cardiff).
Karine Polwart (Colston Hall, Bristol); Joan Armitrading and Chris Wood (Colstan Hall, Bristol); King Creosote and Jon Hopkins (Iona Library); Exultate Singers (St James Priory) and the Gasworks Choir (Colston Hall and St George’s, Bristol).
EXHIBITIONS (live performance?):
Hockney (Royal Academy); Grayson Perry (British Museum); ADVENTurous (LeftBank, Leeds); Real+Imagined Lives (Mshed); Autumn Exhibition (RWA) and Matti Braun (Arnolfini).
A STUNNING SPORTING MOMENT: (again, completely spoilt for choice!):
The entire Olympics(!) featuring: “Super Saturday” night in the Olympic Stadium when GB won four gold medals (Mo Farah x2, Jess Ennis and Greg Rutherford); Kath Grainger finally winning her rowing gold medal; the amazing cycling in the Velodrome - especially the Women’s Team Pursuit (I just love Laura Trott!) and Chris Hoy’s final win; and, of course the incredible Wiggy and Usain Bolt..
All the amazing new friends I met during my 2 month stay on Iona (resident staff members, volunteers and visitors) plus, obviously, all of the lovely special “regular” friends.

Drawing again (largely thanks to Ruth for this!) – Iona postcards and producing a drawing every other day (see new blog!).

Cafes, reading, drawing, painting, photography, walking (but see “Regrets” below!) and, of course, looking after grandchildren!

Photographic piece produced for the ADVENTurous exhibition at LeftBank, Leeds (only thanks to Si’s encouragement!); my photobook: “Iona: Threshold Place”.

South-east coast of Spain (with Ken+Debby); visiting Leeds for the LeftBank exhibition (impressed!); and also experiencing a different perspective of St Ives from a new base off Porthminster Beach (with Alan+Lesley)… I’m sure there are lots of other things, but can’t recall at the moment!

My time on Iona provided me with lots of new insights (including an “equivalent” pilgrimage around Bristol!)… but, essentially, I’ve just continue to plod along!

I’m not really sure if I’ve actually achieved any reconciliation this year(!) – and certainly not with the Anglican Church after its refusal to allow women bishops or with the Labour Party after its head-in-the-sand attitude following the Bristol Mayoral elections!
1. Taking pleasure in seeing others grow and develop: loving seeing our daughters creating beautiful work (Ruth’s jewellery and prints; Hannah’s latest animal series of images; Alice’s writing); watching all our grandchildren learn new things;
2. I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the print room at the Ashmolean in Oxford – this year being so close to sketches produced by Michelangelo (what a huge privilege!).

3. Watching the dolphins play off the jetty on Iona for some 45 minutes was just a magical experience.
4. I’m not a keen TV-watcher (I find the prospect of watching soaps, talent shows and Big Brother celebrity stuff depressing in the extreme), but I have enjoyed “The Killing” and “Borgen”.
1. I’ve never been good at learning new skills or going on courses (I know it’s silly, but I think it’s something to do with the fear of failure/the embarrassment of showing myself up). I like the idea of printing, in some form, so maybe that’s one of the challenges of the coming year?
2. My biggest concern is my on-going hip(?) problem. Over the past six months or so, this has gradually become more and more debilitating. One of the things I’ve really enjoyed in retirement is my daily walks which, on average, used to be perhaps 4 or 5 miles. I’m currently undergoing physiotherapy and have been advised to try to limit my walks to perhaps just two miles – which is rather depressing. I just hope that the physiotherapy is effective (thus far, it doesn't seem to be helping)!
Photo: from my time on Iona.