Review of the Year – only kidding

I hate New Year’s Eve, I hate looking back at the last 12 months and I hate making resolutions. Especially when years suck as much at 2014 did. I won’t bore you with the details, but it included death & unemployment as well as the usual ‘I don’t know what to do with my life’ (© Buzzcocks) ennui. But I did learn a few things over the Christmas holidays:

  • I only saw ONE film from Wittertainment’s Top 10 Movies of 2014 – and I really didn’t like it one bit (Imitation Game, since you ask. Watch Enigma instead. More entertaining and probably more realistic despite being fiction). But I did re-discover three old films that are probably in my all-time top 10 films, thanks to Christmas TV.

  • The Ipcress File is as cool, grubby and fresh as I remember it. Every bar of John Barry’s amazing score is a different Portishead song. Michael Caine cooking with eggs is a great moment in cinema, and reminds me to make more use of Len Deighton’s Action Cook Book.
  • Channel 4 showed a lovely crisp print of Bugsy Malone. The songs are brilliant, it never loses its appeal, and there’s Jody Foster taking a custard pie in the face saying ‘so this is showbusiness?’ After me: we could have been anything that we wanted to be…
  • Hitchcock’s 1935 film of The 39 Steps is a masterpiece. I hadn’t seen it for, well, decades probably. It has aged incredibly well, it’s funny, entertaining, sexy and Robert Donat is just superb. If you’re tempted to think that screen acting wasn’t up to much in the olden days, watch him in this and marvel.
  • Away from the screen, having a puppy has been fun – if at times like having a 4th child in the house. I have learnt which fellow dogs (and owners) to trust and met some lovely people in the park. Now if dog-less people will just stop taking shortcuts through the dog exercise area and getting arsey with me when my dog greets them…
  • The MEATLiquor Chronicles is an infuriating, but brilliant book. After reading it I felt simultaneously hung-over, thirsty, sick and hungry. I soon learned to skip the DBC Pierre twaddly bits and seek out the gems. There aren’t a huge number of useful recipes in this book, but I think you only ever get 3 really useful ones out of most cook books any way, and this book contains some fantastic ones. The Red Snapper has now supplanted the Bloody Mary as my favourite drink, and the Layer Chilli recipe is, hands down, the most delicious thing I have ever made. I halved the cooking time and stock content and it was still amazing, served over nachos and melted cheese to replicate the divine chilli cheese fries we love at MEATMarket so much.
  • I discovered a great set of stories by G K Chesterton: seek out The Club of Queer Trades. Quite why Mark Gatiss hasn’t adapted this for the BBC is beyond me. And I re-read a childhood favourite, The Owl Service by Alan Garner. As good as ever, and it inspired me to get writing fiction again.
  • 2014 was a blank year for music for me – I think I only bought 2 albums. But I did discover, very late in the day, that I still have the capacity to be so moved by my enjoyment of a song I stumble across that I can be moved to tears, even if I don’t know why:
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