A random review of the year

As the reviews of the year fill out the column inches in the print media, countless blogs and hours of air time on TV and radio here is my own slightly random contribution to the genre. We all like a good list and I’m no exception; this list is all about a collection of things, experiences and places that have been highlights of the year. Its not an exhaustive list and I will think of things once I hit publish but here goes.

Moment of the year – swimming in the cold Atlantic sea off of Barafundle beach in Pembrokeshire. This beach is one special place. And swimming in the still bone tinglingly cold water only added to its allure. I can still feel it as I type.

Debut of the year – this has to be my first proper visits to Stonehenge. Wandering through the meadows to Fargo Wood in June and seeing a cloud of adonis blue butterflies take off was a wonderful moment. And standing in the freezing cold as night became day within touching distance of the stones was a moment to cherish. If you immerse yourself in the wider landscape and block out the sounds of the A303 you can then really connect to how the hundreds of generations before you that have walked in the Wiltshire countryside.

Film or series of the year – it has to be House of Cards. The US version had something that the UK version didn’t: real class. As a lover of politics this has a real Machiavellian streak to it with so many twists and turns. I’ve still only watched series 1 but can’t wait to catch up with series 2 and series 3.

Books of the year – two books stand out for me. Meadowlands by John Lewis-Stempel caught me by surprise and had me spellbound. I couldn’t put it down when I read it on holiday and it has helped me to see the world anew – looking for details and looking for nature around you. This Boy by former Home Secretary Alan Johnson was a revelation. Written in an accessible way it richly described the first 16 years of a difficult life. You can see the roots of his political life and passions, built on the desire for social justice and equality.

Album of the year – I loved Damon Albarn’s Everyday Robots. The lyrics touch the soul and the musicality is wonderful. I can’t stop listening to this album.

Wildlife experience of the year – sitting in a haymeadow in the overflow car park of Dyrham Park doesn’t sound glamourous but it took me to a place of tranquility, watching the grasses gently waving in the breeze and the butterflies fluttering across this field of gold. Meadows are rare and precious; they have declined dramatically in the last 50 years, making this moment more special.

Sound of the year – it has to be hearing the total joy of the kids as they run free on a beach. Always brings a smile to my face.

Views of the year – two stand out for me: one I see everyday and the other I’d never seen. The view across Charlcombe Valley and Bathampton Meadows towards Little Solsbury Hill is something I see every day but it never fails to amaze me with the changing of the light and the changing of the seasons. The other view that got me was from a small viewing point near Little Haven in Pembrokeshire; watching the sun slowly set and the wild seas lapping the steep sided cliffs. It summed up everything that is wonderful about the British coastline.

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