Tuesday, 31 December 2019


I don't often get predictions right (you will recall that a couple of months before the election I forecast that Jezza was about to resign), but I was bang on the money this time last year when I said that 2019 would be even worse than 2018; by and large indeed it was. Perhaps that's why this year I have been unusually reticent in inflicting on you my opinions of all the plays etc wot I have seen, but let's have a quick retrospective summary now; be warned, for some reason this is all a lot more quantitative than it is qualitative.

Opera: I saw twenty six operas this year, plus two ballets and a sprinkling of classical concerts. The operas ranged in obscurity from Pfitzner's 'The Christmas Elf', of which I saw the first ever UK performance, to La boheme, which is - I think - the most frequently performed opera that there is globally. My favourite was Vaughan William's 'Pilgrim's Progress' with a nod to Janáček's 'Cunning Little Vixen' and Martinů's 'The Greek Passion'.

Theatre: I saw fifty two plays and musicals of which my favourite was 'Wise Children' from the wonderful company of the same name. A very honourable mention must go to 'Tuesdays with Morrie'. My favourite Shakespeare (out of the thirteen that I saw) was a toss up between 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' at the Globe and Northern Broadsides' 'Much Ado About Nothing'. This section seems an appropriate place for the following photo, which I have been looking for a chance to use for some months and which if nothing else illustrates that Chekhov can actually be made interesting:

Music: I only went to twenty three gigs, which is pretty pathetic really. My favourite were The Stumble whom I saw twice. Their live performances do not translate into their recordings, which is often the case and another reason why I should go to more live shows.

By the way, the lady on your bloggist's left in that photo is a regular, and somewhat wild, audience member at blues gigs around here, indeed she is the instrument fingerer mentioned in this previous post; I could tell you some stories about her, but frankly she terrifies me so I won't.

Film: I've seen sixteen films and am going to choose 'Stan and Ollie' as my favourite; what can I say, I'm a big softie. I made a special trip to the Imax in Bradford to see 'Apollo 11' on a big, big screen and am glad that I did. Still today, after fifty years, it's just an astonishing achievement and spectacularly documented in the film.

Talks: The quantity of gigs may have declined, but for some reason the number of talks attended has increased markedly. The best two were both on painting, one on Klimt, the other on Tom Thomson and the Group of Seven. A prize for making a little go a long way goes to Ian Bottomley, Curator Emeritus of Oriental Collections at the Royal Armouries who managed to speak very entertainingly for an hour on the subject of the current whereabouts of those small number of suits of armour which were given as diplomatic gifts to various European royal courts by Japanese trade missions in the sixteenth century. The most irrelevant and off subject question from an audience member - a category that is very keenly contested every year - was the chap who, at a talk about Nietzsche, asked why god had created gay animals in species other than humans. My own unassuming interventions - the incident with the light cavalry sabre notwithstanding - were, of course, always entirely intended to add to the collective enlightenment rather than allow me to show off my own erudition and knowledge.

Books: For those concerned about my apparent compulsion to count things, I don't really; I work it out retrospectively from my diary. The exception is books, where I kept a specific record this year because I thought it would be interesting. Obviously it wasn't in the slightest bit interesting, neither to me nor anyone else, but despite that I now know that I read one hundred and thirteen books, the pick of which was 'Winged Victory' by V.M. Yeates, which of course has a wargamer friendly theme. Another book I very much enjoyed which falls into that category is 'The March' by E.L. Doctorow; the march in question being that of Sherman.

Boardgames: I played fifty eight different games seventy eight times (figures courtesy of boardgamegeek). Top marks for a game I hadn't played previously go to Quartermaster General: Cold War, which I have no qualms in recommending to wargamers, and the same is true of my top solo game recommendation, Maquis. I hope to step up my boardgaming a bit next year, although the Monday night Yew Tree group has become very dull and cliquey so I may have to look elsewhere.

Wargames: I played or umpired in, I think, twenty three games, many of which were played over two or three weeks. They focussed mainly on James new Peninsular war collection plus, it shouldn't be forgotten, his new bridges. In the annexe it was mainly Great War, but there was a smattering of other stuff as well. My favourite game, apart from my one-sided triumph at Fiasco, was the relatively recent Battle of San Winnoc.

Event of the Year: Newspapers and magazines inevitably have to choose their picks of the year early in order to meet deadlines. Your bloggist has the luxury of posting this on the afternoon of December 31st and can therefore make sure that nothing will overtake what he writes. Or so you would think. Last year I was awakened at 23:45 or so - being teetotal I avoid going out on New Year's Eve and therefore retire early - by the younger Miss Epictetus who wished to inform me that she had got engaged, an event which clearly would have merited inclusion right at the top of my round up of 2018 had she told me a tad earlier. So, this year's choice is caveated by pointing out that it is subject to nothing better happening in the next few hours. However, I think it unlikely that anything will beat this:

Finally, let's hope next year is better than we're all expecting, especially for you and yours.

Peace and love to all.