Happy New Year and this means it is the annual event of me reflecting and reviewing the past 12 months of my life and what better way to do it than with lists. This is the fourth time I have done ‘A Year In Lists’ and I think it’s a fun and interesting way to sum up 2013 So here is my 2013 in lists.

Top 5 Albums

1) Michael Buble – To Be Loved

2) Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain

3) Biffy Clyro – Opposites

4) Josh Groban – All That Echoes

5) Kodaline – In A Perfect World

2013 seemed a poor year for albums. There were some big releases but only at the every end of the year which means I don’t always get around to listening to them.  The top 5 list is put together my combining all the plays from the songs on the album on my iPod. It is worth mentioning that both Noah & The Whale and Lady GaGa narrowly missed out on the top 5 this year.

As well as it being a bad year for albums in general I really struggled to find many decent female British artists. Hopefully 2014 will be a better year for music generally. I know looking at the my Top 5 albums I am not going to win much street cred especially with Buble and Groban but I don’t mind I genuinely like both. Michael Bubles album is a collection of love songs essentially including some original tracks by him as well as the typical big band style stuff he also does. Gabrielle Aplins album was a surprise for me. It is one of those albums that is basically pleasant to listen to and that is probably why it has done so well with me. It is certainly a grower. The number 3 album by Biffy Clyro is the first time I have bought an album by this band. I have bought singles which I have liked and this spurred me on to trying it. It is probably as rocky as I go with music taste. The title track  ‘Opposites’ is a great song. At number 4 it is Josh Groban. He has never really been on my radar. I’ve heard of him but didn’t think his style of music would suit me. However I have seen him in a few interviews this year and he comes across as genuine nice guy plus he is kinda sexy so I thought I would give the album a go. Yes it is middle of the road but it is a good album and I have enjoyed listening to it throughout the year. In 5th place it is Kodaline. They were a new band I came across this year and loved their sound. I can see they popularity growing so I am sure there are more good things coming from them and they deserve making it into my top 5 albums.

Albums I am looking forward to in 2014 are by Ed Sheeran, Lily Allen, Fun, and Kylie Minogue. I would also love to see The Lake Poets finally release an album but I think that might not happen yet.

Top 5 Songs

1) Lady GaGa – Applause

2) Pink – Just Give Me A Reason

3) Tom Odell – Another Love

4) One Direction – One Way Or Another

5) Daft Punk (feat Pharrell Williams) – Get Lucky

This top 5 has been put together based on the number of plays on my iPod.  With out doubt my top song of the year is ‘Applause’ by Lady GaGa. It is a great pop song and there haven’t been many of them this year. At number 2 it is Pink with her duet really with the guy from FUN. It’s the type of song Pink does well as she tells a story in her songs and this a brilliant song and easy to relate to. Tom Odell’s ‘Another Love’ is a song that just gets under your skin and won’t leave. It is a beautiful haunting track and thats why it is number 3 on my list. At number 4 it is 1D. I know I shouldn’t like them but they have done some good pop music and they are the biggest band on the planet and for once they are British so I don’t mind listening to them. I doubt I would go to one of their concerts though but you never know. Finally at number 5 it is Daft Punk with the big hit of the year ‘Get Lucky’. It was a perfect summer track and also I was surprised to find that it is good at getting librarians on the dance floor at discos.

Top 5 Books

1) Wonder by R.J Palacio

2) The Help by Kathryn Stockett

3) A Tale For The Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

4) Maurice by E.M.Forster

5) The Casual Vacancy – by J.K Rowling

This year was a better year for reading although I did still miss out on my target of 30 books. I still managed to read more than the previous year though so I did have some improvement.  This year is also the first year that I included e-books in my reading following my purchase of a Kindle. I read 29 books in 2013 and 10 of them were on the Kindle and 3 of these are in my Top 5. At number 1 is ‘Wonder’ this intrigued by the cover illustration but also I had heard some very good things. It is a young adult book but it is done so well it works just as well for adults. It is a beautiful book and the story is told by different characters. It had me in tears by the end and I just wanted to give them all a hug. I can’t recommend it highly enough. At number 2 is a book I have had for a couple of years and finally got around to read ing. ‘The Help’ is set at the time just before Martin Luther’s ‘I have a dream’ speech and shines the spotlight onto a small town in America and shows the racism that exists. Through it all though we learn to love some really strong female characters and despite the theme of the book it is also quite uplifting. At number 3 it is ‘A Tale For The Time Being’ this is a very clever and thought-provoking book and makes you think about your life and your actions while you are reading it. I read it because it was nominated for the Booker prize and the plot intrigued me. It is a great read and pleased it is in my Top 5 books of the year. At number 4 is ‘Maurice’. I am ashamed to say that I have never read any E.M. Forster but decided to give this a go after my visit to the British Museum this year. I can’t believe the book was written 100 years ago although not published until the 1970’s when the law had changed. Forster captures the attitude of society regarding homosexuality at that time and captures that first experience between two men in a beautiful and romantic way and done very realistically. Finally at number 5 it is The Casual Vacancy. I read this as it was a book club read but I had planned to read it anyway because it was J.K. Rowling. It is not an easy read and lots of characters to get your head around but it is worth persevering with. It proves J.K.Rowling is more than just an author who writes children’s books about wizards.

I already have lots of books waiting to be read but I am also keen to see what new books get published. I am especially interested in reading Sue Monk Kidd’s new book ‘ The Invention of Wings’, and Christos Tsiolkas’ new book ‘Barracuda’. I have also heard rumours of a new Nick Hornby as well.

Top 5 TV Programmes

1) The Great British Bake Off

2) Gogglebox

3) Dr Who

4) The Graham Norton Show

5) Splash!

I have to admit when putting the list together I realised that there a couple of odd choices in this list. The only survivor in the Top 5 form last year has actually risen (I don’t mean it as a pun) to number 1 and that is the Great British Bake Off. It is just a great show. I love the innuendoes, the recipes, Mary Berry is the Queen of baking and Mel & Sue are just hilarious and of course there is cake. Oh there is also Paul Hollywood  if he does it for you but he leaves me flat. The show certainly gets us talking at work and even brings out the competitive edge in us. I hope that they don’t change it when it moves to BBC 1 as it works so don’t mess with it. At number 2 is new TV show which when I first heard about it I sniffed at. Gogglebox is a show watching people watch TV from during the week. It sounds terrible and really shouldn’t work but it does because of the people on the show. It is also a nice way to catch up on the weeks TV in just one show. At number 3 it a return to the Top 5 from Dr Who. The show hasn’t been in my top 5 since 2010 which was when David Tennant left the show. 2013 was the anniversary year and I did like a few of the episodes tho series and the anniversary special was fantastic. I still have reservations about Peter Capaldi but I am going to have to give him a go aren’t I. Lets see if the show is in my top 5 next year. At number 4 is a show that is part of my weekly viewing and that is the Graham Norton Show. I find Graham Norton really funny and he had some great guests on the show this year. Finally at number 5 is a show that also should not work. The programme is Splash! It is a reality show where a bunch of Z list celebrities are trained by Tom Daley to dive and they dive live on the show and get marked by judges and then there is a public vote. It really should not work but the bizarre element of the show combined with Tom Daley has made it a great show to watch. I do admit that after watching the first episode I wasn’t sure if it had actually happened. However it did and there is a second series brilliant.

Top 5 Films

1) Les Miserables

2) Gravity

3) Star Trek – Into Darkness

4) Saving Mr Banks

5) The Guilt Trip

In 2013 I made a really big effort to see a lot of films. I went to the cinema 10 times but caught up on DVD with other films from the year and also on iTunes. My favourite film of the year was Les Miserables. I know the singing from Russell Crowe was questionable but it was a great film and transferred from the stage well. I love the musical so I had high hopes for the film version and was worried I would be disappointed. I wasn’t and it has made it to my top spot. At number 2 is film which I wasn’t going to go and see because I had seen the trailer so many times I wasn’t expecting much from it and it looked too tense. The film was ‘Gravity’ and I was glad I went to see it. The opening sequence was breath-taking and the 3D really enhanced the film which is rare these days. At number 3 is Star Trek Into Darkness. I loved the last Stark Trek film and hoped this would be just as good. I wasn’t disappointed. I know some Trekkies found fault but for me it was just a good sci-fi film with good acting. At number 4 is ‘Saving Mr Banks’ which tells the story about how Disney finally got the rights to the book to make the film we all love. I thought it was an interesting idea and Emma Thompson was brilliant in it. It doesn’t seem to have got the success as the box office it deserved but it well worth watching. Finally at number 5 is ‘The Guilt Trip’. I admit this won’t be everyone’s cup of tea and many of you will ask what is so special about it. It is hard to explain but it did work for me and it was a rare comedy film this year that I actually found funny. It’s not ground breaking but for me it was just what I wanted and Barbara Streisand was a hoot in it. Honestly give it a try sometime.

I was going to do a list for my worst films of the year but thought I would just mention them instead. I think it is fair to say that ‘Identity Thief’ is the worst film I have seen this year followed closely by ‘This is 40’ the reason why they were bad was because they were meant to be comedies and they weren’t funny. Even the cute Paul Rudd didn’t save the film. Ridiculous violence and or saying ‘F***’ is not funny and that is all they did. Another 2 bad films I saw this year were ‘The Host’ which just had terrible dialogue and even worse acting and then there was ‘A Good Day To Die Hard’. You should be ok with a Die Hard film but this was dire. I got the impression Bruce Willis thought it was a good idea to do but half way through just got bored. Finally I want to mention ‘Despicable Me 2’. I just didn’t get it. Yeah the Minions are funny and cute but that is it. I am obviously missing something which in fairness is probably the first film. The films that I am looking forward to in 2014 are ‘The LEGO Movie’, ‘Noah’, ‘Interstellar’. ‘Everest’, ‘Maleficent’, ‘That Awkward Moment’ and ‘Into The Woods’.

Top 5 Live Acts/Productions

1) Once the Musical

2) Cats the Musical

3) The Lake Poets and Stanhope Silver Band

4) Mojo

5) The Sound of Music

As you can probably tell from my Top 5 live acts it has been a good year for the Theatre for me especially Musicals. At Number 1 it is ‘Once the Musical’. I saw this in the West End and it is a great show. Very understated but with beautiful music and great comedy.  I urge you all to go and see this show. At number 2 it was a life time ambition fulfilled to see ‘Cats the Musical’ on stage. I saw it at the Sunderland Empire Theatre during the summer. It is great that this musical has made a return. Plot wise it is odd but it has stunning effects and brilliant dancing and it is great British Musicals at its best.  At number 3 is my only concert I have been to this year. Just like last year it features The Lake Poets but this time it was part of the Brass Festival in Durham and the Lake Poets were joined on stage by the Stanhope Silver Band. It was a great concert and nice to have music connected with the history of Durham alongside future music highlights from the North East. As I mentioned in my resolutions I must got o more concerts this year. At number 4 is Mojo. I was lucky enough to get preview tickets for this for my trip to London. I had an amazing cast including Brendan Coyle, Colin Morgan, Daniel Mays. Rupert Grint and Ben Whishaw. It was a privilege to see such a group of talented actors all sharing the same stage. I am a huge fan of Ben Whishaw and even saw him before the performance going into the Theatre. I also got to mer Colin Morgan and Daniel Mays after the show. It is quite an odd play and I was expecting a serious play but in fact is a dark comedy but once I got used to this I enjoyed it. Finally at number 5 it is ‘The Sound of Music’. This was produced by Darlington Operatic Society who once again put on another great production. Some readers might be wondering why I have included the play I was in. Well I would have but because I was part of the show and not watching it didn’t fall into this category.

Top 5 Most Played Songs on my iPod

1) Glee Cast – You Have More Friends Than You Know

2) Lady GaGa – Applause

3) Pink – Just Give Me A Reason

4) Michael Buble – You’ve Got A Friend In Me

5) Tom Odell – Another Love

They usually say you can tell a lot about someone from the most played songs on their iPod. I played these songs a lot because I felt I could relate to them a lot this year. I think back in April I hit a real low and I have never been like this before. I have had bad times but April was a tough month and Glee’s version of ‘You Have More Friends Than You Know’ and ‘Michael Bubles ‘You’ve Got A Friend In Me’ were really comforting at this time. The others songs I just really enjoyed listening to.

Top 5 Personal Disappointments

1) Still Living At Home

2) Being single

3) Not going out and having fun

4) Letting things get to me.

5) Fitness

OK here are the areas of my life in 2013 which I was disappointed with. Worryingly they are very similar to the 2011 and 2012 lists. Still living at home is a personal disappointment as I am ready to move on. This has led to some low points for me this year so that is why is category red on my resolutions.  At number 2 it is that old classic ‘being single’. I know that if I was more outgoing and optimistic then my chances might improve. I also know that if it is going to happen it will and the true romantic in me (yes I’m a soppy romantic) still believes/hopes that my Mr.Right is out there. However I know I’m not living in a Richard Curtis or Disney film so need to get off my arse and start looking. This attitude also applies to number 3 which if I deal with this may even help with number 2. I just don’t go out really so this needs to change. Yes going out with mates is great but I understand they have lives too so I sometimes have to go out myself and have fun and meet new people. At number it is letting things get to me. I have included this on my resolutions as well. I am my own worst enemy and do let things get to me. I take things personally when they are not personal attacks. So I still need to relax and let things go over my head. Finally fitness. I did say in last years resolutions I was going to start a fitness hobby. I never did and I know in my self my general fitness could be better so I am going to maybe start running or look at some other exercise class.

Top 5 Personal Highlights

1) A Midsummer Night’s Dream

2) Promotion at work

3) Standing on a West End Stage

4) Being part of Darlington Community Carnival

5) Meeting Colin Morgan and Ben Whishaw

I think it is only right that I end this collection of lists with my personal highlights of the year.  It is pretty obvious the big highlight of the year for me was being involved in a production of ‘A Midsummer Nights Dream’.  I have wanted to get involved in some local theatre for a while and I finally did in 2013. I played the part go Egeus which was a great part. I was nervous to start with as I was with a bunch of really talented performers but because they were just the nicest people I had a blast and I was so sad when it ended. It would be great to do another one but I will wait and see what happens. At the end of the day I met some great people who made me laugh and grow in confidence. I don’t think I have stopped thanking them since it finished. It was the best time ever. At number 2 it is getting a promotion at work. It is only for half of the week and the rest I am still at my current Grade but it is great experience and I’m learning so much from it about me as a person. Hopefully I can continue to grow in the role in 2014. At number 3 is standing on a West End Stage. I wasn’t acting sadly but when I went to see Once the Musical the bar for the stall is on the stage and at the start the cast come on and sing and play instruments. It was great to just stand on the stage looking into the audience. I certainly got a taste for it. At number 4 it is taking part in Darlington Community Carnival. I took part with some of the cast from the play as we were performing that night and the following afternoon. I don’t know if we got more audience members because of it but it was good fun and that night there was a great buzz about during the show which might have been to do with this. Finally at number 5 it is meeting Colin Morgan and Ben Whishaw. I am a big fan of both actors and it was a pleasure to meet them both .

So there you have it, my year in lists. I have to tell you its been fun to do but also quite a lot of work to do to put all this together so thank you for taking the time to read it.

Thanks again for your continued support and I hope that my blog posts over the next 12 months are at least interesting most of the time. Last year I had over 6000 views to my blog which is incredible.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

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