Sunday, 29 December 2013

Goodbye 2013

2013 is almost over and it has become a tradition to dust off an old meme that summarises the previous year.

Please feel free to steal it yourself. I won’t tell if you don’t.

As usual, this is quite a long post so just in case you get bored, I will wish you all a Happy New Year right at the start, and I hope that 2014 brings all of your dreams to fruition.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

1. What did you do in 2013 that you'd never done before?

I fulfilled a travel ambition this year. I finally visited a country that I have always wanted to visit: Japan.

I am currently part way through a travelogue on my experiences there – and believe me there are a lot of them. I plan to sum them up in a series of posts in the coming months.

All I can say is that I absolutely loved the place – so much so that we plan to return in a few years’ time.

As well as visiting Japan, I also visited two new countries. Mrs PM and I visited Budapest in Hungary for a long weekend and I enjoyed three trips to Muscat in Oman (when I say “enjoyed” I mean that I endured the work aspect but enjoyed the rest).

Here are some snaps from Japan:

Busiest crossing in Tokyo

An attempt to fry my brain at the Robot Restaurant

The Japanese Plastic Mancunian

Mount Fuji

Half a bullet train

Thousands of torii in Kyoto

2. Did you keep your New Years' resolutions, and will you make more for next year?

Yes and no. Here are last year’s resolutions:

(a) At least TRY to write that elusive book.

I was going to try writing a novel in November but work commitments made that impossible. 

However I am writing a travelogue for Japan and have produced another “volume” of blog posts from this very blog. I am now up to five volumes and producing volume six as I type. 

Next year? I hope to complete the travelogue and, work permitting, have another go at writing a novel in November. 

(b) Learn Spanish to the point where I can talk to Spaniards without a dictionary.

My Spanish has improved a fair amount and I am thinking about actually enrolling in a proper course. I can vaguely understand some written Spanish and need to keep plugging away. I am enjoying it.

(c) Cycle to work at least twice a week (when the weather improves).

I have failed miserably on this promise but I did dig out the bike for a couple of trips around the local area. This is something I simply must do this year.

(d) And this year? 

I will attempt to strengthen the three resolutions above but I have another planned that I will reveal in future posts if I succeed. Watch this space.

3. How will you be spending New Year's Eve?

We will be heading for this pub in West Didsbury:

The Metropolitan

4. Did anyone close to you die?

Thankfully nobody close died this year.

5. What countries did you visit?

I visited Spain, Oman, Hong Kong, Japan, Hungary and Turkey.

6. What would you like to have in 2014 that you lacked in 2013?

I have kind of identified something but I don’t really want to reveal it on this blog – just yet anyway. That’s part of my secret resolution.

Of course, I still want to defeat the lingering stubborn procrastination that haunts me continually as well as somehow managing to correctly predict the winning lottery numbers.

Usual stuff really.

7. What date from 2013 will remain etched upon your memory, and why?

No single dates stand out this year.

8. What was your biggest achievement of the year?

Visiting Japan without a doubt. I have wanted to travel there since I started exploring the planet and I finally made it. 

9. What was your biggest failure?

Failing to ride a bike to work.

10. Did you suffer illness or injury?

I suffered quite a nasty cold last month that lasted for about three weeks. For some reason I couldn’t shake the bloody thing. I wasn’t the only one though. It travelled around my workplace like wildfire and we had a month or so of constant coughing and sneezing.

11. What was the best thing you bought?

Being a geek I wanted a tablet – even though I didn’t really need one. Rather than splashing out on an iPad, I opted for a Nexus 7, smaller and more compact. 

However, I find now that I can’t really live without it. It was a constant companion on my travels, acting as an entertainment device in Oman allowing me to watch movies in my hotel room after a long days’ work as well as providing me with a portable phrase book and guide book in Japan.

I would recommend one as a lightweight portable computer, book and media device, particularly if you travel a lot.

12. Where did most of your money go?

My kids tend to demand money and so does the house. Nothing changed in that respect in 2013.

13. What song will always remind you of 2013?

2013 was a fantastic year for music and once again I bought a fist full of wonderful CDs. Here are my favourite songs from my top five albums of the year.

I regard Joe Satriani as the greatest guitar player in the world and each album release is a major event for me. His new album is, as usual, a superb collection of songs. This particular one is a classic driving song and all I can think of when listening to it is driving across America in a convertible on a beautiful sunny day with the wind running through my hair and a huge grin on my face. If you like good classic feelgood rock songs, follow the link.

I saw the Black Spiders a couple of years ago, supporting Airbourne and from the first notes of the first song I loved them. They play no nonsense hard rock music that is extremely catchy. I have seen them twice as a support act and both times they have challenged their hosts. Balls is from their second album and I expect great things from them in years to come. 

Follow the link if you like good driving catchy hard rock.

Dream Theater are masters of progressive metal and their albums feature songs that are typically over ten minutes long and are genuine masterpieces. Their new album is the usual high standard and while it features mostly shorter songs (of the order of six minutes) there is an opus that is 22 minutes long. Fear not – the link takes you to a song that is just over six minutes. If you like heavy progressive metal then follow the link.

Trent Reznor is an Oscar winning genius. He won an Oscar for the soundtrack to the film “The Social Network” and, thankfully, this year he has returned to doing what he does best – Nine Inch Nails – electronic music with a dark edge. Hesitation Marks is a triumph and in the month or two since I have had it, it has barely left my playlist. I have been witnessed driving my car listening to this song bopping away in the front seat and singing loudly without a care about who else sees me and laughs.

If you like electronic music with a hint of rock guitar then follow the link.

The album of the year is a progressive masterpiece from Steven Wilson and this is the best song on the album. It is a truly sad song about a man who lost his wife in a car accident and is so totally tormented with guilt that he cannot get over his wife’s death. The theme of the album is ghosts and in this case, the man’s dead wife intervenes from beyond the grave. The song is simply beautiful and brings a tear to my eye each time I hear it. If you follow the link, you will not only hear a truly emotional song but also see a very poignant accompanying video. The song is right up there with my favourites of all time.

14. What do you wish you'd done more of?

I wish I’d written more blog posts. This year I have averaged a post a week and as far as the blog is concerned it has been my least productive year so far. I will try to change that next year. 

15. What do you wish you'd done less of?

I wish I had wasted less time doing mundane boring things. I really should make more of an effort sometimes.

16. What was your favourite TV program?

Once again, TV has been great this year. Here are a few to mention:

The Walking Dead, Dexter, True Blood, Game of Thrones, 
Falling Skies, Warehouse 13, Revolution, The Tunnel, The Following, Sleepy Hollow, Under the Dome and many more.

A special mention has to go to the 50th anniversary of Dr Who and the demise of Matt Smith as the Doctor on Christmas Day. Two absolutely brilliant episodes.

17. Do you hate anyone now that you didn't hate this time last year?

There are people who have annoyed me, sure – but “hate” is too strong a word.

18. What was the best book you read?

I’m going to name two books, one the sequel to the other:

Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I look forward to reading two more sequels this year.

I just have to say, though, that I am quite sad at the passing of Iain Banks. I love his science fiction novels.

19. What was your greatest musical discovery?

No new bands have crossed my radar this year.

20. What was your favourite film of this year?

I enjoyed Man of Steel and World War Z but my favourite movie was Star Trek: Into Darkness.

Well what do you expect from a closet Trekker?

21. What did you do on your birthday?

Nothing special. I went to work and then had a nice meal with Mrs PM.

22. What kept you sane?

I’ve had an extremely busy year at work but, as usual, I haven’t actually allowed it to get the better of me. I would once again like to thank the usual suspects: Mrs PM, blogging, beer, food, music and travelling to Japan for de-stressing me.

23. Who did you miss?

Nobody leaps to mind.

24. Who was the most interesting new person you met?

Probably the drunk Japanese gentleman who bought Mrs PM and I, what he regarded as the best piece of sushi in Kyoto. He spoke no English and we spoke no Japanese so communication was fun. He tried to persuade us to go on a bar crawl around his city but we had a bullet train to catch. 

25. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2013.

It is almost impossible to take a photograph of a Japanese Bullet Train roaring full speed through a station.


DrB said...

Sounds like a good year Mr PM. Looking forward to your Japan travelogue. I am hoping to travel there next year.

Elephant's Child said...

Such a comprehensive post. Happy New Year to you and Mrs PM. May it be full of happy travels.
I am intrigued by your secret resolution too.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi DrB,

Lucky you. I'm already looking forward to my next trip.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

Happy New Year to you, your family and your cats.




Jackie K said...

Sounds like a pretty good year, PM. I'm jealous of your Japan trip - I've always wanted to go there! Great photos.
As usual I was not familiar with any of the songs you mentioned, though I like the first and last ones :)

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Jackie,

Japan's worth a visit - definitely.




MaxGXL Seller said...

Happy New Year, Mr PM! Great to know of the exciting events in the past year... love the Japan travel part, I envy you in this one! :) Cheers!

Pandora Behr said...

Seems we're at the same place with the novel - we will prevail.

And Japan - oh, I so want to go to Japan.

have a great 2014.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Pand,

Let's hope we both prevail.

Happy 2014 to you to.




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Rich Red,

Japan was fantastic.

You should go.




Chrissy Brand said...

Wow, gr8 Q&Q, I shall investigate them further (love Dream Theater and steven Wilson). And Japan is one place I would love to revisit- Happy New Year PM!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Chrissy,

Belated HNY to you to.