The Late, Late 2014 Post

by Steve

Sunrise over Erith

It might be 2015 already, but for the sake of completism or something along those lines I figured I’d round-up the year just gone. 2014 was on a personal level the best year yet, but this isn’t the place for me to go on about that (I like retaining some degree of privacy, for all manner of reasons which would probably make a fun post, but of course is one I could never write, or at least publish for those very reasons, but I digress). However, it feels like this is the place for a quick and really incomplete run-down of all the stuff I enjoyed in 2014.

Non-fiction books

Cubed: A Secret History of the Workplace by Nikil Saval was just outstanding. It is, on the surface, a potted history of the office. However, through the prism of the workplace it covers issues of class and gender, shows how architecture and interior design can shape our lives and illustrates the influence of the workplace on popular culture, and vice versa. We spend half our lives working, and this book provides a whole lot of insight into the hows and whys of work, and how and why things could be so much better.

Brew Brittania by Jessica Boak and Ray Bailey provided just as much insight into the modern world, through a history of beer in Britain from the 1960s to the present day. If you are any way interested in beer, or pubs, then this is a must-read. If you’re interested in how small groups of organised and passionate individuals can change an industry and indeed the culture of a country, then it is a must-read too. Or if you just want to better understand the mentality of a certain kind of British person, well, you get the idea. The book is full of great characters, fascinating anecdotes and left me with a feeling that British drinkers perhaps have never had it so good.

Fiction books

Vulgar Things by Lee Rourke has stayed with me long after reading it. Such a clever book, but one that wears its cleverness lightly, the themes explored and the way it is written have really made me rethink how modern literature can properly articulate modern life. I wrote about it properly here.

Let Me Be Frank With You by Richard Ford is the latest in his line of Frank Bascombe books and reading it felt a little like putting on a comfortable old shirt. Nobody today writes as beautifully as Ford, and he showed another path to writing about life today without falling into cliché or faddism.

Both books felt episodic and just a little rambling, albeit in different ways, and that is what life to me feels like so these two really resonated far more than anything else I read.

Music

Such an odd year for music for me. I know this isn’t a unique situation, but the Spotify-ication of my listening habits meant it felt like I listened to everything and nothing. I listened to an album once, maybe twice, maybe just half of it, here and there, in-between doing other things. It was far too easy to move on to the next thing rather than just live with an album for a while. Everything was available, and little was appreciated. The death of record stores meant I hardly bought anything either.

I did like the latest Spoon album, They Want My Soul, that seemed to blend their super-sharp songwriting and playing with some neat sonic flourishes. Sharon Van Etten’s Are We There got a fair few plays too.

Perhaps my favourite album was a really short one, Ryan Adams’ 1984. It harked back to the hardcore and indie rock of that year, but seemed to transcend mere pastiche, as Adams can really write a tune when he wants to, and it sounded like the most fun he has had on a record in a long while.

And finally, Taylor Swift was the person who stood up against Spotify. Where are the bands and artists making a stand on anything these days? Taylor Swift showed many an outspoken or principled act up. It might be easier for her to take that gamble, but she still took it. Plus, she wrote the song of the year.

Beer

I’m hopeless at logging individual beers I drink as I’m too busy drinking them, but I think it is safe to say anything from Magic Rock, Kernel or the Wild Beer Company were worth trying and were generally excellent. I was given a Beerbods subscription as a gift and am now entirely sold on the concept of trying and discussing a new beer each week over Twitter. It is a fun concept and a great way to try something new on a regular basis. Micropubs have been springing up locally, have been very welcome, and I plan to write more on them this year. Plus a new brewery opened up pretty near to me, the first in the area in over 50 years. Again, more on that on here in the near future.

Television

I watched a lot of terrible television in 2014 and I’m not ashamed of it. I think TV became my switch-off-from-the-day-to-day option. If I want to be made to think, I’ll read a book. When I want a brain-break then give me some terrible game show, or easy-going long-running comedy series, or any kind of sport. I seem to be reacting against the whole box set thing, but then again, I don’t think I have the time to spend on them.

So…there you have it. My very incomplete review of stuff from 2014. It was good to get it out my system, eventually.

Image from me. I couldn’t really find an appropriate image, so I figured I’d just stick up a photo from my phone, from 2014. I think I took too many photos of sunrises in 2014, so I guess there is that.

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