Cam’s Best of 2020

Well, no-one can deny it’s been a funny old year. Lots of people and ‘The Guardian’ repeatedly assure me that we’ll all have learned something from it: the value of little things; the joys of local travel; an appreciation of family; how little we actually need etc etc.

Well, no, not for me. I want the old way back and soonish. I want to jet off to the sun, and see art in foreign places. I want to eat out often with my lovely friends. I want to go to the cinema with Dr Scott. I want to touch things in shops and try them on. Most of all, I want to chuck these f*****g masks away so I can actually see through my specs again, before I fall down a flight of stairs (no, demisting wipes do not work). 

That said, I am aware that this has been a truly horrible time for some people and I do genuinely feel lucky. Mr F and I have got along fine, even with him working from home; we have nice food to eat and Netflix and a new joint hobby – drinking sherry. My ukulele is coming along just fine – at the current trajectory I will be ready to perform in public in about 2043, though I expect to be dead well before that. I have read more than I have since I was a student. My book is coming along towards completion – the ideal 2021 Christmas present for you, your family, your friends and oh, really just anybody. And I have been cheered up by many, many friends even if my FaceTime signal so often freezes; why does it always freeze when my mouth is open? (Yes, yes, I see the answer…..).

Anyway, there have been many points of light, so I thought I would share my favourite things of 2020, in no particular order:

My favourite novel of 2020 was ‘The Mission House’ by Cerys Davies: short, powerful and wholly absorbing. I was so taken with it that I wrote Cerys a letter, the first fan letter I have written to an author since I wrote to Agatha Christie when I was 12. Well, Agatha replied…..(little sad face)

However, an honourable mention to Suzanne Berne for a novel from some years back which I have just read, called ‘A Crime in the Neighbourhood’.

My favourite non-fiction book – also not brand new – was the late Kenneth Roy’s ‘The Broken Journey’, about Scotland from 1976 to 1999; this was the follow up to his equally excellent ‘The Invisible Spirit’ which covered the period from 1945 to 1975. I detected a lighter, more humorous note in the later book, though it may just be that Scotland was particularly amusing in the ‘90’s.

Eating has been an enhanced pleasure this year. My favourite meal of the year  was at Host in Copenhagen, though that may have been partly because one had to be in Copenhagen to eat there. Dear, mind. We have had lots of carry-outs, and a few sit in lunches at The Macau Kitchen, where Kei carries on producing absolutely delicious food. I have never eaten a disappointing mouthful there. I also continue to love The Spitaki – completely authentic Greek food, and Noto – really interesting, and Osso in Peebles, which is currently as far away as Copenhagen in practice, and where I always want to eat every single thing on the menu. I have discovered, having lived here for thirty years, that the best bacon roll in the area is not at one of the many expensive and currently crammed coffee houses on the Prom, but at Popeye’s on the High Street (and it’s £2.40, you prom goers): these are the bacon rolls my father cooked for me in the late 60’s when we came back from the swimming pool on a Sunday, where we had gone to avoid Sunday School.

Two food products, both available in Waitrose – KRI KRI My Authentic Greek Yoghurt – it’s only 10% fat and is sublime. Also the entire range of pickles and fermented goods produced by Vadasz: kimchi; sauerkraut and dill pickles, these latter being the best I have ever tasted. I believe that the combination of the yoghurt and the pickles, accompanied by a nice amontillado, prevents COVID and I have therefore repeatedly injected myself with it.

Television has been essential, of course. I mean I like to go for a little walk, but come on, you know, life is short. We’ve watched a lot of great things, some of them already well praised and well documented – ‘Years and Years’, ‘Sex Education’, ‘Killing Eve’, ‘The Crown’, ‘Line of Duty’ (Jed Mercurio is a genius, I think) and ‘The Queen’s Gambit’. One less acknowledged, truly brilliant short series that resonated for ages was ‘The White House Farm Murders’ with the beautiful Freddie Fox playing Jeremy Bamber. My goodness. 

With cinemas closed, and most films watched on a small screen, it’s maybe not surprising that it’s been a so so year in that regard, but the documentary ‘Boys’ State’ on Amazon Prime, reminded me of how wonderful young people are, and how awful. And how young.

I am of course getting old, which means that a great muchness of the Top 50 albums selected by any newspaper simply sound like industrial machinery to me. That said, my favourite album (which I think may actually have been released in 2019) was Lana Del Rey’s ‘Norman F*****g Rockwell’. She is so clever lyrically, and the mood is oceanic. I have also discovered Gregory Alan Isakov. My favourite track of the year is Courtney Marie Andrews’ rendition of ‘Downtown Train’ from the album ‘Come On Up to the House’, which consists of lots of female acts singing Tom Waits songs. I should acknowledge that my very great friend and former pupil Tom Smith gave me both that album and the Lana Del Rey, so thank you, Tommy!

My favourite tool, during the many happy hours in the garden was my Japanese hoe, which I got from Objects of Use in Oxford. My favourite new shop was Edinburgh Mercantile in Stockbridge, a most interestingly curated collection. I bought pictures by three different artists from the Arusha Gallery, and I am pleased by them all, but particularly by a glorious colourful….sort of abstract…by Jacob Littlejohn which cheers me up every day. I also enjoyed playing with the scent collection from Maison Margiela where for £30, you get samples of ten scents (each of which you can stretch out to a week) which are meant to summon up a place or an experience – the one I like best is called ‘At the Barber’s’; Mr F favours ‘Jazz Club’. He is younger, of course.

It’s a lovely day in Portobello today; next week looks like heavy rain. But hey, there are books and boxsets and pickles and smells. Spring will come.


1 Comment

  1. And I would like to think that MY favourite book of 2021 will be the one written by your good self.

    Happy New Year to Kevin and you and all the very best to you both for 2021. It just has to be better ………

    Sent from Mail for Windows 10


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