A few things I particularly liked in 2013

Thank you for coming to my award ceremony for Things I Particularly Liked in 2013. Please help yourself to a drink and make yourself comfortable. You’ll note that we are serving craft beer at these awards. Craft beer is one of the things I particularly liked in 2013.

It takes some getting used to, but craft beer is great because the strong hops flavour makes it easier to stop drinking and move on to dessert. It’s about taste rather than quantity. If New Zealanders continue to embrace craft beer the way we have in 2013 it can only be good for our drinking culture.

Opening the award ceremony is my pick for some music that I particularly liked in 2013, which is Lorde. Not being a pop music guy, it took me a while to catch up with Lorde but now I’m totally sold.

Lorde is the anti-Cyrus. She’s a teen star who is defined by her artistry, as opposed to Miley Cyrus who in 2013 tried to define herself by doing silly wiggly things with her bottom. Self-touchy nakedness does not make you a better singer. Fully clothed Lorde has 100% more class and her album of minimalist songs plays regularly in our house.

Let’s move on to some of the books I’ve particularly liked in 2013. I’m not up to date with the latest novels so sadly The Luminaries will not feature this year, but high fives all round for Eleanor Catton anyway.

A book that particularly grabbed me this year is A Fort of Nine Towers by Qais Akbar Omar, a memoir about a boy growing up in Afghanistan. When I was a teen my biggest problems were failing my driver’s licence test and not having a girlfriend, whereas Omar’s main concern was trying to avoid being killed or tortured by various warring Afghan factions. Despite the hardship, his dignity and humanity shine through. It’s a book I strongly recommend.

The best novel I read this year is one from 2008 called The Other Hand by Chris Cleave. (Confusingly it is also known as Little Bee.) This is a book that describes someone whispering in a language “that sounded like butterflies drowning in honey.” I loved it so much I immediately bought copies for Christmas presents.

I found both of the above books at the Tauranga Library, since you’re asking.

Some television I particularly liked watching in 2013 was neither NZ’s Got Talent nor X-Factor NZ. It was actually old episodes of The West Wing that my wife and I have been working through on DVD. The West Wing always makes me feel super intelligent even if I don’t have a clue what’s going on, which I usually don’t, but it never seems to matter.

Another thing I particularly liked in 2013 was the art that Owen Dippie did on city buildings around Tauranga. Every time I drive past his giant rendition of The Girl With The Pearl Earring on Cameron Road I feel a warm glow of gratitude for people who support public art. More please, Owen.

And now for something completely different: Twitter. I’m several years late to the tweeting party but Twitter became one of my favourite things in 2013. It was intimidating at first but I’ve learned to use Twitter as a portal of links to articles and discussions that I would otherwise never discover on my own.

It’s entertaining too, like when Wellington City Council had an argument with a street puddle. Such is the peculiar twitterverse, where even a puddle can have its own Twitter account.

On a personal note, 2013 was the year my kids got taller (again), I ran my first marathon (off road, thank you very much) and I got up extra early most mornings to write things like this column before going to my day job. It’s been a very busy year and I’m going to lie down for a bit now. See you next week, in 2014.


First published in Bay of Plenty Times 27 December 2013. Reproduced with permission.