Some good stuff from 2018

In many ways it’s been a horrible year. The slow car crash of British politics, the gradual uncovering of how badly the tech sector has misjudged ethics and privacy concerns, the growing evidence that climate change is worse than we thought and the ongoing disaster in the White House have made for a year of depressing news. I hope all those things get better in 2019, but as it’s New Year’s Eve I thought I’d go through a few personal good things from 2018.

Food and drink

My favourite meal was in a small neighbourhood noodle and dumpling place in Hong Kong. I’d had a cold that I couldn’t shake off for a couple of weeks and their soupier version of dan dan noodles cured me.


I read 30 books this year, not quite a book a week yet but not too bad. They ranged from the future of food to the history of grime music, taking in scandal in Silicon Valley and ultra running along the way. I think my favourite five were:

If I had to choose one, I’d say Nervous States. It’s bleak about the causes of Brexit and Trump but it’s the most sophisticated analysis I’ve read — and the fact that we’re starting to understand what’s happened a little better gives me hope that we can eventually sort things out.


I don’t feel like I’ve watched anywhere near as many films this year. One that sticks in the mind though is my friend Tim Wardle’s Three Identical Strangers — an amazing story, brilliantly told. The other isn’t really a film — it’s a Netflix recording of a comedy show… sort of. Nanette defies all categorisation but is fantastic.


I’ve been to Italy, France, the Netherlands, Finland, Portugal the USA, China, Hong Kong and Singapore in 2018. I feel incredibly lucky to get to travel with work and agree with Michael Skapinker’s piece about business travel — it’s a privilege not a chore. The stand out experiences weren’t business though, they were backpacking around China by train and particularly visiting Chengdu and Xi’an — incredible food and the Terracotta Warriors are staggering.


My favourite gadget of the year has been my Garmin Forerunner 235 watch. It’s genuinely got me doing more exercise and paired up with Strava and Run an Empire, makes running a lot more fun.

Documentary of the week — Tickled

It’s pretty difficult to write about Tickled without giving too much away but if you want good documentary story-telling about something you probably know nothing about, then you should definitely watch it.

The story starts with New Zealand journalist David Farrier innocently finding a Youtube video and Facebook page for ‘endurance tickling competitions’ that involve contestants travelling expenses paid to America for trials. He thought it would make a good ‘and finally…’ type story so got in touch with the organisers to ask for an interview. Their response threatening legal action if he pursued the story took him by surprise though and got him wondering whether something more worrying was going on.

The film has hints of Louis Theroux but ultimately the story is even more sinister than that and has a stronger narrative as the team uncover what’s really going on and who’s behind it. It’s not just an ‘aren’t people weird’ piece— the team break a real story.

It’s a fantastic documentary and very brave journalism put together in a situation when a group of people really don’t want the outside world to find out what’s going on. Highly recommended.

My favourite films of 2014

Thinking back over the year, I went to the cinema very rarely in 2014. I think I was much more choosy based on reviews or recommendations and hence most of the films I saw I really liked. Aside from the cinema, most films I watched were older releases on Amazon Prime or Netflix — I don’t think I used the iTunes store for movies at all. Recently I found myself buying DVDs of classics that weren’t available on streaming services for a few quid on Amazon and watching them when they came in the post the day after. But my favourite new releases were:

  • Boyhood — partly just for the challenge of filming something with the same cast over 12 years. I love projects like that. But it’s a great movie too.
  • The Wind Rises — Miyazaki’s final movie is dark and has no easy answers but is beautiful nonetheless.
  • Her — Some of the science fiction is a bit predictable but the aesthetic of near future technology was really interesting.
  • 20,000 Days on Earth — a great meditation on ageing and the creative process with Nick Cave playing himself.
  • The Lego Movie — actually watched this on a plane, but it’s still great on a tiny screen. Awesome you might say.