Yes, there’s always the unexpected, isn’t there?

 – Major Warden, The Bridge on the River Kwai


In February a friend came to visit. I hadn’t seen him in a while. As we caught up over drinks he asked what we were listening to. That’s the Brandenburg Concertos, I told him. To emphasize my sophistication I also told him I was really getting into classical music.

It is December and, by far, the artist I’ve listened to the most is Taylor Swift. I have a perfectly good explanation for this, but there it is. Pete proposes, Pandemic disposes.

This year, man. As quoth Dr J, “its style is capable of great improvements.” But there were some improvements, which you perhaps overlooked, so I will direct your attention to them now.



The new Berlin airport opened. I became fascinated by this years ago. To describe its construction as a total mess would be to gloss over the unpleasant reality. I listened to this very interesting podcast about it, and by the end was convinced they’d have to tear it down and start over. But whaddaya know, it’s now open.


A Girl Called Eddy

Back in 2004 I had her debut on heavy rotation. I’d keep checking every few years to see if she was working on anything new. There was word of a second album, but not ever much more than that. And then lo! it appeared. I like it, though I’m not quite sure it merits the lengthy delay. (I’m not saying she had to go all Please Please Me, but neither should one’s timetable be Chinese Democracy.) Here’s the song she wrote with Paul Williams, who wrote “Rainy Days and Mondays” and “Rainbow Connection.”


American Exceptionalism

Janan Ganesh, a Financial Times columnist, recently wrote something that shocked me. He said that America is “a culture that tends to underrate how polite it is by world standards.” I was like: the world is in worse shape than I’d thought.

Given the state of the world, this year I sought solace in rock bios. I was reading Russell Senior’s – he was, you will recall, the guitarist/violinist for Pulp – and he said of Americans, “I’ve realised that they are really the friendliest people in the world.”

So there’s that. And it’s not nothing, right?

And on that note, Gentle Reader, I’ll close for the year. I shall do so with the sign-off of an email one of my former students sent me in October. Unlike 2020, it is unimprovable: “I hope you’re having a productive time and enjoying life.”