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Social and Cultural Review 2015

It’s that most wonderful time of year again, Christmas is done, and for the last three years I have looked forward to writing down the fun stuff that has added a bit of magic to everyday of the year.

It has been a year of exploration; I guess it was always going to be, moving to a new country, a new job and a whole new set of experiences for us to consider as the both us started falling in love with our new home. Stan Lee in Spiderman  has Uncle Ben consider power, responsibility and change, this year I corrupted the quote for my own purposes,

“With great responsibility has to come great fun, or else the responsibility will breed contempt and commitment will be harder to maintain.”

At the time it felt better than work hard, play hard and a little less American management school as well!

In late January I set out into town with a couple of new friends, they wanted to show me my new town from a different perspective. The first Dublin wander was underway, a trip to great places to enjoy company, a pint and some fun, something that Dublin is famous for. This takes me to my first list of the 2015 review, my top five favourite places to eat drink and be merry in Dublin:

  • P. Macs – A cosy craft beer-house lit by candles, heated to perfection (You will know what I mean if you visit) and with a choice of beers unrivalled in the city, not to mention games and nostalgic crisp flavours!
  • Fallon and Byrne Cellar – Great fish stew and a wonderful choice of wine. Being recommended a wine at 11:30 that the staff described as a good ‘breakfast wine’ created a moment in history for me and a couple of friends in May.
  • O’Donoghue’s – My first visit here on a Sunday lunch time was in February, to me this felt like I was stepping straight into a film about Dublin, the band played on and the Guinness was spectacular.
  • Pichet – French style to perfection in Dublin city centre, relaxed and yet so elegant.
  • 37 Dawson’s Street – This places has become our go to venue, quirky, friendly, fun, warm, great music (always appreciative of the time of day) and simply put a great experience!

There could be so many more on the list though as we really have enjoyed exploring the city with every visitor that has come to Ireland, and there have been plenty in our first year, additional mentions have to go to Fade Street roof (if the sun is shining), The Long Hall (for authenticity), Whitefriar Grill (for something so very different) and I would be ostracised by the boys that visited in May if I didn’t mention the Temple Bar (for sheer staying power!).

As with years going back to 2002 I have collated my songs of the year, and again when I spend the time looking at how different my taste changes I am quite taken a back. In 2002 my top songs were rather miserable in theme, certainly dark and almost beat free. And yet here I am writing,

‘Disco music can be cool again,’

…who would have thought that would be possible in 2015! On one of my brothers visits he asked, ‘what’s with all the disco music?’ It made me realise that suddenly a take on 70s disco had made it back on to my iPOD. And this became one of the musical revelations this year for me that if you mix some decent old disco with a house beat then you can hear something quite cool. Think Glitterbox in sunny Ibiza or the very talented Dimitri from Paris or the Todd Terje edits on the Masters of the Universe mixes or Tensnake or Booka Shade or Sandy Rivera or Joey Negro the list could go on and on! All awesome shape throwing fun, whilst cooking dinner in the kitchen, I am over 40 after all!

So my top twenty songs of the year are:

  1. Johanna – Geoff Zanelli and Mark Ronson (Featuring Miles Kane)
  2. How Deep Is Your Love – Calvin Harris and the Disciples
  3. Touch – Bearcubs
  4. Diamonds – Josef Salavat
  5. Holding On – Julio Bashmore (Featuring Sam Dew)
  6. Her Mercy – Glen Hansard
  7. Coming Home – Leon Bridges
  8. Full Circle – George Fitzgerald (Featuring Boxed In)
  9. Liquid Spirit (Claptone Remix) – Gregory Porter
  10. Weathered – Jack Garratt
  11. Fall Like A Feather – Dan Owen
  12. From The Dark – Maya Jane Coles (Featuring Moggli)
  13. Highway 101 – Groove Armada
  14. Shake It Off – Ryan Adams
  15. Wasn’t Expecting That – Jamie Lawson
  16. New Day – Rudimental (Featuring Bobby Womack)
  17. Dancing In The Dark – Hot Chip
  18. Smile – Etienne de Crecy (Featuring Alex Gopher)
  19. London – Benjamin Clementine
  20. Rescue – Deetron (Featuring George Maple)
  21. Lean On – Major Lazer (Featuring Mo and DJ Snake)
  22. S.O.B. – Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats

So yet again I have to go over the allocated twenty songs (29 exist on the actual playlist)and I am quite struck in building the list this year by the influence of living in Ireland, more ‘pop’ music than ever before which I put down to listening to more commercial radio than I think I have ever before and a resurgence for the male singer songwriter for me, which again is so prevalent in Ireland through the story telling in the delivery of songs. One thing I do still thoroughly enjoy though is the excitement to hear new music, getting ready for Field Day, Forbidden Fruit and other big festivals and gigs is all part of the tradition of new music for me. In last year’s review I moved from simply listing my top ten gigs to top events which was a reflection I thought on growing older, well I’m still growing older so here are my events:

Weddings – Two of my closest friends made honest ladies of their partners, both weddings reaffirmed to me the importance of friendship. To be in a room full of people who mean so much to a couple, to have been chosen to share in that was quite a wonderful part of 2015. It didn’t matter if it was acting out scenes from Reservoir Dogs walking up the road or throwing shapes to a live version of Uptown Funk being with the best friends you could ask for was what mattered most.

Field Day – A sunshine day again, as always one of the first on to the field but with chance to get to know the site and play the village mentality games. Field Day, probably the best one day festival there is! Catching Jack Garratt, Jungle, Todd Terje and the Olsens and the Farnborough Concert Band were highlights as was catching up with a long lost friend for fun and silliness.

Once – One of my all-time favourite films came to Dublin as a stage show, and totally by accident we went on the night that the mighty Glen Hansard was there. The encore of the show saw him jump on stage and for what would turn out to be the third time we would see Glen perform The Auld Triangle. An embarrassing note for me on the night was to be star struck in the bar of the very lovely Olympian, not (just) at seeing Glen in the bar but at seeing the Love/Hate star Susan O’Loughlin, I did apologise via twitter the next day though! Phew!

Barcelona – A spare day alone in Barcelona on a trip, what better way to spend the lunch time than to head to Bodega 1900. In the El Raval district Bodega is one of the Adria Brothers Barcelona restaurants (the most famous is Tickets, literally across the road). I sat in beautiful sunshine and had the most exquisite tapas known to man, the Spherical Olive in particular will stay with me forever.

Greenhouse lunch – A reservation just for two to try out a new place for Saturday lunch, we were blown away, the service, the taste and the art of what was served, but mostly the company, proving time after time in Ireland that some of the best things to do are done in twos.

Powerscourt – On a recommendation we took the car to this quite amazing Wicklow County place, as you step through the main entrance the views simply blow you away, having returned in sunshine and grey days I can safely say the magic doesn’t decrease but there is always something special about the first visit.

Poolbeg Lighthouse – A cold and windy day so we decided to walk out to sea! Well not quite but taking the camera we walked the concrete path to Poolbeg Lighthouse in the middle of Dublin Bay. The Poolbeg towers have become almost a talisman of being in Dublin for us, I see them every day to and from work so to be the other side of them looking back to beautiful Dublin really put a different perspective on the landscape.

Aqua lunch – Another recommendation from so many people, it had to be followed up. A lovely coastal train ride round to Howth and wander down the peer and then the second best Oysters I have ever eaten, the first will never be beaten!

Ed Sheeran – As I said in the music review part of this blog, pop music has had a resurgence in my life in 2015. Getting old or commercial radio are to blame, and yet Ed Sheeran has always been part of my iPod library since his debut performance on Wayfaring Stranger on Jools Holland all those years ago. So to grab four tickets for the Crooke Park gig was exciting, I was worried for the chap beforehand, over eighty thousand people in a stadium to see a solo artist. I needn’t have worried, he was awesome, engaging and played his heart and soul out from start to finish, and there was Glen Hansard again and that Auld Triangle! To share it with new friends from Ireland also made it extra special too.

Forbidden Fruit – Ibiza ended up rained out this year, which was perhaps a reflection of our first Ireland festival too. We arrived in sunshine, we explored the site in sunshine, then the heavens opened for a good couple of hours. And yet that disco/house mix mentioned earlier kicked in and Booka Shade blew away the clouds and Tensnake promoted a dance routin from me that ended up on Facebook. A great (wet) day that we can’t wait to repeat!

Maybe it’s moving to a new place or trying to do too many things but books have shrunk in my life in 2015, and that is a huge regret. I guess we read so much for work and staying on top of social media when you have moved away seems suddenly more important, however I am going to fix that in 2016. So my top five books for 2015 are probably not going to be any kind of revelation to anyone else but;

  1. Ghosts in the Wires – Kevin Mitnick
  2. The Buried Giant – Kazuo Ishiguro
  3. Head Of State – Andrew Marr
  4. American Psycho – Bret Easton Ellis
  5. The Wolf in CIO’s Clothing – Tina Nunno

I enjoyed each of them and they are I think quite an eclectic mix that’s for sure.

I have explained before in previous reviews of the year that the experience of a film in our house is not the big cinema style so much, not sure why but it has not become something we do. This then results in my favourite films of the year being six months behind the rest of the world, top films though this year have to include Boyhood for the sheer cleverness of commitment to such a huge project and Birdman for something a bit different where the film actually does happen. Being able to watch those two films in the same year that I was persuaded to watch Locke and The Rover, both films that on paper looked great and yet very little happened, particularly Locke, which looked good from start to finish, but is clear proof that looking good isn’t enough for a film, particularly at home on the ‘small’ screen.

The war/conflict film still continues to be a huge draw for me with 71 and Fury and The Monument Men and American Sniper all entertaining from start to finish. Whilst I have loved all of the Marvel films to date I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy Ant-Man and then by 15 minutes in I was completely hooked, smashing stuff. So my top ten films of the year are:

  1. Boyhood
  2. Birdman
  3. Antman
  4. 71
  5. American Sniper
  6. The Theory of Everything
  7. Interstellar
  8. Selma
  9. Imitation Game

I’m going to save a spot on here for Star Wars, how can it not be in the top ten films!

The year review for me has always been about the social and cultural part of life, an indulgence I look forward to allowing myself on this blog site.

However the year has been such an exciting one from a work point of view forgive me two reflections that stand up as milestones for me. Firstly sharing a front page on an internet news outlet headline with Kim Kardashian and her Emojis was pretty cool in December, if not a little odd. There it was a photo of me and the next news panel was Kim and her new Emojis, enough to really make you check that the world was still spinning in the same direction!

And then the other was as much about the discovery as it was about the achievement, for Huffington Post to put me in the top social CIOs in the world was a fun honour, to find out via a retweet that mentioned me did place social media and twitter in particular in my mind as a giant leap forward for how we engage as leaders in technology, a part of my role I have thoroughly enjoyed this year.

So another year comes to an end, what will next year bring, I’m already looking forward to the Sunday Times list of artists to watch in 2016. With LCD Soundsystem releasing a Christmas song there is always a set of crossed fingers for some new stuff by them and a possible tour so I can tick them off my bucket list, although I think I may simply being hopeful.

Happy new year folks, here’s to the next one, slainte!

The year that was 2014…

Last year around this time I wrote my first blog piece that wasn’t related to work and being a CIO in the healthcare business.

I wrote it on a whim to reflect on all the great things that 2013 had brought, and boy 2013 had been a great year! 2014 has followed in a similar way, perhaps more change than I would have thought this time last year, I certainly did not think I would be sat in Ireland writing this that’s for sure but it has been a great year.

As with last year music remains a huge part of our lives. In 2014 the theme that started in 2013 continued with a much more cheerful outlook to the music that gets played the most. Since 2002 I have tried to create a playlist of my top twenty songs of the year, it used to be traditional for a group of us to ‘share’ these around but technology has moved us on, I am not sure what some people would do with a CD with 20 songs on if I gave it to them nowadays!

So here is my list instead:

  1. Love Sublime – Tensnake
  2. Luna – Bombay Bicycle Club
  3. Lessons – SOHN
  4. Pushing On – Oliver $ and Jimi Jules
  5. Do You Feel The Same? – Hercules and Love Affair
  6. They Told Me It Rained – Jamie T
  7. Walking With Elephants – Ten Walls
  8. Cavalier – James Vincent McMorrow
  9. Bang! – Sandy Rivera
  10. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson
  11. Unmissable – Gorgon City
  12. Doubt – Kele Okereke
  13. New Drop. New York – SBTRKT
  14. Magic – Coldplay
  15. Time – Jungle
  16. Hey Now (Bonobo Remix) – London Grammar
  17. Gimme Something Good – Ryan Adams
  18. First Fires – Bonobo
  19. Desire – Years and Years
  20. Hollow Ponds – Damon Albarn
  21. My Love – Route 94
  22. Crossing Borders – Booka Shade

So, its 22 rather than 20, I just couldn’t get it any lower this year, there has been so much new and different music available, I guess some of that is related to how easy it is to listen to new music and some of it relates to the impact of peoples tastes who you are around? So much of it reminds me now of the sunshine, some of it even comes from a prediction made as a comment on the 2013 version of this blog (Step up Alex T with the wise words on Gorgon City).

Yet again I feel I ‘could have done better’ with the book diary, there have been some gems in there though, both literary wonder and classic beach fodder! My top five books of the year are:

  1. The New Digital Age – Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen
  2. Turning 40 – Mike Gayle
  3. Us – David Nichols
  4. Humans – Matt Haig
  5. The Children Act – Ian McEwan

If I had to pick a top book though it would be Matt Haig’s, an absolutely brilliant ride of a book, half way social commentary, half way sci-fi half way comedy, surely its crying out for the film rights to be snapped up!

Also highly recommended for anyone who wants to try to understand what baseball is all about are two wonderful items; the first is a book simply called Baseball by George Vecsey, it puts the context, rules, excellence and addiction out there and allows you to begin to understand why Baseball is the sport it is, the second item is the film to Million Dollar Arm which is so entertaining and delivers a real insight into how Baseball is played in America, a great way to move on to films.

When it comes to films I still seem to be a wait for the Blue Ray kind of person it would seem, much to the irritation of my other half. So my top five films are all ones I have either seen on Blue Ray or on flights this year:

  1. Lone Survivor
  2. Guardians of the Galaxy
  3. The Conjuring
  4. Captain America – Winter Soldier
  5. X-Men – Days of Future Past

So my cinematic taste hasn’t grown up still. Last year I missed Gravity, Captain Phillips, Wolf of Wall Street and Dallas Buyers Club off the list all of which were amazing films but films mean something different to me than music, they seem to be so much more about the immediate gratification whereas I am so much more patient with music and its ability to get under your skin and grow with you. Both Lone Survivor and The Conjuring had me hiding behind my hands and yelling at the screen, for me what a film should do?!

In 2013 we travelled a great deal, when we look back on it now it was only a dint in the travel we did in 2014. For me two weekend breaks we took were something else, to be in Rome for my 40th birthday was extraordinary, wine tasting in a quite wonderful little back-water wine cellar with a small bunch of people was a special experience. The other weekend break was a late trip to Barcelona, a city I have always wanted to visit, and now would go back at the drop of a hat, we were very lucky, we went when it would be a little quieter so we could get around and yet the weather was mostly great. So much to see though, so many wonderful little places to eat and drink truly a great city to enjoy the ‘bar fly’ experience.

Our Easter trip to the states was quite a surprise too, both of us on a proper road trip taking in Boston, Princeton, Philadelphia, New York and Washington DC in ten days meant we got to experience so much of east coast USA. We were able to live out our West Wing fantasies at Foggy Bottom as well as see the quite extraordinary experience that is the NYC Easter bonnet parade, never have I seen so much effort go into the creation of a hat!

The most important trips though have to be the Ireland trips this year, arriving in August to be interviewed for what would become my dream job was quite a scary trip but one that re-affirmed that we both wanted it, house hunting Kirsty and Phil style was a couple of fun days too and got us to where we wanted to be for the next chapter in our lives.

The last list of ‘things’ for 2014 is the events, last year it was the gigs and theatre trips, this year it has to stretch to be the events a little more, I thought last year it was because I am getting too old for the gigs, and I still think this is probably the case, but also its becoming just as much fun to go to the speaking events and be part of these as it is to dance the night away at a gig:

  1. Moscow in March to speak at an international event on Business Intelligence was a great experience, particularly having never done the translated live thing before and seeing Red Square and the landmarks of Moscow up close and personal was quite the marvel.
  2. London in April at the House of Lords to celebrate the birthday of the Pharmacopoeia, meeting many of the Lords and Ladies, Professors and Doctors who make it possible to have a single point of reference for all clinical research, and to share that with a couple of colleagues was great fun.
  3. Barbarossa at the Cockpit as part of Live at Leeds 2014, one of the last acts on and someone we had seen before but to see him in such a small venue so close made you realise how unique his voice and music are and to share it with a friend who hadn’t been to that kind of thing before was great.
  4. Ocean Beach in Ibiza was to be a dream come true, a day out to enjoy the beats of Sandy Rivera, some sunshine and a Strawberry Daiquiri makes me smile from ear to ear even if the rain did change the atmosphere a little. I will always hear one song playing so perfectly as a memory of that great day!
  5. Tour De France in Yorkshire was probably an experience for a great many people this year. A big group of us camped at the official starting point, got to see royalty, and the Beckhams and lots and lots of bikes. To then ride some of that road a few hours after they had gone is something you can never take away.
  6. The Hill Valley Secret Cinema experience was a little fraught with technical hitches with our initial performance being cancelled, however when we did get there it was something that dreams are made of, being part of an iconic film set, able to be part of the film as you watch it and see Biff chase Marty around the town square really is a memory no one will forget anytime soon. Added to this was the ability to stand with a few thousand people and pay respects to the late great Robin Williams also made it that bit more special, ringing out the, to me, iconic words, ‘O captain! My captain!’ will hold a memory for me forever.
  7. Pharcyde live in Leeds, sometimes it’s the silly little things that shine through a year though. A gig with a bunch of friends, a spare room to stay in and a few beers to enjoy, made this gig stand out so very much, the fact that 20 years on the band are nearly as energetic still on stage and clearly there for the fun of it didn’t hurt either!
  8. The opportunity to be at the Roundhouse for the UK Healthcare IT award ceremony was great, we didn’t win but it was still a great few hours and again gave me the opportunity with a great many colleagues to pay respects to a great influencer on health care IT, Dr. Rick Jones from Leeds who passed away this year.
  9. A family trip to Cyprus to have the Moores gang together for a whole week and celebrate a big birthday of my father-in-law was an event rather than a trip, everything from mountain climbing to see the old monastery to cooking Pizza in the outside wood oven to an amazing fish super on the harbour made for a great visit, being able to dip in the pool and play Lego with my nieces made it all the more special.
  10. Bonobo at the Alexandra Palace is last on the list but what an amazing event, the venue, the band, the sound all came together to make it the best gig of the year!

So, that’s it, the end of 2014, and the leap into 2015! With several friends getting married in 2015, holidays in the calendar already, camping in Northumberland and the family traditions of Ibiza and Field Day to look forward to already I can’t wait to sit here and reflect on 2015 in twelve months’ time.

Thanks for reading….

Happy New Year!

The year that was (the social version)…

Please forgive me for dropping a more socially biased blog on to this site, I wanted to try to capture my thoughts on the year that was, the things that had an impact on me and how so much ‘media’ and ‘culture’ really does have an impact on who we are and what we do…

I’ve been with my partner in crime for two years, and our tastes in all things cultural were probably about 70% similar when we met, slowly but surely I am being converted, particularly to a different kind of music. I can reflect on that a great deal as I do what I have done every year since 2002 and collate my top 20 songs of the year:

  • Reflektor – Arcade Fire
  • What Doesn’t Kill You – Jake Bugg
  • Good Together – Chapel Club
  • Get Lucky – Daft Punk
  • Follow The Step – Rachel Row
  • Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High? – Arctic Monkeys
  • Late Night (Solomun Remix) – Foals
  • Human – Daughter
  • Man I Need – Jagwar Ma
  • Wishing Well – Barbarossa
  • My Desire (Dub) – Copyright
  • GMF – John Grant
  • Duet – Everything Everything
  • Need U (100%) (SkreamMix) – Duke Dumont
  • Fight Them Back – Steve Mason
  • Not Giving In (Bondax Remix) – Rudimental
  • White Noise (Hud-Mo Remix) – Disclosure
  • Carry Me – Bombay Bicycle Club
  • So Close – Kidnap Kid
  • Love Is Lost (James Murphy Remix) – David Bowie

So, gone is the miserable guitar music, hardly any Americana, and no Ryan Adams. In is a more cheery outlook, some beats and the word remix! My best friend thinks this is a great change, he once told me he didn’t ‘get’ my music because it was very ‘band based’. I have to say I have enjoyed discovering some new music this year and turning that misconception of mine that the majority of music with beats could also double as a car alarm!

One thing that hasn’t changed though is my love of the ‘Comic Book Film’, and whether they came out this year or not watching and re-watching The Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, Superman, Batman and Spiderman still makes me feel like a kid and is something I can now ‘share’ with my partner in crime, I’m not sure she always wants to have these shared at her though but…

My favourite new films of the year though have to be,

  • Now You See Me
  • Django Unchained
  • Zero Dark Thirty
  • Before Midnight
  • Iron Man 3

Not quite cinematic masterpieces I am sure and I haven’t seen Gravity or Captain Phillips yet so they didn’t make it on here!

The book diary is nowhere near as full as I wanted it to be at the start of 2013, I set a target of a book a month, which I hit, but I had hoped for a few more and I seem to have read books about work more this year than ever before. Top two recommendations from me are:

The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: A wonderful American novel delivering a warm story of coming of age no matter where you are from.

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver: Gave me more food for thought and analogies than any other book I have ever read, I wasn’t sure if it was a book that I would apply to work or not, but I did!

When it comes to going out and visiting new places 2013 certainly did that for me, so my top few destinations are below, they are not all new destinations for me but sharing the experiences with new people in some cases has made the destination that bit even more special:

  • Café Mambo – San Antonio, Ibiza (In May before it gets too busy)
  • MIT – Boston, Massachusetts, USA (Flying solo for an afternoon in October)
  • Borough Market – London, UK (On a cold February Sunday morning)
  • Angelica at Trinity – Leeds, UK (On the balcony in August)
  • Elixier – Cala Codolar, Ibiza (Perfect venue for a party in August)
  • 230 5th – NYC, USA (Accidental attendance at the party of the year (in August))

And if I am honest Café Mambo should be on there again, because returning in August with a bunch of friends and seeing their faces as it went from relatively quiet to ‘THE’ place to be for the evening was a wonderful experience.

Your interest in things matures and evolves I guess, I thought I would give most things a go (although still not Oysters!) but giving Ceviche a go was a marvel, now I am looking for it on every menu wherever we visit!

Last on the lists is the live music and theatre experiences, there have been less this year than in years gone by, either I am getting old or enjoying being home a little too much but the top gigs have to be:

  • Bloc Party at Earls Court
  • DJ Solomun at Café Mambo
  • The Number Ninja (Stand-up Mathematician)  at UoL
  • Dan Michaelson and the Coastguards at The Old St. Pancras Church
  • Sam Smith at Trinity Church Leeds
  • Comedy of Errors (Sprite Production) at Ripley Castle

All in all a great year, in fact the best year, I am excited about 2014, already plenty of plans, some to simply do what we did last year and some new experiences to have……

Happy new year everyone.