Friday, 28 December 2012

2012 Review

Well the end of 2012 is almost nigh.  It's usually nice to look back over some of the highlights of the year and ponder what there is to look forward to in the coming year.

I'm going to go through a few of my highlights of the year and then review my New Year's Resolutions I set myself in January.  I'll do another blog in the first week of January to do a bit of a 2013 preview.

A personal highlight of mine was finally running the London Marathon in April.  You can read about that in more detail by checking out the post-run blog post.  It had been an ambition of mine for over 20 years and the feeling of achievement as I crossed the line was incredible.

Mile 25

In May, we flew out to Krakow for the wedding of some friends of ours.  The entire day was wonderful and we had a great time.  I'd never been to Poland before but had an amazing time.  We'd managed to rent an apartment right on the Old Town Square and saw so much of the city in just a week.  I also did a day trip to Auschwitz which was an incredible but very sobering experience.  If you're looking for a city break holiday, I'd definitely recommend Krakow.

Saint Mary's in Krakow

I managed to see some incredible gigs in 2012 and picking the best isn't easy.  One of many highlights was the Watch The Throne tour in Manchester over the summer.  To see two of the world's biggest music stars in Jay-Z and Kanye West together on stage for over two and a half hours was incredible!  Watching Pulp play a home town arena show to over 12,000 fans was also pretty special and a great way to round off the year!

Jarvis on stage

The end of the 2011/12 football season was also something to celebrate (for once).  I was at Hillsborough to watch Sheffield Wednesday beat Wycombe to confirm promotion back to the Championship, ultimately at the expense of city rivals United.  Whilst the current season is a bit unpredictable (to be diplomatic), the wild celebrations at the end of the season was incredible.

Some people are on the pitch...

It wouldn't be right to review 2012 without mentioning the Olympic and Paralympic Games and I was incredibly fortunate to get tickets to see events at both.  I took my dad to see Olympic football at Old Trafford, my wife and daughter to see tennis at Wimbledon as well as taking in Handball at the Copperbox and Volleyball at Earl's Court.  It was incredible to see the wave of support our athletes had.  Whilst the summer gave us a lot of memorable moments, I personally won't forget the drive back from Legoland to Sheffield, to get home just in time to see Jessica Ennis in her final event.  Watching her cross the line and win gold was my moment of the Games.

Inside the Copperbox

Olympic Stadium for the Paralympics

Watching the Olympic torch go past the end of our road (and the incredible number of people that turned out to see it) really got me hooked on the Olympic spirit, and getting to hold one of the torches later that summer was an amazing feeling.

Obviously there were a few other newsworthy events in 2012 such as the Diamond Jubilee celebrations (I'll never say no to an extra day of work, thank you Ma'am), but one of the most iconic moments for me was Felix Baumgartner's freefall from space.  I told my wife it was our generation's Moon Landing, and while that might be a bit of hyperbole, I'll remember my daughter sat on my knee on the landing watching it with me on my laptop.

And so onto a review of my 2012 Resolutions...  I posted a half-year review (in that link) but it's worth doing a final summary to see how well this year went:

1. Run the London Marathon

A pretty easy one to tick off - 5:30:41! 

2. Raise at least £1000 for charity

Yes.  People were incredibly generous with their donations and I managed to raise over £1500 this year which I'm very proud of.  Thanks again to everyone who donated - it was very generous of you.

3. Get a photograph published or sold

I'm counting this one as a success.  I mentioned in the half year review that I'd done some promo shots for a great Wakefield band call Skint & Demoralised and I followed that up with the cover shot for their single "When Saturday Comes".  You can listen to and download that song here (as well as seeing the 

4. Carry on training to run the Sheffield Half Marathon 2013

I eased off the running in August after a 10k race as I was starting to feel a bit of pain.  I did however switch to an exercise bike to keep fit (and managed to lose over 30lbs in the process).  I start running again this week and I'm all ready for the Sheffield Half Marathon in May! 

5. See at least 12 gigs

I think I ticked 13 off in the end which is quite a good effort.  Obviously I've mentioned some of the highlights above, but also seeing Ladyhawke at The Leadmill in Sheffield was incredible.  Here's to a few more in 2013

6. Read at least 10 books

I think I said at the time this was a pitiful number to aim for, but at least I managed it.  If I can finish off my current book in the next few days, I'll have a clear 11 to my name for this year.  Must try harder next year!

7. Continue my blog after the marathon

This was a tricky one.  After all the effort of blogging on marathon training, I felt at a bit of a loss for what to write about.  I dabbled a bit over the summer but I feel like I've finally got back into a bit of a groove towards the end of this year.  I've also been really lucky to be able to write a monthly blog for Diabetes UK which I'm really looking forward to continuing next year

8. Support the community via sponsorship/donations etc

I'm chalking this down a success as well, though just barely.  I sponsored a mini festival a friend of mine staged for charity earlier this year.  The amount of work and effort she put in to making the day a success was incredible and sponsoring the event to ensure it could go ahead was a real privilege.

9. Expand the smaller areas of my company

This is my first failure, partially through lack of effort and partially through lack of time.  I realised that diversifying from my main business can be good, but the amount of effort required compared to the return doesn't really make it viable.  I'm having a rethink and a re-plan for next year so we'll see what comes of it...

10. Make some friends

Another tricky one.  I've definitely built up some excellent relationships over 2012 - no doubt about it.  I think what's proved trickier is to make those mainfest themselves in a non-digital environment.  I do feel lucky to count some of my Twitter acquaintances as friends but should possibly try harder to turn some of those into "real life" friendships.

So there we go - 2012 in a nutshell.  A fairly large nutshell, but nevertheless.  If you made it this far, then thanks a lot.  I hope you've had a look back at your 2012 and remembered some of the good times you've had.

I'm still pondering what 2013 might hold but I'll be back again in the first week of January to talk about that.  In the mean time, I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and have a Happy New Year

Speak soon

Andy x

Monday, 17 December 2012

Top 20 of 2012

Good evening

I was going to write a new intro for this post but I thought I'd check last year's first.  I think it's fine as it is, so I've lazily lifted it and reposted here...

So below is my Top 20 of 2012. &nbs`;A few words before you continue...

You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.  But before you grumble to yourself or tell me I'm an idiot, try and do this yourself.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist ,/i>(Clbum).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good playlist.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroooOwl a.d tag your posts #top20of2012

1.  Girl Like Me - Ladyhake (Anxiety)   This was a tricky choice as so many tracks of Ladyhawke's second album are just amazing (Cellophane narrowly missed out here).  I was lucky enough to see her live with a friend of mine this year as well and she's definitely incredible.  Girl Like Me is a great way to kick this off.

2.  No Hope - The Vacccines (Come Of Age)   The Vaccines' second album is full of cracking tracks and choosing one of this album also proved tricky.  If my daughter had her way, I think we'd have Teenage Icon on here but No Hope just edged it for me - it's one where I think we can all relate to the lyrics at some point in our lives.

3.  Told You Once - Howler (America Give Up)   Some great guitar and a catchy chorus really make this one for me.  America Give Up is a good album overall as well.  I'd be surprised if you manage to listen to this without playing it in your head for a few hours afterwards

4.  The Swan - Cheatahs (Sans EP)   I came into Cheatahs pretty late in 2012 but with the quality of their two EPs, I'm glad I did.  It was a bit of a showdown between this and "Coared" off their other EP (also called Coared).  I think "The Swan" made it through due to some fancy guitar work, but do listen to "Coared" and let me know if you think it has a hit of "Monkey Wrench" by Foo Fighters as I'm convinced it does.  I suspect Cheatahs will be one to watch next year.

5.&nbp; Time Will Save The Day -
Ben Kweller (Go Fly A Kite)   I'm not sure where Ben Kweller came from to appear on my iPod this year but Go Fly A Kite is an album that surprised me a fair bit.  It's probably a bit poptastic in places (not necessarily a bad thing - try "Jealous Girl" to see what I mean) but this one is a real toe-tapper.  It's also one of those songs where you'll try and sing along but end up mumbling like an idiot.  What's not to like?

6.  I Belong In Your Arms - Chairlift (Something)   I will openly tell anyone I meet that Chairlift are one of the most overlooked bands ever as far as I'm concerned.  Maybe there's a whole gaggle of people who already know how amazing they are but I could count on one hand the number of people I've ever spoken to that have heard of them.  This is a great track from a quality album and was one of the first songs on the list for the final 20.

7.  Capricornia - Allo Darlin' (Europe)   I saw Allo Darlin' in Leeds in February and they played a great set with some great support.  The album isn't necessarily to everyone's taste I suppose - I occasionally find myself drifting from one track to another quite without knowing where each has ended, but this song stands out for me.  Beautiful and melodic.

8.  I Feel Better - Gotye (Making Mirrors)   Unless you've been living under a rock this year, you'll have struggled to escape Gotye's Somebody That I Used To Know.  It's made it onto my daughter's playlist for the car because of its unmistakeable likeness to Baa Baa Black Sheep at the beginning.  Such pop whimsy aside, I do like the album and this track in particular is incredible.  I'm still astounded it's not some secret portal to the 60s.  It's brilliant and I think you'll love it.

9.  Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy - Jack White (Blunderbuss)   It seems anything Jack White touches turns to gold and this solo album is no different.  Great beats combined with piano and guitar make "Blunderbuss" one of my favourite albums of this year.  This track stands out for me in amongst a lot of good songs.

10.  Emmylou - First Aid Kit (The Lion's Roar)   I love First Aid Kit.   They're sort of my country music guilty pleasure, though with some of the music I've listened to this year, I'm wondering if I'm not becoming a full on country-convert.  "Emmylou" is a wonderful song and I defy you to be not singing along by the end.

11.  Leland - Cemeteries (The Wildernes)&nbcp;  This album is one that I think you need to listen to from start to finish to appreciate, so it's rare that you can pick a track out of the middle of it that holds its own.  "Leland" has a dreamy bassline that repeats and I'm always surprised when I find out it's less than 4 minutes long.

12.  Angels - The xx (Coexist)  I was concerned that The xx wouldn't be able to follow up their first album with an equally good second.  Fortunately there were no such problems.  This is another album where listening straight through (preferably with the lights off and your eyes closed) should be the recommended listening approach.  "Angels" is the opening track and sets the tone for the whole LP

13.  Au cinema - Lianne La Havas (Is Your Love Big Enough)   Another album I came to late in the year but I'm glad I did.  I was trying to articulate to someone why I like this track so much and think part of it is because of the way she accentuates all the syllables.  Hard to explain but give it a listen and I think you'll see what I mean.

14.  Nethertons Teeth - The Magnetic North (Orkney: Symphony of the Magnetic North)   The Magnetic North feature Erland of Erland and the Carnival fame.  I'll be honest when I say that this is a bit of an odd album but there's something familiar about the melody of this one that lets it make the final shortlist.

15.  (I Should Be) A Communist - This Many Boyfriends (This Many Boyfriends)   It was a while back now, but I think This Many Boyfriends were supporting Allo Darlin' when I saw them in February.  Regardless, this track is brilliant.  A bit of a New Romantics vibe to it with a catchy chorus.  Another one you'll be singing along to.

16.  Anything Could Happen - Ellie Goulding (Halcyon)   I know a lot of people aren't huge fans of Ellie Goulding but it's fair to say I am.  Her second album is a definitely a mixed bag but this one really stands out for me.  I think it fits in well with the rest of the playlist as well.

17.  Black Light - Diagrams (Black Light)   Diagrams are a bit of a mystery to me.  I'm sure someone told me I had to listen to them and if that was you, I'm very grateful.  "Black Light" narrowly beat "Ghost Lit" onto the list but your life will be a little bit richer for listening to both

18.  Down Here In The Dark - Blood Red Shoes (In Time To Voices)   This is a bit of a sultry sounding song with a slow beat to start off but picks up into something as it progresses.  I'll confess I'd not listened to much Blood Red Shoes before but I really like this one

19.  R U Mine - Arctic Monkeys (R U Mine (single))   Anyone who knows me won't be surprised to see Arctic Monkeys on this list.  They've had a quiet year after their 4th album in 2011 but this track has a lot of play on my iPod this year.  It's heavier than anything from "Suck It And See" but it's still amazing.  I'm a huge fan of pretty much anything Alex Turner does and this is no exception

20.  Down Into The Woods - Richard Hawley (Standing At The Sky's Edge)   Richard Hawley not winning the Mercury prize this year was a bit of a travesty in my opinion.  This is a fantastic album from start to finish and choosing one track off it was incredibly tough.  "Seek It" missed out by the tiniest margin and I'd really urge you to listen to it as well.  This song has some great guitar and Hawley's voice is excellent.

As with last year, there's some music I've been disappointed in and some other good albums that didn't make the cut.  The Killers' new album really let me down - I think they've just moved too far away from the stuff I really liked on Hot Fuss.  The New Alicia Keys album also didn't live up to what I was expecting.  Alt-J missed the final 20 by a short length - Tessellate is a great track in my opinion.  Whilst I know it was also pretty fashionable to like Lana Del Rey in January and hate her by summer, I really do like "Born To Die" and Diet Mountain Dew is a great track.

A new "award" for this year is my Album of the Year which this year goes to Ladyhawke.  Anxiety is a superb LP in my opinion and it's hard to pick a poor song off it.  If you were going to pick one album off the Top 20 (or the longlist), then I'd really make it this one.

As with last year, I've done aSpotify playlist of the Top 20 of 2012 for you to listen to.  Or at least I have in theory.  I'm a bit hopeless with Spotify playlists, something my friend Lorna will hopefully rectify for me if this doesn't work.  Give them a listen a see what you think.

If you made it this far, then thanks for reading.  Hopefully you'll find something new you've not heard before.

This is my last blog before Christmas, so I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and eat/sleep/drink as much as you like.  Hopefully you'll get a few decent presents too.  I'll be back before new year to give you my 2012 Review.



Thursday, 13 December 2012

Coping With Christmas

This blog was first posted on the DiabetesUK website on 13th December 2012

Whilst Roy Wood famously pined for it to be Christmas every day, I sadly don't.  That's not to say I'm some Dickensian miser who can't bear the sight of a bit of tinsel or the jingle of some bells (well maybe in October - I digress).  I geninely look forward to Christmas, but I know it'll play havoc with me.

I'm a creature of habit, a person of routine, someone who enjoys certainty as much as it can ever be found.  Christmas (and I suppose I'm talking about most of December really) destroys a lot of that and makes life a little more chaotic.

Whilst there are plus points like seeing family and friends, there are the downsides like over indulgence.  Last year I was into my London Marathon training and was incredibly measured with what I ate, but that's not really the norm.  I think it's totally natural to want to unwind and indulge during your Christmas holiday and being diabetic shouldn't stop me from doing that - it just means a little extra work on my part.

With all that in mind, I've come up with a few tips for surviving the festive period (note that I'm not offering any tips on dealing with your inlaws...)

  • Don't worry.  It's easy to get sidetracked by the number on your blood glucose meter at the best of times and with mince pies and chocolates flying around, I think it's inevitable that at some stage, you'll get a higher reading than you'd normally expect.  That said...
  • Test a bit more often.  If your house is anything like mine, not only will you be eating things that aren't the norm, your mealtimes will end up being different too.  If you normally test 4 times a day, sticking an extra one in should mean you don't stray too far off course.
  • Don't deprive yourself.  A slice of Christmas cake or an extra mince pie probably won't be your downfall (unless the slice of cake is the size of a house brick) and there's nothing worse than feeling like a martyr while everyone around you is having a great time.
  • Keep the packets.  I'm terrible for throwing away boxes with nutritional information on them.  It's usually convenient to check the back of a packet for the carb values per serving (*cough* per mince pie *cough*) and adjust my dose accordingly.  It's less convenient if I've stuck the box in the recycling bin along with all the wrapping paper so try sand save them if it'll help you.
  • Take the help that's there.  As you may have caught on, I'll definitely be sneaking the odd bit of dessert over the next few weeks but I'll make sure I've got things like low fat custard or reduced sugar ice cream to go with them.  No-one else round the dinner table can tell the difference anyway.  I've convinced myself I had low-sugar cranberry sauce last year but an internet search has proved fruitless (sorry!)
I suppose the message is the same one that should really apply regardless - enjoy everything in moderation.  Of course it's a bit harder to do when you're diabetic, but all the tools are there to help you.  Being diabetic is just different, not worse.

I hope you all have a fantastic Christmas and a very happy 2013.  I'll be back in the new year to talk about my diabetes study and DAFNE (amongst a whole host of other things).

Merry Christmas!


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Top 20 of 2012 - The Longlist


Its that time of year where I start reviewing the new music I've listened to over the past year.

If you're not too familiar with the approach, you can see the 2011 Longlist and 2011 Shortlist posts by clicking the links.  Basically anything which has been released since Jan 1st 2012 is eligible.  I've narrowed down about 50 albums and EPs to a Long list of about 100 tracks.  I'll then go through and select a Top 20 of 2012.

It's a good way to review the year and find some new music along the way.  Hope you enjoy.



Artist Album Track
Allo Darlin' Europe Capricornia
Allo Darlin' Europe The Letter
Allo Darlin' Europe Still Young
Alt J An Awesome Wave Tessellate
Arctic Monkeys R U Mine? R U Mine?
Balue Worry Toobs EP Australian Summer
Balue Worry Toobs EP Brain Folds
Ben Kweller Go Fly a Kite Out The Door
Ben Kweller Go Fly a Kite Jealous Girl
Ben Kweller Go Fly a Kite Time Will Save The Day
Ben Kweller Go Fly a Kite You Can Count On me
Best Coast The Only Place Why I Cry
Best Coast The Only Place Better Girl
Blood Red Shoes In Time To Voices In Time To Voices
Blood Red Shoes In Time To Voices Down Here In The Dark
Bos Angeles Hearing Aid Vol 2 (Various) Wild Things I Did Before
Bromheads Holding the Gun - EP Holding the Gun
California X Sucker/Mummy Sucker
Cemeteries The Wilderness Leland
Cemeteries The Wilderness Young Blood
Chairlift Something I Belong In Your Arms
Chairlift Something Amanaemonesia
Cheatahs Coared - EP Coared
Cheatahs Sans - EP The Swan
Citizens! Here We Are True Romance
Citizens! Here We Are Reptile
Citizens! Here We Are Caroline
Citizens! Here We Are Love You More
Cloud Nothings  Attack On Memory Wasted Days
Cloud Nothings  Attack On Memory Fall In
Cloud Nothings  Attack On Memory Cut You
Daily Life World Series EP Far Out
Diagrams Black Light Ghost Lit
Diagrams Black Light Black Light
Django Django Django Django Hail Bop
Django Django Django Django Default
Django Django Django Django Firewater
Ellie Goulding Halcyon My Blood
Ellie Goulding Halcyon Anything Could Happen
First Aid Kit The Lion's Roar The Lion's Roar
First Aid Kit The Lion's Roar Emmylou
Gotye Making Mirrors Eyes Wide Open
Gotye Making Mirrors I Feel Better
Howler America Give Up Beach Sluts
Howler America Give Up Told You Once
iamamiwhoami Kin Idle Talk
Jack White Blunderbuss Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy
Jack White Blunderbuss Weep Themselves to Sleep
Kabeedies Soap Hang Ups of the West
LadyHawke Anxiety Girl Like Me
LadyHawke Anxiety Black, White and Blue
LadyHawke Anxiety Cellophane
LadyHawke Anxiety Gone Gone Gone
LadyHawke Anxiety Blue Eyes
Lana Del Rey Born To Die Diet Mountain Dew
Lana Del Rey Born To Die Off to the Races
Leonard Cohen Old Ideas Going Home
Lianne La Havas Is Your Love Big Enough? Au cinema
Lissie Covered Up With Flowers - EP Bad Romance
Lissie Covered Up With Flowers - EP Go Your Own Way
Lissie Covered Up With Flowers - EP Games People Play
Little Comets Life is Elsewhere A Little Opus
Little Comets Life is Elsewhere Waiting in the Shadows in the Dead of Night
Pond Beard, Wives, Denim Fantastic Explosion of Time
Pond Beard, Wives, Denim Leisure Pony
Reverend and the Makers @Reverend_Makers Bassline
Richard Hawley Standing At The Sky's Edge Standing at the Sky's Edge
Richard Hawley Standing At The Sky's Edge Seek It
Richard Hawley Standing At The Sky's Edge Down In The Woods
Sea of Bees Orangefarben Take
So Many Wizards Hearing Aid Vol 2 (Various) Happy Birthday
Standard Fare Hearing Aid Vol 2 (Various) Darth Vader
The King Blues Long Live The Struggle Wasted Words
The King Blues Long Live The Struggle Tear Us Apart
The Maccabees Given To The Wild Pelican
The Magnetic North Symphony Of The Magnetic North Bay of Skaill
The Magnetic North Symphony Of The Magnetic North Nethertons Teeth
The Vaccines Come of Age Teenage Icon
The Vaccines Come of Age No Hope
The Vaccines Come of Age I Wish I Was A Girl
The Vaccines Come of Age Weirdo
The xx Coexist Angels
The xx Coexist Fiction
The xx Coexist Swept Away
This Many Boyfriends This Many Boyfriends Young Lovers Go Pop!
This Many Boyfriends This Many Boyfriends I Don't Like You ('Cos You Don't Like the Pastels)
This Many Boyfriends This Many Boyfriends (I Should Be A) Communist
This Many Boyfriends This Many Boyfriends You Don't Need To Worry
Two Door Cinema Club Beacon Wake Up
Two Door Cinema Club Beacon Sleep Alone
Two Door Cinema Club Beacon The World is Watching
Younghusband Hearing Aid Vol 2 (Various) Tropic of Cancer
Tigercats Isle of Dogs Harper Lee
Tigercats Isle of Dogs Limehouse Nights
Beach House Bloom Wild
Beach House Bloom Lazuli
Beach House Bloom New Year
Alicia Keys Girl On Fire Brand New Me
Alicia Keys Girl On Fire Tears Always Win