Blended learning? No thanks.

When completing research for my Dissertation on Homework, I was particularly struck by one Dutch study which concluded that homework was in some cases a hindrance to some students making progress.  This was a particular case where it was necessary to have done the homework before completing the lesson in class the next day.  There was fairly widespread agreement among studies (and in my own work) that completing homework regularly really only helped the students who were likely to do well anyway – those who were better independent learners, had supportive families, a place at home to work etc.  If you like, the students who most needed homework are those least likely to do it.  So in the Dutch study referred to above, those students were being further penalised the next day because they were unable to make progress in the classroom having not done the homework.  Thus the effect of this homework was to widen that gulf between the two rough groups of learners (which unsurprisingly, often falls along socio-economic lines).

None of this would come as a surprise to most of the teachers I know – which is why so many teachers set homework which is an extension to the classwork, or a chance to practice a particular learned skill rather than a key part of the learning.

However the above is key in thinking about the work that millions of children in the UK are being set at the moment, whilst the government keeps them out of school.  Teachers are doing the very best they can.  They’ve learned loads of new skills.  Mostly out of necessity, but many of these will continue to form part of the way we teach our children.  Teachers who’ve got to grips with Show my Homework or Google Classrooms will continue to do so.  Teachers who’ve worked out how to make films for pupils by commentating over power-points using Google Screencastify will continue to do so.  The range of methods we can use particularly for students preparing for exams is greatly increased.

Likewise Google Meets, Microsoft Teams and Zoom will be used frequently in the future to get together colleagues from other schools across a LA, MAT or even the country.  These can and will be integrated into face-to-face meetings and conferences.  But hopefully teachers won’t have to use these tools to deliver lessons to their pupils regularly.  There are starting to be more of these lessons, and they are certainly more helpful than students struggling on their own.  Some students find them very useful.

The vast majority of our ‘teaching’ at the moment though, what the media and the public refer to as ‘home schooling’ is not really home schooling (as anyone who’s home schooled will probably tell you).  It’s really just setting loads and loads of homework tasks.  Work that can’t be easily differentiated by ability (like homework, if you know it, why do you need to do it again?  If you don’t know it, how are you going to understand it from this?), work that is designed to give students something to do, something to practice, something to watch, something to question.  Rarely though in this format, can it help them to learn and develop new concepts at their own level.

And therein lies the problem.  Because what they’re effectively doing is exactly the same as referred to in the Dutch study at the top.  Work that needs to be completed to move on.  And for those that aren’t doing it (which judging on what I’ve heard about submission rates could be as much of half of our students) that accentuates the gap between them and the more organised pupils.

Even among online lessons this gap is becoming more obvious.  One Secondary teacher I know described how she had started delivering one online lesson a week to her Sixth Form class.  At first it was great, but over the six weeks she’s been doing this the number of those who ‘turn up’ has diminished greatly.  Only 4 out of 9 this week.  And only the same 2 who really engage.  None of them ever turn on their cameras or microphones, using the chat facility only to communicate.  This makes it very difficult to teach.  Its not interactive, it feels like delivering a lecture to a webcam.  Exactly not what’s it supposed to be.

I have said throughout the last two months of lockdown that our pupils need to be back in schools as soon as possible.  I think this has never been more obvious.  The longer we leave it the more these divisions will widen.  Divisions that in a lifetime a significant proportion of the country’s school students will never be able to make up.  Some sort of ‘Blended learning’ compromise isn’t going to help.  It will continue to hinder.  What we need is children in classrooms.

My five go-to Piano Trio albums (of the ‘modern’ era)

I was looking for something last night with the perfect balance of energy and gracefulness, inspiration and accompaniment (to cooking) and I realised I could have selected any of several piano trio albums I listen to in such times.  They’re probably my favourite piano trio albums – I say of ‘modern’ times, because I’m thinking of about post-1995.

I’m not saying they’re the best – obviously far too many for me to listen to for that.  But they’re all great, inspirational and deserve checking out.

Things I’m looking for:  Good selection of tunes… some standards, some originals, some more interesting choices; Good coherency across the album; Muscular bass, rhythmically interesting drums, but doesn’t get in the way…

In no particular order:

  1.  George Colligan Trio – Past Present Future (Criss Cross 2005)

George Colligan – Piano, Vicente Archer – Bass, Bill Stewart – Drums

Ticks all the boxes.  Particularly lovely Cinema Paradiso cover, and an arrangement of Pastorius’s Three Views of a Secret.

2.  Joey Calderazzo (Columbia 2000)

Joey Calderazzo – Piano, John Patitucci – Bass, Jeff ‘Tain’ Watts – Drums

Tain can get pretty loud live, but here his energy is beautifully balanced.  They all play as a trio really well.  Includes Slings and Arrows by the Michael Brecker band that Joey was a part of and a beautiful Time Remembered.

3.  Introducing Brad Mehldau  (Warner Bros 1995)

Brad Mehldau – Piano, Larry Grenadier, Christian McBride – Bass, Jorge Rossy, Brian Blade – Drums

His first album and the subsequent trio wasn’t quite established, but it feels like one band (the two rhythm sections play half the tracks each).  The opening track, Countdown sets up all those Mehldau hallmarks, but whilst there sometimes feels like a bit too much technique and long runs and not enough memorable melody, rhythm and interplay on a later Mehldau trio album, its all beautifully balanced here.  Really really good.

4.  Marcin Wasilewski Trio – January (ECM 2008)

Marcin Wasilewski – Piano, Slawomir Kurkiewicz – Bass, Michael Miskiewicz – Drums

One of about four consistently terrific albums from this trio.  This one’s my favourite.  The ‘January’ setting feels apt, the mood of that month imbues a wonderful sensibility.  This also contains a version of Cinema Paradiso, and a surprising but perfect version of Prince’s Diamonds and Pearls.

5.  Julian Joseph – Universal Traveller (East West 1995)

Julian Joseph – Piano, Reginald Veal – Bass, Mark Mondesir – Drums

In his previous two albums he tried to show a bit too much… numerous guest horn players and singers (including himself).  They were great, but here it was just a trio and its a lovely album.  Probably the best I’ve heard all three of them individually.  Its a great London album too…  all original tunes except for Monk’s Straight No Chaser, showcasing JJ’s technique when he gets going, but never at the expense of the music and a beautiful softer side too.

 

 

Bond theme singers and their ages.

The sad announcement of Chris Cornell’s death this morning got me thinking.

His biggest solo hit in the UK was his theme to Casino Royale, ‘You Know My Name’.  The James Bond film series has been running since 1962, and all of them since From Russia With Love in 1963 has had a vocal theme tune.  That’s 54 years of performances.

And surprisingly, all of those singers except Louis Armstrong, Matt Monro and now Chris Cornell, are still alive.

I wondered if these singers had been particularly old to begin with.  Louis Armstrong certainly was (he was 69 when the film came out and died soon afterwards) but the others weren’t particularly.

Here’s the age of each Bond theme singer (two, Alicia Keys and Jack White, for Quantum of Solace) at the time the film was released.

Figure 1

The line in blue is a line of best fit (if you like an average throughout the years).  Noticeably, the average age is getting younger, but only a little, according to this.

I’ve labelled the three singers I’ve already talked about, as well as all those who were significantly older than average and those who were much younger.

As you can see, Louis Armstrong was very old at the time.  Matt Monro wasn’t, but his film (From Russia With Love) was the earliest to have a theme tune (Dr No had the Instrumental James Bond Theme by Monty Norman over it’s credits), so it’s perhaps not surprising that he has since died.

The next three Bond films after From Russia With Love – Goldfinger, Thunderball and You Only Live Twice, all had significantly younger than average singers (Shirley Bassey, Tom Jones and Nancy Sinatra) and then that takes us up to the 1970s, so it’s not surprising that those singers are still alive.

Chris Cornell really is unusual and the only statistical conclusion that can be drawn from this is that he died tragically young.  R.I.P.

 

However there are some other interesting things going on here.

Firstly, Louis Armstrong was so old that he’s statistically an outlier. (Greater than 1.5 times the Inter Quartile Range added on to the Upper Quartile)  Removing him from the data set therefore, in order to better see what’s going on in the trends show this:

Figure 2

Interestingly, this shows that the average age is slightly increasing.  Still this belies what we can clearly see (which is that the theme singers are getting younger and younger).  Again, there is a spike here at 1995’s Goldeneye (Tina Turner) who was already 66 when she performed the theme (and retired soon afterwards).

I’ve now split this in two, looking at the best fit up to and including Tina Turner, and for all the films since.

Figure 3

 

The purple line shows the mean of that first group of films and the green line shows the films since.

Now really, you can make statistics say what you want to say, and I could have split this into more sections or moved that point.

Clearly though since 2005 the average age of a Bond title singer has been decreasing significantly.  Why is this?  Because Pop singers are getting younger.  Only Madonna and Chris Cornell since then have been over 40.  Only Jack White of the others was over 30.  A return to the heyday of the 1960s?  There is a certain symmetry about this.

Wonder what will happen next…

 

 

A good night for Labour in spite of the odds – think what they could do without the odds stacked against them…

The key result from last night’s elections (to date, the London mayoralty is still to be counted and announced) is that Labour made gains from the Conservatives in the South of England.

This is the bit that the mainstream media will least report on, but definitely the most significant.  The South of England is Conservative heartland and not only are they losing ground here, but losing it to Labour.  Showing perhaps that last year’s Election victory for them wasn’t a seachange but a one-off?

Scotland isn’t as significant.  Sadly, as others have pointed out, the key divide in Scotland isn’t now Right-Left, but Unionist-Independence.  Labour supporters in Scotland are split on the issue of Independence, but the Conservatives are resolutely Unionist.  In fact the Conservative vote hasn’t grown much in Scotland, it’s just that virtually everyone that used to vote Labour now votes SNP.

Labour supporters (like myself) shouldn’t worry about this too much.  No further Independence campaign is coming (unless we vote to leave the EU which hopefully won’t happen) and as long as SNP stays anti-Austerity and anti-Tory then that’s okay – Labour ideas at least are holding people.  If the SNP (as some of us expect) turn a bit more Right Wing, then their supporters will come back to Labour.  It’s the Conservatives who should be more worried in Scotland.  Ruth Davidson is a great leader, but apart from that, they haven’t managed to convince many non-converts of their package.

So overall, a strong night for Labour – despite what some would have you believe.  And all this despite the fact that various cohorts, from the Mann-ites within the Labour party, to virtually every mainstream media outlet have tried to do as much as they can to ruin Labour’s chances.  If they even got neutral press think how well they would be doing.  It’s a hard slog still to 2020 and the press are unlikely to be on their side – their will be worse mud-slinging and accusations to come than the blatant racism directed towards Sadiq Khan or the labelling of criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism… but Labour’s not doing too badly.

 

 

Martin Crowe

I saw Martin Crowe bat but a few times in real life.  A couple of times for Wellington at the Basin Reserve (where he formed a formidable opening partnership with Richard Reid, from memory in one day cricket).

But my favourite memory is from about 1994.. Crowe had left the Australia tour after the first test before Christmas 1993(?)  It turned out to be his last test as Captain.  His knee was finally giving way, but he wasn’t ready to stop (his career was tragically short compared to many players).  After yet more surgery and more recuperation, he wanted to make the England tour (in which he subsequently scored two test centuries, including his 142 at Lords, which many are today describing as one of his greatest innings).

So during the lunch break of what might have been a Shell Cup semi-final, he came out on to the pitch, fully kitted up, including his headband.  Children lined up to help ‘bowl Martin Crowe back into form’.  There was a long line of them as he gracefully stood there for half an hour, padding up, pretending to be deceived by good balls… I don’t remember him being bowled, although I do remember the odd ball he stepped up to and hit out of the park…  I don’t recall any kids crying, I think they expected it.

I was too old to join in the fun, but had I done so I think my proudest moment on a cricket field would have been Martin Crowe hitting me for six.

RIP Martin Crowe…  your career was too short and your life was too short but you’ll never be forgotten.

 

Reflections on Suede @The Forum, Joe Jackson @The Palladium

I’ve just had two nights of gigs, Suede followed by Joe Jackson.   Reflections…
Suede were great fun. Playing the whole of their new album behind a screen projecting the film they’ve commissioned to accompany it was a neat trick… it actually worked… in as much as it made the whole crowd listen to their new album in it’s entirety (and there were some special moments when the lights picked them out in their positions, as ghostly images in their own film)… although it was easy to forget they were there at times.
Not so in the second – greatest hits set – where they rocked like it was 1994, Brett Anderson still crowd-surfing, strutting, microphone swinging like he did when I last saw them 20 years ago. The crowd (mostly in their 40s like me) loved every minute of it, but I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering how despite me aging at least 20 years in the last 20 years (and about to have knee surgery), they don’t seem to have aged a day (Brett still sliding across the stage and going down on his knees).  That’s not fair, I thought they were supposed to be the Rock Stars with the hard lives.
Joe Jackson, on the other hand, has aged, but gracefully.  He was on imperious form as always… the best thing about a Joe Jackson gig being that he always has a different line-up of musicians and picks the appropriate songs for the band and arranges them appropriately.  So you always here slightly different versions.
This one was a quartet with electric guitar, but just as the musicians go off one at a time in Slow Song, they also came on in stages, Joe playing solo for four songs, before being joined by Graham Maby on bass who started playing the riff for Is She Really Going Out with Him (Joe feigned surprise), which was then played by the two of them (and the crowd).  The relationship between these two guys is wonderful to watch, as is the fact that all four men sang and seemed to take such pleasure in the whole experience.
Joe’s introductions to the new songs is a wonderful insight into songwriting, where the idea comes from, and nobody can write a bridge or modulate a pop song like Joe.
He was completely humbled that 37 years after his first album he can still sell out the Palladium, and he should be.. as well as proud.  Without much acclaim for the last twenty years or so, he’s been doing it consistenly and doing it well.  A Joe Jackson gig is always a fantastic experience and this was no different.

My Cultural highlights of 2015

My cultural highlights of 2015

New music.

A great year for me for new music. Of which my absolute two favourite albums of the year are:
Anneli Drecker – Rocks & Straws
I’ve been recommending this album to everyone, and everyone has loved it. It’s her best work ever (which is saying something), but the craft in these songs, the string arrangements, the hooks and the way she sings these beautiful words have haunted many an hour for me this year and will continue to do so. This is one of the best albums ever recorded.

Brice Winston – Child’s Play
A low-key release, but [only] the second album as a leader for Terence Blanchard’s Tenor Player is a great set. The band features David Virelles, Mike Moreno, Joe Sanders and Marcus Gilmore. And they’re all great on it – especially Winston himself. This is exactly how I like my jazz. I even like the guitar on it (and I’m not normally a big fan of jazz guitar). And did I mention it’s got David Virelles on it? Because he’s extraordinary – definitely the next big thing – and on this he plays straightahead.

I should also give honorable mentions to some more albums from this year that I just can’t stop listening to:

Faith No More – Sol Invictus
My only problem with this album is that – at just over 30minutes – it’s too short.
David Gilmour – Rattle that Lock
Between this and On an Island there’s one incredible album.. this one’s much stronger lyrically and thematically though.
Maria Schneider Orchestra – The Thompson Fields
Classy stuff – great writing
Brian Wilson – No Pier Pressure
Terrible pun of a title, terrible album cover, amazing pop writing.
Gigs

James Farm – Cadogan Hall, London Jazz Festival
David Virelles – Kings Place, London Jazz Festival (Did I mention how incredible Virelles is?)
Marcin Wasilewski – Barbican Centre, London Jazz Festival
Anneli Drecker – RichMix, Shoreditch, December (Did I mention how amazing Anneli is?)
Films

Mad Max Fury Road
SPECTRE (I’ve been meaning to write a longer review of this, which I will at some stage)
Carol
TV

It’s always a bit difficult to think of anything else in a year in which Shane Meadows does something, and his This Is England ’90 was a suitable finale to this incredible series. But this is also a year which saw lots of quality TV towards the end of the year in particular, including a very satisfying and moving second series of the French drama The Returned (bringing lots of the answers we wanted after Series One and also leaving a lot enigmatically unanswered), the incredible London Spy (which was largely centred around one of the great acting performances of all time from Ben Whishaw), but and let’s hope it’s creator Tom Rob Smith does some more TV drama.

Also, honourable mentions to Catastrophe and the final series of Peep Show. PS set a new bar in comedy ten years ago and it felt like Catastrophe might not have existed without it. But both maintained very high standards and lots of laughs.

Roll on 2016.

Cricket Monopoly

My son – who is obsessed with Cricket and Monopoly – and I came up with this Cricket Monopoly board last night.  Someone make it happen please….

PROPERTIES:

BROWN:

Sharjah

Shere Bangla Stadium, Mirpur

LIGHT BLUE:

Headingly

Kingsmead, Durban

Queens Park Oval, Trinidad

PURPLE:

Adelaide Oval

Newlands

Edgbaston

ORANGE:

Kensington Oval, Barbados

Seddon Park

The GABBA

RED:

Sinhalese Sports Ground, Colombo

Sabina Park, Kingston

Eden Gardens, Kolkata

YELLOW:

Trent Bridge

SCG

Basin Reserve

GREEN:

Wankhede Stadium

The Oval

The New Wanderers Ground, JoBurg

DARK BLUE:

MCG

Lords

UTILITIES (Water Works/Electric Company):

Hawkeye

Snicko

STATIONS:

ICC

ECB

BCCI

ACB

Chance to be re-named DRS.

Why I will not be jumping on the Green Party bandwagon.

I will not be voting Green, for three main reasons that I’d like to share.

1) I do not trust Natalie Bennett. I have met Natalie, who is standing in Camden where I work, a couple of times. She said publicly at an Education Question Time event that we held last year that she supported the ‘South of the Euston Road’ school. I expressed surprise, and we sought confirmation from her that she knew this school could only happen if it was a Free School (which the Green Party education policy specifically are against). She nodded that she knew that, but said that it was a ‘nice area’ and ‘deserved it’s own school’. I was a little incredulous.  How can one be completely opposed to Free Schools, want to bring them all back into the state sector and stop any more being built (as they have declared in their manifesto) and yet support one in the area where you want to get elected because it’s ‘a nice area’ that ‘deserves it’s own school’ so the children “don’t have to cross Euston Road”  (there are buses!  And they’re environmentally friendly).  She has since quietly told us that she doesn’t support it after all, but she hasn’t publicy refuted what she said then (which was to a small audience). I think this is because she knows that the parents who support that campaign are her best hope being elected.

Politicians do these things all the time, but the Greens are trying to convince us they are different, and I think this one – little reported – example shows how Natalie Bennett at least – is not different.

2) They are very unlikely to get any seats other than Caroline Lucas (who I like and respect a lot). So therefore any vote for them just means taking a vote away from a more likely opposition and thus letting the Tories back in. I know that a Proportional Representation system would have made this different, but we don’t have one, so we need to vote accordingly and sensibly.

3) Ed Miliband’s not the most charismatic geezer in the world, but I don’t think that’s particularly important. The more we go around dissing him for that, the more we’re buying into that belief. Yes it’s true that Labour haven’t got the most left-wing manifesto in the world, and the Greens have got something a bit better… but it’s easy to promise the world if you don’t have a chance of getting in (look at what Lib Dems promised before the last election, and what they actually delivered). I worry that lots of the recent surge of support for Greens is because people hope for a Greens/Labour coalition in the event of a hung parliament. But actually, I think the chances are still quite high of a Labour majority, at least if you keep entertaining the idea, rather than huffing and puffing when Ed Miliband makes a mistake.

I say all this by the way (in order of importance) as someone who isn’t and has never been a Labour party member or particularly a supporter. I am far to the left of most of the Labour party in my own politics. But I also think I’m a bit of a pragmatist and what I really don’t want is for the Tories to be involved in any way in our next government.  And I think that Labour are the only party with a realistic chance of achieving that.  So whether I think Ed Miliband is the best candidate, or Labour the best party, or not… that is who I am likely to vote for.

My Cultural Highlights of 2014

My Cultural Highlights of 2014

I do this every year about this time… a few of the things I’ve loved and been inspired by in 2014.

Television.

The first half of the final season of Mad Men was back up there in terms of surprises and strength of story/character. But the best thing I saw on television this year (and possibly ever) was a real surprise.

I’ve always enjoyed Homeland but it went a bit crazy in Series Two and Series Three as it contrived to keep Brody in the story long after his story was done. Without him, Series Four was able to do what Homeland’s always had the capacity to do, but did it even better than I’d hoped for. There’s always been those moments in Homeland that just hit you, where the unexpected happens and shocks you. There’s also that wonderful thing that often happens about two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through the Series when you suddenly realise what’s been happening all along, and how it was all planned.

Series Four had both of those and more. I had serious problems getting to sleep after it frequently, and it wasn’t just because I was shocked, but because I was so engaged with it. That’s powerful TV.

I did enjoy some comedy this year too, and despite my fondness for the one-liners that populate Lee Mack’s Not Going Out, this latest series was surprisingly moving, and definitely back to form. Hugh Dennis provided a foil for Lee that he has missed since Tim Vine left the show. I hope Lee Mack get’s another show.

Jack Whitehall’s Bad Education was also very funny. Not because of anything to do with teaching or schools, because it bears no resemblance to reality in those areas. Just because it was very funny.

However, in comedy terms, 2014 was really about a very sad but understandable goodbye to the family of Outnumbered. One of the most naturally funny shows ever and also the best chorincler of family life. I’ll miss them.

Books.

A rich year for me in reading, although several of the books that came out this year I’ve still yet to read. But I managed to read 31 books this year, in a year in which one of them was The Luminaries (which I enjoyed very much, if not loved). My standout favourite was Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell. The sort of book I got very excited about when I first heard of it, just because he’s one of my favourites, but was not at all disappointed by. A stunning imagination, but such a good creator of real characters and natural dialogue. Despite spanning such a long period of time, with each part telling a slightly different story, each part was highly engaging and some of them would be in themselves among the best books written this year, were they standalone stories. This particular skill of David Mitchell’s was also realised in Kate Bush’s Before the Dawn (about which more later) as he also provided the dialogue for one of the key scenes between father and son.

I also read all three of Joshua Ferris’s novels this year. The Unnamed and And then we Came to the End were completely different from each other and both brilliant. Filled me with so much hope and excitement at a new novel, and I was bitterly disappointed with his latest To Rise again at a Decent Hour. Very hard to get on with and missing all the traits of those first two that were so good.

Nevertheless, there remains for me to look forward to in 2015 Nick Harkaway’s Tigerman and Jonathan Lethem’s Dissident Gardens among others.

New Music

New Faith No More. Very exciting for me. And typically Faith No More that they release their first song in 20-odd years, it’s brilliant and catchy and yet not socially acceptable to sing out loud because of it’s title (at least not in my family). But a new album next year is a much looked forward to treat. I’m also very excited about the new Tears for Fears album – as one of my favourite bands.

But this year was mostly about jazz for me. And in terms of albums I loved Brice Winston’s Child’s Play. David Virelles and Marcus Gilmore have the making of greats and I even really like Mike Moreno’s playing on this – despite not being a fan of jazz guitar.

I also loved Opus 5’s new album Progression. That’s another great band. Closer to home great albums from Tommy Andrews (The Crux) and an astonishingly assured and beautiful debut album from Singer/Violinist/Piano Player Alice Zawadski (China Lane).

These albums are all highly recommended.

And I should mention George Michael’s Symphonica. Most of the arrangements are very like they are on the original album. But the shape of the band dictates that the setlist is largely my favourite style of George Michael music… and these are very good songs. Hearing Praying for Time and Cowboys and Angels from Listen without Prejudice is one thing, but there’s also his rather wonderful arrangement of Let Her Down Easy by Terence Trent D’Arbay (that’s not on any album), and his Brother, Can You Spare a Dime gets me up and singing.

Gigs

I went to lots of gigs this year, and the quality quotient was very high. Two absolute highlights loom large above the others though…

The St Petersburg Philharmonic playing Shostakovich’s 10th at the Royal Festival Hall was a career highlight. Nobody plays Shostakovich like they do and there no-one writes a symphony like Shostakovich. So much to love and so much inspiration. The same could be said of..

Kate Bush’s Before the Dawn tour, and will be. £150 per ticket, but genuinely worth every penny, in terms of what I got out of that concert. I loved every note of it. Amazing band, great setlist – amazing to hear A Sky of Honey performed in it’s entirety and amazing theatre. More elaborate theatre than one is ever likely to see and with a better score too, performed live by Kate herself. By her current standards she’ll be 80 when she next plays a concert… and that’s at the expense of a new album. Hopefully both will be seen again before then.

Film

12 Years a Slave, The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Lego Movie all good films from the early part of the year. More recently I enjoyed Interstellar – which was let down by its numerous plotholes and extreme overlength, but I guess that makes it a Kubrickian film (fatally flawed but with moments of sheer spectacle and joy and left me thinking about it). I preferred the Russian film Leviathan, which wasn’t flawed at all (just perhaps lacking the spectacle, although not lacking in any human drama and with a good deal more humour)… however, I think if I had to pick a favourite, it would be Paddington. Brilliantly conceived, designed, acted, shot and edited. Manages to be faithful to the London of the 1950s original and yet also contemporary. But heart-warming in a very genuine way, not smug and entertaining.

Personal Highlights

There’s so much inspiration in all that, so perhaps it’s fitting that 2015 is shaping up to be a pretty big year for me too. My own personal highlights are tied equally… a great family summer holiday in Sweden and Denmark that I’ll remember forever, even though I’ll be returning as soon as I can… and having one of my personal heroes Robert Wyatt come out of retirement to record a vocal for one of my songs. The resulting song is beautiful, and will be on an album to come out in the spring. His won’t be the only big name on it, but it will be the meeting that I have most cherished this year. A legend, and a lovely bloke.

So, my year of Robert and Kate and David Mitchell. That probably sums up 2014. Roll on next year.