Tuesday, 1 January 2013

The Highlights of 2012

So the end of the 1st day of 2013 is almost over and I feel like reflecting on my personal highlights of 2012...

My Birthday
My 24th birthday was enjoyable but I preferred my 23rd. For my 24th I went to a bar called Bennetts with some friends from my church - and that was really nice - and then some of us went to a nightclub. My reason for going clubbing was because I had recently worked out that it had been two years since I'd last been clubbing and I felt like I was missing out. But when I went to the club and something amazing happened. It was like one of those lightbulb-flash-above-the-head moments that you see in cartoons. I realised that I hate clubbing and that I always have! I'd been in denial for years! I put this down to Survival mode because it's very difficult to admit that you hate clubbing at university. Clubbing was just something that I had to "suck up" because it was something that the majority of people around me did. If I'd actually admitted that I hadn't liked clubbing most of the people that I hung around with back then would have probably assumed that I was either boring and antisocial or that I mustn't like alcohol. This isn't at all true. I really enjoy doing things with friends. I like hanging out in cafes. I like movie nights-in. I like shopping with friends. I enjoy nice walks in the park. I'm not teetotal either. I will happily have a drink in bars and pubs. I will happily have a nice meal and a glass of wine with friends. I enjoy small house parties. But clubbing just isn't what I'd call fun. Sleazy, drunk men trying to grind up against you, overpriced drinks, sticky floors, a dance floor that smells of sweat, music so loud that you can't talk to your friends properly, and a friend who wants to take endless photos? No thanks!

So I didn't actually the nightclub part of it but I learned an important life lesson and that counts for something right? This year I'm going to see Les Miserables (!) for my birthday with friends and I imagine we'll have dinner too. So looking forward to that!

Various Theatre trips
I'm a bit of a theatre geek so the various shows I saw are definitely a highlight of 2012. I saw no bad ones. In London I saw Sweeney Todd and Les Miserables (for the second time). I also saw the touring production of Oliver! in Birmingham (where I'm from) and I saw the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary tour in Bristol.

I've already reviewed these shows on my Blog so I'm the only one that I'm going to comment on in any depth is Les Miserables. I had a great time seeing it and it was a brilliant experience. I saw it in November and with two friends. The cast were mostly excellent. It had a stronger all-round cast than the one I saw almost two years ago. The best performers were Danielle Hope, Geronimo Rauch, Sierrra Boggess and Tam Mutu. The performer that I was most looking forward to seeing was Sierra Boggess because I adore her as Christine Daae in the Phantom of the Opera 25th anniversary concert. I thought Boggess was excellent as Fantine. She has a beautiful voice and even though she's a soprano she can really belt it out. I liked her so much more than Caroline Sheen, who played Fantine when I last saw the show. I know some people like Caroline Sheen but I really didn't care for her voice. I prefer Boggess as Christine but I still enjoyed her Fantine and I'm really glad that I got to see her live. Danielle Hope was much better than I thought she'd be as Eponine. I wasn't blown away by her version of On My Own like I was when I heard Samantha Barks sing it live, but Hope still sang the song well and I really liked her acting. The role of Jean Valjean was played by Geronimo Rauch. He's Argentinian and I know he got rave reviews when he played Valjean in the Spanish production of Les Mis: Los Miserables. I really enjoyed Rauch's Valjean. He had a physical edge to him and that made him a lot more convincing as a convict in the prologue scenes than, say, Alfie Boe in the 25th anniversary concert. Rauch had a great voice and he sang with a lot of power and passion. His Spanish accent sometimes came out when he was singing but it didn't come out so much that it became distracting and over-the-top. The kids who played Young Cosette and Gavroche were good too and I really liked the Madame Thenardier. I think Linzi Hateley played her. The highlight for me though was Tam Mutu as Javert (Sierra Boggess's real-life fiancĂ©). He was amazing! I absolutely loved his portrayal of Javert's character! He came across as very driven and strong and he was stern but not too stern. You could see that he had emotions. He obviously wasn't playing Javert as a villain and he came across as very likeable. He had a strong, physical presence though and he didn't come across as a soft wussy. He has a brilliant singing voice too and he nailed Stars and Javert's Suicide, especially the latter. It was a really powerful scene and it was my favourite song in this particular production. There's a live recording of him singing it below. As for the rest of the cast, they were all fine. Not brilliant but fine.

I have theatre plans for 2013 of course. I really want to see Wicked in London again. It's one of my favourite musicals but I've only seen it once and that was way back in 2010. How time flies! Recently it was announced that the show will be touring the UK in late 2013 and early 2014. I'm sure I'll be seeing it if it comes to Birmingham but if I can afford it I'd like to see it in London before then, mainly because I've heard such good things about Gina Beck and Louise Dearman. Apparently Miss Saigon is supposed to be coming back to the West End in late 2013 and my mum has said she'll come with me if it does. I would love to see Miss Saigon even though I'm not hugely familiar with all of the songs. I should download the cast recording. Spamalot is another show I'm interested in too. I still haven't seen a proper comedy musical yet.

There are more local shows that I want to see as well. I've already booked to see the 25th anniversary Phantom of the Opera tour. I'll be seeing that at the Birmingham Hippodrome in March. I've also booked to see The Mousetrap at the Birmingham Alexandra theatre in February. I'm looking forward to that even if it is starring Bruno Langley. I'm an Agatha Christie fan and if a play's been running for 60 years then it must be doing something right. I really want to see War Horse as well. I keep checking the Hippodrome website to see when they'll finally going to release tickets to the general public.

The Lake District
In June I went on a little holiday with my mum to the Lake District. We were there for four days and stayed at a B&B in Windermere. I can't remember the name of the B&B now unfortunately because it was really nice and I'd like to give it a recommendation. We also visited Ambleside and Grasmere while we were there and went on a walk around one day. It's so beautiful there. Even though we had only had one proper sunny day we still had a great time. I have Sherlock to thank for this episode. My mum and I were watching The Hounds of Baskerville episode when we got the idea of a trip to the country : ) Some photos of the trip are below:

Learning French
I saved up for lessons at a language college. I've only been doing it for about four months now and I really enjoy it. I've got an ambition to learn a few languages but I'm concentrating on one for now. If I get any good I might do some blog posts in French.

Trips to Lincoln and Cardiff
I went to visit friends in these cities, Michaela in Lincoln and Helen in Cardiff. I've known Michaela since school and Helen is a friend from university, the only one I'm in touch with these days. I saw more of Cardiff than Lincoln and I like the city more (sorry Michaela!) Cardiff has some lovely Victorian arcades and it's a really great city. I'd have liked to have gone inside the castle but Helen's not into castles. We had a look around the city centre and the bay though. I got to go inside the gift shop at the Doctor Who exhibition though. But I did enjoy my time in Lincoln more because I was feeling down before I came and Michaela cheered me up. (is that better?!) A couple of photos from Cardiff:

Meeting Matt & Kayleigh. 
They're my new work colleagues and they're a married couple. They're both ridiculously nice and they've really helped to work a better environment. Everyone loves them. I do miss my old work colleague Susan (she's in Dundee now) but we've been writing letters to each other.

And now for some questions...

What was your greatest musical discovery of 2012?
I love Ben Howard! I've been pretty much listening to his Kingdom Come album none-stop. I've also - much to my surprise - recently gotten into the short-lived Lord of the Rings musical. It has some seriously great songs!

How did you spend Christmas of 2012?
With my family : )

What did you do for New Years' Eve, 2012?
It was a very quiet one for me. I just chilled at home in my pyjamas with junk food and watched TV. I don't make a big deal out of New Years' Eve.

What was the best book you read in 2012?
Books I read this year... Well, I absolutely loved Hunger Games and Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins but I was sorely disappointed with Mockingjay. I really enjoyed King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table by Roger Lancelyn Green and The Mystery of the Yellow Room by Gaston Leroux. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien was hard work but ultimately rewarding. Disturbingly I don't think I actually read all that much in 2012! New books anyway. I know I re-read some old favourites. I'm going to make more of an effort to read more in 2013.

What was your favourite TV show of 2012?
Sherlock. Waiting for the next series is going to kill me! A Scandal in Belgravia was really enjoyable even I wasn't keen on how they portrayed Sherlock and Irene Adler's relationship. Steven Moffat suggested that Sherlock had romantic feelings for Irene. Sure it was only implied and they left it reasonably open-ended but I'd have preferred it if they hadn't. Sherlock Holmes is asexual in the books. The Hounds of Baskerville and The Reichenbach Fall were incredible episodes though. Martin Freeman actually moved me to tears in his final scenes. And then of course there's Merlin: a show that I thought was crap a few years ago! How wrong was I?! I also adore Once Upon a Time and I'm currently going through Doctor Who boxsets. I must say I prefer the show now Steven Moffat's taken over. David Tennant is still my favourite Doctor but Russell T Davies just isn't that good a writer and the show was really inconsistent when he was in charge. For every Blink there was a Fear Her.

What were the best films you saw in 2012?
Hmm, films that I know I definitely saw this year....

Hunger Games - extremely faithful to the book and Jennifer Lawrence gives a flawless performance. She IS Katniss Everdeen!
Avengers Assemble - enjoyed this far more than I thought I would. It's funny and it looks absolutely incredible. Joss Whedon delivers for the big screen! I also loved Thor mainly because of Loki. Who wouldn't love a bad boy prince who's all misunderstood and really just wants to be loved?! And he looks like Tom Hiddleston too!
The Dark Knight Rises - awesome! All of the actors were outstanding. Anne Hathaway kicked ass as Catwoman. A brilliant end to The Dark Knight Trilogy, one of the few trilogies I can think of where all of the films are brilliant! Christopher Nolan = Genius.
Tangled - the best Disney film since The Hunchback of Notre Dame (I'm not counting the Pixar films). It's funny, it's touching, it has everything that we love about Disney! And I've never fancied a cartoon character more than I have with Flynn Rider!
Scott Pilgrim vs the World - Hilariously entertaining and such great fun! I loved it more than Hot Fuzz! (they were both directed by Edgar Wright).
Monty Python and the Holy Grail - We're Knights of the Round Table! We dance whenever we're able! We do routines and chorus scenes, the footwork impec-cable!
Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows - a VAST improvement on the first Guy Ritchie/Sherlock Holmes film. It still can't hold a candle to the BBC series but it's great fun and I'm actually kind of looking forward to the next film now (Gasp!)
The Hobbit - absolutely fantastic fun. I've loved the book since childhood and I believe the film did it justice.
Hugo - Saw this on Christmas Day. Martin Scorsese directs a family film and actually does a brilliant job. Asa Butterfield and Chloe Grace Moretz give two of the best performances I've ever seen from child actors. The film is a big love letter to cinema. I cinema and I loved this film.

What are the films you're most looking forward to seeing in 2013?
Les Mis! Also the next Hobbit film, Catching Fire and Thor 2. I think I might see Life of Pi too even though it's been ages since I last read the book.

Any new years' resolutions for 2013?
There's one but it probably won't be kept. To go to bed earlier and get up earlier. I tend to get up in the morning at the last possible minute and I then have to rush around in the morning and throw clothes on. It would be really nice to actually take my time in the morning and pick clothes at my own leisure. And not have to stress about missing the bus or it being on time!

What's a valuable life lesson that you've learned this year?
I've always had issues with self-confidence and self-esteem so a big lesson I learned is that God has a much higher opinion of me than I do of myself. I can be very hard on myself and I worry about things that I don't need to worry about.

Five Things I want to do in 2013:
Get a new job/career. I still really like the people who I work with but I am looking to move on and find a new career... only I don't know what I want to do as a career! A bit of an issue!
See more plays and musicals. I want to see at least three this year, hopefully more.
Go on holiday or go travelling for a bit. My mum's asked me if I want to go to New York and I'd love to go but it all depends on whether we can both afford it. Even if I can't go to New York I still want to go on holiday somewhere.
Read more new books. Looking back I don't think I actually read that many books in 2012, which is very troubling to me! I have to read so much more! Will aim for at least 3-4 books a month.
Spend more money on clothes. I've actually been told by my family that I spend far too little on clothes so I have an excuse!

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