1. The Grand Budapest Hotel The new Wes Anderson film (due out in the UK in March). I loved Moonrise Kingdom, and any film with the line “I don’t know what kind of cream they put on you down at the morgue, but I want some” gets my full attention. His films are funny, brilliant and beautiful and at the end of a long British winter, I can’t think of anything I am looking forward to more (except maybe the spring).
2. Caught by the River A celebration of all things precious in life (music, the countryside, illustration, poetry, books, and good beer), well at least in my view. It was started by Jeff Barrett, Robin Turner, and Andrew Walsh, with their collective love of fishing. The three’s day job is running Heavenly Records, and Caught by the River is their way of indulging in all the things close to them (which just happens to coincide with me and a whole bunch of other folk). It is a joyous visit on a computer. And they also turn up at the best UK cultural festivals, bringing a live version, which is just as amazing as you would imagine.
3. The Library There is a big debate in the UK about libraries. The (current) government are hellbent on shutting as many as possible, seeing them as relics of another age. Are they mad? (Well, yes, actually.) My local library has ‘Bristol Free Library 1885’ carved above it, which says a lot in itself. How many things in life so valuable are set up on our high streets nowadays? Let alone free. It is an amazing service; when I was 17, I discovered the songs of Woody Guthrie through borrowing records from a library. And when I was cycling in the Hudson Valley two years ago I stumbled upon Ken Greene at the Hudson Valley Seed Library. Ken was a librarian who found that you could easily translate the concept of borrowing books to the idea of passing on hardy northern seeds to other folk, who could return the seeds when they crop in the autumn. A beautiful idea from another long held beautiful idea.
4. Pete Seeger’s death Many people have written about Pete since then, and it is clear he was a brilliant and passionate man. He set about the popularising the power of folk music for the working man. His campaigning work was incessant right up into his 90s. A humble man, but a man who would fight for positive change. His work in challenging big businesses who polluted his beloved Hudson River become a life’s work. He had a vision of restoring the river, so that it’s communities would again love the river and engage with its beauty.
5. The bicycle When I visited New York City with my bicycle I was thrilled to find it has more cycle paths than Amsterdam. There is something of total freedom about being on a bicycle. Your heart pumps, your mind clears and there is nothing as good as zipping through a bunch of snarled up cars and crossing a bridge into sun dappled country roads (in the US or UK). Likewise, if you are a fan of cycle touring, as I am, the idea of strapping everything you need to exist onto your bike and heading off for a week or a month is pretty life-affirming.