Thursday 23 January 2020

John Masterson: It is 2020 - time to work out my 'perfect vision' year

Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in the 1965 film version of Dr Zhivago
Omar Sharif and Julie Christie in the 1965 film version of Dr Zhivago

That is almost a week of the 'perfect vision' year behind us. I haven't broken any of my New Year resolutions yet. I haven't kept them either. I took the precaution of not making any as I am not great at dealing with failure. So I will stick with good intentions.

I always have a target to visit a new country each year. Last year I had to lower the bar on that one but I am not the least bit unhappy that I did. I have often been in Italy, but I had never been in Venice, and a week spent there in April was magical.

I had been in Poland a few times, but never in Krakow, and what a special place it turned out to be with the Christmas markets a few weeks back. I took the opportunity to visit Auschwitz-Birkenau, having just watched the six-part documentary on Netflix. It is a place that I would recommend anyone visit, and far more important than adding another country to the list.

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I had been in San Francisco before and didn't much like it. But I had the opportunity to give it a second chance. All of what I had thought about it was wrong. I absolutely loved it second time around, and if I could wave a magic wand I would be living there tomorrow. With my restless spirit perhaps I shouldn't live anywhere in particular.

The lesson is that hard-and-fast rules are there to be broken, and long-held attitudes are there to be tested. There are places, books, films and even people that might be worth reassessing in 2020.

I need to read and 2019 was a bad year for reading. I didn't get stuck into many books. I don't really remember reading something that I wanted to tell all and sundry about. A friend texted a fair few people asking for the list of our top three books of the year. I found myself struggling. Eventually I came up with the many science books I had trudged through wishing I had learned how to do big sums. Brian Cox can make things understandable, but knowing what the equations say would be so much better. Devouring science books can be both exciting and depressing.

You can be filled with awe one moment, as I was recently looking at a beautiful full moon at twilight as I drove up the N7. What must it have felt like for the few people who have had the opportunity to look back at us? Then follows the inevitable 'what does it all mean?' when I know full well that it does not mean anything. It just IS. I spent a good few summer nights looking at the night sky in my garden, free from city light pollution, feeling very insignificant indeed.

There are the films that I went back to again, like Dr Zhivago, Three Colours Blue, Les Intouchables that never disappoint. Then there are the new ones. I now have November marked off in my diary as a time I have to be in Kilkenny for the Subtitle Festival. This is ten days of films that I have usually not heard of. They are all chosen for a reason. They are superb, and this year I had the pleasure of being in the Watergate Theatre for the first sold-out large venue in the six or so years of the festival. Sometimes it takes a while for a great idea to catch on. The film was called La Belle Epoque and it is a wonderful 90 minutes. Put this film on your 2020 list and open up a new world.

The places that never let me down and do not need reassessing include Connemara, and this year I even got some good weather. And Florida, of course, where I spent ten days without ever thinking of Donald Trump.

Finally there are the people to reassess or even forgive. That is another story.

Who will I forgive? And who will I forget? Who do I miss, and who should I pick up the phone to and eat humble pie? That is all overwhelming and way too much to think of in January. I think I will just watch the night stars again, with a hot whiskey in case I get a cold. Happy 2020.

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