2023 looking stunning right here at Achnasheen

Here’s my annual round-up of my year in music, films and books. Let me know if you’ve got some suggestions of things that I missed! It’s been a whirlwind of a year, not helped by spending too much of the final month feeling rubbish. You can forage through my past here: 2009 // 2012 // 2013 // 2014 // 2017 // 2018 // 2019 // 2020 // 2021 // 2022 // 2023


I’ve tried so hard to listen to new sounds this year and not just have the same old stuff on repeat… I’ve blogged a little list every month and it’s been a lot of fun. Check them out: January // February // March // April // May // June // July // August // September // October // November // December

The standout tracks/bands/albums are: 

  • Bleachers - Modern Girl is a gem of a track and Live At Radio City Music Hall album is one of the best live albums ever made

  • The Ballroom Thieves  - Bees: the line “I once read that I should write something that’s worth reading, or I should do something that’s worth writing about” is a mantra to live by

  • The Cat Empire - Owl and Thunder Rumbles - always great to have good new material from a band that I’ve loved for so long

  • Akusmi - Fleeting Future - lush!

  • The Arcadian Wild - Dopamine - delivers exactly what it says in the title!

  • Boygenius - the supergroup that 2023 needed

  • Lawrence - I’m Confident That I’m Insecure is yet another song that they perform as if it’s a classic that’s been on the playlist since the 70s

  • Brownbear - solid album

  • Mélanie Laurent - En t’attendant - sometimes finding something old for the first time just transports you back in time - this has such a strong Damien Rice fingerprint that I was right back in 2002 when “O” came out

  • Måneskin - RUSH! is a full-on album and their Glasto set was epic

  • Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross - Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem - whilst not being a Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Trent and Atticus can do no wrong 

  • The 1975 - Being Funny in a Foreign Language - Jack Antonoff’s production shines and defines this album

  • The National - First Two Pages of Frankenstein - some gorgeous tunes on here

  • Daði Freyr - Whole Again - what should have been an almost throwaway moment from Eurovision was, to me, the sound of the night!


More of the same this year:

  • 99% Invisible

  • This American Life

  • Darknet Diaries

And some new ones:

  • 60 Songs That Explain The 90s - this podcast should be required listening - always hilarious, beautifully worded and something that I could listen to all day. 

  • Page One The Writer’s Podcast - much love for this, always great to hear writers talking about their craft

  • City Of The Rails - seems like a messed up family situation but awesome research into the culture of the railroad

  • The Coldest Case In Laramie - not the greatest podcast but some great investigatory work 

  • Beauisms - backstage insight from Beau Miles talking about his videos

  • The Last Soviet - not quite made it through this one but the subject is fascinating

  • And a festive favourite, Neil Gaiman reading all of The Christmas Carol from Dickens’ own prompt book

Top TV

  • Ghosts - both the US version and the original are fantastic. Top thing to watch this year.

  • Dark (Season 1) - I was a bit late to the game on this and absolutely loved season 1, all the right elements of mystery, deceit, other-worldly and scenic. 

  • The Inside Man - two absolute legends brought together in a way that I just hadn’t anticipated - well done  Steven Moffat for bringing together David Tennant and Stanley Tucci… and well done to Dolly Wells who outacted David and Stanley! 

  • Obliterated - whilst I’m aware that this series is rude, crude, silly and throwaway, it caught me whilst I was poorly and it was exactly what I needed. 

  • The Greatest Woodworker (2023) - I love that this series exists - it’s the perfect Bake-Off-format show

  • Totally Killer - an 80s time travel slasher from Prime shouldn’t have been this good!

  • Foundation (Seasons 1 and 2) - honestly not as good as the budget should have dictated but they did do a good of capturing a very complex timeline

  • Only Murders In The Building (Season 3) - Not as good as 2 but still a hoot.

  • Race Across The World (Series 3) - such a shame about one pair of contestants but a good overall show

  • Kleo - so much to love about this dark, funny, Cold War assassin 

  • The Night Agent - for the most-watched show of the year it wasn’t amazing but it was definitely in the top 10 shows of my year

Top New Movies

Despite loving movies more than TV, I’ve watched fewer movies than I’d have liked this year. But I have watched some gems:

  • Triangle of Sadness - this is the movie that stayed with me longest after leaving the cinema - it was so many different things and for something so surreal was also so believable

  • Everything Everywhere All At Once - hilarious, touching, action-packed

  • Barbie - went for the kid’s birthday and despite not being the target audience I loved it

  • Knives Out, The Glass Onion - not a patch on the first one but still twisty and entertaining

  • The Unbearable Weight of Massive Talent - I hadn’t really appreciated just how much talent the guy has until I saw the bar scene!

  • There’s Nothing Out There - a super low-budget pre-Scream movie that’s right there taking the piss out of itself in a hilarious late-80s/early-90s way 

  • But I’m A Cheerleader - always great to watch a cult movie for the first time 

  • Super Mario Bros (2023) - Not a top 5 movie of the year but it had some wonderful moments and didn’t disappoint

  • Freaky - another throwaway horror that worked well

  • Tenet - I remember missing a cinema trip to see Tenet in favour of a nice sunny evening walk and a pint… While  I don’t regret the decision it would be nice to see this on a big screen!

Top Movie Rewatches

These films are all fab and I’d watch every one again today, no explanation needed:

  • Elf

  • Inglorious Basterds

  • The Hunt For Red October

  • The World’s End

Worst Movies

I tried to be as discerning as possible but some bombs snuck in. Almost all are sequels, I note. 

  • The Equalizer 2 - didn’t do anything that the first one didn’t do better

  • Wonder Woman 1984 - great concept but that’s as far as it went

  • Extraction 2 - see above

  • Fantastic Beasts: Crimes of Grindelwald - the gradual demise of the Potterverse 

  • Independence Day: Resurgence - no point in this film

  • Long Way Up - truly jumped the shark when they made this… unquestionably why people with fame and fortune need someone to ground them in reality 

  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 - nostalgia with not enough work on the script

  • Uncharted - so stupid

  • Super Mario Bros (1993) - I hadn’t ever watched this all the way through… it’s a rough watch!

  • Chicken Run 2 - the first one was 100x better than the sequel


  • Rob Wilkins - Terry Pratchett, A Life With Footnotes (The Official Biography): funny, sad, poignant, subtle… such a great read and a fitting tribute to Sir Terry.

  • Iain M Banks - Player of Games: I could have sworn that I’d already read this… turns out it was a gem that had passed me by. 

  • Lucie Bryon - Thieves: the kid bought this and I read it too - fantastic!

  • Russell Davies - Do Interesting: A brilliant book and some great techniques about being/staying interesting. More ways to collect and share more things.

  • Lara Maiklem - A Field Guide to Larking: I found a weird metallic rounded stone, goose barnacles and a brass bearing system on beaches this year so it’s been a good year learning from Lara!

  • Dan Richards - Outpost: filling a little of the gap I have from missing out on travel.

  • Hank Green - An Absolutely Remarkable Thing: some moments in this book were pure genius and the interplay between the characters was very believable (in an unbelievable world). 

  • Richard Osman - The Man Who Died Twice: Book 2 in the series and honestly loved this as much (maybe even more) than the first. 

  • Donald S Murray - In a Veil of Mist: a great telling of the myths surrounding biological experiments on the west coast of Scotland.

  • Ben Aaronovitch - Rivers of London, Moon Over Soho and Whispers Underground: not amazing… but somehow gripping in a way that made me want to go and buy two more as I chased to see if there’s a resolution for one of the characters…

Board Games

  • Railroad Ink - portable, fun, individual puzzles

  • Cartographers - like Railroad Ink but slightly more meddling with your opponents

  • Kolejka - queuing in communist Poland - very well done

  • CodeWords - much harder than it seems that it would be!

  • Carcassonne - always good fun, tricky techniques if you’ve not played for a while

  • Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza - we’ve played so many hours of this!

  • SushiGo - still a go-to

Websites & Apps

All the usuals - watching things via YouTube & Netflix, keeping the to-do list on the 2Do app, keeping the language learning going on Duolingo, always not getting lost using Google Maps, always messaging via WhatsApp, always listening to Spotify (especially now that it has audiobooks), emailing via Proton & Gmail. Huge usage of Google Drive and GitHub (and one Google Sheet+script that lets me post blog posts to GitHub Pages). Still using InoReader (RIP Google Reader).  


Another year with only one gig (Inspiral Carpets) but I’ve already got tickets for a gig in 2024 so that’s a good start! Cannot wait. 


Here are just a few of the places that brought joy to my year:

  • The Netherlands. From the beachcombing museum to the cycling infrastructure to the car museum to the trains, graffiti, stickering, galleries, other museums and just the whole European-ness of it all, it was exhilarating to have left the UK for a few days. I want more of this next year.

  • Achnasheen and especially time spent outside on beaches, time spent eating food from The Midge Bite, time spent on the water with Sheildaig Adventures, time spent in nature - gorgeous.

  • The Borders - so great, never overlooked and always great to spend time with family. 

  • Ardnamurchan - an October break with beaches, whisky and cousin time.

  • Dundee & the V&A - love this building and a city that always pleases.

  • Walks to Wardie Bay with Oscar - who knew that taking a slightly naughty dog on walks would be so fun?

  • London - even in a kilt on the Tube in 40-degree heat. London is still an experience that I love every time. The canal just behind Kings Cross was a new discovery and one that I’ll keep on visiting. 

Creative hobbies

Creative hobbies… maintaining the cabin, house and car most certainly  aren’t hobbies (but I did a fair bit). I’ve done a little:

  • Writing… but not enough

  • Spoon carving… but not enough other woodwork

  • Built a standing desk space in the spare room and repainted our kitchen… but I’d like to do so much more next year!

  • Baking bread (every week or so)

  • Brewing mead, some plum brandy and a delicious batch of advocaat

  • Exercise in the forms of walking and swimming… but failing that just sitting in a sauna is bliss


Along with favourite makers Colin Furze (with his weightless machine and ongoing tunnel project), Laura Kampf (with her ongoing house project) and Look Mum No Computer (with his ongoing museum project) I’ve been fascinated by some new channels this year:

  • Jonny Smith and The Late Break Show - the barn-finds are pure gold (a perfect YouTube format) and, for a show about cars, it’s 99% about the people

  • Grind Hard Plumbing - the motorcycle build is insane-level machine-shop fabrication (I do wish they’d be slightly safer when they drive some of their rides though!)

  • How Ridiculous - so much awesome slow-mo action and silly Aussie banter

  • Lawrence - the docuseries was as good as any tour documentary (the documentary - and the band - deserve awards)