Another year coming to an end and it’s been as full of highlights as any that’s gone before. And December is as good a month as any. Here’s what’s been on my radar this month.
1 Travel: three years ago we were invited to a wedding in Indonesia in December. We made a holiday out of the trip which gave us the advantage of a little winter warmth and a step back from the excesses of the run in to Christmas. This year we repeated the exercise with a week in Oman. It delivered on the two key objectives and more besides. Oman is not the same as the other countries in the Middle East. It’s been run by the apparently benevolent Sultan Qaboos for nearly 50 years and the country is in good shape with excellent roads and universal free education and healthcare. It’s a Muslim country and a pretty conservative one at that but it’s also tolerant and welcoming of outsiders. It’s a great place to visit, to learn a little and to relax.
2 Book: Goldstein by Volker Kutscher. I started reading this guy after his first Gereon Rath novel was featured as a serial on SKY last year. Rath is a cop out of the same mould as John Rebus: a shade liberal, not a great respecter of hierarchy and an occasional breaker of the rules. I’m always doubtful about reading books that have been translated because I recognise you’re not really getting the author’s style, just his or her story, but this is a good yarn. And I like the short paragraphs which make it an easy bed-time read.
3 Restaurant: we returned to Sant Angelo in Wetherby and it didn’t disappoint. It’s in the centre of the town so it’s always busy with people dropping in for teas and coffees and ice cream throughout the day. The main restaurant employs lots of Italians who cook and serve super food (see photo above) in some style. It’s big and brash and a great marriage of Italian and Yorkshire.
4 TV: you used to be able to depend on the TV channels to deliver good programming at the end of the year when audiences would peak. Sadly it’s no longer the case as viewing habits have changed. However The ABC Murders on BBC1 has met a standard. It’s a rather dark take on Hercule Poirot with John Malkowich replacing David Suchet who defined the character over 70 programs up until 2013. I guess the central plot of serial murders somehow linked to the ABC railway guide stays but much else has been changed with Inspector Japp being killed off and replaced by an uppity Inspector Chrome. However the French accent, the pointy beard and the cane are still there. Poirot triumphs in the end but not before we’re told of his past and left to think about how it might have shaped him.
5 Sport: there was a time when Histon FC rode a wave which had it beating Leeds in the FA Cup and put them in the playoffs to enter the Football League (now division 2). But it’s success was based on an unsustainable model and when the bubble burst successive relegations followed. It’s now in the Thurlow Nunn ECL Premier Division and with 40 points it’s in second place just a point behind the leaders with three games in hand. The club has reinvented itself to some extent as a community club and runs a successful youth academy in partnership with Impington Village College.
6 Hotel: We stayed in four hotels on our Oman trip (see above). No big complaints about any of them but the View at Hail al Shas was exceptional. We stayed there on our first night in Oman. It was the end of a long day and we arrived in plenty of time to appreciate the view (it does what it says on the can) and to enjoy an infinity pool which made you worried that you might swim off the edge of the world. Simply stunning.
Finally. I enjoyed two long (well longish) haul flights with Air Oman. It’s a perfectly good airline with good cabin service and exquisite food in Business Class which I upgraded to for the outbound overnight flight to Muscat. Unfortunately its media offering is less good and although I watched two movies they don’t really deserve a mention.