2019 in Review

I wonder if you’re the same. Whether all the years since the start of real ‘adulthood’ just blur together into a mess of colour and sound. I sometimes picture the year in my head like a circle, with each day, week, and month with its own section. For some reason, December is darker than most months in my mind. Anyway, 2019 has been no different. Just another circle, full of good days and bad. Yet thinking back now it’s only moments and scenes which really jump out at me. It’s a bit like a TV show; you don’t see the mundane scenes, only the ones that matter.

A few years ago, recognising that I am hopelessly forgetful when it comes to this stuff, I started noting down in my notes app a little ‘Review of the year’. Mostly so that I could sound well-informed when people asked for recommendations, but also so that I could impress you all with just how cultured I am. No wait. That’s not it… Just so I can remember. Ahem.

So here are some memorable scenes from 2019.


Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

A fascinating and detailed account of Farrow’s investigation into the Weinstein scandal. Shocking and saddening, but also hopeful.

Unfollow by Megan Phelps-Roper

A moving and thoughtful autobiography from a member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps-Roper does an amazing job of showing both how she loves and cares for her family, while also comes to see through the hateful beliefs of the church.

I recommended some more books from 2019 in an earlier post which you can check out here.


Beautiful Boy

Even for those not slightly obsessed with Timothee Chalamet, this is an excellent and heartfelt exploration of a father-son relationship and battle with addiction.


Worth it for the wacky humour alone (jam anyone?), this seemingly inevitable remake of the Disney classic is worth your time. For my money, better than the new Lion King (sorry Beyonce!)

Long Shot

I had pretty much zero expectations for this seemingly wacky comedy with Seth Rogen and Charlize Theron, but it won me over instantly.

Marriage Story

So emotional. So good. I already loved the director (Noah Baumbach) of this wonderful Netflix movie about a torturous divorce, now I am fully behind this film getting all the Oscars (especially Adam Driver for his amazing performance.)

Knives Out

I’ve always been a fan of a murder mystery and this is a wonderful reinterpretation of Agatha Christie for the 21st Century. Both a love letter and a refreshing change of pace. Even Daniel Craig’s accent can’t ruin it.

Little Women

I challenge anyone to not be obsessed with Timothee Chalamet after this film. He and Soirse Ronan are simply wonderful. A rare film that is both joyous and finely crafted. Go and see it!


Maggie Rogers

Elton John

Sufjan Stevens

Harry Styles

This list of some favourites from this year covers some old favourites and new discoveries. Maggie Rogers’ debut album was one of the most fresh and catchy pop records I’ve heard in years. After watching Rocketman, I have enjoyed going back to listen to some classic Elton. Also, after a recommendation from a friend have discovered some new deep cuts from Elton’s old stuff. Harry Styles’ beguiling pop/rock persona has won me over despite myself. I love his new album. Sufjan will always be close to my heart…


Dear Evan Hansen

I went to see this wonderful and thoughtful musical before Christmas and can’t recommend it highly enough. So much empathy and love, especially powerful for those who have anything to do with teenagers.

Dolly Parton’s America

This podcast series has also been a highlight of my year. Who knew that everyone loved Dolly so much? It’s an exploration of just why which touches on some powerful and unexpected themes.

When I Grow Up

Surely I’m grown up now right? I’m 26, have a job, an apartment, I’ve been to lots of places and done lots of things with lots of people. I have responsibility and stuff. I’ve even been called wise. So is that it, am I done? Is it no longer possible to say ‘When I grow up I want to be an…astronaut…rock star…librarian (I know, dream big Sam)?’ Well, possible or not I know that I still do think these things. I think ‘I can’t do this forever,’ or ‘I wish I could do that,’ or just ‘It would be cool if…’

‘What do you want to be when you grow up Sam?’

We must be asked that question hundreds of times in the course of our childhood and teenage years, and as much as culture has moved away from the mid-twentieth century idea of a fixed profession for life, we are still asked to identify one thing we want to do with our lives. Experience has shown me that children still pick one of the more ‘traditional’ professions when asked this question today.

‘I want to be a teacher, doctor or a professional footballer!’

I guess it’s easier that way. It’s also easier to follow the pretty straight-forward paths into these professions. When I decided to pursue teaching, I knew what I had to do to become a teacher. It wasn’t easy, and still isn’t, but the steps are there for you to take. The pattern is set and expectations laid out. I think this fits with the more cautious side of my personality. I can be adventurous… but within these set boundaries. Interestingly, one unintended result of moving to Prague to teach in an international school is that these boundaries have changed and expanded. The possibilities are bigger somehow when the kids and teachers of the school have already up-shipped and moved across the world to be there. One of the things I have always loved about teaching is working in community, and it’s just so much closer and crazier when you’re all living in a foreign country together. Teaching abroad has taken me off-piste when it comes to teaching and I wholeheartedly love it.

This new perspective has made me consider the joy of going off the beaten track generally. I’ve been asking myself that question again… What do you want to be? What do you want to do? If I can move to Prague, if God wanted me to move here, then what else does he have in store? What else can I do? Should I do? It’s rather exciting.

I’m not saying that I’m going to chuck in teaching and go crazy, more that I want to be serious about dreaming. Dreaming, praying and considering the talents and gifts I’ve been given, and how I can use them. How I can use the creativity and passions given to me by God to pursue my dreams, ideas and even hair-brained schemes.

I want to keep asking that question, asking others too, seeking and embracing God’s will. Expecting him to be good and to not give us more than we can cope with. I want to keep using my God given gifts and taking opportunities, trusting in his help and dreaming big.


I don’t know if you’ve seen the wonderful musical ‘Matilda’ (go now!) but it has a song which beautifully considers the idea of what it is to be grown up. Rather than dreaming of being this profession or that, the children singing the song dream of being dreamers. They dream of climbing bigger trees, being braver, smarter and of playing ‘with things that mum pretends that mums don’t think are fun.’ Isn’t that a much better picture of being grown up than the one of ‘having a job, 2.4 children and a mortgage?’ It’s certainly one I like more! Of course, they also sing about eating sweets every day and laying in the sun…

So am I grown up? No. I don’t think I want to be thank you very much. But I pray that I keep dreaming and keep aspiring to the grown-up-ness sung about in this song (I also wouldn’t mind eating sweets and lying in the sun in case you wondered.)


When I grow up
I will be tall enough to reach the branches
that I need to reach to climb the trees
you get to climb when you’re grown up.

And when I grow up
I will be smart enough to answer all
the questions that you need to know
the answers to before you’re grown up.

And when I grow up
I will eat sweets every day
on the way to work and I
will go to bed late every night!

And I will wake up
when the sun comes up and I
will watch cartoons until my eyes go square

and I won’t care ’cause I’ll be all grown up!

When I grow up!

When I grow up, when I grow up
(When I grow up)
I will be strong enough to carry all
the heavy things you have to haul
around with you when you’re a grown-up!

And when I grow up, when I grow up
(When I grow up)
I will be brave enough to fight the creatures
that you have to fight beneath the bed
each night to be a grown-up!

And when I grow up
(When I grow up)
I will have treats every day.
And I’ll play with things that mum pretends
that mums don’t think are fun.

And I will wake up
when the sun comes up and I
will spend all day just lying in the sun
and I won’t burn ’cause I’ll be all grown-up!

When I grow up!

When I grow up. I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you need to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown-up.

Changing Rooms (and routers)

A whole new world, eh. Aladdin may have had a magic carpet but you can also access whole new worlds by planes these days. I have been in Prague for a little over a week and it’s amazing how different a place only two hours away can be. How things you take for granted like, say, phoning a help line or collecting a package can be infinitely more complex when you don’t speak the lingo. Unsurprisingly for the Czech Republic ordering a beer is easy. Stopping drinking is the bigger problem when beer is cheaper than bottled water…

You become all the more aware of the fact that you are relying on the niceness of others to get you through. Will the lady at the post office understand? Be helpful? Have I got the correct ticket? Have I followed the instructions (from only the sketchy pictures) properly? In order to get internet in my flat (thankfully now up and running thanks to said pictures) an engineer had to come to my flat and check that it would work before they sent me the box with the router etc. Poor guy, he must hate it when gormless expats want quick access to Facebook. Thankfully for him (and me) I was on the tram with a Czech colleague when he rang. Amazingly, she ended up coming with me to talk to him and help set it up. So much to be thankful for!

There is so much that is so easy and well-thought-through here though – the public transport system is amazing and always on time. Getting on the bus can be tricky at rush hour, but there’s always another one on the way. Also, the weekend in Prague is surprisingly quiet. Apparently, Praguers head to the countryside for a few days, leaving me confused in deserted metro stations. You can also easily find a place which does the national cuisine of your choice – yes, even fish and chips – and you’re falling over places to sit outside and drink. Not to mention the abundant free wifi – I’ve had many a Starbucks in my week here.

All in all, I have been amazed by God’s goodness in my short time here so far. I have been blessed by visiting various churches and have shared meals with many interesting people. Coming home to an empty flat takes some getting used to, but I’m feeling positive about the start made here even though I know I’ve only seen the tip of the iceberg in terms of both joys and frustrations.

At least they have Marks and Spencer’s.


The (Late) Breakfast Club

Were you a horrid teenager? You know the drill – grunting, drinking, mono-syllabic moaning, messing up your room, generally being a stereotype. Well, I think I missed most of these things in my teenage years (maybe my parents disagree?) but I have had a growing appreciation of the delights of being a teenager recently. Maybe this is further evidence of my refusal to actually grow up and I’m sure it’s rather rose-tinted as well, yet I have been enjoying nostalgically dipping my toes into being a ‘teenager’ again.

I hope you have had the joy of watching classic ‘teen movies.’ Not sparkly-vampire infested ones, but classic, quotable, bad-hair featuring ones. Movies like The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Juno and Clueless. There’s something about the boundless opportunity and optimism of the characters, even when they are forced to spend a whole Saturday in detention, that seems to me to be the thing I miss about teenager-hood. The feeling that the world really is your oyster and that any kind of creative, random, unexpected thing could happen. Too often, this feeling is drowned out in me by jaded, perfunctory, grown-up-ness.

My renewed youth has also been fed by teen-fiction. Yes, that’s right. Sounds terrible doesn’t it. But when I think that I was eagerly awaiting the last Harry Potter book or two well into my twenties it’s not all that surprising. I was totally gripped by The Hunger Games trilogy, loved The Perks of Being a Wallflower and, damn it, was holding back tears reading The Fault in our Stars. There’s something about the intensity of feeling, the ‘universe is centred around me and how I feel right now’ perspective of these characters, as well as the ‘this friendship will never be the same again’ sadness, that makes these books so appealing in many ways. Or maybe just easier to read.

As I think about the future and the possibilities before me, are they really less vast than those I imagined (or not) when I was an actual teenager? Is it not a positive thing to seek to enjoy every moment, eager to await each surprise, rather than dreading the next hiccup? If nothing else, this teenage flashback has reminded me that God has been faithful to me up to now, so much more than I could have expected. Whatever is to come, I look forward to enjoying his goodness and the gifts, whether as big as a new job or a child, or as small as a sunny day and an ice lolly, that he generously gives. And when it’s hard, it will be OK, because time goes on and he is faithful.

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller




What children really want for christmas

Today I asked my class of 8 and 9 year olds “What is it that you’d like for christmas, but you think your parents wouldn’t actually get you?” There was an educational purpose to this question of course (we were writing persuasive arguments) but the answers were most illuminating.

There was the expected range of gadgets (you can’t go wrong with an iPad), pets (from dog to horse to donkey to pig) and toys (apparently a voice-activated secret diary is now on the market folks), but one answer came out of the blue and caused much hilarity.

Me: “So what would you like for christmas, but you don’t think you’ll really get?”

Child: “I’d like one of those little cars that old people use.”

Me: “You mean a mobility scooter?”

Child: “Yeah, an ability scooter!”

I think I’ve discovered a gap in the market – of course a small, speedy, car, ideal for cutting up pedestrians, racing down the street and generally causing trouble, would appeal to kids. It appeals to me now I think about it.

If someone started making them with a Barbie, Spiderman or Moshi Monsters theme they’d make millions. Or they’d have at least one customer. If he can persuade his parents…