This is what I have instead of a Bucket List, lists of things that I can complete without having to travel too far. I like to work my way through bodies of work and know that they’re done. I enjoy it. Some of these lists are closed (like seeing every Shakespeare play) and some grow, either once a year (like Man Booker Prize winners or Oscar Winners) or at more frequent intervals (UK Number 1 Hit Singles). See below for a summary, or drop down the Projects Menu for more details.
Summary: To see at least one stage production of every Shakespeare play
Progress: Thanks to the BBC Complete Works season I managed to see every Shakespeare play, either on stage or in a film / TV adaptation, by the spring of 2004. Thanks to the 2006 RSC Complete Works season I had seen at least one stage production of every play by the end of October 2006. (I completed the set with their rather experimental version of “Timon of Athens” in Stratford-on-Avon.)
In the Spring of 2015 I decided to read (or re-read) each play and see if I could complete the cycle of stage productions again. I don’t read anywhere near as much as I would like but figured I could read one play per week (or one Act per day, 5 days out of 7).
Up to December 2015 “Coriolanus” is the only play that I have seen just once on stage but there are currently no planned productions in the UK.
As of 2 December I have read 34 of the 37 plays, some (like “Twelfth Night) over the course of an evening while others (like “Love’s Labour’s Lost” or “Much Ado About Nothing”) were a real struggle, taking weeks rather than days. The three that remain: “Henry VIII”, “Timon of Athens”, “The Tempest”.
Booker Prize Winners
Summary: to read every Booker (or Man Booker) Prize winner
Progress: Everything up to the 2012 winner (Hilary Mantel’s “Bring up the bodies”) but I haven’t worked my way through the last three winners: “The Luminaries”, “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” or “A Brief History of Seven Killings”.
Every UK Number 1 in order
Summary: to hear every UK #1 single, in order, from Al Martino’s “Here in my heart” through to today.
Progress: complete to November 2015. This was a rather strange soundtrack to the autumn of 2015. There’s a Spotify playlist “Every UK Number One Single – 1952-2015”, nearly 80 hours long. For some songs there are cover versions rather than the originals (all 17 Beatles #1s for instance) but in most cases I nipped out to the web to find an original, somewhere. I am not the same person I was before I started this venture. There were only 12 different songs at #1 in 1992, but a staggering 42 different #1s in 2000
A UK Number 1 from every year
Summary: to learn how to play and sing at least one UK #1 single for every year from 1955 to now.
Progress: just about there, but I’m rather rusty on some of the selections. Every time two or more of us are gathered at a piano I ask whoever I’m with to name a year between 1955 and 2014 and I play a song from that year. I have only been caught out once, before I had mastered a song from 1956. Some years are easier than others.
Summary: to see every major Oscar winner (Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Supporting Actress) of my lifetime
Progress: Finished, up to and including 2015. I was born in the 1960s and have seen every major Oscar winner since 1947. My friends Steve and Clare are involved in a similar project, to see every Best Picture Winner in date order, starting with 1972 (“The Godfather”). Last time we spoke about this they had got stuck at 1991 (“Silence of the lambs”).
“Desert Island Discs”
This isn’t a project like the others, aiming to read through or watch a body of work, or tick items off a list, but the BBC’s archive of “Desert Islands Discs” episodes is a remarkable resource. For many years even the most recent episode of the show was unavailable on their “Listen Again” or iPlayer service. If I was unable to hear an episode when broadcast on a Friday or Sunday I missed it. With digital TV, from autumn 2000 onwards, I was able to record episodes (onto video originally, then onto hard drives) but before that I missed a lot of episodes. Now I can go back and catch up on almost anything, or hear again episodes that I first heard nearly 30 years ago. Do yourself a favour, check out the archive, but be prepared to lose a few hours. You can stream or download the episodes. I like to download them, batch them up and listen to two or three at a time. My friend Steve has just started doing this too, two episodes on his drive to work and two on the way home. It almost makes me wish I was commuting by car again.