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His favourite things


His favourite things

2019 was a hectic year for Richard O’Leary, but as he looks ahead to 2020 he reflects on the highlights of the year that was.

Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.

Bright copper kettles and warm woollen mittens.

Brown paper packages tied up with string.

These are a few of my favourite things.

I don’t know about you, but this year feels like it has gone on forever, but now it’s nearly over I wonder where all those days have disappeared to.

2019 had more ups and downs for me than usual. Big events just seemed to be happening one after another. Determined to finish on a high I have compiled my list of favourite things over the past 12 months.

For fiction I can’t go past Denis Glover’s The Last Man in Europe, which tells the tale of George Orwell’s final years as he sacrificed his health and then his life to finish 1984.

Although it’s written as a novel, it feels more like a fly-on-the-wall documentary of one of the 20th century’s most influential writers. I don’t think it’s possible to read this book and not pick up Animal Farm or 1984 shortly after, even if you’ve read them many times before like I have.

Ignoring the cultural wars controversy over the author, Dark Emu is my favourite non-fiction book of 2019. If this volume doesn’t get you thinking about Australia’s past, present and future, nothing will.

I’m a pretty clean-living dude these days but I became seriously addicted to podcasts this year. Whether I was driving, painting or mowing lawns I was listening to stories of inspiration, determination and desperation.

Dirty John, Let’s Talk About Sects and Stuff You Should Know all ended up on my playlist, but there’s only one podcast that I really craved, where I refreshed my app many times a day in the hope of a new episode – The Teacher’s Pet.

This gripping series dug up a cold case and tried to work out what happened to a devoted mother who just disappeared one night 35 years ago. The show was not only one of the most popular podcasts in Australian history, it also led to an arrest.

My favourite song gong goes to Old Town Road, but not the Lil Nas X version where he is accompanied by Billy Ray Cyrus of Achy Breaky Heart fame – or as he is more commonly called these days, Miley’s dad.

No, the version I liked best was FaceTimed to me at work recently. It featured five junior primary kids singing at the top of their voices for their class concert, accompanied by some of the best dance moves since the Rock Steady Crew. If they keep the group together it may not be too long before I’m referred to as the father of the kid in the middle.

And finally, if you are a Broncos fan you might want to turn away now. My favourite sporting moment was watching my beloved Eels beat Brisbane 58 to nil in the qualifying semi-final. We got flogged by the Storm the following week, but I’ll take what I can get.

I hope your year has had more highs than lows and that 2020 brings you peace, serenity and satisfaction.


Richard O’Leary is a journalist, a political advisor and a father who knows there’s a deeper meaning to life but struggles to find it.

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