SO, what have you been up to in 2023? I’ve just been totting this year up. In the last 12 months I’ve read 76 books (I’ve another couple on the go that may or may not be finished before January 1), seen 57 films at the cinema, been to just 19 gigs (including Suede twice), five plays, one ballet, one burlesque show, a fair few exhibitions (for some reason I didn’t note them all down), caught a couple of poets and a dozen comedians performing live. Oh, and Pina Bausch’s The Rite of Spring.

Of course I’ve also watched a lot of crap TV, listened to hours upon hours of football on the radio, driven more than I should, walked less than I ought to, ate too much chocolate and munched too many crisps, moaned too often about “Bloody Tories”, procrastinated endlessly and become a grandfather.

It’s possible only one of these things is really significant.

Still, I’ve spent a fair bit of this last month reading all of the end of the year lists that point out all the books I should have read rather than the ones I did, the music I should have been listening to when I was replaying all my old Prefab Sprout records, the films I missed and the TV series that I was never going to watch anyway. I’m a sucker for them.

Now and then I even find myself in agreement. (Filmwise this year I loved Rye Lane, Past Times, All the Beauty and the Bloodshed and Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, all of which were named in various Best of lists. Not sure why everyone has overlooked Are You There God? It’s me, Margaret, though.) These lists are useful things on the whole, I think. Not only as a way to celebrate the year’s highlights or give a first re-evaluation of what we’ve all been watching/reading/listening to, but also because they’re a chance to highlight some of the achievements that might have been overlooked. (On which point I’d suggest if you’ve never seen the Scottish-based Romanian singer Lizabett Russo live, try and correct that. And if you got a book token for Christmas the great Northern Irish writer Glenn Patterson’s latest book Two Summers is one of his best.) They are also, I suppose, an attempt to reassure ourselves that we are spending our time productively; that we are achieving something in life even if it is only keeping up with what’s going on. Because aren’t we all looking for meaning where we can locate it? Some find it in God, some find it in good works, others in having an opinion on whether Emerald Fennell’s divisive movie Saltburn is anything more than a provocation in defence of poshness.

In the end, though, how important is any of this? Aren’t these lists just another opportunity to beat ourselves up over what we haven’t done in the previous 12 months? Oh, we still haven’t read that great novel, never mind written our own. We really shouldn’t have spent all that time watching Death in Paradise when we could have been catching up with Once Upon a Time in Northern Ireland. (Some of us, of course, have watched both.) If I’m honest, I don’t really believe in the concept of wasted time. When it comes to life on Earth, I’m with the writer Kurt Vonnegut. “I tell you,” he once said, “we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

Nearly all my favourite days in 2023 came when I was just “farting around”, whether in Belfast, London, Newcastle or Dundee, with friends and family or just on my own. There’s nothing wrong with achievement. I just don’t think it’s compulsory.

On my best day this year I didn’t even leave the house. Last week my daughter brought my month-old grandson over and I just watched him for a few hours sleeping, feeding and being changed. That’s the memory I’ll take with me into 2024.