It was a funny year to be a 40something.

I was stuck in traffic one day – now, there's a sentence that could sum up my 2019 – and as I glanced out the window I saw a row of posters advertising upcoming gigs. Bon Jovi, The Cure, Metallica – given that young women everywhere were wearing my college uniform of Doc Marten boots and opaque tights, all I was missing was a DeLorean to complete the impression I was starring in my very own version of Back to the Future. But nostalgia is more complicated now than it was in Marty McFly’s day. When he went from 1985 to 1955 there was a clear dividing line between what his parents wore and listened to, compared with what their children got up to three decades later. These days the lines are far more blurred, with a multi-generational crowd rocking out to Bob Dylan and Neil Young at Nowlan Park, and plenty of people at gigs by bands like Fontaines DC and Girl Band checking their watches to make sure they’d get home to the baby sitters on time.

Girl Band

So here are my personal cultural highlights of the year just past, some of which are brand new and others which managed to be both new and nostalgic at the same time.

In music, the aforementioned Fontaines DC were a joy to listen to and watch. Their debut album, Dogrel won them among many plaudits and a Mercury nomination while their performance on the BBC stage was a highlight of the show.

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Also uplifting was the reception Hozier got when he headlined Electric Picnic on the Friday night of the festival. Midway through a tour, he gave a beautifully crafted and emotional performance to a hugely appreciative crowd.

Hozier onstage at Electric Picnic

It was also fun to watch a delighted, but not overawed Dermot Kennedy on the same stage while Billie Eilish's performance, directly before the two Irishmen was one of the talking points of the weekend.  My gig of the year however was at Vicar Street where a rapturous crowd welcomed Sinéad O’Connor home. There was, if it’s not an oxymoron, an air of gentle celebration in the venue, we wanted to mind the singer as well as cheer her to the rafters, and when it when it became clear she was enjoying the night the crowd let their voices soar. I suspect most of the phone footage we took came out a bit misty, given the emotion that was in the room but the night wasn’t just about looking back, as the gravity and power of the singer’s performance suggested there is plenty more yet to come.

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In literature, I read a lot of books and reviewed them here earlier in the month, just in time for Christmas shopping, while another literary highlight was filming Marian Keyes as she handed over her digital literary archive to the National Library of Ireland. It was a good day both for the growth of the national digital collection, and for commercial fiction, which plays a huge but sometimes underappreciated part in this country's literary history. Meanwhile, books and writers of all genres are represented at the new MOLI museum of Irish literature on St Stephen’s Green, a welcome addition to the capital’s cultural scene which has already proved itself a great venue for book launches as well.

Inside MOLI, the new Museum Of Irish Literature

One of the more unusual pieces of work I encountered this year was Sleep at the Carlow Arts Festival which invited audience members to spend a night in a tent while listening to Max Richter’s orchestral piece. In visual art, Lucian Freud’s admiration of Jack Yeats was celebrated at IMMA while the Zurich portrait prize was well worth a visit to the National Gallery and was accompanied this year by a very welcome prize for young artists. Meanwhile my list of films of the year is hampered by the fact that I'm saving Marriage Story for the Christmas break, but Joker was a revelation and The Favourite both highly entertaining and a fantastic vehicle for deserved Oscar winner Olivia Coleman.

Olivia Coleman won an Oscar - and made the best speech of the night

In the wider cultural arena it was a year for goodbyes, and here again the 1980s were on everyone’s minds. The death of stars like Niall Tóibín and Brendan Grace made people of my generation remember watching them as children, seeing our parents collapse with laughter and taking sidelong glances at us as the jokes reached the far side of what was considered naughty at the time. More often than not, of course, those jokes were being told on the Late Late Show and there was a period of what can only be described as national mourning when the death of Gay Byrne was announced in November. Obituaries and clip shows reminded us of a man who can truly be said to have been a master at what he did and who helped shape public opinion as well as entertain a nation for many years. In a year when RTE itself made headlines on many occasions, it’s perhaps fitting that two of the most talked about television programmes were editions of the Late Late. The first was a perfectly pitched tribute to Gay himself and the second was the annual toy show which Ryan Tubridy has taken from the Gaybo era and truly made his own.

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So yes, it was a funny year to be a 40-something. The bands of my youth were still playing alongside some genuinely exciting new sounds, and the same black laced up boots were appropriate for all occasions. My final favourite moment is a corny one, but us middle aged folk are allowed a few of those. Back at Electric Picnic I brought my six- year-old to his first rock performance and saw the delight on his face as he heard Very Loud Music for the first time in a tent and watched people moshing around him. The band was Inhaler, fronted by Eli Hewson, the loud music was very good indeed and as I hoisted my boy into my arms for a closer look, the sight of a pair of famous sunglasses glinting from the wings told me I wasn’t the only proud parent in the arena. Back to the Future, indeed.