That Was the Year That Was
As usual at this time of year, we've been up in our Ballater flat for the past few days. We'll be heading along the road (past Balmoral) to stay with our friends (and godchildren) in Braemar for Hogmanay. I shan't be taking the laptop, so this group of posts will be my last for 2012.
So, 2012 then. An eventful year for the Saunders family, and for me in particular I suppose. Back in March I took Voluntary Severance from Lloyds Banking Group (ie they made me an offer I would have been insane to refuse), since which time I've been unemployed and looking for work. At least I could draw my pension immediately, and the UK government pays a "Jobseekers' Allowance" for the first 6 months of unemployment (provided you provide evidence that you are actually looking for work), as well as providing suggestions for things to apply for. Anyway, immediately after I "retired" Hilary and I had a ski trip to Courchevel in the French Alps. The week after that, I celebrated my newly-unemployed status by suffering a brain haemorrhage. Fortunately I was at home and didn't do anything worse than strain a shoulder when I collapsed. Even more fortunately, I made a full recovery in a few days without any medical or surgical intervention: just rest and a truckload of anticonvulsant drugs. I had to surrender my driving license because I'd had seizures, and while I'm now fully signed-off as fit by all the doctors, I'm still waiting for the DVLA to get its admin done and issue me a new one. (Which will be a modern one with photo ID: my previous one was one of the old pink paper ones, and it will seem a little odd being dragged kicking and screaming - or maybe twitching and groaning - nto the 21st century.) I was very lucky, certainly, and it proves that life is full of surprises. When I was first diagnosed with A1AD, and before I found that I was symptom-free (for the present), I remarked that it was strange to realise that I now knew with reasonable certainty what I would die of, barring accidents. To which nature responded, "Ha!". (A1AD still asymptomatic, BTW.)
While at the time of blogging I'm still unemployed, I have a job beginning on 21st January as a temporary IT lecturer at Edinburgh College, a local Further Education college formed this year from the merger of three smaller ones. (Those who can, do: those who can't....) I'll be teaching five courses, ranging from an HND-level (that's the next qualification down from a degree) course on "Professional Issues in Computing" to introductory courses on Microsoft Office and using Google Search for people training to be nurses or beauticians. I don't kid myself it will be anything but hard work - and stressful to boot at first - but I am actually looking forward to it. When I first graduated in chemistry all those decades ago I wanted to be a teacher, before the siren strains of IT worked their magic spell. I always enjoy a challenge, and this will have plenty, from how to make the Data Protection Act interesting to how to teach a brand-new class on "Digital Still Image Capture" (one of my tasks for the start of 2013 is to bring myself up to speed on Photoshop and Flash, not to mention the most recent version of Office). I've met my soon-to-be-coworkers and received a lot of help already, which is encouraging. No doubt there will be plenty of material for blogging (pausing only to ensure that I don't become my own teaching aid by breaching confidentiality). For some strange reason I keep thinking of this film (though I doubt whether I shall be adopting the Sidney Poitier approach):
One of Edinburgh College's predecessors was Stevenson College, onto which I used to look from my office in the bank, and where my wife is acting head of music and creative industries. Her job is going through all kinds of changes as a result of the merger, and while not immediately at risk of redundancy she hasn't much clue what it will look like by the end of 2013. I'll be seeing her work at closer quarters next year as we'll be working in adjacent buildings.
Edinburgh College may not have Lulu or The Mindbenders providing a musical soundtrack, but it has a lot of great musicians, a population currently including my son. He graduated with an HND in the summer and is now working towards a degree. His glowing academic results would be scary if we couldn't see for ourselves how much work he puts in (currently writing an essay on Jerry Springer: The Opera as well as practising his drum kit several hours a day in preparation for his degree recital. Well, he is doing this as part of it.) Meanwhile, he continues to get lucrative work with the Robin Robertson Blues Band (or R2B2 as we have taken to calling them), ranging from gigs in pubs so tiny he had to set up his drum kit in the fire exit (no roomsful of people were reduced to charred corpses in the making of this pay cheque) to blues festivals where people actually came primarily to hear the music. In July 2013 Ruairidh will turn 21, which milestone (insignificant as it now is legally in the UK, where you become an adult at 18) we shall be celebrating with a road trip down Route 66 and up the Pacific Coast. The flights to and from Chicago have been booked (BA have a sale on): we're on our way. Our daughter couldn't get the whole of July on holiday, so will fly over later and join the rest of us somewhere around Albuquerque or Las Vegas. There is much talk of motels and diners, of Chicago blues clubs, the Chain of Rocks Bridge, Hoover Dam, Monument Valley, elephant seals and roadrunners.
Our daughter Vanessa moved in with her boyfriend into a flat not too far way in Edinburgh, so the house seems more spacious, and quieter. Early in 2012 she left behind the caffeinated joys of being a Starbucks supervisor and got a job as a banker (oh, the shame....). Actually she works in a call centre for Scottish Widows (now part of the same group I used to work for) advising callers on the ramifications of withdrawing money from their tax-efficient savings vehicles (which are surrounded, like anything to do with tax, by huge numbers of government rules). She spends a lot of her time on the phone with confused old ladies whose heads have caved in under the weight of legislation (and who are often surprised that investments linked to the stock market can sometimes lose money). She is really enjoying it though, and her employers are very happy with her.
So, there it is. 2012, eh? I shan't wish you all a happy new year yet though. When I moved to Scotland in 1981, one of the cultural shifts I had trouble getting used to was the whole "Happy New Year" thing. In England, you wish it when you're saying goodbye to people at the end of December, so you might wish your office colleagues HNY on Christmas Eve. In Scotland, more logically in some ways, HNY is wished at the first meeting AFTER the new year begins. Which sounds innocuous, but it doesn't half seem weird the first time you are given a HNY handshake on about 21st January. Tonight, in between watching the TV celebrations and eating and drinking too much, I shall be shoved out of the Braemar back door to come in the front, thus ensuring that a tall dark male (or a bald overweight Chartered Engineer, or whatever it is) is the first over the threshold in 2013. Well, it's traditional: and we Scots have a lot of traditions.