What’s New and 2010 in review

Hello 2011! Can’t say I’ll miss 2010. The year was pretty bad for many members of our extended family, friends, and acquaintances. A lot of people we care about lost loved ones.

For close family it’s been ok. Tristan continues to grow up faster than a two-year old should, and he’s really started to show signs of a wicked sense of humour and is constantly working on ways to try to psychologically outmaneuver us. His big sisters have both been great with him. They’re both doing well at school. Murron is now well into year 8 and still enjoying school life. Philippa is in year 5 and still finds things a breeze at her school, to the point where I think I’m going to have to request that she is given harder tasks. Philippa also took up playing the trombone last term, but her teacher failed to turn up for five of her lessons, which we thought was a bit lousy – must have speaks with the school.

I suppose the highlight of the year for me in terms of adventures was my motorbike trip with my mate in September around Europe, which allowed me to revisit places I’d lived and worked in Switzerland twenty years ago, as well as taking in some pretty spectacular scenery (and some bloody awful weather on a couple of occasions) from the seat of my motorbike.

We had just the right balance of great motorcycling, stress, spectacular scenery, falling-out, meeting new people, and just a few days to escape normal family life and behave like we were twenty years younger. Of course, I was really missing Emma and the kids by the time we headed home. I don’t know how Ewan and Charlie coped being away from their families for so long!

Musically, it’s been a mixed year too. There was some unpleasantness in July when tensions seemingly arose out of nowhere within my covers band, Ministry Of Beaver, and I was put in a position where I had to choose between two friends. In the end, I had no other basis on which to make a decision other than to be objective in terms of availability, and in the process, I played a part in upsetting someone who’d become a good friend and who went on to react very badly towards the situation. It is not nice to see friends suddenly turn on each other and become sworn enemies. It is worse to feel like one is ‘caught in the middle’. It is worse still to read very bitter correspondence between said friends, knowing that there was no possible future reconciliation, musical or otherwise. In the event, the band reverted to the line-up I had initially joined and things seem to have got back to normal within the band. I’m still sad whenever I think that I will probably never work alongside individuals with whom I’ve formed a musical bond.

On that note (and a more positive one), it was nice to re-establish links with former BAiT bass player, Andy and to meet up with him and other former BAIT member, Chris with a view to more original songwriting. It’s early days still and I’m still not convinced we have an overall master plan (perhaps that’s the way I like it), but it’s good to be working on new original stuff with old mates again. From my perspective, it’s sad that my friend and former keyboard player Nick can’t be involved, but the fact is that he’s now happily settled with his wife and kids in Norfolk. “Life moves on…” as the BAiT song goes…

Professionally, it’s been a steady year. I’ve continued to develop web applications within our company and am fortunate to work with some great people in the Marketing Team. I’ve very much settled into working from home now, having done so for a year and a half or so. On the one hand, I do miss the people and friends I made; on the other, I don’t have the commute, travel costs, and office politics. I also find working from home far more productive. I know that some people can’t cope with it, but I’ve settled in fine and I find I get much more done. I don’t have the ‘water cooler’ conversations, the office room chats, the meetings, or the phone call disturbances, which used to consume quite a substantial amount of time. In essence, I found working in an office far less conducive to work than home. I still have my Friday lunchtime down the pub to meet up with an old work friend (the other regulars having found employment during the course of the year which prevents them from making the Friday lunchtime slot), so I’ve managed to hold onto some semblance of seeing people during the working week outside the family.

We even got a slight rise towards the end of the year (we did have a bigger pay cut a couple of years ago), but it was unexpected and therefore to be welcomed. I was also surprised to receive a company award for outstanding achievement, thanks to my American boss who’d put my name forward for the award. Nice to be recognised like that, although I maintain that it’s really down to working in a great team of people. That may sound ‘cheesy’ to our British sensibilities, but I’m sincere.

Well, Christmas is all but over (although officially it’s still Christmas until 5th January). It’s been a pleasant enough Christmas this year. We’ve hardly left the house at all and have probably had the usual share of naughty food and drink. The kids bought me ‘The Fry Chronicles’ – Stephen Fry’s second volume of his autobiography, and I read that through pretty rapidly and then decided that I wanted to read the first volume, Moab Is My Washpot.

I think I may have made the leap to electronic books now. Having read Dickens’ A Tale Of Two Cities on my iPod Touch a few months ago, I bought Moab Is My Washpot in Kindle format and downloaded the Kindle client for iPod/iPhone. I’m working my way through it at the moment.

We’ve had Emma’s mum and her step-dad here since New Year’s Eve and had a good time with them. We had a very pleasant meal out with them today – a carvery at The Jailhouse in the centre of Nuneaton – the first time I’ve visited the place, although Emma’s been there before when her mum’s been down and they’ve done the girlie shopping thing. Very nice place – highly recommended.

Well, it’s time for me to enjoy a quick single malt Scotch whisky before retiring for the evening. I have a very nice 15-year-old Dalwhinnie with my name on it upstairs (from a brewery we visited on a family holiday in 1983). And to think I thought I’d been put off whisky forever after a drinking binge in Potsdam in 1992 involving too many Polish people and too much whisky! Cheers!