2016


My Reflections on 2016
And so, one year ends and another begins. But has it been a good year? One to cherish or one to throw in a box, hide the box in a cupboard, lock the cupboard, send the cupboard into long-term storage for our distant ancestors to discover and marvel at what we all put up with?
That, as always, depends on your personal point of view, what you value and what your values are. Here are some of my thoughts which, as I re-read them, do seem a little on the pessimistic side.

The war.
It didn’t end, in case you hadn’t noticed. Conflict in Iraq, Syria, Yemen. Terrorism in France, Germany, Britain. Bullying by America, China, Russia. But to me it all seems the same thing, a war that has been going on for thousands of years, still justifying itself with the same, tired old excuses and clichés (in no particular order):
I know better than everyone else, so everyone must do as I say.
I’m going to protect what’s mine, no matter what.
I’m going to protect you, whether you like it or not.
You’ve got it but I want it, so I’m going to take it.
You started this, so I’m going to finish it.
You think differently to me, so you deserve to die.
Nothing’s changed since caveman Ugh first decided that caveman Ogg in the cave next door was being a pain in the ass because he’d got hold of fire and hadn’t shared it around.
How desperately, desperately sad.

What else?
Ah yes, celebrities. Scores of them: Alan Rickman, Andrew Sachs, David Bowie, George Michael, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Zsa Zsa Gabor… the list of those who passed away goes on and on and on. Yet it’s been said that we are only imagining that more celebs have died this year than in previous years and indeed, according to no less an authority than the BBC (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-38329740) there have not, in fact, been more than an ‘average’ number of celeb deaths across the whole of the year. It seems there was a large statistical spike in the first few months of the year that really caught our attention, causing us to continue to notice subsequent deaths for the rest of the year. Still seemed like an awful lot, though…..

What else?
Oh yes, disasters, natural and man-made. Whatever country you live in I guarantee you can find a disaster of some proportion has happened to or near you. Take Indonesia as a random example. According to https://watchers.news/2016/11/17/natural-disasters-indonesia-2016/ Almost 2000 floods, landslides and whirlwinds struck that country in 2016, destroying or at least upending the lives of more than two and a half million people.
Then there were the financial disasters that have rocked the economies of the world. You don’t need me to spell them out because there’s a very good chance you were affected by one or more of them to one degree or another.

What else?
Politics, of course. It’s been more of the same. The same promises, the same platitudes, the same fact that politicians failed to listen or, at best, listened selectively and then interpreted what they heard to suit themselves. In the West, we’ve had referendums and ballots and elections. Did things get better? Will things have gotten better by the time the next elections come around? Did you notice that in many instances, the same people got elected? Different faces, maybe. Different names, even. But still the same people under the skin, still intent on personal agendas, personal gain and attainment, still driven by some of the platitudes I used earlier, particularly:
I know better than everyone else, so everyone must do as I say.
I’m going to protect you, whether you like it or not.

And yet…

Has the year really been all bad?
Well, no. There’s been good stuff too. For instance, there’ve been amazing advances in… stuff. You know? Science stuff. Things like the use of VR in surgery; artificial limb technology; the introduction of driverless cars; improvements in artificial intelligence – okay, maybe some of those won’t pass muster as ‘good’ with everybody, but their potential is stunning. We just have to hope those with the power to utilise these advances is wise enough to know when not to utilise them.
But don’t be disheartened. In our universe of almost infinite possibilities there must surely be a chance that, eventually, someone will come along and invent a disinfectant that kills 99% of all known mistakes, cock-ups and misuses. Maybe next year.

So much for the world. The rest of this article is just about my own life, so you can skip reading if you want (but happy new year to you all the same).

The last year has seen many changes and happenings, good and not so good.
2016 saw my father pass away, aged 90. What a man he was. Right up to the very last he was blessed with a mind that was like the proverbial razor. His acumen was unaffected by the aging process, unlike his body. He would regularly beat his children and grandchildren at UpWords™ (a sort of 3-D Scrabble™ which I highly recommend!)
I remember fondly our many conversations where we set to right the world of politics of all flavours. I can’t describe how much I will miss those chats on the phone every Sunday afternoon and the warmth of his welcome when we managed to find time for a brief visit to his South Wales bungalow. But at least his pain – and there was a lot of it, though stoically he rarely let it show – is now gone and, at last, he is once again with mum, the woman he loved and missed more than anything.

As for me, well… I haven’t written anything for months. I really do love writing my little stories but, somehow, this hasn’t been the year for them. I even stopped attending the NSFWG workshops. I miss the camaraderie and critique of like-minded people but it would have been unfair of me to continue reserving a seat in the pub; I think I did the right thing in freeing it up for another soul to occupy more regularly than I could.
Work has taken up more and more of my life, with several visits to China and Europe, and more to come. What’s really tiring, though, is getting up between 5 and half past, so I can beat the traffic on the M1 for my 80 mile round trip and get to the office early enough for my meetings. Many of my team are in Beijing, and many of my bosses are across the Channel, so very early mornings come as a necessity. The effect, of course, is that come evening time, especially towards the end of the week, I’m knackered.
I’m waiting to get the first of my hips replaced. I see the surgeon in January. Simple things like walking for any length of time, climbing stairs, sometimes even lying down in bed have become extremely tiresome. With luck that will begin to be resolved in 2017, government funding of the NHS permitting. Hip problems are not life-threatening and so often are sent to the back of the queue when money is tight. And no, I can’t afford private treatment.

Reading back what I’ve written I have to admit it all looks a bit depressing. But honestly, I don’t actually feel down at all. Work is good, even great. I have an excellent employer. My trips to China have been brilliant, finding some super new colleagues and friends whose work ethic is exemplary and who have hosted me wonderfully well. I’m looking forward to going back there again in April.
My good lady wife now works at a school where her genuinely excellent teaching skills are finally being appreciated. Fingers crossed that the temporary role matures into a permanent one at the end of the summer term. It’s a bummer that my Christmas present to her didn’t turn up in time for the day itself, but the latest email says it’s now arrived in the UK so hopefully it will be delivered early in the new year.
Our kids all seem to be okay (who can tell with kids?) settling into new homes (including in the Shetlands Isles) or doing well in school (both teaching and learning) or settling to new jobs for others. And so I come to the end of my discourse. It therefore remains only for me to wish each and every one of you my best.

Have a Great and Happy and Prosperous 2017! And I really mean that.
Nigel.

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Filed under 2016, 2017, China, General, Happy New Year, Politics, work

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