Life should not be in bullet points

One thing I’ve really noticed over the last few months is that my blog posting has declined a lot to pretty much just film reviews. This was never intentional, though it’s partly due to the job. I can’t blog a lot about work for confidentiality reasons.

I do actually have a work blog, but good luck finding it – it’s deliberately well hidden. Though not that well, due to my employer’s bonkers IT system (up until I complained a few weeks into term that having posts “signed” with my real name was a little silly).

The other main reason for the lack of blogging is the fact that I’m making quite a lot of use of Twitter and Facebook. My life is being reduced to several 140-character bullet points, and a series of “Like”s. This isn’t good.

So I thought I’d take the end of the year to do a quick wrap-up and fill in some cracks. What’s happened and what’s happening?

Well, the year in brief. I started it at university, living with an aunt in Glasgow. I finished my PGDE(S) with Computing in the summer and headed to Vietnam, where I worked for 2 months with some incredible people at the Hanoi Backpacker’s Hostel.

There I met some new friends, and had a chance to catch up with some old ones – in particular the staff at the Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation. I didn’t spend as much time as I’d hoped with them due to the work commitments (6 days on, 1 off if I was lucky), but still enjoyed a lot of time helping out and just hanging with the kids.

On the off chance anyone from Vietnam is reading – hey guys and thanks. It was great!

Upon my return, I started working in Edinburgh – placed there at random by the Scottish government. This was fine by me but meant doing a bit of house hunting. My first “own place” since 2006. OK, so I do have a flatmate, but I also have my own room. And bills. Whoo!

I’ve started catching up on my live music as well. Missed so many gigs over the last few years – it’s hard to book tickets in advance when you don’t know from month to month what country you’ll be in – I went to around 10 gigs between August and December. Exodus, Annihilator, All That Remains, Airbourne, Bowling For Soup, Alter Bridge, Disturbed, Hatebreed, Ginger (ex-Wildhearts)…

Then in October things changed. Armed with a pass to all four of Hayseed Dixie‘s Glasgow tour dates, I arranged to stay with the cousin of a friend for one of the evenings. This would allow me to have a couple of bevvies. She decided she wanted to come along as she liked the sound of the band.

As 2010 draws to a close, I’m writing this blog post in her front room. Her two kids are upstairs in bed and we’re settling down with a cuppa.

Despite always promising that I’d never date a single mother, Gill completely changed my perceptions. I had my reasons – mainly related to worrying about how I would handle children who weren’t my own. I’m glad to say that Gill’s two are lovely and I love them as much as I love her.

Yeah, let’s end the year on a soppy note. Work’s hard, but rewarding. I have my hopes for next year, either in employment or back at university.

But the main thing is that I’m finally in a stable relationship with the most amazing woman with the most wonderful kids. I shall try desperately not to screw this one up.

Happy New 2011.

And a token “humbug” just in case you think I’m losing my touch.

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Happy days

Smiley Face

I don’t post much personal stuff on here any more for a variety of reasons. The main ones are a) lack of time and b) lack of feeling that I need to.

I always used to find this rather therapeutic, but over the last few weeks in particular I’ve just not had a need for it. Prior to that I’ve been too wrapped up in work which isn’t something I can’t really blog about.

What I can say is that I’m really enjoying the work, tough though it is. The weeks are flying by and teaching offers the one thing I was really missing in my old work: variety. There are no two children the same, classes the same or lessons the same. Even with my S1 and S2 classes where I repeat the same lesson over with 3-4 groups of children, every one is different.

The other thing that’s buoying me along is the new girlfriend. It’s been a while since I’ve actually “dated” someone and it’s early days. However, I’m enjoying it. Things are paced well, we’re getting along wonderfully and there could well be a future here. I certainly hope so.

All the travelling helped me realise what I need in life, and right now I’ve got most of it. Health, family, work I enjoy and the love of an amazing woman. Anything beyond that would be a bonus.

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I had a rally good time

My steed for the day (2)
I managed not to break this car.

I apologise forthwith for that awful headline.

Anyway, later than it should be up, a little something about last weekend. Courtesy of a birthday present I’d not had time to cash in I had a Rally Experience voucher available for Knockhill, out in the country between Perth and Edinburgh. I’ve always wanted to have a go at rallying, and the always-wonderful Leah picked up on my hints and bought me this for my birthday/Christmas. Erm, last year.

OK, I’m a little slow about organising things right now.

The weather’s been pretty lousy recently but I checked on the morning and the rally experience was still on. I hopped into my little Clio and zipped down from Perth. When you get to Knockhill along the country roads, do keep an eye out. Heading from the north it’s fairly well signposted right until you get to it. I drove past and had to double back.

Once there I parked up, handed in my voucher and was given a driver log sheet and a wristband. A short while afterwards one of the instructors gathered up the 15 drivers and took us for a short induction and safety briefing. This was quick, clear and well-presented.

We were then shuttled down to the lodge from where we’d be based for the afternoon. A nice, cosy little structure protecting us from the freezing wind outside! There we were given some more instructions and left to our devices as the first five drivers were taken to their cars.

I sat and watched some of the rally videos on the big screen inside and got a couple of pictures of the cars setting off on their first run up the course. The schedule was simple – two repeat runs, another two, one final hell for leather run up and then the final drive back with the instructor in the driver’s seat.

For those who wanted the “real” experience or for others who were spectating, a retired rally driver was on hand to take passengers up and down the course at full pelt for £20. A few people took him up on it and every one came in shaken but smiling.

I was in the third group and finally my number was called. I was in red car 10 with my instructor Iain. That’s always a good start, having someone with your same name in the co-pilot’s seat. A really pleasant guy who made me feel comfortable from the off. The cars are all old Ford Sierras with roll cages, uprated suspension, 4-point harnesses and so forth. Otherwise, the only safety equipment is a decent crash helmet.

The first run up the course was done slowly so that I could become familiar with the turns. Iain pointed out when and where to turn, the best entry points, where to avoid mud and so on. We turned at the end of the course and came back down. Then repeated the return trip only somewhat faster.

My task while waiting for my second run through was to draft some course notes using my memory of the run and a map placed on the wall of the lodge. This is trickier than it looks, given the short time I’d had in the car. Do I take that second turn in 2nd gear or 3rd? How far do I go flat out before the sharp left? And so on.

Soon enough, my second run came up and I managed to get around much faster without crashing. Although I came on one occasion. Well. Two. But I didn’t. That’s what’s important.

My third and final run was to be assessed on various points – steering, cornering, quality of my notes, consistency, braking, control… quite a few things to worry about! I think I did quite well – then Iain took over and tried to kill me on the return leg. The video of that is below. It was… bumpy.

Finally there was the award ceremony. All the drivers had their points collated and the instructors argued over the ties. I’m very pleased to say I came 3rd with 78 points. The guy who came 2nd also had 78 and the winner had 79. There was at least one other driver on 78 so I was lucky to pick up my little plastic medal!

Overall I had a great time and would recommend it to anyone who’s even remotely interested. It’s fun, well-run and not that expensive for something you’ll probably only do once.

Thanks to the folk at Knockhill for a fantastic afternoon, and to Leah for buying me the gift certificate in the first place!

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Just a couple of things that are a little too long to be posted in the 140 characters that Twitter allows. The silly bird-based website has become my outlet for a lot recently.


You can tell you’re getting old when your film references fall flat. Being near an ill person, I held out a paper cup and said “If you’re going to spew… spew into this!” and was met by a completely blank stare.

It was at this point I realised I am at university with people who had only just stopped crapping their own nappies when Wayne’s World was out. For some reason this scares me.

The cold

I am overjoyed at getting onto my first choice of “additional module” next term – Teaching in the Outdoors. I actually get to go hiking and stuff as part of my course.

Of course, I reckoned without the fact that I’m studying in Scotland. And this will be January-February. I will, therefore, freeze my knackers off.

I may invest in thermals. And a large hip flask.

Other stuff

I’m glad to say that everything else seems to be going swimmingly:

  • I just found out I get paid significantly more for my probationary year than I was expecting
  • My placements for next year could be in Perth which means staying with the ‘rents – and therefore being able to waste all the spare time I won’t have on my PS2 again
  • I start my first “proper” placement next week and I’m alternating between excited giggling and nervous pant-wetting
  • It appears there may be a new lady in my life. Await further announcements. Early, very tentative steps and no more as yet.

One may even go so far as to say *whoop*. But I’m an old crusty so I won’t.

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