Maybe the Facebook robots are even cleverer than we know. Most of my friends seem to have had those “It’s been a great year” posts created for them, but the robots seem to have left me out. I’m grateful. It’s not been a great year.
This time last year I posted a picture of a hospital corridor with a pathetic bit of tinsel hanging from a fluorescent light fitting, or something similar. It caught my eye while I was visiting my dad in the Acute Unit at Whipps Cross Hospital, and it seemed to sum up perfectly the contradictory feelings that I had about me, and him, and all the other people including the staff, being there. And part of this not-great year is that he died, in June, after more than a year of dementia and degeneration, so that by the end he was more in hospital than out of it, even though there was not usually anything that could reasonably be called a treatable illness afflicting him.
I dream about him often, not as he was at the end, but more like the way he was about fifteen years ago, when he was an active and engaged grandparent to my two boys, as well as to my brother’s two daughters.
This time last year I also compiled a list of all the things I’d done during the year – trips, work reports, blog posts and book reviews. It seemed worth doing, to confirm that something had actually happened. It rather felt that I’d been in stasis for years, and the log proved that I’d actually done something.
There doesn’t seem much point in doing the same this year, which has been eventful enough. I was made redundant from Ovum, after 14 years there, in April. I’d been imagining that happening for years, from the first time the company was acquired, so it didn’t come as a surprise but it was still a shock. The process was followed to the letter, and I can’t complain that I was treated unfairly. I was offered a much bigger redundancy sum than the statutory entitlement. I was given the chance to interview for a role a bit like my own. And there were some comedy moments in the whole thing, because both I and the other interviewee didn’t want to stay anymore, so we both had to compete to be allowed to leave with the redundancy money.
I didn’t do any more work for Ovum after the beginning of April. In principle I was on a 30-day consultation period, but the outcome was pretty obvious. Then I had three months ‘notice period’, during which I was strictly prohibited from doing any other money-earning work, but not debarred from making contacts for future freelance work. In the end that proved a bit pointless, because I was offered a position by M2M/IoT specialist analyst firm Machina Research, which has proved to be rather exciting and even a bit fun.
All that free time allowed me to spend some time with my dad as his condition deteriorated. I didn’t really know that he was on the final stretch of his life, though, because the slide was so gradual it was hard to notice the progress. Ruth and I went on holiday to France in mid-June. Dad had seemed a little better of late, and was out of hospital when we went. He died while we were still away in the Pyrenees, and we travelled back within the day.
Part of the run-up to the holiday had been the death of our cat, Beauty, who had been with us for nine years or so. It feels odd comparing the death of a pet to the death of my dad, but it all seemed to part of the same thing, a series of blows that life had become. This was how it was going to be from now on.
Of course, it wasn’t. The not-great year has had some great moments too. I’m very proud of my sons’ achievements this year – Louis got a Distinction in his degree, Lexei won a scholarship to help support his studies.
I am closer than ever to Ruth, who has been a partner and best friend through all of this, and who has helped me dealing with some stuff that has hung about in my life for – well, all of it, really. Together we’ve had a year without the twists and turns of the cohousing group that we left at the end of 2013, and we’ve had the pleasure of living in the Springhill cohousing community for the month of November, and discovering that we liked cohousing in practice as well as in theory.
I published a novel, One Shoe Tale, which has had some nice reviews. We got some new cats, who have turned out to be fine animals, funny and affectionate and full of life.
So screw you, Facebook robots. It’s been some good and some bad, because that’s what life is. I might have done without some of it, but that’s not what life is.