Hold onto your hats, it’s the End Of The Year Post

Yes, once again we come around to the annual grayblog end-of-the-year introspection. I know you’ve been looking forward to this for at least, oooo, twelve months?

Firstly, let’s look back and get the resolutions thing out of the way. At the end of 2006 (the archives are over there, on the right), I said I’d carry on improving the things that I had starting improving in 2006. But who has time for that? The garden isn’t finished, I haven’t done enough exercise and the writings here have become ever more sparse as the year has gone on.

So, do resolutions have any value if they are so easily broken/ignored? Comments welcome on that subject. And, given my obvious feelings on the value of resolutions, you can set as much store as you feel is appropriate in the following:

  • to write here more frequently (not too hard)
  • to take more exercise (we now have bikes which spend far too much time locked away)
  • to keep my office in a more tidy condition (also not hard)

What else can be said about 2007? Well, at a professional level, things have generally improved through the year. I don’t think it’s a huge secret that I wasn’t terribly optimistic about the prospects for my business late in 2006 and was feeling pretty demoralized. Things have improved markedly since then and whilst it is still tough going, the light is clearly visible at the end of the tunnel and, if all goes to plan in 2008, I might be able to talk about my business and the “P-word”* in the same sentence without laughter. To a large degree, I’ve been carried along by the faith shown in me and my business by others around me – my backers and my clients. Even my bank has been supportive (although I’ve yet to ask them to dip their corporate hand into their corporate pockets for me, and hopefully won’t need to). The one person who keeps me from believing too much of what they say has been Hels, who frequently questions me and challenges me to test what I’m doing and show that things truly are going the right way. That is a good thing and has encouraged me to look hard at the business and the direction that it is going in. And I’m happy with it right now.

2007 has also seen us seriously (VERY seriously) looking at emigration to the Netherlands (or possibly just inside the Belgian border). Ultimately this plan has been shelved – we have decided to stay close to friends and family. We also can’t really afford it at this stage – if my business was making more money and we hadn’t been so crippled by not selling Hels’s flat for so long, then maybe it would have been different. Note that I say that the plan is shelved, not abandoned. It’s something that we will keep at the back of our minds and may return to in the future. And our love for Maastricht is undimmed, as you might have guessed from the number of Dutch-related del.icio.us links that I post.

The year has seen its usual bunch of travelling, this time including trips to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, France, Italy and Poland. I didn’t get to a few destinations that I had in mind for lack of time and resources, but the opportunity is not lost, merely deferred. I do promise to stick some photos on here somewhen of some of the places that I/we have been to this year – feel free to nag me to keep to that promise. Highlights of this year’s travel for me included:

  • San Pellegrino in Alpe, Italy – breath-takingly beautiful and wonderfully peaceful (although I suspect it might be busier in high season)
  • Hamburg, Germany – drinking cocktails whilst standing in the rain on the morning of my birthday
  • Warnemünde, Germany – bobbing about in a launch on the Warnow river with Hels and Tom
  • Kanne, Belgium – getting the “I could live here – this just might work” feeling
  • A12, Netherlands – driving from Gouda towards Zoetermeer and marvelling at the sodium-lamp orange mist with enormous wind turbines looming darkly out of the gloaming and wishing my camera was handy
  • Tiercé, France – having possibly the best cheese board I’ve ever had or am ever likely to have in “Sarkozy’s restaurant”
  • Przydworzyce, Poland – driving through the woods and seeing locals who had gathered mushrooms offering them for sale at the roadside, often only a single punnet-full

Travel plans for 2008 are subject to change, but look likely to include Germany, France, Belgium, the Netherlands (no surprise there), Switzerland (2008’s first for me – 2007’s was Poland) and Italy. Maybe Spain. And maybe Ireland and Poland. Too many places to go to, for both business and pleasure, and too little time and money to do them all.

Of course, the true highlight of 2007 has been watching Tom growing up. He is fantastic, a life-changing element of existence. He continually amazes and surprises us. It’s impossible to feel down when he’s around. I’m looking forward to more in 2008. And more of married life with Hels, but I’m going to stop on the emotional family gushing now before your keyboard gets covered in vomit.

What do I think 2008 will bring? Goodness knows. If there is one thing that I’ve learnt, it is that you can never tell what the future will bring. I think politics and the economy will both be fascinating in 2008 (and might finally push crappy nonsense “entertainment” out of the headlines a little) although the ride might be a bit bumpy. My business will increase in strength and stature. Family life should continue to be splendid, particularly as we have settled on our home here for the time-being and should have fewer disturbances to routine (famous last words). And I might knock-up a decent duck à l’orange or two.

Thanks to the regular readers who keep coming back here – I know there must be at least half a dozen of you still braving the digital elements to come here. Happy, peaceful and prosperous New Year to you all.

* profit hahahaha!!

Me and my meme

I’ve been asked to meme. I think this breaks a rule somewhere, but the flesh is weak. I hope it is painless.

1. There are some sweet pea seeds on my table – they are a heritage variety that I grow and propagate every year from self-sown plants. They should be in a paper bag, but where do you get paper bags these days? Shops are hopeless in this regard, addicted as they are to plastic. I think I may have to use an envelope.

2. I’m currently drinking a cup of black Earl Grey tea. I only have milk in my tea when someone else makes it and doesn’t ask if I take milk before liberally applying the bovine lactations. And I only have tea other than Earl Grey when there is no Earl Grey available unless, of course, I’m having a mad day and treating myself to some Darjeeling or lapsang souchong.

3. I have discovered that there is more to vodka than meets the eye. Of course, it probably isn’t sensible to put vodka in your eye, although a quick search of Google reveals umpteen people who are prepared to try it.

4. The above thought reminded me of a link I saw Darren post today which provides top tips for new bloggers. Amongst the tips is this: “If you spend a little time searching before you post, you can probably find your idea well articulated elsewhere already.” Which has probably sent my already weak blogging mojo into hiding completely.

5. I am thinking of getting a new phone as my old phone has a nasty habit of switching itself off at random. But I’m concerned that all the latest models of the candy-bar variety (my preferred phone format) are perfectly rectangular and therefore very difficult to grip. Have these people never heard of ergonomics? I’m quite tempted by the Nokia E51 though.

6. I have never been a Venture Scout. I was in the Cubs though. Dib dib, dob dob.

7. Are we there yet? I’m not a fan of memes and have generally avoided them. However, I’m sure I’ve done more than a couple in the seven years (seven? really?) that this blog has been going. So I will not damn them entirely as somebody would end up searching the archives and I’d end up being hoisted by my own underpants.

8. Right, I’m off now to light the fire.


Now here are the rules:  

Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves. People who are tagged need to write a post on their own blog (about their eight things) and post these rules. At the end of your blog, Chose people to get tagged and list their names. Or don’t. Who’s going to check?

I’m tempted to go for a few high profile bloggers like Samuel Pepys or Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but the first one is dead and the second is unlikely to join in a meme. So, if you are reading this and you have not already done this meme, then consider yourself tagged.

links for 2007-12-14