Thursday, 31 December 2009

A decade closes; a decade opens

The new millenium opened when my son Matthew set off a firework that soared into the sky at a New Year's Eve party, almost exactly ten years ago. We stood out in the road and listened to the roar and crackle of fireworks exploding all over the neighbourhood.

The first decade of the new millenium ended sitting quietly on the sofa next to my wife; the kids off at different social engagements of their own.

It has been a rollercoaster of a decade; the first two years struggling to complete an external PhD on time (eventually successfully submitted in Jan 2002). The highlight was passing the Viva exam, then flying back from Edinburgh to Heathrow on a brilliantly sunny July day, landing at Heathrow, and being given a magnificent view of Concorde, just landed as we taxied in from the runway. It seemed almost as if this magnificent view was the cherry on the icing - the sense of triumph was palpable, and highlighted by the view of the beautiful aircraft.

Since then, a rollercoaster as all life is. The part of the company I worked for was sold off to an American rival, who tried (unsucessfully thanks to our Union) to make us all redundant. Eventually fed up with working for a hire-and-fire American company that didn't care in the least for the employees, I moved to an exciting new job in an Oxford University spin-out. Less security, but much more satisfaction.

My daughter has changed from a little girl of 9 to a young university student of 19, reading reading at Reading (English Lit) after a perfect set of A-level results. My son is just starting A-levels.

2009 has been also a year of increasing anxiety over the recession, job security, and the future of the planet - the worries about peak oil and global warming being real, despite there being many who deny this and would prefer to bury their heads in the sand.

It has also been a decade where I have come more and more to realise just how dark life can be for many people - how so many are the victims of blind prejudice, and judgmental attitudes. A time in which I have learnt that by listening to such people, one gains so much in realising the privileges of one's own life.

It is a time, too, when I have come to realise that the more you know, the more you realise you don't know; that increased knowledge should lead to increased humility; and also the perfection of silent comtemplation, when the things that are really important are allowed to crystallise in the mind.

So there should be no reason to complain. If life was on a permanent high, it would become boring; it is better for it to be a thrilling ride, to be embraced with joy, excitement, and determination. So with that thought, here's to the new decade.

This hasn't been a particularly coherent set of thoughts, composed in the early hours of the morning on new year's (sorry decade's) day, but it will have to serve. The number of blog posts I made in 2009 dropped to six from eighteen in the previous year. Perhaps a good resolution will be to make more of them in the new year. Oh yes, and to lose some weight ... :-)