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January 2012

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“Smile while you’re makin’ it. Laugh while you’re takin’ it. Even though you’re fakin’ it. Nobody’s gonna know” – Alan Price

One of the reasons that I have not previously considered writing a blog is that I feel somewhat ambivalent about the motivation so to do. Creative writing – which in my case means writing plays – seems quite different. When I finish a project and launch it into the world (however insignificant a part of the world that might be) the piece ceases to be mine and takes on a life of its own. Certainly there is something of me in it, but it is not necessary to know anything about me to engage with the work.

Blogging feels more self-centered – more about me, me, me! Why would anyone want to read my ramblings? Isn’t it somewhat pretentious to imagine that anything I might say could be of any interest or value? Or am I perhaps just being a bit too self-consciously ‘English’ about it all?

The truth is that I am a lucky person. More than that – I have also been very fortunate. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether these are one and the same thing, and indeed as to whether either is simply the outcome of chance occurence or can be influenced by our actions and behaviour. It may be the case, of course, that the nature of our fortune derives simply from the way that we react to chance events.

In an unusual twist we find new age thinking – with its Law of Attraction – almost entirely in ageement with ‘science’. Richard Wiseman, professor of psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, has carried out a 10 year study into the subject. His conclusions are fundamentally that those who believe themselves to be lucky invariably turn out to be so. Being open to opportunity and focussing on positive outcomes tends to lead to better fortune.

I don’t doubt this, but I do believe that my life experience also contains much good fortune that has been entirely outside my influence.

  • I am a boomer – one of the most blessed of generations.
  • I grew up in the sixties. Whatever re-evaluation there might have been of late concerning that golden age most of us are deeply grateful to have lived through it.
  • Despite having no idea what I wanted to do with my life I have had a fascinating career and have had the good fortune to work in some very special places and with some special people.
  • I have met many wonderful, clever and fascinating people, with some of whom I have been married, had relationships or developed friendships.
  • I have always been able to indulge my creative impulses and have met others with whom to do so.
  • I have always been in final salary pension schemes – though that was never something I looked for. I joined my current scheme a month before it closed to new members. This, naturally, is of particular import now.

…but, of course, most of all…

  • I met Kickass Canada Girl. She came eight and a half thousand miles to find me and, but for the most fortuitous of circumstances, we might never have met. As all my fortune and happiness is bound up with her I would say this was spectacularly lucky!

I suppose my fear is that, having been this fortunate, I should just shut up and keep quiet about it. This does raise the question of what is the appropriate reaction to being lucky. Should I feel guilty that there are many in the West worse off than I am? Should I feel even more quilty that many in the rest of the world are far worse off than 99% of us in the West?

Perhaps the best response is to celebrate all good fortune, my own and others, and to do my whatever I can to increase the happiness of those that I know and those that I meet, as well as – wherever possible – those that need it most.

“If I am only happy for myself, many fewer chances for happiness. If I am happy when good things happen to other people, billions more chances to be happy!” – The Dalai Lama.

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(Last night was Burn’s Night – Slainte Mhor!)

About this time last year Kickass Canada Girl and I came up with a plan. It was a good plan. In fact, we were so impressed with it that we thought it might be The plan!

We own an apartment – a sliver of an old manor house in a small village in Buckinghamshire… 16th century church – pub – cricket club… and not a lot more. I bought the apartment long before Kickass Canada Girl and I met – it being about 5 miles from where I was working at the time. Since then we have both changed jobs and I suddenly found myself commuting into west London – a round trip of about 50 miles. The Girl had to endure a 45 minute drive in the opposite direction.

We were both getting pretty depressed at the amount of time we were spending sitting in traffic rather than being with each other, and we were also becoming seriously exhausted. We needed a plan.

The plan was this… We would sell the apartment and purchase a property in BC. As we wouldn’t be able to move to Canada until my retirement we would let the new house and use the income to fund a rented apartment in the UK – in closer proximity to at least one of our places of employ. When the time came to move we would no longer need to co-ordinate purchases on two continents but could simply terminate rental agreements and move into our house in BC. Genius!

We staged the apartment and put it on the market. We saw somewhere that we liked in a small village in Berkshire… 12th century church – pub – cricket club… you get the picture! We signed the lease.

That was when things started to go awry.

The market collapsed. Eight months and two price reductions later we still hadn’t had an offer on the apartment. With help from good friends we very nearly purchased a house in Victoria during the summer, but without the capital from the sale of the apartment we couldn’t make the numbers work. Having moved into the new apartment in Berkshire we were now having to pay rent on that. Finally, in November we had to acknowledge that we were unlikely to find a purchaser over the winter. We took the apartment off the market and found a tenant for it instead. Not quite according to plan…

Since then Kickass Canada Girl has landed her splendid new job in Victoria and will be moving back there in March. As she is 5 years younger than me (and looks 10 years younger than that!) she will have to work beyond my retirement in any case, so it does all make sense. Unfortunately, though the Berkshire village is pretty close to where she currently works, it is even further away from where I do. My round trip is now 68 miles!

I’m sure you know the Woody Allen quip: “If you want to make god laugh, tell him about your plans”…


Har, har, har!

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photo by Brooks Elliott on Flickr

I recently turned 58. Not a major milestone in itself, you might think, but this particular year – 2012 – carries the promise of significant change – and not just for those with an interest in the Long Count calendar.

I have not blogged before. I am not on Facebook. I don’t tweet. I don’t own an iAnything…

This might give a misleading impression. I should own up to having worked in IT for over three and a half decades and to being an IT Director (amongst other things) – though the story of how an arts student came to be so is vaguely interesting in its own right. I write… sometimes for reward – mostly through the need to create. You are probably familiar with this.

This blog will be the record of the latter part of a journey that started 7 years ago, and which will – if all goes to plan (ha!) – culminate in my retirement and move to Canada during 2014. A journey that takes getting on for a decade to complete may appear for much of the time to be making no progress at all but, like the sands in an hourglass though little movement may be manifest my presence here is slowly slipping away even as it grows in Canada.

This journey started in London early in 2005 when I met Kickass Canada Girl. Yes – I know that all Canadian girls kick ass (though I didn’t know that at the time) but even by Canadian standards – this girl kicks ass! She had come to London for a job with the intention of staying maybe a year or two, or perhaps even of moving on to New Zealand. So much for that plan…

At the point at which things turned serious – or turned more serious – and we started talking about moving in together, she asked of me just one thing:

“Will you promise – at some point in the future – to consider… just consider… moving to Canada?”

“Of course”, I said – in the way that chaps do when they perceive a thing to be so far in the future as to not really require consideration at all. After all, I was going to die before I got old!

Then we went to Canada and I fell in love with BC and met all of Kickass Canada Girl’s friends and relations and fell in love with them as well and in 2010 we got married – in Victoria, naturally – and now… we are planning to move our home there.

So why start writing a blog now?

Well – in just over a month from now Kickass Canada Girl goes back to BC to take up her new post as Executive Director of a charity in Victoria. For a number of reasons (in-feasibly decent pension scheme – way too old to get a job in Canada) I will have to stay in the UK until I am at least 60… to be precise, until the end of the academic year in June 2014. The prospect of living on different continents for nearly two and a half years – even taking account of frequent visits in either direction – does not fill either of us with joy, though the goal will, of course, make it all worthwhile.

As I say – a significant change… and one that I want – somehow – to document.

Hence this blog…

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