So farewell then, 2014. And I have to say I won’t be disappointed to see the back of it. It’s not been the best of years for the Ranter for a number of reasons. Here are my highlights – and some lowlights…
The Good Times:
The lovely Marion who has been my rock these last few difficult months. She is the love of my life and I simply could not live without her. And her home-made soup is to die for (some say literally, but not me, oh no…)
Arranging my wedding to Marion on 14 February 2015 has been the main priority this year. Less than seven weeks to go now and the nerves are already jangling. We are almost there – but I need to work on my speech…Marion means so much to me and, as The Proclaimers sang so memorably, ‘it’s just a piece of paper but it says I love you’. She has transformed my life for the better and for that I will be eternally grateful.
Daughter Michaela giving birth to her first child. Max was born on 5 March and was six weeks premature. He was in a special unit for the first few days of his life and these were worrying times for the whole family. However, he is now as strong as an ox. Max is grandchild number four for the Auld Reekie Ranter. My family is fast turning into the bloody Waltons but I’m proud of each and every one of them.
Michaela also got engaged to her partner Sean in November. Fiftysomethings like me will recall the days when couples got engaged first, then got married and left home and then had children. The modern trend seems to be to do this in reverse! Michaela has endured some tough times in her young life so I’m grateful to Sean for making her so happy. Sean is a fellow of the Hibernian persuasion but, hey, you can’t have everything…Their wedding is set for May 2016 – around cup final day but that won’t trouble Sean’s team…
Watching my other grandchildren Jack (9), Hannah (7) and Ava (4) develop into such wonderful, loving children. No matter what goes on in my life they always give me such a great welcome and their unconditional love is something I treasure. They are a credit to my elder daughter Laura who has done such a fantastic job in bringing them up. I’m proud of her too although I don’t tell her this as much as I should.
Away from family – and on to football. Hearts turning 2014 into a year of two halves. The first six months were awful – losing the League Cup semi-final to nine man Inverness Caledonian Thistle at Easter Road on the second day of February; relegation from the top flight of Scottish football meaning Hearts would be playing in the second tier for the first time in over 30 years; the painful departure of coach Gary Locke (a died in the wool Jambo) and players such as goalkeeper Jamie MacDonald who served the club so well. The second half of the year saw Hearts with a new owner – Ann Budge who has brought integrity back to Tynecastle; a new Head Coach, Robbie Neilson and a new young and vibrant team and a playing style now based on passing the ball rather than lumping it up the park. Hearts ended the calendar year 15 points ahead at the top of the SPFL Championship – optimism has returned to the Maroon Army.
My book Hearts 50 Greatest Games continuing to sell. It’s still available in all good bookshops…
The Not So Good Times:
Where to start. The start of the year saw Michaela struggle with her pregnancy and my mother having health problems. Both had short spells in hospital. An attempt by Marion and I to get away from it all with a wee trip to Liverpool for a few days in February was met with a hurricane on Merseyside which curtailed our activities.
With workload at the office mounting, granddaughter Ava breaking her arm and tension all around, I reached breaking point in the early summer. In May I was signed off work with stress/depression. I was off for 10 weeks all told and these were difficult times. My lowest point came in June and I just couldn’t see any way forward. All sorts of thoughts entered my mind. However, with Marion’s help, I did drag myself back from the abyss and returned to work at the end of July. Professional counselling has helped. Things are still difficult on so many fronts but I’m more focussed now on what I need to do.
My dear old mother continues to have problems, not only with her health but with utility companies who seem to be trying their level best to make her life difficult. We have done battle this year with BT, Scottish Gas and the Television Licence people, all of whom have struggled with the relatively straightforward concept of my mother’s address. I have threatened to go to the relevant ombudsman on more than one occasion. Life shouldn’t be this difficult.
Marion’s aunty, who I have a special affection for, was diagnosed with a serious illness towards the end of the year. Although she’s in her early eighties, her spirit is remarkably strong and her humorous, positive approach to life makes me feel so humble.
2014 was, of course, the year of Scotland’s Independence Referendum. A huge number of people went to the polls on September 18th. Sadly, after the Westminster establishment panicked and sent Messrs Cameron, Clegg and Miliband to Scotland as the opinion polls swung marginally to a Yes vote, the majority of Scots swallowed the London government’s ‘vow’ (with more than a little help from former PM Gordon Brown) and voted to remain ‘Better Together’. Within days, many regretted their actions. It may be some time before Scotland gets another chance like this.
It’s been another great year for gigs, particularly in the second half of the year. Marion and I took in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival (see below) and we spent much of the year going to gigs in Glasgow. We began the year by seeing The Beat in Edinburgh in February. In October we saw the wonderful Carol Emerald at the Hydro in Glasgow; at the end of November we went to a gig I never thought I would get the chance to see – the legends that are The Who, also at the Hydro in Glasgow. There may only be Roger Daltry and Pete Townshend left from the original line up but they are still worth seeing. We returned to the Hydro a week before Christmas to see the masters of ska music - Madness – another magnificent occasion. The best gig of 2014, though, was the now traditional Christmas visit of Bad Manners to Edinburgh. The atmosphere at the Citrus Club was a real party one as Buster Bloodvessel and co belted out the old ska classics. Brilliant.
A wee mention, too, for Colin Cloud, Forensic Mind Reader who we saw at Edinburgh’s Dynamic Earth in April. He is a gifted performer and if you get the chance to see him I urge you to take it.
This year we saw the legend that is Barry Cryer along with his I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue companion (at the piano) Colin Sell, comedians Tim Vine, Kevin Day and the I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue host Jack Dee. Jack’s team asked the audience for some questions as they queued to get in – the show was called Jack Dee’s Problem Page. I wrote that I wondered who the funniest comedian was at the Edinburgh Fringe and immediately thought of Jack Dee – perhaps he knew who it was. In fairness to Jack, he read out my message and gave me a name check (my brief flirtation with fame!)
Musical (not so) Youth:
Marion’s mission to convert me to the joys of musicals continues. Only the one this year though – Let It Be, The Story of The Beatles at the Edinburgh Playhouse in June. Sadly, I wasn’t overly impressed.
The Year Ahead:
So another eventful year draws to a close. It’s been a difficult one and, as I said at the beginning, I won’t be sorry to see it end. However, I am looking forward to 2015 and marrying the girl of my dreams, making some real positive changes to my professional life and hopefully seeing Hearts get promoted.
Happy New Year, folks. Here’s to a happy 2015 – it surely can’t be as bad as 2014!