Thursday, 31 December 2015

That Was The Year That Was

So farewell then, 2015. It’s been a momentous year for The Ranter with, as in any other year, some ups and downs. Here are my highlights – and some lowlights…
The Good Times:
Without question, the highlight of my year was getting married to the lovely and beautiful Marion on Valentine’s Day. She is everything to me and I love her with all my sometimes fragile heart. She is the most kind-hearted, generous, beautiful and wise person I have ever met and I feel truly humble that she agreed to marry me last February. Where would I be without her? I have an inkling it wouldn’t be a very good place.

The last song at our wedding was Sunshine on Leith by The Proclaimers. Those who managed to stay until the end of the night witnessed me shed a tear or three as I fell into Marion’s arms as we danced that final dance. My heart was broken. She saw it, she claimed it, she touched it, she saved it….for this I shall always be truly grateful.

In April, I took the decision to leave what had been the place of my employment for the last eight years. It wasn’t an easy decision, particularly as I didn’t have another job to go to immediately. My plan was to continue my studies as a hypnotherapist and perhaps take a temporary job along the way to help pay the bills. I completed my hypnotherapy case studies in November and await news if I’ve passed. Fingers are crossed. If I have passed, 2016 will see me set up my new hypnotherapy practice, something I’m tremendously excited about and can’t wait to do.

In the meantime, I have a job with Edinburgh Napier University until July. They’re a great bunch there and they have given me back my self-esteem. When the time comes, I will be genuinely sorry to go.

Watching my grandchildren Jack (10), Hannah (8), Ava (5) and Max (1 ¾) 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 daughters Laura and Michaela who have done such a fantastic job in bringing them up. I’m immensely proud of them although I don’t tell them this as much as I should.

In October, Jack was the mascot at the Hearts v Kilmarnock game. It was an immensely proud day and there was a lump in the Ranter's throat as the wee man led the Hearts team out on to the Tynecastle pitch. A day we will never forget.

Away from family – and on to football. Hearts duly gained promotion to the top flight of Scottish football in April and are presently vying for third place in the Ladbrokes SPFL Premiership. The football hasn’t been as good in the second half of 2015 as it was in the first but methinks this is down to playing against better organised teams. The standard of Scottish football in general, though, is woeful. At least Jack is now accompanying his Papa to Tynecastle as a proud season ticket holder. I love having him with me and his passion for the boys in maroon is great to see. Just prepare yourself for a lifetime of disappointment, son…!
I also took Jack to the Scotland-Qatar game at, whisper it, Easter Road in June which the wee man thoroughly enjoyed.
My book Hearts 50Greatest Games continues to sell. It’s still available in all good bookshops and at Amazon…

The Not So Good Times:
Ah. Our wonderful wedding was followed by a not quite so wonderful honeymoon, not helped by the hotel chain Ibis putting us in a different hotel to what I thought I had booked online (tip – always check the small print)
London in February wasn’t exactly welcoming. Greedy taxi drivers, ticket touts kidding on they’re selling you a bargain and people seemingly too busy to show courtesy. We weren’t unhappy to get back to Scotland.
Health-wise, I had a wee problem towards the end of the year for which I require a minor op early in 2016. Tests so far have indicated there’s nothing serious but I won’t know for sure until after the op. But if this blog grinds to a halt at some point in 2016 you’ll know the reason why…
Grandson Jack had a wee operation at the beginning of November. He seems to have recovered well - but it’s never an easy time when your children and/or grandchildren have to go into hospital.
Elder daughter Laura also had a difficult time in the summer but she’s a tough old cookie and her courage is something I’ve always admired. I feel we’ve grown closer in 2015 although she would probably tell you in her usual forthright manner that her father is talking ‘p**h’…
Michaela continues to plan for her wedding to Sean next May. Grandson Max is growing at an incredible rate and has now joined his cousins in shouting ‘Papa’ in that demanding way…
My dear old mother continues to have health problems and a hospital visit or two beckons next year. The perils of getting older.
Best Gig:
It’s been a fairly quiet year for gigs for The Ranter. Paul Weller at the Edinburgh Playhouse in March was superb as I had expected. I last saw him in July 2014 at Edinburgh Castle and there was always one eye on the weather. No such worries at the Playhouse as the great man played a blinder.

The Selector at Edinburgh’s claustrophobic Liquid Rooms in March was good - apart from the loutish behaviour of some of the audience.

Shows of 2015:

First one was the stage show of Saturday Night Fever at Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre in February which exceeded my expectations. On honeymoon in London, Marion and I went to see Cats at the Palladium. Ripped off for tickets and a poor view at the back of the theatre (and less than helpful Palladium staff) – not an enjoyable experience.

Much more enjoyable was the Allan Stewart Variety Show at Edinburgh’s King Theatre in April – good old-fashioned entertainment!

We went to see the truly remarkable illusionist Colin Cloud in Edinburgh at the end of June – if you get a chance to see this astonishing act I urge you to do so. He will blow your mind away!
I’ve been a fan of the BBC radio show I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue for more years than I care to remember so when the show came to the Edinburgh Playhouse in August then I simply had to go! Not sure what Marion made of it but it was great entertainment for this old man!

Marion and I ended the year by going to the Andy Williams Christmas Show at Edinburgh’s Queens Hall four days before Christmas. Now I know the great man has been dead for some time but the show was hosted by his protégés The Osmond Brothers and they belted out some old Christmas classics. An enjoyable evening even though an over-officious Queens Hall staff member tried her best to spoil it…

Edinburgh Festival Fringe:

As usual Marion and I saw a few shows, some of which I reviewed for The Edinburgh Reporter. Veteran comedy actor Rodney Bewes was a delight and the Soweto Pop Afro show was superb; on the minus side was ‘comedian’ Hardeep Singh Kohli who, like so many of his ilk, is so far up his own backside he can’t see anyone else but himself.

The highlights of the Festival Fringe for me were Craig Hill – a quite brilliant comedian – and Barry Cryer’s 80th Birthday Bash which was superb.

Roll on next August!

Old Friends:
Outwith the wedding, it was great to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for some time. In the case of my Aunt Ann in Aberdeen, it had been nearly 20 years so it was good to see her again – she and Marion seemed to hit it off (but then Marion has such a friendly nature she hits it off with most people) We also caught up with my former work colleagues Charles and his lovely wife Sarah; Claire, who kindly arranged for me to work (briefly) at Capability Scotland and Marion’s cousin Doreen.
One of the highlights of the year was meeting the lovely June from Seattle – at last! June and I have been friends for many years but we had never met – until she came to visit Scotland in September. Marion and I met her for a couple of hours at Edinburgh’s Waverley Station while she waited for a train to London. It was an absolute pleasure to meet her – it was just a pity we had to leave early. Hopefully, June will be back in Scotland before long and we can meet up again.
I wasn’t the only person to take my leave from my old employers so it’s still good to catch up with Lindsay occasionally for a pint or three (and not fall asleep on the bus home…) He took a courageous decision to do what he did and I know 2016 will be a better year for him.
I still have regular sessions with Gary, who was best man at our wedding, to put the world to right. He’s a fellow of the Hibernian persuasion so this has been another difficult year for him – aren’t they all…?
The most unexpected ‘reunion’ however, was an old school friend from Aberdeen who made contact early in the year. Ian and I were the only Hearts supporters at Linksfield Academy in the Granite City and it was good to hear from him again after nearly 40 years. Indeed, we met up in mid-December when I went up to Aberdeen for the Hearts game and we enjoyed a drink in the Scotia Bar in the city’s Summerfield Terrace – which was my local when I got married first time around in 1982. While in Aberdeen that weekend I also caught up my old mucker Graeme who has had a tough time this year.
General Election
A great day for the Scottish National Party who won all but three of the Westminster Parliament seats in Scotland. Sadly, England voted for another Conservative government and as Scots didn’t have the courage to vote for independence in the independence referendum last year, we’re stuck with the government England voted for. Better together? Aye, so we are…
The Year Ahead:
So another eventful year draws to a close. It’s been a remarkable one and something of a rollercoaster rode. Despite what promises to be an inauspicious beginning, I am looking forward to 2016.
Health issues need to be resolved in the first few weeks but I’m hopeful they will be and I can move on. The last day of 2015 saw me at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital for a CT scan and, hopefully, a date for my wee op will be in the next month or so.
I can’t wait until I start my own business and I’m looking forward to another wonderful year with Marion, seeing my wonderful grandchildren continue to develop into remarkable young people and to a year when, hopefully, health matters take a back seat for a change.
Michaela gets married in May so that will be one of the big events of the year. It’s also Scottish Cup Final day. Thirty years ago, her sister Laura was due to be born on cup final day and I endured an anxious time as Hearts duly made it all the way to the final. If Hearts get past Aberdeen on Saturday week, I sense another anxious few months. Imagine arranging your wedding for cup final day?!!
Happy New Year, folks. Thank you to those of you who regularly follow my rants  - special mention to the wonderful PeggyCameron, Adullamite and Joanna Jenkins who are never slow to show their support for which I am grateful.
Here’s to health and happiness and a fantastic 2016 to each and every one of you.


Adullamite said...

That was a log year......

I hope the next is all you wish it to be!

Joanna Jenkins said...

Hi Mike,
Happy New Year!!!!
So many wonderful things in this post that made me smile-- Marion, Laura, Michaela, Jack, Hannah, Ava and Max... your upcoming new career... good friends...great shows... So many things to be thankful for. I'm happy for you.
But I am a bit concerned about your upcoming operation and will hold good thoughts for an easy, complete and full recovery. Please do keep us posted.
I'm looking forward to pictures of Michaela and Sean's wedding!!!
All the best,
xo jj

Mike Smith said...

Thanks, JJ - hope you are well.

miruspeg said...

Well my friend that was an interesting read! You certainly crammed a lot into 2015.
I think you should print out this post and read it again in 10 years time.

I look forward to reading your updates in 2016, because although we have never met we share a lovely connection.

Take care and I hope your minor op goes well.
Warm hugs
Peggy xxxx

Mike Smith said...

Thank you, Peggy. You're right - we do share a lovely connection! Hope all is well down under.