1. Review and thoughts on 2017. 2. Plans for 2018 (look for the bold heading down the post!)
There's a logic in putting thoughts together when leaving [something] ... and a certain cathartic release in writing a letter/post to explain. Publication of such writing may help people understand why you've chosen as you have (if they care!) and may help you garner support if you're heading off in an amended direction. I'm all too used to seeing departures blared out on trumpets on social media groups / forums. Sometimes it's a hope (usually in vain) that it will damage the cause that the departing person has hitherto worked for; at other times (or to other people concerned) it's a way of explaining position such that those still concerned are aware of your new angle / whether they can or should be in touch in the future, etc.
2017 has been a year of massive change for me.
And in the process of change and simplification, we have given up running the accommodation at Well House Manor, and I have given up the presidency of the Melksham Chamber of Commerce. Both have involved putting my thoughts in writing - starting off for me personally with "why am I doing this" and indeed "should I be doing this?". And with such a re-think and all else that's gone on during 2017, there are other things too which have far more quietly slipped away.
I found Christmas day ... miserable. Not helped by coming off a bout of the Flu (it was much more than a cold) that I'm only just now getting fully back into gear after. Christmas 2016, we had utterly enjoyed - Dad, Lisa and I going along to the Melksham Christmas dinner organised by the Core Church at the Assembly Hall. It was always going to be difficult at Christmas 2017 with Dad passing early in 2017. With Lisa not feeling up to it on the morning on 25th December, I found myself on running lifts and serving for the table I was seated at - seven stranges who, alas, were just the shells of people they once were. With the way the cards fell that day, I was probably doing the right thing; I certainly came away with a feeling of having helped (but rather less that the thanks of the organiser suggested when he emailed me afterwards), a feeling of enormous admiration for those in the caring industry, and a total confirmation that I'm spiritually happy based on a conversation with one pushy old 'dear' who felt that the only way to be a "good" person is to go to church every Sunday and felt I needed conversion; I'm sure she left with a very low opinion of me - though she did accept the food I served her, all be it complaining strongly about one of the elements of the meal! I have huge admiration or what the team does on Christmas day, but next year I / we will probably take a break from going there.
I started this article talking about the metrics of leaving something - triggered by Andrew Adonis's decision to leave the National Infrastructure Commission - [here]
. It set me thinking about my departures; some commented on above, others following (below). My personal key is to be involved where I can enjoy, where I feel helpful and useful, and within my capability - which is gently fading. And some things fade with time. I'll be posting this on my blog - but that has turned from a daily update of news, technical tips, and general thoughts to a very occasional positioning post. I'm being very careful not to close doors - not saying "this is the last post" - but "The Horse's Mouth" has run its course and there will be just the occasional excursion here in 2018.
"Never start every paragraph with I - too inward looking / too much 'self'". Paraphrasing Dad - greatly missed and great wisdom. I learned so much from him, and so much of the things I naturally do I learned from him. We are without him in 2018 yet he's with us still in spirit, in memories, and I hope projected through the family. 2017 was a year of change; of clearing a home of two generations of accumulated stuff and of finding it new owners who will - I hope and anticipate - catch up of the 30 year backlog of maintenance. Really touched when they forwarded pictures that has slipped behind some of the fitted cupboards which - we knew - were probably 25 years past their "best before" date. I expect I'll walk past Sunnyside some time in the next year or two, see how they're getting on.
But there was far more than the house to Dad; that was just his projection in later years. I like to think that I have helped make a little bit of a difference with all the IT training I have done over the years. Much of that training has been sufficiently indirect for me to have little joined up feedback as to its effectiveness, but rebooking rates and occasional co-incidences make me realise it has been effective. Lisa and I visited the National Archives for a Catalogue day a couple of months back, and one of the talks there concerning data and resource searching looked remarkably like an idea seeded during a course and subsequent consultancy work; mention by name of my contact from long ago over coffee to one of the event hosts brought - very unexpected - a eulogy for his work during the senior director's summing up. And I'm minded too of a lunch at our local chinese restaurant where a researcher deep into wheat allergies (and at an organisation we trained in IT techniques to process all that data) met up with a lady who's life continued thanks to their research using that data, and the results it had brought. And I like to think I have somewhat helped in elements of the public transport work I do, seeking and helping maintain an appropriate service in the area I live in. Again - so much of the roots of this work are based on learning from Dad and dad's philosophies and wisdom.
I mentioned earlier the ending of us providing accommodation at Well House Manor, and my departure from the presidency of the Chamber of Commerce. Medical problems in the summer (compounding those remaining from previous years) which left me unable to walk more than a few yards without doubling up in pain - and unable to be actively involved with training or with transport. Indeed - should TransWilts or TravelWatch SouthWest have felt that I had exceeded by "best before" date they had my offer to step aside and give way / make space for others at their disposal. It turns/turned out that neither organisation wished to take up the offer, preferring to to have me carry on working for / with them as best I could - and indeed my new (summer 2017) issues were largely resolved much quicker than medical advice suggested would happen. I'm now around 80% of what I used to be (realistically the final 20% will never come back) and have learned to live with it; still stretching myself to ensure I stay as 'with it' as possible - back to occasionally walking the mile and a half to and from the station, for example.
There have been other quiet endings too. I started earlier talking about cathartic release writing, but at times it's not necessary. Just yesterday, I took the sad decision to cease contributing to a facebook group who's work I have greatly admired. The administrators / group organisers have added some new rules and restriction, threatening deletions and bans if those rules are not followed, switching off comment on the topic that announced the change (but only after lots of people had liked member follow ups saying how they were disappointed at the changes). The organisers will still, undoubtedly, continue to to good work in the area they have chosen to narrow down to, but they have lost themselves some knoweldgable contributors - they may not actually care if they're only interested in architecture and operation of industrial building to the exclusion of their social and economic reason for existence in the first place, demise, and perhaps rebirth. But I've not "left" the group - it remains on my reading list and I will only cease to be a lurker if the upset of not being able to respond outweights the use of reading the narrowness of what it's covering in the future.
A long and rambling post. Let me go on and suggest what that may leave me doing in 2018.
1. Training - still ready, willing and able (more than that - LOVING it) to run IT courses; more limited in subjects now - main concentration on Python, but happy too to teach Lua, and also "heritage" languages where people have code and systems to maintain such as in Tcl, Perl 5 and PHP 5. Our HQ in Melksham remains a business and home address, and if you have just one or two delegates who need a course we'll run one for you here at a mutually agreed date. Delegate who arrive by public transport / wish to stay locally - we can still arrange that, and any transfers necessary between our local station, hotel and training centre. See http://www.wellho.net
2. Public Transport support / campaigning. I will continue to work for an appropriate public transport system in the area. Until the summer (of 2017), I felt that we had an thin but appropriate and supportable public transport (train) system running on the TransWilts line via Melksham. Although the timetable has not significantly changed, the reliability of the service has hit rock bottom and there is no longer a service that I'm proud to support. A history of promises of fixes / improvements is also a history of broken promises; the latest promise is that it will get better - and quickly - in the new year. And all we are looking for is for the train operator to run the services they have in their timetable, 95% rather than 75% of the time. If GWR do what they have promised and actually run 19 trains out of 20 in January, happy days. If not, it'll be time to ask if enough is enough and take to more radical campaigning to ensure that the local train service becomes fit for purpose once again
3. Over the last 10 years, I have learned a lot about campaigning, and some of the things we've done have been reasonably effective. What seems to come to me as automatic second nature now seems to have others struggling, and I'm feeling that it's time to write up what we've done somewhat more formally, in the form of a "public transport campaigning guide for newcomers - and a checklist for the more experienced" book. Cathartic, yes; checking my own direction for the next decade and remining me of my framework, yes; useful for others - if it is, then happy days!
4. The Coffee Shop forum has become something of a way of life - and indeed it has for some members too. It's clearly fulfilling a role as the number of posts has climbed of late, even though forums have been largely eclipsed by social media groups. The forum continues - but we do face upcoming challenges as the software is impractical to update, and indeed it uses facilities now deprecated in PHP and which we may have some trouble with in the future. Our members are kind about the flaws in the search which have developed as a result of SQL upgrades, but a longer term solution is needed. And fresh legal requirements of General Data Protection Regulations and the like need to be considered. The Information Commissioner publishes a 12 set guide to get us started (!) and that document contains comments like "this could have significant budgetary, IT, personnel, governance and communications implications". I don't yet know enough to know if I should be worried; one option (not my favoured one) if we would have to do a lot of work would be to hold no data at all ... in other works to close the Coffee Shop. I should add that I would be surprised if it came to that.
5. I hope to see more of the children and grandchildren; I know we are not the easiest of grandparents to get on with but I would really like to see more of them; we've seen the grandchildren so rarely in the last couple of years that they're shy with us as they would be with strangers. We've been promised something for half term - except that February and May are already spoken for, I understand, so this hope may turn out to be more of a dream than a deliverable.
6. More self and family time - me, Lisa, Gyp, Billy. Maybe here in Melksham. Maybe elsewhere in the UK. Maybe a few more holidays. Friends too, maybe ... we keep saying we should meet for a meal / go out as a group / do something this friends both here and elsewhere but it just hasn't materialised. 't have eyes open for opportunities to take a last minute cruise or two, and to go away for a few days through to a week. We did manage Hayle (by rail) and Norway (by rail to Southampton and cruise ship) in 2017
I'm initially posting this under "review of 2017, plans for 2018" on the Coffee Shop, then reformatting for my final regular blog post on The Horse's Mouth; will probably add a link on my Facebook page. Readers / members welcome to quote in other threads, and / or start separate threads if you wish to take up some of the matters I've alluded too. Finishing off on the Coffee Shop - a huge THANK YOU to all forum members who have been here and have helped me keep direction in 2017; I look forward to continuing in a similar direction, but I hope sailing in much calmer waters, in 2018. For the blog readers - who will be fewer in number (but I suspect very much more individually significant), THANK YOU too. Wouldn't have missed 2017, but hoping that things aren't quite so tumultous in 2018. (written 2017-12-31)
Associated topics are indexed as below, or enter http://melksh.am/nnnn for individual articlesZ950 - Purely Personal 
Christmas Season Piccies - (2006-12-30) 
Too busy to blog it - but it's great (mostly) - (2007-01-24) 
A two day gap - first time in five years? - (2009-05-24) 
The great thing about snow .... - (2009-12-23) 
Ruth Davis, 1916 - 2010 - (2010-03-28) 
Congratulations, Kimberly - (2010-07-25) 
Travel, Transport and Tourism - A vision for Melksham, 2026 - (2010-10-03) 
Birth Notice - Aeryn Cassandra Ellis - (2010-11-07) 
Looking back and forward personally - 6 years each way - (2010-11-08) 
Zyliana Kyrei Cox - (2010-11-16) 
My First Christmas - (2010-12-26) 
Melksham Campus - a win / win opportunity, but a severely lacking decision process - (2011-03-31) 
Melksham Town Council - vacancy in the Spa Ward - (2011-04-10) 
The juggler - (2011-05-08) 
Quiet Monday in - (2011-05-23) 
If its Sunday, must it be Weymouth? - (2011-08-30) 
A threat in the post? Poor marketing practise from Smiletrain? - (2011-09-19) 
Melksham has a heart - have your picture taken and support the defibrillator appeal - (2011-11-06) 
Aeryn at 1 - (2011-12-19) 
Initial thoughts - response to GW Rail Franchise Consultation for Wiltshire - (2011-12-31) 
Emerging proposals for land to the east of Spa Road, Melksham - (2012-02-03) 
Kiss - (2012-04-28) 
How should we choose our Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner? - (2012-10-27) 
Zigzag bus - forward for the future, or decaying service? - (2013-06-09) 
Wedding Photos - Kim Ellis to Kyle Londors, 22nd August 2013 - (2013-08-23) 
Improving travel advise information in Wiltshire - (2013-09-06) 
Not treading water, but not risking the ship for a 0.5th of tar either - (2013-10-06) 
Looking to the future at Melksham Station - (2013-10-26) 
Celebration of the fruits of LSTF, and of the people who have helped and are helping - (2013-12-15) 
Sharing my personal best of 2013 - (2013-12-31) 
Eurpoean Elections, and other elections ahead. Some thoughts on campaigns and policies - (2014-05-08) 
A different vision for the future - (2014-07-09) 
Reaction in Radstock to new First bus prices - (2014-07-12) 
What can you and I learn from online quizzes? - (2014-09-27) 
Upcoming election - Chippenham Constituency - the major candidates compared - (2015-04-29) 
Misusing statistics? - the seedy side of election campaigning - (2015-05-04) 
Election results - what if we had a party list system? - (2015-05-08) 
A big change in August - (2015-12-25) 
Where does Wiltshire bus subsidy money come from? - (2016-01-19) 
Rumours of bus changes by First in Wiltshire - what we know and suspect - (2016-03-01) 
The end of competition on a bus route - the effects from then end of the 234 - (2016-03-02) 
Buses - how did we get into the situation we are in? - (2016-04-02) 
Lisa writes - on the referendum vote today - (2016-06-23) 
The technical article feed continues - personal updates more proactive on Facebook now! - (2016-10-30) 
Visiting Los Alamitos Bay Yacht Club - (2016-11-23) 
Thoughts on the new Blackmore Ward of Melksham Without Parish - (2017-02-22) 
Revisiting - should I stand for Melksham Without Parish Council in May? - (2017-02-24) 
Why you should vote for Lisa in Melksham Central - (2017-05-01) 
A year of changes for Lisa and Graham Ellis, and Well House - (2017-05-27) 
Learning how to be a more effective community partner - (2017-07-15) 
Sale of effects and furniture - 12th and 13th August 2017 - (2017-07-25) 
Looking forward to the autumn. - (2017-08-19)
Some other Articles
GW franchise - my responsePython, Tcl, Lua and other Open Source programming courses for 20182017 - the final six monthsSome thoughts on 2017, and looking forward to 2018Moving on from Sunnyside and DevizesBreich Station - current pictures, and future optionsSome thoughts on the closure proposal for Breich stationRegex Reference sheetCoverage map in Tcl - how many times has each proc been called?