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Monday, 30 December 2013

Review of 2013 (part 1)

2013 was a year of two halves and ended with a feeling of déjà vu. At the end of 2012 I was unemployed, on my own, and not really sure what the coming year would bring. I'd made a list of plans of what I hoped to do in 2013, and at least some of them have come about.
January saw the buying of a car for the first time in about 15 years (I'd had company cars during that time).

I'm not really 'into cars', so bought a Volvo V40 for totally pragmatic reasons – build quality, longevity, and being a bit unfashionable so tends to be bought by older driver who look after them. A year and 10,000 miles (16,000 km) later and it's repayed my judgement. It's had one service, a pair of tyres, two bulbs, and the original 2002 battery called it a day. It's a bit slow and dull, but it doesn't use any oil and how many cars can boast a tape player? Unless I get another job with a company car I intend on keeping the Volvo until it breaks.
A week after buying the car I started a new job after four months of unemployment. I was employed through an agency to carry out electrical testing for a local authority. I was employed to do Portable Appliance Testing (aka PAT testing) and the job was described as testing 'in Council premises'. I had assumed that this would mean Council offices and I would be testing computers and kettles, but it turned out I would be testing in houses used by the Emergency Homeless Unit. This meant visits to the roughest streets of the roughest towns in the area and dealing with residents of whom about 80% had serious alcohol or drug related problems! The work was fairly easy and not too time consuming, but let us say that I met some 'interesting' characters! Imagine being an extra in an Irvine Welsh novel and that'll give you an idea!
The job was supposed to last 3 months, but they ran out of work after 6 weeks (I was even testing Christmas lights!), but a week later I got another job.
This was through another agency and was loftily described as an 'Electrical Engineer'. What it entailed was travelling round a company's factories, cataloguing electrical equipment in their stores, and inputting the data into spreadsheets. Although the work was fairly repetitive I really enjoyed it and the fact that it was very well paid helped! It involved quite a lot of travelling, but I saw a lot of the country and every 3 weeks or so I had an 'working from home' week inputting data.
As I was earning a reasonable amount of money, I had some work done on my house and bought a Yamaha SZR 660 'project'.

I'd always liked the SZR as it was basically the same engine as a Skorpion, but housed in a lightweight sporty frame (derived from a TZR 125/250). Usually SZRs are fairly expensive, but this one was so cheap that I couldn't say 'no'. It was sold to me as a non-running 'project', but I got it running fairly easily enough (cleaned out carb), but the rest is fairly tatty due to neglect and having sat in a damp shed for a few years. I haven't done much more work on it, and it's stored in the garage as a 'future project'.

There were a few changes in my private life as well. As some of you will know, I was widowed two years ago and I felt early this year that I was ready to 'move on' and meet women again. However, for a middle aged man this is really difficult due to the lack of a 'social structure' that allows you to meet people. It's OK if you're 20 or a pensioner, but for the middle aged , there's nothing. Eventually I met a very pleasant woman and we went for lunch. Although we were meeting as 'friends' and not on a 'date', I found this really traumatic as it was the first time I'd been with someone 'new' for about 23 years! However, it went really well and we continued to meet for lunch during the early part of the summer, and I thought we were getting on very well.
By this time it was June and my 'Electrical Engineer' contract was coming to an end. I had a couple of weeks without work before we headed off for our trip to Belgium and France. A couple of days before I left for holiday I got an interview for another job and arranged to start when I got back from holiday. So, I was heading off on holiday, had a regular lunch date, and was coming back to a new job – what could possibly go wrong?

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