Monday, 17 July 2017


Our family has been dealing with some difficult news in recent days. My grandfather on my mother's side was diagnosed with cancer a few weeks ago and passed away in his sleep on Wednesday night. I had seen him for the first time in far too long a few weeks ago, but before the diagnosis. He had already been suffering badly with neurological problems and a recent fall that broke his hip. In some ways I'm happier he's no longer suffering because, brave a face as I put on at the time, seeing his frustration and pain was heartbreaking.

I was glad to see him before he went because we were so close especially when I was younger. Grandad was a massive figure in my childhood. Every weekend we would go from Kirkcaldy to Glenrothes. Almost every family holiday, usually in a bloody caravan, he and gran would be with us. If I was playing football, in the back garden or even at primary school when we moved to Aberdeen, he was there (slightly too) enthusiastically willing me on. We played golf (badly). We went to football games, including my first ever visit to Hampden. He got me interested in computing and built my first computer. He supported education in a big part because he left school very early to a fruit and veg stall before joining the Navy (serving in Malta where my mum was born) and had to fight to give his children and grandchildren the very best opportunities he never had. He helped me and my sister go to one of the best schools in the country, to play musical instruments and have lessons. He took me to see PSV Eindhoven's stadium on the only day it didn't rain when we were in Holland. He'd take me to HCS, the Rosyth-based manufacturing business he helped to run, and to Fibrehub in Freuchie, a technology company for whom he had a long association.

Ian Edmiston was a proud, self-made, entrepreneurial man who was fiercely loyal to his family and constantly willing them on to achieve all they could, making substantial personal sacrifices in the process. He wasn't perfect (goodness knows I've acquired some of his more stubborn "personality traits") but I want him to be remembered for the goodness in his heart and his bloodymindedness in the cause of others.

Probably the most embarrassing moment for me with grandad was when, as an 8-year old starting to get into football, I asked him to accompany me in the Aberdeen end at the CIS Insurance Cup final against Celtic in 2000. A lifelong Celtic supporter, grandad applauded the decisive finish in that match, insisting "but it was a good goal!" much to the chagrin of those around us! We left 5 minutes before the end...

It was perhaps fitting, my own footballing loyalties aside, that he should have bowed-out just after Celtic's "Invincibles" went the domestic season undefeated. Football was always my grandad's passion. One of the last things we did together was watch the highlights of the Scotland v England game on my iPad in his hospital room. I saw his face light-up at the sight of Lee Griffiths' two perfectly taken free-kicks, and for a moment at least, it was like his hurt and struggle had dissipated. I promised him if he kept trying with his physio, I would find a way to take him to a football game. I would like to think now that whenever I'm at Firhill he'll be looking down on me from somewhere, somehow, and that he'll still be proud.

I'll miss you, grandad.

Life - An Update

You may have noticed both my blog and (to a slightly lesser extent) my social media activity has been more anodyne of late.

There are several reasons for that, but one of them is that, at the end of next month, I will be joining the civil service as a "Generalist" on its graduate Fast Stream programme. In anticipation of that, I have been slowly weaning myself off expressing views of a potentially party political and governmental nature. Call it a "transitional period" in which Graeme and the Statutory Civil Service Code are brought into alignment...

My first six-month posting is with the DWP in London, and therefore entails a change of location after spending eight years in Glasgow. I've found a place in Muswell Hill in North London, which is very nice, but will mean an adjustment and my first big move in 8 years. The Northern Line commute will be "interesting" but I'm looking forward to a change of pace and environment after spending a sustained period in academia so early on in life.

Speaking of which, the thesis is (almost!) done and I should have that submitted before I move south. Cutting a massive piece of work down to size is difficult and laborious, but does ultimately make it better and more readable. I'll need to come back up to Glasgow to sit my viva before the year is out but mentally I am looking forward to moving on.

People often wonder whether they'd do things differently if they had their time again. Had other opportunities arisen, I suspect I probably would not have gone and taken on a PhD straight after my undergraduate degree. Although it was a tremendous opportunity to be given the resources to embark on a project like that, the pressure, weight of expectation, and sheer extent of self-direction involved did at times get the better of me and contributed to mental health problems that I am thankfully now (mostly) on top of. Although the PhD itself can be a very lonely experience, the extra time at University did, I suppose, benefit me in non-academic ways. I made many friends I otherwise would not have, owned a beautiful classic car I otherwise would not have bought, and learned a lot about myself in those four years.

A couple of weeks ago, I sold my MG Midget. Unfortunately, circumstances dictate that it just would not be practical at this stage in life to keep a car, let alone one that was, shall we say, temperamental and impractical for a daily form of (mainly) city-based transport. NFA has gone to a good home, though, and I got a good stint out of her.

2017, then, has been and will be a year of considerable change. That's before I mention the passing of our stubborn family cat Mungo just before Easter at a grand 21 years of age, the arrival of my sister and brother-in-law's new kitten Merlin, my dad's new job as Presbytery Clerk that will see him and mum return permanently to Glasgow for the first time since 1991 and some sad news I'll save for another post.

Sometimes it feels like everything is happening at once, and you've not really got control of things. The last year or so more than ever has made me appreciate the importance of stability in life. Never underestimate it.