Ruth's Christmas Newsletter 2010

Just before last Christmas I'd helped with a production of the Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a charity production performed at the famous ADC, which I helped steward. It was a great production, and the Thursday show was made even more magical by being the first day of the snow that year. It fell during the performance so we emerged at about 10pm to several inches on the ground and a complete absence of busses or taxis.
After that, Jan, Mum and Dad and I had a pleasant family Christmas at home in Somerset. Work was difficult, politically, and by March I was looking around, although ironically by then I was also able to work on a project that had long been on the todo list. Reinvigorating that product - for cip3 file output - was the last thing I did for GG; they declared me redundant in April as part of a major restructuring. It was very upsetting, especially as a here-today-gone-today sort of affair.

By May things were settling down again. I'd decided to sell the last of my shares and those, plus the settlement, saw me through for some time. During May, while continuing to look for work, I decided that I really wanted to do product management, and by June I'd also decided, despite the cost, to book Pragmatic Marketing's PM course, which is the most respected one. I flew out to Boston for it at the end of June and spent a happy weekend looking around Boston centre before the course started. Boston surprised me; my experience of American cities has been of those in the West, and this East coast version was quite different and seems more "comfortable". It has more history than, say, Vegas... and for me that seems to matter.

You may have heard about Boston's "Big Dig", the massive engineering project to replace overstretched 6-lane roads on the surface with subsurface 10-lane ones. While the project went massively overbudget the result is actually very good. The replaced surface roads have been landscaped and are now largely open, with many fountains and gardens, and the impression is very pleasant.

One part of Boston that I'd not properly understood was the "Boston Tea Party". The name sounded like something involving china and a front room... the story I discovered at the maritime museum was somewhat different! In 1773 colonists were unhappy about taxes from Great Britain. The imposition of the Tea Act then infuriated the colonists. When the tea-laden Dartmouth docked in Boston with a large tax bill and Gov. Hutchinson refused to send the ship away, a group of colonists boarded the ship and dumped the tea into the harbour! The event was one of several triggers of the revolution.

The course itself was held in a hotel outside the city centre, and took several days. I hope I learnt a lot: it certainly went well, and I can report that I passed, although I would have liked it to go into more detail in places!
Rather than come straight home, I decided to stop by to see Bill and Peggy in Nova Scotia. I'd been before, but it was lovely to see them again and the country is as gorgeous as ever. We didn't stray very far from Brule, but we did go sailing :-) and went to see Colin and Linda and family in their new (to me) house, and the plans they have for a new-new house. A great birthday treat was seeing Julie Johnstone playing live at Tatmagouche's community hall and being presented with a lovely cake :-)  Finally, as if it were planned just for me, there was a great send-off in the form of the Royal Nova Scotia International Tattoo at Halifax, the largest annual indoor event in the world.

Since returning, I have had several job interviews, one of which I really wanted: techincal product manager at Landis+Gyr: it would have been just right. Sadly none so far have been fruitful. In the last few months, I have been researching a project to build an electronic controller; while there's no money involved yet, it might bear fruit. One can hope.

Life at CHBC has also been both challenging and interesting. This year we went ahead with a Café Church event we called CHAT, which involved both the young and old. We have learnt from this and while the initial experiment has ended, appropriate parts are going forward. The community continues to adapt and change, with several newcomers to refresh us all.

During my enforced free time (which is overrated!) I have renewed my website using Drupal, with information, stories and a blog, so for those of you web-enabled, please drop by and comment as appropriate! I got to see the Bletchley Park cipher museum - the story of Enigma - which is well worth a visit and desperately needs support. I have also spent more time with a game than ever before: RailWorks is a train simulator, enabling you to drive trains as if in a real cab, or "flying" alongside. As well as playing I've been helping Neil, who is virtually creating the scenery around Cambridge in the 50s. It's a rewarding if lengthy process, and it will be a while before it's finished!

I hope you all have a lovely Christmas and do keep in touch.