These are my personal highlights of the previous year. As my main careers were as a Lecturer in Politics and Industrial Relations then as an M.P., I now enjoy what is something of a synthesis between education and politics. It can be called "political education". I also have a continuing interest in the two subjects I studied at University - philosophy and (again ) politics. So Political Theory is that particular synthesis. Retirement also gives me the scope to follow some of my other intests more fully, including watching football. Above all, it has helped me to rediscover that I have a family.
1. Conference Visits. I went to a good number of Conferences over the year. They were mainly held in London, starting with the Fabians and ending with the Society for the Study of Labour History.
2. Attending and Organising Meetings. I seem to have been doing these things for most of my life. Early in the year I was made Political Education Officer for my local Labour Party. I organise monthly Sunday evening discussion meetings, which are held at the Dronfield Contact Club. Speakers have included past and present LabourM.P.s. I have also attended local Fabian, Constituency Labour Party, local Branch and Student Labour meetings and have addressed numbers of these. I also had the privilege of attending and addressing the Ruskin College Fellowship. As an ex-Ruskin Student, I am also a member of the Fellowship.
3. Trips South to meet the Family. Ann and I made numbers of visits to London, staying in hotels or with our son Stephen, daughter-in-law Rebecca and grandson Joseph. We also visited our daughter Joanne who works in Crawley. She also joined us in London for key get togethers such as Joseph's first birthday and my 70th.
4. Visit to Iraqi Kurdistan. With a group from both Labour Friends of Iraq (LFIQ) and the TUC's Iraq Solildarity Committee, I visited the Kurdish north of Iraq. Our hosts were the Kurdish Workers' Federation. Trade Unionists from the rest of Iraq came to meet us and presented me with a (much treasured) certificate of honourary membership of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions. With LFIQ, I also attended meetings in the Commons which are the only times I now revisit my former workplace.
5. Holiday in Turkey. Ann and I went on a memorable holiday to Turkey. When we arrived we joined a coach tour which included Anzacs, North Americans, an Indonesian and only one other British couple. Most of us keep in touch via circulated e-mails. We visited ancient and modern Turkey. It was quite an experience, especially as I previously had just been to Iraqi Kurdistan on Turkey's southern border.
6. Stage Productions and the Cinema. With Ann, these ranged from musicals such as "The Producers", plays such as "Embers" with Jeremy Irons, an opera Turandot and a concert with Joan Baez. The ones I have mentioned were first rate. We only made one visit to the cinema to see a memorable Iranian film "Offside".
7. Spectator and Fantasy Sport. The above film is about women in Iran who wish to attend football matches, but are banned by the authorities. I have a team in the Daily Telegraph Fantasy Football League whom I named after the main character in the film, called "Akrams Dream". Our son also runs a Fantasy League for his work mates and myself. I have also attended Rugby League games with him. The highlight was the Rugby League Cup Final at Twickenham. I also saw a range of football matches, mainly local. The greatest of all being my 60th Anniversary visit to see a Sunderland home game, and a 146th Anniverary match between the two oldest teams in the world - Hallam FC 1. Sheffield FC 3.
8. Home Pastimes. I list the best I have come across in each category in the year -
a. Book : Paul Foot's "The Vote - How it was won and how it was undermined."
b. Magazine : New Scientist's 50th Anniversary Special.
c. Double DVD : The Ramallah Concert by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra.
d. CD Set : Barenboim - Beethoven's Nine Symphonies (Warner).
e. TV Programme : Bruce Springsteen's "We Shall Overcome/The Seeger Sessions".
f. Radio : Radio 3 morning programmes listened to when in the bathroom.
g. Via PC : Little Atoms interviews on Resonance FM 104.4.
h. Scrabble : Ann and I play regularly. She wins at least 2 to 1. I managed a tie last time.
9. Blogging and Surfing. This blog was a brilliant present from our son for my 70th Birthday. When he showed the blog to me it contained the initial two posts taken from earlier material of mine which had been published, plus my photo which he had just taken. Until very recently, I did not know how to post items and they were all placed for me by Stephen from attachments I had sent him. I have now acquired further limited skills and this (and the last three posts) have been submitted directly. I hope now to provide material both an a more regular basis and in shorter forms. The importance to me of surfing the net is explained in the postscipt. My blog "From Beano to Keono" has been republished in a four page spread in the Sunderland independent and prize winning football fanzine "A Love Supreme".
10. Happy Xmas. The whole family were home for Xmas. Nothing was better.
POSTSCIPT. The question arises as to whether I miss being an M.P. From the above, it should be clear that I don't. I meet most of the people I was close to through my work with LFIQ and at meetings and Conferences. Although being an M.P. was an important part of my life, I can only think of two things I regret in departing . First, I no longer have access to the telling provisions of the House of Commons Library and its expert Reseachers. Secondly, I enjoyed the discipline of writing a fortnightly syndicated column for three local free newspapers. On the other hand, surfing the net and blogging are great substitutes for these bits I missed. It helps that Dave Anderson the M.P. for Blaydon (a newly elected M.P.) spontaneously decided that he would work in the two areas that were my main final parliamentary commitments - progress in Northern Ireland and LFIQ's interests. Otherwise, I might have felt quilty about leaving and deserting the causes I pursued. But I now know that Dave will automatically cover these matters and will probably do so more effectively.