Don’t Look Back In Anger

This one’s been in my head for weeks: I think I’ve written it about three or four times while I’ve been out on the road but this is now, right now, and I don’t do multi-tracking. LCFN: keeping blogging live.

One year ago today, I was dumped on the corporate scrapheap along with three of my colleagues. The day before my 63rd birthday will haunt me forever. The tap on the shoulder came around half ten in the morning and by eleven I was out of the building. It was the last time I cycled home from work in Glasgow as an employee. I was devastated. I’d been there 25 years, given the best, most productive and creative years of my working life to the company, and it all ended with an instant message and a walk up the corridor. I remember shaking inside as I was trying to comprehend the future: tossed aside two years and one day short of retirement. For what? The bottom line.

I wrote this a few days later, still in shock:

“The 5am starts are history. The 40 and 50 mile days on the bike are history. Riding the A77, Newton Mearns and Giffnock is history. New challenges lie ahead, in both my professional life and on two wheels. I have to say that by the time it got to the day before my 63rd birthday, I thought there was more than an even chance that I would make it to retirement in two years time with an unbroken career in IT of having worked every single day since I started back in July 1975. But for the third time in my career, redundancy tapped me on the shoulder.

The first time it happened in 1987, I took a job with a startup software house and began working for them on April 1st: maybe that was a sign because three and a half years later, when Ross Taylor wasn’t even one, they went bust. That was a scary time: mortgage, a young family, loss of the company car overnight, and the need to make a buck: fast (see what I did there?). I made a couple of phone calls when I got home that night, and those calls kept me afloat. The next morning at 4am, I set off (in a Mini) for Salford in Greater Manchester to carry on working on the project I’d been on for the previous two months. One of those calls was to my boss on the project. I’ll remember his words for as long as I live “if you can get yer arse on yer seat at starting time tomorrow, I’ll find you some work”. And he did: for six weeks, six weeks that brought me enough time to find the next four week contract, and so it went on. But that was no way to feed a young family so alongside all the travelling here, there and everywhere, I eventually found myself another permanent role. It lasted for 25 years and two months…

And then that all too familiar tap on the shoulder, the feeling that once you’ve experienced it you never forget, happened again.

But LCFN has taught me many things, and top of the pile by a distance is the notion that you should never, ever give up.

I’ve been in IT for 41 years and not missed a day’s employment in all of that time. And I’m not about to start now. So today I started working for myself”.

That was then.

This is now.

Six hours after being told I didn’t add value, I was headhunted. Headhunted by a company who, based on a telephone conversation around my track record in programming Excel, hired me for three months because they needed someone like me right then. Two weeks later, they binned the three month deal and made it twelve. Now it’s rolling.

I don’t do giving up.

Talk is cheap. Branding is cheap. Never Give Up is cheap unless you can prove it.

Eileidh’s proved it. She’s proved it twice. And right now, she’s in the process of proving it a third time. I don’t think you’re supposed to come through neuroblastoma three times. But this is Eileidh. She’s got her mum’s genes. #Formidable

And while I guess kids don’t get tattoos at five, that doesn’t matter because Eileidh’s got it tattooed into her soul. #Warrior

I’m just following her lead.

On the scrapheap, where my skills were redundant, I discovered disease detection. I found that I could do stuff that no one had ever done before by putting knowledge in the hands of the specialists. What we discovered, as a team, was that my software was able to do in uder two seconds what previously took months of manual craft. I prefer to call it teamwork. The guys I work with keep me right: and they inspire me. They have the knowledge, I have the data model…

And the rule engine.

Data is worthless unless you can turn it into knowledge.

Let me rephrase unless: make that until.

Data is worthless until you can turn it into knowledge.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict football results with some accuracy.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict virtual dog racing with some accuracy.

I’ve got spreadsheets that predict disease with some accuracy.

And I have a child cancer module: it took me two hours to knock it up on the train coming back from Liverpool. It works like this:

Suppose your child has been backwards and forwards to the doctor’s over the last few months, and suppose that your child has randomly presented some of the following symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Vision problems
  • Night sweats
  • Weight loss
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale skin

The software that I created after I’d been chucked on the corporate scrapheap can analyse the data that lies behind the visits to your GP. And if that was your child, it might just save their life: because it can spot the clustered symptoms. It’s not rocket science, it’s just mother’s common sense in action.

Now, armed with all this rekindled enthusiasm, I kinda find it strange that I’m gonna be 64 tomorrow. For five years, I’ve been counting down the days to my retirement, and now that it’s here, albeit one year down the road from now, I’m having such fun that I don’t want my working life to end. See when you know you’re making a difference and what you do is appreciated by the people you work for, it makes such a difference. That hasn’t happened for a very, very long time.

Changing the subject completely, if you read last week’s blog, you’ll know that I set myself up for my first 200 mile week since September. At the time, I recollected that it was my 70th, but what I forgot to do was re-check the log when I recalculated the miles to the nearest tenth back at Christmas time. Three of those two hundred and a bit mile weeks morphed into one hundred and ninety nine and something. So I’m back at 67. But that’s no big deal because the summer’s coming and I feel a groove coming on.

On the back of last week’s effort, I’ve been completely floored by the lurgi this week. In truth it started at the weekend but I’d already set my stall out so I bagged the 63 miles that I needed (and a bit) regardless. Monday was a lovely spring day so I cycled down to the coast. Then Tuesday it hit me like a ton of bricks. I don’t do colds: colds are what other people get. One a year’s a bad year so two in four weeks is off the scale. It wasn’t the barking cough that got me, nor was it the sore head…. It was the tiredness. OMG: by 11am, four hours into the working day, I was done for. Being out on the road was a complete no no because I can’t risk pushing the bark further down into my chest. I once got diagnosed with pleurisy after carrying on running with a bad cold in the winter: I don’t wanna go back there again: one T shirt is enough.

And I’ve got a broken bike: again.

When I was coming back from Saltcoats on Monday, the chain was slipping summat terrible. At first I thought it was the freewheel that was away which wasn’t a big deal because Father Birthday is bringing me new wheels for the ones that I’ve worn out (if you run ‘em past their end of life, they explode: been there, done that, seen the shards of metal on the road).

But it wasn’t the freewheel.

It was the middle ring of the front chain ring: teeth ripped and no longer able to hold the chain: doom. Bike back in the hospital. It’s been a very expensive week…

But see in the grand scheme of things, I couldn’t give a shit. A year ago, I was cast aside as dead meat. Yesterday, I passed the SNOMED-CT Foundation Course that underpins the new global standard in integrated healthcare: four months of study knocked on the head in under two weeks. Today I applied for the advanced course in SNOMED-CT Implementation: as a birthday present to myself. I know I can still make a difference and change people’s lives.


Because like Princess Puddles, my hero, I don’t do giving up. I’ve proved it. So has she.

Onwards and upwards.

Don’t look back in anger.

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