Happy Hogmanay one and all. It is hard to believe but, as of this month, this column will have spanned three decades, for which I would apologise for my controversial and often insulting words. But I won't!
We are currently still in Scotland, a place of political turmoil, inherent divide and continual argument - but enough about our household! Actually we are all quite harmonious just now, as neither of us have work to do: my wife by choice, myself by default, as a cock-up in communications has brought the building of our extension to an alarming halt, the knock-on effects of which may unbalance our life well into early summer. But, in the words of Joan Baez, we shall overcome!
By the end of this month we should be back in France, in time for lambing, albeit our diminished flock of just 6 ewes. That is, of course, if they will let us in after Boris has 'done the deed' in accordance with his promises - one can live in hope. But the upshot of the above is that it looks as though we - well I at least - will return here again to crack the metaphorical whip (the use of a real whip being made unlawful in Fife just a few years ago!) in March. Couple this with Brexit, independence referendums and impeachments of world leaders, it all points towards yet another unsettled year ahead for us.
As a new year comes in, I took a quick look to find that it is, according to China, the year of the Rat. This would of course give me plenty of material for a political rant, but I will avoid that tediousness for now, as I am sure there will be many more months when I can use it. However, I also came across a 'Sheep' horoscope which, as a lifelong shepherd, intrigued me. It appears to be only relevant to those who were born in the year of the Sheep, which sadly I wasn’t. Thankfully some of my sheep were though, in 2016, so this really only applies to them. According to my sources, they will 'get hot and passionate this year, and may even get married!' I'd better start saving for the occasion then. But no! They will also apparently earn enough money to settle all their expenses: which hopefully includes the mortgage being paid off? Unfortunately, the next year of the sheep - the Fire sheep, to be precise - is not until 2028, so it maybe a while before we get any more lucky ones. Doubtful that Daisy Death-wish will be around to contribute to it either. In fact, I am pretty sure she was born in the year of the Runt!
I mentioned in this piece some time ago about the 'Internet of things' and how smart objects have become part of everyday life for some. Well, this year we have joined the 'some' as I have wired the place with smart speakers and light switches. It all started when I had to replace our TV after some reasonably innocuous holiday-makers stayed for a weekend in the house, got helplessly drunk and kicked the place up. As well as holes in the walls and smashed furniture and pictures, our 50 inch TV got demolished in their brawling. Along with its replacement came a free voice-activated gadget that can facilitate just about anything I ask it. As a new decade begins it is comforting to think I now have the aid of something so technically advanced in my armoury, that is, until I take a moment to scrutinize its usefulness. Is it really a saving to get someone else to switch on the radio, lights or telly? Or is it just called being lazy? Let's face it, I can't say 'Hey Google, take the dog for a walk, or dig the garden'. Well I could, but it won't. In the same way that greed can hide behind religion, I am not really convinced that the involvement of these gadgets in our lives can really conceal our increasing tendency towards inactivity.
Based on the above, it's time for a jolly good festive walk on the beach for me today, a route which thankfully passes a couple of good local pubs. Unfortunately, or otherwise, the location of said hostelries negates any mobile or internet signal, so I can get a pint of incommunicado in peace. Don't call me, I'll call you - next year!