The road along the Namibian coast, where the desert runs into the sea, is dotted with crosses, marking the places where someone has died. You wouldn’t think there would be so many accidents along this deserted highway, but the road is straight, and untarred, people get bored or distracted, or perhaps they have had too much to drink, and the next thing they know, perhaps the last thing they know, is they are spinning into oblivion.
This image, from our first trip to Namibia, marks just one of those lives lost. For me, coming at the end of a year in which the war in Syria, the destruction of Palmyra, Brexit, and the election of the most grotesquely unfit man ever to hold the office of United States president dominated the headlines, the image also says something about a year of waste and desolation.
On the public, political, historical stage, that is. Looked at from a purely personal perspective it has, in contrast, been a year of wonders, starting with my son Jonathan’s marriage to Hayley in South Africa in April and then, in July, the miraculous arrival of our first grandchild, Joshua. Life not only goes on, it flourishes, with more grandchildren hopefully to come, and the future stretching way out in front of them, to the end of the century. In the midst of so much unhappiness and suffering, we are blessed and fortunate.
There are also, as some of you know, some rather large changes in store for Rob and me in 2017. In just a couple of weeks’ time I will be on my way back to South Africa, to start work with a new, 4 ½ year contract on an EU project. Located in Treasury, the project will focus on capacity building support for the South African government’s employment promotion initiatives; the work will entail providing support across a range of departments in the areas of technical and vocational education and training, small and medium enterprise development, and active labour market policy, through a combination of training, research, workshops and colloquia, study visits to the EU etcetera. My job is not to do all of this of course, but to help government departments identify their needs, put together technical proposals, and bring in the necessary advice and expertise to help them. It should be interesting – challenging, but varied, and pretty darned relevant given South Africa’s “triple challenge” of poverty, inequality and unemployment.
Rob will follow a month or two later, once she has finished her current show, and has had a chance to catch her breath and get herself sorted. Needless to say, we are looking forward to welcoming our Canadian and US family and friends to South Africa! And of course, we are thrilled that we will have the opportunity to spend the next few years back in my home country, with my mother and family.
So, after a year of public dismay and personal happiness, let me wish one and all a wonderful time over the holidays, and the very very best for the New Year. And let me end, personally and symbolically, with this image of an infant and his parents, under the Christmas tree.