Matt Gemmell

TOLL is available now!

An action-thriller novel — book 2 in the KESTREL series.

★★★★★ — Amazon

New Year

general, personal & university 4 min read

Sincere apologies for the dearth of posts here of late. The reasons for that state of affairs are many, and not all to be related, but of course the primary one is that old culprit, lack of motivation. I’d like to try to get back into blogging after my recent hiatus, so here we are.

The easiest road back in is to recount some events from the recent past, but I’d like to do so in the form of lessons I’ve learned (or at least been reminded of) by those same events, and which I hope I’ll be able to keep in mind during this new year of 2005. I guess you can be the judge of whether this works or not.

Christmas and Family

This was a quiet time for me, as I’ve mentioned previously. It was good to spend some time with my family, who I’ve hardly seen throughout most of 2004. I’ve seen my brother perhaps 10-15 times or so over the past year, and it was really great to fall back into the old banter, talk about music, and so on. I’ve missed him.

On boxing day I went to my father’s house for dinner, seeing him for only perhaps the 3rd time that year, as I recall. That evening was also the first (and only) time in 2004 that I saw my stepmother. I really enjoyed having that time with them, even though we discussed immigration policy for a large part of the evening (no kidding). I’ve missed my father in particular a lot over the last year. We’ve both been guilty of not making the time to get together, but we both have extremely busy schedules. All the same, surely we can manage to see each other more often than we have been, especially given that we live only 25 minutes’ drive apart.

Lesson: It’s important not to lose touch with your loved ones.

New Year and Mortality

I was down in Dumfries staying with Lauren and her family for the new year. We spent the evening of the 31st in the Bruce (a local pub), seeing in the bells there, then went to Jumpin’ Jak’s until 3 am or so. It was great to do something a bit different for the new year, and to not be in and around Glasgow for once. All in all, a good night.

A day or two later, though, I found out that a friend of mine, Natalie Thomas, had died in the early hours of January 1st. She was one of my mother’s dancing school pupils for years (since she was 3 years old in fact), and I’ve known her for most of that time. She would always wear red ribbons in her dark hair each year at the annual dance display. She was 20 years old. At around 12:15 am that night, she’d left the club she was in, complaining of feeling unwell, and went home. Her mother (a nurse) arrived home from her shift and heard Natalie groaning, but left her alone on the assumption that she’d simply drank too much.

About 20 minutes later her mother heard a thump, and found Natalie having a seizure. Despite paramedics working on her for several hours, she passed away, her brain’s electrical activity never having stabilised again sufficiently to maintain life. It’s a shocking thing that someone so young and seemingly entirely healthy can be taken from us like that. An extremely sobering thought. Her funeral had a huge attendance, and provided some of the closure we all require after such things happen in our lives. As the limousine with her family in it left the crematorium, it passed by me as I was walking back to my car, and I caught the eye of Natalie’s father, less than 3 feet away from me. I nodded an unspoken word of condolence, and he nodded back. I won’t forget the look on his face for a very long time, particularly his eyes.

My mother told me that, when she had visited the Thomases earlier in the week to offer her condolences, Natalie’s mother had shown her Natalie’s room. It was covered in flowers, and Mrs. Thomas had laid out all the belongings which summed up the essence of her daughter’s short life; everything from her dancing shoes and working uniform to her mobile phone and hairbrush. Even not having seen it first-hand, I find that an extremely powerful and moving image.

Lesson: Don’t take life for granted.

Personal Life and Love

As I’ve mentioned before (perhaps too often for some readers? I’m never sure about that), I’ve had the good fortune to be in a happy and loving relationship for just over 3 months now. There have been more great times than I can count, and like any situation in life, there have also been occasional moments where things have been less than perfect. We’ve worked through those, and continue to be ready to tackle any future issues which arise.

We’re very strong together, we enjoy being with each other, and I’m looking forward to continuing to be with Lauren as we embark together into this new year ahead of us. I love her, and she loves me.

Lesson: Love is always worth fighting for.


To take the tone down a few notches of intensity, university has obviously been largely quiet lately what with everyone having been on holiday. We’ve been back for a couple of weeks now, though, and have started into our second semester. My chosen modules for this term are Security & Cryptography 4, Algorithmics 4, and Artificial Intelligence 4.

I also of course have my project, the Pie Menus implementation on Mac OS X, which continues apace. I should hopefully be posting about that again shortly.

As for a lesson learned, I’m hard pushed to think of one which directly relates to my coursework and timetable. Perhaps this: When all of your afternoon lectures are in F171 in Lilybank Gardens, learn to open one of the windows if you’re to have any hope of staying awake.

Everything Else

I’ve also learned a number of miscellaneous life-lessons during the course of the past month or so, which I’ll list below. Hopefully some of you will recognise the original context of some of these.

  • Jedi mind powers do not allow you to pan across images on the web.
  • They do, however, allow you entry to clubs without having to show any ID, and are also effective in most similar situations where you must convince someone of something. Try it.
  • If you want to show improvement in a short space of time, you need a montage.
  • I'm seen as the person in the degree course most likely to have underpants with my own face printed on them.
  • Lest it were ever in doubt, I can confirm that Steve is indeed a legend.

And last but certainly not least:

  • Where there's an Interdimensional Sword, there's a way.

I’m going to try to keep all of these lessons in mind during this year; maybe you should too.

Until next time, stay sheercore.