Combeback: my 2014 in review

BBC Radio Scotland’s current jingle begins with the dramatic words, ‘IN A YEAR LIKE NO OTHER…’ I suppose that will need to be updated for 2015. Then again, you could make an argument to retain the dramatic, yet simultaneously blindingly obvious, slogan. No two years are alike. That said, 2014 was perhaps a bit more different. Maybe that does not make sense, but not everything in my 2014 made perfect sense either. Here is my brief attempt at analysis of this year – personal, political and professional.


This reflection should probably begin where last year’s reflection ended. Cancer.

Waking up in ‘Recovery’ at Glasgow’s Gartnavel General Hospital in late January was both a highlight and a low point. A low point in that it was probably as low as my drugged up body could physiologically sink. A highlight in that I had emerged alive at the other end of an all day operation, albeit lacking some tissue that I had previously been rather attached to.

My memory of the immediate aftermath is not perfect, but it involved morphine. Lots of morphine. The less immediate aftermath, involving physiotherapy then release back into the community, is something I recall with more clarity. Whilst my recollection may be better, in a way my recovery away from Recovery was less straight-forward. As I was gradually downgraded from HDU, to single room in a ward, to shared room in a ward with a bunch of insomniac and occasionally dottlit older Glaswegian gents, to parental home, then finally to my own gaff in Aberdeen, my ability to punch a pain relief button or otherwise moan at someone in the hope that might make everything “better” was gradually removed. I have already blogged about coming off chemo not being like flicking a switch. Over one year on from my last cytotoxic dalliance, and with the added adventure of surgery, I can confirm that remains the case. So be it. Like the three-legged dog that starred in an earlier blog, I still try my best to enjoy life. Sure, there are times when I want my lot to be better, but: a) there were times when I was perfectly healthy and I wanted that, which made as much difference then as it makes now; and b) even now, things could be a lot worse. Onwards.

My capabilities are not what they once were, but I can just about deal with that. My perspective on most matters has changed, but I can still revel in being an awkward, contrary, verbose blighter at times. Here is a further blog to prove it.

Another step, or several steps, to prove that I am indeed still here is my planned participation in the 2015 London Marathon. Yes, that is a bit bold. No, I am under no illusions that I will reach a time that resembles my peak fitness of 2011. I can deal with that. I also have a mighty fine story with which to tug a few heart-strings when it comes to fund-raising for Cancer Research. (I might write a blog about the training and the run at some point in the future, but I do not plan to make this a jogging forum. Dedicated running blogs are available elsewhere.)


I have already offered the bulk of my Scottish independence referendum reflections in a blog. I offer two further thoughts.

First, in the aftermath of the Queen’s Christmas Message and the various spin-offs, allow me to clarify that I, as a Yes voter, do not feel wounded after the indyref. I’ve said that before and I will keep saying it. And I ‘lost’.  Hence I will not call for reconciliation. Chris McCorkindale made a convincing case to shut down calls for reconciliation even before the vote took place. After the vote, a case can be made that continuing calls for reconciliation are not advisable: if there was division, calls for reconciliation rake it up (in the short term, at least); and if there was not division, such calls foment it. Of course, none of this is to say that everyone was angelic at all times in the debate. For example, there was vandalism, not to mention there were issues with campaign materials: I highlight these examples because I witnessed both and (praise be!) I live to tell the tale. The law of the land (and indeed the specific regime surrounding the indyref itself) should be applied for transgressions where that is practical and in the public interest. But a South African style truth and reconciliation scheme, or an informal process falling short of that? No, I do not think we need that.

Second, an observation inspired by football. This observation may go some way to undermining the point in the previous paragraph, but in the interests of balance I will share it.

On Remembrance Sunday, after attending a service at the University of Aberdeen, I headed to Pittodrie for a match between Aberdeen and Celtic. During the game, Celtic fans chanted a new (to me, at least) fitba chant. Topically, the fans of a team from the Yes voting constituency of Glasgow taunted the No voting constituency of Aberdeen – to the tune of Guantanamera – with the words, ‘You’re only No voting shitebags, No voting shiiiiitebags…’ (and so on). As a Yes voting Dons fan, I found this strangely amusing. The fact I was a Yes voting Dons fan also showed an inherent danger of generalisation. Let us also overlook the fact Niall McGinn (Dons player, ex-Celtic, Northern Irish) declared on Twitter that he would vote Yes, which jars against the Celtic fans’ narrative a tad. The danger of generalisation was later demonstrated to me in the other direction, when I was speaking to a young No voter at another Remembrance Sunday function. He thought it surprising that I was a Yes voter who was happy to be associated with the military (I am on the Military Education Committee at the University of Aberdeen). In response, I pointed out Keith Brown MSP of the SNP served in the Falklands.

Where am I going with this? I think my point can be summarised thus. Whilst I will not go so far as to call for a reconciliation, I will say that we all need to stop viewing things through a prism of the independence referendum, unless and until there is another one (and, for reasons I noted in my earlier blog, it is not for the losing side of the independence referendum to demand another referendum any time soon). I think that is a subtly different position to a call for reconciliation. I understand it would be a tad naïve to expect a seamless realignment of matters after asking people a question as provocative as ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’, but even with the backdrop of the democratic conflagration of 18 September, matters pertaining to the binary question need to be put on the back-burner.

(By the way, the ‘No voting shitebags’ in my story were left unhappy, even if they did “win” the referendum, because the (by implication) brave Yes voters’ beloved Celtic mugged the Dons with a late goal.)


Despite all of the above distractions, I still managed to busy myself with interesting law stuff this year. Land reform things seem to be happening, some of which involved me in the background, some of which provided me with an opportunity to commentate. One such comment appeared in the Juridical Review. I also have an article in The Law Teacher on another research interest, namely clinical legal education. I even managed to turn my medical experience into a short analysis piece, on ownership of human tissue. All of this means I have a few things to get my academic teeth into in 2015, so stay tuned for further non-cancer (I hope), non-political (honest) posts.


For those interested, my top three posts of 2014 (excluding the blog’s churning home page) were:

Why I am voting Yes in the Scottish independence referendum;

Some thoughts on unsolicited campaign emails; and

In remission: now what?

I have no doubt the top two posts attracted more traffic owing to 2014 being ‘a year like no other‘, i.e. those posts were shared for indyref purposes. The third perhaps attracted attention as it was supposed to mark an end to my cancer blogging. As it happens, it did not. Some of this post features even more oncological observations, and I wrote another standalone post about my experience. In my unbiased view, that is my best piece of writing on this blog: A small story about a massive pulmonary embolism. It is definitely my most profane.

What next?

2015 will be a year like no other too. Personally, I hope it will be rather uneventful, in the best possible way.



About basedrones

Bachelor of Laws. Scots academic lawyer. English law qualified. Took far too long to write this bio. Blogs on legal issues, with occasional veering into other purportedly intellectual stuff from time to time. Tweets about legal issues, education, law clinics, fitba, music, rogue cell division and not at all about politics at @MalcolmCombe.
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1 Response to Combeback: my 2014 in review

  1. Pingback: My 2015 in Review | basedrones

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