Blog 31 Dec 18A New Year is definitely a blank book, so time to write a new chapter, a new story in 2019 – Happy New Year!

I must also apologise for not posting my weekly Blog on Saturday morning as normal, but I decided to expand this week’s post to include 31st December 2018.

So Christmas is over and 2019 will be a roller coaster of a year, especially around the uncertainty of Brexit leading up to and beyond 29th March 2019.

Personally I still feel our neighbours across the water are heading for yet another General Election in the next 12 months and possibly a second vote on the UK leaving the European Union.

As for the Isle of Man, well we have to prepare the best we can for whatever the Brexit outcome might be…. but a no deal is looking the likely outcome.

The Isle of Man Post Office and further industrial strike action looks set to dominate our island’s media headlines in January unless a satisfactory solution can be found quickly, but at this moment in time it looks a million miles away……

As for my own schedule over the past week or so, prior to taking a few days off over the Christmas holiday, Ellen and I took my mum (Pam) on the Christmas steam train dining car (Sat 22nd Dec), which is always a wonderful evening.

There were around 80 people on the dining car trip to Castletown and it always makes me laugh watching 70 to 60 people jumping off the train and heading straight into the Sidings Public House at the same time.

I can’t imagine what the bar staff must think…..

The food and service on the train was excellent as always, but I felt very sorry for the poor waitress who tripped over someone’s feet when serving the desserts.

With Christmas Eve on a Monday this year, Ellen and I took the day off and headed out for a walk along the promenade and quay, anything to avoid the big crowds building up in town, and especially Tesco.

According to social media posts, there was a 20 to 30 minute wait just to get into Tesco on Christmas Eve, which is total madness…..

Fortunately for us we did a few small shops throughout December, which made the process far easier and appears to be less expensive than one big shop.

At tea time on Monday (24th Dec), Ellen, Pam and I attended the St Peter’s Church Crib Service, which I can only describe as hilarious with the Reverend Clive Burgess dressed up in multiple outfits, including the Grinch, a Santa, a Mouse, the Grinch again, along with wearing a jolly Christmas shirt.

So that was five different outfits all at once……

As for Christmas Day and Boxing Day, nothing to report other than we headed out for a walk before watching lots of rubbish TV, just like many other families across the island…

Our Christmas dinner was cooked by me this year, which was nicely spread over 3 or so hours…. and it finished with me setting fire to the Christmas pudding with a splash of brandy without actually burning down the house.

Anyway, taking a few days off over Christmas also gave me an opportunity to look back over the past 12 months, and it has definitely been an eventful year.

I guess in life we all have a few good years, a few bad ones and a couple that just appear to tick by, but the last couple of years have been very special indeed.

That said, one date I personally try to avoid is 23rd December as this was the date on which I was made redundant and it made the whole of 2013 a very difficult year for us personally, and on a previous year someone smashed up my car before leaving the scene….

So it definitely isn’t my favourite date in the calendar.

Like last year I can certainly take a lot of positives from the past 12 months, but I also understand that I can still achieve so much more in this role.

It is only when you look back for a certain period of time in some detail that you fully appreciate some of the work being undertaken by this administration.

The year 2018 started with David Ashford, MHK replacing Kate Beecroft, MHK as the new Health Minister, which is always one of the most difficult jobs in government because of budgetary control issues.

The Isle of Man Abortion Reform Bill 2018 started its process through the House of Keys in 2018, and by the end of the year it now only requires royal assent to become law on the Isle of Man, and not forgetting that the Act also needs to be promulgated on Tynwald Hill within 18 months.

In February of this year 15 candidates put themselves forward for election to the Legislative Council, and in the end the House of Keys Members elected five women, which was a major change in political opinion towards the upper Chamber, which was previously seen as a retirement home for old MHK’s.

Personally, I still believe the House of Keys elected the five best candidates and from a variety of backgrounds, which gives a greater balance of opinions.

We also lost a number of well known and well respected Manx residents that served our Community or entertained us through their achievements.

They will always leave a special place in our hearts.

In May of this year, the Isle of Man Government purchased the Steam Packet Company for £124 million. Public opinion was certainly split in respect of the timing and the price tag, but I still believe it was the right decision for the Isle of Man in the long term.

It is good to see this administration making those difficult decisions, which the previous administration clearly ignored, but we now need to find solutions to the Public Sector Pensions deficit, the Food Bank and accessing housing on the island.

I will continue to look back over the past 12 months next week, but all of my Blogs etc are available via my website (robcallister.im).

As for the rest of my Christmas break:

On Thursday (27th Dec) last week Ellen and I flew to Liverpool before collecting a hire car and driving down to Sheffield for a couple of days to see family.

I haven’t been to Sheffield for several years so it was good to catch up with Ellen’s family, especially eight-week-old Isaac who is the latest addition to the family.

It was also good to catch up with the in-laws, which gave us an opportunity for a family picture.

On Saturday morning we drove just down the motorway to Leeds to meet up with my brother Sean and his family also for a couple of days.

I would certainly recommend the Double Tree Hilton Hotels both in Sheffield and Leeds.

We arrived at lunchtime and after a quick cup of tea Ellen and I took Aleisha (aged 10 going on 30) and Kara (aged 6) shopping – now that was an experience, especially for someone who doesn’t have children, but it was great great fun….

My role was to carry anything and everything, along with paying.

I don’t think I have had so much fun spending around £55…..

My brother Sean has lived in Leeds for around 14 years and is a head chef at a well known city centre restaurant, so it was good that he also took a couple of days off as he works incredibly long hours.

They are also in the process of renovating an old house, so on Sunday Ellen and I were roped into doing a few chores.

We also met for the first time the girls’ younger brother, 18-month-old Flynn, a little boy with a wonderful personality.

On New Year’s Eve we flew back to the back to the Isle of Man from Liverpool Airport.

Let 2019 begin…….