Mark's Musings

A miscellany of thoughts and opinions from an unimportant small town politician and bit-part web developer

A decade in retrospect


Ten years is a long time. Ten years ago, as the 90s slipped into the noughties, I marked New Year by combining the roles of DJ at a millennium night party and being on call for PSINet UK as lead tech support contact for the Y2K response team. In the end, the millennium bug turned out to be a pretty damp squib – almost as damp as the rather pathetic official “river of fire” celebrations that didn’t exactly set the Thames ablaze – but I was still a bit worried when the pager went off at 00:01 on the first day of the new century*. As it happened, though, the only calls I got were from people who were paranoid enough to be checking that everything was OK. Mary Schmich got it spot on when she wrote

Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, but know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindside you at 4 p.m. on some idle Tuesday.

We worried a heck of a lot about the Y2K problem. By contrast, although it wasn’t quite 4pm and we weren’t exactly idle, on a Tuesday just under 21 months later two airplanes smashed into the World Trade Center and changed everything.

Fast forward to the end of the decade, and it’s been a busy one, from a personal point of view. I’ve changed job three times, moved house twice, got married, become a father, discovered that I actually do like rollercoasters, learned how to drive a steam train and realised that I can’t avoid turning into my dad. I can remember exactly where I was when the planes hit the WTC, and exactly where I was when the bombs exploded on the London underground. I cannot, however, remember any of the Christmas number ones from the X-Factor winners, with the exception of 2008 – and that only because it was a second-rate cover of an utterly brilliant song. I started the decade as one of the few people in the UK with broadband – a massive 500Kb – and ended it with a connection speed that’s below average. Somehow, I have ended up as one of the UK’s leading authorities on motorway service areas. I have been to more NFL regular season games than I have to English league football matches. I started the decade with three living grandparents, and ended it with none. I hope it will be far more than another decade before I next make the short journey from chapel to cemetary at the front of the cortege. It scares me more than I care to admit that it might not be.

Trying to recall the highlights of the decade, it seems that all the most memorable ones came either at the beginning or at the end. I suppose that’s mainly human nature: recent events are memorable simply because they’re fresh, and the older ones that I do recall are notable simply because they were big enough to survive in the memory. Be that as it may, my two musical highlights were the first and last major gigs of the decade: U2 at Earls Court in 2001 and Royksopp at Greenbelt in 2009. Politically and globally, 2001-9-11** and the ECC meetings in London and Brussels in 2009 are most prominent. Although, just to buck the trend, the two biggest events in my personal life – getting married and becoming a father – happened in 2005 and 2006 respectively, so that’s pretty much slap bang in the middle.

I started the decade DJing at a party. I’m ending it in my own home watching Jools Holland on TV. Parenthood (and moving to a new town where you don’t really know anybody) does that to you. Not that I’d prefer to be back where I was. Regrets? Yes, I’ve had a few. If I could go back and change some things, then I would – I’m not one for a kind of sentimental “it’s all for the best” fatalism. But I also have to say that some of the best things of the decade have been born from adversity, so I’d have to be careful about what I changed! Overall, though, it’s been a good ten years. I’m looking forward to the next ten.

* Yes, I know it wasn’t really the start of the new century. So?
** Conveniently, adding the year in ISO format makes that date both sematically correct and idiomatically recognisable.