Alan counts his blessings

I wrote this in early 1999, shortly after retiring. I had been doing a lot of thinking about my circumstances, and this was what you might call the personal side of it. I reserve the right to twitch it from time to time if I want to, but so far I haven't. ( I've added a phrase or two. ) If it's still here, it's still what I think.

I have a suggestion of a memory from my late schooldays. I knew that I was going to be a chemist, and that to do so the next step was to go to university. I didn't know what came after that, and didn't care a lot, because there'd be time to find out when I got there, but I couldn't imagine why anyone would pay me to do chemistry thereafter, particularly as the sort of chemistry I wanted to do had a lot more to do with sitting and thinking about it than with making useful chemicals. Then I found that a university was in fact a place where some people really did get paid for doing more or less what I wanted to do, and that seemed like a very good idea. And then one thing led to another, and here I am around 45 years later and for most of that time people have indeed paid me ( and paid me pretty well, whatever the academic unions might say ) for enjoying myself - and one or two other things, like setting and marking examinations and such.

Throughout that time, I have presumably given reasonable satisfaction to those concerned. The closest to an exception was certainly my research fellowship at Loughborough, which was partly my fault; I thought I'd be able to jump into an entirely new research area and make a go of it by myself, and I was wrong. But I've never had people tapping me on the shoulder and making suggestions about looking for somewhere else - or perhaps I'm so insensitive that I haven't noticed. This is the more surprising in that, even after the warning of the Loughborough experience, I've always wanted to change what I'm doing every few years, so I've never really caught up with current practice. Not being as stupid as I look, I know that my position is precarious, so keep working frantically to catch up, which I suppose helps.

And also throughout all that time I can't remember anything bad happening. A great deal of All the credit for that must certainly go to Jean, who has been around for the last 40 or so of those years, and who has looked after me and the rest of us ( Jim, Bill, and Jill, for decreasing periods of time, not amounting to 40 years in any case ) and done all ( which means "all" ) the arduous and boring and demanding and time-consuming and inconvenient work necessary to let me spend most of my time sitting and thinking and enjoying myself doing nothing much useful. ( The difference between our responsibilities accounts for Jean's reaching 60 this year while I'm still stuck here at 18 or so. Well, maybe 24. ) This fact comes forcibly to my notice from time to time, and every time I go to some trouble to spend time sitting and thinking about it and doing nothing much useful.

Of course, "nothing bad" doesn't mean "nothing uncomfortable"; not everything always goes exactly the way I want it, people we know die ( in particular Ann - Jill's twin, for those who don't know - while we were in Derby, and that was a hard time ), but we're mortal, so that's inevitable. But there has been no nastiness, such as we read of every day in newspapers; Jean inexplicably married me, and is still here, and I'm not sure whether to worry about when she'll see through me or to assume that she already has, which makes it even more inexplicable; and we have these children who are quite puzzling in their separate ways but really rather satisfactory. And it can't be all that bad here, or two of them wouldn't still be in our midst. ( Anyone wanting another view may ask Bill. )

In short, I have absolutely no complaints. I have everything I want, let alone need - this annoys people who ask me what I want for Christmas, and I say that I can't think of anything, which is true. So, before I forget and just in case I don't get round to it again, I would like to take this opportunity - and, as no one is in a position to do anything about it, I am going to take this opportunity - to say thank you to God, and to Jean, and to Jim and Bill and Jill, and to all those other people, perhaps including you, who have put up with me for such a long time.


"Count your blessings, count them one by one,
And it will surprise you what the Lord has done."
- Johnson Oatman

Go to me ( Alan Creak, in case you've forgotten ).