Monday, 31 December 2018


As the year draws to a close I thought I'd look back briefly at what has happened this year for me.

In terms of work it has been a huge year. Previously I had started to become desperate to leave the organisation I was working freelance for, but with other work thin on the ground I had to heed the advice of many friends who told me to hang on until I had something to replace it with.

Try as I might nothing was turning up, until I started to look into running my own Film Academy for kids.

How difficult could it be?

Well, very, as it happened. Four months of planning, then another four months of hard slog, to be kept on the edge of my seat waiting for people to sign up to my vision. But you can't do something like this on your own and the first and most important part of the startup was a website.  Luckily I happen to know a genius at building websites, Annabel. Watching code being written, day after day, blew my mind, but for Annabel it was like being fluent in a second language. Add in Annabel's social media prowess and the Academy's profile propelled into the stratosphere.

The Academy launched with two summer schools and both sold out, followed by a weekly after school academy, which filled within 10 days of marketing it.

The Film Academy ends the year strong, with a possible new academy opening on a Wednesday, such is the demand. Getting minimum numbers is crucial, and Facebook has been the most successful, so I went for it recently with a larger budget. Until, that is, Facebook disabled my advertising account for policy violation. Try as I might I cannot find what we have violated, so obviously I have appealed. But zero response, likely because the whole thing is automated. This single issue could well see the new Wednesday Academy fail to open as we have no other successful advertising avenue. If it hadn't been for the support from the our web guru Annabel I might have jacked it all in at that point.

As a result of this new business my outdoor activities were not as numerous this year. I ended 2017 with a cycle to Doune along the Darn Road and opened on the New Year with a cycle to North Berwick and a jaunt up Berwick Law.

I took a sudden burst of inspiration when snow fell in the Highlands and made a day trip on a cheap train ticket to Aviemore for a winter wander.

Then came March and The Beast from the East, but Pauline and I headed west to clear blue skies and cycled the Caledonia Way from Oban to Ballachulish.

Shortly after I headed off to a different landscape to visit a friend on the island of Gozo, next to Malta, before a fun jaunt in the west highlands to view The Boulders of Narnain. Andrew came along and I can still hear him bellowing out in operatic style through the mist, "THE BOULDERS OF NARNAIN!"

The Royal Deeside Way was a great weekend away, despite coming to blows with the Kiltwalk and hundreds of charity walkers. There were no such crowds in August as we set our sights on Lochnagar, even with a dodgy and painful achilles tendon.

September was a fun day out more locally, over in Fife, to a tiny little hill called The Binn, before loading up the bikes for the trip of the year in October, from Fort William to Inverness along The Great Glen Way, and back again.

Wildlife has been a special feature this year, especially one event in May when a Robin raised chicks right next to my back door in the ivy. Starlings nested as well, and then more recently a wildlife treat of a different kind when I witnessed an adult otter and two youngsters in a local park pond.

The final "event" of the year was my garden office expansion. Before I began making the existing shed/office larger, I thought it might take me a couple of weeks. Two months later, and £800 lighter, I am now sitting in the newly completed office for the first time typing up this blog.

2019 is looking to be another busy year for The Film Academy, with hopefully more students and bigger and better films. Who knows what the main event will be in the great outdoors, but I am lucky in that my best friend always manages to come up with a great plan.

And speaking of which, the year ahead sees my two best friends turn 50. Also turning 50 is The Glenachulish, the worlds last remaining turntable ferry. In July I was in the Highlands filming for my documentary film, The Last Ferries of Ballachulish, which hopefully will see it completed in 2019 to coincide with the Glenachulish's half century birthday.

So lots of fun times ahead, peppered with celebrations and no doubt the odd challenge mixed in.

Happy New Year one and all.

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