Better than the last one

I want this end-of-year sum-up to focus on the positive. Let’s start with this: 2021 was better than 2020. A very low bar indeed, but 2021 improved on its predecessor in most ways.

It was a bleak start to the year, and I delayed my return to Glasgow from Orkney by several weeks because there was really nothing to go back to apart from some very restricted library opening hours, and university lectures were all online anyway. Despite university being just about the only thing I could do, I still managed to get some extra-curricular stuff in with the continuation of the Mooting competition virtually throughout the first half of the year. Appropriately enough, the first round of the new year was on culpable and reckless conduct during the pandemic, which was Jason Leitch’s predecessor and an SNP MP’s downfall when travel restrictions were severe. Luckily that early lockdown phase does seem a long time ago now and unlikely to return.

I also kept myself as sane as I could by throwing myself into Law Clinic work, helping host the fortnightly Zoom drop-in sessions and managing cases in between coursework.

The age of Zoom quizzes had a second wind, and I organised a few virtual pub meet-ups with people on my course before we all finally met up in May at the end of a year without seeing each other in person.

Although I was lucky enough to get some furlough pay from my Historic Environment Scotland job during Tier 4, I also took up a one-off paid acting gig through the university where I took part in a role-play scenario for diploma students as a soon-to-be divorcee police officer.

In 2021 I have been thinking more about my career than usual and applying for traineeships and summer placement in the hope of getting a contract with a law firm before I start my diploma in professional practice this year. I have attended several virtual assessment centres and some final stage interviews but am yet to be ultimately successful. Nevertheless, I am pushing on and have another interview lined up for later this month.

I went to the Sheriff Court twice this year. The first time was after the mooting semi-final judge invited all the participants to come and shadow him for a day. I was able to observe the accused’s evidence at a High Court criminal trial where the sheriff was covering and got an idea of what a typical day was like for him. The second time I was appearing in front of a sheriff as a lay representative for a Law Clinic client with a simple procedure claim. I felt prepared for the hearing as a result of my mooting experience, advocacy training and having visited the court before, but unfortunately, the client lost his case due to procedural regulations.

By summer outdoor socialising and internal travel was starting back up and I was able to go to a family barbeque. My sister paid me a visit in Glasgow, and we went to Arran for a day trip where we climbed the Goat Fell and I got quite sunburnt. I also managed to get to Bute with my brother for a couple of hours after being excluded from the limited-capacity ferry at the intended departure time initially.

Through my work, I managed to get a week’s work experience within the new HES in-house legal team, and I also mixed things up by looking after Dumbarton castle for a few days.

In August, I finally got back to gigs after a painfully long absence, the first being Black Country, New Road at the Edinburgh Festival, as I talked about in my previous post. I’m hoping to start off 2022 with The Twilight Sad at Barrowlands if Sturgeon smiles upon us.

In September I was in London for the memorial service of my good friend Charles who died suddenly at the beginning of lockdown. It was a beautiful tribute and showed what an impact he’d had on so many people and in so many aspects. Even though I had been in regular contact with him all the time he had been working in London after graduation, there were things I learnt that I didn’t know about him. The contributions from his siblings were especially moving, capturing his playfulness and intellectual seriousness vividly. It still seems surreal to me, but I am glad we were finally able to come together properly and celebrate him in the right way.

The new semester brought back a single weekly in-person lecture(!) and real-life tutorials. I always looked forward to our Friday morning Ethics and Justice sessions we were privileged enough to receive as Clinic students and will never take a 9am lecture for granted again! These lecture/seminar hybrids kept me going where the majority of learning was still online and the 12 o’clock finishing time often segued nicely into a pint at the newly opened student union just across the road. I was also able to meet third- and fourth-year Clinic students doing honours, which was good socially, as well as getting the perspectives of slightly more experienced people.

In general, I think the second half of the year was when I started to ask people for advice about things a bit more, which is something I’ve struggled with slightly because I like to be self-sufficient. Mostly it has been about my career, but I’ve also realised I want to become happier in my life as well and that can be quite hard to achieve purely on your own. In terms of my professional life, I have more of a plan than I ever have had, and it’s the sort of plan that is robust enough to withstand the thousand natural shocks of Covid regulations. Something similar might have to occur if I want to get beyond “basically fine”, drifting to mildly miserable, on the life-joy scale.

About alasdairflett

German & English Literature graduate. From Orkney. Interested in alternative and indie music, language, writing and politics.
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