The Baby Hedgehog

About the most interesting event this month was last weekend, when walking home from a few hours spent out of the house, just because staying in was unacceptable all Sunday, and we stumbled across a very small hedgehog. It wasn’t quite a baby, sadly, but it was definitely not an adult.

It was looking like it wanted to cross the road, so instead of just watching like the BBC animal documentary producers would, we stopped it and put it back in the verge. Never mind the fact that behind the verge is vast amounts of fields from a school. It eventually wandered off in the correct direction. But it felt good to save a little piece of nature, anyway. I was briefly happy, and I have a nice picture to remind me of it.

Right now I write at the second evening of loneliness as J is away at the moment working in the famous Up North for the last remaining Up North client. It continues to be a burden, a major cross to bear, but I feel bad for them for just dumping them. Maybe eventually I have to accept reality that our work does not allow for keeping this going, because it causes such major disruption. I’m fairly sure J isn’t happy doing it but does it because he has to. If the shoe were on the other foot I’d do the same. But it basically loses us money, because the amount we’re paying ourselves in car mileage is usually less than what we get for the job. Crazy, huh?

Fortunately today in the office on my own was not as bad as I feared. I have been anxious all week about today, mainly because inevitably everything happens at once. Today, that only happened maybe 4 or 5 times, and each time was not irrecoverable. Usually you miss a call from a number you don’t know, and then they don’t leave a message, leaving you in the quandary as to whether or not to call them back. Usually I do, and usually it’s a total waste of time, but I feel better for it. But these days, with generation Y and Z’s irrational hate of voicemail, and their weird attitude that a missed call means you must call back, I figure it’s better to do what society’s changed norms expect of me, especially as I’m a business person desperately chasing their money, which rarely comes, as they usually just fix it watching a video on YouTube. I’m not bitter.

Earlier in the year I had several days working on my own in the office, and they were hell. When they happen, I can easily spend hours and hours on back to back phone calls, not making progress because each call means I miss the next call, and so on until the end of the day. The days whoosh by, but you end them feeling like you’ve just forgotten to do something, or forgotten to call someone back, because that’s your default state of mind all day. It takes hours after the end of the day to feel like you’ve decompressed…

But it didn’t happen today, and tomorrow J will once again do another huge drive, and once again wind me up by poor planning, and once again arrive back much later than he should do. But he may surprise me. I’m not a control freak, am I? I just like to be organised…

Anyway. More thoughts about baby hedgehogs. That will keep me cheerful.

Tomorrow is Friday and J and I are going out for a meal with former neighbours, courtesy of our business. Well, it needs to treat us every once in a while. The cheese soufflé is really worth it… (Yes, I am middle class now)

Guildford and Worthing

September was busy. Exceptionally busy. Work, as usual, of course, but we managed to take advantage of the final dying warm days of the year to do a jolly.

On the Saturday we finished on time. Miraculous. It never happens any more. We’ve got into bad habits where we sit around the office after closure, doing more work in the calm and quiet, and then going off to McDonalds for a McFlurry and a Coke, or a coffee in my case. I can drink hot drinks even when the weather’s hot and it doesn’t bother me. Much rather have that than Coke.

Anyway, we headed off for Guildford, because we wanted to walk up the big hill. We started first with our favourite place (Muffin Break) – just because you gotta get your sugar and caffeine in. Then we strolled up, at a gentle pace because J just isn’t cut out for these things, and got to the top to a lovely sight. It was worth the effort.

Back down the other side, walked over to the Cathedral, which itself was impressive. It’s like an Out of Town Cathedral. Very odd. It’s like instead of building a shopping centre on the edge of the major ring road they built a Cathedral. Modern, and yet not modern, as it’s still quite a few decades old now.

We then strolled back to the car (parking fee, just £1, bargain) and drove onto our pre-ultimate destination: a Travelodge in Redhill. We spent the night there (forgetting the toothpaste, of course, resulting in a mad dash to a garage at 10:30pm to get some). Nothing really to say about it as it was dark and it looked a bit urban for me…

Next morning we were up reasonably early (seeing the trains from the ‘lodge window) and drove to our Ultimate destination: Worthing. Somewhere we’d never been too before, but because of the distance it was somewhere we’d never get to unless we did an overnight stop. We had a really great day, walking up and down the promenade, going onto the Pier, watching the big wheel, laughing at the seagulls eating whatever it was, even if it wasn’t food, because they had to as it’s better to eat it in the event that it is food, because otherwise your rival will eat it…

But best of all the weather was brilliant: perfectly warm, not too strong sunshine, meant with a bit of suncream we could stay out all day. And we did. We had all of our meals outdoors and were very happy about it. Well, maybe eating a large portion of chips to myself was a bit too much, but it saved money on not having to have something on the way back.

We then drove back to our base… listening to the usual podcast we seem to like at the moment.

It was nice because we’d never normally do something like that. It brought a bit of adventure back, something that’s been sadly lacking all year.

Meet The Parents

August was a fairly busy month. Things happened. Work happened. A few weekends happened. Some nice weather happened.

In the early part of the month I went to see my sister who lives an hour away. It’s actually quite close, but because of the nature of indirect roads, it takes a while and is pretty nasty in parts. But we met up, did the usual niceties, spent some money on a few bits of clothes, saw their new guinea pigs (who refused to eat the treats we’d brought) and then went all the way back again. It was OK. OK but could have been better. Life is like that really. In the minimal time you have, you don’t really have enough good ideas to do anything, unless it’s all super planned in advance. I’ve never been good at spontaneity, mainly because it costs a lot…

But later in the month we had an interesting event, at last. For many years I didn’t know anything about J’s family. He ignored them, and felt like they were not part of his life. Having never got on with his step-mother, and having suffered a tragic loss of his mother at an early age, I could see why. He spoke fondly of his dad, but it was always wistfully, like those days have gone and will never return.

Recently, however, this seemed to have changed. I’m not really sure why, but I think the idea that we’re all getting old is hitting him. He’s now in his 30s – and his dad is mid 60s, but has had his fair share of medical conditions, and is generally not in the greatest of health. We met him last Christmas and that got it out of the system. But it seemed like he had a hankering for seeing him, even though he never told me. We planned to go over to Taunton, as it was somewhere I’d never been… and on the day of the visit he casually dropped in that we might as well go and see him as we were so close. He was right, of course, but again, why not plan it? So we went over…

It was all a bit weird. I didn’t like it as we were suddenly confronted with lots of people, who I don’t know, and all of a sudden being outed in the middle of someone else’s anniversary party. I was not comfortable at all, and spent almost the entire time standing around facing outwards so I could keep an eye on people’s reactions. People were pleasant to your face, but in the distance I wasn’t happy with the reactions I saw. Fortunately, J’s dad was very welcoming and did his best to keep talking to us so we didn’t have to be involved with too many unknown and unusual people (J’s dad even said he didn’t know half of them) … it wasn’t good, but it had to be done. I will never feel comfortable about these things, just like that time when I was outed without my permission because of older adults bad behaviour and interaction with alcohol.

Anyway, it’s done. It’s not like I hadn’t seen them before, so I was fairly relaxed, but going to see them at their house, in the middle of a house party, possibly wasn’t the best idea. But J was happy, and it ticked off something and made him feel less guilty.

As usual all the pleasantries were exchanged, about how we should see each other more, and they/we are always welcome, blah blah. It’s the little social skills that grease the wheels of relationships, but no one truly means it.

Not As Easy As It Seemed

In my last post I hoped that I might achieve a flash of inspiration and think of lots of amazing adventures to happen.

The good news is that the weather did improve. From early June and its unseasonable cold, requiring the heating to be switched on, it has picked up to being generally consistently warm. This alone cheered me up. I could finally wear some of the new t shirts that have been sitting in my cupboard for six to eight months. Maybe more. I’m sure there were some I never got to wear last summer.

But weather only gets you so far. You still have to have ideas. And my ideas have worn thin. After going to Portsmouth again, and not really thinking all the travel was worth it, we fell into the same trap by going to Lyndhurst and Lymington. Again. While these are nice places, they don’t really stand up to repeated visits. After arrival, I felt the inevitably of the walk from the High Street to Lymington Pier train station, and back again. Ending with ice cream and maybe a coffee. There’s only so many times you can go to these places. The ponies of the new forest are interesting, but not repeatedly.

So the last few weekends we’ve done nothing, having had no ideas and nothing better to do. There are chores to be done, and J is the master of starting things and never finishing them. The garden has a great hole from digging out crap. It has remained the same for weeks. Last week we did nothing about it either, though to be fair we were both distracted by the amazing World Cup cricket final…

But we have to do these chores. I don’t want to do them as much as anyone. But if we can’t sit down and plan an adventure to somewhere different, which requires thinking about it at least the previous day, then getting up early, getting ready quickly and leaving, we will otherwise sit around and hours pass in the blink of an eye. It’s happened already today. I’ve been awake for 4 hours, and I’ve done nothing. J thinks we can do stuff spontaneously, but it just doesn’t happen. Everything takes too long. It’s been two hours since breakfast and I haven’t moved since then. It’s horrible how life feels so mundane that I don’t even want to do anything at all.

Maybe it will teach him a lesson. I’ve been saying so for ages. We have to plan ahead. We don’t talk about it. So nothing happens. I’m spotting a pattern here.

Meanwhile we have nonsenses like yesterday where I got my head bitten off for saying I don’t understand how he does the accounts for our business. I was just trying to see what he’s doing, but maybe I asked it too confrontationally. Either way he was very snippy about it, so I just thought “fine, I’m not going to talk to you” and instead I will spend a couple of hours cleaning the office. That wasn’t planned, but at least I felt like I’d achieved good stuff from it.

So here I am moaning about everything as usual. J spends forever getting ready, I can’t even brush my teeth as the bathroom is in use, so yet more time just goes up in smoke.

And then I’ll be straight back to work tomorrow as if the whole thing didn’t happen.

Sometimes weekends are more hassle than they’re worth.

Attempted Adventures

Each year summer comes and goes in an inglorious blaze. We mope around waiting for it to warm up, then it finally does, and we don’t know what to do with it.

Several months ago, at the peak of winter’s depressive grip, I said to J that we must plan to do some fun days out exploring this summer. It seemed like a good thing to say at the time to excuse the fact that the days are short, the weather is grim and there’s nothing to do but watch Netflix.

Anyway, just a short while later and we’re here. We’ve had ours downs this year (very few ups) so things are still a bit tense. J has been ill several times too, only with colds, but they seem to take a grip on him for a very long time. The initial wave then always leaves him with a horrible cough that clings on for weeks afterwards. I get stressed very easily over such things, and I feel mean, but the sound of someone constantly coughing is one of those things that grinds my gears. I feel stressed hearing it day after day week after week. And I also panic that I’ll catch it next…

Anyway, we’ve not been on great terms of late, so organising adventures and generally communicating has been on a very low list of priorities. I’ve made good excuses instead, such as working myself to the bone, and also encouraging J to do the same. Moving to accountancy was his idea after all, and he needs to put in the hours to support his growing client base… and the more he works on that, the more I have to do every IT job under the sun…

But we have at least achieved two adventures this summer. Three maybe.

The first was to Oxford. I’ve never been there before. I would never go again. It’s not Oxford’s fault the weather was like a winter’s day, but really apart from ticking off the necessary tourist spots, it felt oppressive. At every turn, a cyclist would power down the pavement at you. Most would ring their bells angrily, as if to say why are you in my way? The tourists themselves had nowhere to go. And tourists in general are just rude, totally blocking the way for others to get through (including tourists such as myself) in 30 wide groups so they can all be in a great camera view…

The Ashmolean was good. I spent a good few hours exploring there. Though as usual I felt like we’ve raped and pillaged the world to bring their treasures here. How lucky and privileged I am to have history brought to me here.

The following weekend saw a trip to Hayling Island. Never been there before either. That was genuinely nice. Lots to see and explore, a surprising lack of tourists, and a mini train. It felt like being in any other southern seaside resort. Except quieter. The sound of the sea was amazing, as was hiding in the rocks with the tide lashing around it. The weather was also surprisingly kind. Would go there again as there was more walking to do.

Then there was Salisbury. A place I’ve been many times before. This time it was for the outdoor arts and culture stuff in the town centre. It was decent and entertaining in parts. But it was all free and we managed to keep ourselves amused for a whole day, which we can’t normally do in Salisbury. There’s only so many times you can visit the same places.

Will more adventures follow? Will the weather improve again, as I sit writing this peering out the living room patio doors, watching the rain.  Let’s hope so.

The Easter Truce

My family is a little difficult these days. My youngest brother is overstaying his welcome at home. My younger brother has returned home (nearly aged 30) because his rental situation hasn’t gone smoothly. This time last year my parents were looking forward to having an empty home. It was a bit sad for them, but it was time for them to enjoy having the house to themselves again.

How quickly things change.

They call us the boomerang generation, Somethings goes wrong and we’re straight back. My brother had a job and a relationship. The relationship broke down, and next thing he was back home. My other brother had a job. He lost it and is now back to square one. He came back home too.

Both my sisters have moved out for good. And I’ve been gone for 9.5 years now, having left multiple times previously due to university. But we always come back.

Easter had never traditionally been a time I would come home to see the family. There was no need to, as I was always here there and everywhere with work. But when that all fell apart last year (I will never forgive the way they treated me, so called Catholics) it’s meant visits are now very few and far between. So much so that I can say it has been August Bank Holiday, Christmas/New Year, and now this Easter.

I am somewhat glad though. The situation is fraught. My youngest brother and my eldest nephew are thick as thieves, and get up to all kinds of trouble. Weed, joblessness, and a bad influence on one another. They stay up late, they get up later, they make bullshit excuses for things not going right, and the nephew has a terrible victim complex.

So we just try not to talk about it. Mum and Dad threaten to sell the house, which would be sensible but sad. I feel like they’re being hounded out of their own home, and by getting rid of it will make it incredibly unlikely we’ll ever have such family get togethers again. They are the hub to our spokes. Without the hub, we will end up going all our own ways.

So I try to value these moments, fraught though they can be. We’re all adults now, used to our own space, but some people are not very good at sharing it. Some people behave like we should all be happy with their noise or other late night antics. I try to forget about it for now.

The last few days have been nice. J and I travelled up on Thursday evening after work, and have had a busy day (Friday) which was lovely with the young nephews. We went on a tram, and the middle of the second crop of nephews seems to have taken an attachment to J and me. Which is strange, as they don’t know us really. They have always been a bit distant and strange. But they are getting better. Except the oldest of the second crop, who wants to be a YouTuber. Says it all about modern life…

Saturday we then spent time with my nan and an uncle I haven’t seen since Christmas either. That was good, actually, surprisingly so. We managed to just chat and enjoy each other’s company. I managed a cup of tea and two shortbread. They were nice too. After that we all went out for a family meal. Nowhere special, but it didn’t really matter. It was tiring and occasionally stressful when the arguments began over the order process, but it was good overall. We then came back to the house, where we sat around the fire outside. It was quite relaxing, though the smoke was a bit overpowering…

Today we’ve had minor Easter plesantries. Hot cross buns, boiled eggs, coffee. Sunday dinner currently being made, which is good as it keeps J occupied. He seems to like a roast. I couldn’t care less, but free food made by someone else is right up my street! And again, it’s the occasion. The increasingly dwindling few opportunities to see family members and semi-catch up. Because we don’t really. We talk about old times and endless old jokes. We talk about Netflix. We don’t really talk about lives and our futures. That’s difficult. It’s not what we siblings do.

Sadly tomorrow it must come to an end. J and I will once again have to make the hundreds of miles trek, after depressingly sitting and consuming yet more coffee but maybe only toast this time, since the hot cross buns have run their course. It will then be back to work, and back to getting stressed about all the things I haven’t done, and all the things that have happened which shouldn’t have, and all the things that I really wish would happen but won’t. 7 days a week, until the next break.

The truce is nearly over, but I’m glad it’s happened.

Looking Into A Dying Man’s Eyes

J had some more bad news recently (it’s been one thing after another this year). He has looked after the IT needs of a lovely old couple for the best part of a decade now. I didn’t know them, but J was very fond of them and they have always been extremely generous, both in hospitality and financially. I know that can colour perspectives, but I was prepared to believe him on all fronts.

The bad news was that the husband in the couple had serious heart failure and would be dead within weeks if not days. This phone call came direct from the poor dying man, and it really shook J up. J panicked and said we must go and see them. I wasn’t so sure as I thought I wouldn’t want to be around with family etc. You’d just feel in the way, surely?

A couple of weeks later and A was still with us, and J was getting more and more anxious. We agreed we’d go and combine it with a trip to see J’s mother’s grave, an annual ritual which, whilst painful, seems to give J some comfort and grounding. But as a twofer in grief, I really wasn’t looking forward to it.

We seemed to drive for hours that day. We went and visited A and his wife. His wife was indeed really hospitable and kind, somehow managing to look after us whilst doting over her dying husband. Poor A could barely speak, and conversation was impossible. He’d only just gone like this, said A’s wife. I became depressed that I’d delayed things because if we’d come before J would have had a proper chance to speak to A for the last time. It wasn’t to be, and instead we sat there awkwardly chatting to A who would briefly respond sometimes with a flicker of acknowledgement, occasionally with a smile, but more likely a look of pain.

It was horrifying. Looking at a man who knew he was dying, in severe pain and clearly nearly at the end. We tried to keep things light and normal; it was anything but.

We walked around the village on our own talking about it, feeling guilty that we could have come sooner but didn’t. It turns out the family weren’t there, so that wasn’t a problem. It’s a lovely village, but it felt odd to be out exploring whilst a man sat dying, and it was bitterly cold. So we went back. His wife made us something to eat – a spot of normality for her – and we went back to sit with A.

As we talked for the last time and said our goodbyes A managed a smile through significant strain and pain. It felt like something you’d see on film. He seemed to have made a real effort to acknowledge us, and smiled when J darkly said “See you again soon!”.

I couldn’t keep it together at that point, I had to leave. I just kept thinking how awful it must be to be sitting there in so much pain, knowing you are dying, knowing you’ll never see anyone again. Death. The finality. The shock of it all. It was too much. Once we were out of sight I cried and hugged J, who himself seemed sad but there was not much emotion showing. He never does. I didn’t even know this man, it was the first time I’d ever seen him, and I felt sick with grief and anguish about how awful and cruel life is.

We left, and I was glad to. I felt awful about leaving his wife to deal with him on her own, but she wanted it to be that way. She wanted A to die at home. I wondered whether she would be lucky enough to have the same fortune once it’s her turn. Who would look after her?

Life is truly pointless. We get moments of greatness, far too many moments of sadness, and a massive great spattering of humdrum boredom everywhere. It actually seems cruel to be alive at times. I often think having children is actually inflicting great pain on the child. It’s unfair of an adult to do that…

It’s been mentioned many times since, and now J has gone to the funeral and I’m looking after the office on my own. Mercifully it’s been quiet, but I know he’s having a tough day…

 

Revelations: Chapter 3

J has been a great improvement in my life. But there have been times when things have been a little… difficult.

Chapter 1 of was not long after I met him. He told me about some things in the past that were very very awful to hear.

Chapter 2 was shortly after we became “an item” as they say. He told me about some more things in the past that were very very awful to hear.

Chapter 3, however, did not happen intentionally.

It turns out that over the past year or more, he has secretly been building up a massive stash of debt, followed by interest, then turning into charges.

I had been a bit suspicious for a short while. Every couple of months I like to update our financial records. It’s something I’ve been doing since about 10 years ago, as a silly way to see if I’m doing OK with my money. I’m not really sure why I do it, but it’s nice to look back on and see how it has grown because I live like a trappist monk. OK, maybe not that bad.

These reviews had become increasingly fractious. He was refusing to disclose information to me, and he had to be forced into doing it. Eventually, in our most recent encounter, he came up with a figure that seemed to defy credibility. I ignored my nagging doubts.

Then a few weeks later a letter turned up which I totally by chance stumbled upon. I was genuinely looking for some crisps. Crazy, huh. And there was a letter, which I noticed had arrived and then disappeared in the blink of an eye. I was a bit suspicious, as that’s how I’ve found out about various bad things over the years.

The letter said there was a charge being added to his account for going over the credit limit. Whoa, I thought. That’s not right.

It took a lot of courage for me to ask what it was all about. I knew he had this credit card. He told me there was nothing on it, and he just used it to buy Coke and silly things.

He was very very angry with me for reading his mail. Too right I’m going to read his mail if there’s something in it I should know about. But it was a total accident. Genuinely. I felt stupid, but also annoyed at his attitude. He’s supposed to be an accountant. Why would he not want to talk about being sensible with money?

After several days of this blood from a stone approach, each time him being difficult and only giving me a bit of the story (lie and lie) he finally let me login to the various accounts.

I was shocked. Not only was one credit card up to the max, but so was another one! And what were they filled with? Seedy purchases on dodgy online wank websites, where people flaunt their bits in exchange for tips. Lots of other crap too, including nearly a grand on Bark.com (which is a total scam), accountancy software he wasn’t even using, crappy purchases of embarrasing items… and shit tonnes of interest.

Not only had this amounted to nearly £7k of debt, there was also £4k less in his bank account than he’d been telling me. And another £1k on another credit card I knew of, but didn’t know the balance.

I was furious, but calm. He clearly has some issues. We tried to talk about it, but none of it made sense to me. In the cold light of day, it made no sense to him either. It was duplicity in the extreme. Two independent brain thought processes operating to hide the truth and deny it, whilst sitting in judgement over the financial affairs of others.

We never really got to the bottom of it. Suffice to say we paid it all off and have to rebuild.

My trust in him has been shaken, and I warned him if this happens again he’s gone. It will take a long time to get over this, emotionally and financially.