Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder…

It’s been a funny few days. It doesn’t seem like a Wednesday – in fact it seems like a Friday – but it has been a week of some progress.

On Monday J was deputised to drive hundreds of miles to go and stay with my parents. It is easier that way. He goes up North and does the up North visits. He pretends to be me and stays with them. They complain that they never see me any more. I am somewhat sad about it, but also not so. I can’t drive, but J can. If J does the trip it’s far more efficient for us both as a company and as a couple. If I go away and do it I’m gone for days, totally at the mercy of the trains (which are total shit these days, and ridiculously expensive) and J suffers badly. He does not cope being here on his own. We’ve done it before and it involves much moaning about being unwell. At least this way he’s kept busy…

So I’ve been getting used to my own company again. As I type he is on his way back, at long last, after a very very long day spent playing with an old customer’s new 2017 27″ 5K Retina iMac. Since J loves Apple and all its wanky products, he has been in his element. Even more so, the client made him both lunch and dinner. How my family would laugh at me. That’s dinner and tea where I come from. But lunch is very unambiguous. Dinner less so. But saying tea might make people think I was talking about a cup of tea? I’m sure he had one of those too. Or many. It was about 7 hours he was there…

Has it made my heart grow fonder? Yes, I suppose it has. I have missed having him around to talk to. But I haven’t missed being the master of my own domain. My music selections (no embarrassing Toto – Africa please) and my food. I even treated myself to some cookies, which I wouldn’t normally do if he was around. We try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of desserts, not for my sake but for his… he has a bit of spare flab from when he used to be quite fat, but it won’t go away now, even though he’s lost all the weight. The body is a cruel thing.

I also haven’t missed being able to set my own schedules. I’m afraid that if I had my way I’d be asleep by 9pm and up at 5am every day. I am a morning person. I get so much shit done in the early hours, sometimes even before I get to the office. Get that kettle boiling early, have a shower, have Weetabix and peanut butter on toast and I’m sorted by 6am.

But J does not work that way. I get up first, make the sandwiches for the day and then return to bed with the coffee. We then sit in bed for 40 minutes or so, sometimes chatting, sometimes just browsing our phones. He takes some time to warm up. I have not missed that…

I wonder whether absence makes my heart fonder of anyone else. In truth, not really. I was already fond of dad. Mum has become more distant as the years go by, and I don’t know truly why. She’s never been the same since Grandad died. And my siblings, if I hear from them it’s usually only to co-ordinate presents or if one of them wants to borrow money. It’s truly sad, but I think it’s just what happens when everyone grows up and has lives of their own. I’m not interested in their lives, and they aren’t interested in mine. I don’t like my brothers’ partners, I’m sure they don’t like J (not that they officially know he’s my partner), and my sister’s partners are also very meh. It’s the age-old in-law problem isn’t it.

Anyway, things will be back to normal tomorrow. Christmas is now stressfully close, whilst still being a safe distance away to give enough time to plan. There are only a few presents left to get, but still many presents to wrap, and also lots of Christmas cards to prepare, in the annual game of “who is going to pretend they were always going to send you a card all along”…

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The Birthday Month

These days I prefer to celebrate my birthday in November. I don’t remember if I’ve detailed the reasons why on this journal, but I will not repeat them now. But my partner also has his birthday in November too. So it’s something of a double celebration.

Except this year it really wasn’t. It should have been something to celebrate, with my partner achieving the grand old age of 30 years. And me officially celebrating my 32nd birthday. But I hate birthdays now. Ever since in my mid 20s I realised I was starting to get old, I had had enough of them. I basically haven’t celebrated one since, though others have occasionally tried to make me do so.

The sad thing is a) my partner was not well on his birthday, just as was the case two years previous; and b) we have been absolutely hammered by work and other crap this month. Totally, utterly rolled over by shite. If I have to answer one more phone call, or deal with one more whinging e-mail from certain clients about blah blah, Windows 10, printers, “it never used to do this”… in fact, the amount of complaints I’ve had that just seem like utter shite this days seems to be infinite…

Me and J have been thinking this month that we have to get away from it. On at least more than one occasion we have both agreed that it’s over for this line of work. Windows 10 has made it incredibly difficult. One day you think you’ve fixed and then – sorry – Windows is a service now, so as part of that service you will be forcefed an update which changes the system ever so slightly in such a clever way that it breaks. And then the whinging begins. Oh, and don’t tell me the amount of times that customers computers have been broken just because they were simply downloading, processing and installing said updates in the background.

I digress. I was meant to be reflecting on birthdays. But to be fair I’ve done that before. Many times. If only I could just call them all up in one go and link them. When will Alexa or Google or whoever be able to just work like the computers in Star Trek? Search has a long way to go before it actually just knows what you’re looking for before you’ve even said it. It would have been analysing what I was writing, parsing it for meanings, and pre-fetching relevant data. It can’t be many more years before we get there, surely?

I think J wanted to make more of the 30th than I let him, but in truth there was no real way to celebrate. We aren’t sociable people, and in general we like each other’s company best. We like to go out to places together, in fact, we are basically inseparable when it comes to chores. I moan to him that it’s not a very efficient use of time, but he is very clingy in some respects. No, we must go to Tesco together for the shopping. It’s a joint effort. To be fair, it does make it easier. Shopping is the worst thing. Having someone to share the horrible moment with somehow dampens that.

So without proper friends, how does one celebrate a birthday? We just… didn’t. We went to Pizza Hut on one night, and then Toby Carvery at the weekend. Mistake on the latter: seems like everyone else does the same thing. Never again. Oh, and the Pizza Hut was annoying because the whole room was served by one person. He was efficient, but I didn’t get my loyalty points. I’m obsessed with such things…

As for my birthday – it didn’t even happen. It sailed by in the middle of a week, a week that was filled with utter disaster after disaster as a result of us making the stupid decision to get the house converted to a combi boiler, having got totally fed up with the concept of pouring £1000 into fixing the faults in the current system. Let’s just say we got through it, somehow, but it was not fun at all. So many errors, so many things that went wrong, so many unexpected problems. It was a classic Farce, of the type my family are very used to, and cost us £4000. And I’m not really that happy about it. To be fair to the installer, I don’t think anyone else would have made a better job of it, but it does make me wonder: are there actually any good plumbers out there who are also good at all the bits of building work that are an essential part of the job?

So the month wraps up, and the Christmas preparations are already well under way. Another week and I’ll basically have everything…

Halloween

At this time of year my brain starts off on a merry journey into the past.

Halloween was a big thing in our family. No one really knows why, but I have so many distinct memories of going round to Gran and Grandad’s house, with its three reception rooms and separate kitchen (we were all jealous).

That was a massive house. And it was full of intrigue, with its ancient rocking horse that used to sit there in their bedroom. It must have been really old, and it scared the shit out of me. Anyway.

The party used to start with bobbing for apples, which I used to be the official timekeeper of. I’d sit there with my watch and time it to the second, 1 point for an apple, 5 for a chestnut. It was expertly officiated, even if I do say so myself.

There was also “hang apple” – where, blindfolded, you had to bite a swinging apple in front of you. The joke was often that Grandad would come along and put a bar of soap in front of you instead.

Then Nan would come out with a tray of roasted chestnuts. I didn’t understand how anyone could eat something so tough. I still haven’t had one, but I’d like to try it…

There was music and drinking. The adults were usually off their faces. And someone would be the designated supervisor, as the children went off to trick or treat through the neighbourhood. Occasionally, these sort of things ended in anti-social behaviour, the kind that would get you an ASBO these days. Not that they exist any more.

I look back on these things and think – wow, we were a bit strange. I know all families have their quirks, but I remember once relaying this to my friends and none of them said they did anything for Halloween. As a child, I assumed this was just what everyone did.

Now, it seems, we were just ahead of our time. Halloween is a huge thing, and still growing. Every year the effort people go to is crazy. If you have kids I suppose it’s a fun thing. Personally, I now find it scary. I deliberately leave all the lights off and hide in a back room, one you can’t see from the street. I even leave the curtains open so it looks like I just didn’t get home, and it’s better not to bother…

Children bring families together. Our family was somewhat privileged in that all of the adults – my aunties and uncles – all had children of similar ages. So we’d come together and have fun, even if it was a school night. We had a few of these sorts of things throughout the year that brought us together. I have always had more fond memories of my mum’s family as a result. My dad’s family never really bothered. I couldn’t understand why.

My mum tried to do the same with us. She did well, but I fear with the disintegration of society, and the fact that as a result of some of us doing OK we’re now far away from each other… there really now is no event that could possibly bring all of us together. Only one of us is having children (at the moment, anyway), and the age gap is too wide. We’ll never all come together and make the same memories that I had the benefit of enjoying.

We have bred an anti-social society. Children are the centre of the universe, and end up thinking they’re so damn special that they don’t need to be friends or try and get on with others.

He says, as he blocks up the door and fires a lump of coal at the children baying for blood (sweets) outside.

Smells Like Onions

Onions have never been a staple in my kitchen. In fact, that previous sentence is a nonsense. Nothing has ever been a staple in my kitchen. Kitchens and me have never been a thing. I spend my life either working or resting, and the thought of every evening coming home from work to then spend another half an hour to an hour working even more just to then wolf the food down in 5 mins aggrieves me.

Whilst that is generally still true now, it may have worn away a little over the last couple of years. J is more of a kitchen enjoyer than I am, and, although he’s not that much more culinary than I am, he still does have a bit more ability with a ceramic blade. In fact, until J appeared, I’d never even heard of a ceramic blade. Now I never struggle with cutting tomatoes…

The most surprising discovery to me, though, has been, at my advanced age, I never realised how pervasive the smell of onions was. OK – I knew about it once you’ve eaten it. Everyone knows the smell of a cheese and onion crisp eater. It’s not the cheese that gets you, it’s the onion. But for the person whose eaten raw onions, the taste, whilst good at the time, does tend to linger and get quite irritating for the day afterwards…

But what I didn’t know, having never actually peeled and chopped an onion in my life, was that the smell then gets stuck to your fingernails for nearly a week afterwards. All of last week, every time I blew my nose, there it was again. It took me a 2 or 3 days to realise it wasn’t just repeating on me any more. It had actually gotten into my fingernails. And I’m a religious hand washer… but the smell just stayed there.

You see, J normally chops the onions. It’s just more efficient. When the goal is to be in and out of the kitchen in as little time as possible, so that the rest of the evening can take place, the last thing you want is my cack-handed attempts to make an onion edible…

But last week he couldn’t, thanks to life’s ability to just throw a stupid at you from time to time. Whilst reaching out of the bed to turn off the bedside lamp, he seemed to stretch a little too far and apparently trapped a nerve. For a couple of days afterwards, his right shoulder and arm was basically useless, and I had to do everything. Well, I usually do anyway. He’s actually pretty lazy…

And so, when it came to curry night (which is a more moveable feast than the name implies) there was no choice but for me to face my demons and chop the onion myself. It went better than expected. It is such an impressive fruit. Or is it a vegetable? Better not start that one…

The smell is now gone, and the shoulder is now healed. Normality resumed yesterday when, whilst making the Saturday Pasta Bake (actually on a Saturday for a change) J chopped the onion in a fraction of the time. I did everything else, of course.

Not that it bothers me. Somehow, my attitude towards the waste of time that is cooking is mellowing slightly. Call it age…

The Broken House

Moving into the new house, which is about 20 years old, and therefore younger than I am by some way, has made lots of extra work.

First of all, the house is a bit dated. Its previous occupant was old, and sadly died over two years ago. The house has barely been touched since then. It’s a bit stale, old-fashioned, and in parts a bit smelly. We wanted to re-decorate, and the plan was to do it before we actually moved in, but we realised just how hard the whole process would be when we did one of the rooms ourselves. It was slow and painful. I simply don’t eat enough food to give me the energy to do too many physical chores… and J found the the process more challenging too. He thought it was going to be fun and exciting, and to be fair he’s done loads of good things, especially in relation to changing light fittings. He even pimped out an old mirror the previous occupant left behind by spraying it silver. It looks so random in the rest of the room, but it also is an oddly good fit.

Anyway, we managed to at least get someone in to decorate the living room, and that’s made it a bit better. It now looks a bit more like we are making something of it. The trouble is, the rest of the house needs so much attention too. The central heating diverter valve is broken. The immersion is now broken. The bathroom needs ripping out and starting again. The thermostat on the tank has now seized up. The downstairs toilet looks like something from the 70s. The kitchen is a bit… funky. And needs to change. The windows are horrible, rotting wood and need to go.

We’ve fortunately had the back patio door replaced before the super rain monsoons happened, as there was a huge gap underneath them. It makes a big difference. But the house itself is small and compact, and though we just about fit everything in it, we are often in each other’s way in the kitchen completely unintentionally…

Suffice it to say we need to spend a lot of money on it to make it more like what it needs to be to catch up with several years of neglect. It has been frozen in time. Houses don’t take kindly to not being lived in. They get damp and fusty. We’re slowly working it out, but it will be a long process.

The year itself has flown by though. It’s still a bit hard to believe we’re here, and now in possession of the new house.

Business has been OK – if stressful. The other company that I seem to be getting more and more involved in again is going through a critical phase, and I have foolishly lent it lots of money again. It was desperate, but it needed it. I am of the opinion that once this phase is over it will be either make or break for the company. The owner thinks its definitely it, and he will absolutely, certainly, be super rich by the end of next year. I am always more circumspect. The truth is usually somewhere inbetween, which is why, generally, we work quite well in business. We’ll see, as always.

Houses and business can go together. It’s just the way though that in order to make money you have to have money in the first place. I still haven’t worked out the answer to that one…

A Summer Update

It’s been a while since I had the opportunity to write, and a lot has happened.

First, there was the drunken friend of a friend incident, which resulted in my foolish partner outing himself to someone he really hates because they were so drunk and started with the innocent playful nonsense that people do when they’re drunk. She then proceeded to tell everyone there. It was incredibly awkward and embarrassing for everyone involved. I have made it clear my anger at the situation, where I was also outed amongst a group of people almost all of whom I didn’t know, and then she went around taking us into various conversations in a humiliating way. It was horrible. I didn’t ask for it. I wasn’t seeking anyone’s approval or acceptance. I was just trying to be a normal human being, not seeking to impose my sexuality or flaunt my “difference” – as so many gay people do. It really doesn’t matter, and I feel sorry for anyone who really is bothered about it, but I don’t actually care. No one does any more, or at least, no one should. Instead, straight people like to flaunt their own acceptance and tolerance. That was what it felt like anyway. Me? I was just embarrassed. Stop talking about me, I’d rather be in the background.

Then there is the imminent house move. I am now the joint owner of a teeny tiny house, the contents of which are a bit aged, but structurally sound. It has brought out a bizarre range of emotions, from irritating friends who mean well but sound know-it-all, to genuine happiness that something I’ve been fighting for for years is finally happening. The big move happens this Bank Holiday weekend coming. I can’t wait.

There is the business stress, where the Other Business has suddenly started taking up vast quantities of my time. It is posing many problems, and they don’t have a solution. Difficult.

Our own business is truly awful, and we grow to hate it more and more each day. To be fair, most people are nice and understand business is business. But some people are truly upsetting to us. They treat us with such disdain and can’t believe that we don’t charge a tenner for fixing things. Or worse, we can’t actually charge people because so much of IT is not even repairable or worth repairing any more. We’d love to find a way out.

Meanwhile, personally, something is different at the moment. I know sexual feelings are weird, and I’ve always had difficulty coping with who I am, but me and my partner are going through a really weird spell where we don’t talk about it. I don’t like writing these things. It feels like a betrayal. I am stronger than that, but it hints at something being wrong. I know we can work out what it is, but right now it feels like we’re so busy there’s no time to get past it.

This weekend the family have come to visit the new house. The family are being glossed over in our relationship, as, again, I don’t feel like I need to tell anyone anything. It’s my life. But it does cause some difficulties. My mum behaves very oddly these days to me. I wish I could sort of just get it over with, and then everything stayed exactly the same. But it won’t. People will start being more sensitive. Watching what they say. I don’t want people to treat me any differently once they know. It’s not even a thing. And yet my mum is not like that. She is very much like the character discussed at the start of this post. The type of person who gets off on how accepting and tolerant they are, and must announce it to everyone. I can’t cope with it. Mum is not the same person she was 10 years ago. I really don’t know what happened.

Yesterday we went to my sister’s boyfriend’s barbecue, which was being held for all of our family. It was good, and he has nice parents. She’s living not too far away from here now. She will soon own her own home too. The evening was pretty good, if tiring. I don’t do late nights any more. Suffice it to say that getting home in the next day and then waking up in the same day is really not my thing.

It really has been a significant year, and a decent summer. The weather has been shit, monsoon season, but it did have a super heatwave back in June. That’s the English summer for you.

Fun Is Expensive

The worst part of life is avoiding boredom. Sometimes it is easy and often free. In fact when you work for yourself it is often profitable.

But you can’t work for ever. I’ve learned this better as the years go by although I’m not the best at truly sticking to it…

It’s a little easier with a partner. There’s someone to spend the time with. That helps and it can make even the most mundane things fun. Shopping can be a little more entertaining with two people for observational banter.

But the trickier aspects are obvious. As anyone who ever has to organise a group knows, the more people involved the more likely it is that a compromise has to be found. Some won’t like it. Others will actively work against you. Doing things together can actually be very dull if you aren’t on the same wavelength at all times…

In the end, though, the trickiest aspect is that, sadly, there aren’t that many good free things to do. Virtually all the good stuff requires raiding the piggy bank to some degree.

Take last weekend for example. We really wanted to visit a zoo that’s about 2 hours away. Mainly because we’re already members of another zoo rather more local to us. That means the visit was actually free. But no one wants to do that all in one day. Otherwise it’s not very relaxing. So a Travelodge it is. £50. Then something for an evening meal. Evening out to Chimichangas. £50. Then something for breakfast. £10. Parking at the zoo. £3. Coffee. £7. Lunch. £10. Snacks and drinks. £10. Another coffee. £10. Evening meal on the way home. £30. Fill the tank. £35. And that’s with packing a few bits from the house to keep the cost down. Total for about 32 hours of life £215.

Imagine spending £100 a day on just discretionary stuff. £3k a month after tax. And that was being pretty tight. We had a really nice day and a half. But if we did that every weekend we’d very quickly have no money and nothing going into long term savings. Let alone buying a new house…

So it makes me sad. How can we have more fun – because we need it and deserve it for how hard we work – without spending a fortune? How can we be fun and spontaneous? I don’t think you can. Spontaneity costs an absolute fortune. Taking a packed lunch and stuff for breakfast saves.  But it means planning everything all the time. A break is less enjoyable if you’re having to constantly keep planning all the mundane crap.

No wonder people go on holiday all inclusive…

In other news the house purchase rumbles on. In fact we’re very close to the end… Maybe. I hate tempting fate but it will soon be time to start getting stressed over how little organisation we’ve done and keep not doing by wasting every day…

What’s Changed?

The world is slowly changing for me. In a tiny way and also in a big way.

The election was interesting. The result was fascinating. As a politics nerd, it was amazing. As a person it felt like a step forward. Maybe this country is finally seeing through the constant disaster of authoritarian, extremist capitalism. The type that privatises the profits and socialises the losses. I really didn’t expect enough of us would be convinced to vote to change this. I thought enough people would be scared off by the relentless media onslaught. It wasn’t too be.

I stayed up pretty much all night with my partner. We got there with a little nap before the exit poll… which made me horrendously nervous. Then the first results weren’t quite in line with the exit poll. I was devastated. Then things started to improve. Labour did well. Corbyn deserved an election and proved if the party could stick together progress could be made. He, mostly, got that. Imagine if the party had actually been truly on side…

But it doesn’t matter. We now have a lame duck government. And not much will get done. Maybe that’s a good thing though. I was sick and tired of the last wretched administration. Maybe stagnation is a good thing for a while.

Meanwhile, in home life, after much stress and battles with the bank, we may finally moving closer to buying our own home. At last. It’s exciting, but I sense we’re not there yet. More turmoil to come I’m sure…