2018

I started writing this cheating… at the time it was not actually 2018 yet. I was in a Travelodge somewhere in the Midlands. I’ve never been here before, but we decided that we’d spend some time away before going back. Well, about one day away anyway. So I wrote this bit in advance…

It’s time to look ahead. The new year should lead to some changes. This year things cannot stay as they were. The world is different now – politically I mean – and it makes me somewhat stressed as to what is coming. Trump is a madman, and I cannot see how that situation gets any better. I think it will get worse before it does…

In my own life, I have to find something else to do. Work cannot stay as it is, because it’s too depressing. I need to be able to exert some control over it, which is something I haven’t been able to achieve in many years. I am not sure what I can do though. I wanted to sit back and have a good think over this period, but it hasn’t happened. And J doesn’t seem very inclined to talk seriously about it, only to say that he agrees that “it’s over” as far as our current business is concerned.

The trouble is that we have a certain standard of living to maintain. That sounds ridiculous I know, and I am hardly last of the big time spenders, but I do enjoy my treats. I like spending some money on coffees and nice bits of treats. We’re going to a zoo today, which will involve similar things. It’s not like this costs a fortune, but if I was earning any less (and we don’t really earn much) I would be really worried about where the next meal was coming from. And I’d start becoming obsessed again with buying cheap crap from the supermarkets… I’ve had that moment before.

I hope J and I keep going strong. We have things we could improve, but having our own home should make us more secure and more comfortable. We are getting there.

Family-wise – that’s the big worry. I’m not sure what the future holds. There is so much illness around in my dad, my mum, my family in general… Nan is, of course, the biggest. And I am sure I’m going to start feeling more and more worse for wear. I don’t like the way my face is getting liney. I can see there is now more eyebrow than there used to be. And my hair is still the joke it has always been. Mid 30s are here to stay.

Is there anything that could improve with these things this year? It doesn’t seem so. Biological processes can’t be stopped. My eyes are worse than they were… I would be very worried about trying to learn to drive a car without glasses now. That’s crazy. I don’t wear them from day to day, but I do feel better wearing them. I don’t have to squint and strain to read road signs or just generally read the conditions. Perhaps I should, but they do make me feel a bit awkward at times.

I hope that this year J and I finally find more interesting diversions to pass the time. Netflix is all well and good, but it is extremely stationery. The trouble is after work you don’t really want to do anything else. I suspect the future lies in some sort of exercise related activity – more walking, mainly – chiefly because J is concerned about the flab he still has. I must admit at times I think I’m getting a bit podgey again too. I used to do sit ups in the morning, but now I tend to sit and read e-mails and do boring admin things for work. Joining a gym sounds expensive and dangerously close to bumping into the kinds of people I don’t like. So what can we do instead? We need to get our thinking caps on for this year…

It’s now the 2nd of January when I finish writing this. The 1st day of the year started with chores, nachos, beer and TV. Lots of music, thanks to a program on 4 Music which played every single Number 1 of the decade so far. As a former chart and stats nerd, it was good fun. But my relationship with J has forced me to move on from things like that I used to enjoy. I think I tried his patience at times. I need to learn this year to be a bit better at being less bossy…

Here’s to 2018! Let’s see what you got.

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The Year of (Some) Surprise

It is that time again – what did the year shape up to be?

As usual the best way to look at that is to see what this post or it’s usual start of year equivalent said.

What’s interesting is that for years I have generally been predicting that hopefully, one day, I will afford a new house. This year, in the year I actually did not only reach the point of being able to afford the ridiculous deposit on a house, but more importantly, managed to convince a bank that I can definitely afford a mortgage payment of £750 a month (they would not take the monthly rent payment of £995 into account, wankers) … apparently, I had no such aspirations or predictions that it would happen. I think the strains of moving earlier in the year had made me feel like I don’t want to be doing that again in a hurry…

Life is strange at times.

I usually start my reviews with a conclusion. Never bury the lede, so they say. So I suppose for that the year has to be a Good year. Arguably, it should be a Very Good year. I mean, why not? Don’t we all aspire to home ownership? That’s what society tells us you need to have been a successful Adult.

I had started to lose interest in it, and since becoming an owner-occupier (I like bandying that one around as it sounds comical) I have definitely realised all the down-sides of the whole thing. I mean, so far we must have spent several thousands (borrowed, of course) on putting right some of the crappy things in the house. And there are so many more to go. So much for saving money by paying less than renting. So far, that dream hasn’t been realised…

So that’s why it’s not so good. It’s great to have security. It’s great to have the comfort of knowing that there is no immediate threat to chuck us out that could happen at any time if the landlord sold up. Yes, it’s a bit of a strange feeling, but that new place is now mine and J’s. We can do what we like with it. Within reason, I suppose. I mean, there is a tipped up plant in the garden that has been like that now for weeks, and we’ve left it like that and just went away for 9 days. That kind of stuff is so lame it can wait. I’m sure the neighbours love us.

Looking back though, the real problem with this year was that my worries about the family continued to come true. I am as distant from my brothers now than ever. My older sister too. My younger sister not so much, but it’s difficult to keep in touch these days when everyone is so busy. She’s even bought her own house this year too, which is great, but it’s just another reason for people to be so busy to engage with each other…

The less said about my nephews the better. My oldest nephew continues to drift, and it’s really sad to have spoken with him recently, and he tries to talk and act like an adult, whilst still being incredibly dense about life and what to make of it. I feel really sorry for him, and worry that he is heading into oblivion, but there is nothing any of us can do. He won’t listen. He won’t change. He wants to do his own thing. He is dragging my mum and dad into nonsense, and his mum (my sister) has basically washed her hands of him. It’s terrible because I can see what happened to my nan and grandad regarding my cousin, who basically became an extra grandson for them at a late age… happening again with my own mum and dad.

As for my other nephews, the youngest is still too young to be worried about, but the other two continue to be weird. Maybe they’ll grow out of it, but they’re just strange. They ignore you when you talk to them, and they appear to have no social skills at all. I hope it doesn’t happen to the youngest one as well. Transfixed to a glowing screen, prodding it and thinking Plants vs Zombies is a suitable parental replacement.

Then there’s the illness of my nan, worrying me about the frailty of life, and how we really are now entering a time of constant decline. Dad isn’t great either, and Mum’s continued “forgetful” behaviour does worry me a lot. It’s hard to know when she’s being serious.

As for me and J – well, we end the year probably on better terms than we did at the start of the year, if I look at that post again. We are, I think, a great couple – but the year has been stressful for us. We have achieved a lot with the house, and continuing to survive in this modern economy when all you have is your own skills and personality to keep customers coming back to our business is hard. I feel the stresses of it very highly now. I know he does too. We’ve both decided to “do something” about it, but what that is we don’t truly know. Personally, we are close, but not as close as we have been. We’ve lost an element of the fun that I think our relationship used to have. It’s ok though – we’ll survive. We have to, we own a house together now…

2017 – you were an odd year. Filled with surprises, ups and downs, but overall you were good. I’m sad that my family is disintegrating, and we are all more distant than ever, and illness is creeping up. But I think that’s just life, and everyone deals with the same thing as you get older. The only thing I can control is what I do – and I think, having managed to scrape together significant pennies on some bricks and mortar at long last, in spite of the problems it’s brought, that we did OK!

De-Stress That Christmas

J is being a pain. This is the day we’re going back to my home. The home that I call Home, even though I haven’t lived there properly since 2009. Wow, 8 years.

But J is being a pain. He is constantly stressing about the time to leave. We have so much to do, he says. He’s right. But we don’t need to travel as early as he thinks. In fact, there’s no need to. The later it is the better it is…

It’s time to go home. Again. But this time there are many points to make:

  1. My nan has not been well. She had a mini-stroke recently, and her future has preoccupied my thoughts. I’m also worried that she won’t sound like how she did. Strokes change people in many ways, not just physically.
  2. My family in general are not as healthy as they used to be, and we’re all getting older. Older and more distant. My brothers, I barely bother with them any more. My older sister either, and my nephews are so distant and so odd in the way they have been brought up with technology I don’t even know how to engage with them any more.
  3. I am getting too old for this. I have had another long year, with long hours, lots of work, very little fun, and no holiday at all. Again. I don’t recall the last “proper” holiday I had. Going home for Christmas doesn’t really count, fun though it is. But I can’t keep working all year round without breaks. It is killing me.
  4. This year we have more time. We have an extra day before Christmas day, thanks to the quirks of the calendar. It has been useful for our own purposes – i.e. work – but it also lost us a bit of extra time we could have done with to get jobs out the door.
  5. People have really fucked me off this year. People are causing me to be sad. The reality of life is acceptable. People are not. There was an incident involving a client on the last day of work, in the after hours, all because her autoresponder was turned on 30 minutes later than planned. We are not these people’s slaves. They are not paying us for that.
  6. There actually is more time than you think to do everything you need. J needs to learn this, and stop being stressed out by the fact that the to do list is long. There are two of us. We don’t have to do everything simultaneously. He is learning this, and learning to accept that we don’t have to be joined at the hip…

The worry list could go on. But there doesn’t seem much point. It’s very unlike me to be perfectly relaxed about time, but if I have learned one thing over the last few years it’s that – for a large quantity of life – it is going to happen anyway. Whether I’m back at 5pm or 8pm really doesn’t matter. We have stuff to do. We will do them. And we’ll get back at whatever time that might be. It’s not worth the pressure or hassle.

We’re travelling back now, having achieved a shout out on Radio X, after getting thoroughly fucked off – as usual – with Radio 1’s pathetic efforts. Definitely a sign of getting old.

As a final note – this blog is now a teenager. It too is getting old. It too is filled with all the same things, observed endlessly, stressed and pored over until its meaning is lost. It is beginning to lose its way. I, on the other hand, never had any “way”. I just kept making it up as I went along.

Basically the only thing I’ve learned in life. Everyone is doing the same. We don’t really know how to do any other.

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”…

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…