Cursed

At this present moment in time, it is becoming extremely difficult for me to keep my attempts to be more positive about life in place. In my family, we have always laughed and joked about the fact that things seem to go wrong rather more often than you might expect, but the frequency of such events in the past few days (ever since I got back on Sunday) is now becoming so great that it really is making me wonder.

Take today, a new load of computery bits was meant to be turning up. I had ordered them and was told that I wouldn’t get them until the 6th of June. But it seems the company decided to send them early. Great.

Normally Citylink deliver in the afternoon. I have never lived anywhere where Citylink deliver in the morning – Hull, London and many times before here at home. Until today. While I was out in the garden talking to my mum and dad about this very witty observation, Citylink were knocking at the front door. Only no one could hear it. Of course, there was my brother sitting in the front living room, right next to the front door. But he decided not to answer it. Thanks, bro.

Citylink decided not to leave a card, which makes me think they will be back later. I hope so. But right now I could be building my new computer, instead of sitting here moaning about it. Waiting. And waiting some more.

Yesterday my dad effectively threw in the towel on the football team we run together, thanks to the non-attendance of the useless kids involved. So that’s pretty much the end of that. In any case, it had been raining all day – and in fact it has rained every Wednesday (footie training day) here at home for the past few weeks. And it was freezing. So much for the summer. Another case of the curse striking.

The phone rings this morning. My dad has been waiting to hear from the hospital for a new appointment for ages. They have a cancellation and can fit him in tomorrow! Too bad, my mum and dad have gone away for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, my dad said he would buy me a new monitor if I gave him my old computer. Not a bad deal as families go. So he ordered it. Only, the order has completely vanished from the systems of Ebuyer.com. I have e-mailed them, of course, but as yet no reply, though the Google Checkout system claims to have billed my dad’s credit card. On closer inspection of the online credit card system, it hasn’t gone on the bill yet. But £500 of something else has. My dad swears that he hasn’t bought anything on this credit card for ages, and in fact the balance was in credit at the previous statement. Yet now there is a big charge that is not yet described as to what it is for. Credit card fraud, maybe? We’ll just have to wait and see.

Then I bought something on Ebay. Only cost £4, and I paid immediately with Paypal, as always. Still no reply. Not answering e-mails. Could I be about to suffer my first ever bad experience on Ebay?

Worst of all, the sun is now shining. It’s been miserable ever since I got back. Now it is the perfect sitting in the garden weather. Only I can’t, because if I do I’ll probably miss the second attempt at delivery.

Other than all of the above, it’s great to be home.

Ties That Bind

And so I reach another ending. My final day in work yesterday put in me a very philosophical mood. The emotion content was low, apart from when I wrote a heartfelt thanks in a card to the people I’d been working with since September. But I know all too well that the time is right to move on, and so the day sailed by without much incident or regret. It has been a good academic year, and I’ve learned and seen a hell of a lot that has made me think. But the future beckons…

In the immediate future is the events of tomorrow, when I will say goodbye to my rented accomodation here in south east London, and move back to my home. The home I’ve moved from, and moved back to on numerous occasions now. Tomorrow will be another notch on that long list of the transitional stage of permanently leaving home. That’s assuming I will ever be able to afford to leave home!

My thoughts about life outside of work here in London are a little different. Begrudgingly, London has been better than I thought it would be, though given my extremely low expectations I guess that was inevitable. It seems I ended up living in a very nice area indeed, something I wasn’t quite sure about when I moved here.

However, it is a very quiet area. This rather fills me with dread. It is commuter land. There are no family houses. There are no children. There is no real diversity. I could go for a walk around the block and encounter probably one or two people in 15 minutes, despite the fact that there are thousands living in high-density apartment blocks all around me. There is no community, not through choice, but simply because you never see your neighbours, and the days of knocking on a neighbour’s door to introduce yourself, or being welcomed by them are long gone. That’s quite sad, I think. There is no doubt that in vast swathes of Britain society is dead, and probably has been for some time.

At home I belong to a family community, and the logical extension of friends and acquaintances that brings. In University I belong to a student community, and though I don’t engage with it much, it still is an identity that I enjoy. If only because it reminds me that I’m still young and carefree with very little to tie me down.

I am now beginning to see the future beyond that, which is very disturbing. This year has almost been a demonstration of what will happen to me if I don’t make some changes. I think I spent far too much time wondering what I was going to do with my spare time. And then not actually doing anything. There are opportunities to engage with society out there, and I didn’t get the chance to do that.

So, in a sense, this has been a lesson to me. An early warning shot which is telling me that the future will be like this if I don’t change. No matter where I live. This isn’t just a London thing.

In the meantime, I have another chance next year and hopefully the year after. But before then there are other ties that will be rejected. They are the cotton, silk and polyester things that hang around my neck which I will no longer have to wear. No more ironing of trousers to get the crease just right. Or shirts, which are always a nightmare. Yes – no more formal work clothes. Until I get a Real Job. Or a Real Job Interview.

So it’s goodbye to London. At least this gave me a chance to experience it, as I’m not sure how else in my life I would have been able to. It’s not quite for me, but at least I tried it.

Now – it’s time to pack. Urgh.

A Fitting End

It’s been a tumultuous year working for my MP. It has been a rollercoaster of madness, lunacy, bizarre twists and frustration. That’s been thanks to my MP, who is one of the biggest ditherers I’ve ever met. But it’s been an entertaining one, and I’ve got on well with him.

However, what was more important was that I got on well with the people who worked with me all day every day. And fellow party colleagues. That was relatively easy though, because they were all such nice people. Mostly.

I officially leave tomorrow, though today was the last day my MP will see me. So it felt like my last, as the leaving presents and cards were handed out. But any ambitions of having a nice, quiet send off were short-lived. It’s been another chaotic day, with the diary arrangements up in smoke (courtesy of the MP), running back and forward trying to deal with the frantic pace at which he leads his life, getting to things late, or only just on time by the skin of his teeth… while we pick up the pieces.

So it made perfect sense that the final day with my MP would be pretty much the same as just every other day with him. In truth, his office is in open revolt at the moment, and we are a little concerned that his actions are going to finish his career off very soon, but that doesn’t stop him. In many respects, I’m not sad to be leaving at this moment, as I’m certain that there is a lot of bad news to come his way over the next year or so. But he likes to live his life on the edge, taking tonnes of risks that are probably unnecessary, but seems to come out of most of them unscathed. That is just normal to him. If one day one of those risks results in his unravelling, then he will probably go down with no regrets.

He is just about to take another such gamble. Only time will tell what the outcome will be.

For me, it is time to move on. It’s been great to work there, but I don’t think I’d enjoy doing it day in, day out for the rest of my life. Or even another year. Life is just too short to spend all your time doing one thing in a job that has no career prospects apart from moving to a different sector where the knowledge of the inner workings of Parliament come in very useful (e.g. charity/pressure groups/NGO lobbying, think tanks, senior party policy advisers). But not really fancying any of those, I think it’s a good point to stop.

It ended with my MP flying off on holiday (forgetting all his briefings, taxi money and, of course, the tickets), and it started back in October when my MP returned from holiday (late) and brought all manner of chaos on the office.

Sometimes life has a beautiful symmetry and a cheeky sense of humour.

Grinding To A Halt Before Starting Up Again

In my last post I complained about how I spent a day not working. Well, in truth, in the past few weeks I have been spending almost all of it not working. It’s not my fault… the elections meant that my MP was hardly ever in the office. No MP, no work to do. So I had to keep myself entertained.

But now the elections are over things are steadily returning back to normal, though my MP does not really have any sense of normality. Everything is always up in the air. Flying by the seat of your pants, kinda thing. He has this amazing ability to blag his way through almost everything in life. That seems to be essential if you’re a politician anyway, but he is exceptionally good at it.

Though it is all now coming to a close. Which, I admit, I am going to miss. A little bit. I know once it’s all over I’ll be thinking “just what did I actually do in London for eight months?”… and regretting not using my time to its fullest extent. But I am trying to stop myself thinking in such ways. I have done what I have done. I can’t change it. It was always going to be tricky… but I know that I have now achieved what I set out to do.

I was always very apprehensive about doing this degree, largely because I was so unsure as to what I was letting myself in for. In reality, it hasn’t been that special. But I don’t think that was the point. I haven’t done anything of great importance… but I have experienced a lot of new things, gained some new skills, gained some confidence, and had a lot of fun along the way. Sure it has also been frustrating, and that is largely why I think I’ve had enough of it here… but on balance I think it’s been worth it.

So, next week, on Sunday, the final curtain will be drawn on my year in London. If my bank account could speak, it would say “Not before time” in relief. Though it hasn’t cost me as much as I thought it would. I just am a thrifty kinda person.

But it means I really have to enjoy my final week here. I honestly don’t know when I will next be in London. If I had my way, I would never live here again. It’s a tolerable place to live, and there are many, many nice areas. But I just don’t like the mentality of life here. I don’t like the fact that the infrastructure everywhere is completely stretched to breaking point. The high density lifestyle is just not for me. But it’s not just the obvious things like trains, roads and transport in general. Shops, supermarkets, dentists, doctors, hospitals, schools… everything is massively oversubscribed. I can barely move around Tesco or ASDA when I go to a supermarket. It’s ridiculous.

It has been an eye opener. Like I said, I don’t know when I will live in London again. But if I had done this course, I can safely say I would not have known if I would ever have anything to do with London other than be a fleeting, passing tourist. So, at the very least, this course has allowed me to try something new. Which is what life’s all about, isn’t it? And the opportunity cost hasn’t been that high, really.

Next week will be the transition period. I will say goodbye to lots of my new friends, and move on. Again. My life always seems to be in a constant flux. On the one hand I might say I’m looking forward to some kind of stability at the end of all this process.

But then again, I don’t think I’d agree with that. I love the changes. I love the new challenges in all different angles. Which is why I can’t ever see myself settling down forever in one location.

You know what, I know I will be fascinated if/when (because you don’t know what life holds in store!) I re-read this post in 20 years time. Full of misty-eyed, youthful, innocent enthusiasm.

Is it not good to have achieved a balance whereby you’re looking forward to living life, purely for its own sake?

I am intrigued.

Lucky Strike

Though I would say my new found positivity has not exactly been a triumph yet, largely due to the fact that the only positivity I can muster at the moment is about me finally leaving here, there was definitely cause for celebration this week…

On Thursday I remembered that there was a small bit of goodness waiting for me. Some time back the company who provides interns from America invited everyone in our office to an evening in their corporate box at the football team Spurs. They were playing at home to Blackburn Rovers on Thursday evening. That’s good in itself, but the fact that there was a box, plus free hospitality couldn’t be missed.

So off me and my office chums trundled to White Hart Lane. The food was good, the free drink was even better. Then the plate came around.

“What’s this?” I asked the person sitting next to me who I’d been feigning an interest in what they do for the past 15 minutes.

“The first goal sweepstake” came the reply.

On first thoughts I was going to push the plate past me, not being much of a risk taker. But I soon realised that this probably would be a bad thing. There were several eyes on me, and, not wanting to stand out in this awkward moment, I chipped in. At £1 a go, it was not really a problem. So I plumped for the next time available, 31-35 minutes, and paid the dues.

The match begun, and I rushed out to the very comfortable seats outside. The view was excellent, but the first half of the game itself was not much to write home about. There was a lot of action up and down the field, but very little in the way of chances.

Until the 31st minute. Spurs had a corner. The ball floated in… the header was on target. Surely!

No. No power. Straight to the goalie’s gloves.

The first real chance of the game, and it fell in my time slot for the sweep. There wouldn’t be any more chances now.

Disappointed, I slumped back in my chair. I watch the Blackburn goalkeeper throw the ball upfield, and a hop, skip and a jump later, three quick passes, a cross, a header, a goal.

The time – 32 minutes.

I felt like celebrating. But I couldn’t, because the only people celebrating in the ground were the few hundred Blackburn supporters penned in the upper corner of the opposite stand. A bet, made just to fit in, hauled in the grand total of £15. The first bit of money I’d earned since last year.

So I remained dignified as I was celebrated with a few handshakes. What a delight to take away the money of people who take home vast sums of money each year. The redistribution of wealth was in full flow that evening.

The win made me smile. And it also made the game more interesting. The second half was much better, Spurs pressing hard, getting chances, and Blackburn struggling to contain but with the odd chance. In the end Spurs got a goal, and should have won it at the very end but for the post saving Blackburn.

I finally got home at 12:30am, and went straight to bed. Not bad for a day spent not working. More on that story next time…

Recovery

Yes – it was that time of year again on Thursday… election time. And as a political junkie, it was my duty to stay up all night and follow the excitement. And yes, there was plenty of it, thank you very much.

It was a struggle, but I managed to get through the entire evening, get a couple of hours sleep between 6am and 8am Friday morning, and then go in to work for 10am. In fact, the two hours sleep was so successful in recharging my batteries that I didn’t feel tired at all during the whole of Friday. It was a little struggle after lunch, when I felt a bit lethargic, but otherwise it was quite easy. I managed to get through to 11:30pm, Friday night, which is mighty impressive. To me.

There’s something about the all nighter that is just very exciting. But it’s always the same – as soon as you get to around about 6am, your brain begins to die. You crave the sleep. These are difficult hours. The option is, of course, to go to sleep for your normal length of time. But then you completely ruin your sleep pattern. You could try to stay awake all day… but it’s very difficult to resist sleeping during the early morning because there’s nothing much to do to keep you awake. Once you’re up and about doing stuff during the day, it tends to wear off… though you tend to suffer the rather amusing bouts of knowing-you’re-making-a-mistake-and-not-doing-anything-to-stop-yourself mode.

But then there’s the Third Way. Yes – just taking an hour or two as a power nap. You will wake up with a bit of a headache but it soon goes once you get active. Then you can have an ordinary, tedious day doing whatever it is you like to do.

Unfortunately for me, that was going to work. But Parliament was so dead on Friday that I virtually had nothing to do all day. I might as well have stayed at home…

But instead, I trundled on. Luckily, the bank holiday weekend is here, so I could have an extended period of recovery. Saturday was spent doing little other than watching the football results come in, watching Doctor Who and not much else.

On Sunday I relaxed some more by going to watch some cricket – something I’ve never done before. I saw Middlesex beat Gloucestershire in what ended up a pretty close game. That was a lot of fun. Of course, if you don’t like cricket, you will disagree. But if you love it, for £15 you can’t beat it for a whole day’s entertainment. I brought my own packed lunch, had the choice of seats and sat in the mild sunshine all day. And Lords is a really excellent venue. I could just imagine it being a fantastic atmosphere when filled to the brim with fans at a Twenty 20 or international game.

However, the bit that provided the most value was the fans sitting a few rows behind me. They were a group of lads, around the mid 20s, clearly having one too many. But that made them all the more entertaining. They were utterly harmless, and I think everyone else in the crowd realised that. They were from London, but for some reason had decided that Gloucestershire would be the one to support, and so they did all their chants of support in a Gloucester accent. And support they did. Their shouts to the players could be heard all round the stadium, and their appeals to Gloucester to “do it for the apples” largely fell on deaf ears. But the players rolled with it, and a couple of them even responded to the “give us a wave” chants. All around me the fans were as amused as I was. Which rather shattered the stereotype I had in my mind of all cricket fans being stuck up middle-class toffs. Fair play to the ground staff for not chucking them out, or maybe they were afraid to…

And now we’re here on Bank Holiday Monday. It’s miserable outside – we’re getting some rain at last. But I don’t mind… anything for a day off work!

To Strum Or Not To Strum

Last weekend, I dared to venture out the house in the evening. This is not something I’m generally keen on doing here in London, largely because to go anywhere costs a fortune. But this time I had a good excuse.

Earlier on Saturday I’d received a call from my aunty that they had arrived in London. This was met with a certain degree of puzzlement. People in my family never come to London… my immediate family haven’t even been, apart from when they brought me here. But for my aunty and uncle to be in London was a bit weird.

Then I remembered why. Upon asking me if I was going to come and see them, I realised – my cousin’s band (of which another uncle of mine is also a member) – were in London to play a gig at the Camden Barfly. This was a prize they’d won after winning a “battle of the bands” competition back home. Having never seen them live before, and their music is actually pretty good, I thought I had to go. I had to seize my new found positivity (which has not exactly had much success yet) and take this opportunity. I hadn’t seen these family members for some months, probably not since New Year. Plus, this was the band’s biggest gig yet. Not in terms of the size of the venue (as I soon discovered) but because of the high profile location. There is, allegedly, a year’s waiting list to play there.

So I went along. In the end, I was mightily impressed and extremely glad I had put a swift stop to any thoughts I might have had about trying to make my excuses for not going. It was great to see everyone, and they really were much better than I thought they’d be. So many bands struggle live, but they were so lively and on-the-money with their performance that the atmosphere in such a small venue was powerful. It took two days for my ears to finally stop ringing… which is bad… but I’m sure they’ll be OK. It’s not as if I do this every week…

But it generated a lot of thoughts for me. I am trying to avoid regretting things, but if there is one thing I wish I had done differently it would be learning the instruments I did from a much earlier age. I have always wanted to be in a band of some kind, and it upsets me a little that I have not achieved anything along those lines. When I was younger I used to write lyrics and music almost prolifically. Very little of it was any good, but now I don’t quite know where my creativity has gone. It’s possible I’ve become more critical, and so more unlikely to tolerate my dodgier compositions.

More likely is the fact that I’ve just lost the will for it. In the past I had great visions of having my own band, and gigging. Not necessarily professionally, but again, it would be just another string to my bow. Something else I could do in my spare time. Because I love performing music for people. Would prefer doing it with a band, but I’m OK on my own with an acoustic guitar. That much was proved to me when I did my camp counsellor experience in the USA. The fun I had from the musical peformances I gave during that has not been matched since…

So there was a little twinge of envy when I saw my cousin and uncle doing what I would love to be doing, and starting to generate their own success with it. But good luck to them. They’ve at least showed me that it is possible. Now I just need to rekindle my enthusiasm for it, and, harder still, find people who like the music I like, play (the right) instruments, and actually want to form a band.

That’s where the difficulty begins…