Over We Go: And Let The World Go By

And so here we are, again, at the end of another year.

I like to label my years when I look back, and I think, on balance that 2007 was a Good Year. It started badly, as I suffered with the battle that was working for an MP. That took up the first five months of this year. It got easier as it went along, especially as I could see the end approaching, but he was still a pain.

After that, I had a long summer from June to September. The first two months of that were working in my local school, which was a lot of fun and kept me occupied. The net result of that was a couple of boxes of chocolates, some cards and a £20 voucher. Which ended up being spent on a Christmas present for my brothers. Hmm.

September to December – back in University. The first time since May 2006. It’s been hard work, though I think I’ve handled it pretty well. It’s not been as good as I thought it would be living with former housemates, largely because one of my housemates has changed quite a lot with the addition of a girlfriend… who I don’t get on with particularly well.

The uni work itself has been tricky, and it will continue to be next year. It’s the dissertation that has been the real eye-opener, and I will have to keep up the hard work next year.

Really, the only other thing that has happened in my life has been the successful application to go to do a teaching PGCE. That has opened the next chapter in my life. Well, it allows me to open a new chapter. Probably one that was unexpected, in all honesty. But the more I think about it, the more it makes sense. Even if I change my mind in the future, I hope to at least get this qualification so that I can open the door if I want to go through it.

Otherwise, the family is all OK, thankfully. Everyone is growing up at the same pace as me. My youngest brother is being a nuisance, but trying fairly hard in school. My other brother is too laid back about it, and is sure not to get the qualifications he needs to go to university. My elder sister is trying to get herself into the world of work by training to be a nurse, and my youngest sister is doing OK in her new secondary school. And my mum and dad seem to be OK too.

So, all is well for the most part. Another year successfully negotiated. That’ll do me nicely.

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Been. Gone.

I’m not at all convinced about the holiday season.

We spend so much time, so much energy… and so much money… building up to but one fleeting moment of a single day.

And by we, of course, I mean those of us who celebrate “Christmas” in some form. As Richard Dawkins so brilliantly observed, even if we are atheists, we absorb many of the cultural religious traditions of the society we were brought up in. By accident of birth, I happen to have been brought up in a predominately Christian society. Which makes me a cultural Christian, despite being an atheist.

And so, with the opening of presents and the eating of far too much food, the event has gone. It has been good, yet another very enjoyable Christmas… but still, why have we allowed ourselves to hype up something for so long that lasts such a very short time. It’s hard to pinpoint the exact moment “Christmas” ends, but to me it is when you get sent out to wash the dishes after the eating is over.

For all the time and effort that we go to, Christmas could at least have the decency of being one week long. Perhaps a new present every day. Lots of partying and celebration. Who cares about the economy! It would probably all be made up for in spending on booze anyway.

So now it’s all over for another year it does make me a little sad. Yet another memory created. At least the family is still all together, still all looking out for each other. I should cherish these moments, because they don’t last forever.

Another thing that probably won’t last forever is my nephew’s new drum kit. Especially when I get hold of it later. Oh yes.

Blogiversary

Last year, and all other years, I missed the exact anniversary of my blog. Its blirthday. What annoys me about this occasion is that I came up with both of those words totally independently… and out of curiosity I typed them into Google, getting 173,000 results for “blogiversary” but a slightly more respectable 974 for “blirthday”. Though the last one sounds rubbish, so it’s not worth reusing.

Three years of blogging officially ends today, and I enter the fourth tomorrow. However, come 2008 and I will have posted blog posts in five different years. It’s been good fun. I enjoy writing this stuff into the official archives. Just hope blogger.com have good backups, cos one day I’m sure all of this will go tits-up and all the billions of words of wonderful prose written by such fantastic authors as myself will be consigned to /dev/null (now there’s a geeky joke for you).

I hope it can continue. I don’t see any reason why I won’t be able to. The strength of it is in the anonymity. I know when I look back it sometimes makes it frustrating as I don’t know sometimes who I’m talking about when I refer to other people. But it’s probably better that way. I only blog every few days, and so what I get on here is really only a very small snapshot of my life (for example, this is only the 275th post in three years). In that case, it would probably be unfair and unrepresentative if some people are given special status in my archives.

By also being careful about who and what I refer to, I severely reduce the chances of being detected. I know a friend who used to write an anonymous blog about his job working in an Asda superstore. It took three months of blogging before he was found out because he was overly specific with some events, which fellow colleagues managed to co-incidentally stumble upon. Luckily, he hadn’t written anything too controversial, but they did recommend he stopped writing it. And he did.

I have almost no readers. That doesn’t bother me. I’m writing for me, and have said so on endless occasions. I have often thought maybe I should put this blog into private mode so that I can go into full detail with names and all events of life. But then I find that unsatisfying. Somehow I like the idea that what I’m publishing is open, available and being written into the permanent record of the collective efforts of humankind. Plus, I think if I went private I would probably write too many vindictive things about the people that annoy me. This makes me more careful, because as I say above, it would probably be unfair.

So long may this continue.

And let the final Christmas preparations commence. Outside, the sky and the clouds are a wonderful pink colour. Not seen that for a long time.

Baking? Easy!

As Christmas gets ever closer, I begin to worry more and more that Mr Postman is not delivering the goods. We have now had two days in which we’ve not received any post, despite us being deluged by post in the days before that, and with lots of stuff on order.

I stupidly placed an order from a website in Singapore, not realising that that was where my music CD that I’ve bought for my sister was going to come from. They claim they will deliver in 7 days, but I have a feeling that that won’t be happening somehow. I ordered it on Monday night, and it has to get here by the final post on Monday morning. Bugger.

As usual, something goes wrong. I have an order from eBuyer on the way, which has somehow managed to disappear off my login records, even though my card has been charged. This happened last time, though the order did turn up. I just couldn’t track its progress, which is always reassuring. Especially when the courier, City Link, attempt a delivery and don’t bother to leave a note to say they’ve tried but no one was in.

But those are all the tedious commercialised aspects to Christmas. The one discovery I have made in the past few weeks is how to use an oven to cook things other than frozen pizzas. Last Sunday I baked an Irish soda bread using my friend’s recipe, and then last night I made a lot of small cakes (though with the help of my sister…). Today I intend to make some flapjacks. I suspect I could soon be very fat by the time this holiday is over.

Cooking has always been something I’ve hated doing. It’s just so tedious. When I get hungry, I generally need to eat within the next 20 minutes. The thought of having to plan in advance, preparation and so on is depressing. I hate thinking about food, because I know that if I do I get hungry within minutes. Like now, despite having my breakfast an hour ago, I’m now wondering what I’ll have for lunch because writing about it here has kicked off that train of thought.

Food is a distraction. In fact, I’ve often noticed when I’m working hard on something I am less likely to notice that I’m approaching feeding time at the zoo. The more bored and inactive I am, the more I want to eat as soon as possible. Gives me something to do I guess. Which gives a complete lie to idea of “working up an appetite”. My body seems to operate in reverse.

Such as the past few days when I’ve been doing some website coding for a friend of mine. It’s all coming together very nicely. And when I work on it, I get so engrossed (especially when accompanied by music on the old MP3 player) that I lose track of time.

You can tell I’m having a very easy life at the moment…

Home Once Again

It’s good to be back home and cribbing from someone else’s electricity and gas bill again. At least it’s warmer here than my house in Hull. That’s a good start. And there’s also lots more entertaining things to do here.

Though there is one important issue at the moment, and that is the proximity of Christmas. I have yet to do any Christmas present buying. Nor have I any clue about what to buy people. This is a worry. This time last year I’d pretty much got everything sorted by now. This year for some reason everyone seems to be really hard to buy presents for. They’re either all fussy buggers or they want computer games which are £40 and beyond. Too much for a poor student.

Yesterday I went on the Christmas day out with the football team that I’m the treasurer of. We got free tickets to attend the football game of our local Premiership club (which was very nice of them) and it was a cracking game, one of the best I’ve been to. We got seats right behind the goal. We tried to get our team’s picture taken on the pitch, but the stewards wouldn’t let us, sadly, despite the fact that another local youth football team had had theirs taken on the pitch at half time. I guess we didn’t have the right “connections”!

Then there was the shocker last night. Leon won the X Factor. Astounding. Not much better than a pub singer, ten-a-penny Leon managed to croon his way into the hearts of the nation with endless tear-jerking films about how he’s “doing it for his mum” etc etc. Quite possibly the most undeserving winner since Steve Brookstein; the judges regularly panned Leon every single week for the first 8 or so shows. Perhaps they realised that he was likely to win and started to tone it down towards the end. After all, Simon Cowell, who often commented about Leon’s charisma free personality, was one of his harshest critics. The Christmas Number 1 is assured anyway.

I feel dirty for writing the above paragraph. I hate reality TV… I really do. But X Factor suckers me in every year like a fool. I can’t help liking music, and I suppose this is one excuse for it. It’s nice to keep up with at least one aspect of popular culture. Still, it’s over now, and I’m sure after the Xmas single Leon will fade into obscurity after the obligatory first album of covers.

Now, the quest begins. Where can I buy wheatgerm from? I wanted to make some Irish soda bread for my family using the recipe one of my housemates, which I really enjoy eating. But alas, wheatgerm is extremely difficult to locate. I should have brought some home with me from the poncey food shop. But there are no poncey food shops back where I live. This is authentic Northernness.

All’s Fair

And so, another academic semester comes to an end. Today I had my last tutorial, and I am heading for home later this afternoon. It’s all gone by so quickly, but that might be because it’s been so asymmetrical. Next semester will both start and finish with an exam period. Ouch.

The past couple of weeks have been a gentle close to the year. It’s not quite time to reflect on 2007… that will come up shortly… but recently, it’s been pretty good. I have even had the joy of getting paid to help out on a university open day, something which is normally a voluntary thing. I think they felt sorry for those of us who help out on a regular basis and never get any proper reward. Well, this time we did!

It’s been good to get back down to work. I have needed to feel like a student again since the break of the last academic year. Much as it pains me to admit it, I am an academic kind of person. I have grown to love the process of learning, the excitement of discovering something new. And this semester I would say I have been stretched pretty well by the material on offer, and, better still, I’ve actually tested myself. I think I’ve worked harder than I ever have. But I will have to take it one stage further in 2008. And then again in 2009.

Urgh. The sight of the years flashing before me is getting a little worrying. I remember the turn of the millennium. It really was just another year. But the symbolic value of having a brand new, special, turn of the calendar to play with was quite a liberating thought. But they are ticking away like mad at the moment. I’ve had a few flashes with disturbing thoughts of mortality lately, which have actually worried me a lot. This hasn’t been helped by numerous ludicrous dreams along these lines.

I actually have only myself to blame on this score. I suffer a weird phenomenom that if I sleep in the same room as my computer and leave it on overnight (for example, if I’m downloading some torrents) I will suffer a terribly disorientating night’s sleep, filled with endless dreams and constantly waking up. I did this last night, and I won’t be repeating it again for some time. Must be something to do with electromagnetic radiation…

Though it did bring on one amazing thing, which to me demonstrates the power of the brain. Three days ago, I listened to the song Fair by Ben Folds Five. At the time I took no real notice of the song, as I was listening to a lot of new albums I’ve acquired from a friend. So there must have been masses of musical melodies being stored in my brain at the time, all while I was doing some work on a website a friend of mine has asked me to design.

This morning I woke up from a particularly vivid dream, and in it was this song, Fair, in almost its entirety. It does have a fairly catchy/annoying chorus… but I had not thought about it at all since I had first heard it. In fact, at the time I didn’t really think it was any good. One of the better songs on the album, but nevertheless, I had rated it three stars and was not likely to come back to it again.

But now I have to. My subconscious mind had clearly stored all of it. I’ve always been a musical kind of person… and my brain has demonstrated why to me. I think it’s amazing how I could store something in there which I had not even given a second thought. But it wasn’t just one refrain of the song, it was nearly the whole thing. I only realised this when I listened to it again earlier, only for the second time.

It’s all beginning to feed into this realisation I’m getting at the moment. My consciousness is being raised as to just how spectacular humanity and the universe in general is. I will return to this issue next time… hopefully!

Kneeness

And so it comes to pass.

In my last post I referred to my dodgy knees, which have appeared ever since I started refereeing. Well, I went to see a doctor yesterday, who has told me that I have a form of tendinitis. Great. I’ve been told not to do any vigorous exercise like this for around three months.

So that’s the end of my nice little earner. I really wonder why this has suddenly become a problem. I know I’ve not run round like this for a long time, but I am utterly convinced that if this was a long-term genetic issue I would have felt it in the past when I used to play badminton a few times a week. Perhaps I didn’t warm up properly the first time I refereed, and then through overuse (as I was doing three games a week earlier on) the small tears in the tendon have become more and more prominent.

It was also starting to have an effect on my Achilles tendon too. It is a bit ridiculous. How many other people play football on a regular basis and don’t suffer this? Why have I just got it? Was I really that unfit beforehand? I’d never thought so, but I’m beginning to think I must have been. I was never that active during my youth, so maybe all the muscles, tendons and ligaments are not that strong.

On the one hand, it does mean I won’t be refereeing in this godawful weather we’re suffering at the moment. Then again, it is winter. And football is a winter sport. Maybe I’m not cut out for it after all. It’s going to be several months before I should try again and see what the damage is.

Apart from this, everything is going well. My presentation on Wednesday was a success, my essays are complete and Christmas is just around the corner. I got a 68% mark for the first fifth of my dissertation, which I handed in a couple of weeks ago. Which is great. Very pleased to have some marks on the board. And the paper version of my offer for PGCE study has come through, so it’s now all official.

The only bad thing is that on Wednesday I will be travelling home by National Express. I haven’t used the coaches for travel for a few years, just because they take so long. But there was no option this time. And it was cheaper than the train, which was necessary after I had to go home last week. Need to save money.

Or need to make money. Somehow, now that my refereeing cash has been cut off. But I am very close to passing the £50 threshold on YouGov surveys. Woohoo. Possibly just in time for for the post-Christmas credit card payoff…

Conditional Acceptance

So the news is in from my interview last week.

I have been offered a place at the university. This is really great news. I’d like to think I got in my own merits rather than because I’m a man applying for a PGCE primary course (hmmm…) but either way, I have got through the process on the first attempt. Which is awesome.

It is conditional on me completing my degree, of course… but so far, so good on that score. It means that I will be officially moving back home for the next academic year. Unless something else crops up in the interim where I might live with a couple of friends back home to try to make things a bit cheaper for me. Well, there is at least lots of time to try to work that one out now.

Suddenly, this morning is bright and cheerful, despite the miserable weather conditions outside. And the prospects for the rest of the week. The injury I appear to have, which I talked about in my last post, is still there, unfortunately. It came back quite badly last Sunday while I was refereeing in yet more atrocious conditions (after skipping Saturday’s game, ironically in glorious sunshine, because of a combination of pathetic buses and taxis being unable to get me there in time) … though is slowly fading away again now. I am sure it will come back again on Saturday.

I’m beginning to get concerned about this. I have done physical exercise in the past and never felt a problem with my knees. But this is potentially serious. If it keeps recurring, I will have to go the doctor; I might end up having to end my refereeing career before it’s even begun! And it was turning out to be a nice little earner too, keeping the costs of life down.

Today I have the first of my two tutorial presentations to give. I used to get nervous about them, but on reflection they are no problem. This is one thing about me that has changed an awful lot in the past few years… I’m now far more confident about these things. And I know that without the confidence I’ve been able to gain from university, and my year working for an MP last year, I would not have been able to think of myself as a being a potential teacher.

It all looks so different here now from when I first started keeping this journal nearly three years ago. My life has developed considerably. I wouldn’t say it’s changed a lot, but the progress has been both simultaneously unexpected and yet, when I look back now, very predictable.

So I have plenty of reasons to be cheerful at the moment. Especially the development that I’m going home next week. Another semester will be over very shortly…