Pressure Point

The atmosphere is particularly tense in this house at the moment. 

The reason is simple. Last night I told my brother just how disappointed I was in him, the same one I’ve been having a rather complicated time of things over lately. The flash point has been a couple of rather damning revelations involving the police, chases and my brother’s descent into the realms of worrying which people are going to snitch each other to the police.

It’s all very depressing. I thought he was smarter than that. Mistakenly, I thought he was cut from similar cloth to me. I wasn’t bothered with all that shit in school. I shrugged my shoulders and said “I don’t care”. Maybe times have changed and it’s harder to steer clear of trying to look tough now. I carved my own niche out, I was smart but reserved, didn’t draw attention to myself, but somehow I struck a happy balance of not making any enemies by being generous and helpful. The odd bit of homework help here and there (and no more than that, I wasn’t that generous!) does wonders for one’s popularity. It was no skin off my nose, and it kept everyone friendly.

I don’t think my brother has that luxury. Sadly, he’s not as academic as I was. So I think he feels he has to carve his own identity out, which is the usual young male bravado thing. The language is foul, the subtle racism is there, the endless sexual references disgraceful, betraying a very disappointing view of women, and his attitude towards the people who put themselves out for him on a daily basis – us, his family – is shameful. 

So I flipped. Very quietly, very politely. But leaving him in no doubt that I’m simply surprised and disappointed as to the direction he’s heading in. 

No more words have been exchanged since then. In truth, they’re not likely to. In this family, we can’t talk to each other. We can’t even look at each other half the time without it either turning nasty or being turned into a joke to try to deflect from the very real danger that we might just possibly talk about our feelings about something.

The thing is, I know so much more. I have lots of stuff stored in reserve now. I don’t particularly feel bad about how I’ve obtained this information, but it all is slowly leaking out as it becomes possible to do so in public, either through a lapse or a very tactful leading discussion. I won’t go fully public with all of this unless or until I’m pushed into it. And right now, we’re pretty close to that line. 

I just worry where we’re headed. There is a great risk that if we push too hard he’s going to go into serious rebellion. No one wants that. But we can’t just stand by and hope for the best, thinking that he deserves the independence and freedom that he has been given for the past few years. In truth, he doesn’t.

But I do know this. I’m glad I’m not growing up in today’s generation.

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In Business

Officially, I am now self-employed.

Unofficially, there’s nothing much to show for it just yet. That’s the tricky thing. Though I’m spending money on business items such as a phone contract, tools, equipment, stationery and marketing, there is no money coming in yet, and I don’t expect there to be for a little while yet.

As the phrase goes, you gotta speculate to accumulate. And I sure am speculating. I really have no idea how this is going to go. It could be a massive failure. It could be a big success. More likely it will be somewhere inbetween, but that isn’t a particularly brilliant bit of foresight – it’s just an educated guess. 

The realisation of the size of the gamble grew on me a couple of days ago when I drew up my first cash flow sheet. The income column had one potential source: sales. The expenditure column was a huge list of potential and actual things I will be spending my money on. And it is my own money. Though there’s not exactly a huge amount of cost involved, it is my risk to take. No grants, no loans, no money from grandparents… it’s all me. 

The key now is getting the message out. Within a few weeks I need to be able to say that there is potential here, though I’m not going to give up too easily. To me, almost every house has a computer now. And every computer is under constant pressure from viruses and spyware and endless Windows Updates. To me, that is a lot of possible customers. Yes, I know a lot of people know how to fix their computers, but I’d say the majority don’t. In fact, if the problem is hardware related, I’d say the vast majority don’t. 

So then the question boils down to whether there’s enough competition. I would say that there isn’t. But only time is going to prove that one either way. We’ll see.

I’m wondering, with more than a little nervousness, when my first call is going to come and what the problem is going to be. I’m also left thinking where they are living too, as transport could be a bit of an issue for me if I don’t work this out correctly. Hopefully they are just around the corner – that would make it even easier. Once the first job is over with, I’ll start to feel more confident about where this is all heading.

In the meantime, once again I’m having to play the waiting game. My life seems to be filled with it at the moment. Everything is a huge case of “wait and see”. Even Prison Break, of which I’ve now got just one episode left of Season 2, is making me wait, putting me on a wonderful cliffhanger.

In my student days I would have watched the final episode right now. But I can’t. For the past week now we’ve had work going on in the house, finally to give us a renovated bathroom and a real shower. I can’t wait. But for now, there is lots of knocking and banging and general disruption to put up with. And all of that makes the dog even worse than ever. Not good at all.

Back to the clock watching…

Oh No, He Isn’t

And relax…

For the first time since last Friday, I’m finally getting a chance to sit down and vegetate. Not that I want to do that, but its inevitable return is worth noting anyway.

As I said in my last post, I was going to be helping out at my local school with their pantomime production as their stage manager. I spent all day Saturday in rehearsals, Sunday was spent at football, Monday was rehearsals all day, so was Tuesday, with a performance on Tuesday night, and Wednesday was the final performance. 

At the end of it all, the verdict is that it went very well indeed. All the reviews I’ve heard have said that it was one of the best run plays the school has ever put on. That is a very high compliment, and I’m very satisfied to have played a part in it. 

And play a part I did. Stage management suited me down to the ground. I’ve been a stagehand before, but having the responsibility of controlling scenery, props and cues, as well as managing a small team of helpers, getting a chance to flex my organisational skills, was something I really enjoyed. There were errors, and there were accidents, but we worked around them extremely well, including fixing a falling backdrop in double quick time while the curtains were closed. Fortunately, it broke while the curtains were closed, and so the audience didn’t see it. They wouldn’t have suspected a thing.

And that’s the job of the stage crew. The better, more organised their performance, the less you realise their impact. It’s one of the ironies of doing a good job when you’re behind the scenes. You will always notice a bad job, scenery, props arriving late, lighting or sound cues missed… but when it’s all done slickly, you just sit back and enjoy the performance.

What it has done is improve my opinion of the next generation just a little. I used to be a lot more positive than I am now, but recent events (documented frequently on this journal) have undermined my confidence significantly as I’m really uncertain as to whether the next generation shares the values of everyone else as the Internet and free-market liberalisation transforms our way of life. But it was good to see first hand a lot of very bright, very talented kids, and some more middle-of-the-road ones too, working hard and enjoying themselves, giving something to the community. 

It was only a few days work, but I’m going to miss it. It was nice to have something to do, good to feel valued and comforting to feel part of something that gave a lot of people a lot of enjoyment. They even recognised my contribution at the end by calling me out especially, and I got a round of applause and bottle of wine. Oh well, at least I got something tangible out of it!

As usual it makes me think “well, why don’t I do that for a career?”. I have thought about it before. I wanted to go into media production of some kind when I was 16. In the end I turned my back on it, as it just didn’t feel like the right fit for me. In truth, I would probably enjoy any job that allowed me lots of organisational responsibility. It wouldn’t necessarily have to be working in media/theatre, but it seems the skillset profile matches me well. Worth reconsidering, perhaps.

But I do have an idea for something community theatre related that I would love to do if I had some money. One day, hopefully. 

And now, back to reality…

Treading The Boards

It’s not been a particularly good week for me. In light of recent events, I’ve spent most of my time wondering what I can do, what I should do, what I must do, and what might be a good idea to do. This has meant a lot of agonising and wondering what right I have to intervene. And how to do it without it being completely obvious that I’ve been spying…

In the event, I’ve done absolutely nothing. Yet. I’m keeping an eye on proceedings, and if it looks like the danger level is rising then I will take action. But there is still the small matter of the phone contents that needs to be resolved. Perhaps I’ll have to engineer a situation where I “accidentally” stumble upon it while I’m in the same room as him. 

So the wood laminate floors in here have been taking a beating as I pace up and down them thinking about things. My brain is churning up lots of things at the moment, moving from one item to another, seemingly in a state of endless excitement. It’s almost like I sense something is afoot. Something is round the corner. Something I keep denying myself. It’s putting me on edge, for sure. 

Maybe I’m just denying myself a life, something I’m now very conscious of the fact that I don’t seem to have one. I tried to do something about that this week when I decided that I really must take the plunge and give my business idea a go. So, early next week, I will take delivery of a contract mobile phone, which will allow me to run my business affairs separately. Got a pretty good deal too. The website is ready, the flyers have been designed, and I’ll stick an advert up in the local shop window. Then, it’s up to the good people of my town to suffer from a broken computer…

But I seem to have more energy than usual at the moment. I’m getting the urge to burn it all off. Since last year I’ve been doing at least some form of mild exercise each day, some press ups, sit ups, pull ups, a few weights, that sort of thing. Now, however, it doesn’t seem to be enough. I think I’m going to start going for a run every couple of days. Now that’s definitely a hostage to fortune.

There’s one other thing too that I’ve signed up for this week. Today, and Monday to Wednesday next week, I’m going to help out at my local school. They need extra support for putting on the school play, and, in my current inactive state, I was only too happy to oblige. I like doing that kind of thing anyway. Though it’s not quite treading the boards, it is scampering across them, moving scenery into place and making sure everything goes smoothly. I like logistical stuff like that.

Gotta be better than sitting here, anyway.

The Predicament

In the past couple of days, I’ve been dealing with something of a rather difficult situation in my head revolving around the youngest of my two brothers, currently aged 14, and what he gets up to. He’s at that awkward age where he thinks he’s not a kid, but really he is, taking stupid decisions and needless risks, because he’s invincible. Fair enough, we all felt like that, and it’ll never change as part of humanity.

But my brother is causing me a bit of concern. He is something of a Jekyll and Hyde character. He has a load of friends who are all quiet, hard workers and don’t really go out much, meanwhile he has a bunch of friends who are much more “street”, and come with everything you’d expect them to in terms of attitude and appearance. 

My brother can’t choose between them. He alternates between groupings whenever he feels like it, but lately he has become more attached to the latter group because he now has a girlfriend. Some nights he goes out and returns after 10pm, smelling of smoke and girl’s perfume. I don’t think he smokes, but someone in the group is, and it wouldn’t surprise me if alcohol will soon follow in the years ahead. 

He’s growing up, I know that, and I accept it. He’s exploring who he is. He’s not doing it quite as I expected him to, but kids are like that. As his older brother I feel like I have a bit of a duty to look out for him though, and try to offer him advice on subjects that might be just too embarrassing to speak to our dad over. 

But, of course, that’s just the theory. As brothers, we have never been all that close. We don’t really have common interests (I’m determined to find something though, as per my previous post), we don’t share life experiences with each other, and we certainly don’t talk about emotions. That’s unthinkable. 

So in reality, there’s very little I can do to talk with my brother over the things he gets up to and try to make sure that while he can have his fun, there are some risks that are just unacceptable, and he must know the boundaries that simply can’t be crossed.

But therein lies a further complexity. The modern world, with its commercialist pressures and the freedom the internet provides adds a bit of a problem. Boys will be boys, and now they can be even more so by free access to a huge range of pornography, widely distributing it to each other on mobiles and computers, and in some cases even making it themselves, despite all the legal problems that may cause if it falls in the wrong hands. Like I said, they take stupid risks and don’t understand the consequences.

So the other morning, I was a little surprised to see some unexpected items in my Google search history. I’m not sure how they got there, as my search history is linked to my Google account, and there’s no way my brother could have logged in as me, but there the search terms were, and at times when I knew that there could have been no one else responsible.

I did a little digging, and sure enough, while the history had been erased, the relevant files were all still in the cache. 

It left me in a dilemma. He’s a teenage boy. What he was looking at came as no surprise. In fact, I’d be more surprised if he wasn’t looking at it. In truth, when I was his age I did the same. I also know my other brother did it. No – the actual porn itself is not an issue. While I don’t look at it any more, and haven’t for several years, it’s perfectly understandable that my hormonal brother would be looking at it.

The thing was, this time I didn’t really want to leave it be. The sites he’d visited had left a number of presents on the computer (viruses, adware, etc) – and so, at the very least, I had to give him a bit of warning to be a bit more careful about the links he clicks on. Of course, this would be a very embarrassing conversation not just for him but for me. But I figured it would be better him hearing it from me than from my parents, as I’ve no doubt my dad would have done his usual spyware sweep of the computer in good time and uncovered all the stuff himself.

But there was another reason for me doing it. I wanted to show my brother that a) he’s not invincible after all, he will slip up; b) that I care about him and want him to be careful and c) that he has another person he can confide in if he needs support or guidance. 

I think I did that and handled it sensitively. There’s no need for me to go to my parents with any of this info, as long as my brother starts to appreciate his situation properly and have more respect for himself and others. 

Unfortunately, it didn’t end there. Yesterday I stumbled across some rather unsettling material on his phone, and with that as justification I’ve had a look at his MSN conversation archives. Suffice it to say, they’re not good. Full of masculine bravado and massive exaggeration no doubt, but behind them is an obvious veneer of truth that my brother is in with the wrong crowd.

This isn’t the brother I grew up with. He has changed almost beyond recognition in the last year. And it hasn’t gone unnoticed amongst his former friends, as I read in his MSN archives. 

He’s gone astray, and I’m now incredibly worried about where he’s heading. The difficulty I now have is that all the information I’ve got which I could use to have a talk with him has not been obtained legitimately. I can’t raise any of this without making it obvious that I’ve been forced to spy on him to try to get to the truth. And that’s a massive breach of trust.

But at the same time I’ve got all of this running around my head constantly and it won’t go away. 

I just can’t believe how early kids lose their youthful innocence these days. It seems only five minutes ago when I was talking about the good day I had with this very same brother eating the Pizza Hut buffet lunch

I need advice, badly.

2009

2009 started with either an eerie co-incidence or an example of perfect timing. 

We rushed out into the street, me checking the time on Teletext with just 50 seconds to go. I don’t normally get ready so late, but I had decided to give the pre-midnight part of our usual New Year party a miss… instead choosing to sit with my brothers in the front computer room. It was actually nice to spend some time with them, I don’t normally do that. Anyway…

I looked at the clock, it was too late to synchronise my watch with Teletext, so I took a rough stab at it. At 20 seconds to go, I started the countdown and ran out to join the rest of the family in the street. 

At exactly zero seconds, a firework went off. That was pretty impressive. I think it was a co-incidence, but it was a nice one.

After midnight I joined the party, having a pretty good time. Not everyone was here, but there was enough people to talk to. But there was a surprising degree of very small children making a lot of noise. My cousins and an uncle have had children recently, and by Christ they made a lot of noise. A lot. Some of them are toddlers now, and bringing them all together is a deadly combination. Lots of activity. Too much for me, I wanted a quiet New Year!

Fat chance of that in this family. But it was all over by 3:30am, a much more reasonable time after the terribly late finishes of previous parties. After five hours sleep, I felt pretty good. It’s amazing how little sleep you actually need.

But now to consider the forthcoming year. 2009. It always feels weird writing the New Year, which is why it’s a tradition to name the first post of each new year after the year itself. It gets me used to it. 2009. Bloody hell. Was it really nine years ago when we celebrated the millennium? That’s frightening.

2009 is a make or break year for me. Now a graduate, a graduate with a damn good degree from a damn good department in an average university. I should really be able to do something with that. But, most probably, I won’t. Simply because I don’t want to. It just doesn’t seem the right direction for my life.

But what does? Well, that one has to be answered in the first few months of this year. I simply must either have a job or be properly self-employed by the end of February. That is my deadline and I can’t afford to let it slip. My life is going by and I don’t have any money to live it. That simply has to stop.

In general too, the time going by with me idle is not good either. That would be solved if I got a job, so I’m not too worried about that. But I need to be enjoying my life more anyway. I’m not right now, and that’s extremely sad. We only got one life after all.

But for the first four months of this year, I know I will have to live with the trauma of recent events. Until our injured player is walking around again, the burden of guilt, what ifs and sorrow of seeing someone suffering and being partly responsible, even in just a tiny way, will remain with me. For me, April can’t come soon enough.

That will occur naturally, which is a good thing. Unlike the job search, which needs me to get off my arse and do something about it.

I also feel that I’ve got something big in me this year. Whether that is the self-employment front, or some other thing, I feel the time is right for me to achieve it. Lately, I’ve been thinking seriously about my ambition to run a much larger football team. That would be a good challenge. There is a way I could do it too. Gonna have a think about that.

And in life, I could do with something different. Will I actually have a long term girlfriend this year? Hmm, that’s one I’m really unsure about while I’m living at home. Or maybe I’ll move out for good. Somehow I doubt it at the moment, but I’ve gotta say I’d like that to happen right now. 

For my family, I’d like to be better friends with my brothers. I’ve already started on that. We need to do more stuff together. I see my dad’s family, none of whom hardly ever see or even speak to each other. Maybe once a year for Christmas. It would be a terrible shame if we ended up like that. On a darker note, I’m really not sure what to expect from the rest of my family health wise this year. That’s going to be a constant source of worry.

So there is a lot on the line for me this year. I’m filled with a little foreboding about it. Yet the uncertainty is part of the excitement.

Here goes nothing.