Hot, Hot, Hot

According to the now infamous thermometer in my room, tucked into the loft conversion, it is currently 30 degrees C. The outdoor temperature is a more reasonable 23 C, which means it’s rather odd that for me I have to go outdoors to cool down.

The alternative outside, though, is a zapping of UV rays. And so it came to pass, as I’ve just spent the last couple of hours in the garden in full sunlight, roasting hot, reading the newspaper from cover to cover. It was worth it though, as life felt so good. Briefly.

It’s been a strange old week, on reflection. I seem to have been busy all the time, apart from the times I have made some time for myself to relax and enjoy the sunshine. When I haven’t been helping my dad out with some maintenance work, I’ve been redeveloping my business website. While the former job is outdoors, the latter is something that I would dearly love to do outside too. The only problem is that the laptop battery can’t take the strain for more than 30 minutes. I wish they’d do something about laptop batteries. They really are shit, and don’t seem to be getting any better as the years go by.

With it being half-term, my brother and sister are off school, my other brother is finished for the year in university, and my mum and dad are both off work. On top of that, my nephew has been staying here all week, as my sister couldn’t get the week off work. On top of all this, work has just started on the front of our house to turn the wreckage of a so-called garden into a slightly more habitable space. The noise has been incredible.  Basically, the net result of all this is that it’s been yet another week in the madhouse.

I can’t take it much more, but at the same time, I have no choice. So I really am going to have to learn to stop moaning about it. I have to find enough stuff, instead, to occupy my time. I’m really hoping, crossing my fingers, that my website redevelopment will start to encourage some regular business to flow. It’s too sporadic right now, and that’s half of the reason why I feel so depressed about the whole thing.

But, at the very least, when the sun shines, and rather unusual things happen like me winning a £250 competition, I can briefly feel contented. It seems such a long time ago now when I posted about my, brief, perfect moment. I suppose it was a year ago, but still, I feel like not much has gone right for me since I graduated.

Still. At least I’ve got my health. Which, I’m happy to say, is now fully restored. It’s now two weeks since the Three Peaks hike in atrocious conditions. Hard to believe as I sit here contemplating taking off my t-shirt. That would be a miracle even for me.

400 Up

This post is a significant moment indeed. 400 posts now. I think each post has roughly 500 words in it, so we’re definitely north of 200,000 words now. Amazing.

But it’s only significant because the numbers look nice. Really, it’s just another post. It’s symptomatic of the whole of society when nice round dates and anniversaries are picked out to be more noteworthy than others, when really it just doesn’t matter. It’s my decision to celebrate anything at any time. In fact, I’m really looking forward to post 432. I don’t know why, but I am.

OK, I lied. Why not fall into tradition just this once. 400 posts shows some great stickability. I know posts in the past few months, if not longer, have not been particularly exciting. It’s just not been an interesting life since I left university. Most of that is my fault, but some of it has been caused by the economy too.

The coincidence about this post is that it is almost one year since I left Hull. That very anniversary will occur tomorrow, as it was on the 25th of May 2008 that I departed. That’s the most scary aspect about my life. I genuinely don’t know what I’ve done in the last year, what I’ve achieved, what progress I’ve made. There is nothing to report of any significance. All that’s happened is that I feel like I’ve aged, I feel like I’ve regressed, I feel like I’ve become more negative and cynical about everything, and I’ve made a somewhat farcical attempt to run my own business. What a strange old life I’m leaving.

So strange, in fact, that I’ve had enough. I’ve set a benchmark. By the end of the year, things have to have improved. If they haven’t, I will explore all options to escape. The prime contender in my list is New Zealand because of their working visa arrangements. Australia is also possible too. The reason why I have to wait till the end of the year though is that I think my business needs a little longer to prove itself a disaster, and secondly my money is locked away until then anyway. And who knows what other countries could come onto the agenda. All of this coming at a time when the government is telling us recent graduates to bugger off, hence not joining the dole queue and not being a drain on the country’s finances. Yes, very clever that. Fuck the economy up and then ask us to leave. Thanks.

But, let’s face it, things can’t get any worse for me. I’m already at rock bottom. It’s simply that day after day of no hope really does make me feel pretty shit about myself. And this even comes after I spent Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week actually doing work for my business. Yes, I had three days of the stuff and earned some cash. My business is actually in the black right now. So maybe things aren’t too bad. I just need word of mouth to start spreading. Please!

Anyway, that’s quite enough misery for now. Let’s turn instead to watching some TV. I hear the world of politics is a particularly well-respected place to work these days. Yes, that politics degree really has come in handy.

I’m In Tremendous Pain, Ted

On Friday, I did the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge. 25 miles or so of walking in the most atrocious weather conditions there could possibly have been…

OK, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration, but it was heavy rain for more than half the day, and lighter rain in the rest. That meant all my stuff was soaking wet, adding even more weight. And the fact that it was windy too made it very cold. So five layers on top, two layers on the bottom, and a wooly hat on top. So heavy…

The net result was a rather difficult day. I had done enough good preparation, and broke my shoes in properly, so there was never a question of whether blisters would stop me. I was determined to see the bloody thing through, even despite the fact that the other members of my group were a) so slow; and b) unprepared. Why would an 18 stone lorry driver with asthma think he could do the whole thing? Sadly, it meant for the first peak, Pen-y-ghent, we had to stop almost every 10 minutes on the ascent. We did the first 11 miles in 6.5 hours – a tremendously bad pace.

And when the weather is so bad, you really don’t want to be hanging around. But hang around we did… dawdling our way. Then the blisters started to set in on a member of the group who had foolishly bought a new pair of hiking shoes for the event. Bad. Decision. Rule 1 of hiking: Never ever go on a serious hike in new shoes. So numerous stops resulted as that member of the group had to put on the special blister plasters, and change them regularly…

Anyway, we plodded on, and eventually got through to the second peak of Whernside. It was a lot easier though, as fortunately our lorry driving friend realised checkpoint 1, after 11 miles, would be a good place to drop out. Still, a good achievement for him.

Sadly, the weather continued in its disgraceful way. I was assured that there were great views from the top of these peaks, but the shrouds of mist put paid to that. There are photos, but as most of them are in front of white backgrounds due to the thickness of the low clouds, they could have been taken anywhere. And apparently, when this event was repeated for the same charity last year, the weather was warm and sunny. Just my luck.

By the time the third peak came, we made the sensible decision to split our group. Myself and a fellow serious hiker in my group decided to go on ahead and tackle the third peak quickly. That was the best decision of the day, as despite fatigue and aching muscles, we ploughed through the final phase in 2.5 hours or so. The relentless pounding on limestone was difficult, and the ground was absolutely treacherous – boggy, muddy and hard – but we flew through it, got the damn thing over and done with… and completed the Three Peaks in 11 hours, 35 minutes.

I managed to raise £143 for charity – which is excellent. I’m so proud of the achievement. But I really am paying for it now. Tremendous pain is possibly not the right way to describe it. As I sit here, I don’t hurt much. But movement is not a good idea. Thighs killing. Toe nails sore. Shoulders in agony due to the weight of the bag I was carrying…

I’ve no idea how long it’s going to take to recover. Probably many more days, I would imagine. I did enjoy it, despite the weather, and it would be nice to do something similar in the future. I really should hike more often anyway, it’s a cracking way to see the country. Well, as long as there isn’t thick fog, of course.

The Day Tomorrow

Though this week has vanished very quickly, tomorrow never comes, as they say. There is always another day past the one we’re at now, and into those days we fill all our hopes and dreams.

In my case, the hope is simply to get through tomorrow! In 24 hours time, I will be hiking across hills in North Yorkshire, no doubt being buffetted by winds and rain. Not good at all. The forecast was originally good for Friday 15th May, but as the day has got closer, the prospects have worsened. It could be worse, it could be heavy rain – but it’s still not going to be comfortable.

The good news is that I have managed to raise £120 in sponsorship. More than I’d hoped for or expected. I was worried I’d only get to £50 or so. That’s good, though I haven’t reached the so-called “minimum” the organisers are demanding. They can shove it. Times are hard for most people, though I am rather annoyed at some of my stingier friends. I know that if the roles were reversed I would be sponsoring them. Not that they would ever do anything like this.

One of the reasons why I wanted to do tomorrow was that the friend that I’m doing it with had convinced me we could talk business and discuss the potential for us collaborating on a future enterprise. Then he went and got himself a new job anyway, one in Salisbury. Great. Sometimes I think there’s something wrong with him. He makes lots of promises and then very quickly backtracks on them. It’s a wonder he hasn’t pulled out of this charity gig too and left me in the lurch. But I’ll bet he’s actually forgotten all about the pledge he made. Idiot.

So now I’m doing an event that I could do without. I’ve done what preparation I can, though it’s actually been limited because, somehow, I’ve managed to bruise the bottom of my ankle, which has made walking not difficult but niggly. Every step a little nudge of pain. Maybe it’s my shoes, though they have been fine. The last preparatory walk I did was about 13 miles on Monday, in the glorious sunshine. It went well, apart from the route taking me along a road for miles with no pavements and cars constantly going past. In fact, after that day, I vowed never to do an urban walk again, unless the pavements are further from the cars anyway. Nothing worse than cars constantly flying past at 50mph. Somewhat nerve-wracking, I can say.

Anyway, I’ll be glad when it’s all over. I’m leaving tonight for Leeds, where I’m staying overnight, and will meet my friend tomorrow morning to head off to the event. Then it’s a case of playing it by ear. If all goes well it should be done in roughly 12 hours. If not, I’ll be back at the starting point after 17 miles or so. Then it’s another night in Leeds, followed by a swift departure early Saturday morning. Here’s hoping the Travellodge isn’t too bad…

Now to build up those carbohydrate stores…

Tick Tock

Time advances forward once more – and there is a surprising amount to report. How rare.

The major development is that last Sunday I was convinced by a friend to take part in his 28 mile “Yorkshire Three Peaks” challenge that he was doing with three friends, until one of them dropped out. I, foolishly perhaps, decided to step into the breach. The challenge is one week today, May 15th, for charity, of course. I’m a little bit excited, but also nervous. I’ve hiked before, but never that far…

So to try to prepare myself for the challenge I did a 5.3 mile round trip walk yesterday. A walk which went nowhere, but at least the weather was OK for it. By the end of the walk my feet felt a bit sore, but strangely they only started hurting as soon as I stopped. This morning I feel fine, which is a very good sign. Some time early next week I will have to do a 10 mile walk. If only I was actually going somewhere interesting rather than walking around urban sprawl. I suppose I could get the train out into a more rural area, but that has two problems: a) I’d probably get lost, b)  trains cost money!

After discussing all of this with my friend, we then moved on to the thorny issue of work. He has recently been made redundant from his job as a web designer and developer. I discussed the possibility of us working together on a business venture. He’s interested, but we really aren’t sure what the overlap is. I can do some web coding, but I’m nowhere near good enough. Meanwhile, I’m good at fixing and making PCs, and he doesn’t really do that kind of thing. In the end, it’s very likely to be a case of “so near and yet so far”.

In any event, we will try to discuss something during our 12 hour excursion next Friday. But for now, he has at least supplied me with a small profit as I made him a new top-of-the-range PC. And comparing it with the offerings from PC World, he still saved about £100 to get the equivalent. Custom PCs are where it’s at if you go to the right place…

Talking of business, I’ve actually had a few customers the past week. The bad news is that none of them came through the classified ad I paid £33 for. An error that will never be repeated. Google Scamwords isn’t much better. In fact, it’s worse due to its zero conversion rate. But at least I’ve covered the loss from customers elsewhere, most of which come through referrals of friends or off my internet site, both of which cost me nothing. Hmm.

Though next week I intend to try the final strategy of putting flyers through letterboxes in this local area. It could work. I’ve been told by a friend who ran a similar campaign that he got nearly all his customers in that way. Fingers crossed. It won’t cost much either as my parents have kindly volunteered to do some of the photocopying in work. Good stuff!

And then there is a new front I’ve tried to open up – something else to do. At first I thought a part time job would be good. But now I think I’ll put that one on hold, at least until I’ve completed my return to the world of politics. I’ve, perhaps stupidly, volunteered my services as admin and general dogsbody for the local campaign of the political party I’m a member of. At least it will get me out and about, mixing with other people (potential customers?) – even though most of them are old fuddy duddies. And, you never know what doors it might open…

That’s enough for now. Time to resume staring at the clock.

Bomb Site

It’s not been a particularly exciting week. What, you expected me to report something else? Don’t forget we’re in a recession. This could carry on for years.

And maybe it really is a recession after all. I have long doubted that this particular recession, the first I have ever lived through with any kind of sentience (the last recession in the early 90s I was too young for), was actually causing harm to real people. After all, mortgage rates couldn’t be any lower. Unless you’d been made unemployed, the vast majority of people seem to be enjoying “a good recession”.

With interest rates so low, there is no incentive to save. That is deliberate. Even the VAT cut, though only a small amount, was an indication that the government wants us mere citizens to spend.

But none of that seems to be filtering through to me. I get visitors to my site, but they tend to disappear as quickly as they arrive. Some of these visitors have been enticed to my site via Google Scamwords, which costs me in a region of 10 to 40p per visitor. But I can safely say that not a single one of these people have been converted into a sale. That’s a very poor return.

Meanwhile, I am running a classified ad in the local papers again. And once more, not a sausage. Do you think someone is trying to tell me something?

Amidst all this wreckage of a failing business, I still do have the odd bit of work. Fortunately, I still have some friends (much to my amazement), and word of mouth is the best form of advertising after all. So this week, I spent my time building a computer for one such friend. It was an entertaining experience, filled with my usual mistakes and cut hands from cheap PC cases and badly soldered motherboards. But the net result is indeed a small profit, one which helps make up for the tremendous failure that is classified advertising.

In the midst of this work, however, my room, which doubles as my “business” “office”, was total carnage. I should have taken a photo when I had the chance to illustrate what I mean, but it was a significant mess. Tools everywhere, screws all over the place, wires, boxes, components, and me kneeling in the middle of it all trying to make sense of what I was doing wrong. The misery was nearly compounded when my computer, that’s this one I’m on now, decided to freeze when I opened the case to test a fan. I must have knocked something, and then it wouldn’t boot, freezing at the BIOS test stage. Fortunately, it came back to life for no apparent reason.

But, when you’re building a computer, it is a necessary evil. I am certain there’s nothing I can do about it, because I’m normally such an organised and disciplined person. The wreckage was such that I had to leave it there overnight, which nearly caused a disaster when I stumbled from the lightswitch to my bed in total darkness…

Fortunately, it’s gone now, and in its place is a completed machine, one that I’m very impressed with. Frankly, I should be given the price my friend was willing to pay for a top-spec computer, but still I can’t help but suffer a pang of guilt about making money out of my friends…

Here’s hoping for a better week to come.