Ageing Badly

It’s that time again. It only seems five minutes since the last one. Life seems to happen so quickly these days. Live for the moment, I say, but I never do.

First of all, the formal business. How was this year? Well – it was, I think, a Good Year. In spite of everything, in spite of the economy in the toilet, in spite of the difficulties of keeping our heads above water, it really was good. Business has been excellent, apart from a lull in the March to May area – but other than that it has been consistent, of increasing value, and spreading very well.

In normal times, I might well have called this a Very Good Year. But at the moment, due to my continued lack of a proper social life, I really must set the rating back a peg…

In terms of comparing against any of the benchmarks I set for myself at the start of the year (in this post) – there wasn’t really much there. I wanted my business to do well. That has happened and then some. Doesn’t mean it will sustain into next year though.

I did want to get involved in some sort of community thing, but that has gone west. I did make initial forays into being a school governor, but after all that I think I was right to not get involved. It is far too dry for me. My life is dull enough without having to fill it with reading checklists and meeting agendas. I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t find anything else though. I’m just too much of a Scrooge. Bah.

I was definitely right about predicting my housemate would start thinking of moving on. He did indeed get the big job move that I expected. He wasn’t moved out yet, but he is definitely considering it if the right circumstances appear. I wouldn’t blame him either. We haven’t exactly got on well this year. It’s funny how you can consider someone a friend right up until the moment you share a house with them!

What I have found most distressing of all about this year though is the fact that I have spent most of it looking rather vainly at pictures of myself from years gone by. Sometimes I can’t believe my face has changed so much in the space of two or three years. Looking back at Christmas photos the other day, I genuinely couldn’t believe that I looked so young just a matter of a few years ago. Is that what work does to you?

And then I begin to worry. Another year of life gone, another year without any progress on the significant other front! Mum likes to say I better get a girl before it’s too late. I definitely have less hair at the front of my head than I used to!!

But at the very least, it is another year safely and successfully manoeuvred.

In terms of the rest of the family, I would argue that some of us have had very good years. My elder sister is settled down, and my new nephew is awesome. He was here last night. And my other nephew is definitely doing a bit better than last year. He’s definitely doing better with the new situation.

But my remaining siblings are not faring so well. They just need a bit of luck on a consistent basis, but then again, they also need to work a bit harder. They have had tough years. So too has my youngest sister. She’s done OK, but the end of school days are proving very difficult for her.

So we move on. Tonight we aren’t having our usual party, but there will still be some family here and we will be having some drinks to celebrate the end of 2011 and think about what next year will bring.

More on that tomorrow. Until then, happy new year!

Cold

I don’t often get ill… I seem to get quite lucky with that. So to actually get ill – when I’m technically on holiday from work – pissed me off a bit.

It was only a cold, and a pretty mild one at that, and I’m now over it. By tomorrow all the symptoms will be gone. At one point I was having to blow my nose every 10 minutes. Ridiculous, and painful. My nose is still sore.

It got me wondering where I got it from. I can only assume it began from a rather farcical attempt at work on Friday 23rd. I got up at 5am, allegedly on my way to a job that is some distance away. It was to be my last job before Christmas.

It didn’t work out that way. I hung around at my departure station for an hour before calling it a day. I knew there was a problem as soon as I arrived, because there was drunken people everywhere from the previous night. They’d been trying to board trains since the first one at 5:30am, but had been unable to due to signal problems.

I guess I must have picked up a bug during this time. Public places and public transport in general are always a danger for this kind of thing. It only takes one inconsiderate person not to cover their mouth when sneezing and the cold virus is released into the air. It’s a nasty thought really – because to catch a cold you have to get someone else’s mucus into your nose or your eye.

I gave up after an hour and decided to go home. I probably shouldn’t have done because it now looks next to impossible to get a refund on my train ticket. Train companies are a joke. I spent the rest of the day trying to find out the refund policy because I’d dared to pay with card. While I was at the station they were handing out refunds left, right and centre. In cash, of course. But they wouldn’t to me. I had forms. It was a joke. I got nowhere, sent from one person to another, no one wanting to admit liability. Fuck them all.

If I’d just got on the train at 6:45am like I was supposed to, maybe I’d have got away from the nasty bugs, and also done some work, and also earned some money, and also not cost me an extra train ticket. Boo.

I don’t actually think it was possible for me to get a bug from anywhere else either. Over Christmas (which was good, and is still going on in my head!) I didn’t see anyone but the usual suspects, none of whom are ill. The symptoms appeared on Dec 25 in the night – which would leave two days or so incubation. About right…

Anyway, that’s enough moaning. I’ve had a very relaxing few days, including playing Mario on the Wii, and enormous amounts of playing on the piano and the guitar. Social life is shit, but at least there is the family to annoy.

New Year… all that analysis and joy to come.

 

Seven Years

I still find it hard to believe that here I am seven years later, still writing. Still moaning. Still whinging. But probably slightly less depressed than I was back then.

In 2004 – exactly seven years ago at this moment – I finally caved in to a temptation I’d had for years to start a journal of some sort. Back then, blogs were still new and not everyone had one. These days, apparently everyone has one, and so too do dogs, cats and other assorted creatures.

I think I probably write the same post every year at this point now though. It always go along the same lines – I can’t believe I have been disciplined enough to keep this going. There have been times when it’s been touch and go, but mostly I’ve been able to muster up enough inspiration to write something. I am really pleased I did because it is a wonderful history to refer back to.

I had always wanted to write a diary but never had the ability to. Not because I didn’t actually have a diary. I always did seem to have one for some reason. Probably because I was always one of life’s organisers. Not that I had anything to organise. I just used to like writing things in there. I have always been like that.

But then there was the other reason – because real life diaries are not secure! I could never have written in things that were about my life becuase I just couldn’t risk the problem that someone else could read it. I couldn’t be completely honest because who knows when my security could be compromised. And yet, I don’t seem bothered about writing it all in public instead! How weird…

So I didn’t bother. But I just wish I’d started earlier. I really wish I’d had a diary of my teenage years. Looking back, I find those years of my life the most fascinating. That was really when me as a person – or, as a personality – was formed. It’s when we really start to become ourselves, more than mere automatic reflexes to our genes and our environment. The actual point at which proper consciousness, proper ability to analyse and reason, makes us into who we are.

But I didn’t, so no point fretting now. One thing I would do though is encourage anyone who thinks they can to blog. It doesn’t matter that there might be people reading. Chances are no one is anyway. And even if they do, they won’t know who the hell you’re talking about. Plus, you can be pretty cryptic anyway. I am, all the time, if I’m referring to other people.

Meanwhile… back in life – Christmas is happening. I’m back at home, with my family, relaxing, work is switched off, and I’m having a good time. I feel a completely different person to the poor guy seven years ago. I am happier. I am a little bit more directionful. If that’s a real word. I’m still more lonely than ever. But that’s because I’m hopeless at communicating with Real People. Sigh.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. And I’ve only had one glass of Baileys!

Minor Partying

It’s not been a particularly notable week. The days have flown by, I’ve been busy, but nothing too exciting.

Except for last night. Last night I had been invited to a house party. I had been looking forward to it for a while because I know the host well and there was also going to be free curry. Better still, as a vegetarian, she was going to make sure there was an option for me, rather than just eating poppadoms…

The funny thing was that my housemate had also been invited, as he also knows the host. We arrived about 7:30pm – and I proceeded to the bottle of wine I’d brought as I’d made sure I got a veggie one (yes, I’m that fussy). But I wasn’t very keen on arriving with my housemate as it almost makes it look like we’re an item, which we most definitely are not…

Anyway, it was as bad as I feared, getting introduced to people at the same time as my housemate, which was awkward. I know I shouldn’t be bothered, but it irritates me that people do make assumptions and I have to correct the record when people ask the inevitable questions. Not good. However, I did do so in the two occasions it was asked. The situation also benefited when my lightweight housemate decided he’d had enough after half an hour. Washout.

So I stayed until the end and got decidedly merry. I don’t really drink at all, so drinking a whole bottle of wine plus a bottle of beer had quite an effect on me. I wasn’t drunk, but I was definitely a lot more sociable than I normally am. This was good, as not knowing anyone else there except the hosts, it passed away the hours. They also had a table football, which was excellent fun, although it was in the garden and bloody freezing…

I stumbled home at around midnight as it wasn’t going to be a very long night anyway. I enjoyed it. I was in one of those moods though where if there would have been anyone females there around my age I might have actually started talking to them. I have felt a bit like that lately. The time is fast running out for me to get cracking on this relationship business…

In the event, that didn’t happen. Instead, there was much banter about age and the passing of time. It was quite distressing when we were all talking about the 80s. Not that I remember any of it, being born in 1985, but I realised that the 80s are no longer “20 years ago” as they had almost always been. They are now 30 years ago. I am showing my age quite badly…

Still, I was the youngest male there, so I got to make them all feel old. It won’t be long before the boot’s on the other foot…

A Good Week For Some

This time last week I was writing about my concerns over my brother. During the time I was home, those concerns widened to encompass not just that one brother, but the other brother as well, and my younger sister. They are all reaching that awkward stage of life where they still don’t know what it is they’d like to do with their lives, but worse still have absolutely no ideas at all.

Yet, I fully sympathise with them. When I was 22, my older-younger brother’s age, I had decided what I wanted to do with life. A year later, I had totally reversed my position. So I cannot say anything. And as far as my 17 year old brother and 16 year old sister go, I had no idea at their ages either. Who does?

But in those days it seemed less pressured. Back then, the economy was good, life was relatively stable and there was no reason to take an early decision. Why close doors when you’re so young? Why not just keep getting educated and give yourself room to breathe and think things through properly when you’re older and wiser?

That was always my plan. It didn’t really work, because it encouraged me to take a decision in panic. I am still glad I changed my mind about becoming a teacher. I don’t think I could have ever survived the pressure of the job, and children deserve better than that. But by not having any clue about what to do, I jumped at the first idea that came into my head. A wrong idea that could have led to me wasting two more years of my life – a life that is far too short already.

As such, I am not in any position to lecture my 22 year old brother. He too doesn’t have a clue, but has fewer options open to him due to a) lack of qualifications; b) lack of experience; c) lack of savings. Since returning from Australia in June, he has drifted aimlessly, with no job, no prospects, and an economy that has turned its back on people like him. But at the same time, he appeared unbothered by this, and happy to just let it all happen. The virtues of living off someone else’s back, perhaps. But that is a mean thing to say.

Fortunately, there has been some relief. Last week, on his birthday no less, there was a phone call from my uncle, telling us that his employer was recruiting staff on three-month contracts to work in a major bank. My brother, being the desperately unmotivated person he is, decided he was going to leave the phone call until the next day. My other brother, being somewhat different, decided to call right after he got home from college. 5 minutes later, he had an interview for the following day.

After much persuasion (and anger), Older Younger Brother took to the phone and secured an interview too.

To cut a tedious story short, they now both have jobs. They are short-term, but they could easily be renewed and there’s a very good chance that if they both show up on time, are diligent and hard-working, they will get permanent positions.

I am really pleased for them, but I remain concerned. Older Younger Brother has always been unwilling to engage with normality. He gets up when he pleases in the late afternoon. Fortunately for him, he has been landed with the afternoon shift, though he will still need to at least join the land of the living by midday. I really wanted him to get normal hours 9-5, so that he would finally join us in the Real World. But it is a very good start. I just hope he can find the motivation and self-discipline required, because if he doesn’t it will soon turn into yet another pressure on my parents.

As for Younger Younger Brother, my concerns are different. He is still in college. He is reaching a critical time when exams and the teaching are coming to a crescendo. I too had a job at his age, but only two shifts on Saturday and Sunday mornings. He, instead, will be working the evening shift every day. He is not an organised person, so I’m not sure how he will cope with having to spend Saturday and Sunday doing his college work – days (and nights…) when he normally does his own thing, off my parents’ expense, of course. I have a feeling he just won’t bother, and will end up with poor A-Levels, ruining any chance of going to university, and getting out of the trap that is home family life. I believe he’d be secretly happy with that, because I’m convinced he doesn’t want to go to university anyway.

No one should be forced into education, but I’m of the view that during these terrible economic times, the more you can do to not have to participate in this dreadful job market, the better. He is intelligent enough to go, but lacks the belief that it is “for him”. I understand as I felt the same way. But in the end, it really did do me the world of good as a person.

So it’s typical really. This has been a good week for them, and yet we (as in me and my parents) are still worried for them. The ball is in their court, and I’m glad they’ve had a bit of luck, but they need a lot more.

End Of Year Approaches…

It’s been a pretty turbulent couple of weeks in life lately, so it’s time for a catch up. Not much going on that was distinctly out of the ordinary, but the amount of work I’ve got through has been rather… stressful.

What’s making me slightly concerned at the moment is that there is a notable decline in the amount of the small jobs I do. Small jobs are good for cash flow. They happen quickly, and spread the word. But in the run up to Christmas, my suspicion is that people get computery faults and don’t bother to fix them, preferring instead to save their money for a new one.

We’ll see. But I’m definitely worried about 2012. The latest economic woes are not passing me by. The world is definitely getting more and more tight with money and rightly so. We all want to get value-for-money even in in the best of times, but these days it’s imperative. I know when people quiz me about the relative costs of repair they are weighing up the decision of whether to spend it now or not spend it and get a brand new one. This is particularly true of laptops, which cost so much bloody money.

And in the meantime, I’m still waiting for final news on my Big Contract. If that comes through, I won’t be too worried. But it’s all getting so depressing now.

Meanwhile, the other aspects of life are reasonably good. I am typing this at the moment from my home Up North. I haven’t seen my family in about three weeks, so this is nice, and it’s also very relaxing. In particular, it’s been nice to see my new nephew Nathan again, who looks so much different already. He’s nearly a month old and seems to be getting on OK. My sister and brother-in-law seem to be happy, although I sense that my other nephew is not particularly impressed with being edged out.

Overall though, it’s just good to get away for a few days. I’ll be back here again for a better break at Christmas, but the most important benefit is getting to switch off and do my own thing. For instance, yesterday I spent some time playing around with a software MIDI synthesiser trying to recreate a music track. It was the kind of fun thing I used to do but now just don’t have any time to do it. Physical distance from my actual “workplace” makes it so much simpler to feel less guilty about not working!

One final thought, it’s my brother’s birthday on Tuesday. He’s 22, and working 4 hours a week in a temporary Christmas job. I’m really worried about him, but he doesn’t seem too worried about his own position. You can’t help someone who doesn’t want helping. Hmm…