More Death

It’s been another traumatic couple of weeks.

Several years ago I had a call. This guy sounded pretty arrogant and unnecessarily assertive. But he was just down the road, and I could help, plus it was a business I hadn’t been to before. And, he was calling me on personal recommendation. So I had no choice. Not that I ever say no to work that’s within my comfort zone. Anyway, I went to meet him – the proprietor of a small shop selling pies, etc – and I sorted his problem. He was the same in person, but I was my usual polite and charming self that people who know me professionally always compliment me on (personally, I’m a real misery)…

A few months passed, and a call again, this time for a new computer. That escalated quickly. A week or so later, new computer is delivered, I set it all up, and he asks me about problems he’s having with his business. As a digital child – a marvel to elderly folk like him (he was mid 60s) – I have all the answers, and soon I am his go-to guru. Within months, we are setting up digitised bookkeeping (making his bookkeeper redundant, technology is harsh), I am advising him on auto-enrolment for pensions, we’re doing the payroll, and he’s learning how to enter the information himself.

It takes a year or more, but we establish a rapport. I know from experience that he comes across to most – and me at first – as a miserable so-and-so. But it is a defensive screen. He is a hard-nosed businessman, and doesn’t let anyone come near unless he knows they’re not trying to take the piss. Then he is generous and amusing. Always ready to share stories of his past, always passing on bits of information, sometimes good, sometimes not so good (his sexism no longer fit for the modern era). But if you were fair to him, he would be fair to you. He knew he took my time, and insisted on setting up a regular series of payments, regardless of how much of it he used, so that he knew he was always paying me. I think he did better out of it than I did, but I was happy for the regular income, in a business which is very ad hoc.

Eventually I would say we become friends. I knew a lot about his life, and his ways, so I think he had no choice to keep a friend close. But he would always ask how I was doing in business, and offered finance if I had any good ideas (I never have in my entire life, sadly) – because he could afford it, and he liked a challenge. He could be annoying, and by Christ trying to help people with problems on their phone or tablet whilst also speaking to them on the phone is bloody hard, but he was always unfailingly grateful. I was usually happy the call was over, but I was his connection to the world outside of his little one, on his boat, away from everyone. Even his daughters (and the less said about his estranged wife the better).

Two years ago it was clear his business was in a decline. Selling food freshly made on the high street is tough, when the competition from the major players is fierce. You need a niche. He didn’t have one. The store was old and tired, and desperately needed an overhaul to make it look light and modern. He had long passed retirement age. It was time to enjoy it.

He shut the shop down, and decided that was it. He was to spend his days on his boat, sipping (or glugging) red wine, watching Netflix, Amazon Prime, daytime TV, and enjoying the sunshine when it rarely appeared. He’d worked almost all his life for himself, and had a decent pension, a decent bank balance, regular rental income and three properties collectively worth over £2m, thanks to that wonderful thing bestowed on all of his generation: massive property price inflation/great timing/luck.

The empty shop was a thorn in his side, but he would pop up and down from his boat (60 miles away) to check up on it. Otherwise, he left it to me. I was given a key, and asked to sell off bits where good offers came up. I became his caretaker. He kept on paying me, despite not really needing me any more. But he insisted it was only fair for keeping an eye on things, and forwarding letters. I agreed to keep an eye on his e-mail too, as he had a habit of sometimes missing things, or he would want me to cast an eye over one he’d written to his property managing agents, etc. It was simple, and kept us in touch, staying friends. It was nice to hear from him every now and then. We usually spoke at least once a week.

Over the years he tried to get rid of the shop. The list of timewasters was as long as your arm, including some real stains on humanity. But two years later, it was still empty. He had finally lost patience with selling off stuff, but in the end it was a good deal. He paid to get rid of the remaining unsold junk, and the shop became barren and unoccupied. Old and useless. In desperate need of attention.

Then out of the blue a new offer. Lower than he would like, but it was time to get rid of it. This was in the era BC (Before Covid). It all went on hold. It was extraordinary bad luck, again. He cursed it, and wondered whether he would ever get rid of it.

Then – good news – the government said all retail premises could have free business rates for 2020-21. Crackerjack! £600 a month no longer in the toilet. Surely the shop would be gone by March 2021?

Two weeks ago I noticed, after a few days, that he didn’t seem to have read any e-mails. Bizarrely, I think the last one he read was about Covid 19. But he hadn’t read one earlier from his agent? A bit odd, I thought. I tried to call him on the Thursday. There were thus four days of unread e-mails. I got no answer, but it was ringing. I tried again. I sent a text and said I would call again the following day.

I did. Ringing again, but no answer. I was worried. Still no e-mails being read. I then saw an e-mail from his daughter, saying they hadn’t heard from him, and is he OK? Now I was alarmed, so I decided to share what I knew with her. She – 100 miles away – sent someone local to check.

On the Saturday morning she asked me to call. I thought that that must be bad, but it can’t be too bad, otherwise surely she would have not replied at all? I rang, my heart racing.

He had been found unconscious and clearly very unwell on his boat. It wasn’t clear what had happened, but they didn’t suspect Covid. He was in a bad way, and they had taken him to ICU on a ventilator, with suspected sepsis.

I was sad. And worried. Why did I wait so long? I should have raised the alarm on Thursday, when there was no reply. I had his daughter’s e-mail anyway. But it didn’t matter, I thought. At least he has been found, he’s still alive, and now can recover. And when he comes round, he’ll know that I saved him! His paying for me to monitor his e-mails saved him…

The days passed. No improvement. Days turned to nearly two weeks. His daughter e-mailed to say she was worried, but at least he was now stable. He was getting good care and they were keeping positive. Still, they had no real idea how it could have happened. A fall? Too drunk one day and stumbled and hurt himself and couldn’t get to the phone? The perils of self-isolation, something he did Covid or not.

Yesterday, whilst enjoying my bank holiday Friday doing work (ha!) – I had an e-mail. He had died. He was just too far gone to fight it. I was ready for bad news, but it was still a real sadness. He didn’t deserve to die in such an unfair and undignified way. He had barely enjoyed anything of his retirement. And still the pang of worry that had I said something on the Thursday – well, who knows either way?

He is another sad loss this year. I will miss his chats, his sense of humour, his useful advice, and just generally having some social contact outside of my usual ways. He taught me quite a lot, and, though his ways were dated, and his knowledge not quite so relevant any more, he was, and is, what happens to most of us on a personal level. It’s a cautionary tale to me, of spending too long working, and not enough enjoying the fruits of my labour. Of how we all end up past our expiry date, saying how things were better in our day, and imploring the next generation to listen to our advice, but lamenting them not doing so. They could learn so much!

I feel so sorry for his family, as I know that he wanted to take care of them directly, and wanted to do so during his life, but now can’t, and won’t live to see the benefits he was going to bring to them. There will be bickering between the estranged wife – who will probably automatically get all of his jointly held properties – and the daughters. He wanted the money to go to them, so they could pass it on to the grandchildren. But now his wife will have it all. Sure, she could still share it, but he basically wanted her to have no more…

He had been planning on updating his will, which is probably about 25 years old from what I understand. He never got round to it, due to time and penny-pinching. Another cautionary tale.

I’m upset that he will no longer look out for me, either. It was nice to know he was there, sending me money in return for help. I had a sense he wanted to take care of me once everything in the shop was sorted, in recognition for going beyond the call of duty on many occasions. Shovelling pigeon shit out of a gully was worth more than my retainer. Many times over.

As you age, life becomes a procession of deaths of all the people you knew and cared about. I fear I have reached that point.

RIP Mr [redacted]. You will be missed.

RIP Keeks

It is fair to say that nearly 15 years ago was not impressed by the family’s decision to get a dog. I knew it would end in being another stress on my mum and dad. I hoped my brothers and sister were being sincere about their interest and would help out, but I had a feeling they wouldn’t.

It turned out Keeks (not her real name) was a bit special. In the head. She was over protective. Over possessive. Miserable to most. Cantankerous to many. Wouldn’t play fetch. Adept at stealing the ball and never returning it. Probably autistic. The list goes on.

Yet everyone loved her. Even me, eventually. She won me over with her grudging respect for me – most of the time – and in that year I spent at home after university she was my company most days. I taught her new tricks, and stupid useless things like conditioning her to get excited at the Star Trek theme. I would sing it every time her beloved Mamma came home. She went crazy then if you did it out of context. It was a lovely and amusing bond between us.

Sadly, she is no more. It had been obvious for some years that she had arthritis and was limping badly. It must have been painful to live with for years. She couldn’t get up stairs any more (her escapology used to drive me crazy in the mornings) and it was sad to see. Every year I have wondered if this will be her last, but this year, post Christmas, I really did think it would be. I stroked her, which is something I never did as a rule, and cried. I knew it would be for the last time.

Last week she started bleeding – again – and this time the vets said it was very serious and will cause her a severely painful death. Mum had booked a trip to the vets the day before yesterday and when the phone rang I knew it would be bad news. They said it is cruel to ignore her suffering. Mum took her home to say goodbye to everyone – with Covid’s curfew going out the window – and it was severely distressing. I saw her over WhatsApp and said my goodbyes, but she wasn’t paying much attention. It was horrible. But the pictures and videos flowed, she had a good send off.

Yesterday was the end. I knew I would be sad, but wasn’t expecting it to be that sad. It was hard to process, and doubly so when the stupid work phone kept ringing. J cried for the first time I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know what to say or do. I just knew we would never see her again, and J absolutely loved Keeks, probably more than I did. He was mortified, and I had to stop him from wanting to drive hundreds of miles yesterday…

But I shouldn’t be surprised really. She’s been a part of our lives for nearly 15 years. That’s a whole lot of memories. A horrible reminder of time going by in the blink of an eye. It seems like yesterday but she really did only used to be tiny and would bounce around chewing people’s toes and getting her head stuck in the garden gate, necessitating a call to the fire brigade. On Boxing Day…

I feel most of all for my mum and dad. The dog has been an ever present for years now, in the revolving cast of characters that makes up a family home. She’s always been there, and you act like she always will be. Then suddenly she isn’t. They are both in terrible grief and I wish I knew what to say.

So long Keeks. It was lovely to have known you and let you win me over. Our family has a huge hole that will never be filled.

COVID 19 – One Month On

After my last post, which I have just re-read, I wondered how we might survive.

Of course, I knew we would, somehow. I am lucky. I am not poor (though not rich either) and am well accustomed to spending long times on my own or with the other half. In some respects, sitting now in the sun beaming through the patio glass, enjoying its warming rays, you might even be forgiven for for wondering what all the fuss is about?

But, as I said, I am lucky. I have food in the cupboard and the freezer. I have money if I need to get more. Sure, I’ll have to risk it, and spend inordinate amounts of time queuing to get into supermarkets, and then struggle to pick anything because I can’t make a decision without J… but if it had to be done I would do it.

There are those who aren’t so fortunate. Many have died, more than should have, and it’s clear that there are big questions to answer about the government’s strategy (though apparently everyone still wants to vote Tory). There have been job losses, and there has been a crash in the economy. I feel so desperately sorry for the self-employed cleaners, hairdressers, coffee shop owners, pub landlords and so on… the personal service economy was eliminated at a stroke, and no one is bringing their money back. Their businesses may never return, especially if they have clients who go bust through lack of income. The true depth of economical damage is still to be appreciated.

But I am lucky. Or maybe not lucky, just that I don’t spend all my money. I could do so. If I wanted to I could shop more expensively. I could furnish my house lavishly. I could have hobbies with high price tags. I could learn to drive and have a car of my own. I could travel extensively. I do none of those things, making my life less interesting, but meaning I have savings. I sacrifice myself, out of a fear for the planet, and a fear for my future. I live a tedious existence, feeling anxious over Netflix subscription costs and a TV licence. It should be one or the other, right?

But such is the limit of my guilt in normal times. Even expensive tastes, such as a latte and a chocolate square from Costa had to be jettisoned once that little combo crossed the £5 mark. Now I get a standard coffee and a cookie from McDonald’s at half the price. And even that fills me with shame about the unsustainability of it all.

To only worry about these things shows my privilege. I am comfortable, and I can eat. I am taking limited risks, and therefore hopefully won’t get sick. My business has taken an 80% nosedive in turnover, but I am not worrying too much. I hope that what I do is resilient enough that we will still be in demand whenever this is over. I can’t last forever, but my frugality and spending anxieties mean we could ride out two years and keep paying ourselves our normal modest income.

So I am lucky. I would like to be enjoying the current weather somewhere nicer than my grotty back patio. But hearing motorbikes scream along the A road, its rider clearly not interested in the rules, unbothered by the sacrifice the rest of us are making so that they may continue to be healthy does grate a little…

Then I sit here and think… well what would I be doing instead? It’s a good question that for now I don’t have to worry about answering…

COVID 19 – The World Changes

These are strange times we live in.

Earlier in the year it was obvious that the situation in China was serious. I hoped that if anyone could lock everyone down and stop the spread it would be them. Tragically, the modern world and its endless flights of fancy meant it wasn’t to be.

On Friday night this wretched government finally threw in the towel and told leisure venues to close. Again, it had been obvious – well, to me anyway – that that would need to happen. The government have been too slow to react. Same with closing the schools.

Then there has been what can only be described as constant carnage in supermarkets. Empty shelves, and no fresh food by the time I visit at the end of the day. Are we supposed to starve? Meanwhile, we let the supermarkets decide who is important, and let them enforce it. Newsflash: we did not elect these people, and we shouldn’t be relying on their calls for people to be more considerate. People are panicking because of lack of leadership, and not knowing what is going to happen. They want reassurance, they want certainty, and they want authority. Endless  begging emails from CEOs asking people to give up their delivery slot and go to the shops themselves won’t work. People need to eat, if they are frail or not. At the same time, those CEOs are laughing all the way to the bank, with intense profiteering operations currently underway (cancelling all long term multi buys? Yes please!)

Meanwhile, it was obvious to anyone with any intelligence that businesses were going to struggle. And struggle is an understatement. Frankly, anyone in retail, leisure and hospitality is about to get, if not already, creamed. There was always going to need to be the need for massive government intervention. But don’t rely on these pillocks to realise it. They only worked for Goldman Sachs.

There is a common thread here. Only a government can provide leadership. Only a government can provide the certainty of clear actions backed by law. This government instead chose to pursue some wild idea of herd immunity, right up to the point they realised it could cause 250,000 deaths.

This shower of awful thinks it knows better, and that the free market will provide. They are pathologically and politically opposed to intervention. It isn’t in their DNA. And we are all paying the price for it. The daft thing is that, apparently, we don’t realise it. We think a daily stream of bullshit, delivered by the prime minister in an unfiltered wave of sloganeering in front of hero worshipping journalists, unquestioning in their loyalty, and then distributed the next day through a gushing media, is a substitute for leadership. Warm words are no substitute for action, and action is severely lacking.

I fear that it will affect my business. It has already made me severely anxious about friends and family, and how our lives have suddenly become much more distant and dull, essential though it is. My free time, which was often spent sipping coffee in various haunts, has been cancelled at a stroke. I knew it was risky going to them, and I spent most of it paranoid about every nearby cough, so perhaps I’m not missing much. Then it was on to shopping, which was a joke, battling fellow worriers for provisions. But we have to get food somehow.

This weekend things seem even worse. There was even less on the shelves. Will we have enough food to go around if it’s all gone by 9am? Seems like I’ll have to start shopping before work in the morning, if I’d like to eat and keep living. Not all of us can do that. When will the government act?

Worrying times. I hope we can get through it quickly with minimal deaths, but the way this government act: too little, too late, I doubt it. What a time for this country to have picked a buffoon and ideological charlatan as its leader.

Bombay Bicycle Club, Bournemouth, 2020

I don’t do much exciting, but one of my presents from J last year was two tickets to go and see Bombay Bicycle Club. A band I have had had fanboy moments over for many years, but usually in waves. Of course, when they announced they’d split years ago I was a little disappointed, but didn’t think anything of it. I knew they’d be back. I was right.

The new album is good fun. It’s not as good as So Long See You Tomorrow, but not much could be. I’m probably one of the few fans around who think that was actually their peak. They matured as they aged, and there almost isn’t a bad song on it. The earlier stuff is raw and energetic, belting indie rock at times. But SLSYT is clever. More adult. So as a smart arse, it was always my favourite.

So going to see a band that I have not full knowledge of the back catalogue was always going to be risky. I made it my duty to look at old setlists, courtesy of what was my temporary obsession setlist.fm, and looked at what tracks they played regularly, and made it my duty to learn more. I wasn’t disappointed, in fact, found some new ones I now love, and reminded me of ones I had a passing memory of.

We left work early – leaving the office in the not-capable hands of our (Tuesday only) assistant – eagerly listening to the playlist I’d made of the likely setlist. Spotify badly let us down, but what else is new. We snacked on car goodies, sugar caramel chocolate squares, and I tried again to remember all the words to Eat Sleep Wake.

We arrived early, very early, dressed wholly inappropriately for the freezing conditions, but very much appropriately for a sweaty gig. I had found a close enough car park for us to walk the last 2 mins, and we pre-gig feasted on McDonalds veggie wraps, courtesy of a deal that day. Everything was looking good for a Good Day.

We finished and joined the queue, but where was everyone? I couldn’t believe my luck, we were first, and we were only there an hour before the doors opened. Me in a long sleeve t-shirt, J in a short sleeve. It was freezing cold. Genuinely. I had never been so cold. But it was worth it.

First in. At the front. We waited patiently. The building itself was also freezing. Even the support act complained how cold it was. They were good fun.

It soon warmed up when BBC arrived, playing Eat Sleep Wake. I think I remembered all the words, and then for the rest of the gig realised how few lyrics I knew for the other tracks, especially considering it was basically my set list with a enhanced bit in the middle. For someone who actually prides himself on how good my memory is for song words, I felt embarrassed.

The band were technically stunning, especially as it was still early in the tour at the time, but you wouldn’t have known it. The song choices were great, and well balanced going from noisy to quiet. And they did the fans a good service by only playing about 1/3rd of the setlist from the new album. They craftily introduced a brass section to many of the songs, and it worked well, especially for Feel, maybe one of my favourite songs.

There were a few issues… I know BBC are hardly an outgoing band, but they had basically zero audience interaction. If the lead singer is shy, which he is, then you normally need your guitarist to step up to the mic. Instead they let the music do the talking. No messages. No patronisation. No jokes. No local quips. Just music. You get what you paid for, in other words. But I didn’t feel much of a connection, despite standing basically one metre away from them. I’m not really asking for much. Just to feel like I’m part of the clique. BBC are that type of band, after all.

Maybe standing at the front didn’t actually help either. I’m the type who likes to jump a bit, but I didn’t feel I could, cos I’d block others. People to the left and the right almost remained motionless throughout, and I’m really not sure why they were there. Some wanker tried to push in, when there was no room to push into. I resisted, and he went away. Behind me looked more lively, but actually I might not have liked that either. You can’t win, in other words. I didn’t feel too involved in the moment. I felt like it was my own private moment. It didn’t feel like a shared experience. Maybe it didn’t need to.

Then there’s the behaviour of other people. I know gigs are pretty wild sometimes, but BBC really don’t attract that type of crowd. Or so I thought. Drinking pints of vodka, chucking it into the air at any moment. I was fortunate not to get drenched at this gig, which I have done at basically all others, but that was only through the happy accident of where I was standing. At the end of the gig there were hundreds of discarded plastic glasses everywhere, with their formerly-held liquids all over the place. Not nice. I would have been pretty fucked off if any of that had ended up on me. I know people like to lose their shit, but they really don’t care.

The gig ended at a very respectable 10:30, BBC only having come on stage about 9. I suppose that’s enough for most people, and we had to rush back to bed, arriving just before midnight. The musical experience was amazing, I just wish I had spent more time learning the words to sing along, and I wish the people near me seemed like they actually wanted to be there. But I suppose in a toss-up between boring bastards and drink-swilling louts I suppose I know what I’d prefer.

For days afterwards I was heavily ear-wormed by many of the tracks, including Home By Now, but at the irritating lower key they did it in. I still can’t shake it now. But I did shake the blues loose.

For a short while I then wanted to go to another of their gigs. But no, once in a lifetime is probably enough. They were fantastic, and anyone who loves their music should see them, you will feel right at home. But I can’t honestly say I would like to see any other band. J and I discussed it on the way home and several times since. I don’t like anyone else enough. And I wouldn’t want to go to huge venues. This one was just about right. But too far away to make this a regular spot. Such is the delights of living where we do.

Bombay Bicycle Club at the O2 Academy Bournemouth, 21 January 2020. Were you there? What did you think? I’d say 8.5/10, and really one of those points wasn’t their fault (the people around me), but what can you do? I think being at the front perhaps is both a blessing and a curse…

Busy Day In A Busy Week In A Busy Month

It has genuinely been a little… overwhelming since the turn of the year. I knew we were coming back to lots of work. I didn’t quite expect how much.

I write waiting for a train to leave. A baby train with only 2 carriages. But thankfully it hasn’t started in London so it’s not so full. I’m on my way home, on a journey that started two hours ago which has been elongated due to that usual weekend nonsense, the engineering works. Deep joy.

Today I’ve been installing a new computer at the home of one of our business clients. They are hard work at the best of times, but there is enough value In it to justify the day being ruined on a Saturday. I left the house just after 7am and expect to be back at 9pm. Fortunately the client very kindly paid for an evening meal at a pub, such was their gratefulness at me devoting the whole day to them.

Of course, the day didn’t start so well when I arrived to discover I had left behind a vital item. A one hour delay later, I returned with the necessary USB stick. It went smoothly after then, except for the client not knowing passwords, etc. Then the mass of emails to be sorted. All very dull and predictable. We know in our game that when we think we have finished, that’s the point you add on another 2-3 hours, and sure enough if happened today.

i feel fairly ok though. I think the reason is that getting to this point has been my focus for some time. The past three weeks were already pretty full, and then they got even busier. Thank you Windows 7 and Microsoft for generating lots of extra work! But it has been one scheduled day of madness after another, and when days are already scheduled to be full, that’s when the phone rings and catastrophe is guaranteed. I’ve had a few of those of late, feeling utterly harangued by endless interruptions, double calls, voicemails and call backs. It’s brain spinning, and then you look at the Fitbit, realise it’s nearly lunch time (1pm) and you still haven’t had that wee you were thinking about at 11am, let alone made yourself a coffee. It’s horrible.

So knowing this period of madness is all but over is a great relief. It’s going to be busy next week too, but the major obstacle is over, and that gives my poor brain some feeling that recovery is imminent.

Meanwhile, the train plunders on, cutting through our completely signal-bereft countryside, demonstrating how poor our country’s infrastructure still is, 10 years after I realised this on my first train journeys back and forth between Home and Other Home. We like to think of ourselves as a clever and advanced country. We aren’t. And that will never change while we keep voting for muppets.

But keeping busy stops me from thinking about all that shit. And, just like I always say, I don’t have to like people to take their money from them. In fact, the Torier the better. Tory surcharge? Yes please. They can go and fund my very own private infrastructure projects instead.

There’s Never A Good Time

Over the Christmas break, as ties with my family began to grow stronger again, I began to feel like it might soon be a good time to finally be honest with them and do the horrible task of admitting my sexuality/nature of the relationship with J.

In all honesty I’m sure they know… maybe. Mum and Dad seem like they might not know. I reckon my siblings know. They wouldn’t care. I don’t think my mum and dad would either, but it might still be a little surprise to them. Me and J have done what I think is a pretty good job of being very distant at home. In fact, it all comes a bit too easily to me. Worryingly so.

But there is never a good time to come out. There is never a good time to interrupt everyone watching Coronation Street and say, “oh by the way, I’m a screaming bender!”. There’s never a good time to gather everyone together for a family meeting, because a) that’s lame; b) everyone would be suspicious; c) actually, logistically, it is totally impossible.

There is just never a good time. What is one supposed to do? I have no intention of doing this again and again with my family. It’s agonising enough as it is. I want it to be a one off, done, dusted, forgotten about. I don’t want it to be memorable in any way. I don’t want people thinking about it for years. It really isn’t important to them.

So the thought has come to my head that I will do it in writing. It all seems a bit dramatic, but it also removes the emotion. It allows me to structure exactly what I want to say, without interruption, get it all over in one fell swoop, and not be available for questions. Because this isn’t a discussion, or a debate. I feel I owe them all an explanation, so I will give them some detail, but – also – I don’t want them to keep it. I don’t want them to see it as something to put in the memories box. No. It is to be shredded after reading.

Even this plan is difficult. If I post a letter, I will be in utter anxious agony until it arrives and is read. Days of waiting. And what if it arrives at the worst possible moment? What if something stupid happens, like illness, and reading the letter makes things worse? And who does the letter get sent to? Do I send one to everyone? Nightmare, reading all at different times.

So then I thought – how about a special WhatsApp group? Could be. That gets it over with quickly, and even gives a mini forum for people to respond. And as everyone’s together, they can’t be too critical. It’s very modern. But is it treating it right? What if one person reads it, then calls the other, who hasn’t read it yet? My thought was also rescinding the message once it’s been read so people can’t keep it, but I don’t think that’s possible.

Then there’s the complication, I would be outing J as well. So my thought was that we have to do this together. Therefore I have to involve him in writing the letter. Painful.

I am guessing they’re more likely to think J is gay because of the way he is. He’s more… camp isn’t the right word, but he has a very soft personality. He comes across as a bit limp, and I often worry that when we’re in public his behaviour can draw too much attention to two fellas sitting in a McDonalds drinking coffee. I value my physical safety, not something I’ve usually ever been worried about, but since being “gay” I have increasingly become concerned. But I digress.

But then when should I send this message? Evening, weekend, when people have more time? Or should I rush it out during the day so that people will read it and forget about it and get back to work? And should I tailor it? A different one for mum and dad, a different one for the siblings? Do I get mum to tell the rest of the family for me, because, frankly, who can be bothered with that shit? What a palaver.

What a truly horrible moment this is. People talk about how it’s liberating to reveal the truth, and I’m sure that once we have this bollocks over I will feel more comfortable, and will finally be able to allow parents/family to visit (not that there’s much to visit), so logistics and stuff will get better. Things will get easier. I think. I am making the assumption we will be accepted. I’m sure we will. We’re a modern progressive family, right?

But I’m not planning on changing. I don’t intend to, when with mum and dad, sit next to J and cuddle up on the couch, like I would in my own home. No. That’s just lame. I don’t want to shove this in people’s faces. I hate it when anyone does that, of any disposition. Mega kisses in the public, touching each other up, it’s crass. There’ll be none of that. In fact, I don’t think I want to behave any differently with them. It’s not that I’m ashamed, I would be exactly the same with a member of the opposite sex. It’s just not appropriate.

Time to get it over with. Is this what 2020 is for? Is that what I was sort of getting at in the previous post?

But then, disaster struck. I thought, well, we’ve had a good Christmas, and I’ve left, and am safely back home. How about now, when there’s the maximum time before I go back, and J won’t be there either for some time? So yeah. I need to discuss it with J to get the ball rolling.

J then succumbs to a chest infection. A whole week of coughing fits, zero sleep and terrible energy levels.

There’s never a good time to come out.

 

 

 

2020

What a decade. We break life up into chunks as it’s easier to digest as a human, and the quirks of our psychology for liking convenient round numbers. So it feels like a real milestone…

I remember the last major milestone. I don’t remember the one to 2010. I do remember 2000. I was at a party with family and feeling very awkward about the female attention I was receiving. There were family around and it didn’t seem appropriate. With hindsight I do wonder, but I also know I was definitely attracted to girls, and still am to some extent. Anyway…

But here we are. The Millennium now a distant memory. The idea that we were entering into the future was exciting as a 15 year old fascinated by technology. There was something magical about that huge calendar change, and I felt really lucky to be alive at such a time.

In reality, however, each calendar thrown into the bin is no different to the last. And just because I happen to have binned 10 in a row, there’s nothing different going to happen. So I remain entirely cynical about new decades meaning new phases in life for people, the country or the planet. In truth, it’s too late to save the latter, and we’re all quite chuffed about it (see Donald Trump’s stubbornly high poll ratings, or the UK’s election of a clown).

I woke this morning from a minor very small gathering of family. It had someone there who I hadn’t seen since they were 6. They are now 18. What a way to remind you how scarily short life is. My immediate family were there and my Nan too. It was nice to see them all, as always, but I fear for all our futures. I wouldn’t want to be young these days.

So every year, having suddenly got really old, I now make the same hopes and semi-predictions for the year, that we all navigate it safely, and somehow have our lives improved for it. My parents are suffering with health issues, and my Nan very much so. Even the dog, which is now as old as the hills, surely this year is her last?

My nephews, all of them, have their own ways. They are crazy, even the oldest one, at the grand old age of 20, and I have no idea how the younger ones will survive this horrible planet once they come of age. The older one is already showing them how not to do it though, so perhaps they’ll learn quickly…

As for myself, after last year’s spectacular prediction failure I don’t want to say anything. But – with my joining of a certain political party at the last stroke of the year – maybe this year will be a highly charged year. I haven’t really got any interest in attending events, and I am perpetually terrified of campaigning, so I don’t think it’s for me. But I like to think I might chip in somewhere. I’m trying to be optimistic, when in reality I know it will all end in disaster, like all politics.

What else can I say? I hope that somehow me and J can repair the damage done last year. We seem to be often at odds over the slightest things, and I swear I am losing some of my own comprehension abilities. I blame work but I’m sure I could pay more attention at times.

So perhaps that’s a good one to end on. Try to pay more attention when people are speaking to me; try not to drift off and hope it will all work out in the end as recent experience is telling me otherwise. Let’s aim for fewer misunderstandings, and try to communicate more clearly. Don’t assume that just because I know what I want to say that others do. It’s a bad habit I have, and I then get annoyed with them and myself when the inevitable conflict occurs.

Overnight I had a stressful dream. I was back in my secondary school, desperately trying to find a classroom for my next lesson and not being able to do so. I was carrying lots of books and they were all heavy and I just wanted to find it. Eventually I arrived at the Spanish room and found they had doors on them that said they wouldn’t open unless you were having a simple conversation in Spanish. I did so and inside was my old Spanish teacher who did his usual sarcastic wave. I wasn’t looking for that classroom and carried on walking through.

I then woke up. I’m not sure what it was all about, but either way it felt like I was trapped. Wondering aimlessly with a destination in mind but no way of getting there.

Sounds familiar. And that will be the story of the decade.