The Easter Family Gathering

Every year Easter comes and goes. I used to make it a point to go back home for Easter, especially in the early years of living away from home. But in recent years, with the relentless rise/decline (delete to taste) of my work life, I have instead preferred to stay at home in the South and enjoy four days away from work. There are not enough of those. And I always thought I see my family enough anyway when I come North for work.

But this year, now that my evil Client from the North has sacked us for spurious reasons (see previous post) – there is even less need for me to ever see my family as the visits I do have dropped off a cliff. In some respects, I am relieved. I was tired of doing this anyway, and we were going to bow out gracefully, allowing everyone to save face. But instead, it didn’t happen.

So now, here I am, up in the Northern counties again, at home, with mum, dad, J, my youngest brother (who is back living at home thanks to various nonsenses involving a new house, moving out, an ex-girlfriend, and unsatisfactory explanations for everything), and my nephew. The brother and the nephew are thick as thieves, and have so far conspired to keep my awake first by getting takeaways delivered in the dead of night, and then talking (mumbling) for hours and hours whilst playing computer games. The brother is 24 this year, and seriously needs to grow up. The nephew is 19 soon, and is also seriously being misled by my brother. Not that he needs it. He’s taken up residence here, and now my mum and dad have a serious handful to deal with. He is angry, aggressive, ignorant, dozy and, worst of all, a serial liar. I do not feel comfortable with him around, and I have to say I don’t even recognise my own brother any more.

So, suffice it to say, it hasn’t been the family reunion I had been looking forward to. I hadn’t seen my mum and dad since Christmas. My other brother moved out in January, and he hasn’t been seen or heard from either. My older sister is busy looking after my other three nephews (two of whom are demonic, and the third will no doubt get there). And my younger sister hasn’t come home for Easter as she’s off on holiday. It’s good for her as her other half earns a very decent income…

Life is strange. Families are even stranger. J is not enjoying the experience (except for the dog, whom he loves) – and my mum and dad seem very stressed about everything now. It’s not what they needed. I’ve told them that if they can’t make the brother move out (which would also dispose of the nephew) – and there’s no reason why he can’t, he earns decent money – then they need to sell the house and downsize. It would be sad, but it needs to happen. They went on holiday and came back to a shit-tip, and complaints from the neighbours about noise and parties all night. Yes I know 24 and 19 are the ages to do these sorts of things, but my mum and dad don’t deserve this. They’ve done their child bringing up years. They’re now having to babysit moronic young adults who don’t know they’re born, with the opportunities they’ve had, living a middle class existence sheltered from actual, proper hardship. The only hardships they suffer they are now bringing upon themselves in their negative attitude to everyone.

Perhaps I am unfair. I was never like them. Neither was my other brother. But I think that’s because we appreciated what we had, and tried to build on it. My other brother took a long time but I think he’s now getting there. Though, sadly, I will now be incredibly distant from him.

Happy Easter. At least there’ll be some chocolate to console me.

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Cathartic Client E-mail #1

Dear FORMER CLIENT OF 9 YEARS,

Further to our phone call earlier, and having had time to compose my thoughts, I felt I would like to write back with a formal response.

I recognise that no contract has ever been in place between our respective organisations, but I was happy to allow this on the good faith understanding that you have always treated me fairly, and I have done everything I possibly could over the last 9 years to look after you as a client. To dismiss me and my business with no notice shows this was misplaced – a mistake on my part.

As I said on the phone, I reject your premise that we have not been sufficiently attentive. I have always responded immediately to every call I have received, I believe the same is true of J, and I have always done everything in my power to make sure that CLIENT was looked after. I can cite three recent phone calls from CLIENT’S DEPUTY MANAGER and CLIENT’S RECEPTIONIST where problems were investigated and dealt with the same day.

You said that you didn’t feel like you could call any more, but you have never once detailed any concerns about not being able to reach out to us. You have never asked for us to visit more often. How can we possibly have known that you were unhappy if you had not communicated with us? I thought we had a better working relationship than that. I could understand budgetary concerns – it is a very harsh financial climate for education out there – but, again, you didn’t express these either.

I am sorry that after such a long time of looking after your school you felt it necessary to offer us no notice, no warnings and no opportunity to change or improve by any clearly definable standards. IT has become an extremely complicated world, with dozens of moving parts, interconnected and overlapping, making fault finding and resolution a slow and often frustrating process for all concerned. Your repeated explanation that “there are many niggly things” is categorically and comprehensively so vague that it leaves me bewildered as to how I could possibly respond.

You would not, and could not, treat one of your staff in the same way that you have treated me. I would never have expected it from you in any case. Perhaps I misjudged that.

As I said, we were planning on discussing with you towards the summer an amicable hand over. We would always have wanted to give you several months notice not to let you down. I’m sad that the reverse could not have been extended.

A genuinely upsetting and disappointing end to nine years.

 


 

You will no doubt not be surprised to learn that the client never responded. I would like to think that that means they thought I had them “bang to rights”. No doubt their holier-than-thou attitude defended them from that.

Liquidity Issues

The word “liquidation” always sounds odd. Especially when considered in its usual context involving failing companies. Liquidation is the dissolution of a corporate structure and the disbursement of anything left to the creditors.

The emphasis is on the “anything left” portion. There is generally nothing left. In fact, if there is or was anything to begin with, it goes into the liquidator’s pockets. That’s capitalism for you.

The issue is quite high on the agenda at the moment primarily because the “other business” in the office, the one that I have been moaning about for five years now, is approaching liquidation. It has been living on borrowed time for the last five months or so, but it has always managed to scrabble together enough money to buy off the worst creditors over that period. Now there is nothing left, and it really can’t.

It leaves me feeling very nervous. I am personally owed money by the company, money which I foolishly personally guaranteed. The company owes money to my own business. The owner of the other business still owes me money personally. It is all completely farcical. I look back and think I should never have allowed myself to get in this position, but life can’t really be like that. My life has been down many interesting twists and turns as a result of the fateful decisions of five years ago to support someone I didn’t really know all that well at the time. I’m not sure what the hell I was thinking. Maybe I was just bored. I just read some of the posts from the time. They were interesting, and I did recognise it was a big decision, but I was thinking about my business, not his.

To be fair, the money that I’m about to lose is offset by the money that I have gained over the years. Not by much at all, and it is a pittance in comparison to the £300,000 or more that my alleged business partner has taken, either in salary, fake dividends (“transfers”), cars, fuel, insurance, subsistence, you name it. Kids joining a kickboxing club? That’s £400 right there.

I should be exceptionally bitter about it. But I can’t be. It has led me to where I am now. I am generally bored with my work, and my own business, but as long as I don’t get too many days where I get one call after another, and basically don’t leave my desk or computer, then I can deal with it. There are enough interesting people and nice customers. They just about offset the bad ones.

But there are hard times ahead. I’ve been dreading this moment for months. My alleged business partner (MABP) has plundered all the money he can. I am worried that, even though my name is not connected officially, I am still on the bank account, and still could suffer in some way. J worries with me that a bailiff or someone will arrive in the office and want to steal all our stuff, just because we share an office with another business that is being liquidated. It could easily happen. HMRC have already come knocking for MABP.

When it all finally goes pear shaped, there will be recriminations. I have to be strong enough to move on, and hold the line against MABP that I have spent 5 years on this, it’s all gone wrong, and I can’t do it again. It is affecting my sanity. It is affecting my life. My partner is also struggling with it. It’s made him ill recently, I’m sure of it.

We will get through it, but I don’t think the current arrangements will survive. We will either have to leave our office, because we can’t afford the cost on our own, or we will have to find someone else to sublet to. There is really no other option, as I cannot see how MABP will find the funds he needs to get started. I won’t be doing that again. The ledger of debt against him proves that one.

But it will be very difficult. Very difficult indeed. He will plead with me for money to tide them over before payments come in. He will do everything to persuade me that I must stick with him. But I don’t owe him a living. I’ve done that for five years, babysit his company and his ambitions. They have come to nothing. I have to move on. He has to move on.

The car crash has been unravelling in slow motion for four or five months now. I have seen the writing on the wall for ages and been trying to make as many danger signs as I could, but MABP just wouldn’t listen. It was all about the pipeline. The pipeline will save the day.

It won’t. It didn’t. And added to the whole thing a farcical drama involving a wanker masquerading as an investor, who spent weeks pretending he was interested and then brought the whole process crashing down with an odd text message accusing someone in the company of feeding him negative information about the company. Utter bollocks. And strangely vicious. Who would lie like that rather than just bow out professionally?

None of it makes sense. But then again, none of it ever did. It was all done on a hunch, and has changed direction at least three times. It was all back-of-a-fag packet, in an attempt to go from 0 to 100. He never wanted to grow organically and service contracts in a controlled manner. It was always one crazy scheme after another. All the while wanting to look like the big MD in his big corporate branded pickup truck (known as the Dickup Truck in the office) – dipping his hand in the till whenever he wanted.

It may – hopefully – soon be over. With, hopefully, a graceful way out for everyone.

We might then be able to get on with our lives…

These New Year’s Resolutions Were Not Meant To Be

This year I have, apparently, made several resolutions. None of them I’m keeping, but oh well.

The first was to try and be more positive. Life is not usually worth living, and there are dark moments everywhere, but actually for me my life is generally quite acceptable. Work puts me under serious stress, but I’m not dealing with life or death here. About the most distressing a day gets is whether or not I have fucked up someone’s computer, or worse, lost all their treasured photographic memories. That alone can be awful, and it’s happened before, but, at the end of the day, it isn’t important. Not really.

Whilst I would be sad if I lost all my old photos, I would also wonder what it is I’ve lost. I look at them now and think, oh, that’s depressing. I used to smile OK. I had more hair. All bad thoughts. Would I really miss them? There are so many in fact that I might just go – oh, I can’t even remember what was there. Tragic. And I don’t even look at them anyway. I looked at them just now for the purposes of this paragraph. Point proven.

So the resolution to be happier should be an easy one, right? Be more philosophical about everything. Be more zen. Be more Buddhist. There is nothing supremely bad. Or supremely good. It’s all just a bit meh. So stop overreacting to the fact that the phone always rings when I’m on the phone to someone else. It just is. Deal with it.

It’s been a total failure. But at least I have made a conscious effort. So maybe not a total failure. I’m just more upset that I bothered to make a new year’s resolution. That is always definitely a conscious effort I make to avoid.

The second resolution has been to try and leave the office on time, especially at weekends. 1pm sharp, gone. This needs to happen. It isn’t. I may have improved on leaving times by a few minutes, but today I was there at 7am, and, though I left at 6:30pm, that’s still an absurd length of time to be working.

The third resolution has been to try and get back to being a bit more active. Whilst moving house to as far away as it has has had its advantages to this point, I am definitely getting a belly. Not a fat belly. Just an ageing belly. It sags now. Also, my eyes are developing lines. And my hair is just a joke. I could try and get back into the sit up regime that I used to do, but I have less time now. I’m spending more time in the morning doing crappy pre-office paperwork. See Resolution 2 and its general failure.

The fourth resolution has been to find something different and fun to do in leisure time. As always, this usually has to involve the other half. J, I think, would like to join a gym and all that jazz. I wouldn’t. I hate other people. It’s also embarrassing. I would rather us spend more time together doing fun things. That might even involve more time having sex. What a weird thing to say. But sex can be a fun mutual pastime. We didn’t get enough of that last year. I know he agrees too. But life and work make us both miserable at the end of the day at times, and that is hardly conducive to the mood…

4 semi-resolutions. 4 semi-failures. I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of them right now. That’s probably because I’ve broken them and conveniently forgotten them.

Good.

2018

I started writing this cheating… at the time it was not actually 2018 yet. I was in a Travelodge somewhere in the Midlands. I’ve never been here before, but we decided that we’d spend some time away before going back. Well, about one day away anyway. So I wrote this bit in advance…

It’s time to look ahead. The new year should lead to some changes. This year things cannot stay as they were. The world is different now – politically I mean – and it makes me somewhat stressed as to what is coming. Trump is a madman, and I cannot see how that situation gets any better. I think it will get worse before it does…

In my own life, I have to find something else to do. Work cannot stay as it is, because it’s too depressing. I need to be able to exert some control over it, which is something I haven’t been able to achieve in many years. I am not sure what I can do though. I wanted to sit back and have a good think over this period, but it hasn’t happened. And J doesn’t seem very inclined to talk seriously about it, only to say that he agrees that “it’s over” as far as our current business is concerned.

The trouble is that we have a certain standard of living to maintain. That sounds ridiculous I know, and I am hardly last of the big time spenders, but I do enjoy my treats. I like spending some money on coffees and nice bits of treats. We’re going to a zoo today, which will involve similar things. It’s not like this costs a fortune, but if I was earning any less (and we don’t really earn much) I would be really worried about where the next meal was coming from. And I’d start becoming obsessed again with buying cheap crap from the supermarkets… I’ve had that moment before.

I hope J and I keep going strong. We have things we could improve, but having our own home should make us more secure and more comfortable. We are getting there.

Family-wise – that’s the big worry. I’m not sure what the future holds. There is so much illness around in my dad, my mum, my family in general… Nan is, of course, the biggest. And I am sure I’m going to start feeling more and more worse for wear. I don’t like the way my face is getting liney. I can see there is now more eyebrow than there used to be. And my hair is still the joke it has always been. Mid 30s are here to stay.

Is there anything that could improve with these things this year? It doesn’t seem so. Biological processes can’t be stopped. My eyes are worse than they were… I would be very worried about trying to learn to drive a car without glasses now. That’s crazy. I don’t wear them from day to day, but I do feel better wearing them. I don’t have to squint and strain to read road signs or just generally read the conditions. Perhaps I should, but they do make me feel a bit awkward at times.

I hope that this year J and I finally find more interesting diversions to pass the time. Netflix is all well and good, but it is extremely stationery. The trouble is after work you don’t really want to do anything else. I suspect the future lies in some sort of exercise related activity – more walking, mainly – chiefly because J is concerned about the flab he still has. I must admit at times I think I’m getting a bit podgey again too. I used to do sit ups in the morning, but now I tend to sit and read e-mails and do boring admin things for work. Joining a gym sounds expensive and dangerously close to bumping into the kinds of people I don’t like. So what can we do instead? We need to get our thinking caps on for this year…

It’s now the 2nd of January when I finish writing this. The 1st day of the year started with chores, nachos, beer and TV. Lots of music, thanks to a program on 4 Music which played every single Number 1 of the decade so far. As a former chart and stats nerd, it was good fun. But my relationship with J has forced me to move on from things like that I used to enjoy. I think I tried his patience at times. I need to learn this year to be a bit better at being less bossy…

Here’s to 2018! Let’s see what you got.

The Year of (Some) Surprise

It is that time again – what did the year shape up to be?

As usual the best way to look at that is to see what this post or it’s usual start of year equivalent said.

What’s interesting is that for years I have generally been predicting that hopefully, one day, I will afford a new house. This year, in the year I actually did not only reach the point of being able to afford the ridiculous deposit on a house, but more importantly, managed to convince a bank that I can definitely afford a mortgage payment of £750 a month (they would not take the monthly rent payment of £995 into account, wankers) … apparently, I had no such aspirations or predictions that it would happen. I think the strains of moving earlier in the year had made me feel like I don’t want to be doing that again in a hurry…

Life is strange at times.

I usually start my reviews with a conclusion. Never bury the lede, so they say. So I suppose for that the year has to be a Good year. Arguably, it should be a Very Good year. I mean, why not? Don’t we all aspire to home ownership? That’s what society tells us you need to have been a successful Adult.

I had started to lose interest in it, and since becoming an owner-occupier (I like bandying that one around as it sounds comical) I have definitely realised all the down-sides of the whole thing. I mean, so far we must have spent several thousands (borrowed, of course) on putting right some of the crappy things in the house. And there are so many more to go. So much for saving money by paying less than renting. So far, that dream hasn’t been realised…

So that’s why it’s not so good. It’s great to have security. It’s great to have the comfort of knowing that there is no immediate threat to chuck us out that could happen at any time if the landlord sold up. Yes, it’s a bit of a strange feeling, but that new place is now mine and J’s. We can do what we like with it. Within reason, I suppose. I mean, there is a tipped up plant in the garden that has been like that now for weeks, and we’ve left it like that and just went away for 9 days. That kind of stuff is so lame it can wait. I’m sure the neighbours love us.

Looking back though, the real problem with this year was that my worries about the family continued to come true. I am as distant from my brothers now than ever. My older sister too. My younger sister not so much, but it’s difficult to keep in touch these days when everyone is so busy. She’s even bought her own house this year too, which is great, but it’s just another reason for people to be so busy to engage with each other…

The less said about my nephews the better. My oldest nephew continues to drift, and it’s really sad to have spoken with him recently, and he tries to talk and act like an adult, whilst still being incredibly dense about life and what to make of it. I feel really sorry for him, and worry that he is heading into oblivion, but there is nothing any of us can do. He won’t listen. He won’t change. He wants to do his own thing. He is dragging my mum and dad into nonsense, and his mum (my sister) has basically washed her hands of him. It’s terrible because I can see what happened to my nan and grandad regarding my cousin, who basically became an extra grandson for them at a late age… happening again with my own mum and dad.

As for my other nephews, the youngest is still too young to be worried about, but the other two continue to be weird. Maybe they’ll grow out of it, but they’re just strange. They ignore you when you talk to them, and they appear to have no social skills at all. I hope it doesn’t happen to the youngest one as well. Transfixed to a glowing screen, prodding it and thinking Plants vs Zombies is a suitable parental replacement.

Then there’s the illness of my nan, worrying me about the frailty of life, and how we really are now entering a time of constant decline. Dad isn’t great either, and Mum’s continued “forgetful” behaviour does worry me a lot. It’s hard to know when she’s being serious.

As for me and J – well, we end the year probably on better terms than we did at the start of the year, if I look at that post again. We are, I think, a great couple – but the year has been stressful for us. We have achieved a lot with the house, and continuing to survive in this modern economy when all you have is your own skills and personality to keep customers coming back to our business is hard. I feel the stresses of it very highly now. I know he does too. We’ve both decided to “do something” about it, but what that is we don’t truly know. Personally, we are close, but not as close as we have been. We’ve lost an element of the fun that I think our relationship used to have. It’s ok though – we’ll survive. We have to, we own a house together now…

2017 – you were an odd year. Filled with surprises, ups and downs, but overall you were good. I’m sad that my family is disintegrating, and we are all more distant than ever, and illness is creeping up. But I think that’s just life, and everyone deals with the same thing as you get older. The only thing I can control is what I do – and I think, having managed to scrape together significant pennies on some bricks and mortar at long last, in spite of the problems it’s brought, that we did OK!

De-Stress That Christmas

J is being a pain. This is the day we’re going back to my home. The home that I call Home, even though I haven’t lived there properly since 2009. Wow, 8 years.

But J is being a pain. He is constantly stressing about the time to leave. We have so much to do, he says. He’s right. But we don’t need to travel as early as he thinks. In fact, there’s no need to. The later it is the better it is…

It’s time to go home. Again. But this time there are many points to make:

  1. My nan has not been well. She had a mini-stroke recently, and her future has preoccupied my thoughts. I’m also worried that she won’t sound like how she did. Strokes change people in many ways, not just physically.
  2. My family in general are not as healthy as they used to be, and we’re all getting older. Older and more distant. My brothers, I barely bother with them any more. My older sister either, and my nephews are so distant and so odd in the way they have been brought up with technology I don’t even know how to engage with them any more.
  3. I am getting too old for this. I have had another long year, with long hours, lots of work, very little fun, and no holiday at all. Again. I don’t recall the last “proper” holiday I had. Going home for Christmas doesn’t really count, fun though it is. But I can’t keep working all year round without breaks. It is killing me.
  4. This year we have more time. We have an extra day before Christmas day, thanks to the quirks of the calendar. It has been useful for our own purposes – i.e. work – but it also lost us a bit of extra time we could have done with to get jobs out the door.
  5. People have really fucked me off this year. People are causing me to be sad. The reality of life is acceptable. People are not. There was an incident involving a client on the last day of work, in the after hours, all because her autoresponder was turned on 30 minutes later than planned. We are not these people’s slaves. They are not paying us for that.
  6. There actually is more time than you think to do everything you need. J needs to learn this, and stop being stressed out by the fact that the to do list is long. There are two of us. We don’t have to do everything simultaneously. He is learning this, and learning to accept that we don’t have to be joined at the hip…

The worry list could go on. But there doesn’t seem much point. It’s very unlike me to be perfectly relaxed about time, but if I have learned one thing over the last few years it’s that – for a large quantity of life – it is going to happen anyway. Whether I’m back at 5pm or 8pm really doesn’t matter. We have stuff to do. We will do them. And we’ll get back at whatever time that might be. It’s not worth the pressure or hassle.

We’re travelling back now, having achieved a shout out on Radio X, after getting thoroughly fucked off – as usual – with Radio 1’s pathetic efforts. Definitely a sign of getting old.

As a final note – this blog is now a teenager. It too is getting old. It too is filled with all the same things, observed endlessly, stressed and pored over until its meaning is lost. It is beginning to lose its way. I, on the other hand, never had any “way”. I just kept making it up as I went along.

Basically the only thing I’ve learned in life. Everyone is doing the same. We don’t really know how to do any other.

Absence Makes The Heart Grow Fonder…

It’s been a funny few days. It doesn’t seem like a Wednesday – in fact it seems like a Friday – but it has been a week of some progress.

On Monday J was deputised to drive hundreds of miles to go and stay with my parents. It is easier that way. He goes up North and does the up North visits. He pretends to be me and stays with them. They complain that they never see me any more. I am somewhat sad about it, but also not so. I can’t drive, but J can. If J does the trip it’s far more efficient for us both as a company and as a couple. If I go away and do it I’m gone for days, totally at the mercy of the trains (which are total shit these days, and ridiculously expensive) and J suffers badly. He does not cope being here on his own. We’ve done it before and it involves much moaning about being unwell. At least this way he’s kept busy…

So I’ve been getting used to my own company again. As I type he is on his way back, at long last, after a very very long day spent playing with an old customer’s new 2017 27″ 5K Retina iMac. Since J loves Apple and all its wanky products, he has been in his element. Even more so, the client made him both lunch and dinner. How my family would laugh at me. That’s dinner and tea where I come from. But lunch is very unambiguous. Dinner less so. But saying tea might make people think I was talking about a cup of tea? I’m sure he had one of those too. Or many. It was about 7 hours he was there…

Has it made my heart grow fonder? Yes, I suppose it has. I have missed having him around to talk to. But I haven’t missed being the master of my own domain. My music selections (no embarrassing Toto – Africa please) and my food. I even treated myself to some cookies, which I wouldn’t normally do if he was around. We try to stick to a fairly rigid schedule of desserts, not for my sake but for his… he has a bit of spare flab from when he used to be quite fat, but it won’t go away now, even though he’s lost all the weight. The body is a cruel thing.

I also haven’t missed being able to set my own schedules. I’m afraid that if I had my way I’d be asleep by 9pm and up at 5am every day. I am a morning person. I get so much shit done in the early hours, sometimes even before I get to the office. Get that kettle boiling early, have a shower, have Weetabix and peanut butter on toast and I’m sorted by 6am.

But J does not work that way. I get up first, make the sandwiches for the day and then return to bed with the coffee. We then sit in bed for 40 minutes or so, sometimes chatting, sometimes just browsing our phones. He takes some time to warm up. I have not missed that…

I wonder whether absence makes my heart fonder of anyone else. In truth, not really. I was already fond of dad. Mum has become more distant as the years go by, and I don’t know truly why. She’s never been the same since Grandad died. And my siblings, if I hear from them it’s usually only to co-ordinate presents or if one of them wants to borrow money. It’s truly sad, but I think it’s just what happens when everyone grows up and has lives of their own. I’m not interested in their lives, and they aren’t interested in mine. I don’t like my brothers’ partners, I’m sure they don’t like J (not that they officially know he’s my partner), and my sister’s partners are also very meh. It’s the age-old in-law problem isn’t it.

Anyway, things will be back to normal tomorrow. Christmas is now stressfully close, whilst still being a safe distance away to give enough time to plan. There are only a few presents left to get, but still many presents to wrap, and also lots of Christmas cards to prepare, in the annual game of “who is going to pretend they were always going to send you a card all along”…