The Spark

Relationships don’t last. I’ve always been a cynic with that even if my mum and dad can prove the opposite. It’s just not possible, surely, to keep liking someone year after year?

I’m now two years into a friendship with J. It’s not as good as it used to be that’s for sure. There are things that irritate me. I’m sure I irritate him as well. I’m bossy at times, as well as contradictory. He tries to second guess me, which I hate. I need him to be himself. Not the modified version of him.

It’s not easy though. The hardest part is the fact that we just don’t have a great deal to talk about any more. I’ve complained about this before, but when you do everything together, there is nothing to keep the spark going. Conversation and banter keep that alight. Shared experiences can help, but we have to live pretty frugally or we’ll never have any chance to own our own home.

Today I’m off to work on a Saturday, which is not unusual, but what is unusual is going into London for a client job. It’s been about 6 months since last time, which has flown. But the most important thing is that it gives me time away for just a few hours. That’s a good thing. There’ll now be stuff to talk about which is great. Though this train journey leaves a lot be desired. More expensive even at weekend and totally full…

I just worry that in another year’s time we’ll be totally bored of each other. I’ve recently noticed J being more suspicious with his phone (and the less said about what is on his work computer the better). He even has Snapchat these days and frankly no good comes of that. I have asked him about it, but if didn’t go anywhere. I’m expected to be trusting. But in this day and age where in 5 mins or less you could be exchanging flirtatious messages with a total stranger, trust is in very short supply.

Either way, what’s the alternative? I often say, out loud, that I don’t see the point in living. J complains that’s a selfish thing to say. But it’s true. If you’re not really living, just existing for the sake of existence, what is all this stress and futility about?

Stress being the name of the game. Work is stressful. The “other business” is also causing stress too as it’s relying heavily on me and J at the moment understanding there legal and logistical arrangements of building a house. Hmm.  We don’t and all we know we learned from Google…

Sounds like our main business actually.

 

 

President Trump

I resist from being political on this blog, mainly because politics has become something that I despise, despite being in possession of a degree in it. It is just too transparently false. Politicians spend all their time telling us what we want to hear, and never dealing with the issues that are long term: environment and social justice. In that area, the media operates to set the agenda, and the bubble/echo chamber resonates back and forth between outlets. This is what you must think of today. And we do.

The Trump effect, and the Brexit vote of last year, have been part of that nexus, much as everyone likes to convince us that they are sea changes in the way people vote. They are not. They are the reaping of decades of relentless right wing mantras about freedom, privatisation, individuality, and lashing out at the changes that have taken place in our world that people aren’t comfortable with, no matter what they are, or what the actual cause is.

The internet is no better. People say we don’t need the media any more, but after all of the above, those of us who care one way or another largely then go about constructing our own alternate reality on the internet. We follow people on Twitter who we agree with. We read websites, and join Facebook groups of like-minded individuals. Twas ever thus, I think, in my mind’s endless game of devil’s advocate. But this is different. This is now egregious, 24/7, direct access to the brain, swished across our eyes in close proximity by a glowing wand of interconnected hive mind. It is superficially attractive. Like a 2 year old child, sitting and poking away at an iPad, intuitively knowing how to use it. Our brains love it. They are addicted to the prolefeed. This is different.

What makes me wistful is that today is the day we harvest the results of that crop. Today President Obama, a man I placed so much hope in, is gone. We usher in President Trump, a man so vile and so unworthy of such a high office that I do wonder what the point of anything is any more. He has no idea of what it means like to live in poverty, or what racism is, or the scourge of latent sexism that he has again unleashed in people. He’s surrounded himself with a cabinet of billionaires. He will now represent the USA.

But people want this. Just like people want the Brexit – that indeed I voted for – because people want to take any opportunity available now to lash out at politics. The politics that we don’t care about, and, in reality, wouldn’t even miss if it wasn’t there. It’s much more convenient to complain about an unchangeable force. I know it. I’m sitting here doing it now. But it’s because I feel so powerless. We are in this era of nothing, where no one cares, and society has fragmented so much. We have nothing to live for, no greater good, no feeling that we’re part of a movement of change, to tackle impending environmental catastrophe, or international wars and disasters. We can’t do it. We won’t do it.

It’s easier to complain. We have no actual political choice. When one is available (see Corbyn, Jeremy; Foot, Michael) – the institutions of the state and the media make sure they are made to look a fool on a regular basis. Do you know that’s exactly what they do in Russia? A fake political choice is presented. Only one result is accepted.

Trump is not a political choice. Never was. While he was and is a disgusting excuse for a human, he is no threat to the political culture or elite. The media may feign their irritation at being shut out, but they love the drama. The daily soap opera. Brexit is the same. It will not be allowed to change anything too seriously. That is what politics and the prevailing liberal market economy has achieved in its ultimate victory. It continues. The faces may change, but they will never threaten the consensus.

I don’t like making predictions any more, but my main one is this: Trump will change nothing. Brexit will change nothing. If there’s anything I’ve learned in life, it’s that nothing changes. Just different faces, eventually being crushed by the institutions of the State and the media to implement minor variations on the same old nonsense. Capital is power.

Just a shame that this latest face represents a boot being stamped into the face of a human. Forever.

And we love it.

2017

As is tradition at the start of the year, the tradition is to make some predictions. Or, at the very least, some modest hopes or aspirations.

I really don’t feel like doing so any more. I’ve commented before how school and university give life a structure. All being well, you know what you’ll be doing in spring, summer, etc. But that hasn’t been the case for me for almost a decade now.

First of all, what of the New Year? Last night was a tremendous disappointment. As the years have gone by they seem to have all got worse. Last year was bad, but this took the biscuit. The level of illness, still high in Dad, Mum and my older sister, and the general malaise that sets in when you’re not having a proper party, just meant that we sat here for hours doing nothing.

When the New Year came i resolutely refused to go outside, much to the chagrin of J. Mum was too drunk to even notice that I didn’t go out there. In our family we usually go outside into the street and sing Auld Lang Syne. Last year we did it, but no one really wanted to. I wanted to keep up the tradition, a tradition I know my grandad would be proud of. But people only barely joined in last year. This year, along with the general feeling of “this has all just been rubbish” – I decided that I’d stay inside.

No one sung Auld Lang Syne. Without me there it was a non-event. There was no family festivity. There was no fun. I just sat and watched the New Year fireworks on the TV.

And why bother marking it, when it’s all been so shit? Last year was good for me, but not for the rest of the family. I barely go into any detail on their various disasters now. I don’t want to, it’s too depressing. This year will probably be the same, except I feel like it may be worse for the family. There is too much illness. Too much bad fortune. Too much bad behaviour. I look at my oldest nephew, who turns 18 soon, and behaving like a total dick. He can be treated as an adult when he acts like one.

Then there’s my youngest brother, who is also a self-absorbed narcissist. He does nothing for anyone. He doesn’t even wash a dish. Aged 22, he also seems to be encouraging the nephew to be even worse.

Then there’s my younger nephews, aged 5 and 3, who are, frankly, just weird. Strange children, they are noisy and loud, like children should be, and then act like they’re deaf, dumb and mute when anyone walks into the room who isn’t their mum, dad or grandparents. They seem extremely socially inadequate. Could it be because they are glued to phones and iPads constantly playing stupid games? The smartphone era has a lot to answer for. They can speak, but they often choose not to, instead just shouting a noise, or nodding.

So perhaps my first wish for 2017 is actually that my family get better. There is just too much general bad blood and stupidity floating around. Could 2017 please bring some respite from this? I wish my nephew would grow up. I wish my brothers would start to behave like adults. I wish them some good and lucky breaks.

As for me, I hope that me and J can grow closer together. We’ve drifted a bit over the last few months, and it’s all my fault. I will maybe go into detail in the future. But suffice it to say we’re just struggling a bit at the moment. I still love him, a lot, but I need to find a better way of coping with the fact that we don’t really have anything to do with our free time except go out for walks, watch crap on the TV, play games on the TV, and very rarely have sex. The latter is part of my sadness at times. Sex is fun, but most of the time feels dull and perfunctory. So maybe 2017 can improve our relationship somehow…

Thirdly – can we possibly find a different business? I know it’s not going to happen, but for some reason I am starting to feel our days as a business are numbered. I could be wrong. We may still have a good few years at it. But i am increasingly looking for a change. I don’t want to start from new. I want to buy an existing business. I know this is crazy, but I just can’t imagine that I’d like to still be doing this rubbish by the age of 40. That’s a modest long term goal, surely?

Alternatively, I’d settle for making the business less stressful. My feeling is growing that, if not this year then next, we should simply consolidate. No new clients. Just look after the current ones. And maybe close down the repairs angle. If we could manage without the money I’d do it in a flash. Maybe this is a silly idea right now. Money is king. We need to pile up fat stacks of it.

So finally – could maybe 2017 bring a better hobby? A hobby that both me and J can find fun and productive. Something that can bring us together. It might be sport. We both like swimming. Or badminton. Something that gets us out and about, and is reasonable exercise. J is always on about it, in the hope that it will make him more shapely and lose the folds of skin that he’s left with having lost lots of weight since he was a big podge. That amused me for some reason. Podge is funny.

So come on then 2017. Let’s see what you bring…

 

The Year: Reviewed

2016. Oh, what to make of you. You’ve been challenging, that’s for sure.

It’s time to reflect. On this, the final day of yet another year, I sit and consider what was. It was… something, I suppose.

I got older. Really older. 31 now. I look old. I couldn’t pass for late 20s any more, I think. The hair has put paid to that. It has always looked shit, but now even more so. Now it looks more forehead than hair. I jest, but only a little. At least I’m not bald like a friend of mine, same age, is. I’ve got all that to look forward to. Yay!

So too did everyone else. That’s the bad thing. We are all older. This Christmas has been a disaster of sorts. People have been sitting round, coughing, hacking up mucus, sneezing, snotting, being rather muscularly and skeletally challenged. Is skeletally a word? It should be. I like it. But it has been awful. We all look older and tireder. Lots of us look old and frail. Dad hasn’t been well at all this year, and it is frightening. Genuinely, truly frightening. My mum was saying the other day how she thought her parents would live forever. They don’t. I hope it’s not soon, but it is coming. It is tragic.

The year overall… formally, I would say it’s been a Good Year. It could never have competed with last year, which, apparently, was a Really Good Year. I just read last year’s equivalent post. I’m not so sure in hindsight, but hindsight is like that. It makes the greatest things less exciting. It’s make the most horrendous things less shocking. It all turns to a dull, neutral, grey. The entropy of life being stretched out over the months and years.

Why is it a good year then? It doesn’t really look like I set myself high targets. I mean, look at them. They were very modest. One was to keep things going with my partner. Check. Two was for business to be kind to me: this was less good, but overall we made money and are still trading well. You can’t ask for more really when we’re not ambitious about growing it. Third, the “other business” is still here, and still being a PITA. Fourth: the house was a disaster, but never mind. Finally: we’re all still here.

The first and second points are, however, of sufficient weight that they can make things out to be a Good Year. I’m happy enough with that. Much as it pains me, I feel that I will have to modify the way I assess life. Middling mediocrity is where it’s at, because, frankly, anything more exciting is just too difficult to obtain. I don’t get any lucky breaks. We get hammered with shite in our work. What more can we do?

Life is all about accepting that what you were told in childhood: that you are great, you are talented, and the world is your oyster, is nothing of the sort. For 99.9% of us, life is just about getting through it safely, because there is no alternative. We get the odd glimpse of fun and excitement to distract us from the interminable stretches of dull. The every day, getting up, having coffee, having breakfast, going to work, going home, having evening meal, then a sliver of relaxation, then sleep. Repeat ad infinitum.

I wish it could be different, but it isn’t.

We’re here now. Me and J have now been “together” (as we say) for 17 months. It’s so many we don’t even count it any more. We used to do it all the time. We take it for granted. Just like life.

But these modest gains and general stability are actually things to be happy about. We are fortunate to have them. We are fortunate to have a successful and generally quite profitable business of our own. Not many can say that. These are good things, and I am – in my more reflective moments – happy for them.

I just need to remember that more often.

Thank you, 2016. You’ve been OK.

The world outside it: not so much. I mean, David Bowie? Alan Rickman? How could you…

It’s Quite A Long Way

Today we’re, for only the second time as a couple, driving home for Christmas. In the very literal sense. We did it last year and it was great. We’re now doing it again. But yes it is a long way.

We’ve had quite a day. We’ve had quite a week. Which has followed quite a month. Which has been a crazy year. It has been quite something.

Today we rushed around getting as much tedious human stuff done as possible, including a relatively substantial tidy of the office. Stuff that we just can’t get done other days. It seems stupid that we have to sacrifice a major chunk of our day off, and worse, a day off called Christmas Eve, to do this, but such is shitty life.

But we were successful, and the journey home is nearly over, so there is that. And we went on the M62 toll. That was kinda cool, thanks to one of our customers giving us the money to do it.

We’re later than last year. In fact, it’s so late and I’m so tired that I just know I won’t last. My traditions I’ve worked so hard to create over years, the Father Ted Christmas special. The glass of Baileys. The Midnight Mass. The present wrapping. All gone. OK maybe a glass of Baileys. Then bed.

But at least it’s here. Safe and at last. A decent rest. I know families cause stress but hopefully it’ll be OK.

Let me take a final minute to also recognise something else. Today is 12 years since I started blogging. The last two years have been the hardest ever. I increasingly worry that the final post I write will be my last. I don’t get time. I don’t get inclination. I don’t have inspiration. Life is fleeting yet also mundane. I don’t feel the need to mark daily ritual that has become my life. There is nothing outside of my relationships to live for. That seems sad but I think it’s actually the depressing reality of life. We just deny it. Life is truly pointless but we have to live it because we are cowards and shit scared of death. I know I am.

But 12 years of intermittent observation is something to be reasonably proud of. I’ve tried really hard at times, and others not hard enough. I know there’s nothing exciting at all in there despite efforts to the contrary. Back then every blogger thought they were just a few posts away from a book deal. Haha. Imagine how dull my book would be.

I think back to the depressed 19 year old starting his blog. He’s changed a lot. I would offer him advice but he wouldn’t listen.

The story of everyone’s life.

Let me mark the occasion anyway. Here’s to Christmas. And family. It’s why I’m here. And why I return every year.

In A Flash

I know the theme of everyone’s writing is always the same. The days/weeks/months/years go by in a flash. But this year really takes the biscuit. 2016. Where did you go?

In recent months life has been occupied by thoughts of why we bothered to move house in the first place. The process was long and stressful. The result has hardly been worth it, and costs us an absolute fortune. We’re a bit confused as to why we did it now. Though we get more privacy here from nosey neighbours, it’s a harsh trade.

We tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to investigate whether we’d be able to afford to buy anywhere. Apparently the advice is to wait until next summer, by which point we’ll be forced to stay further in this house anyway due to the end of the tenancy agreement. J and I talked and have generally agreed that the next move we make really has to be into a house of our own. I don’t want to have all of that rubbish again just to move into another – what can only be temporary – rented house.

Life is ticking away relentlessly though. I’m now sailing deep towards mid 30s already. I look back at old posts on here and get depressed about how young I was when I was writing some of these things. My life has barely changed and yet everything has. It’s a huge exercise in futility. How to exist for the sake of existing because there is no alternative but death. Much like blogging. We write because we have to. No one really cares whether we do or we do not.

So it’s now December. I look visibly older. J does too, although he looks healthier month by month as the slow but steady effects of no longer being overweight take hold. That’s nice, though ultimately frustrating. I know he has his own mental issues regarding his appearance. He talks about it from time to time. The things that gets him down most of all is the fact that he’s lost all the weight he did have, and yet is left with flabby spare skin around his stomach. It won’t go. It has gone from everywhere else: face, arms, upper chest. It’s like it’s all sunk down below. He’s gutted by it. I wish I could help. I tell him it doesn’t matter to me, but it hurts him I know. Despite all he’s come through, despite how different he must be now to what he was then (I’ve no idea, he has no photos allegedly) – he still wants more.

I think that’s the general principle of life. We know it all too well in our work, which is very stressful at the moment thanks to Windows 10. There’s never enough to satisfy people. And eve when you move on and satisfy a desire, the demands just move higher.

That rings a bell too regarding the other business I’m now only peripherally involved with. Its owner is a happy-go-lucky chap. But his vast resources (circa £80-100k gross income per year right now) are never enough. More, more, more. Christmas. Birthdays. Holidays. Anniversaries. An endless cycle of spending.

It makes the world go round, apparently.

I guess that’s why we aren’t happy where we are and want our own house.

Perhaps we really ought to re-assess. Endless spending is not the solution. It does not make you happier.

I knew this when I was a teenager. Why do I doubt it now?

The Mortgage Disappointment

As anyone who’s the wrong side of 30 knows, living in someone else’s house starts to feel like a bad idea. I don’t know why. Other countries in the world don’t think like we do. They accept that they have to rent, as housing is either unaffordable, or just a ball and chain they don’t want.

I’ve been feeling this for some years, and especially more so this year because moving on to a different house, at a much greater cost, just amplifies how much I am spending on giving it to other people, who in turn are using it to either pay for their mortgage, or profit. In effect, those who cannot afford a house are subsidising the ones who can afford a house. Nice economic logic there.

We thought we’d waste a bit of time seeing if there was potential at buying a house, or, at least, getting a mortgage. How wrong we were. Lloyds Bank hilarious said they’d lend up to £190,000. Great! Then it said underneath it needed a 50% deposit. To say I turned up the cynical snark a notch would be an understatement. The poor employee of the bank seemed to turn into a counsellor. “Don’t be despondent” she said. I laughed and had a go at the system. She then chided me for not wanting to work within a system. Stop being a rebel, in other words. Fucks sake. Well over 30 and being told to sit down, shut up and toe the line.

J took it quite badly. Even though I’d told him to be prepared to be disappointed, I don’t think he realised just how awful it would be. Being told that while you earn enough money, we think that you are such a “risk” that you need to pay for most of the house yourself. All because Computer Said No. Computer doesn’t care that I’ve been saving since I was 10 years old. Fucks sake, again.

This is the society we live in now, where computers, programmed on a human algorithm, of course, are used as the infallible determinants as to whether you can or you can’t. For those the wrong side of the line, we’re told to try again another time. By which point, the rules will have changed, and so too will the context. Every time is another roll of the dice.

We move on. We’ve agreed that thanks to this little hiccup we won’t be moving anywhere next year. Another year or more in this god awful house.

Never mind.

Four Trains A Week

It seems really weird to be on a train again, and four times in one week. These days, what with the fact J drives, and the fact that we also seem to be inseparable without him having a hissy fit, we go everywhere together. Back in the day I would look after our Northern clients by myself, getting there by hook or by crook on the train. Now we both do the jobs together. It costs our clients more, of course, but they seem to be willing to pay it.

It also means, though, that trips away are now quick turnaround jobs. We go up timed to start there, then go back almost as soon as they’re over. This can mean 400 miles in 2 days. It’s not the most enjoyable of timetables, and worse when you consider that it is worth almost nothing to us.

We’ve been coping over the last year with this somehow. Every time we go away it kills us, causes us huge amounts of stress, and 99% of the time results in us coming back to office carnage. Our office admin assistant, who looks after things when we go away, does her best… but generally all she can do is sit and take messages. It makes people feel better, but the queue when we get back can be very long indeed.

This week was no exception. But this week was worse. I sit now writing this post on a train, zooming into London. Today I have a special job with our London client. They’re OK, but rather stressful too at times. But I have already been into London this week, on Wednesday, and that was far more difficult than today. This morning the train is empty, I can sit and stretch my legs, and type thoughtful thoughts (haha). On Wednesday, I stood for the whole journey. Not my idea of fun.

It took quite some convincing to stop J being too depressed about me gallivanting off. That seems to be what he thinks I’m doing. In fact, I’m just trying to earn us more money. This month has been rubbish. We’ve barely made a profit, and for that to just come out of the blue is a little disturbing. I hope it will go away as quickly, but right now we’re left searching for an answer as to why the month has been so poor. We sit around all day getting the flak from our clients when the latest Windows Update fucks their computers over (again) – and it makes us almost zero money each time. There’s very little “good” work out there any more. Or perhaps there never was. We’ve done well for profit this year, except for this month and the last. I don’t get it. We’re not suddenly any different. The fundamentals of life – and computers breaking – don’t change day by day. We’re growing every day in reputation, not falling. So why?

I’ve given up trying to understand it. But basically, when one of our clients who pays pretty well comes out of the blue and says that they need me to come in two, and maybe even three times, in a week, with a guaranteed half a day each time, and all travel costs covered, even making a profit, we have to take it. We have to cope with the demands it causes back at the office, but we must take it.

So this week I’ve actually had some time on my own. It’s been refreshing, actually. Time away from J actually makes me realise how much I do love him, and miss him when he’s not around. It makes me less snippy. I can be snippy at times, especially if I’m in a mood. It’s not his fault that I get snippy over stupid things that happen. I am much better at managing my passive-aggressive sarcasm than I used to be, but it’s not always easy.

Primarily the benefit of being apart though is also that I get some time alone to just think about things. I rarely get that any more. Together I sit and worry about us, and our future, and money, and not being able to do anything fun with our lives. Apart I reflect it’s not all bad. We have each other, and for now we have a relatively stable life. We don’t have any friends, really, just business acquaintances and other miscellaneous hangers on. But we do have a really strong bond, that has had almost no blips at all this year. That’s pretty good for any couple.

Last time I spent so much time on trains I was travelling back up North on my own. I spent all of the journey no doubt chatting to J because he was so depressed about me being away that he made himself feel physically ill. He doesn’t seem to cope with it well at all. It worries me. But it all seems so long ago now. Back then was the final time we agreed that I would go away up North without him staying back here to look after the office. It’s not exactly been easy, but we have coped.

It’s been an interesting reminder as to how things used to be. Not quite the same, but still, an insight. We are stronger now… I think. But we have a long way to go mend each other’s insecurities.

Perhaps we never will.