2019

I don’t like to make predictions any more. Life is becoming scary. It’s too short anyway, but now I look into the future and think I genuinely have no idea whether I will still be alive in 12 months time.

That is a daft thing to say, I am hoping, but it is true. This last year has seen quite a bit of loss, many of it tragic. I have no reason to believe I’m ill or feel in any way like I am so. But it could happen. I have heard too many scary stories this past year, and suddenly entering into a new year, where my older sister will be 40 this year, is terrifying.

There’s nothing any of us can do about it, of course. We have to carry on, and cling onto what we have.

I have to try and enjoy life more this year. I say this every year. I say I have to find new work, new hobbies, new diversions. They don’t happen. Some years I even say things like, I really mean it this time.

The trouble is there is hardly any way to make it happen. Being coupled makes it tougher, as J can’t cope without me for more than 5 minutes. If I want to do some reading, I feel guilty that he doesn’t have any, or is just sitting playing Pokemon Go. There have to be more fun things we can do together than sit and watch TV.

I read a lot of stories about achieving financial independence. One recently someone by age 39. Not far off for me. He talked about reaching that magical crossover point when income from investments exceeded actual income needed to live.

I think about that all the time. It has always been my dream. It was shattered when I bought a house, but maybe that will eventually work itself out. I hope it’s a case of sending money into the future to be retrieved later. Somehow though, I doubt it.

Anyway – I looked at my own finances (well our joint finances, which are partially covered by the fact that J is secretive about his) – and realised that typically we earn about £1200 a year in interest. Then I worked out that we need about £28000 a year to live, survive and be reasonably comfortable in maintaining our current perks of life.

To get from £1200 to £28000 on current returns would need something of the order of £2m saved. That’s never happening. Well, certainly not this year anyway.

So 2019 will not be the year I achieve financial independence. But it might be the year that I try on the path. I’ve talked to J about us trying to invest our money in stuff. Not that we have money to spare, but we could spare a few hundred pounds of month. You got to start somewhere. Apparently, it’s “really that simple”. I know it isn’t, but the internet likes to make out it is.

What they don’t tell you is that people who achieved it were probably saving £4000 a month, not £400… because they were in jobs paying £90k a year or more. One article I read actually did say that, and casually tossed around the numbers like “well yeah, isn’t everyone earning at least that?”

2019 will be a year of utter disappointment, then. I will not get anywhere. I will not change what I’m doing. I will not earn a great deal of money. I will just carry on existing, and you can possibly call it living if you like.

This year will also be a year of sadness. Things will go wrong. People close to me will be ill, and possibly even die. I sit and worry about my younger but not youngest brother. He has lost his job again, and now has nothing and might even lose his flat if he doesn’t find some new income soon. It must be depressing for him. My parents aren’t getting any younger, and my mum definitely is not the person she was. She sits glued to Facebook, craving adulation, sharing nonsense and engaging endlessly in crap interactions. She is forgetful and distant. She thinks it’s the “change” – but we all worry it’s something worse.

My gran is frail now. My mum and dad’s dog, who I’ve struggled to like for years, is now quite old and slow, and looking at her fills me with sadness. I have even grown to like her, and once she’s dead I’ll be mortified. Is that a tear in my eye? Who’d’ve thought it…

My nephew is still a lost fool, and tries to impress his mates. I heard him on the phone yesterday. You’d think he was talking to his gang mates, brought together as blood brothers, bonded for life and will do anything for them as they would do for him. It’s an odd form of togetherness. He doesn’t know that they are totally unimportant. If he found himself a proper job, doing proper work, somewhere away from here, he’d never speak to them again. But they’re all chavs together, and it’s the best feeling in the world. Odd really, because he didn’t behave anything like that when out with us the other day.

My youngest brother I have no idea any more. My youngest sister – she will be OK, as she seems to have found someone who will look after her, even though he’s a bit of an idiot. But I guess you’ll never get the approval of in-laws. Twas ever thus.

So 2019 will not change anything. Probably neither will 2020. I’ll just get older, more bitter, more cynical, while being less engaged with life, and definitely less healthy.

So that’s a lot to look forward to.

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2018 – A Challenging Year of Change

2018 – what happened to you?

It’s a strange thought that all of a sudden the year is over. It only seems five minutes ago we were basking in the glorious sunshine of the wonderful summer we had this year. Even less time ago when I was sitting writing my post wondering what was going to happen this year, sad that Christmas was over and that it was time to get back to reality.

Well here we are again. 14 years since I started keeping this boring journal. I wonder how many others from that early era of blogging are still “blogging”? Most people have moved on to Instagram and Twitter. We never did really have the attention span to sit and read what others have written for page after page, year after year. No one’s life is that interesting.

But we have important business to consider. How was 2018? It’s tough, because I can make a very credible case either way. As usual, I look back at what I wrote at the start of the year and once again wonder what I was smoking.

There are many, many reasons why this was a Bad Year. My own life took a quite serious turn for the worse when the “other business” that I had apparently given up writing about finally came to a head. It was a double-edged sword. We lost a big client, and I also feel like I lost a friend. But I have gained a lot of time, and my work life is now very different. I am back to now focusing 100% of my work time on my own business. That has been good and bad. Bad because my own business is fucking dull, and good because it has given me back vast amounts of work time that I had lost, and a cross that I had been bearing for the best part of five years is now gone.

But overall I still think all of this had been Bad, because realistically my former business associate had had some good and profitable moments. I am doubtless richer for his involvement, despite him notionally owing me £10k or more. I have been recompensed for much more than this, but he never did pay back his personal debt. I’m not willing to forgive it, but since the man is now a bankrupt there’s not much prospect of him bothering, no matter how many times he says to me he will still sort it out one day.

I feel sad for him and his family. They have always lived in cloud cuckoo land when it comes to finances and life. They will suffer for what has happened. And I have too. I have lost a decent friend and a business ticket to excitement. I can’t say I haven’t had an interesting ride. But it is now over.

My family have suffered. My Gran is a shadow of her former self, now preferring to stay in her bungalow all day. My oldest nephew and youngest brother plague my parents, forcing them to consider selling our family home, which would be a tragedy on many levels. Part of me is being selfish. It is comforting knowing there is always a bed for me here. It would be lost forever. There would never be family Christmases again. This year’s was actually quite good, but it can never meet up to the expectations any more. My younger sister left so soon after Christmas to go back to work. It was all just very sad.

My relationship with J is not really as good as it should be. I’m still a bossy boots, and he is still as secretive as ever. It seems to get harder and harder to break down that wall. We still sit around just watching Netflix when the day is over. We still have no real hobbies, and we still have no other activities to fill our time except driving to get coffee somewhere, or walking into town. The tragic loss of our favourite coffee shop (replete with fine muffins) has also been a bitter blow!

My own work is just the same as it was before. In fact, now worse, because I focus exclusively on crap. There are no entertaining side projects or deviations that can arrive. We sit and react. I watch my e-mails with horror and sit terrified that the phone might ring, despite the fact that each call and each e-mail is basically how I earn my money. I have been doing this so long now that you would like I should be used to it, and back myself every time. But when the IT world has been changed so much by how truly terrible Windows 10 is, I start to wonder whether soon there’ll be anything left for us to do. People hate computers, and are dumping them for tablets and phones, which are unfixable and make us no money. The computers left are being ruined by Microsoft’s Windows 10, which makes every job a total nightmare, for the lottery as to whether or not you’ve actually finished fixing it…

So I still have nothing else to do, despite writing at the start of the year that I must do so. It’s tremendously bad. 10 years ago I could not really have imagined I’d still be doing the same thing now as I was then. Whilst IT has changed a lot in that time, I am still, at its heart, a computer problem solver. The tools of the job just change, and I just get older.

I think I have also lost something this year: my mental acuity. It’s been going downhill for a while, but I have definitely noticed that I’m now far more forgetful, and more unfocused than ever. I keep wondering whether I need to increase my B12 intake, hoping there’s a sensible explanation for it. There isn’t. It’s just getting older.

Meanwhile J has had a struggle this year, trying to make his accountancy practice sideline become something more than a sideline. He hopes that is his ticket out of IT. He might be right, but it will take a long time. Nothing happens in business overnight.

Out in the wide world, politics is totally mad (Trump still here, but now fucking unhinged) and our own politicians are tremendously bad (May) and sadly lacking (Corbyn). I have learned a lot about MMT in my free time, which has fascinated me with the realisation that we are all just so wrong when it comes to the economy… but it has been for interest only. It will never gain traction, and it will never achieve anything. Our media and our world is just too blinkered.

I should focus instead on the few good things that happened, and each time I can note that I was an agent for change in each one of them. Christmas – fun, and good times were had in the brief moment we had. A trip to a safari park – organised by me, involving a big chunk of the family. A great day out. A trip to a nearby city with J – at my suggestion, and we had a really nice day out.

The rest of the year was just a dark and depressing hole. I increasingly feel like Christmas is a metaphor for life itself: a brief flash of light between two infinitely long voids. But unlike life, Christmas comes back again and again. Never always the same, and each time an opportunity to live it anew. But just like life, distressingly short.

So what of the year? I think I would have to remain on the fence on this one. It was an Average year. It had its depressing bits, and its sad bits (including the death of a client who became a friend: RIP Bob) – but I’m still here. I’ve had some nice times. My family are still around, and struggling on as they always do. But my nephews are getting better, and my sister is getting married.

It wasn’t all bad then.

If there’s been one theme throughout the year, it has, instead, been a simple one. Change. Change for the good, and change for the not so good. I can either sit back and watch it happen around me, and complain bitterly about the things that are changing that I cannot control (politics, other people’s lives), or I can make it happen, one small victory at a time, in my own life.

I just need to remember that all the time. It is not so easy.

Christmas Is Different. In Parts.

Different is not always good, but different is what we have now.

Christmas used to be held upstairs. It is now held downstairs. As children, and even until as recently as five or six years ago, we would all gather around my mum and dad’s bed to open presents. We started getting a bit old for that.

Now we have it in the living room, and for the first time ever last year, my gran came around. Seems strange that she never had before now, she only lives around the corner. Seems really obvious with hindsight, but as usual she didn’t want to be a burden.

This year the quirks of the calendar fell in such a nice way that realistically I had three days off from work before “proper” Christmas began. But I forever tell myself, Christmas is more than a day. So now we’ve reached proper Christmas. But prior to this we’ve been listening to Christmas songs all week, even last weekend attending a Christmas carol concert, wrapping presents, writing cards, visiting people out of the blue. It’s been a full on attempt to make it feel like a really good part of the year with lots of things going on. I have enjoyed it all the more. A little bit different.

J and I blitzed (well, sort of… J doesn’t put huge physical efforts in due to his various illnesses) the office and the house prior to leaving. It didn’t feel like work, but it went fairly well. Things will now be less stressful when we return. We will be able to come back and not worry about the shit tip that is our office. It was starting to become embarrassing when customers visited. J stressed, just like he does every year, that we were doing too much and we should be relaxing, and that we need to leave immediately for my mum and dad’s house, from which I now write this dull reflection.

Another difference this year, I finally met J’s dad and stepmum. It was a chance encounter that came about deliberately. J hasn’t seen his dad for nearly four years. It was time to break the ice, and it was broken via a joint “celebration” of the anniversary of his mum’s death. It was all tragic and sad, as usual, attending the cemetery, but afterwards his dad seemed like it was his best Christmas ever. He was a nice man, and I’m glad to have met him. It all seemed a bit weird and bit awkward, and for some reason I still have this horrible buried part of my psyche that really struggles with being openly a couple in front of others. I doubt I’ll ever get over it. It’s like exposing a dark secret and awaiting people to judge you on it. I suppose I must get over it soon. In reality I don’t think people give a shit. His stepmum seemed as bad as I thought she would be based on what he told me. But it’s over now, and it might get easier…

Different this year too, my brother has lost his job… which is sad because he doesn’t seem to get anywhere in life. He doesn’t get any breaks at all.

Also different – there is a guinea pig next to me squealing away asking for its breakfast. Poor thing.

But mostly, things are the same. I am actually quite grateful of that… I think. My mum and dad are here and OK. Less ill than last year. My brothers are still distant. My older sister is getting on with her life and her family. My younger sister is getting married next year. We’re all jsut getting on with it.

And we’ve had a nice Christmas Eve. No Midnight Mass to wind people up (that is different) and since we got here early we’ve been able to sit around relaxing, listening to music, watching crap TV and laughing and joking with this little portion of the family that’s here. It’s been really nice.

It was nearly time for bed (having made it to midnight, again, very different for me. I thought I’d look in my work e-mails for the final time for a few days at the end of yesterday. Nothing of interest, except someone e-mailing, replying to a quote I had sent three months previous, asking when I would be available over Christmas to carry out a job I’d valued at £10.

Why, I wonder, did this person thing that I might be reading my e-mails at 6pm on Christmas Eve. Why did they think I’d make myself available over Christmas for a shitty £10 job? It’d probably need to be worth more than £1000 for me to even reply. And why… after waiting for three months to reply, did she do it on Christmas Eve?

Some things will never be different.

The “Birthday” Month

Ever since I’ve known J, I’ve chosen to celebrate my birthday in November. This creates an oddity of having two birthdays a year. My family and everyone else have theirs in the actual day. Then we have a separate one.

This has caused me a bit of confusion over time, as this year I felt for the first time that I’d like to put it back to normal. J knew my birthday as the November one from the outset. I just wanted to move it, and that was what he knew. But thanks to various family nonsense, it became untentable for me to insist we carry on just celebrating it in November. Obviously, my family only want to celebrate it in July, and I’m not prepared to argue with them. They wouldn’t understand.

It does, however, mean November is a busy month, as it starts with J’s birthday and then moves onto mine. Then there’s the pre-Christmas excitement once it’s all over on the 22nd. Basically, November is a month of buying presents and planning fun things to do for the next month. It works out quite well, as with the addition of Black Friday to the UK calendar, it means there can be some decent bargains to be had. New clothes, going out to nice places, eating out a lot. It’s all good fun.

So although I do feel like it’s a bit weird now to have a fake birthday, and J just ignores the July one, I actually get to enjoy two bits of adulation during the year. Talk about prima donna esque.

I’ve also tried to start a new tradition, as each year before Christmas I try to meet up with my younger sister, who lives about an hour away now, and have a day of socialising. This year we went to an out of town shopping place and thought about Christmas presents, had coffee, wondered around, and then finally went for something to eat in the evening. It’s all relatively easy and doesn’t cost much. J seems to like going along with it too, as he gets on OK with my sister, unlike the rest of my brothers and nephew.

The other great thing is that once all that is over with, it’s really just Christmas around the corner. I know it’s still weeks away, but it will be good fun (as long as everyone is healthy, which isn’t guaranteed after recent years) all being under the same roof. I might even have an alcoholic beverage, which is something I haven’t done all year. Me and alcohol just don’t mix. Never have.

But it’s good to be excited about and look forward to something. It doesn’t happen enough in my life. Christmas generally – at least for now – retains a magic and fun that I wouldn’t have otherwise. I have to keep it going and I look forward to it all year. As much for having a few genuine days off work without people hassling. Well, maybe. Some of our customers are right arseholes.

Anyway, it won’t be long now…

 

Did Anything Happen?

Weeks and months just roll off the calendar like nobody’s business. I am increasingly alarmed about how quickly we’re all getting old, and there’s nothing anyone can do to stop the relentless march of time.

I can’t believe the last time I wrote was at the beginning of Autumn. We were doing so well with keeping the heating off (including an awful lot of star jumps) but the recent weather has gone so ludicrously cold that it got down to 12 degrees in the hallway. That’s pretty chilly when you’re stepping out of the shower… sadly, we had to relent.

Work is boring. What more can I say? I’m very much stuck in a rut, a rut that will probably go on forever unless I can think of something else to do that will earn me some money. This is the modern economy, sadly. We spend so much of our time working crap jobs, for fake “employers” via sham self-employment, for poor pay, no pension contributions, no National Insurance, and hand shed loads of VAT to the government for the privilege. We keep on the straight and narrow, but I can see how easy it is to be tempted by the cash economy. No wonder government’s hate cash.

Meanwhile, one of my former neighbours, and friend now, has reached the age of 70. She’s away on a cruise at the moment, but when back we have to celebrate it. She’s not ordinarily the type of friend I would pick (in truth, I don’t really do friends) but she has been so helpful and kind, and I have done the decent thing in reciprocating, that we do keep in touch every week or so. And though she’s an out-and-out-Tory (and likely racist), it just goes to show that politics shouldn’t be the schism that increasingly people find it is.

My mum, for example, is mad on left wing politics these days. I mean, just totally mad. I wonder if it will catch up on her.

I haven’t seen my family in ages. This is what it’s like. The time flies, and soon it will be Christmas, when I might just see them. I presume I’ll be going home. I won’t ever see them otherwise.

Me and J plod on. It’s weird to be unofficially official. So many people I am sure they do know, but they just don’t ask the direct question. If they did I don’t think we’d lie. But we don’t flaunt it either. We just get on with it. Life has dealt us the crappy genes that make us attracted to something other than most other people. It really doesn’t matter as we’re massively dull and boring otherwise. Just like most people. It’s life, isn’t it?

But it’s worrying that we’re here, staring another winter and another Christmas down the barrel. It will fly by just like all these other months, and then we’ll be into 2019. This is now the future I used to dream about when sitting in school, 20-25 years ago. And it is really quite rubbish. Phones, the internet, blah. It’s crap, isn’t it? It’s not actually given us any improvements in our quality of life. As I sit here whining into a browser. I’d have just done this on paper instead. Or perhaps not at all.

I must try to write more though. I’m sure stuff must have happened that I’m forgetting. Must try harder. See me.

Sickly

I haven’t been properly sick in a long time. By that I mean throwing up. I can’t actually remember the last time. Probably not in the years I’ve been doing this diary. Maybe when I was a kid.

But today I am sick. I am not sure why. I woke up in the middle of the night to the room spinning and feeling very nauseous. I went to the toilet but nothing happened. I went back to bed.

Woke up to the alarm, thinking I would be OK. But as soon as I got out of bed I had to sit down by the toilet. After a little time I was eventually sick. It was horrible, but not as bad I thought it would be. It felt good to some extent. A good old purge and I felt better immediately. So I tried to drink my usual morning coffee. Bad idea. Out it came.

The original sick was just clear white, nothing in it. The coffee sick was coffee. So I gave up and just drank little bits of water, and risked a dry toast. I’m still super hungry, which is making me worse. And have a caffeine headache.

It’s all very weird. My stomach has done its job, but is now upset over something. My worry is that I ate something I shouldn’t have yesterday at the post-funeral food eating (hopefully not meat?). I did have a weird routine yesterday, but that shouldn’t make me feel sick. I felt fine last night, and if it was something else J would surely have felt it too, as we both ate the same evening meal last night.

Now I just feel washed out. I am, as previously observed, a pretty rubbish ill person. I mope and moan and sit around thinking everything is awful when actually it could be much worse. I guess I just need to relax, but I can’t. Relaxing is not really something I know how to do…

Worst of all, it’s the weekend. Though we normally work on a Saturday morning, it’s never usually too taxing. But it’s going to be a nice rest of the day, and Sunday too to come. And I’m feeling rubbish. The summer has been really cruel like this – last bank holiday weekend the weather was awful, despite generally a very good summer indeed. The timing of things just keeps annoying me. And now, summer is over…

Time for a lie down.

Goodbye Bob

August has been a busy and cruel month. We suddenly got quite busy again in work, almost from the turn of the month. We even had a dreaded visit Up North, which myself and J did together. It caused the usual farce of the office being looked after by our assistant and we returned to stupid problems and millions of rubbish phone calls to return. So much so that I ignored many of them on the presumption that if it was important they would call…

But just before we went away we got news that one of my longest standing customers was very ill and might not make it. Had timing been different I would have gone to see him, but within a day or two he was dead. He has been ill for years, too much drink because of chronic back pain. I saw him at the end of June, and he really wasn’t well then. But at least I saw him and had a laugh.

He was quite a character. I first met him when he called me out to his house to fix the computer of his elderly father. His father is still alive today at the grand old age of 98. In fact, I went to celebrate his birthday at the start of the month. He was a gruff up Northerner, but with a heart of gold. Over many years of fixing and helping them out, he quickly became more than just a customer but a friend too. I got to know his wife and his dad very well. They would always offer tea, coffee, food, chocolate cakes… and had so many parties over the years for birthdays that J referred to him as B(ob)BQ. Happily, Bob took J under his wing as well.

Sadly as alcoholism took hold, he lost control, and when you went to visit you never knew which Bob you’d get. The happy functional drunk. The depressed non-functional drunk. The pain-inflicted sobriety because he’d run out. He had been wishing to die for at least three years, hoping that at long last he’d be out of his pain. We told him he had to keep going for his dad and his wife. Though he wasn’t much use to them any more, he did need something to live for.

In the end it was too much. I’m glad we saw him earlier this year, and I’m glad he’s not in pain any more. It was horrible to watch someone go from being a little overweight to like a bone. There was nothing left of him in the end.

I will remember him from happier times, including staying at his house overnight after watching a couple of films. Thanks to Bob I finally did see Fargo. He forced me to at least be a little bit sociable at times, way more than normal, and in spite of the fact that the people at his BBQs were never particularly people I wanted to mix with. I have many memories, and I hope I can cling onto them.

Today was Bob’s funeral. We both went, and attended the little gathering afterwards. It was very sad, mainly for seeing his wife who was very sad (she had always been very strong) and the nice tributes at the service. We stayed for a bit at the gathering, but as it was mostly family it all felt a bit awkward in the end, so we made our excuses (we had to have our assistant in again) and left after an hour or so.

I had to be there. I had to pay tribute to him. It made me sad, and once again reminded me of getting old, a subject I am never far from thinking about. But that’s life. There’ll be many, many more of these over the coming years.

All the best to you Bob, and thanks for the good times.

Marking Time

July is a month that always fills me with dread. First of all it contains my former birthday. If you have to ask you don’t know me. But of course, most people treat it as my actual birthday. So I have to pretend to be grateful, and hide the cards until November.

This year has been all about marking time though. Watching the days turn to months, as I sit watching the rain, bored, because the weather – which has been amazing this summer – has conspired against me. After sitting cooped up in the office all week, generally bored just watching the hours disappear, doing work for people who are mostly horrible to me, being totally envious of all the lucky people outdoors enjoying the sun… here we now are at the weekend, fuming at the unfairness of the rain.

There’s nothing like stupid weather to get me down. And it’s daft because we really have had a great summer. One of the best I can remember. Certainly the best in 10 years or more. So to have a couple of days of rain, that’s probably ok. It says it’s going to get better again, so I will have to once again wish the time away and look forward to next weekend. When it will be August, and summer will be 2/3rds over…

I find myself like this these days. Life has become very different since I got a partner. I now just sit and do nothing. I used to listen to music, or watch YouTube videos, or play the guitar, or piano, or think about things I could do for business. Or actually do work. Because let’s face it, it I’m sitting here doing fuck all, I might as well be earning, right?

I don’t do that now. I just do nothing. I watch the clock, and the calendar. I read inane articles about life and how to change it. I ignore my family, who 90% annoy me, and I sit in worry about what me and J can do with our time instead.

The other day we did our usual thing of let’s go out. We rushed to get ready on a Sunday so we could make it for McDonalds breakfast, as we’re currently obsessed with hash browns. By the way, I weigh 60kg and am 1.8m tall. After eating, we got back in the car to decide what exciting thing we would do next. We couldn’t. We went home, and did nothing.

We don’t have anything to do or anywhere to go. Everything costs so much, and our car and all associated costs are ridiculous. It’s quite conceivable we pay more for the car than we do our mortgage, especially when you account for depreciation. So why have it? When we get punished for using it with ridiculous costs.

Everything marks time. My watch. My calendar. My face. My odometer. My computer. My bank balance. Even my penis. It now has folds it didn’t have before.

Entering middle age, I am more conscious of time wasting away into nothing. And yet… somehow, I am getting more relaxed about it.

A few Sundays ago J and I were sitting in a park. The sun was shining. The birds were singing. It was quiet and pleasant and no one was around. It was just nice. It seemed like this was a brief good moment. I noted it, and said that maybe this is what life is all about. And that we should I enjoy it.

I’ve definitely changed.