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.

A Weekend Away. Not.

Today I write live for the first time in ages. I don’t usually write live any more because it’s too difficult. Me and J are usually inseparable, mainly because we just get on so well. Most of the time. There have been some depressing incidents over the last month, but they mostly revolve around money and simply not having anywhere near enough to do fun things all the time.

Not that we should need fun things all the time of course. But you can’t spend every evening and every weekend doing nothing. There’s only so much on Netflix. And you can’t have sex every night. At least, I can’t. There’s not enough desire there, sadly…

But this weekend at least we are up at my natural home Up North. We traveled up yesterday and arrived last night. We ordered takeaway and had a fairly relaxed evening. It was a bit silly because I had to pay for everyone including my nephew who only hung around because he knew takeaway was arriving. He’s really gone off the rails…

But then it got stupid because there was no parental units here.  Without parents it can get awkward. No one to start conversations or continue them. We mostly ate in silence. Not really the atmosphere I was hoping for. They were instead out for the evening. My sister isn’t here either as she’s in university. She’s good at conversation. I did my best and at least found out my nearest aged brother has a job at last after apparently stalling in life…

But it’s all a bit depressing. We have a job to do today (Sunday) and Monday and Tuesday will be crazy as we have so much to do with our existing clients. I just hope back down at the office it isn’t crazy when we get back.

Work work work. But we need money to pay for things so we can justify some fun. Occasionally. At least there is a little bit of family hospitality from mum and dad. That’s at least something worth sabouring. For the five minutes we’re here…

Making A New House A Home

It’s been over a month since we moved into our new house. It has some significant downsides already but one thing I can say it does have is much better privacy…

I’ve always been a fairly private person. I don’t do social media, not really. I like to only share the minimum with my family. Which is stupid at times as occasionally I get annoyed when my mum says something stupid about my life through lack of knowledge…

But the best thing about the new house is just that. Now the house is not really overlooked, has great sound insulation to these neighbour, and is generally out of the way. That’s all been good in making me feel more comfortable. The old house was so exposed, and a couple of neighbours were very nosey.

That has been a good start. But making the place feel more comfortable has been a slow process. Very slow. We still haven’t finished unpacking. There are still items of furniture unbuilt. There remains purchases that are merely aspirational. Until we get the motivation to visit the dreaded IKEA of course.

So I don’t feel like this place is a home yet. It is messy and unordered. It also has other flaws that make it rather disappointing. Who would have thought that I’d pay so much attention to plumbing. But the smell, they really should have paid attention to actual building regs when installing a particular toilet…

But what’s concerning me most of all is that I don’t really feel like making this place much of a home after all. I might as well just accept that this isn’t my home and will never be. I want to be out of it some time towards the end of the tenancy agreement.

I really want me and J to own our own place soon. It just has to be the natural progression of things to make me feel like we’re making some progress in life. Then we really will start to feel settled down.

So homeliness becomes a lesser thought after all. Instead by spring next year it’s back onto Rightmove…

The New Plan

I’m not quite sure why but for some reason I haven’t yet written about a major thing coming up in life.

Earlier in the year me and J decided to move house. We were really lucky and managed to get something which looks ideal. It looks quiet, private and most of all bigger and more comfortable.

This won’t be without shocks. I’ve lived here for nearly 7 years and having to move will be traumatic in terms of all of the things I have which I’ll need to get rid of and start again. Not to mention expensive.

But I think it will be good for both of us. It will allow us to start together in a new place which we can make our own.

The major drawback is that it is just another rented property. I know we can stay for at least 12 months and hopefully longer, but it is, at last, some form of major commitment between us to take out a joint house. In this day and age anyway.

The experience of trying to find somewhere was in itself painful. There was so much crap on the market, and nothing really of the quality I thought we needed. Estate agents messed us around and let us down so many times that it started to become a joke. Very stressful indeed and not something I want to go through again for a while!

Anyway it’s now just a few days away. Exciting.