Is Life Happening?

It has been some time since I wrote anything here, and I feel like I owe the place a normal post. So I’ll try and be normal.

Life is frantic at the moment, in spite of my best efforts. I feel like I have developed a work and not-work balance that is desperately against me as an individual, but as an individual that is involved in lots of other people’s lives and businesses, is relatively profitable. And yet, what amazes me is that I think I have actually reduced the amount of hours I’ve been working.

In line with my previous posts, I have been trying to do other things outside of work hours, more sociable. I would say in terms of doing things in real life that involve other people, that bit hasn’t actually happened at all. But it has, to some extent, involved people. People that I wouldn’t normally have been talking to, and one of whom has actually turned into something of a long distance friend. So broadly, despite its very tangible negatives to my mental health at times, it has brought something different into my life.

Work meanwhile continues. My IT business is now disgustingly busy, so much so that I am once again thinking about what I can do to tame it. Do I increase the prices and get rid of the customers I don’t want? Or do I have the guts to try again and employ someone? I have been thinking about recruiting an apprentice, but that means I must commit to my IT business for at least another year, something I wasn’t keen on doing. But it is so busy, and the prospects remain good, and I am still in need of earning this money, that I think I should do it…

The other business I am part of is going through something of a rut, but you wouldn’t think it. It is at the mercy of the political masters, and, unfortunately, they are in the midst of electoral rubbish at the moment. It is also the end of a financial year, and I think that inevitably has meant all of the money has already been spent.

But it’s still all systems go. We are in such an intriguing scenario at the moment, so keen are we to take advantage of new opportunities, that we are considering moving on to our property development ideas, and installing a manager into the company so that it can carry on moving along without our day-to-day to involvement. This has coincided with a friend and former colleague becoming available to work for us. It could all connect quite well. But it is a risk. We are ready to take it, and introducing this person to the office has already improved the office dynamic and made it feel a really professional place to work. I like feeling like I’m part of something bigger than me. It is a world apart from my one-man-band IT business…

So that is two risks. One risk for my business, and one risk for the business I am part of, and both of it coming from having to employ someone. Employing people is weird. Keeping them busy and occupied and earning you money is something I haven’t quite worked out yet.

Then there is the risk of the property business. Which is starting, hopefully soon, with the purchase of some land 80 miles south west of me. Land. Not a building. Because we are planning on building it ourselves. We must be mad. But we sense a longer term vision. I sense the opportunity to get properly on the housing ladder by building up a property portfolio. It all sounds very unlikely, and highly adventurous. And super risky.

2015 has become the year of the risk for me. Impending mid-life 30 crisis perhaps?

108 days until 30

2015

It still frightens me how quickly the days are sinking away. I woke up this morning thinking “wow, it’s a week since Christmas Day”. They do say that time seems to feel quicker the older you get, and there is something in that from a perception point of view. In reality, of course, time is constant…

2015 arrived in some small celebration. A member of our family held the traditional family party, and, for a change, no one else did. This meant that there was no competing party, and therefore no need to pick which one to go to. This made family politics a lot easier…

It was a good affair, with our traditional singing of Auld Lang Syne in the street. What has amazed me as the years go by is that no one else does it. I remember when I was young we’d either all join together, all the neighbouring families in one big circle, or there would simply be other people singing it in their own circles from their own parties. Just another sign of the fragmentation of society? Ironically, our version of it was rubbish this year as we seemed to split into two groups, singing at different times. That was probably just too much alcohol though.

I was, as usual, asked to get the guitar out. I still feel the pain in my fingers today. It was good, and everyone always says I should sing more often, but life just isn’t great for that. It could have been something I pursued, when I had oodles of time in University. Now, however, I have to just be content with what I have. I don’t actually think I’m that good. But we’ll see.

2015 will be an interesting year. The tradition in my New Year post is to project for the years to come. But first, even though, I probably say something like this every year (I could check really but I am lazy) it’s now 15 years since the year 2000. A new year celebration that I now can’t even remember. That’s bad. I remember vaguely the feelings around it, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I was and what I was doing. Only 15 years ago, and I was 15 at the time. I should be able to remember that.

My memory is not good at long term recall, but my brain has always worked a bit differently to others. I am, even if I do say so myself, pretty good at short term memory recall. I attribute much of my success in life to my ability to recall recently processed facts, figures, and even a whole line of argument. Luck, I guess. Certainly helps in exams.

I digress.

2015 will contain a number of significant events.

First, in business, which makes up 90% of my life, I should conclude my first land purchase, and, with a fair wind, also complete my first house sale. I hope it will be as profitable as we project it will be. It will be a challenging but exciting job, and I know it will be a big distraction at times, but I can’t wait to get started.

The “other business”, as I usually call it, will hopefully have a good year. It is certainly starting the year with a decent order book, which is the extreme opposite of last year. I am reasonably confident about this, but there is a lot of potentially difficult challenges ahead. I think we are up to them, but if the first new business project goes well we may be distracted from this.

My main business, my computer one, I hope will continue to tick along without me doing a great deal. I have almost no time for it any more, but I must continue to service it, which is crazy considering the amount of work it does bring me at times. I need the cash to live, but also to help me to grow the other businesses. Depending on how things go I may be stupid and think again about bringing someone in, but it would only be for someone I considered to be the right person. Someone with a bit of character and a bit of spark. Unsociable nerds need not apply. I say that knowing that that’s exactly what I was, and still am to some degree, but I’m afraid that I don’t have time to allow someone to mature…

From a personal point of view, I am extremely conscious of the fact that I will be turning 30 years old this year (188 days to go) and this as usual makes me think two things. One, is that, just like New Year, it’s actually just another day. There’s nothing too special about it.

But that’s usually the defensive statement of someone in denial. It could also be viewed as a significant point at which I definitely definitely cannot get away with being called “young” now. There is a new generation below me, one that thinks differently, and has its own ways and means. I don’t think I am young now, but 30 would definitely be the end of it. I worry significantly that I only really have another 5 years in which to do all the things I could possibly get away with whilst in the first half of life: i.e. while being biologically and physically able to do so.

So being 30 concerns me. I wonder whether I could pass off lying about my age for a couple of years. I think, when I’m clean-shaven, I can pass for a couple of years younger than I am. But the dreaded hair is starting to give the game away.

I hope for a better 2015 for my hair. Which seems a bizarre thing to say, but it’s true. I hope things aren’t as bad as all the woe it’s caused me this year. What’s really strange is that I have an uncle and a cousin, both of whom I saw only yesterday, who are 10 and 6 years older than me, who both have better hair than me. I blame my dad’s genes.

I predict I might do something a bit unusual this year. It might be just actually going away on a real holiday. Or it might involve an external relationship. Hmmm. Maybe not. It’s not like me, on either score…

More likely, maybe, is that I do that thing which I’ve always wanted to do around music: get some proper equipment and get recording. Maybe even put the results online. I think I could gather a small following. Who knows what could happen? Hmmm. Maybe not. The YouTubes are only interested in sub-21-year-olds with attractive features.

I worry about my family, who also aren’t getting any younger. I worry about my 15 year old nephew, who is totally confused about what he wants to do with life, but won’t admit it. I worry that he is getting himself into unnecessary relationships with girls at an age where the brain is completely unable to cope with it. He wants to do his own thing, and he doesn’t want to listen. I absolutely was not the same at his age. I made some mistakes, but they were not in any way risky or dangerous to me or my future. He needs to be careful. I respected my parents, and my peers and my extended family of aunties, uncles and grandparents. They taught me a lot. He doesn’t want that.

I hope that my younger sister can find some direction this year. I hope that my brothers work out what it is they want with life, or at least make some efforts to. I hope my mum and dad have a healthy year, free of trauma and unnecessary distraction. On that same score, I hope my grandma doesn’t have anything seriously wrong with her eyes.

A lot of hopes, and a lot of dreams. An awful lot of worries.

A lot can go wrong this year, but it can also go right. I am never the optimist, but I just have a sneaking feeling that maybe things will turn out OK.

Here we go.

A Good Year. Really.

I hate the fact that I am writing, again, about the end of a year. I must write the same crap every year about how weird it is to write about the sadness of the years flying by, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

But what really is a shock is that I honestly think 2014 has been a very good year for me. I have just finished reading back my traditional start-of-year post and I seem to have done and achieved roughly what I wanted.

There is a bit of cheating though. I feel like I set my expectations low for 2014. At the start of the year I was worried whether the new business I am involved in was going to achieve anything significant. Turns out the answer was yes. It has had a very positive year, with a decent return on investment, and more to come. It has one or two members of staff, and a third if we stretch the definition. That is some good growth, and it feels like a real company. I like the feeling of running a real company. It feels like an achievement to be proud of.

My IT business has also had a decent year. It has peaked, yes, but it is a decent peak to be at. I tried my best to share the business with two other people by giving them an opportunity to work for me. It didn’t work out, but I tried. I wanted to move on and allow someone else to start filling in the gaps. But they failed. Maybe I could have tried again and found someone else. Maybe there is a right person out there to do the job. But I started to think it wasn’t worth spending my time on it, and that I should just start to prioritise the jobs instead… especially given the impact it was having on my life.

I had written at the start of the year that employing someone would make it a very good year. It was, but turns out it was a good year because of what it taught me, not necessarily because they have stuck with me…

I hoped that this year I would get myself a house. I was wrong as far as this was concerned, but the way it has turned out I am not bothered. With the potential to turn it into a new revenue stream, I am excited about this delay. We are very close indeed to starting out on a new track. It’s going to allow me to start on a new project entirely. New work is good for me. It allows me to reset the boredom clock. So this too has helped to make it a good year.

In my private life, I haven’t changed at all. I am still a closed individual, with no real worries about it. I have had an opportunity to maybe look at extending this to another person, but even the way I write about this is so functional and stilted that I surely would be a disaster. I am not bothered either way, really. My unconscious is telling me to do something about it, because I’m not getting any younger, and certainly am no oil painting, but my conscious mind loves my freedom and independence. I love my own company. That has been something I have reinforced all year, and it, to some minor extent, also contributes to why I think it was a good year. I like my Sundays on my own, with my guitar, my voice, my music, my radio, my internet, doing my things. It’s sad, but it is me.

So I end the year without any regrets, really. My work life is good, I am accepting of my personal life, I have good prospects to come, and my family are OK. It has been kind to us all.

So 2014 is a Good Year. It might even be a Very Good Year. But hey, good is good, right?

A year successfully navigated, with finances improved, prospects improved, and experiences, generally, being positive. Not bad, really.

Is It November Already?

Yes. Yes it is.

I have to get used to the fact that 2014 is fast drawing to a close. In a little over seven weeks time it will be 2015. The year in which I will complete my 30th year on the planet. To think of poor me, sitting alone writing furiously about a dull and depressing life, aged 19, is enough to bring a tear to my eye. I don’t like reading old posts from the past, but they are utterly precious.

There will be plenty of time for reflection this Christmas, particularly as it will be 10 years of blogging, which is a remarkable achievement. I’m so thrilled I have stuck with it.

And Christmas is almost all I think about at the moment. I have booked my tickets to go home, on exactly December 24, and I’m so incredibly looking forward to it. I love it, every single year, that I can feel like I’m 14, or 9, or 16, or 18, or 6, again, and be at home with the family, all together, all safe, all enjoying a successfully navigated year, all – hopefully – enjoying each other’s company, with no worries for two weeks (I like to drag it out…) about work, or school, or money, or depressingly mundane existences.

But that is then. This is now.

November is a sad month, primarily because it is the time by which my spirit and will is finally broken, and I must, at long last, switch the central heating on. I always try to make it into November, but this year was almost no challenge at all due to a remarkably good spell of weather in October. Indeed, I remember the very same a mere five years ago when I first moved here. It was great weather. It’s so much better than home, a mere 150 miles north.

The cold is everywhere. It feels more so at the moment as I am, as I have been for the last year “inbetween coats”. I have not owned a winter coat for about three years. I thought it was time I did so, and have spent a not unsubstantial amount of money trying to achieve it. I wait patiently for it to arrive. Maybe it will be here tomorrow? I hope so. It will be just in time, for the coldness is really setting in. Our first 0 degree night is upon us for the first time since early in the year.

This time of year also tends to lead to a lull. The main IT business carries on regardless, but the other one that I’m part of starts to wane. No one wants to start big projects in December, so the usual preceding weeks, in which projects are planned, are empty. It happened last year. It is happening this year. It worries me as our admin lady has almost nothing to do at the moment. All very disappointing, especially when only a couple of months ago things looked very promising. Suddenly the cupboard is bare.

I always, however, keep my eyes on the future. I have to make progress. The passing of a whole year without any change in my house situation is a strange one. But I may have a new sideline with my business partner. Plans are afoot for a property development fun and games. We shall see.

For now though, I have to plough onwards. I hope I can make it to the end of the year without too many more disappointments. We’ve had enough this year.

(This is post 555 on this blog, woo!)

2014

Happy New Year.

Last night arrived with all the pleasantries one associates with the New Year celebrations that this family holds. I would always prefer to celebrate New Year – arbitrary arrival of another day though it be – with my family. Some like to go out and spend hundreds of pounds in bars and clubs, and have a nightmare trying to get home in taxis. Takes all sorts, I suppose.

2013’s new year celebration was much better than 2012’2. This time the atmosphere, despite family traumas, was much more friendly, thanks in the main because the party was held at my aunty’s. There were quite a few people I didn’t know, but, once the guitar comes out, the frost seems to melt. I was surprised at how well singing a One Direction song would go down with the crowds… but children and parents alike were all singing along.

One rather sad aspect was that I met a small boy and girl, aged 6 and 3, who are currently being fostered by a relative of my uncles. I was absolutely saddened by hearing what they had been through. They were such lovely children, in spite of all the absolutely horrible things they must have seen. I sat talking to the boy for about 5 or 10 minutes, which, I was told by his foster parents, was actually a big surprise to them… since he is generally hyperactive in all aspects of life. He was really charming. I’m so glad that they are getting a fresh chance at life. There must be so many others who don’t.

The tradition now, though, is to project, rather than reflect. I look forward to this year. I genuinely think that, once again, it will be another crucial year in my life. Every year brings something new, some new challenge, and always something unexpected.

This year, I am hoping that both businesses do well. The new base of operations from the office is working out well, and I hope it will lead to further prosperity this year.

The big question for me will be whether to take the plunge regarding buying a house. It’s a determination I will have to make soon. I think I have been operating for long enough now to be able to get a mortgage as a self-employed person, but the big question will be whether or not this is a wise time to buy. Is the housing market already overheating and due another correction, or is it only up from here for at least a few years, making this, possibly, my last time to buy before prices go way beyond what I could possibly hope to earn.

Unless, of course, I am to achieve a big increase in income this year. I doubt that. I suppose the other business I’m involved in his a possibility of bringing this, but I am increasingly filled with worry about it. I am concerned that this year may expose the position I have taken in this business. If it does, I will probably come out of it with a small net loss.

That’s all the reason for me to keep my existing computer business strong.

If I’m having a really good year, I will consider taking on someone to help me with my computer business. This would be good for my home life and my sanity. I could do it now, but only if I was to accept a real drop in my income in the short term. Potentially, I would be left earning just a few thousand pounds. Some might say that that would be great, especially if you don’t have to do anything to earn it, but it would never be like that. I know I would always want to stay involved in the business I had created. So it would be totally insufficient. Not when Life (TM) costs over £1,000 a month.

So realistically, it’s likely to be a year to try and achieve stability. I recognise I’m coming to the end of my third decade… but I’m trying not to think about it. I’m trying to just keep enjoying my life while it’s here.

Here’s to 2014.

A Fair to Middle’un Year

Here I am again, sitting in my parents house with a computer, writing yet another assessment of yet another year.

The formal business is always to decide what type of year this was. In general, I think I am heavily influenced by what happened towards the end of it, whilst forgetting about happened earlier in the year. So, trying to avoid this, I will have to work this out carefully.

This year, more than most, would be a serious negative if I allowed the closing bias to shine through. The back end of this year has been particularly difficult. First was the death of my grandfather, which, although not unexpected in the end, was still a traumatic experience. This has been particularly difficult with my mum, as she is still struggling.

Then there was the nightmare that was the employee that the other business took on. I’d rather not relive that, but, in better news, this has now been all drawn to a close with the re-sale of the car I bought for his use.

But casually using phrases like “the other business” disguises the fact that “the other business” is a completely new step for me. This was not predicted at the start of the year, and has been a major change to my life.

When I look back at my expectations for the year I can see that I didn’t really know what was going to happen. No surprise there.

The only thing I knew for sure was that my household circumstances were going to change with the moving out of my housemate. This was a big improvement for me, and has made my life significantly better during the last year. I now have a much more positive feeling about my house. I still don’t feel like calling it my “other home”… it just doesn’t have that quality to it.

The other thing I didn’t predict, although during the year I have claimed to the contrary to people in Real Life, is that I had set myself a goal to get an office. I have told many people that it was all part of my plan for 2013, but, having re-read my post from the start of the year, that’s not quite true. I had in fact said that I wanted to buy my own house.

But whatever, this too has made a big difference to my life. It has made my house marginally more like a home. Now I leave my house and go to work, and I leave work and go to my house. This mental separation has been a great help to me in trying to achieve some semblance of a life balance. It’s not quite there yet, but I do feel better from it.

The other business referred to above also did not quite appear in the sense I’d hoped. This time last year I was predicting my “media” side of the business to take off. That didn’t happen in any sense, which… in hindsight… is no surprise really. The media business always did seem like it would never happen. It really is a poor industry.

But, instead, the green consultancy business has been a surprise success. However, it is very hard work, and is increasingly – already – looking like it may be difficult to sustain in the long run. It is starting to look exceptionally risky, and the margins are slimming.

In my own business, the one that started all of this, the workload is continuing, and the clients are sticking with me, and, in some cases, getting better. This is generally good, but a real struggle to juggle everything.

Family life, apart from the upsets, has been OK. So we’re all progressing… all doing something decent.

On the whole I’d say it’s been an Average year. The work has been OK, and the new office and improvements in the house are very good, but the external circumstances, the family incidents and the hopeless employee have really dragged things down.

But I’m happy with that. Happy with being average. Sounds good to me. Sounds like my life all over.

The title of this post is in honour of my grandfather. “Fair to middle’un” was a phrase he would often use when you asked him how he was. I think it might be from a film, or from some general 30s-50s phrase. Here’s to you, Grandad.

The Dismissal

It’s been a long time since I wrote. I think I should stop writing that, because I tend to write it at the top of most posts these days.

Again, there is good reason. In reality, the story is long and tedious. In fact, it’s also incredibly stressful, and I’m certain that reliving it will not be good for me.

The upshot of the tale is that I have ended up the owner of a car. A car I do not want and must get rid of as soon as possible. The reason being that, the car that I bought for our new employee, is no longer needed, since our new employee is now our new ex-employee.

It was always going to be difficult. But, in the end, the guy made it phenomenally easy. What with the discovery of low-level drug pushing, rampant alcoholism and an incident of drink-driving, discovered after the fact. Fortunately, we were able to push him out the door by his incessant incompetence, and inability to learn.

The tragic part of it all is that I’ve risked a lot of money on this bet, and it’s failed. OK – the company is still profitable, but it has had a severe setback over the last few months; a massive waste of money that I may never get back, or possibly may not for over a year. That’s not good, when I’m desperate to buy a house of my own before the stupid property market overheats again. Thanks, George Osborne.

I spent weeks researching the best, legal ways to get rid of the employee. I spent hours and hours of my time worrying and thinking about what it was that we could do to extract ourselves from the situation, made worse by the fact that the employee had confessed his alcoholism, and hoped we could stick by him.

What grates most is that the employee was using this just to screw us over. Tugging at my emotional heartstrings, and causing us massive losses at the same time. We wanted to get rid, but at the same time, on a personal level, we really worried about what it would do to him. We didn’t want to be responsible for pushing him over the edge.

When the day itself came, however, upon the reading of the Texts and the investigations that followed, it became clear that we had made the right decision. And, I just wished we had done so much sooner. It’s hard to believe someone could behave in such an appalling way, but there it was, right in front of me.

The whole thing has been a massive distraction. But we are rid of him now. We now have “his” car back, which was, basically, bought with my money. It must be sold this weekend, or else it will start to lose value, and people won’t want to buy on top of Christmas either.

The saddest thing about this post is that I have written it all, totally wrapped up in my life, and not once has it occurred to me that I should mention one of the more important things in my life, my Grandad’s death and subsequent funeral. I am a selfish bastard.

Maybe I’ll try and write about that soon. It would be good to do so.

The Major Month

This month has disappeared in a blur, but it has also been somewhat slow. I’ve never quite fathomed why sometimes time feels so slow, and also so fast.

The best explanation I can put on it is that when you are working non-stop like I am lately, every day feels the same. Weekends are no different. Out of hours doesn’t exist, except as a fleeting window of time during which I can knuckle down and get things done without worrying about the phone ringing.

So consequently, when I look back and think “How come it’s only Tuesday, this week has been so long!” – it’s just because my “week” probably started about four months ago.

The main reason why this is the Major Month is that, finally, the bullet has been bitten. The die has been cast. And all manner of other horrible clichés.

I have been saying all year that I really must do something. Well, the confluence of two events has finally forced my hand.

First, I am now the director of a friend’s business. This was not a decision taken lightly, and has involved a huge amount of personal and financial sacrifice in the very short term. But, frankly, the numbers add up, and it was a proposition I’d be stupid to miss.

Secondly, one night I just snapped. I was lying in bed (at 10:00pm, as is my new routine…) and thought – why on Earth am I working 12-14 hours every day of the week? I could cut my hours down to a third of this, and pay someone else to do everything else, and I’d still make a profit.

It was only a hunch. But the timing was perfect. I have been feeling this for a while, but the sudden realisation that I could time this with the rise of the other business – which needs an office to function properly – was just perfect in every way.

So now the office is in progress. There is a potential employee waiting in the wings. I feel like I am seeing the path towards a more strategic/corporate role… the one that I’ve always thought I’m good enough to be able to achieve. The one where I am overseeing operations, driving the business forward, rather than constantly dealing with the day-to-day tactical battle of fixing things and getting stressed by the occasional customer asking the occasional irritating question…

The target date is in two weeks time. It could be the best birthday present in a long while.

A part of me is nervous. But another part of me is completely philosophical about it. If I cannot support an employee and an office on the current and projected workloads, then I will never be able to do so. And if I am not here to expand this business, to make it into something bigger, then I might as well just give up now. I do not like standing still. I do not like the thought that I could be doing the same thing for the next 10 years without anything different ever happening.

I have always been an ambitious person. I have written it many times. I always want to know there is something ahead, something worth fighting for. Something worth living for. A new challenge.

This is it.