10 Years of Blogging

10 years ago today, I sat down for the first time at my computer and decided it was time to join the blogging community. Not that blogging was a community in any sense. But, at the time, blogs were big, and everyone who was everyone was writing about their lives in a long form.

Nowadays, hardly anyone does. In reality, no one ever had the patience to read endless, tedious discussions about random people’s lives. Hence the inevitable success of the short form, in Twitter and in other social media, though to a lesser extent.

However, to me, it was never about the audience. It was all about me. It was all about writing down the thoughts I have always had in my head but never really committed to. Now there is no getting away from it. There are over 560 posts and counting to testify that.

And it is incredible. I do occasionally click the “random post” button above. It’s the best way to explore what happened in the past. I really enjoy reading back on what I thought about events at the time. A great majority of them I don’t even remember… which goes to show how so many things are seen as really important at the time, but in the end don’t even stick around in the memory. But that is good, because it just goes to show how much things you forget…

I write now from the same place I’m sure I did last year, no more than a couple of metres from when the whole thing began 10 years ago. I arrived after having a sudden attack of illness this morning, which, I’m pleased to say, is clearly fading quick. Which is good. I had been on the decline since Monday morning, with some sort of cold/flu thing. It smacked me hard this morning… stopping me from even getting out of bed. Totally unlike me. I finally made it out around 10am. I can’t remember the last time I ever slept that long.

The past few days in work have been horrendously busy. Not what I wanted in the run up to Christmas. I’d probably say the whole month in general has been such hard work and unnecessarily stressful. I feel like I can relax now, hundreds of miles away from it, but it will be back with all its associated woes on the 29th.

What matters, though, is that I have, for now, four uninterrupted days, where I can just park up all that crap and think of nothing other than our family festivities. I write this now in the middle of the family, as we often do on Christmas Eve, talking nonsense, catching up, and watching Christmas songs on TV. Kind of ironically, but also because we do enjoy it. It’s something that I started about four years ago, because I thought we should have things like this to remember. Too often we spend all the time on our own, doing our own things. This event, while wholly optional, has kind of become our tradition. Usually because I come home on this day, so if I sit here most people will want to hang around as they haven’t seen me for a while.

I think I’ll write separately on what’s changed between now and 10 years ago. For now though, it’s just enough to say that I’m home safely, and the Christmas festivities are under way. Here’s to a good few days.

Merry Christmas.

Christmas Gets Nearer

Writing posts with titles like this should be a big no-no, because I just know in January I will look at the title of this post and be very depressed.

But I must live in the present.

The big problem I have is that the present is just enjoyable enough.

Today I had a nice day out for several hours with a couple of neighbourly friends. Unfortunately, they are older than my parents, so it makes it not quite as fun as it ought to be, but it was still relaxing.

The major problem is that the rest of the day was conducted dodging three customers  (it is Sunday after all), dealing with two others by text and e-mail, and doing extensive gardening. Not what I should be doing if I am trying to switch off.

Switching off is now impossible. I blame the mobile. It has turned us into an always-on culture.

But after much talk, and various thoughts from endless e-mail newsletters and catalogues through the letterbox, I am starting to think about Christmas, which is, without a doubt, my favourite time of the year, weather notwithstanding.

I just love going to stay at home for a while, seeing my family, and the extended family, and switching off from work completely for at least a week. We all eat a bit too much, but we do things that we don’t normally get a chance to during the year. For instance, I usually play some computer games, something I used to love doing, but don’t get a chance to now. Or even if I do, I wouldn’t because I feel like I should be working.

As I get older every year, I wonder whether each Christmas will be the same. I think of my older sister, who has her own family now. Christmas now for her is very different. She still comes to visit us, but now holds her own “Christmas”. Will I ever “grow up” and do the same? It’s not seeming likely at the moment. Even if I did, and celebrated my own Christmas, I can’t help but feel I would be able to take as much time off as I do…

But for now, Christmas this year is once more something to look forward to. Something to be grateful that it Is approaching quickly, and will therefore give me some brief respite away from the dullness, repetitiveness and downright anger that living here, with my useless housemate, causes me.

Just need to start thinking about presents…

Cold

I don’t often get ill… I seem to get quite lucky with that. So to actually get ill – when I’m technically on holiday from work – pissed me off a bit.

It was only a cold, and a pretty mild one at that, and I’m now over it. By tomorrow all the symptoms will be gone. At one point I was having to blow my nose every 10 minutes. Ridiculous, and painful. My nose is still sore.

It got me wondering where I got it from. I can only assume it began from a rather farcical attempt at work on Friday 23rd. I got up at 5am, allegedly on my way to a job that is some distance away. It was to be my last job before Christmas.

It didn’t work out that way. I hung around at my departure station for an hour before calling it a day. I knew there was a problem as soon as I arrived, because there was drunken people everywhere from the previous night. They’d been trying to board trains since the first one at 5:30am, but had been unable to due to signal problems.

I guess I must have picked up a bug during this time. Public places and public transport in general are always a danger for this kind of thing. It only takes one inconsiderate person not to cover their mouth when sneezing and the cold virus is released into the air. It’s a nasty thought really – because to catch a cold you have to get someone else’s mucus into your nose or your eye.

I gave up after an hour and decided to go home. I probably shouldn’t have done because it now looks next to impossible to get a refund on my train ticket. Train companies are a joke. I spent the rest of the day trying to find out the refund policy because I’d dared to pay with card. While I was at the station they were handing out refunds left, right and centre. In cash, of course. But they wouldn’t to me. I had forms. It was a joke. I got nowhere, sent from one person to another, no one wanting to admit liability. Fuck them all.

If I’d just got on the train at 6:45am like I was supposed to, maybe I’d have got away from the nasty bugs, and also done some work, and also earned some money, and also not cost me an extra train ticket. Boo.

I don’t actually think it was possible for me to get a bug from anywhere else either. Over Christmas (which was good, and is still going on in my head!) I didn’t see anyone but the usual suspects, none of whom are ill. The symptoms appeared on Dec 25 in the night – which would leave two days or so incubation. About right…

Anyway, that’s enough moaning. I’ve had a very relaxing few days, including playing Mario on the Wii, and enormous amounts of playing on the piano and the guitar. Social life is shit, but at least there is the family to annoy.

New Year… all that analysis and joy to come.

 

Seven Years

I still find it hard to believe that here I am seven years later, still writing. Still moaning. Still whinging. But probably slightly less depressed than I was back then.

In 2004 – exactly seven years ago at this moment – I finally caved in to a temptation I’d had for years to start a journal of some sort. Back then, blogs were still new and not everyone had one. These days, apparently everyone has one, and so too do dogs, cats and other assorted creatures.

I think I probably write the same post every year at this point now though. It always go along the same lines – I can’t believe I have been disciplined enough to keep this going. There have been times when it’s been touch and go, but mostly I’ve been able to muster up enough inspiration to write something. I am really pleased I did because it is a wonderful history to refer back to.

I had always wanted to write a diary but never had the ability to. Not because I didn’t actually have a diary. I always did seem to have one for some reason. Probably because I was always one of life’s organisers. Not that I had anything to organise. I just used to like writing things in there. I have always been like that.

But then there was the other reason – because real life diaries are not secure! I could never have written in things that were about my life becuase I just couldn’t risk the problem that someone else could read it. I couldn’t be completely honest because who knows when my security could be compromised. And yet, I don’t seem bothered about writing it all in public instead! How weird…

So I didn’t bother. But I just wish I’d started earlier. I really wish I’d had a diary of my teenage years. Looking back, I find those years of my life the most fascinating. That was really when me as a person – or, as a personality – was formed. It’s when we really start to become ourselves, more than mere automatic reflexes to our genes and our environment. The actual point at which proper consciousness, proper ability to analyse and reason, makes us into who we are.

But I didn’t, so no point fretting now. One thing I would do though is encourage anyone who thinks they can to blog. It doesn’t matter that there might be people reading. Chances are no one is anyway. And even if they do, they won’t know who the hell you’re talking about. Plus, you can be pretty cryptic anyway. I am, all the time, if I’m referring to other people.

Meanwhile… back in life – Christmas is happening. I’m back at home, with my family, relaxing, work is switched off, and I’m having a good time. I feel a completely different person to the poor guy seven years ago. I am happier. I am a little bit more directionful. If that’s a real word. I’m still more lonely than ever. But that’s because I’m hopeless at communicating with Real People. Sigh.

Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas. And I’ve only had one glass of Baileys!

Six Years Of Blogging

I’m actually impressed that I’m still here six years later. I often wondered whether it would just be a passing fad when I first started this up, but here I am, still plugging away at it…

OK, I know my posting frequency is in the doldrums compared to when I first started up, but better one than none. That’s mainly because, as I’ve observed before, I can be so busy during the day now that I feel guilty spending some time out doing personal writing. It was why I pulled the plug on the political blog I maintained for a year. I was amazed it lasted that long.

But there’s only so much of toiling in obscurity one can take. Back in the day, striking up a blog seemed like a great way to get noticed. It seemed like a marvellous way to bring your ranting to the attention of hundreds of millions, and maybe even get picked up by the mainstream media. I can’t say I ever imagined in a million years this would happen to boring old me, but I did hope that maybe, just maybe, someone somewhere would find some tiny level of curiosity in my writing.

Of course, that was when I didn’t realise just how difficult it is to capture people’s attention. It’s why I am filled with such admiration for the writers, creators, directors and producers of cultural fayre, from musicals to mass audience, mainstream TV. They keep us all entertained and diverted from our dull lives, and for that we salute them. They produce the prolefeed that keeps us from worrying too much about the true disaster that is Planet Earth, and what we’re doing to it, and what we’re allowing our politicians to get away with.

But I’m ranting.

I always feel better when I rant, though. Yet I don’t get the opportunity these days. My lack of friends and genuine social interaction these days means I don’t get the chance to hone, sharpen my ascerbic, cynical wit. It used to work so well with my true friends, the ones I picked up in university. And the ones I knew in Sixth Form weren’t too shabby either. I just wish it were possible to pick up where I left off with them. It never is. Friendships untended to wither and die. The inevitable reunions are just a string of “Remember whens”. People don’t keep in touch.

Blogging is an innately melancholy medium. That was one of the things I wrote in my dissertation. By that, I meant its very nature was to encourage people to write up, and then reflect on things that had happened, or that we hoped would happen. That attracts a certain type of person, people who are pretty insecure, seeking approval from others and rather neurotic in the first place. Maybe I could be accused of being biased, but I don’t think I’m too far off the mark.

Perhaps, then, my lack of blogging in the last few months has been more reflective of the change in me. Because I do feel less bothered about the mere existence of life now. It passes by, unremarkable, unceremoniously. Relentlessly. Whether I like it or not, it passes by. Whether I comment on it or not, it passes by. It all adds to my general despondency at the pointlessness of it all. So why bother chronicling it?

So much for the season of goodwill. It is, after all, Christmas Day. And I have had a pretty good one, with family. OK, a few minor setbacks, but – as with everything – they’ll be forgotten by tomorrow and no one will care. It’s like there’s a big reset button being hit every day.

But when you sit in the back room, tapping away on a laptop, while the family are watching the accursed EastEnders Christmas special, thoughts will always turn to depression…

Merry Christmas to all. And to my future self, when you read this in six years time (you’re the only one who does these days!), as you did six years ago when you re-read the post that started it all: chin up, mate! It’s not all bad.

Training Home for Christmas

One of my favourite Christmas songs, apart from Stop the Cavalry, and Fairytale of New York, is Driving Home for Christmas by Chris Rea. Though I’ve never actually driven home for Christmas – after all, I have zero driving skills – at the same time the sentiment is wonderful. Everyone around, just the same, heading back to see their families and loved ones.

So it is at this point I should sit back and reflect. I do plenty of that already, but these days I get so few of it down in writing. That’s due to a combination of having too much to do, and very little inclination to do any writing. What used to be my usual “writing” time in the morning has steadily been eroded, and now if I’m sitting around doing stuff that isn’t going to earn me a crust, I tend to get guilty.

It’s a very bad habit I have. I can’t relax. I can’t unwind. The only way I can is if the circumstances are right and I’m forced to.

So, to get away from my residence down South, and, in fact, travel several hundred miles in the other direction, will do the job perfectly. I am presently writing this on a train to Birmingham New Street, all on course to make my next connection. Amazingly, the weather hasn’t disrupted this journey at all, and I’m rather surprised. After weeks of terrible snow, stuck on the ground and turned to sheets of ice, and the worst winter so far that I can remember, despite it really only being 22 days old, the country seems to be moving again.

And getting home is my target. I haven’t seen my family in about a month, and though, when I was away at uni I used to be away from them for 12 week periods, if not longer, it still seems like ages. At the moment, with business going so well, and my time being eaten away effectively, there is a rather odd effect going on. It doesn’t seem like that long ago when I was last home. And, at a month, it really wasn’t. Yet, because of all the many different bits and pieces of work I’ve done, it seems like an age.

The irritating thing is that my best plans of Christmas presents have gone wrong. One of them hasn’t turned up, and is missing in the postal system somewhere. The other hasn’t even been dispatched. All because of the snow. I now don’t know whether to rush out and buy more stuff, or sit tight and just say to the intended recipients, “Well, I did order them three weeks ago…”

What I’m most looking forward to after the Christmas and New Year family fun is over, though, is going to see some friends in Edinburgh. I’ve never been there before, and who knows when I might go again. But I’m assured it’s lovely, and I know being in completely a different place will make me switch off from work altogether. It will only be for a few days, but it will make all the difference. It will be peace and quiet. Assuming I can get there.

Hope the snow is kind…That’s quite enough for now. It’s nearly 9pm, and I still have almost three hours of this slog to go. I’ve never done this journey at this time before, but given how quiet and relaxing the journey is, I would be tempted to do it again. Except for the fact that someone is sitting next to me, despite there being rows of empty seats ahead…

(Some) Christmas Cheer

My mood is still fairly somber as the continuing saga of the broken shin is still playing on my mind, but fortunately there have been plenty of distractions lately. 

First, the good news. The injured player was home for Christmas, and now it’s a matter of waiting for nature to take its course and let the bone heal. It never ceases to amaze me how things keep reminding me of the incident though. All over this house there are miscellaneous football related items: water bottles, corner flags, the chocolates that I didn’t give out due to last Sunday’s farce… even the other day when I went to use my stopwatch and realised it was still saying “15:30” – the time during the second half at which I stopped the clock.

So with the events still running through my head, I’ve not been all that in the mood to celebrate the usual family Christmas gathering. Nevertheless, it has been good fun. The presents I bought have been well received (although one didn’t turn up, thanks HMV) and I got some good stuff: some books I wanted, lots of chocolate, DVDs, albums, a little money. All going to a good cause. I feel like I don’t do enough reading… but I suspect the next few months will change that!

But better still have been the presents my brothers and sister have got. My sister got a Nintendo Wii for Christmas; the inevitable Wii Sports came bundled with it. That has already provided much joy, much hilarity and sore arm muscles. Good workout though.

And my brothers got Guitar Hero World Tour on the Xbox 360. Now, we’re already pretty good at Guitar Hero in this house, though it had fallen out of favour in recent months. My brothers are better than me, but then again, they would be given how much they played it. But now, at last, I have found something that I’m far superior to them at, and they will probably never catch me.

Guitar Hero World Tour comes with an electronic drum kit, if you spend enough money on it. I play the drums in real life, and the guitar too. The real guitar and the Guitar Hero guitar have no similarities, so the skills aren’t transferable. However, real drums and the Guitar Hero drums are very similar. The only thing missing is a pedal to open and close the hi-hat. 

The result: I was able to start drumming on it instantly, and at medium difficulty, and hopefully will be able to try out hard difficulty very soon if I keep the practice up. My brothers have not proved so adept. Co-ordination is not their strong point. 

This present has definitely been a hit. In fact, the whole family have been having a go. Lots of fun has ensued, and lots of swearing. It can be surprisingly annoying when you make a mistake after keeping your concentration for so long, thus ruining a perfect attempt up until that point…

But there is one catch to the Guitar Hero present. Yes, when we went to help the now famous injured player home from hospital on Wednesday, we went into their house for 10 minutes just to have a chat with all the family. There, underneath the tree, I spotted Guitar Hero World Tour. Then when the subject turned to Christmas presents, it soon became clear that this was a Christmas present for the player from his parents. Only… he now won’t be able to play the drums that come with it due to his injury. Argh!

So now every time I play on them I have to count my lucky stars, and once again feel sorrow, pain and a little guilt for the injured player.

Meanwhile, back at home, Christmas in general was a success. My grandparents even came round for dinner, the first time we’ve done that in a very long time, meaning my mum and dad cooked for 10 people. Incredible. I don’t know whether I’d be able to cope with that. Anyway, it was very good to see them, and good to share in this family occasion. And Christmas Day TV was pretty good… Doctor Who, Wallace & Gromit, The Royle Family… what more could you want?

Things are now beginning to wind down, but, in order to prevent depression, I think of “Christmas” as that period from Dec 24 to Jan 2 inclusive. We’re only half way through it, so there’s lots more good stuff to come. I hope.

Here’s to family.

The Tearful Injury

As per my previous post the events of the past few days are still swirling around my head. They have been tempered somewhat since yesterday because we organised a get well card and went to see the injured player in hospital – this helped to clear things up and erase some of the haunting memories I had of the last time I saw him being in total agony and clearly very distressed about what the future had in store.

Things did come to a head for me yesterday, though. After having one of the worst night’s sleep in ages, lying awake for most of the night, I got up in the morning, exhausted from the constant churn of devastation. I could feel it building up. I had to get it out.

So when my mum came into the room and started asking about what the latest news was (as my dad had taken a phone call from the injured player earlier) I just burst into tears. It was awful. Then my mum joined in. My dad wasn’t there, but judging by his demeanour since the incident he has been depressed about it too. We’re all pretty cut up about it…

We resolved to do what we could to help, anything to try to make us feel a bit better. It turns out that he doesn’t have any immediate family that are any use, so when we said we wanted to visit him, his dad (who has had to stay at home throughout due to other family commitments) asked if we could take some stuff up to his mum, who had been at the hospital almost constantly since it happened. We were only too happy to help.

When we finally arrived we spent two hours talking, getting everything straight (the confusion about the incident itself was bad enough) and having a good laugh and a joke. It’s clear what happened was appalling for him, as every time he mentioned it he went gloomy, saying how terrible the pain and the unknown was. He’s obviously gutted about it, but he’s determined it won’t be the end of his playing career, and he’s still the same kid as before – bright, cheery, witty and optimistic for the future. The small matter of a cast from his toes to his thigh doesn’t seem to have got him down too much. At least, I hope not.

But most of all it’s answered a lot of my questions. It seems his operation wasn’t as bad as we first feared, and his ankle wasn’t broken in the incident after all – it had somehow gone out of place (but not dislocated?) as a result of the smashing of his tibia, just a couple of centimetres above his ankle. They had to “operate” in order to make sure everything was in the right place and fit the cast, because the pain was just too great doing it while he was still awake, but, fingers crossed, it’s all gone well, and the worst is now over.

There is the little matter that the cast is too heavy for crutches, so he’s wheelchair-bound for at least the next six weeks, but in total he will be out for four months or so. That’s going to be the longest four months of my life. The pain for me will ease day-by-day, as the necessity of other things in life comes along to change my priorities, but every waking moment of the kid will be taken up by this thing. I’m lucky. He’s not.

What have I learned from all this? Well… I’ve learned that I’m a pretty sensitive soul, emotionally wired up with the team I run. That’s not much of a surprise. I have been surprised at just how much it’s devastated me, though. I now know too that mistakes were made when the referee tried to remove the player’s boot in the early seconds after the incident. I hope he didn’t aggravate it, the idiot. I also know that slide tackling is a recipe for disaster if both players are sliding for the ball, but that seems to be a case of naivety on the part of our injured player for not recognising the danger, and not realising that he didn’t need to do it at all in the circumstances. I also know that shin pads probably ought to offer more protection for the side of the shin – in this case they didn’t, and that’s how he still broke it.

As a team, we will be taking out personal injury insurance, and we will now have to rebuild our squad looking to the future. We will also have to rebuild morale – not an easy challenge at all. We will also put in place a procedure to deal with an incident like this better; we couldn’t help but feel inadequate after what happened.

He gets out of hospital today, at last. That will be a major relief for all concerned. The long road to recovery will now begin. Let’s hope it does so with as good a Christmas as they can have under the circumstances.

I could definitely do with that.