Saturday, Saturday

It’s yet another Saturday, meaning another week has come and gone for me. I sit, as usual, in front of the telly half-watching Match of the Day, half doing something else on the laptop. Usually reading political blogs. What a combination.

It’s been another busy week for me. Lots of work, a fair old bit of money too. Keeps me on my toes. But now the to-do list is empty, and I return to waiting for the phone to ring. Sort of like the bad old days, but hopefully it’s just a temporary lull. I enjoyed the day to relax anyway, especially as it’s co-incided with my own computery problems, which has given me an opportunity to fix them without getting flustered about when I’ll get time to do it.

Well, I sort of enjoyed the day to relax. It’s been several weeks since I had a whole day off, and in truth I spent most of it worrying that the phone might never ring again. Or, at least, take ages for it to. Maybe it’s better for my sanity that I’m kept busy. Probably true.

But the biggest disappointment of the day came when me and my housemate went out for tea. We went to the nearest Harvester, a place we’ve been a few times before. We haven’t been for a while, but we have been to many across the country, and it’s the salad bar that makes it so good. No complaints there.

The biggest problem, however, came at the dessert. Rocky Horror is always my favourite. Melted chocolate cake with ice cream and cream, with more chocolately bits on top. And a very generous size for £2.99. Sheer indulgence, and probably about four million calories.

Except, this time, I just didn’t enjoy it. The cake wasn’t melted. Nor was it a nice chocolate. Clearly very cheap. Meanwhile, there was the fact that my pasta only came with one garlic bread, when every other time it comes with two.

I guess we’re all not averse to an economy drive or two, but after that kind of performance, I feel like I may have fallen out of love with Harvester. I would never have thought I’d say that after all the good experiences I’ve had there.

Oh well. Life is a bit like that though. It sets you up thinking you’re doing something good, and then smacks you in the face to remind you that you’ve gotta keep trying.

Bit like my business, in fact.

Stuffed

In the first ever event of its kind, according to my parents – who should know, I took them out for a meal this lunchtime.

We went to our local Harvester pub to take advantage of their very good meal prices and superb unlimited salad bar offer. No, I’m not on commission.

It was nice to get out of the house for a bit, away from the rest of the family, just the three of us, able to relax and enjoy our surroundings. The place is lovely, out the way from the usual eating venues, and better still, somewhere we haven’t been to before.

And when the value is calculated, it’s pretty damn good. £10 a head for what was effectively a four course meal, starting with a large helping of salad, some pasta with garlic bread (with another big bowl of salad), then a giant chocolate fudge ice cream dessert (£2.99) and a cup of coffee to finish.

I had to pay for the lot, but I’ve been threatening to do that for years. In fact it had become a bit of a joke around these parts. “I’ll pay” was what I would quip before we’d head out to dinner. It’s not like we do this that often, maybe once a month, and that’s usually because it’s someone’s birthday.

But this time I really meant it. Out came the credit card. Like I said, it was nice to treat the family, and all without the rest of my brothers and sisters hanging on. Not that this is a game of one-upmanship, but, you know, I don’t think any of us ever show our appreciation for our parents… so it was nice to do that for a change.

We’re still all stuffed now, three hours since the meal. I probably won’t need to eat much later. Better that I just sit in this chair for a few more hours and let it all digest. Wouldn’t want to see my hard earned money again!

Meanwhile, it’s been a quiet week. No progress on the escape front. Just more hassle from the rest of my family, and more of me dearly wishing to get the hell out of here. It will happen. One day. Just not yet. When it does happen it will be a total nightmare, as the logistics of moving from The North to The South are horrendous.

But that’s yet another reason why I want to try to enjoy my time here, since it may not last for much longer. There may not be many more chances to treat my family, except for the odd weekend when I’m home.

This too shall pass – as I like to tell myself. The four most reassuring – and most frightening – words in language.

Boy, I sure do love depressing myself.

What A Difference A Friend Makes

I post this morning from the living room of my friend’s flat in Hull. On Monday I got an excited text from him, and others, asking if I’d be available for a visit this weekend. I haven’t seen him or any of my remaining friends in Hull for almost a year.

That has now been corrected, of course. I arrived here on Friday after an extremely long National Express coach journey, something that I will be repeating early this afternoon. It’s been a very good weekend, full of banter and getting back up to speed. Because, no matter what the internet offers in terms of keeping in touch with people, it just can’t compare to talking face-to-face.

On Saturday we wandered around Beverley market, something which I’d actually never done properly before. It was excellent, and I’m really envious. The variety of wonderful food on offer was just fantastic. Where else in the country will you find a shop dedicated to the baking and selling of scones? The smell when I got in there was just heaven, and the bewildering choice, from orange and lemon to ginger spice had to be experienced to be believed. And as someone who has baked many scones in the past but never achieved anything as wonderfully light and sweet as the scone I ate from there, I was even more jealous than before. I wish I had a way of bringing some home as my dad would have loved it. They just wouldn’t be the same though; the one I ate had just come out the oven. Even better.

So the market was explored and then we moved on to one of the many local pubs to play some pool. That was a success, especially because I actually won a game. I also felt like I was improving too. I need to remember to play with a longer bridge – it seems to improve my game.

Then we went out for a meal in an Indian restaurant. That is somewhat traditional now between my friends and I as we are all great fans of the food. That was also excellent, if a little too filling. I still feel stuffed this morning. But that’s why I love Indian restaurants. You always get enough food to eat, and the price you pay is similar if not cheaper than any other restaurant.

Overall though, the big lesson to me from this trip has been that I’ve dearly missed having friends around. My life would be so much better with them. There’d be more things to do and people to share it with. It’s made me seriously consider moving back here. I never thought I’d say that about Hull, that’s for sure.

I have to get my life in order. If I can get my PC sales business to take off, then realistically I can live anywhere in the UK. It wouldn’t matter as I’d be doing everything through the internet. I need a break, somehow. I just wish I knew what would do the trick – cos I’d be prepared to spend good money to achieve it.

Early To Bed, Early To Rise

These days I go to bed at about 10:30pm, meaning I get up between 6:30am and 7:00am. During the week that’s not much of a problem, as my mum and dad are up, as are my brothers and sister. Everyone has somewhere to go and something to do.

At the weekends, or at holiday times, the problem is that I am up, like now, and have nothing to do, no one to speak to. Just sitting at my computer in the loft trying to keep quiet. Right now that’s difficult due to the endless tapping of keys…

In the past six months, though, I have taken something of a vow to get fit. Though I’ve done not much about this in terms of outdoor activity, every day I do about 150 situps, 50 press ups and a number of pull ups on the stairs. It’s not exactly good aerobic exercise, but, I have no doubt about it, it has made me fitter and more muscular.

The only problem is that all of these enhanced muscles are at the top of my body. My legs are just as wobbly as before.

So the idea struck me. Well, it’s not much of an idea as I tried it two years ago and ended up losing interest. But, perhaps I could spend my time on these lonely mornings going out for a jog. The weather’s nice, it’s not slippery or frozen… what better time could there be to do it?

This morning I actually did. I managed to run for 13 minutes. I could have gone on for longer, probably, as I wasn’t totally shattered, but I think you’re supposed to stop before you reach exhaustion anyway.

13 minutes running isn’t exactly far. But last time I did this running I could only manage between 8 and 10 minutes. So there has been some progress, and all without me really trying.

I’m happy with that. If I can stick with it, doing this run at least twice a week, trying to make it a little bit longer each time, I will surely achieve my goal of being much more fit and healthy.

The only downside is that in recent months I have noticed just how much hungrier I am. It takes a lot to satisfy me now. A hell of a lot. I’m eating more healthily too, but, somehow, a jacket potato and salad just doesn’t do it. It’s gotta be two jacket potatoes. With beans and coleslaw.

I obviously need it though as my weight hasn’t changed in months, hovering around 65kgs. But more food = more cost. And as someone who still isn’t earning anything (much to my despair) that is hard to justify.

But, as a morning person, and with the much brighter mornings now that we’re finally getting spring-like conditions, I like my new regime. It makes me feel happier, and if it gets me fitter too, then at least there will be one part of my life that’s going right…

A Fatty Record

On Friday, me and my brother went on an excursion into town to avail ourselves of the opportunity to buy Christmas presents.  This chance was a very, very rare window that would unlock the possibility of achieving something I’d been hoping to do for a very long time.

Eating alone in a restaurant or other food joint is never an enthusing prospect. It smacks of desperation and loneliness. With that prejudice in mind, I will never go into a place where you need to sit down to eat on my own. It is a communal activity, done not only for stomach-filling, but for social benefits. 

So, with my brother finishing school at midday, I sensed that it was going to be a very good day indeed. 

The key part of this equation is that when it comes to food my brother is as gluttonous as I am. Neither of us are fat, but we’re both fairly active individuals and apparently blessed with a fast metabolism. This generally means that we’re hungry dudes. Our eating capacity is almost unrivalled, as is the speed at which we can demolish most meals. One, two, three, gone. 

These factors all combined to produce a trip to Pizza Hut. But not just any old trip – a trip during the day to sample the delights of the all you can eat buffet lunch. Pizza only – a snip at just £5 per person.

And, by Jove, we were going to get our money’s worth. 

The great thing about it is that, for my brother, he’d actually never been to the Pizza Hut buffet lunch. So he was particularly impressed that it really was all you can eat. He wondered how they still make money on it, which had me delving deep into the businessy section of my brain to talk a lot about high volume negating the effects of low value, and the fact that producing the same five or six pizzas constantly would be much better value than people continuously asking for different things on an a la carte basis. 

Inbetween this cerebral analysis, we did stuff our faces, remembering not to talk with our mouths open. It was busy, and I expected that with it being so close to Christmas, but there was enough to go round.

More than enough, in fact. I think I went up to the buffet on at least six occasions, each time returning with more saturated fats than was found in Elvis Presley’s arteries at the time of his death. But I wasn’t going to be stopped. Or outdone. My brother’s appetite was certainly keeping up with mine… and he was eating the meaty pizzas too! (Me being a vegetarian, that wasn’t an option)

In total, I downed a personal best of 13 slices. Of course, it is hard to be certain if I actually did eat more than my previous record of 12 slices, because the slices vary in size. And, of course, there is less to an Italian stonebaked base pizza than there is to a deep pan version. But, I think the varying slices generally balance out – and after slice 13 I couldn’t take any more.

My brother gave up at about 11 – impressive considering he’s smaller than me. But it was a good day. We had a good time, we sorted most of our presents out, and got back home dying of thirst as the salty badness in the cheese began to take its toll.

Fortunately, for my health as well as my wallet, this is not an event I make a regular thing of. In fact, last time I did it was the year before at Christmas with friends from Uni. I think as a yearly treat it can’t be too coronary-inducing. I hope…

Working It Out

There is a problem brewing.

Time is running out for me to make a decision. All of a sudden, we are in August. Not only am I annoyed by the fact that, so far, summer seems to have consisted of a couple of nice days in June and no more than a week of good weather in July; but I am also increasingly frustrated by my lack of progress in making a decision about where to take my life.

I probably have only a week or so left of reasonable time to decide what to do. I need to leave myself enough time to actually put the plan into action. But right now, it just seems so easy to not decide. For ages now I’ve been saying “You’ve got loads of time”. Which I had. But, what with this being the first of August, it has suddenly dawned upon me that I really haven’t.

I have dismissed one possible route that I was considering, doing further study to gain a company secretarial qualification. Or doing anything in this direction. It really isn’t me. I may have found it interesting, because I have quite an analytical head on my shoulders, but I could exercise that skill in other careers. It just wouldn’t be stimulating enough overall. I would find it very very dull after a time, I’m sure of it.

I have been scouring job websites for some time now, and also looking at the various graduate career options that there are from the big companies who recruit graduates once a year. Some of them look mildly interesting, but at the same time I am really not certain I can be bothered with it. I would probably have to apply to lots of them simultaneously, going through the process for most of them, which would entail endless interviews, tests, presentations, travel all round the country… for the simple reason that if I only apply to one I’m putting all my eggs in one basket. Worse, most of them don’t start the process until November onwards. That would result in unacceptable delay.

So I’m increasingly left with a smaller number of choices. The first, the bog standard, do the PGCE. Then decide what to do after that. This may or may not be teaching. But I’m really not sure I can bring myself to do the work for the PGCE now. The motivation has gone.

The second option is to start applying for political jobs. This will mean a move to London is inevitable. But it probably won’t happen quickly, leading to a small time delay. It also presents the risk that my chances of being able to emigrate are lessened considerably, but I am every day coming to the opinion that I really won’t be able to do this after all. The opportunities just aren’t there with the degree I’ve got. If I had a degree that lent itself to an obvious profession (e.g. medicine, architecture, law) then it would definitely be possible. But I might have to resign myself to defeat here.

The third option is to try as hard as I can to find a job in this area, all the while looking for a better option (which could even be the graduate employers I’ve thought about). This would at least give me money right now. It would also mean I wouldn’t feel as guilty abandoning home when my parents have spent so much money on this loft conversion. But there are very few reasonable job opportunities in this area for a graduate.

Above all though, my main annoyance is that It’s just typical that I’ve graduated at just the moment the economy is turning to shit. Great timing, dude.

Meanwhile, I am yet again left in charge around here as my mum and dad have gone away for a few days to celebrate their anniversary. Last night I made everyone curried beans and rice. Still feeling the after effects this morning…

Let Them Eat Cake

Since Christmas I have really taken to the idea of baking cakes and various unhealthy items. This has been something of a surprise for me in truth because I normally have an allergic reaction to making food from scratch.

But it seems that with the passage of time I’ve realised just how simple it is. My latest creation was the easiest and yet the best thing I’ve ever made, a microwave golden syrup sponge with custard. Oh yeah. The family enjoyed it, most of all my dad who, despite being very thin, likes anything cakey, biscuity, chocolately, etc. Must be where I get my sweet tooth from. My dad won’t have a cup of tea unless there is something sweet to go with it. Weird.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to make any use out of it. I could, maybe, use these recipes in school when I’m a teacher. But then again, that’s probably unlikely given the outrageously packed national curriculum, which generally regulates every minute of a teacher’s professional life. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have a think about that one.

Meanwhile, my mum is back from her working holiday. It was very interesting to compare notes with her from the time I worked in a summer camp in the USA. She was one of the seven staff there to oversee the school Year 8 holiday to Barcelona so she had a similar experience to me in terms of dealing with homesickness and keeping children entertained. Though they had it easy because there was an itinerary all planned for them. I had to make it up as I went along!

While we talked about this I did feel like I’d missed out again. Really, I should have been back in the USA again this summer. Though this is not yet 100% regret. Maybe by the time this holiday is over I will feel I could have used it much more effectively. To be honest, I would say that is very likely. Right now, I’m not doing enough to justify taking the safe option of staying here.

Naturally, too, there was one other thing that I’d missed out on.

Cake. And food in general. Because out in the USA they looked after us staff extremely well. Lots of food, and lots of dessert. Oh yeah. I put a whole four kilograms on while I was out there. And all that while I was hiking mountains virtually every other day. Perhaps I did overeat a bit. Then again, having M&M thick pancakes (not like the crappy thin British pancakes) for breakfast as well as cereal every day, it wasn’t exactly difficult to overeat.

Anyway, enough reminiscince. I missed out. My fault. I have to make this time here count for something. I’ve not yet worked out what I should do with it. I thought I’d have a job by now, but the good news has not yet arrived from my Contact Who Often Provides Work. If I earned a fair old stack of money then I could feel like I hadn’t wasted this opportunity of lots of free time.

Perhaps I need to get my thinking cap on and see if I can do something more productive with this long summer, probably the last one I’ll ever have.