The Decision, The Hurt

I have been thinking about a decision now for the best part of a year. It was a decision that I have been wanting to make for a while, but I just didn’t have the bottle to take it.

Basically, my business has long outgrown the house I live in. My house is basically my business premises, in which I eat, sleep and be unmerry all year around. This home arrangement makes it look a bit of an amateur affair. In my opinion. This works for some customers, but for where I want to be, it is not acceptable.

But I am now so extraordinarily close to making this decision. There is premises available. I have a possible arrangement I can make, and a possible business deal with a contact. I am so worn down that I am almost ready to make this decision anyway. I have high ambitions.

And I feel ready to take the risk.

In relative terms, it’s a pretty big one. It’s bigger than the risk I took to move away in the first place and start up this business in the middle of an area I’d never before been to.

But I feel this time we’re almost there. We’re almost in the right position to make it.

Today I went to meet a friend. I don’t have many of those, but I felt I needed someone to sound off to. To just have someone listen to my ideas and evaluate them. I also went some way to offering him some ideas for how he could help me, which he was willing to do.

I have known this friend since secondary school. Originally he was going to join me in the business anyway- but he was never willing to risk everything to make it happen. He was just like most of the people I’ve come across in this world: they want the safety of the income stream from now to eternity. He wanted to wait for me to get it all up and running, and then he would step in to help.

He belittled my efforts. He said in the early days “I earn more stacking shelves”. He provided no support, no encouragement, no help. Much like my family, to be honest.

I would like to say I can find it in my heart to forgive them, but the truth be told is that a part of me can’t. It still sticks in my mind even now, despite the fact that I have decisively, convincingly proved them wrong, and am almost ready to make the next gamble.

It’s richly ironic that I may end up employing him, when the offer on the table, if only he’d had the bottle, was for 50% of the business.

I guess I should take joy in having the last laugh. I would like to think that I’d be better than that, but I feel like I deserve this moment of self-indulgence.

All that remains is the pain of not having anyone who really believed in me.

BBQ Madness

Yesterday, on the third attempt, I went to a successful barbecue at one of my clients.

I have been to two others in the past, but the first was freezing cold, and the second contained so much rain that most of the cooking was done indoors.

As a vegetarian, barbecues are a nightmare. In fact, at most barbecues I don’t eat anything. Maybe I’ll have some of the salad on offer, but in order to do so I have to make sure I get started quickly. The risk of cross-contamination is too great…

Yesterday, I think I got away with it, but it’s always close. Really, I just shouldn’t chance it at all. My veggie burgers got cooked first, and with separate utensils, but there is always the danger of fat spitting. The thought of eating anything remotely meaty knocks me sick these days, having been a veggie for what must be around 15 years now.

What made it all so successful though was the weather. The weather has been stunning now for over a week. Everyone has noted how weird the weather has been, and continues to be these days. January mild, then snow. February, freezing cold. March, unbeliveably warm. April, ridiculous cold and wet. May, exactly the same, and then suddenly in the last six days, a wild swing into Mediterranean warmth.

So I got to sit for nearly eight hours out in the sunshine, eating, drinking, socialising… although the socialising was a little difficult as I don’t know many people there. But I did get to complete one of my life’s ambitions by riding a spacehopper. Oh yeah. And yes, I did put on lots of sun tan lotion. So glad I did, because the only bit of me where I kind of didn’t reach – the top of my forehead where the hair is a little bit thin – is a bit red this morning. The rest of me is fine.

It’s nice to do something different like that. I should try and get out and do more things, but it won’t happen without friends, and as I’ve noted many times now, friends are pretty hard to come by in my line of work. People only want to see you when it’s convenient for them. And it’s all very professional…

One unexpected negative of the BBQ though was the presence of local children. Not that there’s anything negative about children per se, but local children in the place I go to means something. They are pretty mean, let’s just say. They think nothing of using their fists and kicking you if you try to wind them up or torment them. Which is inevitable when the day involves water, a paddling pool, a spacehopper and a game invented by one of the parents that involved collecting one of literally hundreds of those colourful small plastic balls you find in most paddling pools…

So I got kicked and punched twice for daring to hide one of the balls in my back pocket so I could influence the game. They take no prisoners. Being a military area, there is no real surprise in that. But it makes you wonder what kind of violence they’ve seen at home. They just go straight for you.

Of course, the presence of water also meant that everyone got drenched. Including me… when someone chucked a whole kitchen sink full of it at me. It was also icy cold, as it was the water from the ice buckets that were keeping the beers cool! I knew it was coming, it was a matter of time as I heard some conspiring going on. But what annoyed me was that when it actually happened, I didn’t expect it at all, even though I was trying to be on my guard. Just goes to show how easy it is to let your attention slip…

Still, it’s Sunday… I’ve been up since 6:30am due to being unable to sleep any more, and I have work to do. Both professional and domestic. And the sun’s shining. Bah.

Relying On Others

As life progresses, you realise almost nothing happens without the co-operation of others. It’s really only the small things in life, the bits that probably only you can do anyway, which you can accomplish single-handed. For example, if I don’t go shopping, I will starve and die. Therefore I have to. That’s not a particularly big achievement.

On a bigger level, there are some things which are optional, which if taken on single-handed can lead to a real sense of fulfilment at their completion. Maybe taking on the decorating single-handed. Or a good old-fashioned top-to-bottom spring clean. Or perhaps being the sole person responsible for organising a party. Yes, these things can be very satisfying.

Ultimately, however, they are limited in scope. To get bigger achievements, you need help. You need a network of other people, whether they’re friends, family, colleagues or other people with an interest, whether personal, emotional or financial.

It is such that my life at the moment is at this stage. I’ve moaned about waiting in the past. Waiting for things to happen. Waiting for others to decide. Waiting for others to act. But as you move through life you realise everything is like that. And always you think “if only everyone was as organised as me, then I wouldn’t have to wait…”

Well… maybe there is some truth in that. I am a pretty organised person. I always have been. From when I was a sad youth, doing my homework as soon as I got back so I could have the evening/weekend to me. Same was true in university, finishing my essays, tutorials, even my dissertation, safely before the deadline. And it’s always been true in my work life.

But now it has taken on a greater relevance to my life – because I am now relying on others to pay me. I have huge debts outstanding to a few clients, and I have to chase them to get the money they know they owe me. I also rely on others coming back to me, finding my service useful and good value. So far so good on that score.

There is a big project I’m working on at the moment that if it comes through will be the making of me. I need the mythical Others to hurry up and decide. Hurry up and get things in motion. Because I’m sick of thinking about it. Sick of wondering whether today will be the day they finally get back to me. I hate chasing people up to do something they really ought to have done by now, or really should have had the decency, professionalism or common courtesy to get sorted.

But there can be all manner of reasons why things don’t happen. And I’m not perfect either. Others are waiting for me to do things all the time. I just hope they don’t feel this way about me.

Betcha they do. Hypocrite warning.

Maybe there’s a reason for this. I guess I just don’t like other people really. Deep down. Might explain why I have no friends any more!

What Happens Next

At the moment, life feels like one of those awful rounds from A Question of Sport. You know the one where they play a bit of video tape and pause it at a moment where nothing seems to be apparently happening. And then when they start playing it again…

Yep. That’s right now. OK, the pace of business is brisk, but there is something of a tedious pause going on at the moment. I am awaiting news on a number of fronts, as I’m sure I’ve kept mentioning. I need the news to happen as soon as possible. It has to be good news, or I’ll be severely depressed. But we just keep waiting.

I’ve noticed a pattern emerging in life. This is the beauty of blogging. I can look back and see how many times I have moaned in the past about waiting. Waiting for this, waiting for that. Often it does come, and life improves. Usually it never does, and I have to find some alternative angle. Which usually involves more waiting. The wheels of decision-making don’t turn quickly.

There is a big meeting next week I am attending. It could change the pace of everything here. It could be rather interesting. I’m in limbo at the moment waiting for it. I am even going to have to spend some money for it, which is a damn shame. I hate wearing nice clothing, nice suits… it just isn’t me. But I’m going to have to look the part for this meeting, and so a good suit is in order. The current one, which is about nine sizes too big, just will not do.

But that might mean I need to cut my hair. That is also in a limbo at the moment. It hasn’t been this “long” for some time. I say “long” because my hair doesn’t really get long any more. Since about the age of 12, I suddenly developed curls in my hair when it reaches a certain length. It’s way past that length now, and I have the beginnings of what would turn into a curly mop head. I’ve been partly too busy to cut it, and partly too lazy. But if I want to look at least reasonably smart, then the hair is probably going to have to go as well…

Meanwhile, life in the house is bad. I don’t really talk to my housemate any more. I can’t remember exactly when it happened, but it just did all of a sudden. I did want it to go like this though. For months I had been hoping that he would get the London job that would pull the plug on all of his involvement in my business. It would force me to take some decisions to reshape the way it works. It happened, and so I did. In the end, they weren’t even difficult, or at least haven’t proved to be in the last few months.

And if the news… hopefully this month… is good, it will soon be time for bye-byes on this so-called friendship.

No wonder I don’t have many friends…

The Unofficial Birthday

The past few days I’ve been back home Up North. It’s been a good time on the whole. Two full days of work which will earn me a not inconsiderable sum. And a chance to recharge my social meter (for all Sims fans everywhere) before returning back to the dullness of The South.

On Wednesday we sort of had my second birthday. After my original birthday was so crap a couple of weeks ago, this one was a little better. I had some presents to open. And then we all went out as a family for a nice meal. OK, it was only the Harvester but the company is what matters.

It was the first time in quite a while that we have just sat down, the six of us (my older sister is kinda forgotten about, but that’s because she has a husband and a son!) and chatted, gossiped, and had a great laugh reminiscing about good times gone. I was amazed and slightly pleased to discover that my nearest brother (in age) loved the family holiday to Austria as much as I did.

I do miss all this. Every time I come home I have to get my fill of joyous family life because I know I’ll be without it for at least a few weeks. While I’m here now I can take advantage of it. Even if we are all changing, and my youngest sister now has a boyfriend who occupies every waking thought of the day, and my other brother acts so stupid half the time, there are still occasional glimpses of the goodness we all had and may still have if only we fight to keep it…

How can I get around this? Well, there are a number of options, most of them completely out of the question. The real answer is to try to get my own family. That also seems out of the question, but it’s probably the only feasible medium-term alternative.

The sad thing though is that it’s merely an act of substitution. By replacing the family I enjoy being part of up here with another, I would be removing a major aspect of my life. Just like my sister sort of has. Well, it’s a bit easier for her, still living very close to my parents’ home. With me, I get the feeling that once I had other drains on my time, I wouldn’t have any more room for what’s left.

As I’ve got through life, I’ve realised that there only seems to be enough room in the heart, and the brain, to cope with so many relationships. Friends, family, acquaintances. They all eventually get replaced with something else.

Devastating, but true.

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.

Adapting

It’s hard to know what to expect from life any more. The situation for me is now such that a reasonable equilibrium has been reached. I’m content with what I’m doing, and can exist quite well of it by my own standards.

But it is not set to last. As is life, things change, and we must adapt. Hmm. Too much Borg.

My housemate is looking to find a way out of his current job. If he does so, he will likely become of no use to me at all business-wise. This will make my business rather difficult to sustain, unless I can reinvent it. Somehow. With no money. Cos I’m so frugal I’ll never risk it.

In the past few weeks I’ve talked to friends and sounded out a couple of them who once upon a time expressed a vague interest in joining me in business. No one bit. Why would they? They’re in comfortable jobs with no real desire to upset the applecart. Why sacrifice someone gladly handing over thousands of pounds to you in exchange for not-very-demanding work, and giving you paid holidays, sick leave and other perks into the bargain?

No, it is actually quite difficult to sell self-employment to those living the cushy employee lifestyle. It genuinely has to be something from the heart.

And so prospects start to look bleak. I’m almost now in the position where I could risk thinking about what I could do to grow the business further. Take on a new challenge. There is the opportunity to do it, but do I have the bottle?

I don’t think I do. But at the same time, I might have no choice. If my partially useless and increasingly irritating house mate eventually fucks off, as I know he will soon, then I have to make the decision. The business would survive without him, but it would have its scope severely narrowed. Away would go any prospects for web enterprises and other design jobs. Or any of the other doors that his talents and contacts open.

All of this – the constant thoughts of business – makes me wonder. Do I have any life any more? In the last month, I have engaged in the grand total of two social events with friends. And that is extremely unusual. One of them travelled 100 miles to see me. The other I went well out of my way to catch up with on a recent trip back home.

Not good. Not good at all. I wasn’t much of a social animal to begin with, but to have completely exchanged my life for that of work is not something I expected would ever become of me. I tolerate it for now, for I know nothing else. But it can’t stay forever. Surely I need to have some life? I might live to regret not using these relatively youthful years…

Oh well. I’ll adapt.

Trying To Remember

It never used to be 18 days between blog posts.

This is the very first time I’ve thought about this blog in a long time. That can only mean one thing: I’ve been otherwise engaged.

And it’s actually true. This week in particular has been tough. Three late nights in a row trying to fix computers that have been in a serious mess. And succeeding. Then getting paid quite well for it. OK, it’s never enough, but I can’t complain at all.

Things are quite positive for me lately. There was the fun of the election period, during which I made a brief detour to Hull and visited friends. I stayed up all night and then all the next day watching the festivities. Don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed myself so much. OK, I’m not much a fan of the result, but as a student of politics it was truly magical.

It made me miss the idea of having friends available to speak to on a regular basis. Facebook and other communication methods just don’t cut it. But I’m improving on that score, slightly. I still have precisely zero “friends” around here, but lately I’ve gotten to know a couple of my neighbours, and that has really helped. Even got invited over for dinner to one. That was very… civilized. I was the oldest one there by about 30 years. But still, I enjoyed it.

But it’s difficult when you age. You don’t get as many opportunities to mix socially with people your own age for the simple and obvious reason that there is no education any more. Education really is such a fantastic idea because of the social benefits it brings. At last, I am beginning to understand why most people say that school days are some of the best days of your life. Even though I hated it at the time. Funny.

So things are ticking over nicely for me. The general direction of travel is positive. I have a rough idea of where I’m going. It just needs to keep moving. In some sense, I don’t have control over that. All I can do is keep working hard, doing a good job, and hoping my customers take care of the rest by recommending me.

I just need to remember to keep a record of life here. Cos I know I’ll find it fascinating to look back on when I’m older. Blogging bug, I need you!