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.

Family Decline

Since Christmas, there has been nothing but a relentless string of bad news regarding my grandparents. We’ve all done our best to cope with the situation, but it’s suddenly degenerated into a serious problem in the space of a couple of weeks.

What is clear is that, for years now, my nan has been keeping the situation hidden from us. She must have been struggling for such a long time to keep up appearances that she could look after my grandad and make sure we don’t have to worry about it. She clearly felt it was her duty to do so, being that it was her husband. She couldn’t bring the burden to the wider family.

We all knew things were getting bad. 2011 was difficult on that score. But all of a sudden she just cannot care for him any more. She’s developed a serious problem with her leg, and her arthritis is now excruciating. As such, my grandad has been put in some respite care to give her time to recover, but it’s abundantly clear that even if she does, there will be no possibility of her ever looking after her husband again. He is just too difficult to control.

So this is causing incredible tension in the family. My poor mum, already under stress with her own job, and the difficulty of still having two demanding teenaged children and my 22 year old brother, who is not much help either, all living at home, is now having to deal with this as well. We had a very long conversation on the phone last night, and she agrees, my grandad just cannot return home again.

It is depressing and terrible. I am, in some ways, lucky that I am not at home, and therefore not having to see the daily consequences of this. At the time this makes me feel a bit guilty. Out of sight, out of mind. But, in truth, there’s probably nothing I can do to help except support my mum. My mum, at least, has two brothers and a sister who are useful, and they are all pitching in to some extent to try to give care. But it’s not easy, and requires incredible co-ordination, which means endless phone calls and other delays. And it’s not as if my mum can ever have a quick phone call anyway. That’s starting to get my youngest brother and sister annoyed, because they’re feeling left out of the attention.

It’s just not a good start to the year at all. No one really knows what the next step is, but I know for sure things will never be the same again. And no one’s even thought about how much this could all end up costing. Isn’t society wonderful?

2012

The new year brings its customary assessment of the year to come. And here it is.

After what must have been the quietest new year ever by my standards, it is time to look at where I might be going. What are the prospects for this year?

If I’m honest, I’m terribly worried. I have great concerns about the economy. If the Eurozone crisis finally bubbles out of control, it will have serious consequences for all. I’m expecting a pretty rough first six months of this year. I could already sense that I was getting less and less work as the year ended. New Year is traditionally a time to cut back after the excessive spending during the Christmas period. I fear that is what’s going to happen.

There is an answer. If 2012 goes well, it will set me on the right path for the next few years. There is a possibility afoot of large contracts, with big suppliers, in a new avenue of business. It is exciting but also unnerving as there’s just no way of guessing where it might go. I have a new business partner who is very keen, but also a shade unreliable. I am playing it cautiously. We’ll see.

On the other hand, if none of that happens, it might turn out to be a Ceiling Year. That is, the point at which you realise no more progress can be made, and you either have to accept it and live like a normal adult, or look, yet again, to unsettle yourself and take a risk. I don’t know, but I’m starting to get weary of wondering which way to turn.

In my personal life, I just don’t know what to do any more. I would like to see some development, but just can’t see how I can engineer circumstances to get involved with someone. But in reality I have to do something. I am not getting any younger. In secret, I would love to be a parent. Not that I have any useful genes to pass on, but from a selfish perspective I am starting to think it really is time I had a child. I think it would make such an incredible difference to me as a person. I know it would be hard work, but I think it would make me a more rounded, less self-centred individual.

But it’s all guff. It can’t happen without the necessary obvious prerequisite. And as I said, where that comes from I don’t know.

In a wider perspective, it is going to be a tough year for my family. My granddad is now reaching a point in his dementia that he is totally incapable of doing anything. He was here last night and cannot hold a conversation any more, though in his own mind he thinks he is. He doesn’t know who people are. My poor nan is being driven round the bend by him. She gets help, but she’s an extremely proud woman and doesn’t accept it easily. I know this is all going to place a massive strain on my mum. She was already pretty tearful yesterday.

Hopefully things will go well for my siblings and nephews.

Not much more to be said, really. Let’s see what happens…

The Call From Home

Invariably one of the things I hate is the call from home. Now, I don’t hate it because I hate hearing from and about my family, but I hate it for a few reasons.

First, I hate phones generally. I have come to tolerate them for business purposes, but I don’t like their urgency, their crying whine demanding your immediate attention, when in the most part the call is never actually urgent.

Secondly, there is just something about the call from home that drains me. In person, I enjoy speaking to my mum and dad. On the phone, I feel utterly at a loss. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know how to react. I hate having to over-react in order that the person on the other end gets an audio sound of my emotions. I think I miss the visual cues most of all: body language is so important, and I miss it desperately over the phone.

This makes the call very difficult. I mumble and stumble over words. My mum just talks and talks, and I sit there going “Mmm”, “yeah” and laughing or tutting where appropriate (since a shake of the head doesn’t work down the phone line). I don’t get much chance to say anything. I just get an ear-bashing.

But what makes it even more awful is that it is usually a long list of bad news. I very rarely get a call to deliver something interesting and exciting. It’s usually bad things happening to my sister, to my dad, to my mum, to other family members, or in their neighbourhood. Then when my mum has ran out of things to say, she’ll ask me how I am, I’ll say I’m OK (regardless of whether I am or not) and the call will fizzle out, unless my mum thinks of something else…

I write this post fresh from the ending of one such call. It involved my mum recounting the tale of the few days they’ve been away on holiday this week. They had an OK time, and I heard a couple of slightly entertaining things, but they were far overshadowed by the horrible news at the start of the call regarding my grandad, who is now a good long way through the stages of dementia.

They had actually taken him, and my nan, on holiday with them. They thought they’d enjoy the break. They probably did, but the big problem is that my grandad is a real handful now. He depends on my nan to do almost everything for him, and now he can’t hold a conversation without losing it and getting annoyed with himself. The stress this puts on my poor nan is unbelievable, and my mum finally witnessed this at first hand.

The double whammy of the cruel, gradual demise of my grandad, because of this fucking awful condition, along with the strain this puts my nan under are turned into a triple-play, because, when it gets worse, my nan won’t be able to cope. And I know it will mostly fall to my mum to deal with it, despite her having three brothers and a sister.

There are some truly horrendous times coming for my family in the next few years. I’ve been dreading it for years, but I get the strong feeling the worst is now very close indeed.

And all relayed to me via a phone. Thus reinforcing my hatred of the device.

(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.

A Brief Perfect Moment

There are very few moments in life where I feel “everything is just perfect at the moment”.

Yesterday, however, contained one such time. But it does demonstrate just how easily pleased I am. And in any case, it lasted about 5 seconds… but you just know it when suddenly you get a feeling inside which just simply says “Life is good”.

I was sitting in the warm sunshine with my grandparents after I’d went out with them for the day. We were sitting on a field, a gentle breeze, and I was eating cheese, tomato and coleslaw sandwiches.

I felt I had to note this event. The food was good, the weather was nice, the location was perfect and it was just awesome to be spending some time with my grandparents. After all, none of us know the minute, and my poor grandad is slowly progressing into what is certainly a form of dementia. But at that moment, everything was perfect.

I spent the rest of the day with them exploring and just generally wandering around. I had gone with them to help them carry their stuff up to the static caravan they’re staying in at the moment – and as always they’d picked a nice day for it. I’m beginning to get a little worried that my life contains too many events revolving around caravans at the moment… how depressing.

That was good fun – but not that much else has happened in my life lately. But then again, it summer, and I do deserve a break. There’s not much else I can do right now except wait for the temporary job offers to roll
in. Well, offer. Hopefully I’ll have more on that next time.

There is something else I’m doing at the moment, which is being an exam invigilator in my local school. But that has turned out to be something of a waste of time, since they told me I would be in every day (no one else wants to do it) … except, now the exam time has come around, they don’t actually need the invigilators anyway.

So far I’ve done one two hour exam and I’m doing another one later. And I’m not likely to do any more.

Though Tuesday did give rise to a classic, when one 15-year-old kid pointed to a picture of a swede on the English language exam paper and asked me if it was a fruit or a vegetable.

Perhaps I only want to be a teacher because I want my sense of humour tickled…