The Parental Visitation

There aren’t many examples of it, but as I sit here on Easter Sunday in the midst (tragically) of the third act of the bank holiday weekend, it is somewhat different than normal.

Yesterday my parents arrived for a two day visit. They decided, somewhat impromptu, to visit me since they were both on holiday from work and all my other siblings had deserted them. I had a feeling it might happen, as we had briefly talked about it when I was last home, but here it is. Now happening.

It’s nearly two years since they were here last. It’s always good when they visit, because they get to see what a bachelor (haha) life I am leading. The house is in bad need of some attention. So we usually do a tip run, and maybe increase the furnishings of the house just modestly. But they are highly critical of everything here, including such sparsity as there being no lightbulb in the room they are sleeping in (I never use the room, so I forgot! It happens!)

It’s all quite interesting, to be honest. I know there are lots of things that I need to sort out. I just never get the time. I feel like I should make the house nicer to live in, but it’s generally not something I’m good at. I look at the bare walls and think “hmm. What would I put there?” People say photos, art prints, other personal things. I just look at them and think. Hmm. What would I put there? It’s beyond not knowing. It’s actually not caring. I do not care one bit. I don’t know how to. Other people have imagination, and enjoy putting their personal touch. I. Simply. Do. Not. Care.

But what I do care about is what other people think when they visit. So when my parents tell me the environment is somewhat “inhospitable” I start to think maybe I should at least make it have a little more friendliness to my guests, however infrequent they are. I worry about that. I am, in all aspects of my life, somewhat worried about people may “think” of me. Even though I know that that is not a sensible way to live over the long term.

Parking that issue to one side though, it is still nice that my parents are here. We’ve had a nice leisurely breakfast, and we’re going out for something to eat in an hour or so. A nice stroll into town will do us wonders, even though I know my mum and dad don’t really do walking any more (welcome to my non-driving world). We get on pretty well with our jokes, but I generally don’t enjoy watching crap on the TV, which they are both inanely doing now whilst I sit solitarily in my bedroom writing up the latest nonsense that has arrived in my brain.

The most exciting part of my life though, that I’m now on the third day off out of four, is still wonderful. The sanctuary will end tomorrow, when the fourth arrives and I will feel like work is imminently returning. But it just reminds me how much I love Easter. Not because of its religious aspect, but because of its wonderful back-to-back bank holidays. I feel all the more rested for it.

Here’s to holidays. I need more of them.

A Passport Is Important

In all my life the very first passport I had was obtained at the age of 19, prior to my first, only, holiday as an adult. We went to Austria, and a fun time was had by all. It was my last ever proper family holiday. It was such a moment in my life that I even wrote about it in my Youth Review 19-20.

When my passport expired in June of this year, I thought “meh”. In recent years, I have lost any interest in ever going abroad. I used to like the idea of travelling, of seeing the world, of experiencing other cultures, and generally “broadening one’s horizons”. And, I must admit, a certain degree of envy when business clients and former/ex-friends (virtually no one is my friend any more) tell me they’re off to foreign shores to relax, or do their thing.

But somehow, when the time comes to consider it all, I just go cold. When I analyse it, the only reason why a holiday sounds a good idea is to get away from the dull English weather. I fantasise about going on holiday in winter, avoiding Christmas and all that entails, to feel warm, if only for a little bit.

Unfortunately, I then get into a deeply unhelpful state. The holiday is a form of escapism. I am such a depressed individual at time that I will even deny myself escapism. I do so because I look upon escapism with an unhealthy degree of cynicism. If life is so bad that you must escape from it, then the escapism is a waste of time, because every day of your escapism you will think about exactly what it is you are escaping from, until such time as it inevitably all goes back to the way it was.

I have these existential moments regularly. My life in general is crap, and others would not tolerate it, but I don’t see it as something I wish to escape from. It is what it is. Short of a revolutionary change in my personality or outlook on life, it’s not going to change. So why bother escaping from it?

It was this length of ludicrous argument that led me to procrastinate about the passport renewal. I thought if I really needed it, to go abroad, I would then sort it out. With no holidays on the horizon, I ignored it.

But what I didn’t think about was how critical it was to have a passport as a form of ID. It had already happened once recently, when I had a problem opening a bank account. We got there in the end, so I thought it was proof I could continue to do so.

Turns out, when there is a financial transaction involving buying a house (or, rather, a plot of land) and other such fun, like solicitors, they all want some proof I am who I am. Who knew?

Not being able to drive – and the driving licence also being expired for at least two years – there has been something of a sudden halt in all activities until my new passport arrives.

And that alone caused its own saga.

Being one who over-thinks these things to the nth degree, I put enormous amounts of thought into what, exactly, I would look like on the passport photo. The passport photo that would identify me for the next 10 years. It needed to represent me well, because in 10 years time I will look back at it and think “look at poor Matt, blissfully unaware of the 10 years that lie ahead”.

So I dawdled even at this stage. I waited long enough for me to make a decision about the subject of the previous post (hair…) – and decided I would get my haircut first, then go home, wash it, reapply the useless product that I’ve started using, and then get it taken.

The plan was executed flawlessly, and I am reasonably happy with the picture. I have certainly aged in 10 years. No surprise really.

Now I must wait. But at least there’s a lot of good waiting involved. Christmas being round the corner, and all that.

207 days until 30

The Banks Are On Holiday

It’s Bank Holiday Monday, and I’m here again. Why, it feels like it must be 2005, posting every few days…

And the good news is that, in exactly two weeks time, it will also be a Bank Holiday. Hurrah.

It has been a “busy” weekend. And by busy I mean I have spent most of my time working. I spent virtually all of my Easter Sunday doing some monumentally tedious work on my company’s “Quality Management System”. This is a remarkably dull piece of documentation that waffles and repeats itself many times, all of the sake of showing that we are, apparently, worthy of doing the work we are doing.

This wasn’t the plan when I discussed Easter Sunday in my post on Saturday. But when I looked at the forecast, it made more sense to have an afternoon off on Saturday, while there was some actual sunshine, and then get stuck indoors all of Sunday instead, while it rained. It worked perfectly.

The consequence is that, today, I genuinely have nothing to do. Nothing pressing, work wise, anyway. I could do odd chores instead. I could clean the bathroom. I could mop the kitchen floor. I could play my guitar a lot – which I have brought home from the office for this very reason.

But maybe I will actually do none of those. There’s a bit of sunshine outside at the moment as I gaze out the window. It looks good. It makes me want to go outside… for a little bit. It makes me want to just spend a little time away from my “desk”. Then maybe watch DVDs all day.

Then I look around at my desk here at home, and am disgusted at its mess. It could really really do with being taken off, cleaned, and then only the important things put back. That sounds like a good plan. Maybe after the walk?

Yesterday, I was invited in for Easter Sunday breakfast with my neighbour. That was nice. We had muesli, boiled eggs (with soldiers) and then an extra piece of toast. With honey. And I had already had a bowl of Weetabix at home. Well, the cheap Weetabix. That was basically my Easter. It’s a far cry from my family Easters that I was used to over the years…

I did the phone call home. It was spent, as usual, listening to my mum talking, as she does. I don’t mind… (too much)… but it also made me a bit depressed. We don’t speak on the phone that often any more. It used to be a regular thing, at least once a week. Now it might be only once every fortnight, or longer. And when we were speaking, my mum was telling me about the terrible nerve pains she’s been having for over a month now. The doctors don’t seem to be helping. The physio hasn’t worked.

It’s worrying. It all reminds me of the days, weeks, months and years that are passing in the blink of an eye. Health doesn’t last forever.

Wow. Now I do need a walk to clear my head.

The Readjustment

Every year, post-Christmas, post-New Year, there has to be a re-adjustment. It is that tragic and depressing time when one realises Life Must Continue.

For days I live in denial. The interregnum between Christmas and New Year provides two bookends of protection. During this zone I can comfortably wave away concerns about time-wasting and self-indulgence.

Then you slip across the New Year precipice. New Year’s Day is always an odd affair, filled with tiredness and usually too much food. It allows you to ignore crossing the rubicon. But then the 2nd occurs.

For this year, like most years, the 2nd was a turning point. I had, this year, made a deliberate decision to actually leave my phone off. I have always set my voicemail message to say I’m on holiday, but often leaving my phone on, so people hear it ring and have to wait for the message. But this year, my phone was very firmly off – meaning I didn’t even see, hear or otherwise sense that a caller was waiting.

This made a big difference psychologically.

Until the 2nd, of course.

Because it’s not possible to leave your phone off forever. My phone (a smartphone) is also a leisure device. So switching it on to receive internet to do some Googling or to play some silly games, or download an app, or whatever… inevitably resulted in the receiving of the “you have 15 voicemails” and the deluge of e-mails arriving.

In reality, although my holiday only “officially” ended yesterday, it ended many days ago. I have been trying to deny it for days, but it is now here.

The readjustment usually takes several days. By the end of this week I will be back to 12/13 hour workdays, and no semblance of life or leisure beyond the fleeting glimpses I obtain of a Sunday.

Today I am travelling away from the parental home. I am leaving behind the place where I have spent the last two weeks relaxing and, in the most part, getting away from work. It has worked to some degree. I do feel better, but I also feel dread.

Everyone does. Everyone dreads the return of mundanity, and reality. Life is tedious at the best of times, and utterly, exasperatingly, frustrating due to the nature of the work I do. The nature of constantly dealing with people who are significantly at odds with the technology they use grinds me down. I felt it yesterday when I was on the phone with a customer. I felt the internal rage building, something I haven’t felt for weeks. It’s not good for me. I am an extraordnarily patient person with my customers, but some episodes, especially on your first proper day back at work, just kick you over the edge.

The Readjustment is a horrible time for me. I feel pretty depressed writing this, knowing in a few hours time I will be whisking my way back to the Southern house. That I won’t see my family or relatives for some time again.

Part of me is filled with this woe because, on the whole, Christmas was good. It is depressing that it is all over so soon. That life is now resuming with 50 weeks of incessant drudgery before I can genuinely switch off with no feeling of guilt.

Then the other part of me is telling me this is getting more and more concerning by the year. That we are all now one year older. One year less secure in this world. One year closer to seeing family, friends and relatives no longer with us. One year less biologically able. This was only brought home to me when visiting the home of my grandmother yesterday… a house I’ve not stepped into since my grandfather died.

Time to stop. Before I get so depressed I give up.

And before the phone no doubt rings.

The Yearly Rest

Most people have regular holidays, if they’re able. Definitely summer, maybe one or two weeks in autumn or spring. If they have children, holidays are usually only six weeks away.

Me, not so much. Throughout this year, I think the holidays I’ve taken have been one week in mid March, when I was feeling quite unwell, and a few days in September, when I went to Cornwall. Which was kinda ruined.

But here we are now. Safely back home with my family, after what was probably the best journey home ever. I left at stupid o clock, and everything ran to time, but even better it was quiet and totally stress-free. I brought a book, lent to me by a customer, about Steve Jobs. I’ve never been a fan of Apple, but I have a little bit of motivation now…

It’s been a nice day overall. I got home about 11:30, and haven’t done much since. But that doesn’t matter too much. This is my holiday. The only proper one I have all year. I have worked damn hard for this, and so I’m going to enjoy it as much as I possibly can. Enjoy definitely knowing taking any phone calls would be totally inappropriate. Not that anyone would phone me. Although, this year, I wouldn’t put it past a couple of the weirdos I’ve dealt with.

But this year it’s even more special because I have come home to see my family, which has an extra addition. I now have a new nephew, who was born a week ago. The family just gets larger and larger. I saw him for the first time earlier today. All babies are ugly, I’m pretty sure of that. But they soon improve!

It is now eight years since I started blogging. Every year I note the “blogiversary” as best I can. But this year I don’t think I have anything further to add. I’ve said it all in past years. All good. Long may it continue.

Now I sit awaiting my final drink of the evening. It will only be my second, but we kind of have an ironic tradition in this house in recent years. We sit around wrapping presents till late, watching crap TV, drinking Baileys and watching Midnight Mass. None of us is remotely religious. And, to be fair, we only watch it for about 10 minutes, by which point we couldn’t care less. But all families have their silly traditions, and this is one I quite enjoy. Well, anything involving Baileys must be good.

Tomorrow and the rest of the week should be really good. I am looking forward to present unwrapping tomorrow, and the general family catch up that we’re all planning on. Oh, and lots of food.

Happy Christmas one and all.


Sorry, I’m Closed

One of the toughest messages to get through to my customers, and also to myself at times, is that I really must have some downtime every week at some point. The best time to take this is on a Sunday. Not because of religion, of course (that would be silly), but for the simple reason that most people also conclude that this is is a definite day of rest, and therefore are either doing their own thing, or respect others that want to do their own thing.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to work out that way. In the last year, Sundays have been my day of “catch up”. The million and one jobs that don’t get done during the week, through lack of time, get worked through – gradually – on Sunday instead. Mostly these are real, paying jobs. For example, today I have transferred three VHS tapes to DVD, built a new machine and set it all up, as well as made some purchases for upcoming jobs.

But what I don’t do, thankfully, is answer the phone. Sometimes I turn my phone off completely.

Today hasn’t been one of those days, alas, because, due to thoughtless, inconsiderate and over-demanding customers, I’ve had little option but to await their calls, when they were ready to call me.

Some people don’t seem to grasp that, maybe, just maybe, I might actually not want to deal with people on one day of the week. It’s not much to ask, is it?

I think part of the reason is that I work from home, and my business is me, and I am my business. There is no division between the two. People seem to think that I am just here, waiting for them, all day, every day.

When you have a place of work, that changes. It is a physical location, where nobody lives, which has to be opened up and closed every day it is in operation. Consequently, phrases like “Sorry we’re closed” at 5:30pm, or on Sundays, are understood. Yes, they’re finished for the day. Yes, they’re closed for the weekend. That’s fair enough. That’s because the business is not a person. The business, instead, becomes a trade that takes place at a certain location, a trade that is not run round the clock for obvious reasons of staff and cost.

But a phone number is always on. A home is always lived-in. A  “Sorry, I’m closed” sign on the door makes no sense. Could it be someone’s idea of a subtle joke? Yes, you are closed. You are a door. You usually are closed…

The division between my work and business life has been an utter disaster. I let intrusions on my personal life, such as a work text earlier today starting, “Sorry to bother you on a Sunday but…” – really grind me down. I rant and rave. You aren’t sorry at all, I shout. Could it not have waited?

It could. Of course it could. None of this is life-threateningly urgent. No one will die by waiting until a normal day. No one will die by letting me get a bit of a break.

A break. Wow. I could sure do with one of those. Here’s to my rather optimistic hope of two whole weeks’ break at Christmas and into the New Year.

A Sort Of Holiday

It’s Sunday afternoon and all is quiet. I’m still officially “on holiday” though I did do some work earlier this week.

This is most unusual, because I’m still sitting in my parents’ house. I’ve been here for about 10 days now. But it’s only really the past four days that I’ve actually began having a proper break. And it all began with a simple thing.

Turning my phone off.

Earlier in the week I missed a couple of phone calls. Not many, but enough. Each one that came through made me despair. I worried that I was missing business permanently. I also worried that maybe I could help them immediately and therefore make my eventual return a lot easier.

But, for now, I couldn’t care less. The holiday will officially end tomorrow, when I’ll turn my phone back on. The phone has now been off since Thursday afternoon. I changed the voicemail to say I was on holiday and would deal with things when I get back. I have even been disciplined enough not to look at my e-mail, though I wish I had changed it to an autoresponder to tell people I’d get back to them.

It has worked, though. I feel like I’ve had a few days without being hounded by clients, without having to think about computers, about websites, about HTML, and having to check voicemails every couple of hours. I feel better, and definitely less stressed. Of course, it won’t take long for that to all start up again, but I do feel like I have recovered from an incredibly hard time over the past month. The work has been ceaseless.

But I do think the holiday has helped me to clarify a few work-related thoughts. I’m now ready to stop doing all distant call outs for a number of reasons. Firstly, they don’t pay enough for the hassle they cause. Secondly, I just don’t have the time to cut several hours out of my day for them; and thirdly, I need to reduce the stress business causes me. I feel like I’m running around like a headless chicken sometimes. I’m willing to sacrifice the small amount of money they bring me if it gives me back critical working hours. And, it will also reduce the dependence I have on my housemate, which, if all goes to plan, will be reduced to zero in the coming months.

So this holiday has definitely been good. I have made some useful decisions. I’ve had some good fun. I’ve also had some nice time off with my family, who are all undergoing their own various stresses, strains and difficult decisions at the moment. It’s a changeable time for everyone. I have offered advice, but no one wants it, so I won’t be doing so any more.

Switching my phone on tomorrow morning though is going to be interesting…

What Happened?

I’m finding it rather hard to accept that the past week went by so quickly. But it did, just like every other half-term. My parents were both off last week, as were all my brothers and sisters and my nephew. So the entire family were all either not in school or not in work. 

And somehow, because they were all hanging around here all week in some form, that made the week just disappear. Even though I can’t remember that much of what we did, apart from trying to sell stuff on eBay. 

But at the same time, I think it also felt so quick for me because I had stuff to do. My work has once again dried up, but from Tuesday to Friday I had actual, real paying work. And now I have been paid, it’s back to sitting here waiting for the phone to ring or trying to dream up a new vision for the future.

I guess this is what self-employment is like. You live on your wits, waiting for work, which could come at any time. And then sometimes you’ll get work and it’ll be too much. Oh, I wish that would happen right now. I could do without another couple of weeks sitting here…

Though there’s not actually much chance of that at the moment. It seems everywhere I turn there’s something going on. The latest activity has come from the direction of my football team. Last Tuesday there was something of a crisis meeting at the league my team is a member of. The crisis is being caused because the league leadership intend to form a new, independent, league, and assume that everyone is happy to join in. Not so fast, said I and a couple of allies. We want to derail it. And that’s made us very popular indeed…

Today is the next crisis meeting, but this team the teams will be meeting with our local FA with a view to working out a solution to this problem. In fact, if all goes as I think it will, then I could end up volunteering to be a central organiser of the league, or at the very least a member of its management committee. Our goal, we think, is to topple the current management. We think we can do it once we put the full facts out to counteract the gross lies being told by the league secretary. 

So that means today is also going to be full of action. Well, tonight, as the meeting is at 7:30pm. But I can’t wait, as we’ve been worrying about the future of our local football league for months now. It seems we may finally be approaching an endgame.

The problem is that today is Pancake Tuesday. And, you know, it has been five years since I lived at home on Pancake Tuesday. In all those years, I’ve been living away, and I’ve never really bothered, possibly because I probably won’t ever be able to make a pancake as good as my mum. So why would I bother?

But today I am at home. And there will be pancakes made. 

I think it’s going to be a good day.

And that, my friends, is what happened.