Out The Other Side

I am pleased to say that after almost three weeks of non-stop work on the project I talked about two posts ago, we are coming towards the end of it.

It has been a difficult life for some time anyway, but I do now feel like we can look forward to better times…

Being on the other side of such a project is often an interesting feeling. You think that you’ve worked incredibly hard, and you’re proud of your efforts (usually) and the coming financial reward for it also makes you feel like it was worth it.

But, if you’re anything like me, with no real job security and no possible alternative, your joy is short-lived. The immediate question, the one posed by Jed Bartlett so often in The West Wing: what’s next? – springs straight into your consciousness.

I wish my brain activity towards things like this – a near-permanent state of activity – was matched in the physical realm, which is, these days, an increasingly longer and longer time spent in front of the computer screen. I didn’t think that was possible, but it is. I could now be in front of a screen for 15 hours a day, on and off. That can’t be healthy.

Something else which isn’t healthy is my diet, which I’ll probably come back to in a different post.

Emerging from this tunnel-like gloom, which was deepened by the Hair Crisis of September 2014, one immediately begins to see another tunnel. What we’re currently in is the brief glimpse of light prior to going back in again.

I write this post, freezing cold, in my home. I haven’t written a post at home for ages… mostly instead writing them in sheer repetitive strain agony on the train. This is much easier, except for the cold. Did I mention it’s cold? I’m not sure how we instantly went from summer to winter, but it was around about this time last week. There, too, we are out on the other side. I buried my head in the sand for the last month, basking in September’s warmth, with the continued t-shirt wearage. It came to a crashing halt last week, and it’s not coming back.

But I must resist the lure of the central heating. The energy companies, too, want me on the other side, but it is too soon. Last year I survived until November before first use. I must do the same this year. It costs too much to heat such a small space. The difference for them is that we are currently out in the sunny outdoors, but know we are hurtling straight long into a six month long tunnel of frigid gloom. Are we allowed to use that word any more in that context?

Who knows. Who cares. Language is fun.

Alas, it is early morning on a Sunday, and I’m wide awake. I also have to go into work in a few hours so that we can stay on top of things. Rubbish.

I don’t care much for what I’ve found on the other side after all.

Still, only 73 days until Christmas

Tired, Tired, Tired

Why do we like to write things in threes? I don’t understand.

But I am more than just tired. At the moment I don’t seem to be able to get enough sleep. No matter how much I think I am going to bed early enough and getting the sleep I need I just seem tired and weak all the time.

I know it’s all my doing. I know I am having to work too hard, but needs must at the moment. However, this was first time I had some evidence that maybe it’s doing me some damage.

My diet has been worse than usual of late. I have a very poor relationship with food anyway… nothing really gets me excited or interested. I sometimes don’t bother with the final meal of the day, and even when I do it can be utter rubbish: pure stodge and carbohydrates.

I give blood on a regular basis. It didn’t happen last time due to catching a cold the day before… but on Monday the circus/bloodmobile rolled back into town again and I was fighting fit.

Or so I thought. Turns out that I was only just on the right side of the iron threshold. For the first time ever (I’ve now given blood 26 times) I was nearly rejected because of not having enough iron in my bloodstream.

It made me worry a bit about my diet. Properly this time. I just don’t look after myself. I don’t have the time to cook nice meals from scratch. But even if I did have time, I don’t find cooking interesting in any way. I find it a real chore to have to plan something like that out in advance, ensuring the ingredients are in the cupboards. It’s just not going to happen when my life is as crazy at is. When I finish work most days at 7pm or sometimes worse, I am going to suffer somewhere.

But I’ve always said I’d never let myself suffer from serious sleep deprivation. It seems to be the way of the world these days for people to stay up until midnight and still be up 6-7am for work the next day. Whereas I generally enjoy making sure I get a good 8 hours…

And yet I still feel tired.

I feel tired writing this. This despite the fact that I had enough sleep last night, and still had more sleep on the train as I travelled home (yet again). I am not carrying a massive sleep deficit. I am just exhausted. I must be.

It could all change soon. Today one of my businesses agreed to take on someone to help with our admin burden. The other business is also going to have someone in to help out. I don’t know how it will work out, but if it helps me to finish work and go home at 6 instead of 7 I will think it’s worth it.

But I think I’d still get up at 5am. Still the best time of the day.

The Easter Working Weekend

It’s Easter Saturday. It’s currently 5:41am. I have been awake since 5am.

What is my life?

It’s a question that, when enunciated with an American accent, can sound incredibly irritating. Indeed, it’s not even a question I would dare to use in public, for fear of rather odd looks in return. But, at the same time, it is actually quite accurate.

My life, as I have known for the last few years, is basically split into the work and non-work sliver. In the non-work sliver I read political websites, playing increasingly less and less guitar, listen to Radio 1, and watch programmes I missed on catch up TV.

The Easter Weekend gives a brief window to change that. And, this year, I decided to give myself an extra reward. I told myself for several weeks in advance that I’d be having the Thursday before Good Friday off too. This would give me five consecutive days off. Wow, wow, wow. My brain said. I don’t get many of those with no consequences. OK, Christmas can be up to two weeks off, but Easter is at a nicer time of year. And the weather certainly has been good so far.

After two days of my five day weekend, how is that shaping up?

Well, on the Thursday I ensured I was “working from home”. The main reason was to sit around all day and await delivery of my new Virgin Media super hub (cost £6.99). In return, I really did sit around all day. Little did I know that the courier’s rule of “between 8 and 6pm” was almost literal. The delivery finally arrived at 4:30pm. This stressed me out incredibly.

Why? Because, after all that waiting, I had to go and do some work anyway. 4:30pm arrived, and I immediately rushed into the office to do a mail merge for my business. This involved a hefty queue in the post office, a ludicrously priced purchase of stamps, a run back to the office, printing, folding, sticking.

Then at 5:15pm my carriage awaited. To go off to my next job, which had been sitting, waiting, all day.

Back home at 8:30pm, I then proceeded, for the next two hours, to do some remote technical support for a new client I have won, which I had promised to do after 6pm (best time when the computers are not in use…). Along with the bits and bobs of work done during the day, I think I managed to still do a full day of work, even when I said I wouldn’t.

Good Friday. In the office at 8am. Having an informal discussion with someone we want to take on but don’t know if we can afford it. Then doing more work, general discussions, tidying, a small amount of fixing and minor catching up.

Home for 3:30pm. Back out again immediately because I had to do shopping. Back home to do more remote fixing for new client, who seemed to be working on Good Friday properly. This is not good.

Easter Saturday. The plan is to digest my company’s “Quality Management System” today, and do all the things I should have been doing over the last several months.

This is not a non-working weekend by any stretch of the imagination.

The problem is simple: work is my life. Work is my identity. Work is where I will – hopefully – continue to make a decent return on the time I am investing. Not that I have any time to spend what I’m earning…

In the meantime, some of my customers, both home and work, continue to send me e-mails. I do not reply to them. I cannot show to them that I do not use my holiday weekends as holidays. I cannot open the door. The problem, though, is that some of these e-mails are urgent, and leaving them till Tuesday will probably cost me business. That’s not fair on me at all, but it does seem comical that I try to maintain a strict outward show of protecting my holiday time jealously, while secretly working all the bloody time.

There is something wrong with modern life. We are entirely responsible for remoulding our work culture into an ethos of “(s)he who works longest, looks best”. We have had our evenings and our weekends invaded with e-mails and text messages and now WhatsApp and other conversations. We are all guilty of replying to them, let alone just reading them, and allowing our work to also take over our alleged free time.

Part of this influence is just the nature of capitalism – and how it slowly is engulfing our very identities – for the pursuit of more and more. It’s starting to twist to the point that now the people who say bold statements as “I do not answer the phone after 5pm” or “I do not read my e-mails at weekends” are looked at as a bit weird. We invest bizarre justifications such as “But why not deal with it, because if you don’t it will only make the morning 100 times more difficult!”

I also know people who set an out of office autoreply just for the weekend. Imagine that… we have degenerated so much as a work culture now that we have to have an actual system that reminds senders that their e-mail sent at 9pm on Friday might not get a response until Monday…

Maybe – just maybe – Easter Sunday will actually be a day off.

The Snapping Point

It’s been a little while since I wrote anything. The main reason being I have been exceptionally busy the past couple of weeks. Busy, but not particularly happy. No surprise there really.

At the moment, I am getting particularly fed up about the demands being put on me by work. I have tried to stick to stricter rules in recent times than ever before, thanks to the luxury of being busy enough that I don’t need to feel like I’m constantly “on call” every waking moment of the day. The first step in that direction was the end of answering the phone on Sunday. I now ignore the landline on Sundays, and the mobile gets put into vibrate mode only, and certainly doesn’t even get switched on until the afternoon. This has made Sundays my favourite day of the week, something I never thought would be possible given childhood memories of endless, depressing Sundays…

The only problem is that it hasn’t exactly stopped me from working. Lately I have taken on an awful lot of web work: the kind of stuff that can be pretty flexible. So the stuff that I inevitably don’t get done during the week because I’m too busy ends up being done at the weekends, because things are more relaxed that I can sit down in peace and quiet, knowing I won’t be disturbed and can get on with it.

And so the seven day work week continues. Yet, when I look at my records, I don’t seem to be all that better off for it.

In any event, that’s only part of my woes. I have too many “customers” on my books now that have turned into what I call “friends-when-needed”. That is, they call me up when they have a problem, and pretend to be all friendly and matey with me, and then reveal they’re actually calling for some other, computing, reason. I then, stupidly, proceed to help them out over the phone, taking up my time, and getting absolutely nothing back in return.

These people have no guilt. They are professional users. I know they are not friends, because I can count the number of times I’ve had social calls from them on one thumb. Friends do help each other, of course they do, but actual friendship is about far more than that. Friends spend time with each other for its own sake. There doesn’t necessarily need to be an excuse to call in for a cup of tea.

I then think: this service must now be a loss of hundreds, if not thousands, of pounds to me. Not necessarily because they would actually pay for me, but because these days, every minute I spend wasted with them translates into a much longer period of distraction, which is lost from the other work I could be doing.

At some point soon, I just know I am going to snap. It nearly happened with one of them this week. It did happen with one other, when I suddenly got out of the conversation saying I’m too busy, but no lesson was learned, since the guy called me up the following day.

When I snap it will be glorious. I will finally be liberated. It will probably lose these people as customers forever, but I shouldn’t be so concerned about that. I don’t need them. They can toddle off to some other PC repair supplier, and see how they get on calling them at unsociable hours, asking for free technical help. Translation: they wouldn’t ever do that.

It’s always been in my nature to be helpful to people, usually way beyond when most other people would say, “you’re really taking the piss now”. One thing business has taught me is not to be such a pushover.

Probably a good lesson in life though, really.

Where To Start

It’s been too long since I last wrote. Life goes in waves, and the past two weeks have been phenomenally busy. Let’s try to catch up…

Work has been dominant, of course. But not the normal kind of work. I’ve been doing a lot more web stuff, with awkward and sometimes useless clients. Overall it has been OK, except for the fact that it has almost entirely replaced my normal PC repair work, without me even trying. It’s odd, because at around this time last year the same thing happened: repairs slowed to next to nothing.

The good news in some respects is there have been no more funny “episodes”. I’ve tried to eat more too – because I’m convinced lack of energy has been making me feel weak. I think there has been success on this front, as in truth I need to put on some weight. I don’t think I have, but I haven’t lost anything, which is a start. So I feel a bit more confident about health, which is a relief.

The only downside on that front was last week, when I had to do some work in London for a client of mine. After work was over, we went for a drink, which turned into about seven. Now, I am not a drinker. In fact, I am a total lightweight. My excuse is that I had had very little to eat all day, the last proper meal consisting of a sandwich and some grapes at lunchtime.

Somehow I managed to stumble home, but much the worse for wear. I was violently sick on the train home, and indeed have a memory of starting to throw up as I was just about stumbling into the toilet. This continued for about 30 minutes. I don’t think the momentum of the train helped. It was highly embarrassing, not to mention deeply unpleasant. I never use train toilets at the best of times… but I had no choice!

The next day was a total write off. I had to cancel everything. I was still being sick well into the afternoon, despite my stomach being totally empty, and feeling desperately weak through constantly trying to throw up absolutely nothing. It was the worst feeling I’ve had in a long time. I generally don’t enjoy getting drunk; two or three drinks is enough to make me enjoy the evening… and if that’s what’s going to happen when I dare to have a little more than that, I think I’ll pass, thanks all the same. My housemate tried to say maybe I’d eaten something funny, because he thought it looked more than the usual post-drinking hangover – which I suppose is possible, but I think it’s more likely it’s because I hadn’t eaten at all…

Which, naturally, contradicts what I wrote above about eating better. But that day was a mistake. I was working too hard and forgot to eat. As usual.

This week has been busy too – but it has also had some bonuses. My sister, brother-in-law and two nephews have come to visit for a couple of days. Yesterday we went to Bournemouth for the day, which was really good fun. The weather has been stunning lately, about 10 days in a row of wall-to-wall sunshine and 20C warmth. My kind of conditions. Today, it is not quite so good, and I think we’ll get a cooler spell now.

But this has cheered me up significantly. Life is dull, generally, and I have nothing exciting to live for. When there are other people to enjoy it with, it becomes much better. So getting to do something different, even if I still have to field calls when I’m out from customers who don’t understand that a new computer has nothing to do with their printer ink running out, is much appreciated.

Anyway, that’ll do. Another month over.