Is Life Happening?

It has been some time since I wrote anything here, and I feel like I owe the place a normal post. So I’ll try and be normal.

Life is frantic at the moment, in spite of my best efforts. I feel like I have developed a work and not-work balance that is desperately against me as an individual, but as an individual that is involved in lots of other people’s lives and businesses, is relatively profitable. And yet, what amazes me is that I think I have actually reduced the amount of hours I’ve been working.

In line with my previous posts, I have been trying to do other things outside of work hours, more sociable. I would say in terms of doing things in real life that involve other people, that bit hasn’t actually happened at all. But it has, to some extent, involved people. People that I wouldn’t normally have been talking to, and one of whom has actually turned into something of a long distance friend. So broadly, despite its very tangible negatives to my mental health at times, it has brought something different into my life.

Work meanwhile continues. My IT business is now disgustingly busy, so much so that I am once again thinking about what I can do to tame it. Do I increase the prices and get rid of the customers I don’t want? Or do I have the guts to try again and employ someone? I have been thinking about recruiting an apprentice, but that means I must commit to my IT business for at least another year, something I wasn’t keen on doing. But it is so busy, and the prospects remain good, and I am still in need of earning this money, that I think I should do it…

The other business I am part of is going through something of a rut, but you wouldn’t think it. It is at the mercy of the political masters, and, unfortunately, they are in the midst of electoral rubbish at the moment. It is also the end of a financial year, and I think that inevitably has meant all of the money has already been spent.

But it’s still all systems go. We are in such an intriguing scenario at the moment, so keen are we to take advantage of new opportunities, that we are considering moving on to our property development ideas, and installing a manager into the company so that it can carry on moving along without our day-to-day to involvement. This has coincided with a friend and former colleague becoming available to work for us. It could all connect quite well. But it is a risk. We are ready to take it, and introducing this person to the office has already improved the office dynamic and made it feel a really professional place to work. I like feeling like I’m part of something bigger than me. It is a world apart from my one-man-band IT business…

So that is two risks. One risk for my business, and one risk for the business I am part of, and both of it coming from having to employ someone. Employing people is weird. Keeping them busy and occupied and earning you money is something I haven’t quite worked out yet.

Then there is the risk of the property business. Which is starting, hopefully soon, with the purchase of some land 80 miles south west of me. Land. Not a building. Because we are planning on building it ourselves. We must be mad. But we sense a longer term vision. I sense the opportunity to get properly on the housing ladder by building up a property portfolio. It all sounds very unlikely, and highly adventurous. And super risky.

2015 has become the year of the risk for me. Impending mid-life 30 crisis perhaps?

108 days until 30

Two Weeks On

Another day off.

It’s another bank holiday weekend, the second of three that we get at this time of year. I have come to value them immensely. If there was one bank holiday weekend every month it would be so awesome. I now realise just how much I need catch up days, back to back. Two days gives me a day to do rubbish Adult Life Chores, and then a day to relax. I’m so used to only getting one day “off” per week that that day is spent savouring the freedom, rather than doing ALCs, or the incredibly tedious things I just keep putting off.

And off and off. One such example is the mountain of computer spare parts that I have had at home for maybe a year or more. Some of them I keep for legitimate reasons, cos I might need to use them in the future. But others I have had for such a long time because I kept saying that, one day, I would get a chance to get on eBay and get rid of the valuable bits.

Yesterday, I started at 8am and by 6pm had listed a mere 15 items. But that represents the sum total of the destruction of seven laptops… most of the bits are of such low value (£1/£2) that I don’t even want to spend the time wrapping and posting them. So in the bin they went. My living room now has much less of the computer workshop vibe.

In reality, if all those 15 items sell I will get a return of about £200 for my day. Three of them have gone so far, and all the higher value items. I had a feeling they would sell quickly, but hopefully the rest will too, as I could do with a little financial kickback.

Why? Because a few weeks ago I managed to screw up a client’s computer because I forgot to take the battery out of their laptop while changing the screen. Pretty pathetic, really, but I got lazy and complacent. 99% of the time I take the battery out before doing any work. But for some stupid reason I left it in while changing the screen. It must have caused a short, as by the time I’d finished it it would never work again.

We live and learn. I have been quite philosophical about it. In all the years I’ve been doing my job, nothing serious has ever gone wrong. A couple of minor things have happened, but I’ve always been able to recover the situation. This time, however, it was such a disaster I had no choice but to throw lots of my own money at it to set things right again.

Never mind.

But it’s been a quick couple of weeks. The work has been relentless, and my life has been generally rubbish. But I don’t really complain. I am more than aware of the fact that I am quite a loner. I do enjoy my own company. I enjoy relatively solitary leisure pursuits. It’s just been me all over, and it doesn’t even affect me any more.

Not quite sure that is a good thing in the bigger picture, but there you go.

The Yearly Assessment

New Year is always a trepedatious time of year. It makes me feel worried about what’s to come, but more on that tomorrow. Instead, let me just assess what happened this year.

For this exercise, I have just read my traditional start of year post, in which I set out some of my expectations and worries for the year. It was actually pretty surprising.

The formal business to transact first is what kind of year was it. On balance, I think it was a Good Year, and it was just shy of being a Very Good Year. Business has been, it has to be said, very good, and even more so when I look back at what I wrote at the start of the year. I really didn’t expect to do as well as I have. I won’t really know until all the figures are in in a few months, but I think it was probably better than 2011, which itself was a good year financially.

I’m really surprised at that. I did think that the general economic gloom would have more of an effect than it actually did. It seems I am, for the moment, in a pretty reasonably protected sector. That’s good. I am quite pleased at what I have managed to achieve this year.

The major proviso is that at the start of the year I did think I was going to secure one of the major deals. In fact, I did do that, but it was the deal I didn’t really want. I need to do some work on that soon, but I am pretty surprised to hear myself be dismissive of what is potentially worth a lot of money to me. The main reason for that is how little I know about the field I’m going into. It has been a big positive from the year, but it is a worry for the year to come.

As far as personal life goes, that was a bit of a disaster. I did improve my relationships with a couple of friends, but others drifted still further, some of them pissed me off completely and I didn’t make any new friendships at all, let alone anything more significant.

In family life, we all move on. My brother is now in university, my other brother is starting a job, at last, my sister is in college, I have a new nephew, and my two other nephews are doing reasonably well. The wider family hasn’t suffered any disasters or crises, and my grandparents are still here, although my poor grandfather is worse than ever.

But I should be grateful. We’re doing OK. We have to do better, and we possibly should have done. But others have it a lot worse than us. I just wish my younger brothers and sisters would be a bit more appreciative of the help they get from the family; meanwhile I live far away from home and get no more help from my parents.

It’s because of these slight negatives that I can’t give this my very first ever Very Good Year. But I hold out good hopes for the next one. More tomorrow.

What Happens When Work Takes Over

It seems to have been three weeks since New Year’s Day, when I last wrote. I’m not quite sure what happened. Well, I know, but it just doesn’t make sense. It all goes so quickly.

After New Year I had a good break, spending time relaxing, doing my own thing. Playing an awful lot of piano too. I really could notice myself getting better and better every day, but there’s so so much to learn, and it’s so difficult dividing your brain into two for the left and right hand. If you’ve never played piano, you won’t quite understand, but eventually there comes a point that clicks. Your brain just starts doing it after you practice it millions of times. Or seemingly millions of times.

But I suppose it’s like that with anything really. If you do it enough times, it suddenly slips into a subconscious part of your brain, and you don’t need to actively think about it any more. It’s like that with my business too. The work is not challenging any more. In fact, when a challenging and difficult job comes up, I really enjoy it. The jobs are all the same – which means it’s relatively easy, and sometimes doesn’t take me long any more. That can actually be a big problem when you charge by the hour…

The start of this year was supposed to bring some big developments with my business, but thanks to the slowness of the wheels turning when you’re trying to secure big business contracts, very little has happened. I am fortunate, however, that instead of worrying about it, I have been busy non-stop for two weeks since I got back. So after coming back from holiday feeling totally refreshed, instead I have exhausted myself really quickly and am already looking forward to the next holiday…

There was also not so good news either when I got a letter telling me one of my bigger customers has suddenly turned into a “creditor”. Not good. £843 they owed me, and I’m unlikely to ever see that again. Bastards.

About the only bit of non-work I have to report was on Wednesday, when I went to see the film War Horse. It was better than I expected, but very very mushy. It wasn’t a war film, but in its war scenes to did capture the essence of the effect of war on people very well. It’s a film about human relationships, really. Numerous tearful moments…

Then there is today. I’m sitting in a neighbour’s house some 10 miles away from the normal house. They’ve let me borrow it just to get away for 24 hours – which is very kind of them. It does work. I have had a little chance to sit back and relax, watch some TV, some DVDs, do a little reading, and a lot of eating too. Eating is a must, after all, and I have been so busy this week that I have missed tea on two days in a row. I just didn’t have time. Literally, 15 hour days of work.

And just when I feel like I’m getting on top of things, on Tuesday I’m going away on business for a week. Exciting, and interesting, a new web project… hopefully. But it’s not a guarantee, and it’s going to lead to me falling behind on the normal bread and butter PC repair work, again.

Anyway, enough for now.

 

Ageing Badly

It’s that time again. It only seems five minutes since the last one. Life seems to happen so quickly these days. Live for the moment, I say, but I never do.

First of all, the formal business. How was this year? Well – it was, I think, a Good Year. In spite of everything, in spite of the economy in the toilet, in spite of the difficulties of keeping our heads above water, it really was good. Business has been excellent, apart from a lull in the March to May area – but other than that it has been consistent, of increasing value, and spreading very well.

In normal times, I might well have called this a Very Good Year. But at the moment, due to my continued lack of a proper social life, I really must set the rating back a peg…

In terms of comparing against any of the benchmarks I set for myself at the start of the year (in this post) – there wasn’t really much there. I wanted my business to do well. That has happened and then some. Doesn’t mean it will sustain into next year though.

I did want to get involved in some sort of community thing, but that has gone west. I did make initial forays into being a school governor, but after all that I think I was right to not get involved. It is far too dry for me. My life is dull enough without having to fill it with reading checklists and meeting agendas. I’m slightly disappointed I didn’t find anything else though. I’m just too much of a Scrooge. Bah.

I was definitely right about predicting my housemate would start thinking of moving on. He did indeed get the big job move that I expected. He wasn’t moved out yet, but he is definitely considering it if the right circumstances appear. I wouldn’t blame him either. We haven’t exactly got on well this year. It’s funny how you can consider someone a friend right up until the moment you share a house with them!

What I have found most distressing of all about this year though is the fact that I have spent most of it looking rather vainly at pictures of myself from years gone by. Sometimes I can’t believe my face has changed so much in the space of two or three years. Looking back at Christmas photos the other day, I genuinely couldn’t believe that I looked so young just a matter of a few years ago. Is that what work does to you?

And then I begin to worry. Another year of life gone, another year without any progress on the significant other front! Mum likes to say I better get a girl before it’s too late. I definitely have less hair at the front of my head than I used to!!

But at the very least, it is another year safely and successfully manoeuvred.

In terms of the rest of the family, I would argue that some of us have had very good years. My elder sister is settled down, and my new nephew is awesome. He was here last night. And my other nephew is definitely doing a bit better than last year. He’s definitely doing better with the new situation.

But my remaining siblings are not faring so well. They just need a bit of luck on a consistent basis, but then again, they also need to work a bit harder. They have had tough years. So too has my youngest sister. She’s done OK, but the end of school days are proving very difficult for her.

So we move on. Tonight we aren’t having our usual party, but there will still be some family here and we will be having some drinks to celebrate the end of 2011 and think about what next year will bring.

More on that tomorrow. Until then, happy new year!

Evolution

It’s been a busy couple of weeks, as always at the moment. I’m doing very well in my business, and this is excellent. My only complaint is just how hard I’m having to work, but it, hopefully, will all be worth it in the long run.

Right now I am trying to diversify the business, through a fairly useful business contact who has become more of a friend. We have a couple of irons in the fire, and if any of them pay off, it will result in me being able to professionalise the business. Take it into a proper office, a proper workshop, and even be able to employ someone.

That would be good. I’d really value being able to do that. Not that I want to manage people, but I think knowing that I have been successful enough to support other people, as well as myself comfortably, is a real sign of progress, and of ambition for the future.

To get there, we need a bit more luck. I’m not doing too badly at the moment though. You do make some of your own luck by how hard you work, but there is inevitably an element that just comes about by being in the right place at the right time, and knowing the right people to be in with a shot. The world runs on the relationships between people, and it is foolish to ignore that. One of the things I’ve learned since being a young ‘un.

At the other end of life though, I feel worse than ever. Socially my life is crap. Here in The House – never a home – the relationship with my housemate is dire. We just don’t have any normal social conversation. We don’t really share any interests. We share some work small talk, but nothing more. Fortunately, because of his new job, he’s only here at weekends and maybe a couple of hours in the evening. And some weekends, I’m not here, and other weekends he’s not here. It makes it liveable.

But I do have to find my own place. That will finally give my own true independence, and I don’t have to have a brain filled with bitching and moaning about the way others fail to do this, or do that, which inevitably pisses me off.

Maybe the plan will all come together if I can just get the work side of my life signed off.

I’ve been saying this since I was in school. Work first, then social life.

I’m starting to lose a bit of faith in that one…

Busking

I’ve often thought it would be good to give busking a try. I enjoy street entertainment – as long as it’s good, of course – and I do reckon that though I’m not really that good, I good probably hold a tune enough to give people some enjoyment. And who knows, it might even earn a few pennies…

Yesterday, I put that theory to the test. Though none of it was planned…

In my home town at the moment there are a number of pianos dotted about the centre. They are available for anyone to play on at any time, and if people like you so much that they’ll put money in, well, you get to keep it.

I just happened to be passing through town yesterday afternoon. It was late, the shops were closing, but people were still drifting past. And one of the pianos was empty. I couldn’t resist.

Now, playing the piano is not one of my musical fortes. I am better on the guitar. I would probably even say my voice is better than my piano playing abilities. But it didn’t stop me. In fact, I felt I had nothing to lose. I love playing the piano, and the chance to play on a real one, even an upright, was worth it in of itself to make any kind of embarrassment from making mistakes worth it.

I just looked at the keys. I didn’t look up. That would put me off. So I tinkled and whipped out one of my favourites: a piano rendition of the Sigur Ros song Hoppipolla. To me, it sounds great, but stunted by my lack of abilities. If only I could do a bit more with my hands. More harmonies and trills on the right hand. More flowing movement, instead of the left hand being stuck, glued, to the bass notes.

But I always forget that to an outsider, a non-piano player, it sounds good all the same.

My busking earnings were a mere £4 for 15 minutes work. People came over, stopped and watched. I couldn’t look at them. I sometimes glanced up to check, but I had to look at the keys. It stopped me from being put off, and thus kept mistakes and public performance stress to a minimum. I still made mistakes, of course, but I laughed them off. This was amateur busking, but considering I haven’t played a real piano for a good couple of years, it wasn’t bad!

Most of all, I enjoyed it. I would do it again in a heartbeat. If I go to town today, and the piano is free, I will have a go.

In my rather tedious life, with dull social engagement, it might just provide me with an outlet! Reckon I could do a better job with a guitar too…

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.