Happy Birthday – My Guitar

I haven’t written for a while, possibly because I’m just completely drained and utterly fed up with life at the moment, but I will make an exception for a recent notable event.

Two days ago my guitar became 10 years old. 10 years that have rattled by in the blink of an eye. I wouldn’t normally celebrate the anniversary of an inanimate object, but this particular one has some significance to me.

It was my first ever high quality musical instrument. The previous guitar I had was just something cheap from Argos, picked especially because I just wanted something to learn on. My shiny new one, in 2002, cost me about £250… and has brought many years of enjoyment.

I am glad that I bothered, because it gave me a proper hobby for a change. Up until that point, when people asked about my hobbies, they invariably involved computers. A dull, dreary thing. Of course, now everyone is using computers, that one is no longer seen as unusual, but the guitar was away from the computer world, and it finally allowed me to pursue the interest I’d had in music for my whole life, but never had the ability or the knowledge to do anything about it.

The guitar got me to the USA. In 2005, as chronicled on this blog, I visited a summer camp in Colorado with this very instrument. It enabled me to entertain, and probably irritate, a number of people for nearly three months. If I’d not taken up music to that level, I would never have got the job I did – which was all about entertainment – and consequently probably not actually went to America, where I had the best time of my life, and continue to regret to this day that I never repeated it.

But what it hasn’t brought me is any kind of development from there. I often toyed with the idea of being in a band, and made several attempts, all of which failed. I wrote my own music, 95% of which is trash, and the rest is good, but probably only to me. I always thought if only I could turn my attention to it and get the right breaks I might have some sort of sideline, at least, in the music world. It didn’t happen, primarily because I just don’t have the talent. Now I can only sit and enjoy, though quietly enviously, the likes of Ed Sheeran.

I still don’t play anywhere near as well as I’d like to. After 10 years, I thought I might be a bit better than I actually am, but unfortunately time and, dare I say it, a lack of inclination in recent years, has put paid to any further improvements. I look back at my youngest brother, who is learning and doing really well, and see myself in his situation. It’s all so much easier when you have more time and don’t feel guilty about using it. When you’re grown up and boring like me, you can get into the horrible mindset of thinking “I could be doing something more productive than this”. I’m getting better at unlearning that, but being self-employed I think I am in a different situation to the majority of people…

But through all that time my guitar has been a constant. In my bedroom, sitting right beside me, ready to rock at a moment’s notice. The tunes that guitar could play if only it were in the right hands. But it has to put up with my mediocre strumming, and increasingly crap efforts at singing.

To celebrate, I’ll play a Bb major chord. Maybe my favourite. Sad, I know.

Week To View

So here I am again. Minus a belt, but plus an ASDA luxury all butter scone. More on that story later.

It’s a fortnight since the last time I was on this service, heading North once more. This time, however, it’s a lot lighter. The time is 7:30am, and the day is well and truly underway. Only the sky is grey, full of clouds, a little bit threatening and somewhat windy. Nevertheless, the fact that it’s lighter can only mean one thing: summer is on the way.

But that’s enough about the weather.

Life at the moment is not particularly busy, and yet it is. It’s in that unusual balance between me thinking I’m busy all the time and then realising I’m not. After all, anyone who can afford to spend 6 hours travelling is obviously not going any real work.

In my case, though, there is purpose to this journey. I’m expecting to be kept busy all weekend, but the nightmare that I was expecting has been averted. Two customers have deferred. The rest are still waiting, but I have a good feeling I can fit them all in comfortably and maybe even have a little time to relax.

I don’t really get much time to do that. When my housemate is around he puts me on edge a considerable amount. I’m not entirely sure why, but there’s just something about his demeanour and his general “So what’s the plan for today/this evening?” that stresses me out. Not everything has to have a grand plan. I usually have a rough idea of what I’m doing, but I don’t have micro-managed schedules. Well, I do sometimes, but invariably my motto is the less I tell other people, the better.

I don’t know why I’m like that. I don’t feel comfortable when people are interested in me. I think there’s an insecure part of me which believes that I’m not worth bothering over. But at the same time, I like to keep my activities private. I don’t like being quizzed on what I’m up to. It’s probably why I’ll never make a politician.

In recent days my thoughts have turned to distant lands. I’m getting that same tired old feeling again where I think about whether I should go back and do the US summer camp thing again. It kept me awake for over an hour the night before last. I so dearly want to go there and do it all again. But some things are so special because you can only do them once. I have a feeling that if I did it again I’d end up being depressed because I’d know it would be my last time, and that it might not live up to expectations.

Besides that, the major problem is obviously that I’m older now, 25 this year, not that I can do it this year, but if I did next year 26 is a little old to be going off on an early-life crisis. Some of my fellow counsellors were that kind of age, one was even 30, and the directors were all in their 30s. But still… it’s a young person’s game!

And worse, I can’t really afford to drop all my business for the sake of an American jolly, one that wouldn’t lead me to a new career. Unless by then I can afford to employ someone else. Hilarious.

Facing facts, it ain’t gonna happen.

Back to reality, arriving at Reading station has caused a great deal of consternation in the train, involving an endless stream of new passengers, discussing which seats are available, which are reserved, and where it would be appropriate to sit a dog.

There remains two bits of news. First, that I forgot to bring my belt. I don’t need it for these jeans, because they fit well. But the ones I’ve got packed do. I’ll have to borrow one off a brother. Any one will do.

And second, I’m having to be extremely careful about the way I sit. Don’t want to squash my bonus breakfast I’ve brought with me. Yes, that’s the ASDA fruit scone. Oh my. I’ve scheduled that in for Birmingham.

On we go, travelling forward this time.

Attempted Getaway

In the past few days my mind began to wander. It drifted to the other side of the Atlantic, thinking about the time I spent in the USA working for a summer camp. My mind tends to do this when I want to escape from my current conditions, and that thought comes around regularly at the moment.

It was at that point that I realised that maybe it isn’t too late to do the whole thing again this summer. Oh, how I wished I’d had this thought a couple of months ago. I went around, frantically e-mailing the few contacts I could get hold of over there, eventually getting the details of the one I wanted.

Then, the bad but totally expected news. No positions available. I’ve been desperately wanting to do the summer camp thing again, just one more time before the door shuts forever on it. But each year I’ve managed to contrive an excuse for not doing it. I should have done it last summer, but I thought I’d be too busy. I should have done it this summer, but I thought I’d have a job. You know, one of those things where you do work in exchange for money.

In my desperation I thought that maybe they’d still have one or two openings in there somewhere. But, as we all know, the recession is biting, especially in the USA, so I’ll bet they were inundated with applications this year. I know they would have had me back, but there’s nothing they can do about it if I leave it too late.

Briefly my mind had already drifted to what I’d need to do in the event I got the go ahead. I was thinking about the clothes I’d need, some new shoes, etc. You know me, always wanting to be prepared for any eventuality. I don’t know why as I knew there was no hope. But it was an entertaining diversion nevertheless. Lord knows I don’t get many of them these days.

Next summer, maybe? I’d be nearly 25 then. While there’s no real limit on ages in the camp I would go to, there’s a certain feeling in my head that if I haven’t got a full time job sorted out by then that there’s something drastically wrong with me. But then again, the months seem to go round so quickly at the moment. Day after day, ticking by with no hope, no prospects. I’m still desperately waiting for someone or something to give me a break, but once again, my latest attempt to fashion one out has failed miserably.

There will be no getaways this year. I suppose my life is one continuous holiday at the moment, so what could I possibly want to get away from? Such is the mysterious nature of the human existence. Boredom is a very powerful emotion, but I sure as hell have had enough of it now.

Nothing Ever Happens

… sang Del Amitri many years ago. It is a wonderful song, one of my favourites, but it also is very apt right now, since nothing really is happening at all. The US election is over, and while I am still following events there very closely, it seems anything remotely interesting in my life right now has been drained away.

The only event of note recently was on Sunday when my football team, the one my brother plays for, ground out a very dodgy draw. It was probably one of the most tense and nerve-wracking games of football I’ve ever been to watch, as we took a one goal lead at half-time and managed to weather a huge storm in the second half – both metaphorically and literally as the heavens opened and gale force winds blew against us – to only concede once after the opposition had a huge array of opportunities to win and win handsomely.

Literally, that has been the only thing lately worth writing about. I spend most of my time mulling around here, looking at job sections, occasionally applying but knowing there’s really no point right now. I’m waiting for a Eureka moment, one in which I will finally decide what to do with my useless existence.

It’s not like I’m not trying to think up a way out of this hole. I have called in as many friends as I can, but I’m beginning to discover who my real friends are in this situation. It’s amazing how I can live with or know people for so long and think they’re a good friend, but when times get hard it can be incredibly difficult even to get a reply out of people.

And in other circumstances, the opportunity for action has passed. I thought I might genuinely have a chance to get a business started up with a friend… so I e-mailed him to see if he would be interested. He said yes, but he had to delay the decision until he had pending job interview. The interview arrives, he e-mails me and tells me it was a disaster. So we start to plan.

Next day, he’s got the job, and all bets are off. Talk about bad timing. If only I’d considered this a few weeks earlier he might not have applied, and things could be very different.

The daft thing is that right now, with my terrible job prospects, I am seriously considering if I could go to the USA next year and do the camp counselling thing again. But that really would be a desperate situation, because it would pretty much mean that I could start a full time job in the meantime, because I would have to quit come next summer.

So I’m delaying that one for a little while, though the window of opportunity is only open until mid-December. That’s not good, not with the way the days seem to just fly by and I take so long to make up my mind anyway.

My head is wracked with worry right now. I just haven’t got a clue what to do. There are lots of options, but each one I take probably closes almost all the other doors. For instance, if I went to the USA, it effectively means that I won’t have a proper job until next September. That’s too long.

And it’s getting so bad that the first seeds of doubt about dropping out of teacher training are starting to appear. That’s not good at all.

Hmm. Considering nothing has happened, I still managed to write an awful lot about it…

Summer Revisited

At this time of year, with the dawning of Autumn, I generally take a look back at what happened over the summer, and whether it was a worthwhile event.

From the perspective of the weather, I feel very confident in saying it was the worst summer I can ever remember. Rain, rain, god-damn rain, day after day. I just knew it. Those late spring days in May, scorching hot sunshine, while I toiled over a mountain of revision – that was the real summer. It turns out I was spot on in my prediction that:

I’m sure by June it will be raining every day again.

That’s exactly what happened. I would say that of the 13 weeks of summer, no more than two of them can be classed as good summer weather, i.e. sunny, warm and reasonably consistent (i.e. one good day follows another). What we actually had was a hell of a lot of rain in June, July and early August, interspersed with a randomly chucked in nice day, but one which always had the looming threat of showers. And then when it didn’t rain, it was muggy and overcast, meaning the second you tried to do anything physical like play sport, the sweat would start pouring off you.

Just isn’t good enough. I thought last summer was bad: a worse than average June, a very poor July and a mediocre August… but this one really did smash those low expectations.

The worst of all was that last night I stepped outside to go on a little trip to the shops, and it felt cold. Now, 8°C isn’t cold, I’ll admit it. But after months of temperatures above 15C, and very rarely below that at night due to the cloud cover, it suddenly dawned on me that it felt like winter was just around the corner.

And all of a sudden thoughts begin to turn to Christmas. Mark my words, it will soon be here.

The thing is, my miserable summer weather-wise was actually surpassed by everything else. This has been my worst summer since I can remember. I have done nothing all summer but look and apply for jobs. I have done nothing but dither, and in the end have ended up back at square one. I extricated myself from the teacher training plan, but have yet to come up with a viable alternative.

I am so stupid, because I should have decided this earlier. I have no regrets right now, even though in an alternative universe right now I am starting my placement in school and starting down the road to teaching. But it’s amazing just how quickly I’ve dropped everything. I used to read the education news almost relentlessly. Now I barely visit the websites. I still find it all interesting, but it seems that I was only interested because I had to be. With hindsight, that is a very bad sign.

But if I had made the decision to quit earlier, I would have saved myself a lot of hassle, and I could have put my summer to better use. Number one would have been to do the US summer camp thing all over again. I would have enjoyed that so much more (I still reminisce about how good it was), and it would have been a great opportunity, since I’ll never be able to do it again (unless I’m still jobless next summer!). But instead it was frittered away.

I. Did. Nothing. All Summer.

How embarrassing is that. Talk about throwing your life away.

Let Them Eat Cake

Since Christmas I have really taken to the idea of baking cakes and various unhealthy items. This has been something of a surprise for me in truth because I normally have an allergic reaction to making food from scratch.

But it seems that with the passage of time I’ve realised just how simple it is. My latest creation was the easiest and yet the best thing I’ve ever made, a microwave golden syrup sponge with custard. Oh yeah. The family enjoyed it, most of all my dad who, despite being very thin, likes anything cakey, biscuity, chocolately, etc. Must be where I get my sweet tooth from. My dad won’t have a cup of tea unless there is something sweet to go with it. Weird.

I don’t know whether I’ll ever be able to make any use out of it. I could, maybe, use these recipes in school when I’m a teacher. But then again, that’s probably unlikely given the outrageously packed national curriculum, which generally regulates every minute of a teacher’s professional life. Hmm. Maybe I’ll have a think about that one.

Meanwhile, my mum is back from her working holiday. It was very interesting to compare notes with her from the time I worked in a summer camp in the USA. She was one of the seven staff there to oversee the school Year 8 holiday to Barcelona so she had a similar experience to me in terms of dealing with homesickness and keeping children entertained. Though they had it easy because there was an itinerary all planned for them. I had to make it up as I went along!

While we talked about this I did feel like I’d missed out again. Really, I should have been back in the USA again this summer. Though this is not yet 100% regret. Maybe by the time this holiday is over I will feel I could have used it much more effectively. To be honest, I would say that is very likely. Right now, I’m not doing enough to justify taking the safe option of staying here.

Naturally, too, there was one other thing that I’d missed out on.

Cake. And food in general. Because out in the USA they looked after us staff extremely well. Lots of food, and lots of dessert. Oh yeah. I put a whole four kilograms on while I was out there. And all that while I was hiking mountains virtually every other day. Perhaps I did overeat a bit. Then again, having M&M thick pancakes (not like the crappy thin British pancakes) for breakfast as well as cereal every day, it wasn’t exactly difficult to overeat.

Anyway, enough reminiscince. I missed out. My fault. I have to make this time here count for something. I’ve not yet worked out what I should do with it. I thought I’d have a job by now, but the good news has not yet arrived from my Contact Who Often Provides Work. If I earned a fair old stack of money then I could feel like I hadn’t wasted this opportunity of lots of free time.

Perhaps I need to get my thinking cap on and see if I can do something more productive with this long summer, probably the last one I’ll ever have.