Is It November Already?

Yes. Yes it is.

I have to get used to the fact that 2014 is fast drawing to a close. In a little over seven weeks time it will be 2015. The year in which I will complete my 30th year on the planet. To think of poor me, sitting alone writing furiously about a dull and depressing life, aged 19, is enough to bring a tear to my eye. I don’t like reading old posts from the past, but they are utterly precious.

There will be plenty of time for reflection this Christmas, particularly as it will be 10 years of blogging, which is a remarkable achievement. I’m so thrilled I have stuck with it.

And Christmas is almost all I think about at the moment. I have booked my tickets to go home, on exactly December 24, and I’m so incredibly looking forward to it. I love it, every single year, that I can feel like I’m 14, or 9, or 16, or 18, or 6, again, and be at home with the family, all together, all safe, all enjoying a successfully navigated year, all – hopefully – enjoying each other’s company, with no worries for two weeks (I like to drag it out…) about work, or school, or money, or depressingly mundane existences.

But that is then. This is now.

November is a sad month, primarily because it is the time by which my spirit and will is finally broken, and I must, at long last, switch the central heating on. I always try to make it into November, but this year was almost no challenge at all due to a remarkably good spell of weather in October. Indeed, I remember the very same a mere five years ago when I first moved here. It was great weather. It’s so much better than home, a mere 150 miles north.

The cold is everywhere. It feels more so at the moment as I am, as I have been for the last year “inbetween coats”. I have not owned a winter coat for about three years. I thought it was time I did so, and have spent a not unsubstantial amount of money trying to achieve it. I wait patiently for it to arrive. Maybe it will be here tomorrow? I hope so. It will be just in time, for the coldness is really setting in. Our first 0 degree night is upon us for the first time since early in the year.

This time of year also tends to lead to a lull. The main IT business carries on regardless, but the other one that I’m part of starts to wane. No one wants to start big projects in December, so the usual preceding weeks, in which projects are planned, are empty. It happened last year. It is happening this year. It worries me as our admin lady has almost nothing to do at the moment. All very disappointing, especially when only a couple of months ago things looked very promising. Suddenly the cupboard is bare.

I always, however, keep my eyes on the future. I have to make progress. The passing of a whole year without any change in my house situation is a strange one. But I may have a new sideline with my business partner. Plans are afoot for a property development fun and games. We shall see.

For now though, I have to plough onwards. I hope I can make it to the end of the year without too many more disappointments. We’ve had enough this year.

(This is post 555 on this blog, woo!)

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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

BBQ Madness

Yesterday, on the third attempt, I went to a successful barbecue at one of my clients.

I have been to two others in the past, but the first was freezing cold, and the second contained so much rain that most of the cooking was done indoors.

As a vegetarian, barbecues are a nightmare. In fact, at most barbecues I don’t eat anything. Maybe I’ll have some of the salad on offer, but in order to do so I have to make sure I get started quickly. The risk of cross-contamination is too great…

Yesterday, I think I got away with it, but it’s always close. Really, I just shouldn’t chance it at all. My veggie burgers got cooked first, and with separate utensils, but there is always the danger of fat spitting. The thought of eating anything remotely meaty knocks me sick these days, having been a veggie for what must be around 15 years now.

What made it all so successful though was the weather. The weather has been stunning now for over a week. Everyone has noted how weird the weather has been, and continues to be these days. January mild, then snow. February, freezing cold. March, unbeliveably warm. April, ridiculous cold and wet. May, exactly the same, and then suddenly in the last six days, a wild swing into Mediterranean warmth.

So I got to sit for nearly eight hours out in the sunshine, eating, drinking, socialising… although the socialising was a little difficult as I don’t know many people there. But I did get to complete one of my life’s ambitions by riding a spacehopper. Oh yeah. And yes, I did put on lots of sun tan lotion. So glad I did, because the only bit of me where I kind of didn’t reach – the top of my forehead where the hair is a little bit thin – is a bit red this morning. The rest of me is fine.

It’s nice to do something different like that. I should try and get out and do more things, but it won’t happen without friends, and as I’ve noted many times now, friends are pretty hard to come by in my line of work. People only want to see you when it’s convenient for them. And it’s all very professional…

One unexpected negative of the BBQ though was the presence of local children. Not that there’s anything negative about children per se, but local children in the place I go to means something. They are pretty mean, let’s just say. They think nothing of using their fists and kicking you if you try to wind them up or torment them. Which is inevitable when the day involves water, a paddling pool, a spacehopper and a game invented by one of the parents that involved collecting one of literally hundreds of those colourful small plastic balls you find in most paddling pools…

So I got kicked and punched twice for daring to hide one of the balls in my back pocket so I could influence the game. They take no prisoners. Being a military area, there is no real surprise in that. But it makes you wonder what kind of violence they’ve seen at home. They just go straight for you.

Of course, the presence of water also meant that everyone got drenched. Including me… when someone chucked a whole kitchen sink full of it at me. It was also icy cold, as it was the water from the ice buckets that were keeping the beers cool! I knew it was coming, it was a matter of time as I heard some conspiring going on. But what annoyed me was that when it actually happened, I didn’t expect it at all, even though I was trying to be on my guard. Just goes to show how easy it is to let your attention slip…

Still, it’s Sunday… I’ve been up since 6:30am due to being unable to sleep any more, and I have work to do. Both professional and domestic. And the sun’s shining. Bah.

Summer’s Here

I don’t want to tempt fate or anything…

But this summer has actually been pretty good. After two washouts in the last couple of years, this summer has actually been pretty cool. Or not cool. It’s been warm. And, in parts, sunny. Very sunny indeed.

Meanwhile, back Up North, where I no longer live for most of the year, it has been cooler, darker and wetter. Generally, in other words, shit. Not a day goes by where I don’t compare the five day forecasts for where I live now, and where I used to live.

Weather is important for us English, but for me it’s even more so. I’m one of life’s weather OCD freaks. It has to be just right, or I get tetchy. Winter is a total write-off for me. It’s too dark. Too cold, obviously. But definitely too dark. Autumn is also a disaster, because of the long, slow decline. It’s too depressing.

For six months of the year, as long as the weather treats me right, I’m happy. The days get lighter. They get warmer too. At least they’re supposed to. It fills me with the joys of Spring. I guess that’s where the phrase comes from. I like knowing that each day that passes is making the conditions better, brighter, sunnier. It’s so… uplifting.

So when the summers turn out to be grey, wet disaster areas, I get pretty pissed off. That seemed to happen more often than not the last few years. It made the winter so much harder to bear if I knew there wasn’t really any nicer conditions to offset the badness.

It seems ridiculous, but the 200 miles from here to Up North just seems to make all the difference. Generally speaking, it’s warmer here. It’s also sunnier here. And it definitely rains less. I also observed this when I lived in London for a year. It is a major bonus of not living Up North, one I’m grateful for every day.

As long as it’s warm and sunny. Or at least warm, with a bit of sun. Definitely no rain allowed.

Whether I’m making full use of it is less certain. I feel like I have to squeeze all the optimism out of the sun while I can still see it. I need it to keep me going. It’s like a store of energy to see me through the winter.

But still, like I said, can’t complain right now. Here’s to a, sort of, summer. And let’s hope I haven’t tempted fate…

Electoral Fun

My train is rather uncomfortable this morning.

After having to come via a slightly different route, involving one extra change, the net result is still exactly the same. I arrive at the same time back home, and will get there at 11:37.

It’s another weekend where I’m going back home. And I’m really looking forward to this one for some reason. It’s not been any longer than normal. But perhaps it’s just because business has been so quiet this week. I have taken a grand total of approximately £100. Which is clearly insufficient.

It’s been the worst week I’ve had since January. Not sure why it’s gone like that though. Perhaps it’s because I’ve stopped running the advert in the local paper. I didn’t think it was working for me, but maybe it is after all. Well, at least it’ll be illuminating when I run it next time.

I really need to go out leafleting, but with constant trips up and down the country I end up delaying it.

And then there’s the election, of course.

Political nerds like me find elections stunningly wonderful things. And this one in particular is pretty exceptional. I have been absorbing almost all the coverage I could find. Watching interviews, seeing all the debates, reading endless articles and writing my own. Because I do have a political blog out there now, which I won’t link to. But it’s good. No one ever comments on it, but at the moment I’m getting a couple of hundred visitors a day.

It’s at times like this that I really feel like I’ve missed my “calling”. I still don’t think I’d enjoy being an MP, having witnessed it at first hand, but my mind is filled with so many ideas about political ideologies, political strategies and arguments about X, Y, and Z. I hardly ever end a real political discussion without either convincing someone that I’m right, or that I need to amend my views based on their experience. Thinking critically and analytically is so normal to me. I should be using it more.

But I know that when the inevitable happens, and the British public once more vote for the same old rubbish, I will be depressed about politics again and vow never to get involved in it. And if the British public do indeed vote for more of the same tired old politics, they will probably deserve it.

Not a good attitude for someone who might want to go into public service one day. But I’ve always been a cynical bastard.

The one good thing about life in the South? The weather. It’s been glorious now for weeks on end. It’s about to end next week, apparently, but it’s been fantastic for early spring. I can’t wait for summer. I’m hoping for a good one this year. In every respect.

The Worst Winter In My Life

I write this post as it seems like – at the moment anyway – that winter is possibly starting to ease off.

But maybe it’s not such a good idea to tempt fate.

Today, at long last, the temperature reached a balmy 4 or 5 C. This got rid of a large amount of the snow that has been lying on the ground for some time. Which is good, as I think everyone was pretty fed up with it by now.

It’s been about four weeks solid of freezing temperatures. Day after day of snow and ice, and probably the coldest I can ever remember it in my life.

But it has been the snow that has been the most significant. I love snow. Usually. And that’s normally because every other time I can remember it it disappears the next day.

Genuinely, this is the first time ever that I’ve seen it snow and stick around for so long.

That’s why I started to get tired of it. The snow turned to ice, and made it impossible to get around. Luckily I managed to avoid falling on my arse by slipping, but there were many close calls.

Nevertheless, it has made for some great pictures. I went out for a stroll the other day – as I’m back in my house down South now – and crossed a very big field absolutely covered in snow. An absolutely unbelievable sight; never witnessed in my life

That was good. It’s made some of this suffering worth it. But otherwise, this has been a bit of a disaster. And unprecedented.

Maybe that means it’s not going to happen again. Or, at least, not going to happen for quite some time. But I can’t help but feel that there is a trend. Worse summers. Worse winters. It’s very worrying. I don’t really remember the weather being all that extraordinary during my childhood. There was one really hot summer. But otherwise, there was plenty of rain, some sun, and fairly mild winters in comparison to the one we just had.

Of course, anecdotes don’t equal evidence. And my memory may be faulty.

But if this is what summers and winters are going to be like from now on, I’m definitely going to be looking for a new country to live in!

Bangor Bound

“Didn’t we have a lovely day the day we went to Bangor” is something my mum came out with when I told her I was having a day out there. Apparently, it’s some old song. I don’t know. She comes out with some crackers.

It never struck me as one of the places I would actually look forward to, but this small town on the North West Wales coast was in fact a rather nice day out.

My purpose for the visit was to mix a bit of business with pleasure. A friend of mine is doing a lot of political activity there. I decided to come along and help the effort on one of their “action days” – which basically involved miles of walking shoving leaflets through letterboxes.

The good news was that the weather was absolutely perfect. Couldn’t have been any better. Glorious sunshine, a tiny breeze to keep it cool, but not too hot. Which is important when you’re doing physical exercise. Especially as I was the lucky one to carry my group’s leaflets around in my backpack.

We were well looked after with some fantastic hospitality. Food and drinks, all provided freely, and a wonderful little cottage as a base for our operations. It’s just exactly what you need when you’re doing something like this. Wasn’t too stressful either. In fact, we had a great time.

Then, when we’d all finished, we departed for the bar for a celebratory drink. It gave me a great chance to catch up with my old friend whom I’d not seen in years. Even better was that I didn’t have to pay, because it’s tradition in these things for the person who we’re all working for to thank their activists in such a way!

Well, the only thing I did pay for was the cost of travel. I had to get up at 5:30am yesterday to be there for 9:30… and, pleasingly, the train journey went extremely smoothly. It only cost £15 too, thanks to the shiny new railcard I’ve invested in.

But the early start wasn’t too much of a problem for me anyway. The main reason: I have once more found myself a little job to supplement my income. In truth, it’s something I’ve always had the option of doing but was never too keen on it.

My uncle is an area manager of a cleaning firm. He got me a job at the drop of a hat, especially when he heard about the scum I worked for in my previous job. It’s only a few hours each day, bright and early in the morning, but that suits me fine. I’m home by 10am, and then I’ve got the rest of the day to myself.

And recently, I’ve actually had plenty of stuff to do. Business has been fairly good the past three weeks. Still not huge amounts of money, but it is showing potential. Seems I’m getting lucky right now.

About bloody time. It’s been a tough past couple of months.

Hot, Hot, Hot

According to the now infamous thermometer in my room, tucked into the loft conversion, it is currently 30 degrees C. The outdoor temperature is a more reasonable 23 C, which means it’s rather odd that for me I have to go outdoors to cool down.

The alternative outside, though, is a zapping of UV rays. And so it came to pass, as I’ve just spent the last couple of hours in the garden in full sunlight, roasting hot, reading the newspaper from cover to cover. It was worth it though, as life felt so good. Briefly.

It’s been a strange old week, on reflection. I seem to have been busy all the time, apart from the times I have made some time for myself to relax and enjoy the sunshine. When I haven’t been helping my dad out with some maintenance work, I’ve been redeveloping my business website. While the former job is outdoors, the latter is something that I would dearly love to do outside too. The only problem is that the laptop battery can’t take the strain for more than 30 minutes. I wish they’d do something about laptop batteries. They really are shit, and don’t seem to be getting any better as the years go by.

With it being half-term, my brother and sister are off school, my other brother is finished for the year in university, and my mum and dad are both off work. On top of that, my nephew has been staying here all week, as my sister couldn’t get the week off work. On top of all this, work has just started on the front of our house to turn the wreckage of a so-called garden into a slightly more habitable space. The noise has been incredible.  Basically, the net result of all this is that it’s been yet another week in the madhouse.

I can’t take it much more, but at the same time, I have no choice. So I really am going to have to learn to stop moaning about it. I have to find enough stuff, instead, to occupy my time. I’m really hoping, crossing my fingers, that my website redevelopment will start to encourage some regular business to flow. It’s too sporadic right now, and that’s half of the reason why I feel so depressed about the whole thing.

But, at the very least, when the sun shines, and rather unusual things happen like me winning a £250 competition, I can briefly feel contented. It seems such a long time ago now when I posted about my, brief, perfect moment. I suppose it was a year ago, but still, I feel like not much has gone right for me since I graduated.

Still. At least I’ve got my health. Which, I’m happy to say, is now fully restored. It’s now two weeks since the Three Peaks hike in atrocious conditions. Hard to believe as I sit here contemplating taking off my t-shirt. That would be a miracle even for me.