That Was The Year That Was

It’s customary around these parts to review the year when I finally reach the fag-end of it. And sure enough, today seems the most opportune moment to do so. 

The beauty of this exercise is that I am aided in my assessment by looking back to the post I made on January 1st in which I set down what I expected to happen this year.

This year started coldly, in the same way as it’s finishing coldly. The weather made me dread going back to Hull after Christmas, and it was even worse this year because I had exams awaiting me there. But back I went, nailing the buggers, and getting on with the rest of university life. 

The months ticked by, not a lot happened with me other than ploughing on with my university work. After all, it was my final year and I had a dissertation to write, an absolute monster spanning 15,000 words. But I did it…

Winter gave way to Spring, and yet more exams appeared over the horizon. But all of a sudden I had a new goal. Away had went my previous expectations of being able to get a 2:1. All of a sudden I’d done so well in my previous exams, essays and the dissertation to know that I could, if I pushed myself, get a First. 

The exam revision was hellish. It would be another two months before I finally got the answer I was hoping for.

In the meantime, I moved back home and began preparing for life doing a PGCE. My plan was to become a primary school teacher, as it was something I had found interesting when I did lots of work experience for them. But as the months went by, I found myself backtracking from this commitment. Somehow, it just didn’t seem right any more. Each day another seed of doubt was sewn. I felt like I was just doing it because I didn’t have any other plans.

Days later there was the joy of the graduation result, a First, and the day itself, which was a very happy moment. Then my brain began to think up alternatives. If not teaching, what else? 

Unfortunately, to this day there is no answer to that question, made worse by the fact that the recession seems to be seriously damaging my prospects. I tried and tried, but ratcheted up just two interviews, one of which was a disaster not worth repeating, and the other was a long journey to London which ended with the same result. In any event, I soon learned that a First in politics is not really that useful. 

And so the remaining months of the year have been spent here, where I’ve lived out a rather odd existence as a houseson, spending my time looking after the house while my parents aren’t here, helping my brother and sister with their homework, and generally mooching around watching DVDs or reading books. 

Not good, basically. 

Because of all this, I am, for the first time in a while, not going to label this as a Good Year. Though it started well, and the middle bit was pretty sweet, the end has been a disaster. So this is a Neutral Year. 

For the rest of my family, I have been fortune that the sadness I feared was going to happen with my grandparents has not yet arrived. In fact, things are pretty much as they were at the start of the year. So that is some comfort. But I am still worried about what might happen in the near future. 

Meanwhile, my younger but elder of my brothers has gone to university, and seems to be enjoying it. The other brother has begun his GCSEs and is turning into a right scally. But he’s still my brother, and as amusing as ever. And my sister has gone all girly-girly, but has turned into a massive couch potato, watching soaps, reality TV and endless Nickelodeon shows. Not good at all.

My elder sister didn’t keep up with her nurse training, but now has a job for the first time in a long time. Her son, my nephew, has, unfortunately, become very naughty and very thick, a change which has upset me a lot. I suspect it’s related to the beginnings of a long and tedious legal battle that will kick off in 2009 as his useless father tries to score some points over my sister. 

As for my parents, well, I can’t help but feel that living here has changed the dynamic of their relationship. Some times I feel like I’m the referee of their silly conflicts, like they appeal to me for a judgement on who is to blame for things. I don’t like it, and hope I don’t have to put up with it for much longer. 

So, sorry 2008, but I’ll be glad to see the back of you. Things just haven’t gone anywhere near the way I thought they would. A shame, but we move on…

Must Be Mad

One of the serious downsides about running a Sunday league football team is that you are at the full mercy of the British weather. Never has this been more evident than today, when an insufficient amount of rain fell overnight for the game to be called off, resulting in us having to play when it was obvious to all and sundry that it was soon going to descend into farce.

And what a farce. If I were a neutral observer, sitting in a warm ivory tower, I would probably laugh at the suffering people go through in order to watch their side suffer or succeed. But mostly suffer, in my case.

Today the conditions were utterly appalling. I had listened to the rain all night pounding away at the roof barely 50cm above me. The forecast was for it to rain heavily until midday – good enough, since our game would kick off at 10:30am, and the overnight rain would be a bonus. Ideally, we needed the game called off, because we’re going through something of a crisis at the moment. True, we are never out of crisis, but this one is worse than most.

The rain stopped at 7:30am. I looked out the loft window – clear skies coming ahead. I checked the BBC weather forecast. Sunny spells, 9am. Sunny, 12pm, sunny spells 3pm. Well, at least it wasn’t going to rain while we were there…

But the game still might have been called off, I thought. I checked the league’s website. No news. I checked my mobile – no news of cancellation either. OK, so we’re unlucky this time. We’re going to have to play. But like I said, at least it’s going to be sunny.

Wrong. Not for the first time the BBC Weather website forecast, which is soon to be reclassified from a factual website to a comedy website, was so damn wrong it’s untrue. I often laugh at how many times the forecast can change within the space of 24 hours. Sometimes I think it randomly generates symbols they change so often.  

We were treated to 90 minutes of hell. Gale force winds, freezing cold, blowing throughout. Rain. Heavy rain. Heavy hailstones. Sunshine! Heavy hailstones. Heavy rain. Driving, bitterly cold rain, freezing you to the bone. On, off, on, off. Worst of all, I badly needed the toilet. Not a number two, I assure you. 

The thing is about our team is that they don’t take kindly to poor conditions. In recent weeks we’ve actually been improving, having sorted out a good defence. Well, that was until our excellent keeper decided to let us down, resulting in the current crisis. But anyway, we thought we would be OK at the back, at least. And we were, until the weather ruined everything.

Whether it’s a lack of enthusiasm, or there’s something about our style of play that really suffers in the rain, it’s hard to be certain. But whatever it is, we just don’t know how to deal with it. We lose all control, while the wind does its worst to make the trajectory of an airborne ball utterly unpredictable. Meanwhile, the driving rain saps you of all energy and morale.

The conditions in the middle of the game were such that if they were happening at the start of the game then I’m certain it would have been called off. Indeed, I understand that many similar leagues called off their games today. But ours crazily went ahead. If only the rain hadn’t stopped at 7:30am. If only I hadn’t been deceived by the woeful forecast this morning for the rest of the morning. Can they really not forecast just a few hours ahead? I would have worn more layers and a more waterproof jacket for starters!

So today has really knocked the stuffing out of our team. After two great performances in the last two weeks, today was utter capitulation. It was only 2-0 down at half time, and the opposition had had no more chances than the ones they scored. It ended 7-1, in the second half when the worst of the weather was taking its toll. At one point I pleaded with our team to abandon the game. The opposition were happy to (of course they would) and the referee thought we should but our players didn’t want to, so we didn’t. 

Like I said, you’ve got to be mad to be in this business. 

Nobody ever said being a football fan was easy. But more than being a fan, running your own team is far worse because the depth of involvement is on a much deeper level. But we do it through the good times as well as the bad… even if it means nearly dying of hypothermia.

Brass Monkeys

In the past week or so, it’s suddenly become rather cold. I hasten to use the word “very” in front of cold, because in truth we Brits don’t really know what “cold” means; suffice it to say that anything around zero degrees Celsius is not good. I would never survive in Canada, the north of the USA or Russia, for example. So let’s just say that it’s too cold for me.

My tolerance for cold seems to have waned with every passing year. I don’t know whether that’s because these days I seem to be lighter than ever. My current weight is 65kg, and while I’m not underweight, I am moving towards the bottom end of the BMI scale. I don’t really know why this should be. I seem to be eating about the same amount of stuff I always have done. I do a little bit more exercise than I used to, but I wouldn’t have thought it was making me lose weight. I really ought to patent my diet, because to me it’s 80% junk, 20% good with only mild exercise and yet the kilos are disappearing…

But because of my low weight, and presumably low body fat, I am feeling the cold more than I’ve ever done. I can’t bear to be outside in the cold. On Tuesday I was outside helping with my team’s football training, and the wind and the driving rain would have been enough to make a grown man weep. Well, I nearly did. But it was just so horrific that I don’t think I’ve ever felt so bad in my life.

The situation is now being exacerbated by the fact that I am essentially sleeping outside. My new bedroom, the converted loft space, is, to put it bluntly, fucking freezing. I took a thermometer up there and at the moment daytime room temperature doesn’t go above 12°C. At night, it drops to 8°C. I have been assured that there is insulation in the loft, both below the floor, in the roof, and the windows are double glazed, but there is a ferocious draught that brings in the outside cold air with consumate ease. Let this serve as a warning to others wanting to get their lofts converted – you’re exposed to the weather on more than one side, unlike a normal room, the draughts are ridiculous, and in order to keep the room warm you need to have the central heating or other electric/gas heater on constantly. Meanwhile, in the summer, the heat is outrageous.

Basically, it’s uninhabitable right now. Even with serious jumpers on. I haven’t switched my computer on up there since Monday, so I’m doing all my computer use downstairs where there is at least some degree of warmth. All I’m doing up there at the moment is using it for sleep. Which is bad enough. Even a thick duvet doesn’t keep the cold out. I wake up several times a night at the moment shivering with cold. I think I’m going to have to get an electric blanket, and some more blankets in general.

But do you know what the worst thing about all this is?

It’s not even winter yet.

Lego Man Hair

Every time I cut my hair I feel like my hairline has receded just that little bit further. This happened again the other day, when I used the number four clippers this time… and though it doesn’t look as bad as it normally does at three, it is still fairly short.

But it had to go. My hair is a disaster area. When left, it becomes like a piece of a Lego man hair. It becomes one solid mass with no visible lines. And then starts to curl at the back and at the sideburns. It looks like you could “take it off and set it down”. In joke alert. Too long to describe.

So now things are a little more under control. But when I have less hair, I always feel colder. And that’s not helped by the fact that we seem to have segued seamlessly into winter from fake-summer.

This week, it’s been very quiet. I have looked at the availability of jobs, and now I have come to a new conclusion that it is not wise to apply for any more jobs in London. I’m clearly failing to attract any interest, perhaps because I’m jobless right now, but probably also because each job gets hundreds of applicants, and there’s just no way of getting noticed amongst the pile. In any case, I feel a little desperate now, applying for almost anything that might even be vaguely relevant. Surely things aren’t that bad?

And, if I did manage to get an interview, and didn’t get a job offer, I would then have forked out a large sum of money to get the train to something that was a waste of time. I don’t have that kind of money right now.

So maybe I would be better looking around here. If I instead apply for jobs based on the nine months experience I had working as a diary secretary to an MP, then surely I would have a fair chance of getting something along similar lines?

That is the backup plan now. There is still a primary plan in motion, but I’m still waiting on that one. It might never happen. If it doesn’t, then I’ll be a little upset with the friend of mine who effectively promised me the job if I ever needed it. Because, all of a sudden, I do need it. Gaps on a CV look terribly discouraging to a prospective employer…

Week by week the pressure gets more and more for me. There was me thinking that my CV looked pretty good. That I looked rather employable. Turns out not to be the case. Instead, I’m roped into the old chestnut of “to get experience, you need experience”.

Maybe the Lego man hair puts people off. But then again, having fashionably unfashionable hair is very popular these days. I ought to start cultivating it. It may become my new lucky talisman.

Hmm. Yes…

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.