Not rocket science

I really wish this Simpsons image hadn’t proven to be so prophetic…

I won’t beat about the bush: it turns out my last diagnosis for the cause of my repeated bouts of “mind static” was way too optimistic, as today I found out I do in fact have an actual tumour nestling within my grey matter, rather than just a cyst on the outside that could be removed with minimal fuss.  I’ll need more analysis, including a detailed “super-MRI” scan, but unless I’m (ahem) lucky enough that I could spend my life on anti-epilepsy drugs as a way of controlling symptoms with no consequences, it looks like I’m going to have to endure full-on brain surgery, to remove the troublesome “space invader” — which, rather than some kind of parasitical growth, seems to be actually part of my brain that’s gone wrong.

Hopefully, cuts to the NHS notwithstanding, I’m in no danger of dying on the operating table (which sadly happened to my grandfather just before the millennium) — but my personal trainer went through similar earlier in his life, and said that it led to changes in his personality (albeit perhaps partly due to the wrong operation being done first), such as being quicker to anger, losing his mathematical knowledge, and needing to rekindle his interest in sport over a long time (which is perhaps why he was a chef in a previous role).  He’s a great guy today, but he’s still somehow a different person to the one who went under the knife.

If I do go through with this operation (and at this stage, it’s strictly hypothetical), I wonder if I’d lose something?  As I keep saying, I’d love to remove anxiety from my mind, since it serves no purpose whatsoever (and is self-reinforcing at times) — and wouldn’t it be convenient if the only reason I’ve been so anxious the past few years is indeed down to that exact lump interfering with my noggin, and so saving my life would go hand-in-hand with finally growing a pair?  The same goes with my quickness to anger, something I’d love to be rid of entirely — if I can squeeze it into that blob, I can bid it goodbye — and there’s also my tendency to rehearse conversations internally, even if I’m never actually going to have them, and overthinking in general.

On the other hand, would surgery be what finally causes me to “put away childish things”, like video games (which would be frustrating when I’ve spent so much time and money building this ubercomputer for games), science fiction, and Japanese anime?  Indeed, since it’s the left temporal lobe, concerned with language and comprehension, would I forget how to speak and understand Japanese… or, indeed, English?

I’ve resolved not to worry about this, and to carry on living (much as I did before — boy, I keep retreating the same ground in this blog, don’t I?), as if all goes well, I get my life back, and all I need to do for now is cut down on intense exercise, or anything where someone else’s life is in my hands, like belaying others while climbing.  It’s not impossible that I’ll never climb again — it got me out of depression in 2012, but maybe it’s served its purpose, and I don’t need to do it any more unless I truly want to.

It should be noted that my personal trainer’s being helpful in this aspect, not making me do “heavy lifting” for the time being, but encouraging me to keep healthy and positive, rather than laze about at home and get into bad habits, and for that I’m grateful.  My “boss lady” at work is also happy for me to take off whatever time I need to get this resolved, while senpai, despite worrying excessively (and urging me to get a “second opinion”), is on my side, and will help take care of me at work if anything goes wrong and I suffer from any symptoms.

I should also be very clear that I’m eternally grateful for my mother’s support in this — I’m planning a blog post about how awesome she is, even if I disagree with her politically (at times it feels like the right-wing consider the left-wing a bunch of babies who need to “grow up”), to make up for all the times I’ve been mean about her and her well-meaning advice (including last time).  I do worry about people worrying about me, and my main reason for wanting to recover from this medical issue is so they don’t need to, as their worry is increasing my worry, in a… worry spiral?

One reason I’m going to be optimistic is that it feels like history repeating itself: a crisis of some kind seems to happen to me every three years, and I’ve always overcome it (I’m sure my yoga teacher would have something mystical to say — and he’s back in town, so I’ll try to see him on Monday instead of dancing).  It’s like this: something goes wrong at the end of one year (leading to a Christmas that I somehow don’t quite enjoy), but is resolved by the following February (when it’s no longer so depressingly dark in the mornings), or at least matters set in place for a longer-term resolution.  Here’s a list:

  • Late 2008: my HR job at Camden was threatened due to yet another council restructuring, but I was sick of it anyway, and in early 2009 I got redeployed to children’s social services, which meant I could continue working and living in London (and learning Japanese).
  • Late 2011: as you know (if you’ve been reading this long enough), I sank into deep depression due to “good housemate” getting his own place, while my own life was going nowhere; by the end of January, I had a new place to move into (and am still here), and even got offered an acting-up allowance on my salary, to help cover at work (later leading to my playboy lifestyle, including mass socialising).
  • Late 2014: after losing that horrible shift-based job, and wondering if I’d ever get into IT, or even work again, in February my agency found me a temporary but sanity-restoring job, and I was able to go back to paying my bills with something other than government handouts; this led on to my current job, in which (despite the occasional setback) I’m now truly happy.

“And this smudge here, that looks like my thumbprint? No, that’s trauma!”

I know my bouts of “mind static” started with a vengeance over a year ago, but it was only in late 2017 that I finally got the quacks to take it seriously and actually give me some kind of examination beyond simply confirming I can feel my fingertips and move my eyes around.  This has now led me towards the truth of the situation (assuming it’s not all a huge photographic cock-up — it took them a long time to process the pictures on the 3rd!), and I’ve got “the big decision” coming up on 8th February.  This date is, perhaps not coincidentally, close to the dates I earned my redeployment position in 2009, moved into my new home in 2012, and started my new temp job in 2015!

And even if I had some bad times in those years following those events (some of which have been chronicled here), my life always bounced back, and I regained the ability to be happy again — so this time around, even if the depression of 2011 and the anxiety of 2014 both threaten a concerted attack (both would be entirely understandable given the circumstances), I’m going to stay cheerful, control symptoms with medication (even if one of the pills means I, ahem, gain weight), and do the things I enjoy.

It’d be just my luck to have a major issue just as I’m finally sorting my life out (aside from girly action, but I remain hopeful) — but somehow, even if it takes every ounce of strength and determination…

DAVE-ROS WILL LIVE THROUGH THIS!

— — —

P.S. I note that a number of people with Outlook.com addresses have signed up to my blog since my last post; if any of you are doctors, especially brain surgeons, I’m very sorry for using “quack” as humorous shorthand for your career… don’t take offence, I call dentists “tooth-quacks” as well!  Maybe brain surgery will stop me trying to be funny in such a 1950s American nightclub standup way…?

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Belligerent socialising

Maybe it’s the anti-epilepsy medication I’m on, but I’ve found myself to be rather more talkative at work than before — chatty, humorous (without being offensive), and supportive to my “flock”.  However, today I’ve had an experience that makes me feel like I need to tone it down, as I really didn’t enjoy the presence of an extrovert at a social event… though doubtless it’s all my fault somehow, as it usually is.

(Ah, there’s the mood swing my medication warned me about — at least it took over a week!)

My Polish friend (who, considering we haven’t kissed beyond polite cheek pecks, probably isn’t my girlfriend and is more like a “friend who is a girl”) invited me today to an event, at a famous vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the Regent Street area, for a meetup group concerning animal welfare.  I was feeling exhausted after yesterday (my first personal training session in over a month), not to mention lethargic from a combination of the aforementioned medication and January being the most dismal month of the year, but still wanted to go and keep her company (since she was the one who asked), and so set off for the city centre to meet her.  So far, so good.

However, it seems I still don’t like forced socialising, as although I can talk to unfamiliar people in a small group, gradually getting to know them, I still can’t stand it when someone — almost always a bloke with a loud voice — barges into the group, acting like he’s doing us a favour, and droning on and on and on in a manner that suggests he thinks he’s a skilled orator… I felt a little shame for loathing the presence of this guy, but felt like I was trapped: my female friend was staying put (and even joining in the conversation), and I didn’t think I could just walk away from her, and I also worried that simply leaving to talk to someone else would be considered rude.

(I’d already lost my opportunity to go talk to a cute Far Eastern girl with pink hair, who was talking to some other bloke, and is probably engaged by now… yes, that’s the mood swing again!)

Things like this have happened before, including at Japanese meetup events (which is why I can’t bring myself to go to them any more, despite still being interested in the language and the people — plus I hate loud, crowded places).  One time in 2012, I was sitting alone when I suddenly found myself surrounded by white English blokes, with Japanese girlfriends, who were all acting friendly in the sense that there was no possible way I could be uncomfortable with them intruding like that.  I didn’t enjoy their company one bit, and excused myself to buy a drink.  I nearly walked out entirely, but with a cider in hand, I managed to get together with a group of Japanese girls for conversation.  Not with the intention of pulling one of them (well, not the sole intention), but because they were (a) actually Japanese (the whole point of the event), and (b) female (whose company I find much less intimidating than male)!

I suppose I haven’t changed much over the past few years: if anything, I enjoy socialising even less than I did when I worked in that dead-end admin job up to 2014, when at least meetup events (and especially Meetup.com events) meant a change from my dull working environment.  Now, after spending my entire week helping familiar people, and trying to be funny, I find I want nothing more than to relax at home afterwards, even at the weekend.  In fact, I’d love it if I never had to socialise again — but there’s no other way I’m ever likely to find the girl of my dreams, so I feel obliged to keep going to social events, no matter how uncomfortable I am.

Indeed, socialising is considered an obligation for human beings, and even my own mother has told me off for not wanting to enthusiastically shake hands with strangers in social settings, or to let random blokes strike up conversations with me when I’m at singles events.  That’s the thing: I still don’t want to make new male friends just for the sake of it, and new male friends happen more by chance than anything (“best mate”, my personal trainer, my yoga teacher etc.).  It’s simple: although a few blokes turn out, astonishingly, to be worthy of my friendship, most men in the world hold zero interest for me, because I’ve never wanted to be “one of the lads” or have “drinking buddies”, or watch sportsball with other blokes.

To balance, though, there are times guys have approached me and we’ve got talking (like an occasion back in 2013 you may remember, though I never really saw that group again) — it all depends on the energy.  I’m happy to make new acquaintances, for example, when I go climbing at the Castle, and I say hi to blokes I’m familiar with when I see them at the Session (one looks like my old school friend in the 1990s, another resembles the actor Kevin Eldon).  It’s when I’m at a social event and someone with a large, overbearing personality forces me to interact with them that I get up-tight and withdrawn.  Maybe they’re an introvert like me, trying to make a new friend but misjudging their approach, and if they see they’re intimidating and dial it back a bit, fair enough — that’s something I can empathise with.  But it’s the extroverts I want to avoid, because they don’t even have a dial to turn back: they’re incessantly, belligerently sociable, and act like the only reason you’re not fawning over them is that they haven’t been loud and cheerful enough yet.

(Hence the problem I had with a certain work colleague many years ago…)

It’s not just me who has social interaction issues, though: I remember a time a couple of years ago when I was attending a dating guidance event led by (just to name her for once) Hayley Quinn; I was watching other people’s interactions, keeping myself to myself and woolgathering, when suddenly the bloke sitting next to me — who I wasn’t even looking at, and who could only see the back of my head — suddenly all but shouted a “sociable” question, almost right in my ear!  That’s right, he didn’t even tap me on the shoulder (or otherwise attract my attention) and introduce himself, he just blurted it out, and boy, that really ground my gears, making me want to interact with him as little as possible.

Today: everyone in the entire human race!

Back to the incident at today’s event: although she was happy to leave with me when she saw I was uncomfortable, my Polish friend seemed to think I was in the wrong, and that if I didn’t like the loudmouth, I should have just walked away from the group and spoken to someone else — but like I said above, I felt like I had a Hobson’s choice, and would be in the wrong simply for not liking the guy from the get-go (since he wasn’t rude or violent), whether I clammed up, walked away or told him to turn it down.  As though you should like anyone who is polite, no matter how much they grate on your nerves!

However, the fact that I’m talking so much at work at the moment — being political, making smart-alec comments like I’m performing to a crowd and so on — makes me wonder if I need to dial things back as well, and resist becoming an “extroverted introvert”.  I especially worry that the nice female team member who sits opposite me at work (who’s a lot quieter and more demure than the blokes, and thus far more pleasant for me to interact with) is getting fed up with my constant quasi-standup comedy routines, and references to old TV shows, songs etc. that were big before she was even born.

Maybe I need to settle down and be more sensible — or at least more willing to ask people questions (and actually listen to the answers) than drone on about my experiences and opinions like some kind of rambling old-timer.  Despite my introvercy (or maybe because of it?), it’s easy for me to talk a great deal when I’m around familiar people, but I don’t want to annoy them the way extroverts annoy me at social events, as nobody likes a hypocrite.  I may even need to rant my heart out in a blog post here, just to get it out of my system, so I don’t go on and on at people I actually like.

Of course, this could all just be part of the aforementioned mood swing, bordering on outright depression (I’ve certainly felt like having a damn good cry this evening), caused by one of the medications I’ve been prescribed for my medical condition — I’ve certainly felt better after coming home and having dinner (and talking to my housemates).  That’s not the only reason I wish the quacks would let me come off clobazam, though: amongst other things, it makes it harder to… shall we say… shed excess mass?  It’s not just Easter eggs in the shops that are causing me to gain weight…

— — —

P.S. My Polish friend texted me while I was writing this, and she still wants to hang out with me and have me over for vegan pizza (even if she uses “Netflix and chill” in a more literal context than sex maniacs do), so at least I haven’t blown our friendship entirely by being antisocial to strangers…

Getting my head examined

Unfortunately, mine’s unlikely to die of starvation and drop off

Although weirdness had been happening occasionally for a couple of years, it was December 2016 when I first experienced a great deal of… well, what I can only describe as bursts of quasi-memories and feelings of deja vu, which at their worst would prevent me understanding other people’s speech, and make me very uncertain about speaking in case I get tongue-tied, for up to a minute at a time.

Well, of all the theories I’ve had, it would seem I was half-right when I suggested a tumour pushing on my brain: I’ve finally had a full MRI analysis by the NHS last week (the process itself was fine, it was the waiting before and after which threatened my sanity!), and after looking at the photos of my noggin, they reckon there’s a “cyst” on my left temporal lobe, leading to pressure against my skull, which (consistent with my symptoms) has been causing what they describe as minor epileptic seizures.

(So it’s not something Lovecraftian after all… if anything, it’s more like “Mr. Gray” from Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher, which naturally I’m reading at this exact time!)

Confirmation is yet to come — they’re analysing an EEG they also performed (and a chest X-ray, which was odd), and this week it’s likely they’ll call me in for a further assessment — but if it’s true, it’s clarified my situation: rather than any number of things, like posture or food additives or eye strain or caffeine overdoses (or the onset of diabetes!), it’s just a plain old lump that needs removing.  Judging from how long it took to develop since my first definite attack in May 2015, they reckon it isn’t aggressive or malignant, just annoying; indeed, I remember occasionally having milder bursts of deja vu (and memories I couldn’t keep hold of) even earlier, back when I still worked at Camden council — perhaps as long ago as 2009 or 2010…

For now, to mitigate the symptoms, I’ve been prescribed two different types of epilepsy medication, and so far they seem to be working: no more bursts of “mind static” seemingly triggered by song lyrics, words in books, people talking around me, or neck strain.  It means I’m back to feeling confident doing all my usual things again, like listening to Gwar, drinking caffeine (though I’m still steering clear of those mochas at work), exercising and cooking in my kitchen (one of the situations I’d get the attacks most frequently), as well as thinking, reading, having hypothetical conversations in my brain, and planning things to write.  I’m also sleeping better than I was before, even during Christmas when I was in Worthing (chocolate overdoses notwithstanding!).

No, I won’t stop ripping off Matt Groening cartoons for amusing images in this blog!

I’d be willing to continue this situation indefinitely, to avoid having the quacks open my skull and tinker with my grey matter, if I was worried that brain surgery might kill me (or leave me a dribbling vegetable).  However, I know I’ve got to let them offer me a long-term resolution, and the doctors I’ve spoken to are not worried for my sake (due to this thing apparently not being cancerous) — it’d be a routine operation, not a lobotomy, and they’d put the chunk of skull back in after, rather than a metal plate.

That’s if an operation is even needed, of course: I wonder if the “space invader” (as I call it, due to it being inside my head) is actually receding a bit, knowing it’d be better off keeping its damn mouth shut and letting me get on with my life.  I find myself wondering if it was the cause of my depression in 2011-12, or my anxiety in 2014-15… though if anything, it’d be more likely that those situations created it (since in both cases my emotions were responses to external events, rather than spontaneous and inexplicable).

If it is indeed some kind of visceral manifestation of the parts of my psychology that I hate and want to be rid of forever, that’d be best of all: I’ve said in the past that I want to rid myself of anxiety entirely, rip it out of my mind and grind it beneath my heel… so I’ll see if the surgeons keep it for me in a jar afterwards.  Or maybe I’ll put it on the mantelpiece and jeer at it.

Of course, there’s one final scary possibility: what if $DEITY heard me say I’d never again contemplate suicide unless I became terminally ill, and wants to test my resolve…?

Out of hibernation

I wish I could say I’d had a nice Christmas getaway, but sadly this year wasn’t as nice as last year, or the year before, or 2012 or 2013, though at least better than 2014 and 2011 — and despite the terrible journey down to Worthing to stay with my folks, which normally earns me a good stay…

Oh yes, I have to go into detail every time Southern (named and shamed) jerks me around!  At least they didn’t cancel my train outright before I even got on (as happened in 2012 and 2015), and at least their network wasn’t completely suspended (like in 2013); it  looked like I was going to have a nice, quiet, untroubled journey (like in 2014 and 2016, and possibly 2011).  But no, at the exact time I left home to make my way to Victoria, there was a problem on the Brighton line that meant the train I ultimately caught, despite leaving on time, became more and more delayed as we approached the south coast, to the point that it got stuck behind a stopping service — which makes it ironic that my train later announced it wasn’t going to stop at my station!

Normally I get off at Goring-by-Sea (because I’m a boring guy, see?) to visit my folks in Ferring, and I’d called home to let my mother know I was getting close; however, she forgot her mobile when she set off on foot to meet me, so I couldn’t call her to say I would be getting off at Durrington-on-Sea instead.  My grandmother, learning this from me over the landline, went to the station on foot to fetch her; realising this (from unanswered calls), I felt I had to run from Durrington to Goring in the hope of catching them.  No sign of them at Goring, and I worried I’d have to go searching after I dropped my stuff off at home… but fortunately, I caught up with them just as all three of us got back to Ferring!

After that ordeal, I was dishevelled, knackered, and coming down from a panicked adrenaline rush — which is probably why I spent this Christmas visit to my family home doing as little as possible, and suffering from more minor “brain fuzz” issues.  It didn’t help that some nights I couldn’t sleep (not unlike when I was in Michigan during the summer, though presumably not due to jet lag), and drinking caffeine in the mornings and alcohol in the evenings probably didn’t help — but I had no real exercise (not even Wii Fit Plus), so that’s not been the root cause of my dizziness.

I always feel bad when I don’t do the things I planned during my Christmas getaways: I barely watched any films (despite bringing them on a USB hard drive), hardly played any games against my mother (despite setting up Wii Sports Resort), and did no real practice on the guitar (despite lugging that thing all the way home).  It even took me until the weekend after Christmas to listen to the CDs I’d been bought (yes, the new Eminem and Gwar albums, well guessed), rather than me putting them in the machine right away on Christmas Day — and despite receiving Japanese presents, I did no Japanese translation…

Fortunately, I was able to install my old computer components in the PC casing I have down there, so I can play advanced games while visiting my folks (instead of old stuff), and I was able to put together a crystal puzzle (which became an ornament for my grandmother, and thus was effectively a present for both of us!).  Moreover, by taking things easy and not worrying too much, it seems (according to Fitbit) that my resting heart rate went down considerably, in comparison to how it usually stands here in London, when I have to get up for work at 7am even if I’ve had a restless night.  It also helped that my wonderful mother and grandmother prepared my meals for me, so I didn’t have to fuss about food preparation.

(Phew, that’s reassured the old crones I’m on their side… wait, did I type that or think it?)

Nonetheless, my life felt like it was “on hold” while I was staying in Worthing, and thus it felt good to come back to London today.  Okay, so I’m back at work tomorrow (albeit without “boss lady” for the first day), twice this week I’ve got to visit a hospital in Paddington to get checked over (just in case it’s something more sinister than stress or neck strain causing my dizzy spells), and it’ll be a couple of weeks before my personal trainer is back in town — but never fear, I still intend to make the most of my life in London, as a new year begins.

For example: another level of guitar classes begins next week (in an easier location than Walthamstow), which I might even be able to do on the same day as salsa; and this Friday, which I have off work, I might just be able to go climbing with “best mate” for the first time in months…

Congratulations: you are more alive than ever

“Hello Dave-ros; I want to play a game…”

Yesterday (the 12th) was the sixth anniversary (though Monday would be more precise in terms of weekday) of that day in 2011 when I felt so depressed, I actually planned to end it all on my 35th birthday, 300-odd days in the future, if I couldn’t turn my life around.  All these years later, suicide is something I’m no longer willing to contemplate (terminal illnesses aside) — and all I had to do was change just about everything in my life!

It’s worth considering just what the prospect was back in 2011 of me actually taking my own life… I’d say no chance whatsoever — if anything, that melodramatic outburst (which I concealed from everyone at the time) was necessary, and dare I say it, cathartic?  If I hadn’t gotten it out of my system, I might have been too satisfied with keeping my life just as it was (albeit in a different house, or possibly even back with my folks in Worthing) — but threating myself cajoled me into action.

How is my life in 2017 better than my life in 2011?  Let me count the ways:

(It’s been a while since I did this… hasn’t it?)

  1. I now live a long way from Caledonian Road, in a relatively peaceful area on a reliable Tube line, and while this isn’t exactly the best house in the world, at least I’ve got housemates I get on with (well, since July this year), a heating system that works properly (well, since last month), and a landlord that actually cares about our problems (well, compared to the last two) — and being in Finchley Central, I can get a seat on the Northern Line when I commute.  Speaking of which…
  2. I’ve finally got a job I actually enjoy, using my brain and IT skills to help people — professionals, not members of the public — with the computer side of their jobs, instead of tapping away at data entry all day.  Not only am I the only IT Helpdesk employee in the world who’s happy to be doing his job, I get a lovely pay rate as well — the UK average!
  3. I’m physically healthier than I was even in my twenties, thanks to taking up climbing, seeing a personal trainer, eating better diet (well, slightly more vegetables), and generally feeling less stressed (aside from the occasional dizzy spells that I’m getting the NHS to look at in January), perhaps due to escaping the annoying woman.  I’m even getting more sleep these days!
  4. I socialise a lot more — instead of just Japanese classes once a week (which had stopped by late 2011 anyway), and sitting at home by myself every other night, I go to Meetup events, meet people climbing, and act as the “face” of my IT team at work — if anything, I need to slow down and stay in more often, much as I did in 2013.  However, I’ve more chance of finding someone special — and on that topic…
  5. After going on more dates in the past few years than I’d gone on in the entire rest of my life, I might finally have a couple of potential girlfriends — don’t worry, I’ll be loyal to one woman (at a time), but considering how my love life in the first 11 years of the 21st century was a whole lotta nuthin’, I’ve definitely made progress here, and no longer feel so pessimistic that I wish I could just give up on ever finding love.
  6. Although I still enjoy a lot of “childish things”, I’m taking more responsibility for my life, collecting my household’s bills on my housemates’ behalf, behaving myself in my job and getting things done (allegedly more than at least one of my teammates), taking care of my health (as per no.3 above), and even buying expensive presents for my folks, to thank them for all the years they’ve taken care of me!

This blog entry was inspired by one of the “possibilities” in no.5 above: when I told her I’m not religious (she’s a lapsed Catholic), she asked me, outright, why I hadn’t killed myself.  She knew nothing of my former depression, and was genuinely intrigued (though she phrased it awkwardly, perhaps due to her Polish cultural heritage?); I told her that I’ve got too much good stuff in my life for me to even consider stopping living.  She seems to have accepted this, and so should you — I’m not checking out any time soon!

On that basis, why am I still posting in this blog?  If I’m over depression, and I’ve sorted my life out, what more do I have to say here?  Well, how about the fact that I still seem to have anxiety, which might even be the source of the weird “brain fuzz” dizzy spells I’ve been getting — like a burst pipe spraying into an unrelated room, instead of piping its contents to the correct destination — and this could be partly because I have a good life now, and worry about losing it all and reverting to how things were in the bad old days.  Going back into the dark after having seen the light is worse than never having left the dark, after all.

And yes, I fully intend to soapbox about the despicable behaviour of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic… stay tuned!

Getting lucky (with apologies to Daft Punk)

Sometimes, public transport issues seem to work in my favour — or, I get lucky despite serious issues.  This weekend I’d planned to visit my folks in Worthing, to drop off an expensive present I’d got for my grandmother, so I wouldn’t have to bring it home in two weeks’ time, just before Christmas itself; however, I suddenly thought of a present for my mother, but too late to actually buy it before my journey.  It occurred to me that I could always travel down to Brighton, buy the item in one of the shops there, and get a bus back home; I’d done this before in 2014, and I had a return ticket left over from last time I travelled, that I could use to get back, instead of buying a whole new open-ended return…

(I’d used that return before, but hadn’t had it marked or taken off me!  Yes, I’m happy to rip off Southern — who isn’t, considering how much they rip US off?)

…so imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were no direct trains to Worthing on Saturday, and my plan thus made sense anyway!  Admittedly, it’s not as lucky as that time in November 2006, just after I’d moved to Caledonian Road, when the exact weekend I’d be bringing loads of my stuff up to London in a removals van started with a strike at Victoria station, and so I was able to travel down to Worthing for free instead of buying an overpriced single (which has always cost almost as much as a return), but it was still pretty sweet, and so conveniently timed that you’d almost think it was scripted.

Okay, PC World (named and shamed) didn’t sell the thing I was after, so I had to resort to a shop that my mother hates, and even then, they were out of the more expensive versions of the item I wanted to get; and fine, the train journey to Brighton, albeit cheaper, took as long as a normal train journey to Worthing anyway, and the subsequent bus journey took over an hour on top of that — no, never mind the bad luck, all that was just payment for my good luck!  Like the opposite of Christmas 2015, when my final journey down to Worthing could have been a nightmare, but somehow I was lucky to find the path of least resistance through it all…

I must have been lucky to choose this weekend for my flying visit to Worthing, as it meant I avoided some very low temperatures in London, and the first significant snow I’ve seen in the capital since early 2015!  There was actually a difference of about 9 degrees Celsius (about twice as much in Fahrenheit) between Worthing on the south coast, and the north of London, and no snow where my folks live (but some strong winds on Sunday morning) — which also means my mother’s lucky, as there shouldn’t be any ice for her to risk slipping on.

And considering the snow in London, I was lucky to get a train back up that wasn’t delayed (aside from a short pause outside Victoria) — and maybe the eight-minute wait on the Northern Line was my “bad luck” fee, but otherwise I’ve had no trouble getting back here.  Indeed, what seemed to be forgetfulness before turned out to be fortuitous: last time I was in Worthing, I left behind a pair of boots my mother had got me in a sale in October (non-leather, another sign of good luck), but if I’d brought them up to London before, I wouldn’t have thought to wear them down to Worthing this weekend (it being mild on Saturday), and so wouldn’t have been able to wear them back up, and crunch safely through the snow in the streets here!

One bit of bad luck, and possibly a failure to “get lucky” in a sense closer to the one Daft Punk were actually singing about, has been the serious problems the London Underground’s been suffering today — never mind the Northern Line, which was actually getting back to normal when I got on it: had the Metropolitan Line been running, I may just have been able to drop in on one of the four potential girlfriends I have in my life now — and since she’d used the phrase “Netflix and chill”, there was a chance…

No, I’m not making stuff up — amazingly, after decades of nothing followed by a few years of numerous first dates that seldom went anywhere, and absolutely no instances of “getting lucky” whatsoever (unless you consider “dodged bullets” to be lucky, of course), finally this seems to be the year my romantic life begins!  They’re all in potentia at the moment, as nothing concrete has happened with any of them yet (technically I’ve not even made it to “first base”), but in each case I’ve not managed to drive her away just by being myself, and feel an emotional bond — with a possibility for something meaningful and long-term.

Oh, you want a list?  Well, in approximate order of meeting, we have:

  1. M, a statuesque African-American girl I’ve seen at my salsa classes since 2015, who likes my humour and happily hugs me every time, with kisses on the cheeks; she’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and has given me her phone number.  Yeah, this sister might be more of a “sister” in the relational sense of the word, but I still hope I’ve got a chance with her (and no, not for the ulterior motive of moving to America!).
  2. C, a cute English glasses girl with whom I’ve climbed a few times since 2016 (sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Castle when she’s been looking to top-rope), who really seems to enjoy my company, and is a great climber herself.  She’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and I’ve been too cowardly to ask her out, or even flirt (in case she mentioned having a boyfriend) — but next time I see her, I’ll try!
  3. S, a classy English brunette, with whom I connected via a dating app late last year, but still stayed in contact with this year, when I finally got to meet her for dates.  Things were a little stilted last time, and I’ve never had the courage to flirt, but she still seems to be interested in meeting me, and despite gaps between text messages, hasn’t starting “ghosting” me like so many other connections.
  4. M, a strawberry-blonde Polish vet, who messaged me via Meetup a couple of weeks ago (she was interested in coming to the “helping the homeless” event in Shy London), and who has met me a couple of times already; even though she’s the one I’ve known the least amount of time, she’s the one who I seem to have the best chance of (if you’ll forgive the bro-ish chauvinism) gettin’ some action with…

(And if the fourth one’s name started with “E”, I could list their initials as “MCSE”, singularly appropriate for an IT geek!  Ha ha, no?  Oh, please yourselves!)

I won’t lie, there are also women at work that I like — but even though one of my IT teammates met his wife in the company (which is why we always give her preferential treatment), I’d be too nervous about asking out any of them, as doubtless it’d be a failure and I’d be humiliated among my colleagues.  If a young lady asked me out, that’d be different — I’m always happy if a woman makes the first move, this being the 21st century and all (and I was asked out loads of times in 2013, which was nice) — but I won’t worry about it, because I’ve already got four possibilities, unlike all the women whose phone numbers I got only for them to either “ghost” me after one or two dates, or turn out to have boyfriends already.

In any case, this Friday I’ve been roped into coming to the Christmas do after work, when I’ll have to be careful in case someone I don’t like gets drunk and propositions me… but luckily, “best mate” wants to go to Winter Wonderland that evening, so, much like that day in summer 2013 when I was at a “singles event” whose female contingent were all much older than me, I’ve got a way out if things become uncomfortable…

Buyer’s remorse

Since a lot of people in this country are poor, and since we’re all likely to be poorer now we’ve “agreed” to pay €50bn to leave the EU (which feels like paying to leave your house when you’re evicted), I feel bad for spending so much money in November; I’m grateful I’ll still be more than breaking even for the month (partly thanks to not needing to pay my personal trainer until December), but still, I wonder…

Earlier this month, when I thought “boss lady” at work wasn’t going to buy me any more computer components (after the i7 CPU she got me in October), rather than worry about getting fired and needing to save my money, I weakened and bought myself a ludicrously expensive graphics card — for those who understand specs, it’s an 8GB nVidia GTX 1080, and on Amazon I got it “cheap”, meaning it only cost a month’s rent (there are better ones, like the Titan X, that would have cost me a month’s wages).

I’d intended to get it sooner, but I was delayed by a week when someone tried to steal from me, which seemed to have been fortuitous: rather than settle for a 1060, I figured “what the hell” and got the best type I could afford.  However, if I’d held on longer, I could have let “boss lady” buy it, or something similar, for me out of our budget (as I said last time, she’s likely trying to use it up so we get the same amount next year), and I’d have saved myself half a grand!

But take heart: it still cost less than the money I nearly lost to that criminal scumbag, and “boss lady” bought me something else highly useful: a 4TB SSD, to which I’ve copied all my game files (not my Windows install, as Win7 won’t boot from drivers bigger than 2TB).  Together with the graphics card, my computer’s even faster than it was with the new CPU in October, and now I can play games at the full 4K UHD resolution of the monitor I got in January!

(Blimey, it even takes less than a geological age to start up 2016 Doom!)

Another thing I wanted was a new chair, since the comfortable, padded one I got back in 2013 (before my American holiday) was wearing out — and I never quite convinced myself it wasn’t made of leather.  On the weekend my card details were abused, I went with “best mate” to a car lot way out west, so he could buy his own new vehicle; never mind that they might be the ones who somehow got my card details wirelessly, let’s be thankful that we couldn’t park at IKEA on the way home, as that meant I didn’t have to cancel a legit transaction!  But two weekends later, when I was reeling from spending so much on that graphics card, he was able to take me there to look around, and I bought a chair with a high back, which, when I tried it in the shop, seemed just right for me.

Alas, it was only when I’d gotten it home, assembled it and sat in it to play games that I realised a significant flaw: very hard armrests, compared to the nice cushioned ones of my old chair (which I’ve given to a housemate).  Since I play a lot of mouse-and-keyboard games (and insist on using the cursor keys to move, despite mousing right-handed), that can really grate on my left elbow!  And in any case, it seems like a more expensive version of the type of computer chair I got from Argos in 2011, back when I lived on Caledonian Road… but the deed was done, it was too late to take it back (and I could hardly ask “best mate” to drive me again anyway), so I’ve got to live with it — though at least it gives the back of my head support, unlike the old one.

Ah, but speaking of the time I lived on Caledonian Road… back in 2011, I bought some really useless but expensive things: USB steering wheels (not one, but two, after I broke the first one), and a NAS — a box into which I could put two hard drives and use them as a single storage drive, only for the thing to have very, very slow data transfer times over Ethernet.  I wasn’t earning enough to waste money back then — this was before I got an “acting up” pay rise at work, one of the things that made me feel better about life in 2012 after moving to Finchley, so blowing even a hundred here and there at the time was… foolish.

However, as I’ve said before, 2011 was a bad year for me, a real descent into depression, and hence the reason I started this blog in 2012, when I was finally putting my life back together — so let’s call the steering wheels “retail therapy”, and the NAS, a noble experiment in my early days of trying to break into IT.  That was also the year I built the PC of Theseus, in which just about everything was new, and although it was replaced piecemeal over the years, it kept me going, and thus wasn’t a waste of money at all.

And don’t worry: despite my foolish spendthriftness, I still donate things to charity shops (including a digital camera tripod I bought back in 2002 and never used — an early example of buyer’s remorse!), and once a month, I join a group that goes around central London passing out supplies to homeless people, and also lending them a friendly ear.  I know it’s not much, but I’ve long thought that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one — so I’ll be careful with my money for the rest of this year, and only buy Christmas presents I can afford!