Doing away with the past

These blog posts are getting father and farther apart, and there’s clearly been no improvement (or reversion) here on WordPress, as I still have to use an awkward workaround to even have the “classic” toolbar visible while I write this… but I’ll be talking today about saying goodbye to old things, something I very likely will do with this blog by the end of this year, as I once vowed to do if I finally found someone (though I can’t find it here, and searching through old posts is difficult anyway with the current interface).

All the years I’ve been clinging on to possessions, or simply leaving them out of sight and out of mind, seem to be coming to an end: I helped my mother dispose of a lot of relics from our flat in Worthing, including my old school and university notes, folders of ancient Transformers comics (hole-punched and thus worthless anyway), and even the Lego I grew up with, which meant a certain cathartic moment when I demolished a large tank I’d built for action figures in the early 1990s.  We’ve disposed of other old furniture (including an exercise bike we’ve had for at least two house moves) and household goods (LPs and Christmas trees), and replaced appliances in the kitchen with newer models (though the size of the new fridge meant destructive work had to be done on the surrounding pannelling).

Hopefully we can clear out enough that selling the place and moving on will be easier when the time comes… when my grandmother finally leaves this world peacefully, and no longer needs care.  However, the sad irony is that she’s been the source of income for our household for the past few years: her pension (and that of her husband), combined with the carer’s allowance paid to my mother — and the former will end with her death, while the latter is already suspended due to her being in hospital as her condition worsens.  My mother can’t officially retire for another couple of years, which means she’ll have to find work of her own — but unless she’s lucky to work from home, who’ll look after the dog during the day?

I’ll be back homeworking again soon (though getting assessed by an occupational therapist took patience), a mere six months after entering surgery, and they’ll be happy for me to be back (they say) — but if possible, I’ll be moving back to Worthing just so I can contribute to the household there, and more importantly, leave this rented place in Finchley behind forever.  I’ve lived here for nearly TEN YEARS, longer than literally any other house in my life (the longest time I spent physically living in the Worthing flat was the three academic years 2000-2003, between my undergrad and postgrad days), and I’ve had enough.

Commuting from our Worthing home to Oxford Circus would be horrendous (worse than the 90-minute each-way commute I had to endure for that unpaid 6-week internship in 2014), so I’d be happy to continue homeworking; however, moving to Haywards Heath would be ideal, as I could commute much more easily if my workplace needed me onsite, and there’s also a local neurology hospital which I’ll almost certainly need in the future (I’m awaiting information about my most recent MRI scan, but hopefully this time no news is good news).  The price we’d get for the flat should certainly cover the deposit for a two-bedroom house there, and assuming all goes well with my IT career (and ageism is overcome), I should be able to pay the rest through a mortgage.

There are two new things in my life which I’ve implied above, and certainly want to keep.  I no longer have to think about Scraps, the dog I grew up with, thanks to Lola, the dog we rescued in late 2019 (and who misses me when I’m not there); and I no longer have to remember the girl I very briefly dated in Michigan in 1998, or any of the other women I got nowhere with over the intervening years, because although we’re currently separated by thousands of miles, I know I’ve found that special someone at university (a mere 20 years after graduating!), and we have every hope of being together here once the lockdown ends.

That’d be lovely if things worked out, wouldn’t it?  The four of us living in a house rather than a flat, closer to London but in an affordable area, leaving behind dismal Worthing forever… my mother and the dog, of course, would be like Frasier’s father and Eddie, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  I’ll miss my personal trainer, though since he’s been torturing me via Zoom for over a year now, maybe we’ll continue on that basis and not worry about me attending his gym (or the Castle Climbing Centre, which would take longer to get to and from than it does here).

Moving away from this old house would mean I have to sort out household bills, which is an ordeal in itself that I’ll go into another time, but suffice to say, E.ON still suck, and Affinity won’t take old names off our water bills unless we get their written permission — which is also the situation with TV Licensing, unless either our landlady can sort them out, or we can get our late landlord to give his approval via ouija board!

I’m not in a terrified rush like in late 2014, when it looked like my IT career was over before it had even begun, and I was desperately giving away as much as I could to charity to save bringing too much back to Worthing.  I’m still donating these days, but we’re talking more along the lines of collared shirts I haven’t needed to wear since 2015, and DVD movies I’ve replaced with Blu-rays!  I’m also gathering things to take to the dump (such as old electronics, a broken plastic shelf set, and ancient pairs of worn-out slippers), though I’ll need “best mate’s” help for that, when we can book a slot.

But no way am I donating my many music CDs, 24 DVDs or Judge Dredd collected comics to charity — they come with me wherever I go!  As does this ever-upgraded übercomputer, of course…

Prelude to return

gmgThis may be one of the last ever posts I write in this blog, unless — UNLESS — the host, WordPress, let me use the classical editor again, properly, rather than in this stupid “classic block” method in the rubbish Gutenberg editor.  I also can’t turn on justified mode at all any more, even with the long-standing Ctrl+Alt+J shortcut (there’s been no button for it in the taskbar for years now), but I can’t install plugins because I’m not a business member and have no intention of being (this is a personal blog, not advertising).

All things considered, unless I can migrate this blog completely to another service, it feels like there’s no way I can continue writing it — especially since any way of editing using the “old” system (other than in a small box with a separate toolbar) involves paying for membership, and even then, it’d only be supported until next year anyway.  Why are they making things worse for non-paying users?

— — —

And all I wanted to do today is say I’m hoping to return to London soon (assuming the latest lockdown is lifted on schedule), but at the same time feeling guilty for what will amount to leaving my mother to care alone for my grandmother, who was recently hurt when she fell out of bed, and spent a week in hospital (which itself wasn’t run properly).

It’s sad that my mother and I felt rather better around the house during that week, but it’s sadder that this is because my grandmother literally can’t do anything any more (as opposed to 2018, when she helped look after me during my recovery from brain surgery #1), and — I hate to say it — we’re effectively waiting for her to die, which, despite her worsening condition, may not happen for a long time.

But I need to get back to the London house: leaving aside what I mentioned last time — wanting to regain things such as my computer, my CD collection, and… er… sleep somewhere other than my mother’s bed — I really need to sort out household bills, ideally getting my name off them (since I want to leave that particular residence behind this year).

Our useless local council (LB Barnet) are sending us a new council tax schedule, which will probably show an increase, and the dreadful energy company E.ON (should I call them “PE.ON”?  No, that’d make it harder for people on Google to find my complaints here!) say they’re raising their prices, and I want to (belatedly) leave them once and for all.

(Especially if it turns out they’ve “forgotten” to charge us for gas — if we can hide it for a year, they wouldn’t be able to catch up and demand overdue money… would they?)

I’ll need to take care of a few things before I head back, though: I’ve been seeing an osteopath recently, due to pain in my right side recurring (and really not helping with my sleeping pattern), and I’ve got one more session next Tuesday, so I’ll need to be here for that.  Fortunately I’ll be able to get the health insurer we use at work to refund me for this, in addition to the long-overdue dental and vision jobs I’ve had done recently!

I’ve also been playing the original The Witcher, so I can play the second and third ones on my superior London PC (and maybe watch the separate-canon TV series while I’m at it?), and want to finish it while I’m here, simply because my screen here is “only” 1080p, and therefore the text is visible!

But once I’m back in London, and my mother doesn’t need to keep cooking for me (including breakfast in bed!), I’ll be compelled to act like a man again: making my own food, keeping my room clean, walking in the park (without having to carry the dog because she already wants to go home), doing personal training (since my trainer has a wider view in my London room than here), working towards resuming my job… and maybe, just maybe, continuing to write this blog.

After all, I’ve got a ton of political things to say in the current “the liberal left are bullying, it’s cancel culture, we’re the real victims of racism!” atmosphere, and I need to vent my own anger, don’t I — especially where it concerns my fellow straight honkeys

(Fortunately, the only frustration Facebook’s been giving me today is the sheer number of Father Ted fans responding to my funny group picture of gigantic speakers, with all sorts of suggested songs — I keep getting sooo many notifications!)

I may be over the depression and suicidal thoughts that prompted me to start this blog in autumn 2012, but I’ve still got a lot of things to deal with, including the “space invader” inside my head, and finding a way to meet my special woman in person (for more than a few hours) at long last, hopefully by her coming back over here when the lockdown has been reduced a lot further.

Okay, I’ll keep this blog going a little longer, somehow — I still need to talk about how I’m pressing on with life — so I’ll say…


The longest stay

Hi everyone, I’m finally back writing in this blog; the delay hasn’t been due to brain activity (or lack thereof) following the operation, but… well, having little to say until now: I’ve been staying here at my family’s Worthing home for longer than I did in 2018, following my first bout of brain surgery, and indeed longer than any single period of time since I first went to London in 2003 — with no end date currently in sight!

However, even if Tier 4 lockdown hadn’t begun after I came down to Worthing for my folks (well, my mother) to take care of me during my recovery, I’d still be happy to stay here for the time being: it’s more consistently warm in this house than in the Victorian one back in London, I can take baths instead of showers, I (mostly) don’t need to cook for myself, and our weather’s a bit more moderate (due to being close to the sea) than in London, where it’s snowed!

Of course, there are always problems: I’m still having a lot of trouble sleeping, and although the dwindling supply of melatonin I was able to get prescribed has helped a little, bodily aches still either wake me up or keep me from ever falling asleep — and even ibuprofen (which I was nervous about, considering the depression it brought upon me in previous years) only prevents this for a time, if at all.

Perhaps this is why my plans to fill time productively while staying in my family home have all faltered: I’ve stopped practising the guitar (just when I was finally progressing through the Justin Guitar lessons I started seven years ago), I’ve barely managed to translate even one paragraph of a Japanese book (which I did a lot more between tasks when I was working from home), I haven’t written in this blog since the end of December… and worst of all, I’m barely even playing computer games now!

(My Kindle works still lets me read Stephen King at bedtime, though…)

All I seem to do is watch TV these days, and noting how little swearing is cut out of old evening comedies being broadcast in daytime on Gold: indeed, the only word I’m sure has been edited out is the one that starts with “B” and rhymes with “mastered” (Raquel to Del in Only Fools and Horses, a pre-watershed show), and not when it’s used in its original meaning of “illegitimate child” (Samuel Johnson in Blackadder the Third, a post-watershed show).

Other than this, they’ve kept in the other mild B-words (Del in Only Fools and Horses), a five-letter P-word used to describe a cat with even greater innuendo today than back then (Mrs. Slocum in Are You Being Served?), a three-letter S-word (where Baldrick’s first name came from in Blackadder the Third), and (especially in Blackadder Goes Forth), amazingly, both of the four-letter words (one dirty, one sexual) that start “sh–“!

The F-word is absent, because it wasn’t even used in post-watershed shows at the time (and indeed edited out of films, resulting in complaints about the Beeb showing The Terminator late at night in 1991) — but one type of thing that doesn’t seem to get edited out, are references to Jimmy Saville (Del promoting Uncle Albert in Only Fools and Horses) and Gary Glitter (Miss Brahms in a Christmas episode of Are You Being Served?).

(As a side note, Are You Being Served? inspired me to go to the trouble of adding another notification sound effect to my phone: “I’m free!”)

At least I’m saving money, my workplace happy to pay me during sick leave (it’s payday tomorrow!), and allowing me to take additional time off to recover before I return to work, putting me on furlough in the meantime.  I may not be in London, but I’m still able to handle bills for that shared household; three of my housemates are fine with it (I’m having the usual argument with “worst housemate”, who doesn’t think we should pay bills when we’re not in the house) — but as for the actual transference of funds, well, therein lie a couple of tales…

  • E.ON (who have been named and shamed many times in this blog) somehow took their £100 monthly DND from my bank account on Christmas Eve, instead of the day it was actually arranged for (and did this to other customers too), leaving me overdrawn as it’s an old account I only use for getting my housemates’ bill amounts together; the bank helped me more than the electricity company, who then “repaid” £100 that they hadn’t been able to take in the first place (due to my bank cancelling the event), and I had to arrange to pay that back to them!
  • When “ambivalent housemate” paid me his share for January, Barclays Bank somehow managed to reactivate an old standing order of his, which automatically paid me the old, much larger monthly amount in addition to his intended payment, and so I had to pay him back via my normal bank account (due to the difficulty of setting up a new recipient on the old bank account) — so for the second time, I had to be honest and not keep the accidental payment for myself!
  • And then there’s Barnet council, who I needed to call today to make sure we’re still paying council tax to the end of the 2020-2021 financial year (as I didn’t bring my set of bills with me to Worthing, only my folder of surgery letters), but their main number directs me to an engaged line — and that’s only if I call via landline, as my mobile gets cut off instantly!  I’ve thus had to assume it is indeed the same through to March, just in case.

But what of the people in my life?  Well, my poor mother’s overstressed looking after both me and her mother, and while I’ve recovered enough to help out a little, my grandmother has deteriorated over the recent months, to the point where (despite her defiance) she needs to go around the house in a wheelchair, to avoid the danger of her falling and hurting herself.  She can’t do any housework beyond drying the washing-up (from a seated position), and she barely seems herself any more — but at least we’ve been able to get her vaccinated, so she’s got a better chance of survival.

(The dog’s okay, and just needs attention, treats and walks — all of which I can do!)

At least none of us are suffering indirectly due to the pandemic: my mother’s not worked for years, taking care of my grandmother full-time (and receiving a pitiful welfare grant for it), and is close to her (unfortunately five-year advanced) retirement age, while my grandmother hasn’t been able to go anywhere over the past few years (lately not even to the supermarket with my mother) due to her health situation, so their lives have remained unchanged, and I empathise with them (in my current situation), the only real difference between weekdays and weekends being what’s on TV.

I myself don’t much like going outside except to exercise, and throughout the lockdown have been happy having my personal trainer torture me online via Zoom —  and now that my “six to eight weeks” limit on exercise has come to an end, and his own health situation seems to be under control, we should be able to resume.  I’ve always hated loud, crowded places such as pubs and offices, and I never go to football grounds (or other sporting events), so you can understand I’m happier in a quieter world — and I certainly have no sympathy or respect whatsoever for party animals creating chaos on housing estates, spreading the disease as well as making a hell of a noise and risking destruction of property!

I’ll never truly miss commuting every morning on a packed London Underground train (even sitting next to “manspreaders” and politely but firmly nudging their legs back across the seat divides gets dull after a while), though I would be delighted to do so once in a while, acting as “boots on the ground” in the workplace for the sake of the team.  The only other places I’ve used it to travel to, apart from work, hospital and Victoria (when going to Worthing), were the Castle climbing centre, my personal trainer’s gym, and Trafalgar Square to meet the “helping the homeless” organiser, and I can’t do any of these from here anyway.

I won’t need it to travel to salsa classes or to meet “first dates” any more: as you know, there is one special person in my life… and she lives in a Far Eastern island nation (not Japan) which appears to be the only country in the entire world to get a grip on the virus and keep it down to virtually zero — so I wish I could meet her again face-to-face, either me visiting her in the safe region she lives, or her visiting me without bringing a virus to this nation (or catching ours).  But that’ll take time, due to the international lockdown and quarantine (currently three weeks for me visiting her, or her returning home from visiting me), so we must continue to chat online, textually or through Skype, and hope for the future.

(She’s making sure I live long enough, by sending me medical supplies that might enable me to travel safely back to London some day!)

As for living here in Ferring medium-term: obviously I’d rather have a truly private room, but my mother keeps her visits to this room to a minimum (mini-mum?  No?), and I’ve rotated things so I have the space for an armchair in front of this contraption, as this small computer chair may be behind my aches and pains to some extent, and nowhere near as comfortable as the “gamer’s chair” I got for my birthday in 2019, to use in front of my non-Windows 10 supercomputer (by chance, also useful in 2020 when working from home!) — and the low “tray table” I’ve used for the keyboard here since 2018 hasn’t helped either, especially the crossbar at foot level.

So, apart from my room (when it’s not cold), my supercomputer, my desk and my gamer’s chair, the only thing I miss about my London home is… er… my physical CD collection, as I’ve been systematically re-ripping them in .ogg format (I hate having to use Windows’ lousy .wma format on my phone, as it clicks between tracks), and want to listen just to those superior-format albums in bed at night, as a sleep aid (missing most of the tracks is a good sign!).

On which topic: I’ve gotten some new CDs recently (mail order is still working), and one of them… well, guess who remastered their 1990 album, the first of theirs I ever heard…?

— — —

P.S. Just be thankful I didn’t get all political this time… I’ve saved the text I cut out, so maybe I’ll have the basis of another blog post soon, just to get things off my mind?  Regarding the sort of people who call themselves “Proud Boys” or “QAnon”…?

Worst year ever?

I’ve been here in my family home in Worthing for a few weeks, recovering from the operation I had in late November, thanks to “best mate” driving here before he departed for his homeland for Christmas, but it’s not a happy process, and I feel like I’m going to have a lot of trouble recovering psychologically, even if physically I’m doing relatively well.

Firstly, nothing’s improved for my grandmother since November: she’s deteriorated to the point that she can’t do anything for herself, and can’t help around the house (which she could do to some extent until this year), which means my mother has to transport her around the house in a wheelchair.  I’ve tried to help with this, and to say hello to her when she’s sitting alone in front of the TV while my mother’s elsewhere, but she really doesn’t seem to be herself any more.

I also love my poor mother, and wish I could help her, but even simple things like doing the washing-up have required knowledge (in terms of where to put things away in a kitchen I’ve almost never used over the past 17 years), and I worry about letting her down.  I’m careful in terms of exercise, due to how little time has passed, but I want to reduce her stress so she can live her own life as well.

I even feel a certain shameful wish that my grandmother would pass away peacefully in her sleep, so we can finally say goodbye… but that would be inappropriate — she’s my grandmother and I still love her.  However, I’ve long known it would be unendurable if my mother died and I somehow had to look after my grandmother alone, something I don’t know how to do — so, barring my grandmother somehow reducing in age to 60 (when I was 12!), the first option is the only realistic one.

(At least the dog’s happy with us all, even if she seldom shows any interest in the new toys we get her!)

The situation is complicated by the fact that (unlike in 2018, or literally any other Christmas) I can’t use my own room in this house, as my grandmother needs to be there due to it being directly opposite the bathroom.  My mother wants me to sleep in her bed, and has let me set up this Frankencomputer in here, but her own PC also sits in here due to there being no room in the lounge, where she sleeps on an inflatable mattress — because the little room where my grandmother used to sleep when I visited is too full of old relics to be useable for anything except storage.

And I can’t seem to sleep anyway, either dropping off briefly and then lying awake for hours, or not dropping off and lying awake for more hours.  The neuro-quacks reckon it’s normal and can be treated, the man I spoke to a week ago saying they can prescribe me melatonin so I drop off, but really, I find myself wondering whether it’s more down to my brain overworking pretty much all the time.  The new “Tier 4” lockdown had come the day after they’d made my meeting with them face-to-face instead of over the phone, but fortunately they were able to do it online (though unfortunately through MS Teams).

No, not coming up with amazing new theories or inventions, but just skittering around — worse than last time, when they said concentration would be harder — and on political issues, largely thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown.  Remember my rant last year, about how “the left” and “the right” should try working together instead of insulting each other to score political points?  I still feel the same way, and I still find I disagree absolutely with self-styled “right-wingers” on (serious business!) Facebook.

However, the worst part is imagining, uncontrollably, that I’m having a conversation about it — and with someone who I don’t think has ever liked me.  My old ex-RAF school friend and my old ex-military American friend are both unequivocally right-wing (whatever that means any more), and have linked to far-right Facebook groups that I’ve immediately blocked, but they’ve been supportive in my surgery and recovery, and I thank them for that (well, at the same time as thanking everyone else, I’m not biased).

I still can’t believe I forgot to mention “The Princess Bride” in that original image caption — inconceivable!!!

The one who troubles me is the young man whom “female best friend” married in 2013, who is both religious and libertarian, and who is clearly a right-winger in his own terms, linking to what are unequivocally right-wing self-superior nastiness groups; thus I’ve put him on timeout on more than one occasion, so I don’t try and post a response, making things worse.

It sucks feeling like I’m stuck in a waking dream about trying to discuss the opposite point of view with someone I’ve almost never spoken to anyway (to be fair, he once posted an article on my wall about the untimely death of Dave Brockie from Gwar) — but fortunately, after writing this section last night (originally a hell of a lot more, indeed!), I was actually able to lie peacefully and not keep thinking at ten words a second, so forget him.

(Here’s hoping I didn’t jinx things by keeping this section in tonight…)

Thus, my sleeplessness seems to be medical in origin after all, and in no small part (uh huh huh huh) due to my right leg hurting a great deal, possibly due to how I’m sitting here right now, writing this blog post tomorrow evening.  I’m not supposed to take any other exercise than walking until at least the six-week mark, but my personal trainer’s agreed to do a very basic online session on New Year’s Day, and we’ll see if that helps to get my blood flowing again — personal torture has certainly evened out my aching limbs in the past!

One thing that doesn’t help is the dismal weather, as it means I can’t take the dog walkies… it’s either raining or very, very cold, and she refuses to walk to the park, which means I have to carry her there!

— — —

These events round off a year that I’ve loathed all the way through, even leaving aside the pandemic — from feeling like a clumsy idiot at work in February and March, overworking trying my best to set up laptops for homeworkers in our organisation during the lockdown, and only making myself feel worse by telling senpai that my memory may be affected by the medication after dosage was increased by my neuro-quack — a need to return to the chiropractor to deal with pain only adding to the misery.

I felt bad in April too as I homeworked and made mistakes, only being even remotely happy during the Easter break, but although things improved in May, more so in June, and amazingly so in July, it was then that two bad things happened: our organisation suffered a major breach (with senpai and “Asian Eddie Hitler” being grateful for my hard work), and the aforementioned neuro-quack told me that the “space invader” had renewed its attack, and so I’d need further work done.

I faced up to the need and vowed to get through for the sakes of others, and after a long wait, my operation went ahead and was successful — but as above, I’m still psychologically suffering, my grandmother is helpless, and my mother is overburdened with responsibility to both of us.

I wonder if we’ll even stay awake on New Year’s Eve (though in my case, I won’t exactly be sleeping when the fireworks go off at midnight), as next year’s likely to be even worse, what with Coronavirus II prolonging lockdowns and killing more, Brexit being put in place without any real competence, more online hatred of “SJW libtard snowflakes” (from the sort of people who make me think that the “SJWs” might actually have a point), and the sort of attitude that suggests anyone who dies from the disease is well rid of.

But some good things have come out of the lockdown this year: as well as staying full-time employed and thus coming to prefer homeworking (avoiding the daily commute is its own reward, and saving Oyster money is a bonus), I’ve been saving enough money to massively upgrade my London PC (and learn how Linux is better than Windows), the times we’ve spent apart have made me appreciate seeing my family more when I’ve had the chance… and a certain young lady and I spent a long time writing to each other before we finally met in person at what is now, for both of us, alma mater.

Even the worst times can lead you to the best things: I’ve been trying to find someone special since I was 18, and apart from a brief fling in Michigan, it was only in 2013 (during the lifetime of this blog) that I was finally able to go on actual dates, in no small part due to the young ladies asking me out, but nothing good came of it for a long time… and this year, suddenly I found someone new through a dating app, and have since spent more time with her over the Internet than I ever did in the real world with my other dates — all of them, collectively throughout my life!

I really hope that 2021 actually turns out to be an improvement on this year (rather than another case of “interesting times”), and that not only do things get sorted out for my family in a positive way, perhaps involving us leaving Worthing forever (and maybe adopting a second dog?), but that I’m able to meet my special someone in person at last, without worrying about pandemics (of either disease or, worse, nationalism), and we can spend time together in the real world… or have I said that before?

— — —

P.S. One thing that would be bad in any other year, but was merely annoying this year, was our useless energy company in London, E.ON, messing up my monthly Direct Debit payment and taking it on Christmas Eve, two weeks ahead of the scheduled time — and they did this to a lot of other customers as well!  I was able to convince my bank (the one responsible for my old account, which I use solely for household bills now) to cancel the payment the same day, but the leccy company will finally sort out their side of it… tomorrow!

This time, at winter

I’m alive and gradually recovering after Brain Surgery, Round 2; I almost wrote this last week on the old laptop I brought with me into hospital, but somehow only now am I feeling inexhausted enough to write something vaguely intelligible… well, that and I’m using a keyboard that doesn’t keep ignoring me pressing the space bar, and which doesn’t have a touchpad right underneath it.  I’m able to write on my home PC because they let me out early, on Friday last week instead of Monday (i.e. today) this week, so clearly I got through the aftermath better than expected.

(Or, I was an awful guest and they just wanted me to hurry up and clear out?)

What happened this time in comparison to 2018?  Well, as hinted here ahead of time, they only kept me asleep at the very start and end of the operation itself — and this time, rather than a jump cut, I felt myself falling alseep and waking up gradually at each stage.  I was barely able to stay awake during the actual ordeal, as two nurses tested me on my English knowledge while my brain’s unwelcome visitor was hacked away by surgeons out of sight, though in the event I needed them to read out sentences to me (so I could say whether or not they made sense), as (a) the plastic covering kept getting in the way, and (b) I didn’t have my glasses on!

It took a long time, but fortunately I remember only bits and pieces, which is probably just as well to avoid feeling like I was spending eternity in the deepest pit of Hell (boredom being far worse than anything Satan could come up with).  Every time I asked, the time left had gone down significantly (several hours, a couple of hours, an hour, half an hour…).  This was probably the first time I’ve ever been able to lie in an active MRI scanner without needing to move, most likely because I was on my side instead of my back!

My mother told me the information she was given in the aftermath: the surgeons took out 99% of the “space invader” (new and old), and then, presumably when I was back asleep, went back in again for the lingering 1%, so now — for the first time in, almost certainly, decades, and hopefully for a long time in the future — I’m rid of the cursed cerebral corruption, and just have to suffer through the same post-op symptoms as in 2018… except this time in winter, and with my family having more than just me to look after.

At least my mum’s managed to secure help looking after my grandmother, who thus has a little longer in the world — but I wish I could get over these symptoms quickly, and help her (even if it’s just keeping the dog distracted at important times).  My head aches, naturally, and I get throbbing from standing up and walking, but I also sometimes “see” things more distantly through my left eye, my right-side hearing may be crackling again (unless it’s just my TV developing bad sound quality?), coughs and sneezes (allergic rather than viral) cause instantaneous headaches, and after one good night’s sleep on Fri-Sat, I’m back to lying awake in the small hours…

(On the plus side, issues with both intake and output of the digestive variety seem to have been resolved over time, even if my diet has made no actual improvement!)

Hopefully I won’t jinx anything, but I’m pleased to announce that the right side of my body seems to be in full working order: I can mouse around in FPS games (Halo 4 seems to be working fine), and… er… well, I can use it in things where I also use my left hand, e.g. typing this out on a keyboard two-handed instead of one-handed.  The important thing is that I seem to have finally overcome the mini-strokes I was getting before!

Walking around isn’t pleasant — along the street, downstairs and upstairs in this house — thanks to the head throbs, but I don’t want to just sit here in front of my computer… wait, did I actually write that?  Of course I’d love to sit here playing games and surfing that newfangled Inter-thingy, but I have to stretch my legs and pop down to the shop occasionally for supplies (though I should have enough now for a couple of days) — and walking aside, I need to lie down occasionally and rest in here, rather than stare at screens all the time and risk hurting my eyes.

(Staring at my Kindle’s screen doesn’t matter, as it’s not luminous — and in any case, it’s Stephen King!)

Due to the nature of my left-side head suture this time around, I can’t just wait for temporary stitches to come out of their own accord, and 14 days after the operation (suddenly extended from eight days), I’ll need some quack to do it for me, using a blade like the one they gave me at the hospital.  My own “GP” here in Finchley won’t even consider helping, and so I’d have to arrange something with a nearby hospital for next Monday… though my mum may have worked a miracle by getting her non-scare-quoted GP down in Ferring to let me be a temporary patient there!

That’s a good sign: I’ll be allowed to travel down next weekend to convalesce, like in 2018, in the town I’d so longed to escape from, and someone will take care of that particular stage for me, which will mean that — at last! — I can get the rest of my hair cut short, and start washing it again, the last time having been the morning before my operation (and using a lousy red fluid that didn’t exactly bring out the shine).

It was great being able to relax in the warm summer back in 2018, but this time around, it’s in an increasingly-cold winter, with the house only slightly easier to heat now than it was six years ago, when I felt a lot less optimistic than now — but once again, it’s only until I can visit my “support bubble” on the south coast, and start Christmas even earlier than I did in 2014, and with more optimism.  I won’t be cold living with my mother, grandmother and dog, and I’ll be in no hurry to come back here…

— — —

Apart from my mother, I’m sure you can guess that there are two other valuable people whose support has helped me keep going through what would otherwise have been a terrifying experience: “best mate” drove me to and from the hospital, not to mention fetching stuff from shops for me, and I owe him big (letting him borrow my printer for a big project is the least I can do); and there’s someone… precious to me, still living eight hours in the future, who makes me want to find the strength to travel abroad again (which I’ll be more confident doing once symptoms and medication are under control) to meet her face-to-face.

(Would I have to face two weeks’ quarantine, like she did when she went home earlier this year?!)

I’m grateful to my medical assistants, supportive Facebook friends, work colleagues (I have to keep texting three at once just to satiate them) and, of course, my personal trainer (he’ll have to wait a couple of months before he can even risk torturing me again!), but the above three are the most important in my life in this situation, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

Perhaps this is why my closing questionnaire at hospital led to me being found non-depressed — I’ve got too many reasons to live — and only anxious regarding possibly-required medical treatment in future, not human interaction at present.  We’ll have to see what returns of its own accord inside my brain, won’t we?

Matters coming to a head

(Phew, I found the classic editor again, so I can actually see the box where I’m editing text — I really should have used a different blog site in 2012, shouldn’t I?

Surgery will be like this, except lying down and having my mouth moistened so I can answer the questions they yell at me — and if I’m lucky, an even short back and sides

It’s all happening to me at once right now: at the same time I’ve finally got surgery organised and prepared (I’m checking into hospital next Sunday, for an ordeal that will take place on Doctor Who‘s 57th anniversary), I’m almost certainly going to lose a precious relative, someone who’s been part of my life literally as long as I can remember — and in a far more inevitable, unstoppable way than when I lost other close relatives in 1984 and 1999, as this time it’s a long decline instead of an unexpected event.

Knowing what lies ahead of me doesn’t help: I’ve been through some preliminary checks and discussions (I was worried the main event wasn’t going to be scheduled until 2021!), but I’ve got to be tested for coronavirus on Wednesday, to make sure I don’t bring it into the hospital.  It’d be bad enough doing this as a carrier, but since my operation will involve me being held in place with the left side of my head upwards while they cut stuff out, having an uncontrollable cough would be rather detrimental to proceedings!

If I pass, and the operation goes ahead as planned, I’ll have to self-isolate for the intervening four days (I’ve already begun stocking the fridge) before check-in, and use a special concoction for washing (including my head on alternate days), to ensure I’m fully disinfected.  I’ll also need to bring my latest batch of anti-epilepsy medication (I feel damn lucky that I was able to get my quack and the chemist to work together when I’d ordered the repeat prescription a week earlier).

Assuming all goes well (and yes, this is the least negative outcome), I’ll then spend at least a week in hospital recovering and being psychologically evaluated, to make sure I’m not getting anxious and depressed due to (a) the anti-inflammatory drugs they’ll have me on or (b) losing the ability to remember my extensive vocabulary and take in new information.  By chance, I should be able to leave hospital around the time that Lockdown 2.0 ends, and can spend a little time here before returning to Worthing to stay with my folks…

Or, as is sadly becoming possible, folk: my grandmother’s needed 24/7 care for several years now, but her condition has exponentially increased over the past months.  I found it worrying that she couldn’t remember my 40-year nickname for her when she wrote a birthday card for me in October — especially since my earliest clear memory is her trying to get me to call her “Nanny” but me only being able to say “Tatty” — but now she can’t sleep, eat or control her body, and has needed medical treatment in the middle of the night, asking when her husband would be coming home from work.

I really hate this situation: not only will I face losing her, but so will my mother — and at precisely the same time that her son will need care.  Whereas during my post-op period in 2018 my grandmother needed less observation and could still cook (including for “best mate” when he came to drive me back to London), this time my mother will have two people to worry about at once.  This makes me feel like a burden, much like my workmates trying to make it clear that I’m doing fine and they’ll keep things going in my absence, even after all we’ve been through since the end of July — it’s like I’m just creating more work for others, and can’t help them in return.

(The saddest thing: if my Wednesday COVID test shows I’m a carrier, my operation will get put back a month — but even then, I won’t be able to visit Worthing in the interim and help my family, and would have to stay here anyway, feeling helpless!)

If all goes well, she’ll have weeks to jump on my bed at 8am every morning

It doesn’t help that the darling dog we’ve had for only a year is seriously confused by what’s happening to one of her loved ones (I even heard her barking in the background of a phone call, because my grandmother had fallen over), but me staying down there for a month or two may mitigate this somewhat: apart from anything else, my need to take exercise as part of my recovery will mean taking her walkies.  She’s the newest member of the family, and I’d hate to lose her as well — and she makes my mother happy, which is the most important thing.

Like I said seven years ago, losing a home relative feels so bad because it’s like the place is emptier than before, and somehow you expect them to turn up again, it all having been a prank or a misunderstanding.  However, I’d rather face this pain and misery all over again, than disappear into oblivion and not think anything ever again — apart from the fear of ceasing to exist at all (hence I can never embrace atheism), I don’t want my own mother to suffer even more than she already is, and to do so alone.

However, I’m determined to get through all this once again (and hopefully improving a lot more than last time), as I want my mother, my friends, my workplace, and everyone else I know and love/like/tolerate/endure to be relieved.  They’ve supported me, but I want to resume giving to them, even if (for now) it’s exclusively online, and thus I can’t climb with “best mate”, box with my personal trainer, help the meetup guy hand out supplies to the homeless, or give a big hug to a certain special lady in the Far East.

(On the other hand, I don’t miss being in a noisy, crowded office, and I certainly don’t miss being lucky even to get a seat on the Northern Line — I’m definitely happier homeworking!)

A few coincidences concerning this situation: not only will my operation be, as above, on a certain anniversary (albeit not a nice round number of years like in 2013), but next Sunday will end the 43rd week of unbroken Wii Fit Plus sessions I’ve done since early this year (when I forgot to bring the save file home with me to Worthing).  I think it’s also, by coincidence, the final day of my most recent promise of weight loss in that same software…

Sometimes I wish it was happening on the 19th instead, but hey, there’ll be a successful operation if ka wills it!

Reasons to live through

Sorry I didn’t write throughout September — and just as I come back to WordPress, suddenly they’ve completely changed the look (to the point of not even having boxes around the text you’re editing, so this is in a big white expanse)!  Ah, wait: there’s the “classic” editor, I can write this again (protip: go to the draft in the “all posts” list, and choose to edit it that way) — and yes, assuming I get through what’s coming with sufficient wit, vocabulary, motor skills, and password recall, I’ll be posting here more after the operation as well, whenever that’s going to take place.

No firm date on “Round 2” of my anti-tumour brain surgery, but I’m caught between wanting to get it over with, and not looking forward to (at best) losing intelligence, getting frustrated trying to remember words (more than last time) and needing time off before I can work again, and probably before I can exercise again, or even learn new things out of books without reading and rereading them!

(At worst, of course, I would lose control of my right side permanently, and have no way to say or do anything at all — even death sounds preferable, with my mother as next of kin getting my money!)

It’s going to suck, no matter what happens, and sometimes I wish I could go back in time and make one change, to stop this thing from starting to grow in the left side of my head — but what could it have been?  Though it’s impossible it could have only begun growing in the past few years, there are periods in my life that could have at least enhanced growth, before my first definite symptoms at the end of May 2015:

  • Getting my first wireless signal booster for my room in early 2015, having lived in houses with Wi-Fi signals since early 2005, and first using a mobile phone (always holding it to the left side of my head) in mid-2004;
  • Doing that horrible, shift-based job in late 2014 — coincidentally just as the Beeb reported that night shifts had been associated with brain difficulties;
  • Weight training with my personal trainer from 2013 onwards, which very much increased blood flow to my brain (especially “deadlifts” a couple of weeks before the first definite symptoms, complete with a headrush);
  • Travelling by plane, above the atmosphere and exposed to cosmic rays, many times over my adult years — 2014 (Michigan), 2013 (California), 2008 (Turkey), 2007, 2006, 2003, 2001 (all Michigan), 1999 (Greek Cyprus), 1998-9 (Michigan, but eight months apart), and 1997 (southern Spain), the one in 2017 (er, Michigan) being after the symptoms began, and my last time in a plane having been 1990 (Florida) as a child;
  • As a combination of the two above, jet lag (especially in 2007 when one of my housemates had some unrepentantly noisy friends visiting at night time), and being kept awake overnight in general (especially at university, and especially during my freshman year);
  • The shock of finally kissing a girl at nearly 21 in late 1998 (as per the above, after a plane journey) — I certainly recall, as I made out with her for the first time, a subtle voice in my head, urging me to “make the most” as it might be my only chance;
  • Discovering energy drinks in 1997 at university, but really hitting them from 2008 onwards thanks to being on holiday (as per the above, in Turkey) with my friends, and only really giving up upon discovering where taurine comes from — and now there’s a vegan energy drink (caffeine-rich), which I really shouldn’t enjoy;
  • Learning Japanese from 2008, or indeed from 2005 before I started night classes (remember that the damn thing’s growing in the language part of my brain), thus explaining why I hate dubs and dumbed-down subtitles;
  • The Sun shining on my head (indeed, the left side) during a long bus ride up to Enfield from Wood Green with my housemates in 2006, which left me feeling dizzy from what may or may not have been heatstroke;
  • Head activities in 1993 (surgery in the roof of my mouth) and 2010 (my ear passages swelling shut from scraping them too much for wax).

“I vill terminate ze toomah… trust me!”

The neuro-quacks reckon it’s none of the above, and just a mutation that was somewhat inevitable — but I can’t help wondering about when it really started, as symptoms such as depression and anxiety have been affecting me for a long time, so maybe my misery late 2011 wasn’t an early symptom of this specifically, but more general, and the result of circumstance rather than entirely spontaneous.  Similarly, in late 1992 (as I wrote my diary about my first school term in Worthing), my life felt so worthless that I wished I was dead… could it be some kind of self-curse?

There have been other symptoms over the years: why did I suddenly need glasses in my first year at university?  A couple of years ago, a helper in a certain optician franchise (should I go to them?) said that it’s very unusual, and that most speccies need the extra pair of eyes either very young or very old.  Could it be that I was already coming down with something at that stage?  Any relation to how I used to get patterns in my eyes if I pushed them in gently?

Around 2008 I also started experiencing very brief patterns of lights in front of my eyes (noticeable due to how dark our front lobby at Caledonian Road was), and while that’s almost entirely absent now, and could well have been the result of stress (I didn’t exactly like my job at the time, working in Camden Town Hall Extension), it led to me being advised at the time (albeit online in a web forum) to get scanned.  Ah, if only… or would that have given me a false sense of security, if the damn thing hadn’t even started forming at that stage?

How about on a bus home from school in Worthing in the early 1990s, when Star Trek: TNG was on Sky One every evening, and I thought about it but suddenly couldn’t remember Whoopi Goldberg’s name (until I thought about it later and it came to me immediately)?  I had problems like that after my 2018 surgery (e.g. having to look up Star Trek: First Contact on Wikipedia to remember James Cromwell’s name).

“Boss lady” at work said that this kind of thing happens to us all as we get older, and others say they often have words and names on the tip of the tongue; however, it’s most certainly something I don’t want to face, whether due to age or surgery, as I’ve always been happy about my memory working so amazingly well, and my vocabulary rising above f***ing casual f***ing swearing.

— — —

Whatever happens, once again I’m determined to go on living — but why?  Well, some things are obvious: I’ve got a good and well-paid job (which I’ve been able to do from home during the lockdown), my mother and grandmother’s love and support have been there for decades (I want to ensure I can look after them when the time comes too), and people like my personal trainer and dating coach still support me in terms of physical and mental health — and, of course, “best mate” is here at least a little longer — but there are new things in my life as well:

  • The latest incarnation of my ever-improving PC (thanks to being able to work from home and save money) means I could play Doom Eternal in hi-res without slowdown, and can achieve so much more than before;
  • On that topic, there’s a new sequel to Amnesia about to come out on the 20th, so I can finally play a new scary game with the lights out (with my operation hopefully being less intimidating);
  • A new album by one of my favourite bands, Gorillaz, is coming out on the 23rd, and of course I want to hear it while not in a coma (or a coffin), especially with Elton John making a guest appearance;
  • I’m trying out the guitar again (I can just about play “Should I Stay or Should I Go?” by The Clash), and if all goes well and I retain the use of my hands, I’ve pledged to get an electric one at long last (obviously not a stupidly expensive one that goes up to eleven!);
  • I’ve still got quite a few Stephen King novels to read, and hopefully I’ll be able to take them in well enough that the neuro-quacks insist on studying me for science (note that my next phone call with them will be on the 19th day of the month);
  • I have every intention of reading other things, such as (properly this time) Judge Dredd, and something else I’ve heard of, a 21st-century reboot of the old Transformers comics (yes, I have no intention of stopping being a manchild);
  • Somehow I’ll find a new place to live, and leave behind Finchley forever (much as I hope my family can escape Worthing once and for all);
  • Both senpai and “Asian Eddie Hitler” want me to learn new IT skills, to help restore my intelligence and also earn me a higher post at work, so they can get some new Helpdesk muggins to deal with the peasantry needing to turn their computers off and on again (though the post-op learning issue would come into play there).

Most of all, though, my relationships: as well as wanting my folks to be able to stop worrying about my brain, and nurse me back to health so I can live again, and as well as Best Dog in the World 2.0 (who misses me so much that she barks at other blokes who aren’t me), there is my special one in the Far East, who I truly hope to meet in person again — maybe at last we can hug for more than a brief, lockdown-lawbreaking moment, and go for a long walk together, talking directly to each other instead of over the Internet…?

Needless to say, I’ve got another one of those bold and underlined, all-caps centred statements about determination:


Light in the darkness

Lisa: Look on the bright side, Dad — did you know that the Chinese use the same word for “crisis” as they do for “opportunity”?
Homer: Yes — crisitunity!
—The Simpsons (S6E011, “Fear of Flying”)

At which point God vanished in a puff of logic

Almost immediately after I wrote my last blog post, something happened at work: I won’t go into details (partly for legal reasons), but suffice to say, we’re one of the organisations that was recently hit by ransomware.  It’s almost as though me buying such expensive computer equipment had harmed my karma (or ka), and I was being punished with a terrifying situation.

But don’t panic!  Somehow I’ve done (more or less) everything right at work to help out, and not only senpai and “Asian Eddie Hitler”, but “boss lady” herself have been thankful for my efforts!  I even went into the office to help the former two one weekend, and have gone in alone on several other days, to make sure PCs with special software are (a) virus-free and (b) remote-onto-able by critical staff, while other people can remote onto virtual machines just to have access to internal files and databases.

I should certainly get paid for my overtime, but it’s been said that the guys are working on arranging a pay rise for me — and the only disadvantage I have in financial terms is that I can’t defer my Stupid Loans repayments another year, which should be resolved by the pay rise itself (so that I’m earning more over the monthly gross limit than the amount I’ve got to pay back monthly).

Leave has been hard to come by lately, due to both the homeworking nature of my job and the lockdown itself; however, having plenty of leave left might prove to be fortuitous, as I’m likely to need some time off work within the next month or so, according to a phone call I received at the height of getting things working again, but oddly, a whole month after my last MRI scan, ending my belief that no news was good news…

As long as I don’t end up speaking in a monotone…

Yes, it’s another issue involving the “space invader”, which has begun rallying its forces for a renewed offensive — and while, for now, it’s only conquering the equivalent of No-Man’s-Land (i.e. growing into the cavity left by the previous surgery), it’s necessary to take action now, before it’s too late.

But don’t panic!  It’s not going to kill me any time soon, and produces no additional symptoms — and most importantly, this situation offers a prospective improvement on the treatment I received in May 2018.

I’ll be having a phone conversation tomorrow to get the full story, but it seems that, far from putting me under general anaesthetic to cut my noggin open again, leaving me to convalesce for weeks or even months afterwards, they can do something much quicker, using only local anaesthetic, which might mean only a day in hospital and a week of recovery.

It won’t be the cranial screw-top technique discovered by Dr. Hfuhruhurr in The Man with Two Brains, but it will involve another hole-in-the head; the main difference this time is that they’ll keep me awake while they test bits of the tumour-ridden segment of my left temporal lobe, freezing them one by one and checking that I can still speak and understand English before deciding on removing that bit.  It’s said to have been improving over the past two years, and so, rather than a guinea pig, I’ll be a straightforward recipient of a tried and tested process.

 (But now I wonder: is there a risk of me losing my Japanese knowledge?  Should I ask them to say the word oniisan and hold up a card saying a big brother character’s name, to check whether I still hate dumbed-down subtitles?)

And finally, there’s the really bad news: “best mate”, who I’ve known since late 2012, and who has been a housemate since Easter 2015, is planning to move back to his homeland, the Emerald Isle itself, with the prospect of getting his own house (and, technically, returning to the EU).  I’ll miss him, and since I’m not fond of the other three housemates, I feel like I should move out of this house once and for all.

I’ve lived here (in terms of actually being physically within these four walls instead of just visiting occasionally) for longer than any other house in my life, and indeed longer than all my previous London residences combined.  It’s coming up to 17 years that I’ve lived in the Smoke, which is… er… more than half my life, any claims to the contrary are fake news!

(No, 42 is the number from the book that made DON’T PANIC! a famous quote, and nothing to do with my age — Stephen King’s 19 is closer to that, at least mentally!)

Well, I’ve got more than just a TV to transport to a new residence

In late 2011 I felt like giving up on London entirely out of depression, and in late 2014 to early 2015 I felt anxious that I wouldn’t be able to stay and continue doing the things I enjoy.  Nothing much happened in late 2017 to early 2018 other than the trivial matter of discovering I had a brain tumour, which led to me spending a mere five weeks back in Worthing before coming back here, but now, another three-year cycle later, I find myself wondering once again…

Apart from the Castle (which now needs pre-arranging for climbing), my personal trainer (who I see online these days anyway), and my job (for which I’m almost entirely homeworking), I feel little to keep me here — and much to drive me away.  Apart from the house being hot in the summer and cold in the winter, “ambivalent housemate” is right back to his bad ways: as well as being condescending to me (e.g. when I sold my old graphics card for “too little”), he makes a lot of annoying noises, especially when his own homeworking day comes to an end about an hour before mine, making me want to avoid him.

Sometimes it’s like “drummer-trucker” of 2017 is back in the house, only now he’s slightly more well-behaved!

(Loudly pretending to play the trumpet, singing badly (deliberately?), firing a pop-gun in the kitchen every day with one of our female housemates, listening to audiobooks at maximum volume in the hallway, knocking on doors with that infernal shave-and-a-haircut rhythm, his sneeze, his laugh… how ironic that he left his previous residence due to two unrepentantly noisy housemates!)

But don’t panic!  I think I’ll just find somewhere else in London to live, still convenient for work (perhaps even a slightly longer Tube journey, so I have time to watch a whole 25-minute episode of Japanese anime or American animation before getting off), but — despite the horrors I saw in January 2012 — I feel like searching for a single place, albeit not a studio flat under any circumstances.

Much as I’d love to live with my family again… no, I can’t say that — having it as a fallback is wonderful, and obviously I’d be happy to see the dog every day (since she’s the one family member I can’t talk to over the phone or Skype), but once again it’d be like giving up on the prospect of escaping Worthing, and resigning to us all living out our days in that cancerous polyp on the anus of Great Britain.

(An old Red Dwarf quote… ah, and just like in 2013, I still don’t want to be a boring grown-up who drives in London and only drinks wiiine — and I still listen to Gwar, and impersonate Beavis and/or Butt-head, as well as using funny sound effects on mobile phones!  But working overtime, alas…)

One thing is strangely more significant than it at first seems: I’ve bought kitchenware recently that I’m certainly not willing to bequeath to this household so soon — a wok and a frying pan — which means I still want to cook for myself, instead of burdening my folks (or the local pizza place).  That plus a big TV stand (no, really!) shows that I’m still investing in my own life, and want to continue living away from home as a responsible adult, in my own space.

Besides, do I really want my PC of Theseus in the same room as the Frankencomputer…?

Making ends meet

“Check it out, Beavis — that dude’s, like, back putting words on the screen or something!”

Once again, I’d planned for ages to vent my anger about the world in this blog — not against the “virtue-signalling SJW snowflake leftie libtards”, but the opposite, at those who keep hurling such terms and thus sounding like self-righteous bullies — or to say to extreme right-wingers what Bill Hicks once said to advertisers.  Instead, I’ll talk about issues pertaining to finance and friendship, which aren’t mutually exclusive, and keep me going in these interesting times.

You’ll be pleased to know that I’m still working from home… well, not pleased with the “from home” bit, which still brings on anxiety due to how difficult it would be if my computer at work simply turned itself off (or worse, changed IP address), but it has meant me saving even more money than before, simply because I don’t have to spend on the order of £200 every month on Tube fares!

This plus the money I was already saving due to almost never going into the red for the month (i.e. earning more than spending… oh, you knew?) means I’d already saved around £3,000 since the start of this year… but that’s now gone down significantly, because I’ve been, er, upgrading the PC of Theseus once again, this time without “boss lady” paying for the new CPU and me getting everything else.

I’m once again feeling buyer’s remorse, as first of all I got… prepare yourselves… a GTX 2080Ti graphics card for over a grand.  Argh!  Don’t worry, it works fine (and wasn’t substituted in the packaging), but it wasn’t enough: I’ve also ordered a 9th-generation CPU, and a motherboard to put it in (as my current one has the right socket but wrong, er, something-or-other to do with it), though this total comes to only half as much as the price of the graphics card.

(Hey, this way I’ll be able to play the Halo and Doom games in 4K without slowdown, and I’ll have extra heating when winter comes!)

But my bank account’s only just gone under £10,000, and it’s payday next Thursday — and I’ve managed to sell the old 1080 I got in November 2017 for around £200 (a certain housemate thought I was foolish for accepting so little, but owing to the way he speaks to me at other times, I’d have been hesitant to accept his advice if I’d known it prior anyway).  Unless something goes badly wrong, I’ve got plenty to sustain me, and I can help others as well, including my folks.

She was so happy I was home, she jumped on my bed and French-kissed me!

I won’t be having an expensive holiday abroad any time soon, partly due to the pandemic lockdown, and partly because changing to a timezone more than one or two hours away would really screw up my twice-daily medication (8am and 8pm, after breakfast and dinner, being better than 4pm and 4am!).  However, I can still travel within Britain, and so I’ve been able to visit my folks in Worthing, and help take the dog walkies.

More importantly, though: although I can’t visit her in her native Far Eastern island nation yet, I at least had one last chance to meet my dear female friend before she flew home back in June (and had to sit through quarantine).  We’d had an adventure visiting my old university (and now, sadly, her old university too) at the end of May, but before she left the country, we also met at Camden Town for a walk, a chat, and some food (boy, that giant vegan hot dog was awkward!), our travels including a visit to “nearby” Regent’s Park.

When we were exploring the market, I ended up buying a Prince T-shirt for a princely £20, simply because… well, I couldn’t get out of it once the shopkeeper noticed me — but in all honesty, if it helps the shopkeeper stay afloat during the coronacession, what’s the harm?  In the same way, I’d hope to continue attending the “helping the homeless” events that have been held off during the lockdown, though the organiser there has had to put back the next one due to his own life interfering.

(I tried to help him install Linux on a new laptop, but sadly, he seems to have submitted to Windows 10 instead…)

I wouldn’t say I’m wealthy, but I do feel that I have enough to share with others without going under myself — which doesn’t mean I’m a capitalist libertarian who only chooses to help others, as I still believe in well-managed taxes (which I acknowledge is overly-optimistic at best) for public services that everyone can use.  Haven’t I helped fund the NHS, which was rather more eager to help me with the “space invader” than any private health insurance company would ever be?

At least I can still talk to my female friend online, via (of course) Skype — we may be at opposite ends of the Earth now, but we can meet and share our experiences (and show each other what we’ve got in our rooms, including books and plush toys) — and thus, in a virtual way, keep each other company.  She’s even subscribing to this blog now (hi!), and therefore is more meaningful in my life than that dreadful harridan who lives in Worthing.

(Oh cripes!  Er, er, er, sorry old mother, I mean Mumsy, er, I jolly well shouldn’t have said that, yaroo!  Or I could do a Trump and claim never to have said that, it’s fake news!)

In addition, I can still afford to pay my personal trainer, and be guided by him via the Internet in weekly self-torture sessions to keep myself healthy; it may be possible to visit his gym again next month (or the mini-gym in the Castle), or even go boxing in the park again (weather permitting) — but never mind the cost, how would public transport get me there in time after working hours, if I’m travelling from home instead of work?

“Um… your billing sucks!”

Finally, I have both good and bad news about my outgoings: firstly, it seems that we’re paid up at last with the dreadful E.ON, possibly due to “best mate” calling them up one last time to clear up the issue of a closed account in our late landlord’s name being chased up.  Today I updated our meter reading, and it seems our next payment will reduce our debt to…  prepare yourselves… £1.91!  This should mean we can lower the monthly DD amount, and “fifth housemate” can then stop complaining about household bills being too high (though she’s aware of the 6-monthly water bill coming up) — and all this despite the amount of electricity used by three of us having been working from home since March.

The bad news, which one might say results from the metaphorical double-edged sword, is that I’m now earning so much monthly (before tax), more than ever in my life (in terms of both numbers and value), I have no hope of deferring my Stupid Loans repayments from September onwards — and the amount my gross monthly is above their maximum gross monthly is less than the amount I’ll have to start paying back monthly!

Still, if (as told by the debt owners) the 1998 loan is going to be written off in 2023, maybe the 1996 and 1997 ones (owned by a different company) will also disappear 25 years later, and I can finally stop worrying about payback for three of my four years as an undergrad, and get back to saving… assuming I don’t have to resume commuting to work every day, of course…

Time flies away

University certainly was a challenge… fascists!

It’s been a while since I could think of something to write here that wouldn’t be all political (perhaps urging white supremacists to go away before they achieve the exact opposite of their aims, or threatening to tar the entire right wing with one brush if they’re going to do it to the left), or expressing worries about my job status or ability to visit my folks in Worthing — but perhaps these serve as a reminder to not waste time, and to (at least try to) enjoy life while you can, or at least gain experiences you can tell to others.

I’ve had to say goodbye to a friend I made online, but who’s had to return to her own Far Eastern country (no, not China), in part because the current coronavirus crisis means she’d be unlikely at best to get a job as a teacher here, the ones we have barely hanging on.  We connected through a dating app, but couldn’t meet in person back in March when the lockdown began — not least because she wasn’t here in London, but out in one of the Home Counties… at the very university where I spent three non-consecutive years of my life!

We’ve spent ages e-mailing each other (after having chatted through the app, and then texting), and have thus formed a strong bond, which hopefully will persist across eight timezones; I’d wanted to visit her at my alma mater, so I could both meet her in person and see the old homestead at the same time.  Back in March she was happy for this to happen, but when I felt just off-colour enough to worry about needing self-isolation (which I didn’t), I had to postpone the trip — and then non-essential public transport and meetings for people not in the same households were clamped down upon.

Fortunately, thanks to the recent gradual reduction in lockdown, I was able to go and see her after all at the weekend, and despite the twisted operations of public transport at the moment (having to change on both South-Western Trains and the Northern Line, both ways!), I got to the old town just fine.  No, we didn’t hug, just in case (except at the very end of the day, risking arrest), but we walked together and spoke to each other for ages, despite the dismal and changeable weather.

(Fitbit clocked me at over 20,000 steps for the day, rivalling my visit to an earlier homestead last year!)

The off-campus house where I lived in my sophomore year has certainly been done up, the windows at the front lo longer dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria (blimey, it was cold in the winter of 1997-8, especially thanks to electric-only heating and a “leccy” meter under the stairs!), but somehow I knew the way to the back entrance of campus, to which I’d walked or (from 1998) cycled many a time… but no, it was locked, so we went the long way round and up the hill via the main road.

We walked onto campus, albeit not via the main entrance, and far more quickly than I expected (almost as though I’m somehow taller now than I was at the age of 18-22), we came upon the building where we’d both studied in different decades (me geology, her geography), which hadn’t changed at all.  The whole campus was deserted, but I saw places both familiar and unfamiliar — most notably, the building where I’d lived in my freshman year, 1996-7, had been long-since demolished (apparently it was so disliked that there’s literally one picture of it on the entire Internet, and it’s older than me), along with the surrounding building complex where I had to endure the catering.

At least he’s not pounding on someone else’s door in a football rhythm at 3am, making everyone else’s doors resonate!

In a strange way, I almost missed being there, despite the obnoxious drunken noises every night ruining my sleeping pattern, and really obnoxious students (from another floor, or even another building) destroying our kitchen, as well as making me worry for my safety at times.

But still, it was my first time away from home, and so that building will always have a certain place in my heart — not least due to listening to Capital Gold every day (before I had anything to play CDs on), with Mike Osman in the mornings and Caesar the Geezer on nights.

I also saw the the flimsy prefab between that and the geology/geography building had been demolished and replaced as well, so I wouldn’t have been able to sneak in there to view the Internet late at night anyway…

(You know why — satisfying my desires (or trying to), fighting an e-mail war with my equally-nerdy friend, playing Quake or Duke Nukem 3D deathmatches, downloading abandonware to run on my Amstrad… and, on very rare occasions, doing actual degree coursework!)

Seeing the exterior and (naughtily, during the lockdown) interior of the great old building, the most famous on campus, also brought back memories — not least, wondering if I was anywhere near the office of the lady with the Scottish Play surname who was organising my student exchange with an American university in 1998.  Nothing was open (including the chapel where I heard friends recording songs, or the art gallery where we took some of our exams), but I saw the lobby of the medical wing, to which I’d gone in my first week due to developing a bad back — and I swear it was at that set of tables in one of the courtyards, where we sat to talk and eat our College Shop-bought lunch, that 24 years earlier I’d chatted to some other students early in my freshman year, after the first proper Latin-American dance class I ever took…

Geology? Heh heh heh, “log”!

We also visited my slightly off-campus hall of residence from my senior year, which was put back to 1999-2000 due to my time abroad, crossing the road bridge that didn’t seem to have been cleaned or repainted over the past 20 years, and I saw my old room from outside — where I got my first ever PC delivered, and thus spent my final time at university, er, listening Capital Gold (Mike Sweeney and his annoying catchphrases in the evenings), finally collecting music CDs (thanks to my PC’s, er, cupholder), and obsessively playing video games (Duke Nukem 3D and Tomb Raider especially) at the expense of expanding my knowledge of anything useful, though at least I got a 2:1 for my Geology BSc in the end (possibly due to a caffeine-fuelled all-nighter to finish a project in March 2000).

Before we could visit my old town centre, however, we went on what turned out to be a very, very long diversion to see a monument by the river, and ended up walking along a camping area beside a main road, towards an area whose toilets, much to my concern, turned out to be closed due to the lockdown!  (Fortunately she was willing to organise an Uber back to the train station, where they let us use the facilities!)  I’ll never forget, though, thinking I saw something familiar among the trees atop the hill across the road, even though I’d never been to that RAF monument, and probably never been driven along that exact road by my mother, or my grandfather on interview day in 1995.

(Then again, without licence plate recognition cameras or recorded GPS data from a 21st-century smartphone, who knows which way we drove?)

And, finally, before we said goodbye at the station, it’s worth mentioning what, in the town centre, reminded me of events in 1997: I found the exact optician where I got my first pair of glasses early in the year, I saw the Somerfield where I worked in the summer and autumn (having already moved into that 2nd-year house) is now a Tesco, and I realised with delight that, on a corner near the station, the dreadful shop of a famous American chain (later renamed Budgens) had been demolished, after having been so hot during that scorching summer that all their chocolate bars had melted!

I’ll talk more about my female friend another time, as we intend to stay in touch online, in the hope that one day either (a) she can come back here, or (b) I can go visit her there; for now, I just want to think about the time I spent at that university, in that tiny town in Surrey (no, it wasn’t the University of Surrey!), and how quickly those years feel like they went by in my life, despite not feeling particularly rushed at the time.  That’s just the way, isn’t it?  When it’s a fixed amount of time, somehow it still seems to extend into infinity, and when one year’s over, there’s still another couple to go, but then suddenly the end comes towards you, with nothing visible lying beyond it…

(On the other hand, the time I spent living with my folks in Worthing, saving up for a postgrad course, was originally supposed to be one or two years, but ended up as three!)

Ah, all the times my mother played Jamiroquai in the car as we drove up from Worthing to Surrey!

No, I didn’t exactly enjoy every minute of my three years as an undergrad (or my year away, either in America or staying in Woking with my housesitting mother), thanks to the drunk yobs, the difficulty of understanding my subject, the sleepless nights, the utter lack of nice girls who were (a) approachable and (b) single, the monetary worries (even in the days of the student grant and my family being financially solvent) — and in the year away, failing in the one big romance of my life, arguing with my roommate (though he took me into his family), and coming back to England feeling like it was a little too soon.

Nonetheless, my limited time at that institution was to be savoured, and I’ve thus felt a certain envy towards my new friend having been there (not to mention “female best friend” studying for her Ph.D in Sheffield a decade ago).  It’s all ephemeral, and not just endless drawn-out days of the same thing — like, well, working in a permanent job and paying monthly rent, which feels a lot less thrilling than university…

— — —

Having said that, late last year (long before the lockdown), I went to weekly Latin-American dance classes in the Seven Sisters area (same teacher as in previous years, but yet another new venue) — and, recognising the area, decided one night that I’d walk back to the street in Wood Green where I lived, after my postgrad course and until moving into Caledonian Road, with “female best friend”, “good housemate” (not that he always was, obviously!), and briefly “other female best friend”, and thus, after a long walk, saw my old stomping ground near Turnpike Lane, including the path I took to the Tube station every morning from September 2005 onwards, and even the route along which I trundled a new (well, second-hand) computer chair from down in West Green.

While that house had similar flaws to my sophomore one (single-glazed windows in my room, and a “leccy” meter which we could only see if we stood on chairs), and I had a job I grew to hate in late 2004, and spent the summer of 2005 unemployed and worrying about rent (albeit with a relatively cheerful job in between, and guaranteed family support), I still feel a certain nostalgia about it — perhaps because it’s where I really got into learning Japanese and watching non-dubbed Japanese anime (which “female best friend” enjoyed watching with me), and built my first decent PC?