Winter welcome?

As long as no White Walkers turn up…

Until yesterday, I was — for very weird reasons — looking forward to winter, and the temperature going down.  Obviously January and February are always uncomfortably cold, but I recall last year’s November and December being refreshingly mild (especially compared to 2014), and I’ll be glad, for once, to see the end of hot weather.

No, I’m not an imposter, I’m still your friendly neighbourhood Dave-ros — it’s just that, for one thing, I’ve been finding it harder to sleep in hot weather, waking up itchy (apparently due to overheating) and unable to get back to sleep for ages.  Since it began cooling, however, I’ve been a lot more able to sleep, with only adrenaline waking me up during the night (after a few hours), and seldom keeping me awake.

For another thing, my new supercomputer.  Yes, that sentence didn’t need a verb — it’s going great (aside from having to re-register Windows 7 by phone, as it wasn’t working online!), and I have a good feeling it’ll pump a nice amount of heat into my room when I play intense 3D games (even if my new casing isn’t big and black like my previous ones, which my mother mistook for space heaters!).

Finally — and most spuriously — cooler weather means I can wear my new coat to and from work without sweating like a porcine mammal (especially on the crowded Underground), and this in turn means I can keep my phone in my hip pocket instead of my backpack, and thus look at it easily to see the title and artist of the track I’m listening to — necessary with unfamiliar songs, which often come up as I keep finding CDs in charity shops of bands I either want to hear more of (Jamiroquai, R.E.M.) or try getting into (Franz Ferdinand, Travis).

On the other hand, the meetup event I attended last night makes me worry about winter for the sake of others: I joined Shy London for their monthly linkup with Pavement People, who walk the streets of London looking for homeless people, in order to (a) offer simple supplies like food and toiletries, and (b) listen to their stories.  We avoided anyone who seemed to be high (or was asking for money instead of food, since they’re more likely to be on drugs), but anyone we met who was sane, we made a point of treating like human beings instead of street furniture, talking instead of ignoring.

I’m glad I took part (at least partially because I vowed I would back in June, if my mother found my dropped USB thumbdrive on the train platform), but it’s reminded me of how precarious our situation is on a daily basis — how everyone below the millionnaire class is, as they say, one paycheque away from poverty, and that you can end up homeless no matter how careful and honest you are.  I’m lucky that — for now at least — I can return to Worthing to live with my folks if London goes wrong for me, but what if they lose their home, through no fault of their own?

It wouldn’t be quite so bad if this country had a hotter climate, but it feels like we’re overdue for a genuinely cold winter (it’s been a long time since I last saw snow), and if that came to pass, those unlucky enough to have no place to stay would find it almost impossible to survive — and the way things are now, the only way to secure a hostel place in some areas (especially Westminster) is to have been there for three months or similar, without moving (even though those out-of-work are nagged to go search for jobs around the country)!  And the NHS also appears to be unable to treat people of “no fixed abode”.

It feels like our government du jour would welcome a nice cold winter, as a way to mitigate the increasing homeless problem without having to shake the magic money tree, or — heaven forfend — change policies to stop penalising people severely for honest mistakes (like missing a single Job Centre appointment, or even  clicking the wrong tickbox in an online form when applying for dental treatment).  It’s almost as though they want to be able to punish ordinary people at any time…

Sorry, I know, no sense going into an angry rant on this occasion (I’ll soapbox about that subject another time) — the important thing is that I got involved and met real people less fortunate than me, the sort of people who aren’t worried about trivial things like computers and gadgets, and while I can’t resolve all their problems (any more than I could for people closer to me), at least I can help them a little, keep them going longer — and look them in the eye.

It’s certainly better than simply claiming that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one…

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Out with the old…

I know Shady’s in his forties now, but I’m nowhere near as mature as him, am I?

It’s my birthday today, but never mind the number… let’s just say 30 and be done with it, what with my actual 30th in 2007 being a very unhappy day, and occurring during one of the ten years I wasn’t really “living” as such (2000-3 hibernating in Worthing with my folks, between my undergrad and postgrad days, and 2005-11 for reasons I won’t go into here — maybe another night?).

No, the main thrust of my blog tonight is that, around the time of my birthday this year, I’ve been making plans to get rid of some old stuff, and replacing it with new stuff — in many cases with the assistance of people in my life.  However, unlike Eminem in 2002, I’m cleanin’ out my closet without insulting my mother, since she’s a large part of the reason I made it this far in my life!

And my mother and grandmother helped me this weekend: finally I’m rid of the coat I got in 2014, just at the start of my decline into serious anxiety.  I know objects supposedly don’t exude positive or negative karma, but still, the left zip pocket broke earlier this year, and the new one’s not only got red lining inside (red being “my colour” at the moment), but a spider motif!

(No, nothing to do with Spider-Man — I’m not quite that geeky when it comes to my day-to-day clothes!)

I also have a new pair of boots bought for me by my folks, to replace the pair I was given by my “second family” in Michigan many years ago, but which I haven’t used since early 2014, due to them being caked in mud while I was watching my mother take part in a mud-run challenge.  It’s a pity, but I feel no real attachment to them any more — and being American boots, somehow I wonder if they were as leather-free as claimed?  The new ones certainly are, judging from the symbols, and I have a feeling I’ll be needing them now that winter is coming… I just have to hope the three-year cycle doesn’t happen again, and that this winter is better for me than those in 2014 and 2011 — which as you know (in the former case because I was writing this then, and the latter case because I keep going on about it) were depressing times of my life.

Speaking of 2011, the most important changes concern my computer — the PC of Theseus is undergoing further replacement, and soon, aside from the Windows 7 installation itself (but not the physical drvie it’s on), nothing will be left of that year.  My “boss-lady” has very kindly (and surprisingly, in light of what happened before) bought me a new sixth-generation i7 processor, in lieu of buying me a laptop so I could work from home.  I was already planning to get one, but she’s saved me quite a bit of money on this operation!  I’ve bought a new motherboard to plug it into, along with DDR4 memory (since I can’t reuse my own DDR3 in it), and a cooling fan for the processor (since one didn’t come with the processor itself, oddly).

I also bought a new computer casing a couple of weekends ago — smaller, sleeker and whiter than the yuge black Cooler Master casing I got in 2011, which fortunately I was able to give to charity (rather than needing someone to drive me to the dump).  Installing my old setup in the new box has paved the way for the new setup: all I have to do is put the new components on the new motherboard, swap that out wholesale with the old motherboard, and plug everything back in!  Positioning the drives (including the Win7 SSD) and running cables through the casing was the hard part, so this bit will be, relatively speaking, nice and easy…

(Says Dave-ros, hoping he’s not jinxing it by being over-confident!)

Once that’s done, I can take my old third-generation i7 (snugly in its motherboard, but with memory and fan removed for the journey) down to Worthing, to replace the creaking old Core 2 Quad (with DDR2 memory) system I have in the Frankencomputer.  I originally bought that ten years ago for use here in London, only upgrading from it in 2011 — which brings us around to that year again!

Since I got rid of the big casing I brought down from London in 2011 (the one with the big green “not handles” on the front), and put the components into a smaller white casing that my mother had originally planned to have me build her new PC in at Christmas, the Frankencomputer is also becoming a PC of Theseus, though still with plenty of “original” components left in it (since it’s not something I worry too much about upgrading, due to only using it when I visit my folks in Worthing).  I know I set it up with Win7 in 2014, but since I upgraded that to Win10 last year, perhaps I’ve driven the 2014 out of it too?

Okay, I know that’s not an acoustic guitar, but I’m workin’ on it!

And finally, there’s the guitar I bought cheaply in 2014… no, don’t worry, I’m not getting rid of it along with other stuff from that year!  Quite the opposite — I’ve started taking guitar classes, coincidentally starting on my birthday today.  One thing I’ve learned repeatedly in life (Japanese, computing etc.) is that I learn a lot better from actual people, with structured classes, than I do trying to study off my own back whenever I can be bothered.  It happened to be a one-to-one session in this first wek, as the other guy who signed up through Meetup.com was off sick!

My teacher’s certainly helped me with holding a guitar properly, and he was impressed that I already knew the basic D-A-E chords thanks to my previous studies, not unlike my personal trainer in 2013 and my Japanese teacher in 2008!  Unfortunately, five years of climbing (which he said many of his other students are also into) still haven’t left the fingertips of my left hand sufficiently calloused to endure the pain of holding down the strings, so good job the class was only an hour long.  And good job he has spare guitars, so I don’t have to lug mine all the way to the end of the Victoria Line!

However, maybe now in 2017, with this guy’s help, I can achieve what I failed to do three years ago: learn to play my guitar skilfully, and one day rock out with the Antarctic rock gods themselves, Gwar…

(What, did you think I’d grown up and given away all my old Scumdog merchandise?  I’m not a boring old fuddy-duddy yet, and hopefully never will be, you… bohab!)

Phobia of homophobia

“Ooh no Missus, titter ye NOT! Put your titters away!”

I think it’s about time I posted something in this blog, for the first time in three weeks — and what better to start with, than my previously-promised post about why I could never be a homophobe, and find myself unable to tolerate such people, simply because so many of my all-time heroes are gay men?

However, the event which finally prompted me to write this wasn’t the vote on gay marriage currently taking place in Australia, but rather, a dream I had the other night, that a young John Barrowman was flirting with me — and while I’m not interested sexually in men, and politely declined, I remember feeling entirely calm and feeling no sense of outrage or nausea… unlike previous occasions, when I dreamed of ugly middle-aged fat blokes trying to pull me, and ran like hell.

(Okay, admittedly JB himself has just turned fifty — and is off the market anyway — but I’ll always remember him when he joined the Doctor Who cast at the age I am now!)

Not that there’s anything wrong with fat middle-aged blokes who happen to be gay, of course: I’ve enjoyed the work of Matt Lucas (partly for Little Britain, and partly for — again — Doctor Who), and reckon he’s a cool dude.  Other fabulous individuals I admire today include Stephen Fry (he may not in reality be as intellectual as he is on QI, but he’s still charming, erudite and funny), Graham Norton (I couldn’t stand him at first, but he’s grown on me over the years), Paul O’Grady (not for his Lily Savage persona, but because he’s a huge dog-lover) and, of course, George “Oh Myyy!” Takei (not just for Star Trek, but also for his humorous activism on Facebook!).

Speaking of Paul O’Grady, I sometimes think of him as a latter-day version of the dearly-missed Kenneth Williams, a man of whose work I was aware even back when I was a child (lending his voice to Willo the Wisp and Galloping Galaxies!, as well as starring in the Carry On movies).  I still remember the day my mother and I returned from Florida the first time, in April 1988, to be told that he’d been found dead in his flat, possibly from suicide (though it may well have been a genuinely accidental overdose).  I read his diary (or rather, the published extracts) in the early 21st century, and wished he could have had a happy life, instead of feeling such self-loathing, even if it would have meant he never became famous.  He hadn’t done anything wrong, and it saddens me that he could never come to terms with his homosexuality — but unfortunately, it seemed to be the way of the world at the time.

In this, he was similar to another of my childhood heroes, Frankie Howerd (pictured above), a man whose work I first experienced in early 1991, when the Beeb began repeating his classic sitcom, Up Pompeii! — the spectacle of him making innuendo came (ooh no!) into my life when I was a thirteen-year-old.  I was sad when we lost him in 1992, just when he was on the verge of making another comedy comeback — but as with Williams, I find myself wishing he could have been happy instead of having to face depression and anxiety, even if his method of dealing with his shyness (affecting arrogance and insulting his live audiences) was a delight.

Roger the Alien’s fabulously swish voice was inspired by Paul Lynde, but he himself is pansexual, and thus irrelevant to this post

Others we’ve sadly lost from this world also include the hilarious Graham Chapman of the Pythons (I’ve been watching his shows since Christmas), and the delightfully camp American comedian Paul Lynde (who I once knew as the voice of the Hooded Claw), but of all the gay men who once lived and sadly died, my favourite would have to be Kenny Everett, whose TV series I was allowed to watch even as a young child, despite his dirty jokes and comedic violence, and whose radio shows got me listening to Capital Gold.  I remember wishing I could have met him before he died from an AIDS-related illness in the mid-1990s, but as the Interthingy barely existed back then, I sadly had no chance.  I just hope he’s happy now, whatever plane of existence he’s currently on, and that he’s found happiness — and, of course, reunited with the great musician Freddie Mercury, on whose behalf he played “Bohemian Rhapsody” on the radio many times!

(Perhaps one reason I like my old yoga teacher is that he reminds me of the dearly-departed “cuddly Ken”?)

And finally, I’ve had (no, not had, wash your minds out!) a number of male gay friends over the years — one friend at university who was a Doctor Who fan and supported me when I did a Dalek comic strip; another, who was highly camp but later came out as bisexual, is my Facebook friend to this day, and someone I’d stand up for.  I’ve also had gay friends at work, one being the “music man” at Camden (despite initially arguing with him when I joined his team), and possibly another there, who I once had in hysterics with my Frankie Howerd impression.  And even today, there’s at least one gay man at my workplace, our amiable receptionist; sadly he’s been off for a while, but he’s definitely someone I look forward to having back (no, not having in the back, stop tittering!).

So there you have it: all these friends of Dorothy that mean I could never consider homosexuality to be some kind of dangerous deviancy that warrants “curing”, or any punishment (well, leaving aside the consensual kind… ooh, Matron!), even if I myself am not of their persuasion (or bisexual).  No, if anything it’s the homophobes I can’t tolerate — because I’ve never heard a single coherent reason for condemning the love that dare not speak its name, whether in terms of outright gay marriage or simply existence.

Yes, that’s right, here’s my challenge: why is homosexuality wrong and in need of eradicating, or at least treating negatively?  No answers based on religion (“the Bible says so”) or personal taste (“I think it’s icky”) are of any importance, and yes, I mean that — if you don’t like people of the same sex as you, don’t worry, just leave the actual gay people alone and unmolested.  And speaking of molestation: gay men (and this also applies to trans women) are not a bunch of kiddy-fiddlers preying on your children, any more than all straight men are rapists — rape is wrong no matter who perpetrates it, so stop implying that some kinds of rape are somehow more tolerable than others.

(And yes, female-on-male rape exists and needs to be equally condemned, rather than laughed at or considered “payback” — but that’s outside the scope of this post!)

I think part of the problem is straightforward ignorance and paranoia: some people think that tolerating homosexuality — or, similarly, transsexuality, gender fluidity etc. — would mean they are obligated to “join in” (that it’s the new “normal”), and that by not doing so willingly, they’re being accused of holding the human race back in the dark ages.  Don’t be ridiculous, get on with your own lives and let them get on with theirs — I’m a cisgender heterosexual adult male, and even though I’m still unsuccessfully trying to start my actual love life, I’m happy and content with the way I am… even if being 100% heterosexual puts me in the 1%!

Similarly, allowing gay marriage doesn’t somehow mean marriage itself is being ridiculed, and that next we’ll be marrying animals or inanimate objects: they’re not consenting adult humans, are they?  Marriage isn’t purely about having children, otherwise childless couples (especially those who choose not to bring children into the world) would have their marriages annulled, surely?  I actually had a discussion on Facebook over three years ago on this subject (as I hinted here), with “female best friend’s” husband and his group of likeminded gentlemen, which I seemed to stop dead by pointing one thing out: if you think gay people can have the same rights as straight married couples, but can’t call it “marriage”, that’s like telling black people they can have something “like” the vote but can’t call it “voting” because that cheapens the word for white people — dividing “us and them” with petty semantics!

Some really bigoted people (especially the sort who post on George Takei’s Facebook wall, apparently meaning what they say instead of “trolling”) use their own homophobia as an excuse to bash Islam.  Yes, I know it’s stuck in its “angry teenager” phase (as I said several years ago) and needs to grow up, lessen its hold over people’s lives and become an opinion rather than a “fact”, like the other faiths, but the few Muslims I encounter in my day-to-day life are peaceful and non-abusive — they’re certainly not “throwing gay people off rooftops”, which the Trump supporters claim at every opportunity.  Even if that’s happening in oppressive theocratic countries, why would it excuse the Trump administration trying to give shopkeepers (and doctors) the right to refuse service to gay people, and treat them like second-class citizens — like some kind of Jim Crow 2.0?  Would Christianity be kinder if it was in absolute control of people’s lives, rather than just something they do for an hour on Sundays and at Christmas?

Almost all religions seem to be homophobic (even Gandhi tried to “sexually cleanse” homosexuality from the Indian faiths), presumably because they were created when the sole goal of life was to procreate, due to communities living on a knife-edge in the desert, and anyone seen to be acting against the greater good was treated as a liability.  However, I’d say our festering mudball planet is definitely overpopulated now, and I’d rather we kept our numbers down by (amongst other things) tolerating homosexuality, which can’t produce more offspring (and with gay couples becoming parents through adoption), rather than purging or “curing” it, and going back to the days of “go forth and multiply”.

All this considered, South Park once made an interesting point: rather than forcing private organisations like the Boy Scouts to accept homosexuals by law, perhaps the better way is to persuade people that homophobia is no longer relevant — to convince them of the error of their ways gradually, by good example, rather than beat them over the head with facts in the hope of a quick fix (some claim it was rebellion against precisely this which gained Trump so much support).  The trouble is, in this increasingly-anti-intellectual age, when even Flat Earthers seem to be making a comeback, would it be enough to just hope people can change for the better…?

— — —

If any of you are wondering why the hell I’m an admirer of John Barrowman (aside from him guest starring in Doctor Who and headlining in the spinoff series Torchwood) if I don’t fancy him: well, he earned my respect when he was on Never Mind the Buzzcocks in 2006 (back when it was presented by Simon Amstell — phew, nearly forgot him!), and was a damn good sport…

Carrying on regardless (with apologies to the makers of “Carry On Regardless”)

Let us go about our duties as though a thousand useful years still lay before us.
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912)

Even though nuclear destruction hangs over our heads, and even though I continue to fear for my employment and mental health, I’m determined to carry on living my life the way I want to live it — because I’ve spent too much of my life worrying, and frankly anxiety serves no useful purpose whatsoever.  Why live every day as though it’s your last, when you might have to live with the consequences?

Yeah, North Korea’s got nuclear weapons and is led by a fat pompous idiot who only cares about himself… exactly like the United States.  However, the world got through the Cold War relatively unscathed, and even though it got really close to a “Hot War” during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we’re here to talk about it — and so I have hope that we’ll get through this crisis as well, instead of descending into madness.  I’m certainly not gonna drink myself silly or give away all my earthly possessions in anticipation of armageddon; I’m gonna carry on living as though the future stretches ahead of me.

And similarly, I’m not going to worry about “boss lady” being back in the office tomorrow, as I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant her wrath.  Oh, today I had a conversation that may have resulted in a complaint, but I certainly hope not — I wasn’t demanding the team that handles incoming calls start taking messages from the obvious salesmen who call up asking for named people in my team, instead of putting them straight through to us; I was simply discussing it with one of their team (coincidentally the one I was recently falsely accused of saying “go away” to), and another member of her team overheard and felt she had to “interject”, somewhat perturbed at the implication that they’re supposed to be PAs for everyone else in the organisation.

I hope I smoothed over that by agreeing with her, and showing I understood how overworked they are by all the incoming calls, meaning they don’t have time to talk to the obvious salesmen or take messages (since they’ll just call back anyway), but considering how complaints against me have started in the past, well…

However, at least some of those complaints about my apparent attitude could surely be explained away by my mental health issues — anxiety and mild panic attacks (at least I’ve never had a fugue… or at least, not that I remember), depression if I take ibuprofen for my headaches… and that damn “brain fuzz” that still afflicts me, even after raising my blood iron levels.  When it’s really bad, I can’t even understand what people are saying to me, no matter how familiar they are — it’s like they’re speaking a foreign language entirely!

I’m convinced it’s down to my neck and shoulder pains, triggered by neck movements (such as looking to the side), and a result of stress making me hunch my shoulders… but no lifestyle changes I’ve tried so far has made a difference, including not listening to Gwar on my headphones, not having espresso at work in the mornings, going to bed early instead of staying up to watch Family Guy (these early nights often just result in me waking up around 3am and not being able to get back to sleep for ages), which is why I’m feeling like I should stop worrying about them and carry on doing the things I’ve always enjoyed… though I’ll still follow through with seeing my quack, to arrange a liaison with a neurologist.

Mind you, I’ve got a couple of other thoughts about what gives me the dizzy spells, or at least exacerbates them: aspartame, for example — I had some Dr. Pepper today, and I feel like that led to a bout while I was helping someone at her desk (and couldn’t understand what she was saying to me).  There’s also been a gaping hole in our kitchen wall since just before my first serious set of “brain fuzz” attacks — thanks to British Gas, who never offered to fix it — and although this house tests negative for carbon monoxide, perhaps some other miasma is coming out of there.

(Another thing that happened the night before my first set of serious attacks was receiving a package from my American friend in Michigan, and I’ve heard about a certain virus going around there…)

One thing that isn’t helping is the fact that I’ve taken on the burden of collecting bill money from all my housemates, so I can pay our rent to the landlady, Council Tax to our corrupt Tory council, and other bills to the relevant fat cats.  However, this has also been stressful, as I reused my old Co-op Bank account, which I probably should have closed.  Remember my problems with them in 2016?  Somehow I hadn’t been overdrawn again since then (I honestly expected them to charge me some kind of fee without prior warning), and so I decided to get my housemates to pay their shares into this account, rather than my main one, so it would be easier to keep track of ins and outs.

However, after everyone had paid in their shares by Saturday (including “best mate”, before he left to go to Vietnam for the entire month), it took until Monday for our landlady to receive the rent amount; this was partly because they needed to phone me to confirm it wasn’t fraud, and I’d foolishly not updated my phone numbers (I think they were calling my old office in Camden!), but also, it would seem, partly because it was the weekend and so they wouldn’t process anything until Monday.

Fortunately our landlady came to accept this, even though she was nagging us to pay our rent on the 1st of the month, despite our housing contract stipulating the 3rd of the month!  However, judging from my Co-op Bank statement (as it’s stabilised today), they only processed a lot of things on Monday — and for some reason they debited my account by the rent amount before they credited it with two of my housemates’ rent amounts, thus meaning I was technically overdrawn, even if it was for a small amount of time!

If they even hint at charging me a fee for an “unauthorised overdraft”, I’ll go to the ombudsman — this isn’t comparable to the times in December 2015 that I wrongly took money out from cash machines that wasn’t in my Co-op account (I objected to the means by which they fined me, not being fined in and of itself); instead, this almost seems like they “mixed up” my credits and debit deliberately, so they make me be overdrawn and thus justify fining me!

I’m tired of worrying, so screw the Co-op if they try to rip me off, and screw my anxiety about facing discipline at work for emotional reactions I can’t control — I like my job and genuinely want to help the people I work with, but if that isn’t enough, well, I’ve had a good innings.  And if there’s some kind of tumour in my brain, or incipient epilepsy, or just plain ol’ stress headaches, well, I won’t let ’em make me live like some kind of timid health freak — I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, keeping fit while occasionally pigging out, and treating worry as the biggest health risk of all.

Above all, though: SCREW TRUMP AND KIM!!!  I’m not being cute, I genuinely hope both fall from power and leave their respective peoples to forge their own lives instead of living in fear and hatred.  Indeed, I’d love to see them settle their differences one-on-one while the real people of the world watch in delight (and only caring who wins in gambling terms), much as Frankie Goes To Hollywood once suggested to Reagan andChernenko in the 1980s…

Clinging on

Maybe that’s why I feel so strange
Got it all, but I still won’t change
Maybe that’s why I can’t leave Detroit!
It’s the motivation that keeps me goin’!
This is the inspiration I need
I can never turn my back on the city that made me, and—
(Life’s been good to me, so far…)
—Eminem, “So Far…” (The Marshall Mathers LP 2, 2013)

Despite the concerns I expressed last time, I’m hopeful I won’t get fired, suspended, or reduced in pay grade as long as I keep my nose clean and stop myself from snapping at anyone — and this is essential, because without my current job, I can’t imagine remaining in London, something I definitely want to do.

I know I don’t get everything right, but enough people seem to like me at work that there would be serious repercussions if I were punished by “boss lady”.  That’s why, in my darkest moments, I’ve contemplated offering to hand in my resignation on the grounds that I allegedly have to return to Worthing, to take care of my folks, as a compromise to her firing me — the benefit to her being that I’d be seen to leave of my own accord, and so she wouldn’t get blamed for firing me by all the staff members who are so fond of me that they open their helpdesk tickets with “Dear David”.

However, I’d much rather not have to go through with that at all, and stay in my job for as long as possible, paying my rent right here and not having to worry, controlling my emotions and making it clear to the users that I like each and every one of them, and am doing my best to help them.

(A better solution might be to promote me to Level 2 tech, where I’d have much less interaction with staff than Level 1, seeing as (a) I’m likely to be somewhere on the autistic spectrum, and (b) human contact is what’s been stressing me out!)

As I’ve doubtless said many times since starting this blog, I’m getting better all the time — and I feel I owe it to this damned city, hence why I want to remain in London for as long as possible.  It’s partly for social reasons (who’d I hang out with in Worthing?!), partly to keep my family at a respectful distance (who’d date me if I lived with my mother?!), and partly because this is my life now: one reason I was hesitant for my American “second family” to work on getting me a green card was that I’ve made a go of things at last, right here, where I used to feel such despair — a good wage, a good career, and even a half-decent commute!

I’ve also grown tougher and more responsible, believe it or not: I’ve offered to take on the responsibility of managing our household bills, such as rent (since “drummer-trucker” moved out), using an old bank account to gather the money together, instead of letting someone else worry about it.  Somehow I doubt this would have happened if I was living in Worthing with my folks, probably getting lazier and less ambitious by the day.

This is what happens when you take acupuncture too far… what, too obvious?

I thus need to overcome my stress-related aches and pains, so I can focus on my day-to-day life and make the most of living here, instead of getting into a self-reinforcing stress spiral, stressing about the aches and pains both increased by and increasing my stress levels, rather than giving up, returning to Worthing and “not caring” any more.

I made a start by seeing my old yoga teacher, on one of his rare visits to London, for a bit of acupuncture.  This actually helped me feel rather better, at least for one night, and while it’s clear I still need some kind of proper massage to get over my neck-and-shoulder aches and pains, I can recommend getting pins stuck in you by an expert (as long as it’s someone you trust) — even if it’s quackery, it’s the thought that counts.

He also gave me advice on reducing my stimulation level… no, wash your minds out, he’s just concerned that I spend my entire waking time listening to music, reading books, playing video games and watching TV, none of which are actually “restful” activities, even if I’m sitting still for the duration!  My brain needs a proper rest, and it won’t get that unless I slow things down and do less intense stuff.

(On that basis, I wish I’d taken the time to sit out in the sunshine during the Bank Holiday weekend, thinking of nothing in particular!)

Having said that, I’ve bought some softer pillows than the ones I got earlier this year (and also 1/12th the price of those damn things!), as well as massaging my own neck (the most probably source of the dizziness) as a stopgap solution, and these seem to be helping: although I still feel weird now and then (always as a prelude to a dull headache), I seldom have all-out bursts of memory-related static going off in my brain, and can thus maintain adequate face-to-face contact with my fellow human beings.

On the other hand, the hot weather over the weekend seems to have disturbed my sleep pattern all over again: as in July, sometimes I find myself waking about four hours after I fell asleep, unable to get off again and getting agitated as a result.  Despite the advice I’ve received, this can happen even when I’ve had dinner earlier than usual (and no caffeine), with a banana for dessert instead of chocolate (indeed, having chocolate ice cream during the Bank Holiday weekend seemed to help me get a good night’s sleep!), and gone to bed a full eight hours before my morning alarm time.

Of course, it’s partly because I’ve been using Fitbit for ages now: the device I bought earlier this year gives a rather detailed estimation of my sleeping patterns, which just gets me worried.  This kind of thing never seemed to bother me back when I used to stay up until 1am watching Family Guy, and then wake up with enough energy the following morning to make lunch before setting off for work…

Ah, to be in my, er, mid-thirties again!

It’s all happening again

Is the Faceman failing again?

Every time I feel confident that my life’s getting better, it seems something goes horribly wrong — or rather, several things at once, just as I’m approaching my second anniversary in the job I supposedly love.

I’m still getting headaches, and while the dizzy spells have largely (but by no means entirely) retreated, I’m still worried about my health — for example, the fact that for no apparent reason I can wake up in the middle of the night and not be able to get back to sleep.  This happened last night, and I felt a great depression come over me, almost wanting to give up on London entirely and go back to live in Worthing (yikes!).  This was at least partly thanks to taking ibuprofen to combat the pain, and as you will remember, I’ve experienced this before, and know not to do anything “drastic” (aside from cursing), because the feeling will pass.

I still felt miserable when I managed to drag myself to work, having made several mistakes this week, and feeling like I was letting down senpai (the guy I look up to, for those of you who Nihongo o hanasenai).  I was genuinely unhappy in the office, rather than my usual helpful, chipper self, and at one point experienced nostalgia by sitting alone in a small room, almost crying.  However, that turned out to be cathartic (as in the subtitle of this blog), and from that point on I actually felt a lot more cheerful, and found myself more than willing to help people…

Right up to the point that “boss lady” took me into a side office for a talking-to, just like in mid-January 2016.

Yes, folks, it seems I’ve had complaints all over again, and have one more chance to sort things out — the difference from a year and a half ago being that this time I’m permanent staff, rather than an ex-temp now going through six-month probation, and feel like I’ve earned my job and so shouldn’t be on a knife-edge.  It doesn’t feel any less dangerous, even though they’d have a harder time getting rid of me entirely now than they would have done back then.  I guess I should have realised that she wasn’t just trying to keep me on the straight and narrow before, she was genuinely unhappy with my behaviour, and it’s all come to a head now.

Needless to say, this has increased my stress levels again, and brought back anxiety to accompany my depression — as you would imagine, anxiety and depression together make a horrible mixture.  Thus, the stress I’ve been under, and the headaches and dizzy spells as side effects, has created a whole new reason to be stressed — but I daren’t take any more ibuprofen to combat the headaches, as it definitely brings my mood down and thus makes it harder for me to interact cheerfully with the users, thus exacerbating the problem.

Unfortunately she was unsympathetic to my situation, saying that I need to either manage this stress and remain perfectly polite to the users, or find a whole new line of work… it’s like it doesn’t matter how much good work I’ve done, or that she hasn’t had to talk to me like this for eighteen months, a couple of mistakes can bring everything down!

It sucks being back in this situation, but two things keep me going.  Firstly, I got through this back in 2016, and recognise that it’s only since I came back from holiday that these things have been happening all over again; it’s a difficult spiral to break out of, but if I can conquer my resurgent depression and/or anxiety, or at least make sure to get a good night’s sleep, I’ll be better able to interact with others.  Secondly, senpai is largely on my side here, and thinks that “boss lady” was out of line threatening me with “disciplinary procedures”, because although he knew I still had problems sometimes, we’re better off correcting each other as-and-when, instead of amassing evidence like this… and in any case, he agreed that she was unreasonable taking me to task over bantering with the bloke at reception via phone!

(Not to mention, she believed a lady upstairs who claimed I’d told her to “go away” and held up my hand, when this was blatant exaggeration — I’d just said I was very busy, and if anything had an anxiety attack, as she’d hemmed me in at my desk!)

Furthermore, although “boss lady” wants me to ask my team for help more readily, rather than rushing off trying to help users myself and making us all look “incompetent” by not knowing things (like the fact that one team had bought their own iPads while I was away), senpai reckons I’m not being supported properly by one particular member of our team, a gent he’s very annoyed with at the moment for palming off jobs to others, and making system changes without telling the rest of us.  Sad thing is, I like that guy too, and at least some of the time find him useful and helpful, but I’ve been told that “boss lady” likes him a bit too much, and refuses to see his flaws… damn, what do I have to do to get that kind of quasi-nepotism?!

I just have to hope I can cope with feeling this way all over again, and that I can keep my head together (despite the occasional dizzy spells) and win back the users I’ve offended, at least to “boss lady’s” approval.  I guess I should never imagine I’ve won her over again, and always keep one eye on her.  2017 comes three years after 2014 and 2011, both years in which I suffered during the autumn and winter months and, at times, wished it would all end; I don’t want that three-year cycle to be repeated, or for my 40th birthday to signal the start of bad times, like my 34th and 37th (and, to some extent, my 31st).

On that basis, only if I’m still in my job and earning the UK average wage by my birthday in October, will I even think of building a better PC!

— — —

P.S. I know many think of it as quackery, but my old yoga teacher (back in the country briefly) is planning to give me an acupuncture session, as he’s good at curing stress headaches — so, if I can make it to the weekend…

P.P.S. Maybe, just maybe, I should let my “second family” in Michigan sponsor me for a green card after all, even if the USA is an increasingly right-wing country these days!

Even more normal… or not?

Despite the problems I still have, I’m getting my life even more back to normal than last time — indeed, better than ever, because I’ve reinstated some aspects I’d lost… mainly centred around food, one of the most important reasons we’re alive, and one of the most important reasons to be alive.

For a long time, I stopped making my own sandwiches (or rolls) for lunch, due to having so much trouble getting up in the mornings (and not wanting to take time to do it the night before), thanks to “drummer-trucker” ruining my sleeping patterns.  Now that he’s out of my life forever (and his replacement’s nice and quiet), I’m right back to making sarnies before work, assuming I’ve got the bread and it hasn’t gone off!

Even though I’m earning more, it’s still sensible to bring your own lunch to work rather than buy from an expensive place like Pret A Manger (where I work is too posh to have something as base as a Subway nearby), and moreover, you can decide what you have.  On that basis, although sometimes I have cheese rolls into which I can spread (plug alert) Marmite at my desk, I’m actually buying rocket salad and making more interesting sarnies, involving fake meat slices and mayo — or, if I’ve got time to fry fake bacon (“facon”), the vegetarian equivalent of a BLT!

(Okay, “facon” plus rocket plus tomato, shall we call it… FaRT?  No?  Oh, please yourselves!)

Tomatoes are a big restoration for me, as (judging from my budgeting spreadsheet) I hadn’t bought them since 2015, not long after I started my current job!  Not even to go in the vegetarian burgers I’ve still been making (especially after personal training), as they were just too much trouble in terms of slicing them (not to mention my fingers!) and disposing of the end pieces — I’ve got a nice jagged knife that makes the slicing easier, and I’m disciplined enough to use them up before they go off.  I used to slice chillies and put them in my double-decker quasi-Big Macs, but there’s no reason I can’t have both, is there?

And speaking of chillies, I’ve managed to get back to “proper” cooking again, instead of a combination of eating out and heating stuff up in the oven: not only spag-bol (made with fake mincemeat) and Chinese noodles with sliced pepper and garlic cloves (and fake meat pieces), but a recipe I got out of a cook book given to me ten years ago by “other female best friend”, involving a single red chilli, two diced red peppers and 100g of cashews, fried and mixed with a thickener made from corn flour and soy sauce, salted and served with rice.  I hadn’t done that since February, and it’s good to be cooking properly again, instead of doing what’s convenient!  And cooking like this also frequently gives me the opportunity to season with yeast flakes, recommended a long time ago by my personal trainer as an aid to weight loss.

One aspect of my life I’m trying to stop from reverting to normal is sleep: I’m aiming to get my head down tonight by 11pm, well before midnight, rather than staying up late to watch Family Guy.  This is in the hope that it’ll stop something else, the “brain fuzz” I’ve been getting since last December, from becoming a normal feature of my days; it seems to be a side effect of headaches, which are almost certainly being caused by stress, which is exacerbated by not sleeping properly.  Now that I’m finally over my jet lag (which, alas, I wasn’t last time I said so — that very night I woke up after an hour and couldn’t get back to sleep!), I’m getting up to seven hours a night, which while not exactly the recommended eight, is way better than the five-hours-something I was getting most nights before.

(Source: Fitbit, which isn’t exactly renouned for its accuracy!)

And similarly, I think I’m finally doing away with one thing I’d sadly been getting used to at work: feeling anxious about my job.  I feel like I’m doing well, keeping things running and being relied upon so much that people often send their helpdesk tickets with my name on them (!); my boss, $DEITY bless ‘er, even gives me pointers for improvement instead of telling me off (or worse, taking me aside).  I do seem to be making a habit of remoting onto my work PC from home in order to finish off tasks (such as updates on other people’s PCs) that I wasn’t able to do during the working day, and perhaps that ain’t healthy in terms of work/life balance, but screw it, it’s my jerrrb!

Unfortunately, one thing that’s been perfectly normal for me, and indeed healthy, has become impossible lately: running up and down the stairs at work to visit people on adjacent floors, due to a long-overdue repainting of the stairwell.  No way in hell am I going to try it when the painters have covers on the stairs themselves (I may not have the same phobia of slipping as my mother, but after what happened to me last year, I’m taking no chances), and so I’ve had to do the most unhealthy thing in the universe… take the lift, even for just one floor!

(P.S. Thanks to you guys, I’m up past eleven anyway… hope you appreciate my suffering!)