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!)

Back to normal…?

The good news is that I seem to be over my jet lag at long last, and am no longer lying hopelessly awake in the middle of the night (after having initially gone to sleep without issue).  Why, Fitbit thinks I’m getting nearly seven hours a night… and yes, I know a strap on my wrist trying to measure my pulse rate is somewhere between BMI and phrenology in terms of medical quackery, but still, it’s good to know.  Of course, the nights not being so sweltering has also helped…

The bad news is I still get dizzy spells, “brain fog” or whatever the buzzword is, and it still seems to be related to headaches, especially a dull ache at the back of the head and neck.  This is still going on even though I’ve been taking iron tablets (in August I’ll have a blood test to determine if this has been any use at all) and feeling less stressed at home, though it may also have been the after-effects of my jet lag, and the stress of travelling to and from America… not to mention the stress of travelling right here in London.  Could it be having loud rumbling pumped into my ears for long periods of time?

(And no, I haven’t had Gwar on shuffle for weeks, so leave them Scumdogs alone!)

Other aspects of my life seem to be returning to their previous situations: I’m happy at work (aside from when I’ve been taking ibuprofen to deal with pain — as in 2015, it seems to bring about depression), and while I’m still terminally single, at least I’m making connections and organising dates again.  Whether this will continue once my age in dating apps no longer starts with a 3 remains to be seen… but since “best mate” has a friend in his 40s who is seeing a girl in her 20s, maybe I just need to remain confident and not give up hope.

I’ve also restored one aspect of my life to pre-holiday levels, but you’ll think this is a really contrived talking point: my backpack.  The one I used to use, my mother handed down to me in 2009, and I’d used it happily since then (I think I even took it to America in 2013!), but it was getting old and worn, and so — as you will recall — I got a “better” one a few weeks ago… and almost lost my USB thumbdrive out of it.  I’ve been using it since then, but found it to be very tedious to take off and put on, not to mention having two drawstrings to keep the main part of it closed, and so now, with Mumsy’s assistance, I’ve bought a more normal “day” one, not unlike the original, which is more comfortable to wear, and less likely to bump into people on the Tube.

Another item I’ve had to replace was my TV set, because… well, let’s just say there was a collision, resulting not in fractured glass but messed-up pixels.  It seems I never really conquered my anger after all, but the replacement, while more expensive than I would have liked, is better in almost every way than the one it replaced: true 1080p, richer sound (and the volume doesn’t need to be turned down when I use my Wii), bigger screen size… but it doesn’t swivel on its base (and neither do any modern TVs, by the look of it), so I’ll need an alternative solution.  The important thing is, I can once again watch TV without seeing the outcome of my momentary fury!

One aspect of my life that I really wish wasn’t reverting is my weight: I’m back over 13 stone, despite having been below since 2013.  Admittedly it’s partly down to eating toast as an addition to breakfast, rather than a replacement (I was trying to use up some bread that “best mate” had left behind), but it was so much easier to lose weight when I was younger, even though I was eating Greek yoghurt with Nutella for dessert every night!  Still, on the plus side I’m well and truly back to my previous level when it comes to climbing… though fitting my gear into this new bag is already proving problematic — so, as with the TV, I’ll have to rack my (foggy) brain for a solution.

Which I won’t be able to do if you’re keeping me awake, so please do let me get some sleep — it’s getting on for midnight!

When you can’t help your friends

I’ve always wanted to be heroic, so it’s got me down that two of my closest friends are suffering at the moment, and I don’t know what, if anything, I can do to help them beyond maintaining the friendship and listening to their woes — and I’m not having such a great time at the moment either, despite recent improvements…

I don’t think I’ve mentioned it much here, but my friend in Michigan — the younger brother of my roommate when I was at UMich in 1998-9 — is mildly handicapped (cerebral palsey).  For years this has made him a “big kid”, which meant I got on with him as I was still into Transformers as well… but lately, he’s become problematic.  Weight training and taking part in bodybuilding shows has made him happy since 2003, but due to recent joint pain, he’s been unable to do either lately, and while I was visiting him in late June and early July (originally planned to coincide with one of his shows), it became clear that he’s becoming… childish and petulant.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with him collecting comics and watching Sesame Street clips on YouTube (hey, how could I when I do similar myself?), and I try not to get annoyed at his tendency to repeat the same conversations over and over again, as I know he can’t help it.  No, my concern is the way he interacts with his parents these days, disdaining the food they cook, treating them like a bank, and even still holding a grudge against his father for preventing him attending a karate event back in, er, the mid-1990s.  He genuinely seems to have a problem with them, even though they do their best to take care of him — but he denies being childish: that’d mean calling his mother a “great big poopy-head”, and he’s much more mature, calling her a “pointy-nosed bitch” instead!

His parents, who are glad that I consider them “America’s real first family”, have actually put forward a proposal: they want to sponsor me for a US green card, so I could come over and live there, as my friend’s housemate, thus enabling him finally to move out of the family home where he’s lived his entire life (aside from a year or so he was married to a similarly-handicapped girl, which ended badly).  A few years ago I’d have jumped at the mere suggestion, but now I’ve got a good life here in London, would I really want to leave it all behind — and would it help my friend, seeing as he doesn’t want to move out of that house (hence why he and his folks didn’t migrate to Washington state in 2014 as planned)?

There seemed to be nothing I could do during my two weeks to encourage him to change his attitude, but I suspect his parents know this, and just want me to carry on being his friend, at least for now.  Perhaps they’re already aware of how he feels about them, though they also seem to realise it’s variable, and some days he’s perfectly amiable.  At the very least, I might have finally convinced him to go see a doctor about his joint pains, in the hope that he can be helped, and thus be able to resume his visits to the gym, with a view to being in a bodybuilding show later in the year.

The other person I can’t help is, of course, “best mate”, who’s been my friend since late 2012 and my housemate since early 2015.  He’s still working for his brother in construction, and still being taken for granted, sent to far-flung parts of Britain at short notice because all his brother’s other workers have families (apparently being single means you have no right to a weekend, or even any time off at all?), and this can happen even when he’s organised a holiday and needs to catch a flight!  This was tried (unsuccessfully) last year when he was about to fly to Japan, and this year he was forced to give up his flight back to his native Ireland; $DEITY help us all in September, when he’s planning to visit Vietnam…

Again, there’s nothing I can do to change this guy’s life — I can’t employ him myself, and while he’s certainly willing to take a crash course in something and aim for a steadier job than construction (which by its very nature is always temporary), being motivated to actually do so is very difficult when he’s exhausted after spending the week in Somerset… and that’s nowhere near as bad as it’s been earlier this year, and back in 2016.  It’s also destroyed his social life, leaving him no longer going to raves — if he’d outgrown them, fine, but he misses partying, and is so desperate for human contact that he’s hinted at hiring an escort!

As with my American friend, I suppose all I can do is listen to his complaints about his life situation, without being judgmental, and support him with whatever decision he makes, even if it’s to go back to Ireland and give up on living in London entirely (since he’s paying rent but seldom actually sleeping here).  However, I’m still recovering from jet lag following my holiday, and much as in Michigan, and indeed before I left, I’m sleeping badly every night (sometimes I have to lie awake doing magazine puzzles), so what good am I to either friend until I remove the beam from my own eye?  I need to fix myself up so I’m no longer having those dizzy spells (which feel like my brain is trying to dream even though I’m awake at the time — is it insomnia?), otherwise I’m in as much need of help as they are.

On that topic, I’m going to sleep early on a Sunday night for once, in the hope that even if I wake up again during the night, I’ll still get enough sleep overall (or at least be told so by Fitbit) that I won’t be in a state tomorrow.  Of course, it’d help if it wasn’t so hot in my room… but hey, it’s better than the cold — and at least that troublesome housemate’s gone at last!

Recovering from a holiday

Well, belatedly I’m back on my blog, a few days after returning to Blighty, and it’s clear I’m not relaxed or destressed, or even well rested, to the point that I may need more time off work just to recover from the time off I’ve already had!

Indeed, I wonder if I’ll have time to marshal my thoughts tonight, as I really need to sleep and make up for barely sleeping at all last night — and that was after resting well over the weekend, having landed on Thursday morning.

To summarise, I’ve been sleeping erratically for the last few weeks, and that’s down to several factors:

  • Being awoken nearly every morning by my former housemate (“drummer-trucker”), and getting stressed at the necessity of trying to avoid him around the house;
  • The inevitable problem of trying to sleep on a plane, either westbound or eastbound, during my holiday — one way I had extra hours to live through, the other way was overnight, and thus it was a new day when I landed;
  • My American friend is going through a bad patch in his life, and getting antagonistic towards his parents, despite my efforts to help him behave more maturely (I’ll go into detail in a later post), leading to further stress and fretting on my part;
  • Sleeping is hard when it’s hot in the room (there’s been heatwaves in London and Michigan), and the available air conditioning (a machine in America, a fan and an open window here) is too noisy to use for any length of time;
  • I bought expensive new pillows earlier this year for my room, and am regretting it due to how hard they are on the back of my head, and how thin the soft pillows I put on top have become.

I’m still getting dizzy spells, due to a combination of sleep deprivation, stress and head/neck pain, and my quack’s been no real help beyond encouraging me to arrange another blood test, after having taken iron tablets for a couple of months (including while I was in America).  She wants me to see a neurologist, and hopefully that’ll be all I need, as I dread the prospect of it being something worse, the kind of thing that’d need an X-ray to uncover…

Fortunately, there are a few mitigating circumstances: “drummer-trucker” has moved out for good, and his replacement is perfectly nice and not someone I need to avoid; “best mate” has sorted out our flaky Internet connection, so I can work from home if necessary; and, while my computer was crashing repeatedly on my first day back (to the point that even rotating photos I’d taken on holiday led to a “blue screen of death”!), it’s decided to behave itself since then, perhaps due to the weather cooling slightly (and me turning off overclocking).

Also, while I was in Michigan, I at least managed to relax most days, sitting outside in the hot weather while reading A Game of Thrones (and building a Lego Millennium Falcon in my room), and getting through the security checks on the way in proved to have been a lot of worry about nothing, at least for now!  I took my own lousy phone with me just in case they were in a confiscationary mood, but now I’ve got my superior work phone back in hand again, and can thus hunt for Pokémon without waiting ten minutes for 3G to start working.  Being back at work was tiring, but didn’t require any special efforts from me, and I was glad to be back, even though I had to leave early due to fatigue.

I’d better go soon, and try to get a good night’s sleep once my hair dries after my shower; I’m still taking “sleep aid” tablets (as I was in Michigan, as well as before I went), in the hope that I won’t repeat last night’s events: dropping off nicely, only to reawaken after 1am for no apparent reason, unable to get back to sleep!  Perhaps my issues are down to adrenal overproduction…?

Prelude to departure, part 94: the longest shortest night

This could be me reading “A Game of Thrones” on the flight, worrying at the back of my mind what’ll happen at customs

I seem to be ready for my looming holiday to Michigan, including checking in online, printing out my plane tickets, visa waiver confirmation and travel insurance document, packing my new suitcase (and attaching a pink name tag, just so I recognise it on the carousel), turning off the superior smartphone work bought me in May and “transferring the flag” back to the lesser phone I got in December (with my old SIM in it), bidding goodbye to my work colleagues and putting up a message in Outlook to advise my “flock”, finishing Dead Space: Extraction after eating pizza (with some slices saved for breakfast tomorrow)… but not burying the hatchet with “drummer-trucker”, as he’s apparently visiting his new home in the Westcountry today.  I’m not denying some disappointment, as I hoped we could part on polite terms, but maybe it’s easier this way — and perhaps I finally feel confident that he won’t do anything untoward between now and his final move-out date.

Even so, I still feel the same trepidation I felt before my last visit to Michigan in 2014, and before that, my holiday to the western USA in 2013: no matter how well I plan things, I always worry that something will go wrong.  For one thing, getting to Heathrow from here is a nightmare — not when “best mate” drove me in 2013, but certainly going via the cursed Piccadilly Line in 2014.  I’ve been advised to get the Heathrow Express from Paddington station, though getting there will be tricky as two of the Tube lines that go through it are suspended during the investigation into that terrible fire at Latimer Road (and yes, I agree the people involved in the fire are having a much worse time of it).  Travelling on the Tube itself will be an ordeal, as my flight is around midday, and thus I will have to make my journey during rush hour, which is unpleasant enough when I time it right and get a seat, and don’t have a suitcase as well as a backpack!

And even if I make it to the airport on time, and even if they let me on the flight without demur, and even if the first leg of the journey to Atlanta goes smoothly, I’ve still got to face the usual interrogation from a humourless (humorless?) jobsworth about why I’ve come to the USA — and while I’ve had no trouble getting past them and onto official US soil in the past (2014, 2013, 2007, 2006, 2003, 2001 and 1998 spring to mind), the current preznit’s exclusionary policy gives me pause.  Well, I know where I’m staying and who I’m staying with, and that the “purpose” of my visit is “pleasure”, so what else is there to worry about?

I’LL TELL YOU what else there is to worry about: in 2007 and 2014 my connecting flights to Flint Bishop were delayed, and it’s become something my American friend half-jokes about when I come to visit!  I already have a four-hour stopover at ATL, and I really don’t want it to extend to five or six hours, since by then I’ll be running on fumes!

(Happy as I am that thunderstorms are predicted for Michigan this week, I’ll be eternally grateful if they have the decency to hold off until Thursday!)

It’s the longest day and shortest night today, 20th June, but somehow I worry tonight’s going to feel like an eternity — not just due to the expectation of my trip: I’ve had real trouble sleeping the past few days thanks to this heatwave.  However, I’m hopeful that this time, unlike 2013 and 2014, I might just be able to catch enough sleep that I won’t arrive in Michigan having been awake for over 24 hours of subjective time (since my connecting flight is scheduled to land in Flint Bishop just before midnight, local time).  Aside from it feeling a little cooler and less sweltering tonight (it’s only 28°C in my room, practically freezing!), I’ve been using “sleep aid” tablets recently to help me get off to sleep more regularly; they’ve at least helped me get a few hours uninterrupted each night (until the birds start singing at the crack of dawn), and I’ll take some on the plane as well, in the hope that I can get some shut-eye.

If all goes well (IF!), and I land in Flint Bishop and am brought back to my friend’s family home around midnight without any problems, and I survive the night adjusting to (a) being five hours back in time and (b) having slept strange hours anyway, I’ll be all set for my two-week holiday to relax and enjoy being with my “second family”, sunbathing by the pool (hopefully the weather will improve), buying things in American malls (like shorts and flip-flops, since I lack these in Britain), and culminating in my first ever July 4th celebration within the US borders!

And when I come back here in the first week of July, I’ll have a new housemate, and one less stress-inducing person in my life (and hopefully discover no acts of vengeance by him); since I don’t go back to work until the following Monday, I’ll have a four-day weekend to recover from jet lag (though my personal trainer will be seeing me on the Friday evening!).

Somehow, I think I’ll need a holiday to recover from the ordeal of travelling to and from the United States… but you never know, I might write something interesting in this blog while I’m out there — just to remind you all:

DAVE-ROS LIVES, EVEN WHEN HE’S ON HOLIDAY!!!

Bad timing

I’m wondering if I should be going away on holiday on Wednesday for two weeks: my “drummer-trucker” housemate is moving out at the start of July, and off work for the intervening time.  I feel a certain paranoia that he’ll figure out I’m away on holiday (or find out from someone), and leave me a “parting gift”… and paranoid panic isn’t surprising today, after a visit to my folks in Worthing that I also wish I’d done another weekend instead…

It was my last chance to see my folks before my holiday in Michigan (and after their trip to the Canaries); although my mother and grandmother arranged for me to have some US dollars as spending money, the exchange rate at the moment is through the floor (about £1=$1.24, when it had been at least $1.50 or even $1.70 every other time!) — would it have been better to buy before the election, I wonder?  Hopefully it’ll recover a bit more once I’m over there, for the things I buy on my debit card — and yes, I’m grateful to my folks: while this isn’t the first time they’ve given me £100 towards a holiday, it’s the first holiday I’ll have taken since 2014, and I’ll need cash out there (especially at the airport).

Coming home this weekend was problematic due to the huge number of people who decided to flock from London at the same time as me, except in their case it was because of the heatwave; I’d wanted to draw a picture in my mother’s belated birthday card (I really should have done it the night before), but had to wait until I was home before I got enough space to indulge my creativity!  On top of that, crowding is still bringing out anxiety in me, and I’m increasingly sure that it’s stress and adrenaline that’s causing my dizzy spells. Let’s also mention the roadworks right outside the level crossing where I get off the train… the heatwave also meant I couldn’t sleep at my family home, as it meant having to leave my windows open and listen to the noise outside (drunk revellers and seagulls), which didn’t help my relaxation situation.

(And as though that wasn’t bad enough, the nice man who does my hair when I come down to Worthing wasn’t available this exact weekend, so I’ll have to get my locks shorn in Michigan, something I haven’t done since March 1999!)

However, the biggest mistake I made this weekend involved baggage for my holiday: not the mini-suitcase I’d borrowed from my folks previously, and somehow thought would be big enough for me (I only brought it down this evening, and saw it really is more like carry-on size), but the new backpack I got in Worthing, on a shopping trip with my mother.  At first I thought I’d made a mistake getting it, focusing too much on the front belts to hold the straps together (something my personal trainer had recommended) and not enough on the pockets.  I was relieved to find it has plenty of pockets inside… including a “secret” one under the top flap.

If I’d taken the time to get used to this bag first, I wouldn’t have put my phone in that special place… along with a USB thumbdrive and an SD card I’d brought home with me and was taking back to London.  Thing is, you see, if you don’t zip up the compartment, anything in there falls out when you close the bag… and not into the main body of the bag, but outside.  It wasn’t until I neared London and was putting my phone away that I realised I’d left it unzipped, and panicked as I searched the interior of the bag, and the interior of the train, for the things I’d dropped (nearly losing my US dollars in the process), though I quickly realised that, since I’d taken my phone out while on the station platform (to play Pokémon GO, of course), that would be when they’d fallen out…

I had to wait for my mother to finish in the gym back in Worthing before I could implore her to go and search for my dropped data devices on the platform.  The SD card had my Wii saved games on it, and wasn’t irreplaceable, but the USB thumbdrive contained my diary (the one I’ve been keeping since 1992) and a copy of my Outlook e-mails, amongst other things — in short, stuff I wouldn’t want the wrong person to get hold of.  I was sweating like crazy as I got back here, but fortunately Mumsy found the USB device at least, so no-one’s going to steal my identity or anything like that.  No sign of the SD card, but (a) I already knew I’d be breaking my unbroken run of nightly Wii Fit Plus measurements as of Wednesday, and (b) I can replay Dead Space: Extraction and catch up with where I was before, though it sucks having to do so.  Rescuing my private files was the important thing, and I’m grateful to my mother (and whatever gods heard my prayers) for helping me.

Still, it’s a bit late in the game to get such a harsh lesson on privacy and protecting one’s identity — take my advice and take good care of your devices!  Perhaps it’s better to send something to yourself via e-mail, or use an online backup service… and above all, change your passwords regularly (something I’ve been derelict in doing).  I have to hope my soon-departing housemate won’t try to hack into my computer while I’m abroad, looking through my files (and indeed, seeing what I’d said about him!), when I’ve just averted something similar…

It was extraordinarily bad timing that I chose a time of my life in which I’m experiencing massive amounts of stress, resulting in “brain fuzz”, to get so overwrought — but hey, I’ve needed this holiday for a long time, so maybe, just maybe, I can relax once I’m out there… as long as I don’t worry about what “drummer-trucker” is doing back here… oh damn!