Monthly Archives: August 2013

Surrounded by idiots

Yes, this entry is rather later than I intended, but with good reason: when I came back from Worthing two weekends ago, I found that one of my housemates had cut us off the Internet — literally, with a hedge trimmer (his response: “oh, sorry”).  We thought we’d have an inconvenient few days before Virgin Media could splice in a new cable, but on Thursday just gone, we were informed that it would be another two weeks before someone would come to dig up our garden so that the entire length of cable could be replaced.

As a result, I’ve had to study IT at work after hours, and console myself during the long weekend (when I wasn’t visiting “female best friend” in Sheffield for her housewarming) by, er, playing games, both with “Call of…”  in the title (Call of Juarez: Gunslinger is actually really good, and helps me remember the face of my father…).  However, I’ve also made a couple of purchases from 3 (Three): a new mobile PAYG SIM, with dirt-cheap Internet access (compared to my ageing Tesco Mobile account), so I can post inane drivel on Facebook at any time instead of only when I’m at home; and a USB dongle (ooh, Matron!) to grant me access on this computer for basic tasks like e-mails and, well, this inane drivel.

Unfortunately, in the latter case I made a critical mistake: I lent it to my housemate (not the guy who cut us off, but the guy who is now our de facto head of household), who managed to use up almost all of the original 1GB allowance in the space of an hour, after I’d used up a mere 60MB!  So tonight I tried to put more allowance on; my debit card didn’t seem to work (or else 3’s website is broken), and my credit card took so long to work that it looked like it hadn’t, as even though they said I had another 1024MB allowance, they were still redirecting me to their walled garden when I tried to go to websites!

But all that aside, here I am now.  I can’t use this thing to do my online studying, of course, so I’ll be going back to Worthing on Friday to spend the week in the bosom of my family, revising IT and very likely going climbing with Mumsy more than once (I’m sure she’ll be delighted if I play Gwar for her in the car again!).

Want to know the worst part?  The annoying woman at work is taking next week off as well, so I’ll be missing a chance to work in an office from which she is absent.  Argh!  Oh well, at least I was able to enjoy a week without her earlier this month (and bought doughnuts for the office by way of celebration… well, the official story is that we’re so miserable without her that we need cheering up, the unofficial story is that I don’t want her eating them all, and the true story is that I don’t want her coming over to thank me for buying them!).

Anyway, when I come back to London on 6th September, oh boy, Virgin Media had better have sorted us out, or I’m going to be incandescent with rage!  But if not, I’m going to make up for lost time by signing up to all sorts of meetup groups, something I’ve not been able to do without a working Internet connection…

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Getting healthier all the time

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“One more day and we’ll be totally ripped!”

This is a relatively quick post about health matters (and also to ensure people remember this blog exists) — I plan to write something a bit more substantial this weekend, possibly a “complaints” post, but for now, I have good news…

As you know (if you’ve been paying attention), I’ve been seeing a personal trainer torturer since mid-March, and on Thursday he put me through the very same tests he inflicted upon me during that first assessment, on what was (according to these hallowed pages) a particularly bad day.  It emerged that I’d improved phenomenally from those early days, achieving in some cases a 200% increase in reps or times (though leg raises let me down, as I’d only gained a paltry 100%).  The guy seemed quite impressed, and said I should be proud — but hey, I couldn’t have achieved it without him!  I’d tout his business here if I thought anyone reading this actually lived in the north London area, but for now, I’ll have to settle for getting someone who works at the Castle to add this guy’s service to her wishlist…

And speaking of the Castle, I went there to climb with “best mate” (who I hadn’t seen since pulling out of joining him on a visit to Cornwall a couple of weeks ago — and he reckons I had a lucky escape after what went on during that trip!), and managed to do so despite my aching limbs.  I also intend to climb with my mother this weekend, assuming I can make it home (it’s one of those weekends when the Northern Line is closing, due to both days ending with a “Y”).  Phew!

I’ve probably mentioned before that I’ve lost around 20 pounds (er, around 10kg, or something of that order) since the start of this year; this seems to have improved my health overall, as I hardly ever get colds any more (my trip to America was an unfortunate exception — I was blowing my nose constantly as we arrived at ‘Frisco), and has also boosted my self-image and morale.  Yeah, I backslide occasionally, but this seems to be down to diet: I need to avoid overdosing on protein and experiencing the “Atkins Attitude” (a reference to the fad diet, not to my personal trainer — his attitude is always positive!), but my eating habits remain a work in progress and I’ll sort it out eventually.

In the meantime my main problem appears to be getting enough sleep, as I keep having late nights due to all the stuff I need to take care of.  Like this blog, for example — and so, on that basis, go away and let me rest!

(P.S. As an avid reader of Private Eye magazine, I cannot help but be delighted that this is my 94th post…)

Exploring emotions: Loneliness

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I wouldn’t mind being this alone on the Tube during the morning rush hour, quite frankly

It’s clear to me that I’ve been spending more and more of my life alone over the years, and frankly I don’t think it’s healthy, hence my recent attempts to get out and socialise more.  ‘Twas not always this way, though… it took a while for me to be driven into my shell.

At playschool, and then at infant school, I had friends; I even had them over for my birthday parties and just generally.  This continued through to middle school (school years were a bit funny when I were a lad — it wasn’t until around later that everything was standardised into primary and secondary school), when it was quite normal for me to have a friend over, or go over to a friend’s house, more or less every Friday after school (on one occasion sending my grandfather home when he’d come to pick me up from school, because I’d forgotten to arrange with him!).  I also had a couple friends who would often come over to visit during the holidays (especially summer), possibly unannounced, so it was lucky I had two joysticks for my Amstrad!

But even with all that going on, I didn’t go to any after-school events (apart from a brief flirtation with my middle school’s cricket club in 1987 — yes, I can remember the year!), and being an only child, I spent much of my time alone.  I wasn’t lonely, though, as I had toys (Transformers, M.A.S.K., Action Force, Real Ghostbusters etc. etc.) and computer games to entertain me, and my home life consisted of effectively three parents (my mother and maternal grandparents) and one crazy Jack Russell terrier, so there was always someone around to keep me company if I needed it.

At secondary school I began to have a little more of a solitary existence, as I very seldom interacted (except by phone, due to homework issues!) with my classmates outside school hours, which was unusual because, as a young teenager, I was expected to be “doing things” most nights a week, and more especially at the weekend.  But it didn’t bother me, and I was happy to occasionally meet with a group of friends, to visit a theme park or go dry-skiing (at which I inevitably sucked), and I still had a couple of friends visiting me during the holidays.  It was also during the summer of 1991 that I began walking the dog by myself, which I found gave me the chance to think (and get some exercise).  I was spending much of my life engaged in fantasies (no, not sexual… at least, not during the day!), and I was becoming increasingly introverted, but I didn’t feel lonely…

And then in 1992 we moved to Worthing, and my life went down the toilet.  It’s a dull town at the best of times, and I wasn’t happy at my school (certainly not for my first year there, the academic year I turned 15 — which we Brits called “Year 10” from that point onwards), where even the girls were bullying me, and I found it very hard to make friends.  Hey, it was the Christmas holidays before I even went over someone’s house!  It got a little better in later years, but by this point, with a few exceptions, I was really only socialising at school, not in my spare time.  However, I still had my family (and dog), and TV and video games to entertain me, so even though my mother thought I was spending too much time “in front of one screen or the other” (as she said at the time), I wasn’t lonely — even if I spent most breaktimes during that first year all alone, and was glad of lunchtime Latin classes…

beavbutt

How many times have these obnoxious teenagers enabled me to make friends? (Uh huh huh huh…)

University was a mixed bag: I didn’t exactly have a lot of girlfriends, but surprisingly I found having a group of male friends in my first year (or at least the first term of the first year) to be excellent!  Until our little ka-tet broke apart, I was able to play cards (or, yay, video games) with my mates most of the time, or just have interesting conversations, and I really felt like I was socialising and part of something.  1997 was a bad year for me overall, and I was lucky to hold on to the friends (and sanity!) I had, and 1998 was actually a bit worse, though when I was partnered for a 5-week geological mapping trip with two guys I’d thought were drunken yobs, I found out that they liked Beavis and Butt-head too, and so we actually had a pretty good time in the Scottish highlands doing Cornholio impressions and chuckling about innuendo!

As for my 8-month student exchange in America, well, I would have been even lonelier if not for having a roommate (which is normal at US universities, even though it’s almost unheard-of here), as I just didn’t have the confidence to interact or do many interesting things, and preferred to “stay at home” most nights (which is probably why I only dated a couple of girls instead of half the female population of the continental United States, eh?).  My mother was lonely at this time too, and I think we kept each other going with our e-mail conversations, and I kept her company when I got back, as she was living away from her folks at this time (looking after a friend’s house in an area that actually paid half-decent wages).  This continued in my final year back at my own university, where — especially in 2000 — I could spend days without really interacting with other warm bodies, and often found myself craving social contact.  Moving back to live with my folks in Worthing made things even worse, but fortunately I still had a couple of local friends (from both school and university days — I’d gone to a place beloved of people who live on the south coast!), and I could also hang out with the oldsters at the local astronomy society, where I helped out most Fridays.

One thing I noticed about my socialising since coming to London is that even when I’ve had friends and housemates whose company I enjoy — from my postgrad days through to living with former classmates, and making new friends through my Japanese studies — I’ve still often preferred my own company, to the point of “playing to lose” in household board games so I could excuse myself and go back to my room, where I’d play (inevitably) video games or interact with weird people on wacky online forums.  Was I withdrawing from the real world into a fantasy realm?  Should I have enjoyed my close friends more in the time I had left with them, as they themselves moved on to other places?

Well, I think I made the most of “female best friend” before she moved up north for her PhD, exposing her to various anime shows including Space Battleship Yamato (a “cool thing” in these hallowed pages, as you may remember), but once she’d gone, I began finding it a little hard to make new friends, and eventually I wasn’t able to befriend Japanese girls at the monthly meetup events in Leicester Square as much as I could.  I also had an ultimately-futile flirtation with online and speed-dating in 2010 and 2011, and even today it’s quite normal for me to go places (especially shopping) all by myself, which sometimes can really get to me.  For a long time work represented my main “social interaction” — which isn’t healthy, and certainly didn’t help in 2009-10, when I was adjusting to a new office (and the annoying woman), and had a very difficult time fitting in.  I had a good time on my holiday in the western USA earlier this year, but even there I felt lonely and withdrawn at times (having a bad cold in ‘Frisco didn’t help), and only a couple of people from that trip are my Facebook friends now, making me worry that I didn’t get on as well with the rest of the group as I thought I did…

But one thing I need to remember is that other people in the world have it far worse than me, especially now I’m “back on the horse” and going out to Meetup.com events semi-regularly.  My poor mother, for one, reckons I’ve got a lot more friends than her — perhaps based on the massive response I had on Facebook (I know, serious busi… no, wait, Facebook actually matters to people in 2013!) when I had that breakdown in November 2011 — and I’m going to continue trying to enjoy my life and making new friends so she can live vicariously through me.  Plus, of course, I’ll visit her and my grandmother as often as I can, because even though it’s Worthing, they’re really all I’ve got family-wise, since I’ve lost my grandfather, my (cool) uncle, and even the crazy dog I grew up with, over the years (bereavement is another emotion I’ll explore, if I ever get around to writing about it).  And obviously, I’ll keep climbing with Mumsy, because we both enjoy it, and she never gets to go unless I’m there, which makes me sad.

Yes, even though most of the people I’ve known in my life have moved on and got their own lives (and families), today I can still see and interact with real, living people.  Not only “best mate”, with whom I go climbing and to the cinema, but someone I shall refer to as “crazy Asian broad” (older than me, but being Oriental means she looks younger), who might just represent the next step in breaking my period of increasing loneliness.  I won’t say too much in case my mother reading this automatically jinxes things…

I guess it comes down to this: we’re a social animal, and we need contact with our own kind — or at least the possibility of contact, even if we prefer solitude at times.  But we need to put effort into maintaining social contact, and not just treat it as something we can take or leave as we see fit.  Above all else, we need to be comfortable with ourselves, and not worry too much about socialising “the right amount”, as a quasi-psychologist named Hayley Quinn (who I met via “Shy London” — and yes, she based her stage name on a Batman character!) told me yesterday, in a therapeutic session that helped me get things in perspective.

On that basis, after having gone climbing today and made acquaintances, both old and new, at “the Session”, I’m going to relax and have a night in tonight, all right?  Leave me alone and stop bothering me with demands for more blog entries, you clinging parasi… I mean, good night and $DEITY bless!

(And hey, even though I mentioned climbing a hell of a lot, I didn’t refer to Gwar even once… oh, damn!)

Making up for lost time

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IT guru Robb Tracy, the unholy offspring of Barry Gibb and Max Headroom

As you would imagine, I’ve been very busy lately, what with socialising and studying IT; indeed, I actually blew off a trip to Cornwall with “best mate” so I could catch up on my A+ studies, since I’ve got to account for myself on Wednesday.  However, I’m going to make an effort to post more in this blog, since so many things are changing in my life now, and I’m turning so many corners that only some Lovecraftian non-Euclidean warping of space could possibly explain why I haven’t ended up right where I started…

I really am making up for lost time in a number of ways: not just by socialising generally, and doing things I should have done years ago (like having actual friends that I actually see), but also in terms of romance.  Yes, as I said before, I’ve been going on what for want of a better word I shall call “dates”, and the most recent of these, with a woman I met at “Shy London” a couple of weeks ago, seems to be the most promising.  She’s actually older than me, but being Oriental doesn’t show it so much, and I enjoy talking and joking with her about our experiences… we even have things in common, like a love for heavy metal music (yes, I’ll try to get her to listen to Gwar, for the music if not for the lyrics!), and a passive-aggressive housemate (though in my case, that particular individual has moved out to be with her boyfriend).  We even kissed good night, and that was the first time it had happened to me in years…

I don’t necessarily think this woman is “the one”, and I won’t be buying a ring or anything (even though yet another of my classmates from school has wedding photos on Facebook today!), but it’s good to shake things up and try new experiences — like I said, things I should have done years ago (but couldn’t, because the girl in Michigan was keeping her virtue, if you know what I mean).  We’ll see how far this relationship goes, and even if nothing else happens, at least it’s something different from my usual routine of “fancy girl, ogle girl, fail to talk to girl, sulk”, occasionally punctuated with “fancy girl, talk to girl, discover girl has boyfriend, grudgingly be friends with girl, sulk”.

Plus, people have been noting recently that I’ve lost weight — not because I told them what my scales (and Wii Fit Plus) had been telling me, but entirely out of the blue and with no prompting whatsoever.  Maybe things really are looking up after all, and 2013 is going to be my year…

Anyway, more articles coming up here (once I’m over the worst of my IT course), including a “cool things” post about thunderstorms (a good one being as elusive as a good woman, it seems, and many failing to satisfy), and an “exploring emotions” about loneliness, a feeling I’m trying to combat, but which in the past never really bothered me.  Ooh, self-analytical navel-gazing, I’m sure you’re all riveted!