Monthly Archives: December 2013

On into 2014


You’ll be pleased to know my new smartphone plays the sound of Roger going “Myah!”, because it’s less annoying than the cursed Samsung whistle

Yes, it’s the obligatory last post of 2013!  Just to summarise the Christmas break: I’ve mostly been lazing at home in Worthing, occasionally going for walks with my mother (or doing yoga when the heating broke), studying IT, watching TV, replaying the original Thief (in anticipation of the reboot coming out in 2014), and tinkering with my new Samsung Galaxy Note II smartphone (which is excellent, but more of a battery hog than my old HTC Desire Z!).  I’ve eaten too much thanks to my grandmother’s cooking, and have been coughing thanks to catching something from my mother, but am looking forward to returning to London, if not to work…

I didn’t achieve everything I set out to do in 2013: I fell out of the habit of translating Japanese children’s books, and didn’t get far with that Dalek strategy game, though both remain in existence and can be resumed in the future.  I also didn’t even begin searching for my father, though I intend to do so in 2014 (perhaps making a road trip of it with “best mate”, the guy I used to call “newest friend”).

However, I certainly got fit (thanks largely to my “personal torturer” and the pride it evoked in my mother), and I’ve remained off the wagon (I’ll be having some champagne with my mother later tonight — my grandmother’s drinking something else).  I also got rid of a bookcase, with another to go hopefully soon, and also finally disposed of my old computer desk; and, as you know, I went to America as I’d planned, despite my prior trepidation.  A pity my assistance to the local campaigners couldn’t stop the scumbag Tories in Barnet council from handing almost everything to incompetent private companies, but it’s not like they’ll get voted back in next year anyway, so why would they even care what us proles think?

Of course, in terms of fighting depression and anxiety, 2013 wasn’t an unalloyed success for me: I got down after my holiday, had a very mixed day at “female best friend’s” wedding, and later got even more down than perhaps ever before, feeling lousy again even later.  However, I’ve started socialising (perhaps too much), and also begun in earnest my efforts to leave admin behind and start a career in IT.  I’ve tried to meet women, and though at times I’ve felt naive optimism, I’ve also come closer to figuring out what it is I want, though remembering what was, regretting what might have been, and remaining aware of what I don’t want to become,

And that last linked post sums up nicely another thing I’ve been doing in 2013: gratuitous Gwar references in this blog!  Well, I’ve been mentioning them since a post in March, so why would you think I’d stop now?  I enjoy their insane songs backed by incredible guitar work, so tough, they’ll always have a home here at “Dave-ros Lives!”, until such time as I grow beyond them (which, let’s face it, is unlikely to happen while I continue to put my own enjoyment ahead of what society thinks I should be doing “at my age”).

Blogwise, apart from coming to terms with things here and airing my dirty laundry, I’m most proud that I was able to big up Doctor Who on its 50th anniversary (which happened to fall on the same day of the week as the original broadcast), and I also paid respects to Beavis and Butt-head, which I watched all the way through, giving me something to joke about with “best mate” (and inspiring me to listen to Gwar and Black Sabbath).  I also infamously blogged about gender politics (ooh, I still feel enraged by that Bertolli advert), but it’s worth noting that I saw a young woman give up her seat for a pregnant woman on the Tube recently, so perhaps we’re finally entering an age of truly equal rights…?

(Oh, and I’ve also been “exploring emotions” and “unapologising” in 2013, but you can look those posts up for yourselves!)

There, has that summed up my 2013 sufficiently?  Well, I need to be back at work on Thursday the 2nd, but thanks to ongoing problems with trains, it’s going to be difficult for me to get back to London (and my superior computer) tomorrow — but that’s when I’ll post about my plans for 2014.  However, sneak preview: these will include getting laid and listening to more Gwar… whaddaya mean, that’s obvious?!  Well, I suppose any normal bloke would say he wants to listen to Gwar, but I still feel compelled to mention it here!

Anyway, I hope all those reading have (or have had) a happy new year, and in 2014, rather than merely existing or surviving, let’s hope that, once and for all, DAVE-ROS LIVES!

Exploring emotions: Hatred

There are 387.44 million miles of printed circuits in wafer-thin layers that fill my complex.  If the word HATE was engraved on each nanoangstrom of those hundreds of millions of miles it would not equal one one-billionth of the hate I feel for humans at this micro-instant for you.  Hate.  Hate.
–Harlan Ellison, “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”


Is it worth hating Justin Beiber? Would that be giving this pitiful, talentless nonentity too much attention?

And so we come to the final of my explorations of negative emotion — it’s the last thing I have to face and overcome before 2013 ends.

But I won’t be focusing on things that merely “grind my gears”, such as delays on the London Underground, the “Samsung Whistle”, the British weather, the music of The Streets*, annoying laughs in confined spaces, the BBC’s Wimbledon coverage**, peas, the song “Horny ’98”, reality TV**, the British obsession with football, being asked at supermarkets for loyalty cards, cyclists in London***, supermarket self-checkouts, having to work for a living, drunk people, incompetent IT staff, cab drivers in London***, winter, tooth-cleaning at the dentist, unrepentent smokers, the Simpsons episode “Homer’s Enemy”****, having to get up in the morning, happy couples when you’re terminally single, catching cold during a holiday…

* “British Eminem”, my butt, he’s not even the British Vanilla Ice!
** Not the quality, the fact that it exists at all.
*** Who don’t seem to understand traffic lights, or understand them but think “they don’t apply to me”.
**** Anything which makes me hate Homer Simpson, even for a few minutes, is worthy of damnation!

No, I won’t be complaining about any of these in this article on hatred, even though they all deserve it; nor will I be droning on about how much I hate the great dictators and mass-murderers of our world.  And I don’t even mean Hitler, Stalin, Pol-Pot, Jong-Il, or all the others who have done the decent thing and relieved us of their miserable existences: I’m talking about traitors to their own like Cotton Mather (on whose instructions more women were murdered than Jack the Ripper ever dreamed of), or the incompetent generals we had during WWI.  No, they’re also dead and buried, and we’re richer for having lost them.  What’s the use of hating people who are already in Hell (if such a place even exists)?


Brian Coleman: beneath contempt, which is to say, it’s easier to pity him than to hate him

And then there’s the corrupt politicians who ru(i)n things in Britain, especially Barnet: after having privatised almost everything, putting the social care of vulnerable adults in the hands of an incompetent company that needed bailing out (to the tune of £1m) after a year, and giving over parking enforcement to an organisation that frankly can’t be trusted (a chap named Mr. Mustard takes them to task regularly), none of which they had a mandate for and none of which they allowed the public to question them about to any useful degree, they continue to claim allowances despite having rendered their jobs effectively pointless.  Bexley also has things particularly bad (see this excellent blog), but the rot starts at the top: there just aren’t any decent political parties left in this country as all they want to do is fleece us and then claim to be serving our interests by blocking things on the Internet (such as political debate, before too long).  But while hating these idiots would certainly be less futile than hating abstract concepts like “poverty” or “ignorance”, I’m not going to make proclamations about who’ll be “first against the wall” on the “glorious day”, because that didn’t work in the 1970s either…

(I mean for other people, not for me, obviously — I wasn’t born until three years before the end!)

So what, or who, do I have left to hate?  I don’t hate meat eaters, even though I refuse to apologise for being a vegetarian (remember that?), and nor do I hate organised religion, despite wanting to keep it out of my life (remember that?).  I also never hated Jeremy Beadle or Noel Edmonds when it was fashionable to do so, nor do I despise Jeremy Clarkson today (because I know it’s a “persona” and that he’s actually relatively, ahem, normal off-camera).  Then there’s the BNP and the Church of Scientology (I know I mentioned politics and religion already, but neither of them count), who just make me feel tired rather than angry these days — go on, disappear into irrelevancy, you have no purpose any more except to make us sneer.

Am I becoming mellow?  Have I run out of things to hate before I’ve even finished this blog entry?  No.  I have the memory of hatred, and I need to make sure I never go down that path again.  I remember hating the people who treated me badly at secondary school (as mentioned in this post) — the ones who always told me “don’t take it so seriously” rather than lay off when they saw it upsetted me to be treated like a freak and an outsider — and it’s really to them that I attribute my general introvercy.  I was always introverted to some extent, but they robbed me of all my self-esteem and made me not want to go out and interact with people at all.  However, I don’t carry that baggage with me any more: it was years ago, after all… what they did to me was really minor, and it took things like the works of Eminem and the TV docu-drama Walking on the Moon to make me realise that.  They were just stupid teens (as was I), and while I don’t really want to see them again, I have forgiven them.

There was also our final “third housemate” at Caledonian Road: after a succession of people who were either fun or relatively quiet, the only one to stay for more than a year was a guy who I initially thought would be a cool “fellow geek”, but who almost immediately began getting on my nerves, leaving the kitchen in a mess, making a lot of noise at night time, and — of course — loudly having sex one night in October 2011, the real beginning of my depression and the hatred I felt for my entire life.  I don’t even know when I stopped being able to answer his fool questions (e.g. nagging me about what Quorn is made of, or who’d win in a fight between a samurai and a ninja) and starting trying my best to avoid him at all costs.  I’m pretty sure his messy behaviour was the primary driving force behind “good housemate” moving into his own flat… and the worst thing is, I ended up feeling glad when he came home after that move-out took place, and loathing my desperation for human company.  And on that final, terrible day that we cleaned the house before moving out, he was largely unhelpful; when he left, I felt an almost physical separation of life paths, a cosmic cry of “good riddance”.  But, again, although I hope never to see him again, I’m not going to waste any more emotion on him…

(I hope my current problematic housemate isn’t going to go down the same route, though he’s certainly been getting on my nerves recently, and has been having a go at me about my vegetarianism from the beginning — and he brought a girl home a couple of weeks ago… fortunately our house has sturdier floors and thicker walls than at Caledonian Road, so I didn’t have to listen to it all night!)

The worst thing of all is self-loathing, and I’ve had enough of that in my lifetime.  Other people have felt it in the past for being homosexual (Kenneth Williams deserved a happier life, being such a gentle soul), but in my case, it was for heterosexuality, as I felt like a truly awful person at university.  It’s all very well saying I shouldn’t have, that girls didn’t instinctively hate me and that I was just shy and clumsy, and that being caught between “girl power” and “lad culture” really didn’t help, but at the time, especially in early 1997, I felt like I was horrible for being attracted to women.  My, ahem, “friends” didn’t help by getting me drunk, convincing me to chat up a girl they claimed fancied me and then telling me I was “desperate”… and I let that incident, and similar, drive me down a great deal, making me feel somehow apologetic for being interested in women.

Be clear, though, that I didn’t think heterosexuality in and of itself was evil and wrong: just my own… no wonder I longed for celibacy over the years.  It’s only now, in 2013, that I’m getting over this stupid self-loathing, and realising that there’s nothing wrong with being openly heterosexual and wanting to meet women and “play the field”, rather than wait naively for my perfect woman to somehow materialise out of thin air.  I’m not dirty or disgusting (well, not for this specific personality trait, anyway) for wanting to meet women I find physically attractive rather than solely getting to know them as people; I am in fact — though I hate to use the word — normal.

While I may have felt self-loathing in the late 1990s, I never contemplated suicide at that time (except perhaps in terms of crossing the road without looking both ways).  Conversely, my suicidal thoughts in late 2011 and early 2012 were nothing to do with ridding the world of my pestilent presence; they arose simply because I hated my life and how I felt, and more than anything I wanted to “switch it off”.  Don’t worry, I’m well over that part of my life now, and feel pity rather than loathing for the person I was then.  I’ve done so much to change things in 2013 that I don’t hate my life like I used to; perhaps I needed “third housemate” and his night of debauchery to shake me out of my complacency after all… would I ever have started climbing or gone to Las Vegas otherwise?

So, if I don’t hate things I complain about, or long-dead tyrants, or former bullies, or my own existence, what am I left with?  Well, to paraphrase (badly) Franklin D. Roosevelt: I have nothing to hate but hatred itself!


And now, to lighten the mood with a gratuitous (and, yes, inevitable) Gwar reference: the bridge of the song “Blimey” (from the album America Must Be Destroyed), featuring some of the historical monsters I didn’t mention in my diatribe above…

“That’s right, folks — here in the Hall of Human Hatred we’ve got some of your most inspired brethren, genocidal maniacs who carved their way through the history books straight into your hearts!  We’ve got Caligula, mad emperor of Rome, whose purges consumed thousands on his blazing altar of syphilis!  Or how about Giles Laval, medieval crusader of God’s will, whose search for the elixir of life led to the ritual Satanic killing of hundreds of Parisien youth!  Or Julius, religious despot, whose slaughter of the intelligentsia of Milan gave him the nickname of ‘The Warrior Pope’!  That’s right, some of the greatest mass-murderers in your sad yet vibrant history are here enshrined, impaled, and pumped with agonising LIFE!”

It goes nicely with Gwar “killing” hate figures such as Sarah Palin on stage (or Osama and Dubya in their post-9/11 video “Immortal Corrupter”), doesn’t it?  Ahh, I feel mellower already…

Lucky to be home for Christmas


The real “last chopper out of Saigon”, as photographed by Hubert van Es

I know I’ve complained in the past about being stuck in Worthing, but with all that happened on Tuesday, I’m relieved that I made it home for Christmas at all!  I could, after all, still be stuck in London even today (the 27th), cut off from my folks and stuck in a house with a certain unwitting bully

It’s worth highlighting just how amazing it was that my mother plucked me out of Greater London Saigon on Tuesday afternoon.  Not only did she somehow find her way to Woking despite a miniature lake blocking her direct route there, but her phone’s Navigation app directed us home through mysterious country roads in something that may or may not have come from Stephen King’s short story, “Mrs. Todd’s Shortcut”, as I’m sure we passed out of this world at least once.  I’d been having flashes of deja vu all day, and more so on this leg of the journey, which made me wonder whether this was my time to die: perhaps that’s why some beneficient higher power sent a slow-moving tractor to block our route and reduce us to a crawl through roads that, while open, were still partially flooded or blocked by fallen branches.  If old Farmer Giles hadn’t kept us at a safe speed, who knows what we might have blundered into?

And, in any case, rejoining the motorway well south of Dorking may have spared us something terrible, as that whole region of the Home Counties seems to have had the worst of the flooding (particularly Leatherhead).  In all honesty, it felt as though the entire Greater London area was collapsing into a fiery pit behind us as we drove away, the demons of Hell flapping at our backs, reaching for our very souls… well, not quite, but I’m still glad we made it home before nightfall, and my mother deserves a serious commendation for her driving ability.

(But I suspect all the OBEs etc. will continue to go to political cronies and business shysters as usual, rather than the genuinely-deserving heroes…)

Not only did my mother pull my fat out of the fryer on Tuesday, she also helped me out on Thursday, above and beyond the call of duty.  She’d already taken me into town once to buy my “official” Christmas present, a Samsung Galaxy Note II (courtesy of Computer Exchange); we were lucky that they found one in the back that was “as new”, but no more expensive than the ones on the shelf, and with all accoutrements in the box.  It’s bigger than my mother’s S3, and way bigger than the titchy HTC Desire Z I’ve been labouring with since March 2012 (back when it seemed good).

However, it wasn’t until I got home that I realised my normal-sized 3 SIM wouldn’t fit inside my new “phablet”, due to it needing a micro-SIM, and I didn’t want to risk cutting it myself!  Mumsy called me when I was at the bus stop to announce that there were no buses on the 26th (thanks Stagecoach, you remind me why I hated travelling when I used to live in Worthing), and even though she’s had a nasty cold for the past few days, she drove me back again to visit the 3 shop in Worthing, without complaining (though to thank her on this occasion, I stopped playing Gwar and instead put on Happy Hour by King Missile, an album I’ve been lending her for some months now).

I’m also lucky to have my grandmother here to provide three square meals a day for me (just in case she’s reading), and also to ensure a well-heated house thanks to her getting the Winter Heating Allowance.  And “lucky” is the right word, because she had a health scare earlier in the year — but for now, at least, she’s still with us, and sees another Christmas in this world.

It’s good to be home, even if I can’t do very much here beyond playing old PC games (I’m replaying Thief in anticipation of the new game next year), tinkering with my new phone, watching Freeview, taking long, hot baths, trying to get a USB-powered record player (one of the things I had to lug around on Tuesday) to send sound through my computer, and (rarely) studying IT (no exercising, thanks to my mother’s untimely cold).  Don’t worry, I bought presents for my folks, including some expensive perfume for my grandmother and some books on Japan for my mother, but they would probably say the best present was for me to make it down safely.  If I’d known, I wouldn’t have got them anything else… just kidding, Mumsy!

The weather hasn’t let up much, however: last night saw storms almost as bad as those of Sunday and Monday nights, which stopped me getting much sleep.  Despite this, Worthing, including our neighbouring village of Ferring, seems to have escaped the brunt of our Christmas “extreme weather” (I doubt a survivor of New Orleans would think we have much to complain about!), and for that I am grateful.  My mother wonders whether the spirits of our departed loved ones have been watching over and protecting us these past few days; certainly, we’ve been luckier than I would have expected considering the circumstances, and luckier than a lot of people in south-east England!

I might have been denied the chance to experience all this if I hadn’t been able to make it down — my mother was at one point considering telling me to turn around and go back up to Finchley!  And, assuming I could have made it that far, since Southern Railways were closed on Christmas Day as planned, and operating a skeleton service thereafter, I’d be stuck there perhaps even now — in a house with insufficient heating, no food (I made sure to use everything up before I went) and a jerk of a housemate sneering at me.  But also my excellent PC and plenty of games to play, admittedly, though nothing to attend as all my groups were shut down for Christmas as well.

Now I just have to worry about getting back up to London again, since I promised I’d return to work on the 2nd, and it’s just possible I’ll rouse myself sufficiently to go up for some New Year party or other on the big night, rather than wait for the 1st to travel.  As I said, Southern have decided to make it as difficult and tedious as possible to travel up from the Worthing area, including changing at Horsham, and one more big storm will probably see even that route closed, but what choice do I have?  At least I’ll be able to watch movies, read books, update Facebook or play Angry Birds on my new big-screen phone!

Plus, it’s not for a few days yet, so I’ve got time to relax a bit longer, and watch the hypnotic rain outside my window… oh, am I meant to be learning Windows 7 for a test?

The perfectly awful storm, or: Virtually no planes, trains or automobiles


This part of the journey was smooth, at least, though that’s possibly my mother gripping the dashboard in anguish as I force her to listen to Gwar yet again

Long-time readers may remember the trouble I had getting down to Worthing last Christmas to see my folks; well, at least this year there was slightly more justification for my nightmarish journey.  Instead of a single three-day signal failure in Preston Park, there was a two-day storm that laid waste to much of Great Britain and Ireland, and reduced us all to the level of animals… or so it seemed to one who was caught in the middle of the ensuing chaos.  Are you sitting comfortably?  Because I certainly wasn’t…

Nobly, I’d agreed previously to work both yesterday (Monday) and this morning; I witnessed problems with public transport yesterday, but faced none of it myself, the only problem I so much as passed through being a power cut at Highgate station, which didn’t stop me getting home to FInchley.  We didn’t have a flood, the power didn’t go out, and I wasn’t even kept awake by the wind, so I thought it’d all be fine, and that although there’d be problems on Tuesday morning, it’d be no worse than last year.  So imagine my dismay when I saw this morning that Southern Railways had suspended essentially their entire service! This was the day before they’d shut everything down completely on Christmas Day, and thus it couldn’t have come at a worse time, because I risked being stuck in London over the holiday period.

I went to work, for all the good that did (apart from effectively being the senior person on my side of the office, I had to fill my time scanning things that might not have even needed scanning, but which needed to be done individually anyway), and left after eating lunch around midday, wondering how I’d get home.  The Victoria-to-Brighton line hadn’t improved; indeed, after briefly being open as far south as Gatwick Airport, it had closed again due to a “cable fire” at East Croydon “until further notice” (a particularly melodramatic tweet suggested this would be “for the foreseeable future”).  And even if that part reopened, the rest of the line was only open from Brighton as far north as Haywards Heath, leaving a significant gap that they didn’t seem apt to fill with rail replacement buses.

Thus I went with plan B: go to Waterloo, get a train to somewhere in Surrey, and have my mother pick me up in the car.  She nominated Dorking, and off I went to give South-West Trains a try.  Having experienced their ineptness first-hand at university, I can only say it’s a sad, sad day when they seem to be the only people who can get you anywhere!

At Waterloo, however, the train situation was dire: “Cancelled” above almost every train on the board, especially the next one to Dorking, although the place wasn’t crowded.  I saw one that was going to Woking, a place in which my mother and I lived during 1999 as she looked after her friend’s house and I worked to make money before returning to university (following my Michigan odyssey), and Mumsy agreed to try and pick me up from there.  I scanned my Oyster card rather than pay for a ticket, and this was apparently fine as they weren’t charging people at this stage, as this would have probably caused a riot…

The train felt like the last chopper out of Saigon: so many people squashing in, and the veneer of civilisation peeling away as people desperate for a place to stand (yes, stand, all the seats were gone by this point) began arguing.  This included one of those obnoxiously smug middle-class types with a beard and tattoos (a bit like that idiot who does that chat show on BBC3 with his dad), whose attitude to an old man who couldn’t let him through (because they’d jammed into the same gap) was to get all sarcastic and snotty with him, as though it wasn’t his own fault!  I was in the same train carriage, or rather, the “lobby” at one end, where I’d finally given up trying to walk through the train itself and had resigned myself to sitting cross-legged on the floor, reading Private Eye and basically not antagonising anyone.  At least some of the ten or so people in this confined space with me had bags they could sit on, but most just stood…

Woking was supposed to be the first stop, but in fact we stopped at Clapham Junction (a hell of a place at the best of times, it has signs proclaiming it to be “Britains (sic.) busiest railway station”), apparently with the naive aim of taking on more passengers.  This was where things came very close to anarchy, as there was no way we could fit anyone else aboard, but the driver announced that the passengers on the platform weren’t letting the train leave until they could get on!  I imagine only the fact that my part of the train wasn’t “at” the platform prevented me from feeling like I’d entered a George A. Romero zombie movie.

(Mind you, any busy night on the Tube is like that: why don’t people realise that you have to get OFF the train before there’s room for them to get ON!)

Oh, and did I mention, I was right next to a toilet — as soon as the train started moving, something must have been stirred up in the waste tanks because I got a sickly smell of urine.  At least, I hope it came from the toilet…

Finally we got to Woking, but oh no: the doors didn’t open!  For one horrible, panicky moment I wanted to pull the emergency cord, as the next stop would be Basingstoke, a place I don’t believe actually exists outside of references in a Monty Python sketch, but fortunately the driver asked the train guard to unlock the doors, and I was able to escape.  Woking seemed a singularly appropriate place, as I felt like I’d been caught up in the mass exodus of The War of the Worlds, albeit in more or less the opposite direction.  Indeed, I saw a Martian Fighting Machine… down the end of the pedestrianised area from the pub where I sat and waited out of the cold.

It took my mother another hour or so to reach Woking (thanks to flooding on the road to Dorking), but once I found her in the car park on the opposite side of the station, we were able to return home before it got fully dark.  Admittedly, Android Navigation directed us down some creepy country roads before we got to the A24, but none of them were (completely) blocked by fallen trees or puddles, so perhaps it was helping us to avoid the worst of the travel chaos on the roads?

And so here I am, rested, bathed, fed, and about to hand out presents to my mother and grandmother.  I also brought home a record player, so I can listen to my late uncle’s vinyl, such as Alice Cooper and Black Sabbath, during my week-long exile here in Worthing.  I’m glad to be in the bosom (uh huh huh etc.) of my family again, but I can’t help but worry about how I’m going to get back to London in the New Year: it seems Southern are suspending part of the route (between Redhill and Purley) for the entire period, and that they’d planned to do this even before the travel chaos!

I should point out that a lot of people elsewhere in the country have things much, much worse than me: they’re still waiting for a train or a plane (Gatwick copped the worst of it, I think), sitting at home with the power off, or being evacuated due to rising floodwaters.  And yes, they had things much worse in the Philippines, New Orleans and Japan in recent years, but they had hurricanes and earthquakes — what excuse do we have, for what I can only describe as greater disruption than that caused by the Luftwaffe in the 1940s?  Has privatisation led to greater complacency and cost-cutting, and is this the inevitable result?  A perfect storm to undermine our entire civilisation?

Calling out the oblivious bullies


Yes, it’s another framegrab from!

One problem I’ve had over the years is bullying.  Yeah, big surprise, introverted eccentric goody-goody boffin got bullied at school, but it seems to have continued over the years somehow — almost as though I bring it out in other people… or, perhaps, I overreact and take things to heart?

There’s no sense going over the petty name-calling I endured at primary school, because almost everyone gets it anyway.  I also won’t mention physical bullying in this situation, because (a) it seldom happened to me (I count myself lucky not to have had Eminem’s life), and (b) a physical bully could hardly be “oblivious” to the consequences of his actions!

My first secondary school was all-boys, and to my shame I passed some of the bullying down the pecking order, since for once I wasn’t at the bottom; I paid for my sins at my next school, which was mixed, by getting it not only from the boys but also from the girls!  I was already a bit of an introvert when I went there, and it only got worse because of this, as only in my own room could I be free… but then I somehow let the bullies get inside my head, which really took some getting over.

I can only pity the kids of today, who really can be bullied in their own homes by genuinely malicious people thanks to social media (damn you, Internet!), but back then it was my own paranoia and obsessive behaviour that prevented me from letting go when I was at home.  Hey, there was one guy I actually thought I would have been friends with, if we hadn’t gotten off on the wrong foot!  At least that part of my life ended with my GCSEs, as most of the obnoxious crowd left before I started my A-levels… but not one particular guy who continued to annoy the HELL out of me for another two years.  However, I feel that might be something to save for my later post on hatred… watch this space.

The sad thing is, I still got bullied at university!  Certainly in my freshman year, where several blokes in my class (Geology, of all the sciences, seems to attract the most laddish kind of student) began referring to me as “coathanger” whenever they thought I was within earshot, amongst other exclusionary tactics.  As a postgrad, I encountered the guy I always call “good housemate”, who was influenced by a classmate who had a very short temper with me, often sneeringly telling me to “shut up” for no particular reason; both used to insult me all the time, sometimes aiming simply to exclude me from the group entirely.  At least I had “female best friend” and “other female best friend” in my corner, the latter being very angry with those two because she personally hated bullying!  And “good housemate” continued having a go at me while we were housemates (sometimes making me quite upset, as you may remember), but still, I like to think he toughened me up.

(A mark of the strength of our relationship: he’s still my friend on Facebook today…)

Alas, one of my current housemates is becoming an oblivious bully: not only having a go at me for being a vegetarian (something else I haven’t apologised for), but playing practical jokes on me and criticising my lifestyle.  I could take it when he jumped out at me when I turned the light on in a dark room, I could take him going “moo!” in his room when I walked past his door, I tolerated him turning the kitchen light off and walking out while I was cooking, I got over him implying I wasn’t normal for never having had a long-term girlfriend before (I know, it’s not normal and neither am I, it just sucks to have it brought home out of nowhere), and the time he grabbed my backpack as I was about to walk into our front garden at night was just below the line (at least he didn’t go through with his original plan to grab my face!).

But on Saturday, he ran into the kitchen just as I was returning to my baked beans and veggie sausages, which were cooking nicely on the stove, and held the kitchen door shut, sneeringly saying “no, Dave!” when I asked him to let me in.  I had a minor panic attack and objected loudly to him preventing me from getting to my food, rather than playing whatever game he wanted me to play, he got quite snotty and said I needed to “get laid”.  (Well, obviously, but what’s that got to do with his unfunny pranks?!)  The next time I saw him (hopefully the last time before 2014), he asked if I was “still depressed”, since that was obviously why I hadn’t laughed at his antics.


At least this guy was trying to knock the rough edges off of young men and discipline them so they could be ruthless, efficient soldiers, and not just being a sadistic douche for his own amusement… right?

And so we come to the crux of the matter: people who think victims like me should somehow be “thankful” for the way they treat us, or maybe that they’re even “helping” to toughen us up (oh, such altruism!).  Hey, maybe I got overly upset at being kept out of a room into which I had every right to go, but so what?  If he barricaded me out of my room, or locked me out of the house (especially on a wet, windy night like this — I have concerns about getting home for Christmas tomorrow, but never mind that now…), would he still expect me to laugh it off?  Would he even care?  Did the new tenancy agreement I signed the other day include a clause stating that I must indulge him in such things or be evicted?

(Did it?  Damn, why didn’t I read it properly before signing…)

This unpleasant incident reminded me of the bullies at school: like a mantra, every time I got upset or angry at the way they treated me, they sneered, “why d’you take it so personally?”.  Sorry, but that’s how I am, and if you don’t like it, don’t bully me — I’m under no obligation to respond to your taunts in a way that pleases you (indeed, the one time I laughed along with their joke — a “wanted” poster of me, featuring a picture of Terry Venables as a young man — it really seemed to take the wind out of their sails).  Basically, unless you’re a dominatrix, I’m not gonna thank you and ask for another!  Yeah, maybe I need a thicker skin and more of an ability to laugh it off, but that’s for my sake, not yours, bullies.

And YES, I think you’re a bully even if you didn’t specifically intend to upset me, if you carry on doing it despite seeing that it upsets me, and react by telling me that I should behave how you want me to.  I’m my own person and I’ll react however I react, regardless of whether it ruins your fun or not.

Some people can mock me playfully, but they’ve earned that right by being my friends and helping me (yes, even “good housemate”… hey, especially “good housemate”, who let me stay in his new flat for a week when I was between homes!) — but even then I set limits: one time “best mate” snidely suggested I get something with meat in it to eat, but apologised when I pointed out to him that, unlike everyone else, I never give him any flak for refusing to drink alcohol (which is a rarity in an Irishman, but you know how I prefer “weird” people).

Of course, I put myself down humorously all the time (especially in this blog, as you may have noticed if you’ve been able to stay awake this long — see, Q.E.D.!), but perhaps it’s a “control” thing — none shall mock me before I have mocked myself!  In fact, that confused the hell out of one of the bullies at school, back when I was 15.  I suppose I need to find a way to let others laugh at me without it being me telling the jokes, but perhaps the problem isn’t that I object to them mocking me: perhaps it’s OCD, and I think they’ll just get the details wrong!

Finally, I myself have, in the past, been a horrible person to others (especially a good friend I had at school who just happened to be dyslexic), and for that I’m sorry… I guess being on the receiving end so much has made me realise how I don’t want to do the same to others (like my comment about “best mate’s” drinking above).

All right?  Have I born my soul enough now, and can I go to bed before the onslaught of Christmas Eve, and fighting my way back to Worthing?  Fine then.  As Jerry Springer would say: take care of yourselves, and each other…

Going forwards, falling backwards

I am endeavoring to construct a mnemonic memory circuit using stone knives and bearskins.
–Mr. Spock, Star Trek (S1E28, “The City on the Edge of Forever”)

ad_furrowThere are two aspects of my life where, on the verge of success as the end of 2013 approaches, I seem to be slipping backwards: work and health.  In both cases it may not prove to be a problem as such, but in both cases it’s troubling me…

(And if you’re tired of hearing me go on about both of these, and my love life as well, don’t worry: I’ll find a way to shoehorn Gwar into this post as well!)

First of all, I’ve had a lousy week at work so far (and ’tis but half-over), because something long-threatened has finally caught up with me: my desktop computer has been taken away, and I’m now required to do all my work on that rubbish laptop I was given weeks ago (the one which had its first BSoD one hour into the initial training session, apparently because I had the temerity to open Outlook when I was supposed to be getting trained with Lync).  Yes, one week before Christmas, despite my protests, I have to get used to a whole different way of working — instead of two monitors, one monitor with a laptop propped up next to it.  Everyone else did it weeks ago, but then everyone else has thus had weeks to get used the new system!

After an hour of struggling to switch focus between a monitor and a laptop screen of completely different size, shape and DPI, I (with a mounting headache) gave up and decided to use just one monitor from now on (with my laptop closed on my desk).  This is the situation I was in about three years ago, and I didn’t realise just how much I’d taken having two monitors for granted: now I have to Alt-Tab between every task, instead of having Outlook on a separate screen, and I dread to think how I’m gonna cope the next time I have to send out multiple e-mails (which I have to do at least once a month, when I generate a report about outstanding health assessments and pester the relevant social workers to… oh, like you care?).

Okay, so the laptop’s faster and takes much less time to start up in the morning than my old desktop, but still, the monitor situation’s peeing me off.  What almost made me quit, however, was being told that (a) I’m getting some of my “old” tasks back again, and (b) I’m losing some of the new tasks I took the trouble to learn recently, all because I announced that I’m almost ready to take on an IT work placement through my agency and thus leave my admin job at long last.  It wasn’t even discussed with me, it was agreed between my new supervisor (not the one who replaced my old supervisor when she went on maternity leave, but the one who replaced the good friend who got me through the bad times in late 2011 to early 2012… yes, it’s a confusing situation in our office) and our boss.  Admittedly I won’t have to go back to doing audio typing (we’re not that backward — and besides, it’d require a Windows XP computer!), but it’s still frustrating to be sent back jobwise, especially when the first time you hear about it is when you get a meeting invite for the handover.

So, I was thoroughly miserable on Tuesday, and the office Christmas party (driven by a guy who really, really needs to stop taking Christmas so seriously — he’s almost as bad as this lunatic!), and the resulting noise (especially from the annoying woman, who had mercifully been absent on Friday and Monday) made me feel as bad as I used to in 2009, when I didn’t fit in at all.  I was thinking I would hand in my notice in January, the exact instant I pass my Windows 7 exam, since I need to be free to take on whatever unpaid work experience that my agency finds for me (and no-one would wait for me to work off my notice period first, obviously), rather than wait for March, when it’s possible I’d get made redundant and thus have some extra money (on top of whatever I save in the intervening months)… but fortunately my afternoon was better, perhaps because “best mate at work” (who is Irish, just like normal “best mate”) empathised with me in finding the noise unbearable.  And we all hate the laptops, and “new supervisor” said that I can keep those LAC education-related jobs until I go if I really want ’em, so all’s well… for now.

So don’t worry, I’m determined to hang on at work until I’m ready to go for my work placement and have saved enough to tide me over for, say, six months?  Especially since even if I get a job, I’ll be earning less than I am now (which is a figure not unadjacent to £26,000 before taxes), and if I don’t, my agency will only be paying me £500 per month out of the money I originally paid them, which will almost cover my rent for six months.  Even though my work situation itself sucks almost as much as it did in the bad old days, and the only thing which could truly make me happy now would be the annoying woman announcing her retirement (and I mean soon, not “some time in the summer of 2014”), I’m going to be sensible and save for the future.

And so to health: well, it’s late at night as I write this, so I’ll keep it short, but basically my weight’s rebounded to the point where I’m nearly up to 13 stone again.  (Americans: basically I mean I’ve gone up nearly 7 pounds since reaching my lowest weight during the summer… hey, at least I’m not using kilograms!)  I’m hoping it’s at least partially muscle, thanks to the teachings of my personal torturer combined with following every major exercise session with what I can only describe as a protein overdose (Quorn mini-sausages dunked in houmous or Linda McCartney vegetarian cheeseburgers with “fake bacon” on top, if you must know — basically, lots of flavoured fungus)

However, it’s also possible that I’m reverting to my old ways and just eating too much.  This evening, for example, I had pizza for dinner, and I seem to be drinking a lot of hot chocolate at the moment (especially tonight, as I only discovered my prankster housemate had turned off the hot water when I was actually running the shower!), and I’ve been eating more at work than usual, though admittedly ’tis the season and all that.  I also seem to be having a lot of late nights thanks to staying up watching Family Guy and American Dad!, and a lot of (slightly) late mornings due to the darkness outside and the coldness in my room, though at least they don’t expect me to be in at 9 on the dot any more (my office discovered something called “flexitime” that was previously only known to every other office in the entire f***ing council!).

Perhaps my body’s just storing up fat because it’s so cold at the moment; or, as I fervently hope, it’s muscle and I’m actually turning into a regular hunk (I should point out that I’ve been asked out for a record seventh time this year, though I haven’t had confirmation from her yet).  One thing’s for certain: my weight pattern on Wii Fit Plus is turning into a smile that isn’t reflected on my face… but hey, BMI, it’s just quackery, right?  No more valid than phrenology, eh?

Anyway, I won’t lose any weight if I’m up late writing this drivel for a bunch of slack-jawed yokels, nor will I be able to get to work in good time tomorrow, so good night!  Oh wait, er, gratuitous Gwar reference, er… they’re awesome and stuff, and I’m going to learn the guitar in 2014 so I can jam with them.  But, er, no matter how much I eat, I’ll never be able to compete with their bass player, Beefcake the Mighty.  There, all finished, g’night!

Things people say

Anyone who uses the words “irregardless”, “a whole ‘nother” or “all of the sudden” will be sent to a work camp.
–Stewie Griffin, Family Guy (S6E5, “Lois Kills Stewie”)


No, this isn’t just another grumpy complaints post. Granted, it is *partly* a grumpy complaints post, but it’s also much, much more!

Here’s a list of words, phrases, mangled spellings and awful pronunciations I really, really wish people would stop saying, and which ideally would be expunged from the English lexicon — and perhaps even be removed, Ministry of Truth-style, from our cultural history entirely:

  • “Anymore” — it’s two words, all right?  If you’re not a raven perched on a bust of Pallas, say “any more”, dammit!
  • “Alot” (e.g. “alot of people”) — ditto, and you always see people writing it on the Internet but getting spell-corrected to “allot”, which isn’t even a noun
  • “Twerking” — the word, not the action, I have no problem with that (ahem)
  • “What it is, is…” — really, that’s what you meant to say?!  Think before you speak!
  • “The thing is, is…” — REALLY?!?
  • “Oh my days!” — come on, either swear or blaspheme, this is even less offensive than “oh my stars!” from Bewitched
  • The word “yeah” every other word, yeah?  Like, yeah, it’s really annoying, yeah, and a bit threatening, yeah?  (And don’t get me started on people who write it “yea”, which is a different word, pronounced “yay”, and used in hymns!)
  • Other chav terms like “gaff” for house; “blud” for friend; “allow dat”, which seems to mean the same as “nix on that”, though I doubt even they know; and, overuse of words like “even”, as in “I ain’t even lying, blud”… what?!
  • Pronouncing the word “café” as “caff”, as it reminds me of “gaff” (see above)
  • bribles

    Don’t get me started on how this man, who hosts Unbeatable Banzuke, insists on pronouncing it “Ban-ZOO-kee”! It’s “ban-zu-keh”, Mr. Blessed, don’t make me shout at you!

    Pronouncing the word “karate” as “ka-RAA-tee”.  Protip: if a Japanese word has an “e” in it, try saying it as though it’s an e-acute, like in “café” (unless you say that word as per above, obviously, in which case go jump under a bus) — it’s not perfect, but it’s better than saying it like “ee”, which in romanised Japanese is represented as an i!

  • Pronouncing the word “karaoke” as “carry-OH-key”.  That would make it “karioki”, yomenai bakamono!  (The long “oh” sound is right, though, because the oke comes from a valiant Japanese attempt to pronounce our word “orchestra”)
  • Pronouncing the word “Pokémon” as though it starts with the English word “poke” (even advertisers do this).  It’s short for “pocket monster”, okay?  Do you keep your wallet/keys in your poh-ket?  (And if you’re posh enough to pronounce it “poh-ket”, you’re posh enough to have someone carry your wallet/keys for you anyway…)
  • Referring to that Rammstein song with the ants in the music video as “Links Two Three Four” (even DJs/VJs do this… even?!  They’re hardly the most intelligent people in the world!).  If you must know, it’s German for “Left Two Three Four”.  Yes, it’s a marching rhythm, well deduced!
  • “Should of”, “could of”, “would of” — yes, people still do this… adults still do this!
  • “Play-station” or “X-box” as generic terms for games consoles (though oddly, my mother’s friend said he was going to donate a “Wii 2” to us, and it turned out to be a PS2 rather than a Wii U, which hadn’t even been released at that time!)
  • Pretty much all genericised trademarks — iPad (tablet), iPhone (smartphone), iPod (music player), Sellotape (sticky tape) or Hoover (vacuum cleaner).  I know I shouldn’t be bothered by that one as an Englishman, but I’ve become more pedantic over the years!
  • Social services terms I encounter in my job, such as “statemented” (yes, they actually use “statement” as a verb when referring to children having SEN statements) and “senior prac” (why not just refer to a senior practitioner as an “SP”?)
  • “I could care less” — so, you do actually care?  Or are you so sarcastic that you don’t even need the tone of voice anymo— I mean, any more?

(Don’t worry, though, I don’t mind Americans using different spellings and grammar from British English; provided, of course, that they acknowledge that they are wrong!)

Phew, the list is finally over!  Now, if I might be serious for a while, this is a blog about recovering from depression, and I’d like to complain about the unhelpful things people say when they find out you suffer from this condition.  Though you may recall me talking about this topic a long time ago, a picture currently doing the rounds on Facebook (yes, only morons have a Farcebook account, ha ha, how’s it feel to have no friends?!) sums it up rather more succinctly than I ever could, by showing what would happen if physical ailments were treated with the same disdain as depression:


I know, I know, I don’t have things anywhere near as bad as others: although I’ve had trouble getting up in the mornings lately, that’s been down to late nights, dark mornings, housemates changing the time on the heating/hot water so it only gets warm after I’ve already gone to work (argh!), and general indolence, rather than a relapse into genuine depression, and I’m glad to be getting better.  In addition, I’ve never had to resort to medication (and threw away that diazepam with triumph at the end of my worst month), nor have I ever attempted suicide as a “cry for help”, or taken up self-harm (though my eardrums beg to differ whenever Gwar come on my headphones), so I’ve been, shall we say, “lucky”.

However, I hope more people see the image above and absorb its message (maybe then the person who drew it won’t mind me shamelessly ripping it off for my blog?), because if what I’ve been through in the past couple of years is only minor, I’d hate to imagine how other people feel who are having real problems!  So, if you want my advice (and yes, I’m well aware of the irony of giving advice on not giving advice), if you have a depressed friend, just listen to them, and maybe say “mmm, yes” or “wow, really?”, don’t badger them to “get out of their comfort zone”.  You may think you’ve gone through something similar, but if you really had, you’d know how much it sucks being told to, essentially, “stop having a problem”, so don’t do it!

Advice on how to sort out a practical matter is, of course, always welcome, because sorting out the little things can help remarkably (consider it a removal of distraction, or a lightening of the burden).  And, of course, sometimes the practical matter really is the cause of the depression (housing/employment issues, for example)…

Fortunately, sometimes people say things that are really positive and uplifting.  For example, when I went paintballing (ouch) with a group recently, at the following meal I started talking about how I abseiled down Camden Town Hall for charity when I was 30, and one woman said: “What do you mean, when you were 30!”, because she was convinced I was still in my twenties!  (She herself also looked young, despite being a year older than me!)  Not everyone compliments me that way, alas, and I haven’t been ID-ed for alcohol for as long as I can remember (though admittedly I only started buying alcohol again when I was 34), so I seize on occurrences such as this with so much delight that you’d think I was a woman (or a gay man).

Another nice thing that was said to me recently occurred when I was at a “career support day” with the agency that’s training me up for a career change to IT.  I did my 90-second pitch, barely having to glance at my script, and one of the high-ups listening said that I was basically ready for a work placement.  I’ll write a proper “career prospects” post about that another time (yes, one of the things I say is “I’ll write such-and-such in my blog”, but this time I really mean it!), but for now, I’ll just say I’m within measurable distance of escaping my dismal admin job forever and leave it at that for now.  Huzzah!

Of course, the one thing I really want someone to say to me is “I want your body”, said by an attractive and available young woman (possibly with the suffix “and so does my identical twin sister”… oh, sorry, am I being a typical bloke?) — but hey, that’s something I’ve got to work towards, isn’t it?  I’ve progressed from zero dates in 2012 to six (and a half?) dates in 2013, so who knows what next year will bring, if I keep it up… ooh, Matron!
(And no, I’m pretty sure Kenneth Williams only said “ooh, Matron!” once, if ever!)It was said to me back in 1998, during an excruciating five-week geological mapping trip in the Scottish highlands: “Don’t look at how far you’ve got left to go, look at how far you’ve come already”; it’s only now I’ve really come to appreciate this rather trite bit of rhetoric… and, as per tradition, it’s too late to do anything with this bit of advice other than pass it on!

Exploring emotions: Bereavement

They say the good die young
That’s why I know that we gon’ have fun
In this life ‘cuz you only get one
When God calls for me, don’t cry, I just went home
–D12, “Good Die Young” (D12 World)

This month being the time of year that both my uncle and grandfather died (15 years apart), it seems like an appropriate time to talk about a depressing topic.  It’s something everyone has to face, and something I need to learn to deal with — though, obviously, it’d be a lot worse if I were ever responsible for inflicting this emotion upon another…

I mentioned before that I can remember a family pet dying; death was something I learned about early in life — perhaps thanks to a diet of boys’ own comics, not to mention the Dark Judges from Judge Dredd — and I can even remember having a nightmare that my mother had told me I was going to die, and not being able to explain it to her without weeping like a, well, like a frightened child.

However, it was one day in December 1984 that I truly realised how final death is in the real world.  My maternal uncle had been living with us (my mother, grandparents and I) for some time; I’d known him and enjoyed his company before, but he was staying with us following the failure of his marriage, and apparently taking me for drives and giving me sweets helped him get through depression, as did a great deal of weight training with his father (my grandfather), though our new dog Scraps took some time to get used to him!  He was working a long way away from our home in Kent (Wimbledon, to be precise — one day he brought home a “genuine Wimbledon tennis ball”!), and so had to drive along the M25 every morning; I used to hear him starting his car (with some difficulty, due to it being winter) when he left, early in the morning.  However, we were planning to move across to Surrey (where my grandfather’s job was moving), so his journey would have been easier.

Then one day, 11th December, I came home from school to find my grandmother in tears with two policemen hovering in the dining room, and no sign of my uncle.  She told me what had happened, and I wept with her, and prayed to God to keep him safe in Heaven.  This was a terrible car crash in foggy conditions on the M25 that claimed nine lives, but the knowledge that others had died that day didn’t, unfortunately, help my emotional state: in my anger at the world for taking away someone I loved, I actually began hoping that the driver behind my uncle — whom I, in my childish naivety, blamed for his death — had died as well.

How did we get through this difficult time?  Well, I can only conclude that I survived due to the resilience of youth, but my mother and grandparents, in all probability, held it together for my sake.  My grandmother told me, in a letter on my 18th birthday, that I’d kept her going during those dark days — and, indeed, that I’d kept him going following his divorce as well… and it’s worth noting that, one day as he walked me home from infant school, he saved my life by yanking me (by the scruff of my neck) out of the way of a car when I stupidly ran across a road!

I was lucky not to lose anyone else in my immediate family for the next fifteen years; the rest of the world, of course, wasn’t so lucky, with various horrors such as the Challenger disaster, the sinking of the Herald of Free Enterprise at Zebrugge, the first Gulf War and various terrorist atrocities all thinning out humanity’s numbers.  I was even in America when the Columbine shootings took place.  I was unmoved by the death of Princess Diana in 1997: she’d never been an important part of my life, and although it was a shock that “someone famous” had died, I disdained the exaggerated outpouring of grief expressed by my country at the time (much of it from the tabloids that had been about to print “what a filthy slut” headlines about her when news of her death came through).

However, my grandfather’s health declined over the years due to an aneurysm (which first became apparent to me in 1994), and with him being the main breadwinner of my family, we had to move into the flat above shops in Worthing where my folks live to this day (hopefully not for much longer, but that’s another blog post in itself).  He’d done all sorts of things for me since I was a child, like drawing pictures and assembling models, and with his failing health, I began to step up as the man of the house (for example I put together a video cabinet in 1995 because he wasn’t about to do so).  He also took me weight training, years before I’d begun to get soft around the middle…

It was my grandfather who enabled me to go to Michigan in 1998 on that student exchange scheme: this was because he stepped in to sort out the logistics when the staff at my university failed to live up to expectations.  This trip, as you know, led to what remains the one big romance of my life, and I owe it all to him.  While I was over there he was supposed to have an operation to circumvent the blockage in a blood vessel that caused his aneurysm, but unfortunately, one day I learned that the doctors in Worthing had aborted the operation, deeming the fabric of his circulatory system to be too weak to take the stitches.  Thus, he was left with a kind of ticking time-bomb, which depressed me as it felt like I’d already lost him…

When I came back to Blighty, I learned that some doctors in London had disparaged the Worthing doctors and thought they could save my grandfather after all, which was a relief to me.  He was thus able to help me when I got my first PC in late 1999, which is to say, he bought me a better keyboard than the brokers supplied.  It’s a tragic irony that he was the one who took our elderly dog down to the vet to be put out of her misery… and, that summer, he also had to junk his old green Datsun Cherry that we’d had for countless years (not as long as I could remember, but nearly).

Thus, in early December he went into hospital again, with high hopes… it was the same night that a fire nearly broke out in my hall of residence, thanks to someone apparently leaving burgers in an oven to burn (in what may have been a deliberate act of sabotage).  I still recall worrying that the guy in the next room was injured or dead when he didn’t come out, and expressing relief when he turned up alive… considering how much I grew to loathe the guy, and considering what happened to my grandfather that night, you can guess who I wish had lived and who had died (but hatred is the last negative emotion I’ll be “exploring” in this blog post category, later in the month).

I remember that Friday morning, 3rd December 1999, reading my e-mail at the end of a Volcanology lesson in a computer lab and getting an immediate sense of foreboding when my mother asked me to ring home — if it  had been good news, she’d have said so.  I delayed going back to my hall of residence (the building that hadn’t burned down the night before) to use the public phone outside my room, but eventually, I had to face it… and the worst had indeed happened, my grandfather had departed this world, albeit under more peaceful terms than he would have done if his aneurysm had killed him instead.  At least we had that to be thankful for: he slipped away while taking a chance of getting his life back, instead of waiting for the time bomb to detonate tomorrow, next week, next month…

How did I react?  Not by crying, which is something I never let myself do over this particular loss — I don’t think that was a desire to “be a man”, because problems in my own life have frequently driven me to tears, but simply a sense of disbelief.  I couldn’t take it in, and after lying on my bed looking at the ceiling for a while, I remember getting up and playing a video game (the shareware version of Rise of the Triad, if you must know).  I don’t know why, I think I just needed to do something normal…

Coming home gave me a shock: in my room (which he’d been using as his own while I’d been away), I saw he’d left his headphones on the keyboard of his PC.  This, more than anything, brought home to me the knowledge that he wasn’t coming back — the fact that the person who had put them down no longer existed in the world to pick them up again.  He’d even done as he said he would and bought me Thriller for Christmas; it was sad listening to it for the first time…

Naturally my mother and grandmother were living in gloom, barely hanging on (my grandmother crying on the Saturday was a particularly heartbreaking sound), but we closed ranks and made it to the end of the year, even “celebrating his life” at his funeral later in the month.  A lot of people turned up for this, which was gratifying, but I found myself noting, understandably in my anger at the world, that there was no rolling news on TV, no phony outpourings of grief, as there had been when Diana died — and my grandfather had meant more to me than she ever had!

I’m told it’s normal to feel disbelief at the death of a loved one: just as I’d dreamed in late 1984 that they’d “found a way” to bring my uncle back to life, so in late 1999 I dreamed that my grandfather came home and sat in his normal armchair.  Is it just the brain reacting to a massive change by refusing to accept it, and trying to fool our conscious minds into thinking “normality” has returned, or do our loved ones really come back to watch over us in some supernatural way, perhaps influencing events subtly to help us in the years that follow?

Now my close family is down to just my mother and grandmother, but although we also lost my grandmother’s brother-in-law in 2009 (someone I remember saying of me: “Give ‘im nothin’!” when I was a child… yes, that’s a “fond” memory!), for now it seems I don’t have to worry, as both are in rude health.  Still, next December will mark another fifteen years… and then there’s the people I grew up with who I found out more recently didn’t make it this far, such as the excellent teacher I had when I was 11 (died of a heart attack while swimming), and a couple of school friends of my own age (one, sadly, hadn’t been a happy guy and left school after a nervous breakdown, so I fear the worst).

I know I’m not the only person to lose someone: one of my close friends lost a friend to suicide a few years ago, and another lost a friend on “Seven-Seven”.  I have to keep in mind how they, and everyone else (particularly my family), would react if I ever died, which is why I’ve resolved to go on living no matter what — there’s enough bereavement in the world without being the cause of more, and the thought of not being around to have to worry about them doesn’t stop me caring now.  Much as I love my mother and grandmother, I’m determined to outlive them (barring discovery of immortality within our lifetimes) — and, more importantly, to live, even if I have to go through the pain of losing them, because it’d be far worse if our positions were reversed.

(Hence this blog, which is the very expression of my determination to go on living!  What, did you think it was some reference to Doctor Who villains constantly returning?)

It helps to hear people I admire talk about those they’ve lost: my hero Eminem, for example, lost his uncle (a good influence on him, much as mine was on me) to suicide, and his fellow rappers, D12, spoke in the song I quoted at the top of this post about those they’d lost over the years to the horrible situation in Detroit, the US “murder capital”.  Indeed, they themselves lost Proof (Eminem’s best friend) in 2006, yet they’ve all carried on living.  Similarly, Gwar… no, come on, this is serious, I’m not just throwing in a gratuitous reference to them!  They lost lead guitarist Cory Smoot in 2011, and it was enough to make them break character and mourn his passing, as well as retiring his character, Flattus Maximus (who, in character, they said had “gone home”).

It’s becoming clear to me that many of the famous people I grew up admiring have passed on, which seems to be an occupational hazard of growing up; they’re not people who I met in person, but they still meant a lot to me in life.  The first three main actors from my favourite TV show have all died (admittedly Hartnell before I was even born, but I was sad to see Pertwee die in 1996), as have many others who appeared therein; I was particularly sad to learn in 2011 that Roy Skelton had passed on, because as well as Daleks, he was also Zippy & George in Rainbow!  It was also sad to lose some of my favourite comedians, such as Kenneth Williams (whose voice was well-known to children) in 1988, Frankie Howerd (who I’d only really discovered the year before) in 1992 and Kenny Everett (a childhood hero of mine) in 1995.

Perhaps the worst was Ronnie Barker: I’d watched his works, including Porridge and Open All Hours, but most notably The Two Ronnies with Ronnie Corbett, which I was into from a surprisingly young age.  When he came back to TV in 2006 to make The Two Ronnies Sketchbook, I could tell he wasn’t at the height of his powers any more (though Corbett seemed as vivacious as ever), but was still shocked to learn in October that he’d died.  He’d recorded a Christmas edition of Sketchbook before the end, and I remember watching this, and thinking at the end, as he read out the joke news stories with Corbett, that it was the last bit of work he’d ever done…

And finally, to lighten the mood slightly, as an adult I have begun to get emotional over deaths of characters in TV shows and movies — perhaps more than I ought, but still, it’s better to feel sadness under controlled conditions than to sneer about sentimentality.  Deaths are common in Japanese anime, perhaps because (a) it’s generally more grown-up than Western cartoons, and (b) it usually tells a continuing story rather than consisting entirely of filler episodes that can be shown in any order.

(Yes, I know a lead character in Family Guy died recently, but the episode won’t even be shown in this country until next year, so I won’t dwell on it!)

I also remember a member of the main cast dying in the first season of Star Trek: The Next Generation, though at the time I was more shocked than saddened (a recurring character dying?  Inconceivable!).  In the 21st century, 24 was particularly bad for deaths of beloved characters, either heroically or tragically (though at least one death in season 5 was spoiled for me when I rewatched it, because an idiot DJ had revealed the guy was alive after all in season 7!), so I dread to think how I’ll cope if I ever get around to watching Game of Thrones