Looking back to looking forward

(Right, let’s see if I can make up for hardly writing in this blog all year by writing something every night this week?)

At the weekend I was visiting my folks in Worthing, and as I walked with my mother along the seafront and back again home, it occurred to me that we’d done virtually the same walk eighteen years ago in 1996, during the Easter holidays, not long before my final term at school (and thus my A-level exams) began.  I don’t remember what we discussed back then, or even whether I petted any dogs (since we had one at home anyway), but it’s weird how many things are similar to the spring of 1996 for me, yet how many things are different from my life when I was half my current age…

Back then, of course, I wasn’t happy with my life: I’d just started trying to get a girlfriend, which turned out to be a futile pursuit as my school was rather small, and I lived in a retirement town with nowhere to go other than “the pub”, and thus I was perhaps even more miserable than the average bloke (I remember on the preceding field trip to France, my male classmates came to a consensus: “Never mind the sex, I just want a woman!”), because at that stage I hadn’t even kissed a girl, or been on anything remotely resembling a date, and the constant mantra from female classmates that “there’ll be lots of nice girls at university” didn’t alleviate my sexual frustration (and nor would it if I’d known just what a crock that was, since I didn’t get a girlfriend until late 1998 when I was in a different damn country!).

I had to wait patiently for university, not even knowing if that would solve all my problems, but just wanting a change in my life.  My loathing of my home town grew with each day I was condemned to do basically nothing fun, and studying for my A-levels didn’t exactly help.  On the other hand, I had a roof over my head and food on the table (I also wasn’t vegetarian at the time and so didn’t have to worry about my diet), and my grandfather was still alive, as was our dog Scraps (albeit increasingly aged and decrepit).

Fast forward to 2014: yes, I’m still sexually frustrated (hence aim no.1 for 2014), and while I’ve made some semblance of progress, going on a number of dates with actual women and meeting them at social events, I’ve now got the problem of “keeping” a girl, i.e. getting to a second date or beyond.  This is all stuff I should have learned back then, but there was just… no way at that school that I could ever have dated anyone; at the time, having seen a movie called Peyton Place, I began to wonder if it was just the kind of place where everyone knows and judges you even if you’ve never met them, and assumes the worst about you.  I was probably being paranoid, but it felt like the one disastrous attempt I made to ask a girl out made me appear to be a loser in a lot of people’s eyes — so I’m better off in London, where I can be relatively anonymous, and (hopefully) learn from my mistakes without totally blowing my chances with anyone, anywhere, ever.

As in 1996, I’m once again waiting patiently for a major change in my life, and one which may take me to another part of the country: rather than a university course that I now regret (for all that helps), it’s entry into the career I should have been hoping for back then.  However, in this situation it’s my current job and the necessity of waiting to be made redundant that’s holding me back, not to mention the difficulty of arranging an exam in Windows 7 when the company has my details wrong and can’t fix their website so I can correct them!  Eighteen years ago I’d made all the necessary arrangements for university and just had to not totally botch my A-level exams, which left me a lot of time to brood (and count the hours, minutes, seconds until I went — I wrote a program on my Psion 3a… oh, sorry!); now, I’ve got so much else going on in my life that I only have time to brood when I’m at work and feeling bored…

Going to university in 1996 was an adventure I could endure because all my “stuff” was safe back in Worthing with only the essentials (such as my Amstrad) coming with me to the Greater London area; now, in 2014, a house move is a much more daunting prospect, especially after the horrible time I had of it in January 2012!  I’ve still got loads of books (though I may just put my back issues of Private Eye on Gumtree etc., as I can’t really justify the space they take up any more), but at least with things packed into boxes, it won’t be such a rush this time around.  I also have no idea where I’ll need to go, or when, which in a way means I can relax for the time being, since there’s no use getting worked up just yet.

One interesting difference with 1996 is simply this: I no longer feel such resentment regarding Worthing, and indeed am quite happy to come home and visit my (surviving) folks whenever I can.  Why, I can even pet other people’s dogs on the seafront, to atone for the fact that Scraps left us many years ago and I’m not able to have a dog of my own for the time being.  It’s good to be home in the bosom (uh huh huh huh) of my family, and have my meals cooked and washing done by my grandmother, but it’s only because I’ve been away from home and had to live for myself that I’ve come to appreciate my family.  However, my mother is sick of Worthing and the fact that she has nothing to do there, which is why I want to help her move on; I guess it’s a nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there…

Of course, in my darkest moments I’ve contemplated going back to live with my mother and grandmother in Worthing, and although I’m happy to live in London “for the duration”, I certainly don’t want to spend the rest of my life here either — London has really ground me down over the years, especially public transport and the general attitudes of its people (me included).  Well, we’ll just have to see what happens next…

Oh, and one final similarity with 1996: I’m watching Tom Baker’s Doctor Who stories on a weekly basis — but on DVD, with an episode each weeknight (well, four nights out of five unless it’s a six-parter), rather than on UK Gold in compilation form on Sunday mornings in my mother’s room!  Not quite lining up, but close enough to be interesting.  It’s like I said before: it’s all cycles… which reminds me, my old bicycle is still rotting under the back steps at home… I really should have sold it to someone before I came to London in 2003, shouldn’t I?

(And no, this isn’t an April Fool — it’s by the bye that I’m finally publishing it after midnight on the 1st of the month!)

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