Monthly Archives: August 2014

Cool things: Thunderstorms


Even this is more than I normally see

You’ll probably think I’m some kind of Swiss Toni-style chauvinist, obsessed with women and comparing everything to them… well, you probably already did, but anyway, stop distracting me — I think of thunderstorms as very similar to women: part of their mystique is that I never seem to encounter a good one, and either miss them entirely, am left disappointed, or watch them go to someone else less deserving.  How so?  Let me count the ways…

  • All too often it’s a no-show: many’s the time I’ve updated the weather report only to see the thunderstorm symbol disappear from the forecast, or watched dark clouds pass by my window (as is happening a lot in August) without any kind of interesting outcome, much as occurs with attractive women in summer dresses on the Tube.
  • A sub-type is when instead of disappearing entirely, they visibly go to someone else; we all know how hot chicks inevitably have boyfriends (who are of course total jerks, simply for existing), but in thunderstorm terms this happened to me in 2004 when I was at university in the East End.  I watched helplessly as a big thunderstorm ignored me and went towards the centre of London… oh well, at least the people queuing up for the premiere of Catwoman in the West End had something interesting to watch (okay, maybe they needed it more).
  • When one does come into my life, mostly it’s over before it’s even really begun — one crack of thunder and then nothing but rain and dark skies, or one date and then nothing but unanswered text messages.  This happens too often in either case to give an example.
  • Very occasionally one will come into my life that seems pretty good, but for whatever reason I’m unable to see anything — be it a powerful thunderstorm in July that I could barely see due to surrounding houses, or the (allegedly) pretty girl I chatted to via Tinder in Michigan who lived too far away for me to go and see her (it was my last night and I couldn’t impose upon my “second family” to drive me from Fenton to Lansing at such short notice)!

Of course, the analogy breaks down when you consider that I witnessed some spectacular thunderstorms back in the 1980s and 1990s (since this coincided with the rise of hot summers, I imagine global warming had a part to play), long before I got interested in girls.  Unfortunately, with me being a timid child (and later teenager), night-time thunderstorms scared the hell out of me if they woke me up — I still recall all those times I cowered, covering my ears, whenever lightning flashed through my curtains, as I waited in trepidation for the inevitable deafening crash… at one point in my childhood I used to spend the night in my mother’s room, on the ludicrous pretext that my bed was between two power sockets, and thus if lightning struck the house, I’d be electrocuted!

(Obviously nowadays, as a mature, sensible grown-up, I spend the night in your mother’s room, heh heh heh…)

Our dog Scraps was also scared of thunder (and fireworks), and since my mother was her favourite human in the family, she tended to do the same thing.  During a nocturnal storm in the summer of (I think) 1994, when we lived in Worthing but my mother worked in Surrey during the week, I heard Scraps scratching at my door; she’d clearly been scared by a particularly loud roll of thunder (which sometimes vibrated very loudly against the patio door in the room where she slept), and was seeking comfort wherever she could.  As she trotted into my room, she refused to look up and make eye contact with me, almost as though she was ashamed of having to resort to me instead of her mum, and was saying: “Don’t say a word, we both know what this is!”

Going abroad has frequently led to superior thunderstorms — not Michigan recently, alas, as they kept avoiding me (my old roommate’s brother-in-law says the same thing happens to him when he comes over from Washington), but certainly when I was there in 1998-9, and I saw sparks emerging from a street light!  Years before that, my mother and I saw lightning in the distance from a high-up hotel room in Florida (I worried we might be in danger, but my mother just breathed: “It’s spectacular!”), and before that, during a holiday in Spain for the whole family, we witnessed an awesome day-long storm.  That one led to leaks in our villa and the power being out for most of the next day, so it was a mixed blessing…

Oh, and I should mention the fact that “female best friend”, who was once terrified of flying, actually asked to look out through the window next to my seat as we flew over a night-time thunderstorm in 2008, on our way to Turkey.  How’s that for bravery?  But I suppose it highlights how hotter countries get far more spectacular thunderstorms than the damp squibs with which we are frequently insulted in this country.

I know, be careful what you wish for: lightning is dangerous and can start fires, and tornadoes (the very idea of which scared me as a child, and still scares me today) are created by thunderstorms.  But even so, nature’s fireworks are far more interesting than the boring old gunpowder-based ones that chavs like to fire at people in town centres, so you’ll forgive me for continuing to hope and pray for a good thunderstorm… and to continue playing video games like S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, which fills the void to some extent (as games often do).

(And just to return to my opening theme: yes, video games also help me cope with the lack of a girlfriend — especially ones where you can get laid, like Mass Effect and The Witcher!)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go back to staring out the window at the dismal, overcast sky, wishing it would erupt into dazzling violence… well, not right away, I have to go to the shop…

Suicide isn’t painless

lonely_shinjiI’m sure you’re all aware of the recent death of Robin Williams; sadly, he’s one of many comedy heroes of mine who was depressed during his life, and one of two who may very well have ended it by his own actions.  Kenny Everett I’m sure you remember me bigging up in the early days of this blog, and Frankie Howerd amused me back in 1991 when they repeated Up Pompeii! on TV (it was just right for a sniggering, innuendo-obsessed teenager like me); but do you recall Kenneth Williams?  Like Everett and Howerd, he was gay at the “wrong” time in human history, and like his American namesake, his end seems to have been self-inflicted (though reading his diaries, I’m surprised he made it to 1988).

You never can tell who’s depressed — and I don’t mean fed up because it’s Monday, I mean truly suffering as black despair grips their heart, and wondering if they can continue.  I’ve gone on about my own depression in this blog (what with it being created for that exact purpose and all), and even hinted at my own suicidal thoughts, not once, but twice in 2011-2012, and although I’m more or less over that part of my life now, I don’t feel contempt or triumph towards those who are still going through the “long dark night of the soul”, or who didn’t complete the journey.

(I should point out that I’m also not holding that Fox News anchor in contempt, as I don’t think he really meant to call suicidal people like Robin Williams “cowards” — it’s easy to jump on the “boo, right wing meeja” bandwagon, and I’m gonna rise above it… this time!)

What stopped me from ending it all in those dark days?  I suppose it might be useful for anyone else out there who is suffering to know how I made it through, so here goes.  Well, firstly I would think it was simple inertia — it’s easier to go on breathing than it is to figure out a means of killing oneself, and I have no idea even how to make a noose, let alone… well, I’ll stop there.  That’s another thing which jerked me back from the edge of the abyss: the very thought of such an act of self-violence (it really hit me back in late 2012, when I was talking on the phone to a guy at a counselling service and he mentioned that particular means).

But the real reason I made it through is also the reason for this blog entry’s M*A*S*H-defying title: if I ended my life, I may well be beyond pain forever, but those I care about in this world, particularly my mother and grandmother, most certainly wouldn’t be — they’d suffer in my stead.  I’ve also thought about one of my close friends (I won’t say who for obvious reasons), who lost someone to the S-word some years ago, and I know I could never put them through such a thing all again.

As I’ve continued to survive during these recent years, and even felt ready to start living again, I’ve made more friends who I wouldn’t want to hurt by “leaving” them and rendering all their help and support futile — “best mate” for one, and my personal torturer for another.  Mind you, they’re also reasons I don’t want to leave London, a prospect which isn’t beyond the realms of possibility due to my financial situation…

I actually had a moment of darkness this evening, when I looked at my bank accounts and realised I have only just over £1,000 left: though I’ve got nearly £5,000 redundancy money coming on Friday, I won’t be comfortable until it’s in my main account — and this reality check today really brought home to me how my life is changing, and how tight money is going to be for a while, even once I start my IT career for real (so no more holidays for a while).  It’s looking increasingly likely I’ll have to move fairly soon, and I really, really don’t want to go through January 2012 again, so I hope the situation becomes clear during the autumn, or that I can hold on here until spring 2015!

However, no matter what happens, I’m not going to allow myself to consider the S-word again — even if I have to return to Worthing to live with my folks, at least I’ll be alive.  I’m sorry Robin Williams wasn’t able to overcome his demons, but I hope his fate will at least serve to raise awareness that there really is a problem, and that there are people out there who really need help and support.  It’s not just lonely recluses who gaze into the abyss; funny, outgoing people do it too (perhaps even more so).

As I’ve said before, don’t just tell your depressed friend to “cheer up” as though you’re somehow annoyed with them: tell them it’s going to be all right and that you’ll be there to support them through the bad times.  Hell, give them a hug if that’s your thing, just don’t let them think there’s no point carrying on, or that no-one cares — there is a point in carrying on, because things will get better, but they certainly won’t if you stop now.  Churchill once (perhaps apocryphally) said: if you’re going through hell, keep going — but be aware that not everyone can make the journey alone.

Phew, I feel a little churned up emotionally after writing this, but don’t worry — as my mother often says: “this too shall pass”…

Taking my time

Yes, all right, sorry I haven’t written in so long (I started something on the 4th but then stopped), but anyway, here’s a vague update.  I passed my mock interview on the 1st, albeit with advice on how to improve, and spent the following week… waiting.  I’m still waiting this week, but I will start nagging my agency if they don’t deliver the goods and find me a placement soon.

That weekend I also went on a trip to Bath with a meetup group for tall people, and spent all day in the company of tall women (because, mercifully, no men turned up)!  This was nice, though not for salacious reasons: as you know, I prefer the company of women, and it’s very rare for me to make a male friend.  The fact that they were all single is by the bye, of course (and, unfortunately, because I can never keep my mouth shut about my love life, I ended up an unwilling recipient of advice once again — but it’s always annoying when single women complain to me about the quality of single men!).

The weekend just gone saw me go to Brighton with another meetup group (nice trip, but London Bridge station really grinds my gears), and I left early to nip across to Worthing to see my folks… though unfortunately I couldn’t go climbing with my mother due to (a) my legs having been wrecked by my personal torturer, (b) my mother having blisters, and (c) the remnants of an American hurricane laying waste to much of Great Britain.

However, there’s some good news: I was able to spend some of my £50 leaving gift getting South Park: The Stick of Truth!  (PC version, obviously, with bad language and anal probing intact…)  I thus have enough games (and, er, studying material) to get me through the quiet times that lie ahead, without having to spend any more money.  I’ve also got strategy games to keep my intelligence from atrophying, including Shogun 2, which my mother is “lending” me on Steam (and therein hangs a tale).

Back on the subject of finances, I’m getting paid my redundancy money on Friday, and that’s going to have to support me not only while I’m not earning, but also while I am earning, unless I somehow land a £24k job almost immediately… but there’s no sense worrying — I’ll just have to get on with enjoying my protracted time off work.  I don’t miss my former employer at all…

(I don’t even think of the annoying woman any more… except inasmuch as I now use that term to describe the recorded voice when I call up Virgin Media.  Why does she have to extend the last word of every sentence?  Is it an attempt to be sexy?!  “Press oooone, press twooooo…”  Spit it out, girl!)

I’m working on a post about changing, and how I’m not sure how else I need to change, and indeed how much society sucks and really needs to get its own house in order before it has a go at me… and also something about thunderstorms, and how I keep missing them, to the point that I’m convinced there’s a conspiracy.  But they’ll have to wait for another day of my holiday…