Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cabin fever

ts_cf

Another Simpsons framegrab from babysimpson.co.uk (S6E01, “Bart of Darkness”)

My six-week unpaid internship at a London college (or rather, at a campus decidedly outside London) came to an end last Friday; I made it through with my insanity intact, I’ve got some useful experience of working in a tech support environment, and I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I hate, hate, HATE oiky teenagers who start every sentence with “Basically…”!

(Oh, and TfL, I’ve finished using the Central Line — you can start filling it in with concrete now!)

However, since my mother’s on holiday in Japan (a country she’s only been to, ooh, four times before), I’ve come to Worthing to keep my aged grandmother company until hahaue ga Nihon kara kaeru toki.  This is supposed to be a “staycation”, but I’m getting cabin fever after only a few days!

It’s partly the weather, which is so utterly dismal that I can’t even bring myself to go for a walk along the seafront (where at least I’d have the chance to pet some dogs); mind you, at least I’m warm here — certainly warmer than I’d be at the London house, where no-one wants the heating on (I may need to get an electric heater).  It’s also partly the fact that Worthing sucks for shopping: the local branch of Computer Exchange doesn’t take the very components I need to sell — a CPU and some RAM — and the staff condescendingly suggested I sell them on eBay!

There’s also the fact that I need to call up recruiters every day in the hope someone will find me a “proper” IT job (I’ve got some leads, so don’t worry) — it doesn’t get any easier phoning complete strangers, but, as with food, washing and heating, at least my family’s paying the bills during my self-imposed exile.  Plus, I have an interview back in London next week, for a job that would require shift work — which I’m hoping means three things: mo’ money, mo’ money, mo’ money!

(It had better — there’s no way in HELL I’m doing IT shift work for £19k!)

The annoying thing is, I came down here on Sunday because I knew my grandmother would be going in for a biopsy on Monday — but when I arrived, it turned out this had been postponed; if she’d told me beforehand, I could have come down on Monday (and thus gotten a cheaper train ticket), and also spent the weekend selling those computer components to the Tottenham Court Road branch of CEX (who would have bought them for a princely sum of store credit)!  Plus, I could have played more games on my “main” computer, and maybe hung out with “best mate”…

Still, it’s not so bad down here, away from the Smoke: I’ve finally got some time to learn the guitar, and I might finally (after how many months?) be making progress, in that I can just about switch between D, A and E chords without staring at my fingers and pausing for a bar between every bar.  Might be ready to add an A-minor in there one day… oh, wait, that’s a sad sound, and it might combine with the atrocious weather to drive me over the edge… SOB!

Oh, and another thing: there’s a fat spider which spun a web outside my bedroom window a few weeks ago, and which I occasionally watch dart down to intercept prey before laboriously climbing back up to the eaves; it looked like it had been washed or blown away in the recent storms (and thus become one of the final victims of Hurricane Gonzalo), but today it reappeared, considerably fatter than before (so I guess we know what it was doing).  I never thought I’d be happy to see an eight-legged freak alive and well, but there you go… as long as it remains firmly OUTSIDE my room and never tries to encroach upon my territory!

Phew, can I hold on a few more days until Mumsy returns from Japan, or will my heart burst from all the excitement…?

It’s all coming together

ss_ffFirst of all, yes, I know I should have written something sooner since I turned 37 last Thursday, but hey, too bad, live with it and all that.  I went home at the weekend and received several Gwar-related presents (including their last two albums), a CPU I’d ordered online, and, er, some money (vital at the moment).

I’m two days away from finishing my gruelling unpaid internship in Greenford, so I only have to get up stupidly early twice more.  Yesterday it looked like the other intern from my agency had abandoned us (perhaps through getting a job), and that I’d thus have to spend all my remaining time covering the walk-in clinic, and only the fact that my day was cut short by a visit to my agency stopped me quitting.  He in fact turned up alive and well today, and so I had a good time helping cover the phones in the main office during the afternoon; that’s how it should be, and if I’ve learned one thing from the walk-in clinic, it’s that I don’t want to deal with meatspace customers again unless I’ve got a counter between us!

(And, let’s be brutally honest here, nose plugs — if it’s not BO or tobacco, it’s chewing gum or excessive cologne!  And don’t get me started on how they huff and puff if they have to wait, like it’s my fault — in such situations I find the strength to be patient with my current customer, and ensure they take as long as they need to!)

Financially I’m all right for now: my old employer (you might as well know, if you hadn’t already worked it out by now, that it’s Camden council) finally paid me my near-£1,400 discretionary today, as expected on pay day, and so I’ve got over £3,000 in the bank overall.  It won’t last for ever, and possibly not even as far as Christmas, but if I can get another job by the end of November, I should be all right and won’t face returning to Worthing on a permanent basis.  My guide at the agency said it’s fine for me to get a job in “whatever” if I have to, as they understand fully that people need to pay their bills (especially in London).

And hey, the aforementioned job search sessions are giving me some good advice: my guide has been like the employment equivalent of my dating coach, right down to some of his tips being effectively “cheats” to get ahead of the pack!  For example: marking my CV private and then visible again in order to put it back at the top of the list — I just hope none of the other agencies are telling their punters to do this (at least not if they’re applying for IT jobs).  I’ve had an e-mail about a potential job this very evening off the back of this, so I’m feeling more optimistic about getting a “proper” job in IT than I was before — I was even able to call a recruiter up and persuade him to look at my CV!  So I’ve got two potential interviews coming up…

As I said before, after my placement I’m going to go to Worthing to keep my grandmother company (especially on Monday when she’s got a biopsy) while my mother’s on holiday in Japan, and even though I might have to rush back at short notice if I get an interview for a good job, I’m going to spend my time away from the Smoke relaxing, applying for jobs, calling up recruiters, and hopefully studying Server 2008 to the point where I can contemplate taking the exam some time before Doomsday.

(I might even bring my guitar with me, so I can spend some time practising — that’s far more important than boring old computer science, isn’t it?)

So there you have it: the 38th year of my life might finally see me in a new job, and not just slumming it in admin any more (and if I do that, it’ll only be temporary).  I’ve finally escaped Camden (I may post something about how much they suck one day), and soon will have some time to relax and work on the next phase of my life, while my grandmother cooks my meals and does my washing, and I’ll even be able to take walks by the beach and pet other people’s dogs.  Just got to get through two more days of hellish commute and I’m free — and by the time my mother returns from Japan, perhaps I’ll have some good news for her…

———

What’s that?  You want to hear something from my new Gwar albums?  You are never satisfied, are you?  Oh, all right then, here’s a music video…

My real 2014 resolution

Here I am; here I remain.
—Duke Leto Atreides in Frank Herbert’s Dune

climbing

One of the things I’d be far less able to enjoy in Worthing, AOAC notwithstanding

It’s been a hell of a week for me, as I’ve felt a lot of doubt regarding my current course of action, and come face to face with anxiety (to the point that it’s even kicked in when I’ve been climbing, despite my 6a-conquering excellence).  As I said last month, it seems to be a combination of weight loss and circumstances — and no, this isn’t going to be a “girl troubles” post, I’m putting my love life on hold (uh huh huh huh) for the time being: it’s more finances, as although my former employer may finally be about to pay me the £1,400 it owes me, I’ve still got to face the prospect of not working in IT any time soon…

Although I’ve been getting up at 6am to travel to my current internship, the two worst days of last week involved lie-ins.  Firstly, on Wednesday I was seeing an NHS dentist (who charged me because I’m not claiming benefits — great joined-up thinking by the UK government there), and then faced a hell of a journey to work because the Central Line was having its monthly day of disaster.  Fortunate indeed that I was late going in, as apparently it all kicked off when I would normally have been right in the area that got suspended!  That afternoon was also hellish, as far from my usual time in the walk-in clinic, helping one or two people out while taking Server 2008 tests (in the hope of passing my exam some time before the next asteroid hits Earth), I faced a hell of a lot of students coming in all at once, and even a rude lecturer demanding I drop everything to help him!  I called for help from the other intern (with crowd control if nothing else), and somehow got through it all without getting moaned at too badly by my superiors.

(I definitely prefer doing it over the phone — their only attack vector is verbal abuse, and you can hang up on them for that!)

However, Thursday was somehow worse as I discovered that my job interview with a north London school was due to start at, er, the time I called them up to ask what time it was.  They’d thrown me by sending a letter, which I’d somehow forgotten about (I was desperately trying to find the e-mail I was convinced they’d sent me with the date and time), and I’d convinced myself it was at 10am (actually the time of the previous day’s dental appointment!).  They still let me come in, which was nice, and they even thought I did well (especially at the practical, even if the guy admitted it was unfair that some of the memory modules among the spares were just as busted as the ones in the machine) — they said I’d made it hard for them to turn me down in favour of one of the other two candidates who had done well.

It wasn’t failing my interview that got me feeling anxious on Thursday (though it being the only one I’ve had so far didn’t help), as it would have been a lousy pay rate, and I hope to find something better.  No, it was the fact that I’d have had to move to the Willesden Green area in order not to be still getting up at 6am in order to get there every day, and I made the mistake of looking in the window of an estate agent, seeing that even a studio flat in the area (a horrible prospect for me in any case, as you may recall) would cost twice as much in rent as I’m currently paying!

Having to get an unfamiliar Tube route to work (and getting the Metropolitan instead of Piccadilly Line at one point) didn’t help my situation, and I ended up brooding on the fact that I might not make it as an IT professional, and that by December I might have to give up and return home to Worthing in disgrace.  That’s obviously something I faced before in January 2012 (as per the link in the previous paragraph — I’m not linking it twice in the same post, I have enough damn pingbacks in this blog already!), but this time around, there was an additional problem for me: rather than arbitrary “possibilities”, I now have so many definite, tangible things to stay in London for that I would truly hate to leave.

However, that evening I met up with a friend from a meetup group (which she was sadly closing due to lack of support), who advised me not to focus on what I don’t want, but instead to focus on what I do want — so, even if I’ve failed most of my New Year’s Resolutions (let’s be honest, I would literally need to “get lucky” for no.1 to be completed at this stage!), here’s what I want most of all for the next year or so:

I WANT TO STAY IN LONDON.

I also want to stay at my current house, whether or not I can get my landlady to help improve the temperature during winter.  I want to continue climbing, seeing my personal trainer, hanging out with my London friends, and going to meetup groups, as well as sitting in my room playing games and studying some nights of the week.  Hey, I want to continue looking out my window on clear days and seeing all the aeroplanes (my room looks in the general direction of Stansted airport), and I want to continue living on a relatively quiet side street with a view of something other than chavs, brick walls and a main road (this place has been a $DEITY-send after five years on Caledonian Road)!

If necessary, I will (following the end of my internship in two weeks) get another job in admin, just to have a steady paycheque coming in so I can continue to live in the manner to which I’m accustomed.  It’s interesting to note that even during the worst time of my life in late 2011 to early 2012, I faced no real financial hardship — I had a steady job, albeit one I didn’t enjoy, and although two people I liked were going on maternity leave, there was the prospect (later realised) of me acting up and getting paid more, and even if it was nowhere near enough to even begin to put down a deposit on a house, it was enough to pay for my adventure holiday and IT studies in 2013.

Having money in the bank to indulge my whims has been something I’ve foolishly taken for granted in the past (indeed, it’s what stopped me going back into science after passing my MSc), and it’s not a situation I want to end, because living in London would be no use to me if I couldn’t carry on doing the things I enjoy.  I especially want to avoid relying on the dole unemployment benefit Jobseeker’s Allowance, because they’d certainly make me give up my Castle membership (more UK government joined-up thinking: stop the poor going to the gym while trying to fight obesity), so going back into admin may be my only alternative while I complete my IT studies and search for something better.

And before you ask: no, I can’t go back to my old employer.  Never mind their lousy behaviour and obsession with hot-desking (intentionally without providing enough desks at the drab new building); the document I had to sign in the presence of a solicitor so I could get my £1,400 discretionary boils down to a pledge that I won’t apply to work for them again within two years!  I don’t miss working there at all (I’m still in touch with the people who matter), but I do miss the steady pay packet — and that’s where my current anxiety stems from.  It was noted (by one of the ladies who went on maternity leave) that even during my worst time in January 2012, I was still coming to work almost every day and getting on with my job… having a daily routine helps a great deal during a time of mindf***ing upheaval.  And as my last job was a constant through my last house move, so I want my current house to be a constant through my current job move.

mnm

Popping prescription pills didn’t work out too well for this guy in the Noughties — we nearly lost him!

The trouble is, anxiety may be what cost me that school IT job (they said I was too nervous at the start of the interview, though they still admitted it was a hard decision overall), and which makes dealing with lots of students in the walk-in clinic hard to bear; even if I get a well-paid helpdesk job in a private company, will I end up freaking out when things get too intense?  Do I need to look into medication to “even myself out”, or do I just need to “man up”, “grow a pair”, “get out of my comfort zone” (ugh, I hate that phrase and whoever came up with it!), and keep on hoping that things will get better, as I did in 2012?

As stated, it’s possible that anxiety is just a side-effect of my current diet combined with my current circumstances, so would popping pills (as a strictly temporary measure) help me through the hard times?  Could I give them up once everything stopped sucking so much?  I find it hard to believe: I have a new friend who’s been through cycles of taking medication and being able to get his life in order, then reducing medication and losing everything again; needless to say, I don’t want that — but paying for medication could potentially cause financial hardship as well, and thus trigger the feelings it’s supposed to resolve…

But never mind what-ifs: if nothing else, this experience has made me realise, once and for all, just how lucky I am to live in London, and how important it is to me to stay here — even if I often say I wish I could leave (let’s be honest, those recent feelings have been 100% thanks to the Central Line), and even if people still give me social anxiety (ironically, a meetup for shy gamers/bloggers got cancelled today without me being notified until I’d already gone down to Waterloo!).  Identifying clearly what I want is the first step to achieving it, and I’m going to do my best to stay in the Smoke for as long as I can.  Although I still feel misery and despair sometimes, I’m certainly not “tired of life”, and so I’m not tired of London.

However, I’m still going to take a break in Worthing after my internship ends: to keep my grandmother company while my mother’s on holiday, and also to decompress by studying, playing games and having my meals cooked for me and my washing done… it’ll be a few years before I can afford more than a “staycation” again!