Monthly Archives: March 2016

Easing off at Easter

I did nothing.  I did absolutely nothing, and it was everything that I thought it could be.
Office Space (1999)


Well, chocolate eggs and cider for me, but close enough, Roger

After the hectic nature of my life in recent times, I’ve been very pleased to have the excuse to spend the four-day Easter weekend doing very little of anything, sitting at home playing games, pigging out (to some extent) and barely getting any steps on my Fitbit.  Apart from going climbing today, I’ve done less physical activity than Jesus did during the original Easter weekend!

There wasn’t anyone for me to hang out with anyway: “best mate” is in Ireland for the duration, though he’s found a Lego Millennium Falcon to buy at last (we’ll put it together when he’s back here).  I also didn’t visit my folks (with my mother’s blessing) because I already saw them for an even longer weekend two weeks ago.  Don’t worry, I’ll visit them in April (though TfL are closing my exact bit of the Northern Line some weekends for no apparent reason), and do some more work on that Japanese castle model for my mother.  Don’t need to put the clocks forward (something only the son of any family can do), because I did that two weekends ago!

(We Brits were lucky this year that, for us, the clocks went forward during the long Easter weekend — a few weeks ago every American on Facebook was complaining about losing an hour’s sleep on a normal weekend!)

And yes, I’m still “involved” at the moment (i.e. I haven’t been dumped or “ghosted” yet), but the young lady in question and I haven’t had the chance to meet in person since that first Saturday in Oxford — and in the face of our original plans, she had to go on a business trip during Easter!  We’ve kept in touch by text message, but to be honest I was quite grateful not to have to travel anywhere further than the Castle this weekend, and instead laze about here.

Why so lazy?  Well, you know how much stuff I always seem to do after work these days, including salsa dancing and seeing my personal trainer, and in some cases it means I have to rush home to have dinner and then rush out again, to avoid the cost of eating out!  As it is, I already lose a lot of time commuting (I tend to get home around 6pm, admittedly if I’ve stopped at Tesco on the way).  I’ve also been resting my aching limbs after a bout of self-torture on Thursday evening (as though it weren’t hard enough getting to the Castle during the Piccadilly Line strike), which itself followed wrecking my arms in Wii Fit Plus on Wednesday evening.

However, I’ve not felt depressed, isolated or even “cabin feverish” during this break, for a change.  Four years ago (don’t worry, this isn’t a full-on “then and now” post, I’m not supposed to be doing those any more), I spent a six-day Easter break similarly doing nothing much of anything beyond playing Skyrim and eating chocolate eggs, but felt miserable as a result, partly due to a romantic failure, but also because I was still recovering from what at that point had been the worst time of my life.

I’ve been re-reading my diary from those days, and it’s astonishing how far things have risen in my life (leaving aside that terrible fall in late 2014): once again I’m moved to give thanks for all I have now — a decent job, a tolerable house in a “least worst” location, a “best mate” who lives with me, access to climbing and personal training, loving family a phone call away if I need them… I just need more money, so I can afford a holiday abroad, and maybe even a PC upgrade!

Fig. 1: the gulf between my dreams and my (financial) power, at least for now…

But while I fervently hoped 2016 would be a rerun of 2013, it probably won’t come to pass after all, since there’s no way I can have another adventure holiday like the two amazing weeks I spent in the western USA; in a way, this year feels more like a rerun of 2012 (so maybe I’ll go to a European capital city again — and hopefully get a pay rise!), but with me in a better emotional state.  It’s almost as though my life events are on a four-year cycle, but my emotions are on a three-year cycle… should I do more research on that topic and present my findings in another blog post?

(Hey, don’t all scream “NOOO!!!” at once…)

Anyway, the great thing is, I’ve still got one more day of lazing around — and the weather, while atrocious, is at least better than it was in winter, so we barely need the heating on at all!  And, moreover, the working week is only four days long, and since I like my job anyway, it’s not much worse than being on holiday… at least until my boss comes back — and on that topic, let’s close the way we opened, with an Office Space reference:


Yeah, I’m gonna need you to go ahead and upgrade every PC on the premises to Windows 10; and if you could also somehow man the helpdesk, that’d be great…


Excessive worry… still?

ad_furrowTwo years ago, I realised I was worrying about nothing altogether too much; well, I still am these days — though it could be argued I’m now worrying more about things that really matter, than petty arguments with housemates.

First of all, on Friday while I was seeing my personal torturer, and probably at the exact time that Iain Duncan Smith was drafting his resignation letter, I was texted by DWP that they were gonna call me during the weekend about Universal Credit.  This got me worried, because although I stopped qualifying late last year when I went permanent at my workplace, there’s always the fear that they’ll have realised they overpaid me (you know, because it was more than a pittance), and will thus want it back.

It didn’t help that 3 Mobile (yes, I’m belatedly naming and shaming them here) were having a “bad signal day” on Saturday, making me wonder if I’d even receive the call, and then be punished further for failing to be available at the right time… so imagine my relief when the call turned out to be a general notification (a follow-up to a letter that I only received today), about a change in the Universal Credit policy, which hopefully won’t affect me anyway.  Phew, they weren’t penalising me for failing to notify them that they’d overpaid me after all!

Of course, if I ever lost my current job, I’d be right back on UC again… you know how close I came to that back in January, after I told you in, er, February; well, I was horrified two weeks ago when, after a morning I’d been so close to panic trying to fix a PC at reception that I’d all but dragged a member of the Facilities team out of their office to support me, I got an e-mail notification that my boss wanted to see me on the 21st (today) for a “PDR”.

I couldn’t help but link the two events, and fear that she was going to tell me I was close to getting myself fired again… so imagine my relief, again, when I had the meeting with her, and it turned out to be a standard “performance & development review”, something everyone goes through (and no different to my days at Camden, aside from being annual rather than monthly); she recognised I want to improve my self-confidence, and on that basis she’ll arrange for me to have some customer service training.  Phew, again!

Although I never got to the same level of anxiety as January 2012 or November 2014, and continued to function over recent days and weeks, I recognise I need to grab my self-doubt by the throat and strangle the life out of it.  It’s particularly essential if I’m the “face” of the IT department, as I need to project confidence and sympathy: this morning I was mumbling and stumbling when trying to explain to my colleauges that our Internet connection was down and we were awaiting a fix time from our useless supplier in Docklands, who have let us down this way before (in November, and also last week when I was in Worthing), and you can imagine that made the prospect of my impending PDR seem even worse — a good example of panic creating more problems than it solves.

(Fortunately, my boss got all the anger out of her system ranting at the hapless fool at the ISP she got on the phone!)

Despite all this, I’ve noted my confidence on good days has been growing over the past months, as I’m clearer about how to do things around the place, and more aware that people appreciate my help; hell, I even move more confidently these days!  I just need to learn not to panic on the difficult days, but I hope I can achieve it without the help of mind-altering substances…

Busman’s holiday

mb_hhI’m midway through a five-day “long weekend” in Worthing with my folks.  No, we’re not some weird Christian cult celebrating Easter two weeks early: my mother’s over her recent illness and resulting operation, and needs my support convalescing (especially since my grandmother’s also been finding it hard to cope).

What this has entailed so far is Muggins here putting together a “shoe ottoman”, changing light bulbs, going to the shops and walking with my mother.  I can’t complain, though, because this is all stuff I’d be doing anyway — especially the furniture, bearing in mind my mother’s attempt to put together a dressing table last summer, and the fact that I enjoy this kind of work anyway!  However, a further task has arisen as a direct consequence: we have to get some more 15mm cam locks, as THREE of the ones included with the flatpack broke simply by being, well, turned — and since nowhere nearby sells them, I have to travel clear across Worthing to Bunce!

The positive side is that I’ve been able to rest here, have my meals cooked for me, and take hot baths instead of showers.  This last is something my mother can’t do while her surgery wounds are healing, but it’s essential for me, as not only am I aching after torture at the hands of my personal trainer, but I’ve had a nasty blister on one of my toes for weeks now (ever since I dropped a cactus on it… don’t ask), so it’s nice to let it all air out while not having to run around in socks and shoes all the working day.

(Plus I’m saving money on Tube fares, as well as going out in the evenings and thus having to eat out!)

It has been a little reminiscent of 2000-3, when I lived here after graduating and tried to make enough money to be a postgraduate, but not in a bad way: I’m lucky to have my mother and grandmother to take care of me, even if I also have to take care of them, and Worthing’s not so bad when it’s sunny.  However, I do miss being in London to some extent: not just my computer there (since the Frankencomputer I have down here is incapable of playing The Witcher III), but also my job (as I don’t want them to get too used to me not being there, in case they realise they can cope without me!).

And oh, someone’s finally bought one of my Gatchaman DVD collections on eBay, and I’ve got to send it off in two working days… except I’m going to be here until Wednesday.  And now I have to travel to Bunce to get some fiddly little cam locks, assuming they even sell them.

Excuse me a moment:


A life for a life?

lonely_shinjiThis wasn’t the Mother’s Day my mother was expecting: I found out this morning that she’s been in hospital since yesterday.  I won’t go into details; suffice to say it should be a routine, non-life-threatening thing, but naturally I can’t help but worry about her (considering how my grandfather going into hospital 16 years ago ended with him not coming out again).  My grandmother’s thus home alone, and I’ll need to visit them next weekend (which I was planning to do anyway, but under more auspicious circumstances), as even if my mother has the operation promptly, she’ll likely have to stay another week afterwards.

At the same time, “best mate” is going through hell thanks to his job in construction, as he has to do whatever contractor work his brother gives him, even if it means 12-hour days (plus commute) up to six or seven days per week, and only the fact that (a) admin pays so much less and (b) taking a sabbatical to study for something better would mean not working prevents him from getting out of the industry entirely.  “Don’t work in construction!” he repeatedly tells me, to the point that it’s become his catchphrase instead of quotes from Father Ted, Family Guy or Beavis and Butt-head.

If I were superstitious, I’d wonder if my recent life improvements and general good luck were somehow being “paid for” by bad things happening to people I care about.  After all, it seems like “best mate” has been going downhill ever since I got my current job… and my mother’s illness seems to have arrived at about the same time as my connection with someone through a dating app, with whom I had a nice date in Oxford yesterday (and, at the risk of jinxing things, might actually have asked me to “Netflix and chill” next time!).

Naturally I’m delighted that things are finally going well in my life — I know I’m not earning as much as I did at Camden (though that was only because of an acting-up allowance that I wouldn’t still be getting), and I know this new romance could go the same way as all the others; but at the same time, I’m enjoying my job and know it’s merely the first step in a career, and the fact that I get so many dates these days means I feel like I’m getting closer to finding my “missing piece”.  This kind of thing is what I’ve wanted all along, and the whole reason I started this blog was to chart my escape from the depths of depression through changing my life.

The trouble is simply that if the people I care about suffer, aside from it tainting my own happiness, it might undo everything.  It’s not impossible that “best mate” will end up leaving here, perhaps returning his stuff to Ireland while he goes off around the world, in order to escape the life he has; I don’t know if I’d stay here, as he’s been my rock these past years, and it’d be no fun living in this house without him (as his replacement would undoubtedly be annoying).

Similarly, if ($DEITY forbid!) my mother does leave us, I’ll have little option but to return to Worthing to take care of my grandmother, and leave behind this life I’ve built in London.  I’d be equally upset if she survives but is left unable to exercise, as that’s made her so happy over the past few years, and again I’d probably have to come home to look after her — and it’d be hard to find any kind of decent job in the Worthing area (though I’d certainly learn to drive).

Hopefully I’m getting worried about nothing, and both these situations will be resolved positively over the next week or so — and without me having to “pay” by getting fired or embracing a life of singlehood.  It’s bad enough that my yoga friend had to stop his classes in Euston, and that I’m having to see my personal trainer a bit less in order to reduce my outgoings — I don’t want to go backwards, to the days when I worked in a job I hated and came home every evening to sit around doing nothing useful…

I want my life, but I also want my loved ones alive and well — since they’re part of my life, and thus part of my happiness.  Is that so wrong?