Monthly Archives: March 2018

Evenings off

Let down your hairs, forget all your cares
Kick off your shoes, here is the news
Take off your shirt, here is the dirt
Take off your pants, thanks!
—Opening theme to Lee & Herring’s This Morning With Richard Not Judy

This is not me playing Nidhogg against my mother

You might be surprised to learn that I’m not all that fussed about having to stop climbing, at least for the time being, as it means an extra evening at home each week — and thus the chance to do whatever I want, instead of feeling obliged to get out there and mingle.

Yes, apart from yoga on Mondays (which has replaced salsa, due to being a lot more calming) and personal training on Fridays, and very occasionally going with Shy London to help the homeless, I’m not doing much in the evenings: almost every day I find myself coming straight home from work, making my own dinner, and relaxing as much as I can — maybe playing video games (like the Evil Within series), or listening to newly-acquired music CDs (including Gorillaz, as depicted above), or looking up old and new music videos on YouTube (including Gorillaz, as, er…).

I’ve also been rewatching the works of Lee & Herring (Fist of Fun and TMWRNJ, hence the opening quote), and now I’ve finally begun season 7 of Game of Thrones (which will hopefully lead to a “cool things” blog post here).  However, despite having more evenings to myself and more free time generally, I still don’t binge-watch, instead enjoying an individual episode over dinner (or lunch at the weekend), savouring the experience and making it last as long as possible (much as I did with classic Doctor Who in 2011-2015, and then with the 21st-century series afterwards).

The explanation for my new introvercy is simple: I socialise a great deal at work, and so feel better keeping myself to myself when I get home.  Speaking to people at work takes a lot out of me (the stress, and head vibration, may be part of the cause of my dizzy spells), and public transport is an ordeal at the best of times, so it’s good to get some peace and quiet, and the chance to recover.  The same goes for the weekends (aside from last weekend, when senpai took me to work to help with a major task), with me barely even going to the shops, and this will also apply to the Easter break coming up (partly due to the Northern Line being effectively closed throughout) — I intend to do as little as possible, and chill out.

(Having to be in for British Gas to come and give us our annual checkup also means I get the day off before Good Friday — “boss lady” is good to me, at least for now!)

Don’t worry, I’ll still go see my folks this weekend (the once chance I’ve had in ages) — after all, who else will set the clocks forward in the spring?  Seriously, though, I’ll need them to take care of me after my surgery for a few weeks (if I ever get informed of the date), and I’m grateful that I have them — and that my mother’s pledged to get us a new dog, which my grandmother has finally approved.  I’ll certainly need a sweet little friend to help me recover… assuming I don’t have a major personality change as a result of brain surgery, and lose interest in dogs!

I have a feeling that once I’ve recovered from surgery (assuming there are no complications, including personality changes), I’ll finally be over the biggest hurdle of my life, and things will change for the better.  However, what if I really do lose the ability to rant about subjects that make me angry, like the Conservatives appearing to hold the disabled in contempt, the closeness of WW3 thanks to Trump, or people calling the monster “Frankenstein”?  I’m no less obsessive than I was in 2014, and perhaps even more so; but if this thing in my head is causing it through cerebral pressure, will removing it make me a lazy git who doesn’t do his job properly, feels unenthusiastic about anything, and just lets things slide?

My mother (no offence, Mumsy!) thinks I am indeed obsessive, her evidence being that I’m reading the works of Stephen King in chronological order — but that’s not the result of some nameless compulsion, it’s because I’ve read bits and pieces of his work before, and want to experience all his stories from the beginning, in more or less the order he wrote, so I can see how his “Kingiverse” evolves (especially the “Dark Tower” series).  I did similar with Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels in 2011-2014 as well: I’d read many of them, but mostly not in order, and it was good to go through them again and fill in the gaps — especially since the first time I read The Fifth Elephant, I had no idea who the Night Watch were, and had to read an earlier novel (and then an even earlier one) to get their backstory!

The fact is, I like to experience epics from beginning to end (or at least in the order of production, like with the Star Wars films) — that’s not OCD, it’s the same as wanting to read an individual book from the first chapter instead of peeking at the ending (and spoiling the surprise, which is a cardinal sin).  It’s also a way of establishing a mindset: I didn’t enjoy Babylon 5 until I watched the original pilot movie, whereupon it made sense and I was able to get into it — whereas one time I saw the end of an old Doctor Who story on UK Gold, and found it cheap and tacky, despite having greatly enjoyed watching the exact same story (The Hand of Fear, if you must know) from the beginning some years before!

(I should add, I intend to rewatch 24 from beginning to end during my convalescence — though that’s partly because I’ll have a lot of free time… so much that I’ll probably binge-watch it!)

Well, enough digression — the important point I’m trying to convey is, I’m cutting down on socialising these days, but I’m not lonely or regretful, and I’m enjoying my solo activities (ooh, Matron!).  I know I called the recent Christmas holidays “hibernation”, but this part of my life might be that instead, with the surgery and convalescence that lie ahead being my metaphorical emergence from a chrysalis that I’m now forming around myself, after which I’ll be back to cheerfully meeting new people, and hopefully the love of my life.

Of course, it won’t happen unless I chase up the NHS and get them to tell me my appointment date — it’s a sad irony that I’ve had better luck getting British Gas to come and fix our hot water (yet again!), even though they still can’t consistently tell our address apart from that of a flat up the street — but I’m in no hurry, as my medication’s keeping my dizziness under control, at least for now… I’m not exactly obsessive when it comes to arranging to go under the knife!

Rising to the challenge

Ted: Dougal, I love all this!  When everything’s going okay, I keep imagining all the terrible things that could happen — and now that one of those things has actually happened… it’s just a rush!  I feel fearless, like Jeff Bridges in that movie!
Dougal: I haven’t seen that one!
Ted: Not many people have, Dougal, it’s probably a bad reference.
Father Ted (S2E10, “Flight Into Terror”)

This is nothing to do with Father Ted, so don’t bother accusing me of mixing up franchises

I feel the need to write something tonight, as I seem to be overcoming adversity (though not, of course, without the help of people who matter to me) — and indeed, the process itself may be helping me keep my head together… though it could also be an increase in my dosages of levetiracetam (and taking them the proper 12 hours apart, instead of six or seven).

I’m sure you’re aware of the snow blanket that’s smothered the British Isles over the past few days, even if you’re reading this from abroad; well, both challenges I faced down today were directly caused by it — in the first case, by the effect it had on public transport.  Although the Northern Line didn’t give me any problems getting into work at my dream job (it used to be the “Misery Line”, but no longer!), a lot of people in the peasantry my flock chose to work from home today instead.  I was happy to come in, crunching through the snow in the non-leather boots my mother got me last year, and I don’t suffer from a phobia of slipping like she does (not to belittle her, she fell over at work once and was badly hurt), so I made my journey boldly and sure-footedly.

(Is that a valid adverb?  No?  Good, I’ll keep using it!)

We use an online desktop virtualisation system which I’m going to call “Lemonz” (in order to avoid violating a trademark) to allow people to work from home (and in some cases remote onto their office PCs), but we quickly discovered this morning that (a) it wasn’t set up with enough capacity for so many people to use at once, and (b) people had been told they could log in from home without having been set up with “Lemonz” access, under the apparent delusion that everyone gets it by default when they join the company (despite the exact opposite being true — managers don’t want people working from home unless and until they get prior approval, otherwise they’ll doss about!).

Fortunately, my teammates were able to work their mojo and resolve (a), as we run “Lemonz” on virtual servers that are running on much more powerful physical equipment with spare capacity, and I kept a level head and sorted out (b) for a number of individuals, thanks to “boss lady” saying I could accept permission from just managers, rather than directors (who normally are the ones with the authority to let people work from home).  I also pacified those suffering from (a) by encouraging them to wait while we “resolved the issue”, and it seemed to work — by midday, everyone who wanted to log into “Lemonz” had done so successfully!

But something else went wrong when I came home, and made me decide maybe not to work from home tomorrow after all (even though “boss lady” said I and my teammates could): not only was my room 11°C (52°F) when I got in, but it barely crept up all evening until I borrowed an electric fan heater from “best mate” to complement the electric oil heater I bought in 2014 (the one I’d naively thought of giving away to a homeless shelter).  It seems our central heating had failed entirely, and to make matters worse, our hot water wasn’t being replenished either!  Remember the farrago getting British Gas to fix the system in late 2016?  And remember how we needed them to come and fix it again in 2017?

The Baxi boiler had somehow gone wrong and wasn’t coming on at all (the three red flashes of one of the lights apparently indicating it had tried and failed five times to ignite the gas), and my mother reckons something similar has happened at home in Worthing (leading to her own act of heroism: climbing into the loft to have a go at fixing it!).  Apparently this is happening all over the country, due to outdoor pipes freezing up in the unseasonably cold weather (I don’t recall it being this cold in March since, er, 2013, okay then) — but since I at least got home nice and early (unlike an old university friend, who said on Facebook he’d had to wait 75 minutes on a train platform!), and have a roof over my head, I felt I shouldn’t give into despair or drag emergency staff away from people who really need help, and tried to fix it myself.

This was far worse than all those times I stressed trying to get our Internet connection working, back when we had a lousy router that kept crashing, and a wonky cable that was probably installed in the mid-noughties!  I spent much of the evening reaching into the small gap between the fridge and the cavity under the sink counter where the boiler is, repeatedly holding the buttons down to “reset” it, only to be disappointed time after time; I tried researching online (British Gas not answering their phones), and followed a suggestion to pour hot water over what I assume to be the outflow pipe outside in order to unfreeze it, and even had “best mate’s” electric fan heater pointing directly at the unit (an idea my mother endorsed), but still the damn thing didn’t want to ignite, getting my hopes up and then dashing them with the same three red flashes every time.

Eventually, with my housemates unable to assist (one going out to avoid the cold in here, another staying over with her boyfriend instead, and “best mate” trying to find more electric heaters in the shops at night!), I turned the heating off completely at the controls, and hoped that at least the hot water would reheat with less strain on the system.  It didn’t… but in a moment of epiphany, I asked “best mate” to try doing the boiler reset as a demonstration… and this time, it really DID ignite!  So there you go — even though it’ll take ages for the heating to reheat the house, and the hot water to get warm enough for a shower, I’ve managed to sort out a major problem for the second time today.

(What?  No, I was the one dealing with the home-working staff at work, even if someone else actually sorted out the system!  And “best mate” was only following instructions, as well as maybe providing the luck of the Irish — it was ME who had the idea, so I’m the hero, dammit!!!)

Of course, one of the past blog entries I’ve linked back to above happened not long before my bursts of “mind static” began as a regular occurrence — and this makes me wonder whether it was the stress of working too hard at the time (helping fix the website), or the stress of trying to sort out stuff in our house (I do hate British Gas!), that really spiked off the mild epilepsy problem back in December 2016.  If not for that, it might have remained a minor inconvenience indefinitely, only giving me dizzy deja vu spells when I have a cold and suck on too many mentholated lozenges.  However, I think today I’ve fought back the dizziness for the sake of others (on top of everything else, I’m also still sorting out our household bills) — and if I really do have to go through with brain surgery in a month or two, I hope it means I get my life back for real, and thus can devote myself to helping others instead of having them worrying for my sake.

Especially my mother, who as you know has kept me going all these years, and inspired me to better myself.  I wish I could fix her heating, especially for my grandmother’s sake — she needs it more than us — and that I could be the one to support her financially in her autumn years, like a dutiful son.

Sorry, I’ve been watching Lee & Herring again

Most of all, I want to recover from my brain issues — not just for my own sake (now that I’ve finally built a life I enjoy), but for her sake as well, so she no longer has to worry about losing another relative, or her family name dying out (I may, after all, make her a grandmother one day).

My mother really deserves the Moon on a stick, don’t you think…?