Monthly Archives: March 2020

Self-isolation (with apologies to every other blogger in the world)

“One night last week, some fools got the electric light in order, and there was all Regent Street and the Circus ablaze, crowded with painted and ragged drunkards, men and women, dancing and shouting till dawn.  And as the day came they became aware of a Fighting-Machine standing near by the Langham and looking down at them.  Heaven knows how long he had been there.  He came down the road towards them, and picked up nearly a hundred too drunk or frightened to run away.”
Grotesque gleam of a time no history will ever fully describe!
—H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds

By coincidence, this is where I’m up to rewatching The Twilight Zone from the beginning!

I’m still alive, and the closest I’ve got to coronavirus seems to be just hay fever (and the sort of catarrh I always get three seasons out of four), but I’m certainly sick of staying indoors and being away from human contact — and the rules regarding this are now being tightened!

I know: when I’m on leave from work, I tend to just sit in front of this computer and play endless computer games, and due to aches and pains I’ve not been out dancing or climbing in the evenings lately, but at least during my breaks, I have the choice of going to the shops, or the park, to stretch my legs and get stuff (and maybe pet dogs). Plus, of course, I can still let my personal trainer torture me on Fridays, as a final penance for the reward of the weekend.

However, sitting constantly in front of this contraption 9-to-5, with maybe the chance to go outside and get food at lunchtime (which will be hard now that our local Tesco is making people queue outside), while keeping an eye on the helpdesk ticket list, really sucks — and not solely due to my having to do my job remotely over the Internet, but largely; the other aspect being forbidden from travel via public transport, resulting in having no opportunity to visit my folks (and the best dog in the world) down in Worthing.

Last week we sorted out just about all our staff being able to work from home, but at times I’ve felt anxious about either doing something wrong, or having done something wrong at some undefined point in the past — and since I can’t speak to my teammates or our flock face-to-face (the office has been closed for a week now), it’s all… well, even more uncomfortable than in the weeks before.

He’s truly been ill, not just drinnnkinnninnnge!

Mostly I’m getting things right, at least in terms of simple chores (like helping staff to restart their laptops); this is to spare senpai and the Asian Eddie Hitler-lookalike from tedious side issues while they work on far more serious tasks, like keeping our remote services running (fair play to them for enduring this and having families of their own!).  The latter’s been snappy at me even over little things (like misunderstanding him breaking his own vow on using an IP address instead of a machine name for remote access), and at times I’ve felt like chucking it all in and finally handing in my notice — but since he’s been suffering from something not unadjacent to coronavirus, I’m willing to stay in my job for now, and not hold a grudge against him.

Indeed, although “boss lady” was a bit impatient at times (as would be expected), she was otherwise perfectly nice, thanking me for setting up so many laptops during the onsite first three days of last week.  However, she’s said I can’t have a week off any time soon, because they really need me right now, due to how much work the others have taken on (senpai says they aren’t even getting paid overtime) — and due to a couple of big planned changes, there’ll be even more soon!

(Thanks again, Micro$haft, for announcing the retirement of Skype for Business and making us switch to a whole ‘nuther system — if you’d known this predicament was coming, would you have delayed it another couple of years?)

If it weren’t for sitting here in front of my computer to work, I would at least be able to, er, sit in front of my computer playing games, or watching TV (even if it’s entirely via web apps, as I’m unlikely to get the satellite dish fixed any month soon).  Fortunately I can have the radio on pretty much all day without disturbing the staff I phone (or, rarely, phone me), and between tasks I’ve got the chance, again, to learn to strum away on my guitar (which I can do without getting out of my seat) — perhaps this song being my greatest inspiration to learn the difficult F-chord.  I can also be a pen-friend instead of dating in person: I’m currently writing to a young lady teaching at, of all places, my alma mater, who needs help with both English and Japanese!

To be fair, I’m not missing the usual crowds of London, and certainly not public transport (even the Northern Line no longer being the “Misery Line” wasn’t enough!), and I do wonder what kind of fools would still want to hold big events with lots of people crammed in together, partying like the people in my Wells quote above, because they think they can celebrate the end of the world… but then again, I’ve never liked that anyway (one reason I’ve never been a footie fan).

On the other hand, I feel unhappy at the risk of being fined, or even arrested, if I’m suspiciously outside for a reason the coppers don’t like (even though we’re supposed to be allowed to get a bit of exercise and buy food at shops), or if walk past someone on a narrow pavement instead of stepping into the road (in front of an admittedly-rare car) just to maintain an arbitrary distance.  The police in this country are at risk of only caring about numerical targets, hence going after litterers because it’s easier to feel their collars than go after burglars or murders.

I guess it’s another necessary balance: follow the rules for now, out of compassion for other human beings (and one’s own safety in the same situation), BUT hold the government to account, and ensure the rules are reasonable and necessary (for example, fines should never be regarded as an opportunistic revenue-raiser) — and, unlike Trump’s yuge idea, we should be allowed to resume our lives once it’s known to be safe, for our own sakes, not purely to “save the economy” when it’s still unsafe!

(Funny how those at the top denigrate poor people living paycheque-to-paycheque for not having somehow kept savings for a rainy day, at the same time they call for big businesses to get bail-outs from the taxpayer — is this one-sided libertarianism, where “tax is theft” only when it’s used to help the little guy?)

Well, if I’m under house arrest for the duration, and getting way under 10,000 steps a day (and can’t even pet people’s dogs now!), at least I’ve got the opportunity to post here a bit more often, eh guys?  Guys?  Er, guys……..?

Disaster averted, times two?

The last couple of weeks, I was thinking of posting here (yes, I do that occasionally, even seven years after I started this blog) about how worried I was regarding not only my job, but my life here in London — not to mention my health.  Well, it looks like at least two of those potential Chernobyls have been reduced to mere Fukushimas, which may help alleviate the third, at least a little bit…

(Yes, a Simpsons reference, except with a slightly more contemporary equivalent of “Three Mile Island”!)

I’d have said I didn’t want to worry you, but merely wanted to express my worries in written form and get them off my chest, though I imagine I’d simply have made you guys worry even more about me than I intended!  Well, don’t worry, it’s mostly over now, so I can reminisce about my problems, and how I got over them.

Above all, don’t worry about one thing: I can’t even begin to contemplate suicide!  Apart from not wanting my friends and family (and dog!) to miss me, I’ve simply come to fear death itself — simply because I have no memories of being unconscious during my brain surgery in 2018: no slumber, no dreams, not even a SCENE MISSING card — just an immediate jump from feeling drowsy and tingly on the operating table, to being asked by a nurse in intensive care whether I could understand her!

I hate the thought of my memories simply ending, and me not being there to feel bad about it, or even knowing that I’m not there — but I also can’t force myself to follow any religion, so I’ll just have to hope something good happens in a few decades, when I reach the clearing at the end of the path.

(Yes, I’d be happy to wake up in Midworld, and be asked by Roland of Gilead to join his ka-tet in search of the Dark Tower — isn’t that obvious?)

However, there have been times when I couldn’t stop myself from considering career suicide, simply giving up on my life in London and returning to Worthing to live with my folks, and never, ever returning to the Smoke for even a single visit — especially if my life depended upon it, because I’d feel like simply carrying on existing instead of truly living.  I’m over that now, though it’s hardly the first time I’ve felt this way (the early stages of my misery in late 2011 being a major example, and even 2013 having a particularly bad patch).

What brought it on this time?  Well, no matter how well I think I’m doing at work, now and then I let the team down — and not always right away, but retrospectively!  For example, do you guys know what VPN means?  Ah yes, you remember — well, it seems I’d been a little over-enthusiastic in setting up this secure connection for homeworkers, when I’d actually been told to only do so for specific ones, for whom new hardware and a new Internet connection had been arranged.

But having “boss lady” angry at me in front of the office (don’t worry, I spoke to HR) somehow doesn’t seem significant compared to letting down senpai.  We’re switching to a new electronic phone system (thanks to Micro$haft planning to do away with one of their own products), but although just about everyone’s been set up now, it turned out I was supposed to have been going round helping them simplify their statuses.  I felt worthless, and panicked into trying to make up for this… only to make things worse by doing it wrong!

And even when I thought I was doing it right, I’d still screw up little things, or forget what I’d been told (or supposed to have read in an e-mail) — and I’m wondering if I’ll ever be able to hear the funny ringtone I set up for him (see if you can guess it from this Family Guy clip), as now I associate it with him calling me to tell me off for not listening to him, again…

Fortunately, late last week he was a lot more understanding than before, and said I can always double-check things with him (something I’d become afraid to do) — but most of all, that my health is more important than supporting the team.  Y’see, I thought it might have been an issue with short-term memory, either due to the same thing that’s been causing my recent weird dizziness (the neurologist says it’s a possible side-effect of one of my medications), or just plain ol’ age.

(Then again, I can remember what happened well enough to write this, not to mention my nightly diary!)

I made up for things by discovering why a team he was trying to train with the new system couldn’t hear or be heard through their new electronic headsets — though since it involved one of those Win10 privacy (or lack thereof) options that I always find myself turning off when setting up people’s local profiles on PCs, it may not entirely have been MS’s fault… this time.  He and “boss lady” are being more patient with me as well, and looking for a new helper so I’m not overworked any more!

— — —

The other issue, as I’m sure you’ve guessed, has been “worst housemate” — the latest in a long line of female housemates living in the room originally occupied by the leaderene who sorted out our bills when I first moved here.  She’s been consistently underpaying me every month, and claiming we “agreed” a lower value (even if she didn’t need to pay for energy, she was still £4.60 down for March’s rent and council tax!).

The others — including “best mate” and “condescending housemate” (yes, that’s my new nickname for him and I’m sticking with it) — have nagged me to have it out with her, because the amount of money she owes me will only ever go up, and even our landlady (who at least seems to have dealt with the useless E.ON sending bailiffs after her long-dead husband) has gotten involved, saying she’s on my side in this, and that she doesn’t like the girl either (apparently she complained about the rent rise in December, despite signing the new contract with that value in November!).

Amazingly, though, it seems that being told she can either pay the money in full, or move out and find somewhere else, has worked: tonight she told me that she’ll start paying the full monthly amount, and catch up with what she owes me from before!  Perhaps this is because she “loves” her room, or perhaps it’s because she really can afford to pay (seeing as she buys herself coffees and takeaways, yet won’t put a fiver in the household kitty), but it’s a good sign that she’s finally taking responsibility for the costs of living in rented accommodation… in what is presumably her first time living away from home.

Or, of course, she’s got access to daddy’s (or mummy’s) chequebook in a serious situation such at this — but hey, if she moves out after all, “best mate” has offered to provide a van for her to shift her stuff!

— — —

But what of health matters?  Well, increasing my lamotrigine dose may not be helping as much as I hoped, though I doubt it’s responsible for my right arm hurting this week, especially when using a mouse (and it’s something I’ve noted in the upper arm when personal training over the past year or so).  It may well be some prelude to RSI, but if it happens even when I’ve been playing games with a joypad instead of mouse and keyboard, what can I do?  Avoid computers entirely?!

Fortunately, despite a bit of a sniffle and sore throat on Saturday afternoon (which could have been early hay fever), and indeed despite my daily commutes involving the crowded Northern Line, I’ve not (as yet) developed anything remotely resembling coronavirus!

(COVID-19?  That surely must be a Stephen King reference — I’ll set my watch and warrant on it!)

Never mind petty things like biochemistry, physiology and virology, though — it’s in psychological terms that I’m improving, as for now, not only do I still have a job (indeed, they need me to be able to work from home just in case we do an Italy), but I should be getting repaid by a housemate now willing to pay her share (or, more precisely, next month I won’t need to pay so much into the old bank account I use for gathering our household bills together).

With these two weights off my shoulders, I shouldn’t need to see the osteopath for a while…