Category Archives: Happy alone time

Cool things: Gorillaz, Radiohead… and Jamiroquai

It’s about time I did this, and it’s three bands for the price of one — especially since I’m now, in the lead-up to my time off work following surgery, playing a medley of all three as I walk around London… and my mother doesn’t like the first two, but although she likes the third, “boss lady” doesn’t — hence these are musicians I listen to by myself, on my own terms.

(Oddly, I haven’t listened to Eminem or Gwar for a couple of months now, despite getting their albums for Christmas… maybe later in the year I’ll add them in?)

— — —

Just so you know what they looked like at the start of the band’s career, in “Clint Eastwood”

First of all, Gorillaz, the “virtual band” created by Blur’s Damon Albarn, who provides the singing voice of “2-D”, the lead singer — so named due to the “two dents” in his head left by the actions of Murdoc, who was put in charge of him as a punishment, discovered his excellent singing voice, and decided to form a band with him, taking on himself the role of bassist and manager (signing off his press releases with “Hail Satan!”).  They found a lead guitarist, a mysterious Japanese girl known as “Noodle” (the only English word she could say at first), and as drummer an African-American named Russel (who had the ghosts of his dead homies living in his head).

At least, that’s how they started in 2001, when I learned of their presence through the video “Clint Eastwood” (guest starring American rapper Del Tha Funkee Homosapien, who I got into separately afterwards, thanks to my old American roommate).  I soon bought their self-titled debut album — the first time in my life I’d bought an album when it was new and in the charts — but it took me time to get into them, as they have not one musical style, but about a dozen!  However, I learned that albums can grow on me, even if I’m a little perplexed at first, and later in the year, when I was unemployed and spent a lot of my time watching music channels, I recognised the songs “19-2000” (with Noodle singing in English but subtitled in Japanese!), “Tomorrow Comes Today” (apparently their original video, made before their album), and “Rock the House” (again featuring Del as a ghost who lives in Russel’s head).

However, it’s later that I began to enjoy the tracks that weren’t released as singles — such as “Sound Check (Gravity)”, “Double Bass”, “New Genius (Brother)” and “Latin Simone (¿Qué Pasa Contigo?)”, and added those to my musical rotation (back before I began putting whole albums on my music player du jour), and this persisted with their second album, Demon Days, which I first heard (courtesy of a housemate) in 2005, but only got hold of for myself in 2008.  Much as I enjoy the classic “Feel Good Inc.” (which I liked for the music before I even saw the video), “DARE” (performed by Noodle with help from Shaun Ryder), “Dirty Harry” (with a creepy child choir) and “El Mañana” (the video being something of a sequel to the first one in this list), I’ve also enjoyed the album tracks “O Green World” (very distinctive sound) and “Fire Coming Out of the Monkey’s Head” (guest starring Dennis Hopper, no less!).

I got hold of their third album, Plastic Beach, in 2010 (on a day when I tried to go on a date and failed miserably), but as before it took me a while: at first I only really enjoyed “Stylo”, and I wasn’t even aware it had a video!  However, partly thanks to being allowed to play this and Demon Days in the minibus during my 2013 American camping holiday (by this time I had all my CD albums completely ripped to my smartphone instead of just discrete tracks), I experienced a resurgent interest: two songs in particular, “Glitter Freeze” (featuring Mark E. Smith of The Fall) and “To Binge” (with vocals by Yukimi Nagano from Little Dragon), bring back memories of our drive to Las Vegas.

In 2014 I watched a load of their videos, and again this year, which made me realise how much they’ve done: here’s a list, in approximate story order, of the best songs in Plastic Beach (which I now know to be underrated — it’s a pity they never made it into a trilogy in the end).  Note here that 2-D and Murdoc sometimes as 3D characters, along with Cyborg Noodle (built to replace the real Noodle after her apparent death in “El Mañana”), while Russel, having been replaced with a drumming machine, swims to the island and grows enormous due to sea pollution…

  • Welcome to the World of Plastic Beach” (guest starring the almighty Snoop Dogg)
  • Stylo” (guest starring Bruce Willis, but not on vocals!)
  • On Melancholy Hill” (with the real Noodle still alive, and giant Russel rescuing her at sea)
  • Broken” (a backdrop projection used in concerts — I wonder if they used pyrotechnics and other special effects to scare the audience?)
  • Rhinestone Eyes” (never completed, so this is a storyboard — but fans made an excellent version of their own over the following seven years)
  • Empire Ants” (guest starring Yukimi Nagano)
  • Plastic Beach” (something of a compilation in video terms)

And finally, this year I got hold of their other two albums, The Fall and Humanz; the first was something of a postscript to their 2010 work, and I don’t think any official videos have come out, but I do find “Little Pink Plastic Bags” to be one of the eeriest things I’ve ever heard!  They’re back in the big time with the latter album, which came out in 2017; I’m still learning the songs (as always happened when I got Gwar albums in 2013 and 2014!), but it’s good to see the videos of “Strobelite” and “Saturnz Bars” (the former showing the band having fun in a nightclub, the latter not unlike Scooby-Doo)!  My discovery of these albums is what encouraged me to listen to the band’s works all over again, and I also looked on YouTube to find more of their videos — including Murdoc showing MTV Cribs around their mansion…

— — —

Radiohead were good enough sports to guest star in South Park, although they didn’t play any songs!

It was Gorillaz that got me into their predecessor, Blur, whose albums I’ve been buying from charity shops, and listening to along with other Britpop bands like the Kaiser Chiefs, Franz Ferdinand and Travis; however, the one I’ve been enjoying the most lately is Radiohead, a group I originally only knew from one video in 2001: “Pyramid Song“, which I saw around the same time as I got into Gorillaz, as I remember speaking to my old American roommate about it when I visited Michigan that summer.  However, aside from their guest appearance in South Park, I knew little else about them…

It was in 2015, when I was putting my life back together as I worked towards an IT career, that I started dipping into other music, buying CDs at charity shops in order to give bands a try, and found I enjoyed The Bends, their 1995 album which had passed me by back in those days; my favourite from there would have to be “My Iron Lung“.  It’s their 1997 album OK Computer (which I happened to find second-hand at the same time as Amnesiac), which contains the most songs I like and recognise: “Paranoid Android” (never mind the silly animated video and listen to the song), “Exit Music (For a Film)” (which I heard at the end of Christina Ricci’s movie After.Life), and most of all, “Karma Police” (a pity my mother thought it sounded “dreary”, but I embrace melancholic music rather than rejecting it).

(You may be most familiar with “No Surprises” musically (owing to a scene in The Royle Family where it’s “sung” to Baby David), but check out the original video, with lead singer Thom Yorke almost drowning during filming!)

I also enjoyed Amnesiac (2001), in particular “Morning Bell/Amnesiac” (not available online, but it’s worth noting that the line “Release me” oddly reminding me of Brent Spiner in Independence Day!), as well as the surreal “Pulk/Pull Revolving Doors” and the eerie “Like Spinning Plates” (both combined into a single video here)… and not forgetting the somewhat jaunty yet sinister “Knives Out“.

However, as with Gwar, it was after I got their second, third and fourth albums that I got their first, Pablo Honey, which by an amazing coincidence I’d bought for “female best friend” ten years earlier!  And as with “I’m in Love (With a Dead Dog)” on Gwar’s Hell-O, there’s one significant song I like: “Creep” (though note this is the “clean” version, of course!).

— — —

Hey, c’mon, I only had cartoon versions of the other two bands, so here’s an impression of Jay Kay in 2DTV!

Both Gorillaz and Radiohead are largely surreal and melancholy, but the former is capable of cheerful songs (though intended to mock manufactured “poppy” music); a more consistently cheerful band, albeit with some slow, quiet songs, is Jamiroquai, who I’ve been playing in rotation with Prince and Michael Jackson (for whom I also own a great deal of music) over the past couple of years, during my daily walks while commuting.

I first heard the band in my mother’s car in 1996-7, when she drove us both between Worthing and Surrey (where I was attending university and she was working during the week), and often played the tape version of their 1996 album, Travelling Without Moving, the songs of which always bring back my memories of those days.  However, I didn’t see any of their videos until “Virtual Insanity” in 1999 (upon returning from my American odyssey)!

Another song I remember, for more poignant reasons (despite, or perhaps because of, its up-tempo jauntiness), is “Cosmic Girl“: I had it as a discrete track in 2012 (before I bought the whole album on CD), and hearing it in early November made me feel sad, missing those days when we drove together, thinking I’d left part of my life behind and needed to reconnect with her, as gratitude for all she’d done to keep me going during the bad times…

(Mind you, it’s perhaps “Funktion”, the long final secret track, which I recall best in this context: someone blows a raspberry in the opening, and I’d always act mock-indignant about it!)

I didn’t get my own copy of Travelling Without Moving until 2014; before that, I’d received a copy of Synkronized (1999) from “good housemate” (surplus to his requirements), and “borrowed” my mother’s copy of Emergency on Planet Earth (1993), which technically means I broke the law (though even ripping my own CDs is technically a crime!); I think she may have also played that one in the car at some stage during my university years (or when we drove to work together in 2003), as at least one song is very familiar.  I later found Return of the Space Cowboy (released in 1994, the only one in which Jay Kay drops the F-bomb!), A Funk Odyssey (2001) and Dynamite (2005) in second-hand shops, so I feel like I’ve got a full collection of their music now… oh, aside from their 2010 album Rock Dust Light Star (thanks Wikipedia), but I’ll keep my eyes open!

I’ve listened to their music enough times to know which songs I like best — in no particular order, and with no tedious references to which albums they’re from, I’d say “Canned Heat“, “Emergency on Planet Earth“, “Little L“, “Revolution 1993” (a long one, but with no video), “King for a Day“, “Light Years“… had enough of me linking to YouTube videos yet?  I’m sure Google aren’t, as it increases their advertising revenue…

Dynamite is my most recent acquisition, and I’m still learning the songs, but one track is most distinctive to me: “World That He Wants” — it creeped me out one morning as I started playing it in my headphones as I set off for work, and thought something had gone wrong: the first 60 seconds are quiet and in the left speaker, before it goes full stereo and high fidelity!

— — —

So there you have it — my three favourite bands at the moment; sorry I’ve spent so long droning on about them (this took me days to write, way longer than my long “cool things” post about Doctor Who in 2013), but it’ll be interesting to see how I feel when I’ve recovered enough from brain surgery to listen to music again (assuming I’m even allowed to put headphones on any time soon!).

I’ve still got 100 of their combined tracks left to listen to in my phone music app’s queue, and I won’t get through all of them by Tuesday (when I check into hospital for the big event), but this just means I have one more thing to live for — or, as Jamiroquai themselves put it: I’m “Too Young to Die“…

I’d say all three artists make me feel both happy and sad in equal measure… which of course is the very nature of music, right?

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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!

Alone in the dark

For those of you outside the United Kingdom, our clocks went back during the weekend; as this coincided with the Halloween weekend (I know it’s happening on Monday, but anyway), I decided this weekend to stay in and play scary video games the entire time, with the curtains closed (which I wouldn’t have done if the weather had been sunny).

No, I didn’t replay Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which I did during similar weekends in 2010 and 2011, but I did play its spiritual sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs — a game I originally got in 2013 and first replayed during my period of intense unemployment-related anxiety in December 2014.  Well, it’s good that I’ve put that time of my life behind me at long last, and can enjoy things again… it’s not as scary as the original, but I can only replay that so many times (and have the music and sound effects on my phone) before I wear it out!

I also replayed another game I obtained in late 2013, Outlast (as well as the Whistleblower DLC), which I would definitely say is a worthy second to the original Amnesia in terms of “scariest video game evar”, partly because, as in the Amnesia games, you can’t fight and just have to run like hell and hide in the darkness whenever danger threatens.  This sets all these games apart from, say, Doom (which I also completed at the weekend, after more than 20 hours’ play) or the Dead Space series, or even difficult games like The Evil Within, Alan Wake or Call of Cthulhu, as you can’t fight back, and any enemy deaths occur in cutscenes!

However, there’s one thing in each game that really freaks me out.  Not the hideous role-reversal of pigs and men in one game, or the eloquent (and visibly naked) machete-wielding twins in the other.  No, in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, it’s the classical-style piece “Mors Praematura“, a deliberate work of discordance that I once tried using as my morning alarm sound, only to switch back to music from the original Amnesia because that was actually less scary.

outlast_frogIn the case of Outlast, it’s a section in one of the kaleidoscopic films being used to hypnotise people: not the flames, teeth, wings or other organic imagery, but the most normal, clearest thing of all, a man in a weird costume (possibly a frog) in a black-and-white film on stage!  The still image I’ve posted doesn’t do it justice… where does that clip come from, and is it going to kill me or send me mad?

(It’ll probably turn out to be something more mundane than I imagine — like the clip that plays with a horrible screech near the end of Ghostwatch, when they discover the ghost is literally in the machine, turned out to be one of the girls banging on pipes earlier in the show!)

As I said, I had my curtains closed throughout, and that’s why I always wait until this time of year for this kind of thing: darkness is scary, and I like to immerse myself in the game world for the best experience — and it’s easier to see things lit by my electric lantern in one game, or battery-powered night vision in the other.  However, locking myself away in my room in this way also made it rather difficult to interact with other people out in the real world, including “best mate” (who had been in Wales all week), and suggests I can still suffer from social anxiety, albeit in this case… self-inflicted?

Admittedly when “best mate” bugged me, I wasn’t in the middle of a game (I was either watching Torchwood or dozing in bed), and he had a friend visiting anyway; however, I declined to go to Comic Con with them, memories being fresh of that Saturday in 2013 at the Excel Centre, when I got so sick of being crowded, in the “queue for the queue”, that I gave up and went home (itself an ordeal thanks to public transport) rather than attend the actual event!  I felt surprisingly withdrawn on Saturday, and while I was better on Sunday, walking to and from Tesco turned out to be more of an unpleasant experience than usual — somehow the public still pee me off something rotten, and occasionally scare me (except those decent enough to have dogs), and interacting with humans sometimes seems like a bizarre dream.

Don’t worry, I won’t build a gigantic machine to slaughter the human race to save it from its own folly; maybe it’s just that I deal with people so much in my job at the moment, I prefer my own company at the weekends.  But I should be better now: since the clocks went back, it’s going to be lighter in the mornings for a while, and so I won’t have so much trouble getting up and end up being such a sourpuss!

And the darker, colder evenings will give me more of an excuse to come straight home after work, instead of obliging myself to socialise…

Time off for good behaviour

spock_eyebrow

“On my planet, to rest is to rest: to cease using energy. To me, it is quite illogical to run up and down on green grass, using energy instead of saving it.”

I’ve finally done it, I’ve booked some actual, appreciable time off work: an entire week.  This is more significant than the three days I took off in July to keep my grandmother company while my mother was working in Germany, as I intend to do whatever I please (though I will of course go to visit my folks next weekend), and while it’s partly to use up some of my annual leave before it expires at the end of the year, it’s also necessary so I can finally rest, something I’ve not done nearly enough since starting this job.

And although I took a day off last week after hurting my ankle, and a day off the previous week for a fever, those were hardly holidays, as I felt rotten.  No, this time I’m going to relax and enjoy having a lie-in every day.

(Okay, so normally I only need to get out of bed around half-past seven every working day, but don’t think I’m not grateful — especially considering the horrendous commutes I had in late 2014!)

A lady at work was nagging me last week to not just sit at home playing video games during my break, but to get out there and do exciting things.  If I was taking two weeks off, I’d probably be looking at a short holiday abroad (somewhere sunny); however, as this would require a lot of bother (and travel time), it’s not worth it for just a couple of days away, unless I go on a day trip to Paris (like I did this time in 2012).  Next year, maybe, but for now, I just want to relax and de-stress, and not feel obligated to “make the most” of my spare time.

I certainly do intend to do a lot of video gaming: specifically I want to complete The Witcher III, as I’ve put a lot in (over 90 hours and counting), and I never finished the similarly-huge Skyrim in 2012.  However, I will still try to do other things every day — including but not limited to:

  • Seeing the dentist for a checkup and hygiene work (my employer should reimburse me), something I should have done months ago;
  • Walking to Waitrose every day for lunch, instead of Tesco (as a means of keeping my daily steps up);
  • Sunbathing (though the predicted heatwave seems to have shrunk to just Thursday), and walking in the park;
  • Working on a laptop I’ve inherited from work, and on which I’ve installed Linux Mint (and selling the Nexus 7 I inherited from my mother when she got a decent tablet instead);
  • Detoxing, after eating too many Fisherman’s Friend lozenges to combat my autumnal catarrh.

One thing I fully intend to do this week is get back into climbing and salsa dancing, both of which I’ve neglected for weeks (though in the latter case it’s because the guy who runs the classes has been away).  Since I’ll be at home and can thus make dinner beforehand, I don’t have to worry about going straight to the venue from work, and thus having to eat out, or coming home to eat and then rushing out again (which wouldn’t be possible with the Castle anyway).

I went climbing successfully today, my right ankle not giving me even as much trouble as my left ankle did after I rolled on it in early 2013, so I reckon I’m ready to properly exercise my legs again, and not worry that my days of activity are over… even if I do intend to laze about most of the time!

(Starting tomorrow morning, as I’m up extra-late writing this…)

Easing off at Easter

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

rog_wine

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:

bl_yeah

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…

 

Indoor holiday

mb_hhJust a brief note: it’s been a “bank holiday weekend” here in the UK, meaning we get Monday off; this was nice for me, because although I’ve only been back at work two days (!), the preceding 11 working days for which I was unemployed weren’t exactly relaxing!  Since I can’t afford to go abroad at the moment, this thus counted as my “holiday” this year.

And how did I spent my long weekend?  Why, staying at home and interacting with almost no-one else on planet Earth, that’s how — my two female housemates were away, my drummer housemate was performing in Oxfordshire, and “best mate” was getting wasted at the Notting Hill Carnival!  Don’t worry, I’m not becoming a recluse (again), it was just nice to stay indoors (especially given the typical bank holiday weather), relaxing and allowing my injured toe to heal.  I did a couple of nerdy things, ripping South Park episodes from DVD onto a big hard drive (yes, I’m finally buying the show), and refitting a giant heatsink to my computer processor (the one I’d taken off when I changed processor last October).

I even had a bit of a clear-out of old junk (especially computer and AV components I’ve had for years), and watched loads of old episodes of Spitting Image on YouTube.  This last is a bit like how I watched loads of old episodes of Kenny Everett’s shows in 2012… and I had a “staycation” about this time back then as well, albeit broken with a day trip to Paris.  Still, it’s better than 2013, when I had to go back to Worthing around this time just to have a working Internet connection, or 2014, when I was waiting for an unpaid internship — so if this year’s a rerun of 2012, so be it!

Back to work on Tuesday — and for a change, I’m looking forward to it… if only because I’ll have yoga afterwards, and due to working in Oxford Circus instead of Euston or King’s Cross, I’ll be approaching it from the opposite direction, so to speak!  There’s probably a metaphor in there somewhere, but it’s too late at night… in any case, I can’t spent too much on dinner, or buying a new DVD/Blu-ray drive, because I’ve got to pay rent tomorrow — and if it hadn’t been for that £750 tax rebate in June, I wouldn’t be able to afford it now!

But hey, if I’m staying indoors, that means I’m really getting my money’s worth for my rent… right?

How I spent my summer holiday

Unless I screw up my mock interview entirely tomorrow, I should be back at work next week, albeit unpaid (at first); but since I finished at work last Friday, this means I’ve had six clear days of rest in between, including the weekend.  I’ve been habitually getting up late (some days I didn’t change out of my nightclothes until the afternoon), playing games (finally finished the Mass Effect trilogy), watching Frasier on TV and Game of Thrones on Blu-ray, eating what and when I like, listening to 2Pac and (I kid you not) William Shatner, and basically not going out during the day.  However, I’ve had “staycations” like this before, so what’s been different about this one?

Well, first of all, you’ll be pleased to know I’ve kept the habits I formed in 2012 and 2013: I went climbing on Monday evening, I went to yoga on Tuesday evening, and I was wrecked by my personal trainer on Wednesday afternoon, so it’s been a week of some small energy expenditure.  Previous occasions when I’ve stayed at home for long periods (and only interacted with shopkeepers) have led to cabin fever, so it’s good I’ve been relatively social this time around… especially since I have no idea where I’m about to work, and whether I’ll be able to travel to interesting places after work in time for interesting events.

Not to mention, on other occasions (especially October 2011, but nothing much good happened that year anyway) I made floundering, futile attempts to find a new job, including visiting IT agencies that turned out not to exist (this is why I never use the Yellow Pages website any more); on this occasion, thanks to this agency guiding me, there’ll be no need to get overwrought — I’m as close to an IT career as I can be, short of murdering a geek and stealing his identity.

(If the secret services are reading: no, obviously I’m not going to do that — get a f***ing life, you crypto-fascist jobsworths!)

I’m also continuing my decluttering drive — but apart from selling a PC/PS3 steering wheel for a derisory £15 (once again, something I paid over the odds for in 2011), this has mainly concerned files and bookmarks on my computer.  Blimey, there was some old stuff in there — no, nothing rude, but a lot of links to long-dead websites that I hadn’t used in many years, and ancient utilities I’d downloaded for previous versions of Windows, several hardware iterations ago.  It’s not that I’m short of hard drive space, it’s just an OCD-ish desire to tidy up… and yes, I managed to do the same in my room, which goes through cycles of this kind of thing thanks to all the companies that still insist on sending me physical letters.

Unfortunately, there’s a couple of things to spoil an otherwise happy holiday: firstly, I haven’t been able to spend my £50 gift card at Game, because (a) there’s hardly any left in London, and (b) the one in Wood Green had South Park: The Stick of Truth, non-special edition for the PC, at full price (£39.99), and I want to buy, like, several things instead of just one or two!  I’m thinking of going on a Meetup.com trip on Saturday to Bath, which has two branches… but why spend £55 purely in the hope of saving money on a gift card?  Even I’m starting to doubt my logic…

And secondly, it seems I’m becoming embroiled with the Student Loans company yet again, as the business which now owns my 1998 loan claims not to have been informed of my latest deferment in May.  They said they’ll get onto Stupid Loans to sort it out, but hey, if they need me to fill out another form, I can do that instantly — I’m unemployed, and thus definitely earning under the minimum gross pay rate that would warrant paying it back!  I assume it’s incompetence on their part rather than any failure on mine, but watch this space.  Good job I keep my old phone with my old SIM charged up, and also a good job I didn’t assume the “missed call” was from yet another scam company…

Anyway, my holiday in all probability ends tomorrow with a rude awakening.  I’d better get some sleep in preparation, because I’ve got to be there in a suit, with a pen and paper and a copy of my CV, to pretend I’m being interviewed for a job at a fictional company, and somehow it’ll take an hour and a half!  I tell you, I’m going to earn pizza for dinner tomorrow night…