Category Archives: Optimism

Out of hibernation

I wish I could say I’d had a nice Christmas getaway, but sadly this year wasn’t as nice as last year, or the year before, or 2012 or 2013, though at least better than 2014 and 2011 — and despite the terrible journey down to Worthing to stay with my folks, which normally earns me a good stay…

Oh yes, I have to go into detail every time Southern (named and shamed) jerks me around!  At least they didn’t cancel my train outright before I even got on (as happened in 2012 and 2015), and at least their network wasn’t completely suspended (like in 2013); it  looked like I was going to have a nice, quiet, untroubled journey (like in 2014 and 2016, and possibly 2011).  But no, at the exact time I left home to make my way to Victoria, there was a problem on the Brighton line that meant the train I ultimately caught, despite leaving on time, became more and more delayed as we approached the south coast, to the point that it got stuck behind a stopping service — which makes it ironic that my train later announced it wasn’t going to stop at my station!

Normally I get off at Goring-by-Sea (because I’m a boring guy, see?) to visit my folks in Ferring, and I’d called home to let my mother know I was getting close; however, she forgot her mobile when she set off on foot to meet me, so I couldn’t call her to say I would be getting off at Durrington-on-Sea instead.  My grandmother, learning this from me over the landline, went to the station on foot to fetch her; realising this (from unanswered calls), I felt I had to run from Durrington to Goring in the hope of catching them.  No sign of them at Goring, and I worried I’d have to go searching after I dropped my stuff off at home… but fortunately, I caught up with them just as all three of us got back to Ferring!

After that ordeal, I was dishevelled, knackered, and coming down from a panicked adrenaline rush — which is probably why I spent this Christmas visit to my family home doing as little as possible, and suffering from more minor “brain fuzz” issues.  It didn’t help that some nights I couldn’t sleep (not unlike when I was in Michigan during the summer, though presumably not due to jet lag), and drinking caffeine in the mornings and alcohol in the evenings probably didn’t help — but I had no real exercise (not even Wii Fit Plus), so that’s not been the root cause of my dizziness.

I always feel bad when I don’t do the things I planned during my Christmas getaways: I barely watched any films (despite bringing them on a USB hard drive), hardly played any games against my mother (despite setting up Wii Sports Resort), and did no real practice on the guitar (despite lugging that thing all the way home).  It even took me until the weekend after Christmas to listen to the CDs I’d been bought (yes, the new Eminem and Gwar albums, well guessed), rather than me putting them in the machine right away on Christmas Day — and despite receiving Japanese presents, I did no Japanese translation…

Fortunately, I was able to install my old computer components in the PC casing I have down there, so I can play advanced games while visiting my folks (instead of old stuff), and I was able to put together a crystal puzzle (which became an ornament for my grandmother, and thus was effectively a present for both of us!).  Moreover, by taking things easy and not worrying too much, it seems (according to Fitbit) that my resting heart rate went down considerably, in comparison to how it usually stands here in London, when I have to get up for work at 7am even if I’ve had a restless night.  It also helped that my wonderful mother and grandmother prepared my meals for me, so I didn’t have to fuss about food preparation.

(Phew, that’s reassured the old crones I’m on their side… wait, did I type that or think it?)

Nonetheless, my life felt like it was “on hold” while I was staying in Worthing, and thus it felt good to come back to London today.  Okay, so I’m back at work tomorrow (albeit without “boss lady” for the first day), twice this week I’ve got to visit a hospital in Paddington to get checked over (just in case it’s something more sinister than stress or neck strain causing my dizzy spells), and it’ll be a couple of weeks before my personal trainer is back in town — but never fear, I still intend to make the most of my life in London, as a new year begins.

For example: another level of guitar classes begins next week (in an easier location than Walthamstow), which I might even be able to do on the same day as salsa; and this Friday, which I have off work, I might just be able to go climbing with “best mate” for the first time in months…

Advertisements

Congratulations: you are more alive than ever

“Hello Dave-ros; I want to play a game…”

Yesterday (the 12th) was the sixth anniversary (though Monday would be more precise in terms of weekday) of that day in 2011 when I felt so depressed, I actually planned to end it all on my 35th birthday, 300-odd days in the future, if I couldn’t turn my life around.  All these years later, suicide is something I’m no longer willing to contemplate (terminal illnesses aside) — and all I had to do was change just about everything in my life!

It’s worth considering just what the prospect was back in 2011 of me actually taking my own life… I’d say no chance whatsoever — if anything, that melodramatic outburst (which I concealed from everyone at the time) was necessary, and dare I say it, cathartic?  If I hadn’t gotten it out of my system, I might have been too satisfied with keeping my life just as it was (albeit in a different house, or possibly even back with my folks in Worthing) — but threating myself cajoled me into action.

How is my life in 2017 better than my life in 2011?  Let me count the ways:

(It’s been a while since I did this… hasn’t it?)

  1. I now live a long way from Caledonian Road, in a relatively peaceful area on a reliable Tube line, and while this isn’t exactly the best house in the world, at least I’ve got housemates I get on with (well, since July this year), a heating system that works properly (well, since last month), and a landlord that actually cares about our problems (well, compared to the last two) — and being in Finchley Central, I can get a seat on the Northern Line when I commute.  Speaking of which…
  2. I’ve finally got a job I actually enjoy, using my brain and IT skills to help people — professionals, not members of the public — with the computer side of their jobs, instead of tapping away at data entry all day.  Not only am I the only IT Helpdesk employee in the world who’s happy to be doing his job, I get a lovely pay rate as well — the UK average!
  3. I’m physically healthier than I was even in my twenties, thanks to taking up climbing, seeing a personal trainer, eating better diet (well, slightly more vegetables), and generally feeling less stressed (aside from the occasional dizzy spells that I’m getting the NHS to look at in January), perhaps due to escaping the annoying woman.  I’m even getting more sleep these days!
  4. I socialise a lot more — instead of just Japanese classes once a week (which had stopped by late 2011 anyway), and sitting at home by myself every other night, I go to Meetup events, meet people climbing, and act as the “face” of my IT team at work — if anything, I need to slow down and stay in more often, much as I did in 2013.  However, I’ve more chance of finding someone special — and on that topic…
  5. After going on more dates in the past few years than I’d gone on in the entire rest of my life, I might finally have a couple of potential girlfriends — don’t worry, I’ll be loyal to one woman (at a time), but considering how my love life in the first 11 years of the 21st century was a whole lotta nuthin’, I’ve definitely made progress here, and no longer feel so pessimistic that I wish I could just give up on ever finding love.
  6. Although I still enjoy a lot of “childish things”, I’m taking more responsibility for my life, collecting my household’s bills on my housemates’ behalf, behaving myself in my job and getting things done (allegedly more than at least one of my teammates), taking care of my health (as per no.3 above), and even buying expensive presents for my folks, to thank them for all the years they’ve taken care of me!

This blog entry was inspired by one of the “possibilities” in no.5 above: when I told her I’m not religious (she’s a lapsed Catholic), she asked me, outright, why I hadn’t killed myself.  She knew nothing of my former depression, and was genuinely intrigued (though she phrased it awkwardly, perhaps due to her Polish cultural heritage?); I told her that I’ve got too much good stuff in my life for me to even consider stopping living.  She seems to have accepted this, and so should you — I’m not checking out any time soon!

On that basis, why am I still posting in this blog?  If I’m over depression, and I’ve sorted my life out, what more do I have to say here?  Well, how about the fact that I still seem to have anxiety, which might even be the source of the weird “brain fuzz” dizzy spells I’ve been getting — like a burst pipe spraying into an unrelated room, instead of piping its contents to the correct destination — and this could be partly because I have a good life now, and worry about losing it all and reverting to how things were in the bad old days.  Going back into the dark after having seen the light is worse than never having left the dark, after all.

And yes, I fully intend to soapbox about the despicable behaviour of politicians on both sides of the Atlantic… stay tuned!

Getting lucky (with apologies to Daft Punk)

Sometimes, public transport issues seem to work in my favour — or, I get lucky despite serious issues.  This weekend I’d planned to visit my folks in Worthing, to drop off an expensive present I’d got for my grandmother, so I wouldn’t have to bring it home in two weeks’ time, just before Christmas itself; however, I suddenly thought of a present for my mother, but too late to actually buy it before my journey.  It occurred to me that I could always travel down to Brighton, buy the item in one of the shops there, and get a bus back home; I’d done this before in 2014, and I had a return ticket left over from last time I travelled, that I could use to get back, instead of buying a whole new open-ended return…

(I’d used that return before, but hadn’t had it marked or taken off me!  Yes, I’m happy to rip off Southern — who isn’t, considering how much they rip US off?)

…so imagine my surprise when I discovered that there were no direct trains to Worthing on Saturday, and my plan thus made sense anyway!  Admittedly, it’s not as lucky as that time in November 2006, just after I’d moved to Caledonian Road, when the exact weekend I’d be bringing loads of my stuff up to London in a removals van started with a strike at Victoria station, and so I was able to travel down to Worthing for free instead of buying an overpriced single (which has always cost almost as much as a return), but it was still pretty sweet, and so conveniently timed that you’d almost think it was scripted.

Okay, PC World (named and shamed) didn’t sell the thing I was after, so I had to resort to a shop that my mother hates, and even then, they were out of the more expensive versions of the item I wanted to get; and fine, the train journey to Brighton, albeit cheaper, took as long as a normal train journey to Worthing anyway, and the subsequent bus journey took over an hour on top of that — no, never mind the bad luck, all that was just payment for my good luck!  Like the opposite of Christmas 2015, when my final journey down to Worthing could have been a nightmare, but somehow I was lucky to find the path of least resistance through it all…

I must have been lucky to choose this weekend for my flying visit to Worthing, as it meant I avoided some very low temperatures in London, and the first significant snow I’ve seen in the capital since early 2015!  There was actually a difference of about 9 degrees Celsius (about twice as much in Fahrenheit) between Worthing on the south coast, and the north of London, and no snow where my folks live (but some strong winds on Sunday morning) — which also means my mother’s lucky, as there shouldn’t be any ice for her to risk slipping on.

And considering the snow in London, I was lucky to get a train back up that wasn’t delayed (aside from a short pause outside Victoria) — and maybe the eight-minute wait on the Northern Line was my “bad luck” fee, but otherwise I’ve had no trouble getting back here.  Indeed, what seemed to be forgetfulness before turned out to be fortuitous: last time I was in Worthing, I left behind a pair of boots my mother had got me in a sale in October (non-leather, another sign of good luck), but if I’d brought them up to London before, I wouldn’t have thought to wear them down to Worthing this weekend (it being mild on Saturday), and so wouldn’t have been able to wear them back up, and crunch safely through the snow in the streets here!

One bit of bad luck, and possibly a failure to “get lucky” in a sense closer to the one Daft Punk were actually singing about, has been the serious problems the London Underground’s been suffering today — never mind the Northern Line, which was actually getting back to normal when I got on it: had the Metropolitan Line been running, I may just have been able to drop in on one of the four potential girlfriends I have in my life now — and since she’d used the phrase “Netflix and chill”, there was a chance…

No, I’m not making stuff up — amazingly, after decades of nothing followed by a few years of numerous first dates that seldom went anywhere, and absolutely no instances of “getting lucky” whatsoever (unless you consider “dodged bullets” to be lucky, of course), finally this seems to be the year my romantic life begins!  They’re all in potentia at the moment, as nothing concrete has happened with any of them yet (technically I’ve not even made it to “first base”), but in each case I’ve not managed to drive her away just by being myself, and feel an emotional bond — with a possibility for something meaningful and long-term.

Oh, you want a list?  Well, in approximate order of meeting, we have:

  1. M, a statuesque African-American girl I’ve seen at my salsa classes since 2015, who likes my humour and happily hugs me every time, with kisses on the cheeks; she’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and has given me her phone number.  Yeah, this sister might be more of a “sister” in the relational sense of the word, but I still hope I’ve got a chance with her (and no, not for the ulterior motive of moving to America!).
  2. C, a cute English glasses girl with whom I’ve climbed a few times since 2016 (sometimes I’ve been lucky enough to go to the Castle when she’s been looking to top-rope), who really seems to enjoy my company, and is a great climber herself.  She’s never mentioned a boyfriend, and I’ve been too cowardly to ask her out, or even flirt (in case she mentioned having a boyfriend) — but next time I see her, I’ll try!
  3. S, a classy English brunette, with whom I connected via a dating app late last year, but still stayed in contact with this year, when I finally got to meet her for dates.  Things were a little stilted last time, and I’ve never had the courage to flirt, but she still seems to be interested in meeting me, and despite gaps between text messages, hasn’t starting “ghosting” me like so many other connections.
  4. M, a strawberry-blonde Polish vet, who messaged me via Meetup a couple of weeks ago (she was interested in coming to the “helping the homeless” event in Shy London), and who has met me a couple of times already; even though she’s the one I’ve known the least amount of time, she’s the one who I seem to have the best chance of (if you’ll forgive the bro-ish chauvinism) gettin’ some action with…

(And if the fourth one’s name started with “E”, I could list their initials as “MCSE”, singularly appropriate for an IT geek!  Ha ha, no?  Oh, please yourselves!)

I won’t lie, there are also women at work that I like — but even though one of my IT teammates met his wife in the company (which is why we always give her preferential treatment), I’d be too nervous about asking out any of them, as doubtless it’d be a failure and I’d be humiliated among my colleagues.  If a young lady asked me out, that’d be different — I’m always happy if a woman makes the first move, this being the 21st century and all (and I was asked out loads of times in 2013, which was nice) — but I won’t worry about it, because I’ve already got four possibilities, unlike all the women whose phone numbers I got only for them to either “ghost” me after one or two dates, or turn out to have boyfriends already.

In any case, this Friday I’ve been roped into coming to the Christmas do after work, when I’ll have to be careful in case someone I don’t like gets drunk and propositions me… but luckily, “best mate” wants to go to Winter Wonderland that evening, so, much like that day in summer 2013 when I was at a “singles event” whose female contingent were all much older than me, I’ve got a way out if things become uncomfortable…

What have I done to deserve this? (with apologies to the Pet Shop Boys)

If anything, I have gained nothing
Except just for staying alive
And I suppose that is something
When you’ve tried as hard as me to die!
—Gwar, “Back in Crack” (Beyond Hell, 2006)

Okay, now it’s THREE musical references, if you think Stan’s dressed like Flava Flav!

Right, that’s two musical reference already in this blog post, and two implications that I’m having problems… when in fact, I feel like I surely deserve something much, much worse than I’m actually getting.  No, I’m not complaining, just… wondering?

I’ve said before that improvements in some aspects of my life seem to balance out with increasing problems in other aspects; things are better in this house since “drummer-trucker” moved out, but recently I was worried that “boss lady” would feel the need to have a go at me all over again, and indeed wondered if Friday the 17th would be the day I got my final notice — much like three years ago, during a Monday evening shift… so imagine my surprise when she demanded I send her a link for an expensive computer component I’d want her to buy me!

Yes, it’s just like the i7 CPU she got me for my birthday this year, and the excellent work phone she got me in May — apparently out of the IT budget!  I’d been reluctant on previous occasions, but since in November I’d already spent the equivalent of a month’s rent getting a current-generation graphics card (which means I can play modern games in 4k resolution), I decided on a 4TB SSD — a yuge hard drive with no moving parts (like the one I have as my C-drive), that works much, much faster than the “spinning rust” variety, and will store all my games on it, meaning they start up more quickly.  I will truly have a l33t gaming machine at long last!

(Without the need to buy a console or “upgrade” to Windows 10!)

But why?  Why, when the day before, she told me off again?  Admittedly on that occasion it was for offering too much help to one of our users (one they’d warned me about but who turned out to be perfectly nice), rather than my usual faults of being unhelpful, rude, impatient etc. — but still, I was worried I’d done something wrong during the preceding weeks.  After all, I got a severe talking-to back in August, in which I was warned I could face suspension — and that 19 months after the original talking-to in January 2016, when I was even closer to being fired, because I was still on probation at the time!

I was worried that this time, I’d be in trouble for sure, but take heart — senpai reckons I’m doing fine, my work improving all the time, and that I’d really have to screw up to be at risk of getting fired.  However, he’d witnessed me having one of my dizzy, confused spells while talking to him earlier that day (they happen less frequently since I cut espresso out of my intake, but they do still happen, especially at work) — so perhaps he spoke to “boss lady” to warn her of my potential mental health situation.  She’s already aware (and approved my leave to see a neurologist at the end of the month), so maybe she’s decided to be patient with me at long last… or trying not to seem like she’s discriminating against the disabled.

It’s not impossible she is, if anything, trying to bribe me into staying — I know I’ve screwed up in the past, but most users like and respect me, and are thankful when I come to help them; I’m happy to do so, and work hard at my job.  However, even though I’ve no desire to leave of my own accord, she might think I’m worried about failing, and that I’m planning to jump before I’m pushed — so it could be that she wants to calm me down and convince me to stay.  She surely wouldn’t be buying me expensive gear as some kind of leaving present (unless she was trying to atone in advance!), so I should take this as a sign that I’m not in serious jeopardy, and damn well relax at last.

(She could just be trying to seduce me… nooooooo, that’s ruined my relaxation!!!)

Of course, the most likely explanation is that she’s just trying to spend all of our IT budget by the end of the year, so we get the same amount next year; it’s not unusual behaviour in my team, and one of my colleagues reckons we should just willingly let her buy us stuff, and then sell it on down the line, when she’s forgotten about it.

I know local councils make busy-work purely to spend their budgets in the same way (as per this scene from the classic Falling Down), but since we get our money from rich health professionals’ membership fees rather than public taxes, I find I can live with myself in ethical terms.  Well, wouldn’t you?

— — —

I should add as a postscript that overall my life’s better now — we have heating that works, and a replacement vacuum cleaner that sucks (in the positive sense!); also, I’m earning enough that even though I spent loads on a graphics card and a new chair this month, I should be able to break even (albeit partly because I don’t need to pay my personal trainer until December).  I wonder why karma is being so kind to me: is it to knock me down again later, Job-style, or is it because I’ve been doing good deeds, like handling my household’s billing, and joining a group that helps the homeless once a month…?

Carrying on regardless (with apologies to the makers of “Carry On Regardless”)

Let us go about our duties as though a thousand useful years still lay before us.
—Edgar Rice Burroughs, A Princess of Mars (1912)

Even though nuclear destruction hangs over our heads, and even though I continue to fear for my employment and mental health, I’m determined to carry on living my life the way I want to live it — because I’ve spent too much of my life worrying, and frankly anxiety serves no useful purpose whatsoever.  Why live every day as though it’s your last, when you might have to live with the consequences?

Yeah, North Korea’s got nuclear weapons and is led by a fat pompous idiot who only cares about himself… exactly like the United States.  However, the world got through the Cold War relatively unscathed, and even though it got really close to a “Hot War” during the Cuban Missile Crisis, we’re here to talk about it — and so I have hope that we’ll get through this crisis as well, instead of descending into madness.  I’m certainly not gonna drink myself silly or give away all my earthly possessions in anticipation of armageddon; I’m gonna carry on living as though the future stretches ahead of me.

And similarly, I’m not going to worry about “boss lady” being back in the office tomorrow, as I don’t think I’ve done anything to warrant her wrath.  Oh, today I had a conversation that may have resulted in a complaint, but I certainly hope not — I wasn’t demanding the team that handles incoming calls start taking messages from the obvious salesmen who call up asking for named people in my team, instead of putting them straight through to us; I was simply discussing it with one of their team (coincidentally the one I was recently falsely accused of saying “go away” to), and another member of her team overheard and felt she had to “interject”, somewhat perturbed at the implication that they’re supposed to be PAs for everyone else in the organisation.

I hope I smoothed over that by agreeing with her, and showing I understood how overworked they are by all the incoming calls, meaning they don’t have time to talk to the obvious salesmen or take messages (since they’ll just call back anyway), but considering how complaints against me have started in the past, well…

However, at least some of those complaints about my apparent attitude could surely be explained away by my mental health issues — anxiety and mild panic attacks (at least I’ve never had a fugue… or at least, not that I remember), depression if I take ibuprofen for my headaches… and that damn “brain fuzz” that still afflicts me, even after raising my blood iron levels.  When it’s really bad, I can’t even understand what people are saying to me, no matter how familiar they are — it’s like they’re speaking a foreign language entirely!

I’m convinced it’s down to my neck and shoulder pains, triggered by neck movements (such as looking to the side), and a result of stress making me hunch my shoulders… but no lifestyle changes I’ve tried so far has made a difference, including not listening to Gwar on my headphones, not having espresso at work in the mornings, going to bed early instead of staying up to watch Family Guy (these early nights often just result in me waking up around 3am and not being able to get back to sleep for ages), which is why I’m feeling like I should stop worrying about them and carry on doing the things I’ve always enjoyed… though I’ll still follow through with seeing my quack, to arrange a liaison with a neurologist.

Mind you, I’ve got a couple of other thoughts about what gives me the dizzy spells, or at least exacerbates them: aspartame, for example — I had some Dr. Pepper today, and I feel like that led to a bout while I was helping someone at her desk (and couldn’t understand what she was saying to me).  There’s also been a gaping hole in our kitchen wall since just before my first serious set of “brain fuzz” attacks — thanks to British Gas, who never offered to fix it — and although this house tests negative for carbon monoxide, perhaps some other miasma is coming out of there.

(Another thing that happened the night before my first set of serious attacks was receiving a package from my American friend in Michigan, and I’ve heard about a certain virus going around there…)

One thing that isn’t helping is the fact that I’ve taken on the burden of collecting bill money from all my housemates, so I can pay our rent to the landlady, Council Tax to our corrupt Tory council, and other bills to the relevant fat cats.  However, this has also been stressful, as I reused my old Co-op Bank account, which I probably should have closed.  Remember my problems with them in 2016?  Somehow I hadn’t been overdrawn again since then (I honestly expected them to charge me some kind of fee without prior warning), and so I decided to get my housemates to pay their shares into this account, rather than my main one, so it would be easier to keep track of ins and outs.

However, after everyone had paid in their shares by Saturday (including “best mate”, before he left to go to Vietnam for the entire month), it took until Monday for our landlady to receive the rent amount; this was partly because they needed to phone me to confirm it wasn’t fraud, and I’d foolishly not updated my phone numbers (I think they were calling my old office in Camden!), but also, it would seem, partly because it was the weekend and so they wouldn’t process anything until Monday.

Fortunately our landlady came to accept this, even though she was nagging us to pay our rent on the 1st of the month, despite our housing contract stipulating the 3rd of the month!  However, judging from my Co-op Bank statement (as it’s stabilised today), they only processed a lot of things on Monday — and for some reason they debited my account by the rent amount before they credited it with two of my housemates’ rent amounts, thus meaning I was technically overdrawn, even if it was for a small amount of time!

If they even hint at charging me a fee for an “unauthorised overdraft”, I’ll go to the ombudsman — this isn’t comparable to the times in December 2015 that I wrongly took money out from cash machines that wasn’t in my Co-op account (I objected to the means by which they fined me, not being fined in and of itself); instead, this almost seems like they “mixed up” my credits and debit deliberately, so they make me be overdrawn and thus justify fining me!

I’m tired of worrying, so screw the Co-op if they try to rip me off, and screw my anxiety about facing discipline at work for emotional reactions I can’t control — I like my job and genuinely want to help the people I work with, but if that isn’t enough, well, I’ve had a good innings.  And if there’s some kind of tumour in my brain, or incipient epilepsy, or just plain ol’ stress headaches, well, I won’t let ’em make me live like some kind of timid health freak — I’ll keep doing what I’m doing, keeping fit while occasionally pigging out, and treating worry as the biggest health risk of all.

Above all, though: SCREW TRUMP AND KIM!!!  I’m not being cute, I genuinely hope both fall from power and leave their respective peoples to forge their own lives instead of living in fear and hatred.  Indeed, I’d love to see them settle their differences one-on-one while the real people of the world watch in delight (and only caring who wins in gambling terms), much as Frankie Goes To Hollywood once suggested to Reagan andChernenko in the 1980s…

The Brightening

bb_sunsetEven though it’s only mid-to-late February, the weather’s already improving, to the point that at times it feels almost like summer — and this has led to a rise in my spirits, which can only be a good thing (unless you believe things going right for me directly cause things to go wrong in the world, e.g. Trump getting elected).

For someone recovering from depression, sunshine is vital; I knew this intellectually (hence buying that SAD light at Christmas in 2014), but I realised it viscerally three weeks ago, when I visited the Westway climbing centre.  I really felt positive that evening, not just because I’d conquered the feelings I had back in November 2014, but mainly because the light inside felt natural; it was obviously artificial (because sunset happened even before I got on the Tube there), but I allowed myself to enjoy the illusion that it was a summer evening, and still light outside at 7pm!

In a similar vein, being in a nice warm office (i.e. during the periods that the war over aircon has reached a stalemate) but being able to look out the window at nice strong sunshine made me feel like the winter’s finally over.  Of course, actually going outside for Pokémon lunch quickly shattered that illusion last week, but this weekend it was actually (ahem) uncold enough that when I visited my folks in Worthing, the local barber who I always get to cut my hair had his door wide open, reminding me of December in Mediterranean Spain, when I’d cook dinner at night with the door open, in defiance of the cold.

Best of all, there’s no need to have the heating on at home pretty much at all now.  The outside temperature’s mostly staying above 10°C (for Americans, that’s about “fifty degrees”), and this means it’s tolerably uncold in here all the time, instead of making me sick and unhappy.  On cold nights I’d sleep in longjohns — or on the coldest nights, longjohns and dressing gown — but now I can relax in shorts and a T-shirt, and not even need night socks.

(Oh, have I just caused you to picture me in my nightclothes?  Well, good… if you’re a beautiful woman, of course — if not, imagine something else, I’m not here for your amusement!)

Of course, every silver lining has a cloud: every time I feel better, something tries to bring me down again.  Today, it was (guess who?) my boss lady, who felt the need to remind me to answer tickets in the order in which they arrive, as I’d left a grand fromage hanging for an entire hour (leaving aside our minimum response time being four hours), while focusing instead on homeworking staff needing assistance due to a problem we were having with our remote desktop system.

I know, she was just miffed that I’d neglected someone “important” while focussing on my “flock” (a bit like missing an audience with the Pope to heal the sick?), but every time something like this happens, I feel like it’s undoing all the good work I’ve done so far — that a hundred good deeds can be reversed by one screw-up.  I have to remind myself that if she really thought I was a liability, she’d have arranged some kind of sinister meeting with me already (possibly involving an electric cattle prod) — that I’m not hanging by a thread (like a year ago), I just need to buck up and make sure it doesn’t happen again… right?

Oh, and “best mate” is away in some far-flung region of the Four Kingdoms for work all week — so good job the weather’s improved: if it was still cold, I’d miss him being in his room downstairs every evening, running his electric heater and thus indirectly warming my room to a tolerable level.  Not that I’m saying I only need him around to improve my lot, of course…

But never mind, I can actually go out in the evenings this week to enjoy myself, and not be afraid I’ll come home to find it’s 15°C in here at 11pm, with little prospect of it getting any warmer!  Or, I could just stay in, avoiding tiring social contact, and play games (and write in this blog), which I’ve been neglecting lately due to evening activities.

What do you reckon I should do?  Oh, really?  Well, who do you think you are, a proctologist?!

Going up in the world

climbing

Okay, this is the Castle, but it’s the only climbing picture I’ve got, so quit your whinin’!

Even as the world goes to Hell in a handbasket, my life seems to be returning to the relative calm and enjoyment of 2013.  No, I’ve not got another camping holiday in the western USA planned (though my old roommate’s brother wants me to visit Michigan again), but once again I’m getting paid a decent wage and no longer having to worry about making ends meet — and for this reason I’ve been able to go back somewhere I hadn’t been in years…

I’m referring to the Westway leisure centre, a place I hadn’t visited for climbing (aside from one rare evening in 2015) since that horrible night in November 2014.  For those who need reminding, I was recovering from four night shifts in that 24/7 job I was already regretting taking on, and I was so delayed getting to the Westway by the dreadful Circle Line that not only did I have to queue for 15 minutes just to get in (behind two lines of obnoxious beefcakes), but they had no lockers free for me to put my stuff in, and there was no way in the aforementioned Hell that I was gonna leave my bag ON TOP of the lockers, and risk having my stuff nicked!  I knew I couldn’t climb if I was having an anxiety attack, and so went home (fortunately getting a refund on my entry fee) to berate myself for not going to a more familiar place for my evening socialisation.

Fortunately, even though it’s a similarly dark time of year, I had no flashbacks this Tuesday as I travelled there after work (maybe because we weren’t sitting at Edgware Road for ages), and was able to climb without issue… so why hadn’t I been back there more often since that fateful day?  Forget anxiety, it was cost: I was already paying monthly membership at the Castle, and so didn’t feel I could justify an entry fee somewhere else as well while I was living hand-to-mouth in two successive jobs, even when I went permanent in my current role.  It’s only now I’ve had a pay rise that I can bring myself to pay £10 (give or take) to cheat on my usual climbing centre — and since I can now afford to eat out some evenings as well, I can stay in London for events instead of rushing home for dinner and then rushing back out again!

Another positive outcome of my pay rise has been the confidence to buy myself that new monitor I was on about before — or rather, a better one: I have joined the 4k generation, with a whole extra inch on the screen size, and the only problem I’ve faced (aside from finding 3840×2160 wallpaper that isn’t just badly upscaled from 1920×1080) has been convincing Windows 7 to display things at a viewable size, as it was designed back when 4k was a multi-monitor pipe dream.  Windows 10 may perform better at higher resolutions, but I value my privacy too much…

(And yes, I still have every intention of taking the old monitor down to Worthing for my mother to use, instead of selling it… because hey, I’d get twenty quid at most!)

One more sign of improvement is that my boss now trusts me to work from home in an emergency, even if she jokes about forcing me (and the other newest member of the team) to come in at all costs while the rest of them go to a burger joint.  We’ve figured out why I couldn’t remote onto my workplace PC through Citrix (DNS, don’t go there), and so I can do almost everything from right here on my home computer that I would normally need to be in the office to do.  Much of my job involves remoting onto other people’s PCs, or their Citrix sessions, or indeed onto servers for various functions — so, think on this: one day, while working from home, I might remote onto one of the Proxy PRO servers in order to access someone’s home-working laptop, and thus go three deep!

Obviously while working from home, I wouldn’t be able to do physical tasks like replacing printer toner or moving equipment around — but if the Tube strikes were still going ahead next week, no-one else would be in the office to need those services anyway, would they?  No, I’m fully prepared and able to keep the important systems of my workplace running, even if events conspire to stop me physically coming in… oh, wait, my password expired over the weekend, and now I can’t log into Citrix.  Argh!

I just wish spring would hurry up, as only the gradually brightening mornings (and the fact that it’s only twilight when I leave work) signify that we’re coming out of winter.  I haven’t had the usual 1st February five-minute sunlight-on-windows sign this year, presumably due to the cloud, and the weather’s due to get cold again this coming week, as bad as January and far worse than December… how I wish I had a home of my own, where I could sort out the insulation and have the heating on whenever I want — that’s the way in which I want my prospects to improve next!