Category Archives: Self-analysis

Age is just an inconsistent number

Well, gentleman, all in all, an experience we’ll remember in our old age… (twinge) …which won’t be for some while, I hope.
Star Trek (S2E11, “The Deadly Years”)

“To quote my captain in an article contrasting physical and mental age is… surprisingly logical.”

Don’t know if I’ve said it in this blog before — it’s been going for over seven years now, after all — but however old I grow chronoligically, and however old I seem physically, my mental age tends to vary between seven and 7,000 years — depending upon the situation, whether I’m in a good mood, the month having an “r” in it… and, of course, who (or what) I’m dealing with.

Looking back at when I started writing this in 2012, and as I noted in 2014, I feel like I was reborn after having metaphorically died in December 2011 (or possibly January 2012), thanks in no small part to climbing.  2013 was the year of my second childhood: the American holiday and my discovery of socialising (not to mention actually dating a great deal, perhaps more than anyone else my age), and also the beginning of my proper education in IT terms (after a false start in 2010).

2014 would represent my troublesome teenage years, ending with horrible depression and anxiety as I tried to work and not end up destitute (or worse, doing admin in an office again!), but in 2015 (despite my early symptoms of brain issues) I gradually recovered, and in a way reached adulthood by getting my current job, which, despite a difficult start, made me happy and comfortable in 2016 — in a way, my carefree twenties, and the resumption of my “playboy lifestyle” (playing video games and watching sci-fi instead of attending dinner parties and worrying about bills).

Perhaps due to the symptoms starting to become near-constant in late 2016, the following year feels somehow “lost” to me, and being treated badly by my old housemate or told off at work didn’t help, though perhaps building a new PC (and even making improvements to that) made things tolerable.  However, it’s because I took over gathering our household bills in lieu of the housemate that moved out (and before him, the leaderene who lived here when I first moved in) that I feel like I finally reached adulthood, taking responsibility for my quasi-family.

Yes, in a way I’m almost fatherly… though it’d mean the lady who’s lived here almost as long as me (taking the place of a creepy little man who lived in the back room when I first moved in) would count as the mother, even though she and I aren’t involved!  Leaving aside our two newest housemates, the thing to note is that “best mate”, since he moved in back in 2015, has been like a son to me — ignoring the too-small age difference!

Then again, “female best friend” at times felt less like a little sister and more like a daughter!  But since she’s now married with children, I feel she’s more like a big sister, living a far more mature life and taking care of actual human offspring instead of just handling the tedious calculations, accumulations and payments of rent, council tax and other household bills for the sake of a group of adults who are equally capable.  However, since I can’t stand babies, perhaps I’m better off in this situation?

(I know I haven’t made my mother a grandmother, but considering how young our new doggy is, she’s still got a little darling to look after and spoil!)

Despite the cause, it was good to have a lot of 2018 off — more like a career break than retirement — as I recovered thanks to my folks, returned to London thanks to “best mate”, and resumed my job on a part-time basis once they let me.  I didn’t feel like this was a return to childhood, but more like reintegration into the community after… well, not a prison sentence, but after a serious operation, obviously — and I was mature enough to be thankful to have a life to return to… sorry, to be thankful to have a life to which to return, too many “to”s!

I’ve been listening to his albums over the past couple of weeks — thanks, Em!

More recently I’ve needed the help of an osteopath to deal with lower back pains (hence the Kirk quote at the top of this post), and although I’ve recovered from that (much as I recovered from spraining one ankle in early 2013 and the other in late summer 2016), it’s a reminder of the advances of age — not that I’m doomed to disability now, but that I’ve got to take better care of my physical form (even if technically I’m fitter now than I was at school!), including posture and diet.

All this comes together to make me feel like I’ve grown up and been reborn many times over the years — not just in 2012 after the misery of late 2011, but in 2005, after the dismal last couple of months in 2004, when I grew used to living in that cold but tolerable house in the Wood Green area, and was able to enjoy living with “female best friend” (with whom I shared anime shows, such as Macross 7 and X) and the gentleman who, thanks to our years at Caledonian Road, I would one day refer to here as “good housemate”.

I’ve actually started thinking back to those days recently, and how much simpler things were (it was 2006 before I even built a PC of my own, instead of using the half-decent one my folks paid for two years earlier) — though the 2003-4 academic year was also a time of happiness for me (certainly more than my undergrad days), meeting a new group of people for the first time and escaping from the retirement town of Worthing so I could return to university life.

But where am I now?  Let’s make some estimates of my mental age…

  • Mature enough to handle billing, and take bad companies to task (mid-to-late 30s)
  • Man-childish enough to play video games (late teens to late 20s)
  • Still in the girl-hunting phase and going on many first dates (mid-to-late teens)
  • Getting dating experience, learning from it and hopefully soon finding “the one” (late 20s to early 30s)
  • Staying physically fit (early 20s, or possibly mid-life crisis)
  • Not wanting to get drunk (pre-teens or mature adulthood)
  • Having trouble getting up in the mornings (pretty much any age after pre-teens)
  • Feeling the cold and hating noisy people (elderly and retired)
  • Believing I’m indestructible and will live forever (either teenager or already thousands of years old)
  • Good with computers and willing to learn more (either very old or very young)
  • Working in first-line IT helpdesk (20s) but actually enjoying it (60s?)
  • Reading Judge Dredd comic strips (early teens, and f*** Bill Maher)
  • Listening to Eminem and Gwar (younger than I should be!)
  • Remembering Doctor Who in the 1980s (older than I want to be!)

BBC Genome says it was October 1993 when I first saw “The Terminator” uncensored — and I actually enjoyed it more than the sequel, which my folks let me watch first!

What might be worth noting is that I wonder which generation I’m truly in, and which I should be in — after all, I’m old enough to remember shows from the 1980s and 1990s and reminisce about the days we called home computers “micros”, but I never joined in with my generation’s binge-drinking at school or university, and didn’t watch scary grown-up films, and overcome my fear of them, until my teenage years (including Die Hard and Aliens back in 1992).  As I’ve said before, my peers telling me I’m “wrong” just makes me feel right instead!

I’m sure I overheard Chris Evans on the radio one morning (as opposed to hosting The Big Breakfast back in the day) saying that the current younger generation are more likely to become addicted to smartphone games than alcohol!  And since I play Pokémon GO every day but hold drink-to-get-drunkers in contempt, maybe I’m with them?  I also think gay marriage is okay and that fireworks should be restricted to professional use (JRM opposing this plan makes me like it more), and of course you know I hate cyclists who charge through red lights.  All things considered, I’m childlike but sensible, and don’t want to see others get hurt going about their daily business, purely for who they are… maybe because then it’d happen to me.

Funnily enough, the osteopath reckoned I’d been leaning to the left — well, if hating injustice and intolerance gives me lower back pain, stay tuned to this blog: it’s time I performed a hate catharsis, of both old and young varieties, by writing a post about my negative feelings that better expresses them than my late 2013 one, isn’t it?

(Ah, I was angry about cyclists and cabbies running red lights back then, too!)

Am I racist, sexist and… heterophobic?

A couple of heterosexual white guys I actually respect, because they’re, like, totally cool and stuff

Sorry I didn’t write anything last week, when I was off work (a long-needed break from the world of, er, IT in a major London corporation), but now that I’m travelling on the London Underground every morning again, perhaps it’s time I got something off my chest about the kind of people I have to encounter every day.

Remember how, in 2015, I wondered if it was foreigners I didn’t like (due to the anxiety I was going through at the time), only to conclude that it was actually men as a whole I was having trouble with?  You’ll be pleased to know I no longer have any particular problem with Asian (as in Indian) guys, perhaps because my team at work is so ethnically mixed — no, it’s now specifically the honky-whitey-crackers I can’t stand… or, more precisely, the fashionable ones.

As I also said in 2015, I ain’t no nice guy — but to restate, I don’t want to hurt innocent people who have done me no harm; indeed, now I make donations to the homeless, albeit as part of a group (as I wouldn’t be confident doing it alone), and I still give vaguely usefeul stuff to charity shops (and buy CDs and Stephen King novels from them).  I also have no problem with the existence of gay people, and it’s the homophobes I actually hate and wish could be “cured”, and don’t automatically hate black or brown people simply for their skin colour.

(Obviously leaving aside a certain orange “president”, who’s inviting racism against himself…)

Okay, this guy’s not arrogant, and that really is a small wig, not a hairstyle!

However, if there’s anyone I’m sick of being around, it’s swaggering, arrogant, “fashionable” young, slender blokes with hairstyles that look like small wigs (shaven around the sides, long on top), and — although I don’t mind this on men of religious cultures, nutty old professors etc. — great big bushy beards, in some cases jutting right out from their smug, contemptuous faces.  The sort who slouch and manspread on the London Underground (especially in tracksuit trousers), maybe even with one hand down there, and act like they’ve got the right, and everyone around them needs to stop being a “snowflake”.  That’s unless they’re above ground, driving flash cars in a dangerous manner (breaking the speed limit on quiet residential streets like my own, and running red lights), though admittedly that applies to middle-aged London cabbies as well (and I’ve already covered my dislike of London’s drivers and cyclists).

Maybe it’s just jealousy, because I certainly hate seeing straight couples being romantic, but have no problem with, say, gay men kissing (though I won’t talk about women doing the same, as that would open a whole new can of worms!).  Indeed, that makes me wonder why pathetic fools in America want to hold a “straight pride parade”, as though they’re sick of being reminded that gay people exist — when gay people are reminded every day that straight people exist, by this kind of behaviour!  And worse, of course: I’ve never heard of gay men wolf-whistling straight men, or talking loudly and sexually about them (but not to them, of course), and insulting anyone who objects to such behaviour, calling them “SJWs” if they’re not the direct victims themselves.

That might be another side to it: I’ve never liked being around other blokes “on the pull” — I’ve always been trying to find a woman for my own happiness, not to score points with the lads.  Indeed, I still tend to prefer all-female or mixed company, and only rarely make new male friends — and seldom are they white and heterosexual.  There are two such blokes in my team, but only two, and while one of them finds it too damn hot in the office and needs the aircon on full blast every day, that’s not a medical condition, it’s because he’s from Oop Noorth.

(A rather more appropriate use of the term “snowflake”, don’t you think?)

At least the blokes at my workplace are mature (despite their senses of humour); the worst straight honkey mahfahs I knew were back at school, in my GCSE years in Worthing… and at university, during my undergrad days.  Yes, let’s reflect on my past bullying experience one final time, and get this out of my system: teenage boys sneering at me because I wasn’t getting drunk at FIFTEEN, and thus taking advantage of drunk girls at house parties (which surely would qualify as rape?), and young men treating me like an outsider for not wanting to get drunk even at legal age — and yes, the alcoholic thug who wanted to come around to my room and beat me up, even though we’d never spoken, for reasons best known to himself (if he could even remember them the next day)…

On the positive side, this means I actually feel more respect for older gentlemen and plus-size guys in public places (well, obviously except specific individuals) — they haven’t hurt me, and there’s no sense in harbouring irrational hatred for them.  Inadvertent manspreading, I can tolerate — indeed, now I feel bad for refusing to give extra elbow space to a portly man (resembling a humourless version of Matt Lucas) who used to be on my morning Tube train frequently, and insisted on using a laptop in his seat.  He’d done nothing wrong (except maybe he could have asked nicely), whereas I view leg-spreading I’m-all-dat blokes as a challenge, and sit next to them on the Tube when I can, just to politely refuse to let them cross the border.

(One bloke took exception to this and glared at me, so mission accomplished!  Though I don’t know if he was white, as I didn’t look at his face…)

Now here’s a white man whose beard I don’t hate… “THANKS DAVE-ROOOOS!!!!”

Sometimes I wonder if I have some weird phobia (perhaps stemming from childhood terror, or a side effect of my recent brain alteration), and I know I shouldn’t hate bearded young white guys — fortunately, when it’s someone familiar, I don’t.  Hey, I’ve slowed down in shaving terms over the past few years, and often have stubble (ironically, something the bullies made fun of me for in the GCSE days), but I don’t want to grow a full beard (until I’m old and grey), simply because I find the styling of such a thing to be pretentious — and the same for funny hairstyles (I’m keeping my luscious glory short these days, mainly so I don’t have to fuss over it).

I know, it’s stuff my dating coach has encouraged me to try out — dressing smart (though not quite on the verge of “peacocking”), styling my hair (sensibly), sitting in a masculine pose (albeit not quite full-on manspreading), and essentially being fashionable… but I don’t want to be like the crowd, I want to be myself, and I’d only be willing to dress up smart for a date if it was, shall we say, date no.3 (or, more likely, a higher number), and she was also dolled up to the nines.  Of course I’ll keep trying new things, but I’d rather have platonic female company in a nightclub, perhaps (like “other female best friend”) dancing with me to attract the attention of single women in my direction, than a bunch of brash blokes egging me on, as I wouldn’t care what they think of me, success or failure.

Don’t worry, I don’t hate all white, heterosexual males of the species H. sapiens — obviously I’m still a fan of Eminem (yes, even after all these years!), and “best mate” fits the criteria as well.  Then again, neither of them is English, and very few of my male friends are: my personal trainer is mixed race (and sounds American), and I’ve had Far Eastern buddies over the years (including my new housemate, for whom I’m developing tolerance).  Ah, my yoga teacher, he’s always been cool (despite his Brummy accent… no, actually, because of his Brummy accent!), and some of my school/university friends were and are (though I’ve lost touch with too many over the years), and of course “drummer-trucker” has been fine since returning to the Smoke.

Let’s be fair: #NotAllHonkeys are pretentious, bullying jerkbags — I’m not, am I?  Am I…?

Text me maybe?

Pay attention, he’ll feature at least four times in tonight’s blog post!

Well, at least I’m not so obsessive regarding wristwear any more, since giving up (at least for the time being) on Fitbit last month.  However, aside from tapping my “normal” watch out of habit, I’ve also begun taking my mobile phone everywhere and leaving it in “normal” sound mode, rather than on vibrate or silent, all day at work… and in public too, because if everyone else everywhere in London can have their ringtones and incoming text sound effects on maximum volume (especially when coming out of the Tube tunnel at East Finchley), why can’t I?

And since getting my first smartphone back in 2012 (well, my first decent one), I’ve been setting up my own choice of comedy (or horror) sound effects, ringtones and alarm tunes.  That’s right — screw the Nokia tune, the iPhone “ding!” or the Samsung whistle (which I may have not heard since that train journey in December 2013), I’ve embraced my whimsical side, and if I annoy people: good, they’ve certainly annoyed me no end!

(Don’t worry, I won’t have loud phone conversations on the train, much as I won’t manspread — even I have some decency!)

Are you ready?  First, let’s look at text message noises, the most recent of which is the main reason I’ve had my phone not on silent at work lately (and not just because I hope to hear from “Polish female best friend”, though certainly to some extent).  From the works of Seth McFarlane (not including The Cleveland Show because I’ve never really watched it):

  • After discovering Eduard Khil’s “song” from 1970s Russian TV (which became the “trololo” meme on this newfangled Interthingy in 2009) as a direct result of Family Guy, naturally I used Peter Griffin’s neck-extending impression of the line “ba-pa-da-da-da-da-da-da-daa!”  This has more recently been brought out of retirement, to signify text messages from my sensei at work.
  • Similarly, thanks to “best mate” laughing at the scene, I started using another Peter Griffin line as his text message noise: after seeing (a parody of) the Patrick Swayze film Road House, he started kicking things and calmly saying: “Road House!
  • Hey, I’ve gotta hope I’ll get lucky some day, right?

    Also from Family Guy (and in part inspired by “good housemate”, who had a sound effect-playing phone long before me), I use a couple of Quagmire quotes for any chicks with whom I number-close: “Giggity giggity giggity giggity!” and “All riiiight!”  Just a shame they all too often signalled I was getting a let-down…

  • A later quote became my main text message noise, but now has been relegated to the number that sends me an annoying code for a work-based system (which is also very slow): Robert Loggia, live-action, reacting to a bad AIDS-related joke: “NOT OKAY!
  • American Dad! has also provided a number of effects: to begin with, Stan reacting to someone discovering him doing something bad: “Ooh!” (speficially the one at 0:15). Since I couldn’t find a YouTube video of him expressing pain (because this one didn’t exist at the time), I use it for my personal trainer now.
  • Roger the Alien, of course, has provided three sound effects: most important of all, having once been relegated, it’s back as my general text message noise, which back in October 2012 annoyed my friend at work a great deal: “MYAH!” (though you may remember it inadvertently causing me anxiety one day in 2013).
  • And on the subject of “Polish female best friend”, for a long time it was a post-pitch-pipe singing of the word “No-o-o-o!“, but now, my most recent addition, just to get my naive hopes up… yes, American Dad! fans, it is, of course: “Maybe baby!

(No, ignore the episodic context — I mean “baby” in the female companionship sense!  Hey, a man can dream…)

My generic ringtone is a recording of the 24 CTU phone ring (of course), but I’ve set “best mate’s” ringtone to be, of all things, Peter Griffin from Family Guy chuckling along to “Axel F”; I’d love to use Roger the Alien’s ultra-annoying “Trippin’ Balls” song, but it’s hard to get sound files from YouTube at the moment (because I use an ad-blocker).  I don’t yet have a special ringtone for my folks calling me from their landline, but it’s worth noting that back in the day, when I had a bleeping Nokia phone, I set theirs to “Toreador 1“, with the following one, “Trio”, as everyone else’s — though once I was able to recreate the 24 ringtone (thanks to an online guide), I used that instead!

“Grrruuugggghhh… it’s Mumsy!”

However, there’s also a sinister side to my mobile noise whimsy: when it comes to text messages from important, life-determining people, I use sound effects from the scariest video games.  For example, when my mother texts me, it’s bound to be vital I read it as soon as possible, and so I use an effect I brought over from Amnesia: The Dark Descent that’s long scared me: a “Grunt” Gatherer making a “notice the player” sound effect (the one at 1:09 in this video).  Back in 2013 I used it as the general incoming-text noise (especially when I worked along in a basement paper archive, and could leave my phone out of sight around the corner — ooh, scary!), but now it’s used for a far more important reason.

(Is it just me, or does Moose the boxer sound a bit like a Gatherer?)

More recently, I’ve started using Cthulhu’s roar from the final stages of Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth, to signify my landlady texting me (especially important if it’s rent, a new housemate moving in etc.), but unfortunately I can’t find it in a YouTube video, so you’ll just have to imagine it.  That game’s certainly more scary than the recent Call of Cthulhu, which has not only failed to scare me (especially the silent human patrols in the asylum basement), but shown some frustrating display issues!

And finally, alarm sounds.  I’ll probably never forget the tune my original smartphone played as a morning alarm when I first got it in early 2012, when I was recovering from (what was then) the worst depression of my life; well, in order to forget it (and terrify myself into getting out of bed), and so I got hold of music from Amnesia (yes, that again), with two other tunes joining it later.  Check out this section of the game: originally I used the first tune when the “water lurker” approaches you, but later the chase scene music seemed somehow more appropriate and terrifying; amazingly, I used the final “blue room” music in this sequence to wake up at the weekend, feeling nice and calm.

I’ve also used, at various times, the mad “screeching” sound effect that you hear when a Gatherer is in pursuit (can’t find it on YouTube… oh wait, here it is), and a piece of music that I mistakenly thought was used when the Shadow chases you through the tunnels near the end, when in fact it was one of the tunes from the very final scene, depending on how you choose to finish the game!  I also tried the discordant song “Mors Praematura” from the spiritual sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, but since I did that in late 2014, it reminds me of a different, more realistic kind of anxiety…

(I’d love to take something from Outlast, the second-scariest “survival horror” game of all time, but it doesn’t present music or sound effects individually in easily-copyable format on my hard drive!)

Not quite as scary: Duncan the Dragon from You & Me, with no suitable sound effects

I’ve also used chase music from Call of Cthulhu (the old, good one, not the new, not-so-good one), and may have to grab some more, as I need to be scared into getting up in the mornings again, instead of lying in (Chris Evans on the radio isn’t enough to keep me awake) — but oh, what if I used “A Hippo Called Hubert”, most famous for the Noseybonk sketches in the 1980s puzzle show Jigsaw, forever burned into my memory… AAAAGGGGHHHH!!!!

Boy, that oni-masked Adrian Hedley character scared me as a child — I’d rather face a Gatherer or a Deep One… or indeed, Roger the Alien as Ricky Spanish!  Hmm, maybe I can grab a clip of the woman’s voice whispering his name… no, that’s too quiet to be a text message sound effect, and who’d that annoy?

See?  I’m not prepared to use the boring, generic sound effects everyone else seems to use — it’s MY phone (okay, my work phone, but still), and I’ll be as weird as I damn well like!

Breaking away

Nothing to do with Brexit or the lack thereof tonight, though I’m sure one thing that can bring Remainers and Leavers together is universal loathing of our Conservative government, which will give us neither a second referendum as demanded by millions of marchers, nor a no-deal departure from the EU on the scheduled day, but just keep voting on the same deal, unchanging, over and over again… oh, sorry!

(And yes, I fear that no-deal would lead to us metaphorically fellating Trump’s America anyway, which would be unmitigated, especially in affordable medication terms!)

No, I’m instead going to focus on entirely personal matters, this being my blog about recovering from depression and anxiety (the brain tumour completing the trifecta, of course).  Although recently I blogged about items I’ve long owned and used pretty much every day, it’s worth noting that I’ve also stopped using a number of things over the past couple of weeks, recognising when something’s no longer of use to me, and in need of replacement or outright abandonment.

Not just clothes, which wear out, or cookware, which… er… wears out — no, sometimes I got hold of things which sucked.  Take, for example, the keyboard and mouse I bought year — yes, time for naming and shaming: Corsair, where although they worked well at first, my computer kept losing one or the other — the mouse sometimes at startup, and the keyboard almost every time I locked Windows.  Yes, I could still type and mouse around, but the system tray-based program, iCUE, stopped controlling the keyboard’s lighting system, returning it to the default flowing rainbow pattern, and unplugging/replugging, even while holding down certain key combinations, didn’t work every time.

This went on for months, despite numerous patches, and so eventually I gave up and started looking for a new manufacturer — but every PC World I went into seemed to have only affordable gamer keyboards with loud, clackety keys… or worse, media control buttons that are just the F-keys combined with Fn (or equivalent), rather than separate ones sitting at the top of the keyboard, with a volume dial or roller!

Hmm, this sounds rather petty, doesn’t it — hardly as bad as having a dead-end job with a lousy salary and the prospect of homelessness (or worse, having to move back to Worthing), but I’m grateful to $DEITY (or possibly ka) that I’m earning well enough to do such a thing; suffice to say, between this and other purchases I’ll go into below, March has been an expensive month, because I’ve given in and bought a better keyboard and mouse (which actually store their lighting settings internally, the iCUE counterpart only being needed to set them up initially), and all is good now.

(Don’t worry, the Corsair equipment hasn’t gone to waste — it’s now down in Worthing, working rather more consistently with the Frankencomputer, which also has my previous motherboard and processor!  And all other mice and keyboards work, and can go to charity…)

Okay, here’s something rather more serious: Fitbit.  Yes, that sentence clause doesn’t require a verb, does it?  I’ve been using one or another wrist-mounted step-counter and pulse “monitor” since the start of 2016, and for all I know, having its Bluetooth signals so close to me virtually 24/7 could have contributed to my cerebral catastrophe (though I think my periods of horror in 2011-2 and 2014-5 are more likely to have encouraged the “space invader”).

That’s not the worst part: aside from charing up regularly and replacing the strap several times, the thing has angered me even more than the Corsair equipment: my pulse rate all too frequently showing up as “- -” (and quoting Groucho Marx’s “either this man is dead or my watch has stopped” got real old real fast), leading to me hitting the thing in frustration; the unequivocal evidence of my broken sleep patterns last summer as I recovered from surgery, which only depressed me even further; and recently, as a final touch, my obsession with getting 250 steps per hour, 8am-6pm (except at the weekend, me not being quite that obsessive), which was broken last Tuesday when I had to sit through a longer-than-usual staff briefing at work, simply because I was making sure the Skype equipment was running properly (it was).

I’ve thus, with my mother’s permission, finally taken the damn thing off, and although I haven’t smashed it to pieces with a hammer (which would be ill-advised on my carpet), or deleted my account, I wonder if I’ll ever go back to wearing it (or a less-battered replacement) ever again.  Don’t worry, though: I’m still recording my weight every night in Wii Fit Plus, and I’ve got a different wrist-mounted device to wear instead: the movement-powered watch I got 19 years and a week ago, which had run out of power due to me not wearing it for the past three years, but which still works fine, and with which I may one day be buried!

Events this weekend led to two more replacements, but amazingly, one desire to stay.  For Mothering Sunday, which I spent with my folks, I bought my mother a new PC monitor to replace the small one she’s had for almost exactly 11 years (and my old one, which I brought down to Worthing but which was too big for her to look at… ooh, Matron!), and she’s happy with the result — in size terms, it’s juuust right.  Worth noting that she herself also did away with the computer desk she’s had since, probably, Christmas 2003!

Secondly, at the same place I bought a replacement alarm clock radio for myself, to replace the one I got in a sale back in 2017, which can’t keep the time properly (it updated to account for British Summer Time, but never gets the seconds right, thus turning on before or after the “pips” on Radio 2 at 7am).  This in turn replaced the older alarm clock radio I brought from home back in November 2013 (with a built-in CD player, upon which I listened to MMLP2 the first time), but I only replaced that because the buttons weren’t working properly: I liked it a lot more than the DAB one my folks got me for Christmas in 2007, but which made a thud noise at 1am every night as it checked the time, but still somehow missed the correct night for the clocks to go back or forward.

(The new radio is DAB, so maybe I can find the radio station upon which Chris Evans is now doing the breakfast show, and break away from Zoe Ball?  Damn, I miss him… well, slightly, considering how tired I am in the mornings, and not as much as when he hosted The Big Breakfast in 1992-4!)

Thirdly, this weekend “best mate” let me know that a letter had come from our energy company, E.on, in my name — thus showing they’ve finally transferred our household’s account from our late (RIP 2013) landlord’s name, in which it had apparently been since he and his wife (our current landlady) bought the property in 2010.  To demonstrate why I’ve named and shamed them, this required me to make TWO phone calls to them in February (during working hours, thus getting me told off mildly by “boss lady”), both giving me different information (and repeatedly asking if I’m the new property owner, no matter how many times I said I’m a tenant).

I did this because when “best mate” took over paying our bills last summer (while I was convalescing in Worthing), instead of simply doing a one-off payment online (effectively on our late landlord’s behalf), like I did each quarter, he accidentally set up a full online account (in our late landlord’s name), and under their system, this defaults to “no paper bills” — hence we weren’t getting our quarterly bills in the post, and were only receiving late reminders, threatening us with fines!  This was clarified only when he made a rare check of the seldom-used e-mail account whose address he gave to the company on that occasion (don’t worry, he apologised for his mistake).

Although one of the phone jockeys last month said they’d make “my” account apply from this month, the other one actually backdated “my” account to start in February 2012, when I first moved here (even though I’ve only been the one directing our collective housemate money to their online payment system since “drummer-trucker” moved out in mid-2017) — but something wonderful may have happened: I don’t want to jinx it, but “best mate” called them to confirm, and for some inexplicable reason, it seems we’re now over £2,000 in credit! If all goes well (i.e. they haven’t made a mistake, or they have in our favour and they won’t realise it later), we won’t have to pay an energy bill again for a year or two… and on that basis, and that basis alone, I won’t be breaking away and transferring our account to a different energy company, despite my folks recommending it because they’d had their own bad dealings with this shower.

One final thing to note is that not one, but two housemates are about to break away from our household (and so won’t benefit from reduced energy bills); one is the current female occupant of the large back upstairs room, the fifth person to live there in my time (the original being our household “leaderene”, and the bill organiser in those days), and the fourth being someone who was there for two months last summer (mostly while I was convalescing in Worthing).  It’s up to her to find a (hopefully female) replacement, and with luck, our landlady won’t object and make us all move out (or increase our rent to the level she claims is common around here).

The other is the bloke who moved in to replace “drummer-trucker” in 2017, and who was moved out of the tiny box room and into the full-sized downstairs lounge (which increased his rent), but it’s been arranged by “best mate” for one of his friends to move in there when the bloke moves out.  In the meantime, “new guy” will be staying with us in the aforementioned box room (despite it being legally too small for our landlady to have a sixth housemate living there as she’d planned), and his possessions are in the house already.

Perhaps he’s going through what I went through when I broke away from Caledonian Road in 2012, and moved here, my stuff in the lounge for a week while I couch-surfed…?

— — —

P.S. I’ve also been taking a break from the dating scene (I won’t name-and-shame my dating app as it’s worked fine), partly because I’ve been almost constantly suffering from colds since Christmas Eve, and partly because I feel a certain hope regarding “Polish female best friend”, who’s been on a break from Britain, but will be back here before Brexit!

The more things change…

Needless to say, I haven’t suddenly met the girl of my dreams on Valentine’s Day, or been proposed to (a young lady in my office has been, but I never really spoke to her anyway) — but it’s okay, I’ve been taking a mini-break from the dating game.  However sensible that may be, it’s only now that I actually feel like doing it — as though all feelings of desperation have finally left me.

But no, I’ll never give up my search — it’s just nice to relax a bit (not least because it got tedious sorting through 21 women every day, in that damned dating app!), and look at my life as it is.  Things have improved dramatically for me since I started writing this blog in 2012 (and even more so than a year earlier than that, 2011 almost being the death of me), but although I may have matured, taking on the burden of sorting out billing for my household, and finally doing a job I actually enjoy… deep down, I’m still the same manchild I was back then.

Yes, I’m still playing video games for fun (including scary survival horror ones); yes, I’m still climbing (despite having to reduce it in 2018 after my surgery) and seeing a personal trainer; yes, I’m still petting dogs I meet in public (with the owners’ permission — indeed, they often encourage the little mutts to come over to me!); yes, I’m still listening to various musical acts through headphones (Eminem, Gwar, Gorillaz as well as Prince, 2Pac, Kaiser Chiefs); yes, I’m still reading the works of Stephen King and watching Japanese anime on the Tube, and sharing old Beavis and Butt-head episodes with “best mate” (as well as quoting Family Guy and Father Ted)… and yes, I’m still a vegetarian who avoids organised religion, not to mention fashion and sport.

(Phew, that was… an inexhaustive list!)

Perhaps it’s worth noting that I even still have a number of possessions that I’ve used seasonally, regularly or even daily for many, many years — some things come and go (but not to waste — I’ve donated items to charity, and given away old coats and even an underused sleeping bag in “helping the homeless” events), and some things are replaced over time (including clothes, cookware, mobile phones and most computer components), but a few things have served me well over the years, even those that originated in bad times:

  • Back in 2015, while recovering from the horror of being unemployed (good job it stopped before Universal Credit, eh?), I replaced my long-standing poster collection with more mature wall art, and still it lines my walls.  I’ve also still got the “small but tall” TV shelf that “best mate” built for me after moving in at that time!
  • The blue trainers I wear for personal training sessions: my mother got me them in late 2014 (when I was unemployed and anxious), but I still wear them today (though sadly not literally today as we missed a session); despite their age and heavy usage, they’ve lasted extremely well, and I haven’t even begun using the pair I was bought to replace them a couple of years later!
  • The acoustic guitar I got in early 2014 still works (indeed, the music teacher I met in 2017 and 2018 reckons it’s better than the £40 I paid for it!), and while it’s not electric enough for me to play Gwar, it’s a starting point for my heavy metal career, and enables me to play excerpts from my favourite works (such as “Iron Man”).
  • However much my computer changes over time, it’s worth noting that I’ve still got Windows 7 (screw 10!) installed on the SSD I managed to buy in October 2013 (after the time I tried and failed to take an A+ exam at a disorganised venue) — the install itself was created in 2011, and the copy was bought in 2009, but Windows has started up nice and fast (almost) every day for over five years.  And I’ve still got the compact desk “best mate” helped me bring home from IKEA around the same time, replacing the much bigger one my mother got me in 2002, but which only joined me in London in 2006!
  • The Wii and Wii Fit Plus setup I bought from my former Japanese teacher in late 2012, originally as a Christmas present for my mother, but ultimately for myself — I measure my weight and record my exercise every day, and have done so for longer than I’ve had a Fitbit!  I later got another Wii setup for the Worthing house, and I do the same there when I’m home for the weekend, Christmas, or convalescence, so my details go back to early 2013.
  • The climbing belt my mother handed down to me in 2012 (she’d already undergrown it, shortly after we began climbing) improved my focus on the pastime as I recovered from the previous year — it still fits, and it still holds me up by rope!  I got the belaying device around the same time (the one day I climbed with my former “good housemate”), and that hasn’t broken either, despite a great deal of use.
  • For better or for worse, I still have the room I moved into seven years ago in February 2012 (thus ending that terrible period of anxiety), and the roof’s not caved in yet!  And the previous resident (or his predecessor, or his predecessor…) got a Sky Digital dish installed, and though I use Freesat instead of the paid service, it meant I discovered the Horror Channel, which I’ve since watched more than almost any other (with the possible exception of the dearly-departed BBC3)!
  • The Duke Nukem Forever-themed “Nukem’s No.69 Power Smash Whiskey” pint glass I got in mid-2011 (the prelude to massive depression), which still hasn’t broken like so many other fragile containers — every morning with breakfast, (nearly) every evening with dinner, and just about every night around bedtime, I drink nice cold filtered water from it.  It’s actually lasted longer than any of my water filter jugs!
  • A digital thermometer that my folks got me in 2009 (when I was in a job I still hated, though it would get better until I left in 2014) — well, it tells the time and informs me of the temperature and humidity in here, so naturally I’m looking at it constantly, whatever the season.
  • The Dalek-shaped key fob that “good housemate” (in a Wood Green house I didn’t like living in) got me for my birthday in 2005 — it still lends a comforting, reassuring weight to my keyring, and hasn’t (indeed, can’t) fall apart like almost every other fob I’ve ever had (though I keep reassembling the BB-8 one my mother got me, since he’s one of the good guys).
  • At this time of year, I’ll always wear the hat-with-flaps I bought in Worthing back in early 2001 (a futile year of my life, even before foot-and-mouth and 9/11) — the important thing is to stay warm, not to look “normal”!  Go ahead, accuse me of being a Canadian moose hunter…
  • My CD collection only really started in the 21st century (with my first MP3 player being bought in 2006), but I rip everything onto my phone, and I’ve still got the first proper music CD I ever bought (using a gift certificate in Michigan at the start of 1999): the Bee Gees live album, One Night Only — and, though I forgot to mention it explicitly before, my 1997 purchase of the CD re-release of Jeff Wayne’s Musical Version of The War of the Worlds!
  • There’s even ornaments I’ve had for years — not just gruesome busts of skeletons and Frankenstein’s Monster bought by my folks on holiday in places like Italy in the early 21st century, but a mineral egg I got during an A-level Geography field trip to France in 1996, reminding me that I can become fast friends with almost anyone, no matter how antagonistic we were before (referring to my classmates).  Not to mention a model Dalek I built a few months later, prior to starting university…

All things considered, though, one lack of change I regret is that I can still feel negative emotions at this time: being stressed and pressured at work can make me anxious (as can Brexit), looking at my lack of a love life can make me depressed (as can Brexit)… and video games (such as Batman: Arkham Knight at the moment) are a major source of anger.  Still, I’ve managed to combine the pieces of four Xbox 360 joypads into a single working one with a consistent colour scheme (otherwise the top and the triggers would be white and the rest black), and this sincere effort has persuaded me not to throw it at the floor in rage any more, no matter how frustrating I find fighting big enemies or getting a Riddler trophy, so maybe I can change after all!

It’s funny, but I don’t feel like my life’s in a rut right now — I actually enjoy having evenings off to relax and play video games (and watch DS9 on TV, the latest Star Trek incarnation being repeated by the Horror Channel), occasionally going climbing or working out, sometimes helping the homeless or visiting my folks in Worthing, but mostly recovering from work.  Much as I’d love to go on dates that actually lead to something more than a polite goodbye, and indeed find one special girl, somehow the prospect of being married and building a home and a generic life together seems rather… dull?

(Believe me, if there’s one thing I find more nauseating than PDAs, it’s couples tediously discussing redecorating the kitchen!)

Maybe I’ll grow up some day and put away “childish things” in order to become a father and homeowner, but not yet — being single didn’t prompt me to do so in 2013, and it doesn’t now.  I want to enjoy living and be comfortable (not to mention recovering fully from medical issues before I make any serious plans), as well as doing a job I enjoy and saving up for rainy days, and while things may become “interesting” at the end of March (Brexit itself being a devastating hurricane, or at least a shower), for now I can take things easy, and not feel obliged to fit in with boring old adult society.

Perhaps the oddest thing of all is that I’d be perfectly happy to have a long-distance relationship with a girlfriend I hardly ever see, but with whom I share fiery passion on the rare occasions we’re together.  Needless to say, I hold out hope that things will change for the better with “Polish female best friend”… but if Brexit goes ahead as planned, will she even be allowed in the country to work?  For that matter, will “best mate” be allowed to stay and continue working here (and renting the room below mine), or will he get kicked back across the Irish Sea?

Indeed, will I end up being exiled from Britain due to being one-eighth French, by the sort of racist scum who demonstrate how racial purity (i.e. inbreeding) is self-defeating?  Will I wish I had been, if coming out of the EU (and by extension the ECHR) leaves us even more at the mercy of corrupt self-serving politicians than we already were, and the NHS (upon which I depend) privatised…?

Belligerent socialising

Maybe it’s the anti-epilepsy medication I’m on, but I’ve found myself to be rather more talkative at work than before — chatty, humorous (without being offensive), and supportive to my “flock”.  However, today I’ve had an experience that makes me feel like I need to tone it down, as I really didn’t enjoy the presence of an extrovert at a social event… though doubtless it’s all my fault somehow, as it usually is.

(Ah, there’s the mood swing my medication warned me about — at least it took over a week!)

My Polish friend (who, considering we haven’t kissed beyond polite cheek pecks, probably isn’t my girlfriend and is more like a “friend who is a girl”) invited me today to an event, at a famous vegetarian/vegan restaurant in the Regent Street area, for a meetup group concerning animal welfare.  I was feeling exhausted after yesterday (my first personal training session in over a month), not to mention lethargic from a combination of the aforementioned medication and January being the most dismal month of the year, but still wanted to go and keep her company (since she was the one who asked), and so set off for the city centre to meet her.  So far, so good.

However, it seems I still don’t like forced socialising, as although I can talk to unfamiliar people in a small group, gradually getting to know them, I still can’t stand it when someone — almost always a bloke with a loud voice — barges into the group, acting like he’s doing us a favour, and droning on and on and on in a manner that suggests he thinks he’s a skilled orator… I felt a little shame for loathing the presence of this guy, but felt like I was trapped: my female friend was staying put (and even joining in the conversation), and I didn’t think I could just walk away from her, and I also worried that simply leaving to talk to someone else would be considered rude.

(I’d already lost my opportunity to go talk to a cute Far Eastern girl with pink hair, who was talking to some other bloke, and is probably engaged by now… yes, that’s the mood swing again!)

Things like this have happened before, including at Japanese meetup events (which is why I can’t bring myself to go to them any more, despite still being interested in the language and the people — plus I hate loud, crowded places).  One time in 2012, I was sitting alone when I suddenly found myself surrounded by white English blokes, with Japanese girlfriends, who were all acting friendly in the sense that there was no possible way I could be uncomfortable with them intruding like that.  I didn’t enjoy their company one bit, and excused myself to buy a drink.  I nearly walked out entirely, but with a cider in hand, I managed to get together with a group of Japanese girls for conversation.  Not with the intention of pulling one of them (well, not the sole intention), but because they were (a) actually Japanese (the whole point of the event), and (b) female (whose company I find much less intimidating than male)!

I suppose I haven’t changed much over the past few years: if anything, I enjoy socialising even less than I did when I worked in that dead-end admin job up to 2014, when at least meetup events (and especially Meetup.com events) meant a change from my dull working environment.  Now, after spending my entire week helping familiar people, and trying to be funny, I find I want nothing more than to relax at home afterwards, even at the weekend.  In fact, I’d love it if I never had to socialise again — but there’s no other way I’m ever likely to find the girl of my dreams, so I feel obliged to keep going to social events, no matter how uncomfortable I am.

Indeed, socialising is considered an obligation for human beings, and even my own mother has told me off for not wanting to enthusiastically shake hands with strangers in social settings, or to let random blokes strike up conversations with me when I’m at singles events.  That’s the thing: I still don’t want to make new male friends just for the sake of it, and new male friends happen more by chance than anything (“best mate”, my personal trainer, my yoga teacher etc.).  It’s simple: although a few blokes turn out, astonishingly, to be worthy of my friendship, most men in the world hold zero interest for me, because I’ve never wanted to be “one of the lads” or have “drinking buddies”, or watch sportsball with other blokes.

To balance, though, there are times guys have approached me and we’ve got talking (like an occasion back in 2013 you may remember, though I never really saw that group again) — it all depends on the energy.  I’m happy to make new acquaintances, for example, when I go climbing at the Castle, and I say hi to blokes I’m familiar with when I see them at the Session (one looks like my old school friend in the 1990s, another resembles the actor Kevin Eldon).  It’s when I’m at a social event and someone with a large, overbearing personality forces me to interact with them that I get up-tight and withdrawn.  Maybe they’re an introvert like me, trying to make a new friend but misjudging their approach, and if they see they’re intimidating and dial it back a bit, fair enough — that’s something I can empathise with.  But it’s the extroverts I want to avoid, because they don’t even have a dial to turn back: they’re incessantly, belligerently sociable, and act like the only reason you’re not fawning over them is that they haven’t been loud and cheerful enough yet.

(Hence the problem I had with a certain work colleague many years ago…)

It’s not just me who has social interaction issues, though: I remember a time a couple of years ago when I was attending a dating guidance event led by (just to name her for once) Hayley Quinn; I was watching other people’s interactions, keeping myself to myself and woolgathering, when suddenly the bloke sitting next to me — who I wasn’t even looking at, and who could only see the back of my head — suddenly all but shouted a “sociable” question, almost right in my ear!  That’s right, he didn’t even tap me on the shoulder (or otherwise attract my attention) and introduce himself, he just blurted it out, and boy, that really ground my gears, making me want to interact with him as little as possible.

Today: everyone in the entire human race!

Back to the incident at today’s event: although she was happy to leave with me when she saw I was uncomfortable, my Polish friend seemed to think I was in the wrong, and that if I didn’t like the loudmouth, I should have just walked away from the group and spoken to someone else — but like I said above, I felt like I had a Hobson’s choice, and would be in the wrong simply for not liking the guy from the get-go (since he wasn’t rude or violent), whether I clammed up, walked away or told him to turn it down.  As though you should like anyone who is polite, no matter how much they grate on your nerves!

However, the fact that I’m talking so much at work at the moment — being political, making smart-alec comments like I’m performing to a crowd and so on — makes me wonder if I need to dial things back as well, and resist becoming an “extroverted introvert”.  I especially worry that the nice female team member who sits opposite me at work (who’s a lot quieter and more demure than the blokes, and thus far more pleasant for me to interact with) is getting fed up with my constant quasi-standup comedy routines, and references to old TV shows, songs etc. that were big before she was even born.

Maybe I need to settle down and be more sensible — or at least more willing to ask people questions (and actually listen to the answers) than drone on about my experiences and opinions like some kind of rambling old-timer.  Despite my introvercy (or maybe because of it?), it’s easy for me to talk a great deal when I’m around familiar people, but I don’t want to annoy them the way extroverts annoy me at social events, as nobody likes a hypocrite.  I may even need to rant my heart out in a blog post here, just to get it out of my system, so I don’t go on and on at people I actually like.

Of course, this could all just be part of the aforementioned mood swing, bordering on outright depression (I’ve certainly felt like having a damn good cry this evening), caused by one of the medications I’ve been prescribed for my medical condition — I’ve certainly felt better after coming home and having dinner (and talking to my housemates).  That’s not the only reason I wish the quacks would let me come off clobazam, though: amongst other things, it makes it harder to… shall we say… shed excess mass?  It’s not just Easter eggs in the shops that are causing me to gain weight…

— — —

P.S. My Polish friend texted me while I was writing this, and she still wants to hang out with me and have me over for vegan pizza (even if she uses “Netflix and chill” in a more literal context than sex maniacs do), so at least I haven’t blown our friendship entirely by being antisocial to strangers…

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!

Buyer’s remorse

Since a lot of people in this country are poor, and since we’re all likely to be poorer now we’ve “agreed” to pay €50bn to leave the EU (which feels like paying to leave your house when you’re evicted), I feel bad for spending so much money in November; I’m grateful I’ll still be more than breaking even for the month (partly thanks to not needing to pay my personal trainer until December), but still, I wonder…

Earlier this month, when I thought “boss lady” at work wasn’t going to buy me any more computer components (after the i7 CPU she got me in October), rather than worry about getting fired and needing to save my money, I weakened and bought myself a ludicrously expensive graphics card — for those who understand specs, it’s an 8GB nVidia GTX 1080, and on Amazon I got it “cheap”, meaning it only cost a month’s rent (there are better ones, like the Titan X, that would have cost me a month’s wages).

I’d intended to get it sooner, but I was delayed by a week when someone tried to steal from me, which seemed to have been fortuitous: rather than settle for a 1060, I figured “what the hell” and got the best type I could afford.  However, if I’d held on longer, I could have let “boss lady” buy it, or something similar, for me out of our budget (as I said last time, she’s likely trying to use it up so we get the same amount next year), and I’d have saved myself half a grand!

But take heart: it still cost less than the money I nearly lost to that criminal scumbag, and “boss lady” bought me something else highly useful: a 4TB SSD, to which I’ve copied all my game files (not my Windows install, as Win7 won’t boot from drivers bigger than 2TB).  Together with the graphics card, my computer’s even faster than it was with the new CPU in October, and now I can play games at the full 4K UHD resolution of the monitor I got in January!

(Blimey, it even takes less than a geological age to start up 2016 Doom!)

Another thing I wanted was a new chair, since the comfortable, padded one I got back in 2013 (before my American holiday) was wearing out — and I never quite convinced myself it wasn’t made of leather.  On the weekend my card details were abused, I went with “best mate” to a car lot way out west, so he could buy his own new vehicle; never mind that they might be the ones who somehow got my card details wirelessly, let’s be thankful that we couldn’t park at IKEA on the way home, as that meant I didn’t have to cancel a legit transaction!  But two weekends later, when I was reeling from spending so much on that graphics card, he was able to take me there to look around, and I bought a chair with a high back, which, when I tried it in the shop, seemed just right for me.

Alas, it was only when I’d gotten it home, assembled it and sat in it to play games that I realised a significant flaw: very hard armrests, compared to the nice cushioned ones of my old chair (which I’ve given to a housemate).  Since I play a lot of mouse-and-keyboard games (and insist on using the cursor keys to move, despite mousing right-handed), that can really grate on my left elbow!  And in any case, it seems like a more expensive version of the type of computer chair I got from Argos in 2011, back when I lived on Caledonian Road… but the deed was done, it was too late to take it back (and I could hardly ask “best mate” to drive me again anyway), so I’ve got to live with it — though at least it gives the back of my head support, unlike the old one.

Ah, but speaking of the time I lived on Caledonian Road… back in 2011, I bought some really useless but expensive things: USB steering wheels (not one, but two, after I broke the first one), and a NAS — a box into which I could put two hard drives and use them as a single storage drive, only for the thing to have very, very slow data transfer times over Ethernet.  I wasn’t earning enough to waste money back then — this was before I got an “acting up” pay rise at work, one of the things that made me feel better about life in 2012 after moving to Finchley, so blowing even a hundred here and there at the time was… foolish.

However, as I’ve said before, 2011 was a bad year for me, a real descent into depression, and hence the reason I started this blog in 2012, when I was finally putting my life back together — so let’s call the steering wheels “retail therapy”, and the NAS, a noble experiment in my early days of trying to break into IT.  That was also the year I built the PC of Theseus, in which just about everything was new, and although it was replaced piecemeal over the years, it kept me going, and thus wasn’t a waste of money at all.

And don’t worry: despite my foolish spendthriftness, I still donate things to charity shops (including a digital camera tripod I bought back in 2002 and never used — an early example of buyer’s remorse!), and once a month, I join a group that goes around central London passing out supplies to homeless people, and also lending them a friendly ear.  I know it’s not much, but I’ve long thought that the best way I can help the homeless is to not increase their number by one — so I’ll be careful with my money for the rest of this year, and only buy Christmas presents I can afford!

Too reliable by half?

I’m so sick and tired
Of being admired
That I wish that I would just die or get fired.
—Eminem, “The Way I Am” (The Marshall Mathers LP, 2000)

Well, it’s a better image than Sisyphus…

Don’t worry: despite the Shady quote above, I’m not looking to end my life — or my beloved career as an IT helpdesk nerd.  However, I am certainly feeling a lot of pressure these days, and wishing I could have more free time to myself, instead of helping others so much…

I’m fortunately not over-burdened at work — which is just as well, as it may have been the weekend work I did last December that started off my “brain fuzz” dizzy spells.  Although sometimes it feels like too much at once, I get nice periods of quiet — and in some cases, I can pass tasks on to my more esteemed colleagues to resolve after doing my initial troubleshooting… like today, when I was able to unburden myself of a serious problem with the big cheese’s laptop, leaving me free to help senpai with an easier but no less important task for another senior member of staff.

However, last Wednesday I became worried I was going to snap at someone, as numerous troubleshooting tasks were punctuated by my Japanese friend repeatedly texting me, and constantly changing her claims about where and when she could meet up with me.  No, she’s not my kanojo or anything, but my reward for trying to help her with English has been for her to keep nagging for more and more help (I still remember trying to troubleshoot her writing while riding a bus to the Castle!), and seeing as I’d already spent the previous evening trying to teach her English idioms, and felt at risk of losing the one evening off I’d have all week!

Don’t worry, she’s offered to pay me at last — though I commuted that sentence to buying me some “pub grub” this evening, while I waited for a salsa class, and helped her some more.  And at least she only wanted help with her English tonight, and not advice on taking legal action against a dodgy educational institution (she’s studying to become a teacher of Japanese) that’s been treating her badly, and doesn’t even seem to be accredited.  On previous evenings, via Facebook Messenger, she went on for hours about this topic — but what can I do?

By coincidence, “best mate” rung up while I was waiting for my “pub grub” to arrive: he’s also having a dreadful time at work (still being sent to far-flung places by his brother), and even though he’s finally bought a new car (from a dodgy dealer — I saw the place), he was worried he hadn’t set up his parking permit right, and asked me to check.  He’s got no tickets, so that’s fine — but I can’t help with his work situation, much as I wish I could.  As usual, all I can do is lend a sympathetic ear — it’s something he needs to resolve on his own terms, because it’s his life and he needs to take care of himself.

I certainly can’t help others with their lives when I have so much on my plate already — I’m starting to feel like I’ve become a father to this shared household!  In addition to taking on the role of gathering everyone’s share of the rent and other household bills (and cleaning the kitchen), I also had to be the one to call — guess who? — British Gas, to sort out our heating for the second winter running.  I then had to text all four of my housemates, to see if anyone could be in on Friday afternoon, as “boss-lady” said I couldn’t take the time off to be here, as she needed me in to help cover the helpdesk while two of my colleagues were on leave, and the other two working on a yuge project!

None of my housemates were available… but fortunately British Gas now offer appointments at the weekend (amazing!), and the engineer sorted everything out (astounding!).  Unfortunately, they still found a way to screw up: they’d recorded our address wrong!  Imagine I live at 7 Yorkshire Road, and that a new set of flats called Yorkshire Works have recently opened nearby, on the same street and with the exact same postcode — and that there’s a flat 7… this is why we kept getting electricity bills for someone who doesn’t live here (and we get ours from another company anyway), and now it’s why our landlady needs to call BG to straighten this address mismatch out, as otherwise they may refuse to fix future issues entirely.

And as though helping others with their problems and sorting out household issues isn’t enough, it’s possible I’ll need to speak to the police soon: there was attempted fraud on my bank account on Sunday, apparently using my debit card details — and while they caught it in time to reverse the theft, I can’t help but worry that they’ll somehow start thinking I really did try to buy something on Facebook (ads?) for hundreds of pounds, and I’ll have to convince the boys in blue that I never sanctioned those payments or knowingly gave my card details away.  I actually spent Sunday afternoon virus-checking my PC and going through my receipts for September and October (yes, I keep them, ever since 2012!) to make sure every transaction in my bank account history was legit, instead of playing games or doing anything enjoyable…

(Okay, fair enough, I had Columbo on in the background!)

Is all of this finally making a man of me?  Am I maturing and taking responsibility, over matters that affect others as well as myself, instead of flinching, begging for help or procrastinating?  It’s weird, but today I haven’t even had any major bouts of “brain fuzz” — almost as though facing down stressful issues is somehow keeping me sane… and perhaps it’s only when I recover from stress that I get those weird floods of quasi-memories at strange times, in which case I need to keep myself busy helping people and getting things done, instead of lazing about.

Still, I wish I didn’t have to do all this stuff alone — is there a woman out there, a potential wife (or at least long-term significant other), who would stand by me and share my burden, instead of just relying on me for everything?  I feel that two of us working together and sharing responsibility could achieve so much more than two separate individuals…

The bullies who made me

No, this is not in any way, shape or form a clue to his name, or the reason I refer to him as “capital P” — those are alternative facts.  Sad!

I’m lucky to be online tonight, as when I came back from visiting my folks in Worthing for the first time in two months, our Internet connection was down.  I knew how to fix it (unscrew the cable from the router, touch the core, screw it back in), and so did my former-drummer housemate — indeed, he was the one who came up with the solution originally — but for some reason he hadn’t done so, and with him in the lounge (where the router is), I felt I couldn’t go in and take care of it.

It was only when I heard him go in the shower that I dared step foot outside the sanctity of my room, and got it working on the second or third attempt; I’d killed the intervening time by, amongst other things, starting season 5 of Game of Thrones, which I have on Blu-ray and thus don’t need an Internet connection to watch (sorry Netflix).

But why should I feel so intimidated by my housemate, a session drummer / music teacher who became a truck driver?  Wait… shall I call him “drummer-trucker”?  Yes, that works.  I find “drummer-trucker” intimidating because he’s gone wonky recently, and acts condescending and confrontational, like the kind of bully who insults you for no reason and then claims you’re the one with the problem, because he’s just having a laugh and you’re taking it too seriously.  About the only thing missing is a crowd for him to be playing up to, like when I was at school…

Don’t worry, I won’t drone on about every individual school bully I faced off against, or we’d be here all day (and I’ve probably forgotten a few) — and more to the point, I’ve covered a lot of this before.  No, I’ll just focus on the ones who stayed with me, up here (Dave-ros taps his temple, pointing approximately at his brain), for long periods of time, and perhaps changed my life directions now and then…

Moving to Worthing in 1992 wasn’t ideal — I’d worked my way up the social order going to an all-boys school in Surrey (and no, not through any vulgar or political means), and going to a mixed school in September just meant I got bullied by the girls as well as the guys.  Fortunately the girls had grown to accept me by Easter 1993, and it was just the boys making my life hellish… especially one guy with curly hair, big gums and permanently-slitted eyes (and no, he wasn’t from the Far East, just incredibly smug).  He was certainly the kind of bully who’d get everyone against me when I was minding my own business, and somehow I let him get inside my head, to the point that it was only when he left school at the end of Year 11 that I was finally able to get on with my life.

The strange thing is, a couple of times he was actually nice to me — either returning my schoolbag when other thugs were throwing it around, or chatting amiably outside school one day.  It’s why I’ve often wondered if he and I were actually supposed to be friends… but hey, I wasn’t into BYOB parties when I was 15-16, so I’d never have fitted into his crowd.  Fortunately, I no longer bear him ill will, and hope he’s sorted his life out.

You’d think leaving home would change things, but nooo, I got more of it at university — perhaps due to studying Geology, the most “thuggish” of the sciences (presumably because you have to do a lot of walking, and get to hit rocks with hammers!).  Not only did I get comments like “coathanger” shouted out when I was nearby during a field trip to Wales, but apparently one night two real scumbags got drunk and decided to come by my room to beat me up!  Fortunately I was out playing Quake in a computer lab that evening, otherwise I’d have suffered for the crime of… what, exactly?  Being myself?  I guess they made me more determined to be myself, if they had any effect at all…

My postgrad days saw the two blokes in my Astrophysics MSc ka-tet treating me badly, but at least one naffed off to do a PhD, while the other became the fellow I always refer to as “good housemate” in these hallowed pages, simply because I learned to roll with the punches, and gave as good as I got — in a way, he toughened me up and helped me laugh.  This guy, of course, once upset me by saying I was obliged to hurry up and (he thought) lose my virginity to a prostitute, to stop letting mankind down, but when he got his own place, and precipitated my worst month, he let me sleep on his couch for a week, while I waited for my new room to become available, so he’s forgiven.  I haven’t heard from him in ages, but I hope he’s all right and living his life!

Even beyond education, there exist bullies — and sadly, some of them have authority… when I first moved in with “good housemate” and our two female friends in Wood Green, I managed to get a temp admin job working for the local council (which I’ve mentioned before); at first I was doing well, organising deliveries and collections of Occupational Therapy (OT) equipment, and making friends with the delivery men (and on one or two occasions, helping them out when they were a man down) — and this seemed to frustrate the boss, a Scots lady with long white hair, whose very presence eventually made me cringe.

Although at first I was apparently the best they’d had in that job, she changed her appraisal of me when she decided that I should stop using my initiative and start blindly following rules — as though process was more important than results.  She’d also heap her own work on me in stupid ways, telling me to prepare fax messages, then telling me “that’s not how I’d phrase it” and requiring me to ask her for the exact wording I should use (which she then scrawled on the smallest size of Post-It notes, rather than e-mailing me).

At times it felt like she was trying to “sicken” me, and one day I actually had a bit of a breakdown from her constant nagging and work-heaping… fortunately the guy between me and her smoothed things over.  Still, this was the only job I ever quit for reasons other than returning to university or moving on to a better job, and I don’t regret doing so — and apparently I lasted longer than anyone else, and virtually no-one else liked her!

She wasn’t the only female superior to make me sad at work, though at least the loud girl I worked with at a nearby housing department in 2005 turned out to be all right in the end, and just a bit bossy at times.  However, it was a different but similar girl in my HR (Recruitment) days who really got to me — and, much like my current woes (not to mention the “brain fuzz” I was getting at the start of the year), it would always seem to be one week good, one week bad.  If she was unhappy with me, she’d criticise me for just about everything, even stuff that wasn’t my fault (like two recruiting managers for the same job telling us different things, or someone having written the wrong department next to a job in the diary), and claim I was “picking and choosing” my work.  If I was lucky, she’d leave me alone, and maybe sometimes even thank me.

It’s largely thanks to her hot-and-cold treatment that I didn’t reapply for my job there when yet another restructuring took place, and jumped at the chance to be redeployed in 2009 (to the job I was doing when I first started this blog).  Mind you, she got her comeuppance: she actually wanted to work in HR as a career and so reapplied for her job, yet when it came time to her interview, she panicked so much (perhaps due to criticism of her treatment of me?) that she had to walk out to compose herself!  After that she was a lot nicer to me during the remainder of our time there, and I wished her well when she went on to better things.

I reckon she was going through some bad stuff at that time of her life — what with actually wanting to succeed in a job I could take or leave — and perhaps that’s why my “drummer-trucker” housemate is being such a see-you-next-Tuesday lately: he regrets his decision to throw in music in favour of trucking, and is taking it out on the rest of us… or maybe he’s gone alcoholic: he drinks a six-pack every time he’s home in the evenings, with his music or DVDs playing loudly, and these are the worst times if we encounter each other.

He used to be all right: yes, there have been times we’ve argued, and he accused me of “needing to get laid” when I didn’t enjoy being locked out of the kitchen, but he also drove me to the hospital when I did my ankle in last year… mind you, he was still teaching drumming at the time, and thus had social skills.  Still, his pranks have never even been funny: things like shouting out he’s joining me and “best mate” when we’re going to the Castle, or telling me there’s a man who keeps coming to the door asking for me — it’s like he’s setting up jokes, but never follows through with the punchline.  Even today, he yanked the kitchen door open as he was walking past from the lounge, and any time he catches me using the upstairs toilet, he rattles the door handle impatiently.

Worst of all: this guy who sits alone drinking, actually has the gaul to accuse me and my other housemates (including “best mate”, the only person who doesn’t actively try to avoid him) of being “anti-social”!  Perhaps he’s just a hypocrite, considering he fills the house with his cookery smells (or on one occasion, petrol fumes from the motorbike he keeps on the front path), after leaving passive-aggressive notes in the kitchen for a previous housemate over curry odours.

I wish things hadn’t gotten to this stage, as I respect him for handling our billing (and the landlady) all these years, and want to part on good terms — but it’s up to him to make any moves to apologise, as he’s the one behaving badly… though I wonder if he himself is trying to avoid me, for precisely that reason?