Category Archives: Then and now

Reconnecting with the past

I’m not writing about the UK general election tonight: everyone else has done it to death, and it’d be too late for me to influence anyone else anyway, even if I had any readers in this country to start with.

(However, I will say that those who think Corbyn’s Labour would roll us back to the 1970s should consider May’s Tories rolling us back to the 1870s, complete with workhouses for the poor… and disabled?)

No, instead I’ll talk about how I’m spending 2017 — the last year I can put a 3 in front of my age — looking back at things I’ve experienced.  I know, I do that all the time (hence my “then and now” blog category), but this year I feel like I’m finally moving forwards properly, and I want to know what to take with me and what to leave behind.

I’m beginning this by replaying all the original Tomb Raider games.  No, keep reading, I’m not just being dorky here, the first three take me back to the end of the 20th century!  I played the second extensively on my roommate’s PS1 when I was in Michigan in 1998-9 (indeed, I was on the last level of the ocean-bottom shipwreck segment on that day), and the third in late 2000 after graduating (with a guidebook, as it’s tricky to find those secrets!), but somehow it’s the original that resonates with me the most.  Aside from playing it in early 2000, when I should have been studying (though at that point I had little hope of a First), I also played it in Michigan during Christmas 1999, on my roommate’s family PC — so wandering the Egypt levels strangely made me feel just a little cold, as though it was snowing outside…

Barring problems relating to the authoritarian nature of both UK and US policy (I hope the CIA don’t read this blog!), I’ll be travelling to Michigan and meeting the family all over again, near the end of this month.  I’d thought my visit back in 2014 would be the last time I ever saw Fenton (the chorus to the Eminem song “Legacy” echoing in my head), but in fact they stayed put instead of moving to Washington State.  I’m visiting roomie’s younger brother once again, but this time I hope to communicate with roomie himself, and perhaps their little sister, via webcam — I haven’t seen either since 2007!  Sadly, the dog I first met in 2003 and the cat I first met in 1998 are long gone, but the other dog I first met in 2006 should still remember me.

There’s someone else from Michigan I wish I could reconnect with, but I’ve never been able to find her on Facebook… no, not the girl from “that day” — I’m not completely living in the past, you know — but rather a female friend I made at UMich and stayed in contact with during the early 21st century, even meeting up with her when I visited Michigan in 2001.  We e-mailed each other all the time, and even played online games of Jeopardy!, and I like to think we cheered each other up in those dark days.

It’s a shame we drifted apart, but she’s not the only “old friend” I’ve lost: despite getting back in touch with several old school chums thanks to Zuckerberg, some of the best friends I ever had have either not shown up, or ignored me completely.  Naturally I won’t name names, but still, let this serve as a counterpoint to my list of bullies:

  • “JE”, who was my best friend from almost the moment we moved to Surrey in 1985, and who I knew at school for around six years, still visiting him (or having him over) when I started going to private school, and having him visit us in Worthing two summers running (we saw Jurassic Park together).
  • “CS”, who was a funny guy at my secondary school in Surrey, and whose nickname made him seem like a certain singer-turned-Muslim.  Sad thing is, I probably annoyed him by calling him to reminisce when we moved to Worthing, but we used to have a good laugh during our days at that school, which (perhaps largely due to my following years in Worthing) I recall as the happiest of my teenage life.
  • “MW”, who was my best friend throughout my time at secondary school in Worthing, and with whom I managed to stay in touch when I went to university, and after when I came back to Worthing; we even had a tradition of buying each other birthday presents in October/November which cost exactly the same!  Sadly, I haven’t heard from him since coming to London, and he’s not acknowledged me on Facebook at all.
  • “AS”, a dear friend and fellow Geology student during my undergrad days, who lived in my corridor in our freshman year and joined in playing cards every night; we did fall out at one point, but when I came back from my year away in Michigan, he was still there (doing a four-year version of my course), and we grew closer.  He comforted me the day I found out my grandfather had died on the operating table, and I like to think I repaid him by helping him with his maths!

I know you can’t always go backwards and reconnect with your long-lost past, but these are people I wish I could show how far I’ve come since they knew me — I’m no longer the dorky loser I was back in, er, 1985 to 2003! — and thank, for helping me get through my formative years.

However, more than that, I want (at long last) to get back in touch with my father, from whom I hadn’t heard since 1988 (yes, nineteen eighty-eight, that’s not a typo!).  My mother’s tried to help me find him, and he is indeed right there on Forces Reunited, but I can’t use that service as I’ve not been in the service (nice pun, eh?), and it’s just for ex-soldiers and the like (and also needs you to pay).  However, one of my old school friends with whom I’ve been in touch via Facebook for years may be able to help me, as he served in the RAF and knows all the right sources to contact.

It’s a scary prospect, especially since my pap might have no interest in meeting me, but I want to take the chance and show him that I’ve done all right for myself, even if I’m not a military man, or even technically a man’s man.  He advised me in that last letter to make sure I have a good job, and I think I’ve finally achieved that; if I can impress him with what I’ve achieved, I’ll feel like I’m ready to move on with my life and leave behind my childish angst.

Here’s hoping I can finally remember the face of my father…

2017 starts… ambivalently

ss_ffI’ve got good news, after a long period of keeping on keeping on: they’re increasing my pay at work — and not just by a “cost of living” increase, but by a couple of thousand a year, backdated to October!

It seems the recent reappraisal of pay rates at my employer has worked in my favour, and now I’ll be on £26k p.a. instead of less than £23k (with all the same benefits as before — for one thing, they’re paying for my new glasses!).  My boss was in my corner for this process, and naturally I’ll be eternally grateful to her — not just for the added moolah, but also for not firing me last January!

Obviously I’ll wait until I see it in my bank account before I get complacent, but the backdated pay (along with the money I’m owed for my December overtime) will mean I can buy myself a new 1440p monitor, and give (not sell!) my old one to my mother; the overall increase means I’ll no longer feel like I have to space out paying for my personal training sessions, or somehow give it up entirely and exercise on my own initiative (what a ludicrous notion!).  I’ll even be able to save up for a proper holiday, perhaps even outside Europe…

Of course, this leads to a certain compulsion: I feel I must defy the Tube strike on Monday in order to journey to central London for my job, instead of taking the day off.  I wouldn’t say the place would fall apart without me for just a day*, but I reckon anyone who can be there ought to at least try, just to keep things running — especially Citrix, as a lot of people will undoubtedly be working from home!

(* Obviously I know my own worth, but it needs to be said that some staff members are a lot happier when I’m in the building — presumably because I deal with all the little problems, while my teammates work on the bigger projects)

beavis_christmas_carolOn the other hand, I’m still not having any success finding a woman: I’ve just had two dates on consecutive days, and both have been one-offs that have not led to anything more.  As far as I’ve advanced emotionally over the years I’ve been writing this blog, I still feel down when this happens — indeed, even more as the big four-oh approaches in the autumn, and I wonder if I should even bother trying after that point (since I’m so shallow that I won’t ever be happy “settling” for an older woman, except maybe Courtney Cox in Cougar Town).  After all, it’s not just women who face ageism in the dating game… maybe I should use some of my newfound wealth to see my dating coach again, for the first time in three years?

Mind you, my gloom is nothing compared to that of “best mate”, whose car (to which we always refer as a name similar to “Batmobile”) conked out while he was on the M6, driving back after visiting his family in Ireland over Christmas.  He’s in a bad way now, as not only was the journey back to London horrendous (he nearly needed a third tow truck to get his car all the way!), but there’s every possibility he’ll need to buy a new vee-hickle, and while he can afford to do that, it’d cut into the money he’s saving to become a homeowner.

(Maybe I shouldn’t tell him I dreamed last night that we’d been driving up a hill when he’d hit-and-run a pedestrian, and I had to convince him to turn around and go back…)

Even if he does pay for a new car, he still might end up getting his own place sooner than I thought (with family help), which would leave us with the prospect of needing to find TWO new housemates this year, neither for desireable rooms (his is always cold, while the former drummer’s is a box room).  It’d be like late 2011 to early 2012 again, as I might have to find somewhere else entirely to live — and I doubt somewhere even further away from the centre would be cheaper, or even warmer!

And, just to rub salt into the wound, he’s considering Greenford — a miserable dump that I would call “a wide spot on the Central Line” (easily the worst Tube line, except maybe for the Bakerloo) after personally experiencing it in September and October 2014, as you guys may remember ($DEITY knows, I’ve tried to forget!).  Am I going to lose touch with him, like I lost touch with “good housemate” (who I’ve barely spoken to in years)?  At best, will it be like when he lived in Willesden and had to drive over here when we went to the cinema or otherwise hung out?

Remember in 2012 when I posted about “potholes on the road to happiness”?

Never mind 2015 or 2016, this really seems to be the long-awaited rerun of 2012: I’m getting mo’ money at work (albeit this time permanently, instead of for helping to cover maternity leave), but potentially losing a close friend from my household and facing upheaval.  Believe it or not, it happened in 2007 as well: I went up in the world (from Scale 2 to Scale 4 during one of Camden’s endless reorganisations), but it was a bitter consolation after “female best friend” moved out, having never really settled into that pad on Caledonian Road.  At least she stayed local until she went to Sheffield in late 2008… but it was hard to get to see her after that, and of course then she met her future husband, and I felt like there was no place for me in her life any more…

(And worst of all, we never got to watch the second season of Space Battleship Yamato together!)

Am I now discovering a five-year, or even ten-year cycle in my life (major life changes), to go with the four-year (specific events) and three-year (emotional states) cycles I noticed before?  Or am I just down because it’s a dismal, cold January, and that’s getting everyone else down as well?  Will this be “my” year, or is the money just a consolation before I get fired?  Will I go through the worst “girl troubles” of all time, the final end of my futile efforts to get laid, or will I have another chance with an American girl (like the one I never even met face-to-face in mid-2012), and this time actually get it right because of all the confidence (and muscles) I’ve built up?

Yeah, I know I said I wouldn’t do these “then and now” attempts to figure out mystical cycles any more, but hey, it gives me something to post about here, doesn’t it…

Taking off the rose-tinted spectacles

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YEEEEAAAAAHHHHH!!!!… no?  Oh, please yourselves!

The incot— inconter— incontrovit— can’t-argue-with-it-able fact is that my life is better now than ever before, especially since I started this blog; this manifests itself in two ways.

Firstly, I hardly ever write anything here, as I seldom find my “muse” (or I lose it by the time I get home, and spend ages playing The Witcher III instead).  Sorry, I know, but rest assured if I actually post here, it’s about something more significant than complaining about my gears being ground — and I said right at the start that this blog will come to an end once I have truly recovered from depression and sorted my life out, and maybe it’s happening at last.

Secondly, I no longer wish I could “turn back time” (like, ahem, Cher), and can see just how bad things were in the past, instead of viewing them through the lens of nostalgia.  I remember this feeling first coming upon me in July 2015, a few days after that particularly bad day, when I joined my fun yoga teacher and some friends on Primrose Hill for his birthday celebration, and despite my life not being particularly great at the time, knew I had potential for improvement and no longer regretted the past.

(Perhaps the cycle I’ve noted before starts in July rather than September?)

Oh, there are times I read my diary in — of all times — January 2012 and think about how much lay ahead of me at that time (like getting a smartphone and going to the western USA); perhaps I’m sending those happy thoughts back in time and keeping myself going through the horror.  Certainly, there’s no way I’d go back to my time at Caledonian Road to face all that misery again, even knowing how much better things would get afterwards.

More logically, there have been times I’ve thought fondly of, such as late 2013 — I’m sure I’ve said before how I’d gladly go through that mad Christmas journey home, especially in late 2014 when I was unemployed and hated my situation.  However, 2013 also saw massive work being done in our house to do up both bathrooms (which of course led to a rent increase), and that was after three weeks without an Internet connection!  Not to mention Schrödinger’s Fridge in 2014… and let’s be honest, I couldn’t go back to working at Camden as an admin boy, after all I’ve been through to escape that life.

Looking further back in time than this blog is no better: aside from Cally Road, I also don’t want to return to the dreadful house we had in Wood Green in 2004-6, and while I had a good year at university in 2003-4, there were also bad aspects, like the half-finished dorm we got moved into near the end, and the stress of my astrophysics course!  And before that I was living with my folks in Worthing, which I think speaks for itself: much as I’m grateful for my mother and grandmother taking care of me, I wasn’t happy living there, with no opportunity to do things I enjoyed or meet new people.

What about my undergrad days?  Much as I regret not getting a certain girlfriend in the summer of 1997, or finding a way to keep the one girlfriend of my life in September 1998, I still don’t want to go back to those times — the one because that house was COLD in winter (and I really grew to hate my course as well), and the other because, well, aside from having to face two family losses all over again (my grandfather and the dog I grew up with), I feel like I’d lose too much of the knowledge I’ve gained since then.

(Obviously I’d not go any further back than 1997, because I wouldn’t be a vegetarian any more!)

Don’t get me wrong, though: right now things aren’t exactly perfect, as our hot water supply has all but failed, despite four (or possibly five) visits from British Gas and its subsidiaries (yes, I’m naming and shaming again).  Tomorrow I’m going to have to call them up and vent my spleen, demanding to know why they haven’t already called us back to arrange another visit, and register an official complaint about how damn long it’s taking, especially since there was no hot water this evening at all!

Of course, I may end up viewing this time with rose-tinted spectacles anyway: not only do I now have a laptop (a castoff from work), on which I’m trying out Linux (I’m considering ditching Windows entirely thanks to Microsoft’s behaviour over 10), but I’m getting dates again, this time with women in their twenties… I’d love to think something good will finally happen to me, but after all the disappointments I’ve had in the past few years, we’ll just have to wait and see.

It certainly never helps if I try to see the future through rose-tinted spectacles, as all too often I forget to actually make things happen…

May I get depressed again?

lonely_shinjiI know I said I wouldn’t do it any more, but I feel I must drone on about how things right now compare to similar times in my past, because I’ve been feeling a little down this May, and I have before — it’s almost like clockwork…

Maybe it’s the changeable weather of this time of year that accentuates any unhappiness I already have — things that would otherwise merely perturb me.  I remember one Friday in mid-to-late May 1992, indeed, when I had a miserable time, despite it being a Friday before the half-term holiday!  Somehow too many damn things went wrong that day and I couldn’t concentrate, and got more and more wound up by petty little things; the strange thing is that I was happy at this school (we were about to move to Worthing, so I was making the most of it), so this brief bout of depression really stood out.

Something similar happened in 1995, during a school year I’d actually found pleasant — so it can strike even when I’m in familiar surroundings, with good friends, and enjoying what I’m doing.  May and June being exam months in full-time education certainly doesn’t help the situation: there was a particularly bad Astrophysics one in 2004 that almost made me give up, and there was a near-disaster in 2011 when I forgot my passport for my first A+ exam, though it turned out all right in the end.

Many times I’ve caught cold in May, too often for it to be a coincidence: 1993, 1994, 1997, 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2013 and 2015 (with colds in June occurring in 1998, 2002 and 2014… yes, I’ve been checking my own diary).  You may remember my theories in these hallowed pages that depression could be a forewarning of an incipient cold, or that alternatively it might weaken the immune system and allow an existing cold virus to take hold…

But I think we all know the real reason I’ve been down this month, much as in previous Mays since at least 2010: girls.  Yes, I’m really sick of having to bring up this subject, but it’s a part of my life and something which matters to me, and until I resolve this matter one way or another, I’ll continue to feel down whenever I have an unmitigated failure.  This week I connected with someone in that dating app and almost immediately (as in, within 15 minutes) arranged to meet her for lunch, as we both work near Oxford Circus; it seemed to go well and we parted on good terms, but despite writing to her I’ve heard nothing back, and it feels like yet again either I did something wrong that she didn’t deign to tell me about… or someone’s whispered lies about me into her ear, like they’ve done to many other women who liked me.

(Well, what would you have me believe — that there’s a “stop Dave getting a girlfriend” conspiracy, or that single women in general are the kind of jerks who don’t even bother to reply “sorry, I’m not interested”?  So what if they’d feel bad letting me down — I feel worse not knowing what happened!)

It sucks that I can be getting everything else in my life right (I’ve passed probation at work, and am still enjoying what I do… well, mostly!), yet this aspect continues to confound me — my repeated failures still make me feel like it’s “too late”, that I’m too old to be as inexperienced as I am, and that society as a whole judges me to be either a pathetic loser or a dangerous deviant, who needs to shut up and stop trying.  It’s like being where I am makes it impossible for me to move away from that spot, almost by design (a bit like clamping a car that’s parked illegally), and that it’s somehow my fault for not “being normal” early enough in life.

Still, I need to remember the lesson I learned after my American holiday in 2013, when I not only got depressed over girls (both the young ladies on the trip that I fancied were in relationships already, though one still had a fling with a younger man in preference to me), but I also caught a cold.  Even though I had bad post-holiday blues (as I’m sure you remember), I finally realised that there’s nothing wrong with me being heterosexual: it’s not like I’ve committed a crime by wanting to find someone, and I’m not some kind of desperate weirdo just because I feel disappointed now and then.

And so it is today: despite another failure, I’m not going to give up my search, and I’m not going to let yet another “ghost girl” bring me down for any length of time, because she’s just not worth it.  There’s no damn time limit, and I don’t have to give a f*** what society thinks of me (especially the worthless society of this dreadful country — more than anything I want to leave England forever), because frankly I’m better than that.

And moreover, I don’t want to feel bad for feeling bad, like I’m wasting God’s gifts by not forcing myself to be cheerful, or remembering that other people have it worse, or any nonsense like that: everyone gets down now and then, and the important thing is not to revel in it, but to get through it by whatever means, and look forward to the next thing that cheers you up.  On that basis, over the long weekend (when I’ll be staying with my folks), I’ll see about reintroducing an old “Dave-ros Lives!” institution that’s been too long absent: the “Cool Things” post…

Happy new year… again

bnb_santa

Belatedly I have to say: Merry Christmas, dillholes!

I’m sure you guys have become thoroughly sick of me comparing my life now to my life in the past; this old timer sure loves to ramble, it’s true, but I’m not done yet.  Maybe it can be one of my New Year’s resolutions not to do any more “then and now” posts in this here blog, but if so, let’s make this one the last, and then I’ll get on with hoping for the future instead.

Christmas was always spent with my family when I was a child, unsurprisingly; we always opened our presents (well, mostly mine) on Christmas Day, highlights including Transformers, M.A.S.K., Real Ghostbusters and Daleks; I would subsequently sleep through New Year’s celebrations.  Things changed in 1989, when my grandfather bought a colour TV for the dining room and I thus inherited the ancient black-and-white one for my room, which enabled me to stay up and watch Clive James presenting a look back at the 1980s (and then set my digital watch to Big Ben at midnight).  My mother got me a colour TV the following Christmas, and it was probably around then that I began buying presents for my folks as well.  And, for almost as long as I could remember, we had this one plastic Christmas tree that I helped put up every year…

(Sadly, the plastic Christmas tree with which we replaced that has now broken and been replaced — it’d be less environmentally unsound if we just got a real tree every December!)

Being in Worthing in 1992 changed things again, not least because the Christmas holidays were more of an escape for me (due to really not enjoying school) than ever before.  In 1993 I’d gone into hospital for dental surgery just before Christmas, and spent the following days coughing up blood, hyperventilating, and swilling my mouth out with hot salty water in lieu of brushing my teeth, so that Christmas was never going to be particularly good (though for the first time ever, I had a VCR in my room!).  From 1994 onwards, in a new house in the same town (where my folks still live now, and in which I’m writing this), things became more or less constant: we’d open our presents before Christmas Day (sometimes as early as the 22nd!), and I’d stay up on New Year’s Eve to watch the fireworks on TV with my folks, possibly drink some champagne, and then go to sleep…

While I was at university, the Christmases and New Years of 1996 to 1999 were still spent back in Worthing with my folks, usually feeling sexual frustration at being nowhere near any attractive young women (or indeed an Internet connection to tide me over, ahem!), and I also spent 1997 and 1999 recovering from Geology field trips.  1998 was an oddity, as I was in Michigan staying with my roommate’s family, and 1999 was, sadly, our first Christmas without my grandfather; as you know, I felt sad playing the copy of Thriller he’d bought me earlier in the month.

The following three Christmases and New Years occurred while I was living with my remaining folks in Worthing, trying to earn enough to do a postgrad course; it was difficult but I managed, buying presents for my mother and grandmother and receiving music CDs and comedy DVDs in return (since I now had a DVD player in my room!).  2001, when I bought myself a sound card (and actually wrapped it and put it under the tree!), was the only time I had to work between Christmas and New Year (thanks to actually having a job at the time), unless you count 2003 when I was home from university but my mother took me back to the place I’d worked with her earlier in the year for a few days’ extra salary.

(Fortunately, I never had to work the Christmas-to-New Year period while I was at Camden — even when they changed the rules so you’d have to if you weren’t quick enough booking leave — and my current workplace is closed from Christmas Eve until after the New Year!  Working in late December, ugh, who’d do that… well, paramedics, journalists, shopkeepers, police officers, power station engineers etc. etc., but APART from them?!)

By Christmas 2004 I was living in London, initially with postgrad coursemates and later with “good housemate” and a succession of “third housemates”.  I began to find Christmas at home with my folks a bit boring, especially with no PC of my own to use for games (and, ahem, Internet browsing), not to mention a wonky TV set for which I needed to bring my own digibox home to get any channels at all, and so from 2007 onwards began coming back to London after Christmas to celebrate the New Year with my friends.  The first was the best, as my friendship group included all three of my postgrad coursemates (and a couple of others), even if we missed the actual fireworks at midnight because we were running down Aldwych!

After visiting “other female best friend” in Leeds for 2009-10, I had two bad New Years in London (staying home in 2010 and going to an awful  “house party” in 2011), and so since then I’ve stayed with my folks in Worthing for both Christmas and New Year.  You’ve been with me for all of those; despite the lousy journeys down from London I had in 2012, 2013 and this year, I’ve had good Christmas breaks.  I’ve also likely been happier staying here with my mother and grandmother, playing games on the half-decent “Frankencomputer” I built here, than going back to London for New Year and probably having my drummer housemate drunkenly keeping me awake, not to mention being in a house where the heating works!

My poor grandmother’s been ill again this Christmas break, thanks to the cold I brought home (which unfortunately is still lingering and stopped me exercising), but for the first time in several years, my mother’s not been coughing through late December, and for that I am thankful.  As in 2012, we’ve been playing Wii games (this time it’s “best mate’s” copy of Wii Sports Resort), and as per every year, I’ve been wishing I wasn’t eating so much chocolate but enjoying it nonetheless, along with my grandmother’s cooking.

Unlike last Christmas, however, I’ve not spent this period fleeing from an intolerable situation, and am looking forward to going back to London tomorrow (not least so I can install The Witcher III!) and having “best mate” back from Ireland shortly after.  I won’t say I’m looking forward to going back to work on Monday, though: while I actually do like my current job and am thankful I can afford Christmas presents for my folks, I also like paid time off work — I’m not completely mad, you know…

(P.S. This post was originally much, much longer, as I went back through my diary and wrote down a lot more details — so be thankful it’s only this interminable!)

What a difference twenty-three years make

290px-Amstrad_CPC464

Yes, I know my CPC 464 was already obsolete by 1992, what’s your point?

After my last post, and my previous post, here’s a ludicrous number of years to go back: 23.  Obviously the world’s changed massively since 1992 (especially in computer terms — I was still using my Amstrad CPC back then), but it’s not a nice round number, so why should I pick that particular year?

Well, here goes: 1992 was the year I started writing a diary, and I chronicled my last two terms at a school where I was happy, in a town where I’d lived from age 7 to age 14, as well as my family moving to Worthing, and my unremitting misery at a new school.  I was getting bullied all the time there, even the girls treating me badly, and in summary I hated my new life and wanted to escape.  However, I made it to Christmas and had a nice time with my family, and somehow made two friends at my new school — and, more importantly, did well at (most of) my lessons…

Anyway, like 1992, in the autumn I started spending my weekdays at a new place, and like 1992, at first I had the nagging suspicion that I wouldn’t be there for very long, and somehow doubted anyone talking to me about the months ahead.  Perhaps in 1992 that was because I’d just gone through a house move and was still in that frame of mind, or perhaps it was just wishful thinking; in 2015, it was of course because I was only a lowly contractor to begin with, and doubt was cast over the possibility of me going permanent — not because of my ability to do my job, but because of their ability to pay for it.  In both cases I stuck at it, and things got… better.

It’s very significant to note how timid I was in 1992, and how long it took me to find my feet; it had been no picnic two years earlier when I started at that posh all-boys school in Surrey, but gradually I’d made a name for myself and worked my way up the pecking order, but at the posh mixed school in Worthing, simply being myself was enough to earn scorn, and gradually I learned to keep my mouth shut.

Now, in 2015, although I still suffer from anxiety, I’ve reached the stage where I don’t need St. John’s wort to perk up my emotions any more, and I can have a laugh with my work colleagues, even though they’re of a similar humour to the school bullies — which makes me wonder how much of what I went through in 1992 was my own stupid fault.  I know, victim shaming is a terrible thing, and the boys especially were particularly vicious (though not in physical terms, thankfully), but there are times I wish it had all been different and that I’d known then what I know now.

Loath as I am to admit that the bullies were sort of right, I have to say, I took things way too seriously back then!  Oh, I tried to be funny, without resorting to (a) sneering at someone else in our year group or (b) simply quoting what a comedian said on TV last night, and that, apparently, was part of the problem — the teachers thought my surreal, self-deprecating humour was “above” the level of my peers, and that was why they made fun of me (the kids, not the teachers).  Back then I could only get upset if my humour didn’t go down well and people had a go at me; nowadays (leaving aside moments of anxiety) I can simply respond by giving people a Paddington-style “hard stare”, or saying “ya funny!” in an American gangster voice (I’m sure Joe Pesci once said it with an exasperated face, possibly in Goodfellas?).

It’s worth noting that 1992 had the same date structure (from March onwards, as it was a leap year) as 2015, and so I’ve been noting that the first year I wrote a diary often has the same pattern as this year.  The week beginning Monday 23rd November, for example, was absolutely horrible in 1992 (so much so I didn’t even notice it being Doctor Who‘s anniversary), to the point that I regretted not having died in the night, thanks to the bullies spraying Snow-in-a-can in my hair (several times).  I even remember crying during a Physics test, and at first thought my best friend at the time was mocking me, when actually he was pretending to cry because he was scared of the test itself (having missed some school) — he didn’t criticise me for getting bullied as he’d had it in the past too!

And on Thursday the following week, thanks to a stupid argument with a classmate, I ended up “answering back” to a teacher I actually liked, and was told off in front of the class.  He apologised later for the necessity, saying he had to be consistent and couldn’t let me off for that kind of thing even though he wanted to, but I still felt worthless, as though I was not only arguing with my peers, but letting down the adults who were supposed to be on my side…

Jump forward 23 years, and the week beginning 23rd November this year was also pretty tricky: after a difficult and frustrating Monday, I almost had a nasty argument on Thursday  when I was told off for trying to help someone who was off research something when I should have assigned it to the off-guy completely and not helped at all (even when he e-mailed me demanding to know why I’d simply assigned it to him).  I began to think my (female) boss was looking for things for which to criticise me… but I know she’s just being firm, and that they actually like me in this job and are just being stern to make sure I’m all that I can be.

In addition, I worried constantly about money, as I am wont to do these days, and as I did 23 years ago when it wasn’t always certain I could afford the bus to school.  However, not only did I turn out to have more than I expected on Monday, but on Wednesday I was paid even more money by the DWP, two days before my first monthly payday; a phone call confirmed that it wasn’t a mistake they’d try to take back with interest, but was due to the gap since my last contractor pay packet!

So yeah, 23 years later my life’s a lot better, even if I face similar challenges… had enough of me dwelling on the past yet?  Maybe I’ll make stopping this a New Year’s Resolution…

— — —

Wait, I’m not done yet!  Never mind 13 (my lucky number) or 19 (a recurring theme in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series), 23 is somehow a number of great significance in my life, in both good and bad ways.  23 was our house number in the street where I’d spent my formative years in Surrey, I turned 23 in the year 2000, and the 23rd day of the month is often significant to me somehow.  I recall 23rd November 2013 for that wonderful Doctor Who 50th anniversary special (and my masterpiece of fan obsession in this blog), but some less good 23rds include:

  • 23rd November 1992: as above, I get badly bullied at school;
  • 23rd May 2013: massive post-holiday depression, as I realise how much I need to change in my life;
  • 23rd March 2014: Dave “Oderus” Brockie dies without me ever being able to thank him for Gwar;
  • 23rd November 2014: my last evening at that horrible 24/7 shift job;
  • 23rd June 2015: after a depressing day, while trying to get money for yoga, I lose my bank card in a broken cash machine, freak out and go home instead, breaking my glasses in the process.

These “bad 23rds” seem to have replaced the “depressing 12th” I used to get (nearly) every month from late 2011 to 2012 (like this and this).  I know it’s silly superstition, but I’m sure you understand I’m going to get a little worried just before Christmas — especially if I take the 23rd as a half-day and try to travel to Worthing, because remember how hard it was for me to get home in 2012 on 23rd December… and indeed, while 24th December in 2013 was bad, the day before had been even worse!

What a difference ten years make

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2005 was also the first time I really got into horror films, like “Hellraiser”… yes m’lud, that’s why I chose this image!

I know I shouldn’t keep looking back, but too bad, here’s another “then and now” post, somewhere between my last one and my next (planned) one.  I’ve been through a lot this year, and now that things are picking up, it’s interesting to see how much improvement there’s been.

Anyway: ten years ago (2005, in case you’re reading this years after I’ve written it), I was living in the Wood Green area with two of my Astrophysics classmates (the people I now refer to as “good housemate” and “female best friend”), an Irishman born on the same day of the same year as me, and the latter’s live-in Australian girlfriend.  In September I started a temp job at Camden council that would ultimately lead to me becoming permanent there for almost exactly eight years; this followed admin work earlier in the year in an office where I was underused but got on well with my cheerful colleagues.

And now look where I am: living with an Irishman and three others (two of them female and the other a wacky guy who mocks me for being a vegetarian), commuting to work on the Tube, watching the Japanese anime Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (but getting rather further than I did when I only had the first 36 episodes) and doing a job that started out temporary (and quite stressful for that reason) but which has now become permanent.  The differences, of course, are that my Irish housemate is rather more cheerful and less irritable than your man from 2005, that my job is what I want to be doing rather than just something to pay the bills, and that (apart from the occasional issue) my morning commute is bearable… dare I say, almost enjoyable?

(And for your information, sometimes I get the Victoria and Piccadilly Lines to the Castle after work — almost the same journey as my homeward commutes in 2005-6 — and the service hasn’t improved on either line!  If anything, it’s even worse…)

Moreover, I’m still in touch with the nice ladies at the admin job I did earlier this year to tide me over; I think I sorted my head out there a lot more than I did at Haringey council in 2005, and in all probability owe them my life… so I’m having lunch with them on Friday (when, shock horror, I’ll be taking a half-day from my job!).  I spent far less time unemployed this year between the two jobs than I did back in 2005, when “female best friend” had to swing something for me at her workplace for a few days, and I got fired from an audio-typing job at a hospital because the obnoxious lady in charge took a personal dislike to me!

Another improvement on 2005 began this weekend: I’m watching Doctor Who.  No, not the new Peter Capaldi episodes… well, yes, I am watching those, but that’s not the remarkable thing — I’ve begun rewatching the first series of the show’s revival, with Chris Eccleston as the Doctor, and I’m enjoying it a lot more than I did back in 2005!  I didn’t like him back then as I found him too uncouth and “northern” (but not Scottish like Sylvester McCoy), and the fact that he ditched the role after the first episode was broadcast didn’t endear him to me; I also didn’t like the show going to a 45-minute episodic format instead of the weekly 25-minute episodes that built into serials, as it seemed like dumbing down.

Now, however, I find I actually like the episodic format (hey, Star Trek did the same and I never complained about that!), instead of being all “they changed it, now it sucks!” — and I like Eccleston’s portrayal, perhaps because his impish grin and sticky-out ears remind me of my good friend, the yoga teacher who’s helped me feel more spiritual the past couple of years (his is the Meetup.com group I’ve attended by far the most).  It’s a shame he only lasted one season and then turned his back on the show entirely, even refusing guest appearances…

(And yes, I watched the Paul McGann TV movie first — and yes, I do wonder if his claim to be “half-human on his mother’s side” is in any way significant regarding last week’s Capaldi episode…)

Ten years is a nice round number, and it’s also significant to me somehow: I keep saying I feel way younger than the 38 years my birth certificate claims I have (I don’t doubt it, I have memories of the early 1980s — including, yes, Doctor Who).  I sometimes feel like I lost ten years of my life (three in 2000-3 living in Worthing with my folks, and seven in 2005-11 existing but not really feeling), so it’s not entirely delusional for me to claim to be 28; it seems like a more appropriate age for me to be, considering my emotional maturity level.  Also note how physically fit I am now that I eat well and exercise regularly, instead of sitting home each and every night (I wasn’t even going to Japanese night classes back then).

Yeah, maybe I’d really like to be 18, but only because then no-one would object if I tried to sleep around with college girls…