Category Archives: Then and now

This time, at winter

I’m alive and gradually recovering after Brain Surgery, Round 2; I almost wrote this last week on the old laptop I brought with me into hospital, but somehow only now am I feeling inexhausted enough to write something vaguely intelligible… well, that and I’m using a keyboard that doesn’t keep ignoring me pressing the space bar, and which doesn’t have a touchpad right underneath it.  I’m able to write on my home PC because they let me out early, on Friday last week instead of Monday (i.e. today) this week, so clearly I got through the aftermath better than expected.

(Or, I was an awful guest and they just wanted me to hurry up and clear out?)

What happened this time in comparison to 2018?  Well, as hinted here ahead of time, they only kept me asleep at the very start and end of the operation itself — and this time, rather than a jump cut, I felt myself falling alseep and waking up gradually at each stage.  I was barely able to stay awake during the actual ordeal, as two nurses tested me on my English knowledge while my brain’s unwelcome visitor was hacked away by surgeons out of sight, though in the event I needed them to read out sentences to me (so I could say whether or not they made sense), as (a) the plastic covering kept getting in the way, and (b) I didn’t have my glasses on!

It took a long time, but fortunately I remember only bits and pieces, which is probably just as well to avoid feeling like I was spending eternity in the deepest pit of Hell (boredom being far worse than anything Satan could come up with).  Every time I asked, the time left had gone down significantly (several hours, a couple of hours, an hour, half an hour…).  This was probably the first time I’ve ever been able to lie in an active MRI scanner without needing to move, most likely because I was on my side instead of my back!

My mother told me the information she was given in the aftermath: the surgeons took out 99% of the “space invader” (new and old), and then, presumably when I was back asleep, went back in again for the lingering 1%, so now — for the first time in, almost certainly, decades, and hopefully for a long time in the future — I’m rid of the cursed cerebral corruption, and just have to suffer through the same post-op symptoms as in 2018… except this time in winter, and with my family having more than just me to look after.

At least my mum’s managed to secure help looking after my grandmother, who thus has a little longer in the world — but I wish I could get over these symptoms quickly, and help her (even if it’s just keeping the dog distracted at important times).  My head aches, naturally, and I get throbbing from standing up and walking, but I also sometimes “see” things more distantly through my left eye, my right-side hearing may be crackling again (unless it’s just my TV developing bad sound quality?), coughs and sneezes (allergic rather than viral) cause instantaneous headaches, and after one good night’s sleep on Fri-Sat, I’m back to lying awake in the small hours…

(On the plus side, issues with both intake and output of the digestive variety seem to have been resolved over time, even if my diet has made no actual improvement!)

Hopefully I won’t jinx anything, but I’m pleased to announce that the right side of my body seems to be in full working order: I can mouse around in FPS games (Halo 4 seems to be working fine), and… er… well, I can use it in things where I also use my left hand, e.g. typing this out on a keyboard two-handed instead of one-handed.  The important thing is that I seem to have finally overcome the mini-strokes I was getting before!

Walking around isn’t pleasant — along the street, downstairs and upstairs in this house — thanks to the head throbs, but I don’t want to just sit here in front of my computer… wait, did I actually write that?  Of course I’d love to sit here playing games and surfing that newfangled Inter-thingy, but I have to stretch my legs and pop down to the shop occasionally for supplies (though I should have enough now for a couple of days) — and walking aside, I need to lie down occasionally and rest in here, rather than stare at screens all the time and risk hurting my eyes.

(Staring at my Kindle’s screen doesn’t matter, as it’s not luminous — and in any case, it’s Stephen King!)

Due to the nature of my left-side head suture this time around, I can’t just wait for temporary stitches to come out of their own accord, and 14 days after the operation (suddenly extended from eight days), I’ll need some quack to do it for me, using a blade like the one they gave me at the hospital.  My own “GP” here in Finchley won’t even consider helping, and so I’d have to arrange something with a nearby hospital for next Monday… though my mum may have worked a miracle by getting her non-scare-quoted GP down in Ferring to let me be a temporary patient there!

That’s a good sign: I’ll be allowed to travel down next weekend to convalesce, like in 2018, in the town I’d so longed to escape from, and someone will take care of that particular stage for me, which will mean that — at last! — I can get the rest of my hair cut short, and start washing it again, the last time having been the morning before my operation (and using a lousy red fluid that didn’t exactly bring out the shine).

It was great being able to relax in the warm summer back in 2018, but this time around, it’s in an increasingly-cold winter, with the house only slightly easier to heat now than it was six years ago, when I felt a lot less optimistic than now — but once again, it’s only until I can visit my “support bubble” on the south coast, and start Christmas even earlier than I did in 2014, and with more optimism.  I won’t be cold living with my mother, grandmother and dog, and I’ll be in no hurry to come back here…

— — —

Apart from my mother, I’m sure you can guess that there are two other valuable people whose support has helped me keep going through what would otherwise have been a terrifying experience: “best mate” drove me to and from the hospital, not to mention fetching stuff from shops for me, and I owe him big (letting him borrow my printer for a big project is the least I can do); and there’s someone… precious to me, still living eight hours in the future, who makes me want to find the strength to travel abroad again (which I’ll be more confident doing once symptoms and medication are under control) to meet her face-to-face.

(Would I have to face two weeks’ quarantine, like she did when she went home earlier this year?!)

I’m grateful to my medical assistants, supportive Facebook friends, work colleagues (I have to keep texting three at once just to satiate them) and, of course, my personal trainer (he’ll have to wait a couple of months before he can even risk torturing me again!), but the above three are the most important in my life in this situation, and that’s all that matters to me right now.

Perhaps this is why my closing questionnaire at hospital led to me being found non-depressed — I’ve got too many reasons to live — and only anxious regarding possibly-required medical treatment in future, not human interaction at present.  We’ll have to see what returns of its own accord inside my brain, won’t we?

Time flies away

University certainly was a challenge… fascists!

It’s been a while since I could think of something to write here that wouldn’t be all political (perhaps urging white supremacists to go away before they achieve the exact opposite of their aims, or threatening to tar the entire right wing with one brush if they’re going to do it to the left), or expressing worries about my job status or ability to visit my folks in Worthing — but perhaps these serve as a reminder to not waste time, and to (at least try to) enjoy life while you can, or at least gain experiences you can tell to others.

I’ve had to say goodbye to a friend I made online, but who’s had to return to her own Far Eastern country (no, not China), in part because the current coronavirus crisis means she’d be unlikely at best to get a job as a teacher here, the ones we have barely hanging on.  We connected through a dating app, but couldn’t meet in person back in March when the lockdown began — not least because she wasn’t here in London, but out in one of the Home Counties… at the very university where I spent three non-consecutive years of my life!

We’ve spent ages e-mailing each other (after having chatted through the app, and then texting), and have thus formed a strong bond, which hopefully will persist across eight timezones; I’d wanted to visit her at my alma mater, so I could both meet her in person and see the old homestead at the same time.  Back in March she was happy for this to happen, but when I felt just off-colour enough to worry about needing self-isolation (which I didn’t), I had to postpone the trip — and then non-essential public transport and meetings for people not in the same households were clamped down upon.

Fortunately, thanks to the recent gradual reduction in lockdown, I was able to go and see her after all at the weekend, and despite the twisted operations of public transport at the moment (having to change on both South-Western Trains and the Northern Line, both ways!), I got to the old town just fine.  No, we didn’t hug, just in case (except at the very end of the day, risking arrest), but we walked together and spoke to each other for ages, despite the dismal and changeable weather.

(Fitbit clocked me at over 20,000 steps for the day, rivalling my visit to an earlier homestead last year!)

The off-campus house where I lived in my sophomore year has certainly been done up, the windows at the front lo longer dating back to the reign of Queen Victoria (blimey, it was cold in the winter of 1997-8, especially thanks to electric-only heating and a “leccy” meter under the stairs!), but somehow I knew the way to the back entrance of campus, to which I’d walked or (from 1998) cycled many a time… but no, it was locked, so we went the long way round and up the hill via the main road.

We walked onto campus, albeit not via the main entrance, and far more quickly than I expected (almost as though I’m somehow taller now than I was at the age of 18-22), we came upon the building where we’d both studied in different decades (me geology, her geography), which hadn’t changed at all.  The whole campus was deserted, but I saw places both familiar and unfamiliar — most notably, the building where I’d lived in my freshman year, 1996-7, had been long-since demolished (apparently it was so disliked that there’s literally one picture of it on the entire Internet, and it’s older than me), along with the surrounding building complex where I had to endure the catering.

At least he’s not pounding on someone else’s door in a football rhythm at 3am, making everyone else’s doors resonate!

In a strange way, I almost missed being there, despite the obnoxious drunken noises every night ruining my sleeping pattern, and really obnoxious students (from another floor, or even another building) destroying our kitchen, as well as making me worry for my safety at times.

But still, it was my first time away from home, and so that building will always have a certain place in my heart — not least due to listening to Capital Gold every day (before I had anything to play CDs on), with Mike Osman in the mornings and Caesar the Geezer on nights.

I also saw the the flimsy prefab between that and the geology/geography building had been demolished and replaced as well, so I wouldn’t have been able to sneak in there to view the Internet late at night anyway…

(You know why — satisfying my desires (or trying to), fighting an e-mail war with my equally-nerdy friend, playing Quake or Duke Nukem 3D deathmatches, downloading abandonware to run on my Amstrad… and, on very rare occasions, doing actual degree coursework!)

Seeing the exterior and (naughtily, during the lockdown) interior of the great old building, the most famous on campus, also brought back memories — not least, wondering if I was anywhere near the office of the lady with the Scottish Play surname who was organising my student exchange with an American university in 1998.  Nothing was open (including the chapel where I heard friends recording songs, or the art gallery where we took some of our exams), but I saw the lobby of the medical wing, to which I’d gone in my first week due to developing a bad back — and I swear it was at that set of tables in one of the courtyards, where we sat to talk and eat our College Shop-bought lunch, that 24 years earlier I’d chatted to some other students early in my freshman year, after the first proper Latin-American dance class I ever took…

Geology? Heh heh heh, “log”!

We also visited my slightly off-campus hall of residence from my senior year, which was put back to 1999-2000 due to my time abroad, crossing the road bridge that didn’t seem to have been cleaned or repainted over the past 20 years, and I saw my old room from outside — where I got my first ever PC delivered, and thus spent my final time at university, er, listening Capital Gold (Mike Sweeney and his annoying catchphrases in the evenings), finally collecting music CDs (thanks to my PC’s, er, cupholder), and obsessively playing video games (Duke Nukem 3D and Tomb Raider especially) at the expense of expanding my knowledge of anything useful, though at least I got a 2:1 for my Geology BSc in the end (possibly due to a caffeine-fuelled all-nighter to finish a project in March 2000).

Before we could visit my old town centre, however, we went on what turned out to be a very, very long diversion to see a monument by the river, and ended up walking along a camping area beside a main road, towards an area whose toilets, much to my concern, turned out to be closed due to the lockdown!  (Fortunately she was willing to organise an Uber back to the train station, where they let us use the facilities!)  I’ll never forget, though, thinking I saw something familiar among the trees atop the hill across the road, even though I’d never been to that RAF monument, and probably never been driven along that exact road by my mother, or my grandfather on interview day in 1995.

(Then again, without licence plate recognition cameras or recorded GPS data from a 21st-century smartphone, who knows which way we drove?)

And, finally, before we said goodbye at the station, it’s worth mentioning what, in the town centre, reminded me of events in 1997: I found the exact optician where I got my first pair of glasses early in the year, I saw the Somerfield where I worked in the summer and autumn (having already moved into that 2nd-year house) is now a Tesco, and I realised with delight that, on a corner near the station, the dreadful shop of a famous American chain (later renamed Budgens) had been demolished, after having been so hot during that scorching summer that all their chocolate bars had melted!

I’ll talk more about my female friend another time, as we intend to stay in touch online, in the hope that one day either (a) she can come back here, or (b) I can go visit her there; for now, I just want to think about the time I spent at that university, in that tiny town in Surrey (no, it wasn’t the University of Surrey!), and how quickly those years feel like they went by in my life, despite not feeling particularly rushed at the time.  That’s just the way, isn’t it?  When it’s a fixed amount of time, somehow it still seems to extend into infinity, and when one year’s over, there’s still another couple to go, but then suddenly the end comes towards you, with nothing visible lying beyond it…

(On the other hand, the time I spent living with my folks in Worthing, saving up for a postgrad course, was originally supposed to be one or two years, but ended up as three!)

Ah, all the times my mother played Jamiroquai in the car as we drove up from Worthing to Surrey!

No, I didn’t exactly enjoy every minute of my three years as an undergrad (or my year away, either in America or staying in Woking with my housesitting mother), thanks to the drunk yobs, the difficulty of understanding my subject, the sleepless nights, the utter lack of nice girls who were (a) approachable and (b) single, the monetary worries (even in the days of the student grant and my family being financially solvent) — and in the year away, failing in the one big romance of my life, arguing with my roommate (though he took me into his family), and coming back to England feeling like it was a little too soon.

Nonetheless, my limited time at that institution was to be savoured, and I’ve thus felt a certain envy towards my new friend having been there (not to mention “female best friend” studying for her Ph.D in Sheffield a decade ago).  It’s all ephemeral, and not just endless drawn-out days of the same thing — like, well, working in a permanent job and paying monthly rent, which feels a lot less thrilling than university…

— — —

Having said that, late last year (long before the lockdown), I went to weekly Latin-American dance classes in the Seven Sisters area (same teacher as in previous years, but yet another new venue) — and, recognising the area, decided one night that I’d walk back to the street in Wood Green where I lived, after my postgrad course and until moving into Caledonian Road, with “female best friend”, “good housemate” (not that he always was, obviously!), and briefly “other female best friend”, and thus, after a long walk, saw my old stomping ground near Turnpike Lane, including the path I took to the Tube station every morning from September 2005 onwards, and even the route along which I trundled a new (well, second-hand) computer chair from down in West Green.

While that house had similar flaws to my sophomore one (single-glazed windows in my room, and a “leccy” meter which we could only see if we stood on chairs), and I had a job I grew to hate in late 2004, and spent the summer of 2005 unemployed and worrying about rent (albeit with a relatively cheerful job in between, and guaranteed family support), I still feel a certain nostalgia about it — perhaps because it’s where I really got into learning Japanese and watching non-dubbed Japanese anime (which “female best friend” enjoyed watching with me), and built my first decent PC?

Twenty-eight years later

Today was a totally horrible day back.
—Me at the start of school in 1992, underestimating just how bad things would get later on

Obvious disclaimer: this was written recently, not in 1992

This year, 2020, is significant to me for one particular reason: it’s got the same date structure as 1992, due to a 28-year cycle I figured out (seven leap years, cycling through which day of the week 29th February occurs on), which is the year we moved to Worthing, one of the worst things to ever happen to my family — and also the year that I, over twenty years before starting this blog, began writing a diary, which I’ve continued to this day.

(Sorry, this is gonna be a looong, self-indulgent post…)

I started writing it in something I’ve just reminded myself of in an Amstrad CPC emulator: the word processor aspect of Mini Office II, which my folks got for me for Christmas 1991.  It was yesterday (Monday 6th January), more than a quarter of a century ago, that I began on the first day of the Spring term at my secondary school, and already I knew we’d be moving away from Walton-on-Thames due to my grandfather’s job being transferred down south.

Boy, that program was unwieldy, and limited to 16kB worth of characters — and some idiot non-h4x0r must have programmed it to count even the empty spaces of the margins either side of the actual document to count as characters in the memory!  Hence I only wrote it on school days, because I simply didn’t have enough room to include weekends (except maybe a brief flashback on Monday) — and I also didn’t write during holidays (again, with a summary afterwards, especially after summer).

Indeed, I almost stopped writing after the half-term holiday twenty-eight Februarys ago, but fortunately only missed out one week — and shortly afterwards, lost the Wednesday 11th March entry due to changing the side of the 3″ disc I was saving to, and not realising (thanks to the Amstrad not dating files)!  Fortunately they were the only diary entries I lost, though I certainly came close in November, when I accidentally erased the files I’d been writing since September and the start of my time at a new school, but fortunately even the Amstrad could “unerase”.

And so it continued for the rest of my school days, and indeed university — though I did use two other word processors: the copy of Tasword I got from Amstrad Action just before Easter 1993 sucked, and it was very reluctantly that I used it for the first couple of months in 1997, when my 3″ disc drive was malfunctioning, and I had to do everything on my secondary 3½” disc drive (upon which Mini Office II couldn’t run), until the situation was resolved.  That program had even less space (and justified paragraphs together unless they were space out with blank lines), and I had to split weeks into separate files!

Alas, poor Amstrad (my fault for bashing the keyboard in frustration) — but good job I didn’t need to rely on tape by the end of 1991

And then there’s disc images: all the data of a 3″ disc transferred to a file on a 3½” disc (formatted for a PC to read), which meant I could back everything up to my university personal hard drive space, and access via Amstrad emulator (running a disc image version of Mini Office II) — hence I was still able to write if my Amstrad wasn’t available.  This was significant in early 1998, when it gave up the ghost, though when my folks helped me find a Worthing chap selling a refurbished 6128, I also got hold of the far superior Protext — and if I’d had that from the very start in 1992, ooh, I wonder how much more I’d have written (including weekends)…


I kept my e-mails while I was at the American university in 1998-9 and during the summer, hence at least having some semblance of a journal, but when I returned to university over here, I was able to buy my own (second-hand) PC, and install upon it (my mother’s PC’s copy of) Win98 — and although I still wrote only diary entries on weekdays (except on special occasions) and split the weeks into separate files, I was now using… wait for it… Wordpad.  Well, at least I could do bold, italic and underlined, and different font sizes — and now it was proportional instead of monotype!  And I wasn’t limited to 16kB, which meant I could say a bit more.

I didn’t write anything contemporary after university, until the end of 2001: I’d been compiling the text of all my diary entries (this time, the weekly documents transferred to my PC as text files) into Word documents, complete with superior formatting (and yes, I corrected some spelling mistakes!). Thanks to things like e-mails (again) and receipts (so I could see when I’d bought things), I managed to write monthly entries about my time back in Worthing with my folks up to that point, after which I finally wrote “live” again — still in the form of monthly entries (based on daily notes I kept).  When I went back to university as a postgrad in 2003, I resumed writing on weekdays (and not during holiday periods), in my old style, albeit now in Word properly.

I finished my post-postgraduate time in 2004 going back to monthly entries (sometimes written much later, and in one case not compiled from its notes at all!), but in 2005 I started something new and more convenient: writing maybe a paragraph about each day, including weekends, with no break periods and no retrospectives!  Except sometimes writing about Friday on Sunday (which I came to call a “Sunday Night Special”), and of course after holidays (including trips with my friends and Christmases with my folks), but I kept going, recording my life in what I often referred to as “these hallowed pages”.  I did this in Word at first, but then ditched Microsoft for the OpenOffice suite, only to convert back when my workplace let me have a copy of Office 2007 (and later 2010), somehow not losing any text or formatting in the process!

Even if I start losing my memory, I’ve got the writing to remind me… as long as I remember how to turn my PC on

It was only in 2012, after the worst time of my life, that I ended that 2005-2011 Word document and started a new one, finally writing multiple paragraphs of feeling each day like I used to before I got lazy, and I’ve been doing it ever since.  Yes, I still write at weekends (admittedly mostly saving Saturday’s text for Sunday), but obviously I can only write retrospectively for holidays abroad (such as 2013), and still I take notes for holiday breaks when I’m near a PC (such as my convalescence in 2018) for later compilation into something readable.

(I’ve also been writing a “prequel” of events in my life prior to 1992, thanks to things like family memories, the dates on comics and magazines, and BBC Genome — yes, I remember a lot of TV from my childhood!)

Yes, I want it all published some day (hence I sent what I’d written thus far to my mother when I was about to go under the knife), but it’d probably be best to arrange for it to happen after my passing… partly so it would be my testament to the ages, but mainly so I’m beyond legal action for insulting my classmates over the years!  Right from the start, when I thanked the readers for their time and bade them “g’night” in the first entry, I’ve been writing this for others than just myself…

Will it one day be regarded as a modern-day autobiographical version of the Bible, and usher in a utopian, Bill & Ted-style world where war is ended and everyone gets on with their lives, due to laughing at my jokes, impressions and parodies?  If so, could someone travel back in time and let me know…?

— — —

Would I travel back in time to January 1992 and relive my earlier life?  Well, er, no — I still ate meat in those days (only so much as considering vegetarianism in 1995), and I’d have to face leaving behind the place I’d liked living in since 1985, and a school I’d enjoyed since 1990, to a dump of a town (in which my family’s been stuck ever since) and a school full of bullies (not all of them male!) — in late 1992 I didn’t contemplate suicide, but I certainly wished I was dead sometimes.  On the other hand, my grandfather and Scraps would still be alive, and at least I’d have a few more months at a school where I was happy…

I’ve probably said it before, but I wouldn’t go back in time to “enjoy” my past — okay, maybe 2013 when I was sorting my life out (and getting into Gwar), or the second half of 2016, when I’d finally made a name for myself at work (and almost got a girlfriend), before things really began to go wrong in my bonce.  There’s also circa 2006, when although the house in was dismal, at least I was living with my postgrad friends — indeed, I just happened to visit my old street in the Wood Green area recently (having just gone dancing in nearby Seven Sisters).  Oh, and 1998 in Michigan, of course, but this time taking things slower (assuming knowledge of the future stayed in my head, and not the brain tumour).

Ah, memories… sorry, I was miles away — no, I really don’t want to go backwards, just forward to better things.  However, it’s always good to learn from the past, lest we repeat it…

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!)

Going back, in more ways than one

I’ve been looking back at the past… yes, I know, entirely normal situation for Dave-ros, but this time it was more than just scanning photos of the cute little dog I grew up with: at the weekend, I went back to the first town where I can remember my family living… Gillingham.

(No, that’s “Gillingham-with-a-juh” in Kent — you’re thinking of “Gillingham-with-a-guh” in Dorset, a place I’ve never been and have no interest of visiting!)

We moved out of that place in early 1985 (back when Colin Baker starred in Doctor Who), and all things considered, we were lucky to escape, as we lived in a terraced house near Watling Street, close to Chatham, birthplace of the chav.  Still, my earliest clear memories are from there — watching Doctor Who, going to playgroup and a certain school once attended by Sir David Frost, visiting the park, shopping at either end of town (as well as accompanying someone to the “video shop” across town, in the early days of VHS!), or just being at home with my mother, grandparents and (until we sadly lost him) uncle, as well as an old dog until she died, and a young dog when she joined the family.

However, I had a lot less nostalgia than expected — and this might be simply because, almost exactly 11 years ago (and that almost exactly 23 years after we moved away), I visited the area for precisely the same reasons: reliving the past.  Back then in March 2008, when I lived on Caledonian Road in London and worked in a council office as a generic admin officer, somehow it felt more like I was reaching back to my childhood, but this time it was more like going through the motions.

Having said that, I did a few things I didn’t on my original visit — the first being to get off at the actual train station, instead of having to get a rail replacement bus there from across the Medway!  I’d only seen the station itself from the inside once or twice in my childhood, most certainly the day in (probably) 1983 that my uncle took me to Charing Cross in London so we could see Return of the Jedi on the Strand, and stuff ourselves with junk food; nearby is a footbridge over the railway line, with meshed sides, which I crossed with my folks many a time (with the optical illusion that the railway wasn’t “moving” as I ran across).  I missed it in 2008, but this time I crossed it, albeit rather taller than I was back then…

While I photographed our old pad (with the converted loft where my mum used to have rather more space than my own box room) back in 2008, and used this picture to let her know about my trip after returning to London, this time I just stood in front and spoke to my folks on the phone (a rather more advanced one than I’d had back then) for ages, having repeated my old walk home from school; I even recognised the papershop on the high street, though I couldn’t quite work out where the greengrocer’s used to be (with a worker back then who reminded me of Kenny Everett).  However, I’d made a decision to walk from my old homestead to the forest on the edge of a hill, to which my grandfather and uncle had walked me many times in the early 1980s… but when I got there, I saw a sign saying it’s not a public footpath any more, presumably due to the new corporate buildings nearby!

I thus ended up walking to a shopping centre way down in Hempstead (called “Presto” or “SavaCentre” back in the day), which left my legs knackered, though at least I met a friendly, face-licking dog along the way.  Seeing this place again was nostalgic, albeit for not entirely positive reasons: my grandparents used to take me shopping in the supermarket at the back of the mall, and one time I became separated from them and wandered outside crying… and at the front doors, two strange men (one of them reminding me of Christopher Biggins, who was big on TV back then) picked me up, to comfort me!  Fortunately my grandfather ran up at this point, having been looking for me, and may just have saved me from an early demise — I would have been five or six at the time…

(Worth noting that although the exterior had been done up, and the shops inside bore no resemblance to the 1980s, the floor looked like it had been around several decades!)

Unlike in 2008, this time I was in the vicinity of Chatham I didn’t run into a gang of chavs who laughed at me for not understanding what their pyjama-clad leader had mumbled in my general direction (though there were a couple of chavs at the station who couldn’t understand the announcer saying the train would be going to Strood, and asked if it was going to Strood!).  Yes, although the area is much quieter and less populous than anywhere I’ve lived in London, it seems you’re more likely to run into obnoxious, swaggering teenagers who think you’re the dopey one if you’re not dressed like them… perhaps it was a good job I stayed away from the network of alleyways (which distinguished the town from everywhere else in my childhood), and also didn’t walk to Cha’am itself, passing under the railway bridge (the gigantic-seeming arch of which may have made me dream of night engulfing half the sky, after my grandmother walked me there one day).

What have I taken away from my two trips to Gillingham?  Well, while back in 2008 I killed time before the rail replacement bus left by going to the nearby shopping area and buying an uplighter light shade, which is still with me after moving from Caledonian Road (but which I forgot to mention here before), this time around all I have to show for my trip is a copy of Private Eye (fortunately not a 1985 edition!), which I bought at the supermarket as an excuse to get cashback (which I turned out not to need anyway).  This is because I was so late back to the station (thanks to my excursion) that I couldn’t visit that shopping area, where I’d hoped to find second-hand CDs in the charity shops!

(And it’s not just because Keith Flint died recently — almost exactly five years after Dave Brockie — that I want to find more albums by The Prodigy, I just need to improve my music collection!)

What else did I take away from this trip?  Aching legs, mainly, thanks to my step-count for the day going well over 23,000 — but that’s something I may never do again: partly because I’ll not make such a stupid mistake as walking so far again (especially now I know the local buses allow contactless payments and actually give you a receipt!), but mainly because, as I’l say in my next post here, I’m doing away with Fitbit, at least for a while…

And yes, although I’m playing Batman: Arkham Knight at the moment in London (with Shadow of the Tomb Raider to follow), I’ve also relived the past by playing old games, such as Gorf on the VIC-20 (which my mother bought) and Pole Position in arcade form (they had it at the fish-and-chip shop to which I accompanied my uncle, very possibly missing Michael Jackson’s Thriller on TV that very night!).

Finally, I listened to as many songs I remembered from those years living in Gillingham as I could on the train in, including “Close (to the Edit)”, “Sweet Dreams (are Made of These)” and “Don’t You Want Me”, but one I don’t currently have in my collection is one I remember clearly from Top of the Pops in 1984…

About time

Yes, it’s about time I wrote something here again, it being a good four weeks since my last post here — but although I’m working on something big involving the dreadful treatment of the disabled in this country, I’ve got so much evidence to process (and indeed, find myself wishing it was all “fake news”!), that I may not have it ready before Christmas.

Then again, I’ve got a lot of free time in my final week before going down to visit my folks in Worthing for the happy holidays, so maybe I’ll work on it now — but not tonight: I want to focus more on the positives than the negatives.

(Remember when I used to post in this blog almost every night?  No?  Neither do I!)

This year may have been a superior version of 2014 (I’m even replaying Batman: Arkham City, and facing Mr. Freeze seems appropriate in this cold season), but some aspects have been rather like 2013 (when I first got Batman: Arkham City, and played it while going through post-holiday blues).  Indeed, my time off work more closely resembled my 2013 holiday than my 2014 periods of unemployment, in no small way because I was getting paid rather than living off savings, or struggling to get unemployment benefits!

It’s also just possible that I won’t feel the cold this year, thanks to our heating working in winter (without needing British Gas to come and fix it repeatedly) for the first time in ages, and while I can have a bad week just before Christmas (the darkest mornings and shortest days of the year, plus noisy enthusiasm in the office that grates on my anxious nerves — glad I didn’t go to the main Christmas party this year!).

And just as my friendship with “Irish best mate”, who I met in late 2012, improved greatly in 2013, so I’m hoping my friendship with “Polish female best friend”, who I met in late 2017, has improved this year — although I see her a lot less often (due to her mostly being in Poland or working night shifts as a vet here), we enjoy hanging out together, and I’ve helped her with a broken laptop, while she’s invited me to a play this week… not quite the same as going to the cinema frequently with “Irish best mate” (as happened in 2013, 2014 and 2015), but hey, at least we’ll be together for a couple of hours!

She and I have known each other for a year now, and may potentially be “more than just friends” (I know, a term I hate using), but if we don’t have the right kind of spark, and she’s destined to be more like a sister (like my other “female best friends” over the years), at least I’ll finally be determined to seek the help of my dating coach — who I first met in 2013, and whose help I can once again afford, as I did enough overtime recently to get extra pay in December (with more to come in January)!

And I already got a pay rise in 2017, much as I did in 2012… once again I find myself wondering about cycles — no, not the kind ridden by red light runners, but time cycles: perhaps there’s a five-year one, to go with the potential four-year cycle if this year was a repeat of 2014, and the three-year one I’ve mentioned before, which I experienced most notably at school (one bad year, one okay year, one good year, my four GCSE/A-level years in Worthing following that to a T — yes, the Upper 6th was a bad year!).

The three-year cycle would mean this past year, 2017-2018, was a bad year (which fits, due to my serious cranial issues and recovery from surgery), since 2014-2015 was certainly horrible (and perhaps the anxiety I experienced boosted the brain tumour’s growth, hence noticeable “mind static” starting in May 2015?).  If so, 2018-2019 will at least be a bit better… but if the five-year cycle overrides the four-year cycle, 2019 could end like 2014, instead of this year.

Oh damn, it’s all getting confusing, isn’t it?  Stuff it — roll on Christmas, Hannukah, and most importantly, time off work!  This house may be decently warm right now (a break in the cycle of the years?), but my folks in Worthing keep their place lovely and cozy, and I won’t have to do any cooking… and I might just delight them with their presents, which I can afford more than in 2014 or 2015!

As long as getting home isn’t a repeat of the 2013 ordeal… boy, I’ve cited that experience many times in this blog, haven’t I?

It’s déjà vu all over again (with apologies to Yogi Berra)

Dr. Cream (Jones): Ah, come in, now what seems to be the matter?
TV host (Palin): I have this terrible feeling of déjà vu, I…
(Scene repeats ad nauseam)
Monty Python’s Flying Circus (“It’s the Mind” sketch from S2E03)

I’ve probably said it before, but I really need to write more often in this blog, don’t I?  Well, naturally I’ll start with my current medical situation: I’m gradually increasing my half-days at work to full days in (and have even been offered extra work on Sunday, which will be paid double-time!), but I should add that I still get a certain amount of dizzy spells, albeit nowhere near as bad as they were before my brain surgery operation in May.

For example, they seem to be most common on Mondays (and perhaps at the weekend), which suggests I’m eating too much chocolate (no, really?!), and that alcohol interferes with my medication (which is itself thus still necessary, at least for now).  They also often involve a significant (but not exactly “terrible”) feeling of déjà vu — for example, this weekend when “drummer-trucker” (our old housemate, and definitely back to being a buddy these days) was visiting “best mate”, and they were cooking in the kitchen and listening to music, I found myself wondering if the exact noises where what I’d heard in my head before, and that my old attacks of “mind static” were somehow predicting the future…

But don’t worry, I suspect it’s part of the healing process — as my brain repairs itself following the surgery, and my nervous system at the surgery site restores itself (known to cause pain as this happens).  The Wikipedia article on my apparent condition, temporal lobe epilepsy, implies that I could start forgetting words — but that only started happening after the surgery, and is something I’ve been recovering from since then (words on the tip of my tongue sounding familiar as soon as I recall them, and not being somehow new to me).  It’s almost as though my brain is in the process of reorganising my verbal library, and this is supported by the fact that I never seem to lose the ability to understand the English language, as happened too often in 2017 during the build-up.

It might just be the stress of returning to work (and thus getting up in time to leave the house at 8am, hence I won’t spend too long on this post before I go to bed), and of course the noise of (a) the London Underground, (b) the office, (c) Gwar through my headphones, and (d) actually talking to actual people a lot of the time (which has been capable of bringing on a sense of unreality since even before the major problems in December 2016), that builds up towards my dizzy spells, but I’m confident I can get used to it again, and recover once and for all (well, at least for 5-to-10 years)… as long as I continue taking my pills for now.

However, one of my female housemates says she’s getting similar symptoms nowadays (hence why she leaves the house to go for a walk every night) — and so she wonders if it’s actually something being inflicted upon us by Big Pharma, so that we have to buy their products to reduce the symptoms!  That, of course, would suggest that I was lucky to have my brain tumour found, as without those symptoms caused by something completely different (sorry, am I piling in too many Monty Python references?), I wouldn’t have seen the quacks and had the MRI scan that found it, and never suspected I had any brain issues (other than wackiness).

But never mind the conspiracy theories — I can report having symptoms potentially as early as 2010 (since I recall feeling déjà vu and quasi-memories very rarely while working at Camden, at a much lesser intensity than in 2015).  I also had a certain kind of visual aura (an expanding fuzzy patch, over the left eye) one night in late 2012 — and, before that, one morning in or near 1993, on the bus to school in Worthing!  I’ve also seen momentary patterns of light when getting stressed, as early as 2008 (such as when about to set off to work from our flat on Caledonian Road), and something described as a “firefly aura” now and then, perhaps as early as when I was ten and in a PE lesson (I thought I was seeing meteors on an overcast day)… hmm, have I said any of this to you guys before?

Well, a lot of stuff in my life seems to repeat itself — this year, for example, at times has felt like 2014, especially in terms of taking a considerable time off work; fortunately, this time I was on paid sick leave, rather than redundant, living off savings, and trying to break into the IT industry!  There’s also been little things, like me replaying the special edition of Deus Ex: Human Revolution and the StarCraft games, going on a bus down Finchley Road (fortunately to meet “Polish female best friend”, not to commute to a shift-based job in Brondesbury Park!), and even running low on paper for my printer (though because I’m printing timesheets for “best mate”, not job applications for the Job Centre).

I’m also having mobile signal issues again, though fortunately this time it’s just draining my work phone’s battery, rather than stopping me making or receiving calls unless I put it on the windowsill — and by astonishing coincidence, my work phone is on the network I briefly switched to at the end of 2014, only to switch back when it turned out to be a stupidly expensive network, even charging you to access voicemail… but what do I care, my work’s paying for it!

(Oh, and one major, scary repeat: my last post turned out to have the exact same title as a post I wrote back in April 2014!)

I hope that’s the extent of how this year will repeat 2014, as I don’t want to go through that employment situation and strong feelings of anxiety all over again, and risk losing everything and having to move back to Worthing (rather than help my folks escape that dump).  After all, I’ve got a good life now — a job I enjoy (hey, I’ve joked about that proving I’m insane before, haven’t I?), enough income to support my mother and grandmother if they need help (and get them expensive Christmas presents), friends who have supported me (and maybe, just maybe, “Polish female best friend” will turn out to be… no, don’t jinx it!), a damn good computer setup (at least while Windows 7 remains supported — I hate Win10!), and even our landlady being grateful to me for organising our bills as a household.

Mind you, that aspect of my life might be the source of a new problem: Barnet council sent us a Council Tax form demanding all our details (luckily I was able to get everyone’s date of birth, including my own), but acting as though we would all have moved in and started our contract at the same time!  And this even though we make our council tax payments on time every month, for the amount they demand… one wonders if they’re looking for any excuse to fine us, as a source of revenue.  But no, they’re a Tory council, and that’d imply that Conservatives want any excuse to line their pockets — next you’ll be saying they’re cutting off disabled people’s benefits by any means necessary!

I just hope I’m not disabled and living on benefits when Brexit comes around… hey, maybe it’s time I wrote a “soapbox” post — can you remember the last time I did that…?

— — —

P.S. You want to see the Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketch?  Well, how lucky it’s on YouTube… and if you get a terrible feeling of déjà vu, that’s because you saw it on TV before!

The longer road to recovery

Okay, I won’t need to wait as long as Mr. Shady did between releasing albums!

I’m back in London, back at my supercomputer, and definitely showing signs of recovering from my surgery: some nights, I’m only waking for a short time in the middle of the night, instead of a few hours!  I’m also going for walks in the delightful summer weather, and sometimes even having the chance to pet dogs that are as friendly as the majority of canines in the Worthing area!

I’m grateful for my mother and grandmother taking care of me down in Worthing, but I needed and wanted to come back here; “best mate” was very helpful, driving all the way down from north London, eating my grandmother’s cooking (mac’n’cheese, which she still does well), and driving me back here without any issues (other than traffic, especially around Heathrow).

It was partly because I had a medical appointment on Monday, but I was also hoping to be back at work soon after, in early July; I popped into my workplace after the appointment, saying hi to my team and speaking to HR about the Occupational Health assessment I’ll need to undergo first.  Unfortunately, it turned out they can’t arrange it earlier than the end of July, which means (barring a cancellation and my appointment being brought forward) I can’t resume my job and work my IT mojo until August at the earliest!  And that’s assuming I pass first time, of course…

It’s very frustrating, having to stay home every day, and feeling like some kind of benefit scrounger — but I’m getting paid sick leave, at least for the first couple of months (and hopefully won’t need any more than that), and in the meantime spending very little on travel costs, which is saving me a lot of money… and not having to commute every day saves on stress.

(Even though the exact times I’ve needed the Northern Line — after visiting work on Monday, or helping the homeless last Wednesday — it’s gone spectacularly wrong!)

It’s a good job I’m saving money, because I’m now obliged to start paying back my student loans from the 1990s, due to earning just slightly over the maximum monthly gross amount that would have allowed me to defer for what may be the 19th year running.  Fortunately, both companies who bought my debts from Student Loans have been reasonable and helpful over the phone (even if the one with my 1998 debt doesn’t seem to send stuff through the post any more — fortunately I figured that out in time!), and the total, less than £180/month, shouldn’t break the bank… plus, the limit gets revised in September, so you never know, I might be able to defer again!

There’s also the great possibility that my mother will finally, after all these years, get a new dog (a quiet lapdog is intended), and having July off means I’d be free to go back down to Worthing for a week or so, and help get the doggy used to its new home, and learning a few tricks (not least “sit!”).  Saving money also means I can contribute financially to the upbringing of that mangy flea-bitten cur… oh, sorry!

Being off work also means I can also guide my mother and grandmother through London next week, when they pass through on their way from Sussex to Essex, for the funeral of my grandmother’s sister, my great-aunt (whose husband died nearly a decade ago, ten years after my grandfather), and then back again the next day, without having to take annual leave.

Moreover, I have time for medical appointments appointments — not just the dentist (I certainly need some help there!), but also the local quack, or whoever’s filling in for him (or her) next time… and this is for the reasons I stated in my last post: my mother’s been very unhappy with my treatment at the hands of Charing Cross hospital, not least their apparent inability at our meeting on 24th May to say how much of my brain tumour they actually removed (and imply I’d need radiology), despite their letter (which arrived here a month later) implying I was almost fully cured, and would only need occasional checkups.  She’s urging me to seek a second opinion from a dedicated neurology/neurosurgery hospital, where the staff don’t contradict each other and know what words mean, and I’ll need the quack to help me with that — and to confirm whether CC even sent them the histology/pathology report they said they would, but hadn’t previously because they normally don’t send it to the GP at all!

They’ve got a temp to fill in for me, but hopefully he’s not the new “Faceman”!

The sad thing is, having to stay home and not work during this period reminds me of the summer of 2014, when I’d left Camden on voluntary redundancy, but had to wait for my agency to set up even an unpaid internship in IT, let alone getting income again!  That led into the worst part of my life, when even the internship seemed like heaven compared to that horrible shift-based job, and even that gave a better income than relying on benefits, but I have high hopes that I just need to patiently work on my recovery, as I’m not unemployed or surplus to requirements.


(Indeed, senpai called me up to urge me back to work, as he still thinks one of the other team members is incompetent!)

I’m also, naturally, reminded of 2012 and 2015, the years I recovered (slowly) from the depression I felt in late 2011 (when I felt like I had nothing to live for) and the anxiety I felt in late 2014 (when I also not working, but it was much colder).  And then there’s 2016, when I went to Worthing to help my mother recover from surgery, something I’d forgotten all about until I read my own 2016 diary recently (all I could remember off the top of my head was assembling a shoe rack)!  I guess worrying that my improved life was being paid for, karmically, by her suffering was premature if I too was to need surgery this year (and my grandmother in 2017 to boot, though I barely mentioned it here) — perhaps I’m enduring this to restore balance, and “pay” for a good life.

I know I once said I’d stop looking back in time so much (in the blog category “then and now”), so I won’t look up which blog entry I said that in and link it here, because that’d lend credence to such a foolish notion — it seems life really does go in cycles… and I have hopes that the events of 20 years ago might just repeat.  In the summer of 1998, I’d finished my second year of university but was waiting to find out if my alma mater was competent enough to finalise my student exchange with an American university — if not, I’d already suspended my student grant for a year, and would effectively have to take a year out.

Fortunately, in August my grandfather stepped in and made a hell of a lot of phonecalls, and almost single-handedly got the process running properly, for which I thank him — as not only did I befriend an American family and thus have an excuse to revisit the USA (present president notwithstanding), but, as I’m sure you’re tired of me recalling, I actually got a girlfriend for literally the first time in my life, after nothing but failure here in Britain.  So maybe, just maybe, after I’m back at work and appreciated, in September I’ll meet someone?  I’ve had a certain feeling that this recovery process is my final hurdle before my life can be complete…

Having said that, don’t think my previous list is of any relevance in this: the first three I haven’t seen in ages (two because I currently don’t go to salsa or climbing, the third because I’ve simply lost touch after three dates), and the fourth, my Polish friend, has become more like a sister to me — she’s been supportive and considerate during my recovery process (even coming to visit me in Finchley, despite living way out west on the Metropolitan Line!), and I’ve responded by, finally, accompanying her to the “helping the homeless” group she was too shy to attend on her own (after being too busy with her veterinary shift work, or too far away in Poland, to attend with me on previous occasions).

In fact, I regard her as my newest “female best friend” (the original two having their own lives and families now, and living far away) — and you never know, she might just fix me up!  The most interesting fact: I was first contacted by her in November 2017, almost exactly five years after I met “best mate” in 2012 — will she be my (overworked) housemate some day?

— — —

P.S. With so much free time, I have the chance to not only play video games, but to listen to new CDs — including works by Gorillaz, who I still enjoy after surgery as I did before… want to see the (strangely Pythonesque) video of a song I got in G Sides?  Oh, here you go…

Prelude to departure… for surgery

In 24 hours I’ll be trying to sleep in a hospital room in Hammersmith, wishing this terrifying situation wasn’t necessary, but trying to stay positive and convince myself that (a) the operation on Wednesday morning will go fine, and (b) I’ll recover quickly enough to let everyone know I’m all right.

My friends at work are hoping for me, along with everyone close to me who I’ve told about what I’m facing, but I wish I shared their optimism: even if my life is in no danger (thanks largely to my personal trainer and my long-term vegetarianism putting me in good physical health), it’s still likely I’ll need to take a loooooong time to get well again afterwards, and my mother and grandmother will have to take care of me, when I ought to be taking care of them!

Even the best prospect — that there are no complications and I’m completely cured, without even having to face chemotherapy in future — involves me recovering slowly, perhaps not being able to use a computer for a while (to let everyone know I came through it all fine), and not being able to return to work, or exercise in any significant way, for weeks or even months.  When will I be able to read books again?  I don’t want to spend ages staring at the walls, not even allowed to doze because it’d mess up my sleep pattern!

The only other time in my life I’ve been in hospital for an operation was in December 1993: some adult teeth were defying the system, and needed removal from inside the roof of my mouth before they messed up my existing upper set.  Although it was boring and I slept through it (I thank you), the operation went well, preventing my English teeth from becoming as bad as Americans think they are.

(My dating coach chuckled when I told her, in reference to a Simpsons joke, that a potential Chernobyl had been turned into a mere Three-Mile Island!)

It’s a long time ago, and I don’t remember that much of it, but since I was a strapping lad of 16, and since it wasn’t exactly brain surgery, I was able to recover and say hello to my folks when they visited, probably the same day as the operation took place — tired and feeling lousy (not to mention puking up blood I’d swallowed), but conscious and sane (well, as much as ever).

However, in spite of my youthful resilience, I felt lousy after while recuperating at home during the Christmas holidays, at one point hyperventilating (due to chest pains), and needing to be taken to casualty!  And for several days, while my mouth healed, the only thing I could eat was soft cheese, rinsing my mouth out with boiling salty water… but at least I could play video games and watch TV.

All these years later, I’m naturally older (well, not as older as the dates would imply, ahem) — and this time they’re taking something out of my actual brain instead of my upper jaw… would it have been more sensible for me to decline surgery, and commit to taking anti-epilepsy drugs for the rest of my life… even considering it could get worse and progress to full seizures, instead of the disconcerting but mild dizzy spells I’ve been having for over a year?

Don’t worry, I’m going through with it despite my fears — hopefully I won’t die (if I do, I hereby curse Jeremy CHunt MP to eternal hellfire, for the way he’s ruining the NHS), and maybe I’ll be coherent enough on Thursday to text “best mate” and senpai at work, so they can pass on the good news to my other housemates and work colleagues… and perhaps I’ll also be able to post on Facebook, so all my other friends can feel a sense of relief (and maybe come to see me during visiting hours).

Most importantly, my mother will be there for me, as she’s been so many times before (thanks for correcting me on that Jamiroquai track in my last post, Mumsy!) — and if anything goes wrong, she’ll kick botty on my behalf… it’s largely for her sake that I want to get through this and make a full recovery, though if I’m honest, it’s also for my own sake, as I’m not ready to stop living any decade soon.

(Aside from everything else, I’m determined to see Halley’s Comet when it comes around again, as I missed it in 1986!)

I want to live through this experience — because, in direct contrast to that day in 2011 (yes, I know, it’s the reference that keeps on giving!), and as I said five years after that day, I have every reason to go on living now, and suicide is the farthest thing from my mind.  Even if I were terminally ill (which, technically, everyone is anyway), I’d want to put my affairs in order and live out my remaining days making the most of life, rather than jump the gun (as it were) and end my life prematurely.

Assuming all goes well, I’ll write something here once I’ve got enough of my marbles back to log onto a computer and write coherent sentences; it probably won’t be the longest gap between the times I’ve posted here, will it?  With luck, I’ll say something before the end of May (even if it’s just two words: “I’m alive”), and get back to my old self in June, as a birthday present for my mother.

In the meantime, I shall bring this blog post to an end with one obvious (obligatory?) reference to the blog’s title, as I’ve done so many times before:


Not rocket science

I really wish this Simpsons image hadn’t proven to be so prophetic…

I won’t beat about the bush: it turns out my last diagnosis for the cause of my repeated bouts of “mind static” was way too optimistic, as today I found out I do in fact have an actual tumour nestling within my grey matter, rather than just a cyst on the outside that could be removed with minimal fuss.  I’ll need more analysis, including a detailed “super-MRI” scan, but unless I’m (ahem) lucky enough that I could spend my life on anti-epilepsy drugs as a way of controlling symptoms with no consequences, it looks like I’m going to have to endure full-on brain surgery, to remove the troublesome “space invader” — which, rather than some kind of parasitical growth, seems to be actually part of my brain that’s gone wrong.

Hopefully, cuts to the NHS notwithstanding, I’m in no danger of dying on the operating table (which sadly happened to my grandfather just before the millennium) — but my personal trainer went through similar earlier in his life, and said that it led to changes in his personality (albeit perhaps partly due to the wrong operation being done first), such as being quicker to anger, losing his mathematical knowledge, and needing to rekindle his interest in sport over a long time (which is perhaps why he was a chef in a previous role).  He’s a great guy today, but he’s still somehow a different person to the one who went under the knife.

If I do go through with this operation (and at this stage, it’s strictly hypothetical), I wonder if I’d lose something?  As I keep saying, I’d love to remove anxiety from my mind, since it serves no purpose whatsoever (and is self-reinforcing at times) — and wouldn’t it be convenient if the only reason I’ve been so anxious the past few years is indeed down to that exact lump interfering with my noggin, and so saving my life would go hand-in-hand with finally growing a pair?  The same goes with my quickness to anger, something I’d love to be rid of entirely — if I can squeeze it into that blob, I can bid it goodbye — and there’s also my tendency to rehearse conversations internally, even if I’m never actually going to have them, and overthinking in general.

On the other hand, would surgery be what finally causes me to “put away childish things”, like video games (which would be frustrating when I’ve spent so much time and money building this ubercomputer for games), science fiction, and Japanese anime?  Indeed, since it’s the left temporal lobe, concerned with language and comprehension, would I forget how to speak and understand Japanese… or, indeed, English?

I’ve resolved not to worry about this, and to carry on living (much as I did before — boy, I keep retreating the same ground in this blog, don’t I?), as if all goes well, I get my life back, and all I need to do for now is cut down on intense exercise, or anything where someone else’s life is in my hands, like belaying others while climbing.  It’s not impossible that I’ll never climb again — it got me out of depression in 2012, but maybe it’s served its purpose, and I don’t need to do it any more unless I truly want to.

It should be noted that my personal trainer’s being helpful in this aspect, not making me do “heavy lifting” for the time being, but encouraging me to keep healthy and positive, rather than laze about at home and get into bad habits, and for that I’m grateful.  My “boss lady” at work is also happy for me to take off whatever time I need to get this resolved, while senpai, despite worrying excessively (and urging me to get a “second opinion”), is on my side, and will help take care of me at work if anything goes wrong and I suffer from any symptoms.

I should also be very clear that I’m eternally grateful for my mother’s support in this — I’m planning a blog post about how awesome she is, even if I disagree with her politically (at times it feels like the right-wing consider the left-wing a bunch of babies who need to “grow up”), to make up for all the times I’ve been mean about her and her well-meaning advice (including last time).  I do worry about people worrying about me, and my main reason for wanting to recover from this medical issue is so they don’t need to, as their worry is increasing my worry, in a… worry spiral?

One reason I’m going to be optimistic is that it feels like history repeating itself: a crisis of some kind seems to happen to me every three years, and I’ve always overcome it (I’m sure my yoga teacher would have something mystical to say — and he’s back in town, so I’ll try to see him on Monday instead of dancing).  It’s like this: something goes wrong at the end of one year (leading to a Christmas that I somehow don’t quite enjoy), but is resolved by the following February (when it’s no longer so depressingly dark in the mornings), or at least matters set in place for a longer-term resolution.  Here’s a list:

  • Late 2008: my HR job at Camden was threatened due to yet another council restructuring, but I was sick of it anyway, and in early 2009 I got redeployed to children’s social services, which meant I could continue working and living in London (and learning Japanese).
  • Late 2011: as you know (if you’ve been reading this long enough), I sank into deep depression due to “good housemate” getting his own place, while my own life was going nowhere; by the end of January, I had a new place to move into (and am still here), and even got offered an acting-up allowance on my salary, to help cover at work (later leading to my playboy lifestyle, including mass socialising).
  • Late 2014: after losing that horrible shift-based job, and wondering if I’d ever get into IT, or even work again, in February my agency found me a temporary but sanity-restoring job, and I was able to go back to paying my bills with something other than government handouts; this led on to my current job, in which (despite the occasional setback) I’m now truly happy.

“And this smudge here, that looks like my thumbprint? No, that’s trauma!”

I know my bouts of “mind static” started with a vengeance over a year ago, but it was only in late 2017 that I finally got the quacks to take it seriously and actually give me some kind of examination beyond simply confirming I can feel my fingertips and move my eyes around.  This has now led me towards the truth of the situation (assuming it’s not all a huge photographic cock-up — it took them a long time to process the pictures on the 3rd!), and I’ve got “the big decision” coming up on 8th February.  This date is, perhaps not coincidentally, close to the dates I earned my redeployment position in 2009, moved into my new home in 2012, and started my new temp job in 2015!

And even if I had some bad times in those years following those events (some of which have been chronicled here), my life always bounced back, and I regained the ability to be happy again — so this time around, even if the depression of 2011 and the anxiety of 2014 both threaten a concerted attack (both would be entirely understandable given the circumstances), I’m going to stay cheerful, control symptoms with medication (even if one of the pills means I, ahem, gain weight), and do the things I enjoy.

It’d be just my luck to have a major issue just as I’m finally sorting my life out (aside from girly action, but I remain hopeful) — but somehow, even if it takes every ounce of strength and determination…


— — —

P.S. I note that a number of people with addresses have signed up to my blog since my last post; if any of you are doctors, especially brain surgeons, I’m very sorry for using “quack” as humorous shorthand for your career… don’t take offence, I call dentists “tooth-quacks” as well!  Maybe brain surgery will stop me trying to be funny in such a 1950s American nightclub standup way…?