Category Archives: Trying new things

New tactics, old tactics

ad_furrowNo apologies for the increasing gaps between blog posts, I’m sure you’re used to it by now — but let me start by saying that I’ve gone and failed my Windows Server 2008 exam.  Don’t panic, I get a free retake, and I know what I did wrong: I didn’t cheat!

Yes, it seems the only way I can get anywhere in life is by burying my ethics and doing what I shouldn’t — thus I’m going back to the online “exam dumps” that I eschewed this time around through a mixture of moralising and laziness.  The questions in the exam bore so little resemblance to the training material that I was reminded of the disaster of my Windows 7 exam in 2012 (is my life really going in three-year cycles?), except this time I did even worse, not even getting 90% of the pass mark.

(If I didn’t know better, and I don’t, I’d think I was deliberately marked down because I’m not already an IT professional and admitted in the preliminary bit of the test that I didn’t have much experience — after all, Heaven forefend that an enthusiastic amateur be allowed to shame the experts!  Look at Eddie “The Eagle” Edwards… okay, bad example!)

It’s come at a bad time: my current work contract is nearly over, and though they might keep me on a bit longer, depending on workload (and my contribution to my team’s total pedometer count), it looks like I have to face going back into the job market again.  It’s better to be doing so in the summer than the winter (though admittedly the current difference between the two appears to be the length of daylight hours), but this time I’ll have to change tactics regarding my CV, and focus on the “big” jobs I’ve had (the current one and, of course, Camden), instead of mentioning every single one I’ve done recently (like the bad one in November).

However, will I have time for all this studying and applying, since I’ve redoubled my efforts to get out and socialise?  Rather than just climbing, yoga and personal training, plus hanging out with “best mate”, I’m making more of an effort to go to meetup groups I’ve been neglecting, such as salsa dancing and Science Museum end-of-month “lates”.  Perhaps I’m recapturing how I felt when I first discovered in 2013, after my holiday, when I needed some new experiences, and will have to start being sensible again, and force myself to stay in some evenings…

In my effort to try new things, I’ve even taken my dating coach’s advice and visited a gentlemen’s club… that was certainly an experience I’d never had before — and while I won’t go into details (because this is a family blog!), I like to think I’m more relaxed around hot women now, even if I really need to learn to flirt instead of talking to them like they’re human beings.  I have been trying to do that lately, and getting downhearted when it fails to lead to a date, but I mustn’t give up — and if all else fails, I’ll use the same ethics I’m now using with IT exams, and simply cheat.  Yep, I’ll lie about my age on dating sites (perhaps even creating a fake Facebook profile to link with Tinder) — after all, I could pass for 27, couldn’t I?

(Ah, screw you guys!)

I’m trying new things in the musical world as well… no, don’t worry, Gwar will always have a special place in my heart (I’ve even finally learned the lyrics to “Let Us Slay”, exactly a year after I got Lust in Space), but thanks to cheap CDs on Amazon and in charity shops, I’ve discovered Björk, Dido and Radiohead, as well as getting CDs of artists of whom I was already fans (and perhaps already had some tracks), like the Pet Shop Boys, Blur and Jamiroquai.  This is in addition to all the early Prince CDs I bought recently: I think my music collection’s increased in size by about a third this year!  Indeed, I really should get a bigger SD card for my phone, so I can also rip my grandmother’s classical music CDs — because that’s something else I want to try all over again…

And finally, to modify my attitudes I’m trying something new: self-help books!  In addition to that book on CBT I’ve mentioned before, I’ve begun reading a book lent to me by that cool woman at work (who’s like an aunt to me) — The Secret, all about the “Law of Attraction” and the notion that you get whatever you think about, whether you’re thinking about it in a positive or negative context.  This is what a female friend of mine was on about last year, and might explain why the annoying woman was always at work whenever I wanted her not to be; it seems to be working so far: instead of thinking how much I resent the presence of other blokes (especially Middle Eastern ones), I try to focus on how much I want to encounter women… and thus the yoga singles event I attended on Friday had equal numbers of both genders!

Oh, how I want loads of people to come to my blog, see how intelligently I write, and offer me untold riches as though I’m a modern messiah… no?  Well, it was worth a try!

— — —

What’s that?  You want to hear the Gwar song I’ve memorised?  You are never satisfied, are you?  Oh, go on then, here you go… and yes, I’m channelling Frankie Howerd at the end of the Up Pompeii! movie whenever I do this!

Something old, something new


No, no-one’s getting married, stop getting your hopes up that I might have finally met someone!

A relatively quick note tonight, to let you goons know I’m keeping on, both reliving old experiences and trying new things.  Unfortunately one recurring experience is that I’ve got an upset stomach again, and while I’m not involuntarily evacuating my digestive system (by barfing or… other means), I feel a bit off-colour.  Maybe the vomiting bug is doing the rounds again and I’m more resistant this time, or maybe I stirred up something nasty through either tidying my room (an unpleasant prospect at the best of times) or cutting the plant life growing over our back garden wall and into the alleyway.

(Rather worryingly, there was a jacket and dufflebag tangled up in the creepers… almost as though it had eaten someone in the past!)

Anyway, hopefully I’ll be better tomorrow, when I intend to go climbing again — not at the Castle, where I usually go, but at the Westway!  I’ve only been there once before with a group, and they’re going again.  This also means missing my usual Tuesday night yoga (and preceding expensive dinner at Nando’s or Ed’s at Euston station), but hey, I’m allowed to change things up occasionally, aren’t I?

Actually, in entertainment terms, I’ve been mixing it up recently, especially regarding the books I read — or e-books, since I’ve archived most of my paperbacks now (I may not get rid of them after all, thanks to Friern Barnet library not taking new books any more).  Whereas previously I’ve been reading my old Discworld paperbacks at night, and my old Asimov (or Dune) paperbacks on the Tube, recently I’ve started reading previously-unread Discworld novels on my Kindle at night, and The Mote in God’s Eye on my smartphone on the Tube.  I’ve also been taking a break from watching every Doctor Who story (which I’ve seen previously at least once, albeit back in 1996 in some cases) in order to enjoy season 1 of Game of Thrones on Blu-ray.

(I’ve already had season 2 of Game of Thrones spoiled for me: apparently there’s less gratuitous T&A…)

And speaking of new entertainment… yes, it’s the inevitable Gwar reference.  I’ve got three more of their albums to get hold of (making a grand total of 13, my lucky number), but in the meantime I’m getting hold of other albums as well — either albums for which I already had a couple of tracks (such as The Fat of the Land by The Prodigy), or earlier albums for artists I’m already familiar with (such as I Wish My Brother George Was Here by Del the Funky Homosapien).  Indeed, I have plans to go back to the beginning of two of my other favourite artists, 2Pac and Prince, and buy their earlier works (though in the latter case I’ll only go up to 1992).

Buying CDs may cost a lot of money (mitigated by the fact that I’ve hardly any more Doctor Who DVDs to get), but that’s nothing compared to the cost of going to Michigan, which I really want to do so I can see my old roommate’s family in their Fenton homestead one last time.  Air travel seems to have become a lot more expensive than it was in the 2000s, and it seems to be no cheaper than £800 at the moment.  It would suck if I couldn’t go, but maybe I’ll have to rely on some kind of last-minute deal.  It’d help if my stupid workplace would tell me when my final day is (which they should have done last week), but no…

Anything else?  Only that I’m studying Windows Server 2008 in my lunchbreaks, which means some of it’s familiar (since I took classes in Server 2003 back in 2010) while other stuff is brand new.  And now, I’m going to try something really radical: going to bed before midnight… yeah, fat chance!

Get confident, stupid!

I wanted to buy a book on assertiveness, but the shopkeeper wouldn’t sell it to me.
–Me, a few years ago*


Maybe I need R. Lee Ermey to shout abuse at me until I feel more confident… which would be like hitting a paraplegic until they regain the ability to walk

As you’re no doubt aware from the amount I go on about it, I have a problem with confidence, being assertive and standing up to jerks.  Well, it’s high time I overcame my shyness, because let’s be honest: I’m not “too polite” to ask fat people not to sit next to me on the bus, or noisy people on the Tube to shut up, I’m too cowardly!

To this end, I attended two events on Saturday.  First, I saw my dating coach once again (the one whose professional name was inspired by the Joker’s female sidekick), and rather than just listening to my tales of woe regarding my recent failed romances, she taught me some useful skills for asserting myself.  For example, standing with legs shoulder-width apart (my personal trainer would be proud), with big toes pointing down, shoulders back (I do tend to hunch, possibly thanks to sitting over computers 24/7) and chin up.  Plus, I mustn’t keep nodding or bowing my head humbly all the time, and must instead maintain eye contact (which will apparently help freak out the bus people), as well as speaking in a more serious tone than my usual goofy, nerdy voice, and making expansive hand gestures.

In fact, I need more often to channel how I behaved towards an IT guy at work — who, having taken away my desktop computer a week before Christmas, has more recently threatened to take away our remaining monitors and thus force us all to use our pathetic laptop screens.  I was almost incandescent with rage at someone who was just doing his job!  And that’s how I should have dealt with my jerkoff housemate when he held the kitchen door closed, instead of rushing past him and trying to ignore his taunts…

The other event, coincidentally hosted by a friend of my dating coach (who has a far more prosaic name), was in a similar vein: body confidence.  We all waved our arms and shouted incoherently, and then paired off to smile and shake hands, or sell each other our chairs, and I think I took away some useful hints from the seminar.  Apart from learning to speak more clearly (not necessarily slowly, but “fast-controlled”), it seems I really need a mirror, so I can spot my bad habits (such as the aforementioned head-bowing) and do something about them, possibly involving some kind of The Prisoner-esque shock therapy.

(No, I don’t have a full-length mirror in my room, and I already spend enough time before my showers flexing my muscles in front of the bathroom mirror… wait, did I just write that?  Well, good, it’s better than being ashamed of my body!)

So, with all that and a friendly interaction with a girl as well (alas, she turned out to have a boyfriend already, but she hasn’t done the Internet equivalent of slapping me in the face and still wants to be friends), I felt pretty good as I headed home… so why is it I immediately clammed up when I got back here and encountered the aforementioned housemate?  He wasn’t even being a jerk (though admittedly it’s hard to tell with him, he’s one of those people who always sound like they’re making fun of you), and I can only compare the situation to souping up a car engine: you think you’ve put it together better than it was before, but when you try to start it up it immediately stalls!


Sorry, just trying to lighten the mood with a reference to someone else who needs T.P. for his bunghole

It may have been due to my thinking that our fridge-freezer had died yet again (it hadn’t, or possibly I fixed it shortly afterwards, because it’s now colder than ever), or due to having spoken about him to someone else, or even due to his stupid proscription on spending house kitty money on toilet paper (yes, really, we have to buy our own T.P. and bring it to the crapper!), but I haven’t spoken to him since.  Despite wanting to snap and have it out with him at the time, I feel now like I should apologise for freezing him out: this was an incident not unlike what I once almost did to “good housemate” when I happened to encounter him on Oxford Street in Spring 2011, not long after he’d drunkenly said some obnoxious words to me about (he thought) losing my virginity before I met someone I cared about, and when I was already in a low mood.

However, somehow I doubt my current housemate is shedding any tears over my treatment of him — after all, the only emotions he ever seems to display are smug amusement, sneering condescension (when something goes wrong for me) and, occasionally, annoyance (when something goes wrong for him) — and hey, he never apologised for the kitchen door incident, did he… if anything, he seemed to think I ought to apologise for being such a sourpuss!  Maybe I’m inflicting a new and unfamiliar emotional state upon him, and thus restoring his humanity to some extent… in which case, I’m being as altruistic as the school bullies who tried so very, very hard to help me grow a thicker skin.  Aren’t I a nice person?

Seriously, though, this is a situation I’m going to have to resolve — sometimes he seems nice and reasonable, but mostly I just feel edgy around him, as though he’s secretly laughing at me and all I’ve done to sort myself out since I moved in here.  This is the kind of poisonous atmosphere I had in the final year at Caledonian Road with “bad housemate” (who almost certainly didn’t realise what a see-you-next-Tuesday he was, and would have been baffled if I’d told him), and before that, in Wood Green with the Irish guy (the one with the same birthday as me) who could get very, very angry over really minor things (and who I unfriended on Facebook after he laughed at my depression… yes, I know, first world problems and all that).  I even had a similar issue sharing a room with an American in 1998-9, but he at least had taken me into the bosom of his family, and helped me out considerably, so I tolerated his occasional jerk phases (and I was hardly the best roommate in the world!).

It’s going to be very difficult building up my confidence if I don’t feel safe in my own home, and where better to assert myself?  Then again, in a few months I should be in a nice low-paid IT job, and I’ll probably want to save money by moving somewhere cheaper, possibly with “best mate”… or, hah, I might even meet the girl of my dreams and live in sin — but not until I sort out my confidence, of course.  Thus I have no alternative but to draw the battle line outside my bedroom door…

(* This joke made “female best friend” laugh, and “other female best friend” groan as though it was the worst joke she’d ever heard)

Single guy seeks wild girl


“What a mismatched pair — a free spirit and a puppet”

I know I said I wouldn’t go on about my girl troubles in this blog, but technically I’m not going to be complaining as such tonight (except about our flaky Internet connection, which will probably cause this post to be a bit disjointed — if it makes it to publication at all!): no, instead it’s another epiphany I’ve had regarding this ongoing issue.  It’s something I’ve suspected for some time, but Friday evening put it into context…

It was another of those events I’ve been trying to go to as a part of becoming more outgoing and less of a sit-at-home sourpuss, but unfortunately it seems to have been one primarily aimed at ladies in their 40s, judging from the females on offer.  (There were attractive women at the venue, but they were there for a parallel event, and not to meet single guys!)  Seriously, I’m not into older women like them — and it’s not just a looks thing (because hey, bring me Courtney Cox in Cougar Town and I might be interested), it’s also personality as communicated through body language and speech.  I really, really don’t want to spend my life with someone who seems to have no passion, no joie de vivre, and is merely “pleasant company”, in that she’s polite and asks questions, and forces herself to smile a lot while sipping the inevitable wine; I’m not a charity, after all, and there has to be some spark between us.  The evening wasn’t a total loss: at least one of the organisers (herself attractive, but spoken for) helped me chat up some of the younger women at the venue, and even though I didn’t pull, it was a bit of a confidence-booster.

It was a blessed relief when “best mate” (as I’m going to my Irish climbing buddy instead of “newest friend” henceforth, for reasons I’ll go into below) phoned up to see what I was doing, because he was “bored out of his tree” waiting for another mate of his to perhaps call up, as it gave me a way out of a boring evening.  We got some food (I’d actually had to skip dinner just to go to this event, which wasn’t even catered), and he said something which brought home to me just what I need to do…

You see, “best mate” has a bit of a crazy lifestyle: even though he doesn’t drink (which is rare enough for an Irishman!), and doesn’t go out much during the week, he attends wild parties some weekends and indulges in, shall we say, recreational substance usage… but he wants to meet a nice woman who will “tame” him, and stop him living this destructive lifestyle.  And that got me thinking: what I really need is a woman who is herself a bit untamed, wild, crazy, and in need of a sensible guy who can give her some stability in her life, and whom she can in turn coax out of his shell and make more confident and outgoing.

Indeed, I considered going to one of these rave parties with him on Saturday night, but instead decided to go to another singles event in London — and although this fell through (possibly due to lack of response on, it meant I encountered a whole new bunch of people, and had a fun evening!  Yes, here’s my new “newest friend”, a guy who took pity on me when I was wandering a small rock pub, frustrated that I had no idea where the group was meeting, and inducted me into his circle of friends, who were very friendly and enthusiastic about my presence.  Not only did I have a Jager-bomb and a shot of tequila during the evening, but I even had the guts to go and talk to an American girl in a minidress!  Didn’t get any, of course (though this seems to be because she was more interested in making out with women, despite not herself being a lesbian — so at least I got to watch, eh?), but better I took a shot at it, and maybe even impressed my new friends into the bargain.

Hey, they even wanted me to stay with them for the rest of their crazy night out, but I had to go home because I was (again) hungry, thanks to (again) not having a proper dinner beforehand… it was like the four Danish guys from my American trip, except I didn’t tell them to shut up and let me sleep, like a total square (don’t worry, I apologised the next day).  Hopefully I’ll see these guys again for more debauchery another time, especially if a singles event fails to materialise (or is a washout)!

This isn’t the only time in my life that I’ve been tempted by the dark side.  There was a deceptively innocent-seeming girl at university, with pretty eyes; she got drunk and slept around with the guys in my class, but she also seemed to like me as a person (even though I annoyed her sometimes with the weird things I said!), and who I sensed didn’t want to live her crazy lifestyle any more.  One time during the summer of 1997, when I’d been out in London with one of my second-year housemates, I was sitting on the train home when she came and sat next to me, having apparently seen me get on at Waterloo!  I often wonder whether I could have been with her if I’d had the nerve to go for it, but at the same time I feel that I was perhaps better being a friend and a confidant to her than just another bloke trying to get her into bed.

She certainly never made a move on me… but you never know, maybe if I’d gone to the pub for her housemate’s birthday instead of to the computer lab to indulge my libido… then, er, I could have helped her home when she inevitably got drunk, and not taken advantage of her, because I’m not like that, but instead shown what a nice guy I was, and won her over that way!  Having said that, I wouldn’t have gone on that student exchange to Michigan in 1998 if I’d been with her: having a girlfriend alone would have made me a lot less depressed at university (it’s always been “I’ll never find anyone” rather than “I’ll never find the exact right one” that’s upset me over the years), and I’d have had no need to go to America in the belief that only American women would give me a chance!

And that would have meant I never met my roommate’s family in Michigan, and visited them again over the years… and, for that matter, I’d never have dated that sweet, innocent Mexican-American girl for an entire week and then driven her away by trying to make out with her every time we met (because I was so desperate to make up for lost time).  Who knows how many things would be different?  Would 9/11 have happened…?

But no sense regretting who what I did or didn’t do in the past; here’s to the future, and the crazy girls I hope to meet.  Obviously sweet, innocent girls are also welcome (especially “ugly ducklings” who need to be told they’re beautiful), but no boring “old before their time” crone-like women who don’t take care of themselves physically or even have interesting personalities!

(Please note, I’m not writing off all older women: my fabulous mother shows what can be achieved by someone willing to exercise and push herself to the limit, and she could probably pass for my big sister now!  There, that should please the old harridan and shut her up for a… oh, er, am I still typing?)

(Only joking, Mumsy, if you’re reading!  If you’re not, huh…)

One final point: despite my intention to “cut loose”, I don’t intend to take (illegal) drugs or get arrested (obviously I may not be able to control either of those, depending upon circumstances), but wild parties may just be what I need to start living.  I like to think I’m a moderating influence on “best mate” (are you used to me calling him that by now?), and that he in turn is helping me enjoy myself, so maybe if I join him at one of these raves, I can support him with his alcohol abstinence, and he can introduce me to a hippy chick looking for love… as long as I spend the week studying computers in my spare time, of course.

So even if I don’t do it, I can still do IT, eh?  Eh?  Philistines…

An emotional rollercoaster


This is literally the only film ever made with the word “bride” or “wedding” in the title that I can bear to watch

On Saturday I pretty much crossed the entire bipolar spectrum as I attended the wedding of my “female best friend”.  Now, I didn’t have any problem when “other female best friend” got married in early 2012, partly because she only had family for the actual ceremony and partly because “female best friend” has always been somehow closer to me, more like a genuine little sister.  This occasion was more like the wedding of my old American roommate’s little sister back in 2007, and here’s why: the whole “how they met” story being recited at the reception, which served to remind me that I’ve never met anyone that way, even for a relationship that didn’t end in marriage.  Indeed, the closest I can get to this whole concept is my chance meeting with “newest friend” last year, and I’m hardly likely to marry him, even if the law changes in this country the way George Takei is hoping it will!

It’s worth noting, however, that my spirits were lifted (uh huh huh huh, again) by the end of the day, as I became acquainted — or perhaps that should be reacquainted — with “female best friend’s” other friends, young ladies I’d met before but never really gotten to know before.  Indeed one, “female best friend’s” oldest friend, kept hugging and comforting me, and even danced with me during the reception (I think we upstaged the newlyweds — sorry if you’re reading, “female best friend”!), almost as though she sensed I was down and needed cheering up.  But no, she’s not “the one” — for one thing, she’d be rather more likely to make use of the aforementioned change in the law!

Another friend, to my shame, I hadn’t recalled at all, but it turned out to be fortuitous for her that I was organising a taxi to take me back to the main city station later than every other Londoner had left to get a connecting train from the village’s pokey little station, because it meant I was able to bring her purse to her, and still arrive in time for the last train that got back to the Smoke before the Tube shut down!  She turned out to be as interested in local politics as me (albeit not from Barnet, so she was shocked to hear about the ways our corrupt Tory betters are trying to screw over the disabled for a profit), and we did puzzles on the train home, together with “good housemate” (more about him later).  No, she’s not my type, but she’s perfectly nice, and I certainly need all the friends I can get…

Because I think the reason that I felt so much more cheerful during the reception (once the speeches were over) than the ceremony is simply this: I need more friends and social interaction.  Perhaps this is why I enjoyed my holiday in America and felt such black despair when I came back to Blighty (though the jet lag and appalling weather may also have played their part): I spent two weeks in the company of 13 other people (including the guide), rising to 16 if you count another group travelling to the same places as us, and I come home to my usual mundane life of staying in most nights, and my only real social contact (aside from the occasions I get to see “newest friend”) is with the people at work.

There’s also the consideration that the worst place for a single person, especially one pessimistic about their chances of ever finding someone, is surrounded by a lot of happy couples, or people who have already paired off and so aren’t “on the market”, and talk about their mundane married lives, which still seem enticing and jealousy-inducing to someone who hasn’t even been in a long-term relationship before.  So what it comes down to is, I need to get out more.

(Yes, that earthquake you just felt was the biggest penny in the world finally dropping, thanks for your sarcasm!)

I’ve already begun this process: there’s a website called (I wonder if they’ll give me credit for this blatant plug) which lists all sorts of clubs and gatherings that have been organised, especially here in London; I’m going to a sci-fi society on Saturday, and I’ve joined a couple of others to see where they lead.  Honestly, it’s like Freshers’ Fayre all over again — except this time I won’t join a society and then let my interest peter out, as I did with (of all things) a climbing society at my alma mater!  Wow, sixteen years before I took it up as a hobby, I tried it once as a student and didn’t seem to enjoy it… my, but how we change.

There’s one other thing to mention about the weekend, and it was a bit of a revelation.  I’ve spoken here before about “good housemate”, but I may not have made it clear that he’s the same guy from this spiel, who used to insult me by claiming (variously) that I’m a heterosexual virgin, a practising homosexual, and “banging my Chinese girlfriend” (I was actually meeting my Japanese female friend for language exchange, so there were at least three things wrong with that one!).  Don’t hold it against him because he still let me stay at his flat in early 2012 when I was “between” homes, and he was right about me not cleaning the house enough (something I’ve rectified in this household).

Anyway, I’ve always thought, despite his insults, that he was a hoopy frood — a really amazingly-together guy, who knew what he was doing and had a plan.  It seems I got this impression purely from the fact that he spent the five years we lived at Caledonian Road saving up for a deposit, because in fact he doesn’t really want to do anything other than the things he enjoys, and I suspect the only reason he gets more girls than me is that he’s more confident approaching them (and a couple of years younger, and has his own place, and is slightly better looking…), not because he’s looking for his future wife.  In fact, he even admitted to me and the other friend on the train home that he has trouble forming emotional bonds with people, and that he might be a borderline Asperger’s case.

Now, I know I shouldn’t feel schadenfreude… and I don’t in this case, I actually wish I could help him out (I have offered to go climbing with him, but he reckons he needs to lose a lot of weight first — the penalty for quitting smoking — though we may be on for badminton).  However, I do feel a bit better about my own life, because I’ve actually had plans to change my life over the past few years, even if they’ve so far come to nought.  Oh, there have been times I’ve felt happy in my rut, sitting at home playing video games and using the Internet to deal with my (ahem) frustration, and while that may be okay occasionally, I don’t want to end up that way again, because it’s a false happiness that occasionally makes me scream in horror when I see, fleetingly, the gilded cage I’ve built around myself.

(Ooh, wasn’t that poetic?  No?  Ugh, please yourselves…)

There have been other times I’ve tried to change my life, and too often I’ve given up in anguish — which is why I won’t be wasting time with speed-dating or sites like or Lovestruck (which seem to be about 90% male anyway, so any woman of even passing attractiveness gets swamped by messages from blokes, and shy guys like me disappear into the background noise), but instead trying to do things that actually interest me.  Maybe I won’t meet the girl of my dreams (though I’d be disappointed if I didn’t get any action!), but at least I can do something different, and maybe have more interesting stuff to talk about here.

A (perhaps worrying) postscript: I enjoyed alcohol at the reception rather more than I have in the rest of my life, and indeed got quite a pleasant buzz from two glasses of champagne, instead of screwing my face up like I usually do.  So, it seems I’m well and truly off the wagon at last, but is 35 the wrong time to be boozing, and will this undo any of the benefits I’ve gained through exercise?  Will loosening up and having fun be the death of my liver?  Are caffeinated sugar (or worse, aspartme) drinks any healthier?  Or is it just a case of “all things in moderation”?

Mounting anxiety


I’m not profiting from this blog, so I hope the genius who took this photo will forgive me…

It’s only a few days to go until my mega-holiday in the USA, and I’m on the verge of total panic.  Admittedly, it’s not the kind of horror I felt in January 2012 when I faced the prospect of being homeless due to my own stupidity, but I’m still very nervous and apprehensive about my two weeks of camping in America.  But why, I hear you ask?  Why am I not delightedly looking forward to it?  Well, I am, as it happens, because even if I don’t meet any girls, I’ll still see some remarkable places that I’ve never visited before.

But let’s look at the aspects that intimidate me, because going into it will help me see just how ridiculous I’m being (remember, this blog is for me, not for you, peasant):

  1. Apart from a day trip to Paris last September (which doesn’t count), it’s the first time I’ll have been out of the country since going to Turkey in 2008 with my friends, a holiday I had no part in arranging.  Yeah, it’s high time I got out of my comfort zone, but it’s still a daunting prospect.  It’s also the first time I’ll have been out of the country for longer than a week since 2003, when I visited my friends in Michigan for two weeks.  I visited them again in 2006 and 2007, but only for a week each time…
  2. Having not visited the USA since 2007, and never the west coast, I can’t help but wonder how things will be, especially for a vegetarian like me — to some Americans, I’m nothing but a no-good pinko Commie who needs to get normal…
  3. So many things can go wrong along the way, like not getting to the airport on time, or being turned away by the US border agency…
  4. My landlord just died, and although supposedly nothing has the potential to happen until October (like, his widow selling the house instead of letting us continue renting), it’s just another excuse to worry…

“To fret over an exciting holiday is not logical”

But don’t worry, maybe it won’t be so bad — see, every problem has a solution:

  1. In 1998 I managed to face a journey to the USA that would last eight months — admittedly it wasn’t certain to be going ahead, and really I was surprised that final weekend when my mother and grandfather came bounding into my room to tell me my visa had been approved, and that I was going to travel the next day!
  2. Since we’re cooking for ourselves on this camping trip, there should be no problem other than availability of ingredients — I don’t know whether there’s a freezer on the tour bus, but if there is, presumably I can buy vegetarian “fake meat” in LA or Frisco for the journey ahead.
  3. My newest friend has agreed to drive me to Heathrow on Saturday (yes, I’ll pay for his petrol), and I’ve printed out all my necessary documents, including my “visa waiver” and itinerary.  That reminds me, better look up the ZIP code of the hotel I go to first, as I’ve been warned by a friend at work that I’ll need this specific information… he also advised me not to try to be funny with US customs (well, duh), but hey, if I got past them before, I can do so again, because I’m not a terrorist, I’m a tourist!
  4. Although it’s sad that my landlord died, since he was better than the past two by far (and a rather more approachable individual to boot), there’s no way we could be evicted on such short notice, so all I have to worry about is the house getting burgaled or burned down, or nuclear war breaking out while I’m gone.  See?  No problem!

Ahh, that was therapeutic — see, nothing to get upset about, I’ll have an amazing adventure etc. etc.  Maybe I should worry more about the possibility that I’ll come back exactly the same person I am now, who gets anxious about stupid little things instead of embracing life’s surprises…

And yes, I will be listening to Gwar during this holiday (something familiar to keep me calm if I get anxious again), as well as other music; I’ve spent ages trying to figure out how to get “gapless playback” on my smartphone, and have settled for WMA files and Poweramp (though I wasted most of Sunday ripping everything as “WMA lossless”, only to discover it doesn’t work with that particular format yet).  In fact, I predict this will become our anthem as we roll along the blacktop…

Music: the way out of the rut

It occurred to me the other day that one reason I got so miserable in my previous home was simply that my walk to and from work every day was basically the same, and indeed had been the same since late 2006 (barring a period of around 18 months in 2007-09 when I worked in a different building).  Although discovering in 2011 that I could listen to the radio on my MP3 player (which I’d owned for over two years at that point!) made a bit of a difference, before that I’d been listening to the same old music every day, and indeed for a period in 2008 I had a very inferior MP3 player that played the exact same “random” order of tracks every time unless you added or deleted tracks (and Sony had the gall to claim this was “deliberate”!).

Fortunately, two things have helped to break me out of that rut: firstly, since moving house in early 2012 I’ve been getting the Tube to and from work every day, which is often an ordeal but never the same two days running; and secondly, I’ve been listening to new genres of music (or getting further into genres I’d only touched upon before)…

I first tried to get into classical music and opera back in late 2011, when I was already well on my way into the pit of depression, which is probably why it didn’t take.  However, I still ended up humming “Largo al factotum” from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville thanks to a Harry Enfield sketch in which Paul Whitehouse sings it surprisingly well (after mangling Madonna’s “Who’s That Girl” — sadly this clip doesn’t seem to be on YouTube any more), and in 2012, thanks to a page at TV Tropes, I found out the names of a great many classic works that I only knew as “that thing from that show” — and here’s a non-exhaustive list (since obviously I don’t want to refer to things that I can’t explain properly):

  • The overture from Bizet’s Carmen was used in the opening titles of ITV’s Professional Wrestling series in the 1980s, and more recently was the tune I set on my old Nokia phone for whenever my folks were calling me (because in primitive polytonic form, it was suitably annoying!).  Meanwhile, the aria “Habanera” was sung on Sesame Street by a creepy orange
  • “The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba” from Handel’s Solomon, in the form of primitive computer beeps and boops, is the theme tune to the classic video game Tempest, which I had on the Amstrad CPC.
  • A little-known one: despite its name, “Entrance of the Gladiators” by Fucík (no, there’s an i-acute in there, wash your minds out!) is the music that shall forever be associated with the circus, especially the clowns.  That’s as opposed to Joaquin Phoenix screaming: “Die, die, die!  I have everything and you have nothing!
  • Viddy well, little brother, viddy well...

    “Come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles, you eunuch jelly thou!”

    One tune I particularly like, and occasionally hum obsessively, is the overture from Rossini’s The Thieving Magpie, though not entirely because of its association with the old ultra-violence in Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange!

  • The second of Liszt’s Hungarian rhapsodies is better known to us plebs as the music that Tom Cat, Bugs Bunny and every other cartoon character in the history of animation has at some point played on the piano, with or without interference from another character (or Donald Duck seemingly using the N-word!).
  • Both major bits of music in 2001: A Space Odyssey, namely Also sprach Zarathustra and The Blue Danube, were composed by (unrelated) men named Strauss; the first is now officially a cliché, but the latter served as the theme music to Technician Ted and (more appropriately) the all-time great space trading game Elite.  But let’s not go into the exploding version
  • “Un bel di” from Puccini’s Madame Butterfly is a wonderfully depressing work, and it’s thus fitting that Barney Gumble used it in his film about alcoholism in The Simpsons: “Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead!”
  • The “Swan Theme” from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake has a long association with the old silent Dracula movie, but more recently, ahem, it was used in a powerful, moving scene in Beavis and Butt-head where Beavis fed a wounded bird by, er, chewing up worms and regurgitating them into its mouth…
  • Bach’s Toccata & Fugue in D-minor is the most famous “creepy pipe organ” tune that’s bound to be being played by someone named Igor, but a more jazzy interpretation of it opens my all-time favourite movie, the 1966 Peter Cushing film Daleks’ Invasion Earth 2150AD!
  • “Nessun Dorma” from Puccini’s Turandot was brought to the masses by Pavarotti in 1990 as the theme music for the football World Cup, and his is still the definitive version.
  • The first few notes from the overture to Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro is that music Gene Wilder plays in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to open a door, that most definitely isn’t Rachmaninoff!
  • Rigoletto’s “La donna è mobile” was sung by two Doctors in science fiction: Jon Pertwee in the Doctor Who serial Inferno (although he mostly hummed it!), and Robert Picardo in an episode of Star Trek: Voyager.  It’s also used in a Kenny Everett sketch which opened the third season of his Television Show

There, I finally told you about the classical music I’d been listening to, as promised many months ago!  But it’s not just classical music I’ve been discovering: thanks to that guy at work, I’ve expanded my knowledge of 1980s “New Wave” music, including the Pet Shop Boys and New Order; and thanks to watching Beavis and Butt-head over the past week, I’ve discovered bands like Black Sabbath and Gwar, music I’d previously dismissed as just noise!  Of course, that could just be the precursor of a mid-life crisis… will I be getting a motorbike next?

Anyway, here’s two cool (uh huh huh huh) songs from my new favourite bands, “Iron Man” and “Saddam A Go-Go” — see if you can play them air guitar-style!