Ted: Dougal, I love all this! When everything’s going okay, I keep imagining all the terrible things that could happen — and now that one of those things has actually happened… it’s just a rush! I feel fearless, like Jeff Bridges in that movie!
Dougal: I haven’t seen that one!
Ted: Not many people have, Dougal, it’s probably a bad reference.
—Father Ted (S2E10, “Flight Into Terror”)
I feel the need to write something tonight, as I seem to be overcoming adversity (though not, of course, without the help of people who matter to me) — and indeed, the process itself may be helping me keep my head together… though it could also be an increase in my dosages of levetiracetam (and taking them the proper 12 hours apart, instead of six or seven).
I’m sure you’re aware of the snow blanket that’s smothered the British Isles over the past few days, even if you’re reading this from abroad; well, both challenges I faced down today were directly caused by it — in the first case, by the effect it had on public transport. Although the Northern Line didn’t give me any problems getting into work at my dream job (it used to be the “Misery Line”, but no longer!), a lot of people in
the peasantry my flock chose to work from home today instead. I was happy to come in, crunching through the snow in the non-leather boots my mother got me last year, and I don’t suffer from a phobia of slipping like she does (not to belittle her, she fell over at work once and was badly hurt), so I made my journey boldly and sure-footedly.
(Is that a valid adverb? No? Good, I’ll keep using it!)
We use an online desktop virtualisation system which I’m going to call “Lemonz” (in order to avoid violating a trademark) to allow people to work from home (and in some cases remote onto their office PCs), but we quickly discovered this morning that (a) it wasn’t set up with enough capacity for so many people to use at once, and (b) people had been told they could log in from home without having been set up with “Lemonz” access, under the apparent delusion that everyone gets it by default when they join the company (despite the exact opposite being true — managers don’t want people working from home unless and until they get prior approval, otherwise they’ll doss about!).
Fortunately, my teammates were able to work their mojo and resolve (a), as we run “Lemonz” on virtual servers that are running on much more powerful physical equipment with spare capacity, and I kept a level head and sorted out (b) for a number of individuals, thanks to “boss lady” saying I could accept permission from just managers, rather than directors (who normally are the ones with the authority to let people work from home). I also pacified those suffering from (a) by encouraging them to wait while we “resolved the issue”, and it seemed to work — by midday, everyone who wanted to log into “Lemonz” had done so successfully!
But something else went wrong when I came home, and made me decide maybe not to work from home tomorrow after all (even though “boss lady” said I and my teammates could): not only was my room 11°C (52°F) when I got in, but it barely crept up all evening until I borrowed an electric fan heater from “best mate” to complement the electric oil heater I bought in 2014 (the one I’d naively thought of giving away to a homeless shelter). It seems our central heating had failed entirely, and to make matters worse, our hot water wasn’t being replenished either! Remember the farrago getting British Gas to fix the system in late 2016? And remember how we needed them to come and fix it again in 2017?
The Baxi boiler had somehow gone wrong and wasn’t coming on at all (the three red flashes of one of the lights apparently indicating it had tried and failed five times to ignite the gas), and my mother reckons something similar has happened at home in Worthing (leading to her own act of heroism: climbing into the loft to have a go at fixing it!). Apparently this is happening all over the country, due to outdoor pipes freezing up in the unseasonably cold weather (I don’t recall it being this cold in March since, er, 2013, okay then) — but since I at least got home nice and early (unlike an old university friend, who said on Facebook he’d had to wait 75 minutes on a train platform!), and have a roof over my head, I felt I shouldn’t give into despair or drag emergency staff away from people who really need help, and tried to fix it myself.
This was far worse than all those times I stressed trying to get our Internet connection working, back when we had a lousy router that kept crashing, and a wonky cable that was probably installed in the mid-noughties! I spent much of the evening reaching into the small gap between the fridge and the cavity under the sink counter where the boiler is, repeatedly holding the buttons down to “reset” it, only to be disappointed time after time; I tried researching online (British Gas not answering their phones), and followed a suggestion to pour hot water over what I assume to be the outflow pipe outside in order to unfreeze it, and even had “best mate’s” electric fan heater pointing directly at the unit (an idea my mother endorsed), but still the damn thing didn’t want to ignite, getting my hopes up and then dashing them with the same three red flashes every time.
Eventually, with my housemates unable to assist (one going out to avoid the cold in here, another staying over with her boyfriend instead, and “best mate” trying to find more electric heaters in the shops at night!), I turned the heating off completely at the controls, and hoped that at least the hot water would reheat with less strain on the system. It didn’t… but in a moment of epiphany, I asked “best mate” to try doing the boiler reset as a demonstration… and this time, it really DID ignite! So there you go — even though it’ll take ages for the heating to reheat the house, and the hot water to get warm enough for a shower, I’ve managed to sort out a major problem for the second time today.
(What? No, I was the one dealing with the home-working staff at work, even if someone else actually sorted out the system! And “best mate” was only following instructions, as well as maybe providing the luck of the Irish — it was ME who had the idea, so I’m the hero, dammit!!!)
Of course, one of the past blog entries I’ve linked back to above happened not long before my bursts of “mind static” began as a regular occurrence — and this makes me wonder whether it was the stress of working too hard at the time (helping fix the website), or the stress of trying to sort out stuff in our house (I do hate British Gas!), that really spiked off the mild epilepsy problem back in December 2016. If not for that, it might have remained a minor inconvenience indefinitely, only giving me dizzy deja vu spells when I have a cold and suck on too many mentholated lozenges. However, I think today I’ve fought back the dizziness for the sake of others (on top of everything else, I’m also still sorting out our household bills) — and if I really do have to go through with brain surgery in a month or two, I hope it means I get my life back for real, and thus can devote myself to helping others instead of having them worrying for my sake.
Especially my mother, who as you know has kept me going all these years, and inspired me to better myself. I wish I could fix her heating, especially for my grandmother’s sake — she needs it more than us — and that I could be the one to support her financially in her autumn years, like a dutiful son.
Most of all, I want to recover from my brain issues — not just for my own sake (now that I’ve finally built a life I enjoy), but for her sake as well, so she no longer has to worry about losing another relative, or her family name dying out (I may, after all, make her a grandmother one day).
My mother really deserves the Moon on a stick, don’t you think…?