Okay, this is actually it. Proper, final, goodbye to blogging.
I started blogging really early. I was writing my own content management system before I heard of blogger, and then I was an early adopter on that. I've been at it almost ten years - and some of it's been prolific, but mainly it's been kind of patchy. I've been wondering why.
When I first started blogging, most of my posts were really short. They were pretty much mainly links, and a little bit of commentary as to why I was linking, or which country I was in. I sometimes did interesting things, so I wrote longer pieces. I added sections to my site. I took them away. When commenting was the new thing, I added comments.
For a while, blogging became a social activity. Indeed, I've built some friendships through blogging with real people who I've met in real life. But I think there were a couple of major turning points.
Firstly, the mass proliferation of blogging devalued the blog. Odd thing to say, but at the point in time when there were only a few hundred blogs in the UK, it felt that there was something of a community. The proliferation of blogs led to them becoming little more than noise. Blogger had positioned itself as push-button publishing for the masses, and the masses adopted it. Good for them.
With the masses came spam. I disabled comments on this site a couple of months back, just because I was getting loads of spam and no comments. Tedious to maintain. Apart from anything else, most of the feedback I've been getting for a couple of years has been coming through The Twitter.
I was an early adopter on The Twitter. I gave it up pretty quickly thereafter. It was like Google+ is now - dull and underused. But it changed, and what it changed in to was more entertaining. Bizarrely, the mass appeal which had cheapened blogging had strengthened Twitter. I rejoined Twitter, and now it drives about 80% of the traffic to this site.
It's also more like what I was looking for in the first place. I feel like I was looking for a bicycle, but what was available was a motorbike - I got it, loved it, upgraded and upgraded and I'm left with a Harley Davidson. But I still just need a bike.
There are alternatives to blogging, and they're generally easier. I don't blog much these days, and if I do, it's long rambling pieces like this. Blogging is becoming more specialised as the twitternoise moves to The Twitter. There are some great blogs out there, but they're all about the content rather than the random musings that have characterised this site and its predecessors.
So this is it. This is how it ends. With a whimper. If you're looking for me, I'll be on The Twitter until that gets broken too.
Something happened to me this evening. I don't know what it was.
Let me set the scene - I'm at an art gallery here in Edinburgh, and Mr Twinky is powdering his nose. I'm looking at a handbag on the floor and a man touches me on the shoulder. I turn.
"Excuse me," he says. "I just wanted to tell you that you're beautiful."
That was pretty much it. I said "Thank you", he said "you're welcome" and we parted and never spoke of it again.
He was wandering around the room, clearly not looking at the art, but he had an air about him, an air of belonging. I reckon there's one of two things that have happened.
He fancied me, and thought he had a chance if he told me.
Or, it was a random act of Art. An intangible performance piece - a piece which I'm continuing by writing this. Clearly it had an impact on me, and made me think - which is key to my personal definition of art.
I found myself watching out for him as I looked at the other art - to see if he was doing it to other people. Part of me wanted him to be an artist. I wanted to be certain of that. Part of me wanted him not to be - because I certainly found his comment flattering, if confusing. I don't know. Maybe I wasn't meant to know.
I did find out later, though. I was very happy with what I found out.
Beholder is at the Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh from today.
I've been neglecting you, I know. I've been away, flirting with Facebook and making a tit of myself on Twitter. I've been thrusting myself manfully in to Web 2.0 (or is it web 2.5 yet?) and forgetting about the little people. Forgetting about myself.
Yes, I have been away. I've been running a farm, you see. I've been building empires. I've been doing all sorts of stuff and nonsense, enjoying looking at photos of friends, and friends of friends. And, doubtless, friends of friends of friends.
I've spent endless hours tweaking my profiles, making sure I could be found by people I wanted to find me, ignored by people who I want to hide from. I've been deep into the guts of facebook, learning her ways, playing with her. And then I've gone and planted more crops and life has been suddenly good again.
I know how Facebook sucked me in. I knew it even as I let it happen. I thought I would be stuck in there forever.
But then Facebook started getting... well, everywhere. Sites I used to go to started begging me to log in with Facebook until it got to the point where I was tempted, just to make the site half-usable. But I didn't. I just stopped going.
Then there are other sites with Facebook comments and other material embedded in to them. I've lost track of the number of times when I load up a page, read it, and click on a link only to find that between my decision to click on the link and the finger press being registered by my computer, the Facebook content has finally loaded and I end up somewhere unexpected.
But mainly it's the sheer amount of time I have ended up spending Facebook games. Time that could be spent doing something less inane - even if it is just playing other games, which is what seems to happen.
Because, yes, I have abandoned Facebook.
On Sunday, I carefully blocked my favoured applications, and left just the bones of Facebook in place. I'm still on there, and I can go back any time I want.
But since Sunday, I haven't wanted to. No. Urge. At. All. Who knew it would be this easy to go cold turkey?
I'm not getting rid of facebook completely - it does have some uses - but my usage has dropped dramatically and I find myself feeling liberated as a result.
I'm not entirely certain where my head is.
Odd thing to say, I know, as it does look like it's on top of my shoulders, and an even odder thing to break blog silence for, but it's a fact. I don't know how I feel. About pretty much anything.
I know that I'm happy about a lot of things, that's true. I'm healthy, I'm loved, I like my job, and I laugh far more than is normal, I suspect.
But I balance that out. The last time I had two weeks off work was last Christmas, and I'll be doing the same this year. I need to have a proper summer break. Definitely.
I don't read any more. This annoys me, as I love reading. But my reading has been declining dramatically since I stopped long commutes. The ten minute walk to work is accompanied by audiobooks and podcasts, and my evenings are effectively filled with drama and documentaries.
I don't write any more. See above.
I am very, very good at procrastination. At having great plans that go nowhere. At falling asleep as soon as the sun goes down.
And the thing is, I've been here before - many times. I know that something needs to change, and that I am the one who needs to change it. However, the middle of winter is not the best time to make a change, as anyone who has ever tried a new-year resolution will tell you.
At best I'm happy. Which is not a bad state to be in. But sometimes it feels like I am simply not unhappy, which is less good.
Roll on, 2011. These flying hovercars are long overdue.
Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting J - who was at school with Mr Twinky, my evil sidekick cat. They didn't know each other in those days, but J had recognised Mr Twinky when he had been through in Glasgow, and they'd had a coffee and a chat and they'd ended up keeping in touch.
So we went through to Glasgow, we met J, we hung out, had some beer, had some food, talked about a lot of stuff, and ended up watching a movie until the small hours of the morning.
In many ways, J reminded me of how I might have turned out if I was single - and he also kind of reminded me of a 23-year-old - still living the lifestyle of someone fresh from college. In some ways, though, he seemed very set in his ways.
I know I can be set in my ways. It's a function of being middle-aged, I'm sure. And it's not necessarily a bad thing.
Sometimes it's important to pause and remember the things that you have acheived. And this month, we've done a few.
We went to Glasgow on a glorious summer's day, meeting up with someone who knew Mr Twinky from School.
We went shopping and I bought clothes without being prompted.
We went to four shows in the Fringe.
We packed up and successfully sold our old flat in Dublin.
We had visitors for the weekend.
Mr Twinky had a week's worth of classes, that went very well. And also jury duty - although he wasn't picked as he is a cat.
I saw the troup of performing monkeys. Twice.
I finalised most of the arrangements for Mr Twinky's forthcoming birthday, and successfully kept a lot of secrets. I mean a lot.
Everybody has a happy glow
Let's dance in blood and pretend its snow
Even Mao Tse-Tung is under the spell
It's Christmas time in hell!
It's that time of year again, when things start grinding to a slow, inexorable halt. The shops, running low on powdered egg again. And in the queue at the post office, the terrifying pleasure of being trapped between two women who were discussing the Direct Debit™ issue. For thirty minutes.
The issue being, simply, that they don't trust them. They've never had anything go wrong with them, but they just don't trust Direct Debits™. They've seen Watchdog, they know that sometimes Direct Debits™ do go wrong, and yes, it can be pretty hellish getting them sorted out again. So they like sticking to cheques, or in this case popping in to the post office for a nice chat, a moan about how long the queues are at this time of year, and a lengthy and tiring chat about how her daughter wants her to go back to BT, but she really can't be arsed with them. That was her word.
90p stamp, sorted.
Sixty is a good age to retire.
I say that because there's probably a change of attitude that goes on round about the point when you hit sixty. There's certainly one at twenty, and one at forty, so that makes sense. Well, it makes sense to me.
Mind you, I had one at thirty, so what do I know.
But I digress.
Forty seems a good point to reconsider what you've done with your adulthood. You're old enough to have some sort of clue about how the world that we have made operates, and young enough to do something about it, if you so choose. It's interesting to watch my friends and family as we hit forty, and to consider my own views. Because let's face it, life is essentially unfair.
I know it is unfair because I have financial worries, I am not a published author, and I don't look like Daniel Craig. Admittedly, most of these things are things I could get closer to if I applied myself, but the fact that I haven't chosen to tells me something about myself. And that is that although I'd like to be able to walk along a beach in speedos if I chose to, I also like to eat cheeseburgers. And there's a fine point of balance in there.
If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude. Don't complain.- Maya Angelou
At this time of my life, as I see it, I have two alternative paths. One is to accept that there are things in my life that I cannot change, and things that I can. The things that are worth bothering about are the things I can change. If I cannot change something, then I'll work around it, or accept it, or avoid it.
The other side of the coin is to rant. To write to newspapers and on webforums bemoaning the stupidity of my fellow man, complaining to anyone who will listen about the madness of the contraflow system on the A921, as if it makes any difference at all other than making me feel a little better.
There's probably a middle way in there too.
But... if I spend a day ranting, although I may feel better about myself as a result, at the end of the day the contraflow system on the A921 is still there. It will still be there tomorrow, and probably the day after that. How do I keep coping? Do I keep ranting? Or do I get some perspective, channel my personal frustration into something creative and have a salad instead of a cheeseburger?
Calm is cool.
I need something to kick-start learning to drive.
I'm almost there, you see. 90% of the way... in the sense that I can, pretty much, drive. I can do that stuff where you start and stop, turn the wheel in the middle, not hit stuff. I can do the three point turnings, the emergency stops and a mean parallel park. I also manage, pretty consistently, to fail my test on my reversing round a corner.
I hate reversing round corners. I do. But I don't hate them because I can't do them, or because they're hard. I hate them because I've failed to do them properly three times in three tests. And that annoys me.
Everything else I do when I'm driving comes pretty much naturally now. I try not to lose that mindset in a test, and yet... the sweats start. I get them about 80% correct in tests - but that last 20% is just the world opening up and swallowing me and my brain exploding as my heart rat-tats a firework salute.
So I'm taking a break. Then easing myself back in to it. I'll do a lot of driving, hopefully, before I take another test. Hopefully by then I'll be as comfortable with the reversing round a corner as I am with the not hitting things. Deep breath, step back, try again.
"Doctor Oddverse?" she said.
I'd just done a double take. I saw an old woman struggling across a not-very-icy road, grabbing on to a wall for support. The road was steep, and she was going to take a long time getting down it at the speed she was going. I passed her, looked back at her automatically, moved on.
And as I moved on two things happened. I realised I recognised her. And she called my name.
The fact was, she wasn't an old woman at all. She was my age, and I've known her since I was sixteen. She was wrapped up well against the cold, and bowed not with age, but to protect the precious six-month-old burden strapped safely to her chest.
So I helped her down the road, until we met her husband at the foot of the hill. We chatted about various things, and I failed to get her sister's contact details. Again.
I strode briskly home down a steeper slope, a spring in my step, determined to try to reconnect with some old friends.
Well, I finally got in to work.
The flight was delayed this morning due to paperwork - the plane's certificate of flightworthiness had expired, and although Ryanair had a new one, it hadn't been lodged with DAA. It was in an office, which was locked, and they couldn't reach the guy that had the key.
Cue announcement, explanation for security reasons that they couldn't let us off the plane, but that we could use our phones and the toilets. So half the plane called up friends and family to moan about Ryanair.
A bit later, someone had found the paperwork, and took it along to DAA.
The pilot had already explained that they didn't have another plane they could transfer us on to. But then they found one! Hurrah! They towed us half way around the airport, still in the plane. They doors to manualled. They opened them to let us off. We all stood up. The paperwork arrived. We all sat down again.
I am enjoying my skimmed milk triple shot latte.
The plane landed at about 9.30, and I got a taxi home, hoping to arrive before the delivery from the furniture people. The delivery had happened at 9.25 - which would have been perfect if I'd been there.
Oh well. Tomorrow.
I'm tired of all this.
Tired of getting up at the crack of dawn on a Monday and flying to Edinburgh before the sun rises.
Tired of spending my entire week doing laundry and ironing. Cleaning and polishing and dusting. Never get black floors.
Tired of getting ten minutes a day chatting with Mr Twinky rather than hours.
Tired of getting home to an empty flat.
Tomorrow, I turn 40.
This is supposedly something of a milestone.
Sod it, this is definitely something of a milestone. I've not really cared about a birthday since 30, which was traumatic enough in itself. After all, what is a birthday - a celebration of another year of survival, but other than that just another day. It's not like it was when you were a kid, when you expected everything to be about you for just one day, harking back to the time when every day was about you, and the shadowy figures in life existed purely to serve you.
At 40 nothing changes, but 40 has a big round number at the end of it. Life is supposed to begin now. But in fact it will just continue.
But I want to mark this one. I can't let it slip past. And thanks to my marvellous husband, I've already had a great evening out last Saturday, and we're going away for the weekend. I don't think I've told him that this one is important, and I'm glad I haven't needed to. It's already been a memorable birthday, and it will only get better.
I live on Ryanair.
There, I've said it. I admit that I am a frequent flyer on Ryanair, and I can honestly say that in the fifty or so flights I have taken with them so far this year, I could only think of a few things to complain about.
This is how it works for me.
I book my flights about a week before I fly. I'm lucky that the flights that I want are always cheap, because I am flying at inconvenient hours. So I'm one of the people that's getting a bargain out of these people.
I don't take any hold baggage.
I don't pay extra for priority boarding.
I don't buy their travel insurance, but only because I have my own in place.
I keep an eye on the queues, and make sure I get to the front of the non-priority queue.
I use the front stairs, always.
I sit as near to the front as possible, ideally in the front row.
I'm always polite and smile to the cabin crew, and watch the safety demonstration.
I fall asleep shortly before take off and wake up on landing.
I try not to wince when they play the "Fly Ryanair" song, or the reveille on landing to celebrate another on-time arrival.
I try to be grateful for the fact that the flights I get leave from a local airport (albeit the prefab shed at the end of the airport), rather than another town fifty miles or so away.
I try to be faintly amused by:
She leaps up to meet me as I enter, my hands full of junk circulars. Sleek and lithe despite her fourteen years ("that's a hundred in cat years, uncl'Oddverse") and mewling to me, demanding attention.
I pause to stroke her and she rubs herself satisfyingly against my fingers. She looks up at me, expectant. At that moment I want to spend the afternoon there, relaxing in her company, stroking her, watching television, chilling out. Maybe she wants out. Maybe she wants food.
But I'm not there for the cat. I'm just there to pick up some mail, and to close a window. I want to feed her, but know that someone else will be along to do that later.
So I put down the mail, close the window, stroke her again.
She is still mewing as I leave.
Just over a week ago, I got behind the wheel of a car for the first time in over 20 years, unless you count go-karts and computer games - and I don't. That would be silly.
Last night I drove fairly solidly around Leith and Muirhouse for two hours. This raises a number of points.
Firstly - Leith's pretty nice these days. Admittedly, I am only seeing it in the dark, but it seems nice. Nicer than Muirhouse, where I desparately try not to stall the car as the instructor likes his hubcaps.
Secondly - it's like riding a bike. I actually have memories - deep in my subconscious, true - of the lessons I had as a teenager. I remember what felt good and what felt bad. I am rubbish at some of it, but I do feel quite strongly that I improved between last week and this week.
Thirdly - stay away from Leith and Muirhouse when I am having my lessons. It's dangerous. I get flustered by other traffic.
And now, a month later - I have a bed.
Constructed by my own fair hands, with help from my glamorous assistant - one month after "moving in" to new flat, I spent my first night on a real bed.
It wasn't good.
For some reason I really did not sleep well. The bed was comfortable, the carpet is luxurious, but my mind was full of... well, stuff. Mainly to do with Doctor Who, bizarrely.
So here I am, living in a tin can.
I'm spending this week in London, working from various offices and hotels spread around the city. My feet are aching, and verging on falling apart in places, my diplomacy skills have been tested to the extreme, and I miss Mr Twinky rather too much for my liking. It's too hot in my hotel room to sleep well, and the kids in the room opposite mine didn't shut up until nine last night but then woke up at six this morning. Thank goodness for the internet.
In particular, thank goodness for the fact that I've got it included on my phone. It means that I can find a bookshop if I want one, I can find something to read in my hotel, I can play games and quizzes and I can check my personal e-mail while I'm on the go.
It also means that I can call Mr Twinky if I need a chat (most days!) or, like today, I can take a photo of my new hair cut and e-mail it to him. It's not quite as good as getting the instant disapproval that I'll get when he sees it in the flesh, but it's the closest I'm going to get for now.
And the good thing about this trip to London is that I may have talked myself in to pole position for a business trip to Africa. It's quite sunny in Lagos this time of year.
We got back from France late on Saturday. It had been quite a trip - eighteen hours door to door, taking in four demonstrations, two trains, a ranting taxi driver and every French football fan on the planet ("this is like Beirut" said Mr Twinky) squeezed into an eight foot square area, and a departure lounge with eighteen children under ten playing hide and seek.
So we were tired.
It had been a good holiday. We had eaten well, we'd seen some art, been rained on and hailed at, we'd driven around a couple of industrial estates, and we'd stayed in an ice-box up a dark muddy lane near the water treatment plant fifteen minutes walk from the only village in Brittany that has absolutely no charm. We'd had one day where the absolute highlight was driving through a puddle. Quite fast.
So it was only natural that within an hour of getting home one of our radiators exploded a bit, leading us to spend half the night with sandbags and saucepans building dikes and dams to stop the flow of special radiator water, to prevent the catharsis of spurious morality, and to soak up anything that escaped.
The flat's quite cold now.
That's my last girlfriend sitting over there, looking as though she were alive.
In an airport for so many reasons, waiting for a delayed flight to anywhere, and who should turn up in the queue behind me for the mildly insulting sandwiches, but my ex. The ex that I don't talk about. Not because there's anything wrong with her, per se, but because these days I tend to focus on the evil cat sidekicks of this world. And of the many things my last girlfriend was, she was not the sort to sit on your lap, purr, and plan world domination.
Of course, it's been a good few years now. We change. She certainly hasn't noticed me, or if she has, she doesn't recognise me. That'll be the scars and the rainbow tattoo for you. She's almost unrecognisable herself. For a kick off she's wearing heels and her cheeks are less chubby. A decade will do that to you, though. Someone turned her feminine.
She's still a half-hearted vegetarian, ordering the ham and cheese sandwich because it's hot. I've not heard her speak or seen her boarding pass. She picked the ham out of the sandwich. That's pretty typical of her. She pushes her hair back from her face in the same way.
It might not be her, of course. That's part of the reason I've not been over to say hello. She's reading OK magazine, and I might never forgive her for that. But everything is right. It's too real for it not to be her. She'll be sitting beside me on the plane back home. I can see it now.
- Can I speak with Mr Twinky please?
- He's not here at the moment. Can I get him to call you back?
- When would be a good time to call him?
- Can I just ask who's calling?
- I'm sorry, but I'm not prepared to answer any more of your questions unless you can tell me who you are.
- My name is Carmella and I'm calling from Saint Prepuce's Children's Hospital.
- Okay, thanks, but could you add this number to your do not call list. Bye.
- Hi, can I speak to Mr Twinky please?
- Certainly - who's calling?
- This is Carmella calling from Saint Prepuce's Children's Hospital.
- Okay, when you called last week, I asked you nicely to put us on your do not call list. Now I am going to ask you nicely to fuck off.
- Hi, can I speak to Mr Twinky please?
- Certainly - who's calling?
- This is Carmella calling from Saint Prepuce's Children's Hospital.
- Okay, when you called last week, I asked you nicely to put us on your do not call list. Last time I swore at you. You are obviously retarded. I hope all of the children die.
- Hi, can I speak to Mr Twinky please?
- Certainly - who's calling?
- This is Carmella calling from Saint Prepuce's Children's Hospital.
- Oh my god, is it Timmy? Has he been in an accident? Please tell me he's okay, please.
- No, it's...
- Was he hit by a car? I told him not to go cycling on the main road after the time he broke his legs. Please, is he going to be all right, is he?
- I was just wondering if you wanted to help us with some fund raising?
- To save Timmy's life? Is it that bad? Really? Really? I'll give a lung. One of my stomachs, whatever he needs.
- No sir, you don't understand. There's nothing wrong with Timmy.
- Oh thank god, thank you, doctor. Bye.
- Hi, can I speak to Mr Twinky please?
- Certainly - who's calling?
- This is Carmella calling from Saint Prepuce's Children's Hospital.
- Admit it, you just love hearing me talk, don't you?
- [pause]..... yes.
Fiction - it's the future.
A wise cat once said to me that it didn't matter if a story was true as long as it was interesting. He was right in many ways, although he then undermined his point by dribbling milk on my leg and making small claw-shaped holes in my shirt.
My life is dull. Here is a categorisation of my life in to dullness. Even the idea of categorising it is dull.
What I'm not doing much of is writing. Not blogging much, not writing much, just doing enough to keep my brain ticking over.
Here are the things I am doing to break out of this.
Even as I write this list, I'm starting to hum and haw about it, but that's beside the point. The idea is for me to write more. To try to find more inspiration, to make stuff up if necessary, but just to keep my typing fingers moving and my brain active.
This self indulgent moment is over now. Thank you for your time.
This self indulgent moment is sponsored by Bombay Sapphire.
Somewhere out there, on one of the many pages of the hypothetical giant multidimensional book that is the multiverse, there is another me, one that had a mid-life crisis.
It's a very different world that he lives in. For instance, Eastenders is seen as a realistic portrayal of life among the native Cockney tribe, a life of wit and banter and occasional gangland killing. The evening news is filled with material phoned in by the public (or as they call them "citizen reporters", and they have found a cure for the age-old problem of getting bored of the artificial odour in room fresheners by creating one that changes the smell every forty-five minutes. Oh, and the other version of me has slightly different feet.
Other than that, though, it's pretty much the same as here.
On Thursday evening, after work, my alternate self went home to his benevolent sidekick cat, Mr Twinky, and declared "My mid-life crisis is upon us, faithful sidekick! We need to fly to Barcelona! As soon as possible!"
"Meow," said Mr Twinky.
They blew most of their savings on the flight, enticed by the idea of travelling first class, travelling in style and arriving fresh and alert at their destination. Mr Twinky was surprised by the width of the seats and the ample leg-room in Ryanair's yellow and blue plastic first class podule. Of course, as a cat, Mr Twinky was easily impressed.
Once in Barcelona, my alternate self and his faithful sidekick cat took a train in to town, found a bar that would serve them liquor all night, and drank themselves in to a stupor. They woke up on the pavement in Las Ramblas with limited memory of the night before. They definitely remembered failing to get a taxi and they definitely remembered something involving dancing. They didn't seem to have lost anything, but almost all of their money had gone, so they treated themselves to breakfast with what they had left.
Eventually, they realised that there was only one option left.
"We need to fly to where we came from in the first place!" declared my alternate self.
"Purr!" agreed his Mr Twinky.
And so they got back on their luxury flight and went home.
Meanwhile, back in our universe...
Well, we did much the same as that, really. Only we didn't need an excuse. I have certainly not had a mid-life crisis. That'll be a relief then.
As ever, real life has been getting in the way of writing. For instance, Mr Twinky (my evil sidekick cat), our friend Colm and I were in a dingy basement bar drinking Veuve Clicquot on Friday night. Apparently Veuve Clicquot is very popular with evil sidekick cats, and I have to admit that it did slip down remarkably well. However, it led on to a late night, an early morning breakfast burger and a radical waste of a weekend.
Some would say that this lifestyle choice is a symptom of a mid-life crisis. But is it, I wondered? Is it? I had no idea until I checked the list. Yes, there's a checklist.
Of course I'm irritable. That's because everybody else is an idiot. People on mobile phones crossing roads, the dad encouraging his kid to take his little go cart buggy thing through red lights in to oncoming traffic. I don't think that's a sign of a mid-life crisis, though surely? Surely it's just me being right?
Loss of Libido
Can be a sign of anything? At the moment I'm tired, but Veuve Cliquot, a poor diet, a lack of sleep, and the fact that I've been studying all day may have something to do with that.
A drive to be active
Well, I did have one of those. Fortunately, it passed, due to the fatigue. I've not taken up base jumping, or show jumping, though. I do have an urge to run down corridors, leap forward, bounce off my hands and flip over as I'm walking, but I'd probably snap my wrists. Anyway, that's not new, I've been wanting to do that for at least a quarter of a century now.
Stiffness in the muscles and joints
Nope. Which is not bad when you consider that I don't really exercise much beyond walking and typing
Sometimes. Not a cold sweat, mind you, but a hot sweat usually caused by Mr Twinky's evil clawing in to me. That's not a sign of a mid-life crisis, but a sign of a clingy cat.
Nope. Well, okay, yes. But again, I plead the Veuve Cliquot defence.
So, on balance, do I have a mid-life crisis, or are these symptoms caused by a combination of too much champagne, the nocturnal antics of an evil sidekick cat?
It turns out, I was imagining the whole thing. It was a combination of it being a long time since I had a holiday, suffering from a minor flare-up of a medical condition identified a couple of years ago (easily treated, fortunately), and a really bad case of trapped wind.
So hurrah! Thank goodness for that.
Unless I'm in denial...
There was something I learned at an early age from the pages of "Scouting For Boys" - an excellent read, by the way, and I recommend the pop-up edition (all models featured are over the age of 21). And on page 46, in big shiny letters I read about being prepared. Being prepared means lining your stomach before you drink, for instance, or making sure that you sew your name in to your socks before you get to the orgy. I have therefore packed a bag, ready for my impending mid life crisis when it finally occurs. That was almost today, by the way. That would have been more fun to write about, possibly in crayon.
So, what is in my bag?
It's sitting by the front door, ready to go as soon as I get the first instinct that I'm about to get the irresistible urge to try to recapture a youth that I really rather enjoyed the first time but don't really want to recapture. I'm just waiting for that moment. But how do I know? Eh? How do I know?
We've been considering getting a pet.
On the other hand, we'd probably kill it.
So, instead, as I continue my accelerating tumble towards the magic forty, I am reading a children's book, partying with Mr Twinky and our friends as they hit thirty, playing three online scrabble games, working hard, not studying hard, stuck on one nasty jump in Lara Croft. Is it any wonder, therefore, that we don't get the chance to go to the cinema, do the ironing, prepare proper meals, or to pull together a coherent blog entry that sounds like anything other than a rant.
Fortunately, all of that is about to change.
I am reliably informed by one of my work colleagues that tonight, for sure, we will win the Lotto.
So tomorrow, I will either be a millionaire (hurrah!) or I will be suing him for a few million (hurrah!) which he doesn't have (boo!).
On the mid-life crisis front, I am definitely going to have one, so I have started planning.
I didn't have much of a teenage rebellion. I think my parents can probably remember every time I raised my voice, and I can certainly remember a couple of moments when I did something that could have been classed as "naughty". Other than that, my transition from youth in to young adulthood was markedly uneventful.
My passage from young adulthood in to serious adulthood happened somewhere over the last few years, I think. In many ways I am still the same shallow callow immature young whippersnapper I was throughout my 20s, pretending to be a grown-up and worried in case I got caught out, while at the same time secretly reading comics, playing modern music and dancing in private.
So I am going to head into my mid-life crisis with gay abandon. I remember when I used to claim to be interested in everything. These days I am bored rigid by pretty much everything. If you're one of my friends or family reading this, this obviously doesn't mean you. It does, however, mean Big Brother, Jekyll, the Arctic Monkeys, the Turner Prize, the new recording of Mozart, the resurgence of contemporary jazz, Lara bleeding Croft, the local literary scene, travel, staying at home, eating designer meals, tearing designer clothes and answering shitty cold calls from the Sunday Times Wine Club.
I can see why some people have children when they get to this stage in their life. They think "oh for fuck's sake, there's got to be something more interesting than this", and they're probably right. Although the wonderful mythology of the Power Rangers and the brand redesign of the CBBC channel may not be it, at least it's clear that they have some impact on someone that you love, no matter how much chocolate they may smear across your face.
I can see why some people get a cause when they get to this stage in their life. Because let's face it - everyone out there is stupid. Like the woman crossing the road this morning, texting, who walked in to the man heading the other way reading the free daily newspaper. There was a woman in her car trying to get past them, and she'd just driven through a red traffic light and was stuck on a tram line and no matter how many times she beeped her horn, they still kept giving her the finger. Yes! Something should be done!
I can also understand why some people decide that everything they've been doing for the last 20 years is utterly pointless, why they embrace the bleak meaningless of existence, why they give up their careers to work in libraries and retrain as holistic therapists and join colonies and disinherit their children and leave all of their Â£8.50 to a cat's home.
Maybe, but in practice, I'll probably get my head down, work through this phase and come out the other side without much of a disturbance.
Yes, I think that's probably for the best.
As I get older, I seem to become more opinionated.
By which I mean, of course, that I become more convinced of certain prejudices. When people walk along a busy street while texting I see this as an excuse to ban the mobile phone, for instance. When people complain about people in area X having to subsidise those in area Y, I point out that part of the point of government is the redistribution of wealth, for instance. And when people tell me that one of my beliefs is wrong, I automatically discount anything else they say. Ever. Because they are clearly idiots.
This, I suspect, is not a good thing.
I have faced this through the medium of television, as usual, and through the abhorrent experience that is Big Brother. For instance. The slovernly 53-year-old believes that the immature 31-year-old should spend less time playing in the garden with the pink teenage twins, and believes that everything she says is right because she is the voice of experience. Now, much of the time she is right. But what she fails to grasp is that (a) some of the time she is not, and (b) even if she is right, it doesn't give her the right to act like a spoiled six-year old. And I look at her, and I can see myself. I can see many people around me. Our own experiences drive us in to settled behavioural patterns where we can't admit a possibility of wrongness.
This is completely screwed up.
Creativity, productivity and playing are all based around experimentation, about trial and error - and you need error in there. Just because something hasn't worked for you in the past doesn't mean it can't work for someone else now, for instance. And circumstances change. Basic human nature probably doesn't change, but the way it expressed around us changes, and each and every situation we encounter in our lives is new.
I'm grumpy and set in my ways. I didn't plan to get this way, it just happened. I let it creep up on me, and I'm the only one that can kick it out of me. It's been a recurring theme on this page for years now, I know.
I suppose I like to think that by repeatedly writing about it I will stir myself out of inactivity and frolic merrily forward in to a brave new and exciting life.
I think I don't really believe that.
"Hello," she said, and we hugged, only slightly awkwardly.
She'd barely changed since the last time we met, a little older inevitably, and the ball gown was a little more frayed below the hem, but it was undeniably her, chap quietly in tow. "Welcome to Foreign," said I. She teetered uneasily on her Jimmy Choos.
The thing, it must be said, about bloggery, is that it's not really something you do in isolation. Yes, you're all alone, sitting at the keyboard, expressing your thoughts at a machine that won't answer you back and will deafly echo back your sentiments to the world. But once your thoughts are out there, they do get read. Mainly by yourself, and by google's little internet reading robots, but occasionally by real people.
Sometimes you meet these real people. Sometimes they're not at all as you would expect. Sometimes they're weird, or annoying, or much nicer and more interesting than you'd have thought. Sometimes once you've met them you meet them again. And sometimes, like last night, you get very drunk with these real people. You talk about bloggery, and life, and Doctor Who and Big Brother and the minutiae of life. You eat nachos and you have another drink.
"So," she said. "Will you blog about this then?"
"Yeah," I said. "Probably"
I've spent the last hour or so rummaging around in underwear.
I do, of course mean web site coding. And not for this site - the stuff I've done for this site took five minutes. Really. It's just changing colours.
Nah, I've been poking around in the undergarments of another web site. And it's just not working. It's producing strange new errors that it wasn't producing a few weeks back, and it's refusing to rebuild. And I have no idea why. Really no idea.
That's the thing, though. I do lots of things that I don't really understand. I use my mobile telephone without understanding in anything other than a broad sense how it works. I use banks and supermarkets without considering the full economic consequences of doing so. I use sellotape without knowing how the glue actually works. We all do this sort of thing, though. We go through life blissfully unaware of the way things work, and just happy that they do.
In between my abortive attempts to get something sorted for this other site, I have been working away for a small test I have on Monday. I need to know and understand and probably be able to recite chapter and verse of a document which basically says "Don't be evil". I have to know what's included in there, what's not included in there and basically it's just a specialised form of common sense. The problem, though, is that I am used to glossing over the detail, of knowing where to find it when I need it, and if it gets too difficult, to call in a specialist. So far, I'm working on remembering the headings, the principle of not being evil, and hoping that I can absorb the rest through osmosis. But the devil is in the detail.
Over the last couple of weeks, I've been reading through old entries over the last few years of writing this blog. I've noticed that my style has changed dramatically - I tend to write less about what I am doing, tend to try to find something bigger to write about.
Part of that is that I am genuinely interested in things like the emotional reaction to corporate decisions, and part of it is that my life is decidedly less interesting than it has been at points in the past. I don't travel as much, I don't read as much, I don't have so much time on my hands.
Another part is that I'm writing about much less personal stuff. Where I do write about personal matters it tends to be my health, rather than, say, the rather good spinach and pine nut pie that Starbucks used to sell. Or waking up in Brian's flat. I spent a good five minutes trying to remember where Brian's flat was. Or who Brian was, even.
Maybe this means that something is due for a change?
Recently back from xmas in the homeland with the various families.
Families are weird things. Every one is different, of course, but in general they're the people who have supported you throughout your life and who you have supported. The people who should have your best interests at heart, and vice versa.
An excellent example of this would be almost every episode of trisha, or eastenders, where families fall apart left, right and centre, usually with hilarious consequences. These are tense, realistic dramas, apparently. As a result, I am forced to conclude that both of the families with whom I spent xmas are atypical and deeply dysfunctional.
Our families are not ripped apart by constant rows. Sure, we argue, but at the end of the day we still feel the same about each other. None of my family have killed each other as far as we know. None of us have teenage children that we can't control. Indeed, all of the youngsters in the family - including many who were born after 1980 - are polite and friendly. We trust each other, and we know that honesty is the best policy. We know who the parents of everyone are, so we don't need DNA tests. And as for our relationships - they're pretty much solid and stable. Marriages last, relationships last, we get on, people are happy.
There must be something seriously wrong with us all.
That said, my sister and her family gave us a fantastic bread knife. Stainless steel, Japanese, beautifully designed, sharp as you can get. And the first time Mr Twinky used it he sliced straight in to his paw.
Accident... or something more sinister? The beginnings of becoming a proper family at last, perhaps?
Oh my goodness it's annoying.
Something electrical is buzzing. Every so often. The first time was for a few seconds - enough to wake me up. The next few times it's been for just a fraction of a second - enough to stop me from getting back to sleep.
I can't work out what it is. I can't work out which room it's coming from. It might even be outside. It's three o'clock in the morning.
And I can't find the ear plugs.
You're probably in Edinburgh
You know where we live
You wonder when we're going to come and see you again
Your name probably begins with A
I wish I could read your handwriting.
Hurrah! It's bonfire night.
All day, the nephews have been demanding to know if they could have fireworks now. We did distract them briefly with the threat of Jenga, but on the whole, it's been all firework frenzy all day. Oh, to be five again.
In the mean time, while we wait, we have put them down in front of a television, where they are fighting, naturally. Dominic's had a little firework song, and he's dressed up as the human torch, so he's definitely getting in to the festive mood. Over the past decade, Guy Fawkes Night has grown from an excuse for a bonfire of old copies of The Broons Annual into a multi-million pound multi-media extravaganza, and unless your bonfire is being relayed to three other locations via a satellite link, then it's nothing. Or so I'm informed by Max.
Actually, they're really oblivious to the commerciality of it all. They just want the fireworks. And they don't have to be great fireworks, they just have to be in the garden. And the biggest thrill is that I'm older than their mummy, but their daddy is older than Mr Twinky.
And Mr Twinky just likes the cats.
I think I can kind of see why people have mid life crises. It's because they don't have anything to dream about.
Part of me is thinking this because I am stuck in a creative rut. I have ideas, sure, but they're snippets and snatches and the oomph to develop them isn't there. I sleep deeply and dream about work. My mind is definitely less agile than once it was.
More importantly, though, I have realised that I have hit the point where I don't know what my role model is supposed to look like. I've passed through the work hard, get promoted, fight for recognition stage, and I am now at the point where career-wise, I have probably peaked. It's bound to happen to most people at some point, just by a quick look at the numbers involved. And that means what?
In many, it appears to mean panic, fear, calamity, loss of identity, breakdown, panic, wailing, gnashing of teeth, buying a sports car, having an affair, sel-harm, self-love, self-loathing, taking a sawn-off shotgun to work, taking up squash, joining the Women's Institute, dressing like a teenager and hanging out around the underpass in a hoodie, sailing down the Congo on a Kagoul, shaving of head, raising of dead, heart attack, shark attack, pacamac, caramac, calamity, neuroses and panic.
But not for me.
For me, it seems to mean quiet acceptance, head down, eyes front, but keeping an eye out for new ideas. And so, like anyone in my position, I turn to the twin bastions of the 18-45 year old demographic. BBC2 and Channel 4. If I read it, I would also turn to the Guardian. But the fact is, I can't think of any clear role model for a man of my age other than living vicariously through children.
Is it any wonder so many gay men get themselves cats?
I have been accused of having a sexy back. Admittedly, this was a long time ago, and by someone whose judgement (or judgment) was impaired by alcohol, but it was a genuine accusation, well meant and much appreciated. The fact that I met it with mild ridicule. I did, however, stifle this out of politeness, and thanked him nicely . I believe that he now plays trombone with the Salvation Army, but only in December.
All of this is simply to let you, my one remaining reader, know that I am back. And I am sexy.
My malaise has a name, I suspect. Mid-Life crisis.
Oh, it's interesting, can I say that? My web page, my rules, course I can say that. For the last couple of years I've had a creeping dis-satisfaction that I couldn't point at one thing and say "this is what is making me unhappy." It's been much easier to find a few islands of happiness floating in a sea of humdrumity. Not - it must be said - the ideal way to feel for a man of my age.
It's the age thing that's a give-away, that makes me think that it's a mid-life crisis. Half way through my three score years and ten, and I have an urge to escape from the rat race and go and live on a commune in Penge, knitting my own pasta and recycling printed circuit boards as dandy little bits of jewellery. Maybe I'm over-reacting.
Isn't change interesting?
I used to think that April was a particularly cruel month - this was back when I was a teenager, though, and it meant exams and fine weather, and the two seldom make happy bedfellows when you're a sixteen year old chap whose mind should, rightfully be on sowing wild oats, reaping the rewards of months of dark cold wet winter and well yes, you get the idea don't you? Don't you?
June is heavy. The mind of a umpteen-year-old isn't that dis-similar from that of a teenager. It feels odd to go to bed when it's still pretty light outside, and odd to get up in the light again the next day. It feels that you're missing out on something, but then unlike my cheerful youth when I travelled in my time machine with my stuffed tiger, the days are far from packed. The days, indeed are anonymous and un-numbered and identical, stretching out before me to retirement when I will roll up the legs on my trousers, wear purple, and sit on a deck chair outside my flat on the fiftieth floor of a tower block and complain about how things aren't as good as they used to be.
And on again, and on again.
I'm racist. I'm sexist, ageist, homophobic and can get in to a righteous indignation if families with young children dare to get in to my path.
I'm not a nice person.
But then again, so few of us are. Having no prejudices is incredibly rare, and most people who will tell you that they don't have any are lying, whether or not they realise it. It's a natural thing, really. The world is so huge and vast and diverse that we have to cling to our beliefs that such-and-such an idea or a way of behaving or a way of looking is right and natural, and anything else is - well, for most of us it's just wrong. It serves a psychological purpose - it keeps us at the centre of our own universe and gives us the ability to go on from day to day without getting exasperated by the futility of it all.
When I give up work and write my great nuvvel, this will be my central theme, maybe.
In the spirit of summer, I spent 20 minutes peeling tomatoes. My poor fingers are all wrinkly. There's something surreal and not quite right about burning your fingers making iced soup.
I remember when I was a kid. That's not unusual, many people can remember being kids. But the weather was so different back then. Summers were hot but no matter how much you ran around you never got sweaty and ratty and had to have a little lie down. Not like now, when a leisurely walk to the local Spar in my shorts leaves me feeling like I've spent four years working down a fire mine without a shower eating hot wings and drinking hot chocolate. In hell.
Winter was different too - it was cold and crisp and dark burnt orange skies. Dark nights meant it was four o'clock, and you could sit upstairs on the bus, and that really doesn't have anything to do with the weather, but the snow used to lie for weeks although by the end it was dirty and just annoying but it was great when it was white and packed and you could slide along it.
But then it was winter, and soup was hot. And in the summer you had ice cream. Which is meant to be cold.
On the way to the bottle bank and the pub yesterday, I saw:
On the principle that what goes around, comes around, I decided it was wisest to leave the newspaper in the chinese takeaway. It's a really good chinese takeaway.
When I was growing up I never wanted to be a Curmudgeon. I never sat uncomfortably in a classroom, while my peers trotted out that they wanted to be firemen, or train drivers, or collect dole, or just be famous, thinking "I must think of something other than saying I want to be grumpy". That wasn't my way.
Admittedly, I was going to be a time traveller, whistling through time and space with my trusty companion by my side. Said trusty companion being Peter. Or Simon. I wonder where they are now.
But I digress. I used to think I wasn't curmudgeonly, and now I realise that I am. Completely and utterly. I am a grumpy, stuck-in-my-ways fuddy duddy. There's probably some slang for it in today's youthful vernacular. But I like to think I'm a hopeful curmudgeon.
For one thing, I don't automatically assume that things were better when we had rationing and rickets. I liked routemasters, but I do think that it's wise to have buses that are hard to fall off. I liked vinyl, and the crackling hiss that happened before Ella Fitzgerald warbled out of the warped black disc, faster and slower, faster and slower, but I embrace the digital delight of mp3. But I'm increasingly feeling that there are bad times just around the corner, and that the end of the world is upon us probably.
Ooooh... tribalism. I've just separated the world in to "them" and "us", and I did it without even thinking about it. I hate when I do that. Because we're all "us". That's the thing that many of us fail to see. I may be curmudgeonly about the world I live in, but the same social pressures that made me who I am shaped the world around me. This is what I've inherited. I may moan about it, and indeed I do moan about it, but I should feel at least partially responsible for it, shouldn't I?
That's what I said when I woke up from the anaesthetic. He'd been going to get a sandwich or something while I was under, as there was nothing else for him to do really. So my first thought when I woke up was for him - no matter that I'd been under for god knows how long.
So I asked him and he told me that he had, and then I fell asleep again.
When I woke up for the second time my first question was whether he'd had something to eat. He'd been going to get a sandwich or something while I was under, as there was nothing else for him to do really. So my first thought when I woke up was for him - no matter that I'd been under for god knows how long.
So I asked him and he told me that he had, and then I fell asleep again.
When I woke up for the third time my first question was whether he'd had something to eat.
The shower is where I currently have my best ideas.
Drying off is where I forget them.
The idea with Writer's Block is to write through it. Start with a blank page, something like that. Pull out an old notebook, find something that resonates. I've got a few of those, and they used to excite me. Now they just depress me because nothing in them is new.
Maybe I am looking for "the new new thing". It's not Web 2.0 for me. I mean, I like Web 2.0 and all, although it's all heading mainstreamwards, but to me it's all about collaboration, about organisation and democratisation. They're all good things, but none of them are creative in and of themselves.
My desire, my true heart's desire, is for an easy life. But on a second level, I want to write. Or I want to have written. But at the moment there's nothing new out there. It didn't used to be this way.
Everything used to set me off on a new train of thought. One thought would trigger another and the two would transform in my head in to something else. I'd sit on a train with abook in one hand and my trusty Psion 3 beside me - and by the end of the trip I would have a half a dozen new ideas written down. Some would only be a couple of words, but they'd trigger something later. But recently, nothing.
I have theories why.
Same night, different bar, similar throng. The usual staples, dark corners, mirrored walls, Cher pumping out, Gin and Tonic fluorescing, and there at the far end of the place, the cute guy from earlier.
Except I was drunk. He might have been a different cute guy. He might even have been the Chinese guy that we saw out and about every so often, comedy knitwear and a man with a bank account next to him, someone old enough to be his grandfather. But I didn't really care. This guy I was looking at was cute, whether or not he was the cute guy from earlier.
I said goodbye to Michael. I told him I was going for a walk, which was my code phrase for "I am going cruising". Not much of a code phrase, but we didn't need a code. He knew what I was like. I watched the room as I walked, predatory. Hard to believe now, but back then I had a healthy amount of arrogance about me, an attitude that said that I was a man who could afford to pay half the cost of a taxi, and who liked poached eggs for breakfast. Either that or it said I was easy.
And there was the cute guy, walking straight towards me. Straight in the sense of "directly", not in any other sense. And he used the world's best chat up line on me. "Hello," he said. And it would be nice to say that he had me at "hello", but he didn't. He certainly had my attention. We chatted. We danced. We did things that are probably best done in private, but we were young and pretty and didn't care. He was there with someone else, someone who probably thought he might have been in with a chance. That was a little bit of a problem.
We held hands as we left, giggling. Nervous and excited and exhilarated and with nothing except innocent fun on our minds. And then the yell came and the mood changed. In the hot heavy night with the threat of thunder looming, we turned to see his "friend" standing at the door to the bar, looking less than pleased. We giggled like schoolgirls and ran away, also like schoolgirls. Along Hollywood Road, down a narrow rat infested stairway, up a narrow lane between two buildings, scared and excited and chased and still holding hands until eventually, certain we had lost our pursuer we collapsed in each others arms in a doorway. I reached over to brush his hair out of his face, and we kissed, sweet and tender.
And then he changed my life. But that's a different story for a different time.
Firstly, can I say that it's been a few weeks now, and I don't miss it at all.
In that time, I've applied for a new job, and I haven't got it. I've been a complete wreck throughout the whole thing, and there's a huge element of my psyche that's about to tell me to go in to a self-destructive mode. Only I won't.
I've thought a lot about blogging in the last few weeks, and I have some pretty sound reasons why I won't be starting it again - one more post on here in January and that'll be it, boys and girls.
I'm not going to go in to the reasons again - there are many of them, and they overlap and interact and I've tried twice to write a nice concise list and it always comes out wrong. But I have no regrets. And don't worry - despite my obvious disappointment at not getting the job I was after, I am basically fine, well, healthy and enjoying life. In way more detail than I am going to blog for you.
So, bye again.
Obviously, this didn't last
I've scattered my friends around the world.
I know that Christmas isn't even upon us yet, but I'm already thinking ahead to New Year. It used to be so easy.
Back when I lived in Scotland, I had friends in Scotland and I would spend Hogmanay with them. So far, so good.
And then I went to Hong Kong, and I made friends in Hong Kong, and I spent New Year's Eve with them. This includes the year that I spent most of the evening in one of the Sois off Patpong in Bangkok, waving around fluorescent things and dancing outrageously. But I digress.
We've done four New Years since we moved to Ireland. The first year, we spent with friends in Scotland. The second year we were invited to a party in Dublin, but feigned illness and stayed in and watched the telly. The third year, we were in Edinburgh and we were unwell. And last year, we went out for dinner in Dublin, ended up partying at home, and took about five months to replace the broken glassware. Not doing that one again.
The problem is geography. At this stage, most of our friends in Dublin won't be around for New Year, most of them actually having left and gone on to bigger &/or better things. I've done dozens of Edinburgh Hogmanays and don't really want to do another one, and I'd love to see some friends, but my friends in Scotland have scattered to the winds.
To me, New Year is about being around friends, about keeping good friendships strong, and about making new friends. As things stand, we'll both be in Scotland at Christmas, and at this stage we don't know if we're coming back to Dublin for New Year, or going on somewhere else en route. It's all kind of up-in-the-air at the moment, and it's looming over us like a strange and heavy cloud of doubt.
As I didn't buy a lottery ticket this weekend, I didn't win, and so won't be setting up my own country. I've been thinking about how I would do it if I did.
It's been suggested that I should set up a benign dictatorship. I don't think I could do that.
On the surface, i don't really have a problem with being a benign dictator. I'd be liberal and open-minded, and I would only really interfere in the lives of my subjects if it was for the good of the society as a whole. Now, while I am an arrogant person in many ways (as I hope to write about later this week), I'm aware of the fact that ultimately everyone is different. I spend half my life at work here, arguing in favour of the general good of employees, customers and the company, but the people that I argue with are only interested in themselves, and simply can't see the broader picture. It's infuriating to be in the position of permanently explaining unpopular decisions. So there are two ways round that.
Either you make the tough decisions and don't explain them, or you don't make the decisions at all.
I suppose I could go down the first route. I don't think I could really then call myself benign, but I'd be a fairly liberal dictator. That wouldn't make me popular, not unless I'd personally interviewed all the subjects, but that would leave a fairly narrow society. It's nice to think that there could be a society where people co-exist just by basically being nice to each other, but that's not the way that humanity as a whole is wired. Everyone has a self-interested core, without exception.
So if I didn't make any decisions at all, I'd be presiding over something between an anarchy and a true democracy. Again, I don't think I could make that work, because at the end of the day, sometimes the things that we need to do are the things that are hardest to do, and unless we are forced to do them by someone who knows best we won't do them.
So thank you for your offer to lead you. I must decline. I will spend my twilight years raising vampire pomerarians, thank you and goodnight.
We arrived back from our holiday late on Sunday night. And back to work on Monday. It probably took us both Monday and Tuesday evenings to get back to some sort of state of normality and then last night, we got awfully, terribly, blindingly drunk.
I had an excuse, of course. Office night out. On a Wednesday, I know. Food was awful but the company was grand so it was.
I was so trying to be good. I left early. I bought some wine on the way home. Big, big mistake.
Tonight, I am going to a thrilling and exciting table quiz. It will be fun. I'm good at table quizzes, assuming that they ask about the five times table.
Tomorrow, I will be having lunch with some of my colleagues to celebrate the fact that one of them is leaving for pastures new.
On Monday I'm going to a conference, coming back on Wednesday. On Thursday, myself and the usual suspects are going out for dinner.
On the following Saturday, we're talking about having people over for dinner. It's a heady social whirl. I need another holiday. Fortunately, it's happening in November.
It rolls around with a distressing familiarity - the fag end of the week, the day when any enthusiasm has gone from my team, and we become a crowd of inefficient macontents, moaning about incompetence, whinging about pressure, achieving nothing.
There's no pressure on a Friday, no sense of urgency. We have deadlines but nobody chasing things, we get e-mails but the phone never rings. Some staff are away for the weekend. Others leave at lunch time. The urgency that characterises the office for the rest of the week is utterly absent. Almost all of the desks are empty. Those of us who are here are present in body only.
We've talked to each other all week. We know the minutiae of each other's lives. We ask each other what we're up to at the weekend, knowing that it will be a mixture of sleeping, drinking, shopping, and visiting family. The day starts quietly and remains quiet.
It is the perfect time to do those bits of work that I never do - the things that involve some thought, an attention span beyond a few seconds. Time to take that luxury of a continuous hour to read the paper that's been awaiting my comments for a fortnight. But the words dance on the page. I build three computers in theory, and buy none in practice. I answer a few questions. I twiddle my thumbs.
It is an unday.
Hello? Is this thing on?
He wanders in to the room - it's plain, featureless, grey. The microphone stands alone in the centre of the room. He taps it, clears his throat.
Is it that time of year already?
It is, well past, it seems.
It's just over five years since I started writing this page. I still can't quite bring myself to call it a blog, since it's not been that for a while really, not in the original sense of the word. It's not really a journal either, as it misses out huge chunks of what I do in my life.
It's been three years since I moved from blogger to Movable Type. Three years since I let "cyberpumpkin" lapse, and became "oddverse" - although the pumpkin has come and gone in various forms over the last few years.
And it's about this time of year that I get the old angst.
He clears his throat and starts singing. His voice is a bit rusty - it's many years now since he was a choirboy - no, don't laugh. He pulls the brim of his hat down over his eyes as he sings, and as he sings he realises how well he knows the tune, how comfortable he is with the melody.
It's just over a year since I took a month's break from the site. I came back recharged, refreshed, and pretty much with this layout. I also came back with new rules for myself, to try to protect myself from getting as frankly pissed off as I was when I walked away last year.
He slips in a line from another song. Stop me if you think you've heard this one before. Nobody notices.
I'm not pissed off now. I'm not throwing my toys out of the pram in a hissy fit. I'm not bored of this yet. But it's late summer. So I reckon I'm due a holiday. See you soon.
The single light snaps off, and the room is dark.
If you've come here from the Leisure Hive or Slovenia, hello.
Part of the oddity of the internetweb is that with its seemingly infinite diversity and opportunity, with the constant evolution of new publishing and communication tools, it's possible to keep bumping in to the same people in new contexts.
I'm thinking here of a couple of recent examples. There will be more.
Case History 1
Back when usenet was still something I could access, I contributed to a range of "Doctor Who" stories. At times, that was a lot of fun, and I came across some pretty talented writers, most of whom were students, and most of who actually knew each other in real life. About four years ago I lost touch with most of them, but one of them found my page recently, through a link or a comment on a blog - I can't remember which. And so I'm back in touch with Will. He lives in Scotland now. I don't.
Case History 2
Before I did the usenet thing, I did the chat room thing. I've written about this before. This was ten years ago, and although it was a gay chat room, there was a very different atmosphere from today. I've kept in touch with a couple of they guys from those days, but only very occasionally.
About a week ago, I found out that one of the men I knew from there also has a blog. At the time he was young, inexperienced and tentative. I was ten years older than him - but just as inexperienced and tentative. And now... we're both more experienced, we both remember that period with affection, but without mistaking it for anything more than it was. Also, he is now unbearably sexy. You have to be kind of jealous.
So what am I saying here? What goes around comes around? Or is that in an environment populated by an infinite number of monkeys there are an infinite number of cliques, and this makes the part of the world that we can see through the interwebnet smaller than, perhaps, we realise.
Despite my hangover, I'm fine, and I am still alive. After the joys of talking about closet homosocksuality earlier in the week (you did get that, didn't you? The red socks were a euphemism...?) and after the delights of the close interaction between a cyclist and myself, I've hit that awful blip in life that is writer's block.
Yes, I have finally run out of things to say. I was discussing this with Mr Twinky, my evil sidekick cat, over a couple of bottles of wine last night.
So, I hear you ask, does this mean that Alan is taking one of his oft-trumpeted "breaks" - going back in to re-runs while I reassess the whole "do I want to write this or not?" scenario thing? Not at all. Because this isn't a whole whiny "why should I bother to write when people are arseholes" thing - which I've done before. It's more of a "I want to write, but I can't think of anything to write about".
Ignore this entry - it's just the hangover talking.
It's going to be a cruel, cruel summer. I'm feeling pretty good about myself, so it's a fine time to tackle the few things left that are making me slightly unhappy. My company loves me, my boyfriend is very nice and has agreed to upgrade our relationship to civil partnership, I've got over my health hiccup from last year and I've remembered several birthdays this year. So obviously it makes sense to torture myself.
Phew. That's enough. I don't expect to do half of that, because I will be in the pub.
Life. Oh life. Oh life. Life.
As "Des'ree" once said, before she realised that she was named after a potato. She now styles herself Maris Piper. But I digress.
I was in a rush, I was in a hurry, all that stuff. Work's pretty damn hectic at the moment, and I'm too tired to do much when I get home. Plus, the laptop's on the fritz so my scope for getting to a keyboard to correct misapprehensions has been limited. I'm sorry, boys and girls.
I hadn't decided to give up blogging. I'm thinking about it, sure. After all, I recently re-read my original reasons for starting to blog, and continuing to blog and most of them are now completely and utterly invalid. But the main reason I'm not giving up - at least not yet - is the nagging question of "if I don't blog, what do I do instead. Because that seems, to me, to be the issue. I need to do something. It's the way I'm wired. Sorry. It could be something public, it could be something private. It could be something fabulous, or something small and beautiful. I don't know.
So that's where I'm coming from. I'm wondering what the next next thing is... I've been blogging for almost five years now, and it's not really moved on that much. I've done expansive and all-encompassing, I've added features, I've gone back to basics. I've got a picture of a pumpkin that I quite like, and a shade of orange I may reuse.
I'm thinking this is the beginning of something. It's quite exciting, really. I don't know what it's the beginning of, and - at least until then - I'm not actually stopping blogging.
So there I was, touching my fire, when Mr Twinky suggested that we should go to the cinema. Quickly, we watched Return of the Sith, and then I settled down to read the new fantastic alumni magazine from my old Alma Mater. What a piece of toss.
It's over fifteen years since I graduated from my old Alma Mater, a place which gave us such notable alums as Red Productions, Captain Opinion, Fake Antique Expert and Jimmy Carr (Note that I only knew one of these people, but not well enough to be able to get his autograph for you, okay)? And in recent months, they have started to harass me.
I kind of expected this. They make a big thing about their reliance on benefactors, and every ten years or so, they invite their ex-students back for a nice slap-up meal and a bit of a speech to remind us how to leave them money in our wills. That's what they've done for centuries, and it seems to work okay.
And then a couple of months ago, I received a letter. I'll paraphrase it.
"Please forgive this abuse of our database, but I have taken the liberty of asking one of our current students to give you a ring to remenisce about your time here, and to remind you about how to donate money. If you don't want to be called please call this number."
So, if I don't want to be blackmailed by a pressganged student, I have to call up and be blackmailed by someone more experienced? I took the only available option. I went on to their website to change my phone number.
Shortly thereafter, I got a second letter saying that they'd been unable to contact me, and would I like to give them some money anyway? And then, last week, the brand new Alumni magazine.
This is geared around the idea that you're not an ex-student. You're a "member". For life. And that you'll always be interested in what's going on. To an extent, I am. But this glossy magazine just oozes smarm.
I open the cover. Before I even get to page 3, where the articles begin, there's a quotation from someone who went there in 1929, saying it meant everything to him. And then there's a list of benefactors for their development campaign. Four page pull-out, with a donation form. I skim through the names and note with interest that seven of my friends are on there. I wonder if they thought that by signing up they would stop the blackmail...
Page 3 is numbered page 1 for some reason. Never mind.
First article, double page spread on the new building work that's going on. Incidentally, it's on the site of a building where "e" used to live. Before I even get to the headline, I've stopped reading. The preamble begins "Thanks to the outstanding generosity".
Next spread is on longevity and health. And no mention of how to leave them a bequest in your will.
Next spread, double page on their telephone marketing campaign. The editorial, "Your College Needs You" is a double page puff for fund-raising. There's a four page section of memories, with the quote "I have decided to leave a legacy to the college in my will"
Probably 33% of the magazine is devoted to fund raising, and the message is clear. We educated you, you've got a good job as a result, give us money.
The thing is... the more I get this message rammed down my throat, the less inclined I feel to give them anything. I had a great time there. I owe a lot to the fact that I went there. I want to support them. But I'm feeling bullied, and nobody likes to be bullied.
I just hope that they see sense and move away from the dark side.
Over lunch on Saturday, I proposed to Mr Twinky. He was somewhat shocked, but accepted. I am now slightly scared to tell people, as the result has been a mild form of hysteria, with people congratulating me left, right and centre - thereby leaving me in a slight state of shock.
For those who have asked - no I didn't get down on one knee. I didn't have a speech prepared. I didn't know until about half a second before the words tumbled out of my mouth that I was going to say them. The words themselves are awkward, and I suspect that I said "Will you civil partnership me?" which makes no grammatical sense at all.
I'm beginning to feel the importance of language in the way that we describe this. It's not marriage, and I'm carefully not describing it as such because that's a heavily loaded and emotive word. But the language that you have to use feels awkward and heavy. "We're going to enter into a civil partnership" may be technically correct, and should be less offensive than some of the words we could use, but the way that people react to it is interesting. So far, it's quite clear what friends and family think it means, because the reactions have been overwhelmingly positive and supportive.
All interesting stuff.
It's only really just beginning to sink in. What happened on Saturday - the whole "proposal" thing. What's sinking in is how big a thing it is. Which is kind of surprising and not what was going through my head at all.
Back in the traditional world, the sequence of events is usually along the lines of:
Into that list, slot Boy and Girl shacking up together, and if you so desire, Boy knocks Girl up. They can kind of fit in anywhere.
Now in the future, I suspect that we'll be living in a world where we're looking at an option of:
At the moment, though, we're in a transitional period. A couple of years ago, registration wasn't an option (and yes, i know, technically it isn't yet), and so we got very drunk and we had a quiet little moment, and basically, as far as I was concerned at the time, that was it. Over. We'd done the shacking up thing, we were as settled and committed as we were ever going to be able to be.
So when the whole registration thing started looking like it was going to be a viable and attractive option, it was something of a brainless decision. It doesn't make our relationship any more committed. It doesn't make it stronger. It does give us certain legal rights, protections and responsibilities, and that seemed like the main reason to do it.
But it's more than that. It's a symbol. It's a very public declaration. Perhaps it's even a political act - and if so, then it's one I am more than happy to make. Mainly, though, it's an excuse for people to wear big hats, get very drunk and dance with their aunties.
I recognise the pattern. The immediate response to pressure is to get angry. The next action is to realise that nobody apart from myself can do anything about that, so to lose the anger. I've found that vodka helps here.
The trick is to remember that what I'm doing is not a coping strategy. It's not "what do I need to do to numb my brain so I can cope with the pressure", it's "how do I break out of the destructive mood, and therefore enable myself to tackle the causes of the pressure". It's at times like this that I would really love to have something in my life that demanded attention and couldn't empathise at all. Like a baby or a cat.
In reasserting control, start small. Start with things you know you can take control of. Empty the dishwasher, put away those CDs, pop something up on E-bay.
Four Non Blondes once said that they were trying to get up a great big hill of hope for a destination. How right they were, in a crazy and deeply irrelevant kind of way.
There are simply not enough hours in the day. There are too many demands on those hours that there are. While I'm cheerily coping with this through the usual tactics of a combination of quirky humour, intense relaxation and ignoring-other-people's-problems-and-watching-them-disappear. I'm basically fine.
There's plenty interesting me, as well. I've read The Alphabet (No jokes, please. It's very good, interesting and not too repetitive.) I'm back on the declutter trail, gradually working my way through stuff, gradually but persistently. I've been divesting myself of stuff. In the last week, I've exchanged 16 DVDs, 42 Video tapes and three books for somewhere around 100 Euro.
I'm reading fewer personal pages, largely due to the filtering software at work. Instead, I'm browsing design pages, and more pages about enhancing productivity and multi-tasking. I'm doing a puzzle every day to get my mind working. I'm sorting out the mess of information on my PC, my personal organiser, my two laptops and my mobile phone.
I'm also looking forward to the new series of Doctor Who, but the less said about that the better.
I'm in control of the stuff I'm working on. I could do more, and probably will. I'm going to Scotland very early tomorrow, and won't be back until late on Wednesday. There's a lot going on, and although sometimes it seems like I'm struggling to stand still, progress and change are inevitable, and apart from the fact that I am hideously overcaffeinated and my fingernails are virtually gone, I'm pretty happy about it all.
And blogging... is somewhere down the priority list at the moment.
When Tom Baker regenerated in to him off All Creatures Great and Small, his regeneration didn't go well, mainly due to the fact that it was 1981, and so leg warmers were around. His companions, Tegan and Nyssa looked up information on failed regenerations on the Internet, which they could do because the TARDIS was a time ship, and could therefore tap into something that wouldn't be available for at least a decade. They found the same thing thate veryone else finds on the internet, and then they found a page that suggested that the , and found a suggestion that Time Lords can relax in Dwellings of Simplicity with little or no technological advancement. The suggested location was Castrovalva, a small town on a planet in Andromeda.
Of course, it all went horribly wrong, but you can't blame them for trying.
I'm about as stressed as I get these days, which would be a close approximation to my regeneration failing, that is if I was 750 years old, had just fallen off a radio telescope, and wound up turning in to a vet. And my strategy to deal with this is to remove clutter.
I've talked about doing this before - I even do some of it from time to time, but it's never really worked. I see a range of reasons for that. When I'm at work, I rarely get the time to declutter. It's something that I have to actively make time to do, and it always feels like as I break from work to declutter, the work is building up behind me and I'm just making myself more stressed. But I'm cluttered at home, too, and there it's a matter of comfort and joy. I tend to choose to spend time with Mr Twinky rather than spend time tidying up, and discarding things. Or, I choose to spend my time faffing around on the computer, or cooking. I do the basics. The first priority is cleaning dishes, then next is ironing, and somewhere way down the list comes decluttering.
It's all about habit. I need to get in to the habit of decluttering. A large purge is great, but it would just give me more space to put stuff in. This is, generally speaking, bad.
So, I'm looking at a five point plan here.
Refresh your memory here.
...and then, across the room, I saw the man who was to change my life...
Between us was a sea of bodies, heaving and undulating in waves, to the bar, back again, to the bar. There may have been padded leather walls, and Pet Shop Boys videos playing on wall-mounted screens. There may have been a snug area up the back where you could go for some privacy, there may have been a cage where a drag queen would perform on Christmas Eve, there may have been a covered garden area at the back of the bar, over a pretend bridge to nowhere. The decor in the bar was as fickle and fashion-conscious as the clientele.
We didn't make eye contact. I saw him, though. He tells me that he saw me, and I believe him. We didn't make any contact, though. I kept chatting to Michael, kept scouring the room with the gaze of a predator. Perhaps I was in the wrong frame of mind for this. I was still hurt, on the rebound from the disfunctional temporary boyfriend. I was doing my usual trick of handling this by telling myself I was handling it, but coupling this with some completely unrelated self-destructive behaviour. Yeah, right, et cetera.
Ex-boyfriend had some good philosophies. He believed that living through a crisis could only make our relationship stronger. So he generated crises, told me he loved me, and felt good about himself. I dumped him by phone. I'm not proud of that. I got myself over it with the help of my friends, and lurching from country to country trying to put thoughts of him from my mind. I wasn't looking for a repeat. Let's make that clear. I was looking for what many single gay men in their early thirties look for. Yeah, that's right.
Anyway, I'd seen this cute guy. But he hadn't seen me. And when I looked for him again, I couldn't see him.
[To be continued, 22 Jan 2006]
Tuesday in New York, and by now you're flagging. You've bought all the Prada and Armani you can debase yourself for, you've dined on the cuisine of many nations, you've enjoyed several log fires, a couple of in-room movies that worked out cheaper than going to the cinema, and the department store is losing its charm. Still, you manage to find time for another breakfast at the Red Flame grill, and a leisurely stroll to Bloomingdales, which you've heard is quite famous.
After the chaos of Saks on the first day of the sale, or the layout misterioso of Macy's, you expect much the same from Bloomingdales. You are surprised. It's quiet, well stocked, and a pleasure to shop in. This shop is therefore dangerous. However, you finish off your shopping, enjoy a further stroll, and chill out in the afternoon.
Your plan is to say farewell to New York with some Japanese food. As with any culture's cuisine, Japanese food is easy to do really badly, and most of your experience with Japanese food since leaving Asia has been disappointing. The restaurant you choose does not disappoint.
You turn down the polite offer of a table, choosing to sit at the bar. The rest of the clientele are Japanese, with the exception of the gentleman next to you, who is Dutch, but lives in New York and eats at that restaurant every night. After a fine meal of sushi, gyoza, sashimi and noodles, and a bottle or two of sake, you let yourself get talked into drinking Iichiko - Japanese Vodka. You drink the generous measures over ice, with a slice of lemon. It's smooth. Very smooth. You order some more food, because you're peckish. You let the hostess choose the food for you, and hope it's fantastic. It is. You drink some more Iichiko. Five hours after you enter, you're politely thrown out as the restaurant is closing. It's only when you hit the cold air that you realise quite how pissed you are.
On the Wednesday morning, you don't even have a hangover, and the only gap in your memory is the five minutes between leaving the restaurant and arriving home. Sadly, Wednesday is your last day, and you fly home in the afternoon, arriving in Ireland on the Thursday morning at the crack of dawn.
You open your Christmas presents, and finally fall asleep at about 8am. At 11, you are woken up by the neighbourhood children playing with your doorbell, despite the fact that the last time they did that you threatened to have them taken in to care.
It's good to be home.
We are spending the weekend with e and boff and their three performing monkeys - Hen, Dill and Sim. So far, so good. Their home borders on chaotic, with e doing a frankly excellent job of juggling the needs and demands of those around her. Mr Twinky and I are trying to balance helping in the kitchen, keeping the children amused and not broken, and finding some space for ourselves from time to time to remind ourselves that this is the weekend.
Around this time of year I like to be reminded of how long I have known e and boff. I met boff on - I think - the 10th of August 1986. Although I can`t remember the exact date, I can remember the precise circumstances, and who I was with at the time. That`s not to say that he was particularly memorable - he doesn't have three arms or two heads or anything like that, but it was one of those weeks where friendships are formed that can last another eighteen years, despite multiple migrations, changes in circumstances and generally life happening in the middle.
I couldn't specify the date when I met e, but it would have been 1987. In fact, I suspect that I knew her for a long time before she made any serious impression on me. This annoys me, as I was later to discover that she's fiercely intelligent, practical, and independent. She also has a splendid surreal streak, which she doesn't get to use enough. And she doesn't look a day older than she did when we met.
I like being here. I enjoy their company, I enjoy the air of mild chaos that pervades everything - although I know that it would drive me mad after a few days. Nonetheless, I'm with two of my oldest, dearest friends. Fantastic way to spend a weekend.
Given that over dinner the previous evening you've heard people complaining about MoMA's twenty dollar entry fee, decide that they're being stick-in-the-muds. Go anyway. Queue in the cold for twenty minutes. Pay and marvel at the state-of-the-art designer coatcheck area for ten minutes. Marvel at how it's stuck in the 1920s, but try not to let that spoil your day.
Charge up to the top of the galleries and be stunned by the views down through this most impressive of buildings. Become slightly curious at the security guard who won't let you take photographs on the top floor ("in case you drop your camera"). Boggle a bit. Hit some art, ploughing through droves of human litter to see it. Decide a coffee is called for and enjoy some lovely handmade chocolates in a nice minimalist cafe on the fourth floor. Note that we have the same glassware as they do and decide that they must be cool.
All in all, spend a good five hours or so looking at art. Decide that twenty dollars for five hours of entertainment is reasonable value and declare that skinflints are humbugs. It's afternoon, so go shopping.
If it's Monday, it must be Macy's, so head down to the giant store which is - miraculously - on 34th Street. Head all the way to the top of the building looking for menswear, only to discover it's on the second floor, but just in a different part of the building from the one you thought you were in. Be mildly diverted by this. Try on clothing while being chided by a short chinese woman with no system. Buy stuff, then head back to your hotel to relax.
In the evening dine on chinese food, in an excellent little chinese restaurant. Spot a Japanese place that you fancy going to for dinner on the Tuesday. Relax, unwind, think of art.
The day after Christmas is a Sunday. It's also the first day of the sales. Saks has 50% off anything before 12 Noon, and it's chaos. Spot a beautiful pair of suede shoes, originally priced at $300, now going for $120. for a moment know what it is like to be a shoe-addict, but fail to buy them due to the incredible chaos going on, the lack of staff, and the way that they all disappear at 11.50.
Decide to console yourself in Starbucks, but fail to find one. See people with cups and grow frustrated until you realise that they're coming out of Trump Tower.
Trump Tower is vulgar. It's like being back in China. A block or two away is Louis Vuitton, which looks fantastic but is full of really unattractive luggage.
It's snowing lightly, so go for a buggy ride through Central Park, led by the slowest horse ever, hosted by an Irishman. Hold hands under a rug and think how romantic it all is. It's getting cold.
Wander into Prada. Find it full of effete homosexuals and women with an attitude. Dislike them. Track down one who explains that yes, a blue dot means it's in the sale, and it's 50% off the marked price. Find a shirt for Mr Twinky that fits him and looks great on him. Buy it. When asked "did anyone help you with this purchase", say no. That way nobody gets commission. Vow never to shop there again, as their preferred shade of green is slightly remeniscent of hospitals when you were five.
Stressed by the anti-service in Prada, wander over to Armani, where your homosexual salesman is much nicer, friendlier, and - you get the feeling - wouldn't mind joining you in the fitting room. Buy a nice jacket to cheer yourself up.
Find an Italian place for pre-theatre dinner. The service is appalling if you talk to any of the waitresses, but great if you approach the owner or his son. The food is fantastic. I can give you the address, if you want.
Broadway. Not the show that you wanted to see, but Phantom of the Opera. Get there to find your tickets are missing, and it's ten minutes until the curtain goes up. In the stramash of the lobby, note with incredulity that the ogre in the box office is writing you out a credit slip. Be about to scream blue murder when the woman who got her tickets two minutes previously returns the two additional tickets she was given by mistake.
Despite being in the second row of the balcony, have a view obscured by a tall person. Thoroughly enjoy the performance, in particular the lighting, the orchestration and the singing, but feel that the show is let down by the actual tunes. Wonder if it'll be better at the cinema.
But it probably won't be.
Christmas Day is cold. Exchange gifts, then wake up. Put your bottle of domestic champagne-method wine on the windowsill for a few seconds to chill, call room service for a hot breakfast, don't invite the nice young man who delivers it to tarry, but instead enjoy a relaxing Bucks Fizz breakfast with your chosen companion. Luxuriate in your five foot wide circular bath while you enjoy the last of your champagne.
Head outside. It's cold, and the streets are full of tourists, mainly heathen who therefore don't appreciate the lack of shopping. Take a bus downtown to the Manhattan Bridge to stand in the cold clear air, complaining about Kirsty MacColl and pretending to be in a Woody Allen movie. Not one of the early ones, with gags, but one of the middle phase, with the more realistic humour, the character development, the self doubt, and the city as a star.
Decide it's far too cold to be outside, and walk back towards the Subway, but end up in a pub instead. Have a pint of homebrew, and a burger. Suitably warmed and charmed, head back to your hotel for a nap.
Consider skipping your dinner reservation at a restaurant which apparently boasts a celebrity chef, and has the advantage of being open and in your hotel lobby. Be slightly concerned by how empty it is, and the fact that the menu reads "Christmas Eve Special Menu". Prepare yourself for a night of overpriced leftovers.
As you struggle through your giant plate of turkey ("Haute Cuisine, yeah, right"), watch as the slim man in the kilt and his elephantine spouse shovel their similarly laden platters into in his case his sporran, and in hers, her gullet. Marvel at the closeness they share and try not to imagine them having sex.
Retire after a slow-paced day, a day of enjoying just being, without any of the attendant fuss or ritual or signals. This is a large part of why you're on holiday at Christmas.
Christmas Eve is a bit of a blur, sadly. Part of this is undoubtedly down to being hung over, and part of this is down to the fact that it is another day of shopping.
In the morning, head North up Madison Avenue, starting at Diesel and hitting every handbag store that you can find. Be nice to shop assistants when they are helpful. Address them by name and get further discounts, probably.
Around twelve, decide that you need a coffee in the only part of town where Starbucks is not ubiquitous. Pop in to a little place on the upper east side for lunch with Yoko Ono. Afterwards, head back to the hotel, dump stuff, then hit Soho for more shopping. Try to find an off licence to get a bottle of champagne to celebrate Christmas, with great difficulty. But Smores, Lays, Krispy Kreme and Antacid.
Enjoy a romantic evening of in-room dining and an on-demand movie over a bottle of wine with your favourite friend.
Bound out of bed at eight-ish, full of life. And why not? You're on holiday, and miraculously you have no jet lag whatsoever. And guess what, you're in New York, where things are happening as they say in bad movies. First port of call is Breakfast. The Red Flame Diner is just across the road, and they do a mighty fine omlette, so it's said. And a fraction of the price of room service.
Go to a bus stop to get a bus downtown. Discover that buses don't take bills, that it's impossible to get change, and that four dollars in quarters weighs about half a tonne. So get a taxi. Stand at "ground zero" in the rain for a few minutes, looking at it, and saying nothing of any meaning. Turn round and walk in to the giant discount store behind you. Boggle in awe at the awfulness of it. Buy a coffee to get change for the bus, and call it "corrffeee" and watch while people stare at you. Get a bus to the first "big" shop on your list. Diesel. Buy.
Head along to some more shops, and buy some more. Sit down in desparation in the shoe salon at Kenneth Cole. Grimace when your partner informs you that he's got a major splinter under his nail, and be astonished at the lack of a first aid kit in the store. Get another taxi back to your hotel.
Pull a half inch splinter of wood from under your partner's nail, muttering phrases like "brave little soldier". Celebrate by going out and buying him some more shoes. And shirts. And god knows what else.
For dinner, grab another cab and head to Gramercy Tavern - a personal favourite. Be charmed by the excellent, easy-going service, the frankly fantastic food, and the simple eloquence with which we are charmed into a plate of pasta, poached egg and shaved white truffle. And more wine. And cheese. Do that trick where you remember the entire evening, but the period between paying and waking up the next morning is completely blurred.
Sadly, the night is peppered with the beginnings of doubts about the elasticity of the credit card...
It's quite easy to split 2004 in to two distinct halves.
In the first half, we did things. We went to London, and Austria, and Switzerland. I met people, I spoke to people, occasionally I sparkled. I was bright, energetic, I lost almost forty pounds in weight and that felt good and looked good.
However, pretty much from the beginning of July it all started to go shit. Shit leftwise with a major twist. I'm putting this down to my health, and partly down to work, and partly down to the sheer pace of life - in August we were out drinking every weekend, usually until five at least one night, and that's never good. There was good stuff in there. I met some people face to face who I'd corresponded with via e-mail, and I met some people who I hadn't corresponded with via e-mail before, but I have since. But although August had some high points, I wasn't at my best. That's when the grouchiness set in, the tiredness, the "oh-fuck-what's-the-pointness" which has characterised the last six months or so.
It was July when I first went to the doctor. That led to the blood tests, that led to the misdiagnosis and mismedication that led to the nausea that led to the going-back-to-the-doctor that led to the further mismedication that led to the extreme nausea and two days off work that led to the referral to the specialist.
The referral to the specialist turned out to be a referral to the wrong specialist, which involved the slightly embarrassing moment with the open door and no trousers, the exciting tests for Chlamydia, Gonhorrea, HIV and Hepatitis, none of which I have. The wrong specialist referred me on to the right specialist, which led to the uncomfortable procedure which led to the agonising wait which led to diagnosis and medication.
It's been a long journey. Five months from first going to a doctor to actually getting pills that work - hopefully. (I've only been on them for three days and they seem to be working.)
It's a relief to be able to put a name to my illness, and a relief to know that it's something that's recognisable and diagnosable and treatable. Admittedly, I'd prefer that the name wasn't Crohn's, but I've got to look at the naming of it as a good thing. It gives me a chance to go forward in to 2005 and make a new start.
Happy new year.
Update: For those who have asked, my response to my medication has been almost immediate, and entirely positive. Symptoms gone within 48 hours and no side-effects. This gives me some confidence in the diagnosis, which is nice. I'm still learning about Crohn's, so I know that this is remission and that it could flare up again, but I will cope with that when it happens. For now, I am in the best health I've been for months. Possibly longer.
"So, what are you doing for Christmas?" they ask. They, in this case, being more or less anyone from our security guard Norbert, an octagenarian with oral herpes through to Mary, my specialists' secretary who herself specialises in vacancy and nail buffing.
"We're going to New York," I reply.
"Ooooh," they say. This is almost the universal reaction. And then, after a pause, they tend to ask why.
It always seems like a great idea to go away for Christmas, and in a sense it is. We both need time off, and the family christmas, while wonderful, can also be a stressful time - not so much because of the family events, but because of the bits between - the driving through freezing fog across country, the consequent moderation in drinking, and sitting around waiting for things to happen. So this year, just us. And when Mr Twinky asked where we should go, the words "New York" just fell out of my mind.
But why New York? Surely it'll be closed at Christmas, the same as everywhere else. And those places that we want to go to will be booked up months in advance so we won't able to do anything spontaneous. And we'll be jet lagged, surely.
So far, we've got a show booked for 26th December. We've got a couple of dinners booked. We've got a couple of galleries to visit, and we're planning a shopping route of sales. We intend to go ice skating, but only after I have bought comedy mittens to help when I go arse-over-tit in front of some precocious fourteen-year-old.
But what else, I wonder. What else is there that I really must do?
I've been ill since September 2003. I had a period of remission from December 2003 to July 2004, but since the beginning of July I've been continuously ill. Now don't get me wrong, I'm not very ill, it's not life threatening, and it's only mildly inconvenient. On Friday, I'm going back to my specialist and we're going to discuss treatment. The chances are that by the middle of January I'll be fine.
I'm more nervous about this meeting with my consultant than I've been about any previous trip to the doctor. Back in August when I was put on drugs that knocked me sideways, I was fine about it. But now, I've grown so accustomed to the fact that this is something that I live with, I'm not certain how I will handle things when it's gone.
It's a weird admission, that one, and not one that I fully understand what I mean by. Part of it is that I've used my illness as a way to excuse myself from situations where I was uncomfortable, or to take time off when I was exhausted and irritable. How will I do that when I don't have "mild illness" as a pretext? Well, hopefully I won't be exhausted and irritable as much.
The other reason I'm nervous about being cured is that I'm feeling particularly irritable and sensitive at the moment. I usually suffer from SAD to some extent - as we all do, I suspect, but this is either a particularly bad year for it, or I'm stressed out by a lack of holiday and my worries about my health (and exhausted by the illness itself, which can be pretty draining). I've been blaming it all on my health, but what if it's not? What if I'm cured and I'm still tired and ratty. What if I really am like this?
I went back.
All the way on the train, I sat with my earphones in, listening to anachronism with the steady beat of the click-clack, click-clack drumming in the background. Kenco coffee, reheated burger, Bacon, Lettuce, Tomato. It was raining outside.
I didn't have to go. I hadn't intended to when I left home that morning, but I took a wrong turning, ended up on a familiar platform, and the outdated sign caught my eye. I hadn't realised there was a train that went there. But it made sense to the 10-year-old in me, and caught the imagination of the 36-year-old. I didn't hesitate, but boarded the train back.
When we got there, it wasn't quite as I remembered it. Funny thing, the memory of colour. It's never right. Winters were always grey here, summers were always bright and colourful, at least in my memory. Reality was... different. Better, in some ways. Colder.
From the station, I walked up the hill. In my mind, I knew I was looking for my old haunts, the places that I used to go. Some I remembered immediately, others were warm, pleasant surprises. This pub, that museum, this shop, that beer garden. Through narrow, half forgotten streets, tracing the lines that connected my memories together.
Yet, although half-familiar, it wasn't right. Perhaps it was viewing the city through older eyes, eyes that had seen more of the world, had seen the mistakes I'd made, the mistakes of others. This city was where I was when I was innocent. By walking through it, I was retreading my past, everything that I had put behind me. It was good to be there, good to know where I had come from, but it wasn't my city any more. We'd both moved on.
I left when I was 20. I had a skewed and distorted view of the world and how it worked, and how I fitted in. That's how it works, though, when you're 20. You know what you think you know with fierce conviction, and experienced voices are irrelevant, irritations, or simply ignored. You can't go back, not really.
I turned and walked back to the station, past the building that would burn down fifteen years later, past the newspaper offices that would be converted in to a hotel, got back on the first train I found. The doors slid closed smoothly and I returned home. Back where I belonged.
There's a street in my dreams, and I think it's Leith Walk.
It's not Leith Walk, obviously. Leith Walk's the broad street (avenue, boulevard) running downhill from the Playhouse to Leith. The top end is home to a cluster of gay bars, the bottom is another story entirely. I know Leith Walk quite well, from my Edinburgh days. I know the top end - the end with the gay bars, the pet shop, Valvona and Crolla much better than "the other end", although I have walked its length many times, and although I couldn't name every side street, or necessarily find a particular shop on a particular stretch, it's familiar to me.
The street in my dreams is similar, but not the same. For a start, the street in my dreams has a much more pronounced curve at the top, so it's hard to see more than a couple of hundred yards down the street from the top. There's a garden area on Leith Walk that's not there in the dream street. Instead there's a large gothic church - probably sandstone, blackened with age and pollution, and almost certainly converted into shops. I can't be certain. I've never been in. I'll go in sometime. The shape of the street, and the location of that building are always constant.
Usually the street is in Nottingham. I don't know why it's in Nottingham. I've only been to Nottingham once, and I remember a couple of things, but I may be confused with Norwich, where I have been twice. But in dream-nottingham, you head west out of town, at the north side of the city centre, you go down a short hill - there used to be a carpark there, but the last time I was there, "they" were building apartments. At the bottom of the hill the built up area starts again, and you can't miss it. It's the big street in my dreams that I keep coming back to.
I don't usually get all the way down the street. I'm usually looking for something. A small secret shop, perhaps, one of those shops that appear when you're a child, the ones you can never find a second time. Sometimes, I get distracted by a wide avenue that curves off to the left, and wander down there. The avenue's almost certainly a real street in Edinburgh, but it's nowhere near Leith Walk.
The last time the street was in my dreams it was in Tokyo. I didn't realise that until I woke up, but it was definitely in Shinjuku. The architecture had changed subtly, although the topography hadn't. The confectioner's shop had a sign in Japanese, a noren over the door, and stocked lychees in syrup.
It's possible that I've tapped in to some archetype of a street, something that only exists in a dream state. That's pretty unlikely, mind, but I try not to dismiss something as impossible just because it's utterly ridiculous. It's possible that it's a street I remember from a visit to Nottingham, although that's unlikely. It's definitely not in Tokyo, although I went for a brief walk through unfamiliar side streets that definitely are.
No, I think that for whatever reason the street in my dreams is probably mostly Leith Walk. I just find myself wondering why.
I've often thought that I write best when I'm not particularly happy. Happiness saps me of the will to write, because there are plenty of other things that I could be doing, like frolicking merrily through forests, mountain biking, or charming people with my wit and erudition. Shit like that.
Misery, on the other hand, is great for the creative process. Good writing tends to embody a fair amount of tension, conflict, issues, and in the resolution of those issues a healthy dose of fantasy is required, kick-starting the imagination and sending the mind in to those wonderful cartwheels from which the ridiculous, the amusing and the interesting spew forth. After all, if you don't need to find something to laugh at, why should you try looking for it?
Recently, I ran through the first four years of this blog, and deleted a whole load of entries. Re-reading four years of my life over a period of a few weeks gave me an insight in to my mood. I like to think of myself as relatively calm and level-headed, pretty much trundling along on an emotional even keel. I like to think I'm basically happy. I'm not. I vary between vaguely dis-satisfied and definitely dis-satisfied. I need stimulus, and I moan when the stimulus isn't there. I need space, and I moan when the space isn't there. And when I get space and time to myself, I waste it. I just throw it away.
Good grief, this is all a bit over-analytical, isn't it? And somewhat rambly.
I was back at the Doctor on Friday. I am ridiculously healthy, it seems. I've always thought I was. There's still something wrong with me, but we've eliminated everything we've tested for so far. In particular, I don't have:
So that Doctor has run out of things I might have - I'm being sent to a new specialist. Joy.
Oh, I pity you if you're one of my colleagues today.
I have spent most of this morning wallowing in self-pity, which is probably down to a combination of my ongoing tropical disease drama, and the accompanying and doubtless related listlessness and passive-aggressive behaviour, which I'm recognising, saying hello to, introducing to my friends, and letting run rampant. I really shouldn't, but I am letting the evil genie out of the evil bottle and embracing my inner bitch-queen.
And she's nasty. I think she needs a name, and that name is going to be Zebithaya Kell-Ashe for reasons which I'll go into another time.
We started writing a couple of posts here earlier, but decided not to finish them. We'll save them for later. I started writing them myself, but then Zebithaya saw what I was doing, and took over for a while. The result was almost evil. They're the sort of posts that are wickedly creative, but at the moment they're just gratuitously offensive. I'm still in control here, but only just. I wanted to delete them, but she wouldn't let me.
Zebithaya is also writing my e-mail. She's very good at it. She picks and chooses the questions that she wants to respond to. For example, a colleague of mine wrote to me saying "can you revise document X to make it better". Zebithaya wrote back to say "I'm aware that document X is not great, and it's on my list of documents to improve. [Thank you for pointing it out, but it's very easy to point out things that are wrong without saying why they're wrong, or suggesting improvements.] I'm open to any suggestions you have." Zebithaya then pointed out that document X was replaced by document Y some five months previously.
I got called in to a meeting. I was asked to do some work, which is fair enough. Then I got back to my desk, looked at it, and saw that what I was being asked to do actually looked ridiculous. So... Zebithaya went back in and explained why we weren't happy to proceed. She did get a little stared at, but she stuck to her guns because she was right.
It's interesting. I'm not saying I'm entirely happy about it, but releasing my inner demon is proving cathartic in some ways and distressing in others. I'm more concerned than Zebithaya is, but then she doesn't really care about anything apart from herself.
"No.. get the drop just there..." Mr Twinky holds my wrist, I twitch, there's blood on the right place on the bit of paper, but did I touch it? Did that contaminate the test? I wait for the alotted time, for the magic chemicals to do their work and turn my blood in to an indicator of my cholesterol levels. Nervously, I tear apart the kit.
Nothing. No result. I have no cholesterol. I put it down to flunking the test, cocking it up, or the round of medication I was on at the time.
Today, I got a whole load of test results from my doctor. Including a proper Cholesterol count done by a proper pathology lab. Turns out I might not have flunked the home test after all. I've got incredibly low cholesterol. Almost unhealthily so. Indeed, according to some medical websites I've looked up (including the British Heart Foundation), I should probably be aiming to increase my cholesterol levels.
Excuse me for a second. Increase?
When I go home tonight I'm going to fry up some eggs and bacon, and have a couple of pints to celebrate.
"That's a really nice, shirt," said Neasa this morning, walking in to my office without a hint of the hangover that she so richly deserves. "It really suits you."
It's not a cheap shirt, and it's a shirt that has some personal significance. It's a Paul Smith shirt, purchased from Harvey Nichols (officially my favourite place to buy groceries) in Edinburgh last month. It's also a "medium" size.
A year ago, I would never have bought it. Because I would never have worn it. Because I was - to put it mildly - chunky.
Neasa's 24. She's one of those lasses from the country who know everybody in Dublin, and like to go home at the weekends to see their favouritest horse. She doesn't like greyhounds, because they're ugly, and she has a phobia about blood. She's also slightly of a Rubenesque stature - in a good way - and she didn't know me last year. As far as she knows I've always looked this way. She didn't know me before I lost weight, you see.
Spurred on by young Dave we went a-dieting in January. And since then I've mislaid the weight of a two year old boy. Imagine carrying around a two year old child all day every day. Now stop imagining it. Imagine the relief of putting down that child. And now - and this is the best bit - imaging putting down the child and it just vanishing before it can yell at you and be annoying. Imagine the bliss.
Norman, our somewhat crusty Legal director was concerned that either my illness was caused by my weight loss or that my weight loss was caused by my illness - no matter how often I told him otherwise. Nice that he cared, though.
I'd tried to lose weight before, but most diets generally fall in to the category of "silly", or in some cases "dangerous". I've lost weight without going hungry, without going without anything completely, essentially just by cutting back a bit. And you know what - it was easy.
And I'm aware that putting it back on would be easy. I don't want to do that again soon.
John, the chunky bloke who I once described as dressing like "man at C & A" was nice about my shirt too. At lunch, I had a salad, while he had a sausage roll.
Ah, it was all different when I was a nipper. One hint of a measle, and Mrs Oddverse (as I liked to call my Mum) would bundle me off on a train. Trains were great then. They left from the big smelly station with the road that ran through it, a giant grey monster crouching under North Bridge. This was before coffee shops, before Boots moved in, before you could buy a packet of M&S sarnies to keep you going. There was only one thing worth buying back then - tickets.
Tickets were great. They were tall and thin and they told you where you were going. The top was a red stripe, and the guard would cut the corner off on the train to show that you'd used half the ticket and it was now only valid for the return journey.
The trains smelled like proper trains in those days - stale ciggies and pee. Every pair of double seats had a full table between them, its surface a sticky black waxy substance that was probably mostly made up of layers of ersatz coffee. The floors were sticky too.
We'd rush to the platform, show our ticket to the guard and get on the train, sit, wait. Eventually, it would thunder to life, and we'd be off on our way through the night, trying to spot when we were about to go up and down the bumps on the Forth Bridge, even though the journey was in a completely different direction.
Later, we'd get to wave at the back of Uncle Jack and Auntie Isa's house. If they knew we were going to be there, they'd be out on the porch waving back. They were Mrs Oddverse's Aunt and Uncle, and so they were really really old. I watched Doctor Who from behind their sofa on the 6th of October 1979 during the ITV strike.
Eventually we'd get to our destination. I was never allowed to open the doors. They had this cunning system where there were no handles on the inside of the door, so you had to open the window, reach out, and open them from the outside. This was for security. It made it harder to open the doors accidentally, but easier for you to open the window, lean your whole upper body out and get decapitated by a tree because you were still whistling through rural Scotland at a cheery 47 miles an hour or whatever.
As we approached the platform, the doors would start to open. Young men about town, rushing back to the country to see their sweethearts would leap from the train, hoping to kick-start a jauntiness that would see them through their reunion. Mrs Oddverse would hold me and my sister back until the train had come to a complete standstill at the platform, and then - carefully minding the gap - we would rush away into the waiting arms of our grandparents. They'd be taking care of us until we were better. Hurrah.
Ah, it was great being ill in those days. You got a holiday and an adventure.
There was half an hour yesterday that was kind of scary.
I was in a meeting mood, which basically meant that I would sit at my desk for an hour, frozen in to inactivity because my boss had decided that the meeting that he had called could wait until an unspecified time. I'd need to be ready to jump, so I couldn't really start anything. My fingernails were beautifully manicured. Suddenly, just as he decided that he wanted to talk to me, my mobile phone started buzzing away. Lucky it.
I pulled it from my pocket. "This is Mr Oddverse," I said. I never like to use my real name at work. It keeps people on their toes.
"Hello, Mr Oddverse," said the disembodied voice. "Doctor Ndi would like to see you. Soon."
I was suddenly out of meeting mood and in to "what-the-fuck" mood. I last saw Doctor Ndi on Monday, when he sent me to the hospital for tests. I gave them about a pint of blood in different tubes, and a small plastic box full of waste matter. I bet you didn't want to know that. Tough. They told me it would be a fortnight before I had any results, and that I would have to call Doctor Ndi to get them. And then, forty-eight hours later I was summoned to see him. For the second time this week I went straight in to shock.
I bumbled my way through the meeting. "Yes, Colin, I would love to work for you forever. No, my health isn't any better, thank you for asking. Yes, I'll do you some more reports." And then I ran from the building and jumped in to the first taxi I could find.
The first taxi I could find was driven by a deaf octogenarian. He'd put a no smoking sign in his car, so he was forced to smoke by leaning out of the window - which coincidentally made it easier for him to swear at passers by. We took an unusual route, which I put down to him knowing about a traffic jam or road works.
"Where do you want to stop?" he asked, as we slowed down in front of Fallon's.
"Nowhere near here," I replied, somewhat flippantly. I had no fingernails left by this point. He'd driven me to completely the wrong street, because he hadn't been listening properly when I told him where I wanted to go. He was kind of nice about it, saying that he wasn't going to put it down to my accent. Clearly that meant that he thought it was my accent. I was too full of nerves to say anything. I was going to the doctor and he was going to give me bad news.
Obviously, it wasn't that bad. There wasn't a queue, so I could sit down immediately, and he told me straight away what it is he thinks I have (note the word "thinks" there - there's still a chance that it's wrong).
Essentially, I'm a breeding ground. Everyone is, but I've got something growing inside me that you don't. At least I hope that you don't. I've got a tropical disease. I suppose I should count myself lucky. Not everyone in Ireland has a condition that's so unusual that it has to be notified to the department of health. Not everyone is on enough medication to stop a rhino in its tracks and make it think for a minute. Not everyone has to wait a week for their medication to be imported.
At least I know what's wrong with me. I'd been thinking 'everything'. Everything from something I ate, to stress, to something that was going to make me fall over and die tomorrow. It's none of those. It could be something I've had for years, dormant. I'm kind of hoping it's something I picked up in India.
And I get to take lots of pills, and I have to keep going back to the pharmacy. I'm sure that the pharmacist was chatting me up.
For the last few nights, I've had very vivid dreams.
I go through phases of having vivid dreams, and usually when I do it ties in with a phase when I'm more creatively-minded than normal. I can trace patterns, spot recurring themes, and relate these to things that are going on in my life.
I'm kind of bemused by my current dreams. In one sense they're perfectly normal - my entire life is rearranged in ways that interconnect previous places I've been, and the geography of my past is used as a visual metaphor to trigger emotions that relate to the current social and psychological landscape in which I find myself. The usual.
The odd things about these dreams, though, is the cast of supporting characters. People I've not thought about for years at all - the project manager on a project I worked on two years ago, or the woman who used to run one of our call centre teams back in the days when the people who answered phones for companies actually then did something after they put the phone down. She was in my dream last night. I've no idea why. The closest we came to friendship was a couple of nights out, and I stored a sofabed for her once.
What is my subconscious trying to tell me?
Because I'm not feeling great, I will probably go to see a doctor at lunch time.
In the past, my experience with doctors hasn't been great. They have tended to treat me as something to process, a bag of symptoms rather than a person. Which, I guess is part of their job. It wouldn't really do if they were spending all day with sick people, would it, as it would drive them insane, wouldn't it? Or at the very least push them towards clinical depression.
There have been notable exceptions. The Australian doctor that I went to in Foreign was very good, relaxing and personable, although she did have a tendency to reel off lists of chemicals and tell me where I was deficient or over-compensating. And older doctors are worse than younger doctors. Older doctors make me feel like I am wasting their time, when they could be treating sick people.
Don't get me started on dentists. Dentists are worse. They try to tell you that you are a bad person, they cause pain, they put on rubber gloves and poke about in your mouth, leaving behind small fragments of tartar that stay around for weeks, and then they charge a small fortune for it.
Sod it, I'm going to the pharmacist instead.
In other news, a London Police Box has been spotted on the streets of Cardiff.
We've got a family myth. The family myth is that - somehow - I am related to Tallulah Bankhead. It's a complete and utter fiction. We've been through the relevant archives, we've read her biography, and there's no shared blood between her and myself that we can find. But there's a certain appeal to the myth, still. And I dare say that without it, her most famous quotation wouldn't have anything like the resonance that it has for me.
If I had my life to live again. I'd make the same mistakes, only sooner.
It's an appealing idea, if you pick on the right sort of mistakes. The serendipitous accidents that send our life off in interesting new directions, the ones that we learn from, or that make us stronger and better. I've made a few mistakes. I basically screwed up my twenties, and there's a certain appeal to going back and reliving them and doing something foolish and foolhardy much earlier on. But if I was given the chance to go back and live my life again, I'd do exactly the same things. I can say that absolutely, without question, and without hesitation. Because once, I had the opportunity to go back and undo a mistake.
We're still in Hong Kong for this story, and it's around April 1999. I don't know the exact date, and I wish I did, but I do know that it was some time between January and May of that year. I was on a date.
It was a good date. I'd been seeing the gentleman in question since January, and he basically "ticked all of the right boxes". He was handsome, intelligent, sensual, funny, creative, sociable, and knew a lot about food, and art, and culture, and design, and he was a cheeky bugger who wound me up something rotten. He'd taken me to places that I'd never been before. We'd been to Macau - on valentine's day of all days, and we'd had an excellent dinner at a little place just off the beaten track, just a mile and a world away from the town centre where I'd been with Jason some eight months earlier. He knew my hang-ups, the way my mind worked, my sense of humour, and my nervousness about commitment. I knew he was more serious about me than vice versa, but things were gradually getting serious. He was showing me things that I thought I knew in a different way.
Fairly regularly, we got drunk. This night was no exception. We were sitting in a bar on one of the islands. We'd gone for dinner, and we'd had what was to become our standard fare of a fantastic range of fresh seafood. We'd talked. We talked a lot. And then we'd talked some more, and he was winding me up. I can't even remember what the conversation was about. I remember three lines, though.
"Why do you let me get away with this?" he asked.
"Because I love you."
The "Wow" was very quiet there. It was followed, shortly afterwards by my realisation of what I'd said. I'd never said that to any man before him. It was kind of a serious thing to say. I had a vague feeling that we were kind of heading in that direction in our relationship, but I had expected him to say it first. He had expected to say it first too. But that was it. A slip of my tongue and the genie was out of the bottle. And how did it feel?
It felt absolutely fantastic. It was the best mistake I'd ever made. It was hugely liberating, exhilarating. That evening I was walking on air. There was no way that anything could possibly go wrong in the world as long as I was in love, and he was by my side. It remains one of the high points of my life to this day.
I hadn't realised how much importance I ascribed to those three little words. I hadn't realised the huge sense of commitment that they carried with them. At that point there was a whole emotional juggernaut shifting awkwardly in to gear, and I only had one chance to put on the brakes.
The next morning, on sober reflection. I realised that I could get away with unsaying those words. "I got carried away in the heat of the moment," or "I was drunk," or possibly even "look, I really don't think we have a future." To be honest, I don't think a retraction crossed my mind, though, although I do believe that if I'd tried to retract it he would have accepted my apology gracefully. But what went through my mind was "What if he thinks I was just saying it last night because I was drunk?"
So I said it again to him. In the cold light of morning. And it was just as true then as it was the night before.
And I still say it to him, regularly. Because, of course, he's Mr Twinky. He is still sexy and funny and clever, and all of those good things I said about him earlier. We still get drunk. We still tell each other that we love each other, and I can't imagine a day when I don't want to tell him that.
If I had my life to live again, I wouldn't change a damn thing. I'd screw up my twenties again, because if I hadn't done that I wouldn't have been in the right place at the right time to meet the right man and say the right thing. And that, I think it's fair to say, is that.
"I want to go back to Hong Kong," says Michael. "Why did we ever leave?"
We're sitting in his flat in London, looking out over his fantastic view over a car park. Still, it's quite a nice car park. If you leave the flat and walk for a few minutes you can see the river, and across that you can see the glowing towers of Canary Wharf. It's not Hong Kong.
I'm in London for a couple of days, for an exciting International Forum. I've flown all the way from one anonymous office to sit in an even more anonymous office, but I've combined this with a day's holiday, which I'm spending with Michael. With no plans to do anything.
As I mentioned yesterday, I met Michael through a mutual friend, and over the summer of that year he became one of my best friends. It's an odd term to use - I was in my twenties at the time, rather than a six year old child. The concept of a 'best friend' always seems to be an idea that should become less important in time, as your circle of friends widens, and you draw on different people for different things. Ranking of friendships seems like the petty action of a child, a privilege to be given, to be bestowed on one special individual. But I grew to trust Michael implicitly, to rely on his opinion. I found him to be a bizarre mix of easy-going and neurotic, of being image-conscious and not caring what other people thought. And he was going to leave.
I knew that pretty much from the first day I met him. He had plans to leave Hong Kong, he had a date when he was going, he knew where he was going, and he knew what he was going to do. London was calling him. I don't think I paid the fact any attention though. We did friend things - we hung out, we went drinking together, we met each others friends and acquaintances, and we'd chat about boyfriends and stuff. I'd do a bit of technical support for his lap top from time to time, in exchange for some food and wine - all the usual stuff.
Things got a bit messy around the time Michael was due to leave Hong Kong. He started seeing someone. That's a whole story in itself, which I'm not going to go in to. But the last couple of weeks that Michael was in Hong Kong, I didn't see as much of him as I had before. We both had boyfriends, and we both wanted to spend time with them. I was really happy for Michael, though. I didn't grudge him the time with his boyfriend, because he was so damn happy. It didn't get in the way of the friendship I shared with Michael - if anything it made it stronger.
Since then, I've only seen Michael on a hand full of occasions. We go through phases where we talk regularly. We go through phases when we don't. But in a way that doesn't matter.
"I want to go back to Hong Kong," says Michael. "Why did we ever leave?"
He doesn't want to go back to Hong Kong. He just wants to go back to that summer.
In the days when I was first online, I was a chat room addict. I'd spend a long time, every day, 'hanging out' in an online community full of people who - like myself - had nothing better to do. It was a way of passing time.
Fairly quickly, I gravitated towards one chat room in particular. This was a gay chat room, and I was very careful when I joined it. After all, at the time I was going through that rough patch where I really didn't know much about my sexuality. I didn't grasp the sheer diversity of gay people. I didn't realise the strange mix of relevance that my sexuality would have - the fact that in some ways it's core to my identity and my happiness but in many ways it's totally and utterly irrelevant. I didn't understand that. After all, I was young and confused. And I thought that people inside computers were like the voices in my head. They didn't matter because they were always one step away. I was safe from them because I could turn them off.
Internet chat rooms are dark murky places these days. Nobody has their own identity, half of the denizens are fourteen year old girls pretending to be twenty year old women, and the other half are forty year old men pretending to be fourteen year old girls. Or something like that, I hear. I retired from that a long time ago. But when I visited chat rooms, the internet was a more innocent and naive place, populated by people with a little bit of technical knowledge. The bulk of the world had yet to discover the joys of pretending to be someone you're not.
I was careful, though. Dutifully hidden behind a pseudonym, I discovered the power of communicating through chat. What I said mattered more than what I did. How I said it mattered most of all. I became popular in the chat room, and was elevated to the role of moderator - given powers to keep the peace. It was fun, it was meaningless, and it was the first time that I really enjoyed the company of a whole diversity of gay company. It allowed me, carefully, one step at a time to discover what being gay meant in terms of lifestyle (ie virtually nothing - why did I ever worry), and I suspect that I outgrew the need for a little computer support group. Anyway, it all fell apart when I moved to Hong Kong. I didn't have internet access for a month, and when I got back on line I realised how fragile the whole proposition was. I'd moved time zone, and my friends were eight hours apart from me now. Strange, the way the world turns.
All of that experience stood me in good stead, though. I learned how to judge people on their words, how far to believe them. Sometimes I get it wrong, but most of the time I'm entirely correct in my judgement of people's characters based on their writing. My original chat room didn't work for me any more, so I joined a Hong Kong chat room and, while it was very different from the chat room I'd known back in the UK, some of the 'rules' were still the same. Not least of these was the fact that wit and humour are always more attractive than descriptions of fetishes.
Qbert was in the chat room round about the same time as me a few times. I wanted to meet him for a coffee, but he wasn't interested. He was a Canadian guy in his mid-thirties, and I really genuinely just wanted to meet him for a coffee. We teetered towards meeting up a couple of times, but he wasn't interested, and I was scared, because he came across as so funny and confident and I was nervous and just looking for friends. This was back before I'd met Jason, even, so my self-confidence wasn't great. Qbert was clever and witty and he made me laugh, and part of me was worried in case when I met him he was a sexual predator, or thought I was one. Or something like that. It was all, so horribly potentially messy.
But on the day I bought the umbrella, I met him face to face. It's a silly association, to tie together the purchase of a cheap umbrella with the formation of a lasting friendship, but the mind works in mysterious ways sometimes, and silliness is a perfectly valid way for my mind to work. The umbrella may be gone, but the friend is still there.
It turned out that he wasn't a sexual predator. He turned out to be a good friend of Jason's. It turned out he lived across the road from me. And it turned out that his name wasn't Bert (as I'd kind of assumed, not really understanding Canadian humour). Let's call him Michael. And over the summer of that year Michael and I became strong friends. Indeed, when I was going through the horrible messy split-up that happened in October and November of that year, it turned out that both Michael and Jason were two of the best friends anyone could hope for.
Jason was the first guy that I seriously thought might go somewhere.
We'd been seeing each other for about six weeks, I guess, although I didn't really think of it like that. We were just fooling around, for a kick off. There was no 'emotional attachment' as such, but there was a sort of on-off physical relationship, where it was clear that neither of us was particularly committed to the other, and we were both looking for other things, for other people. In a sense it was great. No strings, no ties. I was still new to the whole 'gay'; thing myself - I'd only been out for a few months and it had been something of a heady whirlwind of a time. Jason was older, was experienced, and he was a nice guy. He was probably the first really genuinely nice guy that I'd met outside work since I had moved to Hong Kong, and so when he suggested that we went shopping one weekend, I agreed.
As befits the foreign and exotic lifestyle I was leading, shopping turned out to involve a hovercraft and a passport. I guess that gave the day something of an air of mystique and charm to start with. Macau was, and doubtless still is, a charming picture-postcard of faded colonial grandeur, the next pearl along the chain from Hong Kong. It's smaller, friendlier, lower rise than Hong Kong, and boasts a marvellously European town centre, full of narrow cobbled streets rising up to a landmark peak. It was beautiful, but it was raining. So I bought an umbrella from a cheap clothing store. It cost me $50.
I remember the day well for four reasons. The first is furniture. I bought a rather nice camphor wood cabinet. It's a large piece of furniture, looks great, and it's currently ageing in to a cantankerous state in our flat. It's something I'm very fond of, and I wouldn't have bought it without Jason's help, both in encouraging me to buy it, and in helping me haggle. One of Jason's great strengths was that he was incredibly practical and pragmatic, and a damn good haggler.
The second reason is that I started to see a future. I could see myself settling down with Jason. It's odd to think it now, and I don't know if I was blinded by the thrill of spending a chunky sum of money on a beautiful piece of furniture, or if I was thinking that someone with better skills at haggling than myself would be a useful person to have around. I just thought that maybe I should stop looking around quite so much and start focusing my energy on someone that I already knew, and Jason's heart seemed to be in the right place.
The third thing I remember about the day is how wrong my assumptions were. On the hovercraft back to Hong Kong, Jason told me about his ex-boyfriend. Jun was from Manila, and they'd basically lived together for a long time. Then Jun's visa had run out and he'd had to return to the Philippines, leaving Jason all on his own. The more Jason talked about Jun, the clearer the truth became. Jason was still in love with Jun. And while Jason was still in love with Jun, he wasn't interested in anybody else. That's when I knew that I couldn't afford to see a future with Jason. That's when I realised that I actually had to distance myself from him, and not allow myself to see him as anything more than a friend. I don't know if he realises how much that one conversation affected the rest of our friendship.
It was still a good day, though. When we got back to Hong Kong, I got to meet - finally - all of his friends, who turned out mainly to be Scottish women. I also met someone who - it turned out - was later to become my best friend.
That's all way in the past. Six years ago, in fact. I still have the camphor wood cabinet. I still have the best friend - although these days he's relegated to second-best place behind Mr Twinky. I still hear from Jason occasionally, and he makes the occasional comment here.
The umbrella lasted the full six years. It was - surprisingly for something bought from a cheap clothing store - really nice. It was simple, it was plain navy, and it worked well. Mr Twinky liked it - he used to make sure that he got to use it whenever possible, leaving me with something covered in marketing messages. He left it in a friend's car about a week ago. We heard last night that the owner of the car had given it to her boyfriend. It's not coming back. At the end of the day, it was only an umbrella.
I feel dirty.
I had a dentist appointment at 8.45 this morning. It's my first for a while. I keep meaning to go, but it never seems urgent, you know how it is. My teeth are all secure. They don't bother me, so I don't bother them.
At 9.30, I was still sitting in the waiting room. Reading old colour supplements. I've found out about colonic irrigation in Koh Samui in graphic depth, and about an eight year old girl who wants to play at Wimbledon. Fantastic.
At last, just as I was about to storm out and punch someone, I was ushered in to see my octogenarian dentist.
"You have teeth," he said. I could only grunt in response, as by that stage his two burly assistants had bundled me in to a chair and strapped me down. "But they are evil teeth."
"Evil teeth?" I wanted to ask, unaware of such a thing.
"Yes," he said, seemingly reading my mind. "They look beautiful from the front, but from behind they are building little walls of Tartar. That's a technical term. You can call it Evil. You need to use a Tartar Control toothpaste. And an electric toothbrush. And floss."
"I do all that," I couldn't say.
Then he threw bits of plastic in to my mouth and x-rayed me.
"You've got lovely teeth," he continued. "Lovely, lovely teeth." I could imagine him salivating in to his mask. At this point, I decided not to like him.
"Go and wait outside for ten minutes, while I develop your x-rays," he said. "Then come back in and I will tell you that you need fillings."
"Okay," I said, cursing my inability to stand up to this bully. I wanted to tell him that I would be taking my custom elsewhere, if he can develop a 45 minute backlog before nine in the morning. But I didn't. I went outside, and read about incompetent surgeons venting their spleen on appendectomies.
Ten minutes passed. Then five more. The other people in the waiting room started eyeing me suspiciously. Was I some sort of dental queue spy, sent to check up on their magazine reading habits? A cough, I looked up. I was called back in to see Doctor Death.
He didn't even let me sit down. No rot, no need for fillings, and he reckons I'll probably not need one until I'm a hundred. That's nice. That's actually pretty scary.
Not as scary as the fact that I have to go to the hygenist. For training. I have to learn to break down the walls of evil, and use the tools that I already use, but better. The hygenist will scrape that Evil out from between my teeth, and there will be blood. And while I am lying there bleeding, and possibly screaming, she will lecture me.
I'm scared of this already, and it's three weeks away...
Our neighbour is supposed to be moving out today. However, he wasn't there last night. All night. We've no idea where he is.
We're not spying on him. We have been through phases of trying to track his movements, but that was when we were really rather afraid of him, and so whenever he was around we would carry baseball bats and wear helmets. We've not really been keeping an eye on him recently, particularly not since we knew that his departure was imminent and the end of the period of feeling like a pair of prisoners in our own home was due.
There was a knock on the door last night. A small, neatly dressed woman who turned out to be our neighbour's landlady.
Oh aye, you may think. Coming by to complain about the complaints. But nothing of the sort. She'd been showing a pair of prospective new tenants around the apartment, and she'd been showing them out when she had let the door swing closed behind her. With her keys inside, her handbag inside, all the blinds open, all the lights on. And she was wondering if we could point her at the caretaker, and if he had a master key. We know that he doesn't.
So we invited her in and sat her down. I made her tea while Mr Twinky phoned a locksmith, and in the end we decided to sit down and have a chat while her husband got her spare car keys. We left her handbag in the apartment overnight, and she got the locksmith out today - at a much cheaper rate. She was lovely. It was all very nice and civilised, and if she was aware that we were the people who had complained about her tenant, she never mentioned it. And nor did we.
So we've met the woman who owns the flat next door, and she's really nice. Unfortunately, if and when our neighbour decides to come and pick up his stuff, all the locks on his flat will have changed...
Two months ago, our lovely neighbour decided that he really wanted to vent his frustration by yelling at people and generally destroying large chunks of the building.
What did we do about it? Did we set fire to his flat? Course not. Did we secretly wish that someone would break his windows? Absolutely. Did we moan about him to anyone who would listen. Of course. Did we write a letter of complaint to the management committee of the building. Yes.
We have a routine when it comes to letters of complaint. Mr Twinky writes them. He's usually got more bile and venom about these things, so he's better focussed on getting across the points that he wants to complain about. I then take the letter that he's written, read it, make sure it's grammatical and that it's not too phlegmatic, and then we send it off. I don't usually change much.
I'm going to put my aside here. I really need to find a nice way to do these asides. Anyway, if you're writing a letter of complaint to a large company, it pays to put in all sorts of spleen-venting, as you're usually the customer and although they'll be pissed off at you, they'll also be scared. When writing a letter to someone who hasn't done anything wrong, asking them to do something for you, civility and grammar are your friends. But I digress.
So we wrote the letter to the management company, fired it off, got a reply - which was much appreciated - and left it. We heard nothing else. We haven't seen our neighbour for weeks. The nearest we came to contact was when his burglar alarm was going off last week, and knowing that he was away we called the police. We didn't go out of our way to antagonise him, indeed we tried to avoid all contact.
Today, we've heard the final outcome of our complaint (and, I suspect other complaints from residents of the building). His lease is not being renewed.
A doctor once asked me when I was going to stop burning the candle at both ends. "When it stops being fun," was my somewhat glib reply. I was younger then.
I had a great time on Saturday night. Good food, plenty of wine, good company. We walked home on Sunday morning. Not early enough for shops to be open, but late enough that the dawn chorus had long-since folded up their sheet music, muttered "sod this" and buggered off home. This made Sunday a fragile day, a day of recovery, and a wasted day.
But I had a great time on Saturday night. Arguing with teachers is always good. Getting in to a heated debate with someone who doesn't believe in individuals, and regards the whole of humanity as a single unity is always good for a laugh. Standing in the kitchen, solving the world, staggering home and forgetting about the next 24 hours.
Me: Hello (I never give my name. They should know the name of the person they're calling).
Evil: Hello, is that Mr Oddverse?
Me: Yes (already suspicious)
Evil: Hi, I'm calling on behalf of...
Me: Can I just stop you there?
Evil: ... yes...
Me: [Puts down phone. Cackles like wicked witch of West.]
Let's start at the top. There's a heaviness in my eyes. I'm not sleeping well at the moment, thanks to the dank warmth. It's like being back in the tropics, but without the mangoes. I need a giant fan in the bedroom. The giant fan is in the dining room. I must move it. Must.
My ears are okay. Not ideal, but okay. My mild dermatitis is under control, and I don't have any of those horrible hard spots that flare up from time to time, and look like I've had a nasty reaction to an attempted piercing.
My mouth is sore. I've got an infected gum, and although it's healing well, it aches dully throughout the day. I fear crusty bread.
My shoulders are stiff. I feel as though I have a hump, being hunched over a PC all day. There's a dead pain in the middle of my back, and I've twisted something or pulled something in my hip. That's not too bad, until I try to walk, and then I feel that I want to limp.
I have a bruise on my left forearm. It happened sometime yesterday afternoon. I don't know how it happened, but it's not nice.
My hands... apart from the ugliness of my fingernails, which is all self inflcited, I've currently got five patches of dermatitis on my fingers. As ever, none of them are really serious, but they're enough to be a concern. Four of them have flared up in the last four days.
My legs are lovely. I'm told. And my feet are like most people's feet. The unsightly distant cousins of the rest of my body, we aren't really on speaking terms. They carry me around from place to place. I have a twinge in the big toe on my left foot. The pessimist in me thinks that this is a hairline fracture.
Every day, I'm getting older. My body doesn't fix itself the way it used to, although it is still the most complex and marvellous device for carrying around consciousness and spreading ideas. I maintain it, but probably not as well as I should, I push it harder than it deserves, I abuse it with sugar, with saturated fat, with alcohol. I am lucky. I am lucky to be comfortable in my skin, not to want to radically change it with intrusive surgery or radical dieting. I want to take care of it, because I am the only one of us who can.
Today, I called one of my true friends and told him that I loved him. I've not called him for ages, and I wasn't going to call him today, but I got an e-mail from him so I knew he was awake, and at home, and so I called him and we chatted for ten minutes. It was good to hear his voice. I miss him.
I consider myself blessed to have so many true friends. These are people that I can go for months, or years even, without speaking to. But when I do, it's like no time has passed. And I know that if they need me, and I can help them, I will, and vice-versa.
I know I'm going to miss some out here, but there's the obvious one - the fellow I live with. There's the man I called today. There's Z, who used to comment here, and e, who still does, and of course, Boff. There's Jon & Mrs Jon, who I haven't seen since 2001, and haven't spoken to in almost two years. There's Ruth & Douglas who comment here, and AM who doesn't. And there are others, probably too many to mention. These people are my extended 'family'. And they're scattered to the four corners of the world, but just by knowing them, I am a better person.
We've had a nice meal, we've gone home and relaxed with a drink or two in front of the television, and we're mellow. Gradually, though, we become aware of... noise.
It starts quietly, grows gradually. Someone nearby is having a party. Our apartment is soundproofed, the marketing blurb claimed. Well, it's about as soundproofed as a shoebox full of holes. We can't tell exactly where the party noise is coming from, but when we close the bedroom door, we block it out just enough.
We're tidying up and I hear the door open. I peer through our spy hole. Our neighbour's come home. I can't remember his name, so I'll call him "Thad". He's either English or Australian, I've never really worked out which. He's brought another man with him, and they exchange a few words that suggest that they are on intimate terms. Or that they will be on intimate terms later on. We christen the new friend "Shag", and retire to bed, trying to sleep.
The noise of the party is distant. Then suddenly THUMP! Thump Thump Thump. It sounds like someone's dropping large planks directly outside our flat. Mr Twinky's sitting bolt upright. I've almost opened my eyes again. Someone's moving outside... and then they're gone. Scott gets up, and goes to look out of the window by the front door to see what's going on. Footsteps return THUMP! Thump Thump THUMP!
And then there's the sound of the door opening and yelling. Fcuk, think I. He's going to get himself knived! So I scramble around looking for clothes so I can go and pick up Scott's bloody remains. By the time I get there I've learned a few things.
Shortly thereafter, I learn that
We can't work out which door he's talking about, and the volume of the yelling is such that we can be pretty sure that anyone who wasn't woken by the party or the door-bashing will be awake now. He's clearly drunk, clearly pissed off by the fact that the people throwing the party have told him to piss off, and he's shouting so much that I still can't make out his accent. I'm standing beside Mr Twinky, handling things really badly, "Shag" is peeking around the door of the flat opposite, everyone's on edge, nobody's going to back down, and we storm off to our respective corners to lick our wounds and shake.
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and we're still tiptoeing around each other. We close all the doors quietly, and we wait to see what happens next.
I work in a tiny office. Eighteen people. Within that we've got a range of strata.
This stratification allows all sorts of jolly fun and frolic, let me tell you. I can come out with all sorts of jokes that only people in the know get. There's something conspiratiorial.
It's actually incredibly annoying.
I'm tired of the whole thing.
I want to be out, properly, at work. But I haven't got a clue how to do it.
People who know don't like to spread the word. It's really odd. Ten years ago, I'd have told one person, and news of my sexuality would have spread around an office like wild fire. There would have been wee Sonja (pronounced "Son-Jar") who I'd never met, peering at me round corners and sniggering. I'd have been the office joke for a bit, but then everyone would have forgotten, at the same time as everyone would have known.
Society today is much more enlightened. I don't know of anyone who knows I'm gay and has any sort of problem with it. I'd like everyone at work to know. But I've got no idea how to do it.
So I don't know where I'm going with this. But I guess I'm going somewhere, fairly soon.
"So are you coming then?"
My colleague is a tall slender man - half German, half Irish, in his early 40s, softly spoken and quietly assertive. He's tired. I have spent many minutes today in meetings with him, watching him during quiet moments as he slips in and out of consciousness.
"Absolutely," I say. For this is the man who has invited me to 1973 for the evening. Then I admit to him that I am not prepared in any way for this. I don't have a change of clothes - my neatly tailored suit may stick out like a sore thumb amidst the brown corduroy flares and tie-dyed tee shirts that I expect to see around me as we travel back. I am reassured, told not to worry, but a small knot forms inside me.
I keep an eye on my friend as he drives slowly through the centre of Dublin. I'm sure that he knows where he is going, but the journey from Harcourt Street to Stillorgan Road takes a painful age, and we pause regularly, just long enough to give him a chance to drop off again. The car is full of opera, newspapers, a faint smell of wet dog.
1973 turns out to be in Donnybrook. We are buzzed in through security doors.
From the outside, I would have guessed that 1973 was built in the mid to late 80s. It's got some quite spacious public spaces. But that's all a sham. 1973 is, in fact hidden behind two fire doors. It's deceptively spacious, but it's definitely 1973. Posh 1973.
The fun side of 1973 was the tail end of psychedelia. Glam, rollers, bright garish colours, mushrooms, love and possibilities.
We're in Posh 1973. A flat that - for no obvious reason - has a corridor with two steps down in to the living area. A kitchen stuck in a corner of a room making about a third of the remaining space unusable. All the latest gadgets. A Moulinex. An electric tin-opener. Furniture from the past, completely out of place in its current surroundings, placed there solely because it is inherited, and its current resting place is as far as the movers were prepared to take the monstrous dresser. And every surface - walls, bookcases, shelves in the dresser is covered in pictures. Of horses.
I politely decline the offer of Cinzano. We talk about Insurance, and briefly about the Gold Standard and whether or not the Conservative party would abolish the Dollar Pool if they ever got in to power. We chortle away to ourselves on these topics until the final guest arrives, and we can settle down to the main activity of the evening.
There are only three ways this evening can go. We could place our car keys in a glass bowl, and draw keys at random. We could pose for photographs, wearing only our underwear, and pointing at various parts of the wall as though we're interested in them. Indeed, I suspect that at least one of the other guests does that on his own on a fairly regular basis, and posts pictures on Usenet. But I digress.
The folding chairs are brought out. The twin packs of cards are carefully removed from their drawer. We play Bridge. For three hours. Conversation ebbs and flows, and from time to time, our host's wife floats through in her diaphanous dress and offers us cheese straws.
By the time the evening draws to a close, and I must return to my normal position in space and time, I've learned a strange new respect for the past, and a healthy fear of the unknown as well. 1973 is certainly more innocent than I remember it being, and it's got more pictures of horses than anyone could ever want.
It's all go round our way. This morning, our cleaner came round, closely followed by the man who was going to fix the water pump, followed about twenty minutes later by Joe, who was about 23, ginger, goateed, chunky in a good way and completely incomprehensible when he spoke. He seemed to be fixing our burglar alarm, but he might have been offering to take me round the back and check out my plumbing, for all I know.
It's a monkey year, which means that within the next twelve months my age will either hit 12, 24, 36, 48, or some other multiple of 12. It's an inauspicious start to the year.
Saturday. The weather is clear, and crisp, it's not icy underfoot, and after a tiring week, we sleep in and miss the morning. Rather than seizing the day, we throw time away watching Paycheck, and goggling over Ben Affleck's resemblance to a statue on Easter Island. It's not a bad film. Nor is it a good film. Then we head off to the Chinese Festival, hoping to snag some familiar nick-nacks, or at the very worst some Char Siu Bau.
It's a big pile of arse, really. Badly organised, and badly laid out. As you walk in to it, the left hand side is full of small sheds, offering such treats as signing up for Chinese language classes, or the Dublin Chamber of Commerce, or such like. Most sheds have little more than a clipboard in them. The one stall that looks like it might sell anything Chinese is mobbed.
If we'd turned right as we walked in, we would once again have been in shed land. However, these sheds would have served a range of delicious Chinese food. Or it might not have been delicious. We couldn't tell, because the mobs had decided to occupy this side, and it was therefore crowdy chaos. Crowdy chaos always brings out my angry and bitter side, so we decided to go elsewhere. We didn't even get as far as the authentic Chinese funfair, with the authentic Chinese waltzers and calliope.
I remember Temple Street night market. Full of variety from cheap knock-off electronics, to cheap knock-off clothing, to fake watches, to home-made DVDs and VCDs, to fortune tellers, and cheap knock-off porn and fantastic food with minimal queueing. None of which we could have had in a public festival in Dublin, to be fair. But all of which is available just off Henry Street.
Today, one of my colleagues from Hong Kong has arrived in the office. She's just over for a week, and she recognised me from my time over there - although I have no recollection of her at all. I greeted her in Cantonese, using one of the few phrases I remember. The others are "Turn Left", "Turn Right", "Straight Ahead", "Stop Here", and "Your mother sleeps with sailors". I won't be using any of those.
It was a Saturday night in the quiet part of Hong Kong. Crickets were chirruping idly in the trees, and in the distance, I could see a small child playing with abandoned armaments. There was a slight chill in the air, but the sky was clear and crisp, and the evening was mercifully dry.
"You know what we should do?" I said to Michael.
Michael took a long draw on his cigarette, dropped it and ground the butt under the heel of his boot.
"Why don't we go out?" he replied. "We'll go to the usual places, looking for a boyfriend for me, but you can come along for company. Later on, I'll pick on someone gorgeous, fixate on them, and not be hugely surprised when I go home alone. You, meanwhile, can basically pick and choose despite your awful chat-up lines and your bulging beer belly."
"Hey," I said. "That beer belly is nothing compared to what it's going to be like in a couple of years."
He pointed out how true that statement was and sniggered ironically.
Later, we stood in a dark corner in a crowded bar, making mock of everyone we could see. We mocked plaid-shirt-guy, we mocked grandfather-and-grandson-couple, we even briefly mocked South-American-barman, mainly because we knew he trimmed his chest hair. It was a fairly typical Saturday night.
And then, across the room, I saw the man who was to change my life.
[To be continued, 22 Jan 2005]
I like to live under the impression that my life is calm. Here are some of the things I am being calm about today.
Other than that, there's not much happening.
Warning: This post may not be suitable for those of a squeamish nature, as it talks about throwing up
When you're a kid, you throw up all the time. You down your juice too fast, then you go really really fast on the roundabout and all of a sudden four or five of your best friends need to be dry cleaned. Throwing up is really cool because sometimes you can discern what it is you've been eating, and it is incredibly embarrassing for your parent, guardian, or whoever pays the cleaning bill.
If you're a bit older, throwing up is usually caused by viral infections, but can also be self-induced either through alcohol poisoning or through sticking two fingers down one's throat in the mistaken belief that looking like a stick is superior to looking healthy.
I don't throw up.
It's not much of a claim to fame, as claims to fame go, but I generally can't bring myself to throw up. There have been times when I've tried to make myself throw up, due to an encroaching feeling of drunkenness-related nausea - in particular the great Retsina evening on 1987. Usually I get no further than what is colloquially referred to as 'a big spit'. Indeed, even when I've had stomach infections, I've not thrown up.
There's a joke in here about gag reflexes, but I digress.
Since my late teens, I have thrown up on exactly three occasions.
Age 17, outside the Preservation Halls in Edinburgh, due to an excess of alcohol.
Age 27, outside the Preservation Halls in Edinburgh, due to an excess of alcohol.
And a couple of weeks ago, after Mr Twinky and I picked up a viral infection over the New Year. Mr Twinky was pretty sick, and I was pretty much unaffected. Or so I thought for 24 hours, when the familiar, yet unfamiliar feelings woke me. Now, because I throw up as rarely as I do, this was an exciting thing. I burst out of bed with an uncomfortable cry as I stubbed my toe on a carefully planted hairdryer, paused to get dressed in case I met any of the four other people staying in the house at the time, hurled myself in to the bathroom, adopted the position. And waited. Nothing happened. I had a cough. I had a big spit. Nothing. I had another cough. And it happened. Blah splurge food porcelain acidic taste and somewhere in there... complete muscular relaxation.
And then I went back to bed for a bit. Then I got up and did the whole thing again. I sat and read my book for a while, and once I was convinced that the excitement was all over for the evening.
And within 18 hours, I felt fine, albeit a little weak from lack of food. I missed a nice bit of lamb, too.
I'm back in Edinburgh for the funeral. The sky is grey and it promises rain. I've been up since before five this morning, and I'm wearing a new suit and nw shoes. The heel on one of them is digging in to my foot, so I have two band-aids to protect me.
This sad duty is one of mixed emotion. The final resting of the body of my grandfather is a time for remembrance and acceptance of the loss to our family. It's a time for us to get together and to draw strength from what remains, though, and to share that strength with my Granny. It's a time to see old friends again, drawn together by our bond with one man. It's a time to let go, but still to hold on more tightly to life.
Going through my head this morning was Ogden Nash's Senescence.
And middle age ends
The day your descendents
Outnumber your friends.
Don't know why.
When I was growing up, I was lucky enough to have three living grandparents. for a while I had six, although two never really counted, and now - as far as I can tell, I have two.
Sadly, at the beginning of the week, my grandfather was taken in to hospital. An x-ray of his lungs revealed a quantity of liquid there, so he's been in the hospital ever since. I went to see him yesterday. It was - frankly - gut-wrenching.
This is the man who taught me how to play Backgammon. This is the man who told me that if the wind changed, I would be stuck that way. This is the man who took me to his church carol supper and was pleased as punch when I sang my heart out. But he's not that man at the moment.
He looks much the same. A little paler, a little frailer, but he's scared and confused. He's in a new bed in a hotel somewhere. His memory is there, but it's like a badly reassembled jigsaw, odd fragments connecting with each other. He tells stories that are related to the bible, related to his time in Africa during the war, related to events in his life that are suddenly important when for years they were little more than signposts.
His family are around him - his wife, his son, his daughters, his grandchildren. The Doctors don't know precisely what's wrong with him, and they're treating him with antibiotics while they wait for the test results to come in. Every day, his status changes slightly, and every day we silently brace ourselves for the fact that today's news could be THE news. We're all prepared for the worst, even though we fervently hope that he gets better.
I look at him lying there, and everything drains from me. I listen to him talking - always talking, as he has something important to tell us, something important that is just beyond his ability to express, and our ability to comprehend. I worry about the sheer number of people sitting around his bed. I catch my grandmother's eye, and she shrugs and rolls her eyes, as though to say that he's just putting it on, and talking complete rubbish.
This man smoked in his car, and I hated that. He gave up on his 70th birthday, and never touched another cigarette after that. This man took me to pick elderberries. We walked along the Antonine Wall (I suspect that he walked and I ran). I went to stay with him when I had the measles. He was born in 1915, and he loves mustard.
You never realise quite how much you need a holiday until you are on one.
Officially, I'm probably not on holiday. After all, I worked on Friday, it's now Saturday, and part of me probably thinks that I could be going back to work in about 33 hours.
My entire body knows I am on holiday. I'm in complete holiday 'mode', if you will. This is what it's all about.
It helps that I'm staying at my parents' home. This is one of the few places where they take me completely for granted. Of course, they take me for granted while feeding me, looking after me, and keeping the wine flowing. You can't really beat that, can you?
Tomorrow, I get up at five in the morning, fly to Scotland for a meeting, and when it's over, I'm on holiday. For over three weeks.
Part of me is completely unaware of this forthcoming period of rest. I'm working my proverbial off, and have been for weeks. I don't know if I know how to wind down.
Part of me realises that although I'm not at work, I'm not entirely on holiday - I'm going home to see my parents and my family, but I still have obligations. I'm determined to help out rather than get under their feet.
And then there's the part of me that has been thinking all week that it feels like Friday, and that a great pressure is about to be lifted.
We'll see how I feel tomorrow afternoon!
For reasons of cost (I suspect), we would always stay in the middle of (or just west of the middle of) nowhere. This meant day trips, sat in the car with a bag between my sister and myself, defining our territory.
Tip for parents: This works moderately well.
Wherever we were going, no matter how crazily early we would set off in the morning, we would always arrive at 11am. Without fail. It is perhaps my least favourite time to arrive anywhere these days, and I do wonder if the two points are related.
As a result, we never got to see medieval villages in their full splendour. They should really only be seen empty (as here) or full of medieval peasants.
Medieval peasants are few and far between, these days.
Couldn't sleep well last night, panicking about the momentous and potentially important conference call I've got at half ten this morning. When I did drop off to sleep, I was all in a tizzy because my flight tickets to somewhere in Russia hadn't come through.
I had the ticket to Moscow okay, but to get on the connecting flight I needed a ticket that I couldn't buy on my credit card - someone had to open a special account for me and I had to buy it through that. And finally, an hour before my flight was due to leave, the details of the account came through. I was confused by the amounts... there was something going on.
It turned out that the dream bank was the same dream bank I'd used when I purchsed my apartment in Tokyo, which was in a dream four or five years ago. Impressive record keeping, I thought.
Well, that's not strictly true. Let me explain.
I used to care too much. I used to get all concerned about my friends' problems, and I suspect I thought that a problem shared was a problem halved. In practice, it tended to be a problem that had nothing to do with me, and although I may have felt closer to whoever it was who actually had the problem, I probably tied myself up in too many knots at the time.
Somewhere along the line of my twenties I stopped doing that.
My flat was a bit of a disaster. It was lovely in many ways, but two of the ceilings fell down, two more threatened to, the stairwell was inhabited by a feral chihuahua and the central heating failed and I just let the whole thing get on top of me.
There was a bit of shock tactics needed for that one, but I don't do that any more.
I used to be worried by peer pressure. People with less experience, clambering up the career ladder, and overtaking me. I went through a brief phase in my mid twenties when that didn't bother me, then it did. Now, I haven't thought about it for years, mainly because I dropped a whole load of emotional baggage that wasn't helping anyone, back in 1997.
As a direct result, when an opportunity for real change came along I grabbed it. I've significantly increased my salary, I've travelled the world doing a job I loved, I've broadened my mind, and I've fallen in love. Not bad going, really.
I'm lucky, though. I like who I am. That lets me look at all of the people I've been in the past, all the people I've known in the past, and be grateful for them. They were steps on the journey, and I wouldn't be where I am today without each and every one of them.
I hope that's enough to see me through the curves and twists that the rest of my life's going to throw at me.
I'm aware that the quality of the content here has slipped recently. I've got things to write about, but I guess I don't necessarily feel like writing them.
For example, for about ten minutes this morning I was going to write about the great dream that I had last night, except it was very morbid at the same time as it was life-affirming, in a very Louis-de-Bernieres-back-when-he-was-great way, so instead I'm going to write about the most exciting thing I did last weekend.
I rearranged a book case.
Well, three of them. I had all the books out, I moved them around, I moved the shelves around, and I'm left with a much better organised bookcase.
Very boring, I know.
But I realised as I did it that there were books in there that I have had for over a decade without even opening beyond the first time that I read them. Books like Lucius Shepard's Life During Wartime, which I must have read when I was about 19. I thought it was flawed, sure, but I also thought that its strengths made up for its flaws. I guess it would be classified as Cyberpunk, with some large chunks of magical realism thrown in, largely helped by its South American setting. It's the sort of book that I recommended to people at the time, and bought for a few people as a gift.
However, it's a book that I'm not quite ready to pick up again, not quite ready to re-read. Frustrating.
I am still here. I haven't been overcome by a sudden ennui on reaching the grand young age of 35, and nor have I become tired and emotional after a night on the town, although I did find myself dancing to They Might Be Giants in my local in Wexford Street on Friday Night, but that's another story.
I'm at home, waiting for the gas man. I've been waiting since Friday lunch time. I'm not entirely happy about this, as I am missing work, which I can't really afford to do, so I will probably end up working late. All not good.
Highlights of being 34:
On a places I went to, things I did kind of scale - not many. Yes, there was Barcelona, but that was back in May and feels like a distant, but happy, memory. I've pretty much stopped travelling for work, so I've not had much of an opportunity for travel.
Also, not much on the cultural scale. No great progress with writing anything. I haven't read anything that completely blew me away. Indeed, quite the reverse. Thirty-four was the age that I was when I saw Punch Drunk Love and read London Fields. Time spent, and unrecoverable.
Work's shite. There's a huge degree of uncertainty around at the moment, and we're rushing through a huge number of jobs in an effort to get them out of the way while we still can, and that would be stressful if I did the stress thing.
But I don't do the stress thing. I've been close, recently, but I've pulled back. I've got a job that I'm good at, a comfortable roof over my head, a wonderful partner. I've got my health, I'm sane, and we've got a nice new plasma telly that means that we can no longer watch one channel while taping another. I find small pleasures everywhere, small inspirations everywhere. I occasionally commit random acts of kindness. I have more than my fair share of love.
My thirty-fifth year may not have been a year of change in the way that my twenty-ninth, thirtieth and thirty-first were, or a year of experience in the way that my thirty-third was, but I can say with confidence that for me, it was a good year.
And that's more than enough.
Dark mornings are one of the things I hate most. It's awful to get up in the morning, get showered, dressed, and leave for work, all in the dark, or at best to be leaving as the sun rises.
But I missed dark mornings when I lived in a more tropical country. I missed the thrill of being up and about and active before the day had fully begun, the feeling that somehow days were longer because I could enjoy those secret times before dawn.
She lives upstairs, but not directly upstairs. So the water which has flooded through her ceiling, sending a large quantity of plasterboard falling to the floor won't drip down to us. Nonetheless, I feel horribly sorry for her, and pwerless to help.
Because the building has a management company responsible for the communal areas, and the burst pipes are in communal areas, the management company have been involved. But they've not been taking it terribly seriously. Until now, when they're paying for the upstairs woman to move in to a hotel. But if they'd taken it seriously when the leak started three weeks ago, the ceiling wouldn't have fallen down. And if they'd taken it seriously on Monday, after the ceiling had fallen down, then the flat wouldn't have been flooded.
Since Sunday, this whole affair has been a matter of people behaving negligently, our neighbour being frankly pretty pragmatic, but realising that in order to get anything done she needed to be hysterical at people. We're trying to keep her calm and advising her on who she should threaten to sue next.
I can feel her behind me as I walk along the street. Pushy woman. She wants to be ahead of me, but she can't get past me, because there isn't a big enough gap in the stream of people coming towards me for her to get through. So she's hanging close to my left shoulder, ready to veer out, and round. If I were to stop suddenly she would walk straight in to me.
So I don't stop suddenly. I speed up. She speeds up too. She's annoying me now, persistently dogging my shoulder. I start edging left, to block her. She holds her position at my shoulder. I never look round. And then she sees her opportunity, darts out, runs straight in to a man who has just done the same thing, but coming in the other direction.
I stride on, leaving them to their apologies.
The telephone can be a tyrant, too.
For example, this morning I got an urgent message to call Colin in our London office. Colin's always a pleasure to talk to, very charming, and so on. He's got a question for me. It's almost exactly the same question as we talked about yesterday. I couldn't answer him then. I suspect that he just likes the sound of my voice.
But for ten minutes we talked around this topic, with me telling him repeatedly that I didn't know the answer and him drifting away in to a little world of his own.
Got to go now - the phone's ringing.
It's cold here. Cold and crisp in that sort of mid winter way, which is surprising only because last week was late summer.
And we don't have a telephone at home at the moment. The line's been dead since Saturday. I am promised an engineer. No sign of one, though. Eircom's online fault reporting appears faulty, their support telephone number is hidden deep in their website, and their call waiting music is very familiar. I am verging on a letter of complaint.
That said, their web site now notes that the fault that I raised on Sunday afternoon and again on Monday morning, was raised on Monday afternoon (which is when I finally spoke to someone) and is in Status 4: Assigned to Crew.
Fixing telephone lines is one of those marvellous things that happens without me having to take any time off work to let someone tramp through my beautiful lounge. Usually, when someone has to come round and fix someone, I have a fantasy of a young man, a bit rough round the edges in a kind of rugged kind of way, but usually it turns out to be someone older, usually smellier, and decidedly unfanciable. I suspect that all the good looking men go into telephone repairs, precisely because it doesn't involve coming round to my beautiful lounge and being objectified.
Bah, humbug. Christmas is coming, except in the Philippines, where the Christmas season is almost over.
When you move to a new place - be it a new town, or a new country - it can be hard to make friends. We've been in Ireland for two years and our friends consist of
And that's pretty much it. Not much for two years, I guess, although I'm not complaining.
You see, making new friends is hard. You have to go out and make an effort to actually do it. It's easier if you're a parent. If you're a mother, you can drag your spawn along to a parent and toddler group and meet other people who are desparate to talk to anyone that can string two words together and isn't Trisha. Otherwise you need to have a hobby, like meditation or clay modelling, or earwax sculpture. Something that gets you out of the home but still doesn't stretch that comfort zone. Learn a skill, learn a language, volunteer for a helpline, do some work for charity.
But, as I said. I'm not complaining.
It often comes as a surprise to some of my junior colleagues that in terms of the actual paper qualifications required to be in my position I am ever so slightly - what would the word be? - deficient.
Obviously, I try to rectify this situation from time to time, and occasionally I go to a building site out by the airport, sit in a room with twenty people who are ten years younger than me, and try to write for three hours with out deviation, repetition, or breaking down in tears and shouting "I want to be a tomato! Tomatoes don't have to do exams!"
And then, after it's over, I go back to work, refreshed and slightly hung over, and continue running my team to the best of my mediocre partially-qualified ability.
But there's something adrenalinetastic about the relief of walking out of an exam, knowing that you've failed (because you know you didn't study enough. And there was that one question that you missed), but still feeling pretty good. Partly because you've not done anything like as dreadfully as you expected, and partly because the whole thing is over.
And then it's nice to spend an afternoon glued to the sofa, sparkling wine in one hand, crisps and dips to hand, your other half by your side, and watching the Godfather. But maybe that's just me.
You know how it is, don't you?
I'm in the chipper on a Sunday night because quite frankly neither of us feel much like cooking, we just fancy a bottle of beer and some cheap fat and carbohydrate with our Songs of Praise, and the phone goes. I'm stood at the back, out of the way, and reading the Environmental Information poster, reminding me not to tolerate people who litter, and there's a buzzing in my pocket, and a vibration that's just strong enough to notice, but not strong enough to give pleasure.
That's me last night, that is.
- Hello, we've got a virus on the computer.
- That's nice. How did you do that?
- It wasn't me, it just says...
I can't hear the rest of what he says, because someone is shouting at me.
I'm trying to keep out of the way at everyone in the entire world, but this young man has cycled half in to the shop, one hand on the handlebars of his Chopper, an almost dead cigarette dripping from the other. I catch what he's saying the second time. Do I have a phone?
Of course I have a phone. I'm trying to talk in to it. There's a sick computer at home that needs full care and attention, and I can't tend to it in its hour of need and Flash Harry on Two Wheels wants to borrow my phone. Or take it. I can't be quite sure.
- Can you go outside? asks Mr Twinky. I can't. There's a man on a bicycle between me and the outside world.
He's asking everyone else if they have a phone. Then I realise that's not it. He's trying to sell a phone.
Because that's what it's like down our way. We have junior ruffians, small league crooks. Kingpin here probably found a phone that had been dropped in the street, and now he's hawking it around the local fences, trying to get rid of it.
The local fences in this case seem to be the chipper, the internet cafe and the Indian restaurant. As he's got one or two young sisters in tow, he probably can't go much further afield.
This is how the great criminals and miscreants of the world get started. A chance encounter, starting small. Famously, Al Capone stumbled on a miniature of Tia Maria in the street and sold it to his Aunt Wilhelmina. Clyde Chestnut Barrow robbed his sister's piggy bank by holding her up with a water pistol. I should have asked this guy his name. He's going to be famous.
It's all go round our way. Apparently.
There's some sort of structure outside the apartment. Blocking out the daylight, you see, so that they can pretend it's night time inside our flat while they do their twelve hour shoots. Bit of a nightmare if you're trying to get in to the building, I suspect. Just as well we're not there.
Mr Twinky would be going absolutely mental if we were staying anywhere nearby. I know this because he said as much to me.
I, on the other hand, am relieved by it. Because it means that there is actually filming happening, and it's not just a really convoluted scam. Not that I thought it was, you understand.
Okay, that thought went through my head. Maybe this woman is grooming me, ready to move in to our flat as soon as I hand over the keys. Maybe she and her team of four hundred colleagues are hardened swindlers, and just did the same research that we did to pick a suitable cover story.
It's a natural doubt to have. But every time there was a cock-up, I found myself thinking that they wouldn't have done that if they were hoaxers. They would have tried to reassure me at all costs, and wouldn't have thrown in things like "Do you know who owns those bins? I only ask because we want to put a cherry picker there..."
Sometimes, I think about the house we really wanted. I mean, there were all sorts of reasons why it was completely wrong for us, but superficially...
It was a little two up two down. Beautifully refurbished. The living area was upstairs, and opened out on to a tiered garden, with a little seating area that would be ideal for idle Sunday afternoons, drinking tea, reading, and being annoyed by wildlife. Just up the road was a pub, and just down the road was the Liffey. And it was miles away from anywhere and we'd have had much less flexibility, a tiny kitchen, and no storage space. And we couldn't have got the finances together in time.
Of course, if we'd lived there, we'd never have met our drinking buddy neighbours here. We'd never have had our flat being pimped as a sound stage, appearing in an advert for soap powder, and soon to appear in a drama serial on Irish television.
Maybe if we could have afforded two places, though, we could have had a city pad and a slightly further out of the city weekend retreat?
For some time now, I've been enjoying the simple pleasure of the Creative Nomad II as seen in the picture attached and indeed sitting in a pocket of a well worn jacket. And tomorrow, it retires after several years of quality service.
It's been a loyal companion on many long walks to and from work, alternately blaring out Macy Gray and Girls Aloud in an effort to put me in a scary, crazy, positive poppy mood before I walk through the door and get hit by a wall of e-mail. Tomorrow, it becomes little more than a toy.
It was a present, you see. From Mr Twinky. He did a lot of research on it, and decided that it was ideal for my needs, based on the products available at the time. And it was, and it is. The only reason it's retiring is that I was bullied in to getting a new one. One that will, in theory, take 350 CDs.
But I'm not even going to open my new MP3 player till Monday.
I'm lucky in that the most stressful thing in my life is when I can't sleep at night.
Last night a combination of work colleagues passing off responsibilities and humidity meant that at 2.30 I was awake, fully conscious and alert.
In an ideal world we'd have two bedrooms so that I could slip out of bed and curl up in another room and read Harry Potter until I was lulled into sleep by its soporific verbal redundancies and it's portmanteau concoctions that soothe and anaesthetise its victims.
In practice, I wound up watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer. With a big blanket over me on the sofa. Similar sort of idea, but left me completely exhausted today.
I'll be tired and ratty today, and fine tomorrow.
Here are my top three tips for handling being a tired ratty git.
1. I avoid human contact.
2. If I must talk to anyone, I start by telling them at great length about why I'm ratty. That way they'll either steer clear, over-sympathise, or both.
3. If I've not slept because I'm pissed off and angry with someone (as in this case), then I need to tackle that issue. But not today, and not directly, because I haven't had a proper chance to sleep on it yet. If I tackle it today, I'll make things worse. So I'll delay, give myself a chance to cool down, and not risk escalating matters even further.
Tonight, my plans are therefore purely vegetative:
edited for grammar. says a lot, really
Crazy Day. Crazy crazy day.
Today's office theme has been picking up monkeys. People have been throwing monkeys at them, I have been catching them - apart from the few that have fallen to the floor and been impaled on little tiny razor blades. Fortunately this is all a metaphor, so my shoes are undamaged.
I've got one member of staff on holiday, two colleagues out of the office, my boss's boss asking me for things that I can't possibly do, and the one man that I need to sign things off is swanning off in the far corners of the globe.
So I've been singing show tunes. Only to myself, like. Fortunately I have a team of highly trained chimpanzees who bring me coffee all day and help me stay sane.
Today's Oddverse Babe is Daphne Blake. Born in 1969 at the age of 16, Daphne had no family name until the mid 1980s. Maybe. Accused of being a brainless bimbo and just relying on the support of her hunky boyfriend, Daphne was actually the 'money' behind Scooby Doo and the gang. It was her van. She had all the contacts in the spooky world. And she had a butler called Grovelly. It was her, all her. And she worked as a journalist for a while. That showed her friends.
Remember, kids. The 60s were a long time ago. Don't copy them, because the laws of physics have changed since then.
There are all sorts of management self-help books with crazy little titles like 'Who fondled my monkey?', or 'Don't stress, it's only an aubergine', in order to help people to cope with workplace stress. I've got a couple of tactics I use to make the world a more bearable place.
First off, I don't take work home. Which is not to say that I don't physically take a bit of paper from the office to my house. But if I do, I'm very careful. It's on my own terms. I'll set aside some time to work on it, and when the time is over, I'll stop. And I'll be held to that by the wonderful bully I live with.
Secondly, I live with a wonderful bully. Who doesn't work in the same field as me, isn't interested in my work, and insists on me spending time with him, even if it's just lying on the sofa, chilling out, and watching 'You bastard! You overcooked my foie gras and that dress clashes with mine!' or some other Channel 4 lifestyle show.
Thirdly, I let stuff drop. It's an appalling admission, but if certain people ask me to do something, and it's not my job or I don't deem it important, it gets back-burnered. And then oblivioned. If they come back to me and ask for it again, of course, it becomes wildly urgent, but that's not stress, that's panic.
Fourthly, I find little pockets of subversion in my job.
Fifthly, I let my staff leave early if they want to. They've got lives that they need to live, and they don't need a dictator telling them when to work and when not to work. And you know what - they respect me more for it and work harder as a result. That makes me feel good, and also lessens my workload.
Sixthly, if I come home angry, I don't take it out on my wonderful bully. I either let it drop (harder said than done, I know), or take it out on pixels.
Seventhly, I like myself. I don't love myself (except in the sense of the Woody Allen quote), but I'm basically happy with who I am. I don't have unresolved issues, I don't think I need therapy, I'm pretty easy going I think, and stable and level headed. I cope with change reasonably well, and try to share some of that with those around me.
Eighthly, always laugh. Because there's always something funny.
Ninthly, I only worry about the metaphorical tomorrow, and not the metaphorical day after. Who knows what the future will bring? Certainly not me. I've got plans, sure, but I know they'll change. I've got something I'm aiming at, but it depends on a huge range of factors I have no control over. And I'm not going to worry about things I have no control over, because by definition I can do nothing about them. Of course, the trick is to know when you can take control.
Tenthly, if all else fails, vodka.
My mate Ann just had a baby. Wow.
Well, I call her my mate. I met her in 1986, and although I've not seen her for seven or eight years, I still think of her as a mate. Anyway. She had a baby and she sent out a picture of this baby. It's a girl, and she looks nothing at all like Winston Churchill, which must be a relief for all concerned.
Last time I met her, she didn't have any babies at all. Now she has two children (one of which happened in those seven or eight years, and I only found out about today). She wasn't married, then. She wasn't going out with anyone. Although she'd met the man that would later become her husband.
When we were students together, I used to copy her notes in lectures because she had really nice handwriting. She went on to be a lawyer, and I didn't. And because her name was Ann B*****y, she always used to be brought along to parties if the invitation specified "PBAB".
It's half past six, and I'm at work. As far as I can tell, I'm the only person in the office. Apart from cleaners, and the woman in the lunch room who has the door open and the television turned up. I can't tell you which episode of Friends she's watching. The one with the obvious twist, possibly.
I've been here for eleven hours now, and it's not been fun. It's been a pig of a day, to be honest. Although I'm on top of everything I've tried to do.
It's beautiful and sunny outside. I need a drink. And a sleep. Long long sleep.
My 23 month old nephew can recognise pictures of his funny uncle. He can put a name to my face, and he tries to steal pictures of me. Because they're his.
He thinks I'm called Mr Twinky.
Last night I had a dream in glorious film noir. Everything in beautifully lit black and white. I don't remember it too well. There was the chap in the photograph here, dressed pretty much as he is here. And he'd been kidnapped. Or stolen. Or something like that.
And there was an evil mastermind, who was counting down from 100 before she revealed her evil scheme. Evilly, naturally. Given that she was being played by Catherine Zeta Jones, and was utterly lovely in a vampish kind of way, there was little sense of menace, just a vague foreboding and a lovely Welsh accent.
The gist of the whole thing seemed to be to do with reinvention, however. In particular, the trend among celebrities who have become caricatures of themselves to play on this fact, making themselves even larger than life and thereby endearing themselves to the nation, in a way that some former Spice Girls can't.
(As an aside, it's raining here. I've just seen our handyman returning from lunch, and I thought he looked drenched. But no - he's wearing a shiny rubber jacket. Odd fetish.)
Anyhow, just as the countdown reached two, and Saint Catherine was preparing to spill her beans, the radio came on and woke me up, and the day began...
I like to think that I rarely take the time to comment on the content of other blogs. Beyond the occasional 'I like to read XXXX', or 'XXXX writes really well' I don't delve into the nuances, the creative style, the whatever.
The site combines a personal journal with some pretty explicit gay material, and for someone who claims that English was not his subject, it's a well-written, well crafted page. It's relatively new, and has spread in popularity quickly partly because of the content, and partly because it's a damn good read. And there are also some explicit images. It's the images that are the real problem for some people.
So, for a page that's been going less than a month, already we're talking about editorial decisions. Marc talks in my comment box about calming down a bit on the visuals. It's his decision, fair enough. But for a 'blog' that - so far - doesn't seem to have shied away from anything, is that the right decision?
On the other hand, it's Marc's page, and he's within his rights to do what he wants with it.
Walking to work this morning, Mr Twinky noticed part of a building he'd never seen before. Almost at work, and already the architect in the family is noticing architecture.
I can't really do that in my job. I can't look at people as I walk along the street and think 'Hmmm... she needs long term care protection, and they've added a fantastic investment portfolio'.
Although sometimes I do notice if a gentleman has a significant endowment.
Coming down through cloud cover over south-central Scotland, I was treated to the sight of a monochrome world. Winter had sucked the colour out of the countryside, and all that was left was a patchwork of greys and silvers. Only half an hour earlier, Ireland had been beautifully green. An emerald isle indeed.
When I look in the mirror, I see more and more white hairs appearing. Mainly at my temples, a few in my beard. Fortunately, none elsewhere on my body. Except one.
My right eyebrow has one white hair that grows about four times faster than the rest of my hair. And it grows at a strange angle. Very, very odd. But part of an encroaching trend, I suspect. I am turning, very gradually, into a geography teacher.
Last night was probably the first time that I died.
It was dark, it being night time, and I was alone, in woods. Or I thought I was alone. There was another person there, although I don't know who. It doesn't matter. All I knew was that he wanted to kill me, and that although I ran, he succeeded.
The last thing I remember before I died was realisation of the fact that I was about to die. That, and a calm acceptance of this fact before I finally went. I guess that's part of what stopped this from being a nightmare. Because it wasn't a nightmare. Don't be scared, boys and girls. How could it be a nightmare? It had Tom Baker in it.
So next, after my death, I am helping the police with their enquiries. As led by Tom Baker, round about 25 years ago when he was at his most manic, big haired and scarftastic. And eventually, I was the one that found the graveyard that I had run into and been brutally murdered in. Yay me! And obviously because I was alive and well and helping with the investigations, my lifeless decaying corpse wasn't actually lying there, but some of the things that I dropped were, and from that and from the name on the head stone that I fell in front of. Hurrah! Killer caught, justice for all. And me, although obviously I did get killed at the beginning, still walking, talking and making crap jokes about scarves.
It's three days in to 2003. I haven't had a decent night's sleep yet. And now, possibly the most obscure dream of my life. It's all signs and portents, you know.
I have a bruise on my forehead. And a little scarring. It's all very nice. But I have no idea where I got it from.
I mean, yes, I was out drinking and such like last night, and all on an empty stomach, but that's pretty reasonable.
If you were in O'Connell's and heard a group of people discussing whether or not Dublin's shiny spike will be visible from space, then that was us. Sure, we had a few drinks but we were just merry, like. And we walked home without any worries.
But I've got a bruise on my forehead. And a wee scar.
I occasionally come across curious references in other people's web logs and other people's lives. Things like "I got a text from my boyfriend last night, wanting to come over". Or "I've not seen him for a couple of weeks. I don't know what he's up to." And there's something about these references that strikes me as odd. Maybe faintly concerning. And then I remember - I used to be just the same.
I've lived with Mr Twinky for two and a half years now. I guess that part of me has forgotten what it was like before that point. Where spending time with him was more of a luxury than a habit, where we could still pretend that, on some level, we were completely independent.
Which isn't to say that I take him for granted, or that I take us for granted. Not at all. I still get the same flush of excitement of realising that there is someone out there for me, that there is an 'us' that is so much larger and better than we are on our own.
I think about a story in Alexei Sayle's The Dog Catcher - an excellent read all round, really. The story concerns a solitary man whose life is basically quite happy, but is turned upside down by a variety of disturbing influences. It's about what he gains from the experience, what he has to give up, and what he does to address the situation. It says everything about living with someone, and is the outstanding story in the collection (although the rest are damn good too).
Myself? I suspect I'm just lucky. Having found the right person, and having lived with him for two and a half years, I wouldn't change a thing.
When I was a student, back in the late 1980s, I flirted with a few alternatives to study. I trawled through bookshops, I searched for the perfect cup of coffee, I bought records by Ella Fitzgerald from the second hand record shop on the way to the Grafton Centre. I wrote. I sang. Occasionally I would study a little. And at one point, I thought - half seriously - about changing my degree course.
I didn't, obviously. I continued to study mathematics, and at the end of the day, that is what my degree is in. Everything I've done since graduation is a consequence of the choice of subject of my degree. But at several points I was at least half convinced that I was going to change to Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic.
It fascinated me, and I read a couple of anglo-saxon texts. Or they might have been norse. Or celtic, for that matter. I was intrigued by the stories, you see, and about how stories evolve. That still fascinates me, and I'm glad I didn't go through the process of studying it, or deconstructing the texts and the language. In a sense it could have been like stripping away the magic, and for me the magic was at least half of what intrigued me. But it would give me something to talk about with Sue Bailey. Indeed, depending on our relative ages, we might even have shared lectures, in the universe next door to this one...
What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
I went out with a guy once who believed this too much. He believed that without lows you couldn't experience highs, and that by getting through our problems together, our relationship was strengthened.
This manifested itself in him creating problems out of nothing, so that we could overcome them together and thereby grow into the world's strongest couple.
That relationship ended with the biggest emotional rollercoaster that I've ever been on. In the end, it didn't kill me, and it did make me stronger.
So, I suppose, he was right after all.
Mr Twinky explains:
I like to cook on Sundays. I try out different things, things that will teach me new skills in the kitchen. I came across some ox tail at the butchers recently, an item I had not cooked before and decided to make a casserole with it.
The recipe called for the meat to be flambéed in brandy at one point. I can tell that you know what is coming next. But I was in control when I lit the warmed brandy in the saucepan, I was in control when I poured it over the meat into the casserole dish. I was not in control when the alcohol hit the fat and the flames rose 3-4 feet into the air engulfing the extractor fan, setting alight the filters and melting parts of the machinery. I am sure it lasted shorter than I remember but it did enough damage to destroy our sexy stainless-steel-high-tech extractor fan and set off the building's fire alarm.
Sundays are days of rest and that includes our Caretaker who is the only person who knows how to switch off the fire alarm. Within 15 minutes of the alarm sounding we managed to clear the car park as most of our neighbours headed off to the pub while we waited for Gary the Caretaker. Another soggy 15 minutes later Gary arrived half-cut (he is Irish, of course) and all was made calm.
I have still to get in touch with our insurance company as I do not know if our policy covers pyrotechnic idiots. And I am still working out what new skills I learned last Sunday. Answers on a postcard, please.
The casserole was saved, by the way, and it turned out lovely.
Here, we believe in nothing as much as diversity. Yesterday we gave you Latin. Today, we give you the interpretation of dreams.
I say that I'm not affected on a personal level by the bombs in Bali at the weekend. After all, I only went to Bali twice when I lived in Asia, and I never went to the areas targetted. Also, as far as I know, nobody I know was there at the time. But I guess it still counts as a near miss. Something somewhere should be ringing bells inside me saying 'be grateful for your life, for there but for the grace of god et cetera'. But it's not.
A little over a year ago, I faced the biggest fear that I have to face on a regular basis: heights. It's not all heights. I lived at the top of a tower block for two years with fantastic views that just emphasised the height. But certain heights, in certain conditions make me feel queasy. And looking down from the top of the World Trade Center in August 2001 made me queasy. Within a month -
Well, within a month I was kind of glad that I'd done that, while I had the chance. It was far closer to a near miss than, say, Bali, but I'm just as dissociated from it.
I've been closer to danger, and closer to revolution. I've been in buildings evacuated by bomb scares and civil unrest and Anthrax scares. The scariest thing in the world (at the moment) for me is the sniper in Virginia, purely because he or she seems to be completely random. Hell, as I said. And handbaskets.
So last night, in a dream, I got off a plane, and it was April 1999 again. The worst thing that the civilised world lost sleep over was the impending Millennium. I tried to change things. I changed nothing. I made the same choices, at the same times.
I'm sorry. I'm thinking about this too much. I'm thinking about the relationship between terrorism and organised religion. Between oil and the Crusades. Between personal responsibility, governmental structures and the consensus morality.
And - almost - it makes very little sense.
When I was sixteen, I was a member of the Christian Union. I had Bible Study notes. I was interested in the idea of religion. It was great. But it wasn't for me. Have you ever joined a club, or taken up a hobby, and spent a lot of time and effort on it, while knowing for most of the time that it really wasn't your cup of tea?
I was roused from my sleep by a request for a report of some kind. I can't be absolutely certain of what kind - I was asleep at the time. I sort of grunted in response, I think. Mr Twinky responded with a grunt to my grunt. By the time we were both awake we had realised that one of us (ie Mr Twinky) had been sleep talking.
He's started doing this relatively recently, and it seems to be getting more frequent. Sometimes it's just a grunt or two, a guttural sound akin to some sort of proto-speech. Sometimes it's a word or two. Last night it was a whole sentence.
Here's my theory.
He's actually working for the Irish Intelligence Agency, unbeknownst to me. And he's thinking about his job all night. Part of his job is espionage, and part of it is trying to decode an ur-language, a universal subconscious method of communication by grunting. Once he's unlocked this, we have the beginnings of a truly international language, or perhaps a rinky-dinky Universal Translator. Babel will fall, or rise again, or whatever it's supposed to do.
That's what I reckon.
Tonight, we're going to see Miss Saigon. We've seen it in the last 18 months, but that was half a world away.
This time last year, we were in Canada. We had a roast, and a cake, and family. I knew that I was coming to Dublin, but I had no idea what was in store for me when I got here. We'd spent two months travelling together, and I hated the idea of spending a week apart.
The year before, we had dinner for eighteen at the California Grill in the Marriott Hotel in Hong Kong. I knew we were talking about leaving Hong Kong, but I didn't know how serious we were.
The year before that, we were apart. But we had dinner together before we went our separate ways, in an Italian Restaurant in Cochrane Street. We were fairly secure as a couple by then, although we weren't living together, and much of our relationship was conducted via text messages. I still have some of them.
The year before that, we hadn't met. I didn't expect to meet anyone within the next six months. I didn't expect to end up where I am now. Miss Saigon in Dublin was not on the cards.
I don't know where I'll be this time next year, but I know who I'll be with.
I'm sitting here with a million things to do. I had one of those meetings this morning where there was so little actually achieved that I actually made progress away from my goals. I find myself frustrated and angry and I don't want to lash out at anyone. I just want to be at home, on the sofa, in front of the television, with Mr Twinky in my arms.
I want to rise above my work problems, and keep my head when all around are losing theirs. And I'm thinking of a credo; I want to be slow to anger, and great in love. And that's hard, sometimes. There are dozens of thoughts whizzing through my head. About people at work who say one thing and mean another, and about how I react to them - at the same time I can't get Mr Twinky out of my mind. Because he's the man I love - the most important person in my life. Because right now, wherever he is, that's where I want to be.
Flashback to my Manila days.
I'm sitting having lunch with a corpulent Filipino gentleman. He's a work colleague, and fancies himself as something of a ladies' man. He doesn't know that - largely due to his hairpiece - his appearance is something of a joke among the ladies of the office.
"So tell me... you're Scottish, aren't you? That means you have the kilt, yes?"
"Yes," I reply. I've got one fairly recently at this stage, for my sister's wedding. I'm kind of thrown by the next question, though, although I should have guessed what was coming next.
I've got a number of answers to this question, ranging from the evasive "It's a national secret" through to the flirtatious "Why don't you check?". In this case, I tell the truth. I have no reason not to, really. After all, I'm trying to build a working relationship with this guy.
"And the ladies," he asks. "Do they have a similar tradition?"
And suddenly everything snaps in to place, and I can once more categorise him as a dirty old man...
The thing that's making me nervous at the moment is the idea that an actor, perhaps Colin Farrell, is wandering around our apartment, endorsing a major multinational company. Perhaps he's sitting on our toilet, while a tow-headed boy asks him why his skin is so soft. Or his headache is miraculously clearing up. Or maybe he's demonstrating how he can run, jump, and play tennis - no matter what time of the month it is, and no matter how much blue tinted water he pours over napkins.
It's taking them all day to do two shots - maybe seven seconds of screen time. In this, our apartment will be virtually unrecognisable. It'll be our furniture - but re-covered. Our table, sitting on a rug that we don't own. Our wall, with a painting we don't own hanging on it, our bathroom with a shower curtain that we neither have nor need. And when I return home, everything is supposed to be sorted out and fine. We'll see. Oh yes, we'll see.
I think that I caused more confusion than I meant to. I certainly attracted more interest than I meant to.
I mean, it's a simple enough mistake to make. You go into a shop, you ask them for a duvet, they say 'certainly sir, how large?', you reply with an answer that is - by most people's definitions - completely wrong, and you go home happy, but with a duvet that fits neither your bed or your bedding. It would, perhaps, cover a small country.
It's an easy enough mistake to make. Looking around the shop, after all, half of the duvets are super king size. This despite the fact that it's almost impossible to buy a super king size bed. Go figure.
So there's a no refund, no replacement policy. I can understand the reasoning behind that, but I've just spend a couple of hundred Euro (because these things aint cheap, you know), on essentially a useless duvet. So we did what anyone sensible would do. We sold it on to a friend, and on Thursday, I bought a new, smaller duvet.
My trip back was a little more exasperating. Buying the wrong size of duvet was easy. Buying one the right size was exasperating, mainly because of the paperwork that the woman in the queue in front of me was going through. It seemed that she'd bought a duvet, got it home, found out it was the wrong size and brought it back, not realising that there was a no-refund policy. Poor soul. But they gave her a refund nonetheles...
The dining room of the St Stephen's Green club was painted a deep red. Three large windows looked out over the green itself, and the sound of street chatter and the lazy rhythm of hoofbeats echoed in through the open windows. We took our places around a polished oak table, and waited for our wine and our dinner to arrive.
The food was quite delicious, and with the lubrication of a plentiful supply of wine, the conversation began to flow more freely.
"So how long have you two been together?"
"Just over three years? How many children do you have?"
"So how long have you identified as a bisexual?"
And so the evening wore on. As one o'clock approached, the evening looked to be winding down. Although by now all six of us were firm friends, John and Stephanie had to go home to let their baby sitter get away, and there was still a healthy amount of wine to be drunk.
So John, Stephanie and Mr Twinky went in the first taxi, with Katharine, Peter and myself following a short while after in a second. We clattered through unfamiliar streets, admiring new landmarks.
And there was more wine, and there was whisky, and while there was no dancing, there was a small game that I played.
As John and Mr Twinky looked on, I walked to the far end of the communal garden, and stood behind a tree. The tree was slender, and dawn was close upon us, so the white of my shirt stood out and made me far from invisible. I waited until I could hear Mr Twinky laugh, and then I moved to hide behind the next tree, and a third. And, fuelled by liquor as we were, this was amusing.
As dawn rose, we spoke of returning home, to sleep in our own bed, and nurse our hangover in familiar surroundings. And around six, we returned. There was nobody there to welcome us, to berate us for the lateness of the hour, to force us to drink large amounts of water. Instead, there was a small amount of sleep, followed by a larger amount of sleep, and happy regrets.
Old Patrick raked the tiny circles of paper together with his hands and let them fall into the plastic-lined hollow of the bin. When the base of the lining was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set about punching holes in more paper, he was forced into the light again by the faint jangling of the front door bell. He was a middle aged man, but old before his time.
"Oh Hello There, Ms O'Connor"
Ms O'Connor strode into the lobby of the Stephen's Green Club, her three gentleman friends walking behind her. She took no notice of the fact that the stucco was peeling near the top of the walls, or the cracks in the glass roof. Nor did she mention to Old Patrick that her name was not O'Connor. This was her second home, it seemed.
After signing in her guests ("I hope you don't mind, but I've put you down as John's wife,"), we were led into the main stair well, and from there through to the back stairs which we took to reach the member's bar on the first floor.
The club had an air to it, as though it had only recently discovered the miracle of electricity. A subdued feel, of my youth in my grandparents' house, or perhaps of a writer like Joyce. The air was heavy and brown, and the member's bar was akin to a sitting room, albeit one dominated by the sort of makeshift bar that was common at the time.
Katharine quietly took charge, as John and Stephanie joined our group. Old Patrick was back downstairs, and young Patrick, the barman, was nowhere to be seen.
"I'll get you a gin and tonic," she said, heading back into the body of the club.
There was a dry hush over the room, the sort of hush that one would normally expect to feel through a smoky room, through age-stained flock wallpaper. John and Stephanie and Peter spoke amongst themselves, remeniscing about shared experiences. They were all in the medical fields, it seemed, a far cry perhaps from the worlds of architects and insurance that we inhabit. Even Mr Twinky, often the most conversational of gentlemen seemed quiet and trapped, seeking a way into the free flow of the exchange.
Katharine shook her head. She had returned quietly, and stood in the doorway, framed carefully. It was, she explained, a nightmare. Old Patrick couldn't leave his post, and Young Patrick was nowhere to be found. She had, she continued, half a mind just to slip behind the bar herself. A few minutes later, Old Patrick followed her, wearily pushing open the door.
"Has he been up yet?"
We were served by Old Patrick. Young Patrick arrived later, with our menus and our served us our second round of unmeasured gins.
As we went down to dinner, our conversation remained stilted and stumbling
...to be continued
It was Katharine who introduced the Stephen's Green Club to us. She had a membership courtesy of her father, it seemed. Every time we saw her we'd discuss the place in hushed tones. She was recently made up to a member, she said, and it was held up as - frankly - the place to go, with her friends Peter, John and Stephanie. But when we arranged a visit, dinner if you will, Katharine was forced to cancel, and our spirits were crushed.
Everyone was incredulous when it was reported that the dinner had been rescheduled for last Saturday night. Nonetheless it was true.
A spirit of anticipation diffused itself between us. We had no idea what to expect from the club. Would it be shiny and new, like the American Club in Hong Kong, full of attentive young chinese men, softly spoken and bearing infinite trays of diet cola? Or would it be a last bastion of the Dublin of Joyce, a Dublin glimpsed from time to time, populated by grimy boys and fierce and beautiful girls? It did no harm to anticipate, we thought. The truth of the discovert, I reflected, could not be found by sitting at my desk, skimming through the world on a pallid screen: the truth had to be sought.
Saturday came round at last, and we made up our mind to make something of the day. With Mr Twinky, I planned a day shopping. We started off at Arnotts, where we bought the infinitely large duvet that would sleep four easily, and progressed from there to the cinema, where Mr Twinky bought us in to Scooby Doo.
The first stage of the plot over, we made our way back home, happy and full of anticipation of the evening's excitement. All the branches of the tall trees were gay with little green leaves, and the sunlight slanted through them onto the paving. I was very happy.
When we had been sitting at home, ready, for five or ten minutes, Katharine and Peter arrived. We made a fine group - we three in our suits, and Katharine in her evening gown as we strode through the tourist-packed streets to the Green. We spent a while walking about the streets, watching the working of cranes and engines, and being shouted at by beggars. But as we walked, work and home seemed to recede from us, and their influences upon us seemed to wane. We were going to the Stephen's Green club. At length, we rang the bell and waited for admission to the halls.
...to be continued
I spent most of today playing Civilization, while Mr Twinky worked. I'd intended to do some work on the big plans that I have for this site, but I didn't. I annexed Finland, and as a result sublimated Natascha Henstridge, and it was fun.
In unrelated news, the wave of summer ennui that's sweeping some of the more literate corners of the net doesn't look like it's going to hit these shores. Sure, the web is currently a slightly less interesting place, but that's because people are out having lives, which is a good thing. Right? We'll see. Sometimes, people need a complete break from this. Sometimes they need to walk away from regular public journals altogether. I can relate to that. But it's not going to happen here yet. Okay?
I'm glad that's sorted out. Still, enough about me - how've you been?
The great thing about working at weekends is... well, nothing really. I work, Mr Twinky works, neither of us work at the same time because we both want to use the same computer, so now the afternoon is getting on a bit and I feel that the day hasn't really started yet.
Mind you, I'd intended to get up at 6.30, not 11.30.
So there I was, just getting out of the shower, when the phone rang. I ran to it, rather than make Mr Twinky get up. A little voice at the other end. "I'd love a cup of tea". Sometimes, he's unbearably sweet.
This isn't an urgent issue - after all, it's been four months since the ring was selected, and he still hasn't seen one in the flesh. He's thinking maybe September. But he wants to know which finger he should wear it on - what's the convention for homosexualists? He's kind of embarrassed at not knowing, and kind of proud of his ignorance at the same time. He has a fundamental suspicion that it doesn't actually matter, but he knows that some people will have views.
My friend McGuffin is moving from a small house called Cwm Ova, to a larger one called Llandrova. This means throwing out a whole load of photographs. Or, to be more sensible, putting them onto CD, and sending me a copy. So I will soon be the proud owner of digital photographs of my university days. While these may more correctly belong in the digital bitch pages of this site, I may have to succumb to temptation and put some of the finer examples up here...
I could write this journal as a work of fiction. I could. I could populate my ur-world with fantastic characters with real names but personalities that veer off at 90 degrees from reality. And it would be more interesting to read, doubtless. But I'd lose a link back to my past. Reading about my last month in Hong Kong (a year ago!) wouldn't be about me - it would be about someone I made. There's room for reality in with the fiction.
In the mean time, my dreams are populated by supersonic aeroplanes falling from the sky, and double decker buses driven by Graham Norton.
When I'm not provoking debate about body modification, I usually like to challenge my mind somehow, to open myself to new stimuli, new life, and new civilisations. That's not really happening at the moment.
My writing has stalled, and I feel that's partly because my life has settled into something approximating a routine. There's a degree of comfort, of certainty. Which is great, but in this environment I need more challenge. And that usually means opening my mind to new ideas. Now I get precious little time to read, I watch far too much television, and my main scope for finding new input is in the form of spoken word recordings on my mp3 player.
Maybe I'll do something about this when I'm on holiday next week. I don't know where I'll look for this magical inspiration that must be out there.
I'm reading a thrilling document all about documentation standards, so I need some respite. And that's where the budding romance comes in.
Yes, I have a budding romance to nurture. And in the best tradition of romances, I will present it as though I were pitching it to an American TV Producer.
She is a debonair woman-about-town, formerly the media darling due to her involvement in the 1901 census. Witty, erudite, and charmingly ensconced in Richmond. He is a forty-something Canadian journalist, currently putting the word to right on the Guardian, famous for its incredulous typography and its reputable web site. They've never met. Together, they solve murders.
Somewhere, this weekend vanished. We had Michael over from London for two days out of a three day weekend, and somehow the time just slipped away. It was never the intention.
Despite the rain, despite the way that we managed to spend 80% of our time eating, we still managed to talk endlessly about friends and lovers, and to reminisce about the brief overlap in our lives when we lived a few hundred yards away from each other, somewhere in Asia.
There's definitely a novel in this somewhere, a fact that I realised in March 1999, and never did anything about. I'd set it in 1999, condense it in to a year, strip out some characters, and expand others. And there would have to be a fictitious ending. I don't know if I could do it any more, though. These days I tend to assume that anything that happens in real life is a bit more confidential than I used to back when I used to write about my friends more.
Coming back to this topic. And kind of wishing I wasn't. It's certainly true that in the early days in Hong Kong, I found myself welcomed into a surrogate family. People who I gave friendship to unconditionally, people whose company I sought, and who sought my company. It was, undoubtedly, great.
But it was a fragile family, and it partly drifted apart, and was partly torn aside by outside forces. One of those forces was love. I'm going to avoid my usual rant about how wonderful love is, because love is blind. Sometimes, you can fall in love with someone who is so incompatible with your friends as to be rude to them to their faces. It puts them in an awkward position. It puts you in an awkward position.
I'll give an example here, with initials, rather than delving into individual cases, or talking circuitously. A and B are friends. B falls in love with C, who can't stand A - and for no good reason, I hasten to add. B still wants to be friends with A.
There are a number of possible outcomes.
There are other possibilities, true, but I see these as the main ones.
And the thing is, if B and C ever split up, A will still be there. To talk to. To hug. To pick up the pieces. Because friends - true friends - are the new family.
Mind you, I'm damned if I can tell you what it is. The main oddities, other than getting the time of my return flight completely confused, and rediscovering my ability to understand spoken French are:
I'm sure there was something else odd about today... other than the sheer quantity of eye candy.
So we've seen, and rather predictably fallen in love with the world's most expensive but beautiful shelving system. We're not buying it yet - we may still go to B & Q, but nonetheless, the world's most expensive but beautiful shelving system is singing to us. I've not looked at it in huge detail, in case I develop a lasting and irresistible passion for it. My love for it is currently more like a puppyish affection. I will follow it around for a while, yapping and attempting to hump its upright supports.
Don't read this if you're a gamekeeper or my mother. Something crazy has happened. I fancy Hugh Grant.
Well, obviously not really. I'm not fascinated by his after dinner conversation. I'm not pining away waiting for him to call me. Nor am I going to stalk him. I'm pretty damn sure that he wouldn't be interested, and even if he was, I'd probably run a mile. It would never work, really. But if there was a chance of a quickie in a car on Hollywood Boulevard... maybe.
I know it's not real. I know it's not even him that I fancy. It's the way that he's photographed in pictures like the one on the right, or in the rest of the publicity material for "About A Boy". I know that deep down he's still the same hapless floppy-fringed person that I never really saw why anyone fancied. But that's all changed. It's something superficial. I know it must be something superficial. But nonetheless...
It might be worth lying down now.
This is the last one of these, at least for now. I've found it fascinating to trawl through my memories and recast them in a dramatic light, and I may do it again sometime. The irony of the whole thing is of course the nature of cliques. Having spent so long at school envying cliques, when I got to University, I simply found my own type of clique and slotted myself in. We were a diverse group, but we had a lot in common, and I am still in contact with most of them. We weren't the coolest group around, but for a while I thought we were. We even gave ourselves a name - albeit unimaginative and ironic - and developed a newsletter - one that is available online and is probably the forerunner of what you're reading now.
The deep irony is that I didn't achieve much by falling into this clique, other than good lasting friendship, and I didn't need to be clique-y for that. I got what I wanted and it turned out that I didn't really need it anyway.
But. I had a really good time. And I have no regrets.
I had this whole thing about my peer group going on in my head, so I redefined my peer group. I met new people. We moved house, and the nighbours had kids about my age. They were, I suspect, my type of people. Quirky, for sure, and with chips on their shoulders, but then, so was I, wasn't I? These people were willing to accept me into their lives, and didn't have any of the baggage associated with umpteen years of being at school with me. I had a different group of peers around me in my private life from my school life. And I guess that's when I started segregating stuff.
I had friends from the street who I didn't want to know about who I was at school, and I had friends at school who wouldn't really have "got" what the rest of my life was like. But there was mixing. People I knew from school would turn out to be friends with people I knew from home. The people from next door knew people I used to play with when I was seven. My world turned in incestuous loops, I guess.
I fell into a group of friends. These were people like me.
It was late on a Tuesday evening that I was first made aware of the deplorable lack of "Bed and Breakfast" style accomodation in my local area. I was seated in one of the great ancient leather armchairs that I had brought back from my time in the colonies, with a large brandy in one hand and my magnifier in the other, poring over a copy of the golden pages when this revalation came to me.
"Dash it," I said. "Dash it all, to frick and back. Frick, I say, and again, frick!"
This, not unnaturally, roused my esteemed colleague from his research into Italian-style sausage casseroles. "What ails?" he asked.
"What ails?" quoth I. "What ails?" and then I explained my dilemma. It seems that we have chosen, dear reader, to live in a blind spot in the world, between the more up-market end of the short term room market where perhaps Earls and Dukes might stay if they liked overpriced hotels that are handy for the city centre, and the more remote areas, where there might be more of a need for public transport, and where the cognoscenti might choose not to stay if such was their wont. "How do we resolve this thorny dilemma?" I asked. "I would build a spare room, if such a thing were humanly feasible."
As usual, it was my esteemed colleague who came up with the almost perfect answer.
"I don't know," he said. "It's your problem."
So Saturday morning, we moseyed on down to Bray, partly on a train, and partly on the advice of a curious taxi driver who told us that we didn't know where we were going but took us there anyway.
- 'The Dart Station in Amiens Street please'
- 'Ah, y'see, no such place. You mean Connolly Station. Where are you off to?'
- 'Dun Laoighre'
- 'Ah, you mean the Dart Station. That's different. You'll see when we get there. Anyway, you want to go to Howth or Bray. Golf, you see.'
- 'That's nice. Are you deaf?'
- 'So where are you guys from?'
- 'Glasgow, Scotland.'
- 'That's nice. I had a brother who worked in Scotland. Cutting crops with a scythe.'
- 'Not many jobs left in the docks at Rosyth'
- 'No, I don't suppose there would be. Anyway, here you are. Except it's shut. Hang on, while I take you somewhere else.'
We were spared the indignity of the full Bangkok taxi experience ('you don't want to go to Patpong - come to my Brother's bar instead. On an island in the middle of fricking nowhere'), and wound up in Bray, where we had a beer and lunch in a pub looking out over the Irish Sea, and things were rather fine. Sure, there were feral children around, but that's only to be expected on a fine Saturday afternoon, so we relaxed and watched as - the instant their lunch was finished - they became hyperactive little monsters, running freely around while their parents desparately tried to have a seat, finish their pints and their fags. At length the children ran off. Later, the parents left as well. Probably in a different direction.
I'm analysing my fear of heights.
I can remember the first time that my fear manifested itself. It was in Edinburgh Castle (I think), and someone - I believe it was my mother - held me over a well, so that I could see how deep it was. Whether that was the genesis of my fear or if it's just an old memory doesn't really matter. What I'm examining today is the precise circumstances in which the phobia manifests itself.
For example, I had no problems at all living in a 27th floor apartment when I was in Hong Kong. I had fantastic views, and I could look down at the ground below without any problem at all. However, when I took the photo on the left, last August, I was flat against a pane of glass at the top of the World Trade Centre, and I was scared silly, even though I was indoors. Somehow, my phobia is triggered by lack of a visible barrier. All I need is something to hold on to, and I'm fine.
They say that a fear of heights is a fear of falling. Perhaps that's true. I can rationalise my safety until I'm blue in the face, but the irrational fear is still there. They also say that most irrational fears are incredibly irrational because people don't ever test them. I do. The photo here isn't a great photo, but it's a photo that took a lot of effort to take. And I'm proud of it.
Well, we had 48 hours in Scotland this weekend. That means about 3 hours sitting in airports, about 14 hours sleeping, and about 4 hours travelling from one side of Scotland to the other. I revisited a lot of my history, in more ways than one, and I threw a lot of it out. And I rediscovered clutter. It scared me. Partially it scared me because of the sheer quantity, but partly it scared me because it represented a phase of my life where I was probably very unhappy and didn't realise it. Stuff, eh?
Someone I knew in Hong Kong died last night. I didn't know him very well, but we liked each other. I don't know the precise circumstances of his death, but I know that it was a heart attack, and I know that he was 32.
This leaves me feeling incredibly mortal. It's not grief - there isn't really a sense of loss, as I never expected to have any interaction with him again. I haven't been left feeling cheated and angry. I've been left feeling that this could happen to me. And that's scary enough.
Mr Twinky reckons I've been in a funny mood all week. Maybe I have. I've read a lot of subversive comics, and that can't really have helped. I've also broken my diet fairly badly, and that would have an impact on my mood (and self perpetuation). Also, Mr Twinky's been telling me that I've been in a funny mood all week, which probably helped to put me in a funny mood. This doesn't help.
What's not to love about babies? They're sweet, and ickle, and to be honest, I'm completely crazy about this one on the left, even though a part of me resolutely believes that he's no different from any other baby on the planet. Babies work in tune with our biological imperatives, lying there, helpless and demanding, screaming and spewing, while at the same time generating love. They're the most powerful sources of love in the world, perhaps.
Love is a many splendoured thing, love lifts us up where we belong, and ultimately, love will tear us apart. Love binds our lives to others, it makes us vulnerable and gives us strength. Love is, perhaps, as strong as death. But the flip side of the wonder of new life is that all love will end. Everything changes. Knowing that love ends doesn't make it easier to bear, though. It doesn't help you slough loss and move on to find new focus. It makes you wonder if it's even worth being in love with anyone.
After all, if you don't know love, then love cannot hurt you, you can't feel the pain that losing it causes. If the pain is so great (and trust me, it is), why not just avoid it?
Love is worth it. And the pain is worth it too, because it reminds you of the love. The worst thing is not that love ends, but that it always ends too soon.
I worried Mr Twinky this morning by sitting and reading for half an hour before going to work. I reassured him that I was okay. Re-reading the post above, I find myself thinking that it reads in a very maudlin tone. I'm not down, or depressed, though. Just a little contemplative, maybe.
Well, last night, we talked rings. And we talked vows. Actually, last night we talked about a hell of a lot of things, most of which I'm not going to mention here, but one of the major things that we talked about was rings.
It wasn't really a proposal as such, because there wasn't any getting down on one knee or anything like that. It was almost conversational. In the middle of telling each other how important we are to each other it just slipped into conversation that I hadn't found a Cartier stockist in town, but I had found a ring that I wanted for myself. And we promised each other that we would buy each other these rings, but we didn't set a timescale.
So, I guess, in a sense, I proposed and I was accepted. But it wasn't the focus of the evening, and it wasn't a "big" thing.
The main reason that it wasn't "big" is that we are already so entangled in each others lives that in a real sense it makes no difference. We're a committed couple with all of the trappings and joys and complexities that brings. Rings won't change that.
He's looking, almost manically for somewhere to find a Cartier ring in Dublin. He wants two. Or at least, he wants to know how much they cost. He's not necessarily looking to buy them immediately, you understand. Or even at all. But he wants to know how much they cost because he's seriously thinking about it.
He's been putting obstacles in front of this for some time now. Financial obstacles. Wanting to get settled obstacles. Not actually seeing a ring he likes obstacles. But when he saw this one something clicked. It's not the same as the one that his partner wants, but that's cool. He likes things that don't match. He's starting to realise how serious he is.
Not a financial burden, really, but he does tend to use their house as something of a dumping ground for unwanted things. He has boxes upon boxes of - for want of a better word - junk, just sitting gathering dust in a space that his parents could be using to make their lives more comfortable. As he grows older, he accumulates more old toys in places where no old toys ought to be, and worries about his parents not being able to declutter their lives, while he edges towards a minimalist apartment himself.
And then he purchases a book called "The Life Laundry", ostensibly a joint purchase between himself and his mother. He skims through it, and leaves it in his mother's home. More junk.
Once upon a time, I attended a series of lectures by Stephen Hawking. They were, by far, the best attended lectures of my time at University, in a far larger lecture hall. More people attended these lectures than any other lectures on my course. And these lectures were definitely on my course. Honest.
The series of (I think) six lectures were distinguished by being given in two parts - there was a brief pause after about twenty-five minutes as Hawking re-loaded the next half of the lecture. In practiuce, he was using himself as little more than a glorified tape recorder. This had the side effect of allowing him to print off word-perfect lecture notes - a great boon to those of us who got completely lost five minutes in to the hour.
These lectures, with some reworking, form the basis for this book. It's a lot easier to understand when you can read it at your own pace. Mind you, if Horizon is to be believed, most of Hawking's theories are out of date by now. But I don't think that bothers him.
The death of a loved one is a fundamentally odd thing. It's stressful. It's tearful. It's full of people trying to be strong for each other. It's different every time. There are different family dynamics, different people to care for, different needs to satisfy in the days following the bereavement. But there are definite positive aspects to it. I've met - and got to know and like - a lot of Mr Twinky's family in circumstances that didn't focus on our relationship. I've become closer to Mr Twinky's sister, his aunt, his mum. The most important relationship that has been strengthened is mine and Mr Twinky's. That's the intensely crazy wonderful and above all, odd thing that has come out of this. I'm so incredibly proud of him.
Sometimes, words are not enough. Sometimes they can't pull into focus the feelings, the sensations, the enormity of life. Sometimes you fill up with thoughts of such importance that you can't begin to understand them, that they just lose focus completely and leave you obsessing, guiltily, on the trivial.
I can't find words that adequately express how I feel about Mr Twinky's father passing away, any more than I can find words that adequately describe the passing of my grandmother or my step-grandfather.
I loved him. Maybe that's all that I can say, for now.
For the last few days, I've been getting up at seven, rather than half past. This has seemed fair enough to me - the sky is light enough for me to be walking to work in the light, I can tell what colour of shirt I'm pulling out of the wardrobe without turning on the light, and other such useful things. But I've been getting a lot more tired than I did last week. Perhaps it is because getting up early is stressful.
Analysis of the saliva from the half who woke earlier - before 7.21am - showed they had higher levels of cortisol, the body's main stress hormone, than those who woke later.
So tomorrow I will get up at 7.22am.
I'm buying a new computer. Top of the range. It's going to rock. It'll arrive in about a week, hopefully, and then I will get my hands on it and break it, oh yes I will.
It's only the second time I've actually bought a new computer, and I'm not sure if I'm comfortable with some of the things that I need to do. Do I still need to partition a large hard disk - and what's the best way to go about doing that? How do I best transfer all of my settings from my current hard drives to the new one? I suspect that I need... advice...
So, I will be sending out e-mails to my various support centres around the world, hoping for guidance. I expect to receive flippant comments in reply.
Nobody can make you feel inferior without your consent. It's succinct. And it's true. And it's probably the basis behind most of psychotherapy. It's an attitude that I've tried to embrace to some extent, but nonetheless I keep falling prey to it - I keep vesting people with the right to belittle me and be taken seriously. But what can I do? That's part of what love is all about.
I'm thinking this as I examine advisers guides for a new product and get gently bullied into doing some more writing - my moving hiatus is taking longer than I expected, although I have some plans in mind. And I've stumbled across a page that tells a story that I know well. Emily Hanlon tells a story that details a problem that I've had before - criticism, no matter how well intended, can lead to an immediate hit on imagination. It rankles much more than it should. In some cases, it can lead to a desire to abandon a piece of work entirely, rather than tweak a word of ones precious monster.
I apply this to my current work in progress. It is presented to a few select individuals, all of whom are writers themselves (and all of whom should have volunteered for my proposal to kick them up the arse writing-wise. You know who you are). Their feedback is sparse, and generally along the lines of 'I want more'. I have a second phase of feedback planned, though. And that's when I let the more critical people get hold of it.
I'm back at that same old familiar feeling again. I want to be alone. I want to steal a few hours of solitude, so I can do "my own thing". If I can remember what that is.
It's not that I want to live alone. It's not that I feel that my home has been hijacked, and I've been marginalised (although sometimes it can disguise itself as that feeling). It's not anything personal about anyone. It's just that I don't have anywhere that I can call mine. Anywhere that I can go and be alone with myself and my thoughts. So there's a plan. Tonight from 19:30 to 21:00, I am claiming as 'my' time. I'll sit at the PC and I'll sort files, or write, or play Civ 3. Something that I can do alone, something non-controversial.
Of course, there's a down side. There always is. I know that I'll feel guilty about leaving Mr Twinky sitting in front of cookery programmes for an hour and a half. He's been alone all day. He needs company. It's ironic that my situation is the opposite of his.
I find myself wondering if there's a better way of organising things? A better way to ensure that our quality time is maximised without me losing my independence?
Large chunks of this weekend were spent visiting the Oxfam shop and the new Millennium Wing of the National Gallery of Ireland. Both contain a somewhat eclectic collection of works, from the mid 20th century stretching back towards the dawn of time. Many of the works are unlabelled, leading the viewer to ask themselves of the intent and purpose behind the piece. In some cases, one must also consider the price. The quality is also variable, and it shows.
It's only fair to mention though that the Oxfam shop is just a small shop and the Millennium Wing is a stonker of a building that deserves all the attention it's receiving.
But. And there's always a but. The cleaners are storing mops under the stairs, in full view of the public. Bit controversial, that. And there are off-limits areas that are only marked with a wee bit of rope. Could be done better.
I've just remembered that something interesting happened this week. Other than the plethora of presentations and schmoozing, and other than celebrating three years since Mr Twinky and I met at the freezer counter in Sainsbury's. And that something interesting was called Steve.
Steve is an old friend from my even-more-internet-addicted-than-now days, someone who I 'met' online, and went on to meet in real life. He was married when we first started chatting, and I guess that in a real sense we helped each other through major changes in our lives - I supported him through the early stages of what became a relatively amicable divorce, and he supported me through the final stages of what became the rather marvellous process of self-discovery vis-a-vis my sexuality. So we went for a couple of pints - me, Steve and Mr Twinky.
I think that Mr Twinky probably learned more about me than he wanted to. It's been a while since I've admitted that I used to help run a chat room devoted to the trading of images, in which my role was mainly to try to keep said images out of the hands of minors, an audience for which they would be inappropriate, and to try to reduce the risk of trading images of minors, something that would be both icky and very illegal (in whatever legal grey-area you claimed that the internet operated in at the time). I guess that makes me a reformed pornographer, which is something that I never thought I would be at my age. Odd, the things one gets nostalgic about.
Mr Twinky's definitely got the best plan for today. Get out of bed late. Take things at a slow pace until the world is back in the right shape and the tiredness passes. It's all part of growing old, I reckon.
Because we didn't have too much to drink last night, and we drank it over a decent length of time. We shouldn't have hangovers, but there's a certain ineviatble fragility today. It's not good.
I did one of those tests the other day. The ones that ask you a few irrelevant questions and tell you that you have another fifty years to live. And every day, I'll be able to take a little less alcohol without getting a hangover. I'll reach the point where my alcohol tolerance is a negative number. Where even if I have no alcohol at all, I'll start every day tired. That sounds like a lot of fun, doesn't it?
Tonight we're going out for dinner. This time last year we didn't really do anything, because one of us was ill. But we did go to Bali for a long weekend to compensate. The year before, we went out for an expensive dinner. The year before that, we had a couple of drinks and a night of inept fumbling.
Highlights: Standing on that beach in Bali. Dining at the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo. Stepping into the new flat together for the first time. Lying on the roof of a boat in the South China Sea in the dark.
Strengths: Getting through buying the flat. Becoming a calmer person, despite still flapping about on the little matters. Having him in every important area of my life. Still having so much to learn about each other.
Next? There are plans.
My head is now exploding. I have some stressy days coming up, and while I will deal with this in my usual way (by ignoring all the stress until the last minute, so I can get it over and done with in one burst), I'm currenty at a light-headed stage where I can't concentrate on anything. My desk is a spreading mess, and I look at it with that sense of resignation, that world-weary cynicism that is the lot of every Wigan Athletic football supporter.
And at the same time as this, my head is awhirl with ideas - revamping parts of the web site, new creative projects, old creative projects, dinner plans, romantic escapes and the great e-bay life sell-off. Gosh.
We're not married. But if we were, tomorrow would be our third anniversary. If that makes sense. According to the internet, the traditional gift for a third anniversary is something leather. Now, we already have the traditional Australian leather-clad koala perched jauntily atop our television set - I can't really think of anything else that we would enjoy quite so much.
We're going out for dinner tomorrow night, and I've spent a reasonable amount of time planning this. It shouldn't be anything flash, just somewhere nice. I've got a whole list of decent restaurants to try going forward, most of which I nicked from the Irish Times web site. But there is gloom and bad news afoot.
Yes, I am planning another web re-design. I know that I decided that there wouldn't be one for the new year, but I am nothing if not fickle.
The flat is beautifully clean, and it didn't take too long. Which just goes to prove that I am a big moaner. But I now have a new dilemma.
It's our anniversary on Tuesday. Three years. Now last year, we went to Bali for our anniversary. This year, I am just thinking about dinner, but as yet I have no idea where...
Is when he's out of your sight, and you know that he's safe but you feel that he's not. That probability, slight but undeniable that something will take him from you, cruelly and unfairly, snatching him from your life. It teases you, playing with you until your breathing is so shallow and desparate and you clutch and grab at every gasp of air. You lose yourself in prayer to gods you don't even know if you believe in, bargaining away your soul for his safety. We have so much still to do together; we have only scratched the surface. And then the relief as evidence proves that once again he has cheated this little death, and your bargain with forces unknowable has gained you another stolen moment.
Mr Twinky shaved his beard off again. On Tuesday. I much prefer him without it, which is not to say that I didn't like it, the odd patch of ginger that it was. He seemed quite attached to it, and had trained it to do small tricks.
He has not started holding up random bits of chicken wire though, so not quite a return to form.
Update: He's now seen this and sniggered, although he is threatening to withdraw permission to use this picture.
I live in Dublin.
As of yesterday, I now live in a flat in Dublin that I co-own with Mr Twinky. We don't have the telephone working yet, or television, or e-mail. The bulk of our books, CDs, DVDs and video tapes are still in their boxes. We have a kitchen that we can make tea in, a sofa that we can cuddle up on. We have heating and lighting. We have hot water. We have - as far as we can tell - all of our furniture. And it all fits.
We had visions of tight fits of things in the bedroom, stumbling around corners of chests of drawers in order to get into the bed - but there's no problem there. As I lay half-asleep last night, I realised that the bedroom is roughly the size of Mr Twinky's old flat in Tung Shing Terrace.
In some senses it's not a big flat. There are only two rooms, which makes it hard to hide from each other. But they're big rooms with high ceilings, and I think that we're going to be comfortable here.
The other day, we counted the number of beds that we've slept in over the last six months. This isn't something kinky or interesting - this was just a measure of how much travelling we've done, and how unstable things have been. Thirty-five beds in twenty-eight weeks. There was a cold bed in a badly heated brick chalet on the east coast of God's Own Country. There was a mattress on the floor of a loft in Seattle. A sofabed in Los Angeles. Twin beds pushed together in Edinburgh. The Westin in Dublin. The Chelsea in New York. The Marriott in Hong Kong.
And now back to the futon that we started from. But it doesn't feel like the end of a journey in any sense. It's another step on the way.
Oh yeah, on a roll now. After relative quiet on this page while I went through displacement activities to try to avoid thinking too deeply, all my thoughts are now falling out of my fingers. So here are a couple of points.
First off, I think there were a number of reasons why I was asked to take the test. One of them would be my sexuality, and another would be the fact that I am trying to rush through the application and my medical records are all in Hong Kong.
In a world dominated by common sense, HIV is just a disease. It's a particularly nasty disease, and it's a disease that people discriminate against, but it's just a disease. With a pretty lengthly life expectancy. And a lot of ignorance around it. Including my own.
But that was the attitude in my mind when I took the test; I had no reason to suspect I would be positive, but I knew it was a risk. I wanted to know the results as soon as possible, for the sake of my own quality of life. The test needs to be thought of more like cancer screening; as a guide to give you the information you need to make the right decisions for your life.
To quote an old UK HIV awareness campaign: Don't die of ignorance.
The scary thing about fear is the irrationality of it. I know that I am HIV-. But I want to hear that fact confirmed on my own terms. I imagine the incredibly unlikely scenario that I am HIV+ and Mr Twinky isn't. And it doesn't bear thinking about, so I don't face up to it. The irrationality is part of what makes me human, and I love it. But I'm scared. And there's nothing wrong with being scared and there's nothing wrong with admitting it.
The scariest thing is that all of this makes me realise how lucky I am to have the secure family and secure relationship that I value so much and treasure. Mr Twinky, Mum, Dad, Maureen, Tom, Kate, Chris. And the extended family too, which includes a number of regular readers who I won't name here.
Why is it relevant in the civilised world?
Well, I have been asked to take an HIV test. As far as I know, because of my sexuality. I'm in the odd position of knowing the clinical thinking behind this, but also the emotional position. And I hate being asked to take potentially life-changing tests.
Sometimes, the people that you want to say things to are snatched away from the world too soon.
Calum was the first person that I met on-line that I then went on to meet in real life. I turned up on his doorstep in Norwich one November evening, freezing, and walked in to find that there was a family crisis going on. I was perturbed. I was very perturbed, in fact. But I let it all gloss over me, and I had a good time.
At this stage I knew that Calum was ill, but I didn't know what it was. I only found out a couple of months later when he told me about the combination therapy and I looked up the names of the drugs on the internet. At the time, I was very ignorant about the precise details of treatment for HIV. I still am, and intend to keep it that way. But I digress.
Having met Calum on-line, I proceeded to not repeat the practice for a while. I did keep in touch with Calum, although he kept having to go in to hospital. That was a bit of a wrench for me, since I had no real way of staying in touch with him while he didn't have his computer.
Fast forward to April, and he cajoled me in to a trip to Alton Towers (against his doctor's advice). He got in free in his wheelchair, I got a discount as a 'carer' for the day. It was a laugh, I remember. I went home happy, and thrilled, and didn't hear from Calum again.
I assumed the worse. I was wrong, though. He reappeared on-line in August, having been in hospital for most of the time between. He came across as very tired, and I was able to say goodbye to him properly.
This tore me apart at the time, but from where I am now, I can see it for what it was - a strong, if unusual, friendship and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.
There is no memorial to Calum on the web, no mention of him anywhere except on my web page. I like to think that he died as he lived; fighting, sarcastic, resilient, and enjoying himself to the full. This one's for you.
Calum Morley was born on 14 November 1969, and died in 1997 at the age of 28. At the time of writing this, it's 2013, and I still remember him and think about him.
I want to do more photography; my trip around the US and Australia has helped me to realise that while I take a decent snapshot, I am less than happy with my choice and manipulation of subject matter. I want to do more with lighting, and with the digital manipulation of the finished image. Which means studying more, and practicing more.
This is something of a common conceit. Generally, creative ideas spring, fully formed, into ones head; be it the perfect photograph, the classic novel, a melody, a painting. The physical process of committing these ideas to some form of permanent record relies on the ability to capture that image, to write the words, to read music, to handle the paintbrush in the desired way. Most of these are learned skills. It is not enough for the idea to be strong in your head, the force of your will in itself does not lead to the creative act in any fatalistic sense. What it can do, though, is drive the need to learn, drive the stages of the creative process. And through this process of education, the creative process itself becomes more rational, and more productive.
When I was 28, I was single, living in Stirling, and thought that the world worked very differently. Over the last five years, I have come out in all the major ways, I've lived and worked in Asia, I've flown first class, I've been to a Mardi Gras, I've met people that I've known online, I've sold my flat in Stirling and we're buying one in Dublin.
Where will I be when I'm 38?
I'm at a loose end at work. Trapped between writing a rather neat little report this morning, and sitting and having it ripped apart later this afternoon. So I've researched architecture, and found out that I had dinner in a Frank Gehry building on Wednesday night. I've removed the borders from all the images I can find on the web site. I've added a utility so that the main front page of the site tells you what the last thing updated was. I've decided not to implement it because it would be a bugger to manage. I've drunk coffee. I've looked at the little patch of dry skin on my left thumb. I've re-filed both of my highlighter pens. I have tried to decide how my desk should be set up once I get my laptop. I've read my report again, and it remains beautiful. And I have fallen in love - again - with Buttercup. Because she is the toughest fighter.
On Saturday, we found a great furniture shop. It was full of fantastic furniture that we probably can't afford, and I actually got a first hand encounter with a fabulous chair. Now I know that Mr Twinky's always wanted one of these - which is why I mentioned it last week. It's a long term goal, rather than a serious short term purchase. But the thing is - it was incredible - a phenomenally beautiful piece of furniture. And now we know where to buy them.
There is a miniature version available, a perfectly crafted reproduction that is purely decorative and a tenth of the price. Between spending €3000 on a chair or €300 on a little model of a chair, though, I will probably start saving my coppers now...
I find myself missing Richard. Not in any hugely tangible sense, you understand, but in a sense of wishing that he just lived around the corner, that we could meet up for a drink, that we deconstruct life over a bottle of wine, or could go and watch Amelie, or Hedwig or the Lavender Hill Mob together.
This has arisen from my thoughts about Sydney Harbour Bridge below, I think. And also from the feelings of loneliness and isolation that arises out of being new in a city - any city.
I've been living here less than two months. When I had been in Hong Kong for two months I only knew people from work. During my third month I met John. And then things started to change for the better. I think that I can relate so much positive experience to that one meeting; either through introductions or through an increase in my self confidence I met a whole raft of other friends. I'm sure that the same will happen again here.
Yesterday, I signed away my flat in Stirling, to my current tenant. I then went to visit him in it.
There was a woman on the flight on the way back to Dublin who was terrified of flying. So much so that she had to be taken off the flight before we left the ground. It was incredibly sad to watch. She had obviously made a great effort even to get on the plane. Her parents and her boyfriend were there to support her. She went and spoke to the captain. She made an incredibly brave effort to fly. But in the end, she couldn't. It made me about forty minutes late getting home, but I really didn't care. For me, it was only a minor inconvenience. She put herself through torture.
It's been said before, and it is worth repeating. A weblog is not a diary. This page is not me; it is a crafted piece of writing, a creation, a depiction of myself. It shows me the way that I choose to be seen.
I know that I have an audience. I can even name most of them. And I target the writing towards that audience. But there are things that I choose not to share; some of the precise details of the trip to London, my personal telephone number, the intimate details of my bedroom. I select. I pick and choose. I am not my weblog.
And yesterday, I spent all day coming home. Fog at Linate meant that there was a two hour delay in my flight, so I read about Tuscany and tried not to drift off to sleep.
In the evening, we had a viewing of the flat that Mr Twinky has put an offer in on, and that seems to have gone well. It's the one that I want most out of all the places that we've put offers in on. One of my worries was that Mr Twinky thought it was more my taste than his, and he may be right, but there is still sufficient work that can be done to it to keep him happy, I think. We'll see what happens next.
Basically drank from lunch time onwards. In our tour of the world's great musicals, we went to see Chicago for the second time in as many years, this time with Alison Moyet singing her little heart out. It was great to see Michael and Jimmae, and Emma and Annette, and Ian and Bronagh again too. But we couldn't find anywhere to eat except a kebab shop. Haute Cuisine indeed.
Had a good chat with Michael earlier.
I find myself sometimes missing being single. There's a bit more flexibility, a bit less responsibility. But there's also a lot more boredom. When you're single, you can fill that with things like friendships, and writing projects, and listening to music, and reading. When you're in a relationship, there's someone there who takes up a lot of your time. Someone who is - rightly - your top priority. There's no time to be bored. But friendships and hobbies suffer.
And there's a balance in the middle somewhere.
I do think that I'm in an unusual position in that regard, though. Living with Mr Twinky in a country that's new to both of us. He's at home, or on his own all day, and I'm not. It does seem fair that he has a major claim on my time. I guess that makes this less of a moan, and more of an observation.
I don't think I can really express what a thankless task house hunting is. It's soul destroying. Absolutely. What you can afford never ties in with where you want to live. But I guess that there will be something, somewhere, that bridges that gap.
Oddly, this ties in with a theory I have about love. The chances are that you are looking for a partner, and you have a set of criteria in your head, and when you finally meet someone and settle down with them, they fall short in all sorts of areas. And somehow, it doesn't matter. There's a gap between dreams and reality, and if you look in that gap, that's where you find love.
You can tell that I'm just a big soppy person really.
Anyway, this all means that we'll end up living somewhere with potential.
For instructions on the correct composition of a Beard of Evil, there's a good DS9 episode. In it, Tom Riker (Will Riker's evil transporter clone twin type person) comes along, disguised as Will. He's working for designated complicated hero/villains the Maquis, pretending to be Will so he can steal a new spaceship (that weird, turtle-like one they use). There he is, resplendent in full facial hair, and he attacks (IIRC) Jadzia and takes control of this new ship. At which point, his naked villainy revealed, he removes his (fake) sideburns with a flourish, leaving himself with a neatly trimmed goatee. The message is clear:
Full beard with side burns = unsullied and good
Goatee = irredeemably evil
Interestingly, people who posses an unecessary degree of sideburn (mutton-chops, that kind of thing) but a naked chin are also evil - though more of the corrupt, slimy, double-dealing, Victorian molester sort than your actual villain.
Thanks to this e-mail I am now in no doubt that I am evil.
So Mr Twinky's here. So we've done the four pints of Guinness on an empty stomach thing. So we've talked with local residents about good areas to live in and bad areas. So we've decided who we want as an estate agent. So things are moving forwards. So we've moved in to the Hilton hotel. So my work pressures are building up to crazy levels already.
So where can I get a decent cup of coffee around here?
So my Amazon wishlist is piling up with things that I could buy if I had a video recorder or DVD player or CD player or even a permanent address. So I'm now worrying about ten bank accounts in three currencies in four countries. So?
It's the children I feel sorriest for. I remember myself, growing up during the cold war, learning about the second world war, and not being able to sleep because we were going to suddenly be bombed in the middle of the night. What will the vivid imaginations of today's youngsters be dreaming up?
Out of that fear grew my pacifism, I think.
I'd like to take this opportunity to mention Ric, who links to me from his page, very kindly. Reading his web log, and in particular the entry for 5 September, I recognise a lot of what he is going through. I spent most of my twenties carefully partitioning my life, so that my employment and my family and my sexuality were entirely segregated. It didn't make me happy, but it made me safe.
When I came out to my immediate family, it wasn't easy, but it broke down a lot of barriers in my own mind. Every time I tell one of my friends it gets easier, every time they surprise me with their reactions. The vast majority of people realise how hard it is for someone to tell them this - particularly someone that they know really well because there's always a greater fear of rejection. Maybe I'm just lucky in my friends, but maybe I'm friends with them because I think that they are good, worthwhile people who can cope with the slight hiccup in a friendship that happens when I come out to them.
Part of the reason that I'm thinking about this is the fact that I'm not intending to lie about my sexuality in my new job because I don't want to put up barriers. I don't want to be skulking about, hoping that people don't see me with my partner. That just seems so wrong to me.
Anyway, rant over. I've said before that I'm not defined by my sexuality, but it is an important part of who I am, and sometimes you just have to not deny anything.
First off, why am I thinking about this? Because I called Douglas tonight for a chat about absolutely nothing? Because I realised that I consider my tenant to be a friend, although we've only had a few conversations in our lives? Was it talking to John? Was it talking to Gregg?
I guess all of these play a part in my thinking at the moment. I've had a realisation while I've been back in Scotland that this is probably where I belong, and where I feel most at home. The pace of life, and the way of life are just right, in some indefinable way.
When I was in Hong Kong, I knew that I had friends, but I was only in hugely irregular contact with them because of the distance and the expense and the time difference. It made me feel rather lonely, despite the fact that I was living with Mr Twinky. Here, I immediately see myself picking up the reins of old friendships, friendships that have lasted despite the distance.
Which is why it's great to talk to Gregg. Why it's great just to hang out with Zoe and watch Buffy. Why I regret that I'm not getting the time to see Ruth, or Anne-Marie, or Geth or (list trails on into infinity here).
I'm back in the UK, sitting at the PC that now lives in the room where, fifteen years ago, I studied for my last exams at school. The long holiday is over.
And at this stage, my life remains in a turmoil-ish state of uncertainty. I have things that I want to write, things about travel and arrival, things about the news events that have shaped my world as I travelled, and things about family and change. But later.
In the mean time, I'm just sorry that I forgot to call Michael from the airport this morning. Happy travels.
Mr Twinky and I walked along the beach last night at twilight, watching the dark clouds swelling over the ocean, and as the first rain fell, we ran for the cover of the nearest hotel. We sat near an open fire and downed a bottle of Bannockburn wine (from Geelong, naturally), and discussed a potential novel idea which I may or may not write.
After the rain stopped, we walked back in to town, and headed for the restaurant which we'd picked out for dinner. But there was another pub on the way - one with a wood fire - so in we went. And we stayed there for a couple of pints. And their kitchen closed. And then we met probably the other visitors to town.
I can't really remember their names. There was baseball cap man and spiky hair man, who were both from Melbourne. There was an Irish man that was referred to as 'Irish' and a French woman called Nat. All in their mid twenties, and drinking their way along the coast. Irish and Nat weren't a couple but looked and acted as though they were. Baseball Cap man was the ring-leader, certainly. Spiky hair was trying too hard to be something out of the ordinary, with orange spectacles and hair that had been painstakingly plastered into position leaving him looking more like a cartoon character than anything else. We got chatting and drinking and ripping the piss out of each other, playing pool against a twelve year old local boy until he had to go home when the bar closed about eleven.
But we weren't finished drinking, oh no. Not by a long way. We went to the only remaining bar in town, the six of us. We drank more. I managed to knock my beer over with a pool cue while playing (very badly) against spiky hair. Obviously, I took it in my stride because by this stage I was too far gone to do anything else. Finally, we got chucked out at about one thirty.
Now bear in mind that we're fuelled by a lot of alcohol and not a lot of food. I have no idea where we were going. We cetrainly weren't heading for our motel, so I suspect we were heading for the campsite where our new friends were staying. And one of our new friends decided that he was going to be an arsehole. I was walking slightly ahead of him, so I can't be sure exactly what he did to annoy the man that came racing up the road after us, but as he chased along the road looking for the spiky haired guy, the rest of us scattered. A surreal and threatening ending to an otherwise interesting evening.
Irish and Nat found us shortly thereafter, and walked us back to our motel, just to make sure that we were safe. Nice of them but probably unnecessary. And they still seemed like a couple, even though they said that they weren't.
For one evening only, we were guests of the Greenwell Point Bowling and Sports Club Ltd. This involved declaring that we were over the age of 18, adhering to the directions of the management of the club, and being suitably attired.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
We're now on the first leg of our trip, heading south from Sydney towards Melbourne. On the first day, we covered more or less two hundred kilometres, firstly through the suburbs of Sydney, then into parkland; long winding roads that veer between tree-lined glades and stunning shore views. When you look at the clear blue seas, the huge waves crashing magnificently on the shore line, you can understand why the first European explorers to arrive here decided that it was a good idea to invade.
Looking for somewhere interesting to spend the night, we found the Coral Tree Lodge, just as the sun was setting behind us, bathing the village of permanently parked trailers in a romantic orange glow. Following signs for the office, we drove in to a birthday party for one of the residents. Despite mistaking it for a queue, or a lynch mob, we were welcomed by the owners, and shown to a motel room that might be a converted garage, or might be left over after some war or another. Cold but clean, and with a fantastic view of the Tasman Sea, still and calm. We watched the sunlight dying, hugging each other close in the crisp cool air.
Rather than go hunting for somewhere to eat, we took our hosts' advice and walked to the Greenwell Point Bowling and Sports Club. This is one of those places where you walk in and everyone stares at you. Voices didn't drop, and relatively few people turned to stare, but it was nonetheless a place where I instantly felt not at home.
We were adopted almost immediately and guided through the process of signing in by a homely woman who assumed we were there to watch the rugby on the big screen. Her boyfriend, a younger guy with a cropped haircut quizzed her about us in detail as we made our way to the bar.
By this stage, we were getting brash, almost bold, but we still firmly avoided eye contact with anyone. The club was full of "characters" - almost stereotypical in many ways. A group of men in their twenties, clearly out drinking to avoid their wives. The rebel strumpet, all black leather skirt and pierced tongue and high heels. The war veteran and his family, wheeling himself through the bar. The young buck (as noted above) trying to worm his way into either the group of men, or his homely girlfriend. We watched carefully. Eye contact was avoided studiously, and we walked in fear of spilling anyone's pint.
Shortly after we arrived, Syndicate started to arrive. Live music, to entertain the masses. Younger than anyone else in the club, it seemed. A collection of fashion victims trapped in the 1980s, from the lead singer with the slicked back black hair to the groupie with the bleached highlights, the black trench coat and the pierced eyebrow.
And the food...
There were two ways to get food. One was the Bistro, which was the description given to a basic servery with someone frying up behind it. That was popular, but you had to eat your food in the main club. The other was the Chinese restaurant, which was more spacious, and more popular, but not a preferred option, as we've been trying to keep off the Chinese food lately.
There was a third option, one that was a bit more random. For a dollar, you could buy a strip of five raffle tickets. There were three basic types of prize in the raffle - boxes of fruit and vegetables, trays of meat, or a dairy package containing mainly milk and orange juice. Tempted though we were to try to win a shoulder of lamb, two dozen raw sausages and half a chicken, we couldn't be sure of winning some vegetables to go with them, so we settled on the Chinese restaurant.
The food was actually pretty good, albeit smothered in corn starch and deep fried into oblivion. The sort of good quality Chinese food that you only get outside China, with fresh local scallops, some of the finest chicken chow mein, and traditional British-style sweet and sour pork.
As we struggled through the Australian-sized portions, the Chinese-Australian woman who had cooked the dinner came out and started chatting with her friends at the table next to us. It turned relatively quickly in to a discussion of the one-child policy. Meanwhile, Syndicate had started up, so we decided that it might be time to leave.
So, back to the converted garage for a cosy night in, snuggling up in front of the electric heater - and out of here first thing in the morning.
Moving out of the flat today, and into a hotel was pretty scary. It's like the move to Hong Kong was in the first place, only I don't know where I am going at the end of this one. And there are many more tickets. But I guess there's some security in there, somewhere. I do, after all, have faith that I can pay my tax tomorrow, and that I will somehow manage to survive nine weeks of Mr Twinky...
The threats of a possible 48 hour trip to the UK this weekend have vanished. I now have something on the job front. I didn't pass my exam, but I don't know how close I was.
I am about to leave on my final business trip of this job, and I'm not taking the lap top so I will be very out of touch. I've got 10 e-mails awaiting replies, and I'm hoping that my dearly beloved sister has received the gift I sent her via the usual suspects (amazon). In the mean time, I have put up a page with some pictures on it, which I will add to on my holiday in July. Probably.
I bought this book a while back, and I still do not live in a Japanese House. Why this should be is a mystery to me. Perhaps it is due to living high in an anonymous concrete block somewhere in the depths of Hong Kong. Perhaps it is due to the faceless minions of conformity, dragging themselves through my financial affairs willy-nilly. Perhaps I'm getting high on the glue smell from the office that is being built next door.
I can't give you suggestions as what should be done, what it will look like or where it will go. A person has to modify their body own their own terms with their own convictions and their own strengths behind it. A tattoo would be an image or a symbol that would give meaning to that particular person. Where it goes perhaps signifies something about that person. If it is placed on one's chest does it signify pride, or on the back of the shoulder blade suggest a person who believes they carry a heavy burden? If its own their bottom is that a humorous playful person (yes alright someone with cheek), or perhaps down towards the crotch suggest a sexual being?
Personally, I think you should get a black and yellow scorpion tattooed on the small of your back. There was a guy (a comics and sf fan) at my old office who was covered in piercings and had several tattoos (he once got into a competiion in a pub, with the girl at the next table, to see who had the most body mod, and I was forced to restrain him when he tried to take his pants down in the middle of a Croydon on a Friday evening). He left to go to a better job, which paid enough for him to get a poisonous centipede (with jungle background) tattooed curling round his left arm. I still haven't seen the finished product, but I did get to see the outline and it runs from shoulder to wrist. If you do get anything pierced - particularly anything (a-hem) down there - I wouldn't mind a detailed account. For artistic purposes.
I would highly recommend *not* getting a Celtic band or a dolphin or a dragon or a rose or any of that cliched shit. You're going to wear this sucker for life, and you best get something that you can stand by.
So yer looking fer a ta''oo? How about one of those lovely Celtic armbands ... and a pierced eyebrow? Non? Then shave your head, buy some lycra tops and a pair of Docs. You could be a Crash baby. Beautiful!
I got an e-mail today entitled "psycho fisting frolics". Within minutes of that, I read that the vast majority of people in marketing (ie pretend people) believe that banner ads are rubbish and they should use direct e-mail. Which I wouldn't have a problem with, except for the fact that I get enough of the shit as it is.
In unrelated news, I am back in Hong Kong until tomorrow morning, and I've been taking the chance to catch up on e-mail and such like. But my shift key is still broken. Gregg will have to suffer for this.
I wrote this on Thursday, by the way. It just took a few days to show up.
From the Glasgow School of Art website. A young homosexual is trapped behind barbed wire, clawing his way to freedom. Eight years or so later, that same man has a sore throat, and demands "Hugs!" on a regular basis. He has longer hair, and a goatee beard, but other than that looks much the same. From barbed wire, he has escaped, to be the foremost designer of McDonald's interiors in South East Asia. And he's got a lovely boyfriend.
The new weekend brought new things.
Among the new precious things of purchase are little clips that match the notice board pins that I was given by my sister, and a new colander that looks nothing like the tupperware one that I ruined.
A diet is coming. I start on March 5th, a day that will forever be known in History as "a monday"
Well, I've said that I want another job within the organisation, based in Europe, and that I want to leave here within four and a half months. In return for this I have the full support of the organisation in finding a new job, and I have an open offer of a job here if ever I want it. What have I done right?
I should explain. My dread at the thought of a dinner party on Saturday night was mainly due to the events that happen around a dinner party. Clearing things up beforehand. Clearing things up afterwards. The raging hangover. I was looking forward to the food.
The food was wonderful. Easily the best that Mr Twinky has done, and well up to restaurant standard. He did it all himself, with me as kitchen slave for some of the later stages only. I had to work most of Saturday, and should have worked Sunday too but I had a bit of a hangover, so I spent all day worrying about working instead of actually working.
But I digress. The company was good, although there was heated debate (read argument) and some quite unnecessary apologies from guests to hosts. On the whole, though, it was a big success. And yes, I wish I could have helped more, but Mr Twinky seemed to accept that I couldn't. But next time, I have to make dessert (it's a guy thing).
As long as I can remember, there has been this green plastic Tupperware colander.
My first memory of it is way back in the home that I lived in until I was about 11, so that means it's over twenty years old. Simple, practical, and long lasting.
I remember it as one item of a set of pieces - sandwich boxes, tumblers with lids, some in a particularly interesting shade of almost brown. All of these disappeared at various points, as old items of kitchenware do. Lost, or broken, or discarded in favour of more attractive plasticware. But at some point, it passed to me.
Whether this was when I went to University or moved in to my first flat I couldn't say - probably the latter, as I accumulated a range of household goods round about that time. It's stood me in good stead for at least ten years though, that's for sure.
Now, in the last couple of years, and in particular since Mr Twinky (my evil sidekick cat) moved in, I've been gradually replacing and updating, taking tired things and replacing them with design classics. The time has now come to replace this colander.
Mainly because last weekend I left it on the hob while I was boiling potatoes and I melted a huge smelly hole in the side of it.
I think I've just realised that I live 6000 miles away from home. Yesterday was the third anniversary of my arrival in Hong Kong.
"I'll buy a stereo for the bedroom..." So we get a new stereo. Incidentally a very nice Nakamichi SoundSystem8. Then we get it home.
"Where can it go?" "In the bedroom"
"It might go better in here - we can avoid direct sun gain."
"We've already got a stereo in here."
"We'll just start moving some furniture around to see if it would work..."
"We've already got a stereo in here. We'd have to throw it out."
"That looks good there, doesn't it."
"We've already got a stereo in here. You're not getting round me that easily."
"Does that mean it's going in here, then?"
I've not written much about Mr Twinky's parents, who are now on the fourth day of their holiday here. I'm doing okay, taking it pretty much in my stride. We get them in short bursts, which is nice.
In the real world I would have met them ages ago. We'd have met for a couple of hours here and there, dinner or afternoon tea or something. We wouldn't have had three weeks of forced almost-togetherness. I guess I'm going through the process of getting to know them in the same way I would have done if I lived in the real world, but in much closer-together packets.
I reckon this is actually a good thing. I'm growing used to Father Twinky's sense of humour much faster than I might have done otherwise, for instance.
There is a sense of artificiality though, in forming a relationship with someone over almost two years before meeting their parents. The only worrying thing is that I can trace every one of Mr Twinky's personality traits back to them. Very, very clearly.
Excellent - I'm glad you were equally blotto! Sorry am afraid there's little light I can shed. According to Brian you and I passed out as soon as we entered his place. Linna kept on going (all the boys were woo-ed, unsurprisingly). When Brian came back downstairs I was still dead but you were gone. The mystery continues...
So there was an upstairs?
II've not spoken to Linna this morning. About being nineteen again. Turn up at this guy's flat with Linna and Stefan. Linna disappears with our host, who (as far as I know) she has never met before. Stefan and I wind up lying on our host's bed, staring at the ceiling in the dark, talking about nothing in particular. I think I may even have left mid-sentence.
It's the Monday after the Friday before. The Christmas party. The one where I wasn't going to get too drunk. I sat between Stefan and Linna all night, and they both made sure that I was plastered. There was some tequila involved at some point, and then the three of us piled in to a taxi. We wound up in some guy's flat, at which point time mysteriously rewound and I was nineteen again. At this stage I walked out without saying goodbye. I've not seen any of the others since.
So relationships are hard work. Sometimes the people we care most about piss us off. Sometimes they even do it deliberately. It's hardest at the beginning. The first few weeks. You and your latest catch go out, have a few beers, only you have less than they do. Your moods move in separate directions, and before you know it you're frighteningly sober, they're frighteningly drunk and you have nothing in common and you hate each other. Last time this happened to me I walked out of a pub as a result. It almost ended the relationship. It didn't, though. I think that we're stronger as a result. Because we've been through that phase.
But it doesn't entirely stop happening. It repeats itself in little ways, little variations. We piss each other off, we move apart and cool down, make up and move on. Each time we understand each other a little more, which is not to say that we forgive, and not to say that we forget.
The fact is that there are two people in a relationship. Two people who need each other, true, but two people who need themselves as well. And finding that balance between the two - it's hard. But ultimately it's worth it.
But then what the hell would I know? I miss my support network and it's only ever an e-mail away.
I'll be having lunch today with Ms Erlynne Escobar, the secretary with a heart of gold, a very inquisitive mind, and a streak of red in her hair that wasn't there before. She will tell me how much fatter I am than the last time I saw her. Honestly, if I had a doughnut for every time that woman has told me that I am putting on weight, I really would be huge. However, despite the fact that I am dreading the Filipina Inquisition, she brings me coffee so that's fine.
Which reminds me that the office coffee is rubbish, but there is a Starbucks in the lobby. I must resist. I MUST resist.
My keyboard is sticky. This is a function of coca cola.
It's another mixed day. I got John's cheque paid in to his account. I had a payment rejected by the best on-line retailer I have found even though I'm under 20% of my credit limit.
Major downer of the day was when I went downstairs to pay this cheque in and the lift got to the ground floor. The door opened and <thwack> a small woman carrying congee ran straight in to me. Was I chuffed? Guess. And then she gave me this filthy look as though to say "Why don't you look where you're going?". At this point I completely lost it. Fortunately the lift doors closed and she moved out of range of my ranting (and it was solely ranting) and about a second later I calmed down again. But still. It scared me silly.
I can put it down to being tired, I can put it down to my hassles at work, but the fact is that's just making excuses. I should have apologised. I thought I was at that stage of maturity, but I'm not. I'm just as ratty a bastard as I always have been.
I want to be about 22 again. I want to have possibilities ahead of me, without the cynicism of knowing that things never go according to plan. I want to join a gym THEN, and I want to go out and make all the same mistakes that I have made in the last three years, but much much sooner.
So this is what's been happening. I met Mr Chan for lunch and we looked at what Wireless Application Protocol looks like in Cantonese. Not too good. I managed to find an English language menu that leads to Chinese data. Differently fab. Tonight, Mr Twinky and I enter the world of strange politics over Vietnamese food, with grown men behaving like children.
This is all fallout from Saturday night. Mr S fancies Mr H, but Mr H is seeing Ms B and in any case is not interested in Mr S or indeed Mr Anything thank you very much. Mr S lives in hope, however, and has been encouraged by the fact that Mr H is a nice, friendly bloke. Add to this mix Mr D, who is acting very strangely, Mr P who is looking for company (but being turned down by all and sundry) and who may or may not have been after both Ms C and Ms J on Saturday night, despite the fact of being in a steady relationship and not interested in adulterous pursuits.
Some of these people take themselves seriously. I'm not kidding.
So. Dinner last night. Eighteen people, lots of alcohol, and nobody declaring suddenly 'Oh, I'm mango intolerant!' which is just as well, because I had managed to organise a dinner in which everything on the menu had mango in it. It was, as ever, an odd mix of people including a lot of people who didn't know each other well, people's partners, people's ex-partners, that sort of thing. A mixed bag.
Woke up this morning to find a message on my voicemail from a call at 1.30 the previous night - John calling to say that he was thinking about us. He seemed to be at St Petersburg International Airport, which is probably a shed.
I'm feeling memeless and disconnected. I know it will pass, and I know that I'm thinking a whole load of shite, but I feel a need for company, for family. I need to spend time with people who I feel are genuine, rather than a bunch of artless poseurs that I have little respect for.
I need to get out more.
...was last night. We went to a bijoux French Restaurant called Camargue for no obvious reason. We ate caviar, we critiqued the decor, and then over dessert Mr Twinky demanded a presentation of gifts. I resisted, naturally, but waved the tempting red-and-gold wrapped package in front of greedy Twinky eyes.
"It's probably another gold leaf lacquer box from Vietnam," quoth Mr Twinky. And indeed it was.
I'm rather proud, however, of the fact that the box contained a certificate of authenticity for an original watercolour by one of Mr Twinky's favourite local artists... I feel smug.
I had lunch with Mr Chan. He seems to be doing well, despite his recent move from the comfort of Bridges Street to the distant shores of Ma On Shan. He is one of these distressingly thin people who seem to have no obvious hips or other ways of keeping up their trousers. I suspect that he has been implanted with magnets to save himself from trouser slippage embarrassment.
I just had another cryptic career conversation. At this stage in my caffeine-fuelled afternoon I find myself more worried about the ticklish spot inside my nose, and the fact that while I can barely keep my eyes open, I know that if I close them I won't go to sleep. I want to go home, but I promised an Indian consultant that I would wait for him to get in touch with me, thereby pasting myself into a corner. Foolish.
As a semi-serious question, I earlier asked Mr Twinky what a suitable birthday present would be. The reply "a hug" falls well within my budget, but seemed somewhat lacking in inspiration. I probed more deeply. "A big hug." I think this is a large part of why I fell in love in the first place.
When I was a kid, nightmares would go away if you ran screaming to your mum, woke up half your household and generally caused domestic chaos. Now I've grown up things are a little different.
I've just woken up from the nightmare in question, I can view it rationally, and I know that it's not a prediction of the truth - where would I find a a katana anyway? And at this time of night?? I don't know what the rational thing to do is. I don't really want to go back to sleep, and I don't really want to discuss the gory details of the dream in question, and I don't want to wake anyone up so that they can tell me I will be all right.
So I'm going for the old standby of displacement activity. Online, since I don't want to disturb anyone else by playing loud music.
Without a credit card, I am unable to shop on line, and that worries me in strange ways - in many ways it worries me more than the fact that I lost the damn thing in the first place.
I know that some of my on-line shopping will fail. I suspect that I will get a barrage of complaining e-mails, including threats, no doubt. It's kind of annoying. But until I get a new credit card there is sod all I can do about it.
In the mean time my finances are in a mess, and I put down my last mug of coffee somewhere and can't find it now. Still, tonight is 'serial tuesday night' so I can probably plough through paperwork while Mr Twinky is engrossed.