Haters Gonna Hate.

Writing can be deeply unpleasant and thankless task. Sometimes the only acknowledgement you might get for something you’ve written are some spiteful words from an ex-girlfriend who clearly has too much time on her hands if she’s decided to use it to  viciously attack somebody she’s clearly wronged (see the anonymous comment at the end of the last post for details. By the way, you now have to log in to post a comment, so there’ll be no more hiding behind the veil of anonymity for anyone who wants to share an unkind word).

The point really is that I find writing difficult enough without the personal attack that I attracted with my last post. You could argue that anybody who puts something out in to the world, anybody who creates something must, by necessity open it, and by extension, themselves to criticism as well as praise. Whilst one might hope for more of the latter, the former will inevitably come and one must try to rise above it, take it on board if it’s constructive, but most of all move on and keep creating. I didn’t do that. I let myself be put off from writing a 201st post because I simply didn’t want to open myself up to derision and criticism once more. I didn’t want to share my innermost thoughts, though I can assure you that, at times they were pretty dark. This was wrong. What I should have done was to write even more. I should have kept on going, both to sate my desire to write (and as loathsome as it can be, I really do enjoy it) and to give a big “Fuck you” to those whose lives are so clearly lacking in something that they have to strike out.

So yes, the message is FUCK YOU.

All that said, the last few months have been a little difficult for me. November was generally quite a down month for me with the only highlight being the delivery of a new phone to replace the one which’s memory was so deficient that it could barely call itself a Smartphone.

December wasn’t really much better. My work ground to an end, leaving me with more time to darkly dwell on the events of my life that had led me to my then current malaise. I’ve gradually gone off Christmas as the yeas have gone by, so even that couldn’t save the month. Not even going out on New Year’s Eve for the first time in a decade didn’t exactly lift my spirits. However, with the New Year and the opening weeks of January, things began to turn around. Gradually I’ve started getting more and more teaching work, something that simply wouldn’t have happened this time last year, and that’s very much kept my mind off things.

I had spent almost four weeks without a single social engagement, but even that situation seems to have resolved itself too.  Things are better now than they were earlier; so much so that I’m actually writing this.

But I was very much at a low ebb. Suicidal thoughts haunted me daily. I dwelt on and chastised myself for past mistakes, some of which went back decades. It’s a pointless exercise, of course. You can’t change the past, after all. I know that logically, but you can’t use logic against a depressed mind. Actually, the odd thing about depression is that, once the cloud has passed, you can’t quite work out exactly why it was there in the first place. The whole thing feels rather silly on reflection, but the truth is that it’s very real.

Anyway, for now I’m going to try to focus on the one thing in my life I can change; the future. Hopefully more teaching work will come my way and, if it doesn’t I might even seek it out. It’s not entirely what I want to do (and I have a great many reasons why, which I might even go in to at some point in the future), of course, but it’s certainly better than doing nothing, as this last month has taught me. The fact is, it’ll do for now, especially since, though I’m not exactly loaded as a result, it is at least helping me to pay the bills and stave off poverty. Besides, it keeps the gaps off my CV, so it does rather help to prove the old cliché that it’s actually an awful lot easier to get a job when you’ve already got one.

I’m not going to make any promises about posting regularly, because, if past form is any indication, I won’t be able to fulfil them. I hope I can keep going though, and I don’t just mean writing. I hope I can stop finding reasons not to write and do what I really want. I fear that, whilst there are external factors that stop me from writing, the major obstacle that I have to overcome is myself. I think I’m actually afraid of doing well. I think that, deep down, I don’t feel that I deserve to be successful, and that’s something I have to stop.


Special “200th post” post

Fuck. So yes, it’s been months. What’s happened? Well, I left the school at the end of the Easter and then went back to it in the summer whereupon I was subjected to some even more hilarious mismanagement and general fuckwittery.

In-between the fuck-tonnes of incompetence was a move from the house which had been my family home for all my life. Fuck, it’s bad enough having to live at home, without having to actually pick up sticks and move to different house with your mum, especially when that new home, a shitty little bungalow, is an absolute hole that cost, in my opinion, far too much money considering its advanced state of disrepair. More on that another time (possibly).

Right, so that’s glossed over the last six or seven months within the space of a couple of paragraphs. Frankly I’d been putting off writing about the day to day nonsense of my life because, to be perfectly frank, the details have become more than a bit embarrassing. Still, at least I’ve been working more or less solidly up until now. Well, I say up until now, but as things stand, I have but 3 hours of teaching work a week, split across 2 days. Given that I have to travel an hour each way just to get to work (and spend a shitload of unpaid hours planning) I’m actually spending more time commuting than working. Still, that’s just been the status quo for the last couple of weeks. Before that and immediately after the summer school debacle (I really won’t go in to it in too much detail here. The person in charge left after 3 days and the company decided that, of all the staff left, it would be a good idea to give the job of running the place to a couple of hooray-henrys, one a  21 year old and the other a 23 year old both of whom had not one iota of management experience. Fucking genius, right?), I’d been teaching 9-6.30 during the week as well working for around three out of four Saturday mornings. It was hell, but at least I saved up enough money to get me through the lean period from now up to Christmas (and probably beyond, come to think of it).

So really I needa proper job. After all, I am a shit teacher, so it would be nice to actually do a job that I’m good at (whatever that might be) just for a change. Plus I want a regular salary. Why? Well, obviously being a money worshipping whore, I just love having a few extra zeroes at the end of my bank balance. There’s another reason though; if I get a reasonably good job I buy my own flat. You see, I have some money saved up which, when combined with some of the money my mum has spare after the house sale (my sister already got her cut, bought a house and moved in to it way back in June) will give me enough for a pretty reasonable deposit.

Of course there’s still the matter of a job, so if any of you out there in internet land have even the slightest clue about what I might be good at and could point me in the direction of/recommend me for a position that’s both deeply satisfying on a spiritual level and pays a decent wage (I’ll just settle for the latter of those two. I am at least slightly realistic about the kind of things they’ll pay you actual money to do), then please do.

Right, that’s it for the recap. Tune in again, same bat time*, same bat channel

*I make no actual guarantees of writing new posts on a regular or even semi-regular basis. Or at all for that matter. In fact, I may never write anything anywhere ever again. Who knows? Not me. Or you probably. But definitely not me. Or you, definitely. I mean, I was going to write a film or a novel this year, just like I say I will every year, but I ended up being overwhelmed by the question of whether to write my story as a film or a novel. Which medium would best suit the story? Which could I write the quickest? But above all, which would be most likely to result in truckloads of cash being delivered to my doorstep by women who are noting more than juvenile (just to be clear, it’s the quality and maturity of my imagination that’s juvenile, not the women. I’m no Savile) fantasy images of nubile, beautiful and, above all, willing nymphets who desired nothing more than to fulfil my every sexual need? I think I’m getting carried away with this.

So, you see my problem. I wasted most of my time and energy trying to solve this devilishly trying dilemma, but to no avail. Then I wasted countless more hours commiserating the fact that I’d already wasted countless hours. Then I spent time commiserating the time I’d wasted in commiseration. Thus began a never ending cycle of commiseration and regret. Or, as I like to call it, my life. And I haven’t even got around to writing about the amount of time I wasted thinking about how my life would be of I did end up writing something (though you do, of course, have a bit of a taster here).

So wait, where was I? Oh yes. I might write some more at some point. Or I might not. Let’s just see. Just promise to check out my blog every day until the sense of disappointment and betrayal overwhelms you and you vow, though floods of tears, never to be sucked in by the vague pseudo-promises of a blog writer that you’ve either never met or that you have met, but don’t particularly like (or maybe I’m some other combination of both things. Maybe I’m someone you’ve never met but also don’t like, for example). You delete the bookmark on your browser and never return, using the internet only to look at amusing cat pictures, bitch about movies/TV/books/celebrities/technology/something pointless, update your Facebook/Twitter status with tedious twaddle that nobody but you cares about even if they say they “Like” what you’ve just said, and watch porn (obviously).

Anyway, don’t say that you haven’t been warned.


(Public) School Days

A few months ago, and in the absence of any other employment prospects, I foolishly agreed to spend three weeks working at a residential school near Hayward’ Heath. After Summer school last year I’d vowed to steer clear of residential schools, owing to the poor organisation and inedible food at my last place. It’s fair to say that this place is infinitely worse.

Actually, that’s not entirely fair. The food, thus far, has been quite a bit better and the Academic side is, at least, a touch more organised (though it would be nice if the Academic Co-ordinator wasn’t part-time and fairly ineffective). Whilst my main morning classes are a bit of a bind (the aforementioned Academic director has insisted that they be heavily structured, though I have to admit that it’s an edict I’ve so far ignored due to boredom), my afternoon “intensive” classes have been far more enjoyable. These “intensive” classes are actually used for project work, which is by its nature, generally more fun than “proper” lessons. The class is made up of five students, though it’s pretty much dominated by two German kids, one of whom, a little girl of what I believe to be around 10-11, probably has a better grasp of English than most Native English speakers of her age.

The same student actually remarked to me during the course of the last lesson that she’s glad I’m her teacher and not the other one who wears a purple top (a Polish teacher who, owing to his knack of appearing from nowhere and disappearing just as suddenly, we’ve nicknamed “The Batman”) because, having spoken to friend in his class, she came to the conclusion that his lessons were boring (and, from what the teacher himself told me, they do sound rather dull). I’m actually only doing a photo story with them, a project I tried last year at summer school, but everyone seems to be having fun, myself included. It was actually quite a thrill to sit in a classroom and bash out the story which would eventually be snapped on camera. The only downside is that, right of the end of Tuesday’s lesson, the most co-operative student accidentally dropped my camera (absolutely sod all resources are provided by the school) on the hard concrete floor of the common room. Needless to say, because it landed directly on its extended lens, it’s completely broken, though hopefully it’ll be covered by the school’s insurance policy.

As the roads leading to the school got smaller and smaller I started to worry about the prospects for a stable, high speed mobile internet connection. As it turned out, my concerns were justified. Mobile reception across the grounds is extremely patchy and completely unavailable in most of the bedrooms. I got lucky though; if I stick my phone on or near the window (depending upon, presumably, which way the wind’s blowing) I can get a connection capable of transferring data, albeit only at “Edge” speeds. If I want to make a phone call, however, I can’t actually hold the phone, necessitating the use of my headphones. My three dongle and mifi unfortunately don’t work at all.  Fortunately, to make up for this, there is wifi, though I was only able to gain access to that on Monday at the cost of £7.50 a week, which is a tad steep considering that you can only use it on one device (I chose my Acer laptop, leaving my phone, tablet and Dell laptop without internet access) and the fact that so much content is blocked. Blogspot blogs are blocked, as is my access to “Words with Friends” on Facebook. I can understand why they bar P2P access, but why can’t I have a game of fake Scrabble?

Still, the comparative lack of internet access hasn’t been that bad a thing because I’ve been so busy with everything. What has been a bad thing, however, is my next-door neighbour. He’s a Russian boy of about 13 whose main defining characteristic is an irritating, bum-fluff moustache. More irritation, however, was the fact that, on the first morning after his arrival, he decided to set his, extremely loud, alarm off at 5am. It continued to go off at 15 minute intervals until about 6.30am when, and I can only guess this owing to the frequency of door opens/closes, he started to host a tea party for his friends.

When, the next morning, the little brat’s alarm once more went off at 5am, I took action and immediately banged on his door. I forced him to deactivate the alarm, not leaving until I saw that it had been, once and for all, switched off. None the less, I still didn’t get to sleep before, for the second day in a row, I was required to get up at 7am top perform morning duties (on that day it was wake up. The day before I had to manage the breakfast queue).

Sleep has, unfortunately, pretty much eluded me and I’ve seldom managed to gram much more than 4 hours every night. Actually, the main problem is that the building in which I’m staying is particularly poorly built (presumably its construction was farmed out to the lowest bidder so as to maximise profit) and sound carries through every inch of the structure. Unfortunately it’s also been equipped with a set of particularly bangy doors which, due to the overzealous  auto-close mechanism and a lack of sufficient (or any) padding around the door frame, make an horrendous noise when they close. This morning it sounded like the oik from next door was standing in the doorway, continually closing and opening his cacophonous door. He is not my favourite person and, needless to say, I wasn’t amused to find out that bum-fluff boy was in my morning class. I have to confess that I’ve taken out my lack of sleep on him quite a bit, though he probably deserves it, what with being a pretty poor student anyway.

My most exciting moment came whilst I was wandering along the corridor in the main school building. Just out of the corner of my eye I noticed a small, no more than 1” square photo of somebody I recognised. The display boasted of the achievements of former pupils one of whom, I discovered, was Neil Gaiman. His picture, along with those of other leading alumni, was displayed alongside a brief profile of the former students an quote about their time at the school. Neil Gaiman’s simply read “I was educated by the Prep School Library”, which, whilst it struck me as being a particularly backhanded compliment, seemed perfectly acceptable to whomever stuck it proudly in the corridor’s display cabinet.

The people here are generally nice, though I can see that one of my fellow teachers is going to annoy me. His crap jokes, pathetic pranks and his inability to stray even slightly from the rules or directives of his hierarchical betters have irritated me to the extreme. A couple of days ago he was instructed to turn the common room TV on. Nobody was watching it and it was just proving to be an irritation, but when I suggested turning it off to save electricity, he whined at great length about not wanting to go against what he’d been told, despite all the common sense and ecological arguments to the contrary. His pranks are, frankly as unfunny and prosaic as his personality. Today he told me that one of the teachers had broken her thumb when she hadn’t and woke me up during my afternoon attempt to get some sleep to tell me that one of the other teachers needed to see me. I got out of bed and sluggishly went to see him only to discover that the other teacher had no idea what I was on about. The prankster stood outside his room, laughing hysterically. I was decidedly un-amused. Can you see a theme developing here? Honestly, if you want to get on the wrong side of me, deprive me of sleep.

Today I’ve managed to have a few altercations in the dinning hall. Over breakfast I mentioned to the Administration manager, a Polish woman in what I would guess were her late 40’s, if there was any chance that my camera breakage might be covered by  the companies’ insurance. Her response was that she didn’t think it would be covered. In fact, it was more than that. She, personally though that it shouldn’t be covered because it was my own fault for using it in a lesson, all this despite the fact that I had no real choice but to use my own stuff due to the schools unwillingness to provide us with any worthwhile resources. Seriously, if that’s your opinion (and frankly it shouldn’t be), then you should keep it to yourself. The typical Eastern European penchant for bluntness has never really sat well with me, what with having been brought up to be polite, courteous and, most of all, at least a bit diplomatic. In that situation, had I held her clearly wrong opinion, I wouldn’t have ventured it, Instead I might have simply offered an “I’m not sure, but it’s worth asking someone else” and left it that that. Multi-culturalism is a fine thing, but some people really don’t make it easy to get along with them.

Fortunately, at lunch, I managed to catch a more senior, and more understanding member of staff, who agreed to email head office to find out if the camera breakage was covered, so at least there’s some hope there. Right before that, however, I had to deal with an absolute bastard. The dining hall is quite packed, leaving very little room between the rows of tables. I briefly got up from my chair to get a cup of tea and, upon returning discovered that I couldn’t get back in to my chair because the brutishly fat man on the next-door table had pulled chair out quite a bit. I asked him if he could move forward, and he duly obliged. I couldn’t, however, manage to sit down properly, so I asked him if he could move a bit further forward. This time his response was to say, rather bluntly and aggressively “How?” I, of course, called him out on his rudeness and, as a result, he basically threatened to report me to my boss. Fortunately, the aforementioned senior staff member who subsequently helped me with my camera problem, was sitting opposite and heard the whole thing, so as well as formulating an amicable solution to the problem (the table itself was moved forward a bit) also agreed to act as my witness should the oaf decide to cause any trouble. I can only assume that the attempted bully (and I do hate bullies, hence my reaction to his attempt to bully me) was a member of the School’s (and by this I mean the school upon which our English classes are run) regular staff and I haven’t been all that impressed by any one of them really. The main point of contact for our school (a man whom I initially nicknamed “Miami Vice” owing to the resemblance of his clothes on the day I first noticed him to that of Crocket and Tubs, though today his attire was more reminiscent of “Hutch” or “Starsky and…” fame) seems to throw his weight around at the slightest provocation. One of the reasons why I have very little respect for the Course director is his propensity to cow-tow to this Bully’s every whim, no matter how petty or counter-intuitive. It’s like he’s forgotten that we ate essentially the school’s customer and it’s our needs that should be accommodated. Anyway…

So the first few days have had their ups and downs, but I suppose that they’ve generally been okay. I’ve got the day off on Saturday, so I’m heading home on Friday, straight after my last lesson finished at 4pm. Thankfully it looks like I won’t have to get back until early Sunday afternoon, so I might actually manage to get a couple of night of uninterrupted sleep, provided my niece decides to cooperate. Oh yes, my niece! Yes, I haven’t mentioned her before now have I? Well, she’ll have to wait for another post as, since it’s fast approaching 10pm, I’d like to sign off so that I can socialise with my fellow inmates for a bit before I try to get some much needed sleep.

Goodnight folks.


Re-evaluation

I guess I’ve finally come to the conclusion that I’m not going to be a teacher. I think I’ve been turned down by about eight universities by now and it’s really looking like a PGCE is a non-starter. Every time I send my application to a new university I expect to get turned down. I literally have no belief that there’ll be any other outcome. And maybe they’re not wrong to turn me down. Let’s look at why I want to be a teacher. Well, it’s a reasonably paid job, the holidays are good and I felt like I’d exhausted all other avenues of employment. Plus, it’s a respectable profession, a solid profession. You can’t get to embarrassed when you tell someone you’re a teacher. But I’m not going to be doing that, at least not after the summer.

I think I‘m smart enough to bluff my way through teaching, but I don’t have the requisite interest to be particularly great at it. Sure, I can be personable, I can keep a class entertained, but am I really doing it by the book? Do I really understand, or care about, the intricate techniques of teaching? No, probably not and, despite the fact that I’ve enjoyed doing it, I know that it’s just a matter of time before I’m found out. Much the same as with anything else I’ve ever done, I’m just playing at it; pretending like a child who wants to be all grown up.

Maybe I’m not ideally suited to being an English teacher. After all, what did I know about the difficulties associated with learning English; for me it’s always been kind of easy. I have a residential teaching job worked out for both the summer and Easter. I’m not exactly enthused by the prospect, but I figure that it might be good for me to get away from home for a while. I’ve barely left the house since the beginning of the year. I think I’ve met up with friends only three or four times in the last two months.

Anyway, my unsuitability was brought home to me today during the course of an interview I had today; possibly the worst interview I’ve ever had. I’d been contacted by the school yesterday after they saw my CV on TEFL.com. Despite that, they wanted me to fill in an application form. I ended up spending most of the evening cutting and pasting information from my CV to their form. They wanted to know a whole bunch of other stuff as well though. They needed virtually my entire medical history (asking questions like, have you ever suffered from depression and anxiety) as well as wanting to know exactly where I’d worked, how much I’d been paid and why I’d left. I don’t thk I’ve ever had to give out so much information. I was already fed up with everything and I hadn’t even got to the interview.

The interview was awful. We sat at an intimidating giant conference room table. Across the table from me were my interviewers, both non-native speakers. Because of that I knew that a lot of their questions were going to be grammar oriented. Sure enough, they were, and when I was asked, I froze up. Maybe it’s because I was tired or that I haven’t really had to deal with terminology for quite a while. I don’t know. I couldn’t even think of answers when they put teaching scenarios to me. I’d prepared a lesson plan for them and they consistently picked holes in it. Sure, I was told that it was creative and interesting, but I still get the impression that they were decidedly unimpressed. I was just nervous and it wasn’t working for me. One of the problems was that, if I accepted this job (in the unlikely event that they offered it to me) I’d have to abandon my Easter/summer school commitments. The job itself wasn’t overly appealing, even if the schools location, a 10 minute drive from my house, was. I’d be teaching elementary level students, something with which I’d had very little experience. The hours weren’t great either. I’d be teaching from 6pm to 9pm in the evening. It wasn’t until I got to the interview that I discovered that I wouldn’t even be working five days a week. Lessons would take place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Than in combination with the fact that I’d only be offered £10 an hour meant that I could only expect to take home £90 a week, before taxes and costs. Not great prospect really. Had I known all that the day before, I wouldn’t have even gone to the interview. Now I feel like all I’ve managed to achieve is a massive blow to my confidence. Basically, I feel like shit. I feel like I’m going to screw up every other interview that comes my way. Actually, that’s bull. I could look at it positively; I didn’t wan the job, so not getting it isn’t exactly much of a loss. I’ve learnt that, before an interview I have to prepare more. I have to do a little more revision. In all fairness to me, I kind of knew that already, but I had such limited time to get anything sorted (I only got contacted 24 hours before the interview and  I already had something in that afternoon. The application form and the lesson plan then took me the whole evening to get done) that proper prep wasn’t possible. Bizarrely, she’d actually wanted me to turn up for the interview the same day. I wonder, in that scenario, when she expected me to fill in the six page application form? Let’s face it, if it was a job I actually wanted to do, I wouldn’t have had to try so hard anyway. I’d have known everything I needed to know, I’d have been confident and I’d have come across as being competent. In some ways I’m disappointed with myself for failing to get a job that I considered to be pretty shitty. Then again, if it’s nit fir me, if it’s not really what I want to be doing, then why should I care. I’m crappy at faking my way through interviews (probably why I’m so awful at them). Maybe I just need to apply for jobs that I actually want.  I wonder why I’ve tried so ridiculously hard to be so many things that I’m not. What am I trying to prove? Who am I trying to prove it to? Myself? Pfffhh. Ridiculous really.

I’m applying for something else right now; a job writing about gadgets and tech. Usually I’d panic about not having appropriate experience or whatever, but they don’t seem too concerned about that. They just want to see samples of my writing. I’m in the process of getting something done and I’m pretty sure that what I’m doing’s better than much of what appears in their website and actually pretty good in its own right. Maybe I’m actually in with a shot. Whatever, it’s got to beat mindlessly applying for jobs that I don’t want and seemingly have no chance of getting.

In the interview, they asked me about what I like to do in my spare time. When I started talking about writing I realised that I speaking with more enthusiasm and passion than at any other tie in the interview. Why shouldn’t I give it a go?

I found a quotation from Raymond Chandler the other day (well, since I “Like” him on Facebook, it appeared on my stream) and I think I’m going to end with it.

“Ability is what you’re capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it.”

I guess I’m suck at stage two right now, but I’m aiming higher.


No Money, Mo Problems

The day really didn’t start out well. I was still sick and my illness had prevented me from getting more than two or three hours sleep. Actually, a phone call to the house early in the morning had woken me up and my cough ensured that I wouldn’t get back to sleep again. My terrible mattress would make sure that, even if I could sleep, I’d be uncomfortable.

My car insurance renewal came in. My insurance company were, yet again, despite the fact that I’ve never made a claim, demanding more money from me. More money that I really didn’t have.

With my HP Touchpad away for repair I’ve been unable to read any comics. I thought I’d use the opportunity to catch up on reading a few books. I picked up my Kindle and slid the switch across to activate the screen. Nothing. The same, static imaged remained. Whatever I did, it wouldn’t go away. I checked the internet. A lot of people seemed to be having the same problem. It looked like the Kindle 3 (as it was once called, Kindle Keyboard as it’s now known) has an inherent fault. The only solution was to send it back to Amazon. The only problem was that my warranty expired five months ago.

All in all, not the best way to start the day. Waking up on a lumpy bed, coughing madly with a sore throat and out of pocket by one Kindle and a car insurance price hike. Great.

Maybe everything that happened next is a measure of how much I’ve changed. It’s possibly a testament to how unprepared I am to give up these days. It perfectly illustrates a fundamental shift in my attitude to life. Well, all that and a bit of luck too.

Okay, so my major moans of late are the university situation and my lack of job. The latter problem was just about to be addressed. Just before the morning was out, I received an email from the School I worked for on the summer. They wanted to know if anyone wanted to work for them that summer. Not only that, they have an Easter school running for three weeks from the beginning of April at a different location to where I’d worked the previous summer. Now I’d had problems with Summer school last year, but they were mostly to do with the location, accommodation, facilities and food. At a different site, maybe none of this would be an issue? Still, I pondered whether I should throw my hat in. I’d had so much rejection of late that the idea of being turned down again just wasn’t appealing. I mulled it over for a while.

In the meantime, I figured that I should sort out my car insurance. I got some quotes together and, with cheaper prices in my arsenal, I called up my car insurance company to cancel. In the end, I stuck with them but, long story short, I’m now paying £3 a month less than before. Sure, it’s mall victory, but I’ll take a win wherever I can get it.

For the next couple of hours I fiddled with my Kindle, desperate to get it to work. In the end it became clear that my only option was to call up the Kindle Support Line and see what they could do about getting me a new one. At first they wanted to charge me £50 for a replacement. That wasn;t too bad; certainly better than the £150 it would cost me through their website, but I knew where I stood as far as the law went. A device that works for less than 18 months fell well below what the average consumer might have expected. After a little prodding, I got the new Kindle for nothing. Another win for me.

Okay, so now the mattress. I’d called Ikea about it last week right after I’d discovered that my 5 year old mattress was covered by their 25 year guarantee. They’d promised to get back to me, but their phone call was long overdue, so I gave them a ring. Someone’s coming out to inspect my mattress and it’s pretty obvious dip where a spring or two have completely failed. That was the most visible fault, but it was also pretty uncomfortable all over and I’d often be woken up in the middle of the night with a pain in my side, all caused by its dodgy springs. The mattress, which has actually been discontinued, was called the Hassleback and, to my mind (and back) it was certainly aptly named. Anyway, with luck, by this time next week, a new, better mattress will be on its way and I’ll finally get a good night’s sleep.

Given how the day started, I’m doing pretty well. All that was left to sort out was the job. Just after 5pm I emailed back and said that I’d be happy to work for them again during both the Easter and the summer. Just half an hour later I got a reply back saying that they’d be happy to have me for both sessions. So, in just a few weeks time, I’ll have a job again, albeit a temporary one. Who knows, maybe I’ll pick up some temporary work to fill in the gaps. The most important thing is that my year is no longer formless and barren; it now has structure, something with which I can work.

All things told I can go to bed tonight much happier than I woke up.  I guess that’s the thing with life; it doesn’t take much to spin things around. Of course, had I a different attitude, I could have just taken all the knocks and given up. But I didn’t. Instead I made the best of each situation. I tried to make things better for myself. Like I’ve already said, theses ate just minor victories, but my change in attitude does bode well for the future. I didn’t let myself be defeated and, these days, that counts for a lot.

I do still have a pretty bad cough though. I guess there are still some things that can’t be fixed with determination alone.


Valentine’s Day Massacre

So far, this year has not been kind to me. Right now I’m dealing with a deeply unpleasant chesty cold, but that’s just the tip of my 2012 woes.

Whilst I still believe that education is the key to solving so many of the world’s problems, I’ve come to doubt whether I have a role to play in it; at least in an academic sense. No jobs teaching English seem to be forthcoming and I’ve just heard that a fifth university has denied me a place on a PGCE course. So now I’ve had four rejections from four different universities in the space of a fortnight. In some ways it’s good because it means I can move on to the next choice as soon as possible. But, then again, I could do without getting my hope dashed every fucking week.

It’s probably only natural that I’ve started to reassess things. Why was I not getting on the course? How, I wondered, would I get on this course? So I started thinking about what was wrong with my application. When it comes down to it, there are three, maybe four deal breaker problems with my application.

The biggest problem, however, is my degree. Now, I didn’t do all that well in my undergraduate degree. I didn’t fail, but then, I didn’t get the grades that you’d normally expect a guy with a Masters degree (even if it is just in Film Screenwriting) to get. Now I think that, overall, I’m a pretty solid PGCE candidate. Sure, I’m a little below the usually required standard in regards to degree result, but I’ve got a Masters, a CELTA and a bit of actual, on the job teaching experience. To my mind, the overall package is pretty good. At the very least it’s acceptable. Of course, if you’re just ticking off boxes then I don’t quite get a tick in the one marked degree result.

There are about a thousand different reasons why my time as an undergraduate didn’t go as well as it should have. I’ve told this story before, but, it does bear repeating. Right before I was due to go to Uni, my Dad died. It’s a pretty traumatic event made so much worse by all the crap that followed. My Mum wrote a letter to the History department at my chosen university, Royal Holloway. I figured they knew all about everything I’d been through and would, as a result, would take that into account. So the first year goes on. I have trouble with lectures (believe it or not, It’d somehow not registered that I had to go to a bunch of tutorials, so I was already on the back foot just a few weeks into term). Then, back home, my mum is, probably quite understandably, given that she’s just been made a widow in her mid-forties, freaking out. She was, I would say, severely depressed. My Grandma, having lost her only son, was starting to lose it too. Clearly she was in the early stages of dementia too, so that didn’t help. During this period, she sold the house she’d lived in for nigh on 60 years (yeah, rioght before the property explosion. Five years later it would have gone for double. Anyway, I digress) and moved into a warden controlled flat. Whilst she was there she started to think that people were stealing things from her. It was all getting pretty sad and damn difficult to bear. My sister, in the meantime was having a pretty tough time too, all of which culminated in her almost dying after downing half a bottle of vodka. She passed out in the middle of a nearby park and actually stopped breathing. They had to take her to hospital to pump her stomach. All of this was happening whilst I was trying to study for an exam. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t pass.

Anyway, during the first two years, my Mum kept getting me to come back home to see her. I remember one particular time when, after I’d just managed to forget all the troubles back home and had a great day out at Chessington World of Adventures (and you can have a great time at Chessington), she called me up and insisted that she “needed me” back home. Dutifully, I came back and sat on my own in the living room whilst she spent the night upstairs. Definitely worth missing out on a night out for. But that’s the thing with depressed people, they’re basically just selfish.

Actually, just this evening, after I heard about not getting in to yet another University, she apologised for all the time that she insisted I come home. Yeah, it probably did have an impact on my performance, that’s true. I was pretty sure that I’d actually returned of my own accord due to worrying so much about the pair of them, but anyway that wasn’t the worst problem.

Oh, I should also add that, during the second year, my Grandma had died, which was pretty damn horrible. Over the course of about 18 months I’d lost two of my four closest family members. You’d think that the Royal Holloway Department of History would be a little understanding. You’d think they would, wouldn’t you.

So, anyway, the second year is drawing to a close and I get told to attend a meeting with the then head of department, Tony Stockwell, to discuss my issues. I went in thinking, well, at least he knows about some of the stuff I’ve had to deal with, so this is my chance to tell him about the rest. Now you’ll remember that my Mum, right when I started, sent them a letter. Tony Stockwell, however, told me that they’d received no such letter. Okay, fine. These things happen, I thought. At least, now I know, so I can set the record straight. So I tell Tony about all my troubles. He seemed to accept it all and we moved in. For what it’s worth, I think I made a better go of things in the third year. I don’t think I missed a single lecture, and all this despite the fact that I’d only managed to get my third choices for courses that year, something that was, as far as I can tell, pretty much unheard of.

Anyway, so I do better in that final year and, it’s good enough to get me through, but I don’t do as well as I might have done had the circumstances been different. So, I wrote to the history department at Royal Holloway and ask if they’ve taken my troubles into consideration. What troubles, they say.  They claim to know nothing about it. I come back to them and tell them that I told Tony Stockwell, during a meeting at the end of my 2nd year, about all of the horrible things that had happened to me, They get back to me. He flat out denies that any such meeting ever took place. Unbe-fucking-lievable. So there’s a little back and forth and, in the end, it becomes obvious that there’s nothing I can do because Stockwell, despite sitting in front of me listening to my story not more than 14 months earlier, is not going to admit that the meeting took place. Effectively, I’m being called a liar. Seriously, this is not something I’d make up. I’ve got documents to back up my story about the dead relatives, primary sources, if you will, yet this guy has the audacity to say that our meeting never happened. Now, on this subject I can reach only a couple of different conclusions. Firstly option, he could genuinely not recall any of the meeting and failed to write down anything to document it. Second option, he remembered everything but, for some reason, didn’t give a shit and couldn’t be bothered to actually do something to help me. Actually, there’s a third option. He screwed up. He screwed up, forgot to sort something out and, callously, decided to cover the whole thing up and claim that I was lying. After all, I had no proof of anything. The only evidence that a meeting took place would have remained with him, so what might have happened to it, only he knows.

So, in conclusion, he’s either incompetent and stupid, incompetent and downright evil or just laughably forgetful. Either way, they guys not on my Christmas card list. Anyway, I thought that I should write all this down and name names so that, if some other hapless soul has problem with Tony Stockwell, they can see that he’s got form. Seriously, I poured my heart out to that guy. My tale of woe was, quite frankly, so awful and so unfortunate that no one could ever have forgotten, yet that’s exactly what Tony Stockwell claims happened when he stared that he could not recall out meeting.

Still, though dumb luck, determination and, possibly, a need for the Media Stuies department to collect a tuition fee (though there must have been people who applied and didn’t get in. Surely?) I got on to my Master’s degree. I hoped that this would, both practically and in my mind, make up for my undergraduate failings. I really didn’t. I never really got over doing so badly and it’s something that affects me to this day. I still feel like I failed. Like I said, there are a lot of reasons for that which I’ve already mentioned, but none was more deplorable than the part Tony Stockwell had to play in the whole affair.

Like I said, I hoped that my MA would make up for it, but it didn’t and now I’m left wondering if my degree is the reason why I’m having no luck getting in to a PGCE course. There’s a few other things it could be. To my mind, I’m not sure that my reference was glowing enough (it seemed a bit like being damned with faint praise at times), I haven’t, as yet, spent any time in a Primary school (though I intend to once I get a place) and I fear that I wasn’t able to adequately express why I wanted to be a teacher in my application, owing in part due to the 400 character limit on personal statement (sure, everyone else had the same limit, but do they have as much to explain and justify as me? I don’t know). Regardless, I can’t help but focus on the one thing I can’t change, my degree result. The one unchangeable constant in my life. Or is it? Couldn’t I just do another degree?

Yes, I thought today. That’s the answer. I decided that I’d do a degree in English and Creative writing. I never really should have done History. In other circumstances, I would have realized that it was the wrong choice for me before the first term of my first year had ended. This was more like the sort of thing I should have done. This, ultimately, is what I really want to do. I’d slay the demons and put the ghosts to rest once and for all. I hadn’t done it before because of the cost and the time it would take, but why not do it now? Well, the cost would now come to £27K for tuition fees alone. It would take 3 years from my life, just as it always would, but, even if I were to get in this year (unlikely as the main deadline has passed) I’ be 37, going on 38 by the time I finished. After that, I’d do my PGCE at a cost of £3750 (yeah, helpfully they now charge you for it, whereas before you’d get paid) and another year. I’d be almost 39 before I drew my first paycheck.

So, I don’t know, is that crazy? There is, after all, no guarantee that I’d do any better at that degree (though, given that I’m actually deeply interested in the subject matter, I’d hope I would). Actually, my sister had suggested that I do a BA in education, but I’m not sure I’d really want to spend three years doing that. But then that raises another question; if I didn’t want to study that long to be a teacher, did I really want to be a teacher all that much in the first place? I’ll debate that more another time, once I’ve had a chance to think about it some more, but it’s a damn good question.

I’ve got to be honest; a lot of my new found anti-PGCE ire has a lot in common with what might be a typical guy’s reaction after being dumped. “Screw you. I didn’t want to go out with you any more anyway.” As you might say to the girls who’s finally give you the boot. You adopt that attitude in an effort to mitigate the hurt. And, if you’ve ever been dumped (and I’m sure that many of you have been) that point of view doesn’t always last. Quite how serious I am about not wanting to do this PGCE is up for debate and it’s not really something that I want to contemplate whilst I’m in this state of mind.

For what it’s worth, teaching’s definitely taught me a lot. Overall I’m more confident, I’ve started to learn how to grab a class (and an audience’s?) attention and I no longer really have a fear of public speaking. In fact, I’ve started to relish the attention that I get. Actually, I’ve rather missed that. There’s nothing like knowing that, when you go into work, 15-20 people will be hanging on your every word (an exaggeration, of course. Sometimes it’s a struggle to get any of them to pay attention, but by doing so I feel like I’ve won an even greater victory).

Of course, if I did a PGCE (and, let’s face it, not all hope is lost on that front anyway, since, chances are, I’d get a place in clearing), would I even make it through that? What if I decide against the whole teacher thing, what then? What do I do? You ask me what I’d want to do and, if I’m feeling confident enough, I’d tell you that I want to be a writer. But them that’s never seemed like a particularly sensible or practical answer. Only one person has ever really encouraged me to give writing a chance, my Masters lecturer. Most other people, and this includes my Dad, told me not to do it. My dad went to great lengths to put me off. I guess, deep down, that’s one of the main reasons why I have such difficulty writing and, more to the point, finishing anything. A son as I start writing in earnest I’ve immediately courted the disapproval of a dead man whose approval I quite seriously craved. It’s just fucking impossible.

So what the hell am I going to do? I guess, for now, I keep applying to different unis in the hope that one of them thinks I’m worthy of doing a PGCE. If that doesn’t work, I’ll try to get in through clearing. Hopefully that’ll work, because I’m all out of ideas after that (signing up for another Undergraduate degree the next academic year aside, of course). In the meantime I’ll keep going for TEFL jobs and hope that somebody takes me on so that I can boost my dwindling finances and stop myself from, as I sit alone in my room, turning into Jack Nicholson in the Shining.

As for the writing, well I’ve got to try. I’ve got to force myself to try and to have an idea. If I get to the end of my life and I haven’t given it a go then I can only look back with regret fir what could have been, if only I could get over my fears and break free of the inhibitions placed in me all those years ago.

So anyway, it’s all very confusing. So much so that I even started to do an aptitude test to figure out what I should do, which is pretty damn stupid. I mean, I’m not a moron. I know that if I did an aptitude test, all I’d do is respond in such a way that made it impossible for it not to, right at the end, proclaim that my ideal profession is a writer. I did it, of course. It suggested that I become a writer, obviously, but it also reckoned that I should be a teacher, so that’s something to think about.

Actually the most damaging thing is my attitude towards life. I think that I’m completely screwed because of my degree. It simply isn’t true. Most people assume that, because I’ve got a Masters, I must have got a good degree anyway. In other words, to most people, it just doesn’t matter. I have stop thinking like that. I see myself as a failure so it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. The truth is, I’m not a failure. I went through a difficult period and, yeah, things could have been better, but the important lesson is that I got through it. I had enough presence of mind and determination to do a Master’s degree, despite the odds. People believed in me then and they can believe in me again. I don’t need any more academic validation. I know who I am and what I can do. Doing a new degree would be fun, but it’s also unnecessary. People with far fewer academic accolades than myself have made it in the kind of areas where I’d want to succeed.

In some ways, I know that, no matter how many rejections I get, it doesn’t matter. If I want to go through the normal life backup plan then I can. Chances are I’ll get in to the PGCE course through clearing. The issue is the terrifying wait, the uncertainty of it all. I want to know now. I want things to be certain now, but I just have to accept that they can’t be; not yet anyway.

If I want to write again then I don’t need to have the excuse that a course will give me. I can do it all on my own. I’m not saying it’ll be easy; I’ve got a lot to get through, but I am capable of doing it. I am eminently more capable than I give myself credit for being. I can do whatever I put my mind to. Sure getting my head around that is easier said than done, but I just have to remember that I can do it. I’ve started to contemplate the idea that counselling might be a good idea, especially since I’ve stopped taking my tablets. I need to figure out some way of re-wiring my brain so that I can actually come to grips with what I can do. I don’t know. It’s just a thought for now. We’ll see where it goes. Maybe there’s plenty else I can do to help myself.

I’m worried about having an ordinary, normal, boring-ass life because that’s just not enough for me. I have way too low a boredom threshold to not have exciting stuff happen to me every day, That’s why, despite some obvious problems, I loved my US Road Trip so much. Every day was different. Every day was exciting and unknown. Maybe, in real life, it’s not possible for every day to be different, but some variation from week to week would be nice.

Yeah, I need control and I feel like I don’t have control of basic aspects of my life, like my environment, but I can change that. I still have some money on my bank account and I can invest it in myself. I don’t mean that I’m going to move out and get a flat or something extreme like that, but, if I so desire, I can get out of the house once in a while on my own. I can go to a Café and write if I want to. I just have to want to. To do that all I need to do is to get over the idea that one moment, one perceived failure, can dominate my entire existence. I need to stop trying to exist only to meet everyone’s expectations. I have my own expectations. I have my own desires. I know that what I want from life is for it to be more than just ordinary. Maybe that goes some way to explaining why I’ve has such trouble trying to make a normal life for myself. Maybe it’s time for a new approach where I realise that what people in general seem to perceive as being unattainable may actually be well within my grasp.


A Better Tomorrow?

I’m still trying to figure out who I am without the pills and all I really know for certain is that I’m not exactly the same person I was before I started taking them almost four years ago, nor am I the same person I was whilst I was taking them. I feel like I’ve gone through several personalities on the way to where I am now and I get this sickly feeling that the journey isn’t quite over yet, though I’m pretty sure I’m over the worst of it.

I feel less numb to the world around me and that’s both a good and a bad thing. My eyes ate fully open again, but that means that everything around me has once more become illuminated and that’s not really a great thing. More and more I feel like I need to get away from here. Permanently? Temporarily? Yes. Either. Both. I don’t flourish here. I need to be stimulated and my immediate surroundings are somewhat lacking.  Perhaps, if the final university in London to which I have applied for my PGCE, turns me down then it wouldn’t be such a bad thing. I could apply elsewhere in the country. Despite the extra expense of moving elsewhere, a change of scenery might be the best thing for me. It could be money well spent. Well, that’s if I manage to get in anywhere.

The other problem I have with my mental state is trying to work out exactly what “normal” is. If I’m sad or angry is that because I’m not taking the tablets or does what I’m feeling fall within the parameters of what a normal person should feel? What should I be doing and feeling right now? How does the average person of my age behave? What do they think? What do they do? What do they want?

I guess that a lot of people have trouble with the whole process of aging, but I feel better now that I’m older. Not physically, obviously; it’s going to take a fair bit of exercise to get to that point, but mentally. I feel more confident, competent and a heck of a lot wiser. I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on how the world works now. Naturally, I feel like I can be a better writer too. Though I think that I’ve had the raw ability to write for many years, I’ve lacked the requite inspiration. In short, I can write, but I haven’t known about what I should write. I’m getting there, I think. I want to start something soon. Hopefully it’ll all come to me sooner rather than later.

As the years have gone by I’ve thought a little more about the process of aging. I’ve heard it said that, as you grow older and you become more satisfied with life, you begin to lose your edge. For me, the reverse is true. I’ve become more passionate, angrier, sadder, happier and more elated by everything around me. This could just be a result of my withdrawal, but I suspect that’s not the case. I suspect that satisfaction will elude me for a while longer and, if that’s the case, I should try to make the best of it.

I saw a TV show (some unimaginative cop show) on ITV the other night. Whereas before I would have just thought “well, if that can get on ITV, then surely I can write something that they’d accept”, now that wouldn’t be quite enough for me (yes, running before I can walk). Now, I’d only be happy if I’d written something that got shown on the BBC or Channel 4 (although their output is starting to go a bit downmarket of late, so that opinion may change). In that sense, it’s fair to say that I’m becoming more ambitious. I’m no longer mired in mediocrity and I can’t so readily accept that which doesn’t come up to scratch (at least as far as I’m concerned). The problem is, I know that this kind of thinking, and a previous inability to make good on my promise, was what led me down the path of depression before, so I do have to be extra careful not to go down that route again. That said, before I didn’t have all the tools that I now have at my disposal. My increased confidence I mentioned before, but I also think that I have a level of aggression that had been previously suppressed.

Some personality traits, when taken in isolation, could be seen as overwhelmingly negative. However, when combined with other, more positive, aspects, they can actually be beneficial. After all, what’s the point of being the best in the world at something if you’re the only one who knows it? If you don’t have that aggressive streak that allows to promote yourself then you might as well be a talentless wonder and let’s face it, there are enough of those about in the world. The planet is rife with people who have no ability to do anything but promote themselves. I figure if you can do that AND you actually have a talent for something, then there’s really no stopping you. So, Confidence + Aggression + ability = Success. Well, that’s the theory anyway, and even then I know that it’s not that simple. There are more things that come from within to consider and that’s before one takes all of the external, less controllable, factors into account.

Of course, though it seems like it’s a good idea to embrace some of my baser, more violent (though not physically so) qualities. That’s not to say that you should abandon attributes like compassion and empathy. Caring about the world and wanting it to be better (and not understanding why it isn’t) is kind of important. It’s probably one of the things that motivates me the most, but I can’t really let it bring me down as much as it used to or I’ll get nowhere. However, those things are a part of who I am and I shouldn’t discard them. Again, there needs to be balance. I wouldn’t want to be the sort of person who isn’t reviled by injustice, who’s unaffected by suffering and unmoved by love, humour and happiness. I am not selfish and whilst I might realise that I have to look after, and out for, myself, I can’t do it to the exclusion of all else. Some people can do that. I’ve known people whom I’ve subsequently realised behave as if no one in the world really matters, but I wouldn’t associate with them freely anymore. These are the sort of people who should in an ideal and just world, not prosper. Unfortunately, in the real world, they can, and frequently do. I suppose that more righteous people simply have to be better than they are so as to come out on top. “Is the dark side stronger?”, Luke asked Yoda. “No, no, no, quicker, easier, more seductive” replied the diminutive Jedi Master. (Incidentally, am I the only one to notice that Yoda only talks in his recognisably misaligned way in “Empire” when he first meets Luke. He only mixes up his word order when he’s playing the fool. Once his true identity is revealed, he starts speaking normally. It’s as though George Lucas forgot all that for every one of Yoda’s subsequent appearances and just had him revert to talking like a mad person). I hope that explains my situation. I hope that I’m on the long path and, when I get there, my patience will be rewarded. Am I a righteous person? I don’t know. Not yet, I think, but maybe someday when I can finally lift myself out of the mire. At the moment I at least hope that I could call myself a decent human being who has some regard for the people around him. I don’t, for example, openly cough in stranger’s faces, unlike the person who did just that to me when I was standing in the fruit section of a supermarket yesterday. So, to everyone who bought bananas at the Hatch End branch of Morrison’s (I’m really not going there again, it’s crap), I’m sorry to tell you this, but they’re probably laced with some inconsiderate sod’s germs. Yeah, I at least have some courtesy and regard for my fellow human beings. Just bear in mind that, when I have a cold and I’m in your proximity, I’ll choose not to cough all over you. I’m just considerate like that.

I feel like I’m rambling a bit, so I’ll stop there. Besides, it’s really, really late and I should really get some sleep instead of staying up to write a post and a half’s worth of material. Then again, it has made me feel a bit better, so maybe I’ll get to sleep a little sooner than I did the other night.


Too Much Confusion

I’ve been feeling utterly wiped out over the last few days. One way or another, I’ve been ill; after effects from the pills, and it’s been hampering me, making me feel bad again. I’ve scarcely left the house, aside from a trip or two to the shops. There hasn’t been any need and if there’s no need to go out why should I. Not only that, if I don’t need to go out, then why bother to even get dressed? I dress for dinner in the evening. Something in the back of my mind insists that it’s only proper to be adequately attired for the day’s main meal. During the day I feel tired, worn out and headachy. I’ve got no reason, or desire, to do anything.

At night time, when I should be tired, my body and mind awaken as if I’ve just been shot with a concentrated dose of adrenaline. Thoughts race through my head and chase away the prospect of sleep. The hours tick by; 2 o’clock, 3 o’clock, 4’o’clock 5. Then, all of a sudden, it’s 9 o’clock in the morning and I’m completely awake.

Yeah, there’s some bad things to go through before I’m completely free from the tyranny of Citalopram. More lightning bolts surge through my head, a little bit of anxiety kicks in. Bitterness, resentment, sadness, worry and confusion all pass through me before I manage to fall asleep.

I hope it comes to an end soon. I hope this is just the final stage of withdrawal; the last challenge I have to face, the last hardships I have to endure, before I finally find freedom. I hope that this is all temporary and not of sign of things to come; a new status quo. It probably isn’t, but I can’t help worry; that’s part of it you see. The old anxieties about life, love, jobs, money and everything I fear that the future may bring, run at the forefront of my mind. I dreamt last night that I’d got a job at a school. I was handed papers about what I should be doing, but I couldn’t make sense of it all. It reminded me of when I first started university and managed to miss classes just because I didn’t know they were on and that I had to attend. My thoughts were elsewhere and I lack the faculties for addressing such simple matters as timetabling. In this dream, I had a room, but it was in a state of disarray. Stacks of somebody else’s things lined the walls. There was even an old kitchen appliance (a washing machine? Dishwasher? Oven? It wasn’t clear) in a corner. Added to that, my room kept literally moving. At one point of was hitched up to a truck and towed to another location entirely. Literally, I would wake up and have no idea where I was.

Back in the real world I find that my body and my mind are equally unsettled. I face instability on all fronts. The “For Sale” sign sits once more in front of my house, the previous buyers having long since used up any goodwill and trust that we might have had in them. Will, it sell? To whom? For how much? WHEN? All of this is unknown. All of the year stretches out ahead of me and one conditional dominates it all. “If…” If X happens then I can do Y. If I get work at a school then I can afford to fill my year with fun. If the house sells then I’ll have to leave the room I’ve finally made my own and try to live elsewhere. If it doesn’t sell on time then the house that will succeed it might end up being sold to someone else (not necessarily a bad thing; I’m not sure it’s altogether suitable anyway). I can be pro-active, I can make decisions and take action but much lies beyond my control.

In spite of it all, I still work towards a better future. I apply for jobs, I conjure up ideas of what I could write. I might start something tomorrow if the mood takes me. If my body and mind aren’t too weary to contemplate doing anything. If the daily pain in my head takes a holiday. If, if, if, if… So many ifs.

I hope that this is all a sign that I’m almost out. I think it should be, but I worry. I would, after all, wouldn’t I. That’s how I got here in the first place.


Don’t Look Back in Anger

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. Clichéd though it may be, the opening to Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations” (a book which I have, incidentally never read, though I’ve seen countless film or TV adaptations) aptly sums up my 2011. Okay, it doesn’t, but “there were some good bits and some bad bits” has nowhere near the grandeur, and who doesn’t want a bit of grandeur in their life.

2011 was a strange year. So much seemed to happen. Tyrants fell. Osama Bin Laden, Gadaffi, Kim Jong Il, Steve Jobs. All gone. The streets of London were filled with rioters. There were strikes; some justified and some completely unjustifiable. But I’m not really here to talk about that. This blog usually has more of a personal bent, and that’s the way this entry’s going to go.

January and February were pretty uneventful. It wasn’t until March that things started happening. Right at the end of the month I got my first teaching job. It wasn’t the greatest place to work and I was forced to teach for the first time with pretty much no support, but at least it got me started.

I kept teaching until just before I went away in May. The events of the four weeks that followed probably had the greatest impact on my year. Hell, they had a pretty big impact on me and my life as a whole. Going to the US changed me, in some ways for the better and in others… well, let’s just say that I don’t think I’ve felt the full impact quite yet.

Some would say that going on holiday, especially such a long holiday, with an ex was always going to be a bad idea. After what had happened towards the end of 2010, what with being dropped by her mere days after booking the initial flight for December, I would have been right not to trust her again. That’s why I booked everything, from the first place to stay to the car rental, at the last possible moment. I just didn’t have faith in her. I didn’t trust her enough. I started to again, but as things turned out, I should have just gone with my instincts. It’s not a mistake I’d make again.

The thing is, I wanted to trust her. Not just because I wanted to believe that, deep down, she was a good person. No, I wanted to trust her because, if I did, I’d finally get to do the thing that I’d wanted to do for so many years; take a road trip around the US. It’s hard to say which of my desires blinded me to the truth of the situation the most, but either way I was made to suffer for my supposition (one that I’ve since rescinded) that everyone is, deep down, basically good.

I approached the whole holiday in the wrong way. My attempts to appease someone else had been foolish, especially since pleasing myself would probably been a more admirable trait anyway. The concept of putting other people’s needs before your own simply isn’t workable in all situations. Some people just aren’t built in a way that allows them to be given that kind of regard. It was foolish to think that being nice was the answer. It was stupid to try to be accommodating with someone who had no time for attributes like selflessness and decency. I see now that some people just want to be dominated and dictated to. Some people have more respect for the kind of person who doesn’t give a damn about the way that they feel. That’s not how I am. I care about how people feel and I never want to be dominated. I’ve realised how much having a feeling of being in control makes me happy. Ironically, I hadn’t realised that appeasing others would lead to my relinquishing so much power which, in turn made me unhappy.

I learnt that a one size fits all approach to how to treat people appropriately just doesn’t work. It’s a lesson I should have learnt earlier, that’s for sure, but I guess that my experience of dealing with people with different personality types; people from different cultures with substantially different upbringings to my own. She’d actually given me some pretty specific advice about dealing with someone I worked for (a person for whom I had no respect owing, conversely enough, due to his un-courteous manner and actions that were defined by a lack of reason and coloured by unbecoming, and unwarranted, emotional outbursts) that ended up getting me exactly what I’d wanted. This goes back to when I was working in Eastbourne. I’d made a reasonable request to have one of my duties swapped with someone else. He, however, determined, I’m sure, to bloody mindedly exert his paltry authority, had refused. At her suggestion, I changed tack. Instead of asking, I told. I was rude, essentially. It worked. A show of strength got me what I wanted. Frankly I still consider it to be a primitive and uncultured way of doing things, but it’s hard to argue with results. Of course, I never saw it as anything more than a one-shot solution, but thinking that way was clearly a mistake. It’s only now that I’d consider putting that lesson into practice on a regular basis. It’s only now that I’ve learnt that people can be simple creatures who respond more to a voice raised in anger than a kind word.  It’s horrible though, but politeness and reason just don’t work with some people. Rudeness and callow disregard for such trivial matters as feeling are obviously the way to go with their ilk. Anything else is seen as a sign of weakness and they’re never going to concede to someone whom they feel is weak. I’d been reluctant to engage in any form of confrontation too, and that clearly wasn’t the way to pull her strings. She just saw more weakness. That’s something else I’ve changed.

The trip also taught me more about myself and my own capabilities. I would have been reluctant to do the trip on my own before, but after being abandoned in the last week I became aware of my capabilities. I’d spent so much time worrying about making sure others were happy that it had drained my resources. As well as coming across as being weak, I’d filled myself with doubt. Every harsh work had gradually lowered my opinion of myself. My confidence had taken such a knock that, by the time we’d reached the Grand Canyon, I could barely even drive anymore. Of course, having an additional person along for the ride (her then boyfriend, even if she’d led me to believe that theirs was a far more casual relationship, contrary, I should add, to what he subsequently told me) had made me feel even worse. I quivered with fear at the prospect of saying the wrong thing; knowing for every moment of every day that my position in the little expedition was now tenuous at best.

I was reluctant to suggest anything. I was reluctant to impose my will any situation. My voice now had less weight, being one of three instead of one of two. My position was weaker since the two would almost always side with one another. When I was finally told, quite casually, and somewhat incidentally (by the way…) just as we were to depart, that they’d rented a car the previous night and would be leaving me to my own devices, I was devastated and distraught. How would I cope with this journey on my own? The answer didn’t come immediately. At first I was inconsolable. I set off towards LA, stopping only for a bite to eat where I used the restaurant’s (OK, McDonald’s) free wifi to find and book a hotel at my eventual destination. When I got there, I was a little lost, but, determined not to be defeated, I set about booking up and planning my following day. It wasn’t until later that the reality of my situation struck me. I hadn’t been abandoned at all. I’d actually been freed. From there in, I could do whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted to do it. I’d already made use of my freedom by planning, on my own, an itinerary (well, not an itinerary, that’s too inflexible a word. A list would be a more appropriate way of expressing it). I didn’t need to worry about what anyone else wanted to do, I just had to worry about myself. I finally realised that if I’d been like that from the very start, I would have been happier. I learnt that I could be happy and have fun on my own. That realisation ran contrary to what she’s said to me previously. I wonder if, in part at least, I set out to have a good time just to prove how wring she was about me. Then again, that idea of being dared into doing something just to prove someone wrong had always been a part of my personality. My Dad had called it my “Marty McFly Syndrome”, after the character from Back to the Future who couldn’t stand being called a chicken. It’s only years after his death that I realise quite how much insight he had into my personality, though I would have to debate whether he was right to get me to stop my instinctive reactions altogether when all that was required was for them to be tempered. The point was that now that I was alone, my opinion was 100% of what mattered. Ironically, the thing that I feared the most, being cast out, had actually proved to be my salvation. I now know that, even when I’m in a group, I need to let my voice be heard. As my confidence has grown, so has my willingness to challenge everything and everyone that I see as being wrong. I’m less inclined to bite my tongue to avoid confrontation in pursuit of an easier life, especially since my experience with her had taught me that by being pliant, I was actually making things more difficult for myself. Ultimately I’d learnt a valuable lesson. Don’t concentrate so hard on making everybody happy that you ignore your own happiness and, in the process, fail to make anybody else happy anyway. And let’s face it, I probably gain more solace from being right than doing the right thing anyway.

A few weeks after the holiday, by the time I went to teach at a summer school in Gloucestershire, I’d already started to put what I’d learnt into practice. I became less reliant on others for my enjoyment. I frequently went off and did my own thing. I also became less willing to stand for things that I believed to be wrong. I don’t think that it was the best experience I could have had, but I didn’t leave feeling miserable or put upon. I’d done things on my own terms and that in itself was enough to allow me to leave with no regrets and a smile on my face.

It’s not all entirely positive, of course, and one of the changes that occupies something of a grey area is my ability to trust. Inevitably, after being let down to such a degree, I’m not so willing to put my faith into someone and everything they say. I’ve even found myself doubting the factual accuracy of the things that friends and family say. That’s not because I don’t believe them, no. It’s more because I don’t necessarily believe them to be correct. This, I think, might prove to be a good thing since already I’ve managed to avoid trouble by checking facts for myself. I wonder whether not trusting people so easily will lead more frequently towards happiness or misery. It’s too early to tell, but even as I write this I realise that what I’ve learnt isn’t to not trust people, but instead it’s to not trust people so easily and so readily.

But what about my former travelling companion whose actions and behaviour have taught me so much? Do I look back on her fondly? No, of course not. I’d have to be a fool to think like that. Do I bear her malice? Again no, because what’s the point. I can look back and say that my encounters with her re-shaped me. They’ve lifted me up closer to my potential. In the short term they shattered me, but in the long term they’ve renewed my confidence and she’s unwittingly handed me the tools that I’ve needed to climb ever higher. After the trip ended I haven’t really talked about her. A few messages flew back and forth, but I was initially too angry and now, too unwilling to be manipulated and taken for a ride, for there to be any kind of reconciliation. It is, perhaps, yet another irony, that, now that I’ve changed my approach and outlook to life so much, I think she might hold me in higher regard, but that is, to me, irrelevant. After all, now that my outlook has changed, I’m unlikely to let a person such as her as close to me ever again. I hope that she changes, I really do, but even if she does, I doubt that I’ll hear about it. We don’t, after all, have any real friends in common since, from what I can gather, she’s alienated pretty much all of the people that know both of us whilst I’ve managed to remain friends. There’s a lesson there too. Whilst I’ve been able to learn much from her, I think that I’ve been able to achieve a balance that she doesn’t have. I can stand up for myself and, to a degree, manipulate people and situations to get what I want. I however, know when and where to stop, and that’s the difference. She, for example, didn’t even tell her boyfriend that we used to go out. Had he known, he told me that he would never have come in the first place. Now, it’s possible that had more to do with her capacity for self delusion and revisionist approach to history (she subsequently told me that she never regarded me as her boyfriend and, though she denied it, removed any such references to me in that regard from the current version of her blog). Regardless, there are people and events that need to be left in the past. We can learn from our experiences, both good and bad, but the bad ones have to be left behind so as they don’t have the chance to haunt us and poison the future. I won’t mention her again.

As the year drew to a close I realised that I no longer needed my anti-depressants. I started to wean myself off of them and, I’m proud to say that I’m now no longer dependent on them. Sure, I still get miserable from time to time, but it’s entirely normal and even healthy. I began to realise that my mind had been dulled by the pills. The world now has its sharp edges back and though they cut both ways I can’t help but think that I’m happier now that can feel their effects. 2011 let me cast of much of that which bound me. I’ll admit that 2012 has had a slow start, though it’s only two weeks old, but at least now I know how to approach things. Now I can be confident of my capabilities and I can be truly excited by the prospect of what’s to come. It may be true that those how fail to learn the lessons of past are doomed to repeat their mistakes, but it’s equally true that the past is not a fit place to live. On that note I say goodbye to 2011. It was, without a doubt, been my best year in ages. Finally I’d like to wish absolutely everybody who’s reading this a happy 2012.


We are Robots

A while back I wrote a post about people who work on the tube, London’s subway system.

You can find it right here.

Well, I’ve had got a couple of negative comments. The first I addressed pretty much right away, but I’ve taken a little more time to respond to the second. Anyway, it’s worth taking a look at what’s been written and my responses, the last of which is actually printed below. The last commenter had taken me to task for suggesting that train drivers are stupid. He also suggested that the tube worker’s unions were justified in seeking more pay (though he did say that by doing it in such an aggressive way, they were losing the support of the public).

“The simple fact is, no union should have that much power. Unions are, effectively, the machines of socialism. The point of them is to ensure that their workers are paid fairly. I have no truck with that concept, but that’s not what’s happening with the various train unions. We can all see that they’re not looking for fair pay, they do, after all, already receive that ten times over. What they’re looking for is more pay. They’re greedy and they want the biggest slice of the pie that they can possibly get. Who gives a damn if Londoners are forced to pay ever increasing fares to pay their vastly inflated wages? Who cares if the London Underground is the most expensive in the world? Who cares if money that’s going on exorbitant wages could be used to improve a service that’s in severe decline and falling well below the excellent standards of rail lines in other major cities?

Frankly, if you’re being paid £45K a year for working 35 hours a week with 43 days of annual leave for pushing a button every couple of minutes, then you’re overpaid and it’s only right that your salary be cut and I don’t mean by simply not having a rise above RPI. Slash £20k from a tube driver’s salary and I’d still say that they’re overpaid. After all, £25k is about what a newly qualified teacher would get for working in the outer London area, and out of those wages they’d still have to pay for their travel expenses. Unlike you guys they don’t get a free travel card. Not only that, Teachers have to work a damn site harder for their money and they have to be far more qualified than a train driver. I mention teachers, but the same goes for nurses, the police, fire fighters and countless other professions of varying difficulty and risk.

OK, it’s possibly unfair to imply that tube workers are all stupid, but they certainly don’t need to have brains to do their job either. Driving a train is a comparatively easy job, yet I’ve still observed drivers make an alarming number cock ups. Drivers make incorrect announcements about train destinations, they close doors on passengers as their trying to board the train (having given all of a few seconds to allow people to get on), doors aren’t opened quickly enough; the list can go on and on. Quite frequently, when drivers do have to make announcements to, inevitably, inform passengers about delays and changes in the service, they speak so unclearly that their utterances are completely unintelligible. Is it too much to ask for a train driver, who is expected to make the odd announcement, to have a clear and easy to understand speaking voice? Apparently so. How many people have been stranded in the wrong place after services have been changed and they’ve been unable to tell, just because the driver can’t speak in a coherent manner? And let’s face it, I’ve got problems understanding what train drivers are saying, what chance do foreign visitors, whose ears are less attuned to the guttural sounds made by many drivers, have to comprehend them?

Perhaps the only hardship tube workers might have to endure is working the occasional public holiday. Of course, they want to be rid of that responsibility too, or at least be paid stupid money for doing it. So ASLEF wants their drivers to have TRIPLE PAY and a day off in lieu for working on Boxing Day. You’ve got to be kidding me. Most reasonable people would be happy with one or the other. Most people would feel privileged to get double pay or happy with just a day off in lieu, but not the tube drivers. No, as ever, they want, more and more and more and then, once they get it they’d like to come back for another helping.

Public sector workers are having undeserved cuts made to their pay and benefits whist tube workers moan that their increases aren’t big enough. I’ve heard people argue that everyone else should demand that their unions be as militant as those of tube workers. Great idea. Why don’t we all be as greedy as them? Why don’t we all take as much. The answer is simple, of course. If we all tried to extort (an perpetual strokes and threats to strike are tanamount to extortion) as much money as the tube workers then the country would be bankrupt and we’d all be out of work. But that’s the kind of thing that the socialists of convenience who drive trains, with copies of The Sun wedged onto their dashboards, wouldn’t think about. It’s no wonder that nobody sane would have the slightest bit of sympathy for them. The jobs they do are comparatively easy. A while ago, when the subject of train automation was brought up, I discovered that on the Victoria Line, the drivers don’t even drive the trains. All they do is open the doors. One could certainly make a fairly good case for getting rid of the “driver” altogether. I’m all for automation the whole damn tube network. Obviously, seeing an end to the cash cow that the tube has become for their members, the unions aren’t happy. On the subject of cutting drivers out of the equation, an RMT rep had this to say “Driverless trains are a lethal and unworkable option for London Underground and any move in that direction will meet the fiercest union resistance.” It’s an interesting point of view isn’t it? Certainly nobody would want safety to be compromised (and, let’s face it, the safety angle is how the PR departments of train drivers unions usually try to counter any suggestion of jobs cuts), so surely we can’t do away with drivers. Well, it would be a convincing argument were it not for the fat that it’s completely untrue. The Copenhagen Metro runs trains without drivers and they do that 24 hours a day (unlike London), 7 days a week. No doubt the unions would say that their system, as well as not working, is unsafe and inefficient. On the contrary, in April 2008, the Copenhagen Metro won the award at MetroRail 2008 for the world’s best metro where they were praised in particular for network’s high regularity, safety and passenger satisfaction. If only London Transport could make such a claim. Maybe, one day, once all the detritus is cleared from the rails (and by that I don’t mean leaves on the line) we’ll have a tube network of which we could be equally proud. When that day comes (and it can’t come too soon), perhaps then Londoners will finally get the tube service they deserve and not one’s that’s been compromised by the greedy sods who work on it.”

Am I right or am I wrong? (I’m right of course). Let me know what you think.


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