The End of the Road?

Some uncomfortable truths

 

You are dying.

In memoriam

In memoriam

I am dying.

Your nearest and dearest are dying.

We are all dying.

Since the day we were born (some might say ‘since the day we were conceived’) we have all started out on our final journey.

For some of us the mortality end-game comes along a lot sooner than for others.

This year – 2016 – has seen a large number of departures from the field of popular culture.

The fields of TV, film, music, literature, and even pop-academia has seen many notable checkouts from this mortal coil.

Yet it is a sad fact that this unfortunate trend will continue in 2017.

When radio and television popularised itself in the 1960s, and drew in to focus the publicly-driven worlds of social and pop culture, the media was programming us (us being the population of the early 21st Century), for an upward, and steeply increasing, bell-curve of widespread, heart-felt losses.

I predict that 2017 will see far more checkouts from the world of popular culture.

And 2018 many more again.

We don’t know when we’re gong to checkout.

But a brush with the checkout desk changes us.

I have been told that I have become more self-centred.

I offer this without comment.

I acknowledge that I have become more emotional, in a ‘heart on my sleeve’ kind of way.

And I now look at things (people, situations, events) in much greater detail than previously.

This isn’t unusual, apparently.

A significant number of heart attack survivors report heightened, post-event, emotional and critical states.

I have no idea what 2017 is going to bring.

There are plans.

But plans are subject to change.

And I can’t share all of the plans here because secret.

But I can say that I plan on being here all through 2017.

And 2018.

And that I plan on being here far, far in to the future.

I have people to love.

And people to annoy.

And fast motorbikes to ride.

And many, many other plans.

So I’m going to be here.

A little emotional around the edges, maybe.

But I’m still going to be inhabiting this mortal coil.

And loving people.

And annoying others.

So yes, as this post started out saying.

Some uncomfortable truths.

Get used to them.

I’ll see you around.

Not really making an end of year list

31st December 2013

Lists are popping up on Facebook. And on Twitter.

In both Real Life and Virtual Life, there are conversations that mention resolutions.

And changes.

And goals.

Some people have been looking back at the last twelve months and assessing what went well for them; what they’ll try to do differently in the next twelve.

This morning, on my drive in to work, I spent the time thinking about the year that’s ending today.

This time last year I said I would move house within the next 12 months.

Got that right.

I also said it wouldn’t be a local move; would be a significant move to a different part of the country.

Got that right too.

I said that I’d like to teach myself new skills, and enhance other abilities that I had some (but could be better) knowledge of.

I’ve achieved these things too; have become more immersed in building database functionality, become reasonably skilled at debugging other people’s problems, learned how to build forums and improve front-end usability (though none of my experiences/skills in these things come close to being on a par with Punctuation, who is just awesome).

I’m very lucky to have tapped in to the creative, but non-technical, nature of one friend in particular. It was her ideas that drove me to sit up well in to the night for a week or two, learning the technical things I had to get to grips with, to enable me to help her achieve her ideas.

I was also very lucky that my previous contract was in Oxford, half an hour from where I lived in Witney.

I’m unbelievably lucky that my current (soon ending) contract is less than half an hour away from where I moved to, and that I was able to start work the day after I moved here!

And I have *loved* my work so much, in 2013.

As far as other skills go, in the last couple of months I have been getting back in to writing and video production, through working on a series of very short scripted/staged character films.

I plan on shooting and editing these, just as soon as I have finished building the set. And that’s a new thing to attempt, too!

Video and audio editing skills have been revisited, through the randomly free-form HelmetCam edits.

So, what will the next twelve months bring?

Hmm, there are a few things that come to mind.

I’m going to continue building on, and improving, the breadth and depth of my technical skills.

There is a portfolio of tasks I want to be able to do, I’m not going to be content with having just a few abilities; I want to learn how to do the whole thing, not just a bit of it.

And I’m more than likely going to buy another motorbike; the Triumph Dayton 955i that I’ve been lusting after.

I may well move house again.

There will be a new contract, or possibly two (because that’s the nature of the line of work I do).

And I haven’t had a real holiday in two years; I love the thought of putting this situation right!

I like the idea of a road trip.

Maybe on the VFR. Maybe on the Daytona.

I need to think hard on this, but I do love the idea of a (relatively) leisurely motorbike trip down to Andalusia.

As I said, I need to think on this, but I do have a few ideas.

One thing’s for sure though, in the last year the kindness and limitless generosity of friends has amazed me.

And I have much to thank one particular friend for.

She has pushed, niggled, supported, carried, nagged, and encouraged me in so many different areas.

She has made my life a better place. And she has made me a better person. And she has made me smile a lot.

Who knows what 2014 will bring (spares a thought for the Mayan supporters who are now 24 months past the end of the world)?

But whatever does happen in the next twelve months, I hope you have a great year.

It’s going to be an interesting time, that’s for sure.

Blogathon 18/13 Status update

This morning my Decree Absolute landed on the doormat.

That, as such, isn’t the subject of this post.

The British legal system is.

I would like to say that from the initial contact with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (as it is now known), right through to the very final step in the process, that dealing with the Courts has been simple and hassle-free.

I would like to say that, but it would be a complete falsehood.

Dealing with Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service has not been easy. Using the court service has been hardship after hardship, compounded with difficulty after difficulty.

If ever a business – a public-facing service-provider – is bloated, over-done with idiotic staff and burdened with unnecessary red-tape, it is the British Courts.

We went through the divorce process without lawyers.

Don’t get me wrong, we didn’t need lawyers, the circumstances were stated and uncontested.

And the forms, that one needs to complete, are all online and downloadable.

But the forms have been written by legal administrators; they’re not in English – the forms are not in the every-day English that we use, they are not in the every-day English that all other forms are in.

Yes, I accept that they need to be ‘official’, but is that a good enough reason to make the forms incomprehensible?

Is that a good enough reason for publicly-accessible forms to be littered with words and phrases from two hundred years ago?

Instead of putting the compulsion on members of the public having to learn centuries-old terminology, the law (which, after all, exists to serve the public), should get a swift kick up the backside, and modernise itself.

The entire legal lexicon needs updating.

Every single legal document template needs modernising.

Because until these things have happened, the law (and the legal system) will remain out of reach of the public.

Until these modernisations have taken place, the law will be the exclusive preserve of the legal profession.

And that isn’t very public-facing.

That’s a cosy little club.

A cartel.

Of course, I don’t expect any rush from our political servants to update the legal system.

Not when one sees that 80% of the Front Benches are, erm, lawyers.

Shifting. Changing. Moving

This time last year, during a big spell of feeling down, I gave myself a stern talking to.

I knew why I was in a sad place, but I couldn’t figure out how to fix things.

The unexpectedly sudden ending of my marriage had affected everything in my normal world, and I had to deal with it by myself.

So, to give myself something to focus on, I set some goals; things I had considered, over the years, but had dismissed.

And I made some new rules; how I was going to live my life, change the way I conducted relationships.

A year on and some of my goals have been realised. A couple are partially attained, but I’m pleased with the completed targets.

But in the last week I have broken one of my relationship rules. Recklessly and enthusiastically thrown my self-imposed security blanket away.

It’s a little scary, putting so much trust in the hands of another, once more.

But it’s what I want. More than anything.

Drawing lines – and not in sand

This has been the subject of conversation at work for the last two days. It has also overflowed in to discussions on Twitter. The question is…

Where is the line that distinguishes ‘dating’ from being ‘in a relationship’?

Not in a Facebook ‘push-button’ kind of way. this is a real-life question.

If you have been out, for a few dates, with someone. And you really like them. What is the point that marks the shift from ‘dating’ each other to being ‘in a relationship’ with them?

What is the factor that says ‘beyond this point you are no longer X, you are Y’?

Answers on a postcard, please.

The online dating scene; a view from here

 This post is inspired by this blogpost from Chloe.

When my marriage suddenly ended, as they tend to end very suddenly under the same circumstances, my friend Brummie Dave bought six months at Match.com for me.

I don’t know whether he was trying to get me back on track or scare me away from girls. It was almost the latter.

I had been warned, before dipping my toe in to the Match.com dating pool, that I should be careful, and that all might not be what it seemed.

Those words of advice came from a female equestrian friend who had tried the internet dating scene, and who, after a few unpleasant experiences, had given it up for occasional dips in to the shallow (heterosexual) end of the equestrian pool.

I girded my loins.

Fresh from (and refreshed by) my visit to Texas, I entered the login details that accessed the Match.com account that Brummie Dave had set up for me.

I spent a little while completing the various profiling questionnaires, then went to bed.

When I woke up, five hours later, I had received 25 views, 14 ‘winks’ (what the actual?) and five responses. I went to work, but on the commute I mulled over the responses.

That evening, after reading the profiles of the respondees I discarded four; wrote four polite emails that said I didn’t think we were very compatible.

To be fair to three of them, there wasn’t anything specific; my decision was based more on a general feeling that all might not be quite as advertised, and that compatibility might be less than ideal.  For example, no matter how well a respondee phrased their profile, ill-capitalised, text-speak response emails, littered with spelling mistakes; poorly punctuated and containing many rogue apostrophes, indicate that you’re not the person for me.

The fourth was easy to discard, the distance between the two of us was several thousand miles and although I do know there is a lot of evidence that long-distance relationships can work, and they can lead to greater things, I wasn’t looking for that kind of relationship.

That left response number five, which I liked the look of.

The respondee was an academic, working in a field of research I have an understanding. Her profile was witty, interesting, and covered a range of topics I am keen on.

Accompanying her profile was a photograph; an attractive face, open-mouthed smile, entertained by something very amusing.

I contacted the respondee and, for a week or so, we exchanged emails on a daily basis.

We were diverse, funny, and ‘spoke’ about a lot of things; discovered that we had, unsurprisingly, quite a lot of common ground.

We agreed to meet.

She doesn’t drive, so I pointed my car in her direction and pootled the mere 15 miles to her town.

Feeling very nervous, but trying to look cool, I walked in to the restaurant.

Despite being 10 minutes early, she was already seated at the table.

My first reaction, as we exchanged cheek-kisses, was puzzlement; I noticed a pair of walking sticks propped up against the wall behind her chair.

Our conversation started with the mundane, but as we talked about each other in more detail, she revealed that she was suffering from a bone condition that meant she had mobility issues; couldn’t get around without the aid of her sticks. And her condition was deterioriating.

I felt torn.

Would I have made the decision to see this girl, would I have travelled to see her, had I known these things beforehand?

I don’t know.

I tried to put these thoughts out of my head as we continued chatting over our meal.

We quizzed each other on what we were looking for.

I said I was looking for someone I could establish a friendship with, before things took a more serious line.

I also said that the person I was looking for didn’t need to be a precise match; didn’t need to be, for example, an equestrian-type.

I explained that, in my world, a little difference here and there was a good thing, and that finding a person I could be a friend with was more important than anything else.

‘Friends with benefits?’ she asked.

The immediate thought that crossed my mind was that if we attempted to engage in any ‘benefits’, I’d be too frightened to touch her, for fear of causing serious injury.

Later in the conversation, she again hinted that she would be interested in a sexual aspect to a more serious relationship.

Two and a half hours later, it was time to head home. I offered my companion a lift to her house; she accepted.

When we walked to the car, the full scale of her severe mobility issues became apparent.

I took her home, we cheek-kissed and, on the drive back to my house I tried to come up with the least offensive way of saying ‘I don’t think you’re right for me’.

On being in love, and not. On companionship, and not

In my commuting moments (which are really ‘daily hours’ rather than ‘moments’) I spend a lot of time listening to music, and thinking.

In the last couple of months I have done a lot of thinking about relationships.

In general.

And the kind of relationships that we have.

And why we have relationships.

A friend recently told me about a relationship she began with a guy she met via an internet dating website.

The guy was good-looking, physically fit, lucid, had some cash in hand, and, it later turned out, was a bit of a nutter.

Another friend (and yes, most of my friends are female. That’s the way it is, and maybe we should talk about that one day?) recently told me about a first-meeting with a guy, which turned in to a full-blown fuck-fest in the space of 5 hours. And then she dumped him.

Both single women; both looking for ‘something’ in their own way, on their own terms. Or looking for someone who matches their independent criteria.

But what is that ‘something’ they are looking for? And what role is the ‘someone’ to play in the life of each of my friends, if they find him?

When I was in my teens I read a lot of Dick Francis; in one of his novels – I can’t remember which, and that detail isn’t germane – the narrator describes the 40-something protagonist as living alone, but having a ‘girlfriend’ who he doesn’t live with, but occasionally they do live together. For company. And love. And sex.

I remember thinking how odd that would be, that ‘together and yet not’ kind of lifestyle; how peculiar it seemed, to my teenage (and heavily idealistic) eyes.

 

 

Surely, I remember reasoning with myself, if you loved someone you would want to be with them all the time?

 

Live with them?

 

Wouldn’t you?

 

And yet if you burrow below the surface of our ‘married with kids’ society, you will find a strata where people are happy to be single.

You will also find a level where people are not, strictly speaking, single, but they aren’t ‘together 24/7’ either.

I know we’re all different; we have individual values and we make decisions based on our own likes, dislikes, needs and wants.

But that’s the point.

 

No matter how much you might like your male or female companion, what you need or want might not be what they need or want.

 

Other than companionship.

There is an interesting collection of thoughts and memories in today’s Guardian. It is far too easy to dismiss – or minimise – the thoughts of some of the contributors because they are now in advanced years.

But these people were once younger than you are now.

And that’s a thought in itself, eh?

If you’re interested, you can find the Guardian article here. One or two contributions are particularly poignant.

I’m not sure where I sit on the love/relationship/marriage thing, but it is refreshing to see so many honest views.

As I said some time ago, whatever relationship I end up with, I do know that I don’t want marriage.

And I don’t want to live – full time – with my partner.

I’m sorry, but there it is.

Updating/Repairing/Teaching/Learning

Updating:
Has it really been a week since I wrote anything?

Soz.

The hiatus is not an indicator that things have not been going on; things have been. Going on. I have been mentally busy.

The new contract brings challenges, involves working with some very interesting, capable people, and it shows signs of being extremely positive and worthwhile.

Repairing:
Yesterday evening I helped rescue a damsel in distress who needed an urgent repair to her saxophone, as she is gigging tonight.

And I managed to squeeze in a visit to a new Chinese restaurant, in between the saxophone repair facilitating to-ing and fro-ing.

The key word there is ‘facilitating’; I didn’t do the repair. I just knew of a man, who lives in the middle of the Oxfordshire countryside, who could repair it. And he did. At 7.30pm on a Good Friday evening.

There were smiles and was much relief all round.

I have been invited to the gig this evening.

Teaching:
I have a new mobile phone. It is another Nexus One.

My last one had an unfortunate coming together with gravity and concrete, which resulted in it not working.

Vodafone sent it away to be repaired, but they didn’t fix it, they just sent me a new one.

Because of the way the Nexus works, all of the data I had on my old phone, my global contact list/address book, my emails, the photographs I’d taken in Texas, applications I’d installed…

They were all still there!

Yay!

Unfortunately the user dictionary had to be taught all of my key (and every-day) words and phrases.

I do a lot of my Tweeting from my phone, so I had to teach it phrases and shortcuts such as:

  • David Cameron
  • total wanker
  • fucktard
  • useless waste of space
  • incompetent buffoon
  • utter cunt

Learning:
I did my Prince 2 Practitioner re-certification last week.

It is a requirement that holders of the Prince 2 qualification have to take a day-long series of tests, every few years, to determine whether or not they are fit to do the job that they do on a daily basis.

I scored 100% in every paper, which is nice. It means I can carry on doing what I have been doing for the last ten years.

When adverts go weird

You know that match.com advert? The one with the girl? On the platform? Smiling?

This one…

I don’t know about you but I’m suffering from match.com overload. Or maybe I’m just suffering from match.com *advert* overload.

Because there are questions, serious questions about the dialogue. And the characters. And their motivation.

I mean, let’s examine this for a moment…

Girl on the platform smile. Even though your collar and cuffs don’t match. That’s not at all weird, right?

Or how about…

Girl on the platform smile. Because you’ve got a ukelele-playing stalker who wants to know the colour of your pubic hair.

Or maybe it’s a more day-to-day message…

Girl on the platform smile. The ticket inspector’s on the next train.

And also, is it just me who thinks that both the marketing department at match.com and their advertising agency are seriously deranged?

Because, let’s be honest, this advert isn’t about an internet dating website, it’s about two people meeting each other at a train station.

How does two people meeting each other at a train station translate to an internet dating site?

Nutters.