I haven’t blogged in ages, and I’m not going to pretend that I have. I started my new job full-time, so I’ve been busy, and I suppose I just got out of the habit. I also quite liked having ‘Last day and beyond’ as the most recent title on my blog, as it seemed fitting.
But motivated by my friend Nic, I’m going to try to complete the Blog Every Day in May challenge for the second time. I finished it last year without missing a post, something I’m quite proud of, and I thought it would be nice to write something again.
It’s also much easier to write on a topic that’s been given to me than to think of something on my own, especially after such a long gap between posts. The longer I leave it, the harder I find it to blog again, as you either have to skip a huge chunk of your life like it never happened or try to summarise it into a few paragraphs. Neither is particularly satisfying.
So I’m not going to do that; I’m just going to try to complete the challenge and see what happens. For anyone who hasn’t read my blog before, particularly those who know me in real life, note that I don’t censor myself particularly on here, so you might find out some more personal things about me than you wanted to. At the same time, I’m completely fascinating, so you might well enjoy it. Judge me and I’ll cut you.
And for anyone who is really interested in how my life has been since last August, you’ll have to make do with these brief bullet points:
new job – going well; much more challenging; have achieved a lot.
new office – lovely people; lots of fun.
flat – has got much better, not perfect, but the woman upstairs has put carpet down!
Mum – continues to be variously mental, but actually doing a lot better and brighter than she has been in ages.
Chris – loved as much as ever, and still putting up with me.
This is a rather late post about my last day in my job of five years, a couple of Thursdays ago. As I predicted, I didn’t enjoy it very much, but not for the reasons I was expecting.
As it turned out, my last day in my old office ended up being the single worst day I have ever had in that job in the whole time I’ve been there. I have never felt so harried, and stressed, and unreasonably put upon there before, to the point that when I finally left the office my sadness at going was partly overwhelmed by annoyance and relief.
I was really quite surprised, because normally it’s quite a laid back sort of job. I keep on top of my work, and although it tends to arrive in unpredictable bursts, I get it all done fairly quickly. Something went wrong on that particular Thursday day though, and I was suddenly given MASSES to do, most of it by one person, and all of which simply had to be online by Monday. Given I was on annual leave on the Friday and the following Monday, that only left me that day to do it. And it really pissed me off. Everyone knew I was off on Friday, so in what way was sending me large pieces of urgent work on Thursday afternoon with a Monday deadline going to be helpful?
“It’s for Clearing”, she said (Clearing is a big deal when you work in a university), as though that would sweep aside any of my objections.
“Yes – so are the other three things you’ve given me today, and the rest of the work everyone else has sent me. You can say everything is for Clearing, but that doesn’t mean I can fit it all into a single afternoon,” was my rather terse reply.
So I ended up rushing everything, not taking any breaks throughout the whole day, and leaving late. I have NEVER left that job late. At some point around lunchtime everyone gathered together to present me with a card (which I couldn’t read, because I would have cried) and a lovely box of chocolates and some champagne. I had so much to do all I could say was a mumbled thank you and then return to my desk.
Most people had gone home by the time I could leave.
“Haven’t you normally left by now?” said the person who gave me all the work.
“YES,” I replied pointedly as she swanned off home.
And then when I’d finally finished everything, I just packed my stuff into box files and carrier bags, shoved it all in the car, and left. It was nothing like the day I’d envisaged, where I’d take a last walk around the sunny campus and the adjacent field, and then carefully pack up my stuff and forlornly lock up my office. Instead I stomped out exhausted and in a huff, and I’m sad that that has to be my memory of my last day there now.
I’ve had a couple of weeks working solely in my new job now. I still haven’t worked a full five day week there, because I take all the Mondays and Fridays off during the summer holidays, so I don’t think it’s quite sunk in that I’m there permanently really.
At the same time though it’s been nice to install myself properly at my desk there, with my books and toys and nick nacks from my old office. I feel like it’s my own space now and that’s made me much more relaxed and chatty there. Previously when I was only there two days a week, I never used to leave any belongings on the desk when I went home, in case someone else needed to sit there. I used to take a few bits in with me in my bag, and just take everything away again at the end of my two days. So it never felt like it was my desk, and it always seemed a bit transitory. But now it’s MINE and it’s got my stuff on it, and that’s quite nice.
I think it will feel a bit odd once I am there for a whole five days in a row, but the people are really nice and I do enjoy the work, so I’m hoping it will be fine. And I’ll try not to remember how annoyed my last day made me.
I wrote recently about how futile it can seem, arriving every day at my office and staring at the same two computer screens for hours on end, then leaving having not really achieved very much. I’ve been in the same job since November 2007, and nothing much has changed about it during that time. I’ve been in the same little room, doing the same work, with mostly the same people around me, staring out of the same non-window at the white wall opposite me. It had all become very comfortable, and very dull, and I could quite easily imagine that I’d be there forever simply because I didn’t really have anything else I’d rather be doing.
But now I’m leaving. And rather suddenly. On Thursday.
I mentioned on here about a year and a half ago (you’re forgiven if you don’t remember) that I was given the opportunity to go and work in a different office with our main web team two days a week. It was to support them on special projects and bits of web development, like making our website responsive for mobile devices and working on the new CMS we’re buying. I didn’t get any more money or anything, and I didn’t get to do any less work in my normal job – I just did my normal job in three days each week (which is generally sufficient, because it’s a stupid job), and I took on 40% more work for free because it made my life more interesting and was much better for my rapidly stagnating skills.
Although it was a temporary arrangement in principle, it was one of those temporary arrangements that gets extended and extended, and somehow nearly a year and a half has drifted by with me doing two half-jobs in two different offices.
But now after much prevarication things are changing. The new job wants me full-time. And that means giving up my old job, and my little room, and my pseudo-window, and my lighter coloured circle of carpet.
I’ve known this was on the cards for a while, not least because our new CMS will mean my old job ceases to exist in many respects. So I’ve been very lucky to be able to ease gently into usefulness in another role that I can move over into just before that happens. And I do like my new job very much – the people are fun, and it’s proper web development work that stretches me and asks me to achieve things I don’t know how to do, forcing me to learn all the time.
But at the same time I’m sad, very sad, to be leaving my old job now, and in such an anti-climactic fashion.
Officially I’m being seconded temporarily into the new job, so I’m not ‘leaving’ my old job as such. But in reality it’s very unlikely I’ll be coming back, because once the secondment ends I’ll hopefully slot into a newly created permanent role and I’ll just carry on doing what I’m doing. So I am leaving really, but not really, and I’ve only had a couple of weeks to get used to the idea. I told my old job colleagues last week, and because of annual leave and things I’m only actually in that office again on Thursday this week, when hardly anyone is there, and at the end of which I’ll pick up my things and leave. And never come back.
It’s not the work I’ll miss. The work is boring, and after five years somewhere everything becomes annoying. But I’ll miss the people, some of whom I’ve known for a long time. I’ll miss the luxury of a non-visible computer screen and a hands-off manager that have meant I could do pretty much what I liked, when I liked. I’ll miss being in an office on the edge of the Downs, surrounded by fields and fresh air. And I know I’ll cry when I leave on Thursday, because I always do – I even cried when I left a job I hated after two months, so I’m certainly going to cry leaving this one. I cry at television adverts. My eyes just like crying.
In some ways, the manner of this transition is very good for me. I’m terrible at change and I tend to get very anxious and freak out during the first two weeks of a new job. I always settle down, and I’ve learnt that it will pass, but it’s not a pleasant time for me. But this way I’ve been eased into the new job and got to know everyone first, and now I’m just dropping the old job. So it’s perfect really and I couldn’t ask for more. I mean, I could have been made redundant in six months time when my old job disappears. I cannot complain at all about this.
But it’s still sad, and odd, and disconcerting, and not how I thought I’d go. And I feel bad that it’s been so abrupt for all my old colleagues, some of whom I already won’t see again and of whom I’m very fond. We’re going to try to arrange a belated already-left leaving celebration I think, which is nice of them to want to do. And I’ll no doubt cry at that as well.
My Grandad’s funeral was on Wednesday this week, and after my three weeks of apprehensiveness about it, it ended up being fine. I suspected that might happen – more than once I’ve anticipated things being worse than they actually turn out to be.
It was boiling hot in London, pushing 90 degrees apparently, which didn’t feel right for a funeral somehow. I drove my Mum and Dad to the ceremony in our (Chris’) car, and thank GOD it has air conditioning because it would have been awful otherwise. It already was not a good day to be wearing a shirt and tie and a black suit, so having to be enclosed in a metal box for half an hour as well would have been too much.
We only got there about 10 minutes before the ceremony was due to start, and by a weird coincidence ended up following my Grandad’s hearse for the last few minutes. There was no official procession or anything, just the hearse to bring the coffin to the crematorium, because my Grandad didn’t want lots of money wasted on what he regarded as the empty shell he’d leave behind after he’d gone. So it felt quite nice in a way that we ended up creating a mini-procession anyway, even if it was just for half a mile (and even if a Tesco van did end up involved for while).
It meant there wasn’t a lot of hanging around at the crematorium anyway, which is good because it was the idle chitchat that I was nervous about. I did see my cousins, and they came over and said hello to me and my brother and shook hands and it was all perfectly normal. I didn’t really speak to them beyond that, but my brother did just for a few minutes.
Then we went into the BOILING ceremony room, which wasn’t very nice because the heat was quite distracting from the proceedings. The ceremony was short but fine, but unfortunately the vicar sort of missed out that my brother was meant to be reading a poem he’d spent ages choosing. So we were a bit confused when suddenly the curtain started closing around the coffin and it was all over, because we were waiting for him to do his bit. In the end she retrieved it when we told her she’d missed my brother (retrieved the situation, I mean; she didn’t go and get the coffin back), and gathered everyone together by the flowers outside and Dave read it there. It was really nice and very fitting for the kind of man my Grandad was, and I was really pleased he did it. It was the only contribution from family, and I don’t think it would have felt very nice if no one had said anything at all.
Then after a little bit of milling about I escaped with Mum, who was suffering from the heat, and took her home. She was a convenient excuse for me not to have to go back to the wake thing really. I took her back, and my Dad, brother and sister-in-law went off with the other guests for tea and sandwiches or some such thing. I’ve not spoken to my brother yet, but he texted me later and said the afternoon was all fine, so it sounds like there were no arguments or pointed comments or anything like that. I’m going to try to speak to him later to find out if there was any gossip from it all. So I’m glad anyway, because if it had turned difficult it wouldn’t have been very nice for him or my Dad, or very respectful to my Grandad.
So that’s it really. All over now. It’s entirely likely I won’t see my cousins or uncle again (I did see my uncle and aunt from a distance, but didn’t pass close enough to them to say hello, so just didn’t end up doing so). We’ve got no real reason to meet up with them now. I suppose there might be another funeral for a family member at some point. But that won’t be for a while (hopefully), and it won’t be the first time I’ve seen them since the ‘outing’ any more so I don’t think I’ll feel so tense about it.
All the apprehension was pretty much for nothing, but, y’know, I’m a worrier and that’s just what I do…
My Grandad died about a week and a half ago. He was my Dad’s dad, and he died the night before my Dad’s 65th birthday, so it wasn’t the best timing in the world. Saying that though, there probably never is a particularly well timed moment to die.
He was very old, in his 90s, and not a very well or happy man any more, so it wasn’t unexpected. He’d been in and out of hospital a lot this year and his health was generally failing. He was no longer really well enough to be living in his retirement flat on his own, and I know he would have hated it if he’d been forced to go into a nursing home, so in some ways I’m glad he was spared that. He would also say quite openly that he was fed up and ready to go – that his body ‘just doesn’t work any more’ – so it’s hard to feel sad in that regard. What would the alternative be? To wish him to keep on living while unhappy? He wasn’t going to miraculously become fit and well again. He’d also had to live for something like 18 years without my Gran, who died when I was about 13, and that can’t be very nice. I think he’d wanted to go as soon as she did, and I imagine another 18 years of missing someone was really very difficult.
So there are lots of things that I’m not sad about.
There are some other things that do make me sad though, and that make me now feel apprehensive.
People who have read this blog for a while may have seen me refer to this particular grandad as my ‘Horrible Grandad’. That’s what I used to call him, to differentiate him from my Nice Grandad. Nice Grandad is always warm and pleased to see or speak to me, and never demanding or judgemental or entitled. He’s just pleased if and when you go to see him. Horrible Grandad used to demand people went to see him because it was their duty, and would then proceed to tell you what he didn’t approve of about you and question what you were doing with your life. It didn’t make me want to go and see him, because he wasn’t very nice company.
He’s also the grandad who I felt didn’t deserve to know me. I wrote a long post about it last year, but basically he hurt me when I was young. He had a long conversation with my uncle in front of me about how proud he was that they’d ‘never had one in the family’, meaning a homosexual, and it was very difficult for me to listen to that as a child who already knew he was gay. From that point on I distanced myself from him emotionally. I decided to punish him by not being close to him and not really caring about him, because I felt that if he knew me properly, if he knew what I was, he wouldn’t care about me.
That seemed fine to me at the time, but now he’s dead it seems… petty. It began to seem petty last year when my uncle and cousins maliciously outed me to him (see the same previously long post) in order presumably to cause trouble for me or my Dad. I had resolved never to tell him I was gay, and could justify it because I thought he would just react badly and it wasn’t worth it. It was also part of my attempt to punish him for hurting me. When it actually came to it though and I was outed, he reacted more badly to not having been told than to my homosexuality. He said the main thing was that I was happy. And that rather kicked the legs out from underneath my years of secretly punishing him, because it all seemed rather pointless.
I still know why I did what I did. I’m still angry that he hurt me and made me feel like an outcast from the family, like I was only still there because I could hide what I was. But the fucktard that is hindsight made me think I could have done better by him, and he probably could have done better by me.
And now I’ve got the funeral coming up in the middle of July, and I’m apprehensive about it. I’ll have to see my uncle and my cousins again, I’ve not spoken to them for years, and there will be the tension of knowing they told Grandad to fuck me over, or used me and who I am to fuck my Dad over. And I don’t know how it’s going to go.
As I’ve said before, they didn’t actually damage me. In some ways they did me a favour – they removed the need for me to go on lying, and Grandad was very kind to me about it. So I adopted the position that if their intent was to annoy or upset me, they failed, and I’m not going to give them the satisfaction of me being annoyed or upset. Aside from an awkward phone call to my Grandad, my life carried on exactly as before. So they can’t touch me, they didn’t touch me then, and they can’t touch me now.
I know however that my brother is very annoyed, in reaction to seeing someone try to hurt his brother and his Dad. I think my Dad is annoyed too, but has bitten his tongue on the occasions when he’s had to speak to my uncle since then. Ultimately I don’t want to be the cause of a row at a funeral, and I don’t want to be drawn into one myself.
It might be fine. I might see them and say hello and not really talk to them. Or I might talk to them and it will be normal and we just won’t mention what happened. I don’t know them any more – I’ve not seen them for 10 years – and I’m only assuming their intent was to cause trouble rather than some bizarre sense of Grandad ‘having a right to know’ or something equally pointless.
Or it might go badly. They might make a snide comment or ask where Chris is (I’ve asked Chris not to come). Or they might piss my brother or Dad off. It would be a rotten thing to do – it’s a funeral for my Grandad, and it’s not about them or me or anyone else. But I just can’t tell.
So anyway. The funeral I’ve slightly dreaded for years has finally arrived. It’s on the 17th. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully it will be more BBC and less Jeremy Kyle.
For my 30th birthday, a group of us went to Go Ape. I can’t remember why I decided to do this – I think at the time I noted on here that it’s quite an out of character activity for me – but it had something to do with pretending to be spontaneous and fun, and trying something new.
As it was my birthday and I was all hyped up and excited, I volunteered to go first and lead the rest of our group across the first section of the course. This was fine initially – up a rope ladder, across some bridges – and you’re always attached by a safety cord so there’s no real danger. Unfortunately, I hadn’t really thought through the idea of going first.
If you don’t go first, you see, you get to watch someone else do each part of the course. You can see how to do it, and you can check that they don’t die a splatty death on the forest floor. This was something I realised quite quickly once I reached the first zip line.
The zip lines at Go Ape are at the end of each section of the course; there’s normally about three or four at each site I think. They take you from the end of that section, usually from its highest part, back down to the ground in a rush of air and nice views and a soft barky landing. They are loads of fun.
BUT TERRIFYING. To me, anyway.
I think I’d be fine on them now, or at least a lot better; but the first one, when I was all on my own, and no one had demonstrated it for me, was really difficult.
I found myself climbing up a rope ladder, when I was already very high up to start with, onto a small wooden platform above most of the treeline. I attached myself to the zip line and looked out ahead of me at what I was about to do. And there was so… much… space.
The feeling of emptiness all around me was overwhelming. There was nothing below me, above me, or in front of me. Just an insignificant metal cord running down to the ground that I was meant to entrust my life to. I was vaguely aware of some people behind me wooing and encouraging me to go for it.
Shit. I’m stuck up here now. I can’t go back down the ladder, there are people in the way, and anyway it was a bitch to climb up it so I’d never make it back down. My only two options are to go down the zip line, or to blow my orange panic whistle and be rescued. I’m not doing that on my birthday, I’ll look like a dick.
So, somehow, I sat my weight down in my harness and pushed myself out into the void.
And it was amazing! They’re so much fun! The air whips past you, and you glide almost silently (apart from the ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ sound of the cord) through the sky, over trees and playgrounds and children waving up at you.
Then you realise that you’re getting near enough to the ground that you can’t actually die now. Even if I somehow fell off, I’d probably be alright. Oh look, there’s a huge mound of bark chips approaching. Do I try to land on my feet? What did they say in the briefing? Oh never mind, I’m already being dragged along the ground on my arse collecting a large part of the forest floor inside my underpants. Oh I’ve stopped.
And that was it. It all seemed so easy once I was back on the ground, albeit with slightly shaky legs, looking back up at the platform and the next person starting their descent.
I would recommend it heartily, and I would probably go again. BUT, be aware that it’s really fucking high, and once you start a section you’re pretty much committed to it, you can’t go back, and you don’t know how horrible that section might or might not be until you’re already up there. So it is scary, but it’s a great experience, and I’m reliably informed that most people don’t die.
[WOO I FINISHED THE CHALLENGE! That’s a post every day this month. I hope you enjoyed them, and thank you for sticking with me]
Blog every day in May topic – React to this term: Letting go
I can’t let go of things. I’m dreadful at letting go. I brood and I worry and I analyse and I plan. What if this happens, what if I’d said that, why didn’t I do that, if only I’d known, why did they have to, how can I be ready for. It goes on and on, around and around in my head, and I can’t let go.
So my reaction to the term letting go is NO I DON’T WANT TO I DON’T KNOW HOW TO I WISH I COULD MAYBE YOU COULD LET GO FOR ME AND THEN I WON’T BE RESPONSIBLE FOR IT. See? I bet you’d never asked now.
It comes back to my need to be in control of things. Letting go implies relinquishing that control. And if it’s letting go of something in the past, well usually the reason I haven’t let go is because I lost control of whatever it was and I’m beating myself up about it.
I’m sure it can’t be good for me. Isn’t that how you get ulcers? Ulcers sound like something I’d get. I think they’d suit me. Either that or nervous exhaustion. I’m not sure if nervous exhaustion is a real thing though or if it’s just something you say so you can get signed off work.
I would like to be better at letting go. I’d like to be able to think “I can’t change that. So never mind, I’ll just let go.” That would be very liberating and refreshing. Think of the freedom as it all drifts away. I don’t know if it’s something you can learn or if you’re just born with it though. A sort of ability not to care about things. Or an ability to set them away from you mentally at least.
But I don’t think that I can. I might try to let go, but they’d wheedle their way back in so I can churn them around again. So I’ll just have to hang on grimly and drink milk of magnesia instead.
[ONE DAY LEFT OF THIS STUPID BLOGGING CHALLENGE, OH MY GOD I’M EXHAUSTED]
Blog every day in May topic – Five songs or pieces of music that speak to you or bring back memories
Cher – Believe
As much as Chris might protest to the contrary, to me this is ‘our song’. It’s not a romantic song, and it’s not one that we chose. It chose itself, and that’s why I like it and have stuck with it.
This song was playing on the radio in my parents’ kitchen when Chris and I had our first kiss. It was my first kiss ever, in fact. I was 17. After six months of circling around the issue cautiously, we had recently confirmed our mutual gayness to each other, and now we found ourselves alone in the house together.
The memory of it is still electric to me. It was such a thrilling, terrifying, wonderful time of my life. A time of discovery and vulnerability and excitement, and a time filled with experiences that I had started to wonder if I’d ever have.
I’m not going to relay every detail here, but we kissed, that day, on the sofa. And Cher was singing Believe in the background, and so this song will always be very special.
Lisa Loeb – Stay (I Missed You)
Lisa Loeb is my favourite artist of all time. I have five or six of her albums and I never get tired of listening to them. I like that she’s someone a bit unusual – most people have heard of her and remember this song, but don’t know anything else about her – and I like that she’s been with me for more than half of my life now.
When I hear this song, and particularly when I see the video, I remember sitting on the floor at home aged about 13 watching the Chart Show on Saturday morning television. I remember listening to it at 16 on a stereo in the workroom of the library where I had my first job while I glued the spines back onto books. I remember playing the album for Chris. And I remember singing it a hundred times on Singstar in our home together. This song has been in my life for a long time and I hope it never goes away.
Shakira – Whenever, Wherever
I’ve included this song not because it’s my favourite or anything, but because it elicits a very particular memory for me.
Shakira released this song in 2001, and it is part of her Laundry Service album. I spent 2001/02 living in Geneva, and at times this was quite a lonely period of my life. I listened to music on a portable CD player a lot to pass the time, so this song, and the entire album, reminds me of that. It reminds me of sitting in my halls room in an 18th century Swiss building, looking out through wooden shutters over the park that was my view, wondering when I could go home.
Shirley Ellis – The Clapping Song
This song and the next are part of a set of songs that speak to me of wonderful nights out at Dynamite Boogaloo, a club night we started going to during university and which we still go to today. It has changed name and venue and format several times over the last 13 years, but deep down it is still Dynamite Boogaloo to us. Three, Six, Nine, as I call it because I never know its real name, is one of Boogaloo Stu’s signature songs – I don’t think I’ve ever heard another DJ play it – and it takes me back to nights of being drunk on rum and coke and tequila shots, dancing in a stupidly unflattering crop top, and laughing at absurdly childish cabaret games in a 3,000 degree basement club.
Meat Loaf ft. Cher – Dead Ringer for Love
I started with Cher and I’m ending with her. All things begin and end with Cher. This is another Boogaloo song, and is my favourite of all the songs they perform at cabaret. I’ve heard Boogaloo Stu and Dolly Rocket sing it a number of times, and I’m always stood there with a massive, enraptured smile on my face throughout. They even made it their cabaret song for us by special request one night, because we hadn’t heard it for ages and we begged.
It always starts the same – Boogaloo Stu on stage, alone. The music kicks in and he sings the first verse and chorus. It gets ever closer to the second verse, but there’s no Dolly Rocket.
“Is she coming? Is she not coming this time? It’s getting really close to her cue. Oh I think she’s not here tonight,” I think.
Then at the last possible moment, Dolly bursts from the wings in full song in her amazing Cher outfit.
Just thinking about it makes me laugh, and they’ve made me love this song.
Blog every day in May topic – A letter to your readers
How are you? I am fine. I hope your boils have cleared up and that your Aunty Pat’s hysterectomy went swimmingly.
I wanted to send you a quick note to say thank you for reading my blog this month. I don’t think I have ever posted quite as much or as often, and it has been a very enjoyable experience. It hasn’t always been easy, as the scheduling is relentless (one day insisting upon following another, for example), and at times I have been unsure what to write about. It has been very pleasant just to write for the sake of it though, and to be given topics rather than having to create them. I hope you have at least found it amusing, and perhaps learnt a little more about me.
We are only four posts from the end now, and so I am hopeful I can complete the entire challenge. This also means that in four days time you will receive some blissful respite from the relentless blogging of the small circle of us on Twitter who are doing this. No doubt all of us writers are looking forward to a break as much as you are.
I will try to continue writing after the end of the month, but I know I don’t have a very good history of doing it regularly. Do stop by from time to time if you can though. It’s nice to think someone might be reading this purely because I wrote it and that that’s enough to make them want to.