Tuesday, January 28, 2003

I have been in Boeblingen, near Stuttgart in Germany since Sunday. It is cool and damp, but my colleagues are friendly and the hotel is very luxurious. Best of all, high fibre food, including fruit is readily available. And I managed to go for a meal with colleagues last night without drinking. I'm missing home and Helen, and am actually looking forward to the weekend, with its party and attendant micro-crises.

I'm working on cfengine, which is a configuration management tool for networks of Unix systems. It's quite absorbing. My goal is for it to be implemented by June 1 on all our systems. This may be my salvation.

Friday, January 24, 2003

I ripped some music tracks to make compilation CDs for Helen's party last night. I own a surprising amount of music with repetetive dance beats, it seems. Much of it is very good, too. I will enjoy seeing crowded room of voluntary sector workers chatting over Marillion's "This Is The 21st Century" without a clue who they are listening to. The next thing is a top 40 quiz. For each of Helens birthdays the guests will have to name the number one single at the time. I may also do a general knowledge/picture quiz with questions from each of the years. We'll see. My role in Helen's social life is to do lots of sticky-backed plastic work like this and be applauded for by bushy-tailed enthusiasm. I'd rather be applauded for my meteoric career success and smouldering good looks, but it's a start, I suppose.

Tuesday, January 21, 2003

There was some discussion at work about bullying yesterday. I remarked quite openly that I had resigned from one employer in the past because I was being bullied. It was Miles 33 in Bracknell in 1991, and my colleagues Philip Kirkham and Jonanthan Woolgar between them made my working days and eventually some of my other time unbearable. Woolgar was a simple misanthrope, bursting with anger and without the articulacy to express his feelings, or the vision to see solutions beying his next pet project. Once he took against me, for being in his views "weak" or "wet", my working days were hell. He took issue with the contents of my shopping back, judging lettuce, for example as an unworthy food for a man. His prize statement was "Just because I'm homophobic doesn't mean that you're not gay". In the end, because I had made a coding error in a piece of software, he called me a wanker loudly in front of the whole office. I spent that evening alone, very upset, and the following day, handed in my resignation. I was told I would not have to work any notice.

Kirkham, on the other hand, was not so visibly damaged as Woolgar. But he seemed equally bored and frustrated, and took it out on me. He despised me for not being as physically fit as him, and would jokingly order me to do press-ups on the office floor. Thinking this would engender some cameraderie, I did so a few times, and he mocked me for my lack of ability. I also hated the fact that I followed the official dress code for the firm. The way he regarded me as a lower form of life was revealed by his statement "I can't believe you've got a better car than me". I hate eggs. He rubbed hard-boiled egg in my face one lunchtime. He threw a missile at me while I was drinking tea, while spilled all over my desk. I walked out that day. I shouldn't have come back.

I was 25 years old at the time. Kirkham and Woolgar were older. After leaving the firm I was unemployed for 4 months, not least because I could not bring myself to tell prospective employers whey I had left Miles 33.

I do not believe in forgiveness. If I could punish these people, I would. As you can see, I'm still angry with them for persecuting me, and myself for letting them. The playground taunting I sometimes receive in my present job is nothing in comparison. I'm a lot better off now.

Monday, January 20, 2003

If there's one thing more dispiriting than working on a Sunday, it's coming in on the following Monday and finding you caused more problems than you fixed. It's a blow to one's confidence. But I mustn't let it deter me from getting stuck in.

The German trip is confirmed. I'm almost quite nearly looking forward to it. It will at least give me a chance to catch up on some reading and DVDs. And the hotel might have a gym!

Saturday, January 18, 2003

Since you ask, I had a miserable swim on Thursday night. The pool was crowded and my lane, the slow lane, was full of medium lane people, because there was no medium lane open. It being January, the pool was also full of New Year resolvers, all of whom swim very splashily. Maybe I will start going first thing in the morning.

I am excited to read this piece in the Guardian that the USA is getting a bit more urgent about going to Mars. However, they seem to favour the nuclear option. They clearly haven't read the exquisite Voyage by Stephen Baxter, a cautionary tale, recommending chemical propulsion. However, considering how ill a years-long trip to Maris will make the astronauts, I suppose I can see the attraction.

There appears to be a newsreader on Radio 2 called Fenella Fudge.

I vacated my storage unit this morning, thereby saving 400 pounds a year in rent. I have already binned my Atari ST, and will bin and give to chairty shops many more mamoths. I think my Doctor Who fanzine collection will be going to a good home. I need to be ruthless!

Helen is out choosing a new dress which I will get her for her birthday. I suspect this means we can do what I like later today! If I'm feeling particularly vicious, I may inflict some Doctor Who or worse on her.

Tours being announced by Peter Gabriel and Yes and about to have a draining effect on my bank account. How much longer will I bother with this? I think the trick is to enjoy it. I'm very excited about Gabriel - his new album has some great moments, and I've even backfilled my collection with CDs I only have on inferior media.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

The man from the gas appliance-fixing company came today, eventually, bringing with him another man who said nothing. Although I had put the extractor hood light on, he switched the kitchen light on as well, without asking me. I paid him £58 including VAT to tell me that I needed two new taps on my hob, which I already knew. He will be back in a week with some taps to fit them. He says. I must make an effort to use all four rings at all times.

It seems my calendar for 2003 will be full by the end of January. I am being extorted for tickets for both Yes and Peter Gabriel at various venues in England. The bosses are visiting the German end of the operation in the last week of the month and want Brian and I to visit at the same time. I hope we can go, because it will be good to go back, now I actually have some friends amongst the Germans. And I won the chance to pay to stay in a holiday cottage assigned to my employer in the first week in September. It's in Warwickshire, which is good. Not just generally, but because I can see my friend Justin and his family, and Helen can see Stratford. I suspect there will not be a holiday abroad this year, which I can live with.

What a dull entry. I promise to kill someone tonight, or something.

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

Following a listless December, during which I was dreading Christmas and barely coping with life, I didn't seem to have the energy to get anything done. But the break seems to have done me good, and although it may be July before I have fixed the gear cable on my bike, I am a lot more active. One hurdle I have crossed is that I am not afraid of trying to go a night without drinking. That's not to say I didn't use to do this pretty regularly, but I looked on it as a chore, and slept really badly. Now I can do it with no effort at all, and I feel much better. A good night's sleep with no hangover means I can face muesli and wholemeal toast in the morening, rather than craving dead pig in a floury white bap slathered with ketchup.

I now positively look forward to a night off the sauce (and a morning off the ketchup).

So if I have any resolutions, they are to try lots of new things and keep varying my routine, to try and be less repetetive and obsessive. It's a fine line between having a different filling in my sandwich every lunchtime and obsessively needing to have a different filling in my sandwich every lunchtime, but even that would be better than having the same filling in my sandwich every lunchtime.

I think some of my new found energy comes from the cold I have been harbouring for about six weeks finally coming to a head. I felt like death for the first two weeks of the year, but now feel wonderful. So I shall go swimming tomorrow night. And perhaps not count the number of lengths I do. No - that would be unthinkable.

A symptom of my new momentum is that I finally got round to getting someone to come around and look at my gas hob, on which only half the rings currently work. It is astonishing how many meals can be prepared with two rings. But I needed three last week for my first ever attempt at sausage and mash (Actually Lincolnshire sausage with white wine, mushtoom, and apples - see http://recipes.sainsburys.co.uk), so finally got round to it. The people I have dealt with on the phone sound bored and unfriendly. I stayed off work this morning to wait for the main, but at 9:30 got a phone call telling me he would be coming tomorrow. I affected the air of a very busy person and asked "what time tomorrow?". I was angrier when I thought though, because I realised I had called the lady a nasty word slightly before I put the 'phone down.

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I see no difference whatsoever between Pete Townshend looking a a child porn web site out of curiosity than me looking at footage of the jets being flown into the World Trade Centre. Both are electronic depictions of atrocities which were carried out in the full knowledge that people would want to look at them. Looking at them does not in any way increase the suffering of the victims. Yet that suffering was only perpetrated because those responsible knew people would want to look at it.

If it's there, people will look at it.
Blogger seems to dislike mega-posts. Please read all the entries for today in the order I posted them. It may, possibly, make some form of sense.
As the bus went into town, Helen was subjected to what can only be described as an outbreak of Tourette's Syndrome. I twitched, yelped, cursed, moaned, and sighed. As far as I am concerned, that was the worst thing that has happened to me in a very long time.

Would you react like me? What do you think is different about me to make me have these tics? It's getting worse. I think I may have spent so much of my life under the influence of alcohol, when there is no such thing as shame, that I just haven't learned how to deal with having done or said something I wish I hadn't.

So - I suppose the way forward is to drink less (again) or possibly sign up for a class on Making a Complete Arse Of Yourself But Not Caring About it (Guest motivational speaker: Dee, from "Wife Swap").
These are mere ripples of earlier splashes, though. On Saturday, she saw a pebble go into the pond, and the immediate effect. We had just visited Glasnevin Cemetary (where I had failed to find Phil Lynott's grave) and had decided to make our way back into the centre of Dublin. Had it been up to me I would have walked, because taking a bus involves knowing what destination to ask for, and asking in my English accent for "two to the city centre" is, to me, as insulting as saying "Yes, you little bog-trotter, we may not be occupying your beautiful country any more, but we'll just use it as a place to come for the weekend and contribute nothing to your real economy". I'm funny like that. So we get on the bus, and I mumble "two to the city centre please" and the driver, who was a young guy, said "Two Euro forty, please". All I had was a Five Euro note, so I stuff it in the slot where the money goes. He went mental, and yelled at me not to push it in any further, swung the drivers door open, got out, and frantically started to try and get the note out with a pen or something. "It'll get chewed up by the machine", he screamed. I was facing the front of the bus, and could feel the full force of 80 Irish eyes on the back of my head. I wanted the Earth to open up and swallow me. It took an eternity for him to retrive the fiver, which he gave back to me as if it were a black spot or unexploded grenade. "No notes", he shreieked. I moved to get off the bus, but Helen stood her ground. An auld fellah got up and offered me change of a fiver, bless him. I slid the coins in the machine and painfully made my way up the stairs.
But we had a peaceful weekend in Dublin. It's actually easier to get to than Sunderland, wheich is just down the road - a forty-minute flight followed by a coach straight to the hotel. I was amazed by how English the place is. We didn't do stag party stuff at all (well, we wouldn't, really, would we?) but enjoyed galleries, gardens and sightseeing instead.

I have a vaguely worrying mental disorder that I used to call "the morning horrors". It would typically manifest in the shower as the fog of sleep was replaced by a memory of an act of which I was not proud. It could have been from the previous night, or from years before, and could be anything from an inappropriate advance to a member of the opposite sex, to a stupid comment in a meeting. Over the years my reaction to these memories has been to sharply inhale, moan quietly, swear, or click my fingers repeatedly. And it's no longer confined to the morning. I also talk to myself quite a lot - typically replaying arguments from the past that didn't go the way I wanted. Helen sometimes catches me doing this and is a little concerned.
It's been a full month. Although I took a full 2 weeks off over Christmas and New Year, much of this was occupied with visiting Helen's family and friends in Manchester and dealing with Helen's car. I did all the driving over Christmas, because I find sitting in the passenger seat utterly terrifying. This involved driving Helen's elderly grandparents (as opposed, presumbaly, to some other, more juvenile, grandparents) home to Sunderland and then driving myself on to Edinburgh. It felt like 1989, the year I first drove unaccompanied all over again. And the car was knackered, so I spent a day taking it to be fixed. As I walked into the evil hall of metal and petrol, the man saw that I was wearing a long coat, and a scarf, while carrying a bag that probably contained a book and smirked, knowing that I was uncomfortable in his domain. The shallow twat.

After a week back at work it was Helen's 40th birthday. She had hinted she would like to be taken for a night's stay in an authentic Scottish castle hotel, but a week beforehand, when I lazily got round to booking, I discovered they were all closed for refurbishment. In my panic I booked a break in Dublin with lastminute.com. lastresort.con, more like! It's very easy to book with them, but their customer service is so terrible that I was in tears and then in a rage on Friday as I vainly tried to find out what had happened to my tickets. They're now blacklisted.