Tag Archives: life

Oh, what have you done?

There are times in your life when something momentous or calamitous occurs. Think declaring war with Germany in 1939, the assassination of JFK, the fall of the Berlin Wall, Mandela walking free—those kinds of things. We seem to be in one of those moments.

Perhaps, as a child playing rather too boisterously, you managed to damage or break something precious. There’s no way it could be mended, no matter how hard you screwed up your eyes and prayed that it might miraculously be put back together again. You have a certain feeling, deep in the pit of your stomach, that signifies there’s been a significant shift in circumstances, and not necessarily for the better. There’s no going back. That’s it, done and dusted.

That’s how I feel about the EU in or out referendum our benighted country held on 23 June 2016, a day that will go down in history as most definitely not one of Britain’s finest.

I voted to remain in the European Union. My reasons are not important right now, I just felt it was the least worst option. Taking a leap into the unknown, on the basis of blatant fabrications, falsehoods and downright lies, seemed a little, well, terminal. I believe it still to be better to try and fix things with a hand on the tiller, than be tied to the mast with no say in how the ship is run. If it doesn’t get better, then think about leaving some other time.

Inevitably, immigration came seething to the fore during the campaign, because the failure of western capitalism was all the fault of the foreigners, of course—even though it’s not and never has been. It dominated the discussion, even though it was plain there was no simple solution, and wouldn’t change much if we decided to leave anyway. Another fact that got swept away in the tide of xenophobia.

Although the result of the vote was close, it tipped to leaving. Just over half of those who bothered to vote decided we should take that leap into the unknown. As it turned out, the consequences have been exactly as predicted. Depending on who you believe, the economy is struggling, the pound is plummeting, the world’s stock markets have the jitters, Scotland wants out of the union, other EU member states are hoping they might be next to take the plunge and leave the gang, and we have no sensible government after the prime minister threw in the towel and the opposition decided to start a leadership battle. To cap it all, reports are that racist and xenophobic incidents have increased by over 50 per cent. It seems that some of those who wanted us “out” really wanted the “out” to mean everyone who wasn’t born here or was perceived as foreign purely by dint of their skin colour. Whether the Faragists expected this to happen, who knows? The fact is the dis-United Kingdom is now a grubbier, more violent and unhappy place than it was.

It’s not even been a week since the vote, and already it seems like the end of days! The worst is the feeling that there is no way out. There’s no escape. There’s nowhere to run and hide. We are stuck in this chaotic farce that needn’t have happened, and we’ve broken the country irrevocably. We can’t screw up our eyes and try to will it all back together again.

I find it unbelievable that it has come to this. Did the Powers That Be not foresee this might be the outcome? Were they so cock sure the remain side would win they didn’t consider what might happen if that didn’t come to pass? Indeed, did the leave side really not have any form of plan of what to do in case they won?

Alas, so it seems. No-one expected to lose or win or split almost evenly down the middle, so we’re left with chaos and anarchy and no idea of what to do from anywhere. There’s no reset button.

Forget Article 50 being kicked into the long grass, Scottish Parliament vetoes, rerunning referendums. It’s too late. The genie is out of the bottle. There’s no going back. We have crossed the Rubicon. We are in uncharted waters, with no-one steering the boat.

Everything that I took more or less for granted in my world is suddenly inverted. It’s broken, shattered. There is no stability any more. Everything is twisted, torn and shredded. We are so screwed. Hate, it seems, is winning. I find I am swinging wildly between grief, dread and profound and deepening anger. One moment I’m laughing at the absurdity of it all, the next I’m in tears of sheer desperation.

How dare we be plunged into this chaos for no apparent good reason. Yet, life goes on. The sun still rises in the east; birds sing; we have to eat, shop, pretend our world is not imploding in some calm British sort of way. I don’t think I can cope with pretending it’s all normal much longer. It wasn’t my fault, but I’m tangled up in it, and it’s not fair!

So I say again: what have YOU done‽

2015, a personal review

A look askance, 2014

My review about this time last year makes for interesting reading.

As a sort of update, Best Beloved and I have failed utterly to see any local amateur drama or music this year. I also began and subsequently failed to complete a photo project. My photo gear has been sadly neglected for most of this year, something I really want to remedy for 2016. I hope my photo mojo is just slumbering peacefully, and once I find it again it’ll spark back into action with a proper enthusiasm like the old days.

As for the geopolitical stuff, well, what can I say? I think The Asylum will simply be inadequate and too late. There are jokes in there somewhere about flood defences, major transport infrastructure projects or agreements about dealing with a changing climate, but I’ll leave them for you to find. I awake every morning only to find things are even more bizarre and outlandish than the night before. How long it can go on before something really snaps, well, who can say. The elastic of sanity is certainly being stretched at the moment.

So, how did I do overall in 2015. Stepping quietly over the mouldering corpse of my photo project—one photo a week for a year: how hard could it be?—the model making shows no signs of slowing. I think I began 2014 with a mild anxiety about it drying up, but as I type I have work well into 2016, and potentially further. I think two clones and an apprentice are required just to keep up. I am working for two clients in Australia, as well as a lengthy waiting list of people in the UK. If you’re reading this and one of the latter, my apologies for my apparent tardiness. I do try to be honest about my workload, but sometimes I look at the pile of boxes awaiting my attention and I get an awful sinking feeling.

One reason for a slowing in productivity has been health. Earlier in the year I began to notice worrying symptoms affecting my heart. I went to have things checked out, which entailed umpteen blood pressure tests, a couple of ECGs, a comprehensive blood test, a 24-hour blood pressure monitor, and a five-day heart “event” monitor. The results came back, and they were inconclusive. BP was normal, ECG showed nothing, bloods all fine and dandy, the monitors showed nothing dangerous or unusual. This was a little worrying. After a further consultation, I have been given a diagnosis of ectopic beats, brought on it seems by a hiatus hernia. So, 2016 will be a year when I try really hard to lose some weight and to get some regular exercise regime going. I suppose it won’t hurt to get the bicycle serviced!

While the world around us seems to be collapsing, it does appear that I can end 2015 on a reasonably positive note. I shall try to do my best to ignore the craziness out there, and try to make my corner of the planet a nice place to be. Perhaps if we all did the same, there might be a spontaneous outbreak of peace and goodwill the world over.

Well, it’s a nice thought. Have a lovely Christmas and accept my wishes for a prosperous, healthy 2016!

Motivation

Me and my shadow

There are times when being self-employed is a curse. Yes, there is all that “being your own boss” malarkey, and my hours are set to suit me. The thing is, motivation is hard work: sometimes you need someone else to drive you.

As I type I have two shelves full of commissioned models to build, and the workbench is home to three partially-built models. I currently have enough work to keep me going well into next year. By most measures I seem to be pretty successful and have plenty of work to be doing.

So why can’t I get on with it? There’s the million dollar question.

It is true that some builds do hit snags, and have to be sidelined for a spell. Usually I will pick up another model and let the snags resolve themselves in their own good time. There are times when real life has to be dealt with, such as medical appointments or car servicing.

There are also times when the mood just isn’t right. You may scoff, but building models isn’t simply about following instructions, wielding tools and miniature engineering. There is also art involved, and when the Modelling Muse bimbles off somewhere more interesting I can be left with no choice but to seek other things to do.

Last week was supposed to be busy; I had loads of workbench stuff to get on with, at any rate. On Monday I had an appointment around midday, so the morning and afternoon were sufficiently disrupted as to stop meaningful work. Tuesday, I was struck by some sort of malaise which left me moping around the house trying not to be annoyed at everyone and everything. Experience tells me best not to tackle anything involving sharp tools in that kind of mood. Wednesday saw our weekly shop a day earlier than normal—a knocked-on disruption from a short break a month ago. Best Beloved also decided he wanted some new electronic toy (a printer), and that ended up with me sorting out a rat’s nest of cables and installing software across our various computers for the rest of the day. Thursday appeared to have trickled away with nothing constructive being achieved. Friday vanished into a miasma of nothing much.

I suppose I could blame the season and the weather. It is November, after all, and looking from my window into the near-darkness more rain has set in, with its close colleague wind not far behind. It’s a singularly depressing time of the year, despite the glorious leaf colours on a bright and sunny day. It’s all too short, though, and already the talk is of Christmas.

Ah, Christmas. Here it comes again. It is true what they say. The years fly by faster as you get older. And on that happy note, I think it’s time for me to do some other displacement activity to avoid actually working.

Mortality

I think it’s fair to say I’ve passed one of those significant milestones in my life. Although mentally I still feel like I am thirty, physically it is becoming apparent I am starting on the downhill side of life. Things are wearing out, falling out and generally aching. I groan when I stand up, I can’t kneel properly any more, and the old back aches and twinges more frequently.I am beginning to feel my age. There is a slow dawning that I am mortal, a realisation that one day I shall no longer be around.

Many of my friends and loved ones are older than me. Best Beloved is a full quarter century older than me, interestingly more or less the same age as my parents. There are not many of my friends—not counting those online and spread across the planet—who are actually younger than me. I also don’t have children, and neither does my younger sister. These are lifestyle choices we made, but it means we don’t actually have direct relatives to take on whatever we leave behind. I assume my sister will outlive me, but one can never be sure of these things. Will she even want to deal with the detritus of another life?

In short, I am going to have to think carefully how my property and, if you will forgive the pomposity, my legacy will be handled once I am reduced to a forgotten bag of ashes. I am also having to consider how I will approach the closing of my life. I suppose it is pretty obvious that I will be alone at the end. Will I be able to control my decline, to keep some dignity at the end, to be able to dispose of possessions to people who might care about them before it’s too late? Should I begin to organise my affairs now, before senility sets in?

Sobering thoughts, and not a little depressing. Still, I suppose that’s life.

Has it been a year‽ 

Wow! Doesn’t time fly? I can’t believe it’s been a year since we waved goodbye to l’Atomo and said hello to his replacement.

In the past twelve months we’ve travelled a lot further than we dared to in the little red Fiat. Obviously, a bigger car makes life a bit more comfortable, and the automatic gearbox makes a huge difference, too—especially in traffic. The year has also been pretty uneventful, in a motoring sense at least. No major panics, no worries about mechanical issues, no huge repair bills. I think it was a good decision to go for the Škoda.

We haven’t come up with a sensible name for the Roomster yet. It doesn’t have any really outstanding quirks to pick on, aside from its looks. It’s funny how I was never aware of these cars before, but there must be at least a half dozen of them in the neighbourhood. Once you know the shape, they pop out at you. 

The thing that both Best Beloved and I like about the Roomster is the storage. There are cubbyholes and pockets everywhere. The rear seats not only fold up, but can be removed completely, giving some useful carrying capacity if we need it, though we haven’t yet. I’ve been deputed as taxi for our neighbours, who enjoy regular coach trips and need to get to the pickup points. The car swallows them and their luggage with ease. 

The only thing I haven’t liked has been the gap between the rear seats and the luggage space cover. Because the seats can be moved for comfort, the gap is useful, but even at the furthest point back the gap still lets the nosey peer into the luggage space. I had thought to get tinted rear windows, but when I was investigating getting replacements for things like luggage nets and bag hooks I found Škoda also made a gap cover. 

I didn’t need to think twice.

It arrived is morning, and I had it fitted in a matter of seconds. It’s flexible, so it moves with the seats and luggage cover, and simply clips to the rear seat head restraints and the cover front lip. 

The instructions are straightforward, with happy and sad faces to show correct and incorrect fitting.

 
I am not sure about the disembodied hands, though. 

 

I’m not usually one to gush about aftermarket accessories, but this one has made me happy. So has owning a Škoda. 

L’Atomo lives!

Well, nearly.

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We had a man out to rummage under the bonnet today. He seems to think the breakdown isn’t terminal. This is encouraging.

I don’t plan on having the car repaired, though. I have actually posted it as “for sale” on a fan club site. If that doesn’t attract anyone, then I guess one of those online sales sites will see it go. I’d hate to see him scrapped, but if no-one wants to take him on that’s what will happen, I guess.

Meanwhile, l’Atomo’s replacement arrived today.

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Shiny black. I think I need to start a competition to find a name for it.

Everything seems a bit shit these days

Tools and clutter

I’m not sure where I’m heading with this blog post, so please bear with me. I’m struggling to find ways to put into words what I am feeling at the moment. The following may get a bit sweary.

I guess we could call it entropy. Despite scientific and technological advances over the years, the steady decline of everything seems to be gathering pace. Be it failing services, failing commercial businesses, failing economies, failing schools, everything just seems to be a bit shit these days.

The last couple of posts I’ve made here just add to the general malaise. Who is this government that it runs roughshod over the poor, elderly, and disabled? Why don’t they listen to the collective roar of anguish and anger that’s growing every day in this country? How can we stop them making this country more shitty every day?

I’ve been having some issues with my car this past few months, as happens with older vehicles. The fuel tank developed a leak due to corrosion. I sourced a new tank, it was fitted, but for some reason it still leaked. It wasn’t a big leak, just an annoying one that gave a whiff of petrol fumes when you cornered and meant you couldn’t put more than half a tank full of fuel in. Our mechanic, who is a friend as well as car mender and who fitted the tank, has tried all sorts to remedy the situation, so far unsuccessfully. Unfortunately, he was incapacitated by a knee injury, so his efforts were curtailed somewhat. Meanwhile, the exhaust fell off. I know, it never rains…

Anyway, we decided to book the car in to the bigger garage my friend uses when he can’t manage, to fix the exhaust. While it was on the ramp, it was suggested the tank should be looked at, and fixed if possible. Two birds with one stone and all that. We eventually got the message all was fixed, all was fine and dandy, please come and collect your car and pay the bill.

Driving home, I still got the whiff of petrol when cornering. When I stopped on my drive, I looked underneath, and sure enough the fuel was leaking just as much as before. Suffice it to say, I’ve booked the car back in tomorrow, and I won’t be paying any more for it to be fixed, that’s for sure. It’s a nice shiny exhaust pipe, though.

This has all left a somewhat bitter taste in my mouth. As I waited for the washing-up water to drain slowly away down our badly-fitted kitchen sink outfall, I was overcome by a nagging feeling of annoyance that I don’t seem to have nice things any more, and those few nice things I do have never seem to last very long.

Nearly twenty years ago, I had a problem with a car. I was recommended to a garage, and I took the machine along to be looked at. The mechanic, also the proprietor, was a proper one in a boiler suit so ingrained with engine oil it would stand up on its own. You knew the dirt on his hands would never wash out. He was a proper car mechanic, who knew his trade inside and out. Cars came, cars went, and he worked on nine of them for us over the years.

We developed a huge level of trust in Tony. We would roll up with a problem, he’d diagnose it and fix it, and let us know there might be something else starting to wear out but it could wait until the next service. There were one or two issues that cropped up due to silly errors, but they were soon straightened out. We could trust Tony to fix things properly.

Tony eventually retired, and his business was passed on to some of his other mechanics. His business had grown quite a bit down the years, and was pretty successful. We continued to use the garage, but they seemed to be more expensive, they would fail to fix faults we had pointed out, and sometimes make things worse. Eventually, we had to scrap a car because they had completely failed to fix it, and it was in danger of becoming a money pit.

They lost our trust. We don’t use them any more.

It’s a hard thing to find a reliable garage, and while I trust my mechanic friend with the dicky knee, I am not sure I trust those he has to rely on for some mechanical services. I want to trust the garage that hasn’t fixed my fuel tank, though. If they deal with my complaint and actually put it right, I might feel comfortable using them again. We’ll see.

Meanwhile, I shall have to see what I can do about that kitchen sink, and draughty back door, and the myriad other things that are making my life ever so slightly shit at the moment.

More on positivity

If you recall, back in May, I linked to a post by Nick Miners about being positive. I linked to the post because it struck a chord with me about how it is so easy, what with everything going on around us and in the world generally, to be negative all the time. After a few years of things not going so well in my own corner of the planet, I had been generally trying to look on the bright side, and Nick hit home.

Nick’s been following up on the theme. Yesterday, he asked for examples of positivity from his Twitter followers. A mutual friend, Paul Dunning, responded. Paul, like me, is a designer by trade, and his interests are wide-ranging. In the past few months, he has been documenting the unique letterforms used by the local authority in his home town to name the streets. He is now creating letterpress blocks from the typeface, and I suspect a digitised variant won’t be far off.

I had a think, and while I am pleased the modelmaking work has taken off, I felt my positive contribution was Invicta Shutterbugs. I was really pleased with the way a regular local photowalk gathered interest, and how it’s led me to make new friends. Sadly, we haven’t figured out a way to share the resulting photography in a central place yet—something that bugs me and will need to be sorted out if the walks are to continue into another year. Anyway, Nick suggested the modelmaking would be more interesting, so I put some thoughts down and emailed him. You can read them on Nick’s blog.

I’d like to thank Nick for highlighting the need for positivity in our world. With the media churning out, and literally thriving on, bad news it is so easy to let yourself fall into the pit of despair. Realising there’s a lot of good about, and working away at making life better by having a more generally positive attitude to many things, can only make the world a better place.

It’s not you, it’s me

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I’ve always been a “nook surfer”. What that means is I tend to haunt the same places on the internet, rarely letting my mouse take me places I don’t know, or “feeling lucky” as Google puts it. I’m happy with being a nook surfer. I’m not a terribly adventurous person at the best of times, so staying within boundaries online kind of suits me.

I’m not afraid of the internet. I’m not anti-internet. I’ve been designing web sites since the late 1990s. I am still a big fan of email. I am a member on several special interest forums, active on a few, a lurker on the rest. I eventually figured out what a blog was, and dived in with both feet, several times over. I’ve been hooked by Twitter, fallen in and then out of love with Facebook, and share my passions with Flickr and Google+. I am an online social animal, partly driven by working from home for much of the last decade or so. My online life gives me the social interaction I would normally get from co-workers.

Only, of late, I’ve been falling out of love with my online world.

At first, I thought it was down to too much information. This stuff is addictive at times, so I forced myself to step away from the screen and keyboard, and do stuff that didn’t involve a computer. This worked for a spell, and I returned feeling refreshed and excited again.

Since the start of the year, though, I find I have once again fallen out of love. The usual places I frequent bore me. There’s no sparkle any more. I don’t feel the excitement and interest that was there before.

I’ve been working on the modelling bench since the start of January, between spells of trying to get a client interested in their web site project, and I think I’ve remembered there is more to life than sharing links, nattering about stuff and pretending to get annoyed with the world like it makes a difference. I do get annoyed with the world, but that’s another story, as copious posts on this blog bear witness.

2013 has seen the start of active monthly photowalks with new friends. We do share the results online, but beyond that my online interest wanes rapidly. I was all over Google+ a while ago, but these days I find it’s too much. There’s just too much information, too many people. I could prune back my circles, limit my interactions, but even then it all feels so overwhelming. Right now, I’m using G+ as a promotional tool for the photowalks. Twitter just sits there in the corner, and lets me vent my spleen, or follow interesting ideas, limited enough that I can keep up. Flickr is still my main photo sharing space, and I am favouring a hobby forum over others right now. I’ve stepped back from things to a degree, which is probably a good thing. I don’t plan on dropping all online interaction. Too many of my friends are spread too far afield to do that, and online is the only realistic way to keep up with them.

I’ve been giving serious thought to giving up the “day job”. I’ve been trying to find a proper paid job for some time now, and it’s increasingly obvious I won’t be working in the design world again. Those interviews I managed to secure have proved either I’m too good for the position, or I’m barking up the wrong tree entirely. I’m planning on scaling back Imagic Design—if you can scale back something that’s all but dormant. The business bank account will be closed (it costs money to run, after all), and I’ll deregister from VAT (never entirely sure why I registered anyway). I am considering moving into other areas of likely income, all the while looking for any job that pays me a regular wage. Something’ll turn up.

Anyway, I’m sure I’ll share my journey here, assuming I can get off my arse and make a go of things.

Penny-puss update

Penny, woken from a snooze on the bed over the weekend.

Penny, woken from a snooze on the bed over the weekend.

Back in October last year, I related the story of our cats, and in particular our poorly puss, Penny. It’s time for an update.

The bad news first. Poor old Pingle is never going to be totally well again. She’s now all but blind—though that doesn’t seem to bother her unduly. Her tummy problem may never clear up completely, and we have to accept she’s not going to be with us for ever.

The good news, though, is the restricted diet, with medical assistance, has cleared up the poop and puke issues we were having. A boring diet of minced-up grilled chicken breast, with the odd sneaked mouthful of normal cat food (which we let her sneak, because it helps prevent her getting constipated) has worked wonders. No more surprises in awkward places, Penny now manages to perform her duties in her tray in plenty of time, and we’ve begun to award scores between 0 and 10 for the results! (0 being a mess, 10 being a perfect poop. I know, we’re a bit sad like that.)

The vet was very pleased with her progress. The medical treatment had been vitamin, antibiotic and steroid injections, sufficient for nearly a month at a time and a convenient way to avoid the vagaries of giving pills orally. After two treatments, Penny was eating well, and her tummy had calmed down. After our last consultation we agreed to leave the treatment out for a spell to see how things behaved.

So far, we’ve been scoring 3s and 5s, so we may need the treatment again in a couple of weeks. All in all, though, we’re generally pleased that Penny is as comfortable as we can make her. When the weather gets better, we’ll let her wander down the garden for a bit. Considering we didn’t expect Pingle to see Christmas through, we’re pretty happy with the way things are turning out.

Link to previous story.

Finally, apologies for the lack of posts of late. I’ve been a bit out of sorts with the internet in general, and I’ve also had a modelling project to keep me occupied away from the screen.