Posts Tagged ‘Google’

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last Christmas.

December 15, 2012

I remember when I started this blog that I would write quite lengthy, detailed posts about my personal life and about all of my feelings and experiences. This blog has been around for over 3 years and during that time my life has transformed in a lot of ways: I did a postgrad, started working in jobs I actually wanted, learned to drive and bought a car, entered a long-term relationship, moved to London and supported myself, moved in with my boyfriend… I made the decision not to talk about my relationship in too much detail because I feel that my private life is just for me and for Toby – but he informs everything I do now and is such a big part of me that every post on here, more or less, is influenced by him or concerns him to some degree.

Although I am certainly more mature and guarded about what I choose to post on the internet, sometimes I miss the honesty and openness with which I used to post. Sometimes, when I have dilemmas in my life, I find myself typing my question into Google in search of some advice. And sometimes I find some decent food for thought, whereas other times there’s just nothing sensible or nothing that quite touches the nature of what I am going through. But on those occasions where I do find something that can help me, through offering a kindred voice or shedding an alternative perspective on a situation, it’s really valuable. And so I have decided that in this post, I am going to be honest and talk about what is on my mind, in the hope that one day someone else might find my post and it might help them to know that they are not alone.

Yesterday I was speaking to my mother on the phone and apropos of nothing, she asked me that when I am in Bristol for Christmas, that I don’t voluntarily reveal the fact that I am gay and in a healthy, happy long-term relationship with my partner. The reason for this is that my uncle and aunt are coming up from Melbourne for the holiday to visit my grandmother. My cousin (my uncle and aunt’s daughter) has been living in Bristol with my grandmother for the past six months, and during this time she has demonstrated that she has grown up a lot from the irksome child and teenager that she was when I had previously met her. And yet the other day, my mother was having a conversation with her and my grandmother, and my cousin asks “how is Alan getting on with his flatmate?” Toby is my boyfriend, my lover, my partner with whom I share a flat – but he is so much more than my “flatmate” that I paused a little bit – because surely this is obvious, and my cousin (whose recent displays of emotional intelligence lead me to believe that she would have caught onto this) must know that Toby is my boyfriend. My mum then told me that my cousin has revealed in the past that my uncle (who has hitherto always been nice to me) “hates certain celebrity chefs because they are gay” apparently. And so, my mother has asked me not to volunteer any information about Toby to “keep the peace on Christmas Day” and to keep my grandmother happy, because otherwise relatives’ reactions “may cause a scene and my grandmother will get upset.”

What the fuck.

I am not at all angry at my mother for wanting a peaceful Christmas – it’s perfectly understandable. My mother’s side of the family is Italian (and therefore Catholic, although I wouldn’t describe them as religious with the exception of my grandmother who goes to church twice a week – but only since my grandfather passed away 5 years ago). But I have introduced Toby to my father (who has made crass comments about gay people in the past but has never been anything but welcoming of Toby and supportive of me in my relationship – I feel that his macho posturing isn’t really indicative of his views, which annoys me somewhat – why does he even need to act a certain way therefore? But I appreciate the fact that he is accepting of me) and everything has been fine – Toby has never felt uncomfortable or unwelcome in my parents’ home. My grandmother has met Toby a few times now and they get on ok too – neither is my grandmother stupid; she knows who he is to me, even if she doesn’t say it out loud. But here lies the crux of the problem – everybody knows, but nobody wants to talk about it. Everybody is actually fine with my sexuality, but everybody seems to think that they are the only “enlightened one” and that nobody else approves. So it remains a big open secret. Which to me is partly laughable, but also quite painful because I have absolutely no shame in having found a man that I love with all my heart, and having established a strong and secure relationship with him. Shouldn’t this be something that could be appreciated, if it’s too much to ask for it to be celebrated? Why do I have to keep quiet about the most positive (out of a range of very positive things in my life) part of who I am today?

I have always been the Beyoncé of the family, if you will. (Prepare for me to toot my own horn in the next couple of sentences.) Not only because I’m musically talented, but I am the only person on my mother’s side of the family to go to university, let alone to the University of Oxford and then on to achieve a postgraduate qualification afterwards. I am the only one who has successfully moved out of Bristol. I’m the slimmest and most fashionable out of me and my cousins. I have an interesting job which pays a decent wage (but more about that in another post, as I have an announcement to make!). I am 27 years old and I have done pretty well so far (with some wobbles along the way – but hey, that’s life right?). With all of this hard work (which was for myself, but it didn’t hurt that it pleased others also), it would appear that the fact that I am gay, that I happen to be attracted to men, and that I have now built a life for myself with another man whom I love deeply, resets everything. I will never be good enough, and no matter what I did or what I achieve in the future, I never had a chance at being “good enough” because of my sexuality, which is something I cannot control. I love being gay, I love Toby, I am very happy with my life and with myself (apart from the fact that I ought to quit smoking and that next year I am going to lose weight – but there’s a forthcoming post for that too because my musical goals and my aesthetic aims are going hand in hand in 2013).  And I can’t talk about any of it, because other people may react to it, and it may upset someone else. Well, it upsets me! What about that?

Back to the phone call. So my mother asked this favour of me. I fell silent, and I said that I didn’t know if I could do that – I certainly couldn’t promise anything. I know that she understands, and I know that she didn’t like asking, and I am not angry at her. But I am angry at my family because I am never going to be good enough, and I am not able to relax and completely be myself. I told my mother that I didn’t understand why I should compromise myself. It’s not natural for one to shout their gayness or their homosexual monogamous relationship upon entering a room – this is not my intention. But I am 27 years old, and I am not afraid of them anymore – I have built my own life, and at the end of the day, I don’t live in Bristol and I don’t need the validation of my family. It’s nice if I could feel comfortable with them – but if that’s not going to be a possibility, c’est la vie. I will choose Toby over them, if it has to come to it. I am sad that it might have to come to that – but maybe we can’t have everything. I have a lot, and that’s enough. But I refuse to be intimidated by small-minded, low-aspiring people. I don’t even really know if they are small-minded – this is all just rumour and myth. But after all – I’d better not say anything, just in case.

I want everyone to have a lovely Christmas day. I want Toby to feel welcome when he comes to Bristol, and the fact that he does perplexes me even more in light of this request. I don’t want my grandmother to be upset, and I don’t want anybody to cause a scene. But it’s not my fault if they cause a scene because of their own prejudice, surely? I don’t understand why I have to conceal, compromise and sacrifice my identity in the presence of people whom I see only occasionally, and who are my frickin’ family, so as not to rock a phantom boat. Am I being unreasonable? Because perhaps it’s not such a big thing to ask, for one day. But then, to me, it’s not really about one family day – it’s about me being denied the ability to openly be myself, to celebrate all of the things I have achieved and the precious gift of Toby’s presence in my life. He is wonderful, and I don’t see why I have to downplay this. I’m not going to shout it from the rooftops (though sometimes I want to! 🙂 ) because that would be unnatural, but neither am I going to lie about it because that is no more natural either.

This is bringing me to the sad conclusion that, whether or not a scene occurs, I feel like this will be my last Christmas in Bristol with my family, for at least a while. I don’t want to hurt my family by not celebrating with them, but at the same time I am an adult now, with the right to live my own life. (I can’t lie – it will be nice to actually not do a big travelling jaunt for one year.) I’m old enough to make my own decisions and to choose to stand my ground and enjoy my life in my own home. I have proven my worth time and again, and I now have the flat, the job, the relationship – the evidence to show for it. It’s not my fault that my family members may be insecure or jealous, and I don’t see why I should compromise myself to appease any inadequacies they may or may not feel. It’s not my problem. If I cannot be myself on Christmas day, then maybe next year it has finally come to the point where I’ve got to start making my own traditions, and if it means being by myself then hey – I’ll do it. I would never begrudge Toby going to spend time with his family, and maybe I would be able to join them instead. I don’t know – this whole situation has thrown me into a realm of “I don’t know”. What I do know is that I won’t lie, I won’t hide, and I won’t be ashamed. I am strong enough and secure enough to stand alone – I’d rather not have to, but if that’s the way it has to be then so be it. A part of me hopes I’ll be pleasantly surprised this Christmas and all these worries and postulations will count for nothing. I really don’t know what will happen – I am confident that I feel the right way about the situation, but I hope that I will have the grace and the presence of mind to react correctly and in a dignified manner to whatever situation arises.

I’ll let you know.

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cookery: egg fried rice + veggies

November 1, 2012

Tonight Toby has been at a macarons class run by Edd Kimber, so I have been left to my own devices. I really couldn’t be bothered to go out, nor could I be bothered to spend any money when we have perfectly good things in the fridge and cupboard, so I decided to dive in and cook something. After typing the ingredients I had at my fingertips into Google, it suggested I might like to attempt some sort of rice and vegetable dish. So egg fried rice it was! I used this recipe, and also added some baby corn and sliced mushrooms to the mix. I am not sure what kind of rice I was supposed to use, but as the only thing we had was basmati, I ended up cooking that, letting it cool in a sieve, and then frying it – it seemed to work fine!  The most impressive thing was the egg – I was sceptical that after beating it with a fork, puddling it into the centre of a ring of vegetables and rice, and waiting a minute before stirring it all in would work – but it did!

From start to finish, the whole thing (preparation – both mentally, and of the food) took about 40 minutes or so, which was fairly pleasing as it was a proper meal constructed from scratch! And aside from a couple of crispy bits of egg and rice (perhaps I could have stirred even more, but I erroneously chose to use a frying pan and not a wok, so I had to be conscious of not slopping half of the food onto the hob), it was pretty tasty! Tomorrow, Toby is giving a lecture at UWE and so I’ll come home late from my Italian class and have to cook something. Originally, I was going to treat myself to an easy ready-meal, but emboldened by tonight’s success I’m going to make something very similar to what I made at the beginning of the year – but instead of chicken, I’ll use bacon and there won’t be any roast potatoes (but maybe roast parsnips… we’ll see how energetic I am at 10pm!). I have this aspiration to be someone who can work full-time and yet manage to do all of the cleaning and all of the cooking; I am not sure why I want to push myself so much because it’s not necessary, but I think that proving to myself that I can do it all, even just in theory or for a short amount of time, would feel good. So I’m not going to give up on this cooking thing, and I may one day achieve a state of domestic bliss! 🙂

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Learning to cook – the journey begins…

January 4, 2012

In my New Year resolutions for 2012, my first resolution was to learn to cook a new dish every month. Now, I haven’t decided what the month of January will hold yet, but just to give you an idea of what starting point I’m at… it’s basic. Things that I can cook include lasagne, mushroom risotto, pasta, a range of ready meals, sandwiches and toast, and combinations of microwaveable foods. I’ve never been very inspired to cook anything more complicated than this because a) I find the process of creating a meal frequently tries my patience, and b) why should I cook a meal for one which takes longer to make than it does to eat?

I am in the very lucky position of being in a relationship with a fantastic cook. He is in the equally lucky position of being in a relationship with someone who enjoys cleaning and household chores. So why should I even bother learning to cook? Well, I’m an adult now – no longer a student, or living at home; Toby comes round my place nearly as often as I stay at his, and I want to be able to make meals that are tasty, interesting and also occasionally healthy. Eating out is expensive, and eating takeaways can get unhealthy and uninspiring. Perhaps I’ll lose some weight and get healthier along the way? I also want to add to my skill set, and I kind of feel that cooking is something I really ought to learn, as a worthwhile (and sociable) human being.

I’m not a natural chef (see: lack of patience; lack of understanding what foods go together; issues around eating and weight), but I did have some cookery lessons at school. I made things like pasta carbonara, quiche, bread, triple chocolate upside-down cake, and they always turned out well – however, I might attribute some of this to my desire to succeed in a classroom setting, rather than any potential I had as a cook. The only thing I ever did mess up was crème caramel, because I burned the caramel in the oven. (I later found out that I didn’t really like crème caramel anyway.) But for the most part, I had a recipe which I always followed to the letter, and things always turned out fine. However, Toby has discovered that there are some basic things that I didn’t know. For example, don’t lick your fingers when you have been handling raw chicken or raw egg – this is bad for you. He asked me, “didn’t you have food technology lessons at school?!?” To which my reply was “No, we studied Latin instead.” I think I was due to have 6 weeks of cookery lessons in 6th form, but instead I was chosen to be a peer mentor and had 30 hours of training in mentoring and listening skills from a psychologist.

Moving on… Last month, I made a lovely meal of honey and mustard roast chicken breast (courtesy of Waitrose), with chips, salad and croutons with caesar dressing. I was pleased with this meal because I picked the ingredients in the supermarket myself and created the dish in my head as I walked through the aisles. It was delicious. Tonight (and this is not counting towards my dish per month resolution), I had a go at making steak pie (courtesy of Sainsburys) with steamed baby corn, beans and boiled potatoes. This presented some challenges to me as I have never steamed vegetables, and I have never boiled potatoes.

The easy part – I shoved the steak pie in the oven for 35 minutes. This gave me 35 minutes to:

  • discover that one of the hob rings on my mini oven doesn’t work when the oven is on;
  • boil the potatoes on the other hob;
  • realise that supermarket estimates for cooking are not always to be trusted;
  • learn how to steam vegetables in the microwave (thank you Google);
  • find out that it’s not worth using tablespoons to measure out water.

After accumulating all of this knowledge, dinner was served:

steak pie, potatoes and steamed vegetables

It was yummy! The pie and potatoes (after the initial panic that they weren’t cooking on the hob) turned out very well. If I could do it again, I would have steamed the vegetables for longer in the microwave, as the beans were quite crisp and fresh-tasting; but the vegetables were still perfectly edible. The whole point of this, and my cookery journey, is that I am going to learn skills I didn’t know (however basic they might be) and improve my culinary capabilities. I am not ashamed of being such a novice cook, because I am doing something about it. And if you are reading this and thinking that you can’t cook either, then let’s take this journey together. I will be completely honest about my failures and lack of knowledge, and hopefully the fact that I will be able to make successful dishes in spite of these will be proof that even though we aren’t all born chefs, we can all learn to cook something simple, yet tasty and interesting.

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lessons learned.

December 30, 2009

For my final blog post of the year, like I said, I’m not going to attempt to give a run down of my 2009.  I’m never very good at that and I either misfocus and weigh certain events too heavily, or completely miss stuff out.  However, in trying to cast my mind back, I’ve learned a lot this year.  Here are some of my lessons learned:

Just because they’re related to you by blood doesn’t mean your family will always love you or care about you.  Love is not the same as obligation.

Trusting your own motivation can lead you to places people never thought you could go.  That’s their limited imagination, not yours.

People whom you thought were your friends can turn around and stab you in the back.  It’s not your fault and sometimes you can’t see it coming.

Someone who might initially appear to come from a different walk of life could become your best friend.

There’s nothing wrong with spending money on yourself, as long as you have the money!

People should focus less on telling you what you shouldn’t do and more on accepting you for who you are.  Chances are, you already know better than them what is good/bad for you, and being reminded is both condescending and unhelpful.

Life is open plan, and there’s no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ path; all we can do is follow our hearts and intuition as much as possible, and do what is ‘right’ for us.  That way, at least we have total ownership of our mistakes and our successes.

Marriage doesn’t change who you are, your sex drive nor whom you find attractive.

You’re never too old to fall crazy in love.  You can’t help your feelings, and there’s nothing wrong with having those feelings.

Usually, if you want to do something on a computer and you can’t work out how, there is some technician who has wanted to do it before you and subsequently invented a solution to your problem.  Google is your friend.

Don’t decide to up and learn a new language and consider emigrating on a whim.

Never give up hope.

Thankyou all for your support of this blog, my music and everything else this year! I really appreciate it and I wish you all a fantastic New Year’s Eve (let’s go party!) and a fulfilling 2010.  Here’s to the future!
Much love, Alan x
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apples and oranges.

September 20, 2009

For close to 4 years now, I’ve been an Apple convert.  The time has passed by quickly, and I don’t regret making the switch one bit.  My first Apple product was technically my 40GB iPod photo which now looks like a giant brick! I can’t believe I used to carry that around with me! But then, I can’t believe I used to carry my walkman and 5 or 6 cassette tapes to school each day, nor that I used to have a little bag with my discman and a few CDs in it that I used to wear around me.  Something I forgot until my iPod had to be sent away for repair during my second year of university was that CDs JUMP.  How we’ve come to expect perfection!  Or I have, anyway – I have no patience for songs skipping, I have little patience for my iPod taking a while to get its head round a song I want it to play.

However, I never considered getting an iPod as becoming an Apple convert.  Once I saw how easily my iPod worked and how straightforward the menus were, I became interested in getting an Apple laptop, especially as my current laptop was slower than a dinosaur.  During my first year of university, I had lots of problems with anti-virus software and protecting my computer.  It became ridiculously slow, and in addition to that, the laptop I had had a poor attempt at imitating Microsoft Office.  In the end, I had enough, and just before Christmas 2005 I ordered my first Apple laptop, an iBook G4.  It took me a month to get used to the fact that there was no right-click button, that the tabs and x’s and everything were in different places.  Also to get used to the fact that as a Mac, my computer was practically already virus-immune without constant annoying updates from AVG and Spybot and Norton Anti-Virus.  The resolution and picture quality was far superior than what I had been used to, and although there were several software compatibility issues, they were a lot easier to overcome than I had feared.  The aforementioned Microsoft Office was no longer needed, as I didn’t require any spreadsheets, and I could open and create word documents in TextEdit.  So it was all good!

Of course, it’s not all been problem-free.  I’m now on my third iPod (which is just over a year old), a 120GB silver iPod classic.  I’ve had it just over a year, and apart from the fact that the click wheel only clicks in the headphones, it is behaving quite well. For a while it was working extremely slowly, but the iPod software update on Snow Leopard fixed it and it’s back to normal.  I have had a lot of iPod issues in the past, having to send back my iPod time and again and getting replacement ones.  Particularly in the case of my first iPod (the photo one), I got into a rhythm of hitting it and knocking it in order to get it to behave and function, which in retrospect was quite ridiculous.  My second iPod, a 5th-generation iPod classic with video, still works, though it went through a period of deleting itself of all my music which was why I got a new one.  Because I have such a huge amount of music (though 120GB is more than enough space, and I haven’t come close to filling this iPod yet, with 35GB still free!), having to reload it onto my iPod is a MASSIVE pain, and now I use a handy program called iLinkPod to back up my iPod every month or so.  It’s a great security blanket, and ensures that I never lose my songs (something which is a much more real concern with digital music – it’s far easier to lose a file than to lose a CD), nor my formatting – I am a little bit anal about how I categorise my songs and make sure that everything has the correct artwork.  So with my new iPod, I bought AppleCare to keep it under guarantee for a lot longer, and I feel a lot more secure now.  And everything is working fine!

The introduction of an Apple Store to Bristol has also been a great advantage.  Up until the opening of Cabot Circus last September, there was an Apple retailer in Temple Meads which was more or less hopeless when it came to fixing any issues that I had.  Problems with my first laptop and its CD drive went unrepaired because they were so pathetic in their service that I just preferred to persist with the problem than get it fixed by them. (When my CD or DVD would skip upon putting it in the drive, I would just beat the base of the computer and it would work.  Again, I am glad to say those days are long gone!)  When my hard drive finally corrupted (I think to be fair, that was my fault because in Spain, I would leave my computer on my bed and it would overheat lying on the thick blanket that I had bought), it was easier just to buy another laptop than get it fixed by them and face their judgement.  Also, their costs would probably have been close to the cost of another laptop anyways.  I bought my second laptop in Easter 2007, and I still have it today!  The one time that I had a problem with it, last Christmas when it would only work with the power adapter plugged in, I took it to the Apple Store in Cabot Circus, who repaired it and although they had said that providing a new logic board would cost £400 (a price I decided I was prepared to pay), they fixed it for no charge.  It was a lovely Christmas Eve present, and to this day I’m not sure if that was a mistake… I just got out of the store clutching my laptop before they could change their mind!

Updating my operating system to Leopard and recently Snow Leopard has kept my laptop current, and although it is 2 and a half years old now, I don’t feel that it’s been left behind or is lacking anything. I have got a Microsoft Office replacement now called NeoOffice, so that I can plot my anti-snacking spreadsheet and make a beautiful printable CV.  Using the real Microsoft at work has made me appreciate Apple all the more.  My Dell laptop starts up and shuts down so slowly; it installs updates at a snail’s pace; Microsoft Office is actually not that user friendly, with certain apparently-advanced functions being a rigmarole to discover.  And don’t rely on the help section – it only helps you with incredibly obvious things, and anything more technical is a struggle to even find according to their index system.  I conclude that their help sections must have been written by morons, and this week at work, I have solved my queries by using Google, seeing that the Microsoft help section had failed me so.  In short, I can’t see myself going back to Microsoft.

However, there is one area of my life where I’m not willing to let Apple in.  The iPhone, while I appreciate is a marvellous piece of kit and has so many useful (and useless! 😉 ) apps as well as a slim touchscreen, iPod capabilities and Safari web browser, is just far too common.  I see it everywhere. In addition, it’s expensive and I’m not really into buying phones on contract (I get easily confused), so I prefer to buy them SIM-free and then just keep my standard O2 Simplicity contract, which gives me unlimited web browsing, and enough free texts and minutes for £20 to keep me satisfied. I see iPhones everywhere, and while they are pretty and fantastic devices, I prefer to be a little bit different.  I have the LG Prada II, which is a beautiful sleek black touchscreen phone.  However, it also has a pull-out QWERTY keyboard (one of the main selling features for me) so after a little bit of teething, I can text pretty damn quick. I also have the internet and a camera and all the other important things I wanted in a smart phone.  But for me, it is more beautiful than an iPhone, it has the designer name which makes it a little more special to me, and I have never seen another one being used in public.  I am confident that the iPhone is probably a superior piece of kit, but not by much – I am happy without all the extra apps, as long as I have my QWERTY keyboard, free internet browsing, emails, beautiful phone and unique phone.  The LG Prada II has taken me a few months to get my head around (the instruction manual is not very clear, and it does randomly do crazy things such as restart when I receive more than one email), but I have grown to love it and appreciate its quirks as much as its beauty and functions.  As I’ve only had it for 5 months, I’m not really looking into what phone I might get next (iPhone or otherwise), as technology these days (particularly with smart phones) evolves so quickly that I won’t even think about it until my current phone starts getting tired and a new one will be necessary.  However, I know that Dior have got a beautiful phone on their website…