Posts Tagged ‘Mike’

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what it feels like for a quitter.

May 14, 2013

2013 seems to be a year of me leaving things behind in search of establishing my independence, and although this can be called “quitting”, I guess that quitting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve left one job for another, which has turned out to be at times a disorienting move, but ultimately one that has improved my sanity and quality of life, as well as my prospects for moving up the career ladder (I desperately need to get into a managerial position and gain experience of leading a team). My new job isn’t perfect, and it is a slight departure from what I thought it would entail, but at the end of the day, I am happy for now and I hope that it will be a stepping stone to greater things.

One of the loves of my life, Starbucks, has been another thing I’ve drastically cut down on. As money became tighter during the first few months (note to self and anyone reading: always budget for food!), Starbucks was something I didn’t really need and so I didn’t spend on it. Occasionally I will still have one, but work provides free instant coffee so that is sufficient to wake me up once I get into the office; Starbucks is much more of a social thing nowadays. Also, they do wonderful specialty coffees (read: sweet, sticky treats of drinks) and I still adore a white chocolate mocha or a strawberries and cream frappuccino; but it’s not great for the waistline! Especially when I now live full-time with a fabulous chef who always makes seconds.

And nor is quitting smoking. I started off the year well enough, but soon I started to make exceptions; one in my break during Italian class; one when I was feeling stressed at lunchtime; one nearly every lunchtime… Although going up to 4 cigarettes a week is hardly anything to write home about when I was smoking 8 a day only 6 or so months ago, it represented a breakdown in my willpower. So after a discussion with Toby where he found out about my secret smoking and was shocked, I ended up handing over my cigarettes and lighter to him because I knew that this was a way to completely stop myself from cheating. And it’s worked – I’ve gone nearly 4 weeks without a single cigarette.

Quitting smoking isn’t too difficult in terms of the practical sense; don’t bring your cigarettes with you, and you don’t smoke. Don’t bring your lighter with you, and you can’t smoke even if you buy cigarettes. But it’s the mental games that you play with yourself – on one of the rare warm, summery days, having a cigarette is so carefree and relaxing. It is de-stressing, and it is a way of killing time. Watching other people smoking makes me feel envious of the moment they are enjoying. I gave up smoking – surely one every now and then can’t hurt? (That’s the kind of thinking that leads to making exceptions for yourself, and that’s how I started back on them a couple of months ago.) Why should I have to sacrifice everything?

Everyone has vices – this is true. Do I honestly, truly think that I have smoked my last cigarette? I doubt it. I enjoyed smoking so much,  and I think about smoking quite often because I am still conscious, after this amount of time, that I am depriving myself. But when Toby found out that I had been smoking in secret, he was really upset because he hadn’t known about it (I was ashamed to say anything, and I also felt – quite defiantly – that I didn’t have to report to him. Even though it may have helped, in this case) and he wanted to help me help myself to give up. So I gave him my smoking paraphernalia and that has been the practical part solved. Even now, I often feel tempted to give up on giving up – denial is exhausting, rebellion is satisfying and makes me feel free. But I also know that it’s an illusion – smoking ties down my money and my health (even though you can’t feel it short-term). Toby said to me that he wants to help me give up to support our future together, and to help us ensure that we can grow old together.

Thinking about these words, and about the fact that he was disappointed that I was creeping down the slippery smoky slope, give me the inspiration to try as hard as I can to remain smoke-free. I want my partner to be proud of me, I want us to live long lives together as much as is possible, and more than anything I want to demonstrate that I can triumph over temptation and maintain my willpower. I found out that not long after I quit smoking, Mike also did – now, if he can quit smoking, I guess anyone can! He had a throat infection over the winter (and various chest and lung problems in the run-up to that), and this finally spurred him to quit smoking because he couldn’t smoke during his infection, and once he stopped he thought he might as well stay stopped.

The life of a quitter is hard. The argument in my head that I have already deprived myself of plenty (see above) and why should I enforce this suffering on myself – everyone has vices and their own personal addictions, and I don’t get any reward or gold star for behaving so abstemiously – is a strong one. I had a dream last night that I was in Italy – glamour central! – and I had met up with some man who was supposed to be my father (although he didn’t resemble my actual dad in any way) and his new girlfriend. Everyone around me was smoking, and I was so tempted to have a cigarette, but what convinced me to resist was that even in my dream, I knew that Toby would be upset with me. If I feel a little bit like I am being controlled, I can tolerate it only because I know that Toby is trying to help me and ultimately liberate me, and I’ve given him permission to do that. So I don’t know if I will make it as a non-smoker all the way to the end of my days, but I hope that by taking each day at a time, I could maybe do it? The life of a quitter is uncertain. But it’s also hopeful.

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2526: track by track

November 26, 2012

As stated in my previous post, my latest album 2526 is a loose diary of the last 2 years of my life, and focuses on love, and a range of facets of that emotion. I’m now going to take you through each track and tell you a little bit more about them all.

1. My Way / Sincerity

As one might surmise, these were originally two separate songs. “My Way” was a response to the burdens of parental love and pressure from those around you who know you best and suffocate you in their desire for you to achieve the best – at the same time as you love them for wanting the best for you, you can’t help but know that ultimately you’ll end up disappointing them. Try as I might, I could write a bridge for this song, and it was unfinished for ages. “Sincerity” came from wanting to write a song called “Sincerity”, and wanting to use the classic, hard-hitting beat from the remix to “It’s All About The Benjamins”; there seemed to be a real contrast between hard and soft.  But I couldn’t write a bridge for this song either, and it went unfinished for ages as well. One day, it dawned on me to just put the two together – the subject matter of the songs went well together, and while the overall tone of the songs is one of defiance and determination, there is also love and vulnerability. And most importantly, no bitterness.

2. Distance

This is one of my two favourite songs on the album. I was heavily into the song “I Miss You” by Beyoncé (from her masterpiece 4), and the night that I received the instrumental from Citizens of the World, I had been looking forward to Toby coming down to Bristol for the weekend (this was before I had moved to London) – we hadn’t seen each other for a while and I really missed him. Except that same night, he had called me to say that he probably wouldn’t be able to make it (in the end, he did). I was feeling melancholy and yet selfish as well, and the lyrics and melody to this song subsequently came in about 15 minutes. The lyrics so vividly capture the emotions I was feeling, and the vocal delivery is something that is supposed to be downbeat and yet sincere and heartfelt. The production is perfect. I am so grateful to have recorded this song.

3. Delete U

This song was written not long after Quiet Storm was done, and the piano intro is supposed to be reminiscent of Prince / The-Dream. I remember breaking up with one of my previous dalliances and just removing all trace of him from my life. It was intriguing that rather than tangible memories, we store a lot of initial information about friends and relationships digitally and so it’s all about “pressing delete” rather than throwing things in the trash. The use of terms such as “Facebook” and “Twitter” automatically date this song (probably to its detriment, although I personally don’t think it rings as unnaturally as the lyrics about getting off the Macbook and Facebook from Brandy and Monica’s otherwise-very-good “It All Belongs To Me”), but when I’ve dated my entire album through its title, it doesn’t really matter!

4. Important

I am well aware that this song sounds really similar to “Broken-Hearted Girl” by Beyoncé, but it’s not a bad song to use as a template and I really wanted the piano and drums to be straightforward – the vocals and lyrics are supposed to occupy centre stage in this song. I wanted to talk in an honest way about how it feels when you don’t know what is going on in a relationship, and whether your priorities and feelings really mesh with those of your partner’s. Are you on the same page? I left the song open-ended – we don’t know if the couple in the song stay together or break up, because although I personally tend towards the latter, the whole point is that life and love is not clear cut and the things we think we should do, we don’t always do.  Love is complicated.

5. Unforgettable

This song is a remix of / my spin on Drake’s “Unforgettable” from his first album Thank Me Later, and I loved the melancholy production. The chorus of my track I guess is a bit more reminiscent of the Nat King Cole classic; I wanted to have a rap song on my album, like “Armani Earrings” on Quiet Storm, but less incendiary and more vulnerable. The sample of Aaliyah just made Drake’s song so perfect. Mike has played such a big part in the last 3 years of my life that I didn’t know how to feel about it when he moved out of Bristol. Even though we worked together, it felt like we were drifting apart and I was sad about it. I wrote this song to encapsulate all of my emotions about the relationship with one of my best friends developing and evolving. Ultimately, I ended up moving a lot further away! I have grown up so much over the last 3 years, and I wanted to pay tribute to someone who had a considerable role to play in the man I am today. Friendship is love too, after all.

6. Phoenix Rising

This song evokes love as empowerment. This was the first track from Citizens of the World that I wrote to, and I had Nicole Scherzinger’s Killer Love album on repeat at the time, hence the namecheck in the first line. The production was ethereal, and I wanted a melody that really soared on the wings of the track. It was a challenging vocal to sing – particularly the end note! – but recording this track was really enjoyable because I got to do different and interesting things with my voice.

7. U Gotta Go

This song was much more fun and more upbeat – when I received the instrumental, it sounded so happy and pop! I immediately thought of “I Wanna Go” by Britney Spears – but I didn’t want to do something completely featherweight, so I flipped the song to make it a breakup anthem with some sassy lyrics about dumping a car in a lake that I cribbed from Tamia’s “Go” (aside: she is such a ridiculously talented singer!). I also wanted to make a poppy track that had some good vocal riffs in it – so I did that.

8. Sabo

This is my other favourite song on the album, because it is very personal and meaningful. Obviously, it’s addressed to Toby and it’s about him and us. I am so deeply, romantically and truly in love with him. He bought me a ring from Thomas Sabo for our 6-month anniversary, and I still wear it every day – I love it (black and silver are my favourite fashion colours, after all!) and I am so proud of it. I wanted to write a piano ballad the old fashioned way – chords and lyrics on top, no digital production – so that’s me playing the piano (the microphone isn’t great for recording the piano, so that’s why it sounds a bit honky-tonk). I was also in love with Beyonce’s “1+1” so I wanted to have some powerful vocals in the bridge, that really pulled out the soul that I wanted to express. The song turned out exactly how I wanted it to (honky-tonk aside), and I always knew it would be the end song / finale to my album.

Once again, I hope you enjoy the album!

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fortissimo.

July 15, 2012

This week has not been the kindest. I’ve been scared, depressed, challenged and exhausted. Scared that in September, I might no longer have a job; depressed that if I didn’t find a source of income within the next two days, that I might have to move back to Bristol (which isn’t terrible in itself, but would feel like a massive step backwards and super-frustrating when I am due to move in with Toby in a couple of months); challenged to step outside of my boundaries and comfort zone, and apply for jobs once again; exhausted by the emotional rollercoaster of all the above! Toby was away in Manchester for two days, so I didn’t have as many cuddles to keep me going as I normally would; although I feel that perhaps his absence was a good thing because otherwise I might have vented to him a little too much!

The reason why I chose the title “fortissimo” for this blog, is that it has a double meaning: normally, we think of the musical term, where it means to play very loudly, as if at the height of a crescendo. But it also means “very strong”, and this perhaps is the theme of the week I’ve had. In the blog I wrote last week, I wrote about wanting to feel more vibrant as a result of the summer weather, but I also want to feel super-strong. Vibrant and powerful in a range of ways. Fortissimo, if you will.

I had people yell at me over the phone at the start of the week; I knew I was not in the wrong in each siutation, but considering the circumstances they were in, I understood that they were distressed. However, the way I felt after they took their frustrations out on me was proof that I am still very much in the process of developing a thick skin.  Two years ago, coming out of the QCG at UWE, I felt somewhat invincible: I had a wonderful new boyfriend, a fantastic new best friend, I’d just landed my first proper full-time job and my body was still banging (I am hoping that my healthier summer focus will help me get back to this state). I also felt confident – that I could really go out and get anything I wanted, and do anything I put my mind to. I think that I have / one has always been able to do this, but not without a certain sense of self-doubt on the inside. That year, the sense of self-doubt turned into a sense of self-belief. As I look at myself this week, I realise that that sense of self-belief has disappeared somewhat – and I want it back. I have to be stronger, more confident and less deterred by what others may say or do or think.

It looks more certain now that my job is in fact not in jeopardy, but I also feel that (due to changes at work which I don’t really feel I can talk about in the public domain) my sense of security is far from unshakeable. I won’t be totally reassured until I’m holding my contract in my hand (which apparently should happen on Monday afternoon), but it’s an improvement on the uncertainty I’ve been going through recently. Part-time work during school and university excluded, the longest I’ve stayed at a job is one year; this position was the one where I initially hoped (even without realising it) that I would break that pattern. I wanted something on my CV that showed I had commitment to a role. In feeling forced to look elsewhere, I confronted a sense of fatigue at completing yet more job applications (most, if not all of which I won’t hear anything back from – nothing personal, just the way it works), but also some questions (raised also by the article I read in Glamour recently): by not constantly challenging myself to go for higher positions, promotions, jobs where I would (for example) have to travel abroad sometimes, am I really challenging myself? There is a lot to be said for being safe and being based in one city – it makes life easy, and it means that once the working day is done, my life is my own and I can spend it with my partner and my friends. It’s a lovely sense of security (there’s that word again!); but at 26, I should still be challenging myself and shooting for the moon, right? And what’s more important – something on a piece of paper that shows I’m loyal to an employer, or an attitude and confidence that shows I am loyal and committed to my own development and achievements?

It’s a change to my thinking that I’ve tried to get my head around before, but only partly succeeded: we feel a misplaced sense of loyalty to our employers, because they pay us for what we do and provide us with financial security. However, we are the ones earning the money, learning new skills constantly, and we should be less afraid to confidently negotiate positions and salaries as we see fit: if you don’t try, you don’t get! If employers don’t want to pay for our services, they don’t feel bad in saying goodbye; why should I feel guilty in looking around at what other options might be available to me, in case something better comes along? A professional relationship should work two ways.  Don’t get me wrong, I feel comforted by the fact that I probably won’t lose my job, because it makes things easier and more stable for me and Toby moving in together in the Autumn and being able to put a deposit down on a new flat, but I’ve been forced to think that while we are young, we should be confident and assertive in going for opportunities that present themselves, and in creating opportunities where none are immediately evident. Sometimes one is lucky, other times one must make his/her own luck. So contract or not, I’m going to keep an eye on what jobs come up (both internal and external), so that I’m ready to apply for something better that takes my fancy.

Another surprising development where I’ve really had to draw on some strength is in my cigarette consumption; somehow I’ve found myself promising Toby and a few other people that I will quit smoking in 2013. I’ve joked that this might be December 31st, but really, it is one of next year’s New Year’s resolutions. I’ve prided myself on my stubbornness, and I know that I will be able to do it; when reading Diana Ross’ biography, one of the things that stuck with me is her saying “I’m going to quit smoking one day without any whining or fuss, not like other people.” And that’s exactly what she did! I admire that single-minded determination to change one’s life without wavering even in the slightest. But when I told a couple of colleagues this plan of mine (they’re not colleagues I usually work with, because I certainly don’t want any kind of scrutiny in my office), they said “well, do you really want to quit? If you do, why wait? Start now.” I must admit that that thinking makes total sense, but while I am getting to the point where I truly do want to stop smoking, I still enjoy it somewhat that I’m not ready right now. However, after a Wednesday night out with Nick where we made a new Icelandic friend called Sigga (who smoked a lot, and I smoked with her), I woke up the next morning hungover and with a very husky throat. I really didn’t want to smoke, and I didn’t have a cigarette until 1pm that afternoon. I had a total of 4 that day (normally, I smoke between 8 and 10 cigarettes a day), and from then on, my colleagues’ words were echoing in my head. I really could quit sooner rather than later, and I’ve focused on reducing my cigarette consumption with the hope that I could stop. I don’t know what I will do at work, as I will still want my breaks every couple of hours (particularly considering I rarely take a proper lunch break), and there are social and time-killing benefits to smoking. But rather than a physical sense of addiction, the hardest challenge will be conquering the voice in my head that yells “CIGARETTE CIGARETTE CIGARETTE” when I become conscious that I haven’t had one that day. I had 7 cigarettes the following day, and today I bought a pack of menthols (rather than my usual Marlboro Reds), of which I have had 6. Menthols have a different taste and less nicotine, and my idea is to wean myself off cigarettes, or at least permanently reduce my consumption. As anyone who has tried to quit smoking before knows (I did quit once in the past after I came home from my year abroad in Spain, but I had only smoked for a couple of months, so it wasn’t really the same thing) I don’t know if I’m ready to completely quit and declare myself an ex-smoker, because sometimes I really enjoy it and I’m quite attached to having a cigarette with alcohol, or before I go to sleep. Plus, I feel like I would be betraying (there’s that word again!) Mike, or Toby’s colleagues who like to smoke, if I no longer want to smoke with them. I also believe that truly conquering one’s addiction to smoking, alcohol or whatever truly means that we can still do those things when we genuinely want to without feeling any compulsion. If I gave up smoking completely, I would still feel subjugated by my addiction if I felt a constant sense of fear to have a cigarette for the rest of my life, in case it opened up the floodgates and I couldn’t stop again. True mastery to me means that I am in total control of every cigarette I have, knowing that I can trust myself not to have another one if I don’t want to. At this standpoint, I can say that I feel ready to cut down my smoking by about half (and recapture my full vocal power and some extra spending power each month to boot). So I have also been gathering my strength to do that.

Living life to the full, being loud and proud, and being strong and confident is a daily work in progress. It’s not always easy, and we can’t do it 100% of the time – I fully accept this. But when I go through a shitty week like this one, I’m thankful for the support offered by my partner, friends and family, but I’m also encouraged to recapture my own confidence and desire to reach the stars. I have so many goals in life that I not only am working slowly towards achieving, but that I am fully capable of – but it’s easy to get worn down and distracted by the daily grind that we learn to settle for a little less and choose safety over excitement. As long as I have financial security, the love of my partner, family and friends, I can do anything I set my mind to. But it’s also important not to forget to actually set my mind to new ventures and projects, rather than the same old ish! I believe that this is what I mean by living “fortissimo”.

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responsibility / Tube update: Hyde Park Corner and Green Park.

February 11, 2012

So after living in London for 5 months (to the day today!), I finally got around to registering with a GP this week. It was my second choice of doctor, after the top choice recommended by the NHS website turned out not to take new patients from my area (when I said that the website recommended me, they apologetically informed me “Ah yes. The website is wrong”). I think the website was wrong again, because my first appointment with the treatment nurse on Friday evening was nothing short of horrific.

I was informed that my blood pressure was that of a “much more mature person”, and that I need to go back in a month and keep monitoring it in the meantime. Ok. Furthermore, I need to lose “15-20 kilos”. Now, in my own opinion, over the last few months, I have put on a few pounds. But at 6 foot, I am not delusional enough to believe someone when they say that my ideal weight is 11 and a half stone. I would be skeletal if I lost that much weight – I am not fat as it is. I am my own harshest critic, but at the most I could do with losing half a stone or so. No more. I promise you all I am not kidding myself – I wear small or medium sizes in clothing. Yet I apparently have a 40″ waist (again, despite the fact that I wear 32″ and 33″ trousers). I also had to do a urine test, and when I said “um, right now?!” she said “is that a problem?” I ended up being able to perform, so to speak, and I told the nurse upon my return that “I drink a lot of water”. She eventually confirmed “yes, your urine is clear.” No shit, lady. In addition, how dare you tell me to lose so much weight – not only is this essentially promoting anorexia (because obviously she says this to everyone; I am not a special case), but it’s hypocrisy from someone who is definitely more overweight than I am! I am outraged that people in a position of authority and whose responsibility it is to promote healthy living, is telling people to become dangerously underweight.

I apparently have to go for a yearly check-up, “because things can develop without you knowing”; ok, but if there is nothing wrong with me, why would I waste a doctor or nurse’s time? I never had to go before, except for when I felt that there was something wrong with me. After checking my blood pressure, the nurse kept insisting “are you sure you don’t feel dizzy? Or ever have headaches?” Lady, no means no. I am perfectly happy and healthy. No matter how much you want to make me feel like something is wrong, you won’t convince me that you know my body better than I do. I spent most of my childhood and adolescence hating the way I looked and the way I felt. I finally got myself right a couple of years ago or so, and I will not let some irresponsible woman set me back. I will keep y’all updated on my future adventures with this doctor’s surgery. The last thing on my mind is that she mentioned the possibility of taking tablets for my blood pressure if it doesn’t go down. I am confident I have white coat syndrome – I am nervous when it comes to having my blood pressure checked, and I have done it on my mum’s machine at home and it has come out a little high, but far closer to normal. What’s more, I have seen my grandparents existing on cocktails of pills, and it was one of the things that contributed to my grandfather’s ultimate deterioration in health and multiple health problems that culminated in his death in 2008. I know that doctors and nurses have a job to do, but they do not know everything, and I refuse to be bullied into a dependency on medication that I neither want nor need. I am 26 years old; I do not need to be on tablets for my blood pressure when I have no other health problems or symptoms. I was telling Mike and Caroline this today, and they both said that this woman sounds insane and that I should never go back there. But even though this visit was horrific, it did ultimately mean that I accomplished my goal of registering with a GP.

You’ll notice that I mentioned Mike and Caroline just now. Well, Toby and I saw them today! They came down to London for their wedding anniversary, and are staying in the hotel just around the corner from my flat, in West Kensington! They went to the Science Museum today with Billy – we met them there (I had never been to the Science Museum before! A lot of it went over my head, tbh) after Toby and I spent a very long time walking! I suppose that a good thing about my visit to the surgery last night (I was seriously searching for a silver lining to that cloud!) was that is has further kick-started my desire to lose those few pounds and keep walking and exercising. So from Toby’s flat in Fulham, we walked to my place to pick up my sunglasses, walked to Brompton Library where Toby and I both joined and were rewarded with festive-looking membership cards (I will also be able to take out some books in Italian and develop my skills in that language!), went to the V&A, made my first purchase from Harrods, then walked to my favourite Starbucks in Belgravia (although they went down in my estimation somewhat today after messing up my drink – twice!), and then walked to Hyde Park Corner:

Now I realise that you can’t see which station it is from this picture. Hence:

And then we went to Green Park, before going back to South Kensington to the Science Museum and having a lovely afternoon with Mike, Caroline and Billy:

And from there, a lovely afternoon and evening with Toby, re-organising my flat and watching Desperate Housewives tonight. Tomorrow I am going to sort out my Valentine’s gift to him and have a quiet but productive day before another week of work!

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sixth sense.

September 3, 2011

When I was younger I used to believe in the supernatural – ghosts and the zodiac, stuff like that. I was fascinated by it all, but as I grew older I sorta decided that maybe some people had access to powers and things that the majority of us couldn’t see, but I just didn’t and that was that. I concentrated on what was concrete and tangible.

Nevertheless, I think that as humans we all have intuition and sometimes we have a sixth sense. I knew that everything was going too smoothly – I had got a new job, had found a buyer for my car, and had put down a deposit on a flat that was perfectly located between Toby’s flat and my new place of work. I have yet to hear from the landlord about when I sign the contract, but I figure that no news is good news as it means that he hasn’t changed his mind about renting the flat to me. (Did I mention I am a bit of a pessimist?) I was originally going to text him this weekend to let him know that I am around to sign the contract, but I decided against it as I don’t want to nag and put him off me. If I haven’t demonstrated by this point that I am organised (I met him the following day after viewing the flat to give him bank statements, a look at my new employment contract with my employer’s address and phone number, a copy of my driving licence, and the holding deposit and admin fee), then whatever. But at the moment, I am not feeling too worried about the flat – I’m kinda “c’est la vie” about it all.

But I felt that as I got closer and closer to the last day of driving my car (which is this coming Thursday), I knew that I wouldn’t get away without something going wrong. Every day that I drove it to work, I would say to myself “You only have X days of work left, so try not to crash it!” I haven’t crashed it. Then I drove up to London yesterday, and I was dreading this because I haven’t done so in quite a long time, and the last time I drove back from London, my door nearly fell off. But I just had to make one journey there and back. I drove up last night, and lo and behold, nothing bad happened. I drove successfully, and remarked about how crazy some of the other drivers on the M4 are! I met Toby once he finished work and we went home and had a lovely lamb moussaka for dinner. Then (because Toby’s street has controlled parking on a Saturday), I went to move my car to a street a few blocks away, so that I could park for free on Saturday (today).

This is when the problems struck – just when I thought everything was fine. As I was parking my car, suddenly the exhaust started making a very loud rattling noise. It made a similar (but quieter) noise once I picked it up from its MOT back in June, but Mike and I fixed it. But now it sounded horrendous. I got Toby to come and have a listen, and he said it was definitely the exhaust. And at this point, I just KNEW that this was the disaster that I had been waiting for. I knew that my car would not leave my presence without causing me one last problem, one last headache, and bleed one last lot of money out of me. I took it to Kwik Fit this morning, and they were supremely unhelpful and told me “It’s the heat shield. It’s not dangerous. It’s not worth spending the money to fix it.” They looked at my car for a total of 3 minutes. I was unsatisfied by this – how am I supposed to sell a car that makes such a fucking huge noise? If it were me buying it, I certainly wouldn’t – no matter how much the seller insisted “Honestly, it’s not dangerous!!!”

So I took it to another garage, who had a look at it and tightened some stuff up so that the noise was diminished (it does sound better now). They have recommended that I take the car back to the Car Clinic in Kingswood (where they originally fitted the new exhaust during my MOT) as they hadn’t done something properly, and it is their place to sort it. I have the receipt for when they did the exhaust as part of the MOT, and I am sure that they will not charge me much (if anything – after all, it is their mistake!) – however, I am also prepared that they might not believe that they are at fault as otherwise I should have reported the issue the first time it was rattling, instead of Mike and I fixing it ourselves. We’ll see what happens. Hopefully I will get back to Bristol in one piece – the car still drives fine, it’s just noisy in low gears. So hopefully if I am driving quickly along the motorway, it won’t make much noise.

What I am trying to say is that sometimes, when things seem to be going too smoothly, we need to be on our guard! I knew that my car would screw me over one last time before I got rid of it. I now have to somehow find the time between now and Wednesday to take my car to my local garage and get it fixed. I felt so guilty for ruining mine and Toby’s morning – which is ridiculous, because there is hardly anything I could have done to have prevented this, and my car is a law unto itself. It’s not my fault. But it is my car, and if I want to sell it on, I have to take responsibility for it and get it fixed. My intuition told me that my car would not let me go so easily. So I advise everyone to listen to your sixth sense, and be on your guard as misfortune can strike at any time.

And I also advise you not to buy a Vauxhall car, and to buy as new a car as possible / affordable, because in theory then you should have less problems with it! This car has been nothing but a drain on both my finances and my happiness, and while I have enjoyed driving (sometimes), the past 7 months of owning this car has overall been hellish. I will not be sorry to see it go, and now that I’ll be living in London, I am looking forward to making the most of a decent public transport system. It will hopefully be a long time before I own a car again – and next time, I will have a lot more money at my disposal and buy something much better and more reliable.

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kissing etiquette.

August 20, 2011

Toby and I were having a phone conversation the other night, and I said how I found it strange that my close friend Davina (whom I have known for over 20 years) has recently stopped ending her text messages with kisses. She used to end them with 5 kisses – sometimes “xxxxx”, but sometimes “XxXxX” – this is why the sudden absence of these kisses is noticeable.

I wondered aloud to Toby whether, at 26, Davina now felt that she had to be grown up and not add kisses? There was no issue of a loss of friendship, as her language was still affectionate: she started her most recent text to me with “Hey hunny”. My conversation  with Toby developed into a more general rumination on how many kisses it is appropriate to put at the end of a text message, and the complex set of ‘rules’ (or more precisely, considerations) that we all take into account – often without even thinking about it.

For example, because I love Toby to pieces, I basically hammer the X button until I feel that it is enough – the kisses that I send him can vary anywhere between 5 and 12. Because I text Toby far more than anyone else, at the end of typing messages my finger therefore automatically goes towards the X. This can be a problem thought if I am not texting Toby, and some restraint needs to be exercised. For example, Mike is quite manly and is also 37. So he doesn’t put any kisses at the end of his texts, and I have to make sure that I don’t put any at the end of texts I send to him, as it would be a tiny bit odd – although it’s quite difficult to explain why this is. The same with Trevor, my colleague with whom I car share and get on with well, who is in his late 50s. However, I find it weird not ending a text message with some sort of sign-off, so instead I put a smiley face. Trevor (being quite relaxed) from time to time also uses smiley faces; Mike does not. Out of all of my friends, it is most acceptable to end texts to Mike without any punctuation or sign-off whatsoever. But I find it weird not to use anything at all – the text then feels blunt, functional and lacking in my personality.

But is my personality immature to be using kisses at the end of texts to people other than my close friends or partner? With close friends like Hannah or Karina, I might end my texts with two or three kisses. With Nick, another close friend who is a boy, I might end my texts with one or two kisses – to preserve some semblance of masculinity; and also, because there is only one man who gets all my kisses, and that is Toby. So does this mean that there is a fundamental but extremely subtle hierarchy of respect to family and partners, as well as consideration of gender, level of friendship, and sexuality? For example – it feels more acceptable to put kisses on the end of texts to Nick than to Mike, as Nick is gay whereas Mike is straight. But surely that is stupid? On the rare occasion that I accidentally end texts to Mike with an x or two, he has never said anything or been remotely bothered.

Something that Toby pointed out to me is that just as I do with him, he usually leaves me a lot of kisses at the end of his texts to me. But very occasionally, I only get two or three – and me being me, I notice this and wonder if there is any reason for it. I found out through our conversation – because I have an iPhone, I have no character count on my texts. But Toby’s phone still has a character count; and so, to avoid going over the character limit into what is technically a “new page” of the text message, sometimes he will only have two or three characters left, which means that I get less kisses than I am accustomed to. So another thing that I have to remember is that we all have different phones and different contracts / allowances.

To friends of mine who are reasonably good friends (for example, Mike’s wife Caroline, or my colleagues Amy and Charlotte at work), I will end my texts with one kiss; to people whom I don’t really know that well, or am texting for specific information, there are no kisses to preserve a business-like approach. But as I grow older, and in theory more mature, should I be ending my text messages in a more perfunctory way? I don’t even know if Davina has had this conscious thought – all I’ve noticed is a change, and I am just projecting onto it. But it triggered an interesting discussion, and a realisation that there are a lot of subtle things that we consider, almost automatically, when we send text messages to our friends, partners, colleagues and so on. As a 25-year-old man, am I too old to be ending my texts with kisses? Or should I just carry on, be myself and not think about it so much? Surely this is overthinking something very simple; but as I’ve illustrated, the etiquette of kisses on texts is deceptively complicated. And a lot of the mystery was dispelled through an actual real-time voice conversation, which possibly speaks volumes… At the end of the day, text messages can be an excellent form of quick and convenient communication, but shades of meaning and levels of affection can be conveyed much more accurately and honestly through tone of voice and the spontaneity of a real-time conversation.

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on my way.

August 9, 2011

At the end of last year, I wrote down that this year I wanted to achieve:

1. Buy a car. (Tick. I bought a car, bought some tyres, had a small accident, replaced the door latch, paid through the nose for its MOT, and taxed it. So yes, I well and truly achieved that aim!)

2. Get a job in London. (Yes! As of yesterday lunchtime, I got a new job as Admissions Officer at Southbank International School. I start there in mid-September, and I am so excited. And relieved. And proud of myself.)

3. Move to London. (Now I have to find somewhere to live in London! I am more than ready to move out, and I am adamant that I want a flat by myself, which is going to be expensive. But I am ready for it. I am thinking Earl’s Court / Barons Court)

4. Stay with Toby and make sure that our relationship grows even stronger! (So far, so good!)

5. Buy a new microphone and record a new album. (Well, I haven’t got the microphone yet. I don’t know if that is going to happen; as you can guess, I have had a lot bigger things to spend money on this year. But the album is underway and I have recorded 5 or so songs, with lots more on the way! It’s a slow work in progress, but I have faith that it will be the best thing I have ever done. Watch this space.)

6. Pay off my credit card and student overdraft. (This one seems to be the hardest, but my credit card is nearly paid off. I will get there.)

In the last few weeks, I was feeling quite low. I wasn’t having any luck with finding interviews, my car just kept going wrong and needing more money spent on it, and work just seemed to pile more and more things on top of me, without my colleagues seemingly having to take on more tasks. I started feeling resentful, paranoid and questioning whether I was entering a depressed period. It wasn’t nice, and it wasn’t nice for my friends or for Toby who had to support me. Luckily, there were some things to look forward to: I went on holiday to Seville with Toby and I had my interview at Southbank, which held a glimmer of hope. Just before I finished work for my holiday, I had a long chat with Mike who said in no uncertain terms that I needed to snap out of it, or go and talk to someone professional.

I decided that I would try the former before I had to try the latter, and spent a long time thinking. About feeling taken for granted at work, and about why I couldn’t see that being able to manage additional responsibilities was a compliment as well as a burden. About the fact that I didn’t want to be down anymore, and I didn’t want to feel the guilt of burdening my friends when they could do nothing to help me, before I started helping myself. About the fact that I overcame a lot of obstacles to get my driving licence and my car, and that I shouldn’t give up now – I already achieved more than I thought I would. About the fact that if I give up, I end up nowhere, making no progress – and unhappy anyway. What could I, my family, my partner, be proud of then? And finally, about the fact that life is too short to be miserable all the time, especially about what largely boiled down to petty popularity contests at work. Just because I don’t want to be involved doesn’t mean that I should alter my whole routine and happiness because of it. It’s just a job, these are just people! I already have my friends, my family, my boyfriend. Life is good and I shouldn’t focus on the bad. So I decided that I won’t.

I let it go. At first, I was exhausted by it all, and there was an element in acting happily in the hope that my smile might be contagious. But it was surprisingly easy after a few days. Once I got to London, did my first interview, and chilled with Toby, my troubles started to melt away. Maybe I just needed the time off after all. The holiday in Seville was good for me (as well as immensely enjoyable and relaxing – the first of many holidays I hope to spend with Toby) as I was able to think and talk about what I wanted to do with myself. I have resolved to continue working on my music, but to actually start putting together a portfolio of music reviews (the Nadia Oh one is the first) which are kept to a strict word count of 250 / 500 words – perhaps alongside a couple of longer articles – and then sending these to newspapers and magazines in the hope of perhaps landing something. At first for free, but maybe – in the long run – freelance? Paid? Writing music reviews, at least for part of my living, would be great and I think that I am and would be very good at it. So I have a plan. I felt positive, and I felt empowered once again because my future is in my hands.

We came back from Seville, I had my second interview, and yesterday I got the job offer, which I accepted. I handed in my notice at college, and I realised from all the congratulatory tweets, as well as colleagues being so pleased for me, that I have a lot of people who are really happy for me and want the best for me. I am very lucky, and very grateful. But it’s also because I try to be a good person, a nice person, and a fun person – not only do I try to be those things, but I am those things, most of the time. So it’s not worth losing that to feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness. Because I am not worthless, nor hopeless – and as soon as I let it all go, my worth and my hope revealed itself once again. So I learned that: I don’t believe we can control everything that happens to us by any means, but you get a lot more in return when you are nice & happy. We need to roll with the punches life throws at us, take some down time and then come out smiling 🙂 Life can be good if we let it!