New Year’s Post 2014

This is my New Year’s post. I’ve been chipping away at it since September, but hopefully I’ll get it up by the end of 2014 – which was a mixed bag at best, as you’ll see.

So I started out the year on a low. I returned from the UK, where my Nanan, who had been like a mother to me was taking her cancer diagnosis better than anyone else in the family.

I returned to coup de gras a relationship which had been in its death throes for months, and failed to end at length at a friend’s Yule party before I left. The relationship’s ratio of fun to drama had been weighted the wrong way for a while, but we ticked along for at least a month longer than we should have.

After that, I fell into an obsession with a different girl who channeled how messed up she was much better than I do. In more recent months we’ve come out of it with a decent friendship. In hindsight, that’s exactly as it should be. I don’t really want to discuss it a lot. Basically it was a thing for a while, while I was going through some stuff. I wanted it to be more of a thing, and it went badly as other things in my life went badly, and I was looking for a lifeline.

My Nanan passed away in mid-February. My main memory of the news is taking a few days off work to cry and drink over Skype with the male members of my family. It was a gut-wrenching loss. It had been a long time since she was a daily part of my life (though I called her every Sunday), but knowing that the person who always supported me – my number one fan – despite everything I did or said now no longer existed just tore something out of me. I’m still struggling with it, to be honest.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad's wedding almost 10 years ago.

My Nanan and Grandad from my dad’s wedding almost 10 years ago.

I went home for the funeral and even spoke along with my dad, and met some of my Nanan’s friends and talked about who she was and the things they had done together. It was nice. My grandad was struggling. He couldn’t believe she wasn’t there, and between the shock of that and the creeping dementia Nanan’s very structured personality could no longer ward off, he was a bit helpless. Nonetheless, I stayed with him as I usually do when I go ‘home’. Probably for the last time.

It was week two in England where thing got bad. I was living with grandad trying to deal with stuff, while trying to take care of him, ‘but not too much’, and also try to get some time out of the house, enjoy England a little, whatever. Well, some things were said. I was called a lot of things, criticized in several ways – some new and creative – and on one memorable night advised to kill myself. I’m sure I deserved some of it, rubbed people up the wrong way accidentally. Someone I work with says that I have a skill for pissing people off. Well, maybe. Still, overall it wasn’t a happy visit, for reasons beyond the obvious.

Moving swiftly on, I spent the intervening months just trying to find my equilibrium again. I have to admit the I struggled pretty thoroughly, and got into some trouble at work when my personal problems started to affect my performance. There wasn’t much understanding there, so I just added it to the list and kind of dealt with it. I also failed the Delta (teaching diploma) exam around this time.

There were some good points to the first half of the year, though. I spent some of that time dating without anything serious to come out of it. I also came to terms with being a kitty-daddy, with all the trials that come along with that. There were nights out, trips to the canals and lots of little victories that kept me ticking along.

Then, in late June, some random girl messaged me on OKCupid. She was cute, and a Doctor Who fan and had a similar sense of humour to me. Looking back at the conversation, it was a pretty easy decision to meet up.

We met, and had a date that lasted well over six hours, all-told. We’ve been together ever since. Aida is awesome, and had really turned my year around, even as we’ve awkwardly gotten to know each other, navigated lots of early relationship obstacles, and come out of it with something good, strong and a bit weird.

Early on in our relationship, I went home to England for the summer. It wasn’t as negative as the last time as I was there, but didn’t feel great. I made the decision to stay away for a while – probably something we all need.

Grandad went downhill. He’s been between hospitals and homes since not long after the funeral. At time of writing, he’s in the hospital with a chest infection, but seems to be on the right mix of drugs to keep him present and aware. The new home that Dad and family have found for him seems great and very comfortable. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle there and be happy for a good long while.

Back in Mexico, Aida and I have done all kinds of things together. We saw Peter Capaldi, Jenna Coleman and Steven Moffat when they visited Mexico with the Doctor Who world tour. We dressed up. It was fun. We’ve helped each other through rough patches, and we’ve shared a big portion of our fun stuff together too.

We recently took a holiday together to Tepotzlan, Morelos, where we climbed a mountain to see a temple (yes, really!), ate shrimp on a stick and pointed at hippies. It was awesome, and the best holiday I’ve had in a long time.

We're an odd couple

We’re an odd couple

I’m feeling happy with the way things are going now (finally), and I hope that this trend continues. Aida and I are doing great – really great – and things are settling down at work, though there is some general bad feeling about the usual office politics type stuff that I won’t get into here. That said, there are some great new people working there, so that has upped the energy and atmosphere a bit. I refuse to borrow problems from the future during my winter holiday.

The only thing left to do is think about New Year’s Resolutions (before our trip to Guanajuato to celebrate!)

1) Travel more – this was my resolution from last year, but it didn’t happen until I met Aida really (not counting trips back to the UK). So this year I’d like to spend more time doing that, now we’ve discovered it’s doable. I want to see Pueblo Magicos, beaches, weird-ass sculptures I can’t remember the name of, and a camping trip organised by Aida and a friend’s partner in crime…

2) Write more – I got 30,000 words out of NaNoWriMo.org’s 50,000 word goal for the month of November. I’m not planning to do it at the same pace, but if I want it to happen, I have to make it happen. I have a word document open right now titled “write something, bitch”. Hopefully I’ll take this advice all year long.

3) Lose some weight – again, this was a goal in 2014, and I have done that (to a minor degree). I’d like to go back to it being more of a focus this year. Aida has promised to help me – I can go a bit paleo again, use my bike or ecobici again – all that good stuff.

4) Stress less – there has been a lot of crap this year, both personally and professionally. I need to learn to take time away from the city, from work and from all the nonsense that has been getting me down (and is still affecting my sleep, to be honest). Less time for bullshit, more time for me.

5) This is a sillier one, I suppose, but I’d like to record what I read throughout 2015. I keep meaning to do it, and never get around to it. So, yeah. That’s something I want to do. No deeper meaning, really. Just think it’d be nice to look back on.

(If you’re interested – “World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War” by Max Brooks is my standout – realistic, stressful and actually quite educational. Honorable mentions go out to George R. R. Martin’s short story anthologies “Rogues” and “Dangerous Women”, S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalyptic pagans and the “Dresden Files” by Jim Butcher as always.)

Okay, that’s all for now. Hopefully it won’t be a year between this post and the next. Have a great New Year’s Eve, and I’ll see you in 2015!

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Addendum: I got a call from my dad after I finished writing this. It seems my grandad is in danger of passing away in the next few days. It seems that his body is just giving up; brain, lungs, heart… My dad told me he’d been asking to die – to be back with Nanan. He hasn’t been with us completely since her funeral – and was only with us before that thanks to her influence.

I’d like to believe he’s going to be with her. I really want to believe that. It’s what he deserves after so many years of loyalty – loyalty that has continued after she passed. Whatever happens, I hope he finds some peace. This last year has been torture for him. Hopefully 2015 won’t be – however that comes about.

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The Predictable 2012 Retrospective

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2012 was a year of mixed fortunes for me. It started with the loss of a woman I thought I would marry and is ending with my being clumsily single and celebrating back home with family.

My life in Mexico has changed significantly since January, too. I started out as a school teacher in a small town; now I’m a teacher of adults in one of the biggest cities in the world. I’ve gone from having a life which relied and focussed very much on my relationship, to one where I’m independent, single and have a wide circle of friends.

I’m progressing in my career, too, as I grasp every oppoetunity made available to me, and have made the commitment, therefore, to be in Mexico until at least mid- 2014.

My Spanish is still rubbish, but has improved massively from where it was even in the middle of this year. I’d like to be able to tell you about a huge improvement come the end of 2013.

Romantically, from the engagement I mentioned at the beginning, I bumbled through a rebound relationship which ended because I fucked up. Since then, I’ve tripped, stumbled and generally failed at being a single, exotic man in Latin America. All this despite knowing some wonderful and beautiful people in Mexico City.

I suppose all that’s left is to Gove my resolutions and predictions for the year to come:

I’d like to lose some weight. I’m going back to the gym next year, not only due to a not entirely complimentary conversation with a beautiful woman, but also because I’ve been losing weight by accident lately, and it’s been making me impatient for a faster change.

I’d like to be in a long-term relationship. I’ve had the opportunity to have more casual liaisons with terribly attractive Mexican ladies and that’s very tempting, but it’s not really what I’m looking for. So… yeah. I realise it’s one of those American Pie things I can’t do much about, but there you go.
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And I’m going to pass the DELTA: it’s the next step in my career and I’m not going to waste the opportunity.

Oh, and The Avengers and Doctor Who were good, too. Can’t wait to see Clara and Thanos in the new year.

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Later, kiddies. Happy New Year!

30 Days Challenge: Day 29: Future plans/goals

I find myself in the mood to whine and winge at be generally depressive at you. Instead, I’m going to do the next 30 Day question, which is much more cheerful.

Career

Professionally, I want to continue to teach – particularly adults or small groups of children. I’ve become rather jaded towards school teaching and I don’t think it’s really my wheelhouse. Teaching adults and business English, on the other hand, is really something I can see myself doing for the rest of my working life. I’m not a perfect teacher; I have a lot of personal development and growth to do, but that is something I really want to put my time and attention into. Long-term, I see myself going into academic management and/or teacher training.

Career 2

I want to publish a book. I’m about halfway through some British urban fantasy (being that I’m British and I like urban fantasy). Even if it’s not this attempt or the next or the next, I’d like to see a book with my name on it in a mainstream bookstore (assuming they still exist in twenty years’ time, of course). This is a goal I’ve held unwaveringly since I first held J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit at around age 9. Maybe earlier. It won’t change until it happens.

Geography

This is the big question, I suppose. I have no great desire to return to England permanently, and as I begin to lose family members, that need or want will grow less and less. I also have a strong desire to live in  more countries before (and if) I decide to set down permanent roots somewhere. Unless something significant happens in the next nine months or so, I think this will be my last year in Mexico.

Romance

Well, I guess that’s kind of affected by the previous paragraph. I want to be in love again*, but I also know that it makes me make lots of stupid mistakes. It might make me stay in Mexico longer, but not forever. I want to see the world. Whoever I found would have to be okay with that as part of what they’re getting when they say ‘yes’ to getting me.

So far as marriage and kids go, I think they’re things I want in the future, but I’m not there yet. Marriage I could take or leave, but I’d love to have kids one day. I’d love to have polyglot kids one day. The romance thing has to come first, though. And last.

Anyway, those are my plans for the future. I’d also like to further my Spanish and at least one other language. I want to be the kind of man with the kind of life that 12 year old Andy could be proud of becoming.

 

 

*On some days I want it a little too much.

30 Days Challenge: Day 3: About your friends

Okay, shut up. I missed a day. You know what? I left my room at 6am yesterday and didn’t return until 9pm. So 😛

Anyway, this “day” is an interesting one, most of the friends I can really count on when I need them are women I used to date. They knew me, or rather older versions of me, better than anyone else, so I always think it’s a shame to throw that away completely. Occasionally those ladies don’t share my opinion. But there you go.

Beyond that are friends in whose ‘friendzones’ I lived in for a while or people who tolerated me through phases where I was much less appealing individual.

Regarding friendzones and exes, I’m not nearly drunk enough to go into detail, so you’ll have to take these summaries and elisions as they are, and buy me a drink at a later date. 😛

My second girlfriend, who I dated for 6 years back when I was young, pretentious and massively fat, is Sarah. I think I’ve changed to the point where we don’t really work as friends any more, but I think we maintain the friendship out of habit, and she’s always there if I want someone to talk to. These days I never have drama that falls into her areas of expertise. Nonetheless, it’s good to know she’s there to remind me where I come from and when I’ve moved too far from centre.

I have a group of male friends including another Andy, Dom, Ken, Kev and others. I met them in a Doctor Who fangroup in Preston, Lancashire that met in person rather than online. They’re all men 10 or more years older than I am, and who I fell in with at first out of shared interest and an openness I’d never seen in people so much older than I am.

Ems is one of my closest friends. I met her through roller derby (Rainy City Roller Girls), and despite her angry Viking ways, when I’m depressed she always knows whether I need sympathy or snapping out of it. As previously discussed, this is an awesome thing to have in a friend for me. Ems is easy to believe in and rely on, and is worth ten lesser friends.

And this week I’ve made lots of lovely new friends, too! I won’t list them all – partly because they’re numerous and partly because I’ve almost met the entire population of this city in the week and a half I’ve been here. That said, roller girls (at present the Mexico City Roller Girls) and randomly travelling teachers* are the friendliest people you’d ever hope to meet. More often than not. 😀

Okay, okay, I’ll try to get “day 4” up before midnight, so I’m up to date. God, imaginary reader, you’re such a whiner!

 

 

*In my experience, teachers tend to be the horniest people on the planet, too. That is, however, completely besides the point.

30 Day Challenge: Day 1

Hello, WordPress. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. I’ve had a very interesting and complicated Summer sans Internet. Maybe I’ll talk about it as part of this thing I’ve decided to do:

Completely stolen from a lovely lady who blogs over here. I figured it’d be a good way to get back into writing and blogging without having a big, long emo-post. So, here we go.

30 Days Challenge:

Day 1: 5 interesting facts about yourself.
Day 2: The meaning behind your name.
Day 3: About your friends.
Day 4: About your family.
Day 5: A photo of something you really hate.
Day 6: A song that makes you cry.
Day 7: Your crush.
Day 8: Something you hate about yourself.
Day 9: Your definition of love.
Day 10: Your best friend.
Day 11: A letter to one of your exes.
Day 12: Your favorite female group.
Day 13: Your least favorite female group.
Day 14: Something you love about yourself.
Day 15: What you would if you were pregnant or got someone pregnant.
Day 16: A photo that makes you smile.
Day 17: A photo that makes you want to cry.
Day 18: A letter to someone you miss.
Day 19: A habit you wish you didn’t have.
Day 20: A letter to your parents.
Day 21: Short goals you wish to fulfill by the end of the month.
Day 22: Your nicknames & why you have them.
Day 23: What you would find in your bag.
Day 24: A song that makes you smile.
Day 25: How you found out about blogger & why you made one.
Day 26: First 10 songs to play on shuffle on your iPod.
Day 27: Your fashion style.
Day 28: What attracts you to someone.
Day 29: Future plans/goals.
Day 30: Who are you?

I’ll try to do this every day, but I know me. I probably won’t. Anyway:

Day 1: 5 interesting facts about yourself.

Well, here’s the one I usually keep in reserve for questions like this and drunken nights out:

I. I have been in a romantic relationship that included three other people. I won’t go into all the ins and outs of how it works. Here’s the Internet oracle if you’re curious. The basic philosophy of poly is that anything goes so long as it’s open and agreed upon beforehand.

I was 22 and just out of a 6-year relationship. I had this friend who I’d had a sneaky little crush1 on for years, and after an overly self-indulgent mourning period, stuff started to happen between us.

When it became apparent than it was a less-than-casual relationship, I was introduced to her slightly scary husband and eventually his girlfriend. Now, if you think things are dramatic in a relationship with two emotionally unpredictable people, just try it with 4.

Although I do believe that with the right mix of people with the right attitudes, it is a relationship model that can work, I’m not sure if I would ever do it again. Ultimately, my self-worth was torn up pretty badly by that whole experience, and I’m not eager to repeat it.

Let’s move on to something a little more cheerful, shall we?

II.  I’m writing my first novel. It is taking years as I tend to dip into it around procrastination, work and relationship drama.

It’s a story about a girl2, Laura, who is just coming out of a shitty relationship – the latest in a long line. Not too long after (following an inadvisable nightclub dalliance), she finds herself dating her boss, George, who she’s had a crush on for all the years she’s been working at his magazine. Unfortunately, things take a turn for a worse, as it seems that he’s involved in a violent power struggle with creatures that just aren’t really real. Right? And even then, Laura’s journo-sense tells her that there’s still more to George than meets the eye…

I’ve always wanted to write, and my dissertation was around the evolution of vampires in modern fiction (pre-Twilight, thankyouverymuch). I want to see one book with my name on it before I die. It’s the one ambition and dream I always come back to. It’s slow going, but I’m making it happen.

III. I don’t really understand hetero-normative men. Not even a little.

That isn’t to say I don’t have the same drives or desires as your typical hombre. Quite the reverse. Nonetheless, ever since I was a little boy I’ve felt very much apart from the strongly-masculine, football-loving, beer-swilling stereotypes I was exposed to. I’ve always had female friends while being completely baffled by representatives of my own sex.

I get a lot of pleasure from romantic comedies. If you say please, I’ll let you laugh at my “Rainy Tuesday” guilty pleasure movie.

I react to things (everything) with emotion. Where society perhaps suggests that a man should react in anger or aggression, I’ll react in sadness and half a chocolate cheesecake. It has led to my being “friendzoned” or taking the “gay friend” role in the life of some wonderful women, but then I have some amazing friends. You win some, you lose some.

It’s just the way I am, really. That amongst other things make me not quite fit in the little mining town I was born into, and so I travel. Which leads me to…

IV. I’m an Englishman in Mexico teaching English to Mexicans.

At the risk of being too navel-gazy about it, I think I’m running away from the very settled, local life that my brother and family still enjoy. Much as I love my family, I get terribly claustrophobic in that environment. I wanted to experience things, go places, meet people and have the kind of life I’ve read about in books. So I am. I’ve always had an affinity for words and language, so this is how I chose to do it.

Eventually, I want to have kids who have a life that is incomparable to their grandparents’. I want my grandchildren to do more still. I want my life to have made an impression on the world, even if it’s just an ant’s footprint.

V: I’m a geek. It’s perhaps not the most interesting thing to put into one of these, but it’s a huge identifier in who I am. On any given evening I will be procrastinating from housework, paid work or novel work with any one of the following:

Video games, science-fiction and fantasy anything, comic books, comic book movies, book-books, roleplaying (given an English-speaking geek community), blogging (hi!), watching YouTube videos about the above, Supernatural, The Big Bang Theory, posting on forums, Doctor Who, LARP, card games, board games, anything with Felicia Day in it… the list goes on.

Meddlers

This fact comes with this extra bonus fact: I used to be really fat.

I didn’t set out to be geeky, but when I hit university, I tried all  the things that seemed cool to me and kept doing them. I don’t really care that they’re not mainstream, or even that some are. I pretty much bumble along doing what I enjoy, making mistakes and hoping for the best. Hell, it’s why I’m sitting on my bed in Latin America rather than getting ready to go to my call centre job in South Yorkshire. Plans are for wimps. 😉

I hope you feel enlightened by all this. Comments welcome. Tune in again tomorrow!

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1 Although I say “sneaky little crush,” I am aware that subtlety and emotional guardedness are not weapons I hold in my arsenal. It’s was almost certainly common knowledge long before anything happened.
2 See Fact III.

Mexican Mothers’ Day vs. British Mother’s Day

I’m so sorry for this. It made me laugh.

Today is Mothers’ Day in Mexico. Honestly, I don’t know if that grammar is correct in translation, but it’s certainly true in how it’s celebrated.

That’s a little obtuse. Let me put it another way. Since the celebrations began, there has been a complicated ceremony planned and enacted, various in-class activites (even for the older students), congratulations given to every woman who’s given birth, and many students absent to celebrate with their families.

Now, in England, we do celebrate Mother’s Day. We buy cards, take our mum for a meal and then largely forget about the day once lipservice has been paid. Now, I’m not suggesting that that is the feeling behind taking ,out our parents – nor should it be. I’m simply suggesting that we each celebrate our own matriarchs in our own way, then move on.

The thing that amazed be in México were the felicitations that were passed between unrelated individuals. My boss wished a collegue of mine, easily ten or twenty years his junior, a happy Mothers’ Day. I found this a startling and profoundly sweet sentiment.

On Facebook, I did make some comments about the time wasted in rehersing the Mothers’ Day ceremony. I don’t take that back, but purely because of the organisation, rather than the ceremony itself. Nonetheless, today I’ve been really struck by the importance of the day. Like everything seems to be in México, it is lived wholly with passion and honesty. Another of my bosses and close friends recieved a long, honest email for her son-in-law stating his gratitude and positive feelings towards her. She had tears on her face and was really struck by the result this celebration had had on her personal life.

The kids were great. Due poor organisation, however, the rehersal took an hour to start.

Putting aside the idea that we should approach everything with the passion displayed in Hispanic countries (not going to happen), it would be nice to show more respect for the women who do decide to dedicate much of their lives to bringing a new person into the world.

It doesn’t matter if she works forty hours a week to keep them in Manchester United shirts or stays at home to make the house spotless: she’s a mum and she deserves it.

There’s no greater point or reason for this post. Just like the Day of the Dead remembers the people and their interests, rather than simply laying flowers on cold stone, and just like Christmas is still a community affair, so too Mothers’ Day celebrates the act of being a mother. Every mother. I think too much is spoken about upbringing, child support, working mothers, single mothers, teenage mothers in the UK that we don’t really thing about the main thing: they’re all mothers and they all love their children. I think they deserve their day. Even if their sons are on another continent.

I love you, mum.

Not a music fan?!

You’ve got to be kidding me!
(I love this movie)

As I write this in my Rosetta Stone notebook1, I am sitting in a house… somewhere near Mexico City. I’m accompanying my lady friend to a rehersal of her band. I am surrounded by so much equipment that I don’t know whether they’re going to make music or launch this lovely antique-filled home on a mission to Mars.

Dolly Parton

This’ cool, right?

I love music. I do. I enjoy rock, pop, country, jazz, ska, soul, Motown and more. My regular playlists are so eclectic and varied that no two songs played back-to-back seem to gel at all. From Deep Purple through the Supremes via Dolly Parton, I love all kinds of music2. It seems, however, that I l love music less than almost everyone else I meet. This rules goes double for anyone I happen to sleep with.

I don’t know if anyone else has had this experience, but I never give a correct answer when it comes to favourite bands; I can’t name a guitarist from a single riff3, and I don’t know which band started which monumental movement that should have changed my life.

They guys I’m listening to now are great. Really, they are. I won’t have to put on my boyfriend-wow face and fake enthusiasm. It’s good stuff. I’m even pretty sure I can name all the instruments. After I finished this bit of scribbling, I also helped with the tambourine (badly) and some English grammar in the lyrics! I’m quite proud.

That said, I’m not really sure what genre their music is, nor which bands might have inspired it. I feel like Knives Chau being mesmerized by something I know nothing about4.  I just don’t have the language to discuss music, just like a non-linguist wouldn’t have the words to talk about phonemics, the Proto-Indo-European language or diphthongs. In the broadest possible strokes, I can say if I enjoy some vocals, a guitar solo or lyrics. I kind of know that Bowie was a New Romantic and Marvin Gaye was Motown. Regardless of any of my other traits or interests, this seems to make me a lesser person; I’m less cool and less interesting.

Case in point: on my journey to Mexico City last week, I was flicking through the poorly catalogued music collection on the bus. I came across a song I really enjoyed, with a lead singer whose accent really appealed to me4. I was berated by lover and ex alike for never having heard of the Cranberries. It was a name that I sort of recognised, and when their hits were yelled at me, I did recognise some. Nonetheless, they weren’t a band that was ever really on my rader until I accidentally listened to a  mislabelled song on a Mexican bus.

The song in question:

Right now, I’m surrounded by people who are enjoying making great music. I’m enjoying listening to it while I write. Isn’t that enough? Shouldn’t that be enough?

I have no issue with musical culture or how much it means to some people. I just don’t really understand it. It is, I suppose, the same way that other people don’t understand my passion for Doctor Who, the BBC’s Sherlock or Supernatural6, for example. What does bother me, however, is the ‘indie elitism’ that one sees far too often. The “my music is better than you music” mentality is what put me off looking outside the mainstream for the majority of my teenage years (another girl’s influence, as it happens).

I like music, but I know nothing about it. What’s wrong with that?

Please comment if you’ve had the same experience. Maybe you’ve got your own story of non-musicista prejudice? Let me know. Tell me I’m not alone.

1 The British Museum’s finest.
2 I know, I know. I’m sure you’re already rolling your eyes at my examples.
3 Except Queen’s Brian May.
4 If you don’t get the reference, do yourself a favour.
5 My weakness for accents is a whole topic in and of itself. The next time I do something stupid for a pretty accent, I’ll let you know. Refer to this post for reference to my summer spent chasing Belarussian crush I had entirely thanks to the pretty, atypical way she spoke.
6 If you don’t know them, look them up. Seriously.