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!

1848769-bigthumbnail

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.

The (Ever So Slightly Late) New Year’s Post

So, it’s that time of year again – one of reflection and looking forward. Also TV, food and alcohol. Someone on Facebook said that there’s something cleansing and focusing about these blog posts. I’m not sure how much there is in that, but it’s worth a try. Mother Superior is singing ‘Climb Every Mountain’ on my Nanan’s TV as I type this post. I’ll upload when I get back to Mexico, where I have the Internet.

Continue reading

On Being at Home for the Holidays

416369_10150916713761779_666839130_o

As you know, I live in Mexico, and I come from the north of England. I’m home for the two weeks and return just after sobering up from the New Year’s Eve party.

The first contrast I noticed, of course, was the weather. I’ve been chuckling away at people talking about the cold of Mexican mornings, while getting more and more susceptible to it. I didn’t realise how much so until I stepped out of Manchester Airport to walk to the nearby train station. My four layers suddenly seemed insufficient, and I was immediately frozen down to the bone. It took me about three days to reacclimatise.

The second thing was the food. Running high to potatoes and low on spice, it was a big difference to what I’d be eating in Mexico. Equally, since I’m living with my Nanan* at Xmas, eating copious amounts of unhealthy food is mandatory. I think I’ll have gained about half a stone before I return.

Next was the effect on my social life. It’s interesting how much an entirely electronic relationship can be with the same people you know in real life. It’s funny how you feel emboldened or impatient with this method of communication. I do, anyway. It’ll be interesting to see how this time will manifest in my interactions when I get back.

Lastly, my relationships in the UK. Much as I’m welcomed with open arms to the bosom of my family, there is still the real feeling that I’m a visitor. Just in some running jokes, routines or changes that I’m unaware or unable to be a part of. This does make me sad, but I can’t imagine a life in Barnsley that would allow me to have these connections that wouldn’t drive me absolutely crazy in other ways.

In my friendships, too, I’m feeling the difference. With previously close friends settling; changing; making homes and plans; I feel more than a little out of the loop. Particularly those building homes for themselves. It’s something I’d love to do, but I can’t imagine the rest of the life that might surround it.

I’m also missing the friends and life I’ve made in Mexico. The nights out, flirting, eating, joking, and living back in MX… I think I’m going to find it hard to leave in eighteen months’ time.

 

*grandmother

 

Post-script: I’d also forgotten how much my grandparents yell at each other and gripe at the TV. Dear gods, I can’t wait for a day out of the house tomorrow.

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 18: A letter to someone you miss

To My Family:

Hello from Mexico! I just wanted to let you all know that I’m doing fine (as you know from my weekly calls) and all is well.

Sorry I seem to have spent so much of my time running away from you. I love you all. I love being with you and I miss you so much when I’m away. The problem is, the lives you live are not what I want for myself. Not yet, anyway. I need to be myself, even if it means I can’t be a part of the family in the ways I’d love to.

I hope you can all understand and forgive me. I’ll always be part of you, even from far away.

Lots of love,

Andy.

30 Days Challenge: Day 9: Your definition of love

I was going to skip this as ‘trite’ with a sarcastic comment, then I saw an angle to go at it from, so I’m actually going to talk about this.

Firstly, I’m not going to talk about the love for family or friends. Much as both have supported me through so much that I may not be here today without certain members of either group, I think it’s an easier question to answer, much as it is often far more important than romantic love in certain points in one’s life.

Anyway, I think the route to everlasting love goes through two stages. First, you have the douchy-analytical cum optimistic phase, followed later by what I’m going to call the You Did What?! phase.

First, you find someone attractive in one (or more) of three ways: aesthetic appeal, sexual appeal and social appeal.

A lot of people might say that “aesthetic appeal” and “sexual appeal” are the same thing. I disagree. Have you never found someone attractive whom you didn’t want to sleep with? To most people, the answer is yes. To the rest of you, I think you should consider either your standards or your honesty with yourself.

The example I often use for aesthetic appeal is Kiera Knightly. She has an appealing look and a friendly face. I really enjoy watching her in movies and listening to her accent1. That said, I’m not sexually attracted to her. My personal taste runs to women with more womanly curves. A friend once joked that there’d be “nothing to play with” once you had a slender girl like Ms. Knightley in bed. I’d still happily watch her in any movie she popped up in.

Love love love her storyline in Love Actually.

Secondly is sexual attraction. Everyone has their type, interests, turn-ons or whatever else you want to call that spark that makes you Want someone with a capital W. Most people understand that on an instinctive level, so I won’t bother going into here.

Lastly is what I called “social appeal”. It’s not a perfect label, but it represents your desire to talk to someone and to be around them. It’s your desire to be their friend. For some people it’s cinematic, musical, political or comedic compatibility. Whatever it is, it’s that thing that makes friends into best friends and fuck buddies into partners.

This is the clincher, I think, when it comes to love. If you have the last with at least one other type of appeal, you’ve really got something. It’s at this point that many people say the L word. Sometimes it’s a door to pass through to get to the real stuff, other times it’s just new relationship energy given control of the mouth, and in others still it’s a verbalisation of proto-love – the stuff that inevitably leads there, but before the You Did What?! stage.

The You Did What?! stage is the most important one for longevity, I think It’s knowing all the worst, shittiest things about each other and still wanting to curl up together to watch bad TV. If you can survive the worst of your past, then with just a little work, you can survive anything as a team. This stage also involves coming to terms with anything they are or do every day. Perhaps not easy, but if it’s right it’s right. If there’s something you know you can’t live with forever, then you’re just treading water.

Okay, that did turn out a little trite, and you mileage may of course vary. This is my opinion based on a number of needlessly complicated relationships. But basically, love is facing shit as a team, rather than a pair of singles players2.

1I think I’ve spoken on this blog of my love of accents before. Therefore it shall go undiscussed now.
2Ew, sports metaphor! Get it off, get it off!

30 Day Challenge: Day 4: About your family.

Okay, let’s see. My family at present is as follows:

  • Mum
  • Mum’s fiancée, Graham
  • Dad
  • Dad’s wife, Karen
  • Dad’s mum and dad – my Nanan and Grandad
  • My brother, Micahel
  • His long-term gf, Simone.
  • Karen’s daughter, Sam
  • Sam’s husband, Russ
  • Their son, Brendan
  • The “Wakefield lot” being the family sprouting from my mum’s sister, with whom I’m not very close.

Let’s start at the top, then. My mum is lovely, silly and emotional. I think I get a large part of my personality from her. It’s always easy to just turn up and spend an hour or two together without anything having changed.

With my dad, it hasn’t always been that easy. We’ve always been very different people, and I think that when I was younger he was disappointed by that. We’ve come to terms over the years, and I really feel like he’s there for me, and supports the choices I make  (even the stupid ones).

Graham I don’t like. I think he mooches off my mum and has no intentions of helping her pay the bills long-term. Nonetheless, mum loves him and he makes her happy. I try to respect that whenever he’s not undermining me personally.

Karen on the other hand is lovely. She’s gentle, strong and caring. She really feels like a member of my family who really cares about me, and I her. She’s a wonderful person I’m glad my dad found.

Sam and Russ are great and I have a lot of fun hanging out with them. Unfortunately, I haven’t had much chance to get to know Brendan, as I seem to fly in and he’s grown another foot. He may be looking into a career as the next Jolly Green Giant. Regardless, they’re very much a part of my extended family.

Mike and I get on fairly well. As previously mentioned, we’re pretty different, but we have fun chatting, drinking, talking about girls or playing Call of Duty together. I know it’s always been my mum’s fear that we wouldn’t be that close together in childhood, just like she and her sister grew apart (before growing back together later). I think with the choices I make it’s inevitable, but there’s no enmity there.

I had great fun hanging out with Dad, Russ, Mike and Russ’ friend whose name escapes me just before I came back. We had a laugh and some drinks and fell asleep on Nanan’s sofa as soon as I got home.

Now, my Nanan and Grandad. I spent a lot of years living with them and being raised by them – all because of some family politics I wasn’t old enough to understand. Nonetheless, on Nanan’s insistence, that’s where I live when I come home to England. Nanan is a typical matriarch. She takes a vicious pride in taking care of her family. She over-feeds me, buys the thinks I like and loves me unconditionally. My Grandad is funny, good at word-games and has lots of opinions he’s likes to repeat. He does what Nanan tells him to do because he’s not stupid.

Lately, I’ve been a little worried about my Nanan. Last year she was in a car accident. The car was rolled, and though she was only cut and bruised a little, her friend (the driver) was killed right in front of her. She spoke to one mo her closest friends in her dying moments. She’s lost some weight and is more fragile than I’ve ever seen her, so I’m trying to send her only good news and stay in touch as much as possible. It’s tough, but I’m sure she’ll straighten out. She’s getting stronger, she was glad to have me home and she’s a scary Northern mother. She’ll be fine.

I’d like to end on a picture of my dad and I from my visit to England in April last year.

Thanks for reading. Next post is coming soon.