Category: Personal

Real life stuff – y’know, that’s that thing that isn’t the internet.

Important: So long, Blighty

I’m no patriot – I hate the way people insist that their country is great just because they happened to be born there – but I love this country anyway. It’s been a good twenty years. For nearly 7300 days (not counting holidays abroad), I have lived in this country. And I’ve enjoyed it. Once you get past the niggling little annoyances that characterize and very much define the stereotypes of the British, it’s not a bad place.

Unfortunately, the recession (or, as it’s more alliteratively known over here, the “credit crunch”) has bitten down hard, and the fact that the new coalition government has produced piss-all to get us out of it is not helping. The conniving serpents in charge of us don’t appear to be concerned with the well-being of the public at all. But then that can be said of any government.

Weather is also another major factor in why the UK is typically represented in a negative light. We’re not torn asunder by hurricanes or tidal waves every few months, but the weather’s inconsistency and incompatibility with outdoor activities is what annoys us most. You can never pre-plan a barbecue because you never know when it might rain. Outings can end in disaster if the event in question is “weather-permitting”. And the bad weather that dominates 90% of the year forces us to stay indoors, where we rot like moldy bread – then, when the extreme weather conditions come along, we are totally ill-prepared for them. “Freak snowstorm!” “Heatwave!” “Flash floods!” They’re an annual and natural process, and yet they always take us totally by surprise. It’s a bit shit. (On top of being ridiculous.)

It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to get into universities over here. Too many people are applying, so you’re not guaranteed a place even if you have flawless A-level results and have like a hundred UCAS points or whatever the fuck the system we have in place is now. Tuition fees have soared, too. When the government said they were definitely going to go down. Thanks, Nick.

There are several other smaller factors that come into how the UK’s and my family’s position has just become gloomier and gloomier, which I won’t bore you with (I’d be here all week). But all in all, this country’s rapidly going down the shitter. And we’ve had enough.

It was tossed around as an idea a few years ago, but I think by that point it had already been decided. Now it’s reality.

Emmigration.

Having completed my A-levels a few months ago, I’ve been out of school, and the time on my own has meant that I’m just about getting used to the idea of emmigrating to another continent and starting afresh.

Now, in that time, I’ve come to realize something. It’s a sordid reality, and it’s one that a bitter person could view as something deliberately done to spite them, but I know this isn’t the case. I know that my parents have done everything in their power to make my life the absolute best it can be, but I still can’t help but feel a certain degree of remorse whenever I look back on this. My parents handle nearly everything to do with my life (I’m less of an independent adult than ideally I should be, I realize) and I am eternally grateful for their undying support.

That said, here’s the thing. I’ve noticed that with every major move the family makes, we end up an exponentially-increasing distance away from our previous location. When I finished junior school, I went off to a different secondary school to everyone else, because it was closer and (I think) got better grades… though I didn’t have a great time there, I’ll be honest. We then moved as a family to a different county, due to our house being replaced with a retirement flat (which we have recently discovered is not seeing the revenue it had initially hoped to)… and now we are emmigrating a total of nine thousand miles to another country entirely. I draw some reassurance from this, however – at least the pattern has to end here, because at the exponential rate of our distance-travelling, I estimate that our next move would be to Neptune. The pattern has still left me feeling a bit sorrowful, because I have realized that, as I’ve had to leave circle after circle of friends behind, there is never a true permanency to your relationship with any number of people you meet, no matter how close you are to them. I have one very good friend, one I’ve had since I was 7 – Charlotte – and we still keep in touch over Facebook. To keep up regular contact with her has been struggling as we have moved further away, and now direct visits will soon be completely out of the question once we’ve moved rock. We’ll still talk, but there’ll be an unignorable 9000-mile chasm between us that wasn’t there before.

So with our remaining time in this country becoming ever thinner, I’ve made it my mission to make the most of my time here. It’s about eight weeks. I won’t do anything mental like drink myself into a coma (after all, I don’t drink), and I won’t be quite as extravagant as terminally ill people who spend their last few days on this Earth swimming with dolphins, driving jetplanes, and telling their boss to fuck himself.

I’ve started off by having a look to see what kind of upcoming events are happening across this country that are worth attending – Symphony X, with support by DGM, are performing at one of two academies (which unfortunately are an hour-or-two’s train journey from my current location) here in Britain near the end of this month, and Ed Byrne, one of my favorite stand-up comedians, is going to be at the King’s Lynn Corn Exchange on 14th November (which is thankfully about a twenty minute drive). I will continue looking for worthwhile outings, with a view to making the next few weeks as memorable as possible.

My thinking is: Let’s not leave this country with a sigh of relief. Let’s leave it in floods of remorse. Let’s enjoy the time we have here to the absolute maximum degree. Let’s not take on the plane with us dismal, unhappy memories of the last twenty years (over twice that for my parents) that we’ve spent living on this small, wet, vaguely-guitar-shaped bit of rock. Let’s remember the happier times where we really pushed the boat out as vividly as possible. Bollocks to the weather, the economy and our inherent introversion. Let’s make our time left here worthwhile.

That’s enough words, so I’ll leave you with this short sentiment, and small-ish request:

Here I come, Australia.

Hit me with your upside-down hemisphere, your female prime minister, your big houses, your freakish wildlife, your 33ºC Januaries, your lovable casually racist humor, and daily barbecues.

As hard as you possibly can.

I know so little

I do think from time to time that I don’t know everything about music.

And if that sentence makes me sound like the rest of the time that I think I do know everything I could possibly know about this great medium, then you’re sorrily mistaken. The rest of the time I’m thinking nothing, because I’m one of those people who is perfectly capable of complete and total mental vacancy. A man, basically.

The fact is, I operate by what I know, and I make it my mission to know anything else that I feel would be useful. Every waking moment I spend with an inkling of a thought, however meagre or subconscious, that I must obtain knowledge. Because god knows there’s a lot I don’t know. He knows very well what I don’t know, but unfortunately I don’t know half what I don’t know, and half of what I know I don’t know where I know from, which I guess is okay because if I knew where I knew half of what I know from, I’d only be able to know half as much.

Sorry, went off on one there.

The problem I have is that I’d like to know how to, for example: sing well, properly play the piano/keyboard, write instant hits. The thing in common with each of those is that I’ve taught myself everything I currently know about them. I’ve had no formal tuition, or learned from books, or flung money at intensive courses to try and hone my skills quicker. I’ve essentially home-schooled myself in each of these regards – a process that, while it has certainly reaped its benefits, also has its limitations. I can think of three right off the bat: (1) it invariably takes longer, (2) it devours a lot more of my energy and focus, and (3) I only acquire the knowledge through one viewpoint – my own. That last point probably plays a vital part in why my brother yells at me for being a lousy teacher.

Certainly I’d like to take up piano lessons at some point, even if it’s starting from the basics again. I’d like to see how well my current knowledge in playing the piano, and the ways I’ve learnt it, tie in (or indeed conflict) with the ways I’ll get taught it. I’ll be able to see the piano, and maybe even the music, through the eyes of someone who is more adept at the subject than I.

It often pains me to realize how much I don’t know. Not being able to sing or play the piano to a satisfying degree are what get to me the most. I’ve been learning these things myself for a number of years now, and with both, I’ve hit stumbling blocks. Singing requires a degree of bodily discipline like throat exercise and a reasonable diet, which I’ve foolishly not been undertaking through my self-styled teachings of singing. Piano-playing requires a considerable amount of dexterity and self-control, and my current methods do seem to be inadequate when it comes to playing certain things. As in, I can’t play some of my own stuff.

As a perfectionist, it seems to me that if I’m going to be good at something, I need to be really good – enough for it to be officially recognised. And I really hope that, in the same way that I learned English Language/Literature, Music Technology, and Drama and Theatre Studies through an actual academic system and received decent passing grades and certificates for completing them, soon I will receive official confirmation that I am at least competent in piano-playing.

ASD actually stands for “absolute social dropout”

Apparently, my nursery teacher once said to my parents something along the lines of “he’s a smart lad, but he’ll probably grow up to be a kind of absent-minded professor who needs someone to take care of him – you know, fold his shirts and stuff like that”.

While it somehow baffles me that she was able to make that deduction as early as when I was in nursery school, I have to credit her for spotting this. It probably turned out that had my parents not been warned of this, they may not have been able to cope with my erratic, borderline-autistic behavior.

Yeah, I don’t quite have ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder), but I certainly exhibit a lot of traits that suggest I do… I was kind of “half-diagnosed”, shall we say. I find talking to people I don’t know well extremely difficult. I focus all my time and energy onto two things (Music and Doom). And I loathe change to routine – particularly in my diet. If I have to eat a different assortment of chips (or fries as you Yanks say :P) for dinner one day, I’ll eye them with a cosmic degree of suspicion that they’ll lunge at me and wrap around my neck like a kind of lethal, potatoey daisy chain before choking me to death.

Certainly social interaction is a bit of a challenge for me. I prefer being talked to, as opposed to making talk. Initiating conversation is a massive stumbling block, but once I’m in a conversation I can sustain it reasonably well – until I run out of steam, at which point I’ll sit in silence and quiver as the maddening awkwardness of the situation rises exponentially. The same thing happens with Facebook Chat, Skype or MSN, or any of the other instant messenger programs I use. It’s far easier for me to converse through internet forums – things are so much more formal and organized. Exchanges are permanent, so they can be revisited whenever desired. You can deliberate on how to phrase your reply (for hours if need be) before submitting it. If the forum is geared towards a niche target audience, you immediately know that you’ll share common interests with the people you interact with. And best of all, you can access them wherever you are in the world.

Girls, if you’re wondering why I don’t talk to you often, it’s because I frankly don’t know what to say. You’re wonderful people and you make for far nicer company than most guys, but my brain and mouth struggle constantly to conjure up anything witty or even relevant to the subject at hand.

Now, certainly I’m an introvert with very little social life. But I’m not saying that I’m entitled to be one just because I was half-diagnosed with an autistic disorder. I’m determined to someday break the habit of staying indoors and avoiding contact with the rest of the human race. I like a bit of solitude, but not too much. 😛

Although, to be honest, living in the UK alone is enough to make anyone think that staying inside is the best thing – our weather’s crap, for a start. In Australia the sun shines all year round, and people are encouraged to stay fit and live healthily with strict regimes pretty much from cradle to grave. Not over here. We have a massive aversion to exercise and dieting – and programs like You Are What You Eat and 10 Years Younger that bully their victims (not “contestants”) into looking better only compound the issue. For me, and for many Australians, I’m sure, a relaxed attitude is what’s called for.

…though, not too relaxed, mind you.