Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Floating skyscraper

This is a photo of the Queen Mary 2 which I took from my flat at 8am yesterday as it arrived in Auckland. It has a capacity of 2600, giving it roughly the same population as the town of Geraldine where my parents live. It was the height of the ship that really blew me away - it's a veritable floating skyscraper. I'm lucky to get such a great view from my apartment, though I guess I pay for it in my rent. Seeing colossal ocean liners and cruise ships (there's a difference apparently) helps put things in perspective for me. The world is a big place and whether I win my next tennis match or achieve absolutely nothing at work hardly matters in the grand scheme of things. Shortly after 10 last night the ship's horn sounded and the Queen Mary 2 was off to Sydney, all lit up, to the sound of the Macarena of all things.
Today was another maddening day at work. At least I've come off Sunday's lows, so my concentration wasn't too bad, but I really don't know what I'm doing there any more. The job I was given this afternoon was to obtain data about health policies on a particular system that go through five-year reviews. At 4:45 my boss informed me that she wanted this information by the end of the day. There were a few snags though. For a start, I didn't even know if we ever sold any health policies on this system. Maybe she was just testing me, in which case I failed miserably. As for finding policies with five-year reviews, let alone any reliable data concerning those policies, heaven knows what I was supposed to do. There was nobody I could ask, certainly not at that short notice. And what, if anything, was the information going to be used for anyway?
The last two nights I've managed to play my favourite form of tennis, the one that doesn't involve scoring. That means I can just whack the ball without worrying too much about where it goes - a good stress reliever after a frustratingly pointless day at work.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Had it

I've completely had it and I don't know what to do. My neighbour was having a drunken party last night less than ten feet away from where I was trying to sleep. It was ridiculously loud anyway, but at the moment all noise is amplified so it became unbearable. At around 3am I knocked on his window and asked them to keep the noise down, which they did, though I could still hear every word of their conversation ("he had the balls to knock on my window") and I didn't get to sleep until after 4. When I finally got up this morning I was completely whacked and just wanted to hibernate. But I'd invited Julie (who's 63) to the Devonport food and wine festival. We went, but the whole thing washed over me. My flat is a complete mess. Wouldn't let Julie see it. Don't know how, or if, I'll make it to work tomorrow.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


I can't believe I've managed to go three whole weeks without mentioning Bazza. He's someone I've got to know quite well, having played tennis with him for four and a half years. He's got Asperger's syndrome, I think, which makes him inept in most social situations. I've always struggled socially and feel inferior to those who are more adept in that arena, in other words most people, so even though Bazza can be difficult to handle at times, I don't perceive him as a threat.

Bazza is 53, forever single like me, forever sun-tanned unlike me, and forever rotund from years of eating family-sized packs of fish and chips. My cholesterol is a slightly elevated five-point-something; his is off the scale. Food aside, Bazza's obsession is tennis, and his regular forays to the tennis court are probably keeping him from having a heart attack.

I'm the captain of the Saturday doubles team but in name only. Bazza tells me well in advance who to pick for the team and I ignore his instructions at my peril. At the moment we're leading the competition by a healthy margin, an unprecedented situation for him and me alike, and he's desperate for our name to appear atop the final league table come April. All the scores are reported on the internet, a facility that he doesn't have, so he's constantly ringing me to find out the results of our nearest rivals. "Whangaparaoa got seven against Glenfield," I'll say. "Good, so that means," Bazza does some swift mental calculations, "if we get eight against Browns Bay on Saturday, we'll be eleven points clear, so long as Mairangi Bay don't win. Oh, and that's assuming Silverdale don't pick up nine or ten against Northcote, of course." "Of course Bazza," I'll say.

Remarkably, since my first match with Bazza back in 2004, we've only lost once together. Like me, his technique is all over the place, but he's incredibly determined and his concentration never wavers for a second. His favourite shot is the lob which he has perfected into an art form. Today it was blowing a gale, meaning Bazza was in his element. He put up high lobs into the wind, leaving our opponents clattering into the fence in vain attempts to retrieve them. We won the first set 6-4. After dropping the opening game of the second, it was my turn to serve. Despite holding both my service games of the first set comfortably he wanted to change the order because "if you lose your serve we'll be down 2-0". Thanks Bazza. For once I stood my ground and stepped up to the baseline. We quickly went up 40-love. On the next point I hit straight to the net man. 40-15. Then I missed my first serve. "Make sure you get the second one in." When he says that, my double fault probability skyrockets. Of course that's exactly what I did. Thankfully we won the next point on the way to a flattering 6-2 second-set win.

We won the mixed match 6-4 6-4. Neither of us was anywhere near our best. We both hit a few nice-looking winners, but the whole match, like most of my life at the moment, seemed to be in slow motion. I'm always so tired, my limbs feel so lifeless and everything takes on this dull, metallic quality. I just wish things could get back to normal again.

Playing number four in our team, I got the easiest ride against the second-placed side. Overall we won by five matches to three, a result which should keep Bazza happy for the next couple of weeks at least.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Blinding my boss with science

Same old sluggish story at work yesterday. Not able to concentrate. Not knowing what I was doing. Not knowing why I was there. Not achieving anything. Can't remember much about my work day, except that the word cougar made its way into conversation on a few occasions. Then it was tennis. I came second in both my matches: 6-3 6-3 in doubles followed by a 6-4 6-3 singles loss, but I was more relaxed this time and put up a decent fight.

Much better day at work today. It's amazing how quickly things can change. I almost finished this task my boss expected me to have done nearly two weeks ago. When I finish it tomorrow (I will!) I'm going to bombard my boss with spreadsheets, macros, pivot tables, fancy-coloured graphs, you name it. Should be fun.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Le Trésorier

When I woke up this morning I felt shattered, despite getting about nine hours sleep. I couldn't feel my arms and legs at all. I got up eventually, then checked my email. Dammit, the AGM at the Alliance Française was at 10, not in the afternoon as I thought. Made my way over to Browns Bay and got there just in time for the meeting to start. The turnout, mostly of people twice my age, was surprisingly high (the meeting had originally been held just before Christmas but we didn't get a quorum). I really did not want to be Treasurer for another year. I'm way too disorganised for that kind of thing and I joined the club to speak French (even if I am too timid to speak it most of the time), not to write out cheques and receipts. It looks like I might escape the Treasurer role but will probably still be on the committee in some capacity. People hung around for coffees and nibbles after the meeting; I spent most of the time staring out the window. Apparently the Community Centre is also used by the "Elite Table Tennis Club" which, from the photo attached to the notice board, seems to consist of four elderly blokes. Scores are written down, but curiously only those where the loser got fewer than ten points. George isn't doing that well. Malcolm has just thrashed him 21-3, a result which was highlighted as the record lowest score.

Went to the tennis club in the afternoon, but only played briefly. Wasn't a lot of fun. Anything white seemed blindingly bright while the sound of ball on racket appeared louder than normal. I was double-faulting all over the place and was generally hopeless. And I have to play interclub tomorrow. Heaven knows what will happen there.

Friday, February 13, 2009


The sweaty, sweltering weather we've been experiencing in Auckland culminated yesterday in the city's hottest day since 1872. I was at home studying for my exam, and though I struggled to get out of bed and had to have the fan on full blast all day, it was more productive than any of my recent work days. Like today, for instance. I actually felt quite uncomfortable being at work today.

My mood improved when I saw Andy for my first session of CBT (is it CBT? I get confused). He's an interesting bloke and I think I'll get on with him.

The majority of the Marketing department went to Ponsonby tonight for our ex-head of department's send-off dinner. I didn't go. For some reason I couldn't face being with people, let alone work people.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

No suckcess with Access

Yesterday was pay day. I checked my account last night, and amazingly, the money is still going in. I'm not earning that much, but relative to what I actually achieve at work, I'm doing very nicely indeed.

My job at times drives me insane. I'm always having to follow some process or other. Today it was an 18-step procedure (each step was numbered) that involved pressing buttons in Access, the idea being that if you press the right buttons in the right order, the program should spit out something meaningful. However I failed to get anything meaningful to spit out and eventually I gave up. Eighteen is just too many things to go wrong I guess. It's also the number of years of education I had, and at times I wonder what the point of it all was. I had Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues" in my head today, probably because of the line "twenty years of schooling and they put you on the day shift".

Last year we had this survey that tried, by a series of questions, to categorise us by our personalities and our work habits. My results were interesting. Four per cent of Australasians who completed the survey were more introverted than me. No surprises there. In fact I'm surprised it was that high. Just 9% worked in a more flexible, as opposed to a structured, manner than me. Again, I'm hopelessly unstructured and disorganised, so that was to be expected. The one that got me, however, was that only 16% of Australasians were less creative than me. But now I see it: the more I've been pushing buttons and following procedures, the more my creativity has been sapped from me.

I'm feeling better than I was the last time I blogged. Don't know why that is. Things seem to go in cycles. Getting exercise, eating well, sleeping well, not drinking, all those things help. Last night's "boot camp" tennis session, which basically involves hitting lots of balls and running around, but crucially no scoring, must have done me some good.

And maybe I'm feeling better because I'm not living in Victoria right now. The bushfires that have raged across that Australian state have now claimed at least 173 lives, possibly as many as 300. I can't even begin to imagine what some of these people must be going through, and the thought that some of the fires might have been lit deliberately is sickening.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Could I be loved?

In New Zealand February 6th is a public holiday, presumably to celebrate Bob Marley's birthday, which is a pretty good idea for a holiday if you ask me.

On Wednesday I was still struggling, badly. I locked myself in the loo, writhing around with my head in my hands. I sent Lucy, my mental health guru, a high-importance "URGENT!" email basically saying that I couldn't cope. When I get those sorts of emails at work I normally delete them instantly, though luckily Lucy didn't. She said I should arrange a meeting with my boss which I did. My boss was about to take her retro calculator from the eighties, which weighs about two pounds, to the meeting but I told her she wouldn't be needing it. "I know I haven't been performing lately," I said. "Haven't you?" she said. I then mentioned that I'd been taking anti-depressants since 2001 but none of that seemed to bother her. I then figured that there can't be many jobs where if you do your work nobody says anything and if you don't nobody says anything, so I should probably stay in my job a little while longer. The "meeting", if you could call it that, cheered me up, and even the "state of the nation" address later that afternoon - a bit like a school assembly - was relatively optimistic given the current economic situation.

Yesterday things seemed a lot better. I was still a bit sluggish, maybe working at about 60-70% of capacity, but compared to the previous couple of days I was racing along. I generally felt things were getting back on track, until ...

I was plunged into tennis hell. Unusually, we were playing indoors. The conditions inside were inhumanly hot and humid and I hated every minute of it. Sweat was pouring off me. I tried to conserve energy both during and between points while my opponent, who was quite a bit older than me, didn't seem to mind the humidity one bit. My forehand has gone to pieces in the last few weeks so I tried to hit backhands whenever I could. We ended up in a tie-break in the first set and I jumped out to a 6-1 lead. Five set points, bang-bang-bang-bang-bang. He hit clean winners early in the rally on the first two set points. I can't remember what happened on the next two (which would suggest that those two points were where I really lost it), but on the fifth we wound up in a rally that went for at least fifty strokes, possibly a hundred, and everybody on the two adjacent courts had stopped play to watch it. Suffice to say I lost it, and the next two points, to lose the tie-break 8-6. After such a shitty week I didn't deserve that. Worse was to come. The second game of the second set was the longest I've been involved in since the Hemingford junior club champs final in 1996. When I finally succumbed in that game, that was it. I remember thinking, it's OK for you mate, when you get home you can tell your wife and kids you've just won this match saving all these set points, then spend the next day on a boat or whatever with your mates and invite them all back home for a barbecue, while I haven't got a wife or kids or anyone else for that matter; all I've got are my pills and this tennis match. For all intents and purposes, I'd thrown in the towel, something I'd never done before on a tennis court. I was screaming, banging my racket against my head (I've still got a headache now from that) and blasting my second serves ("blast" is a relative term there), generally acting like a prat, and lost the second set 6-love. I was really upset when I got off the court, more because of how I'd behaved than because I'd lost. Then I had to play doubles with this 16-year-old kid who has technical skill in abundance. All I wanted to do was get home though so I just went through the motions. I had that "spacey" sense of detachment I used to get years ago, where I felt I was watching the match, or whatever else I happened to be doing, rather than actually being involved. I found myself focusing on the rivets in the joists attached to the ceiling, and things like that, rather than anything going on in the match. Most of the time I had no idea what the score was. Then to my surprise I heard someone say "four-all" and that brought me back into the moment a bit. We took out the first set 7-5, blowing a few set points along the way (as they came and went I thought I was involved in some bizarre comedy), but when we won that set I realised our opponents weren't actually that good, particularly the fat bloke who I didn't play in the singles, and it was a match that we should win with something to spare. I spent the whole of the second set thinking, hit to the fat bloke, hit to the fat bloke, which was as complicated as my thought processes could go. I hit to the fat bloke, constantly, while my partner hit booming aces and forehand winners. We won the set 6-1.
An aside - I'd played my singles opponent once before, about three years ago, when I had a lot more confidence, not just in my tennis shots but in everything else. I beat him in straight sets, saving three set points, bang-bang-bang, in the second set.

Despite the surprising doubles win, given my emotional state, I was shell-shocked when I came home. I spoke to my mum and dad on the phone and went to bed just after midnight. The next thing I knew, I heard the ferry announcements. It was 9:30. I'll spend the rest of the day trying to made inroads in my to-do list, of which writing this blog post was one item.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Weird day

One of my goals has been to get more sleep. Went to bed at 10:30 last night (happy with that though I was trying for 10:15) but didn't get to sleep for ages. Slept right through my alarm this morning and woke up at 7:22. My grandmother rang me as I was in the middle of shaving - was great to get a call from her and was a shame we couldn't have talked for longer, though as it turned out we might as well have done. It's amazing how good she sounds on the phone now. Got to work about 15 minutes late. My head was completely scrambled and I couldn't concentrate on anything. People were asking me questions about work I'd done previously and I was embarrassingly tongue-tied. I spent the whole morning moping around the office, staring at the carpet or blankly into space, or sitting at my desk with my head in my hands. I would try to summon up every ounce of my brain power to do a simple task, but it wasn't enough. By 1pm I had achieved nothing (or perhaps even less than nothing) and was getting more and more frustrated so I went home.

I was tired and completely lacking energy so had a bit of a doze in the park and a walk along the waterfront. Then remembered my next tennis match was only two days away - would I be in any fit state to play? - so I went to the club to hit against the wall. I needed the exercise. A kid was practising so for some reason I drove to Beresford Street where I lived a few years ago. When I got back the wall was free so I hit against it, getting more and more frustrated. What on earth has happened to my forehand?! In the last year it has gone to pieces and I can't figure out why. Eventually I snapped and slammed my racket against my head and then the metal pole which the netting was attached to. I then stood there for a few minutes, with a sore head, dumbstruck. My racket is still entirely usable, but that's hardly the point.

Figuring I could perhaps benefit from a different form of exercise I decided I'd go for a swim in the sea. After staring at the sand for a while, I got in. It had been a hot day and the water was a lovely temperature. I swam out to the yellow 5-knot buoy and back - quite a long way actually - and felt better for it. Though it was quite late I resisted the temptation to get a takeaway.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Is Fed's Fight for Fifteen Finished?

"Fourteen" in the title above would also have worked, but you can be sure Roger wants to break Pete Sampras's record, not just tie it. I didn't see last night's Australian Open final (I only have poor man's TV) and fell asleep to the radio after three-and-a-bit sets, but from the bits I heard and a glance at the stats, it sounded like a match Federer should have won. His reaction after the loss shows how much it means to him. Let's hope he can come back from this.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Fixed and Floating - formed on the First of Feb!

There are quite a few Fs there, and that pretty much sums up how I'm feeling right now. I've been suffering from depression for nine years, off and on, and thought it might be liberating to put my experiences down on paper, so to speak. Who knows, I might even get to meet one or two people like me, which is normally an extremely rare event. Whatever, every man and his dog has a blog, and since I have neither a blog nor a dog, I feel I've been missing out.

I came up with my blog title after overhearing conversations at work (yes I still manage to hold down a job) about mortgage interest rates. Everyone has an opinion about the merits of fixed or floating-rate contracts, to the extent that the whole fixed-or-floating debate is getting close to Blur-versus-Oasis was in the nineties. I've yet to dive into the housing market for all kinds of reasons, but I figure I'm both fixed (nothing ever seems to change) and floating (totally directionless).

I live in Auckland, New Zealand, having moved here from the UK in November 2003, and I'm currently very much in the "on" phase of my depression cycle. Anything involving other people is pretty much off the agenda, and everything else, while still manageable, has slowed down considerably. I walk at half the speed I used to, supermarket shopping seems to take ages, and at work I'm completely unmotivated and functioning at about 30% of capacity. I live alone, have no family here and few if any friends. My parents live in South Canterbury, which for those of you who don't know NZ, is an 80-minute flight and an even longer drive from here. So I'm almost totally isolated.

Last night I went to a party with work people for the first time in a long time. Heaven knows why I went. The whole experience was painful for me and I was home by 11. Watching Jeremy, the new maths whizz-kid, get eaten alive by a bunch of blokes who with a few drinks inside them had turned into pack animals, was horribly reminiscent of school. Sensing Jeremy was enjoying the party even less than me, I dropped him off on the way home.

On Friday night I was up past 3am listening to the commentary of the match between Nadal and Verdasco which was simply amazing. Richard Evans and Chris Bowers are brilliant commentators - shame they couldn't have done all five sets together. I now have mixed feelings about tonight's final. Part of me wants Federer to tie Sampras's record, but wouldn't it be something if Nadal could recover from playing the longest match in Australian Open history to win the final? I have half a mind to find a pub somewhere and watch it, and maybe take tomorrow off work. I've taken very few sick days in my five years at this job, and let's face it, I am sick right now.