Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Sorry Mum, still no news

Man do I miss my car. I'm quite exhausted from all this bussing and walking. Yesterday I saw my counsellor in Albany (how many buses did I take in total? Five?) for some Gestalt therapy which is a new one on me. Basically I pretended to be myself at the age of ten or eleven talking about my lack of friends, then I took on the role of an adult talking to this young boy. Our session was taped.

I managed to upset my mum on Sunday night. She said to me, "had a busy day? No." I told her to please stop saying that. She's been doing this for some time, asking me if I've done something and then saying "no" immediately afterwards. "Did you apply for that job? No." "Did you phone Dave? No." She always fears the worst for me, expects the worst. "I don't know what you'll do when you get back from the UK. I doubt you'll get a job, and you'll be paying all that money in rent. And don't go out and buy another car because it'll only get nicked again..." Dad is just as pessimistic but at least I can have a reasoned argument with him. With Mum, I'd obviously upset her and I felt very bad about this, but it was no use trying to rectify the situation. She just totally shut down. A lot of the problem here is that my parents phone me every day. I know it's because they love me and worry about me, but I find these daily 9pm phone calls put unnecessary pressure on me. Usually nothing of note has happened since the last time we spoke and I feel guilty about that. I suggested to Mum that maybe every day is a bit much, to which she replied, "well I won't ring then if you don't want to talk to me." Oh dear. I do want to talk to her, just perhaps not every day.

My interclub tennis was all over in double-quick time last night. We won our doubles 6-3 6-0 but then I got thrashed 6-1 6-2 in my singles. An unusual pair of results for me: I prefer singles and generally fare much better at it than doubles. My singles opponent was very much a confidence player; last time we played I won a tight first set, after which his confidence was shot and he effectively threw in the towel. This time it was the exact opposite. I had love-40 on his serve in the first game but couldn't take any of those break points. In the second game I had yet more chances but they too went begging. Soon his confidence was sky-high and I was powerless to do anything. The type of shot I played had little bearing on the outcome of the point, so in the end my tactic was to take the pace off the ball and just get everything back. This resulted in some long rallies and multiple deuce games but I invariably came off second best. Knowing his temperament was fragile I never gave up until the last point, though the killer blow for me came in the penultimate game. At 2-4 and deuce, after trading groundstrokes, I hit a lob onto his baseline which he retrieved; his next shot was a clean winner. When it was all over I walked home, grabbing easily the spiciest pizza I've ever had on the way back.

In today's badugi session I picked up right where I left off from last night's tennis. I play 300-hand sessions, give or take a few, but I have a "mercy rule" whereby I quit when I get down $20. Today I invoked that rule after just 140 hands. It was carnage. I won only seven hands, three of those pre-draw and just two at showdown. After taking that kind of hammering I don't feel I can play my best, hence the mercy rule.

I had a very enjoyable, if slightly tricky, Italian lesson today. If I didn't already know some French (which has proved very useful) I might have been all at sea. After the lesson I had the pleasure of riding in a Fiat Bambina.

Tonight we had the men's group. We had a new bloke there who writes stories; tonight we acted one of those out. I'm always envious of anyone who can write anything.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Fun and games

It's been a good day - hot, but at least that horrible humidity has largely subsided. I played tennis with Andy at Belmont this afternoon. In the heat of the day we both worked up quite a sweat. When we called it a day, I was leading 6-0 2-0, or as Andy had it, 6-2. After the game we had a welcome beer and an equally welcome swim in the sea at Milford.

I have to say I enjoyed tennis with Andy considerably more than yesterday's interclub experience. In the men's doubles I played with an 18-year-old who served at about 110 miles an hour. His service games consisted almost entirely of aces, unreturnable serves and double faults, so my role in every fourth game was almost ornamental. I never got into any rhythm which was a shame because it was a match we could have won. That 6-4 6-4 loss was frustrating but nothing compared to the mixed match. We lost that one 6-1 6-1; I couldn't wait to get off the court, and thankfully I didn't have to wait long. During that match I thought, gosh I remember when I used to enjoy this. I'll be back on the court again for more interclub - singles and doubles - tomorrow.

I've been having more success on the online poker tables of late than on the tennis court, and am currently showing an overall profit of US$169. Last weekend I plucked up the courage to play the 25c/50c badugi cash games. All that time I spent (wasted?) on those silly badugi freerolls means I can now play the game in my sleep. That doesn't necessarily mean playing well, asleep or awake, but I do think I have a better understanding of the game than most at these low stakes, and my results over my first couple of thousand hands would certainly back that up. In my last two sessions I've tried to mix up my play a bit, which is something I'll have to do if I ever want to move up in stakes. My bankroll has also been boosted this week by making the top four in both tournaments I entered.

Tomorrow I'll be seeing my counsellor. We'll try and figure out ways that I can get out and meet people of my own age. That's something I've been hopelessly, well, hopeless at for as long as I can remember.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Lost years - can I make up for them?

I guess it hasn't been a bad week. Since I last posted I've paid two visits to my counsellor, psychologist, call her what you will, and I'll be making another trek that way tomorrow. Without my car (no it hasn't yet magically appeared), getting up to Albany really is a trek. And a hassle. When you lose your car, your independence goes with it. I still haven't decided whether to get a new one before I go away.

In those last two meetings we spent some time discussing my teenage years. I found this subject a bit upsetting: in those so-called formative years I never really "formed" at all. Four months before my 13th birthday - yes I can pinpoint it accurately - every shred of self-confidence melted away. For the next half a decade I found myself almost completely alone. Peer groups, which play a major role in shaping teenagers, didn't exist for me. It wasn't until late 2001 that I finally developed an identity I was happy with, only for it to be snatched away months later when I left university.

I had a tough time of it on the tennis court last Monday. In the doubles (I played with Superman yet again) we were completely outclassed. Our opponents were an imposing force at the net and everything happened far too quickly for us. After barely half an hour we were behind 6-0, 5-0, staring down the barrel of a double doughnut. We put together a nice little cameo performance at the end to at least salvage two games, but really it was a complete mismatch. In the singles I surprised myself by taking the opening set 6-3. It was the best set of tennis I'd put together for a very long time and reminded me of when I could actually play this game. My opponent had the upper hand in most of the rallies but I was able to work my way into the point and eventually hit a winner myself. He was aggressive at the net but all my passing shots found their target. I couldn't have played any better, but it was still a close set, and it was no surprise when his extra class told in the final two sets which both finished 6-2. I wasn't disappointed with the loss; he was simply a better player.

I've moved my Italian class to a daytime slot and a slightly higher level. There always seems to be a skewed gender ratio at language classes but at last Tuesday's session I was the only bloke there. Not that I minded. It was a small class so we were all able to participate. I'm really happy with my progress in the seven months since I started.

It's been horribly muggy in Auckland this weekend. I only had to poke my nose outside the door and my T-shirt would be sticking to me. After this afternoon's tennis it was like a wet rag.

Saturday, February 6, 2010


My car got nicked while I was away. I had it parked outside my flat (well not exactly outside, maybe three doors down on the other side of the road, I can't remember precisely). Whatever, it's gone now. And for the first 24 hours after I got back from the South Island I was too depressed and dead to the outside world to even notice. I called the local police, then my insurance company. "There's no insurance on that car." "What? I'd never dream of having a car uninsured." But when I moved into this place I never let my insurance company know, so I never got the letter telling me it was up for renewal, and I'd let it lapse. I've always had problems with organisation. I'm particularly bad with mail. In the last couple of years, for some psychological reason, I've tried to avoid opening it. I'd let two weeks' worth pile up in my letterbox before bringing it in, I'd wait another week to open it and at least one more week would go by before I did anything about it. I've made some recent improvements on that score but it's still a problem.

I've since come to terms with not having a car. It wasn't worth much and thankfully I hadn't left anything valuable inside. Maybe it'll still turn up. It's such a common car (and colour) that on numerous occasions in the last two days I've been convinced I've seen it.

I played interclub tennis this afternoon, making the most of the sun. Unfortunately I had the tricky task of playing with Superman - again. I felt I was letting him down - again - but at least this time we ended up on the right side of the ledger, winning 6-4 4-6 6-3 in a fraction under two hours. I haven't won in two sets, in singles or doubles, since the very first match of the season. The woman we were due to play in the mixed pulled out because of the heat. That was a shame but in some ways it was nice just sitting in the sun watching the other matches. I expect to be spending a fair chunk of tomorrow down at the club too - they've got a working bee with some tennis afterwards. What is it with this word "bee"? There are working bees, spelling bees and plenty of Esso bees. Maybe one day I'll even find a suitable jay-oh-bee.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


I went downhill almost immediately after submitting my previous post, to a point I haven't reached in months. I think my feelings as a result of the wedding, basically that everyone else's lives were sorted out while mine was in an impossible mess, had come to a head. Just before I left my parents' house yesterday I banged my head on the edge of the living-room door, rather like I used to do with the tennis racket. Andy (the guru I see once a week) suggested I stop playing tennis; avoiding doors isn't quite so easy. I definitely think I could benefit from avoiding weddings however. When I finally got home last night (I had to wait nearly an hour for the ferry), I was depressed, exhausted and totally lacking in energy. I also had a sore head.

I played two poker tournaments today; I didn't feel good for much else. My progress in this morning's single draw had the makings of a big finish, but the turning point came when I ended up folding a pat smooth nine. I never recovered and I was extremely lucky to sneak into the 21st and last payout place. I made a strong start to the badugi but quickly found myself languishing at half the average stack. Then, in the space of ten hands, I was twice dealt pat 10-9s. Each time I had no choice but to put my tournament life on the line as a 62% favourite, but both times they held up for me, and suddenly I had a healthy pile of chips. At the final table I drew two in the big blind, made a monster, and eliminated two players in one hand. I went card dead after that and when we got down to three I was the short stack. I outlasted my nearest competitor but was massively outgunned when we got heads up. Though I could make no inroads into my opponent's huge stack, I was more than happy to take second place out of 97 players for a profit of just over US$30.

I got a surprise phone call from Bazza today. I hadn't spoken to him since Christmas - he moved to Papakura in December and I didn't have his number.

Tomorrow I hope to see some recruitment agencies in person rather than on the phone where they're more likely to fob me off. This was something I'd planned for today but I wouldn't exactly have showed myself in my best light. I hope to see Andy in the afternoon.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Once in a no moon

The lunar cycle takes approximately 29½ days; the average month is slightly longer so you occasionally get two full moons in the same month. The second of these is known as a blue moon, and occurs every second or third year, hence the phrase "once in a blue moon". A far more unusual event is happening this month, on this side of the planet at least, for February won't have a full moon at all. I don't know what the technical term for this is, but I'd tend to call it a "no moon".

Moon or no moon, February is now upon us, so I've now officially been boring people rigid with my inane ramblings for a whole year. I like to think I've made some steps in the right direction in that time, but the last couple of days clearly show that I've got a considerable way to go.

All that wedding stuff is finally over and I'll be heading back to Auckland later today. I'm glad about that. About 85 people attended the wedding; it turns out I was invited after all. The church bit was fine, but predictably I found the reception an ordeal. Worst of all were the speeches. Everybody spoke at length and with a remarkable level of confidence. Where do they get it from I wonder? Of course there were endless jokes, or rather anecdotes, the sort of jokes that Kiwis love and I struggle with. It's not that I don't get them, just that I personally don't find them funny. My cousin and her husband are successful people. They've been living in London for the last two years, making a lot of moolah and travelling extensively throughout Europe and beyond. They've been everywhere. Partout. Dappertutto. As I listened to tales of what they got up to on their ski trips or at the running of the bulls in Pamplona or the Palio in Siena, I really just wanted to crawl into a hole. After the dinner and speeches there was dancing of course, but I successfully escaped that. We were home around 11:30 in time to see the end of the men's Australian Open final. What a finish it was. I felt a bit sorry for Murray - he was unlucky not to at least win a set, and it was obvious after the match how much it meant to him.

The next day we had what they call the after-match function. I ate and drank almost non-stop, not because I needed (or even wanted) any of it but because it gave me something to do. I've now learnt to stick to beer rather than wine at these sorts of events, because you can drink much more of it without having to pay for it later. I did also make some conversation - my extended family are good people on the whole, and there are one or two I'm able to talk to reasonably easily. Somebody, who obviously doesn't know me that well, was desperately trying to convince me to go on an Outward Bound course.

There are no more family weddings on the horizon (though someone from the tennis club is tying the knot the weekend after next, and I'll be going to the reception). Last weekend Mum said to me, "wouldn't it be nice to go to your wedding one day?" I imagine that day will be some time after the next no moon.