Friday, December 31, 2010

An in-tents end to 2010

I've just been camping for the first time in a very long time. Mum and Dad took their caravan to Lake Camp, which is next to Lake Clearwater and not very far from Mt Somers. My aunt and uncle parked their bus next to my parents' caravan, while I slept in a tent. We spent two nights there. Caravans seem like a lot of hassle - there's the fag of hooking and unhooking them to the car (and you really need a bigger car than my parents' two-litre Honda CRV) as well as everything that can go wrong with power and water. And then there's the loo. Your business goes into what is known as a cassette. Cassette? I'd dread to think what happens when you push fast forward. Campervans and buses seem more convenient than caravans, especially if you're touring the country, but they're expensive options.

As for camping, well I enjoyed that as a kid. When we were tucked up in bed we used to tell stories; my brother would inevitably change the subject to tortoises or crocodiles. This time, in my one-man tent, there were no stories although I did have some unusually vivid dreams the first night. Yesterday a whole raft of kids half my age turned up, intent on shouting, swearing and getting hammered. My family didn't enjoy this sudden influx of Generation Who-Gives-A-Shit, and neither did I to be honest. The second night, unsurprisingly, I didn't sleep so well. If we'd stayed there tonight (New Year's Eve) it would have been horrendous I'm sure.

Yesterday we went for a walk around Mt Potts and Erewhon stations and saw Mt Sunday, on which a castle was built to great effect in the Lord of the Rings movies.

I've thought about getting my own tent and maybe going on a camping trip with some friends. It could be a lot of fun, but the problem with any holiday (unless you go alone) is that you're in each other's pockets, and camping only makes that worse. I'll have to think about it a bit more.

I watched a fair bit of the Boxing Day test match from Melbourne (Mum and Dad have Sky) and enjoyed seeing England give the Aussies a good hiding. Cricket is perhaps unique among modern sports in that winning isn't quite everything. There are all kinds of subplots and mini-contests going on - sometimes they can even take centre stage. England have already retained the Ashes, but there's still a lot resting on the fifth match in Sydney.

Just a few hours of 2010 remain. It's been an up-and-down kind of year with some happy times as well as some very sad ones, the loss of Emma being the saddest of all. However I am more positive about the future than I was a year ago, and guess what, I haven't been depressed for months. I'm not naive enough to think that my depression won't return, but for now I'm changing my blog title.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Boxing Day

I'm happy to report a stress-free Christmas. Five of us (my aunt and uncle, Mum, Dad and I) spent the afternoon down the Orari Gorge. Perfect day for it - not too hot. If I'd had my togs I would have swum in the water. We all ate too much but didn't drink much, and were back by about six. Mum is suffering from quite bad lower back pain - she's always been so fit and healthy; I'm unused to seeing her like that.

I met up with Phil in Timaru today. He's staying with his mother in Waimate but now lives in Dunedin (he studied there for ten years and got a PhD so it's like a second home to him). Just like last year we had coffee at the Purple Lizard café (opposite the Mascot Finance building, now just a shell); just like last year we talked about finding jobs; just like last year we played mini golf; just like last year he beat me by six shots. From our chat, perhaps I should be looking at jobs outside Auckland, but I really don't want to lose my friends.

Thursday, December 23, 2010


On Tuesday night I saw Gorillaz with Richard and two others from the Asperger's group. It took a bit of logistical jiggery-pokery for the four of us to actually meet up, but when we did so, the gig was well worth waiting for. We caught the tail end of De La Soul, a hip-hop act who had been around for some time and were pretty famous by all accounts - not really my cup of tea I suppose, but they did a great job of getting the audience in the mood for the main event.

And the main event was brilliant. There was just so much music. I wasn't expecting a full-blown orchestra (or anything like it) but we had a brass section at the front which included one of those crazy tuba things that fits around your body (I've just Googled it - it's called a sousaphone), a string ensemble at the back and of course guitars, drums and a keyboard. In the middle of the show we were greeted with an Arabic orchestra which was a delight to listen to. In the middle of all those instruments was Damon Albarn bouncing around manically. I guess all of this was possible because most of the line-up were guest performers. There was so much going on, including all the cartoon animation on the big screen, that at times I didn't know where to look.

There seemed to be a few underlying political messages - the tour was called Plastic Beach after all, a title that conjures up images of the BP oil spill disaster. There was a song called Super Fast Jelly Fish, or something along those lines, with pictures of greasy all-you-can-eat fast food joints and lyrics that went "you can't see it but you still want to eat it". The Auckland show was their last on a three-month tour, and unfortunately quite possibly their last ever. So I was very grateful to get the chance to see them.

I had an earlyish flight yesterday so I had a nap when I got to Geraldine; the temperature was very conducive to falling asleep. It looks like I'll be in for a hot Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Can't stop Christmas

Christmas. It's coming and there's nothing I can do to stop it. Apparently it's a whole year since it was last here, although I find that hard to believe. This year, however, I'm going to try very hard not to get stressed by Christmas and perhaps even enjoy it. I'll be heading down to Geraldine this time tomorrow (the first time I'll have been down there for almost a year). Christmas should be relatively quiet stress-free this year - on the day itself there will only be a handful of us.

While I'm in the South Island, Richard will be hosting a Christmas dinner here in Auckland for anyone from the Asperger's group who wishes to attend. I think that's a wonderful gesture - for many people, Christmas can be a very lonely time. If I was staying up here I would definitely have gone. Last Saturday the Asperger's group had its Christmas party. It was great to see such a big turnout - there must have been nearly forty people there - even if it got rather noisy and echoey (is that a real word?).

We've had shocking weather - about four days of non-stop rain. It's also been very humid, with overnight lows (!) of around 20 degrees. Drying clothes has proven nearly impossible so I've been forced to wear my emergency undies. If it's any consolation (and it is considerable consolation), I'd much rather have our weather than what the UK are going through. I don't envy all those poor Kiwis stuck at Heathrow trying to get home for Christmas.

Last week I had a look at Onehunga. I can see its attractions (it would be an inexpensive suburb for one) but I have reservations about living there: it's just a bit too far from everything and I'd be a bit worried about its crime rate. It looked a bit down-at-heel and reminded me of some parts of Birmingham (not that there's anything wrong with that - I liked living in Brum). It had a very good fruit and vege shop, an interesting second-hand bookshop and perhaps best of all the Dress Smart mall. I try and avoid malls if I can, but I do need to buy clothes occasionally, and for some reason you could buy the same clothes a lot more cheaply than elsewhere. So I'll certainly want to spend some more time in Onehunga but that doesn't mean I'll want to live there. I spoke to Richard and he pretty much agreed with me.

Last Monday I played interclub for the last time in 2010. I played with Superman in the doubles (again) and we lost (again), 6-3 6-4. I think we would both do better if we split up (well he certainly would; I'm so bad at the net that it might not matter who I play with). My singles was a different story - I knew my older opponent and thought I should beat him, but never expected to do so 6-1 6-1. I played well but he came to the net too often and I was able to pass him. He also got frustrated, and at times I felt I was the older player waiting for my 18-year-old opponent (he was actually fifty-something) to blast the ball out. We actually had a lot of good rallies though, and the score flattered me somewhat. Superman won his singles 6-2 6-2, reinforcing our need for a divorce from doubles.

My mental health service produces a quarterly newsletter. I'm part of the production team (apparently, although to be honest I'm not all that up with the play). I did however submit a cryptic crossword that I created; I'll be interested to see how that is received. I might even post the crossword on here in the next couple of days.

There will be no rest for me before I go away. My flat is still a complete mess, I've got all my packing to do and I'm taking my car in for a warrant this afternoon. Then tonight I'm seeing Gorillaz at the Vector Arena with Richard and two other people from the Asperger's group. I haven't seen too many live bands (unfortunately) and I've never seen a live virtual band before, but if it's got Damon Albarn in it, it must be good.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Jobless again

I played tennis on Tuesday night in what they call a Business House competition. Because one of the earlier weeks was rained off, we played six mini-matches instead of four. By the end of the evening I'd reached the "sod it" stage. If I hadn't known in advance we'd be playing so many games (and many people didn't) I don't know how I would have coped. From memory I won the first match I played, drew the last, and lost all the rest. I've got interclub tonight and another Business House tennis-a-thon tomorrow night.

On the subject of sport, I scanned the football results on Wednesday and this one caught my eye: Leyton Orient 8 Droylsden 2 - after extra time! This was from an FA Cup second-round replay (they had drawn 1-1 in their first meeting at Droylsden). Orient were 2-0 down at one stage, and were still a goal behind when they scrambled an 89th-minute equaliser to keep them in the competition. Then came a crazy half-hour which must have produced some kind of record. The scorer of the equaliser struck twice more in extra time and there was another hat-trick scored entirely in extra time. Both sides finished the match with nine men and the Droylsden manager was also banished from the dug-out! So there is some magic left in the FA Cup after all. From what I could tell, the referee saw pity on Droylsden by blowing for full-time after 119 minutes - with all those stoppages for bookings and sendings-off (and of course goals) there should have been enough added time for Orient to hit double figures. Until last week I had no idea where Droylsden was (apparently it's in Manchester). Its football team (who play in the sixth division and are nicknamed the Bloods of all things) are no strangers to, well, strange Cup ties.

Friday was my last day at work. It was good while it lasted. I had a pretty much stress-free run of three months, which was considerably longer than I expected. I left my details with my boss should he ever need somebody again. I got on well with him, even though our personalities were quite different. I'll miss the F-bombs and his mispronunciations which at first I thought were deliberate. Apparently he drives a Missabitsi. He'd ask me about a claim for a property on Bethlehem Road. You mean Blenheim Road? At least you always knew where you stood with him. It was nice just to have a job that wasn't dressed up into this big frothy career, but now I face the unenviable task of finding work again.

On Friday night I went to a Christmas party put on by my mental health service. It was a bit of an eye-opener - some people I saw clearly weren't in a good way at all. Some of them must have a hard time looking after themselves - while I was in the queue for dessert there was a distinct whiff of pee. The food was reasonable but by the time I got there (almost seven - it started at four) the main course could have done with a quick zap in the microwave. I thought the highlight of the evening was the band, who did a very good job considering they had hardly practised. The organisation is fortunate to have a number of talented musicians in its midst. It was good to meet up with some people from the men's group who for one reason or another no longer attend.

I rang my gran when I got back from the party. I struggled to make any sense of her, although it was clear that she wasn't happy. At least she picked up the phone this time; she has her own phone in her room but hasn't been picking it up of late - either she's forgotten how to use it or just doesn't want to talk. In future I'll try and ring her in the morning (her evening) when she tends to be better.

On Saturday I met up in a café on K' Road with Richard and another regular of the Asperger's group (a female) to talk about the possibility of flatting. I think the arrangement could work very well. My only issue is having to leave the Shore where I've spent the best part of seven years. If the plan goes ahead, the most likely suburb we'll end up in at this stage is Onehunga, a place I don't know at all. I intend to spend some time there on Wednesday to get a feel for the place.

Yesterday the Asperger's group met up for our second picnic in Cornwall Park. Good weather for it - in fact a little too warm if anything. There was a big turnout - there must have been close on twenty. Some of them set up a game of cricket (one of the members of the group is a big fan of the game) and I joined in half-way through (after a bit of a doze - it was that kind of weather). My batting was OK but my bowling was pretty shocking! It was a good afternoon which Richard (who else?) organised. He's also holding a Christmas dinner - a great idea because a lot of them don't have families and must feel quite alone over the festive period.

Tennis tonight then. Hope I don't break anything this time.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Old news

Gran’s mental and physical health tend to go hand-in-hand. I was a bit worried when I spoke to her on the phone a week ago, then on Wednesday she was rushed off to hospital – her gut was playing up again. This has been a recurring problem for her. Dad feared the worst (and so did I – in the past she’s always bounced back but she’s so much weaker now). He booked an emergency flight to the UK which he wasn’t looking forward to. They’re having atrocious weather over there. But somehow her gut cleared later in the week and she’ll probably be let out of hospital in the next day or two. That’s a relief. Dad managed to change his flight to February.

Speaking of the elderly, last night I watched Young @ Heart (or tried to – I was still involved in a poker tournament when it started; I also got a call from my parents). It was a documentary film about a group of elderly people in America who tour the country (and overseas) giving unusual renditions of modern pop songs. Most of them had no singing experience so their director certainly had his hands full. I found their version of the Ramones’ I Wanna Be Sedated hilarious, and somehow appropriate. At the end of the film they showed a chap of about eighty (and probably twenty stone) perform Coldplay’s Fix You. This was supposed to be a duet but his singing partner had recently died of a heart attack. I have to say I found his performance very moving. I don’t know what it is about old people singing, but it reminded me a lot of Johnny Cash when he sang Hurt – it really made my hair stand on end. Just like Cash, the Fix You singer died months later.

There isn’t a lot of news from my end. The earthquake claims have been gradually tailing off, so Friday looks like being my last day at work.