Sunday, February 22, 2015

Faster Than A Speeding Record

In about two weeks time, I'll probably either be nursing an epic hangover or wondering exactly how I can drink that much bourbon and not have one. Because two weeks yesterday marks my 34th birthday. When I was younger, I used to think that by the time I was thirty, I'd be a published novelist, married and have a house of my own, possibly even with a kid. As things have transpired, none of those things have happened. In fact, bar the fact that I'm now on my second passport, and my beard has a few grey hairs in it, I'm in exactly the same position I was when I was eighteen. And as the theme tune for Orange is the New Black has it, taking steps is easy; standing still is hard. I've been standing still for sixteen years now.

The only time I have thought that my life was going anywhere, that it was actually working out that way it was supposed to, the way that everyone else's life was going, was in the spring of 2009, when I had the good fortune to be in love with someone and in a relationship with her. However, that didn't last long - as nothing in my life that makes me happy does - as she didn't feel the same way about me. Which is generally how women see me. To them, I'm not the type that you have a relationship with. At best, I'm a good friend, at worst I'm just someone to be tolerated.

Come the beginning of December last year, mindful of how little anything was making life worthwhile, I decided to kill myself at New Years, unless something came along that gave me a little hope for the future, I wasn't expecting a great life-changing experience. I just wanted something that would offer me the possibility that things were going to change, Because I couldn't go on as I had been for very much longer.

I had a week off work at the beginning of December, and this decision might have been influenced by the opportunity and time that not working ten hours a day gave me. A quick look over my diary shows I spent the week watching Once Upon A Time and How I Met Your Mother - binge-watching DVD/Blu Ray boxsets being my default state of being. The thing to note is that they are both quite romantic at heart - Once Upon A Time obviously concerning itself with the nature and importance of fairy tales and How I Met Your Mother being one douchebag's quest to find that one woman who he's meant to be with. I call him - Ted Mosby - a douchebag because he leaves a path of wreckage throughout the series, manipulating and then dumping women who don't meet his insanely specfic criteria. The only moment I felt pity for him was at the start of season four, when he's left at the altar by Sarah Chalke, who, lest we forget, was treated in a similarly cavalier way by JD over in Scrubs.

But all that is by the by. On the Sunday, faced with the imminent prospect of a return to work, I spent half an hour or so on Tinder, that most shallow of dating apps. You like the picture a girl has posted? Swipe right and if she likes your pictures too, you'll come up as a match. In a way, it's rather good, because it takes away all the awkwardness of sending out a message to someone blindly, not knowing if they even like the look of you. In another way, it's not so good, because it is ultimately shallow. In all the time I've been on Tinder, I've only had about four people who I've swiped right to doing the same for me.

There's a customer who comes into work that I've liked for a long time. I've known she's single, but my crippling inability to actually talk to people has prevented me from befriending her face to face, so, imagine my surprise when her picture pops up on Tinder. Naturally I swipe right and I literally almost have a heart attack when it transpires that she has already seen my picture and also swiped right. So, feeling like I'm going to throw up at any minute, I write her a little message and we spend the rest of that evening talking, culminating in me asking her if she would like to go for a drink we me. She agrees, although she says that she doesn't know when it will be. She works full time and has two young children, so that's fair enough. We exchange numbers. I take this to be the sign of hope that I'm looking for.

But it's now almost March and three months have passed since that fateful evening and we still haven't gone out for that date. In fact, despite her having my number and me tring to keep a conversation going, we've only had a couple of text exchanges, one on Boxing Day and one near the end of January. She still comes in the shop and I serve her quite often. I asked her how she was the other day and she all but blanked me. And the last text message I sent has not elicited a response.

So it goes.

I don't want to think that I'm destined to spend my entire life alone - and I know I can't, physically. Right now the loneliness is almost too much to bear. When I was younger, before Debra, I didn't really know what I was missing. But now that I know and I want that companionship and comfort, it gets worse as time goes on. And to add insult to injury, no one, it seems, is willing to help. They all just offer hollow platitudes, claiming that I just haven't met the right person yet, and that there is someone out there for me. It's easy to say these things when you're in a relationship yourself. From the little experience I have of being in one, I know that being with someone very quickly erases all the bad things about being single from your mind so you can't possibly understand how horrible and defeating it is for someone who has spent pretty much their entire life alone because everyone he has ever liked has rejected him.

All I asked for was a little bit of hope...

Thursday, September 04, 2014

The Terminal Uncool

It used to be it was kind of cool to be uncool. When uncool was, paradoxically, cool. But it only ever seemed to be in TV shows and that far off distant place of London where geek chic trod the boards with confidence, while stammering over its words and making allusions to Star Wars. David Tennant captured the hearts of fangirls (and a fair few fanboys) everywhere, so much so that two Doctor's later (and a viral meme suggesting that all those fangirls who only watched because the Doctor was young and fit would be abandoning the show in their droves following Peter Capaldi's casting) they are still publishing comics with him in. Over on ITV (the uncool station if ever there was one, even Channel 5 had more edge about it) Andrew-Lee Potts was romancing pop royalty in the form of Hannah Spearritt, while tracking down dinosaurs.

I, on the other hand, have never so much as ventured towards being uncool-cool. Borderline Asperger's (and as I get older I see more and more people with it coming out and talking about their experiences and I'm just like, 'Yes, that is what I've been trying to articulate for the last twenty years!' so I have no idea where I am on the scale but I'm pretty sure I'm on it) coupled with a ludicrous level of shyness don't even allow me to be the cool geek in the room. I'm the one wearing the Batman shirt, standing in a corner, cradling a drink wondering why no one is coming over to talk to me because I'm so crippled by shyness that the very thought of going over to someone and actually starting a conversation myself terrifies me even more than an Infant school-age showing of Damien: The Omen II.

My depression, which has bottomed out in recent months, into a general malaise of restlessness and dissatisfaction with pretty much everything, has also robbed me of any ambition I once had. When I was sixteen I sent off short stories to small press magazines, even got a few published. I also submitted things to actual publishers. As far as writing went, I was fearless. Even when I got rejection slips (and I got a fair few, the most encouraging coming from a guy called Simon Bestwick who is now a published author, but who was then running a small press concern called Unreal Dreams) I was convinced that either I could make the story better with just a few tweaks, or that they hadn't gotten the point of the story. I was a little arrogant. There's a character in a few of my early novels who was pretty much based on me, and he's completely arrogant. But he gets the girls and becomes a big name author and, most importantly of all, he's not afraid to talk to people at parties.

So there's these friends of mine. Bear in mind I work in a shop, doing gofer work that a monkey could do, despite the letters after my name, all because of personal circumstances. Amongst them there are doctors and professors. People who come out with more than twice what I do a month. And by and large they're married, a few of them have kids. They all have their own houses. In short, they've moved on from what we were like at age of eighteen.

Sometimes I look back at eighteen and wish I could do everything over. For starters I wouldn't let my father's abandonment of me (actual physical absence that is, I doubt he was ever emotionally there for me) become the crushing complex that it did, I'd move out when I went to university, even if I was just going down the road. I'd keep up with the submitting of writing and a hundred other things. I doubt my of my old school friends feel that way about their lives. Fifteen years gone, and that lonely geek standing in the corner by himself is just fifteen years older. All his friends have moved away and gotten on with their lives while he's stuck in a rut, and not one he can get out of by himself.

I've spoken at length about this with a couple of my closer friends and expounded on my need for a relationship, which I don't think they quite understand. It's not necessarily the being with someone that would help me, it's having someone who wants to spend time with me, who wants to help me, who I matter to. I'm going to a wedding this weeding - a fun-filled (hopefully) excursion to Oxford that I've crowbarred a day out in London for myself into. My oldest friend, and one of only two people who I'm not related to by blood that I feel I can be myself with and they won't judge me, is getting married to someone he's been with since university, some thirteen years and change, give or take a little. Their friends set them up. I don't think my friends would ever do something like that for me and I don't know why. I've tentatively made comments about the subject on occasion and the most oft-heard response is 'Well, I don't have any single female friends.' Which, as responses go is up there with being rejected by a girl who uses the phrase, 'I think you're lovely, I just don't see you that way.'

No one who's never been rejected with those words can possibly understand my life and relationships.

So I'm going to this wedding. To all intents and purposes, it's a reunion. With everyone living away now - some as far afield as America - it's become impossible to get everyone together for pretty much anything. Christmas Eve, when traditionally we all go out and get wasted (the only way I can generally cope with the festive season), has dwindled down to a core four from what used to be about fifteen people. And there I will be, at this wedding of a man I consider to be my brother from another mother, standing off to one side, drink in hand, not talking to anyone. Not necessarily because I'm shy this time - as my friends will attest, with people I know and with a few drinks inside me I can be quite vociferous - but because they're all doing better than me. If Life is a game, I'm still lounging around near the start, and they've lapped me many times over. Some of them will gloss over my failures, some of them will downplay their own achievements in order not to embarrass me, some will pretend they envy me my single, child-free existence, some will just ignore me and hope I'll go away. I know this because it's happened before and will undoubtedly happen again. That is my life. I am the control hamster to the Class of '99.

I know I've never been cool and I'm coming to understand that now I'm never going to be that guy you see in bookshops with a pen out, a pile of books at his side and a queue of people who like what he writes. I am comfortable in my own geekiness, which is a step up from a certain former boss of mine telling me that if I wasn't into Star Trek and Doctor Who and was into my 'grown up' things I might stand a better chance with girls. I know there are girls out there who like Doctor Who as much as I do. It's just a question of finding one I have a mutual attraction with.

Peace out.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Leaving Ordinary

For more years now than I care to count, I've bemoaned the state of my life, and the fact that most of the factors I would like to change are outside of my grasp. I could apply for a new job, but it's very unlikely that I would get something that would make me happy - indeed, at this point in my life, twelve years of working in retail and nothing else, would probably prejudice any employer out there if I ever did want to leave the retail arena, which I do. To do what I have no idea. I didn't have any idea what I wanted to do when I left school, but I thought, that's okay, I can think about it during 6th Form. Come the end of 6th Form, still no idea and I spent a very depressed summer in 1999 expecting Real Life to start any minute, only for a last minute reprise thanks to a teacher at 6th Form who cared about his students, who got me into university. University gave me another three years in which to decide what to do with my life. I wrote a few novels and ended my last year at uni by getting a part time job. That job became full time and then suddenly, with that cushion, I was out in the real world and operating without a net. So, perhaps wrongly, I took the safe option. Even when I walked out of the job at Global Video thanks to a belligerent area manager and a lackadaisical manager whose idea of doing her job was waiting for me to come in and clean up her mess and who got away with it because she was the area manager's pet, I could have made the decision to strike out into something new.

But I didn't. I took the first job I was offered, and after two months on the dole which managed to crush what little enthusiasm I had for the job market, it was another retail position. And, as Kurt Vonnegut Jnr would say, so it goes. By and large I've been lucky with the jobs I've had - the manager for the my first three years at Global was a nice guy, and so was the manageress I worked with for the best part of three years at Mills. The job I had at Wrekenton, and some of the other people I worked with at Mills are better left forgotten.

I suppose the point is I became a little complacent, even in the depression which has clouded most of my adult life. There may even be a point to be made about my apparently self-loathing, sadomasochistic personality which feels that I deserve this life. How much of this is due to an alternately abusive and absentee father, being rejected by every single girl I ever asked out (my one faltering relationship while I was in education, at the age of seventeen, was her doing, and my next relationship didn't occur till I turned 26). In a nutshell, it's the old experiment of Pavlov's Bell - repeat an action so many times and it becomes akin to a rote action; that is just the way things are. I fancy a girl. I ask her out. She rejects me. I feel bad.

In recent years, since 2008, I've been swimming in the world of online dating. The fact that I have actually had a few dates off there (although not as many as I would like) would seem to suggest that women aren't put off by my personality, although I've had more than a few women who have stopped messaging me when they find out that I live with my mother or like Star Trek or I can't drive or some other factor that escapes me. But the fact that my ratio of first dates to second dates is way out. I can't remember how many first dates I've had - probably twenty or thirty (which over six years isn't that great a number to be honest) but I can count the number of second dates I've had on the fingers of one hand, and in an alarmingly number of those first dates, contact has ended abruptly, usually with them saying that they've had a great time on the night, then simply not replying to my texts.

My last experience of online dating, back in March, looked to be different. She genuinely seemed to like me and liked the same sorts of things I did. Fair enough she lived in North Shields which was a fair trek - especially if you don't drive, and even if you do you have to go through the Tyne Tunnel, one of my least favourite places in the North East. But it wasn't a deal breaker. First date - Sunday - went well, and we met up again on the following Tuesday. Again, it seemed to go really well and we arranged to meet up again on my next day off, which was the Sunday. I was going to go through hers for the entire day. The next day, at work, I got a message from her saying that she thought I was really sweet and although she was over her last relationship, she felt she needed to be on her own, that it wasn't 'the time to start something new with someone'.

Which hurt. It was a real kick in the balls for me, especially coming off the fact that she was the first girl I'd clicked with for the best part of five years, just as I was about to give up. So her profile disappeared off the dating site so I got the impression that she had actually meant it and maybe it wasn't something I had done personally. I've had the whole 'I'm not ready for a relationship' spiel more than once from those girls who've rejected me and actually cared enough to tell me they were rejecting me as opposed to just giving me the silent treatment.

But then her profile reappeared. More than that, she actually checked out my profile again. I probably wouldn't have noticed she was back on there had she not visited my profile. So I sent her a message, not in a creepy stalkerish way, but I was coming up for a week off work and let her know that I was free for stuff if she wanted to do something. I got a polite message back simply saying that her next few weeks were going to be manic but to enjoy my time off work. Fuck off and leave me alone, in other words. The next thing, she's deleted me as a friend off Facebook. So what am I to think? Was it me? Did I do something that upset her and for some reason she didn't have the balls to be honest with me? For whatever hurt it might cause, I'd rather people be honest with me, otherwise I'm liable to wallow in a mire of self-doubt and paranoia.

So I've still been checking out the dating websites I'm signed up to, but it's increasingly become a hollow pursuit. Very few of the people on there even spark my interest and the few that do I'm almost afraid to contact because I think right now I've reached my quota for rejection and I honestly don't know what I would do. I'm 33 with no prospects, never even having had a serious relationship, probably at the halfway point in my life with nothing to show for it apart from a stack of unpublished novels. Everyone else I know, pretty much, is either in jobs that they love, or getting married and having kids and making it look so easy. They can't even begin to understand how difficult it is for me to even get a date with someone.

A friend of mine posted on her Facebook yesterday about a guy she'd met one year ago. Within two months they were living together and have now bought a house together and are obviously very much in love. This is someone who's already been married once before, and done the whole house thing. Another friend of mine is getting married in September. He and his partner have been together for something close to thirteen years, and have lived together for most of that time. Even the pitiful few single friends I have have generally had long-term relationships. I haven't, and no one will even venture an opinion why. They all just come forth with hollow platitudes like, 'You're sweet and there's someone out there for you,' which doesn't make me feel any better. It just highlights what I want and can't have.

When you're young they sell you fairy stories. Boys and girls. Not necessarily the twee stuff of princesses and the fae. But they tell you that you grow up, get a job, meet someone and settle down. In my early teens, full of piss and vinegar, firmly of the belief that I was going to become a bestselling novelist in my twenties, I envisaged that by the time I was thirty, I'd be settled enough in my career to take a risk on a big science fiction epic that would probably take most of the decade to write, be married, have a nice house and possibly even a little kid. As evidenced by this blog, none of that came true. Yet people still buy into it. I've lost count of the women on the dating sites who want to be treat like 'princesses', purely because that was what they were brought up to believe was right. That's why my mother has been inundated by message when she's joined one of the same dating sites I'm on, because it's just the way things are done, that men take all the risks and put themselves out there first. So if I'm unwilling to make the first move, no one else is going to do that for me. Nobody's willing to take a chance on me.

A recent report lists the ratio of men to women in the UK as 105 men to 100 women, which means that, barring those of the homosexual nature (assuming there's a reasonable equal percentage of both on either side), there's an excess of five men who don't have an equivalent female. Am I part of that sad sector. And if so, why? I'm intelligent, reasonably attractive, compassionate. What factors in me turn women off?

I wish somebody would tell me.


Saturday, March 01, 2014

To Debra, On Your 32nd Birthday

Dear Debra,

I've honestly never kept track on how long it's been since we split up. Partially that's due to the fact that we were on, then off, then on again, then off, and then a weird sort of not-quite dating, so the whole period when we were boyfriend and girlfriend is a lot less than the period of our relationship.

It might surprise you to know that I almost never went on our first date. Nerves were getting the better of me. Being on holiday that week, I spent most of the Saturday before our date pacing around the house, restless. I caught the bus to Boldon though, and couldn't read the book I had brought with me because I couldn't concentrate enough. When we finally did meet - and I think at even this stage we'd spent about two to three months messaging each other back and forth - I was so glad that you were actually pretty and we just seemed to click, something that had never happened before with people I've met online and which has only happened once since.

I don't need to tell you how the next few months went. I fell for you hard and fast, so you broke it off after just over a month, at which point I was starting to wonder already if there was something about me that women just didn't like because all my previous relationships had crashed and burned after about the same period. We met up again as friends just before Christmas, for a drink in Sunderland. I was so nervous I ended up puking in the toilets. It took us a while to make another friend-date, but when we did we went out for food and although I wasn't sick again, I spent an awful lot of time thinking I was going to be. Just being around you made me nervous, because my feelings were for you were so strong. It was at this point I ended up watching the entire 200 and odd episodes of Stargate SG1 just to try and take my mind off you. It didn't work.

But by your birthday, your 28th, we were almost back together. I don't know to this day if it was because you wanted it or because you got really drunk and things just happened. You later told me that you wouldn't have done something you didn't want to do, even when completely shitfaced and I want to believe that. But I also worry sometimes about how much you drank when we were together, as though that would make it easier for you to enjoy my company.

We agreed to take it slow and for the first time in my adult life I was happy. I can't overstate the fact here that I'm not exaggerating. My entire adult life, from about the age of sixteen has been one long, tortuous process. Nothing in life works for me, not even the things that other people take for granted. You know you were my first serious relationship, and even to me it's something of a joke that my first (and only, to date) serious relationship lasted, at it's longest point, a little over three months. At the age of 29 I was finally convinced that my life was starting to make sense.

I know you don't understand what I mean when I say you made me happy. I know at the time when I made the mistake of telling you how happy you made me you felt overwhelmed by it, like you had some sort of great personal responsibility to me. That was never the case. Just being with you, part of your life, was enough. You were the first person who seemed to like me for me, who didn't think I was sad or funny-looking or an idiot. You gave me a chance to be your boyfriend and for that I shall be forever grateful.

But you broke my heart. After three months and change. We'd parted on the morning having spent the best part of the weekend together. You said you'd see me the following day for the pub quiz. Then that afternoon you texted me. It was the same thing girls had been saying to me my whole life - the soft rejection, about how they love me to bits, but only as a friend.

As much as I'd like to think otherwise, I think the fact that I'd asked you to go on holiday with me a couple of weeks previously and then, that very weekend, told you that you were the bright centre of my universe, combined to make you panic. You didn't even wait to do it to my face, and while I appreciate the fact you subsequently apologised for the manner in which you broke up with me, I still wish you could have done it to my face, so we could have at least talked about it. Even now, thinking about it, there's an aching in my chest as I relive realising you didn't want me as your boyfriend anymore.

So we spent some time apart, then I, like the fool I was and probably still am, got back in touch and we tried the whole friend thing again. Ultimately, although it limped on for a few short months after that, the whole thing imploded upon itself a week before Valentine's Day 2010. I'd arranged - with your consent - a little Valentine's celebration. It was a week early because I got the weekend off from work. In those days it was the old Mills shifts of 2-11 on a Saturday night, which I know bugged you. There was some family thing on one time when we were actually a couple - Facebook approved and everything - when you wanted me to come along and I couldn't because no one would swap shifts with me at work, and you made a point of mentioning that it was a little awkward there since everyone else was in a couple. (As a sidenote, I find it very interesting that your dating profile on Match - yes, I looked you up afterwards - used a picture from that very night.)

As Valentine's celebrations go, i think I did rather well, apart from your car breaking down in the Galleries car park. But the following day, when you had dropped me off, we got into a text conversation and me being me, I pushed the issue and you admitted that you didn't think it was very likely that you would ever develop romantic feelings for me.

I wish I could say that that was that. That I moved on and met someone else, the someone else that you were apparently so convinced was out there for me.

I didn't. It's probably fair to say that unintentionally, you have ruined my life. Every woman that I'm remotely interested in gets measured up to you. Never mind the lies or the fact that you broke my heart. There was something we had between us that no one else has come close to having.

You know on a Saturday morning, when you were still dozing, I just used to lie cuddled up to you for hours, completely content, because I woke up well before you did. There's been no one since who I could conceive of doing that with. I don't know if I wasn't mature enough for you or what. I hope I never pressured you into anything. But something changed between us between Easter 2009 when we had that perfect weekend - Doctor Who, then a day out to Dunstanburgh Castle with my friends and you said that you were falling for me to the July when being with me was, in your own words, 'driving you mad'.

I tried to make a clean break of it. I unfriended you on Facebook. I even unfriended your flatmates. It nearly killed me not seeing you, not knowing what was going on in your life. I kept your phone number though, and in times of weakness, I'd compose texts to you, thinking there was something I could say that would win you back, something that would make you realise you did actually feel the same way about me that I did about you. A few of them I sent, but to no avail.

I texted you on your birthday. It was either last year or the year before. I honestly can't remember. My life has become an endless malaise of repetition and hollow pursuits. Nothing makes me happy anymore. You said you were with someone else. That you'd been together for seven months. You know what my first thought was?

That's longer than we were together. You're giving him more of a chance than you eve gave me.

But you said you were happy. And I can't begrudge you that. However much it may pain me, I always just wanted you to be happy. Of course, I wanted to be the one who made you happy, but that wasn't in your mind. So you know, if you're happy, I'm glad.

I still love you. But I finally got round to deleting your phone number a few weeks ago. I'm trying to move on but your memory is still too strong. I think it's because you're the only person that I've ever loved. Knowing hos you felt ultimately though, I find it hard to accept how other people feel about me. I'm always looking for that hidden side of them, that part which is going to let me fall for them and then dump me. I've had a few dalliances with other women since you left my life. Nothing even approaching serious. There was one girl who I've had feelings for for a long time - since even before you came into my life and sent me down this road - who broke up with her long term boyfriend and who liked me. And do you know what? Rather than give me a chance, she ended up getting back with her boyfriend, a man who had made her so deeply unhappy for so long that their relationship had gone beyond the unhealthy into the harmful.

It's a recurring motif in my life; people not giving me a chance. And then there's the people who think that just because I'm quiet and shy it means that they can do whatever they like and I won't mind. Or those girls who I like but who I'm too shy to say anything to

In my darkest hours I considered killing myself because you din't love me. Then it stopped just being about you and because about the fact that nobody loved me. If I left this world tomorrow nothing much would change. My boss would just hire a new skivvy. My friends all have their own lives and concerns; not having me around wouldn't make a difference. My mother would be devastated, yes, and that's the main reason I haven't gone through with it. Yet. I feel I have to add that on the end because there have been times, a lot in recent months, when even doing that to my mother, destroying her life, has just barely outweighed the pain and anguish and loneliness that bears down upon me every waking hour.

But you're happy. Or at least you said you were at the time of our last - brief - text conversation. That was either one or two years ago now. You could be married, have kids. You could be living together. You might not even live in that cosy little flat in Farringdon anymore, the flat where I first slept alongside someone.

Maybe I'm just a sentimental old fool and that's why I can't get over you. It's been four years. Four years I've pined after you. You probably never even spare a thought about me. I texted you on your birthday a couple of years ago. I never got a corresponding text back on my birthday, despite it only being five days after yours. Maybe that's the way it always is; the dumpee is the one who is cast adrift, lost in a sea of pain. I've got a couple of friends. They were together for something like thirteen years. Got married, bought a house, sold that, bought another house. Then they split up. Against that, our relationship was little more than a fling. And if it's taking me this long to get over you (to be honest, I don't think I'll ever be over you) something like that would likely kill me. So maybe it's for the best that women just don't seem to like me. The bitch of it all though, is that I can't go on like this. I've been running on empty for so long, wearing a mask even to hide from my closest friends, that one day soon, I'm just going to snap.

In an ideal world, I would have waved you off sadly, mourned our relationship and moved on with my life. If this were a movie, I would have then met someone who surpassed even you. Even in real life, were I granted the things that everyone else seems to find so easy, I would have met someone else. Maybe they wouldn't have clicked as instantly as I did with you, but we would have a solid foundation to work from.

I planned to propose to you. I never told you that, even in my most desperate hours. We were going out. It was the summer, by Christmas we would have been going out nine months solid. I was going to buy you a ring and propose on Christmas Day. It may seem crazy now but you made me so happy and I knew then that I never wanted anyone else in my life.

Maybe I could get over you if someone gave me a chance. If someone helped my break down the walls which I erected after you tore me in half. I don't know. I'd like to think I'm not some completely hopeless cause. I spend a lot of time on dating websites, mainly because I'm rubbish enough at talking to strangers, let alone girls I like, let alone girl I like who I talk to in the flesh where she can see how awkward and clumsy I am. And you know what I notice? Pretty much every one of my age group - and most of those younger than me - lists their longest relationship in multiples of years. I can't. I can just about stretch to months. I'm completely emotionally ill-equipped for a relationship, especially now, coming up for 33 when I'm so inexperienced. I need someone to do what you did for me. Take me in, give me a chance, not fly off the handle when I fuck up, which I will, to guide me through being a boyfriend, because all I have to go on is what I've seen in movies and on the TV and read in books.

But you'll never read this. I'll post it on my blog where a few people may read it. Most of them will think I'm crazy or damaged beyond all hope of repair and they'll probably be right. Because I'm not the kind of guy people take chances on. I would dearly love to be proven wrong, but...

I hope you're happy. I hope you're having a lovely birthday. If I know you you're having your party tonight and not tomorrow on your actual birthday. Which of course means you'll most likely be spending your birthday on the sofa in your pyjamas nursing an epic hangover. I hope he makes you happy.

I hope you get what you deserve.

I hope I do too.

Much love,
Your Ex.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Grumpy Old Man

As I get older (and as I write this, I'm uncomfortably aware that my 33rd birthday is less than two weeks away) I get less and less tolerant of a lot of things. The banal details of other peoples lives. Adverts. Music.

I have to wonder whether this is a result of pure age or my own dissatisfaction with my own life. Lately, I've been attempting just to try and rediscover some joy in my own life, which is difficult when you're in the position that I am in wherein you're alone. There's a great deal to be said for having someone to share things with. Travel for one. Plus, as someone who doesn't drive and has no real desire to learn to (I can see the convenience of having a car but I don't want to have the responsibility for being behind the wheel of what could effectively be a metal death cage of wheels - every day I see the stupidity of other drivers on the road) my options are severely limited in terms of what I can do.

Needless to say, my efforts, which have really coalesced around me getting an Xbox One and a new computer (personal finance is a wonderful thing), haven't been all that successful. Nothing sparks my enthusiasm anymore. Everything seems like a chore and too much like hard work. I've tried starting on a new novel, but as always, the writing muse seems to have deserted me. It wouldn't be so bad were I not still getting ideas for stories. It's just that there's a fundamental miscommunication between the idea on my brain and what appears on the page as I type.

This malaise has even extended to my birthday. I want to organise a party - do something exciting, see all those friends that I never get much of a chance to see anymore. But it's not going to happen. Every time I try and do something, there's always people who don't want to do that or they can't come. Never mind that there's dozens of occasions over the years I've done something for their birthday or wedding or what have you that I haven't really wanted to do but have gone through with because they are my friend and it's their day.

I always try and tell myself that it would be different if I had a girlfriend. I wouldn't be sitting here alone on my day off wallowing in self-pity and feeling sorry for myself because no one's around to come out with me, depressed to such a point that I can't even work up enthusiasm to watch a movie or a TV show box set. Whether that is true or not, I don't know. Me and D always used to have fun on our days off. But that was almost six years ago now, and I haven't managed to have any sort of connection with any girl since. One of my work colleagues thinks that I'm not over D because I still think about her a lot. And he quite rightly pointed out the other day that she could be married and have kids by now. The last time I spoke to her, about two years ago now, she was seeing someone else and had been for about seven months.

But he's wrong about me still being hung up on her. I still think about her so much because I want to try and recapture what we had together with someone else, because the short time we were together was the one and only period of my entire adult life when I can actually remember being happy, like this was the way my life was supposed to be.

But what was so unique about D? For a long time (and I have never had any reason to change my thinking on this scenario) I've believed it was just the fact that she gave me a chance. The fact that ultimately she didn't love me in any way beyond the platonic is just a sad after-effect. The fact remains that she gave me a chance. All through my life I've been rebuffed by girls who've obviously thought that giving someone like me a chance wasn't worth any of their time. I've lost track of how many dates I've gone on from various websites when after one date - you know, the one where you're usually so nervous that you can barely even speak normally, let alone hold enough of a coherent conversation to charm someone - they haven't bothered to stay in touch.

And you know what pisses me off? Aside from people who think they know better about my love life than I do (you know the ones, the ones who always come prepared with empty platitudes like 'there's someone out there for you')? The fact that for reasons entirely beyond my control - I can't force girls to give me a chance - I'm most likely going to end up single for my entire life. I'm never going to be able to text in to a radio show to get a shout out because it's my twentieth wedding anniversary. I'm never going to get a Valentine's Day card.

No one has ever told me that they love me. And I can't see that changing. In fact, I suspect that even if I did meet someone who was willing to give me a chance - and they'd have to make the first move, I'm far too world weary to put myself out there now - I'd think it was some sort of trick, or that they were settling for me.

And people wonder why I spend so much time thinking about killing myself.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Things We Lost In The Fire

I haven't made many friends since leaving school, bit those few I have made have all, with one rare exception, have been online. The internet is a great social tool for people like me, the awkward and the introverted, people for whom a TV show or a film or an author is more important than a sporting event or going out on the lash every weekend. Those people who would rather spend their disposable income on Star Trek DVD's rather than anything else.

I don't know many people like that in real life, but online is another story. I have a couple of dozen or so people who I would think of as friends who I have on my Twitter and Facebook accounts and on various forums, who I've e-mailed and chatted to online, but who I've never met in real life. They come from literally one end of the country to the other, and a number of them are even residents of America and other countries.  They've helped me a lot, whether they know it or not. Some have explicitly spoken to me about things like my depression or novel ideas I've had. I've even flirted with a couple of them.

Which brings me to Jamie.

I was familiar with his name from the pages of SFX magazine. He'd had a few letters published and so on, and I'd paid particular attention because of his surname. After all, 'Starbuck' has a certain cache in science fiction circles. We first came into contact during an experiment that the SFX team organised, a mass-Couch Potato event (if you're unfamiliar with SFX, Counch Potato is a regular feature where a group of people sit around and watch a theme group of films or TV shows and comment, generally taking the piss). The idea for this was that we would all watch Spider-Man 2, which was showing on Channel 5, and we would all comment on Twitter, using a hashtag to follow the conversation.

I was going through a particularly bad patch at the time (a bad patch in the midst of a spate of bad patches, but that's a story for another blog) and this mass reaching out and sense of fan community was something that I grasped a hold of with eager hands. I made a few friends that day, one of whom was Jamie, who was at the time travelling the world having, in his words, 'opted out' of everyday life. Soon we got to e-mailing, first about Lost, which I was catching up with at the time, not having Sky at the time, I was reliant on the DVD releases. I was off work with a back injury and practically mainlining the stuff. We soon got to talking about depression - anyone who gets close to me generally comes up against that topic sooner or later - and it turned out that we had a lot in common. In fact, the main reason Jamie had gone travelling was, he said, because of depression. Soon, we discovered that we had a lot in common, not the least of which being family issues. He even said that we could be brothers.

We stayed in touch for something approaching two years and then he dropped off the radar. I wasn't worried. One of the last e-mails he sent me was all about his trip. He said that people were always asking him when he was coming home and he would always flippantly answer never. But the truth of it was that he planned to travel until his money ran out and then he was going to kill himself. He even described how he was going to do it - neck a bunch of pills on the beach and then fasten a plastic bag over his head. A pretty painless way to go - in my darkest hours when I've considered killing myself, it's always the idea of dying in pain that puts me off. I firmly believe that if I had access to a gun I probably would have ended it a long time ago, as it is walking in front of a lorry or jumping off a building/cliff requires far too much action, far more than just pulling a trigger, and I know I would chicken out before going through with it - and I respected him for that. There's a school of thought that says suicide is a coward's way out. I've never believed that. As an atheist, I don't believe in heaven or hell, or that life is the most precious gift you're given. Life is all about choices, and choosing to end your own life is the ultimate choice you can make and, as someone who has thought about it on many occasions, someone who has often thought that ending it all is the only way to make peace with myself, I can't hold it against someone who is in the same place as I have been in.

That was about a year ago, give or take. Then, the other night, a mutual friend sent me a message of Facebook, telling me to Google his name. I did, and one of the first things that cropped up was a news story on the BBC website. He'd been arrested at Heathrow in January and had just been sentenced to thirty years for the murder of his wife.

I felt sick when I read the story. Instead of having money from selling all his stuff and his house and he had inferred to me, he had stolen the money his wife had received following her mother's death, a sum of around £150,000. He'd then killed her a week after their wedding and gone travelling, sending e-mails to her family and friends under her name to keep up the pretense that they were travelling together.

In all the time we had been e-mailing, he'd never mentioned his wife, other than to refer to her as his 'ex'. Given my own relationship issues, the subject of relationships, their pros and cons, came up quite often. Since the news story came out and I've spoken with people who he'd also been in contact with, with whom he'd mentioned his wife as though they were still together, I have to wonder just how coldly calculating he must have been, maintaining all these separate lies and stories. What did he tell all those people he met in his travels?

I have to wonder if his return to England was a choice he made to own up to his crime, or whether he thought he had gotten away with it and England was a mere stopover in his continuing travels.

My condolences go to his wife, Debbie's family. For them to have such a heinous lie perpetrated on them and for so long - and even now he has apparently never revealed what he did with the body - it's absolutely horrifying.

And so I find myself a little disgusted at myself, because on more than one occasion, Jamie claimed to identify with me, saying how similar we were. I have, for a very long time, been aware of my own social awkwardness, I would describe myself as a misanthrope, possibly even a sociopath, in the most timid sense of the word. But if I'm really so similar to him, would I be capable of such vile acts?

The answer is no. I know that, and hopefully those who know me know that. But sometimes I feel like I could just snap. I've gone through far too much, been rejected or ignored too many times. I am, I have to admit, a deeply unhappy person. Most of what makes me unhappy is that I've been denied those things which other people seem to take for granted. I've spoken before in these pages about how hard I find relationships. Sometimes I think that it's all down to me, but on those days when I don't hate myself too much, I have to admit that a lot of it is down to women - ever since secondary school, girls just don't find me appealing in that way - I'm always described as 'sweet' and that dread phrase, 'I like you, just not in that way' - and very few of them have ever given me a chance to prove myself.

In recent weeks, following another rejection by a woman who never even deigned to meet me (oh, the horrible vagaries of online dating, but it's a lot less nervewracking than actually asking someone out in the real world) I have started to believe that I just might be destined to be alone, and on good days, that idea doesn't seem like such a bad one. In a certain light it can even seem appealing. Never being answerable to anyone, never having obligations. But a lot of the time it also feels very lonely. Could I actually bear to go through life never spending the night with someone, feeling their weight next to me as she lies sleeping in bed?  Is there anything finer than curling up on the sofa watching a movie with someone you love, being so comfortable in each other's company that you feel like that is where you belong?

I honestly don't know, and it's not something I can change by myself. I need someone who's willing to take a chance on me and look past my flaws and let me prove myself. Until then, I remain, as Loudon Wainwright III sang, a one man guy.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Another 'Depression Sucks' Blog. Apologies In Advance

I've been off work since Monday and, a little spring cleaning aside, I have done very little. I've had a couple of days out, true, including a visit to Newcastle, which I don't do that often since I started working in Sunderland and don't need to get a travelcard that covers the whole region. Today I went to see Iron Man 3 (very good). I haven't even watched that many DVDs, which is usually what I do when I have time to myself. I did fix my bike and go for a bit of a ride on Wednesday, with the intention of doing that regularly and trying to return to some semblance of fitness.

So, yes, I guess this is going to be another blog about depression.

Because, you see, I did have plans for this week. And they involved a girl. A girl I've liked for a very long time. We're talking about something approaching fifteen years here, and I knew her a long time before that as well. And when I say liked, yes, I mean fancied. We fooled around a bit on one occasion when I was 18, and then we went our separate ways, only bumping into each other one in a while. She got herself a serious boyfriend, and so that would be all she wrote.

Aside from last year, somehow - I can't remember the details - we got talking again and it became clear that her and her boyfriend were going through a rough patch. It was the usual sort of thing that seems to crop up amongst our generation - he didn't seem to find her attractive any more, they weren't doing anything together - you know the song. She wanted marriage and kids. He didn't. It transpired that she was going to break up with him. One thing led to another and I made my feelings known. We fooled around a bit and then she decided that she wanted to try and give the relationship another go. So I, like any gentleman, stepped back and let them get on with it.

Then they split up.

We chatted a little and I asked her out, but she said it was too soon and I respected that. I told her to get in touch when she felt like giving something a go. And she did. In a roundabout sort of way. I was posting about the new Star Trek film on Twitter and she replied. That reply led to a conversation and it seemed like we were going down the road towards having that date I'd asked for months ago.

The first date got postponed because she was full of cold and she went from texting me all the time to not texting much at all. At the time I put it down to my own bad mood; I had a migraine that ended up lasting two weeks and wasn't in the right frame of mind to talk to anyone. But once I had shaken that off, she was still aloof. Despite the fact that we'd made plans for the Monday night, and whenever I mentioned them she would reply in the affirmative, she was being very quiet. And on Saturday I found out why. I got a message from her ex-boyfriend on Facebook. She must have told him about us, or else intimated that I was on the scene, and he sent me quite an abrasive message asking to know if me and his ex-girlfriend were involved. He accused me of harassing her, which, to the best of my knowledge I never did. I got the message while I was at work so didn't have a chance to reply and by the time I got home he'd sent another message basically calling me a coward and telling me that if I ever grew a pair to message him. So I messaged him back, asking him, in no uncertain terms, what business of it was his if we were involved or not. Then it all came out; he was going over there that night to try and sort things out with her. He claimed to be doing the gentlemanly thing by getting in touch with me first as if we were involved he was going to leave it. So I told him that if he wanted to know, he would have to be a man and ask her.

Late on Sunday night I got a text for her saying that she was back with him. That she loved him and always would.

Now, on a purely intellectual level, fair do's to both of them. I can't begrudge anyone that chance at being with the one they love. But, on a gut level, it hurts. Firstly because she was clearly playing us both at the same time and secondly because she couldn't be honest with me.

So I'm blaming that whole sorry escapade as the reason I've spent much of this week in a funk. Because it's been a long time since I had anyone interested in me and even longer since that interest was mutual. I've almost given up on ever finding that special person that everyone claims is out there for me. Every so often I'll get really down about it and spend an hour or so on Plenty of Fish or OKCupid, which usually gets me even more down because there's loads of single pretty girls out there who like the same sorts of things as I do but who obviously take one look at my profile and decide to ignore me.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Squee versus What Has Happened To The Magic Of Doctor Who?

When it comes to Doctor Who I'm an old school fan. Not tremendously old school - An accident of birth meant that when I was of the prime age to become a fan, it was on opposite Coronation Street which was one of the only programmes my mother watched and we lived in a house with only one television and no video recorder. So it was a bit of a fluke that I became enamoured of a show that I only saw in glimpses before the early nineties when BBC 2 ran a season of repeats to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary. From there it was a slippery slope via tie in fiction (the New Adventures are still 'real' Doctor Who to me, Bernice Summer field as canon and Iran and Barbara or Rose).

By the time the Russell T Davies revival occurred, pretty much the entirety of fandom had written off the show's chances of coming back on telly. And, quite frankly, not many people cared. We had a series of well written novels, monthly audio plays with full casts, including a range starring Paul McGann which, as far as we were concerned, was the official continuation. Then, come the fortieth anniversary, came the sudden announcement that not only was the show coming back, but RTD would be at the helm. At the time he was not only one of the countries premier scriptwriters but he was a card carrying fan, having authored the incredibly dark and brilliant New Adventure novel Damaged Goods.

And lo and behold, it was a sudden success again. In spite of garnering viewing figures comparable to the 'failed' McGann endeavour, the Doctor Who logo was soon everywhere and all kids wanted for Christmas was a Dalek. This was a series that had something to prove. The cast was littered with heavyweight actors from Eccleston on down (and despite this, former pop moppet Billie Piper, the one who had fans shuddering when news of her casting broke, proved the break revelation). The writing wasn't glib, but there was a rich vein of humour amongst the drama. It changed the face of TV. Until Who's revival, family drama just didn't exist anymore, and more certainly not on a Saturday night in prime time. For years the BBC had been claiming that there was no audience for science fiction and fantasy (despite the overwhelming evidence provided by cinema receipts) and suddenly here was their flagship product - a show about a nine hundred year old alien who travelled through space and time. Following Who's lead were, amongst others, Robin Hood, Primeval and Merlin,

Now cut to eight years later, on the cusp of the fiftieth anniversary, Eccleston is long gone, although his successor David Tennant still commands a loyal following, we've had companions come and go (although sadly they've stuck with the formula established for Billie Piper's Rose of coming from present day Earth, and Catherine Tate's superlative Donna Noble aside, they've all been in their early twenties). The show is now more successful than ever, having conquered America. We'be had two spin offs, the variable but at times brilliant Torchwood and the wonderful Sarah Jane Adventures which sadly ended with the tragic passing of Elisabeth Sladen. BBC Books are even starting to publish books starring past Doctors, something that was unthinkable eight years ago when they stopped their line of Past Doctor Adventures, as they were monikered, so as to avoid confusion with the current series. RTD has gone on to pastures new, although to variable success, and, appointed as his successor is the venerable Steven Moffat.

I've been a fan of Moffat for longer than I've been a fan of Doctor Who. Press Gang was one of the greatest shows ever expounded by CITV, and I happily admit to being one of only five people in the world who enjoyed Joking Apart and Chalk. His scripts for the first four series of Doctor Who 2005 were generally the best story in each year (RTD's Turn Left narrowly wins out for Series 4) and Blink is, on certain days, my favourite Doctor Who story of all time. As you might expect then, the news that he was taking over as show runner was met with a hearty round of applause from me.

I had my misgivings when the virtual unknown Matt Smith was cast as the Doctor, but within five minutes of his debut story, I was sold. He might well have been as slightly younger than me, but he was astounding as the Doctor. The casting of the wonderfully scowly Karen Gillan (Scottish and ginger - two of my favourite things) complemented him perfectly. And over the course of the next two and a half years, Moffat took us down routes we never thought possible in Doctor Who. A married couple in the TARDIS. The Doctor himself getting married. Intricate arc plots that last more than a season.

But something happened over that two years - something that I cant quite put my finger on. The writing is as solid as ever, the acting has never been better. This is a show brimming with confidence. It has a cocky swagger that would annoy in most other shows.

Perhaps it is me. Maybe something has changed in me and Doctor Who just doesn't fill the void that once it did. Some of it still does; the classic series still holds its place in my heart. I can't imagine a time when I won't find some joy in a DVD or a book featuring the Doctor. I think a lot of it has to do with the new legion of fans who have grown to love the Doctor with this new incarnation of the series. While us of the old guard tend to get into the backstage details of the show, bandying names like Victor Pemberton and Trevor Ray around, from my perspective, the new fans are all about the emotional relationship between the Doctor and his companions. The overall scheme of the story is secondary to these characters. This is quite opposite to the way the show used to be run. It used to be story above all. In its own way, Doctor Who used to be an anthology show that just happened to have the same lead cast every week.

I don't want to get into a debate that this whole argument basically boils down to me saying 'It's not like it was in the olden days!' Because I, more than most, am aware of how television has changed in the sixteen years that Doctor Who was off the air. There was a famous essay published in 1976 that was essentially a hatchet job on a then recent Tom Baker story, The Deadly Assassin, entitled What Has Happened To The Magic Of Doctor Who, by the then president of the Doctor Who Appreciation Society. It was effectively someone spitting out their dummy because the show had grown and changed, in ways not to his liking.

The fans used to own Doctor Who. In the nineties, it was largely the fans who authored the New Adventures, many of whom, like Paul Cornell and Gareth Roberts have gone on to work on the series professionally. The new generation of fandom won't have the chutzpah or balls to challenge the status quo as they once did. While Doctor Who used to be about telling stories, it's now about the Doctor and his companions, a format which allows for much less invention. A format that doesn't ask for invention.

That sadly is the nature of television today.

Peace out.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Rip It Up And Start Again

Nostalgia is a dangerous game to play.

There is the old saying that you can never go back home. That is not strictly true. You can, and at some point in your life, you will go back home, metaphorically or literally. It's just that it will never be the same. No matter how little has changed in the real world, you will have changed inside, and it's change that can never be undone.

So, it's with a little sense of trepidation that I embark upon this blog because, at its very heart, it's about how things just aren't like they were in the good old days. Now, as someone who is rapidly approaching 32, the idea of the good old days might seem a bit strange. In the grand scheme of things 32 years is nothing. In terms of adult life, it's sixteen years, which isn't even two James Bonds (it's Doctor No to the year after Roger Moore's greatest movie, The Spy Who Loved Me, if you're interested). But in that time so much has changed, and so quickly, that I sometimes feel like the world has changed irrevocably and left me stranded by the wayside.

I never had a mobile phone until my last year of university, when I was 22. In the space of about ten years they went from this wonderful, magical thing that you only ever saw on American TV (Zack Morris and Dana Scully, I'm looking at you) to being this indispensable thing, even for someone like me, who hated ringing people. Yet I was at a party on Sunday and left my iPhone there. On Monday morning I was naked without out (not literally, you understand). It's my phone, my clock, my alarm, my internet - I use it for Facebook more than I use my desktop or laptop, and I never use Twitter on anything else. If it wasn't for my iPod, it would be my personal stereo.

I never had a VCR until I was 8. I distinctly remember coming home one afternoon and asking my parents if I could watch Rainbow (look it up on Wikipedia if you need to - I still maintain it was the greatest kid's show of all time) and being informed that I had missed it. Now, at such a young age 0 I couldn't have been more than three or so - I didn't quite grasp that I had missed my chance to see it. Nowadays that doesn't hap;pen. With so many channels, the schedules are clogged with repeats to start with, before you even take into account the divine witchcraft that is Sky+ (God bless you, series link) and catch up sites on the internet like iPlayer and 4OD. Hell, if I really wanted to, I could probably track down that episode of Rainbow I missed all those years ago on YouTube. I know I've wasted many an afternoon watching old adverts and music videos on there that I had once thought lost to time, unless given an unlikely DVD released.

Even the blessed season box set has changed the way we do things. When I was younger, you were lucky if any episodes of a TV series you adored got released on video, let alone the entire run. Only exalted series like Star Trek and Doctor Who got the full series on video (missing episodes excepted of course), and even then it was two episodes per (bulky) tape, leading to, in my house at least, an entire wall that was covered in shelves just to house my Star Trek video collection. Now, on shiny DVD and Blu Ray, it doesn't even take one shelf to accommodate every single episode of Star Trek ever made.

So there are a great many ways in which my life (and everyone else's) have been improved by the advent of this technology, but this embarrassment of riches has led me to think that the culture we live in today has acquired a depressingly disposable attitude, particularly in its approach to art. When everything is available at the touch of a button and so much is not tangible any more (downloaded movies and music, eBooks) nothing lasts or has any real value. It has made the world a rather fickle and superficial place. One of the main reasons I have held off eBooks for so long is the sheer pleasure of being able to hold a book in your hands, having the smell rising off the pages, the pride I feel in having an actual physical library. Of course, I now come to the point where I don't have much room for any more books and the convenience of having them all on a palm sized hand held device is very tempting.

When I was a kid I had one bookcase. Two shelves, about four foot long each. It's the same bookcase that my mother now has in her bedroom. That used to be enough for me. As I grew older and got more money to spend on stuff I liked, it got full, then books started to get piled on top of it, then more bookcases were bought. The number of bookcases I now have in my bedroom is easily in the double figures and each one is filled to bursting. Then there's the boxes and boxes I have stored in the garage. Because I just don't have the room any more. But if I can have all of those books on one little gizmo (providing it doesn't break down) who am I to argue with progress?

Rob

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

What I Really Mean When I Say "I'm Fine."

As I may have mentioned before, I don't have much of a social life. I have a few good friends who I've known for a great many years, who I'm lucky to be able to call friends. But by and large they all moved away when we were eighteen to go off to university and even those few who didn't, have moved out of the immediate area due to work and relationships and the like. I didn't forge any lasting friendships while I was at university, and beyond being 'Facebook Friends' with a few former colleagues, my past workmates have faded into obscurity.

So needless to say, I don't get out much. Not being the most outgoing type either, I tend to shy away from social situations where I don't know anyone. If I have the misfortune of being in a situation where I only know one or two people, I latch on to them and use them as a kind of shield. It goes so far that all the friends I have now are those who I've come to know through friends I already had. This doesn't make it easy to go out and meet people, especially not those of the opposite sex. Plus the fact that I'm a guy and despite the whole world being equal now (apparently) it's still expected of the guy to do the asking out while the woman has to be passive.

Whether this has added to my depression or is a root cause of it, I don't know. I know that over the years as my depression has grown my discomfort at new experiences has grown and become more rooted. Sometimes, when I have wanted something so badly (like my relationship with D - not that ended well) I've managed to overcome my inhibitions. But mostly that ends up with me being kicked in the teeth, metaphorically. I have a friend who has the good fortune to not only be a brilliant writer but to be a published one as well, with a great deal of critical success. A couple of summers ago I visited her and ended up giving her some of my own writing, begging her opinion on it. I still haven't heard back from her, and a couple of messages I sent her have gone unanswered. I met up with her again this past summer (if you can call that dismal grey season a summer) and neither of us mentioned it. On my part it was a mixture of embarrassment and a desire not to be seen as a nagging twat. I wouldn't like to speculate on her reasons, but she probably had more important things to do. Which is a great part of the reason why I have never had the nerve to send any writing off to a publisher or agent. I'm just not that forceful a person, my self-esteem is in ruins and although I do think I'm a decent enough writer, my ego isn't big enough for me to think that other people should read my scribblings.

I've been very down these past few weeks, a fact not helped by a sustained bout of illness - a virus followed swiftly by an abscess that made half my face swell up followed by a bout of the flu, then the abscess led to me having a tooth removed - and the fact that work is still getting to me. Not that I talk to anyone about this. Whenever anyone asks how I am, I say "I'm fine," because while they may be asking, they don't want to want to hear about your problems, especially not when they are as long standing as mine. They're just being polite. Which is one of the reasons for this blog, however occasionally I contribute to it. It's a way to get it out of my system, and I know that some of my closest friends read it and knowing that gives me some small measure of comfort because although they may be at the other end of the country (or in some cases in another country entirely) I can explain myself to them, even if I am not this articulate or honest in my everyday life.

I'm off out tonight, just to the local pub for a pint or two and the weekly quiz. I hope that my dark mood lifts somewhat in the company of friends and that blowing off some steam will do me some good. And I have an idea for a new story that I hope will reignite my writing career.

Peace out.