Engagement Metrics

Well, it’s been a few months without an update. I should write something up about the first third or so of 2022, but in keeping with my current vague remit for this blog being “a limited sort of personal diary for when I’m old and don’t remember what happened when” the big headline: on the 27th of April, a year to the day after moving in to the house, Miranda and I got engaged.

I am quietly (ok, loudly) pleased that even though she’d been on at me to propose for ooh, a while, and I’d been saying “I have a plan for that”, I still managed to actually surprise her. In related news: it turns out that even when one is 99.999% sure that the answer will be yes, actually proposing is still nerve-racking.

a photo of the two of us, holding champagne and showing off the engagement ring

So yeah, life is now entirely about wedding planning. We’re doing (I think) OK at it so far. I’m sure it’ll all get more stressful as we go.

2021

Well, that was a year that happened, wasn’t it? I more or less skipped the year-in-review last year, because it felt kind of like a write-off.

2021 did not. Miranda and I bought a house. That’s still astounding to me. It’s been stressful at times, and will continue to be stressful, I’m sure, but we bought a house. It was interesting to go through that process, and I feel like I understand it much better now than I did before. I mean, you’d hope, wouldn’t you? But also, it’s a frighteningly opaque thing if you haven’t done it – it’s one of those practical life things that is not taught, and everyone is just kind of left to blunder through, despite it being just about the biggest thing one will ever do, in financial terms, at least.

Not much else of huge note happened, and I still haven’t been able to properly resume my hobbies, life is definitely not back to “normal” yet, but Miranda and I have been very fortunate this year. Many of our friends and family have not.

So if I have a hope for 2022, it’s for everyone else. I say some variant on it every year, that I just want us all to be happier next year than we were this, and I always mean it, but god, 2021 has been just ghastly, and I just want things to improve for you all, both on a personal level, and on a state-of-the-world level.

As far as personal plans: well, I’m going to start running a classic tabletop RPG campaign (Masks of Nyarlathotep), and I really hope I do it justice for my players. And I’d like to figure out the process of getting a new kitchen. Another hugely expensive thing that no-one teaches you how to do. Oh and in theory, a big project I’ve been working on in my spare time for most of this year will go live at some point, but I’m filing that under wait-and-see.

Bill Vaughan, the American aphorist, has a new year phrase. “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.”

Tonight, I’m strongly considering just going to bed early.

Old Enough To Know Better

In a week’s time this blog will be old enough to drink in the US. 21 years of my drivel is more than anyone needs, but I’ve been re-reading the stuff from my mid-to-late 20s (I needed to look something up and fell down a bit of a hole), and it’s simultaneously wince-inducingly egotistical (with the caveat that a lot of that period was written for Livejournal, which had it’s own set of content norms) and well, actually quite funny in parts, if I say so myself.

I’d try and write a bit more like that now, but I don’t think I can do it without also invoking the wince-inducing parts. Obviously, 40-something year old me is enjoying how much 20-something year old me thought he knew. My major sin appear to have been being far too impressed with my own cleverness, and when 60-something year old me reads this, I imagine he’ll think much the same. Still, if you can’t laugh at yourself, who can you laugh at?

All credit to those of you who put up with me in my twenties and are still around – you obviously have the patience of saints. (Those of you who put up with me now will get thanked when I’m in my 60s, obviously. Stick around.)

But wow, the number of people I’ve more or less lost touch with from that era is both humbling and bit saddening. (In as much as they were lovely people I was hanging out with.) Obviously, that’s just life at work – there are only so many hours in the day, and people grow and change, and there really only so many relationships one can properly maintain.

I could fill this post with a list of names of people I’d love to catch up with in the manner of a school reunion, but there’s no real social construct for a 10/20 year reunion of a random set of friends that some group members have drifted apart from – the closest was the V-reunion we had the other year, but the other friend groups have nothing like it. (And in many cases are still going reasonably strong, I just don’t see the people involved in the flesh more than once in a blue moon.)

There’s a decent number of the obvious names that I’m connected to on Facebook, but it’s absolutely not the same – but then we’re all (I was about to write 10, but it’s closer to) 20 years older, and doing memes spelling out our usernames in the titles of albums we like is probably something we’ve outgrown. And there’s still more that I’m definitely not connected to any more. Casualties of my not being on Facebook at the time Livejournal died, as much as anything I imagine.

But those various social-network memes of “if you’re reading this, even if we don’t speak much, post a memory of me” make quite a lot of sense in that context. They’re a way to assert/check for a form of intimacy that social media robs us of, and the last year has particularly robbed us of.

I’m obviously not going to do one of those, but in the unlikely event that the people I’ve dropped out of regular contact with – those of the V I don’t see much any more, the varous semi-reformed-goths, the Saturday afternoon coffee-opposite-the-British-Museum people, the London actual goth crowd of Slimelight and various other clubs circa 2004-2007 are reading this: yes, I do still think about you with a smile. (And not just when I’ve been re-reading old blog entries.) If anyone is organising a reunion, do let me know.

Home Ownership!

Well, we’ve owned a house for slightly more than a month, and we’ve been living in it for exactly four weeks today. Somehow, it feels longer. That may be because the internet has yet to be installed, thanks to a series of fuckups by Openreach, and I’m still hotspotting off a phone, so most of the things I would normally do to pass the time are off the table. But it’s not like there hasn’t been plenty to do.

But still bit by bit, the place is starting to take shape. It’s got any number of little niggles – the cooker is too small, there’s a horrible cupboard in my office, and if we tear it out, the carpet will look dreadful – but we own a house.

I’ve been pleased to find that for almost every niggle, there’s been something I like more than I expected to (because, like I said last time, we bought it on the basis of 5 mins viewing). The carpets are better than I thought, the red in the bedroom is much more liveable with, most of the kitchen cupboards are pretty decent…

We’ve already had the first bit of work done – ripping out a hideous old 70s gas fireplace in the dining room – and we’re booking people to get new floors in downstairs, which will hopefully take care of the rather chilly draftiness we’re getting with the current exposed floorboards. (They look nice, and they’re characterful, but they’re not remotely insulated at all, and we like to be warm.)

Each week brings something new, or at least something booked to look forward to – this week, our dining room table and chairs get delivered. It’ll be nice to actually eat at a table again. And we have a list of ongoing stuff – painting and decorating, cabinetry, furniture and so on that’ll last us the next few years, in a one-step-at-a-time sort of way.

I am 100% sure that all this rubbish, and the fact that I have unquestionably become someone whose major topic of conversation is “their new house and what they’re going to do with it” makes me wildly tedious at the moment. In my defense, I’ve been renting for 20 years, living with a place that I liked living in, but could not change. Now, we live somewhere we really can make our own, and Covid means there really isn’t anything else going on in my life right now. But I am at least aware of how fortunate I am, even as I bore my friends rigid. That makes it better, right?

Housebuying, part 2

I won’t be publishing this until I get the news that contracts have been exchanged (because that’s the point everything is locked in, and I refuse to jinx it by saying we’re done in public until we are) but we’re a whisper away from that now. It was supposed to be today, but I just got the email telling me it’ll be tomorrow now.

And that’s been painfully characteristic of the last 3 months. A constant nagging sense of waiting for someone else to do something, that they’re nearly ready to do. Nearly, but not quite.

And now here we are at the end of the process. Or rather, the start of the next process. Frankly, the rather more daunting one: actually moving. Packing the accumulated detritus of 20 years in one place, and transferring it to somewhere it’ll spend the next couple of decades. I have a 30 item to-do list assembled, all of which is waiting on the final confirmed go date before I can do any of it. Some of it is mundae stuff like “cancel gym membership”. Some of is no less mundane, but is sufficiently new to me that it feels less mundane that I have to do it. (“Buy washing machine”.) And some of it is stuff I never thought I’d get to do in my life (“get quotes to re-do the double glazing”).

It still feels absolutely mad to me that we have shelled out close to seventy thousand pounds (and taken on more in debt obviously) to buy a house that we’ve been in for five minutes. I’ve spent longer deciding which pasta shape I want to buy in the supermarket before now.

But still: if all goes to plan, by the end of this week I’ll have life insurance, and a house. And I’m still not going to feel like a grown up.

Housebuying, Part 1

I’m sure I’ll want to add more to this in the future, hence the part 1.

So, at the start of the year, Miranda and I decided 2021 was going to be the year we bought somewhere to live. We thought we might just about have scraped together enough deposit money to get a toe-hold on the ladder, thanks to the latest round of freelancing I’ve been doing. (Thanks to a couple of surpises, and some fortutitous timing, we’re doing a bit better than that, but we didn’t know that when we started.)

So we went house hunting, and we’ve had an offer accepted, and mortgage approved. There’s a couple of survey-type hurdles to clear, and we’re very aware that nothing’s final until we’ve got the keys in our hands, but in the space of 4 weeks we’ve gone from “can we really do this?” to already being very much into the tedious part, where paperwork largely gets sorted out at one remove from us, and other people get their ducks in a row so that we eventually end up with a moving date.

The speed that this has gone from “a pipe dream” to “this is really happening” is little scary. And at the same time, it can’t possibly happen fast enough.

Tune in next time, when I’ll either be complaining about how the survey was terrible, and the house not fit for purchase, or about the sheer stress of moving after most of 20 years in one flat.

2020

I’ve written a year in review most years since this blog started. I have not always published them. This year feels almost like it needs no reviewing, because god, it was rubbish.

At the end of 2019 I wrote: “I can’t say I’m looking forward to 2020 on a global scale, but on a small and personal level, I’m really excited for the year to come.”

I feels rather like that came true with knobs on.

Within the scope of the dreadful, dreadful year it has been, it hasn’t been all bad. I could not have wished for anyone better to spend this year with than Miranda. I got a new job that I like very much, I took on freelance work I’m proud of, and I’ve generally been as happy as the situation has allowed. I’ve missed all my friends and my family hugely, but I feel I’ve made reasonable use of my time, which is as much as one can ask, really.

No-one close to me has died, which makes me more fortunate than many people I know, and even after clearing the “no-one died” bar, this has been a record-settingly appalling year for those near and dear to me.

I also wrote: “I hope that when the time comes to take stock at the end of 2020, we can all find ourselves happier than we are today.”

It seems foolish to repeat that wish for 2021, because it almost seems impossible that we won’t be – and yet, I know there are plenty of people for whom 2021 will very likely be worse, because this isn’t all magically going to end at midnight.

So, I don’t really what to wish for. “2021: may it suck as little as possible for the largest number of people” is not exactly the optimistic start to the new year I’d like.

So instead, I’ll fall back on an old Irish saying that I like at this time of year:

Let those who love us, love us;
And those who do not love us,
May God turn their hearts;
And if he cannot turn their hearts,
Let him turn their ankles,
So we may know them by their limp

Happy New Year, folks. Here’s to 2021, for as much good as it may do us.

Maybe I Can Manage Monthly Updates

It’s not likely, though, is it? I remain lightly frustrated that the ongoing problem with pinboard’s RSS feed means my automated linkposts have gone the way of the dodo, so this place is getting nothing unless I remember it exists. Still, onwards…

So, COVID. Everything is halfway back to normal, and still deeply weird. Still full-time WFH, no serious prospect of that changing before the end of the year, I think. I went to pubs and restaurants last week, but I honestly felt guilty about doing it, and my plans for this week don’t involve leaving the house.

I’m back at the gym – I’m actually about to pause drafting this entry to go, because I have to book in advance for specific timeslots, to prevent overcrowding – and managing to go 5-6 days a week, which I’m pleased about.

That’s symptomatic of how the world feels at the moment – most things are open, but nothing’s the same as it was, and everything still feels like it’s a risk assessment to do anything, and everything could turn back into “don’t leave the house for any reason” at any moment. I suppose if there’s anything that I want to capture as an aide-memoire for this moment, it’s that – the oddity and precariousness of “normal life”.

Oh, and the awful sense that the worst is yet to come as the monsters running the country have clearly decided that they can hide the economic impact of their no-deal brexit in amidst the economic impact of COVID, and basically everything will be ruined forever.

And that sounds like a joke, but really it’s not. I don’t know how I can forgive the generation ahead of me, or apologise enough to the ones behind me. The gap between the lives of privilege that my parents enjoyed, and what I, and more importantly, my nieces, have to look forward to has never seemed starker. My parents got a free education, free healthcare all their lives, and then have been able to retire to a comfortable standard of living, and then their generation rolled the ladder back up after them to destroy their children and grandchildren’s future.

Well, that took a turn, didn’t it? I’ll stop now before I get really depressed.

20 years

This blog – in the sense of this archive of material – turned 20 years old on the 20th of June this year. It started out on powered by Blogger in 2000, quite a lot of it was written on Livejournal, there was a brief period where parts of it were on some other self-hosted platform I don’t remember the name of, but for the most part, it’s been on a number of WordPress installs, across something like seven different servers now.

I’d put plenty of writing on-line by June 2000 – I hand-coded the HTML of my first website in 1996, and I’d perpetrated all sorts of juvenalia in the intervening 4 years for PopImage.com, Machinima.com and a bunch of other places, (and I’ve even been paid for some of it), but by June 2000, I owned this domain, and had hooked it up to Blogger, via the charmingly naive expedient of giving a third party tool FTP access to my server. The past really was another country, wasn’t it? At that time, it was a sub-page of my site, titled “Inkstains”, and it wasn’t until a 2002 “redesign” that it became the main page. (That’s in quotes because for much of the time prior to that point, the “main page” more or less said “Coming soon, in the meantime, check out my blog”.)

I wrote custom code over the years to ship posts from here to Livejournal, and from other sources to here, and ran other topic specific blogs that scraped each others feeds for posts and all sorts of other nonsense through the 00’s and early teens, and then spent about a week in 2014 bringing it all back here, where it has lived ever since.

I don’t see that changing. I’m sure I’ll move servers and writing platforms in the future, but only when they can keep this archive intact. I really like controlling my own little slice of the internet. It’s a disused backwater, sure, but it’s been my disused backwater for quite a long time.

I was in my last week of working for This Is Local London when I started this blog. I moved from there to a company called iPoints, where I spent a couple of years learning to code badly (no reflection on my colleagues of the time) and from there to a number of different employers, where I’ve learned to code semi-adequately. This blog has outlasted most of my commercial projects. Some companies have gone bust, others been acquired, but I don’t think any company I worked for prior to 2018 still exists in quite the same form, and I would not be confident that any code I wrote is live anywhere except at the job I finsihed at this week, or on websites I operate.

The internet is kind of an impermanent place, and my two-decade career has left very few lasting marks anywhere on the internet, except for this archive.

I hope I’ll be able to look back on it in the same way when it turns 30.

Looking Back in Sorrow

So the comic writer Warren Ellis has been publically outed as a predatory individual. That’s both tremendously sad and, if I’m honest, not suprising. We all knew about it, in ways that seemed excusable at the time. We were wrong to think it was as excusable as we did.

I could write at length about it, but a) this isn’t about me, and b) someone else from that era has written at length about it, and done a better job that I might.

As Harris says in his article, it’s not about him, or me, or even (in some senses) really about Warren, but about a broader culture. But still, I, and many of my friends are reckoning with our small parts in that culture, and the things we did not say or do, and with hindsight, wish we might have, and how we can do better in future.

Mostly, of course, it starts with listening to, and believing, what women say about him, and men like him.

And selfishly, I just wish that was harder than it is.