16 years

16 years

Another AA birthday, sobriety anniversary or soberversary as it is variously called.

16 years one day at a time as they say. I never thought I’d get 16 weeks, 16 months let alone 16 years when I started. But here we are.

My son (30 in August) pointed out I’ve been sober more than half his life. The fact I have him and his sister in my life is just fantastic and I’m so grateful to be sober, free, happy, calm and loved. Never believe that the pain of drinking again is ever worth giving up giving up.

Stay safe and take care.

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Book review – Clockwork Lives

Clockwork Lives by Kevin Anderson & Neil Peart.

Neil, if you don’t know, was drummer for the Canadian trio Rush through most of their career and also the main (nearly exclusive) lyricist. He is also a known author having written travelogues etc in the past. There was a Rush album Clockwork Angels which it transpired was the last Rush album before Neil Peart firstly retired from music and subsequently far too young died from brain cancer earlier this year. In my humble opinion I view it as one of their very best vying with Moving Pictures as my all time favourite. Clockwork Angels was a full blown concept album in the original 1960s/70s meaning. A complete story told through a connected suite of songs. The story was set in an alternative universe where a Victoriana steampunk vision existed with a population guided by a leader called the watchmaker and the amazing adventures of a young man travelling through this world. Neil worked with Kevin (a noted Sci fi author) on a book also called Clockwork Angels that made the story available in a novel format.

Clockwork Lives is a follow up book set in the same world at the same time with some overlapping characters but this time we’re focused on Miranda Peak a young lady who after her father dies has to undertake a risky trip due to his legacy to her. His legacy is a book with alchemy treated pages which when a drop of blood fall in them will write the donner’s life story. Miranda needs to fill the book before she can inherit her father’s wealth.

It’s an engaging read as you follow Miranda on her at times perilous journey and then you get to read the life stories of those she meets on the way and fills the pages of Clockwork Lives with. The best part if you’re a Rush fan is the multitude of lyrical references to Neil’s body of work with them. From the Nechromancer, the Fountain of Lambeth, even the ship Rocinente appears in a very different guise. My favourite was the reference by a book seller to the four Volumes of Fear and their odd release sequence.

Sadly I’ll never hear a new song with Neil’s lyrics and I’ll not read another book he authors but as a final work with its references back to his great body of work with Rush this is a tour de force. I thoroughly recommend it to Rush fans or people who enjoy escapism novels alike.

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It’s been a year…

With the trepidation of breaking my luck I’m going to say it…. It’s been over a year now since I had an significant form of vertigo attack. Given 2 years ago I was struggling with attacks of some sort that were debilitating pretty much every day that’s I feel frankly remarkable. Actually this is the longest run with no serious attack in many many years as for a long time, at least since 2009, I was having at least one notable attack roughly every 6 months.

How has this transformation happened? Well it wasn’t overnight and it is still not complete. I still have occasional momentary flashes where it feels like the world is starting to spin but then it instantly steadies. 6 months ago I was getting 1 or 2 of them a day now I get about 1 a week. Also I have days where I feel “wobbly”. I avoid driving and will take it easy on those days. Again the frequency of them is falling.

The reasons I feel are many. First settling into retirement, still takes time to accept that you no longer have work dictate much of your life. Secondly a particular drug regime has taken about a year to settle on fixed dosages etc it’s now acceptable with some of the side effects reduced others I’m having to accept but it’s certainly tolerable. I’ve ended on a suite of 4 drugs with some unusual dosages that cause my pharmacy some occasional hassles getting the right tablets. Finally my firm belief is the set of daily exercises I start my day with given to me 2 years ago by a terrific neuro-physiotherapist. A man who listened, encouraged and made you feel you would succeed. Over time, and he said it would take a long time, they have helped retrained my brain to cope with my buggered up balance system. Also they help me determine early a bad day from a good day and the severity of bad as well.

My advice to anyone with a balance disorder is to push for a neuro-physiotherapy referral and work with them on tailoring a package for you. I believe if you stick with it it will potentially be the biggest help to your condition.

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A New Year

It has been a long time since I wrote anything here.  No excuse other than I’ve not felt I had anything relevant to say.  But that’s probably not true… I never had anything relevant to say in the first place!

Happy 2020 to you.  I hope it brings you whatever it is you seek.  For me I’m now seeking to get into retirement!  I’ve sort of felt somewhat “on hold” for a long time now, pretty much since my post on here back in the summer when I decided to embrace retirement and not worry about working anymore.

Having made that decision I started to talk to the various providers for the pension pots I’d accumulated over the years saying I’d retire officially on my birthday last October.  For some of them that was no problem, I filled out forms, sent them back, got asked for some more forms etc.  But the one that actually was the main source of retirement income has taken an age to get sorted out but finally today I got an initial payment that in on account for about half of the arrears there is.  There’s one final piece of the jigsaw to fall into place, part of my settlement with them is a lump sum which I’ve combined with a private pension I ran alongside my employers ones for a long time and I’ll get an annuity from that.  Having multiple sources for income is not something I’ve had to deal with at this level before so that’s one new skill retirement will teach me.

What else is going on?  Well some great news in the family.  My daughter and her boyfriend managed to buy their first house together just before Christmas.  It was a manic month for her, she started a new job and then only a few days later moved into the new house.  We were invited for Christmas Day there which was different but lovely.  My wife and I woke in the house on our own for the first time in 30 years on Christmas Day, indeed ever in our current house.  My son was in Wales with his in-laws to be.  Still Christmas Day at the new abode was very very nice.

I’m allowed behind the wheel of a car again!  Yes I saw my neurotologist in November.  I spoke with him and he was happy for me to drive again.  So I contacted the DVLA expecting a long process but they simply wrote back saying all was fine.  It was a bit weird at first and part of me misses the having to work everything out to fit around public transport also it’s the first time in decades where we’ve only had one car to share between us but we’re working that out ok.  Generally health is reasonable, odd days feeling rubbish which I think are likely to be related to weather triggers but no severe vertigo attacks which is a blessing.

I will try to get on here and post more frequently about how I’m now settling into retirement.  For those of you still reading/following – thank you very much.

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The one in which I say I told you so…

On 24 June 2016 at 6 am my radio alarm went off with the BBC news headlines which of course was “The United Kingdom has voted to leave the European Union.” I groaned and turned it off. Somewhere in that morning, I remember being at college in class that day, I said to my course colleagues “This’ll be 10 years of chaos”.

I felt that because I didn’t think there was a consistent view of actually what leaving meant. I also felt the short/medium long term economic cost was too great and the risk too high. There is no other developed nation outside an established trading block in the world, we might be trailblazing pathfinding example to the rest of the world but I just would rather we not take the risk with my country and my children’s future.

Whatever that day I had expected Mr Cameron to trigger Article 50 and us to leave in June 2018. That didn’t happen.

I had expected the majority of that decade to be outside the EU that is looking increasingly unlikely.

We must look like an embarrassing shambles to the rest of the world.

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Moving on…

My daughter received her MSc certificate the other week. She bought two matching frames to put that and her BSc in. She’s clearly proud of her achievements. She had them balanced on the window sill…. A recipe for disaster! She’s away working this week and next on residential summer schools. So I got the drill out along with a level etc and mounted them above the desk in her room where so much studying was done in pursuit of those.

I don’t think they’ll be there but a few months as her boyfriend and her are gearing up to get their own place before Christmas if they can.

My son was down at the weekend with his fiancée telling us about the progress on the plans for their wedding which will soon be less than a year away.

Mrs F is constantly looking at bungalows near us. We’d love to downsize but it’s daft. 2 bed bungalows near us cost more than our family 4 bed semi can sell for. Why now I’ve retired would I want to put more capital into a property or take out a mortgage, assuming I’d even be able to get one. If the government ever asked me how to fix the housing crisis I’d say. Focus on helping older couples downsize…. Build more bungalows! If you look in our little road alone increasingly it is just parents in family homes with the family gone with two or more bedrooms unoccupied full time. Given the UK housing crisis esp in the south east where I live this is frankly dumb.

So will we be moving on? If we saw a bargain somewhere then possibly but in the current market it’s highly unlikely. One thing for me is that our house has always been our home from the moment we moved in in 1992. If we ever do move on all those memories will stay with me.

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In Reverse

At a meeting this week I heard the story of a member who’s recently started to come regularly having moved to the area.

Their story was like many about how whilst drinking they were unemployable, had no money, lost their licence etc etc. Then in the story they got recovery and the better jobs, good income, nice vehicles etc came to them and they are grateful to have them.

Recently as I hear stories like this I ponder how my own story is basically the reverse to this. When I started my recovery I was in a ridiculously well paid job, had brand new cars on the drive etc. Over the last 15 years I’ve left that job and taken a couple of others both times having to take substantial pay cuts. Then finally being made redundant last year. I can’t drive currently because of my menieres and we only have my wife’s car which was second hand when we bought it earlier this year.

I have no resentment over this. My good paid high powered job was only possible as it was fuelled by my alcohol bolstered bullshit. The move down responsibility and pay was truly a proper reflection of where I probably ought to be in the grand scheme. Not having a car has taught me how selfish I was when I had one. How often I drove to meetings just me in the car not helping others get there. It has taught me in reverse how grateful I ought to have been when back in the day I thought a 6 figure salary, new cars, etc were my entitlement. I’ll never get it back now but my gratitude for what I do have is massively higher today.

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Health Update

So the very good news is that I’m currently enjoying the longest consecutive period without a severe vertigo attack in 2 years. Yes folks. I’ve not had a serious attack now since March. I can’t say I’ve been symptom free, far from it but it’s been much better lately. To the point that now I have my confidence back to go about on my own. I’m even getting a handle on using our local (very expensive) bus service. A few months ago thinking of catching a bus there and back to a dentist appointment would have been a total no no. But last week I did just that.

I still have some days where I’m “at sea”, unbalanced, tinnitus annoying high, head pressure, sensitive to noise etc. But as I say no big world spinning laying on the floor attacks.

To cap off this improvement I managed somehow to pinch a nerve in my back! Agony and then the leg that side is numb, tingly etc below the knee. After about three weeks I got an appointment with a physiotherapist who my neighbour highly recommended and got a recommendation from a friend who also has balance issues like me. Having had an assessment the plan is to attack the leg problems first then look at things to help with the balance too. I have to say immediately the leg feels better which is good news.

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It’s official

After a fair amount of procrastination I’ve bowed to the obvious and inevitable. After totting up all my pensions left lying about in various funds in the City of London I should be financially sort of OK. We’ll at least be able to cover the essentials anyway.

So the paperwork is slowly getting completed and I’ll be officially a pensioner from October.

I don’t know how I feel about it… One part is real happy I’ll not have to face commuting to London again or having to do all the associated “stuff” with a job.

However a friend shared at a meeting the other day, he’s also recently retired, that he now feels a bit of a nobody. I get that for years I’ve been a blah blah or a such and such. These labels have some currency to them. They pin me in society as successful and valuable. I recently called to book a physiotherapy appointment (I’ve a pinched nerve in my back) the receptionist ask for employment. I stuttered over saying “unemployed”. It’s a private practice did I think she thought I’d not be able to pay the £50 for a session? Did suddenly she picture me as a washed up waste of space. I almost went to say “I used to….”. Why?

Something to mull on and work on. Stupid really I’m exactly the same person, OK considerably less disposable income but still me.

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Latest Guitar Build

I normally just have guitar stuff on my other blog but… what the heck.

I filmed some of the process of me assembling a “Partscaster” (a guitar built from bits you assemble) recently.  I’m slowly releasing it on YouTube.

Here are the first 3 of 5 parts.  I’ll post the others here once they are up on YouTube.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

 

 

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