My 2015

Happy New Year! I had hoped to be posting today’s post yesterday and tomorrow’s post today but it seemed all out of nowhere I had a life again, with places to be and people to see and that was exciting so it took precedent over writing blog posts for basically those same people to read. I’m going to look back on my year today and tomorrow, look forward to the new and this post is for those of you who take some interest in the man behind the rant and how his head works (Spoiler Alert: Not very well)

2014, as it drew to a close, had been an odd year but it ended on a high note because whilst I had recently become unemployed and was still in the same old situation of single and sponging off my family whilst earning just enough to pay for my own things (Social life, phone bills, contributions to the home), I was happy enough and I figured with such valuable experience and good friends, life would work out. 2015 then, said “Ehh…” and whilst I had been employed for a good chunk of the year, working in care, come the end of the summer I was now back on benefits, the margins for which had tightened and the people giving the handouts had gotten meaner than I ever remembered them being. Alas, getting ahead of myself so I’ll try to follow the course of the year and explain myself, omitting names of course for the sake of those involved.

Looking back at what scraps of a journal I had maintained in the start of the year, the year started on a bum note, social events being scrapped last minute and my general tone in the book is grim but with a sort of underlying hope, something I can admit is the same now. The ambitious plan to go jogging out in the wild fell into obscurity around February but then things got better around March because although I had been going through one heck of an odd journey with a friend of mine, I then found myself employed and in a job that didn’t make me want to throttle people, which is hard to come by. All seemed well, perhaps the key word being seemed.

Through no fault of their own but rather their circumstances and general isolation, I was employed as the sole carer of someone, and though we were told there would be more hours and pay coming my way someday, tomorrow never came and I found myself worked to the bone as the carer, cleaner, personal shopper, psychiatrist and advocate of someone who really just needed the various officials in her life to shut up and listen to her. Things reached a peak and the pressure of it all caused her to breakdown, followed shortly after by me and so she found an alternate living arrangement and I found myself unemployed. No malice held for them for what they chose to do, they did what was best for them and for me – after all, I could get work again and whilst I am currently unemployed, at the time of writing three different employers are all very interested in me.

So, with the autumn and winter ahead, my 21st looming and Christmas after that, I was back on the hunt for work, honing my skills in retail by making my semi-triumphant return to Oxfam, having become something of an urban legend in the place judging by the number of “(VOLUNTEER NAME) told me about you, I’m (NAME)”, perhaps the most realistic substitute for actual fame is that sort of remark – though 2015 was the year that saw my blog reach new heights of over 1000 views in a week, video posts on my Facebook page and even some recognition on the street as “That wanker who writes about feminism”.

2015 wasn’t all doom and gloom, there are some friends I found myself closer to than I had been previously and whilst some saw fit to kick me whilst down, I at least weeded out bad eggs in the process – namely people harboring hilariously outdated views and people willing to abandon my friendship for £20, go figure. I also made a new friend in someone whom previously I had not exactly been pally with, they were friends with people who belittled me in my youth and they then contacted me, having remembered me from encountering my blog, they then apologised for following the crowd and explained themselves to the point where we mutually agreed that school isn’t about an education, it’s some sort of psychologically traumatising rites of passage in which you are just doing whatever it takes to get through it and we just happened to have different means of doing that. I also changed medical practice and got my formal diagnosis at long last, considering my former GP was determined my social anxiety was nothing more than “stress” and the need for “a good holiday somewhere nice”, as if I had that as an option.

So 2015 ended with me now unemployed, still single and my depression has only gotten worse but on the upside, perhaps those things won’t last. 2014 ended with me single and unemployed but also lost, which I tried to pass off as looking for opportunities but with no idea where to look where as now, I have jobs lined up, fewer but better friends and I signed up to an actual gym so if nothing else, I can at least be attractive whilst wallowing in self-pity!

Happy New Year and shit.

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Chains Of Avarice

Trigger Warnings – None

Christmas is coming, unless you’re Australian, it already came, or you don’t celebrate Christmas in which case I apologise, this article probably won’t interest you. As I was, Christmas is coming, it’s almost here for us here in the UK and so in honour of that occasion, I plan to do two little Christmassy posts, today and tomorrow. Yes, I am that dedicated to you my readers that I will be giving you all the gift of two festive posts, I hope it beats another ugly tie or pair of socks. Granted, your feet will be no warmer but perhaps your mind will be a little more open.

Right off the bat, I’m going to assume we all know the story of the Christmas Carol, if not then you either REALLY don’t celebrate Christmas to the point of not acknowledging it even exists or when someone mentions fiction, you look confused like “People write stuff that’s not true? I thought that was just The Sun?”. Zinger, I know. Anyway, as a brief recap the Christmas Carol is the story of a greedy businessman called Scrooge being visited by the ghost of his dead friend Jacob telling him to change his ways or spend eternity bound in the chains of his greed and so Scrooge is visited by spirits that show him visions of his past, present and future which upset, disturb and enlighten the old miser so that come Christmas morning, he becomes a jolly philanthropist like none other. I’ve sometimes questioned if Scrooge actually changed or if he was just scared straight, certainly in the actual novel he has a hellish time of it meeting his unwanted daughters, seeing his own gravestone and realising that everyone who has ever been important to his life resents him, but he keeps the spirit of the season well and being scared into good will by visions of chains is much akin to having the moral imperative of virtuous behaviour for fear of fire and torture in eternity.

Erhem, pretentious musings aside, I love the Christmas Carol story, it’s one thing I have always wanted to act in but never have (Incidentally, as either Scrooge himself or Bob Cratchit), my acting career has never really existed beyond some dynamic reading and a bit part in a school play. My favourite interpretation of the story you ask? Well, I love the one filmed in Shrewsbury but I most commonly watch the Muppet version, I like how it brings forward the core message of the story in a way children and parents can watch, it’s devoted to the story but not too seriously and it’s much more visually pleasing with colourful puppets and impressive acting than say, plain old animated versions for kids – we all know kids engage more with anthropomorphic characters than emulated realism. I bring up the Christmas Carol because I feel there’s an important part of the message people forget and that is just why Scrooge needed to change his ways. You’ll probably shrug and say “Come on Jake, he was greedy, all he cared about was money and he was a bitter old man ignoring those in need, that’s a bad guy, the story is his redemption”. Key point there, he was greedy, the story is about how his GREED is a curse, not his money. Greed has a much broader definition than a lust for gold and silver.

I often get called Scrooge for not being festive out the wazoo as I don no antlers, wear no silly jumpers and don’t constantly burst with excitement, nor do I sing along to any carol or song but I think a modern Scrooge would actually take part in those things, Scrooge is not a caricature as simple as “Don’t like wreaths of holly? You grinch!”, give Dickens more credit than that, Scrooge is a man made bitter by years of isolation and he lusts for money because money doesn’t betray people, money makes sense, money can be understood in ways you can’t apply to people. So why would a modern Scrooge enjoy Christmas? The focus of greed has changed in the past few years, money is something we all yearn for, even those who have it, so judge someone by their drive for financial success is plain hypocrisy but what is truer now than it was in Dickens’ time is a greed for consumerism, a desire for receiving gifts and getting what we want, ensuring our Christmas is the best it can be, a modern Scrooge is the guy who has a clear cut Christmas list you can’t deviate from or he’ll begrudge, a man who doesn’t always return kind gestures at this time of year, a man who complains when he receives the accursed wrong gift. I’m looking at you entitled children of the world, your parents got you the wrong make of iPhone? You’re the Scrooge now, your selfish greed will be your undoing.

At this time of year, some of us go overboard, in particular parents wanting to spoil their children rotten with brilliant presents, which can present a problem. I saw a Facebook post recently that made me think, parents shouldn’t label games consoles and bikes as being gifts from Santa because then less fortunate children might question as to why Santa got them some new jumpers and a couple of action figures whilst his best friend Timmy got an XBOX One and an iPad. Maybe this is the poor boy in me speaking but I resent such spoilt children and people who do so, it is excessive and only fuels this greed in the child, who will expect more and more as the years go on. I got games consoles at Christmas, sure, but it wasn’t mine, it was a shared gift and even then Dad would tell us “If you want something so big for Christmas, Santa will have to bring you less gifts to make room!”, which we agreed to, even by needy child logic that seemed fair. Do not make your children slaves to greed and if you must buy them big gifts, tell them it was you that bought it, not Santa, make it fair and help your child realise that the gift is not just a reward for good behaviour, but a sacrifice and an investment made by those that love them and should be revered as such. If you say Santa gets them everything, their love is for Santa that day, not the parent and they feel they deserve everything they get in life, which is a terrible lesson to teach because it’s not true – good work can go unrewarded.

Greed and impatience are cornerstones of our society really, aren’t they? That cannot be avoided but if it could, this is the time of year for it. We all neglect certain people in our lives, mostly those that are strangers to us, but let us not forget that it was greed that doomed Scrooge, not money, Scrooge didn’t find salvation in throwing every shilling he had into a lake, he found it in selflessness – buying a feast for his loyal clerk, rekindling the love lost in his relationship with his nephew, donating to charity – money in itself can be used as a force for good if the person that holds it knows to keep the spirit of selflessness in their heart

As always readers, thanks for your time and a Merry Christmas to you all! Please, spread the word, let us remember what this time of year is all about! Remember to like, comment and follow me on Facebook at my official page, call it a gift to me from you!

http://www.facebook.com/oldmanwolfeofficial

The ‘Spirit’ of The Season

With Christmas now quickly falling into the cosy pit of our memories and our attention now focused on the promise of a new year of technology and film, I felt now was a good time to express my opinion on the festive season so as not to spoil any moods on Christmas day. You will not be too surprised to hear that I think Christmas is blown out of proportion whenever it comes around and I’m here to play the classic Scrooge you no doubt imagine me being when you think of me at this time of year.

I remember many fine Christmases, if that’s the word for it, in which I received glorious gifts that made my little eyes sparkle and my inner child run around screaming in my head. I remember getting a PlayStation One and quickly ushering Dad towards the TV to get him to set it up so I could play Rayman. I also remember getting a big transforming space shuttle that opened up to reveal it was a sci-fi space base on the moon and it came with astronauts and aliens, as well as a handful of space age vehicles to have them pretend to battle it out in space. Yes, my Christmases were humble occasions and our family never had much money to splash out on celebrating but my Dad did his best to make sure each Christmas made a lasting memory, despite the fact for a great deal of his life this holiday made him sick to the stomach with money worries. I understand the point of Christmas and I have enjoyed the holiday on many different occasions so I’m not exactly the man with the coal-black heart but as I’ve become older, wiser and a lot more jaded, I’ve started to see why my Dad thinks Christmas is highly overrated.

Yes, I know what you’re going to say – “Oh Jacob is going to tug at our heart strings with talk of capitalist nonsense and ludicrous spending that only fuels the corporate machine that is currently killing the common man  in a slow and sinister fashion”. If you did say that, fair play, that’s a pretty concise yet loaded statement about commercialisation. You all know this argument, that Christmas has become a joke, a poor chance every December 25th to pick a man’s pockets (Points if you get the reference) but though it is a common opinion held by my fellow cynics, I sometimes feel it is overlooked by many people who laugh merrily and come back at us with “Oh cheer up, it’s Christmas!”. I ask of you, what is Christmas? A Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus two months later than he was actually born so as to overshadow the Pagan winter festival? A reminder of why you’ll never want a job involved with health or hospitality because you’ll no doubt find yourself working on said day whilst your family misses you at the table? Well we are told that Christmas is a time of togetherness, a time to gather the family around a turkey with party hats upon every head and crackers in hand as we all prepare to laugh and love together. I would like to think that is true and that this spirit was present in your own celebrations but then what is Christmas without gifts right? The promise of fine food and thoughtful presents from relatives you barely ever see is what tickled your fancy because otherwise it’s not all that common nowadays that families naturally come together around the table just because. However, I’m sure you don’t feel this is true right? You enjoy Christmas purely because it is a time of love and merriment yes? Well, Christmas has been built up to you all your life and so who knows what you truly feel about the holiday, perhaps you do honestly enjoy the family togetherness, or perhaps you have been instructed to do so by Nanny Television since you were a child.

In my honest opinion, Christmas is not the problem but the hype surrounding it is. In case you do not understand what I mean, allow me to explain myself using Halloween as my comparison. I am sure you probably only start planning ahead for Halloween in September, August if you’re a real nutter for the clutter of plastic skeletons, but generally people don’t give the occasion much thought before October and I’ve never met someone who gets too excited over it year by year. Halloween, of course, is another western perversion of an ancient festival and is now an excuse to demand food from strangers whilst expressing your interest for characters from TV shows or whatever or your total lack of care for the occasion by just turning up on doorsteps wrapped in toilet paper and calling yourself a Mummy. I’m not a huge fan of Halloween, it’s an American thing that the British now want to emulate because Britain secretly wishes it was America, and even then it is just a massive plastic crap on the traditions of old. However, we all know that, nobody harps on about the spirit of the season or the Halloween spirit, we all know it is a tacky parade of costumes and candy but we take part because god damn it, we bought that Batman costume and we need an excuse to wear it! Halloween is naff, let’s face it, but we take part for shits, giggles and free food. However, whereas we are all aware that Halloween is not a momentous occasion and not really a celebration any more, Christmas has become very much the same thing and we don’t seem to want to notice.

Christmas is the only day of the year that the majority of us prepare for months in advance and as autumn rolls in, you get people asking if you’re ready for Christmas. Ready for Christmas is a funny expression, as if Christmas is some sort of challenge to face but then again it is really. The TV bombards you with flashing reminders that you must empty your wallet immediately and buy people ‘the perfect gift’ otherwise you’re a worthless human being and will forever be shunned as a miserable bastard like myself. Incidentally, you’re welcome to join my League of Miserable Bastards, we don’t do subscription gifts but there’s tea and biscuits and you’ll never hear any painstakingly bad music on in the community room. You can count on the media to wait for Halloween to come and go and then it will attack you mercilessly, smacking you in your eyeballs with pictures of turkeys and knitted jumpers and singing snowmen as it screams “BUY BUY BUY!” like a demonic parrot trying to wish you farewell (Read it aloud, makes more sense). I think Christmas is less fair on children than it can be to adults because as a child you watch adverts of amazing toys and treats that you want so badly and so you write your letter to an imaginary fat man and if you’re lucky and your parents are flash with the cash, you get the gift and all is well. If this is you, stop reading this, you will not be able to relate. If all is not well, you don’t get the gift you want, you get the next best thing or something you didn’t even ask for. Your faith in Santa is shaken and you look at your parents with sad eyes but they can’t tell you they couldn’t afford that giant princess castle play set because then they’d have to tell you that your gift wasn’t made by elves, it was made by small Chinese children who get paid in pennies to work until they die, and that is a reality which will stomp on your childish heart. You start to resent Santa and your parents for letting you down, even if you were such a good boy or girl (which you were blackmailed into by your parents, who threatened you with socks full of coal) Christmas can spoil a child and make them selfish, no doubt, but even if they aren’t disappointed by what they received, the holiday itself falls short and allow me to explain using my own experiences as a child and some retrospective thinking.

Ok, so as a child Christmas consisted of the following routine: up at the crack of dawn to look in my stocking to see various small gifts that would keep me occupied for a few hours until my Dad and my Stepmother got up out of bed, as Dad gets up we all scurry downstairs to the sacks full of big gifts and then unwrap them with bright eyes to then enjoy them for a few hours until dinner time. Our Stepmother always made such massive banquets at Christmas and so cheaply too but we didn’t even know as we dined like kings and then after a family dessert, we’d maybe watch some films Dad had bought for us or just run back upstairs to continue playing until we got tired and went to bed. Boxing day rolls in and… uh… nothing special happens. You have your gifts, you keep playing but because you’re a child, your fancy toys end up boring and broken by the time January arrives. Sure, maybe I was ungrateful, but I’m a white child of the western world, they’re good at that. However, I think Christmas is just built up to too much for the kids – all this waiting and waiting and being good, not kicking the cat or putting gum in hair to then have ONE DAY of puddings and presents before it’s done. Christmas came, Christmas went. You might get to stay up late come New Year’s but then that’s it. Hanukkah has the right idea and sounds much more fair on children, a more constant stream of little gifts day by day to make you excited for each day coming rather than this promise of a bucket-load of presents for one day. Even worse, after all of this you eventually come to realise that Santa Claus is a lie made up to get you to behave in a more desirable fashion and so you start to challenge your parents a lot more but then this is what Terry Pratchett said in The Hogfather, that characters such as Santa are the lies we must believe in as children so that we can believe in bigger lies as adults such as justice and mercy. I know that a darker part of your soul is aware of the reality that this is all a cheap façade we’ve been buying into since we were kids and now you want to keep smiling because you don’t want to admit that darkness is there, you want to keep grinning and gift-giving and gift-receiving, year after year, until you’re the one telling these lies to other people and the cycle continues like taking a steaming great shit into a washing machine and then turning it on to watch it swirl.

December 25th should not be highlighted as the time to remember a sacred baby or the time to spend your money on gifts, or even the time to think of family. At the risk of sounding as cheesy as Christmas, you should aim to show your love for those who care about as often as possible without needing some special occasion to encourage you to be a decent human being. If the spirit of giving and caring truly exists inside you, keep it alive all year round. I could be bitter, I could be right. I mean, my brothers didn’t get me gifts despite me getting gifts for them but let’s gloss over that hmm? I hope what I’ve said today is not simply ignored as the ravings of a cold-hearted man, who is as solitary as an oyster and annoyed that Christmas this year for him consisted of being told he’s off JSA, a pudding he got ready for the occasion being sniffed at and binned and his spirit of giving and caring receiving little in reciprocation. Bah, humbug!