The 2012 of Torapuro
It’s been a while. I haven’t updated this thing in about 6 months, sorry about that! How have you been? Had a good year? I hope so. As for me, I can’t quite believe another 12 months have shot by so fast, and yet I find myself reflecting on yet another year. After the multi-country jaunt that was 2011, 2012 was relatively stable. Unfortunately, that is meant purely in the ambulatory sense, as the job situation was the most unstable one I’ve had. I’ve managed to stay in the same position (except for one brief 2-week stint playing traitor in the middle), but that was something that continued to surprise me at regular intervals, rather than something planned. The job market in England, as in the rest of the world, is grim, and has coloured the past year quite gravely. The start of the year saw the continuation and fade out of the Occupy movement, and all year we’ve been hearing about the death throes of the Eurozone, as unemployment continues to rise. Aside from the depressing employment situation, the lack of being able to pin down a job that was either long-term or well-paid has put quite a stranglehold on my travelling, which is a shame since it started out with such promise.
The year opened with New Year’s being spent in Paris, with a few friends, in a gorgeous home. The weather dealt to any plans to head to the Eiffel Tower for the fireworks display, which turned out to be for the best as in the end the weather also resulted in the display not being held.
February saw me heading to Venice in Italy to fulfil a long-held goal – participating in the Carnevale of that city. I, with a few friends, dressed the part and spent a week wandering the labyrinthine canals, seeing the beautiful sights, riding the smooth gondolas and eating the delicious food. Amazingly, it was still possible to enjoy the city on a budget, even during this peak time of the year. And drifting about the streets and canals, going through the cathedral square and about daily life amongst the throngs of other festivalgoers dressed in such beautiful, amazing gowns and masks was a totally surreal experience, a definite highlight of the year.
In March, I made my third overseas trip in as many months as I set off to Valencia in Spain for the Las Fallas festival. Another amazing festival, full of giant artistic sculptures and fireworks, culminating in massive bonfires all over the city, ranks right up there with the Venetian Carnevale as one of my favourite trips. After the San Fermin festival the previous year as well, I can confidently say that the Spanish really know how to put on a party.
Unfortunately, this was to be my last trip overseas for a while. Not that I didn’t have any fun around England – in June I attended the Download rock festival, camping out for three days in the mud and rain of what passes for English summer. I got to see a whole ton of acts, some old, some new, but the highlights were Metallica playing the Black album in its entirety (plus a collection of other songs), as well as Black Sabbath, reunited with Ozzy Osbourne for an amazingly surprisingly excellent set. I have to admit to being no huge Sabbath fan before the concert, but the performance won me over. Considering how drug-addled Ozzy had become, his singing was still on top form – the only changes being his hobbling about the stage, together with his massive grin and constant claims that God loved us all. Then we had barely got back to London before they were taken over by the Diamond Jubilee and Olympics over July and August, and then I visited Bath for a weekend in October, managing to catch up with an old mate who now lives in a boat on the Avon, and meet his little kid.
The Olympics were an interesting time. In the buildup, I was as guilty as most of the naysayers of premonitions of gloom and miserable overcrowding that would ruin the lives of us ordinary folk as the rich of the rest of the world poured in for London to whore itself out to. Cries of impending price hikes, tubes unusable due to overcrowding with tourists, massive public spending on facilities which would then be abandoned, and various other complaints slammed us daily in the months leading up to the Games. Then the public transport sectors decided to kick the city in the balls by demanding pay increases and bonuses simply for bothering to turn up to work during the Games, or they would walk off and leave the city paralysed. Multiple times, the tube operators, bus drivers and the rest demanded increased pay for no good reason, and got it. This was a despicable act of selfish bullshittery by the people involved, as they had the city over a barrel, and they should be ashamed. You know how much tube drivers get paid? The basic salary is over £40,000 (due to go up to about £54,000 by 2015). Some already get more than £60,000 a year. Plus benefits. Amazing pay to sit in a booth and push buttons. (Average London salary is apparently about £34,000, median £27,000)
As it turned out though, aside from the backstabbing tube drivers, the Games went off without a hitch. The weather turned gorgeous for almost exactly the period that the Games were on. The rainy, overcast skies disappeared a few days before the Opening Ceremony, and returned about a day after the Closing Ceremony, only to disappear again just over the Paralympics period. In their absence, we were treated to sunshine and good temperatures. Enough people seemed to have been scared off by all the talk of overcrowding that the tubes more or less maintained their same level of discomfort, and in fact people avoided the West End shopping area so much that they even reported lower-than-average takings, despite all the extra people in the city. There was a real positivity in the air about the city, with the volunteers positioned all about the place in their purple jackets smiling and helping people get about the place. The topic of conversation was permanently focused on different sports, who had seen what, who was going to where to see what, tickets were traded and everyone learnt a bit about goalball, although nobody ever really figured out what was going on in keirin. Those of us unlucky enough to still have to come into work reasonably flexible working hours, and plenty of sports watching was done via the BBC’s great coverage while in the office anyway. Personally, I was happy to see an old schoolmate taking part in the Olympic triathlon, and cheer her on from the sidelines. When it was all over and the city went back to normal, people were happy, although there was that slight hangover feeling of the comedown from an extended period of euphoria as the clouds rolled back in for our morning commute.
Then, most of the rest of the year was spent looking at larger issues. I got pissed off at bankers, politicians, increased tube fares, job insecurity and falling wages, along with climate change, Mitt Romney, and got depressed with the state of the world in general. I applied, and was accepted, to sit the Young Professionals UN exam, which meant loads of study and learning tons about the UN and everything it has ever done, ever. Which only added to my despair at the state of the world. Especially when I sat the exam in December, and quickly realised I wasn’t going to pass – especially thanks to a multichoice section implemented for the first time, which was bursting at the seams with irrelevant questions no real prospective UN member would need to know while avoiding any content that actually had anything to do with anything. How bloody frustrating.
Towards the end of the year, things picked back up again, as in November I managed to make my first trip overseas since March, and visited Berlin and Amsterdam for a few days each. Despite the somewhat gloomy weather, I had a great time, ate, drank, saw and met. I will need to write about all that separately, but I was so glad to get out and about again, and the experience really refreshed me, while adding to the feeling that London really might not be the place for me. It’s weird that in a year and a half of living here, I still haven’t had anything to write about the place. It’s just not that inspiring.
And then, shortly after that, I ended the year with a trip back to New Zealand for Christmas and summer. It was great to be home, seeing the parents and relaxing with delicious food and drink while the long-lost sun thawed out the chill which had lodged itself deep in my bones throughout the European winter. It was unfortunately a small Christmas, as my grandfather had died while I was in Amsterdam, not quite making it through to our final Christmas together. It is a shame he could not be there to enjoy it with us, but his time had come and while he was missed (as was a sister stranded in Australia), the rest of our little family enjoyed the time together.
Once again I was impressed by the New Zealand attitude. As I was walking down the street one day, I saw a few people lined up against a wall, pushing into it as if they were all doing calf stretches. It was one of those wooden walls put up around the perimeter of a construction site, to keep the kids out and covered in ads for the construction company and the upcoming building. It was a slightly windy day, and it turned out the people were trying to hold the wall up since it seemed likely to blow down. Someone had called the number on the ad to come repair it, and these random people were helping to hold the wall up in the meantime to prevent it blowing down on to the footpath and possibly injuring someone. Of course, I pitched in, and was happy to see that several people who walked past would also stop to see what was happening, then offer to help, allowing some of the people who had been there a while to get on with their day. It was an instance of the kind of community spirit, of people willing to help each other out, which is too lacking in the world, yet still (for now) present in little old New Zealand. It’s something which I hope we don’t lose, although the fadeout can be felt. Eventually, as no one official seemed to be coming to repair the wall and people were getting sick of holding it up, someone stole into the construction site and removed the supports, allowing us to push the wall inwards and have it collapse internally. A better option than have it collapse outwards on to a passer-by. With that, the crowd shook hands, wished each other Merry Christmas, and went their separate ways.
Another time, I was in a less-populated part of the city, and saw two old ladies walking down the street. Approaching them from the other direction were a few young rough looking guys, hoods up and pants down, the kind of people the British like to call “youths”. As they passed each other, one of the youths stopped and looked down at the ground where the ladies had just passed, then picked something up and chased after them. He handed over a wad of bills that had dropped out of one of their pockets, to the gratitude of the women. He then wished them a Merry Christmas and sauntered back to his waiting buddies.
Taking a break out from the cold grey winter of London to spend a couple of weeks in the summer of New Zealand, with its nice, friendly people, beautiful weather, sandy beaches, good food and family and friends was a great recharger. I was also honoured to attend the wedding of a couple of good friends, which was held at the gorgeous family property with an amazing view over the valleys in a simple ceremony with beautiful vows and a collection of old friends who had not been together for about 8 years.
The space between wedding and New Year’s was filled at a beach house in the city of the newlyweds, swimming eating and drinking through to a tiny private fireworks display on the beach come midnight. As everyone else drifted off to bed, I stayed on the beach, wrapped in a blanket, set fire to a pile of driftwood and watched the sky slowly get lighter. I thought about the last year and what I wanted out of this year as I tried to watch the first sunrise. Unfortunately the clouds saw to that and I just got to see the sky brighten, together with the rolling waves go from black to blue. As birds started appearing I figured the sun was properly up and called it a night.
Unfortunately my resolutions for last year were only half-completed by the time the year ended. So, I intend to carry them over to this year.
- Learn Spanish – last year, I made some headway but am still a long way off being able to communicate as I would like. Will have to continue!
- Learn basic animation – I managed to get some basics down, but again this is something that I need to dedicate more time to.
- Figure out my job – I made some applications during the year, which turned out to be unsuccessful. A certain application is still in the works, so fingers crossed, but I still can’t say I’ve positioned myself where I want to be. Hopefully within 2013!
- (I suppose another one should be to update this blog more often…)
And so the new year of 2013 started. Here’s hoping the new year works out for all of us, we get to have some adventures and we manage to get a little closer to where we want to be.