The post I made at Christmas wasn't really anything to do with Christmas, so I suppose I should mention that. It wasn't particularly eventful. I went round to my parents house on Christmas Eve, and stayed a couple of nights there. Vicky and Josh came over the same day, but didn't stay, so the 24th was the most eventful, most 'Christmassy' day. Connor had got that Guitar Hero game, so he and Vicky and Josh spent most of the evening playing that. I'd been avoiding it, thinking it looked silly, but I did have a go in the end and it wasn't that bad. It didn't really seem to have any connection to music though; other than the rhythm of the song helping with the timing, everything seemed entirely about pressing the buttons in the right sequence, and the whole 'you're a rock star' part of it got kind of lost, at least whilst I was playing it. The theme of the game could've been completely different and it still would've seemed the same to me.
Christmas day itself was quieter. We had a nice roast ham dinner, which I ended up eating most of, I think, and watched whatever was on television. I haven't had a television at home since I moved out three years ago, and I always find myself strangely fascinated to be in the presence of one again, but still never feel a desire to own one. At my parents' house I can sit and watch it quite happily, but in the years I've been without one I've never missed it for one second. Unfortunately, I also saw Eastenders. I didn't want to, but there wasn't really anywhere to escape to except upstairs, but there was nobody up there and nothing to do, so I just stayed and tried ignore it. It depressed me. Are there any characters that aren't lying to at least one other, or keeping some secret for blackmail purposes, or generally trying to ruin everyone else's lives? Someone please tell me that the actions of these people in the storylines are supposed to be met with disgust by the audience... they're not supposed to be accepted as normality... are they?
I stayed up long after everyone else went to bed, and didn't get up until about 7pm on the 25th, which made me annoyed at myself. I'm trying to stop this, but I'm not making any progress at all.
On the 28th, we went up to Minehead. Christmas day was my Granddad's 80th birthday, and the family had organised a surprise for him. Minehead is one end of the West Somerset Railway, which still operates steam trains, something he has a great interest in. It'd been organised for him to sit up with the driver whilst the rest of the family rode in the carriages behind, whilst we went from one end of the railway to the other and back. There were thirty-three of us there, coming from all over the country, so the whole event was split over three days. The first day was mainly just for everybody to arrive, and we had a small dinner in the evening and a chance for everyone to talk. The next day was the trip itself, and a big party in the evening, and the third day everybody went back home.
I was happy to go for the sake of being there to celebrate the birthday, but I wasn't keen on the 'family gathering' part. There's nothing wrong with my family, we don't have any disagreements or anything, but we just don't have anything to say to each other. All my cousins always sit together and talk endlessly, and I just sit by myself. One by one they'll attempt to have some kind of conversation with me, but it's always the same 'how are you' talk where they ask if I'm still doing the same work, where I'm living, and what my marital status happens to be this week. Then there's nothing more to say and they go away. They're just being polite. I don't think they have any real interest in what I'm doing, and I don't have any interest in their lives either. They're all doing okay. They've all got their good moments and bad moments, and they're all pushing onwards like everybody else is.
I'm not sure how to explain this next bit. I kind of wish that none of them ever knew what was happening to me. I was the first of my generation in my family to get married, and of course everybody knew about it. I'm the first to have a child, and no matter how little information I give out myself, they all know about that as well. But my wife is gone, my son is gone, I really don't want to talk about it. I get the feeling that all the rest of them are going to do these things too, but they're not going to lose them. Now I'm the first and only one who's got these things wrong. I'm not afraid of their judgement, exactly, but I feel disappointed in myself when I'm among them, because I've ended up in a mess and they haven't.
I'm probably going to provoke something here. I missed both lives, and wished either of them were a part of this one. The last time I went to a gathering like that was just after Shanna arrived to stay, for my aunt's wedding, and I couldn't escape the memories of that. She was my escape that time - when I didn't want to be around my family any more, it was okay, because I had my own. I remember retreating with her, I remember her being upset because I wouldn't dance, I remember walking around outside with her afterwards, I remember talking in our room, I remember a promise, I remember sneaking out with her in the middle of the night. And the connection to my other life... I remember playing with Brian and Mikey. We left the adults and went to play with the two children. I remember letting them ride on our backs and running around chasing each other, and being so happy with the thought that one day, we'd have our own. I saw them again this time, and though neither of them paid any particular attention to me, seeing them play with Georgina (the next youngest above them) brought the feeling back with such intensity. I don't think I ever realised how big this was until these last few months. I've wanted a family for as long as I can remember, but it's always been there competing against my other ambitions... or so I thought. Nothing comes close now, there is nothing I want more. I missed being a separate 'family', being identified as 'Ashley & X' as a single entity, being treated entirely differently. I almost feel I don't want to be seen again until I they can see me that way. I never want to meet them again as just Ashley. I don't want to go back to that. Feeling that was actually disturbs me a little... but I do.
Finally, the new year. That wasn't very eventful either, but I enjoyed it. It was very welcome after the trip, anyway. I spent it at home with Graham, just playing games (mainly Streets of Rage 3) and listening to music and talking. We didn't even manage to get any food or drink because the shop was closed by the time we tried to go. 2009... I don't like the sound of that. Still, as people keep helpfully pointing out, this year can't really go much more wrong than the last. I don't do resolutions, but I will designate this year with a purpose: this year is for repair. Between 2004 and now, I really should not have ended up here, and this year is for putting it right. I don't expect to achieve anything in particular, but I expect to end it in a good position, standing on a good foundation I can actually work from. I'm going to find a routine. I'm going to make whatever decisions I have to to ensure I'm financially secure - and that will involve choices about where I work. But most of all, I am going to make sure there is no more waste. I am sick of waste. The amount of time that has passed for nothing is too much to think about. Never again do I want to look back at any period of time and wish it hadn't happened. I want to know that even when things go wrong, there is something constructive I can gain from it. 2005 - 2007 must never be repeated.