On what I said

I said that I would write something, and that is what I didn’t do. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you’ve been following this blog, or my efforts at writing, you’ll know that this is something I’ve struggled with, but dearly want to devote time and energy to, writing and playing with words. I read little, not nearly enough, and that would help me learn about the art of writing. You’re never too old to learn from observation and practice, and I’m never too old for anything. I did not write last week.

I said that I would write an email, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you know the story about why I needed to write an email and what it was for, then this won’t be a very interesting story, because you’ll know the bones of it and that’s really all there is to the story. I wrote an email, and in my hubris I thought that it was a good one, but hubris blinds you like staring into the sun, and that is exactly what happened to me. No amount of flowery language or exposition or context can ever hold a candle to getting to the point, especially if, as I quickly discovered, your audience doesn’t appreciate it nearly as much as you do.

I was writing to the GAA club where my kid does training once a week, and the context was that I was in my car with my child, waiting to leave in the queue of cars, and the man organising the timely and efficient departure of everyone was standing by our car screaming at me, while I was trying to explain that I didn’t want to run over the woman trying to cross in front of my car on the pedestrian crossing. He continued to scream after that because I didn’t try to ram into back of a reversing SUV a minute later. He was screaming at everyone else too, so I didn’t feel singled out; it was democratic, at least. And there it is. I needed to speak to manager of volatile screaming carpark grandad. I think the lesson there is that brevity isn’t just the soul of wit, brevity is just more brief generally and people appreciate that. tl;dr: get to the point. The email did not hit home.

I said that I would get my fibre broadband, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I tried and I got there. Now, if you know about me and my efforts at getting broadband, it’s not much of a story, but it has certainly dragged on for a while. Last year I decided that I should get fibre instead of cable broadband, the reports about fibre performance were good but the details were a little murky, and as it transpired, switching broadband provider (from Virgin Media) is not the same protected process as switching any other utility (and as it should be). I ordered new broadband, and after an interminable wait on the line got into a fight with the ‘saver’ who did everything he could to discourage me, primarily by being obnoxious. It worked, I abandoned my switch to try and figure out a new plan, and time slid by.

I came back to it recently due to the decreasing performance of Virgin Media, and the discovery that you can end your service in writing, so I ordered fibre from Pure Telecom, which looked like a better bet than the Big Three (and so far, I am finding that it was a good bet). In fact, I discovered accidentally that Virgin Media had a web form for disconnecting, which they took down immediately after I used it. An interesting approach. I then had to follow it up on Twitter to make sure that they weren’t going to ignore it. In the meantime, I proceeded to not get fibre broadband, until I had made a number of calls to explain why it had not been installed on the first attempt which eventually resulted in the fibre connection being installed. I was interested in how it was done (it is true ‘fibre to the home’) and who was doing it (a private consortium), and the mechanics of it, not being a ‘hardware person’, and knowing only a bit about networking technology. I have to say, it is astonishingly fast. It did not disappoint.

I said that I would get divorced, and that is what I did not do. The circumstances are a little complicated, and it isn’t as easy as it might seem at first, but I continue to try and I will surely get there. Now, if you know about the story of me trying to get divorced, it hasn’t been very dramatic lately, but it has certainly been in the background almost all of the time. I can’t write what I’d like to write about it because it’s an ongoing process with real and serious consequences for making mistakes (including writing about it), and if I thought that I get get off the leash on this topic I’d write and write and write, but there it is, a divorce is a serious business, and by the look of it, it’s going to continue being serious well into next year, and possibly the year after. Never have three pages of short words proven so difficult to get agreement on. I can only surmise that not everyone is in as much of a hurry to move on as they were a year ago. It’s not something that I understand.

I said that I would stop going to football, and that is what I did. The circumstances were a little complicated, and it wasn’t as straightforward as it might seem at first, but I put my shoulder to it and ended my participation. Now, if you’re familiar with me and my going to football, you’ll know that it’s something that’s been a while time coming. Friday Night Football (ostensibly a game of five-a-side in Ringsend, Dublin) has been a constant fixture in my life for almost two decades now, with a number of the same people involved for most of that time, until the past two years when, thanks to the COVID-19 Pandemic, we stopped for periods of time as the sports complex was closed. I’ve had breaks inbetween caused by my now ex-wife demanding that I clean the house thoroughly on Friday nights after coming home from work, no matter what time I came back at, so I couldn’t go to football on Friday night, and then I had to make excuses for why I couldn’t make it and then eventually bail out altogether (thankfully, I got no sympathy, so if you think normalising spousal control at home is a problem only for women, think again! Men can be all alone in this too.). Luckily the relationship broke down in 2015 and I was able to start going to football again.

The Pandemic did make me reassess all sorts of things, however, and particularly the time I spend around other people, and my tolerance not so much for other people, but how other people made me feel; because the interactions we have with other people and what we take away from those experiences are what matters, not with who or what other people are. Friday Night Football was in some ways a complex dynamic; a group of people from which between eight and twelve would turn up to play, organised with furious energy over WhatsApp and with a Google Sheets spreadsheet every week, a renewal every quarter year, various personalities and to some degree varying personal objectives or views on how things should work. And the game itself, which I described last week as “as a having a hobby where I spend forty five minutes driving out to somewhere where I’ll be stuffed into a barrel and rolled down a bumpy hill for fifty minutes while intermittently getting kicked”, which is uncharitable and also frequently entirely accurate. I’m not very good at football, nor will I ever be. It can be both joyous and intensely frustrating, both a wonderful way to get exercise and physically risky with the potential for injury, but there’s always the chance for being involved in a great set-piece or a good move that delivers the emotional high. It also has the same pitfall as gambling, that you chase the good feelings of success, and you will tolerate a lot of the other, more frequent, negative feelings to get that high again.

Ultimately, if it stops being about the people (because that was always an element) then it has to be about the experience on the pitch, and if that doesn’t hold up, then what’s the physical pain, the frustration, the eighty minutes or so of driving on a Friday evening really about? That’s up to forty five minutes to get in from the outskirts of the city, usually less (rarely more) of driving in maddeningly slow peak time city traffic, which can be hard going (especially if it is wet; that attracts snails, slugs, and terrible drivers), and requires leaving the house at the right time. The pain the next morning from impacts, bruises, and the aches of age. It really has to be worth it. For me, it has been decreasingly less worth it in recent years, and I only really stuck out the last quarter season because the organisation process had dropped from three weeks notice for renewal to three days, and having decided to swallow that cost to avoid causing trouble, I wanted to get my money’s worth. But even that grace period has run its course. I will not be joining again soon.