The end of twenty-two02 January 2023
For new-year 2020 I was sitting in a hotel near the airport in Seoul returning from a trip that was supposed to be a turning-point in my life, but within a matter of months this life was all but gone. 2020 and 2021 turned out to be two years that I could have done without but like 2014 when I had come back to Europe from New Zealand, 2022 was the year I was able to properly move on with my life — the latter is not vastly different from the situation at the start of 2014 though the details are very different. Things went slower than I had hoped but these take time and so much has changed over the last three new-years that life then and now cannot really be compared — for me this is no coincidence since I wanted a clean slate where all the emotional baggage is left behind as a result of the pivoting.
Much like 2014 there was no real desire to chronicle the day-to-day of how my life was rebuilt nor do an in-deeth comparison with how things went then and now — accomodation took a lot longer to sort out but many other things while also taking time at least got sorted earlier, most notably fitness. Progress was however very start-stop and while not the write-off 2021 was, much of 2022 I will not miss because of the disappointments.
A rough startUnlike 2013 when accomodation was done and dusted by Christmas since there was only one car load of stuff to bring over and the flat being furnished was almost turn-key, this time round there was still a lot of stuff to unbox well into the new-year and it all needed to get sorted and stored so that there was not a mad panic searching every time I needed something. In terms of the latter it was March before I really started regarding my living situation as “stable” and a whole cascade of things on hold got unblocked. Looking back this early part of 2022 was a chaotic time when I was finally out of the limbo caused by Covid but was dropped in the deep end of making the difficult transition of my life away from legacies of the past and restructuring it for the future. This was when routines had yet to be established and there were things I was trying to get done with too much haste, as well as other things that I left dangling a bit longer than I should have.
In April I was going through my laptop and found several picture gallery collections that were prepared back in July 2019 but for some reason or other never got round to publishing. Emotional sensitivity will have played a part as some of them were holidays with someone I was in a relationship with and at the time I collated the pictures I was going out with someone else, although other things happening around then were also taking up my time. Whatever the reason the sensitivity is now gone since they all pertain to my previous overseas life and if they were not published I would most likely forget about them at least for another few years. Of course some pictures were omitted so the galleries only tell a partial story but the omitted details are ones I mostly do not want to think about anyway. It is a lasting regret that I lost a majority of the pictures taken over in New Zealand and hence were never able to create many galleries of my time over there.
Part of the process included putting things to use rather than letting my place be a museum of the past, such as the six old pint glasses that the landlord of my then-local would randomly give me in 2016 and would then spend the next four years behind my sofa collecting dust before getting shipped over to the UK. Looking back I am not sure if it was the last time I went there but the place closed down not the long afterwards, and it was a year or so later I was informed that Eddie had died — I was aware he had some sort of cancer but I did not realise how advanced it was. Whatever the truth behind the story it was one of many de-facto time capaules I needed to let go of.
The mid-year turning pointWhile March and April saw a lot of stuff fall into place such as getting round to sorting out computer equipment, by May things felt like they were in a rut and looking back I was mostly messing around letting time fly by. Yes I got back into electronics by finishing off a long-standing project but this was something that only needed a few days' effort once I got going but due to rock-bottom motivation it took over a month to complete, and this lack of motivation was across the board. I am also pretty sure my health & fitness had gone backwards during this time. Even though mid-May was when I started properly going to the gym it was June that my life really turned around — the gym attendence did get rather obsessive-compulsive for a while but remembering things back in 2015 & 2016 this was the only approach that has ever really worked for me, and it allowed me to lose six kilograms over the course of the month and a further seven by the end of the year. It was not a smooth process especially with the hiatus caused by the heat-wave mid-July and the freezing cold in December, and at times wondered whether it was all worth it.
All things considered the weight-loss went about as well as circumstances allowed and I did make some major changes such as a different approach to rebuilding social circules that would later pay dividends, but July and August were both plagued by across-the-board demotivation and feel too much like wasted time with little worth mentioning. Having to tear down are rebuild my personal workstation twice was very disruptive and a lot of other things on my to-do list got blocked as a result, most notably electronics project and finally getting the place properly tidy. I got some important things done but by and large things were not going to plan — assuming what I had in mind could be called that.
Back to conferenceI have attended every DPDK Userspace conference since they started, although it was cancelled last year and was virtual the year before, and this year it was hybrid with most people attending virtually. Supposedly in the expectation of a recession later this year US-based companies severely cut travel budgets, with only speakers attending in person if anyone at all was allowed to go — this did make the conference that bit more personal although it also meant not meeting some ex-colleagues I had not seen in years. While I consider the conference itself a success since I achieved my primary motivation of getting some contacts, being in three different hotels over four nights as well as serious delays to flights really took its toll on me.
The conference itself was in Archachon which required an hour-long train ride to and from Bordeaux, and the first and last nights spent in Bordeaux itself as a stopping-off point to and from the airport were a complete let-down. I did not have time to see anything new and would have been better off not burning the candle both ends with all the single-night stays. Somehow I also lost my Oyster card that I obtained circa 2007 and the trackball I had used with my laptop since 2013 finally packed in due to knocks taken in transit, although I might have a go at repairing the latter and ironically I finally registered the former only a week or so prior so was able to reclaim all credit on it. This stuff would not bother me had there also been some good memories of those nights.
In the decade before Covid I flew a median of sixteen flights a year whereas this trip to France is the first time I have been in a plane since moving back to the UK a bit over a year ago, and compared to the flights I took during Covid it was a pretty rotten experience with my flight being delayed by three hours and when it did set off it was packed out. I took the precaution of only having hand luggage and while at the airport I made contact with someone who was on the same flight and have since met up with in London.
Return to BristolSince emigrating to New Zealand I have been back to Bristol three times, mostly recently a bit under five years ago, and on those occasions I have tended to view Bristol in unfavourable terms — in short I cannot envisage my life advancing in the way it has had I stayed and I prefer not to rake over memories associated with the place. This month I spent a weekend over there in order to meet up with several people but due to the car's satnav deciding to route me via Cheltenham I spent a few hours up there, so by the time I got to Bristol and checked in I had little time left for doing anything on my own.
While it was nice to meet up with various people when asked what it was like being back in the city, my answer was that it is “bittersweet” — the place is my past and I did not get any real enjoyment from visiting the place in itself. I am not the same person who lived there a decade ago and it is not the city it was at the time.
Silly hotel costsI booked my hotel room the weekend before the trip and I managed to grab the last room going in the hotel in Clifton I stayed in. These days hotels seem expensive everywhere with even a basic room in London rarely going for less than £100 whereas in the past it was usually fairly easy to grab somewhere very basic for under £50 at the last moment on Expedia or Booking. The £125 I paid was more or less ball-park but friends of mine who left it a day or two later were being quoted circa £800 for a single night. One of them checked into a hotel in Cheltenham because the commute to Bristol and back was cheaper, although it meant they had to scoot back earlier than they would have liked to.
E-Scooter hire?One thing that seemed rather odd was the proliferation of E-Sooters that I am guessing are there for hire like the bikes that are available in several cities world-wide. This seemed rather ironic to me as E-Scooters are more or less banned in London, with TfL not even allowing people to carry them on public transport. I don't know whether this is due to a panic over power pack fires or accidents caused by careless drivers, but Bristol seems to be taking the opposite approach of letting people go rip with them.
My old officeThere were plenty of places I wanted to visit over the weekend for sentimental sake, such as my old flat that I had not seen since my short break from New Zealand as well as my first-year halls that were under redevelopment last time I drove past, but the only one I managed was the former offices of my first post-doc job. While my life at the time as a whole I do not look back to with any fondness, I have a certain fondness for my time at this company. In hindsight I was burning myself out but the work itself was both the most technically satisfying and the most productive in my entire professional career. Having recently gone thought some old photo collections and finding some pictures from my time there it felt right that I should see what it looked like a decade later.
Fom what I had read around 2015 or so these office blocks were converted to apartments, which to me seemed rather odd as the buildings are to my knowledge owned by Bristol City Council and the area is very poor for public transport connections. People living here basically need to have a car which is rather ironic as Bristol has become increasingly anti-car ever since the Green Party started taking seats on the city council. Nevertheless I was able to take a snap comparable to one I had taken while I worked there, as such picture pairs are always interesting.
A charity operationOne of the things I saw was the charity operation From Bristol With Love which is supplying Ukraine with material to help with the man-made humanitarian disaster over there, and all I can say is that the operation is big. A friend I met while in town invited me to a large send-off involving some local big-wigs such as the Lord Mayor I had never heard of before, and while the theatrics grate my reserved nature those behind the scenes are all level-headed people who know that charity is a rough-and-ready activity. Genuine charitable activity is within a sea of virtue-signalling and my experience with chuggers has made me cynical about the sector as a whole but this lot know what they are doing and it has a real effect. The warehouse itself and its overheads are all covered by Bristol City Council.
Background talk at this sendoff included speculation on what the Ukranian end-game will be, and my own opinion at the time which I have held since everything kicked off was that it would be either be NATO intervention or Putin being ‘removed’. Beyond these generalities were discussions of details which I have decided should not be made public, but I will say that one of my fears was Ukraine turning into something drawn out much like Afghanistan in the 1980s.
Getting worn outThe last quarter or so of the year by and large did not have anything really worth remembering and by early November I was just wanting the year to end. My weight-loss regime had stalled in part due to being out of town a lot and all the rail strikes had put a spoke into the wheels of my social-network rebuilding. I tried not to think of my pre-Covid life and what I have lost since, but in reality it became clear that I had unaddressed psychological issues that I simply could not leave behind. The worst symptom being a pessimism that was in turn causing motivation problems so even what everyone tells me were successful dates still left me feeling a little empty. With all the transport strikes it was clear it world be a while before I would get involved in a new relationship.
By this point I had long concluded that full-time remote working had been an unmitigated disaster. Since returning to the UK I tried to create some sort of work-life seperation by having seperate ‘work’ and ‘non-work’ areas and computer workstations, but in practice this did not work out as there were problems with getting my personal workstation up and running so I was doing personal stuff on my notionally ‘work’ computer for far longer than I ever wanted to. To make matters worse my whole apartment ended up feeling like somewhere I wanted to get away from outside of work hours, and the lack of any structure in my life had badly affected me. I got stuff done but felt that a certain measure of diligence and enthusiasm was no longer present.