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Today marks the start of the Chinese New Year (CNY), The Year of the Monkey.

I dread CNY. I probably wouldn't dread it so much were it not for my cousin's recent wedding, which earned me (and some other cousins) the attention of my aunt. She asked the One Question: "So when are YOU getting married?"

And today, I'm doomed to make the rounds to visit all my close relatives, including her ... and some other aunts.

I wish I were stranded at home sick, with only my computer and E2 for company.

That would be bliss.

Happy New Year to all!



p.s. I should refrain from being so pessimistic during the New Year. I also have a few other reasons to be merry, the reasons being: good food, red envelopes (with money in them) and the general good cheer in the air.
For Christmas, I was given a new mobile phone. One of the latest, and it has a vibrate function - pretty handy if you're in a meeting or on a train and don't want to disturb anyone. So, I'm having a really bad day and because it's been a tough week, I'm tired and grumpy and feeling particularly stressed. At 8am, I started on the Coke, then coffee - even a Red Bull - and now I'm feeling wired. So wired, my stomach is in a knot and my legs haven't stopped jumping around for about an hour. I'm also able to type at lightspeed as I'm sure you can imagine. All this is made slightly worse by the fact that I started playing Squash to get fit and ever since the beginning of the week, I've been aching all over.

So anyway, the end of the day comes around (I'm still wired) and I say goodnight to everyone in the office. I've got to be home in an hour because a repair man is coming over so I speedwalk (half walk, half run) to the train station. As I get there, huffing and puffing, they decide to turn on all the lights (blinding everyone who's just come in from the dark) and it's then that I start to have my heart attack. A full blown, eyes stinging, arms arching, stomach crunching, heart wrentching, heart attack! My life flashed before me, and I started to think "why me?!" It kept going but after about a minute, my heart returned to normal. The people around me stopped staring at the freaky sweaty man ("whaaat?! you never seen anyone have a heart attack?!") and went about their business. It was only then that I realised I'd put my mobile in my jacket pocket on silent/vibrate and had 1 missed call!

Phew...close one.
Better today.

Today I am wearing my new sock. Damn it was tight getting it on. There is a special slippery sock you use to help put it on, then pull out through the toe hole. The constricting sock has an open toe. You start by turning most of it inside out then putting on the slippery sock, then stretching the constraining sock around that and pulling it up over your foot a little, then remove the slippery sock and carefully continue to move the constricting sock up your calf to its full length.

It was hard work getting it on but now I can hardly feel it. It's more comfortable than the looser cotton-based sock I had before. Supposedly it is helping the broken valves in my vein to function. My logical thought was that a constricting sock would make the circulation worse, but since it helps the valves it's supposed to improve circulation.

It's freezing cold here, down to around minus 15 degrees Celsius, and the sun casts pale blue shadows on the snow. Up here in northern Europe I think we are all sun worshippers, pagans under a thin layer of secularized christianity. The light is beginning to return now, the days slowly getting longer again; maybe our midwinter sacrifices (in terms of lighting a million candles and eating lots of food) worked this year too. In not too long now we'll light bonfires to scare the winter off for good, and then we start the worshipping by gathering in the parks and taking as much of our clothes off as we dare.

Time flows oddly when you don't do much during the days. I've got some time off now from work, but that doesn't help in getting more things done. All of a sudden it's a major project just going out to get some groceries. The days tend to blend together, interrupted only by the occasional aikido practise or friend visiting. Watching life happen to other people.

A strange night at borgo’s?

Maybe it was a combination of too much beer and mescal that brought this on or maybe when you mix that up with a healthy dose of a Tom Waits chaser and a little Bob Dylan on the side is when you have the makings of a lonely night of nostalgia. Maybe when the house is quiet, the telephone is shut off, and the only sound that you hear is the ice melting in your glass or maybe it’s the sound that the twist off makes when you uncap another beer. Maybe it’s the coldness in the air as you wait for the heat to rise or the maybe it’s the sound the furnace makes a little while later when you adjust the thermostat to stop from shivering.

Maybe it’s the chili pepper lights giving off a soft red glow in a darkened room or maybe it’s the old photographs that stare at you from the walls. Maybe it's your eyes as they mist over or maybe it's when your mind takes you to places you’d thought you’d forgotten, or maybe you at least hoped you did.

Maybe it’s the books that stare down at you from the shelves with a fine coat of dust covering their jackets that serves as a reminder of the last time you picked them up or maybe it’s the hum of the refrigerator as it whirs away in the kitchen. Maybe it’s the tick tock of the clock that hangs on the wall or the soft buzz of cars passing by on the darkened streets outside on a cold winter night.

Maybe it’s the cloud of smoke from the cigarette that hangs in the air in the reddish colored room or maybe it’s the butts that sit in the ashtray. Maybe it’s the smell of warmed up leftovers and the ping of the microwave or maybe it’s the patterns on your plates and silverware.

Maybe it’s the flicker of light from the candle in the living room that makes the walls seem to shimmy and dance or maybe it’s the sound the stairs seem to make as you make your way upstairs to go take a piss. Maybe it’s the sight of unmade beds and half opened doors that make you want to peek inside to see if somebody is there even though you know they aren’t.

Maybe it’s the click of the switch and the glare that the light gives off that hits your eyes and makes you blink or maybe it’s the toys that you see scattered about the deserted room. Maybe it’s the sight of half finished notes to anonymous friends or the dull gaze of stuffed animals as they stare down at you from their assorted perches on the different colored walls. Maybe it’s the pile of broken clothes that sit in the corner because they don’t fit anymore or maybe it’s the laundry basket full of clean ones just waiting to get dirty again.

Maybe it’s the tiny smile that crosses your face or the lonely tear that runs down your cheek when you think about times gone past or maybe it’s the same tiny smile and same lonely tear you get when you think about the times to come. Maybe it’s the way the pillow caresses your head and your eyes slowly drift shut or maybe it’s that last final thought that you have before you drift off to sleep.

But then again, maybe it’s like I said earlier, maybe it’s too much beer, mescal, Waits and Dylan that all combine to play tricks with your head.

We are not blessed with snow here but we like the change of cold. Our house, tiled and old, with thin, tree-veiled windows grew colder as the days grew longer. Thick socks, loose sweats, a fireplace throwing heat. Blankets.

The boys build forts in skeleton forests, returning home at dark with red faces and stories of disaster narrowly averted. Mud splatters their legs and hands, logging their adventures in a language known only to them, washed away before dinner.

Roast pork, fresh bread, soft butter, wild rice, salad of fresh greens with a unknown dressing, cab sav, pecan pie and ice cream -- a french braid of aroma and taste and texture, a good reward for the cleared land, new fence and covered orchids before the oncoming wind chill.

"Off to bed, gentlemen."

I hold hands through the crib slats until the baby falls asleep, soft music simmering in the dark, no moon through the window. The older boys require pillow time, too. One day they won't allow me in to their rooms so I drop everything to take advantage until then. A secret revealed. A lesson. A promise of time. Their steady breathing prods me off the bed and out the door.

Read a bit. Feed the cat. Stretch hamstrings and lower back in front of the heavy-lidded embers in the fireplace. Check if the covers over the orchids have held in the wind, and adjust if necessary. Watch Orion play frisbee with his big dog, crackling in the clear cold sky.

Time, at last, for a shower, and crossing the bedroom I spot her burrowed under the comforters, echoing the breathing of her sons. Shower steam dims already faint light, drifting around me as I peel away tired sweatshirt and worn-out jeans. Anticipating tomorrow morning's pre-dawn run despite knowing it will take a few miles to warm up, I briefly look forward to that first free day I can make it to the beach.

Warm pjs on, and I slide next to my wife and spoon.

"It's about time," she said, rolling toward me, wearing only her thermal top, hands reaching for my waiststband. "Let's not be loud."

Later, wrung dry and my breath leapfrogging hers, I peek from beneath the new mountain range we've made to the windows we've fogged. On the other side the wind tosses the veils, gusts bumping the house. I plan for wearing an extra shirt for the run, not needing sweats or socks now, drifting to sleep, blessed by the change of cold.

New Habits

Ever since the New Year I’ve started acting a little weird. I’ve covered it up though, hiding away like a naughty child, it is silly really because I haven’t got anything to hide away from anyone. Not really. When I buy a magazine or I find one of my Mother’s or friend’s I have to quickly scan the pages to find the ‘STARS.’ Sad, huh? I browse the page to find my sign, Aries, and begin to read. It is like a religion now. I’ve got to read them, find out what is about to happen. Waiting for these things to happen in anticipation.

Star signs have never really bothered me before; I used to think they were a load of rubbish for people who had no lives or dreams. When the New Year arrives I always become a little psychotic. Sometimes it is like when twelve strikes something strikes inside of me that makes me want to go out and change something about myself. This year it was different though, I was happier this year and I suppose, I want to find out if this happiness will last and the only way to do so is to read my stars. Stupid teenage thoughts, I suppose – but they are my thoughts. I am the holder. Maybe the reason why I am like this is because of my star sign or maybe I’m just insane.

School

I’m under a lot of pressure at the moment. My GCSE’s are in just over three months and although this seems like a long time I realise I need to do something about it now so that I am well prepared and not panicky when it comes to the day. The problem is I’ve always had a really laid back idea about anything to do with school and maybe that wasn’t the best thing to do. All the teachers’ jam into our heads at the moment is revising, relearning and remembering. At fifteen I should be having the time of my life, going out, having fun but somehow it just isn’t like that anymore.

There are a lot of other things for me to do, too. I have a pile of coursework that I need to plough through at some point. I look back on the last year or so and I wonder what I’ve actually been doing. I’ve made so many mistakes and I just wish I had been more organised about the whole thing. I’ve had over a year and I haven’t done anything, I’m wasting my life away with pointless things that just aren’t important anymore. I have to get my priorities right so I can get where I want to go and be who I want to be. Can that be so hard? Or; have I left it too late?

Tiredness

Do you think it is possible that a child of fifteen is suffering from insomnia? I lay in bed at night thinking about everything and anything. I seem to feel so tired yet I just cannot sleep and I just cannot think why. They say that when you can’t sleep you must have something on your mind, and yes, I do. It isn’t something that I am really fretting about, it is just school and that can all be sorted in a matter of days. School has never bothered me so much that I can’t sleep. It can’t be that.

I toss and turn. I feel hot. I feel cold. I can’t win. The dark night comes through the curtains and I can see the street lamps through the thin curtains, they twinkle and I think of the day’s events. Slowly my eyes seem to be drifting to sleep and then something moves outside and it wakes me up straightaway. It is no good, why can’t I sleep? This tiredness is driving me mad. Yawn, that is all I ever do.

So, a few days ago, I noticed that I, as an E2 user, am coming startlingly close to three years old. This is a good thing. But it's taken me a long time to come to that opinion.

Several times over that three years, I've wondered if E2, as a whole, has consisted of nothing more than a hideous exercise in mental masturbation. It's not.

I don't know what E2 is to you. I know what it is to me. I owe this place more than I care to describe to you. E2 is where I rest after labour.

I am not going to go into the laughs we've shared, the tears we've cried, or the curses we've cursed. You know better than I do. I am sorry if I've caused direct offense, but I promise that I'll endeavour to make you laugh, cry, or shout for the next three years. I hope that you find the unexpected.

Basically, guys, you've provided for me a place to put up my feet after a hard night at work. You've laid out the welcome mat and kept the scourge close at hand. I appreciate that. I hope none of you doubt it.

So thanks.

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