In February 2012, while still having a job in Hatfield (Hertfordshire) I sort of half moved to London. I’d spend the weekend in London and most weeknights still living in Hatfield, then in July I moved to London full time, driving back and forth between the two every day, thrashing the nuts off my car. In September 2012 I started a job in Central London. I literally was living my dream, the dream I’d had since I was six – to live and work in London. A dream that had almost been taken away from me at one juncture in life but I’d clawed it back. It wasn’t exactly as I’d expected it to be (I wasn’t the Barrister, as I’d originally planned) but still, it was Central London, that mystical place that millions of people turn up to in tin cans called ‘trains’ every day. This was just about the biggest fucking adventure of my life. I thought that it couldn’t get any better than this, the places, the people. Just everything was amazing and exciting.
Then on 16th January, four months after I started working in central London, this happened.
The Vauxhall helicopter crash. No, I’ve never posted this picture before. It hit the building directly next to mine. This is the evacuation process. We spent the rest of the week in the basement of a grotty disaster recovery building on Southwark Bridge Road. There were no windows, no mobile phone reception and for the first day no internet connection. It was a lesson in how, even in London – one of the most connected cities in the world – you can be completely uncontactable, and out of touch with the world. It was so lonely, especially as my work required security clearance so I couldn’t talk to anyone about it. I couldn’t even tell anyone but my most immediate family what my job was. Do you have any idea how alone that eventually makes you feel?
Then, because you’re a contractor, the people you contract to treat you like shit. They shove you around wherever they fancy. We were moved between offices four times in a year. Of course, no definitive dates were ever given to us, generally we were just told we were moving “at some point” then some people would turn up one day with some crates. The worst one was a grapple that lasted for a good four months that started with threats of them moving us from Kennington to Holloway, eventually they settled on WC1 instead. When it came to moving, we eventually one got one week’s notice, despite them knowing we had to move for at least those four months.
Living here’s not been without it’s pains. This flat has been a fucking nightmare. It has no insulation, so heating it (with electricity, there is no gas) runs at over £1000 per year. We went on holiday three days after the helicopter crash, were promised that a load of work would be done on it while we were away for the two weeks including treating mould and rewiring for new, more efficient heating. We got home at 1am to find wires hanging out of the walls, nothing working, cigarette burns in the carpets and everything in shit state. They’d only started the day before. Mere weeks later, when coming to fix more things while we were away for a weekend, they turned off our freezer, destroying nearly £300 worth of frozen food we’d only just bought.
Then there was my downstairs neighbour, who, in less than a year hit my car five times, denying it every time until it was caught on CCTV. He also reversed into some scaffolding keeping the roof up and denied that until we mentioned it was on CCTV. At one point I had to call the police at 3am on another neighbour because he was violent beating up his partner. The police being the police didn’t really want to get involved in a domestic. This was the same guy I’d accused of beating up the kid that lived with him four years previously. Looks like I wasn’t far off. He left before the police picked him up and only came back to pick up his stuff a few days later.
It’s always these times in your life, when you try to look over and review the things that have gone on that you can never actually recall that much.
Let’s talk about trains. Some people might recall that I wrote this post and it caused a bit of a stir. That was just one of quite a few times when a suicide caused major distruption to services in and out of London, I had many a night when it took three or more hours to get home. Shit happens, you do what you can. That doesn’t make it right to physically or verbally abuse railway staff. There are still way too many people out there who think that them getting home is more important than the person who died. I had other journeys with shouting matches between me and people who think that someone who is ill should be thrown off the train and allowed to die instead of the service being cancelled. I had some woman try to push me off the platform and onto the track at Victoria, I’ve texted BTP for assistance. Gotta say that I think my defining moment was getting someone with their feet on the seats to move was by throwing their lunchbag down the other end of the carriage and watching them run after it.
I’m not the biggest cunt out there, honest. I have actually helped some people. The people who have ended up in the wrong end of a Caterham and Tattenham Corner service and realised that they really didn’t want to be in Kenley, I’ve dispatched them safely back towards Tattenham Corner. I also once helped a very young child whose dress was trapped in a moving escalator at Vauxhall station while hundreds (no exaggeration there) of people just ignored her and her mother’s cries for help. I also stopped to help an elderly lady and her wheely bag who had been pushed off a bus by a very nasty bitch (herself at least in her 60s). Even when I caught up with her and had words she didn’t have anything to say for herself. I was also the sole witness to a knife crime in Streatham to which I gave the police a full statement.
If it wasn’t for coming to London I would never have started playing Ice Hockey and by christ this shit is amazing. I’m still a terrible goaltender but I’m signed to a team, I get ice time and most importantly I have fun. If anyone ever tells you that they are an ice hockey player, never, ever, ever doubt their commitment. The EIHA is a bit of a laughable organisation who do so little to encourage people to play or join, so it’s amazing we have leagues in the first place, let alone people who continue to play considering we all have real lives. It’s not like people who play football after work or on a Sunday morning, or people who do netball after work. Nah, we’re playing hockey starting at midnight, not getting home until 3am, or we’re starting nearer 10pm and not getting home until midnight then still getting up at 5am to go to work the next day. We’re taking a week’s worth of holiday from work, spending £500, which could be spent on a week in the sun to actually spend 8 hour days doing nothing but skating, drills and other intense exercise. I wouldn’t change that for one moment, even if I do look slightly worried.
Let’s have some happy stuff.
I’m a world record holder.
In June 2014 I took my then partner to the top of The Shard. He had no idea what was about to come. The night before, I’d been out with a friend for a drink and got a bit tipsy. I’d been planning this with her for a little while but I didn’t know how to do it. Come that day I still didn’t know how to do it, so I wrote it all down in a card. The trip to the top of The Shard on 7th June 2014 was actually a proposal. I didn’t have the words, so I had to write them down. I forgot my proper camera, and it rained that day. Still, at least he eventually said yes, even if he cried too much and didn’t actually realise what I was asking him in the card. It wasn’t until we got to a pre-booked afternoon tea at the Oxo tower when they brought out a dish that said “Congratulations” and he was really confused that he admitted he didn’t realise what I’d said. He did finally say yes.
I decided that we should completely cheat on London, having got married there for the first time round. We ran off to New York and got married there instead, just the two of us, in November 2015.
Over the past couple of years my job has become unmanageble. It’s got to a point where it’s made me so ill I can’t continue. I’ve always had migraines, since I was a child, but never to the point where I was having four or five of them per week. I made repeated complaints to my boss about various issues and nothing ever changed. For a while I blamed myself – maybe it was all my fault, maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough, so I kept trying harder and harder. I was getting up earlier each day to try and cram in more and more, get into work earlier. Maybe it was me? Maybe I needed to do like you hear so many people talking about, put in two or more hours every day outside of your contracted time, then it will get better, you’ll get that recognition, you’ll get what you want and it will start getting easier. People will respect you for this. That’s not how it worked out. Instead, I got my first Cluster headache at the end of June 2015.
I thought it was just a one off. Then when I went on holiday in February 2016 and for seven out of the ten days we were away, I had these every day, many of them each day. I lost almost the entirety of the holiday. There was nothing I could do about them. I could barely leave my bed, painkillers didn’t work. I was barely able to eat, I couldn’t go into the sun, could barely stand sound. One day I’d gone more hours than other days without any pain, took one sip from a can of beer and within half an hour I had a drooping face and had gone blind in one eye. I had my next attack in June, the day after I came back from my next holiday, and this attack was so bad my GP made me go to A&E where I was treated as though I was having a stroke. I am 30 years old. When I finally returned to work some days later and explained it all to my boss, all he could say was “oh well”.
I now have a neurologist, and I take Topiramate, an anti-convulsant, to control the “normal” five per week migraines that I get. The next time I have a cluster headache, I’ll start on a new treatment (Verapamil) which will mean more pills and also an epi-pen to carry around forever. Who’d have thought that just going to work, doing an office job could take you from a relatively active and healthy 20/30-something to having the worst pain known to man, being treated like you’re having a stroke and wanting to die because the pain is so bad you’ve gone blind?
Now I see just how pointless this mindless pursuit of wealth actually is. It’s nothing more than that, you’re never going to find happiness in it. All these people buzzing around London thinking they’re important. All these people who think that they’re better than everyone else, that they have to get to places before anyone else does, that they have to cram themselves into the last little bit of space because they’re just so fucking important. You’re not, you’re just as fucking worthless as the rest of us. Your life is no more important than that of your office cleaner. Your pathetic chasing around of that pound sign on your payslip is just as shallow and empty as the junkie chasing their next fix.
I’ve spent a lot of my life in hospital, and I always wanted to rise out of it to make something of myself instead of depending on everyone else. When all this pain started I realised that I didn’t have to do this any more. I wondered a couple of times if I’d made a massive mistake by taking on a new job, there were a few doubts, but then I realised I felt the same when I took on this current job. You gotta do, what you gotta do to be happy, or at least content, and healthy. Your health and wellbeing is far more important than money. You do not have to keep on doing this. You do not have to keep on destroying yourself. If you can’t do it any more, don’t. If you need to stop, stop. Who cares what other people think? Your wellbeing is more important than what any jumped up shallow bastard around you thinks. You do what is best for you. You are not weak for having to slow down, stop or change your mind.
Since I explained this to my colleagues, two others out of my team of four are doing the same.
At the same minute that this post is published I will be walking out of an office in WC1N for the last time in my life. I will never set foot in there ever again. I will be giving up my security clearance for a life in leafy Kent – back where I originally come from. Where I can actually live a life that, hopefully, won’t try and kill me. Where I don’t have to get on a train at the arsecrack of dawn every day, where I don’t have to time my life down to the very second. Where maybe, just maybe, one day I can stop taking all of this medication to get me through the day without so much pain and can actually be happy, or at least content and feel human.