4: How to get stuck in a rut…I mean, plateau (part three)

A wise man, etc… (can’t wait to finish this part, so I can put a new introduction in)

So, then, something to look forward to…

This is the bit where I struggle.

In my life, I’ve had a good job, been married, had kids, own my own shop, been to a few places all over the world, and when I think now to what I look forward to, I think of….well, nothing.

It feels like, all the things I had to look forward to, they’ve all passed and are now memories. At a push, I could say that the future holds my kids weddings, having grandkids, retirement, but they’re not things to look forward to, they’re just a part of life that inevitably happen. Future holidays? What? There’s nowhere I can think of where I feel like ‘yes, I must go there before I die.’

So in this short series of ‘How to get stuck in a rut’ blogs, this is the ‘rut’ part.

Maybe even the mid-life crisis part, but don’t worry, I have no feelings of getting a sports car, a ponytail, and a leather jacket that I push the sleeves up to my elbows. It’s more a feeling of ‘what’s left to do’?

And I think it’s been adding to that general feeling of ‘should I start dating again’?

At least that would give me a new purpose, I guess, and hey, something to look forward to, even if the first time I go dating it will be full of angst and nervousness.

When I really sit down and think about it, looking forward to things is really looking forward to seeing familiar people again. I enjoy nights out for this reason, and when I don’t have the kids for a few days, I am happy to see them again when they come back. It’s like, when you see the same people all the time, you don’t really look forward to seeing them – they’re just there, all the time.

I wonder if I will date this way?

I am fifty years old, and therefore have a pretty solid take on how I want to live my life, and one thing (I think) I know before I set off on the dating lottery, is that I do not want a relationship where I see the person all the time.

This is because if I have a new relationship, I want to look forward to seeing them, every time I see them, and I want them to feel the same about me. I do not want things to go stale, or complacent or, dare I say it, boring.

There’s a kind of greater enjoyment in not seeing someone all the time. This is also why, when I see couples (seemingly everywhere I look now I’m thinking about the dating game), they’re mostly just sitting there, not talking, just being, not really enjoying each other’s company, merely tolerating it, because the alternative is to be on your own and have to go through all the crap I’m about to go through.

Even their small talk is bland shit. They just don’t know what to say to each other any more. It’s dead, gone, done, and I DO NOT WANT THAT (I haven’t written a dating profile yet – I’m guessing I won’t put that line in).

And this is because they are doing what society has told them to do.

Grow up, get a job, get a partner, get married, have kids, look after them, see them disappear, retire, die…

…don’t get divorced – you have made a commitment and you have to stick to it because ‘society’ has said you have to, stay together because the grass isn’t greener, put up with the others’ faults and call it familiarity – ‘oh, that’s just their way’ and, ultimately, have a small, sneaky feeling of relief when they die, but don’t tell anyone because ‘society’ has dictated this is not allowed, but then miss their familiarity, miss the feeling of just having someone else there, even if you didn’t necessarily like them all that much any more…

Wow, I have certainly overdone my scorn towards married life, or even just relationships. That is some lucky lady that’s eventually going to end up with me.

And who am I anyway? I have lived two-thirds of a life so far, and not really lived for any of it, and if people want to live that life I have just described then, really, good luck to them if it makes them happy. It’s just not what I want for mine.

The only relationships that work are the ones where the woman is in control. Yeah. I get that.

Did I mention?

I. Do. Not. Want. That.

This, of course, is my view as I sit from where I am now. I have no idea what is going to happen.

So then, the Tinder app is downloaded onto my phone, as yet untouched, and its icon, every time I see it on the screen, entices me, calls me in to its world of new adventures, experiences, and feelings.

I’d better get on with it…


My books on Amazon

3. How to get stuck in a rut…I mean, plateau (part two)

A wise man once told me… yadda, yadda..

That quote is in part one, and the second part of it was to have ‘a family you like’.

It depends what you call ‘family’. What does that mean, exactly? Most people would say: ‘mother, father, brothers, sisters, children, grandparents, cousins, etc.’, and I guess they’re right, but to say I like them all? I’m not sure.

First off, my family is huge. I have six sisters, three brothers, and forty-five cousins, each with their own kids (and therefore mostly they have the Wiggenstein name), and I cannot possibly know all these people very well. I might like them, I might not, and will probably never find out.

So where does it end, this definition of ‘family’? At which point do we say they’re not a relation any more? I read somewhere that we are all mostly descended from the same place – how does that work, then?

I could be with a woman, with no knowledge that maybe our great-great-great-grandparents were married to each other. How would we know, and where does the distinction of family stop?

To me, ‘family’ basically means ‘the people you care about, and (maybe more importantly) that care about you’.

I don’t really care if someone is related to me or not – if I care about what happens to them, then they’re family, by blood or not by blood, and that means: my kids, brothers, sisters, (close) cousins, my parents, my friends, the people I work with, women I’ve humped (though not always, even when I was humping them), and in fact, here is a list of what is important to me, in order:

  1. My children
  2. Me
  3. My family (again, whatever that means)
  4. My friends
  5. My workmates
  6. The north east of England
  7. England
  8. Great Britain
  9. Europe
  10. The world.

That list kind of changes depending on the situation I am in and the mood I am in but, yes, in general, that is how things are to me. The only other thing that could possibly make the list is ‘a woman I like’, but honestly, they would only ever go in at number five at best, and at some point would leave the list anyway.

So then, kids…

I have two, Jessica, 14, and Jack, 11. I don’t where the ‘J’ trend came from – we didn’t really notice it until we noticed it (if you catch my drift), and I don’t know why there was a three-year gap either. It seems to me it would be best to have all your kids in one go, so you don’t have to go through the sleepless nights, nappy-changing, and being sicked on for more than one period in your life, and once they’re at school, you can start building your own life back.

Shocking, isn’t it, that kind of attitude towards kids? Have you noticed this blog is called ‘I’m not a Keeper’? There are plenty of reasons for it.

Circumstances have meant that my kids live with me, in a six-bedroom terrace in Tynemouth. We, when we were a couple, bought the house as an investment to rent out, and now I am living in it. It was a good job we bought it when we did, though – the house prices in Tynemouth are now, ahem, ridiculous. Last year, there was a house in the main street of Tynemouth town centre that was up for sale for a million pounds.

A million fkg pounds!!!

Has nobody noticed that we are in the north east of England? Million pound houses are left for other areas, not ours. Still, though, I am not complaining about that. Who would?

Anyway, kids. Of course, I love them more than anything else in the world (see list above), same as any other parent, and I would do anything to make sure they have a happy life (within reason, I suppose – I mean, if they asked me to kill someone they didn’t like, I’d probably say ‘no’…probably).

There’ll be more about kids as this blog continues, as I also I want to talk a little about others in my daily life, namely, the people that work for me.

My shop is in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, and I have two people working in it; Ula and Ray.

Ula is British, and has Polish parents who have been here for twenty-five years, bringing Ula with them as a baby, and is one of those women who could probably have had a career as a model, being tall, dark-haired and pretty, that being another good reason to employ her, i.e. to get people (men) to come into the shop, even if they never have the balls to talk to her. Another thing about Ula is her name sounds like the Martian war call in War of the Worlds, and if me and Ray feel like irritating her, we use that to call on her. She hates it.

Ray, well, I could write numerous blogs about Ray, and probably will. Let’s just say he is ‘individual’ and leave it at that, apart from one thing: when we want his attention, we sometimes sing ‘Ray, raydy, Ray’, like Elmer Fudd singing the Bob Dylan song.

I also employ a gay cleaner, Richard, who cleans the house and the shop. Being the modern, hip, non-homophobic people we are, we tend not to rib Richard too much about being gay, and even listen to his dating stories, until he tries to go into detail, and we have to instantly stop him. I mean, being gay is fine and everything but we don’t want the ins and outs (so to speak). Also, his name can be shortened to Dick, which with him being gay, calls for any amount of innuendo (did you see that, everyone who thinks we don’t tolerate gay men in Newcastle? Shut up, man).

These people work for me, in that, I pay them to be where they’re meant to be and to do what they’re meant to do. I’m not sure if this counts as friendship, though even when you pay someone, and you’ve done that for years, friendships do develop, and I would say that I would do anything in my capability to help these people as much as I would for anyone else I care about.

So that’s it for now. There are many other people I could talk about in this blog, and will in the future, but it would end up being about 20,000 words long, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about writing blogs, they’re the same as good speeches: have a good start, and a good end, and keep them as close together as possible.

Oh, and before I forget, check out this Geordie female take on Tinder dating: Tinder in the Toon – it’s, how we Geordies say, proper geet lush (that means ‘very good’).

Find you again next week, in part three, the future… hmmm… it’s another country, so they say.


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2: How to get stuck in a rut…I mean, plateau (part one)

A wise man once told me there are three things you need to live a happy life: a job you like, a family you like, and something to look forward to.

I kind of have all three.

Finding a job you like is never easy. This is a dilemma for kids at school: they’re being asked what career they want, what they want to do in the future. It’s a tough one: I know people who are in their fifties and still don’t know what they want to do with their life, and teenagers are expected to know when they’re still at school.

Somebody gave me this advice years ago: find something you enjoy doing and make money out of it, and you’ll never work another day in your life. But what? I’m not counting the usual dreams like being a rock star, or top sportsperson, or movie star…they fade pretty quick (though never completely go away, I’ve noticed – singing along to a song in the car is tantamount to wanting to be on a stage in front of thousands of people).

So your dreams become smaller, more manageable. I’ve found that to be the main part of becoming a grown-up, making your dreams smaller. It’s a shame isn’t it? That knowing you’ll never be a huge success at anything. It’s no wonder mid-life crises happen.

I don’t think I’ve ever suffered a mid-life crisis. From what I understand of it, it’s when you evaluate your life and what you’re doing with it. If that is the case, I’ve been having a mid-life crisis since I was about twelve. I do know, though, as you get older, your ‘give a shit’ levels drop, and it’s very freeing, like being a kid again. Here’s a handy graph to show you what I’m talking about:


I think the closest I’ve been to an age crisis is when I gave up my job as a surveyor to become a book shop owner.

I received erratic support when I did this, from the platitudinal ‘yeah, you go, boy’, to the downright envious ‘don’t do it, it’ll never work’.

Envious, you ask? Yeah, I think so. Most people don’t want their friends to succeed.

It’s like, people don’t want other people to be happy. You can tell someone genuinely that you are happy and content and enjoying your life, and they don’t want to hear it. They want to hear about how shit your life is, so they can feel better about theirs. It’s the same being single and happy. It’s kind of not allowed. Society says you should have a partner, share your life with someone else, that’s the only way to be truly happy, and if you tell people you’re single and happy, they just don’t believe you, like, single and happy? How is that possible?

‘Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little’. That’s what Gore Vidal said, and I completely agree. Not with the sentiment from myself; I genuinely want everyone I know to follow their dreams and be a success, and actively ask them how much of their dream they have worked on today. But when I wanted to follow my own dream, small though it was, I could feel the angst dripping from their pores. When they say ‘don’t do it, it’ll never work’, what I heard in my head was, ‘if you follow your dream and succeed, it brings into focus how much I haven’t followed mine. Please don’t succeed – you’ll make me feel inadequate.’

Of course, what goes in my head doesn’t generally follow reality. I’m a dreamer; that ‘s what I’ve always been told. Always have a dream, I think, and work on it. How’s that saying go? ‘Beware the dreamers of the daytime, as they’ll make them real.’ (or something like that).

Sorry, I have digressed again. I do that a lot. I’m good at it. I’m meant to be writing about my work, and have skipped into ‘having something to look forward to’.

So, my job.

I took a risk, and it has sort of paid off. Being a surveyor was okay, I guess. It more than adequately paid the bills, gave me and my family quite a comfortable life, but at the then age of forty, and with twenty-five years of that job to go, I just saw my future life right in front of me and thought,’ I don’t want that’.

My ‘other future’ meant watching the kids grow up, going to dinner parties, talking about house prices, the state of the country, competing with other parents about how your kids are better than theirs, name-dropping people you know in the higher echelons of society, seeing the kids leave the house, going on holidays as a couple and not talking about anything substantial, just filling the silent gaps…

All boring, bland, beige, vanilla… crap.

And, yes, some of that other future is still in this one, but it’s different now.

I’d always loved reading books, and enjoyed talking about them, seeing what other people thought about them (mainly seeing how differently they thought about them), asking what people are reading, and why they are reading it. You can get a fairly good take on what people are like when you have a look at their book shelf.

You can also get a true picture of someone from looking at their internet browsing history…

So, in my head, I had this dream life I wanted to create for myself.

I would be able to talk about books all day, and engage with the customers and staff who have the same interests as me. I’d be my own boss, away from all the politics and gossip that permeates all other workplaces. This was naive, I know that. It doesn’t matter what line of work you are in, or how you’ve set it up, you always have to deal with people, and that’s what dicks everything up.

Admin, marketing, bills, accounts, stocking, restocking, throwing books away (I especially don’t like that part, there’s something almost Nazi-ish about it), staff being off sick, or on holiday, having hardly any holidays myself…yeah, it’s glamorous. I do get good bits, though. We get regular customers (we have a coffee shop in the store, which actually is what brings people in), some of them having a break from work, or a break from shopping. Some of them are just lonely, and want someone to talk to. Some people actually come in to look at the books, and some of them actually buy them.

So, it hasn’t quite worked out exactly like the dream job I had in my head, but it’s not so far away that I don’t want to continue.

Catch you in the next blog, part two, family… hmmm… do I really have to…?

Link to my books


1: Into the Minefield…

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that men will never fully understand women, and that women will never fully understand men.

‘Why don’t you start dating, Dad?’

This was from my daughter, Jessica, 14 years old.

‘I don’t really know.’ I said. ‘I’ve never really thought about it all that much.’ Continue reading “1: Into the Minefield…”