Janet (j4) wrote,

Ten Years Asleep

Happy new year!

So, that decade meme. A few points before I start:

1. It's surprisingly hard to reconstruct the LiveJournal-less years, and surprisingly hard to reconstruct some of the actual events even from the years with a LiveJournal (I do seem to write an awful lot of rubbish, don't I?).

2. I've not gone into details about all the relationships because I don't know to what extent other people want to forget things, particularly since most of them are now in other relationships too; the only ones I've mentioned are the ones which I'm fairly sure are public knowledge. Shout if you want me to delete anything.

3. It's surprisingly hard to find any kind of narrative thread. I did some stuff, and then did some other stuff. (I guess that's life; maybe if I spent more time on it I could turn it into a real story, but then it'd be a grillion words long and nobody would read it.) It came as quite a shock to the system, though, after 19 years in full-time education, just how little structure there is to life when you're not subject to the tides and terms of a school or university. I think that's one of the reasons I wanted to go back, if I'm honest with myself; I still like being able to divide the year up into terms and holidays, though I'm starting to find my own kind of rhythm to things in addition to that.

4. This is long and boring and I don't really expect anybody other than myself to be interested in it! There's no easter-eggy tickybox-poll at the end to see if you did read all the way through, I promise.

So, here goes...


I was quite glad to say goodbye to the 1990s. Saw in the 2000s at the Milenium [sic] Party in Cambridge, after which fun (lots of fun!) I returned to Oxford to have a second attempt at Hilary Term of my finals year (after dropping out just before the end of the previous attempt the year before). I moved back into college to do this, after 2 years of living 'out', and my parents got me my first mobile phone (an NEC phone on One2One) so I could keep in touch with them. I worked hard, but probably played harder. Spent lots of time on IRC, as a result of which I met and got together with taimatsu (my first real actual girlfriend!). Also kept up with the Cambridge crowd; visited Cambridge a lot, spent hours on the X5 bus.

Had too many relationships at once, all of them with very lovely people (most of whom I'm still friends with now) but it was frankly all a bit of a mess by the time I finished the degree. When polyamory means breaking up with two people on the same day, you get the feeling that 'UR DOIN IT WRONG'. (Amazingly, there was just as much FAIL before the days of lolcats.) Got through the exams; had a fantastic post-finals celebration on Angel & Greyhound meadow with champagne and lovely friends; didn't do any of the things I'd planned to do "after Finals"; went to Cambridge to hang out with people. I was in Cambridge when I got the email telling me I'd got a First (placed 33rd in my year). I'd abandoned the idea of staying on to do a DPhil by then; when I got the letter inviting me to take the All Souls entrance exam I assumed it was just a form letter they sent to everyone, so I ignored it.

Having no particular career plans I started applying for various jobs in Oxford and Cambridge, mostly library assistant posts and similar; I wanted to stay in Oxford, but also wanted to move to be closer to new friends and lovers in Cambridge, so I decided I'd see where I got a job first.

Went to BiCon for the first time and met lots of cool people.

In the autumn I was offered a job as an editorial assistant at ProQuest in Cambridge, at the princely salary of £12,000 a year; so I defected to The Other Place, lived ON MY OWN for the first time (in an excellent little flat on Oyster Row) though wasn't actually on my own there very often as I was spending most of my time with sion_a. Cambridge was strange: a bit like Oxford but smaller and flatter and you had to read SF to be accepted into the social scene. I felt a bit Jude-the-Obscure-ish wandering around the city and not knowing what any of the colleges were; I missed Oxford a lot.


Having realised that I'd more or less stopped reading after leaving University, I started a plan to try to read a book a week.

Thanks to my geek friends I started learning Perl in order to make my job at ProQuest (text-processing and munging SGML) more efficient: the first 'real' programming I'd done (a little bit of BASIC back in the 8-bit days doesn't really count).

Was very happy with sion_a, but shuttling between his house and mine all the time was exhausting (though useful driving practice for me as I'd started lessons again). We started looking for a house together, looked round lots of interesting places including a converted chapel and the longest bungalow in East Anglia.

Trying to remember what else happened in 2001... I joined the Portfolio Singers (lovely people who meet up to drink port and sing). Went to the pub on Thursday nights with the CUSFS crowd (or by then it might have been the not-CUSFS splitters' crowd). Started doing karate (the first time I'd ever done any sport voluntarily). Tried learning Old Norse. Went to the Calling (Cambridge's once-excellent goth night). What do people do all day?


In March (I think), sion_a and I moved in to a crazy house with 2 kitchens (one of which was speedily demolished) and 6 bedrooms. We started trying to 'do up' the house, though my plans for it were unfortunately based on a massive overestimate of my time/energy/skill for decorating and DIY. We knocked down a wall, which was fun.

My job at ProQuest got more and more geeky; they were not only trusting me to write Perl, but trusting me to teach other people basic Unix command-line stuff. They couldn't change my job title (and I was starting to sense that I'd manoeuvred myself into an entertaining dead end) but they gave me a pay rise, which was nice.

Went to Glastonbury for the first time, with daneel_olivaw. It was awesome!

In November I got a LiveJournal, so from this point on the records are a bit more reliable. In December I passed my driving test; went up to Yorkshire for an, um, 'adult' photoshoot with my then girlfriend (not sure she wants to be publicly embarrassed by being named here!); and ended the year with a New Year party at which sion_a and I announced our engagement.


In February I bought my Morris Minor. In April I applied for another job, and got it 'subject to references': I thought this was a formality until they reversed their decision after seeing on my reference how much sick leave I'd had (combination of depression-related stuff and back problems due to a crappy office chair). I stuck with my decision to quit ProQuest despite not having another job to go to, but within a few weeks I'd gone back as a freelancer.

April (perhaps trying to maintain its reputation as the cruellest month) was also when I started the only relationship I really wish I'd never had: a relationship with a married man, built on lust and lies (but mostly just lies) which slowly destroyed all my other relationships and some of my friendships, and seriously dented my sanity. I should have known better, but apparently I didn't. In September I split up with sion_a; I knew I couldn't make him happy and I knew I couldn't bear to keep on hurting him.

Trying to pick some positive things out of 2003... I think it was the year I started playing violin in the Cambridge Concert Orchestra; it was also the year when I started volunteering at the Oxfam bookshop (which I've continued doing, in Cambridge and Oxford, ever since), and working behind the bar at the Carlton (fantastically useful experience and good money). Worked at the Carlton on New Year's Eve; my shift ended at 11:30, just in time to get to a party at Relativity.


Spent January doing a brain-numbingly boring temp job, having decided that I'd take anything to get out of the rut I'd worked myself into at ProQuest. I was also working Friday nights and Sunday afternoons behind the bar at the Carlton, trying not to cry at the sad songs on the jukebox. After a month of temping I managed to get a real (and fantastic) job at Cambridge University, on the admin web team. Got on well with my colleagues and enjoyed the work.

In the autumn I finally summoned up the strength to walk away from all the long-distance lies, & found myself actually single for the first time in 10+ years. I went on holiday to Nice for a week with my boss (another single woman a bit older than me): the only time I've ever been on holiday with anyone other than family and partners, and it probably saved my life. We spent a week not checking email, not waiting for txts from people who weren't ever going to call us; wandering round art galleries, sitting on the beach, talking and laughing and eating lots of olives and drinking lots of cheap red wine. Terracotta rooftops and the overwhelming blueness of sea and sky.

Not long after I got back, my old friend addedentry (who'd also just ended a relationship) came to visit so we could cry on each other's shoulders. Turns out that having a bit of a crush on someone for many years, liking some of the same music and being able to beat them at Scrabble is a sound basis for a relationship: who knew? We fell in love to the soundtrack of the Magnetic Fields, visited each other all the time, learned that we could finish a game of travel Scrabble in the 45 minutes from Cambridge to King's Cross, went to countless gigs and films and London LiveJournal parties.

Owen and his housemates threw a New Year party which we left halfway through (my first and only experience of free London transport on NYE!) to go to a much cooler LJ party which had bass recorders, boykissing, and a pinata.


In the summer Owen moved to Cambridge, and I moved out of sion_a's house and into a rented house 6 minutes' walk from Cambridge station (Owen was still commuting to London).

We went to Glastonbury, and it rained for six hours non-stop. My umbrella hat was a big hit.

I was still enjoying the job at Cambridge: loving being part of a University, getting seriously nerdy about governance issues, playing interdepartmental political games, writing bits of perl, even kind of enjoying the enormous stress of producing the web version of the Graduate Prospectus every summer.

I ate jellied eel for the first time at Ely Eel Day. (I am struggling to find things to say about 2005, as you may be able to tell.)

Having decided I missed Evensong terribly, I begged my way into Peterhouse chapel choir; met lots of lovely people, got a few free singing lessons, and had the unusual privilege of getting to sing at Maurice Cowling's memorial service.


In the summer we went to J-P and Kate's fairytale wedding: the sunshine was glorious and the bride and groom were gorgeous.

That was also the summer that I went to the Institutional Web Managers Workshop (national UK HE webmasters' conference) for the first time; it was inspirational, massive fun, and I was delighted to meet the legendary(-ish) Sebastian Rahtz in real life (and argue with him on the conference IRC channel). It was the year of web 2.0, too: I got accounts on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

In the autumn I applied for a job at UCISA, based in Oxford (and linked to OUCS, where I remembered spending so much of my undergraduacy!), not really believing I'd get it. To my surprise, not only did they offer me the job, but I decided to take it. My four weeks' notice period didn't feel like enough to find somewhere to live and move to Oxford, but we found a flat next door to where truecatachresis used to live. Four bedrooms, cheap, and within cycling distance of town. Finished the job at Cambridge on Friday, moved on Saturday, started the new job on Monday, then the next day flew up to Scotland for a three-day conference. I was unhappy about having to fly, but they'd booked my tickets before I'd even started and I couldn't think of any way out of it.

Being back in Oxford was strange. All the same things but in a different order. I felt like I'd got over my relationship with Oxford well enough that I could be friends with it again; but it was disorientating nonetheless. Lovely to be living closer to J-P and Kate again, though, and to resume or revive a few other friendships from the old days.

Fairly quickly realised that the job had been a mistake; my boss and I didn't get on with each other, and the job wasn't the geeky fun I thought it would be, and wasn't really very linked to the computing services at all (though being on their discussion mailing list was almost like being on ox.* again!), and mostly seemed to involve putting lots of wasteful nonsense on expenses. Went to the OUCS Christmas party, where the legendary-ish Sebastian asked me if I was looking for a job... I said I'd love it but I probably wasn't enough of a programmer. Fortunately for me, he's never taken any notice of my own opinion of my skills, and he said he'd let me know when it came up.


So the job at OUCS came up, and they talked me into applying for it even though I was fairly convinced I wouldn't get it. When I did get it, I had the difficult task of explaining to UCISA that I was leaving after only 6 months. They weren't happy, but they didn't stop me. So I moved down the road, and felt like I'd really come home to Oxford at last. "The point of this job," said my new boss, "is to have fun." It certainly was fun, even if I was (and still am) full of doubts about my ability to do the work well enough.

In September Owen and I went on holiday to Dublin, and he asked me to marry him, and I said yeah, okay, why not? :-)

In November I started running (thanks to a colleague enthusing about it) -- I'd never done it before but a few of us at work started going for a run at lunchtimes, and by the end of the year I'd got to the point where I could actually run a couple of miles (not much, but a lot for me).

I got an iPod Touch for Christmas: the first bit of computer hardware I'd really loved since the Mac Plus.


In April we went to sion_a and 1ngi's wedding: an absolutely lovely day, and marvellous to see sion_a so happy.

In May I ran my first ever 10K race, the Town & Gown; finished in under an hour, and raised about £300 for Muscular Dystrophy.

In July brrm and I queued for goodness-only-knows-how-long, first in Oxford and then in Milton Keynes, to get our hands on a 3G iPhone (like the iPod Touch but even better).

In December we went on the first national Climate Change march.

To be honest, I have no idea what happened to most of 2008. Owen and I spent a lot of it failing to get round to planning a wedding; I carried on enjoying the job; we felt like the flat was becoming a real home (and had some great parties there) but also started debating whether it was a good time to think about buying a house. Eventually managed to organise the wedding for January 2009, to a general chorus of "about bloody time" from friends, family etc.


In January we got married! Most people were amused by Owen taking my name; many people seemed to assume (incorrectly) that it was me who'd insisted on him doing so. We had a wonderful honeymoon in Switzerland, travelling everywhere by train. I still haven't got round to writing up the wedding or the honeymoon; maybe I'll do it as an anniversary thing.

In March, I and several colleagues did a charity run for Comic Relief which went past every college in Oxford; we raised nearly £2000 for Comic Relief (and got very wet).

In July, Owen & I bought a ramshackle house in Oxford, had a nightmare time with builders, but managed to move in (books, piano and all) in August. Ever since then we've been trying to get our house in order. We still don't have an oven. We've been loving being part of the cool East Oxford scene: cycling up and down the towpath; lovely friends and good pubs all within walking distance; community stuff like Low Carbon East Oxford.

In July we (and hundreds of other people) held hands around Kingsnorth to make a 'Miliband'; in September we cycled up to Kidlington to protest about the expansion of the airport, and ended up playing croquet on the lawn outside with other activists; in October we went on the '350' climate change march in Oxford; and in December I agonised about missing the Wave but stayed in Oxford to sing in the concert I'd already committed myself to. The abject failure of Copenhagen to secure any kind of deal at all (let alone a fair, ambitious and binding one) was depressing but not really a surprise.

We saw in the New Year at the Isis Farmhouse with taimatsu, bluedevi and Dan, i_ludicrous and Ruth, and invisiblechoir. There were sparklers. Afterwards we came back to the ramshackle house and drank tea.

And now here we are in 2010, continuing to potter along through life. I've done a lot in the last 10 years; I've done next to nothing in the last 10 years. It all depends where you're standing. Either way, though, it's a lot of coffee-spoons. End of a decade: it's nothing special.
Tags: biography, decade, life, memes, review

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  • Just like starting over

    Hello! Does anybody still read this? I am basically declaring LJ bankruptcy: I haven't read my friends feed for so long that there's just no way I…

  • Running for the wide open spaces

    So I tried to explain this to someone face-to-face, or at least side-by-side, but there are some things you can only say in the small hours of the…

  • My insect life

    Red wall, red chair Red chair. A boot. Still life or love in all its banality as how he sits, or she removes her shoes, or he crosses his ankles,…