After just having a small conversation with Joasia on eye twitches and what to do about them (more potassium and magnesium, I say), I was reminded of a Friday afternoon I had with Wai Yip when we were probably fourteen years. I had been afflicted by an eye twitch for weeks and it was time that we give the twitch a name. We spent some time coming up with name that were more akin to transformer names than anything else, until we came to the realisation that we weren’t really sure whether the twitch was living underneath my eye, looking up at it, or hanging off my eye like a bat who was looking down at my eye. So we decided to come up with a name that you could read looking down at it as well as up. We came up with the name “otto”, spelled “o++o”, and we thought we were very clever.
It’s rather remarkable how big the wealth gap is in England. I don’t mean the gap between working class and the elite class, but the lower class and the upper class, since the middle class hardly seems to exist. People seem either more than comfortable, or they are living pay check to pay check, barely able to keep their finances together.
You can see it in the amount of homeless people. It’s not just London, Birmingham and Manchester, it’s even in small and mid-sized cities. Also in Exeter, as city that barely reaches above 100 thousand people. Sleeping in doorways, panhandling, begging, and largely ignored by the average passers by. They are ignored because the average person has their own issues to deal with and they know that helping won’t change the systemic problems that caused them to become homeless. Help one off the streets and another will take their place. These people have no place to go because there are no shelters and there are few resources that can help them get a grip on whatever problem caused them to spiral into homelessness. Whatever services do exist have limited funds and simply can’t help everyone. And so you see people sleeping in doorways and pitching tents underneath overpasses.
You can see it in the corpulence of the people. So many of the people here are incredibly obese. To me this indicates that people either don’t have the funds for nutritious food, don’t have the education to differentiate nutritious food from garbage, or eat because it offsets some of the misery they deal with in life. It’s not surprising that people rely on the NHS so heavily, since their overall levels of health are so poor. They have no choice.
This ties neatly into part of the xenophobia underlying the Brexit sentiment, because the debate was successfully framed by Brexiteers as a matter of free movement causing undue strain on already strained social services like the NHS. Of course, research shows that people from outside Britain were less likely to make use of these services, and that if they were to leave, the NHS would have a crippling shortage of qualified personnel that British people wouldn’t be able to fill.
Another sign; education is slowly becoming unaffordable in the same way that it already has in the United States. A lot of people who are recently graduated are stuck with enormous debts which will take a decade or two to pay off, depending on their chosen field. This means that people start buying houses late, don’t build their assets, which causes anxiety in a society where retirement benefits are a joke. England has enormous levels of personal debt.
I could go on. In the end, anxiety reigns, which in turn leads to sincere mental health issues, which exacerbates all of the above problems. Unless you have a good income, some personal wealth, then you are better off growing up elsewhere in Western Europe, where there are more opportunities for upward mobility.
Moving my belongings over to England has been quite successful. The moving company that gave us the best quote allowed us to fill a dedicated truck full of items and have them driven over. The alternative would have been to share a truck, which would drive the cost down significantly, but unfortunately, no trucks to this area were planned for a while. So we filled the truck, using about one-tenth of half a percent of the truck’s capacity.
The driver was a cool Polish guy named Bartek, and he was not very eager to drive a 150 pound crossbow across the border, but did everything in his power to make it happen. It worked out well.
Now the apartment in Amsterdam is pretty much empty, and we managed to arrange for Robin to live there for the coming year. That would allow me to have a fall back scenario just in case things don’t work out with the new job here. His girlfriend moved over from London a few days before I moved to England, and they’re going to move in together. I can’t imagine having an easier transition in that situation than that.
I’m going to miss gaming, but we’re scaling back our frequency to once a month (but with more hours each session). We even picked up a new player by the name of Eugenio, in the wake of Edwin deciding to quit gaming. He sat in on a session and seems really eager. I’ll likely be back in Amsterdam for the weekend mid-October and have another session.
And now I have another handful of days before I start my new job, which I’m both excited and nervous about. In the meantime, I am being confronted with English bureaucracy. Opening a back account, applying for a national insurance number, getting background checks done for my work as well as my landlord, etc. It’s unpleasant. I’m not very good at this. I consider it a distraction. It costs me a lot of time.
It’s lovely to continue living with Joasia now that her sabbatical is over. The situation at my previous employer was the spark, but the idea of continuing to live together was the catalyst. My family is very supportive, which is nice. I will have to make sure to go back often enough to cater to everyone, while simultaneously also getting to have fun. Hopefully I will be able to make that work.
Man, moving is a pain. Arranging for transportation; transporting it yourself or having a company do it for you. The different options and price ranges, deciding between convenience and cost, considering the insurance and possible value of the goods you’re moving. Going through all your things and packing them up*… I’m not having a good time.
We’ve pretty much ruled out transporting things yourself. I was looking into it, but it basically means that I shave off a third of the costs, but it means I would be on the road for at least 10 hours a day for two days straight. I tried to combine it with someone I know who is moving the other direction, but our schedules didn’t align, and I couldn’t pick the van up here and drop it off there because you can leave a vehicle with a left-hand steering wheel in England… aaaaargh!
On top of that, we’re trying to hold on to our apartment in Amsterdam because our move isn’t permanent and there’s a lot of uncertainty to contend with (e.g. the exit of the UK from the European Union). That’s not going as smoothly as desired and will likely end up meaning we’re going to have to hold on to our apartment in Amsterdam as long as we’re legally allowed to if we are not able to come to an agreement with the owner of the building.
All in all, it’s making me stressed and not the most pleasant person to be around. Luckily, the people I’ve seen this week have been delightfully tolerant. Joasia, Moulsari and Eva have all managed to take my mind off of the stress and annoyances, while simultaneously making gentle cooing noises in order for me to stop being so aggro. Much appreciated.
In the meantime I’m trying to figure out how to continue with gaming and I’m happy to see that Robin, Richard and Dennis are all committed to continuing even if it means reducing the frequency and increasing the duration of the sessions. We’re also looking for one or two new players to join us, which would be wonderful.
The coming week I’ll be working my last week for MBS from England, wrapping up a lot of documentation. Then we’re off to Ireland for a few days to hike in the Wicklow mountains and explore Kilkenny. After that a few days off before the actual move.
*I’m throwing a bunch of things away, which is making me quite happy. So it’s not all bad.
Yesterday I announced to my team that after more than sixteen years of service to MBS, I am leaving the company. Some people were visibly unhappy with the announcement. During my time here I’ve seen others make the same announcement and noted that it was hard for them to say the words. While I certainly don’t think it was easy, I thought it was easier than expected.
I suspect that the people who were unhappy with the news are so partially because I’ve become their go-to guy, and partially because they might be fond of me. The latter I can’t help, but regarding the former, I’m sure that they’ll quickly find that everyone is replaceable. It might take a few days, but business will continue as usual.
Over the next few weeks I will be moving to Exeter. I’m arranging for Robin to live in and take care of my home here in Amsterdam, just in case the exit from the European Union by Great Britain will not go entirely smoothly or if things don’t work out well with the new job that I’ve found in Exeter. And then I’ll move. There is a lot to be arranged and a lot to be wrapped up, a lot of which isn’t entirely clear to me yet, so it will likely be a chaotic few weeks.
In the meantime, my pendulum swings between excited and terrified, between happy and sad, between confident and diffident.