Now this is the part of my decade of reflection I have been most fearful about diving back into. What follows will be me looking on this section of my life and trying to work a few things out. Its very strange while I’ve been writing this series of blogs that in my head I’ve separated different sections of my life. The parameters of these sections seem to be travelling. In my mind I’m thinking “oh yes that was after Australia but before Canada” for example. This sectioning seems to be regardless of time in-between. So yes this blog will be cover around 3 years and is the next section of my life.
I came back from Canada and picked up my agency work quite quickly. I also met a girl within a few weeks of coming back. Now her a I hit it off straight away. We shared quirks, we had the same obscure taste in music, we had travelled to similar places. We seemed it fit each other perfectly. So that was that, we were together. Now I had moved back into my parents and she had a place she shared with a friend. Within a month I had been invited to move in as well as I was almost permanently anyway. Thus began the first period I can remember since become an adult that I was settled here in the UK.
I found a new job working at a school for kids with special educational needs and quickly found myself in a class with the more able but disruptive kids. I also discovered that for whatever reason I was really bloody good at it. These kids who wouldn’t listen and refused to learn, would for me. I was placed on 1:1 work with a young man who was in and out of lessons and wouldn’t conform. He was a great kid and I thoroughly enjoyed working with him. Im very very proud to say that I got him into collage and as far as I know he did pretty well there.
So yeah, I was settled with a girlfriend I had completely fallen head over heels for and a job that I was really good at and really enjoying. Jesus I mean I even had my own vegetable patch. I spent one Easter holiday turning our overgrown garden into a lovely little spot with pumpkins, tomatoes, lettuce, strawberry’s. So yeah I was settled and I was loving it. My girlfriend saw how happy I was at work and got a job at the same school. My friends liked her, her friends liked me, it was perfect.
We went over to the canary islands in Easter and had the most amazing time over there. It was originally meant to be for a week but ended up closer to 2 as a pesky volcano in Iceland decided to erupt and disrupt travel into the UK. We felt quite smug watching people desperately trying to get home while our travel agents made sure we had a roof over our head and food in our belly’s.
For her 21st birthday her father kindly paid for us to go to St Petersburg in Russia for new year. Now that was an experience! Cold, don’t know cold until you have been to Russia in the winter. After nearly not going as there was 2cm of snow on the Heathrow runway we landed in St Petersburg to see mountains of snow piled up everywhere and the country just carrying on like nothing. It did make me smile that here in the UK we cant handle snow and we cant handle heat.
Now St Petersburg was just beautiful, the architecture was amazing, we would walk along and just see beautiful building after beautiful building. We had horse drawn carriage rides through the snowy estates of old Russia followed by caviar and vodka. We saw the river that runs through St Petersburg frozen solid, with the ice forming waves over it.
The new year celebrations were just obscure and totally alien. At one point I was throwing a potato into a bucket, the next I was doing a sack race. It was a great experience although one had with much confusion as the vodka mixed in with the different customs and language.
I was also able at this time to join some of my football team on a great weekend over in Germany to Bremen. It didn’t start to well. My brother had organised the whole trip but couldn’t find his passport in time to go. Also 2 days before we went I was involved I horror tackle while playing 6side in which I sprained my ankle really badly. I couldn’t put weight on it and I didn’t have crutches! It looked like I wasn’t able to go. Until a saviour appeared after a Facebook plea and I had crutches! Was I going to miss a weekend with the lads watching German football, was I hell! So with the help of everyone I was able to get myself and my bags there and had the most amazing time. We spent an evening sampling the delights of German night life a little too much and I awoke with my ankle twice the size and black. As the drunken memories came back to me I remembered dancing the night away and using my crutch as a air guitar!
We went to watch the football match and discovered that our seats were all in different places following a cock up on my brothers part! (even though he wasn’t there it was still his fault!!) so we split up. 1 group with the Hoffenheim fans and 1 with the Bremen fans. The game was won by a stunning free kick by Bremen but we all had a great time in our respective sides. Even if the Hoffenheim fans were on the top teir tucked away and there was no lift for disabled people. Or Englishmen on crutches! The Germans operate safe standing areas at the games and it so affective. I truly hope the English leagues will follow suit soon.
We moved into our own house after a year together and carried on in the same vein, living together and working together. It was great. But this perfect settled life did begin to fracture. She had always wanted to become a nurse so needed to do a course to help achieve this so I was the only one doing paid work full time. I had my own demons I was battling. A guy I had been very close to while growing up but had sadly no seen in a few years had passed away. This bought back a lot of emotions I had been running away from since I was 15. A lot of feelings id never processed and just hidden away. Now I was settled and happy so my normal way of avoiding these feelings, to travel, wasn’t an option. So they showed themselves in a totally different way. I developed a very expensive and dangerous gambling habit that I’m still battling to this day. Now gambling addiction is a strange creature. It can affect different people in different ways. For me it wasn’t the horses or football, I can manage myself really well with this sort of betting. No, mine was casinos and slot machines.
I wouldn’t be more than 3 metres from a fruit machine on a night out in a pub and would quickly chuck £100 in a machine that only maxed out £70. I would leave nights out while I was having a great time to get to the casino in time to spend a small fortune on the slot machines or blackjack. My inhibitions removed by alcohol. However it wasn’t always on a night out. I remember skipping work more than once to go the casino in the day. Then I discovered I can do all this from my own home!! Online casinos! WOW I was so happy! Well until I gambled away an entire months wage in an evening. Not so happy now.
There were occasional big wins, I remember coming home at 6am once to a furious girlfriend demanding where I had been and just slapping down £1700 in 50s on the table. But these were few and far between and I most certainly was losing much more than I was winning. I was chasing the rush of a big win. It was only leading one way and I did some pretty awful things that I’m not willing to write about to get money to throw away at the casino.
It came to a head and I had to get control of myself, which I manage thanks to my mum and dads support and help. I got myself under control but I think all of this had added another strain to our relationship.
We moved got a 3rd house with my best friend to help lessen the costs of living and it marked the beginning of the end. She had exams coming up, we were moving house, she had just failed her driving test and we were arguing more than normal. For her something had to give. Unfortunately that something was me. We had an argument one evening. I went to work the next day, came home and she had gone. Not 2 weeks on entering into a lease with me and my friend. I was crushed. But also absolutely furious for my friend.
In writing this I don’t think I’ve managed to get over both these feelings. The feeling of heartbreak and the feeling of anger over it all. Fortunately my best friend is an absolute hero and helped me through my feelings without mentioning the affect it had on him. I know he walking downstairs more than once to find me halfway through a bottle of brandy crying to myself of on the phone to my mum but he was just fantastic through it all.
We were able to live together for 6 months before needing to find a new housemate. Those 6 months were great. It was awesome to know that I could live in relative harmony with my best friend. After those 6 months were up we needed to get a housemate with proved a challenge as they were moving into a settled house and never quite fit into the way we lived.
In the aftermath of the break up I quit my job and got a new one as a Residential worker. Working at a children’s home working with kids who were unable to enter foster placements as they were to challenging. They would often be violent or have had problems with the law and I loved this job. However I had also begun planning my next escape. I had worked out a way to save enough to try and get me out to Australia again for a year or more.
So I worked and I saved and kept going like this for a year. Work as much as I can and save. I had a few short term relationships over this time but I wasn’t able to give all of myself into them due to the grand Australia trip and my heartbreak over the way the last relationship had ended.
I had a fantastic holiday In the middle of all this, going off to Mexico with my brother to celebrate my Canadian cousins wedding and it was amazing to see all the family and have a couple of weeks in the sun. It was a beautiful wedding on the beach and I would dearly love to go back to Mexico one day to experience more of what it has to offer apart from the 5 star complex we were in. We venture out a few times but its a huge country that seemed a likely future backpacking destination. The highlight of this trip, apart from the wedding of course, was some snorkelling we did among all the wild turtles. Now this was just amazing and was my first real experience of the tropical ocean and the beauty within it. I also found that while snorkelling my fear of the open ocean and all its dangers disappeared.
Finally the time had come and I was off again. 24 years old and flying off with no return ticket. No plan. I was flying out with a friend I had met on the IOW but we weren’t planning to travel together for long………………