Two Years Later…

It seems that this blog was really just a way for Maya and myself to tell each other about how we were experiencing the relationship. Once we got to living together, we pretty much forgot about it. It’s a shame, but that’s what happened.

I expect this will be the last post again at least for a while, but I feel the need for some closure, so here it is, in a nutshell.

At the end of August 2013, I finally got to Santa Ana and moved in with Maya. I bought myself a new computer and set it up in the space between the living room and the kitchen, where normal people would have a dining room. We got married on October 13th and had a nice honeymoon travelling up and down the West Coast, north of L.A. We stayed in the quaint town of Solvang and visited Santa Barbara on the way back. After that, it was time to sort out the application for a Green Card, which was the next part of the ‘visa process’.

In December I had my biometrics taken and in February 2014, the interview. We had missed an important (read: lost) paper out of the package and they would not issue me a green card without it. It was one of the most panic-ridden mornings of my life after we got back to the apartment and started searching for something we knew we would not be able to find. Five minutes later, Maya had found it. What a relief. We had to send the paper in; they wouldn’t let us just hand it over. After that, I had to wait, checking the mail box anxiously every day. During this period we also moved to a bigger place in the same apartment complex and I got my own ‘den’ where I have my desk and all my geeky stuff.

Eventually, in the first week of June 2014, a letter arrived saying the green card had been issued… but it didn’t show up. Somehow it had got lost in the mail or stuck in a pipe or something. I called the post office and eventually spoke to someone who said they could see the letter in the post room; we went and picked it up the next day. What a stressful day that was, but finally i had my green card and could relax for the next two years (or so).

The green card meant I was now allowed to leave the country, so in September we went on a trip to England to visit my family, and then we went over to Paris. We stayed in a rather skanky area near Gare du Nord and it was pretty tricky getting food for fussy Leo, but we had fun (mostly). The hotels over there are dreadful at the same price point as really nice hotels here. On the day before we were due to fly back, some Air France pilots decided to go on strike and we had to go to the airport and reschedule to a different flight. Then we had to spend the day waiting in the hotel lobby for the plane. We got back eventually, but it was very tiring. I was a bit worried that my green card was actually going to work on the way back in through immigration. It did, and the officer even said “Welcome Home” which was at once both really nice and rather strange. I still find it odd that I live here, in the US, just like I used to find it odd that I lived in Finland when I lived in Finland. Considering I was the ‘scaredy cat’ of the family, I think I’ve done quite well.

What of the marriage then? Well, it’s not exactly a marriage made in heaven if you think of heaven as ‘the perfect place on earth’, but it is a marriage made in heaven if you think of heaven as ‘a place that dishes out major life lessons’. I’ve had culture shock problems of every kind, Maya and I have had (and still have) constant communication problems, and living with another human being who is not a tidy-obsessed neat freak like me has proven challenging. But, even though we drive each other nuts, we are nuts about each other, and that’s what counts. We are both committed to making this work and I know we will. We’d just better get on with it because time-is-a-ticking.

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Yayyyy!!!

It’s been a while since I did the blog. I didn’t seem to find time to sit down quietly and just write. Leo has been updating the blog more frequently than I. The process of the fiancé visa for Leo ran very smoothly and the visa was finally issued and delivered, and the airline ticket booked via Air Berlin. The special vegan meals on the plane for Leo were also ordered. The scary part was when Leo purchased the ticket before the visa was issued.  I read an article on Visa Journey that someone in the UK was waiting for a couple of weeks for the visa to be delivered. I had a few restless nights until Saturday morning when Leo sent me an email with a picture attached of him showing the page of his passport with the visa. Yayyyy… Finally! Anyway, we can breathe now. Hopefully, Leo can sleep much better after two months on the edge with all kinds of worries.

I live much closer to work after I moved in to my new apartment and it only takes me ten minutes to get there. Plenty of good parking spaces! Although still busy working an average of 10 hours a day, sometimes longer; come home late, tired, and hungry. I packed the fridge with frozen entrées for emergency meals since I don’t have time to prepare proper meals. I am not a fan of fast food except Subway. I already bought a coffee grinder to grind my own  herbs and spices when I finally have time to work in the kitchen.

I found an apartment that’s ideally located in the South Coast Metro area; in the center of everything and within walking distance for Leo to explore. Restaurants, grocery, electronics stores and a gigantic Mall – South Coast Plaza – are just across the street. The fastest internet connection in the area bundled with basic TV but by paying 10 more bucks I got HDTV. Although I don’t watch TV very much, I’ve been recording series of The Big Bang Theory, Under the Dome, and some programs from the SCI channel to watch in my leisure time without having to watch commercials.

So, we are slowly merging into the right direction, our future together. I think we are well prepared for it. Ten more days from now, I will be at the airport to pick Leo up. I love you pumpkin!!

Kitchen

Kitchen

“Visa Interview” — A short story by Leo

After a hellishly long wait in which I must have been hovering on the event horizon of a black hole,  the day finally came. Being scheduled for 10:00 on a Monday, I had decided to go down to Helsinki Sunday afternoon and stay in a hotel. I wanted this thing to go smooth and by the numbers. No room for error. Everything meticulously planned. I booked a small room at Hotel Anna in Annankatu. I got there at about 19:00, checked in and went to the room. Maya and I had a Skype chat on my phone but she couldn’t see me because the camera is on the back. What an epic fail that design flaw is. After that, I went across the road to a really good Thai place called Tamarin. I had very spicy tofu with green beans, mushrooms, onions and soy sauce. It was excellent, so much so that I finished all the tofu — a first since I find the stuff too soft.

Hotel Anna

Hotel Anna

I went back to the room, chatted with Maya a bit more, and then went to bed. The room was so incredibly warm and humid that I just couldn’t get to sleep. They had provided a fan, but a fan just keeps me awake blowing on me so I couldn’t use it. I had not forgotten my earplugs, so I did eventually get to sleep, some time around midnight. I woke at 3 am, too hot again, and spent maybe an hour awake because the damned pillow was just too soft and warm. I’ve noticed before that these small hotels tend to suffer from this problem. There’s no air conditioning and no airflow from the window. Bear in mind that I love warm, but this was insane. It must have been 28 degrees in there. Eventually, I found myself waking up at about 06.30. I reset the alarm from 07:00 to 07:30 and then dozed a bit; by now it was just too light even with the curtains closed. I finally got up and had a shower at 07:30 and then went down to breakfast. Finnish breakfast is not usually my cup of tea as it tends to be too much like lunch. But they did have cereal and — thank the maker – an espresso machine. I had some salad (salad? for breakfast?), two espressos and some bran flakes. The orange juice was hateful, really disgusting car battery acid stuff.

Soft pillow, warm pillow...

Soft pillow, warm pillow…

Next on the agenda was to go to the doctor’s and pick up my medical results. I had this all precisely planned out. I had chosen a hotel near the medical centre and I had the route from there to the consulate memorised. What could possibly go wrong?

The weather, that’s what went wrong. Despite all the technology and gadgets I have, it simply never occurred to me to check the weather. Sunday had been sunny and nice, but Monday — rain. Heavy rain and I had no umbrella. The whole plan was based on my excellent pedestrian skills; I had not looked into buses or other forms of transport. So now I had to walk to the Eira medical centre in heavy rain. I stopped for a while and sheltered under a canopy until it eased off, but I had to press on. Although I had allowed myself plenty of time, I was wasting it. So I walked in the rain and got nice and wet in my smart clothes. The receptionist found my results and handed them over without asking for id which I found almost annoying. I could have been anyone. Far too trusting they are. I waited there for the rain to stop, but it didn’t, so I pressed on. The receptionist told me to get a number 18 bus to Kamppi and then change to a 14. Easy. At least it should have been. I got the bus, but after a while I realised that I didn’t know where I was; I had gone too far. I got off and started to walk back, but I took a wrong turn. Out came my trusty phone which promptly started to get wet and showed me that I was going in the right direction but it was quite a long walk. The rain had eased off, so I just started walking. It was 09:25; still plenty of time.

As I approached Kamppi, a kind of mall combined with a bus station, the sky suddenly opened and let me have it. Waiting to cross the road to shelter under a canopy, I got drenched, and so did my briefcase. Suddenly I realised that if the water got inside, the ink on all my paperwork would run, ruining everything. I found myself shouting out loud “Oh NOOOO! It’s not fair!” — and that was when I started to panic. All my friends know that when I panic, I panic real good and everything turns to shit. Well, this was no exception. I started running. I crossed the Kamppi square and ended up approaching the railway station. A particular set of lights took forever to change; I was getting absolutely soaked, and I just walked across the tram lines with the other people who couldn’t wait any longer. Then I checked the map on my wet phone and realised that I had miscalculated; there was still about another kilometer to walk. In this rain, I was not going to make it without looking like I had been swimming. I saw a taxi rank and ran to it. I went to the front car which promptly drove off. I stepped back to the car behind, which also drove off. I ran back to a car behind that and opened the door but the driver told me to go back to the waiting point. Stunned, I went back to the waiting point, and that very same driver then stopped and let some random guy in; the guy came out of nowhere. I tried again, went to the cab behind; same thing. I was getting absolutely soaked and no goddammed driver would let me get inside their car. This happened over and over again until I just lost it and shouted “What the FUUUUCK is going ON?!”

Back to the waiting point again, four people got out of the front car so I went for it, opened the door — but there was no driver. The people who had got out shouted at me, in Finnish, and one thing I do understand is Finnish cursing. Essentially, they shouted “What the hell do you think you’re doing?” I shouted back “I’m trying to get a taxi”. The reply: “There are loads of taxis here!” “Yes, I said, but none of them will let me get in! I’m so late for an appointment and I can’t figure this out.” By now I was almost in tears. I couldn’t understand why they were even shouting at me for opening a taxi door. That’s what one does isn’t it?

Suddenly another taxi stopped and the driver got out and walked right up to me. I said “Can you please take me somewhere?” “Sure he said… get in.” I wanted to hug him, but he was way bigger than me. “Where to?” I couldn’t remember the address. “The US consulate?” “Don’t know it, what’s the address?” I got out my phone and showed him on the map. He said “No problem, 2 minutes and we’ll be there.” It was now 09:45. HOW COULD IT BE 09:45 ALREADY? I had no idea. No fucking idea at all.

As we approached the place, I suddenly remembered the address. “Kaisaniemenkatu 15 B/C”. He stopped at number 13 but there was no number 15. I said I would get out an find it. I paid, thanked him for saving my life (believe me, I felt like he was saving my life just then.)

So, do you think I could find it? 09:47.

Backwards and forwards I walked in the pissing rain. 10. 13. 8. Where the hell was 15? I got out my phone, went into email, found the email from the consulate (Google, I truly love you). Kaisaniemenkatu 3 B/C, 5th floor. What fresh hell was this? How on earth could it be three and not fifteen? Somehow, in my panic, I must have multiplied the door number by the floor number and come up with 3 x 5 = 15.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!” cried Leo.

09:48. I put my wet phone away, ran in the rain, in my wet (but very smart) clothes in the direction of number 8. It wasn’t far, it couldn’t be far. I got there. A girl was buzzing them and I went in behind her. Went up in the lift and came out on the 5th floor.

09:50. I had made it! I was in a stairwell with about 7 or 8 other people. The consulate door was firmly locked. It was hot, humid and — it was a stairwell. I waited. An officer came out and asked for passports. I handed mine over. He disappeared again. I waited. Other people got called in. More people came up in the lift. Most of the others looked like students, relaxing on the stairs playing with their phones. Someone was watching a video. The first thing that struck me was that I was the only one who had dressed in a shirt and trousers. Everyone else was in jeans and t-shirts. I was also the only one who was wet through. Now I was soaking wet, but also really hot. Sweat was running down my face and back. I had, in the words of Tori Amos, a bowling ball in my stomach and a desert in my mouth. I knew that there was a waiting room behind that door with a water cooler; I had read about it.

I waited thirty minutes in that stairwell. Others were called in, yet others left. At 10:25 the officer finally called me in. I slowly realised that I could have been late and no one would even have noticed. I also realised that it had stopped raining outside. I went through security. It was pretty much like the ones at airports. The officer politely instructed me to place things in here and other things in there. I had to put all the documents in one tray and everything else in a different tray. He x-rayed everything very meticulously and then came over and asked me to remove the CDs. “CDs? I asked. Then I remembered the doctor, on July 10th, telling me there would be a CD for me in the medical packet. I found and removed it. He x-rayed again and then I walked though the beepy gate, which didn’t beep as everything except me and my wet clothes was in a tray. They gave me a rubber number to use to reclaim my belongings and ushered me through to the waiting room with the water cooler. Water? Yes! Cup? No. For the love of god, I had to wait for someone to bring cups, which luckily happened almost immediately.

The waiting room was very small but comfortable. It had a couple of big US flags, a TV set (thankfully on low volume) and a bookshelf with brochures. The interviews were being conducted at three glass windows in which you could only hear the officers through small tinny speakers. You could her everything that was going on, some in English, some in Finnish. It was incredibly busy and difficult to understand the names that were being called. It seems that they schedule multiple people at the same time and then make you wait as they interleave the various parts of the process in a pipeline operation. After a while a guy called me to give him “the documents”. I handed the whole lot over in one go. I sat down and waited again. Suddenly, I had a very clear flashback to the angry people at the taxi rank, and realised with horror that the car I had tried to get into did not have a TAXI sign on top of it.

I waited. It was a very stressful environment; there were couples arguing, children flicking the pages of books, other children crying and shouting. After quite a long wait, I was called to the middle window and asked to place my fingers on the sensors for fingerprint-taking. I could barely understand what I was being asked to do due to a loudly crying child behind me. The officer actually apologised and we got through it, but it was embarrassing to have to keep saying “Sorry?” to her. She started using sign language to show me what to do, because we just couldn’t hear each other over the crying.

I went back and sat down. Someone had taken my spot! More waiting. At about 11:10 a young woman came in with a baby that immediately started to scream. This baby would not stop screaming. The officers were calling names and no one could hear who was being called. Tempers started to fray in the waiting room. This did nothing at all to quiet my nerves. Finally, at 11:15, I was called again. The officer was a nice friendly lady but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. The baby was screaming at the top of its lungs. No baby could scream louder. I was astonished that they operate this way. There is no facility for a parent to take a crying child to a separate waiting area. Why are there even babies in here? I wondered. The officer apologised “I know, it’s very difficult to hear right now,” she said. We laughed. That helped a little. She got into the habit of almost eating the mike so that her voice went over the top of the baby. “Is everything on this form true to the best of your  knowledge and belief?” “Yes, it is.” “OK, then, could you do me a favor and sign here?” “Sure.” I signed. “OK, I’m just going to ask you a few questions.”

She asked me how Maya and I had met and when, if I had been to visit her and when. She asked if we had been married before. We had. She asked if we had children. Me: No. Maya: Yes. She asked if Maya had custody. I explained that they are adults with children of their own. All the time, the officer was typing my answers into the computer. “So, how do you communicate with each other?” I explained our Skype and IM schedules. “What does she do for a living?” she asked. “Where does she live?” “Santa Ana.” “Santa Ana…? Is that in Texas?” “Sorry, no, California.” “OK, great. Have you met her family?” “Yes, I’ve met her children.” “What do you do for a living?” “I’m a computer programmer.” “Ah, a nice portable job!” said she. “Yes that’s right,” said I. “OK. Everything looks good here. When are you planning to leave?” she asked. “At the end of August”. “OK, that should be fine. There’s just one final check in Washington, that’s why we take fingerprints. We just have to send them to Washington for checking, and assuming that’s OK, your visa will be issued within a week. As far as I’m concerned, everything is fine.” she said.

Washington? Washington DC? Another check? Well, I guess they are just going to run my prints against US criminal databases. That can’t go wrong, can it? I asked how my passport and visa would be sent to me. She went away, came back, and said “They’ll be sent by registered post. The post office will leave a note if you’re out.” I thanked her, she then wished me the best of luck in the future and I left the room. The officer who gave me back my coat commented on how wet it was.

The baby had screamed at the top of its lungs throughout the entire interview. I don’t know how I managed to get through it, as I have a little problem with noise and sensory overload.

This was one of the most stressful days of my life. The last time I experienced that kind of stress was in 1992 during a very bad time in my life. This time, the stress was for a good reason, but I left thinking that it would be less trouble to actually be Jack Bauer. Hell, Bauer would have taken the taxi at gunpoint.

Helsinki

Helsinki in the rain

The Final Wait

It took two weeks to get the results from the doctor. Unable to wait any longer, I called the lab last Friday to get the results over the phone. Everything was negative and the x-rays were clear. It turns out that the doctor had gone on holiday, not surprising because in July, this whole country goes on holiday. Not me, I’m saving my holidays for my travel and wedding.

After the lab confirmed I was healthy, I sent the checklist back to the consulate. Now the final wait is underway, the wait to be called for an interview. I really hope this doesn’t take too long. I am so anxious to get this all behind me now. My stress levels are still through the roof and nothing I do seems to calm me — except drinking cider and I’m not going that route.

Trying to limit the amount of stuff I have to ship, I have taken almost all my books to a local shop that has a bookcrossing shelf. I still have to find a home for several synthesizers and all my antique clocks. I have contacted several antique shops and dealers and no one got back to me. I always thought antiques were supposed to be an investment, but it seems like I’m going to have to send them all to recycling. Unbelievable. Before I do that, I’ll have friend store them for me. Perhaps he can sell them later. It’s very frustrating.

I expect to be shipping about five boxes of stuff; not enough to use a ‘cheap’ cargo container option, so I might just have to send them by UPS or something. When I finish the packing and I know exactly what I have to send, I’ll get a quote.

Meanwhile, Maya has moved into a nice new apartment and is waiting for me to join her. It’s heartbreaking watching her having to do it all without me there to help her. She’s currently without a proper Internet connection so she’s been Skyping me from a nearby Panera Bread cafe, which results in bad quality, background noise and getting cut off when they decide you’ve been on too long. She should have a home connection by the coming weekend.

Apart from some delays (why do these things always take so long?) the official stuff is all going very smoothly, but the closer we get to being together, the more intolerable the waiting is becoming. Hopefully we’ll be through this very soon.

Packing

[Half an hour after I published this, I got an email from the consulate giving the date of the interview as 12th August. At least now we know how long the wait will be, a light at the end of the tunnel so to speak. That’s relaxed me a fair bit.]

The Medical

We’re now getting into the last part of the visa process. Yesterday I had to take the day off work and spend it in Helsinki so that I could visit an authorized doctor for my medical examination. I was seen at 13:10 and finally left the medical centre at 14:55. It cost 449€ in total which was 180€ less than I had been given to expect. Then I went and had a big sandwich and a double espresso. I was starving, far too hungry to worry about the fact that there was a white creamy substance in the sandwich and no chili sauce! After that I got the 16:00 bus and chatted to Maya on my phone. She had woken up early because she was anxious to hear how it went. I heart her 🙂

I should hear from the doctor in about a week and then I can finally send back the checklist to the consulate and get scheduled for the interview. Ever since I received the instructions from the consulate in Helsinki, I have been suffering from a slightly elevated heart rate and waking up too early every day. I guess I’m stressed out. There is so much to think about and most of it is out of my control. Anyone who knows me well will know that I have a bit of a problem with not being in complete control of my destiny. This is the single biggest loss of control I think I have ever experienced, so it’s not surprising that the doctor found my blood pressure to be a little too high. It was something like 130/105 — normal is around 120/80.

“If your blood pressure was this high all the time, you’d need to be on medication” she said. I explained that I am stressed and she made me promise to get it checked again after I have obtained the visa and have had time to relax. She also said that high blood pressure does not cause you to ‘fail’ the medical. “They have far more important things to worry about than that.” One of those things is Syphilis which they will be testing for, whereas really serious things like HIV are no longer compulsory in the blood test. They do check the lung X-ray for signs of TB. I’m quite sure I have never been exposed to any of those things, so my blood test should be just fine.

My parents could not find my vaccination records but I was lucky enough to have a scan of them that I had made for fun several years ago when I was in the UK. However, that did not prevent me from getting stuck with three more needles. One in the bum for tetanus, one in the left shoulder for polio, and one in the right shoulder for measels/mumps/rubella. Strangely, the blood test hurt far more than the injections, but I went to bed at 22:30 because I did feel slightly queer.

So, now I’m waiting for an email from the doctor confirming everything is OK and then it will be… The Interview.

I already feel less stressed just typing all this out.

Waiting for the medical

Helsinki tram

You are cordially invited…

Well, the long wait is over. In fact, that wait was over about 4½ weeks ago when Maya received the NOA2 letter; approval! That was quite fast compared to what the web site said. We were expecting about 5-6 months yet were approved after only 4½ months. But now a new wait has started; I am waiting to get a letter from the US Embassy in Helsinki with instructions on what to do next. I decided to get started on the task ahead of time. All the information is available online, so I set about getting the required police certificates in advance. The Finnish one was very easy; all online and took 5 minutes. The British one was more complicated; one would think I was applying for a passport — I needed an endorsed photo, two proofs of address and had to fill in a long form and pay £45. But that’s all done; I received it last week. Both certificates state, as expected, that the police in both countries have never heard of me.

The next step is to get a (very expensive) medical done, and after that, it’s the ‘visa interview’. I’m hoping to have all this done by the middle of July — if only they would send me the formal instructions I could get on with it. Oh well, every step always takes far more time than makes any sense to me. That’s ‘red tape’ for you.

Ever hopeful for a positive visa outcome, Maya and I have already started planning our wedding. We have chosen a venue, the very quaint chapel at Heritage Hill in Lake Forest which looks like something from a western (and in fact was founded in 1891 so is actually  from the ‘wild west’). Feeling a little useless stuck here in Finland, I offered to make the wedding invitations only to find that I’m not very good at such things. Still, I came up with something quite nice — yet to see what Maya thinks of it.

I’ve also now come to terms with the fact that I am going to have to get rid of most of my stuff, at least most of the really big stuff. I’ll already sold several items on eBay and the Finnish site huuto.net and will probably be visiting some antique shops soon to ask if they want to buy my old clocks. I hope to take one really great antique clock with me, but the rest will have to go 😦

Last but not least, Maya has found an apartment for us after many weeks of searching. It was a bit of a ‘challenge’ juggling the requirements — lowest rent possible while being in a nice, safe neighbourhood and as near as possible to her workplace while also having a decent size and a John-shaped kitchen and also being within walking distance of a good grocery store. Phew! She found one in a gated community called the South Coast Racquet Club, just north of the 405 freeway in south Santa Ana — or is that north Costa Mesa? I dunno — it sounds like something to do with tennis but it looks nice enough and Maya says it’s really nice and clean with brand new carpets and so on. We’ll have to buy a fridge and a microwave but that’s no big deal.

So, with all this in progress, I should have something to show at the interview to ‘prove’ we have a real engagement and are planning to get married. I don’t have any other kind of proof as there’s still no ring. But it’s all for real! Honest!

Heritage Hills chapel

Heritage Hill chapel

Stuff

This morning I switched on my gaming computer as I do every Sunday morning so I could play a bit of Minecraft while I wake up. When I pressed the power switch, nothing happened. I tried again; nothing. Checked all the cables, but no… it was dead. I had only used it at around midnight to help Maya get set up on her new phone, and the next day it’s dead. I spent a few hours troubleshooting and I think the power supply has failed. But do I really want to go out and buy a new power supply that will only work in Europe when I’m supposed to be planning an exodus to the land of 110 volts? What do I use it for anyway? I use it for Skype, Minecraft and Second Life. Skype works fine on anything and SL works reasonably well on this computer, it’s only Minecraft that needs a more powerful system with lots of memory. So what this comes down to is: can I live without Minecraft? Well, the sad fact is that Minecraft is a huge waste of time, but it’s so much fun that I am always conflicted about sitting on it for hours at the weekend. Maybe now is the time to have a break. I really just can’t be bothered to deal with it. Perhaps I’ll finally find the time to read all the books I’ve bought over the years that are sitting on my bookshelf.

This little event got me thinking again about the amount of stuff I have here that I’m going to need to get rid of. Assuming the visa comes through OK I should be sallying forth to the US in the late summer, possibly sooner. So much of what I have won’t even work outside Europe. For example, I have a large collection of region 2 DVDs that won’t play on US players (unless I can hack the player). I guess I’ll have to sell them.  Some stuff for my electronics hobby is a problem — heavy power supplies and soldering iron are all 230 volts. A lot of my audio equipment also won’t work on 110 volts. Computer screens work anywhere as do phone and laptop chargers, but the power supplies inside the computers will have to be changed. Since I don’t want to mess around with power converters, this is a great excuse to cut down on the amount of stuff I have to ship.

A strange coincidence also occurred today. I set Skype up on this computer so I can see Maya later, and while I was still setting it up, my sister called me from my dad’s house. They were clearing out his attic and she wanted to show me a load of stuff that I had left up there. It was a blast from the past — my entire Atari 800 computer system was up there, with all the discs and tapes and as far as I know, all still in working order. Since she loves selling stuff on eBay, I told her I would write the advert for that lot and she could sell it to some collector geek. But the other stuff was different. As she held up item after item, I found myself saying “chuck it out”, “recycle it”, “dump it”. All that stuff from the 80s that I had needed so badly and I didn’t even remember most of it existed. This is what the modern world is all about. Companies make stuff. Then they advertise it all over the place and convince us that we need it to be happy. All that happens is that we spend all our money on junk and eventually have to throw the junk out. Some items of course, are not junk. I do need at least one computer so that I can stay in touch with Maya and my family. But I have four computers here and one of them just died. That may have been a blessing in disguise because it has really started me on the path to clearing this place out.

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