October has become a strange time of year.

Two years ago we — that is the Oxford RPGSoc alumni — lost a dear friend Kate to a horrible illness. Kate was there when I formed a lot of the lasting friendships I have today. Kate played in my Vampire game in the 3rd year. Kate would be my age, were she still alive.

I found out in a horrible way. Early morning on the 2nd of October I was looking forward to a weekend of pre-birthday fun; while I was on a conference call to Singapore that morning I got an Outlook notification that popped up briefly to tell me that Kate had died, before fading slowly and ominously. I turned off Outlook notifiactions after that.

It fucked my day royally; and it coincided with a couple of business meetings that, at any other time I would have put down to differences in personal style, but which ended up shaping my impressions of two people forever (one I concluded is basically nice but a complete fuckwit, the other has a punchable face and today I would not piss on them were they on fire).

The previous night I’d been to see Wayne Hussey at the O2 Academy, so I was riding a post-Goth gig buzz. Weirdly this year I very nearly went to see Peter Murphy in concert (but didn’t thanks to a knackered achilles’ tendon). This reminded me what I was doing two years ago, and who I should be mourning.

One year ago at this time we announced that our first child was on the way; another emotional time because we’d tried for years, and pretty much everyone had assumed that we’d actively decided not to have children, when really we were being passively worn down by the assumptions and the friends and relatives having children and cooing over other people’s babies and generally seizing every opportunity to talk about kids. Kids, we were constantly reminded, are important.

This year has been a weird and horrible year, and a wonderful year too. For most people it’s the year all the celebs died — Bowie, Rickman, Prince, Nicholas Fisk, etc. For a couple of people we know and love it’s been more personal; and just to remind us that 2016 is not to be fucked with, someone else near to us has just been snatched away.

On the other hand thanks to the April 2015 legislation I took 6 months of parental leave this year — 3 months at the same time as my partner, and another three right now as she’s returned to work. The switch has felt jarring and completely natural at the same time. Instead of me getting home and being greeted with “Daddy’s home!” I get him all day and my partner gets the big smiles when she gets in. But this week has been the first week I’ve been alone with our son all day. I’ve not been alone all day probably since I was a student. Of course back then I just talked to myself, now I have a sub-lingual infant to converse with, and he’s the best thing ever.

(a thing about parental bonding — when our kid arrived I did not immediately feel love and affection, I felt a mixture of horror and crushing responsibility. Feeling actual love took a couple of days)

Anyway. I’d felt less and less able to celebrate my birthday as time wore on, but mostly it was apathy. Then, 2014 meant that I would never again really be celebrating this week. All the birthday wishes I got for joining Facebook (which I needed to do to connect with all the people around Kate) and telling it my DOB felt hollow, even though I know they were well-meant.

Things will settle down next year, so maybe I’ll feel different in 2017. But I’m having a hard time thinking October isn’t just a bit broken. This year I think I’ll just give thanks for all the friends I still have, and send my emotional energy their way.