I Had My COVID Jab This Week. I Also Spent My Week Having A Nervous Breakdown.

I’m not a fan of clichés, but I’m going to start this weeks blog with one. My last seven days have been quite the emotional roller-coaster. I have gone from uncontrollable fear to unadulterated highs and it’s all down to finally booking my COVID vaccination.

I’ve been entitled to have my jab for about four months now but I have resolutely avoided organising it. Whenever my colleagues, friends or family have asked if I’ve had it, I’ve increasingly sounded like an absolute passionate conspiracy theorist. I’m not. But that’s exactly what it has sounded like.

“I’m just holding off for a bit longer, see what the research says.”

“I have a healthy immune system. I’ll let others get it first.”

“BILL GATES IS A SATANIC PAEDOPHILE WHO WANTS TO INSERT TRACKING CHIPS INTO OUR ARMS!”

You see, I don’t believe any of this, but I was willing to say anything to hide the fact that I have a really bad fear of needles. It actually has an official term called ‘trypanophobia.’ However, my friends sympathetically refer to it as, ‘being a massive pussy.’

I’ve always had a fear of needles for as far back as I can remember. I was the shortest kid in my year – the runt of the litter. So the school nurse would routinely refer me to have blood tests to figure out the bizarre mystery of my lack of height. She would genuinely look at my 5’3 father and 5’2 mother in the eyes while having these conversations. I mean, I’m no medical expert, but even I know that these two diminutive humans were never going to create a Shaquile O’Neal.

I remember one particular visit to the hospital when they put needles in both my arms and legs at the SAME time. It was horrific. The nurse in charge tried to calm me by saying, “Once they’re in, we have a PlayStation you can play on.” Even at eight I wasn’t stupid enough to think that this was a good deal. Four hours of trauma that would linger with me for the rest of my life for a go on ‘Tony Hawks Pro Skater?’ No thanks, lady.

But alas, my time was running out. I knew my list of excuses were seriously depleted and that I was going to get it eventually. So on Sunday evening, I bit the bullet and booked it.

The appointment was booked for Tuesday morning. Now, from the moment I booked it and every moment leading up to actually getting the vaccination, all I was filled with was stomach churning thoughts about getting it. I couldn’t eat properly, I couldn’t sleep properly. It was horrible. My every living second occupied by the thought of my skin being aggressively pierced by some middle aged woman just wanting to finish her shift so she could get home.

With my nerves shattered and my body exhausted Tuesday arrived.

My usual morning routine usually consists of having a cup of tea or two, reading a couple of chapters of the book I’m reading or scrolling mindlessly on my phone. This morning was different. There was no tea. There was no reading. There was no scrolling. There was however excessive diarrhoea. Just hours of fear induced defecation. At one point, with the clock ticking down and the time of my appointment getting ever nearer, I found myself genuinely tearing up during one of my visits to the bathroom. The only sound filling the silence between plops was my pathetic cries of, “I can’t do this.”

I did however muster the courage to wipe and leave and just a mere fifteen minutes later from having a shit based breakdown I was stood at the door to the clinic.

I was welcomed by a young man at the door who I dutifully informed that I was there for my vaccination. I must have looked terrified because he quickly smirked and said, “Scared?” I was worried that everyone at the clinic would be cold and would just think I was a massive coward, but his warm smile put me at ease instantly. I smiled back and with our blossoming friendship cemented, he continued to reassure me.

“Are you scared of the needle itself or what’s in it?”

“Oh no. I trust the science. It’s just the needle. I have this silly longstanding fear.”

“Mate, you won’t even feel it going in.”

“I’M USED TO THAT SENTENCE.”

My top lip sweating and my sense of friendship completely overestimated he went from being welcoming to awkward in just a matter of seconds. Without saying a further word to me, he handed me a document and requested I take a seat.

So like a man who had just inappropriately joked about penetration, I slowly made my way to the waiting area.

I looked down at the piece of paper I had been given and saw the number ’49’ scribbled at the top. Then, a nurse appeared at the door just in front of me and bellowed it out. For a second, like a rabbit caught in the headlights, I just stared back at her.

“If I don’t move she won’t know it’s me.” My internal monologue muttered.

“This can be my new life now, I’ll just sit here forever.” I continued like the moron I am.

However, without warning, my legs took control and before I knew it, I found myself walking towards her.

This was it.

I sat down. Inhaling gigantic breaths and looking like I was about to faint, I cry-whispered, “Get it over with, please… ” She then preceded to read out a number of generic mandated questions which my voice decided to answer in the same tone as a teenage boy in the midst of his voice breaking.

With the administration over, I closed my eyes.

“All done.”

I had literally felt nothing and with the adrenaline and relief coarsing through my veins I misjudged my reply.

“Jesus FUCKING Christ. Is that it?!”

My voice now back to normal but my eyes now widened like I had done a fist full of cocaine, I stared intensely at the nurse like I was on some sort of vaccination high.

“CAN I HAVE MY SECOND ONE NOW!?”

The nurse was clearly becoming a little bit weirded out by both my volume and requests for more vaccinations. She requested that I go sit in what can only be described as a holding pen. This, obviously, was standard procedure, but I couldn’t help feel that I would have been sent somewhere to calm down regardless.

After twenty minutes of sitting, it was now time for me to leave. With the last remnants of confidence still in my system I left the building with a strut and jumped astride my bike. My feet touched the pedals, and then, almost as if it had been waiting in the shadows, it was back. That familiar worrying voice.

“Oi Paul?! What if you get those severe side effects?”

Brilliant.

We Were Meant To Be In Marrakech Last Week. We Ended Up Going To Wales. THANKS COVID!

A couple of years ago, before the world was under siege from COVID, me and my girlfriend booked quite a fancy holiday to Marrakech. We booked one of those incredibly extravagant five star hotels that will almost certainly have me stressing out as we approach it in a taxi.

DOES THE MAN BRING OUR BAGS TO THE ROOM?

WILL I GET JUDGED FOR USING CUTLERY WRONG?

IS EVERYONE HERE GOING TO BE STUCK UP ARSEHOLES?

Ultimately, I know I’ll let my class anxiety get the better of me and it won’t be long before I’m moaning that we should have just booked a budget hotel. This will then almost certainly be followed by a thousand mile stare from my girlfriend and a significant period of awkward silence in a Moroccan Uber.

Anyway, this ‘relaxing’ holiday was meant to be this week. However, due to the ongoing global pandemic it obviously couldn’t go ahead and we instead decided to find a cheap alternative that could be easily driven to.

The cheap alternative to Morocco was Wales. Naturally.

We left Friday morning, but like every working class person who lives in a slightly dodgy area, the main aim was to make it look like we were doing anything BUT going on holiday. Consequently, we slowly started loading the car up three whole days prior to actually leaving. Generally, this involved tip toeing stealthily to the car with an array of different holiday related items and praying you didn’t bump into the local scumbag. It always seems like a good idea, but in retrospect, even the local scumbag isn’t going to believe you when you tell him you’re just, ‘popping to the shops’ with a foldable chair under one arm and an inflatable novelty donut for a swimming pool around your waist.

After the car was fully packed, I went ahead and gave my best traditional fake farewell to a fake family member that was still fake pottering around the house.

“We’re just leaving to definitely NOT go on holiday Great-Grandad Charles and we will be back home intermittently to check on you. It would be a terrible time to burgle this property. Also, please keep taking your prostate medicine. “

With my award winning acting complete and fake medical advice given, it was time for me, my girlfriend, and toy poodle Belle to hit the road and set off on our summer holiday.

“We’re all going on our COVID holiday…”

Quite quickly, however, we encountered our first issue when the aforementioned toy poodle started panting rather excessively. My girlfriend, who is a worrier at the best of times, suggested that despite the dog not having access to her bowl, she must be given water instantly. As a result, I now found myself crafting a makeshift bowl out of empty plastic vegan sausage roll packaging. Upon being given the nod of approval from the boss, I placed the newly crafted dog bowl in front of our withering canine.

Nothing. Nada. She just looked back at me blankly in the way that only dogs can do. I took this as a clear sign that our companion was fine. My girlfriend on the other hand still wasn’t convinced and signalled to a packet of crisp I was currently attempting to consume.

“She’ll drink if there’s food in there. Just lick off the salt and vinegar on those and put it in the water…”

I just looked back at my girlfriend blankly in only the way boyfriends can do when they’ve been asked to lick off crisp flavouring in broad daylight like an absolute creep.

Without the energy or desire to argue back, I did as I was told. So there I was. Just thirty five minutes into our holiday and I was sat there as we whizzed passed the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign sucking off a crisp like some sort of snack based pervert.

I have been to Wales countless times and it never fails to amaze me how absolutely beautiful it is. The long, winding roads sandwiched between rolling green hills and coastlines of pure blue sea. My Dad used to take me and my sisters on these types of holidays all the time when we were kids, and as soon as we saw the sign welcoming us to Wales, he would religiously ask the same question like some sort of right wing travel agent, “Why do you need your silly foreign holidays when you have places like this on your doorstep?” The eight year old me didn’t have the capacity to counter this argument, and as I become older, I now largely find myself agreeing with him. I say ‘largely’ because I’m still yet to take a city break in Spain and be welcomed by tacky roadside diners named ‘Roger’s Speedy Mealz’ and quite a significant number of dead badgers that litter the roads.

We arrived at out first destination, ‘Heron Lake Resort’ in the stereotypical picturesque town of ‘Caerwys’. It was a luxury resort full of wooden lodges and cabins. Each one with the novelty of having its very own hot tub. I am a sucker for hot tubs and therefore couldn’t get my clothes off quick enough.

Unsurprisingly, as often is the case with Wales, it was absolutely lashing down. I’m talking torrential rain. My girlfriend rather sensibly pointed out that as we were here for a few days, it was probably best to wait until the weather improved before we took a dip. But like a child high on E numbers I couldn’t wait. I simply didn’t have the required will power. Quickly, I ran downstairs in my trunks like a member of ‘Baywatch’ intent on making the most of their financial decision to holiday there and within seconds was sat comfortably in the heated bubbles while my head and glasses were assaulted by rain.

The great British holiday had officially begun.

It was only after sitting in the hot tub for two straight hours that I decided to read the instructional manual.

“We advise sitting in the hot tub for no longer than twenty minutes at a time. Skin can react to the chemicals used.”

I awoke the next day with my skin peeling and my penis looking like it belonged to a man thirty years my senior.

With the secret of my wrinkled genitalia buried within me, it was now time for breakfast.

My girlfriend sorts everything. Whatever event or meal we have been to in the entirety of our relationship, she has organised it. So when she informed me that we were going for our breakfast at a placed called ‘Brynford Pet Cemetery’ I thought nothing of it. It’s probably some hipster place that has a quirky controversial name to gain publicity I thought. However, upon arriving it became glaringly obvious that it was an ACTUAL graveyard for cats and dogs.

“Dogs welcome.”

On our walk up to the café, I could see well kept graves with sincere dedications to animals that had passed.

“Here lies Rocky. He loved chasing balls. Taken too soon.”

“In loving memory of Jingles. A friend, a confidant, a cat.”

Admittedly, I’m being a bit of a prick in an attempt to be funny, but it was actually quite a lovely little place with really decent intentions. Still, for anyone wondering, it is a bit weird eating your beans on toast surrounded by dead sausage dogs.

In the evening, we decided to check out a pub that we had heard good things about called the ‘Dinorben Arms.’ The pub itself was almost castle like. It was situated on a steep incline and looked like it had sprung up naturally in the Welsh hills it now resided in.

The pub terrace with countryside views. Splendid.
Please note – the pints in Wales are not bigger. I’m just a very small man.

The only problem with it being half way up a hill was that the car park was right at the very top. Now, my girlfriend is the driver in our relationship. She’s basically my own personal chauffeur. So it would be ridiculously ungrateful to mock her driving skills wouldn’t it? Well, that’s exactly what I’m about to do. For some strange reason, on both occasions we visited this pub, she lost confidence half way up this almost vertical road and we were temporarily frozen in fear. What this resulted in, was me gripping on to my chair for dear life and screaming directly in her face while she held tightly on to her steering wheel and whispered her final goodbyes to this cruel world as images of us essentially reversing off a cliff played in her mind.

There’s nothing like the beginnings of a domestic and a near death experience to get you in the mood for an enjoyable scenic pint.

We were also told that surrounding the pub was a circular walk that was great for a post pint afternoon stroll. So that is exactly what we set out to do. I use the term, ‘set out’ because although our intentions were pure, what actually happened is that we got lost, ended up dodging an insane amount of sheep shit and got absolutely covered in nettle stings. We gave up half way and after about forty minutes of rambling torture ended back on the pub terrace retelling tales of our nightmare while drinking even more alcohol.

After a couple of nights in the luxury surroundings of Caerwys, it was time to move on. Our next stop was at my Mum’s static caravan in the seaside resort of ‘Rhyl.’

This might be a random question. But have you ever bumped into your school crush years after finishing school? You know, in your head you remember them as this attractive individual exuding an overwhelming amount of youthful energy. Then you bump into them twenty years later and they’ve got depressingly bad greasy hair and have lost half of their teeth.

Well, for me that’s Rhyl.

As a child, Rhyl was this magical little place full of bright lights and loud sounds. It was a haven from all those dreary countryside walks that my parents would drag us on. So obviously, as soon as we got to the caravan, I insisted that we take a walk to the town centre.

Now, I don’t know if it was nostalgia that had made me misremember Rhyl as this little beautiful quaint seaside town, but jesus it was depressing. My school crush didn’t just have greasy hair and poor dental hygiene, it now had rows of boarded up shops and had been heavily shit on by feral seagulls.

We did a dutiful walk down what was left of the promenade and quickly headed back to the caravan.

Rhyl aside, North Wales was glorious and we spent the next few days taking day trips to places like ‘Llandudno’ and ‘Conwy.’ Gorgeous places steeped in incredible history.

Llandudno
Conwy.

My only pet peeve with these places was the over abundance of cheap tacky tourist souvenirs that were spilling out of every shop within a mile radius. In fact, the sheer number of plastic keyrings and tatty tea towels that lined the streets really made me miss those dead badgers.

As I type this, my summer holiday is now over and I’m back in the unrelenting grind of capitalism.

I tell you what though, I’d give anything now to be walking down that promenade in Rhyl.

I Only Went For A Meal With My In-Laws. Now I Think I’m In A Cult.

A few weeks back I went for a meal with the future in laws. I’ve been for many meals with them by now and this was nothing out of the ordinary. The usual nice bit of food, a few too many alcoholic drinks and the standard four hours of pure panic making sure I come up with enough small talk so they don’t think that their daughter is with a serial killer.

You know, all the normal stuff.

During my usual ‘make-sure-you-don’t-say-anything-too-weird’ pitter patter with the partner of my girlfriend’s mother, I wandered into my usual safe space of talking about football.

“Liverpool did well considering the amount of injuries we had this season.”

“England have got a manager in Southgate that will pick players on form rather than reputation.”

“If COVID has showed us anything, it’s just how important fans are.”

I was half way through my main at this point and things were going swimmingly. It seemed like I was going to get through another social event with my girlfriend’s family without raising any serious concerns that their daughter would end up chopped up in a fridge freezer.

It was at this point that the subject of ‘matched betting’ came up.

“You can’t lose, mate. I’ve been doing it for weeks and I’m a few hundred quid up.” He boasted while stuffing chicken wings into his gob.

Straight away my cynical side kicked in and I felt the urge to argue back.

“What you do, is you take up an offer on a bookies website that gives you free bets, match that on the bet exchange and then use your free bets to make profit. Simple.” He said like rain man at an all you can eat buffet.

Surely this is one of those things that are too good to be true I communicated with my girlfriend with one of those knowing looks. It’s sort of too good in the same way, when as a child, your slightly older loser uncle used to try and sell you adulthood. Pontificating with his wise words like an ancient sage while holding a can of Strongbow.

“You don’t have to go to school! You have your own money! They let you drive a car!”

Oh it all sounds absolutely brilliant Uncle Kev. Well, until you actually reach adulthood and then they surprise you with credit ratings, a volatile job market and haemorrhoids.

No, it’s nonsense. There’s no such thing as easy money I told myself. Next he’ll be telling me he’s an African Prince who needs money for his Mother’s operation or he’ll try to convince me that I’ve been in a car accident in the last twelve months.

I resolutely kept quiet and ate my vegetable biryani like the polite boyfriend I am.

However, it was when I went home that the problems started. If you have read any of my previous blogs you’ll know by now that once I get an idea in my head, I become absolutely obsessed.

And unsurprisingly, that is exactly what happened.

The following two days passed with my internal monologue incessantly daring me to give it a go. In retrospect, it was actually a nice break from the usual soundtrack to my life of thinking about death and the meaningless of absolutely everything.

On the third day, I decided that I would give it a go. As as a man with not much money in his bank account and absolutely no savings to speak of, all I had to lose was absolutely everything I had ever worked for. But how else was I going to find enjoyment in some Norwegian football game with two teams I had never heard of? Bankruptcy gets you excited quite like nothing else.

My girlfriend’s mother’s partner made it sound so simple, but what followed was three hours of watching countless YouTube tutorials and reading a million different blogs on the topic. Surprisingly, however, after an afternoon of PhD level research, I found myself with £8 pound profit.

Enough money to buy some paracetamol to cure this migraine from trying to work out how to bleeding do it.

Since then I’ve made about another £30 JUST from watching football and I’m totally sold on it.

It’s the closest I’ve ever felt to being a member of a cult and I can’t help mentioning it to everyone I meet. It’s only my social awkwardness that has stopped me from knocking on people’s doors like some sort of Jehovas Witness.

If you do hear a knock on your door though, please do answer. I might not be able to offer you salvation, but I can probably get you a tenner from watching Scandinavian football.

Pretty much the same thing

I Had An Eye Test This Week That Got Me Thinking About My Own Mortality.

I’ve been thinking a lot about mortality this week.

I know, I know. I need to stop being so bloody positive and uplifting.

It all started earlier in the week when I booked an eye test. I’ve had glasses for as far back as I can remember. I was THAT kid in school who had an eye patch. It wasn’t enough that I was the shortest kid in my year and that glasses for children in the mid 1990’s were clearly designed for pensioners, so the adults then also decided that I had to stick on an eye patch.

Brilliant.

And if that didn’t already make me stand out enough, someone then thought it would be a really good idea to put a rotation of brightly coloured stickers on the front of my patch. There’s nothing quite like being short, wearing glasses that were designed for your grandma and wearing an eye patch with a multi coloured zebra on it to quickly make sure you develop a decent personality.

I mean, it’s an absolute miracle that I wasn’t bullied. People kept telling six year old me that it was cool.

“It’s so cool. You’re basically a pirate, Paul.”

Now, I’ve watched ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ but I don’t ever recall seeing a miserable maritime adventurer sat in a children’s sandpit drinking out of a ‘Toy Story’ cup and lamenting the temporary loss of half of his vision.

Liars.

On the day of my test the optician informed me that as this was now my first eye test in my thirties, they would have to carry out two new checks that I hadn’t experienced before.

GETTING OLDER RULES!

The first new experience was to test the pressure of my eyes. I didn’t even know this was a thing. I still don’t even understand what it is. But what the test basically entailed was a machine being thrusted in front of each eye and a puff of wind being directly blown into them. This happened approximately twelve times in total and approximately twelve times I reacted by jumping back like the absolute shithouse I am. There’s only so many times you can awkwardly make the same, “It won’t get me next time” joke to a stranger before they begin to wish blindness on you.

I was then told that the next part of my test would be to have a detailed 3D picture taken of each eye so they could potentially see if I was at risk from a series of unpleasant conditions. The lady then started reading out a list of potential things the machine could pick up on.

“Glaucoma… Diabetes… Tumour…”

It was like the world’s worst menu.

While the machine was then busy taking the necessary images, she attempted to make small talk.

“You going to make the most of the good weather after this?”

“Well that entirely depends on what this test picks up, love. I was expecting a relaxing Saturday, but there’s now an actual chance that I could be weeping the rest of my day away after the discovery of an inoperable tumour!”

I didn’t actually say that. I just muttered something about maybe having a pint and taking the dog for a walk.

Luckily, everything was ok other than the £30 charge and the consequent out of body experience of seeing myself reacting like my father whenever he his hit with a bill.

“Robbing bastards.”

I also watched Russell Howard’s new TV show in which he visits a group of Australian ladies who make coffins for charity. An incredibly selfless thing to do for people who otherwise would struggle to meet the financial requirements when a loved one passes. I usually let these type of things wash over me, but as some geriatric lady from Sydney was doing a piece to camera explaining the decisions that went into making her creation, I found myself being overtaken by an overwhelming sense of dread. I was lying on my sofa drinking tea and sweating profusely.

“My god! I’m going to be in one of those one day! Everyone I love is going to vanish. Ambition is pointless. Achievements are just the egos way of keeping you in denial about the futility of existence. THIS IS ALL MEANINGLESS.”

That was all going on underneath. Deep within me. But like a good man entrenched in masculinity and a cultural British idea of not talking about fear or emotions, I manifested this to the outside world by quietly having another sip of tea.

The ladies then went on to reveal that they also make coffins for children. A camera panned across a selection of tiny coffins. Each one smaller and more harrowing. Despite this, my panic subsided as not even someone as short as I am could fit inside one of those.

Phew. Existential panic over.

Apparently, there’s nothing quite as soothing as the death of children.

My Girlfriend Doesn’t Think I’m Spontaneous Enough. This Week Was Her Lucky Week.

My girlfriend often accuses me of not being spontaneous enough. Her idea of men absolutely moulded by a lifetime of watching Hollywood films in which the charming lead actor drops everything on a whim and flies his love interest off to Paris for the weekend.

I mean, I could do that. I could pick her up in a taxi straight from work on a Friday evening and be in France before sundown. I could be walking her down the Champs-Élysées with the evening breeze dancing in the air. I could treat her to the finest of breakfasts in some hip pretentious Paris cafe that has a bicycle on the wall passing off as art. Basically, I could whisk her off her feet and have the most magical forty eight hours she could ever wish for. It would be perfect. What wouldn’t be perfect, however, would be the following two weeks in which we fall behind on our mortgage and end up on the streets having to do unspeakable things to the genitals of strangers in order to get enough food not to starve to death. And all of this because she wanted to post a photo of herself on Instagram eating a croissant next to the fucking Eiffel Tower.

The point is, when you’re working class and money isn’t an unlimited resource, big financial gestures have to be planned to a T. I mean, there is also the absolute legitimate argument that I could save up and not have to make ourselves homeless in order to achieve this. However, that is an argument I don’t have the energy nor desire to entertain.

So last Wednesday, I took action. I decided I would shock her to her very core and suggest a romantic day out. I leant over and whispered into her ear the one sentence that all women want to hear, “Do you fancy going the car boot this Sunday?” A sentence only slightly more romantic than, “I’ve got us two tickets to the lawnmower museum” and “Fancy checking out this rash for me?”

Surprisingly, however, she was up for it. Granted, I don’t think it has changed her opinion of me as an unromantic bone idle layabout, but the mere suggestion of doing anything was enough to raise a look in her eyes that helped to remind her why she’s still bothering to build a life with me.

It must be noted that there was some method to my madness. You see, recently we have become obsessed with these auction/garage sale TV shows where people purchase items for a couple of quid and then sell them on for quadruple what they originally bought them for. Me and my girlfriend have this problem where once we both get an idea into our heads, we run away with ourselves and temporarily live in a fictionalised world in which life is brilliant. Often we get excited that we might be able to quit our jobs and finally establish control over our own lives. And as usual, in the days leading up to the car boot, this is exactly what we did. Our expectations blown completely out of proportion.

“I’m going to find a bag of rare action figures from the 1970’s! I don’t even mind if I only make a couple of hundred pound profit!” I loudly exclaimed like the village idiot I am.

We excitedly arrived at about 8am. Now, I don’t know what we were expecting exactly, but what we found wasn’t this bustling environment that was dripping with hidden treasure that would financially transform our lives. It was, if anything, quite aggressive. At one point, I honestly thought a pensioner was going to physically lash out at a seller for daring to sell a shitty toy campervan for a tenner. It was carnage. It was so far removed from the jolly TV shows where like minded people trade items for a bit of fun. I’ve watched countless episodes of ‘Bargain Hunt’, but I’m yet to see the episode where someone is called a cunt for refusing to take 50p for the 2004 film ‘Million Dollar Baby.”

My foray into flipping cheap shite landed me a ‘Only Fools and Horses’ box set and a special edition guide to ‘The Simpsons’. My girlfriend left empty handed and spent the rest of the day warning me to make sure I actually tried to sell them and not to leave them gathering dust in the spare room.

I genuinely believe that there is money to be made from the few quid I spent and I do have every intention of trying to sell them on. However, if I never get around to it, I might have to treat her to a romantic getaway to the local rubbish tip.

What a lucky woman.

Fantasy Football Is Pointless. So Why Am I Allowing It To Send Me To An Early Grave?

This week, the fantasy football community have reached our penultimate week of gameplay. Now for those of you who don’t know what fantasy football is, it’s basically a game in which you pick eleven real life footballers at the start of the season and then spend the next nine months of your life obsessing over every single facet of their lives. In a few years, I’ll genuinely regret spending the last decade of my life not answering phone calls from my recently deceased mother because I was overwhelmed trying to figure out which full back had the most attacking potential.

Now for others, it’s just a bit of harmless fun. They join simply because everyone else in the office is participating. You often find that they stop modifying their team after about six weeks and then throughout the season will intermittently ask, “How’s that fantasy football thingy majig going?” I bite my tongue and give them a run down of people’s positions, but a fire burns deep inside me that roars, “YOU WOULD FUCKING KNOW IF YOU HAD FOLLOWED UP WITH YOUR COMMITMENT TO COMPETE AND HADN’T COMPROMISED THE ENTIRE INTEGRITY OF THE COMPETITION.”

As you can tell, I am not one of these people and I take it rather seriously like the unbearable competition nazi that I am.

In fact, it’s now getting to the business stage of the season with just two games left, and rather unsurprisingly as someone who takes it so seriously, I am top of all three leagues that I compete in. For anyone who thinks that would make me happy, let me be the first to say that you are reading the room incorrectly. I am riddled with uncontrollable anxiety whenever I think about it. I have been top for so long that I just want it to be over. I am currently like an injured animal who just wants to be shot in the face so I can be free of this torment.

I spent the whole of last week in a state of semi-permanent depression because I missed the deadline to change my team on a triple gameweek. It was a week in which I was huddled over my tablet incessantly checking the points that my nearest rivals were accumulating and calculating whether that was enough for me to be overtaken. On an unrelated note, my girlfriend was also doing her own maths and was working out how much money she would need to save in order to leave me and start afresh.

If I do clinch the title this year, I am honestly debating whether I can take the pressure of doing it all again next year. I might retire before I give myself a heart attack. However, if anyone is impressed in the slightest by my pointless achievement, I might risk cardiac injury once again.

I’m a fragile man.

I’ve Bought A Keyboard But It Might Be Quite A While Before I’m The Next Elton John.

This week, I finally caved into a voice that has been intermittently whispering into my ear for the last two years. A voice that has been berating me for being a man in his thirties and not being able to play a single musical instrument. It’s the same voice that made me download an app to learn Spanish not too long ago, and without giving away any spoilers, I’m still only fluent in being an ignorant little Englander.

Nevertheless, I didn’t let my previous failure in improving as a human being stop me and decided to take some serious thought about which instrument would be right for me. And by, ‘serious thought’ what I really mean is, I quickly googled the sentence, ‘easiest and cheapest instrument to learn’ and impulsively ordered a keyboard. If I could have been bothered to click the second link you would have now undoubtedly been reading a blog about my attempts to learn the ukulele.

After the order for the keyboard had been placed, I spent the next forty eight hours watching videos of the likes of Billy Joel and Elton John and forensically looking at their finger placements as if I had any idea what I was looking for. I was even being distracted at work and found myself incessantly texting my girlfriend asking if it had arrived yet. So much so, that when it finally arrived my girlfriend’s text message to me simply read, ‘It is here.’ No warmth, no kisses to end the text as she usually would. Just three cold words sent by a woman at the end of her tether.

When I arrived home, I sprinted past all loved ones and instantly began to rip the packaging apart exactly like a man who lives in a world of instant gratification and is emotionally overwhelmed by a two day wait for something he bought on a whim. Upon annihilating the cardboard it became quickly apparent to me that I had bought a keyboard that was clearly designed for children. In particular, there’s a leaflet included that has several smug children holding a variety of different instruments. I suppose that this is meant to motivate other children. The message is an uplifting one of, “IF THEY CAN DO IT! SO CAN YOU!” But as a man so significantly outside of that demographic, it holds a more negative tone. More a message that says, “WE’LL BE ENTERING THE JOB MARKET SOON! INSTEAD OF PISSING ABOUT WITH A CHILD’S KEYBOARD, PERHAPS YOU SHOULD FINALLY GET AROUND TO LEARNING MICROSOFT EXCEL?”

Surprisingly though, even this was not enough to dampen my spirits and with motivation and enthusiasm still running through my pores, I found myself on YouTube within moments. In the recommended videos, I could see thumbnails advertising videos such as…

“Learn Hallelujah in 5 easy steps.”

“Classical music for beginners.”

“Nursery rhymes for children.”

As is often the case, I analysed all three choices and decided to go for the easiest option. As a result, I spent the next two hours learning the famous children’s ditty, ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.’ It must be noted that at the same time I was committing this tune to memory, my caring girlfriend, who has decided to volunteer for a charity that helps people with learning difficulties, was undergoing her volunteer training via zoom. So as she did this genuinely amazing thing, she and all her fellow volunteers could just faintly hear a fully grown man in the background swearing along to a nursery rhyme like a fucking lunatic. It must have crossed the other volunteers minds that my girlfriend had gone above and beyond in her duties and started dating one of the service users.

Despite the annoyance of my poor girlfriend having to listen to her neanderthal boyfriend smashing away at keys to a song that five year olds learn in thirty minutes, she was actually quite impressed and couldn’t resist shouting, “You’re an actual top notch pianist.” Or at least that’s what I think she said. Her compliment was drowned out by a selection of choice swear words and requests for me to keep it quiet.

My talent already too much for some people to take in.

I’m now about a week in to being an owner of a keyboard and I’m still at that stage where I can’t walk past it without having to touch it – I went though a similar phase as a teenage boy. Obviously, my girlfriend is convinced that like most things I’ll get bored of it and before too long it’ll be in the corner of our bedroom gathering dust. I on the other hand think I’ll eventually be proficient. In fact, her insistence that I’ll give up makes me want to stick with it. I might be the only musical legend that learns his art fueled solely by spite.

Also for anyone interested, my first single, ‘I Told You I Would Stick With This And Thanks For Your Unwavering Support’ will be available for download shortly.

Hello, My Name Is Paul And I Am Addicted To TV Quiz Shows.

Remember last year as the rumours of the first lockdown were approaching and everything seemed exciting and full of novelty? In particular, I have a vague recollection of people jokingly talking of an impending ‘baby boom’. Apparently, as soon as all these couples had got fed up of doing star jumps with Joe Wicks, all they would have left to fill their pointless time was sex. And plenty of it. If this was the case, me and my girlfriend definitely didn’t get the memo. There was something about a global pandemic on an already dying planet that somehow didn’t seem that sexy to us. So incredibly we managed to bypass all that and have spent our days becoming even more obsessed with TV quiz shows. The most heated it’s got in our house was during an argument about whether a tomato was a fruit or a vegetable.

The very fact that as I type this I remain so passionate and steadfast in my opinion that a tomato is a vegetable is proof that I am absolutely the best person to watch TV quiz shows with. That is if you enjoy watching TV quiz shows with someone who is a, ‘know it all unbearable prick.’

Not my words, but the words of my loving girlfriend.

Admittedly, the most worrying part of how much I love quiz shows is just how much they validate me. We recently watched an episode of the incredibly high brow ‘University Challenge’ and the adrenaline that coarsed through my veins after correctly answering TWO questions in a thirty minute period was both incredible and pathetic. However, as a boy who grew up on a council estate with a below average provision of education, being able to get one over on a newly post pubescent boy in a cardigan called Toby is what I live for.

And then at the other end of the spectrum you have something like ‘Tipping Point’. A quiz show I’m almost convinced was made specifically for people with brain injuries. The level of intellect you need to answer those questions is frighteningly low, but yet, as I routinely sit there with my beans on toast answering question after question correctly, a level of confidence washes over me and I transform into some sort of egotistical quiz god.

My girlfriend often thinks I should apply to go on one of these and win us enough money to pay off our mortgage. As tempting as this is, I just know though that I would become a socially awkward stuttering wreck and end up on one of those awful, ’50 Worst TV Quiz Moments’ voiced over by some washed up former soap star. My fleeting fifteen minutes of fame haunting me for the next twenty years of my life and verbalised by ‘Barry from Eastenders.’

Recently, I have found myself getting lost in thought watching these shows. Instead of being present and just enjoying the mental challenge, I have instead found myself looking at TV personality Ben Shepard in the eyes and wondering why I’m looking for his approval?! Why am I looking for anyones approval quizzing?

I think it stems from my childhood…

Intellectually, I peaked really young. I remember being a seven year old and being surrounded by my Dad’s mates at a party as they asked me countless trivia questions. As an adult, it does strike me as a weird thing to be doing at a party, but this was the 90’s and life was simpler. To this day, I can remember the thrill as I smashed questions on topics ranging from the moon landing to sitcoms of the seventies. The admiration from four middle aged men smelling of cheap beer overpowering my very being. Even then though, I think I knew it would never again be quite as good as it was that night.

And you know what? It never was.

But like any other addict, I’ll be chasing that dragon with my beans on toast next time ‘Tipping Point’ is on.

Day 457 Of My Hangover

The more observant of you will have noticed that your favourite blogger with under 50 followers, last week missed his usual self imposed deadline of posting a blog every Tuesday. I sincerely hope that this seismic event didn’t effect your day to day lives too much.

Now you might ask yourselves quite why I was unable to find the time to string a few sentences together. A possible family emergency maybe? Work commitments perhaps? They’d all be wrong. I have, and I say this without any exaggeration, been suffering with the worst hangover in the history of hangovers. Please note, I am yet to master the phrase, ‘without any exaggeration.’

Due to an easing of COVID restrictions, last week was the first week in months that people in the UK were legally allowed to visit beer gardens. Now, obviously, it goes without saying, that as a nation who has a really healthy relationship with alcohol, we collectively decided not to jump at the first opportunity to drunkenly gather in large numbers and drink ourselves into a stupor during a global pandemic.

Oh hang on. No, sorry, that’s EXACTLY what we decided to do.

I was no exception. This was the first time in months that I had been allowed to get together with friends. I jumped at the chance, ironed my smartest tracksuit and headed into town.

When we got into town, we were, probably naively, flabbergasted. There were queues upon queues of people waiting to be allowed to get into beer gardens. We were expecting queues, but this was ridiculous. We approached a very helpful bouncer who told us to expect a “1 to 3 hour wait, pal.” It didn’t make any sense to us?! Why would you waste hours of your life to then just be granted the opportunity to sit outside? It was a debate I was eager to have, but the first person I saw was a teenager who was holding what he proudly called ‘queue beers.’ He didn’t seem like he was is in the mood for an intellectual discussion and I certainly wasn’t in the mood for an intellectual head kicking.

But I can’t stress how long these queues were. I can honestly say that the only reason I would EVER wait in a queue of this size was if I needed an emergency prostate exam and the only person on the planet who could carry it out was waiting at the front with a finger full of lube. And even then I’d huff and puff for the duration of my wait.

After spending a good five minutes quietly mocking these idiots under my breath and ludicrously taking the moral high ground, we came to the conclusion that the only reasonable thing to do was to buy some beers and drink on the streets.

It’s incredible how important context is. If me and my mate had looked a certain way we’d have been looked upon as street urchins deserving of nothing but contempt. But because we had haircuts that suggested we were employed, people just cheerfully nodded their heads in approval as we downed cheap beer after cheap beer.

And I have to admit, it was beautiful. The sun was shining. There was a man playing Beatles songs on his acoustic guitar. It felt as if society had returned back to normal and we were bathing in its beauty. It was when the sun went down that the tone changed slightly. We went from bohemian young men participating in drunken chats about societies biggest issues to shouting sentences such as, “This alleyway looks safe to piss in!”

It’s safe to say that when I got home I was a little worse for wear. I remember getting home. I remember opening my door. But then my memories vanish. I just suddenly remember it being 4am and being awoken on my sofa by the worst headache I’ve ever experienced. I forced myself up and noticed that my beloved toy poodle had taken a shit right next to the dinner table. I was half tempted to leave it but my stupid moral compass took over and I found myself on my hands and knees with a lemon scented wet wipe. Shortly after, with washed hands, I was now trying to take out my contact lenses. Contact lenses that my drunken self had forgotten he had already taken out as soon as he had got home.

Oh how the mighty had fallen.

A man who just eight short hours ago was mocking people for being idiots now found himself in his kitchen disposing dog turd and peeling non existent contact lenses out of his eyes.

The next day was an absolute waste of 24 hours of precious life. I made it from my bed to the couch and remained in the foetal position for the majority of the day. Nothing else happened. Just self pity, takeaway pizza and thirty five episodes of ‘Come Dine With Me.’

Upon writing this, I’m still feeling horrendous and eating takeaway pizza from my backpack. I haven’t checked the ‘Guide To Being A Winner Book’ but I’m pretty sure eating weekend pizza from a backpack under your desk is on page one and it tells you to put the book down and go kill yourself.

The next time my mates ask me to spend the day drinking alcohol, I’m going to remind them that I have responsibilities. Primarily a once weekly blog that gives me zero financial reward.

I’m sure they’ll understand.

Prince Phillip Is Dead And The Country Has Gone Mad.

The magic of the internet means that for some crazy reason, people as far away as India have decided to read my blog. It’s insane to me that some bloke in Mumbai now knows about my pathetic hair line and my recent bout of diarrhea. But that often means I avoid talking about topical news stories in the fear that my writing won’t be accessible to them. However, I’m going to break that habit this week and talk about something that happened in my country that is historically quite significant – the death of Prince Phillip.

Now, I have to be honest from the start and admit to not being a royalist. It’s such a backward, archaic institution. Nobody should be given a palace or deemed important enough that other human beings have to bow down to them because of some sort of weird concept of hierarchical vaginas. The very idea of hereditary privilege props up and justifies a whole class system that keeps people trapped in poverty. It’s disgusting. But this isn’t a blog about my objection to the monarchy.

And on a human level, it’s incredibly sad. I can’t imagine being in love with someone for seventy plus years and then that being taken away from you.

When me and my girlfriend initially got together, she stupidly ended things with me after about three weeks and I consequently cried directly into a pillow in my mother’s box room for 48 hours straight. If it wasn’t for my charisma and her fear of being a single woman in her thirties with a biological clock incessantly whispering in her ear, we might never have flourished into the absolute power couple we are now.

Point is. I can’t fathom the amount of sorrow and grief that The Queen must be experiencing right now. However, the response of the British public, as with all major royal occasions, is absolutely baffling to me. And that is what I shall focus on.

Take the media coverage on television. Now television is my usual place of salvation. I find it incredibly soothing. It’s my comfort blanket. However, my comfort blanket has now been violently ripped away from me and is being used as a shit rag by distraught subjects devastated by the death of a man they never knew. It is literally wall to wall coverage. And don’t get me wrong, I understand why it needs to be reported on. I get the historical significance. But the vast amount of coverage means that most of what we are being tortured by is nothing but filler. The news stations are currently finding a conveyor belt of village idiots to relive their boring dinner party tales of that fleeting three minutes they were in the same company as him.

TV currently looks a lot like this…

“So yeah. I said this incredibly bland and inane thing to him and then he said some incredibly bland and inane thing back to me. And then, to my absolute surprise he then moved on to my colleague who managed to say something even more incredibly bland and inane. But no, despite not knowing him at all and him not knowing my existence, he was a really nice chap.”

A lot of these loyal subjects are also getting incredibly offended by other people’s indifference or jokes that are in bad taste. I have an elderly family friend who I saw on Facebook replying in disgust to a mocked up picture of Queen Elizabeth on ‘Tinder’. “THIS IS DISGUSTING. UNFOLLOWED.” A poor, arguably unfunny meme, I agree. But this was the same person who sent me a meme last week with the caption, ‘When you visit the book store and can’t find your books…” Where’s the joke you might ask? Oh. The book store in question was a chinese store apparently called, ‘No Fuk In Books.”

And why are people mourning him? He was a NINETY NINE year old man who lived in absolute privilege for the entirety of his life. He won. He hit the life experience jackpot. If you’re royally inclined you should be celebrating his life. You should be in the streets popping champagne. If statistics are to be believed and my dreams are never actualised, I’ll likely perish is my seventies after working in call centre/office environments for almost half a century. Mourn me. A man who spends most of his waking hours sat at a desk with his hand in a sharer bag of processed crisp.

In fact, I’m going to get in touch with the BBC right now and request that in the event of my death, they contact my colleagues so they can repeatedly tell that hilarious story about the time I sent something to the printer without realising the printer was *actually* turned off.

It’s about time there was enthralling content that could challenge the incredible tales we are currently being entertained by.