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

I’m not a fan of clich├ęs, 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.

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.

I Finally Need A Haircut. Does Anyone Know Where I Can Get An Underground Illicit Appointment?

I’ve always been told from a really young age that I’m losing my hair. That I’m balding. But if the truth be told, I’ve always had the same depressing hairline. It’s not receding. It’s not balding. It’s just thin and wispy. And it’s always been this way. I was the only five year old in the school sandpit with the same hairdo as a forty five year old accountant whose wife was cheating on him.

If my hair style had a name it would be Keith. Or Barry.

Up until now, the most depressing part of COVID and lockdown for me was the fact that I still hadn’t got to the stage where I needed my hair cutting. Despite rarely visiting the barbers in the last twelve months, it had barely grown. It’s simply spent most of it’s time just looking down on me from high and doing absolutely nothing but mock my awful genetics.

A few weeks back I was cycling to work and I could feel what I thought was the wind blowing in my hair. I had images of ‘Captain America’ on his motorbike. I was the height of cool. That was until I got into the changing rooms and discovered that I had one hair out of place. One pathetic strand of hair had been blowing in the wind. I was less ‘Captain America’ and more ‘Captain Soviet Union As It Was In Its Last Days.’

I really wish I had long flowing hair. I really do. I remember when I was eighteen and tried to grow it. I thought I’d end up looking like one of the cool indie musicians of the time. Perhaps an Alex Turner or a Miles Kane type? But that didn’t happen. What happened was that the sides and back grew outwards and the top refused to move. The last thing I needed as an eighteen year old with braces, glasses and a lack of height, was a fucking mullet. But there I was in 2008 looking like Billie Ray Cyrus.

I spent most of my teenage years looking at what best could be described as ‘awkward’, but this was a phase where I regularly looked like a ‘Guess Who’ character. A ‘Guess Who’ character who could easily be discovered with one simple question about who was most likely to hold on to their virginity for the foreseeable future.

But the time has finally arrived – I officially need a haircut. I’m now at that awkward stage where I have hair protruding out of the sides of my glasses and I’m the proud owner of one of those little pony tails that are about half an inch long. The only issue is that barbers are currently forbidden to open. I have to go rogue if I want this pony tail dead.

I found myself in a similar predicament earlier in the lockdown when I got to the point where I needed my beard trimming. I was more bearded than I had ever been before. I was at peak alpha male. But my natural laziness set in and after a couple of days of using beard oil and wax, I decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and that it had to go. The only issue at this stage however, was that my normal barbers were not legally allowed to do beards. I was forced to go underground.

After a few days of research (One Google search) I found myself in a chair and moments away from being presentable again. I closed my eyes and enjoyed the process. And I say, ‘enjoyed,’ but what basically preceded to happen, was that my life was ruined. I walked in with the most manliness facial hair I had ever grown and walked out looking like Ali G.

Please see the evidence below.

You can see the pain in my eyes.

And despite being absolutely devastated, I still lived up to the British stereotype of being too polite to say anything and gave the man a healthy tip. That man is still out there believing he gave me the greatest beard trim of my life. Little does he know that as soon as I was out of sight I found myself weeping outside a KFC window.

If this has taught me anything, it has taught me to have patience and wait until my usual place reopens. However, if anyone does know of anyone with a dodgy moral compass and an NVQ in barbering, please send them my way.