LADS LADS LADS – Our British Summer Camping Trip And Why We Will Just Book A Hotel Next Time.

Me and my friends joined the list of victims of COVID 19 last year when our long awaited “LADS” holiday was put on ice. We had planned to get away for a few days when the last of us reached the grand old age of thirty.

Our last summer getaway was unbelievably now NINE years ago when for our twenty first birthdays we flew out to the party capital of the world Las Vegas. Now to give you some idea of how unprepared we were for this, when we stepped off the plane, I had jeans and a cardigan on.

A CARDIGAN!

IN AN ACTUAL DESERT!

I KNOW!

I enjoyed our week there. It was great. But in hindsight, I just don’t think we were the type of twenty one year olds that Las Vegas was designed for. We thought we would end up partying all night taking drugs and creating incredible stories that we could pass on to our children when we were grey and old. In reality, we mistakenly ended up at a burlesque show that was full of excitable young women and gay men and also fell asleep three quarters of the way through a cirque du soleil show. The remainder of the holiday consisted of us playing on ten cent machines and generally looking pale and uncool beside swimming pools. We even went the cinema twice. Twice. In one week. In Las fucking Vegas.

That towel was not some hipster fashion choice. I was burning alive.
Proof that we did relax at one point – when we were hidden behind a wall and in the shade.

We. Knew. How. To. Party.

Almost a decade later and undeterred by a global pandemic, we decided that we would finally get away together again this year. With age on our side and self awareness now an attribute we had in our arsenal, we wisely decided that we needed somewhere that was a little less action packed.

We decided to go camping for the weekend in the Lake District.

Out of the three of us that had decided to go, it was only me who had failed to get the Friday booked off work. This sadly meant that instead of setting off early we’d have to wait until the evening to begin travelling. However, I had pre-warned my fellow campers that there was an opportunity that I could finish early and requested that they would be ready to leave when I contacted them. My friends assured me that this would be no problem.

You can imagine my excitement then, when at midday, a good four or five hours before we were meant to leave, when my manager tapped me on my shoulder and informed me that I could get an early dart. I shot up, quickly got changed into my holiday shorts and t-shirt and got straight on the phone.

“I’ve finished! We can leave now. We’ll be there before we were even meant to be setting off. FUCK YOU RUSH HOUR TRAFFIC!” I gleefully exclaimed.

The reply back could be best described as disheartening.

“Oh yeah. I have my lad. Can’t leave until his Mum gets back. Also, I haven’t even started packing yet.”

I couldn’t get dressed and go back to work. That would be ridiculous. So I did what any self respecting man would do – I sat behind a wall in the car park and drank lukewarm beer for almost three hours.

I WAS ON MY HOLIDAYS.

After four cans, three hours and a number of disapproving sideway glances from members of the public, my chariot arrived in the form of a Ford Corsa. The journey there was pretty uneventful, only stopping momentarily at a motorway service station Burger King for a fine dining experience.

But before I knew it, we had arrived.

As we walked from the car park to the campsite it became evident that none of us in our thirty years of existence had actually ever put a tent up. Panic set in. It was getting darker and we didn’t want to find ourselves in a field in the pitch black pathetically assembling a tent and being judged by our new temporary neighbours. Almost in unison as we walked the last few yards to the field we repeated our new mantra, “Don’t embarrass ourselves, lads.” We must have looked like maniacs. Nervously muttering to ourselves like we were about to commit a terrorist attack.

Our mantra didn’t help at all but after  an agonising forty five minutes we finally had the tent up. Quickly however, we realised we had made a massive mistake. The tent was inside out. It had never occurred to us that the poles were meant to be on the inside. So as everyone else was having BBQ’s, playing music and making memories, we reluctantly began to rip out hooks from the floor as we sounded off about getting a hotel next time. The tension at times was unbearable but after another thirty or so minutes we had our new home in front us. Success.

Home.

With the tent now up and the last of the days sunshine dwindling we headed for an evening swim. The images we had seen of the campsite had shown holidaymakers frolicking in a lake just yards from their tents. The only pathetic lake we had managed to discover was ankle deep. There was no frolicking and it became quite clear quite quickly that we were just lifelong friends that were awkwardly sitting together semi-naked on barely wet rocks. After about twenty minutes of looking at my best mates nipples I suggested that it was probably best that we retire to the tent for a well deserved early night. All parties agreed and consequently disappeared into separate bushes to dry off.

Like a scene from Brokeback Mountain.

The first nights sleep in the tent wasn’t as comfortable as I thought it would be. This was mostly due to my lack of preparation and my complete lack of knowledge at just how cold it would be during the early hours. I wrongly thought that even with our dismal summers in the UK, it would still be warm enough to get a toasty night’s sleep. Fast forward two hours and I was shivering under an old duvet surrounded by plastic bags full of empty cans of alcohol and uneaten sandwiches lovingly made by my girlfriend hours before.

We all awoke like the inexperienced campers we were. Our eyes filled with first world trauma after a disastrous night’s sleep. However, upon asking each other how we slept, our British conditioning of repressing negativity set in.

“Like a baby, mate.”

“Perfect. Nodded off straight away.”

“Best sleep in years.”

Sat on our soaked travel chairs we looked at each other in the eyes. Each one of us knowing that the man either side of us was a lying bastard. The weary chat then changed to a camp meeting about what our first full day in the Lakes would entail. I put forward the motion that we should head straight into the nearest village, find a pub and do absolutely nothing else. My motion was carefully considered by my campmates and then disregarded. Apparently, we must first earn the beer and climb one of the majestic hills that surrounded us.

Brilliant.

I don’t mind walking on holiday if the walk has an end goal. And by ‘end goal’, I mean ‘a pub.’ I just don’t get putting yourself through all that physical exertion if all you going to get as a reward is a sense of achievement and stunning scenery. Some people would call me a moron for echoing that sentiment. And they’d be correct.

Anyway, despite my unwillingness to climb anything other than the stairs leading up to the bar, I quickly found myself panting half way up what everyone else was describing as a hill but what I will refer to simply as a, ‘fucking huge mountain.’ Much to my annoyance every human in sight was absolutely loving themselves. Like agile mountain lions, pensioners were manoeuvring through rocky terrain like it was nothing. Children were skipping and singing songs merrily on fucking high. I, however, had my hands in a bag of prawn cocktail crisp and as sweat cascaded down my face I refused to go any further. Stupidly, I thought that my refusal would mark the end of this walk and that we would now go and actually enjoy our holiday. Nope. My mates left me beside a rock and told me they’d be back shortly. With my fingers now full of crisp dust I sat there while other hikers passed me by. I can only assume that they thought I was waiting to be rescued or that I lived there. Either way they didn’t care and I sat there like I was told until my friends returned.

Admittedly impressive. But not as impressive as the afternoon happy hour deal we missed out on.
My mates proudly at the summit. At that exact moment I was probably trying to convince myself that they would definitely come back.

Thankfully our morning adventure soon came to and end everyone was now in agreement that it was time to find a pub.

Before we left, we decided that we would visit as many pubs as possible. We would do our very best to find the most authentic boozer and an atmosphere that screamed realness. Despite our best intentions, however, we only made it to the second pub and never left. “The Ambleside Tavern” was a brilliant little place. The price of the beer was reasonable and we had even managed to get a seat. Who needs authenticity when you have convenience?

For the first time this weekend, I now felt like I was on holiday and I spent the next few hours contently sinking pint after pint. I’d love to expand on what happened for the rest of the evening, but all I can really remember is semi-aggresively cornering the musician who was playing that night and telling him to make sure he let me know if he ever played my hometown. Enthusiastically he nodded along but my misplaced energy definitely scared him off ever taking up the offer to play within thirty miles of my city.

Little did he know that in thirty five minutes time I would have him in a loving head lock.

Unsurprisingly, the second nights sleep was incredible. As soon as my drunken head hit my pillow I was gone. Nothing and I mean nothing would have interfered with my sweet Z’s that night.

As often is the case with a drunken night’s sleep I awoke the next morning more tired than I have ever been in my entire life. The hangover hit me hard. Exhausted and holding back vomit I resolutely ploughed on. Sunday was our last day and after dismantling the tent we would squeeze the joy out of the remaining few hours left on our LADS holiday.

For weeks and weeks I had bugged my mates that on our last day we must visit the incredible picturesque ‘Bowness on Windermere.’ I had stayed there a couple of times with my girlfriend and had fallen in love with the place. True to their word my mates drove the forty five minute detour to only be turned away at every car park we reached. In sheer desperation we circled the place about three times in an attempt to find a parking place. Not a chance. With our heads spinning and the car holding that smell that can only exist when three unwashed hungover men occupy a small space we decided to head home.

Again, the drive back to Liverpool was uneventful and after about two hours and thirty minutes I found myself stood outside my gate. A gate that had recently been visited by what I hope was a dog and had done the biggest shit I have ever seen. With a roll of my eyes and a careful side step, I climbed over the dirty protest like one of those pensioners I had encountered just twenty four hours previously and made my way into my house.

My summer British holiday was now over – and I think we’ll wait until COVID goes away before holidaying again.

This Week I Had A Health Scare And Realised That I Was Immortal.

Something that I get accused of on a regular basis is that I over share parts of my private life in exchange for easy laughs. That instead of keeping things to myself like the mature adult I should be, I’ll instead eagerly blurt something embarrassing out in order to hit the comedy jackpot and bathe in the warmth of my easily earned laughter. With that in mind, please prepare yourself to read this weeks blog on the topic of me finding a brown growth on my penis.

It started a few evenings ago, when upon ending one of my usual visits to the toilet, I discovered a dark patch of skin just looking back up at me. Instantly, a mixture of panic and intense anger stirred deep within.

“Just my fucking luck. Of all the cancers to get, I get dick cancer. Nobody is going to do a cake sale for penis cancer…. ” I found myself muttering as I strode determinedly towards my poor girlfriend with penis in hand.

Greeted with the usual sigh and roll of the eyes that I have been accustomed to over the years, she rather wisely pointed out that it was probably nothing but it was best that I contacted my GP in the morning. This advice was by far the most sensible thing to do. I knew it was the route I should take even before she said it. Unfortunately, however, I am a silly man and as silly men often do I decided to ignore the sensible woman and instead spent the next two days unproductively comparing my growth to some of the most cancer riddled genitalia the internet had to offer.

Now there are some life events that are so important that people just know were they where when they took place. JFK’s assassination, the death of Princess Diana, 9/11. In years down the line when I’m asked, “At what point did your girlfriend lose all respect for you?” I’ll know in a heartbeat that it was on a Monday evening in July after leaning over to my beloved and asking her for the seventy fifth time to look at some random unfortunate penis on Google Images.

With a random mans penis just inches away from her face she snapped and informed me that she would finally end this nonsense. I awoke the next day to an email informing me that I would receive a call from my GP in the coming hours.

Today I was to face my fears.

And my health anxiety fears were raised to an all time high when in work my phone began to ring.

This was it.

I was in the last few moments of living in world where I wasn’t seriously ill.

I picked up my phone and walked past a colleague who I mouthed something about needing to take a call too because vagueness is king when you’re just about to go and stand in a corridor and attempt to privately discuss a potentially serious medical issue about your cock.

The phone call started as I expected it to begin. The bog standard questions about my general health and so on. Quite quickly, however, it became apparent that he would need to take a look at the marking and he politely suggested that I send him some photos. Reluctantly, I agreed and asked him what would happen once he had viewed the photos. His answer startled me.

“If I call you back it is probably something that needs more attention. If not, I’ll just text you.”

For some bizarre reason, he was adding jeopardy into this. Like some sort of twisted game show host he held all the power in his hands and I would soon become transfixed on my phone hoping to be this weeks lucky winner and receive the text that would confirm I could continue to exist.

Now I’ve had terrible starts to many working weeks, but very few have involved me sneaking off from work and taking pictures of my junk in the disabled toilets.

But there I was.

It was happening.

We live in a world ruled by identity politics. Almost on a daily basis I see people of all genders, sexuality, classes arguing between each other. However, I think we can all agree on one thing – dicks are disgusting. Even on the best day with the most flattering lighting, one hundred percent of them still took gross. But on this day, hidden in a disabled toilet with my foot up against the door I might possibly have owned the most disgusting of all dicks on planet Earth. The combination of potential serious illness and being discovered by a work colleague had made my little fella completely shrivel up. I genuinely remember pathetically shouting after my fourth attempt at capturing an image, “Just fucking work will you?!”

It was like the night I lost my virginity all over again.

But alas, I managed to take a couple of images that wouldn’t result in a lawsuit and sent them straight his way. I then lifted up my trousers, walked back into the office and sat down at my desk like the disgusting pervert I am.

Within seconds my phone buzzed.

IT WAS A TEXT!

“Thanks for the photos, Paul.”

What a weird start of a text I thought. Nobody is thanking anyone for those photos, doc. My girlfriend is the one person on this planet who *might* want them and even she would vomit instantly on sight of seeing those.

“Just looks like a pigmentation issue. Nothing to be concerned about. Please keep an eye on it and if there are any changes, please get in touch.”

The relief washed over me. I wasn’t going to die! Phew! I looked around and felt nothing but gratitude. Life was beautiful. Everything once again seemed possible. I was at one with everything and everyone in that office. I closed my eyes and took a deep breath…

“Those horrible photographs are going to live on the internet forever.” My internal monologue whispered into my psyche.

The panic was back. I then remembered that the ninteen year old me once posted a picture of his anus in a random forum online because he had convinced himself that his newly birthed haemorrhoid was anus cancer.

My naked body was all over the internet! At this point, I might as well start an OnlyFans.

With the cringe enducing memories refusing to vacate my mind, I slowly placed my head on to my desk in some sort of exhaustive embarrassment.

I had lived to tell this tale, but in that moment it dawned upon me – nobody ever really dies on the internet.

I Booked A Week Off Work To Do DIY. I Wish I Had Gone To Work Instead.

We all have our own indicators of ‘manliness’. Our own ‘things’ that define what makes a man. For some, it’s how many pints someone can sink in a single session, for others it’s how long an individual can ignore a lump before seeking medical advice. For me, though, it’s DIY.

Do you ever remember being a child and watching your Dad do DIY? You looked at him in utter admiration. “That’s what a real man is” you thought to yourself while he hammered a nail into something with no t-shirt on and a can of Carling in his hand.

Well thank fuck I currently have no children to watch me do DIY because this week I essentially cried in different parts of my kitchen while balancing on a step ladder.

You see, me and my girlfriend recently made our first ‘adult’ purchase when we designed and bought a brand new shiny kitchen. Now, I say ‘we’, but during our consultations I just sat quietly out the way while the proper grown ups did the talking. I was essentially a nodding dog with a credit card. A man just answering questions about types of sinks in a way that screamed, “WHAT DO I HAVE TO SAY TO BE ALLOWED TO GO HOME?!”

It’s not that I don’t care what my kitchen looks like, but for someone whose life philosophy revolves around the fact that we’re hurtling towards death and none of this has any meaning, it’s really hard to get passionate about marble kitchen counters.

The bad news was that there was some ‘prep’ work that needed doing. Nothing major. Just peeling all the wallpaper from the kitchen walls. A job that my Dad could have done in an afternoon.

When we got home I did the stance my Dad did, and any other labourer does when evaluating a job – hands on hips and blowing out cheeks like deep in thought.

“A couple of weekends that”, I said like a man with absolutely no experience in any manual labour whatsoever.

That was six weeks ago and a week before it needed to be done, it was still untouched, apart from a few ‘testing’ scratches I had done with a wall scraper about 30 days before. Consequently, I was forced to book a whole week off from work to get it ready.

The next seven days were hell. I spent hours swearing at walls and ringing my girlfriend telling her I couldn’t go on. A characteristically suitable response for me whenever something doesn’t go to plan.

A problem I have, is that I look like I might know what I’m doing. I look like a man. I have a significant beard which I pride myself on. But a beard used to mean something. It showed that you could put a shelf up or pleasure a woman. Not my beard. My beard says, “Can I have almond milk in that tea please mate?”

As well as peeling the wallpaper from the kitchen walls, we also had to empty the cellar of damp cardboard boxes that we had lazily thrown down there over a period of two years.

Simple job? You’d think so. But after accidentally stumbling over an article that revealed to me the dangers of damp, I flat out refused to go down there without a form of protection.

What happened next was that I found myself walking back and forth to the street bins with a COVID mask and pink rubber gloves. It was only thirty minutes into this that I realised how strange it looked seeing a man repeatedly coming out of his cellar with a mask on and pink rubber gloves up to his elbows. My neighbours now think I’m either a murderer or a sexual deviant.

Also, I must point out that I keep referring to my Dad in the past tense. He’s not dead. He lives around the corner.

And I think I’ll give him a shout next time I need some work doing.

I Quit My Gym Membership This Week. But I Still Want To Look Like The Rock.

I quit my gym membership this week. It wasn’t one of those significant moments that filled me with a sense of relief. I didn’t celebrate it. In fact, I quite like the gym. There are elements of it that I love. But, for me, the negative elements far outweigh the positive ones. Mostly, it’s an environment that I always feel intimated by. I mean, I even find the vending machines too agressive. Every protein shake or energy bar they sell is too full of unnecessary alpha male energy.

You walk up to the machine and are hit in the face with an array of unnecessarily intense and hyper masculine products like,’THE CARB KILLER!’ or ‘THE PROTEIN GRENADE!’ I wish they could just calm it down. I’d happily give them all of my money if they could create a more realistic post-workout drink called the, ‘Just Here To Do 5 Minutes On The Treadmill So I Don’t Develop Tits And Die Of A Heart Attack When I’m 40 Shake.’

Now generally, I’m someone who avoids advertising techniques that try and make you feel like shit so that then they can miracoulsly provide you with the product that makes you feel better again. But fitness is the one chink in my armour. I live in world where I constantly battle between exercising solely for health and trying to look like ‘The Rock.’

Just typing that sound ridiculous. There are no amount of push ups that will make a 5 foot pasty man with Irish ancestry and a lazy eye look like a 6 foot mammoth of a man with unlimited financial resources.

I know this. But yet, with all of my heart, I still try to achieve it.

I’ve actually been quite consistent with my workouts for a couple of months now and I genuinely feel proud of myself. We’ve recently set up a makeshift home gym in our house. It’s like a prison set up, but instead of sharing it with a man who wants to physically dominate me in the showers, I share it with a girlfriend who unfortunately doesn’t want to physically dominate me in the showers.

I spend about 4 or 5 hours a week in there. Nothing crazy. A typical routine consists of push ups, pull ups, squats and some weights. And at the end of every session, I chug down a vegan protein shake and convince myself I’m one step closer to being a Greek God.

Very often I’ll stride topless into my living room and tense my muscles at my startled girlfriend. It doesn’t matter if she’s busy, I’ll insist that she stops whatever she’s doing and assess my biceps for growth.

It’s very showing that she often looks straight through me and continues to watch ‘Antiques Roadshow.’

Apparently, I can’t even compete with a vase some dead bloke passed on to his deluded middle aged daughter.

During these phases, I become obsessed. I have to consciously fight off the urge to compare myself to others. And by others, I mean celebrities.

My Google search history looks a lot like this.

What workout will make me look like Zac Efron?
Brad Pitt. Fight Club. Abs.
Does pain from a mole suggest that it’s NOT cancerous?

The guys at Google should be allowed to contact you directly after a certain number of searches on the same subject and ban you from ever asking it again.

At this stage, Zac Efron’s diet plan would be my specialist subject on ‘Mastermind.’

When I’m not doing that, I go to the other extreme. This morning I spent 35 minutes researching on the benefits of sea moss. Fucking sea moss. I followed this with articles on meditation and how not to turn into an unbearable prick.

Ultimately, I suppose, everything is about balance.

This could be the perfect opportunity to discuss philosophy or Buddhism or make a deep connection with whoever reads this. Delve deeper into the idea of living in the moment and not attaching results to actions.

However, it’s been 4 hours since I did some squats and I haven’t got time for that nonsense.

Go find your own connections.

Knock Knock? Who’s There? Oh Only An Alpha Male Who Does Alpha Male Shit.

I recently became a man. And by ‘become a man’, I don’t mean that I lost my virginity. No, that happened MONTHS ago. I did, however, do something much more impressive than that – I knocked at my next door neighbour’s house and asked them to turn down their music.

It all started about three weeks ago when out of nowhere a blast of noise suddenly made its way into our living room and drowned out the audio to ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.’ There are very few things in life that make me lose my temper, but when I struggle to hear the reasons why a middle aged man from Skegness would want to sell his house and live in a converted van, it’s safe to say that I lose my shit. And please, when I say a ‘blast of noise’, I can’t stress how loud it was. It was ridiculous. We were essentially now at a party we had not been invited to or had the intention of being at. We were hostages to what appeared to be eastern European dance music. A genre that doesn’t speak to me.

The next three hours were hell. If any innocent by passer was to walk past our two houses they would hear a mix of Lithuanian dubstep and a man at the end of his tether screaming sanctimonious sentences like, “It’s not the noise I’m most offended by, it’s the SELFISHNESS!” Now despite the obvious internal breakdown that was happening in our sacred space, we decided not to knock, because…

“This is the first time it has happened and it probably won’t happen again…..”

Oh how we now laugh at our young naïve selves.

A mere two days later at ‘Rock and Roll Mansions’, myself and my girlfriend were watching a documentary titled, ’10 Reasons Why The Titanic Sank’ when again the music struck. This time, if anything, it was louder. Instantly, I jumped off the sofa and in as much as an alpha male in Marvel pyjama bottoms and an oversized hoody bought by his mother in a charity shop can look like an alpha male, I screamed, “That’s it, I’m knocking!” My girlfriend, reeling from this clearly out of character move by me, responded simply and tragically with two words, “What? You?” I could have easily been offended by this obvious insult at my masculinity, but she was right. As a child of divorce I do my utmost to avoid confrontation. What may appear to outsiders as cowardice is really a 10 year old boy trapped in a 30 year old man screaming, “STOP SHOUTING AT MUMMY!”

Anyway, after momentarily debating wheter I should send my girlfriend around, I found myself bravely walking up their path and knocking on their door like a proper adult male should. A few moments after my attempt at an intimidating knock a small boy answered. I took a deep breath and with my deepest voice asked if I could possibly speak to his parents? He just looked through me. Not a single word left his mouth. In fairness, he was probably wondering why someone who was only slightly taller than him and in superhero pyjamas had been sent around by his parents to do an adult task.

After a few moments of awkward contemplation I saw a figure approaching from behind him. Walking towards me was a man who looked like he could play a villain in a James Bond film. He was the type of guy who wears vests just so he can show off his tattoos – tattoos he probably gets to commemorate every neighbour he murders for asking him to turn down his music. Now I’d love to say that I was just as confident talking to this human as I was mere seconds before when I was confronting a child. But I wasn’t. All of a sudden my voice broke and what should have been an assertive statement sounded like every awkward encounter a teenage boy has when speaking to his friend’s parents.

“If you, will you, the music. I mean, it’s great, but loud. I just, you know, music and that.”

Pathetic. I had gone to bits and turned into a blabbering wreck. The obvious neighbour murdering man looked back at me and in his stereotypical Eastern European accent replied, “Yes. Will do. Sorry mate.” The bastard. How dare he politely converse with me and sincerely apologise?! I wanted my moment and he had stolen it from me. Now I had to go back and pretend to my girlfriend that I’d had to threaten him and throw a punch or two. Not only was this man incredibly selfish with his music choices but he had turned me into a liar. Unforgivable.

Moments later I was back on my sofa and balls deep into that documentary about The Titanic. I had done it. I felt a wave of adrenaline wash over me. This was my equivalent to jumping out of a plane while simultaneously snorting cocaine and roaring, “I’M NEVER GOING TO DIE BABYYYY!”

I mean, despite this, I do have to admit that since then, the music has returned and I’ve now ran out of excuses not to knock again. But I will always have that night and if it does get any worse I can always order a converted van off that bloke from Skegness.