Despite life being meaningless and the overwhelming fact that we’re living on a dying planet, I’ve recently found myself in one of those periods in which for some random reason, I’ve been trying to self improve. This has mainly taken the form of me embracing the challenge of learning a new language. Well, I say, ‘learning a new language’, but all I’ve really done is download the Duolingo app and spent my breaks in work weirdly mouthing such completely necessary sentences as, “the dog eats rice” and “the rhinoceros has a horn.” Undoubtedly, these are sexual euphemisms that are only spoken in foreign climates by bored business men. In fact, if I’m ever abroad and hear someone utter a sentence about a ‘rhinoceros having a horn’, I’m sprinting to the nearest airport. Pronto.
Admittedly, I am still at the really early stages of using Duolingo so I don’t want to judge it too harshly, but the lessons are full of similar bizarre impractical sentences about ‘giraffes reading newspapers’ and ‘socks not speaking English’. I did initially wonder if I had accidentally chosen a setting in the app that was specifically for people with brain injuries. But no, that’s just how they do things in crazy old Duolingo world.
Now you might be thinking, “which language have you taken upon yourself to master, Paul?” Perhaps it’s a language of a country that you one day hope to live in? Maybe a country that you visit on a regular basis? On both of these assumptions you’d be incorrect. I simply went to my old friend Google and asked, “what is the easiest language for an English speaker to learn?” A couple of articles later and I am now a student of Dutch. My inherent laziness not stretching to the next five hundred articles explaining that it’s pretty much a waste of time because almost everyone in the Netherlands speaks English.
Upon receiving this knowledge you would assume that I stopped learning Dutch and found a more practical language to learn? Again, you’d be painfully incorrect. You see, whoever designed the Duolingo app ingeniously designed a streak system which once started makes it incredibly difficult to abandon. In fact, I’m currently on an impressive forty one day streak and now spend most of my days worrying about losing it. I can only imagine what my streak anxiety will look like if I one day make it to a significant three or even four digit number.
As I mentioned earlier though, I have been forced to sneak off on a number of occasions to a quiet area in work in order to fit my practice in. A couple of weeks back now, I found myself alone in the changing rooms with my headphones in and repeating back in English the sentences that were flashing in front of me. In hindsight, I was definitely doing that thing people do when they have headphones in and began shouting back the sentences at a volume that was inappropriate even at a football match, nevermind a workplace. Anyway, there I was screaming back in a mixture of English and Dutch when this sentence appeared, “Ik ben een vrouw. ” I confidently highered my speaking voice and bellowed repeatedly the English translation, “I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN, I AM A WOMAN.” Then out of nowhere, I felt a presence watching over me. Out the corner of my eye I could now see the shining bald head of the security guard slowly making its way around a corner. As our eyes met he dashed away, clearly thinking he had discovered a bearded employee who was in the courageous first steps of a gender transition.
I’m trying to better myself and there I was becoming a talking point at that man’s evening meal with his family.
Anyway, I must admit, I’m now five weeks down the line and my motivation is beginning to seriously wane. In the first week I downloaded the app I was averaging about thirty five minutes per day testing my new skills out and reading over Dutch newspapers. However, like most of my fads I’m decreasingly spending less and less time on it and before I know it I’ll be back to being a little Englander who slowly open mouths sentences to far superior people when ordering beers on a city break.
Does anyone know the Dutch for, ‘stop being an ignorant lazy fuck?’
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.
IN AN ACTUAL DESERT!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It was my birthday this week and I turned the grand old age of 31.
A fact that I’m completely OK with.
However, I have noticed a strange pattern in the last couple of years whenever my birthday has rolled around. In my late teens and mid twenties, I’d get a simple birthday wish like, “Happy Birthday Paul. Have a good one!” Or at worst, a weird too-specific jokey comment from Steve from accounts, “Don’t get too drunk and end up in the local newspaper and then spend the next 6 months living in a bed sit while fighting for access to your kids!”
OK Steve. Thanks Steve. Please stop crying Steve.
Now however, I get a look. A widening of the eyes followed by a tongue in cheek comment about the fact that I’m ‘getting on.’ A birthday wish wrapped up in words that essentially are telling me that my best years are behind me.
Firstly, 31 isn’t old. I could literally drink beer, play PlayStation and nap for the next decade and still have half my life left. A plan that sounds very appealing.
Secondly, anyone who knows me knows I’m just hitting my prime.
This wasn’t a vehicle built for youth – it was a vehicle built for Worthers Originals and erectile dysfunction.
You see, I’ve always thought that youth was overrated. Or certainly the things you’re meant to enjoy as a young person. I mean, I took part in the drinking and the dancing that I was conditioned to enjoy, but I never felt comfortable. It was never me.
My experience of clubbing was completely different to most people. The people who genuinely enjoyed this type of thing would be lost in the moment in the middle of the dancefloor surrounded by people who similarly would rather be there than anywhere else. Me and my friends were there out of expectation. Our nights consisted of us just looking awkward in polo shirts before one of us was brave enough to say those magic words, “Want me to phone a taxi?”
You have to remember, when I was going out on a regular basis, I was 5’4, and had braces. I was still riding the wave of winning the coveted Brookfield High School GCSE History award. These people wanted to dance off their tits and take drugs. They were certainly not impressed by my knowledge of the Treaty of Versailles. And boy did I try.
In fact, me and my friends were so we largely unimpressed by all of this that we avoided the bright lights of town and the exuberance of youth by going to our local ‘old mans pub.’ Nothing weird about that you might say? Well OK, brace yourself for my next sentence. As a 19 year old, me and my friends sat religiously for about 4 years with a group of men in their seventies while they played songs with a spoon and an ash tray. While my peers were out living life, I was sat next to a man who stunk of urine and regret while he played Buddy Holly tracks with cutlery. And yes, I am fully aware how tragic this sounds.
In a totally irrelevant and completely unrelated matter, you’ll be surprised to hear that I lost my virginity quite late.
One of our first ‘lads holiday’ was a disaster as well. It was our second night in Magaluf and we had decided to go to a foam party at the world famous BCM nightclub. It was packed with young muscly types in vests. I on the other hand weighed about 7 stone and hadn’t yet been introduced to contact lenses. This became quite the issue when I began to ‘dance’ and make my way to the foam covered dance floor. You see I’d never been to a foam party before and didn’t realise that my glasses would steam up. And steam up they did.
It was half way through some track by Pitbull that I realised I was in trouble. My vision was gone and instead of being in the moment and dancing with other young people, I suddenly found myself grabbing wildly at air while screaming, “I need help! Will someone help me?!”
In classic fashion I began to panic and instead of making my way off the dance floor, I blindly walked towards where the foam was emptying. And it emptied right into my face. I was now blind and struggling to breath. This was how I was going to die. Panting uncontrollably to Pitbull.
I don’t know how I managed to get out of that predicament but when my friends found me I had lost a flip flop and my glasses were bent. What a night.
Nowadays my girlfriend will often ask me what I want to do at the weekend and I’m genuinely surprised that she hasn’t called anyone out to see if I’m possessed by a 54 year old librarian named Derek. I’m currently on a three year streak of answering, “I don’t know. Watch a documentary, read a couple of chapters and then fall asleep in front of the telly?”
I’m close to starting a GoFundMe page to raise funds so she can start a new life.
One of my favourite things to do as a 31 year old man is to potter. I love the days where I just aimlessly wander around the house like a man in control of his nothingness.
I would retire tomorrow if I could.
Recently, I’ve even found myself getting increasingly jealous at pensioners who spend their days gardening and attending book clubs. In fact, I’m so jealous, I’ve stopped giving up my seat to them on public transport. Norma can fuck off if she can’t stand for 20 minutes on her way to do WHATEVER SHE WANTS TO DO.
I mean the only downside to getting older is the fact that I’m edging closer on a daily basis to the death of my parents. But I’d rather be an elderly orphan playing bowls than downing shots at a rave with my whole life ahead of me.