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

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

DOES THE MAN BRING OUR BAGS TO THE ROOM?

WILL I GET JUDGED FOR USING CUTLERY WRONG?

IS EVERYONE HERE GOING TO BE STUCK UP ARSEHOLES?

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

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

The cheap alternative to Morocco was Wales. Naturally.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The great British holiday had officially begun.

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

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

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

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

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

“Dogs welcome.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, for me that’s Rhyl.

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

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

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

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

Llandudno
Conwy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What a lucky woman.

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.

My Comic Book Obsession Has Begun Again And I Need To Publicly Apologise To My Girlfriend.

I love comics. I always have done. One of my earliest memories is awakening to the birds singing and the sun shining and grabbing my bicycle to cycle as fast as I could to the local newsagents to grab the latest copy of ‘The Beano.’

Now before we go any further, I know it’s a shock to all that read this, that a man who lived in his Mother’s box room until he was 27 and also collects commemorative 50 pence coins is into comics, but we must accept this and move on.

I also must note that although I paint my childhood to be something out of an Enid Blyton novel, I did grow up on a council estate. Yes, there was sunshine and cycling, but there was also gang violence and fingering.

I genuinely remember being a small child and desperately wanting to be Spiderman. Concerningly, I’m from that generation where parents dangled the, “You can truly be anything you want to be” carrot in our faces. Nobody told me that this was a completely unrealistic expectation. Up until I was about 10, I honestly thought it was something I could achieve. I thought when I was an adult, I would be a masked vigilante fighting crime on the mean streets of Liverpool. I’m now 31 working in administration. The only thing I fight now is regret and the urge not to cry until the sun goes down.

Anyway, I’m addicted again. It’s all I’m currently talking about. It’s all I’m thinking about. I have this type of personality where I get addicted to things incredibly easily. I took up cycling about six months ago and within weeks I was in the early stages of planning a charity cycle from Land’s End to John o’Groats. It’s a good job that I get addicted to things that are ridiculously vanilla or in six months time you might have got a light hearted blog full of witticisms on my weekend lost to heroin.

I do have to admit though that my current obsession is verging on outright rudeness. I can confidently estimate that about 70% of conversations that my girlfriend has started recently, has been filtered through my brain and turned back to comic book talk. My girlfriend is days away from saying, “Paul, we need to talk…” and I’d instantly reply with, “ABOUT HOW THERE’S AN ORIGINAL FIRST PRINTING OF DC’S BLACK LIGHTNING ISSUE 1 ON EBAY?”

She’s at a stage now where I need her to dress like Wolverine for me to pay her any attention.

A few days ago, I even downloaded an app and created three short comic strips. Three comic strips that were welcomed with an all too recognisable eye roll from my girlfriend.

They can hopefully be viewed beneath. Please read and shower me with compliments.

So to my girlfriend when she reads this, I apologise and promise to enter our relationship again in the coming days. To anyone else, please keep an eye out for my new Instagram page for my comics that will last about another two weeks before I lose interest.

31 years old nerds assemble!