Monday, 9 May 2016

Panini Sticker Album

I often collected stickers and cards and pogs and many other things as a child, keyring and egg cups, cd's and all sorts of things in fact. It's strange because I never though of myself as being a collector. Not until recently that is, when I started my new project: where I am attempting to collect souvenir mugs from 80 places around the world. You can read about my travels to far flung places like Windsor, Lisbon and Split - I will actually be visiting some fairly far flung places this summer when I travel outside of Europe for the first time - on my travel blog aroundtheworldin80mugs.co.uk. But in fact it turns out that I've been collecting things all my life, maybe just not very successfully.

So a couple of weeks ago I decided that I was going to start collecting something new and I was going to do something that I have never done before: complete a Panini Sticker Album!

I collected many different stickers when I was a child: football, wrestling and my 10 year old self is going to hate me for divulging this information but even thunderbird stickers! Or was it Stingray cards? Either way I remember being pretty embarrassed about it and wanting to swap but not wanting to admit I was collecting them haha.

So... to the task at hand. I have never completed a sticker book before. In fact I have tried this challenge before and not too long ago. Back in 2012 I attempted the same thing and got pretty close! I attempted to complete Euro 2012 Panini Sticker Album and got within 4 stickers - that's just 4! stickers - of doing so before bizarrely giving up. I have no idea why? Maybe it just stopped being fun?

But I am going to try again this year with my Euro 2016 Panini Sticker Album:



I picked up my free copy of the album from the supermarket last week and with a £10 note I found in the pocket of an old pair of shorts - which I think had probably been there for years? - I bought myself 20 packets of stickers:


And instantly got sticking! I didn't even have time to take my coat and shoes off. Like a kid at Christmas I raced in and just started tearing straight into the packets, so eagerly if truth be told, that I made a small tear in the back sticker of the first packet haha.



And the thing is that I'm actually quite glad that I failed last time around. That's because this year Wales have qualified for an international football tournament for the first time since the 1958 World Cup in Sweden! Which is super exciting and means that the first time I hopefully complete a football sticker book, it will contain the players from my home nation. Amazing!



I've had a lot of fun so far attempting to complete my sticker book. Too much fun perhaps? I was so happy when I opened my first packet:




 I was so, so happy when I got my first shiny:



And I was so, so, so HAPPY when I got my first Welsh player:



I've now got ten Welsh players, so still plenty to go yet - there are 20 players for each nation - but overall, I'm well over half way, although frustratingly I'm still to complete a full page!

Out of the 680 stickers you need to fill the album I currently have 445, so well over half way. I'm actually at a new and exciting stage where, after the swaps have started to mount up, I've decide that it's time to stop buying new packets and concentrate on swapping. Luckily I have an equally childish housemate who is as obsessed with collecting Euro 2016 stickers as I currently am: I have recently been describing my sticker collecting as my 10 packet a day habit. You know you're obsessed when you take your sticker album around to your girlfriends house haha. But it's not just me, there are men around the country and probably around the rest of Europe who are equally as sad obsessed. So much so that I've had messages on twitter and there are even websites and an app, dedicated to helping you swap your doubles (via the post) haha.

So I'm well on my way to completing my challenge... but will I actually manage it this time around? Only time will tell but hopefully I will have an update for you shortly!

Happy collecting everyone! :)

Monday, 2 May 2016

Somersault

When I was in primary school - aged around 10-11 years of age - I had three best friends, Barry, Ben and Tom (who is still my good friend 20 years later).



The four of us loved sport, especially football and we were all half decent at it. (We're all in the photo above. Barry is the one in red with his hand on the trophy, Tom is behind him and Ben is to Barry's right. Can you tell which one is me?). But Barry was one of those annoying people that seemed to be good at everything he tried, whether it be football, swimming, running, tennis, cricket, dancing, drawing, etc etc. And maybe we could have been jealous of him but we weren't! Partly because he was a friendly, smily kind of kid, but also because I had no reason to be. At that age life was great. I had nothing to worry about. I did well at school, I had plenty of friends, I was in the football team, captain of the swimming team and the girl I liked, liked me too.

Except there was one thing that I was a little jealous of. Barry could do a somersault! I remember thinking it was just about the coolest thing that you could do. Back then I remember wishing I could do it too and now, well now I'm probably more jealous of his complete lack of fear. I mean, what if you try to do a somersault but end up face planting hard on the ground or landing funny and breaking your neck! But you don't worry about that when you're 10, at least Barry didn't.

And the thing is that I'm not someone who is controlled by fear. There are of course things that frighten me and I'm obviously a lot more cautious that I was in my youth. However, I have actually done a number of things in the last couple of years or so, that have pushed me out of my comfort zone. I've travelled alone, hitchhiked home (200miles), shaved my head, eaten jellied eels and entered an air guitar competition (and not come last).

But attempting to do/learning to do a somersault is different. There is no way I could just do it without training (somewhere safe). I'd 100% definitely end up seriously hurting myself if I simply attempted to do one in the school playground - a 2min walk from my parents house - where Barry used to do it. Not that I would ever try!

But then that's ok because I have an alternative. A more scary than it really ought to be but a lot safer alternative. I have a 7 year old niece who my parents spoil and so there is one of those giant garden trampolines in their garden. It's been there since last summer but because I've not been home too many times recently and because when I have been up the weather has been... well, it's Wales, so you can probably guess how the wether has been. Therefore, although it's been there nearly a year, I haven't had the chance to go on it... until now that is!

I recently had a week off work and I went up to Wales to catch up with my family and friends and finally play on that trampoline (the first time I will have been on a trampoline since I was a small child).



So I thought, while I'm here, why not give doing a somersault a try? What's the worst that can happen? The trampoline will give me the extra spring I need - I've always been a bit lacking in any natural spring and also any that I did have as a child, has certainly left me by now haha - and if I don't land on my feet - let's face it what's the chances of me actually landing on my feet? - I'll have a fairly soft landing.

Now, although I was looking forward to having my first go on the trampoline, when I first went up to Wales I had no intention of trying to do a somersault. Not until my niece told me, that the first time my brother in law Craig had a go on the trampoline, he had attempted to do one. She also said he was naughty and that you're not allowed to do it.

There was even a sign warning you of the dangers:



Well of course that was like a red rag to a bull. To hell with health and safety! As soon as I was told I wasn't allowed to do it, I instantly wanted to haha. Also - and more importantly - if Craig had a go then so must I! Competitive? Me? No! haha But the fact that he had done it, started me thinking about primary school and my friend Barry and I very quickly made up my mind. I'm going to get on that trampoline and try to do a somersault!

So one day my niece came around to play with her "craaazzzy uncle Anthony":





and it was time to give it a go!

So here it is, a video of me attempting to do a somersault for the first time ever. I've never even attempted to do one into a swimming pool before:


video


So it probably comes as no surprise that it wasn't the biggest success. Not only did I get nowhere near to landing on my feet, I also managed to graze both of my elbows and hurt my back. It turns out that there is a warning on there for a reason after all haha. But at least I gave it a go! It was fun, if a little weird to be upside down and slightly scary because I knew I wasn't going to land correctly. But who knows, maybe if I practice again the next time I'm up - work on my technique and be a little braver - I might just be able to nail it? Unlikely! To be fair it's probably quite unlikely that I'll ever try to do it again haha. But even if I never do manage to do it, I had a great time with my niece and I will be back on that trampoline again and again because just bouncing up and down on it is so much fun. Much more fun than it feels it should be.

Happy trampolining everybody!

Ps. Don't try this at home. Well do but not because I did. It's not my fault if you hurt yourself :)

Friday, 22 April 2016

Secret Cinema

This time last Friday, I found myself being chased around a giant warehouse by Zombies. Well people dressed up as Zombies. But still! It was a fantasy come true.

Last Friday I attended Secret Cinema Presents: 28 Days Later.

DON'T WAKE UP!

I've never been to a secret cinema event before. Even though I have known about secret cinema for a long time. I don't remember how or when I got on the email list but I've been receiving their emails for many years now. I remember how disappointed I was when I missed out on getting tickets for their Shawshank Redemption event back in 2012 and getting very frustrated in recent years when I simply didn't have the money to spend, when it came to their Back to the Future and Star Wars events, especially the Star Wars event! That would have been amazing, I'm still little sore about missing that one.

But, when I saw that they were doing 28 days later! I just knew that was it, that was the one I was going to go to, the one that under no circumstances was I going to miss. I absolutely had to attend!!!

So it was lucky that I had the money to buy the tickets - it was before I spent all my money on my big summer trip to South East Asia. You see, I've been obsessed with zombies and the forthcoming zombie apocalypse for as long as I can remember! I have spent numerous hours plotting what I would will do in the event of a zombie apocalypse, plotting out my escape route and creating a survival plan. I've even written a film script about it. So no I wasn't going to miss this for the end of the world!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So a few months back - as soon as they went on sale - I bought two tickets. One for me and one for my lovely girlfriend Liliana - even though I don't think she's seen the film or is particularly interested in zombies - but unfortunately I managed to buy tickets for the weekend that she was going to Lisbon for her grandmothers 80th birthday and so I took this beautiful creature instead.

This is my good mate Dom:



He really got into the spirit of it. A lot has been said about the whole dressing up thing: whether they will let you in without being dressed up, whether you should be expected to pay even more for a costume when the tickets alone cost £65. However, what I would say is that dressing up is very much within the spirit of Secret Cinema. It is immersive theatre and if you want to fully immerse yourself in the experience, I would say scrub up. It will help you get into character and aide you to get the most out of your evening.

I dressed up too. Here I am stood outside in the rain, just about to go into St Thomas' "NSH" Hospital:



And the thing is that it isn't a cheap night out. The tickets are £65 plus a booking fee and that's just the start of it. Once you've bought the scrubs, a few drinks and a burger, you'll looking at upwards of £90 each. Which is a lot. But more than an average out in London: meal, club, taxi home? And a hell of a lot more fun I'm sure!

So yes maybe expensive but I would describe it as a rip off. A burger cost £7 which I think is pretty standard fare and a bottle of water was £1. What event, gig, cinema etc have you been to in the last 10 years where a bottle of water costs less than £2?

So expensive but an amazing time is awaiting you. The time, money, effort and production that has gone into Secret Cinema Presents: 28 days later, is nothing short of phenomenal!

The premise is that you are attending a clinic where you will be given a revolutionary vaccine against the rage virus. They set it up very well, with emails and a dedicated website. You can even do a quiz which determines how susceptible to the disease you are.

Apparently I had a 58% chance of contracting the infection:



And you find yourself immersed in the world of 28 days later right from the front gates, where you're greeted by soldiers and doctors. The soldiers checking your tickets and the doctors checking your eyes to see if you're showing any signs of rage virus.

Next you're sent to wait in a tented corridor with a flickering light which really starts to set the tone for what to expect. And without going into too much detail and ruining the suspense for anyone still to attend the event which is running until 29th May, it's all about immersing you into the film. So there is lots of running, people dressed up as zombies banging on fences and grabbing at you from behind strips of plastic sheeting.

You will also visit the high rise flat and of course you will end up at the army compound. Unfortunately I don't have any photographs of inside the event. You have to seal your phone into a plastic bag. I maybe could have gotten away with a few sneaky pictures. But as well as not being keen on being caught, I was also too busy having fun, being scared out of my wits to take pictures.

At the end what i basically a huge haunted house experience - but I don't say that in a negative way - everybody sits or in this case lies down and watches the film. It's many years since I watched the film. I was tempted to watch it just before going to the event but I'm glad that I didn't. But of course the immersive theatre element doesn't stop there, from the decor of the cinema room to actors running around you acting out several key scenes as they play out on the big screens, you are immersed from beginning to end.

All in all I had a brilliant time at Secret Cinema presents 28 Days Later. And I'm happy to say that we managed to emerge pretty much unscathed:



There was one small thing however, it wasn't really scary enough for me. It was a little bit scary but certainly not too scary. Maybe they could have done a general event and then an X-rated event? But that small gripe aside, I felt entertained the whole way through and although it was a lot of money, it was definitely money well spent! Although I would have loved to have gone to previous Secret Cinema events, in many ways I'm glad I chose 28 Days Later to be my first Secret Cinema experience. I'm certainly glad I went, it was the perfect event for me. I'm definitely looking forward to see what they do in the future. I mean I'm not interested in their next event - Dirty Dancing - so much. But exciting to see what they do after that. Maybe they can do the Matrix? I would definitely be there for that! You just try and stop me!!!