Saturday, 14 December 2013

Berlin (Travelling Alone)

A couple of months ago when I thought I had money and the #Year31Project was still but a twinkle in my eye. Easyjet had a sale. In said sale I bought return tickets to Berlin for £55. Bargain of the century month!

The idea behind going to Berlin as part of the #Year31Project was that I had never travelled on my own before. I felt like that was something I needed to put right!

Ok so maybe I cheated slightly or wimped out a little. Going to Berlin on my own for 3 days at the age of 30. Big deal! It isn't exactly the same as going to India alone for a month when you're 17. But you've got to start somewhere right? And in my book there's no shame in starting small.

So on Monday 2nd December 2014 I caught a train from London Liverpool Street and headed for Southend Airport (the smallest and least airport like of the "London" airports).

& 6 hours of travelling, waiting and queuing later, I was finally in Berlin.

An amazing City full of fascinating history but also with a huge reputation for a "happening" City full of contemporary art and culture. Unfortunately, I was only really there for two and a bit days - which is nowhere near enough time to spend in a City as big and wonderful as Berlin - so I decided to concentrate on doing the tourist thing and see all the main sights.

In the short time that I was there I managed to see the:


Brandenburg Gate

Holocaust Memorial

Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism

Memorial to the Murdered Sinti and Roma in Nazi Europe

Wall Memorial

There were a lot of memorials!

And what struck me was that until visiting Berlin I never knew about the Nazis persecution of homosexuals and Gypsies. It was really shocking to hear that 15,000 homosexuals and anywhere between 220,000 and 500,000 Gypsies were killed by the Nazis and that I knew nothing of it. Ok so I didn't do History in school past year 9. However, we all know about the Jewish Holocaust - and of course we should do after all it is estimated that around 6 million Jewish people lost their lives at the hands of the Nazis - but why isn't it common knowledge that the Nazis also killed up to 5 million other people including trying to wipe out the whole of the Roma and Sinti people?

While I was in Berlin I also spend hours reading compelling facts about the Berlin Wall at the Berlin Wall Museum (unfortunately I don't have any photographs from here). Before my trip I knew very little about the Berlin Wall or the events surrounding it's construction and destruction. & although it has become a bit of a new obsession of mine, I have to confess that I still know very little and that I am really struggling to understand why it was allowed to stand for so long or in fact why it was allowed to be built at all in the first place.

I also visited:

Checkpoint Charlie

& the
Eastside Gallery

As well as seeing all the tourist sights, there was (surprisingly) also some time to do and see some of my favourite things.

I'm a big fan of street art - when it's done properly - and there was lots to see in Berlin. This is one of my favourite pieces (from this cool little area close to Warschauer Stresse U-Bahn station).

I also LOVE Photoautomats!!!
(I want to bring them to London).

And although they tend to be a lot more fun when you're with other people. Being on my own - and the fact it had a 20 foot plus drop below it - couldn't stop me from taking some (extremely bad) pictures.

There was of course also time to taste the local food.

If you go to Berlin I would definitely recommend visiting 'Mustafa's Gemuse Kebap'. That Kebab was so good. One of the best, if not the best Kebab I've ever had! & I know what some of you are thinking, but Berlin - also unknown to me before my visit - has a large Turkish population!

Mustafa's is just outside of the Mehingdamm U-Bahn station (there are also lots of nice shops and cafes on the nearby Bergmannstresse). There will probably be a bit of a queue - especially if like me you very cleverly go at lunch time - but it will be well worth the wait. & although I am more than a little obsessed with Shish Kebabs and Souvlaki's. This kebab was another first for me as it was the first time I had ever eaten a Doner Kebab.

I also made sure to try a bit of German sausage while I was there. I bought a Bratwurst from a Christmas Market but I don't have any photographic evidence and to be honest it wasn't very good. I definitely think I could have found a better one if I'd tried (& probably not very hard)!

There was even a small amount of time to sit in a nice little cafe eating falafel, drinking - the really nice thick - hot chocolate - that you don't get in London - and writing some poetry based on my Berlin experience.

When it comes to travelling alone: although there were certainly times - when I was in a museum and read something fascinating or stood with my hand on the actual Berlin Wall - when I wanted to turn to a friend/girlfriend/etc and talk about how amazing it was (or otherwise).  I have no doubt that I will be travelling further and for longer in the future and no matter what, I will never let not having someone to travel with stop me from visiting exciting new places (as it has in the past).

All in all I had a really great trip. I love Berlin and I definitely want to go back at some point. For longer and probably when it's a little bit warmer next time. It tends to get quite cold in December!

Friday, 29 November 2013

Jellied Eels

I've lived in London for over 4 years and I've never tried Jellied Eels! It's #Shocking #Awful #Terrible #AnAbomination (which is also how I expected them to taste).

Ok so I reckon that most people in London (real Londoners included) have never tried Jelled Eels. After all have you seen what they look like?

I've scraped tastier looking treats from the bottom of my shoes!

But I live in London and this is the Year31Project. So I thought: what better way to really kick start this project than to eat Jellied Eels for the first time.

Where to begin? Where would they serve jellied eels these days? 100 years ago it was a staple of the average Cockney's daily diet with stalls and shops all over London (especially the East End) serving up jellied eels to it's many customers. It was a booming business. There were (according to Wikipedia which makes it fact) over 100 eel, pie and mash houses in London at the end of the Second World War. And although according to this article a taste for jellied eels is currently sweeping the country. Places that serve jellied eels are much harder to come by these days.

So the search was on and in my search I had three main tools. Google. Twitter. Facebook. Thank you for the internet! I decided to put a shout out on Twitter: "Anyone know a good place (London) to get #JelliedEels? I've never tried them & think I should. Old fashioned pie & mash shop might be good?"

& I got three replies (thank you Hannah, Corrina & Rachael). My friend Rachael suggested 'Goddards at Greenwich'.

I googled it and it looked like the perfect place. A traditional Pie and Mash shop - which although only in its current location for a few years - has roots that go all the way back to 1890.

As it happens "me mate Ash" - who I lived with at uni over 10 years ago - was down for the weekend and so I roped him to help with filming and taking photographs, with the promise - of what would no doubt be a top notch - pie and mash. He was more than happy to come along and lend a hand but unfortunately not so keen to join in eating the eels (especially after he's seen them).

So as Ash ordered up a delicious and hearty looking chilli beef pie with mash and gravy. I ordered the jellied eels! I don't know how often they are requested but the look on the face of the woman behind the counter made it seem like not very often. I really should have asked her how many dishes they sell. Hopefully I will get better at this blogging and video making malarky as I go along.

The eels were fairly inexpensive (£3.20 for a bowl) but then how much can you charge for something that looks so absolutely revolting? You've seen the picture above (and here's another below). Just the sight of them and the thought 'I'm going to have to eat this' was enough to have me retching. But in truth, once I'd gotten over the initial shock of what they looked like and tried them. They actually weren't that bad! Well... they certainly weren't good. They were pretty bland. I love fish (& seafood) and although they tasted a bit like fish, it was really bad fish and not fish I'd necessarily want to eat again. The eels were not good - not helped by the fact that they are cold - but not as bad as I thought they would be and certainly nowhere near as bad as they look!

If you want to try jellied eels, I'd say go for it. It's certainly an experience! Although not a particularly pleasant one haha. However, that said. I ate them as they came and I've been told that it's best to try them with liquor (a type of parsley sauce traditionally made from the water used to cook the eels) or as the colourful man sat next to us said "you're supposed to eat them with pepper and vinegar". However, by that point I'd had 3 or 4 mouthfuls - and had footage of me eating it - which was more than enough for me.

Time to get some proper food.

I would highly recommend visiting Goddards if you're in Greenwich. The Jellied eels aren't great but the Chicken and Ham pie I had afterwards was really tasty.

And just in case there is any suggestions from you cynical bunch that I didn't eat Jellied Eels. Here's the video evidence :)


Friday, 22 November 2013

Short film

So one of the things that I want to do more than anything. Have wanted to do more than anything for as long as I can remember (I can't remember before the age of 15/16 apparently) is to make a film!!!

I'm at a bit of a loss as to why I have never done this before. Budget or no budget I should have just got off my arse and done it! But I've always been too busy, lazy, preoccupied or something to get around to doing it.

That's where my good friend Sophia Mertins comes in. She is the catalyst and provides the much needed kick up the arse. She recently told me that we needed to make a film and followed it up by sending me the link for a funding application open to people living or working in Waltham Forest. Who knew living in Walthamstow might come in handy?

Unfortunately she sent it to me with only two - extremely busy - days left before the deadline. However one all nighter later and the application - complete with the first budget I have ever done. Thank you Hannah and Rachel for your help with that! - had been sent. And SCRABBLE was born! Or at least conceived.

Now of course I know that the chances of getting this funding are slim. Especially seeing as I didn't have a script to send - I didn't even have an idea until the day before the deadline - and so had to attach a step outline instead. However, I'm really excited and determined to get this film made! As well as several other ideas that I have. But one at a time. You do tend to get carried away Anthony. But with this funding or another pot of funding that we will have to apply for, we will get this film made!

So watch this space for updates about our short film 'Scrabble'. 

Monday, 18 November 2013


So it turns out that maybe I could have done with planning this project out a little better and started organising events/tasks/adventures/experiences or whatever they are a little sooner. It also turns out that a lot of people (mostly for unknown reasons) aren't too keen on having people film things. :( which sucks and is making for a very slow start to the YEAR 31 PROJECT.

But rather excitingly, I've got a cool new video to share with you, that basically does what the first blog post (And so it begins) did in explaining all about the project. Only it does it in video form and is therefore cooler, as well as less effort as there is no reading involved.

Check it out here:

YEAR 31 PROJECT (And so it begins)

Tuesday, 12 November 2013

A Calm Crossing

It's hard to talk about my Year 31 Project without talking about A Calm Crossing.

A Calm Crossing is my attempt to fulfil a childhood dream and swim the English Channel. I'm currently training to be able to attempt the mammoth 21 mile plus swim in the Summer/Autumn of next year. At present I swim 5 times - between 7 to 10 miles - per week which is still a long way off where I need to be. However, I'm making steady progress and I will hopefully be fit and ready to make an attempt in either July or September 2014.

And although I will hopefully be doing lots of fun and interesting things as part of the year long project that is the Year 31 Project: Travelling. Eating exotic new foods. Trying new sports and learning new skills. Nothing will be as important, fulfilling, hard work or as much of an achievement as successfully swimming the English Channel. So wish me luck and follow my journey on my blog:

ps. this is where the journey began: I've decided to swim the channel - I think!

Tuesday, 5 November 2013


This is me:

And this is my ex-girlfriend Daphne:

No you're not reading that wrong. I did mean to write ex-girlfriend. No... I'm not sure how it happened either but she did go out with me - for 3 and a half years in fact. & just in case you don't believe me. 

Here's a photo of the two of us together:

Still not convinced? What do you want a kissing picture? Well you're not getting one of those!

We broke up back in May and although I still love her, I know that we're not going to get back together. Which - although something that has been hard to stomach - is (probably) for the best. Because although there was a lot love in the relationship, there were also a hell of a lot of arguments too. And although I still have a lot of love for her, I also have a lot of resentment for the way she dealt with our breakup and I've no doubt that she has a lot of resentment for how I dealt with the majority of our relationship. So I hope you're not expecting this to be a blogpost with a Hollywood "happily ever after" style ending. It isn't (at least not for me). 

It's not even a post about a failed attempt to win her back. It's the story of my attempt at showing her just how much I love(d) her (with no other motive. except maybe getting some closure) on the day that could have been our 4th Anniversary. Also, as this is the 'Year 31 Project' it is a post about me doing something for the first time.

It could be the first time I made a cringe worthy attempt at a Romcom style declaration of my love for someone (who has moved on and has a new boyfriend)? But instead I would like to see it as the first time that I tried my hand at graffiti. Except of course I didn't *wink* that would be illegal! And therefore very bad (although I've never been arrested so if I did do it (and get caught) I could tick two things off my list at the same time haha. Not that 'get arrested' is actually on my list. I do have a feeling that I'm going to get into trouble with the police at some point during this year long project but surely it shouldn't be something I welcome, let alone invite).

So obviously I didn't do it! I'm not so stupid that I would do it and then blog about it. But if I did try graffiti. It would probably look something like this:

Only better because I'm really good at art (eyes dart to the left).
So you're probably thinking two things right now. Firstly and most importantly "Wow. That's so cool!" and secondly "Why on earth would anybody graffiti a cloud with 'I heart you' on it?"

Well for starters it's clearly a sheep! Why a sheep? Well let me explain.

When we started dating in the Autumn of 2009 - & I was too stupid to know what I had - Daphne found a list online of the top 10 worst marriage proposals and I completely fell in love with number one (supposedly the worst). It was one of the best things I have ever seen!!! I've trawled the internet looking for it, I've searched my computer, my many backup drives and usb sticks (surely I saved it somewhere) but I can't find it anywhere. So here's an artist's impression:

I'm sure you are able to make it out perfectly (it's a work of art right?) but just in case it's been a long day or your eyes just aren't as good as they once were. It's a picture of a guy standing next to 4 sheep that have been spray painted with the words "Will you marry me?" I know. Ingenious right! So I thought it was the best thing ever (obviously) and although Daphne found the humour in how terrible it was. She made me promise that if I ever proposed to her, I wouldn't do it by recreating the picture. Begrudgingly I agreed that I wouldn't but also promised that sheep would be involved somehow. It was a standing joke between the two of us (only I completely meant it!)

Now obviously there is no longer any danger of me proposing to Daphne (in this way or any other) but how could there possibly be a better way to say I love you!? And if I was going to graffiti a sheep (yes it is a sheep) onto a wall outside my ex-girlfriend's flat (which I absolutely did not do Officer) then what better date than the 5th November (our not 4th anniversary). I couldn't let the date pass without doing something... could I?

Now (almost) finally. If you're reading this and you're in love with somebody. Whether that be a past, previous or potential partner, clearly the best way to show them how much you care is to graffiti a sheep onto a wall outside their flat. Obviously that's a joke! Please don't do it! Not only is it illegal but - useless you are an incredibly talented artist like me haha - it will also be an obscenity to the eyes of everyone who gazes upon it. Plus you'll only cheapen the original and whoever did that (not me!) is clearly a creative genious! No, what you need to do is something that is personal to the person that you love. Like buy them the light-up shoes their mother would never buy them as a child. They won't wear them much but it won't go unappreciated. Or go for something simpler. Tickets to their favourite band perhaps. Even if it is One Direction. And if you're still struggling for inspiration, this list might help: 23 ways to show someone you love them. (I do love a good list. Although why 23?)

ps. five quick tips for budding graffiti artists. 1. If possible find a legal way to do it. 2. Wear gloves (fingerless would not come recommended) or there will literally be the possibility of being caught red handed after spray painting a love heart onto a sheep. And wear old clothes. Spray paint is a bit like sand, in that it gets everywhere. 3. The right tools and a good way to attach a stencil to a wall are imperative. 4. If you are doing it somewhere you shouldn't. Do it during the dead of night. Not at 6am when people are going to work. 5. And whatever you do, don't talk about it on social media websites!

pps. even though I'm this sweet (see above) I'm completely single! So ladies, get in touch. Because why wouldn't you want a date with a guy so clearly still in love his ex-girlfirnd (who probably had plenty of good reasons to dump him in the first place?) Email me! :)


So I wanted to give you a bit of a better idea as to some of the things that I might/possibly/potentially/maybe (no promises!) get up to during my 31st year on this planet

Things I've thought of so far:

travel on my own
travel outside of Europe
scuba diving
horse riding

tarot reading
learn sign language
spend a day in a wheelchair 
eat insects
shave my head
get a piercing
Pamplona bull run

rock climbing
bungee jump
sky dive

Now it's over to you! What suggestions do you have for me? Or maybe you have suggestions for something we could to do together? I'm (probably) not going to do anything illegal or too dangerous but I'd like to think that I'll otherwise keep my mind as open as possible. So get suggesting! Via the comments box below: Twitter or Facebook

Monday, 4 November 2013

And so it begins

Hello and welcome to the:

Let me explain.

Today is my 30th Birthday!
A day I have been dreading for a long time but... well I'm over that. Kinda!

The thing is that my 30th year was quite possibly the worst year of my life. Actually, in truth lots of good, positive things happened in my 30th year.  I met lots of great people who have become good friends. My writing career has started to move forward (baby steps). A Poetry Anthology that I co-edited was published (you can buy a copy here), I wrote a one man play and I have made progress in my work teaching creative writing and drama to primary school children. I became a lifeguard (negative) in the hope of training as a swimming teacher (positive) and I have been working very hard towards making my dream of one day swimming the English Channel a reality (you can read more about this on my blog A CALM Crossing.

However, a long term relationship broke down and coupled with desperation about the state of my life and career as I approached the big 3 0 I went through a bit of a bad time. During the summer I tumbled into a pit of despair which I struggled to get out of for 3-4months. A period where I didn't work and all I wanted to do was sleep. Being frank and completely honest about it: at some point I was feeling suicidal. I never really thought about ending my life exactly but for what felt like a long time, I wished that I didn't exist. But that's in the past now and this project is about the future.

I am determined to make my 31st year on this little planet of ours the best ever! I have several resolutions to try and make that happen. 1. smile more. 2. do more good deeds. 3. spend as much time as I can with the people I care about. 4. meet as many new people as possible. 5. have as many new experiences as possible!

This blog is about the 5th resolution.
To have as many experiences as possible. Try as many new things as I can. & two things this must absolutely include are travelling outside of Europe for the first time and swimming the English Channel. But at this stage everything else is completely left open for thought, suggestion and debate. If you have any ideas let me know. I'm trying to keep my mind as open as possible. I want to have as many fun experiences as I possibly can in one year (on an incredibly small budget). So if there is anyway that you can help me out or you have a weird hobby or you know how to cook something you know it's unlikely that I've ever eaten before because it's a strange Khazakstan delicacy, then get in touch!

Suggestions can be as insane as you want. I don't promise that I'll do them but I certainly want to do things that will scare me (and make me feel alive). Here's the deal. I have a problem with heights, I'm not cool with public nudity and I don't eat cheese or drink alcohol. I think I'm pretty game for everything else and maybe I can challenge myself with some of those things too. Rock climbing maybe? Who knows?

So here we are. At the very beginning of what will hopefully be a very fun year for me and for you too (by following my adventures here and also by getting involved! Why not come and do something with me that you have always wanted to but as yet have never managed to or maybe share your wacky hobby with me). As well as blogging, there will also be videos and hopefully a show which I hope to take up to the Edinburgh Festival in August 2014 (which would be another first).

For people who don't know me I'm a slightly awkward writer who no longer drinks, has never smoked and doesn't have any tattoos (I think that's one of the few things I won't be doing) so having done a good job of making myself sound quite boring, you might be able to see that a lot of the things I might potentially end up doing will be a bit of a challenge for me. So let's see how I get on. Hopefully I will take it all in my stride.

Ps. There will also be a weekend (probably around April 1st) when I will do (almost) anything for money with proceeds going towards me swimming the English Channel - which I will then be doing for the wonderful suicide prevention charity: C.A.L.M.