Monday, 22 December 2014


Getting a piercing. Something that you do when you're 14 - 18 and testing the waters, pushing barriers or simply trying to provoke a reaction from your over protective parents.

I flirted with the idea of getting my eyebrow pierced when I was a teenager but I was too scared of a) the pain b) what people would think & c) how my mum would react. & so I never got one. But it appears that the time has come at the grand old age of 31 to get my first piercing. Now I had my reservations. I'm no longer too concerned about the pain or what other people will think but I am still a little concerned about upsetting my mum. Also 31 is surely too old to be getting your first piercing? Well not if David Dimbleby can get his first tattoo at 75, no after seeing that getting my first piercing at 31 doesn't seem so bad.

Now the plan was to get a piercing for my 30th birthday but that idea was postponed due to all the swimming I was doing.

But over a year of putting it off later, I've decided that it can't wait any longer. It is finally time to stop putting it off and as a Christmas present to myself I'm getting that piercing!

In my mind there has always been 4 options.

1. (tongue) frenulum

When I first saw a picture of this a few weeks before my 30th birthday I thought "wow that's what I want for my birthday" in the passing weeks and then months I definitely cooled on this idea. One big positive of this piercing is that it is hidden. It is also a little unusual and therefore really cool. The negative however - or my concern - is that it is in a bit of delicate place and so not only will it probably hurt like hell but it could also potentially affect my speech - I don't know if this is a genuine concern? - but my voice is very important as a writer, performer and educator and I really don't want to mess up my speech unnecessarily. Ps. don't google frenulum. You're already doing it aren't you?

2. nose

Nose piercings are pretty cool but are very visible, usually seen on girls and I don't know if I could pull it off? Would it fit in with my student-esque style?

3. septum

I used to think that this was a pretty awful place to have a piercing but I've been corrupted (by my ex-girlfriend) and I now really like it. Not on everyone but some people look really cool with it. Especially pretty girls who have an otherwise more fashionista (straight laced) less alternative look. I don't know if I described that very well - like the girl in the photograph above - but I like the juxtaposition of the piercing against the more clean cut fashion style. Again this piercing is very visible and although I would like to think that I'm cool enough to pull it off in a juxtaposing against my clean cut image kind of way, I would probably just look stupid and even more of a hipster than I already do.

Which leads me to the final and safest of the four options.

4. ear.

So I wanted to get one of the other piercings done but I bottled out a little and I got my ear pierced instead. The ear piercing. The training wheels of the piercing world. I can hear you from here: "Big deal! You got your ear pierced." But you know what, I've never had a piercing before and so it was quite a scary experience. And yes I could have gone for one somewhere a bit more visible and "risque" but this is about doing things I've never done before. And so here it is. Me with my new piercing :)


Haha did I fool you? I was going to bottle out and get my ear done but I thought if I'm going to get a piercing I'm probably only going to do it once so I should do it properly and I should get the one that I want. So there it is. Me with my new nose piercing :)

Now... what shall I do next? haha don't worry mum I'm not going to get anything else pierced. And no there won't be any tattoos. They're fine on everyone else but I really don't see the appeal.


ps. yes it does hurt. Not too much - less than I thought it might - but my eyes definitely watered.

Friday, 5 December 2014

Learn a Language

I have decided that I am finally going to learn a second language.

I did a bit of French, German and Welsh at school, I even somehow - including a little bit of cheating - managed to get a GCSE grade B in French. However, unfortunately 15 years later I can't speak a word of any of these languages.

I'm quite envious of people who can speak a second, third, fourth... language. But I needn't be. Yes growing up in a bilingual home must make it a little easier to learn another language and yes it is probably harder to learn a language now that I'm old, than it would have been when I was younger (and less forgetful), but all I need to do is put in the same time and effort that everyone - who knows more than one language - had to put in at some point and I can add fluent in *place name of chosen language here* on my CV.

So the first step was to decide that I was going to learn a language. Tick!
(it is on this years list).

And now the second step is to decide which language I am going to learn.

There are several options:

As a Welshman I feel somewhat ashamed that I cannot speak my native language. That said however, although I would feel a great sense of person achievement once I finally learn to speak Welsh - something that I very much hope I will do one day - none of my family and only one of my friends speaks Welsh and so I would never use it. I could potentially use it for work - although I'm not sure how many Welsh speakers there are in London - and I could translate my own writing in Welsh which would be cool. However, as I don't have anyone to converse with and the rule with languages appears to be "use it or lose it" then I'm not sure that learning Welsh is the best idea just at the moment.

I have attempted to learn Greek before. I went out with a Greek girl for over three years. Believing - naively - that we would one day raise a family together, I knew that even though her English was probably better than mine it was imperative that I learnt her mother tongue. Unfortunately I didn't make a very big effort. I should have made a bigger one! But now is not the time for regrets. Now is the time for action. And although I didn't do a very good job of learning Greek the first time around, maybe I should give it another go? I already have the books, online materials and a Greek Cypriot landlord to practice with. I also have an idea for a Greek language film that I hope to make one day. However, I wouldn't really use it - in the short term - and I think I would prefer to learn a language that is more widely used and/or would help me career wise.

Spanish, German, Italian, Portuguese
I have friends who speak Spanish, German Italian and Portuguese. Therefore, if I was to learn one of these languages - although it might be a little tiresome for them - I would have someone that I could practice on. Out of these languages maybe Spanish is good choice as it is widely spoken?

Chinese, Japanese, Korean 
I find East Asia and South East Asian fascinating and I would love to travel there. I have friends who have recently moved to Bali and I am currently - if not very successfully - saving up to go and visit them. While I am there - assuming I do go at some point - I would like to take the opportunity to visit other countries in the area and I have always thought about teaching English as a foreign language, which would give me the opportunity to stay for longer if I wished. I also find women from this part of the world extremely attractive. Not because they are supposed to be submissive. Just because I think that they have very nice faces! And although learning the language doesn't appear to be a must to teach abroad, it would surely make day to day life a lot easier.

In November 2015 a British man named Tim Peake will go into space with the European Space Agency. At the time of lift off he will be 43 years of age! At 31 and being British - a country without a proper space programme - I thought I was too old and too un-American to retrain as an Astronaut, but who knows? Maybe if I become a helicopter pilot and learn to speak Russian I can get myself on one of those Russian rockets and fulfil a lifelong ambition? Worth a shot, right?

Sign language
I don't know anyone who signs. I would therefore find it difficult to practice. However, I find sign language completely fascinating and I have done for as long as I can remember. I think that it would be cool to have a skill that could potentially make someone else's life easier. I also believe that it would be good to have on my CV and could open up new work related avenues for both my writing and swimming teaching.

And so there it is. I have made my decision. I am going to learn British Sign Language!

I have started by downloading some helpful materials and 'Learn Sign Language for Dummies' is on my Christmas list.

I will also be looking to start practical lessons in London in the new year because having attempted and failed to learn a language before, I know that I personally need the structure and routine of a classroom if I am actually going to learn sign language.


Wednesday, 5 November 2014

List (an update)

So now that I have (un)officially extended the Year31Project indefinitely. Here is an update to the Year31Project list.

Here is a list of the firsts I achieved during my first year:

jellied eels / kangaroo / caterpillar 
travelling alone
roller disco
internet dating
short film
fix a puncture
air guitar
(indoor) skydive
Edinburgh Festival Fringe
shave my head

Maybe I could have done better? But on a budget of zero, I think it's not too bad?

But onwards and upwards. Let's forget about the past and look to the future. Here is a - fairly short and hopefully achievable - list of firsts that I hope to complete over the coming year:

travel outside of Europe
visit Cardiff (my capital city)
get something published/produced
compete in an outdoor swimming event
learn a language
learn a martial art
ride a horse
bungee jump

It is kind of on the short side of things - I  accidentally made it ten items long - but it really is quite a challenging list (don't you think?). Follow the blog to see how many I can complete. I'm sure there will also be plenty of other mini adventures to write about too. Including two that - with a little bit of luck - should be completed by the end of this week.

On top of the list I am also starting a new travel blog called 'Around the World in 80 Mugs'. For the last few years I have been the mug who collects mugs from all of the places he visits and now I want to see if I can collect 80 mugs before my current passport runs out in August 2020. Do you think I can do it? You'll have to keep your eyes open for further details and then follow the new blog to find out how I get on. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

And so it ends

Today is my 31st birthday.
Which means that it is a full year to the day since the start of this project and the first blog post which you can read here.

That's it, the end of my project. So I guess it's time to evaluate.

How did I get on? Did I achieve what I set out to?

I suppose there are several ways to assess this project. One way is to look at the original list and see how many I can tick off.

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

ok, so looking at it in this way I haven't really done too well now have I? No!

So instead let's have a look at the things that I did do. The things that might not have been on the original list but firsts that I have achieved over the past 12 months. Maybe if we do that the project will start to look like more of a success?

So in summary here are the things that I did.
(click on the blue links to go to the original posts and find out more.)

I started off on my mad adventure with possibly(?) the maddest blog of them all. On the morning of the 5th of November 2013, the day after my 30th birthday and a day that would have been mine and my ex-girlfriend's 4th anniversary - had we not gone through a horrendous (at least for me) breakup 6 months earlier - I travelled the length of London on two night buses to do this:

Read more about my badly thought out attempt at a romantic gesture and my first ever attempt at Graffiti and also be sure to read about what happened to my "art" next here.

After my great Graffiti adventure I tried the London delicacy that is Jellied Eels for both the first and the last time!

I travelled on my own for the first time when I went to Berlin for a few days last December:

I went to my first ever roller disco which was a lot of fun, especially considering that rollerskating is definitely not my forte.

I started indoor climbing or bouldering which I have completely fallen in love with. I hope to do some outdoor bouldering for the first time next summer.

I semi-successfully attempted the "teenage rights of passage" that is shoplifting.

I went to my first ever "protest".

I celebrated becoming a qualified swimming teacher by eating Kangaroo meat for the first time. & let me tell you that it is so sweet and juicy and upon touching my lips it instantly became my new favourite meat. If you see it on the menu don't hesitate to order it. It's soooo good!

Back in April I attempted to write a poem a day for a whole month. See how I got on and read some of my poems in my post about NaPoWriMo.

A few months ago I gave Internet Dating a try. It was interesting but wasn't exactly a triumph. I went on one date and gave a good enough impression of myself that there wasn't a second haha. Maybe I'll give it a another try at some point, who knows?

Next came Hitchhiking which was certainly more of a victory. I hitchhiked all the way from Walthamstow to Chester and had a great time doing so.

 I fixed a puncture on my bike.

I tried my hand at Air Guitar when I entered myself into the Air Guitar UK Championships. What a wonderful night that was! I met lots of wonderfully eccentric people who were extremely passionate about air guitar and I am officially the 8th best air guitarist in the UK! haha which is ridiculous - especially if you watch the video of me in action.

I had a top day in Bedford with my great friend Sophia where we went to Bodyflight Bedford to do an indoor skydive. The real thing was a little bit too expensive - unless you do it for charity - but I'm really hoping to do one this coming year.

After accidentally cooking a Caterpillar I can add insects to the list of weird things I've eaten alongside Jellied Eels and Kangaroo.

I joined in with the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge when I was on holiday during the summer.

And 16 years after I first said I was going to do it, I finally shaved my head. I'm currently waiting impatiently for it grow back haha.

What do you reckon? Not too shabby, right? It's definitely not a year I'm about to forget in a hurry! And on top of all of the firsts above there were three very special firsts that I really wanted to achieve above all else.

1. Make a short film.

This was such an amazing experience! I have dreamt of making films ever since I was a teenager and here I was making my first short film. It felt amazing hearing actors read my words and I am extremely happy with the end result. I think it's pretty good for a first attempt (even if I say so myself). Now of course I couldn't have done it without the help of so many wonderful, dedicated and talented people. So thank you to everyone involved! You know who you are. But... I MADE A FILM!

2. Take a show to Edinburgh

I had been to Edinburgh during the Festival Fringe once before but not as a performer and had vowed that I would be back one day with my own show. This was another absolutely amazing adventure. I had such a fantastic time in Edinburgh, performing, watching lots of great shows and meeting so many warm and wonderful people. I hope to do it all again next year... only bigger and better of course.

3. Swim the channel

Sadly although this was top of the list. My life long dream and the one thing I wanted to do more than anything else in the world. Unfortunately it just wasn't possible. Not this year but hopefully in the future :(

Looking at the firsts that I achieved is one good way to look at the project, however another way to evaluate this project is to look at the people that I have met along the way. This wasn't only about doing things, it was also about getting out of the house and meeting new people. & meeting people is definitely something that I did. Whether it was the fantastic Lea for gave me somewhere to stay in Berlin, all of the marvellous people I met during my brief spell in Edinburgh (and there were many!), the passionate people at the air guitar or the six beautiful souls who gave me lifts during my day of hitchhiking. I have met some truly generous and wonderful people on every step of my Year31Project journey!

And finally and maybe the most important way to decide whether this project has been a success or a failure: how has the project inspired myself and others?

Now I don't know if or how this project has inspired others? Maybe those of you reading it can let me know. Maybe it has inspired you to do something new? That thing that you have always wanted to? Or maybe you have been inspired to go back to a passion that you had long since abandoned? I would like to thing so and I would love to hear from you if it has.

However, what I can tell you for sure is just how much it has helped to inspire myself. In August 2013 I was depressed, had little energy and no motivation. I was living temporarily back at home with my parents, I had no job and spent the majority of my days in bed streaming American series. It was a dark time. In August 2014 I was onstage in Edinburgh - telling people how depressed I was in August 2013 - having taken a show up to the Festival Fringe for the first time. I was living back in London, had a new job that I loved working as a swimming teacher and in the previous few months I had done lots of cool things and met lots of lovely people. I had also made several good friends and was feeling a whole lot more positive about the world general. So if that's not a success story then I don't know what is!!! And although I can't claim that this was all down to the Year31Project, it has certainly brought a lot of joy to my life and has often given me a reason to get out of bed of a (late) morning.

So that's it, the end of my project. Or is it? In one sense it is end. I set out to do as many new things as I possibly could in a year and that year is over. I did a number of things and although I feel like there are a lot more things that I could and maybe should have achieved, I also believe the project was fairly successful.

However, as successful as it might have been, there are still so many things that I have never done. Plus doing something for the first time is so much fun and so why would I want to stop now? I have therefore decided that - even though I might blog about doing something new (even) less frequently - I will unofficial prolong the project indefinitely and so as long as there is air in my lungs, I will continue to attempt new and exciting things for the first time at every opportunity. So watch this space for more updates - I'm already working on some as you read - and on top of that I will also be starting a new travel blog which will be called 'Around the World in 80 Mugs' very soon. So keep your eyes peeled for that!

But for now it's my birthday and so I'm off to the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2014 exhibition and then after work I'm going to treat myself to a nice unhealthy takeaway (probably a kebab but I haven't decided for sure yet).

Also as a little treat to say thank you to all of you who have supported and encouraged me, read my blog and been a part of my project - as well as a way for me to show off even further - here is my short film 'letters' which was completed as part of the Year31Project in May/June of this year.

Be sure to watch, comment and share.


Monday, 27 October 2014

Graffiti (an update)

So the most brilliant thing happened today!

I received an email from my ex-girlfriend. In itself not something that I would usually term brilliant.

On average I receive around 25 emails a day, 20 of which are spam (although spam I have for one reason or another signed up for) 2 or 3 that are of some importance and usually of some annoyance to myself and then another couple that are in some way helpful or useful to me. Very rarely are any of these emails brilliant in anyway.

It's also fairly rare that I get an email from my ex-girlfriend and although she is a lovely and rather hilarious young woman, as is the nature of breakups, the emails have not always been of the "Hi, how are you?" variety. However, the email that I received today was well and truly at the top of the class for brilliant emails and it completely made my day!

Almost a year ago now, on the morning of the 5th November, the day after my 30th birthday and a day that would have been our 4th anniversary - had we not gone through a horrendous (at least for me) breakup 6 months before - I travelled the length of London on two night buses to do this:

You can read the full and wonderful story behind the sheep image above by clicking here:
read me, read me, read me.

And then today my ex emailed me this photograph:

Now incase you can't tell what is happening in this photograph: the "work of art" that I have decided to name 'I love ewe' is stencilled onto a wall around the back of the Chelsea Old Town Hall (a famous wedding venue). & in this photograph - kindly sent to me by my ex - a bride and groom are having their photograph taken in front of it! A BRIDE and GROOM are having their picture taken with my terrible attempt at graffiti hahahahah how amazing is that!

Now when my ex first saw 'I love ewe' on the morning of the 5th of November 2013 when the special sheep friendly paint was still fresh she of course couldn't believe the coincidence - there was obviously a reason I chose the image of a sheep. If you're still in the dark then do read the full story here - and emailed me to tell me about it. Most likely more than half convinced I would tell her that she hadn't gone mad and it was of course me who had done it. However, also not totally sure if I was that romantic crazy!

In reply to her email I told her that it was in fact down to me and that I had done it in order to gain "closure" haha what an idiot! In truth it had nothing to do with closure - although I longed for some - and everything to do with still being madly in love with her, but I couldn't tell her that now could I? She had already moved on and was happy with another. So instead I told her that it was done in search of closure.

However, although it wasn't for closure, I now realise that it was a bit selfish! At the time I didn't realise how intrusive it was. I didn't think about my ex having to see it everyday. & so I just hope that when she does sees it, it makes her smile - laugh at what an idiot I am - and if she ever finds herself feeling down and alone, she can look at it and know that - whatever the future holds and wherever it takes us - somewhere in the world there is someone who will always think that she is a truly wonderful human being.

And so as late a gesture as it was - I should have done it when we were still together. When it would have been a nice romantic gesture - and as much sadness as is connected with it (it was done when I was still utterly heartbroken). This image was created in love and done for romantic reasons and so I think that it is wonderful and quite fitting that people are now using it as part of their 'big day'.

ps. Does this make me a famous street artist now? Some people are calling me the new Banksy - ok so no that was just me to all my friends - and I heard that The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea are thinking of putting up a piece of perspex to protect it! Ok so that's not true either, simply a rumour I'm starting myself haha but still, this image would appear to be getting more love than most of the things I write. Maybe I should be thinking about a change of career?

Friday, 24 October 2014

Appear on tv

Appearing on tv is something that would be pretty cool and is something I would love to do - I once did an auditioned for a pilot of a tv show I don't think ever got made called Hobby Swap - but not something that was necessarily on the list of things to do. It isn't something that I have pursued or would have known how to make a reality.

However, when I was up in Edinburgh I had a surprise phone call from a production assistant at a production company called Fulwell73 - a quick check of their website and they have done a fair bit of tv and some films too - about a tv programme they are producing for Channel 4.

The programme is in partnership with a movement called Check One Two - who are aiming to help prevent deaths from testicular cancer by getting people talking about their "love grenades" - and will form part of Channel 4's Stand up to Cancer season.

This is exciting. It isn't totally random. I have had some contact with Check One Two and I have previously circulated this #FeelingNuts crotch grab photograph:

But this phone call has come as something of a surprise. The production company have heard about my one man play one lump or two - which is partially about finding a lump downstairs and convincing myself that I was dying from testicular cancer (true story) - and they want me to come in and record a poem around this experience. This is amazing! Do I have anything - it must be under a minute - that I could do? I don't but I have time. I can write something new!

Now the phone call ends with the production assistant saying something to the effect of "we really want you to be involved but these things have a habit of changing". I know what this means. It means that I shouldn't get my hopes up because it probably won't happen. I try not to get too excited. I tell myself that I shouldn't tell anyone as these things have a habit of blowing up in your face. You tell everyone you're going to be on the telly and then you look like an idiot when it doesn't happen.

I keep it to myself. It's hard so I tell my mum and one of my best friends but no one else. And in the lobby of a hotel in Majorca I write this little poem about the time I went for an ultrasound examination a couple of years ago (true story):

Already Awkward

This is already a little awkward
because although I've been here many times before
this just doesn't get any easier.

I lie here
pants around my ankles
ice cold gel upon my testicles
and a tiny strip of blue tissue paper
to hide my rapidly shrinking pride.

As I lie here, surprised
that my testicles haven't ascended back up inside
she reads the discomfort written across my face
and tries to put me at ease, by telling me:
you have nothing to worry about.
Everything is fine.
You have lovely testies.

Did I hear her right?
Surely she meant normal? Or healthy?
This is already a little awkward
without the ultrasound technician
telling me: you have lovely testies!

While I'm up in Edinburgh for the festival and then while I'm away in Majorca on holiday I keep in touch with the production assistant via email. After a couple of false starts a date is set for me to go to a hotel in central London and film my thing. This might actually happen! But then things change slightly. It's not going to be a poem any longer. This is a little gutting because I had thought that not only was I going to appear on tv but I was going to be on tv doing something I love and that I think I'm quite good at - showcase my "talent". Instead it's now going to be an interview about my experience and that's fine. I'm still going to be on tv.

So on September 16th I put on a shirt - I want to look my best if I'm going to be on the telly- and I go to the Sanderson Hotel and I film my VT (video tape):

Walking into the room is really cool. It's set up in the same way that you see movie stars being interviewed on the tv. I feel like a movie star! Of course I don't but it's pretty cool all the same.

So that's it. My part is filmed. Except this is tv and although I know next to nothing about tv production I know enough to be aware that my part in the final programme is not safe. I must wait and see if I make the final cut. I think I've got a good chance because although they have a lot of great comedy - Jack Whitehall is hosting and they have plenty of big names like James Corden and Harry Enfield, there is even a Men Behaving Badly sketch - like Children in Need this programme needs a heart! I'm the Indian Street Children of Feeling Nuts - a slightly insensitive metaphor but you get the idea - they need me!

But then a whole month goes by and I still haven't heard anything. It's in the tv guide but I still have no idea if I'm going to be apart of the show. This must only meant one thing - my part hasn't made the final cut. I email the production assistant and unfortunately I'm right. My interview has been cut. The email reads: "I'm sorry to say that those interviews didn't make the final cut. After we finished the live show and completed all of out VT's there was over an hour's worth of footage that had to be taken out" Which I find really odd!

All of the interviews were cut? If mine was cut to make room for another then fair enough. But if they have all been cut then surely they're missing the point? What exactly is the purpose of all the stand up and sketches if the show has no heart? Surely the show needs to have an element of true story and education? After all, it's a programme aimed at raising awareness about testicular cancer!

Do I sound upset? Of course I am slightly upset that my bit hasn't made the cut. I was excited about being on tv. A little less excited about seeing myself on tv - that would have been difficult - but it would have been cool. But I also completely understand my part not making it. That's totally fine. They are tasked with making what they believe to be the best 90min show that they can.Except! I keep reading and rereading the email. Surely some interviews / real life stories have made the cut? Although the comedy and the celebrities will bring in the audience, that is also just fluff! You need some real content - about testicular cancer - or the whole thing is completely pointless!

Well the only way to find out is to watch it. I'm looking forward to seeing the programme and to finding out if they managed to achieve a good balance of comedy and "education".

Feeling Nuts is on Channel 4 at 11.05pm tonight (Friday 24th October 2014).

ps. I have been reassured that there are interviews that have been kept in (just not mine *cries haha).


Monday, 20 October 2014

Shave my head

Don't worry people. Yes I do appear to be going through something of an early midlife crisis but no I haven't gone all Britney on you. No, shaving my head was on my original list of things I'd never done before. I'll tell you for why and it isn't because it's something that I've always wanted to do.

When I was around 14 I had a very brave mouth that would regularly go on about how I was going to shave my head. I would tell all my friends and anybody else who would listen that I was going to shave my head on the weekend but then come Monday morning I would have to go back into school with my tail between my legs and the same curtains, gelled up quiff or other equally bad hair style - that was somehow fashionable at the upper end of the 90's - that I had had on the Friday afternoon. This happened a lot! Too many times for someone who was meant to be intelligent. But here's the thing: each time I said it I meant it! I genuinely thought that I would go through with it and shave off my locks but in the end I was just too scared to get it done. I was even too scared to get it done during the school holidays. & so never ended up getting it done. Lots of my friends did it at one time or another. But although I've had a number of different hairstyles over the years.

Including this lovely bowl cut:

these highly fashionable curtains:

that time when I got highlights:

& it being really quite long at some point:

One of the things that I've never done with my hair is to shave it all off.

But why have I been so scared? Well there were two main reasons. I have always been a bit concerned about how it would look. When I was in school in particular, I was worried about what the girls would think. Even before my hair started to recede - a good reason to have done this a lot sooner - I've always had a fairly decent sized forehead. An Ant McPartlin sized forehead maybe? Secondly, I was also always quite worried about what my mum would say. When I recently told her I was going to shave my head she told me how I was going to look like an uneducated thug. So yeah as a 14 year old I was definitely more than a little concerned about what she might say or do. But now that I'm 30, I can shave my head if I want to without having to worry - too much - about her reaction.

But that's the thing: "if I want to" because of course I haven't wanted to since I was in school and even then I'm not sure how much I wanted to and how much it would have been for "appearances" - to appear cool, edgy or "hard"? And I don't want to do it now! Why else would I keep bottling out? You see I've been saying that I was going to do it for a whole year now. I managed to put it off for a fair few months by saying that I was going to do it when I was up in Edinburgh in August, but again just like when I was still in school, I bottled it. The plan was to do it live on stage as part of my Year31Projsct show. Which sounded like a a great idea at the time. However, once I was up there I realised two things: 1. it didn't fit into the show.  2. I was too scared.

However, as I have never shaved my head before and as it is something that scares me, it is something that is absolutely perfect for the Year31Project and so it just had to be done! I bottled it all those years ago when I was a scared little 14 year old and so it was probably about time that I put that right and shaved my hair off. Even if I wished I had done it before my hair started to recede at the temples, I owed it to my 14 year old self to finally get around to it.

So here it is. For the first time ever the hair on my chin is longer than the hair on my head.




Well I said I was going to shave my head. I never said that I was going to have a skin head. This is a grade 3 which I think is more than short enough! So what do you reckon? Maybe I should keep it like this? No, I'm not so sure about that either haha but it is 1000 times better than I thought it would be. And heaven forbid that if I do go bald one day, I'm no longer too concerned about how it is going to look.

Although upon seeing a photo my sister said that with the beard I remind her of:

Which I'm not sure is much of a compliment haha

Then - after my little haircut - as a thank you to my friends Sophia, Cristina and Constanze I cooked - what somehow turned out to be - a rather nice curry. Another first. I've never cooked a curry before. It wasn't all that long ago that I wouldn't eat curry and now I'm cooking it! I'm a changed man :)

Here is a little pic of my master piece:

So all in all it was a pretty fun day and my hair doesn't look half as bad as I thought it might. What was I so scared about all those years?


Sunday, 14 September 2014

A (less than) Calm Crossing

So a huge part of this project and the thing that really started the whole thing off - ACalmCrossing - has been blown out of the water!

The plan was to attempt to swim the English Channel - in just a couple of weeks in fact - but unfortunately I had to come to what was both one of the easiest and hardest decision of my life. Easiest because I didn't really have much choice in the matter and hardest because it was the last thing that I wanted to do! After all swimming the channel is a life long dream of mine and I have put in so much time, money and effort over the past 12 months that it really pains me to have to come to this decision. But it was time I stopped lying to myself and everyone else.

& so here it is (in case you missed it). Read more about 'The biggest decision'.

and follow the whole journey as it unfolds here:

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Edinburgh Festival Fringe

I can't believe that it's September already! August has been and gone so quickly!
It feels weird as my whole year had been geared up towards August because that's when one of the most important things on my list 'Take a show to Edinburgh' was going to happen (hopefully). After applying at the end of 2013 I accepted an offer to perform as part of the PBH Free Fringe back in March.

For anyone that doesn't know. "The Edinburgh Festival Fringe (or simply The Fringe) is the world's largest arts festival, with the 2012 event spanning 25 days totalling over 2,695 shows from 47 countries in 279 venues. Established in 1947 as an alternative to the Edinburgh International Festival, it takes place annually in Scotland's capital, in the month of August. The Fringe is a showcase for the performing arts, particularly theatre and comedy (which has seen substantial growth in recent years), although dance and music are also represented." As is SPOKEN WORD!

I've been to Edinburgh once before. In the summer of 2008. I didn't take of a show of course. I went up for a long weekend with 149 other 18-25 year olds as part of a scheme called The Network. Which aimed to give participants practical knowledge of working in the television industry.

I had an amazing time. I was there to take part in Creative Writing workshops which were unreal. As part of the workshops we wrote short scenes with a Coronation Street Producer (who unfortunately passed away a couple of years ago) before having these scenes read on stage by two young actresses including one Michelle Keegan!

It was a truly brilliant long weekend. As well as the workshops, I made some great friends (two of who I am fortunate to still good friends with today), got very drunk (pretty much stayed drunk the whole time), nearly succeeded in my plan to chat up every girl in Edinburgh (only stopping when one lovely girl actually like the nonsense I was sprouting or my face or something haha) and even found time to go and see some shows.

Here is a picture with some of the lovely people that I met on that weekend (that's me on the far left with the silly floppy hair). We all look so young!

I actually walked past this spot around 10 times a day everyday that I was in Edinburgh this year as it was 100yrds away from my venue.

Back in 2008 I had such a fantastic time. I will always remember it as one of the best weekends ever and ever since I have always wanted to go back up. But this time I didn't want to go up just to see the festival (although that would be amazing too) no I wanted to take a show up myself. And this year I finally got my chance. I nearly did it last year. I wanted to take up a one man play I wrote called 'one lump or two' but for several reasons including the fact that I spent the whole of last summer not wanting to get out of bed, it didn't happen.

But here I am in the summer of 2014 with the chance to take a show up to the Fringe but first of all I need a show! What should I do? Maybe I can resurrect the one man play? No, I know. It's so obvious! I'll do a show based on the:

So I have an idea for a show. What next?

Taking a show to Edinburgh - even on the PBH Free Fringe which is a bit different to the Fringe, you don't have to pay for a venue - is an expensive do!

Just think about all the outgoings for a second.
  • travel
  • accommodation
  • living expenses
  • props
  • flyers and posters
  • other things I've forgotten

Therefore, if you're going to do it properly - still not paying for a venue - it's going to set you back anywhere up to £1000. Maybe even more!

But I'm Anthony Hett and this is the Year31Project and so of course I'm not going to do it the right way. I'm going to spend 10hrs - there and back - on a coach and then sleep for several nights on my friends settee. Because that is how I roll! (by which I mean - that is because I am an unorganised and very poor douchebag!)

That said. Even though I will be doing it as cheaply as possible - for no other reason than because I am flat broke - there are still things that I need to pay for that are completely essential and not exactly cheap. Like flyers and posters! If you want an audience you need to get out there with all the other idiots on the Royal Mile and hand out flyers (all day!). This set me back a cool £125!

A good flyer/poster is extremely important. I'm quite happy with mine. Especially as I did it myself using nothing but Word at 2am one night the week before I went up:

Another way to advertise (for free) is to try and perform at other people's events. Here is a picture of me doing just that. I would try and do more of this if I do it again:

The next thing I had to arrange was my travel. How to get to Edinburgh? The way I see I don't have my own car and soI had four options. I can go by:

Plane? Surely that's way out of my budget? I don't even check the prices.

Train? The train is £130. Not too bad but I probably need to find something a bit cheaper if I can.

Coach? The coach is £45 which is more in my price bracket.

Hitchhike? I've tried Hitchhiking before. It was a lot of fun but I think hitchhiking all the way to Edinburgh is going to be a long, hard and draining journey and so although it's free (and I'm poor) I think I'll give it a miss this time.

I go with the coach. It appears to be the best option. The only option really. Here we are entering Scotland:

I wish I could have taken the train. It would have been a lot more comfortable and takes less than half the time but the train cost nearly three times as much and I can't afford to put my comfort first *cries*. I once spent six hours on a coach to Manchester and I said never again but I book the 10 hour long coach journey and hope for the best.

& the coach actually isn't too bad. This might be because I actually plan something for a change and pack well for the journey:

And with the help of Count Dracula, the Karate Kid and football gossip, the 10 hour journey just flies by. Well not quite but it's no where near as bad as I thought it would be! I've plenty of snacks, a neck pillow and two whole (leather) seats to myself and so the journey is fairly comfortable too.

Now for the final piece of the puzzle: accommodation. Finding anywhere to stay in Edinburgh while the festival is on is both difficult and of course expensive. However, there are ways around it. Obviously it helps if you have friends that either live in Edinburgh or are up there for the festival, who are willing to put you up for a few nights. Luckily for me my friend Gigi (who was also in my short film Letters) was up at the Fringe in a play about Joan of Arc. Brilliantly she let me stay with her for the first 3 nights. Which was wonderful. Not only because I saved £120 by doing so but also because I got to hang out with her and the other lovely people involved with her play (while I was staying there and pretty much every night afterwards too) and she warm and tasty food.

Then for my remaining 4 nights I rented a room on a student campus. In a place called Pollock Halls:

Halls are an excellent place to stay while at the festival. They're quite basic but I spent very little time in my actual room. It was simply somewhere to lay my head at night. They are perfect for this and reasonably cheap too. £40 a night for a room with a shared bathroom (which is what I paid for) and £75 for a room with an en-suit (ideal for couples).

Here is my room:

It was spot on. I found Pollock Halls online. And straight away I could see that it was just what I needed. But it was only when I got there that I realised that not only was it perfect for my stay but it was actually also where I had stayed with The Network six years earlier. Not only the same campus but the very same building! What a brilliant coincidence. It brought back a lot of lovely memories.

So £125 (flyers), £45 (travel), £155 (accommodation) and £150 (food, tickets for shows etc) means that I spent around £475 on my Edinburgh adventure. Taking the money I took in donations into consideration as well as my voluntary contribution of £3 a performance made to the PBH Free Fringe and my adventure cost me around £450. Which actually isn't too bad but that was very much doing it on the cheap!

Now onto the week itself.
Edinburgh is a lovely place. Although it's geography is quite confusing, I spent a large chunk of the first few days completely lost and everywhere is literally up a huge hill. I mean you go up a huge hill to go to a show and then you go up a huge hill to go home. It makes no sense. It is a charming place!

My show was in the small downstairs room of a pub called The Royal Oak:

The room was great. Nothing special. It was simply the downstairs room in a pub and it was very small. It would only take around 15 people to fill it. But getting 15 people to come when there are literally thousands of other shows to go and see would prove quite a task and so I certainly didn't have a problem with the size of the room. The venue was also very central, just a 2 minute walk from both the Royal Mile and the main PBH venue and spoken word hub the Banshee Labyrinth. So it was just great.

Now doing a show at Edinburgh is hard work! Let's not pretend otherwise. I would get up, sort out a couple of things for the show, go flyering, do the show, go flyering, see some shows, exit flyer the shows, go home and get some sleep (nowhere near enough) and get up "early" again the next day and start the wonderfully tiring process all over again. It was an extremely busy and tiring week - I don't know how people cope doing it for the whole month - but I enjoyed every single second of it.

And importantly - most importantly - the show went really quite well. Here is an awful picture of me with my list (how small do my eyes look!!!):

The beginning of the week was tough. I really wasn't very good at flyering. I was too nervous and didn't have a pitch. I would just stand on the street and hand out my flyers to anyone willing to take one and that was it. But as the week went on I got better, more confident, I worked on a pitch and it really seemed to work. It turns out I'm actually quite good at flyering :). I actually think the pitch for the show was better than the show itself. Awkward haha. This is a picture of my audience from the Thursday show:

13 happy faces smiling back at me - thank you everyone who came to any of the five shows - and I think I'm right in saying that all of these lovely people came because at some point that day or the day before I had given them a flyer! So although a lot of people will tell you that flyering doesn't work - it won't if you simply give out your flyers without selling the show, as there are so many other things to see and do - if you work on a pitch and really sell your show to people, then this photograph above is proof that flyering can work. And if you're doing a little one person, free show flyering is vital!

Ok so 13 people is not a massive audience. I think we can all agree on that but I went to plenty of very good shows with much smaller audiences. My audience numbers were 6, 5, 3, 13 & 12. Which I'm really happy with. The first few shows were a bit sketchy. In terms of audience numbers and my performance. After a couple ok stuttering performances and small audiences, I was feeling pretty "reflective" on the Wednesday. I told my parents maybe not to come up on the Thursday as they had planned and I was worried that I might have to cancel the Thursday show altogether due to having no audience. But I didn't give up! I went out and flyered even harder than I had before and somehow managed to get my biggest audience on the Thursday (sorry mum and dad!).

On the first couple of days I was still very much finding my feet. I probably should have prepared better but I'm Anthony Hett and as you're probably working out, planning and organising are not my strongest points. Everything is always a bit last minute with me! But as the week went on I got into a bit more. More people came - it's hard to perform in front of really small audiences - I finally found my feet - after looking for them for three whole days they were on the end of my legs. Who'd have thought? haha - and I think that the last two shows were actually quite good?

Now, the way the PBH Free Fringe works is that the shows are free but people are encouraged to leave donations at the end if they have enjoyed the show. & like everything else this warmed up a little as the week went on.

On the first day I got enough money for a sandwich, a drink and some chocolate:

But by the last two days I started doing pretty well for donations.

On the Thursday I got £25.01, lots of nice comments and even a hug:

& on the Friday I got £15.18 a banana, more nice comments and more hugs:

Unfortunately I'm not a big fan of bananas but people seemed to enjoy the show and I finished the week on a high!

I left on the Saturday morning feeling like my show had been something of a small success. Plus on top of that I got to see lots of great things and met lots of wonderful new people. It was such a fantastic week and such a massive learning curve. I learnt so much (mostly by doing things wrong). What more could you want than that? & yes I had such an amazing time that I definitely hope to do it all again next year - only for longer next time.

Now this is the Year31Project and so there were several things that I wanted to do for the first time while I was in Edinburgh including: eat haggis, eat a deep fried mars bar and shave my head. Unfortunately on all of these counts I failed miserably. I was just too busy or some other such poor excuse. However, in 'Taking a show to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe' I succeeded and what could be more important than that???

Take a show to Edinburgh TICK!


And to finish off here is a little poem about my experience:

Goodbye Edinburgh,
You wind swept,
Rain soaked,
Beautiful bitch of a city.
Where everything seems to be up hill,
Everything appears so far away,
And everything feels like such hard work.
But I wouldn't have you any other way,
And I miss you already.
Let's stay in touch.
Let's me up again.
What are you doing this time next year?