Friday, 31 January 2014


I was in the pub last week talking to a friend of a friend - who I had met for the first time just a couple of hours previous - when the conversation somehow turned to drugs. The friend of a friend told me about the life changing experience of taking ecstasy. I told him that I had never tried it and seemed pretty happy to tell him so, adding that if I was going to try it, I would probably have done it when I was in my teens or early twenties but that it hadn't really interested me and certainly didn't now (that I'm old).

However, when the conversation turned to shoplifting for some reason or another, when the same person suggested that shoplifting is something that everyone does when they are young. Instead of being honest and confessing that I had never done it. Maybe because I was the sober guy at the pub who had never done drugs, I said "I never went past stealing penny sweets". Not exactly the most impressive lie ever told haha so why even bother? But it was too late. The words had already slipped out and I wasn't sucking them back up now.

But the conversation got me thinking. Had I ever taken anything from a shop before? Not that I could remember. No, the closest I came to shoplifting was when I was about 8. It was late August, early September and my mum had taken me and my two sisters into town to buy our new school stuff. Coats, bags, shoes, shirts, trousers and stationary! Why is it that buying stationary was so exciting when you were a kid? And why is it that every Primary School child is so obsessed with rubbers?

It was outside of BHS - in Chester - and I remember feeling or hot and sweaty, racked with guilt and really worried that my mum was going to be really angry with me because gripped tightly in one of my tiny eight year old hands was a big white rubber the size of a bar of soap that I had forgotten to pay for when we were in WHSmith. Instead - to my surprise - my mum told me that it was fine because I hadn't meant to take it and so it was ok if - just this once - that I kept it.

With that in mind I thought. Well this is the Year31Project and shoplifting is something I've never done before so why not give it a go? Maybe because I'm still too honest and more importantly too shit scared - as I was as a kid - of what might happen if when I get caught. What would my mum think?

So I decided on something of a compromise. I don't have what it takes to full on - shove a baguette down me trousers -  shoplift. But what I could do is try and get away with not paying for something at the self-checkout. After all - according to the Metro (other gossippapers available) - everybody's doing it these days!


So this is what actually happened when I attempted to cheat the self checkout machine at a well known supermarket I won't name incase they attempt to prosecute me.

I took my items to the self checkout with the idea that I wouldn't be paying for one of them. Which one? Does it matter? Maybe something light? After all I need to try and trick the scanner. I don't want it screaming "unidentified object in bagging area" and alerting the mean spirited security guards who would rumble my evil plan and drag me away to some secret holding pen at the back of the supermarket where I will be held in brutal conditions for hours. Ok maybe I'm exaggerating but then I've never been done for shop lifting before so I don't know what happens.

So here goes, I'm going to do it. Stood in front of the scanner, I start to rationalise my actions. It's ok because I'm really poor - this month especially - and supermarkets are super rich. I'm like Robin Hood, only I'm giving to myself. But then before I have even scanned a single item "unidentified object in bagging area" shit! It knows. It already knows. Wow these machines are really clever!

But it's ok the machine is just having a bit of a moment - although I'm convinced it knows - and the self checkout supervisor person - none the wiser - comes over scans a card, presses the screen and we're good to go.

So I start to scan my items and already a little shaken at the fact that the man had to come and reset the machine before I had even started, I instantly lose my bottle. I can't do it! I give myself a little internal pep talk before finally starting to scan my items. Soup. *Beep* Six pack of little Mr Kippling cakes.  *Beep*. Here goes. Nice, £3 ham. I go for a pretend sweep to make it looks like I've scanned it and then put it in the bag without doing so. Only I get too worried and actually scan it *Beep*. I place it into the bag.

"unidentified object in bagging area". What! No way. I heard it beep. The machine must be playing up again I think and call the man over. He resets the machine. And to my surprise the ham doesn't come up on the screen. It mustn't have scanned. I'm going to do it. I'm going to get away without paying for the ham. Happy days!

Wait! What am I doing? With the man still standing next to me - I don't feel like I'm panicking but I must be - I say "oh the ham didn't scan" and take it back out of the bag, scan it and put it back in. What am I doing? It's like I've just made a match winning goal line clearance and then turned around and kicked the ball into my own net for no reason.

The man leaves. Defeated I place the ham back into the bag. Only for the machine to start going crazy. For you see, the machine now thinks that the bag is too light, as the ham should already be in there and then another item - the ham - I have just scanned on top. It needs another item. I'm going to have to put one of my other items into the bag - without scanning it. The machine is now forcing me to steal! What other option do I have - other than call the man over for a third time that is - no this is perfect. What weighs roughly the same as the ham? I need to make sure that the crafty machine never knows what I've just done. Bread rolls! The £1.10, reduced to 55p pack of six bread rolls. That should do the trick.

I place the buns into the bag. The machine is satisfied and I'm happy that I successfully managed to con it. I scan and pack the rest of my items - the machine and the security guards completely unaware of my sculduggery - and walk out of the shop with my free 55p buns! Happy, happy days!!! Except... instead of feeling like a rebel without a cause who's just made a 55p saving! I feel like a bit of an idiot who's just lost £2.45! I don't think I'd ever make a very good criminal do you? But at least I didn't get caught...right?

Monday, 20 January 2014


I have a new hobby!

I went Bouldering again yesterday for the second time. Yes I know this blog is about firsts. Don't worry I'm getting to that ;)

So Bouldering - as represented in the above photograph taken in Berlin - is: "a form of rock climbing that is performed without the use of ropes or harnesses." Which sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. Although to be fair, so far I've only done it indoors with safety mats - which doesn't make it any safer; according to the waiver form you have to sign - I'm sure doing it outside on real boulders and hard ground to hit if you fall - which I hope to do at some point before the end of the Year31Project (the outdoor bit not so much the falling bit hopefully) - is a lot scarier. 

So basically bouldering is what you and me would call indoor climbing. Which is say, what I would have called it before I had been, but now that it is officially my new hobby - I've been twice and plan to go next weekend too - then I get to call it bouldering. You can still call it climbing haha.

As you will know - as you are an avid reader of this blog -  at the beginning of December I travelled to Berlin for a couple of days as part of a Year31Project challenge to travel alone for the first time. While I was there I stayed with a lovely French girl called Lea who as it happened was into climbing (something that was already on my list). & so luckily for me, Lea and her friends - who went indoor bouldering once a week - were going on my final night in Berlin. 

What a stroke of luck! Not only was I crossing off both 'travelling alone' and 'couchsurfing' - something I will be blogging about shortly - from my list but I also had the chance to cross of 'climbing' too. So obviously I jumped at the chance to go with Lea and her friends and I'm so glad that I did.

Now with a lot of the things that I plan to do this year - including karaoke and bungee jumping - I was fairly apprehensive about bouldering or any form of climbing - but especially bouldering as you have no safety equipment - because I am absolutely petrified of heights! Well actually in truth it's less of a fear and more a physical condition. 

I normally avoid heights whenever I can because as soon as a get a couple of feet off the ground my balance completely goes, I feel all wobbly and I either want to lie down or jump off (whatever high thing I am on: ladder, wall, bridge etc). I'm not very good with ladders but bridges and balconies are my worst thing. Especially if you can see through them to the water/road/etc below. I bypass them wherever possible, although obviously it isn't always possible. 

However, I also try not to let my problem with heights stop me. So in the past I've been seen clinging to a tree 15ft in the air attempting to saw it in half, climbing up onto school roofs to retrieve lost footballs and climbing the 1000 - extremely steep - steps to the fortress of Palamidi in the Greek city of Nafplio, all against my better judgment. & in the future I plan to try bungee jumping, sky diving and flying a plane (if I don't it will probably have more to do with a lack of disposable income than my disagreement with heights).

But as you can no doubt appreciate climbing was a bit of a challenge for me but one that I relished and one that I really enjoyed. I had a fantastic time climbing in Berlin. I loved it so much that I messaged my friend Sophia straight away telling her that we had to start climbing - sorry I meant bouldering haha - in London. And - although we didn't exactly start immediately on my return - she didn't disappoint and got a select group of - mostly - novice climbers together for our Sunday morning "Monkey Practice". 

Here we all are for the mandatory group photo:

And here's a couple of pictures of me in "action":

That's pretty high up for me. However, the going up is very challenging and extremely exciting and so the whole time you're climbing you're concentrating too hard and having way too much fun - hopefully - to think about the whole height issue (which shouldn't be too bad as you're only ever around 10ft off the ground... only haha). No it's the coming back down which is the problem. That can get a little hairy! But not so scary that it should be enough to put you off. It certainly isn't going to put me off!

No. Instead bouldering was so much fun yesterday that not only are we planning on going again next weekend but I've already started searching the internet for reasonably priced climbing shoes and chalk bags. 

BOULDERING my excellent new hobby! Be sure to give it a go if you haven't before. It's great exercise - expect to hurt like hell the next day haha - and it's great fun too. We went to 'The Arc Climbing Wall' in Bermondsey but I'm sure there are plenty of other great indoor bouldering venues that might be a little closer to home for you. 

Have fun. Be safe. But don't be boring. Lives too short!

& Happy Bouldering :)

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Roller disco

Last week my friend Sophia text me asking if I'd ever been to a roller disco and if it was on the list.

(Kinda) Unsurprisingly the answer to both was no. No I have never been. I've been to the ice disco - and not skated - at Deeside Leisure (North Wales reference) when I was a teenager but no I have never been to a roller disco. Let's be honest it had never even entered my head that I should go to one. I'm not even sure I knew that they still existed. So no, it wasn't on my list but maybe it should have been?

That said my first thoughts when asked if I wanted to go with Sophia, Constanze and Constanze's sister on Saturday night were: I can't roller skate and I'm too old for discos (won't it be full of annoying 16 year olds?). But then I thought: Ok cool, why not!

After all I've never been to one before and I'm trying to do things I've never done.

So I agreed and even got a little excited about it. Here I am on Saturday night outside the disco with Sophia and Constanze.

Here is the only picture I have of the three girls together.

Here's a picture of some roller skates (obviously).

Here are a few more pictures of me looking like Sophia and Constanze's gay best friend (not helped by the fact we were in Vauxhall).

And here's one of me enjoying a nice sit down (boots were hurting a little and roller skating is surprisingly tiring). Unfortunately there are no pictures of me actually skating :( but this is the only time I spent on my arse - I promise!

The people at the roller disco - who I was happy to find were not all 16 year olds. I'd say that on average they were mostly 20-25? Though I'm not very good with ages - were a good mix of people - well most looked like dreaded students but then I probably look like one of those too haha) - who skating wise fell into two main categories:

The people who were really good.

Who fell into two subcategories:

  • good and enjoying themselves 
  •  good and a bit smug and showing off about it.
(In truth I thought they all fell into the showing off category and Sophia thought they all fell into the having fun category - am I always so negative? Nah! They were just big show offs haha)

& the people who were not so good.

Who fell into three subcategories:

  • naturally quite good or had been a couple of times but not good enough to show off just yet. 
  • not very good but were managing to stay on their feet. 
  • spent most of their time on their arse!

Anyone who has every seen me on roller blades or ice skates before will be able to rightly assume that I was in the not so good category. But I wasn't too bad. I wasn't in the "spent most of their time on their arse" group. I managed to stay upright all night. I didn't fall over once!

Ok so going to a Roller Disco was hardly jumping out of a plane (I'm building up to that one) but it was a first and after all that's what the Year31Project is all about. It's not necessarily about doing crazy things like bungee jumps but simply about doing things that I've never done before.

It's about having a fun year. And all in all the Roller Disco was a good night. I don't drink (anymore) but if you do they sell alcohol. Although I'm not too sure if having a drink there is a good idea? Surely skating and drinking don't mix? But it's there if you want it. Also the people are friendly, the atmosphere and the music are fun, you get a bit of exercise and although I think it's slightly overpriced at £15 per person, it's definitely a fun night. So if you haven't already, you should give it a try. The one we went to was at the The Renaissance Rooms in Vauxhall.


Saturday, 4 January 2014

Piercing (postponed)

Today was finally going to be the day that I went and got myself a piercing.

I have been wanting to get one for months but I've been in two minds about what to go for.

My heart says: nose

and my head says: ear.

(minus the stupid bling bling earring of course)

However, it turns out that unfortunately 'where' I have the piercing isn't quite as pressing as 'when' I have the piercing.

For you see, it's recommended that: "you should avoid swimming until your piercing has healed properly. While it’s still healing, it’s important to keep the piercing dry as there’s a risk of infection."

Which wouldn't really be a problem except for two things: have you seen how long it takes for a piercing to heal?!

"As a general guide, healing times for the most common body piercings can be:

ear lobe: six weeks 
top of the ear: at least three to four months 
belly button (navel): up to a year 
nose: two to three months"

And I'm training to swim the English Channel: www.acalmcrossing and so I obviously can't afford to take any (more) time off swimming - especially not just to get a piercing done. Priorities people!

If only I had realised this before Christmas - when I had 10 days off swimming - and I could have gotten my ear pierced (I think 6 weeks is a bit over the top, surely 10 days would have been enough?).

So it looks like I'm going to have to put off getting a piercing. At least until after I have completed the channel crossing. Which really sucks because I really had my heart set on getting my nose pierced! But then how likely is it that it'll actually get infected? Maybe I should just get it done and see what happens? If it gets infected I'll just take it out... right? Maybe?

Actually no! Having just googled "piercing infection" and seeing the horrendous pictures of people's infected piercing I don't think I'll take the risk! :(