Monday, 28 July 2014

(Indoor) Skydive

I would absolutely love to do a skydive!

Here is a picture of me pretending to have just done a skydive and accidentally landed in the middle of nowhere (long story haha):

Now yes of course the thought of doing a skydive scares the hell out of me and I wouldn't describe myself as an adrenalin junkie. However, I can't help but think that over coming the fear of standing at the open door ready to jump out into the unknown would be the biggest rush imaginable and so as scared as I would be or because of how scared I would be, I would love to do one.

However, somewhat unsurprisingly, doing a Skydive is quite expensive. Like £250 expensive and so even less surprising is the fact that I am unable to afford to do one at the moment :(

Now that said, there are ways to do a Skydive For Free. But unfortunately at the moment I just don't have the time and effort required to raise enough money to do a skydive for charity. Especially when I should be attempting to raise money for charity with my ACalmCrossing.

So unfortunately doing a Skydive is not about to be ticked off the list anytime yet!

However, there is a fun, much cheaper and less scary alternative!
An indoor skydive!

On Thursday me and my friend Sophia headed down to Bodyflight in Bedford - about half an hour by train from London - where you can partake in several exciting activities including an indoor skydive.

Here's me feeling all excited but not really showing it:

& here's one of the two of us looking a bit more like we're having fun:

So what is an indoor skydive?
Well that's a very good question and one that even though I have just done one, I'm still not completely sure how to answer. Basically it is a way to simulate the experience of the free-fall stage of a skydive using a giant wind tunnel. And wow was it fun!

Here I am - looking all cool and sexy - in the safety kit (all the gear no idea) just before going through into the wind tunnel.

Basically what happens is that you go into this cylindrical room with wind blasting up from a giant fan below you, blowing up to 180mph! The force of this air - and the help of the instructors - enables you to hover in the air about four feet from the ground.

Here is a picture of me and Sophia mid-indoor skydive:

Then with the help of the instructors - who have until now been standing next to you but now also leave the ground - you are spun around in the air some 10 feet  - maybe? - above the ground. I don't know if I'm selling the experience very well? And I don't know how close it is to the experience of a real skydive. But I can tell you it really was great fun! Truly amazing! You get such a buzz. At least I did! I was really quite nervous just before going in. There were a lot of people doing it and we were one of the last so we had a bit of a wait and so the nerves really started to build up. Therefore when we did finally go in there was a big release of adrenalin and I loved every second of it.

We had two "flights" which were very short, they were only in 1 minute 15 seconds each. Which doesn't sound very much does it? & given that it took a few seconds to go in and then out again we were only actually in the wind tunnel for around 2 minutes in total. We travelled all the way to Bedford for 2 minutes haha. But it was so much fun and when you're in there it feels like a lot longer and so I definitely felt like we got our moneys worth. Especially as we did it through Groupon and so it was only £16 each which I think is pretty cheap?

Happy (Indoor) Skydiving :)

Wait! Hang on there a second.
Because the adventure didn't actually stop there!

In true Year31Project style or maybe that should be in true Anthony Hett style that was only the beginning of the adventure.

We had travelled from Bedford train station to Bodyflight by taxi. I had looked at buses but it was the countryside and so they were inconvenient, long and infrequent. I had looked at walking too but google maps said that it would take nearly two and a half hours. So we got a taxi!

However, when we left body flight - even though I had the number of the taxi driver - Sophia thought that instead of paying another £12 for such a short journey and because it was such a lovely sunny day, it might be nice if we walked back instead. And although I had some small concern to how long it would take, I thought that this sounded like a good idea. It was still only 5pm, plenty of hours of sunshine left and no rush to get back to London. So even if it did take us 2 hours or more it didn't matter too much. At least we had the weather for it:

Plus Sophia was convinced that it wouldn't take that long and although I was less convinced I was still up for the adventure. It's not often I get to hike through the countryside so off we set. Following a sign saying Bedford we turned right and head up the road.

However, it wasn't long before we started to fell a bit lost.

Now I'd happily followed the sign for Bedford - that was where we were going after all - but after walking for around a mile something didn't add up. I was convinced we were walking in the wrong direction. I consulted the gps on my phone and we were in fact heading in the completely wrong direction. Maybe that was the best way to drive? But it certainly was the way to walk. So we two options. Head back the way we came or take a right and then another right and make a loop, coming back on ourselves, except travelling on a parallel country road.

For some reason the decision to make was mine and I chose the later. Going back the way we had come somehow seemed wrong, like we were excepting defeat haha. However, in the end it proved that I may have made the wrong decision and going back might have proved to be the better option.

The weather was nice, as was the scenery and the company so we just kept on walking. We were having fun. Well for the first few miles at least but the walk was long. From Bodyflight to the train station is around 6 miles and I'm not sure exactly how far we ended up waling but a good guest would be that before the day was done we had walked in excess of 10 miles haha stopping just the once for hard earned refreshments.

Then when we finally made it back to Bedford. When the cows and sheep were behind us and we had found civilisation once again. Never have two people been more excited to see a sign saying Bedford:

Ok so Sophia was excited. I look more tired and relieved.

But we were there. Except not quite. Unknown to us there was still around another 45mins to go :(

However, in the end after almost exactly three and a half hours of walking and one very deserved ice cream, we did finally shuffled back into Bedford train station, 3 minutes before the next train arrived.

& I have to say that the walk was a lot of fun. I mean in the end it was probably about an hour - or maybe more - longer than it needed to be and the following day my legs really didn't know what had hit them. But at the end of the day, the important thing was that I felt as though I had really lived the day to it's full and had had a very enjoyable little trip out of London.

Happy Daytripping :)

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Film premiere

So this time last week it was the premiere for my short film Letters.

There weren't any red carpets, paparazzi, autograph hunters or desperate fans waiting outside in the rain all day just to get a glimpse of their favourite stars.

No it was a pretty low key event but it was a massive milestone for me personally and therefore pretty great!

I met my parents after work:

They came down especially for the screening.

I met them at Bills in Angel:

So that me and me mum could get our now somewhat traditional - and damn tasty - fish finger sandwich:

And then we made our way rushed like crazy fools to the Stow Film Lounge in Walthamstow where some friends, including Sophia (who helped produce), Ed (who plays the lead role of Malcolm) and his mum, the people from Apex Arts (who funded the film) and a couple of randomers waited to start the film.

It was so amazing to watch the film on the big screen:

Unfortunately I was too busy watching the film to remember to take any proper photos of the event but never mind. It would only have taken away from the experience anyway.

After the film there was a short Q&A with yours truly about the making of the film which of course I enjoyed very much. Talking about myself in front of other people has to be one of my favourite things to do haha

And then at the end of the Q&A the wonderful people who run the brilliant Stow Film Lounge suggested that with my permission they would like to show my film again as part of the upcoming commercial season! I don't have any details on this yet but I'm sure it's unsurprising to say that I'm feeling pretty excited about more people seeing my little film on the big screen!

Then as my parents headed to the train station to make the trip back up to North Wales, I headed to a nearby pub to talk about the film and about films in general with a couple of my friends Kev and Dom.

It was a great evening. The highlight of which was definitely seeing MY film on the big screen. Crazy! Hopefully there will be more of that to come in the future? But for now it's time to keep my fingers crossed that it's picked up by festivals, send it to further festivals and continue to look for funding opportunities for my next film project (if you see anything please let me know). Onwards and upwards!

& Happy Filmmaking :)

Monday, 21 July 2014

Air Guitar

On Saturday night I tried my hand at Air Guitar!

First off I'm sure most of you know what it is but for those of you who might be thinking "what is Air Guitar?"

Simply put: Air Guitar is the act of playing an imaginary guitar along to rock music.

OK now we have that all cleared up, your next question is probably "but surely you've done that before?"

Well yes, although my "dancing style" is normally more pogoing - jumping up and down - in nature than pretending to play a guitar, yes of course at times I have certainly found myself pretending to play an invisible guitar. However, doing so in the safety of your own bedroom is one thing, while doing it onstage in front of a room full of strangers is another thing entirely.

So here's the thing. Last Tuesday I was up late googling random things that I could do for the Year31Project - as I do from time to time - when I suddenly thought "Air Guitar, what about Air Guitar. I'm sure there is a World Championships or something." So I googled it and there is. The only thing is that it's in Finland. So I google Air Guitar UK Championships and amazingly not only do they exist but they are taking place in just a few days.

So I think about it for about all of two seconds and completely on a whim, I think why not, just go for it. There is an open entry and it is free to enter. So I start to fill in the entry form.

The first thing I have to do is think of a stage name. After very little thought I go with 'The Frightened Rabbit' on the premise that doing this is going to take me right out of my comfort zone. Yes I'm used to being on stage but this is up there with Karaoke and so it's quite possible that I will just stand there like a rabbit caught in the headlights.

Next I need a style. I leave this blank as I have no idea what my style will be. Other than rabbit in headlights. Maybe I should have put that?

And finally I need to decide on my influences. They mean real guitarists not other air guitarists who have influenced me right? Either way I don't know? I've never done air guitar before. I try to think of cool guitarists but have a mind blank and can only think of one... Jimi Hendrix (the coolest of them all). If I put that down do I have to try and live up to Jimi Hendrix? "Quick try to think of a rubbish guitarist instead!" I can't so I just go with Jimi Hendrix. I pause for a second... and then press SEND.

And so there and then - 10mins after confirming it's existence - I enter myself into the Air Guitar UK Championships 2014. Which lets not forget are happening in 4 days time!

The next few days are insanely busy for me! On top of working I have the preview of my Edinburgh show on the Wednesday night and the Premiere for my short film Letters on the Thursday night.

Then just before I go to bed on the Thursday night I receive an email from Danny - The Midnight Moses - Robertson (Artistic Director and 2008 UK Champion) asking me what song I will be performing to and if I can send it to him asap!

WTF! Is this really happening? I hadn't heard anything for a couple of days and so I assumed that I had entered too late and there were no spaces left! But it appears that I have assumed wrongly and they're expecting me to compete in two days. What should I do?

What I do is ignore the problem and wait for it to go away. Obviously! While I'm at work on Friday Danny sends me a couple more messages. As I haven't replied to the first few he sends one more asking if I entered myself or if some friends had entered me for a joke. I have an out! But do I take it?

No this is the Year31Project and although I am scared to death at the thought of doing this, I have to do this! After all I am on a quest to try as many new things as possible. I have talked myself back into doing it but I have a problem.

I need a song! First up I sought suggestions on Facebook. Obviously! Thank you everyone who offered suggestions. There were some very good ones but none that I felt comfortable with. Next I spend hours trawling through youtube and dancing around my bedroom - which is mostly furniture and my bike and not a lot of floor space - like a mad man, before finally settling on Four Kicks by Kings of Leon. I chose this song for three reasons. 1. I already own it. 2. I know it well. 3. It has some heavy rhythm sections, a good solo and also some time to rest in between. Here is the video. Have a listen and you'll know what I mean.

So it looks like I'm doing it. I've sent off my track. I absolutely have to do it! Well I could just not turn up but I'm not going to do that.

Now there is another small problem. I need a "persona". At first I was just going to go along dressed as myself and jump around like a loon. In many ways that's exactly what I did. However, for a couple of reasons I felt the need for a "costume". Firstly, if I look less like me it might help me to feel more relaxed. Also although I'm not sure what to expect, I think the other competitors are all going to make a big effort? I think this not least because there is a changing room available for competitors. A changing room? People will be changing? Then maybe I need to think about changing too?

Therefore after work on Saturday I headed to Poundland where I bought a long wig and a stripy tie:

And here I am. 'The Frightened Rabbit"

I'm ready to go. I have a name, a persona, a song and I don't have a routine exactly but I've had a little practice. I'm still feeling a tad nervous but also a lot more relaxed than I was.

I then fall asleep. It's the middle of the afternoon but it's been a long week. When I wake up I have a new problem, a terrible pain in my right hip. Have I pulled something practicing? Is it psychosomatic? I think about pulling out. I'll give it a miss. Stay in and watch the telly. I have a legitimate excuse. I can barely stand up! But no, I'm not pulling out. I'm doing this. I didn't pay a whole £2 at Poundland to pull out now. I take some pain killers, get changed - not into the wig just yet I hasten to add - and head for the tube.

The event is taking place at the Boston Music Room in Tufnell Park.

It takes me around 30mins to get there. When I arrive I'm hungry and nervous as hell. I go and buy a sandwich and eat it at a bus stop over the road from the venue. Stalling for time. I finish my sandwich - taking as long as is humanly possible - and I think about heading across the road but I'm too scared. So I think about heading home again instead.

I only found out about this at the last minute - very little planning went into it - and so unfortunately no one could come and support me. I'd dragged my friends out twice that week already. Standing there contemplating going home I couldn't help but think I'd be more confident with someone there to metaphorically or physically hold my hand. However, in truth, being on my own is actually a blessing in disguise. It means that I have to talk to new people!

I pluck up my courage again, cross the road and knees trembling I enter the venue. I've come too far to turn back now!

Inside I find the organiser Danny and introduce myself. He shows me downstairs to the backstage changing rooms. There are plenty of people already there. There not all downstairs but there are 15 competitors in total. 10 of which - including myself - signed up before hand and 5 who have signed up on the night. I don't meet all 14 other competitors but all of those that I do meet are all really cool and relaxed, warm and friendly people. A nicer a bunch of odd balls - I say that in the warmest possible way and knowing that I was one of them - you could ever hope to meet. Some of whom have been doing this for years and other who are doing it for the first time just like me.

The event

The excellent host for the evening was comedian Richard Sandling:

The three judges were (right to left)
Two time UK Champion: Gabi 'The Hoxton Creeper' Matzeu.
Three time and current UK Champion: Thom 'Wild Thing 37' Wilding.
And occult comedian and historian of Heavy Metal Andrew O'Neil who was the Simon Cowell of the judges (and/or was taking it and himself a bit too seriously?)

Who were scoring on a 4.0 to 6.0 system and were looking for:
  • Technical Merit - Does it look like you're playing some kind of guitar?
  • Stage Presence - Are the crowd going wild, putty in your hands?
  • Airness - That essential, transcendent, indefinable quality that all air guitarists strive for.

Here is a group photo of some of the competitors:

The very receptive and much larger than I had anticipated audience:

Here are some rules:

and basically during the first round you pick your own track to perform to and then the five competitors with the highest first round score perform again, only this time to a secret track. This is where you really separate the wheat from the chaff!

And finally here it is, the all important giant pick trophy that we would be battling for:

And if that isn't enough on it's own! As well as a bottle of Champagne and the right to be able to say that you are the best Air Guitarist in the UK. The Champion also wins a free trip to Finland for the Air Guitar World Championships, where they will represent the UK!

Of the first timers there were a few good stories. There was a very drunk Irish guy who was on his (second) stag do and in his own words had been "stitched up" by his mates. There was a girl called Jenna who was doing it for a similar reason to myself. Similar to the Year31Project but a year earlier, on her 29th birthday Jenna asked her family and friends to suggest 30 challenges that she has to complete before her 30th birthday. Taking part in the Air Guitar UK Championships was part of a challenge her brother had set her to "become a World Champion at something". That is what I call a challenge!

Now although some of the first timers - me not included - were quite good you could definitely see the gulf in class between the newbies like myself and those that had been competing for the last 7 or 8 years (in some cases).

The five finalists were made of four experienced Air Guitarists and one new comer:

Now as you can see from the photograph. Unfortunately that one new comer in the final wasn't me! No I wasn't very good. I'm not sure where I placed. I don't think I came last but neither do I think I was anywhere close to getting into the final. My first two scores were fairly respectable with a 5.0 and 5.1 and then the final score from the mean ass judge was 4.0! Which is the lowest score you can receive! A tad harsh don't you think? Well the lovely audience certainly thought so and gave his score a good BOO! (I have since found out that the final score was actually 4.9 haha)

So unfortunately I don't have a hidden talent for Air Guitar. Which considering I can "kinda" play a real guitar I suck at playing an imaginary one. Here I am doing my thing:

During the scoring I was praised for my energy. At the time of competing - I think I was 10th on - one judge said "for energy that was one of the best performances we've seen" which is pretty cool. However, although I had lots of energy, apparently I had little to no technique haha which is fair enough. After all this is something I did on a whim, something I've never done before and something I had little to no time to prepare for.

So I'm not going to grumble. The final judge was overly mean but there were also plenty of competitors that were head and shoulders above me! Not least the very worthy winner 'A Boy Named Sue'.

Now this is how it is supposed to be done (and this was to the track she hadn't heard until on the night and so hadn't prepared for!):

'A Boy Named Sue' Air Guitar UK Championships 2014

Ok so it is official I suck at Air Guitar but more importantly I had a truly amazing time! It was so much fun!!! I met lots of lovely people. Saw people who are genuinely talented at Air Guitar! & potentially saw the next Air Guitar World Champion performing?

I left feeling completely inspired, glad that I had signed up and then had the balls to go up on stage and 100% sure that I will be back next year. Quite possibly to perform again - who knows with a bit of practice I might push for a place in the final? - and if not I will definitely be there to watch.

And now for the moment you have all been waiting for. Here is the video of me "performing":

Year31Project Air Guitar UK Championships


Monday, 7 July 2014

Fix a puncture

It's official. Living in London has made me soft!

What some of you - who don't know me or haven't known me for very long - probably don't know is that before I became the poetry loving, sushi eating, moisturiser wearing, tee total nancy boy you see before you today, I was was one the lads. A proper bonafide burger chopping, beer swilling, skirt chasing, football obsessed lad!

I say I was a lad. Not the type you're thinking of. I was never a womaniser or a fighter, I simply liked (and still do like) cars, football, boxing etc, all the stereotypical lad stuff. And sometimes - even now that I'm even softer than I was before - us men - even if you're not one of the lads - need to do something "manly" to make us feel like... well a man!

And low and behold last week presented me with two perfect opportunities to revel in my manliness! First of all my friend Leah asked me to help her carry a bookcase from a well known catalogue based shop - that still appears to be going strong despite the invention of the internet -  to her flat (because I'm a man). Then back at her flat - after some light banter from one of her house mates - I even partook in a bit of DIY, helping her to put said bookcase together, while watching the football and swigging beer water. How manly is that?!

Buoyed by this first feat of manliness it was time to do something even more manly, as well as something I have never done before... fix a puncture on my bike.

This is my bike. I love her. She is a 1990's Peugeot Road bike who I have affectionately christened Black Beauty.

I've had a puncture before - a couple of months ago - but the tires and inner tubes on my bike were so old it made sense - practically and for value for money - to replace the tyres and inner tubes instead of trying to fix the puncture by patching it up. Also I'd never tried to fix a puncture before - I have a vague memory of me as a child with my dad and a washing up bowl full of water but that's as far as my experience with bike tyres goes - so I wimped out a little and went with the easy option.

However, this time I made the decision to do the "manly" thing and fix it myself! So I went back to the catalogue based outlet and bought myself a "value range" - I'm extremely poor at the moment - puncture repair kit and headed home to fix my first puncture.

I started by taking the wheel off. Easy enough.

Next step take the tire off. This is where it started to get tricky. But by this point I had already watched several youtube videos to see how this is done. So I knew what to do. Except they made it look very simple online. A lot simpler than it proved that's for sure.

The puncture repair kit I bought came with two tire levers. This is where I started to wish I had bought a better kit - but I thought £10 was more than enough to pay - because being a "value range" kit the levers were rubbish and/or I didn't know how to use them and so the end snapped off one.

And then the other!

So it was time to go back to the drawing board - or youtube as it is now known -  where I watched several people make ripping the tire off the rim with nothing but your bare hands luck incredible easy.

So I give it a go. It is impossible!
But it feels good to get my hands dirty haha

So instead I perceiver with the broken tyre levers and low and behold I do it. I get the tyre off the rim!!!

& pull out the inner tube.

This is going quite well. I find the puncture by pumping up the tyre and listening and feeling for the escaping air. Here it is:

After finding the puncture I patch it up. Having watched lots of videos and reading or at least looking at the pictures of this blog I think I know what I am doing. However, again it proves much harder than it looks. The patches are too big and won't really work. So I cut them up and try that. This doesn't work either but eventually after a couple of botched jobs like this one:

I eventually get there, put it all back together & viola!

All done. And I'm felling all manly and very proud of myself. Although it should probably take around 5-10mins and it took me over an hour haha but it was my first try and that's the nature of firsts. It's not very often that you're good at something from the very first go. So hopefully I don't have to do it again anytime soon but I have fixed a puncture on my bike! Yay me and if I do need to do it again, firstly I now know how and secondly I'm sure I'll do a lot faster second time around.