Monday, 21 December 2015

Learn to dance

I have always been something of a list maker - something I inherited from my mum - and going back way, way before I ever thought of the Year31Project, we're talking about ten years ago, I remember writing a very special list, that in many ways was the precursor to the Year31Project.

Less of a bucket list, more of a glorified to do list, ten years ago or so, I wrote a list of things I would like to learn to do and stuck it to my bedroom wall. I can't remember all of the things that were on the list but it looked a little something like this:

Learn to cook
Learn to fly a plane
Learn to ride a horse
Learn sign language
Learn to dance

A list that remained completely unticked for the best part of a decade - until the Year31Project finally came along - and in truth still remains mostly unticked today.

Learn to cook.
I'm not much of a cook. Cooking is not something I take joy from. I don't hate it but neither do I find it enjoyable or particularly relaxing. I tend to do it more out of necessity haha. But compare to my cooking skills ten years ago, I'm practically a Michelin star chef. I can't do anything too fancy but I can rustle up a stir fry or roast you a chicken. Plus recently I bought a cook book for the first time ever and although I'm not sure about the fella on the front and I don't plan to do the accompanying exercises, there are plenty of tasty and healthy recipes inside:



Learn to fly a plane.
This is something I have always wanted to do but something I have never even come close to achieving. It's a pretty expensive thing to do and I have always had someone to tell me that it's too dangerous but it remains something that I definitely want to do (I maybe just need to want it a bit more if it's ever going to happen).


Learn to ride a horse.
This is one of the first things I thought of when I started my list for the Year31Project. I still can't believe I got to the age of thirty - and now thirty two! - without ever riding a horse. This is definitely something I need to correct (and the sooner the better really).


Which brings me to:

Learn to dance (the reason for this blog post):
I've always enjoyed dancing. It's not something I'm particularly good at and it's not something I would attempt to "showcase" in public but it's something I've always taken pleasure from doing. I've always had fun grinding away at the centre of the dance floor in a dark club. Although, of course, that is one thing but dancing in public or even in a dance class; well that's another thing entirely! But the Year31Project is all about trying new things, about taking risks and doing things that take me out of my comfort zone and I've never been to a dance class before. Therefore, maybe if the chance came along to attend my first ever dance class, then maybe it's an opportunity I should take?

Back when I was a kid my sisters both danced but never, not even for a moment was I interested in joining them. I was too busy playing football. Dancing was for girls! I've grown up a little since then, but even so, even though I wish I had better dance skills, I'm not particularly sad that I didn't learn to dance as a child. And although I can't claim it to be a priority now, I have been open to the idea for a while now and so if the opportunity arose, I would be up for learning a few moves. Why not?

So back at the beginning of November it was my lovely girlfriend Liliana's 30th birthday.





And to say I was a little stuck for something to buy her was an underestimate. With a couple of weeks until the big day I was still searching for the ideal present. It was a hard decision to make. However, I had decided one thing. I wanted it to be more of an experience, a memory to cherish rather than a thing, an object, something that could all too easily get lose, broken, replaced and/or forgotten about.

And that's when I thought about dancing. The thought of attending a dance class frightened me a little. However, Liliana loves to dance and has a natural rhythm I don't necessary possess. She often mentions that we should go dancing and although I think she probably means in a club, or like that time we had a good boogie at Winter Wonderland:



A week before her birthday, I had a flash of inspiration and booked a Jive Taster dance class for the two of us (obviously! Haha). Unfortunately we had to wait over a month for the class, but hopefully it was going to be something worth waiting for?

I'm not sure exactly what Liliana thought about my choice of present. Maybe she would have preferred jewellery? But I'm pretty sure that as the evening approached she was pretty excited to give Jive dancing a go.

I booked the class through a company called City Academy. Who would appear to be a rather large and fairly professional company? However, one thing that did disappoint me slightly and make me a little reluctant to sign up with them in the future, was that on the lead up to the taster class, I was informed on two separate occasions that the teacher(s) for the evening had been changed. Now this didn't really make too much of a difference to me and maybe should reflect negatively upon the individual teachers themselves, rather than City Academy. However, unfortunately it did give me a bit of a negative opinion of them as a company.

But in the end that really didn't matter. The class was great. It was held at the famous "performing arts venue (mostly contemporary dance) Sadler's Wells. Well it was upstairs, in a backroom somewhere, but it was a nice big studio with plenty of space and light and a million mirrors, so that you could see yourself from every possible angle while you danced. Although whether that was a good or a bad thing, well I'll leave that up to you to decide.

Unfortunately the turn out wasn't great. The room did feel a little empty with only seven students and one teacher but at least there was one other man there with me haha. And the teacher we ended up having for evening was very good. She was patient, encouraging, knowledgeable and of course a very good dancer. Everything you could want, when turing up to a class as a complete beginner.

Our teacher was a woman called Elena Plescenco, who as a leading ballroom dancer - amongst many other things - has been Portuguese National Latin Dance Champion multiple times with her long time partner Carlos Custodio. She is also a very experience teacher, together with Carlos they run their own dance school Flow Dance London.

Upon arriving, and before hand, I was definitely a little nervous about the class. The main reasons for this was due to the fact that the email confirmation I had received had this fun little note at the end:

"This is a social class, so you will be asked to rotate partners.

But don't worry! Dancing with a variety of partners (including your teacher) will enhance your learning experience, give you confidence in your new skills, & benefit the group dynamic."


Well I did worry. I definitely worried. That note, coupled with the fact that upon arriving, it was hard to miss that I was the only male there - although another guy to turn up a little later - led to a fair bit of worrying. I really wasn't very sure about dancing (badly) with women that I had never met before!

Luckily however - apart from a slightly terrifying but ultimately very helpful 5 minute of dancing with the teacher - I did in fact spent the entire lesson dancing only with Liliana. Which definitely put me at ease A.though maybe she might have enjoyed partnering up with someone who didn't step on her toes every two seconds, for part of the lesson at least haha.

Although perhaps, I'm doing myself a slight disservice there. I don't think I was that bad? I certainly wasn't a natural. I didn't discover a talent I never knew I had. However, considering just how fast Jive is - we did a slowed down version, but still - and taking into account the fact that I was a complete beginner, I think I did ok?

But more importantly than how I got on, I had fun and more importantly again; I think that Liliana both appreciated the gesture and enjoyed the evening? All in all I think it was a bit of a success. At least I hope so.

Here we are mid-flow, laughing because having your picture taken is awkward at the best of times and because we've probably just gotten it all wrong, again!



So, maybe - although finding an evening when we're both free might prove pretty difficult - just maybe, it might be a good and fun idea to join a weekly class and learn Jive (or another type of dance) more fully? I think I'd quite like that. What do you think Liliana? Although I'd definitely still be a bit nervous about the whole idea of rotating partners!

HAPPY DANCING!
And MERRY CHRISTMAS.



Sunday, 1 November 2015

Pumpkin carving

Although this picture suggests otherwise:

That's me on the left and my older sister on the right.


My family never really celebrated Halloween. I know I look all dressed up to go trick or treating above but I don't actually remember going trick or treating as a child. It just wasn't something that we did. Although Halloween has roots in Europe, I think it is still seen by many people in Britain as a very American holiday? Therefore, although lots of people join in the fun - as they do for say St Patrick's Day for example - it doesn't quite have the same importance as Bonfire Night or Christmas (unless I'm wrong? London was extremely busy on Saturday night!). And so pumpkin carving is yet another thing that I have never done before.

But it it is something that has become very popular in the UK over the last couple of years. In the lead up to Halloween the supermarkets are stocked with huge bins of them - hundreds of pumpkins that sell out pretty fast - and on the day, Facebook is awash with pictures of pumpkins carved into some very impressive and not so very impressive designs haha.

Therefore it is something I have been very keen to try. Last year I went as far as buying pumpkins to carve but we ran out of time and no actually carving took place and so it remained something  I have never tried. However, this year I had that rare thing called day off and I definitely feel like I made the most of it.

After a nice lie in, I went for a lovely little walk with my girlfriend Liliana to the wonderful Epping Forest:





We then bought two pumpkins, went back to her house and got carving:













So here it is, my finished pumpkin:



It was a lot of fun to do. I'll definitely look forward to doing it again next year. And not too bad for a first try? Here's the image I copied:


They look fairly similar... right? haha.


Pumpkins carved we had a good bit of food, before painting our faces:



and heading out into London town, for a rare night on the tiles. And although we had issues with large queues and lack of ID's, all in all it was a pretty good Halloween!

I hope yours was just as fun!
Happy Halloween everyone :)




Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Krav Maga (Grading)

Last Tuesday I finally had - it actually came around way too quickly for my liking - my first grading as part of my Krav Maga training. (Learn more about Krav Maga HERE).



The grading system for Krav Maga is split into three levels: Practitioner, Graduate & Expert. Each of which is broken into five grades: P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, G1, G2 etc. And as a newbie who was previously ungraded, for the pat few months I have been training for my P1.

Now, if you have read previous posts on my blogs and/or know me in the real world, then you'll know that things rarely run smoothly for me. Sometimes (most of the time) this is down to my apparent love of doing everything at the last minute and at other times it feels like there is an invisible force attempting to make everything a little more difficult than it needs to be.

I have been training in Krav Maga - once a week -  for the past 6 months (almost to the day). I absolutely love going, unfortunately I'm not exactly a natural but I enjoy it and I always put in a lot of effort. It's true that I could probably do more practice in between classes, but while I'm there, I always give 100%.

Even so, I have to admit I was a little nervous about the grading. Even if I have been training for 6 months, it felt like it came around very quickly and I felt a little under prepared. Also, as I said previously, nothing ever runs smoothly for me and so already feeling nervous, I didn't need the buildup to the assessment that I had.

We train at the JW3 centre which is on the Finchley Road. The JW3 centre is a Jewish Community Centre and arts venue - which makes sense as it is an Israeli martial art - and as such it acknowledges the Jewish holidays, which unfortunately for me meant a lot of disruption to our classes. Couple that with a ferocious cold that just wouldn't let go of me and I ended up missing two of the last four classes in the build up to the assessment.

On top of this I had an absolute nightmare trying to get there on the night. On Tuesdays I work at the pool - read more about my life at the pool HERE - until 6pm and my Krav Maga class starts at 7pm. It's normally a bit of a rush but I normally get there for between 7pm and 7.05pm. Which is fine for our weekly class - I never normally miss much - they are normally just starting the warm up when I arrive.

However, last week we were asked to be there by 6.45pm and of course I wanted to get there as early as possible in order to go into my examination as calm and relaxed as possible. However, of course that did not transpire. Even though I finished up work at 6pm on the dot and ran out of the building at 6.15pm - the earliest I have ever left work on a Tuesday evening - I had a complete mare trying to get there.

I have to travel options. I can go from Angel (the closest station to my work) and take two tubes to Finchley Road, or I can take a bus to Highbury and Islington and then take the overground to Finchley Road and Frognal (the closest station to the JW3 centre). I normally take option two. Both options take around the same amount of time, however option two is slightly cheaper because option one travels into zone one.

Anyway, so I decided to take option two as I normally do, only what a mistake that was! What I didn't take into account, was that last Tuesday Arsenal were playing at home in the Champions League! Which brings complete chaos to the whole of the Angel and Islington area. I therefore spent longer on a bus travelling up a road it would have been quicker walking up and then spend around 20 minutes simply trying to get into Highbury and Islington station. Therefore by the time I finally got onto a train I was already late and by the time I got to the JW3 centre it was already after 7.15pm!

So I burst into the room at around 7.20pm, sweaty and stressed out; to find everyone partnered up and the assessment already underway. Fortunately I wasn't too late, they had just started. However, it wasn't exactly the best preparation - it only added to my nerves - but I partnered up with our instructor - which was probably a blessing in disguise - and I spent the next hour putting in everything I had in an attempt to make up for being late.


And I passed! Here's my certificate (printed before I took the assessment *wink* haha):



I'm really chuffed to have passed my first grading. I think it was fairly easy to pass, it will no doubt get a little harder as we move up. However, I spoke to the examiner briefly at the end of our assessment and although there are a couple of things that I can work on, all in all I did an ok job. And so now I'm working towards my P2.

Wish me luck! :)




Monday, 21 September 2015

Oyster

I recently found myself in Dublin. Not the kind of, I woke up with a banging headache and no idea how I got there, found myself in Dublin. More the kind of, I had a few days off work and went to Dublin with my girlfriend, kind of found myself in Dublin.

I liked Dublin. I wouldn't say I loved Dublin. Not the way that I have loved other cities, such as Copenhagen, Krakow or Split, but I had a great time and I would highly recommend a visit (just not as much as a trip to Copenhagen haha).

While we were there, we found this lovely little seafood restaurant called KLAW.



KLAW is the "cheeky love child" of Dublin Lobster and is a cool, cosy little place with wonderful food and great service, that is aimed at "bringing' crabshack dining to the city". I couldn't possibly recommend KLAW strongly enough. If you're in Dublin and you enjoy seafood, then it is an absolute must! When we there, we ordered the seafood platter to share between the two of us.

I think that seafood has to be by far and away my favourite type food. I love prawns and lobster, crab, whitebait, salmon, octopus and probably my outright favourite: calamari. If calamari is on the menu, then it's absolutely pointless asking me what I'm having for my starter. I don't even see the other options.

Despite my love of seafood, there was however, something that up until that weekend in Dublin, I had never tried and if I'm being honest, had never really planned on trying. But this is the Year31Project and seeing as I have eaten Kangaroo, Jellied Eels and and even a Caterpillar, then it was probably about time, that I got around to eating my first ever oyster.

And although it wasn't something I planned to do or even really chose to do. The platter we ordered came with lobster, crab, prawns and four big oysters. So, what better chance was I going to have. It was time to try an oyster for the first time.

So here goes! Here's a little video of me eating my first ever oyster. (It really shouldn't haven't have taken me until I was nearly 32 haha):

video


So as you can maybe make out form the video, it was alright. A lot better than I thought but then I was almost expecting it to be as bad as the Jellied Eels. But it wasn't, it was actually fairly pleasant. And although the second one - Liliana didn't want any, so I had all four haha - got stuck at the back of my mouth for a moment and made me feel a little bit sick for a second. And although I'm not sure I would purposely order them again. They were quite nice and I would happily eat them again. I'm just not sure I would knowingly pay for the pleasure.

Happy eating or
HAPPY SLURPING!


Ps. You can read more about my trip to Dublin and my other trips including Lisbon and Croatia on my travel blog: aroundtheworldin80mugs.co.uk (if you so wanted).

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Carnival

Held each August Bank Holiday since 1966, the Notting Hill Carnival is the largest festival celebration of its kind in Europe.



In the time that I have been living in London there have been SEVEN Notting Hill Carnivals and I have been to... yes you guessed it, NONE... Not one!

I've always wanted to go. Even before I moved to London, I wanted to go but for one reason or another it has never been possible. I've been trying to think back to when I first moved to London at the end of August 2009. There is a chance that I was in London at the time of the carnival? However, having just moved to the big smoke of from the sticks of North Wales, I didn't know anyone in London at that time and so I wouldn't have had anybody to go with. There is also a good chance that I was out of London over that particular weekend, collecting more stuff from home and saying goodbye to family and friends. 

I'm not completely sure what the truth is about 2009. However, every year that I have lived in London since, up until this year, I have always been out of London at the end of August. But finally, this year that was all about to change. This August Bank Holiday Monday I was actually in London. However, unfortunately, although I was here in London, I wasn't completely free to enjoy all of the joys of carnival. 

Even though it was Bank Holiday Monday, still the end of August and the children throughout London wouldn't be back in school for a week, I was, for some unknown reason, still expected to be at work. Which of course was a tad ridiculous. How could I be expected to teach my swimming lessons, when most of my students were still sunning themselves in foreign climes?

But back to the matter at hand. CARNIVAL! It was the Notting Hill Carnival and I was finally in London.!So me and my lovely girlfriend Liliana dressed up in our sparkliest carnival outfits wellies and waterproofs - because although it was raining quite heavily, there was no way we were going to let the weather dampen our spirits  - and jumped the tube to Notting Hill.



And despite the fairly substantial rainfall, there were a hell of a lot of people out and about. Upon arriving, we found a huge sea of umbrellas, stretching as far as the eye could see (and thanks to the undulating roads of Notting Hill, they could see quite far):



But people couldn't care less about the weather. I mean, I'm sure people would have been having even more fun, if the sun had be blazing down upon us but people weren't about to let a little rain spoil their fun. 

There was music and people dancing at every turn and of course the big, bright and wonderful parade winding it's way slowly through the streets: 




Of the very little I saw of the Carnival, it was brilliant! I saw a little of the parade, had a little - slightly self-conscious boogie in the streets - and enjoyed some wonderful jerk chicken:



But unfortunately because I had to run off, to sit bored by a swimming pool, dreaming of being at the carnival all evening. I wasn't there when it really starts to come to life and so I still feel as though I haven't been to the Notting Hill Carnival. 

It was fairly busy while I was there but it was only just starting to warm up. As I was leaving the crowds of young people arriving was bigger than ever:



I'm not sure how well you can tell from this grainy, black and white picture? But that is a lot of Red Stripe supping youths arriving!

For the short time I was there I had a great time, but having to shoot off mid afternoon meant that I missed all the evening fun. I definitely got the feeling that the real fun starts as the sun starts to go down? Therefore, although I had a fun time and would highly recommend checking out the carnival next year if you get the chance. I say it while feeling like a bit of a fraud. 

I have now finally been to the Notting Hill Carnival but through no fault of the rain, it was all a bit of a washout. Maybe next year?!

Happy Bank Holiday everyone! :)





Monday, 24 August 2015

Swim to an island

Earlier this month I spent 10 days exploring Croatia, including spending 7 amazing days on the magical island of Vis. A relatively small island - around 7 miles long and maybe 4 or 5 miles wide - and is very quiet and not too touristy. In fact the place is like a little piece of heaven on earth. Here are a couple of photographs to help me try and prove my point:





Point proved right? 

While I'm here I'm mostly interested in relaxing, swimming and writing. But I also want to explore the island as much as I can and seeing how small it is and that I am here for a week, with the help of my borrowed bike: 



I should be able to see a good percentage of it. 

There is plenty to see and do on Vis. Fort George. The green cave. Blue cave. Disused submarine base ( the island as a long military history) etc etc. For somewhere that isn't particularly very touristy there really is a lot to do here. You can read all about my time on Vis in more detail HERE.

While I was there I also wanted to do a couple of things for the Year31Project. The first of which, my visit to a nudist beach for the first time, you can read all about HERE.

Now if you know me, you will most probably know that it was my dream, still is my dream and for as long as I haven't achieved it, it will always be my dream to swim the English Channel. By which I mean to swim the 21 miles of open sea that separates England and France. I have always wanted to do it, ever since I was six years of age and first realised that it was possible. I came fairly close to attempting it last year and the plan is to do it next year or the year after (depending how long it takes to save/raise the money required). 

So upon booking my holiday this year there was something that I wanted to do. I wanted to complete a swimming challenge. I wanted to swim to an island. Originally that was going to be in France but here I am in Croatia which has lots of islands - big and small - off it's coast.

Now as I write this I am currently on this amazing island. (As I edit it I am on a gruelling 15hr journey by ferry and then coach and as I post it I am in grey London wishing I was back on that magical island). However, I did not swim to it. In fact it took some 2.5 hours to travel here by ferry, so no I didn't swim here haha. However, having googled the island before flying out to Croatia, I already knew beforehand, that very close to Vis there are several much smaller islands. Including this one:




This is the island of Otocic Host, which is a tiny little island with a single house on it. A house that sleeps five people, which I know because you can actually rent it. I know where I'm staying next time I'm here (I will most definitely be back at some point). 

As you can probably tell from the above picture, the island is incredibly close to Vis. I'm not very good at estimating distances but upon seeing it for the first time, I'd have to say that it was probably no more more than around 200m away. 

So I find the island on the first day - at least I can see it, even if I'm not so sure how to get to it - but it's late and so I leave it until the second day before I go in search of how to get down to a good place to make my swim from. Sadly I fail miserably, getting stuck up a hill in the middle of nowhere, where I sit, watch the water, write poetry, eat strawberries - that I bought in a shop unfortunately - and decide to give up on the idea of swimming to an island for the day.

The next day I go off in search of a Nudsit Beach (which again you can and should read about HERE). And as I find the beach I'm looking for, I also realised that I am just around the corner from the island. So once I've done the whole strip down to my birthday suit thing, I popped my swimming shorts back on and followed the path around to where I find the perfect vantage point:



When I get there, there's no one around and no boats seem to be in the area either. So I prop up my camera - otherwise known as my iPhone 5c - using a rock, set it to time lapse and off I go. I don't worry too much about about my phone being taken. There doesn't seem to be much crime on Vis - I didn't have a lock for the bike I was using, I just left it wherever and nothing ever happened. Also the owner of the apartment I rented just told me to simply leave the key in the back of the door when I left - and I was right next to the nudist beach and so if there were any thieves around, they wouldn't have any pockets anyway haha. So I leave my phone on record, put my snorkel mask on and off I go. Now the swim goes... well swimmingly. There is a problem however, but it's not with the swim itself. The only problem is with my camera; at some point during the swim it decide to stop recording. Initially I thought it was due to lack of memory but that wasn't the problem. Instead I think that because my phone was "inactive" - surely it shouldn't happen when it's recording something? - the phone closed just a minute or so into my swim.

Which was really annoying because I did it! I made it to the island. It was really quite easy. It must have only been around 200m as I thought and so it took just 8mins 40secs to go there, do a little victory dance, jumping up and down, wave my hands above my head etc in the hope of being picked up on the camera and swim back again:



Of course it had stopped filming way before any of that.

But I did it. I swam to an island. Mission accomplished!

HAPPY SWIMMING :)

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Nudist beach

I've never put sun cream on my bits before. Funnily enough I've never known the need to. That was until a few days ago and once I'd done it, I knew there was no backing out of my plan now. Otherwise it would have been a completely pointless exercise and one I would only have to do all over again tomorrow - which I'd rather not do, it's a bit too sticky and sweaty to want to do again - because I had made my mind up that I was definitely going to do this.

In Croatia - continental Europe in general - people seem to be a lot more comfortable with their bodies and with showing them off (at least that's how it seems?). Let me give you an example of what I mean. I went on a boat trip to see some caves and the female tourists painted an interesting image. Firstly, I saw a group of young (what I believed to be) Croatian girls who were all dressed in and only in what were best described as (nearly) thong bikinis. Then there was a group of (what I believed to be) Japanese tourists, who were all in long sleeves. Some wore cardigans, some wind breakers and one woman wore just the sleeves which were elasticated at the top where they met her t-shirt, like a pair of long socks meeting a knee length skirt. Now I'm now sure why they wore long sleeves - in 30+ heat - and I think it probably had more to do with protection from the sun and wind than modesty? But either way, I think it helps to explain what I'm trying to say. Croatian people in general don't seem shy to show off their bodies.

In principle I totally agree! Why should they be? I mean, lots of them have very nice bodies - they seem to be quite a fit and active nation as a whole - and all the girls seem to have impossibly long, slim, flawless legs. But even if they didn't. It's only a body right! We all have one. Some more aesthetically pleasing than others but we all have the same parts in pretty much the same places. So what's there to be embarrassed about?

But that's only how I feel in theory. In practice I feel completely different. Like most of the people I know, I don't like my body. I won't go into the ins and outs of what I do and don't like about it but let's just say that I like my eyebrows and I have a fondness for the mole at the back of my left calf haha. But seriously, I'm not very comfortable with being naked in front of people, at least anyone who isn't my girlfriend. It's also ok in the changing room where I work as a swimming teacher because that's everyday and so somehow seems normal.

I don't know why being naked in front of other people naked makes me feel so uncomfortable. Maybe it's because I'm British, or something to do with my family, my upbringing, my personality or... I've run out of options, I think it must be one of those haha. So I'm not sure why it is but I've always been shy about stripping down. As a child and even now as an adult, I feel awkward about taking my top off. Part of that is because I don't exactly have pecks and a six pack, but even if I did, I highly doubt I'd be one of those guys walking round without a shirt on a hot day. Not least because I'm fair skinned and therefore burn very easily haha. But mostly because I just wouldn't feel comfortable.

Therefore going to a nudist beach:



definitely represents something of a challenge for me. It was definitely going to be something that would take me out of my comfort zone.

So much so, even though I knew that there were a number of nudist beaches on Vis - some very close to the apartment I was staying at - it took me until day 4 of my week long stay on Vis, for me to build up the nerve required for this simple, yet very daunting challenge.

For those of you who are worried that you're about to see naked pictures of me, don't panic the liberation wasn't that drastic haha. Instead here's a picture of my clothes, which doesn't really prove anything but I promise those were the ones that I was wearing haha. I even went as far as taking off my sunglasses, watch and the bracket thing I wear - I seem to be having a hard time coming to terms with the fact that I wear jewellery haha - in order to be completely at one with nature:




And for those few of you who might have been hoping to see naked pictures of me, thank you, (arrogantly assuming that there might be one or two) I'm flattered but I'm afraid that's not going to happen. However, here's a (rather awful) no filter, no makeup selfie taken on the nudist beach which hints at me at least being shirtless haha:




So no photographic evidence but I did it! I got naked on a beach. It was really weird. Luckily there weren't many people around. I don't know how well I would have coped if it had been a big busy beach. Instead it was basically a group of rocks by the waters edge. You could practically pick your own secluded little spot. I only saw two other people while I was there. Or maybe that should be, only two other people saw me while I was there.

To sum up my experience, I would simply use the word: awkward! I've no doubt that a lot of people find the experience liberating and freeing. I can understand that but that's not how I felt! The actual act of being naked outdoors, of feeling the breeze on my balls haha was a nice feeling. And I think that the world would probably be a lot nicer place if we were all a bit more at ease with our bodies and with being naked in front of each other. But we're not - at least the majority of us don't seem to be? - and I'm certainly not. Therefore the thought that people would see me naked - even if they were strangers who I would never see again and who were also naked - made me feel very uncomfortable.

So I only stayed at the nudist beach for all of about fifteen minutes before putting my shorts back on and heading off to complete another challenge for the Year31project. Swim to an Island. Which I will be posting about soon. But I did it! I visited a nudist beach and got naked in front of other people. OK so the place was basically deserted and I didn't stay very long. But it was quite difficult for me and I did it. I got naked on a beach. Yay for me... I think?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Sneak into an event

I have been doing a number of things for this blog recently that I have been planned. I have also been working on a number of things that I have written about in previous blog posts like: Learn a Martial Art and Learn a Language. However, the last couple posts - plus this one - have been about more opportunistic events.

Now I'm not the kind of person that always takes advantage of the opportunities that come my way. Often something presents itself and I think and think and think and hesitate and then I either decide against doing it or it simply becomes too late and the opportunity has passed me by.

And the thing is that I don't necessarily condone these opportunistic events. I love street art but I don't support everyone going into the street and vandalising walls outside their ex's flat for example: (Graffiti). Even when it has a great outcome (Graffiti an update). I think that everyone - unless the food is really bad - should pay for their meals:(Leave a restaurant without paying). And of course I'm not condoning and wouldn't want to encourage people into criminal acts like shoplifting: (Shoplifting). I also wouldn't suggest that what happened in Victoria Park (?) a couple of weeks back was acceptable behaviour). But sometimes something happens and if you're pretty sure that your decision might help you but isn't going to negatively effect anyone else, well then on those occasions I would say go for it. Why not? 


So that is why from time to time I will write about opportunistic events like the events of Sunday afternoon. I will be talking about these things because as fun as planned adventures are, the most fun you can have, the times when the adrenaline really starts rushing - not that I'm actually chasing the adrenaline rush - is when you do things that scare you, that make you feel alive. Also it stops the 'what if' scenario which can easily drive you mad.

So let me tell you about Sunday: 
On Sunday it was the Walthamstow Garden Party:



an outdoor music and arts event in Lloyd Park which is at the back of the William Morris Gallery:



If you haven't been to the William Morris Gallery is "the only public museum dedicated to England's best known and most versatile designer". It really is a fascinating place and it has a beautiful garden out the back too. 


Now this blog post was nearly called: get kicked out of somewhere. However, I remembered that once, many moons ago when I still drank, I was asked to leave and was even barred from my local pub over an argument - which grew from a huge misunderstanding and a joke that I was a lawyer - with the new landlord over whether or not you were allowed to dance in said local pub. An argument which somehow ended with me going home with the landlords chef pants haha.

So instead I have named it sneak into an event. Although as you will find out there was absolutely nothing stealth like about my entry into the Walthamstow Garden Party. 

Lloyd Park is just a 5 minute walk from my house and some of my friends had gone - as we had also done last year -  and I had planned to meet them in there after work. Now if you need to know anything about the Walthamstow Garden Party, you need to know that it is a free event. However, by the time I arrived at around 3.10pm on a very warm and sunny Sunday afternoon, the place was so busy that as I approached the front of an enormous but fast moving queue, some moron decided that they had reached capacity and were now operating a one in one out policy. Not that they felt it necessary to inform the several hundred people waiting patiently in the queue.

So I waited for around 10 minutes before deciding that it was completely pointless waiting any longer and that I had two options. I could go home or I could attempt to sneak in. Now normally I would take option one. I would text my friends to say that I couldn't get in and that I would see them soon. However, today I decided, no, I'm not going to do that. Today I'm going to sneak in. Well except as I mentioned earlier, maybe sneak isn't the right word? Sneak would infer some sort of stealth haha.

No there was absolutely nothing sneaky or stealth like about my entrance and I'm not completely sure why decided on the course of action I took? Maybe the act was inspired by the rebel on my t-shirt?



And the action inspired by my lack of criminal activity or military training? (or possibly also by the mercurial Frenchman too?) Whatever the reason, I just though fuck it and ceasing my opportunity - when the two police officers had left and the one security guard that I could see had turned his back - I jumped up on the back of this bicycle attached the the railings and hopped over the fence. 



And this was when I made my crucial mistake. I thought I was in. I thought no one had seen me jump the fence. So I started to walk. I thought: act normal, don't act suspiciously. However, what I probably should have done was run! If I had have ran off into the crowd, there is no way they would have been able to find me. In fact I doubt that they would have even bothered to try. And so even though I took " affirmative action" and attempted to "sneak" in, I still arrived at the what if moment haha.

What happen was that as I was casually walking past the gallery towards the park - whistling like in a black and white film - I heard someone shouting towards me and then a security guard came over and blocked my path. Now if I know anything about security staff, there are only two precursors to the job. You have to be both aggressive and a moron. Now obviously that's a joke - mostly - I know from person experience that some security staff are very nice and very reasonable. Lots of others however are idiots. The ones at the Walthamstow Garden Party were of the idiot variety. Although that said, I suppose they were only trying doing their job - to the strict letter of the "law" with no flexibility - and I was the one in the wrong.

Our interaction went a bit like this:
Security guard one stops me and asks me to leave.
I basically refused.
He goes on about me jumping over the fence and thinking that no one had seen me.
I ask him what the big deal is. That I just want to go and meet my friends. I got a bit bored of waiting etc. 
He tells me that any decent person would have asked if they could come in.
I tell him that it would have been pointless asking because he would have said no (and he completely would have said no and probably taken some joy from the fact too!).
He tells me that that might not have been the case.
So I say: ok, say I would have asked you if I could come in, what would you have said?
To which his answer was: well you'll never know now because you didn't ask you jumped over the fence.
What an absolute prick! I'm sorry, I almost never swear on here but seriously what an arsehole. That has to be one of the most irritating things anyone has ever said to me.
Luckily I didn't react at the time. 

Then long story short(ish) - after doing my best to talk them into letting me stay and failing, including a conversation about whether they are or are not allowed to physically remove me haha. Apparently they can because although it is a public place is was a private event? And another about whether they could actually know whether they were over capacity or not. No way did they click in and out every single person! - I was (non) physically removed from the event. They were pretty reasonable about this though. I thought I would be barred from entry but they told me that I could still come, just in as long as I rejoined the queue.

However, back outside - even though plenty of people had gone out - nobody had gone in. The queue was completely motionless and so queuing up seemed utterly pointless. I therefore decide to go back home, disappointed that I didn't get in but pretty happy that I had at least tried. Because although I don't ever want to be the person who pushes in at the front of queues or keeps the lost phone he finds on the bus etc. At the end of the day, with what I did I had nothing to lose by trying? Plus neither it I upset or disrupt anybody else. Well except for the security guys, but that's their job right? So no I didn't get in but neither would I have done so if I'd stood in the queue watching people coming out but nobody going in.

So slightly defeated but happy I'd tried I head home, a 5 mins walk from the venue, where I lay down and attempted to catch up on some of the sleep I missed over the previous few nights. Unfortunately something I found completely impossible, due to the racket coming from the event I unsuccessfully attempted to "sneak" into.


ps. as I was walking home I had a conversation in my head with the security guy - we all do that right? - after remembering and actually thinking for a moment about what he meant by the comment "any decent person". The cheeky git! Ok yeah I pushed in front of a few people by jumping over a fence into a FREE event but decent person! What exactly does he know about me? He knows nothing about my life or work. He knows nothing about my daily life. Nothing at all about how far I do or don't go out of my way to help other people. Whether I stand up for pregnant or old people on the tube, whether I give to charity or to homeless people on the street. For example. Yes we are judged upon our actions but one action does not determine whether you are a good person or not. We as people and as a society are a little more complicated than that Mr Idiot man :)



Thursday, 2 July 2015

Take my bike on the London Underground

You're not allowed to take a bike on the London Underground... right?

Well in fact you're actually allowed to take your bike on more of the underground than you might be aware of. Here's a map that tells you the different parts of the network that you can and cannot take a bike onto: (https://tfl.gov.uk/cdn/static/cms/documents/bicycle-tube-map.pdf)



However (unsurprisingly) the Victoria line is not one of the sections that you can take your bike on! Not unless you have one of those new fangled, slightly naff - please insert your own more up to date word to replace naff - fold up bikes.

However, sometimes life faces you with a problem, it forces your hand and you have no other choice but to be a rebel with a cause!

This my bike - Black Beauty:


This picture doesn't do her justice. She is the most beautiful bike in London, I promise!


Now I love my bike - that is not in doubt - but I have recently come to the conclusion that buying my bike was simultaneously the best and worst purchase I have ever made.


BEST because...

  • like I said, I love my bike. It is exactly the bike that I wanted. It is the adult version of the Peugeot Racer I had as a 7/8 year old child. It is the style of bike that I watched my hero - one of many - Miguel Indurain ride in Le Tour De France in the early to mid 90's. 
  • I was so excited when I saw her for sale that I just had to buy her, even if I couldn't really afford to. 
  • I "knew" that I would soon make the money back because every time I rode her I would be saving money by not using my Oyster card. 
No she may not be the most practical or comfortable bike in London - just the prettiest - but I love riding my bike to work. Especially on sunny - but not too sunny - days.
  • Riding her gives me great sense of freedom. I love to feel the wind in my hair and the sweat trickling down my back as I race to work pretending to be Miguel Indurain or Bradley Wiggins - another huge hero of mine - as I battle my way to the top of Col Du Tourmalet. 
London is really quite flat but there is one good climb on my cycle to work.


WORST because...
  • well like I said, she's not practical or particularly comfortable to ride. 
  • Riding in London is very dangerous. I stay away from big, busy roads as much as I can but still, we all see the news. 
  • She was overly expensive for what I got - a bike with a list of problems. 
and most importantly because... well let me tell you about the week I've had. (Bike issues that don't even make up 5% of the "bad luck" that I have suffered since buying this bike.)


So a few weeks ago now I got a puncture. Another in a long frustrating line of punctures. At which point I abandoned my bike at work and forgot all about cycling for a while. But then I got paid and the weather started getting better and so I decided that it was finally time that I got around to sorting it out.

So I spend a bunch of money to fix my bike and to also make it generally better, safer, more comfortable.

I buy:
  •  two inner tubes. One to fix the flat and one to carry with me as a spare.
  • new metal tyre irons after I instantly snapped the terrible plastic ones that came with the last puncture repair kit and then spent a year or more using broken ones. 
  • a new puncture repair kit after I practically wasted the whole of the last one attempting to fix a single tyre.
  • a new, much better pump after the last one was lost/stolen.
  • a new rear light after the last one was simply rubbish.

Then a few days ago I go into work early to fix the flat. So I take off the wheel, take off the tyre, take out the inner tube and then, and only then do I realise that I have bought the wrong size replacement inner tube! Which would be annoying anyway but is even more so for the fact that I purposely kept the box of the last one I bought in order to avoid doing this. So did the shop near work sell me the wrong size when I took my bike in last time I got a flat? Has that been a problem in the past because I have had an insane amount of puncture since getting my bike and although some have been easily explained; rode over broken glass etc others I have filed away in a metaphorical folder title the X-Files.

So the next day - anyone who knows me will no that's a lie. I'm definitely not that organised- I send the unused inner tubes back to the famous online cycling store and go to a shop - not the one where I originally received the wrong size tubes - on the way into work and finally get the right inner tube. Now while I'm there they offer me 3 for 2 - which turns out to be a much more important decision than it seemed at the time - but I decide against it as I have a spare coming in the post as an exchange for one of the wrong ones I bought online. I don't need to spend even more money and they're a lot cheaper online so I'll just get the one for now.

So I go to work and finally fix the flat on my dusty old bike and after work I cycle to my tutoring job which is about a 20-30 minute cycle away. And I get there ok - if a little late due to the fact that having thought I knew the way I hadn't taken into account that a lot of the roads I wanted to take we're all one way and not in my favour - I do my job and I cycle home.

Except I don't cycle home. Instead I get around half of the way home and low and behold I get yet another puncture!



And I instantly assume that I must have put the inner tube in incorrectly, except it's not the same tyre! This time it's the rear and previously it was the front wheel. What on earth is going on! It seems that any time that I go over the slightest bump on of my tyres instantly deflates.

So I stop and attempt to pump the tyre back up in the vain hope that this is all it needs. Obviously it doesn't work and so I spend the next 20-30mins attempting to patch the inner tube.






Longer than it probably would have taken me to cycle home. But luckily it's a nice enough evening:



So it takes awhile but I'm not in a big rush to get anywhere, just home to eat and so eventually I do it. I pump it up. It seems ok. And off I head, homeward bound once again. Except of course 2mins down the road and it's flat as a pancake again. That's it there is no more I can do. I could spend another 20-30mims patching another hole - or as it turns out, fixing the first bodged job - but I've run out of patience.

Luckily I'm a short walk from Finsbury Park so I can get home but I have a decision to make. There are three options.


  • Lock my bike up, get the tube home and hope that my bike is still there tomorrow when I will go back to rescue and fix it?
  • Take the bike back home with me. But how? From Finsbury Park I could take a train to Moorgate and then walk from there to Liverpool Street, where I can get another train to Walthamstow. I'm pretty sure I can take my bike on those trains but that would probably take as long as me attempting to walk my bike all the way back home. No I can't be bothered with that!
  • Or I can rebel against the system. Just say fuck it and hope for the best. 
Obviously - or not so obviously because I was definitely really quite nervous, almost as much as when I attempted shoplifting - I went for this option. I took my bike home from Finsbury Park to Walthamstow on the Victoria line. Something I knew I wasn't allowed to do, but at that point I really didn't care.

So I walk my bike down to the platform - unfortunately there are no picture or video evidence, I was too preoccupied - and even though it's off peak, I'm fully expecting to get stopped at any moment. But i don't and after "enjoying" a heart attack inducing 2min wait I finally board the train to Walthamstow. A train no one is getting me off until I reach my destination. Where I walk my bike off the train, up the escalator and through the ticket barrier like there is nothing working with what I am doing. Through the ticket hall and up the 100 or so (probably around 30) steps up into the bus station and then home. Where it now sits with it's flat tyre:



For the foreseeable future. Until I can find out what the issue is because surely at this point it goes past bad luck and bits of glass. I think - I hope not - but I think I might have to splash out on new rims!

And so that's the story of the day I took my bike on the London Underground like a rebel with a cause.

If you're a cyclist, I hope you have better luck with your bike than I do with mine
& HAPPY CYCLING :)