Tuesday, 21 December 2010

"C'mon love, show us your binge!" said Jeremy Cunt, the Hulture Secretary

Tis the season to get merry, far-la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!

hello travellers and happy solstice. It's the official start of winter but the days get longer from here on in! The run up to Xmas and that can mean only one thing. Shocking office parties, karaoke, and much drunken shenanigans that really put the Osama BIN Laden in BINge drinking.

According to the Drink Aware website 500 people a week (over 25000 per year) are admitted to hospital with acute alcohol poisoning and 30% of all A&E admissions are linked to binge drinking, although they do declare that binge drinking is more than 3 pints of beer for a man, so these figures could be horribly exaggerated. However, having been out a few times this festive season (working both sides of the bar), I could suggest its not surprising so many people go a little overboard at this time of year. It's hard not to when (a) January is a boring detox city and (b) when it's dark by 3:30pm.

Anyway in a salute to all this gross alcohol related indulgence I have put together a list of the top ten drinking games (that I have played) of yesteryear, and possibly even today for your amusement:

1. Edward Ciderhands - a simple game in which someone ties a bottle of cider (usually 2 litres) to each of your hands. If you spill any you get a beating and you cannot, for obvious reasons, go to the toilet until both bottles are empty. BINGE FACTOR - 10 (out of 10)

2. Centurion - simple - a 25ml shot every minute for 100 minutes - unless you want to experience death I would advise beer. This works out at 8.8 pints at 5.28 pints per hour!

3. Test Match - 2 rows of 11 men sit in cricket whites, the umpire keeps the score on a blackboard at the end of the tables, and there is a bucket in the middle of the table for collecting sick. Each man stands in turn and scores 10 runs drinking a half pint at his own leisure or 50 runs for necking it in one, 20 points for a leisure pint and 100 for necking in one go. You are out if you spill a drop or you are sick. You can retire hurt at any time but this counts as being out and you cannot return to the game later. The umpire notes all these things. Last man standing is Man of the Match and the team with the highest runs wins the Test Match.

4. Pub Golf - 18 PAR 3 holes (pubs). You visit each hole, take a photo outside and buy a half inside. If you drink it in 1 sip, you are 2 under par for the hole and mark it on scorecard, in 3 sips you are level par, 5 sips you are 2 over and so on. The man with the lowest score (36 under is the lowest - that's a hole in one every time for 18 pubs) wins! 9 pints in approx 9 hours = 1 per hour. BINGE FACTOR - 8

5. Frisbee Challenge - Turn an Ultimate frisbee upside down and pour in 3 pints (trust me it holds it!) - then find a friend and 2 straws and sup your way to victory against a stopwatch. Quickest time wins! (1.5 pints in 30 seconds each = 3 pints a minute!) BINGE FACTOR - 10

6. Roxanne - Put the 3 minute pop song Roxanne by The Police on the stereo. Line up in teams on both sides of the table and sit. Each time the word Roxanne comes on, one side stands and drinks, then each time the words Put on the red light come on, the other side stands and drinks. Continue until the end of the song! BINGE FACTOR - 7

7. Film Drinking - Two favourites for which you will need a crate of beers: Withnail & I where you simply drink whenever you see a character drink and Pulp Fiction where you drink every time someone swears. Ouch! BINGE FACTOR - 9

8. Never have I ever - A simple game where one person states a fact: for example; 'Never have I ever kissed a priest!' Those who have kissed a priest in their life must then drink. This is a fun game that can get bitchy depeneding on who you play with and how well you know them and their propensity for vendettas. BINGE FACTOR - 6

9. Flaming Arseholes - This is old skool. Rope up a long length of toilet paper. Stick one end up your arse. Stick the other end up someone else's arse, then get someone to light the middle of the paper so it goes up in flames and spreads towards the arses, shout 'Go' and neck your drink before you are allowed to remove the paper from your ringpiece. Like the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, you'll be surprised how fast you can move when the heat is on!
BINGE FACTOR - 5 if done once, but the sheer danger alone can push this up to a 8

10. Soggy Biscuits - a bizarre ritual honed by public rugby playing school boys, where they place a pile of biscuits in the middle of the floor, stand around it in a ring, neck a pint and then wank over the biscuits. Last one to come eats the biscuits! Us working/middle class realists would settle for a dirty pint or a top shelf lager (a shot of every spirit on the top shelf topped up with beer). BINGE FACTOR - 2, WEIRD FACTOR - 10

And one for luck:
11. A Gallon of Milk - This is not booze related and thus has no BINGE FACTOR, but it is nonetheless grim and like most of the above should not be tried at home. Simply drink a Gallon (or 4 Litre / 8 pints) jug of milk. Do not stop until you are sick - The End!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone and try not to get your Binge out for the lads....unless it is absolutely necessary!

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Another Fine mEss

Did you hear recently about those French passengers who were diverted without warning on a RYANAIR (NO! Shock horror!) flight from Fez to Beauvois thus landing in Liege, Belgium (350km away)? Apparently once landed they said it was 'well foggy innit!'

I'm sure for the French waiting to get home from Morocco, landing in Liege, was the equivalent of a Londoner back from Malaga being diverted to Hull or somewhere 225 miles away that wasn't 'home' at 11:30 at night! Once again you get what you pay for!

Rather than join the other caged animals on put-on buses that were due to drive through the night, one of the four planes' passengers staged a sit-in. What did they get?

The toilets locked and the lights switched off for four hours until they finally complied. You got alove the French refusing to get out of a plane for fear of Belgium! But what of the disgraceful Ryanair, just another notch on the belt of an airline heading towards the realms of propaganda spouting fascism!

Rather than just saying 'They were French, what do you expect!' a spokesman for the airline added: "The passengers were unreasonable and refused to follow advice which would have allowed them to complete their journey!"

Well, I'm English and I don't understand the announcements. How is a Frenchman supposed to understand a Bulgarian speaking English I hear you ask?

The best bit though is that when they left the protesters to it, the pilot left the cockpit door open. How brilliant it would have been if some disgruntled Beauvoisite had handed their child to the nearest decent looking human and just ran into the cockpit and fired her up!

Let's hope we get some more pro-activism in the wake of quite successful and much appreciated anti-fees marches by the students! I'm sure with all the bad weather and shite public services and transport this is just the beginning!

Au Revoir et a bientot mon amis!

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Arrested by Everest

Man, I get home (finally - its good to be back!) and I see that all my Himalaya efforts were in vain. I have been outdone by loads of people! Firstly, the 13 (yes THIRTEEN) year old American lad Jordan Romero conquered the summit of Everest (not sure what proof they have other than his mum said he called and said he was up there (now if that's not the best excuse to cut school ever made!). But considering he has now climbed 6 of the world's highest peaks...
Africa - Kilimanjaro: 2006
Europe - Elbrus: 2007
South America - Aconcagua: 2007
North America - Denali: 2008
Oceania - Carstensz Pyramid: 2009
Everest - Asia: 2010
...and now only needs to climb the Vinson Massif on Antarctica to have climbed in every continent, it kind of makes what I did pail into insignificance. Also on Saturday, Nepali climber Apa Sherpa, 50, climbed Everest for the 20th time, surpassing his own record and Ms Bonita Norris, 22, from Berkshire became the youngest British woman ever to reach the summit on 17 May 2010.
Then to top things off there is the man dubbed the 'human polar bear', who swam a 1km glacial lake under Everest. Had he gone too quick he would have hyperventialted and drowned, but too slowly he would have died of hypothermia - good luck fella! - http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/8699359.stm
I suppose I can feel a bit better by Josh Lewsey's failed attempt to make the summit, but boy you gotta feel sorry for the ex-world cup winner. Just 150m from the top and his breathing apparatus failed and he had a race against time to get down the mountain, passing dead climbers from 2 days previously and wanting nothing more than a 'deadly' sit down! Hard luck Josh!
Oh well, i am proud of my efforts all the same and I managed to raise (so far) £1200 for charidee so that's cool. Now I have to plan next year's trip...hmm, where to go and what to do?

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Lhasa to Kathmandu: The Hellish Road to Heaven

Oh shit, oh shit, oh shit! When is this volcano going to stop chucking ash up into the sky? Check the media, check the airline website, hanging on the telephone and - nothing! Still it fumes. As if Iceland hasn't caused enough problems what with the banks and all that! Anyway so here is where the story begins - Monday April 19th - my flight from heathrow terminal 4 has been canceled and I spend the next two days pacing the flat and fretting I will never get to go on this life changing trip.

The Sky News reports and all sorts made it see that getting back to the UK was harder, but that flight delays could stretch to a week. When I hadn't heard back from Etihad, I made a decision - Laura asked me if I would pay an extra 500 quid to go on the trip. I said yes, and as I wasn't sure how long the backlog would be I went onto opodo.co.uk and booked the smae flight but leaving on Friday 23rd - the last date I could get to Kathmandu in order to get my tibet visa sorted.

Within 12 hours of booking (not sure I am now valid for a refund) Etihad called me and said they could get me on a flight on the 21st, which I had to take - I was going spare by this point. I could have taken the refund and stuck with my Friday flight but then what if the cloud came back? I bit the bullet and accepted and on Wed 21st in the evening, Mum came ovr and picked me up and drove me and Laura to the airport. Terminal 4 wasn't nearly as packed or manic as you would imagine and I was checked in within 10 minutes. Then Laura bought me a farewell dinner at the Weatherspoons and then I said goodbye and was emotionally off through security.

Etihad is a great airline and the comfort and entertainment was top notch. Even when the girl behind passed out in the aisle the staff were impeccable in getting her back to consciousness again. We landed in Abu Dhabi and my arse hurt from the seams of my boxer shorts - not a good sign with an impending 1100km ride looming.

Spending 6 hours in Abu Dhabi airport was not my idea of fun. It was so sterile and commercial and money orientated and I was glad when my connecting flight finally took off and I got the hell out of the desert. The Arabs in all white with prayer beads are worth watching for ten minutes and the cleaners who literally sweep after you like some demented monks. And no you can keep your $17 duty free 50+ Nivea Sun cream thank you and no i don't want the chance to win an oil rich Ferrari sports car either, but it would appear I was alone on that one as the $20 tickets cramming the transparent lottery box in front of the Bulgari and Starovsky diamond shops was overflowing! I sat next to a quite cute 23 year old Nepali student, who was studying water preservation in Cyprus. Her passport in true Asian style said she was 30! She took photos of us and the guy in the row behind for no reason other than to be friendly in that weird way only Asians can, but we had a bit of a chinwag anyway which made the journey pass. Finally we landed in Kthmandu and the airport hjasn't changed in 7 years. What has changed I was told is that the population has gone up from 700,000 to 2.8 million in just 8 years, a result of a change in coalition government and the abolishment of the royal family and the unofficial inertia of the Maoists forcing people from rural areas into kathmandu Valley for protection.

So the first thing I noticed, after the obligatory taxi and money change men in the airport, was the huge numbers of people and traffic and it seemed more like India than the Nepal I remembered from 2003. The faces as well, from dark as Bangladeshis on Brick Lane, to Chinese and Tibetan eyes and everything inbetween - really great! Mohan the tour guide picked me up on the evening of 22nd and dropped me at the Hotel De L'Annapurna, one of the best hotels in the city. I felt a bit alone as everyone else had arrived for the trip earlier in the day and flown straight to Lhasa, the capital of Tibet. I was awaiting only the arrival of Matthew Westby, a lad from Sheffield who was due on Saturday, the day before we were off to Lhasa.

After a decent night's sleep I had a swim in the pool and abig breakfast and my guts started playing havoc with me straight away - not sure if that was the food or the 33 degree heat? On the way into Thamel, the main central tourist area of the city, I came across Mohan's office as I wanted to clear up a few things and hassle him into doing the sightseeing tour for the following day, which he kept a bit quiet about. As I was the only person there I wanted to maximise my time the best I could. Then Mohan hit me with the bad news, even though i had missed two days of the tour already and would miss the first 100 of the 1100km of the ride because me and Matt would have to acclimatise in Lhasa (3700m above sea level) for 1.5 days before riding. Thus we had to get a change of flight, a seperate transfer to Lhasa from airport and then an early transfer to lake Yamdrak to meet up with the others in the group and start riding from the 3rd day onwards - this cost an extra $400 on top of the $2000 (inc guide tips) I expected to pay. Ouch and what a start! Possibly 500 quid down on a flight (hopefully I can convince them to give me credit otherwise i won't use opodo again) and $400 down on tour charges. I met Biplove for the evening and it was great catching up over a few beers - his wife only gave birth to his daughter 6 weeks ago - and reminiscing about the last time I was here and what can happen in 7 years! I rolled home drunkon the back of his 350cc Enfield Bullet and was glad I left a slice of pizza in the mini bar fridge which I devoured before falling asleep.

I was assigned a tour guide on the 24th April and he took me to Bhoda, the buddhist stupa in the valley. it was fascinating seeing the prayer wheels and people walking around clockwise and all the prayer flags, door hangings and Tibetan influences. I was cajoled into buying a piece of art from a student at one of the monasteries and then we headed for bhaktapur and some Hindu temples, where like Varanasi in India, they burn they bodies of the deceased at the side of the river and then send the ashes downstream towards the Ganges. Quite harsh - there was also an old people's home there for people over 60 without family that Mother Teresa helped to found. It was very sad to see - almost like a leper colony - with decrepid and disabled oldies everywhere. There was also a Cornea Excision centre which took the eyes out of any donors before they went to the river funeral pyres. The river was filthy and polluted with sewage and rubbish and that was as sad as the old folks. Finally the guide took me for lunch near Darbar Square, Patan (the famous old Palace Square) which is 80 % buddhist area. I spent an hour looking through the museum and its garden before heading back into town past a student and political rally, also past the statue of the first woman to climb Everest on 22 April 1993 - Pasang Llama Sherpa - who tragically died in an avalanche on the descent.

It had been so hot that I felt a beat of sunstroke and jumped into the swimming pool to do ten lengths before the sun fell, then I finished reading my Bill Hicks biography and then Matthew Westby arrived to share my room. A nice 26 year old lad from Sheffield, a tall, gangly journo for the 36p Hull Daily Mail, who had brought his bike from the UK and was hoping Wednesday would avoid relegation on the final day with a home win against Palarse. Being a typical tight-fisted northerner Matt was also unhappy about the extra charges we incurred but we re-assured each other that this truly would be the experience of a lifetime and whacked the credit card out!
We showered (not together) and went out with Mohan to a restaurant called Utsav, a Nepali cultural programme. We had a few beers and some rice wine and a masive Thali meal. the culture was provided by dancers doing nationwide folk dances accompanied by musicians. Towards the end came Mohan's home town and then at the very end they invited the restaurant up to dance with them and I just copied all the hip and hand movements of the best looking girl dancer and laughed my way painfully through the embarrasment as she smilingly encouraged me as i went for White tubby Bollywood idol fame. Matt looked just as awkward. We waved goodnight to Mohan and went back to the hotel at about 10 o'clock.

Mohan met us in reception at 7.30am the next day and I left a bag of stuff in left luggage to try to lighten my load a bit! Then we were whisked off to the airport. Matt had to pay an excess baggage fee which we were not told about so again the griping began, but it was just the lack of communication. Later we found out annie benyon, a Welsh lady who had to cancel due to the volcano had to pay $1600 anyway to make up the group money. It would be interesting to know after paying staff and accomodation costs what the true profit was for each paying customer.

Our Air China flight took off at 10:45am on time and it was a bumpy turbulent flight all the way. Matt and I were amazed by the distance of the Himalayas as we flew - they seemed so close and the were, only about 5000 feet below and to the side of us, alot closer than any flight over the alps. For the first time we were daunted - we had to cross those bad boys on nothing but a bike with our own measly legs and determined minds as fuel. We landed in Lhasa about an hour later but it at 2pm local time (2 hours 15 mins ahead, like the whole of China). To pay homage to our arrival my guts decided to play up and before we had even cleared customs I was pebbledashing the bog, one of very few western toilets to come (mainly squatters) - a very sterile and clean Chinese airport which i was not expecting come the state of Kathmandu. We cleared customs with no problems handing in part one of our two part tourist visa, although our passports were not stamped which I was a bit gutted about.

Because we were two days behind the group, we were assigned a stand in guide called Jigme, a 24 year old farmer's son who lived 65km from Lhasa, the same distance as the airport from the city, which seemed a bit strange considering how flat, dusty and arid it all was on the plateau. We were given the option of being driven to meet the group straight away and thus not lose as much of the 100km+ that we would lose, but acclimatisation (3700m) was very important and both me and Matt felt it straightaway. He got knackered out just assembling his bike, which after all that had been damaged in transit when it had been dragged along the floor, ripping a hole in the bike bag and grinding down a couple of cogs in the process, he also had a few problems with the fluid in his rear hydraulic brakes over the next two weeks, but it would only cost him half a day's cycling, so he was lucky in a way! I on the other hand went on the search for a bike. The streets were very Chinese and grid-like and not a patch on the old Tibetan quarter which was much more like you would expect, lined with market stalls and live animals and vegetables of all types and people with face masks on and dead Yak meat on boards, not that i know how anything can grow including animals in this arid climate. After a dinner of Yak steak, I truly had the Brad Pitts and was scared i would go through my whole allocation of immodium before the end fo the trip. I ran out of water and wandered the hotel (like The Shining) and the deserted streets at 4am, insomnia brought on by the dry air and the altitude and time moves very slowly here.

Next day, I had to forgo all of the sightseeing but the Potala Palace, which was incredibly detailed and was home to the Dalai lamas from 5 to 14 of the past until 1959 when the 'revolution' happened and the current one (14) exiled to Dharamsala, India, although outside the Palace Jigme forbid us from talking about any of it saying we could be arrested as the Chinese flag waved above our heads from the main square flagpoles - very militant. I managed to find a bike shop and had to settle for a Giant ATX 680 17" frame (at home I ride a 19") as they are quite small people here. It had 21 Shimano gears, front suspension and a decent seat. She added a water bottle bracket, a lock, 2 inner tubes and a helmet for $320 - I have been told I can sell it in Kathmandu for half that, which means it will have cost in effect $10 a day to rent. I could maybe have got her down to $300 but i could not be arsed and was just happy to have sorted out the problem. Now I was ready to go! We had an amazing dinner in the old town local - 70p for a bok choi noodle soup which was delicious and then went back to the hotel for we had to get up at 5am to catch up the group 100km up the road (another price to pay we would only complete 1000 of the 1100km, though no ones fault still gutting!).

Packed ready for the early start and was eating boiled eggs by 4.30am, only the road by five. We climbed a 25km 1000m climb towards the end of the ride that looked brutal but beautiful and was rewarded with the Tobetan prayer flags of the first pass and the equally exciting downhill section down to the campsite by the shores of jade green Lake Yamdrak at 4500m.

We waved goodbye to Jigme and hello to Marty, who had a wispy Chinese style beard on the go and looked really happy. Over the next two weeks we would bond and have fun and share some pain and he would tell me how he had really fallen for this place Yang Shuo in Guylin, China where he had been for the past 3 months and he wants to go back to rock climb and teach english and just live for real cheap - he knows an English guy there that pays 50 quid a month for a 3 bedroom house. We met the guides, Lhaba (29, who we later found out was a not very good last minute replacement for the regular guy who had a family issue), the ever reliable Calden (29). Then there was a beefy musclebound 'granddad' cook who looked mid 30s, Shiva (30) and friend who helped with everything, 2 drivers whose names were never discovered, one who smoked alot, one who slept whenever he could. On top of this was Calden's cousin Dawar, 20, a young virgin Sherpa who competed in cross country mountain biking events - a very nice lad and very helpful - he was just using this and the altitude as a training exercise and will do another one in September, although he mucked in especially helping put up tents and at dinner times serving.

The rest of the group was dominated by a bunch of Canadians, who under guide Scotty, operating out of Toronto - made up nine of the fifteen. Another interesting thing was that only Linda (22) was below 50 years of age, not that it mattered such was their fitness and zest for life. There was Brian, a glacier-trekking fitness freak of a 50 year old from Vancouver with a Santa beard. Norm, Chuck Norris' elder lawyer brother from Edmonton, Mike and Martha, a newly dating cycling mad 50 something couple form Calgary with kids from previous unsuccessful marriages, Literature teacher Jay (Martha's brother, Toronto), Frank, a half Italian (the bottom half!) loud mouth nice guy, deadly Doug, a quiet guy with mad blue staring eyes who got sick pretty badly and had to sit a few days out in the truck, as did others. Then there was ex-pommie doctor Roger, a very witty camp guy who would make outrageous statements and speak too fast almost apologising for a comment before he had fully finished it - he had lived in Invercargill, New Zealand for 20 years and had two daughters 'that I know of!' The 2 Americans that made up the group were Magdalena, a Mexican who had lived in Houston, Texas for 32 years but whose English seemed to diminish with each day of her arduous trip (she was unable to do almost any uphill, which meant she spent the longest of anyone in the truck). There was also Mary Ann, a 63 year old 4th generation air to the Pepsi-Cola corporation, who spends her time as a fitness instructor between Sarasota, Florida and Tucson, Arizona where her son, 30, lives and manages the South West region of the company. It must be noted that when she flew out to join the trip she brought 15kg of chocolate with her (about as much as my bike weighs!) and seemed to eat very little else which was a little worrying considering how anorexic she looked. That made up our strange but intriguing group of mad cyclists.

Day 3 - 27 April: After an omelette on toast, we cycled into a headwind for about 70km, rising up about 250m and camped at the valley before the Karo Pass, where Marty and I went for a climb to explore a glacier and lake up a mountain that would not have looked out of place on Mars. After dinner, it got so cold under a full moon that I nearly froze to death in my tent (my 1 degree sleeping bag not nearly good enough for the minus 15 degrees it got to!) as a blizzard set in. I did not sleep a wink and was texting my brother for gossip and football results just to keep myself sane in the cold. By 7am and a wake up call by Shiva with a cup of tea, I had filled a 1.5 litre bottle with yellow piss and my water bottle had frozen solid, the thermometer on Marty's bike read -12 still. Climbing out stiff as a board with several layers on it took an hour for my fingers and toes to warm up. Calden said it could get colder at Rongbuk monastery (5150m up and 10km from Everest base camp) and to buy a decent blanket when we get to Shigatse.

Day 4 - 28 April: The first climb after breakfast was 8km long into a headwind, climbing up 260m so we breached 5000m for the first time. We were rewarded with a great downhill to the base of the 5560m glacier Kharoa and some locals from the huts were there to greet us. Most of the kids are cute and filthy, but alot of them beg and 'Hello, money! Hello, money!' isn't the best thing you could hear. The day continued with a few more 200m climbs and downhills to match (one of which i took too wide and clattered into a metal barrier and Linda did a 200 degree flip and landed on her collarbone- oops!), before a flat and welcome 30km ride into the 4000m town of Gyantse for a night in a dusty hotel, although far better than I had imagined with electricity and windows and decent bathrooms it is a treat to have a shower and a dump without squatting in the toilet tent or behind a rock. The road was tarmacked 2 years ago (one good thing the Chinese have brought to Tibet!) and it is a joy to ride on - I actually believed we would be on crushed gravel the whole way which (as I learned later on the off road sections to and from Everest, would have made the trip far more tricky!).
I had to do a dump immediately and when i came back all the room keys had gone. This is something that should have been organised before and where Lhaba's poor English, lack of communication and organisation were found wanting. Eventually Marty agreed to share Doug's room and I slipped in with Matt. Before dinner we went to an internet cafe and I was astounded to see the Chinese have annexed youtube and facebook. Had one of many to come Yak yoghurts - 20p from all good retailers - and got ready for dinner. This is where things got interesting. Marty, used to eating for very cheap in China, said me, him, Matt and Linda should go to a local place while the group was going witht the guides to a tourist place. In the end we reluctantly agreed as we didn't want to cause friction or division in rank so early in the tour, but it was a grievous error.
You know when you see Tibetan, nepali, Chinese, italian, and chips on the same menu that they will do all of them averagely and it wasn't that which got Marty and mine's blood boiling. It was the fact we had to wait 90 minutes, most people had eaten and were leaving, but when our 'lamb dopiaza' arrived it was terrible. Rancid butter on the naan and tough as old boots mutton in the curry, I changed mine for chicken chow mein after calden stopped me leaving but Marty chucked his money in and left for a more local cheap place, furious. Linda didn't help matters by eating all of the rejected food and then saying she was so full (while I was still waiting for something edible) and then claiming that I just wasn't used to it as it wasn't westernized - fuck off! How patronising is that to an open-minded man that has eaten in 60 countries around the world? To be honest though, other than talking in a very distinct way and often at great length when a simple answer would suffice, Linda did nothing else to annoy me the whole trip. Ate after 9pm, threw my money (a fiver) down on the table and walked out to my room. It was the first of probably 3 times that I pissed Calden off and for which I would later apologise. Lhaba was no doubt at the Gyantse whorehouse, a place he admitted freely that he visited saying it was as necessary as food. A nice guy, but he couldn't organise a piss up in a brewery (i was gonna say get laid in a brothel, but he knew how to do that alright) when he was there so he often just left it to Calden to take responsibility, which considering Calden (and Dawar) was the only guide who cycled with us, was pretty unfair.

Day 5 - 29 April:
Got about 4 hours sleep last night - a marked improvement and the Brad Pitts seem to have finally cleared up now, which is a blessing. Enjoyed a rather random but welcome egg, chips and beans breakfast before an eventful 90km flat ride on the bike. I opted for the cycle shorts as the sun was pretty hot today, but I got 2 rather painful burns. One on the back of the calf, the other a fruit salad line across my (riding commando) bell end - gutted! The ride was so flat that 90km felt like nothing and we arrived in Shigatse in plenty of time, although Matt's brakes finally started to give him a bit of grief. We saw some sheep leaping across the road, some Yaks pulling an old fashioned plough and an Eagle, although all the other wildlife seems to be the same dusty sandy colour as the landscape so its hard to see when you're going past at 25kph. In the afternoon, before Lhaba's '20 quid massage appointment' (how does he afford it?) we went to Theushun Po Monastery, a kind of little winding village into the mountain at the far end of town. This was as good as Potala palace, not as regal or large, but a grewat opportunities to take photos of people and the Buddhist monks as they walked around. As we were leaving, an elder monk in front of us stopped in the cobbled street, fiddled with his robes and then a jet of urine splashed out the bottom. We passed by giggling to ourselves. On the way back into town i managed to buy an ex-army surplus blanket for 4 quid (40 Yuan) and we giot caught in a sandstorm tornado that threw and twisted cardboard boxes and things hundreds of feet into the air. Marty caught it on video and its mad - I could feel the sand and grit in my teeth after it had subsided. Overjoyed by our day and another hotel with porcelain, we decided to eat dinner at Dico's (a Chinese KFC). Marty and I ate 2 burgers and a fries each and then shared a bucket of chicken too in our greed, but hey if you can't treat yourself at 4000 metres above sea level (which is meant to diminish your appetite -yeah not when you are burning 5000 calories a day!) then when can you!
Before going to bed i had an ice cream and a bath (a god damn bath!) and Marty decided to play a trick on Matt (in the next room). He called him up pretending to be a Chinaman speaking Engrish from leception, saying to please hurry downstairs where 'bicycle is bloken!' Ten minutes later there was a knock on the door and our laughter had just died down when Matt came back to berate us. he was a good sport about it but i think we cursed him for in the morning his brakes had ceased to exist and unless he could fix it in Shigatse this would affect his deserved enjoyment of any downhill sections which would be far too dangerous without brakes.

Day 6 - 30 April:
At my 30th birthday breakfast, I was greeted with pleasantries and well-wishes from the group and Mary Ann told me that if I was her son she would be proud of me which was nice! An awesome 100km ride into a headwind was ahead of us though, so i couldn't rest on my laurels for too long. There was a few ups and downs but mainly another rolling day where we only ascended 200 metres and camped in a sheep grazing area (that means like ten metres square of mossy green outcrop) with a stream next to the Gyachung Monastery (4100m) and cattle bones everywhere in a desert/moon/mars landscape where you can't believe anyone lives. I was so tired after today and a bit emotional when I called mum and she choked a bit saying dad would be proud. To date I have raised 1200 quid for Cancer Research UK and this alone will keep me going. I want to be one of the five (out of 15) who never rode in the truck and am just gutted that I missed the first 100km because i know I could do that too and hopefully doesn't invalidate my claim too much! Spoke to Laura too which was really nice and will probably be a huge part of my UK phone bill (at least 200 quid - ouch!) and got lots of good wishes and textsa from people which I tried to reply to all. Had a wash in the shower tent and set up my new blanket and bags in my tent to make it nice and cosy (glad I don't have to share with anyone else) and then shovelled home another carb-fueled dinner (pasta, rotis, chapattis, rice and chips), but right at the end Calden presented me with a beer and a birthday cake with Happy Birthday 2010 TOM on it. I was shocked and had to wait for the lotus flower candle to open before it did an electronic version of happy birthday with mini Top Gun-esque afterburners - pretty cool! I miss alot of things about home right now but that was a nice touch and i went to bed happy and actually slept well under the most amazing stars (definetly in the top ten) i have ever seen and thankfully wasn't cold at all.

Day 7 - 1 May:
Today we covered 67km with no lunch, twelve of which was a gruelling uphill into a head wind over the Yulong Pass (4520m) and the remainder of which was down and flat into the town of Lhatse, where we camped beside a stream and some farmland at 3860m. We had some more time to kill so played a few rounds of (cards) shithead, sunbathed as the weather was good listening to Johnny cash and then Linda, Marty, Matt and I went for a cool off in the cold glacial stream. I chatted to Mike about the ride he does from Calgary to Austin Texas every year to meet up with Lance Armstrong's ride for cancer. They ride in 4 groups of five riders (6 hour shifts, 24 hours a day) with ambulance, support crew and vehicles to get the next team in position. Pretty impressive and Mike talked about a peloton which into this headwind could yet be a fantastic idea, although i like the idea of Me, Matt, Marty and Dowar as we tend to ride at the same kind of pace (that is when Dawar isn't picking up his bike on shoulders and running up the mountainside cutting out the sweeping bends for training!). I really can't see any weight coming off me and maybe the energy and protein powders and the mental need for routine aren't helping. Oh well, its not the end of the world, although I had planned on going home a bit of a specimen! Before dinner, we saw a cattle herder picking up stones and slipping them into a sling, which he would rotate around his head cowboy style then fling the rock 20m and it hit his yak in the bum. This way he shifted him to wherever he wanted to go, amazing!

Day 8 - 2 May:
Today was a brutally tough day which started off in the worst possible fashion, climbing a continuous 21km up to the Lakpa Pass (5248m), where the sight of the prayer flags could not come soon enough for anyone. After it was slightly down and then rolling flats through Sierra Nevada type desert, except this time we got a first glimpse of Quomolonga (Everest) and some of the higher 8000m mountain peaks of the Himalaya. It kicked off a bit at lunch, because not for the first time the support truck had left someone massively behind (Magda had already been found almost crying with a loose slipped chain one day). This time it was Marty who still refusing to take off his jeans had the mantra of marathon not a sprint and never was this more evident than today when he arrived nearly 30 minutes after the rest of the group. Scotty, who took it on himself to be a spokesperson for all, told Lhaba he wasn't happy for anyone to be left that far behind the truck in case altitude sickness or fatigue set in, let alone any flat tyres or problems with the bike where said person may need help. We did have a 40km ride down into town but it was still into a headwind and despite the refuelling soup and carbs at lunch, i was pretty exhausted and sweaty. Dawar helped massively in a 3 man peloton blocking the wind so we could almost streamlined off his back wheel without expending so much energy - the Sherpa legend! So we arrived into the the town of Shegar (another wild west one horse town) in Dingri province, close to Quomolonga national park for our last night in a hotel for 5 nights. We decided to pay our cooks 50 yuan (5 quid) each to use the hotel kitchen facilities and they didn't disappoint, making an amazing chicken curry and aloo gobi dal bhat and apple pie and custard dessert which was most appreciated by all and highlighted what a decent effort they made in a camp tent with a gas cylinder each night. The kids here were especially dirty and inquisitive, playing with our bikes and asking for money. I had a bath and then watched Anchorman on Marty's laptop and was in bed by 11pm reading and listening to music, glad i hadn't the need to crack open my can of emergency oxygen yet (probably like Spaceballs' Perri-Air).

Day 9 - 3 May:
Still a week to go and so far (touch wood) my arse is holding out and I feel good. Yesterday was hard but today could be harder as we leave the Lhasa-Kathmandu highway and head on the energy sapping steep rocky off-road to EBC. First we had to climb 1100m over 25km, which we managed arriving at lunch exzhausted and low on air. Marty really did off-road large sections of this sweeping 42 switchbacks by carrying / pushing his bike up the sides of mountains to gain distance advantages. Although it looked as hard at lunch it was i who looked more tired (probably the hardest thing i have ever done) and thank god for the MP3 player music that got me through). in fact he said he felt rested as he had used different muscles whereas for the first time the lactic acid poured into my calves and quads and i felt truly drained. I did the one foot wide offroad downhill trail for 10 minutes before frank and I decided to get back on the road. i was sure I was going to plummet off the hillside and didn't have enbough faith in my brakes. Also it was cold on the way down and I had no grip from my all weather mittens, so while Marty careered down the hill helmetless and in jeans like a maniac, I got back on the bumpy road and by the end could barely straighten my hands out i was holding on so tight. 25km later we arrived to our camping spot in the Rongbuk Valley 1000m lower at 4200m and I was spent - thew physical first half and the mental concentration needed for the downhill had made it a truly hard day in awkward terrain. I finished my Bill Hicks book which was excellent and inspiring and gave it to Marty with a pair of cycle shorts and jersey I know I will never see him wear. I am on Lord of the Flies now which I hope to have down by Sri Lanka so I can start my third book. After a starchy carb-filled dinner, I read some LOTF and was asleep exhausted by 10pm, glad tomorrow was meant to be an easy day.

Day 10 - 4 May (May the forth be with you on this, Star Wars day!):
Today was billed (another problem Mohan needs to be made aware of on the less than accurate itinerary) as an easy 35km ride to Rongbuk monastery. Calden said there would be some uphill but we should make it in plenty of time. Now mentally I clearly hadn't prepared myself as in fact it was another 1000m climb to an altitude we would have to stay at for a day and a half - 5200m - to Rongbuk Monastery and our rest day at EBC 10km away. Firstly it turned out the 35km was in fact 47km on some of the worst bolder strewn arse wrenching roads imaginable. Marty and i counted the km markers but couldn't go more than 2km without stopping such was the lack of air and pooor quality of road. To add to this - again the truck was nowhere to be seen and when it finally came back i had a massive go at Lhaba for leaving us stranded with no water or energy left. He chucked us an apple and a juice carton and said it was 2km more - in fact we later found out it was 7km further and it was these little infuriating mind games that made him unpopular, not per se his actual character. We got a view/photos of Everest 10km away as we climbed over Everest bridge and past the Rongbuk monastery, a weird 'Shining' hotel and a few yaks and pigeons? (yes identical to London ones!) and into camp. I fell to the floor so tired I thought I was going to puke. It took me 30 minutes and a bowl of soup to regain my composure and then I set my tent up and wore two to three layers all over my body as the snow began falling. This was what it was all about and I felt truly tired and exposed for the first time, glad we had a day off. Magda and Mary Ann got altitude sick right away and had to be taken down to Tingri where we would arrive in 2 days. We all crashed trying to keep warm after dinner.

Day 11 - 5 May:
Man, the snow abounded and the visibility was poor. We got to a tented camp 4km from Base Camp through a gravel moonscape and one tent declared itself Hotel De california (you can check out any time you like, butr you can never leave seemed strange but true of this place). With so much time to think and so little air you can become quite calm and philosophical up here, but that changed when Doug sent a postcard from the highest post office in the known world. I asked him where he got it and he said Lhaba gave them all to Scotty (why didn't he hand them around - lazy fucker!). Turns out it was a China pre-paid mountainscape postcard which they stamp EBC before posting. If yu want it to go outside China its an extra 10 yuan (a quid). Of course Scotty had them all inn his tent - 6km back - ruddy nice one and the post office wasn't open late enough or early enough the next day to make it back, evenb if we got one of the many buses that chucked dirt and dust up into the air. We could still send one but at our own cost (9 quid). Suffice to say (especially as I have no China stamp in my passport) me and Marty were pissed off! To make matters worse after 4 more kilometres - a hard walk at such altitude - we came to the border post and the fecking Chinese military would not let me take my Cancer Research UK banner in. So I did something i regret but that suited my mood I pulled out my Union Jack bandana and let it flutter in the wind as Linda took a photo. next thing i thought I was going to be shot by firing squad as I was surrounded and frogmarched back to the tent, my flag confiscated and the photo deleted from my camera. RThis made me so mad i wanted to write FREE TIBET on my arse cheeks and take a photo of that but they wouldn't let me back up for half an hour when Lhaba finally got the message and came back to escort me. The funny thing was i was actually wearing an England beanie but because the dickheads can't read that was deemed fine. Also if I had just taken it to the brow of the hill I was out of view and could have done what I liked. After travelling so far it was an underwhelming end as we couldn't see the world's highest peak for the weather. I took a FEW PHOTOS WITH IMAGINARY banners and QPR scarf etc which I may be able to photoshop later, but in the end I was happy to pay 2.50 to get the bus back to the tents and let off some steam by having a few beers and a couple games of cards (man how I wish i had brought my chess set, theres no way I couldn't sleep after a hard game of that!) in the dung heated lounge of The Shining Hotel Bar. Linda and Marty seemed to be getting on well and i thought it was just A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE they were shagging each other, but for one reason or other best not spoken about this never materialised.

Day 12 - 6 May:
General Election today ended with a minority win for the tories but a hung parliament as not enough majority to take power. Gordon Brown resigns and Nick Clegg agrees a coalition a few days later that means the Lib Dems will be partly in power with the conservatives and hopefully they can sway them on certain issues and stop them from being a bunch of get the rich richer and fuck the poor bunch of cunts that they already are! That's the hope anyway!

Snow cleared overnight and we were treated to another decent view of Everest (if only it had been like this yesterday). We cleaned up camp and before we set off it had been agreed that the bikes would be taken by truck the 70km (800m down) to Tingri because of the state of the road. Now it was mainly flat and downhill, but very dangerous and 30 km longer than on the way up, and so we spent 4 hours in the truck crushed like sardines as Martha literally commented on EVERYTHING! and asking hypothetical question after hypothetical question until my head span - what is it about woman of a certain post-menopause age? What happens to their inner monologue, does that dissolve too? Mike got a bit motion sick on the bumpy railingless cliff ride down and I'm sure it annoyed the poor guy too. Still I was glad we were in the truck as BOTH knees (left anterior side of left knee and knee cap of right) are now shot!

We arrived and had a late packed lunch in Tingri (4350m), which compared to what we have had was poor. We drove up to the hot springs which were dirty and a bit of a joke, which sucked as we were looking forward to a good soak, so instead i took my shower gel and me and Marty went and washed in the river which wasn't ideal, a dead dog lying a few feet away, but did the job despite being a few degrees colder than the other river we swam in. It was like getting brainfreeze all over your body and it took your breath (and bolx - retracted like a Sumo wrestler) away. We spent an hour skimming flat stones on the water and we were now clean and dust free as the sun set and dinner was all the more enjoyable because of it. Had a few 50p (650ml) beers in the landowners hut and learnt that it was common for a woman to marry 2 brothers and to run the show. Tried some Yak butter tea, which was as disgusting as it sounds and went to bed with my book.

Day 13 - 7 May: Only me, Norm, Marty, Brian and Roger have not been (other than yesterday of course) in the truck yet - that's a third (5 of 15), although i will have only cycled 1000km and them 1100km by the end. Still proud though.
Today we left Tingri and after breakfast cycled 50km of rolling land into a headwind (again!) before lunch. then there was another 20km uphill climb of 700m over the LaLung Pass (5000m), the last significant pass of the tour. That was hard after 2 days off rubbing our sore legs and I very much enjoyed the steep 5km cold downhill into the valley between LaLung and Cross Thang pass after where we saw a Goldhawk perched on a rocky outcrop and Marty went seriously off road again as i stuck to the trusty tarmac all the way down to our final campsite, which looked like it was surrounded by massive sand dunes like the Soussevlei in Namibia. We camped here at 4300m and this was one of the warmer nights as the wind changed and was blocked by the massive rock dune behind us. Here i wrote limericks for everyone in the group that no one seemed interesting in hearing and a quiz that no one seemed interested in partaking - cheers guys!

Day 14 - 8 May:
Getting a bit tired of the group now and need some solitude. Rose 800m up to Thang Pass over 13km (5050m) and nnow this was officially the pat on the back all down hill from here according to the itinerary (or was it?). At the top we were surrounded by peaks including the Shishapangma range 8012m and makalu at 8463. I got quite emotional at the top pumping the legs , the music getting me through and I waited for Matt (who has taken 1 shit in 5 daysd) and Marty for high fives at the top before wrapping up for the downhill (2700m) which would be long and cold. We started to hear birds again and see trees and maybe the lack of life and air up high was why the time seemed to pass so slowly. As we flew the final 10km into the border town of Zhang Mu we were in the clouds and visibility was 6 metres as we traversed through the jungle and the pouring rain - the first for 2 weeks or more. We had an excellent dinner after showering and trying in vain to dry out our gear and then Linda, Marty and me went to a nightclub where a midget was the central dance focus and a smoke machine chucked thick dung smoke out intop the air which was cut by lasers as the songs alternated between the 9 or 10 they had on the jukebox and everyone practiced their moves. Meanwhile Lhaba was off somewhere paying 200 Yuan for a fuck in one of the mainly red lighted brothels in this remarkable town with one long zig zagging street and full of nepali trucks ready to go home over the border at the Friendship bridge tomorrow.

Day 15 - 9 May: It was nice to be down from altitude and in a town again (the most Chinese yet - according to Marty) and most of all wake up after a decent nights sleep in a real hotel bed. Dumped a few items of clothing and off we set for the border, another 8km of fun downhill in no rain with monkeys scarpering in the trees above the hairpin bends this time. We were 2 hours at the border before we got let through and I still forgot to ask for A cHINA stamp - idiot!- but as Nepal is 2 hours 15 behind we didn't in effect lose any time and boy am I glad, because we would need it all to go the 100km to Dhulikel, even if 80% of it was downhill in 35 degree heat. best morning so far as 50km stright down to an excellent Dal Bhat lunch at about 500m, then we climbed steadily for a few hours and rolling way until late in the afternoon, we had a 13km (more like 20km on past experience) steep ride up to Dhukilel Lodge Resort at 1600m. My knees gave in properly 30km from Dhulikel and the heat was so intense I had to borrow a cap from Brian. Also i had to put plasters on my nips before the final climb as they were rubbing so bad. This was the last time me and Marty (now way back) saw the truck with not enough water or snacks as linda powered on ahead and we hadn't been given instructions upon reaching Dhulikel, by which time it was almost 7pm and getting dark. We took a left at the T junction (should have gone right) absolutely at the point of exhaustion and i lost it when we couldn't see Calden (first we hadn't been mentally prepared for the post-lunch difficulty not amde an easier by my knees) and second where was Calden or Dawar to meet the two people at the back. What if we had collapsed or got a puncture as it got dark? Anyway this kind but mad local with sharop teeth and jamjar glasses called O-Jays told us the resort was owned by his uncle and so we followed him another 2km (him running us cycling). In no uncertain terms Marty said we would duff him over if he was taking us to a different hotel and that's exactly what happened. Marty pushged him in the flowerbed and I nearly had to hold him bACK FROM punching the retards face in. the owner came back and apologised on his behalf and we headed bACK INTO TOWN AND TOOK the other way. Over the brow of one final hill and their stood Dawar - a sight for sore eyes (but why not at the sodding junction). We rolled down the hill and collapsed in the hotel lobby with a coke tired beyond belief and pissed off we'd been left again my knees throbbing like a bad headache. We were going to go into town as dinner was $10 buffet plus 23% tax and service charge, but in the end Marty offered to pay and we all stayed. Matt was sick but managed to eat and take a second dump in 8 days so he started to feel better and having missed a bit of today with no energy would be able to ride into Kathmandu with the crazy traffic and hold his head up high with everyone else.

Except at dinner we learnt that all the canadians and roger except Linda were staying so only 6 of us would ride tomorrow. It suited me fine and sort of summed up the differennces (not only iun age but mentality) of the two sets within the group. I still had plans to do my quiz and the limericks but fuck 'em - they could have them by email and make of them what they would. Not really bothered to keep in touch now anyway - I don't want to share my photos and i am not interested in theirs - i want mine because I took them - that's the whole point and with Dave Browne it was a mission to get and sort out all the ones from Peru 2 years ago - and not really worth it if I am honest. Besides i want to retain copyright and maybe try frame and sell some at portobello market this summer!

We had some weed tea with marijuana we picked at the side of the road and i left Linda and Marty to it as i thought they were going to do the bad thing, so i went off to call laura and was in bed by 1am.

Day 16 - 10 May:
I can't believe this is it! A 35km down and flat ride into Kathmandu and after selling my bike for $140 to the hotel owner (Calden would bring it back in the truck when he came back for the Canadians), i nearly crashed as i took a downhill corner too wide and scraped the side of an oncoming bus at 20mph - oops! My heart pounded like a bitch and i was 6 inches from doom, but other than 2 near fatal crashes and one chain slip, my bike has treated me well and it was nice not to have to worry about finding a buyer for my bike in kathmandu so I could sleep easy tonight. Took a photo of me holding the bike up in front of the hotel I left 15 days ago and checked in. Went for a swim and (forgive me) a bargain bucket at KFC and made sure I was packed and ready for my afternoon flight to Sri Lanka after a midday check out tomorrow. Then we went out to Rum Doodle Bar for dinner and ate a Buffalo steak and chips and said hello to Biplove. Then we went to Sam's bar and got horrendously drunk on margharitas and shots of rum. By the time I smoked a joint in Marty's room I was a goner and stumbled into bed knowing I would feel absolutely awful come morning.

This was the Road to heaven and a once in a lifetime experience, but my god was it hard in places and some might even say hellish! Cheers and see you on the other side! x Tom

Friday, 26 March 2010

Why I love Ireland part I: the community leisure centre

Sorry its been a while since blogs, but between work, social life and training I guess I got lazy in between. Anyhow, I am in middle Ireland on holiday and I forgot my bog snorkelling gear. In fact funnily enough (after last episodes lambasting) I couldn't afford to put them on my Ryanair flight over here, which was as miserable and annoying as ever!

Ireland is a great place. It still retains about 33.3% more mysticism than England and even on our open top bus ride in Dublin yesterday the voiceover declared that if I chased a leprichaun (a pixie cobbler) to the end of a rainbow, all my dreams would come true! Well I had a few opportunities, what with the rain/sun/rain weather, but everytime I just couldn't keep up with his low centre of gravity, his knowledge of the landscape and his little revolving legs. It was like trying to keep up with Sonia O'Sullivan in Richmond Park after 5 pints of the black stuff and a sandwich Mrs Doyle and Scooby Doo would've been proud of!

But what I love most about Ireland is the warm-hearted nature of its people. If they can do something to help you, they generally will, which makes a nice change from London, where if you use more than 49% of the air in a lift shared with one other person, you'll get a polite elbow in the ribs or a smarmy comment. All of the following may seem negative, but I really do think they convey a positive society overall.

The generous nature of Irish people can be seen in any leisure centre and without naming names I went to a very hospitable one in Middle Ireland the other day.

As I walked in, there was a Royal Rumble of kids wrestling in the unisex changing rooms trying to be controlled by 2 or 3 female teachers, which took me back to the good old simple days. The patience of those women! - 'Miss, Connor has locked the door!' shouted one.
'Miss I think I'm going to be.....BLLLLLLLUUUUUURRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH!' sicked up another into the communal washbasins.
LIAM's been sick, Liam's been sick everyone! etc etc. It was like a mini-person medical war drama like MASH or Catch 22.

Anyway, after finally finding a locker where the wristband key wasn't broken, I slipped in for a quick shower only to read the following sign: These showers are communal, for the health of others please keep your clothes on!

Doesn't that just whisk you back to the old stringent days where Catholicism taught you to believe your body was dirty! I just couldn't stop grinning, thinking about some slightly mad bloke (like Father Jack) scrubbing his spuds in the communal showers and whistling away - how are ya?

Into the pool and it was all a bit Mr Bean, but in a funny way. There was a wide pool, 25m in length but only two lanes (fast and slow) were marked out and they were very narrow. Had Grant and Phil Mitchell been swimming opposite ways the would have jammed in the middle! Forgetting my goggles just made every length an eye stingingly close colision with whoever was ploughing down the other side. It was crying out for a middle lane.

To make matters funnier the slow lane was so slow as to be laughable and the fast lane so quick you had to time each length perfectly as not to upset anyone. Thankfully it wasn't too busy, but the space in the open side of the pool for general swimming was another 4 lanes wide and there were 3 people in it, one being the spit of Roy Keane! This didn't stop Mr Novice from jumping into the fast lane and firstly swimming the wrong way around (admittedly this was confusing as the slow lane was clockwise and the fast anti-clockwise) and then secondly turning around halfway down the pool for the return 'length'.

At every length's end, an old man would tell me an opinion on something or other and was lacing into the eejit (Mr Novice) in the red cap and it was like he was waiting for me to return from the other end at times. I was almost swimming 3 lengths to his one and he really got het up when Mr Novice jumped into the slow lane and ploughed tediously half way down the wrong way before turning around and ruining everyone else's rhythm.

During a rest period I asked the old man if he had a spare pair of goggles as my eyes were very sore and all the lights ringed with sloppy rainbows (where were the leprichauns now?). He replied that I had to swim anti-clockwise in my lane. I tried but it didn't help. When I finished my third length and caught him up again, Detective Colombo told me that he had a spare pair of goggles in his bag and that it was probably the chlorine hurting my eyes.

By this time I had already done 30 lengths and goggles weren't going to help. I thanked him anyway, not that he had actually offered them to me. However a nice young lad who worked at the pool kindly offered me a pair of Junior ones that were so tight I thought they would suck my eyeballs with them when I finally prized them from my face. But its the thought that counts, I can't imagine anyone at home giving a shit about my forgetfulness!

I completed 1300 metres (52 lengths) as my body couldn't face the final 300 needed for a mile swim in about an hour, just as a new slow swimmer joined the fast lane, with the slow lane now completely empty, and swam front crawl with frog leg kick tirelessly at a snail's pace!

Go you're own way by Fleetwood Mac started playing in my head and I marvelled at the likes of David Walliams who swam the channel in 10 hours (2mph). I needed to get out the pool now and I sauntered off into the steam room for five minutes where between gulps of hot air I engaged in a conversation about the negative and positive effects of the Celtic Tiger and how we were lucky it hadn't fail ed during construction of the steam room we were in or we wouldn't be sat here now! Positvity that defied logic it would seem.

You cannot deny the truth and that's where am I going with this - Basically why I like the Irish is that they are not self-conscious and they genuinely don't give a shit, like Brits on holiday in Spain, but less aware of themselves.

They are optimistic in the face of adversity and they do the best they can. Okay so they can have a whinge like the English, but overall they possess a very human positivity. Each person knows their limitations and they don't care if you have a problem with that. In England (and London in particular) I think people care so much how they come across that it instills an overall negative vibe, because as we all know you can't please all the people all the time. But over here I get more a sense of I am who I am, and I do the best I can - deal with it or get out of my way and don't judge me. If that swim was in England, there would have been a lot more anger about the poor swimmers and a more tedious experience. Here, i got out, saw a naked guy in the shower and laughed. Then I dried my swim shorts in this awesome device, like a mini-tumble drier, for ten seconds and they were bone dry. By the time I left I felt like a local and that sums up the welcome of the Irish - unwavering and constant, like the rain and the Northern Star.

I know thi skind of thing happens when you're on holiday, but I haven't felt judged or self-conscious once since I got here, and I've been wearing an horrific Unbro tacksuit the whole time but hey - deal with it, because I don't give a shit! Now excuse me while I go find a pixie cobbler for my toe pinching winklepickers!

Until next time...dear readers!

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Thanks for flying Inept Air

This week an 'unnamed man' travelling from Krakow in Poland to the UK allegedly won a 10,000 Euro scratchcard on Ryanair, then when told he couldn't collect his winnings immediately as it was a seperate company, began eating it in acute frustration.

If this is a true story, why did he do that? Was he pushed to the edge by so many crass and annoying adverts and announcements about how grateful to Ryanair he should be for delivering him from evil to England for just 7 Euros plus 25 euro booking fee with a nice pat on his back(There you go sir, that's how to fly a plane - we told you we knew what we were doing...now off you fuck to wait 4 hours for your bag!) or was he simply caught in a mild state of panic realising he was about to land in the East Midlands?

This probably depends on a few factors. Whether he was Polish and not knowing what he was getting himself in for - substituting a cheap pint in a Kraklovian bierkeller for a cold recession 8% meat pie and soggy chips in Derby. My theory would be however that he was English, returning home from an enjoyable city break and automatically switched from relaxed holiday mode into stressed bonusless banker having his senses bombarded orally (the foul tasting hot snacks), aurally - the insane tannoy propaganda, touchily - by the obese scaffolder taking up one and a half seats to his left, visually by the day glo yellow of the inside of a metal contraption being flown at 30,000 feet by a YTS trainee with Attention Deficiency Disorder, and smellily by the hippy to his right's irritable bowel syndrome turning last night's perogi borscht into methane.

In fairness, having been asked several times during the flight by cabin crew if he or anyone else had change for a tenner, he was a little naive in thinking they would pay out 10000 big ones on the spot.

Regardless of all that guff, this story from Sky News (on Yahoo! 27 Feb 2010) is blatantly another propaganda lie by the shameless company of the old 'Ryanair to charge £1 for using the toilet' scam. This previous story was made up to distract punters from the bigger picture (any publicity is good publicity) - the fact that they were going to start charging for using debit cards - a little white lie to cover up a big stinking black gangrenous one! And so-called breaking news lazy journalism has brought us this - as people are so quick to judge, they probably have looked straight past this fact. i always wonder about those pictures of people in the reader's digest whose photo sits next to John from Hampshire won £33,122 - how much they were actually paid to have their photo put in the magazine! In this instance, how much has Ryanair paid the 'PR', I mean journalist to unleash this hilarous story?

Stephen McNamara, the totalitarian spokesman for the airline, said: "Passengers have always been delighted to claim their large cash prizes after returning home. Unfortunately our latest winner felt that we should have his 10,000 euros prize kicking around on the aircraft."

Ha ha ha, Stephen! If only you had space among the smug bastards and the untrainned staff and the delicious 8 euro snacks and pretend fags!

Give 'the unnamed man' some dignity - I bet he wanted to shit that golden ticket right in your mouth, Stephen you lying bastard just as the tannoy horn-blows that 90% of flights land on time, the best of any airline and how lucky everyone is to live in a democracy! (Yeah, nothing to do with the flight time to Ireland saying 90 minutes when it actually takes 60 by the way - we're on time again honey! woo hoo! We're partying now!)

So everyone go onto Ryanair.com until the 5th of March and vote for which charity the money should go to! (How can they donate money he has swallowed to charity, but not give it to 'him'? Hmm sounds fishy!) Oh, and p.s. sexy free individuals - while you're online why not book a cheap flight or two! Grooovy Stephen thanks!

Anyone who has to fly Ryanair from today should get their own registered charity ISBN number - and people could donate compassioantely like cancer charities, leaving a note: My Derek, god rest his soul, had to fly Ryanair once, so i know what you're going thru - here's a tenner and get well soon! (that kind of thing).

Anyway I have to go, I'm flying Inept Air in 3 weeks, so I need to leave to catch my train and make sure I check my bag on time at my favourite airport of all time 'London' Luton, a two word paradox if ever I heard one. Its like calling a Scottish train station equi-distance from two cities - Edinburgh-Glasgow.

Until next time, when I endeavour dear reader to write 90% less bullshit or your money back!
ciao dickheads
PS I am available for children's parties!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Taking the piss

Oi you! Yes you with the piss stains on your beige flannel trousers! Wanna make some money?

Wanna use your skills and help with a massive enviable national iconic cultural event that will be heralded down through the ages as the true beginning of the end of civilisation? Sorry, what's that? You do? Oh good! Step this way then and simply do what you do best and urinate into this tiny cup for me, write your name and number on the outside and then PISS off!


Okay, i am not re-creating some filthy golden shower scene from Pantwetters 2 - the search for Olympic Gold (wee!), but merely writing about a new 'attraction' at Thorpe Park.

The organisers are holding wee auditions there on Friday. They are looking for the smelliest urine to accompany the decomposing meat and burning hair smell, thereby really topping off the senses available on SAW the ride, because having just your sense of direction and vision assaulted is apparently now not enough.

We need to know what it feels like to actually be openly tortured like a Guantanamo Bay terrorist cast down to the sewers with the sodomites for one final test of resolve. Add to this the fact that you are vibrated and electrocuted along the way and why else would you want to leave the country this summer. Just head on down to Thorpe Park (or should I say South Park). Maybe after you've been on Saw the ride and smelt the burning hair and smelt the piss, you could eat a turdburger for dinner and go sleep under a damp canal bridge for dessert.

So there we have it - the UK's recession summer holiday 2010. If you are sad to be missing events at Thorpe Park, try not to get too jealous. Just wait until 2011 when Drunken Rape the mini-cab ride and the horrifying corridor of Youf Nyph Cryme, where you actually feel the tickle of 1000 stabbing instruments on your gentle walk accompanied by crazy mirrors which show all your wounds in a funny way will be well and truly unleashed on the public.

See you there Friday then - well actually you won't as I'm saving my shits up for the inevitable Chessington World of Adventures backlash or stashing my most violent animal porn for the UK's Most Depraved helter-skelter at Alton Towers.

PS The winner of the piss competition not only gets the honour of getting up the public's nose, but also nets a cool £500, so if you're really broke get yourself down to Thorpe Park this Friday (11am-2pm) and donate to your fellow humankind the best way you know how. Actually you better get down there for 9am - the queues are expected to be huge. And rightly so - when was the last time someone gave you half a grand for anything, let alone a ruddy bladder-relieving slash just off the soul-crushing M25? Huh? Exactly!

Fuck it, maybe I will see you there! Better still, maybe I can get a second job as a judge, considering how much piss I've smelt in my time. Now where did I put that Salty Beer-Asparagus pickle? I got half a grand to win!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Murj & the End of Live Music

Despite okaying a merger between Live Nation (who run the majority of live gigs in the UK) and Ticketmaster (who have about a 70% Ticket market share) in December, thankfully (and its not often I thank the Germans for anything except Rammstein, beer and sausages) it has been shelved for who knows how long by the complaints of by CTS Eventim, a German-based ticket seller contracted by Live Nation to handle their UK ticketing.

Sean Micheals in The Guardian of 12 FEb 2010 wrote:

If this evokes some deja vu, it is because in October 2009, the Competition Commission ruled against the Live Nation/Ticketmaster merger, citing its impact on CTS Eventim, which is Europe's largest ticket broker. "[The merged company] will have every incentive to inhibit a significant potential rival from entering the UK market," an official explained at the time. "[This would put] CTS's future prospects in the UK in considerable doubt."

What is the world coming to? This is not okay in the slightest, because there are idiots out there that will pay £80 or whatever they want to charge to see Liza Minelli in some soul-less arena gig and again ruin music for everyone. Its bad enough that when I do find a gig I want to go to at a decent venue in London it sells out in 7 minutes. With most tickets being purchased through Ticketmaster my chances of going are increased possibly but at what cost to the consumer and other smaller ticket agencies that rely on phone sales and walk in geek customers who don't own nor could operate a PC, ones that have done us proud over the years like Stargreen box Office in Oxford Circus? What about them? - Ah fuck it, build a mini-Tesco there and let Ticketmaster do everything online with their phones re-routed via Bangalore and the Phillipines. Who cares, its only music after all! What did live music ever do for us! Viva la Resistance!

The X-ecution Factor

It seems one can't turn the TV on these days without being bombarded by some massive twat who used to be in Brookside ice-skating the foxtrot or an ex-sportsman doing pirouettes in shiny chaps and a frilly chimmon yellow shirt. I am, of course, talking about the spate of reality/talent competitions that spawned from Big Brother 10 years ago and changed a generation of fashion-conscience teens in to a nation of untalented pop idolising dickheads.

With the odd exception - Diversity, Su-Bo, John Sargeant, Evander Holyfield it all seems such a massive waste of time. Why do people enjoy watching other people failing, I suppose its the same with soap operas and trashy magazines. They make you feel better about yourself and you're own life because you're the outsider looking into the goldfish bowl and they are the ones trapped inside begging to be set free, which just unleashes a further tidal wave of press interest. No no please don't photograph me topless on a foreign beach praticing cellulite-busting lunges with a guy I just met of the set of Emmerdale two weeks ago. I normally do this all by myself in my lounge with the curtains drawn. Oh the indecency!

It is a sad time we are living in when teenagers really do believe that Simon Cowell is not in fact the anti-christ, but a pop genius who knows all about what 'real' music is! A colleague's 15 year old step-son is so enthused about the show he apparently sky plusses it even though he watches every episode, presumably so he can go back over it and enjoy the David Lynch-esque mis-en-scene whenever he begins to reach for his step-dad's Joy Division albums without ever really knowing why! His sub-conscience has been so infused with adverts and manufactured crap that he truly believes he is a part of the 'musical genius' he is withnessing, when really he is helping to plot the downfall of Western Civilisation by not getting up on a cold January saturday morning, running around a frozen park with ten of his teammates and then going home to have a fantasy wank about Billy the winger's MILF of a mum, like we all used to do at his age. He should be ashamed of himself!

Rage Against The Machine's Killing in the Name Of which got to Xmas number 1 ahead of one of Cowell's winning X Factor pricks (which was and will be the best thing to come from Facebook ever!) was a significant slap in the face to this kind of 'entertainment', but wait, what's this - Simon Cowell has a high percentage stake in Rage's record label and benefits anyway? What a win/win wanker! Where's the fun in that? As Jarvis Cocker so fondly says: Cunts are still running the world - and it ain't gonna change any time (while there are still people who queue to go see Gareth Gates in p...in p...p...panto!) soon, so get used to it.

There is one way I would start watching these shows is that the contestants be sent out to former Soviet Siberian Gulag camps and be locked away in solitary confinement for 6 months with rival professionals (for example - Nancy Kerrigan's trainee Vs Tonya Harding's appraentice a la Rocky IV) to practice whatever competition it is they want to win. They are only allowed an hour of sunlight a day.

They will then be flown by private jet straight to a London studio as psychologically-vulnerable yet fine physical specimens ready to do battle to the death. Once they have performed the judges vote (50%) and then the public (50%). The loser (for example Paul Danan) has to work in ASDA, Milton Keynes for a year with no pay, or he's sent back to the gulag, while the winner (for example Dean Gaffney) goes on to the next stage (say a Wrestling competition with Hulk Hogan vs Ultimate Warrior as trainers).

But here is the twist, the winning coach (ie Kerrigan) gets to X-ecute the losing coach (ie Harding) before the credits roll LIVE on TV. Think of the ratings - and the audience, the crowd will be like a Rugby one all sitting together and having a beer and enjoying the spectacle because (unlike woofter modern football) all the violence happens on the pitch and thus everyone goes home happy, rather than meeting outside for a good old rumble!

Just think what Blind-er Date would be like if the public voted for the couple they least liked out of say three who went on televised dates and that couple was then actually BLINDED on live TV. The people who are more likely to commit crimes and thus like this kind of show would never go out again, which would keep the government happy as crime and depravity drops on their city's streets a la 1984, while the good folk who are abhorred by what they see will all go out for fear of going insane with depression and buy stuff to keep the economy going! Now talk about an idyll! Until this becomes reality I will shun reality/talent shows in favour of a good old five knuckle shuffle, just like when I was fifteen and enjoying my life, rather than sordidly revelling in someone else's!

Right I'm off to meet Toni Terry for a pint and maybe more, so until next week take care of yourself...and each other, as we're all we have left!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The North / South Divide

Although geographically infinite and politically and socially at least traceable to the Industrial Revolution, it has been said that the North / South divide in England was truly and modernly exacerbated by the miner's strikes under Thatcher's Tory government of the 1970's and 80's. This is when the hard working masses north of the Watford Gap became known as Northern Monkeys (or on roadsigns as simply THE NORTH) and the gentrified class system of the south became Southern Shandy Warriors or Cockneys if they were from London (even if this shows a gap in the education - as this only apllies to people born within a mile of Bow Church in East London or post-modernly conceived at half-time at Upton park perhaps?). As i near my 30th birthday, I feel like my life is changing - gone are the serious drug-taking clubbing days and the cold beans from a can for dinner a week before pay day, replaced with a feeling of wanting to settle down, possibly get on the property ladder and being baking my own olive bread! Ok, so not exactly, but things have changed in the lat ten years and I want to figure out whether the next ten will be spent in London or is my future elsewhere, oop narth perhaps!?

That's right, this week i'm going to talk about London vs Manchester (South vs North) in terms of lifestyle, living conditions, culture etc and this could be a battle to the death. At this point, although born in London I did live in Manchester for 2 years and will try to be as unbiased as possible as I had a great time there.

Ok so first place to start would be rent/house prices and jobs:

In a decent part of London (and I'm not talking about wankers on holiday who tell you they are 'born and bred mate!' in ek-hem Orpington or Croydon) and by that I mean anywhere inside Zone 3 (and possibly Richmond) - nowhere north of Kilburn, east of Stratford, south of Balham or west of Ealing - a two bed flat would cost you £250,000+ to buy or £1000+ a month to rent. My parent's London house (although extended and renovated through the years) is now worth 8 times what they paid for it in 1983! But i'm more worried about being able to pay the bills than buying for the first time and getting my foot on the property ladder which I think is more viable in Manchester.

The National Housing Federation representing 1,200 housing associations, puts the average house price in London at £362,000, meaning as a single buyer I would require £93,000 to get a 90% mortgage at over 3.5 times my salary. The average London wage is only £4000 more than the average in Manchester, yet the 2 up-2 down terraced house in Manchester's Rusholme was worth £50k in 2005 and my rent was £225 a month including bills (a third of what you'd pay for a similar room in a Shepherd's Bush flat!) for a double room in a share house with 2 funny Welsh chefs. It was far from ideal - a few streets away from Man City's old Maine Road ground on the border with Moss Side, a 30 minute walk to the city centre. Now I live half an hour's walk to Notting Hill Gate or Paddington so pretty similar there. The problem is I don't earn 5 times what I was earning in Manchester, and I am pretty sure an administrator in manchester in 2010 isn't earning a fifth of what I earn and because of this and the fact I could rent 2 properties for the price of one oop narth, its...1-0 Manchester!

Travel and location:
Ok this is a tight one. You can get a weekly bus pass in Manchester from £5 - that's almost what it can cost you a day in London. This will get you to 70% of the places you need to go in and around the city centre and South Manchester, so not a huge outgoing. Also taxis seem cheaper too and the banter is usually better.

Manchester is within 90 mins of Birmingham, Wales, Lake District, Peak District, Liverpool, Sheffield, Leeds and Blackpool which have some outstanding natural areas of beauty. Has good transport links including a tram. It is probably cheaper to get to Scotland too and Manchester Airport is not nearly as rammed as the London airports and is expanding all the time to serve further destinations. Also there must be less parking wardens which gives it the edge.

London is within 90 minutes of Wembley, Richmond Park, Brighton, Dover, Cotswolds, New Forest, Essex, Kent, Surrey Stamford and also some outstanding areas of natural beauty too and undoubtedly the location of Europe for low cost flights to europe and the world - however it has the dreaded M25 and can often take 90 minutes just to get in or out, especially during a bank holiday. As of now, despite constant threat Manchester has not invoked a congestion charge which I feel is just a tax on London's poorest, as congestion is as bad as ever in my opinion - thanks god for my push-bike and although expensive Public transport!

2-0 Manchester (just over the line - using a interactive and long awaited fourth official's replay!)

Ok, so Manchester has City and United (one of the best and biggest in t'world) but London has about 15 league teams, including the regime-driven QPR, the world's finest football team. Also, London has Wembley and Twickenham and Rugby Union is bigger than Rugby League (which can only be a good thing!) although this again shows the class divide! Also London has the Oval (where i was for Ashes 2005 win) and Lord's and numerous other stadia and choice which brings it out on top!


Considering that the longest it didn't rain continously for in the two years I was in Manchester was 4 days, this is a no brainer! It also once rained for 4 days straight from the Sunday evening to a Wednesday evening and I nearly got trenchfoot! London's weather can also be infuriating but it is a few degrees warmer (thanks to all the congregated bodies) than oop narth!


Culture - Ray Winstone vs Brian Potter:
Manchester has a great music scene that you feel a part of (it tranfuses the whole city) and going out is cheaper, easier and less pretentious (half of people don't even remove their parkas when they go clubbing, just like Liam and Ian Brown!). My favourite club is Sankey Soaps in Ancoats and the beer (real ale) and lyrical banter is better for what comes out of your wallet I feel! The sheer poetry of the Manchester accent does it for me. Go on Ironside you can take Winstone, ya dickhead!

However this is where it all changes and depends on your social/class viewpoint. Some would vote for London because it has unrivalled clubbing, opera, musicals, theatre, dance, ballet, comedy, gastro-pubs, concerts, museums.

You may be able to get a better and cheaper pint (3 for £4.80 in Sinclair's Oyster Bar) up north, but it's down south that you can truly do almost anything you like (money permitting) 7 days a week. In London it seems I have to put up or keep up with people's fads more - fashion, technology, dog-eat-dog, but in Manchester I feel its easier to be who you are without going out and buying the latest gadget to prove what a great guy you are - there is more a sense of community and not a keeping up with the Lord Farthrington-Joneses. Of course this is only an opinion and experience and London is a massive and diverse city so its hard to pigeon-hole. A person addicted to facebook is as sad as the next person addicted, i just feel one in London is sadder as there are literally so many other things one can spend their time more constructively on. Whether you can afford it is another thing and like most things this debate comes down to money and how you view its importance. It also comes down to whether you find having drugs delivered to your door disgusting or fantastic or whether you enjoy the smell of a stranger's armpit on a sweltering packed London tube carriage more than the smell of weed emanating from the top of the Wythenshawe to Piccadilly Finglands bus on your daily commute.

Full time whistle: 2-2 (Extra Time to be played after this commercial break)

Ok, so in conclusion then, however much you ham it up each city, each compass direction (North and South) has its pros and cons and its down to individual tastes and wallets making this exercise as pointless as our very existence in the universe!

One last thing before I go mind and regardless of where I live I ordered a CD online for my brother in law's birthday on the 28th Jan from Play.com and it arrived today, 3 days after his actual birthday. Now I know they are based in Jersey (an island of the United Queendom of course), but come on...if it's in stock, how long does it take to pluck from the warehouse, cover in cardboard and send? Certainly not a week anyway! To top it all off, they sent the wrong CD and after an arduous 10 minute phone call in the rain - partly to do with her poor spoken English and shocking reception on my/O2's behalf - it turns out I have to wait 2 weeks for another copy.

Now that's customer service...wherever you live in the UK!

When (the less of two evils) i decided to get a refund, despite todays new fangled technology etc, I received an email with a return address but no return postage. I will not receive my refund until I pay for the postage to get Biffy sodding Clyro (a band I detest and ironically wouldn't pay the price of a stamp to go see!) back to play.com and my refund. Serve me right for being a lazy twat and not going to the shops like normal people and purchasing a copy with my bare hands I hear you cry and touche! But what has the world come to when you have to pay for other people's mistakes that you've already paid once for!

I'm such a sucker, like the number of 'last chances' I have given to Satan... sorry RyanAir because of their stupidly low fares. My point is it doesn't matter where you live in the UK, you are still going to get rode and get shoddy customer service where you are expected to bend over and take it in the arse just for wanting to be nice abn dbuy someone deserving a gift, but not wanting to go down Westfield as its full of pretentious or pyjama infested yoofs and sad orange fashonista wannabe types hanging around the Bulgari shops with their John Terry look-a-like footballer HABS (Husbands and Boyfs innit!) updating their facebook mobile pages to their celebrity doppelgangers. Play.com - you have a lot to answer for.

And as for the rest of you sorry people, leave now, go live your life (wherever that may be) and stop bothering me!

Until next time Dear reader:-)

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

The futility of a schizophrenic cyclist's indecisive mind

Let me just start by saying I'm not a real schizophrenic...and neither am I! Ha ha - great start!

Right, cyclists.
God they are like marmite aren't they? You either hate them or love them. Usually, unless you are one, it's hate of course (as they break through red lights and zebra crossings narrowly avoiding pregnant women and Cruft's dogs and your wing mirrors). It's easy to hate someone who cycles, not only because they usually wear stupid clothing but also because (in London) they frequently go faster than cars and buses. No one is immune! Oh but when it is lashing rain, how smug we feel trapped in our metal polluting little cocoons with D'Angelo blasting out the stereo and some yogic breathing dissolving the overall stress of the commute.

Now this is where the schizophrenia comes in. I am both a driver and a cyclist (although not a skin-tight leotard wearing one), so I'm very much on the fence when it comes to this debate. I don't own a car, but when i borrow my sisters I find it both liberating, expensive and frustrating all in equal measure, especially when it comes to London and parking zones and crap White Van drivers and dickhead Volvo driving MILFs from Notting Hill or Chelsea, non-indicating bus drivers on the Uxbridge Road and dillusional mini-cabs. The only advantageous liberating thing about a car is getting it out of London on a long haul trip (well anywhere over 10 miles), but only if you have 4 of you sharing petrol and you can avoid all the traffic hotspots, caravans driving in the middle lane of the motorway and the senior Sunday drivers!

But i have to say, considering I cycle every day (taking my life into my hands) that if I had to vote for or against the mass cull of the above people I would vote definitely for. Yes, I admit when I'm driving and the lane is narrow and some cyclist creeps up my inside, avoiding my wing mirror by inches I do get annoyed. But because of my own near scrapes on the bike, I have to assume that everyone on the road is a 16 year old retarded moron (and generally they are) and have in my mind pre-emptive choices on road safety. This has made me a better driver and a more cautious cyclist - all the better I hear you cry!

It is worth pointing out at this point, that since I purchased the third part in the cyclist's trilogy of safety items - the helmet (to add to bike-lights and sexy hi-vis vest!), I have found life far more dangerous on the roads. Now I'm not saying they don't do a good job of saving head injury victims (they do and are advisable), but it is crazy how much more the average driver risks near me since I got the helmet. Before, they used to linger on my shoulder for what seemed hours as I laboured up a hill in the wrong gear, inwardly swearing and sweating out my ringpiece.

Now I have a flimsy plastic helmet, said average driver thinks it's an invincibility cloak, a magical forcefield that allows them to overtake me and take the first immediate left hand turn across my path at seemingly any speed they like without any dangers whatsoever. Or like the mini cab driver the other day, overtake far too quickly then screech to a halt about 7 inches in front of me before honking for his fat and mentally challenged ten-strong family to emerge from the hovel they call a house and slowly labour in single file into the clapped out Mitsubishi Delica with the forged MOT and emissions certificate, the wife clutching her Benefits folder like a newborn.

Granted, bikers probably bend the rules of the road a bit, but usually for the benefit of others (for example pushing an amber / red light, so that when they turn green again the first car doesn't have to wait ten seconds to get going behind the hunched exahling quasi modo ahead and thus enduring the frenzied honks of the masses). This said, if we all had to re-take our driving tests tomorrow, considering all the bad habits we've got into over the years and forgetting our natural egotism that says we are amazing, how many of us do you think would pass? I'm guessing about 40% at a push!

I'm asking for a truce. We cyclists will try not to weave in and out of slowly moving traffic as dangerously as a scooter-wielding lost Nigerian pizza delivery boy and cutting red lights for our own benefit, if you (drivers) agree that it is wrong to overtake us and then pull left into the Cycle lane crushing our needed limbs against the curb, when you have a least a metre of space on your right hand side. This would be such a better place to live if we could just admit we are all crap and stop pretending (especially on a Friday post work) that what we're rushing for is far more important than anyone else's and that no one is responsible for 'anything' - let alone there own actions!

Secondly, i would like to talk about a mother's love and the contentious issue of euthanasia. Yes, I am as you might have guessed talking about 57 year old Frances Inglis injecting her brain damaged 22 year old son Thomas with an overdose of heroin to end his 'living hell' last week. She has been given a life sentence by a judge and jury that we can only guess are not Liberal Democrat supporters! This realistically means she will be out in 9 years, 7 and a half if you take off the 423 days in which she has already been remanded in custody! I won't go into this too much, but if a loving mother (who brought her son into the world) can't take him out for reasons of compassion then how come drunk drivers who kill people don't all face life sentences too?

Guilty or not, the system is flawed, especially when you take into account that Thomas became brain-damaged after he fell from a moving ambulance taking him to hospital for a cut he suffered in a fracas in Dagenham on 7 July 2007!

So for nearly 3 years, Thomas having had life-saving surgery (during which part of his skull was removed to relieve pressure on his bruised brain and a tracheotomy so he could breathe) had to be fed via a tube into his stomach. That's not exactly a great life now is it? Although Inglis dealt with the problem in the wrong way, the system of people in uncoverable vegetative states and euthanasia must be looked at. I know what you're thinking - is Dagenham really bad enought o kill for? I just don't know!

As his guardians, Inglis and family should have a right to a say in his future if he is unable to decide for himself. Think if it was you, would you prefer your family, an NHS hospital or the government's laws to choose for you? It's not a nice choice ot make, but i would vote for option 1 as I am sure most people would. Maybe something good will come of this and as part of the organ donor card or will or something people can say that if the are unresponsive that they choose to die. Then anyone trying to kill them, mother, state or Harold Shipman, must be punished. Until the law and government start listening to its people, this won't be the last euthansia case we hear about.

And one last point before I wrap up this rant...how did Thomas fall out the ambulance in the first palce and surely (as none of us a responsible for anything) the emergency services in this case are liable in part? 'Oh no! It's all because of that Essex cyclist we had to swerve to avoid! Down with the cloven-hooved clod hopper - string him up for it..............KILL 'EM ALL!' they howl, as another full moon rises over the semi-urbane disenchanted fields of Essex.

Until next week dear reader, when I will be weighing up life in London and the South East vs life in the rest of the UK - should be a belter!

Cheers :-)

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Freedom & The Star Spangled Idiots

So get this. No pants on the subway day - not sure if you heard about it or not, but on Sunday 10th January 2010 - yes 2010 people! - 3000 New Yorkers decided to ride the Subway to work without wearing pants.

Although I admire them for sticking two fingers up to the man and braving the cold, why do we feel that, as a social networking bunch of overactive apes, we need to prove how free we are all the time? I'm glad to report that only 30 Brits (a mere 1% of the yanks) managed it on the Underground's equivalent No Trousers on the Underground Day but that's probably half to do with the fact that only 1% of streets have been gritted well enough in the nation's capital, making leaving the bedsit a life-threatening activity. It would have been brilliant if hackers had managed to de-stabalise the English version back to the original Pants... and a handful of pasty Brits showed up unknowingly with their knackers and minges out before being carted off to Nonce Jail! Now that would've been worth getting a travelcard for!

Hang on, did I just write Nation's capital? I believe I did. And this is my point. Although I have nothing against America and Americans (in fact I have been to 20 states and lived in Massachussets for 3 months and found everyone very friendly), why do we feel the need to copy words and slang and other social conventions that they have reversed or changed from the original English language that was created right here in the first place? Is it ingrained into our brains. I was speaking to an American company on the phone and when asked for the date I immediately went into mm/dd/yyyy format to appease the lady on the other end of the line. But why are we copying them?

Our youths today, thanks to Twitter and Facebook and text messages are only using something like 800 proper words. I work in a further education college where all the kids talk like: Ah my days blad, it was so dry sick yeah, coz i was like right up in his face wid my bretheren yeah and my chinny reckon etc...and this is the understandable ones. Why are we talking like we are all from a downtrodden black American/Caribbean shanty community where drugs rool and the kids are kool, innit! I swear if I hear another teen refer to Fiddy (50 Cent, the awful rapper and over-generous father who took nine bullets before realising what he was doing might be affecting his kids) - or 33p as I like to call him - again this week, god help me, it could well be time for Columbine Part II. Next, they'll be telling me You's got bad body odor, bruv, what's wrong wiv u innit and check ver color ov ur trainers bladclat! Dat is Japes!

Ok, so America has The Wire and Mad Men and all that shit, but we have Fawlty Towers and irony and sarcasm and The Thick Of It and the proper original Office and nameless other sitcoms and comedians to be proud of. Plus we have about a fifth of the population! After all the negative press the US got in the Bush administration no one wanted to go near America with a barge pole, which goes to show what a job Barack Obama is doing now that people want back into American culture and a slice of the American dream, even if most of the time its unfounded or merely an escapist slice of television for example.

Like goldfish with a 4 second memory, or a smack addict in denial, today's celebrity obsessed youths pine for America and it's gold-paved streets without even knowing it. They are pumped full of socail networking, MTV videos and consumerism from birth as it is, America just amplifies it through Coca-Colanisation.

It's 2010, we've been partying like its 1999 for 11 years and today resembles what it would be like to attend a stranger's dark mass orgy on ketamine, but not the fun part. No, today resembles the morning after when you come to and the realisation dawns with the daylight that there's been an overnight blizzard and you are snowed in with the people you've just been carnal with and have to face a kind of civil ritual of breakfast awkwardness with not one, but twelve folk of all ages, sexes and creeds, for a whole day and as you were last in you have to clean the stains from the furniture with your newly manicured nails!

Our situation can be summed up in one political thought - although I don't agree with the media circus and money orientated election process in America, it does make you feel with Obama winning what can be done when people get together and believe in something. That it doesn't have to be all unemployment and drizzle and David Cameron and boring grey British politicians over-using their expense budgets.

People believe in Obama, in that happy endings stuff, but we don't do that very well in Britain. That's why more people were interested in the US election than our own and embarassingly more people voted for the first UK Big Brother final than the first General Election of this millennium! Put it this way, the US will always have Harry Connick Jr while we have to put up with Robbie fucking Williams pretending to be Harry Connick Jr. Soon indeed Pop Will Eat Itself!

I am going to end now as I am ranting, but American Democracy just seems to allow people to act freakish more freely. I am not against minority sports and I'm a bit of a nerd myself so always root for the underdog, I just can't help feel old and depressed by Brit's lack of communication these days and remembering tradition and where you're from and why that's important.

If we must be FREAKS of the new FREEDOM can't we do it our own way, our uniquely stiff upper lipped British board-game playing way? We need a Life of Brian character to step up to the plate. Or should we simply copy a nation that would sue itself for indecency if ever it could find out where it truly did live, because we can't be bothered to create our own reality! The answer as always is - just be yourself man and find your own path, hopefully people will follow!